Saturday, April 25, 2009

"Real" Spring has Arrived!

What a day! It's so warm (80 F; 27 C) that I came in to take a break from the midday sun and heat and the dogs were right behind me. Here's a few photos of what's popping up in the gardens today. I don't know if you are familiar with Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) but that's what this little white flower is. When you pick a flower or leaf some red-orange sap oozes out. Hence the name. It is one of my favorites and is one of the first to arrive in the spring. Bloodroot is a perennial and the underground rhizomes spread each year making it so you eventually have a mat of these lovely white flowers. I just read on wikipedia that ants gather the seeds and bring them underground; I'm going to have to watch for this! E.O. Wilson would be proud of that fact! E.O. Wilson is an amazing man! He is known for his work with ants as well as environmentalism. The science of studying ants is called "myrmecology", and is a branch of entomology (study of insects). Back to this lovely plant; Bloodroot flowers before the leaves come in. It grows low to the ground and prefers to grow in rich leaf litter and partial shade. Mine is growing under a huge maple tree on its north side. This is not a plant to grow if you have young children who may ingest plants. For little tykes plant something like mint instead!

Rhubarb is up! When the red stems get longer I yank on them, do not cut them. They pull easily from the soil line. The redder the better! I then cut the leaves off and throw the leaves in the compost pile - they are poisonous to eat! I then cut up the red rhubarb stems and boil them with maple syrup. When mushy this is delicious over vanilla ice cream or when cooled eaten in yogurt. I like to use the red and pink parts. Towards the top of the stems they gets greenish. I find the greenish part too tart. Some people like the tartness and don't mind adding extra sweetener. I still go for the pinkish/reddish parts. I'll post a favorite rhubarb bread recipe later. And once strawberries come in I'll post a strawberry-rhubarb pie recipe.

Peas, radishes, lettuce, and spinach are just starting to pop through the soil. I will do a second planting of each soon. I'm turning over two new garden spots and Kyle is getting me some composted cow manure from a local farm. One spot will be to expand the space for annual veggies and the other will be for asparagus. I planted asparagus a few years ago but it didn't do well there. I think just a little too much shade. Oh well. So last year I put in black raspberries and globe artichokes, both are doing quite well.
I didn't get much planting done this weekend. Did lots of weeding and cleaning up the perennial beds. Trying to decide what type of bin to build for our newly placed compost pile. I've had a nice big compost pile out behind the garage that always produced enough compost for all the gardens and newly planted trees but last summer I noticed comfrey growing in it. So I'm not going to use it because I'm afraid of spreading the comfrey roots into my gardens and I definitely don't want to do that!

Indoors plants are getting their true leaves and starting to look like the plants they are. Here's a peek....

I love botanical prints and found this one of Bloodroot that I thought you might enjoy.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day!

Water is intrinsically linked to our heath and the health of our world including our gardens. Without access to clean, fresh water life on Earth as we know it would not exist. So to celebrate water and gardens and Earth Day I thought you might enjoy the following video clip of Sylvia Earle's speech at the TED awards. Sylvia Earle has been a champion for our oceans for many, many years and her speech is quite riveting and is a call for action for the health of our oceans.

To see Sylvia's speech visit:

And speaking of oceans, ever wonder about the seafood you eat? Try this....How Green is my Seafood?

And in celebration of Earth Day... Try to pick up litter in your neighborhood and on your school grounds - everything eventually ends up in a water body.

Enjoy your day!

Monday, April 20, 2009


Isn't this a lovely plant!? I just planted seeds for this today. First time I've tried this one. Says that Thomas Jefferson grew these and that they are spectacular cottage garden flowers that grow to 5 feet tall. I tend to have the exact same opinion as good 'ole T.J. when it comes to garden plants. So why not give it a try? This is an annual. That's the downside; I prefer perennials. Packet says it takes forever to germinate so my fingers are crossed it'll flower here in Maine. Got the seed from FEDCO so I assume it does.

Also got sweet peas (I love sweet peas; the more fragrant the better!), fennel,leeks, shallots, chamomile,coriander/cilantro, flax, larkspur, and more spinach in the ground today.Soaking some parsley seeds to plant tomorrow morning.

I planted the fennel near the garden entrance so when we walk in we can rub its leaves and smell that fantastic smell.

