Might We Have an Early Spring?

For the last three weeks, my house rabbits have been shedding fur like humans shed their winter coats upon entering the house. The rabbits look like miniature, fluffy, woolly mammoths with tufts of fur jutting out at all angles and a cloud of fluff around them much like a halo. This began in early February and is still continuing, which makes me wonder if we’re heading for an early Spring.

Last time they shed like this, we had a wonderful early Spring and our garden harvest was extremely abundant because we had such a long season.

We had a snowstorm last week on Monday and the weather at night has been down in the low 30s, but the daytime weather is looking up and we may be in the 50s or 60s this week into next. So take a look around, fellow gardeners. Are your pets shedding heavily? Does the air smell sweeter than winter? Are the buds on your fruit trees swelling fatter and fatter each day?

Most of all…Have your crocuses bloomed? Ours have been out for the last three weeks. They poked their beautiful, delicate heads out just as the bunnies were beginning to shed. And they survived last week’s snowstorm, peeking out through the snow as it melted. The tulip leaves are about an inch long, too, so I’m thinking we just may be headed into an early Spring. We should have tulips in time for Easter.

Think Lo-o-o-ng Summer!

To Your Gardening Success!

Add comment March 5, 2012 heavenlygardens

Dandelion: A Tasty Weed by Any Other Name

What is the true definition of a weed?

Most gardeners will tell you that a weed is a plant that is growing where you do not want it to grow.

By that definition, a rose bush could be a weed. Or an oak tree. Or even a vegetable. I love that definition because my favorite vegetable of all time, the dandelion, is considered a weed by a majority of gardeners. And, since today is Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d write about dandelions because I love them so.

I grew up eating dandelions and using the bright yellow dandelion flowers to see if my friends and I liked butter. We’d hold the flower under each other’s chins to see if there was a yellow reflection. If there was, we liked butter. If there wasn’t we didn’t like butter. Ah, those were lovely, simpler times.

Most of us are familiar with the dandelions that grow amidst grassy lawns. However, dandelions come in many shapes, sizes, and colors. Our local organic produce market sells both green and red dandelions.

Personally, I think the red dandelions, which look more of a burgundy-purple-green to me, are the hardiest and the best. They’re crunchy and they store longer in the refrigerator than the green dandelions. They also tend to have a sweeter taste.

The word ‘dandelion’ comes from the French and means tooth of the lion…dande (dente)…and refers to the somewhat ragged edges of the dandelion leaf, which reminded early gardeners of the ragged teeth of a lion. Although some leaves have smoother edges and a more rounded, elongated shape. Sometimes you will find this combination of ragged and smooth leaves on the same dandelion plant.

In my opinion, the Dandelion is one of the most misunderstood and under appreciated of plants. Dandelion has many uses. It makes a terrific salad. Eat it alone or mix it with other greens for a delectable and tasty salad. Yes, some dandelions are bitter—it’s an acquired tasted. Yet, other dandelions are somewhat sweet. In our home, we like them both.

You can cook dandelions like you cook spinach. In fact, you can cook dandelions and spinach together. Saute the dandelions and spinach in a quarter cup of water and a tablespoon of olive oil. Add chopped garlic when the greens are sufficiently wilted to have lost their crunch (or before they’ve lost it, if you like your veggies more raw). Stir in the garlic and give it a minute or two to soften. Add salt and pepper to taste and mmmhm, yum! Butter some French, sourdough, or Italian bread and dig in. A real taste treat!

Dandelions also provide health benefits, which I will write about in an upcoming post.

Our yards and gardens have wondrous gifts for us. We just need to look more closely and learn how to use and enjoy them.

To your Gardening Success!

2 comments February 14, 2012 heavenlygardens

A Tree With Multiple Personalities

The fruiting mulberry tree is one of my all-time favorite fruit trees. Much prized for its size and the shade it provides, many gardeners enjoy its juicy, luscious fruit. There are red, white, and black mulberries. My favorite is black.

You can view an excellent photo of a branch of ripening black mulberries here.

The other thing I enjoy about mulberry trees is that they have leaves of many shapes. It’s like having a tree with multiple personalities. You never know what you’re going to see on new branches, the solid, heart-shaped leaf, serrated edges, or the fancier shaped leaves that look like three-piece cutouts. The leaf photo below shows some of the varying shapes of our black mulberry’s leaves.

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The black mulberry tree’s leaves are shiny and birds thoroughly enjoy both the leaves and the berries. Black mulberries are, in my opinion, the tastiest of the three varieties. They stain your fingers, your clothes, and the ground purple. Still, they are my favorite.

To protect the berries, we cover our mulberry tree with netting to keep the birds away. This year’s harvest arrived early, beginning to ripen in late May instead of June. Fortunately, our tree was so laden with fruit, we enjoyed mulberries well into early July, which is unheard of.

I took a walk through our yard yesterday morning. As the leaves on the rest of the trees in our backyard slowly begin to yellow and fall, our mulberry tree’s leaves are still going strong, making me feel like summer may just last a while longer.

To Your Gardening Abundance!

