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The agricultural community world-wide is buzzing with talk of a rare Gardening Husband sighting. This reclusive beast, who has been known to go immediately and indefinitely into hiding after any mention or even remote inference of the phrase “yard work”, has been spotted recently in the Rocky Mountain region of the United States.  One of our lucky man-watchers was even fortunate enough to catch this nearly unheard of scene on film!  Assisted only by his side-kick, Giant White Dog, Gardening Husband–by his own initiative–bravely battled the desolate land of Last Year’s Shriveled Vegetable Plants, fighting and hacking his way down to bare soil.

To catch sight of this rare appearance, keep your eyes peeled for our brave warrior, usually seen wearing a skull cap and heavy duty gardening gloves, plus a uniform usually consisting of jeans and a sweater.  He can often be seen throwing a red rubber Kong toy or dingy tennis ball to Giant White Dog in between, as well as during, bouts with dead vegetation.

Soldier on, fearless Gardening Husband!  Your deeds of good and bravery are those to which gardeners around the planet aspire.

douginthegarden

My Hero!

Snow Day

  dearmothernature
yaysnow

More to come soon…

Happy snow day!

Magic Summer Salad

Magic Salad Ingredients

Palisade Peaches, garden tomatoes and basil

If you are lucky enough to live in Colorado, as I am, you may know that Palisade Peaches show up in the grocery store once a year around August or September.  The first Palisade Peach of the year is just about as delicious as the first tomato out of the garden.  (Well, almost.)

Every year at the hubby’s school they do a fund raiser, and he gets a case of these babies straight from the grower–the Cox family. 40 perfectly round, fuzzy, juicy, sweet orbs of love.  Yum.   The western slope of the Rocky Mountains apparently has the perfect conditions for growing peaches—hot and sunny during the day, but nice and cool at night.  BTW—this is also the perfect venue for growing certain types of grapes, and there are some fantastic vineyards out on the Western slope–go wine tasting.  Do it now.

At the exact moment the tomatoes in the garden began to ripen, Palisade peaches arrived, and thus the Magic Salad, as the hubby calls it, was born.

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium to large peach, chopped into ½ inch pieces.  If you can get a Palisade peach for this, do it!  If you sadly live in a different part of the country, do your best to get a locally grown peach in season.
  • 1 – 1½ cups of tomatoes, chopped ½ inch pieces.  You can use any kind of salad tomatoes—I usually use a mix of different colors and sizes, just to add a bit of visual appeal.
  • Drizzle of good balsamic vinegarWe happened to have some excellent aged balsamic flavored with black cherry from Seasons Taproom in Bethlehem, PA. 
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil
  • Arugula  – 1 to 2 ounces, or enough to make a bed for each salad.  From the garden, of course!
  • Good feta cheese, crumbled – about 4 ounces.  If you live in Denver, get the Greek feta at Pete’s Market on Holly & Cedar.  They have four varieties there—Greek, Domestic, Bulgarian, and French.  They are all good, but I prefer the Greek for a crumbly texture and Bulgarian for a more creamy texture.  Greek is good for this salad, because it crumbles nicely, and it’s a little sharper and saltier—counterbalances the sweetness of the peaches and tomatoes nicely.
  • Basil chiffonade, about 2 tablespoons.  Chiffonade is a really pretty French word that means “made of rags”. How does everything sound prettier in French?

Make it:

  • Put the peach and tomatoes in a medium bowl.  Drizzle with just enough balsamic vinegar to coat.  Toss.
  • Season with salt and pepper.  Toss.
  • Drizzle with olive oil to coat.  Toss.  If you have other stuff to work on, this can sit, refrigerated, for about ½ hour.  Just stir it up every ten minutes or so.
  • Lay a bed of arugula in four wide bowls.
  • Spoon the peach/tomato mixture over arugula.
  • Top with feta, then basil.

