May 2 – Spring?
I like this new kind of spring that includes a cool front every week or so. I’m hoping it will last, but not betting the farm on it. After all, this is Texas! But while it lasts it is great for gardeners and the garden as well. It is so much nicer to go outside and pull weeds when the temperature is pleasant and the ground is soft. Plants seem to love it too, growing well and happily. The pomegranate is in full bloom and lovely.
April 22 – Happy Earth Day!
For gardeners, every day is Earth Day, but it is good to remember that the earth that sustains us needs our care and attention. For too many years, we’ve simply taken for granted the earth and its bounty.
If you’re going to be near Galveston this Saturday, stop by Tom Thumb nursery. I’ll be giving a talk at 10 on Saturday morning on growing organic vegetables. So delicious! So good for you! So much fun!
April 6 – Roses Roses Everywhere
Although this is the season for bluebonnets and wildflowers along the roadside, in my garden it is the season for roses. All my old garden roses are outdoing themselves and each other with a fabulous bloom-fest.I planted a Carefree Beauty and Ducher in the same hole a few years ago and the result has been great. Carefree Beauty is bright pink and Ducher is bright white and though they often bloom at the same time, they also alternate to make the bloom season longer. Generally Carefree Beauty, which I still think of as Katy Road, blooms first and Ducher starts a little later and lasts a little longer. It is a great combination.
Other roses are doing their thing as well. Grandma’s Yellow Rose, aka Nacogdoches, is sprouting long-stemmed beauties all around the bush. It is great for cutting and bringing into the house. Archduke Charles is another one good for cutting. It has big full flowers that in this season has red outer and pink inner petals. When it gets really hot, it turns completely red.
February 20 – Spring already!
Winter has gone by in a hurry and now it is time to start thinking seriously about the spring garden! If you haven’t already amended the soil, do it now. Add compost, manure, mine ral powders, whatever you think your garden needs. Pull out any weeds that have popped up during the winter and begin to collect seeds you want to plant.
On one of the few wintry days we have left, please check out my visit to Central Texas Gardener. You can see the interview on youtube at http://youtu.be/5TGO8r3HMVA
November 29 – Dealing with Pumpking
Now that Thanksgiving and Halloween are over, it is time to move on to Christmas decorations — which brings us to the question: What to do with the pumpkins? I see a lot of lonesome pumpkins pushed to the back of the porch these days. Turning those decorations into good food is easier than you think!
First, cut up your pumpkin, remove seeds and fiber and place it in a baking pan.
Add a small amount of water in the bottom of the pan and cover with aluminum foil. Bake for about an hour at 350 degrees F. Remove from the oven and let cool completely. Once the pumpkin is cool, you can easily remove the peeling by scoopng out the meat with a spoon. Put into blender and whir until completely smooth. You now have pumpkin puree that can be added to recipes for bread, pie, soup and lots of other things. If your pumpkin seems very moist. Strain it to get extra water our. I put my into plastic freezer bags — 2 cups of puree into each bag — and freeze until I’m ready to use.
Here is one of my new favorite ways to use pumpkin. This recipe came from HEB:
1 tsp. olive oil,
1 c. onion, chopped,
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped,
1 can (4 oz.) diced green chiles,
1 can (15.5 oz.) golden hominy, drained,
1 lg. garlic cloved, minced,
1 can (14.5 oz.) Diced Tomatoes,
1 can (15.5 oz.) Dark Red Kidney Beans or other beans (I use Pinto), drained and rinsed,
2 c. pumpkin,
2 c. Vegetable, Chicken or Beef Broth,
2 tsp. each: chili powder and cumin,
1/2 tsp. black pepper,
• salt and cayenne pepper, to taste,
1 Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
2 Sauté onion, bell pepper, green chiles, hominy, and garlic until tender (about 5 minutes).
3 Stir in tomatoes, beans, pumpkin, and vegetable broth; cook an additional 8 minutes. Season with chili powder, cumin, and black pepper. Reduce heat. Simmer 20 to 25 minutes. Add salt and cayenne pepper to taste.
Calories: 190, Total Fat: 2g, Sodium: 450mg, Carbohydrates: 40g, Dietary Fiber: 8g, Sugar: 8g, Protein: 4g
August 23 – September Homegrown
I hope everyone who wanted it has not received the notice that the September issue is now online. If you didn’t receive a notice, check your spam folder. You can also easily access Homegrown by clicking on Magazine Archives on this site and selecting September issue. It’s got info on zinnias, herbs, veggies and the dread mosquito. Fall is on the way — very sloooooooowly! But it will get here and we’ll be happy to go outdoors again. The October issue will be available around the end of September, so keep an eye out!
August 23 – September Homegrown
The first issue of the online version of Homegrown will be available soon. Nothing is ever as simple as I hope and thank goodness for the help I have – Amanda Quraishi has saved my bacon on this website and other techy issues over and over as did her dad, Skip Horni, years and year ago! Anyway, we should get all the technical issues resolved soon and get the publication out before labor day. If you haven’t signed up yet, send me an email at HomegrownTexas@yahoo.com and I’ll get you on the list!
August 20 — Mosquito Repellants
There is a mosquito panic going on now, and they are indeed nasty creatures that carry disease and general misery, but we need not panic. Remember that only a very small number of bites result in any problems at all. Also remember that you can cut way down on the mosquitoes in your neighborhood by getting rid of standing water, using organic dunks in ponds and tanks and using repellants on your body when you go outside. Homemade repellents are good options for keeping mosquitoes away. One recipe involves the use of essential oils, available at health food stores and craft stores. It is necessary to make sure you are not allergic to these oils. They are potent extractions of plants and can cause skin irritation if too strong a mix is used. To create a mosquito repellent with essential oils, select your favorite from cinnamon oil, lemon eucalyptus oil, citronella oil and castor oil. Mix 10-25 drops of essential oils with two tablespoons of either olive oil, sunflower oil, witch hazel, or vodka. Rub or spray the mixture on your skin or clothing, but be sure to avoid your eyes, nose and mouth. Remember to reapply the product after about an hour or after swimming or exercise. Store any unused mix in a dark bottle away from heat or sunlight. Experiment with different oils to see which works best with your body chemistry. There are several other recipes for repellents using essential oils.
Lemon Balm Repellent
2 tablespoons sweet almont oil
1 tablespoon aloe vera gel
25 drops Lemon Balm (Citronella) essential oil
Mix together in a jar with a lid and shake well to blend. You can dab a few drops on your skin or put some into a misting spray bottle and spray it on.
Lemon Balm + Repellent
1 cup 190 proof grain alcohol
1 teaspoon Lemon essential oil
1 teaspoon Rosemary essential oil
½ teaspoon Lemon Balm essential oil
Place all ingredients into a jar and shake well to blend. Dab or spray on.
Lemon Balm Repellent #3
½ cup vodka
½ cup organic apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons Lemon Balm essential oil
Place in jar, shake and dab or spray.
