Sunday, May 8, 2016

Not the usual vegetable garden fare

I'm really lucky to live in the neighborhood of a world class botanical garden Red Butte Garden.  Even luckier, they have a plant sale annually.  I'm not much of a non-vegetable gardener, but I'm always trying to make my garden beds more varied and beautiful, both for the eyes and for the local pollinators.

This blog post is mostly for me, so that when a few months from now I realize what an awesome plant I have growing, or conversely, what a bust that one was, I actually know what that plant is.  I can't convince myself to keep those little plastic plant tags around.   If you live in the Rocky Mountains, some of these notes may also be applicable to you.

 Miscanthus sinensis 'Yaku Jima' - Dwark Maiden Grass.  Native to Japan.  Going to plant in front yard, North facing, against house

 Thymus vulgaris English Garden Thyme.  Plant in container in backyard.

 Mentha requienii Corsican mint.  Going to plant between stepping stones near kid's sandbox.

 Hyssop officinalis Hyssop.

 Sphaeralcea grossulariifolia Gooseberry-leaf Globemallow.  Utah Native!

 Delosperma Alan's Apricot Ice Plant.  A groundcover.

 Achillea lewisii 'King Edward' Dwarf Yarrow.

Catharanthus roseus 'Titan Punch' Vinca.  I don't know much about this pretty annual except for the color of those flowers.  I couldn't pass it up.

 Ajuga 'Chocolate chip' Bulgeweed.  A groundcover.

 MYSTERY PLANT!!  I've bought this before.  It came home without a label, grrrr.  I will use the power of this internet to try and identify this.

Monarda fistulosa Wild Bergamot or Bee Balm.  Plant in front of house North facing.

African Daisy.  I'm not sure which taxonomy applies to this one.  I know, not local, but according to the local experts, drought tolerant.

 Thymophylla tenuilobia Dahlberg Daisy.  Native to Mexico, Drought tolerant

Penstemon strictus Rocky Mountain Penstemon.  Native, Bee friendly.

Now if it would clear up for a few days, I will finalize a plan for what goes where and plant these beauties.

My vegetable garden is off to strong start. More on that soon.


Friday, January 1, 2016

New Year New Garden Plan

Happy first day of 2016.  I'm not sure when I developed this ritual but many years ago I started to spend at least a part of this first day of the new year sketching out the details for my next garden.  It gives me some time both to reflect on last year's growing and to give some thought to what I will grow in the coming months.  I think I'm a pretty seasoned gardener at this point, but still have lots of new things to try, errors to make, and successes to discover.  I think that planning is a big part of the process.  
Here is how I do it.

1.  Take a seed inventory
If you have a big seed box like me, this can be a little bit tedious, but its worth the time.  I also take this as an opportunity to throw away seeds that are too old.  Seeds do have a shelf life and there are lots of good resources about that online and in seed catalogs, but those with the shortest lives include onions, peas, beans, parsnips.  If you have a pack of these more than 3 years old, it might still be worth a trial run, but I would probably buy back up.

2.  Make a "to buy" list.  If you are really organized, you have kept a running list all year long as you ran out of seeds.  If you are me, you kept a so-so list and step 1 assures you don't get to the first week of April and not have seeds for something you really love to grow. 

3.  Draw out your garden and start to plot what goes where.  Consider crop rotation, space needs, compatibles vs not.
You might ask, "isn't there an app for that?"  There is a really good computer program that you can get over at Kitchen Gardeners international.  
I like to do it like this though
I've got a thing for graph paper and I like to look at my old plans.

4.  Get input form your family.  It only helps to grow 5 kinds of beets if you someone else is going to help you eat them.  Besides, if you have little kids like I do, it gets them in on the action.

5.  Get out those beautiful color seed catalogs that have been coming in the mail and start shopping.  My current favorites are Seed Savers Exchange, High Mowing Seeds, John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds, and Adaptive Seeds.

Happy New Year and New Garden!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Tomato Juice: Love your tomatoes, even the mushy ones.

Late summer.  I love it.  However, sometimes I feel like my garden gets a little haywire in September.  We end up pulling summer squash due to downy mildew, the last of the lettuces bolt to flower and no matter how hard I try to stay ahead of it, some of my tomatoes over ripen.

You know the ones I'm talking about - great taste, mushy texture.  I suggest you make tomato juice rather than just tossing them in the compost pile.  Just cut the tomatoes into inch size chunks and set into a a sauté pan.

Cook these until they just come to a simmer.  They will be soft and will have released lots of juice.

Pass these through a food mill on the finest setting or press through a fine sieve.

There you go.  Tomato Juice.  Bloody Mary anyone?

Monday, September 7, 2015

Labor Day Weekend, Let's work!

September already.  As you know, its harvest time.  Lets get to work.

