Peony 'Sarah Bernhardt'

Peony 'Sarah Bernhardt'

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Planting Timing

Dear Friends,

It is a beautiful Spring evening in Portland. Typical Spring weather for us: upper 50's, black clouds, then sunbreaks, then rain, then sunny. All that was missing today was a little hail. Ha-Ha! If you live in Portland you know what I speak of. Right now it's a beautiful blue sky with fluffy white "cotton ball" clouds starting to be streaked with shades of pink. I have the window cracked open and there are birds splashing in the birdbath right outside my home office window. Today I saw butterflies in my yard for the first time this season. My plum trees seemed to have overnight dropped their flower blossoms and leafed out completely green. I mowed my lawn 2 weeks ago and it already needs it again. Seeds are germinating, birds are singing, weeds are growing leaps and bounds. Spring is bliss, all of it.

This month Portland has been blessed with 2 weekends of sunny days and record high temps in the 70's. This type of early warm weather just explodes our "spring-fever-gardening-bug." (And, I'm not talking about a pest!) Enthusiasm, energy, and new found hopefullness of the Spring is a wonderful thing, but if we are to be succesful in the garden we must also temper it with some reality. Sadly folks, April is too early for basil, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and peppers. (But, don't despair there are LOTS of other crops you CAN plant now). A lesson I learned early on is that every vegetable and herb has it's appropriate timing for planting. I learned this lesson by making lots of mistakes. Not everything goes in the ground at the same time. Each plant has it's own requirements for day length, soil temperature, and day & night air temperatures. There are cool season crops and hot season crops. In Portland we have a long growing season, but have short summers without a prolonged period of warm day & night temps necessary for a lot of heat loving crops to succeed. So, here are my tips for beginners and pro's on timing your veggie garden planting:

1. Plan! Plan! Plan! Educate yourself about what you want to grow and what grows well in your area and climate. Ask questions, talk to other gardeners.
2. Know your average last frost date! In Portland, our average last frost date is April 15th. Keep in mind this is an "average" not a "guarantee." Last year we had frost in Mid May and temps in the 40s conistently through the entire month of May. Watch the weather daily.
3. Plan for succession plantings of your crops rather than all at once. This way you will have an extended harvest and can plant warm season crops in the place you've harvested cool season crops.
4. Keep a gardening journal. This will help you document what works and what doesn't work. Reviewing my gardening journal from the previous year is an essential part of my current year planning.

The two resources that helped me the most when I was started out, and that I continue to use are (keep in mind these are resources specific to where I live):

The Maritime Northwest Gardening Guide produced by Seattle Tilth Fifth Printing 2005
Territorial Seed Company Catalog-get your free copy online at

Also check out the Portland Nursery website for a free veggie planting calendar & veggie care-sheets:

And here's a quick summary of my garden planting. You'll notice many crops I plant every 2 weeks so that I have a succession of harvests throughout the season:

Late February: direct seed peas, arugula, radishes, scallions. Potato tubers, onion bunches, garlic cloves, raspberry canes & strawberry crowns. Plant seedlings-annual flowers (violets & pansies)
Mid March: direct seed spinach, chard, mustard greens, turnips, radishes, arugula, scallions, parsley.
Early April: direct seed mache, lettuce, carrots, radishes.
Mid April: direct seed beets, carrots, turnips, lettuce, arugula, radish, scallions, spinach, chard, mustard greens. Plant seedlings-kolarabi, florence fennel, annual flowers (alyssum, marigolds, petunias, snapdragons, calendula, lobelia)
Late April: direct seed beets, carrots, turnips, lettuce, radishes, arugula, spinach, chard, sunflowers, scarlett runner beans. Plant seedlings: artichokes, dill, chives, cilantro, tarragon, annual flowers (cosmos)
Mid May: direct seed pole & bush beans, beets, carrots, radishes, lettuce, basil & summer savory.
Late May: direct seed corn, bush beans, beets, carrots, radishes, lettuce. Plant seedlings: tomatoes, zucchini & summer squash, winter squash, pumpkins, basil, annual flowers (zinnia & cosmos)
Early June: Plant seedlings: cucumber, eggplant, peppers, gourds, basil, annual flowers

Happy Planting & Happy Spring!
In Health,
Miss Jolie Ann

Beet Dip

Beet Dip
Recipe from Vegetarian Times Magazine

Dear Friends,
I made this beet dip for the March edition of "2nd Friday Suppers at Miss Jolie's" and it was a hit! Bright pink color and such an unexpected delicious taste. Creamy, satisfying and you'd never guess the main ingredients were raw beets and raw spinach. For the party, I served it with homemade toasted pita chips and the leftovers were great with "trader joe's organic corn chip dippers." I will make this recipe again and again! Oh yeah, and I doubled this recipe to make enough for my party.

