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Archive for vegetable gardening tips – Page 2

Family’s Rhubarb Mousse Connects Generations

Rhubarb makes a dramatic and tastey addition to designer pal Adriana Berry's garden.

Rhubarb makes a dramatic and tasty addition to designer pal Adriana Berry’s garden. Photo by Carol Lindsay

I found this story about rhubarb and a family’s history in my vacation house kitchen cupboard.  It was left behind by friends using the house.  I enjoyed reading it and learned it’s a part of a series written by Chrissy Lavielle to pass down her family’s recipes and their history.  She generously allowed me to share it with you.

I really like rhubarb.  It’s big and dramatic; it looks tropical, but survives sub zero winters and anything else you can throw at it; and you can eat it – it’s the only fruit that’s not a fruit.  My rhubarb plant flowered last summer.  A two-inch diameter club shaped stalk shot up six feet and exploded in a mass of tiny greenish white flowers.  The effect was prehistoric and vaguely ominous.  I watched it carefully, ready with my trusty loppers, in case it got out of hand.

Both my mother and Craig’s mother grew rhubarb.  Craig remembers pretending the leaves were clothes and I remember using the leaves and stalks for everything from flags to parasols.  Mothers now days would never allow this, they know that the leaves are toxic – chock full of oxalic acid.  I guess maybe mom told me not to eat the leaves, because I never did.  Or maybe she didn’t.  Why would you eat a boring green leaf when you could bite into a bright red stalk?  That eye watering, tooth roughening, mouth shriveling bitter sourness is a childhood memory of Cincinnati summers that is hardwired into my brain.

Every February my mother began to look forward to the “spring tonics” – stewed rhubarb and dandelion greens from the golf course.  I wasn’t fond of either one.  Her philosophy on fruits and vegetables was to cook them until they were really, really dead.

Red stocks are the tasty part, the leaves are toxic and bitter.

Red stocks are the tasty part, the leaves are toxic and bitter.

My mother in law’s recipe is a much better way to enjoy rhubarb.  I helped her make it once, and smiled to myself as I watched her cut the rhubarb.  Holding the stalk over the saucepan with her left hand, and the paring knife curled in the fingers of her right hand, she put her thumb on the opposite side of the stalk and cut against it.  Pieces of rhubarb fell into the pan in a quick series of metallic plops.  This is exactly and precisely the way my mother, another Ohio girl who lived through WWII and The Depression, cut up rhubarb.  Neither one of them had any use for a cutting board and to my knowledge, only used one occasionally – usually for cheese.

Mother planted her rhubarb at one end of the asparagus bed.  In the years after she died, the rest of the garden gradually faded away, but the rhubarb plants outlived both my parents.

Rhubarb mousse is one of Craig’s favorite deserts.  He also likes rhubarb pie or pan’d outy – but he is dead set against adulterating it with strawberries or blueberries.

Rhubarb Mousse

1 lb. rhubarb cut in 1″ pieces (3 cups) or 1 pkg.

1/2 cup water, divided

1 cup sugar

1 envelope unflavored gelatin

2 tsps. lemon juice

1 cup whipping cream, whipped

Red food coloring

Cook rhubarb with 1/4 cup water until it strings.

Soften gelatin in 1/4 cup cold water.  Stir into hot rhubarb until dissolved.  Remove from heat.  Add lemon juice and chill until mixture mounds when dropped from spoon.  Fold into whipped cream and mold.

For more information about growing rhubarb see my favorite garden guru’s article, “Grow Strawberries Tasty Companion: Rhubarb” by Vern Nelson at The Oregonian web site.

Rhubarb at market

Buy rhubarb at a farmer’s market and ask them what variety it is and why they grow it.

His favorites are ‘Chipman’s Canada Red’  which is nearly identical to ‘Crimson Cherry’.  ‘Victoria’ is not as sweet but is a vigorous  “do gooder” plant.

