June 23, 2014
Looking for a great garden podcast that’s free, informative, and fun? Sign up for A Dry Rain with Marty Wingate, Willi Galloway, Greg Rabourn, and Steve Scher. If you were a die-hard fan of the now cancelled KUOW weekly gardening show, you can enjoy the ideas, answers, guests, and inspiration from this same team. And, now you can get it anywhere, anytime online for free. You don’t have to wait for mid-morning once a week, and you don’t have to listen to it on a local radio station!
For Episode #24 of A Dry Rain garden podcast, Marty visited with me in my garden to talk plants, songbirds, and in particular 5 simple steps to garden health. And, yes, I sang the praises of some plants we call tend to call “weeds” . No surprise there, right? Have a listen!
June 19, 2014
We’re smack-dab in the middle of Pollinator Week, and right on cue our super sexy, terribly pungent Dracunculus flowers have opened.
The nearby greenhouse and entire driveway smell like something died. Nothing did die, but that stink of death is what attracts the right pollinators to this big, beautiful blossom. Go ahead. It’s safe. Get up close & personal with the stinker! But, be glad there’s no scratch ‘n sniff to go along with this video. Seriously, can you guess what actually does the pollination of a plant commonly called a Corpse or Voodoo Lily? Before you watch, let’s just say I had to really stifle my gag reflex while the hungry pollinators swarmed my head while I had my camera (and face) up close and personal with this nose-high, terribly odoriferous (if sexy-beautiful) bloom.
Consider this video my gift to all of you for Pollinator Week 2014! -Robin
June 17, 2014
As the first day of summer approaches, cool season crops like lettuce, baby carrots, and broccoli ripen for harvest, but are you missing out on eating all their parts because, maybe, you need a broccoli leaves recipe and harvesting help?
Yep, broccoli leaves are as edible as the leaves of their nutrient-packed cousin kale!
When the central head of a broccoli crown is still tightly in bud and tucked several inches below the tops of the highest leaves, it’s time to take your first harvest. If you wait longer and the crown flowers begin to open, your harvest may be tougher and less flavorful, so don’t keep waiting to see what else might happen.
How to Harvest the Central Crown:
Using a sharp knife, slice out that central flower head (or crown), and leave the rest of the plant in place. Smaller broccoli florets will likely form along the intact stalk, arising from buds at the base of the remaining leaves. In fact, you may see some of them already starting to form when you cut out the big, central crown.
How to Harvest axillary (side) florets:
The side florets on broccoli can form rapidly, so check your plants frequently, and trim out the side florets when they are no more than about 4-5″ long. These aren’t likely to get big like the central crown, so the idea is to harvest many of them while they are small.
Like the central crown, the axillary florets will get tough and unpalatable if you let them grow long and open their flowers.
How to Harvest broccoli leaves:
When you harvest your big, central broccoli crown, you’ll probably end up cutting out a few leaves as well. Don’t toss them into the compost pile. Instead, remove the mid-rib and add them to your broccoli dish. Once the central crown is removed from the plant, you can begin trimming out a few leaves from the plant on a regular basis. As you would with Kale, remove the lower leaves on the plant first, and only take a few from each plant at a time — especially if you are encouraging the plant to grow more axillary florets. They’ll need those leaves to photosynthesize, which is how they feed themselves.
Once you have harvested all the side florets from your broccoli plant (at a certain point the plant will either run out of side buds for production or just wear out from having everything taken from it), go ahead and trim out the rest of the leaves as well as the central stalk, much of which is truly delicious as well — just chop off the toughest portions and peel off the exterior layer to reveal the crunchy sweetness of the central stem.
The roots, leaf midribs, and the toughest portions of the stalk are food for your compost heap.
Want more info on growing broccoli? Read on!
How to Use broccoli leaves in the kitchen (recipe!): (more…)
June 13, 2014
When lime prices shot through the roof earlier this year, I decided to experiment with making one of my favorite summer cocktail recipes with ingredients other than limes, fresh from the garden. It wasn’t hard to come up with a really delicious drink that required no lime fruits at all.
