Archive for June, 2010

Faux Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

Our June-bearing strawberry patch is done for the year. The berries needed to be picked every day for about 3 weeks or so. We put some away in the freezer – bagged a few for future smoothies, sliced and lightly sugared some for future short cakes or pies and made a couple jars of jam.

The best part of having backyard berries is eating them fresh every day. But have you ever wished for something just a little bit more than fresh fruit for dessert but no time to fuss? Well wish no more. Try this: pop one luscious ripe strawberry and 2 chocolate chips into your mouth at the same time. Savor slowly. It tastes almost as if you’ve been melting chocolate and dipping strawberries all afternoon!

Two for the Price of One? Transplanting Corn

Sunday, June 27th, 2010

As usual, I’m putting too much time on the road and not enough time in the garden. Flower and garden shows and other trade shows on weekends throughout the spring and early summer have kept me from where I’d rather be.

I planted a bed of sweet corn on June 7th. That’s a lot later than recommended, but I’ve been much later than that before and still had a fine harvest. I normally plant two beds of different varieties, but this year I was only able to get one bed of Bodacious seeded.

I was home this weekend and the corn needed to be thinned. I plant corn in 10″ wide rows across the beds, seeded 2″ on center. I later thin these to 6″ apart. In past years I’ve used the transplants to plug thin spots where I’ve had bad germination, but this year as I had fairly good germination and only one bed planted, I had the opportunity to experiment with building a complete bed from the transplanted thinnings.

The bed on the left is what I transplanted. The bed on the right is the original seeded bed. I got most of it transplanted yesterday. We had a good soaking rain last night, so the transplants had an easy time of it. I finished the job today, working in mud. I didn’t have enough thinnings to completely fill the second bed, but I’ve got a block of corn 18 rows deep by 6 plants wide, so if this works, I’ll have 108 stalks that I otherwise would not have had.

Yesterday, when the soil was a little drier, I was using a hori-hori knife to cut out the corn for transplanting. It is very important that one does minimal disturbance to the root system when transplanting corn. If you take off too much of the root the corn will grow stunted and/or not set fruit. The garden knife worked great, yesterday, but today the bed was far too muddy. Today I used the CobraHead, which worked very well in extracting the whole root with a mud ball attached. It was also easier to pull back a hole in the mud of the new bed to drop into the transplant with the CobraHead than it would have been with the knife, proving to myself once again that there is a tool for every job and one tool cannot possibly do it all.

Around the outer perimeter of corn I’ll plant cucumber seeds. When they start to vine, I’ll trail them through the outer rows of corn. I’ve done this with great success in years past.

I’ve laid out T-posts with which I’ll build a corral to keep the stalks from blowing over when the summer thunderstorms try to knock the corn down. A disadvantage to raised beds is that the corn in the soft soil is easily flattened by high winds. I started fencing in my crop years ago and have found that by doing this, winds are mostly not an issue. You can see what I do here.

The Karpophoreo Project

Friday, June 25th, 2010

A couple of weeks ago I met Steven Hebbard at workday for a new community garden in Austin. Steven heads up The Karpophoreo Project.

This Austin based venture works with formerly homeless members of the Austin community and others to grow good food. Karpophoreo means to bear good fruit in every good deed in Greek.

The staff and volunteers garden in thirteen locations throughout Austin in places as varied as community garden sites, church land and individual back and front yard plots.

I met up with Steven again today at the Onion Creek Baptist Church garden site to drop off some CobraHead tools that we were donating to the project. Steven explained to me that Austin has over 4,000 homeless people including 1,000 chronically homeless, but also only has 800 emergency shelter beds. The Karpophoreo Project employs people who have recently moved into a mobile home community of formerly homeless.

Steven Hebbard at Onion Creek Baptist Church Garden

One really cool aspect of the project is the CSA/Home Vegetable garden installation hybrid. Karpophoreo staff and volunteers install home vegetable gardens for a fee for homeowners who want their own garden, but don’t have the time to do it themselves. Half of the produce harvested goes to the homeowner and half goes to the Karpophoreo CSA.

Steven also explained that besides producing good, healthy food, the gardens help to establish a sense of place for people who have been in extended transition. Volunteers are an essential part of the project as well and the hope is that future expansions of the project will not only get good food to those who have not previously had access to it, but also create people to people connections throughout Austin.

