Friday, April 8, 2011

Using Cypress Cuttings as Rabbit Deterrents

Rabbit Deterent - Cypress clippings (432x640)
Why are my walks lined with cypress clippings? Because it is the time of year when the rabbits come out and devour my tulips! Usually I am able to spray the tulips with homemade Rabbit Repellant but this year we have had a lot of precipitation (for the high desert), so it has been less fun to work outside but more conducive to plant growth. In other words, an ideal environment for the rabbits to dine on all of my tulips. I remembered that my husband had clipped the Cypress, so I grabbed branches from burn the pile and lined the walks.  As soon as it warms up, I will remove the Cypress and coat my tulips with Rabbit Repellant.
More articles on saving your plants from rabbits:
More Frugal Rabbit Deterrents
Raised Garden Beds

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

How to Grow Rhubarb

The snow has melted, the daffodils are thinking of blooming, and the rhubarb is sending up shoots! Spring is around the corner and this high desert garden in officially open for the season!

I recently purchased a magazine that promised articles on starting a vegetable garden on the cover. I found that the magazine was long on gorgeous pictures, but short on facts. I decided to start a “How to Grow Vegetables and Fruits” series once my garden showed signs of life. It seems fitting to start with rhubarb since their appearance marks the beginning of my spring garden.
Rhubarb (596x640)
Rhubarb is one of my favorite plants to grow, not just because it tastes so good in jellies, muffins, and cakes but because it is a hardy, low-maintenance perennial. Rhubarb is not only very cold hardy (it can survive –20o F), it is also drought tolerant. It is also relatively free of insects and disease. Once established a rhubarb plant can survive up to 15 years. The only downside to this wonderful plant is that it prefers cooler weather. It does best in locations where the winter is cooler than 40 degrees and the summer time average is 75 degrees. While we meet the winter requirements our summer temperatures greatly exceed 75 degrees. I have compensated by planting my rhubarb in a partially shady location and provide them with extra water during the hot months.

Growing Rhubarb:

Plant rhubarb crowns in the spring. Or start rhubarb seeds in the early fall.

It will do well in most soils, but prefers fertile, well drained soil. I supplement our soil each year with compost and aged manure. My friend Melyinda from Mom's Sunday Cafe noticed that you can see part of the crown in the above picture. I took the picture after removing the leaves I had used as mulch and before adding more compost and soil. The crowns will grow each year so they will need a little more soil to keep them covered. After 4 -5 years you can divide them and set them a little lower in the ground again.

Plant at least 2 feet apart. It is hard to believe but these plant can grow 4 feet wide and 3 feet tall. Plant the roots with the crown buds 2 inches below the surface of the soil.

Rhubarb can tolerate some shade, so I grow them near my beans and peas.

Rhubarb does not like extreme heat. It will stop producing at temperatures over 90o F, but will resume again once the temperatures drop in the fall. Rhubarb grows best in the northern U.S., if you live in the southern regions, grow this plant as an annual from seed. Plant the seeds in the early fall and harvest your crop in the spring.

Harvest rhubarb by cutting 3 –4 stems at the soil level per plant. This allows the remaining leaves to generate nutrients to be stored in the roots. New growth will emerge through out the summer and fall. By taking a small amount from each plant, you can harvest rhubarb from April through October.

Cut back flowers and do not let rhubarb plants go to seed.

Rhubarb prefers not to be disturbed, but I did dig them up and move them after they were decimated by rabbits. You will want to divide the crowns every 4 –5 years. Only divide them when they are dormant. Gently dig them up. Then use a sharp knife or spade to divide the root ball into thirds or fourths, making sure each section has some roots, stem, and buds.

Prepare rhubarb for winter by mulching with 2 inches of leaves, compost, or straw.

Safety Tip:

Only the stalk is edible. DO NOT eat the rhubarb leaves or roots as they contain high levels of oxalic acid which is toxic.

Have you grown rhubarb before?

