The other night, in describing our gardening endeavors to some of our friends, I found myself admitting that, when it comes to our garden and as between Ken and I, I’ve “gone rogue.” Ken, who built our planters for us based on a mutual understanding of how many plants we would have and what would be sowed where, is not happy that my penchant for late-night online seed purchasing and inability to self-limit has resulted in a whole second wave of baby plants… started from seed inside, and expecting a home out in our yard very soon.
All this aside, I’ll note that this second crop of seeds seems to be heartier and having more success. I think it’s because we used our own soil and not the little soil pods that came with our seed-starting kit. That stuff that came with the kit seemed stale and weird, and not as nutrient rich… and how do they get dirt to behave like a shrinky-dink anyway? That can’t be good.
Depicted below are the baby plants a couple of weeks ago: Mustard greens, Wrinkled Crinkled Cress (it’s actually called that… I’m not just being Seussian), gooseberries, Ali Baba melons, kale!, more Brandywine tomatoes, radishes, leeks, red and yellow wild strawberries, two kinds of marigolds (they allegedly repel mosquitoes), and a flower called Butterfly gaura (to attract pollenators to the yard). That’s it, I think.
I noticed that the slowest to sprout – and by a big margin – were the berries, the gooseberries and the strawberries. It doesn’t appear to be a characteristic of fruit as compared to vegetables, because the melon sprouts came up pretty quickly. The leeks also took a while, but my plan was to move them into the garden into the late fall… so I’m not eve sure why I started some of them from seed now. Ken wouldn’t like to hear this. “You mean there is absolutely no reasoned approach to any of this?!?” And then I”d say something annoying and hippified like “My spirit needs to be free in order to successfully garden.” … I’m kidding, I’d never say that.
We haven’t put any of this second crop into the ground yet. But, as you can see, the Ali Baba melons have gotten pretty big:
I’m probably most excited for kale. The kale is doing great. Pretty much every seed has turned into a baby plant – and they are all about the same size and lookin good. The plan is to keep the kale in pots (as opposed to squeezing them into the raised beds – where we finally put our tomatoes last weekend!), so it looks like we’re gonna need a lot more pots… Ken.
I had given up to the point of letting the dogs traipse all over the place. But against all odds, seed has sprouted and grass is growing! Watch the dramatic sequence of events unfold here
So, yesterday I blogged about the mystery seed that has sprouted in the midst of our dill and next to our sage. Since he looks like he’s growing straight out of some compost eggshell, I felt like the safe assumption is that he’s from seeds that were in our compost. BUT, almost as if the plants have ears… or, actually, internet and are following this blog… this morning I noticed two of the infiltrator’s brethren had popped up in one of our raised beds (a good 10 ft. from our box with dill). Does this mean that they’re not from seeds that were in our compost? No, not necessarily. We added the same compost to the bed near the bok choy. Still… this is very suspicious. I’m dying to know what these plants are!
The larger plants are the baby bok choy. You will see the mystery seeds in the top right – with yellowish coloring on the ends of their leaves. WHO ARE THEY?
We’ve learned firsthand that not all plants are long for this world (RIP basil & corn salad). A couple of weeks ago, we transplanted our first crop of seedlings to the outdoor raised beds (minus the tomatoes, they remain inside til we’re sure it’s warm enough – per our research and all of our friends’ suggestions.) This means that we pushed peas, hot peppers, bok choy, spinach, basil, mache verte, and radishes out of the nest. Here are a bunch of them just before they went into the ground:
The planter furthest from the house we left most empty (for tomatoes) and put a row of basil on the end (because it makes sense to keep the tomato and the basil together, gastronomically speaking). The middle planter got mache verte, baby bok choy, and spinach (in that order). The planter closest to the house holds hot peppers and radishes (in the front) and a row of peas (in the back).
I’m sad to report that the mache verte and the basil did not make it :( Both wilted and disappeared (almost as if the plants had never been there). The spinach is struggling. The peppers are not flourishing, but they seem ok. The peas are making a come-back. And the baby bok choy and radishes are the real winners – they’re doing great!
4.28 radishes looking great:
4.28, questionable spinach:
4.28, baby bok choy:
Peas, peppers, 4.28:
So that is, in a nutshell, where the seeds from round 1 stand.
