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Posts Tagged ‘strawberries’

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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Easy Strawberry Shortcake from Your Small Kitchen Garden

This is a robust display of strawberries in my meager deck planters. I look forward to the year when I finally create a large strawberry planting bed that produces the entire 40 or so quarts of berries we typically consume in June.

My small kitchen garden produces a mere handful of strawberries each year. That’s because I have a few planters each holding three or four strawberry plants. Eventually, I’ll add a generous raised bed bursting with strawberry plants but for now I satisfy my cravings with berries I buy from other local growers.

Yesterday, I saw on sale at the farmers’ market strawberries that had travelled from Lancaster… only sixty miles south. My planters sport a half dozen green berries that may be ready to pick in another week. These events spurred me finally to produce a video I shot last spring: How to make real strawberry shortcake.

What I mean by Real Strawberry Shortcake

At decent restaurants, I’ve seen pound cake with sweetened strawberries listed as “Strawberry Shortcake.” At grocery stores, I’ve seen sponge cake labeled as “Shortcake” and displayed next to fresh strawberries. I’ve had visitors who assured me they were quite familiar with strawberry shortcake… but who had never even seen a classic, traditional shortcake. Sure, all those strawberry/cake combinations are tasty… but they’re not really strawberry shortcake.

When strawberries are in season, a large serving of strawberry shortcake makes a delicious, well-balanced meal. I recommend that you not make shortcake with strawberries that grew more than sixty miles from your home; they’re just not as good.

A true shortcake is a lot like a biscuit: a little flour, shortening, and leavening: the same ingredients you might use to make pancakes from scratch. Of course, biscuit-making involves cutting the shortening into the flour, rolling out dough, and cutting rounds for the baking pan.

I’ve reduced making my own shortcake to a very simple procedure that eliminates cutting in shortening, rolling dough, and cutting out rounds with a cookie cutter. The approach I use doesn’t make a perfectly flaky biscuit, but the dessert isn’t strawberry biscuits, and the only complaints I’ve received about them is that I make the servings too large.

Actually, three or four times a year when local strawberries are available, I serve nothing but strawberry shortcake for dinner. To those who complain about the sizes of the servings, I apologize. Don’t mess up the part you’re not going to eat; I’ll deal with it, thank you.

Here is my video production of how to make the strawberry shortcake you’ll eat if you visit in June at Your Small Kitchen Garden. It’s just over eight minutes long. If you try making shortcake this way, please let me know how you like it:


Other ways to prepare and serve strawberries:

  • Coconut Waffle With Mango and Strawberry « Laila Blog’s – but for some reason i always have it as a dessert well im not much of a breakfast person anyway but i absolutely love this recipe its very fruity and very flavorful and quiet easy to make. Start by peeling the mangoes and cutting it into cubes. Start making the waffles by pouring the mixture into the waffle machine.

  • Strawberry Pickle – My husband has been asking me when I am going to post his strange and innovative strawberry pickle recipe in our blog. We came up with the competition to create a uniquely delicious recipe using strawberries as a feature ingredient. …

  • Quick & EASY Strawberry Dumplings | Inspirational Ingredients – 31 Subscribe Socialize on Facebook” title=”Subscribe & Socialize on Facebook” style=”opacity: 0. Posted in Dessert, Easy, Half-way Homemade, Recipes, Spring, Sweets | Tags: Bisquick, Dessert, Easy, Quick, Recipe, Recipes, Strawberry, Sweets 3 Responses to Quick d=http%3A%2F%2F1. This is an excellent recipe! I’ll be sure to tell my wife about it.

  • Recipe: Balsamic strawberries – I first bumped into balsamic strawberries at a summer food festival in Edmonton half a decade ago. A local restaurant, now sadly departed, was serving up this unlikely combination with a dollop of mascarpone, a trio of flavours that I …


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Small Projects in my Small Kitchen Garden

Small Kitchen Garden Heirloom Tomatoes

My peppers are coming on strong this season, but these are tomatoes. I’m so looking forward to harvesting these. They grow very large and contain very little gel; they are nearly all-meat. I expect they’ll produce an enormous amount of sauce compared to what I’d get from a comparable volume of beefsteak tomatoes. The weight of fourteen plants holding, perhaps, 15 tomatoes apiece was pulling the trellis down, but some cross-bracing seems to have relieved the pressure.

