Showing posts with label gardening. Show all posts
Showing posts with label gardening. Show all posts

Monday, July 9, 2012

a fresh spot for our herbs...

PhotobucketLast year I posted here all about my adventures in herb gardening and thought I'd share the fresh new spin we've taken on that very subject around here...  In the past, we've always placed our herb garden (with the exception of rosemary - that goes in the ground because of its hardiness) in containers in our garden but this year we decided to add a window box under our kitchen window and store our herbs there (each in it's very own 6 inch pot).  My thinking was this....much easier access to the herbs - I can open the window and cut what I need and easier to water (again - just a little lean out the window with a small watering can).  My herb gardens have always needed a little more watering than those plants that get stuck in the ground but I've lost quite a few plants due to lack of watering.  So, I figured this would solve that problem and look cute under or kitchen window.  We have a deck right off our kitchen so the window box is about at waist level when out on the deck too.  I purchased our window box from pottery barn (waited for a free shipping promo, of course) and my husband was able to easily install it into the mortar of our brick in about a half hour...

Monday, May 14, 2012

Weekend Rewind

Week 2 of "Weekend Rewind" with one of my fave bloggers, Tami over at "Little Moments Like This"
Little Moments Like This

Every weekend is too short...and this one was no exception.  We started off our weekend with my hubs having his wisdom teeth taken out on Friday...which went fine...just some soreness and he was a little out of it for most of the day.

Saturday was spent doing a bunch of tidying and cleaning....the hubs outside....me and the girl inside (with dance breaks and story reading mixed in).

Onto the highlight of the weekend...Mother's Day!!!!  I hope all of the mommas out there had a wonderful day!!  My baby girl made me the sweetest gift I could have ever asked for...here she is hard at work on it....

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My parents joined us for breakfast in the morning and it was glorious...french toast casserole...sausage cheese squares...fresh fruit...and scrambled eggs.

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I'm am SO very lucky to have such a wonderful woman to call mom.  I simply don't know what I'd do without her!!!

The rest of the day was spent working on our green thumbs and harvesting some of the fruits of our labor....

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Above is our romaine lettuce that has done totally awesome this year....

And our tomato plants we successfully got in the ground yesterday afternoon

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And....my pots I finally got the plants in to pretty up the deck...

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And...I should also mention that the hubs and I made a pact this weekend...to start the dreaded "d" word....DIET.  Ick....I hate that word but we are both in desperate need....I couldn't even bear to post the pictures of my lil bro and I on his graduation day because my appearance is totally lacking.  It's not healthy...my back hurts because of it....and I'm totally miserable.  And...I'm not really a fad dieter because I know they are often not sustainable but I think the "17 Day Diet" shows some promise so we are going to give it a go.  In combo with Jillian Michaels "30 Day Shred."  It also doesn't help that June 9th we have a black tie event to attend...so we have no time to waste.  I know the key to these diets is meal planning....so here's ours for the week...

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Wish us luck...and please if anyone has any experience with this or any helpful tips...do share!!!  I'll keep y'all posted on our progress!

J

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Friday, May 20, 2011

Flower Pot Inspiration and How-To

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inspiration from here
I can clearly remember how BORING I thought Better Homes and Gardens and Southern Living magazines were as a child, teenager, and well really up until I bought my own house.  They always seemed filled with last year's fashion and weird hard-to-make recipes.  So...when I received the gift of subscription a few years back for Better Homes and Garden I was less than thrilled.  I really hate to sound ungrateful because I appreciated the thought but I just knew it would be something I'd place in my magazine basket for my mom to read.  Ok...so I was wrong - the clothing is actually ok (I guess that just verifies that I'm no longer the cute hipster I used to be) and while the recipes are generally still hard to make, I love the rest of the magazine, especially the gardening section.  There is always SO much garden inspiration that fill the pages and I've used it to do my own container arrangements for my outside pots (which I can't seem to get enough of).  So, I thought I'd share some general rules of thumb when arranging your pots and also some pictures of how I arranged some of my pots this year and my flower choices.

I pretty much follow the rules when it comes to container planting and always ensure my pot has all 3 elements - an upright plant, a mounding plant, and a trailing plant.  I usually like to have 2 different types of trailing plants just too add a little bit of interest to the outside of the pot.  If you look at the tag on the plants before purchasing, it will usually indicate which of the 3 the plants is so you can plan accordingly.  My pots always look a little sparse when I first plant them but trust me when I tell you that they fill in and if the plants are too large when you plant them - they tend to get overcrowded rather quickly.  I use the moisture advantage potting soil that is designed to provide a better balance of moisture in the soil so that if you miss a watering or 2 - you don't lose all of your plants.  I used it last summer and it seemed to work pretty well so when I changed out the soil in my pots this year - I replaced it with more of the same.  After the plants have been potted for about a week, I like to add mulch to the top of the plant to cover the soil and provide my plants with a little insulation from the hot summer sun.  I've found it works best for me to arrange my pots in the beginning to mid-May and they usually last me until the weather cools in September.  Generally speaking, it takes me no longer than 10-15 minutes to arrange the pots and get them planted and by selecting your own flowers you can definitely save some cash over selecting the already arranged containers at the store.

Looking for more inspiration - you can go here for some other flower pot arrangement suggestions, courtesy of none other than Better Homes and Gardens!

J

Thursday, May 19, 2011

More on Food - Freezing strawberries

PhotobucketThe past two Saturdays as I blogged about here and here, I've spent a part of my morning at the local strawberry fields, picking more strawberries than I could possibly eat so I was determined to find others uses so nothing went to waste.  I got lots of great ideas (thank you SO much for all of the ideas) on how to use these strawberries and made a few different things but also decided I wanted to freeze some of these delicious berries so that I could enjoy them during the winter in smoothies and sauces.  So, I thought I'd share a quick post on the two different ways I decided to freeze my berries!

