Garden, Plant, Cook!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Around The Garden.

Dear Folks,

Some action around the garden.  Some from July and just recently.  I got back from one trip this past week and immediately harvested some of my caper berries, sorting them between  big and small.  I want to see how the brining (pickling) works for the two different sizes.  If the berries are too big they may never lose their bitterness.
After experimenting last year with fermenting (the brining) both the unopened flower buds (THE caper you usually purchase) and the berry I decided the berries were a better product.  More size for the effort.

Used like olives with the taste of the capers they are a great addition to any foods.  My friend Jacq Davis (Epic Yard Farm) shared a recipe on facebook for using the berries inside a meatball, which sounds so good I have to try it when they are done.

Visitors in the garden always bring smiles to our faces.  We have a new bunny - have not had a bunny around for about a year.  The Peach Faced Love Birds are in full force and chorus this year chattering away in the trees.  Not sure where they put their nest(s) but apparently it is close by as they show up regularly just talking away.

I set up a tray which captures water from one of our sprinkler setups and refreshes every two days in this 'foresty' area.  Note:  While much of our gardens are on less frequent watering sets ups 4 or 7 days, this forest area requires more because of the large trees and plantings.

Pictured is my Stevia in July.  This amazing plant has come back every year for about the last 5 - 6 years, can't remember how long, but it is a true keeper.  It occasionally throws off seeds nearby but this main plant just keeps on loving being in this spot.

I have a mango tree (Pina Colada variety) which I planted last year and am hoping for fruit this year.  Fingers crossed.  But in the meantime I purchased a couple of mangos last month and kept the seeds  One of the seeds split when I opened the exterior case but the other stayed together.  I planted both in my Banana area on July 14th and one came up and is really happy.  It is now twice as big as the picture shown (taken August 8th).  I don't know what this lovely will do, but hoping I found a happy place for it.

If you missed my youtube video on harvesting Sweet Potato, Eggplant and Fresh Basil, here is the link.

Speaking of Basil, if you are not familiar with Lisa Steels of Fresh Eggs Daily, she posted a nice video on using basil for your chickens and a nice tip on making a basil fly repellent jar for your outdoor dining.  It is a nice tip and I have all the ingredients to make it for our next outdoor gathering.

I will be traveling again and be back and answering questions after August 27th.

I am planning on doing more regular, short videos on garden and kitchen topics.

Don't forget to mark your calendar for my next Free Lecture at Mesa Urban Community Garden, October 7th.

You can find my gardening calendars and books for sale on the sidebar here on the blog.

Have a great time in the garden and kitchen.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Thursday, August 17, 2017

September Planting Tips

Taken August 12, 2017
Dear Folks,

We are about half-way through our summer/monsoon time.  Time to start getting your fall garden in shape.

DON'T touch the tomato plants which are still doing well even if not producing.  You can give them a bit of a hair cut over several days starting the end of August to remove sun damage and you will get a fall crop of fruit.  The plants will start setting fruit as soon as our night time temps fall below 80 -- usually around the end of August.  Expect the first nice lower temps (some days falling below 90) by September 30.  Typically our 90+ days run from May 29 to September 29th. We can have the occasional 100 degree day even into October, so monitor the moisture needs of your gardens using the moisture meter.


Taken July 17, 2017
These pictures are of my Upper Ground Sweet Potato Pumpkin, an heirloom variety which had been grown at Monticello.  I found a happy spot for it this year and got the seeds in the ground on July 5.  The larger plant picture is from August 12th and the smaller was taken July 17th (the chicken wire "hat" protects the young seedling from critters until it gets going well).  It really enjoyed the rains and is now about 3+ feet across.  Keeping my fingers crossed on getting some fun new fruit.

SEPTEMBER PLANTING:  Anise; Beans (bush and pole beans in first week in September at latest); Beets; Bok Choy; Broccoli; Brussels Sprouts; Cabbage; Cabbage, Ornamental; Caraway; Carrots; Cauliflower; Celery; Chard; Chervil; Cilantro; Cucumbers; Dill; Endive (and Chicory); Fennel, Leaf; Onions, Green; Kale, Ornamental Cabbage; Kale; Kohlrabi; Leeks; Lettuce (leaf lettuce, arugula, mustard greens etc.); Mustard; Parsley; Peas; Radishes; Spinach; Turnips.

You can successive sow foods like leaf lettuce, kale, cilantro, dill, parsley, roots like carrots, beets and radishes every 2-4 weeks through February/March for a continuous crop.

