We Don’t Know Beans

What the Ducks!


Let’s learn more!  In celebration of International Year of Pulses*,  Palm Rae Urban Potager and What the Ducks! announce this year’s Blogger Action Day.  Mark your calendars for February 17, 2016and sign up if you want to participate.  You can let us know in the comments section below, email us or tweet me.

To join in, all you have to do is post something about beans, legumes or pulses on your own blog that day .  We’ll link to participating sites in a bonus post.

Share a recipe, upload a photo, write an ode to a chickpea!  Beans are good & blogging is good fun.  Hope to hear from as many bloggers as possible.  Even if some folks don’t know beans about beans, maybe you do!

Happy Year of the Bean, peeps!


*I know, it’s a mouthful.  I’m going with “Year of the Bean”!

Copyright 2016, Lori…

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Have you ever tried perennial Salad burnet with your hummus?


Salad burnet (Sanguisorba minor) growing in my winter garden for winter greens zone 5


In 2015, I started introducing more perennial edibles to our garden for it makes early winter to spring a bit easier for eating year round. Also, many annual vegetables and herbs are initially grown inside under lights and then placed outside in the garden soil. I have found by the end of January or early February a lot of our outdoor plants are starting to look a bit shabby in the backyard beds. Global warming has been changing our growing seasons the past few years. We have winters that are a bit milder, which means I have been adding new plants each year that seem to be doing better for winter greens. They are growing in our Urban Potager in the single digits!


I want to introduce you to Salad burnet (Sanguisorba Officinalis). It is doing a fantastic job in our urban potager for 2015-2016. I will be starting a larger bed this spring for I love this little beauty. I don’t have too many pictures of it from the garden in the summer since I was not too confident I would be keeping it, but that has all changed.It has captured my heart this winter. I am finding creative ways to use it in our recipes. It seems to look and taste pretty good in homemade hummus made with black-Kabuli chickpeas.


Joy Larkcom talks about Salad burnet in her book The Salad Garden. I am using her books this year for a resource as to what is best to grow for salad gardens. I have found small city lots are ideal for growing greens that you can make salads with from early spring all the way until winter and sometimes through winter!IMG_0096

According to Joy Larkcom, Salad burnet is a low-growing very hardy perennial that has beautiful, lacy leaves which remain green throughout the winter. They start out curly and open up to a delicate leaf. My Salad burnet is remaining green for most of my winter, but I do have it in a container. It has captured my heart! This past spring, I grabbed some leaves to put in salads for a light cucumber taste. Some people claim it does not have a flavor of cucumber, but I found it does. The cucumber flavor is in the young leaves. It does taste a bit bitter, and tough the older the leaves get, so stick to the new leaves. I cut it back several times, and it returned tender leaves to put in salads.


Salad burnet is a nice contrast to our Corn salad leaves

Long nights of single digits changes the game plan in our Urban Potager around early February.This week, we got another hard freeze. It was a bit different than the beginning of the freezes we have in November or December in our zone 5 growing area for they usually are followed by a warm up a few days later. Many of our fall/winter crops such as kale, swiss chard, tatsoi, arugula, sorrel, leaf celery, mache, winter lettuce don’t stop growing if a week of warmer weather follows a hard freeze. They suffer some damage but nothing to stop them in their tracks from producing greens for our table.


Growing in the city provides shelter from cold winters for we have very carefully placed homes on a city street and buildings which create microclimates. I know people that live out in rural areas which are shocked to find we have greens growing, without protection in our winter gardens. Their rural areas have frozen soil much earlier in the fall and later in the spring than on our city lots.The microclimates in our cities give us many more opportunities to grow year round. I am excited to try some more unusual perennial edibles to see if they can tolerate our long winters and hopefully be a new addition to our year round growing in the city!

You can read more about Salad burnet at this sitePlants For A Furture site (here) If you are pregnant don’t try this herb for there is not enough information out there which is what Plants For A Furture recommend. I find it tasty when you harvest the young leaves and would give it a better rating than they did. Try it yourself and see what you think. I have no doubt you will love it!


You can grow nature and food on your city lot if you learn to mix it and see what happens

Is it food or nature I am trying to grow on my city lot? Both I believe….

I love meadows. Don’t you? There is something about a meadow that takes us back to our childhood. I remember running and chasing butterflies in a field near my house.When you live in an urban area, you hardly ever see a meadow for we have cemented over so much of our landscape in our cities. To find an open field to run in, one has to drive outside the city to find a large area without any buildings.

