Winter Gardening Projects (To Keep You Sane!)

I do realize that even the mere mention of the word ‘winter’ usually puts most of you off but what if a few indoor projects made the time go faster? Maybe a break from gardening is just what you need. On the other hand, keeping your hands in the dirt may be just the cure for the winter blues!

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Kitchen Windowsill Gardens

What can you grow on your kitchen windowsill? How about a winter culinary herb garden? You can use some herbs that you’ve brought in, start them from seed or pick a few up at the store. Many greenhouses keep a few potted herbs on hand through the winter months. Choose three or four of your favorites and pot them up in a long, narrow planter. Snip herbs as needed for all of your cooking needs.

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Salad with microgreens!

For more edible options, try growing microgreens or sprouts. Fresh green treats to add to soups, salads and sandwiches. Sprouts can be used within days of putting in water and microgreens can usually be harvested in around 10 days. With this relatively short time between planting and harvest, you will be eating fresh greens in no time! Another bonus to sprouting is that it requires no dirt. Try alfalfa, broccoli, radish or a host of many other sproutable greens.

Forcing Bulbs

When it comes to indoor growing, few plants brighten your home as much as forced bulbs. The rich shades of red, white and pink of the amaryllis. The frosty white blooms of paper whites. The heavy scent of vibrant hyacinths. Tulips can take a bit more effort but can be totally worth it. Some of these bulbs can be kept for years and revived annually for winter bloom. Forcing bulbs brings a huge sense of anticipation and sometimes a second blooming!

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Potting up an amaryllis!

Houseplants 

With the low sun of early winter, suddenly I’m reminded that my houseplants are so dusty! Some even have long, wispy webs that reach to the ceiling. Pretty scary if you ask me. Winter is a great time to revitalize tired houseplants. Maybe a dusting is in order. We often put our larger plants in the shower for a quick bath. Just allow them to dry and return them to their spot. How about repotting a few to freshen them up?

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All the materials for our terrarium!

Do you have a large glass container just begging to be transformed into a terrarium? Building a terrarium is a great way to display rocks, plants and woodland treasures in a contained environment. Terrarium assembly is an excellent way to get children excited about gardening.

Arts and Crafts

I’m one of those people that always picks up driftwood and beach glass. There are stashes of it in my shed and in the house. I imagined that I would make some sort of garden mobile out of them. Maybe some snowy day I will get all of these beach finds together to make some sort of masterpiece.

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Hey, that’s me with my unfinished bug hotel!

Many other items can be made for the garden with no artist skills required. Try making plant markers from painted wooden spoons or put together a bee and bug hotel. We probably all have some stuff kicking around that could be used.

Garden Planning

It may seem a bit early for planning your 2018 garden but I feel that it’s never too early. Seed and gardening catalogs will soon be streaming in filled with endless varieties of seeds. Why not sketch out your gardens while they are still fresh in your mind? You will have a jump on the next season. What are you planning for next year?

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A rough sketch of the garden is all you need.

The temps have been up and down here in midcoast Maine. The old freeze and thaw! Since we had such a dry season, it seemed strange to see actual mud this past weekend. I missed putting what few bulbs in that I had. I may slip them in the veggie garden on one of these warm days. How did this happen? I guess we are all just busy! Thanks for dropping by this week and I hope that these winter projects will spark a desire for some I ndoor growing! Feel free to click on the blue links for more info. Have a fantastic week!

Hilary|Everlongardener

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Foraged finds!

 

5 Early Spring Blooming Perennials

The month of May brings a flurry of color to the garden. The first snowdrops, the patches of blue scilla, then the daffodils and tulips start to open. Thrilling and fleeting, spring bursts with color. On the heels of the spring bulbs comes the earliest of the spring blooming perennials. Here are 5 easy spring perennials perfect for any garden!

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Perennial plants are a cost effective way to achieve flowers year after year. Many plants can be obtained once and carry on for years. One aspect of a great perennial garden is continuous blooms. If your garden is bare in early spring, try a few of the these plants. Some you will know, some may be new to you.

Hellebores

Probably little known to some home gardeners, hellebores can be the earliest to bloom. This blooming perennial is hardy in zones 5-8 and can bloom in winter in milder climates. Where the ground freezes, such as in Maine, hellebores bloom in early spring. Foliage is leathery and dark green. It’s long lasting blooms come in shades of green, white, pink and more.

