Tuesday, May 10, 2011


There are only a handful of edible wild plants that I can identify so I am quite the novice when it comes to foraging. However I do find a lot of enjoyment when I can locate the few plants I know. It's the ultimate in getting something for nothing. There is no garden to tend, nothing to plant or care for. It's just there and free for the taking.

As things are only just starting to trickle in from the garden I decided to look around my yard and see what I could find. I gathered some dandelion leaves to beef up my meager garden salad of baby lettuce thinnings, the top of the smallest, spiciest radish I've ever seen or tasted and an onion I pulled up early.

I then wandered to where I've seen stinging nettles grow before and picked a bunch of leaves (with gloves on of course!). These I cooked and threw in with some couscous. My husband can't tell the difference between nettles and any other cooked greens in recipes. They really are quite tasty and I hear they are very good for you.

Finally I walked over to the corner of the yard where lemon balm grows. I picked enough to make some tasty iced lemon balm tea to go with dinner.

Even though it's not much, it's enough to make me feel a bit accomplished and to add a little extra nutrition and variety to my dinner.

Is there anything that you enjoy foraging for?

Thursday, April 28, 2011


My potato plants have officially broken through the ground which means that I can finally breath a sigh of relief!

This is my first time growing potatoes so I've been extra worried about these guys especially with all of the rain we've been getting. To plant these suckers I dug out some 6 inch trenches, put the seed potatoes at the bottom and covered them with soil. This will allow me to keep piling dirt onto the growing plants and provide some loose soil for the potatoes to develop in. The draw back is that we've had a very rainy couple of weeks so the trenches have kept getting filled up with water. Every time that happened I just imagined my poor little seed potatoes drowning in water and starting to rot. It worried me so much at times that I'd go out during big rain storms to bail water out of the trenches.

But everything is good now because my little potatoes are alive and well! Yay!

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Case of the Missing Broccoli

Yesterday as I was checking out my garden I noticed that there were only 3 broccoli plants where I was sure I had planted 5. I looked around and noticed two little stumps. That was all that was left of my two little broccoli plants that I had been raising and pampering for almost 2 months now.

Where once there was this:

Now all I had was this:

I know that every year I'm bound to have some crop loss, but it's still stinky when it happens. I'm also kicking myself for this one since I could have prevented it. The most likely culprits are cut worms and one way of protecting plants is to give them little collars when they are young. I save paper towel and toilet paper rolls to cut and use for this. I slip them around the stem and bury part of them. After the cut worm attack I added these collars to my remaining broccoli and cabbage plants so hopefully this won't happen again.

Monday, April 18, 2011


It's that time of year again where I have my seedlings started and things planted outside, but still have a couple weeks before I get to harvest anything. While the seeds were still germinating and just beginning to peep through the ground I had enough to keep myself busy as I hunted to catch the next plant break through the soil and show itself. I'd scour the spot I had planted my peas to find the first pea shoot and check on my indoor seedlings every morning to see if I had anybody new to welcome. (Yes, I probably get a little too excited about my vegetable plants. Recently I've even caught myself talking to them more and more. I'm thinking that it's probably a good thing I'm forced to take a long break from gardening over the winter or else I may just loose my marbles.)

Anyway, back to the point, most of my seeds have already started sprouting so I don't have as many little surprises and am stuck just waiting for my plants to get bigger and start producing. I do love watching them grow but at the moment things seem to be progressing painfully slow. I just want me some salad with lettuce, radishes and snow peas gosh darn it. Is that too much to ask? :(

I really ought to work on being more patient. I am lucky to have a garden at all and it won't be too long until I'm overwhelmed with an abundance (hopefully) of produce and all the work that will go into harvesting and preserving it all. I should also be focused on the garden expansion since I already have tomatoes that are just waiting to be put in the ground but don't have a place yet. Alas, I can't help feeling as though it would all be so much easier if I only had a few leaves of lettuce to tide me over...

