Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Dogs in Compost, Again!

I don't get it! My dogs love to get into the compost pile. I don't usually put anything in my compost that they would eat. Apparently, putrid smells make the veggies and coffee grounds much more appetizing. I blocked the dogs from jumping in the pile by stapling construction netting over a coldframe lid, placing the netting lid over the piles, and placing an iron chair on top of the lid to keep the dogs from being able to get enough leverage to break through the netting. Well, they managed push the lid to the side and crawl down into the bins. They must have put forth a lot of effort. I supposed that I will have to attach the frame to the fence as soon as the weather warms up a bit.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

2010 Resolution #3: Seed Saving

My third resolution from 2010 was "I will save heirloom seeds from my annuals, perennials, vegetables, fruits, and herbs.  I will use these seeds next year and I will trade them with other gardeners so that I can get new varieties."

I saved seeds from my tomato plants. I saved enough that I was able to send 100+ packets of seeds to a seed exchange. This year, I will save other seeds, too.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Comfort Food: Vegetable Beef Soup

One of my favorite winter treats is a good, thick vegetable beef soup. My recipe varies depending on what ingredients I have, but this is generally how I make it:

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, diced
4-6 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups of carrots, diced
2 cups of celery, diced
about 1 tablespoon total of herbs (I used 2 bay leaves, 1t oregano, 1t thyme, and 1 t rosemary this time. Sometimes I use herb blends like Penzy's Mural of Flavor or Tuscan Sunset.)
2-3 cups of tomatoes, diced
1-1 1/2 lbs of chuck roast, cut into small pieces, fat cut off and discarded
beef neck bone pieces
2 cups of corn
2 cups of green beans
1 cup of red wine (whatever I have leftover, usually a Cabernet)
3 cups of beef stock (add more if you like a brothier soup)
salt and pepper to taste

First, I saute the onions over medium-low heat for about 20 minutes until they start to turn a little golden. Then I add the garlic and continue to saute them until the onions and garlic are a little more golden, about 8 minutes. Then I stir in the celery, carrots, and herbs and gently saute them for about 5 minutes. Then I add the remaining ingredients. I turn the heat up to medium high until the soup begins to boil.  Then I turn down the heat to medium low again and simmer the soup for a couple of hours.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

2010 Resolution #2: Weeding

My second resolution from last year was "I will weed for 10 minutes a day so that I don't have to spend hours removing the jungle of weeds that develop around mid-August because I though it was too hot to weed in July."
When I was on top of my weeding

The vegetable garden of shame

I had mixed results on this resolution. I bought a Japanese garden hoe which was supersharp to make weeding easier.  I love it because it makes weeding so much faster.  However, you actually have to use it in order to keep the weeds at bay. I was really good in the spring at weeding. In July, when it got hot and I had to work all month, it was all over. The weeds took over by August and it was ugly. I couldn't face the jungle, so I hired my neighbor's granddaughter to weed for me.  She's good, fast, and knows what she's doing. She was totally worth it! 

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

2010 Resolution #1: The Plant Graveyard

Last year, I made a list of gardening resolutions. In the spirit of transparency, I'll post how I did on each of these resolutions over the next month. My first resolution stated, "I will no longer grow plants from seeds only to see them languish, unplanted, on the side of my house in what has become known as the plant graveyard." I only lost one flat of plants, and they were extras.  I'm doing much better by that account.  However, I did let six delphinium dry out and die while waiting to be planted, so maybe that's one area in which I need to improve in the coming year. The photo above was taken a couple of days ago before I cleaned out the plant graveyard.

Monday, January 3, 2011

A Little Garden Porn in the Afternoon

The seed catalogs are starting to come!!! My sister and I refer to these catalogs as garden porn because we spend hours pouring over all the pictures and descriptions. Since I teach, I am off on vacation for a couple of weeks. I am wasting way too much time going through all these catalogs.

I've already ordered some seeds from Territorial Seeds and Jung's. Of course I ordered them without looking to see what was left over from last year. I relied on my memory.  I'm sure that I will be surprised when I go through my seed box. I was just so excited that I couldn't wait to order seeds. Now the trick will be to hold off on planting the seeds until an appropriate time.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Gardening Outside in January!

I took advantage of the balmy 40 degree weather to finish up some gardening that I didn't get around in the fall. I had 80 daffodil bulbs to plant. I have the terrible habit of waiting until December to plant bulbs. There's nothing like celebrating Christmas a week or so early by trying to dig holes during an ice storm and hoping that the ground doesn't get too hard to dig. Unfortunately, this year I was not able to participate in this annual celebration because we got an early snowstorm. I also know that trying to force the bulbs in pots in the spring doesn't work well for me because of the *#@!*&%*&#^ squirrels that like to dig into and destroy anything that I set on my front porch. I got lucky with this thaw that we have had for the last couple of days. I was able to plant the bulbs in my front and back yards. I also emptied all the pots in my plant grave yard, picked up litter out of my yard and alley, and disposed of previously frozen dog bombs. Finally, I collected some dirt in tubs so that I can mix it with coffee grounds, peat, and coir to make the soil mix for my seedlings this spring when I pot them up.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

January's Garden To Do List

This month is about catching up on garden tasks that I put off and preparing for the new garden year.  I have already ordered my seeds from Jung's and Territorial Seed Company.  I also have some tomato seeds that I saved from my favorite varieties from last summer. I have a lot of extra seeds that I saved and packaged. I will mail them to Trudi at www.wintersown.org. She will redistribute them to gardeners for free.

In addition to ordering seeds, I need to plant two sacks of daffodil bulbs that are sitting on my clothes dryer.  I intended to plant them last month but we got an early snow. Nothing says "happy holidays" like standing out in the middle of the first ice storm of the year trying to plant daffodil bulbs before the ground becomes too frozen to dig. The weather forecast for this week suggests that we will have a couple of days with above freezing temperatures.  Maybe I can use this opportunity to plant the bulbs in my garden.  If not, I can always pot them up, put them in the garage, and force them in April.

Some clean up tasks are also on my agenda.  Since we had an early snow this year, I didn't get a chance to finish cleaning up my yard.  I need to tidy up the garden a bit and I definitely need to mulch the north side of my house.  On the north side, I don't get much sun, so very little grows there.  I have dogs and they like to run through this area, which I call the dog corridor, to get to the front part of the house.  They like to bark at people and other animals that like to walk on 'their' sidewalk.  Unfortunately, since there is no ground cover to speak of on the north side of the house, it becomes a muddy mess whenever there is a thaw.  I usually place large chunks of pinebark mulch to cover the ground on this side of the house.  The mulch keeps my dogs from loading up their fur with mud and tracking it into the house.  The mulch is thin, so I need to add a half dozen or so bags to cover the thin and bare spots.  Today looks like it might be a good day to get all of this done.
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