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The green-mauve hue of this hellebores blossom.

This perennial is among the most unique of blooming plants. Blossoms last for a long time, remaining seemingly unchanged over a period of weeks. If you have a shady wooded site, this may be the plant for you. Clusters along a woodsy path would be perfect.

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The light green brings a refreshing change to the garden.

Common names include ‘Christmas Rose’, ‘winter rose’ and ‘Lenten rose’ because of it’s capability to bloom in winter in some areas. Even though the word rose is used, it is not related to the rose family. Not always among the more common greenhouse perennials, hellebores are becoming more widely available. They happen to be very photogenic and a gardener could easily get suckered into obtaining one in every color!

Brunnera

If you love Forget-me-nots, you’ll really go head over heels for brunnera (Siberian Bugloss)! A perfect addition to a shady border, this plant comes with solid green or variegated foliage. I prefer the variegated because it adds so much contrast. It’s frosted appearance really pops in darker settings. Mix a few in with a stand of hosta plants for an amazing display.

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Brunnera looks like forget-me-nots.

Hardy for zones 3-8, this plant can fit a wide variety of applications. With it’s heart shaped leaves, it looks so different than many common garden plants. This shade loving perennial starts blooming in May and carries on through June. After blooming, the foliage remains for the rest of the summer. The height only reaches 12″, so it won’t block any of your later plants.

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The gorgeous contrasting leaves.

Because of their low growing habit, brunnera makes a great ground hugging plant. They can also be grown in a container and used for cut flower arrangements.

Creeping Phlox

This ground cover perennial may seem pretty common but what a beautiful flower show in spring. Also known as ‘Moss pink’ or Phlox Subulata. Creeping phlox is easy to care for and once established can provide years of spring blooms. Winter hardy in zones 3-9, it comes in an array of colors from white to pink and purple. Perfect for naturalizing on a banking or in a rock garden. Plants thrive on a rock wall or in poor soil.

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The cheerful pink flowers of creeping phlox.

When flowers emerge, they turn into masses of bright blooms. As flowers fade, the garden is left with handsome evergreen foliage. When the plant matures, simply trim older stems that stop putting out flowers. If left unattended, weeds can be a problem so pull any grass that appears under the plants. Bloom time is around Memoral day here in Maine. Plant along the front of Forget-me-nots, ‘Basket of Gold’ alyssum or ‘Snow in Summer’.

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Pink is the most commonly seen color of creeping phlox.

Some may be hesitant to use creeping phlox because it’s so commonly seen in cemetaries. I have to say that it fits perfectly into the home garden as well. Growing creeping phlox can be a solution to problem areas and can be a low maintenance choice.

Bleeding Heart

One of the old-time favorites of the cottage flower garden. Often seen by the foundation of farmhouses, this blooming perennial is the glory of the spring garden. Bleeding heart or (dicentra spectabilis) can be a large, fountain of color, making quite a splash. Then, as the summer heat rises, the plant actually dies back. This makes way for the next round of garden color. Bleeding hearts self seed readily and love shade or dappled light. Bloom time varies but usually happens in May.

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Stunning white bleeding heart plant!

Old fashioned bleeding hearts come in pink and white. Both add so much to early spring beds with their long arching stems. These flowering plants are extremely hardy and fit well into spring bouquets. If you don’t have a bleeding heart in your shady garden, maybe it’s time to borrow a bloomer from your grandmothers garden of old! There are later dicentra varieties that flower in the summer and have a lower, more compact habit. I think the early bleeding heart is my favorite though. It’s a classic!

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Bleeding heart with Solomon seal.

Solomon’s Seal

When it comes to blooming shade perennials, this early bloomer really stands out. This sweet white flower can be used as pretty vase filler. As the stems of Solomon’s seal rise up from the ground, they grow straight up them arch gracefully. Even as the flowers fade, the plant adds structural interest to the garden for the rest of the season. Notice how well it goes with the bleeding heart pictured above.

Solomon’s seal is an elegant addition to any shady garden.

Solomon’s seal or polygonatum, is a must-have for the shade garden. Once established, this plant spreads slowly but is easy to propagate by division. This is a quiet participant in the garden but stands up under poor conditions. White dangling blossoms turn into black seed pods for further garden interest. If you’ve never seen Solomon’s seal, give it a try!