GBBD June 2010

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

I didn’t have much time to run around the garden and take pictures this morning (plus it was just about to rain), but I managed to snap a shot of this lovely bloom on the way to my car.

And yes, it smells great.

Monica at Garden Junkies's Gravatar Lovely rose. Do you know what it is? Looks a bit like one of the David Austin roses…
# Posted By Monica at Garden Junkies | 6/15/10 8:10 AM
Mr. McGregor's Daughter's Gravatar Oooh, is that ‘Abraham Darby’? I just love the Austin roses.
# Posted By Mr. McGregor’s Daughter | 6/15/10 9:12 AM
LINDA from EACH LITTLE WORLD's Gravatar Happy GBBD! That is one stunning rose. Hope you and the garden are both doing well.
# Posted By LINDA from EACH LITTLE WORLD | 6/15/10 9:26 AM
Anneliese's Gravatar Sorry, folks. I have to claim complete ignorance on this one. Here’s how much I know about the flower in the picture above:

1. It’s a rose.
2. It’s yellowish.
3. It has a slightly citrus-y scent.

I’m usually pretty clueless about flower varieties, and I never really paid a whole lot of attention to roses. Now that I have a few of my own, I guess I’ll have to get in touch with our contact at David Austin Roses to see if he can fill me in a bit.

# Posted By Anneliese | 6/15/10 7:08 PM

Asparagus Biscuit Loaf

Monday, June 14th, 2010

Asparagus Biscuit Loaf

Following is my vegetarian version of a Tuna Biscuit Ring recipe that I cut out of a Gold Medal Flour bag almost 40 years ago. I’ve served it a lot over the years sometimes using salmon. I stopped making it into a ring shape because it was almost always lopsided though very interesting! When I managed to shape it just right it was quite the centerpiece on the table. I also cut back on tuna, though I love it, because of the mercury levels in the fish.

Our asparagus patch is on the down swing here in Wisconsin but obviously this dish is quite adaptable to whatever vegetable is in season. Served with cheese sauce it is quite a filling dish. For a lighter version make a mushroom gravy using thickened broth. Either way it’s a quick dish to make and not as complicated as it might seem. (Prepare the gravy while the loaf is baking. Voila!)

Asparagus Biscuit Loaf

1 egg, slightly beaten 2 cups cooked chopped asparagus or mixture of whatever veggies you like ½ cup chopped onion ½ cup shredded sharp cheddar, swiss, feta or your favorite cheese ½ cup snipped parsley or other herbs or micro-greens from your garden ½ tsp. seasoned salt, celery salt or spike ¼ tsp. pepper

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Reserve 2 tbsp. of the egg; set aside. Mix remaining egg, asparagus, onion, cheese, parsley, salt and pepper. Prepare Biscuit Dough. Roll dough into rectangle, 15″ x 10″; spread with mixture. Roll up & pinch dough together, beginning at wide side. Place loaf seam side down on greased baking sheet. Pinch ends together. With scissors, make cuts 2/3 of the way through loaf at 1″ intervals. Turn each section on its side (alternate sides); brush with reserved egg. Bake 25-30 minutes. Serve with hot cheese sauce or your favorite mushroom gravy (a recipe here).

Biscuit Dough 2 cups flour – I usually use 1 cup unbleached and 1 cup whole wheat 3 tsp. baking powder ½ tsp. salt ¼ cup olive oil mixed with ¾ cup milk or water

Measure flour, baking powder and salt into bowl. Stir in liquid to make a soft, puffy, easy-to-roll dough. Round up dough on lightly floured surface. Knead lightly 20-25 times, about ½ min.

Cutting the Loaf

Cheese Sauce

¼ cup butter or olive oil ¼ cup flour ½ tsp. salt ¼ tsp. pepper 2 cups milk of your choice ½ tsp. dry mustard 1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese (about 4 oz.)

In sauce pan, melt butter over low heat. Blend in flour, salt and pepper. Cook over low heat, stirring until mixture is smooth and bubbly. Remove from heat. Stir in hot milk. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir 1 min. Stir in mustard and cheese; heat until cheese is melted.

