Thursday, May 28, 2009

Mail Order Poppies

A few weeks ago one of my Facebook friends mentioned having excess poppy's she was giving away. I casually mentioned that I wished I were in her area and I'd take her up on some of them! The other day my phone rang and an unfamiliar voice said "Hi Tammy it's Pam, I have some poppy's I'm going to mail you, what's your address?"

I think we both realized that plants CAN be ordered through the mail, however I have never thought to mail some of my more aggressive plants. She mailed them when the weather was not to hot and they arrived ready to plant.

The best comment is, when I mentioned receiving the plants, Pam asked "How do they look?" "Like I would expects plants that have gone through the mail and postage stamping machines to look!"

They're planted and we got a little rain last night, so we'll see...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Stop and Smell The...

My neighbor and I were out for a walk the other night when we brushed past a beautiful fluffy lilac bush with large white flowers. At first I couldn't believe it was a lilac bush. With white flowers? But the aromatic perfume could NOT be mistaken for anything except what it was a LILAC! She picked a small branch off just to carry and inhale as we walked. it got me starting to think though, could I take a clipping of it to propagate a new lilac bush. Sure enough he answer came to me through my online research, and as it happens, it's the same technique I have used with some other cuttings.

Simply cut a stem and add rooting hormone powder to the stem, then stick it in the ground and water. I'm CERTAIN it's a little more complicated than that, but I'm willing to try. Just have to walk past the correct bush and make my clippings...

I'll keep you all posted, sometimes propagation with rooting hormones doesn't do well for me!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Pea Trellis

One of the best (in my opinion) early spring crops are fresh sugar snap peas - Yummy. My kids love them, Buggs (or resident wild bunny) loves than and I love them. If I'm lucky, and I do mean IF, I'll get out to the garden earlier than anyone else to grab a few handfuls of them... I've learned over the years too that a great pea trellis (or pea fence) can make accessing the sweet gems even easier. So let's talk about pea fences here...

One to the easiest things I have used to support the growing peas are the short metal fences sold at local hardware stores. the trouble is, they were never tall enough and often the peas swept back towards the ground and grabbed onto one another making it a jungle to pick through.

A few years ago I got the inspiration to build a pea tee-pee. My son was around 2 and I thought he might enjoy playing inside it. The trouble was the peas don't last long enough into the season, so it really didn't work for play - I think I'll save the play-house or tee-pee to pole beans or other summer crops!

Another year I used a collapsible trellis and leaned it against the house - it worked but it still wasn't perfect. So this year I decided to simplify.

I took 4 long sticks. They were each 8+ feet long and pretty sturdy. All I did was use heavy duty ties to create a square, then added string up and down for the peas to climb. The peas are just poking through the ground (I have sprayed them with red pepper spray to deter Buggs) and hopefully soon will begin to climb upward. I'm hoping this year's trellis will allow us to harvest the peas easier...

Sunday, May 17, 2009

What Can I Do With Chive Blossoms?

Today I walked out into the garden and found blossoms on my chives. They make the garden look so pretty and add the burst of early spring color that's otherwise missing in a sea of "shades of green"... Most people miss though that chive blossoms are also a tasty treat ~ They are strongly flavored though, so a little goes a L-O-N-G way... Here are a couple of my favorite things to do with chive blossoms.

(a great gift as well as a wonderful treat!)

2 cups white vinegar
2 cups fresh chive blossoms

Bring vinegar to a near boil and pour over the chive blossoms. Let stand in large glass bowl or bottle in a cool, dark place for one week. Strain the vinegar and discard blossoms.

Serve as a herbed vinegar & oil dressing or transfer to pretty bottles adding a fresh chive blossom of sprig of fresh chives to each bottle.

