Last year I decided to introduce a series of blog posts I called “Now Harvesting.” Every week or two, I chronicled the food coming out of my garden. I thought it would be a good way to identify lulls; times when my garden wasn’t producing to its full potential. It would, I thought, help me become a better planner, and thus, grow more food.
Um…yeah. It’s a good idea in theory.
Unfortunately, I don’t think better planning could have helped my garden during this dismal spring. Lack of sunlight and warmth conspired to keep even the coolest of the cool-season edibles stunted and sad.
But things are looking up! I’ve been harvesting arugula and radishes for a couple of weeks, and now the lettuce is really starting to put in some effort.
Funnily enough, this time last year my Now Harvesting post didn’t look all that different than this: greens and radishes. The only difference was that I’d been eating them for at least a month. This? This was my first homegrown salad of 2011. And damn, it was good.
Now harvesting: ‘Red Sails’ lettuce, ‘Garden Ferns’ heirloom Italian lettuce, arugula (leaves and flowers), ‘French Breakfast’ radishes.
I’m thrilled to announce a new monthly feature on Heavy Petal: a collaboration between me and Willowtree, a beautiful and informative website created by my friend Jackie Connelly (the woman behind the gorgeous photographs in Sugar Snaps and Strawberries) and her sister, Tina.
“Willowtree provides information and inspiration to people with all types of food sensitivities and intolerances to help them live a hopeful, healthy and informed life,” write Jackie and Tina. “We have been struggling with food sensitivities for most of our lives. We are first-hand, front line, food sensitivity mavens.”
But despite catering to some very specific dietary needs, Willowtree isn’t a niche site. Jackie and Tina believe in eating whole foods—“local where possible, and organic if given the choice.” And that’s something I think we can all get behind.
Here’s how the feature works: Jackie, Tina and I will choose an in-season ingredient to profile. I’ll tell you how to grow it; they’ll tell you how to eat it. Fun, right?
Right now, we’re harvesting armloads of crispy rhubarb from our gardens, and while I’m freezing most of mine to pair with this summer’s strawberries in jams and pies, the Willowtree girls are already turning this delicious spring vegetable (yes, vegetable!) into Apple Rhubarb Crumble. Read on for the recipe and growing tips. DIG DEEPER…
A few years ago, I became fascinated by the idea of growing grain. I explored small-space grain production, saw first hand how a community garden had integrated a grain-growing project into an attractive edible landscape, and pored over Small-Scale Grain Raising, Gene Logsdon’s classic text on small-space grains. But all my research didn’t change the fact that I couldn’t start even a teeny plot of wheat on my balcony. In fact, none of my many garden spaces was all that practical for growing grain. But the idea of a pocket-sized prairie has stuck with me, maybe because, with my feet firmly rooted on the West Coast (and, let’s face it, the city), I’ve never seen a wheat field up close. In my (fantasy-prone) brain, the iconic wheat field is romantic, wistful, sublime. (Prairie folk, please don’t disillusion me.)
So when I heard about Lawns to Loaves, an experiment in small-space urban grain growing, I jumped at the chance to participate. Lawns to Loaves is the brainchild of Chris Hergesheimer, aka the Flour Peddler. Vancouverites might know him as the guy who mills flour on a stationary bicycle (really!) and sells his whole wheat flours at farmer’s markets around the Lower Mainland and on the Sunshine Coast. DIG DEEPER…
From hanging baskets to Woolly Pockets, green walls to palette gardens, vertical gardening is hot. (Just flip through the inspirational Garden Up! by Susan Morrison and Rebecca Sweet to get a sense of how many options there are for smart use of vertical space.)
I recently came across a vertical gardening concept different than anything I’ve seen so far. It’s called Urbio, and it’s a sleek-and-modern-looking system of magnetic pots that, according to the designer, “will help us transform any wall or ferrous surface into a beautiful vertical garden.”
Urbio is comprised of a team of designers lead by Beau Oyler and Jared Aller of Enlisted Design and Tim Cui of Volare Studio, and they are currently on Kickstarter, a crowd-sourced funding platform for creative projects. As of posting, 574 backers had pledged $52,816 toward making the Urbio concept a reality.
Intrigued, I asked creator Beau Oyler for the details on Urbio:
Heavy Petal: Enlisted Design, your product design studio, has a wide range of clients—not just the gardening industry. How did Urbio come about? What inspired the design? Beau: I’ve lived in apartments, condos, and last year, finally bought a 1014sf house. Everywhere I’ve lived, I grown something. Whether it was herbs in a cup on the window mantle or a potted garden on the porch, I’ve found a place to grow herbs, veggies, flowers, etc. Urbio is the solution I needed all along. Once the idea was expressed, the design team branched out to urban gardeners in their sphere of influence and questioned the concept. Their findings and our design and development skills combined to create a fun product!
Each pot is made of eco-plastic and is equipped with large neodymium magnets that are strong enough to hold almost anything to the wall, or to each other. Stick ‘em together for a neat vase or centerpiece. DIG DEEPER…
It may be miserable and wet outside, but it’s balmy here under the Gro-light.
It’s been so wet here in Vancouver that even if the soil weren’t too soaked to support seed growth, not even the most hardcore gardeners are braving the downpours to plant. Today, I literally ran out to the salad garden during a break in the rain, scattered some seeds (no time for actual, measured planting), and ran back inside just as the clouds opened.
And it’s cold. One might almost say unseasonable. But despite it being about 5°C cooler than optimal, I went ahead and planted my lettuce anyway. (Lettuce prefers temperatures between 15°C [60°F] and 21°C [70°F]).
Designers Sébastien Haquet and Thomas Lanthier of Pousse Créative have taken that concept one step further, creating beautiful and functional garden pieces that also provide shelter for birds, cats, dogs, and even rabbits and chickens. DIG DEEPER…
March is prime seed-starting month for many gardeners. Not only can we direct seed (plant outdoors) some of our cool-season veggie crops like arugula, Asian greens, broad beans, corn salad (mache), collards, kale, peas, spinach, and radishes, but we can also start many of our warm-season crops indoors for transplanting out once the weather warms.
I started a flat of seeds on the weekend, and I thought I’d share the process with you. I did it all indoors, on my coffee table, and managed to make very little mess. Here’s how:
Gather all your necessary ingredients: potting soil or seed-starting mix (a sterile blend of peat or coir, perlite, and vermiculite), a trowel, a large mixing bowl, a watering can, containers (recycled yogurt containers, homemade newspaper pots, or store-bought plastic cell packs), plant tags, and of course, seeds. DIG DEEPER…
As I was weeding the salad garden yesterday, I found several small clumps of chickweed (Stellaria media). Appropriate that it was in the salad garden, because fresh, young chickweed makes a fabulous addition to a spring salad.
Now, I know what some of you are thinking. Oh god. I know where this is going. I am so *not* going to start “wild harvesting” lamb’s quarters and dandelion greens. And skeptics? I know where you’re coming from.
In fact, the original manuscript for my book included a sidebar on edible weeds, which I scrapped when I realized that as crunchy as I enjoy my granola, I’m not a let’s-make-”coffee”-out-of-this-dandelion-root kind of gal. DIG DEEPER…