The tomatoes remain inside. I’ve noticed that the Brandywine tomatoes seem to be having the hardest time – so we started a few more from seed a couple of weeks ago (just to be on the safe side).
Also outside, the cilantro. The cilantro used to look like this:
And now looks like this (at the top – the smaller plants in the front are chammomile):
Lastly, the sunflowers… which used to look like this:
Also, the nasturtium, which I’d all but given up on… finally sprouted. I must have planted them outside just over a month ago. Just this week I FINALLY saw them emerge. I had no idea flowers could take so long to sprout. I’m really happy (they’re one of my favorite flowers!) that it looks like we’ll be seeing their happy orange faces in the space between our raised beds. Success.
I planted these because they’re pretty… but it bears mentioning that they are another edible in the garden. Oftentimes people find the bulk of the plant too bitter, and so stick with only the petals – but they can be used in a variety of ways in the kitchen.
One website (www.herbalgardens.com) shared the following recipes:
Stuffed Nasturtium Flowers
Mix 8 ounces softened cream cheese with 2 Tablespoons finely minced chives or other herbs of your choice. Stuff the mixture into nasturtium flowers and place on a tray that has been lined with nasturtium leaves. Serve at room temperature.
1 cup nasturtium leaves, flowers, and buds
1 pint champagne or white wine vinegar
Place the ingredients in a clean clear glass jar or bottle. Tightly seal. Let sit for at least 3 weeks before using. Place a new nasturtium in the finished bottle for decoration, but you should make sure the vinegar always covers the flowers or they will mold. Makes 1 pint vinegar to use in salads, sauces and flavoring in other dishes.
Nasturtium Lemon Butter
This lovely butter has a mild lemon/pepper flavor and a colorful appearance. It is wonderful on fish, chicken and vegetables. This is also great on those small party breads, pumpernickel especially.
1/2 cup unsalted butter softened
1-2 teaspoons grated lemon peel (according to taste)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons finely chopped nasturtium blossoms
Mix all of the ingredients well until smooth and well blended. Refrigerate or freeze until ready to serve. Makes 3/4 cup flavored butter.
Pickled Nasturtium Seeds
Use green nasturtium seeds, and in picking retain a short length of stem on each. Lay the seeds in cold salted water for two days (two tablespoons salt to one quart water), then place them in cold water for another day. Drain well and place the seeds in a glass jar, cover with vinegar heated to the boiling point, and close the jar tightly. In a few days the seeds will be ready to use. They are an excellent substitute for capers.
I’ve also seen them in stir fry, cooked with pasta, or used as a garnish in a variety of ways. (Particularly lovely: on top of a cupcake)
makes 8 servings as a sauce for fish
T his recipe is the perfect compliment to chilled summer salmon, or any fish, fresh off the grill. Also makes a great spread for tea sandwiches, or any sandwich needing some zip.
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 tsp. finely minced garlic
2 tsp. coarsely chopped capers
1/3 tsp. grated lemon peel
2 tsp. chopped nasturtium leaves
Combine all ingredients. Keep chilled until ready to use.
One of these days, we’ll have to write a blog about our composting project. That’s more Ken’s thing – so I’ll leave it to him. For the purposes of this post, I just wanted to note that a) we compost and b) we have been adding some of the compost to our window boxes/pots/raised beds, as we plant seeds and transplant our seedlings. We’ve also collected some of our compost “tea” and used it to water the plants after we first transplant them. I can’t say if it’s done any good – but it certainly hasn’t done any harm. Our indoor compost gets a lot of eggshells and vegetable waste… but I think we generally try to avoid any seeds. That being said, I noticed this dude in our window box (which houses dill and sage) today:
It looks like the seed is growing straight out of one of the compost eggshells… so it’s definitely something we ate and threw away. To me, it looks like a squash – similar to the squash plants we’re growing indoors right now – but I don’t think we’ve eaten squash in months. So, I’m at a loss. Eggplant?? I’m excited to find out. I love that there’s a little mystery in our garden.
These were our squash plants a couple of weeks ago. See the similarity?
The Grass isn’t growing. I read somewhere in a google search that “after two weeks, grass should have lightly sprouted and is ready for light traffic.” In fact, it was something less that two weeks. Ten days or something. Regardless, our grass wasn’t doing squat.