My guest blogger Chrissy got her plant from her mother, and many people get a plant from a neighbor.  There’s nothing wrong with this method but if it were me looking for a new plant I would go with Vern’s suggestions.

Hot Time in my Summer Garden

Daizzie in the garden, it's almost a year since she arrived.

Daizzie in the garden, it’s almost a year since she arrived.

Wow, having a garden of any kind has been challenging in this unusually warm year.  For some plants it’s been touch and go as a result of the heat.  In my veggie garden I have learned a lot this year.  My tomatoes would not set fruit if the evening temperature was too high (in June and July) so what looked like a potential bumper crop of tomatoes quickly changed to dead flowers and no fruit set when the temps soared.  Now that it is cooler (as of two days ago) I see some new flowers on my tomato plants and am hoping for more fruit to set before the next heat wave comes.

South side container garden for tomatoes.

South side container garden for tomatoes.


I also learned to plant lettuce and dwarf petunia under my tomatoes that were in containers.  They blocked the sun by covering my soil, which cooled the soil and now the leaves of my tomato plants look so much better.  They were tip burned and turning yellow.  I also have tomato plants on the south side of my floating home and they get a lot of sun and heat.

Radicchio shades tomato root zone.

Radicchio shades tomato root zone.

We have a mole family in our community garden and we can’t set one of those nasty traps with the teeth since kids or sometimes pets could go in there.  Today I put chili powder down the holes but probably all that will happen is that they will move to a neighbors raised bed and then come back to mine when the chili smell is gone. I’m adding soil to fill their holes and I imagine an entire freeway of holes and passageways from one raised bed to another.  It’s only comical until one of my Kale wilts,  faints and dies because of no soil under the roots, then I tend to growl.

Daizzie is getting used to our new scarecrow.

Daizzie is getting used to our new scarecrow.

Dogs are no longer allowed in the garden, which is probably a good thing since Daizzie is afraid of our new scarecrow anyway.  Sharing the garden with my neighbors is so much fun and we all water for each other so vacations are not a problem.

I’ve tried some greens called Deer Tongue; ok bad name but tasty and found them to be very heat tolerant and my New Zealand Spinach is loving this heat and producing all the greens I can eat.  By the way, don’t cook them, they turn to slush; which is strange because this spinach has an oddly thick leaf.  They are meant to be eaten fresh.

My neighbor Betty and I (mostly Betty) will be starting seeds for our fall gardens – I’ll get my chard, collard greens and lettuces going to enjoy until frost.

Salad Table Report

Growing greens above ground

Growing greens above ground

Growing Greens Above Ground Some of you may know from a previous newsletter that I built a “Salad” table from an old metal patio table.  My initial planting grew poorly because my soil was compacted from a hard rain right after I put the potting soil into the table.  I had stunted baby beets and very slow growing shallots.  I figured it out and l loosened up the soil with a small hand fork. All the plants started to grow. Next year I will add a shade cover when it gets into the high temps to prevent or minimize the bitter taste lettuce gets in heat. The cover also slows down summer bolting.

Long Lasting Wood for Raised Vegetable Boxes

Raised veggie bed from juniper wood

Juniper wood in the garden.  Photo by Sustainable Northwest Wood.

I have clients who only want to build their raised vegetable planters once.  Juniper wood is a great resource for gardeners who want their raised beds to last forever. Juniper wood can last 30 to 50 years in direct contact with moist soil!


Why Use Juniper?
Because Juniper is a hardwood, it is insect and rot resistant, and doesn’t require any special chemical treatments, its longevity is unmatched, outlasting redwood and cedar beds by decades. Though indigenous, Juniper has become an invasive species throughout Central Oregon, threatening grassland habitat and destroying the ecosystem.

Pre-built Options
Restoration Juniper Project (video from OPB) is a company that builds lasts forever planter boxes out of Juniper wood.  It’s a triple win because:

1.  Uses strong wood from the invasive juniper species and sales of Juniper wood helps restore threatened native habitat in Central Oregon.

