Welcome to Sassy Plants - a blog about urban gardening, edible landscaping, and other plant rants.

Monday, September 13, 2010

More Tomatoes

The tomatoes are coming in!

I picked another 1.6 pounds at the end of August, and 7.5 pounds last weekend! So we did get that first delicious batch of sauce on Labor Day Weekend, and I have my first freezer bag of peeled tomatoes for later in the year.  Yesterday I picked another 5.5 pounds bringing the total to about 16 pounds, and I'll be going out to pick more today, along with our first harvest of tomatillos.  So exciting!

Monday, August 23, 2010


It has been a long time coming.  We're about a month or more behind where we were last year, but we finally harvested our first ripe tomatoes yesterday! There were about 7 or 8 beautiful red tomatoes, totaling 1.4 pounds, and there are loads more that should be ripe in about a week.  We're hoping to make this year's first batch of homemade Penne all'Arrabbiata before Labor Day.  We just harvested all of our garlic, too - just in time!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Garlic Scapes & Potatoes

This week I cut off the tops of my garlic plants, also known as scapes.  The scape is the unopened flower at the tip of the stalk.  Cutting the scape off directs more of the plants energy into making a nice big bulb, instead of flowering. It is tasty in stir fries, with a more subtle flavor than the garlic bulb. You can buy scapes at some farmers markets - I saw some this weekend that were $1.00 for a bunch of 8, so I'm including these in my harvest total!

I also harvested our small crop of volunteer potatoes - 4.6 pounds!  Nice pay off for no work!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Harvest Tally

August 2010
3.0 pounds tomatoes -  market value $6.00
Approx 50 garlic bulbs + 6-12 Elephant Garlic - market value approx $15.00

August total $21.00

July 2010
4.6 pounds purple potatoes - market value $9.00
Approx 50 garlic scapes - market value $6.00

July total $15.00

June 2010
1 pint raspberries - market value $3.00
1.5 pounds snow peas - market value $5.00

June total $8.00

First Harvest!

It was a small first harvest, but a harvest nonetheless.  This week I picked about a pint of Raspberries and approximately 1.5 pounds of snow peas. I also picked a bunch of oregano to dry.

I planted out 4 tomatillo starts, an Anaheim pepper, and the one swiss chard start that didn't shrivel up and die from neglect, along with some corn that my neighbor gave me.

Forgot to mention that I spent $2.99 on a small bag of lime for the tomatoes - will add that to the garden input for a total of $20.12

Monday, June 14, 2010


Heavens to Murgatroid, it is already mid June. The combination of my being pregnant and the unusually cold, wet weather we've been having means that my garden has really been neglected this spring.
But I think we've turned the corner!  It is warming up and starting to look summery. And I'm starting to get some energy back, too.  Woo hoo!
This past week we planted out 14 of our tomato starts - mostly Heinz variety with a few Medford Early.
We added about a half cup of lime and some organic fertilizer to each planting hole to prevent blossom end rot and add some nutrients to the soil.
Yesterday I planted four luffa.  Fingers crossed that they are more productive than the two from last year!

Monday, May 10, 2010


I usually use potting soil to start all of my seeds, but this year I decided to buy a bag of sphagnum moss specifically labeled for seed starting.
In the picture below I have two containers of Heinz tomato seedlings that were sowed at the same time.  The container on the left was filled with good organic potting soil, the one on the right is the sphagnum moss.  What a difference!  I'll be using the moss from now on.

It has been chilly here for the last month or so, and things are a bit slow to take off this spring.  But, here's what's cooking so far:

POTATOES! Guess we left a few taters in the ground last year,
because we have some volunteers coming up.

 Lotsa garlic & elephant garlic.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Sow Exciting

We've had a few chilly weeks here, but the tomatoes, boc choi, swiss chard and leeks I started a few weeks ago are coming up! 

The snow peas and garlic are coming on strong, too. 

Yesterday we sowed Anaheim peppers, Banana peppers, Heinz Sauce tomatoes, tomatillos, butternut squash and luffa!