This is what it looked like on day 12. I know you can’t really look all that closely, but i’ll sum it up for you: Nothing was happening. I attribute this to a couple things.
- I don’t know what I’m doing. This is kinda an overarching reason, and may invalidate every reason below
- Lack of rain/poor watering
- Low Temperatures
- Poorly prepped soil
Poor Soil Prep
A lot of times, “growing grass” lessons begin with “Now that your soil is well prepped, blah, blah, blah”. A significant omission is *how* to prep your soil. What I think i did wrong is that it wasn’t loose enough. I had hoed everything & loosened it all up about two weeks before seeding – which gave it plenty of time to settle. With this whole “new strategy” thing I mentioned in the headline, I rectified this. I’ll tell you later, after I explained how I screwed up reasons three and two.
This spring has just been weird. It was unseasonably warm in March, then it got unseasonably cool in April. And since then it swings back & forth between warm & cold and can’t just freakin settle on “seasonable”. Most seed grows ideally when temperatures are consistently in the 60’s. (a domesticated friend of mine claims that it needs to be in the 60’s AT NIGHT, but I’m conveniently ignoring him on that one). We may have jumped the gun a bit because after seeding on hard soil, the temperatures stuck in the mid 50’s at best.
Everyone tells me how grass takes a lot of water. I believe this. It’s not really feasible for me to completely saturate the soil, since it’s gonna drain sometime around the time I’m passing out after lunch at work. Then what? Thirsty, thirsty grass seed. Also, we’ve been reprimanded by our landlord for using too much water, so I’m trying to watch it on that.
Clearly everything i was trying was failing. So I waited until this weekend to try again. Why?
- It’s warmer
- It was supposed to rain for three days in a row
- Since I was thinking about it, i could re-prep the soil
In the morning, when it was sunny, I mangled the rest of the dirt again, loosening it all up. Then i grabbed all this stuff from our shed:
A soil repairing mix, a fertilizer mix, and some sunny grass seed. All this stuff got tossed onto the soil, and I raked it over to mix it all up. Instead of the seed laying on top of hard soil, it was now mixed in, not too deeply, with fertilizer.
And then it rained. It rained a lot. Like, from 6pm Saturday until 3am Monday morning. It’s still supposed to be in the 50’s at least for the next day or so, but I feel a lot better about the way this is starting out. We’ll see.
This little leafy green was a little trickier to research than most. It goes by many, many names (kind of like Val Kilmer in the last movie I can remember him in: “The Saint”): Corn Salad aka Mâche Verte aka Mâche Verte a Coeur aka Lamb’s Lettuce aka Lamb’s Tongue aka probably several other things. There are several varieties of this green, too. Even just by looking at Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, I see three: Corn Salad Dutch, Mâche Verte a Coeur, and Mâche Verte d’Etampes. And wikipedia lists the following pseudonyms: Lewiston cornsalad, lamb’s lettuce, fetticus, field salad, mâche, feldsalat, nut lettuce and rapunzel.
I ordered these seeds last fall, planning to plant them this year, not knowing what Corn Salad was. I knew I wanted to grow a variety of greens in the garden, and the pictures on the seed packets looked lush, made the plant appear cute and compact, and described the plant as hearty and the flavor as nutty and mild.
Fast forward to March of this year when, dining at Blue Hill at Stone Barns for my brithday, I tasted Mâche for the first time – not knowing that I already had seeds at home, waiting to be planted. They were served to us as part of our first course, which included several fresh vegetables from the garden, raw and lightly seasoned. The Mâche was delicious. The leaves were tender and tiny, yet somehow meaty and very soft. The taste was mild, but flavorful and, across an 8-course tasting menu, the little Lamb’s Lettuce was stand-out and totally memorable. I went home thinking “I have to grow this in the garden.” When I finally started researching, I realized that I had already planned to.
Blue Hill at Stone Barns was an awesome place to eat just prior to starting up the garden for this season. Before the meal, we were able to wander through their on-site greenhouse and visit some of their resident livestock (the pigs were huge!). It was inspiring. And the dishes celebrate the fresh, unadultered flavors of the ingredients – particularly the vegetables – and that really got me excited to grow and eat my own.
