New Favorites for 2013

6 Jan
Echinacea 'Cheyenne Spirit'photo courtesy AAS

Echinacea ‘Cheyenne Spirit’
photo courtesy AAS

Not only do I love getting the new garden catalogs for the year, I love to learn about the new varieties that are available.  Even though I have my favorites that I will forever plant year after year at My Urban Farmscape, I can’t wait for the season to begin so I can try something new.  I have already started my seed sowing calendar and have realized that it’s almost time to start the majority of my veggie, herb and flower seeds.  It’s this time of year when my family learns to deal with my obsession and continuous conversations with them (and sometimes, well mostly, with myself) about what gardening or plant related thoughts are in my head.

Really, just this morning I blurted out, “I need to get those seeds planted in the next few weeks if they are going to bloom this year.”

My husband’s eyes glazed over as he asked, “What are you talking about?”

“This Echinacea ‘Cheyene Spirit’  is absolutely beautiful, and I need to find a place grow a big patch of it, just a few feet, maybe five along the fence, and it should bloom the first year when planted from seed, but I have to get it sowed by the middle of this month.  Oh my!  Look at all the colors, red, pink, yellow, orange, purple and white which will grow really good in that hot sunny spot next to the house.  Oh!  The bees and butterflies will LOVE them, I can see that late summer cut flower bouquet now..…..”  I realized he wasn’t listening, but continued to talk out loud to myself.  “It’s also one of the 2013 All-American Selection winners!”

Tomato 'Jasper'photo courtesy AAS

Tomato ‘Jasper’
photo courtesy AAS

My excitement continued with another 2013 AAS winner that was bred by Johnny’s Selected Seeds.  A bright red cherry tomato ‘Jasper’, an F1 hybrid which is also certified organic.  Nice!  An intermediate growing cherry tomato needing to be staked which should produce fruit 90 days from sowing seeds.  Johnny’s and AAS described the flavor having a “sweet, rich taste”.  I think that I need to try this one.  I’m sure I can fit it in somewhere.

Now thinking about tomatoes reminded me about the grafted tomato plants available from Burpee.  I called out to my husband, “Can you believe they are grafting tomatoes like they graft fruit trees?!”  No response.  I have found this to be very interesting, reading about it for the past few years and decided this is the year to buy a few plants.  Simply put, an heirloom variety is the plant on the top, so you get the delicious heirloom flavor, but the roots are from a hybrid that will provide increased disease resistance.  Wow!  The original pink Brandywine will be my first choice.  You can purchase these directly from Burpee.com or possibly your local garden retailer.

Burpee's 'Bumper Crop' grafted tomatophoto courtesy Burpee

Burpee’s ‘Bumper Crop’ grafted tomato
photo courtesy Burpee

I came across a new heirloom pickling cucumber ‘Miniature White’ from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.  Not only is the flesh a creamy white, but the skin is also a creamy white.  That should look nice against the green foliage.  I thought that this may make an interesting addition to the garden as they say it is a high producer and grows good in a container.  I was even more excited when I read about it seldom growing more than 3 feet!  A true bonus for any Urban Farmscape.  I became distracted wondering what color container I should plant it in and decided to go outside and rummage around the garage.  I could always paint it if I didn’t have the right color.  Orange?  Maybe purple.  That would really stand out.  Not too many purple things in the garden.  I don’t know.  I decided to go in and ask my husband what color he thought would look good.  I don’t know if he’ll respond, but I know that at least he’ll smile.

Growing Sprouts

23 Dec

Sprouts close

Have you ever eaten sprouts?  Maybe you had some tiny seedlings added to your sandwich or topped on a salad at a restaurant and wondered to yourself, what is this?  You can purchase them in the fresh produce section at most grocery stores.  They may seem inexpensive at the time, but compared to growing them yourself you may think again.  A tablespoon of seeds will produce 1 1/2 cups or more of sprouts.  Alfalfa is the most commonly used and grown seed for sprouts for their fresh mild taste, but did you know that you can sprout many types of seeds which can provide spicy additions such as mustards or an additional crunch that would come from mung beans?  This indoor growing project is easy enough for children and gives the whole family an affordable, quick, fresh, and nutritionally beneficial addition to  meals during the winter months.

