Saturday, October 9, 2010

End of the Garden

The end of the garden is always a poignant time of year. So much to do to get everything harvested, preserved and the garden cleaned up. The sun isn't as bright, the wind is cool and crisp and the leaves are dropping. Oddly, it is my favorite time of the year. I love the muted colors and diffused light and there's something about the preparation for the winter that makes these last warm, sunny days so special. So some final notes...

These are examples of the five tomatoes I grew this year, from left to right - San Marzano, German Queen, Green Zebra and in front the yellow pear and a red grape tomato that reseeded from last year. I belong to a CSA and always have plenty of fresh, organic tomatoes during the season but I like growing some of the heirlooms.

I was disappointed in the San Marzano. It was my first year growing it and they were slow, not very prolific and I didn't particularly like the taste. The German Queen on the other hand was absolutely delicious and while there were only half a dozen or so of them, they were large and tasty. The Green Zebra tomatoes just didn't stop coming, there were so many of them that I almost got tired of them. They are juicy and delicious, but enough is enough! My favorite of the season though were the yellow pears. I would just eat them right off the plant while weeding they were so delicious.

As I pulled out the plants and took the remaining tomatoes off, they all got cut up and put on a tray to slow dry in the oven. With a little olive oil, basil and garlic, this made a wonderful pasta topping for dinner that night.

The other thing that got pulled out of the garden as the nights are getting cold was all the basil. The red basil was used to make red basil vinegar as seen above. I love the color of this vinegar when it is done, and the flavor is fantastic.

Some of the rest of the basil was put in ice cube trays to freeze. I love having these cubes on hand throughout the winter for soups, sauces, or whatever I'm making.

All the tender perennials have been potted up for their winter stay inside. The scented geraniums have been cut back and potted, the lemon verbena leaves are in the dehydrator and the fruit sages are enjoying their last days out in the sun.

There's still time for more harvesting and plenty of garden cleanup left to do, but I better hurry!

Turkey Parade

Eating my oatmeal this morning reading the Idiot Gardener's near-American experience (and trying not to spit out my coffee since I was laughing so hard), what do I see outside but a wild turkey walking past into the garden. I rushed to grab the camera and yelled to DH, who was totally enthralled by some History Channel show and oblivious to what was going on outside.

There were three turkeys who decided to visit. They came up the stairs, strolled down the middle of the garden and just checked everything out. The garden is enclosed, so they just stood around at the end seemingly trying to decide where to go next.

So a little stroll right through the beds, couldn't they have stayed on the paths? The beds are half-cleaned out for the season, but the guy on the left above took a nice walk through the mint.

They were very curious. This guy came right up to the window to look in, maybe he wanted to see what DH was watching on History?

They hung out on the patio a bit and then headed back down the stairs, one after the other. Guess there wasn't anything too interesting here.

DH, who had finally gotten off the couch to see the visitors, went to the back window to see where they were headed and yelled to come look. Well the 3 must have been a scouting party, because there was a group of at least 12-15 turkeys congregated by the shed.

The one on top of the wood to the left seemed to be the crossing guard, and they all got in line and slowly walked into the woods. We waved goodbye, having enjoyed their visit.

While wild turkeys are pretty common around here, such a large group was a treat. Maybe I should have grabbed one to save for Thanksgiving?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Colors of Fall - Yellow

The yellows of Fall are as lovely as the reds. The peaches have been delicious this year, and I tried a new recipe for Spiced Peaches, which I canned. Delicious!

I was hoping to get to the orchard for more peaches, but the apples are already being picked. Everything is early this year and I can't keep up!

The calendula was very happy this year and still blooming away. I started making oil late, but will have plenty of flowers still to make a good amount. Here is the start of the oil, already a deep rich yellow color after just a few days. I continue to add flowers as they bloom and cover with oil (I'm using jojoba oil for this batch) and should have a full jar soon.

And the goldfinches are back again this summer. This thistle started growing in the middle of the echinacea bed. It doesn't belong there but I knew how much the goldfinches liked it so let it grow. And sure enough, they come every evening to pick at the thistle as well as the echinacea heads. I know I'm asking for trouble as I see the seeds floating all over the place, but I'd rather have the birds and just weed next year...

