Saturday, May 21, 2011

Growing Salad Greens From Seed

Of all the edibles I grow from seed in the vegetable garden, I find salad greens to be the easiest and most rewarding.  Sprinkle seeds on top of good soil then water.  There's no need to cover the seeds with dirt.  They'll sprout in around 3 days and can be harvested in about 3 weeks.

If you've never grown lettuce before, I would recommend buying any pack of mesclun salad mix that looks interesting and give it a try.  Don't worry about sowing the seeds too thick.  Once the leaves are large enough to harvest, cut them at the base of the plant, and within a few days you'll notice the open spaces filled with new leaves.  Salad greens can be grown in pots, raised beds or directly in the ground and by growing them from seed yourself, you will have access to wonderful varieties you would never find at the grocery store.  One of my favorites is Romaine Freckles from Botanical Interests.

I harvested the first salad greens for dinner tonight.  This is Tango from Johnny's that overwintered (shocking!) and a few leaves of Sea of Red from Renee's.  It's hard to articulate the excitement of the first dinner salad of the season eaten 30 minutes after harvest. Bliss!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Green Home Experts: One Heirloom Project

Over the years the gardening world has participated in several programs where we all grow the same plant and share growing tips and reviews with each other.  One of my favorites has always been One Seed Chicago.  This year I voted for Swiss Chard in the One Seed Chicago contest and it won.  Joy!

Green Home Experts in cooperation with Forest Park Community Garden and Root Riot is starting a new growing project called One Heirloom.  Each year we'll all grow the same heirloom plant, share our experiences throughout the project, learn how to preserve/can our harvest then celebrate with a potluck.  The inaugural heirloom for this project is the German Pink Tomato.  These plants are being grown organically from seed and are available now at Green Home Experts.  Plants are $3.50 each and there are only 150 plants total so be sure to get yours, today!

I've never grown this variety of tomato before and I'm a tomato fanatic so I'm super excited to try it and about the project in general. I look forward to blogging about it and hearing your experiences with the German Pink, too!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

How Soil Quality Impacts Flavor and Nutrition of Food

Bob Jones, Sr. from The Chef's Garden talks about how soil quality is the biggest factor in determining flavor and nutrition of edible plants.  This is not new to most of us but it is nice to hear it from folks growing food on a large scale like this.

The Chef's Garden is an organic farm outside Cleveland, Ohio that grows and sells edibles to chefs all over the world.

Not included in this video, Mr. Bob goes on to talk about the advanced testing methods they use to prove flavor and nutrition quality of their food.  I had the pleasure of tasting quite a few of their micro-greens and I was shocked by how intense the flavors were.

About My Skinny Garden, Parts 1-3

Where I attempt to explain how and why I started gardening along with the name of my blog which, contrary to popular belief, is not a narrow patch of land.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Granddaddy's Daffodils

"I drove to grandma's house to dig up some of the daffodils for you.  I'm here now but it looks like the realtor has mowed them all down." He was talking in a voice you use when you call to give somebody bad news.  Gentle, like he was expecting me to burst into tears.

I've written about it before.  When the snow has melted and the temperatures are starting to warm up a little.  The ground is still all brown, the trees still bare.  No matter how many years I garden, I always worry that that nature just stopped working.  That my garden has up and died. But then I remind myself about my grandfather's daffodils.

All my life the long driveway in front of my grandmother's ranch style Memphis home has been lined on both sides with bright yellow daffodils.  Each year when they'd bloom, my grandmother would remind us all that my then deceased grandfather planted them years ago.  She referred to them randomly as daffodils, jonquils or buttercups depending on her mood.  My grandfather died when I was around five but for me, his memory has lived on in the things he planted.  That tiny pecan tree now litters my grandmother's and her neighbor's backyards with huge delicious pecans every year.  A houseplant my grandmother somehow managed to keep alive in a giant pot by the living room window, its leafy vines climbing up and down the 5 foot stake in the center of the pot.  It finally died when my grandmother's dementia caused her to forget to water it, but not before my mother took several cuttings from it which are now big beautiful plants in their own right. And the daffodils by the driveway.

My grandmother's house was placed on the market for sale a couple of weeks ago.  My brother and his wife dug up some of the daffodils and mailed them to me.  They have survived for over 30 years and I wanted them to live on in my garden reminding me of my grandparents and giving me stories to tell folks every year when they bloom.

Opening the box of bulbs my brother mailed me was surreal.  I never gardened when I lived in Tennessee.  I only know Illinois dirt, grey, clay, almost ash colored.  But this dirt holding together severely compacted clumps of daffodil bulbs was light and fluffy, and more red colored.  It reminded me of milk chocolate.  I was more taken aback by how different, how foreign and beautiful the dirt looked to me than I was the daffodil bulbs.  For some reason it intensified the disconnect I feel from my hometown and from my family.

I planted the now dry daffodil bulbs in three different places in my front garden and as I poured the Memphis dirt on top of the bulbs it looked even more red against the backdrop of my Illinois dirt.  And then I noticed a small worm that had somehow survived the trip from Memphis squirming around in the dry dirt.  I covered the bulbs and lone Memphis worm and watered them. 

I am already looking forward to next spring.  From what I've heard the daffodils may not bloom next year because they were cut down in the middle of their blooming cycle but hopefully they will the year after.  I have faith and I am willing to wait for them as long as it takes.