Monday, May 21, 2012

Picking Basil, Planting Peppers, Loving Lettuce and More: Garden Update 5/21/12

Lots of beautiful basil from just two plants (I love these $10 take apart shears).

Want to see more of my garden? The new weekly Friday Farm Fix series on Farmgirl Fare usually includes lots of kitchen garden photos.

Realization of the Day:
Eating from the garden makes everything taste better, even if your harvest is just a sprinkling of chives or a handful of parsley.

There isn't a whole lot of bounty in the garden yet, but during the past week we enjoyed plenty of beautiful (and big!) salads, as well as chopped green onions on just about everything. If all goes well, it won't be long before I'm digging up the first new potatoes, harvesting the garlic, and picking my favorite Dragon Langerie (also called Dragon Tongue) beans. And the arugula and Parris Island cos lettuce are almost ready to start thinning and tossing into salads.

The weather has been crazy hot and way too dry (thanks to my super lightweight Water Right garden hoses I no longer dread watering the garden!), but we did finally get a little rain yesterday. Just about 4/10ths of an inch, but I'll take it. At least it settled all the dust.

Like what you see growing in my garden? The links included below can help you grow the same things in yours.

Into the kitchen during the past week:
Chives (Learn how to grow chives here, plus my easy herbed yogurt cheese recipe.)
Green onions and spring onions (read about why I now grow onions from purchased plants here)
Italian flat leaf parsley (here's the best way to store fresh parsley)
Lettuce (I picked the entire 4'x8' bed of my favorite Rocky Top Lettuce Mix from Baker Creek before it all went bitter from the heat; learn how to grow your own gourmet lettuce from seed here).
Red Russian kale (from a couple of last spring's plants; photo below)
Swiss chard (amazingly heat and cold tolerant; learn how to grow Swiss chard from seed here)
Tuscan kale (also called Lacinato kale, dinosaur kale, and Nero di Toscana cabbage; one enormous plant direct seeded last fall)

And into the garden:
Four Golden California Wonder sweet pepper plants (purchased; tips for planting and growing peppers here)
Five Roma tomato plants (four purchased, one volunteer from last year I'd dug up and put into a small container)
Eight eggplant plants (purchased; the tag just says 'classic' which cracks me up)

I have several more varieties of tomato plants that still need to go into the ground (both purchased and started from seed), another four Golden California Wonder pepper plants (purchased), and a bunch of leggy little purple basil seedlings I grew from seed that desperately need to be transplanted into individual plugs (I think they're still too small to go straight into the garden, especially with this heat).

I'm also hoping to plant some more green bean seeds and am wondering if I should try direct seeding some cucumber seeds this time, since the soil is plenty warm and my first two attempts at starting them in flats (including 4 different varieties of all brand new seeds) yielded nothing for some reason. I don't think I've ever had trouble sprouting cucumber seeds before. The basil, calendula, and zinnia seeds didn't do squat either.

Twelve more garden photos below. . .

Garden photos:
1. Harvesting basil from two purchased plants. Just take what you need, and they'll keep growing back.

2. 4'x8' bed with chives, King Arthur and Orange Sun Bell sweet peppers, basil, Italian flat leaf parsley, and an experiment—heat tolerant Parris Island cos lettuce and arugula direct seeded in between the plants.

3. Yukon gold and 'red' potato plants planted in mid-March from seed potatoes purchased locally at the supermarket (either they didn't know or didn't care what variety the red ones were).

4. Into the holes when transplanting tomatoes: calcium mineral mix (stolen from the sheep), granulated kelp, epsom salt, aspirin tablets, eggshells, compost.

5. Grass clippings for mulch, saved on a tarp (located on an unplanted raised bed to keep weeds from growing) until needed.