These are just a taste of the perennials that offer early spring blooms. These 5 can be found at most large garden centers. If you have gaps in your bloom times, why not plant a few of these colorful flowering perennials? This way you will see continuous color in your garden from early spring right through to fall! Here at Everlongardener we have been dodging the black flies while planting much of the vegetable garden. The weather has been a bit of a roller coaster of temperatures. It may hit 90 today! Enjoy your week and happy planting!

Hilary|Everlongardener

Grow Your Own Sunflower Shoots

Of all the microgreens and shoots out there, sunflower shoots may just be king of the windowsill.  Easy to grow, quick to mature, a snap to harvest and totally nutritious!  If you haven’t tried growing your own sunflower shoots, it may be the new winter food you have been looking for.  What exactly are sunflower shoots?

Sunflower shoots are the young, edible seedlings of sunflower plants.  Within a weeks time, a batch of sunflower shoots are ready.  A nutritional powerhouse, they are full of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and protein.  They are also considered a complete protien.   Check out the impressive nutritional information at Markito Nutrition.  As for taste, they are crunchy with a pleasant nutty flavor.  They almost have a succulent quality about them.  In the article A Salad’s Surprise Shot of Flavor, chef Robert Newton says, “They taste like a sunflower seed, kind of, but with chlorophyll.”  I would have to agree!

Start with some sunflower seeds.

It is said that you can use black oil sunflower seeds for growing.  If food safety is a concern, purchase seed from a reputable sprout company that tests for food-borne pathogens.  The Sprout House is a good company.  I’m sure there are many sellers out there.  At Savvy Gardening, they recommend a 12 hours soak for the seeds, then another rinse and soak.  I’ve had great result without even soaking but it would probably speed things along.

Planting shoots and microgreens.

Sunflower shoots can be grown in a plant pot, seed starting tray or a recycled container.  The roots are shallow.  Just make sure you have a few inches of soil.  Use a food safe growing mix.  No fertilizer is necessary.  Press down the soil and scatter the seeds thickly across the surface of the soil.  Sprinkle additional soil over seeds.  Some growers just firmly place another tray over the seeds to block the light for a few days.  For the home grower, covering the seeds with dirt works just fine.

They are growing!

Within a few days, your little shoots will be reaching for the sun to become a thick sunflower shoot forest!  You can even have a few batches going at once for a continual harvest.

Sunflower shoots emerging!

As your shoots grow, pick off the seed coats to allow them to open fully.

Sunflower forest, ready for cutting.

When the shoots are at 4″ or so, cut them with scissors.  Always wash shoots in cool water and store in a bag.  They will last when stored in this way for a few weeks.  Don’t allow them to grow beyond the shoot stage.

Give Shoots a thorough washing.

Sunflower shoots make a fantastic plant to grow with children.  The seeds are big enough for even the tiniest of hands to grasp and they love watching the fat seedlings rise up through the soil.  Getting my son to even try them is another story all together!

Salad garnished with shoots and microgreens!

Typical uses for sunflower shoots are salads, sandwiches, smoothies and can be used as a garnish.  But, think beyond this.  Try them as a substitute for bean sprouts.  Throw them last minute into a stir-fry.  Use them anywhere you think they will compliment the meal.  Sunflower shoots are an excellent way to get through the winter and a wonderful addition to your winter windowsill garden!

For more information on shoots and microgreens, go to my articles Easily Grow Windowsill Microgreens or Grow Pea Shoots in 4 Super Easy Steps.  Thank you for joining me this week at Everlongardener and happy growing!

Hilary|Everlongardener

 

Indoor Gardening: Forcing Bulbs

Does anyone else remember seeing Polaroid snaps of a potted amaryllis bulb in their grandmothers photo albums?  The picture of that glorious annual event of the opening of the amaryllis!  Why not carry on the indoor gardening tradition of forcing bulbs!

Flowering bulbs seem to be everywhere in fall and early winter.  Every grocery store and green house has a display this time of year.  Of course, we could never live up to the Victorians passion for forcing bulbs or any of the gardening that they did, for that matter.  Still, plant lovers everywhere bring these dormant orbs into their homes every year just to see their vibrant flowers.  The dramatic, the colorful and the scented!

Does anyone have a photo like this?

