Of Wildflowers & Ephemeral Beauty . . .

April 28th, 2013 § 3 comments § permalink

Sanguinaria_canadensis_bloodroot_michaela_medina_harlow_thegardenerseden.com North American Native, Sanguinaria canadensis (Bloodroot)

Is there anything lovelier than the unexpected surprise of wildflowers, scattered along a woodland path? My heart leaps like a little child at the sight of nodding Trout Lilies (Erythronium americanum), and snow-white Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), poking up like a miracle from bare ground.

The fleeting nature of Spring’s exuberant, floral welcome makes it all the more precious; particularly in cold, northern climates with short summers and long winters. At last, the wildflowers have returned  —along with spring peepers and melodious songbirds— and we greet them with all the excitement due long absent, and dearly loved friends . . .

Erythronium_americanum_ Trout_Lily_michaela_medina_harlow_thegardenerseden.com North American Native, Erythronium americanum (Trout Lily)

Photography & Text ⓒ Michaela Medina Harlow/The Gardener’s Eden. All images, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Please do not take my photographs without asking first. Thank you! 

Do you enjoy The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through affiliate links. A small percentage of each sale will be paid to this site, helping to cover web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you so much for your support!

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Pretty in Pink: April’s Full Moon . . .

April 25th, 2013 § Comments Off on Pretty in Pink: April’s Full Moon . . . § permalink

FullMoon_michaela_medina_thegardenerseden.comApril’s Pink Moon is Named for the Color of Wild Ground Phlox, Which Blooms in Early Spring 

Be sure to keep watch for the Pink Moon rising tonight, April 25th, at 7:52pm ET. And if you’re up with the songbirds, as I am, you can also catch our lovely celestial neighbor as she sets, at 5:32am ET, tomorrow morning, April 26th.

For more magical Pink Moon facts and fancy, visit Space.com, here.

Photography & Text ⓒ Michaela Medina Harlow/The Gardener’s Eden. All images, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Please do not take my photographs without asking first. Thank you! 

Do you enjoy The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through affiliate links. A small percentage of each sale will be paid to this site, helping to cover web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you so much for your support!

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Purple Finch & Springtime Blossoms: Rejoicing as Sleeping Beauty Awakes . . .

April 24th, 2013 § Comments Off on Purple Finch & Springtime Blossoms: Rejoicing as Sleeping Beauty Awakes . . . § permalink

Purple_Finch_Copyright_2013_michaela_medina_harlow_thegardenerseden.com_no_use_without_permission Purple Finch (Haemorhous purpureus) in Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius)

It’s been a raw and chilly April in Vermont, and yet springtime songbirds, undaunted by the lingering chill, have flocked to my garden in search of sustenance. Some species are merely passing through, but others will settle and set up summer residence. This month’s standout is the Purple Finch (Haemorhous purpureus, pictured above), with plum-stained plumage and a sweet, rich, warbling song. An occasional winter-guest at my bird feeders, the Purple Finch may be scouting for nesting territory (learn more about this beautiful native species at Cornell Lab of Ornithology, here). I am grateful for the brilliant-colored beauty and musical backdrop provided by my winged, garden guests and the delicate buds and blossoms, decorating my hilltop.

pussywillow_michaela_medina_harlow Harbinger of Springtime: Native Pussy Willows (Salix discolor), Shimmer Like Grey Pearls on a Misty Morning

 With cold, grey days and bare branches on trees, I find my eyes drawn to even the slightest hint of color. Blossoming maple —ruddy tipped twigs glowing against low clouds— stain the hilltops a subtle shade of raspberry. With cooler-than-usual temperatures, native Pussy Willow (Salix discolor) and shrubs like Vernal Witch-Hazel (Hamamelis vernalis), have extended their early-spring show. I love how the early-season buds and blooms catch light; like drops of berry-colored jam and sweet, golden honey in the sun . . .

crocus_tommasinianus_Copyright_michaela_medina_harlow_thegardenerseden.com_no_use_without_permission Crocus tommasinianus in Morning Light

Hamamelis_vernalis_April_sunset_michaela_medina_harlow_thegardenerseden.com A Flower I Normally Associate with March, Vernal Witch Hazel (Hamamelis vernalis) Continues to Seduce with Luminous, Golden Beauty and Honey-Sweet Fragrance

Crocus_michaela_medina_harlow_thegardenerseden.com Sunlit Crocus: Beautiful, Brilliant Colored Reward for Garden Clean-Up

Photography & Text ⓒ Michaela Medina Harlow/The Gardener’s Eden. All images, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Please do not take my photographs without asking first. Thank you! 

Do you enjoy The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through affiliate links. A small percentage of each sale will be paid to this site, helping to cover web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you so much for your support!

