Readers, the gardening bug has bit! We are past any danger of frost. (Maybe. You never know in Tennessee. ) The grass just had its first cut of the year. I saw my first hummingbird today. The comforters and flannel sheets are being boxed up. Spring has finally sprung.
Now, last year was a bit of a nightmare. The garden started off well enough and with the best intentions. However, my hatred of sweating in the sun and the leap to a large plot kept me from being as active as I had hoped. I should have remembered to take baby steps. However, this problem seems to be fairly universal when it comes to gardening. So when my landlord offered to till the dirt for me, I declined. I have not purchased any seed...yet. The tools remain in the shed.
This doesn't mean I am giving up but merely scaling back significantly.
Our deck is south-facing, and I have plenty of planters and 5 gallon buckets. I have decided to stick with peas, beans, some flowers for vanity's sake, and take a gamble on zukes and watermelon, which will be trained on the deck's vertical supports for the roof. Depending on the price of sand, I may grow carrots. I have read that a mixture of sand and soil will help roots stay straight and not fork off.
I definitely won't be feeding our family exclusively, but it will still be appreciated and hopefully give me the confidence to step it up a notch next year...or even for the fall.
Another reason I resisted going in the ground is that we are moving this summer. We are still in the process of looking, but I have my heart set on a property in Ashland City, surrounded by 100 acres of glorious seclusion, open fields peppered with the landlord's cattle, and fenced in by woods. Wherever we end up, we have learned so much about what is truly important to us. We now have a solid list of what is a must have for our forever home. That's what I call the dream house in which we grow old, set down our roots, and have grandkids over for the summer.
Back to gardening, I also did some starters for tomatoes and bell peppers. I am hoping that we will move in adequate time to transplant and even grow cucumbers. I have a handful of jars left from last year's pickles. I am also looking forward to plugging in some perennials, such as asparagus and berry bushes. Perhaps even some apple trees. I previously had held off, thinking we will move before any of it can be used, but you never know. Really, even if I did leave it behind unenjoyed, it might inspire future tenants to pick up gardening. Live and learn.
Another sunny sign of spring is the dandelion. I know people typically curse these "weeds," but I decided to try out an old recipe for dandelion jelly. I wasn't sure what the flavor would be like, but I wasn't disappointed. It isn't terribly strong, like a light and floral honey. The hardest part is collecting, made easier by willing children.You also must separate the yellow petals from the green bud, which is tedious but goes quickly with the aid of scissors. Try this recipe for a unique gift and a way to cut the dandelion population slightly
Important: only use flowers from an untreated lawn. No pesticides, weed killer, etc. You do not want that in your body.
1. Pour 3 cups boiling water over 6 cups of dandelion petals, loosely packed. Cover and steep til cool. The color should be a dark amber.
2. Strain, using cheesecloth so that no petals or pollen remain in the tea. If you no longer have 3 cups, you may add water.
3. Bring tea to a rolling boil, adding 2 Tbsp lemon juice and 1 box of powdered pectin.
4. Stir in 4 1/2 cups of sugar and boil hard for 2 minutes. It should thicken to a syrup consistency. I always do the plate trick to make sure it is thick enough. Pour a small amount on a plate, let cool, drag your finger through. If the jelly comes together again, boil 2 more minutes. It is ready when your finger divides the jelly.
5. Fill jars to 1/4" and process in a hot water bath for 15 minutes. Remove from pot, let cool overnight, then the rings may be removed. Check your seals and enjoy!