Happy 2016, everyone! Here in New York’s Hudson Valley, we’re having a “hit-and-miss” winter. I’m talking about 71°F on Christmas Eve, and a modest snowstorm 4 days later. Weird weather or not, this month I’m tending houseplants, winter-sowing seeds, and cooking up some savory feasts.
Gardening Indoors and Out
Seeds. Order these from catalogs now, especially if you have specific colors or varieties of plants in mind. I order most of my seeds from these reliable online sellers.
Winter-Sowing. Plant your perennial and hardy annual seeds outdoors in containers now, and in spring you’ll have enough plants to furnish your entire neighborhood. This nifty method of seed-sowing is fun, fun, fun! The details.
Forsythia. It’s not too early to force the dormant stems. Cut sprays at varying lengths, mash the ends with a hammer, and then plunk them in a vase of water. Set before a bright but cool window, a bouquet of goldenrod-yellow will emerge in about 21 days. As pictured above, I like to display forsythia with pink Begonia semperflorens and purple and white Primula obconica in my parlor window.
Design a Window Garden. Outfit a window with glass shelves and a broad sill, and you can have all kinds of fun creating seasonal plant-pictures. The easy-peazy directions are here.
African Violets. As usual, I have way too many of these Saintpaulia ionantha. But they are perfect for the glass shelves of my window gardens, and their flowers make my smile. To ensure constant bloom, I care for the plants this way.
Amaryllis. Has the flower bud emerged on your new plant? If so, move it gradually to light and sun and heat (not more than 70°F, please), and increase water as need indicates. Check your older stored amaryllis for signs of growth. Then renew the top layer of soil and provide water. Keep cool and dim until the flower-stalk is about three inches high.
Zonal Geraniums (Pelargoniums). Give them full sun, and they will flower with increasing frequency as the days lengthen. The pink and white zonals I propagated last August are now in various stages of bud and bloom. I encourage them with a low-nitrogen, high-phosphorous plant food.
Hardy Bulbs. Did you pot up a few tulips, hyacinths, or other “Dutch” bulbs last October? Bring them out of cold storage now, and place them in a sunny but cool window. And if you wish to save them for outdoor planting after their flowers fade, provide food and water until the foliage withers. More details here.
In the Kitchen
Did you max out on sweets over the December holidays? You’re not alone. Here are three savory mains for wintry days (click highlighted text for recipes):
Kevin’s Red Bell Pepper Soup. I created this soup for my not-yet-published cookbook. It’s a healthful puree of ripe, Vitamin C-rich bell peppers, plus zingy garlic, fragrant thyme, and creamy russet potatoes. And Lawd A-Mighty — it’s delicious! Here’s the recipe.
Low-Carb Cottage Cheese Pancakes. How can I eat cottage cheese pancakes and still maintain, at the age of 107, an Adonis-like figure? I’m so glad you asked! Let me share a few secrets with you:
Bubble and Squeak with Mushroom Gravy. I made Bubble and Squeak the other day, and it comforted my soul. It comforted Brenda Johnson’s soul, too, because I made up a plate for her to taste-test. Here’s my version of this British classic, along with the answer to your burning question: “What the heck is Bubble and Squeak?”
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Love ya –