Mix up only small amounts of essential oil repellents. The oil will not stay fresh for long periods of time and will lose effectiveness as it ages. Making different mixtures each time you make one will also keep the critters guessing and moving away from you. There are also some recipes for mosquito repellents that don’t involve essential oils.
Catnip (Nepeta spp) acts as a natural repellent to mosquitoes. Several years ago Iowa State University did a research study showing that oil made from catnip is more effective than Deet for short term exposure. In a pinch you can simply pick a sprig of catnip and crush the leaves in your hands to release the oils and scent. Tuck the plant into your hat or shirt and it will repel mosquitoes. You can also rub the leaves on your skin but it doesn’t work as long and may turn you green!
Catnip repellents are also good to use on your pets since it is nontoxic and cats will love it. Dogs won’t mind and it will help protect them from mosquito bites.
2 cups catnip leaves
3-4 cups mild rice vinegar.
Rinse and dry catnip, crush and place in clean quart jar. Cover with vinegar. Seal jar and store in dark place for two weeks. Shake jar every day or so. Strain into a clean jar and refrigerate for up to 6 months. Use as needed by pouring a small amount into a spray bottle and spraying on exposed skin and around outdoor sitting area.
Catnip and Rosemary Mosquito Chasing Oil
2 cups catnip leaves
1 cup rosemary, cut into 6-inch sprigs
2 cups grapeseed oil, olive oil or any light body-care oil.
Crush herbs and pack into a clean jar. Cover with oil, close jar and place in cool dark place for two weeks, shaking every day or so. Strain into clean jar, cover and refrigerate up to 8 months. To use, rub oil on exposed skin.
In addition to catnip, there are many herbs that mosquitoes don’t like. Yarrow is one wild or garden plant that can be used in the catnip recipes when the flowers are available. The wild white flowered yarrow is considered most effective. Mosquitoes are particularly annoyed by lemon scented herbs. Even chemical repellents often use lemon scents, which they call citronella, in their products. Here is a lemon grass repellent you can mix up in the kitchen.
Lemon Grass Mosquito Repellant
4-5 stalk bases of lemon grass, chopped
1 cup vodka
Place in blender and whir until well combined. Strain and add ½ cup water. Put into spray bottle and mist yourself, kids and pets to keep mosquitoes away. Store in refrigerator.
July 25 – Great News!
About two years ago, Homegrown ceased publication — postage too high, printing too expensive, editor too tired. NOW we are starting a new online version. FREE to you and FREE to me (except for time of course). To subscribe to this new Homegrown: Good Sense Organic Gardening, just send your email address to HomegrownTexas@yahoo.com. The first issue will be sent soon. AND I’m going to reinvigorate this blog as well. Look for exciting and fun changes on the way. And thanks for hanging in there!
April 1 – Artichokes on the move
Just a few days ago I was amazed to see how large the artichoke plants were getting, but I didn’t see any fruit until today — when I saw a lot! My friend, Beth, and I went out to check and lo and behold there were at least six and maybe more artichokes, one almost large enough to eat! They seem to have popped out over night.
These have been amazing plants, and they prove my belief that if a plant wants to live and prosper, the gardener has little to do with it. I planted one artichoke plant here about 5 years ago. It has multiplied and produced every year except last year when we had a hard freeze and it died back to the ground. I thought it was dead and gone, but it came back and now it is at least five, maybe more plants, all healthy and happy. They are growing in a bed beneath the annoying ligustrum that was here when I moved it. The soil has not been amended or fertilized to speak of. Maybe two or three times I’ve sprayed the plants with my old standby mix of seaweed, fish and molasses (I use John’s Recipe from Ladybug), but really nothing is done to encourage these plants except for kind words. I watered a little during the horrible drought, but the hot weather got them before the drought did, so they retreated and bided their time.
This spring, they jumped up and now we have lots of yummy artichokes. One problem. On one bush, the fruit has “black tip.” Just like it sounds.
The ends of the tips are black, but I’m relieved to learn that it is just a cosmetic issue. It doesn’t harm the part you eat and you can just cut it off before serving. It is caused by water stress and usually happens in sunny and windy condition — we have that. Probably it’s gotten too little water, then too much water, and just had to act out some way!
If you haven’t tried growing artichokes, give it a try. Plant some in different locations. They hate my back yard but love the front!
Match 21 - Spring is here!
The last of the broccoli has gone to feed the bees and volunteer poppies have sprung up all over the garden. Tomato plants, squash, beans and cucumber seeds have all been planted, and for a change we have ample rain to get the season off to a good start!
The volunteer lettuce that has kept us fed all winter is sharing space with the volunteer poppies and I planted squash seeds in that bed to takeover when these spring plants are gone. Once again I planted my favorite squash — Trombetta from Renees Garden Seeds. It is an Italian heirloom that makes a huge climbing or running plant and produces light green yummy squash that looks a little like a trumpet, hence the name. I let it climb and run since it roots when it hits the ground and reinvigorates the plant. It somehow manages to outrun the annoying squash vine borer and produce lots of tasty fruit. I hope it works again this year!
The roses are also bursting into bloom. This is the time of year when all gardeners are optimists! I want to go stare at the garden and cheer all day long when days are cool/warm but not yet miserably hot and when the ground is soft from recent rains.
March 4 – New Book on the way!
My new book, Recipes From and For the Garden is on its way to stores now! You can order yours here and get them autographed as part of the deal! This book contains recipes for vegetables and fruit commonly grown in the garden that are easy to put together, require no fancy tools or ingredients and taste really good! It also includes recipes for remedies, potions, and garden and home mixtures that will enhance your life indoors and out. You actually use this book! Also makes a great gift for hostesses, birthdays, anniversaries or just because!
February 27 – Souvenir Bursts Into Bloom
My gorgeous Souvenir de la Malmaison rose is bursting into bloom. This wonderful pink old Bourbon rose is full and fragrant. It comes in both climbing and shrub, and I have both. A sniff of this rose makes you say, “Oh yes! That is a rose!” Easy to grow, it loves hot weather and blooms off and on throughout the season. It is also a beautiful cut flower, particularly the shrub types. The climbers are good for floating since they have fairly short stems. I’ll have some stems of this for taking cuttings at the Herb Society of America meeting in Austin in May.
February 9, 2012 – Lorapetalum!
Yet another plant that was so thrilled at the recent rains that it burst into bloom! Lorapetalum is one of those plants that many of us had never heard of ten years ago, but now it is happily growing all over the place. It is a wonderfully adaptable plant. Although sources say it likes acidic loose humusy soil, it is doing beautifully in my highly alkaline black clay. It can take a good bit of shade and flourishes in part sun. Even when it is not blooming, the purplish leaves are very attractive. Mine requires and gets no care, no pruning, no fertilizing and very little water even during the drought. It is a great plant!
A native of China, this bush is a relative of the witch hazel plant and has similar fringe-looking flowers. It is sometimes called fringe bush. It is evergreen and hardy in my central Texas garden and from what I’ve learned has a very wide range. If you haven’t tried this pretty bush, plant one or two!
A man stopped when I was outdoors today and asked me the name of the plant. I told him and he said, “No, that’s not it. My friend said it was something else.” So there you go. Like every other plant it has multiple common names, but I’m telling the truth here about its Latin name!