I grew up near Chicago as a child, and many of our smaller suburbs had meadows back in those days. It was not all homes piled near each other with postage stamp yards. I remember riding my bike outside the city area and playing in creeks and running in tall grasses. Much of Illinois was a prairie at one time, and many of those native prairie plants work well in our urban gardens. We just have to be careful which ones we introduce and how we manage them with our food growing.


I love to use native garden plants on my small lot for it draws in all the birds, bees and butterflies. I have been slowly taking out some of my non-native plants the past few years. I have limited space, so I have to find a balance between growing native plants, a few non-natives that are my favorites and room for food growing. It is a constant challenge to manage this balance but one that I don’t mind each season.

Last summer, I cleared out an area near my raspberry patch to place more native plants to provide for nature. My meadow is not large enough for a child to run; more like an area to step across! I have several garden beds on my city lot, where I put native plants. Last year it was overgrown with goldenrod, and I learned that sometimes natives may become a problem. They take over, so it means you have to pay attention to how they work in an area.

The past year, I have been adding more perennial vegetables, fruits, and herbs which I mix in all my garden beds with annuals. It always is a balancing act but so worth the effort. I research which natives work best on our city lot to provide for our native pollinators. Each year our urban potager fills in, I notice a new bee, butterfly or bird that was not there before.

seeds are the soul of a garden...

seeds are the soul of a garden…

I hope people like Doug Tallamy, who wrote Bringing Nature Home inspires more of us city dwellers to put natives in our food growing system. He has me;I mix it all now.Part of the fun is seeing what happens. If you make a mistake just change it up the next season.


I find the meadow of my childhood is starting to happen on my city lot. It may not be a big field to run in, but it is a small place where I can sit and watch nature. I feel the balance is achievable when we carefully choose to grow only those foods we enjoy most and learning to combine them with natives and annuals. Mix it up people! Food, flowers, and herbs go together in an Urban Potager. Build it and they will come!


Don’t forget to start Swiss Chard and Kale this week


Kale and Swiss Chard inspired me to expand my urban potager in 2006! We have a wonderful year round, indoor + outdoor farmer’s market in the Quad Cities. Not only do we have that but we also have several smaller farmer markets in the parking lots of our hospitals on the weekends. There are 100’s of vendors that provide many locally grown or created products, but I found only a handful that grew “Organically” or “Chemical Free” at the various markets.


Back in 2006, I would often frequent the farmer’s market since all of our children were still living at home. We needed quite a bit of food to feed everyone and all the extras that were hanging around. I was in the early stages of tearing up our “wall to wall lawn carpet” and developing an urban potager that provided food for our daily use.With five dogs and three kids, we still needed a significant portion of our open grassy areas. I also had a husband that was not too crazy about losing his lawn which meant I had to move slowly to show him that it was possible to have food and grass! I watched a Doug Tallamy lecture the other day, and he said “use your grass for walking paths” and the rest should be devoted to plants. I thought that was brilliant!


In 2016, I am in the process of putting in the last of our berry bushes and fruit trees. It is all done and should eventually provide most of our vegetables and fruits throughout the year, but I will be going back to the farmer’s market this year to supplement with some things that I would like to let others grow. I want to support our local farmers that have a bit more land, and only use our city lot to produce those items that we eat the most of each season, are difficult to find chemical free and just too darn expensive to purchase organically! Did I hear someone say berries?


This year I won’t be trialing a dozen different types of heirloom tomato seedlings or a variety of each crop, for example, five different Swiss Chards. Most of our annual herbs, flowers and vegetables are from seed saved from our plants. I am finding seed saving and sharing seeds to be a way of life.


I have made the decision only to grow out MacGregor Swiss Chard.It is Anthocyanin-rich and has the most amazing tender leaves.


I loved growing all the other Swiss Chards but needed more room for berries and other plants to create biodiversity on our city lot for ourselves and nature. It meant choosing only those that worked best in our growing area.

This week, I am starting Swiss Chard and Kale to go in our spring urban potager. Don’t forget to start your Chards and Kales if you live in zone 5!

If you want to read more about MacGregor Swiss Chard go (here)


Are you starting your pansies in the dark this week?

My goal for 2016 was to take you through the growing of our Urban Potager in the city from January and share with you all the projects or activities I am doing each week to keep our Potager producing for us and nature all year long.

I have learned over the years that certain plants need to be started at certain times and need specific growing conditions to germinate. I have found when you first tackle growing a flower, herb or vegetable from seed check out what it needs to germinate. Some seeds need no light and others need light to germinate.


