Sunday, March 6, 2022

AROUND THE KITCHEN TABLE - Have Your Thoughts Turned to Spring? + 5-Book #Giveaway!


Dill as high as a mystery writer's eye
It’s okay to start thinking about spring, isn’t it? After all, Daylight Saving Time starts next Sunday. But yes, even if some of us can still expect weeks and weeks of cold and snow, it really is okay to start thinking about gardening. Decades ago, when we were first married, seed catalogs arrived in our mail in January and February. We’d pore over them, while the blizzards howled around us, dreaming of all the tasty and pretty things we’d grow. We’ve had big gardens, small gardens, fruit and nut trees, berries, flowers, root crops, you name it. These days we have marauding squirrels and too much shade. But there’s always dill! Those pesky critters don’t like it and we do. Do you grow flowers or vegetables or fruit? When does your mind turn to thoughts of green and growing things?  


MADDIE DAY: Ah, dreams of spring and seeds and sprouts! The days are noticeably lengthening. Birds are back, singing and looking for food and mates. Nothing is actually growing yet, but the signs are there.

In my past as New England farmer, by now I would be getting ready to start seeds in March, and already had leek seedlings up and growing. The ground is still cold and bare, with the last snow having melted, but we're getting another dump of white stuff Friday. Still, I know my garlic is underground and already wanting to push up. The early crocus and forsythia will follow. In May I can plant lettuce and greens, including spinach, in my high raised box and watch the asparagus push up through the ground.

This recipe for a Spinach-Pepper Egg Bake would be one way to use up fresh spinach, which tends to be ready all at the same time! I'm giving away Murder Most Fowl, book four in my Local Foods Mysteries (written as Edith Maxwell), which takes place in the spring.


LUCY BURDETTE: We have a very small deck garden in Key West, and a real garden in Connecticut. This year the deck produce has been disappointing so I am looking forward to asparagus in the spring and lots of tomatoes and peppers and okra when summer comes. We've not yet tried growing garlic, as Edith does, and forgot about how good the fresh onions can be. So those are on this year's wish list!


PEG COCHRAN/MARGARET LOUDON:  We don't even dare whisper the word spring here in Michigan for fear it will arouse winter's wrath and provoke it to last longer! We still have snow on the ground and I'm sure more is on the way.  We can't even begin thinking about planting flowers until close to Memorial Day.  I'm probably the odd man out but I've never been a gardener.  One year we did have success with tomato plants and I foolishly planted mint and lemon balm, which nearly took over the entire yard, but now we live in a condo where we could plant a few flowers to augment the garden but not much else.  And I'm perfectly fine with that. I'll add some pots of flowers to the deck and be totally satisfied.


TINA KASHIAN: I’m a spring and summer lover, and I count the days until warmer weather. We wait until Mother’s Day to plant our garden to be sure there is no chance of frost to ruin our plants. It’s a tradition for my two girls to help with the planting that weekend. Jersey tomatoes are especially delicious, and we grow beefsteak tomatoes, grape tomatoes, cherry tomatoes and Roma tomatoes. I love them along with my younger daughter. But my husband and older daughter won’t touch a tomato. We joke that there is more for us. We also plant cucumbers, zucchini, green and red peppers, lettuce, basil and parsley. We have learned to plant the parsley in a separate garden because it is so aggressive it takes over. Even with our own garden we still visit farm stands throughout the summer for other fruits and vegetables. New Jersey is the Garden State.



LESLIE BUDEWITZ: Spring? What is this thing, spring? Here in Northwest Montana, we could see a hard frost well into May, though as everywhere, patterns have become much less predictable. We have a pair of apple trees, rhubarb, and a great strawberry patch, along with garlic and perennial herbs---chives, thyme, oregano, and a pair of unruly mints, and I plant snap peas, green beans, and zucchini and crookneck squash in a raised bed. No greens---a patient of Mr. Right's grows the best greens in the world so we trade her for them! Basil, parsley, and tarragon go in pots on the back porch, along with tomatoes, although a neighbor gets tarragon to behave like a perennial, so I might try that this year. It's great with chicken in the classic Julia Child style and in these Green Beans with Tarragon Vinaigrette.

My big garden task, begun late last summer, is reclaiming several beautiful flower beds around the house that I created over the years. They've suffered from more neglect than I ought to admit, so I built up some good muscle by digging and pulling grasses, pruning, and layering in my body weight in compost. That job will continue this spring and summer, but I am determined -- and already planning to reward myself with a white peony in a vacant spot. Gardeners, like writers, are optimists, always looking ahead.

