Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A gardener's New Year's resolutions

(Thanks to Flickr user way2go for this great image)

Usually, my only New Year's resolution is to resolve not to make New Year's resolutions. Since I've been stuck inside during the snowy weather much of the last couple of weeks, though, I've been thinking about what I can do now that will make my garden more successful in the 2009 season. I'm trying to avoid those unrealistic lists of "shoulds" that we all make, mentally or otherwise, but then ignore. Instead, I'm making a short but realistic list of things I actually intend to do. Here goes:

  1. First, and most importantly, I'm going to have my soil tested. My vegetable yields have been subpar for the last two seasons, and I suspect that's because my soil is getting depleted. I found a list of soil testing facilities on the Oregon State University Extension site, and I just contacted one for more information. I hope to submit a sample as soon as the snow melts enough that I can find my soil. I'm pretty sure it's somewhere under all the white stuff.

  2. I'm not going to grow stuff that I really don't like to eat. Yes, kohlrabi is cool-looking, but no one in my family really likes it. I still have some sitting in the garden from last spring. No more.

  3. If I start nothing else from seed, I'm going to start basil. Last year was my first year without homegrown basil in I-don't-remember-how-long, and I missed it terribly.

  4. I'm going to clean up the junk I have lying around in my yard. No matter how pretty the plants look, the first thing I notice when I look outside are the stacks of pots, the old wheelbarrow, and the other stuff I've left out.

There. That's my list. Now that the snow has melted, I can start on items 1 and 4 and item 3 in another couple months. Item 2 requires no work at all - my kind of resolution.

How about y'all, dear readers? What are your gardening resolutions?

Friday, December 26, 2008

What to do with a load of tomatoes, Part 2: Fresh tomato soup

I wrote this post a couple months ago but just realized I never posted it. If you took my advice and froze some tomatoes, you can use those to make this soup, which should warm you up nicely on these cold winter days. Here's the original post:

Ok, so you've made spaghetti sauce by the vat, and you're still overrun with tomatoes? Well, go get your stockpot, because today we're making soup! I found a great recipe for tomato soup: It's super-easy, very tasty, and gluten-free. If you substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth, it would even be vegan. I'm not going to post the actual recipe here, because it's on the Boston Globe site, and I try not to violate copyright because I prefer not to be sued. So, cruise over to and check it out. The best part? You don't even have to peel the tomatoes! Just throw everything in a big pot, then process it through a food mill when you're done. It's a great way to use up late-season tomatoes that often have soft spots or blemishes. Just cut away the icky part and throw the rest in the pot.

Snowmageddon 2008

OK, that's a dumb name, but not quite as dumb as Snowpocalypse, which I've also heard. It may not be the end of the world, but Portland is *snowy*. We've had some kind of cold white stuff on the ground for nearly 2 weeks, and most of us are sick of it. At its deepest, we had about 9" at my house, enough that I couldn't see where my raised beds stopped and the paths started. I still don't know what most of my plants look like, because they're still buried. I never thought I'd miss our winter rain, but I do.

The snow is pretty, though, and it makes the garden look like a winter wonderland. Here are some pictures I took on the snowiest days:

Rosemary buried in the snow:
Rosemary in the snow

Woodland garden in my backyard:
Snowy backyard

Frozen camellia buds:
Frozen camelia blossoms

Frozen horsetail and berries hanging over my frozen creek. Who knew weeds could be so pretty?
Frozen horsetail and berries by frozen creek

Frozen leeks:
Frozen leeks

Frozen rosebud:
Another frozen rosebud

I'm waiting for the snow to melt with some apprehension, wondering how many of my beloved plants will be done in by the cold and wind. Maybe I should move back to California.