The Violet Fern

Creating Art & Gardens


What’s Growing: Purple Peas and Potato Seeds

In spite of the roaming and very hungry rabbit herd, I actually have harvested a few things from the Potager for myself!


The garlic is now hanging to dry in my shed.


I planted Purple Podded Peas from Hudson Valley Seed Library. Each year members are asked to grow a different heirloom seed by the library, and then to collect some of the seed and send it back to the library. This way heirlooms are grown in and spread about various places so the plant varieties live on. This year the chosen seed is Purple Podded Peas, a wonderful dried pea that was absolutely beautiful growing on the vine. I just recently harvested the pods I let dry (on the vine). I cannot wait to make a homemade split pea soup with these! – though I can wait for the colder weather to do so, even after our recent heat wave.


Purple Podded Peas

Speaking of heirlooms, I did not realize that potatoes actually produced seeds! Did you? Most potatoes no longer set seed as this trait has been bred out. I planted a variety pack from Wood Prairie Farm called Potato Blossom Festival.


Potato Seeds or Berries

So far no signs of damage from the Squash Borer Moth on my cucumbers and squash. I hid a bean bush in there that the rabbits didn’t find and actually picked my first few green beans!


Cucumber Tower


Cucumbers beginning to form.


Squash Towers

The asparagus has been tossed about in recent high winds and chopped off by, yes, again the rabbits, and still the first year fronds manage to fill out.


I’ll be making salsa verde soon, minus fresh chiles from my garden. The peppers have been picked almost to death (again, the rabbits) – maybe they’ll make a come back. I am hopeful. They are now secured within open-ended black, plastic pots. The cold frame is covered with plastic potting trays for the same reason – actually a rather nice shade cover – and is planted with beets, carrots, turnips and kohlrabi.



So far, a couple of the artichokes, surrounded by zinnia and nasturtium, look promising. I sure hope they flower – last year they dried up!


The pole beans are not-so-mysteriously missing from this bean tower. Morning Glory climbs up it instead. Third round of sowing seeds … maybe this round will make it?


Potted eggplants – a container variety from Renee’s Seeds called Little Prince – next to purple perilla which has seeded itself throughout the Potager.


Container Eggplants and Purple Perilla

Volunteer dill has been left to run wild through the Potager.


I have been training the trumpet vine over the rustic arbor. It has doubled in size this year.


Trumpet Vine Campsis ‘Flamenco’

I will be planting more lettuces, chard, kales, and spinach over the next few days for autumn harvest. I am going to raise one of the beds another 12″ to see if it will be too tall for the rabbits to take interest. If anything, it will be easier to tend.


What’s Growing: Seeds and Weeds

I hope to be busy in the Potager these next few days. After what I believe was a very successful and enjoyable Artists’ Studio (and garden) Tour over this past weekend, I feel even further behind in my garden chores!

The Potager May 28 2013

The weeds are well, growing like weeds! I did a lot of primping and prepping in the garden in anticipation of the tour but it seems as though with every step I take, another weed grows. And the Silver Maple next door is raining seeds on my Potager – they are everywhere. Here, covering the cold frame where I am currently holding my transplants among the over wintering lettuces and kales – away from the mouths of hungry, curious rabbits.

Seedlings in the Cold Frame

I have big, fat rabbit trouble this year but I don’t want to put up a fence that will make it difficult to tend to the garden. I’m on the short side and two feet of fence just may keep me out. Of the six brussel sprout starts I grew from seed only one survived. I didn’t think brussel sprouts would be appetizing to a rabbit, but appetizers they were. This means war, you know! My sole survivor is now under wraps courtesy of my father who fashioned this rabbit plant guard – I must make more of these for next year.

Brussels Under Wrap

Rabbit Guard

I am going to try a few other “fenceless” tactics, too: dried blood, lime peels, cayenne pepper, Marigolds, Catnip and noise. Mojo, my large, bustling dog doesn’t seem to scare any of the rabbits – all three sizes of them. Apparently I am not threatening either even when I yell HOSSENFEFFER!

The Catnip will probably attract my second bit of trouble – cats. Roaming nighttime cats are attracted to any bare earth in my garden. This year, though, I am using my plant trays upside down to guard my seedlings until they grow large enough to be off the cats’ area attractions.

Lettuces and Kale Under Guard

Lettuce, Spinach, Kale, Chard and Radish Seeds Undercover

Herbs, Borage and Calendula are not on the rabbit menu. Amaranth seems to be a delicacy.

Herbs in the Potager

Herbs in the Potager

Lovage Tarragon and Horseradish

Lovage, Tarragon and Horseradish

The potatoes are safe in their hoop. The garlic apparently works on rabbits as well as vampires. The peas somehow grew up unscathed.

