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Posts Tagged ‘tarragon’

Launching Post Produce: September 22, 2011

Sorry. I had to lead with sad apples. It rained nearly every day from apple blossom time until June. To grow pretty apples in such conditions, you need to apply anti-insect treatment constantly, and that gets really expensive. I can buy a bushel of apples for around $12 at the farmers’ market and I might have spent $40 or more to keep ahead of the rain. I gave up very early in the season, and this is typical of what’s on my trees now.

September 22, 2011 is the first Post Produce day. Because my Small Kitchen Garden has experienced its worst growing season in 16 years, I’m tempted to share scenes of sickly vegetables and rotting plants. But the whole point of this day is to Post Produce in celebration of kitchen gardening.

There have been some bright spots, despite the crazy weather, and I’ve captured many of them in photos. Captions accompanying the photos provide details. I hope you’ll join me in this monthly celebration of home kitchen gardening and post about your own produce. Find instructions for how to participate by scrolling to the bottom of this blog entry.

If any kitchen garden plant likes rain, it’s tarragon! I set three tarragon plants in a new bed last fall and they have grown into a forest. In fact, I cut them back aggressively about a month ago and already they are overwhelming the shorter thyme plants in front of them. Until this season, I’d grown tarragon only in containers, and I had no idea how massive these plants could become.

Another standout rain-lover in my small kitchen garden is sage. I moved several plants from a wooden barrel planter last fall, and they have exploded with new, lush growth. Those pretty flowers are invaders from my wife’s nearby ornamental bed. If I ever plant a show garden, I may pair these two much as they look in this photo.

I planted a 14 foot row of chili pepper plants in a repeating sequence of jalapeno, banana, and poblano. Apparently, that row ran above an underground lake and the plants’ roots were waterlogged most of the season; I harvested about a pint of tiny, shriveled peppers. Happily, I also set some bell pepper plants in containers on my deck. In a few more weeks, I expect nearly a dozen large fruits to be red or orange and ready to harvest. They all will end up in a pot of red pepper relish.

While my main garden bed spent two-thirds of the season as a swamp, my garden annex drained quite well (it used to be a sandbox), and bell peppers and poblanos I set there produced a modest number of fruits. It’s not a typical abundant haul, but we’ll enjoy a few meals that feature these smoky delights.

Cucumbers disappointed me this year. They grew vigorously in containers on my deck, but none of the fruits they produced were quite appealing enough to pickle whole. Still, I have used these little morsels in salad, and I’ll probably mix up some pickle relish with the dozen or so that are ready to harvest.

Yippee: green beans! This is my first significant harvest and I collected them today. I planted Kentucky Wonders to climb on my tomato trellises and all the plants died as a result of heavy rains in August. But I’d planted a short row in one of our ornamental beds, and they have grown into a nearly impenetrable clump of intertwined vines. This first picking could serve a family of four if three family members despised green beans. There are green bean babies on the vines, so I’m hoping our first frost is still a month away (though, given the way the season has gone, it wouldn’t surprise me if we got frost at noon today).

This year’s big winner is winter squash. Sure, there are water stains on some of them, but these neck pumpkins and butternut squashes look spectacular considering the season. The biggest neck pumpkin weighs about 12 pounds, and the heap weighs more than 50 pounds. There are several more fruits ripening on the vines (even as the vines drown from recent storms), and there are even a few Blue Hubbards in the garden showing some promise.

Join in and Post Produce!

Join the celebration and show the world what you’re eating from your garden. To participate, Post Produce on your own blog. You don’t have to post photos. List what you’re harvesting, write a poem about it, record a song… create whatever post celebrates your food-growing successes.

Then, return here and create a link to your Post Produce post. Also, leave a comment to entice other participants to visit your blog. That’s all there is to it!

For a few more details about Post Produce, follow this link. There you’ll find a bit about why I started Post Produce along with further suggestions for types of things you might post. I’ll watch for your Post Produce posts and visit every one.

 

 

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Finally there’s Soil in my Small Kitchen Garden

When your broccoli seedlings remain in their very limited planter about a month too long, they might produce disappointing florets. This tablespoon-sized floret represents what each of my plants produced about three weeks after I finally set them in the garden. It didn’t help that I set the seedlings in soil that was nearly mud… or that several days of subsequent rain kept the roots far too wet. Perhaps as things dry out the plants will send up enough side shoots to make a decent meal.

Since planting season started some three months ago, I’ve reported again and again that there is no soil in my small kitchen garden. That’s right: where, every growing season for the past sixteen years there has been soil, this growing season nature replaced my soil with mud.

My Earliest Starts

I managed to plant cauliflower and broccoli three weeks ago while the mud was a bit dry (as mud goes). Sadly, the plants had been pot bound long enough that they were flimsy… and further rains stressed the plants once they were in the ground.

For the first time ever, I saw a rabbit chewing on one of my vegetable plants. In 17 years of kitchen gardening in Lewisburg, I’ve had rabbits nest in my garden and I’ve watched many of them feed on my weeds. This year the rabbits decided that broccoli and cauliflower taste good. I’ve since mended my garden fence.

