Tag Archives: winter vegetables

Scratch the Gardening Itch; January

The Maritime Garden in January…

You cannot just look at all the seed catalogs showing up at the house and not want to start SOMETHING. The sun always comes out between “systems” to call us out to the garden. It is really too cold to do much but here is what we can do in January (Everett, Washington)

  1. Start onions, shallots and leeks from seed. If you have seed, 4-inch plastic pots, potting soil (I use what I find in last years flower pots) and a heat mat for seeds, then you can grow any kind of onion you want. At The Toy Box  we usually grow New York Early for winter storage and the pretty red Italian Tropea for a summer onion. I usually try something new every year.
  2. Winter Sow herbs, artichokes and any “difficult to grow from seed” plants. The only difficult thing about winter sowing is patience.
  3. Grow a pot or three of micro greens. 
  4. Scallions, radishes, and Asian greens will be slow but they will grow in a pot or box in the green house. I love picking something bright and fresh for my bentos and winter dishes. We have also grown lettuces but tender lettuce suffers from extreme cold and radiant heat of an unheated green house. The slugs come to clean them up, which always makes me madder then a hatter. I start spinach in the same box but it is hit or miss because of how hot it can get in a small green house. Give them a try if you have the space, by March you will be happy that you did.
  5. Keep harvesting winter vegetables from the garden. We have leeks, beets, herbs, kale and some broccoli that is hanging on. We also have turnips, and various greens. Neither my  celeriac or carrots survived past August because of the heat and drought of summer 2015
  6. ….what’s that you say? You do not have any winter veggies in your garden? Now is the time to start planning your 2016 garden, make room for them.

Debs…. who really wants to apologize for the quality of this first video in over two years. But I am laughing too hard. We will get better!

January 9, 2015 (1)

The Garden Journal

January 16, 2016 and I am glad we got out while it was pretty out to make the video last weekend. Today it is raining…. cold, bone chilling rain. After all, it is January.  50/44 F but it is so damp it feels much colder. Sunrise at 7:53; sunset at 4:44 giving us 8 hours and 9 minutes of day light. It looks like it will be cold and wet for the rest of the week.

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Filed under Back to Eden Garden, Urban Farm, Video

The Snow Moon

Dull day, bright crocus. The yellows are already done.

Dull day, bright crocus. The yellows are already done.

Known as Adar in Hebrew, this last moon cycle allows impatient souls like me to begin the transition into the coming growing season. It is the time to be thankful for what was tucked into the pantry and freezer last season, a time for fresh appreciation of hardy vegetables that overwinter in the garden. The hens lay their eggs again. The grass is growing but the rain is too constant to mow. Daffodils and crocus renew my hope that spring will come again.

Top shelf veggies. Spring greens and 4 kinds of onions.

Top shelf veggies. Spring greens and 4 kinds of onions.

In the new greenhouse skinny little onions are just starting to get stocky. Water from the fish tank is all they need to grow straight and strong. My spring potatoes are chitting on a lower shelf. I have noticed that the tray of greens growing by the onions has a few no-shows. My favorite lettuce, Flashy Trout’s Back, did not sprout. Neither did the Australian Yellow. Both are from seed packets that were bought in the first season of the Toy Box. Only a few spinach, red and fordhook, have sprouted but spinach is always slow. But the Flashy Trout’s Back! Insisting that Ray take me downtown (Everett) to the Natural Food Co-op, the only local place I know of for Uprising Seed, I bought a fresh packet of Flashy Trout, but there was no Australian Yellow to be found on that small rack. Instead I bought a packet of butter head with a seductive description of silky leaves wrapped around a buttery, crisp heart. If I follow the moon phases then these will get a start when the next moon, The Worm Moon, is still dark.

Potatoes Just when I begin to wonder if I bought potatoes that have been treated to not sprout, I notice the first bit of tiny green swellings in the eyes. I need to remind myself that even old farmers don’t know everything. Patience is called for. It is still too early to plant even though this new practice of chitting starts so early in the season. Maybe it is just to give me something to do while I wait for spring to properly arrive.

Winter Sown purple cone flower

Winter Sown purple cone flower

No progress in the winter-sown containers. Even the sweet peas are still asleep.

In the garden the first 4×8 box has been planted with an abundance of all kinds of peas, fava beans too. They went in under the increasing light of the 2nd quarter of the moon before it became full. There is a row of squares that I plan to plant with carrots in this 3rd quarter, while the moonlight is still strong but daily waning.

Leeks, Celeraic, parsley, chard, kale and a bit of fennel.

Leeks, Celeraic, parsley, chard, kale and a bit of fennel.

