HOORAY! It is Spring time! (yes, I hate winter and have been waiting for what seems like an eternity for the warm weather to get here). With the arrival of Spring, my thoughts turn to gardening and I anxiously throw on my ’garden grubbies’ and old sneakers and head out to the shed to dust off my garden tools…. but I can’t find them…I swore I put them right there on the shelf in the shed last Fall. But the mysterious Winter Gremlins must have hid them on me, or my spouse ’borrowed’ them to change the oil in the car. Whatever the reason, they have now vanished and I have nothing to dig with.
So what to do? Well, forget the old, rusty tools. Head to your favourite Garden Centre or Home Depot and buy yourself some new shiny trowels and garden spades. Then hide them in your trunk until you have finished this trendy, useful, and not to mention stylish Garden Tool Organizer project.
Isn’t this just about the most handy-dandy thing you have ever seen? Complete with pockets along the bottom for seed packets and measuring tape, it also features a nylon webbing strap that allows tools to hang across the middle. Genius I tell you! Once complete, who the heck wants to hang this in a dirty old shed or garage? If you are lucky enough to have an actual Potting Shed to showcase this in, perfect! If not, find a space in the back hall or laundry area where you can hang it on a simple towel rod and voila, you will never have Winter Gremlins stealing your tools again.
Suggested Fabrics ~ Sturdy, Home Decorating Fabric, Denim, Twill or Ticking. I always have lots of spare/leftover fabric around and even the buttons worked out as they range in colour from light tan to dark brown picking up the tones in the fabric. This project cost me nothing to make but my time. For complete instructions on how to make your own, click here: Tool Organizer
Today is FREEZING…so, soup is on the menu. One that makes you think of the spices and aromas that fill the air as you stroll the ’mercados’ in the Caribbean Islands. I came across this recipe from of all places, the North Bay Nugget Newspaper, and of course, being the notorious recipe tweaker that I am, I just had to tweak it – cuz I know I could (and did) make it better. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
Caribbean Black Bean Sweet Potato Soup
4 Cups Chicken Broth* (preferably home-made, if store bought, get the low sodium variety)
1 Large Sweet Potato, peeled and diced into small cubes (1/2″ size)
2 Cups Cooked Black Beans (re-hydrate and cook your own to substantially lower the sodium content in place of canned)
1 Poblano Pepper, seeded and diced
1/2 Sweet Onion, diced
2 Serrano Peppers, seeded and finely diced
1 large Clove Garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
2 large Roma Tomatoes, seeded, peeled and diced
1 tsp. Ground Allspice
Juice of 1 Lime
1 Tbsp. Cilantro, chopped
2 Green Onions, chopped
Salt & Pepper to taste
In a large stock pot, heat Olive Oil over medium heat and saute the onions, peppers and garlic for about 5 minutes until the onions and peppers are soft.
Add the broth, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and allspice and simmer for about 20 minutes until sweet potatoes are tender.
Add the beans and simmer for another 5 minutes.
Puree half of the soup and then add the lime juice, cilantro and green onions. Add salt & pepper to taste.
Serve with crusty bread or a crisp salad.
* Note, you could make this soup vegetarian by utilizing vegetable broth in place of the chicken broth.
Makes 8 servings
Per 1 Serving = 1 Cup
3.5 g Fat
89 g Sodium
12.9 g Carbs
5.2 g Fibre
7.7 g Protein
2.6 g Sugar
Or perhaps the Giant Redwood and the Sugar Snap Pea Shoot….however you want to compare, THIS is the difference between my tomato plants and my pepper plants at the moment….
This Poblano Pepper plant is only about 5″ high, the Tom Tomato immediately behind it is about 2′ feet high and you could literally watch it grow if you sat in the living room long enough. Did I mention that Pepper plants are slow growers? on the other hand, the toms look they are on steroids and I have done nothing different in raising the two types…nature of the garden beast!
As for my tomatillos, they are already flowering ~ loco as it sounds as it is only mid-April! A single, gorgeous yellow blossom popped out over the weekend. I left it alone but promptly pinched the rest of the buds off the other plants (and this one) so as to encourage more leaves/stems. I may try to pollinate this one with a leftover ornamental pepper plant that is currently flowering and see what happens. Apparently tomatillos need other tomatillo plants nearby to pollinate, so wondering if the cross-pollination from a pepper plant would suffice – hmmm… I feel like the mad scientist….it’s experiment time!
The blossom opens during the day and looks like a Buttercup flower and closes up at night, I will try and get a shot of it open later today.
And here is the flower as it is open, the petal seem to fold back onto themselves
Since today is supposed to be a nice warm day with a high of 20C, I may put them out to enjoy some fresh air protected from the wind so they get acclimatized before planting in the garden. I need to get these guys in the ground soon and re-claim my living room!
It’s a JUNGLE out there I tell you! You should see my greenhouse, ahem, I mean, my living room right now, ok, hang on while I get the camera out…..
There? crazy isn’t it? Normally I have only 3 plants on the floor, one is my Grapefruit Tree (thank you to my daughter as it was a birthday present a few yrs ago), another is a Peace Lily and the third is my Rosemary bush that is currently going crazy. But as you can plainly see, my living room is now crowded with over 40 pots in various sizes of wonderous green stuff! and I think I have found something better to watch than paint dry …watching plants grow is way more fun. Seriously, if you stick around long enough, you can literally watch them unfurl leaf after leaf and get taller by the millisecond. I have pinched back my tomatoes and tomatillos twice since my last post as I actually saw flower buds developing on the tomatillos and it is WAY too early for that to happen (as excited and incredulous as I was).
I have also gotten over my severe disappointment (well almost) of my chives that absolutely, unequivocably, REFUSED to sprout after almost 2 months and 2 separate seed plantings…meh, fine, I will buy some ready made plants from the garden centre next month, I shall not be refused my chives!
But we have more important things to discuss today than my failures at chive growing. Today we discuss fertilizing. At this stage of the game, the only plants you should consider giving fertilizer to at this time is your tomatoes. Due to their fast growing habit, they are naturally hard on the soil around them. Not just any fertilizer either, use a fish or kelp emulsion as they are low in nitrogen. You don’t want to give your new plants too much nitro, otherwise all you will get is spectacular foilage and no flowers/fruit (unless you want a showy display of leaves, personally, I prefer the fruit as tomato leaves smell bad enough, let alone try eating them). Fertilize your tomatoes every 3 weeks and soon you will be happily picking basketfuls of toms and preparing for La Tomatina (Spain’s Annual Tomato Throwing Festival). If you can’t get to Spain, toss a tom at your spouse just to see if he’s actually paying attention to you.