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My new BLOG!

  • Saturday, November 7, 2009

  • So I have finally figured out how I can help get the average person to grow their own food.....make it so simple that they have no reason not to!  In my professional life I am a 'Usabilty' girl- I make websites and applications easy to use.  So it got me thinking.... most people have little time to spare in their daily lives.... but if gardening was broken down to its simple parts, maybe some people would give it a try!  My goal is to break down typical gardening concepts into three steps.  I feel these steps will give people a basic understanding of what to do and will give people the information they need to actually TRY IT.  So here goes -- check out my new blog:  I need to start really populating it - but stay tuned, lots coming now with the core growing season over!

    Reflections of Growing Season 2009

  • Everytime I put my garden to bed I get abit of nostalgia and I like to look back at the season.... Boy this has been a tough growing year.  From crazy temps to bugs and animals that really kept me on my toes- my original garden plan got blown away pretty quickly.  Even with all of the hiccups, I realized that my garden gave me hope, happiness, a healthy baby, and a healthy family.  So you know what- it was a total success!  Who cares if my pumpkins only ripened in November and I only had a handful of squash?  Quoting my mum, "you had fun, didn't you?  That is all that makes a difference."  So I will continue to learn from what I did this year to plan my next years garden- but for now..... good night garden..... till spring comes and we meet again!  This final harvest gave us lots of good things: sugar pumpkins, acorn squash, sweet potatoes, beet tops, dried beans, and hot peppers!  Here is my tiny helper, Skyla, at age 2 months!

    Fungus and Sweet Potatoes--- ick.

  • Thursday, November 5, 2009
  • So each year I harvest my sweet potatoes and some of them have black skin..... some have gorgeous orange skin.  I am always back on the computer to figure out what it is... so once and for all, I am posting the reason here!  It is a fungus - but the fruit is FINE TO EAT!

    What is wrong with my sweet potatoes? (

    Amanda Sears
    Register Columnist

    Several people have either called or come by the office about their sweet potatoes recently. Their concern was with the dark discoloration on the surface of the sweet potatoes. Is there reason for concern? The answer is no. What you are seeing is a condition known as scurf. Scurf is a soil-bourne fungus that colonizes the skin of the sweet potato, causing purplish-brown-to-black lesions. These discolored areas are merely cosmetic injuries and the sweet potatoes are fine to eat.

    Scurf is transmitted from infected mother roots to transplants and then to the field. Once there, it can persist in the soil for years. This fungi only effects sweet potatoes and its plant relatives, such as morning glory. Rainy conditions can increase the severity of the problem.

    As a producer, be sure to use disease-free plants when transplanting. Consider using vine cuttings instead of root slips. Do not use transplants grown from sweet potatoes that contain scurf. Also, choose a field that has not grown sweet potatoes in the last three years. Thoroughly clean equipment after working in infected soil. This is a good practice whenever dealing with any soil-borne fungus.

    If transplants are suspected of having this fungal disease, you can cut off some of the bottom portion of the slip, which is the area which will contain the fungus. If you choose to disinfect your slips with bleach, be sure to use a very diluted solution, such as one cap of bleach per gallon of water, then rinse thoroughly with pure water. If the solution is more concentrated, it could prove harmful to the slips.

    There are certain fungicides that can be used pre-plant. If you are interested, please call me at the Madison County Extension Office, 623-4072.

    So, are sweet potatoes safe to eat if they have scurf? Yes. In fact, I would feel confident eating them myself … especially if they are in the form of a pie!

    First 'Light' Frost!

  • Wednesday, November 4, 2009
  • So we got our first light frost last night.  First week in November, not so bad!  I checked to see what damage had occurred but even my pepper plants survived abit of cold. I don't think they will be so lucky next time.  To this point I am still harvesting the following veggies!
    • hot peppers
    • dry beans
    • pie pumpkins
    • acorn squash
    • Papaya squash....amazing but true!
    • beets
    • herbs
    • lettuce
    • swiss chard
    • malabar 'mock' spinach
    So not so bad for November. My kale is growing so hopefully we will have greens for the winter.  As each plant finishes its life it makes the job of cleaning up the garden much easier ..... but we aren't done for the season yet!

    Autumn in Virginia....

  • Sunday, November 1, 2009

  • So I am from Massachusetts but have settled in Virginia, and have a soft spot for New England Autumn.  This year, the colors in VA almost matched that of my memories of Massachusetts.....  Overall, fall is a time to wind down, tidy up the garden, relax and flip through seed catologs, and dream of the next growing season. I don't think I could take growing food all year round!  I think both the garden and I need a break from one another!  My fall activities include:
    • Move my worm composter into the garage and give them some good things to munch on
    • Clean up the garden, pull out dead plants and compost them, put away pots into the shed
    • Add mulched up leaves to all beds (especially the garlic bed)
    • Pick up some manure from a friend (If fresh let sit at least two months before you put on garden)
    • Inventory my seeds to see what I have left
    • Plant some kale and spinach seeds and see if they either sprout or will sprout in spring
    • Sit back and say, "wow...what a year! I can have even more fun next year!"

    This year's Kale planting grid

  • Monday, October 26, 2009

  • Here is my planting grid so I won't forget what I planted where!

    Cherry Crisp Pie Recipe

  • Sunday, October 25, 2009
  • So an odd time to post a recipe for cherries, but since this is my garden blog and its purpose is to keep my most important thoughts organized - I am posting a recipe I would like to try.  It is coming into winter and I froze alot of cherries from our tree this year- so hopefully this recipe will be a hit in January!

