Sunday, October 31, 2010
Saturday, October 30, 2010
Frost. That end-all moment when life in the garden changes seasons "for good" and the soil takes its rest. The first serious frost hit our area recently, prompting me to make that final shift into fall and winter mode. The last three scrawny tomatoes sit in the kitchen window, a last few peppers hit the crisper drawer. Was it really only a week ago, I pulled this last basketful of salad-worthy produce from my garden? That little plot of ground has been more than faithful this year, providing a long season of fresh fare to the family's dinner table. How quickly things can change--yet another larger-life reminder that all gardens offer to the attentive grower.
One of the transitions that lessens the starkness of a growing season's end is the march of potted plants to their indoor setting. (OK, I'm the one who marches, the plants just come along for the ride.) I particularly like to grow some of my herbs in pots--despite their less prolific growth in pot versus in ground setting. I grow them in the pots for the very purpose of bringing them indoors. The rosemary plant on the left is now making its second winter appearance indoors and is as hearty as ever.
- Regarding ferns: ferns love a tea party. Dump your leftover tea into fern pots. A used tea bag planted in the soil will read beautiful, healthy ferns. Ferns are a bit sensitive to chlorine in tap water, so let the water sit overnight before watering. This allows the chlorine to evaporate. Ferns also like to be misted.
- Save that old barbecue grill that you plan to replace next season. Use this one as a conversation piece by painting it, filling it with soil and planting flowers or vines in it.
- Melted snow contains minerals that make for good plant water.
- Pots of sweet basil in a near a doorway repel flies.
- Repot only when needed. Spring is the best time because it favors new growth.
- Before using an old pot to replant in, clean it thoroughly with hot water with a squirt or two of regular dish washing detergent. Let the pot soak for several hours in a solution of one part chlorine bleach to eight parts water. Rinse well and dry, then reuse. This will help to prevent the spread of plant disease.
- To make an indoor plant display, cover the floor with a heavy-duty plastic bag to protect it from water or soil stains. Then cover the plastic with ceramic tiles and set your potted plants on the tiles.
- Four tablespoons of dish washing liquid in one gallon of water will get rid of red spider mites on your plants. Spray the plant weekly until there are no signs of the mites. I also had mold in the soil of some of my plants. I used a solution of one tablespoon of vinegar in two quarts of water, and watered weekly with the solution until all the mold was gone.
- Rather than throw the water out every time I boil eggs, I let it cool down and water my plants with it. It is packed with growth-stimulating minerals.
- On the same line, cool the water in which you've cooked spaghetti or potatoes and use it to water your plants. The starch is good for them.
- On the kitchen window, a row of herb plants that you can grow from seed or buy in three-inch pots will not only be decorative, but will add some distinctive flavor to gourmet dishes.
- Brighten the dining room with an indoor window box of impatiens or leaf lettuce.
- Going on vacation? Simply put all your house plants in the bathtub with a few inches of water. They will drink the water as needed.
- Schedule your indoor plant feedings the first of every month. You'll never forget to do it, and your plants will reward you with renewed vigor and beauty.
- Dust plants with a hair blower set to cool.
- Cracked walnut shells, marbles, or stones can be used to provide drainage at the bottom of a houseplant pot.
- If children or pets keep knocking your plants over, try double-potting. Put the plant and its original pot inside another, larger pot with rocks or gravel between the two.
- Cats are territorial, so don't position a pot in the cat's favorite place in the sun. Also, if your dog likes to people-watch through the window, leave that spot free.
- Plant a garlic clove beside a houseplant to keep all types of pests away.
- If you're not sure whether a houseplant needs water or not, poke your index finger a inch into the topsoil. If there is still moisture, don't water. If it's dry, do.
- Water from an aquarium is perfect for fertilizing houseplants.
- During cold winter months, a room filled with houseplants will benefit from the moisture provided by a portable vaporizer.
- Here's a novel but effective way to grow parsley indoors. Slice sponges in half and sprinkle with parsley seeds. Arrange the sponges on dishes in a sunny location, keep them moist and watch your parsley grow.
- Treat an ailing houseplant by dribbling a tablespoon of Castor oil on the soil in the pot; then water thoroughly.
- If you think that worms in the soil of your potted plant may be eating away at the roots, place a slice of raw potato on the surface of the soil in each pot. The worms will crawl out to get at the potatoes, and you can capture them.
- If you have the space, you can grow vegetables indoors. Lettuce does especially well when grown under fluorescent plant lights. Plant your lettuce garden in the basement, attic, or anywhere the temperature stays between 65 and 70 degrees in the day and drops a little at night.
- If you pinch new shoots at the growing points, you'll encourage branching, which produces more growth for flowering.
- If you suspect that one of your houseplants has a pest problem, attach a pest strip, then cover the plant for a few days with a clear plastic bag. By the time you remove the bag, the plant should have perked up.
- All plants need adequate light if they are to grow properly. Here's a way to test how much light your plants will get in a given location: place a sheet of paper where you want to put a plant, and hold your hand a foot above the paper. If your hand casts a sharp, well-defined shadow, you have bright light. If all you get is a blur on the paper, you light condition is shady and you will have to choose your plants carefully or consider supplementing the available light.
Houseplants need a little more TLC overall than those that grow in the natural elements. Don't we all! When cold weather sets in and we come indoors for good, those little chance encounters by the side of the garden no longer present themselves, and we just might get a little lonesome for face-to-face visits.
With Thanksgiving and Christmas right around the corner, now is the time to turn thoughts more intentionally and appreciatively toward remembrance of those whose company we enjoyed under the summer sun. A post is coming soon about how you can take some of that stock from your summer canning and drying and kick it up a notch for a homespun holiday gift.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Yellow, thanks for showing up one more time in the mums and the turning leaves, seeing us through the last of this growing season. Know that we'll be looking for you next spring in the crocuses and daffodils, the forsythia and the tulips.
