Friday, February 27, 2015

Susan's on Pinterest!

Do you use Pinterest? If you don't, you've probably heard of it but aren't sure what it is or how to use it.

Pinterest is a website where a person can create virtual bulletin boards (or view other folks' boards) of great ideas. You do have to sign in to Pinterest in order to view them, but there are no costs involved and no ads to distract you. You'll quickly find the boards and ideas on them are a feast for the eyes!

These virtual bulletin boards can be on all sorts of subjects: home decor, gardening, recipes, travel, fashion, crafts and so on. Maybe you used to (or still do) clip recipes and shove them into a binder. Well, this is the same idea, although the binder method can make it difficult to track down a specific recipe (I'm speaking from personal experience here!).

Several months ago, I decided it was time for me to get on Pinterest and create my own bulletin boards of ideas. Since then, I've been adding all sorts of "pins" (that's what you call a copy of someone else's idea from their bulletin boards) to mine. I had a few boards on Pinterest but they were chock-full of great ideas.

For example, I have a board called "Garden Travels" which is one of my favorites! I absolutely love to travel and especially love visiting public and private gardens. There are many places on this board that are on my bucket list, and many that I have already visited and highly recommend.

Last weekend, I realized that I really needed to organize my pins better so you can more easily find ideas for projects you might have in mind.

I've done that and now I have the following 13 boards:

  • Fall/Winter Gardening
  • Fresh Food from the Garden (recipe ideas or how to harvest and process produce)
  • Garden DIY Projects
  • Garden Travels
  • Greenhouses & Potting Sheds
  • Growing Berries & Tree Fruits
  • Growing Bulbs
  • Growing Vegetables & Herbs
  • Holiday Decor
  • Sew Many Quilts, So Little Time (on quilting, one of my favorite hobbies)
  • Succulents
  • Susan's In The Garden (general gardening topics such as landscape ideas)
  • Vertical Gardening
I would love for you to follow me on Pinterest and enjoy the great ideas I've found for you! You can do this by going to my Pinterest page and becoming a follower. It's easy to do. Also, remember that on this blog, I always have a link to my Pinterest page in the upper right-hand column -- just look for my name with the little red "P" in front of it.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Vegetable seed sources

I've had a few folks ask me where I've gotten the seeds that we'll be growing in our vegetable garden this year. So here is the list of veggies from last Sunday's column. You'll notice a number (or numbers) following each variety, which will correspond with the list of sources down below.

Also, if you live in the Spokane area, remember to check out the seed selection at Northwest Seed & Pet. Their employee who orders all of their seeds asked me a few months ago to give her the list of what I'd be growing, with the intent of getting in as many of them as possible. She knows readers will be asking for them!

Thanks so much for your interest.

Arugula - 'Sylvetta' 14
Artichoke - 'Green Globe' 6, 'Imperial Star'  14
Basil - 'Lettuce Leaf' 12, 'Aurelia' 12
Bean, Bush - 'French Baby Filet' 7
Bean, Pole - 'Italian Snap' 14, 'Rich Purple Pod' 12
Beet - 'Cylindra' 1 or 5, 'Albino' 1 or 5
Carrots - 'Tendersweet' 10, 'Starica' 12, 'King Midas Long' 12, 'Mokum Hybrid' 1
Celery - 'Tango' 12
Cilantro - 'Bac Lieu' 12
Corn - 'Luscious' 7
Cucumber - 'Platinum' 14, 'Parisian Gherkin' 13
Kale - 'Tuscan Baby Leaf' 12
Leek - 'King Richard' 14, 10, 6
Lettuce - 'Ruby Glow' 1 or 2, 'Outredgeous' 14, 'Renee’s Baby Leaf' 12
Melon - 'Arava' 14, 'El Gordo' 1, 'Napoli' 12
Onion - 'Copra' 3, 'Yellow Sweet Spanish' 3
Parsnip - 'Andover' 7
Pea - 'Green Arrow' 14, 'Golden Sweet' 2, 10, 15, 5
Pepper - 'Sunset Mix' 12
Potato - 'Viking Purple' 9
Pumpkin - 'Casper' 7, 'New England Pie' 7
Spinach - 'Bordeaux' 6
Squash, Summer - 'Romanesco' zucchini 12, 'Trombetta Climbing' 12
Squash, Winter - 'Sweet Meat' 7, 'Lakota' 6, 'Sweet Dumpling' 6, 'Cream of the Crop Acorn' 5, 'Blue Ballet Hubbard' 10
Swiss Chard - 'Peppermint Stick' 12
Tomatillo - 'Toma Verde' 10
Tomato - 'Italian Pompeii' 12, 'Jetstar' 8

