Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Garlic Scape Pesto in my future.

I noticed last week that the garlic scapes were beginning to grow!  Woot woot!  So excited.  I let them grow longer and waited to harvest them.  This is my first time growing hardneck garlic so I Googled what harvested garlic scapes looked like. They looked about a foot long in length.
Today, I saw that the garlic scapes has grown a lot in a week, and especially since it rained yesterday.  I decided to harvest most of them.  It weighs just about a pound.  I've never made garlic scape pesto before.  I've seen that a lot of garden bloggers make it.  I can't wait to try it!  If you know of a good recipe to recommend, would love to try it!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Fruit That Isn't Compatible to My Growing Zone

One of my favorite fruits is the lychee.  Unfortunately for us, the lychee cannot be grown in our climate or zone since it's a tropical tree.  Oh, how I would love to be able to grow these babies!  It's native to China and is also grown in other Asian countries, Thailand, Vietnam, India, and Malaysia.  Usually, we can only find this fruit canned in syrup, however, this time of year, we can find it fresh and imported from Asia.  I don't normally advocate buying produce that travels so many miles to get to us, however, since we can't even grow them here, I'll make an exception since I love the sweet lychee.  I know, I know, it's not very environmentally friendly of me to buy a fruit that was shipped from Asia, but... I can't pass up how good they are.  It brings back great memories when I can get my hands on the fresh ones.  When I was a kid, my parents used to buy the fresh fruit and give it to us as a special treat.  Since they travel so many miles to get here, Lychee fruit is usually quite expensive, at $5 or $6 a pound.  Yesterday, I saw it for $3 a pound and had to buy it.
Even though lychee fruit is very ordinary for me since I grew up eating it, I've come to learn that many of my friends have never eaten it before.  It's not something you normally see in an American supermarket, I've only ever seen Lychees for sale at Asian supermarkets, in Chinatown or at fruit street vendors in the city.  This is what the lychee looks like.  It has a bumpy rough exterior that makes it great for shipping.  It protects the fruit inside.  The fruit has a white flesh, and is sweet and light.  It also has a brown pit in the middle.  I find it incredibly refreshing, and it's lovely in a sweet martini.  Yum.  If you see these being sold in your area, get them!  You will not be sorry, they are delicious!

DanceAfrica 2011 Bazaar

Yesterday, I went to the DanceAfrica 2011 Bazaar in Downtown Brooklyn sponsored by BAM, the Brooklyn Academy of Music.  "Now in its 34th year, BAM's DanceAfrica festival is a Memorial Day weekend tradition in Brooklyn, packed with dance, music, film, art, and community events from Africa and the diaspora—plus the one-and-only outdoor bazaar of African crafts, food, and fashion."  It was a gorgeous sunny day, perfect for walking around a street fair.
The fair was really crowded, it was hard to go anywhere fast.  That was fine with us, it gave us time to check out all the vendors and what everyone was selling.  There were craft vendors, food vendors and fashion vendors.  All the food vendors were amazing.  I was so mesmerized by this vendor frying fish in his tent.  Talk about "made to order". 
I was also amazed by this vendor selling Coconut water.  He was cutting the tops off the coconuts using a giant cleaver.  It was totally cool.  When he was done cutting a hole, he stuck a straw on the top.  Refreshing!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

First Harvest of 2011

 I picked these strawberries today which marks the first harvest of 2011. So exciting!! I was a bit bummed though because there were about the same amount of ripe berries eaten by bugs. I was so worried about birds and squirrels stealing my berries that I completely forgot about the stinky insects that liked them too. I put bird nettimg over the plants not realizing that I had a bunch of insects to contend with. I sqooshed a pill bug and a hairy looking caterpillar that were munching away on my gorgeous berries. What should I do to prevent the bugs grom eating more berries? Should I pick the berries as soon as I see a flush of pink, prior to it being completely ripe??  Will they turn red after picking?  Any words of wisdom would be greatly appreciated. Organic gardening sure is hard. No wonder organic produce costs so much more!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

