The distancing requirements of the Covid-19 virus have prevented NCTV from filming of “A Walk in the Garden with Liz Davey” at my home. In spite of the restrictions on all of us, the gardens continue to grow. April is one of my busiest months for garden tasks and I am busy getting all of my gardens off to a good start. I want to share a few of the things I am doing outdoors in the gardens this month. I will also share some of the seasonal tasks that I am doing inside in late April. Since I can’t be with you live, I have put together a photo scrapbook to show you what I’ve been doing.
On April 18th we awoke to a white landscape as a few inches of snow had fallen overnight. The following day saw temperatures in the 60’s and the snow cover was short lived. It was a reminder that temperatures in April are variable and frost is not yet behind us. It is way too early to put tender plants outside.
The herbs continue to come up and expand. I am now able to use chives and sorrel. There will be lots more to pick and use in a few weeks. I also have the herbs from the little planter that was done indoors in early March. I have it on my patio right now and have enjoyed using the snips of fresh rosemary, thyme and parsley and sage
The daffodils have been outstanding this year! We have enjoyed many bouquets of them as our centerpiece throughout April. They are available in not only a variety of shapes, heights and color combinations (yellows, oranges, peach and white) but also in early, middle and late blooming types that extend the season. Deer, squirrels and chipmunks leave them alone and if they are given well-drained, sunny location daffodils will return year after year. .They only thing they do require - as do all spring bulbs - is to be given a chance to let their foliage be left in the garden until it has ripened and turned brown. This growth supplies energy to the bulb for next year’s growth and bloom. Braiding or banding the foliage is not recommended, but to hide it during its unattractive though necessary, period of decline I try to locate near the daffodils other perennials that will expand to hide the dying foliage.
Hyacinths also are very trouble free. Tulips on the other hand, are short-lived in our climate and attractive to deer. Because I love them in the garden, I plant them anyway and often get a few years of bloom, but I do not count on their longevity. There are other small bulbs for the spring garden and I also like: the blue or white grape hyacinths and anemone blanda with little white daisy flowers.
As the perennials come up I notice that some need to be divided as they have outgrown their allotted area in the garden. I will dig up part of the plants and relocate them or pot up for a friend or garden sale.
I like to have birds in my garden. I feed them all winter and hope they will help me with insect control in the summer months. In the fall I collected the seeds of milkweed and separated the seeds from the downy material that helps the seeds fly to new locations. I saved the fluff in a plastic bag and added it to a metal suet feeder and hung it on a trellis near my vegetable garden to give the birds some soft nesting material. They also appreciate small pieces of string and yarn during their nesting season.
As the hosta emerge from the ground, I am adding a shovel full of compost or some organic plant food and sprinkling slug deterrent around them. As they grow, I will be spraying with deer repellant every few weeks. Ferns are starting to emerge now. Pachyphragma is in bloom; it is a short non-native ground cover that gives lots of low white early spring flowers. It does spread but is easy to move or remove if it over-expands. Also blooming in the shade are tiny blue anemones.
This year I have added five native shrubs to my shade garden: buttonbush, ninebark, nannyberry, diervilla, and boneset. These shrubs will encourage native pollinators and be good cover for birds as well as adding a border near my fish pond.
Fish in the pond are now being given a cold weather food every day or two. It will be a month or more before tropical pond plants can be added to the area. I have cleaned my garden shed, moving the outdoor furniture to the patio and I am getting out planters to be filled next month.
It is still too early to put our any tender plants. Therefore, I have a rapidly expanding area of plants indoors as I transplant seedlings in to larger cells or pots and wake up some of the plants I stored dry over the winter in a cool guestroom. I am already seeing shoots of a begonia in a hanging basket and pineapple and calla lilies have sprouted. As I transplant seedlings, I have room under the plant lights for more seedlings to be planted – mostly annual flowers and tomatoes.
In the Kitchen
As this period of quarantine continues, we are depending on grocery deliveries. Sometimes what I would like to buy has not been available. Much of what I am cooking depends on using what I have in my pantry and freezer, and soon my garden too.
The garlic I harvested last summer is almost finished and is starting to sprout in my unheated garage where it has been stored all winter. I could plant the cloves in the garden for a late crop, but I would like to have it available for cooking now so I have peeled the cloves and put them in a sterilized canning jar and will freeze them. I’ll remove what I need and use it right away. It thaws very fast. Do not store garlic in oil as botulism can grow in the anaerobic environment created, even if refrigerated. Only commercial companies can process garlic oil to be stored.
One of my seasonal favorites is creamed potatoes with peas and fresh chives and it really requires very little in the way of a recipe. Two peeled and cut up potatoes are simmered in water to cover until they are tender, adding a few handfuls of frozen peas when they are almost done. Drain the potatoes and peas well while you make a simple medium white sauce: Melt two tablespoons of butter and stir in two tablespoons of flour. Slowly add 1 cup of milk and stir and cook until the mixture boils for one minute. Add the peas and potatoes and a handful of chopped chives and heat until hot. Shredded cheese and/or chopped green onions can be added if you wish. This makes two servings and the recipe can be doubled or tripled for more servings.
I was lucky to have a large bag of flour before the quarantine and shortages started, so another thing I have made is English Muffins. The recipe is adapted from one on the King Arthur Flour webpage and the muffin rings I use are also available from that source. They do take some time, but I have more time at home right now for food preparation.
Heat 1 ¾ cup milk and 3 Tablespoons butter until bubbly and then cool to lukewarm -115o F. Combine 3 cups flour, 1 ¼ teaspoons salt, 1/3 cup potato flakes, 2 teaspoons instant yeast and 2 Tablespoons sugar in mixer bowl. Add the cooled butter/milk mixture and one egg beat at high speed for five minutes. Dough will be soft and sticky. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise for about 90 minutes until doubled.
To cook, heat ungreased frying pan or griddle on low (300o F.)
NOTE: You may want to cook 1 muffin as a test of temperature using the directions below to fill one ring and checking that it is light brown on the bottom after 7 minutes and adjusting the temperature settings accordingly. Finish the test muffin by cooking for an additional 5 minutes, turn, remove ring and cook 12 minutes on the other side. Test muffin should be cooked all the way through. If not, lower the heat and add more time.
Place well-greased muffin rings on griddle. (You could also use clean tuna cans with both ends removed, if you have the kind of cans that both ends are removable.) Sprinkle a bit of semolina or cornmeal in each ring. With wet hands, form 1/3 to 1/2 cup of batter into a flattened ball and add to each ring. Yes, it is sticky! No need to be exact as it will expand to fill rings. Sprinkle the tops with a bit of semolina or cornmeal. Cook for 12 minutes and then turn, remove rings and cook for 12 more minutes. Cool on rack. Make about 12 muffins depending on ring size. Store in freezer; thaw, split and toast to serve.