The Licorice Flower

Exploring my new yard has led to many lovely surprises, and this week I discovered one more. There’s a flower I’ve been trying to grow for years: anise hyssop, or Agastache foeniculum (pronounced ag-ah-STACK-ee foe-NIK-yoo-lum). It’s a medium-sized, licorice-scented plant with spikey purple blossoms that are supposed to be very attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds. Over the years, I’ve probably bought four…

Is the Next Step Drinking Everything through a Straw?

Yesterday, I was cutting up a watermelon from the garden–a cute little 6-lb. Sugar Baby–when I thought to myself, My daughter is going to complain about the fact that it has seeds. “Yes, darling,” I began the reply in my head, “once upon a time all watermelons had seeds, and everyone knew how to spit them…

The Cost of Canning

After a sweaty afternoon spent laboring over pots of boiling water and green beans, I can’t help but ask myself: is it worth it? Is it worth a couple of hours on my feet–fingertips turning to prunes as they’re plunged repeatedly into the rinsing water–to turn 6 1/2 pounds of fresh beans into 5 quarts of canned ones? I…

How Long Does a Lemon Take to Ripen?

  There have been a lot of searches for citrus information lately on the blog, so I thought I’d give you an update on the dwarf lemon, lime, and orange trees I planted in pots last spring. They’ve been doing a lot of growing! The Washington navel orange and Meyer lemon arrived from One Green World basically…

Simplifying Pea Production

A look at any seed catalog will reveal at least three kinds of peas: shelling peas, snap peas, and snow peas. Shelling peas are the ones that show up in the canned and frozen vegetable sections at the supermarket. When you grow them at home, though, there’s quite a bit of work involved in getting all those little…

Strawberry Tortellini Salad

I’ve been crazy busy this spring, what with buying a new house and getting married! But not so busy that I haven’t been able to pick fresh strawberries almost every day. Our ever-bearing variety, Tristar, started bearing May 12 and has been going strong ever since. Homegrown strawberries are so delicious that you don’t really…

Ordering Seed Potatoes

In early January, when I took inventory of my seed stocks and sent off my 2013 order to Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, I told myself that I had plenty of time to order my seed potatoes later. I didn’t have to order everything at the same time this year because I’m ordering the seed potatoes…

The Resilient Gardener

I’ve read a lot of gardening books in my thirty-one years, and I’ve learned something new from every one. But it isn’t often that a book comes along in which I not only learn something new in every paragraph but each bit of new information feels absolutely vital. Carol Deppe’s book The Resilient Gardener is…

Fresh Winter Food: Turnips

Most people don’t think of winter as a season in which you can garden, but here in Virginia, you certainly can–even without greenhouses or cold frames. One of the foods we planted last fall and haven’t had to protect all winter is turnips. Now, it’s true that the temperatures down in the twenties a couple…

Starting Onions

Here in Zone 7, January is the time for starting onion seeds indoors: two months before the last expected frost. I got mine planted a little over a week ago, and the shoots are already green and unbending towards the sun. (When an onion seed first germinates, its stem is folded over with both ends…