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For seeds to grow there needs to be the right combination of light, soil temperature, nutrients and moisture.  Here in our cool Northwest climate one of the main things is waiting until the soil is really warm enough for germination to occur. Spring crops need soil temperatures in the 50’s to 60’s while summer crops need temperatures in the high 60’s.  You can raise the soil temperature some by using cloches or other methods to trap heat and warm the soil.

Seasons can vary year to year but a rough guide to use is planting by the holidays:

  • Peas by President’s Day
  • Potatoes by St. Patrick’s Day, (this one is easy to remember)
  • Corn and beans by Mother’s Day
  • Tomatoes, squash and cucumbers by Frank Lloyd Wright’s birthday.  (Ok, this one is a bit esoteric – it’s June 8th.)

To get more detailed planting information a great resource is Seattle Tilth’s Maritime Northwest Garden Guide.

Time to Plant Onions!

I like to plant when the crocuses are blooming.

I like to plant when the crocuses are blooming.

Why grow onions when they are pretty cheap at the store?  Because they taste better!

There are many different shapes, sizes and even colors of onions and most can be pulled young as green onions.

I like to plant my onions when the crocuses are blooming; they are a cool season crop and do best when planted early.  You can grow onions from transplants, sets, or seeds. Transplants are seedlings started in the current growing season and sold in bunches,   sets are immature bulbs grown the previous year and are the easiest to plant, the earliest to harvest, and the least susceptible to diseases. Growing onions from seed offers a wide choice in cultivars but it’s hard to start seeds here as we have such a short growing season.  You will need to start your onion seedlings indoors.

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Plant with the pointy side up.

If you are using sets then plant them two inches apart, 2-3 inches deep with the pointy side up.  I like to lay them out on the bed before planting as I lose track what I’ve planted where.

I like to lay the onions out ahead of time.

I like to lay the onions out ahead of time.

There are short and long day onions.  Short day onions form bulbs when the days reach 10 to 12 hours long and are better for southern latitudes.  Long day cultivars need 13 to 16 hours and are the ones best suited for our area.

Once I have planted onions I cover them with Reemay less to provide heat than to protect them from the ravenous crows who view my yard as their private pantry.

Using large binder clips keeps the Reemay from blowing away.

Using large binder clips keeps the Reemay from blowing away.

With well prepared soil no fertilizing should be needed.  If onions are in soil that has a lot of nitrogen then you will get great tops but small bulbs.  Onion do like to be watered regularly but are a good crop if you are going to be on short vacations this summer as they will tolerate some gaps in watering.

Harvest onions when the tops turn yellow.  Pull and hang in a dry place until thoroughly dry.  If you harvest them too early or don’t let them dry enough they will rot.  If well dried they will last 6 months to a year.  If you don’t eat them all before then!

Onions are in, peas are next!

Onions are in, peas are next!

Branch Borders

I just trimmed my redwood dogwoods to get basket making supplies and decided to use the larger branches to make a border for a flower and herb bed.

Bed without border.

Bed without border.

 

Cut all the branches to the same length with ends angled to a point.

Cut all the branches to the same length with ends angled to a point.

 

Push one end into the ground and arc the other end over.  Push the ends as deeply as they will go so they don't pop out.

Push one end into the ground and arc the other end over. Push the ends as deeply as they will go so they don’t pop out.

 

I added compost but you can also add bark or just neaten things up.

I added compost but you can also add bark or just neaten things up.

 

 

 

Grapevine Wreaths

It’s a wee bit early to be pruning grapes but I wanted to neaten up the front yard so trimmed off the long, ropy vines.

Using these vines to make wreaths is easy and they turn out great.

First choose the vines you want to use and trim off the side twigs. For a more rustic look, leave the tendrils on.

First choose the vines you want to use and trim off the side twigs. For a more rustic look, leave the tendrils on.

These are my favorite pruners.

These are my favorite pruners.

Wrap the vines around and twist in the ends. Trim off anything that sticks out.

Wrap the vines around and twist in the ends. Trim off anything that sticks out.

