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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Garden Blogger's Bloom Day December 2012

Welcome to What's Blooming Now,  join other blogs from around the world on Carol's blog, May Dream Gardens, for GBBD.  I actually found a couple of flowers blooming outdoors.   I've been waiting years for my 2 Camellia sasanqua varieties to bloom in the winter like they are supposed to.  I'm still waiting on Yuletide, but there were a couple of blooms on Apple Blossom, which I didn't catch until this one was overblown-

Down in Portland near the river and up in Seattle near the Sound, roses can practically bloom all winter, but here not so much, but a blossom is still lingering on my personal Queen of the Roses, Zephirine Drouhin.

But the flowers that are the cheeriest now are indoors.   My favorite little geranium was divided into 3 little plants that have bloomed nearly continually, here is the current one blooming for the second time under lights at night-

And charmingly in the daytime under natural light, a delight while I'm washing dishes-

And again, looking ethereal-

My Christmas cactus was a little early, I like the color of the flowers, a little closer to red than my even earlier one.

Finally, I was gifted with the ubiquitous flower of the season, but admittedly a nice red-

I hope you have some flowers cheering up your winter.  Happy Holidays!


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Twisting Together some Turnip Tunnels

I grew long oval Italian turnips last year in a new bed reclaimed from lawn, and last winter I killed the grass to make a new bed 4x as large.  This is the bed, loaded with turnips, and also  Black Spanish Radishes from J.L. Hudson; a few Asian radishes from Kitazawa- Giant Luo Buo, Hyb. Big Time, and Miyashige Green Neck, which have been mostly disappointing; Italian Chicory Galantina, Brussels Sprouts Mezzo Nano, Cabbage San Michelle, Kale Cavalo Nero aka Lacinato, from Seeds from Italy; and saved Wild Red Kale.  Somehow those little seeds, broadcast, amount to a lot more plants and especially turnips than I can imagine when throwing them around, apparently too exuberantly.

My favorites turned out to be the Black Spanish Radishes, I even leave the black skins on, and they cook up firm but not tough, bland yet intriguing, and are supposed to keep rock hard all winter.   Here is one on a scale-

A few did bolt in late summer, I mostly pulled them so I don't know if they will reseed.  Here is one in the ground, the yellow tag is 5" long for reference-

The turnips are very good, and I eat the greens as well, but they can have a few fibrous areas to trim off or chew and spit.  Here is one still in the ground-

Last year the long turnips were damaged by freezing weather, since the tops sticking out of  the ground turned brown and mushy, though the part underground was sometimes still usable.  So this year I decided to experiment with making tunnels to cover the beds and see if I could protect them from freezing enough to harvest more of them.  I tried putting some mulch on some beds to try to insulate the tops somewhat.  I am also using my extensive collection of PVC 3/4" pipe from previous tomato house endeavors to make tunnels.   I start with a pipe going across the width of the bed, grouping some of similar length, then add elbow joiners, spacers cut from pipe, then a "T" joiner for the vertical pipe.  A length-wise piece, these are grouped in 3's, is attached running down the side of the bed;  on the other side a longer spacer moves the T down so the vertical piece goes into the second of 2 T's at the top, staggering them.  I prefer the verticals to be close in length but here one side is longer because of the pieces of pipe I was working with.  I then add a top length-wise pipe.  Working down the bed, I add T's, vertical pieces, occasional pipes across the bed, and top pieces, then end with the elbows again at the end.  I have added some straight tubular joiners to make longer pipes out of 2 short pieces.   I use heavy plastic sheeting 10' wide from a 100 ft roll from Home Depot.  It has held up well so far for 3 years.

Here are the rows of tunnels I have made so far, I ran out of plastic.