Details as to how to take care of the seed is found on various sites but before you can have success growing from seed I suggest you read as much as you can about what others have found helpful growing. Each type of plant you grow requires different germinating strategies ( nicking seeds or soaking), soil types, light or not light and so you need to research a bit so you can have success. I would look at several resources and it does help if you find someone who has grown from seed a particular plant in your area. Each growing area is very different.


The first week of January I start my historical pansies. They are my favorite spring plants and I can’t imagine not seeing their smiling faces. In my growing area they may come back but I have found them not to be reliable since I do rotate my beds each year. in 2016, I may leave a few beds with them in an area to see if they will return. I do have a problem  with very HOT days. If they are not in a shaded area by mid summer they often succumb to our summer heat.


I love mixing them with spring vegetables. Each year I find a new place to squeeze more historical panises into my garden. One year I grew some in containers. I was able to move the pots to a shaded area once our summer got a bit too humid. They did pretty well and when I cut them back they returned with beautiful blooms in the fall.


I start my pansies in the dark in a soiless growing medium. They prefer cool growing conditions to help them germinate. The picture above is of a soiless growing medium I used a few years back. I prefer cocotek now for my soiless medium for germinating seeds. Various sites claim they usually germinate between 10 – 20 days. That sounds about right with what I have experienced.

I usually transplant the best looking seeds into paper pots that I roll each season. I then put them under a growing ight  (I use T5’s).


By April I have trays of pansies ready for the garden. All I have to do is dig the hole and place the newspaper pot and plant right into the ground. No going to the local garden center to  pick up pansies. I grow my own for pennies. No extra plastic pots to clean at the end of the spring planting. I like that part!


I can’t imagine spring salads not decorated wtih histroical panies! I hope after reading about historical pansies you might order some seeds and give them a try in your garden and in your spring salads!You can read my post last year-Historical Pansies are a healthy addition to your spring salad! (read here) or another post in 2014- Historic Pansy Mix saved  to take us back to days gone by…

Time to change in our Urban Potager


blueberry leaves cover our urban potager in the fall…

The past few months I have been spending time figuring out what direction I want to take in 2016. I make plans for the future with my garden…..we are a team. Spending time with my hands in the soil teaches me about life and how best to heal with nature. At the end of each season, I ponder what worked, what didn’t, what can I do to make it a better place to grow food + heal with nature.


I work “with nature” to provide an oasis for those small creatures in my world that do not have a voice to call attention to themselves. As I heal each season, they heal and together we create a place, right in the heart of the city to learn from one another. We need them, and they need us…so we need to care about what we do on our city lot for what we DO does impact others.


This kale was started in late December 2014, and now it is as tall as me. It needed to grow tall to BE taller than our snow! Scarlet and Blue Scotch Kale are wonderful in our zone 5 area for they supply greens when most other Kale-types are no longer viable. I even had some come back this spring!


I keep the Dwarf Blue Scotch + Scarlet Kale for colder days in late Fall or Winter in our Gardens. I do have to start them in the spring and keep them covered from the rabbits. Our Lacinato (Dinosaur) and Red Russian Kale do not tolerate our single digits temps in the fall/winter.


I usually trim out the center rib in my winter kale. Some people use them.

If I don’t start my Blue Scotch and Scarlet Kale in spring with the spring Kale, I don’t have any to eat in the winter.


I eat kale all winter long in recipes. Here I have it with nasturtiums that are still holding on this fall. I love it sautéed with garlic, celery leaf and sesame seeds over a bed of rice.I did purchase a few cookbooks to explore new ways to cook with kale for 2016. Another one of my goals next year.IMG_9684 Heirloom White Casper Eggplant is one I have grown for the past five years. I have saved seeds from 2010 and each year they grow healthy plants.They are acclimated to my growing area, and I am finding they produce much later than the first season I grew them.


Casper is the King of eggplants in my urban potager!

I have buds growing on my eggplant in our cool fall weather. If you read about this heirloom, you will come across people claiming it tastes like “Mushrooms.” It really does! They are not lying, and many chefs prefer the white ones for flavor.(read more about Casper eggplant in immunity gardens)


I want to take a new journey in 2016 and share it with you as I try to create year-round food on our city lot in zone 5, USA. A year to show you how my garden grows….what I plant, how I keep pests away through organic methods, and what are the best types of plants to grow in a small city space.


Yacon Root-I have found some new foods to grow for 2016 that I trialed and want to learn more about in 2016

I am not suggesting my garden is the only way, but I have found over the years working in Palm Rae Potager that I have better luck with certain foods. I also feel it is personal preference and based on our health needs. We use our garden to help heal our bodies as well as nature around us in the city.It is a job that changes with the seasons and each year invites a discovery.