Glazing

Leslie's Gravatar Looks very yummy!
# Posted By Leslie | 6/15/10 4:45 PM
Sue's Gravatar Looks yummy, want some right now….
# Posted By Sue | 6/15/10 6:10 PM

Gardening in Wongonyi

Monday, June 14th, 2010

We firmly believe that small-scale agriculture plays a major role in efforts to create a world that supports all of us. Through our gardening business, we have been fortunate to get to know and support hundreds of community gardening and grow-your-own projects.

A couple of years ago Noel met Peter and Kathy Wood of Bracebridge, Ontario at the annual Garden Writer’s conference. They have been assisting Ronnie Mwachia Mdawida in his efforts to improve people’s life in his hometown of Wongonyi, Kenya and the surrounding area. Most of the residents of Wongonyi are subsistence farmers. Through The Ronnie Fund created by Kathy and Peter, we were able to send a couple of shipments of our tools to Wongonyi.

We are happy that our tools could be put to good use.

“This old Man really enjoys working with this tool, he wishes he would have known it years before. I hear he uses it mostly to weed between tight spaces. He used to destroy a lot of plants but now that is history. He had to show me how he was using it between tight spaces of the seedlings. I Know its really efficient and makes work easy. Thanks! This was a worthy tool.”… Ronald Mdawida

Weeds Feed Me – Indirectly

Monday, June 14th, 2010

As a believer in a purer meaning of organic and sustainable, and opposed to the mistaken path of the corporate food system, I know the insane war on weeds cannot be won with chemical warfare. In fact, if weeds have to be killed, hand-to-hand combat is the only solution. I do not make war on weeds, but integrate their growth into my gardening system. My vegetable garden is a testing ground where I’m constantly confirming that it is logical to use weeds as my major compost ingredient. Rather than growing an assortment of specific compost crops, I just harvest my weeds and compost them on a large scale.

This picture shows my compost area. Burdock is the dominant weed, but there are also lots of nettle, some dandelion, various grasses and all the other wild invaders that some gardeners consider a plague, but I look at it as free food for my veggies. Well, almost free. There is a lot of labor involved in harvesting.

The nutritional value of composted weeds like burdock, dandelion and nettle is well documented. I crank out weed-based compost in copious amounts, and I am pretty happy with the results. My clay soil is constantly improving in tilth and apparent fertility.

I cleaned out this area over the weekend so I could plant some squash, pumpkin and melon seedlings. I had no place ready to go in the regular garden beds for Hubbards and other large squash, and I thought it might be a good idea to let some of the trailing squashes head out from here into the wilderness behind. I’ll trellis some of the smaller climbers that I planted closer to the front of the bed.

When an area of my garden gets overrun, my quick clean up tools are a camping hatchet and a kama (a small hand axe developed in Okinawa, so sharp and deadly that it is actually in the kung-fu arsenal of weaponry). With those tools I can quickly knock down almost everything standing. I remove the residue to the compost pile, then use a garden fork and a CobraHead to do the root and small weed removal.

Here is the same area after I cleaned out the burdock and planted the cucurbits. The harvested burdock and other plant material are atop the compost pile in the rear of the picture. I’m quite happy with the idea that I don’t spend any money on fertilizer or herbicides and that my garden is a fairly closed loop as far as inputs go.

Kathy Roche's Gravatar What do you do about the weeds reseeding themselves in the compost that you put on your veggies? That has been a major headache for me.
# Posted By Kathy Roche | 6/15/10 8:05 PM
Noel's Gravatar This could be considered the main shortcoming of the system. There is never a shortage of weeds. I have to approach weeding as a positive. It’s my main form of exercise, and it’s free compost.

I do a lot of scalping standing up. That helps a lot. I use a variety of good hand tools for different weeding situations. The raised bed system I employ also helps as the plant growth from the crops does smother out weeds as the plants mature. I totally cover the beds in fall with leaves which cuts winter weed germination and some of the leaves are raked into the aisles of the beds in the spring to form a mulch there. My garden is very large, yet I find that I can keep weeds (mostly) under control, and if they do get out of control, I can reclaim the overgrown areas without exhausting effort, as I explained above.

Since my very relaxed composting process is not cooking all the weed seeds dead I have no choice but to be a diligent weeder. I do not find the task overwhelming or consuming, but the weeding has to be done continuously spring through fall.

# Posted By Noel | 6/16/10 9:35 AM