A garden is the best alternative therapy.

Posts tagged ‘spinach’

In the Garden 11/21/10

It’s been quite awhile since I’ve been in the garden for any length of time.  Life has been busy.  We received news that we are expecting and will be having a baby at the end of May!  We’re very excited.  Needless to say, we’ve been visiting family as well as getting our third bedroom ready to receive the little one.  I don’t expect to be spending too much time in the garden this winter, but I do have a few things going.  I have sown my wildflower seeds, but have yet to see anything sprout yet.  I planted cornflowers, poppies, echinacea, black-eyed susans, blackfoot daisies and scarlet flax.  I also have a bed of spinach going and it’s doing well.  The broccoli plants are quite large – much further along than they were last year at this time.  The pepper plants are still producing.  Carrots are getting tall.  And lettuce seeds have sprouted.

Spinach bed

More spinach

broccoli

A few bell peppers

cayenne peppers

More cayenne peppers

harvested and dried cayenne peppers

red bell pepper

carrot tops

new herb garden (chives x 6, thyme x 2, oregano x 3, parsley x 3)

Also, the Copper Canyon daisies are in bloom, the indigo spires are still going strong, as well as the verbena, Four-Nerve daisies and trailing lantana. This is a shot of the Copper Canyon, Indigo Spires and Tuscan Blue rosemary:

 

 

 

 

Highlights from the Garden

There was no shortage of things to do this past weekend and the weather was perfect.  Even Sunday with the overcast sky and misty air provided a break from the direct sun as I pulled up the broccoli plants.  I wasn’t too happy to find a couple handfuls of grubs happily munching away at the roots.   I put them in a shallow pan and let the birds have a snack in the side yard.  Don’t want such a  delectable bug go to waste, and they certainly don’t need to be in my garden boxes!   I was surprised at how dry and compacted the soil was, so I worked it over pretty good.  Then I added half a bag of compost and about a cup of bone meal and worked that into the first six inches.  In place of the broccoli, I transplanted two jalapenos, four cayenne peppers and three Cal Wonder orange bell peppers.   They were all growing in paper pots, which made the transplanting go pretty quickly.

I also spent a couple of hours transplanting a Double-Knockout Rose bush next to where the hibiscus was last year.  It gets about 6 hours of sunlight a day, and will be shielded from the hot afternoon sun.  Right now it’s about 1′ x 1′, but it should grow to be 3×3′.  On the South side of the house, under the dining area window, I transplanted two Whirling Butterfly Guaras.   They have lovely delicate-looking white flowers, grow 3-4 feet tall and spread to the same width.   They also attract butterflies.  I was told that they do really well along a warm southern wall, so hopefully these will thrive where I put them.

Other than accomplishing these tasks, I took a look around the garden to see what else is goin’ on:

Carrot tops are forming near the forest of spinach that is full of fresh growth.

The spinach has had enough of the warmer weather already and has started going to seed.  I can collect these for sowing this fall.

Meanwhile, in the herb garden, one can barely tell that the curry plants have been removed.  The sage, oregano and thyme stretch their legs a little to fill in the space.

Wildflowers, in their first wave of blooms, come to life with shades of purple and pink.   We even got our first red poppy.  There are a host of other plants getting ready to bloom in the next wave.

The squash is doing quite well and needs to be thinned to two or three plants.  The zucchini is having a rough start.  I discovered that the neighborhood black birds have been camping out on my zucchini hill.  They left a little present for me, and a few broken stems.  😦  I had four cukes planted, but lost one to the wind and another to the heat.  It looks like the last two will survive, which is good, I needed to thin them to the strongest two anyway.

And our dog, Libby, gets in the picture as if to say, “I’m prettier than spearmint, so pet me already.”

Weeds, Spinach, Flowers and More

It was time to do some major clean-up of the yard this weekend.  We’ve only mowed the lawn once since last September, so it was starting to look pretty shaggy.  Unfortunately, our lawn mower is in disrepair and I had to hire a guy to come out and do the mowing for us.  First, however, we had the rather large task of pulling weeds …  I didn’t realize until we got started how much of the yard was actually weeds!  UGH!  THIS is why I don’t like grass …

After pulling several hundred weeds, I also decided to pull two of the spinach beds and switch them over to the summer crop.  I pulled up five heads of lettuce and I harvested a full grocery sack of spinach leaves from the second and third spinach beds – too much for us to consume by ourselves.  We had some family over on Saturday, so I sent my sister and sister-in-law home with a sack full of spinach and lettuce heads.   My sister wrote on her Facebook page yesterday, “I’m enjoying the best salad I’ve ever had!”  I’m glad she’s enjoying it!