1 - Burpee
2 - Cook's Garden
3 - Dixondale Farms (onion starts)
4 - Ferry-Morse Seeds (usually found at garden centers)
5 - Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
6 - Botanical Interests
7 - Ed Hume Seeds
8 - Harris Seeds
9 - Irish Eyes Garden Seeds (seed potatoes)
10 - Johnny's Selected Seeds
11 - Nichols Garden Nursery
12 - Renee's Garden Seeds
13 - Seeds by Design (wholesale company, but Parisian Gherkin available through Baker Creek and Burpee)
14 - Seeds of Change
15 - Territorial Seed

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Feb. 22 column

Every year, I write garden columns for The Spokesman-Review from February to October.

I'm happy to report that my first column of the 2015 garden season has run in today's edition of the paper. Here is a link to it: Time to dig deep.

In it, I talk about what I'll be growing in this year's vegetable garden, the newest structure in my garden and how it will be used through both the warm and cold months of the year, and the importance of building your soil every year for the best success at growing plants.

And speaking of soil, it is too early to start working with it because it's still too damp. It's best to wait until the soil has dried out a bit and is crumbly; working with it too early will damage the structure of the soil and it will be miserable to work with through the rest of the season. I learned this lesson the hard way many years ago and, let me tell you, it wasn't pretty!

The easiest way to tell if it's dry enough is to pick up a handful of soil. Squeeze it in your palm. If you've just made a small mud pie and/or your hand is wet, the soil is too damp. But if your hand isn't wet and you are able to poke apart the ball of soil into crumbly bits, it is safe to start working with the soil.

I just noticed that the online version of my column doesn't include the list of what I'm growing in my garden this year so here it is:

Arugula - 'Sylvetta'
Artichoke - 'Green Globe', 'Imperial Star'
Basil - 'Lettuce Leaf', 'Aurelia'
Bean, Bush - 'French Baby Filet'
Bean, Pole - 'Italian Snap', 'Rich Purple Pod'
Beet - 'Cylindra', 'Albino'
Carrots - 'Tendersweet', 'Starica', 'King Midas Long', 'Mokum Hybrid'
Celery - 'Tango'
Cilantro - 'Bac Lieu'
Corn - 'Luscious'
Cucumber - 'Platinum', 'Parisian Gherkin'
Kale - 'Tuscan Baby Leaf'
Leek - 'King Richard'
Lettuce - 'Ruby Glow', 'Outredgeous', 'Renee’s Baby Leaf'
Melon - 'Arava', 'El Gordo', 'Napoli'
Onion - 'Copra', 'Yellow Sweet Spanish'
Parsnip - 'Andover'
Pea - 'Green Arrow', 'Golden Sweet'
Pepper - 'Sunset Mix'
Potato - 'Viking Purple'
Pumpkin - 'Casper', 'New England Pie'
Spinach - 'Bordeaux'
Squash, Summer - 'Romanesco' zucchini, 'Trombetta Climbing'
Squash, Winter - 'Sweet Meat', 'Lakota', 'Sweet Dumpling', 'Cream of the Crop Acorn', 'Blue Ballet Hubbard'
Swiss Chard - 'Peppermint Stick'
Tomatillo - 'Toma Verde'
Tomato - 'Italian Pompeii', 'Jetstar'

I hope you'll enjoy today's column! Next week, I'll write about some of the newest vegetable varieties available this year. It's always fun to see what the plant breeders have been up to.