To peek into other gardens around the country, visit Garden Tuesday and Tuesday Garden Party.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Freezing Berries

October2010 278 Even though my berry plants are only 2 years old, they have produced very well! We have had several freezes and 2 light dustings of snow, and my raspberries and strawberries are continuing to produce fruit!  They have slowed down considerably, but the fruit still trickles in. My blackberries, blueberries and gooseberries have behaved properly and acknowledged the season.

The problem I have found with my berries is that I either have too little or too much. Not enough to do anything with but use on cereal. Or so much that there is no way we can eat it all before it goes bad. I do use it make jams, but harvests are not predictable, and I can’t always clear my schedule just because the berries are ripe. So whether I have too little and want to save up berries to make muffins or have too much, I freeze berries to keep them from spoiling.

I collect my berries in a colander, then I can bring them in and rinse them immediately and let them air dry: October2010 320
Once the berries are dry, I lay them out flat on a cookie sheet: October2010 317 I lose some in the process to my little helper!

I place the cookie sheet in the freezer for several hours or until the berries are frozen solid. Then I place the berries in a container with a lid (but a gallon size plastic bag would work too).
October2010 321Even if you don’t grow your own berries you can use this technique to take advantage of the great berry sales at your grocery store or Farmer’s Market in the spring and fall. I add frozen berries directly to smoothies and muffins. I thaw them before I make jam.

This post is linked to Real Food Deals and Works for Me Wednesday.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Keeping Color in Your Garden

You don’t have to put your whole garden to bed for the winter. There are some plants that will continue to flower late into the fall – some all winter long!

Snapdragons will survive light frosts and even a light snow (as will the mums): October2010 181

Violas flower all winter long: October2010 166

Pansies are another flower that will bounce right back after being dug out from under a foot or two of snow: October2010 169

Vinca minors stay green all winter long. They bloom late in the fall and early in the spring. October2010 188My frugal tip is to go buy these flowers, as well as spring bulbs, on the day of the first snow when all of the stores and nurseries mark them 75% – 90% off. I store them in the garage until the snow melts. Once the ground warms enough to dig in it, I plant the annuals and bulbs. They have plenty of time to adjust before the next snow and the bulbs will still bloom on time, even if you plant them a couple of weeks late. You can also save the bulbs and force them for Easter and Mother’s Day gifts.

This post is linked to Bloomin’ Tuesday and Tuesday Garden Party at An Oregon Cottage.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Eggplant Rice Bake

October2010 164 My one Hansel Eggplant bush has been a powerhouse performer this year! It has already provided over 30 fruit and it continues to flower and produce more. Since the temperatures have been dropping below 40 degrees at night, I moved it from the raised bed garden and to my container garden. This allows me to move it, along with the peppers and tomatoes, indoors at night, so the plants will continue to produce fresh vegetables for my family. This is my first time including eggplant in my container garden, so I am looking forward to seeing how it does over the winter. I have been very impressed with this compact little plant and will definitely  include Hansel Eggplant in my garden next year!

One of my favorite ways to use eggplant is in Eggplant Rice Bake. It is a hearty meatless dish and since I use vegetables and herbs from the garden, it is fairly inexpensive to make.


2 cups cooked rice
1/2 cup squash puree (or cottage cheese)
splash of tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup diced celery
2 tablespoons diced bell pepper
3 cups diced tomatoes
2 teaspoons basil
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon thyme
2 teaspoons sugar
2 cups eggplant, chopped
1 cup yellow squash, chopped
2 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup parmesan cheese


Place a splash of olive oil in a large skillet. Add onions, garlic, bell pepper, and celery. Cook over a medium heat until the onions are translucent. Add tomatoes, spices, and sugar. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncover to cook off excess liquid (about 5 minutes). October2010 212

