Category Archives: My Gardens

What works and doesn’t work in the home garden. Great garden ideas, practices, blooms and growing suggestions

DIY Carrot Boxes for raised beds

Grow carrots in a box

(Plus, after you grow these carrots, there’s Mom’s Carrot Cake)

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.

Metal raised bed corners make for quick, easy assembly.

Metal raised bed corners make for quick, easy assembly.

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.

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“Sunshine Orange and Yellow” carrots from Renee’s Garden. Wonderful simply oven roasted. photo: Patsy Bell Hobson

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

You might like:

How can you make a soup rich?  Add 14 carrots (carats) to it.

Mom’s Carrot Cake

with cream cheese frosting

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

3 eggs

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.

Cream cheese frosting

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.

Lettuce think Spring

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Renee Shepherd

Renee Shepherd

 

I met Renee Shepherd at my first Annual GWA Symposium*. I admit to being a little star struck meeting Renee of Renee’s Gardens.

“You’re Renee! Of Renee’s Gardens! I recognized you because you look just like your picture,” I said.

She was kind enough not to say anything.

It was about that time when I realized that I sounded like I had the IQ of a seed packet. “OMG, I just told this woman who she was.” 

Then, I quickly left, praying that Renee had not read my name tag.

Growing Salad Greens

Spring greens, spinach, strawberries with balsamic dressing.

Spring greens, spinach, strawberries with balsamic dressing.

I always order way too much seed for the spring salad bowl.  Lettuces, arugula, radishes, scallions, and spinach come up by the crisper full. I love salads. Plus, I like those generous seed packets that have enough seeds for succession planting all season. I will always plant more lettuces and radishes every single week of the spring until it just gets too hot.

baby romaines

Thin small lettuces to allow room for the others to grow.

I can never have too many spring greens, baby leaf lettuces, chopped salad, wilted lettuce. Top with chive blossoms or lacy chervil leaves. Serve with the lightest of dressings.

Renee’s Garden Seeds has a big gourmet greens selection. The only problem will be limiting your salad selections to the size of your garden. I like Renee’s combo selections because the seed combination’s are a thrifty way to get a lot of variety into a small garden.

Container lettuce, “Ruby & Emerald Duet” is a perfect pairing of emerald-green baby butterhead rosettes with red and crispy mini leaf lettuce. The “Caesar Duo” romaine lettuce combo of red and green baby size lettuces. These Romaines are the foundation of the best homemade Caesar salads you’ll ever make.

Romaines also grow to crispy, crunchy leaves, perfect on sandwiches. The “cut and come again” mescluns are a jumble of color, size and texture in containers or hanging baskets. Lettuces, radish and green onions will be gone before you need the baskets and containers for their warm weather annuals.

Last spring I tried the “Paris Market Mesclun”, a mix of several baby lettuces, chicory, endive, and arugula. Small successive plantings stretched the flavors, textures and colors of this “cut and come again” mix through the whole spring.

Yes, there is a real Renee. And yes, she selects, grows and eats this stuff before she offers it to us in her beautiful online only catalog. Plus, the website tells how to plant, grow, harvest, prepare and cook all these amazing vegetables.

Renee’s Garden Sowing in seed-starting containers to transplant into your garden will get you headed in the right direction.IMG_9430

Renee’s Garden Seeds offered seed to garden writers. It’s a great way to grow and share information about what’s new for home gardeners. For example, I grew “Little Prince” a container eggplant. I was smitten. It was beautiful. The lavender blooms alone would be reason enough to grow Little Prince.

Being a garden writer and blogger is great fun because I get to share the joy and pleasure of gardening with others.

Little Prince in bloom.

Little Prince eggplant in bloom. Dozens of delicate lavender flowers become 2 – 4 ounce eggplants. Photo: Patsy Bell Hobson

 

 

Eat Little Eggplants

Small and tender, marinade little eggplant halves and quarters then, grill. Serve as a warm side or add other grilled vegetables for a cold marinated vegetable salad.

* GWA = Garden Writers Association

How to Grow Your Own Baby Greens

 

Snowed in with home grown tomatoes

My front yard.

My front yard. Photo by Jeff Hobson

A foot of snow does not seem like a lot if you are living in the east. And we have only had a couple of snows so far. I was delighted to be snowed in, with heat, electricity and my sweetheart. We could have gotten out in an emergency. But it is fun to be snowed in.

Whole tomatoes were frozen while at the peak of ripeness.

I filled the crock pot with frozen tomatoes. It was so full, the lid couldn’t fit firmly. As the tomatoes cooked down, I skimmed off the peels and the cores.

To the thawing tomatoes, add a coarsely chopped onion and a couple crushed cloves of garlic. Add salt and pepper if you choose.

