Friday, August 15, 2014

Hot and Spicy - the Piquant Black Radish!

I don't think it's a secret - radishes are easy to grow. And quick! I sowed the seed for these black Spanish radishes in early July and harvested the first two yesterday.. The rough black exterior is simply gorgeous and hides a creamy white interior that packs more than a gentle bite!

The bigger one in the photo was about 2 inches in diameter.. it wasn't until after I harvested that I read (on the seed packet) that I should have picked it when it was about the size of a quarter.. oops! Apparently, they have a tad less heat at that stage. Either way, this was a fun new radish for me and I'm going to sow the rest of the seed pack for an October harvest. I may even see if I can get these to 'hold' in the cold frames or garden into late autumn/winter.

Now, I've got to find a few more ways to use these spicy fellas! Suggestions?

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Late Season Salad Greens - Time to Plant!

I hate to bring up the F-word (fall that is.. what were you thinking?), but it is time to start thinking about seeding more salad greens for the cold season.. lettuce, spinach, arugula, chard, beet greens, baby kale, turnip greens, Asian greens and so on.

Thanks to yesterdays thunderstorm, the soil has gotten a nice drenching and so I'm going to direct sow some seed for autumn today.. it's a bit early for the winter crops, but they'll also be going in by late August, early Sept, depending on the veggie.

If hot, dry summer weather is making seeding difficult in your neck of the woods, put your grow lights to work and start some greens indoors. That's what I did with these beauties below. Makes succession planting a snap and eliminates the need to water newly seeded garden beds every 5 minutes in the summer heat. :)

What are you growing for fall/winter?

Monday, August 4, 2014

Baby potatoes!

I planted three 4 by 10 foot beds of potatoes this year.. I've learned that one can never have enough homegrown baby potatoes.. in fact, I just succession planted a new potato bed about 2 weeks ago so that we'll have baby spuds into late September. Crazy good!

I start stealing a few baby potatoes from each plant when they start to bloom, leaving the rest to continue maturing. One of the beds had an infection of flea beetles in late June and I noticed last week that most of the plants had contacted blight, most likely due to the flea beetles, which can spread this common soil-borne disease. Hoping to prevent the spread to other potato (or tomato) beds, I pulled the 20 plants in that plot. There were Russian fingerling and red fingerlings in that garden, with potatoes ranging in size from 1 cm to 10 cm - a perfect baby potato harvest.. about 15 pounds in total, that was shared amongst the family so that everyone could enjoy these tender little tubers.

The bed has now been replanted with beets for fall and I will not plant any potato family plants in it for at least 3 years.. it's good to keep a notebook handy as I GUARANTEE you that I won't remember where I planted each crop and successive crop next spring when I'm arranging the beds. :)

Friday, August 1, 2014

Plant Profile: Peppermint Swiss Chard

Peppermint Swiss Chard is a new introduction for 2014 that boasts two-toned stems striped in electric pink and white. Yes, striped. Striped! In fact, it is the only two-toned variety of chard and I just can't stop taking photos of it. I've tried..  I swear.. but every time I wander up to the garden, there it is, looking so dazzling. And I just gotta..

At this point, I've got about 40 plants that I started from seed, scattered throughout my 2000 square feet garden.. I've plunked it at the entrance to the garden, amongst the tomatoes, near the potatoes, by my pole bean trellises.. wherever!

The plants are bolt resistant - even in the summer heat. I haven't actually lost any to bolting, and they have the typical flavour of Swiss chard. I can't tell you how many times I've been asked if they taste like peppermint. Nope, sorry.. they just look like peppermint.

An added bonus: the plants are open-pollinated, so you can save the seed and grow it again next year.

STRIPED! Seriously striped. 

Such a beautiful bunch

My chard harvests with 5 pounds of baby potatoes.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A Rainy Day Garden Tour…

The rain began yesterday - on and off all day, but enough to finally saturate the soil. It has been so dry! This past week, I've had to break out the hose to water the new successive crops and fall/winter veggies  that I'm trying to establish. Therefore the rain was welcome.

Today, there is only a light drizzle, but it's enough and the veggies seem to have grown overnight. A few photos from my morning harvesting..

So many nasturtiums! They're hard to capture on camera as
the colours are just so electric!

Spicy Globe Basil - I've got it growing in a pot on the deck and
every time I walk by, I have to ruffle the aromatic foliage.