I use spring clamps from Home Depot to hold the plastic on the pipes at the top/ends, they had a nice mesh bag with assorted sizes cheap, though some were too small for PVC pipe.  I also have some from Harbor Freight.   I will give a report later when I see how well the turnips are protected from the lower temperatures, it has gotten down to 6* F here a few times.  Smaller round turnips have in the past had no problem living through until spring, unprotected.

The one disadvantage of just twisting the T's and connectors together with the pipe is that they can stick or else untwist by themselves.  This can be prevented by drilling holes in the T's and pipes and inserting a screw, but that would be a lot of work and perhaps weaken everything, so I haven't resorted to that.

Here is the Chicory, I cooked some as a green, and they were OK as a spinachy type green.  I will use them more as the turnips are used up and I am curious how they last over winter and into spring.

What's still harvestable in your garden?   I can still go out and pull as many turnips and radishes as I care to cook every day, and hope the cabbages and brussels sprouts will make a crop in spring.  I can also usually count on some turnip, kale, and other cole crop greens and flower buds in spring for very early greens.  I'm thankful for winter vegetables and year-round harvest.


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Experimenting with Beans

Now that the bean growing season is over, I have trays of bean seeds drying and am assessing the varieties I grew and oogling online seed sources for something new to plant next year.   The Pacific Northwest has a cool climate in summer rather like that of Great Britain, so runner beans, Phaseolus coccineus, which are about the only beans that do well there, also excel here.   Insuk's Wang Kong scarlett runner beans have been my best producers.   I've also tried a couple of varieties of other red-flowered, purple to black seeded runner beans that can get longer and stay tender longer but were not as vigorous or productive.  Here is a former post about beans I grow.  IWK can actually throw a few white-seeded plants, I guess recessive genes.  I found a few this year in my harvest.   Because another distinction of runner beans is that they need cross-pollination to set seed, they also are harder to keep from crossing so it is better to grow only one variety at a time, though I am going to compromise by growing only white-seeded varieties next year if feasible.

Discussions on the GardenWeb legume forum have interested me in growing runner beans next year that have white seed and white blooms, in search of more delicate texture and marvelous nutty flavors.    I hope the hummingbirds are not too disappointed.   They love the red flowers.   White-flowered/seeded varieties are difficult to find from seed companies or else expensive, so I am attempting to circumvent these problems by growing seeds sold for cooking.   I bought 3 kinds of white runner beans and a fourth bean for cooking described as having a nutty taste, and just did an experiment trying to sprout the beans.  The source was Purcell Mountain Farms, who state that their beans will sprout.  The 3 white beans are, starting lower left and going clockwise, Corona (AKA Bianco di  Spagna), which sprouted well; Runner Cannellini, which did not sprout, turned a little brown, and smell bad; and Sweet Runner Cannellini, which developed several kinds of mold before finally sprouting a couple of beans; and the lower right is the beautiful brown mottled bean Spanish Tolosna, which is a chef's favorite for nutty flavor, and  sprouted 100% a couple of days before any of the runner beans.
I decided to try the sprouted beans in my aquaponics system, which currently just has basil plants.  If they succeed there I will post a photo.

So I am still perusing heirloom beans on various websites and will be trying some new beans for next year, which is very optimistic since rabbits decided my little bean plants were their favorite food last year.  I did find that putting netting over the seedlings kept the rabbits away.  I've decided I like the beans that have edible pods more than the shelly type of bean which develope tough pods which are not edible and must be shelled to eat just the bean.  Appalachian heirloom beans are supposed to be strong in the characteristic of the pod staying non-fibrous to a large size and even until the pods start to dry up, so they are my focus.

Happy seed shopping and garden planning,  Hannah

Garden Blogger's Bloom Day November 2012

There's not much blooming outdoors now, we had one small non-killing frost so far.   Some of the roses struggle on, I had a couple of magnificent blooms on Apricot Nectar but didn't take photos.  I'm taking a few cuttings and attempting to root some new plants.

