Plants, Plants, Plants

Spent the day packing plants for my Bountiful Container Gardening talk at the New York Botanical Garden on June 27th. Preparing for a cross country trip with more than a hundred vegetables and herbs in various stages of growth is a challenge. Fortunately, Helen, our nursery shipping expert has it all down. Last summer she test packed plants in various ways for shipping and took their temperature to learn the best way to avoid heat buildup. When shipping in warm weather ventilated plants arrive in good condition and grow best. There is a science to everything and healthy plants mean happy customers. My plants are vented, have ice packs, cushioning, and are separately boxed.
I am looking forward to my time at NYBG, it’s our first visit to this famed historical garden. Keane and I will be taking photos and will post them when I return. I’m taking Amy Stewart’s new book “Wicked Plants” to read on the trip and Keane and I will visit the poisonous plant collection at Cornell. It’s maintained by the veterinary science department and should be very interesting.

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Bountiful Container Talk@New York Botanical Garden

The New York Botanical Garden, in the Bronx, has scheduled a summer long series on food gardening. See special admission offer below. The weekend of June 27/28th 2009 is the kickoff event. I’m very excited to do a talk and demonstration on how to NY botanical garden conservatorygrow the foods you like in containers. I’ll show how to plant a container garden for SE Asian cookery, a summer salad garden, a multi- season herb garden and more. My talk is at 3:00 on the 27th, mid-morning I’m participating in a Q&A session and at noon I’ll be signing copies of my book, McGee & Stuckey’s The Bountiful Container.

Gardeners can harvest fresh, organic, beautiful food in the smallest spaces with just a little know how. I hope some of our Nichols Garden Nursery customers and blog readers in the New York area can come to my talk and if not visit the New York Botanical Garden this summer. Edible gardening maven, Rosalind Creasy, has overseen the planting and design of a demonstration family food garden and Martha Stewart has been busy with a herb garden she has installed. This is a rare opportunity to learn and talk with a variety of horticulturists and garden writers who are experts dedicated to home food gardening.

The Metro-North Railroad Botanical Garden station is directly across from the Mosholu Gate. Harlem Line. Driving directions are here.

For a special offer to this event go to http://www.nybg.org/promo/ and enter code EGDIG09 Buy one adult ticket pay 1/2 price for the second. This is a summer long offer with this promo code.

Plant A Row For the Hungry “PAR”

Plant A Row For the Hungry is a program we like to mention this time of year. When those delicious fresh vegetables start producing faster than your household can use then think about donating to your local food bank or soup kitchen. The economic downturn has caused hardship for many. Gardeners everywhere are helping provide a little extra food for the groups and agencies that help the food needy. And as my good friend and former Victory Garden host, Jim Wilson says, “if you don’t have surplus vegetables think about dropping off a few fresh flowers at a nearby soup kitchen. The folks who dine there probably don’t often see flowers on the table and flowers feed the spirit.” This morning Jim told me he dropped off a few heads of cabbage that were at the “ready to pick or they’ll bolt” stage.

PAR began at Bean’s Soup Kitchen in Anchorage, AK. Garden columnist, Jeff Lowenfels, thought, what if surplus food from home gardens could be donated to soup kitchens and food banks. Get those fresh fruits and vegetables into the food chain instead of the compost.

In May, Keane and I were in Anchorage, AK where I spoke at a Master Gardener conference. Jeff kindly took us by the soup kitchen where it began in 1995. To date this program of The Garden Writers Association has provided over 50 million meals to help feed the hungry.

jeff rose marie at bean's cafe

There is more information on the Garden Writers Association website. Jeff and I are in front of Bean’s. We were careful to not photograph anyone waiting for a meal because of privacy concerns.

Salad of Swiss Chard, Beets and Fruit

Swiss Chard and Beet SaladCooked greens make a delicious salad base. This was an evening to find a purpose for accumulated ingredients. We had leftover multi-colored Swiss Chard which was braised in a little olive oil and garlic. The stems and garlic were cooked for three minutes before coarsely chopped leaves were added.

Our other ingredients were also ready:
2 medium baked beets
1 orange, peeled
1 mango, peeled
1 tablespoon wine vinegar
1 tablespoon walnut oil
1/4 cup crumbled goat or feta cheese
1/4 cup chopped parsley
salt to taste

Slice beets, orange and mango into a dish. Dress with vinegar and oil. Layer over greens, sprinkle first with parsley and then cheese. A few added walnuts would be good. Another version for  beet and salad would be sliced pears and a sprinkling of dried cranberries.   Fresh tarragon would be a good herb along with parsley.

