August Abundance: Notes from the Kitchen Garden…

August 12th, 2010 § 3 comments § permalink

My Summertime Kitchen

Mid August is always a busy month in the kitchen garden. Abundant cucumbers, summer squash, beans, tomatoes, peppers, herbs and onions must be harvested and put up —frozen, dried, pickled and/or canned— at the peak of freshness. Late summer chores in the potager include watering —especially during this extended dry spell we are experiencing in New England— weeding, monitoring and managing pests, succession sowing for short-season fall crops, and of course, daily harvests. Some of my stand-out crops this year include cippolini and sweet onions, garlic, shiitake mushrooms, romanesco broccoli, arugula, cucumbers, and finally —after last season’s meager crop and fears about late blight— gorgeous, fruitful tomatoes. Read more about the highlighted crops by clicking on each to return to a previous blog-post.

If you haven’t already done so, it’s a good idea to make notes for next year; jotting down harvest dates, this season’s plant successes and failures, troublesome pests and current plant family locations to assist you with next year’s crop rotation. Carrots look stunted or forked? Maybe it’s a good time to raise your beds, giving them more root-room. Lush growth in your garden but little or no produce? It could be time to test your soil pH and fertility. Plants petering out? Sow some quick turn-around crops like lettuce, arugula, beets, peas and beans for a fall harvest. If you live in a cold climate, now may be a good time to begin constructing hoop-houses to protect your crops from frost and extend the growing season (see post on hoop house construction here). If you are making your own compost, be sure to turn it regularly, keeping content balanced with layers of fresh ‘green’ kitchen scraps and pulled garden plants, dry (such as straw and paper) and brown (mature compost).

And busy as we gardeners tend to be in August, I like to slow myself down by pulling out the camera and taking a close look at the beautiful colors, textures and shapes in my late summer potager. Here are some highlights from my morning garden walk and daily harvest…

Romanesco Broccoli in the Potager

Sungold Cherry Tomatoes Ripening in the Garden

The Beautiful Edibles – Nasturtium and Pansies in the Potager

Ripening Butternut Squash Along the Kitchen Garden Fence

Cippolini Onions at Harvest

Yellow Summer Squash and Haricots Verts

Red Hot Chili Peppers in August

Morning Glories Along the Potager Fence

Orange Blossom and Early Girl Tomatoes in August

Basically Beautiful – Orange Blossom and Basil Salad

Garlic Harvest – Hard Neck Music, Continental & Doc’s German Garlic Drying on the Terrace

Haricots Verts, Calendula, Tomatoes, Arugula, Nasturtiums and Alpine Strawberries Bask in the Late Summer Sun

Blanching and Freezing Haricots Verts from the Kitchen Garden

Shiitake Mushrooms Harvested from the Mushroom Garden in my Forest (See Tutorial Post Here)

Ruby Red Chard in the Potager

Summertime Herb Harvest – Rosemary, Thyme, Sage and Mint

An Armful of Fresh-Cut Flowers Makes for a Different Kind of Treat in the Jar

Late Summer Abundance in the Potager

Late Summer Chaos in My Kitchen (read about building this homemade kitchen island here)

Gourmet Potatoes, Chard, Cucumbers, and Nasturtiums in the Potager

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Article and photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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I’ve Got Blooms on the Brain: Tips for Snipping & Clipping Fresh Cut Flowers…

June 27th, 2010 § 3 comments § permalink

Fresh cut, country-casual flowers on the kitchen island. Photo ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

Is there anything sweeter than waking up to the scent of fresh flowers? I love setting a vase of blossoms beside my bed every evening, and my kitchen and dining room table are always dressed for dinner with a fresh bouquet. Of course growing your own flowers in a cutting garden —and in my case this is simply part of the vegetable patch— makes indulging in the luxury of fresh cut flowers easy and affordable throughout the growing season. Flowers make great companion plants for vegetables, attracting beneficial insects and sometimes –as is the case with many herbs– warding off pests. Sweet peas, lily of the valley, peonies and roses are probably my favorite cut flowers for fragrance, but I also adore stock, and pinks for their spicy clove-like scent. For bold color arrangements I grow zinnia, dahlia, marigold, cleome and sunflowers. To cool things down I plant plenty of classic blue-violet saliva, daisies, bachelor buttons, Bells of Ireland and Queen Anne’s lace for fresh-cut arrangements. And recently, exotic-looking painted tongue, (Salpiglossis), has become a favorite cut flower…

Rosa de rescht, Valeriana and Cotinus catch the light in a vase by Aletha Soule. Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Of course, when the garden is looking a bit picked-over, I am never above taking cuttings from shrubs and trees to fill out a vase. Raspberry and other brambles, complete with fruit –as well as all kinds of vegetables– always add drama to table-top arrangements. And foliage, including ferns and ornamental grass, are beautiful both on their own, or when combined with flowers. Bare branches and drift wood, picked up on long walks, can also add structure and character to floral arrangements. I try to keep my eyes open and experiment with found-objects – including rusty junk!

