Morning Rounds in the Garden, April

My favorite time of day is when dawn breaks. It doesn’t matter the season or the place, the beginning of a new day holds the promise of a cup of coffee, a new way of looking at the natural world depending on the morning light, and during the growing season, an opportunity to inspect my vegetable plants for new growth.

This morning, I thought I’d take you on a walkabout of the different garden beds in my backyard.

The Lower Garden

In the spring, planted within a wine bottle necklace (that creates a border between planting spaces and garden paths) are cold-hardy vegetables like peas, lettuces, spinach, radishes, chard, turnips, grapevines along the back fence.

There are six raised beds that are reserved for this Italian cook’s favorite vegetables: tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and zucchini. These plants will go in the ground in mid-April or early May depending on when the ground warms up.

The raised beds were built by Nashville Foodscapes last spring. They have made a huge difference in the amount of time I spend on garden maintenance because 1) the soil in the beds no longer gets compacted from being walked on and thus there is now no reason to till, and 2) the thick woodchip pathways keep the weeds down to a minimum.

The Back Garden 

This garden has six raised beds in the interior. It is enclosed by a four-foot “rabbit” fence that is laced with blackberry branches on three sides and two espaliered pear trees on the tall side.

There are six raised beds. Four beds are planted with herbs and spring crops, and two are not yet planted. I have left them open to plant commercial crops such as cotton, tobacco, peanuts, sorghum, indigo, and rice. I plant these for the children who come by to visit the chickens.

Here are photos of what is growing in the four beds this morning.

Herbs and Garlic
 

Spring Onions

Beets, Radishes, and Carrots
 

Salad Greens and Kale

Rain Garden
This is where water run-off from an underground 12-inch drainage pipe empties. I’ve planted it with blueberry bushes and native flowers to attract bees. You can see the crabapple trees in the background.

Berry Garden
This bed was created to help control water run-off. Growing in it are cherry bushes, currants, raspberries, and an apricot tree.

Fruit Trees
On the southern wall of our house, we have a fig tree. It is watered by the condensate that drips from an air-conditioner. Around the perimeter of the backyard, we have a muscadine vine, a plum tree, four apple trees, one mulberry tree, and two crabapple trees.

Three years ago the two crabapple trees had apple limbs grafted on to them by a technique known as bark-grafting. We know which limbs are the apple grafts because they haven’t leafed out yet. Apple trees are about a month behind crabapple trees.

Chicken Coop
We’ve been keeping six chickens in our backyard coop for six years. We do it for the eggs and for the simple joy of watching the chickens strut around our fenced-in backyard.

 

Herb Porch Pots
For the last three years, I’ve been planting two planters on my front porch with herbs and edible flowers. I do it because they are beautiful to look at and because they are convenient to snip from when cooking. I plant them every February. When they start to look scraggly in late June, I transplant the plants to the herb garden.

Compost Corner
Every morning, I empty the compost bucket from the previous day’s kitchen scraps into the compost heap behind the white fence. There is a mulberry tree planted in the compost to hide the chickens from the hawks who circle overhead. The chickens spend a good deal of their day in the compost pile.

You can follow the progress of these gardens on Instagram @judyschickens.

Related Gardening Posts
Spring Planting Guide for Your Kitchen Garden
Family Dirt
Herb Porch Pots!
Eulogy for a Chicken
WWMD? A Bucket of Spring Veggies as a Centerpiece
How to Make Crab Apple Jelly (and grow the crab apples)
How to Make Grape Jelly (and grow the grapes)

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© 2014-2018 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.

Lemony Grilled Chicken Breasts

When I wake up in the morning a little panic-stricken thinking about what I’m going to prepare for a large crowd coming in for a holiday weekend, I approach the menu by considering my entrée options first. My go-to’s are grilled Premio Sweet Italian Sausage from Costco, Brooks’s Marinated Pork Tenderloin, and marinated chicken breasts.

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Next, I consider my sides, which I prepare depending on what is in season. Often, though, I delegate the sides to guests. The beauty of this approach is you get to try other people’s specialties, and that is always a fun and tasty option. Desserts are my favorite food to cook, and for a large crowd, I like to make a hotel-sized pan of the ever crowd-pleasing Pumpkin Bread Pudding only made with seasonal fruit instead of pumpkin, and either Italian Sesame Seed Cookies.

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or Ricotta and Lemon Cookies.

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I was never a fan of grilled chicken breasts until I saw my friend from Tiverton, R.I., Sheila, a master at feeding huge crowds, carry Ziploc bags full of pounded-flat marinated chicken breasts out to the grill. By pounding the breasts flat Sheila could ensure the chicken would cook quickly and evenly throughout. I’ve been pounding chicken breasts ever since.

Ingredients:

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Whole chicken breasts (for these photos, I made 24 breasts equalling 8 pounds)
@JudysChickens Everyday Salad Dressing
1-2 lemons, sliced thinly (depends on how much chicken you are preparing)
10 stems of thyme, rough chopped
a couple shakes of white balsamic vinegar, if you have it.

Instructions:

Rinse chicken breasts and trim fat.

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Pat dry with paper towels.

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Place each chicken breast in a thick bag and pound flat with the smooth side of a meat mallet.

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Marinate pounded breasts in @JudysChickens Salad Dressing along with lots of sliced lemons and sprigs of thyme. You could add a little white balsamic vinegar and Grey Poupon for even more flavor if desired. Allow to marinate for a few hours to up to two days.

Grill for no longer than ten minutes.

Favorite Flavor-Enhancers: The Acids!

My mother always kept a bottle each of white and red balsamic vinegar in the fridge. She especially loved the white. Add a few shakes of white to the marinade for an extra burst of flavor.
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Other Foods That Are Good To Serve At A Cookout
Sliced Beet Salad
String Bean Salad
Amazingly Delicious Sautéed Carrots
Marlin’s Black-Eyed Pea Salad
Grandma’s Italian Fried Cauliflower
“Croatian Cheese” a Flavorful and Exotic Appetizer Made with Feta and Goat Cheese
The Classic Pimiento Cheese Sandwich

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Follow Judy’s Chickens on Instagram and Pinterest @JudysChickens.

© 2014-2018 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.