    Cherry Crisp Pie (adapted from Michigan Cherry Marketing Institute)
    • 1/2 a stick of butter
    • 3/4 cup old fashioned oats
    • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
    • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
    • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
    • 2 cans (21 ounce) cherry pie filling (I plan to use my frozen cherries abit sweetened with sugar and some cornstarch)
    • 1 graham cracker crust (premaid or make yourself)
    Melt butter is saucepan.  Add in oats, flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon.  Spoon pie filling into graham cracker crust.  Sprinkly oat mixture over top.  Place pie on bakcin gsheet and bake 375 degree until topping golden brown about 45 minutes.  Cool and refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving.  I may also try this with a normal crust as well..... Will post the review once I make it!

    Growing Garlic- Easy as 1,2,3

  • With some help from Organic, here is how to grow garlic, easy as 1, 2, 3!  My aim is to break things down to their basic parts and to simplify the process so EVERYONE realizes that they can do it too!  So many people think gardening is hard or that they need a green thumb, but you don't.  You just need the basics and some confidence.,7518,s1-5-16-231,00.html#

    OK- how to plant garlic:
    1. Prepare the garlic cloves: Plant garlic form mid-September through mid October.  Break the garlic bulb apart into individual cloves and soak them in a jar mixed with water, one tbsp baking soda, and one tablespoon of liquid seaweed (to prevent fungal disease and encourage vigorous growth). 
    2. Prepare bed for planting:  Garlic grows best in rich, well-drained soil.  Push cloves down 3 inches and space 6-8 inches apart.  Plant fat part of bulb down so that the slender tip is on top.
    3. Cover the garlic bed:  Cover the cloves with 2 inches of soil and cover with 6-8 inches of compost, straw, or leaves.  Shoots should poke through the mulch in 4-6 weeks.  It will stop growing in winter and will resume in spring.
    This year I had a great garlic harvest..... Nothing like fresh garlic.  It may be the variety, but my garlic was super concentrated and wonderful!  I am actually using my harvest for planting.  I think this is a good cycle: plant many cloves, harvest the scapes (the flower of the garlic plant...makes wonderful garlic pesto) harvest the bulbs, eat garlic to your hearts content, use the rest for planting for the next season!

    Speaking Engagement- November 13th!

  • So I am speaking at the Sustainable Loudoun Green Living Forum on November 13th( !  I will be presenting on Food Gardening: Easy as 1, 2, 3.  How perfect for me!  Here is the description:
    Have you always wanted to grow your own food but felt overwhelmed at where to start? Do you think you don't have enough space or time to have a garden? In an easy and straighforward discussion, Linna will outline what elements are critical for food gardening, as well as provide some creative approaches to raising food. She will focus on methods that maximize both space and time to prove that anyone can raise their own healthy food.

    Learn how to incorporate sustainable practices into your everyday lifestyle,
    improve your quality of life, and save money while saving resources.

    Yogi Tea!

  • Friday, October 23, 2009
  • So a good friend made some Yogi tea for me during my maternity leave. I wanted to list the recipe and the background behind it.  Here goes:

    Yogi Tea is also available in pre-mixed packages and in tea bags. Yogi  Bhajan says about the tea, " If you take a really good amount of Yogi tea, it will keep your liver very well. It is said to help the liver.  And when we started in the sixties, people who had drug habits, who couldn't even move, we put them on Yogi tea.  Yogi tea is actually a combintation of foods.  It is a tonic to the nervous system.  It can help to balance your system when you are feeling out of balance.  It has been used often as a remedy and a preventative measure colds, flu and diseases of the mucous membranes. 
    • Black pepper is a blood purifier. 
    • Cardamon is for the colon.  Together they support the brain cells.
    • Cloves help support the nervous system. 
    • Cinnamon is good for the bones. 
    • Ginger helps strengthen the nervous system and is very good if you have a cold, flu, physical weakness.
    It can help women when they are experiencing menstrual discomfort, such as cramps of PMS symptoms. You can try making Yogi team with extra ginger when you are feeling a cold or the flu coming on.

    Steak in a spoon- GROW MORE BEANS!

  • Sunday, October 18, 2009
  • So I read this article in Mother Earth News ( and just loved it, so I am sharing it here. I tried my hand at growing beans (dried beans) and I loved it.  They grew all season, dried on the vine, and then I just picked and put them in jars for wonderful soups all winter long.  DEFINATELY going to try more varieties next year!

    The October beans and most of the Flagrano flageolets are in the freezer, but still my garden is full of beans. As I gather pale pods of black-and-white Yin Yangs, I am amazed at the generosity of the sturdy little plants. Certainly I expected a nice harvest when I planted them, but their giving nature takes me by surprise.

    And it's not just the 'Yin-Yangs.' Looking around, I find a bounty of forgotten beans worth gathering: abandoned French Duet pole filet beans holding blue-black seeds, and a few Peking Black crowder peas that reseeded themselves in a back corner of the garden.

    Some of my finds seem too beautiful to eat, for example the nickel-size seeds hidden inside the long, leathery pods of Emperor scarlet runner beans. I toss them in the soup anyway. As they simmer in the company of summer's last tomatoes and peppers, their meatiness will make them seem like little steaks on a spoon.
    The petite green limas are so precious that we eat them like garden caviar, slowly and in small amounts. They take forever to grow and are equally slow to shell, but there is no doubt that they are worth it. Besides, the bumblebees love them.
    The biggest and best beans get set aside for replanting, but still it feels extravagant to be eating hundreds and hundreds of seeds. Satisfying, too, in a way that cannot be felt unless one grows the beans. You give them a home, bring them water when they need it, and step in when foxtail and crabgrass threaten to take over the planting.
    It is a partnership in which you must keep up your end of the deal, and now you can claim your prize. As you run your hand through a bowl of drying beans, they might as well be gold coins. But what is the prize – the beans themselves, or the feeling of wealth that comes with having them? Either way, bean season is worth savoring.

