Tag: Grow (page 2 of 3)

Monthly Planting Guide: July in the Piedmont

Some like it hot! And that’s the truth for the July issue of our Monthly Planting Guides!  July is the last chance for some heat-lovers like tomatoes, melons, and sweet potatoes.  But don’t think it’s the end of planting season!  It’s also time to start thinking about your fall garden with cool weather crops like brussels sprouts, beets, and carrots.

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Sea Salt, Rocket, & Roses… Piedmont Picnic goes to the beach

That’s right!  We just got back from the beach, but don’t worry, we didn’t take the week off.  To keep you entertained, while we were on vacation, we looked into things to forage on the beaches of NC…  What did we find?  We foraged seaweed for extra nutrients in the compost pile, picked sea rocket and wild roses, and made our own sea salt!  All things you can try out next time you pop over to the beach.  Check it out below.

Wild sea rocket…  like arugula, but the leaves are more like a succulent…

Wild beach roses were turned into an infusion and then into a yummy beachy cocktail (of course!).  

The #wildfoodlove #harvest continues even on #beach #vacation. #TopsailIsland #beachrose A photo posted by Piedmont Picnic Project (@piedmontpicnicproject) on

“The #Wild #Rosy #Pear” – wild #beachrose #infusion+ pear syrup courtesy of #grandma’s #homecanned pears + #gin + lemon

A photo posted by Piedmont Picnic Project (@piedmontpicnicproject) on

Finally, our grand finale…  If you are trying to eat more locally, how do you localize your salt intake?  Well, if you live in the NC Piedmont, in less than 150 miles, you can make your own local sea salt!  We just strained the seawater and then dehydrated it until nothing was left but the salt!  

Why yes! This is the start of our #homemade #seasalt evaporated from #foraged #seawater! #TopsailIsland

A photo posted by Piedmont Picnic Project (@piedmontpicnicproject) on

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Monthly Planting Guide: June in the Piedmont

 

 

Wondering what you can still plant this month in the Piedmont, Zone 7B?  We’ve got you covered!  There’s still time to put out a few key summer transplants like tomatoes and peppers…  but it’s also time to think about starting those fall transplants from seed indoors!

June Planting Guide

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Pollinator Picnic was all the buzz!

Piedmont Picnic Project hosted our Pollinator Picnic this past Saturday as part of the Second Saturday events in Raleigh and as part of our Pollinators in the Piedmont blog series!    Special thanks to all those who came out for the event!  See full gallery here.

Pollinator Picnic

PapaSpuds_logoSpecial thanks to Papa Spuds for providing all of the honey for the event!  If you’re interested in Papa Spuds local foods delivery service, they’ll waive your enrollment fee and give you $5 off your first order when you use the coupon code PICNIC.  

If you couldn’t make it out, here’s what you missed…

A full bee buffet of honey and wildflower drinks and treats, including Honeygirl Meadery mead and Brothers Vilgalys Spirits krupnikas cocktail!

#yogurtcheese flavored with #honey and #foraged #hickorynuts decorated with more nuts, #nativehoneysuckle and #wildroses at the #PollinatorPicnic!

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#trappist #honeybread at our #PollinatorPicnic! #likethebeesdoit A photo posted by Piedmont Picnic Project (@piedmontpicnicproject) on

A pollinator garden demo including a good dose of bee history and recommendations for pollinator plants.  This berm is stuffed full of BREW coffee grounds and compost from a kindly CompostNow customer!

Our best helpers! #PollinatorBerm #startemyoung #givebeesachance

A photo posted by Piedmont Picnic Project (@piedmontpicnicproject) on

Stay tuned to our Pollinators in the Piedmont series to see what’s next – like our upcoming Wild History walking tour – learning more about pollinators, bee history, and forageable wildflowers!

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This May: Pollinators in the Piedmont

For the month of May, Piedmont Picnic Project will be focusing on pollinators, all they do for us, and what we can do for them!

pollinators_black

What can you expect from our Pollinators in the Piedmont series?

Pollinator Picnic | Saturday, May 9th, 2-4 PM | 308 Colleton Rd. (parking on street)

Pollinator Picnic

Come have a picnic provided by the bees while we create a picnic for the bees!  Learn how to install a pollinator garden at a personal residence while enjoying a light picnic of wildflower & honey drinks and treats.


