Monday, March 23, 2009


The forecast is for a low of 20 degrees tonight. I have plenty of plastic and cardboard to cover the veggie beds, and I'll do that as soon as the sun begins to fade.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

community mulch pile....

The town I live in has a pretty large leaf compost system. In the fall we rake our leaves into the street about once a month, and the township comes along and sucks them into converted trash trucks and then composts these leaves into garden mulch. In the spring they dump huge piles of mulch in the town parks for anyone who wants it.
When I was a kid in the 1960's we used to rake the leaves into the street and burn them!

While I love getting free composted mulch for my garden beds, I also consider it more or less a responsibility to use this stuff. This program costs a lot of money to implement, and with everyone complaining about where our tax dollars are going, in my opinion this is a very good use of taxes. It is environmentally friendly and it helps promote local gardening systems. And yet, in my three trips to this mulch pile today to fill up some containers, I was the only person helping myself to free mulch. (it is early in the season, and the mulch was only just delivered to the local parks this week)

Friday, March 20, 2009

first day of spring (?)

Woke up here in Philly to about an inch of snow on the ground to welcome the first day of spring. Totally unexpected, there was no forecast for snow and I didn't cover anything up last night. A little snow on the bok choi and lettuce won't harm them. The sun is shining and this snow will be completely melted away in an hour from now. You never know what to expect with early season gardening, and that's what makes it fun!

bok choi 3.20.2009

lettuce 3.20.2009

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Irish Potatoes...

I have lived in the Philadelphia area my whole life and never realized that Irish Potatoes were a local Philly thing. A friend of mine emailed me on St Patty's day with a link to an Irish Potato recipe and asking what the heck they were? What? You've never heard of Irish Potatoes? I thought everybody knew about these. They show up all over the place during the month of March. They are nothing more than Coconut, sugar, a bit of cream cheese as binder, and a roll in cinnamon. How could they not be delicious?

My favorite store brand is Oh Ryan's, who have been in business since 1989. This year my daughter decided to make some at home, and the results are in the bowl in the photo above. They might not be as pretty as the commercial variety, but they were every bit as yummy!

Oh Ryan's Irish Potatoes

How to make your own Irish Potatoes

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

yes indeed!

This morning I stopped at Whole Foods for my coffee, which is a pain in the neck because you have to buy a cup first and then go get the coffee, and then go back to the cashier if you decide to buy anything else. They say this is because people were helping themselves to coffee and then drinking it while they shopped and then never paying for the coffee. (people suck!)

So on my second trip to the checkout this morning the cashier was wearing one of these Arugula Now! buttons. I just smiled to myself and thought "yes, Arugula Now!... I have lot's of Arugula... right now... growing in my garden... and I don't need to buy any! "

Sunday, March 15, 2009

sundays are for chilling out...

kitchen herb garden

I always buy a few potted herbs to tide me over until I can start picking them fresh from the garden. I dry out a large amount of my herbs to use throughout the winter, but nothing compares to freshly snipped leaves of oregano or tarragon added to an omelet or fresh basil in a curry dish. And, they just look great sitting in the window sill!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

saturdays are for tending herbs...

It is so heartening to walk through the herb garden in early March and see tiny shoots of green among the old stalks and brown oak leaves! It is the surest sign of spring, and the promise of wonderful cooking flavors to come. Here is what I found today after some pruning and cleaning up in the herb garden...

french tarragon 3.14.2009

chives 3.14.2009

italian oregano 3.14.2009

Thursday, March 12, 2009

brrrrr...are you covered?

The forecast for Philadelphia tonight is 28 degrees with a north wind. Probably not enough to damage the new crops, but why take chances? I save large cardboard boxes as the perfect way to cover up seedlings and early spring crops from cold nights. Corrugated cardboard is a great insulator. It doesn't look as pretty as my beautiful glass bell jars, but it's a whole lot less expensive way to protect the plants.

So, I've got everything covered up nice and snug for a frosty night and now I won't have to worry about it. This will get me through the next week of projected cold nights. We're even looking at possible snow for Monday!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

gardenomics 101

I have invested a good bit of money into two different CSA's this year and I am going to track the economics of this experience. I joined these CSA's for the benefits of good locally produced organic foods, not as a way to save money. But in light of the economy turned upside down, I am interested in comparing my cost of homegrown and CSA produce to what I would spend buying the same produce at the grocery store.

Here are my baseline costs to date:

Cold Season Veggies- 5 flats @ $18.00 ea. = $90.00 (180 plants @ .50 each)

Pennypack Farm- Veggie CSA $450 for a 6 unit per week share

North Star Orchards - Fruit CSA $225 for a 12 week share

I will keep track of the comparable retail pricing of my harvest and share amounts throughout the 2009 season. Both Pennypack and Northstar advise share members that the overall cost is comparable or slightly less than Farmers Market pricing. I am going to use Whole Foods pricing as my comparison because that is where I buy 90% of my produce that is not grown in my garden.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tomatoes 2009

I am really looking forward to getting my tomato seeds started, but I am still about one month away from the time line for here in Philly. I have five varieties of tomato seeds from Amishland Heirloom Seeds, and I will probably grow three plants of each of these varieties for a total of 15 plants. Here are the five varieties I will be growing this year. Photos are from the Amishland Seed web site. I highly recommend them as a seed supplier, and their website is a fantastic education in heirloom tomatoes.

My primary reason for using these varieties is that they are all genuine Amish and Mennonite farmer developed varieties that have been grown successfully in the Philadelphia area for many years. I like the idea of continuing that local tradition.

schmmeig creg

mule team

howard german


glicks 18 mennonite

Amish Land Seeds website

Have you decided on your tomato varieties for the coming season?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Cold Crops....phase two

I filled the raised tomato bed with 3 flats of cold season veggies... mesclin mix, baby bok choi, rocket, and spinach. Combined with what I planted yesterday, I will have organic greens throughout the spring, with enough to share with friends.This gives me almost three months of harvest from this bed before I plant my tomatoes in late May. I am experimenting with a "no store bought" produce plan for the 2009 growing season. Similar to a locavore program, I am going to try to consume only produce that is from my own garden, or known source produce, such as the CSA that I am participating in at Pennypack Farm. I will also consume produce from farmer's markets as long as the seller can tell me where the food was grown.In other words, if I don't know where it was grown, I'm not going to eat it. While I doubt I can follow this policy 100%, it should be interesting to see how close I can get.

rocket 3.9.2009

mesclin mix 3.9.2009

I now have about one month to get my act together and build the additional raised beds for this season. I need two 8' X 8' beds at the rear border of the yard, one for root veggies such as carrots, turnips, and onions, and the other for peppers.
Last year I had the peppers in the tomato bed, which worked out ok, but I want only tomatoes in that bed this year. I'll use the same number of tomato plants as last year (15), but they will have more room to spread out.Last year the tomato plants were too crowded. I also need a new raised bed along the outside of the garage wall.This bed will be for beans and peas, as well as for basil

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Cold Crops

A week ago we had a snow storm here in Philly, followed by some really cold days, but this past weekend was so spring-like I couldn't resist buying some cold weather crops at my local greenhouse. These are all organic starts from Primex in Glenside, Pa. I'll have to watch the weather and get some plastic over these if we get some low temperatures in the coming weeks, but I think these will do just fine. I've got Baby Bok Choi, Chinese Cabbage, Mustard Greens, Lettuce, and Rocket; enough to get me started on some really great organic greens much earlier than I usually harvest anything. As these mature and I harvest them, I'll replace them with greens that I grow from seed myself.

baby bok choi 3.8.2009

lettuce 3.8.2009

Primex Garden Center