There’s a lot going on in my small kitchen garden, and I’d like to share all of it with whomever might be interested. Alas, I’ve traveled quite a bit in the past three weeks, and I’ve been unable to complete the last of my planned plantings. This is awkward because I’m confident that the seasons aren’t going to wait around for me to catch up: what might have grown to maturity had I planted it in early July will probably hit a wall being planted now all of three weeks later.

Still, today I played catch up. Here’s a list of projects I completed today, though I wish I had finished them in June:

1. Shored up the tomato trellises. Technically, I wouldn’t have known in June where to add shoring; the trellises only started to sag last week. Turns out the tomato stakes I converted into tomato trellises aren’t happy holding the weight of 14 heavily-fruited plants. I expected some trouble when I built the trellises; this morning I dealt with it.

2. Planted basil in another planter and in another patch of garden. I really wish I’d done this in June. I’ve had just enough early tomatoes ripen that I’ve prepared my very favorite of all salads Outrageously Good Tomato Salad from a Small Kitchen Garden. However, none of the basil I planted outdoors this year is mature enough to harvest. So, I’ve nearly depleted the basil plant that grew on my basement windowsill over the winter. I’ll need basil in the next few days, and I’d hate to have to buy it at a grocery store.

I first wrote about how I built supports for my over-crowded tomatoes in a post titled Tomato Supports in you Small Kitchen Garden. This morning I added a cross-piece that ties together three tellises. The tops of the trellises are nearly 7 feet high, and plants are already just six inches shy of them. These plants could grow eleven or twelve feet long before a killing frost knocks them out.


When cilantro plants get tall and start to flower, they put out a lot of very thin leaves. These tend to be woodier than earlier leaves and they aren’t as flavorful. Better at this point to let the plants make coriander and get some new ones started so they’re putting out large, flat, fragrant leaves when the tomatoes are ripe and ready to go into salsa.

Nearly all my peppers are in planters this season. The plants on the deck’s hand rail have produced a lot of small peppers (the planters are too small for the plants). Many of the peppers are turning red, providing striking bouquets all along the railing.

3. Planted more cilantro in the garden. I’ve already benefited from two crops of cilantro. However, the second crop is getting very flowery which means it won’t be so tender and fragrant in the next few weeks. As the beefsteak tomatoes start ripening, I want a lot of wide, young cilantro leaves on-hand because I’m planning to can salsa this year.

4. Planted another soda bottle with carrots. I’ll post an update of my soda bottle carrot planter within the week. Today I started nine carrot seeds in a 3-liter soda bottle. I’m guardedly enthusiastic about soda bottle carrot planters… but more on this in an upcoming post.

5. Set up a planting box to capture the stolons of my strawberry plants. Actually, my strawberries have put out so many stolons this year that I can’t accommodate all of them. I’ve tried to encourage stolons only from the plants that produced large, attractive berries… but I don’t have enough planters—nor room for the ones I have—to handle all the new growth.

6. Planted sweet potatoes using my home-grown alternative to garbage can potatoes. This is extremely experimental for two reasons. 1: I’m not sure whether sweet potatoes will like the garbage can method that potatoes like so well. 2: I “invented” an alternative to the garbage can that adds a bit of risk to the health of the plants. I’ll provide more details in an upcoming post.

I had to stop gardening when my in-laws and family returned from the county fair; they settled into our screened-in porch where I’ve stashed containers, soil, seeds, and other gardening stuff. I’ve two projects I didn’t complete. 1: Planting my last three tomato plants in a reusable shopping bag. 2: Planting a few beans in milk jug planters.

I hope to finish up tomorrow.

My strawberry plants’ stolons have stolons which, in turn, have stolons. The planters sit on the deck, so the strawberries are getting frustrated in their attempts to clone themselves. I’ve directed stolons into two new planters this year, and will continue to capture these babies until I develop a dedicated strawberry bed in my yard.