Wild History Pollinator Walk | Saturday, May 23, 2-4 PM | Surprise Location TBA

Join Piedmont Picnic on another Wild History walk where we’ll point out wild edibles along the way while we share the history around our topic and location!  This month’s theme will be… what else?  Pollinators!  So we’ll talk bees, stings, pollinator habitat, honey, and wildflowers…  of course!

Our TBA location will be at a surprise location along part of Raleigh’s greenways, as part of our on-going 100 Miles in 100 Days series, walking and foraging all 100 miles of Raleigh’s greenways in the 100 days of spring!

100 Miles3


Blogging Series

Our blogging will also be following our pollinator theme – looking into all things wildflower, bee, and honey!  Topics will include any and all of the following, and more!

  • Get the buzz on Honeygirl Meadery
  • Queen Bee: A history of women and honey
  • Bee keeping and hive removal
  • Baking and preserving with honey
  • Piedmont Picnic tries their hand at mead
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Monthly Planting Guide: May in the Piedmont

Check out our latest installment of our Monthly Planting Guides!  May is an exciting month!  It’s too late for most of your spring crops at this point, but summer crops are now all fair game…  including heat-lovers like okra and peanuts!  But be sure to get those in fast – your window is short.

May Planting Guide

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Monthly Planting Guide: April in the Piedmont

April is a very exciting time for planting, as you can see by how long our list grows!  Since April 5th is this zone’s average last frost date, summer crops can start going out into the garden from mid-April on…  but make sure you keep an eye on those evening low temps!  Late frosts are not unheard of, and can decimate summer transplants.  If a late frost does happen, cover summer transplants with overturned cups, jars, or buckets.  Getting closer every day to that first ripe tomato…

April Seed Guide

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Fresh Herbs in Winter: Wild and Homegrown Alternatives to the Supermarket

You may not think of winter as a time to write a post about fresh herbs, but that’s exactly why these beauties below fit into our Feasting in Times of Winter Scarcity series.  Winter may seem like the hardest time to find fresh herbs, making us all resort to those horrible clam shell herb containers at the store where you pay five dollars for a bundle of herbs you know you could grow so easily in the summer or find a bundle four times that size for half the price at your local farmers’ market.

This may lead you to attempt growing herbs indoors, something I have had mixed success with, often resulting in scraggly, slow-growing plants.

Alternatively, you may notice that many of your perennial herbs, although slow growing, live on outdoors well beyond the first frost date.  The piles of mint, onion grass, bee balm, catmint, and lemon balm below were all picked in January, well after many frosts.

Winter Herb Harvest

Another option is to attempt a cold frame or low tunnel outdoors to keep a few small stashes of herbs growing through the winter.  Cilantro does particularly well in that environment, like my little almost-picked-to-death cilantro in my low tunnel below.

Low Tunnel Winter Cilantro

If none of these options sound appealing to you, don’t count out the wild herbs!  Below are two of the most common wild herbs you’ll find around – two that I’ll bet you’ve either eaten or at least crushed and smelled before – noting their aromatic properties but hesitating to cook with them.  Why hesitate?

Onion Grass (aka Wild Garlic)

When I first moved down here, I remember someone pointing out “onion grass” to me, and I thought, no no, that’s just chives that have gone rogue into someone’s yard.  I didn’t realize that chives had a more wild cousin that really likes to get around.  It’s an easy mistake to make, and a happy one!  Because it shows how interchangeable the two can be in cooking – why spend $4.99 on that clamshell of “fresh chives” when you probably have a patch of onion grass in your lawn you’ve been trying to eradicate for years?

Wild Garlic

Description and Habitat.  “Onion grass” grows in clumps of green chive-like tops with a bulb at its base made of several smaller “cloves,” much like garlic.  You can find it in just about any lawn or field or along any roadside.  The strong onion/garlic scent is a good indicator that you have the right plant.

Harvest.  To harvest, you can simply cut off whatever leaves you need.  Feel free to give it a full haircut; it will grow back.  Alternatively, if you want to harvest the bulb below, you can pull up the whole plant. Just be sure to leave a couple bulbs from the clump in the ground so you can come back to your spot in years to come.

Flavor and Use.  You can use the grass like you would chives, and the bulbs like you would garlic (although their small size makes this difficult).  The grass itself is much more garlicky than chives, so I like to use it to lend that flavor to some classically garlicky uses – like this pesto below and the seasoned salt at the end of the post.

