Category Archives: Hillside Garden

Flyin’ solo

So Jill went out of town this week with the girls, so it was just me.  So I will shoulder the heavy burden (not really) of writing this week’s post.  So here goes…

I decided that since it was just me, I could try to accomplish some tasks around the house; some of those things that are easier to do when you don’t have to worry about needing to go another direction as much.  So here is my (overly ambitious) list:

  • Finish the second garden box (done!)
  • Dig the bed for the squash (done and planted!)
  • Paint the basement stairs landing wall with blackboard paint (done!)
  • Tidy up my workshop (not done. 😦 )
  • Start re-finishing an end table (not even started)

You may have noticed that the top two items are “plant” items.  So I have completed building the second garden box (it has yet to be painted).  Disappointingly, our HOA introduced a wrinkle in the whole garden process.  Evidently, they don’t like vegetable gardens near the front of the house.  I think it’s just because they haven’t seen a pretty vegetable garden before.  Either way, we might have to move them somewhere else (down the hill maybe).  Poo.

I also dug the squash bed (about 6″ deep), and filled it with Dirt(tm).  It’s on a slope, so I put rocks on the uphill side to try to divert water around so it doesn’t flood the bed.  That worked.  Mostly.
The next day we got some torrential downpour; not what I had counted on.  It washed a bit of the dirt out of my nice new hole, but not all of it.  So I still count that as success.  Today (Sunday) I soaked and planted the zucchini and summer squash seeds, so we’ll see how they do (crosses fingers).

On the “plate” side, Jill (bless her heart) gave me a couple of menu items to cook.  One was a cottage pie (like shepherd’s pie, but with beef instead of lamb).  The other was a Thai chicken curry.  Nothing horribly complicated.  Here are the basic recipes:

Cottage Pie

1 Swede, peeled and cubed (sue me for using the British term)
Some carrots, chopped
Some celery, chopped
An onion (maybe two if you like), also chopped (see the pattern here?)
Some ground beef (I used a pound)
Some potatoes to make some mash

Brown the beef.  Set aside.  Sweat the vegetables.  Add the beef back into the pan, and stir in about 3 Tbsp of flour.  Add a little red wine real quick to deglaze.  When the wine has cooked down a bit, add about 750 ml of stock (beef, chicken, meat, etc).  Cook about 45 minutes to thicken the gravy.

While the gravy is cooking, peel and boil some ‘taters (precious).  Mash them down with a bit of milk, butter, and some cheddar cheese (Gromit!).

Put the beef mixture in a casserole, scoop the mash on top, and stick it in the oven for about 10-20 minutes-ish to brown the taters.  The broiler may help with this, but watch it like a hawk.  Serve and enjoy!


Now onto the chicken curry.

Curry paste (I used Thai Red that I got in Bangkok)
Some bell peppers (I used three)
Some onion (I used one)
Bamboo shoots (optional; I used two cans)
Chicken (I used two breast halves, cubed into small-ish pieces)
Coconut milk (full fat)
Rice (Jasmine is a good choice)

Put the curry paste in a big pan and fry for just a moment.  Add the chicken and frizzle (technical term: fry) that up.  Add the peppers and onion, and continue frizzling.  When the veg are translucent/are cooked down a little, toss in the coconut milk and bamboo shoots.  Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes (ish).  The goal is not to cook out/thicken the liquid.  Thai curries tend to be pretty liquidy.

Uncover and spoon off some of the excess coconut fat.  It tastes good, but if you don’t the mouthfeel will be kinda greasy (not as good eats).  Simmer a little more if you like (I did about five/ten minutes, I think)

Serve over the jasmine rice.  If you don’t like Thai hot stuff, have a glass of milk handy.  If you do like Thai hot stuff, go to town.  It’s tasty.


The final recipe (served to the girls when they got home today) was chicken, ham & leek pie:

Some chicken (2 breast halves again, small cubes)
Some ham (small bits)
2 leeks (cleaned & chopped)
Puff pastry (I made a rough puff, but store puff would be better)
One egg, beaten for eggwash

Brown the chicken & ham; set aside.  Sweat the leeks down (don’t brown them).  At this point, you can put the whole mess in the fridge if you made these ahead of time

For the sauce:
Roux (2 Tbsp butter melted, stir in 2Tbsp flour)
1 cup milk
Spoonful of chicken goo (Better than Bullion)

Add chicken goo to milk, then add to hot roux.  Whisk while the milk comes up to a boil.  Make sure that the milk doesn’t stick on the pot (it will try), as it will burn.  Not good eats.  Let it boil gently for about 30 seconds (keep stirring), take it off the heat.

Preheat oven to 400.  Put the chicken&ham&leek mixture in a casserole (or enamelware rectangular pie tin 🙂 ).  Pour the sauce over the mixture, and cover with the puff.  Brush on the eggwash, and toss in the oven.  Cook about 20-30 minutes, or until golden brown & delicious.  Remove from oven, and let stand about 10-15 minutes to cool & set (It will be pretty toasty right out of the oven.  Once again, serve & enjoy!

Wishful Thinking = Garden Plans!

I don’t know any one who is a complete realist when it comes to garden planning.  Most Gardeners are prone to Wishful Thinking and an epic amount of Optimism.  Myself included!  Especially when faced with seed catalogs or a large (or small) display of seed packets.  I have been known to lay out a square foot garden of seed packets on the floor while standing in the front of just such a display at Lowes.  My husband might think I’m nuts, but the staff at Lowes are very understanding!