Spring eggs are here! They smell amazing in the morning. Just in time for spring eggs, parsley and chives put out tender green shoots. Winter food gets a fresh taste with hardy kale, fat leeks, celeriac and the last of the winter carrots growing in the garden. Occasionally a bit of precious green garlic finds its way to the table. Tiny baby fennel adds a sweet licorice flavor when there isn’t any basil. There are even a few small potatoes volunteering in the old potato patch.

-I want to start a batch of wild yeast for biscuits. I have so much jelly to use before summer. Should be perfect with green omelets (from all the spring herbs!) Sourdough starter is one of those low maintenance, high return projects that should be perfect for a farmer with a day job.

Fixen what the wind blew down.

Fixen what the wind blew down.

March came roaring in on the South Wind. Had a few repairs to make in the morning. Saturday, March 2; how can the sky be as gray as Rays sweater but the sun still be shinning through? It is a blustery day, rain, shine and back to rain again. 55 to 60 degrees today and back down to the upper 30’s tonight. Sunrise at 6:47, setting 11 hours and 8 minutes later at 5:55. Fantastic!

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Filed under Fresh from the garden, Urban Farm

Under the fading Wolf Moon

The last two weeks of January and the first two weeks of February tend to be the most winter like in Everett, Washington. I read about snow in Robe Valley, home to us for nearly 25 years. Everett proves to be more wet than cold in 2013. We have not said good-by to the fading Wolf Moon, it could still get cold.

Still dreaming and planing

Still dreaming and planing

The Toy Box is keeping winter food ready for us. Celeriac, leeks, and kale. The hens have been resting, molting, but the occasional egg can be found in the nest box. Spring is coming but the pile of blankets on the bed tell me it is too early to plant or bring home chicks. Even so, I hear bird song on dog walks. My soul is ready to leap into farm girl life but my head tells me to rest a while longer. Maybe that is my right brain and left brain interacting. The flat of onions in the kitchen window smooths the gardening itch. Their spring green and black crowns give me something to fuss over while the days are still short and the school day is so long.

Seed from 2010, looks like the crisper drawer is a good place to store seed.

Seed from 2010, looks like the crisper drawer is a good place to store seed.

Peas will be the first seed into the garden, but not under this moon. That does not let me off the hook. The box they will live in is still full of leeks and celeriac that I hope to harvest this weekend. If I can get one of the boys to help me I’ll move the chicken tractor to that box so that the girls can work their magic. They will eat the weeds and grubs while turning and fertilizing the soil. Chickens are amazing. City birds connect me back to my roots.  Maybe while the girls do their work I’ll find the strength to turn that compost or make soil blocks for salad greens.



Season 4 coming soon. Today (February 1, 2013) at the Toy Box: Clouds still wintering overhead but not weeping. 50/36. Sunrise at 7:35, nine hours and 34 minutes later comes sunset and Sabbath at 5:09


Filed under Urban Farm

Coming along, good eats, greens planted

March 9, 2012 Purple Peacock brocoli-kale. Planted in the 2011 garden. If these buds swell evenly, they will become dinner.

Snow, bright sun, rain, gusty wind. Early March has been such a cliché. I say that with a grin. I love that I can still count on some things even if they are just old nursery rhymes. March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. At least I hope that is what happens.

Good Eats

Red Russian Kale and Fava Beans that were featured in the video last November 201

I would not be able to feed myself without regular trips to the grocery but it is still possible to get some food from the garden. From the kale square I harvested greens for the nuggets and for my family. They were steamed, sautéed  with leeks (also from the garden). A small steak and yellow potatoes were sliced and mixed with the kale and leeks. It was a hit.

Swiss Chard coming back.

Funny how so much of the food that survives winter has a country name like Russian or Swiss? This square of chard seems to have been pre tasted by some tiny inspector. The hens will receive the large leaves. The smaller leaves will go into some lovely cheesy casserole. Lasagna usually but I’m open to suggestions.

Next months dinner. Greens started in January and transplanted under the rain-bonnet (poly cover) March 7. So far it looks like they will live.

I am anxious to get more food planted this summer for next winter. March and April can be hungry times. Next year it would be so nice to have enough celeriac and sprouting broccoli to start getting tired of it. Brussels sprouts and carrots would be good. Same with extra kale and chard. That is a way down the path. For now I have hope in the greens that have been pressed in the soil, the peas that are preparing to show themselves, radishes, spinach, arugula and so much more. Things are looking good. God bless the work of His hands in our gardens, Bless God for a new season!

Pussy willows along the Snohomish River near Marysville.