Each seed has its own requirements, but they follow these few simple steps and you will have sprouts in 3-5 days at temperatures averaging around 70 degrees Fahrenheit.  Experiment with different types of seeds.  Make sure you are using seeds specifically for sprouting from a reputable seed supplier.  They should be certified organic and tested negative for E-coli and salmonella. 

I use a quart Mason jar.  You can also use special containers for sprouting.  See  links at the end of this post.

Sprout Supplies

Here I measured 1 tablespoon of alfalfa seeds into a quart Mason jar, covered it with a screened lid (you can use cheese cloth) and filled it half full with lukewarm water.  Allow to sit overnight.

Sprouts in water

The next day drain off the water.  Fill the jar back up.  Drain again and then swish the seeds around the jar.  Lay tilted with the lid in a bowl to catch any draining water.  Cover with a towel and keep in the dark.  Do this about 2-3 times per day for the next few days until the sprouts have grown and you can see the little cotyledon leaves.  At that time you can expose them to light which will allow the leaves to green up a bit. 

Sprouts

After a final rinse, I allow them to dry a bit on a paper towel and then place in a loosely sealed storage baggy or container and keep in the veggie part of my fridge.  They stay good for a week or more.  Use on sandwiches, salads, wraps, or anything you desire to add freshness to this winter!

Click on the links for sprouts, books and supplies.  Remember to click your browser button to return back to My Urban Farmscape!

Sprouts: The Miracle Food: The Complete Guide to Sprouting

 The Complete Guide to Growing and Using Sprouts: Everything You Need to Know Explained Simply, Including Easy-to-make Recipes (Back-To-Basics) (Back to Basics Growing)

The Sprout House Dozen Organic Sprouting Seeds Mixes Sampler Small Quantities of Each Seed Mix Holly’s, Mix the Two, Rainbow Bean Mix, Wisdom Blend, 2 Wheats Together, Salad Mix, Veggie Queen Mix, Dill Salad Mix, Hi Power Protein Mix, Bean Salad Mix, Fennel Salad Mix, Lentils Together – contains these and more: alfalfa, radish, clover, broccoli, mung, green pea, fenugreek, garbanzo, adzuki, hard wheat, fennel

The Sprout House Organic Sprouting Seeds Alfalfa 1 pound

 The Sprout House Veggie Queen Salad Mix Organic Sprouting Seeds – Red Clover, Red Cabbage, Red Lentil, French Lentil, Daikon Radish, Fenugreek

Organic Sprouting Seeds Mung Bean 1 Pound the Sprout House

Victorio VKP1014 4-Tray Kitchen Seed Sprouter

Sprouting Strainer Lid

 

In the beginning….there was an inspirational video.

9 Dec

Today it is snowing…snowing a lot, snowing so much that instead of gardening I will read about gardening…..fiction, non-fiction, poetry, holding a book, tablet, reading online, a paper magazine or catalog, it doesn’t matter.   Last year when it was snowing, I watched this video posted by Roger Doiron, Founder and Director of  Kitchen Gardeners International (KGI).  It inspired me so much that a couple weeks later, My Urban Farmscape was born, and I joined this revolution that Roger speaks of.    Have I done what I intended to do since my first post on January 1, 2012?  Maybe not as much as I would have liked to, but it’s a good start.  Thank you Roger for the inspiration.

To read my first post, click here http://wp.me/p1GoP9-I  

To start the video…you know what to do.  When you’re done, share it with your friends.