6. Mulching around the newly planted tomatoes next to the greenhouse with feed sacks (and Mr. Midnight).

7. Red Russian kale (also called Ragged Jack kale), directed seeded last spring and still putting out plenty of bounty.

8. A new little herb bed with (so far) lemon thyme, English thyme, and lavender.

9. The garlic is looking great! A 4'x8' bed planted with 160 homegrown cloves on 10/22/11.

10. Dwarf Siberian kale going to seed on the left, stalk from giant Tuscan kale plant (in case it grows back), mixed variety of Swiss chard direct seeded this spring.

11. Dragon Langerie (also called Dragon Tongue), Slenderette, and Masai bush beans.

12. Harvesting 4'x8' bed of Rocky Top lettuce mix from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, direct seeded in late March.

13. About one-third of what I cut.

So what's going into and out of your garden?

©, where this time of year lettuce is sometimes served three times a day.


  1. Thinned beet greens, radishes, already-bolting spinach (our weather has been like yours), chive blossoms, and some lettuce. 'Tis the season for greens, but I can't wait for the bean and tomato season to arrive . . .

  2. We have yet to even purchase any plants, so I am drooling over your basil! We do have an over abundance of oregano and lovage, and the thyme is starting to grow again. I made a pizza for dinner on Sunday night, and loaded it with fresh chopped oregano and a bit of thyme. It was delicious! Hopefully, this weekend we can get the rest of our herbs planted.

  3. I am not quite sure why, but my cucumber seedlings did not survive either. They sprouted, got about 2" tall, and croaked. The rest of the viney seedlings in that flat did fine. Six empty holes where seedlings should be. Oh well. I reseeded them directly when I planted the rest of my summer garden (which was yesterday...very late for here).

    Here is hoping for no (more) hail, peaceful weather, and a reprieve from the heat!

  4. Why aspirin? I had never heard of that before. Also, is your garlic soft neck variety, and how do you know when it's ready?

  5. Here in western NC mountains, we've had an unusually warm spring, too, so we took a chance and planted a few things as early as mid-March--normally, we wouldn't be getting started in the garden until this week or next. Turnip thinnings alone would keep our tummies full. Tonight we had a green, green supper of salad, sauteed radishes (with tops), steamed turnip greens, and braised dwarf bok choy (my new favorite veggie). Yum!

  6. I have a new use for egg shells now.

    You have inspired me to add a few basil plants to my backyard grilling herb garden.

  7. All my tomatoes are looking good except the roma, they have just given up so I will have to plant again!! Diane

  8. Right now, I am harvesting Ridgeline romaine, Little Gem romaine, Red Sails lettuce, rainbow chard (overwintered), spinach and the first radishes. My peas are nearly ready for harvesting, and the flowers are beautiful. Progressing nicely are garlic, onions, kohlrabi, squashes, tomatoes, and peppers. Carrot flies destroyed all my overwintered carrots and some insect has decimated one of my cucumber varieties. My herb garden on my back porch is going gangbusters right now and I can't help but take a little taste of something every time I go in and out the back door.

  9. For me, there is nothing like the taste of a freshly picked cucumber on a hot summer day.

  10. I love just brushing the basil as I walk past and having that summer smell fill the air. And a cucumber that hasn't even had time to chill in the fridge with that thin skin. Delish.


March 2013 update: My apologies for the inconvenience - I know word verification is a pain - but I've had to turn it on to help stop the ridiculous number of anonymous spam comments I've been getting every day. Thanks for your understanding.

Welcome to! Thanks so much for taking the time to write. While I'm not always able to reply to every comment, I receive and enjoy reading them all.

Your feedback is greatly appreciated, and I especially love to hear about what's going on in your own garden. I know, too, that other readers also delight in reading about your garden successes, failures, helpful tips, and lessons learned. Feel free to leave comments on older posts!

I try my best to answer all questions, but sometimes it takes me a few days to get to them. And sometimes, I'm sorry to say, they fall through the cracks, and for that I sincerely apologize.

I look forward to hearing from you and hope you enjoy your visits to my kitchen garden!