I never really knew much about groundhogs. I was taken aback when people expressed alarm about the groundhog in my backyard. After all, he was cute. The husband named him Warren. And we all went happily along for about five years.
But then one day this spring we notice that maybe Warren’s name should be Warrennista. She has four little babies. They scamper through the yard on their short little legs. They stand up on their hind feet if they maybe hear a sound that could indicate a threat. The husband says: “But they are so cute!” And they are. But the are sneaking underneath my electronic scarecrow and eating my tomato sprouts and scarlett runner beans.
They also eat weeds, which is a good thing. And the husband’s bleeding heart bush, and the newly planted lilies around the gazebo. One day I sat in the gazebo to blog, figuring I’d scare them into retreat for at least a little while. They ran under the gazebo and started to thump on it. The husband says that’s what bunnies do when they are annoyed and want you to move. The little buggers.
Here’s what most of my scarlett runner bean plants look like now:
It has no leaves. The leaves have been harvested before it even had a chance to grow higher than 3 inches. So sad.
The question is, what do I do about Warrennista and his/her brood? Here’s a look at what You Bet Your Garden guru Mike McGrath says. I may try his trick with the kitty litter. But NOT under the gazebo.
There are some edible plants that just keep giving and giving. Garlic is one of them (and here are a bunch of others). Garlic can be consumed as shoots, scapes or bulbs. But right around now the farm markets and CSAs are showcasing Garlic Scapes. So here are nine recipes that use this ephemeral spring treat. You decide which one (or ones) are scape-worthy.
I made this one and it sort of turned out almost like a hummus. Super yummy. I ended up dipping pita wedges in it. If you eat it and your spouse doesn’t, be prepared for comments. In fact, that’s probably true for all of the following recipes (except maybe the Fritatta).
Pretty photo of these pickled garlic scapes. These are refrigerator pickles. And not only do you get to keep these treats around a little longer past their season, but the brine can be useful, too…
Turkey burgers are a mainstay for lots of people, but if you’ve ever tried to make them, they tend to turn out dry. And bland. That’s why it’s a great idea to mix it up with some scapes. And here’s a secret tip — mix in some of the brine from you garlic scape pickles. That will moisten those babies right up.
Garlic Scape Pesto is the classic recipe you find when you Google Garlic Scapes looking for recipes. Here’s one of the more popular ones. And here’s my tip: Instead of using it on pasta, make a pesto pizza. Use the pesto instead of the red sauce and then pile cheese on top. Super yummy.
Sometimes simple is best. Sauteed, roasted — a cooking method that showcases the ingredient. But here’s a Mother Earth News fail. This recipe calls for tomatoes. All the seasonal cooks know that you can’t get garlic scapes and in-season tomatoes at the same time! Still, you could pull out those cans you put up last summer. Just sayin’.
I haven’t made this one yet, but I think it’s next on my list. I’m sort of crazy about frittatas right now. They use up my leftover veggies. They are yummy. They can be breakfast, lunch or dinner. They keep well in the fridge. In fact, I think they are better the next day or the day after. Or I would… if they lasted that long.
OK, so I did make this one. To die for. So good. Wanted to eat it by the spoonful. But instead I’m sure to use it as a condiment, a dressing for artichokes, something way less sinful than the spoonful thing.
Here’s another one that is perfection in its simplicity. I think this might be lovely on the grill as well. Too bad there are thunderstorms here tonight.
Finally, from Mark Bittman’s blog is another way to keep the garlic scape goodness going long past the short short scape season.
OK, they aren’t the garlic scapes I grew. I’m still more of a cook than a gardener. But among the options in my CSA share this week was a bunch of garlic scapes (yes, those are the actual scapes from my CSA share pictured here). Garlic scapes are the stems shooting up and about to go to flower of the garlic bulb. Farmers cut them off in the spring to ensure the developing bulb has that deep garlic flavor. It used to be that they were discarded, but in recent years they’ve been embraced by the frugal foodies as a fleeting delicacy of spring.
Last year I ended up turning my precious CSA scapes into pesto. If you Google garlic scapes today, by far the most recipes you will find are for garlic scape pesto. So I made it and I’m not sure that I was in love with the garlic scapes like that. It was a super garlic-y pesto, not surprisingly. And it didn’t showcase the mildness of the scapes and the gorgeousness of their curled tendrils.
I’ve also seen a few recipes that pickle the scapes, but I’m not sure that I want to go that road with my scapes. Pickling my daikon radishes really mellowed them out, and I’m not wanting to do that with my scapes.