EDIBLE FLOWERS TO PLANT:  Calendula; Cornflower (Bachelor Buttons); Marigolds, including Citrus Scented (Tagetes Nelsonii) and Tangerine Scented (Tagetes Lemonii); Nasturtium; Scented Geraniums; Snapdragons; Sweet Alyssum; Sweet William (Dianthus)

TOMATO PLANTS which made it through the summer, give them a 1/3 - 1/2 hair cut (over several days) and receive a fall crop of tomatoes through first frost.  They will start to set fruit again when the night time temps fall below 80.

BERRY VINES - OCTOBER 1st: cut all canes, old and new, to ground after fruiting - commercial growers use this method.

Fertilize Fruit Trees Labor Day.

Sunburn Damage can now be trimmed a little at a time over several days.

Order your garlic and potato "starts" (heads and seed potatoes) for planting later on.  They can be stored in cool dry conditions until planting time.  October 1st for planting garlic - December 1-January 1st for potatoes.

I like PotatoGarden.com for both garlic and potatoes -- https://www.potatogarden.com/

Baler Creek also sells garlic

http://www.rareseeds.com/search/?keyword=garlic


You can find my gardening calendars and books for sale on the sidebar here.


Have a great time in your garden and kitchen.
 
-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Monday, August 07, 2017

Zucchini Fun Day and My Next Free Lecture Coming Up!

Dear Folks,

I'm back from one trip and will be going on another in 2 weeks, but I wanted to catch up with you on a fun day tomorrow (fun as in sharing your garden bounty) and let you know to mark you calendars for my next free lecture open to the public.

I heard about zucchini sharing from a market customer many years ago.  Seems the little town in Oklahoma where she grew up stopping leaving the cars unlocked in the summer as they would find the back seat filled with zucchini if they left the car unlocked during harvest time.

August 8th, National Sneak Some Zucchini onto Your Neighbor’s Porch Day!

http://www.gocomics.com/pickles/2016/04/20

Brian Crane's (Cartoonist) site for another funny take on this "event" 

There are so many ways to use zucchini besides the current (really tasty fad of) spiralizing this summer squash.

Baked in bread or cakes, breaded, pan fried or sauteed, shredded for cole slaw, grilled, stuffed (like potato skins), in a lasagna in place of or in addition to the noddles, and on and on.  I sometimes make a ribbon salad of ribbons of zucchini and cantaloupe with a nice vinaigrette

Here is one of my recipes for a satisfying cold salad.

Zucchini/EdamameSalad
Gardeners and cooks like to joke about what to do withall that zucchini. Slaws are the answer!

2   cups shredded zucchini
2   cups cooked green soybeans (edamame)
Rice wine vinegar
1/4  cup finely shredded spearmint
Salt
Olive Oil

Toss zucchini with a couple of good splashes of the vinegar. Add soybeans, sprinkle with Spearmint, and mix with zucchini. Add enough olive oil to lightly coat salad, salt to taste and mix gently.  A little thyme would also be a nice addition.


Mesa Urban Community Garden
October 7th, 5 p.m.

Garden Multi-Tasking:  Edible Flowers and Seed Saving are the main topics but I will be happy to answer questions.  I will also be bringing my seed library for sharing free seed.  Click to get the details

This lecture is open to the public and is FREE (I do encourage a donation if you can to help the garden out).

Did you know you can message me with your questions either through the blog here or on my facebook page?

Always happy to answer questions.

My garden calendars and books are for sale through links on the sidebar here on the blog.

Watch for my September Planting tips post next week.


Have a great day!!

 

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Friday, August 04, 2017

National Farmers Market Week - August 6-12th

Dear Folks,

Did you know some backyard gardeners with a passion and extra bounty went on to become the vendors you love at your farmers market?

There is a facebook page - Farmers Market Coalition - you may wish to check out.

National Farmers Market Week was first Proclaimed in 1999 by the USDA Secretary of Agriculture, "in honor of the important role that farmers markets play in local economies."

If you are not sure what farmers market is near you, check out these sources:

USDA Farmers Market Directory - search by zipcode

(NOTE: individual markets are responsible for submitting their data to this free directory.)

Arizona Community Farmers Market is a group of markets in the Valley


LocalFirstArizona

Or you can do a google search of your area and "farmers markets".

Do you have some extra bounty, but not enough to be a listed vendor at your farmers market?  The Community Exchange group manages tables at many of the markets here in the valley.  They will sell your extra bounty for you, take a small percentage to cover their costs and give you a check once a month for your sales.  NOTE:  Sales are what they actually sell, not what you give them. Sometimes thing simply do not sell.

