Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Bringing nature to you and you to nature, two events:

The Katonah Village Library is hosting a series of Wednesday lunchtime garden workshops (May 7, 14, and 21) leading up to the grand opening of Frances’s Native Demonstration Garden (in front of the library) on May 24th at 11 AM. 

A library entrance is such a great place to have a native plants demonstration garden!  I love the idea of bringing the garden to the people, right where they are.  The location makes it unavoidable for anyone entering the library or strolling through Katonah, and it lets people see which native plants thrive right there in Katonah.  Hopefully Frances’s Native Garden will encourage lots of people to experiment at home with native plants, which generally require less water, fuss and energy to grow than lawns. 

Is there a location in your community that would be perfect for a native plants demonstration garden?   (or would you choose to highlight another aspect of sustainability:  Alternative energy?   Composting? Something else?)

2.   Canada’s 30x30 Nature Challenge is about to begin.  This group is encouraging people all over the world to seek out nature each day and spend at least 30 minutes in nature for the next 30 days.  I’m game.  Are you?

Dutchman's Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria)
spotted while walking my dog the other day.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

April showers bring May flowers:  Rainbow behind the magnolia during a sun shower today.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Ready, Set, Plant! Happy Earth Day!

Usually I plant peas on St. Patrick’s Day, but this year, my garden was still covered in snow.  After a late start, the peas are just starting to poke through.   

Pea and pea seedling, side by side in the garden

It’s a great time to plant cold-tolerant seeds like peas, spinach, lettuce and beets.  If you haven’t planted yet this spring, how about going outside and planting right now? 

I didn’t buy any new seed this year.  For peas, I had enough Cascadia snap pea seeds leftover from the bag I bought last year.   So far, germination seems good. In a few more days, I may plant more peas – filling in any spots where germination was poor. 

I also have a bunch of “volunteers” coming up in the garden.   The ones in the photo below are probably Red Russian kale, from plants that went to seed in the garden last year.   I’ll know for sure when they get a little bigger and their true first leaves emerge.   Letting seeds plant themselves is an easy way to garden!  The young seedlings can be eaten in salads as a way to thin them out. 

Volunteers coming up in the garden

For tomatoes and other plants that need hot weather, starting the seeds indoors gives them a long enough growing season so that they have time to bear fruit before the fall frost.

Last year I started some heirloom Brandywine tomatoes from seed. By Mother’s Day, the plants were ready to be transplanted outdoors.  I gave some of the plants to my mom, and she transplanted them into her garden and later saved the seeds from one of the tomatoes she harvested.    After the seeds had dried on a paper towel, she gave me the seeds back, still stuck to the paper towel. 

Seed saving:  heirloom tomatoes

About the same time that I planted the peas outdoors, I planted tomatoes indoors under a grow light.  I used the Brandywine tomato seeds that my mom had saved from last year’s harvest.  I ended up planting a piece of the paper towel with several seeds stuck to it in each cup - hence the multiple seedlings per cup. Usually I don’t plant so many seeds per cup, but I wasn’t sure what the germination rate of these seeds would be.    

Brandywine tomato seedlings planted from 
seed that was saved from last year's tomatoes.

I am hoping that in another month on Mother’s Day, the Brandywine tomato plants will be ready to give my mom as a gift again this year!  Collecting and saving seed is easier than many people think.  When you start harvesting from your garden this summer, why not save some seed for next year? 

Please share what’s happening in your vegetable gardens.  Have you planted outdoors yet?  Indoors?  Did you save any seed from last year?  Do you have any volunteers coming up?

Happy Earth Day!

(This post was shared on Green Thumb Thursdays and The HomeAcre Hop)

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Today in the garden: The chives are coming up & we ate some for dinner – our first homegrown food this year!

If you don’t already grow chives (Allium schoenoprasum), let me encourage you to grow some.  Chives are for you whether you’re a novice gardener,  a green thumb, an "I really should try growing something this year" kind of person, or an "I once tried to garden and it didn't work" kind of person. Just find a corner and plant some.

Chives are a mild member of the onion family.  They taste great in salads, in soups, and with bagels and cream cheese.  You can use them in any recipe that calls for scallions or add them to scrambled eggs. 

Young spring chives are especially tasty.  It’s as if all the chiveyness, the chive taste, has been concentrated in a smaller volume. Tonight I added some to our dinner:  spinach burritos (a la Moosewood Restaurant Simple Suppers).  In the summer when chives bloom, you can even eat the chive flowers! 

The great thing about growing chives here in Westchester County, NY, is that chives essentially require no care whatsoever.  They don’t need special soil. They don’t need to be protected from animals.  Most years they don’t need to be watered at all (once they’ve been established, that is).  In my yard, deer, rabbits, woodchucks, squirrels, etc. leave the chives alone.   Chives can be harvested from early spring all the way through fall.  Some folks like to harvest them with scissors.  I generally just break them off with my thumb and finger.  As long as an inch or so of the plant is left above ground, it will grow back again. 

The easiest way to start growing chives is to find someone who is already growing them and who is willing to share.  There tends to be a culture of sharing among gardeners because plants like chives multiply each year.  I have two large patches of chives that started from a small bunch that my mom gave me years ago.  Since then, I in turn have given out small bunches to anyone who wants some.  Chives can also be started from seeds outdoors once the soil warms up.

Do you have a favorite way to eat chives?  If you already grow chives, have yours come up yet?  

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Bobcats, and foxes, and bears! Oh my! The prevalence of predators in the suburbs

Image from Wild Suburbia

A few weeks ago, I spotted a red fox on the slope outside my kitchen window.  It was the first time I’d ever seen a red fox in Westchester, let alone one so close to my house.  We were all in the kitchen, so my whole family managed to see the fox before it went on its way.   

My reaction: YES!  Welcome predators!  Despite being villainized in many fairy tales and folktales, predators are essential to a healthy ecosystem.  Red foxes mainly eat rodents such as mice and chipmunks.  Over the years we’ve lived here, we’ve seen thousands of chipmunks, as well as mice, deer, woodchucks, rabbits, and turkeys.  We’ve had to close our windows during summer nights to keep out the smell of skunks.  Once we even saw a black bear walk across our deck.  Despite this abundance of wildlife, this red fox is the first “full-time” predator we’ve seen.  Given the high prevalence of Lyme disease in Westchester County, and the role rodents play in hosting and infecting the ticks that carry the Lyme-causing bacteria (Borrelia burgdorferi) , I am very happy to have spotted the red fox on my property.

Have any of you seen predators in your neighborhood?  The Wild Suburbia Project has a website where citizens can report sightings of bobcats, bears, coyotes, fishers and foxes.  There’s even a sightings map that shows you where these animals have been spotted recently.  I reported the fox (and the bear from years ago).  Be sure to add any animals you see to their list, and let us know here!

It’s good to remember never to put out food to attract wildlife, and to keep your eye on pets.

What are your thoughts on coexisting with wildlife in the suburbs?