Miss Jolie Ann

1/2 lb red beets (1 large), peeled and coarsely chopped
1 large scallion, chopped
1/4 cup (packed) chopped fresh spinach
8 oz cream cheese
2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp snipped chives

1. In bowl of a food processor, pulse beets, scallion, and spinach until finely chopped.
2. Add cream cheese, lemon juice and slat. Process until well blended, leaving some texture in dip. Transfer to bowl, and stir in chives.

Lentil Soup for the Crockpot

Lentil Soup for the Crockpot
Original Recipe by Miss Jolie Ann

You know I've been loving my simple crockpot soups this Spring! The ingredients are super economical, the cooking is time-saving, and the product is nutritious and delicious....

In Health,
Miss Jolie Ann

1 leek, washed & thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, peeled & minced
1 bunch celery (about 6-8 stalks), stalks minced
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp dried mustard
1/4 tsp dried tarragon
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 cups brown lentils, rinsed & drained
Sea Salt & Black Pepper

1. Over medium heat in a skillet warm the olive oil. Add the leeks, garlic & celery. Saute over medium heat for about 1o minutes until softened and slightly browned. Add spices and saute another few minutes until the mixture is very fragrant and well combined.
2. Place the cooked vegetable & spice mixture into the crockpot with the lentils. Add enough water to cover the ingredients.
3. Cook in crockpot for 6-8 hours until the lentils are completely soft. Add salt & pepper to taste. Taste and adjust seasoning. You may need to add additional amounts of each spice.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

What I'm Harvesting In My Kitchen Garden-Mid April

Dear Friends,

It's mid-April and we are all spending a lot of time planting in our gardens. Most of our harvest is many months away. It can be "slim-pickin's" for home harvesting this time of year. A few of my overwintered greens are still viable, as are the perennial crops just coming back, and some quick maturing stuff I planted last month. Here's what I harvested this week:

chives, oregano, cilantro, parsley
french sorrel
french breakfast radishes
italian kale
green wave mustard greens
edible flowers-violets, blue borage & chive blossoms

The good news is that seasonal Farmer's Markets are starting up again. Check out this link to find out what's happening in the Portland area:

Also, check out this post from my archives with all kinds of great resources for seasonal eating:

In Health,
Miss Jolie Ann

April Garden Update

It's been a busy month in the garden & here's what I've been working on:

April 11: Last year we planted an ever-bearing strawberry variety called 'Tri Star' and I was pretty disappointed with it's yield. It was in 2 separate 2'x4' raised beds. So, I pulled them all out of one raised bed and gave a bunch to my friend Blake for his garden. Then I amended this bed with "Bumper Crop" compost and my own custom vegan fertilizer blend. Into this bed I planted 'walla walla' onions (from "bunches"), and direct seeded 'cylindra' beets, 'magenta sunset' swiss chard and 'bordeaux' spinach. I have a burgundy color theme going on! In the other raised bed I left the 'Tri-Stars' because they looked so healthy and lush. I fed them with liquid kelp and decided to give them one more season. Both of these raised beds were also planted with white cosmos to help attract beneficial insects, plus I love how it looks when it's flowering! It's one of my summer favorites. In my "greens & roots" raised bed I did a succession planting and direct seeded carrots, turnips, scallions, and 4 types of lettuce.

