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  • A Dry Rain Garden Podcast

    June 23, 2014

    Looking for a great garden podcast that’s  free, informative, and fun? Sign up for A Dry Rain with Marty Wingate, Willi Galloway, Greg Rabourn, and Steve Scher. If you were a die-hard fan of the now cancelled KUOW weekly gardening show, you can enjoy the ideas, answers, guests, and inspiration from this same team. And, now you can get it anywhere, anytime online for free. You don’t have to wait for mid-morning once a week, and you don’t have to listen to it on a local radio station!

    Dandelion: featured on A Dry Rain Podcast

    Dandelion: Listen to A Dry Rain & you may start seeing this plant less as a weed and more as a true beneficial!

    For Episode #24 of A Dry Rain garden podcast, Marty visited with me in my garden to talk plants, songbirds, and in particular 5 simple steps to garden health. And, yes, I sang the praises of some plants we call tend to call “weeds” . No surprise there, right? Have a listen!

    - Robin

  • Pollination of a Corpse for Pollinator Week

    June 19, 2014

    We’re smack-dab in the middle of Pollinator Week, and right on cue our super sexy, terribly pungent Dracunculus flowers have opened.

    Dracunculus Flower

    Huge Dracunculus flower opens for just a day or two each spring.

    The nearby greenhouse and entire driveway smell like something died. Nothing did die, but that stink of death is what attracts the right pollinators to this big, beautiful blossom. Go ahead. It’s safe. Get up close & personal with the stinker! But, be glad there’s no scratch ‘n sniff to go along with this video. Seriously, can you guess what actually does the pollination of a plant commonly called a Corpse or Voodoo Lily? Before you watch, let’s just say I had to really stifle my gag reflex while the hungry pollinators swarmed my head while I had my camera (and face) up close and personal with this nose-high, terribly odoriferous (if sexy-beautiful) bloom.

    Consider this video my gift to all of you for Pollinator Week 2014! -Robin

     

  • How to Harvest & Eat Your Broccoli Leaves Recipe

    June 17, 2014

    As the first day of summer approaches, cool season crops like lettuce, baby carrots, and broccoli ripen for harvest, but are you missing out on eating all their parts because, maybe, you need a broccoli leaves recipe and harvesting help?

    How to Maximize your broccoli crop + recipe

    Broccoli plants offer more than just crowns like this to eat!

    Yep, broccoli leaves are as edible as the leaves of their nutrient-packed cousin kale!

    When the central head of a broccoli crown is still tightly in bud and tucked several inches below the tops of the highest leaves, it’s time to take your first harvest. If you wait longer and the crown flowers begin to open, your harvest may be tougher and less flavorful, so don’t keep waiting to see what else might happen.

    How to Harvest the Central Crown:

    Young broccoli crown

    Young Broccoli crown forming on a plant. It’ll be ready to cut out soon!

    Using a sharp knife, slice out that central flower head (or crown), and leave the rest of the plant in place. Smaller broccoli florets will likely form along the intact stalk, arising from buds at the base of the remaining leaves. In fact, you may see some of them already starting to form when you cut out the big, central crown.

    How to Harvest axillary (side) florets:

    The side florets on broccoli can form rapidly, so check your plants frequently, and trim out the side florets when they are no more than about 4-5″ long. These aren’t likely to get big like the central crown, so the idea is to harvest many of them while they are small.

    Broccoli axillary florets

    After the top crown has been removed, side florets like these will form quickly.

    Like the central crown, the axillary florets will get tough and unpalatable if you let them grow long and open their flowers.

    How to Harvest broccoli leaves:

    When you harvest your big, central broccoli crown, you’ll probably end up cutting out a few leaves as well. Don’t toss them into the compost pile. Instead, remove the mid-rib and add them to your broccoli dish. Once the central crown is removed from the plant, you can begin trimming out a few leaves from the plant on a regular basis. As you would with Kale, remove the lower leaves on the plant first, and only take a few from each plant at a time — especially if you are encouraging the plant to grow more axillary florets. They’ll need those leaves to photosynthesize, which is how they feed themselves.

    How to cut out a broccoli leaf with a paring knife.

    Clip lower leaves on your broccoli plant first, removing them where they meet the stem by cutting or snapping. Don’t tear the main stalk!

