Archive for September, 2006

Washing Spinach

A reflection on the spinach catastrophe is coming along as soon as I cool down a bit – talk about steamed! I’m ready to kill every news outlet that said nothing about “eat local.” But first, for those legions of sensible people who buy their spinach at the farmers’ market, a tip on washing . I’m sure the (currently radioactive) bagged stuff only got so popular because it’s so easy to use.

There are two tricks to easy greens-washing.

1. Chop first. Dirt and sand fall off more easily when pieces are small, especially if they’re pieces of something as corrugated as spinach.

2. Use a large basin of water. Dunk the material and swish it around, then lift into a colander. Clean the basin. Repeat until no more dirt falls to the bottom. If you live where water should be conserved, just use two big bowls and pour the water back and forth until the very last rinse.

Stonecrop special

It’s always special, but right now Stonecrop   is special double, because there are 500 extra markers, telling you the botanical names   of particularly striking plants. The markers will start coming down on Tuesday, so those who hesitate miss out.

Autumn Beauty, Easily

The cimicifuga under the apple tree has beautiful big dark purple-green leaves all summer, then in late August and September a host of 6 foot purple stems topped with purple buds that open to plumes of sweetly fragrant white flowers. Completely hardy in Maine, bigger and bigger every year – and deer munch the apples under it without showing any interest in cimicifuga salad.

Autumn Beauty, Hassle division

This passionflower is one of about 30 blossoms (if you count the buds), on a vine at least   15 long, woven through the blue border’s sand cherry,   lilac and golden elder. Very soon – before frost comes – it will have to be cut back, untangled, dug up and taken from Maine to NY where it will be repotted and put in the greenhouse for winter. It is 3 years old. Every year the same story, twice, if you count bringing it up in spring. Not difficult, but not fun.

Bargain Season, small thrills division.

Dedicated garden shoppers can find great bargains long about now, and I’m not talking end-of-season clearances…

at least not in the usual sense. These are more the kind of clearance you get when somebody notices that no one has seen the back wall of the garage for over a decade. Translation: we’re into the last few weekends of genuine yard sales, where treasures for gardeners can lie buried in the piles of plastic kitchenware, overpriced ” antique” furniture and franchise-branded toys of the sort that make you fear for the future of the republic.

Among other things, yard sales are the last great repository of neat flower frogs, now alas “collectible” and going for ever larger and larger bucks wherever collectibles are sold.

My own weakness is for pin cups, the flower-arranger’s best friend, but there are beauts galore if you only look.

Among the tools:

I got my favorite trowel at a yard sale: wide blade, wide wooden handle with a waist that just comfortably fits my hand. Also an old ham knife that’s great for sawing out potbound plants. Also my favorite sprayer – I asked to try it and they let me; always a good idea with items that may work and may not and while we’re on the subject , beware of scissoring tools like hedge shears unless you know how to judge “blades, reparability of. ”

Hoes, shovels and garden forks are good bets; assuming there aren’t obvious defects like nicks in the metal, all you need to check for is funny angles – those tines are HARD to straighten out – and tired wood. If the collar area looks frayed there’s likely to be trouble before long.