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Saturday, November 6, 2010

Where Art Thou, Tubers?

My back deck is a shady place. This makes it a lot more user-friendly than one in the sun, given Maryland's hot and muggy summers. Spring and fall, the maple shading it has sparse leaves, making it usable for even more time.

Despite the shade, I need to have flowers. I have tried all kinds of things, usually settling for a combination of houseplants being happy outside, flowers that struggle to bloom in the shade, some vines to hang down. Usually I sue a combination of perennials that I can later place in the garden - coral bells or ferns or lady's mantle - and annuals, such as impatiens, fuchsia, or begonias.

This year was the year of the begonias - not the bedding ones I've used in the past, but nice tuberous begonias. I had company at the start of the season in April, so I bought a couple of large hanging baskets in full bloom.  They were gorgeous until last week when the first frost hit. Actually, one was. The other was a little ragged, but a trooper after I, um, missed the hook in trying to rehang it. A two story fall took a bit of its lushness away, but it did its best to recover.

I have 5 railings planters that I put up to hold flowers that will attract hummingbirds to the flowers and the feeder. I decided to use tuberous begonias - despite the outrageous cost. I ordered than early to start inside, but they did not ship them when I ordered them, so it took foooooreeeeveeeeer for them to grow and flower. The blooms were really beautiful, but they did not fill the planters as I hoped. Late into the season, I added some foliage begonias - beautiful leaves. I thought the flowers would be nothing, but although small, they were lovely. The nursery said I could bring them in as houseplants in the fall, so it was worth the investment.

So today was the day to transplant the foliage begonia into pots. I'm concerned that the pots don't have the kind of drainage I want, but at this point, getting them into the pots was the priority. They bring a great texture to the living room, and I am hoping they will like the diffuse light. I struggle with having enough light anywhere inside to grow plants, so I just try to keep them alive until they can go outside once again.

The there's the Cape Primrose plants. I have had them for a number of years- started with a lot, and they grew to a dividable size. I painted a bunch of pots purple, and gave about half of the plants away to friends. They are supposed to bloom like crazy, but in my dark house, blooming was not on their agenda. My guys hate them; the leaves are not much to look at, so without blooms, they have not added much to the inside decor. I planted them outside again, and now, when the first came, they are blooming like mad. And their blooms are spectacular. Nearly as flamboyant as orchids. So despite telling the guys they would not come in again, I transplanted them to pots. So tomorrow I am off to Home Depot for a light fixture to add some light to a corner of my office, where I hope they will do OK until the spring!

So, with the begonias and the primrose out, I started searching the soil for the tubers. Each planter had one - but I could only find two our of five. Where did the others go? The plants started to die back well before the weather changed. But I thought the tubers would still be fine.

With just 2 tubers, I may not have much next year. But I am going to try.

The plants in the hanging basket should have tubers as well. An on-line guide said to take the tubers out of the soil, remove any remaining dirt, and then let them dry out of several days, Once dry, place them in separate paper bags (to isolate any disease from the other tubers ) and then place in a box in a cool place. I have store tubers in sawdust before, but not used this method. I'm giving it a try - and hope that next year I will have beautiful blooms early in the season, if not quite as many!

This year Copyright 2010,

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


My grandmother on my father's side loved pink, baking, and annual geraniums. Her patio at the rear (but street side) of the cottage at Bay View, a Victorian summer community in northern Michigan, had pink geraniums. To me, they are happy flowers - old fashioned and bright. My gardening has also focused on vegetables and perennials. Few annuals make it into my plantings. But I have always had geraniums somewhere - annual as well as perennial.

Before I was married, I had an apartment with a front deck that I lined with a series of window boxes filled with pink geraniums, dusty miller, and trailing blue lobelia. I added trees in pots, and enjoyed the deck a lot.
After buying our present home nearly 18 years ago, we immediately tilled a large vegetable gardens - and soon after I added three planters, the only ones amid the raised beds, and planted red geraniums.

One reason I don't use annuals much is that I have limited funds, so I rather have plants that will come back year after year. So the perfect annuals for me are geraniums, because you can just pull them up at the end of the season, brush the dirt off the roots, and put them in a dry box or paper bag and leave them there all winter! This is seems absolutely impossible.

I took up my large pot of red geraniums to avoid the frost earlier this week. They were big and vigorous, and still blooming. I felt like a killer. It didn't feel right. But I did it because I knew it was this or death by cold. I placed them in a box - albeit one too small, so it has to be replaced - and out them in the garage. This is the third or fourth year for these 3 plants (every few years I forget to take them up and therefore lose them, which is why they are not 17 years old), so I know they will be alright.