Happy gardening!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Business profile: Hudson Valley Seed Library

Another business I visited at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show last week was the Hudson Valley Seed Library.

What really caught my attention were the beautiful, sometimes whimsical, packets of seeds. Their Art Packs open out so you can enjoy the beautiful artwork. You can also purchase gift baskets of Art Pack collections.

I love the goat artwork on this packet of peas!
This booth was very popular with those who attended the show!

According to their business card, the Hudson Valley Seed Library "carefully saves, grows, and shares heirloom seeds. Our artist-designed packs celebrate the diversity of their stories. When you grow a garden with our seeds you are keeping a whole library of stories alive."

They are based in Accord, New York, which explains the name of the business.

The seed packets are so attractive, you'll want to save them and/or give them as gifts, They also offer art prints, books, tools, apparel and other gift items.

You can find their website here or request a seed catalog at this link.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Business profile: Victory Garden of Tomorrow

While at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show in Seattle last week, I came across a wonderful booth in the Marketplace area and wanted to share it with you.

The name of the business is Victory Garden of Tomorrow, which is owned by Joe Wirtheim. Joe is an illustrator who has designed, as he puts it, "posters and usable goods for families, teachers, gardeners and all those working to change the world."

Joe explained to me that Victory Garden of Tomorrow is "an all-original propaganda campaign for chickens, food, and gardens... to help people stay empowered and stay in touch with a healthy lifestyle."

What drew me into his booth were the colorful, vintage-style signs and posters with messages like "We have a Victory Garden," "Eat Great Things," "Pickle Dreamin'" and "Thrifty for Victory."

Joe also designed some really cool-looking "bandannas for Victory Gardeners." There are embroidered badges (with messages such as "Break New Ground" and "Victory Garden of Tomorrow") and flour-sack towels that also carry these attractive designs. One of them has chickens on it and the caption is "You gonna eat that?" as a way to promote raising chickens on kitchen scraps.

Any of these items would look great in your home or garden, and make fabulous, welcome gifts for gardening friends.

So this is definitely worth checking out, folks! You can find Joe's website at Also, he says you can get 10% off your order if you use the promo code of "tenoff." Such a deal!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Raised bed gardening class

I am absolutely crazy about raised-bed gardening! You are looking at a photo of my vegetable garden, which is comprised of 26 raised beds. No, that wasn't a typo. I really do have 26 of them!

I was turned onto them way back in 1981 and over the years, my husband Bill and I have been fine-tuning them so they are as productive as possible. This has involved testing different building materials and creating accessories for the beds so our garden is as successful as possible.

Why am I telling you all this? Well, if you have been curious about raised-bed gardening, or if you have new beds, you will be interested to learn that I will be teaching a class on raised beds on Saturday, Feb. 21 from 9 a.m. to 12 noon.

The class is sponsored by the WSU/Spokane County Master Gardeners and costs $12.

In it, you will learn about the best building materials to use (and which ones to avoid), ways to make trellises and hoops for either growing plants vertically or protecting the plants from cold temperatures and/or pesky insects. Then I will go into growing vegetables in raised beds, which includes a great deal of information that I've learned over the years. This will be a very useful class!

I teach a lot of classes throughout the year and the raised bed class is definitely my very favorite! It's such a fun topic.

I hope you can join me for it! To learn more, call or email Anna Kestell (509-477-2195 or and to register for the class, go to the Master Gardener Foundation of Spokane County's website.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Overwintering geraniums

Last fall, I conducted an experiment: overwintering my geraniums.

You'd think that as a Master Gardener and plant enthusiast, I would already know how to do that. But, to be honest it's not something I'd ever tried before.

