Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Best and Worst of My Garden -- February 2012

Happy Leap Day! We have an extra day in Febraury this year, garden friends. It didn't really make much difference here because there is still not a lot going on in my garden.

"Not a lot going on" means nothing bad has happened either. So for February I have no "Worsts," only a "Best" to report: my Hawaiian Ti plant's comeback. It will make me happy to see this guy return to health after the spider mite infestation.

Here's a link to some interesting factoids on Leap Year and Leap Day, if you're interested.

What happened in your garden in February? If you want to share any hits and misses, frustrations and triumphs, or anything you're dreading or looking forward to, feel free to link up and share. And don't forget to visit others and give them some encouragement or sympathy. :)

Update: My MrLinkyWidget code is a little off, so people's blogs aren't showing up on the post. You can see everyone who joined after you click Mister Linky. Sorry about that!

Monday, February 27, 2012

First Seeds of 2012 Planted

It was quite an eventful weekend in the Bumble Lush garden. Saturday was beautiful, sunny, but extremely windy. And around mid-morning, we got about 1 minute of big, fat snow flurries in some kind of bizarre flash snow storm. It didn't stick or anything. Just further proof that this is one of the weirdest winters on record.

Sunday was gorgeous--blue skies, sunny and warm, and I decided it was a perfect day to start some lettuce and spinach in containers. (This weekend happens to coincide with recommended moon date planting. I wonder if it makes a difference in containers? Probably not.)

I couldn't help myself--I also bought some broccoli transplants. I was at the garden center yesterday getting peat moss and looking at seed packets, and I saw a few broccoli transplants for sale. Despite the fact that I have tons of broccoli seeds that I need to use, I just had to buy these little broccoli plants and put them in containers as soon as I got home.

Did you do any garden work over the weekend?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Moon Gardening

Have you ever gardened by the moon? I don't mean gardening in the dark or by moonlight, but have you ever timed planting your seeds by the phases of the moon?

I have not, but I first read about this concept when looking through the Farmers' Almanac website. It seems that the phases of the moon affect moisture levels in the soil, so there are certain optimal dates for starting seeds. I've never done it and thought it was an interesting concept. Here's the link, if you're interested in reading more.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Pins, Potatoes, and Pruning

Have you heard of Pinterest? Are you on it? Pinterest is a website, basically an online bulletin board where you "pin" things from other websites onto your virtual bulletin boards. You can also repin things onto your boards that others people post. It's addictive but fun, and sometimes it's nicer than having a million bookmarks on your interest browser.

[Note: I'm not in any way affiliated with Pinterest. I just think it's fun and want to share my addiction with others. Besides, all the cool kids are doing it. ;)]

Source: via Angela on Pinterest
{photo credit Better Homes and Gardens}

I have found a few interesting tips from doing a Garden search on Pinterest. This first link on What to Prune When is a calendar for when to prune different trees in the garden--very useful!

{photo credit from Organic Gardening}

The second link gives seven different tips for growing potatoes. I have never met a potato I didn't like, and I want so desperately to be able to grow them, but of course, I have no land. According to this site, I should be able to grow them in a big container, or even a garbage bag???

The only odd thing about Pinterest is that you need an invitation to join (kind of annoying, I know). If you're interested in joining, send me your email at and I'll email you back an invitation. If you're on Pinterest and you're interested, feel free to follow me by clicking this link, and leave a comment below with your handle so I can follow you too.

{Apparently I'm not the only garden blogger with Pinterest on the brain today--Hanni of Sweet Bean Gardening -- the person responsible for my Pinning addiction (thank you, Hanni! :) -- and Beth of Plant Postings also professed their love of Pinterest today. Great minds think alike, right ladies!}

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Dark Days of Winter: Apple Potato Hash

{apple-potato hash ingredients}

For my Eat Local challenge meals, I've been trying to think of ways to use the 5-pound bag of potatoes and tart apples I bought at the farmers' market a few weeks ago. I found this Rachael Ray recipe for an apple-potato hash. I thought the combination sounded a little odd at first, but then I thought fried potatoes = good. Fried apples = good. Butter = good. Here's my version of the recipe:

Local Apple Potato Hash 
3 small potatoes (via farmers' market)
1 apple (via farmers' market)
1/2 medium onion (via farmers' market)
1 teaspoon butter (Blue Ridge Dairy, VA)
2 teaspoons olive oil (exception to Challenge rules)
salt and pepper to taste (exceptions to Challenge rules)

I pricked the potatoes with a fork and cooked them in the microwave for 4 minutes. While the potatoes were cooking, I added the oil and butter to a pan on medium heat. Then I added the chopped up apples and onions and cooked these in the pan for 5 minutes.

After 5 minutes, I added the potatoes. They were soft from cooking in the microwave but not mushy. I cut the potatoes into cubes and added them to the pan. I seasoned them with salt and pepper to taste and let the whole hash cook for 5 more minutes. At this point the apples were quite brown and potatoes had nice crispy edges. I cut off the heat and served it up.

