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Posts Tagged ‘oregano’

Runup to Spring Planting

Another snow storm in Ithaca

On February 15th in Ithaca, NY, a snowstorm added several inches to a well-established snow pack. By this time, there was a similar covering in Lewisburg, PA, though a few February storms passed either north or south of Lewisburg, leaving our problems mild compared to those of neighboring states.

Who wasn’t talking about winter this winter? For most of us, it was unusual. Here, we’d gotten used to remarkably mild winters. I’d been able to play golf until January (we’d be cold, but snow-free), and whatever snow we’d get in January and February would melt away before March.

Year-after-year I’d posted a “first crocus of spring” photo pretty close to March 9th. And, unless we had a lot of rain in March, I’d been able to plant peas on March 17th—St Patrick’s day.

Deer trail through the neighborhood

On March 11th, snow in Lewisburg had melted away except in heavily shaded places and north-facing slopes. I shot this photo of a north-facing slope around the corner from the Cityslipper ranch (my house). It’s the back yard of a newly-built, unoccupied house and that path through the snow is a deer trail. Four houses have gone up since winter of 2013, eliminating the woods and meadows where I’ve collected black raspberries, blackberries, and elderberries for 19 years. Sure, there are new houses with yards, but the deer haven’t given up.

By early February, we had an amazing accumulation of snow. It was amazing not so much for the amount of snow, but for the snow’s tenacity. Temperatures remained very low and the snow stayed. When things did warm up, it wasn’t enough to melt snow, but it was enough to cause more snow storms. The extreme “polar vortex” cold taunted us whenever we left the house, and the snow tormented our dog whose stomach dragged on snow whenever she went off road.

Winter’s End

In early March, we had some less-cold days. What’s more, we had rain! This helped melt snow, but most plants wouldn’t be fooled. We’re used to seeing daffodil sprouts in February, but this year there were none even in the second week of March—or the third or the fourth.

Still, on March 11, spring said hello. It was sunny and warm, and on the afternoon dog walk I noticed how absent the snow had become. What’s more, there were crocus blossoms… pretty much on the same schedule as in our much milder winters. Sure, things have moved along well since March 11, but this post is about that special first truly spring-like day of the season. The photos tell the rest of the story.

Happy gardening!

First crocus of spring 2014

With snow nearly gone, I inspected the yard. Someone had eaten many of my young rose plants and my hydrangeas nearly to the ground. That same someone, I guess, also chewed on my thornless raspberry plants. Still, I found promising indicators that spring might actually take hold. This was among the first crocuses about four feet from my main vegetable bed.

Lavender after a hard winter

A lavender plant I set in the garden in autumn of 2012 has survived two winters. I’m guessing lavender is hardier than rosemary as cold winters have typically knocked out whatever rosemary plants we’ve established. Admittedly, I’m not a fan of lavender as a seasoning, and I’d rather have neutral smells in my living space. So, the lavender will remain an outdoor pet.

Oregano showing life in late winter

On March 11th, healthy-looking oregano leaves peeked through the dead stems from last year’s growth. I anticipate the oregano will try to escape its containment rings this season… I’ve three varieties each contained in a 3-foot circle by a plastic barrier I embedded about 9 inches into the ground.

Rhubarb ready to pop in late winter

Even with a sheet of ice nearly covering it on March 11th, my rhubarb plants had healthy “buds” popping out of the soil. The cold held these buds nearly to the end of March before slightly warmer days triggered them to deploy leaves. I’ll share photos in an upcoming post.

 

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Oregano? You Can Grow That!

oregano in my small kitchen garden

After a few years of growth in the corner of my small kitchen garden, an oregano seedling had expanded into a six-foot diameter circle that I had to cut back each season in favor of planting annual vegetables.

More and more of us want to grow food, but for many, the idea is a bit intimidating. Just to get started you may need to prepare space in your yard or acquire containers for your deck or patio. Then there’s the question of what to grow? Starting with a finicky, hard-to-grow plant might lead to discouragement.

How about oregano? Sure, you’re not likely to make a meal out of this pungent herb, but you could use it to flavor all kinds of foods. And, for someone just starting out, there are few plants as certain to succeed as this one.

Oregano Hardiness

Without cover, oregano will survive winter down to hardiness zone 5. While you can start it from seeds, you’ll almost guarantee success if you buy oregano seedlings from a nursery or garden center.

biblical rain soaks my rhubarb

Biblical rains in 2011 drowned many of my annual vegetables along with the rhubarb and the oregano. It was saddening to see the entire herb patch wither into soggy twigs.

You might discover that oregano grows quickly and spreads aggressively. To give you some idea, take a look at the first photo in this post. It features a large green blob that covers a six-foot diameter space in the corner of my kitchen garden. That blob started as an oregano seedling I bought through a school fundraising event. Four or five years passed from when I planted the seedling to when I created the photo, and I cut the oregano back several times in that time span.

