Kitchen Garden: How Green Grows My Garden

how green grows my kitchen garden
Growing up we always had a kitchen garden. Nothing fancy but staples like Beefstake tomatoes, Iceburg lettuce and carrots. My mom loved tomatoes and would bite into them like you would an apple. Vegetables bought at a supermarket just don’t compare to the flavor burst.

I really should have paid more attention to what my dad did to his garden because his Beefstake tomatoes were huge, sweet and juicy.  Mmmm Mmmm Mmmm He always made gardening look so easy!

The house my parents bought had incredible rose bushes that the previous owner had lovingly grew. He had even grafted different varieties together so when they were in bloom it was a splendid burst of gorgeous colors and our house was always filled with the lovely scent of the roses we had cut.

When I had my first house I was so busy that a kitchen garden was just a sweet memory. However, the last couple of years I finally decided to make the time  and have a kitchen garden. It’s a lot of work, but we’ve been enjoying the fruits of my labors with fresh organic tomatoes, salsas, tomato sauce and so much more.

I have an herb garden in front of our gazebo which gets a great deal of use and two larger gardens for vegetables this year. I’d like to plant a cutting flower bed of Peonies, Hydrangeas and whatever else suites my fancy, but for now that’s on the back burner.

The soil here sucks—its the only way to describe it.  For the last two years I’ve spent a lot of cash on soil amendments like mushroom compost, cow manure, organic compost etc. and it still needs work. Recently, I read somewhere or heard it on a video that it takes 7 to 10 years to get the ground in shape. Ugh! Last year I learned we have a couple of black walnut trees and these things are not good for growing a vegetable garden.

Black Walnut trees contain a natural substance called JUGLONE that inhibits the growth of many plants (or just plain kills them). And it’s contained in every freaken part of the black walnut tree—bark, wood, leaves. It’s strongest in the roots. Now here’s the zinger—the roots can extend out 50-80 feet from the tree. Our first garden is 45 feet from the darn thing and there’s another one at the back about 60 feet away from the kitchen gardens.

Guess what plants are noted for dying quickly within this range? Well, of course the most popular home-grown veggies (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and potatoes) and my ornamental favorites like petunias, azalea, viburnum, hydrangea and rhododendron. Guess what I planted right beside the black walnut tree–two azalea bushes. UGH! I need to move them. Those darn black walnut trees even kill off Blueberry bushes too.  I thought last year that my garden yield was a lot lighter than I was expecting and I was blaming myself.  It wasn’t me it was those darn trees! It’s too late to make major changes so I’ll be adding milk to the water for my tomatoes along with making sure they get enough fertilizer from organic

Next year I think I’ll be doing Square Foot Gardening and work smarter not harder. Doing raised bed gardening with good soil from the beginning should give me increased yields while circumventing most of the problem with the black walnut tree. The last tree I cut down cost $1,000 and I’m sure this black walnut will be the same.  For now we’re just cutting the branches off and keeping it trimmed back as best we can ourselves.


Monday Musings:

we got snow monday musings 680


The photo was taken just after the first fall out from Thor! I’m in the safety of the Gazebo taking the shot because that’s how far we shoveled. This morning the snow’s no longer weighing the tree branches down and Diva Dog and I can actually make it to the back of the yard without toppling over each other and falling in the snow. I’m seriously considering doggy boots for the old girl. Diva Dog not me!

I find Monday’s I need time to get back into the workday flow because our weekends are so radically different. Monday musings help me get back gently into the thick of things for the rest of the week.

I know the clocks went ahead so we have to be close to Spring –right? I’m really anxious to get into Spring gardening!

Want a magical garden?  Plant a butterfly garden. And I really want to do this penny bowling ball for the garden.  I keep putting it off for lack of time. Wish me luck for this year.

