Tag Archives: Ann Arbor Gardening

Drying Mint for Tea

Ann Arbor Food

Ann Arbor Food Mint

Emily and I have been organizing our efforts toward developing Tea blends. I kind of went nuts buying mint at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market last week. I jumped into drying mode. The taste of fresh “dried” mint tea is soooo much better.

Here how to do it.

1 Wash your mint

2 lay out on dried towels to dry

3 Place on screen racks and direct a fan at them until the leaves are dry

4 Tie up in bunches, hand them on sting and have a fan on them.

You can opted not to have a fan on them, but the quicker you dry them the better. Mint can turn brown quickly.

Within a few days, the mint will be crackle dry.

De-leave the stems and store in a dry tin.

Use 1/8-1/4 cup of mint leaves per 8oz cup of tea.

Dried full leave mint tea has a lot of air in it, so the amount may seem more then you think.

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Ann Arbor Food Drying Mint

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Ann Arbor Food Harvesting Dried Mint

Ann Arbor Food Fresh Dried Mint Tea

Ann Arbor Food Fresh Dried Mint Tea

Extend the Harvest

Ann Arbor Food End of Year Garden

End of Year Garden: Extend the Harvest

The garden is looking pretty spars for the most part, but not my collards. My Collards are huge, look great and taste great.

I wish I had the foresight to grown my whole green in Collards.

There is a garden concept to extend the Harvest. This does not mean extending the growing season.

To extend the harvest in places like Michigan that means growing winter hearty crops in late summer and early fall like broccoli, cabbage, mustard, kale and collards.

While the plants will slow or stop growing at this point, they stay tasty and fresh into winter. Even with snow on top, these veggies keep going and can be harvested long after the garden is usually packed up for the year.

Ann Arbor Food Collard's and Tofu with garden roasted potatoes

Collard’s and Tofu with garden roasted potatoes

Ann Arbor Food Arugula Flowers

Arugula Flowers

Ann Arbor Food Garden Spider

Garden Spider: It looks scary, but it is a beneficial insect

 

Ann Arbor Project Grow Community Gardens 40th Anniversary Bash

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Ann Arbor’s Project Grow Community Gardens caped off another season with their 40th Anniversary Bash for over 100 follow gardeners.

Like always, the p0tluck featured some great eats with lots of fresh veggies from the garden and cuisine that reflected the diversity of gardeners in our community.

Notable favorites of mine was the veggies pakora, lentils with mixed greens, my foccacia bread, dueling quinoa dishes, ginger top pickles and hot blueberry and apple crisp and more and more. And did I mention we had a whole roasted pig and crispy duck.

Thanks everyone for a great party and a great year.

Check out the pics.

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Ann Arbor Food

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Ann Arbor Food

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Garden Update: Grass

Bolted Spinach

If you look very closely at the picture above you will see three rows of bolted spinach nestled among the grass.

Close up Bolted spinach

This has been a very trying garden year. With the 100 degree days, I have not been out to the garden as much to do the work.

Weedy Snow Peas

To compound the problem, the Platt Garden is grassy to the extreme. Any non-weeded patch of soil becomes a lawn. Above,the grass has attacked my giant snow peas.

Weedy Garden paths

The folks who splurged for straw were the smart ones this year.

I rarely do the straw thing. I tend to be a fan of the hula hole, which allows me to weed most my garden without hand weeding. This includes the rows.

A few minutes of hula holing once a week for a few weeks and my garden was good to go. The weeds stop coming. But not this year.

The weather kept me away and the grass took over.

Cardboard Weed Barrier

So I am now on the defensive and the name of the game is cardboard.

I have used cardboard on all of my rows and will have to put in the extra hours to weed all of my beds by had (UGH!!!) And I will need to do that for the rest of the year.

For now, I had to turn over my radish and spinach beds without getting a harvest.

Ready to Plant

Vegetable Adventure

Ann Arbor is now in Zone 6A

Check out the latest plant zones Here (USDA Plant Zones)

Ann Arbor is now in zone 6a, which is one zone up from our last rating. (yes it is getting warming)

It is still freakin over 100 degrees. Ugh! which makes me think this zone hardiness thing should be redone every year.

On my own garden front, I realized that I was not growing a “New” vegetable this year.

Every year I try to grow at least one vegetable that I have not eaten before, so I can expand my veggie horizons.

I guess, I am growing “salad” potatoes, which I have never had before, so that is my experiment.

But this got me thinking about my gardening and how far I have come as a veggie eater. My last post mentioned Tatsoi, an Asian stir fry green, which I added to my veggie vocabulary five years ago.

The question is where do I go from here?