New Garden Beds

After last year's growing season was over, we knew we wanted to add more space to our garden.  We decided to add 4 raised beds outside of the picket fence area that surrounds the vegetable and fruit garden.  This is a photo of the hubs tilling one of the new raised beds.
Here's a photo of all 4 beds just outside the picketed fence area.  The one in the back with the garlic and the one next to it, we added last fall. 
The one next to the garlic, we decided to plant raspberry bushes.  We bought 5 heritage raspberry bareroots from Burpee.com.
After about a month in the ground, it started to sprout leaves.
Here's another angle / view of the raised beds.
In another bed, we decided to plant rhubarb.  We planted 3 roots of rhubarb here. I bought the bareroots from The Christmas Tree shop, it was a great price, 3 bareroots for $9.99.  I hope they do better than the ones we bought at Burpee.com.  Of 4 roots we bought at Burpee, only 1 came back this year.  So far new leaves have sprouted so I'm hoping for the best with these rhubarb.  I also sowed some seeds of Swiss Chard.  Since rhubarb takes so long to grow and get established, I thought I might as well grow some chard in this bed for the time being.
Even after adding all of these raised beds, I really wish I could add more. It's hard to find space that isn't shady.  We have so many trees on our property.  I'm eyeing you front lawn...

The Last Jar

The other night, I opened up the last jar of dilly beans that I made last year.  Oh my yum, they were perfectly pickled.  I'm so sad that I have none left.  I can't wait until the pole beans are producing like crazy again so I can start canning.  I really would like to can as much of summer as possible this time around!  It really makes me realize that I have to expand my vegetable garden. 25 feet by 20 feet just isn't enough space.  It really isn't.  My entire lot is 50 ft by 300 ft.  Now what if I converted the entire thing into an edible landscape?  Hmmm, what will the neighbor's think then?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

More Amaryllis Blooms

You might recall that I bought 4 amaryllis bulbs from White Flower Farm a few months back in an amazing sale.  The 4 that I bought were Samba, Nymph, Aphrodite, and Dancing Queen.  I planted the bulbs a few weeks apart so that I could get continuous blooms.  It's Aphrodite's turn to show off.  And show off she does.  She has stunning double petals of white with a hint of pink.  I noticed that this bloom does not have a stigma or pollen, so I'm guessing that this is a hybrid.  So I won't be able to try to pollinate the flower to produce seeds.  I tried to pollinate the Samba flower, but it was a dismal failure.  It started to produce seed pods, and then it quickly failed and didn't produce true seed pods! It's much harder than it looks, I'm not sure what went wrong, I followed Mr. Brown Thumb's article to the T and put the pollen on the stigma, but I guess it has to be just right to produce the seed pods.
I did get a baby bulb off of one of the bulbs that White Flower Farm sent me, so that makes me super happy.  It's a nice consolation prize for not getting anything to germinate.  However... I accidentally forgot to write down which bulb this came from.  D'oh! 
I planted it and it quickly sprouted a leaf!
My Dancing Queen is shooting up a flower bud.  I can't wait until it opens to see what it looks like!  I can't remember so it will be a fun surprise.  The one downside of using rain water collected from rain barrels to water your plants, there are a lot of mushroom spores in the water.  Check out the soil in this pot, can you see the 3 little mushrooms growing in the soil?  This has been happening a lot, so I've been picking them off as I see them.
The Samba bulb, has been the most productive, it bloomed 3 buds.  Here is the 3rd bloom, it was so top heavy that I had to tie it to my garden table.  It really did put on a amazing display of flowers.  You can see in this photo the failed seed pods.  See it drooping on the left.  The entire stem just started to brown and die.  I really hoped to get seeds because this bulb was just spectacular.  Oh well, hopefully it will grow a baby bulb.  I hope!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Hibiscus Bouncing Back

I finally see leaves coming back to the hibiscus plant. It lost most of it's leaves over the winter when I had it indoors, and aphids overtook the plant.  Since the plant was indoors, I aggressively sprayed in with Eco-Smart organic pesticide.  It killed all the aphids, but the poor plant dropped a lot of it's leaves because of it.  As soon as the weather warmed up, I brought the hibiscus back out to the patio.  Since then it has slowly grown back some of it's leaves again!
Here's a bird's eye view of it.  I'm so happy that this plant bounced back.  Aphids are nasty little buggers.
I also spied some flower buds forming.  I hope this plant puts on a show like it did last year.  Last year, it bloomed a flower every day.  Just gorgeous!  I love hibiscus plants, but I must say, they are a bit high maintenance.  They have to be watered every day, sprayed occasionally for aphids, and brought inside every winter.  But the pretty blooms really make up for all the work involved.  Too bad the blooms only last one day!

