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Tag: winter garden

  • Grow Fresh Greens Fast in February

    February 06, 2012
    Radish China Rose Sprouts

    Radish China Rose Sprouts: Day 6

    If you’re desperate to munch on homegrown greens in winter, sprouts may be the answer. Even in the dead of winter, it is easy to get a nutrient-rich, tasty crop of sprouts ready to eat within a week. Here’s how:

    1. Purchase seeds sold specifically for sprouts. Although other seeds will work, on occasion the wrong seed has the potential to get you sick – E. Coli and other nasty stuff. Most seed catalogers and nurseries will have what you need. (Some will recommend pre-treating seeds with a bleach solution as well.)
    2. Prepare a container for sprouting seeds. Either purchase a sprouts kit or try using a recycled mason jar with a punctured lid for allowing airflow.
    3. Find some window space for your container — even just a few hours of morning light should do the trick. (I use the window over my kitchen sink. This makes rinsing the seeds easy.)
    4. Sprinkle seeds in your sprouting container. Rinse with water, drain. Place in window.
    5. Rinse seeds with room temperatures water, drain and return to the window once or twice a day for about 5-7 days. Do not allow the sprouting seeds or sprouts to dry out.
    6. Harvest & eat!
    Sprouts on toast with egg

    A Simple breakfast: poached egg on English muffin loaded with spicy radish sprouts

    Besides nutrient packed fresh greens to eat, another great thing about sprouts: Getting a visual education in the seed germination process.

    Depending on the seed you grow, the sunlight and warmth in your location and other factors, your timeline may be a little different. But, assuming you have viable seeds and you don’t let them dry out as they grow, this is basically what will happen in time:

    Day one: Hard little seeds get wet & begin to slowly swell.
    Day two: Hard seed casings continue to swell and soften.
    Day three: Seed casing split and begin to fall away as roots emerge.
    Day four: Roots form tiny water-capturing hairs and begin to move downward. Tiny leaves emerge in tones of pale yellow and begin to move upward.
    Day five: Roots and leaves continue to stretch out. Leaves darken with food forming chlorophyll as they mature.
    Day six: Mix of seeds in all stages continue to grow. Harvesting may begin.
    Day seven: If you haven’t eaten everything already, consider moving the sprouts into the fridge to slow down growth and reduce any rot that may become the next step in a sunny window. If your sprouts ever begin to smell or look “off”, toss them in the compost.

    (Thanks to Botanical Interests for sending us a packet of their organic Radish China Rose sprout seeds to try for free! Although we got the seeds for free, we have received no compensation for this article.)

  • Waking Up in the New Year Garden

    January 03, 2012
    Witch Hazel on 2012 New Year Day

    Hamamelis awakening with me in the 2012 January Garden

    I’m ready to grow again. And thank goodness for that!

    2011 will not be remembered as one of my favorite years, and I’m glad to have recycled that calender and moved on to a new one.

    As I look back at the last year, I’m glad for many things.  I had the great fortune to work with the Growing a Greener World TV team writing, researching and brainstorming a number of season two episodes. I took an amazing road trip in late summer with friends to the first annual Heirloom Expo in Petaluma, California. I cheered on my amazing clients as they grew in their gardens. I planted seeds and watched them grow — some little things truly were great.

    But, too many of my loved ones struggled with serious injury and illness. Neighbors I count as family moved away. The summer weather could barely be counted as summery. And, as the year progressed, I began to distance myself from my own garden in anticipation of leaving it for new ground. And, as we raced toward this change, my own health took a downturn in early winter, probably due to overwhelming stress I found myself unable to properly manage. My sister pointed out how it seemed my body — or perhaps the universe — was signaling “stop & stay put”. We did stop, and for now we are staying. And my garden is where I will find peace and balance in the coming year.

    Sarcococca Bloom

    Sarcococca Blooming on New Year Day

    But here I am today — healthy again — and I’m vitalized by the exciting garden year ahead. I’m diving into a bevy of new articles for Fiskars, scheduling exuberant clients, organizing my 2012 Northwest Flower & Garden Show presentation, and making new garden plans for myself in the year ahead.

    My garden planning for 2012 began last night as a dream in which my fractured relationship with my own garden was mended. In the dream, I thrust my bare, clinched fists deep into the cold, moist soil, reuniting me with the heart of my garden. My hands opened underground, and my fingers spread and grew like the pancake root-ball of a tree with carrot-like tap root fingertips, connecting me to the soil and back into my garden where I felt I again belonged.

    In my haste to move and later overwhelmed by illness, I had strayed from my garden — abandoning my truest self — in the waning months of 2011. Now it’s time for me to awaken, dig in and be one with my beloved garden again — even if changes may come later. If the early bloomers and persistent weeds are hinting at anything, it’s that the garden and the seasons and time itself won’t pause forever.

