Archive for March, 2012

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Soil Analysis: From a Bird’s Eye View

March 26, 2012

While my husband kept his eyes on the road during a Sunday Drive, I took these photos through the windshield

Amazing what the soil, and nature, can produce without our help.

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Garden Tips Hints and Cool Things

March 23, 2012

1) If you are getting ready to sow wildflower seeds, use an empty Parmesan cheese shaker. Fill with a mixture of fine sand and seeds. Then simply shake to spread the seeds as you are planting. The seeds will distribute more evenly. This will also save time.

2) Slugs and snails are coming out. Handpick or place empty 10 to 14oz cans in the ground with the rim at ground level. Fill with beer. The slugs and snails will crawl in for a delicious drink but they won’t get out.

3) Humming birds have arrived, so clean feeders and fill with sugar-water:  One part sugar to four parts water, boiled until dissolved, and completely cooled.

If you have garden tips, hints, or something cool or interesting to share, email them to inthegarden@softcom.net and I will post them along with your name.

Happy Friday!

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Springtime is Mint Time

March 21, 2012

MyFreeCopyright.com Registered & Protected

By Guest Writer Bernadine Chapman-Cruz

Mint – a plant that reigns supreme when it comes to a potent freshness that adds a fragrant aroma to your garden as well as your table. This hearty herb is diverse in culinary and curative properties ranging from the Middle East and Asian countries to Northern Europe and the Americas.

But gardeners beware. The quickly growing carpeting ground cover is considered invasive, choking out other garden plants and herbs in close proximity when planted in a flowerbed. For best results, plant mint in a separate area away from other herbs or in a container pot with saucer, so roots will not grow through the drainage hole and take hold in the soil underneath. It is best to keep mint plantings away from other herbs, as the strong mint scent can overtake milder herbs mingling aromas.

Mint flavor is cool, refreshing and aromatic. Plant either root cuttings or seeds in late spring. Choose a rich soil, in a cool, damp, moist location. Mint also tolerates full sun, but generous watering is required. Mulch to protect plants against frost. Garden mint grows profusely from underground runners, requiring cutting back when blooms appear. Thin mint frequently to discourage overgrowth. Harvest small tender leaves at soil level for strongest mint flavor.

In the realm of culinary delights, mint enhances beverages like Mint Julep and hot or iced teas. Mint flavored jellies and syrups are also popular. Many recipes call for mint as seasoning for lamb, pork, peas, potatoes and even desserts including mint flavored ice cream.

The herb is also known for its medicinal properties. For centuries mint has been linked to curatives for stomach ailments, insomnia, headaches and used as a natural diuretic. Beauty regimens including mint have been traced back to Ancient Egypt and the herb is also used as an antiseptic. Mint can also be used to freshen breath and clean teeth.

Mint is an aggressive natural insecticide in the garden, warding off mosquitoes, wasps, hornets, cockroaches and ants.

Springtime is mint time. Enjoy this pungent herb fresh from your garden.

Copyright 2012 Bernadine Chapman-Cruz

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Why Everyone Should Own Chickens

March 19, 2012

Since I wrote about the horrific fate of my layers in January, things are looking better in the hen-house. Recently, the six surviving hens started producing again. I wasn’t expecting much from them, in the way of eggs because production usually decreases at two and three years old. But these gals are giving me three to five eggs a day.

To think, I thought about giving the hens away. But there are just too many GOOD reasons to own hens. Dan and Mindy of Soulsby Farm seem to agree. They came up with the list below.

Ten Reasons why you should Own Chickens

By Soulsby Farm – A Very Small Farm

  1. Fresh Eggs daily – Much better than store-bought eggs. The egg white alone is about 33% more and it’s less expensive.
  2. Chickens have great personalities – Our favorite pastime is to sit in the back garden with a couple of cold beers and watch the chickens (they look like miniature robots).
  3. Help out with the compost pile – Chicken poo is too hot (high in nitrogen to place directly around growing plants) but it works wonders on your compost pile.
  4. They are very low maintenance – Easier than a cat or dog to maintain. Just stay on top of their food and water , clean the cage once in a while and collect eggs.
  5. You are One step closer to sustainable living – it feels good to have chickens, like you’re a real farmer
  6. Household leftovers are food for chickens – These birds eat just about anything. When I peel cucumbers or carrots or chop of mushroom stems, I save it for the chickens (along with fruit rinds and skins) everything but potatoes and garlic. Unless you want your eggs to taste like garlic.
  7. Save a chicken from factory life – Have you ever seen the crap-holes commercial chickens live in? Enough said.
  8. Pest prevention – These hens cruise around and eat up a slew of bugs like slugs, snails, leatherjackets and more.
  9. When they get old and stop laying you can eat them – I haven’t done this yet and I’m not sure I can.
  10. Be the best neighbor on the block – I thought my neighbors would complain about the chickens but in fact, it was just   the      opposite. They bring them veggie scraps and their grandchildren rush over to see the chickens upon every visit and…..wait for it…. They all get free eggs.

To read the complete article, click on the link above. While you are there, check out Dan and Mindy’s site.

