Category Archives: Oh Grow Up!

A southeast Missouri gardeners journal.

It’s still Christmas, for Christ’s sake!

Christmas ain’t over. Any woman who just gave birth knows that. This is just the beginning.

I don’t get why you shut down, turned off and boxed up Christmas. I choose to keep Christmas just a little longer. It’s now time for the 12 days of Christmas.

If you go to a Catholic church, you know Christmas is really the beginning. It’s the Grand Opening of the holiday, not the grand finale. Christmas hymns, we are just getting started.

It took days, weeks, maybe even months, of wrapping, baking and planning. There were wishes to grant, ornaments to polish, and prayer lists to be prayed. Think of all those gifts to be made, ordered, mailed, hidden, wrapped, returned, eaten.

I’m still looking for that one perfect Christmas gift that I hid somewhere I would never forget and Jeff would never find it.

You don’t just box up the nativity set, blow out the candles, fold up the tree and walk away. The star of the show just arrived. It’s still Christmas, for Christ’s sake!

If you are one of those Keep Christ in Christmas folks, do that now. Charities are still accepting donations, folks are still homeless, hungry, cold, and someone you know is thinking about committing suicide tonight.

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Do you see what I see?

A Bright Christmas Story

He might not have seen this Christmas.

Jeff woke up concerned about his rapidly failing vision. He was seeing visions of white streaks and flurries of black rain.

This was the third day of these troublesome visions and he called the ophthalmologist. The entire Eye Center was out for the holidays until after the new year. But the receptionist could make an appointment for the following week. Would you like for me to make an appointment for January 6th for you?

Since he thought he was loosing his sight, waiting two weeks for an appointment, seemed too long. He went to Immediate Care because today the situation is very much worse. We can’t help you with that kind of thing, they said.

Neither of us said it out loud, but because we both have multiple sclerosis, we thought about the very real possibility of sudden blindness. Since he has sight in only one eye, we always worry about that. They could call the eye specialist who is on call… if you think we need to….

Yeah, why don’t you call, Jeff said. And we waited for a call. Finally, the “on call” doctor called back and said come in right now.

Jeff had one of the most thorough eye exams. Then, Doctor Tatyana I. Metelitsina came in, did some more exams, asked a number of questions and listened to Jeff’s every word. Retinal detachment is an emergency we learned.

By the time she had diagnosed the problem, the surgery room and equipment was ready and waiting. The doctor explained the problem. She told him what he was going to do, what to expect and asked if he had any questions.

Dr Metelitsina completed the laser surgery in a matter of minutes. It was her fourth surgery of the day. For four families, this Christmas really will be much more merry and bright.

Not every Christmas story ends wrapped up with a bow. But this one did.

After story:

The longer retinal detachment goes untreated, the greater your risk that you will go blind. The warning signs of retinal detachment include the sudden appearance of floaters and flashes and reduced vision. Contacting an eye specialist (ophthalmologist) right away can help save your sight.

Or, in other words, go with your gut. If you feel like you need medical care before the doctor’s office Christmas party, Get It. If your wife thinks you should quickly follow-up on a health care matter, do it before she tears of the head of the cute little receptionist who thinks you should wait two weeks.

May all your Christmases be bright.

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Grow your own leeks, garlic and onions

A Little Leek Love

Known best in French cooking, leeks are often overlooked in our home gardens. Leek Potato Soup, or vichyssoise, is a cold soup that every French chef has mastered. I use leeks in potato leek soup, three onion pie, and vegetable soup.

Leeks are expensive at the grocery store but you can grow them for pennies. They take up little space, have very few pest or disease problems and can be grown in containers.

Plant leeks deeper than onions. Continue to mulch plants as they grow to increase the tender white part.

Plant leeks deeper than onions. Continue to mulch plants as they grow to increase the tender white part.

Grow leeks from seed or starts. It will probably be your first late-winter or early spring crop. Onions, leeks, garlic can take a late snow or freeze.

Tender young leeks can be used as scallions or green onions.

Plant starts deep er than onions. The deeper, the better able to retain moisture. Select well worked soil with plenty of organic matter.

