Tag Archives: vegetables

April Gardening in Connecticut

Mid April is the ideal time to open up the garden in Connecticut.IMG_0092
Soil turned and prepped for warm weather crops. Rhubarb, on the left, protected with spare stakes so as not to disturb the soil around them. A few forgotten garlic and lettuce survived the harsh winter and will give a special early treat.IMG_0093
 Leaves provide a layer of mulch around berry bushes. Here are the first leaves and buds on a current bush.

To prepare organic vegetable garden beds I start by raking out the leaves (used to add a fresh layer of mulch around berry bushes). Sprinkle a layer of about half an inch each of composted cow manure, peat moss and compost soil over the established garden bed (see notes below if digging a new plot). The manure serves as an organic fertilizer, the pfeat moss helps condition the sandy Plainville soil (but will also help condition clay soils as well) and the compost soil does both. I use a pointed spade, push it 6 to 10 inches into the earth, lift and flip the entire area then rake it out with a bow rake.

Starting a new plot? Measure out the size garden you are planning. Remove the grass (a painstaking but essential first step). I have done this by pushing a spade into the grass, lifting then grabbing the grass to shake out the soil from the roots. My discarded grass goes into a wheel barrow to transport up into the woods where it will break down/compost with the leaves etc. Once the grass has been removed rake out to level the garden plot then follow the steps above. Depending on your soil quality you may need to add more composted manure, peat moss and compost soil. Also, if your soil is acidic like mine, add lime to “sweeten” the soil and add calcium.

The early crops I planted are snap peas, broccoli, beets, carrots, scallions, swiss chard, spinach and leafy greens. They can tolerate cool evenings and even frost (good thing because this spring has been unseasonably cool). For the snap peas I hammered 5′ metal stakes into the prepared soil and attached a wire garden fence for them to climb on. For any seeds that you are planting read the recommendations on the package and follow those. I use my grandparents’ and father’s easy method; draw a mini furrow into the soil with a hand spade sprinkle seeds cover furrow tap down with palms water and keep moist. (This will require thinning but it is fast, efficient and seed packets are inexpensive compared to the produce they yield.) The nice thing about April is that there are usually plenty of showers so mother nature will do most of the watering for you. It is important to keep the soil moist while seeds germinate and while they are delicate sprouts. I recommend investing in an oscillating sprinkler; they simulate a gentle rain and are hands free allowing you to do something else while the garden is watered.

Two weeks after planting cold weather crops there is life in my vegetable garden.

Sprouts- soon to be climbing on the fence, blooming and ultimately producing delicious snap peas.IMG_0086
Beet sprouts. They will need to be thinned but I wait until they all emerge and I see which are the strongest and healthiest.IMG_0087
Broccoli sprouts, also to be thinned as they grow.IMG_0088
The carrots are barely visible and as of yet, no sign of the scallions.IMG_0089
The spinach, planted in a large square. When it is time to thin the delicate baby greens will make a lovely salad.IMG_0090
The leaf lettuce (above) and mesclun mix lettuce (below) will also be thinned as they grow making for a lovely baby green salad mix.IMG_0091

 Arugula (above) and swiss chard (below) will be adding to the salad bowl when it is time to thin.IMG_0095


Peppers are Popping

2 weeks after planting my patience pays off:
DSC_0012eggplants are up,
DSC_0017peppers are popping,
DSC_0019and the plastic is removed from the growing tomato plants.

I will continue to monitor plant trays daily to rotate as they reach for the light, water with a gentle mist when the soil begins to dry and remove the plastic once the plants reach and begin to bend against it.

