Saturday, February 19, 2011

Sweet afternoon

This afternoon Jerry was working in the garden so I took my sick self, my blanket and my book and sat outside a while enjoying the sun, the birds, the clouds and the deep blue sky.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Daffodils come in from the garden

Rain today, and the promise of more through the weekend, sent me out to cut most of the open daffodils.  They will only last a few days in the house; they are better cut in bud.  But with the alternative of daffodils lying on the ground, spattered with mud, I cut a dozen or so and brought them in, then went back for more.  What luxury, what abundance!  What sunshine in the storm! 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Self sown annuals

Bane or blessing?  Self sowing annuals, and perennials too, are one of the best things about a cottage garden.  They save money and energy and time, our three resources in all life's endeavors.  Currently in my garden there are new little foxgloves, forget me nots, alyssum, coreopsis, columbine, hellebores, violets, Johnny jumps ups, larkspur, verbena bonariensis, poppies, California poppies, nigella, and probably more.  So many new little plants all for free, with no work involved.  Perhaps the best part is the anticipation, of watching for seedlings then looking forward to the bloom. 
But this year, the nigella is the bane of my spring gardening. Allowed too much freedom, any of these self seeding plants can become a weeding nightmare as they come up in carpets, or come up everywhere, leaving one to wonder how in the world they can spread seed so far and wide.  Nigella is an annual I grow primarily for the seed pods, thus seeds everywhere. So I pull and pull and pull and hoe and hoe and hoe, thinning them down to the few plants I actually want.  In other areas Jerry does the same with the California poppies.  The various reseeders take their turns at over reproducing.  Most are easy enough to remove, but their populations ebb and flow depending on just how much effort I put into removing them the year before.  This year nigella is annoying so I am pulling all but one or two, therefore next year there will be far fewer little blue flowers caught in their netting, and fewer seed pods.  A few years from now I may think oh how I miss the nigella and sprinkle more seed deliberately.  And so the garden changes from year to year. 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Bringing plants indoors

I am excited today about the idea of making my garden room more to my style of gardening.  I am not really fond of  the majority of houseplants.  When Candace sent me this site a few days ago I thought wow, love the plants there, then thought yeah, right, as if they would actually live and grow inside for more than a week.  However, the thought stuck, along with the thought that I really need to redo my house plant collection. This morning I started reading again one of my favorite garden books, The Complete Book of Herbs: A Practical Guide to Growing and Using Herbs by Lesley Bremness.  The author includes information as to which plants will grow indoors.  What fun to find new ideas! 

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Work day

Today Jerry dug out the wintersweet tree/shrub and moved the oakleaf hydrangea to its place.  The hydrangea looks great!  We liked the wintersweet, but the neighbors' cedar tree was using its airspace and sun.  I think the hydrangea, which was cramping space by the side gate will be even happier in its new location, if it survives the transplant.  This should have been an ideal time to move it though, so hoping for the best.  I now have 6 feet of shady garden to replant  : ) 
The roots of the wintersweet completely filled the yard waste bin, in one large clump, so it was a really big hard job. 
In the meantime, besides making lemonade for the worker, I repotted herbs and lettuce and such, and planted up some of the new stuff I got, and pulled more weeds.  I am so ready for new mulch!  If only someone would return my phone calls that might happen this next week. 

Thoughts on bare roots

Subtitle: or what happens when I hit Lowe's in a spendy kind of mood  : )

I was out this morning to Farmer's Market and Hobby Lobby, and left both with nothing.  I went on to Lowe's, needing snail bait and manure.  Sigh. 

However, they had their veggies out and with it being so nice and warm I went ahead and picked up tomato plants, a new artichoke plant, and some parsley.  Then I cruised past the bareroot racks and added Lily of the Valley, potatoes, and Lady Fern.  I also picked up a second hydrangea paniculata just because mine looks suspiciously dead, having apparently been trod upon.  If I am wrong, some lucky person will get my new bush.  : )

So about bare root, pros and cons.  The biggest reason to do bareroot is because you can find things that would otherwise never be available here, like that hydrangea, and the Lily of the Valley, and the fern.  Sometimes you save significant money with bareroot, but not always.  Today a jasmine was offered bareroot for $5, a small tiny stick of a thing.  On the other hand a potted 2 foot tall ready to bloom plant was $7.  The downside of bareroot is their size.  I have found it helps a lot to put them in pots for a year and get a good root system going before planting them in the ground. 

So, my work for the next couple of days is planting out the new plants.

Lemon celebration

I am celebrating the first warm sunny weekend by making lemonade! Since we were given a bag of lemons, they need to be used. I made lemon ginger scones for breakfast, and I think I will make lemon curd tarts for Valentine's Day. Maybe not traditional, but I can decorate with daffodils which will match the tarts, right? : )

So, lemonade. I have 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice from 3 lemons, 3/4 cup sugar, and the rinds of the lemons macerating for an hour. I discovered this recipe in an old time cookbook years ago and it makes the best lemonade ever. (I just checked and the book  says 1/2 cup sugar to 1 cup juice) In a bit I will add water to make a quart, to pour over a glass of ice.  Happy sunshine!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The first of the asparagus comes in from the garden

Asparagus is facinating!  It seems to spring up overnight; you can almost sit and watch it grow.  As early in the season as it is, we had enough asparagus up to cut and bring in.  We were watching Jamie at Home's episode on asparagus and Jerry, who normally is grossed out by Jamie's presentation, suggested we try Asparagus-Potato Tart
I followed the recipe for the most part, but we only had half as much asparagus as called for, which would be one of those bundles from the market, I think. I used the four cheese blend I always buy, rather than the two cheeses he suggests, and I used somewhat less, thinking a baggy full must be enough.  I also used a regular short crust pastry rather than going out for phyllo.  This tart is good!  We will do it again. 
Tips: put a sheet pan under the tart pan.  Butter dripped all over the oven; what a mess!  Next time I will try the phyllo crust and do it all the way it is written. More asparagus for sure!  I do think it would be fine to substitute milk or half and half for the cream, and that a little less cheese is fine.  However, I am debating with myself between using a stronger cheese, maybe the delicious Portuguese cheese I occasionally by at the farmer's market, or sticking with what I used this time.  The balance of flavor is delicate and I wouldn't want to overwhelm the potato and asparagus.  Not sure, but this was really good.  : )

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Potting soil

I have always bought the cheapest potting soil.  Recently the knowledgeable gal at Lowes talked me into reading the difference in ingredients between the cheapo stuff and the stuff she was suggesting, Kellogg's.  Wow!  The cheap stuff is made from bark, sand and vermiculite, which holds water.  The good stuff is made from bark, peat, which holds water, chicken manure, bat guano, worm castings, and more.  Real organic vitamins and minerals, so to speak.  Just like we thrive better when we eat real food instead of assorted flavored byproducts, surely plants must do better with food instead of just something to support the roots.  I think especially for food crops, the good stuff is the way to go. Many people over the years have pointed out that Miracle Gro is more like a fortified energy drink, lots of imitation additives that build up over time and actually harm plants, especially in salts laden soil like we have here in the valley.  I do not know this by personal observation since I have never spent the money for it, but it would be interesting to check out.