The Milkweed Diaries

Friday, May 29, 2009

Spring Harvests

Fava beans and beets from the garden.

Friday was the first entirely dry day we've had in ages after a month of May featuring rain almost every day. (Wettest May on Record: more than 9 inches!)  During the deluge, we were distracted from the garden by a Huge Project away from our land.  

Despite some serious neglect over the past month, the vegetables and herbs are happily doing their things, with slug damage and some serious weeds being the only real challenges.  And lo and behold: there is food!

On Friday we harvested fava beans, beets (roots and tops), red onions, garlic scapes, lettuce, and lambsquarters. We've been eating spinach, lettuce, and all sorts of greens out of the garden for a while, but Friday night was the first spontaneous full-on dinner from the garden.  

We had a warm orzo salad with garlic scapes sauteed in butter, fresh fava beans, basil pesto from last summer's garden, and a lemon/olive oil dressing and a cold salad with goat cheese, red onions, french lentils, and grated beets on a bed of shredded lettuce. Mmmmm!  It tasted like fresh spring.

Various friends dropped in and out during the luxuriously-paced preparation of dinner and helped with the double-shelling of the fava beans, which was the most time-consuming part.  Thank you SF, KT, LJ, and MT.

Fava beans after having been removed from pods, blanched, and awaiting shelling.

We planted the favas in December, and the beets and onions in November, all with heavy mulch. They made it through the winter and are a delightful way to kick off Spring garden-eating season!

Monday, May 25, 2009

After Blackberry Winter

Ever-dependable and beautiful chives

Although in these parts Mother's Day is considered the cutoff date for not having to worry about frost anymore, the North Carolina mountains are a whimsical place, and freak late frosts happen.  

On May 10th at our plant sale, a friend told me that a dozen years ago, there was a killing frost here on May 23.  Shocking!  "I did not know that was scientifically possible," said Tim.  

Then a week ago, after all sorts of heat-loving plants were in the ground and the garden was growing like gangbusters, in came the cold.  Our thermometer registered a low of 33 last Monday night.  We covered and took in what we could, but some of our plants showed signs of having been hit by a light frost.  Potatoes seemed to take the hardest hit, surprisingly.

Frostbitten Yukon Gold Potatoes

This sort of final, seemingly unseasonable cold snap, which I've heard called "blackberry winter" is common in the mountains of North Carolina. And blackberry winter was right on time this year: the blackberries were (and still are) in full bloom, and didn't seem a bit bothered by the low temperatures.   

Most things in the garden were similarly unscathed--the perennial herbs and flowers, greens, and ultra-hardy alliums and fava beans didn't blink an eye at the cold weather. 

Photos follow of the post-frost garden.

Buttery red lettuce

Bountiful favas  

Spinach from the garden

One of my favorite additions to the perennial garden this year: blood sorrel. . . accomp- anied by calendula volunteers 

Tall and dramatic leeks


Love-in-a-mist volunteers about to bloom

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Pushing the Babies Out of the Nest

Saturday and Tuesday we had our first plant sales with seedlings from the hoophouse.

Saturday was a leisurely all-day affair at our home -- friends came by to visit and pick up plants, and we sent hundreds of babies to their new homes in gardens in Asheville and environs. MT, LJ, KT, and LK stayed for much of the day, along with Sadie the dog, and we all weathered a brief thunderstorm together up under the porch roof.

Butternut Squash seedlings

Heather R. and her friend Beka win the prize for Most Harrowing Yet Triumphant Journey to the sale, surviving an encounter with a snapping turtle in the driveway with all unscathed. 

Red Ursa Kale

We ended up selling quite a lot of starts despite or perhaps because of the relaxed atmosphere. And we bartered some too, trading plants for plumbing and broadforking hours, both sorely needed in these parts.

Edmondson Cucumbers

Burgundy Okra

Waltham Broccoli

The aforementioned visiting.



Tuesday we had a smaller, more business-like evening sale at the WWC garden.  We packed up a bunch of flats and trucked them over to the college garden just next door for a sale for students, faculty, staff, volunteers, and other college-related folks.  It was a gorgeous evening and we thoroughly enjoyed our time with the WWC community.  There were numerous gardening tips exchanged, and a number of customers took their babies directly from the sale to their community garden plots and put them right in the ground.  Quite satisfying for everyone involved.

Scenes from the WWC plant sale:

It is surprisingly not hard at all to see the babies go after all of these weeks of nurturing -- perhaps because I know they're all finding such fabulous homes and because I'm READY to let go of the responsibility of all of these thousands of tiny plants!  

So thanks to everyone who took home seedlings, and happy gardening!