Karen Dustman’s Self Sown Garden

My friend Karen is one of those dynamic woman we can all learn from and aspire to become. She is a writer, a business owner, a do it yourself-er, a teacher, an attorney, a historian. She has ran for judge and is active in the politics of both her town and county. She volunteers, explores, discovers, learns, and teaches. And in her spare time, she helps find typos in my writing, shares advice, and encourages dreams. She has strong principles; honestly, kindness and fairness being in the forefront. She is one of those women that they “just don’t make anymore” but we desperately need more of. I am honored to have her as my friend.

Below is her wonderful article about gardening by letting Mother Nature do the work for you.

For more information about her books, please visit her website, Clairitage Press.



Enjoying the Self-Sown Garden

by Karen Dustman

It’s the best time of the gardening year: enjoying the fruit of things you never planted.

While my husband is out in the greenhouse toiling away (40 flats of carefully-planted seeds, and counting), I’m already reaping an early harvest from last year’s garden. The spinach is up all over, scattered wide by the wind. Asparagus, too, is ready for picking, with not an ounce of my effort toward this delightful crop. The large tarragon plant that resurrects itself every year has already put out six inches of new growth.

Best find of all: a veritable green carpet of cilantro, trying hard to preempt the spot where the tomatoes will soon go. It’s just two inches high so far, but immune to cold nights and making the most of these the much-warmer days. And if I don’t pick it now it will soon get tilled under, along with the occasional weed sprouting companionably along with it.

And what do to with this first harvest of the season? Spinach and asparagus are easy. There’s not enough of those to last long, anyhow.

For tarragon and other herbs, my dad taught me an easy trick: just wash, pat dry, then pop it in the microwave on a paper towel until the leaves are crispy (roughly a minute). For some reason the color stays much greener with microwave drying, unlike traditional air-dried herbs. I save my tiny harvest in glass jars and use it all winter long, savoring memories of days like today.

Best of all is the early cilantro harvest. Some of it, of course, makes its way into fresh salsa. The microwave trick also works well for drying this aromatic herb, though it’s never quite as flavorful as when fresh-picked.

But even with the small early crop, it’s easy to find yourself with way too much cilantro on your hands. My favorite solution: a frozen cilantro pesto. Plastic ice cube trays make it easy to pop out the right amount for future use. And the flavor stays nearly as good as when fresh. Another wonderful treat from your un-sown garden for the middle of winter!

SIDEBAR/BOX:  *Cilantro Pesto*

Wash cilantro well, and remove the largest stems.  Pat dry.

Place a generous bunch of cilantro in food processor or blender with:

  • ½ c. olive oil
  • 1-2 Tb. lemon juice (to taste)
  • pinch of red pepper
  • ½ tsp. salt

Blend well.

Fill plastic ice cube trays with mixture, using rubber spatula to press into cells.

Freeze until solid, then remove individual cubes. Store in the freezer in plastic freezer bag until ready to use. Defrost as needed.

Serving suggestion:  Top black beans and rice with spoonfuls of Cilantro Pesto; garnish with diced tomatoes.





Spring 2013

Spring is finally here! It is so gratifying and wondrous to see all the plants coming back to life after spending the winter asleep. The new growth, the new life, just always amazes me. 

The seedlings are happy, many are planted, many are ready to be planted out, and many need the temperatures to become a little warmer before planting.  I still need to start some flats, but am now down to celosia,  zinnias  and some replacements.  We put over 400 lisianthus plants in during a mild snow storm on the 14th of April, along with the stock and snapdragons.  We’ll plant out another 700 or so lisianthus plants a little later. We were finally able to take the covers off this week from the stock and snapdragons. 

The new peonies are popping up and looking fabulous! We put 60 new plants in last fall. It will take these a few years to become established. We have a small plot on another piece of land and we’ve sold every flower available for 2013, so these will be a wonderful addition! 

Planted so far to date are:

Dahlia ( potted for early blooms)
Obedient Plant
Foxglove (extras from greenhouse)
Tuberose (potted for early blooms)
Ranunculus (new this year and a test) 
Hens & Chicks
Bachelor’s Buttons
Sweet Peas
English Ivy
Marigolds (test) 
Delphinium (extras from greenhouse)
Blanket Flower (extras from greenhouse)
Lilies- Stargazer & Casa Blanca
Dusty Miller

Next week we hope to get in more flowers under cover. The first of the sunflowers will go in, along with some globe amaranth, salvia & frosted explosion, all under cover. I might even risk setting out a few ageratum for early blooms. The forecast is finally looking wonderful! 

And in-between, I still need to get new beds done, the new deer fence in (no, I haven’t got to that yet), more conduit bent, plants moved, tilling done, weeding done, mulching done, compost down ….. the list grows faster than the flowers! The season is getting more and more exciting as each day passes. 

We have many perennial plants potted and for sale, most between 3 & 6.00 dollars for generous sized pots. We are also potting up some extra lisianthus for sale. For those of you who love this flower, once it is established it is pretty carefree. Getting it to the “setting out size” is the battle. Once planted out, we support ours and cover them so we have perfect blooms, but covering is not necessary for beautiful flowers. They will be offered for $2.50 a plant, 12 or more for 2.00 each. They are a tender perennial, hardy to zone 7 or 8, but they  can be wintered over here, during a mild winter, with mulch. It is personally one of my favorite flowers. For more information, please contact us.



April 2013

It’s been a long time coming, but I do believe spring is here! It is so exciting to watch as plants spring up from the ground after a long, cold winter. Every little plant is like an exciting gift.  I hope I never lose that awe and excitement.

The frogs and birds give the first signs; the frogs where late to sing this year! Our barn swallow scouts were scoping the place out already, making sure it is still fit for the flock. We had a pair of bluebirds checking out a hole in the dead tree I left on the windbreak, I sure hope they approve! The cardinal males are bickering and are sure funny to watch.

It’s planting season, and although it’s been cold, planting has begun. We’ve  got over 400 lisianthus plants in so far, the stock and snapdragons. We’ve had to hold off on some of our more tender annuals; even with cover, it’s been a little too risky. Many perennials are going in, being divided, being moved. We’ve potted some dahlias and tuberose for earlier blooms. The ranunculus, an experiment, is up and looks very happy!

We are excited and look forward to a great season!