Archive for May, 2009

Getting the Garden In

Monday, May 25th, 2009

As we come into summer, it really is time to get most of your planting done.  Digging the soil thoroughly with a good garden fork and breaking up any clumps of soil goes a long way to ensuring better growing conditions.  It is also a good idea to add an inch or two of compost or composted manure to your beds and work this in before you plant.

In May I like to  direct seed a small section of salad greens (about 6 x 4 feet) as well as bush beans, dill, and coriander.  It is also the last time you can plant green garlic – cloves of garlic that have been pushed into the ground about 1″ and that are harvested like green onions.  Garlic senses the decreasing light levels after the summer solstice and starts putting its energy into the bulb.  Anything planted later in the summer will not grow to more than an inch or two.

I also plant transplants of lettuce (8), endive (6-8), green onions (80), swiss chard (2-3), and beets (24).  The green onion and beet transplants are in what I call multiplant transplants – that is there are ten green onions and four beets for each transplant cube, you plant this as one group and they grow apart from each other, reaching full size.  So in essence there are only 8 green onion transplants with 10 seedlings in each (total 80) and 6 beet transplants with four beets in each (total of 24).  When planting the transplants need enough room for the clump to grow so give the green onions 6-8 inches and the beets a foot between each multiplant transplant.

May is also time to plant carrots and parsnip.  Both of these vegetables take about 2-3 weeks to germinate so it is good to get them in the ground while there are still fairly consistent rainy spring days.  The best way to grow good carrots and parsnips is to double dig the bed that you are planting them in.  This ensures that the soil is dug deeply and is loose and free of clumps.  Garden forks are far more efficient for digging than shovels – look for a fork with long times – 10″ – rather than the shorter ones with 8″ tines.  Push the fork into the bed as deeply as you can go and turn over the soil.  Then use the fork to smash the clumps apart as best you can.  Pull any weeds, remove any rocks, and use your hands to crumble any remaining lumps.  Doing this a second time makes a huge difference, and your carrots can grow straight and deep without interruption.

I try to start a tray of seedlings every month, so that I have a continuous supply of some sort of salad vegetable.  Whatever seedlings you start in May will be ready to harvest in mid to late July – since this is a time when all sorts of other vegetables are ready – cucumbers, zucchini, beans, the first tomatoes – I do not do too many salad vegetables.  My tray is over half basil, with maybe 3-4 each of lettuce, green onions, fennel, and endive.

Happy gardening!

Eating in May

Friday, May 8th, 2009

While April always seems somewhat bleak in terms of eating locally and seasonally, it is surprising how quickly things begin to turn around.  After making the last curried squash soup and eating as many variations of coleslaw, carrot and sprout salad, and cabbage and sprout salad as I can possibly think of, it is nice to move on to food from the garden.  I find that by the first week of May I have something to eat every day, though this is made easier because I have access to some wild foods.  Also, I have what I call ‘volunteers’ in  my garden – vegetables that have survived the winter and are up and growing – this year there is quite a bit of red Russian kale, several dozen shoots of garlic (I use these like a green onion and call them green garlic), and three or four bunches of green onions.  Often I have spinach as well, but not this year.

So, for those of you wondering what meals look like around here – it is now May 8 and so far I have made

  • a fried rice with green garlic, green onions, garlic chives, onions, cabbage, and carrots
  • steamed fiddleheads, with a meal of burgers and potatoes
  • a clear soup with wild leeks, green garlic, chives, and green onions
  • a pasta with wild leeks and green garlic
  • a stew with chicken, parsnips, chives, and chervil
  • my first spinach salads – with mushrooms and feta cheese

And as I look around, I have a list of what is on the menu for the next week

  • many more spinach salads
  • another pasta with wild leeks and garlic chives
  • wild leek and potato soup
  • creamed kale or maybe kale and potato soup
  • my first salads of baby greens
  • some egg dishes with sorrel and chives – sorrel is a wonderful lemony tasting perennial that is up early in the spring
  • rhubarb pie
  • I hear the first local asparagus is available – quiche, steamed, just eaten fresh
  • ………….as you can see, it looks better all the time!!!

There are a few other wild foods that I would like to try – finally tried Solomon’s Seal but only the very bottom of the stalk was good.  The top was bitter but, to be honest, that is what the book had said!  Perhaps I waited too long and the plant was too big, but nevertheless I would have to have a much larger patch than I do to make even a small meal.  But there are also cattails and the many hundreds of dandelions that dot my lawn.  Would love to hear from readers who have ideas on how to use dandelion greens – I began exploring recipes for them last year, and want to continue.