Monday, May 23, 2011

99 Cents

There are so few things you can buy these days for 99 cents. My sister saw these azalea bushes in 6 inch pots for 99 cents each. Wow! Talk about a bargain. So she scooped them up for me without hesitation. She got me 5 of them, and for $5, how can you go wrong? I plan to put them in the backyard behind our fence facing the road where all the dog owners like to bring their pets to poop. Hopefully, they will see our new landscaping and will think twice about bringing their dogs there. That is my wishful thinking anyways.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Lush Climbing Rose Bush

Last month, I wrote about the Lilac bush we rescued that is doing well. Here is the other bush we rescued, the climbing rose bush. It grew back so lush and beautiful!  I am so excited about how it really thrived after transplanting it. I was so worried about it, because it wasn't easy digging it out of the ground with such well established roots.  I'm now on the lookout for a nice trellis system for the rose bush to climb on. 
For comparison, this is what the bush looked like when we transplanted it last fall.
I saw that the bush is full of rose buds!  I don't know anything about the variety of the bush except that the color of the roses are red.  I can't wait to see it bloom!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Food, Land, and You.

I used to live in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.  When I was back in the old neighborhood 2 weeks ago, I noticed that the local high school had a pretty substantial garden with lots of raised beds.  How cool!  When I lived in the neighborhood, I didn't remember seeing this garden, so I Googled it to find out more information about the program.  I found this article about the the school's program in the NY Times.  All the juniors and seniors in the school take a class called "Food, Land, and You" and discuss the social, political and economic aspects of the food industry. They learn about where their food comes from by visiting farms, butcher shops and raise their own food in a 2,500 square foot organic garden in the school yard.  How COOL is that?  Oh how I wish I had a class like this when I was in high school!
The garden is tended by the students, and they are allowed to take the vegetables home with them.  In a school where 75 percent of the families are low income, this is not only a great learning experience, but a great way for them to have access to fresh vegetables.  Here is a raised bed of garlic.
Not only do they tend to the beds, they also learn about composting. Check out the 2 compost bins in the back.  What an incredibly awesome program for city kids to learn about how food gets from the farm to table.  If only all the schools across this nation taught this program, perhaps more kids would grow up with an appreciation for locally grown and locally raised.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Plants from my Cousin

When I saw my Cousin Bo at her nephew's birthday party last month, she surprised me with seedlings that she started from seed to plant in my garden.  She gave me Chinese Yard Long Bean seedlings in a milk carton.  I love that my family re-uses food containers for pots just like I do!   These beans are slender and long, usually growing about a foot and 1/2 long.  Being of Chinese descent, I grew up eating these beans, they are delicious stir fried with black bean sauce.  YUM.  If you are wondering what these beans look like, there is a lovely photo of these bean plants on the header of  Erin's blog at Garden Now, Think Later.  Reading her blog, I know that she loves these beans as much as I do.  Unfortunately, shortly after planting these beans, we were hit with hot, hot weather following but rain and more rain.  Of all these seedlings, only 4 survived.  I asked my dad if he could go to the Chinese market to buy more seeds, and he gave me a whole new packet.  I direct sowed those into the ground, I hope they start sprouting soon.
Bo also gave me seedlings of pumpkin, I'm not quite sure what type of pumpkin these are, so it will be a bit of a fun surprise for me as they develop fruit. 
I planted the pumpkins into one of the raised beds.  The pumpkin plants are doing well, each of the seedlings are putting out true leaves.
A close up of the pumpkin plant.  I hope these are tasty pumpkins, I would love to can some pumpkin puree to use for future pumkin pies!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

