Friday, June 29, 2012


I just saw that today marks my 100th visitor... thanks to all who are reading!  Tell your friends! 

Friday Failures, Part 2

Do I even need to include text with this picture?
I planted these small pots of parsley and cilantro, thinking they'd be the perfect size to keep on the windowsill of the kitchen.

Turns out they were a tiny bit too big for the windowsill.  And, oh yeah, not suitable for consumption.
(I have no explanation for why they are still sitting on my deck)

Fortunately, I have had a little more luck with cilantro planted into the ground... it is still a challenging little herb, though (more on that later).

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Moving day.

Things were getting a little dicey in the Baltic Ave. raised bed.  Namely, due to complete neglect on my part, the thyme got a tiny bit out of control...

What you see in front is just some out-of-control asparagus.  It got a haircut too.

It had basically become an aromatic, flowering shrub that was overtaking everything around it.

So, I did what any sensible person would do...

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

On salad.

I love salad, in general.  And I am prone to spending upwards of $10 on salad in a restaurant, so it seems silly to not try and grow the stuff for less than $2 per seed packet.  The components of salad are relatively easy to grow as long as you can keep the rabbits away.  This year, in our net-encased fortress, we are enjoying the first salad crop that has lasted more than a few days.

L to R: spinach, red lettuce, arugula... when they were babies

Monday, June 25, 2012

More mint.

Here is my second-favorite thing to do with fresh mint.  Pick a few sprigs and wash them off.  Then crumple them up in your hand ("crumple" being a rather technical term, I know) to release the flavors.  Place these mint sprigs in a pitcher of water with 5-6 tea bags (I prefer to do this with plain old black tea but you can use whatever you have, or whatever you like).  Fill the pitcher with water and place it outside on a hot day.  In a few hours you will have Mint-Infused Sun Tea.

Now, of course, Sun Tea is just a romantic idea that we all love to make in the summer... but really, you could accomplish the same thing in a much shorter time with a kettle of hot water.  But isn't there a certain joy of anticipation that comes along with waiting an entire afternoon for a pitcher of tea that you will then need to either refrigerate or cool down with ice cubes to make it drinkable for summer weather?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Pea season has ended.

...and it did so in spectacular fashion.  I am not sure what happened... on Monday we were in the backyard, picking peas and eating them right from the plant... and then on Thursday, this:

You can see that the plants were starting to yellow, and upon closer inspection, even the leaves that were still green had turned a little... weird.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Tomato talk

I won't go into all the reasons that I love tomatoes... but one of those reasons, and why I recommend growing tomatoes to absolutely anyone, is that they are very easy to take care of.

One of the best things about tomatoes is that they are among the most (if not the most) self-expressive plants.  Watered them too much?  Their leaves will turn slightly yellow.  Not enough water?  They look just like this:

See how the leaves are curly?  This is especially important to look for in tomatoes that you have growing in pots (as this one is), which tend to dry out a lot faster than a garden bed.  At the time of this photo, I'd just watered this particular plant the day before, but a streak of very hot weather and a ton of sun left it thirsty.

Once you water it, the leaves of the tomato plant will go back to looking "normal" in a very short period of time (I'm talking minutes/hours).  These guys bounce back quick.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


I use mint for exactly three things (mojitos, iced tea, and tabbouleh - look for more on the others in the future), but these three things are important enough, and tasty enough, to merit always keeping a pot of mint growing.  The type that we grow is just good, old-fashioned "spearmint."

Don't, under any circumstance, plant mint in a garden bed!  Left unchecked, it will take over the whole garden, your yard, and possibly even your house.  It is easy to grow but incredibly hard to control.  We learned this the hard way when living at our old house.  We planted some in the small garden bed that we had, and by the time we moved, the garden bed had turned into a mint pasture.   So now, I keep it in a pot.  And recently I used it to make one of my very favorite hot-weather adult beverages, a mojito.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Swiss Chard

Here is what I know about Swiss Chard:
1) It is nutritious
2) It is typically prepared the same way you'd do spinach
3) It is easy to grow
4) You can eat the leaves and the stems (cooked).
5) It comes in a "rainbow" variety that I sadly did not buy seeds for, so mine is plain green

Here is what I know about myself:
1) I don't really like cooked spinach unless it is inside pasta.
2) Sometimes I grow things just because I can, not because I necessarily like to eat them (i.e., 'The Great Radish Debacle of 2009")

Friday, June 15, 2012

Friday Failures, part 1

I need to come clean and share with you that the backyard farm isn't all success.  So from time to time I'll let you in on some of our failures.  Here's the first of several upcoming installments...

I mentioned (and have shared photographic proof of this fact) that I do keep it pretty tight in the ground portion of our garden.  Everyone has their row, and the rows are arranged alphabetically, or by plant type (i.e., salad is all in one place; tomatoes are next to each other).  I weed that area at least once a week (easy to do while the plants are small; much bigger job once they start to grow) and it's generally kind of nice looking.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

You can grow it in a pot... a pot, you can grow a lot! (eh, not sure I can really pull off Seuss...)

