A couple of weeks ago my Uncle Steve (AKA handy manny – who is both handy and acts as a male nanny) and Aunt Debi (who’s adventures you can read all about on her hilarious Narsbar blog) came to visit us in the Hamptons. Though we invited them to enjoy our home, spend some quality time together and have a little vacation…there was an ulterior motive: The list. This list consisted of some help that I needed with a few events that I was working on – most importantly my sister’s stagette called Camp Mandylane. And next to it – my garden. Last year Uncle Steve gave me all of his fabulous gardening tips and I did it myself. This year being due with baby #2 in July I figured it may be easier if he just flew down and helped me with the planting himself. So he did. And I couldn’t be more thankful for it. Not to mention…he got a great lil, pant less assistant to help him – my son. Want to get your kids involved in the garden? Read on…
Gardening with Steve Sheffer (SS) – a special LMP Blog Q&A:
LMP: What are the most important tools required for the first of gardening season?
SS: Before even planting you have to make sure you have proper soil conditions.
LMP: Oh, this is good to know. What does this mean?
SS: You must know the type of plants that you are planting, the amount of sunlight that they require and soil conditions meaning for example some plants like well draining areas of sandy soil condition.
As far as tools: a rake, a shovel and a small hand shovel.
Also you may want to get a fence. I put one up around the tomatoes to protect them from creatures who may roam here through the night. Not sure that this will actually keep them out but it’s worth a shot! I just used chicken wire and stakes which we got at Home Depot. I also used wire trellises around the tomatoes as they grow decently high and you don’t want them to tip over. We were able to find bright green at Home Depot in their gardening section which I think looks really nice in your backyard.
LMP: I agree. I LOVE the bright green garden trellises. Such a great update from the ugly plain wire colored ones I got last year! How did you prep the soil?
SS: I used a quality grade, organic triple mix soil and worked it into the existing earth with a shovel and a rake.
LMP: What are your favorite vegetables and/or fruits to plant and why?
SS: Tomatoes, zucchinis, peas, beans and cucumbers. I like these best because they can be picked and enjoyed right off the vine.
Note from LMP: The chives (purple flowers on top) grew back from last year. Who knew? I had no idea they were perennials. Was quite a pleasant surprise when I saw them pop up at the beginning of the gardening season.
LMP: What’s the best way to get toddlers involved in the garden?
SS: Have them help dig the holes, give them the task of placing the plants in the holes and if you’re using seeds let them drop the seeds into their individual holes or mounds made. Have them participate in an ongoing manner with watering frequently so they can observe the growth and enjoy the fruits of their labor.
The lil man wore shoes by Native which I love because they have the same comfort as Crocs but are much easier on the eyes…
Lil man topped off the gardening with lunch served al fresco and enjoyed by the hard working Uncle Steve who continued on to plant impatience neatly in front of my house which look absolutely gorgeous.
Thanks Uncle Steve for all of your help this weekend – you and Aunt D are the best!
Tomato. A beautiful heirloom named Simone.
You may or may not remember, at the beginning of the summer I planted some tomatoes…and had no clue what I was doing. Well, turns out I did a pretty good job. The tomato plants are flourishing and growing so tall making Mama (me) very proud. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for my herbs. Seems they were taken over by the weeds or just felt under-loved and died on me. May they R.I.P. Except for the basil! Go basil go. We are growing strong and tall and not going to waste as I have been using in salads, to make pesto and in sauce…as below.
Back to my new baby…Simone. It was just this weekend I noticed this first tomato turned the bright and beautiful color yellow. Her complexion so smooth and her skin perfectly ripened. She was a sure fire ready to be picked. I also noticed my cherry tomatoes started to turn red. One in particular which the little man snatched up and popped into his mouth before I could say let’s pick it. He loved every bite of that juicy little tomato.
Tonight’s dinner is chicken parm with a caesar salad and garlic bread. I wanted to debut Simone in a special way so I thought it would be nice to add some cheese and top each piece of garlic bread with a piece of my baby. She did so well. I cannot wait to eat her sisters…
Recipe for the chicken parm…my LM and husband’s favorite:
1 package of thinly sliced chicken breast
plate full of flour
plate full of breadcrumbs mixed with a palmful of parmesan
2 eggs beaten with garlic salt
corn oil for frying
1 16 oz. bag of shredded mozzerella cheese
Set up your station of plates. Take your chicken and dredge in the flour, dip through the egg and pat into the breadcrumbs. Set aside for up to 30 minutes. While chicken is resting prepare your sauce…
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
1 small vidalia onion finely chopped
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 14 oz. can tomato sauce
2 heaping tablespoons of brown sugar
handful of basil (I picked mine from the garden and the leaves were small so I left them whole)
salt and pepper
Heat a couple tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil over medium low heat. Add the garlic and onion and sweat them out for a few minutes till they begin to soften. Add the tomatoes and brown sugar and stir. Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes. Add the basil and salt and pepper to taste.
