Wednesday April 13, 2016
When I stopped by the Branson Candy Kitchen to visit Grandmother and Aunt Macy, it was a hot, clear Ozarks summer day threatening to reach 100 degrees again. Summer is the grand-daughter of Macy and the great-grand daughter of my grandmother.
Aunt Macy said “Summer, you remember your cousin, don’t you? This here is Patsy Kay, your cousin.”
“Hello Cousin”, Summer said. And then my cutest little cousin ran out the back door.
Grandmother and Auntie kept making pecan pralines while I sat in the company chair watching and talking. Every now and then, I was the beneficiary of an imperfect handmade praline.
You can’t sell the ugly ones. Everyone wants a beautiful praline. Yes, I ate the ugly pralines, the things you do for family…
Summer ran in the door with a hand full of Nekked Ladies and thrust them at me. “Surprise! Here cousin. Flowers for you!”
Oh! Thank you, Summer.
What are they cousin?
I’m sitting right in front of MY grandmother and I am not about to tell this cute little three year old that those flowers are called Naked Ladies.
You know the answer to that, Summer. You told me when you walked in the door: Surprise! They are Surprise Lilies.
And so, sweet Summer, every year when these bold lilies pop up, I’ll always think of you. One more thing, Thank you for the Surprise Lilies.
A harsh winter and long rainy spring took its toll on spring blooms and my roses. But now, in the peak of production and seed making, many flowers are blooming with endless enthusiasm.
My zinnias have been the show off flowers this summer. Using galvanized watering cans, I’ve fill bucket of the back with zinnia arrangements. All the flowers are from a few packets of seed from Renee’s Garden.
The Neked Ladies or Surprise lilies have multiplied every year, becoming thicker and more beautiful.
Since I am the only southerner in our home, okra seldom makes it into the garden. My husband, Mr TD&H, helpfully weeded all the okra seedlings out of the garden every year.
I love okra’s big, soft yellow flowers, so, I planted a few seed in the flower beds. The variety is over 8′ tall and steadily producing. Picked small, okra makes the best refrigerator pickles.
Make an extraordinary dish like authentic New Orleans Gumbo and even my California Dreamer will eat okra. Occasionally. Try my version of fried okra.
I was fortunate to meet Elizabeth Lawrence. In her book, she wrote: “We can have flowers nearly every month of the year.”
As she signed my much used copy of the book, she said she was pleased that someone was actually putting the book to good use.
Carol of May Dreams Gardens started Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. On the 15th of every month, garden bloggers from all over the world publish what is currently blooming in their gardens, and leave a link in Mr. Linky and the comments of May Dreams Gardens.
It’s fun. GBBD ends up being a journal of your garden’s year round floral display.
Little white trumpet flowers, Nicotiana alata are popping up where they please. They have volunteered from last years plants.
The old faithful geraniums, marigolds and nasturtium just keep on blooming nonstop. Rose of Sharon’s, Hydrangea and hibiscus are all in full bloom.
There is more, but you have other blogs to read and I need to water my flowers.
Zucchini is coming on daily. So far, picking squash when it is 6 or 7″ long, is working. I see a chocolate zucchini cake in our future…
Green beans are in a small patch we must collect a few pickings for a meal. In a couple of days, cucumber production will explode. For now, there are enough cucumbers for fresh eating.
There are plenty of Sun Gold cherry tomatoes for salad every day. The few red slicer tomatoes from My Garden Post were used for the first BLT of the season.
Read about the garlic and onions curing in the shade on the porch. Its garlic season
is all about the first juicy red tomatoes of the season. Those early full-sized tomatoes were grown on two foot tall plants!
The garlic bulbs are dug up, but there is much more to do to preserve the harvest. Handle freshly dug garlic gently. Bulbs can easily bruise.
Spread out bulbs away from direct sun with good air circulation. Allow the roots and entire stalk to dry, turning brown. The bulbs are ready to clean up and store.
Cut the stalks about an inch above the garlic bulb. Clip off the roots. Carefully wipe off the dirt with a soft brush or cloth. Try not to remove many layers of skin.
This year I grew two kinds of garlic, Chesnok Red Garlic and California Early Garlic.
With long, warm fall at planting time, I could have waited until November, instead of planting cloves in October.
The long, cold rainy spring is also part of the reason I had a smaller harvest of garlic.
Learn more about growing organic garlic, onions and shallots.