Monday, March 29, 2010


I've been looking at all the beautiful Euphorbia in bloom, thinking that it really deserves a blog post.  And, wouldn't you know it, my friend Lesley asked me yesterday if I would write about the crazy Jetson's space age plant with all the suction cups!  Euphorbia. Absolutely! And nice to know I have at least one reader out there!
There are actually about 2000 species of Euphorbia, ranging from the Ponsettia to 30 foot tall tropical varieties.  When most gardeners here mention Euphorbia they are referring to the European perennials (Euphorbia amygdaloides and Euphorbia characias).  Euphorbia characias wulfenii, pictured above, is one of the most commonly grown varieties, which grows to an impressive 3' to 4' high.  It has blue green foliage that persists throughout winter, and looks great with it's massive spring display of chartreuse bracts.  I like to mix this Euphorbia, or smaller similar varieties with lavender and or New Zealand flax for color contrast. It is  relatively drought tolerant and prefers a full sun location. Maintenance is minimal - just cut older yellow/brown stalks down to the base. All Euphorbia have sap that can be a skin irritant, so wear gloves when doing any pruning.

Late March

The garlic I planted a month ago is all several inches above ground already!  And the snow peas, leeks, tomatoes, boc choi and swiss chard I seeded three weeks ago are all sprouting up.  Makes me hungry just thinking about it!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

In the Garden

Time to start those seeds! Today I sowed the Snow Pod Peas that I bought last weekend.  In the (unheated) greenhouse I started some of the intriguing french seeds I received last year including cherry tomatoes and leeks.  And I had remaining seeds of boc choi, swiss chard, and Medford Early tomatoes from last year that I also seeded today.  

Monday, March 1, 2010


Today I planted elephant garlic! I used about 20 cloves from bulbs I grew last year.  I also planted our horseradish into a large container.  Horseradish is incredibly prolific, so I'll keep that guy in confinement on our deck - right next to my container of mint.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

2010 Garden

Another beautiful day!  I neglected to plant garlic last fall, so today I planted the remainder (52 to be exact) of our 2009 garlic cloves.  I also went to a few garden centers and bought: 1 package of Anaheim Pepper seeds, 1 package of Snow Pea seeds, 1 Rhubarb plant, 1 Horseradish plant, 1.5 lbs of organic German Butterball Potato seed, and 1 bag of seed starting mix. The grand total for all of these treasures was $18.13.  Not bad!  I got a few good deals.

Two years ago I was taking Master Gardener classes where a discussion about the value of homegrown produce was brought up.  One person said that his time was worth so much that it was simply not cost effective to grow his own tomatoes, and that he would prefer to purchase tomatoes that had been shipped here from Mexico. Kind of a quirky perspective coming from a Master Gardener...
Two years later times have changed and many people have more time than money. This year I plan to keep track of how much I spend to grow food, what I harvest from my yard and the dollar value of what I have grown.  I think that, particularly in these economically challenging times, it will be interesting to see how much can be produced out of a city garden.

Monday, February 22, 2010

It might as well be spring

It has been a warm and sunny winter here in Portland! March 21 is still weeks away, but it looks and feels a lot like spring.  In my yard there are blooming daffodils, vinca, violets, grape hyacinth, forsythia, primrose and flowering currant. 

Thursday, February 11, 2010

I heart Hinoki

I love Hinoki.  I do.  I get weak in the knees over a good Slender Hinoki. Once someone told me that they thought Hinoki look just like Arborvitae.  I can't remember who said that because, in all honesty, I probably wrote them off as soon as the words left their lips.

Hinoki are a false cypress, native to Japan. They have sprayed vegetation that is somewhat twisted and cupped, which gives it really interesting contrast and depth. And they are evergreen, and low maintenance.  What is not to love?
Above is a courtyard garden I designed at NW 11th & Kearney in Portland.  
Look at the beautiful Hinoki!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Getting Down To It

I just took our last gallon of diced tomatoes out of the freezer to make Penne all'Arrabiata.
The tomato purchasing fate that awaits us for the next five months is a little sad.  On the other hand, getting to mid-February on home grown tomatoes is pretty darn good.  Especially if you are Italian.  And you make a lot of tomato sauce.
Last year was very successful for our tomato harvest, but there were things that we'll do differently this year.  For starters, we planted about 14 tomato plants in the garden, and they were fairly close together. The result was that some tomatoes went bad because we simply didn't see them in the tomato jungle.  We also experimented with leaving some plants in 5 gallon containers in the greenhouse, and on our deck.  That was pretty much a bust.  Each plant only gave us a few tomatoes.
This year the plan is to have about 16 tomatoes in the garden, with more space in between.  We'll see how far that crop gets us into 2011.
What else is left from the 2009 backyard bounty? One frozen pureed butternut squash, garlic, elephant garlic, and chili flakes. And a box of purple potatoes that are full of shoots and trying to grow right out of my basement.  We also have spinach and mache that was seeded in November.  And I seeded some lettuce in the greenhouse a few days ago.
Can we make it a whole year and have something home grown on hand to eat at all times?  I think so.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

When Life Hands You Meyer Lemons...

