Saving Seeds

We are often asked how to store a packet of seed that’s partially used. all our Nichols Garden Nursery seed packets are resealable. But once opened and left lying around germination may reduce in response to heat and humidity changes. My easiest solution is to place the packets in a glass container. Either pour some desiccant to your jar of  fold up some powdered milk in a paper towel and add to the jar with seeds. Close the jar and refrigerate. Check it from time to time. Especially useful with seeds you sow in spring and again in summer or fall for a fall winter garden.

Sow Peas On Valentines Day

HEARTS4PeasPeas, flat, round, long and short, crisp or tender, these are one of the first vegetables to plant in spring. In many parts of the country Valentine’s Day is traditional for pea planting. I look around and it’s a pretty day this year with soil temperatures up to 40 degrees, suitable for pea planting. When I head home today the peas are going in the ground. Here are my favorites and why…what do you do with peas, eat them of course and toss polyspun row cover over the young sprouts if birds in your neighborhood think the young shoots are nesting material. The row cover also gives a temperature boost for faster growth. Plant seeds no deeper than 1”. I make a little furrow and cover with ½” of soil and once they’re up add more, so roots are protected from heat later in the season. I also use legume inoculant so there’s no need to need to add nitrogen since this organically approved product helps legume plants utilize atmospheric nitrogen for growth. All four varieties I’ve listed can be planted for spring and again in mid-July for a fall crop. These are all results of the Oregon State University Horticulture Dept. vegetable breeding program. Multiple disease resistant including enation virus and powdery mildew.

Cascadia Snap Pea: A tall bush type, more productive and sweeter than other bush snaps we’ve grown. Let tender pods fatten up for maximum flavor.

Oregon Sugar Pod II: The most widely grown Sugar Pod in the world. Perfect for Asian stir-fries and you’ve undoubtedly eaten this delicacy in many a Chinese restaurant.

Oregon Giant Sugar Pod: Pease are about 50% larger than OS Pod II and a touch sweeter. It’s a great home garden variety because it takes fewer for a meal and most home cooks like the larger size but little used commercially.

Oregon Trail Pea: This all-purpose shelling pea is twin podded and there’s nothing homier than shelling a mess of peas with a class of iced tea beside you.

We’ll share some pea recipes later in the season…but planting as early as possible is the essential first step. And, these all grow well in containers as Maggie and I discussed in McGee & Stuckey’s Bountiful Container.

Hop Shoots Picking & Preparing

Hop shoots are a gardeners’ treat in early spring. Here are photos of them growing by the entry arbor to our herb garden at Nichols Garden Nursery. I snapped off a small bundle of emerging shoots, selecting for short tender stems and tips. Much admired in Belgium and France, where they are known as Jets de Houblon. Mature hop vines are actually more productive of hop cones when some shoots are removed.
To prepare plunge your tender shoots into salted boiling water, cook for 2 minutes and then drain. The timing can vary a bit cook only until barely tender. While shoots drain, poach eggs in fresh water (to avoid discoloration) or gently fry. Reheat shoots in butter and sprinkle over freshly cooked eggs. Don’t miss dipping a few hop tips into egg yolks.
Where these shoots are abundant they are variously sauced with béchamel, used as an omelet filling, served as a vegetable and pickled. Pickling does sound like a lot of effort for an ephemera of springtime. I’d most surely be appreciative of another’s accomplishment.

Talking about Herb Gardening @ awaytogardening.com

Join us atawaytogarden.com in an interview with  Margaret Roach at her blog/gardening magazine. Today Nichols Garden Nursery is featured. Keane is holding two fine specimens of Oregon Sweetmeat Squash Homestead. Notice the beautiful color and thick walls.  Grow it and you’ll also taste how sweet and tender it is. I am holding our very new Ruby-Gold Flint Corn and branches of true Mediterranean bay, Laurus nobilis, Rosemary Blue Gem, a Nichols introduction. Read her article, join the giveaway and learn a few herb gardening tips. Leave a comment on her blog and join the giveaway. Margaret is the former senior editor and Martha Stewart Living Magazine and author of the new and highly reviewed “and I shall find peace there” her latest book. Click the link to Margaret Roache’s article

