Dana’s Big Gardening Adventure: an obituary

September 5, 2008

I am sad. I’ve been sad for two weeks since I went outside to check my garden and discovered that vermin (likely raccoons) had knocked down my corn and ate unsightly gouges into every cob.

The picture above was taken just days before the massacre and, as you can see, the ears were forming nicely. Visions of melted butter were dancing in my head. Times were good.

Sigh. The corn part of my big gardening adventure was a partnership between my son Oliver and I; so the loss is doubly felt at our house. That said, we’ve picked ourselves up and visited a farm stand to purchase corn. It was very good and our bellies, none the wiser, think they’ve had our homegrown kernels. It’s a subterfuge, I know. But I’m just not strong enough to break the news to my digestive system yet. Perhaps, in time, I’ll heal.

What we learned: it isn’t thumbs that separate us from other members of the animal kingdom, it’s the ability to eat corn in an orderly, sequential linear fashion that makes the difference. I’m sure of it!

Dana’s Big Gardening Adventure: forming a tomato support group

August 29, 2008

 Occasionally, we all need a little help to stand straight (especially after tequila!) and it turns out tomatoes are just like us.

I’ve learned a lot with my big gardening adventure experiment. One of my recent lessons is that tomato cages aren’t strong enough to support a healthy tomato plant. Stakes, I’ve learned, are the way to go.

When I planted my tomato seedlings in late May they were less than 6 inches tall and the cages I found at the local garden centre seemed more than adequate support for the mature plants I envisioned they would grow into; however, as you can see above, I was wrong. So very, very wrong. This picture was taken right after I got home from holiday two weeks ago. While I was away in the Yukon, my poor tomato plants had fallen and couldn’t get up!

It’s so hard for me to believe that in April these bushes, now waist high and laden with heavy fruit, were but mere tomato seeds. Their growth is really astonishing!

I made an emergency run to the garden centre and picked up some lightweight but stiff metal stakes and some stretchy garden tape. After working the stakes into the soil near where the plants are rooted, I carefully untangled the arms of each plant and did my best to tether them to the stakes. So far my bindings are holding and within the next day or so I’ll be eating tomatoes!

Dana’s Big Gardening Adventure: garden gone wild

August 22, 2008

If you’ve ever wondered how backyard gardeners deal when summertime travel and harvest season coincide, then this post is for you!

As it turns out, being away for over two weeks in August and leaving your garden to cope for itself is not the end of the world when you’re in the midst of the wettest summer on record. Not only was there no need to worry about my plants dehydrating, I came back to find that the garden was almost too moist in the low spots.

The side effect of this kind of moisture is that the weeds bolted as did water dense veggies like my cucumbers. As you can see from the picture above, my pickling cucumbers range from Chernobyl Betty-sized to the normal lovely pickle size I was hoping to grow. Although quite a few of my cukes are past the point of use, there are still blossoms and I found a number of smaller-sized specimens to cut up, sprinkle with cider vinegar and salt and serve to Oliver (one of his favorite TV time snacks!).

Besides putting them in the compost heap, does anyone have any ideas for things one can do with an overgrown cucumber? And, yes, since your mind went ‘there’ I will ask you to limit your suggestions to culinary uses only!

Dana’s Big Gardening Adventure: green beans

August 15, 2008

Photo by: Chris Freeland

Although growing green beans is easy (chances are you grew some in kindergarten in a cup filled with damp paper towel), knowing what to do with them when you have tons and tons (like I do right now) can be challenging.

I’ve grown slightly bored of boiled green beans with butter and salt and pepper and I’ve had just about enough salad Nicoise. So, it’s time to pull out an old standby recipe: Tuscan Green Bean Salad.

This recipe first appeared in my book Pantry Raid published in 2002 but it’s still a simple and stylish little recipe. Enjoy!

Tuscan Green Bean Salad
1/2 tsp (2 mL) grated lemon peel
2 tsp (10 mL) lemon juice
1 small clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp (1 mL) each salt and pepper
2 tbsp (30 mL) extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup (75 mL) finely diced aged Pecorino or Asiago cheese
1/2 lb (250 g) green beans

Whisk lemon peel with lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper. Drizzle in olive oil, whisking constantly. Toss in cheese.

Cut away stem ends from green beans and cut into 2-inch (5 cm) lengths. Blanch in a saucepan of boiling salted water for 3 to 5 minutes or until bright green but still crisp. Drain and refresh under cold running water. Drain well; stir into cheese mixture. Makes 4 servings.

Dana’s Big Gardening Adventure gets boxed

August 8, 2008

I thought my pizza garden story offered a fresh idea about vegetable garden design but Josh Freidland of The Food Section (a generally excellent food blog by the way) outlines yet another simple, fun way to make planting and caring for a small garden manageable.

Growing Veggies by the Square Foot


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