Thursday, February 28, 2013

Nasturtium Pesto

Nasturtium Plant
Have got a bounty of nasturtium leaves and flowers in the greenhouse beds. Picked an entire bag of nasturtium leaves because I'd seen a blog somewhere that listed making nasturtium pesto. The leaves are too spicy for me in a salad, but I thought mixed with nuts, garlic, cheese and oil they might make a good condiment. I must say for a first foray into making pesto it tastes quite good. A bit on the spicy side, but with a flavor reminiscent of horseradish. Might make a great topping for pasta, vegetables in a pan or a sandwich.

 On the left, if you've never grown nasturtiums, this is what they can look like. This plant is trailing about 3 feet and I have one on each corner of the greenhouse beds. So I've definitely got a surplus of leaves. The flowers are edible as well and are much milder than the leaves and add a great color to salads. They are easy to grow garden flowers and can be started right from seed in the garden in early spring.
Nasturtium flowers
Pesto ingredients

Here is what I used in the pesto. You'll need a boatload of leaves. It seems like a lot, but when you put them in the food processor they break down to almost nothing. I used about 3 cups of leaves, 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, 1/4 cup walnuts 3 cloves of garlic plus salt and pepper to taste. While you are processing the pesto in the machine, you stream in about 1/3 cup of olive oil - use the good stuff as you'll be tasting it.

 Blend in the processor until smooth. I put the leaves , garlic and walnuts in first, then added the cheese and finally the oil. As you can see that big bunch of leaves barely made a half jar of pesto. So, if you need a lot of pesto - get lots of leaves, this applies to basil as well when you are making the typical stuff.

Top the pesto with a layer of olive oil to seal the top- so the blend won't take on an off color. Stor in the fridge for about a week or put in the freezer for long term storage.

How about that. Quick and easy - I made my first batch of pesto!

 Now linking to Tootsie Time - Fertilizer Fridays a post where a number of bloggers post their flowers and gardens on a Friday. Check out her posts!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Kitty and the cat grass

Jo-Jo and his newly eaten cat grass
The herbs in the greenhouse are just about ready. Thought I'd trial the cat grass on my buddy Jo-Jo. As soon as I got it home he decimated it - pruning every leaf down to a nubbin!

Will be setting up with herbs, houseplants, dried flowers and various other things at the Oakland County Farmers Market on Saturday, March 16, 2013, from 8-2. Also hope to bring a few bags of greens to be able to sell. Will certainly have nasturtium leaves and flowers. Picked a bag of nasturtium leaves tonight and I am going to try a "Nasturtium Pesto" - packed nasturtium leaves, olive oil, garlic, walnuts and parmesan. I don't know what I'll use it on, maybe some pasta, some veg or a sandwich. I'll try it and then post the recipe here.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Babies growing for market

Went to Vicki's greenhouse today and fertilized the babies with fish emulsion which has a bit of kelp in it. The bottle was filled with a thick goo instead of the liquid I thought would be in it. So I put it in the watering can and swirled it around as best I could to mix it with the water. Most of the flats have germinated well and are growing strong. A few haven't germinated at all - romaine lettuces and golden purslane - which likes it a bit warmer. The kelp is supposed to have a bit of gibberellins  which is a bit of a growth stimulant. (Don't know if I spelled that right). I fertilized a bit early - only seeing first true leaves on some of the plants, but I have made a pledge to myself to stay on top of fertilizing the crops this year. Last year some of my plants went very "hungry".

Sat in the greenhouse for a while and soaked up the heat - it was 85F in there. So I turned down the heater and vented the house a bit to bring the temperature down. These babies would prefer a temp of about 65-70F. Snow is predicted for late tomorrow.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Cold but spring is on its way

View of the backyard
Some of the horses have started shedding, a sure sign of spring. Skipper still has his full coat and is only wearing a new rain sheet so I don't expect him to lose his winter coat for a while yet. Have heard that light levels trigger the annual shed...not sure but I do know that temperatures play a part too.

The front yard
30-35F today, kind of cold and gray. February, I think, has to be the toughest month to get through. Good thing its the shortest month. The winter snows have been hanging on and we have what the forecasters call "shovelable snow" coming in a couple of days. The skis are at the ready at the front door, but so is my new aluminum cart for taking soil and pots to the back nursery area.

Feel a cold coming on so I am megadosing on Vitamin C and taking it easy. Pam and I had an easy day of work yesterday seeding and transplanting - counted the varieties I have seeded so far, not including vegetables, and it comes to a whopping 83 new varieties. Don't know if all the seeds will sprout, but that means a boatload of transplanting coming up.