    Winter Garden Update- kale, kale and more kale!

  • So every year I try to grow something during these cold and dark winter days.  I have decided that I really love Kale and Tatsoi to blend into smoothies all winter long. This year I am trying some new varieties, here they are.  I love buying seeds from Southern Seed Exposure (, they are 'local' to me and I really like supporting small shops like these.
    1. Vates Kale: 55 days. [Selected from 'Dwarf Blue Curled Scotch' by the VA/AES.] Planted spring or fall. Overwinters well in the Mid-Atlantic region. Resistant to yellowing due to frost or heat. This is our most flavorful variety of kale, best when steamed, and good fresh as a garnish or salad ingredient. Pkt.
    2. Red Russian Kale: 40 days. 'Red Russian' is an unusual and beautiful variety that grows 2' tall. Leaves are bitter-free, very tender, and are intersected by purple-pink veins, lightly tinged with purple on the margins. In cold weather the leaves turn reddish-purple and are very attractive. 'Red Russian' produces an early crop of very tender leaves. Pkt.
    3. Hanover Salad Kale: 30 days. An extra early, fast growing Siberian variety with large smooth leaves. When used fresh, this variety has a strong, but good flavor, mild when steamed. Harvest leaves when small and tender. Best for early spring salads before other varieties mature. Pkt.
      "This is great variety for adding to salad mixes and overwintering." -Radish Bruce
    4. Premier Kale: Replaces 'Smooth Long Standing'. When over-wintered, the plants remain compact while developing new growing points on the main stem. This results in a higher production of foliage for spring harvest. Plants resist bolting 3 to 4 weeks longer. A vigorous growing, smooth-leaved variety with deep green foliage and scalloped edges. Pkt.
    I am also getting Tatsoi, which I love for the mild flavoring and great use as a spinach substitute:
    1. Mustard Tatsoi: 43 days. Rosettes of dark, thick green, oval-shaped leaves. Very attractive, easy to grow and long lasting. Excellent for stir-fry or salads. Pkt.
    I am such a sucker for good seed descriptions. Just like information commercials, I just want to buy them all!  I will keep track of which ones I really like this season. Last year I did kale, tatsoi and mustard greens- and I did NOT LIKE THE MUSTARD GREENS, so I am now just focusing on what I did like!  For the record, strawberry kale smoothies are my ultimate FAVORITE! (recipe to follow once my kale is ready to eat!)

    UPDATE: Here is a recipe from a friend for Kale and Bean soup!

    • olive oil
    • 6 garlic cloves
    •  onion
    • 1 bunch of chopped raw kale (about 4 c)
    • 4 c chicken broth
    • 2 cans Italian beans (great northern, cannellini, navy), drained and washed
    • 1 can of tomatoes (stewed, diced, whole)
    • 1 can tomato sauce
    • Italian herbs, salt and pepper to taste
    • parmesean or romono cheese to top soup

    In a large pot, heat olive oil. Add garlic, onion, and tomatoes. Saute until soft.
    Add kale and saute until wilted.
    Add broth, beans, herbs, salt and pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes.
    To serve, ladel into bowls and top with shredded cheese. Enjoy your Tuscan farmhouse cuisine! Serves 6 - 8

    Capturing the Autumn Harvest- APPLESAUCE!

  • Friday, October 16, 2009

  • So I always talk about taking advantage of what veggies and fruits are in season - this year I decided to try my hand at applesauce! My three year old son loves it, and I just had a baby girl who will want some healthy food in a few months.  So with abit of help from a Mother Earth News Article on baking with applesauce( and my handy-dandy book, Busy Person's Guide to Preserving Food, I went at it.  What I didn't realize it is the SIMPLEST THING EVER and so delicious!  Also, in-season apples are a super price!  $10 for a peck which makes ALOT OF APPLESAUCE.  Here goes:
    1. Wash apples - no need to peel.  Make sure to scrub them well.
    2. Core them and drop apple pieces into a heavy pot with an inch or so of water.
    3. Cook until tender - keep heat low so not to scorch the pan or apples.
    4. Puree the soft mixture (Vitamix works PERFECTLY).  Return puree into the pot and add sugar or honey to taste. You can also add seasonings like cinnamon and cloves etc.
    5. You can then freeze this and unfreeze as needed, but I like having it on my shelf so I hot packed them.  I sterilized my jars and lids and put the hot applesauce in the jars and boiled them for 15 minutes.  Once cooled the are good to go on my shelf!  For more details on this, get the book Busy Person's Guide to Preserving Food, it rocks!  (you can find it on my amazon page
    **Note if you have a vitamix, which is a specialty blender, you don't need to core the apples. The blender will literally blend the seeds and core into your sauce.  Great source of fiber! But please, don't try this with other blenders....the vitamix is one of its kind! (

    Pictures from this growing season...

  • Tuesday, October 13, 2009

  • Harvesting Sweet Potatoes

  • So for the second year I am growing sweet potatoes.  For the record here are the tips for harvesting them:
    When to Harvest?  Frost and cold weather can hurt sweet potatoes at harvesttime even though you might think they're insulated underground. When frost kills and blackens the vines aboveground, decay can start in on the dead vines and pass down to the roots. If your sweet potato plants suffer a frost one night, cut the vines off right above the soil first thing the next morning. This may let you leave the potatoes in the ground for a few more days without injury. Try to dig the sweet potatoes on a dry, overcast day. Leaving them in direct sun for long can open pathways of infection that will damage the crop in storage. Dig gently around the hills, starting from a few feet away, so as not to slash any wandering roots with your shovel or fork.