My Favorite Urban Farmscaper Gifts

25 Nov

Seriously, haven’t you heard enough about cyber Monday and all the deals that could be out there?  Well, I have…except for the deals I find for my gardening friends! The holiday season is upon us and  honestly, I won’t tolerate another gift that is marketed to gardeners that really has no useful purpose.  Like a Chia Pet for example.  I love plants, and love growing them, but have no desire to have a terra cotta bust of Homer Simpson with chia hair!    So, with that, here are some of my favorites with the links to these awesome gardening products on Amazon  as well as suggested gifts for gardeners.  When you click on a picture it will take you straight to the product.  Don’t forget to come back to My Urban Farmscape!

Happy shopping!  Remember, click on the pic to  send you to Amazon, or a link  like the one here for all of the Cyber Monday Deals.    Shop Amazon – Cyber Monday Deals Week

My Favorite Urban Farmscaper Gifts!

The Ultimate Urban Farmscaper’s Gift!  Why not have it all in this compact space.  A raised bed with an optional greenhouse to extend your gardening season.  A great idea for a senior or  Farmscaper who has everything…except this!

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love  this Jewel Coldframe that I mentioned in an earlier post and use at My Urban Farmscape to extend the season.  When you aren’t using it in the garden, it can be broken down for easy storage.

This Earth Box below is great for those of you with little space and with little time tending to garden chores.  Maybe you didn’t find the time, or forgot to water last year?  A perfect gift for the busy Urban Farmscaper.

Some of my favorite pruners to use in the garden for harvesting as well as in the kitchen for cutting fresh herbs.

For indoor growing and seed starting, supplemental lights are a must have.  For quality and compact sizes, here are two of my favorites.

For the garden photographer the right kind of lens or camera can really help to capture the tiny life living in the garden.

Books for Urban Farmscapers that love to grow food in small spaces, and even for those growing in not so small spaces.

Books for preserving and cooking food you grow or buy at the farmers markets.  Great gifts for someone that is trying to eat local and seasonally.

Magazine subscriptions that are full of useful information about gardening, cooking and homesteading.  I keep every issue of mine for reference.

Garden fun and games for farmscapers of all ages and for the future farmscapers.

Indoor Urban Farmscaping  for someone who may have limited indoor growing space.

Make sure you click the pic to go to Amazon! 

Happy Holidays!

Patti and the My Urban Farmscapers Team

Sage Advice

18 Nov

Berggarten Sage

After a hard frost last week I noticed how beautiful the icy crystals looked on my sage plant.  As I continued to take pictures, I reminisced about its earthy flavor and how Thanksgiving wouldn’t be complete if this herb wasn’t included in the stuffing.  I also use fresh sage leaves and incorporate into any Mediterranean dish.  I am surprised at how it tastes so different from the dry powder my mom would use when I was younger and now, how  it adds the right balance when prepared properly.  I also love to make a rub of sage, salt and pepper.  I use this on a pork roast. 

White Sage

Not only is sage, Salvia officinalis, used for culinary purposes, it also has some medicinal properties.  Although I am not a practicing herbalist, or have I ever prepared an infusion of sage leaves in water to make a tea, or created any sage tinctures, I have read that sage is known for its effect in the reduction of perspiration.  I have also read that extended or excessive use of sage can cause symptoms of poisoning!  I found this information in a book by John Lust titled, The Herb Book.  White sage, Salvia apiana, is a ceremonial herb used by Native Americans.  This is the preferred herb for making smudge sticks.  The leaves are smooth and the color is a lighter shade of grey.

seed

I love growing sage, and it is the perfect herb for an urban farmscape.  Why?  Because culinary sages can be harvested throughout the season, can be dried and kept for long periods of time, and you can make useful gifts from your garden.  They also look beautiful as there is nothing else that I can think of that has that grey color or texture.  A member of the mint family, sage is easier to manage and shouldn’t spread like some of its cousins.  For culinary use, I grow Salvia officinalis ‘Berggarten’ for its large rounded leaves, as well as Salvia officinalis ‘Extrakta’ which is higher in oils and a plant that I collect seeds from each year.