Special Care

A few of the bulbs that can be forced need to be put through a short winter cycle before being potted up.  This requires extra time and an extra step.  One neat thing about this is that you can schedule bloom time by planting so many weeks ahead.  Need potted flowers blooming for a special occasion?  With some advanced planning, you could have quite a display.

Tulip bulb.

Bulbs such as tulips, daffodils and crocus need this kind of conditioning.  A cool place such as a refrigerator or a garage that is above freezing would be ideal.  Then, when the prescribed ‘winter’ is up, plant your bulbs in any pots that you like.  This way you could have some blooms coming and going through the winter.  A whole bulb garden could be assembled with a variety of species coming all at once.  The article How To Force Bulbs has some elegant suggestions and a wealth of advice.

Easy Options

I’ve chosen to grow just a few types for my table this year and yes, these require very little input!  Some bulbs do not need any special attention before planting.  They can be purchased and planted with very little care.  Amaryllis bulbs come in endless shades of red, pink and white.  They are quick to grow and make a huge impact.  You can usually pick up a kit for around $5.  Paper whites, a member of the narcissus family, can be grown in an decorative bowl filled with stones.  Hyacinths can be grown in pots, vases or even a special hyacinth vase that comes with some kits.  Upon opening the package, add water just up to the roots of the bulb.  Place in a cool (around 50 degrees F) location for 10 weeks.  Check on the water level occasionally.  Hyacinths are very heavily scented and may not be for everyone but they are fantastic bloomers!

Paper White bulbs.

To get started, assemble some unoccupied plant pots.  You will need some clean rocks and potting soil.  Choose a few pots that will accommodate the bulbs sizes.

Assemble some pots…

The bulbs do not like to be buried.  Amaryllis like to be about 2/3 to half way out.  The paper whites can be simply nestled into the stones.

Adding some moss to the amaryllis bulb.

A little stroll in the woods and you can pick up all of the embellishments that you need to dress up your bulbs.  Moss, twigs, dried flowers, pine cones, whatever you can find!

Paper Whites like a rocky place to grow!

Now, I have heard of adding alcohol to your bulbs to stunt the growth and give stronger stems.  I haven’t tried this yet but it sounds intriguing!  Go to http://blogs.cornell.edu/hort/2009/11/10/pickling-your-paperwhites/ for more information.  Water bulbs regularly and stake them as needed.  If you feel like fertilizing, go ahead.  If not, they will probably be fine.  In summer, an amaryllis bulb can be relocated to a vacant spot in your perennial garden, then potted up again before frost.  Paper whites and other bulbs can be moved to the garden for future blooming but they may take a few years to really be impressive again.  Hyacinth will probably not amount to anything if replanted because flowering takes so much life out of it.

A Simple Table Scape

Ever need to dress up your dining room table for a special occasion?  Maybe you just want to bring a bit of the outdoors inside this winter.  Making a nature inspired table scape featuring your freshly potted bulbs is a exceptional way to do just that!

Paper whites all potted up.

I picked out this simple table runner made of cotton.  After placing the pots on the table, I decided to use the hydrangeas that I dried earlier in the fall.

Found  items look so natural!

Moss and lichen from the forest floor covers up the dirt around the amaryllis bulb.  Graceful beech branches and fern seed pods add just enough interest.  We scavenged acorns and pine cones too!

Hyacinth bulb.

Notice the delicate mauve-pink of the papery covering of the hyacinth bulb.  It’s so good for your brain to see green, living things this time of year.

By adding dried flowers and candles, you have a gorgeous table scape!

It really is a blank canvas!  Add any colors or plants that you like.  Have a theme.  Candles are a nice addition, just make sure to keep them away from dry plant matter when lit.

Nature inspired table scape!

As your bulbs grow, your table scape will really take shape!  Your table is your canvas, just get out and see what you can find for complementary natural items.  If you are the crafty type, you will have no trouble coming up with something outstanding.  I hope that you can make the most of your forced bulbs, whether purchased or received as a hostess gift.  If you have more than two pots, why not create a multi-seasonal table scape?  Your dining room will look stately and stunning!

Things are getting pretty cold around here but I find that indoor growing, such as forcing bulbs, can be good winter therapy.  What do you like to grow indoors this time of year?  Drop me a line below in comments, I would love to hear from you!  Thank you for your interest in Everlongardener this week!