February 8, 2012
Remember! Poppies look like weeds when they are just coming up! My poppies come up volunteer every year, so I never know where they might appear. Of course, those annoying thistle/dandelion plants also pop up all over the place in late winter and early spring. It takes a close look to distinguish between the two.
February 5 - Super Rose Sunday
Introduced into the trade some time before 1894, the Mutabilis rose is one of the most gorgeous and most reliable of the old roses. Found growing in China, it has good sized single blossoms that start out yellow, change to an orangy pink and finally turn deep crimson pink. It is sometimes called The Butterfly Rose because all the flowers in different colors make it look as though a bunch of colorful butterflies have landed at the same time! This reliable bloomer will continue to bloom as long as there is no frost and will start blooming again as soon as the weather warms even a little. Generally in Central Texas it blooms at least 10 months of the year. It’s a big plant too! It can grow 8-10 feet tall and just about as wide. It takes the heat and requires almost no attention except to clip it back from time to time to keep it from covering up the house, the street and the sidewalk! Named an Earth Kind rose, it is a wonderful choice for any garden.
January 31, 2012
A NEW BOOK!
The Herb of the Year for 2012 is the Rose. This book is designed to help anyone enjoy the joy of growing roses. It dispels all those myths about how hard to grow roses are and instead shares truths about how to pick and grow the best gorgeous roses without harmful chemicals. We’re excited about this book! To order your copy, click on the SHOP tab and we’ll get your copy autographed and sent your way!
January 12, 2012 (or 1/12/12)
Last year and the year before we went to Brownsville and bought lemon plants on the way home. They have been moved up to bigger pots, except for the one I planted in the ground. That one in the ground didn’t make it through our short but very cold spell last winter, so the potted ones are all that remain. This winter we harvested about a dozen lemons and they were extremely yummy. Now the plants are in full bloom again. They are spending the winter on my screened in back porch that is covered with plastic to create a greenhouse of sorts. No extra light and any needed heat comes from an electric heater on freezing nights. Otherwise they are not given any special treatment. I put coffee grounds in first one pot and then another when I make coffee in the morning.
These blooms are just beautiful! Creamy white and tropical looking. Makes me want to break into a hula! I water regularly and think about fertilizing, but so far haven’t done it. I think I’ll go pour on some “John’s Recipe” mix this afternoon. Hooray for plants that take good care of themselves.
We are testing another lemon variety that was found growing outdoors in the Hill Country. I’ll tell you more about that later.
January 2, 2012 — HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Once we started thinning the little carrots, we just couldn’t stop! They are bright orange, yellow and maroon colored and are coming up thick! We cooked this little batch but there was just enough for a taste. They were sweet and delicious. In fact Bailey pronounced them “Super Yummy!”
The garden has suffered from lack of care for the past couple of months. I planted cauliflower, broccoli, carrots and beets then wandered off. No fertilizing, no watering, no attention! But the broccoli and cauliflower are starting to produce and the carrots and beets need thinning. We also have some volunteer lettuce from last year’s crop and some spinach from an early fall planting. The garden will produce a little bit anyway, and I’m grateful that it can go on without me when I’m busy decking the halls and such.
Have a great garden year and enjoy the outdoors when you can. These sunny winter days seem just about perfect!
November 29 – Thanksgiving Roses
Thanks to a few late rains, the roses were in glorious bloom for Thanksgiving. I had bouquets all over the house and the combination of rose and turkey scent was irresistible! The roses are so happy to have some rain after a summer of horrible heat and drought. Except for the bright yellow rose, which is Grandma’s Yellow Rose from Texas A&M rose breeders, all my roses are antique. They seem to survive even the toughest situations and come back happily when things et better. I wish I had their stamina!
Roses in this bouquet include Grandma’s Yellow Rose, Mrs. Dudley Cross, Kronprincessen Viktoria, and Archduke Charles. They are all blooming happily and will continue for a while unless we have a very cold spell. I hope we don’t!
October 3 -Gardening, Chocolate & Antiques!
Angel Kisses Antiques in Lexington, Texas, is celebrating its grand opening on October 15 in conjunction with the Lexington Chamber of Commerce Annual Chocolate Lovers Festival. I’ll be at the shop from 10-15 talking about gardening and signing books. Other speakers will talk about restoring furniture, and re-purposing old decorative items. Plus there will be musicians and entertains of all types. And did I mention chocolate????? Lots of activities in this nice little Central Texas town where Texas Monthly says you can get the best barbeque in the state. Come on out for some fun.
September 15 – Saving Squash Seeds
If you’ve been watching my posts, you know that I had a fabulous volunteer squash this summer that went on and on and produced yummy squash in spite of the weather. Well. I just harvested the last of the squash that I’d let get big so I could save some seeds.
Here she is almost 13″ long and fat and full. I finally realized that this is a Climbing Trombocino squash, an Italian heirloom, and I’ve already ordered some new seeds from Renee’s Garden Seeds (www.reneesgarden.com), but I like to save my own because they’ve already proved themselves as fabulous plants for my specific garden. By the way, Renee is having a seed sale right now. It’s a good time to plan ahead!
Usually this squash is seedless, but here at the end of the season and because I let it stay on the vine a long time and get too bid, there are plenty of nice seeds in there for next season. The first step is to remove the seeds from the surrounding flesh. I do that by mushing my fingers around in there and dropping the seeds into a colander.
The neck of the squash is still firm and seedless, so I’ll peel it and chop it up for a quick saute with olive oil, onions, garlic and tomatoes for a yummy side dish. The seeds go under the water where I smush them around to try to remove any clinging squash flesh and get them as clean as possible.
The final step is to spread the seeds out to dry. I always use coffee filters because seeds don’t stick to them. When the seeds are completely dry, I’ll check for any remaining flesh and remove it because it can lead to rot. Then I’ll put the seeds into an envelope and write the name and date of the plants.
This has been the best squash I’ve ever grown. It is tender, delicious, seed-free and just really tasty. It produces beautiful big leaves and big flowers that look good on the fence or on the ground and it grows fast enough to outrun squash borers. One advantage to letting it ramble on the ground is that the vines will put down roots as it runs along, offering more sustenance and keeping it going if the borers get the old vine. In this worst possible gardening summer, I’m happy to have enjoyed squash all season and have some casseroles put away in the freezer!
September 6 – Austin Herb Society
My gardening talking season begins on Tuesday with the annual membership luncheon of the Austin Herb Society. www.austinherbsociety.org. The meeting starts at 9:30 a.m. in the Zilker Park club house and you need reservations to attend so they will know how many people to feed. This is a great group that has lots of options for members. Many special interest groups will inform you on almost any herbal topic. My talk will be about heirlooms and herbs and how they relate to each other and why they are fabulous choices for any garden.
Above is a picture of my bay tree, one of the real stars of this awful summer. It has continued to grow and prosper, stay green and fragrant and thumb its lovely leaves at the heat and drought. This plant is not one that I water regularly, so it has taken care of itself nicely.
