Central Virginia Organic Gardener

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

Sunday, January 30, 2011


Indoor Mushrooms
I gave my sister-in-law an indoor Portabello mushroom kit for Christmas- she wanted it, but I was doubtful that it would do much. I had no experience with this product and thought she would need a dark, damp basement to make it work...and that it was a bit of a gimmick She got the kit. It was a box containing a fungusy, webby material (the "root" or "mother" of the fungal colony). Instructions were to wet down the contents, and to add some wetted soil-less mix that was included. She followed instructions and began misting it each day with tap water. By the way, she keeps it in her kitchen- no damp, dark basement needed. She got her first mushroom in about two weeks, and wondered if that was it, but 4 or 5 days later, more baby mushrooms budded up and, as you can see by the photo, she has quite a crop. As long as she keeps misting, the box should produce for many months to ?, until the spore is spent- then it will be time to compost the contents (and get a new kit from me!). It is possible to kill the mushroom "mother" by letting it dry out. Kits are not shipped in summer, so maybe overheating is a problem too. But so far, this seems to be a success!

Addenda: a recipe: Roasted Herbed Portabellos:
Take 4 Portabello mushrooms, wash and remove stems. Place gill side up in glass or ceramic roasting pan. Crush one clove of garlic into each cap and add a pinch of coarse salt. Mix 1/2c olive oil, 1/4 c balsamic vinegar (or red wine), 1 t sugar, 1/2 t salt and herbs to taste (basil, oregano, black pepper, I love marjoram). Pour over mushrooms and some onto the pan. Roast at 400 for 25 minutes, turn over and roast 10 minutes more. Good served atop mashed potatoes, on crusty bread, over rice or pasta. Can also roast with quartered onions and bell peppers in the same pan. (This is an overall nice marinade for veggies- chunked white or sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips...)
Happy (indoor) gardening!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Gardening Versus Landscaping

I have been checking out garden books for winter book reviews, settling on several books with "easy" in the title or description (a sign of age?). These books have reminded me of the distinction between what I like to do- gardening- versus landscaping. Many books about gardening are really about landscaping and follow the "House Beautiful" model, that is, the model that purports to show the reader how to achieve perfection, when it is really about cultivating desire. Now there is plenty of desire in the type of gardening I do (mostly to eat perfectly ripe and exquisitely tasty produce, but also to feed and nourish the bees, birds, butterflies and souls who see it), but this desire is not about comparison to neighbors or achieving "Martha" perfection. I do not do landscaping, I garden. I garden for the sheer pleasure of planting and watching the plants grow, for eating that luscious tomato or raspberry, for getting my hands in the dirt and my face in the sun. To me, landscaping is more static- creating some relatively stable group of plants, that are chosen for durability and set along the foundation or in and island bed. Gardening is far less controlled, and contains many more surprises (some good, some not) and allows for greater spontaneity. Above are two photos- the front yard when we moved in: it looked like every yard in the subdivision. The house had a boring lawn, a large pine tree and foundation shrubs. The next photo is the controlled chaos 8 years later. You decide which you like better.
That's all for now. Next week I will write about dealing with winter storm damage on trees and shrubs. Happy gardening!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Meyer Lemons

I had written an earlier post about hand pollinating my Meyer lemon plant last winter (taking pollen from one flower to others on a fine paintbrush) and getting two lemons. (The other day I hand pollinated about 10 blooms- we'll see what I get this year, though the plant had a bit of an bad adjustment to lower light conditions indoors this year).). This was very easy, and the lemon plant summered outdoors and the lemons grew very plump and fragrant. They are pictured above with the sliced lemons for a Shaker lemon pie that I made at Thanksgiving. Here's the recipe:

2-3 large lemons, organic Meyer or other
2 c sugar
3 eggs
1 pie crust

Slice lemons, rind and all, very thin (the Shakers valued all parts of the then rare and expensive lemons). Mix with the sugar and allow to soak, in fridge, overnight. In the morning, blind bake a pie crust till golden and allow to cool while you beat the eggs until light and add to the lemon mix. Pour filling into crust and bake in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes, then reduce to to 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes until custard is set. This is delicious, tart and sweet treat!
Happy gardening and cooking!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Book Review: Eddison, S. (2010). Gardening for a Lifetime: How to Garden Wiser as You Grow Older. Portland: Timber Press

As I launch further into my 50's, I realize that I already have some functional limitations in regard to gardening. Bad back, arthritis...I cannot go into the garden in the morning and emerge 8 hours later, all perky, like I used to do in my 30's. But I still manage and now have several strategies to get most of the work done- work in small bursts, use a wheeled garden stool, prioritize. So I was curious when I found this book on the library shelves. Sydney Eddison is a long-time gardener and garden writer. Eddison is a good writer: clear, understandable and from the heart. She describes both loss and plunging ahead to continue to do what she loves for as long as she can, an admirable philosophy (I mean, you can either grump over what you cannot do or do what you can). Her book reflects the aging gardener and at the end of each chapter she gives pithy advice for all of us. I recommend this book- a quick read, great advice. Some of my favorite bits of advice? "Accept imperfections" "Pick your battles" "Make the hard choices" "Gardener, know thyself," and find possibilities in what you have. If only we could, in all areas of life, follow that last bit of advice.
Happy gardening!