Thursday, March 29, 2012

Thursday's Kitchen Cupboard... Pasta with Sauteed Swiss Chard and Pac Choi Stir Fry

With the rapid arrival of spring many of the crops that have been small and pathetic all winter have suddenly sprung to life.  One of these is my Swiss chard:

In looking for Swiss chard recipes I came across Jeanette's Healthy Living Blog and a recipe for Pasta with Sauteed Swiss Chard.


Pasta with Sauteed Swiss Chard


  • 1 bunch swiss chard or other leafy green vegetable
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large or 2 small shallots, thinly sliced (I used onion)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained (I didn't have any capers, so I left this out)
  • 1/2 pound whole grain pasta or gluten-free pasta, cooked al dente
  • 1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • freshly grated parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast (dairy-free/vegan option)
  • salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste


  1. Trim tough ends of swiss chard. Slice stems and leaves into thin strips.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large saute pan and add sliced swiss chard stems and shallots (or onions).
  3. Saute until shallots are softened, about 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add garlic and capers, and saute another minute. Season to taste with salt and fresh ground black pepper.
  5. Toss cooked pasta with sauteed swiss chard and a little extra virgin olive oil to loosen up the pasta.
  6. Sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan cheese and fresh ground pepper as desired. 
It was a tasty and easy weekday dinner!

If you remember I harvested a bunch of pac choi a few weeks ago.  I'm still working on eating it and  thought I would share one of my stir fries with pac choi, broccoli, carrots (only the white ones are from my garden), green bell peppers (not from garden either), and cauliflower.  I simply saute the veggies with some olive oil and soy sauce and with noodles and tofu (for me) or chicken (for Jeff).

That's what has been cooking in my kitchen.  If you want to peak into other kitchens and see what others are cooking, head over to Thursday’s Kitchen Cupboard at the Gardener of Eden.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Planting Asparagus

Why does gardening require so much patience?  I just planted asparagus and would love to harvest some fresh, tender spears.  Alas, I will have to distract myself with other garden goodies until next spring when I can snip a few little spears.  In the long term I will enjoy plenty of asparagus.  It's just the initial waiting that is so difficult.

I thought I would share my asparagus planting technique.  I picked a raised bed to become the permanent asparagus bed.  It is 3' x 10' bed and formerly had a fall crop of broccoli mulched with leaves.

I dug two trenches in the bed that were about a foot deep and 8 inches wide:

I added some alpaca manure to the bottom of the trenches and then covered it with a thin layer of dirt.  Then the asparagus crowns were placed in the trenches.  I planted Jersey Knight, which was a recommended variety for my area based on information from Clemson's Extension.  I placed the crowns 18 inches apart and staggered them between the two trenches:

I planted 13 crowns.  I hope that will be enough to feed my asparagus cravings!  I then covered the crowns with a few inches of dirt.

As the asparagus stems emerge I will fill in the trenches and then I will wait and wait and wait some more, dreaming about that first taste of a homegrown asparagus spear!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


I stumbled across this eastern black swallowtail butterfly on the garden fence one morning in the garden.

The amazing part is that it had just emerged from its cocoon and couldn't open its wings all the way.

I love all the little discoveries I make being out in the garden.  I also love the renewal and newness that spring brings.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Harvest Monday 3/26/12

We've had another unusually warm week here in South Carolina.  I just heard on the news that we've had 9 days over 80 degrees this month and we only need one more to break the record.  The good thing about the weather is that it is gorgeous outside with the dogwoods, red buds, and azaleas in full bloom.  In the garden, the fall and winter crops are bolting as I've started the spring crops.  I'm trying to plant my spring crops in shady spots because I have a feeling it is going to be a warm spring and very hot summer.

I need a drum roll for my first harvest of the week.....

With six cauliflower plants, I have harvested by first and probably last cauliflower weighing in at a whopping 2.9oz:

It was definitely more stem than florets and was probably a day away from flowering.  This was my first cauliflower harvest ever.  Cauliflower doesn't seem to be my forte!