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Garden Tips Hints and Cool Things

March 16, 2012

A Cool Thing:

Sunset Western Garden Book recently released its ninth edition making available a free mobile Plant Finder on your smartphone (Search for Sunset Plant Finder.) in which you can get access to more than 2,000 plants. In addition, you can search by plant name, zip code, climate zone, sun and water requirements, and type.

If you prefer a hard copy, the new addition includes 9,000 more plants, an updated plant encyclopedia, over 2,000 new plant photos, and more. Sunset Western Garden Books are available at most bookstores and retail for $34.95/flexible binding, and $44.95/ hardcover.

Tip:

1) Look for signs of powdery mildew on snapdragons, grapes, and ornamentals. Apply sulfur or potassium bicarbonate according to package instructions when the temperature is below 90 degrees.

2) Check roses for black spot, rust, and mildew.

3) Feed camellias at the end of bloom.

4) Remember to wear green tomorrow for St. Patrick’s Day.

Have a wonderful weekend!

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Tea and Scones

March 14, 2012

MyFreeCopyright.com Registered & Protected

By Guest Writer Bernadine Chapman-Cruz

Step back to the old world pleasure of enjoying tea and scones. A cup of tea, especially on a wintery day, and a plate of freshly baked scones spread with preserves made from fruit or berries from your garden, is a marriage made in heaven.

Tea has been a staple for centuries spanning cultures across the globe. A soothing cup of tea has laid claim to being an integral part of sealing deals between countries; celebrated as the elegant, delicate drink of social engagements; and presides as a fundamental component of daily dining traditions. When a cup of tea is served with a scone sweetened with a dab of clotted cream, jam or jelly, the tasty combination conjures up thoughts of coming spring.

The origin of the scone is generally attributed to Scotland, but England and the Netherlands also hold legitimate connections to the scone’s ancestry. The scone is a quick bread comprised of flour, sugar, butter, eggs, milk and salt, baked in a small round loaf, many times with the addition of dried fruits such as raisins¸ currants, apricots or cranberries. It is the perfect accompaniment for tea.

Enjoy a pot of tea, a bite of scone, and friendly conversation around the table.

To make a batch of scones assemble the following ingredients:

3 c. flour

½ c. sugar

1 T. plus 1 t. baking powder

½ t. salt

¾ c. butter (chilled)

1 egg

1 c. milk

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
  3. Cut in chilled butter.
  4. Whisk egg and milk, then add to dry ingredients until mixture is moist.
  5. Knead dough on lightly floured surface.
  6. Shape into two ½ inch thick rounds.
  7. Cut each round into 8 equal wedges prior to baking.
  8. Separate pieces to brown all sides.
  9. Bake on greased sheet for 15 minutes or until lightly brown.
  10. Optional: brush wedges with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar prior to baking.

Variations:

Add: raisins, currants, orange grated orange peel or lemon zest, apricots or cranberries  

Copyright 2012 Bernadine Chapman-Cruz 

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War on Weeds

March 12, 2012

Home gardeners wait all winter for spring, for tender shoots of green hues and rainbow-colored flower buds. Then beneath them, undesirable weeds appear indent on taking over the landscape. We hoe, dig, spray, perspire, and swear in our battle to kill them—to maintain a tidy landscape. Unfortunately, like a chronic habit they keep coming back. Nevertheless, there are other reasons to rid your yard of weeds.

Weeds:

  • Steal space, nutrients, water, and sunlight from crops.
  • Provide cover for pests and rodents.
  • Cause many allergens to people.
  • Serve as host for insects and overwintering diseases.

Before waging war against weeds, use tools that best suit your weeding preference, i.e., on your feet or on the earth with a hand tool. Select tools that fit your hand size and strength ability. If the tool is too big or heavy, the job will be harder than necessary.

Tool Care and Safety:

  • A good rule is to sharpen hoe blades every eight hours of use.
  • Sharpen the blade to a 45-degree angle with a file just enough to remove ragged portions of the blade.
  • Never leave the blade end down while working in the garden. One can easily step on the blade and send the handle flying toward the face. For the same reason, store garden hoes with blade-end facing up.

Weed Control:

  • Remove and properly dispose of weeds before they flower and go to seed. One head can contain thousands of seeds. Avoid putting weeds in a compost pile that does not remain hot (over 130 degrees F.) for several days. The seeds will not decompose.
  • Develop a regular weeding routine. Remove weeds weekly, if possible every time you see one.
  • Make sure the soil is moist (not soaking wet) one – two inches deep for easy weeding.
  • Annual weeds will die if cut at or below the soil line. Perennial weeds grow back if you don’t remove the taproot.
  • Disturb the soil as little as possible. Seeds are viable in the soil for hundreds of years waiting to germinate when the conditions are right. Cultivating the soil causes seeds to surface to the top.

 Number One Earth-Friendly Weed Control:

  • The best and easiest way to help eliminate as many weeds as possible is to use organic mulch, after you have removed all weeds. A thick layer of four – six inches will block out light required for germination of some seeds. The few weeds that do germinate easily come up—roots included—simply by using your fingers. Mulch helps retain moisture, is attractive, and environmentally friendly. (Note:  To help prevent moisture rot, disease, and insects from crawling up plants, Keep mulch three inches away from the base of tree and plants.)
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