4 fresh eggs 4 tablespoons sour cream pinch of coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper 2 teaspoons fresh chopped parsley 1 tablespoon fresh chopped chives 2 tablespoon unsalted butter 12 rinsed & dry chive blossoms
Lightly beat eggs, sour cream, salt, pepper, parsley and chives.
Preheat omelet pan and melt butter. Pour in egg mixture and leave undisturbed until omelet begins to set. Lower heat and, tipping pan slightly, lift edges to let uncooked egg run underneath. When omelet is firm, sprinkle with chive blossoms and fold in half.

CHIVE BLOSSOM SALAD WITH MUSHROOMS (although chive blossoms make an excellent addition to ANY salad!)

1 pound fresh raw mushrooms (I like a variety for a fuller taste, but the original recipe called for white mushrooms! Maybe use seasonal Morels too...)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
About 12 chive blossoms
1/3 cup chopped chives
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Wipe the dirt off the mushrooms with paper towels. Slice the mushrooms and arrange them on a serving platter. Drizzle the oil over the top. Sprinkle the mushrooms with blossoms and chives and season with salt and pepper.

A variation on this would be to slightly saute the mushrooms and sprinkle with a goat cheese or other farmers cheese too!

... Don't miss out on a seasonal treat. Use what Mother Nature gives you to adorn your plate, tempt your palate and please your tummy!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Update on Aeroponics Growing

I wanted to update any readers on my experience with the AeroGarden 3. I'll have to say I was disappointed. I KNOW that things never work as advertised, but I suppose I had high hopes for this, after all it IS growing plants with aeroponics and proper lighting. it should be a no brainer.

I first planted (sometime in January) chives, parsley and a green basil. The basil never made it so at a later time I added purple basil - Neither basil grew or produced anything. My chives we weak and spindly and my parsley while it produced enough to snip here and there it did not grow a bushy parsley bunch.

Here is a photo of my chives (although they have mostly been clipped) and my parsley! If I had to do it all over would I buy this product? Considering I got an AWESOME deal, yes I would likely buy it again. Am I going to shout my joy from the roof-top. No, I can't say I would endorse this for someone else UNLESS they could get the same great deal, or may be able to pick up one very inexpensively used...

The AeroGarden 3 will give me a few fresh herbs during the winter months when I otherwise can not grow squat!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Blooming Lilacs

I went on a foraging expedition the other day to our local county property - I was HOPING to find Morels, but instead found several wild strawberry patches and raspberry brambles. I also returned home with a LARGE bunch of powdery purple old-style lilacs. The kind that have SO MUCH fragrance (insert smell-o-vision) that the entire house is filled with the sweet heady scent when the bouquet is brought into the house. The lilacs I cut are from an old bush near a farm house that was recently tore down.

Lilacs are my FAVORITE summer flower and it really is a shame they don't bloom all summer long. I haven't tried growing any of the ever blooming type lilacs, I'm just not sure they'd smell the same!

I learned through experience, how to keep my lilac bouquet fresh the longest:
  • Collect flowers in early morning just as the dew starts to dry, or in the evening.
  • Carry a small bucket of lukewarm water to place the newly cut stems immediately into water.
  • Harvest "cluster-type" flowers before all the buds have opened.
  • Once you have the lilacs at home, remove any foliage that would be submerged in water and re-cut the stems on a slant before putting them in the vase.
  • One final tip I was taught was to split the branches, slitting them so that the water can more easily move up the woody stems!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

FREE (or very cheap) Compost for Ypsilanti Area Residents!

I decided to increase the size of several of my raised beds this year (much to the chagrin of my husband) - Essentially I "connected" them together creating one really long bed, but in doing so I gained (2) additional 2'x4' areas for planting. They are not HUGE areas, but to any backyard gardener they are perfect to add several summer crops! I also looked at the flower and veggie beds throughout my yard and decided several needed to be augmented with organic matter to make the soil more "rich".

Luckily I can get up to 2 yards of FREE compost each year through Ypsilanti Township - Yes that's right I said FREE!!! Other residents from cities around Ypsilanti Township can get compost from the Township for very reasonable rates - granted you have to shovel it into your own containers (we used our city recycling bins for several trips to the compost yard) or your own vehicle, but it's worth the work!