If you’ve ever thought about checking out the Austin Herb Society, now is the time! See you Tuesday.
August 29 – Holding Pattern
Well, the garden and the gardener are in holding patterns. It is too hot to go outdoors, let alone go outdoors and work. It is too hot for plants to stay alive, let along produce. We are all just waiting for this incredible, record-breaking heat to subside. In Texas we don’t expect cool weather until perhaps the end of October. September is often a stifling month, particularly because we are so tired of summer, but this year has been so bad, that even a few days in the 90s sound good.
My front porch is usually a nice place for flowering plants to spend the summer. Begonias, geraniums, and other potted gems usually flourish there. It is shady most of the day and gets just enough sun to keep the flowering plants happy. But not this year. This year, they seem to have cooked. Although I water regularly, it just seems to provide steam to further destroy the plants. Geraniums are dead. Begonias look limp and don’t bloom. The hanging baskets of impatients gave up weeks ago. A couple of ferns are surviving crouched in a corner and the ginger seems happy enough, but no blooms. The best looking container plants I have this year are pineapples.
Last Christmas I made a ginger- pineapple salad and saved the tops of the pineapples. I stuck them into pots and put them on the enclosed back porch to grow some roots through the winter. This spring they looked pretty good, so I moved them to the front porch. In all the heat, they have thrived. I’ve had to pot them up into larger containers twice. They are very water-thrifty and seem perfectly content with temperatures in the 100s. It was never that hot when I was in Hawaii, the only time I ever saw pineapples growing in the ground, but they just seem to be thriving.
August 8 – Dregs of the Garden Stir-Fry
Here we are on day 54 or so of 100 degree + weather and we’re still getting enough from the garden to make a nice dinner. Tonight we had stir-fry that contained homegrown garlic, onions, peppers, squash and beans. Plus a couple of things not homegrown — chicken and water chestnuts. And it was delicious. This year I planted yard-long beans for the first time, and I am very impressed with them. They keep producing in spite of the heat. My string beans gave out months ago. These beans are pretty plants too — big heart-shaped leaves that wander around on the trellis and the ground. The beans aren’t very prolific in this heat – just a couple or four beans at a time, but plenty for the two of us to have beans and particularly plenty to be part of a mixed dish like stir-fry.
My everlasting squash is finally about to give up the ghost I think. It has fragmented itself into three or four plants — each with roots that have grown from the wandering vine — while the original roots and stems have died out. I picked this squash on Sunday and today used most of it for two loaves of zucchini bread and the rest for stir-fry. The bread was a recipe I got from a friend — it has sunflower seeds and juice in it so it isn’t very sweet and is very tasty with some texture as well. It called for apple or orange juice, and I had neither, so in one loaf I used cran-apple and in the other blueberry-pomegranate. Both were very good.
Here is the recipe. It comes from Zabar’s (www.zabars.com).
½ stick butter (4 Tbs, unsoftened)
2 cups white whole wheat flour (this is my personal favorite flour to use, but you can also use all-purpose or half all-purpose and half whole wheat)
½ cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¾ cup orange or apple juice
½ cup sunflower seeds (if you use salted seeds reduce salt to ½ tsp)
1 cup shredded zucchini
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. If you have a food processor, use the s blade and place all the dry ingredients and butter in it. Pulse until the butter is cut into very small pieces, you shouldn’t see any chunks. Without a food processor, combine the dry ingredients in a bowl and cut the butter into the ingredients. I usually start cutting in the butter with two knives then when it becomes too small I finish it with forks.
3. In a separate bowl beat the egg and add the orange juice.
4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix just until combined. Fold in the sunflower seeds and shredded zucchini (I shred this in the food processor as well – that way you will have only 2 bowls to wash and the bread is ready for the oven in about 10 minutes).
5. Add to a greased 9 x 5 inch loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about 60 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
6. Cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack before removing the bread from the pan.
Variations: You can substitute the sunflower seeds for any other crushed nuts. You can add carrots, raisins or dried cranberries and the will all work wonderfully.
July 26 – Heirlooms Rule!
In spite of the heat and drought, my heirlooms keep producing and keeping us in fresh produce! I got the plants in late, but my lemon cucumber just produced its first fresh and crunchy fruit and the vine looks healthy and happy. The volunteer Trompetta Italian heirloom squash is still producing like crazy and the tomatoes are doing a fine job of providing us and our friends and relatives with fresh tomatoes. They are getting smaller, but who cares if they still taste good?
Dating back to the 1890s, lemon cucumbers look like lemons but don’t taste like them. They are fresh and crispy tasting. There are lots of little tender seeds that are easily removed if you object. The skin is not bitter or tough and the vine is resistant to disease. What else could you want? They make great pickles or are perfect for just eating fresh. I sliced this one up for a crudité tray yesterday and it was gobbled up in no time. I can’t wait for the weather to cool just a bit and I should have lots of cucumbers on this vigorous vine. It is growing and blooming now in spite of the 100 degrees every day!
July 18 – Yet Another Fabulous Volunteer!
This great looking spider lily popped up in my front flower bed just in time for the Fourth of July! With its bright orange antlers, it looked just like a fire cracker. A native Texas, its Latin name is Hymenocallis liriosme and it’s sometimes called Texas Spider Lily. Here’s what the Southern Bulb Co has to say about it: In the early to mid-1800′s, explorer Jean Louis Berlandier, a Swiss-French botanist, charted the plants of Mexico, an area that included sections of present-day Texas. In his journal he describes a scene where his party found itself surrounded by knee-high lilies. This type of display is not a thing of the past, however. Drive into the country late in the spring, and you could find yourself in the middle of these spectacular beauties, the native white spider lilies.
Mind grows in pretty heavy shade in a bed that only gets accidental water. When I spray the plants on the porch, some runs into the bed. I’d never seen it before this year and I didn’t plant it. The bulbs I did plant in that bed (orange oxblood and some others) have never bloomed. Obviously this one thinks its time has come and I’m thrilled. Now I don’t know whether to treat it better or just keep ignoring it!
July 11 – Planning for the Fall Garden
I let some of my lettuce plants go to seed this summer when the hot weather made the leaves taste bitter. My hope is that when the weather cools off (soon, soon, please) the seeds will come up and provide lettuce for us through the winter. We’ll see.
I’ve also taken cuttings from two of my this-year favorite heirloom tomatoes. One is called Strawberry and is shaped like a strawberry but is a pretty big tomato. The other is a tasty yellow slicer named persimmon. They are coming along nicely and I’ll put them in the ground around August 1. Meanwhile I have new pumpkin plants growing and I’ve got my fingers crossed that the squash bugs and borers won’t get them. The amazing volunteer squash is still going. I just picked one and put it in a pork stew for dinner and there are at least three more coming along right now.
I did figure out where that squash came from. I had planted some seeds in small pots — the remains of an old package of Trombetta squash from Renee’s Garden Seeds. They didn’t come up and I figured I’d let the seeds get too old and dumped the dirt from the pots into the flower bed. Apparently one of those seeds was just biding its time and sprouted when it was good and ready. The result of miles of squash that amazes friends and strangers alike and keeps us eating tasty squash all summer!
