Archive for April, 2008

First of the Springtime Foraging…..

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

We have been eating our homegrown shiitake mushrooms for about a week now but April 29th was the first day I picked a few spears of asparagus. They weren’t very tall but who can wait to have that first taste?! We’ll soon tire of the asparagus after 3-4 straight weeks of eating it every day but right now that green stuff tastes wonderful.

Speaking of green stuff I also harvested the first of the nettles. They seem to be quite prolific next to the compost pile. I’ve read a lot of good things about nettles and their spring tonic effect and even tasted them before but this is the first time I harvested and cooked them myself.

I snipped the tops (4-5 leaves) into a big bowl, washed them carefully without touching them and threw them into a pot of boiling water for about 7 minutes. The cooking does take the sting out! I then chopped it and sautéed it along with shallots, asparagus and shiitakes to add to the evening risotto. We drank the leftover liquid as a tea – at least some of us did….. it was like drinking spinach juice. Noel added honey to make it more palatable. Maybe next(?) time we’ll incorporate into a fruit smoothie!!

Carol, May Dreams Gardens's Gravatar I’ve never had the nerve to try to cook nettles. Can’t get beyond the sting of the touch!
# Posted By Carol, May Dreams Gardens | 5/8/08 7:22 AM

Strawberry Fields For . . . At Least Another Year

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

I’ve been able to maintain my strawberries continuously for the 21 years we’ve had a garden here. My first berries were starts we got from a local lady who no longer lives in the area, Jan Lewein. They are a June bearing variety, but we have no idea of the name. The second batch was from my son Geoff, who got them from his job at Nokomis Gardens in East Troy, Wisconsin. These are Honeyeye, also a June bearer. Both varieties are excellent and we’ve been able to keep the beds vigorous, healthy and productive for going on 22 years.

What it takes to keep the strains going is a constant rotation and transplanting of new growth plants while discarding the old. I rotate two beds through my garden. I transplant the beds completely every three years. Both varieties send out lots of runners, so there are always lots of new plants in the spring. They wander into the paths. When I’m not going through a complete bed transplant, I just take any plants that establish themselves in the paths and find an empty spot in the bed then dig them out of the path and transplant them back into the bed.

But every third year I start a fresh bed, as you can see in the top picture. This bed contains 66 plants, three across and in a grid about 16 by 12 inches. I’ve planted these in a very leafy bed, which I hope will assist in both weed control and in feeding the plants. I don’t have any needles in the bed yet, but I’ve found that the berries like a mulch of pine needles. I’ve got lots of those, so if I get to it, they will be added to both the new bed and the two year old bed.

The second picture shows the weed infested three year olds bed that gave me the transplants. I will clean it out and build it up for something else.

Strawberries have been kind of a pain for me to keep weeded. This year, I am going to experiment with heavier mulches. But the weeds don’t usually establish themselves until after the harvest. Chickweed thrives, and dandelions like strawberries a lot, too. Nevertheless, the berries are delicious. When harvests are bountiful we get to put up preserves and freeze berries for wonderful winter treats. And strawberries and rhubarb, whether in a pie, a crisp, or just in a sauce with ice cream or yoghurt are a combination that is just too good.

Spring Cleaning

Monday, April 28th, 2008

I usually clean out my asparagus bed in February. I don’t trim back the mature fronds in the fall as a lot of gardeners do, because I read that leaving them to grow until spring gives more energy to the roots, This year, because we didn’t get our typical February warm spell, the job did not get done. We had heavy snow cover until just a few weeks ago, and because of a hectic weekend show schedule, yesterday was my first real day in the garden.