The rest of this week's harvest theme was salads with lettuce (4 oz), radish (5 oz), and carrots (4 oz).  It appears that the kaleidoscope carrot mix I planted only wants to give me white carrots.  However, I love carrots so I will not complain.

After the short journey from the garden they went straight to my salad bowl:

Another new harvest for me this week is Swiss chard (2 oz):

I'll post the recipe for my first Swiss chard harvest on Thursday... stay tuned!

Weekly total: 1.12 lbs
Yearly total: 18.98 lbs worth $36.60

To see what others are harvesting check out Harvest Monday at Daphne's Dandelions.

Happy Gardening!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Harvest Monday 3/19/12

We have now skipped spring and moved on to summer.  It was 86 F (30 C) this afternoon!  I have a feeling the peas are not going to approve of the "spring" weather.  The good thing about all the warm weather is the garden has gone from a slow crawl to racing full speed ahead.

The lettuce and spinach have provided for plenty of salads this week with 4oz of each:

I may have previously said that I harvested the last of the fall broccoli, but I guess I lied because I ended up with 5.6 oz more.  I promise that this really is the last harvest as I pulled the broccoli to make room for the recently arrived asparagus.

My most thrilling harvest this week was a carrot.  Yes, one lone carrot is thrilling in my garden.  I planted carrots back in September, so to finally pull a full size carrot (2.9 oz) was the highlight of my week.  The seeds I planted was a mix of orange, purple, red, and white carrots.  I still can't wait to harvest the other colors.

Buried somewhere under the lettuce was one little radish.  Most of the radishes have bolted and are adding some pretty flowers to the garden.

The biggest harvest this week was 1.4 lbs of turnips.  I had one mega turnips and lots of mini turnips:

Weekly total: 2.5 lbs
Yearly total: 17.86 lbs worth $33.91

To see what others are harvesting check out Harvest Monday at Daphne's Dandelions.

Happy Gardening!  

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Spring Extravaganza

I spent Saturday venturing to a small botanical garden in North Carolina where I fell in love with all the spring flowers.


Tulips from every angle:

I'm not sure the name of this flower, but I loved the way its buds opened:

The bees were also enjoying the spring flowers:

The birds were also out and about in the spring weather:
It was a gorgeous day to enjoy the spring flowers and watch the birds and bees.  However, I have a ton of work to do in my garden, so my little excursion is over and now it's time to get to work planting the spring garden!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Thursday's Kitchen Cupboard... Spinach Quesadilla

Today while I was driving home the temperature was 87 degrees F and it is March!  The plants that have been sitting idling in the garden all winter have sprung to life.  Spinach has spent the winter just a few inches tall with enough leaves to add a couple to my salads.  In the last week the leaves have quadrupled in size and the plants doubled in height.  In looking for spinach recipes I came across Spinach Pie Quesadilla by Caroline Russock:

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/4 small onion, finely diced
  • 2 scallions, sliced (white and light green parts)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Pinch each of thyme, oregano, and cayenne
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh spinach
  • 1 small wrap or flour tortilla, 8-inch in diameter
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 tablespoon plain Greek yogurt (I didn't have any yogurt, so I used milk)
  • 2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese, divided

  The oregano and thyme have also took off growing with the sudden warm weather.
  1. In a small nonstick pan, heat the oil. Add the onion and scallions and cook until soft, 3-4 minutes. Stir in the garlic, cooking a minute or two more until soft. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and the spices. 
  2. Mix in the spinach and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes. Remove to a bowl and cool slightly. Use a wooden spoon to press out some of the liquid from the cooked spinach and drain. 
  3. In another small bowl, whisk together the egg white, yogurt, and 1 tablespoon of feta. Add to the cooled spinach and mix until combined. 
  4. Wipe out the pan, then brush it with about 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon olive oil or cooking spray. Over low heat, put the wrap or tortilla in the pan and sprinkle the remaining feta over one side of the wrap and get it to soften slightly. Turn the heat to medium and pour the egg-spinach mixture over the same half of the wrap, fold the other half over and cook on one side until the egg begins to firm up, 3-4 minutes. Flip and cook on the other side for 2-3 minutes, then cut into wedges and serve immediately.
If you want to peak into other kitchens and see what others are cooking, head over to Thursday’s Kitchen Cupboard at the Gardener of Eden.   

