A Few Updates from April & May

Ok, I know we haven’t posted in forever, but we are making lots of progress. It’s just now I have less time to write about the plants because I am too busy looking at them from inside my kitchen. Nevertheless, here are a few highlights from the past month & some:

  • I have officially turned Jordan into a lean, mean, watering-plant machine. He can water plants all by himself and without reminders! Go Jordan, you deserve chocolate chip cookies for your effort!
  • Our tomato plant grows like a foot a day or something. I like to peek out the kitchen window where it’s safe from bugs and heat and to make sure there aren’t any squirrels threatening our plants and seriously, every time I look, the tomato plant is taller!
  • Even though the seed packet said we were supposed start jalapeno seeds indoors, we decided to pull a Hail Mary and scatter some more seeds in our jalapeno pot. The squirrels attacked the poor jalapeno constantly for the first few weeks of it’s life outdoors and we’re hoping new plants will survive and thrive despite our breaking the rules listed on the back of the seed packet.

Now for the bad and shameful news: we are so behind in our planting. No lettuce started, no radishes started (missed that boat), also nothing else. Forget this planning stuff, we’re in panic mode and we’re just going to throw some seeds in some pots and see what happens.

We are also growing herbs but not nearly as many as I wish. I think if we started a garden in the ground instead of in pots,  I would make it a giant herb garden! We have oregano, basil, thyme, spearmint, lavender, and lemon verbena to start. I think my original wish list included garlic, chives, anise, mustard, elderflower, dill, french tarragon, borage, caraway, coriander, lemon grass, jasmine, sweet bay, sage, peppermint, sweet marjoram, nasturtium, parsley, rosemary, and scented geranium. And that’s only a partial list…

One of these days, I’ll have something like this, give or take a few herbs:

Landscape Plan: Herb Garden from HGTV.com

1. Vetiver grass (Vetiveria zizanioides)
2. Dwarf Mexican sage (Salvia leucantha ‘Santa Barbara’)
3. Curly parsley (Petroselinum crispum)
4. Periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus), a lavender variety
5. Purple basil (Ocimum basilicum ‘Purple Osmin’)
6. Anise sage (Salvia guaranitica)
7. Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
8. Golden oregano (Origanum vulgare ‘Aureum’)
9. Thread-leaf tickseed (Coreopsis ‘Moonbeam’)
10. Purple parsnip (Angelica gigas)
11. Purple sage (Salvia officinalis ‘Purpurascens’)
12. Bee balm (Monarda didyma ‘Cerise Queen’ or ‘Blue Stocking’)
13. Dwarf Joe-pye weed (Eupatorium purpureum ‘Galaxy’)
14. Purple basil (Ocimum basilicum ‘Red Rubin’)
15. Goldenrod (Solidago ‘Fireworks’)
16. Variegated lemon balm (Melissa officinalis ‘Aurea’)
17. English thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
18. Hardy rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Arp’)
19. Cardoon (Cynara cardunculus)
20. Lemon grass (Cymbopogon citratus)
21. Tricolored sage (Salvia officinalis ‘Tricolor’)
22. Korean mint, Mexican mint (Agastache urticifolia ‘Honey Bee Blue’)
23. Toothache plant (Spilanthes oleracea)

Here’s to dreaming!

Gardening Books, At Last

It has happened. I finally made it to the public library to pick up my gardening books just in time for the weekend. Oh, the joy of Saturday morning when I can sit down, linger over my coffee, and start reading. Saturdays are the best day for reading because you aren’t rushed and you can pause at appropriate intervals and tell your fellow sloth factoids that begin with, “Did you know…?”

Here’s my pile of artfully stacked library books. You’ll notice that the second book in the stack says “You” at the top and features a graphic of a woman with a ponytail sprouting out of the top of her head. This book is called, You Grow Girl by Gayla Trail (I wasn’t lying in my earlier post) and it will probably end up being my favorite.

Here is the list of books I snatched from the library. They are all so pretty!

The Cook’s Herb Garden, Jeff Cox & Marie Pierre Moine
After just a cursory glance, I have already decided that I need to buy this book. It is an encyclopedia of herbs and edible flowers with pictures, descriptions, habits, and cook’s notes for all kinds of herbs including many that just tickle me with delight. Have you ever heard of the herb(s) Good King Henry/Fat Hen? It has such a delicious name I can hardly stand it! The book also has tips on how to dry and freeze herbs and recipes for salads, sauces, liqueurs, and tea.

You Grow Girl, Gayla Trail
I hate to admit it, but I love this book already. It’s like the Stitch ‘N Bitch of the gardening world. I like the sassy titles, the tips to make your pots grow moss so they don’t look store-bought, and all the sections titled make it, grow it, brew it. There is even a section on how to deal with the bugs and recipes for homemade natural bug repellent. I guess I’m going to have to face my fears sooner or later. :-/

Container Gardening Through the Year, Malcolm Hillier
Unfortunately, this is not a book about vegetable container gardening. Nope, it’s about flowers. Beautiful flowers in containers. This is what happens when you order books in haste. You can see evidence of my irrationality and crazy here and my rational, prudent side here.

