Spring is here! There’s no better time to get outside and get your hands in the dirt!
Now is the ideal time to plant some cool weather vegetables and herbs. Go time is when you can work the ground and the daytime temperature is approximately 40 degrees during the day.
Early spring cold hearty vegetables:
- All lettuce
- Swiss chard
- · Radish
Early spring cold hearty herbs:
- All mints
As spring slowly turns into summer it is now time to think about planting your summer vegetables.
While there’s no set time as to when to plant these, here are a few rules of thumb to follow:
- Do not plant until the last chance of frost has gone by, usually the last full moon in May.
- Soil temperature needs to be 65 to 70 degrees. There’s an old saying that if you did a hole and you can’t comfortably put your hand in that hole and leave it there without pulling it away because of the cold then you shouldn’t be planting your plants just yet.
- Early isn’t always better. Your plant doesn’t start growing faster just because you planted it early, it’s just the opposite.
Your plant will just sit there and not grow at all until the soil temperature warms up. And by chance, the plant gets hits with colder temps you can risk losing the plant altogether or at the very least cut your yield in half.
And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to lose any of those delicious summer vegetables.
Don’t forget to feed your plants all summer long as they will be feeding you!
Now that we are starting to see and enjoy some nice weather, my family’s container gardens at our house are starting to take off. My wife always requests that we have at least one big pot of herbs growing on our deck each summer and this year we have two. My daughter, Nora, planted an herb bowl for Mother’s Day
at our Kids Klub event and Kirstin potted up a great assortment for us a few weeks ago. My wife uses a lot of fresh herbs when she cooks and this time of year it is so convenient to walk right out on the deck and snip some herbs. We all have our must-haves but on our list is definitely: BBQ Rosemary, Genovese Basil, English Thyme, Flat leaf Parsley and Mojito Mint. If you are looking for something fun and different, try Pesto Perpetua Basil. It is a variegated leaf, great grower, EXTREMELY pungent and flavorful as well as looks great in containers even amongst flowers. A bonus for all you foodscaping enthusiasts. This past weekend she made one of my favorites, Turkey Meatloaf that she has adapted from The Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten. Give it a whirl, let me know how you like it!
Turkey Meatloaf with fresh Thyme:
Pre-heat oven to 325
Olive oil for sautéing
2 medium sweet onions chopped up
3 tablespoons fresh thyme (pull the little leaves off of the woody stems)
3-4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
4 tablespoons ketchup (we use Heinz Simply Ketchup)
2 LBs lean ground turkey meat
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
1/4 cup fresh parmesan cheese
1 large egg beaten
Ketchup for topping.
Heat the olive oil on low/medium in a medium sauté/frying pan and add the chopped onions. Sauté until slightly translucent. *Hint* In our house we always start the onions with a few tablespoons of olive oil but usually use a little water if they start sticking to the pan to cut down on the amount of oil we use. After the onions have been sautéed for a few minutes, add the Worcestershire sauce, 4 tablespoons of ketchup, and the fresh thyme leaves and cook for about 5 minutes. Pull the pan off of the stove and let it cool.
Line a large cookie sheet (with sides) or a Pyrex cooking dish with a sheet of tin foil for easy clean-up later.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the ground turkey, bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, egg, and cooled onion mixture. Make sure to take off any rings you have on because we are about to get messy! Using your hands, mix all ingredients together. Once everything is mixed, form a “loaf” on the cookie sheet. Grab your ketchup bottle and pour a generous amount of ketchup over the top of the “loaf”. Using a spoon, spread the ketchup evenly across the top.
Slide your cooking sheet into the oven (middle shelf if you can) and let it bake for about an hour or until the internal temperature of the center of the meatloaf reaches 165.
Not only does this make a great dinner, but even better is leftovers on a sandwich for lunch the next day!
Ryan Van Wilgen
Guess what guys?! Herbs are so easy! If you have never gardened before and you would like to make the foray into the world of gardening…go for it with herbs. Not only are they easy but they are fun, practical, delicious, and pretty. There is not a ton you need to know about herb care, thus the “easy” part. But, you know me…I can’t just say nothing! Really, I am only trying to help. Pinky swear.
