Thursday, January 27, 2011

sunflower shoots

Altho' they're wonderful to have all year 'round, I can't think of a better time of year than January and February to be growing sunflower shoot greens! And if you grow pea shoots too, a salad of a mix of the two is.....well, I can't think of a more delicious home-grown fresh winter-time salad. Easily grown indoors in the depths of winter, in very little space and takes very little time from planting to plate. Amazing.

A friend of mine calls these "Sunnys" . Here they are in a grow tray on a sunny day, reaching for the sunshine. Seeing them do this makes me want to call them Sunnys too.

A sea of Sunnys in their grow trays. On a not-so-Sunny day. Almost ready to harvest! Sunflower shoot greens are chock full of goodness. Lots of protein, iron and calcium. Vitamins A, B, C and E. And more good stuff that I can't remember right now. They're so uniquely delicious and quite lovely to look at on a dinner plate too.

If you're interested in growing some of these and you haven't tried it yet, start with a pot or tray you have, fill it with potting soil and enough sunflower seed to cover the top of the soil. Soak your seed first (for a day) and when you plant it, cover the seed with just a little bit of soil (you should still be able to see the seed on top of the soil) to help settle it in and keep the seed moist. They'll start sending out little white roots and before you know it, the greens will appear!
If you live on Mayne Island and are interested, contact me about bulk seed for sunny growing.

Here are some bags I harvested today to take to Happy Tides. If you're not growing these right now, there will be lots available there for purchase tomorrow and Saturday...and through February too!

Our supper tonight: bangers and mash with a gigantic pile of pea shoot and sunflower shoot greens. Yum!


There aren't many flowers out in the garden these days so it's nice to have this beautiful white amaryllis blooming indoors now.

I potted up quite a few bulbs last fall for pre Christmas sales in reusable and compostable pots. If you got one of these from me before Christmas, here's some info on
the pots I used. Aren't they fabulous? If you really like them and are interested in trying them out, I'll have some of these containers in 3 different styles available for purchase in the garden this summer.
Here's an interesting article I saw in the Vancouver Sun about another biodegradable nursery pot.
Won't it be nice when we gardeners can use less plastic!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

pea shoot season

The last couple weeks have brought us ideally mild winter pea shoot growing conditions in the unheated greenhouse and the greens are doing very well! Creating beautiful green peashooty goodness fills much of my day these days....

Look at these healthy, juicy stems happily standing tall in their grow tray!

It seems everyone's craving some freshly harvested and locally grown spring green fare at this time of year so I have lots of pea shoot grow trays on the go right now.

Lots of cutting and bagging....and still looking for a good solution to all those plastic bags.....

A new batch on their way to Happy Tides Health Foods this morning. If you're on Mayne Island and you're not growing your own pea shoots, it looks like there's going to be a good supply at Happy Tides this week and next week too so head on over and get 'em while you can!

Two trays after they've been harvested. I'm often asked by folks who are interested in growing pea shoots what I do with the used soil after I've cut the shoots. Below is a photo of one of my grow tray compost piles. I have a few of them around the garden, in spots where I want to develop a new growing bed. The soil becomes a thick mass of pea roots. Because the pea seed will continue producing shoots, new pea shoots grow up in the pile. Since I'm doing production growing, I need to keep it as simple and efficient as possible by just using the first cutting. I think of the second growth that happens in the pile as a nitrogen rich green manure crop that kind of creates that closed circle idea, in it's own unique pea shoot growing kind of way. These new growing areas are going to be beautiful, rich mounds of soil next year.

When you're growing smaller amounts for home use, the used soil is great to put on any home compost pile. It's probably a good idea to break up the mass of roots a bit to help it compost faster. You can also wait for the second growth and harvest it too before you compost the roots.

A fun thing I like to do at home from time to time, is grow the shoots in decorative pots and use them as table centerpieces....especially in the winter time! Beautiful, inspiring decor (especially for a gardener) and you can eat it too : )

Monday, January 17, 2011

a mild winter day in the garden

It was ideal winter weather for working outside yesterday. (the sun even came out!) What a beautiful day and it looks like today wants to be sunny too. Lots of weeding to do in my garden right now....west coast gardening involves weeding all year 'round at my place.

The weeds that grow in the garden beds that I leave bare in the winter time (naughty me) seem like nature's way of protecting the valuable topsoil that would otherwise get washed away in the torrential downpours of our coastal winters. So I know I should say thank you to mother nature for looking out for my beds when I can't make the time to get to look after them properly. Eventually, I'll get to them and at this time of year, when I weed, I like to add leaf mould as a mulch to the top of my beds. I've had such a good experience using this as a winter protective mulch. It makes the soil beautiful, crumbly with a ton of earthworms...they seem to love it!

