Thursday, July 24, 2014


In conjunction with this Saturday's Grow It Eat It Garden Event and the tomato tasting, here's something you can do with some of the tomatoes once they're harvested.

Brought in from the rather slow garden some Siberian tomatoes yesterday. I originally tried the variety thinking they'd be perfect for a friend who grows for her family's wine bar/cafe in the Adirondacks, which has a MUCH shorter growing season than we do. I figured if they'll produce in Siberia, they'll produce in North Creek. They didn't do all that well up there sadly. But here on the upper Eastern Shore they are some of the earliest to ripen. Golf-ball sized and not as juicy as slicers, they roast beautifully.

Marinated roasted Siberian tomatoes ready to go on bread
 Slice them in half, scoop out the bulk of juice and seeds with one swipe of your thumb, then spread them in a single layer cut-side up on a rimmed cookie sheet to catch any juice. Chop garlic ( I use the fresh roja garlic I've recently pulled from the garden), a dash of kosher salt, grind of pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil. Roast in a 325F oven for about 45 minutes to an hour, or until they are starting to shrivel and release their juices but are not dry. You can tell it's time when the garlic starts to smell really fragrant and just begins to brown. When cool, layer them in a container and sprinkle each later with white wine vinegar and a little more olive oil. Cover and refrigerate. They keep for at least a week. These make a great snack on crackers, or lunch on a slice of toasted baguette, whole grain bread spread with a little goat cheese and topped with a basil leaf or two.

Things to do at this Saturday's GIEI event in Montgomery County

1. Show off your tomatoes, if you got 'em. Please, we really need your tomatoes. We'll have a tomato tasting, and you can also bring seeds and recipes to share, as well as learning about several ways to cook tomatoes, how to save seeds from them, and what diseases and pests they might be suffering from. But I'm sure your tomatoes are perfect.

2. Help us figure out why our demo garden tomatoes are less than perfect this year. But everything else is splendid - and it's the Year of Cucurbits and our cucurbits are doing just fine, thank you! Helps to have practically no pests, thanks to our frigid winter.

3. But if there are any squash bugs (or their eggs or nymphs) lurking on our squashes, you can attend a talk that will help you recognize them and learn what to do about them. Along with dozens of other pests and diseases.

4. If you're an early bird, you can also hear me talk about how to keep animals out of your garden (event starts at 8:30, talk is at 9). I hear the weather's going to be great, though, so maybe you should spend the whole time out in the garden. So much going on inside, though! You'll want to be two places at once all morning.

5. Luckily, the informative talk and demonstration about building low tunnels for fall and winter gardening is outside at 10:15. And next to it, you can learn how to build garden structures with bamboo, including a nice trellis for your fall peas. And we have folks who are eager to tell you how and when to grow all your fall veggies. It may still be summer, but it's time to think fall!

6. Watch us dig early potatoes! We may also pick a few mouse melons.

7. Visit our straw bales burgeoning with plants, and speculate about why they are winning this year's informal competition with the container veggies.

8. And if you're a small-space gardener, learn how much our 100-square-foot garden team is getting out of their tiny plot!

9. Make sure to check out our children's garden, with the growing Tunnel of Gourds, the popcorn plant (it doesn't grow popcorn, it smells like it!), the adorable fairy garden in a pot, the plants with animal names, and the Turtle of Succulents!

10. Also check out our composting operation, our fruit and herbs and butterfly garden and ponds; visit the plant clinic and the tool care table and the pollinator information table; pick up a free recycling bin. In other words, learn things and have fun!

More information and directions at this link - scroll  down to July 26. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Colorado Intrepretation on Raised Bed Construction

Having recently returned from Colorado, I thought I would share a unique method of rapidly assembling a raised bed.  While this method probably works well in Rifle, Colorado where rainfall during the summer is minimal, It would not work in Maryland due to soil moisture causing wood rot.

The method used is to embed pallets in the ground, wire them together and line the vertical walls with plastic to conserve soil moisture.  They back filled the raised bed with manufactured soil (composted lama manure and soil) and planted the beds.  The pipes in the corners are used to water the garden.  Interesting design.

Another interesting design feature in the same garden was their so called "Keyhole" garden.  This garden is made using bricks or block, back filled and a small wire cage placed in the center to act as a compost pile (too small and dry to do much composting).  This design could be incorporated into a patio landscape and would be great for herbs.

As we were leaving, the work crew of 5 and 6 year olds showed up to plant some of the unplanted raised beds.  All of the produce from this garden is donated to needy families in the town of Rifle, Co.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Vegetable garden bloggers' bloom day

Garden bloggers all know (or should) about the monthly event, hosted at May Dreams Gardens, known as Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. I usually join in from my Rogue Eggplant blog to show off my flowers, but why shouldn't the vegetable garden get to join in? Here's some of what's blooming today in the Derwood Demo Garden's veggie beds.

First of all, ta-da! Our cardoons are flowering.

Cardoons are some of my favorite flowers ever, enormous bright blue-purple thistle-like explosions, usually with bee accompaniment. The first two have popped out and we have a lot more buds waiting. You should be able to catch the show at our Grow It Eat It Open House on July 26. (More info here.)

Other veggie plants in bloom:

Runner bean 'Hestia'
A tangle of flowering radishes in the straw bales
Cucumbers - very prolific!
Flower on the end of a tromboncino squash
Vegetable flowers are fabulous - and quite a few of them are edible! I'm really wishing I'd taken that squash flower home so I could stuff it and fry it up…

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Basil downy mildew

Does your basil look like this? Then I'm sorry to say your plants are likely to have downy mildew, a fungal disease that's fatal to our favorite pesto ingredient. I found it on some of the Italian basil plants in my community garden plot yesterday, and had to pull them out. (Luckily I was able to bring them home, and throw the leaves into the food processor with pine nuts, garlic, olive oil and a touch of lemon juice. Humans - and pasta - are not affected by downy mildew.)

I'm hoping that prompt removal will mean the disease doesn't spread to my other basil plants, which are in a sunnier and airier location. Plant crowding is a big factor in susceptibility to downy mildew (along with wet weather), and my affected plants were a bit close to my peppers and my neighbor's encroaching tomatoes. We had downy mildew on basil in the demo garden a couple of years ago, and I noted the same crowding issue then. Also, it seemed that other types of basil - lemon, Thai, purple types - were less susceptible than Italian. Of course that's the kind I want most of!

See this UMD Extension page for more information and photos. Along with the yellowing of the leaf tops, you'll see a fuzzy gray coating on the leaf bottoms of infected plants. It's sad to have to take the plants out, but there's time to grow lots more basil before the season ends.