A surprise was that Tithonia finally started blooming, one plant is as tall as me, but the flowers I expected to be red are only gold.
We had a slight frost last week that damaged some of the blossoms but did not kill the plant, so perhaps it can continue a while.  Since I started the seeds very early this year I don't know that I would bother to try to grow this again.

The magnificent Geranium Rozanne continues to bloom-

The fantastic bloomer Anemone tomentosa robustissima continues with a few blooms after starting in August.  I'm going to try dividing the fall Anemones next spring and making root cuttings, they are wonderful fall bloomers and over time spread into marvelous clumps.
Finally, a colored stalk of oregano, which is a very reliable plant even on a ramp as here, and with very little summer water-
I'm going to be sowing a lot of Oregano, Marjoram, and Lavender soon for next year to try to populate some weedy areas with tough plants that can hopefully suppress weeds.  I have had limited success with native plants and have decided the herbs will do better in those circumstances, having little summer water and fighting grass weeds.

I hope some flowers still grace your garden , to see what else is blooming around the world, join us at hostess Carol's May Dreams Gardens for "What's Blooming Now"!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Favorite Fall-Winter Windowsill Bloomers

Part of my windowsill bloomers are geared to bloom in the spring and summer, like my Hoya vine which pumps out blooms continually in that time frame, but now has entered a rest period, along with others.  But some plants are just beginning to shine.  My favorites would have to be Pelargoniums, Geraniums that are not hardy in my zone and therefore kept in pots.  They stay small, the two shown are part of three that resulted from dividing my plant that bloomed last year.   One of them already finished blooming.  I like to have them by my sink where I can enjoy their cheery blooms.

Another plant that mainly blooms in the summer but is holding on is Oxalis triangularis purpurea, but it likes to plaster itself to the window pane so flops without it, here propped with a hat.

Streptocarpus (Cape Primrose) possibly Amanda,  can bloom for a long time, here are the latest blooms

I put my Epiphyllum anguliger outside for a while in late summer, and perhaps that is why it is blooming profusely now.  It is on my aquaponics framework.  The blooms only last a day when fully open, and tend to flop, but smell divine.
Epi's are very easy to root from cuttings, even have preformed roots, and this one is also known as Rick Rack cactus, from the leaf formation as in this photo-

Finally, there is my Christmas cactus that blooms early, I keep it downstairs in a mostly unlit basement by a south-facing window.  The blooms look like a burst of birds in flight.

So, I am solacing myself from the change in seasons with my indoor garden blooms.  And this weekend is the end of daylight savings, how depressing is that?  Today I went out in the wet garden and transplanted bamboo.  I hope it takes.  It's my latest strategy in the war on weeds, occupy and conquer.

If you would like to show off some of your indoor flowers, feel free to put a link to your post in a comment.


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Fall into Fermentation

Fall is a good time to try some fermentation, gardening chores are harder because of rain and cold, and  fewer vegetables are being harvested.  I've been making sauerkraut for a few years, I use quart wide-mouth canning jars.   I process 2 cabbages at once, slicing them into my food processor in batches.   I sprinkle them with several shakes of sea salt, then I was adding Acidophilus powder sprinkled out of capsules, 1/2 capsule per batch, with cabbage up to the tops of the processor blades.   But recently I started making kefir with raw goat's milk, so I drizzle on part of a teaspoon of kefir before processing instead of the powder.   I then pack the chopped cabbage into the jar in layers.  Two cabbages make around 3 quarts of sauerkraut. The sauerkraut starts getting that sour aroma sooner with the kefir and I have not had trouble with the top getting dry and molding (this used to happen occasionally and I simply removed the bad part at the top and added more salt water to cover, pushing the cabbage down with a spoon below the water).  I usually heat 2/3 of a cup of water with salt added in the microwave for a minute, cool in the freezer, and top off all the jars.   Be sure to leave perhaps an inch of header room since the 'kraut will start making air bubbles as it ferments and push the liquids in the jar up until they overflow.  Checking and pushing the 'kraut down with a spoon to get rid of bubbles and allowing enough head room can help.  If the top seems dry add more water as above.