For more fresh-cut arranging ideas – travel back to last summer’s article on flowers just for cutting here.

Helianthus ‘Autumn Beauty’ in my cutting garden…

Tips for long-lasting, beautiful, fresh-cut flower arrangements:

Harvesting:

1. Cut when it’s cool in the garden. The early morning, just as the sun is rising, is the best time. I carry a florist’s bucket into the garden with me and I harvest just after dawn.

2. Use clean, sharp pruners and/or rugged household shears.

3. Cut flower stems longer than you think you need in order to give yourself flexibility when arranging later.

4. Immediately place the flowers in water.

5. Strip the lower leaves from flower stalks. Anything that might go beneath the water should be removed now.

Zinnias – Photo ⓒ Tim Geiss

Conditioning and Preserving:

1. Recut stems and remove any leaves that might be submerged beneath the water. Remove any unsightly foliage or faded blooms. Check and remove tag along insects or slugs (eewww)!

2. Sear sappy stems –such as poppy, artemesisa, and hollyhock– with a match or by dipping in boiling water for 30 seconds.

3. Although some say it isn’t necessary, I have found that pounding woody stems with a hammer to help with uptake of water actually works.

4. Support delicate stems in the vase with branches or wire, or bind groups of flowers together with rubber bands, wire or twine.

5. I usually add a few drops of bleach and sugar (or some use an aspirin) to vase water. Some people prefer to buy fresh cut flower ‘food’, which simply alters the pH, holds down bacteria and provides sugars for metabolism. A bit of environmentally-sound bleach substitute, and sugar stirred into the vase water will accomplish the same thing.

6. Check vase water at least every other day and add or refresh water as necessary.

7. Try to place flowers in a cool spot. Avoid hot southwestern windows.

Dramatic Floating Dahlia – Photo ⓒ Tim Geiss

Arranging:

1. Be experimental and creative with vases. Start out by trying old soda bottles and tin cans, canning jars, milk bottles or cartons, teapots, glass bowls, desk accessories -anything that holds water. I like to hunt around in old foundations on my property for long-lost medicine and whisky bottles. I think recycled items add charm to flower arrangements.

2. Pay attention to proportion. Flowers rising two to three times the height of the vase is a good ratio to shoot for. But again, don’t be afraid to experiment. It’s a flower arrangement for heaven’s sake! It should be fun.

3. A single, dramatic vase or several vases filled with one kind of flower can make a space seem more dressed up. Clustered vases filled with informal ‘wild’ flowers grouped on vanities or consoles can make a room appear more casual.

4. Soften an arrangement of bold blossoms, such as sunflowers, by adding lacy flowers, ferns or ornamental grass.

5. Pair the mood of the flowers to the mood of the room. In general, I like sunflowers and zinnia in the kitchen, and roses beside the bed. But I don’t believe in hard and fast rules.

6. Keep the option of ‘floating’ blossoms in glass bowls in mind. And never underestimate the power of a single flower…

Dahlia in the cutting garden ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Bachelor Button (Centurea cyanus) ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Painted Tongue (Salpiglossis) ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Marigold (Calendula) ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Dahlia in the cutting garden ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Zinnia ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Zinnia ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Dianthus in the cutting garden ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Audrey Hepburn with blooms on the brain – Photograph – Howell Conant

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Article and photographs, with noted exceptions, © 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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Dreams on a Midsummer Night’s Eve & Fragrant Bouquets Beneath Pillows…

June 23rd, 2010 § 1 comment § permalink

A Midsummer Night’s Bouquet for Beneath the Pillow ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

“I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,

Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,

Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,

With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine.”

– William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act ii, Scene 1

Gathering the Ingredients for a Midsummer Night’s Dream…

Tonight is Midsummer Eve, originally a pagan holiday celebrating the Summer Solstice and fertility. In Scandinavia, it is traditional for young women to gather bouquets of flowers, (herbal blossoms of seven different species, according to some sources), and place them beneath their pillows before bedtime. According to legend, if a maiden falls asleep on Midsummer Night with blossoms tucked beneath her pillow, she will dream of her future husband…

Calendula – Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz 1885, Gera, Germany

With these kinds of stakes in mind, I would suggest choosing your bouquet wisely. For sound sleep I would include fragrant valerian (Valeriana officinalis) and perhaps some other flowering, traditional mid-summer herbs; particularly mythical marigold (Calendula officinalis), lavender, (Lavandula dentata), bergamot, (Monarda didyama), sage, (Salvia officinalis), thyme, (Thymus), and of course a red rose, (Rosa) for passion – just be sure to cut off the thorns!