Colors of Fall - Red

Red is my favorite color, and the garden is filled with it right now. Starting with my finally red tomatoes! I was pulling out my green tomato recipes thinking that I would never see this color but here they are, ripening daily now. At last!

The scarlet sage is blooming happily. I usually grow Autumn Sage, which also has a nice red flower, but couldn't find it in the greenhouses this year. May need to try it from seed next year, I do miss it.
And of all the glorious chard colors, I love the red. Started from seed this year, the plant is very happy and ready to eat but I love looking at it in the garden.

The woods are ablaze in red as well. The jack-in-the-pulpit berries are brilliant, and the false solomon seal berries complement them. And yes, that is the monster poison ivy all around them, it was very aggressive this year.

And purple basil. Although not technically red, it makes a beautiful red vinegar. It's past time to make it, I better get this picked and bottled.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

August Bloom Day

The boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum ) was late and during the Spring I searched for it, wondering if it would come back..and here it is in full bloom towering over the fence. It was planted last year, and the pictures from last summer show how much this has grown from year to year. A Native American remedy for colds and flus, it is thought to stimulate the immune system. To the right is catmint (Nepeta faassenii) flowering, going quite wild.

The San Marzano tomatoes. This plant was not very happy a few weeks ago so I am glad to see it perked up and is bearing some fruit.

My potato crop. Small, but fun. I planted a red, white and blue mix and all 3 colors grew. This was my first year growing potatoes and I need to find out a little more about growing them to see how I can increase the size.

The turtlehead (Chelone spp?) is just starting to bloom. I love these and they bloom at the perfect time when many other things have finished.

Garlic chives, which bloom in summer, have just opened up. In the background is a veriegated oregano gone wild, and the marigolds trying to make their way through.

The marigolds were very happy this year, planted around the tomatoes. Behind them is a very happy lemon thyme.

I love second blooms. This is a shrub rose tucked on a slope that isn't very visible, and I noticed it was reblooming.

And the final day lilies. I have a large collection of all kinds of day lilies around our pool, and they have been blooming profusely for a month or more. But these are the last ones and they are true beauties.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Bloom Day July 2010

This has been a glorious year in the garden so far. Except for the storm that knocked down the delphiniums, which were amazing this year but the storm was too much for them, even staked. Here's some highlights...

A swallowtail butterfly (I think, I'm not a butterfly expert) enjoying the monarda, with a vigorous hops vine trailing along the porch.

The stairs leading to the garden. This was just planted last year and it has filled out beautifully.

Lacecap hydrangea in front of a hot pink astilbe

Lavender in bloom

The side garden with hydrangea, astilbe, spirea and the lacecap at the top, all in bloom

Echinacea just starting to open surrounded by veronica

Two of my favorite herbs, comfrey and borage, taking over their corner in bloom.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Leaves of Three, Let Them Be...

Poison Ivy is everywhere this year and is extremely large and robust. While we like to see our plants do well, this is one I would just as soon see go away. Identifying poison ivy can be difficult, so the old adage “leaves of 3, let them be” is good advice. Poison ivy can grow as a bush or a vine, the leaves can have either smooth or jagged edges and the color can range from green to yellow to orange and red. I’ve had a number of people at the store ask what they can do for poison ivy, so here are some suggestions.

Poison ivy contains urushiol, and this oily resin on the plants is what gets on our skin and causes the rash, itching, swelling and at times, blisters. The symptoms happen 12 – 48 hours after exposure, so one of the best things you can do after being outside is to wash thoroughly with soap and water, including under your fingernails, to remove any oil. It is most effective to wash within an hour of exposure. There are washes available at the drugstore specifically for urushiol and I keep this on hand for those instances where I think I have been exposed and also lotions that are guards than can be applied before going outside. The oil can stay on clothing for long periods of time and through the wash sometimes, so I also remove all my clothes and wash them separately as well. The oil can also stay on tools, so wash any garden tools, and on pet fur, so your pets may need a good bath too.

Poison ivy will go away on its own but it can take several weeks and the itching can be maddening. If you have a severe case of poison ivy you might want to see your doctor, especially if you think you have it internally. Prescription strength cortisone creams are available which are helpful but most cases of poison ivy can be relieved naturally.

