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A Project on the List

August 3rd, 2017

I have a whole host of old bee hive boxes in the top of the garage. They’re old, they were infested with wax moths, mice, and other insects. We don’t need them for hives, so we have been trying to figure out what to do with them. A few of them are going to be turned into broody houses for ducks and chickens. Last week and idea hit me, turn them into native pollinator houses. I remember seeing this lovely one when we were in Sweden last fall.

I also spotted this one on a garden tour a few weeks ago.

I’m going to divide the bee boxes into four sections then fill each with a different material. This is actually going to be a project that a friend and I are doing with her daughters. We’re collecting pine cones, sticks, and other items to fill the sections with. Hopefully we will be able to create beautiful homes for native pollinating insects.

Do you have any garden projects lined up for the coming weeks?

Hoping for Repeat Blooming

August 2nd, 2017

This past week I spent time cutting back my mass planting of catmint. (it’s ‘Walker’s Low’, so no self seeding or crazy spreading). It had finished blooming and the bees were no longer lingering among the blooms. I’m hoping with a severe cut it will rebloom this fall, hopefully with a little less vigor. Gardening is always a process, always learning and editing. This mass planting of catmint is AMAZING, something I’m going to expand and do a few other places around the garden.

My planting was a little too close, I’m going to be digging up every other plant, probably next spring. That’s not a big deal because it will give me lots of plants for another mass planting. I have plans to increase this one by about two times and then do the same thing across the patio area by the back door.

After this sever cut back, I watered it will with liquid kelp. This should give it the boost it needs to rebloom nicely. I’ll keep you posted on the late summer blooms. In our short season, sometimes deadheading for a second flush of blooms doesn’t quit work. Meanwhile, I’m adding lots of goodness to the compost pile with all this deadheading. Next year it will feed pumpkins and other squashes.

What are you deadheading in the garden this week?

Tucked In

August 1st, 2017

I’ve tried growing cauliflower for years, then a few years ago I read about ‘Bishop’ and finally achieved cauliflower success.  They’re supposed to be self-blanching heads, though I still tuck the leaves around the heads to make sure they’re nice and white.

I would harvest these, but I’m waiting on a few gallons of white wine vinegar. Pickled cauliflowers is one of our favorite winter time treats, all four heads I grew will be pickled and put into jars for winter eating. It’s perfect sautéed in a cast iron skillet as a side to bratwurst or some other kind of pork. I’ve always liked cauliflower, even when I was a kid. I can eat it pretty much eat it cooked in any way, or raw as well.

Are you a lover or a hater of cauliflower?

I use the recipe for pickled cauliflower from Well Preserved by Mary Dragan, but I add caraway and mustard seeds to the jars before canning.

New to Me Nasturtiums

July 31st, 2017

In Ohio I tried growing nasturtiums many times, they never did well at all. Everyone always said they were so “easy” and did well in poor soil, yet I could never get them to do anything at all in my garden. I finally gave up trying to grow them and moved on to other annuals. When we moved to Maine and I was growing in a different area, growing them never crossed my mind until this spring. A pack of ‘Night & Day’ nasturtiums were ordered from Johnny’s, started in soil blocks, and planted throughout the garden.

I was not prepared for the exuberance of these plants. Here by the front door they’re taking over their pots, growing up the side of the house, and being fantastic. I planted one between each tomato plant in the main garden, they are growing up way too big. Last week I cut them back hoping they would regrow but be a little less crazy. I’m undecided on whether I like these plants and will grow them again next year. This pale yellow is nice, especially by the front door. I’m not a big fan of bright, brash colors in the garden, which nasturtiums tend to be. I guess I’ll watch these the rest of the summer and see what I think in another month or so.

What annual that everyone says is “easy” have you struggled to grow?

Fennel, Fennel, and more Fennel

July 27th, 2017

I’ve loved fennel for quite awhile. I’ve tried growing it for just as long, without much success. It never failed that my fennel bolted before it formed bulbs, I probably count on one hand the number of bulbs I was able to harvest in all my years of trying to grow it. Then, two years ago I tried ‘Preludio’ fennel from Johnny’s and was finally able to produce fennel bulbs with remarkable consistency. This spring, I decided to see if it was actually the variety or the conditions here in my Maine garden that caused my success.

I seeded the same number of ‘Preludio’ and the heirloom variety ‘Florence’. I planted them in the garden and watched them closely. Out of the 8 plants of each I transplanted, only one ‘Florence’ produced a bulb, the rest bolted. As you can see by the image below, the ‘Preludio’ is on the left, ‘Florence’ bulb bolted in the middle, and the single bulb of ‘Florence’.

‘Preludio’ also produced much larger and tighter bulbs. We did a taste test and they were the same in taste and texture. Overall, I’ll keep growing ‘Preludio’ since it ensures my success with fennel. If you’ve struggled to grow fennel in your garden, give this variety a try. Another tip is to not disturb the roots. Seed in a soil block if possible and transplant before the roots get too big. Root disruption can be on the causes of bolting in fennel.

Do you eat fennel? What’s your favorite way to enjoy it?

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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