Of course, our little planters pale by comparison to the Stone Barns greenhouse (above), but it cannot hurt to dream.
And though I don’t want pigs (above), or certainly not pigs THIS big. I do still want goats. So, all in all, the Stone Barns people are living the life I want – more or less.
“Sourcing from the surrounding fields and pasture, as well as other local farms, Blue Hill at Stone Barns highlights the abundant resources of the Hudson Valley. There are no menus at Blue Hill at Stone Barns. Instead, guests are presented with a list of over a hundred ingredients, updated daily, which contains the best offerings from the field and market.” –Blue Hill at Stone Barns
As for our own Mâche, we transplated four to the outdoor planters last weekend, of which I think one is going to make it. Here he is:
But we direct sowed some seeds along with the transplants, so we’ll see if some of them take off outside – and we started another crop inside, just to cross our i’s and dot our t’s. Right now there is a second wave of corn salad seeds growing in our set-up:
It’s tough to say why they don’t seem to have survived the transplanting. Maybe the soil has been too dry (despite our best watering efforts), maybe they didn’t have enough light when they were just sprouts, maybe they weren’t acclimated to the cooler temperature enough… who knows? We are learning as we go and hopefully we’ll get some viable corn salad plants out of this when all is said and done.
Some more info. about Corn Salad (Lamb’s Lettuce!):
First, we will want to gather it before it flowers.
Second, it has including three times as much vitamin C as lettuce, beta-carotene, B6, B9, vitamin E, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Corn salad grows wild in parts of Europe, northern Africa and western Asia. In Europe and Asia it is a common weed in cultivated land and waste spaces. In North America it has escaped cultivation and become naturalized on both the eastern and western seaboards. – Wikipedia
At precisely 5:01 p.m. today our new seeds arrived at my desk in a yellow envelope. I was on a boring conference call. The sky outside my window had just gone cloudy. These seeds injected some much-needed excitement into an otherwise dreary day. I immediately opened the envelope and found that, in addition to our Southern Giant Curled Mustard Greens, Giant Cape Gooseberry, Wrinkled Crinkled Cress, Blue Curled Scoth Kale (fyeah kale chips!), Leeks, Red Wonder & Yellow Wonder Wild Strawberries, and Ali Baba Watermelons, we also received a free gift of “Love-in-a-Mist Mixed Colors”… which appear to be flowers and are described as “a splendid mix of colors, with wispy, feathery foliage surrounding the beautiful blue, white, pink, and purplish-blue blooms.” Apparently these blooms date back to English gardens of the 1570s! So we can look at them in the yard and pretend we are in Game of Thrones (ish)…
Because Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds is the bomb, they also apologized for their delay in processing my order, which was wholly unnecessary since I think I placed it on Thurs. or Friday before this holiday weekend… and today is Monday!
Anyway, they also sent this pamphlet about the National Heirloom Exposition, World’s Pure Food Fair. The guy on the cover is a) bleeding from his wrist (?!) and b) exactly how I hope Ken looks about 35 years from now when we are living on our own farm.
If you look closely, you might notice a few smears of green stuff out there. It is my goal to revive the grass in this yard and watch it flourish into a bed worthy of tanning my pallid butt on. Between enthusiastic, relentless weeding of the patchy mess that covered this plot when we moved in, and frequent trampling by barbecue guests and frantic Brussels Griffons, this yard turned into a very bare double strip of dirt. Perhaps I should’ve left well enough alone. Perhaps we should cover the whole thing with stones, considering how much water it takes to grow grass and the fact that we’ve already gotten in trouble with our landlord for using so much water. But I like green. It’s gonna look really nice.
This is what it looks like, as of today. I’ve just spread a mix of Sunny and Sun/Shade Kentucky Bluegrass all across the lawn. I mixed in some fertilizer into the spreader, and then tossed some loose dirt all over, to help the seeds take root. I’m sure I read that somewhere. Then I watered the crap out of it, and I will continue to do so every morning until we start collecting rainwater somehow. Of course I will still continue watering it, but I’ll feel less guilty about it if we’re doing more recycling with it.
For reference, this is what it looked like when we moved in. Very green. Very overgrown. Maybe I messed up, but I swear, that grass was terrible, once we got it trimmed down. It was hard to mow, because it grew in several different directions – as opposed to simply “up”.