While we’ve harvested the spinach a few times, we have only eaten it raw.  Sunday night, however, I heated some olive oil and fresh garlic in a skillet and then sauteed a couple huge handfuls of spinach.  When they were cooked, they still had a crispness to them, and their flavor was oh sooo sweet!   It tasted so much better than the organic baby spinach we usually get at H-E-B.  I could eat spinach everyday like this!

In place of the harvested spinach, I went ahead and transplanted cucumbers, zucchini and yellow squash.  The seedlings were getting quite large, and it was time to get them in the ground before they started going downhill.   I have four paper pots of seedlings for each veggie, and each one of those pots has two seedlings.  I ended up transplanting three pots of each and I’m waiting to see how these transplants develop before thinning them.  I want to keep the strongest seedlings, and I want to have a total of three plants per hill.

Meanwhile, the broccoli continues to produce sideshoots and there are a few main crowns still forming.  I’ll be pulling these up in the coming weeks as well, but would like to squeeze a few more harvests out of them.  It’s been nice having fresh broccoli twice a week now for the past few weeks – all from only nine plants.  I continue to be surprised at how quickly the sideshoots form.

broccoli's main crown

another crown, still getting started

sideshoots everywhere - these are incredibly tender and delicious

I sat in the corner of the yard to get a good feel for how things will look when all of the landscaping is finished.  Michelle joined me out there, too.  In fact, she sat out in a chair and enjoyed the sun most of the afternoon.   She’s loving it already.  I told her I can’t wait until later this summer when all the plants are bigger and producing flowers.   “You’ll love it all the more when butterflies come dancing by you as you sit.”

It appears that even the container plants are anxious to get blooming.   The plants I’ve chosen for the butterfly garden have offered up some pretty colors for us:

Four Nerve Daisies

Trailing lantana

Purple Moss Verbena

Texas lantana

Spanish lavender

The Copper Canyon Daisies are also blooming, although they are supposed to be a fall-bloomer.  Perhaps they’re confused?  I thought I got a couple of photos, but obviously I’m confused, too.  I really love the smell of this plant!

Lastly, as I was sitting by the mint bed, I snapped this photo.  I’m continually amazed that all of these were cuttings from one small plant…

Catch the bolting broccoli before it flowers!

Bolting broccoli

The high temperature yesterday was nearly 80 degrees – a big swing from the low temperature of 42 degrees we enjoyed overnight.  The broccoli plants must have gotten confused and thought it was summer because they spent all their energies stretching their crowns up to the sky!   (Broccoli will bolt when the weather is too warm, which means stretching up towards the sun to begin flowering.)  Fortunately, no flowering occurred, and we harvested and each ate a large portion of broccoli with our dinner last night.   Calabrese broccoli has a very mild flavor, and it was delicious steamed and plain.  I’m not usually one to eat broccoli stalks, but I found myself really enjoying the softer center of the stalk.  I had to stop myself from peeling off the outer skin, reminding myself that it is full of nutrients, too.  I think that when I’m finished harvesting crowns and shoots, I’m definitely going to harvest what I can of the stalks, cut them up and freeze them for broccoli cheese soup later on.   I’m wondering how my two newest broccoli plants will fare after transplanting them.  Will they produce well or simply bolt?  Well, there’s only one sure-fire way to figure that out.  Plant them!

Meanwhile, the spinach plants have really grown in size the past week or so since my last post.  Abundant sunshine mixed with some rain showers here and there works like magic – with the added help of fish emulsion foliage sprays!   I think I’ll make a big salad tonight for the family, mix in some spinach leaves, red sail lettuce, buttercrunch lettuce and cosmo savoy lettuce.  If we still have our homegrown carrots left, I also like to shred carrots on my salad.   Using ingredients I have at home (Bragg’s Raw Organic Apple Cider Vinegar, organic extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, ground savory, and dried fennel), I can add homegrown dried thyme, lavender, rosemary, sage, oregano,oram and basil to make a nice Herbs de Provence salad dressing to top it off.  Nothing fancy to the herb recipe, just a couple tablespoons of each, mixed together well.   (Incidentally, this is also a great marinade for chicken.)

