kitchen garden

happy spring

There are a few things peeking out of the soil already in my garden! I thought I’d give you a bit of a tour.

parsley

Above: parsley that grew last year is coming back again this year. Parsley is a biennial, which means it grows roots and leaves the first year, and will go to seed in the second year. I will still plant more this year, because when the plant produces seeds it has less resources to give to the leaves, so the harvest of yummy parsley leaves is way less. I want to collect seeds and also save a lot of leaves and dry them for winter, so I’ll need first year and second year parsley.

garlic

Can you see the wee garlic shoot poking out of the soil? Right in the centre of the photo. I planted roughly 30 cloves last fall, and there are about 5 that I can see coming out of the soil already on this first day of spring. I can’t wait for scapes, they’re so tasty in a stir-fry.

sorrel

This is sorrel – french sorrel to be precise. It has a sour flavour, so it’s hard to eat too much of it at once, but it’s nice to add a little bit of unique flavour to a larger salad. It’s also used in soups, where the flavour blends with everything else and it’s not too overpowering at all. It sends out a tall flowering shoot in the summertime, which often gets so heavy it just falls over. I haven’t yet saved seeds from it. They’re so tiny, and by the time they’re dry enough they’ve fallen out of the pods! I think I’ll try again this year, though. I’ll have to keep an eye on it.

walking onions

The walking onions that I planted last fall are also growing green leaves! For more information about these unusual veggies, see this older post.

oregano

Last but not least, you can see the oregano growing too, under the leaves. I still need to clean up the garden, but I’m going to wait a bit. The leaves and other detritus provides a bit of protection for the young plants, and the nights are still cold.

Thanks for joining the tour! I’d love to hear about what’s growing in your garden – leave a comment to share.

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feelin’ hot hot hot

chilisI love hot peppers; my favourite condiment is Frank’s Hot Sauce. So I’m really looking forward to growing some amazing new hot peppers this year! I thought I’d share some old favourites and some promising new-to-me varieties that I’m planning to grow.

First, let me say that hot peppers really really like the heat. They are a plant that might actually do better in a pot on a hot hot balcony than in the ground. Because they like it hot. Just don’t forget to water them!

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Here are a few that I’m excited about for this year:

Variegated Fish Pepper. This variety of hot pepper has variegated leaves, meaning they’re mottled dark green/light green. The peppers turn every colour of the rainbow, and stripey too, before they are finally fully ripe. I am super excited to try them out!

Black Hungarian. These hot peppers were requested again this year by a gardener who tried them last year for the first time. They look a bit like jalapenos, but they’re dark dark purple, almost black. Great flavour!

Thai Hot Pepper. Tiny red hot pepper with big hot flavour. My Grandpa grows these indoors for a continual supply of heat to use in his cooking. Grandma won’t touch them.

Other hot peppers are cayenne, chili, jalapeno, chinese ornamental (still edible), and paprika.

Hopefully it will be a good year for hot peppers! I’m planning to start the seeds really soon because they need more time to grow to the right size than the sweet peppers or tomatoes.

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it is written

instructionsI’ve been working like crazy to pull all the pieces of the seed starting kits together, and I’m happy to say that the instructions are written. At least the first good pass of them, anyway. I will probably edit them in a day or two.

Since last post I’ve also decided to include organic compost in the kits, for when the seedlings get transplanted to the outdoors. It balances the box a little better, and gives added value to the kit.

I’ve ordered boxes for the kits, and they’re arriving today sometime. Now I just need to bag soil and compost and seeds. Lots of little pieces and labour involved in putting these kits together, but I hope it will be worth it for me and for those who might be interested in them.

Starting yesterday, my time will become a more precious commodity due to all the seed starting that has happened and will be happening over the next month or two. It’s about to get pretty crazy around here! I’m also hoping to have a greenhouse open house in April, for those who might be interested in seeing the operation in action. I will be sending out that information in my email newsletter, so if you’d like to stay informed about that please sign up. There’s a link on the right ->

sage in egg cartonSince this post is a bit of a miscellaneous type, I thought I’d also let you know how my plants in the egg carton are doing. If you watched the seed starting video, you’ll know that one of the suggestions was to use these plastic egg cartons as a seed starting container, after poking holes for drainage.

As you can see, the Sage is quite happy. The plants are beginning to form true leaves, just tiny yet but they’re coming! Faster than I expected, actually.

The Rosemary that I planted in the other container is still ‘sleeping’. I checked the package, and it could take a month to germinate! I’m not worried yet. We’ll see how it goes.

I have some other baby seedlings to show you:

tomato seedlingsThese are tomato seedlings that I planted in anticipation of the Organic Stone Soup event in Guelph that’s happening March 19. It’s a 3 hour event that emphasizes local organic food; there will be farmers and educators and people making ‘stone soup’. I will be there demonstrating how to grow your own food. It’s a family-friendly, hands-on event designed for kids and grownups both.