2.  Profits support Growing Gardens, a local non-profit, that teaches children and families how to feed themselves by building gardens and providing support during the learning process.

3.  Wood can last 50 years so you only build once.

JuniPlanterGrowing Gardens recently unveiled a DIY planter box made from Juniper, JuniPlanter. In support of the Restoration Juniper Project, they’ve designed a kit that can be built in under an hour by DIY-ers. These boxes are not inexpensive, but they are made to last. The JuniPlanter has more than one model, but as an example, one of the boxes is $450.

This is a better investment for a person who knows they are going to be gardening for a long time, rather than someone just starting out.

Build Your Own
Sustainable Northwest Wood
Finding the Juniper wood and building your own would be another option.  I talked with Ryan of Sustainable Northwest Wood (SNW) in SE Portland, Oregon. Here are two options Ryan suggested for building an 18″ high 4′ x 8′ raised bed:

1.  Make your box 18” high using three 2” x 6” (would take 9 boards).  Each board at current prices would be $10.00 each so it would cost you $102.75 for the juniper wood for one planter at 4’ wide by 8’ long. They have a corner piece you buy for $12.75 that you can cut to create your corners so you only need one.

2. This option cost more when using 6” x 6” wood.  You will need 9 boards at $28.00 each. The cost for one juniper wood planter will be $252. You won’t need a corner piece because the 6 x 6 is strong enough for corners and the whole planter is heftier and better for sitting on.

Ryan’s Construction Tips:

  • Pre-drill all holes.
  • Use stainless steel lag bolts to use for fasteners.

Designing three Landscape Design in a Days per week, raised planter boxes go in every one of my designs.  Everyone wants them! Materials we prefer to use include:

  • Corrugated sheet metal with wood supports
  • Livestock water troughs
  • Stacked rock
  • Wood
  • Recycled concrete rubble

Schedule your Landscape Design in a Day consultation today with Carol.

Re-purpose your old patio table into a greens garden

Carol Lindsay, Landscape Design in a Day with book "Gardening on Pavement, Table and Hard Surfaces"

Carol Lindsay, Landscape Design in a Day with book “Gardening on Pavement, Table and Hard Surfaces”

Growing Greens Above Ground
I’ve been waiting for years to build my own salad table.

One of the cool things is being able to grow lettuce and other greens without needing to even think about slugs, let alone pick them out of my greens.

It’s also perfect for people with small outdoor living areas, for example I live in a floating home.

Factor in being able to re-purpose my mom’s old metal patio table and the fact that I’m using alot of greens for smoothies makes it just perfect!

If you love the idea of easy access to lettuce and other greens, here’s how to make your own:



Bob Lindsay installing the sides of the salad table

Bob Lindsay installing the sides of the salad table

  • Metal patio table with a metal mesh top
  • Aluminum roll flashing
  • Squeeze clamps
  • Tin snips
  • Filter fabric
  • Caulk
  • Pop rivets and a pop rivet tool or a drill, screws and nuts or bolts. Note: This requires more physical strength than I have!
  • Potting soil and plants or seeds

Construction Notes
First, cut the fabric to fit the shape of the round patio table.  Measure the circumference of the table and then cut the flashing to the correct length so the ends overlap by about an inch.

Pre-cut the flashing with tin snips. For my table this was a 5’ length of 7” aluminum roll flashing.

Next we clamped on the flashing to the table edge.  We used pop rivets to attach the flashing to the table.  Caulk around the inside edge of the flashing where it meets the table.  Set the fabric onto the table and into the edge of sticky caulk.

Let it dry and then add your soil mix and plant your plants.

Credit goes to George Schenk, NW gardener and author of Gardening on Pavement, Table and Hard Surfaces.  I love this book!

Before - Salad table ready for soil and plants to be added

Before: Salad table ready for soil and plants to be added

After - Freshly planted salad table

After: Freshly planted salad table