Friday, January 25, 2013

A Carrot This Is Not


 Despite the similarity
And vague familiarity
The startling reality

Its look is bland and creamier 
Its nutty taste extremier
Some large and quite supremier

So now I have you wondering
And clamoring and blundering
"What vegetable?" You're thundering

Eat parsnips all parsnipitty
In stews you'll shout out, "Yippity!"
A flavor deep and drippity

Judith Natelli McLaughton
(from her book Poems on Fruits and Odes to Veggies)

I grow ENORMOUS parsnips! They are definitely "large and quite supremier" like those in McLaughton's aptly worded poem. One thing I love about parsnips is that when everything else has been harvested, this winter vegetable is still developing. I love eating a fresh vegetable from my garden in the middle of winter! The flavor of the parsnip is not fully developed, in my opinion, until the roots have been exposed to a few frosts, as they need the cold temperatures to convert their starch to sugar. I sometimes leave some of them in the ground until spring. During the recent January thaw, however, I went outside with spade and bucket and dug up some beauties.

 You should sow parsnip seeds where they wont be disturbed, as parsnips have a very long growing period of up to 150 days. They perform well in all types of soil, but prefer a pH of 6.2 to 7.2 for best root development. I add organic matter, but not fresh manure as this causes the parsnips to 'fork' or split into several roots. I grow all my vegetables in raised beds, and last year I added a deeper one that proved to be ideal for parsnips.

Seeds beginning to germinate in the new raised bed.
Parsnip seeds must be fresh, so they cannot be kept from one year to the next. Some recommend soaking them in water overnight to speed germination. Using square-foot gardening practices, I sow 3-4 seeds in each square foot. I sometimes grow lettuces in alternate squares to get a little extra out of the parsnips bed. I have harvested the lettuces before the parsnips need all the space. I give the plants at least an inch of water a week to ensure tender roots, and in the middle of the growing season I spray them with compost tea. I top the bed with straw before the first hard freeze to overwinter the crop.

Wedges of parsnip, brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with pepper make a wonderful side dish when cooked in a very hot oven for about 20 minutes. I add parsnips to winter soups and stews -- with delicious results. They are very nutritious, containing as much calcium as whole milk and 2/3 more potassium -- a good choice if you are sensitive to dairy products.

Since harvesting the parsnips, the Wacky Weather I described in my last posting continued with an arctic freeze. Brr... I haven't been outside to take photos since the freeze began earlier this week. The temperature was -5F / -20C last night and didn't rise above 18F / -7C today. I'm glad I took a few pics during the January thaw.

Daffodil Shoots in the January Thaw
Hellebore Buds
English Bluebells
Of course, the new shoots and buds are covered with snow again, and it's snowing as I write this.

When I harvested the parsnips, Billy enjoyed eating the tops almost as much as he likes carrot tops.

Dude came over to take a look. His winter coat makes him appear more like a black bear than a mini horse -- Compare the picture below with the one in the sidebar which was taken in July.

Dude in his warm winter coat.
I hope you are finding a way to keep warm if you are experiencing a harsh winter! This is a good time to sit next to the fireplace with the seed catalogs. The best part of winter is planning the spring garden -- oh, and eating parsnip stew!

Pamela x

Woodland Walk during the Jan. thaw.

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Sunday, January 13, 2013

Wacky Weather, Signature Plants, and Phenology Findings

January Thaw
 We are experiencing some topsy-turvy January weather across the USA, with warm weather where it should be cold and cold where it should be warm. In my Northeast PA garden, snow has thawed and fallen from tree branches and roofs. I can see patches of green on the lawn and in the fields and MUD everywhere. It's foggy this morning as all that snow evaporates. A January thaw here is not unusual, but there are record high temperatures up and down the eastern seaboard, and record cold temperatures on the western side of the country. This comes as NOAA scientists issue their report stating 2012 was the warmest and second most extreme year on record for the contiguous U.S. You can read the report if you click here.

