Sunday, January 25, 2015

The End of the Persephone Days

It seems many bloggers are talking more about the Persephone Days; a term coined by writer and veg farmer Eliot Coleman (after the myth of Persephone's kidnapping and confinement to the underworld for part of the year). The chatter is because many of us are passing beyond the magical line (due to the angle of the Earth) of 10 hours of sunlight. For my garden location, we drop below 10hrs of daylight on November 19th and back over 10hrs on January 23rd. In the time in between those two dates, outdoor plants are dormant and after is when we will begin to see growth and consider it a time when we can plant again. Yay!

You can find your own daylength table here.

All of this information makes winter more tolerable and seemingly shorter. Considering the longer days is a shining light. Hope and promise. With this information I sow.

Over December break I started sowing seeds in the basement nursery. Today I planted seeds in pots in the dome.
 Because I have a problem with slugs in the dome I decided to
suspend a tray by hemp to evade them. Slugs particularly love
tender seedlings. The tray on the left was one I planted last fall with varying
winter-hardy seedlings, like California poppies, Snapdragons, Larkspur and Nigella. 
In the right tray I planted Snapdragons (3 kinds), and Fragrant Cloud & Woodland Tobacco
Knowing that these seed varieties are often early germinators I thought it was safe to start them in the dome.
The benefits of starting in the dome are no energy need and no hardening off. 

 In the basement nursery- Lovage, Valerian, Parsley & Fennel
(left to right)

Hollyhocks and Blanketflower germinating.

Today I set a flat of spring greens outside for an hour. It's misty, gray and warm enough. I thought they may enjoy it. 

Dome activity
 The state of Chard- regrowth
 Overwintered Hellbores & Russian Sage (was looking promising until recently)

 I think this is a Mizuna. It was in a mixed pack of veggies.
I LOVE it. I nibble on it in the dome. I hope to collect seed from
it as it's a new fav. It is both peppery and earthy.
 Happy Pansy
 Self-sown corn salad (mache)
I finally realized why I don't love this veg.
The name implies the flavor- corn, and I don't love corn that much.
This is also one of the few plants not eaten by slugs. I think that says something.

 The state of collards.
 Resprouting Kale

 Celery made it!
I say that like winter is over. 
I'm not a fan.
Attempted Burn
 Needed to get this done as the bulbs are showing
themselves. 1/24/15
Star of Bethlehem

And inside:
One of my favorite fragrances- Fragrant Olive

Good Eats
With the nice Sweet Potato harvest I think we've had sweets at least a dozen different ways this
winter. This recipe was from a recent gifted cookbook. The sweets are cooked in a spice mixture I wouldn't have thought of. Served over spiced polenta (or grits). Yum. 

Happy Gardening makes for Happy Eating!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

New Garden Year Anticipation

The ever insatiable desire to garden is probably greatest in this lull of short days or am I ever garden full? I've made my first seed & plant orders this week:
Pinetree Garden Seeds- lots of veg stuff
Stark Brothers Nursery: 2 Honeyberries (Cinderella & Borealis), 3 Red Gooseberries (Hinnonmaki), 3 Anne Golden Raspberries and 3 Royalty Purple Raspberries~ to go in orchard beds and in the old garden, which is now the semi-permanent plant garden.

I've been thumbing through the tomatoes- what to add, what to keep. I've pretty much decided to continue the focus on Roma-sized, a couple cherries and a couple beefsteaks. I don't need much for mater or pepper seeds and I've decided 40 tomato plants will be the goal and filling almost 1 entire row in the garden. They are the most used and versatile fruits of the garden. This morning I started my pepper seeds with the technique I started using last year (baggy method on heat). I'm reusing last year's baggies and see 12/25 written on them. I guess I get the pepper itch this time of year. The pots of chilies are doing very well. All have kept their greenery. They are yellowing a bit and the Chiltepins have ripe fruits. 

Winter weather
Winter has been relatively mild so I've had days here and there to do a little yard work- still raking, cutting dead stems & tossing some seeds here and there. Tonight it is suppose to be around 14F, which will be our coldest night yet. The Dome still hasn't gotten below freezing, but maybe I should pick lots of chard tonight just in case. We can have it with our favorite roasted beans & sweet potato gratin. 

Yesterday morning was absolutely gorgeous. The world was sepia & frost. 