Hilary|Everlongardener

 

Easily Grow Windowsill Microgreens

With the snow starting to fly outside, many of us are suddenly spending less time in the garden and way more time indoors.  For those of you who can’t get enough of gardening, why not try growing some nutritious windowsill micro greens this winter season?  No grow lights, no greenhouse, just your windowsill!

Many vegetables are hard to grow inside, but not micro greens!  By using minimal equipment, you can grow a wide array of micro greens on your windowsill.  Very little space or skill is required.  With a harvest time of around ten days for some plants, you can easily be eating your greens again in no time!

Microgreens used on top of a salad.

Micro greens are actually the shoots of certain salad vegetables.  Unlike sprouts, they are grown in soil.  Seeds of kale, lettuce, chard, beets, arugula, spinach and radishes can be used.  This winter, I’m trying sunflower shoots for the first time.  Basil, orach and sorrel are on my list too.  Micro green seed mixtures can be purchased from garden centers, seed companies or from Amazon.  I got some from the Sprout House.  They range from mild to spicy and can compliment Asian, French or Mediterranean cuisines.  If you have left over garden seed, try making up your own mixture.  There are slow and fast growing types.  The Johnny’s seed catalog has a great chart about growth rates.  Just make sure your mixtures accommodate the growth rate.  I did a slow tray and a fast tray.

Add soil to container.

To start growing your own windowsill micro greens, you will need 5 basic things: soil, containers, seeds, water and sun.  Choose a growing mix that you would want to grow food in.  Seeds can be planted in trays or any containers that you may already have.  Lettuce or mushroom containers work very well.  You may want to add drainage holes and a tray under the containers.

Soil is all ready!

After adding soil, sprinkle the seeds over the surface.

Closeup of the seeds!

Cover lightly with more soil.  We used the hand seed sower to mix and distribute the seeds.  This way there were no spills or waste.  Gently water the containers.  Position in a south-facing window.

Tiny seedling pushing through the dirt!

In a few days, you will notice the tiny seedlings emerging from the soil.  Keep moderately moist and turn containers as the plants tend to reach for the sun.

Microgreens ready for cutting!

Micro greens are ready for use when they are between 1/2 to 2″ tall and leaves are formed.  Cut with scissors and wash before use.  They can be used for 5 to 10 days depending on conditions.  Micro greens will usually grow again, so keep them watered for a subsequent harvest!

Striking red chard Microgreens!

Many growers are selling micro greens at local markets and to restaurants.  Use micro greens in addition or in place of salad greens.  Add to green drinks and smoothies or use as a garnish.  They are totally versatile so it’s only limited to your imagination!  Micro greens are packed with high levels of healthy nutrients and contain Vitamin C, E, Beta carotene and more.  Some of them even have protein.  For more growing info, go to my post How to Grow Microgreens in 4 Easy Steps or the book Microgreens by Eric Franks.

Salad with microgreens!

It may be one of the latest trends in home gardening but I think you will find growing windowsill micro greens brings a little of the summer indoors during these colder months.  Let me know if you have any experience growing micro greens.  Leave a comment below if you have any questions or ideas!  I would love to hear from you!  Don’t forget to subscribe for free in the sidebar for weekly gardening inspiration!  Thank you for coming along this week and get growing!

Hilary|Everlongardener

 

How To Grow Lettuce

What vegetable do you think we could potentially spend the most money on in a year?  I haven’t done any calculations but I feel that salad greens are high on the list.  If you’ve read my very first post Self-proclaimed Salad Green Queen you know that I’m all about the salad greens.  I believe that anyone can grow delicious greens even if you just have a small space.  The fancy triple washed salad mixes at the grocery store are lovely but they are no match for what you could be growing right in your own back or front yard!

Gorgeous bowl of salad greens.
Gorgeous bowl of salad greens.

As you may already know, I aim to have salad greens all year long.  It’s just my thing.  Now, you may be saying that it’s easy to grow lettuce in early spring and in the fall but that summer heat makes your greens bolt.  I understand, I’ve been there.  Some people like to grow head lettuce and that’s fine.  For me, leaf lettuce works best.  You can start harvesting a few weeks after planting and you have a large window of time for picking.

Baby summer lettuce.
Baby summer lettuce.

