Monday, January 26, 2009

Seeds, seeds, and more seeds!

Seed ordering time is so exciting, isn't it? It's almost like (what I would imagine) a shoe addiction is like. So many colors, shapes, sizes....which ones will work with this soil or that soil. Will it withstand the middle of the summer SC heat and humidity? Sigh.....if I could only practice restraint when it comes to seed ordering...
The good news is that our garden is expanding. We are adding 8-9 feet (which means redoing the fence, but that's ok....what's digging three more postholes and undigging 1 post, right dearest fiance? :-)) We are also adding a raised bed for strawberries (yum!) and then my fiance's latest project. I proudly give you:

(appropriate fanfare music should now be going off in your head)
146 ft by 39 feet. This is where the majority of the corn, beans and potatoes will go. We are considering getting water from the lake (after doing some research on legality and also the water quality) or using some other kind of contraption for irrigation(read: whatever Mr. Engineer comes up with). If it works out, we're going to have to open up a farm stand at the local farmers market I think. The good news is that the soil down there is so much better than what we have in the other garden-spot, probably due to it's proximity to the lake, and the fact that that area has probably flooded in the past. Hopefully it won't flood anytime soon! :-)

So, back to my lack of, um, restraint when it comes to seed ordering. Don't think I am alone in all this, I read all the time on everyone's blogs about seed catalogue addiction and ordering 100 kinds of pumpkin seeds....
So, here's the damage that was done this year in preparation for the summer 2009 garden. But just imagine all the glorious sprouting and growing that will be going on and how wonderful it will taste! :-)

Pineapple Tomato Seeds (Thanks WVFarmgirl for the recommendation!)
Grape Tomato Seeds
Amish Past Tomatoes, transplants
German Pink Tomatoes, transplants
Orange Bell Pepper, transplants
Wenk's Yellow Hot Peppers, transplants
Slo-Bolt LETTUCE, Thai Oakleaf LETTUCE, Capitan LETTUCE
Long Standing Bloomsdale SPINACH
Lucullus SWISS CHARD and Rainbow (Five Color Silverbeet) SWISS CHARD
Arugula GREENS
Provider SNAP BEAN (BUSH), Violet's Multicolored Butterbeans LIMA BEAN
Borage, Dill, Basil, Bergamot, Catnip
Minnesota Midget Melons
2 kinds of cucumbers
3 kinds of corn
5 kinds of potatoes, including fingerlings
Chantenay Carrots
Chioggia Beets and Detroit Red Beets
Brussel Sprouts
Assorted hot peppers: Ancho Chile, Habaneros etc.
Strawberries - 10 plants
Alyssum for companion planting

How are your plans for a summer garden coming along?

Saturday, January 17, 2009


Linsotto is a swedish term for risotto, but made with lentils. Lentil in swedish is "lins." Therefore - Linsotto! I got the basis of this recipe from a Christmas gift recipe book (Thanks, Heike!) by Sanna Ehdin, but as always I make my own small changes.
Sanna Ehdin is a Swedish nutritionist, speaker and specialist and has written many books about self-healing and the capacity for inner success, and I've only just gotten started in reading more from her. One of her latest books is about cooking and eating REAL FOOD. Not processed, "light" or "diet" versions or ready-made that the mainstream grocery stores are offering, but food cooked with raw ingredients, using the oils, herbs and spices that are good for you and helps your body fight off disease. Right now, I'm trying to loose some weight, and I've been looking for a way to really change what I eat day to day, and not really diet, but find food that makes me feel good on all levels - including growing it myself or picking it because the color or shape appeals to me, spending time on cooking the food and then enjoying it with someone special.

I digress. :-) Here's the recipe for linsotto:

2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons shredded fresh ginger or 1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon coconut oil

4 dl (1 3/4 cup) red lentils
8 dl (3 1/2 cups) vegetable bouillon or vegetable broth (you can substitute with chicken broth as well, I did)
1 large chopped tomato

5-6 sliced fresh mushrooms (I used button because that's what I had at home, but I'm sure you can use what you have or like the best)

Shredded Parmesan Cheese (I used about 1/2 cup)
Coriander (or thyme, or basil......), preferrably fresh, but dry is fine too.

1. Sautee the garlic, ginger and cumin in the coconut oil over medium heat
2. Add the lentils (dry) and saute for another minute or so

3. Keep the heat on medium-low and add 1/2 cup of the bouillon or broth at a time. Let the lentils soak up each 1/2 cup liquid before you add the next.