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Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie from a Small Kitchen Garden

Strawberry-Rhubarb from a Small Kitchen Garden

Two distinct flavors cook together into a sweet, tart, sticky filling for a classic, uniquely American dessert: strawberry-rhubarb pie. The three vidoes in this post explain how you can make your own.

In hardiness zone 5, rhubarb is among the first spring crops a small kitchen garden might produce. With that crop alone, you can make curiously sweet and tart pies that would please most diners. However, around mid June, the first real fruit crop of a kitchen garden ripens: strawberries. It’s then that you can create the uniquely American strawberry-rhubarb pie.

The idea of mixing strawberries with rhubarb is that the sweetness of the strawberries balances with the tartness of the rhubarb. Generally you add a lot of sugar to the fruit of a fruit pie, so it’s hard to distinguish the sweet components from the tart ones. What’s more, the flavors of the strawberries and rhubarb intermingle as the pie bakes, resulting in a new flavor that doesn’t naturally occur; a terrific flavor that should appeal to any fruit-lover’s sweet tooth.

Make your own Pie

I made strawberry-rhubarb pies the other day. Usually, I make two pies at once because it makes just as much mess as making one pie. I bake one, and put the second in the freezer to bake during the off season; you can put a frozen pie in a 300F degree oven for about 20 minutes, then kick the temperature up to 375 or 400 degrees and cook it for another 40 minutes to an hour… it comes out of the oven as though you made it fresh that day.

When I’m going to freeze a pie, I make it in a “disposable” aluminum pie pan; if I’m going to bake it and eat it right away, I prefer a glass pie plate. In any case, when I made my strawberry rhubarb pies, I took a lot of photos and videos. I’ve embedded the videos in this blog post.

The first (6 minutes 20 seconds) demonstrates how to make a bottom crust for a fruit pie: the ingredients, mixing, rolling out dough, and lining the pie plate. The second video (4 minutes 20 seconds) explains how I made the strawberry-rhubarb filling for two pies… and provides insight into how to make pie filling using nearly any fruit. The third video (5 minutes) demonstrates how to make a lattice crust for a pie: mixing dough, rolling it out, and forming the lattice crust.

If you’ve never made pie, watching all three videos in order will get you through. If you know how to make pie crusts but have never made strawberry-rhubarb pie, the second video provides enough information for you to make your first.

When you’re ready to bake your pie, put it in a 400F degree oven on a jelly roll pan or a round pizza pan for 45- to 60-minutes. Check on it after 30 minutes, and if the crust is getting dark, decrease the oven’s temperature to 350F degrees. The pie is ready when the crust is gold brown and the filling is bubly and thick.

When you’ve made your first strawberry-rhubarb pie, please visit Your Small Kitchen Garden blog and leave a comment about your experience. Finally, if you prefer written instructions rather than video, visit my sister blog, Your Home Kitchen Garden. There I’ve presented step-by-step instructions along with plenty of photos.


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Small Kitchen Garden Fruits


My last post encouraged you to plant fruit trees in autumn in your small kitchen garden. It explored advantages of planting in the fall, and suggested some concerns you need to address as you shop for trees at a nursery. In keeping with the spirit of a truly small kitchen garden, there are only a handful of fruit plants that grow in relatively small spaces. For people in temperate zones, these include strawberries, grapes, and blueberries… well, also bramble berries such as raspberries and blackberries, but you should plant those in the spring.

About Strawberries

A strawberry plant requires little space, but you’re going to need many plants if you want to pick enough fruit at once for shortcake, jams, sauces, or salads. Strawberries do well in containers, and you can come up with schemes for stacking containers, distributing them around a deck or patio, and otherwise cramming a lot of plants into a small space. Lots of direct sun is important.