It looks, feels, and smells like rain is on the horizon so it's a good day to plant.Patriots Day; Boston Marathon Day. Feels like spring in Maine!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Got Bees?

The top photo is of a Leafcutter Bee structure. Bees are essential for the health and success of our gardens and thus for the production of our food. I'm sure many of you have heard of the problems that our bee populations are having. It would be an understatement to say they are struggling. To help these little pollinating powerhouses out try putting up a bee house. Leafcutter bees are native throughout the United States. I bet your County Extension office can help you if you'd like to research this further. I first learned about leafcutter bees when I was working towards my masters. The University of Maine was conducting extensive research on them and their use as pollinators for the blueberry and cranberry crops. My work study was helping with this research. The holes of this structure are just the right size for leafcutter bees to deposit their eggs. They then insert a substance they create from the leaves they chew and then plug the hole with a thick mud substance which keeps the eggs safe. So give your local bees a hand and put up some leafcutter bee structures!

To make your very own simple leafcutter bee structure and to learn more interesting information about them visit:

Back to this week's gardening; today was a beautiful day. Still a little chill in the air but warm enough to enjoy being outside. And the best part is that it's still too early for blackflies! I planted spinach, beets, lettuce, carrots, radishes, and chard outdoors. Also took down old fencing that was beat and put up new taller fencing. We have seen 3 young deer in our yard so we put up tall chicken wire fencing to keep them out of the garden. My pac choy isn't ready to plant outdoors yet so I put a light weight agribon row cover over the beds to prevent those pesky flea beetles from decimating the young plants once they emerge. To see what this product looks like visit another great local seed supplier, Johnny's Seeds:

Indoors I transplanted my broccoli, lettuce, cherry tomatoes, and fennel. They all have a set of true leaves so it was time. Here's a picture of the broccoli. See the tiny leaves in the middle? Those are the true leaves. The other leaves are not really leaves; they are what are called cotyledon (cot-ol-e-don). They contain the food reserves from the seeds that the plant needs until the true leaves appear. Once the true leaves appear they become the structures that take over food production through photosynthesis. I also started several varieties of tomatoes, tomatillos,and some flowers.

Here is picture of a Phlox plant just starting to come up.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Peas are in!

Pac Choy and lettuce are up. You can see the legginess that I was talking about in my previous post. But it's still nice to see the new green. I like pac choy to stir fry but I also plant some as trap plants around my broccoli and radishes. Those awful flea beetles that just decimate those early crops love pac choy and will prefer them. So plant some near broccoli and radish so the little buggies will eat the pac choy instead. You can also use row covers over those plants you want to protect from the flea beetles.

Today I planted Blizzard Snow Peas (you eat the pod), and Coral Shell Peas(you shell these peas). I get all my seeds from the best seed company in the world...FEDCO. If you haven't heard of them you must visit their website... FEDCO is a seed co-op here in central Maine. Seeds come in no frills envelops and many if not most are organic. FEDCO has been around since the year I graduated college, 1978. And FEDCO specializes in seed well suited for our chilly northeast climate. FEDCO also sells bulbs, trees, plants, gardening supplies etc.

I read that you should plant peas when the forthysia blooms but I've always planted as soon as the ground can be worked, and our ground can be worked. I also just read on MOFGA (Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association- website that Patriots Day is a traditional pea planing day here in Maine. The compost pile is thawed on the top and sides so I could access enough to put in the area the pea seeds went in. Here's what's happening outside the day I planted pea seeds.
Crocuses flowering...............

French Sorrel coming up! Tulip pushing through the soil.

The 2009 Gardening Season in Central Maine

Welcome to the first post of the 2009 gardening season!

Now that our maple syrup season has come to a close it's time to move on to gardening. To see my maple syrup blog visit:

As any gardener knows, this is a great time of year! This post is actually a week late. I started some seeds indoors last weekend, the 5th of April. I started some hot peppers, cherry tomatoes, leeks, shallots, pak choy, buttercrunch lettuce, fennel, dill, parsley, cilantro, and basil. Here's a photo of the very simple set up of these seeds. I use these left over trays from our local Thai restaurant. These are on a table in front of my kitchen window..west exposure. Not the best exposure but it's the best I've got. Unfortunately my south exposure windows won't work. So I deal with leggy plants for a while.
I planted these when our chives looked like this...