Friday, April 29, 2011


My starter potatoes finally arrived, so I'm pre-sprouting them before planting in my trash can. Yes, you read that correctly.

J is the big potato fan in our house, so he got to choose the type. Harder than it sounds - there's so many! Since we're low on space, we can only grow one kind so J decided to automatically eliminate the kinds you can buy for pennies at the grocery store. He wanted something unique and delicious, so he finally settled on the blue kind from Pinetree Garden Seeds. I chose to buy from there because it's fairly local (Maine) and was recommended by another blogger.

My favorite gardening book suggests pre-sprouting by putting each seed potato in its own section of the egg carton, spraying with liquid seaweed and letting them go in a sunny area. So we'll see how it works!
Do you pre-sprout potatoes? What kind(s) are you growing this year?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Bread Baker

I said earlier that I wanted to start putting more of my attempts at cooking and baking on the blog, but I haven't been very good about that. I had last Friday off of work (perk of working at a private, Catholic university) so J and I headed out to Newton to check out some stores. The first is one J discovered a few weeks ago and had been dying to show me. No photos, but that's probably best because China Fair is one incredibly shady joint. I was pretty sure we were going to get stabbed in the alleyway that led to the super-sketchy door, and then once inside I figured we'd be abducted and sold into slavery, but luckily neither of those things happened and we just ended up buying WAY too much kitchen stuff. Among the things we got was a dough container, which I'd been thinking about getting for a while.
Then we went next door to the New England Mobile Book Fair. This place is equally sketchy, but more popular, and we've been before. It's a dangerous place filled with discounted books on every subject imaginable. We usually go and each find about 20 books we want, but then talk each other out of most of them. It's a good system. Unfortunately it didn't work this time because we spent enough to get a free T-shirt or tote bag and to get 3 more stamps on our "Loyalty Card".
Anywho, I should get to the point of this suddenly very long story. I bought Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day to try my hand at baking bread. This is partly because I love baking and partly because my poor wallet can't afford to keep going to When Pigs Fly. We got home and my impatient side took over and I make a batch of the basic bread, which the book says you need to master before moving on. That's hard. The other recipes look delicious!
So I used our stand mixer (seriously, how did I live before this thing?) to whip up a batch of dough and then let it rise. Nerd Alert! Yeast is awesome!! 2 quarts of dough became 4 quarts of dough in about 3 hours just sitting on the counter.
Saturday morning we baked. Form the loaf, check. Pizza stone in the oven, check. Pan on lower rack for water, check... wait a second. Folks, putting a glass Pyrex pan in the oven, letting it preheat to 450 degrees and then pouring water into it results in this.
I do not recommend it.

Luckily the bread turned out fabulously and we then made two more loaves and had eaten all of it by the end of the weekend. Sorry there's no photo of the finished product, it was too yummy to stop and take a photo before inhaling. I'll try to exert some self control on the next batch.
As long as you don't shatter a glass pan in your oven, it really does only take about 5 minutes. Guess that's what the authors meant by mastering the recipe.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Cold Weather Plants