It tasted a lot better than I thought it would, and the combination of oil, butter, and potatoes made the house smell so good! I made this as a side for dinner, but I think it would work nicely as a breakfast dish too. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Garden Book Review: Crops & Pots

I recently read Crops in Pots by Bob Purnell.  As you know, I do most of my gardening in containers and I've never really felt like my garden is visually interesting. I've been trying to think of ways to be more creative this year. I mainly grow vegetables for food, but this book showed me ways to make growing flowers, herbs, and veggies in pots more interesting.

The book is organized in a very cute way--by "Starters," "Main Courses," and "Desserts," with the idea being that you can combine things into a single pot that can then turn into a dish. This is a crabapple/gooseberry combo, which intersted me because I just ordered a packet of ground cherry seeds.

Each page also contains a recipe. This one is for Strawberry Lemonade. You can grow strawberries, mint, and edible flowers in a single container, and then the book shows you how you can take those ingredients and make them into a dish.

I didn't realize you can grow grapes in containers? Apparently you can.

The book isn't just about vegetable and herb combos. There are a few sections on combining flowers in pots for variety in color and height. There's also a list of edible flowers, which is something I'm interested in learning more about. I now have some ideas for what I want to do with  my few flower pots this year.

I've been thinking of growing a tea garden, and seeing the pages on herb combinations has made me want to go out and buy some chamomile and mint right now. I don't need a lot of space--I can grow a couple of herbs together, and here's another convenient recipe and instructions for making a relaxing chamomile tea with herbs found in one single pot.
I like the book. There are some combinations that are pretty common, in the sense that everyone knows tomatoes and basil go nicely together when companion planting. But I got some very good ideas about how to combine flowers and vegetables for visual interest, and not just for a functional kitchen garden.

If you're looking for other interesting gardening reading, head over to Roses and Other Garden Joys and check out other bloggers' book reviews.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Rain and Ice

Last weekend finally felt like winter. We had rain, light snow, and a little ice.

Is winter going strong where you live, or is it on its way out?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Local Valentine's Day Meal

{local ingredients: broccoli, wine, milk, bison steak, potatoes and butter}

I came out of my Eat Local Challenge slump this week. On Sunday I went to the Dupont Circle farmers' market looking for ingredients for our Valentine's Day dinner at home. Bless those dedicated farmers who were out in bitter cold winter winds selling their goods. I felt so bad that I bought more food than necessary! 

I decided on steak and mashed potatoes for dinner. I picked up some grass-fed bison ribeye steaks from Cibola Farms in Culpeper, VA. I also bought a 5-pound bag of potatoes at the market (thank goodness for winter storage). 

When you put the steaks together, they make a heart!

I had local broccoli from a previous trip to the farmers' market stored in the freezer to round off this nutritious meal. 

I have never bought anything from Cibola Farms and was pleased with the steaks. Bison steak is supposed to be healthier than cow in terms of higher protein and lower cholesterol. As you can see, I like my steak well-done (practically burnt) and my husband is a talented grill master who can cook a steak so that there is no pink but is still tender and moist. It was delicious!

Except for the salt, pepper, and seasonings, everything about this meal was locally sourced. We made the mashed potatoes with local butter from the Blue Ridge Dairy in VA and organic milk from a local dairy in PA (still fell within the 150 mile rules!)  I've mentioned before that the local butter has a sort of peppery taste (maybe grassy?) and the potatoes didn't need much more than salt. The wine came from the Narmada Winery in Rappahannock, VA.  The meal was good, but my dinner partner was the best part of the meal. :)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Hawaiian Good Luck Plant

A little red/pink for your Valentine's Day:
Cordyline terminalis, also known as Hawaiian Ti Plant or Hawaiian Good Luck plant, is a beautiful tropical plant with dark red to bright pink leaves. The plant's tropical nature and red leaves are what attracted me to it when I saw it at the nursery last year.

{Ti plant september 2011}

Not long after we brought the Ti plant home last summer it exploded in spider mites (which has been an unfortunate trend with this particular nursery. I want to support small, local businesses, but every.single.plant I have bought there seems to be infested). After all its leaves withered away, it looked like a couple of dead sticks, but little by little it started to heal.

{Ti plant February 2012}

Here's my Ti plant now. We brought it inside last fall and it seems to be recovering. There is new leaf growth and although some of the leaves are shriveled, it looks much better and is spider mite free (knock wood).

I would love to see the dark red color return to the leaves. These plants need indirect bright light, and I have it in a room where it gets good morning light.  I hope it lives up to its name and brings itself some good luck. Maybe by next Valentine's Day I'll have a little red or pink in the house.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 10, 2012

i {heart} pickles

Happy Adoption Anniversary to my best furry friend and faithful garden companion. I wish I knew how old you are (3 ½? 4? Maybe 4 ½?). What a sweet and loving cat!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Dark Days of Winter Midpoint Review

Happy Monday! Are you happy with the last-minute Giants' win in the Super Bowl last night? To be honest, I wasn't cheering for either team, so I only sort of half-paid attention to the game. I'm one who watches for the commercials, and the social aspect of watching with friends.