April 16: It's the official "first day without frost" in Portland. Though, we know that frost can occur through May. April 15th is an approximate. However, it's a beautiful sunny day and I'm celebrating by spending the whole day in the garden! In my "greens & roots" bed I companion planted several flowers 'tangerine gem' marigolds, 'rocket pink' snap dragons and more 'walla walla' onions (pretty much I'm tucking them in everywhere I can!) The little 'gem' series marigolds are great in a garden of greens and roots, not only for their beauty, their smell that detracts garden pests, but also because they are edible and go great in a home-grown salad! In this bed I have a trellis, which in another month I'll plant with yard long beans. Today I direct seeded cardinal flower, which is a red flowered annual vine in the morning glory family. It should look beautiful mixed with the purple-podded skinny beans both climbing the trellis made of branches. In my "strawberry & friends" raised bed I have strawberry crowns I planted 2 months ago. They are leafing out nicely and I gave them a boost with liquid kelp (surprised?) and companion planted with pink allysum. The arugula and 'french breakfast' radishes are just about ready to harvest so I tucked in some 'florence' fennel transplants and companion planted with pink petunias. On the other side of this bed I planted 'kolibri' kohlrabi and direct seeded 'merlot' lettuce and 'walla walla' onion (that's right, more walla walla's!). The burgundy of the lettuce with the purple of the kohlrabi is going to look awesome. Plus, the kohlrabi will be harvested by the time the lettuce heads are maturing. My future "tomato & friends" raised bed currently has my February planted peas that are coming along REALLY slowly. In preparation for the tomatoes I will plant at the end of May, I amended this bed with "Bumper Crop" compost and my custom vegan fertilizer blend. I also boosted the peas with, guess what?-you guessed it-liquid kelp! In my raspberry raised bed I also amended with a bag of "Bumper Crop," my custom fertilizer blend, and more liquid kelp. The 'Summit' raspberry canes are really leafing out nicely. They look great! I am savoring the thought of eating fresh sweet raspberries straight off the canes. Yummy.

April 22: I have always wanted to grow artichokes for their edibleness as much as their beauty. So, today I planted my brand new "artichokes, herbs & friends" raised bed. This is a 2'x12' raised bed I tried growing tomatoes in last year with not much success because I think it doesn't get enough sun. A few weeks ago I harvested the overwintering mustard greens that were here since last September and amended with "Bumper Crop" compost, and my custom vegan fertilizer blend. I planted 2 'Imperial Star' artichoke plants, and 1 purple heirloom variety who's name is escaping me at the moment. I companion planted the artichokes with white allysum and orange calendula. The calendula are edible and I eat their pretty petals in salad. I also tucked in more white cosmos. This raised bed is on the western part of my yard so I planted a series of 6' tall hollyhocks (alcea) along the back. My friend Margie told me that they are really prone to rust and need good circulation, so this is a perfect place for them where they won't be crowded and there's plenty of air flow between them. I have always wanted to plant hollyhocks, they are one of my favorite flowers! They fondly remind me of sunbathing with Catherine on the meadow in front of the lodge at Breitenbush Hot Springs in late August. Delightful! One of end of this long raised bed I planted some perennial & annual herbs: pineapple sage, 'alba' rosemary (a white flowering heirloom variety), french tarragon, cilantro and italian parsley. On the other end I planted dill and nasturtiums and constructed the bamboo tee-pee that will support the purple, yellow & green pole beans I'll direct seed in mid-May.

April 30: I love sunflowers! They are one of my favorite summertime & autumn flowers. I like to find the room to grow several varieties. Today I direct seeded some into my raspberry bed and my perennial butterfly garden. I also seeded several varieties into coconut coir pots with seed starting mix to give them a jump start before planting them pot and all directly into the garden. Today I cleaned up my perennial butterfly garden which is a bed up against the East side of my house. I planted this bed last June and then it took quite a beating all July-August when my landlord re-sided my house and trampled it to the ground and covered it in lead paint scrapings. It was a mess. Then followed the brutal storm in December that took out my rosemary planted here. To my delight many of the plants are coming back stronger than ever. The centranthus and salvia are both preparing to bloom. The lavender, yarrow and aster are big. And the echinacea, rudebekia, and coreopsis are all beginning to show some new growth. The verdict is still out on the agastache and penstemon. I had a monarda, fleabane, and galardia in pots from last year that I transplanted into this bed today. I also amended with 'Black Forest' compost, my custom vegan fertilizer blend, and a dose of liquid kelp before covering with Whitney Farms 'garden mulch' and watering everything in. Looks good! It's on my agenda to tear out all the bluebell bulbs from one end (that came with the house) and plant something else-maybe more galardia, black & blue salvia, or lecanthemum. We'll see...

Happy Gardening,
Miss Jolie Ann