December 16, 2012
Still shopping for gifts for your favorite gardeners? While cooking and garden books are great for some, donations fit the bill for others, and apps are ideal for techies. There’s nothing like a little something sparkly to make a gardener’s holiday a little brighter! So, we’ve put together a few of our favorite ideas that really shine to help you get your gardeners gifted just right!
- Classy & Glassy! Glass Gardens NW offers an array of gorgeous glass art for the home and garden. You’ve got until Monday December 17, 2012 to place orders to be delivered by Chrismas day. For under $20 (plus shipping, tax and such), you can send a beautiful tree ornament or glass float. Or, up your order a bit more for a piece of gorgeous garden art that will really wow your gardening loved ones.
- Wearable flowers & sparkly snowflakes: Fancy Dirt Forge offers some amazing enameled flowers that bloom beautifully in pierced ears. And for as little as $25 (plus shipping, tax & all that jazz), you can order up beaded ornaments to shimmer on the tree.
- Sweets for your Sweet:
Get out of a sticky situation with a sweet gift made by some of the hardest working gardeners out there – honey from the bees! Contact Ballard Bee Company to order up anything from simple jars dripping with golden goodness to specialty glass vessels filled with seasonal reserve sweetness or even creamed honey perfect for toast. Or, if your gardener is local to Seattle, order a gift certificate good toward hive supplies & beekeeping consulting services.
- Gift of Learning: Our shameless reminder that giving the gift of garden coaching is a great way to help your favorite gardener shine in their own horty spaces. We’re still taking holiday orders for a few days & then we’re off on vacation until 2013, so get in touch soon!
Stay tuned for more gift ideas later this week. We’ll be adding more app gift ideas and reviews in a day or so. Great thing about apps — you can order them absolutely last minute and still have a great gift to give anytime!
(Full disclosure: Garden Mentors® has received no compensation for this post. Garden Mentors® has received samples and review materials from some of the businesses mentioned, but no direct gifts, review materials or compensation has been paid for this post. We just really like this stuff & often give these products as gifts to our friends & loved ones.)
October 08, 2012
Basil plants will decline rapidly as shorter days and cooler nights of fall arrive. Before the leaves turn yellow at the base (fall leaf drop on the way) or black on the edges (from frosty chills), be sure you know how to harvest basil and preserve it for winter. It’s easy!
Harvesting basil by pinching out the tips to encourage new growth is ideal during the spring and summer — while the plants are putting on new growth at a rapid pace. In fall, however, be brutal, and cut down the remaining plant. In cold climates, this warm season annual just won’t survive the chill.
Once you have cut down the entire plant, compost the stems, any seedy tips and any chewed, yellowed or blackened leaves. Wash the bright green leaves, spin them to remove most of the water and put them aside for winter.
To preserve your basil harvest, certainly you can dry the leaves. However, to really get the maximum flavor from your crop, consider turning the leaves into a pesto or simple pack the washed leaves into a freezer bag. In winter when you make a marinara, just grab a fistful of those frozen leaves and crumble them into your sauce. Don’t defrost them first or you’ll have a goopy mess to work with.
Frozen basil leaves won’t defrost and hold the gorgeous green color of fresh basil, so it is best used in cooked meals that hide the color change. Despite the loss of pretty green, that frozen flavor will bring back the taste of summer fast.
Want to make pesto? With our last harvest, I put together this cheese-free version that resulted in about 3, 1 cup servings that I froze to enjoy later.Cheese-Free Basil Pesto Print
makes about 3, 1 cup servings
3/4 cup pine nuts
2-3 cups freshly washed basil leaves
2-3 cloves garlic
1/2-3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Toast about 3/4 cup pine nuts. Set aside and allow to cool.
Pack a food processor with about 2-3 cups of fresh, clean basil leaves. Add in 2-3 cloves of fresh, peeled garlic. Add a grind of pepper and a pinch of salt. Pulse until chopped and mixed.
Add in cooled pine nuts (if they’re warm, the basil will turn dark). Pulse until all is well chopped and mixed. Scrape down sides as needed.
