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Quick trip to the nursery and a visit to Union Bay Natural Area

The full moon last week, the magical sparkly stars, the universe’s energy making dramatic light shows across our beautiful planet makes me want to become one with the magnificent earth we live on. One small way I can do that is to start digging around in the soil and see what is happening in there. Earth worms are gliding through the soil and making way for plant roots to take hold. Plants are sprouting after sleeping all winter, the cool weather  greens are  growing tall. The compost is almost ready to enrich our early garden beds. On February 26th I decided to plant some seeds indoors under grow lights. The little mustards, kale, collards, mixed gourmet lettuces, romaine and butterhead are all up and looking pretty good. They have sprouted their first true leaves this  week. I have them under 5000 k bulbs with inexpensive reflectors placed close to the tops of the growing seedlings so they won’t get too leggy. Fingers crossed, hope that does the trick.

Mixed lettuces planted February 26th have 1st true leaves

Usually I go to the nursery and buy my first spring garden plants because I haven’t thought ahead to get my seeds started soon enough. Might be the case this year too since I probably should have planted in January to have these little babies ready. In the past couple of years though I have planted more seeds in pots or in small bare areas of the garden to have young plants ready to  replace the vegetables that are harvested from our raised beds throughout the growing season. Fast growing radishes and lettuces need to be planted in succession if you want to eat these treats continually throughout the growing season. It’s all about planning, timing, taking action, paying attention, all things I am not the best at. Happily, I am figuring a few things out. I didn’t do this figuring all by myself, oh no, not most of it anyway. A gardener needs a few gurus to lead the way. Every year I dust off my trusted garden companions and they guide me through the season.

One of my favorite gardening books is “Square Foot Gardening” by Mel Bartholomew. I stumbled upon the book at the library a long long time ago and it changed everything. I love it because it simplifies  the whole process for me. I had already been gardening a long time before I read the book. I had already used cloches to stretch the gardening season or dry out soil  in the spring so our sugar snap peas could be planted early. The “Square Foot Gardening” book helped me think about how to plant so that I could have a continual harvest. It also helped me think about growing more vegetables vertically. It is simple and concise and when you just need a little guidance and practical advice, this book is fabulous. The book  most valuable to me, focusing on gardening in the Pacific Northwest,  is  Seattle Tilth’s  “The Maritime Northwest Garden Guide”. Yep, it is a wonderful resource for when and what to plant in our area. If you want to get down, dirty and serious the book for you is “Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades” by  Steve Solomon.  I do have the book, I have changed a few of my gardening habits because of it, I’ve learned about some soil pests I had never heard of but the book is more like a bathtub book  to me instead of a quick guide. That means, yes I read it in the bathtub for serious study.  I will probably learn little tidbits here and there, ear mark pages, highlight some useful information and read it over and over for the rest of my gardening years but  it isn’t my  “get the answer quick” book. It’s a bit challenging for me to take in all the knowledge it has to impart. I think it could easily intimidate an eager new  gardener. I feel so guilty saying that. I feel like I have insulted the NW Gardening BIBLE. SO, please forgive me. I am going to be much smarter about gardening after I read it from cover to cover. Today, I am going to get outside, check under the cloche and see how the soil is faring after being covered for three weeks. My guess is that it is dry enough and ready for the sugar snap peas and snow peas to be planted . Oh darn it all, it’s raining again….sigh….

“There’s the sun”……Oh happy day!

NOT TO MISS

*The Seattle Tilth’s Edible Plant Sale for cool weather crops is this Saturday  March 17th at Magnusun Park from 9:00am – 3:00pm

March Edible Plant Sale — Seattle Tilth

* Head’s up from Mike the Mystery Man: Sky Nursery will be hosting the 2012 Spring Fruit Show on March 24th from 10am-3pm

Sky Nursery – Gifts, Featured Products, Special Events

Garden Calendar

Plant: Sugar Snap Peas and Snow Peas

Plant one potato for tradition’s sake on St Patrick’s Day and make a plan to plant the rest of the potatoes near the end of this month

Work on fine tuning the garden plan for 2012

Harvesting:

collards, kale, mustards, daikon radish and various herbs

Richard and his mom Florencia picked and cleaned the coriander seeds from the dried cilantro plants. They are angels I tell ya!