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Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison, Plus a Springtime-Fresh Garden Recipe: Peas with Baked Ricotta & Breadcrumbs

April 23rd, 2013 § 6 comments § permalink

Madi_Vegetable LiteracyVegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison

As organic vegetable gardeners, we know how important it is to become familiar with the various plant families and to develop an understanding of how they relate to one another in the garden. Botanical knowledge is key to avoiding many pests, diseases and cultural problems. Having recently reviewed the topics of crop rotation, companion planting and intercropping in the organic vegetable garden —Kitchen Garden Planning, Part One, followed by Kitchen Garden Planning, Part Two— now seems like the perfect opportunity to discuss how this same botanical knowledge can guide creative use of homegrown produce in your kitchen.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been devouring Deborah Madison’s Vegetable Literacy, sent to me for review by publisher, Ten Speed Press. One of the most highly-regarded vegetarian cooks of our time, Deborah Madison is author of eleven cookbooks. In her most recent title, Madison explores the relationship between botany and cooking, and how that knowledge can serve us as we prepare produce in our kitchens. A new gardener herself, the author takes a down-to-earth approach; with stories and observations that will be both familiar and inspirational to those who, like Madison, are just beginning to grow their own food. More experienced green thumbs will be delighted by new botanical discoveries and unexpected, creative ways to use the fruits of their labor.

Late_Spring_Potager_michaela_thegardenerseden  Nothing will improve your culinary skills faster than growing fresh produce in your own backyard, and learning how to use those edible flowers, fruits, vegetables and herbs, creatively in your kitchen

New gardeners will quickly observe that some natural companions in their potagers —tomatoes and basil or garlic and potatoes, for example— are also delightful partners in recipes. In fact, the joy of experimenting with garden fresh ingredients in the kitchen is often what leads a gardener’s hands to soil in the first place. By learning the ways in which edible plants relate to one another, a gardener can become a more versatile and confident cook. Out of onions, spinach or some other key ingredient and need a quick substitute? Looking for a way to jazz up a simple plate of carrots, but haven’t a clue what might work with them? With a bit of coaching from Madison, gardeners may find the creative answers to these culinary challenges, right in the backyard vegetable patch!

Filled with delicious, vegetarian recipes and gorgeous, full-color photographs, Vegetable Literacy is as beautiful to behold as it is delightful to read. Chapters in this cookbook are divided by plant families (Apiacea, Lamiacea, Asteraceae, Brassicaceae, etc.). In addition to 300-plus recipes, the author has included a chef’s notes about her favorite varieties of each edible plant, as well as interesting and useful botanical details for gardeners. I’ve flagged a number of dishes to try with my early crops, but the one featured below, “Peas with Baked Ricotta and Breadcrumbs”, simply couldn’t wait. Although it’s a bit early here in Vermont for garden-fresh peas, I did try this recipe with some of last fall’s bounty (stored in my freezer), and was thrilled with the result. I can’t wait to enjoy this comforting dish again; only next time, with the incomparable flavor of hand-shucked peas, plucked straight from my garden . . .

Peas with Baked Ricotta Peas with Baked Ricotta & Breadcrumbs from Deborah Madison’s Vegetable Literacy. Photo © 2013 Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton

Peas with Baked Ricotta and Bread Crumbs

A light supper for 2

Olive oil

1 cup high-quality ricotta cheese, such as hand-dipped
full-fat ricotta

2 to 3 tablespoons fresh bread crumbs

4 teaspoons butter

2 large shallots or 1/2 small onion, finely diced (about 1/3 cup)

5 small sage leaves, minced (about 11/2 teaspoons)

11/2 pounds pod peas, shucked (about 1 cup)

Grated zest of 1 lemon

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Chunk of Parmesan cheese, for grating

Heat the oven to 375°F. Lightly oil a small baking dish; a round Spanish earthenware dish about 6 inches across is perfect for this amount.

If your ricotta is wet and milky, drain it first by putting it in a colander and pressing out the excess liquid. Pack the ricotta into the dish, drizzle a little olive oil over the surface, and bake 20 minutes or until the cheese has begun to set and brown on top. Cover the surface with the bread crumbs and continue to bake until the bread crumbs are browned and crisp, another 10 minutes. (The amount of time it takes for ricotta cheese to bake until set can vary tremendously, so it may well take longer than the times given here, especially if it wasn’t drained.)

When the cheese is finished baking, heat the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. When the butter foams, add the shallots and sage and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the peas, 1/2 cup water, and the lemon zest. Simmer until the peas are bright green and tender; the time will vary, but it should be 3 to 5 minutes. Whatever you do, don’t let them turn gray. Season with salt and a little freshly ground pepper, not too much.

Divide the ricotta between 2 plates. Spoon the peas over the cheese. Grate some Parmesan over all and enjoy while warm.

With Pasta: Cook 1 cup or so pasta shells in boiling, salted water. Drain and toss them with the peas, cooked as above, and then with the ricotta. The peas nestle in the pasta, like little green pearls.

 >
Reprinted with permission from Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison. Copyright © 2013 by Deborah Madison. Photographs © 2013 Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.

All Other Photography & Text ⓒ Michaela Medina Harlow/The Gardener’s Eden. All images, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Please do not take my photographs without asking first. Thank you! 

Do you enjoy The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through affiliate links. A small percentage of each sale will be paid to this site, helping to cover web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you so much for your support!

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For the Love of Mother Earth . . .