Next, decide where to go with the tomatoes. Mexican or Italian are my choices.

Turn the heat on high, leave the lid ajar to reduce the water content. Break up  tomatoes with a wooden spoon or a potato masher.

Stir two pesto cubes into the sauce.

Stir two pesto cubes into the sauce.

Later, when the tomatoes have cooked down by half, use and immersion to blend as much or a little as you prefer. I decided to go for an Italian spaghetti sauce. As the tomatoes cooked down, I added a frozen cube of roasted garlic* and a couple of cubes of pesto.*

This is where I get creative and make this sauce Italian, by adding herbs and spices.

Rich, slow cooked spaghetti sauce made with homegrown tomatoes, garlic, basil..

Rich, slow cooked spaghetti sauce made with homegrown tomatoes, garlic, basil.

 

*Cube of roasted garlic* and a cube of pesto.* In the summer when we had a huge harvest of garlic, I roasted the cured garlic, mashed it up with a little salt and olive oil. Then, I put the roasted garlic paste in  a silicone tray of mini ice-cube shapes and froze them.

*Homemade pesto, minus the cheese, was made and filled plastic ice-cube trays and frozen.

These little frozen cubes of gourmet delights are stored in ziplock freezer bags, labeled and dated.

 

Tomato triage for too many tomatoes

When there is no time to can tomatoes in the heat of summer, freeze the whole tomatoes individually and store in a freezer. When tomato overload gets too hot and hectic in August, chill.

Slow cooked pasta sauce made by cooking your home-grown tomatoes and herbs on a cold winter day, priceless. 

GBBD 1/ 2015

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day

January 15, 2015

The only thing blooming is a Meyer Lemon tree. GWA members were given seedlings years ago. Mine did not make it home.

Blooms everywhere.

Blooms everywhere. The leaves are looking better, greener, everyday.

However, this past summer, I bought a Meyer Lemon tree. It was on the clearance table at a garden center.

It sat, potted, on the patio wall. Lush and green, it was outside until threats of winter approached.

A few weeks ago, I noticed the pale, yellowing leaves and the dry container. Rescued once again, the 2 ‘ tree is thriving with gro=lights, fertilizer and water.

Then, the lemon tree began to bloom!

I am exited, because you don’t see many citrus trees in the Midwest. It has thorns. I snipped them off – like you do roses in a vase.

It is the only flower I have this January. Plus. the poinsettia from last month still looks good.

 

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The true flowers are the tiny ones in the center. PBH 

*GWA: Garden Writers Association

What’s blooming in your garden on this January bloom day?

Join in for Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day and show us what’s blooming in your garden now. It’s easy to participate. Thanks to Carol.

We can have flowers nearly every month of the year. ~ Elizabeth Lawrence

GBBD December 15

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day

December 15, 2014

I got nothin’.

I found Waxt Bulb at Lowes. This one is has one more bloom, but it is about spent. Photo PBH

I found Waxt Bulb at Lowes. This one has one more bloom, but it is about spent. Photo PBH

The only blooms in my house, indoors or out, are store-bought. Still, I have some interesting things to share. This Amaryllis, with 8 big blooms, required no soil, no water. Called a Waxt Bulb, there is not a lot of info on the web. But this is a great gift idea.

It’s just about foolproof. You don’t water it or feed it. You just watch it and enjoy. That makes it the perfect gift plant. Aunt Ellie can’t under or over water it. The cat can’t knock over a pot of soggy dirt or rocks.

Most of my Amaryllis are scheduled to bloom after the holidays, when I can really use the color.

Most of the 8 big blooms are gone by bloom day.

Most of the 8 big blooms are gone by bloom day.

 

 

 

Christmas Cactus will be in full bloom by Christmas.

Christmas Cactus will be in full bloom by Christmas. Photo PBH

It wouldn’t be Christmas without a poinsettia.

The beautiful red leaves are not the real flower of this plant. The true flowers are very small. Photo PBH

The beautiful red leaves are not the real flower of this plant. The true flowers are very small. Photo PBH

What is currently blooming at your house?

Elizabeth Lawrence, “We can have flowers nearly every month of the year,” inspired Carol of May Dreams Gardens to start 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.

 

Hardy fall vegetables

Big beautiful leeks, leafy chard, sweet baby carrots are still in the garden.

chard, leeks

Pot of Gold chard, is a garden show off now that the weather has cooled. The big leafy plants are not bitter. Photo PBH

 

There are also some young kale, broccoli and, cauliflower plants still in the garden. The plants are slow-growing and may not have time to make before the cold weather settles in. I’ll harvest the young kale leaves.