That is, until last October. I did some research and am delighted to report that it has gone even better than I could imagine.

I've filmed two videos on the subject and am including links to them on my YouTube channel:

1. How to Overwinter Geraniums: This one covers the basics and shows the two techniques I used.
2. Overwintering Geraniums, Part Two: This second video shows how to prepare your overwintered plants for potting up and getting them to grow.

If you're interested in seeing the blog updates I did, showing the plants' progress, here they are:

1. Overwintering geraniums: Two-month update
2. Overwintering geraniums: Three-month update

I hope this information will encourage you to try saving your geraniums at the end of this year's growing season!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Product review: Bottle-top Waterers

Photo courtesy of Lee Valley Tools.
A few years ago, a gardening friend of mine gave me a little package of bottle-top waterers. I'd never seen them at garden centers or online but I quickly grew very attached to them!

As you can see, they screw onto plastic pop bottles and are ideal for watering seed-starting flats, seedlings and houseplants.

Photo courtesy of Lee Valley Tools.
They come in a set of four, with different sizes of openings, which provides different types of spray patterns. Mine have held up very well so they're a good value. The waterers are made in the U.K.

Photo courtesy of Lee Valley Tools.
Now that I'm beginning my annual seed-starting routine, I love having a recycled pop bottle right next to the flats so I can can easily (and neatly) water everything. Once I move the seedlings out to my small greenhouse, I make sure I have another pop bottle on hand for watering them there.

I discovered the bottle-top waterers are sold by Lee Valley Tools for $5.95 and here is a direct link to their website. I have ordered products from Lee Valley before and have always been satisfied with the quality and their service.

Here is additional information on Lee Valley Tools:
Photo courtesy of Lee Valley Tools.
Lee Valley Tools Ltd.
P.O. Box 1780
Odgensburg, NY 13669-6780
Phone: (800) 871-8158
Fax: (800) 513-7885

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Book review: "The Renee's Garden Cookbook"

The Renee's Garden Cookbook: Delicious Recipes for Everyday Cooking With Growing Advice for Kitchen Gardeners by Renee Shepherd and Fran Raboff (Shepherd Publishing, 158 pp., $17.95)

by Susan Mulvihill

Whenever I get a new cookbook, the first thing I do is go through it and mark each recipe that catches my eye with a sticky note. In the case of "The Renee's Garden Cookbook," I quickly ran out of those sticky notes!

Here's just a sampling of recipes that I know I'll be making: Baked Cauliflower with Ricotta and Chives; Chard and Potato Soup; Orzo with Arugula and Mushrooms; Caramelized Leek and Onion Tart; Ginger-Glazed Roasted Root Vegetables and Onions; Pam's Fresh Pea Soup; Deep Dish Summer Vegetable Casserole with Peppers, Chiles and Herbs; Baked Tomatoes Stuffed with Sweet Italian Sausage, Fresh Herbs and Rice; and Fran's Orange-Scented Chocolate Zucchini Cake.

As gardeners, we are all blessed with an abundance of fresh,delicious produce that is a joy to prepare and savor. But if you're like me, I sometimes get into a rut with the way I prepare certain vegetables. This cookbook gives me the opportunity to expand my repertoire in a delicious way.

The cookbook is organized in two ways, making it easy to come up with recipes for seasonal veggies and herbs.

First, the main section is divided into all of the types of vegetables you can think of: artichokes, beans, beets and broccoli, for example. There is also an herb section that includes recipes using savory or sweet herbs.

Second, the extensive index not only covers all of the vegetables or herbs in the book but it also includes other ingredients found within the recipes. That makes it easy to either select a recipe based on the produce you have available or on what you have in your refrigerator or pantry, such as chicken or pasta. Won't that make meal-planning a breeze?

Since this is February, you might think there wouldn't be many recipes for what you currently have on hand. Not so! I still have plenty of winter squash, pumpkins, onions, potatoes, parsnips, carrots and frozen chard available and "The Renee's Garden Cookbook" includes all sorts of recipes that use those very ingredients. So this is a cookbook you will use throughout the year.