April 22nd, 2013 § 3 comments § permalink

Connecticut_River_Pioneer_Valley_Aerial_Copyright_2013_Michaela_Medina_Harlow_thegardenerseden.com_no_use_without_permission_permittedAbove the Connecticut River

Let’s Make Every Day, Earth Day  

Photography & Text ⓒ Michaela Medina Harlow/The Gardener’s Eden. All images, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Please do not take my photographs without asking first. Thank you! 

Do you enjoy The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through affiliate links. A small percentage of each sale will be paid to this site, helping to cover web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you so much for your support!

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Kitchen Garden Planning, Part Two: Companion Planting, Design & Layout

April 18th, 2013 § 2 comments § permalink

Potager_Seat_michaelamedinaharlow_thegardenerseden In the Company of Friends: My Potager is Planned for Companionship!

Fresh air, sunshine, a cool drink and a warm, cozy spot in the garden, surrounded by friends; I can’t imagine a better way to spend my summer days. Turns out, plants feel much the same way we do. Like humans, plants tend to grow, thrive and produce best when they are provided the conditions and companions they prefer. Given the varying needs and desires of the fruits, herbs and vegetables on this year’s garden party guest list, I like to give the seating arrangement a little thought.

kitchen_garden_companion_planting_ plan_michaela_medina_harlow_thegardenerseden.com Sample Potager Layout with Cool & Warm Season Companion Plants

Every spring, when it’s time to design and layout my potager, I pull out my garden journal and a fresh sheet of 1/4″ graph paper to sketch my seasonal planting beds. Now is the time to decide what crops I want to grow in my vegetable garden this year. First I list my favorite cold crops and then the summertime fruits, herbs and vegetables (see lists below). I also like to replant certain fast-maturing crops —such as lettuce, peas, beets and carrots— for autumn harvest, so I make a note to remind myself to sow again in late summer. When I head to the garden center to pick up my seed and six packs, I take my garden journal —or a copy of my client’s plan and plant list— along with me for reference.

plant_families_drawing_list_2_michaela_medina_harlow_thegardenerseden.com

plant_family_drawing_list_michaela_medina_harlow_thegardenerseden.com

plant_families_drawing_list_3_michaela_medina_harlow_thegardenerseden.com

In my previous post —Kitchen Garden Planning, Part One— I mentioned the importance of a keeping a garden journal from year to year. One of the keys to successful, organic vegetable gardening is crop rotation. Insect pests and diseases can be diminished by planting vegetables from the same families —see the basic groupings below— in different locations each year, following a three year cycle.

Here’s a simplified list of vegetable families to serve s a basic rotation guide, from Cornell’s Cooperative Extension Service Online. Avoid planting the same vegetables —or those within the same families— in the same spots next year by keeping a record of what is planted where, this year.

kitchen_garden_layout_and_design_michaela_medina_harlow_thegardenerseden.com Step One: Layout Planting Beds on 1/4″ Graph Paper

In addition to assisting with crop rotation, laying out a garden plan on grid paper can help to maximize available area; particularly in small gardens, where space is at a premium. Keeping diagrams and written records of where you have sown/planted what vegetables can assist with intercropping (planting different herbs, fruits, flowers and vegetables —such as basil, carrots and tomatoes— within the same beds, instead of planting long rows of just one kind of vegetable), and succession planting (repeat sowing quick-to-mature crops like lettuce, peas and spinach). By continuously replanting and filling all voids, weeding tasks are reduced and high yields can be obtained from even the smallest garden.

cool_season_crops_and_companions_michaela_medina_harlow_thegardenerseden.com Common Cool-Season Crops and Selected Companions

When laying out my annual vegetable garden, first I list my favorite cold crops and then the summertime fruits and vegetables. Mesclun greens, arugula, lettuce, chard, beets, carrots, radishes, broccoli and peas? Those all-time favorites are definitely on my spring planting list. I also like to replant certain crops for a late autumn harvest. Fast-maturing, cool-season crops —such as lettuce, peas, radishes, spinach, beets, broccoli, lettuce and others— can be planted early in the growing year and repeat sown over the course of several weeks (succession planting), or replanted later in the season for autumn harvest, making use of newly open space as crops mature throughout the summer.

potager_plan_thegardenerseden.com

Next, I need to think about the summer crops, and plan space for those as well. Some warm season crops can be planted earlier in the season than others; think potatoes and onions. Once the threat of frost has passed, I’ll plant summertime favorites like tomatoes, basil, zucchini, squash, melons, sweet and spicy peppers, all kinds of beans, cucumbers, pumpkins and gourds. Keep in mind that the growth of warm-season and slow-to-mature crops can be assisted by intercropping with helpful companions. Some of the more common cool and warm season crops, and good companion plants for interplanting, are listed in the illustrations above, and below.

warm_season_crops_and_companions_michaela_medina_harlow_thegardenerseden.com Common Warm-Season Crops and a Few Good Companions

Many flowers and herbs have protective properties that keep pests and diseases to a minimum my vegetable garden. For example, sage (Salvia officinalis) is protective to Brassicaceae (cabbage family), against the cabbage butterfly and to Apiaceae (carrot family), against carrot fly. Try growing herbs in an amongst vegetables, rather than separated in an herb garden. Flowering herbs will also attract pollinators, which help nearby fruits. In addition to providing beauty and assisting with pollination, growing flowers, such as marigold (Calendula), can help deter pests like eelworms (plant-parasitic nematodes).