Day 9 After Planting Vegetable Seeds Indoors

DSC_0003The tomatoes and basil are popping up and reaching for the windows, their only source of light. In an effort to encourage them grow straight the trays need to be rotated daily. Each day when I check for new sprouts and the moisture of the soil I also rotate the trays 180 degrees. At this point (9 days after planting the seeds) most of the tomatoes are up and going, as are the basil, there is one eggplant that is just barely pushing at the earth and no sign of life in the pepper pots. The fact that the eggplant have begun is a good sign, they take longer to germinate than the tomatoes but not as long as the peppers. I anticipate the peppers to begin sprouting this weekend (2 weeks after planting). Until then- monitor daily, spray with water as needed and rotate the trays with sprouts.

Starting Vegetable Seeds Indoors

Just when it seems spring will never get here, on a cold and rainy Saturday in March, I started my indoor plantings for this summer’s vegetable garden. Many vegetables benefit from going into the ground as plants rather than directly sowing seeds into the earth. I annually plant peppers, tomatoes, tomatillo, eggplant and basil indoors giving them the longer growing season they need. To do this yourself you will need a solid chunk of time. It took me 4 hours from set up to clean up (it may not take you as long, I plant many trays).
I lay down a tarp (an old sheet or towels will work just as well) in a generous area to be able to spread everything out. Setting up a space to work and establishing a system makes the process very efficient. I recommend getting the seed packets out and considering how many of each type of plant you will want in May to put into the ground. I always increase my amounts to be sure to have back ups for a variety of things that can go wrong along the way.
DSC_0080Write the name of the vegetable variety on the end of a popsicle stick with a fine tip permanent marker. Be specific, don’t simply write tomato if you are planting several varieties. For example, I will be planting Italian Roma, Sweetie Cherry, Brandywine Red and Yellow.
You can purchase small plastic pots (inexpensive and reusable), use peat pots (cheap and must be purchased every year) or make your own from small yogurt cups (free and reusable). If using yogurt cups drainage holes will need to be pierced into the bottom of each cup. I put the cup on a piece of scrap wood, hold a nail and hammer it to pierce the plastic in 3-4 different places.

Fill each planting cup with potting soil (I recommend organic) to just below the rim. Most potting soil is moist in freshly opened bags. If it isn’t, or you are using a bag previously opened water the soil to moisten. If a lot of water drains out into the catch tray, pour it out.
DSC_0085Place the filled cups in a planting tray to catch draining water, make it easier to cover with plastic for the germination period and allow for easy transport of plants outdoors on warm sunny days and back in for the cooler nights. The planting trays I purchased years ago have started to develop holes (defeating their original purpose) but I use them to make carrying easier, I simply line them with large plastic salad bins. Another alternative is to put cups with holes inside a cup without a hole for individual catch trays.

DSC_0083Slide a labeled popsicle stick into the side of each cup.
DSC_0082Put 2-4 like kind seeds in each cup spreading them out evenly. Sprinkle a layer of soil on top of the seeds and gently press the layer of soil down. I usually just push the seeds down 1/8-1/4 inches below the surface with a finger and then gently compress the soil surface down.
DSC_0086Mist with water to soak.
DSC_0087Cover with plastic wrap and monitor daily. If the soil begins to dry out mist with water and recover otherwise leave the plastic intact. I recommend leaving the plastic on until the sprouts touch the plastic then remove the plastic and watch the soil carefully and mist to water as needed.

BE PATIENT, you won’t see the first sprouts for about a week. Peppers can take up to 2 weeks (especially in a space where the temperature is cool) so don’t give up.

STAY TUNED FOR THE NEXT STEPS  in an upcoming post.

Raw Shredded Salad with Ranch Dressing and Deviled Eggs

Salad Ingredients I used what I had on hand – feel free to use your favorite veggies, or what you have on hand
1 head romain lettuce; thinly sliced
1 large carrot; shredded
1 red beet; shredded
stalk of 1 head of broccoli; shredded

Arrange each vegetable in a separate pile on a platter or in separate bowls or stack the separate vegetables on top of the lettuce on individual plates. *if making ahead, mix the shredded carrot with 1 teaspoon of fresh pressed lemon juice and 2 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil to prevent browning.

