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Posts Tagged ‘mint’

Marjoram in Bloom and Pollinators

Pair of pollinators on marjoram

It’s hard for a single photograph to do justice to the pollinator population in my marjoram. This one reveals two revelers: a honeybee and a fritillary butterfly—probably a Meadow Fritillary, but what I know about fritillaries I learned in the last five minutes using Google and The Butterfly Site.

Two years ago, marjoram got its own place in my garden and last year it found a place in my heart. I wrote about it here. The stalks flowered for about two months and attracted pollinators more than any other plant. It’s back!

My marjoram busted out blossoms last week while I was out of town. Today, after morning rain, sun illuminated the herb garden. Pollinating insects flitted about the entire planting bed, but the biggest concentration was on the marjoram flowers.

Nearby, oregano, lavender, and mint plants all sported blossoms and each drew its own complement of insects. In fact, the peppermint forest’s visitors may have rivaled those of the marjoram, but most of them were flies… probably beneficial, but far too reminiscent of house flies.

Honey bee on marjoram

My marjoram blossoms are pink and delicate, and they attract an enormous number of honey bees.

Marjoram is naturally unruly; the stems grow tall and slender and the weight of the blossoms bend them toward the ground. Rooted in a three-foot circle, the plants can drape themselves over a 10 foot diameter circle of real estate. If that bothers you, you can use hoop trellises to hold them upright.

Whether you let the stems sprawl, or you force them vertical, you should grow marjoram. The leaves and blossoms are excellent seasoning for many foods, and the blossoms may very well become the center of activity for thousands of pollinators in your garden.

Meadow Fritillary butterfly-probably-on marjoram

A butterfly—probably a meadow fritillary—spreads its wings in my marjoram patch. The marjoram is by far the liveliest place in my yard while herbs are abloom.

 

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More Mint Madness!

Pot-bound mint plant with rhizome

A mint plant I bought at a grocery store to flavor a Turkish meal became pot bound in the nearly two months before I was ready to work in my garden. The thick white band running around the root ball is a rhizome that would be happy growing through a planting bed or lawn – perhaps seven feet or farther in a single season!

Seems I abuse mint in print quite a bit. My last blog post—Community Garden Ithaca—included complaints about people planting mint in the soil of community gardens. That post linked to an earlier one warning kitchen gardeners to protect their plots against mint. I just had an experience that seriously illuminates the mint menace.

In the past two months I cooked two Turkish recipes that called for mint. Holding no illusions that dried mint would taste authentic, I splurged and bought live mint at the grocery store. For each meal I bought a well-leafed plant in a 2-inch pot.

After cutting about half the foliage from a pot, I set the plant among my gardening stuff on the porch figuring to set it in my garden some time this spring. Even without added nutrition—I haven’t given them plant food—the plants have continued to put out new growth. Unfortunately, the pots dry out quickly.

As I packed up for yet another trip to Ithaca, I decided not to burden my wife with mint-watering duties. So, I potted up each plant into its own milk jug planter which I figure will hold moisture for four or five days. What I found behind the walls of the 2-inch pots should put a chill in every kitchen gardener. The photos tell the story.

Mint plant factory

You can clearly see four baby mint plants emerging from the rhizome and if you squint you might spot two others. As a mint rhizome extends through your planting beds and your lawn beneath the soil, it produces a new plant every inch or so. With no effort on your part, you can have an enormous mint patch in just one or two seasons. It is folly to plant mint in the ground on your property unless all you want to grow is mint. My grocery store plants will eventually end up in circular containment rings with deep root barriers—the same setup I’ve used for oregano, marjoram, and sunchokes. By the way: Don’t let mint plants hang over the sides of containers so their stems touch soil. Mint stems happily produce new roots when you give them a chance.

 
Small Kitchen Garden blog

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Community Garden Ithaca

Potato sprouts in a community garden

Just inside the gate of Ithaca’s community garden is a planting bed along the base of the fence. Many types of plants were sprouting there; my favorites were potatoes.

Sunshine and 76 degrees! What gardener wouldn’t take advantage of such a day? Except my garden was 130 miles away. I did what I could: visited Ithaca’s community garden.

I’ve visited the community garden several times this spring and had been underwhelmed at how slowly it has gotten started. Few plots had cool weather crops planted back when weather was reliably cool. Now, as temperatures occasionally spike to summer highs, cool weather crops are in and they have a race to win! If June brings hot days, Ithacans may come up short on spinach, lettuce, and peas.

Well… we do what we can. The photos provide an idea of what’s up in Ithaca.

Lettuce patch in a community garden

There are patches of lettuce throughout the community garden. The colors in this patch set it apart from the others.

CD scarecrow in a community garden

This allotment uses shiny CDs as scarecrows. The CDs hang above a small lettuce patch which I suspect won’t interest birds at all. However, perhaps rabbits and other large rodents have access to the community garden and have some fear of shiny baubles.

Rhubarb and strawberries in a community garden

Once you’re gotten an allotment at Ithaca’s community garden, you get first dibs on it year-after-year. Some growers plant perennials and this combination is a classic: strawberries and rhubarb. While I encourage gardeners not to let rhubarb flower (flowering stresses the plant), the plants can put on a dramatic show if you let them.

Sage in a community garden

Many years ago I grew a few sage plants from seed. I eventually moved the mature plants from a wooden half barrel container into an herb garden I established at the corner of my house. Those plants died over the 2013-2014 winter… they’d look about like the sage plant in this photo—clearly the product of many years’ growth. The spiky leaves in front are garlic plants started last autumn.

Rhubarb in a community garden

These are two of the prettiest rhubarb plants I’ve seen. They’re growing at the back of an allotment and garlic grows behind them in the adjacent plot.