4. At the end your lentils should be nice and soft and a little creamy
5. Add in the chopped tomatoes, mushrooms and cheese. Stir and

I can see LOTS of variations on this as well - maybe some black beans, avocado with the tomatoes. Maybe olives and feta cheese.

If you make it, let me know what variation you used!

Sorry - no picture this time! I'll update the post the next time I make this. :-)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Looking Back: My 2008 Summer Garden

Summer's Bountiful Harvest

I love looking back at my summer garden pictures. It was so green, so full of life and it was so much fun! Here's a summary of my 2008 Summer Garden.

My then-BF (now-Fiance!) thought we should have a vegetable garden and I enthusiastically agreed. I had just finished reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver (which, by the way, just called out to me from the bookstore, in a section I never ever really walk by and that day I just felt like I had to. What a book!), and I was more than ready to quit the processed food-buying cycle and live off my own land and all that good stuff. We agreed that is was going to be organic for sure, and we should plant as many heirloom varieties as possible, staying with varieties that would do well in our area (zone 7, hot & humid with clay dirt).

Sean digging post-holes. That's my neighbor's garden spot behind ours - competition! :-)

We started by finding the right spot, borrowing and renting a tiller, Sean did his best to dig down into the lovely red, clay dirt with all those nice white rocks (we have quite the pile!). Because of the abundance of deer in our neighborhood, we decided to put in a fence as well, something more permanent than netting. Sean labored for a whole weekend and the result was gorgeous. We found the white garden gate on clearance down at the home improvement store and Sean "rabbit-proofed" it with netting.

A fence also helps keep Kane out of the garden. "Throw me the ball, Mom!"

Our finished planted garden.

We also decided to do companion planting, planting corn, beans and cucumbers together. Potatoes and bush beans loved each other along with marigolds. Herbs, peas, lettuce and aragula hung out in one section while the tomatoes and peppers had some company in catnip and basil.

Sean, the engineer, was a proponent of row planting (straight, mind you!) while I managed to save the herb section for a more creative willy-nilly type of planting.

We got a lot of seeds from Seed Saver's Exchange and from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, but also ordered tomato transplants and potatoes from Seed Saver's Exchange. Our first venture into seed starting indoors didn't go that well, but we tried again and got the hang of it. Some things we just ended up seeding straight in the garden. They seemed to like that better.

Our garden in the early growth stage.

The aragula turned out really well and the zinnias helped keep the bugs away.
I made an awesome Aragula Pesto from Farmgirl Susan's blog.
See link in my favorite blogs section.

We were very proud of our potato crop of red potatoes.
They lasted into the Christmas holidays!

Next year we're going bigger and more variety with the potatoes. Stay tuned!

The giant German Pink tomato. They were SO incredibly good.
Sliced with fresh mozzarella cheese, some basil leaves, balsamic vinegar,
salt and pepper......

So what did not work so good? Well, the carrots only grew to be about 1 inch long. They were good, but tiny. :-) The corn crop was not great. We only ended up with a dozen or so good ears, the rest were dry. But we heard that many local corn growers had the same problem. Many of the tomatoes developed blossom end rot. Feeding them fish emulsion and kelp helped some. Our neighbors completely gave up on their tomatoes. The lettuce was too hot and did not develop. The peppers did the same (to Sean's disappointment), but we will definitely try peppers again this year and work more on improving soil conditions. The broccoli grew but did not develop heads.

Here are some good books I have and some good links for research if you're a southern vegetable gardener like me. I'd love to hear from you, please share your experiences in gardening!

Home and Garden Info Center at Clemson University - lots of great info on how to grow things in the area where I live (South Carolina)
Organic Plant Healthcare - Billy Styles and his associates in Matthews, NC provide organic based products for soil, grass and turf improvement. We used their Urban Soil Conditioner when we tilled and then the Garden and Flower blend while planting.

Great Garden Companions by Sally Jean Cunningham
The new Seed-Starters Handbook by Nancy Bubel
The Organic Gardener's Handbook of Natural Insect and Disease Control by Barbara Ellis and Fern Marshall Bradley

We now also have our own composting pile enclosure and mom and I both have compost containers on our kitchen counters (complete with carbon filters!) to capture food scraps, tea leaves and coffee grounds. This is very exciting and I really hope we get good use out of this in the coming years. It feels so much better to not just throw it down the drain (and into my septic tank!).
Happy Gardening!