June 28 – The Squash that Taylor ate!
You may remember earlier in the year I was talking about the wonderfulness of volunteer plants. Well! That was before my volunteer squash hit its stride. This squash came up in a flower bed and I’m not sure how it got there. It is obviously either a Trombocino Italian heirloom or a close relative. I’ve been growing these delicious squash for several years and buying seeds from Renee’s Garden Seeds. But lately every time I plant a squash (or cucumber or melon) the squash vine borers kill them dead, so I sort of gave up and was counting on the farmers markets to keep me in squash.
The plant started growing, and growing and growing. I always encourage volunteers at least until I know what they are. Some of my best plants have come up on their own. This one makes lovely pale green squash shaped vaguely like a trumpet. Inside the flesh is pale golden and the skin is so tender you don’t need to peel it before cooking. It has an unusual taste, almost like an artichoke, and very yummy. There are almost no seeds. This is my dream squash (and has all the characteristics of the Trombocino). On the other side of the yard, I purposely planted a butternut squash plant in a large pot hoping that would protect it from the borers. It made two little squash and expired (due to borers). This plant just keeps going.
I have given squashes to everyone I know and cooked them in large batches whenever we have company and small batches when we don’t. My husband suggested it might be time to make pickles, but it is too hot for that! I ‘m going to make some casseroles and put them in the freezer for later. Meanwhile, the vine goes up and over the fence, west toward the neighbors, east toward the street, on both sides of the fence, and baby squashes all along the way. Varmints don’t seem at all interested in it and it goes through both shady and sunny patches along the way.
Meanwhile the drought continues, temperatures surpass 100 degrees almost every day and the squash keeps on growing. I do water, of course, and I speak very kindly to it. It is clearly my gardening success of the year . . . and I had almost nothing to do with it! Isn’t nature grand?
Here is my favorite squash recipe: Cut up squash and onions into bite-size pieces and steam until tender. Pour into buttered (or Spammed) casserole dish. Mix in one beaten egg, salt, pepper and a handful of cheese (whatever kind you have and like). Bake in 350 degree oven uncovered until the cheese is melted and the egg is cooked. You can make this dish as large or as small as you wish, depending on how many squash and people you have.
June 7 — Community Gardens
If you don’t have a garden spot in your yard, you might consider Community gardens.
Our local community garden was built on an old unused tennis court outside an old unused junior high school building. The beds are build of concrete blocks and good soil was donated by a local nursery. Volunteers came together and built all the beds in one day and gardeners “adopted” the plots. Plots vary in size and some are designed for handicapped gardeners — they are taller and accessible from chairs. The gardener is responsible for planting, feeding and watering the beds. Water is provided by the city for free. In return, gardeners are asked to donate 1/10 of their harvest to the food bank, which has taken up residence in the old school building. It is a great way to let people try their hand at growing their own food and for providing for others as well. Since this first garden was built, another on the other end of town has been built and includes fruit trees for everyone to enjoy. Some of the beds, like the one in the picture, are lovely and get lots of attention. Others are very basic and not nearly as productive, but it is all a learning experience — in gardening, in self-discipline and in community. Our bed, which the grandkids and I planted with potatoes in late winter was harvested a few weeks ago and now we are waiting for the sweet potatoes to take over. We walked down the street, pulled up the potatoes then walked home and cooked some for lunch. What could be better than that?
June 1 – Garlic Harvesting Time
When the bottom leaves and stems of the garlic plant begin to yellow, it’s about time to start harvesting. This garlic is an old French heirloom variety that came to Texas in the early 1800s. My husband Bob first saw it growing at the Fanthorp Inn, a popular stopping place during the Texas revolution and now a state historical site. It is a rocambole garlic which is closely related to shallots and is distinctive in that the stem starts out straight then makes a loop or two and finally straightens out again. The flavor is true garlic but milder than some imports. It is flavorful without being overbearing. The bulbs are often very large and the cloves are larger than most garlics as well.
Anyway, the wonderful thing about this garlic, is that when you pull it out of the ground, the little bulbettes that cling to the root drop off — and voila! next year’s crop is planted.
This is about half the garlic I have to harvest and it is a very big basketful. I leave it on the table under the gazebo roof to dry out for a while so it won’t mildew when it is stored. It’s best to dry it in a single layer, maybe on a wire. But I’m not quite organized enough. I’ll spread it on the table once I have all the stems cut off. I put them in a bucket to dry. The flower heads are sterile and won’t produce garlic, but they are beautiful dried ornaments and I like to keep a bouquet on the porch. After a while, the garlic smell dissipates and they just become pretty flowers.
If you don’t have garlic in your garden, you are missing a real treat. It helps protect the rest of the garden from insect pests; it looks great during the winter when other things are dormant; it tastes great year-round; and it is easy, easy, easy to grow. Plant your new garlic in October and it will grow through the winter. Don’t water it much or it will rot. Don’t plant garlic from the grocery store; as a rule it is from China and doesn’t taste too great and besides that they spray it with growth retardant so it won’t sprout. Get some garlic from a friend, farmer’s market or organic supply online. You’ll be so happy you did!
May 10 – Hooray for Volunteers
I’m finding that, left to its own devices, my garden is pretty good at taking care of itself. Last fall I had the best second-season garden of my life, and most of the plants in it came up by themselves from spring plants that went to seed. There were basil plants, cilantro plants, tomato plants that were young and happy to produce fruit, along with some onions and other things I can’t remember right now. Of course I added broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce and spinach, but a big part of the garden planted itself.
The same is true this spring. In my raised vegetable beds, there are wonderful volunteers. The garlic that surrounds the beds was first planted six years ago and has been replanting itself ever since. There are also beautiful mullein plants that come up here, there and yonder throughout the garden. I love the soft velvety leaves and the bright yellow flowers and the bees love the flowers too.
In addition to garlic and mullein, there are several snap dragon plants that have been reseeding for about 4 years now. I don’t remember ever planting snap dragons in the vegetable bed, but everything likes that spot since I keep it relatively weed-free and moist and fertile.
The cilantro that volunteered in the fall garden is now making nice ripe seeds, some of which I’ll harvest for coriander and some of which I’ll let fall in the hope that the crop will come back when the weather cools down again.
Another nice bonus this spring is a big healthy squash plant that came from my slightly haphazard composting style. I threw some stuff into a flower bed and covered it with a little soil. Now this plant is big and beautiful, climbing all over the fence and producing little squashes. I haven’t been able to grow squash for several years because of squash vine borers, but this one seems to be able to go it alone with just a little water from me. I love it!
Of course, every year I count on the poppies and cosmos to come up and make flowers for spring, summer and fall. The cosmos are always so happy and cheerful and require so little care. I planted them first about 4 years ago and they have been going ever since. The seeds from these plants have traveled with me across the state as I’ve made talks, so their progeny is probably reproducing in every corner of Texas and other spots as well. My next door neighbor’s mother took some home to Iowa and reports that they are doing well — maybe not 8 feet tall–but blooming nicely.