So get your "dig" on this season and get dirty - You'll be glad you did!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Flowers, Flowers Everywhere...

Like many local gardeners, I began to get the incurable "wanna plant" itch. It comes on so strong throughout much of the Michigan winter that I plan and visualize what my upcoming year's gardens will look like. Like other gardeners too, what we plan and what is our reality are two different visions. This is because of one thing, and one thing only - plant and flower sales.

I LOVE planting "newest" the "greatest" and even the "not expected". I wander many a plant and garden sale seeking out what (hopefully) other's won't find. And I look for the perfect specimens. So for all of you Michigan Backyard Gardeners, here is a partial list of Plant and Flower Sales for the month of May:

Friday May 8:

  • 29th Annual Matthaei Botanical Gardens Spring Plant Sale. More than 1,000 varieties of perennials, annuals, native plants, and kitchen favorites at SE Michigan's destination plant sale fundraiser. Plus: free gardening demonstrations for kids and families during the sale. Join Matthaei at the sale and receive 10% off!
Friday May 15:
Saturday May 16:
  • Growing Hope Plant Sale, Ypsilanti. Growing Hope, an Ypsilanti-based nonprofit organization, is holding its fifth annual plant sale May 16 from 1 p.m.-5 p.m. Some of the items available for sale include raised beds, vegetable and herb seedlings, edible planters and youth-made hand balm. All proceeds benefit Growing Hope, which aims to help people improve their lives and communities through gardening and healthy food access.
Sunday May 17:
  • The annual Eastern Market Flower Day - Admission is free. Attended by more than 150,000 people annually, Flower Day at the Eastern Market is one of the largest flower shows in the country. Hundreds of flower growers from Michigan, Canada and neighboring states fill the market with their colorful array offerings. Over 15-acres of the highest quality annuals, perennials, foliage, shrubbery, trees, exotics, tropical plants, flats, hanging baskets and more will be available for purchase.
Let me know about additional May 2009 plant & flower sales and I will add to the list as I receive them! Happy planting...

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Update on Backyard Birds!

Since I have been asked many times over now, I thought to post an update on my girls.

They moved to our new coop this week, at just over 8-weeks of age - They've adjusted wonderfully, entering and exiting the coop into the run at will. It was only the first morning where they all wanted to exit the coop at the exact same moment that was rather comical... Imagine 4 of them getting stuck trying to exit door!

The family enjoys watching them, and as my husband says, the coop is like TV to our dog. He will sit for HOURS watching the birds! So long as he doesn't try tormenting or eating them, I'm good with that!

Hopefully we'll get some eggs sometime in mid-July, I'll keep everyone posted!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Summer Pest Control - Without the Pesticides!

I spent the day hunting for non-pesticide sprays, specifically mint-oil spray! I LOVE the way the spray smells AND kills nasty bees and wasps that bother us while we are enjoying the backyard. About the ONLY complaint I have, is that if you spray it too near your prized plants, it MAY cause them to burn since oil intensifies the sun. Otherwise I feel it's a MUCH better product to use than traditional pesticides. Who need more chemicals anyway. We use Victor® Poison-Free® mint oil spray - It seems to be about the only one we can sometimes find!

Another product I use through MOST of the summer is a red pepper spray (or a hot pepper wax spray) to deter Bugs (that's Bunny) from eating the tender shoots and plants sprouting so lovingly from my garden. I know that I can MAKE some of the hot pepper concoction however my one and only experience in doing so left me with stinging eyes and lips for DAYS!!! So I simply buy a bottle that lasts through most of the summer. Once I chase Bugs away he (or she) rarely comes back! I've also used a version of this with garlic that works well and even tried one with tobacco juice (YICK) I'll never do THAT one again...

The thing that gets me though, as we become a more "green friendly" society, why is it still so HARD to find these products. I had to order my mint oil spray from an online vendor this year after NOT finding it at 5 stores!

If I feel ambitious in the next few days, I'll post some of the concoctions I have successfully used (before having the kids!).
Red pepper