This is the first year that I’ve been successful planning and growing a variety of winter vegetables. Timing is so critical—since I seeded or set out starts during the summer, we’ve been enjoying a variety of greens and root crops for the past couple of months. This is my harvest this morning.

vegetable harvest this morning

Although the parsnips, rutabagas (or swedes) and Jerusalem artichokes were all dug a month or two ago, we enjoyed the last of the parsnips just yesterday (simply roasted) and I’m still considering what to do with the swedes. Maybe this UK site?

I’m still not convinced that I want to be eating Jerusalem artichokes. Well-roasted so that they are nice and crunchy is my favorite so far; the “potato” salad was a dismal failure. As one of my gardening books describes it, they cause serious flatulence, and that is no joke. (BTW – these plants are a perennial sunflower native to North America.)

What a great mushroom kit! Love the packaging and the whole concept. Check them out here.

great kit for mushrooms

With such an abundance of green gage plums and blackberries, it was wine time! The blackberry cordial is always fantastic and makes a good gift. It is a recipe that I’ve used for years from Billy Joe Tatum’s book “Wild Foods Field Guide and Cookbook” and it can’t get any easier.

homemade wines

And then there was the failed attempt to make marbled soap! I added green tea powder and was hoping to get a pretty marbled soap with a faint green swirl as demonstrated on YouTube. Maybe the lye fermented the green tea? Apart from the disappointing nasty brown (think tea stains), my swirls only happened on the top with most of the color settling to the bottom like a brick.

marbled soap

Also, the old Singer came out of the closet, got brushed off and was put to work. Needing something to just remind me how things work again, I took a great little class and made this bag. Love it!

zippered bag


Seed Starting

I think I have finally figured out how to do a good job of seed starting in the house. Even though we have a garden window in our kitchen, I would always end up with leggy starts. I realized that I could easily add supplemental light using small under the counter fluorescents that I happened to have already for a past seed starting setup.

These lights were very inexpensive and they have natural full spectrum or grow light tubes in them. We had attached chain from the screw holes by mounting a screw and wrapping copper wire around it so that the chain can slip onto it. This makes it easy to raise the lights as the plants grow and keep the lights a few inches away from them.

This is what I’ve started: Baby Nantes Carrots, Cylindra Beets, Georgia Southern Collards, White Lisbon Bunching Onion, and a Beet mix from Renee’s Garden. For good information on seed starting and other gardening topics, check out the blog Garden to Table.

Weekend in the Garden

What a great weekend we had for time in the garden. My first task was to put up another chicken fence. The girls have had the run of that area and I know from experience that they will eat just about anything they can. We use a combination of cattle panels from our local farm supply and inexpensive bird netting. Then, I topped it off with some bird “scare” tape.

These type of panels are relatively inexpensive, are easy to cut into shorter sections, or even bend for some great effects. This is my new rounded gate.

As usual, I’m later than most at getting in my peas, but I prepared my bed and planted a variety new to me called Sugar Sprint. I also starting digging out one of my raised beds for the potatoes. It’s a good idea to rotate beds for potatoes to avoid the various issues that potatoes are known to have. Every gardener has their own tried and true methods for growing potatoes–the raised beds have been working for me. I dig them out deeply, at least a foot deep.

I’ve been planting only German Butterball potatoes for the last few years and my yields have varied. Basically, when I pay more attention to them by hilling them up properly and watering sufficiently, I get better yields. Potato salad, roasted potatoes, scalloped potatoes–you name it–this variety has been good every way I’ve prepared it. This spring, I’m also planting the classic, Yukon Gold. My chitted potatoes will probably go in the ground in a week or two. There’s a common belief in the gardening world that planting potatoes around St. Paddy’s Day, or even earlier, is a good time no matter where you live.