Use the link below to go to their Facebook page and check them out.  You can contact them through the page or catch up with them at one of the markets.

Community Exchange Group

Reminder:  I will be traveling most of the next several weeks.  If you contact me I will get back to you as soon as I can when I am off traveling.

The link below goes to my recent post on what to sow in August, and summer "greens" you should be growing for your salads etc.

August Planting Tips Post

You can find my gardening calendars and books for sale here on the sidebar.  PDFs of some of these let you have the information right at your finger tips with any device which reads Adobe.

I will finish this post with a picture of my "Upper Ground Sweet Potato Pumpkin" seedlings protected by one of my chicken wire hats.  If you love the visitors to gardens as much as we do, but don't want them eating your tender plants, these simple covers allow the air and bees in but not birds etc.

Have a best day in the garden and kitchen!


-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Friday, July 14, 2017

August Planting Tips, Summer Greens and Around the Garden.

Dear Folks,

I'm sure that the idea of planting in August -- actually sowing seeds -- seems counter intuitive given the heat and humidity, but if you want fall foods like winter squash you need to understand the way the desert areas grow.

Seeds like either warm feet or cool feet and they germinate based on this concept.  Basil will not, for instance, germinate in cool or cooling soil.  We take control of production by starting seeds off in flats in the house or greenhouses where we control the environment.  But given natural preferences by the various edible plants, they germinate when the conditions are right for them, meaning soil temperature and moisture content of the soil.

Pictured are greens for the salads I made, fresh from the garden the other day:  Starting at the top clock wise is sorrell, roselle, Egyptian spinach, celery, two types of sweet potato leaves and some sweet basil in the center.  These greens are great and healthy substitutes for lettuce as they all love the heat, except celery.  In the case of the celery I have a pot in an afternoon shaded area in which I sowed a bunch of lettuces and celery seeds this base winter and I treat them as a kind of Micro-Green bed, cutting as needed and the celery has hung in there.  Sweet potato leaves, on the other hand, LOVE the heat and will provide you with a lot of greens during the summer, then give you the tubers in October/November.

Sow seeds in August in beds where you can keep them slightly moist.  Some will germinate mid-August, some may take a month, but they will give you a jump start on fall gardening.  Cover seeded areas with a fine mulch (crushed leaves) about 1 inch should be good, then sprinkle every evening.  When they start showing leaves, water deeper and then begin backing off the watering frequency to encourage deep roots.

AUGUST PLANTING:
Large selection of seed-only plantings. -- Anise; Beans, Snap (bush and pole); Bok Choy; Broccoli; Brussels Sprouts; Cabbage; Caraway; Carrots; Cauliflower; Chervil; Cilantro; Corn; Cucumbers; Dill; Fennel; Greens, all; Kale; Kohlrabi; Lettuce; Luffa Gourds; Mustard; Onions, Green; Parsley; Pumpkin; Purslane; Squash, Winter

EDIBLE FLOWERS TO PLANT:  Marigolds, including Tangerine Scented (Tagetes Lemonii), Citrus Scented (Tagetes Nelsonii); Nasturtium; Portulaca (Moss Rose); Stock; Sweet Alyssum

PLANTING CORN: One variety per season, plant in blocks (not rows) 6 inches apart. Can be planted with beans and squash (Three Sisters).

SUNBURN damage:  Like frost damage - do not prune until danger of sunburn is over - the damaged plant protects the lower growth.


I used the greens to make salad, one to enjoy right away and the other to save for later, using the mason jar method.  (The usual way to do this jar salad it so put the dressing in the bottom with chunky ingredients in the bottom, then layering the lighter stuff on top, so it does not get soggy.) 

We have been enjoying our bananas!  Everyone we have shared this wonderful variety with (Blue Java aka Ice Cream Banana) has declared them the best.  They have a creamy some say vanilla flavor which is just amazing.  Don't be put off by the color of the skin, they have a different color hue than the store bought cavendish, and the birds sometimes get to them a bit before we harvest the bunch. 
This last bunch (thankful we have one more to harvest) had several "doubles".   We ate or shared more than half of the bunch shown here before I remembered to take a picture!

We have been delighted that a covy of quail has been showing up.  A lot of "teenagers" in this group. Normally we only see a pair with babies.  This has been a real treat to see them frequenting the yard.  In the picture are a pair and their 2 babies.  I have to take the pictures through the window to keep from spooking them.  They are getting a bit more used to the idea that we put out seed regularly.

A NOTE:  I will be traveling quite a bit in August, so I won't be posting as frequently but will get the September planing tips posted mid-month.