There is, however, a sage that I grew this summer that does not work well in an urban farmscape.  That would be Clary Sage, Salvia sclarea.  A biennial plant that will flower in its second year, growing small the first year, and exploding the following year both in size, flowers and seeds! 

Clary has beautiful leaves, big like rhubarb but light green, bumpy and fuzzy.  I loved it earlier in the season. 

huge leaves

The flower heads hung down as they started to form, and as the flowers opened, they stood straight up as if they were shouting to the bees, “Here I am!”  And boy oh boy, did the bees come!  It flowered for the whole month of August, and I was able to collect many seeds. 

flower bud

So, here was the problem.  I planted it next to the driveway, where every time my husband came home he would have to brush against it.  He really didn’t like the smell of it.  And if you touched it, the oils stayed on you and your clothes, thus allowing its fragrance to linger.  I love the smell of sage, but many people don’t.  I grew this sage to add to my collection.  I need to find a different place in the garden where it will get a lot of sun.  That will be tough.  Clary sage is a medicinal herb, used mostly for its oils.  I have no way of distilling oils from plants; I just really like the way it looks and the bees that it attracted to my garden.

Clary Sage flowering

So, here is my “sage advice”.  Keep the culinary varieties in your urban farmscape, add some spice to your life and your food, maybe grow a little ceremonial sage to burn and cleanse the air, and save the Clary Sage for a sunny spot for a beautiful, eye-catching, dynamic bee plant….a little distance, but not too far from your walking path.

Cover Crops

4 Nov

cover crop of clover and rye

Just because it’s November in Michigan, don’t think for a minute that there isn’t much gardening to write about at My Urban Farmscape.  Look at the above picture for example.  This is a cover crop of clover and rye that I planted which will be tilled into the soil in early spring .  If you garden on a slope, a cover crop will  help  prevent soil erosion.  You could  add a cover crop during the growing season to help to suppress weeds, or provide additional fertility to the soil which is what I am doing, only I chose mine specifically for planting in the fall.  These green manures help organic farmers  improve soil fertility from year to year in order to keep their organic certification.  Or, even if not certified organic, farmers have learned the value cover crops.  Many people forget about the commitment to the earth and the environment our farmers have.  I think that using a cover crop is one of the most important things you, as an urban farmer, can do to improve the soil.  Feed the soil, which in return, feeds the plant.   I talked about this in the post I wrote earlier in the season titled “Talkin Dirty”, here’s the link  http://wp.me/p1GoP9-60  I did mention in that post about adding greensand and rock phosphate at this time too. 

So, cover crop planted, soil amendments added, gardening season over?     Never.

My Urban Farmscape was Nominated for the One Lovely Blog Award!

28 Oct

one-lovely-blog-award

I was nominated by photographer and blogger,  I.am.kristen  http://xxiamkristinxx.wordpress.com/  

Thanks Kristen!

So, if you’re not familiar with this award, here are the details……

To accept this award:

1. Link back to the blogger who nominated you.

2. Paste the award image on your blog.

3. Tell 7 facts about yourself.

4. Nominate 15 other blogs that you would like to give the award to.

5. Contact the bloggers that you have chosen and let them know about the award.

Here are 7 facts about myself:

  1. Formost and above all, I am a wife, a mom and a grandma.  My family is my life.
  2. I have other interests besides gardening, really!  Writing, photography of course, and I love to sew, quilt and craft.
  3. I have two dogs that rule the house
  4. Besides writing about gardening, I work full time as a university greenhouse manager and am the curator of a botanical garden.
  5. I DO NOT like to eat anything in the brassicaceae family.  You might already know this.
  6. Cheesecake is my favorite dessert.
  7. Mary Oliver is my favorite poet.