Here are three finished wreath. You can use these as is or as a base for baskets.

Here are three finished wreath. You can use these as is or as a base for baskets.

Great activity for a frosty, sunny day!

Great activity for a frosty, sunny day!

 

 

 

 

Etsy for Food Growers

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Crystal and Janelle

My co-founder and I (Crystal and Janelle – the goofballs in the selfie photo) were talking about what was going to replace the neighborhood paper route, side businesses that are neighborhood-centric. We loved the cheeky idea that folks can have a side “yard” business if they have an urban farm! It is one of our favorite ideas of building our online platform.

Crystal’s nephew asks her all the time to help him set up his own online store on Barn2Door, so he can list his chicken’s eggs for sale. We started Barn2Door a year ago; it is like Etsy for food growers – including urban and small farmers, fishers and ranchers + cute nephews. Food growers setup a store, list items for sale and can then list or promote their store in emails, on social channels and to friends.

I have an urban farm, too. It is tucked in the Wallingford neighborhood of Seattle. I sell yard-grazed farm eggs and excess herbs and lettuce in little bags with cute labels. I list items, quantity, price and date folks can pick up their items – then leave on my porch for them to pickup. I have loved meeting new neighbors and making some money to cover the cost of chicken feed, seeds and compost. (Here is a link to my store).

Fresh eggs!

Fresh eggs!

Barn2Door charges a $10/month subscription fee (fees will not be charged until May 2016). For all sales through your ‘urban farm webstore’ you keep all the profits but will be charge a standard 3.5% credit card processing fee. Folks pay directly online then Barn2Door deposits into my (or your) account. Nice when you have a lot of things listed.

Urban Farm SignIt IS all about transparency, so you will be asked to include feed and soil inputs and Barn2Door strictly prohibits chemicals, pesticides aka RoundUp, hormones, etc. People like to know who grew their food and what’s in it. They deserve that much, don’t you think? To learn more, check out the Urban Farmer Guide to Getting Started and email hello@barn2door.com if you have questions.

And, so you can support our current sellers – including farmers, fishers and ranchers that deliver locally or ship nationally – we thought we’d give you a little gift of a coupon ($15 off your order of $15 or more from now through end of February).

Janelle Maiocco
CEO Barn2Door Inc.
206.787.2220
www.barn2door.com

I have been trying for years to make good homemade yogurt with varying degrees of success.  I finally borrowed my neighbors electric maker and voila – the yogurt is nearly perfect every time.

First heat your milk up to between 110 and 115 degrees.  If I am mixing in cold yogurt as a starter then I go a bit above 115.

First heat your milk up to between 110 and 115 degrees. If I am mixing in cold yogurt as a starter then I go a bit above 115.

Once your milk is heated then add in a couple of spoonfuls of active culture yogurt or yogurt starter.

Next pour into the little glass cups that come with the maker, put the lid on and plug it in.

Next pour into the little glass cups that come with the maker, put the lid on and plug it in.

The directions said to leave it for 12 hours but I like really firm and sour yogurt so I left it for about 18 hours.  I used a Greek yogurt as a starter and wonder if different starters would develop at different rates?

I like a bit of jam in my yogurt.  This strawberry from last summer is especially good.

I like a bit of jam in my yogurt. This strawberry from last summer is especially good.

All ready to eat!

All ready to eat!

Winter Salad

The sky is grey and the nights are cold so it’s time to make zesty winter salads to pick us up and keep us going until spring.  Last night I made a salad that was good enough that my family kept eating way beyond politeness.

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Easy and tasty!

Ingredients

  • Emmer or wheat berries
  • Delicata squash
  • Kale – from your garden!
  • Cranberries
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Toasted nuts
  • Olive oil
  • Vinegar
  • Salt

First cook your grain until it just has a little bite to it.  (I used a crockpot on high for a couple of hours.)  Next toast the nuts; any kind work well.  Break up the kale and massage it.  Roast the squash in a 450 degree oven with or without the skins.  Chop up the onions then make a vinaigrette with the olive oil, vinegar and garlic.  Once all the ingredients are ready just toss them together with the dressing and let it sit for a little bit to allow the flavors to blend.  Yum!!