Herb Bouquets include garlic scapes.
The purple-striped hardneck has large and easy-to-peel cloves. I’m growing it because Chesnok Red is a good baking and a good storing garlic. (4 – 6 weeks.)
The garlic scapes of the hardneck garlic makes for a secondary harvest. Use scapes for vinegar, stir fry, pesto. Expect about 15 garlic bulbs per pound and approximately 9 or 10 cloves per bulb.
These garlic bulbs grew smaller than the California Early Garlic. Chesnok wins awards as an excellent baker. I’ll be using those smaller bulbs to make creamy roasted garlic.
The California Early Garlic was harvested two weeks earlier. The bulbs are big and white. For the past three years, I have success growing this popular American garlic.
These California Early Garlic bulbs are mild enough to be used raw in recipes or fresh pickles. This is not a hot garlic. It’s a good choice for mild garlic flavor, not heat.
Known as a long keeper, California Early Garlic is a softneck garlic, good for braiding. I like the mild flavor and large cloves. There are about 12 garlic bulbs per pound and 10-16 cloves per bulb.
Less weeds and insect damage
Mixed lettuces make the most colorful baskets.
Pansy flowers are edible and a colorful addition to your salad bowl.
You might like Wilted Lettuce
Buy all you can, here’s how to freeze it for later.
Big fat purple asparagus spears turn green when cooked.
Take advantage of local farmers markets and market gardeners for fresh local asparagus. The best flavor, availability and prices will be in April and May.
Wash thoroughly and break spears where they easily snap. Compost or reserve the woody stems for vegetable soup stock.
Sort spears into similar sizes. Cut spears into even lengths to fit freezer bags or freezer containers.
Prepare a large pot of boiling water and a container of ice water. Blanch no more than 1 pound of similar sized spears at a time.
Lift asparagus from the boiling blanching water and plunge them in ice water for 5 minutes to quickly cool. Drain on cotton towels.
Package, seal, label, date and quickly freeze.
Properly blanched and packaged asparagus will hold the flavor, color and nutritional content in the freezer for up to 10 – 12 months.
Powerful Perennials allows you to focus on your gardening goals, whether that’s fragrance, attracting butterflies, or creating a color-splashed river of the earliest blooms. This book takes into account short growing seasons, elevation and snow pack.
Powerful Perennials: Enduring Flower Gardens that Thrive in Any Climate by Nedra Secrist, has all the information you need to master cold climate gardening. Learning how to invest in the right perennial for the right location will save you time, money and backbreaking work. You will not be one of the suckers impulse buying on the first warm spring day.
More than just dealing with cold climates, Powerful Perennials is a plant-life saving reference for gardeners dealing with dry climates, poor soil quality and ill-mannered wildlife. Plant propagation and division is one of the best money-saving reasons to buy perennials.
Each chapter will help you select the best plants for your garden. For example, start with a handful of Bearded Iris and you will eventually end up with a river of colorful iris. Divide them every few years for healthier, more frequent blooms. Learn how to hybridise and create your own iris variety.
Each plant recommendation includes simple and clear information about how well it tolerates droughts, cold seasons, wildlife, and native soils. Choosing the perfect plant doesn’t guarantee success. Powerful Perennials guides you through proper planting, care, and a bit of history.
While this book is written with the most challenging environments in mind, it is not limited to the Rocky Mountain states. Remember the Rocky Mountains stretch through Wyoming’s Zones 3 and 4, Idaho and Colorado’s Zones 4 and 5 and Utah’s wildly varying Zones 4 through 8. When choosing perennials in the Rockies, snow pack, elevation and freeze-thaw fluctuations must be considered.
Living in the South or Midwest, perennials much less complicated. Still, this book is very helpful in making the long-term investment in perennial additions to your home landscape wherever you live. Chapters on choosing the right tools, metal garden art accents, and container gardening are helpful and inspiring.
About the Author: Nedra Secrist teaches gardening seminars and uses hands-on training courses to help gardeners succeed. Nedra and her husband own Secrist Gardens , a perennial nursery with locations in Brigham City, Utah, and St. Charles, Idaho.
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Asparagus grows so fast you can almost see it. In good weather, an asparagus spear can grow 10″ in a 24-hour period. Each crown sends up spears for about 6-7 weeks during the spring.
