DIY Seedling Protectors

July 15, 2010 § Leave a comment

I’ve lost 75% of my butternut squash seedlings, not to insects, but to the birds controlling the insect population  in my vegetable bed.   So after I replanted, it seemed like a good idea to protect my new seedlings.  First, I considered using clear glass jars as cloches, but discarded the idea because I was concern that the closed environment might get too hot.  Instead, I clipped the top and bottom off a few Sparkling Ice bottles and press them into the soil around the seedlings.

Finger’s crossed, but so far I haven’t lost any more butternut squash seedlings.


Lemon Verbena Iced Tea

July 10, 2010 § Leave a comment


Since the cost buying fresh herbs from the market adds up so fast, and since I inevitably only use a small portion before they go bad, it seems like a good idea to plant a variety of herbs in the garden.  The lemon verbena plant was a total impulse purchase because it screamed summer during an unusually cool and rainy late spring.

Now, that we’re in the last day or two of a mini heatwave, and hydration is key, it is nice have something to make iced a little special.

Lemon Verbena Iced Tea

20 ounces heated, but not boiling, filtered water

3-4 teaspoons of loose leaf black tea (try Golden Monkey tea)

1 stem lemon verbena

20 ounces filter room temperature water

20 ounces cold filtered water

You’ll need a nice 1.0 L + iced tea pitcher, preferably with a built-in strainer like this one, so that no tea leaves find their way into your glass.  Load your pitcher with the loose leaf tea and the lemon verbena stem. Pour the heated water over the tea and stem and let it sit for a minute or two  before adding the cool water.  Once the contents of the pitcher cool enough for you to hold it comfortably (without the handle), move the pitcher to the fridge. This method ensures that the tea won’t be so weak that you might as well be drinking water if you add ice or so strong and bitter that you feel the need to add spoonfuls of sugar. And as an added bonus, it keeps your caffeine intake from veering off into the stratosphere.

Fill a glass with ice, pour, and enjoy. Repeat as necessary to maintain your cool.

Leaning over to touch their toes

July 9, 2010 § Leave a comment

First lesson learned: Snap peas don’t care for hot weather and need to be watered carefully.

Second lesson learned:  A little extra height on pea supports prevents heartbreak.

For the holiday weekend, we had out-of-town family guests, and it was fun to share my garden with someone new.  My lovely snaps peas and lettuce looked amazing in the misty 4th of July weather.  Fast-forward a couple of days, and when I return from an overnight visit to the San Juan Islands to find my snap peas leaning over en mass, touching their toes.

Photographic Interlude: Ten

June 30, 2010 § Leave a comment

I had a lovely time in the garden today, checking out the plants in bloom.  It was all about plant care, mostly watering plants and deadheading roses.  It should have been about weeding, weeding and more weeding.

What do you think of the Hipstamatic iPhone app that I used to take these photos?  I love that I was able to take better than decent photos with interesting effects without Photoshop.

Leftovers and Upgraded Morning Coffee

June 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

Do leftovers languish in your fridge?  Please tell me that other people pop open Tupperware containers and ponder whether the teriyaki stir fry is a remnant of a meal from this week or last.  Leftovers are slow to disappear here thanks to a weird confluence of factors.  Someone in my house (ahem, me) doesn’t eat meat heated in the microwave and someone else has a crazy work schedule and rarely takes lunch to work.

Dessert leftovers are a completely different story.  Pies and tarts make excellent breakfast food. And leftover, homemade whipped cream is excellent way to upgrade morning coffee.  Try a small spoonful of good cocoa mix, 5 ounces of fresh coffee and a generous dollop of whipped cream.

Gardening Confession: Why I’m not growing…

June 22, 2010 § Leave a comment

It’s time for a little brutal honesty.  Please forgive the extra sentence or two that it takes to get to the point, but this feels a bit like confessing that I harbor a secret dislike of puppies and kittens.  I have no interest in growing tomatoes.   While tomatoes are lovely and delicious, I’m not interested in growing them for a number of reasons.

Location and weather issues: There is the fact that I live Redmond, WA and even now in late June, the weather is dreary  and the temperature is still hovering under seventy degrees.  Not great weather for nurturing plants that thrive in long, warm, sunny summers.  In fact, tomatoes are so tricky to grow here that people have all sorts of special arrangements to make it work. One set of our neighbors grows tomatoes on another’s property because their garden doesn’t get warm enough. And then, there are those ugly walls o’ water that people seem so fond of here.

The effort-pay off ratio: Of all the plants that infatuate gardeners, tomatoes seem to be one the most temperamental and labor intensive. The soil, sun, temperature, and timing  need to be just right; it probably doesn’t hurt to consult a personal astrologer to divine before undertaking tomato planting.  Then there are the first  flowers remove, suckers to pinch off, and regular, deep watering.  Should it rain while you have nearly ripe fruit on the vine, you may have cracked tomatoes on your hands, so you’re faced with either picking under-ripe fruit or crossing your fingers and hoping for the best.  Here is where I mention (again) that I live in the Pacific Northwest and summer’s arrival has been delayed indefinitely.

A little friendly competition: I refuse to be suckered into a family tomato-growing competition.  My brother and his wife grew an amazing crop of tomatoes on their balcony last year.   My father decided he would join in the fun, but forgot to stake his plant, so the stem bent an unnatural angle, and while the plant still produced tomatoes, they were inedible and well, let’s just say he still hasn’t heard the end of it. 

Not everyone *loves* tomatoes:  There, it had to be said because it is true. As it happens, my husband prefers his tomatoes to be rather unrecognizable, mostly in ketchup or marina form. I am definitely not interested in being responsible for eating tons of fresh tomatoes all by myself.  Plus, who likes the idea of chucking unconsumed tomatoes in the yard waste bin.

There, that’s enough confessing from for one day.  Now, I’m wondering what other gardeners aren’t growing.

P.S.- I love puppies and kittens, especially house-trained ones…

Growing Beets: Undersized Roots

June 18, 2010 § Leave a comment

Undersized chioggia beet

I’ve been waiting and waiting (not so patiently) for my chioggia beets to mature.   My head filled with thoughts of a lovely salad with warm roasted beets, goat cheese , balsamic vinaigrette, and lots of fresh-ground black pepper. Today, the nice, leafy green tops suggested that they are ready to be pulled and consumed.  After a quick look at the seed packet, a little calendar-counting, and the first beet was out of the ground.

What a disappointment it was to behold a puny, undersized root (smaller than a marble).  A little research on Bing (yes, I use Bing) and the likely cause of my problem was discovered.  Too much nitrogen in the fertilizer stimulated growth of the leaves at the expense of the roots.  It turns out that the fish emulsion fertilizer that I used is high in nitrogen.