    Let Them Cure: Let the potatoes dry on the ground for a couple of hours. If you dig late in the day, don't leave the roots out overnight; you risk damage from cold weather and moisture. Don't wash the potatoes after the harvest, either. Sort any badly cut or bruised potatoes to eat first (they won't keep) and sort the rest according to size in boxes or baskets to cure before storage.  Curing can be done in 10 to 14 days by keeping sweet potatoes in a warm, dark place with some ventilation. The temperature should be 80° to 85° F with high humidity. Under these conditions, bruises and wounds will heal quickly, sealing out rot organisms. After curing, put the containers of sweet potatoes in a dry, well-ventilated area at 55° to 60° F with a relative humidity of 75 percent to 80 percent. Under ideal conditions, you can keep a mature crop until the next early harvest. If you can't store your sweet potatoes under these conditions, you may want to cook and freeze your harvest. Sweet potatoes bruise easily and can suffer quickly when handled in storage. It's best not to pick through them too often.

    Silence now Broken......

  • So my life has been filled with ups and downs .... all things that have taken me away from writing, but not GARDENING  :)  So here is my attempt to catch up.  Gosh, I have missed writing about the entire 2009 Growing season!  During the season I thought my garden was a failure, but putting everything in context I think it was just a 'unique' garden year.

    Here are the highlights:
    • Bugs, bugs, varmits, and more bugs.  Such a loopy season of bugs.  The season started out wet and cold....stayed cool, got very hot.... kinda like a roller coaster
    • Varmits caused alot of my crops to not make it on first attempt, I had to replant squash, beans, and endamame a few times.
    • Corn.  I grew it and it was beautiful.  I was so excited to have fresh corn then a big wind blew in and knocked them all down!
    • Squash bugs - they got my butternut squash AGAIN.
    • Tomato blight- got me this year.  Only enough tomas for eating -- not much for preserving.
    • Expanded the garden ALOT.
    • Grew dry beans and am so happy I did, a must for next year!
    • Enough swiss chard to feed an Army!
    • Grew a 'kitchen garden' right outside the front door and it was a huge success! More veggies closer to the house is a great idea.
    Ok- as more comes to me I will post!

    Pie Cherries HARVESTING NOW!

  • Wednesday, June 17, 2009
  • So my red rubies are back this year.....andthey are here like gang busters! Last year I picked a heap and told myself I had to prepare for this 'picking sprint' this year. Well it caught me off guard and I looked yesterday and they have peaked already! So tonight off I go! Last night Broden and I did start picking and he had so much fun. I love that I am raising Broden along with the harvest....he loves all the waves of fruit coming in. My rule is - during harvest time you gorge yourself on that fruit cause it only happens once a year! That is what we did last night, just pick and eat and pick and eat. When I asked him what he wanted for dinner he said, "CHERRIES!"

    Here is something I just pulled from Mother Earth News, didn't know they were so good for you!
    "Recent university studies suggest that cherries can reduce pain caused by arthritis or muscle strain, help prevent Type 2 diabetes and possibly slow the growth of cancerous tumors: all great reasons to eat more cherries and even plant a few trees yourself."
    I will post some pics and recipes once I finish picking!

    Garlic Scapes!

  • Harvests are rolling in one after another! First strawberries, then peas, now cherries, and....GARLIC SCAPES! Last year I saw them, cut them, and did nothing with them. This year I am determined to try them out. I planted heaps of garlic so I have LOTS OF SCAPES, so this should be fun. For those of you that don't know what they are, I pulled these from other blogs/aricles:
    "If you are a garlic lover, but haven't ventured beyond the bulb, grab up some garlic scapes now while they're in season. These long, curly strands that resemble green beans gone wild are actually the early stalks from a garlic plant. Growers remove the scapes to encourage bigger bulb growth. Lucky for us. The scapes have a mild garlic flavor that works perfectly in soups, stir-fries, pestos or just a simple scape saute. When you see them at farm markets, bring some home to try in this quick dip that makes a perfect appetizer for an early
    summer gathering."

    "Garlic scapes are the flower/seed stalk that shoots up from the garlic bulb. I like the way they curl and from what I understand if they not cut off they will eventually straighten out and bloom. The reason they cut them off they is so the bulb can get more energy to grow bigger and better. The farmers’ markets and the CSA shares in this area are brimming with garlic scapes. Judging by the comments I heard at the market this morning, not everyone knows what they are or what to do with them. Tonight for dinner I’ll annoint them with some olive oil and grill them just like I do asparagus. They can be chopped thick or thin and added to salads and stir-fries. My favorite thing to do with them is to make garlic scape pesto. It is super easy to make and refrigerates well for several weeks in a well sealed jar. I also plan on popping some into the freezer to top off my winter soups. I use this pesto on brushetta, pasta, eggs, foccacia, and just about anything I grill like shrimp, salmon, chicken. It’s also fabulous added to mayonnaise and smeared on a big roast beef sandwich. Now I’m hungry!!! "
    So more from me once I try them, but here are some recipes I found online that I will be trying!

    1/3 cup sliced garlic scapes (3 to 4)
    1 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice, more to taste
    1/2 tsp. coarse sea salt, more to taste
    Ground black pepper, to taste 1 can (15 oz.)
    cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
    1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, more for drizzling
    In a food processor, process garlic scapes with lemon juice, salt and pepper until finely chopped. Add cannellini beans and process to a rough puree.

    With motor running, slowly drizzle olive oil through feed tube and process until fairly smooth. Pulse in 2 or 3 tablespoons water, or more, until mixture is the consistency of a dip. Add more salt, pepper and/or lemon juice, if desired.
    Spread out dip on a plate, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with more salt.
    The 6-7 garlic scapes, chopped
    approx. 1 c. olive oil
    1 c. grated parmesan or asiago cheese* (The latter tastes best.)
    Use food processor and puree the scapes. Add olive oil, add cheese.