Ranch Dressing
1/4 cup mayonnaise (homemade)
1 cup kefir
1 clove garlic; crushed
1 teaspoon fresh pressed lemon juice
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
pinch fresh ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dry oregano
1/2 teaspoon dry basil
1/2 teaspoon dry dill weed
1/8 teaspoon dry thyme

Combine all ingredients till well blended and pour into a bowl to serve over the salad or spoon over each individual plate to serve.

Deviled Eggs
8 eggs
3 Tablespoons mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon relish
1/2 Tablespoon spicy mustard
paprika to garnish

Hard boil the eggs – place eggs in a medium sized pot, cover with water, bring to a boil with lid on, reduce heat to simmer for 8 minutes – drain water, pour cold water over eggs to cool for 10 minutes, drain and repeat a few times then drain and peel eggs (gently tap eggs to crack shells and pick away then rinse any residual shell pieces).
Cut eggs in half, remove egg yolk with a teaspoon and place in a small bowl. Add remaining ingredients and mash together with a fork till well combined to make the filling.
Fill eggs. I use a teaspoon to scoop and butter knife to push the filling into the egg yolk hollow. Place on a plate, garnish with a sprinkle of paprika and serve immediately or cover and refrigerate.

Indian Inspired Rice and Bean Salad

I made this dish, inspired by ingredients used in Indian dishes, for a pot luck party. Pasta salad has been done so many times so this fusion meal was my solution to making a light summer dish that is both vegan and gluten free. Before heading out into the garden I prepared all of the elements then mixed it all together when I came inside to get ready to go. The spoonful Xav and I sampled passed inspection. I hope you enjoy!

1/2 cup red mung beans; soaked overnight
1/2 cup brown basmati rice; soaked overnight
2-3 cloves garlic; crushed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 yellow bell pepper; diced
2 tomatoes; diced
1/2 cup red onion; minced
large handful parsley (I used flat Italian); chopped
1 carrot; shredded

Drain and rinse beans that have soaked over night, place in a medium sized pot, add 4 cups water, bring to a boil, reduce heat, simmer till the beans are soft (1 1/2 – 2 hours), drain and rinse.

Drain and rinse rice that has soaked over night, place in a small pot, add 3/4 cup water, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer till the water has all been absorbed (about 20 minutes).

Meanwhile, mix together ingredients for marinate in a small glass or ceramic bowl; garlic, cumin, coriander, salt, pepper, vinegar and olive oil. Set aside.

Prepare vegetables, place in a bowl, cover and store in refrigerator.

Place cooked rice and cooked and rinsed beans in a large glass or ceramic bowl, add marinade, mix, cover and store in refrigerator to chill.

Add the vegetables to the marinated rice and beans, stir and serve.

Good Morning Sunshine; Eggs Sunny Side Up with Portobello Mushrooms

This recipe is for 2 people; adjust as needed

1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 onion; sliced
1 portobello mushroom cap; thinly sliced into bite sized pieces
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
pinch fresh ground black pepper
pinch dried thyme
1/4 cup fresh cilantro; chopped

3-4 eggs (Xav is a 2 egg guy but I only eat 1)
extra virgin olive oil or butter for frying

optional toast

Preheat a medium sized skillet to medium. Prepare vegetables. Add oil to pan and heat a bit. Add onions and mushrooms and sauté till tender.

Meanwhile- preheat a large skillet over medium heat for the eggs. Add oil or butter and allow to heat up/melt covering the bottom of the pan and crack the eggs in. I made the eggs sunny side up but honestly, you can have them however you like. (If you are having toast put that in the toaster now)

Back to the vegetables- add salt, pepper and thyme, stir and simmer 1 minute more. Add cilantro, stir and sauté 2-3 more minutes until it wilts and the smell is amazing. We like the vegetables heaped over our eggs but you can segregate your plate if you wish.