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DIY planters

24 Jan

DIY planters

Hypertufa planters: a good excuse to play in “mud?”

Is that a garlic plant I spy?

16 Dec


If you look very closely at the bottom of these pictures, you can see green sprouts popping out of the ground.  Is the garlic growing already?  According to the garlic growing calendar, this doesn’t typically happen until January, but I guess that isn’t too far away..

Can’t wait to get into the play area and get a closer look!    -Denise

Garlic plants spotted Sunday December 16, 2012.

Garlic plants spotted Sunday December 16, 2012.


Garlic Planting & Garden Winterizing

6 Nov

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 Over the past weekend, a few of us planted garlic in the bed next to the strawberries. Then we added some mulch and secured the soil with hardware wire. Finally, removed the stakes and plants and covered the other beds with tarp or trash bags.  It’s sad to close down the garden, but we had a productive and fun season and I can’t wait to see what we do next!  Stay tuned for details about our 2013 garden planning meeting tentatively scheduled for December.

To learn more about the garlic, which should be ready for the spring, read Got Garlic? Yes!  The Shipment Is In!

From October: Tall Grasses Around the Slides

4 Nov

Some tall grasses: 5 Pink Muhly Grass, 2 Tiger Stripe Grass, 2 Little Kitten Grass, and 1 Thistle Grass (silver). We can add more in the spring . . . and grass seed!

Harvest Party Recap

8 Oct

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Belatedly, I’m starting here to post some photos from our harvest party.  Many wonderful dishes, including Deb’s tart (recipe posted about a week ago) and, if I may call him out, my husband’s mint chocolate chip ice cream, with lots of mint from the garden.

Maybe others can post more pictures, adding them to our slideshow, but for now just a couple of pics of what was left after our harvest at the end of September.

November 6, 2012    I added a couple of images to Ansley’s slideshow:  The harvest party spread (featuring the tart!), kids eating the mint chocolate chip cones, and a our pre-hurricane Sandy prep. -Denise

Got Garlic? Yes! The Garlic Shipment Is IN

7 Oct

When I picked up Friday’s mail, I was excited to find a pungent little box from Hood River Garlic. Here’s the catalogue description of the seeds. The [bracketed note] refers to flavor.

Chesnok Red 
Chesnok Red garlic head and clovesPurple Stripe hardneck variety. Originating from Shvelisi, in the Republic of Georgia, AKA Shvelisi. Chesnok Red is one of our most popular varieties. We have been growing it for over 12 years and it has always been a trustworthy producer. This beautiful purple stripe keeps its terrific flavor after cooking, a superior varietal that should be in all garlic lovers’ gardens! 10 – 12 cloves per bulb. 50 – 60 cloves per pound. Mid harvest. Stores 5 months. Small bulbs store the longest. [Hot]

Shantang Purple 
Shantang Purple certified organic garlicTurban hardneck variety. A sub-species of Artichoke garlic.This garlic variety originates from China, but our seed stock comes from Washington (USDA certified organic). A great garlic for varied climates, it can handle hot dry climates as well as cold northern climates. Shantang Purple packs some serious heat, especially when eaten raw. 6 – 8 cloves per bulb. 38 – 48 cloves per pound. Early harvest. Stores 6 – 7 months. [Hot]

Susanville garlic head and clovesArtichoke softneck variety. One of my favorite softnecks for braiding, the beautiful purple skin adds nice color to your braid. A true garlic flavor that is more flavorful then hot. This softneck can handle cold winters. 12 – 15 large cloves. 60 – 75 cloves per pound. Early to mid harvest. Stores 7 – 8 months. [Medium]

These were all part of the variety pack recommended for first crops.  They also sent a guide to garlic growing.  Some highlights:  Step 1. Choosing your garlic planting stock -Your seed stock is the most important facet of growing garlic. It all starts at the clove! Each individual clove is a garlic seed and it will grow into a bulb. Beginning with premium garlic planting seed stock will make a huge difference come harvest time. When choosing your garlic seed, plant the largest cloves of each garlic bulb, small cloves should be eaten. To separate cloves from the bulb, hold the bulb in one hand and use the other hand to break the cloves free of the bulb.