L to R: Beefsteak tomatoes, Sungold tomatoes, Basil, Mint, Catnip
Not everyone has or wants the space to grow an entire produce section in their backyard.  And those of us who do occasionally buy too many plants and need somewhere else to put them.  Enter - the flower pot!

While I am not sure that you can grow any plant in a pot, my experience has been that certain crops are super-easy to grow in containers.  Namely - tomatoes, basil, catnip, and mint (more about them individually at a later date).  The only thing about container growing that is slightly higher-maintenance is that you have to be very mindful of watering them.  At the time of watering, anything extra will drain through the holes of your pot.  The positive is that it's pretty hard to over-water a plant in a pot; the negative is that they can grow thirsty pretty quickly.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

They're ba-ack...

A neighbor told me he saw a deer in our yard the other evening, and again this morning.  This is a problem.

And it has been a problem for the past few years.  Our backyard has served as an amazing salad bar/dinner destination for the local deer, rabbit and groundhog population at great cost to us.  Well, at least great emotional cost.  Last year we had eighteen ears of beautiful golden yellow corn growing - ready to be picked in less than a week.  And then one morning I came out to find utter devastation.  Something - something BIG - had literally hacked them all in half, ate all the corn and then had the nerve to leave the scraps all over our yard.

Cleaning up the mess left by the monster that ravaged our corn crop?  It was nothing short of heartbreaking.

Monday, June 11, 2012

...and then there were peas

This year is the first time I have planted peas.  I wanted to try some more early/spring crops this year and peas sounded easy.  Plus, you can plant them in March so it gives an earlier start to the growing season.  Well, I can say with certainty 3 months later that the peas are a success!
(this morning's harvest)

They are just growing and growing and growing... everything I've read suggests picking them every 1-3 days, as they just continue to produce.  And boy, have they grown...  When I first put the seeds in, I planted them in two rows.  Once the seedlings popped up, I put in some 2-foot stakes (actually more like little sticks).

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sunday Centerfold

So, the original title was going to be "Sunday Garden P***" (you know, rhymes with "horn") - just a playful way of saying "On Sundays I will simply post a picture of a pretty plant."  But then I thought, well, I did leave this blog open to being found in search engines... and I think that including that word might draw in the wrong crowd.  And while there is great humor in someone looking for that, and instead finding this blog by some vegetable geek in Ohio, the cost-benefit analysis led me to choose a new title.

Friday, June 8, 2012

No vampires here!

Inexplicably, Fall 2011 was the very first time that I planted garlic.  I'd just never thought of it before, but learning that it is totally low-maintenance and easy to grow inspired me to give it a try.  My enthusiasm went a tiny bit unchecked.  Because, as it turns out, we currently have 90 bulbs of garlic growing in the backyard.  The green stuff around the whole border of the garden in the picture you see?

Yep, it's all garlic.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Things to do with tomatoes, volume 1

Tomatoes are, to me, the most versatile and important thing that we grow in our garden.  As a huge fan of Italian food and cooking, tomatoes are a staple item to me year-round.  Prior to growing tomatoes, I absolutely, positively never ate them raw.  And honestly, looking at some of those pale pink things that restaurants throw on salads, who would want to?  However, I've expanded my tomato horizons dramatically since discovering the delectable quality of home-grown varieties.

this is all that's left from last year!

Last year was a disappointing one for tomatoes in the backyard - too much rain and a bad location in the garden bed did not yield many.  But that did not stop me from getting some - I'd buy giant bags from the farmer's market and do my very favorite thing - peel and seal them into jars for use when fresh tomatoes aren't so plentiful.  It is not that hard to do and worth the effort for a taste of summer in your January chili (PS: the best tomatoes for this job are Roma or paste-type tomatoes as they contain less water and more tomato).

Monday, June 4, 2012

Why a blog?

Well, why not?  I only wished I'd thought of this earlier in the spring, back when I was just starting to plant things.  However, it's still early enough to document some great progress.  My hope is that, for me, this is a place I can record all the things I want to remember about the garden for next year.  I also hope that others might like to read and learn from my mistakes and successes, and possibly offer advice (or, let's be honest, just "ooh" and "ahh" over photos of cabbage).  There are a lot of gardening blogs and websites out there, but I haven't found a ton that speak to the very basics... things like, "what does the verb 'mulch' even mean?" and "should I pull the plants out of the ground when they are dead, or leave them there?" (in terms of the latter, we've experimented with both and it seems much preferable to pull the plants up in late fall rather than leave yourself a huge mess the following spring... and... nutrients? Or something?).  Notice I am not attempting to answer the first question, because I still don't know.