Oregano Tenaciousness

Last year it rained in central Pennsylvania. I’m talking about rain of near biblical proportions. There was standing water in my garden for weeks, and it was a struggle to get annuals such as tomatoes, squash, corn, and beans to produce. All my rhubarb plants drown, and by winter all that remained of that big blob of oregano was a tangle of brown, soggy twigs.

oregano survivor

From the rotting twigs of my dead oregano monster, this lone branch sprouted leaves in the spring of 2012. I transplanted it into the new herb bed I’d created at the end of 2011.

Still, this spring, leaves emerged from one of the dead-looking oregano branches. Wanting to add soil so flooding would be less likely in future wet seasons, I dug up that leafy sprig of oregano, held it for a few months in a nursery pot, and then planted it in a newly-prepared herb garden. To help the oregano behave, I set it inside of a root barrier (I’ve come to respect its enthusiasm to conquer).

As the photos show, in just three months the herb has nearly filled its confinement ring. I’ve harvested repeated through those months to flavor tomato sauces and meat marinades.

Do I think oregano is a great choice for someone starting their first kitchen garden? Yeah. You can grow that!

from seedling to ground cover in three months

After three months, my oregano survivor spread throughout the root-containment ring in which I planted it.

rooted oregano sprig

Here’s why oregano is so capable of subjugating whole patches of a garden. The sprig in the photo was headed toward a sauce pan when I noticed roots emerging from the main stem. The sprig had not been in contact with soil but obviously it wanted to be. You can grow that!

Find more posts celebrating what you can grow at You Can Grow That!

 

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August 09 Bloom Day in a Small Kitchen Garden

My small kitchen garden is still fully abloom, which portends great things to come. The blossoms also provide fodder for me to participate in another Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. Carol at May Dreams Gardens hosts Bloom Day wherein she encourages garden bloggers everywhere to photograph their blossoms, post them on their blogs, and then add a link to the Bloom Day list.

My small kitchen garden this month has blossoms that are quite similar to last month’s blossoms. Still, there are a few changes, and all-new photos. I don’t really grow flowers, but if I don’t get any in my garden, I won’t get any vegetables and fruits either… and that would make me very sad. Please have a look and see what the future holds for my small kitchen garden.

 

Cilantro flowers abound in my garden. My cilantro patch is very mature, and blossoms are giving way to coriander. These cilantro flower clouds—volunteers that planted themselves last fall—float among my tomato plants. Similar volunteers are making coriander throughout my planting bed.

 

My oregano monster is in full-bloom: dozens of stalks of flowers stand above the foliage. My oregano is spreading; trying to consume the planting bed. So, a few days ago I trimmed back the edges of the monster. I’ll dig out a lot of oregano roots when my annuals die back in the fall.

 

My pepper plants this season have messed with me. Peppers I potted in gallon jugs grow side-by-side with peppers I potted in a handrail planter. The gallon juggers matured and produced fruit while the handrailers turned into bonsai pepper plants. About a month ago, I shuffled plants out of the handrail planter into an in-ground planting bed… but I left some plants in the planter. Now all are growing as though they mean it. So, August has brought a new round of pepper flowers, and I’m eager to harvest peppers in September. Most, I suspect, will end up in gumbo.

 

Oh, beans! I harvested about a gallon of wax beans over the past two days, and there’ll be another half gallon ready tomorrow morning. The climbing beans are still flowering and producing new beans which makes more than a month of production with no end in sight; typically bush beans spew huge amounts of beans very quickly and you need to plant them in stages if you want to harvest through the whole summer. I’ve taken a one-and-done approach with bush wax beans, and they’re flowering madly even as I pluck the gorgeous yellow pods.

 

Tomato Blossom in my Small Kitchen Garden

I’ve been lucky this year to be in the one 50-mile swath of the United States that hasn’t been too hard on tomatoes. I’ve canned 1 and ½ gallons of tomato sauce, I have about 12 gallons of tomatoes ripening on my dining room table, and my plants are producing about two gallons of tomatoes each day. To keep me on my toes, the tomato plants continue to produce those demure yellow flowers. I suspect that flowers in mid August will not produce ripe tomatoes before the first frost.

 

Thistle Flower in my Small Kitchen Garden

Here’s a volunteer I really don’t want in my small kitchen garden… but it’s so pretty. I think thistle plants are quite attractive, and the flowers are gorgeous. Of course, I’ll pull this plant in a day or two and add it to the compost heap. But there it is blooming on Bloom Day.