Beanie Brownies

A cold dreary day like today calls for Beanier Brownies! They are fabulously easy to make and great for people who want to cut down on dairy and boost their protein and fiber intake.

Get a mix that doesn't include transfat, (many still do) and salt free beans.

Get a mix that doesn’t include transfat, (many still do) and salt free beans.

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Open the powdered brownie mix and put in a bowl.
  • Open the can of beans and add water to the existing beans and liquid to the top of the can.
  • Put the beans and water in a blender and puree.
  • Add the bean puree to the powdered mix and stir.  There is no need to add eggs, oil or anything but the beans.
  • Grease a baking pan.
  • Pour in the mixture and bake 20 to 30 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Ready for the oven topped with bittersweet chocolate chips and pecans.

Ready for the oven topped with bittersweet chocolate chips and pecans.

 

Bake for 20 to 30 minutes and your healthier treat is ready!

Bake for 20 to 30 minutes; until a toothpick comes out clean.

 

All set!

Let cool then cut into squares.  Bon haricot!

I fed these to my husband and kids and asked how they liked them and if they could guess the “secret” ingredient.  They all liked the rich, chewy texture and no one guessed they had beans in them!

 

Dogwood and Willow Baskets

It’s warming up, the weather is clearing and the basket making fever is coming!  Making baskets is pretty straight forward but you do need some patience and a more materials than you would expect.

To make a basket first make a good strong wreath out of the dogwood.  I often fasten one part with wire so the sticks will stay in place.  Once the basket gets going you can remove this wire.

This will form the top part of your basket.

This will form the top part of your basket.

Next cut three sticks of the same size and wire or tie them in place on one side of the wreath.  Carefully push these sticks down to form the downward shape of the basket and attach them to the other side as well.  This is the first part of your basket structure so bend and move them into the shape you want.  If you want to make a basket with a handle leave them long on the ends so they can be woven together.

Willow branches, clippers and wreath base.

Supllies include willow branches, clippers and wreath base.

 

Three central sticks attached to wreath with twine. The twine is removed once the basket is done.

Three central sticks attached to wreath with twine. The twine is removed once the basket is done.

Weave the willow sticks over and under the three main dogwood sticks and wrap them around the wreath to weave in again.  When you need to add in a new piece do it in the middle and not on the end.

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The leaves add color for a while but will dry and fall off eventually.

Alternate from side to side.

Alternate from side to side.

As you near the end you may need to just fill in the middle.  Once the basket is done adjust it while the sticks are flexible.

Ready to fill with eggs!

Ready to fill with eggs!

A weeping willow tree with perfect branches for baskets.

A weeping willow tree with perfect branches for baskets.

More on making baskets can be found in this earlier post.

Tuscan Crock Pot Soup

Ok, so it’s not really from Tuscany but I was having a discussion with my family about how naming something after a place makes it sound more appetizing and we thought that anything preceded by “Tuscan” sounds delectable.

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This soup is very easy to make and packed with lots of veggies and whole grains.

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Ingredients

  • Barley
  • Lentils, I like to use the small green French ones
  • Quinoa or other grain
  • Quart of canned tomatoes (or large can of store-bought)
  • Cumin powder
  • Salt
  • Onion
  • Thyme
  • Olive oil
  • Garlic
  • Carrots
  • Whatever other veggies you have on hand

Get out your crock pot or a soup pot and throw in a handful of barley, a couple of  handfuls of lentils and a handful of quinoa or some other grain.  Add your jar of canned tomatoes plus two jars of water.  Add a teaspoon or so of cumin or curry powder, (add more if you like more spice), thyme and a bit of salt.

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The secret to making this soup really good is to gently sautee the onion, garlic and veggies over a low heat until they are fragrant and almost caramelized.  Toss these in the pot and cook until grains are done.  Adjust seasoning and enjoy!