Cara

Add comment September 25, 2008 heavenlygardens

Autumn’s the Time to Plant Garlic–The Stinking Rose

As we head into fall, now is the time to plant garlic for next year’s garden. If you like to eat garlic as we do, you’ll want to plant as much as possible.

Apple trees love garlic, so if you have an apple tree, you may want to plant garlic around the base of the tree at its roots. The apple tree and garlic will provide mutually beneficial microbes to each other’s root systems, encouraging both plants to grow stronger.

All the way back to Greek and Roman times, garlic has been known as the stinking rose. In San Francisco, The Stinking Rose is a garlic restaurant whose claim to fame is that they season their food with garlic.

And so it goes–garlic’s popularity persists through the ages. This pungent, sharply flavored herb has many uses beyond the culinary. It has anti-virus and anti microbial properties.

Americans eat more than 250 million pounds of garlic a year. If this isn’t incentive enough to plant as much garlic as you can, I don’t know what is.

Join me this coming weekend planting garlic under every apple tree I can find on property apple trees.

To Your Gardening Abundance!

Cara

Add comment September 23, 2008 heavenlygardens

Plant Auctions Offer Great Deals

It’s that time of year in our neck of the woods when some of the local nurseries hold Plant Auctions. Yep! You read me right! Not Plant Sales, but Plant Auctions.

Check your weekend newspaper and call some of your local nurseries to find out where and when Fall Sales and Auctions are happening this weekend. You may just come away with some great deals.

I’ve purchased everything from trees to shrubs, flowers, and even ceramic containers and statuary at plant auctions at rock bottom prices. This weekend is not the time to lounge around in your backyard. Get out and put the finishing touches on your dream yard. You may find the deal of a gardener’s lifetime!

To Your Gardening Abundance!

Cara

Add comment September 20, 2008 heavenlygardens

Why Chives Are a Garden Favorite

One of the many things I love about gardening is the plant names. Although I sometimes wonder why we have to deal with a scientific and a common name for each plant, I still find many of the plant names fascinating. Chives, also known as allium, are amongst those plants with beautiful and unusual names.

You’d be surprised how many people don’t know what chives look like. So, when friends come to call or neighbors stop by and ask, “What’s the name of that plant with the pretty purple flowers?” I often answer, “Allium” instaed of chives, just to watch their reaction.

Then I pick a leaf or two and ask them what they think of the taste. They usually look at me a bit askance, but most of them take a bite. When they realize it tastes like onions, and say so, I explain that allium is the scientific name for chives–and, yes, these are the chives you put in your salads, soups, and even main courses.

I like to pick chives when their flowers are still buds and put them in our salads. The closed flower buds are a bit of a delicacy.

Another favorite thing about chives: they die back in winter and regrow in spring. So, once planted, you’re usually good for many years to come. In fact, a one gallon chive plant from 4 years ago has reproduced so much that it (along with its descendants) now measure 1.5 feet by 4.5 feet in my garden. Quite impressive when those flowers all bloom!

To Your Gardening Abundance!

Cara

Add comment September 18, 2008 heavenlygardens

First Big Harvest of the Fall–Grapes

I began to pick our grapes today in large quantities. We have five grapevines and four different varieties of grapes. Being impatient, I couldn’t pick just one. I had to sample all four. I found our red seedless Lakemont grapes ripening faster than the Concords. No surprise really because every year they ripen before the Concords.

The surprise came when I approached the champagne grapes and discovered that they are all almost fully ripe. Why was I surprised? Because they are usually the last to ripen. So, much to my delight, I picked the majority of them today. I’ll pick the rest tomorrow and leave a few bunches on the vine for nibbling.

Along with the grapes, I also picked endive, cherry tomatoes, oregano, and garlic chives for our dinner salad. For dessert, we had grapes (of course), white raspberries, and strawberries.

Looks like we’ll have an abundance of grapes again this year. Too many to eat before they over ripen. So what to do with so many grapes? Well, here’s what we’re going to do this year. We’ll make juice every morning until the extra grapes run out using our TRISTAR PRODUCTS JLPJ Jack LaLanne Power Juicer – Juice Extractor. We’ll make grape juice and we’ll make grape juice mixed with other fruits and vegetables.

I’ll also freeze some of the juices on sticks as frozen ices. Some friends and I are planning to pool our grape crops and make jam and compotes. Maybe next year we’ll have enough grapes to make wine. Won’t that be fun!

What are you doing with your grape crop this year?

To Your Gardening Abundance,

Cara

Add comment September 16, 2008 heavenlygardens

Buddleia davidii—A Butterfly Magnet

The Buddleia davidii, more commonly known as the butterfly bush, is extremely popular with western gardeners. It’s a hardy plant that grows with weed-like determination. Its flowers grow

The 18-inch blossom in the center and beginning to turn brown.

The 18-inch blossom in the center and beginning to turn brown.

much like lilacs and bloom in a deep purple (Black Knight), white, violet, or pink.

This summer, one of the pink butterfly bushes in our yard produced a flower that measured almost 18 inches long. I was dumbfounded for I didn’t know that they could be that large.

