Archive for May, 2012

Orange Frost Satsuma

Thursday, May 31st, 2012
Orange Frost Satsuma

Orange Frost Satsuma, still waiting to go into the ground.

Earlier this month I attended the Texas State Master Gardener Conference in San Antonio.  The master gardeners had a new cold hardy satsuma, “Orange Frost”, available.  This satsuma variety will not be commercially available until 2014.

What makes Orange Frost cold hardy in places like Austin is that unlike most satsumas, it is not grafted.  So if a hard freeze in Austin kills the top growth down to the ground, the re-growth in the spring will be true to variety.  Even with its extra hardiness, I will still mulch the roots heavily in the winter and cover the entire plant whenever the temperature dips below freezing.

Orange Frost

Small fruits beginning to form. I need to remove all of these immediately so that the tree can put its energy into root growth this year.

Repurposing Chain Link Fences at Wamboldtopia

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

Back from the Garden Blogger’s Fling in Asheville, North Carolina; great gardens in a beautiful setting.  I saw way too much to try and put into one overview, so I’m going to highlight ideas that I got from several of the places that inspired me in a short series of posts.

Wamboldtopia is the creation of Damaris and Ricki Pierce.  Besides being gardeners, Damaris is an artist, and Ricki a stone mason,  Their entire garden impressed me, but the converted chain link fence caught my attention as I also have chain link fence around my yard and have been thinking of ways to utilize its structure to provide support for something completely different.

Chain link fence with concrete coating

The ordinary chain link fence, transformed at Wamboldtopia.

Damaris told me that she used concrete, but that adobe would also work in the appropriate setting.

Plants on converted chain link fence

Some of the original chain link fence is left uncovered as a window and plant support.

er metal mesh is attached to the chain link fence to provide support for the concrete.

A tighter metal mesh is attached to the chain link fence to provide support for the concrete.

Stained concrete, bricks and other adornments on converted fence

Stained concrete, bricks and other adornments.


CobraHead Facebook Photo Contest

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

We want a photo of you using the CobraHead Weeder and Cultivator or CobraHead Long Handle Weeder and Cultivator. You could win $200!

Do you have a favorite use for the CobraHead? We would like to see you in the garden using our tools! Between now and June 12th, upload a picture or pictures of you using the CobraHead or CobraHead Long Handle. Winners will be selected by the CobraHead team and will be announced in June. We will award prizes for the best three photos.

First prize is $200.

Second prize is a CobraHead Garden Essentials Package (CobraHead Weeder and Cultivator, Garden Padd Kneeler and Brook and Hunter Border Fork) worth $89.95.

Third prize is a CobraHead Weeder and Cultivator worth $24.95.

To enter, please visit our Facebook page and click the photo contest button just below the cover image.

Miese weeding Strawberries

Interplanting Garlic with Greens

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

Here are two videos about garlic and inter-planting garlic with salad greens.

garlic and cilantro

I plant garlic here in southern Wisconsin in late October.  I plant the cloves along the top of ridges of a raised bed that has been shaped into three ridges (or two troughs).  After I plant the garlic I mulch it deeply with straw.

I plant the garlic on the tops of ridges in my dense clay soil because garlic likes to be well drained. I’m minimizing the chance of the garlic getting water-logged then frozen as it goes through our often very cold winters under its insulating straw blanket.

In spring, I pull back the straw and inter-plant salad greens of all types along the edges of the ridges and in the troughs.  The greens are somewhat protected from the sun by the garlic flags.  The inter-planting gets me two crops out of the bed at the same time.

The first video shows how I use both CobraHead tools to help me remove the matted down straw.  The second video explains the inter-planting process.

Asparagus Spring Onion Cheddar Cheese Scones

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

Asparagus Cheese Scones

My favorite scone recipe is from the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board – “Wisconsin Colby Cheese Scones”.

I think sharply flavored cheeses stand out more in this recipe so I usually use an aged cheddar or an aged Swiss cheese.  A little feta is good too, as is pictured above.  Sometimes I add herbs such as sage or rosemary.  Now during asparagus season cooked chopped asparagus and minced spring onions add a little extra ‘spring’ to the mix.

Substituting half of the flour with soft whole wheat flour also changes the flavor a bit.  You can use all whole wheat pastry flour but the scones tend to be on the heavy side although still very tasty.


2 cups unbleached or soft whole wheat pastry flour or a mixture of the two

2 tbl. sugar

1 tbl. baking powder

¼ tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. salt

1 ¼ cups (5 ounces) sharp cheddar cheese, aged Swiss or feta cheese

½ cup sour cream or yogurt

3 tbl. milk

1 egg, beaten

¼ cup olive oil

1 to 1 ½ cups cooked asparagus, chopped (any leftovers?)

2 tbl. minced spring or green onion

Additional milk, for brushing scones

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in large bowl.  Add the cheese to the dry ingredients and mix lightly.  Stir in asparagus & onion.