Interested in learning more about the benefits of companion planting and intercropping? I own and highly recommend Louise Riotte’s Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening,and Ed Smith’s The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible.

chair-with-nasturtium_copyright_thegardenerseden.comjpg In My Own Garden, I Like to Grow Herbs and Edible Flowers in and Amongst the Fruits and Vegetables

Photography, Illustration & Text ⓒ Michaela Medina Harlow/The Gardener’s Eden. All images, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Please do not take my photographs without asking first. Thank you! 

Do you enjoy The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through affiliate links. A small percentage of each sale will be paid to this site, helping to cover web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you so much for your support!

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Cutting Edge Garden Maintenance: Sharply Defining Beds & Borders . . .

April 10th, 2013 § 3 comments § permalink

BMAC_Garden_michaela_medina_harlow_thegardenerseden.com Cleanly cutting the edge of a border with a half-moon edger, and mulching the “V”, helps with maintenance throughout the growing year {Pictured: a client’s newly planted garden with English-style edging. Pretty vessel is by Vermont artist, Stephen Procter}

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and every gardener has their own, unique preference in garden style. But well-maintained gardens, be they casually designed or strictly formal, alway seem to elicit the most oohs and ahs. So what keeps a border looking neat and tidy all season long? Well, if your gardens connect to lawn, one of the secrets is an English-style edge, and a thick layer of weed-supressing mulch.

english-style-edging-michaela_medina_harlow_thegardeneresend.com

English_Style_Edging_ in-Cottage_Garden-michaela-medina-harlow-thegardenerseden.com Even the simplest, cottage-style garden design is elevated to elegance by cleanly edging and mulching the border {pictured: three of my clients’ newly installed gardens; edged and mulched}

BMAC_garden_edge_late_summer_michaela_medina_harlow-thegardenerseden.com

A classic English-style edge is a simple and clean-looking way to define the line between lawn and garden. Although the look is quite precise, English-style edging is appropriate in most any garden setting; from formal to country casual. Inexpensive to create and blissfully easy to maintain, I just love the way a sharp edged line brings the bold shapes, colors and textures of a layered perennial border into focus. When designing new gardens in landscapes with sweeping lawns, I often opt for the English-style edge to maintain distinct, weed-free boundaries between grassy pathways and perennial borders. Crisply cut edges help to keep a garden looking great all season long.

Penstemon-digitalis-Huskers-Red-Heuchera-Veronica-Coreopsis-Photo-Copyright-michaela-medina-thegardenersedenJust as neatly trimmed ends make long hair look gorgeous, crisply defined edges in a garden highlight the beauty of a well-maintained perennial border {one of my client’s gardens in late spring}

Large landscaping companies often use mechanical edgers to create deep, sharp-lined trenches between a lawn and garden and then dress these trenches with mulch. Mechanical tools work very well on big projects, but they are quite expensive and consume unnecessary fossil fuels. For home landscapes, I have always used a manual half-moon edger and my own elbow grease to create and maintain perennial borders in style. It’s great exercise!

519JmG5+R5L._SL1500_ Forged, Half-Moon Edger by Truper

The line of the garden is measured and, if new, marked out with chalk dust or string. A straight line is then cut (with the half-moon edger or a straight blade spade) through the sod to a depth of about 4-6 inches. When working a new bed, the sod is then removed from inside the cut line, and compost/loam is added to the planting bed. In a renovation of an older bed, re-establish the line by digging a new trench to a depth of at least 6 inches. I rock the tool back and forth a bit to create a “v” shape. New mulch is mounded up from the center of the “v” and into the garden bed to create a weed barrier. If you are trying this method for the first time, be patient with yourself. With a little practice, your edges will become clean, precise and even. I’ve taught many gardeners how to use a half-moon edger. A little patience goes a long way when you’re learning something new! The border pictured below is the very first effort of a new gardener. Not bad for a first shot!

new-gardener's-first-time-edge_effort-michaela_medina_harlow-thegardenerseden This freshly-cut edge on a new perennial border —the first effort of a new gardener— was cut with a hand held edging tool, like the one pictured above

Although some gardeners like to fill the trench with aluminum or plastic strip to hold border edges, this isn’t really necessary. With with yearly maintenance and mulch, the earthen edge will hold back weeds on its own.  In my own garden I prefer to keep the earthen trench filled with mulch, and maintain it twice a year with touch ups from the half-moon edger. The first round of edging happens along my lawn/garden borders every spring during April clean-up, just before seasonal mulch (I use well rotted compost mulch mixed with just a bit of dark, natural bark). The second round of edging usually happens in early to mid July, when perennials borders begin to look a bit blowzy and need a bit of deadheading and primping. But twice yearly maintenance isn’t always necessary. In the cottage garden atop the article and the minimalist garden pictured above and below, a crisp edge is cut and mulched along the borders once a year in early spring. In landscapes with lawn and perennial borders, I’m  very fond of English-style edging. This clean but natural look works well with many different garden styles and it’s both inexpensive and easy to maintain.

