Saturday, May 24, 2014

Our Memorial Day Weekend 2014 Garden Primer

Salad greens are the ideal "starter crop" for newbie vegetable gardeners. The seeds of most varieties germinate quickly and require little care once growing. Cafe Drake HRV learned last year, the Hard Way, about lettuce's cool weather preferences and a tendency to bolt once the real heat arrives. Bottom Line: This is a Cool Weather Crop! Lettuces, mache, arugula, cress and similar delicate leafy greens should be harvested before mid-summer and seeds re-sown in late Summer for early Autumn salad bowls.

Cafe Drake HRV is growing a small amount of a widening range of salad greens in 2014 - arugula, Freckles lettuce, Marvel of 4 Seasons, Chicory, Endive di Ruffee, a baby spinach known as Ricco d' Asti and petite Swiss Chard Argentana. Bottom Line: Endless options abound for tender, miniature garden greens. All should be sowed directly into the ground or a shallow, wide container. While many vegetables and flowers must be started indoors as seeds, seedlings require coddling and even under the most elaborate care have a moderate survival rate. No such worries though with the lettuces.

Borage is a flowering herb known for attracting pollinators to the garden. Once planted you can count on its return the following Spring. We dug several plants from last season but this feisty plant emerged elsewhere. Cafe Drake HRV loves having a few clumps around as soon they will covered with star-shaped, blue blooms. Both the leaves and flowers are edible, with a refreshing cucumber flavor, but best to snip a few leaves for salads or garnish prior to blooming; once covered with flowers the leaves themselves turn bitter. Bottom Line: Borage is easy to grow and a dependable perennial plant. Snip tiny flowers and freeze in ice cubes or use as colorful garnishes. A few leaves add an exotic twist to green salads.

Nasturtiums thrive on neglect, supposedly. Ours have been a bit needier. Like most things at Cafe Drake HRV. We're waiting on the colorful blooms. Bottom Line: Give a try at growing a pot of nasturtiums but make sure they receive plenty of sun. The leaves and flowers are spicy and delicious.

Remember those tiny daikon radish seedlings from 3 weeks ago? Look at them know! Bottom Line: Gardening requires patience with the weather. Unseasonable chill will delay growth of even cold-tolerant plants.

Long bean seedlings emerging. Finally. The bamboo poles are for support once the stalks begin to tower.

Tuscan kale, like all its cousins in the cruciferous family of veggies, can withstand even the chilliest Spring evenings.

They don't call it dill WEED for nothing and Cafe Drake HRV couldn't be happier with the herb's prolific self seeding skills. Dill is sprouting everywhere! Bottom Line: When harvesting dill before the first frost, allow a few stalks to "go to seed" and wither. All those fallen dill seeds will ensure a luxuriant crop next year.

From the front yard, looking east toward the Hudson River.

The triumphant return of last year's newly planted Golden Raspberry bush. This type yields berries twice a year, in the mid-summer and again in mid-autumn. Bottom Line: It seems heartless but if you want berry bushes to survive, trim them close to the ground in winter and mulch heavily. The plant will survive and grow an extensive root system underground.
Arabella Page helps a bit with pruning and weeding.

She's always ready for next garden assignment.

Bottom Line: Gardening is much, much more fun with a pit bull.

Purple irises, pic snapped prior to weeding. Bottom Line: Irises seem to actually attract weeds! Grow only if worth it to you.

Lloyd Page stopped by to help weed but then thought better of it!


Rau ram, or Vietnamese Coriander, is easy to propagate by rooting cuttings in water prior to planting. We lost a healthy pot last year however due to excessive sun exposure; these jungle dwellers like wet and only dappled light. This year our new crop has found a home under the porch awnings. Bottom Line: Many Asian herbs can be grown from supermarket cuttings. Research online their native habitats to provide similar growing conditions in your garden.

Lemon Thyme is thriving.

Bottom Line: Do not overwater oregano. Ever. It doesn't like it.

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