Category Archives: My Gardens

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

It’s Asparagus time!

Freeze It

Buy all you can, here’s how to freeze it for later.

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Big fat purple asparagus spears turn green when cooked.

 

 

 

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The best way to preserve asparagus is by freezing.

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.

How To Freeze

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.

  • small spears for 2 minutes,
  • medium spears for 3 minutes and,
  • large spears for 4 minutes.

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.

My Garden Post

Vertical Gardens

Grow, flowers, herbs or vegetables vertically.

Grow, flowers, herbs or vegetables vertically. Photo: My Garden Post.

First Look

How my garden grows

I’m growing a whole vegetable garden on the deck in just 4 square feet. It’s a new vertical garden project for the summer. My Garden Post is set up in full sun with drip irrigation.

My goal is to grow a whole vegetable garden on the  5 ‘4″ tall post. There are 2  large, 15″ pots and 3 smaller, 10″ pots.

Imagine a 2 ft. x 2 ft vegetable garden. That is a whole new definition of small space gardens.

If you think you don’t have room for homegrown tomatoes, try My Garden Post.

The instructions that come with the kit are clear and easy to follow. There’s even a video online for the post assembly and the irrigation system. Watch the video and assembly is a snap.

Starter plants in My Garden Post.

Starter plants in My Garden Post.

Build this well constructed and solid post with No Tools.

I suggest you get the irrigation kit when you order My Garden Post. You will need a pair of scissors and a tape measure to complete the irrigation system.

It’s been Too Cold for growing sensitive plants outside. So I started seedlings indoors. Here’s what My Garden Post looks like with the starter plants.

You can buy My Garden Post from this Oh! Grow Up Blog we both benefit. You save money and I get credit for your order using this code: 50offMGP at checkout to get $50 worth of savings for My Garden Post with Drip Irrigation.

My Garden Post sent the original post to me free of charge so I could demonstrate how easy it is to assemble, install the irrigation, and grow lots of food in a tiny space.

My Garden Post  Use the coupon code: 50offMGP 

Canning Cents: The Money-saving Whole-foods Canning Handbook

Canning Cents: The Money-saving Whole-foods Canning Handbook Paperback

By Stephanie Peterson

Canning Cents: The Money-saving Whole-foods Canning Handbook Paperback  – By Chef Stephanie Peterson

Canning Cents: The Money-saving Whole-foods Canning Handbook Paperback – By Chef Stephanie Peterson

If you read cookbooks like some folks read novels, Canning Cents will be to your taste.

The book opens with home canning basics, written clearly and simply. Home Canning Basics is uncomplicated and important information for beginners. Experienced canners can use this brush up because food safety is important.

Many people grow who a garden and preserve their harvest do so because they like to know where their food comes from, like eating chemical free foods, and want to save money.

I like growing and making gourmet foods that I would never spend the money on. Delis and fancy food stores sell Red Bell Pepper Relish for a whopping $6 a jar. With Chef Stephanie Peterson’s recipes, you literally make pickles and relishes for a few cents a jar.

Release any air bubbles before canning. Photo PBH

Release any air bubbles before canning. Photo PBH

The chef has blended herbs and spices that will turn a local apple harvest into of Apples in Cinnamon Syrup. Her unique recipe creates a generous 6 pints that just might send you back to the orchard or farmers market for more apples.
Those Apples in Cinnamon Syrup, Tomatoes with French Herbs, Sweet and Hot Corn Relish, are perfect gifts from the garden. Once your friends taste Black Forrest Jam, expect hints and requests for a jar every year.

The collection of canned tomatoes with either Italian, Mexican or, French herbs, will open the door to limitless recipes next winter. This cookbook gives first time canners the confidence to get started and offers a welcome recipe change-up for long time gardeners and veteran  canners.

IMG_1832Stephanie Peterson’s chatty comments above each recipe make you think you’re using the recipes of an old friend. Some, she’s even updated from her grandmother’s recipes.