Happy Hubby

Crunchy Avocado, Spinach & Goat Cheese Sandwich

Crunchy Avocado, Spinach & Goat Cheese Sandwich

Last night with dinner, we had a delicious whole grain bake at home loaf of bread.  We only ate about half of it, so the rest, of course, was destined for sandwiches…but not ordinary Boring Sandwiches…  I have two gigantic wine barrels full of mint in my backyard, so that served as further inspiration.  The rest are just some of my favorite ingredients.  Happy Lunch! Continue Reading »

Summer is upon us, and our gardens are starting to reward us for making it through yet another long winter of tasteless store bought fruits and veggies. Pea pods are starting to plump, holding sweet little round orbs of love.  Tomato and pepper plants are starting to grow excitedly from little baby seedlings into botanical toddlers.  Strawberries and raspberries are ripening at a mad pace–we’d even have cherries this year if the giant dog would do anything about the thieving squirrels!

The hubby came in with a big beautiful bowl of strawberries from the garden tonight, so – obviously – daiquiris are in order!  Nothing says summer like an ice cold beverage, and I love celebrating the garden by drinking it.  This recipe is kind of a daiquiri/mojito hybrid (even better!), nothing like the syrupy pink slushee drinks served at bad chain restaurants across the country.

Hooray summer!

Summer Strawberry Mint Daiquiris
(makes 2)

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups fresh strawberries, hulled
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed mint (Optional–if you don’t have mint in your garden, don’t go out and buy it for this drink.  It’s very subtle, and not worth spending $5 to get the 1/2 cup you need for two drinks.  If you have it in your garden, you know you have some to spare.)
  • 2 limes
  • 3 oz. rum (or to taste)
  • sugar to taste (or none at all!)
  • ice Continue Reading »

My world doesn’t abide by standard 9 to 5 rules.  I run a small business, work as a freelance graphic artist, and have a large crazy dog who needs more supervision and attention than a 9 to 5 family could provide.  (Boy did he luck out finding suckers like us!)  In addition, the Hubby works four nights a week, so much of our quality time happens in the afternoon.  Rather than having a nice dinner out once a week, which seems to be the American norm, we tend to do lunch out instead.

For us, eating lunch out is actually quite nice.  Unlike 9to5ers, we are generally not in a hurry during lunch.  We aren’t running out between phone conferences, grabbing the fastest thing on the block.  We don’t have business meetings over lunch–there are no laptops and no sales pitches.  Instead, we have the luxury to take our time and read the paper, maybe do the crossword puzzle.  Our tabs tend to be pretty low, since we aren’t tempted by the wine list, and since lunch is served in smaller portions, it’s cheaper. Often we spend less on lunch out than we would have spent buying lunch fixings at the grocery store.  It’s also a great way to try that trendy new spot you have been curious about, or that crazy ethnic restaurant with the menu you can’t pronounce (the one you are a little afraid of, but still intrigued by) without blowing a lot of money or time on dinner.  I am a big fan of lunch.

On the days when we eat at home, however, our fallback plan is sandwiches. Continue Reading »

The Big Day

Peas

Pea Plants ~ about a month old

Are We There Yet?

I know.  I said planting day wouldn’t be until at least the weekend after Mother’s Day.  I said that.  I did.  However.  This unusually warm spring has got me thinking that it might be OK to bump planting day up a bit.  This weekend looks like it might be a little on the cool side, but next week looks exactly right for planting.  If you aren’t ready, no worries!  You will still be on schedule if you wait a couple of weeks.  However, if you are itching to get your hands dirty (like I am), I don’t want you waiting on me to do it.

There are still a few plants that should probably wait.  Summer squash hates to be cold, and besides, we planted all of those cool-season greens in our squash bed, so let’s hold off on those.  Cucumbers and corn are other plants that like really warm weather—let’s wait to put those guys into the ground until later in the month.  Check the back of your seed packets—if they indicate that you should wait until 1 to 2 weeks after the average last frost, wait a week or two before planting them.  I know, we haven’t had a frost for a couple of weeks, so technically it probably already is 1 to 2 weeks after the last frost.  However, May nights can (and are supposed to) still get down into the low 40s, and some plants just don’t like the cold, even if there isn’t a freeze. Continue Reading »

Tomato Seedlings

Next destination: the garden!

You have babied your indoor seedlings for almost two months.  You have watered, turned, and maybe even talked to them.  They are still tiny little guys—far too small and immature to face the harsh reality of The World.  Or are they?  Those little guys might look feeble and fragile, but they are ready to take the next step in life:  Hardening Off.

It might sound just a bit naughty, but the process of hardening off is simply gradually introducing seedlings to the outdoors.  If they are thrust at once into unpredictable and varied outdoor conditions after being grown in a controlled indoor climate, young seedlings can easily go into shock and die.  You’ve spent a lot of time growing your babies from seed—don’t blow it now!