There are a few things I planted quite a while ago, but I don't think I've mentioned them here since. All the cold weather plants are loving the cool Spring we're having. At least something likes it.
My kale is finally starting to take off. I think I transplanted it too soon from the seedling tray, and I think I was keeping it too warm at first. It didn't look like it was going to make it for a while, but it's pulled through and seems to be enjoying the greenhouse. I keep the door of the greenhouse open all the time, unless we have a frost warning, so it gets the cool temperatures at night and doesn't get overheated during the day.
The peas are really slow growing. I guess I expected they'd be larger now. How long after sowing should they start flowering? According to my records, these peas were planted 1/22 and sprouted 1/27, but they still seem tiny for being 3 months old, no? I've also added a few more seeds in to keep them going - yay succession planting. One round of seeds on 3/11 and another round last weekend, so I'm hoping they'll do better. The second and third set also got inoculant, so hopefully that will help.
Spinach and carrots are still small, but growing strong. Can't wait for a delicious salad! And speaking of salad, my very sad looking outdoor lettuce is looking decidedly less sad lately. It might even be ready for eating soon. Sorry there's no photo of that.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Now that we're supposedly past the last frost date (though we've had two frost warnings since, but I haven't seen any) I've started hardening off my seedlings. This is an important step, according to all the books and blogs I've read, so that they don't all just die when you put them in the ground - or in my case, in pots.
It's a bit like training for a running race I guess. You start with low mileage - in this case mileage is time outdoors - and work your way up to the full distance.
So far I've put them outside for just a few hours at a time, and only on days that are nice. I don't want them getting rained on quite yet. This past weekend offered two glorious days, so the seedlings took a field trip outside. Friday they sat on the porch, but Sunday they stayed in the greenhouse. It was windy and they were getting blown over. The greenhouse door was open, so they got some breeze, but not the full force.
I'm hoping they'll be hardened off and ready to plant in their final containers outside in about two weeks. However, the weather forecast calls for rain the next 8 days (oh joy) so we'll see how that goes.
Anyone else hardening off seedlings?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Tomato Update

So the tomatoes finally turned red! And once they completely ripened, boy were they delicious!
Our makeshift support system with the rubberband was failing, so we added some extra support. Yes, it looks ridiculous, but if it gives me good tomatoes, I don't really care.
A few more are starting to turn red, so hopefully we'll have an overabundance of tomatoes soon.
I think I had said I hoped for tomatoes by Easter and that worked out well!

Friday, April 22, 2011

More than a plant nerd

So if you only know me from this blog, it's become fairly apparent that I'm a huge plant nerd. In addition to an addiction to plants, for which I am not seeking treatment, I've started to get into some of the science of it - and I'm not usually a science person.
But there are other nerdy parts of me. The nerdy runner part. For full disclosure, I may be a running nerd, but I'm not a fast running nerd. It would not be an unreasonable goal for me to try to not come in last. Part of this slowness is because I'm 5'10'' and a bit overweight and I'm not ever going to run as fast as the 5'4'' girl who's 90 pounds soaking wet. The other part of the slowness is intentional. If I was ever in first place, I might get lost. I might make all those people behind me feel bad about themselves. I might miss some beautiful scenery. I might not make the friends I have running. So I'm slow. But the people that move fast are amazing.
One of the coolest things about moving to Boston is the Boston Marathon. It falls on a state holiday called Patriots' Day that commemorates the Battles of Lexington and Concord and the start of the American Revolution. (Seriously, Bostonians think all other Americans should routinely thank them for starting the Revolution and creating America.) Most people in the state don't get the day off of work, but in Boston, the marathon course makes it truly impossible to get anywhere so it's a holiday.
It's my favorite holiday. I woke up early. I was giddy. I had a stupid smile plastered on my face. And that's because this year I got to volunteer at the mile 21 water stop. Mile 21 is at the top of Heartbreak Hill and is, therefore, a very popular water stop. I got there at 9am to help set up the tables and fill hundreds of cups with water and Gatorade. First came the disabled athletes. Nothing makes you feel like a lazy ass hole like someone with no legs running a marathon on prosthetics. Then the elite runners came flying past. 21 miles into the race they're still running faster than my version of a sprint. Impressive. And then came the average-joes. Though I guess they aren't so average since they're running a marathon.
I spent the next 5 hours handing paper cups of water to grateful runners. The crowd was cheering and the runners just kept coming and coming and coming. I was just standing there and it was the biggest adrenaline rush EVER.
Seriously... you should come to Boston just for the marathon. Best. Day. Ever!