Cold frames with remnants of box elder
We're out of space in the Oakland County Greenhouse and they have been so stingy with the leftover beds that they are still wanting a hefty price for them. Think I'll call again tomorrow and see if they've come down. Vicki's greenhouse was a comfy 58-60 yesterday but it is still going below freezing at night,. Perennials are hardy, but only when they've been in the garden, seedlings are tender. Have been cooling off the herb and perennial transplants in the bed by the door so they might be hardened off enough to go to Vicki's greenhouse.

New stock is coming in in 2 weeks - 17, 36 count flats of assorted plants from Raker's, a wonderful plug grower here in Michigan. I am always so impressed with their quality and their packing that I will always consider them as a supplier. The week after, more flats and 75 bare root plants are coming in from Walters Nursery - another excellent supplier and one of the largest growers of perennials They're here on the west side of Michigan and also will be one of my go-to suppliers.

Nursery beds covered in greens
So we're juggling space and hoping for some warmer nights so these new babies won't suffer. Wandered around the yard taking a few pictures today. A couple of posts ago, I asked whether you wanted to see gorgeous photos or the real thing. Well, an outdoor perennial nursery is not a glamorous place in late February. But, you can see the bones of the place and know that when spring hits the place will be up and growing,

Big cold frame swaddled in greens

Birdfeeders and boxwood
Greenhouse with birdfeeders

Friday, February 22, 2013

My Greenhouse 2-20-13

Asparagus babies

This last Wednesday I went out to the greenhouse to take a few pictures of the seedlings. Trying to document them for time of sowing and time it takes them to grow to transplant size. Since this is all new to me this year I am soon realizing that you cannot go by the days to harvest on the seed packets! It truly depends so much on soil temperature - I don't think I would have gotten so many of the asparagus babies to sprout unless I had put them on the heating mat. I got this heat mat on e-bay - it is really supposed to be for a chicken incubator but as a seedling mat it works just fine. It has a dial on the cord so you can go from lots of heat to a little. The one I got is 11" by 8' - and was a reasonable 59 bucks. I've seen much smaller heating mats go for a lot more in the catalogs. The asparagus babies are about ready to go to the ground floor where they'll cool off and grow on, so I can free up the space for more of my babies.

Cyclamen in greenhouse
This last night - Thursday - the power went off when I was in the greenhouse. I thought I blew another fuse, and called an electrician when it seemed I couldn't get the whole house back on line. But, thankfully, he called back and said there had been a lot of power outages reported in my area. So I sat and waited with candles, flashlights and a battery-operated radio. Finally went to bed around nine under lots of blankets as the house was around 60 degrees. Got up at  midnight to see what the power situation was and called Edison again. They said it would be on at midnight and Voila! it returned a few minutes after. Rushed out to the greenhouse to monitor the temperature and turn the heater back on. All was well, the greenhouse didn't freeze even though the outdoor temps were around 21F.

Don't know if I'll have any blooms to speak of for Easter. I'm trying to bloom the Gerbera and Cyclamen by at least then but it is only 4 weeks away. The plants are growing slowly, since I can't get the temperatures warm enough at night to make them happy. The greenhouse is staying around 45-50 at night on most nights.

Most of the babies are up on the seedling mats. They are slow. So tough with many perennials, as they germinate over a long period of time. Most of these flats look like they're empty, but if you look carefully, you'll see some small green sprouts.

Seedlings on Mat - 2-20-13

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Beautiful or Realistic - What do you Prefer?

I was reading a blog the other day about how to increase readership to your own blog. It was filled with good tips of how not to be a droning writer, but the comments about photos used on your site really stuck with me. It said to post beautiful, mouth-watering photographs. Well, nothing I love better than a gorgeous pic and I post those unreal, glamorous images all the time on Pinterest...but when it comes to a realistic, backyard garden, I think I like the rough around the edges, a tad weedy, photos of somone's real backyard.

A clump of lovely daffs in my backyard
Which is not to say that I don't think we shouldn't strive for excellence or beautiful vignettes in our own yards. But my meager attempt at bulb gardens will never rival the flowing rivers of color at Keukenhoff in Holland. I did once plant a large group of blue, glory-of-the-snow under a clear yellow forsythia a long time ago and it made a satisfying spring picture for a while, but I can't afford the money or the space to plant a huge bed of glorious, riotous color. Those gardens are for show and usually come with a staff of gardeners, plucking every weed in sight in order to make the picture perfect. This garden only has one gardener, sometimes two, and it is a working place, growing fruits and vegetables for the table. The ornamental side of it is because I see a need for a beautiful space to work in.