Potato Hoop

Potato Hoop





Newly planted this year, Asparagus! Thankfully, not appetizing to the rabbit masses, but I did pick off three Spotted Asparagus Beetles this morning. It seems to be doing well. These were planted from root crowns.

New Asparagus Shoots

New Asparagus Shoots

The next scuttle? The Berry Battle! Who will find and pick the ripest strawberries and blackberries first? Me? The munks? The skunks? The birds? The ravaging rabbits?

Strawberries and Rhubarb

Strawberries and Rhubarb


Wild Blackberries Tamed

If only rabbits loved to eat maple seeds and bindweeds.


What’s Growing: 2013 Plan Gone to Seed

Each winter I sketch out my Potager plan. Each year I try to add at least one new vegetable or flower. I often end up adding several because I am very ah, let’s just say, enthusiastic about gardening. When I sketch “the plan” (I say that somewhat loosely because all good plans fall apart somewhat with shovel in hand), I have a companion planting chart I downloaded from the web as well as Louise Riotte’s book, Carrots Love Tomatoes. Aside from trying to rotate my families, i.e. Curcurbitaceae, Brassicaceae, I also try to plant friends with friends. It is good brain exercise and I use pencil because it is erasable – rarely do I get everything just right the first draft. Last fall I prepared a special bed because I plan to introduce asparagus to the Potager. I moved one of my support structures to accommodate the new (perennial) asparagus bed. I also moved some of the makeshift tomato cages because I had some idea of where the tomatoes would end up this year. Here is my sketch for 2013. (See previous year here.)

Potager Plan 2013

The Plan

Somewhere I would like to add a “surprise bed,” an idea I came across reading. A surprise bed is where you might put any volunteers from the compost or other areas of the garden to let them mature and see what they become. In 2012, surprise!, ornamental gourds grew from what looked like squash seedlings.

Ornamental gourds surprised me in 2012 and also found their way up the arbor on the other side.

Ornamental gourds surprised me in 2012 and finding their way up the rustic arbor.

What’s on the new-to-try-list this year? Amaranth, kohlrabi, celeriac, shallots. I don’t believe I’ve ever eaten kohlrabi – all the better to try it. We just received a celeriac root in our “healthy box,” (details of which I will save for another post). Their root isn’t very pretty so I won’t have any hesitation in digging one up. Cubed, boiled, smashed with garlic and some butter and broth, a dollop of plain greek yogurt, sea salt and pepper … this celeriac tasted delicious! I dare say I may prefer it to potatoes.

Celeriac Root

Celeriac Root

Smashed Celeriac

Smashed Celeriac is a smash!

Because I have been growing vegetables for a few years now, this year I also sat down and went through all my seeds. Anything from 2010-2011 I added to my compost. There are ways you can test for seed germination, for example, by placing the seeds on a moist paper towel in a sealed plastic bag. Me, I will see what unplanned surprise comes out of the compost. Then I determined what my staples are such as KALE, and made sure I had enough of those seeds. Then I wrote down what I would like to try (the new-to-try-list).

Seed Box

My box of seeds

I’ve limited (ha!) myself to ordering from three seed companies. Over the past few years I have discovered some great seed companies in my area of the country so I try to stick to those that are closer to my location instead of ordering from a company in Oregon or California (although there are some really great ones). I also tend to order from seed companies that have taken the Safe Seed Pledge, who are committed to growing and sustaining non-genetically modified seeds. I have gone through and compared each item that I want among my chosen three and compiled a list. Ideally I would have liked to already ordered. Hopefully the items on my list, especially asparagus and potatoes, haven’t already sold out – there would go that plan.

The cold frame is still green – amazing given our below zero temperatures. This is what I’ve gained from my experimentation so far. I planted too late, just as I suspected, because I think nothing is actually going to grow during the cold winter months. If I would have had more mature plants coming into December and January, I could slowly harvest the lot during the winter. As it is now, I can hope for a very early spring crop of spinach, kale and other cold hardy greens. They will start growing again in March I think.

Unburying the Cold Frame

The cold frame buried under snow

Cold Frame 1.27.13

The cold frame this morning after a stretch of sub zero temperatures. That is healthy green under there!

This post reminded me to start sprouts … be right back. There, I’ve started some sprouts. I especially love a toasted hummus sandwich packed with sprouts. I could make one right now, place my seed orders, go over my plan again. Knowing that when spring is in the air, and the birds are singing, and I dig into that fresh dirt that I’ll become feverish, disillusioned – I have way more space – over zealous –  I can squeeze in a few more plants right here … I’ll follow most of my plan, but the rest? It’ll go to seed!