Just Some Random Winter Gardening Musings

I guess we haven’t had a technical “hard” frost yet, because the lettuce, spinach, and carrot tops are still going strong (ok, not strong, but they haven’t turned to slime) and I never did put row covers on them! At this point, I’m not going to. Too little time, not enough daylight since no one gets home from work til after sundown, and obviously the holidays are upon us. Best laid plans, and all that.

Last week, I saved more seeds from basil and dill, and actually saved some seeds from a Campari tomato from the *gasp* grocery store. When I first tasted those a few winters ago, I was floored at how sweet and wonderful those little things were. I did some quick research to see if I could procure seeds or plants somehow, and back then (maybe 2010-11?) I found that there was a pretty strict patent on the variety and seeds nor plants were for sale. Times, they have changed, and now, as long as you aren’t a commercial grower, you can save the seeds and grow them yourself. I’m definitely going to try!

A couple days ago, I took advantage of a day off work and posted some recipes that have appeared on my blog since its inception almost 2 years ago on the “Recipes” page that you see up top. There aren’t many, but I thought I should at least either take that page down or actually post something on it. I hope to continue to do so in the future. This isn’t a food blog, it’s definitely a gardening blog, but I feel like it should include some recipes for things I happen to make with the food I grow. In other words, don’t look for any quick meals, elaborate foodie-type recipes, gourmet culinary artistry, etc. But do look for things to do with the stuff you grow that actually produces enough for a meal (or a salad.)

I know we’re still a few days out from the actual BIG HOLIDAY, but I would like to wish my readers a very Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, and Happy New Year, aka Happy Holidays. May you and yours experience lots of love and a peaceful season. And then, let’s get back to growing shit!

HerEmeraldThumb Winter Solstice Tree
HerEmeraldThumb Winter Solstice Tree



Saving Dill Seeds

Dill is one of the easiest herbs to grow and so useful in all kinds of dishes. This year I let some of my Mammoth variety flower and go to seed so I could save some. I just cut a few stems off the plant, hung it upside down in the kitchen window for a few weeks (ok, it was more like a couple months), and then pulled the seeds off and stuck them in a plastic bag.

It’s a bit of a messy process, but I find it easiest to just do it on the bare counter top. It’s simple enough to wipe clean after you’re finished.


Sorting the stems from the seeds felt a little weird, because it reminded me of watching people pick out the marijuana seeds and stem pieces before rolling a joint. Having never rolled a joint myself, though, I must say that the sorting process was pretty zen. Although, there was none of the giddy anticipation of watching someone else do it and thinking about how super cool it was going to be laughing like an idiot for 5 minutes and then falling asleep.


I can talk about this stuff now that pot is legal in a couple states, right?


I’m going to try sowing some seeds to see if I can get some dill going indoors this winter. It tastes so much better fresh. I dried some fresh dill in the oven last year and used it during the cold, dead months but it just wasn’t the same.



A Post About the Perks of Winter Gardening (Hint: There Are None.)

You know what is a surefire way to get me feeling totally unmotivated to do anything garden-related?


winter garden

Yeah, I thought I was super prepared with my little row cover kits and all kinds of intentions to keep things covered at the first warning of possible snow, but as it turns out, I am a lazy sack of poop sometimes (especially Sundays) and don’t take weather predictions very seriously because they mean going outside and doing stuff in the name of preparedness. I just find it hard to enjoy time spent in the great outdoors when it means my face is literally freezing off. So due to my laziness and respect for Sunday’s “day of rest” status, I did not protect what few things were still growing in the garden and am guilty of involuntary plantslaughter. (I couldn’t even bring myself to step outside to take this picture, sorry you’re looking at a crappy phone pic taken through a window.)

Good news, though! Hope remains! Allegedly, the weekend will bring warmer temperatures. Like, almost 60 degrees. That means I can venture out to finally clean up the raised beds, plant garlic, compost all the dead potted flowers and plants, just generally shut things down out there like a boss, or whatever it is the young kids call it these days.

All of this has made me realize I need a greenhouse. Winter would be so much easier to face if I could hang out in one of those things for an hour every day. Must explore options!

For funsies, pics of the Meyer lemon tree getting ready to blossom:

lemon tree


lemon buds

I think this tree would be a lot larger and would be producing more frequently had I not almost killed it last winter. It looked terrible when I brought it outside, but I re-potted it, and it spent all summer in part shade and came back nicely. THINK OF ALL THE LEMONS I COULD GROW IN A GREENHOUSE THOUGH!!!




