Archive for the ‘Kitchen Garden’ Category

Let us love lettuce

admin | April 12th, 2010

Lettuce Mix

Can you imagine how this feels knowing that THIS is coming from the garden to the table in a matter of minutes?

Knee deep in compost

admin | November 6th, 2009


As usual the garden doesn’t pay attention to calendars – we had some wonderful February Saturdays to work in the garden. Spring in the NC Piedmont always arrives in sputters – a beautiful 70 degree day here – a night in the 20’s there.

The big news this past week has been a near deluge of rain – twice in one week for the first time in a long time yielding over two inches of desperately needed rainfall for our region, which like much of the Southeast is in exceptional drought. Fortunately, our garden has not been too thirsty even in last summer’s record-breaking heat and drought. The reason is that we have been methodically adding compost to our kitchen gardens and plant beds for a number of years. This has done wonders to improve the soil texture, encourage earthworms and micro biotic activity, and retain moisture.

Discussing compost and humus isn’t as exciting or inspirational as talking about the newest plant or the latest gardening technique, but it is as critical to good gardening as a solid foundation is to a house. You can read a lot of technical minutiae about the ins and out’s of composting, but we like what an expert from the American Horticultural Society said, “Folks, this ain’t rocket science.”

‘Bin thinking
With that in mind we don’t follow any rules in tending our three compost bins. Our bins are slightly hidden from view but in close proximity to our shade garden and kitchen garden. If we were in a cooler climate, we would want to have sited them in more sun, but turning the compost is hard work where shade is welcome. This shady area also happens to be the best place to hide the bins in our garden – we moved them from a more prominent open space and are glad we did with no harm to the composting process.

We try to have one bin that is usable at any given time – obviously, there are times of the year that all three bins are still “cooking”, but more often than not we have some compost at our disposal to incorporate with new plantings. What goes in compost:

  • Shredded leaves and twigs
  • kitchen scraps (not meats)
  • grass clippings and green matter for nitrogen
  • To everything, turn, turn, turn
    We have found that what goes in the compost is just as important as turning the compost often (once every couple of weeks) helps the decomposition process. We know that the compost pile is cooking by the steam that emanates with the turn of the pitchfork. You can buy compost thermometers to gauge when to turn, but this leans towards the “rocket science” end of the composting spectrum. If we had had more rain these past several months, we would have had compost ready earlier, but we’ve saved our precious well water and recycled inside water for the new fall plantings.

    “Double digging it in”
    The past few weeks we have been adding compost to our kitchen garden – double digging it in. We aren’t too concerned about changing the pH of the soil because we limed this garden well last fall. We really don’t test pH much, deciding instead to add regular doses of lime to our clay soils.

    Compost all around the mulberry bush and then some
    On our “to do” list is to add compost around all of the hydrangeas and perennials. This provides a good bit of nutrients, helps retain moisture as a top mulch, and eventually works its way into the soil providing improved texture and organic matter. Larry fertilized most of the shrubs and trees with Espoma Hollytone yesterday, and the added compost will energize the plants to withstand droughts better and produce bigger and more prolific blooms and berries.

    Above ground water barrel from Down Under
    This past week we also ordered an 865 gallon above-ground cistern that is imported from Australia. We selected this rainwater collection device because we’ve tried 65 gallon rain barrels in the past, and a typical thunderstorm will overwhelm them – plus, the storage capacity didn’t get far in helping us keep up with our watering needs (a half acre of gardens).

    The Aussies have designed above-ground cisterns that come in decorator colors – we chose desert sand to blend into our exterior color, do not allow sunlight to penetrate reducing algae and mildew, and are thick enough to reduce the threat of freezing.

    We can use a pump if needed, but we are going to try gravity flow first since much of the garden that requires supplemental watering is downhill from where the cistern will be placed. The Raleigh garden center where we purchased it has sold hundreds of rain barrels and cisterns, providing evidence that even in a city with a total outside watering ban avid gardeners will find a way to continue to garden.

    Thinking about August’s garden in the winter

    admin | August 6th, 2009

    It’s not too soon to start thinking about your winter garden. Start your seeds in August.

    Oriental Greens
    Swiss Chard

    These veggies will be grown in a large raised bed, and as frigid weather approaches will be covered by white transluscent plastic over short and wide plastic hoops.

    Vegetable Soups

    admin | July 6th, 2009

    Vegetable Soups
    Deborah Madison’s Kitchen

    Okay, we all know that fall is right around the corner, and we always think of soup when the first nip is in the air. This wonderful book has inspiration simmering on every page so that you can make new and exciting soups.

    Over 100 recipes with stunning pictures will make your mouth water as well as make you run to the market. Recipes include Roasted Fall Tomato, Rice and Golden Turnip, Potato and Green Chile, and Roasted Squash, Pear and Ginger soups. When time just isn’t available and prepared soups take the place of home made, Madison offers a battery of suggestions on how to make them your own with simple additions from delicious oils and herbs to an invigorating Cilantro Salsa. This is a book you will turn to time and again when cool weather arrives.