Archive for Plant Suggestions

Trouble in Amaryllis-ville!

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If you look carefully at the photo above you can see that two of my amaryllis bulbs have flowered at the base (the one on the far left and the one in the center).  The buds seem normal but they have failed to put up a normal stem.  I searched the internet for a reason to explain this behavior and found an answer telling me it might be because of uneven watering, but these same bulbs put out normal stems for the second flowering and the watering for all is pretty much the same, so far as I can tell.  Do any of you have any ideas about why this is happening?

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Lettuce in the Snow

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I’ve been nursing these seedlings all winter in the cold frame and at last they are beginning to take off.  I planted them too late last fall to have the winter harvest I had hoped for but soon we’ll have early spring lettuce to enjoy.  I lost two plants over the winter but we’ve had some pretty cold spells, temps in the single digits, so I’m very happy with them.  On those extremely cold nights I put in a gallon jug of hot water and on nights below 20º, I covered the cold frame with a movers quilt.

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Garlic Bonanza

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Our garlic harvest was excellent this year.  My husband loosened the heads with the spading fork and I washed them and separated them.  We cure them by spreading them out on the screened porch until the green is completely gone.

It’s a visit with friends when I harvest the garlic.  Mary S. gave me the first variety I grew which has been my mainstay ever since.  It has a nutty flavor and has been a fair keeper, lasting well into March.  A couple of years ago Katie L. gave me some which is the largest now, nearly baseball sized.  This one keeps even better than Mary’s, giving me flavorful cloves still in June.  Last year Susan W. gave me some, they were small but they tripled in size over the growing season and compete nicely in size now with the rest.  The last two varieties I grow are ones I got at the Hudson Valley Garlic Festival about five years ago from a farmer who had inherited an old garlic farm and found heirloom varieties in the fields.  He had nurtured them into productiveness and shared them with me, along with his wife’s recipe for garlic scape pesto.  This may seem like a lot of garlic for a family of two but about 1/3 of it is used for the following year’s planting.  The rest?  There are no vampires around our house!IMG_5553

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Garden Update

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Just seeing the profusion of happy garlic scape curlicues makes me smile!

It’s been a busy spring with much to sidetrack my writing including a 10 day stay in the hospital (Takotsubo’s Cardiomyopathy, look it up, it’s sort of interesting).  I’ve recovered for the most part and am back to gardening with my husband’s help.

First the peas!  They bore early and heavily so the experiment was a success.  They are finishing up now as the weather is warming, but we enjoyed several nice stirfrys and some lovely pasta primaveras.  I don’t think I would have had anywhere near this success if I had waited until the weather settled because the inevitable heat of late spring always brings them to a screeching halt.

Next, garlic scapes.  They have reached the height of their exuberance so I snapped them off yesterday and made garlic scape pesto.  Susan W., if you see this, the scapes from the garlic you gave me last summer had double curls, similar to the heirloom variety called Unadilla Double Coil that I got from a farmer in Poughkeepsie, New York.  I wonder if they could be related.  Such a lovely fresh taste, I can’t wait to see how they are as keepers.

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This is a scape from Susan’s garlic!

Lastly, I think I have improved on my strategy to keep my eggplant safe from the dreaded flea beetles.  A few years ago I began covering them with a floating row cover until the flea beetles had completed their life cycle, mid July here, just as the plants are beginning to flower.  The problem with this was that I had to open the cover to water and check their progress.  I recently visited northern Vermont and brought my head net in anticipation of black flies.  In looking over the head net, I got the idea that the fine mesh would make a good substitute for the floating row cover.  An internet search turned up “Noseeum” mesh in 72″ widths, available by the yard.  It is a very promising substitute so far.

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Noseeum fabric mesh protecting my eggplant seedlings.

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Pea Planting II

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Doesn’t it look warm and toasty under it’s nice white blanket?  All is well, I think.

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Strategy for the Timely Planting of Peas?