 

Squash Blossoms Below in my SMall Kitchen Garden

The big change in my small kitchen garden from mid-July to mid-August is the overwhelming emergence of winter squash. I had set seedlings in the garden on the first weekend of July, and a month later squash plants covered a big chunk of the planting bed. The vines are maxing out. That is, they continue to put out more stem and leaves, but the new stems are very slender, and they don’t seem to support fruiting flowers. New fruiting buds are tiny, and they seem to wither and die even before the flower opens. That’s OK, there must be 15 – to – 20 butternut squash fruits under the leaves. And, despite the lack of viable female flowers, the vines continue to produce daily explosions of bright orange male flowers. I couldn’t choose just one squash flower photo for this blog post, so I’ve included three of my four favorites (the one I didn’t publish was a bit esoteric).

 

A Squash Flower Hides in my Small Kitchen Garden

A volunteer tomato plant, self-seeded from last year’s crop, makes a small jungle surrounding a squash blossom in my small kitchen garden.

 

Small Kitchen Garden Squash Flower

Few things are better in my small kitchen garden than the time I spend among the squash blossoms in August.

 

Thanks so much for visiting!

 

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July 09 Bloom Day in a Small Kitchen Garden

In the category of Flower closest to my kitchen: A bell pepper plant is just starting to set fruit. I have great hopes as there are already dozens of banana peppers and a few jalapeno peppers ripening just a few feet away.

Flowers are not the point of a small kitchen garden. However, without flowers, there are very few food products a kitchen garden can produce. So, though I often joke that I’m too lazy to plant something that I won’t eventually eat, I am very fond of flowers.

I’m also very fond of the on-line gardening community. While many participants in that community discuss their food-growing activities, it seems a majority prefer the time they spend with their flower and ornamental gardens. From the photos on their blogs, I know I’d enjoy spending time in their gardens as well… but I have no flower- or ornamental-garden to offer in kind.

And then there’s Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day started by Carol over at May Dreams Gardens: on the 15th of each month, participating garden bloggers post entries about what’s abloom in their gardens. This month, I’m joining the gang. But my post isn’t about nasturtiums, pansies, cone flowers, daisies, black-eyed susans, and clematis. You won’t find such things in my garden (sure, you’ll find them in my wife’s garden, but she doesn’t blog). Still, my small kitchen garden is blooming its head off, and I’m psyched because nearly every blossom means another goody to eat growing in my yard.

In the category of Tallest herb in my small kitchen garden: Dill weed volunteers grow where seed fell from last year’s plants. This variety of dill grows about five feet tall.

 

Small Kitchen Garden Cilantro

In the category of Don’t get me started: If I left all the volunteer cilantro plants to grow as they please in my small kitchen garden, I’d never again have to plant the herb. However, the volunteers rarely start where I’d like them to. Shortly after they flower, the plants produce coriander: the round seeds that either plant themselves in the garden or season a variety of Asian and South American foods.

 

Small Kitchen Garden Cilantro And Lettuce

Yes, more cilantro flowers. I wanted to point out that flowers aren’t the be-all and end-all of pretty in a small kitchen garden. Several varieties of variegated lettuce are still growing where I planted them, and they provide an attractive background for this volunteer coriander factory.

 

In the category of Invasive, noxious herb: About five years ago, I planted a tiny oregano plant from one of those 1.5-inch-cubed nursery pots. There is now a five-foot diameter circle of densely-packed oregano shoots, and they have just started to flower. No doubt, this fall I’ll be excavating oregano roots to decrease the plant’s footprint by at least half.

 

Weed in a Small Kitchen Garden

In the category of Winningest weed: It’s tiny. It likes my small kitchen garden planting bed. It’s gorgeous. I had to kneel with one elbow on the ground to get close enough for the photo.

 

Small Kitchen Garden Climbing Bean

In the category of Most fun for the money: In my first year growing climbing beans, I have become enamored. The flowers look a lot like all other bean flowers I’ve grown. However, I’ve had a lot of fun tying up strings and training the bean vines to use them. The tallest climber is about to pass the end of its string and become entwined with the kids’ play set (my youngest child is 13 years old, and the play set sees play about once a year).

 

Small Kitchen Garden Tomato Flowers

In the category of Another tomato blossom photo: Yes, I’ve photographed a lot of tomato blossoms over the years. This photo is a little different as it vaguely captures the components of the tomato support system I erected this year in place of tomato stakes.

 

Small Kitchen Garden Onion Flower

In the category of It’s cool to be different: I love the round cluster of flowers that emerges at the end of a long onion stalk. Ideally, your onions don’t flower; flowering generally results in a smaller onion bulb with a short shelf life. However, crazy weather can cause flowering, and growing onions from sets can also lead to flowers. No matter. My onions are plump and I’ll use them quickly once the stalks flop to the ground. My onion flowers look grand.

 

Honey Bee on Clover

In the category of: Who’s happy on Garden Blogers’ Bloom Day? And: who doesn’t have clover flowers in their yards and gardens?

 

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