Wild Greens & Nuts Pesto

Warning:  This pesto is addictive!  You will scoop it on everything, and if you take it to a party, it will not come back with you.  It may just be my favorite wild food recipe I have under my belt so far…

Wild Greens and Nuts Pesto

Recipe:

2-3 handfuls of wild garlic greens, roughly chopped

2-3 handfuls of wild cress greens

1-2 handfuls of wild nuts (hickory, pecan, and/or black walnut)

2 large pinches salt

olive oil

Combine wild garlic greens and wild cress in a food processor with wild nuts of your choosing.  Salt well.

Pulse until they are well mixed, and then begin to drizzle in olive oil while the food processor runs.  I like mine heavy on the olive oil until the mixture turns from looking like separate ingredients into a smooth creamy paste, as the oil emulsifies into a totally different texture (see picture above – there’s nothing dry or leafy about that pesto!).

Scoop into a bowl and garnish with a drizzle of olive oil, some wild leaves, and/or nuts.

Note: if you don’t have a chance to forage wild herbs for this, arugula and garlic with sunflower seeds will make another delicious version.

Ground Ivy 

One of my uncles was visiting a few months ago, helping us out on some backyard constructions projects.  When those were in ship shape, he asked, now what are you going to do about all this ground ivy?  (Our entire back “lawn” is ground ivy).  To which I replied, eat it!  We love our ground ivy lawn…  it’s beautiful covered in purple flowers in spring, durable, and smells delightfully herby when you walk on it or mow it.

Even better yet, you can eat it, and it’s tasty!  It could have made it into our Wild Winter Teas post, as it’s a member of the mint family, high in vitamin C, and brews a good cup.  But I like it even better featured as an herb for cooking.  Historically, it was used for eating, as medicine, in the beer making process by Saxons before hops were introduced, and by various other peoples in cheese making as a substitute for rennet.  How versatile!

Ground_Ivy

Description and Habitat.  Ground ivy grows in trailing runners up to about four inches tall.  Leaves are roughly heart-shaped and scalloped (see picture above), stems are square shaped (due to its membership in the mint family), and it gets small purple flowers in spring.  Ground ivy gives off a distinctly herby, almost minty sent when crushed.  You’ll find it in your lawn, along greenways and roadsides, and in fields, particularly where it is somewhat cooler and shady.

Harvest.  You can pull up entire runners of ground ivy or snip off individual leaves.  I generally “harvest” when weeding it out of my vegetable beds.  Ground ivy is considered a non-native invasive species in the U.S., so harvest away!

Flavor and Uses.  Ground ivy has a scent/flavor somewhere between mint and a mild, greener rosemary.  You can put it in soups and salads, make tea out of it, or use it as a fresh or dried herb.  The flowers look particularly pretty in salads in spring.

Wild Seasoned Salt Rub

This recipe for wild seasoned salt has about a million and one uses.  Rub it on chicken, lamb, or beef before roasting.  Toss it with pasta and Parmesan for a great side; add white beans, and it’s a main course.  Dry it and bottle it for a unique wild holiday gift!  Another bonus:  this is one more way to use your citrus peels.  Zest peels before juicing (it’s very difficult to do after) and dry to be used later in seasoning rubs like this one or in desserts.

Wild Seasoned Salt

Recipe:

Zest of 2 lemons, grated

1 bunch of Ground Ivy leaves

1 bunch of Onion Grass

2 Tbsp Sea Salt

If using immediately, mince ground ivy and onion grass and combine with lemon zest and salt (pepper optional).

Wild Seasoned Salt Ingredients

If you’d like to dry and store this as a wild seasoned salt, dry grated lemon zest, whole ground ivy, and onion grass (in your oven or toaster oven on its lowest setting is one good way).

Crumble ground ivy and onion grass (or pulse in a coffee grinder), and combine with dried lemon zest and sea salt.

Store in an airtight container somewhere dark and cool.  Use as you would the fresh version.

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Monthly Planting Guide: March in the Piedmont

March is an exciting time for the garden as we transition from winter into spring!  As our Feasting in Times of Winter Scarcity series continues until the first day of spring, see how much you can actually get planted even while it’s still winter!