Flo and Richard working hard on picking the coriander seeds from the dried cilantro plants

 

Updates:

Richard widened a flower bed to make room for some crowded thyme, chives and greek oregano. Thank you Richard! You are an amazing “whipper into shaper”. (Really, he is)

I managed to eat a can of sardines, just like I promised. Thanks Gretchen for egging me on.

The little spinach seedlings are holding their own against the nasty Seattle weather

Until next time…..Happy Gardening

I love my milk frother! One of my best friends surprised me with a present and that in itself is pretty exciting. When I opened up the mystery box, there it was a beautifully made milk frother. I left it in the box for a few days until I had time to read the instructions. It couldn’t be that difficult but I wanted to treat this little wonder with the respect it deserved. I wanted to wait for that moment of indulgence when I could take my time, make the perfect cup of coffee, find the rawest sugar in my cabinet, bring out the vanilla extract a friend hand carried back from her travels, make ready the cinnamon shaker. Just to push it over the top I sprinkled mini chocolate chips in too.  I heated the milk just slightly and poured it in to the delicate glass beaker, placed the stainless steel, stylish pump on top and pumped away until the milk changed to a perfect froth! Oh how I love my beautiful frother and the cup of coffee sitting next to me right now and the kind friend who gave it to me. I dream of lovely Paris, if only I had a delicate croissant from the cobblestone street of Rue Mouffetard…

Cheers to innocent indulgences,

Lilly

PS: I used local and organic whole milk

As I contemplate the bulge around my middle and the ten pounds I want to lose by my sister’s 60th birthday party in November the thought goes through my head: I am not motivated to lose weight, I am motivated to eat pie. Blackberry pie, hot, steaming and dripping beautiful black juice down the side of my prized Fiestaware pie plate and along the countertop,  PIE. Yes, I am carrying around the booty from the summer: fresh harvested berries made into pie, fried zucchini, Theo’s salted almond dark chocolate bars, crab cakes, clams dipped in butter, mussels finished off with  spicy curried coconut milk.Oh how I love the summer! Strawberries with vanilla ice cream, blueberry pancakes sweetened with maple syrup, local ESB’s and IPA’s, lovely Sauvignon Blancs and huckleberry liquors………screechhhhhhh…ing….halt!  Tomorrow, yes, tomorrow…….I will have all the bounty and only a little butter, maybe no butter at all. I will steam those veges and add no ice cream on the pie…..lettuce without dressing and potatoes without the cream. I can be sensible, I can be healthy, I can be moderate…..after all tomorrow is another day!  But for tonight…

“Where’s the ice cream?”

Blackberry Pie

"Shishito Pepper"

"Shishito Pepper Plant"

While staring at the multitudes of pepper varieties in my local nursery I encountered a mom and her young enthusiastic child also selecting peppers for their garden. Together they were deciding how many shishito peppers they were going to purchase. I was there to buy jalepenos, anaheims, corno del toro (horn of the bull) and maybe some pignose pimentos.  After asking her  about the shishitos I found that they are a small, 2-4″ mild Japanese pepper. She told me the plants are beautiful and that her husband who is Japanese LOVES  them  especially cooked in tempura batter. We decided to squeeze this new pepper into our 3’x4′ bed and  prepared the space with  organic soil amendments and lots of trepidation. Our weather in Seattle has been running cold and back in May when we were considering the timing of putting in the peppers, tomatoes and squash, the prospects of growing loads of peppers this summer seemed a little grim. We planted two each of the jalapenos, anaheims and corno del toro and stuck the dainty shishito on the edge. As the summer has progressed the peppers have struggled with lots of gray days and cold nights. We have kept the peppers under a plastic hoop cover all summer, barely opening it up even on warm days. Truth be told there were a few nights early on when we left the plastic open overnight, may be the reason for the irritable peppers. They have struggled, barely making their flowers and as of now we have 3 anaheims, 1 jalapeno,  2 corno del toros  and YES, lots of little shishitos. Yesterday I picked four of the largest shishito peppers to eat with Richard’s famous pintos, our fresh picked cilantro,  walla walla onions and a little salsa. After checking out recipes on the internet I found  a simple way of preparing them. I heated up a little olive oil in an iron skillet, some coarse salt and tossed them in. The idea is to blister and brown the skin without burning the little things  The pepper softened under the heat and the whole pepper including the stem was edible and delicious. The peppers added a lovely mild pepper flavor to our lunch.Needless to say the shishito peppers will take over more of our  coveted  garden space next summer.

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