Winter Solstice Excursion
I know I posted on the Solstice already, but it was before our hike to Salt Lick Nature Preserve, where we hiked the Salt Lick & Johnson Trail loop (5 miles). 
 Kentucky Coffee Tree pods
dangle over the cliff

 Salt Lick Trail

 Playing with Puffballs

 Looking up from the Johnson Trail

Wild Yam

 KY Coffee Tree pods
and seeds extracted below
We scarified and planted along the creek at the Nature Park
KY CT are not abundant and declining.
We hope this helps.

Food Stuff
Made this soup & froze for later eating. 
It was very tasty and almost all of the ingredients
came from the garden (fresh or frozen).
 Chard, White Bean and Potato Soup

Totally Homegrown Breakfast
 Potatoes, Corbachi peppers, green onions, thyme & an 
egg from Rosa

Jerusalem Artichokes
made them like hashbrowns
I'm hoping to establish another bed of these.

Five weeks + < 1 packet of seed + < 2 square feet of space = first Indoor Salad
I picked this salad this morning from the basement.
It's pretty amazing what you can grow for very little in a small space
and without much money. I cut this first salad hoping for further ones from the same pots.
I guess I'll have to see how many salads for 3 I can grow from this planting.
I attempted to grow this another winter years ago and realized I left the lights
on too long. This one was done at 8 hours, which seems to be a good number. 

The setup.

I think this motivates me to start another round. 
5 weeks to grow a salad isn't bad.
I'm also starting some spring greens for the Dome greenhouse. 

A rare visitor for us: Red Bellied Woodpecker
The regular Downy Woodpecker had
to wait her turn for the first time.

I gave Hubs a Trail Cam. Maybe I will have future night critter posts in addition to the day active ones.

Wishing you garden bounty in 2015!
-The Perpetual Gardener

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Winter Solstice

Tomorrow day length will be 1 whole second more than today. And then 4 seconds, 6, 8, 12.... It's an exiting time and another day to reflect on what the sun's energy gives to us both directly and indirectly. It's a day to be in her presence and plant seeds which will feed from her in the longer days to come. We plan on taking a hike. Hubs and I enjoyed a quiet Solstice Dinner together with some foods yet from the garden and I took some time to plant a few seeds until my hands were too cold to work.

Solstice Meal
 Solstice feels a little like the more appropriate New Year for me. I decided to make some light & healthy North African fare.  
 A cucumber salad with tomatoes still from the garden.
They are shriveling so these will be the end soon. This
also contains green onions & parsley still growing outdoors.
 Fattoosh (w/o the pita bread)

Lentil Salad w/ tomatoes, parsley, garlic and peppers (from the garden).
This was very good. Salatat 'Adas

I also made Hareera (Moroccan Veg Soup) that is traditionally eaten at sundown during Ramadan and a Zucchini and Yogurt spread on pita bread. All were delish. 

And for the Celebratory Cocktail:

 Winter Warmer

Orange Cake with Dark Chocolate Ganache

Very yummy

 I collected some Common Milkweed seeds from the side of the road in town this summer. Knowing that Milkweeds are notoriously difficult to transplant due to their long taproot and wanting to make sure they do not have to compete with nearby plants, while putting them in an existing bed....I came up with this solution. Well, I hope it works.
 I took some 2 gal plastic pots, removed the bottom and slit up the sides.

 Dug a hole and partially buried the pot.
Filled the pot with the native soil.
 And planted the seeds directly in the potted soil.
My plan is to remove the potted ring when the plants have
established themselves. This method will also help me
find and monitor the plants, while they receive the necessary stratification
time outdoors and in their native soil. 

There was a nice article regarding the importance of snags (dead or dying trees). The author suggested we need to see more of these in landscapes, not just wild places. According to the article snags support up to 1,000 species; providing habitat, food and shelter. In addition 35 native bird species use these trees. Our Sugar Maple is slowly dying. The last 2 years we trimmed away some of the fragile branches- particularly ones that could land on our house. The intent, however, is to leave the bulk of this tree for wildlife.
The article is here
Dying Sugar Maple in the
woodland garden

Worshiping the Sun from Indoors:
Growing Alfalfa Sprouts

Various plants reaching for the light

Narcissus in bloom

Other outsidies
 Henry's Garnet Itea still holding leaves
The Fragrant Viburnum's leaves finally dropped this week. 

and Coral Bells
still green 

This year's Solstice tree.
A Chinese Juniper loaded with berries

Happy Winter and Cheers to longer days.