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Saturday, June 25, 2016

Garden to Table Recipe: Tangy New Potatoes with Fresh Garden Herbs

Parsley, Dill & New Potatoes
Have you ever had new potatoes straight from your garden?  If not, you are missing out!  They are sweet tasting and flavorful. (Especially compared to the grocery store potatoes!)  Here is a simple recipe that makes the most of their flavor, and uses herbs that are in season this time of year.  (It is also great for summer potlucks!):


                                              You will need:

1lb new potatoes (or fingerling potatoes from the
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
3-4 tablespoons of chive vinegar - to taste (chive flowers + white wine vinegar - see recipe below)
1-2 teaspoons salt - to taste


1 day (or more) ahead of time make the chive vinegar:  
  • Boil a glass jar or other glass container for about 10 minutes to sterilize it and to warm the glass. This is important to avoid having the glass break in the following steps.
  • Cut a handful of chive flowers from the plant and stuff as many as you can into a jar or other glass container.
  • Bring enough white wine vinegar to fill your jar to a boil over medium heat.  
  • Pour the boiling vinegar over the chives in the jar.
  • Cover the jar and allow to sit overnight at room temperature.  Refrigerate to store for 2-3 months.
Cut the new potatoes so that they are all roughly the same size - about 1" diameter.  You may be able to leave some of them whole.

Place the potatoes in a pot and cover with cold water.  Bring the potatoes and water to a boil over medium heat for about 10 minutes, or until the potatoes are easily pierced with a fork.

Drain the potatoes and allow to cool.

Toss the potatoes gently with the dill, parsley, vinegar and salt.

Serve and enjoy at room temperature.

What the ingredients look like growing in the garden:




And the star of the dish: the potato! :)

Saturday, June 11, 2016

A Pot for a Shady Spot

My entry way was lacking a certain something this spring.  So I decided to jazz it up by putting a planter there.

The trouble was, I couldn't find a pot that was tall, inexpensive, light weight and in a color that matched the house.  While shopping, and looking at the displays of pots, I noticed that the stores often display the pots by stacking one on top of the other.  This gave me the idea to do the same on my porch.  Instead of using one pot, I used two, stacking one on top of the other to give me the height I desired.

Instead of buying a heavy ceramic planter, I purchased a plastic one. This was much cheaper, should stand up to cold weather better, and is much easier to lift.  Plastic also comes in a greater variety of colors than ceramic.  So, I was able to find one with shades that match my front door at a local big box store.  The pot shown has a diameter of about 2 feet (0.6 of a meter).

The pots did not come with drainage holes. So I perforated the bottom of the pot by hammering an ice pick through the bottom of the pot in about 12 different places.  (Do not try this with a ceramic or terra cotta pot, it will crack.)

For potting mix, I combined 1/3 sphagnum peat, 1/3 topsoil, 1/3 perlite and about 1/3 cup organic tomato fertilizer.  Alternately, a good pre-bagged mix made especially for potted plants could be used.   Do NOT use plain top soil. It will pack down, will not allow enough drainage for the plants, and will shorten the life of the plant substantially.

The garden shows always tell you to fill a pot with a plants for "thrilling, filling, and spilling." In other words, an eye-catching plant that sticks upward, plants that fill in the space between, and plants that spill over the side of the pot.

Because this pot is in full shade I planted it with hearty shade-loving plants, in accordance with the advice above, as follows:

  • "Thrilling": Hosta - I divided some hostas in my garden bed this spring, so I used one in the pot. I am not certain what kind of hosta it is because they were planted by the previous owner of my home.  I suspect that it might be 'Patriot.'  The hosta is the largest and most upright plant in the pot.  Later in the year, it should send up spikes of white flowers and become even taller.
  • "Filling":  Japanese Forest Grass - This was also from a division of a plant already in my garden.  The forest grass adds a nice bright yellow color to lighten the shade, and helps to fill space in the pot.
  • "Filling":  Begoinas - I got 4 red-leaved, pink-flowered begonias for $2 at the local big box store.  I only used 2 in this pot and put the others elsewhere in my garden. The leaves echo the color of the pot and help to fill the space.
  • "Spilling" - Lobelia - I started these from seed, under grow lights, indoors, in the early spring.  These make small vines that will eventually spill over the side of the pot. The flowers are an electric blue that contrasts well with the red. The foliage has a purplish/red tinge to it (difficult to see in these photos) that goes well with the begonias. It is also green enough to go with the hosta.  Thus the leaves of the lobelia form a kind-of color bridge between the hosta and the begonias.
All of the plants chosen grow well in shade.