    Once you have harvested all the side florets from your broccoli plant (at a certain point the plant will either run out of side buds for production or just wear out from having everything taken from it), go ahead and trim out the rest of the leaves as well as the central stalk, much of which is truly delicious as well — just chop off the toughest portions and peel off the exterior layer to reveal the crunchy sweetness of the central stem.

    The roots, leaf midribs, and the toughest portions of the stalk are food for your compost heap.

    Want more info on growing broccoli? Read on!

    Small Space Broccoli Growing Tips & Tricks

    Cabbage Butterfly Pest Egg Photo ID

    How to Use broccoli leaves in the kitchen (recipe!): (more…)

  • No Lime (Fruit) Needed Gin & Tonic Cocktail Recipe

    June 13, 2014
    Herbal Gin & Tonic Cocktail Recipe

    This tasty Gin & Tonic cocktail recipe uses zero lime fruits. Instead, it is infused with fresh-from-the garden flavors. Get the Recipe over at Gardening with Confidence now!

    When lime prices shot through the roof earlier this year, I decided to experiment with making one of my favorite summer cocktail recipes with ingredients other than limes, fresh from the garden. It wasn’t hard to come up with a really delicious drink that required no lime fruits at all.

    My friend Helen Yoest, acclaimed author of Plants with Benefits,  caught a photo I posted of me enjoying my newest concoction on the patio, in the sun on a pre-summer day, which prompted her to feature me ‘n my tasty cocktail recipe on her Gardening with Confidence blog.

    Add Helen’s great books to your own gardening library!

    Get the story behind the recipe. Learn about the plants that yield the ingredients for the drink. And, get the recipe for your very own happy hour on Helen’s blog.

    Thanks for sharing my cocktail recipe Helen! -Robin

  • Kid Garden Party Ideas

    June 09, 2014

    Need the best Kid garden party ideas? Need some pruning done too? Want to wear out your Border Collie and entertain your adult friends at the same time? Well, look no further than these simple ideas for a party all the young bucks will be braying about for the entire summer. Kid Party games, food & fun

    First the games! Put your Border Collie in charge of the entertainment by using her natural instincts to corral all the kids into a corner of the garden that needs some pruning.

    Kid pruning and eating Akebia

    Goats love to eat Akebia as we found out at our recent garden party with a bunch of kids that were just learning to browse.

    Let’m butt heads, kick up their heels, and have fun along the way ’cause when they arrive at (let’s say) a fence over-run with Akebia, it’s snack-time!

    Apple the Goat eating Akebia

    We couldn’t get Apple to stop eating the Akebia, but that’s okay. It needed pruning.
    (The strawberries, which she also wanted to mow, did not need her attention.)

    While the kids are chomping away on delicious vines you need cut back, run inside and pour yourself a cocktail. Don’t worry, that Border Collie will keep an eye on things while you’re away. If the dog starts barking, don’t worry too much. It just means she’s telling those kids to stick to the pruning (game) at hand, to leave the strawberries, raspberries, and limes alone. Heck, if she nips a heel, those tough little kids will butt her right back. It’s all fun and games at this Kid’s party!

    Goat wearing Raspberry Cane

    Apple was our best Akebia pruner. She also had a taste for Raspberry & Tayberry, so this unwanted runner became her winner’s laurels.

    Once you’re back, ask the dog which kid did the best pruning job (or just decide which one you can’t tear away from the well-munched vines), and award that cute little Doe with a prickly laurel of raspberry leaves.

    Napping kid in lap

    When the kids stopped their antics, these sweeties would crawl into our laps like any baby for a cozy, warm, cuddly, snoring nap.

    And, after an afternoon of crazy kid fun in the garden, enjoy a rare, quiet moment cuddling with an exhausted buck. But watch out, ’cause the minute he wakes up, he’ll be dancing on the tabletops and kicking over cocktails as one would expect from a young bacchanilian.

  • How to Grow Cilantro & Coriander

    June 03, 2014

    It’s easy to grow cilantro from seed. And getting fresh leaves isn’t the only reason to grow cilantro. This tasty herb offers up a number of surprising flavors for the kitchen and benefits in the garden. Not only will you get to enjoy the tangy fresh leaves shortly after seeding, but this plant also matures to yield coriander seed later in its life cycle. So, even if you’re someone who finds the flavor of cilantro to be soapy and distasteful, consider growing this crop for delicious coriander, which tastes entirely different from the fresh leaves. While it is possible to purchase cilantro starts at the nursery, we find it is best to grow cilantro from seed because it matures rapidly and doesn’t perform well if transplanted. So grab a packet of seeds, fill a pot with soil, or just get your veggie beds prepped, and start seeding today!

