Saturday, March 20, 2010

In the garden again: somebody call Al Gore!

Recognise this?

Yes, it's Bay ... as in Bay Leaves Bay, and it survived the winter in my garden. I know we had an easy winter, but it wasn't Italy easy! I'll take it though, and I'm happy to see this one greeting a new year (I brought two others in for the winter and had no space for this poor cat.)

I haven't done a lot of cooking lately -- I was in Montreal for the March school break (the trip did inspire some recipes, so stay tuned!) and I spent today and yesterday in the garden (thank heavens for leftover beef bourguignon!).

Yesterday I planed fava beans and today potatoes.

To plant favas, you shovel out a shallow rectangle with a spade, arrange a couple nice rows of seeds...

...and then fill it in again.

Then gently tamp it all down with your rake. This helps keep seeds from washing out in the rain (more important with smaller seeds) and ensures good contact between the soil and the seeds. It also helps conserve moisture, and the more densely packed earth dries slower than the loose stuff.

If you're a thrifty sort (or short on space) you can grow radishes in the same space.

Just use the other end of your rake to make a couple of shallow drills.

Put your seeds in.

Mark your rows with some sticks,

then use the other, other end of the rake to cover the seeds.

And then tamp the earth down (again with the rake -- is this a useful tool or what?!) You can use the same method for most seeds (I planted kale and Swiss Chard the same way today). Just make shallow drills for small seeds, and deeper drills for larger ones. You can plant carrots at this time of year too -- a good trick is to put radishes in the same row as the carrots. The radishes sprout early and break the soil surface, helping the carrots come out (and giving you a clue where the rows are, since carrots take forever). The radishes will be harvested while the carrots are still young, clearing the way for the second crop. Genius!

It's a good idea to cover the planted area with a pile of sticks -- this discourages birds from landing there and gives the squirrles a hard time when they come to see what you were doing and dig up all your seeds.

For the potatoes, I pulled a some out of the bottom of the fridge (the kind on the right -- been there since October!) and a few from the storage room in the basement (the two kinds on the left). They had all started sprouting so I figured I might as well grow them out rather than chuck 'em. (Plus they're mod squad boutique spuds from the organic farmers' market and cost a zillion dollars, so why not save some sheckles and go for home grown?)

To plant them I dug some holes (with, guess what, the side of my rake).

Then laid the spuds in so that the sprouts were pointed up and would only be covered by an inch or so of dirt. If you were worried about freezing weather, you'd plant them deeper since if the sprouts freeze they're history, but I have faith that we are more-or-less out of winter (famous last words) so I planed them pretty shallow.

Then I gently covered them up (with, you guessed it, the rake), and raked it all smooth (with the rake!). Now I can just sit back, have a nice beer, and wait until September.

Other signs of life in the garden include this lovely hairstyle of horseradish.

Some plucky French tarragon.

Rhubarb from outer space.

Turkestan Oregano.

And some creature that made a nest of grass under the thyme plant. (If it turns out to be rabbits, this may be the last garden post -- the last one about plants, anyway.)

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