I watched one of my favorite old movies last night — the Ghost and Mrs. Muir.  The original version with Rex Harrison and Gene Tierney of course.  Watching old movies and snacking on chocolate was something my mom and I really enjoyed!  I still do, but sadly now it’s without my mom.  Mother and daughter relationships can be truly wonderful–not perfect, but lots of loving and sweet memories. Here’s how to have the best mother and daughter relationship.

Since Spring is only 11 Days, 9 hours and 50 mins. away we should be thinking Spring cleaning.  Yup, you heard right— S.P.R.I.N.G. cleaning! I like these quick and easy cleaning tips.

No Irish Cream  for that recipe you want to try for St. Patty’s Day?  Make your own. It’s so easy! Here are video instructions.

I have a great need-to-know so I found this site that tells you the #1 song hit on your birthday. I’m not telling you mine because then you’d know how old I am. :o)

Enjoy your day!

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Crusty No-Knead Artisan Bread


bread in dutch oven V2

I’ve been testing some no-knead crusty Artisan bread recipes that cook in a Dutch oven and this is one of my favorites.  It’s sooooo simple! Other one’s I’ve tried had the dough too loose to easily drop into the Dutch oven or used too much salt to my liking. The worst one I tried was a seeded whole wheat loaf that was so disgusting I couldn’t swallow the piece I bit off and threw the whole loaf out.  A good bread is about both taste and texture.

Whole wheat needs to be treated differently than the method in this recipe.  The bread becomes really dense and the crust is kind of gummy chewy to me–not crispy chewy. With whole wheat I feel you should add a sweetener and also knead it a bit to wake up the gluten.

This Artisan bread recipe uses all-purpose flour. It has been tested 6 times and each time it has a great crunchy crust and just enough chew in the soft dough part (crumb) –just the way I like it. I usually let it sit about 9 hours before baking it. The longer you leave it out the harder it is to shape.

bread artisan on cutting board V2

Have you ever  wondered what temperature is lukewarm? I go by the following:

Tepid = 75-80F

Lukewarm = 90 – 100F

Warm = 115-125F

Proofing the yeast I use 100F, but if the yeast is mixed into the dry ingredients then I use 120F water. Yeast will die around 130-140F.

70F–80 F Is recommended water temperature for bread machines.

I know—just call me geeky girl!

You’ll probably find variations of these temperatures on the net but the differences are around 5 degrees. These work for me. The one I wouldn’t take a chance on is the temperature that yeast dies at. I’ve seen it fluctuate 5 degrees higher but why take a chance?

My kitchen is the coolest room in the house so during the winter I let my bread dough rise in  my office which is the warmest place. I’ve heard some people place their dough bowl on a heating pad on low, I just move the dough to another room. You might have to play around with this yourself because room temperatures play an important part as well as humidity when you’re baking bread.

bread artisan on cutting board sliced V2


Apparently the oven can’t cook the bread fast enough when everyone’s home.To say my family loves bread would be a vast understatement!

Growing up there were plenty of little independent bakeries and delis around so I’m spoiled! Being from a large cosmopolitan concrete city I had my choice of many small bakeries to buy bread from–Italian, Portuguese, Greek, and Scottish to mention a few. Mmm Italian crusty bread, delectable Portuguese rolls, soft Greek pita bread and warm Scottish baps. Sheeesh I think I just slipped into a euphoric bread based coma and gained 5 pounds reminiscing about it. UGH! I miss those independent bakeries but baking my own bread helps to ease my pain.

If you’re like me and you love to feel how the bread dough changes texture and smells when you knead it to that perfect point then you will miss that when you make this loaf. There is a reward however, when you bake it in the cast-iron Dutch oven it gets a perfect crust and nice little bit of chew.

bread artisan on cutting board sliced 2 V2

The cast iron-pot methods are based on an old European technique of baking inside a closed clay pot (Cloche).  I don’t have a Cloche and quite frankly I’d be afraid of it breaking and me crying. I use my 5 quart black cast-iron Dutch oven and I have great results with it.  I haven’t used my enamel one for bread baking yet but as long the enamel can withstand the 450F temperature it should produce the same results. A black or enameled cast-iron pot with a lid can easily be purchased for about $35-40 if you don’t already have one.   Cast-iron Dutch Ovens trap all of the internal moisture in the dough and that creates the steam which gives you that lovely crisp and shiny crust with a little bit of chew.