I'd love some feedback on this...would you rather see the scruffy side of a real garden or should I rely on Photoshop to retouch all the images. My backyard is mouth-watering in a real way with all it's edibles and sometimes foods to eat aren't the most beautiful. I am not making apologies, here, but I am saying maybe we should give ourselves some slack in our own yards and enjoy the beauty of one single flower.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

More to transplant

Seed sowing stuff
Carnation seedlings two months old

Went back to the big Oakland County greenhouse today to do some more seed sowing. I use a small hand held seeder to help me with the smaller seeds. The top comes off and you can dial it around to get a small to larger size diameter hole for the seeds to come out. I was able to get one little Viola seed in each cell. Not as much luck with the Heucheras as the seed is just barely bigger than dust. I use 4" plant labels I got on e-bay and a sharpie to mark all the flats. Sowed about 8 or so flats today plus the 11 yesterday. I now need to concentrate on sowing the vegetables after I get all the perennials in their pots.

Hollyhock seedlings
The seedlings I sowed back in December are ready for transplanting. Pam did the Lupines and a couple of herbs yesterday. The Dianthus are quick to grow in the cooler temps and the carnations are ready to go.

Italian flat-leaf parsley seedlings

The hollyhocks and parsley are big enough. Sowed two new varieties of hollyhock yesterday as they were a good seller last year. People get nostalgic about hollyhocks thinking of grandma's garden, I think. I hope I can grow what people want as no one has placed an order yet - am going on instinct - growing what people asked for last year and growing plants that I love and I think I can sell easily.

I hope you are enjoying a greenhouse or windowsill or even armchair thinking about and growing seedlings. As I've said before, a seed is a miracle waiting to happen.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Working in the greenhouse

Pam transplanting Lupines
Blue Fescue pelleted seed
Pam and I hustled in the greenhouse today. Pam was on the transplants and I was on seeding. Pam transplanted Lupines, Dill, Cumin, Cat Grass, Oregano, and a couple of other varieties. I seeded Hollyhock, Blue Fescue, Globe Thistle, Agastache, Delphiniums, Bronze Fennel and Violas along with a few others. We worked for two hours and at the end of it - I was burned out! Picking those seeds off your hand and dropping them one by one into the cell trays was tedious work.

Pam watering the newly seeded trays
To best sow seeds if you are going to is to get a soilless mix. Don't fool around with "potting soil" especially if it has real soil in it. Garden soil can contain pathogens and diseases that can wipe out your newly seeded crop. You do have to have a lot of light and if you are sowing indoors, I'd recommend that you set up a couple of fluorescent shop lights over your seedlings, preferably on chains so you can move them up as the plants grow. You can use any kind of container - just as long as it has drainage holes in the bottom. As for water, I'm not picky about watering from the bottom or misting the seeds, I just water them with the nozzle set to shower, like all the other plants. A few seeds wash into other flats, but not enough to make a fuss.

We then went to check on the flats at Vicki's greenhouse and watered some of the greens that were coming up. Everything is so slow in this cold that I think I'll sow some more seeds tomorrow and maybe bring a few over to my greenhouse for a little extra bottom heat.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Time to transplant

Thyme and marjoram
It's mid-February here in Michigan and the weather is cold and gloomy. Wind rushes across the big lake and brings us very cloudy winters. The sun made a rare appearance this afternoon and got me out to my greenhouse to reconcile the shelving problem. As you may recall...the shelves I had bought for this greenhouse collapsed in a heap - I've been limping them along until the new shelves came. The new shelves are a sturdy, stack-able poly made by Plano - in the USA as well. Assembled them today and put the flats back up on the shelves. Very nice and sturdy.

OC greenhouse - seedling bed
The heat in my greenhouse went up to 90 again today and I had to vent and turn off the heater. The sunshine sure does up the temperatures in there! The greenhouse at Vicki's place is still getting very cold - 20F - at night - no place for tender seedlings. No hope of getting another big greenhouse bed to start seedlings so we'll have to make do with the ones we've got. The peas will be finished cropping soon and they'll come out and free up more space. Will be moving some herbs to my greenhouse - so we can start another 10-15 flats of perennials and herbs.
Variegated cat grass - transplanted

Lupine baby
Catnip and cilantro

Cumin seedlings

Variegated cat grass
In Vicki's greenhouse, this Saturday we'll start sowing some seedling trays of cold-season vegetables for market sales. This Saturday Pam and I will also be transplanting a few of the seedlings - lupin, achillea, some herbs and dianthus are ready to go. Did you know this is what a cumin plant looks like? Me neither. They are a real surprise.

