Just as fishermen look forward to the salmon’s return in the spring, gardeners and cooks also look forward to garden firsts as well — the first blossoms (primroses), the first greens (spinach and kale) and the first edible perennials.
Chives are one of my favorite perennials herbs and the first growth seems to be the sweetest and most flavorful — and colorful — because of the purple flowers that top the chive stems.
Chives are very hardy, coming back year after year. They grow in just about any kind of soil, though soil that’s been enhanced with compost or old manure is appreciated. If your chives seem to be suffering a bit, it might be time to divide the clump and transplant them. It’s perhaps too late to divide the main clump this year, but it might be fine for smaller, offshoot clumps.
If you use chives in recipes fairly often, then have some growing near the house so all you have to do is open the door and snip a handful.
Chives are an excellent complement to scrambled eggs, baked salmon, salads and yes, even rhubarb. I recently came across a recipe for Rhubarb Chive Flatbread. The typed version talks you through how to make bread, which added unnecessary length, but here’s the gist of it:
Into a recipe of bread dough, knead in 1/2-cup chopped chives. After its final rising, shape dough into 4x12-inch lengths and place on a greased baking sheet. Press in 2 to 3 stalks of rhubarb. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake 20 minutes at 475 degrees F or until golden brown.
Another variation that came to mind is to make a savory cinnamon roll. Coat a rectangle of biscuit dough with olive oil and then sprinkle it with chopped chives and chopped rhubarb. Roll up and slice them a la cinnamon roll style and bake for 12 to 15 minutes at 400 degrees (or until done; I’m guessing on the time here).
Back to the garden: Our cool, coastal climate allows us to grow a surprising number of culinary herbs. To whet your appetite for fresh herbs, here's a starter list:
Chives, parsley, oregano, yarrow, parsley, thyme, chamomile, feverfew, valerian, catnip, horseradish, dill, chervil, coriander (cilantro), lemon balm, sage, arugula (garden rocket), savory, fennel, calendula, borage, bee balm, dock, angelica, horseradish, nettles, nasturtium, garlic and mint.
The more tender herbs like basil, lavender, rosemary and Echinacea need extra care to ensure their survival, either in a covered raised bed, or a hoophouse or greenhouse. Lavender, rosemary and Echinacea may or may not make it through the winter unless brought indoors.
Let there be light: Tomatoes are heavy feeders and need at least six to seven hours of direct sunlight for proper growth — the more sunlight, the healthier the plants. If they spend too much time in shade they will be more prone to disease and pests. Containers are great because you can fine-tune their location.
Watering tips: One of the things that can really stress out a plant is irregular watering as they develop.
For example, watering a lot at first, and then forgetting about it for a week or so can lead to blossom end rot and cracking tomatoes. Another mistake is to water the wrong part of the plant. You want to water the root system of your tomato plants, not the leaves. It’s better to water the root system deeply but infrequently than to sprinkle a little water on the surface every day.
Transplant tomatoes up to the first true leaves. New roots will quickly sprout on the stems; the more roots, the more fruits.
Should one pinch the suckers? Opinions vary on this topic. Some sources say to pinch at least the lower 10 inches of suckers on all tomato varieties (in order to direct the tomato plant’s energy into growing bigger, better fruit). Others say to pinch suckers on indeterminate (ever-growing) tomatoes only, and to leave suckers along on determinate tomatoes. My belief is that you should pinch occasionally (to let in more light and air) on an individual plant basis. If it feels right, do it.
Provide support for indeterminate tomatoes: Tomatoes are basically vines and need support to keep them from sprawling along the ground.
Feed and trim: In mid-season, or when the first fruit is ripening, encourage new growth and continued fruit set by scratching compost around the stem and trim some of the upper leaves.
Pick ripe, but not dead ripe.
Tickle and tap: To encourage fruit setting for tomato plants growing in enclosed spaces like greenhouses and hoophouses, you’ll need to act like a pollinator: tap the stems or branches near the yellow flowers at lease once a day. But avoid tapping in the morning when droplets of watered have condensed on the leaves. Otherwise you run the risk of transferring diseases from plant to plant.
More early season tips:
• Stay ahead of the weeds
• Apply Sluggo or set traps
• Pinch dead pansy blossoms
• Sow more salad greens
• Start more broccoli and kale seedlings for a late summer crop
• Take photos of your flowers
• Thin carrots and beets
• Visit other local gardens
To learn and connect with local gardeners, visit the Kodiak Growers Facebook page.
Archived copies of Marion’s columns are posted at www.kodiakdailymirror.com. Contact Marion at firstname.lastname@example.org.