The outdoor temperature determines how much time will be between each picking. Early in the season, there may be 4-5 days between pickings and as the days and nights get warmer, you may have to pick every day.
It is a lot of hard work to establish a good asparagus bed. Considering that the plants will produce steadily for about 15 or 20 years, it’s worth it to give asparagus crowns a good start in a permanent home.
The diameter of the spear does not indicate the quality or flavor of the vegetable. As the plants become older, the stems become larger in diameter.
Asparagus is high in Folic Acid and a good source of potassium, fiber, vitamin B6, vitamins A and C, and thiamine.
My favorite asparagus recipe
◊Fettuccine with Asparagus
8-10 fresh asparagus spears (or one bunch)
3 Cups water (salt to taste)
10-12 ounces fettuccine
2 Tablespoons butter (or 1 tablespoon margarine and 1 Tablespoon olive oil)
Juice of one small lemon
freshly ground pepper to taste
freshly ground nutmeg to taste (1/4 teas)
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
Cut each spear on the bias in one inch lengths. Bring water to boil (add salt to taste). Add asparagus, when water returns to boil, cook one minute.
Drain and reserve three or four Tablespoons cooking liquid. Drop fettuccine in water, cook to Al Dente. Drain.
Heat butter in pot that cooked fettuccine. Add asparagus, pasta, pepper, cooking liquid and lemon. Toss to blend.
Sprinkle on nutmeg. Serve with cheese on the side. For variety, add a couple of Tablespoons of toasted walnuts or chopped parsley.
Enjoy this original recipe for ◊Fettuccine with Asparagus
◊ Must try recipe for Sweet and Spicy Szechuan Asparagus from the California Asparagus Commission.
which illustrates the parts of an asparagus plant, clear care instructions and the best way to start an asparagus bed.
What I’ve learned
I started my first asparagus bed with older heirloom varieties. The plants were productive and the produce was tasty. Plus, there was a bonus, I thought. Asparagus is a dioecious plant which simply means they are separate female and male plants. Oh yea! Even the birds will be happy enjoying the red berries or seed on the female asparagus plants.
Well, those seed are the reason we think that sometimes we find wild asparagus plants. All those little asparagus plants springing up from seed, come up with the vigor and enthusiasm of a weed These cute but scrawny baby asparagus plants self seed everywhere – in the yard, flower beds, sidewalk cracks and vegetable garden.
This time, as I establish a permanent asparagus bed, I’m starting with
Asparagus officinalis “Purple Passion”
Purple Passion asparagus has burgundy colored spears with 20% more natural sugar than green asparagus. The sweet, tender, almost nutty flavored stalks are both cold and heat tolerant.
Very productive. Male and female plants. Self-pollinating.
I’ve been making mini raised beds. Little one foot wooden boxes without a top or bottom and 8″ tall. It is a little raised bed for the raised bed.
Here’s how: cut four 2 x 8 x 12 wooden pieces. Cedar lasts longer, pine is cheaper. Scrap lumber makes me happy. I call it a Carrot Box because I made it to grow carrots.
Loosen and add organic matter or compost to the raised bed. Set the box in your raised bed garden. Fill with a light soiless mix.
Thinly sow carrot seed. Cover. Firm. Water. Details are on my hub page Grow carrots weeks ahead of the last frost.
For the best results, thin the carrots to 2″ apart.
Using a double-deep container with extra fine soil will be the key to growing carrots. It is critical that you fertilize and water carrots regularly.
Rose Marie Nichols McGee at Nichols Garden Nursery has one of the best gardening blogs, The Gardener’s Pantry and newsletters.
She has good information How to raise carrots without using a spade or hoe
I don’t know where the original recipe came from, but it is the best.
1 1/2 Cups vegetable oil
1 3/4 Cups white sugar
2 Cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
2 Cups peeled and grated carrots
1 Cups chopped pecans
1 (8 oz.) can crushed pineapple
Beat together oil, sugar and eggs until well combined. In a bowl sift flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and cloves. Add to the eggs and sugar. Mix well. Drain the pineapple, add carrots, nuts. Mix well. Pour into 9 or 10 inch tube pan or a 9 x 13 inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or check with toothpick.
2 (8 oz.) cream cheese, room temperature
1 stick butter, room temperature
1 box powdered sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
Cream cheese and butter together. Add sugar gradually until complete box has been added. Add vanilla. Refrigerate for an hour, then frost cake. Use all frosting.