Here are the 15 blogs that I am nominating in no particular order.  Check ’em out.

  1. Memoirs From Behind the Chair http://tonimarielee.wordpress.com
  2. Swier Family Farm   http://swierfamilyfarm.wordpress.com
  3. The Soulsby Farm   http://soulsbyfarm.org
  4. Diary of a Small Town Earth Muffin  http://muffindiaries.com
  5. Patterns of Nature  http://patternsofnature.wordpress.com
  6. Grow Where You’re Planted  http://grwhryrpltd.wordpress.com
  7. Soul Food Sister  http://soulfoodsister.wordpress.com
  8. Richert Images  http://richertmanjarres.wordpress.com
  9. Danny’s Kitchen  http://dannyskitchen.me
  10. Boozed & Infused  http://boozedandinfused.com
  11. May Dreams Gardens  http://www.maydreamsgardens.com
  12. Late Blooming Entrpreneurs  http://latebloomingentrepreneurs.wordpress.com
  13. Pleiades 513 http://pleiades513.wordpress.com
  14. Our French Garden  http://ourfrenchgarden.blogspot.com
  15. Jeremy Gradney  http://avgmansfashion.com

Urban Farmscape: Florida Style

21 Oct

Just because gardening season in Michigan is about to end, it doesn’t mean that I will stop gardening.  Like I said in previous posts, my mind is always in the garden.  Not because I want to dig in the dirt, but mostly because I love nature and the beauty it offers.  I feel in total awe and hold a true appreciation for how plants grow, providing us with their delicious fruits, roots, and leafy flavors!  I guess I mostly garden for the love of food.

I took a long weekend trip to southern Florida to visit my daughter and her family.  I thought I was taking a vacation from the garden, enjoying the sun, a little swimming, playing with my granddaughter.  Both  my daughter and son-in-law work and don’t have much time for gardening, but wanted to offset the cost of their grocery bill by trying to grow more of their veggies.  Today, my daughter wanted to plant her garden.   She had already bought seeds and started some plants in peat pots. She had been gardening in containers and decided it was time to expand her growing space.  Now is the time to plant in Florida, so we headed to the local box store to buy lumber, topsoil, and a few other supplies to make a veggie garden.

After following directions from the post I wrote on March 18, 2012 Contained Chaos, my daughter and her husband decided on the best location to build their raised bed.  The morning is the sunniest on the southeast side of their house and it is totally shaded by 2:00 p.m.  Perfect for Florida when the afternoons are really too hot.  This will be good for working in the garden later in the evening with their daughter.  It didn’t take long before my son-in-law had the bed put together, trellises up, and then both he and my daughter filled them up with topsoil and potting mix.

 

They planted pole beans, zucchini, and cucumbers today as time was running short.  My granddaughter planted the plants she picked out this morning, along with a little tropical bird she fell in love with that adds a little garden whimsy.  Ha!  My daughter said she would never have one in her yard.  Funny what parents (and grandparents!) do for their kids.  There should always be a little fun in the garden.

It was a good day building and planting as a family.  Now I will go home to Michigan, where the leaves have probably fallen off the trees, and where I will finish some garden chores, pruning, cleaning and putting away my garden tools.  Next time I visit my daughter and son-in-law may be around the holidays, when I will expect fresh green beans for dinner!  As well as the amazing risotto that she makes.

Have you planted your garden yet?

How to Propagate Succulents in 5 Easy Steps

14 Oct

 

With all the rage about creating frames or terrariums filled with  succulents, I am often asked where one would find affordable solutions to this plethora of plants.   Even though putting the garden to bed seems to be my primary task at hand, it is  a good time to take cuttings too.  These tips will also work for succulents purchased at a greenhouse or garden center, thus allowing for an endless supply of little succulents to use for indoor growing projects.