(And just so this post doesn't seem too whimsical, I added this link. Thoughts of forsythia made me remember that fall is an ideal time for planting new bushes. If you're of a mind to put some in your yard soon, here are a couple of starter-links as you research your options.)
"Then God said, 'Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.' And it was so." Genesis 1:11
May we be as enthusiastic to fulfill our "purpose" as our yellow friends appear to be!
Monday, October 18, 2010
I planted these underneath the cucumber trellis (formerly known as an old, abandoned piece of playground equipment) so that I can throw a blanket over it on a light-frost night, thereby prolonging the season. But the garlic will stay in all winter. It's how garlic grows best.
If you've done your soil amending well, you should still see some of these fellows around when you dig to plant the garlic. Their presence means your soil is still worth their efforts!
I'll leave you with a few links to surf as you consider growing your own garlic...a promise to yourself that you'll pick up this gardening thing again next year!
And if you prefer, a video link as well:
Sunday, October 17, 2010
This month's garden pilgrimage is to a Southern Indiana gardenscape. What makes it unique is its history, for as a garden, it has been abandoned for hundreds of years. Centuries ago, Native Americans grew their crops here along the Ohio river, but now all that is left are commemorative waxworks in a little state museum, painted papier mache tributes to the corn and squash and sunflowers that were once cultivated here.
They call the place Angel Mounds because Angel is the surname of those who last privately owned the land. But now you could call it angel mounds simply because this land once so fruitful for man has been left to the angels for its tending.
It quickly proceeded, however, through a back door that led to the forgotten gardens and token rebuilding of native villages.
A large footbridge separates the museum from the acres of mounds, a bridge crossing what was once a useful stream to those farming here. Almost as though the water itself participates in the story-telling, that fish and canoe-laden stream has become nothing but a tiny thread of water, hardly even requiring the bridge that still spans it.
What did we find on the other side?
We found our focus drawn away from what was near at hand to explore what was background and hidden behind...that which was most obvious grew fuzzy and less interesting to us.
We found the wind likes to work and to play here.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Saturday, October 9, 2010
You may need to buy lids and rings--both are available option. Make the decision based on the quality of the rings you have. If they are showing signs of rust (see pic of lid on left as compared to good ring on the right) then you should throw them away. Rust can affect the quality of the seal on the jar in canning.
This sparkling pink apple juice came straight from the apples as per the work of my juicer. The juice combined with the pectin (brought to a hard boil that can't be stirred down) served as the full work of this jelly recipe.
If you are making nothing but jelly and have a juicer like mine, all you need to do is cut off the blossom end of each apple and feed it into the machine. But I wanted to use the pulp for other apple recipe--like apple cake and apple-almond bread, so I cut the apples into chunks and discarded the cores and seeds. Here you see a bowl of pulp that measured about half the pulp I gained from the pitcher of juice shown.
One thing about the no-sugar-added recipes you should know, they tend to be somewhat runny compared to their sugar alternatives. If you do add some sugar (or honey or Splenda) to give it body, you have to bring the mixture back to a boil and boil it hard for 1 full minute after adding the sweetener--but those directions are likewise included with the no-sugar-added pectin.
A last note, if you feel like making the jelly a little less mundane. Check out the website link for a recipe on apple-rosemary jelly. (It is shown with the regular apple jelly above.) And if the children turn up their noses at herb jelly, say what I say: live a little!
Thursday, October 7, 2010
For instance, I too, considered pulling this cucumber plant a week or so ago but left it a little longer. I went back to it again this week with the same intention. But as I pulled the vine from where it had grown into a patch of marigolds, I found one delightfully full-grown cucumber ready to pick. A last two blossoms made me decide to leave it for yet another week.
And what should decide to pop up in front of the dying zinnias? Baby dill seedlings. I pulled the "intentional" crop of dill weeks ago, but now have new dill to use in seasoning the dilly green tomatoes or dilly green beans I'll no doubt soon make soon as a fast-approaching frost utterly ends the days when things ripen on the vine.
Another self-seed payoff came in the form of baby onions. I left an onion flower lying in the onion patch a few weeks ago...and today I'm seeing new sprouts right between the lettuce and radishes and the mature onion plants. We'll have green onions with the few last salads of the season.
And when I pulled the last zucchini monstrosity, I found under one of its broad leaves a crop of tender new basil plants. I'd let some of the other basil go to flower, and though that parent basil's leaves turned a little bitter, this new basil is the beneficial result!
Taking my cue from the garden itself, I decided to bring that spirit indoors, tucking little vases of wildflowers--some of the last color from the wildflower garden--in nooks and crannies of the house.
Friday, October 1, 2010
Our apple saga left off last time with a return trip home from the orchard. The story picks up today with a classic lunch menu: peanut butter sandwiches, enhanced with the honey apple butter, a side of garden salad tossed in creamy cucumber onion dressing and a handful of fresh raspberries. As we ate, we perused the cook book for apple recipes.
Garden Helper became Kitchen Helper for the afternoon. His first recipe to make was yet another childhood classic: candied apple rings. (Although we made apple slices.) The recipe calls for a cup of water, a half cup of cinnamon candies (red hots, we used to call them) and a quarter cup of sugar.
Although the exposure leaves something to be desired, I thought I'd include a shot of the "finished work" when the apple prints were complete. Between this one and the large, red apple painting he made, a new season begins on the refrigerator art gallery.
In the end, a tasty jar of cinnamon candied apples is ready to go into cold storage, and we have enough red hots and candy corn left for a dish on the side board. A place of honor, considering the sideboard is usually reserved for homemade bread; but candy trumps bread this time of year anyway!