In a small bowl, combine the sour cream with 3 tbl. milk, blend in the egg and oil.  Add to flour mixture stirring until the mixture forms a ball.  Scrape dough onto a floured surface.

Knead the dough 15 times, and divide the dough in half.  Pat each half into a 7-inch circle.  Cut each piece of dough into 8 wedges.  Place 2 inches apart on a greased baking sheet.  Brush tops with milk.  Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until the bottoms are golden brown.  Enjoy with butter and/or jam.  Who needs bread in the house when these yummy scones take only a few minutes to prepare?

Potting Off to a Hoop Tunnel

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

Hoop Tunnel

There are normally three steps to growing vegetables that require indoor seeding.  First you plant the seeds in a growing medium into a flat or a small container.  Second, you transplant the sprouted seedlings after they have established themselves into a second, larger container.  This is called potting off and it gives the seedlings room to expand both their root system and their leaf growth.  Then, when the weather is right these transplanted and firmly established seedlings go to their final growing place in the garden.

Potting off has always been a particularly onerous chore for me.  It is extremely time consuming.  It requires setting up many times more flats and cups than are required to get the seeds started, and since I don’t have a greenhouse to work in, it makes a big mess of my sun-room where I have to handle all these transplanted starts.

If the seedlings are left in the little paper cups I start them in, they soon show the effects of over-crowding.  They either get spindly or stop putting out robust new growth.

Tomato Seedlings

In many years, I’ve not kept ahead on potting off and many of my garden starts have been direct from the seed pot or flat into the garden.  I just had to hope for the best with my underdeveloped plants and I’ve usually gotten away with it.  It’s amazing how fast plants take off once they have room to grow.  But there have been numerous occasions when the little seedlings just did not have enough energy to kick in and I’ve lost plants due to my lack of diligence.

Last year, when I was way behind on getting my tomatoes, peppers, and coles moved into larger temporary quarters, and I knew I was not going to have the time to do things right, I put up a small section of low tunnel hoop and moved most of the seedlings directly from their cups into the bed.  The plants thrived and I was able to move them to their permanent place in the garden conveniently.

This year, I specifically planned to try this again.  Yesterday, I put up a hoop tunnel and got over 300 plants into a temporary bed in the the ground, not in pots, in a single afternoon.  I’m pretty sure I won’t be potting off to second containers again.


I had all the inputs for the hoop house and it only took me about a half hour to set it up.  I took a little time to make sure the bed was weeded and smoothed out to receive the small starts.  I posted earlier about how to build a low hoop tunnel here.

In the earlier post, I was using agricultural fabric to cover the hoop tunnel.  For this tunnel, I purposely used polyethylene.

We are having thunderstorms off and on, right now, and I do not want my fragile seedlings to wash away or be inundated.  I may re-cover the hoops with ag fabric later, but for now, the poly is a good protector.  A disadvantage to the poly is that during the day, the plastic has to be removed or at least drawn back so the heat can escape.   Leaving the structure closed would almost certainly cook the delicate seedlings.


I set the tunnel up over a smaller bed with about 11 feet of growing space.  I could have used a larger bed, as I ran out of room by the time I was finished.  But better planning would have also worked.  I spaced the coles too far apart to start.  In this “holding tank” setup, the plants really don’t need much room.  They have way more space to spread out than in their little cups and they are only going to be here for three to four weeks, anyway.

I’ll probably have to do some re-arranging in a few days.  I’ll wait until the plants are over their initial transplant shock.  I need to space out the peppers, which I just moved in a clump from the seed pot to the ground, and I need to make some room for my celery and celeriac, which is still in cups.

Under the Hoops

We had thunderstorms last night.  The plants were under their plastic cover and well protected.  In this picture I took this morning, the plants are already happy and they will soon explode in their new home.  I have over 300 plants in here, so you can imagine how much time I’ve saved versus sticking each one of these into its own pot.

Quick and Easy Spring Meal

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

Salad and Oven Roasted Asparagus

Judy and I enjoyed a great light meal last night that was mostly from the garden – a salad with a side of roasted asparagus.

The roasted asparagus recipe:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Wash & dry asparagus spears after removing woody ends.  In a large bowl pour in 1-2 T. olive oil,  mash in 1-2 crushed cloves garlic, 1/2 tsp. seasoned salt & freshly ground pepper.  Toss in asparagus spears & gently mix until well coated.  Place on a greased baking pan and roast for about 20 minutes, turning the pan halfway through.  We used about 1/2 lb. of asparagus, which was a good amount for the two of us.

The salad was mostly greens from the cold frame, some volunteer mustard and cilantro, and some spring onion.  Not from the garden are the walnuts, apples, and feta cheese, but it was mostly a homegrown meal.  The salad, topped with a shiitake vinaigrette, was just too good.