Open Thread

Spring is finally here, so I am prepping the yard and getting things in order. I’m putting up a fence around the back yard to keep the dogs in and the critters out, so the tree folks came and trimmed all the pine trees up to a manageable height and got rid of decades of dead wood and growth. It looks a lot better and my yard seems much bigger. Also, they ripped out the dying bushes in the front of the house and took out the dead rhododendron, and I planted a bunch of evergreen groundcover with two decorative trees. Will be glad when that is done, but it already looks so much better.

Next up is plowing the garden and framing it. This year I am throwing down some railroad ties to help separate the yard from the garden.

Finally, the winter ceasefire with the dandelions has come to a close, and we are now engaging on several fronts. There has been a major push from the south, east, and west, and after a number of successful missions, I can report that the enemy suffered many casualties. This isn’t over by a long shot, and it is obvious to me that they are using the neighboring lawns as staging areas, but armed with my Fiskars, I think another Friedman Unit should do it. I have ruled out the use of chemical weapons for now.

Also, Pens, Game 7 tonight.

Open Thread: Thursday Evening Garden Chat

This is a frustrating time of year in my garden, cleaning up all the dank detritus I didn’t get around to last fall, watching the temperatures bounce between the 40s and the high 70s, and judging exactly when the tree pollen level goes from ‘moderately high’ to ‘off the charts’ by the state of my sinuses. But the handful of leftover 2-year-old ‘Tete a Tete’ mini-daffodil bulbs I hastily stuffed in the raised bed last Thanksgiving weekend are blooming bravely, as is the vinca, and all the other mostly cream-colored daffodils I’ve been ‘naturalizing’ since we bought this place 17 years ago.

This weekend, with any luck, I’ll be able to pick up a few six-paks of pansies at my favorite garden center, and some asparagus crowns for the raised bed that finally got tucked in one corner last fall. From what I’ve read, that spot is probably not quite sunny enough for best results, mostly because one hideously misshapen oak tree leans over it. I’m hoping that the new crowns can leaf up in advance of the tree… or that the latest winter-split branch dangling over the power lines will finally convince the city to prune it, if they won’t remove it from the public way altogether.

What’s it like in your garden right now?

Gardening Question

I’ve got a bunch of brush I was going to burn to get rid of, and I thought maybe what I would do is just pile it into my empty garden, burn it, and then till the ashes into the soil. Would it be ok to do that? And would it be ok if a lot of the brush is dead pine branches?

Open Thread: Thursday Garden Talk

This time last week we got four inches of wet snow, but today was shirtsleeve weather, so I pulled the sodden remnants of autumn’s oak-leaf mulch off the “display” raised bed in our south-facing front yard. Four of the six miniature roses have leaf buds, the daylily crowns are sending out green shoots, and the unstoppable Siberian iris fans are nearly a foot tall (no flower buds yet, though). Ripped out whole mounds of invasive catmint, but there’s still plenty for when the bumblees first emerge (I hope). The daffodils closest to the house, whose first flowers got crushed by the snow, don’t look like they’re coming back this year, but the ones by the chimney on the east side are starting to blossom. Best of all, it looks like the lilacs made it through okay — lots of fat pistachio-sized buds, some of them already showing miniscule developing purple florets. One reason I’ll never live below the Mason-Dixon line is that giving up lilacs would ruin Spring for me.

The nice weather almost made me wish I’d reserved this year’s tomato plants (36 varieties, mostly heirlooms, from 2 different sources) to arrive during the first half of May instead of the later weeks. (Of course, if I had, there’d be snow on Mother’s Day.) Since I couldn’t find any Isis Candy plants for sale, I bought a packet of seeds, and I’m going to try direct-seeding them in the sunniest planter and experimenting with the red plastic sheeting left over from last year.

Also thinking about getting a waist-high wheeled planter to grow mesclun. I have no faith in my ability to tell edible greens from the wide variety of ferociously invasive weeds here, but maybe elevation and the judicious use of row cover would help…

What’s your garden look like, right now?