My friend Helen Yoest, acclaimed author of Plants with Benefits, caught a photo I posted of me enjoying my newest concoction on the patio, in the sun on a pre-summer day, which prompted her to feature me ‘n my tasty cocktail recipe on her Gardening with Confidence blog.
Add Helen’s great books to your own gardening library!
Get the story behind the recipe. Learn about the plants that yield the ingredients for the drink. And, get the recipe for your very own happy hour on Helen’s blog.
Thanks for sharing my cocktail recipe Helen! -Robin
June 09, 2014
Need the best Kid garden party ideas? Need some pruning done too? Want to wear out your Border Collie and entertain your adult friends at the same time? Well, look no further than these simple ideas for a party all the young bucks will be braying about for the entire summer.
First the games! Put your Border Collie in charge of the entertainment by using her natural instincts to corral all the kids into a corner of the garden that needs some pruning.
Let’m butt heads, kick up their heels, and have fun along the way ’cause when they arrive at (let’s say) a fence over-run with Akebia, it’s snack-time!
While the kids are chomping away on delicious vines you need cut back, run inside and pour yourself a cocktail. Don’t worry, that Border Collie will keep an eye on things while you’re away. If the dog starts barking, don’t worry too much. It just means she’s telling those kids to stick to the pruning (game) at hand, to leave the strawberries, raspberries, and limes alone. Heck, if she nips a heel, those tough little kids will butt her right back. It’s all fun and games at this Kid’s party!
Once you’re back, ask the dog which kid did the best pruning job (or just decide which one you can’t tear away from the well-munched vines), and award that cute little Doe with a prickly laurel of raspberry leaves.
And, after an afternoon of crazy kid fun in the garden, enjoy a rare, quiet moment cuddling with an exhausted buck. But watch out, ’cause the minute he wakes up, he’ll be dancing on the tabletops and kicking over cocktails as one would expect from a young bacchanilian.
June 03, 2014
It’s easy to grow cilantro from seed. And getting fresh leaves isn’t the only reason to grow cilantro. This tasty herb offers up a number of surprising flavors for the kitchen and benefits in the garden. Not only will you get to enjoy the tangy fresh leaves shortly after seeding, but this plant also matures to yield coriander seed later in its life cycle. So, even if you’re someone who finds the flavor of cilantro to be soapy and distasteful, consider growing this crop for delicious coriander, which tastes entirely different from the fresh leaves. While it is possible to purchase cilantro starts at the nursery, we find it is best to grow cilantro from seed because it matures rapidly and doesn’t perform well if transplanted. So grab a packet of seeds, fill a pot with soil, or just get your veggie beds prepped, and start seeding today!
Unlike many other edible plants, cilantro grows very well even when individual plants are grown closely together. And, cilantro will germinate and grow in relatively cool (not frigid or frozen) temperatures, so it is often possible to get an early crop growing under a bit of protection in late winter or very early spring. Although crops sown in the heat of summer have the potential to bolt rapidly, those bolting (aka flowering) plants will come in handy in the garden and kitchen as well. When it comes to cilantro, sowing multiple succession crops (aka plant a new round of seeds every few weeks) means having fresh leaves to harvest harvest well into the end of the growing season.
Once your cilantro plants begin to form a purplish-thick mid-stem for flowering, the flavor of the entire plant will begin to be more like the taste of coriander than cilantro. It’s still edible and tastes great in curries, but it may not be quite the right flavor for dishes like salsa. Hopefully, as one crop begins to transform into the coriander phase, you have another, more recently seeded crop of cilantro growing on strong as well. Seed this crop over and over for both flavors fresh from the garden throughout the growing season.
It is possible to save seeds from your cilantro plants to grow in the years ahead, but to get a good crop of cilantro from your saved seed, you may need to isolate your seed plant from pollinators. If a pollinator visits a cousin of the cilantro (like dill, parsley or carrots) and mixes the pollen from those plants with the flowers of your cilantro, you may end up with seed that looks like coriander and tastes like coriander but will produce a plant that tastes nothing like cilantro. Sure, you might end up with a new cool plant, but you might end up growing something that isn’t what you want at all. That’s sexual reproduction for you!