The transplanting and seeding season has really kicked into gear. Have to get ready for the first markets in April and trying to get to the Oakland County Market on Saturdays during March. Have been accepted to get into the Old Winery Farmers Market in Farmington for April - 4 Saturdays - Looking forward to it - It is supposed to be kind of an upscale market and screens applicants - unlike Armada which is a free for all. I think I like both kinds of markets - in the upscale one, you can count on good stuff being there, even though you have to pay a higher price. In the free-for-all kinds you'll find anything from soup to nuts and even the kitchen sink - yes, I've seen one at Armada! 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The other members of the Sage Advice Family

Griffin on his first day
I've mentioned my friends and employees - Pam, Vicki and Paul here but I haven't devoted any space to my other family members. While I live in a tiny house in Keego Harbor, I am not alone. I share it with cat Smokin Jo-Jo, and dog, Griffin. And then there's the horse, Skipper Delight or Skipper, less formally. I have always shared my life with animals and at this age it is no exception.

Margaret and Skipper

They all have jobs and so I justify them by having them earn their keep. Jo-Jo is in charge of household vermin control - having caught a mouse or two and always on bug patrol. Griffin is guard dog and daily exercise needer. He also loves attention and demands plenty of it, so I don't have time to feel bored or lonely. Skipper provides me with motivation to sell - last year during the sales months I made enough to cover his expenses. Having a horse at another person's property is not cheap - so Skippy makes me work. He is also what I look forward to on my days off - as I get to ride him on some beautiful trails in some beautiful woods. Very centering.

Jo Jo in the jungle

Cat in a box
Margaret and Skipper
Rare peace in the household
They are all rescues of sorts - Jo -Jo was a kitten from a too big litter. Griffin was found at County Animal Control and Skipper came from a farm that had too many horses. I bought him for one dollar.
(Hey it's not the price - it's the upkeep!)
I have never sought out a breed animal or anything but mixed breeds. Even with horses - mutts tend to be a bit hardier and easier to keep.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Not much going on...

Felt like I wanted to write - but I don't have much to say about the plants... Have to scrap the shelves in my greenhouse. They are just too flimsy for the heaviness of the filled flats. Had a couple more collapses since the first one and I am plain fed up. Just going to pull them out and put in two sawhorses and 2x4s and I just barely have enough room for the flats. I think I'll repurpose one of the shelves in the kitchen - hope it holds up there... And put the existing kitchen wire shelf out in the greenhouse under the 2x4s. Didn't do all this today as last night we got about 4-5 inches of snow and I had to struggle to get the greenhouse door open.

Mesclun in Vicki's greenhouse today
Vicki posted on facebook a few pictures of all the greens that are coming up that we sowed two weeks ago. Record time for a cold house for many of the seeds to sprout. Haven't been to that greenhouse to check the max/min temperatures but it might be warmer in there than I thought. Of course these are all cool-season greens that we sowed - trying to produce enough green stuff to bag up and take to market as organic baby greens. It's an experiment we'll see how it goes.

My greenhouse is staying fairly warm 50F at night and even got up to 90F on one of those sunny days we had - and the outdoor temps were 30F. Had to vent the house it was so warm and leave the door open for a while. Was 60F in there today - gray day with 24F outdoor temps.

Going to the Oakland County greenhouse tomorrow to harvest greens for dinner at friends house on Sunday. Picking up Pam so we can go cross-country skiing and then we'll visit the beds. Told Pam to take a harvest too. From there we'll go to Vicki's to water all the babies. Called OC Parks and Rec today to see if the price of greenhouse beds had dropped as I would like to have another one for sowing the new seeds that came in today. No luck - they still want 90 bucks for a bed and you only have it for two months - not a deal so I think I'm going to wait until the weather warms a bit and I can do the bulk of the sowing in Vicki's greenhouse.

Got in 30 varieties of perennial seeds today. I think the sowing on them is pretty straightforward but after looking at a packet I see there are a few that I have to cold treat. Cold treatment involves sowing the seed on moist soil, placing it in a plastic bag and keeping it in the fridge for 2-8 weeks. Already have two baggies of delphiniums in the crisper but I have room for more, so tonight I am going to go over all the seed packets and see what I have to do.

