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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?

Nooks and Crannies in the Garden

July 26th, 2017

If you remember, earlier this spring I talked about planting some creeping thyme under the front porch door. It was always an awkward spot, growing weeds and generally just making the entryway look a little unkempt. This small nook isn’t very large, the tiny front vestibule/porch area is only about 3×5 and underneath it is filled with gravel. Of course weeds always thrived in this spot, which was not my idea of what I want at my front door. This spring I thought creeping thyme might just be the plant to grow here. It will thrive in the dry gravely conditions and should keep weeds from taking root.


So far it’s working beautifully. I love being able to use these tiny nooks to grow plants, especially ones that pollinators love. This short thyme is finally established and starting to bloom. Overall, I’d say I solved this problem! Sometimes we can take these troublesome nooks and crannies and fill them with just the right plant to make them a feature instead of problem.

Creeping thyme is always one of my go-to plants when I have little nooks and crannies to fill in the garden. It grows in less than ideal situations and looks beautiful most of the year. It’s definitely a favorite plant around here.

What’s your favorite plant for nooks and crannies in the garden? 

Bad Art Day: Batik

July 25th, 2017

A few friends and I started a Bad Art Club, we get together (hopefully once a month) and have a good time making art. We call it the bad art club so that no one is intimidated by feeling the need to make beautiful things. In reality, all art and creative pursuits are beautiful and the process is part of the joy and fun of it. On Sunday, we got together for our big day  of batik. It was long (10 hours of hard work), but it was so much fun.












What new creative pursuits have you been embarking on recently?

Friday Favorite: Gherkins

July 21st, 2017

I’ve always loved little gherkin pickles, both the sweet and the dill ones. Many years ago, I was given an old Farm Journal Cookbook that had a wonderful recipe that made crunchy sweet pickles. I always thought it would be perfect for gherkins. I tried growing an heirloom gherkin pickle, it didn’t do well. When I saw ‘Adam’ gherkins in the Johnny’s catalog I decided to give them another go.

Unfortunately, the cut worms got a few of my seedlings, so only two are producing cucumbers at the moment. I seeded two more to fill in a bit, but I definitely need to grow way more vines if I want to have enough for a couple batches of pickles. The problem with the tiny cucumbers is that you need loads of them to get the 3 lbs needed for a half batch of pickles. I’m thinking next year I may grow a row of 15, make one large batch of pickles, then rip out the vines and plant fall peas or broccoli.

The recipe I’m using is very involved (10 days it takes to make a batch of pickles). At least I have four vines of ‘Boston Pickling’ cucumbers for making regular pickles, so I’m harvesting those very small to increase my yields. I may also use the recipe in ‘The Joy of Pickling’, all the ones I’ve tried from that book have been fantastic.

What’s your favorite type of pickle?

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Shop through these links and I get a few cents each time. It's not much, but it allows me to buy a new cookbook or new gardening book every couple months. I appreciate your support!

About

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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