We have transitioned from harvesting in pretty baskets to wheelbarrows and buckets.  Good thing I have man power.

I spent the better part of Saturday afternoon canning 22 lbs of tomatoes.
You might ask yourself, "why spend time on such an endeavor?  You know they sell pretty good canned tomatoes at this thing called a grocery store."  I think I might have been born in the wrong century, or maybe this is just my working mom guilt manifested in something homemaker-like, or maybe its just kind of fun to do.  In any case, its done and in mid winter this family will be really happy about it.
We harvested hops.  These are Nugget and you would need to ask Tyler what sort of beer they will end up in.  My vote is for a barley wine this year.
I couldn't help but include W in the photos.  He mostly looks cute and snacks while the rest of us work, but we sort of like him, so will keep him around.

Its not all work, we are also eating pretty well, as any gardener in September should be.
Fresh tomato pasta via Smitten Kitchen
Eggs poached in tomato sauce and grilled Haloumi

Stay happy and keep on working, my fellow gardeners and eaters of fresh seasonal produce.  The season isn't done yet.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

#eatlocalutah Day 1

Eat Local Week!  This challenge is supposed to run 8/12-8-19.  Lets face it, as a working mom with little kids, for us it starts on Saturday.

South Salt Lake Succotash

1/4 white onion chopped
2 cups diced sumer squash
2 cups sweet corn (about 3 ears depending on size)
1 cup chopped tomatoes, salted and drained
1/2 cup fava beans (this is the yield from 1 lb whole beans in pods)
Salt and chili powder to taste
Squeeze of lime juice.
Grape Seed oil

Chop your tomatoes, sprinkle about 1/8 tsp salt and toss.  Then place in colander to drain while you prep the rest of the ingredients.  This will concentrate your tomato flavor and make the recipe less watery.  
Heat sauté pan to medium and add about 1 tbsp grape seed oil,  Once hot, add onions and cook until almost brown.  Add summer squash and cook until tender and warmed through.  Add corn, tomatoes, fava beans.  Cook a few minutes, until heated through and then add salt and chili powder to taste and last thing add a squeeze of lime.  

Dig in.  I suggest having some crusty bread or biscuits on hand to mop up the juices.

We served our Succotash with bacon cheddar brats from Clifford Farm.  

Saturday, August 15, 2015

For the Bees

Every good gardener needs bees.  However, more and more, we are hearing warnings about collapsing populations of wild and honeybees.  What is a gardener to do?  Given that I don't have any control over large scale use of pesticides, mites, or weather I have decided to control the one thing I can - my backyard.
After some reading and consultation with my local extension office I've modified my backyard bee habitat.

I've let 5 leeks that share a bed with my papers to go flower.  Bees love onion flowers and the hopeful byproduct will be some leek seeds.

Afghan sesame, while not a local plant, bees really like to hang out in these long white flowers.

Spearmint.  OK this isn't new to my garden, but I'm giving it a bit more irrigation love to promote flowers.  And you've got it, the bees are digging it.

I'm also allowing some of the border areas which I would normally be more finicky about mowing get tall and I have left a couple of old logs with holes in them around.  Mason and wild bumble bees have been hanging out in these areas and joining the pollination party.  They are pretty tough to photograph so I don't have any pics to share.

So far I'd say my yields are improving substantially.  This is awesome, but is keeping me busy.  Pics of fruit tomorrow.


Friday, June 5, 2015

Flowers out of Chaos

The world can be a chaotic place, just listen to the news every day.  The chaos all around us can be very unsettling, paralyzing.  But sometimes random disorganized chaos can be good, even healing.  Meet chamomile.

2 years ago I grew 1 small German chamomile plant. I forgot to water it and it died.  Last summer I accidentally kicked over the pot where it had been and in my postpartum sleep deprived haze, just sort of swept what I thought was some spent potting soil to the edge of my garden beds.  
Then it rained this spring and I mean it really rained.  This is what rose out of the chaos - beautiful, fragrant, healing flowers.

The medicinal properties of chamomile include but are not limited to:
-calming anxiety
-soothing gastrointestinal upset
-decreasing inflammation

Did I mention its a pretty plant that also smells nice?

It has been a timely reminder that the good, beautiful bits of this world are all around us, if we will only let them germinate and grow.


Winter, finally (and seriously)

I planned to start this blog last spring as my garden flew into action, but then got into the actual work of gardening and abandoned the task. However, today its winter, really winter. I'm wearing long underwear and sitting under a blanket and I'm still cold.
Today is the shortest day of the year so from here on in it gets better. I look forward to longer days, that's for sure. But I'll also tuck in and enjoy winter's freeze and snow, it does mean skiing after all. Maybe more importantly is the snow pack - without snow there isn't water for the West.
The end of the year and the solstice are a good time to think back on the last 365. I have no reason to complain and feel really lucky about the last year and really hopeful about the year to come.