Yesterday a friend bestowed two home grown 'Improved Meyer' lemons upon me, which reminded me that they are on the 2010 list of things I must grow! I haven't tasted the lemons yet, but they smell unbelievably good.
'Improved Meyer' is the hardiest of dwarf lemons and does well in containers, so it is not terribly difficult to grow here in the Northwest.  You can grow the lemon as an indoor plant, or keep outdoors and either protect it during a cold snap or bring inside during colder months.  I have read that they will survive brief cold snaps dipping as low as 18 degrees.
'Improved Meyer' lemons are evergreen and prolific.  They can produce fruit year round, although the majority is produced in the winter.  They are also, in fact, a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange, so the flavor is more sweet than other lemons.  That sweet flavor apparently lends itself well to lemonade.  I can't wait to try some!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Blueberries are fantastic shrubs to grow.  Not only do blueberry bushes produce fruits that are delicious and high in antioxidants, but they are also very nice as ornamental plants. Blueberries have nice fall color, and there are a few varieties that are evergreen as well.  On top of this, blueberries are  happiest in the acid soils of the Pacific Northwest, which makes them even more of a must have for any Northwest garden.      In addition to having acid soil, to properly grow blueberries you need to plant at least two varieties for pollination.  For a long harvest plant early, mid and late season varieties.       (We're having a warm January in Portland - above is a photo taken today of a Legacy variety of blueberry, planted with daffodils that are already blooming!)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


I went to the Portland Classical Chinese Garden last week just in time to see the blooming Edgeworthia.  Edgeworthia, a relative of Daphne,  has fragrant flowers that bloom in winter and early spring from unusual looking buds.  It is a very interesting shrub that is not very widely used here, so it is always a treat to see. 

Here's the dirt on Edgeworthia:  

Botanical Name: Edgeworthia chrysantha
Origin: China
Plant Type: Deciduous Shrub
Hardiness: Sunset 5-9; 14-24; USDA to zone 7
Size: 6' high & wide. 
Light Requirements: Full Sun to Light Shade

Friday, January 8, 2010

2010 Garden Planning

Oooh the seed cataloges are rolling in! That means it is time to start planning this year's garden.

There are, of course, many different approaches to the vegetable garden plant selection.
Most people will plant what they eat the most frequently.  Which makes perfect sense.  Others plant not what they eat the most, but instead grow the foods that would cost the most to purchase - in this area things like artichokes, sweet peppers and herbs come to mind. This makes sense, too. Especially if you have a very limited space to work with.
Another aspect of selecting kitchen garden plants, one that I have never heard mentioned (maybe for good reason?!), is to plant things that weigh the most. For example, last year I grew potatoes, among other things.  Potatoes are generally inexpensive and readily available, but they weigh a lot! It requires more fuel to haul those suckers around than it does for, say, sprigs of sage or swiss chard.

This year's garden will be another combination of these three philosophies and will include tomatoes, which we probably eat the most. It will also include herbs like basil, that we eat occasionally, but that are relatively expensive to purchase.  And, it will include those heavy potatoes.  The purple potatoes we grew last year were a hit, but they did take up a lot of space in the garden.  This year I have my unused, full sun parking strip slated for potato production.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Re-Using a Christmas Tree

Yesterday I took down our Christmas tree.  It was a Grand Fir, which we always get, because they smell so wonderful.                          It always makes me a bit sad to dispose of the tree.  Setting it out at the curb, next to the trash, is not a dignified funeral for any tree, let alone a Grand Fir. I usually use some of the tree (a few limbs that I can't manage to cram into our yard debris bin) for mulch.  But this year I am using it all.  I cut off all of the branches and laid them out flat on my shrub beds for mulch. I will use the trunk in a few months as the center for a cucumber trellis.