A FEW TIPS FOR EASY HERB CARE:
- Your soil must be well-draining. Use a regular potting mix like Van Wilgen’s Professional Potting Mix. Don’t use heavy compost or topsoil. If you are planting the herbs in the ground, be sure to lighten up the soil especially if it currently feels like brown pavement. Use some VW Planting Mix amended into the soil to keep it loose.
- Here is a little trick that your neighbors won’t know. Add a little Greensand to the soil when you are planting your herbs. Not only is it a natural soil conditioner that helps with drainage but it gives herbs the extra mineral boost they need.
- Herbs need fertilizer but don’t go crazy. I have two favorite fertilizers I like. Trick #2: Kelp Meal is great for adding flavor to your herbs. If you love to cook and what to really get full flavor from your herbs, hit them with a little Kelp Meal. It makes them more delicious. Van Wilgen’s Root Boost is the other fertilizer I use on Herbs. It is organic and well-balanced with Kelp Meal to boot. Use Root Boost every couple of weeks applied to the herbs foliage.
- Keep herbs damp daily. I know, I know, I said that the soil needs to be well-draining with herbs. This is true but they are also happier if the soil is damp every day. Confusing huh? What I am trying to say is that in the heat of summer, herbs need to be watered daily but the soil they are planted in needs to drain efficiently.
- Don’t be afraid to harvest your herbs. The more you use them, the more herbs you get. I used to make the mistake of taking off the bottom leaves of my Basil plant before the top. Silly me. It is best to harvest herbs from the top. You can even pinch herbs back ½ way down the stem. This keeps them from getting leggy.
- Don’t buy herbs if your main desire is for flowers. Yes, herbs do flower but the flowers are rather insignificant and if you really want to use herbs for cooking, letting them flower is not the best idea. Once herbs flower and go to seed, it indicates they are at the end of their lifecycle for the season. If a flower appears, pinch it right off. By cutting off flowers, herbs live longer lives, are better for harvesting and I think even taste better.
- Give them some sunshine. Most herbs are happier in full sun (5 plus hours) so don’t deprive them. Although, I do find that herbs in my yard do a little better if not all of the sun is afternoon soon. Some herbs can handle less sunlight like chives and mint.
- Only plant mint in pots. I love mint. Don’t get me wrong, making my own summer cocktails with Mojito Mint is so fun but mint in the ground is aggressive. If you are looking for an herb to take over a garden bed, then mint is your herb.
My final tip for easy herb care is just to have fun. Mix up herbs with annual flowers. Plant them in cute, little pots on your windowsill, fill a window box with herbs and flowers for easy harvesting, cook with them, and drink with them. If you are a beginning gardener or well-seasoned, herbs are for everyone.
Come see us at Van Wilgen’s. We would love to help!
*VW Potting Mix
*VW Root Boost
It’s time to start your seeds. Most seeds should be started about 6 weeks before our last frost day. In the gardening world, we like to use Mother’s Day as the last frost date.
For cold weather crops like peas, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, spinach, and kale you can sow them outside now. We have a great variety of cool weather vegetable seeds to choose from. I have read that is it lucky to plant peas on St. Patrick’s Day. Not sure if other cool-weather plants will bring you luck but they sure will be delicious fresh-picked from your garden this year. Remember New England weather is erratic. We may get a few cold/frost nights where you will want to cover your seedlings with a warm harvest blanket to protect them.
There are many ways to start your seeds. You can begin them in starter kits, trays, and peat pots. Peat pots can be placed right into the ground when ready. Espoma Organic Seed Starting Mix and Fafard Seed Starter Mix are excellent soils to start your baby seeds. Don’t forget to label your seeds.
If you have a south-facing window place your seeds there. If not, we have many different grow lights to help your seeds get the approximate 15 hours of daylight they need.
Flowers have many different attributes. Start your favorite flowers by seed now. Some flowers/herbs are excellent pollinators and help keep certain bugs away from your vegetable garden. Marigolds attract bees and butterflies. Nasturtiums, besides being edible, also help keep away many unwanted insects. The very fragrant lavender is also an excellent general pest repellent flower to use in your garden.
Stop in and get your seeding started right away!