This is the first week we really have no potting or sowing to do - as we are out of space in the big greenhouses, but I should enjoy the lull, as I know I'm going to be busting it come March. Hoping all my friends on the East Coast can dig out of the blizzard they are in for tonight and that my friends down south and west are enjoying warm temperatures. Heard a cardinal singing a territorial song the other day so spring can't be far behind.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Disaster strikes! and greenhouse growth

Janet harvesting greens
Oh dear - a disaster in my greenhouse...The shelves we so lovingly put all our transplants from Saturday, collapsed Sunday. They had their feet on uneven ground and just tipped and flipped all the seedlings over. Paul was here to fix a handle in the greenhouse and I shooed him away. Just as I was setting up the first shelf - the second set of shelves buckles and collapses! Aargh! But I kept my cool and methodically picked up all the upended plugs and set them back in trays. Paul came out a bit later and finished the job - he also was handy at fixing my faucet in the kitchen which was loose. If you need a good handyman in the metro Detroit area give me a buzz...

Tonight I took my friend, garden designer and lecturer Janet Macunovich, to the OC greenhouse so she could take pictures for a vegetable gardening class we are teaching together this week. (By the way, she's got a great gardening website Garden A to Z which has a neat gardening forum). We both harvested a bag of greens each and will have salad tonight for supper.
Bed one - started in September

The beds continue to grow well. Fertilized all the plants with Kelp this last Saturday and the Nasturtiums have appreciated it and have taken off. Just read a good recipe for Nasturtium Pesto with walnuts and Parmesan cheese so I think I'll try it - maybe for my brother Chris on Valentine's day. I've been wondering what to do with this plethora of nasturtium foliage that is overtaking the corners and center of bed #2. I'll try it and get back to you all on the blog on the taste of the pesto.

Propagation dome

 Meanwhile, the babies are doing better in their warmer site as you can see from the picture at left. I purchased five propagation domes for the seedlings - they are about $3 each from Greenhouse Megastore and available elsewhere. There is finally a haze of green on the seedling trays. Janet counted the trays and multiplied by the number of cells - I have over 1900 plants growing! She mentioned I'll have a bit of work bumping them all up to larger containers. No kidding! Not every cell is filled so the number is a bit high but it gives you a good idea of how many plants we'll have this year. I still have seeds coming from Specialty Seeds - about 30 varieties so that will be another 1000 plants and then the annual flowers and vegetables. I think I'll be scrambling in April and May. Oh well, goes with the gardening territory.

View of  the OC greenhouse

To have enough room for the upcoming seedlings I am going to try and get another bed at the OC greenhouse. I need room for another 30 flats I calculate and I thought with the other two beds I'd be pulling spent crops by now. The crops have been so slow that they are just now coming into bearing. So, until the big greenhouse at Vicki's remains at a warmer temperature I think I'll have to get another bed. I only hope they've slashed the prices or will give me a volume discount!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

First potting of the year

Well I'm going ahead and trying it - I've committed to the seedlings from Wagner's and today we potted them up. It was our first potting of the year and it was a mild 48F in Vicki's greenhouse. Ordered some nice heavy beige and terra-cotta colored pots with the beige ones even having saucers that you can attach to them. Put half and half - cyclamen and gerbera in the beige pots and then we had some flimsy - and very stuck together! - terra-cotta colored pots. All are 4" so the 72 count cell seedlings should size up in them fairly quickly if I can keep the heat in the greenhouse going strong.

Pam with the newly potted seedlings

Cyclamen in 4" pots

Pots of new stuff

Garden cress sprouting in the cold

We potted a few of the plants into 6" pots and the 144 count pansies went into 36 count trays. The pansies fairly overflowed their 36 count cells but I figure I'll bump them up again into 4" pots, maybe even 6", before I sell them.

The seed flats were very dry so we watered them. I blow out the hose every time I use it, so it doesn't freeze. The bags of soil we moved in there that were frozen and still are, so I think we'll have to go to Hortmark in the next couple of weeks to get a load of soil. We've got nothing to pot for a while now except some seed trays - which don't use too much soil., but we'll be potting the seedlings from the Oakland County greenhouse before you know it.

Couldn't believe the garden cress had sprouted. Temps were going close to if not below freezing in the greenhouse - but it's a hardy little devil and has decided to emerge anyway. Have never grown the plant - am told it's kind of a peppery, green - a bit like mustard.

Hope you are handling the cold weather well. We finally are getting a bit of snow in the next five days - so maybe Pam and I will take a break from the plants and get in a bit of skiing after all.