The daylilies are reaching their peak and the
large blooms look especially beautiful with
rain droplets.

More nasturtiums - This one is Cherries Jubilee from Renees
Garden. Such a vibrant pink!

The hyssop has formed a large clump at the end of a garden
bed. The bees just love it!

A pale nasturtium called Buttercream.

These were toppled a few weeks ago in the
Tropical Storm, but the plants have rebounded!

Extra propping after that storm. Note the space under the
A-frame trellis is planted with Ruby Gem lettuce. They
love the summer shade.

Lemon cukes are coming!!

And the mouse melons.. picked and ate the first one today.
Oh yeah! They are a wonderful combo of cucumber
and melon flavour with a hint of lime. 

Baby mouse melons with their blooms still attached.

The pole beans have now begun cropping.

Tomatoes and Lolla Rossa lettuce.

Flowers for the good bugs!

My first Boothy's Blonde cucumbers!

Mousemelon vs Boothy's Blonde cucumber.

Summer squash bloom - 10 inches across!

My Mascotte bush beans are beginning to flower. This
2014 All America Selections winner has compact
growth with the beans held above the foliage for easy

Teddy Bear sunflowers.. the doubled flowers aren't great
for the bees, but they look so pretty I just can't resist growing
this dwarf variety.

A final thought - my high bush blueberries are now 4 years old
and are just laden with berries! 

Friday, July 18, 2014

The sun is out and so are the bees!

After four days of rain, drizzle and clouds (much needed, not complaining!), the sun has now come out.. and along with the sun, the bees have returned. The garden is literally buzzing - loudly! What a welcome sound and sight..

Just a reminder how important it is to include bee and pollinator friendly plants in your garden..

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Edible inspiration at the Phipps Conservatory!

I was lucky enough to visit the Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh last week for a book event.. A heartfelt thank you to the many enthusiastic gardeners who came out to talk food gardening and share the day with me!

I had several opportunities during my visit to wander through the various 19 indoor and outdoor gardens that make up the Phipps Conservatory and snap many (many!) photos. Now that I've finally unpacked and have uploaded my photos, I thought it time for a long overdue blog post on some of the sights of this Pittsburgh treasure.

I arrived on Wednesday afternoon for a quick tour after the gardens had closed for the day. Gabe Tilove, the adult education co-ordinator and my host, guided me through a sampling of the glass houses and gardens. It was a gorgeous summer day with plenty of sunshine and countless bees buzzing from flower to flower.

I then returned early the next morning when the light was soft to snap more photos of the indoor and outdoor spaces as well as the amazing kitchen garden, planted and maintained by Mike, a passionate and knowledgeable gardener. I took photos in most of the 19 gardens and will share more in the coming days but for now, here is a sampling of the wonder of the edible garden.

A corner of the kitchen garden at the Phipps Conservatory.

The cucumber obelisks in the kitchen garden. The
sky blue of the structures melded so well with
the bright orange and yellow nasturtiums
and marigolds. 

More of the funky obelisks, but these ones
are covered with rampant pole beans.

Well hello Swiss Chard! Mike used this
ornamental edible in many spots to add welcome
colour to the garden.

Early morning sun lights up the chard and beets. 

Such an inspiring garden, but most importantly, it is
achievable for the home gardener. Simple, but
attractive wooden raised beds and structures for
growing a wide variety of food plants.

A tomato trellis made from bamboo and mesh.
A closer look at the tomato trellis. 
They also practice succession planting in the kitchen

Sweet alyssum was tucked throughout the garden to
entice pollinators and beneficial insects.

Edible landscaping! Kale and cabbage
was used to edge pathways. 

Another tomato trellis.

I was lucky to wander the garden on Thursday morning
 with Phillip, a botanist at Penn State. He
has an observant eye and noticed the
lacewing larvae (AKA aphid lions) trolling
for aphids on the milkweed. So cool!

Whimsical art and practical structures
meet in the kitchen garden at
More Swiss chard - I LOVE this cheerful variety with
bright gold stems. 

Large scale production beds were tucked in the back corner
 of the kitchen garden.
The building where we had the book event - seriously beautiful!
The front gardens in the early morning light were spectacular
and filled with birds and bees. 

This bench was also placed in the front
garden and surrounded a fountain. The
perfect spot for a morning coffee.