Read more:  Cool season crops organic Swiss Chard

Build a bed this fall. Get a jump or the spring garden season. Try  simple wood framed easy raised bed. Build the basic garden this fall. Get a jump on next spring’s garden.

Raised beds are a quick start for new gardeners

Baby kale is sweet and crisp.

Read more:  Cool season crops organic Swiss Chard

 Kale

The baby kale will be part of Zuppa Toscana, an Italian potato soup with sausage and kale. It’s one of the many soups collected on the Bread and Soup board on my Pinterest .

Add kale in the last minutes of simmering so it will stay bright and green.

 

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Sweet baby carrots

Carrots

Little carrots still have time to grow bigger and sweeter.

Little carrots still have time to grow bigger and sweeter.

Daucus carota. There are lots of carrots out there in the garden. They are sweet, orange and about three inches long. I’m curious, they have been thinned and are growing faster than anything else.

I’ll just watch and see how long they keep growing. Carrots as a fall crop are new in my garden. I’ll sow more carrots in the spring.

A packet of carrot seed has about a gazillion seed. Buy it and you will have enough for two crops a year. There are dozens of varieties.  You can get a generous packet of carrot seed for two bucks at Nichols Garden Nursery

I pulled up some short fat carrots, Chantenay Red Core Carrot, I think. It’s an old heirloom and it is growing well in my Southeast Missouri garden. They take up so little space in the garden.  Try to grow carrots if haven’t.

There's lots of parsley in the garden this fall.

There’s lots of parsley in the garden this fall.

Parsley

Parsley is loaded with vitamin C. It’s a real asset in chicken soup. I’ll add a heaping helping in the last minutes of simmering.

Some parsley will stay in the garden because it is a biannual and will appear early in the spring. It will flower and go to seed in the second year.

Calendula

Calendula

Calendula

And finally, perky little blooms are hard to come by in November. Calendula, “Flashback” is a volunteer. They frequently self seed. Anywhere this colorful plant appears, it’s welcomed to stay. This bright orange bloom brings pollinators to the garden.

Yaya

Yaya

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Scarlet Nantes

 

Baltimore

Baltimore

More information:

Grow 2 crops of carrots this season

How to grow long straight carrots

Nichols Garden Nursery – Fine Seeds & Herbs. Has some good carrot growing tips. Plus, they have 11 varieties of carrots. several good varieties that are under $2 a packet. I may have slightly exaggerated in saying there are a gazillion seeds in a packet.

There are approximately 18,500 carrot seeds per ounce or 650 seeds per gram.

 In the soup pot today: Washed and coarsely chopped chunks of  these Leeks, kale, carrots, onions, oregano, garlic, parsley and rosemary are simmering in a big pot destined to be a vegetable broth by tomorrow. Beef, chicken, or vegetable both will make any soup brighter, adding another levels of taste.

When cooking a chicken for chicken soup, cook it in your homemade broth instead of water. The resulting golden chicken broth is the best. Really. I mean it. Double broth may have originally come from heaven.

Night Blooms

Datura

Datura is a member of the Solanaceae family. This big, flawless white flower also called Angel’s Trumpet, Moon Lily, Jimson weed, Moon Flower or Belladonna (beautiful lady).

Only blooming in the evening, it may be tricked by cloudy days.

Only blooming in the evening, it may be tricked by cloudy days.

The flower opens after dusk and closes by mid-morning of the following day. Huge, white, trumpet-shaped flowers stay open until the sun rises. The night blooming white flower can sometimes be fooled into blooming on grey cloudy days.

Every single bloom depends on night pollinators

Every single bloom depends on night pollinators

The plant is easy to grow and produces flowers and seed plentifully. Plants ramble and spread while growing to three feet tall. It produces spikey, golfball-sized fruit.

Moonflowers are herbaceous, growing quickly and rapidly self seeds. Leaves are covered by tiny smooth hairs. The plant is a member of the Deadly Nightshade Family.

Some species of Datura have been used by native peoples for the plant’s halucinogenic alkaloids. People trying to imitate Native American ceremonies have poisoned themselves, sometimes fatally. All parts of all Datura plants are poisonous and can be fatal if ingested.
The Solanaceae family includes potato (Solanum tuberosum); tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum); and pepper (Capsicum annuum).

pollinators flock to moonflowers.

pollinators flock to moonflowers.

“Jimson weed” may have been corrupted from “Jamestown.” Early colonists were said to behave strangely after eating the plant when no other food was available.

 

 

More White flowers of the night

Nicotiana

nicotianan alata tobacco sweet scented bloomer in the afternoon  and evening.

nicotianan alata tobacco sweet scented bloomer in the afternoon and evening.

White flowers of the night

Nicotiana

Sweet white flowers a mildly fragrant in the evening. It took two or three years before I finally got this to bloom. The seed is about the size of this period → . ←

Collecting  these seed is not easy. But they do self seed quite well.

