Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

Sheet Mulching the Front Yard


Bye Bye Lawn

This is unpopular. If you like doing things that few will support, this is for you. It goes against all social norms, highlights you in your neighborhood as a radical, and will most certainly invite some to object, criticize, and politely complain. I’m sheet mulching my front lawn.

The basic premise is simple in our case. One only needs so much lawn space to romp on [yes, even with kids], the rest is extraneous waste of land, water, and energy. Worse, the opportunity cost of what COULD be grown in that space is high. Would we rather have lawn or berry bushes? Berry bushes. Would we rather have lawn or a more in our root cellar in the winter? Fuller root cellar it is. Would I rather have a monoculture of high-maintenance non-native plant, or a diverse array of low-input plants & trees that will yield food and at the same time provide for local birds, bees, and bunnies. Hm, let me think.  Over the winter I read a lot of books about the culture surrounding lawn, and it truly is a social norm that has very little logical justification behind it. It’s okay, you can hate me too.

How I’m sheet mulching my lawn:

Layer of recycled non-waxed cardboard, free of tape, etc. Layer of mulch I scavenged from our neighbouring back alleys in the spring [one man's waste...]. Layer of soil [I have an excess as I'm digging paths in the yard to manage water flow]. Another layer of mulch. Done.

I’m going to try to make use of the space this year with beans for drying, squashes and cover crops. By next year I should have a good deep soil to plant whatever tickles my fancy.

I dare ya.

Green Re-emerging. Slowly. As am I.

Like many others, I’ve been busy with hands in dirt. We’ve had a very mild winter up here, and my spring projects are a lot further along than I anticipated. The shot above is some asparagus I’m trying in flats from seed to bolster my supply long-term. So far so good.

I’ve felt the odd pang of guilt for not blogging as often as I ‘should’. Seems reading [researching garden and masonry projects] every spare hour has quickly transitioned to shoveling gravel and dirt every spare hour. My lawn is in some big, big trouble. A good piece of it has already succumbed to my will. But I’m finding that lawn’s friends are deeply loyal, and I do not find myself inundated by support or understanding for my quest against the lawn. Good thing I own the deed and the shovel…

Hardcore Gardening in January

Perhaps it’s the days getting longer. Perhaps it’s that I’m cooped up inside. Perhaps it’s the lack of fresh food around the house. Whatever it is, I seem to be spending more time obsessing about gardening, here in the end of January, than I do in August. I’ve got to be close to having read all the books at the library on the topics of permaculture, organic gardening, forest gardening, and composting. My design plan for the coming year has eraser marks and notes all over it. I’ve already received most of my seed ordered [mostly from Johnny's] for the coming year. I’m feeling a tad obsessed.

I forgive my obsession only because, well, January sucks, and I DO have a fairly major project in that I’m eliminating 90% or so of our lawn this coming spring via sheet mulch to become mixed gardens – part forest garden, part annual veg. For an interesting quicky on forest gardening, check this out:

Price Tagging My Produce

Yes, I am a geek, and I spreadsheet everything. I am aware of my geekness. This past gardening season, I weighed things as they came in the kitchen from my garden. I also weighed things as I picked from others’ gardens. I eyeballed prices at the market where comparable produce may be found. I ended up with an approximation of the monetary value of what I grow and pick. Roughly $2200 last year. Pretty good value. This, of course does not include any time spent – I get that. It also does not account for the uber-food-geek joy of having the ultimate of freshness in my control. Market produce, in relative terms, is ancient compared to eating straight from the garden. If you want fresh, gardening’s the only way to go. If you’re a cheap ass like me, gardenings the only way to go. Will I track my produce like this again? Yes, cause I’m a geek. It’s what I do.