A cool water bath with oatmeal and/or baking soda will help soothe the itching. Jewelweed is the classic herb used for poison ivy, and it is readily found in the wild and usually always grows near poison ivy. To use jewelweed, split open the stem and apply the sticky fluid inside directly on the rash. I also make jewelweed ice cubes out of a strong infusion of jewelweed stems and leaves that can be kept in the freezer for when needed and applied externally to the rash. A paste of goldenseal powder and aloe vera gel can help dry up the rash, and tea tree essential oil can help with the itching.

Do you have any remedies you use that work? Feel free to post a comment and share it with others.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Dr Emoto's Prayer for the Gulf

This is not my usual garden blog, so please skip it if that's what you're looking for. But water is an intregal part of our gardens, our lives and our earth and I wanted to put this out there to as many people as I could.

I recently received this prayer to the Gulf that was written by Dr. Masaru Emoto. If you are not familiar with the work of Dr. Emoto, he is an author, scientist and humanitarian whose work with water was highlighted in the movie "What the Bleep Do we Know".

I won't go into the politics, blame, and horror of this current disaster. I am just sad. So I was glad to see this simple prayer, that says it all....

"I send the energy of love and gratitude to the water and all the living creatures in the Gulf of Mexico and its surroundings.

To the whales, dolphins, pelicans, fish, shellfish, plankton, coral, algae, and all living creatures...

I am sorry.
Please forgive me.
Thank you.
I love you."

I am passing this along so if you are willing to participate in this prayer, set an intention of love and healing to the Gulf and repeat it as often as you like.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Strawberries in New England

I've decided it's time to stop with the garden envy from all the Blotanical posts. I read about people picking tomatoes and potatoes, harvesting beans and peas, visiting beautiful gardens and posting all these gorgeous pictures. I feel left behind and as if I will never catch up. But no more...

I live in a beautiful part of the world, which while cold much of the time, does have breathtaking seasons. And today is one of those beautiful June days when you wouldn't want to be anywhere else. Sunny, temps in the 70's, a slight breeze and the strawberries in full, lush bloom.

I don't grow strawberries myself, but like to pick them at a local farm the next town over. Indian Head Farm ( is a small, family farm that is quiet and peaceful when picking in comparison to the larger commercial operation down the street from me, which seems to always have lots of screaming children. Not my choice for a relaxing strawberry picking morning.
I had a million other things to do this morning, but the strawberry season is relatively short and decided this was the morning. How many did I pick? Not sure, I filled 2 baskets and came home to make Strawberry Jam. I used about 14 cups for the jam and have about 8 pounds left, so I guess I picked alot!
Here's the jam, the church fair is coming up this Fall and I always make some extra for that. Only 2 or 3 of us that make jams and jellies anymore, too bad. Easy and fun to make and it is always a big seller. But back to strawberries...

I may make more jam, but I wanted plenty left to snack on and eat fresh. Is there anything as wonderful as a fresh, juicy strawberry? Last night DH (on good days Dear Husband, on other days something not so nice) and I enjoyed some leftover lemon balm infused panna cotta I had made for my herbal apprentice class Sunday with strawberries on top. Ah, strawberries and cream, what a heavenly combination.

So I am feeling better, and so what if the garden isn't all planted yet, the weeds are growing, and I'm just harvesting some peas but everything else is a long ways away from harvest, that is just fine. All is as it should be today and I'm content and eating strawberries.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Angelica Guiness Book of World Records?

So is there a category in the Guiness Book of World Records for the largest Angelica plant? If so, I think I should enter.

I've never quite understood the fascination for big vegetables. I look at the gimongous (wicked big) pumpkins and baseball bat size zuchini and don't really get it. Yes, there is some kind of morbid fascination with a 400 or 500 pound vegetable, but to spend all season nurturing some behemoth and then try and cart it off to the state fair for a ribbon seems a bit odd to me.

But having said that, I have a monster angelica (Angelica archangelica) growing and think it deserves some sort of blue ribbon in the monster plant world.

Angelica is known to grow large, and often reaches 6 feet, but mine is close to 7 feet and it is only the end of May. Known as an old medicinal herb to stimulate the immune system, it also has an anesthetic quality and the seeds and roots are often used with wormwood in making absinthe and the seeds are an ingredient in vermouth and chartreuse. I love the way the flowers seem to burst out of alien like pods that grow on the stems, fascinating to watch and a wonderful addition to the garden for its scent and amazing presence.