It is filled with beautiful, colorful illustrations reminiscent of the attractive packets of seeds from Renee's Garden that you frequently see in garden centers.

A bonus for gardeners is that the book is also filled with advice on growing the types of vegetables and herbs found within it, so it's a good resource as well.

Renee Shepherd has graciously allowed me to reprint the following recipe for roasted pumpkin soup, which I made for dinner last night. It was absolutely delicious! The combination of curry powder, apple, fresh ginger and lime juice gave the soup a complex, rich flavor which I found very satisfying.

Roasted Pumpkin Soup

2 pounds fresh pumpkin
1 large onion, unpeeled, cut in half
3 leeks, white part only
3 cloves garlic, unpeeled
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
tablespoons butter
tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1 apple, peeled, cored and diced
1 teaspoon curry powder
3 cups chicken broth
tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice
1 cup milk
salt and freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup chopped chives

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Cut the pumpkin into large chunks. Remove any seeds and pithy pulp. Place the pumpkin chunks and onion halves, cut side down, on an oiled baking sheet along with the leeks and garlic cloves. Brush all the vegetables with 2 tablespoons of the oil and cover with foil. Bake 25 minutes. Remove garlic cloves and reserve. Bake the pumpkins, onion and leeks for 25 to 30 minutes longer, or until they are tender. Cool. Peel all the vegetables, including the garlic cloves, then coarsely chop.

In a 4 to 5-quart pot, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil with the butter. Add the ginger and apple. Saute until softened. Stir in the curry powder. Add the reserved baked vegetables and garlic and the chicken broth. Bring to boil, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, or until vegetables are very tender. Stir in the lemon (or lime) juice. Puree in batches in a blender or food processor. Return the soup to the pot, add the milk and heat just until the soup is hot. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot in bowls, gardening each portion with chopped chives.

Serves 6.

"The Renee's Garden Cookbook" can be purchased online through Renee's Garden, at

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Winter garden update #3

Our hoophouse, which is covering the 2 winter beds.
It's been a little over a month since my last update so I thought I'd let you know how my winter garden experiment is doing.

The south bed.
To recap, I have two 3-foot by 8-foot raised beds that are covered with floating row cover. We built a small hoophouse (plastic-covered greenhouse, see above) in the fall which covers the two beds and the pathway in between.

The north bed.
The south bed (right) hasn't done very well, but that was mostly my fault for not choosing more cold-hardy veggies. I planted tatsoi, mizuna and a red-leaf lettuce in that bed. I knew the lettuce would bite the dust by December so that wasn't a big surprise. However, I was surprised to see how poorly the mizuna and tatsoi did. There are just a few plants that are still alive but they're not producing enough harvest.

The north bed is the complete opposite! In it, I have kale, corn salad (a.k.a mache) and arugula. As you can see, everything is growing just fine. The kale is particularly cold-hardy and has mostly been unfazed by the coldest weather we've had this winter (so far). I'm very imprssed. I plan to harvest some again this week.

In the meantime, I have been studying the Johnny's Selected Seeds catalog as they have an excellent assortment of greens and -- of particular interest -- very cold-hardy varieties. You can bet some of those will be going in the garden this fall!

Corn salad or mache.
As I mentioned in my last post, my biggest mistake was to choose two raised beds directly north of my little greenhouse for the winter garden because it doesn't get as much light as the plants need. In the spring, we'll move the hoophouse to a better location. I'll grow tomatoes, melons and cucumbers in it during the summer and then prep the soil in the fall and plant my next winter garden.

I also wanted to tell you that I'll be teaching a class on winter vegetable gardening at the "Cabin Fever Gardening Symposium" on Saturday, March 14. Here's a previous blog post on Cabin Fever and a link to the Master Gardener Foundation of Spokane County, which has additional information and online registration.

Stay tuned...