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I have always planted my peas on st. Patrick’s Day (a green activity for a green day) but this year, with three Nor’easters in March, one due tomorrow and yet another forecast for next week, the wisdom of this habit seems ill advised.  Peas are a crop that require cool weather to bear well and usually give up when the hot weather arrives here in Connecticut, usually mid-June.  If I wait too long to get them planted I’ll lose out on this lovely vegetable entirely.  I plant snow peas and we’d certainly miss out on the beautiful healthy stir fry dishes we anticipate for spring.  Well, THAT would be terrible so I’m taking a gamble.  I planted them on St. Patrick’s Day in a snow free spot in the garden, watered them and covered them with a portable cold frame a friend found for me at Costco.  The sun has warmed the soil enough to keep the ground from freezing at night.  It remains to be seen if the little cold frame can withstand the weight of 8 to 12″ of snow/”wintery mix” forecast for tomorrow.  Stay tuned!

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Planting Onions

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Today I reached forward into spring and planted my onions, 250 of them.  With the “Bomb Cyclone” in full force, a thought of spring to come was welcome.  This year I’m trying Yellow Spanish Onion “Sedona Organic F1” which is resistant to pink root, a virus still in the soil after 125+ years.  They’ll be ready for harvest in July.  These will be a nice size for transplanting into the garden in April.  The days are getting longer!

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Pete’s Tree: Native Plant Success

 

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This Catbird is one of the several species enjoying the early season fruit from the Pagoda Dogwood

I have championed native plants here previously, especially deer resistant bird friendly ones and I now have another success.  My sister-in-law wanted to do something as a memorial to our son Pete after his death from cancer in 2013 and we decided on a Pagoda Dogwood.  In only three years it has borne a bumper crop of fruit and is covered with birds each morning, especially Gray Catbirds, Northern Mocking Birds, American Robins and Cedar Waxwings.  This tree has early season fruit, a much sought after food source for birds.  We planted it near the bird bath where it would have the moist soil it enjoys.  It has so much going for it; early fruit, deer resistance, spring flowers, fall color and it’s native to this area.  I know Pete is enjoying the bird show.

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Here’s what it looks like in the spring.

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Lady Jane is Always the First to Bloom

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I always summer my Amaryllis bulbs in the garden and rest them for a couple of months in the fall.  I bring them up into the sunlight in late January to have some beauty in the cold days of winter.  I’ve had Lady Jane at least 20 years.  Happy Spring!!  [Click here for a link for full instructions that I posted earlier.]

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Spaghetti Squash: A Garden Thug with Tasty Possibilities

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Here it is in the fullness of its growth. It spread from its bed to the right and smothered the asparagus. Vines that went through the fence and got outside were swiftly nipped off by deer or who knows, it might have come in the house!

I like to try a new vegetable every year but I was an innocent when I decided to try out spaghetti squash, having no idea it would be so aggressive.  The squash themselves average about a foot long.  The vines on the other hand easily spread 20 feet.  They are a winter squash type and are ripe when they turn yellow and the skin is no longer tender.  I planted two hills and got about 25 squash.

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The ripe squash

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I get an inescapable mental image when I see them like this and understand if you do too.  Ignore that. To begin, you need to cut them in half and bake them at 400º until you can pierce the skin with a sharp knife.  If you cut them crosswise you get longer strands. I found it easier to take the seeds out before baking them but it can be done afterwards as well.

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Pull at the strands with a fork and separate them as you go along.

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This is the palette from which we can create our dishes.  I tried using it as I would angel hair pasta but I found that it got lost in heavy sauces such as marinara or Bolognese.

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It worked very well in place of pasta sheets for a cheese lasagna.  I layered it about an inch thick and pressed it down gently with a spatula.  (above: lasagna plated, below, lasagna in the pan).

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Here it is with the classic “Aio e Oio.” It makes an excellent side dish, here with maple glazed salmon filet and caramelized Brussels sprouts.

I found it really works well with lighter sauces.  I sauteed it to dry it out some then made the sauce and added the squash, turning it in the sauce until all strands were coated.  Aio e Oio (Roman garlic, olive oil and red hot chili pepper with parsley) is wonderful.  I also tried it with a sauce of olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice and basil and that was terrific as well.  Be sure to salt it as you saute it as it is very bland all by itself.

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