My favorite strawberry planter is a pot with multiple terraced pockets up and around the sides—you fill the pot with soil, and put a plant in each of the pockets, resulting in a kind of hanging garden of strawberries. The growing bag is a more recent innovation for small kitchen gardens: it’s a flexible tube with slits in which you plant flowers, vines, or whatever. I haven’t tried one yet, but if I wanted to grow strawberries on a balcony or deck, this would be my first choice. You might find such planters at your local garden store, or you can click the pictures here to follow links to Amazon.

It’s time to establish your summer-bearing strawberry plants now, though you can plant ever-bearing strawberries on into October. (I’m talking about starting with plants… not with seeds—if you really want to wrestle with seeds, plant them when fresh local strawberries are available in your area, and don’t plan to harvest for a year or two.)

Grapes in Your Small Kitchen Garden

Grapes are another small kitchen garden fruit you should plant in autumn. These make attractive accents when you provide trellises and train the vines up above shoulder level… some gorgeous patio walkways have grape trellises overhead, and a walk through can include snacking on the fruit. With clever design of your trellises and patient pruning of your vines, in time you can open up space near or around your grapes to grow other foods as well. Grapes aren’t good candidates for container gardening, but they’ll be happy planted along the south-facing wall of hour house.

Blueberries Rock

Blueberries rank at the top of my list for fruit to grow in a small kitchen garden. Blueberry bushes grow naturally in a variety of shapes. I’ve sat on the ground in the words to pick from wild, prolific ground-hugging bushes. I’ve stood on tiptoe to reach berries on high branches of hedges that towered over me. Fortunately for the small kitchen garden, blueberries prefer to be pruned heavily. So, you can shape the plants and keep them relatively small if you’re tight on space. Better still, there are dwarf varieties–like the one shown at right–that thrive in containers. You should be able to find plants at your local nurseries, but you can click the photo to read more about this plant at Amazon.

That said, take a look at those azaleas or rhododendron filling spaces in your yard. Wouldn’t it be great to harvest blueberries for pancakes, salads, and cereal from those spaces? Spring-flowering perennials are pretty for a few weeks, but I’d trade them in a second for an annual heap of blueberries…

Don’t Dig Yourself a Hole

In my last post, I threw up warnings about planting fruit in your small kitchen garden. I can’t emphasize enough: it’s work. Taking a lazy garden approach, growing fruit may put you over the top. Strawberries, for example, wear themselves out and you usually need to replant after two or three years of harvest. Every strawberry plant I’ve started from seed waited two years before producing berries, hence the encouragement for you to start with growing plants.

Blueberries demand acid soil—if you live in limestone country (I do), you might be adding a lot of compost, mulch, and chemicals (if that’s your thing) to keep the plants happy. Oh, and there’s that pruning thing: blueberry plants in small kitchen gardens tend to get too little pruning.

Grapes, apples, peaches, and pears all give their best production when you prune properly (a big topic for another day). Insects, birds, and rodents seem to like the sugar in fruit… and, perhaps, the moisture—I find it easier to protect my vegetables than to protect my fruit crops. (I hate it when I see robins picking my blueberries before they’re fully ripe.)

Finally, there are several issues related to production of good fruit. Without countermeasures, insects will make your apples very unappealing. Without culling of young fruit in the spring, your peach trees may be so prolific that the fruits will be quite small.

Harvesting Fruit

Here’s something you rarely hear anyone complain about: fruit is ready when it’s ready. You can manage peaches, pears, and apples to spread the harvest out over several weeks—even months for apples. However, a full-grown tree might produce many bushels of apples, and if you plan to eat them you simply must get them off the tree before they freeze or rot in late autumn. All other fruit also hits a wall, and when you have a whole tree… or two or three… you must deal with it in its time.

And the back-stressing work that bothers a lazy gardener? Windfalls. Especially apples tend to fall and rot on your lawn. (Peaches and pears rot just fine on the tree.) The rotting fruit attracts insects and rodents and gets pretty unpleasant under foot. Plums are worse. They make slippery slimy spots that can be as effective as banana peels in helping you get horizontal… and the juice can stain your clothing. When you’re a kid playing under your grandmother’s plum tree, that’s kinda cool, but in my lazy garden, I have no enthusiasm for the mess.

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