Anyone else out there starting to get impatient as well?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

In Love with Bees

I just had one of the coolest experiences of my life. I have an old family friend who happens to be a beekeeper and she let me come over and learn about bees. She first showed me pictures, gave me some general information and told me about what to expect when we go into the hive. Then I got to put on a full body bee suit. It was awesome and I wish I had gotten a picture. I'm sure I looked so cool.

We headed out to one of her hives and she took me through the process of opening up the hive and removing frames. We examined each frame so I got to see cells that held honey, some that had pollen and some that had baby bees in them. I even got to see a brand new baby bee, all cute and fuzzy, chewing it's way out of it's cell, essentially being born. The whole while I had bees flying all around me and crawling over me. A couple of bees even managed to get inside my bee suit and crawl on my face.

After watching tons of worker bees and seeing a drone we had to pack things back up because it was raining. It was all just totally awesome. The bees are just so cute and everywhere. It was so cool to see the combs that they make and fill with honey and the little babies. It was quite exhilarating and I am definitely hungry for more of it. My friend promised that the next time she does anything with her hive or harvest honey that she'll let me know. She also told me of a beginner bee class that they have at a local nature center every year, which I will most surely check out.

I did get stung once on the arm but it really wasn't so bad. In fact I almost feel like I would have been disappointed if I hadn't been stung. It's sort of like a battle scar, proof of my exploits.

I can't wait until I can do that again! I just can't express how exciting it all was!

Early Spring Garden Pics

Here are the pictures that I promised. Nothing super exciting since it's still so early in the season but things are getting there.

These are some of the seedlings that I've got under my grow lights. They are mostly peppers and tomatoes that I'll be transplanting into larger containers once I stop feeling so lazy.

Here are zucchini, yellow squash, and cucumbers. They are all between one and four days old, which almost makes me angry since they are already bigger than some of my month old broccoli plants. But I get to eat these guys too so I'm really not that angry, mostly just impressed.

And here are some of my tomatoes that are a bit further along than those above. They are now too tall for my grow lights so have to hang out by the window. I'm in the process of gradually hardening them off so pretty soon they'll be outside full time anyway.

This is a picture of the garlic that I planted last fall. It over wintered just fine and is flourishing now. It's really the most impressive thing that I've got going so far.

Peas here. Cute beautiful little pea plants.

I know this picture isn't all that exciting but I transplanted my kale and broccoli into this bed. I'm very antsy for them to get bigger. I'm a little impatient. Can you tell?

Last but not least are my surprise onions. Last year as an afterthought I transplanted a bunch of onions around the garden but they really didn't do too well and I forgot about them. Early this spring, however, they started popping up all over the place. A very cool surprise in my opinion.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Where'd You Get Your Seeds?

Last year, since the garden was pretty much an afterthought, I ended up simply stopping by the local garden supply center for my seeds. I've since heard this isn't always the best thing to do because the seeds often sit on shelves for who knows how long in less than optimal storage conditions. Mail order seed companies typically have more controlled storage condtions as well as greater selections. This year as I begun planning back in December, I decided to order seeds online. While trying to pick a seed company I stumbled across the Garden Watchdog which helped make my decision much easier. It's a handy little site that lists tons of seed companies along with extensive comments from people who have dealt with the company in the past. This enabled me to check out a bunch of companies and see if people generally have positive or negative experiences with them. In this way I was able to weed out several companies that initially looked promising but ended up having various issues such as poor customer service or unreliable shipping.

In the end I settled on Victory Seeds and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds because they both received great reviews. I ordered mostly from Victory Seeds and used Baker Creek for some additional items I didn't see at Victory Seeds. I was extremely happy with both companies. Both have great websites that are easy to use, great selections, fast delivery and reasonable prices. For some reason I really liked the packaging for the Victory Seeds, which include an internal mini-ziploc that holds the seeds inside the envelope. It makes it much easier for me to get at the seeds and I feel like I lose a lot less when I try to get them out. On the other hand Baker Creek seeds had very pretty packets and even included a freebie packet of carrot seeds (gotta love freebies!). Seeds from both companies are doing extremely well and I've had no problems with germination. Next year I will be ordering from these guys again.