Canning Cents will help you gather everything you need to preserve money-saving whole foods before the garden explodes. You will be ready to transform cucumbers to pickles with Peterson’s pickling tips and recipes.

Budget conscious cooks will appreciate the canned meat, stews and soup stocks. Whether you grow your food or shop at the farmers market, these recipes will save you money. This book is one to add to your collection.

ISBN-10: 1462115233

Radishes are easy

Radish row markers

RG pink punch round Radishes

Pink Punch perfect globes that are crisp and mild.

  • Put radishes to work in your spring garden. Because the seeds germinate quickly, plant them at the beginning and end of other vegetable rows as living markers.
  • Mix in rows or blocks of lettuces and spring greens with radish seed to help space and thin young plants.
  • Sow every two weeks throughout the spring, for an extended season. Save extra seed to sow again in the fall.
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The first garden treats each spring are crunchy and spicy radishes.

 

The star of the salad garden was Crimson Crunch. A bright red radish with snow-white flesh, these perfectly round radishes are crisp and crunchy. If I could grow just one radish, it would be Crimson Crunch.

I planted these radishes in the corner of the garden and forgot about them. When I discovered them, they were huge. Probably, they measure 1 ½ inch diameter. And, they are NOT HOT!

Watermelon radishes.

Watermelon radishes.

These are beautiful red globes are solid and crispy, not spongy. Crimson Crunch is mild, perfectly smooth and round. This fall, they grew faster, milder and bigger than last spring.

Another pretty radish that is the star of my fall garden is the imported French Breakfast. Very crisp bi-color radishes, grow quickly in cylindrical shapes and perfect ball shapes.

Black radish, Purple Plum radish.

Black radish, Purple Plum radish.

French Breakfast radish from Renee’s Garden  includes both shapes in one packet. I still have a few in the ground, mostly just to see how well they keep.

Sparkler Radish

Sparkler radishes are great dippers on the veggie tray.

When you order radish seed, order extra. They are always a good spring salad accent and I will always plant them in a fall garden. Red globe radishes have plenty of potassium, vitamin C and folate.

Because they come up so quickly, use radishes as row markers as you plant other vegetables in the garden. Mix them and plant in with lettuce and spinach greens. Peppery radish sprouts are great on salad or sandwiches.

Serving suggestions:IMG_1050

  • Crostini with herb butter and radish slices.
  • Add snow peas, chopped radish to chicken or tuna salad.
  • Egg salad with grated radish and chopped chives
  • Eat radishes slices with a thin layer of sweet butter or olive oil and light sprinkle of salt. 
French Breakfast

“Petit Dejeuner” radish. Thinly slice radishes and serve on a lightly buttered baguette slices.

Radishes are also the last thing out of the garden in the fall. In mid November after a couple of frosts, I picked radishes in my zone 6 southeast MO USA garden.

Fresh asparagus recipes and growing tips

  • Fresh is always best

  • Best Asparagus Recipe

  • Purple Passion Asparagus

Visit the local farmers market or grow your own.

FRESH IS ALWAYS BEST

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.

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I bought asparagus crowns at http://www.gurneys.com

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.

  • Stock up on asparagus while it is fresh and locally grown. Freezing is the best  way to preserve the color and flavor.

BEST ASPARAGUS RECIPE

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Fettuccine with asparagus, nutmeg, fresh lemon, Parmesan cheese.

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.

g06405Enjoy this original recipe for Fettuccine with Asparagus

◊ Must try recipe for Sweet and Spicy Szechuan Asparagus from the California Asparagus Commission.

◊ Growing Asparagus in Missouri guide sheet

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.

PURPLE PASSION ASPARAGUS

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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.

 

You might also like  It’s asparagus time!  – How to select and freeze.

Look for my ASPARAGUS EVERYTHING PIN

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DIY Carrot Boxes for raised beds

Grow straight carrots

(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.

 

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