One major thing that allows me to have a decent crop through the summer is lettuce variety.  Many seed catalogs sell slow-to-bolt types.  This takes a bit of planning because not all garden centers will sell seeds specifically for hot weather.  I order my ‘Summer Lettuce Mix’ from Fedco Seeds ahead of time to ensure my lettuce harvest.  A few other varieties include ‘New Red Fire’, ‘Slobolt’ and ‘De Morges Braun’.  The many other seed catalogs I have also listed summer varieties.  Just read descriptions and you’ll find some that suit your needs.  Slow bolting salad greens are a wonderful addition to the garden.  They retain good flavor instead of turning bitter.

Other veggies go really well in a salad mix.  I use small beet leaves, garlic chives, pea shoots and baby chard.  This adds color, texture and lots of flavor.  Mustard greens and kale can be added too.  Whatever you have.

Beet greens can be added to summer salad mix.
Beet greens can be added to summer salad mix.

Planting

Summer lettuce seeds can be planted in spring as soon as the ground can be worked.  Wait until a sufficient amount of moisture has left the soil.  I can plant my raised beds fairly early.  Lettuce can be started indoors but direct seeding is pretty easy.  If you haven’t planted any greens yet, it’s not too late.  Plant seeds 1/8” deep, 1” apart and 12-18” between rows.  Keep soil moist while germinating.  Planting in a 2-4” band also works well for leaf lettuce production.  Lettuce germinates well between 45-75 degrees.

Succession planting is also a great way to ensure a continual harvest.  I usually keep my seeds handy and if I have a few minutes, I run out and plant a row.  As I rip spent lettuce out, I plant more in it’s place.

image

Harvest

The best time to pick lettuce or any leafy green for that matter, is in the morning.  Anytime before 10:00 a.m.  If it’s a cloudy day, anytime of day will generally be fine.  As the day goes on, the sun makes the plants wither a bit.  Wilted lettuce is nearly impossible to revive.  So, pick at it’s peak.  Get out there in your pj’s if you can for the best time of day to harvest.  On hot days, I’ve even put cold water in my bowl to immediately submerge them.  This is a huge help.  Then I rush them inside to wash them and get them in the fridge.

Scissors, pinching with your fingers or a knife are all acceptable picking methods.  For my very long harvest window, I prefer using a lettuce knife.  This knife is not at all necessary but it makes nice, clean cuts.  I think that I purchased mine from Johnny’s Selected Seeds many years ago.

Using my Victorinox serrated harvest knife.
Using my Victorinox serrated harvest knife.

For leaf lettuce, simply cut all outer leaves of adequate size.  Try to pick clean.  There is not need to leave good greens.  This will also encourage new growth.  Sometimes I have to pick every other day.

Washing and Storing

Washing your salad greens is very important.  I use two different size salad spinners.  For the quantity that I grow this just makes sense.  You can always use a colander to drain the greens and gently remove water with a towel.  There is the old trick of filling a clean kitchen towel with wet greens, going outside and winding your arm around like a windmill.  (Insert instructional video here!)  Just kidding!  Works like a charm but maybe not always convenient!

When summer and winter lettuce are harvested simultaneously!
When summer and winter lettuce are harvested simultaneously!

Once the greens are sufficiently dry, place them in a bag that can be sealed.  Placing a paper towel in the bag prolongs there fridge life.  Leave some air in the bag also.  Homegrown salad greens last so much longer than store bought greens.  My mother once found a bag of my salad in her refrigerator two weeks after I had visited and they were still fine.

A salad elevates your meal to five star quality!
A salad elevates your meal to five star quality!

Salad green production is my favorite part of vegetable gardening.  I feel spoiled with all of the high quality greens that I get to eat.  With a little effort, you too can be downing daily salads that cost you no more than a packet of seeds.  This will not be the last post on salad greens.  There is so much more to share.  But for now, think about adding lettuce to your summer garden.  You’ll be glad that you did!

Hilary|Everlongardener

 

Grow Pea Shoots In 4 Super Easy Steps

Want to add something unexpected to your spring salad?  We started growing pea shoots in our garden a number of years ago.  After seeing them for sale at a local farm stand, it seemed like a great addition to my salad greens mixture. They add a whole different dynamic to the salad mix.  They have a pleasant pea flavor that compliments the other greens.  Today, I’m taking you through 4 super easy steps to grow your own pea shoots!

