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With all of the varieties of plant specimens available you are sure to find something for every spot or style that fits your garden. Now finding the right plant can be a challenge. Most nurseries carry a variety of commonly known types and a few unique selections that entice gardeners to try. I find that if you scour the gardening catalogs you will find many unusual plants and ones that fit your needs.

Considering to start your plants and vegetables from seed may seem like a frustrating task or just feels like a big job you can do without. I have felt this way for many years back when I gave seed starting a try. Giving in to not so great results, I started reading and experimenting to see how this could work because I wanted to grow plants unavailable in the nurseries and stock up on plants that would be more costly if purchased.

Deciding to start perennials from seed is a great way to add volume to a garden, but in doing so; perennials can take a few years to mature. I choose to stick with annuals, vegetables and perennials that give the greatest impact sooner. Plants that require several years to start bearing flowers I go ahead and purchase them for some instant gratification.

Something I am always finding myself doing this time of years is deciding on how to go about starting seeds. Should I try something new? Perhaps over complicate something that is just seemingly simple. So this year I will be sticking to my favorite way to cultivate plants and forget about all those elaborate seed starting contraptions.

1-seed Pots | 2- soilless seed starting mix | 3- pearlite | 4- seeds

5- starter fertilizer | 6- plant markers

 

The photo above illustrates all of the supplies I use to start seeds indoors, with the exception of heating mats and grow lamps.

Based on a last frost date of May 15th this is what my seed starting schedule looks like. Everything will be in order for the first seeds to be started. Typically a month is sufficient in my “greenhouse” to raise plants ready for the outdoors. Plants quickly outgrow the little space I have for them and out they go into the cold frame.

Don’t be discouraged that a detailed how-to list is not included in this post. Once seeds are ready for planting there will be a step by step guide in a separate post. If you are planning wonderful things this spring for your garden, get ready, planting soon will begin.

At last a chance to see what has happened in the garden since the first snowfall last winter. It has been such a snowy winter that the garden is just starting to show signs of growth. The same time last year the perennials were nearly a foot tall. I always like to get out into the garden and see how the garden has weathered. Taking a good look I can take note on what needs repair, accessing the winter’s damage to the plantings and a good check to see how much needed cleaning is required. It will be a few weeks before we can really enjoy the warms days of spring. Let’s see what I have found.

 

One of the stone benches with pebbles and debris from the roof during snow removal.

 

Here the stone floor in the shade garden is in need of a good cleaning, of course more debris from the roof.

 

Most of the snow from the roof was put in this particular spot away from the more densely planted sections of the garden. An amazing sight as the snow nearly covered up this cherry tree.

Interesting snow melt formation.

 

When the kitchen garden was converted into a perennial flower garden, an access path was installed. It seems some stone edging will give this path more definition.

 

Alliums in this garden are the first to signal spring has arrived. Each fall I seem to plant a few dozen more alliums and I eagerly await spring for the anticipation of hundreds of drumstick blooms to fill the garden en masse. Bulbs that have been planted a few years back are about ready for dividing. I will mark the clumps that need separating and dig them up in late summer.

 

One of my favorite perennials to emerge in spring is the herbaceous peonies. I don’t know if it’s the color or that peonies are one of my favorite flowers. With each spring the clumps spread wider and grow with more vigor.

 

A stately tree peony.

If you don’t have one in your garden you should, the blooms are gorgeous. These are rather large shrubs that top at five feet high and a mature tree peony will bear up to eighty large blooms. Last spring this peony produced fifteen blooms, in height it only has grown two feet.

 

The sedums are starting to sprout, like miniature brassicas. I noticed that some of the sedums need transplanting last year. The best time to transplant will be in the early part of April.

 

The Lycimachia punctata ‘alexander’ is spreading rather nicely between the hydrangea shrubs. I had planned on transplanting them into another part of the garden to give them more sun, but this year the rabbits chewed down a lot of the shrubs. The hydrangeas will need heavy pruning that will give the lysimachia more sunlight. Along with the chewed lilacs they will have to wait until after bloom to be neatly shaped.

