Archive for January, 2013

Interplanting Snap Peas and Chinese Kale

Monday, January 28th, 2013

It’s January in Austin and already time to plant early spring crops.  I took advantage of the tomato trellis that I used last year to support this year’s snap peas.

While cleaning out the bed, I worked around a lemon balm plant.

uncut lemon balm

I’m incorporating some perennial herbs into my raised vegetable beds. This lemon balm needs to be cut back to encourage fresh new growth.

Cutting the lemon balm back to about four inches.

Cutting the lemon balm back to about four inches.

Once I got the bed cleaned out, I added a couple of buckets of compost and created furrows for the peas.

sowing snap peas

Sowing the pea seeds about two inches apart. This year I’m trying a variety called Amish Snap available from Seed Savers Exchange.

covering pea seeds

I use the CobraHead Long Handle to make the furrow for the pea seeds and also to pull the soil over the seeds and then firmly tamp the soil above the seeds.

I wanted to take advantage of the space in the center of the bed, so I transplanted the Chinese Kale that I had started indoors a few weeks ago.  Also known as Kailaan, I’m growing a variety available from Botanical Interests.

completed pea and Chinese kale bed

The Amish Snap Peas are planted on the outside of the trellis and the Chinese Kale on the inside. Backwards? Yes. But the trellis structure was already in place.

The next project: prepare a space for Collard Greens and Mustard Greens.  The seedlings are almost ready to transplant.

collard seedlings

These collard seedlings will be transplanted into the garden soon.



Stove Top Braised Carrots

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013
Braised Carrots

Braised Carrots


We still have about 4 or 5 pounds of garden carrots in the refrigerator.  Noel started a late crop the end of August and harvested what was left of them mid December.  We scrubbed  and bagged them in clear plastic bags and found a spot in the refrigerator (barely).  We munch on a few raw ones just about every day – they’re so sweet and tasty.

The other day I was in the mood for roasted carrots but since my oven was zapped in the last ice storm (we’re waiting for a new part) I thought I’d try braising them on top of the stove.  They turned out quite well with a taste very similar to roasting.

Braised Carrot Recipe

1 dozen medium size scrubbed and unpeeled carrots (mine were about 5-6 inches long)

2 T. Olive Oil

¾ cup veggie broth

1 T. fresh or 1 tsp. dried sage leaves

Preheat a 10” cast iron frying pan to medium high.  Add the olive oil, then carrots and brown for 5 minutes – stirring or turning so all sides are seared.  Add the broth and sage, cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until fork tender.   Remove the cover, turn up the heat slightly and cook until the liquid evaporates.  At this point the carrots and sage will brown and caramelize.  You may need to turn the heat back down so they don’t burn.  Remove from pan and serve.  I could have eaten them all but I shared them with the grower!

Extra Early Sweet Potato Starts

Sunday, January 13th, 2013
Sweet Potatoes and Cuttings

Sweet Potatoes and Cuttings

I had two sweet potatoes left over from last year.  I had used them to grow cuttings for last year’s garden. They were starting to shrivel up but both had put out numerous long sprouts.  The sprouts were rather anemic and one plant had an aphid infestation, but I thought I’d give a try to saving cuttings from both to get a real head start on having lots of good rooted slips ready to go into the ground in late May.

Sweet potatoes are tenacious at hanging on to life and almost any part of a plant, if given good conditions, will root and produce a new plant.  Sprouts, especially, are very easy to get to root.  A long sprout can be cut into smaller sections and each of those sections can also root.  So I removed all the sprouts from the potatoes, cut them down to manageable lengths and potted them all into a large box.  I also planted the old sweet potatoes into potting soil just to see if they would survive and put out more sprouts.

Before I planted the sprouts I rinsed them with cold water to flush away most of the aphids.  After I potted them, I sprayed them lightly with a neem oil, soap mix, which I hope finishes off any remaining aphids.

A Simple Frame

A Simple Frame

Indoor Sweet Potato Greenhouse

Indoor Sweet Potato Greenhouse

 To construct my simple green house, I used some plant markers and lengths of PVC tubing to create a frame over which I just laid a folded large piece of thin poly.

Sweet Potato Sprout Leafing Out

Sweet Potato Sprout Leafing Out

I haven’t checked the temperature under the plastic but it’s noticeably warmer than room temperature.  Our sun room gets pretty chilly at night and sweet potatoes like it hot.  The sprouts are leafing out nicely.  The task now will be keeping the plants alive and healthy until they are ready to plant.  I only need 18 plants and I already have 21 cuttings, so my chances are good.  And I’m sure I can find some gardeners eager to take any extra slips I end up with.