How I Like to Eat Horseradish

In my last blog post on growing horseradish, Bill from Surburban Hobby Farmer asked me what type of foods that I like to put horseradish in.  Well, I'm a little embarrassed to say this but my favorite way to use grated horseradish is to put in a Bloody Mary.  If I grew horseradish just to use it for this purpose, that would be alright by me! (hahahaha)  However, I do like it in other foods.  Really.  I do.  (wink.) I also like to use horseradish as a condiment.  Shredded horseradish raw is an amazing condiment with German bratwurst.  Yum.  And with pork chops.  Super yum. You can also make a pretty good sandwich spread with horseradish, mix it with mayonnaise and mustard, and it really kicks it up a notch. 
But, back to Bloody Marys.  LOL.  I love Bloody Marys because the drink is as hearty as a meal, and it is...semi-healthy right?  I mean, there is a good serving of veggies, like how nutritious can you get, it is mostly tomato juice, and only a bit of vodka.  Hahaha.  Looking at the ingredients of this drink, I wonder if I can grow everything that goes in it.  I do grow tomatoes, but I have no idea how to make tomato juice.  I wonder if you need to put the maters into a juicer or a blender?  Do you make your own tomato juice? Other ingredients I put in my Bloody Mary are a good helping of celery, tabasco sauce, and lemons.  This year in the garden I'm growing Utah Celery, which is definitely going to be tasty in this drink. I'm also growing Chili peppers, so maybe I can make my own tabasco sauce.  That would be pretty awesome.  And I do have a meyer lemon tree, although it has yet to produce fruit.  I have been giving the tree organic citrus fertilizer, so I'm hoping for some lemons this year!  Check out some of my Utah Celery seedlings, the seeds given to me by Food Garden Kitchen.  I can't wait to get these babies to size, won't these look good in my Bloody Mary drink? 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Horseradish Greens

I am so estatic that all 5 horseradish roots have started to sprout! Woohoo!  Even the skinny scrawny roots that Burpee sent me sprouted.  Although, the smaller roots definitely have smaller leaf sprouts.  I took this photo before it started to rain, rain, and rain.  It's been raining for days and forecasted to rain 2 more.  Ugh.  On Monday, I bought a wine barrel planter to transplant these roots into, to give them some more breathing room.  However, since it's been raining non-stop, it will have to wait.  I love that in this photo, you can see my trusty green garden cart.  That cart is the best garden tool... ever!  Do you think I should plant all 5 roots into the half wine barrel planter?  I still don't think that's enough room.  Maybe I should put 3 roots in there and leave 2 of the smaller roots in this container.  Do you grow horseradish?  Advice is greatly needed.

Have You Ever Seen This Before?

Our spring bulbs are way over their blooming period, and I noticed something interesting on one of the hyacinths. It looks like round seed pods on the spent bloom. I've never seen this before, so I am not sure if it is indeed seed pods. I had no idea hyacinths could even produce seeds, I always thought the bulbs multiply and that's how you get more hyacinths.
Here's a closer look at the pods.  What are your thoughts on this?  Are those seed pods?  I really hope so!  If so, I would love to collect them and try to sow them!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Buy At Your Own Risk...What?

Last month, I wrote about how my husband bought hop rhizomes from TheBeerEssentials.com . At first, I was excited that the Cascade rhizome was growing really well.  However, the other rhizome we bought, Nugget, never grew at all, see the photo below.  Despite the fact that we planted both the rhizomes in the same exact soil and same conditions, one grew and the other didn't.  I called the company to complain about the Nugget rhizome root and requested a replacement be sent to us.  The customer service rep I was speaking with put me on hold to ask the guy who is knowledgeable of the hop plants.  He then got back on the phone and said, "this same exact thing happened to another customer, one of their roots took off, the other didn't.  We special order these rhizomes roots for sale and we do not guarantee the plants."  So I asked, "you don't give a replacement or exchange?"  And the customer service said, "No."  So then I said, "so it's buy at your own risk?"  And he replied, "yes."  Okay, WHAT THE HELL?  They should put that on their website that don't guarantee their rhizomes will grow and that they don't have a warranty or exchange policy on them, especially since, I'm not the only one that bought the roots and had this problem.  I just totally wasted our time and money trying to grow a root that is a dud.  This is what my nugget rhizome looks like today, 1 month after I planted it.  Nothing!