 

It seems every year the winter’s wrath takes it out on some part of the front hedge. The first snow fall was wet and heavy, when this happens it’s a good idea to knock the snow off any shrub to maintain their shape. This winter as we all know was one of the snowiest and with all of the snow from the street being piled high onto the hedge the damage was inevitable. This photo is what happens when a plow does not know what lies beneath the snow.

 

This is another part of the hedge that was flattened from last year when a tree was being removed and fell right onto the shrubs. This part I know will be replanted as soon as the nursery opens up for business. 

 

  Last spring this trellis was built as a privacy screen. It has held up rather well and with last fall’s meticulous clean up, it is ready for planting as soon as the weather warms.

 

Another view of the trellis. Three barrels support a large trellis eighteen feet wide and seven feet tall.

 

An urn, barren after being cleaned of its winter greenery.

Each fall potted perennials are over wintered from various parts of the property in the garden. Here moneywort is planted into the ground and allowed to rest and be protected from the harsh winter temperatures. As planters, urns and pots are ready these are dug up and potted for the summer. Sometimes treated as an annual, moneywort is a beautiful trailing perennial that if allowed to mature will flower. Many of you may know this; moneywort is also a great ground cover.

Soon the garden will truly start to look alive. Don’t be bogged down by imperfection, a garden will tell you how it wants to be. Plants live, they die and yes, rabbits get hungry too.

I don’t have much to say about this recipe, but a basic quiche with gruyere cheese seemed delicious. It has been a while since I have made a quiche. With a busy schedule, planning on what is to be done in the garden I forget how easy and simple a quiche can be.

A quiche served right out of the oven when the crust is still flaky and buttery is divine. The good thing about this type of creation is you really can do a lot with it. I tend to prefer a large quiche as opposed to bite sized ones. They seem to taste and cook up better developing a rich golden color. Today I wanted to test and see how smaller versions look; a more individual portion. The result was still delicious but in order to develop that golden color the quiche would have needed more time in the oven. An over cooked egg gets spongy, so go easy and bake any quiche gently to just set the custard.

 

Quiche au Fromage Recipe

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon sea salt

8 Tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled & cubed

5 Tablespoons ice water

8 eggs

1/3 cup heavy cream

1 cup gruyere cheese, grated

1 teaspoon sea salt

A few grates of nutmeg

To prepare the crust, place the flour and salt in the food processor and run for a moment to combine. Add the butter and process until a course meal forms. While the machine is still running, pour the ice water in. It will for a quick dough and that’s it. Remove the dough and form it into a flattened disk.

Roll out the dough on a floured surface until it’s about an eighth of an inch thick and line your pan. I use an eight inch pan for a large quiche. Chill the crust in the refrigerator while you prepare the custard.

Whisk the eggs and the cream together then stir in the remaining ingredient reserving a quarter of a cup for the top. Pour the custard into the pan and sprinkle the cheese on top. Bake at 350ºF for about 45 minutes or until the custard has puffed and turned golden.

 Asparagus & Potato Salad Recipe

2 bundles asparagus

2 pounds petit red potatoes, halved

Fresh chervil leaves

Fresh chives, thinly sliced

2 Tablespoon white wine vinegar

2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon sea salt

6 Tablespoons walnut oil

¼ teaspoon black pepper

Prepare potatoes, by gently boiling them in lightly salted water, drain and set aside. For the asparagus I peeled the stalks into ribbons by using a vegetable peeler. Peel halfway through the stalk and again from the other side. The tips were trimmed for use in the salad. Keep the tips and ribbons separate. Blanching the asparagus quickly in heavily salted water brings out their vibrant green color. I cooked the asparagus tips for a minute or two and the ribbons took just a few second in the hot tub. Quickly place all of the asparagus in ice water to stop the cooking. Once cold, drain the asparagus and place on paper towels.