You need your Dutch oven to be really hot when you put the bread dough in it so I heated the pot part of the Dutch oven at 450F for at least 30 minutes. The first time I made this bread I cut parchment paper the size of the bottom of the Dutch oven and that’s what I placed the dough on to rest while the pot was heating.  Then I picked the paper and dough up and plopped it in.  That worked well.  Then I got lazy and now I just pick up the dough and drop it — gently of course.

Let your bread cool completely before cutting as it’s still cooking and with all the moisture of the dough inside the crust needs to dry a little. You’ll enjoy this bread because it has lots of air pockets to catch the butter as it melts or the olive oil when it’s brushed on before grilling or broiling it.

bread artisan on cutting board V2

I think the next one I’m going to let the dough sit in the fridge for a couple of days to develop a rich maltier flavor. Then I’ll take it out, shape it and let it rise for a couple of hours before cooking it in the Dutch oven. Having it age in the fridge will tighten the gluten and make it easier to shape.

Let me know how your bread turned out.


Crusty No-Knead Artisan Bread

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 43 minutes

Total Time: 48 minutes

Yield: 1 loaf


  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (I use King Arthur Flour)
  • 1 1/2 -2 teaspoons of sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water (120F)


  • In a large bowl, stir together the flour, salt and yeast. Stir in the lukewarm water using a wooden spoon. Stir it just until it forms a shaggy dough but is still cohesive. The less you "work" the dough the more soft air pockets with form. Do not over-work the dough!
  • Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let the dough sit a room temperature between 8-24 hours. Dough will soften, bubble and rise.
  • When your dough is ready, preheat your oven to 450F degrees. Place your Dutch oven , uncovered, into your preheated oven for a minimum of 30 minutes.
  • While you're waiting for your Dutch oven to preheat, turn your dough onto a well-floured surface. The dough is pretty sticky at this point so make sure your hands are well floured. Fold dough over and pinch to seal then turn it seam side down. Gently shape it into a ball or cylinder. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rest until your Dutch oven is heated.
  • After 30 minutes, carefully remove your Dutch oven. It will be hot enough to burn it's impression on wood (speaking from experience.) Flour your hands and place your bread dough into it. (I've used parchment paper on the bottom, but I don't think it's really necessary)
  • Replace your cover and bake for 30 minutes covered at 450F. Then remove your lid and bake for an additional 7-15 minutes uncovered. Remember every oven is different. Mine gives me a nice caramel color crust at 13 minutes. At 7 mins mine is too light blond for me.
  • Once done the bread removes easily, but be careful with the cast iron because it's really hot! Let the bread completely cool because it's still cooking. When you cut it slice it with a bread knife.


Make sure your Dutch oven can be heated to 450F especially if it's enameled. And make sure the knob on the lid can be baked at that high heat. I use a black cast-iron 5 quart (the one that's in the picture) and no problems. The lid has a cast-iron handle.

I can not stress enough that your Dutch oven needs to be heated well before you put the dough in.

I've tried letting the dough rise for 24 hours and the loaf turns out well. The differences are the dough is more sticky and a bit harder to shape. Plus the loaf is wider and flatter.

Since I was adding the lukewarm water to a flour mixture I used 120F water.

You do not need to grease the bottom of the pot. When the Dutch oven gets that hot it immediately cooks the bottom of the loaf so you could actually move the loaf around to center it in the pot. I've used parchment on the bottom and that works well.

Personally, I do not recommend using whole wheat flour in this recipe.The bread will be really dense and the crumb is off-putting.

If you want to add herbs, spices, seeds, nuts and cheese then I suggest you add them into your initial flour-yeast mix to avoid over-working the dough.

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