Astilbe

Last weekend, June 2 and 3, was the annual East Row Garden Walk in my neighborhood. Eight residential gardens were on the tour and our community vegetable garden was also featured. It was a lovely tour with very inspiring gardens!

On the tour I bumped into Christine, my garden neighbor. Above we are standing next to our respective vegetable gardens. She has some beautiful asparagus and is also growing ground cherries. We sampled some of my strawberries, checked progress on the tomato plants, and then she went to work as a greeter on the tour.

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There was so much lettuce in the garden and I didn’t want this weekend’s 95 degree heat to get to it. So, I harvested a lot of it and decided to make a nice chilled soup called Lettuce Gazpacho. I got this recipe from a friend, a talented personal chef, who brought this on a picnic outing one summer day last year. This recipe is now one of my favorites.

Most of the ingredients for Lettuce Gazpacho

Lettuce Gazpacho

8 servings

  • 1 English cucumber, peeled, coarsely chopped (or use a regular cucumber, it works fine.)
  • 3 cups Romaine lettuce, chopped (I used the blend of lettuce from my garden instead)
  • 2 cups arugula
  • 3 cups spinach
  • 1 cup onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 jalepeno peppers, seeded, coarsely chopped
  • 2 fluid ounces olive oil
  • 2 fluid ounces sherry vinegar (I used balsamic, it was all I had on hand)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 oz cubed white bread (I used multi-grain)
  • 3 cups water (I used less, for a thicker soup)

The chopped cucumber, onion, jalepenos, and minced garlic.

Into the food processor!

Puree the first 9 ingredients in a food processor. Add bread, let stand until soggy, about 2 minutes. Puree until smooth. Mix in water until you have a desired consistency. I added less water for a thicker soup. Refrigerate 2 hours. (Or if you can’t wait, like me, eat it right away!) Can make up to 2 days ahead.

This chilled soup is so refreshing on a hot day! The jalepenos give it a nice little kick.

It’s cross-over time in the garden, when the early Spring crops are ready for harvest, and the warm-weather plants and seeds go in. So there’s a lot growing in a small space right now! I’ve been enjoying lots of wonderful lettuce but we’re expecting 95 degree heat this weekend so it may not be around much longer.

The lettuce is “cut and come again” so I’ve had a continuous supply of lettuce for weeks.

The seeds were a “gourmet blend” of Flame lettuce, Salad Bowl, Grand Rapids, Oak Leaf and Red Salad Bowl.

Also in the garden—strawberries!!! I’ve been thrilled with all the strawberries I’ve gotten this year. Last year, which was the first year I had the plants, the yield was low. But so far this year, I am usually able to pick a small handful each time I go to the garden…just enough to put on my cereal for breakfast. These are red and juicy all the way to the inside. They are so sweet and delicious, sometimes I can’t help but eat them before I leave the garden.

This variety is called an “Ozark Beauty,” an everbearing strawberry plant.

The everbearing Ozark Beauty should produce berries all summer, until frost.

As kind of an experiment, last Fall (around October) I planted a couple of garlic cloves in the garden. I wish I had planted more, because this week I pulled up a lovely head of garlic that I can’t wait to try. I’ve read that you can begin eating it right away, or wait until the garlic “cures” by hanging it up for a few weeks. Since I harvested two heads of garlic, I think I may try it both ways and see which tastes better. This Fall, I’m planting more of these!

I wish I had planted more of these! Usually if I recipe calls for garlic, I double the amount.

Oh yeah, this will keep the vampires away.

Now, if only the basil was ready to harvest, I could take some of this garlic and make pesto! But the basil was only just recently planted. Also in the garden, there is swiss chard, onions, fennel, okra, 4 varieties of tomato plants, beets, red peppers, and kale.

This week I plan to go down and spruce up my garden plot a bit, because next week we’re having lots of visitors! The East Row Garden Walk is June 2 and 3 and our community garden is a relaxation stop on the tour. Come to Newport, KY and check out all the lovely gardens!

The new section of the garden with its finished path.

The community gardeners got together to complete the path in the new section of the garden. It was our second workday of the year and when we arrived there was an enormous pile of wood chips that had been dumped in the street. It looked overwhelming at first but we got busy fast with wheelbarrows and buckets and got this done in less than 2 hours.

Yay team!

The Patricia radish is long rather than round

Last night I walked down to the garden and saw some lovely rosey-pink radish crowns sticking up out of the ground. Only 25 days from seed to maturity, and these little guys were ready to harvest. I planted the seeds on March 18, so they were really ready to be picked. There are more to be picked from this planting, and I did a second planting on March 29, so I should have more in another week or so. Succession planting is something I did with the beets as well, so that I can enjoy a few harvests of the same crop at different times.

This photo was taken March 31, almost 2 weeks after the first planting. I found it helpful to mark the planting date on the identification stick to know when to harvest.

While I was down at the garden, one of my garden neighbors was also harvesting radishes. He grew a white radish, and suggested we do a little trade, which was fun. Next year I may try this variety, a white icicle. It has a different flavor, not as mild as my radish.

A white icicle radish is mildly pungent

Tomorrow we have a community garden workday scheduled to lay down mulch on the paths around the new beds. There are lots of things growing and excitement about the garden! There is lettuce, mustard greens, kale, cabbage, peas, beets, garlic, broccoli, swiss chard. We’ve all noticed that the warmer temperatures this spring have affected things. Some of us cannot get spinach to grow, even after planting seeds more than once. It must prefer a cooler spring.

Early spring in the community garden

Last Saturday, the East Row community gardeners got together for our first work day of 2012 and expanded the garden from 18 beds to 27. In just a few hours, we assembled nine 4′ x 10′ plots out of cedar, then filled them with leaf compost and soil. It was a gorgeous day and so nice to meet and welcome new members of the community garden!

The beds were constructed out of cedar.

Leaf compost is added first to the newly constructed garden bed.

I chose compost duty. You can't trust me with power tools!

Everyone pitches in!

Many hands make light work.

Mary, one of the new plot owners.

A few of the compost brigade.

We all got quite a workout!

Goodbye, Squirmy!

On February 20, I enthusiastically started an indoor worm bin and posted about vermicomposting. Before starting, I had consulted books and attended a workshop given at the Civic Garden Center. I was thrilled to begin the process that would use my fruit and vegetable scraps to make nutrient-dense compost tea for the garden. And I was happy about keeping those scraps out of the landfill.

Sadly, I had to evict my little wormy friends today. They brought with them some uninvited guests that were having a party in my kitchen. Yes, I’m talking about drosophila melanogastere (even their name sounds horrid) … otherwise known as the dreaded fruit fly. I had followed all of the recommended preventative measures — I buried the food scraps and put dry bedding on top. Once I noticed them, I set fruit fly traps and even stopped feeding the worms for a while. Absolutely nothing worked, but rather, got worse.

Fruit flies aren’t very smart, so were easy to smash. I sucked up plenty with the vacuum, stepped on a few, clapped my hands and got some in mid-flight. But mostly I smashed them with my finger and deposited them onto a paper towel. But I was out-numbered and they all just had to go. The Civic Garden Center volunteer who taught the workshop is taking them from me, bin and all. They are in the trunk of my car, ready for tomorrow’s trip. I couldn’t keep them inside one more night.

Sorry, Squirmy. It’s been real, but I’m going to look for another composting method that will work OUTDOORS.