Note: If you’re going to make some pasta as a side…do it now. I made a spinach fettucine. And then forgot to serve it. That’s right.
Onto frying…First preheat your oven to 375. Now, heat your corn oil in a non stick pan over medium high heat. Fry your chicken cutlets in batches till golden brown about 2-4 minutes per side. Clean the pan as you go if it gets too brown. Place on paper towels to drain as you remove from the pan.
Time to assemble…in a 9×13″ dish, cover the bottom with your sauce. Add the chicken cutlets and top with more sauce to cover. Add your shredded cheese and top with some parmaesaen. Cover with tinfoil and bake for 10 minutes. Then remove the tinfoil and bake for another 2 minutes so cheese can brown. Serve immediately with your pasta…and if you’re as adventurous as me…a caesar salad and cheesy tomato garlic bread!
I’ve always wanted my own vegetable garden and this weekend I completed this goal of mine. I planted, for the first time! I was super nervous since I had no idea what I was doing…but it was pretty easy and I think I did OK.
First things first, I went to my local nursery and spoke to someone about he right gear to buy. Very important…a rake and a shovel. My starter package also included 2 bags of compost and a box of fertilizer. My Uncle Steve gave me a few tips to get me going and advised me to start with tomato plants and some herbs. He told me to get a few pre-grown plants: beefsteak tomatoes for slicing and cooking, cherry tomatoes for LM to pick off and eat as they grow and I chose an orange heirloom tomato just for fun. I also picked up pre-grown dill, cilantro, basil and chives.
So here’s what I did…I don’t know if I did it 100% right so check back with me in a few months…haha.
Choose a bed for planting. You will need an area that gets sunlight for almost the entire day (till 4pm at least). *Note this picture was taken at 5pm. Sun covered the bed of soil at 4pm.
Prime the soil (don’t know if this is the right term – I just made it up, right now). I did this by raking aside all of the mulch until I got to the rich brown soil underneath.
Till the soil with the compost and fertilizer by simply mixing it all together with the soil in the ground.
Dig your holes and drop your plants…I literally just dug up holes and made sure each was nicely lined with the natural soil, compost and fertilizer that I mixed together. For each hole I dropped in my plant, filled accordingly and made sure to spread each by at least 2 feet to avoid over crowding.
I put cages around each of the tomato plants so they would grow straight and tall and not fall over.
Took my son’s little tike’s watering can and gave each of the newly planted pants a good drink of water…I would have let the LM do it himself but he was napping. Think I could have done all of this with a toddler hanging off my leg? I think NOT! This watering can is FABULOUS for kids!
Step 7: TBC
I need to get chicken wire put up around this bed of plants to keep the animals away…I’m back in the city right now and have not yet done this…will be back out at the house on Tuesday…hope my little babies are OK! We’ll have to see…will keep you posted!
I took a gardening class at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden today. It was fabulous. I didn’t learn much BUT I got very inspired to plant some flowers and tons of herbs + veggies this summer at my house out east.
The few things that I did learn however were actually very important and a good start for this warm spring season that is upon us…
1.) ALL soil should be tested for lead. Especially if you’ve got lil ones who will be helping you out in the garden (I cannot wait to get LM out there!!). Supposedly it’s easy to find local spots to send a package of your dirt for testing.
2.) If you’re a gardening amateur like myself, you should start your project with wheatgrass. It looks pretty (I’m going to be using tons of it for a party that I’ve got coming up in a couple of weeks…) and is very easy to grow! Well so you think…I shouldn’t talk because I haven’t seen any buds yet. But it’s great practice and perfect for planting indoors while the weather is still cool.
Tip that I learned:try to plant with your kids if they are a bit older and want to help out. A darling idea especially for Easter is to use egg shells as the base for your soil. Here’s a quick how to if you want to give this a try…
I am going to use this as inspiration to make the place cards for my Passover dinner…too cute!
Here’s a quick snapshot of a flower that I found beautiful while walking through the green house at the end of the class…
And here’s a shot of greenery growing out of onions that were planted directly into soil. Very cool and they told me that kids at the garden did this! Another crafty idea for some spring fun…
I highly suggest checking out this gorgeous garden – it’s worth paying a visit too…or taking a class.
Brooklyn Botanical Garden
900 Washington Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11225
B or Q to Prospect Park
2 or 3 to Eastern Parkway