It was a good thing that I got out yesterday, as the asparagus was sprouting. I would have had to deal with lots of the tender sprouts had I waited any longer. Trying to work around the delicate sprouts is not easy. It’s wiser to clean the bed before any shoots have popped through the surface. But wisdom does not trump reality, so we had to carefully clean the spent fronds and do some weeding at the same time. The first picture shows the bed after I got about a quarter of it cleaned out. The close up picture shows the first few sprouts that have broken through. The bed was planted in 1989 and originally contained 51 plants. A few didn’t make it but the rest have thrived and spread. We have the T-posts in the bed to make a corral to contain the fronds as they grow tall. They will want to fall into the paths, so if I tie them back it makes weeding in this bed, as well as working in the adjacent beds, much easier.

I use pruning loppers to cut off the old fronds. It’s much easier than trying to hack them off with any kind of knife type blade and I can cut easily right at ground level. Although this is not usually an issue, the loppers also made it easy for me to cut off the old fronds right next to any new shots that were poking up. I have to clean up the loppers, which can get quite muddy, but it does not seem to do them any harm.

I was able to get most of the larger weeds in the bed with my CobraHead. It was a perfect day for weeding, two days after a rain, and the roots lifted out easily. I had a lot of dandelion, as well as catmint and nettle and none of those were a problem. I had to leave behind some burdock root, which I know will grow back, but larger burdock and thistle are quite impossible to get out without digging a huge hole. The roots are usually too tender to pull out completely with a single motion, a technique that is easy with a CobraHead and dandelions. The only other weed that I didn’t try to clean out was chickweed. It was way too small to fool with. I’ll just occasionally scalp it off with the CobraHead Long Handle as the season progresses.

After I finished weeding the bed, I scalped and shaped the paths and sides of the bed with the long CobraHead. Then I raked everything clean and smoothed things out with an adjustable wire rake. Now I’m ready to pick asparagus. We will be eating asparagus everyday and giving it away for quite a few weeks. I can keep any weeds I missed under control with the long handled CobraHead. Cleaning out this messy bed was actually pretty easy.

Garden Bloggers Spring Fling 2008

Monday, April 7th, 2008

This past Saturday, Geoff and I were fortunate enough to attend the first ever Garden Bloggers Spring Fling, which took place in Austin. I had an incredibly fun time meeting other bloggers and touring gardens. Unfortunately, I neglected to make sure my camera battery was charged, so I was unable to take any pictures. On the other hand, I was free to simply enjoy the gardens.
We started off the day with a tour of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. I don’t think I can eloquently put into words what a great place this is. Perhaps repeating their mission statement will give you an idea of why I feel strongly about the center: “The mission of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is to increase the sustainable use and conservation of native wildflowers, plants and landscapes. It was just beautiful. Please visit if you have the chance.

After lunch, we stopped by The Natural Gardener, an Austin garden center and nursery that promotes organic gardening practices. I have visited The Natural Gardener on a few occasions, but I never fully realized how big the grounds actually are. Unlike the display gardens of the majority of garden centers I’ve visited, The Natural Gardener grows food! They also have chickens, goats, and miniature donkeys.

Later that afternoon, we visited the private garden of James David and Gary Peese. Again, absolutely lovely. Here’s a picture of me and Geoff, as well as Karen from Savannah Garden Diary courtesy of Julie from Human Flower Project.

Over on the right hand side of the page, I added links to many of the bloggers who attended . Many of them have posted pictures from the event, and they are far better pictures than I would have taken, anyway. You can also find several links and pictures here

Annie in Austin's Gravatar Hi Anneliese,
You and Geoff were so much fun to meet and talk to at the Spring Fling – it was one lovely day, wasn’t it! My camera went wonky on me, too – guess we’ll both have to enjoy the photos of the other garden bloggers.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