Radish patch in a community garden

I watched a small Burmese community work on this allotment about two weeks ago and was surprised now to see all the sprouts so far look like radishes! I learned several Burmese families rent space in the community garden and they often converge on one allotment much as an Amish community assembles to build a barn.

Peas and trellis in a community garden

Here’s a pea patch managed by someone who understand peas! Often, people plant just a short row of peas with fairly loose spacing. Here, the gardener planted peas close together—from plant-to-plant within a row, and from row-to-row. As the vines climb the trellises, they’ll create a pea jungle that produces enough peas or pea pods for several meals.

Mint in a community garden

Were I managing a community garden, I would enforce the following rule without mercy: PLANT NO MINT IN THE GROUND. If you grow mint on your allotment, do your neighbors a favor and plant the mint in a container tall enough that the plants never touch the ground. This one would pass inspection. I wrote about mint’s aggressive “conquer all” nature here: Protect Your Garden from Mint.

Tulips in a community garden

One allotment at Ithaca’s community garden had a striking row of tulips alongside a stand of mint. I loved to tulips. I wanted to fine the allotment’s owner for planting mint.

Shelves of squash in a community garden

This allotment’s owner has a terrific idea: grow more in limited space by going vertical. The containers on this tower contain squash plants—way too many for the space unless they’re compact varieties. I can see a problem if this catches on. Plant skyscrapers may prevent sunlight from reaching plants on the ground… I’d hate to have an allotment neighboring a wall of these structures.

Tidy allotment in a community garden

One allotment at Ithaca’s community garden is clearly as much about design as it is about growing food. The owner has fenced the space and created raised beds that spiral in from the gate. All is tidy and well-kept…

Gardener wanted in a community garden

This is not a meadow. It’s an allotment at Ithaca’s community garden. Can’t say whether it’s rented and the owner is getting a slow start, or the chives are up for grabs. If you live in Ithaca and you want to grow vegetables, perhaps you’ll find an opening at the community garden.

 
Small Kitchen Garden blog

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Protect Your Small Kitchen Garden from Mint

Mint Plant

The grower of this mint has prevented potential disaster by restricting the plant to life in a flower pot. Let mint loose in your small kitchen garden, and you may run out of space for vegetables.

Mint is a fascinating plant with a wonderful flavor… but be very cautious about planting it in your small kitchen garden. I’m inspired to share this with you because of a tweet I read from @batesnursery some weeks ago:

Plant mint between cabbages for natural protection from caterpillars and other pests and eventually everything else, except mint

The tweet made me laugh, and it brought to mind a garden I visited last summer. This was a community kitchen garden managed by several people with a variety of gardening sensibilities. One of the gardeners insisted that the garden needed to have mint. They planted mint in one corner.

A Small Kitchen Garden Mint Debacle

By the time I saw this garden, the mint had extended itself from the garden’s corner across the entire length off the garden. There were mint sprouts at various intervals along a line trending North, and other pockets of mint sprouts at apparently random places throughout. The gardeners told me they had already pulled the mint!

So, after a season of growth, and another of mortal combat, the mint continued its campaign to capture all the cultivated space… and the surrounding meadow.

This small, shared kitchen garden is under siege from a little mint plant that overtook the planting bed in the previous season, suffered severe damage at the hands of frustrated gardeners, and has re-emerged to wreak further havoc (that mass in the bottom-left corner of the photo is mint).

Contain Mint While it’s Young

My recommendation concerning mint is simple: don’t plant it in your garden beds. If you must, isolate your mint plants by burying a container and planting within the container. Then, don’t let the mint plants escape from the container! Most prudent of all is to plant mint in containers above ground and somewhat separate from your vegetable beds.

If you love mint, and you recognize its potential to provide top-notch ground cover, by all means put it to work. It’s a gorgeous plant with square stems, regal textures, and delightful aromas. But understand its character, and be prepared. I’ve seen many a kitchen gardener despair at the aggressive assault of advancing mint plants.

Subscribe to Your Small Kitchen Garden Vlog

Your Small Kitchen Garden blog has introduced a video blog titled Visit with the Gardener, in which I share snippets of what’s going on in my garden and/or kitchen. I try to keep the videos under two minutes and provide either useful tips and techniques – or encouragement – for you to try new things in your kitchen gardens.

Please have a look, and jump over to Youtube to subscribe to my channel. Here’s the link to my channel: Your Small Kitchen Garden Vlog. And here’s an example of a recent post on the vlog. Please enjoy:

Some ways to use mint, and more information about growing it:

  • At last, the mojito recipe: pinchy dot org. – After several mojito-making experiments that failed miserably the Mojito Julius, mochajitos, mo-Fritos, and so on I finally mixed some mojitos on Saturday night that were good enough to justify posting the recipe. The instructions are ridiculously detailed, so that you can benefit from all the mistakes I made. (Incidentally, when I got on this mojito kick, I had no idea that it was the it drink of this summer.

  • Recipes What Can I Make with Fresh Mint Leaves – I was craving a Mojito the other day and thought how much fun it would be to grow mint leaves so I could make one for guests. Of course my husband says.

  • How to Grow Mint (Step-by-Step Photos) | Noob Cook Recipes – Detailed step-by-step tutorial on how to grow mint via cuttings. Mint is an easy and fast-growing plant.

  • Grow Mint From Cuttings – Frugal Gardening Tip | The Shoestring … – Grow Mint & Other Herbs from Cuttings from Your Garden or Store Bought Produce. I love to save money in whatever ways I can and being frugal in my gardening pursuits is no exception. So, since I needed some fresh mint …

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