As leeks grow, continue to mound soil over the stems to blanch them, creating more of the white, tender part of leek. Consistent moisture will encourage tender leeks. Thin leeks to grow six inches apart.

Use only the tender green and white parts.

Use only the tender green and white parts.

Grow vegetables – Make Soup

Grow your own soup. Garden fresh vegetables are loaded with nutrients and cost very little to make. If you don’t think you have time to make soup, make a double batch and freeze half for a busy day. Make soup in the crock pot. Soup usually tastes even better the next day. What could be faster than that?

Chili, chicken and noodle soup, vegetable soup and stews of any kind are better and usually have less salt when made from scratch. I love soup and will be sharing some soup gardening and soup making tips from time to time.

Potato Leek Soup

Jazz up your favorite potato  or cauliflower soup recipe by adding leeks.

Potato soup is a winter time favorite of mine. The leeks in the garden will continue to grow and I will pull them as I need them for Potato Leek soup. Simply add leeks or replace the onions in your favorite potato soup recipe.

I make this big batch because this soup is even better the next day. You can make half this recipe, but I bet you will wish you made more.

Basic Potato Soup

Makes about 8 servings (about 2 quarts).

  • 6 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • water to cover
  • 6 celery ribs, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped OR, chop 2 or 3 leeks
  • 6 tablespoons butter, cubed
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1-1/2 cups milk
  • nutmeg to garnish

Directions:

In a large sauce pot, cover chopped potatoes and carrots with water. Cook in water until fork tender.

Drain and set aside carrots and potatoes, reserving cooking water.

In a Dutch oven, while potatoes are cooking, saute onion and celery in butter until tender. Sprinkle in flour.

Slowly add milk. Bring to gentle boil, stirring until thickened. Add carrots and potatoes, salt and pepper. Gradually add cooking water until the soup in the desired thickness. Taste and adjust seasonings. For smoother soup, use a potato masher or stick blender. This will thicken the soup and create a smoother texture. Add additional cooking water or milk to taste.

Grate a little nutmeg to garnish soup.

potato leek soup with sausage

Potato and Leek soup with kielbasa.

Go Gourmet:

Top your soup as you would a loaded baked potato, crispy bacon, grated cheddar cheese, green onions, a dollop of sour cream or a pat of butter.

Bake: Use baked potatoes instead of boiling potatoes.

Veggies: Add a cup of frozen or fresh vegetables in the last few minutes of cooking to thoroughly heat through all ingredients. Try green peas, chopped kale, corn

Meat: Plan on adding a half a strip of crumbled bacon on top of soup. Use crumbled chorizo or Italian sausage

Herbs: Stir in chopped parsley, celery leaves, chives or thyme.

Enrich: texture and flavor with 4 ounces of sour cream, plain Greek yogurt, cream, butter. Add a little at a time.

Leeks, chopped

Chop tender young leeks to freeze for soups and casseroles.

If you do not like onions, try leeks. They are  milder and easier to digest. These mild alliums are beneficial for cardiovascular and digestive health. Research points to leek’s  potential to fight cancer.

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Today’s Harvest Basket

Wrapping up the summer garden.

Celery, baby leeks, carrots, red onion, white potatoes, mild little red peppers.

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You never know what you will get with carrots. This curvy carrot grew right next to the straight 10″ carrot in the basket.

As I clean up the vegetable beds, I discovered a few veggies that were overlooked during the earlier harvest. I found a few potatoes, a couple of carrots, a red onion and two tiny sweet peppers. While this may sound like the beginning of a stone soup story, it’s just end-of-summer garden clean up.

I planted a few celery plants but forgot about them hiding behind the hearty and fern like asparagus. Celery would have done much better if it had received fertilizer and mulch. You can see the many skinny little stalks.

That curvy carrot was a surprise, all the other carrots were long and straight. But they all taste the same.

What to do with leeks

Use the tender reen and white parts.

Use the tender green and white parts.

I gathered a few leeks while young and tender to clean, chop and freeze. These little leeks will go into soups, and a 3 onion pie. There are more leeks still in the garden. They will stay in the garden until I want to use them for soup or stuffing.