Johnson Garden ll - Michaela Medina Harlow - Garden Design - New England - ⓒ 2012 michaela medina - thegardenerseden.comThe edge of this welcoming garden —filled with North American native plants— is looking neat and pretty, even in late summer {pictured: my client’s garden in late summer of 2012}

Photography and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina Harlow/The Gardener’s Eden. All images, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Please do not take my photographs without asking first. Thank you! 

Do you enjoy The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through affiliate links. A small percentage of each sale will be paid to this site, helping to cover web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you so much for your support!

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The Early April Landscape from Above

April 9th, 2013 § 4 comments § permalink

Early_Spring_Above_Deerfield_Valley_Massachusetts_michaela_medina_harlow-thegardenerseden.com Organic Weave: Hints of Green in the Tobacco Fields {Above Deerfield, Massachusetts}

Up before sunrise to catch dawn’s honey-gold light, last Friday morning I toured the early April landscape beneath the wings of an agile Citabria. As we climbed to altitude, a haze of sheer, radiant color —violet, cherry, gold and willow— illuminated treetops and hills as the low sunlight cast shadows, long across the chartreuse-tinted fields. Like a fine, pastel tapestry, flung across the valley floor, the springtime earth shimmered and glistened below us. Gnarled apple trees, dramatic with freshly sculpted forms, stood out in stark contrast to the muted tones of tawny land. It was a glorious morning inside the sky; filled with the promise of a bright, new season and finally —receding into the shadows— the last ghostly whispers of the one before . . .

Early_Spring_Above_Apex_Orchard-Colrain_MA-michaela_medina_harlow-thegardenerseden.com The Colors of Springtime {Above Apex Orchard, Colrain, Massachusetts}

Gnarled_Apple_Trees- Apex_Orchard-Colrain_MA_michaela_medina_harlow_thegardenerseden.comGnarled-Beauty of Newly Pruned Apple Trees {Apex Orchard, Colrain, Massachusetts} 

Riverside_Colorbands-michaela_medina_harlow-thegardenerseden.comColorbands Along the Connecticut River, Massachusetts 

Melt_Water_Run-Off_Turners_Falls_Dam_and_Bridge-michaela_medina_harlow-thegardenerseden.com Meltwater Rush from the Turners Falls Dam: Above Gill & Montague, Massachusetts

Oxbow-Michaela_Medina-2013-thegardenerseden Blinding Sun Lights Fire to Trees, Round an Oxbow

Spring_Ice_Melt_New_England_Aerial-michaela_medina_harlow-thegardenerseden.com Ice Slowly Melting Away: Sawyer Ponds, Northfield, Massachusetts

Golden_Light_and_Inky_Reflections_Above_the_River_Bend-michaela_medina_harlow-thegardenerseden.com Golden Light & Inky Reflections: Above the Connecticut River

Great_Waters-CT-River_michaela_medina_harlow-thegardenerseden.com Sweeping Curves Along the Connecticut River

Riverside_Farm-Michaela_Medina_Harlow-thegardenerseden.com Spring Colors Emerging, at Long Last

Photography and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina Harlow/The Gardener’s Eden. All images, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Please do not take my photographs without asking first. Thank you! 

Do you enjoy The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through affiliate links. A small percentage of each sale will be paid to this site, helping to cover web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you so much for your support!

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Kitchen Garden Planning, Part One: Designing a Pretty & Productive Potager

April 7th, 2013 § 12 comments § permalink

Potager_Planning_michaelamedinaharlow_thegardenerseden I like to design kitchen gardens with both beauty & bounty in mind. Why does beauty matter in a vegetable garden? I’ve noticed that the prettier the garden, the more time I want to spend in it. Usually, the more time you spend in your potager, the more time you spend on your plants and the better they produce

There’s still snow in my vegetable garden, but with sunny days and drying wind, it’s melting quickly. I try to stay in the moment and enjoy the season as it unfolds. But I must confess that I can hardly wait to get back into my garden and sink my hands down into the rich, dark, fragrant earth. April through late November, I spend a great deal of time working in my kitchen garden. So, I’ve made the space welcoming and comfortable by adding room to relax; placing comfortable chairs here and there, and conveniently positioning a table to set down my coffee cup or indulge in a late afternoon snack. In fact, I treat my edible garden as I would any other outdoor room; enclosing the cozy space with a rustic, sapling fence and decorating with hand-woven teepees for climbers, pots for edible flowers and wicker baskets for weeding. I can’t imagine a more pleasant place  to spend my weekend hours. Tending the beds in my pretty potager never feels like a chore.