French heirloom Jaune Flamme Tomato that I saved seed for in 2015

I hope to share those with you this next year as I try to take you through my methods or process of creating a garden in 2016 that provides the bounty for us and nature on our city lot in 2016.


Move over sun-gold I believe Jaune Flamme can beat your sweet taste!

Happy Gardening!


Don’t be afraid to be different! Stop standing on the sidelines and jump in the game of change!


Neighbors on our block use pesticides which means our food growing is in our backyard buffered by native + non native bushes for privacy + to add an extra layer of protection from chemical sprays

I am starting to see a society that is becoming too afraid to be different. If you want change, you have to stand up and make a statement. Yep, you may not find a lot of people following but eventually they will see that your ideas are not so far-fetched. For the good of nature + our health, we need to look at our urban areas and make changes that may not be the norm today. I believe they will eventually be the norm because there is no other way.


I use native ninebark throughout our landscapes. I have 3 different cultivars. This is Coppertina which has this lovely orange-copper in the spring.

Why do we all have to follow a certain rule as to what is normal?? When normal is not working, well, we need to look for a different way.We need to think for ourselves.


This is ninebark ( physocarpus opulifolius) Diablo

I grew up at a time in the 70’s when people thought for themselves. They were not afraid to think outside the box. It was good to find a new path or way to solve a problem. But lately, I am feeling like our society is too caught up depending on social media. We are becoming a society that is comparing all that we do in our life, for example, I need this or that because THIS is what so and so SAYS works, or I need. Aww… come on, think for yourself. Read and try some ideas. If they don’t work then try something different. Experiment, ponder and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.


The leaves are a deep purple color with a great shape. The bark provides winter interest.

I know I often talk about “making mistakes” because I believe it is how we learn. Don’t sit on the sidelines, just jump in and take a chance. Get in the game of change!You will never grow if you are too afraid of making mistakes in life. When did we ALL become afraid to make a mistake? The greatest contributions to our society were people willing to take a risk and see what might be a possibility.


I added Cercis canadensis cultivar-Forest Pansy to our yard this spring. It was but a small stick and I did not know if it would make a show. But it did! It has these lovely  purple leaves that fade to a burgundy green as summer progresses. It is only about 3 feet tall right now!

I have been looking at the street I live on and my landscape. We need to make some changes.


Our native blueberry bushes turn a lovely red in the fall. I just have to keep the bunnies from chewing mine to the ground. Fingers crossed we made it through last winter and they are starting to come back.

There are plants that are not tolerating our weather extremes, and they are not doing much for nature. I am spending more time pulling non-natives out and replacing them with native plants.


When adding natives to your landscape you have to plan for times they may not look their best. I love cone flowers but these have seen better times in mid summer

I ordered more native prairie grass, Midwest USA types, yesterday to put in my landscape. I dove off the pier head first and will figure out how it will work on our city lot. Yep, I am daring to be different. No one has it on our street. I must admit, I am a bit nervous. It will be an adventure. I have no doubt, I will make mistakes, but through my mistakes I will learn. I searched on the internet for others doing the same; integrating native grasses on their city lot. I did not find too much and what I did find were a bit varied in their advice.


As coneflower are fading out and providing food for the birds golden rod is emerging.


As one plant fades another is ready to take its place

I have no idea if my “ideas” will work. I have to do something droughts are becoming more common each season. I need to find ways to limit the amount of grass in our landscape. I can’t keep the water guzzling lawn as the main ground cover. I will keep some, but I need to find other alternatives for the future. Shoot, California is taking out their lawns and the cities are giving them help to change theirs from grass to more drought tolerant green spaces. We need to start doing the same.


Let me introduce you to my new “baby” edible  native American Cranberry bush that arrived here about a month ago

Natives seem the most logical approach since they have a deep root and can survive during long droughts. I  “dare to be different” and will continue making some changes this fall and in 2016.


Viburnum trilobum is “knee high” and growing with some bush squash right now, but some day it will be between  6 to 12 feet wide and tall. It will provide berries for us and nature!

There will be some I have never tried before, but I am confident that through my “daring to be different” I will find a better way to landscape for the health of us and nature! Creating diversity on our city lot is an experiment, and some may need to be tamed to make sure they don’t take over my lot, but I am willing to take the chance. DON’T be afraid to be different! Stop standing on the sidelines and jump in the game of change!

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