I’m hoping these seedlings will be sturdy enough to ‘transplant’ as part of the demonstrations! Cross your fingers.

i heart tomatoes

i heart tomatoesThere are literally thousands of tomato varieties. I’m not even kidding. It is so hard to look through pages and pages of them, online and offline, and choose only a few types.

But.

I did my best.

For you.

Because I know that it can be very overwhelming to choose between too many different kinds.

I thought I’d let you know about a few that I’m excited about this year.

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Here they are:

1. Silvery Fir Tree

This one will replace the ‘Patio’ variety I was planning to grow. According to Seed Savers Exchange, it’s compact, and grows well in hanging baskets or on patios. And it has pretty foliage, always a plus for those growing in small spaces and trying to also be decorative at the same time! I’ll be using this one in my patio pots, such as the ‘Grow Your Own Salsa’ pot, which will also have a pepper plant and some bunching onions. They’ll be available as seedlings, too, for those who want to fill their own pots.

2. Moonglow

This one replaces ‘Golden Queen’, a yellow slicing tomato. This plant is indeterminate, which means it will not stop growing until it gets too cold. So, think large sprawling plant that will probably need to be staked. Quite the opposite of the tomato above. It’s an heirloom variety, and the seeds are organic. And if that’s not enough to convince you, yellow tomatoes also have less acid than the red varieties, so tend to be easier on the digestive systems of those who are sensitive to tomatoes due to high acid levels. They’re not as good for canning, for this reason, but they taste so good you won’t have enough left to can anyway!

3. Elfin

Another new one for me, Elfin has been chosen for a patio-growing cherry tomato lover that I know. Generally I find Tiny Tim plants to be so…. tiny. But regular cherry tomato plants tend to be indeterminate, which means HUGE plants. Huge plants mean HUGE roots, which don’t do well in containers.

So.

After a bit of searching, I found these ones. They are determinate, which means they can handle living in pots, but tend to be a fairly well-sized plant and produce lots of cherry tomatoes. I’m really looking forward to growing them, and I hope the little cherry tomato lover will enjoy them too.

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watercress progress


7 days ago
, I snipped some watercress and put it in soil to see if I could grow new plants from cuttings. So far it looks like it’s working! The roots are definitely growing well.

I looked up watercress in my Encyclopedia of Gardening, and it had some interesting things to say.

It is a perennial plant, so you should be able to plant it once and have it come back every year thereafter. If it’s anything like mint, which so far seems to be the case in terms of rooting very easily, then it will be something you will hardly be able to get rid of within a few years.

Normally watercress is found by running streams, as I remember from my childhood, but the encyclopedia gives further detail about this: “Its natural habitat is fresh running streams, with slightly alkaline water at about 50 degrees F (10 C).” So a nice cool stream. Got it.

The next question is, how do I recreate that in my sandy backyard? Or will it grow fine in soil as long as I keep it watered? Well, they do answer that question too – “may be grown in moist garden soil”. Oh good.

But – keep reading – “it is easier to grow in 6-8 in pots”. The pot can recreate the stream, if you keep a saucer of water under it. You need to change the water daily, though, so it does require some daily thought to keep it going. Like any pot or planter on a summer patio or balcony.

Hmm. I think I want to create a stream in my yard. Do you think that would be less work?

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watercress grow test

watercressI finally made it out to the grocery store this morning, and couldn’t wait to get home and try out this watercress experiment. You may recall a post last week about watercress (someone had asked me about it at the La Leche League Garage Sale) where I mentioned that I’d like to try growing it from a grocery store bundle.

Well, looking at it in the store, I wasn’t so sure about the stems – they looked like new growth, and I figured it might be tricky to root. However, as I continued to look closer, I discovered that there were already little roots growing from the nodes on the stems!! Yay!! This means it will probably do just as well as the mint does when I snip it and throw it in some soil.

When I tasted it, the peppery taste really reminded me of something that I couldn’t put my finger on, until I found a website that told me the scientific name – Nasturtium officinale – and that jogged my memory, so I knew where I had tasted that flavour before… the taste totally reminds me of Nasturtium flowers and leaves. They have a stronger kick than the watercress does, though, so I can’t eat too many before my taste buds are exhausted. I look forward to putting the leftovers of the watercress experiment in my salad, though – it’s like a taste of summer.

I took photos of my progress, in case anyone wants to try their own or is curious about the process. I just did this today, so I can’t verify that this works, but given the state of the watercress, with roots already starting, I’m sure it will turn out just fine. I should also say that normally I would start them in the early spring, so they could then be planted outside once they were big enough.