    How to Grow Cilantro from Seed

    Dried coriander in your spice rack looks the same as cilantro seed that you sow.

    Unlike many other edible plants, cilantro grows very well even when individual plants are grown closely together. And, cilantro will germinate and grow in relatively cool (not frigid or frozen) temperatures, so it is often possible to get an early crop growing under a bit of protection in late winter or very early spring. Although crops sown in the heat of summer have the potential to bolt rapidly, those bolting (aka flowering) plants will come in handy in the garden and kitchen as well. When it comes to cilantro, sowing multiple succession crops (aka plant a new round of seeds every few weeks) means having fresh leaves to harvest harvest well into the end of the growing season.

    Cilantro planting emerging from seed

    As early as February, begin sowing cilantro seeds in sterile mix under lights. The seeds may seem to take a little longer than other seeds to germinate & emerge from the soil, but once they get started, these plants grow fast! By early March these young seedlings will be ready for harvesting by thinning. And, don’t forget to sow another round of cilantro seeds again and again every couple of weeks throughout the growing season to ensure a continual harvest.

    Cool Season Seedlings

    Within several days of sowing cilantro (and other cool season crops) seedlings will emerge like these. Cilantro will continue to grow well in a crowded pot, unlike the other plants shown here that need separating and transplanting to give them room to grow bit.

    Harvesting cilantro grown from seed

    Cilantro plants grow rapidly from seed, and they will perform well grown closely together while they’re young. As you harvest, snip out entire plants from the base as is shown here. This will thin the plantings, giving remaining plants room to continue to grow.
    (Disclosure: Shown garden snips provided by Fiskars for test purposes. No additional compensation was provided by Fiskars for this post or photography.)

    Aphids on Cilantro

    Watch out for aphids on coriander. They love the sweetness of these tender leaves. If aphids find your cilantro, wash them off or squish them. Increase airflow around the plants or try a sticky lure to trap these pests. Worst case: harvest your crop and reseed again.

    Four cilantro plants in a 4" pot

    Even about 3-4 cilantro plants will perform well in a tiny 4″ pot. Harvest to thin as needed, and allow one to remain in the end. When this last plant goes to seed (aka flowers), it can become your lure for bringing in pollinators. And, this final plant will produce coriander too!

    Bee Pollinating flowering cilantro plant

    If you allow some of your cilantro plants to go to seed (aka flower), use them as lures to attract pollinators like this wild bee. Not only will the bees pollinate your cilantro plant to form coriander seed, but the pollinators will likely visit other nearby plants like squash, cucumber and others.

    Once your cilantro plants begin to form a purplish-thick mid-stem for flowering, the flavor of the entire plant will begin to be more like the taste of coriander than cilantro. It’s still edible and tastes great in curries, but it may not be quite the right flavor for dishes like salsa. Hopefully, as one crop begins to transform into the coriander phase, you have another, more recently seeded crop of cilantro growing on strong as well. Seed this crop over and over for both flavors fresh from the garden throughout the growing season.

    Green Coriander Seeds on Plant

    After the pollinators visit your flowering cilantro plants, green coriander pods will form. Harvest them green for fresh cooking or freezing. Or, allow them to dry on the plant, and harvest them to store and use as in your spice rack as dried coriander.

    It is possible to save seeds from your cilantro plants to grow in the years ahead, but to get a good crop of cilantro from your saved seed, you may need to isolate your seed plant from pollinators. If a pollinator visits a cousin of the cilantro (like dill, parsley or carrots) and mixes the pollen from those plants with the flowers of your cilantro, you may end up with seed that looks like coriander and tastes like coriander but will produce a plant that tastes nothing like cilantro. Sure, you might end up with a new cool plant, but you might end up growing something that isn’t what you want at all. That’s sexual reproduction for you!

    Green Coriander

    A little bit of green coriander goes a long way in many dishes.
    Plus, it keeps well frozen for cooking in winter.

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