 

Leeks, chopped

Leeks can be frozen and later added directly to soups or casseroles.

You can continue to harvest leeks from the garden up until the soil freezes. Those few leeks will overwinter. Their giant globe shaped flowers will be amazing next summer. They attract pollinators and are a novel addition to a wildflower bouquet.

 

A little later into fall, I’ll plant garlic. I have a few tiny broccoli plants in the raised beds and pots. A window box of green beans are just coming up. So the pending rain is much-needed and I am grateful.

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Wishbone Flower (Torenia hybrid)

Plant something new.

Wishbone Flower

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Torenia or Wishbone Flower, Catalina® Pink

Wishbone Flower as container plant

I grew the Midnight Blue variety. It looks so fragile, but it can really take the heat. This is a self-cleaning plant, which means no deadheading.

In the shady bed on the patio, it had room to spread out and filled in the space with continuous blooms and bright green leaves. I grew another color the next year.

The Catalina® Pink is a nonstop bloomer that gets afternoon shade on the front porch. It does best when consistently moist and well-drained. Hummers love it.

It’s growing with more sun, shaded only in the late afternoon. Growing bushy and full, Torenia is about 12″ tall and fills the 12″ self-watering container. Generously mulch this plant to help with consistent moisture.

Adaptable annuals

I like the wide range of ways I can use Torenias. In a hanging basket, Summer Wave® Large Blue Wishbone Flower seems to be a hummingbird favorite.

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Wishbone Flower fills the hanging basket with Summer Wave® Large Blue blooms.

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Wishbone flowers are more upright where there is more sun and less water.

Wishbone flowers have had no disease or insect problems in my gardens. They can take heat and more sun than I thought. Morning sun and afternoon shade are ideal.

Wishbone Flower (Torenia hybrid)

This plant is so much more versatile than I imagined. It was planted in shade, and in part shade – part sun. The low growing annual spreads out along the sidewalk, as a beautiful ground cover and splash of color that could compliment an endless variety of gardenscapes.

I like shopping at Independent Garden Centers. Money spent locally tends to stay local. The folks that work at the non-chain garden centers and nurseries know what they are talking about. Big box stores also have wishbone flowers.

This was a trial plant from Proven Winners. The Proven Winners website has a handy garden center locator. Just type in your zip code and it will find the closest local garden centers.

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Pollinators and hummers love this plant.

Get Local will help you find the information you need. I especially like their plant recipes. For example, I’m looking for red, white and blue plant combos. Just click on “patriotic” for lots of beautiful plant combinations.

Blooming summer til frost

I learned what a valuable landscape plant this is when I visited the Overland Park Arboretum & Botanical Gardens.

Wishbone Flower (Torenia hybrid)

Overland Park Arboretum & Botanical Gardens

A leader of environmentally sound community development, the Arboretum is an educational, recreational and cultural resource for the Kansas City region. It offers homeowners, landscapers and arborists an opportunity to view and evaluate a wide variety of hybrid trees and shrubs, native to this area.
8909 W. 179 St.
Overland Park, KS 66013
913-685-3604

Wishbone Flower Catalina® Grape-O-Licious

Wishbone Flower Catalina® Grape-O-Licious

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Today’s Harvest Basket

Early summer harvest

Red and white onions, hard neck garlic, two varieties of zucchini, Chinese cabbage.
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Napa or Nappa cabbage (Brassica rapa subsp. pekinensis or Brassica rapa Pekinensis Group) is a type of Chinese cabbage. In the kitchen, cabbage becomes Kim Chi, slaw, stir-fries and Chinese chicken salad.

I pulled up the garlic today. It is probably half the harvest of last year and the bulbs are a lot smaller. My guess is that the garlic bulbs just didn’t get enough water. It is Chesnok Red Hardneck Garlic.IMG_0717

How to grow and harvest organic garlic

Chesnok Red is the best baking garlic. Not a hot garlic, Chesnok is easy peel and will keep for about 6 months.  To stretch the harvest, I roast garlic and freeze it in little cubes. Also, I pickle small jars of peeled bulbs to use later in the year.