Hardening off should be done over a one to two week period of time.  Below is a timeline for one week—if you start the process this Saturday, you will be ready to plant next Saturday.  If you have more time to harden your plants off, even better.  Just adjust the timeline accordingly, letting your seedlings spend more and more time outside each day.

Day 1:  Start hardening your seedlings off on a day where you will have temperatures between 65 and 75 degrees, with little or no wind.  Put your seedlings in a shaded, well protected place for 4-6 hours, then bring them back in before it gets dark.

Day 2:  Same as day one, but leave them out 6-8 hours, or even a little longer.

Day 3:  Put them out in the shade in the morning, and bring them in when the sun goes down.

Day 4:  Start in the sun (preferably in the spot where you will plant them) during the cooler part of the morning, then move them into shade during the hottest part of the day.  Move them back out into the sun as it cools off in the evening.

Day 5:  Start them in the sun.  If the temperature gets up above 80, move them into the shade.  If not, let them get sun!  Bring them in when the sun goes down or if the temperature goes below 50.

Day 6:  Leave them out in the sun all day, and bring them inside right before you go to bed.

Day 7:  First thing in the morning, take them out to the spot where you will be planting them, and leave them for 24 hours.

Day 8:  Plant!

Let’s celebrate Earth Day by greenifying our garden and getting some seeds in the ground!

Pea Sprouts

Pea sprouts from seeds planted two weeks ago. Yum. Peas.

We have two tasks this week:
1. Plant outdoor seeds.
2. Transplant indoor seedlings for larger plants to larger containers.

This week we are ready to plant these seeds outdoors:

Arugula
Beets
Carrots
Leeks
Swiss Chard
Turnips
Watercress

If you are doing successive planting, you can also plant some more of these:
Lettuce
Radishes

Radish Sprouts

Radish sprouts from seeds planted two weeks ago. (Despite my “no thinning” policy, I am going to have to thin these a bit–they should be at least an inch apart.)

We are done planting indoor seeds, but keep babying the ones you have planted until we are ready to get the seedlings in the ground.  If you have any seedlings that look like the are outgrowing their containers, this is a good time to transplant them to larger pots.  Larger plants, like tomatoes and peppers, are good candidates for repotting.  The more room they have to grow, the better developed their root systems will be.  The better developed the root system, the healthier the plant.  Smaller plants, like onions and lettuce, will be fine where they are for another couple  of weeks until we put them into the garden–their root systems don’t grow as large.  Think about it this way–if a plant will be large above the ground, its root system will be large below the ground.  These are the guys that can use a little more room to grow.

Transplanting is pretty easy.  Look for a container maybe twice as wide as the one your seedling is in now.  Fill it about half full with potting mix–it’s not as important to use mix specially made for seeds here (if you have some left over, though, you might as well use it up), but do use a good, moisture-retaining potting mix.  Then pop your seedling out of its current container and into the new one.  Fill the rest of the way up with potting mix.  Water.  The hard part is finding the room for the bigger containers in your already-plant-filled kitchen.

If you are transplanting tomato seedlings, it’s a bit different–tomatoes like to be buried deep in the soil, because they will develop roots all along the part  of the stem that is buried.  For tomatoes, start with an empty container.  Put the seedling in the container, and bury all but the very top set of leaves in the soil.

Happy gardening!

repottingafter

After

repottingbefore

Before

Bean SproutLook what I found poking out of the soil this week!  If your garden still looks like a big pile of lifeless, brown, wet soil, don’t fret!  There is plenty of activity going on beneath the soil–patience, grasshopper.  My guess is this guy is actually a bean that got left unnoticed from last year’s garden, and sprouted all on his own.  (He will have to be moved to join his other bean friends later.  I will wait until the seeds I planted in the area sprout, so I know where they are and don’t disturb them when I dig this guy up.)

We are just about done with indoor seeds, so if you are running out of room on your windowsills, fear not!  Here is what we have left to plant inside:

Brussels Sprouts
Cabbage **
Melons **
Okra
Tomatillo

** If you want to try cabbage or melons from seed, start them in peat pots (or peat pods)–these guys are both tough to transplant, and the peat pots make it easier on the seedling later.

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