Grease an 8 x 8 baking dish and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix rice with vegetables puree and press half of it into the baking dish. Layer with half of the tomato mixture. Add half of the squash and eggplant, then cover with half of the mozzarella cheese. October2010 214 Repeat layers of the rice, tomato mixture, eggplant and squash, and mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle parmesan cheese over the top.
October2010 218Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and starts to brown.
October2010 221 Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Some more of our favorites recipes using Eggplant:

Eggplant Pizza Bites
Angel Hair Pasta with Garden Vegetables
Spicy Sesame Stir-Fry

To see how other gardeners are using their eggplant, visit Grow.Eat.$ave at $5 Dinners.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

It’s Beginning to Look Like Fall

But Just barely!

My little pumpkin was thrilled to finally be able to harvest his “baby plumpkins”. He carried them around all day: September2010 165

We are acquiring quite a collection of pumpkins on our porch. The porch is shady and protected from the elements, so I use it to store our pumpkins as they are harvested (except for my baking pumpkins which go directly to the kitchen!). The pumpkins add some fall color which we are definitely lacking! October2010 123 We have had a warm, wet autumn. That, combined with lots of evergreens on our property, means we are enjoying a very green fall. Here is the only tree that is acknowledging the season: October2010 122

Are the colors changing in your gardens yet?

To view more gardens, visit Bloomin’ Tuesday at MsGreen“thumb”Jean and Tuesday Garden Party at An Oregon Cottage.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Gladioli are Finally Blooming!

October2010 049

Some of my gladiolus bulbs are finally blooming! We had a long winter and a harsh spring, so I couldn’t put my gladiola bulbs in the ground until June, thus the late appearance.

In areas 6 and below, the gladiolus corms have to be dug up before the first frost and can’t be planted until after the last frost which doesn’t give them very much time to grow. They need at least 90 days to root, grow, bloom and store energy for the next year, so we cut it close each summer!

We have received a lot of rain which is causing the flowers to become heavy and topple over, so I have cut many of the stems and am enjoying them inside. I have not cut the foliage though. The plants need it to store energy for next year and I need it to remember where the corms are planted. :-)


October2010 051

The cosmos are enjoying the cool, rainy weather: October2010 052

We are going to have a plentiful harvest of Heritage Raspberries this year: October2010 054 Every branch looks like that! I can’t wait to get those berries in my kitchen!

The Everbearing Strawberries are living up to their name: October2010 045 I do believe there are more pies and jams in our future. And hopefully there will be more flowers as well!

How are your gardens doing this fall?

To view beautiful gardens from around the world, visit Flaunt Your Flowers Friday at Tootsie Time.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Blessed with Rogue Flowers

We have had the most gorgeous weather! This is the most beautiful fall that I have experienced since moving to Nevada. Warm day, cool nights – but not too cool – and calm breezes. And best of all NO snow! I have checked the forecast and it is supposed to continue this way for the next 10 days. Our lovely weather has yielded a couple of surprises that I discovered when walking along the edges of our property: Wild flowers. Not many, and they might not be that wild, but if not, surely they are a gift of the wild.
September2010 251 This plant looks like it belongs in the salvia family.

September2010 248 A purple daisy?

September2010 318 Every year poppies appear under our apple tree. They are late this year, but everything was late this year, so it seems appropriate!

I also have several wild roses that appeared this year, but they haven’t bloomed yet. I wonder if they will.
Have you been blessed with any rogue flowers in your garden this year?

This post is linked to Flaunt Your Flowers Friday at Tootsie Time.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

My Vegetable Garden: A Labor of Love

Yesterday, I shared how being a lazy gardener is both frugal and green. However, there are some things that I find putting a little effort into pays great dividends, namely my vegetable garden.

September2010 240 I finally captured an eggplant flower! Since the eggplant is still flowering and because it does not like cold, I am adding it to my winter container garden.

When you transplant an eggplant, pepper, or tomato plant great care needs to be given to not disturb the roots anymore than is absolutely necessary. Plan to dig a very large root ball and if you are putting it in a container choose an oversized one.