# Posted By Annie in Austin | 4/8/08 6:46 AM
Anneliese's Gravatar Annie,
It was great to meet you, too. It was an absolutely beautiful day! Even when the sun got a little warm, all of the gardens had plenty of shady spots to keep cool.
# Posted By Anneliese | 4/8/08 11:04 AM
Mr. McGregor's Daughter's Gravatar Anneliese – It was great to meet & talk with you & Geoff. Don’t feel bad about your camera – mine was working fine, yet I forgot to take photos of things I wanted. It sounds like you had fun anyway.
# Posted By Mr. McGregor’s Daughter | 4/8/08 2:54 PM
Anneliese's Gravatar Mr. McGregor’s Daughter,
It looks like you got some pretty decent pictures! I really enjoyed meeting you, too, and I hope you had a great time in Austin. I also liked your post on Skunk Cabbage. 🙂
# Posted By Anneliese | 4/8/08 3:59 PM
Pam/Digging's Gravatar It was so nice to meet you both, Anneliese. Thank you so much for joining the Fling—and for presenting me with my very own CobraHead tool. My kids are really interested in it (don’t worry, the plastic coating is still on the business end), and I look forward to trying it out.
# Posted By Pam/Digging | 4/8/08 11:47 PM
Anneliese's Gravatar Pam,
Thank you so much for all of the work you did. The event came together really well, and we were all truly impressed. Your house and gardens were fantastic (so were the Mexican Martinis!).

I hope you get lots of use out of your CobraHead!

# Posted By Anneliese | 4/9/08 1:12 AM
Dawn's Gravatar Anneliese,

It was a pleasure to meet both of you & Geoff on Saturday.
I’m glad we had a chance to talk. You are a lot of fun!
Getting a Cobrahead Tool is on my list of ‘Things to Do’. 🙂
Thanks for the link. Your site is on my blog as well.

Cheers!
Dawn

# Posted By Dawn | 4/9/08 9:12 PM
Anneliese's Gravatar Thanks Dawn! It was a real pleasure to meet you, too.

Geoff is frequently attending gardening events in Austin. Keep an eye out for him!

# Posted By Anneliese | 4/9/08 9:26 PM
Linda MacPhee-Cobb's Gravatar Hello,

It was great to meet you and chat over dinner.

# Posted By Linda MacPhee-Cobb | 4/12/08 12:32 PM
Dee/reddirtramblings's Gravatar Hi Annaliese,

I just wanted you know I featured the short Cobrahead in a blog post.

I wrote about my battle with the horrid Bermuda Grass: http://reddirtramblings.com/?p=312 BTW, I can’t get your comments section to take my url. Says it isn’t valid.~~Dee

# Posted By Dee/reddirtramblings | 4/29/08 1:25 PM
Anneliese's Gravatar Linda, very nice to meet you, too. I liked hearing about your experience of moving from New England to Houston. What a gardening change!

Dee, thanks for sending the link and for featuring your experience with your CobraHead! As for your URL not working, I honestly don’t know what to tell you. I don’t know why our comment field would not accept it! I’ll keep an eye out for anything like that in the future, and see if we can figure it out.

# Posted By Anneliese | 4/29/08 2:06 PM

Spring is a Great Time to be Green!

Sunday, April 6th, 2008

Hey Pacific Northwesterners (and visitors)! Please join us next weekend at the first ever Seattle Green Festival. The event will be held at the Washington State Convention & Trade Center on April 12 & 13. Noel and I will be in booth 326 in the Natural Home and Garden Section.

The Green Festivals are a heck of a lot of fun (not to mention educational), so bring the whole family!

Nancy France's Gravatar Hi y’all. I wanted to know about the mid length hoe you were talking about at the Spring Fling, is it the middle length on the site?
# Posted By Nancy France | 4/6/08 11:28 PM
Anneliese's Gravatar Hi Nancy, thanks for stopping by. It was very nice to meet you at Spring Fling this weekend! I’ll email you directly regarding the tool you discussed with Geoff.
# Posted By Anneliese | 4/7/08 1:23 AM

We’ve Been Busy!

Friday, April 4th, 2008

Well, I’m a little bit embarrassed that I haven’t written any blog entries lately, but I think I can get away with using the “I’ve been busy” excuse. It’s true! I have! We all have!