Making kefir with raw milk is easy, you must avoid contact with metals, so glass containers, here I use pint wide-mouth canning jars, and plastic strainers and spoons are good.  Milk kefir grains can be found on ebay, craigslist, yahoo groups, Weston Price groups, Cultures For Health-  my source for dry starter from a local store, etc.  A lid could be used, or I usually cover with a paper towel held on with a rubber band.   Around a tablespoon of grains is used per cup of milk.  As they start multiplying after a few weeks you may need to remove some from time to time.  It takes about 24 hours for the kefir to ferment, it may separate a little into curds and whey.  I stir and then push it through a small nylon strainer. Some people use their fingers or a slotted spoon,   I add a teaspoon of frozen juice with no added sugar plus 1/4 tsp of Stevia.  I like it better chilled and I especially like it with ice crystals in the outer layers, which makes it taste like a slushy.  Kefir can also be aged for more fizz and vitamins by straining and keeping it in the refrigerator for another 1-2 days with a lid, which can make it more fizzy.

Here is one of my fall vegetables, a Black Spanish Radish.  I cooked the sliced but not peeled bulb and the greens, and served them on brown rice with a duck egg and some kefir or goat's cheese, and seasoned it with lemon pepper and my Turmeric spice blend with added dill, fennel, anise, caraway, ajowan, cumin, fenugreek, cardamom and coriander seeds ground in a coffee grinder, and threw in a few things I'm trying to use up, like lemon grass powder, thyme, and galangal powder.  Whatever you have on hand is good.  I also am cooking turnips daily and using them in the same way, in a pressure cooker or large pot.  Turnips and radishes are low in carbohydrates and can be used in place of potatoes and in many of the same recipes.

Here is the radish, sauerkraut, and kefir.

Bon Apetit!


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Celebrating Autumn

Even though Summer is my favorite season at present because I am primarily a vegetable and edibles gardener, and I therefore hate to see it end, there is something exciting yet restful about fall, most of the hard gardening work is over and still the fruits of the work linger.  This year I worked up a new cabbage family and greens bed that is very large and which I managed to completely overplant in turnips yet again-  not just any turnips but monster oval Italian turnips, this is the largest so far-
They will keep us in greens and hopefully turnips all winter and even next spring when they start blooming and go to seed.   I did have problems last year with the tops, which stick out of the ground where colored, freezing and turning brown, but the bottom root was still edible, and I may try mulching heavily and covering some rows with plastic to see if I can prevent frost damage.  I also have some wild red and lacinato kale planted there, and Brussels sprouts, San Michele cabbage, and Cicory , which I hope will perform this time though I haven't succeeded well with them in the past.

One point of celebration is the blooming of my "Christmas" cactus-

Another is picking out some pumpkins to cook from a farmer's field, Connecticut Field on the left and Howden on the right.
My favorite way to cook them is to cut then in half, clean them out with my handy dandy tool, cut then in strips, peel them, then pressure cook chunks so they are easy to puree for soups.  Twenty some-odd years ago I envisioned the perfect tool to clean pumpkin seeds and pulp out, then I was in a store and found one on sale.
The serrated edge really works great to do the scooping.  It doesn't help with the messy job of separating the seeds from the pulp.  I ended up feeding the seeds to my chickens, who went for them more than for the pulp.

My soup recipe includes coconut milk, which gives it a lovely taste and creaminess, and Turmeric with various ground seeds like Dill, Caraway, Fennel, Anise, Cumin, Fenugreek, and Coriander, as well as lemon pepper, ginger, and maybe some pumpkin pie spices..  I like the hand-held stick blenders for pureeing the soup, no messy transferring of hot liquids and handling hot blender containers.   I also keep some unblended but mashed pumpkin to eat on rice or buckwheat with goat cheese, and poached egg, as we eat vegetarian and gluten-free food most of the time, and I avoid dishes with sugar and baked starches.  Fortunately there is Stevia.

