Archive for September 2008

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.


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!



Add comment September 25, 2008

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!


Add comment September 23, 2008

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!


Add comment September 20, 2008

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!


Add comment September 18, 2008

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,


Add comment September 16, 2008

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.

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!


Add comment September 13, 2008

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.

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!


Add comment September 10, 2008

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!


Add comment September 9, 2008

Garden Musings–September 2008

I can’t believe it’s the first week of September. I’ve savored every day of this summer and I look forward to savoring the rest of it, too. It’s been excessively hot, in the mid- to high-90s and over 100 degrees almost everyday since late June with a record 31 days in a row of these temps.

Still, I love the summer and warm weather. even if it means smoke from wildfires and we had a lot of smoke this year. I’d be happy with 80 degrees 365 days per year. Although I do enjoy a good, soaking summer rain and how it soothes and feeds my garden. We had only one of those this year, back in late June before the heat wave struck. It was wonderful.

As a result of the excessive and unrelenting heat, our garden grew slowly this summer. Our vegetables ripened one or two at a time. However, since a 3-day cool spell last week, along with the application of my now infamous Alfalfa Tea over the weekend, our tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers are beginning to ripen in larger numbers. We just may have a feast next week.

Oddly, the grapes have begun to ripen, too. Perhaps the sudden cool spell fooled them. Usually, we have to wait for them until the end of September. We’ve already emptied one grapevine of its bounty. However, our heat wave has returned, so we just may have to wait a few weeks for the rest.

We sat outside tonight in balmy 90-degrees and had dinner on our patio as the sun set. For dessert, we picked strawberries and white raspberries, then watched the cottontail rabbits forage amongst the grapevines and flowers. This is summer at its best.

To Your Gardening Abundance!


Add comment September 5, 2008

Alfalfa Tea Is a Great Plant Tonic

Did you know that your garden plants love herbal tea? Not just compost tea. I’m talking about alfalfa tea. The high calcium content of the alfalfa provides a much-needed boost to garden plants and, especially, to vegetables.

Throughout the season, I like to give my garden a tea tonic boost. I usually alternate between compost and alfalfa teas. Since we have approximately 4 to 6 more weeks of good weather before our first hard frost, I decided to give my garden plants a final alfalfa tea party this week.

Most gardeners I know use alfalfa pellets, which they buy at the feed store. Since our animals eat hay, I use fresh alfalfa that is left over from the bales we purchase. I’m not fond of cleaning up the messy, wet alfalfa after the tea’s served, so I decided to make a giant tea bag.

I used an old pillowcase and stuffed it with the fresh alfalfa hay and a cup of Epsom salt to add some magnesium to the soil. Then I tied it closed with a large twist tie. Voila! A giant, sealed tea bag. I placed my giant tea bag in the bottom of the garbage can and began to fill it with water. Much to my surprise, the tea bag floated. So, I dunked it! Over and over until it was soaking wet and floating at the top of the water.

I use a 30-gallon plastic garbage can with a locking lid. You can position the can in the sunniest part of your yard. Remember to set it well away from your house because as the tea steeps, it acquires a rather pungent odor. Stir it each day for 3 to 7 days and then give your plants a drink. I usually give each plant one half gallon or one gallon of this tea, depending on the size of the plant. Add water from your garden hose to dilute the intensity.

The next day I wondered what to do with my giant tea bag. I dried it in the sun, then emptied its contents into my compost pile.

To Your Gardening Abundance!


2 comments September 3, 2008

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