There’s this New York Times article from 2008 about a feast assembled by the author, all centered around the theme of that star ingredient, garlic scapes. Among the more intriguing dishes she made were a souffle and an aioli. No recipes provided in this NYT article, but plenty of inspiration.
Two other recipes are contenders for using my precious scapes.
1. This one is from the forums on chef Jamie Oliver’s site. Called Garlic Scape Pesto with Shrimp and Fresh Corn it brings together some of the notes of the classic dish shrimp scampi with its shrimp and garlic, but adds a lot of seasonal freshness with the scapes and fresh corn. This recipe also tones down the garlic-y bite of the pesto with the lemon thyme and lemon.
2. The other potential use of a pesto that looks inspired and fabulous is this Garlic Scape Pesto and Mushroom Pizza. I’ve always been a fan of pesto pizza, and this one marries together earthy mushrooms with the extra garlic-y garlic scape pesto. While not really on my diet plan, this looks like it might be worth it.
Remember all the critters that ate my lemon balm, scarlet runner beans, broccoli and swiss chard seedlings? Well watch out, cause the Contech Scarecrow is keeping watch again. I mentioned I was going to set it up again. And I finally finished the job tonight. Replaced the battery (it takes a nine volt), connected it to a hose and adjusted the sensitivities, spouts, etc.
The trickiest thing about setting it up is triggering it before it’s set up so that it totally shoots water all over you. This happened. It’s sort of hilarious when you see it happen to someone else. But when it happens to you, not so much. Then I got smart and adjusted the sensitivities with the water turned off.
The scarecrow’s sensitivity can be adjusted, the width or narrowness of the spray can be adjusted, and the distance the water shoots can also be adjusted. I opted for a fairly narrow but far-shooting stream of water.
The other trick is to remember to not just walk out into the yard. Because it can’t tell you from a deer or groundhog. You’ve got to sneak up behind it and turn it off before you walk in front of it. You’d be surprised how difficult it seems to be to remember it. But at the same time, so refreshing on a summer day…
Other people apparently agree with me that this is a pretty cool little device. I first heard of it on Mike McGrath’s You Bet Your Garden radio show, and while he hadn’t used it he talked about people who had great success with it. Plus, the Scarecrow gets almost five stars in the Amazon.com reviews.
This week wasn’t a happy one for my seedlings. It had all started off so well the week before as I started to see my first gigantic red runner bean sprouts in my first bed. Then when I went to pick up my winter CSA share at Pennypack Farm & Education Center, they had some extra seedlings! I took three broccolis, three chards and three scallions. And the weekend before my mom’s neighbor who has the most spectacular garden I’ve seen gave me a lemon balm plant.
All the seedlings went in. There were more red runner bean sprouts (which I’d planted because I heard the red flowers were the best for attracting hummingbirds.) The peas sprouted. I was still waiting for my fava beans to sprout, but my six raised beds were planted.
Then this I went out to check on everybody and the broccoli sprouts were gone. Next to go were the chard seedlings, followed by the lemon balm. Finally my beautiful red runner bean sprouts were taken.
The devastation. The horror!
But we do have a groundhog that lives under our gazebo. He also ate my coreopsis seedling last week. Well, that’s not fair. There are also rabbits. And deer. As many deer as squirrels. And then coyotes and foxes and hawks and vultures. But I doubt those carnivores care about my broccoli seedlings. Deer, rabbits or groundhog are the prime suspects.
Now, before we had the veg garden we’d sort of enjoyed the groundhog. So timid. We’d have to sit very very still on the slab before he’d peek out from under the gazebo. We’d have to stay that still for a long time before he’d dart (as much as such a big round guy with tiny legs can dart) from under the gazebo to under the shed. We named him Wilbur. But then I started to wonder just why he was so timid. Maybe it was because he was always on the lam, escaping from people who thought he stole their sprouts.
But on the positive side, the fava beans have started to sprout. A few more red runner beans are showing their first leaves, unaware that their brethren have been murdered for such courage. The peas have, for the most part, remained untouched, although I don’t think much thinning will be necessary. The scallions are still okay, too.
I have previously purchased this electronic scarecrow, which actually worked pretty well. He’s a motion-activated sprinkler. He shoots off water towards my garden when anyone tries to steal my stuff, which is enough to startle the timid such as deer, groundhogs and rabbits. He’s a little faded from the original yellow this year. I just need to set him up again. That’s the weekend project. Along with planting more irises kindly donated by my mother’s fabulous neighbor of lemon balm fame.