OH! I also have a rose bush come up volunteer! Who knew? I don’t know what kind of rose it is yet. It came up half-way between the Mutabilis and the Archduke Charles. Either one would be great. I dug it out and put it in a pot. Hopefully it will bloom soon. Hooray for volunteers!
May 8, 2011
We had a great time in Glen Rose at the Master Gardener’s Conference. Gardeners from all over Texas were out in force — more than 900 registered — to learn and share information and have a good time. We sold lots of tomatoes, antique roses, and of course, books. Master Gardeners are such an enthusiastic bunch, it is always fun to be around them.
March 28, 2011
Archduke Charles is ruling the garden right now. All of the roses are about to pop into glorious bloom, but the first to really get going is this Archduke Charles, a very compact bush that is just covered with wonderful red, pink and red-pink roses. It is one of those great old China roses that loves to change colors. It is pinker in the spring when the weather is relatively cool and darker red as the heat comes on. It is a good bloomer and a good rose to cut and bring into the house because the flowers last pretty well.
The Mutabilis burst into bloom about the same time, but it is such a huge bush I can’t get a good picture of it! There are pink, orange, yellow, and dark pink flowers all over it waving in the breeze and declaring that Spring is truly here.
After a sunny and warm Saturday, we had a cool Sunday and Monday and looking for even cooler on Tuesday. That’s okay, I’m not ready for really hot yet. And the roses seem quite happy with enough sun to bring them out and enough cool to make the blossoms last a while. Isn’t spring great?
Except of course for the **&^@$%^!! cutworm that chopped off one of my baby tomatoes right at ground level. The whole top was just lying there, still green and fresh looking but doomed. I belatedly put collars around the rest and hope that keeps them from this early death. I should remember to do that routinely but I rarely do — until doom strikes!
Luckily, I had another of the same variety to put in, so hopefully all is not lost.
March 14, 2011
It is raining! What a glorious sound. We haven’t had real rain in weeks and our spring babies need rain! Right now the garden is full of spring garlic, all coming along nicely. I got this garlic many years ago from the ditches of Williamson County, Texas. It had washed down into the ditches from farmsteads and home gardens of long ago. It makes wonderful big heads with tasty but not too hot garlic. I’ve taken it with me wherever I move and shared it with many friends and relatives. It also serves as a great protector in the garden — discouraging pests and keeping the other plants growing happily. I plant it along the edges of all my vegetable beds.
My garden also has lots of nice volunteer cilantro right now. It came up from seed in the fall from last spring’s crop and has been going all winter — in spite of the hard freezes. Cilantro loves cool weather and will start going to seed as soon as it gets hot, so I’m enjoying it now and whomping some up with a little water in the blender to freeze for use later.
You can also see mullein volunteers in that bed. Mullein comes up everywhere and I love it. I’ll probably transplant these out of the veggie bed into a border since they get big and crowd the veggies. Still, it is a great plant and I love volunteers!
Lettuce is also doing very well right now. It is tender and fresh tasting — hasn’t been warm enough to turn it bitter. I planted some seeds from Renee’s Garden Seeds for a mixture of colors and also transplanted the bigger plants which were a gift from a friend who got a little too enthusiastic with lettuce seeding. We are eating it everyday along with the spinach which has kept going since the fall. Yummy!
March 7, 2011
The artichoke lives! On February 15, I pronounced it dead for sure, but now new babies are coming up all around. Isn’t Spring great?!
March 6, 2011
Intensive gardening seems to be on everyone’s minds these days. Whether it is square foot gardening or just raised bed gardens with plants packed in, people are trying to get more food from their space. It makes sense. I spoke to two groups of gardeners in Ft Worth this weekend at Marshall Grain and all of them were interested in square foot gardening. A method where you build a raised bed, fill it with very rich soil and mark off a grid of square feet in which to put your plants, square food gardening is one way to get the most from your space.
The key, of course, is the soil. The richer your soil, the more plants it will support. In a raised bed, you don’t have to leave walking room between rows, so you can put your plants closer together. You can put a trellis in and grow some crops like cucumbers, squash or melons up rather than out and still have the ground beneath the trellis for other crops. It is a little like fitting a jigsaw puzzle together, figuring out how to put the plants in so that they are close but leave enough space for the air to circulate to prevent fungal problems.
One woman said she harvested $300 worth of produce from her garden last year. I don’t know how much my garden was worth, but I do know I got lots of better tasting, fresher and prettier vegetables than I could have gotten at the grocery store. And it was more nutritious too.
Another way to maximize your food production is to grow veggies in containers or outside the vegetable beds. I always grow some tomatoes in big nursery pots just because I want more varieties than I have room for in the garden, and almost anything will grow in a pot if the pot is big enough and the soil is good. I also grow vegetables in the flower border. My artichoke is in the front flower bed and people think it is gorgeous! Onions, chives and garlic border the back flower beds where roses and other perennial flowers and herbs grow. And remember, herbs are food too and they can grow almost anywhere — in the ground or in containers.
This weekend was also an object lesson in Texas weather. Last week we were sure that spring had arrived. The temperatures were 80 degrees or better and the sun was shining. Many tomatoes were bought and planted. On Saturday, however, a northern blew in and the wind and sometimes rain chilled everybody and every tomato. We had a buy Bob a jacket at a garage sale early Saturday morning to keep him from freezing. Saturday night, many places had frosts again and even in Austin it was in the 30s. So, as our mothers and grandmothers told us — there is always an Easter cold spell!
Don’t you remember having to wear a dumb coat over your pretty Easter dress? Meanwhile, I’m putting tomatoes into gallon pots and letting them grow outside until the next cold snap, when I’ll bring them inside to survive. Happy spring!
February 28, 2011
We missed George Washington’s birthday this year — the traditional potato-planting day in our area — so we planted instead on my birthday! Because I never have enough gardening room, I decided to adopt a bed at the local Community Garden and dedicate it to potatoes. I helped get this garden started a few years ago and have watched it grow and prosper each year. The garden was built on an abandoned tennis court at the old junior high school. The school is now used to house the food bank, so it seemed a great place to raise food. Gardeners are not charged for the beds but they are asked to donate at least 10% of their produce to the food bank. The CG is just a few blocks from my house, so when I saw that there were some orphaned beds this spring, it seemed like the perfect solution to the potato problem.
The day was bright and sunny and beautiful but pretty windy as days tend to be this time of year. My garden helpers, Bailey, Braxton (4), Ella (2), and Trenton (1), and I all hiked down the street, tools in hand, and got to work. This has been a great year for henbit in my garden at home and there was a pretty good stand in the empty CG bed as well. So our first job was to get rid of it. Braxton and Bailey got busy with their rakes.We raked and pulled and got really dirty, which of course is part of the fun of gardening. Finally all the weeds were out and we had discoved a nice little mint plant hidden among the weeds. We decided to leave it there. Then, on to the fun part — planting. Ella and Bailey got up close and personal with the red lakota and yukon golds I’d bought at the feed store.