  🌿 ☔ 🥗 

LESLIE KARST: Robin and I will be returning to Santa Cruz from Hilo in a couple weeks time, so it's going to feel much more like winter than spring to me, coming back from the tropics to chilly Northern California. (Yes, I do hear all the mocking that is now being sent my way from all of you in the Midwest and East.) But I'll keep warm by weeding my vegetable garden, getting ready to plant in late April when I return home from Malice Domestic: likely my usual suspects of heirloom tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, French beans, and an array of herbs.


the weeding begins

Can't wait for those caprese salads and that grilled zucchini basted with olive oil and balsamic vinegar! Here's one of my favorite green bean recipes: Fagiolini al Burro.

🌻 🌿 🍋

MAYA CORRIGAN: We usually plant cool-weather crops in mid-March, but last week we took a chance and planted lettuce and spinach seeds. We'll plant those and other greens every two weeks until early May. Because it can get really hot here in June, the lettuce will bolt, but we'll plant again in late summer for a fall crop. Usually, we're still harvesting lettuce around Thanksgiving. Our plot in an organic community garden is more of a salad garden than a vegetable garden. We don't grow zucchini because our neighboring gardeners kindly share their excess with anyone who'll taken them. We're in it for the tomatoes. Though we visit our local farmers' market in the summer, we've never found any tomatoes there that come close to the ones from our garden.

🌻  🍅 🌿

MIA P. MANANSALA: I'm not a gardener or plant person, though I really want to be! Throughout the years, I've tried to take care of indoor plants and windowsill herbs to little avail. You'd think I'd give up, but just this past weekend I picked up a succulent and set of three cacti from IKEA and I swear, this will be the time that my plants last for longer than a year! I 3D printed the adorable Bulbasaur (a Pokemon) planter at my day job, and it makes the perfect home for my succulent. Looking at the greenery on my desk cheers me up, so fingers crossed these plants make it!

 🌵 ☔ 🥗 

CLEO COYLE: Marc and I don’t have green thumbs, which is why we greatly admire people who do. To wit: If you’ve read our latest Coffeehouse Mystery, HONEY ROASTED, then you’ve met Bea, retired owner of a national florist franchise, who built an elaborate greenhouse on the roof of her Manhattan high-rise, an amazing glass palace where she farms award-winning mono-floral honeys via her precious beehives. For us, creating Bea’s fantastic greenhouse was wish fulfillment fun.

Far from Manhattan wealth, we live more like our amateur sleuth (coffeehouse manager Clare Cosi) with a small plot of yard in the back of our two-story rowhouse. Modest to be sure, but big enough for cozy cookouts, bird watching, and sipping coffee or wine on spring and summer nights. While we’re perpetually busy on deadlines and have no planned garden this year, Marc and I are supremely grateful to God’s green thumb and the wild violets that (through absolutely no skill of our own) blanket our yard every spring in vibrant purple blossoms. A few years ago, I made a “bottomless cup” video-loop in their honor, which I’m happy to share today as we all look forward to coming buds and new beginnings…

"Bottomless Cup" in our yard of
spring violets by Cleo Coyle ☕



To be entered in this week's drawing
for the 5 terrific mysteries below,
join us in the comments.

Do you grow flowers or vegetables or fruit? 

When does your mind turn to 
thoughts of green and growing things?

Join the

Include your email address,
so we can contact the winner!


> PERIL ON THE PAGE by Margaret Loudon
(aka Peg Cochran)


> DEATH ON THE MENU (paperback)
by Lucy Burdette

> MURDER MOST FOWL by Edith Maxwell
(aka Maddie Day)

Comments Open through
Wednesday, March 9

Don't forget to include
your email address.




    Good Morning Ladies, I look forward to your blog. My thoughts of spring and gardening started a few weeks back. After snow wind and cold fronts I started looking at my vegetable and flowers beds. Can't wait to weed turn up soil and figure out what to plant this year. Thank you for an opportunity to win, Happy Gardening to all.

  2. I don't have a garden and I don't have a green thumb on either hands. I prefer looking at what others do with their gardening.

  3. I plant flowers, mostly perennials, and relocate some of my lily of the valleys every year. I'd rather buy vegetables at our local farmers stands than spend time on them when I can instead focus on my flowers lol. Spring to me is official once my crocuses start blooming!

  4. As I look out my snowy landscape, I can only dream about gardening and spring produce. I have overwintered my perennial herbs (bay laurel, rosemary, oregano, chives, Italian parsley) and have been growing some arugula, mesculun lettuce indoors under grow lights.

