weather, the most serious talk we have. ☀️
how to save potted bulbs, a recipe, succession planting, & upcoming plant + seed sale!
Another 70° day here in Winston-Salem.
As a society, we’ve made endless jokes about how the weather is trite small talk, but I beg to differ. Since the dawn of time, humans have been swapping their histories, personal forecasts, interpreted signs of the trees, noted clues of the animal kingdom — all to guess what the weather will do.
The weather, which dictates when our food is planted, when it is harvested, when it dies, when it is crushed in a hail storm, when it bolts early because of a heat wave, when it ripens. The weather, which determines how well we live and what kind of challenges we face. The weather, which feeds us and starves us.
I think that discussing the weather is honorably embedded in the human experience. Yes, for most of us, it’s just predicting if it will rain at our event. But this is only since we’ve had little apps on our phones and elaborate meteorological models - and paid other people to grow our food and worry about it for us. For most of time, it has not been this way. And we arguably have tens of thousands of years of cultural habit inscribed into our DNA, compelling us to discuss the rain or the shine. So I don’t mind if we compulsively talk about the weather when there are “better things” to discuss. At worst, we owe her our remarks, and at best, we ought to practice our awareness and learn the signs she gives.
For me, my neighbor and I compare egg laying dates of the bluebirds over the last several years to guess if it the last frost will come early or late.
This year, the first egg was March 17th. Last year, March 20th. Bluebirds don’t usually lay until April here and indeed, our last frosts have been earlier than average. 🐦
LAST FROST DATE IS COMING!
Speaking of last frosts, it’s not that cut and dry — and weather is getting so unstable so rapidly, it’s hard to count on even the ancient hints.
Depending on the source, Winston’s last spring frost is somewhere between April 1-15, though once in a blue moon a frost will slap us in early May.
The Almanac estimates April 7th, but there is a 30% chance of being later. I think I will risk it, though history says I will regret it! The NOAA calculates risk in a very detailed way, forcing the farmer to roll the dice as she dares.
If you’re eager to plant things out, I recommend grabbing some frost protection cloth of some sort. GreenhouseMegastore.com has free shipping today on any order (very rare!) and extremely well priced options. You can use ‘JoeGardener’ for an extra 10% off.
CARING FOR POTTED BULBS
I’ve been fielding several questions about those potted bulbs so many of us receive in the spring! Tulips, daffodils, hyacinths. How do you care for those cute little pots, and what do you do with them once the blooms fade? Will they bloom again?
The potted bulb flowers we buy in February / March are blooming because they’ve been ‘forced.’ If they were in the ground outside, they’d bloom a bit later, and forcing can be stressful on bulbs. Many will handle the stress and come back the next year with proper care. Some are finicky, like tulips, and may never bloom again. But, bulbs are expensive and lovely and I think it’s worth trying.
A few important rules to follow:
Wait until the blooms have fully died, and then cut the blooms off.
Keep the pot in a bright spot until the flower stalks and leaves completely die. Do not cut these until they’re completely yellowed/brown and dead. If you cut them off early, you will harm the health of the bulb. The process of the leaves dying pulls energy back into the bulb, so that it can bloom the following year.
Take the pot outside and pour it out, removing the bulbs from the dirt. You should be able to just brush the dirt away with your hands. Make sure the bulbs haven’t rotted or have any squishy spots, and then put them into a brown paper bag. Put your brown paper bag in a cool, dry place like a basement or closet. The bulbs will dry and go dormant.
In the fall, plant the bulbs in the ground outdoors! They should come up the following spring.
I recommend putting each type of bulb in it’s own bag and labeling it, so you know which are tulips and which are daffodils, for example. You will want to google planting instructions for each when you put them in the ground.
Succession planting is the practice of planting something multiple times, in order to enjoy a harvest over a longer period of time. So many vegetables I love enough to want more than “my one big harvest day.” Depending on the vegetable, I will start a new wave of seeds every 2-4 weeks.
A simple method is to create a little area for one crop, and add a new row every few weeks, like the image below. Or, for fast crops (30-50 days), just plant a seed in the empty spot as soon as you harvest.
I succession plant multiple crops and managing my space is complex, and I think I’ve finally mastered my method. I use this spreadsheet and add a checkbox to each proper weekly cell. Then, I mark it once planted. This allows me to remember what frequency of succession planting I’ve chosen for that vegetable, and to reschedule them if previous sets are growing faster or slower than expected. If you’d like to steal my calendar, you’re welcome to! Here is a link - just duplicate to modify on your own.
Favorite things to succession plant:
All greens: Lettuces, Bok Choys, Chinese Cabbage, etc
Bush beans and peas
Roots: Carrots, Radish, Beets, Turnips
Things I do not succession plant:
Squashes or melons
Indeterminate tomatoes or bean varieties
Most brassicas: Kale, Cauliflower, Brussels, Broccoli
PS. There is another lazy way to succession plant, which is to follow your calendar, and when it says to “go plant more radishes,” you just walk outside and squeeze them into whatever space you see that day. :)
PUTTING LEEK GREENS IN EVERYTHING
For years I’ve been following the recipes that instruct me to use the white portion of a leek, and toss the greens. I have written about this before, but may the lord have mercy on my soul for how many leek greens I have tossed in my life.
I am sautéing them in butter/ghee and putting them in pretty much every single dish right now. Here is my haphazard bean dish I threw together. Beans, beans, beans - I love you so and leeks, you crown them.
I couldn’t tell you the measurements; being exact doesn’t matter. You can do any ratio of beans to leeks to kale you like / have on hand.
BEAN + LEEK RECIPE
boil alabama butterbeans (or bean of your choice) until soft; leave lid off pot.
drain beans and SET ASIDE THE BEAN LIQUOR (this is the magic trick)
put beans back into large pot, set aside
saute leeks in butter
i slice them thin (1/4’) and probably used 1/2-1 cup ish. they cook down.
add leeks to pot with beans, along with thinly sliced kale, and stir
immediately add bean liquor* back into the pot until kale is wilted
only add about 1c of liquor back in, depending on volume of beans you’ve prepared. you just want enough liquid to wilt the kale and soak into the greens — you’re not trying to make a soup.
add kosher salt to taste and a splash of acid (ACV, white wine vinegar)
serve with crumbled gruyere and pine nuts*
*you can toast the pine nuts for a moment if you’re feeling extra
HAPPENING IN MY LIFE THIS WEEK
Planning for April 3rd’s Sunday Social event. I will have tomatoes (black beauty, cherokee, brandywine, sunrise bumblebee), basil, greens (tbd), nasturtiums, feverfew, strawberries and marigolds for sale! I will also have more seeds: alabama blackeyed butterbean, sunset runner bean, purple hyacinth, and peach/apricot strawflower mix.
Doubling my seed starting capacity. I just added another shelving unit and grow lights to the basement.
Planting out more root vegetables: radishes, turnips, beets, and carrots.
Being really sick.
Always reading more about the global nitrogen market and what it means for the price of our food and farming / over-reliance on synthetic fertilizers
Took a canning class.
Celebrating 2 years of wanting this shirt
Listening to this song on repeat:
Until next time —