Ready? Here we go…

snipping petioles

First I snipped off the petioles – these are the stems that branch off the main stem. See the roots already starting??? Also notice, I’m leaving the stipules, which are the little stems growing out between the main stem and the branching stems.

snipping between nodes

Then I snipped between the nodes.

cuttings

I made 16 cuttings since that’s how many grow holes I have in the tray I’m using to start them.

cuttings planted

Aren’t they cute?

planted cuttings under lights

I put them under my grow lights, since these days are turning grey and I’d like to give them as much light as I can. Now I wait and water and see how it goes!

watercress leftovers

AND eat the leftovers.

Updates to follow!

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winner

name draw list

First I wrote out everyone’s names…..

draw papers

Then I prepared them for the draw…..

winner

Then my lovely assistant drew a name….

and JOSH is the winner of a Pesto Pot!

Josh, I’ll email you in the next few minutes with your coupon. I don’t trust my memory to last until next spring. 🙂

Thanks everyone else for entering – stay tuned for more giveaways in the weeks and months to come.

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P.S. Here are the sprouts, day 10:

sprouts day 10

on the 9th day of sprouting

sprouts day 9Look how the broccoli is coming along!

I was hoping to have a salad photo to show you, but my lettuce was wilty this morning. Somehow I managed to ignore it for long enough that it was not very edible anymore. I’d say shame on me, but I’m trying to avoid shaming in my life…. myself or others. It is what it is. This is what happened. Moving on….

Another exciting thing that’s happened is a meeting with a good friend who has a really good handle on marketing and communication. She pointed out a few difficulties with the way I was presenting myself, and encouraged me to make changes to become more consistent and clear. She also pointed me in the direction of spreadsheets and product pricing, with the instruction to keep things simple. 7 products max. Yipes. Well, here we go!!

I’ll share with you what I’ve got cooking so far:

1. Seedlings for transplanting – many different kinds, but I count this as one ‘thing’.

2. Large Patio/Balcony planter – Basic Veggie – tomato, pepper, beans

3. Large Patio/Balcony planter – Climbing Veggie – peas, cukes, plus some tiny tomatoes

4. Hummingbird Haven – scarlet runner beans with a tall trellis. Bright red flowers turn into edible beans!

5. Salad Bowl – big pot of greens

6. Herbs – ‘Pesto Pot’ – yep, full of BASIL!!!! Different kinds too. mmmmm…..

7. Herbs – mixed planter

8. Patio Pots with individual veggies – all ready to put on your patio or balcony and stay there all summer.

9. Tomato and Basil planters. Because everybody loves them.

OOps. Well, 9 isn’t too much more than 7….

Can I ask you a question? Can you tell me which you’d like to see on your patio? You could win your choice by commenting here and letting me know. I’d also love to hear any other thoughts you may have related to these products. I’ll draw a name tomorrow. You’ll have to come pick it up in the spring though – I’ll send you a coupon.

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days 6 and 7

sprouts day 7

sprouts day 7

Quite a lot can happen in a day! Check out how much the broccoli grew (middle container). The radishes also got greener and taller. I think I’ll be starting to eat them in my salad tonight. I’ll just snip them with scissors to harvest, and rinse them off in case there’s any soil caught in the leaves or on the stems. Then I’ll add them to my salad for a great nutrition and flavour boost.

The peas also started sending up green shoots – yay! I think I’ll leave the cover off now.

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At the La Leche League garage sale on Thursday, someone asked me if there were other ways to do sprouts – and there certainly are! I chose this method because I have a hard time with the jar method, but I thought I’d gather some links about sprouting using the jar method because I’m sure there are other people out there who would be much better at it than I am.

Growing Sprouts – this one does a great job of explaining how to use a jar to grow sprouts.

Sprout. Sprout. Let it all out! – video showing how to sprout using the jar method.

Anyone who uses the jar method, I’d love to hear some tricks. Mine usually start smelling, and they get really tough. Not sure if I didn’t rinse enough, or if I tried to grow too much in one container…. maybe the angle was wrong? I might try again some day, but for now I like my little trays on the window shelf.

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green sprouts day 5

sprouts day 5The radishes are doing well! They’re on their way to a yummy salad in a few days. I expected them to be ready to eat today, day 5, based on the last batch I grew, but the other batch was right over the heat vent so I think that’s why these ones are taking longer. They’re in a window and they have a lot less heat on them.

The broccoli seems to be taking longer too – I thought it was quicker like the radishes – but there are little tails on the seeds now, you can try to make them out in the camera phone pic!

AND – finally – I see little pea shoots beginning to emerge! The peas are definitely taking their time.

I’ll be bringing the radishes to the La Leche League Garage Sale this morning, so people can take a closer look. If you have time this morning, stop by the First United Church in Waterloo, at 16 William St, to have a look at garage sale items as well as some items from vendors. My friend Carolyn will be there with Discovery Toys, and there will be other vendors too but I’m not sure who.

Hope to see you there!

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