Last Fall Fruit

My last post (which was like a month ago, oops) was about my first fall fruits aka the things that actually grew, blossomed, and bore edible things after my second round of planting. I figured the best follow-up to jump back in here would be a post about my last outdoor harvest this year.

These peppers finally took off in August and produced until mid-October. I managed to harvest them the night before the temp dipped down into the 30s. I have no idea what kind of peppers they are. (It’s a long story.)



I also had success with pole beans. I’ve never grown any type of bean before, so I was obviously super impressed with myself while I watched the beanstalks climb and blossom, then sprout actual beans like my very own backyard fairy tale. Unfortunately, I wasn’t as quick to harvest them, and by the time I got around to picking them, they’d already been chilled enough to turn their shells a weird translucent, soggy-looking green. They were limp as I pulled them off the stalks, and when I brought the container inside the house, I noticed that they actually smelled pretty funky. That ruined my appetite for beans, and I am slightly ashamed to admit that they went away to die in the garbage disposal. YES I SHOULD HAVE COMPOSTED THEM BUT SOMETIMES I SAY “SCREW IT” AND EMBRACE MODERN TECHNOLOGY INSTEAD.


What’s still in the ground and growing? All kinds of good stuff. Take a look:


This week I need to plant garlic, and I have another completely awesome project in the works that I need to get started on so I can tell you all about it!



First Fall Fruit

I planted winter squash, aka acorn squash, several weeks ago. I was afraid there might not be enough pollinators left, but as it turns out, I was wrong and I’ve seen bees on the blossoms every morning when I take our beagle outside. This week I was rewarded with a new baby squash!


One winter (acorn) squash on the vine so far! Yay! #fallgardening #3seasongardening #successfulgarden

A photo posted by @heatherchandler1988 on

Otherwise, pole beans are blossoming and lettuce and basil is growing happily. I’ve been a bit busy lately, but plan to get some posts lined up to spread out over the next few weeks. Stay with me, garden fans!


The Four Season Garden

I just got all inspired by a PBS show and wanted to share! Watch this episode of Growing a Greener World to see how to extend your growing season–it’s full of great ideas.

I’m going to start small next month with two row covers, but eventually I’d like to cover the raised beds with something even more stable as demonstrated in the episode. I’m not sure if I can achieve a true four season garden, but I think I can definitely get through three seasons of outdoor gardening this year.

Here are a few pins that I found helpful when thinking about fall and winter gardening:




Click the Pinterest button (to the right) to follow me on Pinterest and share your gardening pins with me!




I Took a Machete to My Garden

Just kidding. I used a pair of dollar store pruners.

For the second year in a row, I’ve been kicking myself for not getting rid of all the cherry tomato volunteers. If I allow any to stay next year, I’m transplanting them to someplace on the property that I don’t pay much attention to. Like, maybe the compost pile. Because this is what ONE leftover volunteer did. (Hint, see the clusters of cherry tomatoes in the middle of the picture? That is the center of the plant, whose vines have crept out every which way and taken over the next bed and a third of the patio.)


Obviously, raised beds are not a proper home for things that climb unless you trellis them properly. I will not be making this mistake again!

Even though there were still quite a few green tomatoes on the vines, I cut most of them back today. We’ve given away a lot, and even the littlest Emerald Thumb is mostly tired of picking and eating them. I think I’ll get out the juicer this week and juice the rest of them. Anyway, here is why they had to go:

Winter squash
Winter squash


Pole beans
Pole beans

These two things are doing well so far, but the tomato vines had sneaked their way into the trellis and were trying to take over. I can’t have that. Sorry, tomatoes…

The aftermath
The aftermath



I have a confession:  I’ve never really liked these. I actually am always alarmed when I bite into one and it explodes. They have barely any flesh, and are mostly seeds and skin which are not the best parts of a tomato, in my opinion. Lastly, I hate picking them. It takes for-freaking-ever.

Where do you grow your  cherry tomatoes? Or do you even bother with the crazy things?

Vegetarian BLT: Yes, They Do Exist

10 years ago this month, I quit eating meat. I refused to give up some old “classics,” though. Like BLTs.