Sunday, April 17, 2011


It finally arrived! After ordering and waiting for the weather to be nice enough for them to ship and it finally arrived!! I got my banana plant (yes, it's technically an herb and therefore, a plant, not a tree) from Going Bananas down in Homestead, FL. I've heard their store is actually really cool, but Boston to FL is a long trip for just a banana plant, so I'll have to come up with another excuse to go down there.I looked at all of their varieties, but knew that I was limited on what I could get based on the fact that I'd be growing it in a container mostly indoors - ya know, since I live in Boston and all I don't think it would be happy outside in January. While they have some fascinating varieties, I decided to go with a Dwarf Cavendish since it's a popular variety and pretty basic.

It arrived in what looked like a homemade box, so that it would be just the right size to carefully caress the plant on its long voyage. I think I was expecting to open the box and see something like a root ball, but there were actually leaves. Very large, green, healthy looking leaves!

Overall it arrived in GREAT shape. I really couldn't be more pleased with the quality of the plant. I put it in that large container that has been patiently waiting for it and gave it a really good watering. From what I've read, it's hard to over water a banana, though my plant is in a plastic pot, so I may have to be a little more careful.

Right now it just needs water, but it will need some pretty serious fertilizer - I guess they eat like crazy!! Now I'm on the quest to find a good banana fertilizer. Any suggestions?

Saturday, April 16, 2011


Yesterday was supposed to be our last frost date. I know it sounds early, but Boston stays quite a bit warmer than the surrounding area thanks to the water and the winds and all. During the winter it's usually several degrees warmer and we get a few inches less snow than people even 30-45 minutes away.

Our Spring has been unusually cold though, so I wasn't holding my breath that the frost warnings were actually done. Good thing I didn't. Look at the email I got last night.
The upside to container gardening is that instead of finding coverings for all of my in-ground crops, all I had to do was move the peas and lettuce inside and close up the mini greenhouse. The greenhouse company states that the inside temperature will drop to the outside temperature at night without an additional heat source. When I went out this morning, there was some condensation on the inside and it felt quite a bit warmer than the outside temperature. This means one of two things: 1) My little greenhouse is really well set up and isn't allowing much air in without the door open. 2) My house is so old and so poorly maintained and insulated that our heat leaked out and kept the greenhouse warm. My bets are on option 2. :(


The larger Aerogarden I got J for his birthday has really taken off. The salad greens grew faster and look way better than our traditionally grown ones in soil. If I'm remembering correctly, we planted it all about 3-4 weeks ago and finally had our first harvest of lettuce! 2 7/8 ounces of delicious, healthy salad greens! A very tasty addition to our dinner.I tried not to cut it too low, so they should grow back for round two, right?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Porch Update

Today is the last frost date for Boston, but I think this year we might be a little late. I needed to get some living space back and get some of the plants out of the house and onto the porch, but I'm still a little worried about frosts. I'd been putting the plants out during the day, but the wind we've been having recently was doing some damage to them so I needed to find a solution that would allow everything to be outside, but not be damaged by the wind.

Enter the pop-up greenhouse! Fairly inexpensive, variable sizes and is perfect for protecting from frost and wind! This little guy showed up when I was starting to finally feel better last week and provided that extra boost to make me healthy again.

He's set up on our porch and is currently holding the kale, blueberries, carrots & spinach, and the lettuce. All the plants have been really happy inside, but I am sure to open the door every morning so that it doesn't get too hot.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Herb Garden

Quick update on the herb garden. So far I've got the chives and oregano that I bought at Home Depot. They transplanted really well and have new growth and everything!
I've also added some of the healthier and bigger chamomile plants to the pot. I just have a few more of those and then lavender in the top, but that will most likely be a while since they're still pretty small in the seedling tray.
I have the whole pot sitting on the dining room table, which gets lots of sun. Still way too cold in Boston for them to be outside.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Transplant Time

The tomato and pepper seedlings are doing really well. Most have their third set of leaves and need to be transplanted into some larger pots, so that's what I did. I bought some larger pots that can actually be planted right into the final big container later since they break down easily. They're supposed to be less stress on the plant from multiple transplantings, and it saves me the step of having to wash them out later, so I think it's a win-win.