The last area of celebration is colorful fall foliage, like the wonderful colors of blueberry leaves and an orange-toned cutleaf Japanese maple-

My two small Japanese maples, have become brilliant red again after being rather drab over the summer, Amber Ghost-

And not as vigorous Purple Ghost, but more intense red-
So, I hope everyone else finds it easier to sleep now like I do and is enjoying the festivity and excitement that the season seems to generate, perhaps as a result of the invigorating cold air.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Garden Blogger's Bloom Day October 2012

After a record dry summer, we are starting to get some rain, at last.  A few roses are blooming on, like the very fragrant OGR Clothilde Soupert, with its many petals-

A dainty mini striped rose, Pinstripe, is blooming in a pot, where minis that were being eaten to the ground by rabbits have ended up-

Star of the garden at this point would have to be Rozanne geranium, which is still covered with blooms.  What a sensational hardy geranium.

And the last of the Anemones to keep blooming, still covered with flowers, is what I think is A. tomentosa 'Robustissima', a passalong plant.   It finally dawned on me this year that this is a great fall bloomer and worthy of being transplanted to a lot of new places in my garden for memorable fall blooming, as well as some other Anemone japonicas.  I will try to do some root cuttings next spring.   I also will be starting some from seed this winter-
An astonishing surprise was to see a mysterious large bloom on the ground, and find that a Clematis 'Sugar Candy', that had apparently died 3 years ago, had grown out to 7' and was blooming unseasonably, a magnificent bloom.  Clematis resurrection.

But what could be more luscious than some Liberty apples, which make the most divine fragrant applesauce, and are bred to be no-spray, resistant to disease and insect damage.
Thanks for joining me for GBBD, for more posts on what's blooming now, go to May Dreams Gardens, hosted by Carol, whose garden is also recovering from drought.


Friday, September 28, 2012

Wildflower Wednesday September 2012

Welcome to my Wildflower Wednesday post, to see others go to Clay and Limestone, hosted by Gail who has lots of lovely blooms in the Aster family.    Not much blooming in the native category in my yard now, we still are waiting for the rainy season to start, it's very dry.  The Fireweed has finished and is about to blow.   The Chaste tree blooms make a nice purple-
The Pearly Everlasting is past its prime-
The Kinnikinnick, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, has bright red berries-
Lonicera ciliosa also had red berries-
And for some edible berries, a little past prime, some Berberis (Mahonia) nervosa-
and finally, some Salal berries.   I'll have to get some picked and make some gelatin with them.

Happy Fall!   Hannah

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Foliage Follow-Up September 2012

Here is my first contribution to Foliage Follow-Up, to join in the other posts go to Foliage Follow-Up, hosted by Pam, who has a lovely silvery garden on display, and Mangaves, and Yuccas, oh my!  My more mundane plants include this group of variegated plants; Lonicera nitida, Vinca major, and  Zebra grass, Miscanthus sinensis 'Zebrinus'-

Another grouping is Oreganos in various colorations; I love how tough they are, these are on a very dry ramp that gets almost no summer water-

My contribution to silvery is these small leaves of a Hebe pinguifolia 'Pagei'-

Another grouping of silver is this Hebe pimeleoides 'Quicksilver' with Santolina, accented by a Sarracenia leucophylla x rubra-

For some cool green with magenta highlights, a Cut-leaf Japanese Maple draped by a Schisandra vine-

Another combination of variegated Elaeagnus ebbingei and the burgundy tones of Berberis thunbergii-

And here with other plants added, a Nandina showing some fall color, a Bird's Nest Spruce, a weeping Mulberry, and some variegated Phalaris, which can overtake the weeds in a difficult area.

Enjoy your autumnal foliage, Hannah