http://awaytogarden.com/giveaway-rose-marie-nichols-mcgees-herb-qa#comments

Forcing Winter Branches Into Bloom

Every New Year I cut branches of shrubs and trees to force into early bloom. Think Spring! Now we have vases and jars of  Flowering Quince, Forsythia, Dogwood, Daphne, Hazelnut, and Willow.  A branch of Snow Berry adds a little substance to it all. When I brought in the branches the stems were gently scrubbed and recut before placing in water. The first few days it’s best to change the water daily. After three or four days if the buds are swelling I ease up. If buds are not swelling and branches are not using water your house may be too dry and a misting will help the buds open. Also cut off 1/2″ of stem to give them a fresh start. These are meant as simple directions for casual enjoyment of what’s in the garden at the beginning of a brand New Year. Place one variety per container since they bloom and leaf out on different schedules.  I’ll put up more photos when we have color. Place these flowering stems in a bright area but out of direct sun.

Pickled Elephant Garlic

Pickled Elephant Garlic A member of the leek family, Allium ampeloprasum like all garlic doesn’t produce viable seed. In spring mammoth scapes appear and can be harvested when flower buds form. For all types of garlic removing the flower buds directs the plant’s energy into bulb formation. These are a delicacy when sautéed. Come back for a recipe in late spring.

Pickling is a natural for these large mild cloves. So I offer you this recipe with the greatest  respect for those who develop pickling recipes. The flavors change and develop over the first six weeks and even longer and it is important to have it acidic enough to not cause botulism. The vinegar mixture needs only brought to a boil and then poured into the jar. Vinegar boiled in an open kettle for more than a few minutes will evaporate acetic acid reducing overall acidity.

Makes 2 pints

Ingredients
2 to 3 heads Elephant Garlic
4 cups white wine vinegar
¼ cup white sugar
½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
6 whole cloves
¼ teaspoon coriander seeds
2 bay leaves
4 dried or fresh chili peppers

Directions: separate bulbs from garlic heads. Remove the skins and trim the root base. Cut bulbs lengthwise into three sections. In a saucepan put vinegar, spices, sugar and salt on to heat.

Put canner or stockpot on to boil with enough water to cover jars during processing. Put lids into hot water to soften while jars are prepared.

Slit peppers with a knife tip in 3-5 places.  Place pieces of garlic, a bay leaf and peppers into freshly washed rinsed jars. Dip a spoon into brine, scoop out spices and add to jars. Add hot brine mixture to jars leaving ½” headspace. Wipe edges with a clean cloth or paper towel. Cover with heated lids and gently tighten rings.

Place jars in simmering waterbath. Jars should be covered by no more than an inch of water. Bring water to a strong simmer and once bubbles begin rising to surface process for 12 minutes. Remove jars from kettle and cool. Because I’m intimidated by any thoughts of spoilage or botulism my jars go into a refrigerator, another good reason for the small batch approach. The lids will  be depressed as a sign of sealing. Your garlic should be fresh and is ready to eat in ten days but I prefer six weeks. I like to cut into sections when serving. A true garlic aficionado may want a third of a clove or more.

Planting The Gardener’s Fall/Winter Pantry

Helen, who does much of our photography planted  her fall/winter pantry in early September. It’s 20 feet long and covered in light polyspun row cover. She used 6″ boards. bed is 36″ wide but wanted to make it unattractive to cats. Her materials were sawed off 5/8″ deeply set and 10″ above the ground. wood dowels pounded into the ground and PVC pipe.

She was indignant that cats had been pawing through the bed as soon as she prepared the soil. Polyspun was initially effective until a cat or raccoon dive bombed it one night. Critter control that’s not cruel or lethal seems a constant issue for gardeners. Helen solved her problem by covering the polyspun with bird netting just to see if that would deter the cats and that has worked.

The beds stand 2′ high.

Lettuce 10 varieties

Chicken scratch mix, Italian parsley and single parsley, green wave mustard, five or six different radishes, water cress, mountain cress, and garden cress were all planted in early December.

Her bed is watered twice daily two twenty minute periods. Part of her lawn system.(now that we are in October the water has been off for several weeks)

Medium size ‘Garden Clips’ and used three on each span to keep everything in place

She has done all of this herself and this post will be followed up with pics of her current garden in a few days. Most areas of the US have what I call shoulder seasons when we can grow cool weather crops that actually taste better when grown in lower temperature. The cool temps encourage plants to generate more sugars which act as a natural anti freeze.