Garden, Plant, Cook!

Thursday, January 02, 2020

Top Ten Posts for 2019, and Happy New Year!

Dear Folks,

What posts were the most popular in 2019 on my blog?

I received an update from one of my favorite bloggers who posted her top 10 from this past year.

I have a "popular post" area on the side bar on my blog and I had set to the last 7 days with the top 3, and thought "hmmm" what have all you folks been reading this past year that was the most  "eye catching"?

Well I changed the filter to the top 10 for the last year, so here they are.

I would love to hear from you if there is something you would like me to revisit more.

I love the notes and comments you send expressing how my writings help you - that is super and I appreciate the compliments.  I also realize many of you just quietly take my writings and "grow with it".  Also super!

So in order:

No. 1
Gardening By Zone - Why It Matters!

No. 2
Thinning Peaches and way to use the thinned baby peaches

NOTE:  Thinning peaches is a chore you will be looking at in the next couple of months as the fruit sets and you need to consider relieving weight from the branches.

No. 3
September Planting Tips and More.

NOTE:  Many of you consider fall your jump-start to beginning or expanding your garden, so the popularity of this post is not surprising.

No. 4
Tools & Tips: Moisture Meter

NOTE:  This post is from 2008!  And still one of the most popular - I am sure it is because I recommend it all the time as one of THE best garden tools to help with your success and understanding of the desert garden.

No. 5
December Planting Tips, Around the Garden and Kitchen

No. 6
June Planting Tips

No. 7
January Planting Tips - Ready, set . . .

No. 8
March Planting Tips - And 1 Major Reason Your Seeds Did Not Grow

NOTE:  I consider this one of the most important posts I've ever created.  It, along side using the moisture meter garden tool, are two major factor's to successfully direct sowing in the garden.  Sure, we can start seeds indoors, and that does work.  However, direct sowing seeds ensures only the strongest seeds survive meaning the strongest plants are the result.

No. 9
Bird of Paradise - One of My Few Ornamentals

No. 10
Chocolate Flower Question - Edible?

Important Note:  As my blog moves forward the sidebar "Popular Posts" order will change. [EVEN this post will create a change.]  At the end of January I will re-set the metrics to show most popular for the preceding month,.and forward through 2020.

Have a wonderful 2020 - learn, grow, share!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Around The Garden - Flowers, Frost, Harvest, Food

Dear Folks,

It has been busy and varied around here the last week or so.

I took advantage of the current flowers blooming to harvest some petals for drying.  Pictured is a selection of rose, sugar pea (Magnolia Blossom variety), nasturtium and pigeon pea, and in the frig for drying.  I have a partial jar of already dried flowers which I will use to decorate something later.

One of the things I love to do is eat and plant something!  By that I mean "recycling" food items that I can't use to actually eat, but that I can re-grow for later harvest.

Two fun things are celery and potatoes.  I had some older small potatoes I was preparing for dinner on the Sunday before Christmas - I NEEDED to cook a turkey - and potatoes were starting to sprout.

So I cut the sprouting parts off and allowed to dry before I stored them to plant tomorrow - January 1st - my tradition of planting potatoes on the first day of the new year to get the "new" garden and year off to a really positive start.
The other thing I do regularly is cut the bottom off of celery and sprout on the counter until I have some nice growth then plant out in the garden.  I do this when I need to purchase celery bunches from the store if I do not have enough to cook with.  I purchase organic when I can.  [celery pictured today about 10 days later - I gave the other one to a friend - I will plant this one out tomorrow]

So, about the turkey dinner.  My traditional stuffing is celery and onion sauteed in butter, poultry seasoning, bread cubes and stock/broth.  A while back Sweet Paul Magazine posted a Mediterranean stuffing which looked so wonderful I thought I would try it the next time I wanted stuffing.  Here is the link for his recipe.

The recipe called for preserved lemons, artichoke hearts and olives.  I had been wanting a reason to try preserving my limequats and this was it.  So back in early November I started the preserving, then refrigerated them.

Check Sweet Paul's link for the original recipe.  I also wanted to make this a one pan meal so I made the stuffing, spread in the pan, made a small indentation in the center and set in the turkey breast. 
 While it may seem a stretch to use poultry seasoning on the turkey the combination of flavors in the stuffing blended well as the rosemary and thyme in the stuffing are also part of the herbs in poultry seasoning.

My Version December 22, 2019 Sweet Paul's Mediterranean Stuffing.
I used fresh rosemary, parsley and conehead thyme from the garden

1/2 stick of butter
1 cup of diced celery
1 cup of diced red onion
Sautee until soft.
Equal parts of rosemary and conehead thyme for celery/onion
Poultry Seasoning and Butter for turkey

I used Pane Tuscan bread - about 4 cups+
2 cups of homemade turkey/chicken broth
1/3 cup of marintated artichoke hearts
1/3 cup kalmata olive cut in 4ths
Fresh parsley about 1/3 cup
2 preserved limequats slivered

We agreed this stuffing was a keeper - I will use it as an alternative to my traditional version - maybe every other time.

Usually my family and extended family gather for big meals on Christmas Day.  This year most chose quieter Christmas Day PJ open house and it was sweet and peaceful.

Knowing this ahead of time, I still personally needed more celebration, so I had some family over Christmas Eve and got to try out a "grazing board" concept for a low key - nibble until you are stuffed - tray.  Everyone loved the display and the selection.  The fully covered dessert table was in another area and included my cookie exchange bounty - sorry no picture :-)

The garden was hit by frost the night of December 28/29th.

The sugar peas just shrugged a "whatever" and just continued on their delicious and lovely growth. The flowers are visible in the middle and lower part of the vine and that is a yellow nasturtium in the lower left.  P.S.  I used some of the nasturtium and sugar peas flowers on the grazing tray.

The morning after the frost when the lawn was brown and frosty crunchy I happened to look out towards the south.  The sun was just hitting the post of one of out split rail fences and I was so surprised to see vapor coming off it.  The sun was heating the very, very damp wood and releasing a visual display.  I hope this picture does it justice.


The actual frost damage was about what I would have expected.

Our banana plants which have two sets of fruit on them was hit, however the fruit itself seems undamaged at this point.  They are not nearly along enough for me to cut and bring them inside to ripen, so I just have to hold out hope they will survive.

The soft-leaved plants always get bit by frost, particularly basil which is a tender perennial and hates the cold.  As I noted about the Sugarpeas, they just shrugged.

In the picture you can see bright green growth at the base of the Stevia - this is a "bit" early for the new growth on this about 7 year old plant - it dies back in the winter, then sprouts in late January/Early February, so I hope this is not a problem having new growth this early during frosting times. 

One last garden picture.  I harvested the last of my sweet potatoes and the Candy Roaster Squash which has quite the story.

I sowed the seeds for the Squash on June 20th.  The plant was going gang busters when something caused it to go down almost over night in late October- but not quite all the way.  I chatted with a gardener friend and I did some research and came up with a possible culprit - nematodes.  But the plant was not down all the way, so I decided to just see what happened.  It had put on one fruit while it was challenged and it may have even been one I pollinated.  At any rate, the frost took the plant down completely so I harvested it.  It is supposed to be a pinkish color when ripe and is not anywhere near that.  I will cut it later and see what I can do with it.  The planting time of June was not helpful to this variety, so I will try and sow in mid-to late May as I am eager to give this heirloom a real try.

I wish you a Happy New Year, one filled with joy in and from the garden, patience, and kindness towards others.  I believe these things will bring contentment.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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