But back to the giant in the yard...I rescued this plant from some leftover plants at the store last year. It had overwintered outside in a pot and barely looked alive last Spring. Never being able to throw away a plant that has even a little life in it, I brought it home and planted it in my new garden, which had plenty of space to fill. It responded beautifully and I had a large, 5 foot plant last year which was healthy and strong but didn't flower. Wondering if it would come back this year, didn't I see it emerge in early Spring and by the end of April was as large as it was last year. Here it is in early Spring at the back left hand side of the picture along the fence...

Would it bloom this year? By the end of May it is now covered in over a dozen flower heads, just popping out all over. A recent hail storm knocked down some of them and I thought of trying to stake it, but I don't have anything near tall enough to stake it to.

Although commonly known as a biennial, angelica is really a short-lived perennial and dies after it's flowering year, which means this plant will die after this year. That makes me rather sad, so I'm trying to enjoy the plant in all its majesty this year. Candied angelica stem is a Victorian classic, and there are all sorts of recipes for using the roots, leaves, and seeds which I think I will try this summer in honor of this incredible plant.

Has anyone ever cooked or used their angelica? If so, please feel free to post your experiences or recipes. And can anyone else vie for the blue ribbon prize for biggest angelica this year? I'm awarding it to myself until I see a bigger one!

Heirloom Tomatoes

There is a lot written about heirloom tomatoes but it is also a topic I get a lot of questions from at the store. This is a reprint of an article I had in last year's store newsletter that I thought would be good to repeat on the blog, as well as give it a place to stay for reference.

There are some varying descriptions of the term heirloom as it applies to plants, but generally speaking it means a variety that is over 50 years old (although some people say they should be over 100 years old) and is open-pollinated, which means the seeds can be saved and the resulting plant will be the same as the parent (as opposed to hybrids where there are different parents and the seeds do not "breed true"). So why does this matter? As Lawrence Davis-Holler explains in his book The Tomato Festival Cookbook, the hybridization after World War II to develop tomatoes that could be picked early and shipped to grocery stores without bruising (thus thicker skins) came at a cost of flavor.

The interest in heirloom tomatoes became more focused with the creation of Seed Savers Exchange in 1975 and over the years farmers have been growing more heirlooms and selling them at farmers markets and restaurants.

And you can grow your own and I would suggest you put in at least a few heirlooms with your other tomatoes, if not just grow heirlooms. Heirloom tomatoes come in almost every size and shape imaginable and that is one of the fun things about growing them. Brandywine can grow up to several pounds and is considered by many to be the best tasting tomato. Colors of heirloom tomatoes can vary from red and pink to black, purple, yellow and green. I love Striped Zebra (green with stripes) and Cherokee Purple and other great named ones are Black Prince, Great White (which is actually yellow) and Striped Cavern to name a few. Many of the heirloom tomatoes have great stories, and whole articles can be written on any one of them, making them even more interesting to grow.

Green Striped Zebra

Do you have a favorite heirloom? Post your favorite here.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Spring Garden Highlights

I'm a bit late posting the Spring photos of the garden. I actually started this post about 3 weeks ago, but am just getting around to finishing it up. It still takes me an awful long time to get the pictures arranged, and they still don't come out how I would like. Oh well....

It's been a beautiful, extended Spring with bouts of warm weather and rain that made the garden pop. I can't remember a Spring in recent years that lasted so long and the colors on the Spring shrubs and plants are just spectacular.

Daffodils and bleeding heart, two favorites.. Love the delicate flowers of the pulmonaria

Since the garden was just planted last Fall, I was anxious to see what would survive the winter, how the bulbs that were planted would look and if things would start filling in. I was pleased on all accounts, and just need to get some mulch down and I think the gardens by the steps will be all done. I did lose my espaliered apple tree. It fruited for the first time last summer and I was so excited. Then something ate the bark all around the base over the winter, and it is dead, dead, dead. So disappointing and I'm having trouble finding a new one. But everything else is looking good and here are some random shots of the new garden this Spring, enjoy!