    Choose scapes that are very young and tender, taking care to trim off the bottoms of the stems and the tips of the flower heads. The recipe that follows is best when made the day before serving and then refrigerated. Let it stand at room temperature before serving.

    2 tablespoons virgin olive oil
    2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
    8 ounces young garlic scapes, trimmed
    1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped tomatoes
    3/4 cup dry white wine
    1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper or to taste
    1 teaspoon salt or to taste
    1 tablespoon chopped parsley
    1/4 cup grilled haloumi cheese,cut into very small dice (see note below)

    Heat the oil in a broad sauté pan and add sugar. Stir to caramelize the sugar for about 2 to 3 minutes and add the scapes. Cover and sauté over a medium-high heat for no more than 3 minutes, occasionally shaking the pan to prevent the scapes from scorching. After 3 minutes, add the chopped tomatoes and wine. Stir the pan, then cover and reduce the heat to low; continue cooking 5 to 6 minutes, or until the scapes are tender but not soft. Season, then add the parsley and haloumi, and serve at room temperature.

    *You may omit the spinach or pine nuts, for example, if you don't have them, but they are nice touches.
    1-2 cups of garlic scapes
    1-1 1/2 lemons
    1 can chickpeas, drained.
    1/8 - 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    1-2 cups extra virgin olive oil
    1-2 teaspoons salt
    2-3 cups "tender" greens such as spinach, arugula, spicy greens
    mix2-3 tablespoons sesame tahini
    1 cup or more finely grated parmesan or romano cheese
    1 cup pine nuts
    Remove tops from 1-2 cups of scapes and reserve as decorations; cut in 2 in. lengths. Process with 1/2 - 1 cup olive oil in food processor for 2-3 min. until finely chopped.
    Add drained chickpeas. Add 2-3 tablespoons sesame tahini.Add juice of 1 - 1 1/2 lemons, seeds removed.Add 1/8 - 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, to taste. You (I) want it to have an edge, but not to be overtly "Hot."Add 1-2 teaspoons salt - I use kosher, but any will do. Salt to taste, not too much.Process until chickpeas are finely ground. You may want to taste at this point to see if more cayenne is needed. Note that the sauce will "heat up" as it sits.
    Add 2-3 cups spinach or spicy greens or arugula, whatever you have, for more green color and to lighten the hummus. Process until finely ground and well integrated in sauce.
    I also added 1 cup finely grated parmesan and a cup or so of pine nuts, also all ground in for another minute or two. You want the sauce to be smooth for dipping. The raw scapes resist chopping so they require a good deal of processing. The end result will still have a little texture from the scapes and the pine nuts - a good thing! As a dip, finish by putting dip in a bowl and dribbling fine extra virgin olive oil over it. As a future revision I would add some lightly toasted cumin seed: heat 1 teaspoon whole cumin seed in a skillet until it begins to be aromatic; grind it coarsely in a mortar; mix 1/2 in the dip. Sprinkle the remainder over the top.
    This sauce / dip could as well be used as a pasta dressing or over a piece of fish to be baked. In this instance I served it as a dip in a bowl with peeled raw kohlrabi sliced thin and cut in half as chips. It got rave reviews.

    Season is passing in front of my eyes!!

  • Tuesday, June 16, 2009
  • So I am 30 weeks pregnant and for some reason I am really slowing down now...but my garden isn't!

    Quick update so I don't forget:
    • Just noticed tart cherries are peak and ready to be picked!!
    • Packed up 28 lbs of strawberries from Robs (picked three weeks ago), YUM! (SPENT $82.00)
    • Thought I had an ant problem eating my beans.....instead realized I have a BUNNY ISSUE!
    • Peas have peaked and are now finishing up (yummy season though)
    • Sprite melons just not doing well.......saddness
    • This week garlic scapes came out
    • EAting lots of chard, YUM!
    • Seeds in beets/carrot/lettuce bed not doing well......not sure if bugs or what
    • Beans finally coming up after my ant/slug/bunny issue (still fighting this furry animal)
    • New eggplant planted after the flea beetle ate last one
    • cukes climing up, same with butternut squash
    • Gold Rush squash in the ground
    • Corn doing FAMOUSLY!
    • Onion seeds didn't come up well
    • Tomatoes finally doing well
    • Straw bales doing well so far (acorn squash and tomatoes)
    • Herb bed doing pretty well, not all my seeds came up
    • Walkway garden is ROCKING......

    That is it for now! Gotta pick some Cherrries! Pics coming soon!

    Pure Beauty

  • Tuesday, June 2, 2009

  • Took this in the morning, and the picture came out great!

    Man.....this year is BIZARRE!

  • So this season is bizarre- started off HOT, HOT, got REALLY COLD, and now the days are HOT days and the nights COOL! Already I have some lessons learned:
    • Don't put out tomatoes and heat loving ANYTHING until you have 10 consecutive nights at 60 degrees. Tip from Gail. One of my tomato heirlooms didn't make it. Virginia coldness was just too much for this foreign variety :) Also my cukes and melons croked.
    • Bugs- with all of the rain we have gotten I have one zillion ants in the garden. I also had flea beetles devour my egglplant. SLUGS are also attacking my beans and tomas! So this year my approach MUST be different. Last year I shared with the bugs, this year they want more and I need to fight back.
    • Don't go crazy with internet gardening advice.....I poured baking soda over my beans to keep the ants away. Instead I killed the beans....oops. Next batch going in today.