Last year, I posted about gathering leaves and making leaf mould. This photo shows the bottom of a wire cage that I filled with leaves in the fall of 2009. This spot where I piled the leaves was a nasty compacted bit of ground and I've discovered that after a little over a year of composting leaves on it, it's starting to become lovely dirt, full of earthworms. This makes me think I oughta plan ahead and make these piles where I want new garden beds in the future.....

The leaves take about a year to break down to a perfect consistency for winter protection. A little trick I've discovered that I now like to do with all my leaf piles: I add some late spring and early summer grass clippings...just a encourages the leaves to break down a bit faster and probably adds a wee bit of nitrogen to the final mix, which also seems like a good thing for my beds to get in the winter. It's important to make sure that the grass is young and includes no grass or weeds that have flowered and gone to seed since that would create a weed nightmare in the springtime growing bed.
If you're interested in reading more about leaf mould, a google search will give you lots of options. Here's some good info I found.

It's such a satisfying feeling to weed and mulch a garden bed....looks so nice! This bed is scheduled for a legume planting in 2011 and I expect I'll probably be seeding it with bush beans and a few branching sunflowers in the centre where I won't quite be able to reach for comfortable bean picking. It will look pretty. Because the leaves are broken down nicely and will continue to do so, in May I'll pull the irrigation lines to the top of the bed again and mix the leaf mould topping into the soil just a bit and then seed right through it. It'll continue doing it's soil conditioning job. And the beans will love it.

Speaking of beans, they're one of my favourite things to put into the freezer for winter garden veggie eating. If you like beans and have a little piece of earth, grow some extra in the summer garden for the winter freezer...if you're like me, you'll love it!
Here's some I took from our freezer for last night's dinner.

We had them with carrots, freshly pulled from the garden. I've found that the best way to keep carrots for the winter in this neck of the woods is in the ground so I make a planting mid to late summer to keep in the ground all winter long.

These have been covered with snow twice so far this year but are still very good. I've tried this with potatoes but they get mushy too easily, so they must be harvested before the freeze and it's into the cold-storage for them. I wonder if it has something to do with the above ground greenery? The potato plant dies quickly with colder temps but the carrot greens stay fresh and alive after a freeze.

YumYum! A good day of outdoor work and a delicious, almost all home-grown supper to follow. Life is good.

a permaculture link

Last night, I was perusing a chapter of "Gaia's Garden" (one of the books I mentioned in my last post), learning more about garden guilds. I decided to take a look at the author's website where I found this article: The Myth of Self Reliance. I really enjoyed reading it so thought I'd post it here. Check it out when you have some time. A lot of other great articles you'll find there too. I look forward to making some time to read more of them soon....good thing darkness comes earlier in January : )

Friday, January 14, 2011

Another New Year!

So here we are smack dab in the middle of January again.
Winter Solstice to mid-January is one of my favourite times of year because I get to set new intentions, make plans, dream, organize, order seeds, visit....and read by the fire!!
Here are the 4 gardening books that have really captured my attention this year:

The Winter Harvest Handbook by Eliot Coleman. Here's a link to his Four Season Farm. Lots of great links there with inspiring information and photos. Here's an link so you can take a look inside the pages of the book.
This book has been super helpful, giving me all kinds of ideas about how I'm going to do my low tunnel hoops for fall, winter and early spring growing next year.

The Zero Mile Diet by Carolyn Herriot. And since it's the seed catalogue time of year, here's a link to Carolyn's Seeds of Victoria catalogue. I have my eye on the Angels' Fishing Rods and the Giant Yellow Scabiosa! And check out the Crimson Flowered Favas, I think I've just gotta grow them this year and next and the year after....they look really beautiful and there's nothing better to me in the garden than a beautiful, ornamental AND food producing plant!
Full of practical information, inspirational ideas and lovely photos too. This book is great to begin reading at any time of year but I think it's especially fun to begin now since it has a month by month layout, starting in January and January's all about the soil.
Another really nice thing about this book for me: I always enjoy and appreciate gardening books that are centered around a southwest coast of BC reality like mine! Lots of great info for all climates though.

"Microgreens, A Guide to Growing Nutrient-Packed Greens" by Eric Franks and Jasmine Richardson. For a peek inside the book click here. If you're at all interested in growing shoots and microgreens, I really think you need to take a look at this book! Thorough information and ideas and very inspiring, beautiful photos.

Gaia's Garden, A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture by Toby Hemenway. Positively full of endless info and ideas that I think are really important to keep in mind when we're landscaping, gardening and growing food. This book reminds me of one of my favourite quotes from Angeles Arrien: "Walk the mystical path with practical feet." Lots of creative visionary ideas coupled with practical knowledge.

On another topic: I just discovered the stats area of this blog and I'm thoroughly amazed at how many visitors are coming here! wow!
Thank you to all of you who are stopping by, commenting or emailing me to let me know you enjoy it. I really appreciate it, it's so nice for me to know you're interested! I'm wishing you lots of good wishes for a happy 2011!