Step 2. Preparing your soil for planting garlic – Your soil is the next most important thing to growing garlic. Organic garlic loves good drainage and loamy, fertile soil. Amending the soil with organic matter such as compost, manure, leaf mulch and aged straw is highly recommended. Your soil should have a neutral ph level between 6 and 7.

Step 3. Planting Garlic – When to plant your garlic – We start planting garlic around Halloween and continue planting garlic thru November. This is a good guide line for almost all climates. Plant at the turning point of the seasons; with enough time for planting garlic before the ground is frozen. Try to allow three to four weeks for the cloves to settle into their winter beds, this will help the leaf development in the spring. Plant the organic garlic seed 5 to 6 inches apart with the tips up. Cover the top with 3/4 inch to 1 inch of amended, loose dirt and gently pat down the top layer of soil. In colder climates cover your organic garlic seed with 1 1/2 to 2 inches of dirt.

Step 4. Mulching and irrigating garlic– After you have your garlic planting stock in the ground, it is essential to cover it with a nice layer of mulch. There are many different types of mulch. Choose from aged straw, (careful no seeds) leaf mulch, grass clippings, organic compost, shredded paper. Mulch will protect your garlic seed in the cold winter months, prohibit weeds, keep the earth cool and moist during hot months and protect your topsoil from blowing away. Garlic likes to be kept evenly moist. Uneven watering may cause irregular shaped bulbs. This is where your good soil preparation and mulching becomes important. Water your garlic regularly during the leaf production stage. Apply some nitrogen rich foliage feed 2 to 3 times in spring.

There’s more on harvesting, curing and storing too.  According to their garlic calendar, the plants usually pop out of the ground in January or February and are ready to harvest by mid June/early July.

Unresolved: We have to strategize about where to plant the seeds and how to prepare the beds.  Since I may not be around to actually plant the weekend of Nov 3rd, maybe I can do some bed work the Sunday before Halloween or, during the week of Halloween, pick up mulch or run other errands that need to be done between winterizing and garlic planting.

Should be fun!  -Denise

The Tart

3 Oct

Eggplants, tomatoes, chard and herbs from our garden

I’ve been bugged for this recipe, so I’m posting. The tart is more or less from the Once Upon a Tart Cookbook. The crust is per their instructions (I’ve never come across a better crust) and the tart is a free extrapolation on a number of their vegetable tarts.

The recipe below is for one 9″ tart. I use an 11″ pan, which uses 3/4 of the dough.

Enjoy! – Deb


Savory Tart Crust (makes 2 – 9″ tarts):

2-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons semolina flour (I use cake flour. You can use all regular flour, but this gives it a nice crunch.)

1 teaspoon salt

12 tablespoons (1-1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut up

3 tablespoons cold solid vegetable shortening (Yes, this is Crisco, but there are trans-fat free alternatives available.)

glass of ice water

9″ tart pan with removable bottom.

1. Position oven racks so that one is in the center and preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Put the flours and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, and pulse a couple of times just to integrate the flours and salt.

3. Add the butter and shortening all at once and pulse quite a few times, until the mixture forms little balls, like moist crumbs, and no chunks of butter or shortening remain. You have to pulse, not run, the food processor. The worst thing that can happen at this stage of the crust-making game is for the flours and fats to come together into a paste.

4. Remove the blade from the food processor and dump the dough crumbs into a big bowl. Fill a tablespoon with ice water and sprinkle over the surface of the dough. Repeat with 3 more tablespoons.

5. Use your hands or a wooden spoon to bring the dough together into a ball, adding more water if needed, 1 tablespoon at a time. The dough should be just past crumbly, but holding together. You don’t want it to be so wet that it sticks together or turns white in color.

6. Cut the dough in half, and wrap each half in plastic wrap. Press each half with the palm of your hand to form a disk. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes before rolling out.