Monday, March 12, 2012

Harvest Monday 3/12/12

It feels like spring has arrived.  It reach 70 degrees (21 C) today and tomorrow is suppose to get up to 77 (25 C).  The veggies that have been sitting idle all winter are suddenly skipping growth and going straight to bolting.  I had to harvest my pac choi as it was starting to bolt, weighing 2.58 lbs. 

I have never grown pac choi before and was inspired by the The Winter Harvest Handbook by Eliot Coleman.  Now that I've grown it and harvested it, I'm not sure what to do with it!

Also this week I harvested 4 oz of radishes and 3.7 oz of lettuce.

I also unfortunately discovered an error in my harvest spreadsheet.  I was adding some of the weekly totals into the overall total along with the individual harvests.  Basically I was doubling some of my harvests.  It is fixed now, but it brought down my total harvest. 

Weekly total: 3 lbs
Yearly total: 15.41 lbs worth $29.07

To see what others are harvesting check out Harvest Monday at Daphne's Dandelions.

Happy Gardening!  

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Project: Planting Templates

In my raised beds I use square foot garden spacing.  This allows me to maximize the amount of veggies I can squeeze into my garden and minimize the space that weeds have to grow.  My problem is that I am lazy about actually measuring the distance between seeds or seedlings, so I guess and my guessing is not always so accurate.  Then I saw a blog post about making planting templates and knew this was something I needed. 

I decided to use vinyl tiles (without the adhesive on the back) so that they would be water proof without any extra steps.  The ones I got were $0.73 each.

I then made the measurements:
  • 4 plants per square
  • 9 plants per square
  • 16 plants per square

Next is the drilling.  You need core drill bits that make circles.  Jeff had a 2" one and a 3 1/2" one, so that's the sizes I used.  I used the 2" core bit for the 16 and 9 plant templates and the 3 1/2" one for the 4 plant template. 

This is what it looks like when Jeff drilled:

 This is what happened when I tried:

Good thing the tiles are cheap!  I learned that it is important to have the tile secure so it doesn't start spinning and a slight rocking motion helps to prevent from breaking the tile.

Attempt two:


When I had to get a replacement tile I went ahead and got two, just in case.  I ended up using the spare tile making a one plant template.  Here's the complete collection:

I've already tried them out planting radish and spinach and it makes planting easy and fast.  No more guessing for plant spacing!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Harvest Monday 3/5/12

I missed out on harvest Monday last week, so this is a double week harvest report. 

The broccoli has decided to bolt.  My first broccoli harvest was back on Dec 21st, so I've had two months of harvesting and eating broccoli.  I cut all the side shoots this week weighing in at 12.2 oz:

My total broccoli harvest for the fall was a little over 4 lbs.  I'm happy with my harvest and I've found growing broccoli in the fall and winter results in more harvest and a longer harvest.  In the spring the broccoli tends to bolt quickly as the weather warms.  Next year I will definitely grow broccoli in the fall and I'm planning on doubling the number of plants.  I planted cauliflower at the same time as the broccoli and my cauliflower harvest still stands at zero.  The good thing is that I like broccoli much more than cauliflower!

Harvest (2 weeks):
Broccoli: 14.2 oz
Spinach: 0.5 oz
Lettuce: 2.99 oz
Radish: 5.1 oz

Two week total: 23.3 oz
Yearly total: 15.93 lbs worth $25.63

Here's one of my winter salads:

Sunday, March 4, 2012

March Garden Goals

March is going to be a busy month in the garden.  Spring is right around the corner and there is a lot to get ready and plant this month.