Next spring, I will clip them back and plant them - and they will bloom again. I'm sure my Gram would be pleased.

   Copyright 2010,

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Chow Chow

One of the things I purchased last weekend at the Bethesda Farmer's Market were some local meats made into terrific sausages of various types. On top was homemade Chow Chow Relish. Yummy. My sister said that she loves chow chow relish. So.. she will be getting some for her birthday! Oh, forgot she reads the blog....hmm.

We were supposed to get a frost Saturday morning, so I did a big garden harvest. Lots of herbs: basil, lemon verbena, and sage. Tons of poblano peppers, some jalepeno, some yellow and green bells. Tons of squash, mainly butternut and one last Delicata. The last of the leeks. Some nice young turnips.

And a bunch of green tomatoes. A prime ingredients in Chow Chow Relish. Today I made a batch using about 2 pounds of the tomatoes, adding onions, cabbage, and red bell peppers that were unfortunately not from my garden. My son said it smelled great, but there was just enough to fit into 5 pint jars, so there wasn't any to try out this evening. Also made Pear Honey, a recipe from Paula Deen, using pears and pineapple. Thought it would be more pear buttery, but it is more like a cross between pear jam and pear sauce. Made a basil infusion that may become a jelly if I can stay up that long.

Now to check airline regulations to see if Chow Chow Relish is allowed on the plane to Grand Rapids!

Copyright 2010,

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Visiting the Bethesda Farmer's Market

I had a delightful visit to the Bethesda Farmer's Market today. I was in town working at the Bethesda Row Arts Festival with my sister, and since the Farmer's Market was just a block away, I got to stop by there as well. Wonderful market - just wish I had a cooler with me! My very favorite thing was pure decadence - a duck breast prosciutto that I could not resist. I am not sure how I will use it yet, but I know it will be with something fresh and uncomplicated so I can highlight the duck. I also purchased some truffle salami, cured European style, a green curry sauce, a wine vinegar and some mustards, and some unbelievably great cheeses to eat with pears and apples.

At the art show, the level of craft was very high. I feel in love with a painting, but could only afford a print - but did not get it. Fiscal restraint. But I know after many years of art fairs that there isn't a "next time" with art you love. I have never, ever regreted a decision to buy art or fine craft. It simply brings joy. The creativity at the Arts Festival was only exceeded by the level of execution - and the Farmer's Market was the same, but with food.

Combine good food, great art, a light breeze, lots of sunshine and a high in the low 70's, time with my sister -- certainly this was one of the all time great days. A lucky life indeed.

   Copyright 2010,

Monday, October 11, 2010

Summer's Over - Time to Blog Again!

I cannot believe I have not blogged since July. What a summer! The garden did pretty good - no major pest out breaks. The flower gardens were much more neglected! This fall, I started selling a modest amount of produce at the Farmer's Market, along with some baked goods. After a frantically busy summer, adding the Farmers Markets has really put me over the top in busy-ness, but it such a nice place to be. I've made a couple of types of killer granola that I am quite proud of, and the market patrons seems to like it a lot as well. In just a few weeks, I have a following!

Meanwhile, I was quite late planting a fall crop. My lettuce and spinach are up but just barely. My cole crops are being attacked, so it is hard to tell whether the plants or the pests will win. The chard is happy and healthy, but we love it so much I am afraid I will take too much and it will quit for the year. I'm still getting lots of peppers - especially poblanos - and tomatoes.

We had friends over for dinner yesterday, and the food was particularly colorful. I oven-roasted a huge load of tomatoes - yellow, black, and red - with olive oil, onions, kosher salt, my strong soft necked garlic, fresh basil  - in a hot 400 degree oven for 45 minutes.  That mixture then went into a skillet, to which I added fresh spinach bought at the Farmer's Market, and it became our pasta sauce. I made homemade ravioli for the first time (a pasta roller being my newest toy) using pasture raised beef, heritage breed pork, and freshly harvested chard. It took me to a while to get the hang of the dough, but it was quite forgiving. Never was able to pop out the raviolis by tapping the mold on the counter -- hah!! Took each one out one by one by one by one.... sigh. Also roasted bell peppers from the garden - green, red, and yellow - for another colorful dish, with fresh mozzarella cheese. The broccoli rabe came from a store - shocking!

So a lot of activity in the kitchen and the garden... and now on the blog!

Copyright 2010,

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Zucchini Overload

It happens every year. From not one to overload in a day: zucchini overload. I take it as a personal challenge to face the zucchini each year composing as few fruits as possible. It is a fun hunt, looking for fruits among the vines - the same green, they often disappear until they are bat sized an tough, so it takes some careful looking to get at the small tender ones we love. My skin reacts to the little pricklies, so I carefully move the big leaves and look at the plant base. One escaped Jonathan's picking earlier in the week - it was wrapped to form a perfect "J" - tucked in so perfectly it was hard to get out!