The tomatoes had some pretty serious roots on them, so I think they'll be happy to be in their new homes. I put a bit of potting mix down in the new pots, then some crushed eggshells since tomatoes and peppers both like calcium, and then put the seedlings in. For the tomatoes, that meant burying them all the way up to the first set of leaves. I think it's pretty cool that they'll grow roots off the stem and be stronger.

I've also taken to pointing a fan at the seedlings for 15 minute increments a few times a week to help them toughen up. It will be a few more weeks before they go outside for day trips to start hardening off, but it can't hurt to get a jump-start, right?

How are your seedlings doing?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Remember a while back when I was getting frustrated with my mushroom kit? Well I contacted the company, and saw a representative at the Boston Flower & Garden show and it turns out I was doing something wrong! When I opened the shipping box there was a page of instructions, that I followed to a T. However, apparently the box of the kit itself opened in ways I would not have guessed and inside that were a spray bottle and more instructions. Those instructions told me to submerge the entire bag in water for 24 hours to soak it, then start spraying.

I did that and look what happened!! One giant mushroom and a few smaller ones. We actually harvested these last weekend and had them on pizza one night. Delicious! My first harvest of the year!!!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Gardeners' Gathering

Several weeks ago (before the homework caught up with me, before I got the flu, and before I got way behind on blogging) I went to the Boston Gardeners' Gathering. It was an informal event with no registration and lots of workshops and lectures on a variety of topics, but with a focus on community gardening.

Mayor Menino was there. He handed out awards for MVG (Most Valuable Gardener), Best New Community Garden, and a few others. I was totally unaware of what an active community gardening area this was.Many area gardening groups and non-profits had information available. I might get into some things this summer, but without a car a few of the events are more than an hour away on the train and I'm lazy...

I stayed for two of the demos/lectures. The first was on canning. Since J got me the canning kit for my birthday I was hoping to learn how to do it right. I got lots of great information and we were able to get a taste of some different jams. The whole room smelled delicious! Can't wait until local berries are up so I can purchase some and try my hand at canning.
Do you can? What do you can and do you use a pressure cooker or just a water bath?

The second lecture was about using edibles in landscaping. I had hoped they might have more information about how to grow those edibles, but a lot of it was just people showing off photos of their gardens. I get the pride and wanting to share, but I'm not sure it was particularly informative.

Overall, it was a great event and I look forward to it next year!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Quick Hi

Hi! Yes, I'm still alive.
The flu took me out of commission the first half of the week and then catching up from being unable to do anything but lie in bed and be miserable has taken up the second half of my week.
I promise to update soon. Hopefully over the weekend.

Here's an update... the banana plant arrived!! Nothing like that to make a plant-crazed girl feel better.

Monday, April 4, 2011


Ok, this is a little more than a hint, but while I'm waiting for the actual plant to arrive I wanted to share how excited I am!!

Saturday, April 2, 2011


What do you think this very large pot is for? It's a 20" pot.Leave your guesses below and Monday I'll give you a hint.

Friday, April 1, 2011

April Fools

I woke up this morning, on the first day of April, expecting sunshine and birds chirping and blue skies. Mother Nature on the other hand decided to play a nasty April Fools joke.
My reaction was definitely not family-friendly, and I try to keep the blog PG (it's a blog about gardening, I'm not sure what the heck I'd put on that would take it above a G-rating actually...) so I won't share it with you. Suffice it to say I am not happy. I want Spring and I want it NOW!


I know I've been a bit absent this week - things are getting crazy with work and school. I thought I'd end the week with some photos of Boston from the walk we took downtown a few weeks ago. You'll notice the weather in these photos looks like it might be Spring. IT WAS A LIE!! A day later it snowed.