Within ten days of getting their roots in the ground, my broccoli plants sent up center stalks bursting with florets… tiny florets any one of which would make a single forkful on a dinner plate. Had I harvested from ten plants, I’d have gotten a single serving of broccoli.

Then a rabbit decided that brassicas taste better than native plants and had a few meals in the mud.

My Small Kitchen Garden is Coming On!

There have been a few positives about this growing season:

  • I planted all the lettuce seedlings in planters on my deck and, though the lettuce is a tad bitter because of early heat, we’re eating fresh salads pretty reliably.
  • I started artichokes indoors. When I planted the brassicas, I also set five artichoke seedlings in the garden. Actually, I set three in a new bed near my rhubarb, one in the back of the new herb bed, and two in a two-gallon planter on the deck. One of the plants has already put out a choke.
  • Cilantro I seeded in part of the new herb bed is coming on strong. I’ll do a second planting in a week or so.
  • The volunteer dill seedlings I moved from my main planting bed into the herb garden are filling out nicely.
  • Thyme and tarragon I started from seed last year and set in the herb garden in the fall are growing strong. I may want to add more thyme plants this season.
  • The sage bushes I moved from an old half-barrel planter into the new herb bed in the fall have filled out and may soon need some serious pruning.
  • The mud is gone, replaced by soil. I’ve planted 55 tomato seedlings in the main planting bed and more than 24 chili pepper seedlings of four varieties.

It’s two months later than in past years, but my small kitchen garden is finally on its way!

I’d never grown lettuce in containers, but when my raised planting bed remained mud for the first two months of the growing season, I realized I’d have no homegrown lettuce if I didn’t try something new. We’ve had several garden salads but it has been very hot. Chances are the lettuce will bolt soon; I’ll probably plant again in August and hope to have plenty of fresh salads well into November.

 

Not my best photographic work, but clearly a choke has formed in my small kitchen garden. I love photos I’ve seen of artichoke plants, so I decided to grow some this year. I hope I see more food on them, but I’ll be happy if the plants mature and look at least vaguely like the ones I’ve seen on other blogs.

 

Yes, the soil is dry and weeds abound, but the dill seedlings I rescued from my main planting bed are thriving in my new herb bed. Cilantro I direct-seeded grows at the left front of the photo, and sage grows at the rear of the photo. Out of sight at the far end of the bed, thyme and tarragon plants are growing very nicely.

 

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Herbs Early in My Small Kitchen Garden

Last year’s rhubarb project continues to look successful. Every plant in the new rhubarb bed has sprouted tiny wrinkly leaves. You’re supposed to harvest lightly in the year after planting. I may pretend that this is the second year after planting since I created the bed at the beginning of last season. I can say with authority: there will be pie.

March in central Pennsylvania is such a great time in my small kitchen garden because that’s when the earliest perennials push through the soil and have a look around. Oh, yeah? Not this year! Nope, we’re having a seriously late start to spring around here, and the early sprouts have been timid at best.

Despite the unseasonable cold and way more rain than my kitchen garden needs, I poked around two days ago to see what has sprung. The late early growth is tantalizing, but I’m not ready yet to start the annuals. I hope your kitchen gardens are farther along. Tell me: do you grow a particular fruit or vegetable that you anticipate above all others? I’d love to hear about it. Please let me know in a comment.

Remarkably similar in color to baby rhubarb leaves, tarragon emerges in my new herb bed. I started this bed last spring to receive rhubarb plants, but I realized it would take enormous energy to complete the bed. So, by late autumn I’d finished the bed and set herbs in it. Tarragon and thyme I’d started from seed last spring have wintered over nicely in the new bed. Just looking at these young sprouts makes plaque collect in my veins; I love to make béarnaise sauce and use it (instead of hollandaise) to smother eggs Benedict. More tarragon probably means more eggs Benedict. I’ll need a bigger belt.

Thyme is particularly hardy in these parts. This sprig, on a plant I started from seed last spring, has already produced abundant leaves despite the low temperatures. I expect to have several decent clumps of thyme within the next few years.

I don’t grow chives in my small kitchen garden; there’s no need. Wild onion is one of the most common “weeds” in this area. When the neighboring farmer mowed his hay field in past years, the air would smell of onions for several days! I created a new herb bed in late autumn last year, planted a few perennial herbs, and this spring there are several volunteer wild onions emerging in the bed. In some places, my lawn is more wild onion than it is grass.

The biggest mess in my new herb garden is a grouping of sage bushes that I removed from an old half barrel I’d planted, perhaps, ten years ago. The barrel stands empty awaiting a new assignment while the sage plants remain dormant. As the days warm (they will warm, right?), I expect plenty of new growth on these usually hardy plants. When I can easily see which sticks are alive, I’ll snap off the deadwood and save it to use in my smoker. Ribs, chicken, brisket, sausage… they all taste delightful when you smoke them with sage wood. Yes, that’s a downspout behind the plants; I may need to add an extender that carries rainwater across the bed so heavy storms won’t carve a hole in the herb garden.

 

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