I’ll be talking more about kitchen garden design next Saturday (April 13th – 10am with Jack Manix), at Walker Farm’s first spring seminar, The Art and Science of Vegetable GardeningFor those of you too far away to attend this free event, I will be posting notes on the topic of edible gardens both before and after the seminar. Whether you grow a few pots of veggies on your terrace or have an entire acre devoted to culinary delights, there’s nothing more important to your success than properly planning and regularly tending your garden.

Potager_Planting_michaela_medina_harlow_thegardenerseden A handmade sapling fence is pretty to look, but it’s also practical for growing vertical produce like peas, melons, cucumbers. A tall fence also keeps out the white tailed deer, and green, coated chicken wire —extending from lower bar, below ground level— keeps out rabbits and burrowing rodents. The paths of my garden were lined with a weed-barrier of old cardboard and rug scraps. Of course no one ever notices my thrifty recycling with the pretty top layer of golden straw mulch.

While there are individual crops suited to a wide variety of situations, most vegetables prefer full sun, good soil, excellent drainage and room to grow. Choose your vegetable garden’s site accordingly. Shady yard? Consider growing leafy greens and herbs suited to filtered sunlight and head to the farmer’s market for your tomatoes. Poor soil or water-logged location? Raised beds or containers are the simplest solution. In fact raised beds —either natural, earthen mounds where drainage is good or constructed soil retainers built from rot-resistant wood or stone where it isn’t— are my preferred planting style for vegetable gardening in any location. The soil in raised beds tends to warm up faster in my cold climate and I like wide, deep beds —enriched with well-rotted manure and/or homemade compost— for growing a wide variety of crops. Always test your soil’s pH as well as N,P,K and amend accordingly with organic supplements. Read more about basic soil testing here.

Soil-Sample-for-Testing_MichaelaMedinaHarlow_thegardenerseden Testing your soil with a kit is quick and easy, and I recommend you do it at least once a year. Click here for details. If you think you need more information, you can send soil samples out to your local university extension service for more detailed analysis.

Compost-in-Hands-Heart-Shape-michaela-medina-thegardenerseden Making and using your own compost from kitchen scraps, lawn clippings and other organic debris is one of the easiest ways to improve garden soil. New to composting? You don’t need to spend a fortune on bins and tumblers, click here and travel back to my previous post on composting basics to learn or review the simple steps.

Chives_in_the_Potager_michaelamedinaharlow_thegardenerseden Flowers are attractive to beneficial birds and insects, as well as to our own eyes. Draw pollinators into your garden by adding flowering plants to your potager. If you grow edible blossoms, you’ll be able to enjoy both the sight and the taste of your blooms. Learn more about edible flowers in my previous post, here.

In addition to providing room-to-grow, wide beds provide extra growing space for pretty edging plants like herbs, edible flowers and tiny, alpine strawberries. More than merely decorative, herbs and edible flowers make great companion plants; attracting beneficial insects like bees and butterflies, and deterring or distracting a few of the less-than-desirables. I like to include annual flowers for cutting in my vegetable garden, where I can easily harvest a bunch for the dinner table while collecting produce.

Zinnia-in-Basket--michaela-medina-thegardenerseden Zinnia, planted in a wicker basket, decorate an old, worn-out garden chair in the corner of my potager

No room to plant flowers in your vegetable garden beds? Consider scattering flower pots here and there at the ends of rows, the edges of pathways, or hang them from your garden fence or balcony rail with hooks. Drawing bees, hummingbirds and other pollinators to your garden will help your garden and the environment. If you grow edible blossoms, you’ll be able to enjoy both the sight and the taste of your blooms, but be sure to do your research before consuming any flower, as some are quite toxic. A few particularly colorful and safely edible additions for small spaces include pansies, marigold, nasturtiums and chives. Read more about edible flowers in my previous post, here.

Heirloom-Potato-Harvest-ⓒ-michaela-medina-thegardenersedenI love the flavor of homegrown potatoes, so I plant a pound or two of many different varieties; trying new introductions and long-forgotten favorites each year. This method allows me to have potatoes of all shapes, colors and sizes throughout the season while also providing a fall crop for root cellaring. Consider how you will use your produce —immediately, for storage or both— before you plan your garden and order your seed or shop for vegetable starts. Planting too many vegetables leads to over-crowding and smaller yields. Read more about potato varieties here.

Before the gardening season moves into full swing, I like to consult last season’s journal before I layout this season’s planting plan on grid paper. Crop rotation in vegetable gardens helps to deter pests and diseases and can help to build and protect your soil. I avoid planting the same vegetables —or those within the same groups; such as those in the tomato family like eggplant, pepper, tomatillo and potato— in the same beds year after year. When rotating crops and planning this season’s garden, consider the plant family, height (for sun and shade considerations) and the nutrient demands of each crop. Avoid planting your tomatoes in the shade of cornstalks and in order to prolong the fertility of your soil, avoid planting heavy feeder crops —such as brassicas and tomatoes— in the same position year after year. Rotate crops that require high fertility with legumes —such as peas and beans— or light feeders such as herbs and potatoes, or other root vegetables. If you are building a smaller garden this year, and a vegetable bed or two fall out of use for a season, try to plant a green manure cover crop like buckwheat, alfalfa or winter rye to help build the soil and keep down weeds. You can turn the green manure crop over with a hoe and replant the space with veggies or flowers next year.

