Central Virginia Organic Gardener

"And 'tis my faith that every flower enjoys the air it breathes." - William Wordsworth, 1798

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Recipe: Veggie poached eggs

Recipe: Veggie Poached Eggs
Casting around for a breakfast idea that uses garden produce (and was not an omelet-omelets are not my best dish), I came up with this one- you an be flexible about amounts and types of veggies, as long as you include some tomatoes for sauce:

1 T olive oil
1 onion, diced.
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 zucchini ,cubed
I red bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
1-2 large tomatoes, chopped (can be canned, stewed)
10 large basil leaves, chopped
Sprig of Mexican oregano leaves, chopped
3 -4 eggs (from a local farmer if you can!)
salt and pepper to taste

In a shallow saute pan, saute onion and garlic in olive oil until caramelized. Add peppers and saute about 5 minutes. Add zucchini and saute another 5. Add rest of ingredients EXCEPT EGGS and put a lid on the pan, keep on medium heat and cook until zucchini is soft and tomatoes "saucy." Make small wells in the pan, one for each egg and crack an egg into each well. Put the lid back on and poach in the vegetable juices for 3-5 minutes, or less or more depending on how well you like your eggs poached (I like mine with ever-so-slightly firmed yolks). I served it with toast and soysage- YUM!
Other ideas- add cumin and cilantro, use eggplant, add corn scraped off the cob!
Happy garden eating!
(And Happy 28th anniversary to my beloved!)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Grow Your Own

As if we needed more reasons to Grow Our Own Food: Eric Schlosser wrote a great editorial on food safety and the Food Safety Modernization Act for the New York Times at:

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Botany of Wilting 101

The Botany of Wilting 101
OK, this is not really a primer on the process of wilting (when a plant loses so much water its cells start to shrink, the cell walls collapse, the plant tries to close up its stomatae, those openings to the air around it, but cannot do so completely and continues to lose moisture to the dry air). You can see by the thermometer photo above, taken moments ago, that it is almost 105 here. In the shade on my porch. It is impossible to work outdoors in these conditions and my poor garden is miserable. Yields are down (for example, tomato pollen fries and dies when it hits the mid to upper 80's, so the plant cannot set new fruit), plants are looking tired and dusty and I am back to watering, dragging soaker hoses and sprinklers around at night so I can easily start them going in the wee hours of the morning. I have been getting up at 4 or 5 AM, turning on the sprinkler to water one of my four distinct veggie/fruit garden areas, taking my morning walk (all or part in the dark-at least I get to watch the cool bats fly around in my neighborhood at that hour!), then trying to do a few essential tasks before I wilt (every day-water the potted plants). A few plants just love the heat! Unfortunately, one of them is poison ivy and I have the rash to prove it. But, heh...heh...heh...even the crab grass is wilting!
I am about to go out and do a rain dance....
Happy gardening...if you can! Hoping for rain and cooler weather...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

CVOG review!

Check out a brief review of this garden blog at the very cool Metro DC Lawn and Garden Blog
Happy gardening!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Field Trip Report: Mt. Vernon

Field Trip: Mt. Vernon
This is sort of a field trip report-after all, summer is the time to travel and see historic gardens (right?). I am a fan of historic gardens and Mt. Vernon is no exception. Yes, I enjoy the house tours and museums (even if the tour guides and exhibits paint a picture of Washington or Jefferson or the "BMOH" [Big Man of History] and his family that is impossibly perfect), but I go to these places to see the gardens, really. I enjoy the colonial garden aesthetic (or, at least, the modern conceptualization of the colonial garden aesthetic) and I like to see what plants were around and in use at the time (though there is guesswork involved, as I suggested in my entry on the Cloisters). I have learned a lot from touring these gardens:for example, Jefferson's love of experimentation transferred to his garden and that Washington was a frugal gardener who was interested in protecting the soil (hence he gave up tobacco growing). I learned about candelabra espalier:
and living cordon fencing:
both of which I first saw at Mount Vernon. But I also learned that these historic gardens have gardeners and garden volunteers to pluck each offending weed and prune each little new apple sprout into the proper espalier shape, and far more resources (money, time, historical research, hands) than the average gardener has to spend on his or her garden. So, while I admire these gardens at a distance, and maybe envy them a little, I realize that what I am able to do is what is possible for one gardener, with occasional help from family. I can try to incorporate some design ideas from the Colonial (or other) eras, but they must be elements easy to maintain on my scale.
Oh, by the way, like artichokes? They are pretty!
Happy gardening!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Straw-Bale Gardening

Planting in Straw
A recent trend (though not a new technique) in gardening is straw-bale gardening, essentially conditioning bales of straw (not hay- hay has seeds and will sprout too much) and planting vegetable plants right in them. The photos above are of my neighbor's garden of straw bales. There are several on-line tutorials on how to do this. The basic steps are to condition the bale, and this involves watering the bale for several weeks before you plant, plus adding fertilizer to improve the nutrients in the bale and help it break down a little. The seedling plants are then planted right into the bale. Straw-bale gardening has several advantages- it greatly suppresses weeds, the straw breaks down and enhances the soil and you can easily add whatever fertilizers you need. If your garden soil has any plant viruses, the straw should suppress these as well, and they will not travel as easily into the plant. Another advantage I can see is in making a garden bed where one did not exist before- the bale will kill grass and break down into it, making your digging a far easier chore. The bales hold considerable water, but, as they are "high" they could get dry at the edges, though straw holds water in the interior well. Root crops are not well suited to this technique, but it seems to be good for tomatoes, peppers and squashes.

Some gardeners have been planting in untilled hay beds for years. They just add more hay every year and do not dig (the hay is not kept in a bale). You could layer the hay with leaves, compost or other organic matter to improve soil fertility. I might give this a go next season to see how it works.

Happy gardening!

Saturday, July 3, 2010



I like gooseberries. They are an under-utilized small fruit in the garden, possibly because they can harbor white pine disease, a virus that affects a valuable wood in northern forests. Gooseberries grow wild in the Shenandoah woodlands, so planting them in VA is not a problem (check with your local ag extension agent before planting gooseberries or currants, members of the Ribes family, for applicable laws in your state). Gooseberries are easy to grow (they like some sun and well-drained soil) and are lightly sweet when ripe (watch for the thorns when picking!). However, though easy to grow, I am often hard pressed to get any fruit off of them before the birds do, though this year I am finding more fruit on the plants. I was just about to follow my rule "If it does not produce, rip it out," but I am a little more hopeful that perhaps all the plants need to do is mature more intro higher production (wishful thinking? maybe)...so they have a reprieve for one more year! The ones pictured above are a variety that matures to a purple or red wine color, so it is easy to tell when these are ripe (you will never forget what an unripe one tastes like!)
Happy Gardening!