While it’s not typically possible to go to any random restaurant and order a vegetarian BLT that includes some sort of bacon substitute, (you’ll get a raised eyebrow at the least and a WTF at most) it’s really easy to make your own version at home. That’s the best kind anyway–especially when you can pick your tomatoes straight out of your garden. We all know how satisfying a restaurant tomato slice is, yes? (From 2003’s Intolerable Cruelty comes this wonderful line: “Just bring him an iceberg lettuce and a mealy tomato wedge smothered with French dressing.”)


A few years ago, I was introduced to Morningstar Farms’ veggie bacon strips. While I’m not a huge proponent of meat substitutes that look like meat, bacon is one delectable thing I actually missed from the meat world. I think the smoky, terrible-for-you nitrates involved were my poison rather than the marble-y, fat-plus-tissue cut into strips-sizzling on a griddle thing. So, I rather enjoy myself a couple soy bacon strips here and there, and especially on BLTs in the summer.

They aren’t vegan.

The sandwich I made is vegetarian, though.


Is there any late summer meal that appeals more to tastebuds than a BLT made with fresh ingredients? I think not.


I started out with a fresh, sliced Cherokee Purple tomato.


I added a thin wedge of iceberg lettuce (from the supermarket…sorry, not sorry! You can add your own home-grown lettuce if you wish!)


I layered the lettuce with tomato slices, topped them with two strips of vegetarian bacon, and finished with the second slice of toasted white bread.


The triangle cut is a must to best handle the sandwich without it falling apart.

I love to add a dab of Miracle Whip or mayonnaise for some extra flavor. But I’m a condiment lover! You can take it or leave it…or start a debate in the comments about Miracle Whip vs. mayonnaise…

Ah, summer. It’s the most vegetarian time of the year.

Cherokee Purple Tomato–Not Your Average Heirloom

Cherokee purples are an interesting fruit. They’re an old cultivar, allegedly originating with the Cherokee people, according to Wikipedia,  a.k.a. the most reputable source on the interwebs. Feel free to do your own research; I’m not going to give a history lesson today because that isn’t really the purpose of this blog. Anyway, this variety is considered one of the “blacks” meaning it’s darker than your average ripe, bright orange-y red tomato.


My tomato knowledge was pretty limited when I started gardening. I knew there were big ones, smaller ones the size of a cherry, grape-shaped ones, yellow and orange ones, and rather odd-looking ones labeled “heirlooms” at the supermarket. Some were good for slicing, others were good for making sauce, and still others were meant to just pop into your mouth straight off the vine for that unmistakable BURST. Then, a friend of mine showed me her Cherokee purple harvest and I was floored at not only the size/shape/color, but she sent me home with a couple and the taste just blew me away! You know how usually a sliced tomato tastes better with a liberal shake of salt and probably some ground black pepper? Not this variety. You don’t need salt or any other seasoning to bring out the flavor because it’s already there.


I actually saved the seeds from one of the tomatoes she sent me home with last year. So the Cherokee purples I’ve been harvesting the last couple weeks are from seeds I saved, started, planted, and tended. Is that full circle since someone else gave me the seeds? I’m saving seeds from my harvest this time around, so hopefully next year this time I’ll be doing the same, and that will be a true “full circle” from seed saving to harvest.

Sneak peek of my next post...can you guess what deliciousness I made for dinner?
Sneak peek of my next post…can you guess what deliciousness I made for dinner?


Check back (or subscribe so you never miss a post!) on Friday to see my version of a classic favorite summer dinner. Hint:  I bet you didn’t think it could be done!

Mr. Stripey Tomato Review

Waaaaaay back in January, I started seeds for Mr. Stripey tomatoes. Now I am an finally enjoying some! This variety is yellow, with a sort of reddish pattern. The fruits are large and uniform, unlike some other heirlooms that are not so pleasing to the eye. Once you slice one of these babies open, the flesh inside is sweet and juicy. Ok, basically they taste like summer. I probably never would have known about this particular variety (or gone many more years without this bit of wonderful knowledge), but a kind friend sent me a birthday card with a packet of Mr. Stripey seeds a couple years ago. I’m so glad the seeds were still good and germinated no problem. You should definitely try growing these if you haven’t already–they’re amazing! mr.stripeyinhand2         Mr. Stripey in hand mr.stripeyplated1 mr.stripeyhelpers mr.stripeyandfriends