How to start seeds indoors
Andrea Bellamy |

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…

March 24th, 2011 | COMMENTS (11)

Eating your weeds

Chickweed (Stellaria media)

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…

March 21st, 2011 | COMMENTS (8)

Arugula and radishes: fashionably late to the spring planting party
Andrea Bellamy |

Finally! I’ve got some seeds in the ground. Normally I’d have had arugula, peas, radishes, and spinach started weeks ago, but all this travel has kept me away from the garden. I’m also totally disorganized this year (normally I’d have one or two of these filled out, too). Thankfully the weather cooperated this weekend and I was able to spend a few glorious hours in the garden.

Okay: there wasn’t much glory in it. I totally neglected to do any fall/winter clean-up, so those hours saw some serious debris removal and weeding.

I started with the salad garden, one of my five garden “areas,” and the most shady. Last year, it produced a ton of leafy greens, earning it the moniker “The Salad Garden.” Doesn’t look like much, right?

After some weeding and the addition of compost and some alfalfa meal (a nitrogen-rich fertilizer that those greens are gonna love), it was ready to plant. I do the “square-foot garden” thing with this particular bed – an intensive planting technique that works really well for greens. Only half the bed is mine (as you might have guessed from the above photo). These raised beds are in a common area of our townhouse complex and are shared with neighbours, which is pretty rad.
DIG DEEPER…

March 20th, 2011 | COMMENTS (4)

A wearable planter

It’s been a little quiet here at Heavy Petal, which is pretty much the opposite of the rest of my life right now. Where have I been? Not in the garden, that’s for sure! But I have been having fun promoting my book all over the Pacific Northwest. I spoke in Seattle at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show, which was great fun. Then I spoke at Powell’s Books in Portland, which was so exciting (Sugar Snaps was in the front window!) and showed the host of AM Northwest how to make seed balls. Then I headed to Eugene to speak at the Lane County Home and Garden Show, which was a total blast. I’ve got other upcoming events as well.

All this to show you the wearable planter my husband got me as a “happy book tour” gift. I’m using it more like a vase, but it could also be planted up. Looks like ceramic, right? Guess what? It’s resin – painted and finished by hand. DIG DEEPER…

March 15th, 2011 | COMMENTS (3)

Heavy Petal 3.0
Andrea Bellamy |

You may have noticed that Heavy Petal has a new look. It’s been several years since the original site was designed (and before that, it was a very basic blogspot template) and I was ready for a change. Hell, I never go more than six months with the same hair style… five years with the same blog design is just craziness! There are still some bugs to work out, but overall, I’m really happy with it. Big hugs go to the fantastic Renee Garner for the illustrations, and to Dana and Ben at Industrial Brand for everything else.

You’ll notice that I’ve added a Freebies page, with lots of garden-related printables; an Events page, with a list of my upcoming talks and appearances; and a Sugar Snaps and Strawberries page, with more information about my book.

In other news…I was recently featured in Sunset magazine! Check out the online version of the article, in which I dish on my favourite garden accessories and tools.

February 27th, 2011 | COMMENTS (17)

Free seed starting and succession planting tools

Sugar Snaps screenshot

Normally by this time of year I’d have seedlings sprouting underneath florescent tube lights, and early crops like peas, broad beans, and radishes already tucked into the cool earth. This year, I’m sorry to say, I haven’t ventured into the garden except to refill the bird feeder or hurriedly clip some thyme. Instead, I’ve been busy thinking about gardening, and preparing to talk about gardening at various upcoming events relating to Sugar Snaps and Strawberries. That’s right: I’m going on a book tour! I’ll be in Vancouver, Victoria, Seattle, Portland, Eugene, San Francisco, and Los Angeles over the next few months, so come out and say “hi!” [Check out my events schedule for details. Some dates/cities still TBD.]

But in the meantime, have you started your spring garden planning yet? If not, check out these nifty planning tools on the lovely new site created for all things Sugar Snaps and Strawberries: a seed starting planning chart and a planting planning (or succession planning) chart for you to download, free! There’s also a pretty seed packet pattern for you to use later in the season.

Need some guidance on spring garden planning? Check out this post about how went from slacker to serious planner.

February 22nd, 2011 | COMMENTS (4)

Step-by-step: How to make seed balls

seed packets

I spent the morning making seed balls as a promo for Sugar Snaps and Strawberries. The plan is to give them out at various events as little vegetal thank yous. Because the book is all about edibles, I used veggie, herb, and edible flower seeds rather than my usual crimson clover/wildflower mix.

I chose cool-season edibles that can be sown in March and April, since that’s just after many of the events are being held. I also chose things that are relatively easy to grow, don’t require staking, and don’t need loose soil to thrive (since you don’t often cultivate the soil before tossing a seed ball): ‘Lacinato’ and ‘Russian Red’ kales, ‘Red Sails’ and ‘Esmeralda’ lettuces, ‘Sugar Loaf’ endive, arugula, ‘Kincho’ scallions, ‘Bright Lights’ Swiss chard, chives, dill, and edible flowers calendula and nasturtium. DIG DEEPER…

January 31st, 2011 | COMMENTS (43)

Win a Sugar Snaps and Strawberries garden starter kit

Sugar Snaps Cover

It’s January 2011 and my book, Sugar Snaps and Strawberries, is officially out. It’s been available in American bookstores for over a month now so this isn’t exactly breaking news, but copies are just now appearing on Canadian shelves. Combine that with the amazing reviews that are starting to pour in and the fact that my publisher, Timber Press, calls January 2011 the book release date, and this is all starting to feel really…real.

To celebrate the book’s official launch, Timber Press (in partnership with Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and Garden Fever) is hosting a contest to win a terrific garden starter kit: we’re talking everything you need to kick your garden into gear. DIG DEEPER…

January 18th, 2011 | COMMENTS (6)

Making quince liquor
Andrea Bellamy |

Infusing vodka with quince

Vodka + shredded quince = quince liquor. What could be easier?

I love growing unusual fruits, herbs and vegetables. The more obscure, the better. Bonus points if someone says, “I’ve never heard of that.”

Enter quince. A pome fruit related to the pear and apple, quince has been imbued with some pretty weighty symbolism throughout the ages (many historians believe that it was a quince—not an apple—that tempted Eve in the Garden). I was in my late 20s before I first encountered the fruit (in jam form, at a B&B in the Loire Valley), and despite this late introduction, I have probably eaten more quince than most North Americans. DIG DEEPER…

January 12th, 2011 | COMMENTS (10)

Happy new year!
Andrea Bellamy |

Jan 2011 calendar

Hey there! Happy new year. Hope you had a wonderful, relaxing Christmas holiday (if you celebrate such things), and are ready to take on the world in 2011. Let’s all work to make this year better than the last, shall we? It can’t be hard to do better than 2010! So: happy thoughts, good intentions, and meaningful action. Let’s go.

Along those lines… my friend and fellow garden writer Willi Galloway at DigginFood has dreamed up a gorgeous desktop calendar in collaboration with designer and illustrator Anne Bryant, and is offering it as a free download on her blog. With a modern homesteading theme, the twelve bright, quirky illustrations are a cheerful and fun way to decorate your laptop (or desk; Anne offers a printed version in her Etsy shop) and will definitely get you in the mood for taking on the garden (and possibly the world!) in 2011.

Thanks Willi!

January 4th, 2011 | COMMENTS (5)


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