Since I have had problems with squash bugs this summer, I will pull out all of the squash and cucumbers plants as soon as I harvest the last squash.  Then I will burn the plants in an effort to eradicate the bugs. I will use the ashes to amend the soil for next year’s garden.

It won’t be long before I am searching high and low for recipes using acorn squash: September2010 235

I have at least 12 of these gianormous squash, even though I did not intend to grow acorn squash. Since we had such a long winter, my garden got off to a late start. I started to panic and was afraid that none of my seeds would germinate, so I bought a 4 pack of seedlings labels crookneck squash. My zucchini and straightneck squash seeds germinated and produced fruit before the store bought seedling even produced a single flower. Once they finally started producing fruit, I was confused because they were the weirdest looking crookneck squash I had ever seen! Once they matured a bit more I realized what I had on my hands.  Being lazy didn’t quite work out as planned this time!

Each one of my potato plants is producing 3 –5 pounds of potatoes! I dig up all of the potatoes by hand so that they will not be damages by the tools: August2010 398So far I have only been digging up what I will use for dinner that night, but I will dig up all of the potatoes before the first hard frost. Potatoes can weather a light frost, but they should never be allowed to freeze. After I dig up the potatoes I cure them by letting them sit for about 2 weeks in a dark, cool, dry location. They will be stored in our garage this winter which remains very cool, but does not freeze.

Since we have such a short growing season, I start my tomatoes inside while there is still snow on the ground. Once it warms up a bit they are moved to a portable greenhouse and sometime in June they are moved to the raised bed garden. Despite this tender care, my tomatoes got off to a rough start this year and I wondered if I would ever have much of a harvest: September2010 237

My worrying was for not! That is one of four cherry tomato plants. I also have two Romas and two Early Girls that I use in canning, which is another area that I expend quite a bit of energy.

How do you prioritize the work you do in your garden? And, iIf you have any acorn squash recipes, please leave me a link!

To view other vegetable gardens, visit Grow.Eat.$ave at $5 Dinners.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Lazy Gardening: Frugal and Green!

September2010 247 Some of you may not be ready to discuss the impending change of season.  However, it is just around the corner; I already have leaves that are beginning to change color. Autumn is the when, whether you realize it or not, you lay the foundation for next year’s garden. It sounds like a lot of work, but this is a time when being lazy really pays off!

When a fellow gardener visited my home she asked if I mulched my hollyhocks over the winter. I confessed that since they are next to the fence, leaves collect there naturally providing them with all the insulation they need. I am too lazy to remove leaves only to lay down mulch. Plus the leaves are free and when they break down they add nutrients to the soil.

I let leaves collect around the base of all of my plants, including hardy perennials like the Russian Sage, and leave them there until after the last frost: September2010 241
I collect the leaves that fall on concrete and use them to mulch my berries. I have experimented and found that my berries are happier when mulched with leaves instead of straw.

I don’t rake the leaves that fall on the grass, I mow them, but as when mowing grass, I don’t bag the clippings. Instead, I let the clippings add nutrients to the soil. The clippings also help retain water during drought conditions.

When writing about chrysanthemums, I shared that I do not cut dead branches back until new growth has appeared in the spring. I apply this to most of my other plants as well. Besides if I cut back my hollyhocks after they were done blooming, what would my morning glories climb? September2010 228

I also leave my Day Lilly Stems intact. I do not remove them until I can do so effortlessly. Then I use the dried stems as stakes when starting climbing plants in the spring.September2010 245Sometimes we work harder and spend more money than necessary to keep our yards looking nice. Do your yard and your wallet a favor and embrace your inner lazy gardener!  Tomorrow I will share some of the gardening tasks that I do expend energy on.

This post is linked to Flaunt Your Flowers/Fertilizer Friday and Frugal Friday because I am frugally fertilizing my flowers through sheer laziness! :-) fertilizer Friday