7. Roll out 1 disk of dough to 1/4 inch thick. Fit it into your tart pan and chill for 30 minutes. Then use the tines of a fork to prick holes over the bottom of the tart. Line the dough with parchment paper or aluminum foil, and weigh down with pie weights or dried beans.

8. Place the tart shell on the center rack in the oven, and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the paper and weights from the pan. Return it to the oven, and bake until the crust is golden brown and toasted all over, 5-10 more minutes for a par-baked tart shell. For a fully baked tart shell, bake for another 15 minutes at 400 degrees or until it’s golden brown all over.

9. Remove the tart shell from the oven and set it on a wire rack to cool. Can be prepared a day in advance. Cover and keep at room temperature.

Note: Using a food processor makes for a better dough because you can work quickly to prevent the butter from melting down. Liquified butter is your enemy here. You can make the dough by hand in the traditional way, cutting in the butter and fat with a pastry blender or two knives. Just make sure to work quickly and cut the butter into 1/4″ cubes before adding: the smaller, the better, without causing a meltdown.



cheese/herbs/spread to coat bottom of crust

vegetables of choice

2 large eggs

1/4 cup cream


freshly ground pepper

1. Roast (or not) any vegetables desired: mix with a bit of olive oil and bake at 400-450 degrees for about 10 minutes. Tomatoes should be sliced or chopped and drained.

2. Position your oven racks so that one is in the center, and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

3. Spread the tart shell with some Parmesan cheese mixed with chopped basil, pesto, mustard, other herbs and a bit of cheese…use your imagination. Olivada or artichoke spread are very nice. You’ll need about 1/4 cup altogether.

4. Lay the vegetables in the crust in an attractive pattern, making sure the crust is covered entirely.

5. Whisk 2 large eggs in a small bowl or a large measuring cup to break up the egg yolks. Whisk in 1/4 cup cream,  some salt, and pepper. This is your custard. Pour the custard evenly over the vegetables until it comes to about 1/4 inch from the top edge of the crust. (If you have extra, don’t worry about it; if you don’t have enough, pour a little cream on top.)

6. Place the tart on the center rack in the oven, and bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until the custard is set. Set custard won’t jiggle when you shake the pan and will be firm when you touch it. (The custard will also be hot, so touch it lightly.) Tomatoes in the tart may give off a lot of liquid; don’t confuse this with uncooked eggs and accidentally overcook your tart. The liquid will evaporate as the tart cools.

7. Remove the tart from the oven and set it on a wire rack. Allow the tart to cool slightly.

8. To remove the tart from the pan, rest it on a big can. Make sure the tart is steady and balanced. Slide the outside ring of the pan down off the tart. Then place the tart on your work surface, and slide it off the bottom of the pan and onto a rimless serving dish or a cutting board. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes one 9-inch tart.

Note: for our garden tart I used basil and Parmesan on the bottom, one Japanese eggplant, some roasted tomatoes (which turned into sauce), and Swiss chard cut into 1/4″ strips. Yum.

Monarchs in September

16 Sep

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Thanks to Frank, we have documentation of our monarchs!  They’ve been out and about the garden and butterfly bushes for the past week.  On Monday I think Warner and I saw more than 20 hovering over the butterfly bushes, and flying over to the cucumber and tomato plants.  Just amazing . . .

And has anyone else noticed the tiny watermelons just starting to grow?   We found 2 VERY SMALL ones.  We’ll see if they make it.  They’re hard to find, hiding under what appears to be a squash vine.  We don’t know who planted that vine, but it’s certainly growing, if not producing any flowers or fruit!

What to do with those vegetables.

10 Sep

A bit late for this season, but going forward…looks good:

Happy, healthy eating!

How Our Garden Grew: 2011-2012 End-of-Project Report

9 Sep

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I am happy to report that this National Gardening Association + Jamba Juice report is complete! For our archives, here’s a collection of the photos submitted (10 was the max) along with a PDF version of the survey answers and essay. To read the information submitted, click on this: jamba-juice-_it_s-all-about-the-fruit-and-veggies_-post-gardening-august-15th_-2012-74717   -Denise

Related posts: Qs For The End-of-Project Report; Good News From the National Gardening Association

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