    In Ottawa, last frost date is in late May, so I am lucky if I can plant seeds for cold hardy veggies such as radishes and peas in early April. Since I am going to New Mexico to visit Santa Fe and attend LCC ABQ, I decided not to start growing seedlings until after I return home mid-April: Swiss chard, kale, pak choi.

    Our FM open late May, and I look forward to the first local asparagus, rhubarb and fiddleheads. Since March 20 is the official first day of spring, the new maple syrup counts as the first spring harvest but we're buried under snow until April.
    grace dot koshida at gmail dot com

    1. And as many of us know, you have that pesky squirrel Satan to deal with too, Grace!

    2. LESLIE: Yes, the 2022 garden battle with my nemesis has started early this year.

  5. Good morning! Planting season starts early here in Texas…our last freeze is typically early March. I love the idea of a garden and love reading about the vegetables you all plant, but I am not good with plants at all. My grandmother could grow anything, but that green thumb did not trickle down. cking78503(at)aol(dot)com

  6. Do you grow flowers or vegetables or fruit? I grow both
    When does your mind turn to thoughts of green and growing things? I start planning in the winter and end of February I will start growing by seed. Also at this time i will start laying out what I want to put where. Last year we started a perirenal garden. We will be adding one or two plants a year watching it grow. quilting dash lady at comcast dot net

  7. Gardening season never ends in this household. When one growing season ends, you think about, dream about and plan what you will do differently the next year through the cold winter months. Even before the chance of frost is over, we are starting to prepare for the work needed done before the actual planting. Once it's planted, the tending do things like watering, making sure they get the right nutrients, weeds are pulled and avoiding bugs and diseases have to be done on a very regular basis. Then there is the harvest and enjoying the bounty of the garden where you wonder why you thought you needed so much, canning or freezing takes place and you share the bounty of the garden with others. Before you know it, it's fall and the garden starts to get dismantled of tomato cages and dead plants. And in a blink of an eye, you are starting the process all over again.

    This time of year the mind has definitely turned to greener and brighter things. Hubby is the one with a green thumb and does the majority of the manual labor. He's spouted his own tomato seeds already that he harvested from last years plants. They are now planted in dirt. As for me, I have my salt shaker ready. He will also grown greens and several types of peppers. Where we use to have a large garden that supplied many families with veggies, we now just have a raised bed because we are older, that's all we need and we do live in "Stone" County. Soon he will be turning the soil and preparing it for planting. Proving that what looks like work to one is pure joy for another.

    Although my part of gardening is usually left to the harvest and use of the produce, I do enjoy my flowers. We've taken off all the straw that covered the flower beds (yes we have many) during the winter and planted some more peony roots. We will be planting more flowers and starting some from seeds in the very near future.

    The only fruit we grow are pears and strawberries. The pear tree was here when we bought the property. We never get to eat any of the pears, but the deer and squirrels really enjoy them. I was amazing to see the strawberry plants green and thriving having survived the winter with only a covering of straw. This is our second year of having those and anxious to see how fruitful our crop is this year.

    The jonquils are blooming that run along the civil war rock fence that goes across the front of the property. They are always a sure sign that winter is losing its grip. Looking forward to the changing of the time next weekend which will allow for more time outside.

    Thank you for the chance to win so many fabulous books from author's whose books I always enjoy reading. Shared and hoping to be the extremely fortunate one selected.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

    1. Nice accounting of your green and growing things, Kay.

  8. I'm to impatient and I always plant late. So I started byimg the plants from a nursery. The only things that seem to work in my small garden is peppers...and basil. Lol

  9. I've grown cucumbers and tomatoes. I love to water them and see them sprout with flowers and then turn into vegetables. I love Spring with the warmer weather and trees getting buds and flowers popping up. Thanks for your great generosity.

    1. Here is my email I forgot to put it down.

    2. Forgot my email,

  10. I love when the weather becomes better and I can get out in my yard and work in the gardens. The flowers not only brighten our home but also my spirits. We plant some vegetables but generally in pots or small plots of our yard. This is the best therapy I could ever find. robeader53(at)yahoo(dot)com

  11. I grow flowers mainly. I usually try to do a few vegetables also, just depends on space. And I start thinking green now….

  12. I am in Minnesota and last night we had about 3" of snow on top of freezing rain so lots of ice under the snow. My husband owned a sheet metal shop and made me a planter out of metal; it is on my deck with my chives, so I keep an eye on it to see them grow again. Somehow, they survive the cold winters. I am on a lake and there are still people driving on it so it will be sometime before I see my plants. I do have two geraniums in the house I will replant in the Spring.

    mnleona (at) aol (dot)