Garden Daybook 4/4/13

Peepers, robin chatter, cooing Morning doves, honking Canadian Geese, and crowing roosters fill the morning air. We have seen the first red-winged blackbirds. Robins race through the yard, pausing to listen for worms. Ground hog holes show activity and there is NO doubt that the skunks have come out of their winter slumber. I am an impatient member of this spring busyness. I am anxious to get my fingers back into the soil and begin our 2013 garden.

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My fleet of wheelbarrows is ready. I found all three wheelbarrows at rummage sales and paid no more that a few dollars for each one. A bit of repair, a can of spray paint, and they have new life in my gardens. The black bags piled along the fence are filled with chopped leaves gathered last fall. I use the chopped leaves, often mixed with grass clippings, for summer mulch. As the leaves and grass decompose they feed the soil and make the earthworms happy.

kennebecs after 2 weeks of chitted

The Kennebec potatoes have been chitting/presprouting for two weeks and you can see the new sprouts turning green and stretching out. Chitting is easy – about 4-6 weeks before planting your potatoes into the garden lay them on a tray in a bright room. They will begin to send up green sprouts – which is exactly what you want them to do. Chitting seed potatoes gives them a head start and, when they are planted, they should be ready for harvest 10 days to 2 weeks earlier. You will still need to cut the seed potatoes into chunks before planting, but the eyes will be very evident and make your decision about where to cut more obvious.

florence fennel

I am still starting seeds. I have added fennel, eggplant, Lemon Gem marigolds, Milk Thistle, and okra. This picture shows just germinating Florence Fennel.

seedlings 1

The seed tables are loaded with trays of transplants – celery, peppers, onions, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, leeks and probably a few things I have forgotten about. I am fertilizing everything with fish emulsion every 10 days. All the seedlings on the tables will soon be transferred to the hoophouse where they will stay until they are hardened off and planted into the garden.

April shallots

The fall planted Gray shallots are pushing new leaves. Yay! I planted the shallots last November when I planted the garlic. Just after they were planted and mulched our hens managed to find their way into the garden through a hole in the fence. I found three of them scratching about in the shallot bed. AAARAUGH! I wasn’tt certain if they had destroyed them, moved them around, or missed them altogether. I am so relieved to see the new spring growth.

April sorrel

The Sorrel is also showing new leaves. Sorrel begins growth in the spring just about the time I begin to crave fresh greens. Eleanor Sinclair Rohde author of Uncommon Vegetables and Fruits (1951 edition) explains that Sorrel is “a vegetable appreciated by those who have been much in France”. Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to eat mine in Ohio! Hamilton Tyler, in his book Gourmet Gardening, says that “the acidity of the leaf is dependent on the amount of sunlight it receives”. Meaning that, when the sun is weaker in winter/early spring, the leaves are more less tart. Direct summer sun will make the leaves more acidic/tart. Sorrel leaves will brighten up a salad but the traditional French use is in Sorrel Soup. Mr. Tyler’s Sorrel Soup recipe is to wilt the sorrel (cut crosswise into ribbons) in butter and then pour in a very rich chicken broth. If you would like a richer soup you can mix a few egg yolks into a cup of cream and stir that into the sorrel and broth. He suggests adding “a few slices of garlic toast to dip”. I found my sorrel plants at a local garden center a few springs ago but it can be started from seed right in your garden. I love having dependable perennial vegetables in the garden and sorrel is one of the best.

I hope you are busy with garden preparations and plans. Whatever you can manage to get done NOW will make things easier later in the spring. Keep on moving!

Hey from the farm,
Fran The Country Cousin

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