Dear Friend and Gardener

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Dear Carol and Mary Ann,

I finally figured out how to make a Mr. Linky type of list for our Dear Friend and Gardener posts. I’m using InLinkz because I blog on WordPress instead of Blogger. We’ll see how it goes.

Dear Friend and Gardener: Isn't this romaine a/k/a cos lettuce simply beautiful with the sunlight behind it's tender leaves?

Isn’t this romaine a/k/a cos lettuce simply beautiful with the sunlight behind it’s tender leaves?

In the garden, things are really starting to grow. My pole beans are climbing their poles. The tomatoes are setting down roots, and the small eggplant plants are barely surviving. Maybe I put the eggplant out too early and too small. We had a lot of unseasonably cold weather after I planted them. Oh well, these things happen. It’s supposed to get hot this week. I say bring it.

Garlic I planted last fall with red and green leaf lettuce.

Garlic I planted last fall with red and green leaf lettuce.

We are inundated with lettuce and tatsoi right now. It’s all so good, and the spring or green onions are delicious. I’ve made Grandma Nita’s wilted lettuce salad several times. Here’s the recipe if anyone wants to make it.

Grandma Nita’s Wilted Lettuce Salad

3 slices bacon (or three tablespoons of a good vegetable oil)
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 teaspoons white sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Dash of salt
Four cups of leaf lettuce like Black Seeded Simpson – rinsed, dried and
torn into pieces
5 green onions with tops, thinly sliced

1. Fry bacon, remove from skillet, crumble and set aside.
2. To the still-hot bacon drippings, add the vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. Stir over medium heat until hot and bubbly. (Be careful during this step so that the drippings don’t splatter you.)
3. In a large bowl, combine the lettuce and green onions. Add the warm dressing and toss to evenly coat. Sprinkle with crumbled bacon and enjoy.

I’ve also expanded my salad repertoire. Last night, I made one with leaf lettuce, spring onions, mandarin oranges, dried cherries and pecans. I also made my own poppyseed dressing. We hardly ever buy bottled dressings anymore. It’s so easy to whip up something quick after the salad greens are washed. As for washing, I use a salad spinner like this Progressive CSS-2 Green Collapsible Salad Spinner – 3 Quart Capacity. Mine is an older model, but I like that it collapses for easier storage.

Dear Friend and Gardener: The larger vegetable garden. It's hard to believe these tiny plants will grow into towers of great tasting vegetables in less than two months.

The larger vegetable garden. It’s hard to believe these tiny plants will grow into towers of great tasting vegetables in less than two months.

Last week, I went through the larger vegetable garden and weeded everything. I still need to place straw as mulch between the remaining rows. My pole beans weren’t quite large enough to being attaching them to the poles. When I do this, I will use Luster Leaf Rapiclip Light Duty Soft Wire Tie 839 because it’s easier on the plants than twine, and it doesn’t seem to slip. I use it for all of my roses too. As I hoed the garden, I also hilled up the soil around the sweet corn and side-dressed it with manure. Corn is one of those high maintenance diva plants in the garden, but it’s worth the trouble. Now, that we have hotter weather, I think I’ll sow cucumber seeds in the potager and okra seeds in the larger garden. I noticed my sunflowers and zinnias are up and growing well in the larger garden. I think having flowers in the vegetable garden just makes sense to increase pollinator activity and also, beautify the space–not that vegetable gardens aren’t beautiful anyway.

Things in the garden are heating up this week, and I’m traveling to Austin to be on Central Texas Gardener–I’m thrilled to say–and I’m doing a radio appearance on Field and Feast on Austin’s local NPR affiliate. I will also be at The Natural Gardener, one of Austin’s best nurseries, where I’ll speak on all things edible. I hope you’re both having a wonderful spring.

For any of our gardening friends who want to join in on the fun this month, join up by adding a link to your blog below. Leave a comment here too if you’re so inclined. That way I can find and visit you!