However, this year Kevin went on a preemptive strike against my seed packet hording tendencies.  I thought he was hiding out, puttering, doing much needed and vastly important work in the office for a a few hours one Saturday.  I later found that he had been in the garage organizing my all my gardening supplies.  Dear Man!  Of course he seemed to locate every seed packet that I had bought last year with the intention of gardening.  So I suppose that means my yearly binge shop of seed packets is out.  I should use up the ones we already have.  Poo!

So with my stash of seeds in hand (and not scattered to the four winds throughout the garage) here’s what my planning sheet looks like so far:

Square Foot Gardening:
Possibility Vegetable Name # Per Square Weekly Need: Planting Schedule (64 week): Start Date:
Def Arugula 16 8 8 per 1 week March
Def Carrots 16 8 8 per 1 week March
Def Chard 4 1 1 per 1 week March
Def Cucumbers 2 2 1 per month May
Def Leaf Lettuce 9 3 3 per 1 week March
Def Patty Pan Squash 1 1 1 per summer March
Def Radishes 16 8 8 per 1 week March
Def Romaine 4 2 2 per 1 week March
Def Spinach 9 3 3 per 1 week March
Def Tomatoes 1 1 1 per month April
Def Zucchini 1 1 1 per summer April
Def Strawberries 4 1 1 per spring, summer, fall March
Def Garlic 4 1 1 per 1 week March
Def Green Beans 4 2 2 per month March
Def Parsnips 16 4 4 per 1 week March
Def Peppers – Green 1 2 1 per month April
Def Peppers – Red 1 2 1 per month April
Def Jalapeno 1 1 1 per summer April
Def Melon 1 1 1 per summer April
Def Watermelon 1 1 1 per summer April
Fall Winter Squash 1 1 1 per spring, summer, fall April
Herb Basil 1 1 1 per month March
Herb Chives 1 1 1 per summer March
Herb Cilantro 4 1 1 per month March
Herb Dill 9 1 1 per summer March
Herb Parsley 2 1 1 per month Already
Herb Rosemary 1 1 1 per summer March
Herb Sage 1 1 1 per summer Already
Herb Thyme 4 1 1 per summer Already
Low Rutabaga 4 2 2 per 1 week April
Low Turnips 9 3 3 per 2 weeks April
Low Eggplant 1 1 1 per month April
Low Cabbage 1 0.5 1 per 2 weeks March
Low Summer Squash 1 1 1 per summer April
Med Cauliflower 1 1 1 per 1 week March
Med Celery 2 1 1 per 1 week March
Med Leeks 9 2 2 per 2 week March
Spring SFG 2017
Spring SFG 2017

One reason I love the SFG method is that it is very easy to determine how much to actually plant.  I don’t need 16 arugula plants to be ripe and ready for harvest all at once.  I estimate I’ll need about 8 plants per week.  Which means that week 1 I will plant 8 seeds in the 16 plant grid.  Week 2 I will plant 8 more seeds to fill up the grid.  Week 3 I will plant another 8, and so on and on until I start harvesting (for arugula that’s usually about 4 weeks time).  After that point I can carefully dig up my first week’s 8 arugula plants, use them and plant 8 more seeds in the vacant spot!  So I get a rotating crop of arugula that will last for months (or at least until the weather turns too warm here and they start to bolt).

Another method for continuous harvest is to plant several squares all at once and then harvest a few leaves from each plant and allow them to continue growing.  I have used both methods in the past, but I think this year we’re going with the ‘remove the entire plant when ripe then start fresh seeds’ method.

For fruits and veg that are more “ever-bearing” like squash, cucumbers and tomatoes you must harvest to encourage new growth, but you only have to plant 1 for a longer period (such as 1 per month or 1 per summer).

I already have parsley, sage, mint and thyme growing in pots on our front steps.  And I’m planning on adding Rosemary, Chives, Dill, Cilantro and most especially Basil ASAP!  I’ll also be planting more Parsely, Cilantro, and Basil because I usually use SO much of those that sometimes cutting back the plant to make a recipe on monday doesn’t leave me with enough for a recipe later in the week.  Obvious solution…I need more plants!

In my attempt to make the garden look less like a veg plot and more flowerbed like (hopefully to appease the homeowners association) I’ll be throwing in a few zinnias, marigolds, cosmos and daisies.  Folks will be so entranced by the pretty flowers they won’t see the lettuce or tomato vine right?  Wishful Thinking!

Photo Credit: Mel Bartholomew,

Mel Bartholomew may be one of the only Garden Realists!  His method certainly helps bring about Garden Achievements rather than just a bunch of Wishful Thinking!  I was given his first book from my Papa several years ago.  And then later bought the new edition of the same book.  I’m actually partial to the older version.  And this groovy picture which can also be found in the original book is basically my idea of garden nirvana!

The Lay of the Land

Before I begin any discussions of my goals for the garden areas of the house I would like to take a moment to show everyone the lay of the land.

Our house is named Overhill – with good reason!  Not just because we’re huge Lord of the Rings fans (there was a Hobbit family called Underhill, and we thought it was fitting).  Our entire lot is a steep hillside!  In fact we have a 4′ high concrete retaining wall near the bottom of the garden that was installed by the builder to help create a “flat” section closer to the house.  It didn’t really work.  But we’re doing better than our neighboring house.  They have a 10′ retaining wall! Continue reading The Lay of the Land