    Overall everything looks good though. Progress includes:

    • heaps of strawberries! Harvesting now!
    • Peas are now coming in....they all go right into my belly!
    • Corn getting taller by the day.
    • Acorn squash in the hay bales looking great.
    • Herbs slowly coming up.
    • Next batch of melon seeds sprouting in the garden.
    • Squash bed built and 'cooking'.
    • New bed for pollinating flowers and squash is built, needs one more tilling.
    • Potatoes I planted last year are growing.
    • Cukes are up as well!
    • Kitchen garden planted along front path - no more flowers, only veggies this year!

      Below are some random pics:
    • Blooming peas
    • Kitchen garden. Growing golden chard, kale, and mini broccoli
    • Acorn squash on hay bale
    • Baby squash plants growing!

    Full listing of Companion Planting

  • Friday, May 29, 2009
  • So the garden is now planted and it is now time to think about keeping our plants healthy so we can reap the benefits of tasty produce! Herbs are easy to grow, add flavour to our food AND can help protect our plants from bugs and other pests. So think about planting a few of these herbs around your vegetable beds -- you will thank them! Here is a full listing of Companionable Herbs (taken from Tips for the Lazy Gardener by Linda Tilgner)

    • Basil: Companion to tomatoes, dislikes rue. Repels flies and mosquitoes.
    • Borage: Companion to tomatoes, squash, and strawberries; deters tomato worm
    • Caraway: Plant here and thre; loosens soil.
    • Catnip: Plant in borders; deters flea beetle.
    • Camomile: Companion to cabbages and onions.
    • Chervil: Companion to radish.
    • Chives: Companion to carrots.
    • Dead Nettle: Companion to potatoes; deters potato bug.
    • Dill: Companion to cabbage; dislikes carrots
    • Fennel: Most plants dislike it; plant away from gardens.
    • Flax: Companion to carrots, potatoes; deters potato bug.
    • Garlic: Plant near roses and raspberries; deteres Japanese beetles.
    • Horseradish: Plant at corners of potato patch' deters potato bug.
    • Henbit: General insect repellant.
    • Hyssop: Companion to cabbage and grapes; deters cabbaage moth; dislikes radishes.
    • Marigolds: Plant throughout garden; it discourages Mexican bean bettles, nematodes, and other insects. The workhorse of companion plants.
    • Mole Plant: Deters moles and mice if planted around garden.
    • Nasturtium: Companion to radishes, cabbage, and cucurbits; plant under fruit trees; deters aphics, squash bugs, striped pumpkin beetles.
    • Petunia: Companion to beans.
    • Rosemary: Companion to cabbage, bean, carrots, and sage; deters cabbage moth, bean beetles, and carrot fly.
    • Rue: Companion to roses and raspberries; deters Japanese beetles; dislikes sweet basil.
    • Sage: Plant with rosemary, cabbage, and carrots; dislikes cucumbers; deters cabbage moth, carrot fly.
    • Summer Savory: companion to beans and onions; deters bean beetles.
    • Tansy: Plant under fruit trees; companion to roses and raspberries; deters flying insects, Japanese beetles, striped cucumber beetles, squash bugs, and ants.
    • Thyme: Companion to cabbage, deters cabbage worm.
    • Wormwood: As a border, it keeps animals from the garden.
    • Yarrow: Plant along borders, paths and near aromatic herbs; enhances production of essential oils.

    Work and Food Gardening life don't mix!

  • Wednesday, May 20, 2009
  • So this season has been crazy, we had EXTREMELY hot weather (upper 90s) followed by very cool weather (low of 38 last night). It is about 2 weeks after mother's day which is the typical point for being able to plant your hot weather crops without the threat of frost. Well, Gail said her rule is, only plant heat loving plants once you have had 10 consecutive nights over 60 degrees. Well we haven't had that yet, but with my work schedule and people coming into town- I had to plant my tomatoes, cukes, and squash this weekend. Well wouldn't you know the temp dived and they all look 'star struck'....not in a good way! So ughh --- note to self for next year, follow the CARDINAL RULE: 10 CONSECUTIVE NIGHTS OF 60 DEGREES!

    Moving right along...

  • Saturday, May 16, 2009
  • So we hit the eventful time of Mother's Day in Virginia, which is not only a weekend for me to spend as much time as I want picking out heirloom tomatoes to buy, but also the mark of the end of the frost threat! So that means in go the warm weather crops!

    This year I again made my pilgrimage to Beauville Deer Farm in Basye, VA- where a great friend of mine, Gail Rose, took my breath away with all of the interesting varieties of veggies she is growing. These plants really do 'sing'...they are loved and are strong and healthy and I can't imagine getting my veggie plants anywhere else! This year, here are the tomatoes I am trying:
    • Green Zebra (a favorite of David's because of the 'tang'. Great for cheddar cheese grill cheeses)
    • Black Zebra
    • Kosovo
    • Aunt Gertley's
    • Oaxacan Jewel
    • San Marzano Extra Long
    • Sokacki
    • Brandywine

    Gosh, how can you not love all of these names? Green Zebra is the only fave I am bringing back from last year, I hope to find a few more favorites!

    OK, progress in the garden:

    • Planted a 'green smoothie' garden by the door. No more flowers, I need quick access to food! So by the front steps I have swiss chard, Kale, Rose Orach, and some mini broccoli Gail recommended
    • Corn- trying it this year, it is up!
    • Realized I have alot of space and not enough adults to eat- so....planted shelling beans, and lentils. Why not try?!
    • Planted two peppers from and Rosa Bianca eggplant from Gail.
    • Carrots, beets, radishes and lettuce seeds are in.
    • Onion seeds and sets are planted and coming up.
    • Herb bed is planted and coming up.
    • Dressed the garlic beds with more manure.
    • Strawberries in planters doing GREAT.