Dear Friend and Gardener: Spring in the middle South

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Dear Carol and Mary Ann, I’m so glad we started up our Dear Friend and Gardener letters again. I think having a virtual garden club will be loads of fun. I hope others join us by grabbing the badge below and putting it on their sidebars with a link to the club page. So far, we have several members. I hope our readers will visit their blogs too.

Grab the badge and join us in our garden adventures.

Grab the badge and join us in our garden adventures.

Although I read that Carol is in early spring, our spring in Oklahoma is coming in at full steam. We’re supposed to reach 85F today, and there is a strong chance for thunderstorms, including hail and possibly tornadoes, tonight. Am I worried? No, I’m a native Oklahoman, and I’m used to crazy weather each spring. My seedlings are growing like gangbusters, and I put some of the tomatoes outside in a shady spot to start the hardening off process. I won’t plant out tomatoes until probably after April 20 unless I just can’t stop myself. Although the ambient temperature says summer, the ground is still not warm. Plus, there’s still a chance of frost although the extended forecast looks very warm.

Lettuce and snowpea seedlings in the potager. I hope they have time to grow.

Lettuce and snowpea seedlings in the potager. I hope they have time to grow.

Very warm isn’t good for my lettuce sown outside in late February, because it is just now getting its true leaves. If the temperatures stay too high, the lettuce will turn bitter, and I won’t get any salads from my garden until I replant in fall. I also planted snow peas, purple radishes, pak choy and a stir fry mix in the potager, with potatoes in Smart Pots on the bricks next to the potager. Some of the potatoes have sprouted, and I’m watching for the others to do the same. I’ll add soil as they grow the same way I would normally hill up potatoes grown in the ground.

My messy vegetable garden. I should've cleaned it up last fall.

My messy vegetable garden. I should’ve cleaned it up last fall.

For the larger vegetable garden that is still a mess from last fall, I want a broadfork. I’m looking at broadforks from Meadow Creature. The reason I’m going with a broadfork instead of tilling is to support the structure of the soil and the creatures in the garden. When we’ve tilled in the past, we’ve hurt the earthworm population and made a soil that is too fine, so I’m changing how I do things. Although that garden doesn’t look its best right now, it’s okay. I’ll have it ready soon. In the potager, I’m thining seedlings because they are now jumping up out of the ground. We’ve got to give them room to grow.

Thinning seedlings in the potager. This is a stir fry mix.

Thinning seedlings in the potager. This is a stir fry mix.

So, we’re in that in-between place where I can’t plant the warm weather vegetables yet, but the cold weather ones may be over soon. That’s the thing about gardening–you can learn all about it and work very hard–but the truth is, you never know it all. Mother Nature always throws you curve balls. I think that’s why I find it so satisfying.

The daffodils bloom all around St. Francis. This small bed was my second garden. It was once vegetables.

The daffodils bloom all around St. Francis. This small bed was my second garden. It was once vegetables.

If you’re wondering what else I’m doing, I’m still pruning the roses and clearing away debris from the perennials in the other parts of the garden. I’m enjoying the daffodils as they bloom. You gotta love narcissus because they are reliable, and nothing–including deer or voles–will eat them. I’m watering the tulips in the layered pots I made last fall. So far, they seem to be working well. I won’t put muscari with tulips anymore though because the tulip foliage hides the muscari. Another lesson learned.

See the muscari (grape hyacinths) trying to bloom between the tulips. That wasn't well planned on my part.

See the muscari (grape hyacinths) trying to bloom between the tulips. That wasn’t well planned on my part.

Everything else is coming up gangbusters and growing. The windows are open in my house, and I can hear birds singing their spring love songs. All is well in my world. I hope it is in yours too. Happy Spring! P.S.  Would you like to join our virtual garden club?  If you grow your own food or flowers and have a garden blog (or even start one), we would love to have you join. Just go to the home page for Dear Friend and Gardener, grab the badge, put it on your blog with a link back to the club page. Then post about your veg garden about once a month during the growing season. We want to hear all about your growing adventures. Let me know you’ve joined, and I’ll include you and your blog on the club page. Let’s get gardening!