The big bonus to growing your own garlic, is that I have plenty of garlic on hand for salsa, spaghetti sauce, dill pickles, soup and pesto.

pickled garlic

How to store and use homegrown garlic and onions

‘Sugar Shack’ Buttonbush

Buttonbush Cephalanthus occidentalis

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Buttonbush adds a new, fragrant and unusual flowering shrub to the home garden.

‘Sugar Shack’ is a buttonbush that is a show off shrub from summer through fall. Buttonbush Cephalanthus occidentalis is a native pollinator plant.

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Lovely, unusual pincushion flower attracts butterflies.

White fragrant spherical flower heads are eye-catching and attract butterflies. Buttonbush is deciduous shrub with rounded habit. In its second year in my garden, it is about 5′ tall.

Sweet white flowers appear as spherical flower heads in mid-summer. Flower heads look like a pincushion and are very attractive to bees and butterflies.
Flower heads mature into hard, red colored, spherical fruits and stay attractive from late summer through the winter.

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A new fragrant perennial. Buttonbush Cephalanthus occidentalis

Plants will tolerate wet sites and excess moisture. Sugar Shack may also be grown in patio containers. Plants bloom on new wood so pruning is best done in early spring.

This is a Proven Winners plant that was sent to me for trial. I’m using this shrub as an anchor plant that provides a background for colorful annuals. The leaves are a full deep green, perfect to show off these unusual creamy white flowers.

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Wordless Wednesday

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Today’s Harvest Basket

Early garden harvests

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Green beans, baby carrots, garlic scapes. lettuce, radishes and radish flowers.

Garlic scapes are used in pesto and pickled.

Garlic scapes are green stems and unopened flower buds of hard-neck garlic varieties.

Scapes have a mild garlic flavor and a slight sweetness, which makes them a prized addition in the kitchen. You can find them in the early summer at farmers’ markets. If you grow your own garlic, trim the scapes off before their flowers open.

This forces the plant to focus on bulb.

6/6

The Renee’s Garden Cookbook review

Cooking from the garden

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A gardeners guide from seed to table.

Most cookbooks will send you straight to the kitchen to make something good to eat. Not this one. With ”The Renee’s Garden Cookbook,” your first trip will be to the garden, and then to the kitchen.,

The recipes are quick and simple enough for everyday cooking. Your garden fresh vegetables and herbs will elevate any dish to gourmet fare. This book is perfect for those who shop at the farmers market.

Vegetables fresh from the garden

Sun warmed vegetables fresh from the garden.

300 kitchen tested recipes are easy-to-make and showcase whatever vegetables and herbs are at the peak of the season. For example, the section on Chard has tips on planting and growing, plus recipes.

Renee’s Garden Cookbook has the answer on what to do with those just-picked tomatoes or chard or, cucumbers.

When I read The Renee’s Garden Cookbook, I ordered more garden seed. The tips on growing cucumbers are interspersed with the recipes for fresh cucumbers and pickles. So, I’m thinking, “it’s not too late to plant more cucumber seed.”

Vegetables grown from Renee's Garden Seed.

Chard, eggplant and green beans.

When Renee brings in fresh vegetables from her trial gardens, she and co-author Fran Raboff get to cooking and creating new recipes. The two launch into a cooking and eating orgy. A fortunate few good friends and advisors join Fran and Renee for the recipe trials.

As a result, the recipes make the most of each harvest. Gardeners will enjoy this trip from Renee’s Garden Seed Catalog to The Renee’s Garden Cookbook. Renee offers a great combo package: The Renee’s Garden Cookbook & Easy to Grow Seed Collection at a discount.

This is a gardeners cookbook and a cook’s gardening book. Get ready to take off your garden gloves and put on your chef’s hat because, gardeners do make the best cooks.

A sampling of Renee’s Recipes include one of the most popular recipes: Lavender Shortbread. Seed packet artist, Mimi Osbone illustrates the book with her familiar watercolors of vegetables and herbs.

Nasturtium, "Cup of Sun"I hope this book will inspire you to include a few herbs and flowers in the vegetable garden. Not only are they tasty recipe additions, but will also improve vegetable pollination. Growing herbs and flowers will attract butterflies, bees and hummingbirds to your gardens.

 

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