While processor is running, slowly pour in 1/2-3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, scraping down sides as needed. (Add the smaller amount and check for your preferred texture before adding in more.)
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Drop large globs of the pesto onto the parchment sheet in about 3/4-1 cup serving sizes. (Or in globs that match the approximate amount you prefer to use in your recipes.)
Insert sheet into freezer. Allow to freeze solid.
Remove sheet from freezer and vacuum seal each frozen glob. Return labelled packages (name and date) to freezer to use through the winter.
August 16, 2012
Here in the PacNW growing eggplants, peppers, tomatoes, and other nightshades successfully can be tricky. These crops thrive in hot climates, which we really don’t have. Instead, we enjoy relatively mild weather year-round, and summer doesn’t seem to really arrive until the middle of July (if it decides to really show up at all). So, with a shortened period of heat, getting these crops to cooperate isn’t always possible.
Over the years, I’ve managed to fine-tune our tomato growing techniques to produce even in the coolest summers. Details on tomato tricks here. Potatoes seem to perform pretty darn well so long as they aren’t planted and left to rot in really wet, cold soil. We aren’t a big pepper eating household, so not having those isn’t a big bother to me. That being said, I have found a jalapeno that produces fairly well for us — but that’s a post for another day. Today, it’s about the eggplants!
In years past, we’ve gotten some okay Globe eggplant harvests. We purchased plant starts and kept those plants going for most of the summer in pots, in the greenhouse. We got a few dwarfed “globes” that year, and until this year, we pretty much chose not to grow them. Instead, we looked forward to a few in our CSA box.
This year, however, I gave it another shot, and I think I’ve found the perfect variety for our cool seasons and small garden spaces. A local nursery was offering starts of ‘Fairy Tale’. This diminutive plant is perfect for container growing. It grows copious flowers and appears to pollinate readily. The cream and purple-striped, elongated fruits only get to about 3″-4″ long. They look like colorful earrings dangling from the plant, and there are a lot of them, which makes up for how small they are.
We have two plants growing and have harvested about six or so fruits already this summer. (Remember: our summer heat didn’t arrive until much later than when others got theirs). And, the plants are laden with several more yet to mature. And, yes, the pretty little purple flowers keep right on blooming.
No. The plants aren’t in the greenhouse. They’re outside and have been since about mid-June. One plant is growing in a simple 1-gallon size nursery container. The other is planted in a slightly larger ceramic pot. Both work great!
So, if you’re short on room or short on summer, consider pretty little ‘Fairy Tale’ eggplants and odds are you’ll enjoy a bountiful harvest no matter what Mother Nature may bring.
August 07, 2012
My friend and garden coaching client Brad recently shared this great method for fruit fly control. Brad’s an inspiring guy to work with. He raises chickens in his back yard and has urban honeybees at home and in several other locations around town. (Be on the lookout for the ‘Honey Hole’ brand of urban honey soon!) He grew Loofah in Seattle, which was a new one on me. (Brad, can I have one?) He even roasts his own coffee, and it’s delicious. Too, Brad’s paper goods company, Guided Products, manufactures American-made, unique, recycled paper products. Really, Brad’s an innovator, and I’m glad to learn from him! And, did I mention he’s hilarious too?
Brad recommends: “Grab a glass or jar, piece of clear cling wrap, rubber band and piece of ripe fruit. Drop fruit in jar. Tightly pull down clear wrap around the top of vessel. Wrap rubber band around rim of vessel. With a pen, poke several small holes through the top of the cling wrap that the fly can barely get in. Leave in your fruit fly area. They will get in but have trouble getting out. When I see several in there, I put in the freezer to kill them and set it back out again.”
I just chopped up a peach to go with my homemade yogurt for breakfast. I realized that a bit of fruit stayed stuck to the pit. That would be the perfect piece of fruit to use for this job — otherwise, it’s headed straight for the compost heap. Fortunately, I don’t have fruit flies this season — yet. The time will come, I’m sure.
