June 2010


I love Brussels sprouts so I decided to grow some this year. I planted them last fall and was disappointed that they didn’t seem to be doing much. But, I left them in since they weren’t taking up much space and now they are growing well. I’ve been ignoring them the past month or two as I’ve focused on putting in my summer crops and on beginning harvesting this year’s berries. A friend was visiting my garden last week and noticed that I had baby sprouts on my plants. I think this is so cool! I’ve always thought that Brussels sprouts looked a little wierd, with the tiny balls of leaves clustered up and down a stalk. I’ve often wondered how they grow that way. Now I know! Each bud grows out of a leaf node. It only looks wierd in the store because the leaves are all missing. I think they look kind of cute right now, with the sprouts just starting to peek out of the leaf nodes.

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A few weeks ago, my fellow MG trainees and I finished our four-month training program and began in earnest to put in the 60 hours we’ve commited to volunteering in our first year. I’ll be making occassional posts about my experiences as a Master Gardener, but wanted to offer some observations on what I’ve learned so far.

  1. As with any good educational program, I finished it realizing how little I know. Even though I’ve been gardening regularly now for about eight years, all the classes underscored for me (more…)

I like to try new crops, to expand my knowledge of foods and to see what grows well in my area. One of the vendors I buy seedlings from (Sunnyside Organic Seedlings) had something that looked interesting because of its beautiful purple leaves. They called it hillbilly spinach, but I’ve found it also is called mountain spinach, French spinach, red orach, purple orach and garden orach. Technically, it is Artiplex hortensis, in the Amaranthaceae family, making it a close relative of spinach, but it is not actually a spinach.

Technical classification issues aside, I’ve found a winner. The plant is very productive, and produces large leaves that are easy to harvest and clean. The leaves would be good raw in a salad, contrasting nicely with green lettuce or arugula leaves. I steamed it and was delighted to find that it retained it’s purple color and tasted delicious. To top it off, so far I have had no major pest problems with this plant. While I’ve been out most nights the past several weeks with a flashlight looking for slugs and earwigs, those pests never bothered these plants. I will definitely be saving some of the seed from these plants and growing more next year, perhaps as an ornamental in my front yard.

A friend came by this afternoon for a leisurely visit, bringing along her mother and two dogs. I was happy to show off my garden and to share my early summer fruit crops. Angelina modeled for me with the apricots. She claims to be 85, but I wouldn’t put her at a day over 70. 😉 The apricots are a new crop for me this year, and I am loving them. They are ripening at a rate of about two per day, just falling off the tree when ready to eat. They are juicy with a strong apricot flavor, two things I’ve never tasted in a store-bought apricot. They are yummy!

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Step 1: Take out your front lawn and put in critter friendly flowers.

Step 2: Plant a tree next to the yard so there is a place for a nest.

Step 3: Wait a couple of years.

Step 4: Take picture of mama hummingbird dutifully sitting on her eggs in the beautiful nest.

Note that this photo was taken with the camera lens about 12 inches from the nest. This mama was not deterred by the obnoxious photographer venturing near her and her eggs.

I’m not planning to count every pint of blackberries that I harvest this year. I’m happy knowing that last year I harvested a total of 54 pints of berries. But, my daily record last year was 10 pints, which I harvested on each of two separate nights. That record has now been blown out of the water. (more…)