    Oustanding items to do are:

    OK- slowly but surely they are getting done! Ok-will take pics today and will post!

    My garden - from rags to riches!

  • Friday, May 8, 2009
  • So the winter gave a severe beating on my garden. The deer fencing was ripped up, my mulch swept away, my soil ravaged by the wind, and alot of weeds found a new home!!! I am a very neat and anal gardener, and the below pictures made me sick! So....once you see the transformation, you will see really how I 'roll'!

    So here are the changes. I added weed barrier to all of my paths, made them nice and wide so I could move through the garden easily, used my bamboo to build planting grids and to mark my beds, and my dad helped me restring the deer fencing to make sure my garden is protected! Since these photos I have built a bean teepee out of bamboo, planted: onions, leeks, shallots, beans, corn, radishes, carrots, lettuce, heaps of herbs, swiss chard, and kale. In my bathroom I have cukes, melons, peppers, and eggplants growing.... what fun! I hope to buy my fave tomatoes at Gail's this weekend --- and get them into the ground!

    Now everything just needs to grow! (note the tall spikey things are my garlic I planted last fall....)

    Pic of my Indoor Harvest

  • Friday, May 1, 2009

  • Just a picture of what I harvested this year from my 'bathroom garden'!

    Silence = Busy = Good

  • Monday, April 27, 2009
  • OK- now that gardening season is really starting to roll I realized I haven't been tracking it here! Spring always makes me feel alive and ETERNALLY behind in garden chores. I guess it really gives you a kick start in terms of 'waking up' and getting things done.

    Beyond getting my food garden together, I have been giving some demonstrations on Vertical Gardening at a community garden opening in Round Hill, VA and this weekend at Purcellville's Smart Market- Farmers Market- Summer Market Opening day! So between this and my own garden- there is no extra time! Oh yeah, I also spoke at my company's Earth Day event on 'Growing Your Own Food' and got lots of nice notes saying how I inspired people to garden!

    So for the record, every year I deal with the same pains as everyone else does..... My garden is horribly ugly and needs SO MUCH WORK! The wind caused havoc on everything, my soil, my deer fencing, my supports,....they all need repair! So beyond needing to add organic matter to all of my beds, and new beds, I have basic garden-keeping to do. Here is a list of what I have done thus far:

    • Added two massive piles of aged manure to all beds
    • Created 3 new beds
    • Added additional nutrients: greensand and limestone
    • Replenished my (2) lasagna beds (I am totally loving this method more than appending to my existing soil)
    • Made (2) lasagna beds in containters for strawberries
    • Laid down weed barrier throughout garden (multiples times because of wind ripping it up!
    • My dad restrung deer fencing and shored it up and made me a cool new door
    • Created new bamboo planting guides for each bed (kinda like square foot gardening technique)
    • Organized seeds by the beds I want to plant them in
    • Started squash, cucumber, melon, eggplant, and pepper plants inside
    • Planted onion sets and peas outside
    • Re-freshed my worm beds and moved them back outside

    For now that is all! Phew, I just broke a sweat typing this! This weekend I hope to:

    • Lay hay down on all of my paths
    • Create a new cucumber 'patch' with bamboo vertical supports
    • Plant leeks, greens, swiss chard, and herbs
    • Mow my berry patch area
    • Reinforce deer fencing
    • Give vertical gardening demonstration at Farmer's Market in Purcellville

    (note all of this is subject to how my 3-year old and babe-in-belly feel!)

    Productive weekend!

  • Tuesday, March 24, 2009
  • OK- here I am 4.5 month pregnant and I have a TON of garden chores to do...... So all I can say is this baby is getting a workout! This weekend I was successful at:
    • realizing how much work I really have this season
    • planted a Fuji, and enterprise apple, nectarine and pear tree
    • planted 9 heritage rasberries in the old 'grape' area
    • pulled down all deer fencing
    • planted peas
    • started cleaning up paths and re-mulching

    So I am exhausted, the daffodils are up and I am EXCITED for this season!

    Finishing my seed order....some interesting items

  • Sunday, March 8, 2009
  • As I have said in the past, Pinetree Seeds Catalog ( has some very interesting options. Here are some that caught my eye.
    1. Cutting Celery- hardy annual can be used inplace of celery adn is easier to grow.the fine green leaves and thin hollow stems are especially good to flavor soups and stews.
    2. Tyfon-Holland Greens- If you'd like to feed an army from an area the size of a coffee table, this may be the vegetable for you. This brassica is a cross between Chinese Cabbage and Turnips. The greens mature very rapidly to the size of a couple of feet. They can be cut early and often throughout the entire growing season. Unlike other brassica greens, Tyfon contains no mustard oil so the flavor is very mild.
    3. Rose Orach- HEIRLOOM Orach has been cultivated for 3000 years. It is also know as butter leaves or mountain spinach and is in fact an excellent spinach substitute. The striking plants will eventually grow to 5' in height but you can begin harvesting the leaves when the plant is very young. Indeed the most tender leaves are available before the height exceeds 18". The fully mature plant is very ornamental and can be used in dried arrangements. Orach is primarily used in salads but can also be used cooked as you would spinach.
    4. Merveille de Qautre Saisons- HEIRLOOM This lettuce is truly marvelous. It was the only lettuce in our trials that remained good tasting during an exceptionally dry and hot summer years ago, and continues to impress us each year we grow it. A bibb type, the leaves are wavy and light green with an overlay of red. Forms a loose 12" head with meaty texture and fine flavor.
    5. Pai Tsai-Fun Jen- A very early and tasty semi-spreading green that tolerates both heat and cold well. About a month after planting you begin to harvest the light green leaves. When fully mature, you can chop up the snow white stems for stir fries.

