Victory Garden 2023 Seed Starting
Chocolate Box Cottage Diary, Volume 3
Week 11: March 18, 2023
As the snow melts, my thoughts turn to seed starting for our 2023 Victory Garden. Hello, spring! I am happy to see you, even if it is only a glimpse.
Come into the vintage A-frame greenhouse at Chocolate Box Cottage for a quick look around. The sun shines in through the slanted polycarbonate panels, muted by the smoke color. It is over 80 F (26 C) inside, warm enough to feel relaxing. The air is perfumed with a medley of green scents and there are oranges and lemons ready to pick.
The tall back wall holds a very stout shelf crowded with scented and Norwegian geraniums, pots, my garden tool basket. Heavy duty hooks keep our porch geranium baskets suspended from the floor.
Bright lime-green, exceedingly rare Mayo Bule gourds are curing along a shelf on another wall. Small seed-sown lemon trees crowd the floor, interspersed with lemon eucalyptus trees and a few tender herbs. A 4-foot Moringa tree, planted from seed last year, resides in a corner. It doesn’t look happy; I am not sure if it is going to make it. The Roselle hibiscus definitely didn’t.
A makeshift plywood table has been cleared and swept clean in readiness for seed starting. I am a seed saver since the age of 15 when I discovered Seed Saver’s Exchange, so I placed minimal seed orders this winter; most of our veggies are heirlooms whose seeds I save for replanting from year to year. Some things I have been growing for nearly 20 years, including favorite canning tomatoes, pumpkins, radishes, and beans. I grow parsley and kale from Italy, though I have never been there. A gardener friend shared seeds with me many years ago and I have grown them since.
Sam filled planting trays with Happy Frog potting soil, gently patting them and watering them before I sowed seeds. I will continue planting a few things at a time as we move into spring weather: flowers, medicinal herbs, many varieties of basil, my rare gourds, and more. Then, when we are nearing our last frost date, I will start a batch of pickling cucumbers and zucchini to give us a head start on fresh veggies.
Three days of rain melted most of the snow at Chocolate Box Cottage – hooray! The ducks are happy in all kinds of weather – they especially love rain – but the chickens are so ready for sunny weather. Frogs are croaking noisily all day and bits of green are popping up everywhere.
These bits of green are edible: Italian parsley and common chives will find their way into our meals.
I light a candle at the end of my workday to signal the change to evening. The sweet, comforting scent of a beeswax candle is like a switch.
The harvest continues: peas, amaranth, buckwheat, broccoli, and more, grown in soup bowls with a small amount of potting soil, all destined for salads, tacos, tostadas, and more.
New YouTube video ~
If you are looking for a beautiful way to preserve extra lemons, look no further than Lemon Curd. Sweet-tart, smooth, and creamy…if you haven’t had homemade lemon curd, you are in for a treat because it is far better than the commercial product you find at the store. Link to mixer here: Swedish Super Mixer.
Save the seeds to plant your own potted lemon grove!
Baking with rye flour
I am having loads of fun baking with freshly milled rye flour, ground in my KoMo Fidbus 21 grain mill.
Can you believe this gorgeous Angel food cake is made with rye flour? Freshly ground rye flour tastes remarkably similar to wheat and in this cake it is not even noticeable.
Rye sourdough starter
Baking with sourdough starter feels rather magical. That a jar of yeasty slurry can raise bread – pancakes – biscuits – and more – feels amazing.
I converted my Dakota Pioneer Everlasting Yeast, an heirloom type of starter my German Grandma used, from all-purpose flour to freshly ground rye flour a month ago and it is doing fine! In fact, it smells like…peaches! Sweet and fruity.
Whole grain flour is rich in enzymes, beloved by sourdough bacteria. My Everlasting Yeast “eats” boiled mashed potato or potato water instead of plain water, which gives it extra nourishment and imparts extra lift and special flavor to my baked goods. Chocolate Chip Banana Bread made with freshly ground rye flour and a scoop of sourdough starter is a happy success!
Feeding a sourdough starter is a unique pleasure and a simple one. Stirring releases carbon dioxide bubbles, which pop faintly, and as it devours its meal, I dream of future bakes that my starter and I will produce together.
I’m not (by any means) saying my way of feeding my starter is the best or only way. Sourdough is infinitely adaptable, that is the beauty of it. It reflects the care and feeding it receives.
If you are a sourdough baker, I would love to hear your special tips and tricks.
Another word for herbal teas, “herbal infusions” are a simple way to get herbs into the body. After all, tea is a universal comfort.
Sipping a cup of Vitamin C tea made from rose hips, hibiscus flower, orange peel, and cinnamon is a delicious way to support your immune system – and it’s such a pretty color!
Beyond the teacup, infuse herbs in honey, vinegar, oil, glycerin, or alcohol for a variety of beneficial products that can help you sleep, ease headaches, moisturize your face, calm over-excited children, soothe insect bites, and more.
Making herbal infusions from plants growing in your garden, yard, and neighborhood instead of relying on over-priced over-the-counter medications and all their attendance side-effects is a wonderful skill to have that only becomes more precious with time.
I have made quite a few products from the book, including pine needle cough syrup, Vitamin C tea, and rose petal face serum. I found the author’s directions to be clear and easy to follow and I have been pleased with the results!
Widely available, Healing Herbal Infusions is a valuable addition to the homestead homemaker’s bookshelf.
Have a great week and thanks for visiting Chocolate Box Cottage,
Michele and Samuel
Note: This post contains links to products and vendors I use and appreciate for their quality and usefulness. Some are affiliate, some are not. I may earn a commission from qualifying purchases when you use the links I provide; this does not change your price. Thank you!
Love every bit of this! Would you consider a post about raising citrus along with tips and tricks? You have such great success. I am wanting to branch out from citrus plants that should be trees to one day get them to fruit. How do you like the smokey poly, does it keep supplies from fading? Thanks for the inspiration.