Last year in my herb patch my cilantro would bolt and I couldn’t keep up with it. I love this idea from Sunset mag of growing in a shallow container outside a door close to the kitchen and cutting as I need it. Which is a lot. We love Mexican food. And I love Asian food. I am definitely going to try this.
Sunset recommends a round shallow planter that is 18-inches wide (they call it a bowl-shaped container) and 8 to 10 inches deep. This needs full sun, and Sunset recommends harvesting weekly to keep production up. They say you can get four crops of cilantro from the pot this way.
I’m wondering if this would be good for other crops as well. My basil was always bolting last summer, too. Sure, last July was insanely hot and dry here in the Philadelphia suburbs (zone 6) and then we had the wettest August ever on record. So last year’s experience may not be a good teacher of what to expect.
The New York Times has a pretty thorough review of a few (iPhone, iPad and Android) Apps for Gardeners. It sounds like these have resolved at least some of the problems caused by the fact that few software engineers are also gardeners. I love the sound of the feature that lets you sort through plants by planting zone. Wouldn’t it be lovely to have a feature that let you take a picture of an unknown plant and search through the app’s encyclopedia to find out what it is?
Last weekend was the first one in a while when there wasn’t any rain on the day I had free to work in the garden. I spent much of the day on Saturday cleaning up my raised beds, weeding there and in various other spots in the yard. That left Sunday to go to the township’s compost pile, shovel some into buckets and boxes and haul them back in the trunk of my little car. I use the garden cart to move them from the car to my raised beds and the new bed around the gazebo.
Then I got to planting. And it may very well be too late for some things. But we’ll see. In the raised beds I have red runner beans, fava beans, peas, spinach, salad mix, mache, parsley and chives. I already have rosemary, mint, three kinds of thyme and chamomile in the herb bed.
Around the gazebo I planted some irises. I still have one peony to go into the ground over there. Plus I planted a coreopsis there. The bleeding heart plant that someone gave us last year that we planted there has come back bigger and just as beautiful. Meanwhile, the thyme ground cover that we planted in between the stones on the walking path is growing like crazy and smells fabulous every time you walk over it.
Meanwhile, I’ve planted three container blueberry bushes in pots at the edge of the slab. (The previous owner of our property had a big cement slab installed in the middle of the backyard as a place for them to park their RV. We are trying to “embrace the slab” for new uses.) The ornamental onion has come back in a pot on the slab. I also have planted some hydrangeas in pots on the slab.
It was a busy weekend, and I was pleased with all that was accomplished but ready to collapse by the end.
Still on the agenda: repainting the gazebo which is covered in flaking paint at the moment. I have an aversion to scraping the paint. Nails on a chalkboard. My man has promised to do it, but now we can’t find the scrapers. I thought we left them in the garage…
Once the gazebo maintenance is done I want some hanging pots for the gazebo. I may just pull the trigger and get that going before the gazebo maintenance is done. I can always take them down if we find the scrapers, right?
I also bought some passionflower seeds and I’m wondering the best place to plant them since they need something to climb — a fence or trellis or something. Other seeds I bought in my crazy fantasy garden planning during the winter: a couple varieties of Amaranth. Kind of excited about that but currently negotiating for a flower patch in the front yard with my man. He would need to give up one particular part of the lawn. But it’s a sad looking patch right now with not much lawn left to it.
This looks like a fun cool tool for garden planning. Free trial for 30 days. It creates a project management plan for you. After 30 days, $25/yr. Here’s a look at the start of my raised beds, in pretty planning language (not what they look like right now.)
I wish I could figure out how to draw the whole property and landscape onto this. But maybe it’s better that I don’t know how for now. I’d spend too much time inside planning rather than doing the real work outside.
This looks like a nice guide on how to create and care for an asparagus patch to enjoy for years to come: How to Grow Asparagus | Harvest to Table.
I recently saw Jamie Oliver on Jamie at Home showcase his own backyard asparagus patch and make several asparagus dishes. This asparagus and potato tart looks beautiful and delicious. I think if I grew my own asparagus I’d prefer simpler dishes that would showcase the veg itself rather than riching it up with a lot of dairy. During that same episode of Jamie at Home some simpler recipes were featured, too. He slapped some asparagus on a hot grill dry and just toasted it up, then dressed it with a vinaigrette. Looked amazing.
I have just eight raised beds. Would I dedicate one to asparagus? Or would I look for another site to be home to an asparagus bed?