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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.

FondueWe better celebrate.

There’s nothing quite like a big pot of gooey, warm, melty cheese.  It’s not the healthiest thing you can eat, but one must indulge once in a while.  Cheese just so happens to be my absolute favorite thing to eat ever.  Too bad I can’t figure out how to grow it in the garden.

Enjoy.

Ingredients:

  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
  • 1-1 ½ cups dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons Kirsch*
  • 1 pound Gruyere, Emmenthaler, or Jarlsberg cheese, grated (or a combo of two or all three)
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Salt & pepper

* Also called Kirschwasser, a liquor made from a particular kind of German sour cherry.  Available in most liquor stores–a pint will last many many fondue nights.

Directions:

  • Warm your fondue pot to low heat.  You could also use a heavy ceramic bowl warmed in the oven, or place the pan over a warmed hot plate after cooking.
  • Rub the inside of a medium stainless sauce pan with the garlic.  (Most recipes tell you to throw the garlic away after this step, but I say throw it in the pot!  Just don’t eat it later.)
  • Toss the cheese with the cornstarch and nutmeg in a bowl until cheese is thoroughly coated.
  • Place the pan over medium heat on the stove, and add the wine and the Kirsch.  Bring to a slow boil.
  • Reduce heat to medium-low, add the cheese to the wine, and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until cheese is melted.  If it’s too thick, add more wine until it’s the desired consistency.  If you have wine left over, don’t let it go to waste…  😉
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Carefully pour into your fondue pot on low heat—keep an eye on it and stir occasionally so it does not scorch on the bottom.

Serve with bite sized pieces of:

French Bread
Rye or Pumpernickel Bread
Broccoli
Cauliflower
Apples
Pears
Grapes
Dates
Pretzel Sticks
Bread Sticks
Ham
Salami

Hams on the Smoker

The Hubby has a smoker–one of those big ugly black cylindrical barrel-looking grills.  He is a master at pulled pork and beer can chicken.  He has smoked turkeys for Thanksgiving, and they have been divine.  This past year for Turkey Day, we decided to try our hand at making ham, and it was amazing!  You have never seen meat devoured so quickly!  10 pounds was gone in a matter of minutes.  So naturally, when Easter rolled around this year, and we found out we’d be having family in town, we got excited to recreate that delectable dish.

Last weekend, I set the Hubby on a quest for fresh ham–that is, raw uncured pork leg.  He called our go-to grocery store, where we got the meat last November.  The very nice man in the meat department told him, “I am sorry, sir.  We only carry fresh ham for holidays.”  Ummm…  have you heard of Easter???  So he made another call.  At the buy-in-bulk store, the very nice man in the meat department referred him to the deli.  So he made another call.  And another.  And another.  The best answer we got was that it could be ordered for us, and that it would be here in three to four days.  (And that it would cost three to four times what we paid for it in November.)  Not gonna work.  Fresh pork has to be cured in order to turn it into ham.  We cured the 10 pounder for 5 days. Continue Reading »

We are about six weeks away from our last frost!  My guess is that with as warm as this year has been, we aren’t actually going to have too many more frosts, but this is Colorado.  You never can tell.  We are proceeding under the assumption that our last frost will be around or just after Mother’s Day, which is Sunday, May 13.  If you can, clear your calendar the weekend of May 19/20–that will be our biggest planting weekend!

Forsythia

Everywhere you go right now, there are beacons of spring: forsythias.  Forsythias are the shrubs in full screaming-bright-yellow bloom right now.  The rest of the summer they will be green, and fairly inconspicuous, but this time of year they are all calling, “Boo-YA!  Spring is here!!”  Forsythias bloom when the ground temperature reaches about 55 degrees–that’s just about the temperature the ground needs to be to plant a bunch of cool season vegetables.

This weekend, we will be planting seeds both inside and out.  Although we might still have a couple of frosts to come, the forsythia tells us that soil temperatures are high enough to get seeds germinating.   So let’s get ’em in the ground!

Here are the seeds we’re planting this weekend:

Indoors:
Cauliflower
Lettuce
Radicchio
Watercress
(please be sure to see Lesson #4 below, if you haven’t already)

Outdoors:
Bok Choy (this is a new one for me this year–will let you know how it goes!)
Broccoli & Broccoli Raab
Greens – Mustard & Collard
Kohlrabi (weird looking, but so delish!)
Peas **before planting peas, soak the seeds in water overnight**
Radishes
Spinach
(please be sure to see Lesson #5 below, if you haven’t already)

Additional Resources:

Lesson #4:  Planting the Seed

Lesson #5:  Down & Dirty ~ Direct Sowing Seeds

While turning my beds over this past weekend, I found a small crop of carrots that somehow managed to escape last year’s harvest.  Those stubborn little things survived the winter and were just waiting for me like an impatient child. “It’s about time,” they said, “It’s been freezing out here!”

Carrots for Soup

OK, admittedly not the prettiest carrots you've ever seen, but they will make great soup!

These carrots had, indeed, frozen and thawed, frozen and thawed, frozen and thawed, over and over throughout the winter.  As a result, the skinny ones were flimsy, and the large ones were very woody in the middle.  I couldn’t possibly chop them up to put on a salad, but they had too much life left to be doomed to the compost bin.  The solution?  Soup!  Soups and stews are always a great way to take advantage of veggies that aren’t bad, but aren’t quite at their freshest, either.

Yesterday it snowed, and the temperatures dipped to a chilly 32 during the day.  It seemed the perfect time to turn my tenacious carrots into a belly-warming dinner.  I happened to also have a head of not-so-fresh cauliflower on hand, so I supplemented my carrot crop with some of that, but you could easily make this recipe with 4 cups of carrots (or 4 cups of cauliflower).  Although I think 2 teaspoons of curry powder is just about right for this amount of soup, you will probably want to add 1 teaspoon and taste it before dumping the whole amount in–we tend to eat spicy!  Continue Reading »

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