Mâche “Verte de Cambrai”

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.

Nut Lettuce.

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 was originally foraged by European peasants, but then the royal gardener of King Louis XIV, de la Quintinie got wind of it and decided that it was a food fit for everyone.

Corn salad grows wild in parts of Europe, northern Africa and western Asia.[5] 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


Mail Order Seeds!

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.

Grass. Day One.

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”.

Shopping trip & What’s Going On In The Garden

Today, Ken spread his seed all over the yard.  His grass seed.  He was explaining to me during our bike ride to the gardening store in Red Hook that he used a mixture of shade-loving grasses and Kentucky Blue Grass.  He’ll have to blog more about this himself – because grass isn’t really my thing.

Anyway, after he seeded the lawn, we went to Chelsea Garden Center (which is not in Chelsea, but in Red Hook.)  Specifically, I wanted to get some window boxes to hang on the bars that cover our windows.  As it turns out, the boxes hook nicely on to our fence, and now that I know this we need to get about 7 more.  The added space they’ll afford us will double the kinds of plants that we can have – so I’m excited to get a) more flowers to attract bees & butterflies and b) some smaller vegetables (cayenne peppers?).

We purchased two window boxes, 3 sizable pots (most likely for my kale, mustard greens, and cress – when the seeds come), one sage plant (because I read they attract bees, and we don’t have any sage in our pretty extensive herb collection), one shade marigold, five seed packets and 3 ferns.  The ferns are now planted behind our wine bottle garden edging in the back (depicted below).  They’ll love the shade and I hope that they fill in quickly and give the back part of our yard a distinctive woodland feel.

The sage is in one of the window boxes, and I have to decide what to put with it – maybe some more herbs?  Maybe some small peppers?  One entire window box is going to be devoted to the yellow & red strawberry seeds I already purchased.  And then we’ll go from there…

I’m excited about the seeds I bought.  They’re flowers; and this really goes back to my “roots” gardening in high school, when I pretty much just put flowers in random places around the yard and hoped they’d take off.  Now that we have a vegetable and herb garden, we will want to attract pollinators – so I appreciate the flowers for the very important purpose they serve.  I did some research and determined that good plants for attracting bees & butterflies are agastache, salvia, & lamb’s ear (obviously, among others); and good plants for repelling mosquitoes are marigold, citronella grass, and horsemint (among others.)  A lot of these plants weren’t available at the store, but I got a shade marigold plant, agastache seeds, and seeds for both French marigolds and African “Crackerjack” marigolds.  I also got a packet of gaura seeds (called “butterfly gaura”), which look pretty, delicate, and white and expressly say that they are hearty plants and attract bees and butterflies.  Lastly, I got a packet of Icelandic poppies.  I LOVE POPPIES and the variety I got appears mixed in color and ruffled in its petals (my preference is for the classic, clean red poppies – but, whatever).  I seeded the poppies just along the edge of our above ground planters Ken built, hoping they’ll add color and attract bees.  The planters are made with treated wood, so they should be okay in the rain.  They are also staked into the ground in the corners, so they should hold their shape.

We had planned on putting some of our seedlings in the beds today – but time got away from us, so we plan to tomorrow.  Here are our babies, sitting outside getting acclimated to the cooler air:

These are dill, basil, bok choy, mache verte, radish, spinach, hot peppers, peas, and three kinds of tomatoes.  I think all of these are going into the ground tomorrow (April 8), except for the tomatoes.  We have thyme growing inside, which isn’t ready yet, and some back-up plants. And our squash seeds seem to be failing indoors – so we’re going to put some of them directly into the ground.


Existing Plants:

While outside, I took stock of what’s been going on in the garden.  The wisteria is beginning to bloom (picture these interwoven throughout the already-blooming cherry blossoms – it’s really something to see):

Some of the rose bushes already have buds!

Our onions already look close(ish) to being ready to harvest!

The iris bulbs we planted (in the completely wrong season – they should have been done in the fall) look like they are going to come up:

We noticed the fig has some tiny figlets on it already, and we transplanted it in the hope that it will happily grow near the back of the yard and not become a fully established tree in the front where it makes no sense to have it.

We also transplanted one of our seven roses to a pot out front, to make room for the gooseberry bush I hope I’m able to grow.  I’m not sure it’s going to make it.  Some of its younger leaves look wilted after the transplanting.  We watered it and fed it compost and have our fingers crossed.

And our many mints, lavender, and rosemary are doing just fine.

The sunflower seeds I planted are sprouting – so excited!

And the chamomile and cilantro seeds I put into one of our window boxes two weeks ago have started sprouting as well.

FINALLY, I planted a shady flower mix around the back edge of our yard (which, last year, was a wasteland) and these seeds seem to have taken off!  I’m really looking forward to life & color back there this year.