I harvested three heads of lettuce yesterday because I have so many maturing at the same time.  I washed and spun the leaves and brought a full grocery sack up to work for my colleagues to enjoy.  Looks like over half the bag is eaten!  There are a couple other gardeners here who like to share their bounty with the rest of us, so it’s nice to be able to have enough to share as well.    I’ll probably need to cut down a couple more heads and run them over to my mother-in-law’s house this weekend.  Don’t want good lettuce to go to waste!

Broccoli bed after harvesting

More broccoli crowns forming

Look what’s coming up!

Many of the seedlings have emerged and are reaching towards that yellow ball of fire in the sky.  What a miracle it is – every time – to see fresh new life emerge from a dry seed.  Look at what’s coming up:

Zucchini sprouts - Black Beauty variety

Cucumber sprouts - Straight Eight variety

Danvers Half-Long carrot sprouts - the first of many

An eager sunflower wearing a helmet?

More sunflower sprouts

Squash sprouting - heirloom Yellow Crookneck variety. Looks like a lima bean.

In addition to the new seedlings, there is exciting new life in the garden as well. Dry, withered chive leaves have given room to explosive new shoots.  Prostrate rosemary offers up a delicate flower for Spring.  Dry thyme branches burst forth with green growth.  Oregano continues its crawl without missing a beat.  Broccoli ready for harvest.  Wildflowers preparing their colorful flowers with a fluffy mass of greens.  Lettuce heads crowding together in the dappled light of an old fence.  Crinkly spinach leaves unfurling.   Yes, Spring is definitely in the air!

Broccoli crown before harvesting

A view of the densely populated wildflower bed

New chives growing

First rosemary flower

Spinach bed 1

Beautiful Red Sail lettuce

Spectacular spreading spearmint!

Lettuce bed with new transplants and sprouts

Another view of the wildflower bed

Spinach bed 2

Broccoli bed (after harvesting first crown)

Lots-o-Lettuce!

The marjoram is doing well

New thyme growth

Probably the next crown to be harvested

Lettuce bed 2, also with new transplants

And, last but not least, some of the plants awaiting transplanting inside under lights:

Mexican Mint Marigolds

Ring-O-Fire Cayenne plants

Cal Wonder Orange Bell Peppers

Spinach (bloomsdale variety), verbena and sweet alyssum (back)

Broccoli plant - Calabrese variety

Accumulated Snowfall in Austin Area

Round Rock received a few inches of snow this morning and again this afternoon.  We got off of work early and arrived home just in time to watch some strong flurries of clumps of snowflakes – some measuring a couple inches across!   I’ve not seen snow like this since living in the Midwest.  It’s a shame it will all be melted by tomorrow!

The garden didn’t seem to be minding the snow at all.  I snapped a few pictures.  After all, it’s not every year we get snow in Round Rock!

the main lettuce bed with parsley

carrot greens are weighed down a bit by the snow

I dug out these spinach plants ...

these weren't as covered

but these are barely showing through!

the second lettuce bed

Really, the broccoli seems quite happy with it's frosty blanket

Small triumphs are nourishment for the soul

It looks like the transplants are starting to take off now after a few days – the broccoli all looks to have survived the deeper planting and their stems appear firm.

A little added luck:  the only spinach plant that sprouted, which then got nibbled off by our tubby cat, also looks to have survived.

The lettuce needs to be transplanted from the starter kit, so I’ll do that tomorrow or over the weekend.  Meanwhile, I have lettuce transplants temporarily sitting in plastic cups awaiting to go in my mother-in-law’s garden beds.  I’m surprised at how quickly the lettuce transplants have grown over the past few days.  Although they are the same age as the plants in the starter kit, they’re easily double their size now that they’re in a larger container.  The roots on the lettuce plants still in the starter lit have escaped their cells and are snaking along the mat-wick.  Amazingly, I found roots going through the mat-wick to the reservoir below!  I’d say it’s time to transplant them!   Also germinated are several Verbena, Sweet Alyssum, and Mexican Mint Marigold (left 3 rows of starter kit).  I checked the flat of alyssum plants I had last fall.  It’s been sitting outside.  They’ all seeded and have since re-sprouted, so I gave them a good watering to help them along.

I’m pretty happy with the setup and with the results thus far.  I was worried about the broccoli, but I think it’s going to do just fine if not better now.

Plants and transplants

Transplants with rebounded broccoli

Lettuce transplants awaiting, well - another transplant.

The spinach stands alone - but at least it's still standing!

Lettuce roots