MarchPlantingGuide

 


Did you catch our February Planting Guide?

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12 Seed-Starting Tips for the New or Experienced Gardener

Tis the season for seed starting!  That’s right, now is the time to get your spring garden transplants started inside.  To do so, we’re going to guide you through everything you need to know to set up your own little seed-starting station at home.  If this looks daunting to you, you can always stick with seeds that get planted straight outside and/or purchase transplants from a garden center.  Growing your own will take time, but save money (which is often the trade-off in gardening).

Ruby Streaks Mustard Sprouts

Timing

There are many seeds you can start indoors now to transplant out later and others that you can plant directly into your garden.

TIP 1:  Follow an existing seed calendar.  Check out our Monthly Seed Planting Guides to keep track of what’s what.

TIP 2:   Keep a journal.  We recommend keeping some sort of journal (even if it’s just on the back of a napkin) to keep track of when you planted your seeds and when you should put them out.  You will thank yourself for this when you are wondering when harvest time will be.

Choosing Seeds

Knowing what varieties to plant can be tricky…

TIP 3:  Plant what you’ll eat.  You’ll stay more motivated if you are growing something you really like to eat and use in your favorite recipes.

TIP 4:  Plant what gives you the biggest bang for your buck.  If you like buying organic and heirloom varieties (which we do!), growing them can be a big money-saver.  See our “Resources” at the end of the post for our favorite sources.

Getting Started

TIP 5:  Pre-sprout your seeds.  This is an optional step that I find very helpful.  Because I often use seeds that are several years old or pick up seeds of unknown age at seed swaps or from friends, I like a little insurance that these seeds are actually going to come up before going to the trouble of planting them.  I am also a little impatient, so I like to hurry things along a bit.  To do this, I often pre-sprout my seeds on damp napkins in old plastic containers.  Anytime a restaurant puts a giant wad of extra napkins in our take-out bag, I store them away for seed-starting time.  I also keep a stack of yogurt and cheese containers with lids around just for this purpose.

Seed Sprouting

Just tear out a small square of napkin (or paper towel) and place inside the lid of your container.  Sprinkle it with just a little water – enough to make it the consistency of a damp sponge.  Take your seed of choice and sprinkle however many seeds as you want to have plants, plus about one-quarter more (i.e., if you want 4 plants in the end, start with 5 seeds).  Put the top on the container, place it in a warm spot (light is not really necessary), and wait.  Check it daily, as some seeds will sprout very quickly.  Once you see that little tail poke out from the seed, it’s time to plant it in your soil.  Be very careful, and don’t wait too long, as these newly sprouted seeds are very delicate.

Sprouted Seed

Soil

While you are waiting for your seeds to sprout, you can get your soil ready.

TIP 6: Use sterile soil.  For seeds that are just starting out, you want sterile soil that is not too nutrient-dense.  The young seedlings don’t need a lot of soil nutrients when they are just starting out, and too much of certain nutrients can even “burn” the young plants.  Sterile soil is important to avoid any soil-born pathogens.  How does one get sterile soil?

Soil Option 1 (Easier):  Purchase a sterile seed-starting mix from your local garden center.

Soil Option 2 (Cheaper): A good money-saving option is to dig up soil from your yard or garden or even use old potting soil from pots that are no longer being used.  If you use soil that has been hanging out outside, it is a good idea to sterilize it.  Make sure the soil is relatively free of clumps and debris.  Put soil in trays in the oven at 200 degrees until the soil has been fully heated through.  This is a trick I got from my grandma who has been a gardening powerhouse for ohhh about 70 years now, so I think it’s a good one!

Sterile Soil

Once your soil is sterile and sifted, moisten it in a bucket until it is like a damp sponge, and then use it to fill your containers.  What containers are those?  On to the next section!

Containers

Just about anything can be a seed-starting container!  I have about 1000 of the little plastic plant cell-packs (pictured throughout), so I generally just use them these days, but if you don’t have them, don’t go out and buy them.

TIP 7:  Use just about any container you have as a seed planter.  You can use yogurt cups, reused paper cups, toilet paper rolls (see demo below!)…  just about anything that can hold dirt!  Just poke some holes in the bottom of whatever it is you are using so that water can drain.  Then be sure to put them in another tray or pan to catch the water that is coming out.

