red flannel pantry

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Archive for the tag “vegetable garden”

good night, sweet prince

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This weekend I put the garden to bed. The days are getting shorter and the temperatures cooler. I picked the rest of the tomatoes (even the green ones) and a load of peppers.

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As I began to remove the tomato plants, out popped Mr. Toad. I hadn’t seen him for a couple of months. I think I woke him.

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He shimmied into the soil and pretended to watch me work. What he really was doing was settling down to return to his nap.

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Ever so slowly he sank deeper into the garden until I glanced back one more time and he was gone. We’ll meet again in the spring.

garden visitors


In the summer I often feel pulled by the simultaneous siren calls of the sewing room and the gardens. When the weather is cooperative, I usually succumb to the gardens’ more urgent needs as was the case today. While in the vegetable garden weeding, I came upon my old friend, Mr. Toad. He was enjoying the shade and the bugs beneath some lettuce that had bolted. He didn’t seem too pleased when I removed his temporary shelter and meal source.


He kept me company for awhile, tucked into the shade of the garden hod. The midday sun soon became too much for him, and he shimmied beneath the raised bed board into the cool soil.


While picking cucumbers, I spied a black swallowtail butterfly on the dill. I watched her for awhile, thinking I might get to see her lay eggs, but she was a tease and just flit about.


This hummingbird and I startled each other as I approached the pots of lantana. She quickly recovered and continued with her lunch at the lamb’s ear. I have always thought these blooms were ugly and so have been quick to cut them back, but now I might wait, knowing that both bees and hummingbirds are fond of them.

the bees have been busy


Although I have noticed fewer bees at my bird bath, I am pleased to see that they have been busy in the vegetable garden. The cucumbers are going gangbusters, with lots of little cukes on the vines. Baby peppers and tomatoes have been sighted as well.

2013-06-08The sage and basil are thriving. There is more rhubarb to be harvested, but in the meantime Mr. Toad is content enjoying its shade.

pie plant picking


With my husband returning home after several days on the road, I thought we’d celebrate by harvesting some rhubarb and making strawberry-rhubarb crumble. The rhubarb is huge–you could swaddle a baby in these lusty leaves! (David is looking a little jealous in the background.)


I worked from this recipe on Based on reviews, I reduced the sugar to 1/2 cup and upped the strawberries and rhubarb to 4 cups each. It has a nice balance of sweet and tart and was delicious warm from the oven with vanilla ice cream. The girls claim that since it contains fruit and oatmeal (which means healthy), this crumble will be their breakfast tomorrow–no objections here.

blooming and ready to eat


These lovely Japanese white iris are front and center this week. I like their upright regal posture and elegant delicate blooms.



Now that the white Festiva Maxima peonies have faded, the pink peonies get their turn in the spotlight. Although they have no fragrance, they are beautiful. Like the Festiva Maxima, they are from divisions taken from the garden at our old house. I don’t know this variety’s name.


Their frilly blooms seem to float above the foliage.


This purply-blue salvia is a great dependable perennial. The leaves have a minty aromatic scent, it’s drought tolerant, and butterflies and hummingbirds are fond of it–need I say more? After the first flush of blooms fades, I will cut them back and be rewarded by a second blooming later in the summer.


I am psyched to see that the white milkweed will be blooming this year!


Although I am not keen about their lipstick-red color, these knockout roses always make a grand showing.


The purple flowers are a perennial wild geranium. Their common name is bloody cranesbill (because of the flower’s color and because the seed heads resemble little cranes). In researching this particular variety, I learned that it is called New Hampshire Purple, which makes perfect sense: I was given this plant as a division by my friend, Ken, who is from New Hampshire. I need to find out if he brought the original plant from home. Again, butterflies love it, and if it is cut back, it will rebloom–bonus!


I picked a load of radishes this morning. My husband brought them to work to share.


I also harvested the first round of mesclun and lettuce–yum.

spring radish spread


We picked our first radishes yesterday. They are the Cherry Belle variety, a tried-and-true radish about an inch in diameter. From planting seeds to harvest, it’s just 22 days–hard to believe.

A simple and delicious way to eat radishes is to slice them thinly and put them on a slice of bread with some butter and salt–yum. But last night we opted to make spring radish spread, a recipe in From Asparagus to Zucchini: A Guide to Farm-Fresh Seasonal Produce published by the Madison (WI) Area Community Supported Agriculture Coalition (MACSAC). My copy is from 1996 and was given to me by my dear friend, Sarah. A more recent edition is available on Amazon; you can find it here.

Madison, Wisconsin has always been way ahead on food trends, so it’s no surprise that back in the mid-1990s there were already several CSA farms in that area.

I reach for this cookbook often when I am looking for veggie recipe ideas. The recipes are organized by vegetable in alpha order–so smart and easy to use.

Because MACSAC states on the copyright page that they “encourage the dissemination of the information herein” and asks only that I reference the source, I will share the recipe here.

Spring radish spread uses ingredients I have on hand and comes together quickly. It has a fresh crunchy bite that is delicious on crackers or bread.

mr. toad came a’ calling

mr. toad

When I ventured into the vegetable garden today, I almost stepped on our long-time resident, Mr. Toad. We found him several years ago in the yard and put him inside the fence with the raised beds. As you can see, he’s grown fat eating the bad bugs, slugs and snails for us. He loves the moist, loamy soil.


The lettuce, onions and carrots are coming along. The radishes (far left) should be ready to be picked by early next week.


The radishes we planted more recently have sprouted and are making a strong showing.


The dill is looking good. Once it gets a bit bigger, I plan to try to pot some to share with friends–two full rows were planted and we don’t need that much ourselves for pickle making.


I felt brave enough to plant the basil–surely we won’t get cold temps the second week of May?!  Last year I put the basil in pots near the house, thinking that it would make access from the kitchen easier. However, the basil languished–and thus so did pesto production. So it’s back in the ground again.


The rhubarb continues to unfurl its meaty leaves. I have my eye on its red stalks–there will be plenty for pie this year.


The fennel’s feathery leaves are shooting upward like green fireworks.


The best news? The tomatoes have blooms!

vegetable garden–spring update


My husband and I worked in the garden yesterday afternoon. We had been promised sunny and 80 degrees but ended up with overcast and 60s. Radishes, onions, lettuce, dill and carrots have emerged.


The rhubarb has bulked up.


The elderberry starts are sprouting (thanks, Ken!).


We planted tomatoes and ran the soaker hoses. This year we are trying Mr. Stripey, San Marzano and Sungold. We planted radishes and lettuce along the sides of the raised beds on both sides of the tomatoes. We cut wire hangers into segments and then bend them to hold the soaker hose in place. We save these improvised staples and use them year after year.


We got the cucumber plants in too.


We put collars made from old plastic flower pots and soda bottles around the seedlings to thwart cutworms.

OK, now we are ready for 80 degrees–maybe tomorrow, please?

emerging edibles


A late-season snowstorm delayed things a bit, but the vegetable garden is back in business.  Asparagus began making an appearance a few days ago.

IMG_1634The fennel has muscled its broad shoulders out of the ground as well.

IMG_1635The rhubarb looks promising.

IMG_1636Carrot, radish and lettuce production is underway.

IMG_1637And the pot-bound chives survived!

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