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The benefits of growing pea shoots are that they are rich in nutrients like microgreens and they can be harvested in about 14 days.  I was reading on http://www.healthdiaries.com that they abound in folate, antioxidants, carotene, phytonutrients, vitamins A, C and K.  What a list!  Shoots can be added to smoothies, salads, sandwiches and stirfrys.  They can even be used as a substitute for other greens in recipes. Sometimes when I plant peas to climb and grow to maturity, I use one section of them just for shoots and use them till they get too tough.

Soaking the peas!
Soaking the peas!

So, let’s get into these rediculously easy steps to pea shoot happiness. For materials you will need: a bowl big enough to accommodate swelling seeds, a clean growing container, soil, pea seeds ( I used ‘Sugar Ann’), soil and water.

Look at those little shoots!
Look at those little shoots!

Here are the steps!

  1. Presoak peas in water for a day or so to help them sprout.  If you skip this step, it just takes a little longer for them to germinate.
  2. Add about 2″ of soil to a container.  I used a lettuce container with some holes in the bottom.  Use the lid for a tray underneath.
  3. Evenly scatter pea seeds over soil, cover with more soil.  Use some soil that you would want to eat the plants from.   Some people do not cover with soil, that’s up to you.
  4. Genly water your little seeds and wait.  Water every couple of days.  Stick your finger in to see the moisture level.  Too much water can lead to mold.  Your harvest will be ready soon!  I use scissors to cut the vines and can get multiple harvests from one planting.  Store in the fridge and wash right before use.
Shoots, roots and all!
Shoots, roots and all!

Instead of a traditional crop where you must wait months to enjoy, growing these quick and useful crops in small quantities is pure instant gratification!  For more useful indoor growing tips, check out my previous posts How To Grow Microgreens In 4 Easy Steps or Making Your Own Terrarium.

Beautiful and delicious pea shoots!
Beautiful and delicious pea shoots!

We’ve had a bit of a cold snap here in Maine.  Last week I was out working in my flower beds wearing one layer, this week I’m back in my hat, mittens and winter coat!  The greenhouse was over 100 degrees yesterday though.  Hope you try growing some pea shoots!  They will bring a smile to your face for sure!  Thanks for reading my blog today.  If you subscribe, you’ll never miss the latest posts!  Don’t forget to follow along with me on Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook!

Hilary|Everlongardener

Making Your Own Terrarium

If you haven’t noticed, it seems that people have really become obsessed with terrariums in recent years.  You can find pictures of them inhabiting all shapes and sizes of containers.  Fish tanks, apothecary jars, wine glasses.  You can even use an old lightbulb!

I’m not really sure that they ever really went out of style. With beginnings way back in the 1800’s, growing under or in glass came about by accident.  I knew they were loved by the Victorians but what I read was really fascinating.  On the site http://terraruims.net I found some history of a Dr. Nathaniel Ward, a London physician who discovered that his ferns grew so much better in jars.  The high levels of pollution from nearby factories was too hard on the plants so Dr. Ward used fern cases or Wardian cases.  With this invention, specimens could be brought from exotic locations and preserved during the voyage.  This obviously introduced tropical plants to the masses.  Soon every self-respecting home could have their own terrarium!

All the materials for our terrarium!

Earlier this winter I was feeling the need for green plants.  We haven’t had a terrarium in a while so I thought it would be a fun winter project for my four year old and me.  We already had a large glass fish bowl for a container. This was a great excuse to visit our local greenhouse for a few plants.  Any excuse to be immersed in a warm, tropical environment!  Of course my son wanted to buy everything but we only really needed four or five plants.  I was looking for color, texture, height and something to creep along as a ground cover.

My helpers tools and decorations.
My helpers tools and decorations.

You will need at the very least a glass container, soil, gravel, plants, moss, tools and decorative items of your choice.  Many instructions call for adding activated charcoal.  This may sound a bit unnecessary but it can help with toxins, odors, chemicals and drainage issues that can harm the plants over time.  In the end I opted to not buy the charcoal.  I guess I’m too cheap!

Place small stones in bottom.
Place small stones in bottom.
Adding the soil.
Adding the soil.