Even Trenton, who turned 1 in December, got into the act and did a little raking. He particularly liked dragging the rake across the concrete and listening to the nice noise it made.By the time all the potatoes were planted, we had had enough wind and dirt to last a little while. We watered down the bed and took ourselves home where Bob was grilling chicken for an alfresco dinner in the back yard. This early taste of summer fun was the perfect antidote to a late freeze and lots of dead plants!
February 15, 2011
Well, it isn’t looking good for the artichoke crop this year. After three years of wonderful artichoke production, my plant looks pretty pitiful. It was big and flourishing before the big freeze hit, but several nights of below 20 degrees was just too much. I’m going to leave it there for a little while, but my hopes are slim to none!
Another garden experiment this year was to plant Meyer lemons directly in the garden. I heard from various sources that they would survive the winter in the Austin area, but not this year. They look dead as doornails too! Even the big plant that I had on a sheltered porch and wrapped in blankets looks pretty pitiful.
But don’t despair! I’m heading to Brownsville this weekend and they have lots more lemon trees there. If you’re in the area, stop by the Historical Museum on Washington for my talk and book signing at 2 p.m. on Sunday, February 20.
Meanwhile, my garden helpers and I are planting lettuce this afternoon and we are hoping that spring is just around the corner. After freezing to death last weekend, the temperatures are not in the upper 60s and lower 70s in the afternoon. Texas weather! Gotta love it (and hate it too).
Oh Ugh! Big winter storm coming in tomorrow. I was just getting used to the lovely spring weather we’ve had the past few days. Now they are saying teens and maybe even single digits. So much for the baby cauliflowers that were just coming back after the first big freeze. We had another round of broccoli for dinner tonight and potatoes mashed with turnips. Cook them together, smash as you do potatoes, add butter, salt and pepper and whatever else you like. I had a little sour cream so I put in a dollop of that. Cheese would be good too.
The sauerkraut is coming right along. It was coming along so well that we moved it from the kitchen to the back porch because of the fragrance! One more week and we’re going to taste it. I think that will take a little bravery on my part, but we’ll do it anyway.
We’ve been suffering with cedar fever this week. Maybe the rain that is coming with the front will wash it from the air, meanwhile in spite of all cold and rain and winter and summer coming at once, there are definite signs of spring. Baby poppies are coming up. The little florets push through and wait patiently for warmer weather to get going. The broccoli that was there first had a stalk that really wanted to flower, so I left it alone for the poor bees who don’t have much pollen this time of year. I also set out a jar of jelly that had mostly turned to sugar. They seemed to enjoy gorging on that and most of it is gone already.
Poor bees need out help. Be sure to give them some blossoms and some water to keep them going, and don’t spray yucky stuff around that will kill them off. Without bees, our veggies and fruit would be pitiful. Speaking of fruit, I sprayed dormant oil on my peach tree last week. Last year, some little worms or something ruined every single fruit on the tree. They made a hole that was surrounded by rot. I never did identify the pest. Do you know? Anyway, I’m hoping the dormant oil will take care of them.
Meanwhile, stay warm and don’t forget to pull up some mulch around your plants. It serves as their winter blanket.
January 23, 2011
We had a big adventure today. For the first time ever, we decided to try making sauerkraut. A fair cabbage harvest meant that we had two big heads to use for this experiment. Since we deal in antiques as well as gardens, we had some old kraut-making supplies on hand. Two kraut cutters and a bunch of crocks and a weight. Here’s what the old folks used. The flat board has three blades screwed into the center for slicing the cabbage. The other board has a moveable box on top of the blades to hold the cabbage as you ran it back and forth across the blades to slice it. The pretty big crock holds more than we can hope to make, but it looks good.
Here is the crock that we used and the nice plastic slicer that my friend Lois gave me a few years ago for making bread and butter pickles. I don’t use it a lot so I have to learn how every time, but it works great and makes uniform thin slices.
After salting and mushing and smashing and pressing, the antique kraut weight fits right in the crock on top of the cabbage to hold it down and allow the moisture to release. In a couple of hours it should be covered in water and ready to start fermenting.
We are very optimistic. Bob is already planning to rent a field and grow acres of cabbage next winter. (Keep in mind that Bob is not a gardener. He is what we know as a consumer of garden products.) Anyway, it was fun and I’ll let you know how it turns out.
January 13, 2011
Ah yes, winter. Now I remember why we put up with summer heat in Texas. It is so we only have to put up with a couple of days in the winter of very cold weather. It was in the twenties yesterday morning and this morning again and never got much out of the 30s yesterday. But, of course, hope in on the way and it should be near 70 on Sunday. I don’t have the house or the clothes for cold weather! My old house leaks at every window and door and my clothes are all made of cotton — I dragged out an old cashmere sweater only to find that the moths had thoroughly enjoyed it and there were big holes all over the thing. Oh well, layer on another shirt (cotton) and I can make it through the day.
Meanwhile, since I decided to harvest most things in the garden before the deep freeze, I found an interesting carrot. How did that happen? So, I added it and some of its brothers to a big pot of broccoli-cheese soup. Very yummy, easy to make and uses a good bit of broccoli, which was stacking up in the fridge. I don’t want to freeze it because then it will just be frozen broccoli, so we (and the neighbor) are having fresh broccoli every day in one form or another. Here’s the soup recipe:
Cook a big head of broccoli and 3 or so thinly sliced carrots in 3 cups of water with 3 bullion cubes or 3 cups or chicken broth for about 10 minutes. In another pan, melt 4 tablespoons butter and add about 1/2 cup onion (green onion is best but you can use whatever you have). Saute until onion is tender then add 4 tablespoons flour. Cook a couple of minutes then slowly add 2 cups milk. Keep stirring so the sauce won’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Add 1 pound Velveeta that has been cut into cubes. Continue to stir until cheese is melted. Pour the two pans of stuff together, chop up the broccoli with your spoon, and stir and cook another 10-15 minutes. This is really delicious soup, very comfort-foody on a cold winter day. I think it is good cold too in case of a sudden thaw.
January 10, 2011
We are expecting a big freeze tomorrow, so this morning I went and pulled up most of the carrots, beets and turnips and cut several bunches of broccoli. I took the carrots to my grandchildren who announced that they don’t like carrots. I assured them that they would like these since they grew them. I cooked them, threw in some butter and salt and sure enough, they were yummy. I gave each one a bite, and they took the bowl to the table and ate them all up! And it was 10 a.m. I was planning to add the carrots to lunch, but they were a delightful sweet treat and so I had not a complaint.
On the other hand, Braxton reminded me that they really don’t like turnips, so don’t be bringing them around.
Don’t worry. I love turnips. We eat them with just butter, salt and pepper and I add them to vegetable soup, a staple this time of year. I froze a bunch to use later because turnips do tend to get bitter and strong if they sit around too long. I just chopped them up into cubes, blanched them for 2 minutes in boiling water, plunged them into ice water and put them in freezer bags. I think they should be ready to cook next time I need a turnip.