Our Neon chard is large leaved and quite beautiful in mid spring. This is from last year’s planting and chard makes great regrowth once spring arrives. Chard belongs in every garden and is pretty enough to add to a flower bed. Leaf miner can be a problem in some areas and now is safely controlled by using organically approved spinosad applied as a light spray.  We use and offer it as Monterey Garden Insect Garden Spray.

Nichols Plant Day 2009

Nichols annual Plant Day is Saturday, May 16, 2009. I will demonstrate straw bale gardening. Our newest demonstration garden is a living example of food gardens from The Bountiful Container-a complete guide to growing veegtabels, herbs, fruits and edible flower in containers. It is still a work in progress but the basics are installed with a couple Adirondack Chairs for relaxing in a home garden-like setting. I will be available to sign and inscribe the Bountiful Container, a 400 page guide to growing food in containers.

Linda Zeidrich will sign her new books, The second edition of Joy of Pickling and The Joy of Jams, Jellies and Other Sweet Preserves 200 New Recipes Showcasing the Fabulous Flavors of Fresh Fruits.

Master Gardener Jennifer Ewing will demonstrate how to easily construct a nearly weed free raised bed and how to use the hoop system to support deer netting, shade cloth and plastic. These beds provide a new easy, efficient approach to raised bed gardening.

We will be offering a discount on all in store purchases. Come join us for a little garden time and light herbal refreshment.

Garden Greens of Many Colors

Green leafy vegetables are packed with nutrients and flavor. Grown for salads or cooking, there’s no easier faster crop for the home gardener. This spring I’ve been stir frying Kale, Swiss Chard, Bok Choy, Purple Broccoli, Raab, and Beet Greens in a little olive oil and minced garlic. I trim my pickings, chop and rinse. The skillet is hot and ready, I add oil and garlic, wait a few seconds, and then add the chopped greens with a little water still clinging, stir and toss until tender and sprinkle with a little salt. This usually takes no more than seven or eight minutes. If my chard stems are broad and beautiful I start cooking these first and then add the remaining greens.

My good friend, Al Modena, of Italian parentage,  owns an old family wholesale seed company in San Francisco. He asked me how I cook my Swiss Chard and I gave him this preparation. He enthusiastically nodded his head, saying “that’s right, but you need to add just a little anchovy instead of salt and it makes all the difference”! It’s as good as he says.

When I return from my Anchorage talks on Container & Small Space Food Gardening and Straw Bale Gardening we’ll cook up a few different greens with photos. Now is the time to start sowing seeds of all these “greens of many colors”. My family business, Nichols Garden Nursery is having a month long sale on many of these seeds. Often it is best to sow a row and come back in three weeks and plant again. It’s a little early to talk about fall planting but most of what we’re eating is from late summer and fall plantings of last year.

Garden Talks

Keane and I are leaving for Central Oregon today where I will give talks on Successful Food Gardening in Central Oregon and a demonstration talk on Edible Container Gardening. Of course I’ll be signing copies of McGee & Stuckey’s The Bountiful Container. A few more talks are coming up, May 9th I’ll speak in Anchorage at a Master Gardening conference on “Growing Food in Containers & Small Spaces” and “Straw Bale Gardening”. June 27th I’ll be at The New York Botanical Garden for their kickoff event on a program series on edible gardening. I will present a demonstration and talk on growing “Food Plants, Herbs & Edible Flowers in Containers”. This speaking season then winds up with a talk at the annual Oregon State Master Gardener mini college on “Successful Food Gardening in Container & Small Spaces”, Thursday, August 7th.

Our annual Nichols Garden Nursery Plant Day is Saturday May 16th 2009. We always have an annual sale, light refreshment and demonstrations. This year I’ll be demonstrating straw bale planting and we are working on a new garden in the style of a home garden planted all in containers with a couple Adirondack chairs for visitors to sit, relax and enjoy the surroundings. As this comes along I’ll post photos.

It’s been a busy year and I’m so impressed with this renaissance in food gardening. There has been much interest in vegetables and cooking but now people seem to be taking it to their own homes whether it is the backyard or front yard they are planting gardens. A healthy well grown plant is always a thing of beauty whether it be a gorgeous muticolored ruffled lettuce or the latest petticoated heauchera. Gardening keeps us in contact with nature and that part of ourselves that grows a little more as we nurture our gardens, our loved ones, and ourselves.