All About Seeds

I’ve decided this year that I am going to try to grow my own starter plants. My garden was enough of a success last year that this year I am getting a little more serious. I’m fencing in the back yard so the girls have some room to run without me worrying, and I am not going to have to worry about deer and wabbits eating all my bell peppers, so I thought I would get emotionally invested in my plants, and what better way than to raise them from seeds.

I picked up this little beginner Grow Light System for dirt cheap, and I’m putting that in the basement next to my washer and dryer and $500.00 towel rack (the exercise bike). Basically, I guess I need the following:

Some sort of timer so the lights go on automatically.

Seeds (I would prefer to go with organic seeds that will help out a small company with my purchase- something mom and pop if possible)

starter containers

some sort of hydration plan.

I want to start small with maybe some tomatoes and peppers, and maybe some herbs (basil, etc). Where do I start? What seeds should I buy? When should I put them in? How long every day should the light be on? Etc. Also, my basement is kind of chilly (60’s). Will that be a problem?

Open Thread: Thursday Night Menu

From our Food Goddess, TaMara:

I know many of you are snowed under and I’m sorry about that. I’m wishing for spring as hard as you. Meanwhile we’ve had a suspicious 60 degree day with the promise of an ugly storm soon to follow. Can I just say, “yippee.” (I’d say more, but I try to keep it PG). One other note: our intrepid blogger/photographer JeffW is on crutches after knee surgery, so everyone please wish him well.
Tonight’s menu is pretty simple, for those lazy nights when you don’t want to cook an elaborate meal. I usually let everyone assemble their own sandwich at the counter – less cleanup. I didn’t put chips on the menu, but they would probably show up last minute at my house anyway. The walnut pear salad is a nice treat this time of year, when you can usually find fresh pears at a good price. Pears and bleu cheese are a winning combo, and spinach seems to be on sale everywhere this week. If you can find it, drinking chocolate is like hot cocoa on steroids. We have a local coffee roaster who also makes drinking chocolate. It’s as if someone melted a chocolate bar in your cup and added some cream. A little goes a very long way.
On the board tonight:
1. Beef & Pepper Subs
2. Walnut Pear Salad
3. Hot cocoa, marshmallows and graham crackers

Recipes and shopping list, as ever, at the link.


PS from Anne Laurie: Speaking (longingly) of the prospect of Spring, am I the only one getting twice as many seed catalogs as usual, some from companies who dropped me from their mailing lists years ago?

Open Thread: Thursday Night Menu

Take it (us) away, TaMara:

Since it’s been such a crazy week I wanted something simple for the menu tonight. But, just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it’s not tasty. And we gotta get those last few weekends of grilling in before summer ends. If you’re up for adventure, you can try grilling the sweet potatoes on the grill, wrapped in foil or placed in a grilling basket. Also, for those who have requested it, I am working on a Tapas menu, just needs some testing before it goes up. Maybe in the next two weeks or so I’ll post it. Something to look forward to. If anyone else has other requests for menus, let me know, it’s always more fun if I have to go on a scavenger hunt to prep a menu. And a final update: my tomatoes are still not ripe. They sit there, abundant and green, mocking me.
On the board tonight:
1. Cheesy Burgers
2. Kaiser Rolls
3. Cajun Sweet Potato Fries
4. Raw Vegetable Tray
5. Plums

Recipes and shopping list can be found at the link.

There are worse fates than ‘abundant and green’ tomatoes… After almost two months of not-officially-drought, we got 5 inches of rain over a 4-day period. So today I got to pick, and discard, a whole lot of split, mildewed, blighted tomatoes that were hard green balls last weekend. And some of the gro-bagged potatoes (my new experiment for this summer) seem to be dying back, which can’t be a good sign. Days like this, I’m very grateful that my grandparents had the sense to decamp from their ancestral farms in Connemara! — Anne Laurie