It is cooler today. It isn’t really a storm that is moving in on gusty winds, but it is getting gray and fixing to rain for a week or so. Today sunrise was at 6:32. On Sunday it will be up at 7:28 (don’t forget!) 45/43 with 11 hours and 32 minutes from rise to set. Put your sweater on.

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Filed under Fresh from the garden, Square Foot Garden, Urban Farm

Potato, Leek, and Celery Root Soup

Adapted from, “Fields of Green” by Annie Somerville

Add two Tablespoons of cream and serve with fresh, hot bread.

Early March of 2012 at the Toy Box in Everett, Washington was plagued with chunky rain. Too cold for regular rain, too wet to be snow.  A moment of warm breeze overcame the rain on Saturday afternoon (March 3). Not warm enough to ditch my jacket. I was out just long enough to breathe in the brisk air and harvest the one remaining celeraic from the precious vegetables of the winter garden. Something special was called for, a recipe that was more than everyday fare. I knew were to look. From the book shelf came my trusted “Fields of Green” by Annie Somerville. She gardens and cooks in sunny California, heaven for rain-soaked North-west gardeners. She writes with love about fresh ingredients freshly prepared. The way I like to think of my kitchen garden if only I had her skills and the money to pay the people who fill in the gaps (no one can do it all …at least not at 54)

First make a “Light Vegetable Stock” (keep it warm)

Next, harvest or gather from the pantry…

  •  1 celeraic (celery root)
  • 2 pounds yellow potatoes, peeled and sliced
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped

Prep these vegetables. Add them to a quart of hot “Light Vegetable Stock” with salt and pepper and the bay leaf.

To a hot sauté pan add;

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 2 large (or as many small as it takes) leeks, sliced and washed (3 cups)
  • 1/4 cup white wine

Melt the butter with the olive oil. Add the leeks and saute them for 3 to 4 minutes.

Next, cover the pan, turn down the heat and let the leeks continue to steam in the pan for 10 more minutes.

While the leeks steam: remove the bay leaf from the pan. Puree the soup using a food mill or stick (hand) blender. Return the soup to low heat.

Remove the saute pan lid, add the wine and continue to cook the leeks until the wine is completely reduced leaving only scent and taste. Add the leeks to the puree potato-celeric soup. Cover the soup and continue to cook for 20 to 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning.

Just before serving stir in 2 Tablespoons of cream (half and half is fine)

Suggested serving: add a swirl of “Orange Creme Fraiche” (sour cream and yogurt curdle).

Annie’s tip: Celery root discolors like an apple. If you precut the celeric, set in lemon water to prevent discoloring.


Filed under Fresh from the garden, Home Cooked, Square Foot Garden, Urban Farm, Video

Spring 2012 countdown (20 days to go)


The transition is beginning. Life is showing optimism in the garden. Every shade of green has begun to assert themselves. To be sure, any green that I see in the garden today has to be tough enough to survive the last hurrah of winter. Hard frost glistens on the green leaves during the transition time. But make no mistake, spring is coming. The frogs in the pond are singing a song of praise to the creator. Birds spend their afternoon gossiping about it. I listen to their music and it ignites a gentle flame of energy in my soul.

New strawberry growth

In the Northern Hemisphere spring starts on March 20th this year. Why March 20th? On that date the daylight hours will be equal to the number of night-time hours. It is known as the equinox. In the beginning, at the creation of the sun and the moon (and the stars) YHVH/The LORD gave one of the very first commandments to creation. On the fourth day, before the creation of men, YHVH, Elohim set the moon and sun in their place. The moon to rule and light the night and the sun for the day. He decreed that these lights be for “signs and seasons,” the “genesis” of our reason for measuring seasons by the hours of the sun and moon. When the hours from sunrise to sunset are equal to the hours of night, we welcome spring.

Blueberries in bud

First I noticed the daffodils. Every year, along a path that I stop seeing, one day there will be a stand of daffodils insisting I pause to see them. They are not in bloom yet, but the promise of swollen buds bursting out of cold ground has returned. There are other earth signs. Days before I come with my tools and bucket to tidy up the herb garden the chives offer their goodness to my kitchen. Even this early, snipping them down brings more. From under the piles of straw and leaves come green spears of garlic, shallots and strawberries. I am sure the grass is growing and will soon need a trim.

Mixed greens started in January

My garden plans have been loosely made. Peas, my personal start to spring, have been pressed into the ground. There are two trays of sprouts that commute daily from my window to the porch and back. One tray of mixed greens for my late spring salads and one tray of broccoli and cauliflower to plant out come April. The compost has been turned and the trees trimmed.