Do you have any extra plants laying around?  Extra seeds?    Too many of a perennial that needs division?  Consider potting them up!  A pot like this could just as easily be filled with sun loving plants, and then placed in a sunny location.

Pots can be used to decorate entryways, hide unsightly objects in the yard and fill blank spaces in the garden beds.  Be creative!  The possibilities are legion!

Happy gardening! :) 

Monday, June 6, 2016

Vegetable Garden 2016 - Layout & Varieties Used

It's June in Michigan.  Things are finally starting to really grow. Including my vegetable garden, which is now completely planted.

Vegetable garden early June 2016 - view from the East looking towards the West

I have a relatively small garden in a relatively small (typical) lake lot (long and narrow).  My vegetable garden is approximately 18' x 20' in size and is located in the sunniest portion of my back yard (the North side of the house, facing the lake.)   Because the plot is small, I do not plant in traditional rows.  Instead I divided the area into 4 sections that I can access by narrow paths. I planted each of these areas with a variety of vegetables.  Some are grown in blocks like a patchwork.  Others, like the tomatoes and peppers, are interspersed as single plants here and there.  I have planted this way to make the most of my space.  I have also planted a few things, such as squash, in the bed near the lake where there is more room for them, and in containers on my driveway where there is more sun and warmth.

 Here is the basic layout of my garden (not to scale):

 If you want to see what each row looks like individually in a photograph, please scroll to the bottom of this blog entry.

I have grown a variety of vegetables in the garden.  Everything was grown from seed except for the parsley.  I started many of the vegetables indoors (in the windows with supplemental light from grow lights)  between February and March.  Other plants were seeded directly into the garden between mid-March and June.  Those planted in March were protected by cloches. The garlic was planted in late October 2015.

Here is a list of what I planted in the main vegetable bed & when:
Garlic Scapes
  • Dwarf Mulberry - planted fall 2014
  • Paw Paw sapling - planted spring 2015 
  • Garlic: 'Elephant', 'Music', 'German Mountain', 'Northern Jewel' and 'Purple Italian' - planted outside October 2015
  • Scallions - planted outside October 2015
  • Chives - planted outside early September 2015
  • Wild Leeks - planted outside September 2015 (still have not germinated, but the packet instructions said to wait 2 seasons before giving up on them.)
  • Leeks: 'American Flag' - started indoors January 2016, planted out late March 2016 (under cover)
  • Onions: 'Golden Grande', 'Sweet Spanish', 'Red Burgundy' - started indoors January 2016, planted out early April  2016 (under cover)
  • Peppers: Anaheim, Scotch, Cayenne, Jalapeno, 'California Bell' - started indoors February
    2016, planted out late May 2016
  • Tomatoes: 'Great White', 'Beefsteak,' 'Boxcar Willie', 'Ace 55', 'Yellow Plum', and 'Roma' - started indoors February 2016 (a bit too early- should have started early-mid March), planted out late May 2016.
  • Basil: cinnamon, sweet, lemon - started indoors March 2016, planted out late May 2016
  • Victoria rhubarb - started from seed indoors February 2016, planted out early May 2016
  • Eggplant: 'Black Beauty,' 'Pumpkin-on-a-Stick', and a variety pack by Burpee - started indoors March 2016, planted out late May 2016
  • Chinese & Leaf Celery - started indoors February 2016, planted out April 2016
  •  Celeric: 'Giant Prague' - started indoors February 2016, planted out March 2016 (under cover)
  • Broccoli: 'Waltham 29' - started indoors March 2016, planted out April 2016
  • Cauliflower: 'Early Snowball' - started indoors March 2016, planted out April 2016 
  • Cabbage: 'Crisp Cool Hybrid', 'Taipai Red', 'Red Acre' - started indoors March 2016, planted out April 2016
    Radish Flowers
  • Carrots: 'Kaleidoscope Mix,' and 'Danvers 126' - planted outside late March 2016 (under cover)
  • Rutabaga - planted outside late March 2016 (under cover)
  • Radish 'Early Scarlet Globe'- planted outside late March 2016 (under cover)
  • Turnip Rooted Parsley - planted outside late March 2016 (under cover)
  • Calendula - planted outside late March 2016 (under cover)
  • Swiss Chard 'Bright Lights' - planted outside late March 2016 (under cover)
  • Peas - planted outside late March 2016 
  • Nasturtiums - planted outside early April 2016
  • Crimson Clover - planted outside early April 2016
  • Cucumber: 'Lemon' - started indoors late April 2016, planted out late May 2016
  • Watermelon: 'Crimson Sweet' and 'Sugar Baby' - started indoors late April 2016, planted out late May 2016.  I am keeping this in the vented cold frame all summer. 
  • Beans: 'Blue Lake' - planted outside early May 2016
  • Potato: 'Russet' - planted outside early May 2016
  •  Okra 'Burgundy'- started indoors May 2016, planted out late May 2016
  • Dill - planted outside mid-May 2016
  • Florence Fennel - planted outside mid-May 2016
  • Lettuce: 'Great Lakes' and 'Giant Cesar' - planted outside late May 2016
  • Luffa - planted outside late May 2016 
  • Zucchini 'Black Beauty' - planted outside early June 2016