Want other ideas to control fruit flies? There’s always the option of setting out a small dish of vinegar to attract them & drown them. Or, consider these ideas too:
August 04, 2012
First off: Thanks Valerie Easton for contacting me for your article on garden coaching tips and tricks! It’s an honor to be featured in your column. This week’s feature: Robin Haglund has the A’s for your Q’s.
The day Valerie contacted me, I was visiting Lexington, Virginia with family — on vacation. Fortunately, I had left the internet-free & phone-free countryside long enough to get her email saying she wanted to chat asap. We managed to connect while I sat in a shady park to escape the blistering heat on that May Virginia day.
We chatted for a long while during which time she gave me one very valuable piece of advice, paraphrasing here: “Soak up the heat. It’s still cold and wet in Seattle.” Not that I didn’t already know this, but it was a good reminder to take in the sun and swimming and fireflies while I could. It was still May, afterall. Summer didn’t really hit until today in Seattle — that would be August, folks!
If you’re here because you read Valerie’s article, thank you for coming. I hope there’s more information here that you find helpful, and if you’re still stumped, please get in touch for a garden coaching session so we can address your needs in your garden.
I need expand on one item Valerie mentioned in her article, because I’m a bit concerned it may be confusing.
The topic: as a rough rule of thumb, prune ornamental plants right after they finish flowering.
While I do share this idea in a number of situations, including the examples Valerie mentions in her article, I want to clarify that this isn’t always the ideal method of pruning. For instance, if you’re growing a plant from which you plan to harvest fruit, pruning it right after flowering will mean that you likely prune out your future fruit as well. Too, many plants are best to prune while they’re dormant…aka in winter, which is before spring, which may be when your plant flowers. And, your own plants may even have more complex requirements than this.
Oh, and yes, one more thing. I know there are those that will claim that broken egg shells don’t work to keep slugs at bay, but it works for me, so I offer it as an easy, sustainable, recycler’s solution. Try it. Worst case: a bit of slug damage and your soil gets an application of calcium, which it may very well need.
Rules, especially rough rules, are always made to be broken.
Thanks again Val! And, everyone, keep having fun in your garden!
August 03, 2012
Ever tried edible amaranth is your garden?
We are a greens eatin’ household, so I’m always looking for new-to-us tasty leaves to grow for the table. This year, we seeded Heirloom edible Amaranthus tricolor from Botanical Interests. No regrets, and we’ll grow it again, but here’s what I’ll do better next time.
This plant loves the heat, so planting it early in the year — even in our passive greenhouse — barely worked out. Many of the seedlings that actually germinated ended up crashing in the cold. The starts that I moved out into the garden in early May were either mowed down by slugs, died for other reasons or are totally stunted. Even when temperatures warmed up, they never grew beyond those first sets of leaves. (Maybe I should have heeded the vendor’s warning that it doesn’t take well to transplanting.)
The plants that I kept in the greenhouse, potting up now and again to keep up with their growth, continue to perform beautifully. (Um, so transplanting worked in these cases.)
The one plant that grew rapidly, quickly lost some of its beautiful reddish leaf color. Still, its huge leaves are making perfect wrappers for fresh tomato and basil snacks. The other plants, still clothed in brilliantly colored leaves, simply shine in the greenhouse. We’ve harvested from them a bit and will continue to do so. To date, we’ve only eaten the leaves raw, but that big plant with the dull leaves may be chopped down tonight and steamed like spinach…or, I may continue to stress it in hopes it throws a few flowers that will produce high-protein seed we can sprinkle over salads of the same.
Love the look?
Another Amaranth we love to grow in ‘Love Lies Bleeding‘. This show-stopping cousin isn’t edible (to my knowledge), but its flowers are simply unparalleled eye candy. This year, I seeded quite a few, but I enjoyed watching several other volunteers show up in spots where I left it to seed itself last autumn. I’ll be doing more of the same this year.
(Fine print: Although Garden Mentors has received free seed from Botanical Interests in the past, we purchased this edible Amaranthus seed. Also, we have received no compensation for this blog post.)