Blossoming, fragrant sage, (Salvia officinalis) ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

Two of the herbal flowers I’ve chosen for beneath my pillow tonight: Valeriana officinalis and Rosa de Rescht ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

Sweet Dreams Ladies…

Today is also known as St. John’s Eve. St. John is the patron saint of beekeepers! To learn more about this day in history, I recommend visiting the Writer’s Almanac June 23 page, (you will have to hit the Prev. button if you are reading this after June 23rd), with Garrison Kiellor (then click on the audio link at the top of the page).

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Article and photographs © 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through our affiliate links. A small percentage of any sale originating from The Gardener’s Eden site will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

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A Garden for Cutting – Part One: Planning for Fresh Cut Flowers in the Kitchen Garden…

April 14th, 2010 § 16 comments § permalink

Zinnia and Dahlia © 2009 Tim Geiss

Some of my gardening friends never cut flowers. I have one friend who grows very few blooming plants, and she prefers to keep her limited flowers on display in the landscape. Other friends have told me that the constant snipping of stems and changing of water becomes a tedious chore with fresh flowers, so they have houseplants instead. Me? Oh, I am a hopeless romantic with an unabashed love of cut flowers. I grow as many blossoming plants as possible; everything from Queen Anne’s Lace and sweet peas, to heady Damask Roses and French lilacs. In fact I grow some flowers exclusively for cutting. My house is always decorated with something harvested fresh from the garden, even if it’s only dried grass, bare branches and pinecones in the coldest months. Now that spring has arrived my home is filled with flowers; in the kitchen, on the dining table and beside my bed and in my studio. I can not imagine living in a home without bringing a bit of nature inside with me, and I simply love big, bold blossoms.

But to be honest, some of my favorite cut flowers, such as dinnerplate dahlias and bold colored sunflowers, can be a bit over-the-top in a landscape. I love fuchsia gladiolas in a simple vase on my kitchen table, but I prefer not to look at them screaming at me from the perennial border. So my solution is to grow flowers for cutting along side the vegetables in my potager. This sort of arrangement is hardly new. In fact, many flowers have long been grown as beneficial companion plants for vegetables; attracting bees and other pollinators to the garden, and in some cases even repelling less desirable insect guests, (click here to read last year’s post on companion planting in the vegetable garden)

Cleome, harvested from last year’s cutting garden, on my vanity table

Sunflowers lined up against the sapling fence in my potager

Dahlia and Calendula bouquet, last summer on my kitchen windowsill

Climbing flowers, such as sweet peas, can be grown up a vegetable garden fence. Sunflowers, cleome, and other tall beauties can also be set against a shed wall or other garden boundary. Some lower growing flowers, including French marigold and dwarf dahlias, make good edging plants for mounded or raised beds. Of course if you have more space, an entire flower garden comprised of multiple beds can become an endless source of blossoms for summertime bouquets to give or keep. If you have pets or small children, always be sure that the flowers planted in vegetable plots are non-poisonous.

This year, after the last frost date here in Vermont, I will be planting shocking quantities of dahlias. I have always loved dahlias, but this year I truly don’t know what came over me. An obsession with their origami-like folded petals? Perhaps the midwinter blahs brought on an urge to fill my house with color? I can’t really explain it, maybe it was just plain old greed, but I ordered oodles of dahlia tubers. While browsing several sites this year, I stumbled upon a dahlia called ‘Ferncliff Illusion’. How could I resist such a gorgeous flower with creamy petals with lavender tips when my own garden is named Ferncliff? This discovery was just too poetic to let pass! And of course, I can’t keep this to myself. I must share it with at least one of you…

Presenting The Gardener’s Eden Anniversary Give-Away # 2

Dahlia ‘Ferncliff Illusion’ from, and image copyright to, Arrowhead Dahlias

And at the end of this month, one reader will receive a package containing four large size tubers of Dahlia ‘Ferncliff Illusion’ from The Gardener’s Eden! Today and every Wednesday thoughout the month of April, in honor of our first anniversary, The Gardener’s Eden will be giving away a special gift. In order to enter, correctly answer the question below in the comment section of this article. Be sure to post your answer prior to the 12:00 pm Eastern Time cut-off. Only one entry per reader, per give-away, please. The winner will be chosen at random from all of the correct entries received, and will be notified by email. Gift recipients will also be announced both here in the blog comments and on our Facebook Page. So now…

The question is just a wee bit harder this week: What is the name of the Japanese maple tree standing at the entrance to my Secret Garden room here at Ferncliff? You may use the latin or the very intriguing common name. Hint: The answer can be found in the photo-captions within the page marked ‘Ferncliff’, (where it is photographed in all seasons). In order to enter the contest, please post your answer in the comments here on this blog post, (not on the Facebook page). All email addresses will remain unpublished and kept in complete confidence. Your email will only be used to notify you if you have won. Good Luck!

* In order to provide each reader with an equal chance to win, your comment/ entry will not appear until 4/15*

Entry Deadline is Midnight, Eastern Time, 4/14/10

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All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through our affiliate links. A small percentage of any sale originating from The Gardener’s Eden site will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

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