Monday, April 29, 2013

Kitchen Garden Progress - Week 5

Beets, beets & beets. These root veggies are delicious on the grill
Is the secret to our garden's success the legendary Willow Glen soil, or my ridiculously green thumb? 

Five weeks in and the vegetable garden is taking hold. Kristi's overabundant caution, and a penchant for humus and chicken manure, has so far proven successful.

Kristi and I set out at the end of March to create a sustainable garden that would serve as the primary source of vegetables this Summer, and provide the ingredients for canning experiments.  

See the complete photo gallery on tumblr

In our Week 1 post at the beginning of April, we shared our garden line up of veggies and herbs.  Since then we've added a small strawberry patch, green beans, cucumbers, half dozen habenero & ghost chili plants, and a compost pile that I constructed from salvaged bricks. Took us better part of an afternoon, but now we have a perpetual source of plant nutrients, and food waste (minus meat products) is diverted away from landfill.

Use twine to help sugar snap peas grow tall.
Our home is located in the Willow Glen neighborhood of San Jose. Supposedly, the soil in Willow Glen is very rich. We didn't take any risks. Kristi and I added an additional 20+ bags of humus and organic potting soil from South Bay Materials on Angela Street. This place is the best kept secret for landscaping.

Dogs love dirt.
Dogs love dirt!

Once we had the plants in the ground, the paver paths locked in, and the mini dog fence up, we opted to have the sprinkler system installed by a professional. 

Looking back at week 1, we've come a long way, and we still have the rest of the Summer to look forward to. We'll follow up on this with tips from lessons we've learned in our experiences in gardening.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Yams add yum factor to salad

 Quick, off the top of your head - name somebody you know that doesn't like yams?

Chances are, you can't. They're sweet, savory, filling - one of the ultimate comfort foods, and the perfect reason why yams belong in your salad.

Kristi stumbled upon this culinary stroke of genius one night, and I can't thank her enough.

If you're on a plan, such as a strictly Real Food diet, it's easy to get stuck in the salad rut, because salads are fairly quick & easy to make; they're healthy and low in carbs and fat. However, yams are, in fact, a good source of healthy carbohydrates. They're a good source of fiber and slow sugar - which your body processes at a better rate that high starch carbs (potatoes, white bread, pasta).

Learn more about the health benefits of yams

Adding yams to salad? Yes. here's our adapted recipe: season and portion to suit your needs.

Simple greens and grilled chicken salad

Mixed greens of your choice - add arugula :)
Sliced radish (3-4)
Sliced carrots (3-4)
Diced grilled chicken 1-2 breasts
1 yam - microwaved to cook, halved, rub w/olive oil and grill for approx. 2 minutes each side
Olive oil as dressing.

Season to taste with any of the following:
- salt
- fresh ground pepper
- thyme
- herbs d'provence
- fresh chopped basil
- cayenne pepper

Monday, April 8, 2013

2013 Kitchen Garden - Week 1

Last month we bought a house with a stellar kitchen, big backyard and lots of space to garden. After clearing out the weeds, we set out on planning, and planting our garden. We chose not to start from seed with this garden, as its our first year working with this soil, and I'm lazy like that.

Kristi used cloud-based garden planning software,  Given that Kristi and I both work at high tech companies, we applied our nerd-ish best practices to our home projects (we opted out of creating a PRD, however, we are developing a garden road map for 2013-2014).

Out key objectives were to create a garden:
  • Where food is easily attainable
  • Serve as our primary source of herbs for the Summer/Fall
  • Can be eaten off the plant and/or preserved
  • Provides a sustainable source of nutrient-rich soil
  •  Remains organic - no pesticides, no GMO seed, plants
Deciding to take this project on in phases, we prepared the area by clearing out the plot and turned over the soil by hand. Following that, we designated a corner of the garden to serve as the compost pile.

So, what did we plant in Phase 1?

Let's start with the herbs:

- Basil (Lemon Basil, Sweet Basil, and Herb Basil)
- Terragon (2 plants)
- Dill - (1 plant)
- Sage (1 plant)
- Cilantro (6 plants - turns into coriander)
- Rosemary (2  plants)
- Spearmint
- Peppermint
- Italian Parsley
- Oregano (2 plants)
- Thyme (1 plant)

Veggie Vegetables

A relative of mine runs Love Apple Farm, a kitchen garden for many high end restaurants in the  San Francisco Bay Area. So we have a lot to live up to here.

We have to have tomatoes. started with 5 tomato plants, and I can't wait to try the new one we've never planted in the past.

- Green Grape tomatoes (delish)            
- Yellow Pear (my favorite)
- Sweet 100 (first time with these)
- Cherry Tomato - 2, solid standby

- Jalapeno
- Serrano
- Thai Chili Peppers
- Caribbean Red Hot Pepper
- (plan to plant Fresno chilis and habaneros as well - and ghost chili if I can find it)

Leafy Greens
- Argula (5 sprouts)
- Assorted Kale
- Rainbow Chard (6 sprouts) 

Other Great Vegetables    

- Artichoke
- Carrots (GARDENING TIP: Tomatoes love carrots. Sow your carrot seeds between your tomato plants)
- Sunflowers
- Sugar Snap Peas (EXPERIMENT: I planted the peas and the sunflowers close together in hopes that the pea vines will climb the sunflower stalks. 
- Zucchini (I think I planted way to many seeds, but we'll see what comes of it)

Next steps: Layout a paver path with flagstones, construct a compost bin, plant beets, lemongrass, cucumber, a strawberry patch, beans, the above mentioned peppers, install a drip system and get some ladybugs!