To find out more about plants that repel mosquitoes, click here.

To find out more about plants that attract pollinators, click here (NYT) and here.

My friend’s Brussels Griffon, Max, helped me to blog this, as I was dogsitting him this weekend.  He has a blog and you can view it here.  🙂

3 Griffons in the Garden

Today was a nice preview to tomorrow.  Ken got home early and set to work separating the worms out of our viable compost – so that we can add compost to our raised beds tomorrow when we transplant some of our seedlings.

I did some planting, some documenting, and some moving around of things.

And Wembley, Fergus, and Max (the puppy we are dogsitting), kicked up a whole lot of dust doing this:

The Concorde

Last year, on my birthday – actually, wait, TWO birthdays ago, but still last year – Ken killed his Concorde.

See that dent?  That dent means the bike died.

Anyway, he didn’t get rid of it and ever since then we’ve talked about how he really wants to “do something” with the frame.  “We should really DO SOMETHING with the Concorde.”  Etc. etc.  It was going to be art.  But, it never became art.  Then today I decided that it should be incorporated into a trellis in our garden – most likely one for the tall telephone peas.  I think this is a great idea!  We’re totally doing it and will keep you posted on how we incorporate it into the garden and how we implement the project.

Until then, I was curious how other people have recycled old bikes and bike parts into their gardens.  Some of the things I came across were less than inspirational – but others were practical, totally doable, and are projects that I’m actually considering.  Where there is Ken, there is a bike, so it only makes sense that our garden will feature little moments of bike charm.

1.  Recycled bicycle rim trellis:  This could TOTALLY work for a trellis for the peas!  And, in fact, I just noted that in the picture (below), peas are the plant of choice.  I found this on Apartmenttherapy (which is a great blog – though I recently read somewhere that the couple who runs it is getting divorced and, I have to be honest, I kinda feel like someone just told me Santa isn’t real.)  Anyway, I like this idea, but the design definitely needs some tweaking.  For one thing, the rim needs to be atatched to the post in the center with something a lot sturdier than wire or it will never withstand a) the elements (dude, Brooklyn had hurricanes AND tornados last year!) nor b) the weight of heavier plants.

Organic Gardening (in 2009) featured a short instructional article on how to build something like this and used narrow planks instead of wires.  The planks are nailed to the rim through one of the holes for the spokes, which – with some trial and error – I think could be plenty sturdy.

Here is another, fancier, example of bike wheels being recycled to make garden trellises.  This one is pretty, but a little too involved and we dont have THAT much space.

I found the above photo here, but without much instruction (despite the site’s name “instructables”) on how to pull this off.

Here is another structure that I like quite a lot.  I dont think it would work for peas – but if I ever got some clematis, it would be gorgeous to grow it up something like this (either built out back or on the front patio, with the clematis rooted in pots.)

There is a whole bunch of info. about building this trellis, and ones like it, here.

Here is an idea:  Using the entire discarded bike as a trellis.  Plant the bike, basically.  I don’t like this idea at all – but in the interest of being exhaustive in my research:

By the way, while we’re on the subject… where did the word “upcycle” come from? My guess is Philadelphia. Either way, it seemingly came out of nowhere like last year and it really bugs me. UPCYCLE. Upcycle THIS. Up YOUR cycle.

So, in short, we could probably use the Concorde frame to make some kind of a trellis – either stuck in the ground for smaller climbers, or hung from something to support strings, or as part of the greater trellis structure.

2.  Bike Frame Planter:  This is pretty much exactly what I had envisioned.  Particularly if I decide to move our mint (three kinds) from the ground to some pots.  I know that mint will grow like a ground cover, and I was okay with that until I realized we have so many plants in mind this year and not a lot of space.  I don’t want the mint encroaching on everything we plant and being a general creep, so I may decide to pot it.  In which case, I LOVE this idea (minus the gold spray paint):

3.  Bike Frame Fence:  We’d have to kill a lot of bikes to pull this off – but, still, maybe one day?  (Also from Apartmenttherapy).

4.  A Garden Cultivator:  This person made a pretty evil looking tool – a garden cultivator – mostly out of an old bike frame.  I don’t think we have a need for this, but I appreciate the ingenuity.

5. To line the garden: We could, I suppose, always use the frame as part of the border in our garden (not in the planters, I don’t think, but maybe on the other side by the flowers) – kind of like this person in PORTLAND did.

LASTLY, while we’re on the subject of bikes & plants – have you seen these? I don’t get them. Why do I want to take my tillandsias with me as pets? And, also, if people be stealin’ bike lights, they be stealin’ air plants, too.

We’ll keep you posted on what becomes of the Concorde frame!