  1. Start seeds inside: basil, lamb's ear, chamomile, leaf lettuce, cucumbers, melons, pumpkin, squash
  2. Plant seeds outside: kale, kohlrabi, radish, turnip, spinach, beet, peas, Swiss chard, carrots, parsnips
  3. Plant potatoes
  4. Plant onion sets
  5. Transplant seedlings: leeks, parsley, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage, head lettuce
  6. Prep beds for planting
  7. Fill raspberry bed with soil
  8. Fill potting shed bed with soil
  9. Planting templates: I use the square foot garden spacing for my raised beds and I saw Chiot's Run blog about how to make templates.  I want to make some templates, I think it will make planting easier and quicker.
  10. Plant raspberries
  11. Plant grapes
  12. Plant asparagus
  13. Get and plant blueberries
  14. Paint potting shed shelves
  15. Make plant labels:  With all the planting I will be doing, I really need some new plant labels.
Here's how the potting shed and part of the garden is looking at the beginning of March.  The cover crops did really well.  I'm planning on cutting them down close to the soil, but not pulling up the roots.  I've read that leaving roots helps with providing nutrients and building soil structure.  Then I will use the clippings as mulch around the spring plantings.

    Saturday, March 3, 2012

    Project: Bee Mason Home

    Mason bees are solitary bees that do not sting and make wonderful pollinators.  They like to nest in narrow holes or hollow twigs.  You can buy bee mason homes to give them a place to lay their eggs and then pollinate your garden.  However, I thought it would cheap and easy to make my own bee mason home. 

    Bamboo makes the perfect hollow tube to make a bee mason house.  Bamboo is an invasive species here in South Carolina, so it is not hard to find.  The ideal hole size for mason bees is 5/16".  I got a variety of bamboo sizes, so hopefully enough of them will be the right size.

    For the structure of the bee mason house I used an old bird feeder.  I've seen where people have used flower pots, wide pipes, or built a structure.  The only important thing about the structure is that it has a back to prevent wind from blowing through the holes.

    I took out the plastic on one side of the bird feeder and then began cutting the bamboo to fit, which was about three inches.

    Then I stacked the bamboo in the birdhouse, using the smaller pieces to fill in the gaps.

    Now its time to hang it up and wait to see if the mason bees approve of my home building.  I read that the best location for bee mason houses is facing the morning sun. 

    The bee mason house is up and ready for some spring tenants that will hopefully decide to make my garden their new home.

    Friday, March 2, 2012

    Revisiting February Garden Goals

    Remember how productive I was in January?  Well, keep that in mind as I recap my Feb garden goals. 
    1. Start seeds inside: broccoli, cauliflower, onion, leeks, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, parsley, celery, eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes are all started.  I've had a learning curve with my new heat mats that resulted in some seedling causalities.  We've had some really warm days and without a thermostat I cooked the seedlings!  Next year I need a thermostat.
    2. Starting seeds outside: I planted some peas and spinach this month
    3. Harden off: Well, I would have done this, but the leeks, onions, and parsley that should have started getting use to outdoor weather were cooked by the heat mat.
    4. Clean up beds: This seems like a never ending project, but I did do a bit of weeding this month.
    5. Build raspberry bed: I did build a 8'x2' bed for the raspberries and it is in the ground, but not filled with soil and manure yet.
    6. Prettify the potting shed: This was partially done.  We put up the lattice around the shed's foundation.  However, I didn't finish painting the shelves (ran out of paint), make the workbench skirt, or make a window box.
    7. Finish potting shed bed: I need to get some topsoil and mix in manure to get the new bed ready for planting. This didn't happen.  Part of the problem was the brakes on the truck decided to stop working!  They are fixed now, so hopefully this will happen in March.
    8. Make a bee mason house: I did make this and I will post the project and pictures very soon.
    9. Start on the path to the garden: Well, the only thing I can say I did was use a hose to outline where I want the path.  No digging has happened yet.
    10. Clean garden tools: I didn't get to this last month, so maybe Feb March will be the time to do it. 
    After I went through my list, it wasn't as bad as I thought.  Despite the broken truck, going out of town, and a shorter month I didn't do too shabby in February.