We placed a few inches of stones in the bottom of our glass fishbowl, then added some soil.  For the plants we picked a Prayer plant, a variegated broadleaf plant with reddish undersides,  a ‘White Rabbit’s Foot’ fern, a Monkey plant which has pink flowers and my favorite, Baby’s Tears.  I could bore you with all the correct names but I will spare you.  Just pick what you like and plants with similar light requirements.

Planting time.
Planting time.

Place the plants where you want them and secure them with more soil.  Gently add water.  Now it’s time to personalize your little world!  Shells, rocks, marbles, driftwood…you name it.  Whatever you want it to look like.  Elegant or quirky.  We of course chose the dinosaurs to live in our little miniature tropical environment.  Since the terrarium will have its own water cycle, try not to over water but be careful it doesn’t dry out.  Trim any dead leaves to keep your plants looking their best.

The completed terrarium!
The completed terrarium!

There are so many resources out there to find inspiration for your terrarium.   Simply type in the word ‘terrarium’ and you will find a ton of info.    Pinterest was loaded with detailed how too’s and lots of beautiful pictures.

This was a great little winter project and we are still enjoying our spherical garden.  What is your favorite indoor winter gardening thing to do?  Feel free to leave a comment.  Subscribe via email, follow me on Instagram, Pinterest or Bloglovin!  Thanks for joining me this week!

Hilary|Everlongardener

 

 

 

 

How To Grow Microgreens in 4 Easy Steps

You may have had them.  You may have just only heard of them.  You might think they are only served in some restaurant that you can’t afford.  I’m here to tell you my friend, that you can grow microgreens with ease in your own home.  No fancy equipment.  No greenhouse needed.  Just dirt, a container, seeds, water and sun!  Yes, you can grow microgreens in 4 easy steps!

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Although people have been growing microgreens for some time now, it seems the term keeps popping up everywhere.  From something to throw in your smoothie to a side salad to go along with a choice cut of beef, micro greens have become very popular.  There are a few reasons for this: 1. Easy to grow.  2. Harvest time is just ten days or so.  3. Small seedlings contain mega amounts of nutrients.  Have I convinced you yet?

Basic items to grow some microgreens.
Basic items to grow some microgreens.

This is the method that I used.  I saved a few mushroom containers, about two inches high.  Drainage holes didn’t seem to be an issue for such a short growing period but that’s up to you.

Add soil to container.
Add soil to container.

I placed some growing mix in the containers and did a broadcast of seeds covering them lightly with about 1/8″ of soil.  In a recent trip to my local garden center I picked up a packet of micro greens mix.  Just a nice mixture of seeds chosen for color and taste.  You can easily just mix up some seeds from any that you have and it will all work out fine.  Now it seems time to gently water your containers of microgreen seeds.  Keep soil moist but not too wet.  In two days the seeds should be pushing up through the soil.  It’s really quite exciting how quickly these guys come up.  After about ten days or so the greens should be ready to be cut.  Scissors work well.  Don’t feel that you need to cut them all that day.  The harvest can be spread out over a few days.  I actually use one container at a time.

Tiny seedling pushing through the dirt!
Tiny seedling pushing through the dirt!

After cutting the greens I noticed a small amount of grit so I put them in my salad spinner for a bath.  They held up quite well.  I used my smaller spinner because of the smaller holes.  Once dry, you can place them in a plastic bag or airtight container and store in your crisper for quite a while.  Water your containers again, you may get a second or third harvest!

Micro greens ready for cutting!
Micro greens ready for cutting!

There are quite a few types of seeds that work great for this.  In my research I came up with kale, spinach, peas, radish, lettuce, beets and chard to name a few. The mixture that I used had a lot of these in it.  You can even add herbs.  I think that a handpicked mixture might be better but it was fun to see how the packet turned out.

Microgreens used on top of a salad.
Microgreens used on top of a salad.

I’ve read a few articles on the benefits of adding microgreens to your diet and the stats seem pretty impressive.  Unlike sprouts micro greens need soil and sunlight.  They contain up to 4-6 times the nutrients of full grown plants.  They are high in vitamin C, E, Beta carotene and some have protein, all depending on where, when and what type of soil used.  I’d love to hear your feedback and/or experiences with growing microgreens.  Feel free to leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you.  Follow me on Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram @everlongardener.  Thanks for reading my gardening blog!

Hilary|Everlongardener