Garden-Journal-Keeping-ⓒ-Michaela-at-TGE Keeping a record of my kitchen garden is more than just an excuse to buy a pretty, handmade journal. Taking notes on successes and failures as well as the position of various crops, provides essential information for my planting plan in following years. Read more about garden journaling here.

To find out more about Rosalind Creasy’s Edible Landscaping or purchase a copy, click here

In addition to the regular posts you will find here on the topic of potager design and planning, I have a few beautiful and inspirational books on edible gardening to recommend. Rosalind Creasy’s Edible Landscaping (pictured above) is a great book, just chock full of gorgeous garden design photos and practical, inspirational ideas. I mentioned it in this post (here), and I still highly recommend it. And Jennifer Bartley, author of one of my favorite potager design books, Designing the New Kitchen Garden, recently released another beautiful and informative title, The Kitchen Gardener’s Handbook, from Timber Press. If you are looking for inspiration, these titles will really get you going!

Jennifer Bartley’s The Kitchen Gardener’s Handbook

I’ll be writing much more about creating enchanting edible gardens in the coming weeks. And, if beautiful and productive vegetable gardens appeal to your senses, you may want to revisit my potager page at the left (click here) and past-posts; including The Art of French Vegetable Gardening (click here) and Dreaming of Springtime’s Sweet Veggies: Planning a Lush, Welcoming Potager.

Photography and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina Harlow/The Gardener’s Eden. All images, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Please do not take my photographs without asking first. Thank you! 

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Ready, Set, Grow! Springtime Gardening: Free Weekend Seminars in April & May, Sponsored by Walker Farm, Vermont

April 5th, 2013 § Comments Off on Ready, Set, Grow! Springtime Gardening: Free Weekend Seminars in April & May, Sponsored by Walker Farm, Vermont § permalink

WalkerFarmSpringSeminars_MichaelaMedinaHarlow_thegardenerseden Walker Farm Stand on Rt 5 in Dummerston, Vermont: Open Daily from 10am – 6pm, April 13th through Late November – Visit the Walker Farm Website Here

Like most gardeners, I tend to celebrate the arrival of each season with favorite, annual traditions. And for me, spring just isn’t spring without a visit to Walker Farm in nearby Dummerston, Vermont. The stand officially opens for the season today, Friday, April 5th, and there will be beautiful, cold-hardy pansies galore! How lucky are we, in southern Vermont, to have such a world class, horticultural hub in our own backyard? I stopped in last week for this spring’s garden seminar planning —scroll down or click here for a complete schedule of free events— and a tour of the gorgeous greenhouses with owners, Karen and Jack Manix. It’s always inspiring to visit Walker Farm at this time of year for a prelude to springtime and a sneak-peek at the season’s freshest offerings.

Kitchen-Garden-in-Late-July-michaela-medina-thegardenerseden.com_ Pretty & Productive: Learn the Ins and Outs of Potager Planning & Planting at 10am, this Saturday, April 13th 2013 at Walker Farm, Dummerston, Vermont. Jack Manix and I Will Present, The Art & Science of Vegetable Gardening. Free and Open to the Public (please visit the Walker Farm website and email or call to reserve your spot for this popular event).

Each spring, Walker Farm generously sponsors a variety of free, inspirational and educational gardening seminars with topics to interest a wide range of gardeners, from the freshest novice to the most advanced green thumb. This spring’s series of seminars begins at the farm on Saturday, April 13th at 10am, with The Art & Science of Vegetable Gardening. Walker Farm’s Jack Manix will cover the science of vegetable gardening —some of the most important steps involved in setting up and maintaining a healthy kitchen garden— and I’ll be offering fresh design tips and creative ideas to help you create a beautiful and productive potager. This seminar, and all others offered this spring at Walker Farm, will be free and open to the public. However, seating at these events is limited to 30, so be sure to email or call the farm to reserve your spot.

Seminars offered at Walker Farm this spring include:

The Art and Science of Vegetable Gardening (April 13th) with Jack Manix & Michaela Harlow

Fruits of Your Labor: Creating & Maintaining a Berry Patch (April 20th) with Jack Manix & Ezekiel Goodband of Scott Farm

 Fairy Gardens & Secret Gardens: Creating Magical Outdoor Spaces (April 27th) with Karen Manix & Michaela Harlow

Putting Food By – Canning & Preserving the Harvest (May 4th) with Jennifer Audette

Painting the Shadows: Designing a Beautiful Shade Garden (May 11th) with Michaela Harlow

Seasonal Color: Creative Ways to Punctuate Your Garden with Tropical, Tender Perennial & Annual Displays (May 18th) with Michaela Harlow

Please visit the Workshop page for more details and remember to check back for changes and/or additions/updates.

