Archive for May, 2010

Open potting soil bags quick and easy


2010
05.30

Keep a plastic knife in your garden tool box.

picnic plastic knives open bags fast

It will open those weighty bags of potting soil or top soil faster than most pricey garden gadgets.
Keep one of these handy.

open plastic bags

A plastic picnic knife makesa great garden tool.

My frugal gardening suggestion is recycle plastic forks, spoons and knives as plant markers and plastic bag openers.

You will probably use plastic flatware at a picnic this summer and most of it will go into the trash.

recycle pastic flatware from picnics and "to go" food.

They aren’t frugal if you buy them especially for this purpose , but if you happen to use plastic ware this summer, recycling for garden use will keep just one more thing out of the landfill.

Tiny, Tasty Alpine Strawberries


2010
05.21

Ripe berries are sweet as candy

Wild Strawberries and Alpine Strawberries are hardy, disease resistant and perfect for a low border or edging plant. They are also a great ground cover. Some folks include them in grass-free lawns. I’ve tried a couple of times to start wild strawberries from seed and failed. When I had the opportunity to start new gardens in a new home, I went a little overboard with these tiny berries.

Sweet fruits are grown from seed

I ordered “Mignonette” French strawberry seed from Renee’s Garden Seed and had great success using the AeroGarden. The plants, once started, are easy to grow. They are compact perennial Alpine strawberry plants producing sweet, pointed fruits from early spring to the last frost.

I notice that Renee’s has an article about these itty bitty berries on her web page. This is where I got the idea to use these strawberries as an edging plant. Renee’s is a reliable and prompt source to order seed. May or June is not too late to start plants from seed (and you will get prompt seed delivery here.)

That same year, I bought a Fragaria vesca “Ruege” plug pack of 12 plants from Richter’s. These sweet and tangy berries are just a little smaller in size of the wild ones on compact, runnerless plants but they do multiply and should be thinned every few years. Bears fruit from May til frost. Richter’s has the best selection of culinary and medicinal herb plants that I have found.

Both plants have multiplied rapidly.This spring, they started blooming in March. A late freeze only slows them down but they soon begin setting bloom again.

I think that those monster sized rugged and tasteless berries at the grocery store turned me away from normal strawberries. The tiny Alpine fruits taste like strawberry candy in comparison.

Tiny white blooms continue all summer

The first year, it was a contest to see who would get to eat these mini delicacies, me or the birds. There are so many of them and the season is so long, that now the birds and I have agreed to share the abundant harvest.

A third variety of strawberry grows in my gardens. French‘Mara des Bois’ from White Flower Farm.

‘Mara des Bois’ lives in hanging baskets on the patio and are just starting to produce this year. Last summer I had one or two berries and a winged predator or possibly my beloved ate the rest. There were not a lot of berries because the plants were busy trying to escape their confinement by sending runners over the edges of the hanging baskets. The berries are twice the size of the Alpine berries, but that still means a very small berry compared to what we find at the grocery. These hardy little plants over wintered in a hanging basket sitting on the patio all winter.

Fraises des bois is a French word for strawberries of the woods. The strawberries are also known by other names including: Fragaria vesca, Alpine Strawberry, Wild Strawberry, Woodland Strawberry, American Strawberry, European Strawberry, fraises des bois, and fraisier des bois. Call them what you will, these itty bitty berries a too fragile for transport. The little ones fetch premium prices at the market.

The tiny berries are beautiful garnish on a desert plate. It is said that tea made from the leaves will stimulate the appetite. They grow as an evergreen edging along the sidewalk in the potager, making for easy picking as I walk by.

Try balsamic vinegar with strawberries

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day May 2010


2010
05.16

chive and sage blooms

Most herb flowers are small and unremarkable, but I look forward to these lavender colored chive and sage blooms every spring. They are edible, but I prefer to gather a kitchen bouquet so I can enjoy the flowers even longer.

Kitchen bouquets make herb leaves close and easy to use for cooking.

Flowers in the kitchen

Chive flowers will turn this white wine vinegar pink

More lavendar colored flowers

clematis “President” is a homeless plant I have yet to move to a permanent home. It has faithfully lived in this plastic pot for over a year.

( It takes just a little imagination to view the next blooms which are in my camera but not in my possession right now.)

Strawberries

Roses

Astillbe

Daylilies

Columbine

Carol, garden blogger at May Dreams Gardens started the Bloom Day tradition Garden bloggers Bloom Day May 2010.

‘Gigante Italian’ Parsley, Not Just Garnish


2010
05.16

by Patsy Bell Hobson

Tags: Giveaway, Parsley, Italian Parsley, Preservation Tips, Harvest Tips

I’ve never lived where parsley grew as a biennial. Parsley has always been an annual in my garden. Until last summer.

Fresh parsley grows early spring until late fall

Instead of it growing about a foot tall, it grew to about three feet. Then, this over-achiever bloomed. That’s when its family tree became apparent.

Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) is a member of the carrot family. When it blooms, the family resemblance to its cousin, Queen Ann’s Lace (Daucus carota), is striking.

This year, volunteer parsley have appeared where the giant grew and self-seeded last summer. The self-seeded plants came weeks ahead of the seeds I sowed. If you are content to let the parsley grow where ever it wants, you won’t have to disturb the fussy tap root.

Allow parsley to self seed for an earlier harvest.

Chop parsley and combine with room temp butter. Photo by Patsy Bell Hobson

How To Preserve Parsley

• Wash and chop the leaves. Fill an ice cube tray with the leaves. Add water (or vegetable broth) to fill the cups of a plastic ice cube tray. Place in freezer until the cubes are frozen. Pop the cubes out and store in an airtight container in your freezer. Thaw when needed by dropping a cube into soup or sauce.

• You can make a parsley pesto in the same way you make your favorite version of basil pesto. Dry parsley if you must, but it’s color is dull and the flavor is similar to notebook paper.

• Parsley butter will also preserve the color and flavor better than drying and freezes well. Read Herbal Butters and Oils: Garden Herb Butter to learn more.

Remove the stems in recipes calling for fresh parsley.

I always plant and grow twice as much parley as I need because parsley is a wonderful choice for attracting black swallowtail butterflies. Curley and flat-leaf parsley have a very high vitamin C content. It also contains vitamin A, B1, B2, calcium, iron, and anti-inflammatory flavonoids.

Other herbs in a butterfly garden should include dill and fennel.

Parsley, dill and fennel are taking over my Zone 6 garden. If you let these herbs self-seed they will come up earlier and hardier than the seeds you sow this spring. If you are not obsessed with growing plants in straight lines or rows, the self-sown plants are a bargain. They don’t all come up at once, which will extend your harvest season.

Seed Packet Giveaway!

Flat leaf parsley photo by Renees Garden

My “Free Seed Packet” giveaways are attracting readers to this Herb Companion Blog and, the seed companies are very generous. I love introducing you to some of my favorite seed sources. In addition to the volunteer parsley, I am growing Italian ‘Gigante’ parsley from Renee’s Garden.

There are a lot of new herb gardeners out there. So, when I mention seed sources, they consistently deliver the products they advertise on time with a generous seed count. Their seeds thrive in my garden. Renee’s Garden has volunteered three packets of Italian ‘Gigante’ parsley to give away. It is not too late to plant seed. Just be mindful of the moisture and never let the soil or seedlings dry out.

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