Red Kale from the 2011 garden

Saint Patrick’s Day is my next big day outside. If the weather co-operates, potatoes will be started (they should be planted but often I just get around to cutting them up) on St Patty’s Day. Mel’s Mix (Square Foot Gardening planting mix) will need to be made; enough to fill the two new 4×8 boxes and maybe enough extra for my large pots of summer vegetables. The chicken run will need to be mucked out which means I might (as Ray suggested) need to start another cylinder for compost. With two smaller plastic bins of compost and one large cylinder I thought I might have enough already but those are full before I muck the chicken yard. Soon I will need to find a place for grass clippings and weeds from the herb and flower gardens. The boarders of the new gardens need to have a weed barrier laid that I can cover with beauty bark (it looks tidy that way).

Frosted cleric from 2011

Speaking of chickens, it is time to decide if I want any chicks. I can only have a total of 6 chickens in the city (four is plenty) and my girls are only a year old but I need to start thinking about eggs next year. I think I can wait another year for chicks. My girls should still lay enough eggs every week for the four of us.

Jason and I have been talking about bunnies this easter. We raised California Rabbits when we lived in Robe Valley. They are the best meat rabbits. Better than New Zealand in temperament. They are cute like a siamese kitten. If we get bunnies it would be nice to have hutches ready BEFORE we bring them home. They can live in the house for a short season like the chickens did. In fact, it is probably good to handle them like pets while they are young. Their poo is garden gold. Rabbit meat is loved by all three of my guys. I am a little worried about my terriers, Bomber and Rudy, who kill rats for a living. Actually Rudy only tries to kill them. Mostly he nips at them on the run. Bomber was created with the powerful jaw required to humanely kill a rat with one chomp. He is very good at what he does. I do not want them to mistake bunnies for rats. When I let the chickens out for a scratch in the compost they watch the girls with interest. Unfortunately they still get too excited if the girls have a fuss with each other and start flapping their wings.

Bomber reminds me of Bruce the Shark on Finding Nemo. The one who has to convince himself that “fish are our friends” and goes out of his way to prove it. But let one drop of blood enter his nostril and who he was created to be asserts itself. Bomber is that way with the nuggets. I watch him follow them about, fussing if one disappears to lay her egg, worried until once again all four are together. “Chickens are our friends.” But let them start squawking and flapping at each other and the heart of a good terrier takes over. So far he has responded quickly to my firm, “NO Bomber!” Good boy that he is.

Cole sprouts already getting "leggy"

Aquaponics has been moved back from spring to late summer but it would still be kewl if we could start a test pond of one or two barrels. Unless a killer deal for a greenhouse pops into our lap we need to wait until late summer, when hope is telling us Ray may be working again, to buy a the greenhouse. My spring fava beans, garlic and shallots have all been planted where we plan to put the greenhouse. We could sacrifice those but we are in no hurry.

Ray’s other project is bees. Not honey bees but mason bees. He has his “milky way boxes of bees” in the crisper drawer with my seed stash. We attended the free class on Mason Bees at Sunnyside Nursery last week. He has his book, an awesome web-site and starter straws. Now all we need is spring to sprong and the fruit trees to blossom to start the mason bees outside. Twenty more days.

Have rats will hunt. Bomber and his little pest Rudy

Winter Advisory in effect. Mostly that means that it is going to be really wet with a good chance of chunky rain (snow and rain mixed). That will keep the high temperature down to 46 degrees (the low is projected to be 36, cold but above freezing). As of today we get 11 hours and 5 minutes of daylight, wet and cloudy but day light none the less. Sunrise at 6:48, Sunset at 5:54. I’ll take it!

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Filed under Chickens, Everyday Adventure, Fresh from the garden, Square Foot Garden, Urban Farm

Winter Garden in a cold frame

I have been thinking about giving this a try.

Direct seeding Cold Frames…in Winter

The Toy Box, December 4, 2010

In late August and early September I am busy with school. Too busy to put in my winter garden. When winter arrives I want to add winter vegetables to the menu but there is precious little to add. Keven Kossowan, a gardener-blogger in Edmonton, Alberta, writes that he is direct seeding his cold-frame as late as November. Western Washington State is a banana belt compared to Kevin’s farm. This gives me hope for success. I am jazzed about trying in my little cold-frame.

On the winter cold-frame menu? Peas (of the seed I have I’ll choose the shortest growing), golden beets, spinach, carrots, greens, a square of microgreens and some kale. Maybe parsley and leeks too (how big is that cold frame?) I’ll probably video-document it all.

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