I have another bed where I had planted strawberries, rhubarb, asparagus and lavender in spring 2015. There was some extra space in that bed so in early June, I direct sowed one mound each of:
  • Winter Squash: Butternut & Spaghetti
  • Summer Squash: 'Elite Hybrid' Zucchini, 'Black Beauty' Zucchini, Cocozelle, and Yellow squash
I also planted in pots in my driveway because it is a sunny and warm area that gives me a bit of extra growing space.  Here is what I planted in pots:

  • Potatoes: 'Red Northland,' 'Purple Majesty', 'Yukon Gold' and 'Russet' - started early May in half-whiskey barrels & protected by covering with an old window until late May
  • Jersusalem Artichokes - started early May in a half-whiskey barrel and protected by covering with an old window until late May
  • Nasturtiums - 'Empress of India' - started in early May in the same barrel as the Jerusalem Artichokes.
  • Tomato: 'Small Red Cherry', & 'Ace 55' (See main bed list above for seed starting & plant out dates)
  • Peppers: Anaheim, Scotch & Jalapeno (See main bed list above for seed starting & plant out dates)
  • Eggplant: 'Black Beauty', 'Pumpkin-on-a-Stick', and Burpee Variety Pack (See main bed listabove for seed starting & plant out dates)
  • Lettuce: 'Giant Caesar' & 'Buttercrunch' - started outside early June
  • Herbs: Fenugreek & Parsley - started outside early June; Lemon Basil & Sweet Basil (See main bed list above for seed starting & plant out dates)
Other garden edibles:
I started an herb garden last spring.  For more about that, click this link: Herb Garden.
I planted 2 'urban' columnar apples last summer, 2 pears in fall 2014, 1 gooseberry in fall 2014, 4 dwarf blueberry bushes last fall 2015,  2 paw paws spring 2015, 1 Saskatoon this spring and 3 elderberries this spring.  These are scattered throughout the garden.  I use them as landscape plants.  I hope to get fruit from them soon.  They are still fairly young.  So far, only the gooseberries have produced. However, it does look like I have fruit set on the apples, at least one of the pears, and on the blueberry bushes.  I just hope that I can get to the fruit before the squirrels, chipmunks and birds! (I may need to net the bushes.)

Hopefully, the vegetables will all grow in well.  I will post pictures of the garden's progress on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook throughout the season.

Find me on Facebook by liking: MI Lake Home Garden
On Twitter: @AlhramAndrea
On Instagram: MiLakeHomeGarden 

I will blog about my harvest sometime in the fall, I think. :)

Happy Gardening, dear reader!  Have a great summer!

Pictures of the Vegetable garden rows 1-4 as corresponding with the drawing at the start of this post:

Row 1 - View looking from the South looking North

Row 2 - View from the East looking West

Row 3: View from the East looking West
Row 4: View from the East looking West

Sunday, June 5, 2016

April & May 2016 - It's all a blur!

If you follow my blog, you may be wondering where I've been for the past month and a half.  Well, I was insanely busy.

I work 40 hours a week (or more) like most of you.  (I do not blog for a living... I make $0 from this blog.)  I traveled over Memorial Day weekend to see a friend in NC, and I've been gardening my brains out!

I put in my vegetable garden.  I planted some pots and half-whiskey-barrels of vegetables. I planted a shade pot for the porch.  I fixed up the shade garden on the east side of my house and around the north side of the deck.  I also helped plant tomatoes for the St. Joseph hospital community garden, weeded at the Brighton Garden Club Victory Garden plot and helped the Brighton Garden Club at the plant sale.  In short: I was too busy to blog!

However, I do plan to tell you all about these things in more detail later.  I will blog about them on rainy days (like today) and sometimes in the evening after work.  I will publish my next post about my vegetable garden tomorrow. It will have more substance to it than this one.   Until then... here's my garden journal showing (roughly) what went on: