Saturday, July 31, 2010
My Sweet Basil finally decided to grow. One day it just decided to start shooting up. No sooner had I started enjoying pinching leaves and it began to flower. Such is the life of a gardener! This week, in between drying the leaves, I have been adding basil to as many of our meals as I can. The natural sweetness of basil is the perfect compliment to peas and green onions.
1 lb. fresh peas
2 Tablespoon butter
1/4 cup green onions
2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh basil, diced
Place peas in a steaming basket, and add basket to boiling water(do not let the water touch the peas). Steam for 2 minutes or until the peas are just barely tender.
While peas are steaming, melt butter; add green onions; cook until tender but not brown. Stir in peas, parsley, and basil. Cook covered over medium-low heat for 5 minutes or until tender.
What is your favorite way to use basil?
Visit $5 Dinners to view more recipes using fresh herbs or add your own to the list.
Friday, July 30, 2010
Today is Flaunt Your Flowers/Fertilizer Friday at Tootsie Time, but I will only be flaunting my Russian Sage. No fertilizer for these plants; they thrive in poor soil, of which I have plenty! Russian Sage is hands down my favorite drought tolerant plant. Not only does it require little water and lots of sun, but it can handle the temperature extremes that exist in the high desert. Its long spikes of purple flowers open in the heat of the summer, just as most of my other flowers are crying uncle, and continues blooming well into the fall.
Russian Sage dies back to the ground in the winter, but I do not trim the branches until the spring. Most sources I’ve read say that leaves will only bud on new shoots. However, I have observed that buds do appear on some of the old woody material, so I wait until the leaves start to emerge and then trim accordingly.
My plants reach about 3 feet wide and 4 feet high each summer. I use them through out my yard, but my favorite use of them was in creating a wall between my garden and my son’s play area: The wall of flowers serves several purposes. The blooms attract pollinators to my garden area, the strong sage scent hides the smells coming from the back pasture, and the thick branches prevent a lot of flying balls from crushing my veggies.
It is difficult to start Russian Sage from seed, but you can easily start a new plant from a cutting of new growth. You should keep it in moist soil until it takes off. Once it is established, you can cut back to watering it briefly 2 –3 times a week.
What more can I ask for? Oh yeah, it is not just rabbit resistant, it is almost a rabbit repellant, so I use it to protect flowers that the rabbits like to eat like my irises, daffodils, tulips, and Liatris Spicata (pictured at right).
What is your favorite drought tolerant plant? Or are you one of those blessed people who actually receive measurable amounts of rain?
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
I have spent most of the spring and summer lamenting the condition and rate of production of my raised bed gardens, so it only seems fair that I should share the positive developments.
I am beginning to harvest raspberries: It won’t be long before I am harvesting blackberries:I am regularly picking tomatoes, which are added to salads of lettuces, chard, and radishes from the garden. The eggplants are developing nicely. Now I just have to figure out a way to cook them so that my husband and children will eat them. I don’t have pictures of the herbs, onions, and peppers growing in the garden, but they are featured in this dip: Needless to say, I am thrilled to finally have an opportunity to enjoy the fruits of my labor! Do you grow your own fruits and veggies? Have you had an unusually trying time gardening this year?
Friday, July 23, 2010
I love my Daylilies! They grow in all types of soil conditions as long as it is well drained. They prefer sun, but tolerate shade. They winter well and can survive extreme heat as long as they receive an inch of water a week. If the rabbits did not like them so much, they would be on my short list of perfect flowers. I have found that the rabbits will not traverse rocks to eat them, so a little landscaping has allowed me to spend less time channeling Mr. McGregor and more time enjoying my flowers.
I have not decided if the tip I am about to share falls under the category of frugal and green or cheap and lazy; I will let you decide. When my daylilies have stopped blooming, I pinch the dead blooms, so they don’t go to seed, but I do not cut back their stems. Instead I let them dry until I can just twist the dead stems out. Then I have a free, eco-friendly, biodegradable stake to use for my morning glory seedlings. The dried stems are also perfect for staking peas and green beans when I start them inside before the last frost. They are 2 – 3 feet tall, but very light weight. When I transfer the plant outdoors, I can leave the make do stake with the seedling rather than risk doing damage to the plant by removing it. So what do you think? Am I hiding behind a frugal and green cover, while truly being cheap and lazy?
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Butterfly Bushes definitely live up to their name. I have a dozen of these bushes scattered through out the backyard and my children and I love watching the butterflies flit from bush to bush.
I think I would enjoy these hardy plants even if they didn’t attract so many butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds. They require very little water, do not mind poor soil, are unfazed by 100 degree heat, and can survive –20 degree winters. Around here they are known as easy keepers!
The bushes in my backyard, die back to the ground in the winter. I have a microclimate which is a little warmer in the front yard and the bushes there remain green year round. I advise putting several inches of mulch around the plants in the fall if you live in zones 4 – 6, to help them weather the winter.
I have bushes with pink, white, and lavender flowers, though none of the white flowers have opened yet. They remind me of lilacs with all of their little trumpet flowers. They differ from lilacs, in that they do not have a short flowering season. They will bloom from spring to fall, unless they are under unusual stress (Once the temperatures reach the mid 90’s my Butterfly Bushes stop producing new flowers. They resume once the temperatures drop back to the 80’s).
The flowers start opening from the base and work their way to the tip of the spike. They do not drop their blooms once they are done flowering, so they must be pruned. I don’t think there is any agreed upon way to prune Butterfly Bushes, though most gardeners agree that they are very forgiving and will survive just about any pruning they receive.
In the picture to the left, is a spent flower, flanked by two blooming spikes, with another flower beginning to form lower on the branch.
Monday, July 19, 2010
My childhood was populated with hollyhock fairies. They are fast and easy to make and can be made without any tools. Hollyhocks are edible, so the hollyhock dolls make an elegant, but frugal decoration for cupcakes. You need to rinse the hollyhocks well, if you are going to use them to decorate cupcakes.
1 hollyhock bud
1 partially opened hollyhock flower
1. Pull off the sepal petals on the bud to expose the “eyes”:2. Pull or cut off the stem to create the “mouth”: 3. Insert the stem of the flower into one of the holes in the bud: Now stand your hollyhock doll up and she is ready for the party:You can use a toothpick to make your doll more secure. Insert it through the middle of the hollyhock, leaving a bit of toothpick sticking out on top to attach the head, and a little on bottom to insert it into a cupcake: Once the head is attached you can stick the toothpick into a cupcake:
You can also add rosemary or lavender twigs for arms if you choose. I doubt that most people will want to eat their hollyhock doll, but they can if they want to. The petals are slightly sweet, but the white portion of the bud is bitter and is avoided when used for culinary purposes.
Saturday, July 17, 2010
If you have been fortunate enough to be overrun with yellow squash and zucchini, then visit here for a compilation of recipes that feature summer squash.
Ingredients (please don't be overwhelmed by the list):
12 lasagna noodles ( I used rice noodles to make this gluten free))
2 tablespoons olive oil , divided
2 small zucchini, thinly sliced
1 head broccoli, finely chopped
2 carrots, julienned
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
2 small zucchini, thinly sliced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (I use gluten free flour)
3 cups milk
1/4 cup butter
1 cup Parmesan cheese, divided
1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 (8 ounce) container small curd cottage cheese
15 ounces ricotta cheese
4 –5 roma tomatoes, thinly sliced
1/4 cup fresh basil, shredded
3 - 4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When oil is hot add zucchini. Add a dash of oregano, basil, garlic powder and pepper. Sauté for 5 –7 minutes. Place zucchini in a dish, but do not rinse out the pan.
2. Reheat the remaining oil in the large skillet adding a little more if necessary. When oil is hot add broccoli, carrots, onions, bell peppers, and garlic. Add a several dashes of oregano, basil, and pepper. Sauté for 6 - 8 minutes; set aside.
3. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add lasagna noodles and cook for 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.
4. Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Stir in flour (or cornstarch) then gradually whisk in milk until well blended. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook 5 minutes, or until thick, stirring constantly. Stir in 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese and add a dash or two of pepper. cook for 1 minute or until cheese is melted. Remove from heat; stir in spinach. Reserve 1/2 cup spinach mixture for the topping.
5. In a small bowl combine cottage and ricotta cheeses; stir well.
6. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and coat a 9 x 13 pan with a light coat of oil.
7. Spread about 1/2 cup of spinach mixture in the bottom of the prepared pan. Layer noodles, ricotta mixture, zucchini, 2 cups of mozzarella cheese, vegetables, spinach mixture, and end with another layer of noodles. Top with reserved spinach mixture, a layer of tomatoes, basil, 1 - 2 cups mozzarella cheese and 1/2 cup parmesan cheese.
8. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 – 40 minutes, or until lightly browned on top. Cool for approximately 10 minutes before serving. Serves 12.
To view more recipes inspired by homegrown vegetables, visit Grow. Eat. $ave. at $5 Dinners.
Thursday, July 15, 2010
My hollyhocks are finally starting to bloom. They line a fence that separates our backyard with the driveway to the back pasture. I find the driveway unattractive and like to block it from view. There is a foot path on the back-yard side of the fence, so I don’t have room for tall bushes and instead make use of tall flowers and morning glories to create a wall.
I have an odd assortment of old fashioned and double hollyhocks that have been grown from seeds, crowns, and collected seeds, some of which have since cross pollinated. The whitish ones in front have the faintest tint of pink to them; they are probably the product of the white and pink hollyhocks growing nearby. Some suggest only planting one type of hollyhock to avoid cross pollination, but I enjoy surprises! (To actually ensure that their isn’t any cross-pollination, no other variety of hollyhock could be grown with in at least a 1/4 mile).
They are happiest in a sunny, well ventilated area. They prefer rich soil, but it is more important for them to be planted in well drained soil. I just add lots of rich compost to my sandy soil and they are quite content. They are susceptible to rust, so I water from below to minimize their risk to the the fungus. I am hoping my husband is able to find time to install a drip line as hollyhocks like an inch of water a week and our high desert clouds cannot produce that much.
They are easy to start from seed. I sow mine outdoors in the fall a little more than a 1/4 of an inch deep, but you can sow the seeds indoors 6 weeks before the last frost. You can also sow them outside one week before the last frost just beneath the soil. Most hollyhocks only produce leaves the first year, so you need to be patient if you want to enjoy their beautiful flowers. Mulch them well in the fall and the following year enjoy their blooms. The flower spikes can grow up to 6 – 9 feet high, so growing them next to a fence or building provides them with some support and allows you to easily anchor them with twine if you live in an area with high winds.
They are short-lived perennials (mine usually live 3 years) so I always have new plants starting through out the bed. It is recommended that you allow at least 2 feet in between plants and I follow that rule for the older, larger hollyhocks. However, I do allow the seedlings to develop closer to the older plants that I am hoping to replace. Hollyhocks are pretty hardy and can withstand transplanting if you find you have several seedlings growing too close together.
Hollyhocks can also be started from crowns purchased at a garden supply store. These crowns have already gone through their flowerless, leafy year and usually produce flowers the first summer after you have planted them. Some of my hollyhocks were purchased as crowns and they are on their second year of flowers for me.
I have read suggestions to dead head the plants after they are done flowering as a way to increase their chances of blooming again the next year. I have not done that as I would rather collect the seeds, but my hollyhocks still come back and bloom a third year. I am not a horticulturalist, I only play one in my backyard, but I think the best way to ensure several seasons of blooms is to mulch the flowers well in the fall to protect the dormant terminal buds from damage during freezing temperatures.