Garden Anywhere, How to Grow Gorgeous Container Gardens Herb Gardens, Kitchen Gardens, and More–Without Spending a Fortune, Alys Fowler
I included the subtitle because this book is exactly what I’m looking for. We need an inexpensive and thrifty way to grow vegetables and herbs, because let’s face it, we might not succeed. I don’t want to have spent my hard-earned green on gardening and then have nothing to show for it. Eek. Things I like about this book: 1. the introduction is all about slowing down and not stressing out (I need to adopt this philosophy right now) and 2. there are lots of ideas on how to repurpose scrap wood into containers and how to use all parts of the garden, even the weeds!

Incredible Vegetables from Self-Watering Containers, Edward C. Smith
I started reading this book immediately because I was so interested in self-watering containers. I never even knew they existed, and wondered why doesn’t everyone use them? I quickly learned why. I don’t know if Jordan and I are crafty enough to build our own self-watering containers and we surely can’t afford to buy them. We’ll just have to resolve to be crafty and make at least one with the pretty cachepot that Jordan’s momma gave us. I’ll let you know how that goes.

The Container Kitchen Garden, Anthony Atha
Flipping through this book, it seems to be a nice introduction to container gardening. I should have started reading this one first. There is a lot of helpful info on choosing the pots and containers, a nice index of herbs and veggies in the back, AND a page of herbal beauty treatments. How sweet of this man to think of us ladies.

The Complete Herb Garden, John Stevens
When I opened up to the title page I found a label that says, “Presented to the Library by The Charlotte Herb Guild.” I didn’t know we had an herb guild. How fun! This is really a reference book and not so much a practical guide so I probably won’t actually read it. Too many words.

Any book or web resource that I should be reading that I’m not? Suggestions welcome!

Using Up Leftover Store Bought Parsley

Yesterday, I bought this beautiful bunch of parsley for the low low price of $1.79. The recipe I was making only called for a 1/4 of a cup of chopped parsley which can be gleaned from about 7 sprigs. Unfortunately, the grocery store only sells parsley in bundles of about 30 sprigs. And even though I am a neo-home economist and I will definitely find a way to use the parsley, I would venture to say that the majority of people would let the poor herb get brown and gooey and disgusting in the bottom of their crisper. Can I get an “Amen”?

I read a book last year called American Wasteland by Jonathan Bloom. He traces America’s food waste from the field where the produce is picked to the trip across the country where food spoils and get squished, to the grocery stores that throw away food before it even hits the shelves to our own refrigerators where we fail to consume all the food we purchase. How is it that we have the luxury of throwing away food when there are so many people starving in our own country?

Fortunately for my old-fashioned frame of mind, being clever with the way we repurpose an item, be it food or furniture, has circled back around and is now the trendy and praiseworthy thing to do. Who knew canning could be so cool? Maybe I’m just strange, but I can’t wait to preserve my leftover vegetables.

To the task at hand, what to do with the leftover parsley?

  1. Make Parsley Pesto, strange thought but people do it all the time
  2. Make Chimichurri, fun to say and fun to eat
  3. Use it as a medicinal herb to fix yo’ stinky breath
  4. Channel your Ancient Greek alter-ego, make a wreath out of the herb, and crown yourself champion of using up leftover parsley!

I also learned something else about the curly herb on the website Simply Recipes that’s sure to make Jordan wag his tail in delight. Parsley plants don’t attract bugs and slugs, perhaps because it’s considered a “bitter”? However, according to Wikipedia, it does sometimes attract butterflies and birds. What’s not to love?

I look forward to our life together Petroselinum crispum.

Vegetable Container Gardening 101

I woke up this morning and realized in a panic that I haven’t planned our container gardening schedule. And we have no supplies. And we can’t find a good online source to tell us exactly how and when to plant exactly what we want to eat. Now, it’s still January so I think we have plenty of time to get it together, but I fear that we should already be germinating little bean seeds in homemade egg carton planters. Sigh. Often I doubt Jordan’s and my ability to successfully grow a bounty of veggies and herbs based on several factors:

1) Neither of us really enjoy getting dirty. (Very early in our relationship Jordan remarked sincerely, “I’m so glad you aren’t outdoorsy!”)
2) We are both currently obsessed with other things, see About for more information.
3) We are both really bad at killing bugs.

However, we vow to conquer our fears of the dirt and creepy crawly things and to chronicle our successes and failures so that other sustainable lifestyle seekers can learn too!

My brother Chris is a green thumb and oh-so-generously gifted me two fruit plants for Christmas. I don’t think they will bear fruit any time soon but they truly represent the beginning of my food growing mission. Note the plant on the left with the droopy leaf. I believe it’s droopy because of 1) lack of water and 2) these tiny weird bugs that are happily thriving all around the leaves.

In an effort to destroy said bugs, I passionately sprayed them with some homemade household cleaner. They are still happily alive today. After examining the plant, I backed away and whined to Jordan, “Honey, will you throw away this plant for me?”

And so begins our adventure in vegetable container gardening.