One last neat cooking idea.  I am waiting to have more squash blossoms to make something like this, either pancake or I may try my hand at rustic tortillas.

I purchased these squash blossom tortillas at the farmers market a couple of years ago, put them in the freezer and forgot about them!!! (That's me!)  So when I found them I decided to do our Sunday eggs on top of them with a slice of cheese between the egg and tortilla.  Yummy!  Squash blossoms are a nice treat, crispy and refreshing eaten raw, or filled with something and cooked.  Many plants put out an abundance of male blossoms initially to attract the pollinators, so you should have spare ones to try using them like this.  Remove the stamen before using. 

You can purchase my gardening calendars and books on the sidebar here on the blog. 

Enjoy your garden and its rewards.


-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Where Do You Store Your Root Vegetables in the Desert Garden?

Dear Folks,

Where "Do You"  store root vegetables in the desert garden, when conventional spring houses and root cellars are not as easily doable?

Answer:  In The Ground!

I partially dug up one of my sweet potato beds I did not harvest from last fall.  Pictured are some of my eggplants too.

So what is the deal with leaving root vegetables in the ground until you need them?  They stay fresh, may get bigger, store better than in your crisper, and you don't have to figure out what to do with pounds and pounds of something all at once.  If you are wondering about taste -- overall if you choose heirloom quality root vegetables to grow, they maintain their flavor over a long in-ground season.

Sunday I decided on using some of the sweet potato for breakfast and the combination of the sweet potato and eggplant with dinner.

Sunday is the day we have eggs and bacon as our special treat.  While we enjoy soft fried egg on toast I frequently come up with something special to put the egg on. Sometimes it is oatmeal with herbs and cheese in it.  Last month I cooked up diced potatoes, topped with cheese and place the egg over it.

I diced up the sweet potato, added some of my sun-dried onion to soften and cook with it, topped it with Parmesan Cheese, and the egg.

One with egg, other waiting for egg
I cooked up 4 strips of bacon - reserving two for dinner and we enjoyed a filling and tasty breakfast.  I buy no-nitrate added bacon and usually microwave it if I don't want some bacon fat, to remove the extra fat.

For Dinner, I sauteed the diced eggplant and sweet potato along with more of my dried onion, a half a teaspoon on turmeric  I'm trying to add more turmeric to our meals for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant helpers (plus great taste)

I topped the veggies with the reserved crumbled bacon and served with chicken.

While conventional spring houses and root cellars are difficult in the desert garden, have you tried one of the alternative methods like digging deep holes with containers for storage?

Pioneer History Museum has a reconstruction of a root cellar and spring house.  Pretty cool the way they demonstrate how they were made/used back in the 1800s.  Pioneer is a great historic recreation museum.  If you have never been, check it out.

. . .

A Note Folks:  I will be traveling quite a bit in August, so I will only have a couple of posts to share (including monthly planting guide), but will be back to posting at least weekly in September.

NOW through August 1st is the time to plant your Three Sisters seeds and plants like pumpkins.

Have a wonderful week!

You can purchase my planting calendars and books through links on the side bar here on the blog.

Please share this post with friends and family.  Thank you!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Why small pots/containers kill in the desert summer heat.

Dear Folks,

Why am I posting a video of an annual valley tradition of frying an egg on the road?  Because the thermometer shows the temperature of 162.5. [Picture is a still from the video.]

Regularly and constantly I try to help folks understand just how HOT pots and containers can get in our summer afternoon heat.  This applies to the top 3 inches of exposed soil.

I was wondering when the annual fried egg picture / video would show up this year and went searching and found one from last year and "Bingo" I thought - this is perfect for showing just how REALLY HOT surfaces are in our summer afternoons.

WHY Small pots kill plants.

This is THE TEMPERATURE range (actually up to 180) for any exposed surface in the summer afternoon here.  Sidewalks, asphalt, sides of containers, block walls etc.

https://youtu.be/0MPNgCo9auk
 


I hope this helps you understand why your cute pot or very small and shallow container garden is going to cook your food plants before you get them harvested. 

You put a plant in a 1 gallon black pot in the middle of your garden, and you quickly learn just how making adobe bricks works.

When choosing a pot make sure it is at least 20" across.  When building raised beds, make sure the depth is at least 18 inches and a minimum of 2 feet wide x 2 feet across.

And ALWAYS plant at least 6 inches in from the sides to allow the soil to insulate the roots.

Use mulch even in containers, but keep 2 inches away from the base of the plants to keep snails, slugs and sow bugs from the tender plants.

You can purchase my books and planting calendars through the sidebar here on the blog.

Like my facebook page.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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