I left the cabbage in the garden. I hope they stand the freeze. We ate a bunch of both golden and Detroit red beets for dinner and have more for leftovers. Again just a little salt and butter with a squeeze of orange juice on them. Yummy good. I wish I had enough to pickle several jars but I don’t so far. If the ones left outside survive and grow some more, I may have some later. Meanwhile, it’s cold and the lemon trees in the yard are in for their first big test. The ones on the porch are bundled up in quilts, cowering in a corner, so they should be okay. Stay warm!
January 5, 2011
The fall garden continues to do well. We’ve had a good bit of broccoli, turnips, carrots, spinach and beets so far with still lots more to come. The first bunch of broccoli was ready just in time for Christmas.
One of the must-have dishes for our family is broccoli-rice casserole. It has a couple of ingredients I’m slightly embarrassed to mention, but it is a favorite so I keep making it. Here’s the recipe in case you want to try it: Cook 1 cup raw rice in 2 cups chicken broth. Set aside. Saute one chopped onions and two stalks chopped celery in 1 tablespoon butter. Add big bunch of fresh broccoli or a package of frozen plus enough water to steam. Cook broccoli until tender, drain, then chop up into bite-sized pieces. Mix broccoli, onion, celery, rice, 1 can cream of mushroom soup, 1 can sliced water chestnuts, 1 jar cheeze whiz (that’s the embarrassing one) and stir until well combined. If it is too stiff, add a little milk. Bake at 350 uncovered for about 45 minutes until bubbly and slightly browned around the edges. It cooks in about the same time as my dressing. It is creamy and delicious and not horribly bad for you — compared to other holiday dishes that involve marshmallows!
I’m thinking about trying to make sauerkraut this year. Does anybody have a good recipe? I have never tried it but I have a bunch of good cabbage and we like kraut so it seems like a good idea. Let me know if you’ve had success and meanwhile, start thinking about the spring garden! If you need one of my books to inspire ideas, so to the shopping section of this blog!
January 3, 2011
A new year! How exciting! The tree is down. The floor has been swept 74 times and there are still needles lurking in the corners, but we are off on a new adventure. Yesterday Bailey, Braxton and Ella and I decorated the tired Christmas tree in the front yard for the birds. We made pine cone ornaments covered with peanut butter and bird seed. It was a cool day and to keep us our strength, we had to taste the peanut butter quite a bit. Little Trenton had his first taste of peanut butter and thought it was just fine.
December 14, 2010
The holidays are upon us and we’ve finally had some hard freezes to knock back the garden that was so lush on Thanksgiving morning. In fact the first one came Thanksgiving night. Beets, broccoli, turnips and cauliflower are still going along with carrots and garlic, but the volunteers — tomatoes and basil particularly — succumbed to the freeze. The tops of the beets were nipped too but the plants seem to keep growing.
We have had NO rain and this time of year when it is cold one day and hot the next, it is tough on plants and gardeners alike. I forget that I need to water even if it is cold and the quick change in the temperatures makes us all a little sniffly and allergic. So I guess the garden has gone into survival mode — just trying to hang on until the weather improves.
I need to get out there and spray dormant oil on the peach trees. They had a bug problem last year that I’d like to avoid this year. And pretty soon it will be time to prune fruit trees and roses. Speaking of roses, mine keep blooming in spite of the silly weather. My Garten Direktor has been just gorgeous all year. It bloom in huge clusters of little pink flowers. When a friend gave it to me, I was less than thrilled at the prospect of having one more bush of small pink roses. He didn’t tell me that they were clustered together into huge bouquets. One stem will fill a vase! (Robbie Will of the Antique Rose Emporium in San Antonio thinks this rose may also be called Excellenz von Schubert.)
Another rose that is still blooming in spite of the freezes is a white shrub that I think is Ducker. I trust way too much to my memory and think I’ll never forget which rose I planted where, but I don’t always remember. I planted this rose int he same hole with a Carefree Beauty and they make a wonderful blend of pink and white flowers when they are both blooming, and as an added benefit, one of them is almost always blooming.
The Carefree Beauty (formerly known as Katy Road Pink) also makes nice fat rose hips in the winter time to add interest to the barer bush.
Good old reliable Maggie also keeps putting on an occasional flower and creating gorgeous orangey colored hips.
So, enjoy your holidays and if you don’t have some already, plant an antique rose bush for year-round pleasure. Come back to see us in the new year. We’ll be planting potatoes and making plans for the spring garden! Happy holidays.
November 22, 2010
Welcome to my new blog! I have to admit that I had some qualms about starting a blog. It seems to me a little presumptuous to assume that everyone (anyone) wants to spend his or her time listening to my ramblings. But then I rambled in Homegrown for 12 years and you were kind enough to listen, so we’ll see how this goes. I’m just learning, so please excuse any mistakes and let me know what interests you and what bores you to tears!
I assume you are as consumed with interest in my grandchildren as I am. I have been blessed with 8 grandchildren, all of them beautiful, brilliant, and superior in every way.
At the beginning of 2007, I wrote the following in Homegrown: “I have brand new beautiful twin grandbabies! So, now as we are starting off a new year of gardening, of working, of planning, and of living our lives, I want to celebrate the new lives in my family and yours. I want to renew my commitment to making the world a healthier place, a place where more people smell the roses and fewer shoot at each other. I want my own back yard to be a haven for Bailey and Braxton and friends and neighbors who wander through. I hope yours is a haven for you and yours as well. Happy new year!”
I was thrilled then at the birth of my twin grandchildren. With every new grandchild, I have visions of a young gardener to play in the dirt with me. On and off that vision has come true. My very grown up first granddaughter, Elissa, loved to garden when she was little. Today, Bailey & Braxton are 4 and they have fulfilled my happy wishes. They were enthusiastic helpers when we planted the fall garden this year. Because we have been having a warm and extended autumn, the plants are growing and prospering like never before. When I’ve planted fall gardens in the past, there has invariably been an early October frost that knocked down everything. This year, all is well and happy.
On Thanksgiving, we began the harvest in earnest.
Volunteers from the spring garden are growing quickly — tomatoes, basil, cilantro — and the bell peppers from spring just keep on producing. Bailey & Braxton planted turnip seeds, beet seeds, garlic cloves, spinach seeds and carrot seeds in early September and it looks like they all came up. We’ve had mixed greens several times and a steady supply of spinach and beet greens for salads and sandwiches. Spinach is everyone’s favorite. Apparently turnip is a little too strong for the four-year-old palate. Frankly it doesn’t take too many turnip greens to satisfy me either. I love beet greens, though, and try to make sure they outweigh the turnip greens in the pot.
I’ve also had a bumper lemon crop for the first time ever. Braxton picked the first lemon and promptly took a bite out of it. I wish I’d had my camera handy then. But they are delicious when not eaten right off the vine. We bought plants alongside the road last fall when we went to Brownsville, and these lemons have done beautifully. Yes, all those beautiful lemons came off two scrawny bushes! They are supposed to be Improved Meyers. I love them! They made it through last winter, so I’m hopeful they’ll survive this year. I planted one in the ground and have some backups in pots just in case.