Tasting Menu of My Garden


I’ve been waiting to post about this for a few days. Last Friday, my friend Yen was over for a visit and to eat. I was lacking inspiration for an ingredient to tackle, and eventually settled on the seemingly-good-idea of prepping nothing, and only using my garden as the source of inspiration to play with and put together a menu around. It was a good idea. We wandered around my yard to collect some inspiration, and came up with the following:

Raven zucchini with flower wrapped in lardo, 2 presentations [top left photo as well]. The lardo by Oyama Sausage Co. was very herbed/spiced, and fried provided a pork-roast-tastic vibe to the veg – even sans the meat.
Cucumber & feta salad with mint & lime. It could handle a lot more lime than we thought. Very fresh, clean, and could become a go-to salad around here.
French fingerling potatoes fried in baby leeks. Man am I glad I have more of these in my garden. I’ve tried a few cultivars of potatoes this year from the garden, and this wins by quite the margin. Possibly best dish of the night.
Raven zuchini sautée with lardo bits, reggiano parmesan. This concept is a personal favorite go-to squash dish around here after having fallen in love with it here in Buonconvento, Italy.
Veg soup. Clearly beets were involved. The leeks provided a wonderful chassis, and I learned that I have been under-peppering my veg soup. It was a tad boring, until some white vinegar and touch of pepper came into play – which vastly improved our impressions of the dish.
Bush green beans, parboiled, butter + salt + pepper. A valid point was made. A shocking one. Perhaps too much butter – took away from the fresh, subtle bean mojo.
Warm rocket salad. Cool idea – didn’t work. The plants are mature and the cooking brought out the bitter – which would be fine if all the cressy peppery vibe wasn’t lost from cooking it. It was also simply overdone – my fault.
We had never done fried green tomatoes. My tomatoes weren’t ripe -what-are-ya-gonna-do? Yen was taken by the fresh green tomatoes – he figures would be great in salads. I was taken by the cooked version with lardo bits. Okay. So it was cooked in pork fat. How bad could it be. But I actually realy liked it a lot. Was up there with my favorite dishes of the night.

Tasty. Healthful. And vastly lacking in protein compared to the usual meat-fests. It made me wonder how I hadn’t done garden tasting menus before.

What Grows Together Goes Together – Shaggy Parasols

There have been a few unanticipated joys of living in our new home over the past year – and this is one of them. Shaggy parasol mushrooms, growing aside my little leeks. Is it a hint? What grows together, goes together? I posted about their appearance last year, but with all the disturbance of soils, planting, etc, I had no expectations they would return. And all it took was some rain. I’m going to wait for them to size up a fair bit, then indulge at their expense.

Die Kale, Die.

Yesterday we were served a lovely kale dish by some friends, which made me reflect upon the copious leafy masses that were now shading my newly planted grapes. Grapes need sun. Shading them is unacceptable. The kale had to die.

I have to be honest, I’m not sure why I waited this long to thin my chards and kales – this type of greens is one of my favorite foods. No, I think I know why. Fear. Fear that if I picked it, my garden would then be empty as nothing was germinating, and the pickings were sparse. The 57mm of rain in July solved that problem. The earth is now erupting with seedlings. The second glut of the season hath begun.

Glut of Green

I’ve been enjoying other people’s posts about their gardens, and figured some posting about my own is long overdue. A success in this crappy year of gardening: leafy greens. How crappy? Frost warning tonight crappy enough for ya? Anyway, I figured it was time I thinned some of my copious greens this evening, and just finished washing a dozen or so spinners full of mixed greens – buttercrunch, spinach, red lettuces, arugula, a variety of mustards, leaf lettuces, head lettuces, chicories. I basically bought a whack of mixes and individual packets from various sources, dumped them into a ziploc, and that’s my seed mix for my greens this year. I may do the same next year, cause lord does it make interesting salads. My new fav this year? Mustards. Man they rock.
my large bed of greens. i have others…

Potato Joy – and I’m not even eating them yet.

Pride and food are a combination I’ve been giving an awful lot of thought to. More on that later, but for a quicky tonight I’m posting a photo of my first significant crop of potato plants. I’ve had the odd one before crammed into a bed here or there, but this is my first year with about 40 hills of potatoes. Kennebec, Norland, French Fingerling, Viking.

Only time is between me and some baby new potatoes…damn that ‘time’…