WalkerFarm_Dummerston_Vermont_2012_ michaela_medina_harlow_thegardenerseden.comHanging Baskets Galore: Late Spring of 2012 at Walker Farm in Dummerston, Vermont

Walker Farm has been featured by numerous publications over the years —including The New York  Times and Yankee Magazine— and their gorgeous grounds and greenhouses are frequented by gardeners from as far away as Boston and New York. From organically grown berry plants and gourmet vegetable starts, to fruit trees and seed packets, Walker Farm is the place to go when shopping for edible gardens. And for the ornamental garden enthusiast, Walker Farm is a friendly-yet-sophisticated, designer-garden destination beyond compare. Here you will find unusual trees and shrubs —including exquisite, rare conifers— field-grown perennials and greenhouse grown annuals for the most discerning of connoisseurs. If a tour of the Walker Farm’s horticulture heaven doesn’t leave you dizzy with delight, the gorgeous containers and statuary in the potting shed, and heirloom-quality garden tools in the stand are sure to make any gardener swoon.

Colorful Coleus at Walker Farm ⓒ 2013 michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden Colorful Coleus in the Greenhouse at Walker Farm, Dummerston, Vermont

Pots_WalkerFarm_2012_michaelamedinaharlow_thegardenerseden Classic Terra Cotta and Colorful Modern Pots in Every Hue: Walker Farm, Dummerston, Vermont

Inside_the_Stand_WalkerFarm_Dummerston_Vermont_2012_michaelamedinaharlow_thegardenerseden.com Summertime Produce, Inside the Stand: Walker Farm, Dummerston, Vermont

Photography and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina/The Gardener’s Eden. All images, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Please do not take my photographs without asking first. Thank you! 

Do you enjoy The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through affiliate links. A small percentage of each sale will be paid to this site, helping to cover web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you so much for your support!

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Sweet Anticipation: April’s First Blush

April 1st, 2013 § 2 comments § permalink

Bodnant Viburnum (V. bondnantense 'Dawn') in Bloom ⓒ 2013 Michaela Medina Harlow - thegardenerseden Anticipating the Intoxicating Scent of  Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’

It’s April first, and foolishly —thinking that surely we’ve seen the last of snow— we’re tempted to rush forward with our early season chores. And then —often without the slightest provocation or warning— Spring turns a cold cheek. Over the years, I’ve learned that in early April, a weather forecast calling for rain usually translates to snow-showers. Yes, Spring can be rather cruel, yet we always anticipate her kindness. Perhaps she will gift us pastel flower petals, dusted in powdered sugar . . .

Daffodil Blossoms in Snow ⓒ-michaela-thegardenerseden Narcissus ‘Rijnveld’s Early Sensation’, Dusted in Springtime Snow

Yes, it may still snow. But in meantime, there are plenty of seasonal garden tasks to fill April’s weekend hours on warmer days. While walking along the garden paths on these early spring days, I often notice broken branches on shrubbery —revealed by receding snow— in need of pruning (click here for spring pruning tips), and in a few days I’ll begin cutting back ornamental grasses and crushed flower stalks along the front entryway. As ice melts away from the terraces, I tidy up the bird feeding stations, rake and then sweep the surrounding stone walkways.

Spring Heath (Erica carnea) ⓒ michaela medina harlow - thegardenersedenSpring Heath (Erica carnea), is one of the earliest flowers to bloom in my garden; sometimes covering the ledges with a hazy blush before the snow fully departs. Click here to read my plant profile on this lovely, ground-cover for full sun. 

Of course, there’s plenty to do indoors as well. Now’s a good time to look over gardening gloves, bug nets, jackets, boots and other gear. Something need mending or replacing? This is the last chance to prepare. In late March and early April, I like to sharpen and oil my garden shears and other tools before the big spring clean up begins. And while I can still find a few free hours, I like to make time to organize and rearrange the garden/potting room. Culling unwanted items now means I’ll have less clutter to trip over later, when it’s time to move things back outdoors.
Oh, and speaking of moving things outside . . .  There’s that storage room packed with seasonal furnishing! It’s time to clean, sand and rub down those wooden tables and chairs with a fresh coat of teak oil. I’ll want them back on the terrace as soon as possible. After all, you never know when a warm evening might inspire a spontaneous, al fresco meal. And as the temperatures rise —and after I finish cutting back, cleaning up and rough raking the beds and borders— I’ll swish out my heavy, glazed containers and water bowls, returning them to their outdoor places. If only for a few moments here and there, it sure is great to get back into the garden!
Waterbowl in the Secret Garden ⓒ 2012 michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden Almost Time to Replace the Water Bowl, Beside My Secret Garden’s Door

Shears-and-Cape-Cod-Weeder-in-Secret-Garden-Room- Pots and Tools, Waiting for Clean Up, in the Garden Room

Ozzy in Garden Boots ⓒ 2011 Michaela Medina Harlow - thegardenerseden Time for a Sassy, New Pair of Gardening Boots? Ozzy Thinks So! Tretorn Sofiero Boots in Green, Gray & Black, Click Here

Photography and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina/The Gardener’s Eden. All images, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Please do not take my photographs without asking first. Thank you! 

Do you enjoy The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through affiliate links. A small percentage of each sale will be paid to this site, helping to cover web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you so much for your support!

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