TP Tube Planters

TIP 8:  Don’t forget to label!  If you are like me, you’ll think you’ll remember what you planted, but you won’t.  I like to hold onto those flat, wooden stirrers they often have at coffee shops to use for this purpose.  They are like the adult equivalent of a popsicle stick.

Water (and Air)

TIP 9:  Soil should be like a damp sponge.  As you may have noticed, I am a big fan of the “damp sponge” comparison.  Your soil should generally be moist, but not soaking wet.  Allow it to dry out somewhat between waterings, but not too much, especially when the plants are very young.  The older they get, the more they can handle slightly dryer soil between waterings.  But one major drought for tiny seedlings will be all it takes to inflict permanent damage.

TIP 10:  Make a mini-greenhouse.  If you have a clear plastic dome of any kind (like what lettuce mixes come in or any other plastic clamshell containers), you can use it like a greenhouse.  I find this helpful when plants are just coming up because overhead watering can be tough on young seedlings.

Seed Greenhouse

Once they are up and growing, I prefer to uncover them to allow for more air circulation and prevent mold and disease.  If you are an over-achiever, you can even put a low fan on the young seedlings to promote air circulation and encourage stronger stems.

Light

A very sunny south-facing window can sometimes be enough, but more often than not, it will result in somewhat spindly plants.  Also, spaces next to windows can often be a cold micro-climate in your house; whereas you want to start your seeds in a warm place.

TIP 11:  Thrift your grow lights.  As you may have guessed, I am not the type to run out and buy an elaborate growlight set-up.  My favorite technique is to pick up a couple old desk lamps from the thrift store, preferably the kinds with bendy necks.  Put a CFL bulb in them, and they will function much like the florescent lights in actual grow lights.  If you want to up the amount of light getting to the plants, you can surround the lights and plants with reflective metal or mirrors.  I use old aluminum pie tins or roasting pans, and they work great!

Thrifty Plant Lights

Keep your lights about 2-4 inches above the plants at all times.  Too close, and the plants could burn.  Too far away, and they will get spindly reaching for that light.  You’ll want to keep your lights on them at least 6-8 hours a day, but to be honest, I rarely turn them off because I am too scared I will forget to turn them back on again.  A light timer would be great!  But I haven’t taken that plunge yet.  As far as I can tell, they don’t seem to mind the 24-7 “sun”shine…

If you have them next to a window, it may be best to close the blinds at night, lest your neighbors get ideas about what kind of grow operation you have going on over there.

Wait, Watch, and Enjoy!

Once the seeds are sprouted and hanging out in their soil with regular watering and lots of light, all there is left to do is wait, watch, and enjoy!

TIP 12:  Time your outdoor transition well.  Wait until your leaves have at least 2-3 sets of “true leaves” (this does not include their first leaf-pair which are not really leaves) and until your seed planting calendar says it’s safe to transplant them outside.

Ready to Transplant

Watch to make sure they have enough (but not too much) water and light.  Enjoy how amazing it is that all of this life is coming out of a tiny little seed…  Enjoy nourishing it into a full-grown plant…  Enjoy dreaming about the veggies that it will give you in a couple months!

And along with those dreams, I leave you with these chubby little cuties…

Wong Bok Seedlings


PS Bonus Tip – When it’s time to transplant your precious babies into the great outdoors, don’t just go straight from the warm bosom of the indoors to the great wild with no transition time.  Be sure to “harden off” your seedlings by putting them outside for a few hours at a time in dappled sunlight until they toughen up.  Then plant.  If a late frost is expected, cover them with row cloth or a jar or bottle over night.

Resources

As promised, our favorite vendors:

  • SeedSavers – Seed Savers is a non-profit organization whose whole mission is to collect and save seeds from heirloom plant varieties.  They offer organic and non-organic options.  Support their very important work by buying their seeds and find beautiful, unique, new, old varieties!
  • Botanical Interests – We love the varieties available through Botanical Interests.  They have many heirloom and organic varieties, and their seed packets are full of useful information and labeled with beautiful botanical illustrations.
  • Southern Exposure Seed Exchange – Particularly if you are growing in the south, this seed company is an amazing resource!  Seeds also include many heirloom varieties.  Their seed catalog has a wealth of information about growing in our region in general as well as for each plant group and each seed variety.  This is where to go if you want to know how well-suited a variety is to our climate.
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