English Bluebells - my first Signature Plant

The report comes as no surprise to gardeners. Following a non-existent winter and with a record warm spring, my confused spring plants bloomed early -- check out my 2012 March Madness posting.  West Nile virus hit early, and the PA Breeding Bird Census shows several birds expanded their ranges northward. As Diane Husic, leader of the Eastern PA Phenology project says, "The times they are a changing ..."

(Remember to click on words colored red to go to the links.)

What will 2013 bring? We are already experiencing strange phenomena in the plant world with reports of cherry blossoms in Washington DC -- in January? Wow!  The Eastern PA Phenology Project blog gives a full report here - a must read!

Echinacea purpurea (eastern purple coneflower)
My blog has played a small part in the project since March 2011. Read Phenology: My New Favorite Science if it's new to you. I am excited to report whatever phenomena 2013 will bring to my small corner of the world.

Creeping phlox subulata

I have illustrated this posting with twelve plants I chose for the 'Dozen for Diana' meme. These are 'must-have' plants for my garden if I was starting over. I chose a groundcover (creeping phlox), a vine (clematis), a shrub (rose), a grass (zebra grass), an annual (zinnia), two trees (black walnut and cherry), and three perennials (purple cone flower, daylily, and hellebore.) I thought about seasonal interest and color.

David Austin Rose Rosa "Lichfield Angel"

On the whole, I am happy with my choices, but if I did it over I would definitely pick more native plants.

Hemerocallis Daylily 'Chicago Apache'
Diana, who lives and gardens in South Africa,  has a brand new blog to go along with her new home. She has moved her Dozen for Diana meme to the new blog, Elephants Eye at False Bay. Do check it out to follow how Diana is planning her new garden. Many of you are familiar with her old blog, Elephants Eye. I love her new one -- do check it out.

Milkweed, Asclepias, is the host plant for Monarch butterflies.


Cherry blossom

Miscanthus sinensis 'Zebrinus.' Zebra grass

Hellebore Helleborus sp

Clematis 'Tie Dye'

As I said in my last posting, 2012 was a good year in my garden, in spite of the wacky weather. I know all my U.S. gardening friends experienced extremes, as did gardeners all around the world. This year is already promising to be another unusual one with unprecedented weather conditions.  Bring it on -- we gardeners are ready!

Happy Gardening!
Pamela x

Walnut Trees, here and in the lead picture above.

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Sunday, January 6, 2013

It Was A Very Good Year

The fawn was my daily companion as I gardened in 2012
Looking back on 2012, to quote Sinatra, "It was a very good year" in my garden. Here are some of the highlights.

My beets took a 'first' ribbon at the West End Fair and my zinnias took a 'second ' in the 'floor display' there.

 Spring came very early with delightful daffodils ...

I planted 100 daffodils in this bed several years ago, and it really filled out.

also my favorite spring flower, the pretty violet ...

... and of course fragrant honeysuckle.

Looking into the shade garden.

The summer cottage garden was enhanced by the newly acquired hollyhocks, given to me by my dear friend, Katharine.

Left to right: hollyhocks, butterfly bush, daylilies, and perennial geranium.

The pond came into its own in 2012, with a reworked waterfall and additional plants.

In spite of rose rosette disease attacking the nearby wild roses, my cultivated roses thrived. Fingers crossed for 2013.

Hostas in the shade garden were especially beautiful. The cottage garden was lovely in every season.

Miniature hostas in a tub, surrounded by spider plant, lamium, and other shade plants.
The cottage garden in September

Many critters visited my 2012 garden including lots of butterflies on the milkweed that I planted at the bottom of the kitchen garden.


There were frogs, frogs and more frogs in and around the pond ...

One of our MANY frogs.

2012 was a very good year; I can't wait to see what 2013 brings.

Wishing you a very happy new gardening year!

Pamela x

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