To complete the salad whisk the vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper until creamy. Slowly drizzle in the oil while whisking and your set. For the final moment, plate the asparagus and potatoes and garnish with as much chervil leaves and chives as you like, and then drizzle on the vinaigrette.

Yes you read the title correctly. It’s about time to starting planning the gardens, but today I am discussing the importance of getting the vegetable garden planned out. Not only will hard work pay off, but the process of planting and maintaining a potager more enjoyable.

I like getting an early start, purchasing seeds and deciding what will be cultivated each year. Making selections early will guarantee the varieties you wish to grow are available. Already the piles of seed catalogs clutter the desk, eager to be flipped through. Doesn’t your mouth just water when you starting glancing through those catalogs?

 

Each year I map out where all of the vegetables will grow. I rely on previous years of drawings and notes to rotate crops and adjust; trying vegetables better suited for the garden.  A few years back I had a small kitchen garden off the side of my home, which was a real joy to have, but the voluminous amount of fresh vegetables I wanted to grow just didn’t happen. The problem was insufficient sunlight. So I looked into finding a proper location. I found a community garden site near my home and with much excitement dug in.

Here was my kitchen garden in the spring of 2007 outside my home. Spring cleaning was underway just in time for the pebble-stone path to be put in. Today this garden is pure flowers, better suited for this site.

Vegetable gardens require two major factors for optimal productivity, adequate sunlight; around eight hours and the other water. Soil does contribute to a gardens success, as long as it is friable and naturally fertile. Adding sufficient nutrients get things off to a good start. I rely on organic fertilizers for the best quality vegetables. A well-tended garden with regular applications of compost requires little additional fertilizer.

 

Let me just talk about how sunlight really makes a difference. Growing cutting greens at home I was able to cook up about five or six meals for two in one growing season, and in my community garden spot that gets sunlight all day, I was able to feed ten people each week for the entire season. That was huge in comparison to what I was accustomed too, but you are never short on friends and neighbors who are willing to take vegetables off your hands.

With all seed orders sent, I will be getting ready to clean up the garden and start seeds indoors. Remember, maintaining a garden whether for flowers or vegetables is a joyous thing and certainly worth all your efforts.

Take advantage of the citrus season. The many citrus varieties are perfectly enjoyable on their own, but also fun to combine them with greens for some lighter fare. I typically don’t find myself combining much citrus with anything outside the realm of baking, but today I had a craving for a bright citrusy salad.

Orange & Endive Salad:

3 heads of endive

6 small oranges, such as mandarins

½ cup feta cheese

2 Tablespoons parsley, chopped

6 Tablespoons mandarin orange juice

1 Tablespoon white balsamic vinegar

1 Tablespoon shallots, minced

1 ½ teaspoons granular sugar

3 Tablespoons grape seed oil

 To prepare this salad I suggest preparing the dressing first and then the salad. Endive tends to discolor once it has been cut open. You can submerge the prepared endive in water with a little lemon juice or prepare it last.

 Whisk together the orange juice, balsamic vinegar, shallots and sugar. Set aside. Simply remove the rind of the mandarins and slice; remove any seeds. Prepare the endive by first cutting of the ends and separating the leaves. I like to cut the leaves in half and that’s it.

 Arrange the endive and orange slices on a platter and sprinkle over with feta cheese and parsley. Now we can finish the dressing by whisking the acids (orange juice and vinegar) into the oil. I find that emulsifying a vinaigrette this way create a smooth and creamy consistency, or combine the dressing a food processor , adding the oil in a steady stream with the blade running.

If you’ve liked this recipe try this variation, use red endive instead of the regular variety, using chervil instead of parsley and swapping out the feta for goat cheese. Does a serving of salad deprive you of a more substantial meal; why not serve this alongside a piece of grilled fish or chicken.

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