Green Tomatoes & Purple Carrots

Indian Corn_DBG-CO_LAH_9050Green beans. Orange carrots. Red tomatoes. How normal. How boring. One of the joys of growing your own veggies is that you can have some fun and mix up the colors. Beans come in yellow and purple as well as green. Carrots can be white, yellow, orange, or purple. Tomatoes come in green (such as Green Zebra), purple, orange, yellow, or even sporting saucy stripes. Even fresh corn on the cob (as opposed to the dried stuff) now comes in fun colors. Why settle for growing what you can easily find at the market, when so many other options are waiting?

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Save the Seeds

Poppy seedheadsWhile we haven’t had a hard freeze yet, the lack of warm sunshine is telling my plants that the season is about over. Poppy seedheads act like salt shakers—just invert and shake out the seeds. We missed harvesting some pole beans and they’re now overripe, the pods puffy and enlarged. I’m letting them dry on the vine.

I let some of the cilantro mature and bloom, as the flowers attract lacewings and other beneficial insects. Parsley is a biennial, and I overwintered last year’s crop; it also bloomed this summer. Both are producing more seeds than I will ever use. Continue reading “Save the Seeds”

Garden Advice: Companion Planting

carrots-tomatoes-401Do carrots really love tomatoes? Do beans and onions hate one another? The internet (and my bookshelf) is full of anecdotal advice about which crops we should plant together, and which ones we should not.

There’s a well-known book that’s been around for ages called Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening, by Louise Riotte. It offers page after page of “facts” about companion planting. That sounds really helpful, and I was ready to try it all, but unfortunately, when I dug in online, I discovered that there is very little science behind the advice.

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What to Grow?

Seed catalogs_LAH_2733January. The start of a new year. The start of a new garden. As I contemplate my empty veggie beds, I feel like a race car driver waiting at the starting line. “Gentlemen (gentlewomen?), start your engines!”

This year is truly new in another way. We moved last year, and I no longer have a my huge veggie garden. I used to have twelve, 4ˈ x 12ˈ beds, plus four 4ˈ x 4ˈ herb beds, plus a series of 2ˈ wide border beds around the entire area, ideal for pole beans, peas, and perennials (lovage, currants, berries, asparagus). Now I have two, 4ˈ x 10ˈ raised beds. Two. Well, we intended to downsize, right?

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Gardening with Children: Building the Garden

LAH_1247I’m not growing much of a garden this year. No seedlings are spouting under my plant lights. No plastic is warming the soil for my spring planting. I haven’t emptied the compost bin into the beds, and my greenhouse is still cluttered with dried cucumber vines and withered, brown tomato plants. Oh, I’ll probably sow a few summer squash seeds—I can’t quite bring myself to pay for zucchini in August—and maybe I’ll have time to put in some fall crops, but for the most part, this won’t be a veggie year.

No, I’m growing something much more important—grandchildren! In fact, I’m currently north of Seattle, helping my daughter and son-in-law after the arrival of their second daughter. Her older sister, at almost two, is keeping me on my toes—or on my knees—while my daughter recovers from childbirth. I miss my husband, who’s home feeding our cat and chickens, but I have to admit, I totally adore being a grandma! Continue reading “Gardening with Children: Building the Garden”

Patience Pays

2009-04-12 Easter morning snow 006One thing I’ve learned (the hard way) is that it pays to be patient. Rushing the season usually results in cold-stunted plants, reduced yields, or, even worse, losing an entire crop to a late frost or snowstorm.

For example, most garden guides tell you to plant broccoli and other crucifers early—two weeks before your average last frost date—as the young plants can stand some frost. What they don’t tell you is that prolonged exposure to cold temperatures will ruin your chances for a harvest. Two to three days of temperatures that stay below 40 degrees will fool the seedlings into thinking they’ve experienced winter (can’t blame them a bit!). Instead of growing up and producing the nice, succulent head you’re anticipating, the broccoli will try to force the issue and “button.” That is, it will rush to bloom while still small, and all you get is a one-inch (or smaller) head with a bitter taste and tough texture. Bleah!

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