Last night it was zucchini quiche for dinner. I don't make this vegetarian classic much - but it is always terrific. Many years ago, my friends Beth and Dan asked me to contribute zucchini quiche for their wedding celebration. I made a bunch - and developed an aversion to the smell for many years! But after decades, I can appreciate it again. Tonight was zucchini again - this time the strangest pizza I've ever made. No, not zucchini on top - it was a zucchini and cheese crust (with a few eggs and a tiny bit of biscuit mix) with ground beef and tomato sauce on top. Remarkably good.

On the sideboard are jars of zucchini relish - looking pretty and hopefully tasting great. I bought some at the farmers market last year, and it was pretty, tart, and adaptable - a great accompaniment  to any meat. I followed the recipe in "Putting Foods By", and captured it in small, wide mouth half pint jars. I hope it will make nice gifts.

And there is always baking. A chocolate zucchini cake is cooling in the kitchen - with a teenage boy in the house, it is unlikely much will make it into the freezer! I will probably bring zucchini bread to a meeting later this week - hopefully no one is on a carb free diet; it should count as a vegetable!

It won't last forever - as soon as the last of the big stuffed boats are gone, the vines will wilt and the bounty will be over for the next year. Time to find even more uses...

 Copyright 2010,

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Hydrangeas In Trouble!

The unrelenting 100-degree-plus heat is really taking a toll on my gardens. We've been focused on the vegetable garden, but needed to pay more attention to the borders. It is the poor hydrangeas that have suffered the most. I think I have completely lost the little Blue Lacecap that I planted this spring. It didn't get firmly established before the heat and shriveled before e noticed. Poor thing. Same with the brand new variegated leaved shrub that was going to brighten a dark corner and hide an ugly wire support. But even the very well established shrubs are wilting and may not make it through. Even Molly. I thought Molly was the happiest plant in our yard. She survived at our former front walk, where she had little water or sun or space. hse finally grew so big that I had to move her - and then she seemed very happy in the new spot. Until the heat. Stay cool, Molly - fall will come eventually!

Copyright 2010,

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Wilted Garden

The Veggie Garden is wilting. So are all the borders - and we are losing some shrubs. Even the local hydrangeas are gasping in this 90 degree plus weather - hit 100 a couple of days so far and may again this week. With no rain. I did some hand watering this morning, but the water was hot from mere moments in the sun. Even the shade offers little relief. I can't imagine how August will be!
Copyright 2010,

Garlic and Shallot Harvest

My new garlic drying screen

At long last, I harvested the rest of my garlic and all of my french red shallots. I planted both soft and hard neck garlic last fall - and promptly forgot which bed got which type! I always regret not labeling, but often it is late when I finish planting and I decide I will make a label later.... and then don't. It became clear which was which this June as the hard neck garlic shot up scapes, which are not found on soft neck garlic varieties. My soft neck were ready for harvest 2 weeks ago, so I pulled them up and stored them in a wire basket to dry, since we hadn't yet made the drying screen.

The shallots were ready for harvest this week, and they look great. The hardnecks weren't quite there, but I pulled them anyway (hence too much green in the photo) because I wanted to do it all at once, and was hoping to use some of the bed space for a final sowing of beans. 

Jonathan made me this terrific box with screen to hang in  the shed to help dry out and harden the garlic and onions after harvest. It gets good circulation, although I worry about the excessive Maryland humidity. I am hoping to hang the herbs for drying next to them - we are reorganizing the shed to give me room (anyone want to take bets on how long before it is strictly a potting shed?). 

Meanwhile, I used the garlic scapes in a wonderful finger food at a political fundraiser last weekend. I made little Parmesan rounds - very tasty cracker - and topped them with garlic scape pesto, goat cheese from Firefly Farms, and then because I thought they looked dull, a petal from a red monarda flower (Jacob's Kline). They were great! I also made little meringue cookies, which I "glued" together at the bottoms with whipped cream in which were added crushed raspberries from the garden (I used red, yellow, and black but all red would have been the most attractive), and a marinated chicken cubes wrapped with a sage leaf from the garden and prosciutto and grilled, served with a red pepper garlic aoli made with the first soft neck I harvested. 

I will save some heads for planting again this fall - I can keep this up for years!

Copyright 2010,

Monday, June 21, 2010

Leggy Gaga

Leggy Gaga, the fawn abandoned at our next door neighbor's doorstep!
Copyright 2010,