Have I reach some kind of veggie peak, at least the veggies that I can grow and eat locally?

It kind of feels that way.

My garden does not represent every vegetable I can grow in South East Michigan, but it is a good sampling especially for an annual Plot.

If I had a year round garden, there would be a list of things I would love to grow.

Grapes
Berries (blue, black, raspberry, strawberry, currents, wine berries)
Fruit Trees (plum, apple, peach, apricot, pear, quince, cherry)
Nut trees (especially hazelnut)
Rhubarb
Garlic
Artichoke

Potato Update 2012

(Pictures coming soon.)

I was watering today (like everyday…where is the rain?), and I n0ticed some roque potatoes in my garden. Now this is a new garden spot, which was lawn for years before it was turned over.

The deal is that they ran out of seed potatoes at Downtown Home and Garden, so I figured I try buying organic potatoes and let them spout and plant them.

Well a few weeks go by and nothing, so being eager to use the real estate, I planted green beans in half of that space and ended up finding some seed potatoes at Colemans.

Well it turns out that I might have jumped the gun because I am seeing potatoes come up in my green bean patch, which creates an issue of how to mound up the potatoes without affect my now nicely growing beans?

And I also now have 2X the amount the potatoes growing in the other half of the potato bed.

Maybe it will work.

Garden Season: At 100 degrees

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Chard

Man. It has been a crazy hot year for gardening.

I got in late this year, but it worked out because I was able to get a two garden plots at the new Project Grow Gardens on Platt Rd.

This week’s Harvest will be kale, chard, collards, arugula, radish and basil. It will be my first official harvest of the season.

I am looking forward to green beans and spinach if it does not bolt.

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Radish

Below is a close up of my garden set up. I tend to favor a simple design of slightly raise beds 2-3 feet wide. I plant in 1, 2,  or 3 rows per bed depending on the plants.

When planting seeds, I use chop sticks to mark my rows.

A basic rule is that a seed package will provide enough seed for a 1, 2, or 3 rows the length of one of my arms span for a good seeding.

For bigger plants like cabbage, broccoli, kale and tomatoes, I plant in two rows with each plant places off center from from the row over. (see the Kale pictures, which might be hard to see because they are now bushy.

Sometimes I use straw in my rows, but most of the time I don’t and hoe the weeds (It has been, so hot that I am a little behind as you can see.)

Row by Row: Turnip, Mustard, Arugula

For those who have read about my potato fiasco last year, I am back to the traditional method of digging a trench and hill up with dirt.

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Potatoes beds and seeds

Happy Hill-ed Potatoes

I will be posting other garden designs from follow community gardeners soon.

So What am I growing?

Green beans
5 kinds of Kale
Collards
4 Kinds of Potato (Salad, Fingerling, yukons
Sweet Potato
Watermelon (baby and large)
Cantaloupe
Cucumbers (Pickling, standard, english and Armenian
Mustard Greens (Mizuna and Purple)
Arugula
Spinach (If it does not bolt)
Onions
Eggplant (Japanese and Large Purple)
Peppers (Red sweet, Cayenne
tomatoes (Not sure, I inherited some of Project Grows plants…20 plants)
Radish Three Kinds (breakfast, red ball, diakon)
Turnips (Big and white Japanese)
Kohlrabi
Broccoli
Cabbage
Winter Squash (Butternut, Buttercup, acorn)
Flowers (Mix)
Herbs (Parsley, rosemary, thyme, hyssop, basil,
Giant Snow Peas (If they grow in this heat)
Beets
Corn
Chard
Celeriac
Radicchio
Carrot

My Garden. It goes all the way up the hill 25 x 60

Ann Arbor Food

Kale: Dino, White, Red Russian, Green, and Curly,

Planting Time: Reflections on Last Year

OK. I have high hopes for my garden last year and I even experimented with some “Time saving” strategies for growing potatoes, my main crop. The idea was to grow potatoes and sell them at my booth at the farmers market.

There were a few issues with the idea. The first was that I used only straw to cover my potatoes, which resulted in a disaster.

(see my enthusiastic before the fact post on horizontal potato growing method.)

The second was that I was planning to sell potatoes, a commodity crop, and most other farmers at the market were selling them and many customers at the market told me that they had a sack of potatoes in their kitchen already

What happened is that along with potato beetles, that ate the leaves , I discovered a centipede bug that ate the tubers.

Potato Beetle not full grown, without distinctive yellow strips

I was really good at picking off the potato beetles and they did not actually kill too many plants, so I figured that I would still get a nice harvest of potatoes.

Centipede bug that ate my potatoes especially my yukon golds

But the real damage were these guys above, a centipede like bug that ate the potatoes.