 

Succulents are probably one of the easiest plants to propagate.  Slow growing, these plants usually thrive in warm sunny locations and require very little care.  Unlike a cactus that barely needs to be watered, succulent plants should be watered anywhere from  ten to fourteen days depending on their growing location.  Keep in mind more sun = more water.   I have found a wide variety of sedum (stonecrop) and sempervivum (hen and chicks) that make great succulents for propagating and growing and using for plant crafts.  Look for a wide variety of colors and textures.  The groundcover sedum varieites in your garden also work great.

To propagate, follow these 5 easy steps:

1: Pinch off the tip portion of a stem only.  You don’t want to use another parts below this, as the newer growth at the tip of a stem will produce better roots.  You don’t need any more than one inch of stem, depending on the plant.  Cut between two nodes, which is the part where a leaf meets the stem.

2: Remove lower leaves, leaving only a few on the tip.  Set aside for at least a day to allow the stem to callous, or heal over.  This will allow better root formation.  You can also use the leaves to make new plants.

3: I like to stick the new cuttings in a flat when allowing for time to grow roots.  I use a traditional peat/perlite potting mix for houseplants.  I never use cactus mix as it is too sandy and have found that my succulents have grown better in the general potting mix anyway.  It looks pretty too.

4: Once they have developed roots, it’s time to plant them into your frame, container or terrarium. 

5: Once planted, little care is needed.  Keep in a low light area for about two weeks before moving them to receive sunlight.  Water when the soil dries out. 

Caring for your Succulents:  If your new plants become “leggy” pinch off the tips and start a new plant.  The original stem should develop smaller shoots. I like to keep my creations pinched back and have a continuous supply of baby succulents.  I never know when I need a little gift for something.  These little treasures make great gifts when planted in small terracotta pots. 

TIP:  Want to increase the variety of your collection of succulents?  Share this post with friends, and have each of you purchase a succulent plant, propagate, and hold a plant swap.  Soon you will end up with many different varieties!

Sedum Lime-Zinger PPAF
photo by Chris Hansen courtesy of http://www.PerennialResource.com

Funky Pumpkin Totem

7 Oct

It’s October and it’s pumpkin time!  Not only do I love to eat everything pumpkin, I love decorating with them.  Not the traditional carving the Jack-O-Lantern type of decorating like when the kids were little, but finding the most unique pumpkins and gourds to decorate my front porch with.  Needing an inspiration piece, I decided to create a totem of pumpkins and set out on a journey to find the funkiest pumpkins around.

 

Roadside stands are one of the best places to start.  Here my daughter and I found these nice white pumpkins.  Definitely a keeper. 

 

 

 

 

 

I LOVED these variegated white, green and orange pumpkins.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hearty Harvest in Remus, Michigan

With a selection like this, who needs to go anywhere else!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I thought the cat would be a nice touch to my autumn decorating, but she wasn’t for sale. 

 

 

 

 

 

A swan and her babies maybe? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once we got a nice selection, we headed back home.  Initially, I thought that they should all be somewhat flat.  Some people call these Cinderella pumpkins.  But there were some that looked really cool, and were anything but flat, so decided to use them in the totem anyway.  Besides the pumpkins, some re-rod and a drill with a really long drill bit were used.  Here are a few tips to make your Funky Pumpkin Totem.

Line the pumpkins from largest to smallest.  Remove the stems if they have any from all except for the top pumpkin.

 

Starting with the largest, place that one on the ground where you want your totem to permanently be.  Level it using your eye as a guide.  You may need to bury it in the ground a little.

 

Drill a hole in the center of the first pumpkin and drive a stake or piece of re-rod through it.  You want to have something strong enough to keep your pumpkins in line and prevent them from falling off of each other.

 

Stack the pumpkins, drilling a hole in each one, until you get it as tall as you want. 

Now I have a starting point for my autumn decorating! 

No more decorating for today, it’s time to go indoors to eat some pumpkin muffins and drink some cider while I come up with my next outdoor project.  YUM!  Don’t you love October?

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