 So I'm halfway through the Dark Days Challenge of eating at least one locally-sourced meal a week. By my calculations this is Week 11 of the Challenge, but other participants are on Week 12. I'm not sure how I missed a week. I admit that I've slacked bit in the last couple of weeks. I haven't been to the farmers' market, and I didn't cook any new dishes last week.

I've been eating a lot of leftovers from local meals of prior weeks. Our freezer was stocked with beef stew, lentil soup, potato celery soup, and chili, so we've been eating these and clearing the freezer out. I guess I've been feeling a bit lazy lately too. I don't have any meals planned for this week yet, although there are local meats and veggies in the freezer. 

Actually I did make something new last night--baked apples with a buttery-brown sugar-cinnamon topping. I have a bunch of VA-grown apples sitting in my fridge that are too tart to eat plain, so I've been looking for a simple way to use them while still keeping to the local rules. I found this recipe for baked apples and made a few modifications. I took one apple, halved it, and took out the core and seeds.   

Look how quickly the apple started to brown after I took out the core and seeds. Is that normal?

I put the apple on a baking sheet and spread the brown sugar mix on top. The mix is 1 tbsp of melted butter, 1 tbsp of flour, and 1 tbsp of brown sugar. I then sprinkled a little cinnamon on each half. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

The is the end result. I'm no food stylist, so this is not an attractive picture, but it tasted pretty good! I was worried about how the butter would affect the taste because the local butter I use has a peppery, grassy taste. It tastes great on potatoes or toast but I wondered if the apples would taste weird. They didn't. All I could taste was brown sugar and a little cinnamon. And the house smelled heavenly! I may do this every week just to get the house smelling like cinnamon and sugar. So this was not a typical Super Bowl dessert, but now I know what to do with the rest of the apples.

In other local food news, my neighborhood Whole Foods has started selling this mozzarella cheese made by a small local farm. I've been buying the cheese at the farmers' market, but now I don't have to wait until the Sunday market to buy it. WF is much closer too, so this is a lot more convenient. 

So mid-way through this Challenge I feel like I've hit a plateau. I need to get to the farmers' market next Sunday. I will go, and I'll spend time this week looking for interesting seasonal recipes. Maybe I'll find something inspirational for meals for the rest of the Challenge.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

An Award?! I'm Verklempt!

What a great way to start February! The lovely Julia at Polka Dot Galoshes, Tammy from Casa Mariposa and Holley from Roses and Other Gardening Joys have nominated me for a Versatile Blogger Award. I'm touched and honored. I'm happily surprised that people visit and read this blog when there are so many wonderful blogs to visit. Your comments encourage me to keep trying. I thank all of you for following me along on my garden screw-ups journey. 

Here are the rules of the award:
  • Post the Versatile Blogger Award to your post/blog.
  • Thank the blogger who nominated you with a link back to their blog. 
  • In the same post, share seven completely random pieces of information about yourself. 
  • In the same post, include this set of rules. 
  • Forward this award to fellow bloggers, and inform them with a comment on each of their blogs. 
Here comes the hard part. I want to give this award to many blogs but it looks like many have received it already, so I'll try to pick some that haven't mentioned yet. This has made me realize that I need to start a blog roll for the many blogs I like to read. For now I'll list just a few that I'd like to pass this to, in no particular order. It's a mix of veggie gardeners, everything gardeners, talented photographers, and some who raise chickens!
Your Apples Are My Oranges
Cohocton River Rock Micro Farm
Pam's English Cottage Garden
Girl Sprout
The Whimsical Gardener
Curbstone Valley
Deb's Garden
A Woman of the Soil
Urban Hennery

7 Things About Me:
  1. I may have mentioned this in other posts, but I'm an animal lover. I have two cats, have fostered kittens, and get my fix of dogs, bunnies, and other house pets at the local animal shelter where I volunteer one or two nights a week. No matter how rotten my day is at work, I know these little fuzzballs will give me nothing but love and companionship without judgement. Sometimes a girl needs that, you know?
  2. I like to make lists and spreadsheets for just about everything. [Except lists about myself. ;) ]
  3. I'm a bit particular about some foods. I like strawberries, but not strawberry yogurt. I like citrus fruit but hate citrus-flavored candy. I prefer limeade to lemonade.
  4. However, I've never met a potato dish I didn't like!
  5. I've never been to Las Vegas. Everyone I know has been. I think I missed that rite of passage.
  6. I LOVE the Golden Girls. I love that some channels re-run episodes back-to-back in the middle of the night when I can't sleep. Sophia is my favorite!
  7. I've been thinking of running a 5K this year. Now that I put it on the internet I guess I have to do it.
This was fun. Thanks again Julia, Tammy, and Holley, and I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!