Collecting these seed is not easy. But they do self seed quite well.

Nicotiana alata is a species of “Nicotiana” tobacco. It is also called Jasmine Tobacco. The unwieldy 24″+ stems bloom freely producing gazillions of seed. Just now, there are dozens (maybe 100s) of the tiny plants coming up around every single square paver on my patio. After days and days of rain, the ity bitty seed have washed down between the pavers. and started to grow.

nicotianan alata tobacco sweet scented bloomer in the afternoon  and evening.

Nicotiana alata tobacco sweet-scented bloomer in the afternoon and evening.

I added this to my worry list. It would be hard to pull the plants up without destroying the lush green moss. But I think the first frost will kill them off. The plant is only winter hardy to USDA Zones 10-11. I’m in 6A, SE Missouri.

The good news, it will be gone at first frost.

 

More night-blooming white flowers, Datura.

pollinators flock to moonflowers.

pollinators flock to moonflowers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Office

Best coffee in town

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Summer on the deck.

C. L. Fornari  posted a photo of her summer office on facebook that made me smile. She is the inspiration for the following photos of my outdoor office which is also the library.

My big backyard

Patio

Morning coffee is served on the patio.

Morning coffee is served on the patio.

I step out of the kitchen and onto the patio for coffee most mornings. A variety of mints and herbs grow around the patio. It is the ideal place to set the sun tea jar early in the day.

Hummingbirds love the flowers and hanging baskets. Some of the patio plants are trial plants from Proven Winners. They hang from the pergola on the patio so I can keep an eye on what’s new.

The flowering nicotiana and giant overgrown celosa attract the pollinators and bummers.

Morning coffee on the patio.

Privacy Screen of  purple morning glories.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There's always coffee or iced tea at the "office".

There’s always coffee or iced tea at the “office”.

Deck

On the deck, a drip irrigation system keeps the plants looking good. Every spring some bird of some kind will decide to make a nest and raise a family on deck.

My favorite coffee shop.

My favorite coffee shop.

A huge cypress tree provides shade and refuge for the songbirds and hummers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gardening and writing about gardening are always best done outside.

Gardening and writing about gardening are always best done outside.

Extended release fertilizer was added when the baskets were planted.

Extended release fertilizer was added when the baskets were planted.

 

The secret is to keep the plants well watered.

The secret is to keep the plants well watered.

 

Today’s Harvest Basket 9/28/14

Today’s Harvest Basket September 28,1914

Tomatoes, hot and sweet peppers, sage

Food is just coming in “dribs and drabs”, as grandmother would say.

A little bit of this, a little bit of that.

A little bit of this, a little bit of that. Tomatoes, peppers, and herbs.

Happy Birthday to our resident hole digger and full-time weeder. His birthday dinner will be all locally grown (in my garden or in the surrounding counties.)

Everything except for the pasta. It was a very bad year for macaroni in the garden. It doesn’t grow here in Southeast Missouri, USA

Jules is one of the unsung hero’s of the garden, chasing moles, resetting the stones in the walkway once the culprit is finally caught. Most of all, when we both stumble inside at the end of a long, hard day, I will say I forgot to turn off the water, bring in the tools, whatever.) Out he goes to solve the problem. Jules is the apple of my eye.

Cooler fall weather means apples are plentiful. Missouri has a bounty of apples.

 

Apples

Honey Crisp, big, juicy, crisp.

Honey Crisp, big, juicy, crisp.

Speaking of apples, they are here, every kind you can imagine. I had to take out a second mortgage to buy the first Honeycrisps that arrived in the area. They are big enough to share, crisp and sweet as any eating apple you ever tasted.

Because this young apple has quickly developed such a big following. The Grocer charges more than double the price of other apples.

It takes five to six years for Honeycrisp to produce fruit. They grow best in cold weather states, like Minnesota.

Honeycrisp apple is a cross between Macoun apple and Honey Gold apples. Developed by University of Minnesota.

It will not come true when grown from seed. Honeycrisp apple flowers must be pollinated by another apple variety. Even a crabapple will do.

They are pricey apples. But I love them for fresh eating. For making homemade applesauce, pies, fried apples, I choose a more affordable variety.

Applesauce or apple pie filling are a good idea to start home canning. The weather is cool, the work in your garden has slowed down, apples are plentiful most everywhere.

Apples as a first home canning project

This is a favorite apple pie recipe for a fall apple bounty.

Sausage and apple pie a fall favorite

Make it a brunch dish using good breakfast sausage. For dinner, I use sweet Italian sausage. Honestly, I don’t need a reason, the pie is one my fall favorites.

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