Since early February, CobraHead has had an event nearly every weekend. Garden show season started off with a bang for us at the Wisconsin Public Television Garden Expo in Madison. The next weekend, Geoff and I were off to Virginia Beach for the Mid-Atlantic Home & Flower Show. The show was definitely more “home” than “flower”, but we still had a good time. One of the fun events at that show was a dog stunt show. Every performing dog had been rescued from a shelter, and they all performed amazing tricks.

Bad Pic, Neat Trick!

Anneliese and Geoff at the Booth

While in the area, we had the opportunity to visit the Norfolk Botanical Garden. The Camellias were in bloom, and they were lovely.

Camellia Flower

Camellia Tree

If you ever find yourself in Virginia Beach or Norfolk, I recommend a visit to the botanical garden.

The very next weekend, Judy and I were in Hartford, Connecticut for the Connecticut Flower and Garden Show. It was our first time exhibiting in Connecticut, and the response was good. The weather was icy and snowy on Friday, but the die hard gardeners would not be kept away.

Yar, Buried Treasure!

Judy and Anneliese in the Booth

Connecticut is also where I made up a drinking game involving knit and crocheted scarves. Take a drink every time you see someone wearing a “Fun Fur” scarf. For you non-knitters, “Fun Fur” is generically known as eyelash yarn. It’s a novelty yarn that has lots of little strands that stick out and look like very brightly colored fur. I noticed that I saw a significant number of these scarves walking by, and I decided to make a game of it. Now, I use the term “drinking game” very loosely — we’re only drinking tea back there in the booth!

While Judy and I were in Connecticut, Noel and Geoff were in LaCrosse, Wisconsin at the Midwest Organic Farming Conference. I hear they had a good time, and I’m sure they’d be happy to tell you all about it.

The next weekend, Noel, Judy and Geoff headed out to the Philadelphia Flower Show while I stayed back to hold down the fort. I wasn’t home too long before I shipped off to Boston for the New England Spring Flower Show. The Philadelphia Show and the New England Show both last nine days, and this year they overlapped. Geoff had to leave early from Philadelphia to meet me out in Boston.

The theme this year at the New England show was “Rhapsody in Green”. Many of the landscape displays demonstrated eco-friendly tips and ideas for people to implement at home.

Melting Earth

I particularly liked this sculpture called “Melting Earth”, by Sean McDougal. It was on display at the Safe Lawns booth.

LG-BAGZ-IT

Here’s our friend Larry from LG-BAGZ-IT demonstrating his residential sized bag. Wait, what’s that little hook peeking out of the side pocket of the mini bag?

While we were out there, Geoff and I had the chance to check out Boston a little bit. For some of the best pizza you’ll have on this continent, check out Pizzeria Regina. We also had a couple of hours to spend at the Museum of Fine Arts. I’m told they have a great impressionist collection. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to get to it. My favorite part (of the parts we got to see) was the musical instruments room. There were a lot of brass, woodwind and stringed instruments that I was just itching to take out of their cases and play. I’m pretty sure the museum staff would have been rather upset if I had tried.

I had the luxury of spending over a week at home after returning from Boston. There was still a lot of snow on the ground. While waiting for it to melt, it snowed again. And again. For anyone not aware, south central Wisconsin has had a record amount of snow this year. It’s also been a particularly cold, long winter, too. So I have to say that even though I usually love snow, I wasn’t at all upset about being sent to Austin to join my brother at the Zilker Garden Festival. I was happily wearing flip flops within a half an hour of my arrival in town.

The Zilker Garden Festival is a really fun, laid back little show that’s held at the Zilker Botanical Garden. There are a lot of plant vendors and art sellers, and (this being Austin) there was an abundance of live music for everyone’s enjoyment. Music styles ranged from marching bagpipes to mariachis to good ol’ Austin-style blues rock.

On Sunday morning, I took the opportunity to walk through the botanical garden and take a few pictures.

Path

Japanese Garden

Prehistoric Garden!

It’s been a busy but enjoyable spring for all of us at CobraHead. I just hope we’ll actually get a little time to work in our gardens!