  • Garden Design from the Inside Out

    November 30, 2011
    Front Window View

    Fall Color, Summer Privacy, Evergreen Ferns & a Freeze-Proof Pot for Winter Enjoyment

    Unfortunately, I’ve been stuck inside sick lately, so garden design is about all I can do. Viewing the garden from the inside out is a good design reminder. Yes, a garden should be fragrant and beautiful and experiential when you’re in it. But, it designed right, it should be equally delightful to someone trapped in bed in need of some earthly healing. Fortunately, for me, I’ve got rooms with garden views that — even in on a bare, wet, wintery day — brighten my outlook no matter how crappy I feel.

    Need tips to get a better outlook on your garden? Consider these simple ideas:

    • Attract Wildlife: Build good soil that worms and beetles love, and you’ll have birds scratching away for them. Add in a water feature, birdbath or dish stone, and they’ll come to bathe and drink. Provide berry-filled bushes like Cotoneaster, and once those berries ferment, the robins will provide hours of goofy, drunken entertainment. Plant fall and winter bloomers like Arbutus unedo and Witchhazel, and you may see hummingbirds year-round.
    • Don’t Block Your Views: Remember to think about how big a plant will get as it grows. Don’t plant a big shrub right by your picture window, or soon enough you won’t be able to see your picture view. Instead, build your privacy by planting bigger things further from the house.

      Picture Window View

      Deciduous Tree Provides Summer Privacy & Winter Light to Bistro Garden Patio

    • Balance Privacy and Light: While you may want a big, full, leafy garden in spring and summer to provide privacy at times when you’re in the garden all the time, remember that you may want some spaces open in winter to allow in light. Keep this in mind when mixing evergreens and deciduous plants in the garden. A well-placed evergreen will give you winter interest but not block views or precious winter sun. A poorly placed one may leave you in the dark all winter long.
    • Art & Structure: A well placed, freeze proof container, a beautiful stone or even some all-season furniture can give the garden substance and an inviting sense of place even on a frigid winter day, viewed from the warm comfort of your favorite reading chair. In summer, when perennials are tall and the garden is full, these artistic elements may disappear from view, hidden by glorious foliage and flowers. But, that’s okay. Forgetting them during summer will only add to your appreciation of them after the leaves have fallen, the perennials go dormant and the snow sprinkles them with crystalline highlights.

    Every home and garden has its own set of special challenges. There may be other things you can do to make sure your garden is as equally beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside. Don’t hesitate to get in touch to schedule a Garden Mentors session or buy a holiday gift for someone else to figure out how to make your garden as appealing as possible — from every viewpoint, every day of the year!

  • Harvesting Summer Crops in Freezing Temperatures

    November 18, 2011
    Tomato & Cucumber in November

    Tomatoes & Cucumbers harvest on Chilly November Morning -- Fleece Gloves Required!

    Forecasters warned us to prepare for snow last night. Harvesting last crops is part of my prep for snow. I expected to get a few greens, a head of cabbage, and maybe some lingering root crops. But, tomatoes and cucumbers definitely weren’t on my November harvest radar last night.

    So, this morning when I walked into our unheated greenhouse to see how my decorative succulents had fared the frigid, snow-less night, I was shocked to see these last summer crops waiting for me. Grown from seed much earlier this year, my Saucy Paste tomatoes and Marketmore cukes gave me these late garden jewels, which Kula apparently thinks should be dog treats or toys.

    She’s not going to get them. They’re going in tonight’s salad!

    What’s still growing in your veggie garden this late November?

  • Do Bees Get Cabin Fever?

    January 14, 2011
    Bring out your dead: Honeybees enjoying a warmish, dryish moment in winter

    Bring out your dead: Honeybees enjoying a warmish, dryish moment in winter

    Winter is a rough season for the honeybees. On cold days, they stay in the hive. On really wet days, they stay in the hive. When there is a break in the rain and the temperatures aren’t frigid, they use those brief winter interludes to buzz out of the hive — often carrying their dead buddies to deposit in a pile at the base of the hive door. In Seattle, it doesn’t seem like there are many of those ideal winter days when the bees can escape the hive for long.

    When they do get out and about, they seem to do very little foraging. Heck, not only is there hardly anything to forage, but they rarely get a chance to get outside to do any gathering. (Though I did see a few visiting my winter bloomers yesterday.)  Mostly, they use these days to stretch their wings, make a pit-stop in the garden, and bury — for lack of a nicer way of putting it — their deceased family members.

    Talk about depressing. I can’t imagine spending the winter months huddled together inside a crowded hive trying to stay warm while I watch my siblings drop dead from the cold — or from hunger. I get cabin fever when I’m snowed in for a day or two. The winter life of bees sounds like it would drive me mad.

    So far, the bees in my garden have weathered the winter-gone-by. Both hives in my garden show signs of life on warmer days, and as I mentioned earlier, a few bees are finding their ways to my winter bloomers. Alas, spring is several months away, and the piles of dead bees deposited just outside the hives continues to mount.

    Want to learn more about urban bee keeping? Make sure to attend the Northwest Flower & Garden Show on Sunday, February 27th when Corky Luster of Ballard Bee Company & I will be discussing urban beekeeping — with insights, rules, tips and tricks from the perspective of an apiarist and a horticulturist. Details and ticket information here.

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