I was told that my straw mounding method, instead of mounding with soil, is what did me in.

Apparently, what happened is that these centipedes have a hard time getting around under soil, but my nice and moist and loose straw created a perfect home for them and they ate 75% of my potatoes especially my Yukon Golds.

I harvested over 10o pounds, but I should have had 300-500 pounds or more.

Potato harvest

Also my second experiment, potato bags where a total wash.

The plants look great, but yielded no potatoes.

 I literally had less tubers than the seed potatoes I planted. Potato bags are really hit or miss and for me, this being the second time I have tried, it was a complete MISS. Both times, I had no potatoes.
The lesson here is to grow potatoes the traditional way.
That means digging a trench, planting and covering them and mounding them up with soil as they grow.
Then forking them up. 
This takes some effort, but I have found all of the experiments to not be worth it.
As a side note, I used to work for a garden catalog company that sold a potato bin that boosted 50 pounds of potato yields. The company had to issue refunds and was doing a test of 200 of the bins to see if the product worked.
I opted to use good old soil and planted my potatoes in a 3 x 3 foot space giving them a square foot per plant for a total of nine plants. I am pretty sure I out grew any potato bins.

Eat Your Garden Veggies

Garden season is here again and that means veggies.

One of the good things, yet challenges with gardening is the amount of fresh veggies that seemed to all come in at once.

I have been thinking about this dilemma ever since I joined a CSA (community supported agriculture) and I found myself with a random section of veggies that I had to figure out what to do with.

I needed a way to get a variety of veggies into my meals before everything went bag (and to make room in the frig for the next CSA BOX)

Out of this came what I call: 

Gardeners Essential Veggie Recipes/Techniques.

I felt all gardens needed to know them to best use their veggies. The list is not complete, but here is a start.

Recipe will follow in later posts.

Cole Slaw

Veggies: (Cabbage, carrot, radish, onion, scallion, beets, turnip, apple etc…)

Cole Slaw is not just green cabbage and mayo. In fact, you don’t need to use mayo at all. I prefer an Asian slaw made with a soy vinaigrette. The great thing about a slaw is that it will keep for a few days and you can use a food processor to prep the veggies.

Curry

Veggies: Root veggies especially potato, squashes, green beans, peas, carrots, cauliflower, onion, peppers, broccoli, spinach and leafy greens, mushrooms

There are a number of types of curry like Indian and Thai. Serve over rice, with meat, seafood or in a soup

Pizza

Veggies: Tomato, onion, pesto herbs, broccoli, zucchini, peppers, eggplant, spinach, etc…

Pizza is one of those great way to sneak veggies into a meal for kids

quiche

Veggies: Spinach, dark leafy greens, broccoli (kale, collards, mustard greens, beet greens, chard), onion, tomato, root veggies, peppers, corn etc..

Quiche is a two-fer because it also allows you to use up all of those eggs on a CSA or if you have chickens. They also freeze well. They are a great way to use up all of those dark leafy greens you have especially late in the season when your kale is on the tougher side.

Roasted root vegetables

Veggies: Potatoes, Onion, garlic, carrot, celery root, sweet potato, radish, turnip, squashes, parsnip, parsley root, beets, rutabaga, pumpkin, corn

Roasted root veggies make great leftovers, so make a big batch. They can be a huge mix of veggies. I rarely use just one veggie anymore. This is my go to when the veggies start pouring in. And it works with a ton of meals like chicken, steak, fish, tofu, sausage etc.

Stir Fry

Veggies: broccoli. carrot, celery, peppers, onions, garlic, ginger, mushrooms, cauliflower, cabbages, eggplant etc..

Stir fry is similar to curries. It is served over rice or noodles. A huge number of veggies can work in one dish. The trick is timing when you put in the veggies, so they are done at the same time.

It can be all veggie or served with beef, fish, chicken or tofu and top with nuts and seeds for a more satisfying vegan meal.

Salad Dressing

Veggies: Fresh Raw veggies, cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, in slaw, etc…

Lets face it. Most of our fresh veggies are going to be washed, cut and eaten raw, so having a list of some basic salad dressing and stocking the frig is an order of the season. A basic vinaigrette of good olive oil, vinegar (or citrus) salt, pepper, red pepper flake and fresh chopped herbs is my go to.

Mashed Veggies

Veggies: Root veggies

Mashed veggies are an alternative to roasting. The veggies are boiled until tender and mashed. You can selected a combination of veggies or just one. Add butter, salt and pepper and a touch of maple and honey and you are good to go.

Others:
Omelettes
Pot Pie
Soups

 

Image

cole slaw

cole slaw