To be fair, the Cascade rhizome they sent us is growing well.  But this is what you expect when you buy rhizome roots.  You expect them to grow.  I will never buy from this company again.  Any online company that sells plants and don't guarantee them will not get my business or my recommendation... Ever!  Buy at your own risk?  You got it, you just lost a customer TheBeerEssentials.com!
Do you grow hops?  If so, where do you buy your rhizomes?  I'm looking for another, more reliable company to order from for next time.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Back in Action

I love when I start to see the Hostas come back to life.  Here's a photo of it just starting to emerge last month.  I was worried about the Hostas, because last year with the relentless July heat wave, the hot sun burned all the leaves.  I was worried that it killed off the plants.  But low and behold, they are back in action.
Go Hosta Go!  Man, are these hardy plants!  I guess even if the leaves die off, the roots are still strong and alive.
This is what the Hostas look like today.  Full lush and so green.  My sister tells me that Hostas duplicate like crazy, and that every other year, she divides hers and plants them in other areas of her yard.  I should do this next year, although I'm not sure when is the good time to divide them.  Do you divide your Hostas, if so when do you do it?  Should I divide them when they are just starting to come back, or now when they are fully grown?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Berry, Berry Good!

We planted 25 roots of Strawberries last year. I'm guessing we have more than 25 plants now in the bed because they sent out runners like crazy. I saw some birds stalking the berries the other day, so we bought bird netting and covered the entire bed.  We tied the netting to the picket fence.  I really hope this deters the birds.  Do you use bird netting?  Does it help?
I saw that there are lots and lots of berries growing. I can't wait until they start turning red!  I don't know if I'll have enough berries to make a jam, but I definitely want to make a strawberry syrup for pancakes and ice cream.  Oooh, berry, berry, good!

Our First Iris of the Season

It's been raining all morning, and it's welcomed. It hasn't rained in 9 days so our rain barrels are empty. It's forecasted to rain for 4 days straight, that's a lot of rain. If only I had more rain barrels. On the blooming front, here's our first Bearded Iris to bloom. I love Irises. It's strange out of 7 or so plants, only 3 actually blooms every year. I wonder why that is. I'm thinking of pulling the other plants, unless... anyone has any ideas why they might not be blooming?
I love the contrast of the Iris with the Sedum and Ferns behind it. The previous owners planted these, but I really like their choices. I'm not sure the name of this sedum, my mother-in-law called them Hens and Chicks.  Do they look familiar to you? I love ferns, and these come back every year. I wish I knew the name of these ferns, I would like to put them in other shady areas of the yard.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Fertilpots & Tomatoes

Last month, I won a giveaway for participating in Garden Chat on Twitter.  Among the prizes was a set of Fertilpots cellpacks, which are biodegradable wood fiber pots.  I was so excited to start seedlings in these fiber pots, I've never used these Fertilpots before.  The cellpacks have 10 cells.  I decided to plant all my tomato seeds in these.  I'm a bit overzealous with tomato plants this year, Annie's Granny was my inspiration, she grew so many interesting varieties last year to taste them and weed them out, many which I never even heard of.  She told me that she got her tomato seeds from the organization Wintersown.org, and I did the same this year, along with trading with other bloggers for the rest of the heirlooms I was seeking.  I didn't grow up eating a variety of tomatoes, the only ones we ate growing up were the Romas and beefsteak.  So when I discovered that there were hundreds of different varieties, oh my has my life changed!  I love love love tomatoes, I can sprinkle then with salt and eat it like an apple.  My husband on the other hand, only likes them in 3 forms... as marinara sauce, ketchup and salsa.  He hates tomatoes in their virgin form, they have to be doctored up like no one's business.  LOL.  I planted a whopping 22 different varieties including Tiny Tim, Isis Candy, Chocolate Cherry, Black Mystery, Druzba, Green Zebra, Manitoba, San Marzano, Brandywine, Paul Robeson, Hillbilly, Cherokee Purple, Rutgers, Jaunne Flamme, Sungold, German Johnson, Giant Belgium, Hovarth, Palmira's Northern Italian, Pineapple, Purple Calabash and Persimmon.    Where I will put these all will be another story... hahaha  I can't wait to try all these different kinds of tomatoes.  Yum!
I was so excited that two cellpacks fits in one of those Jiffy plastic greenhouses.  I like using these plastic greenhouses because they have plastic clear lids, and therefore act like a greenhouse.
I put a mixture of potting soil and Jiffy seed starting soil into each cell.  I like to mix the two because I find that seed starting soil is too light for watering.  All the water seems to sit on top of the soil and doesn't drain well. 
And here are the seedlings coming up.  Each of these got repotted into bigger pots to get larger, and then they will be transplanted into it's final spot.  Go Isis Candy go!
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