While the common lilac is one of my favorites, I like the butterfly bush for several reasons:

1. It produces flowers all season and into fall.
(Prune the dead flower heads to encourage more flowers.)

2. They have a sweet scent. (Although I still prefer the common lilac’s scent.)

3. They grow quickly, they grow tall, and they spread rapidly, so if you have a lot of ground you want to cover, you may want to plant some butterfly bushes.

4. They attract butterflies, all types of butterflies.

5. They attract hummingbirds.

Drawbacks
1. They attract bees, lots of bees.

2. They not only grow with weed-like determination, once you’ve planted one butterfly bush, renegade bushes spring up in the oddest locations.
(We have two pink butterfly bushes in our back yard. Two more popped up in our front yard early this spring. Oddly, they have dark purple flowers, so I think they may be renegades from our neighbor’s yard.)

3. They need to be trimmed regularly to keep them well shaped and at a manageable height.

The leaves on the Buddleia vary in color and size from a true green to a teal green. Some leaves are long and narrow. Others are long and wide. The branches may break under a heavy snowfall, however, this shrub usually grows back with even more determination.

If you decide you want to plant a butterfly bush in your yard, select a sunny spot that you can view from your house, so you can enjoy the show.

To Your Gardening Abundance!

Cara

Add comment September 13, 2008 heavenlygardens

Garlic Eggplant-Zucchini Ratatouille

Yesterday our garden produced a most abundant dinner for us. I love those days when I can reach my goal of serving a meal that is almost completely from our garden. Last night’s dinner was one of those.

Here’s what I picked from our garden: zucchini, eggplant, garlic, endive, Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes, basil, oregano, grapes, strawberries, white raspberries, and spearmint.

And here’s our dinner menu:

Garlic Eggplant-Zucchini Ratatouille
This is my version of ratatouille without the tomatoes because we only had enough cherry tomatoes for our salad.

1. Chop the eggplant and zucchini into cubes.

2. Prepare 2 to 4 cups of white or brown long-grain rice in a saucepan. The amount of rice you prepare depends on the number of people you plan to feed. I usually estimate 1 cup of rice per adult and one-half cup per child.

3. Heat 1/4 to 1/2 cup extra virgen olive oil in a large skillet. You may need to use more as the amount of oil and size of the skillet depends on the amount of vegetable you are preparing.

4. When the oil is hot, add the eggplant and zucchini. You may need to add more olive oil if the eggplant soaks up too much.

5. Cover and let cook on a medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant and zucchini are soft.

6. When the eggplant and zucchini are almost fully cooked, add chopped garlic to taste.

7. Cover and cook until the garlic pieces are soft enough to stick a fork into them.

8. Serve over rice.

Endive & Tomato Salad
1. To prepare this salad, I rinsed and drained the endive, tomatoes, basil, and oregano, then mixed them in a bowl and added olive oil and lemon juice for dressing. You can add salt, pepper, and other spices for added flavor.

Dessert
You can select from one of three different options for this fruit combination for dessert: grapes, strawberries, white raspberries.

1. Serve grapes, strawberries, and white raspberries in a bowl and let everyone nibble on them using their fingers.

2. Place the fruit in individual serving bowls and top with heavy whipped cream. Garnish with a sprig of mint.

3. Mix the grapes, strawberries, and white raspberries in a bowl with plain, vanilla, raspberry, or strawberry yogurt. Serve in individual serving bowls. Garnish with a sprig of mint. This is my favorite because it reminds of me of ice cream without the added fat!

How I love it when I can serve a garden-fresh meal!

Would you like to share some of your garden-fresh meals with us? I’d love to hear about them.

To Your Gardening Abundance!

Cara

Add comment September 10, 2008 heavenlygardens

End-of-Season Plant Sales

This is the second week of September and local nurseries throughout the country are getting ready for their end-of-season plant sales, if they haven’t already begun discounting. Even places like Lowe’s and Home Depot significantly mark down their plants to move them out and make room for their (sigh) Christmas displays. I won’t go into how utterly ridiculous it is to start selling 4 months early.

So, take a look around your garden and make note of where you’d like to add a plant or two or three. Then grab the newspaper and find out which nurseries are ready to give you a great deal this week because autumn is the perfect time to plant. More about that in my next post on Wednesday.

Some nurseries discount their plants by as much as 50 percent this time of year. So check every nursery in your town to get the best deals.

For those gardeners who prefer armchair shopping, grab those seed and garden product catalogs that arrived last month. Some of them may have great end-of-season discounts and sales, too. Some of my favorite gardening catalogs include Burpee, Park Seeds, and Henry Field’s. One of my favorite plant catalogs, because it contains some of the most exoitc plants, I’ve ever seen is K. Van Bourgondien & Sons, Inc..

I just checked the web sites of these 4 companies and Park Seeds is offering Web Specials and a $1.00 seed sale. Henry Fields has an ‘On Sale Today’ link at the top of the home page and Burpee is currently offering a variety of discounts. K. Van Bourgondien has a clearance section on its web site.

Do you have some favorite plant, seed, or gardening catalogs that you’d like to share with us?

To Your Gardening Abundance!

Cara

Add comment September 9, 2008 heavenlygardens

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