    Garden Checklist- MARCH

  • So March is the time to turn 'a little bit' of that dreaming into reality....

    • Starting seeds inside: I can't go into all the specifics of how to grow inside....but here are some tips- pre-moisten your soil, press seeds into survace of mix to make good contact, remember seeds don't need light to germinate, only moisture and warmth, keep flats watered, add fertilizer to water once a weeks, avoid drafts and extreme temperatures.
    • Store your seeds and bulbs properly: Keep bunched onions plants in the refridgerator until ready to plant; store onion sets in cool, dark, and dry place; keep seed packets away from an over heated place until planting time.
    • Think about plant protection: For tender plants in chilly weather....use of hot caps, floating row covers, or water filled shields.
    • Got Asparagus? Well now is the time is to cut and shred old stalks, do a thorough weeding, stir up soil with a rake before new shoots appear, and work in fertilizer for upcoming crop.
    • If you are adventurous: You can try planting peas and onions in a raised bed (provide warmer temperatures and drier area when raised) It is a gamble, but peas are tough and can tolerate a cool wet spring start. Even later in march go for spinach and lettuce....isn't the risk worth it?

    So all this is leading up to Apirl which is a busy month of preparing soil, adding organic fertilizer, creating your beds, tilling, and use of cold frames....

    Garden Checklist- FEBRUARY

  • OK- I have decided to summarize what should be happening in your gardening planning each month. I know I am abit late for February - but the tips still apply! March coming soon....
    • Start planning what you want to grow, and be realistic. First off plan your garden so it matches what you want to put into it. If you plan too big, and can't invest enough time, it will become an unsightly mess and you will get frustrated. If this is your first time, start small, but do it well, and you will build your confidenc. Once you have sketched our your beds and what you want to grow- make sure to figure out what you need to buy as seeds, and what you should buy as young plants. Note this is personal as you can grow all from seed yourself, but some need to be grown inside first (sometimes it is worth the extra money to have a nice nursery do this work for you) My rough list, things to be sown by seed: peas, beans, radish, lettuce, greens, carrots, beets, turnips, collards, kale, rutabagas, corn, vine crops, onion sets, okra, dill. Items I buy as plants: tomatoes, onions, leeks, peppers, parsley, chives, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, eggplant, and cauliflower.
    • Finish placing your seed orders: Places I love to shop from are (great variety for the home gardener, interesting types, lots of container vegetables too) (a local source of seeds, got some interesting walking egyptian onions last year...anything local is good to me!) (has a few varieties I haven't found elsewhere.....golden chard!) and (just a good overall selection and excellent customer service! If your seeds don't sprout, they will send you new ones!)
    • Think about your soil.... Remember whatever improvements you make to your soil, you will receive back tenfold......So be good to your soil :) This includes testing your soil to see what nutrients you lack in (check you local extension service), and adding LOTS of organic matter. It is best to add it before the winter so it has time to break down, but anytime is good. So start adding your compost, any leaves, aged manure, grass clippings etc. If you are placing them fresh, consider learning more about the Lasagna method ( of building a raised bed. Once you know what your soil lacks- be smart about what organic fertilizers you need like greensand, bonemeal etc (not based on what you are growing will help you decide what you need) Also, when in doubt, check the pH! That will at least give you a headstart on what needs changing. You should strive for a pH of 6.5.
    • Check what time is your 'last frost date' for your area. For me in Northern Virginia, Mother's day is the 'typical safe date'.
    • Sowing seeds inside: If you choose to start plants inside, make sure you have the right materials like a grow light, good seed starting soil, seed starting containers (either soil blocks or recycled containers), and you get the timing right. I once started cucumbers MUCH to early and they got long and lanky and I had to ultimately compost them, sad!
    • Do some outdoor cleanup: As the weather permits, start cutting back dead growth on your herbs and such and get a head start on your plants!
    • Be creative! Think about what and how you want to grow things. There are so many creative ways to grow vegetables. You may want to use raise beds, straw bale gardening (, vertical gardening, container gardening, or apply some edible landscaping principles. Just think about your space, the time you can invest and getting them started, and let your imagination go free!

    So as you see February is about dreaming, planning, and getting ready for the warmer months ahead. As February comes to a close, I have:

    • List of items I need to do outside
    • Placed most of my seed orders
    • have sketched in my garden notebook where my beds are and what I want to grow in them
    • put out ads on Craig's List for mulching hay
    • Inventoried my garden and fixes I need to make (like my deer fencing needs complete rework)
    • Working on my 2009 garden objective.

    OK- let's move onto March!

    Slowly waking up....

  • Saturday, February 21, 2009
  • So this winter has been fierce- full of cold and gusty wind. I know I was looking forward to this period of rest, but right about now I am LONGING for the spring. I know it has been a long time since I wrote - but I guess I have been in hibernation too, we all need a break.

    So as the days become longer and the thought of spring is actually a possibility, it is time to start thinking about GARDEN 2009! Beyond the economic crisis, I had already planned on growing a much larger garden. Last fall I made 5 more beds, so at least alot of grunt work is done. So here are the things I know I need to do:
    • Build up my new beds more. Need to add manure and leaves and other materials
    • Fix and expand my deer fencing. I need to surround my new beds AND fix the winter damage -- this is going to take the most work.
    • Buy and plant more blackberries and fruit trees
    • Re-build my bamboo trellace. The winter storms blew them all over the place. I need to replace and tie down with wire.
    • Find, buy, and spread hay/straw on my garden paths

    So far, that is what my brain can muster up. My next entry I am going to list out my favorite seed and plant sources --- also I am going to start my monthy garden checklist!