I sincerely apologize to those of you that are more domesticated than myself and are wondering aloud right now why I would write about something so obvious!  However, I had no idea how to freeze strawberries properly so I looked it up and thought I'd share what I found!

For both ways, I started by removing the cap and stems from all of the berries and giving them a good rinse to get any dirt off.
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For those that I was freezing whole, I simply placed them on a baking sheet that I lined with parchment paper and stuck them in the freezer for 24 hours.  The next day I pulled the berries from the freezer and placed them in a freezer bag and back in the freezer they went.

For those that I was freezing in sugar and halved, I cut each berry in half first.  I then added a tablespoon of sugar and stirred everything around until all of the sugar was dissolved.  I then placed the berries in a freezer bag and removed the excess air and placed in the freezer for storage.
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As I said above, this was SUPER easy and quick and I'm glad I'll have these to use in my smoothies when strawberry season is over.

And...I almost squealed yesterday afternoon when I found one ripe strawberry on our strawberry plant in our garden while gathering some lettuce for dinner.  This was the first year we planted any strawberries and we only planted one plant but it was exciting for me to find a ripe one and there are about 5 or 6 more that look like they will be turning soon:)  Looks like I'll be doing more of these next year!

J

Friday, May 6, 2011

Herb Gardening - starting small

basil and thyme in my herb garden
Gardening can be really intimidating, not to mention a labor of love at times.  BUT, even if you're no green thumb or don't have a yard, you can still grow your own herb garden.  Fortunately, herbs do very well in containers and pots - I actually still grow most of mine in containers despite my vegetable garden - and are perfect for small spaces.  If you've bought any from the grocery store lately you also know they can be a bit pricey and often times the "bunch" you buy is more than enough for the meal you're making and it's gone bad before you can use it in something else.  By growing your own, you know its organic (which can sometimes be hard to find in the stores) and you can pull off only what you need.  Herbs are also a great way to dress up a plate - a sprig of rosemary on top of your steak or pork chop is a nice touch - especially at Christmas time!  And getting started is super easy, here's what you'll need:

* flower pot or any container with some holes drilled in the bottom for the water to drain
* potting soil
* fertilizer
* small rocks for the bottom of the container to help the water drain
* herb plants (these can easily be found at any home improvement store or garden center)

And, once you've gotten those things - heres all you have to do:
I love this look from dotcomwomen
* Fill the bottom of your container with rocks (just so that you can't see the bottom of the pot) and then add the potting soil.
* Make a divot for where you are going to place the herb plant.
* Place a dime sized amount of fertilizer in the divot.
* Pull the herb plant out of the pot (or in the case of a peat pot - tear the bottom off) and place in the divot.
* Cover the base of the plant with soil (just make sure none of the roots are exposed).
* Add some water and watch her grow!!

Some of my favorites that I love to grow are:
* Basil - Great in bruschetta or pesto and lots of other things.  This can take alot of abuse and still seems to live on.  It does great during even the heat of summer but does need some shade during the day.
* Parsley - I love this as an accent or in pasta dishes - its even great on red skin potatoes with a little butter.  This also seems to do wonderful all summer long.
Rosemary - The hubs loves to chop this up and use it in rubs on pork, chicken, or steak.  It has a very distinct flavor but I love it.  This is great in a container but will live all year long if planted in the ground. This will actually grow into a bush and has a wonderful smell in the garden.
* Thyme - This is also great on pork or chicken and we also use it here in homemade salad dressings.  This little herb demands a little more attention and care as far as watering is concerned.  The hot sun can also stress this guy out a bit.
* Dill - This is great on top a greek salad or thrown in with some sour cream for a veggie dip.  The hot summer sun can do a number on this so you may want to find somewhere out of the direct sunlight for this to grow.
* Cilantro - This is a staple for any Mexican dish but I seem to only be able to keep it alive outdoors in the spring in fall.  The summer in VB is just too hot.


here's an example of the cute chalkboard signs
 I picked up my herb plants last weekend for about $3.50 a pop at Lowes, which compared to the $1.99 I pay in the grocery store each time I buy a "bunch" is a great deal!!  I only have to use these twice and I've made my money back.  Adding cute little chalkboard signs to identify your herbs and placing them in a cute container can dress up any deck, sun porch, or patio.  As far as maintenance is concerned, there really isn't much too it - check them over a few times a week while you give them a little water and they should last you several months - or even all year if you want to bring them inside (rosemary will actually survive most winters outside).  So, there you have it, a great way to grow a little of your own food and get started in the wonderful world of gardening.

Oh, and by the way, this also make a great last minute Mother's Day gift.  We did this several years back from my MIL - we put it all together and took it along with a card and she loved it!!!  It looked adorable on her back deck and was the gift that kept on giving - not to mention it was different from the standard flowers and brunch on Mother's Day!

I'm linking up today with Amanda over at Serenity Now for the weekend bloggy party - its super fun - I try to link up to this one each week because there are SO many great ideas, cool projects, and funny stories that get shared.  Head on over for some inspiration and share your favorite post of the week!!
Weekend Bloggy Reading

J

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Harvesting and Freezing Collard Greens

I know-by just looking at the title some of you have likely already started gagging at the word "collard" or maybe you don't even know what they are.  So - trust me when I say, they are an acquired taste and most commonly found in southern cooking.  They are a green leefy vegetable (sort of like kale or other mustard greens) that are generally cooked with "streak of lean/streak of fat" or "fat back" for added flavor in a pot for about an hour or so - they get mushy so I really don't think you can "overcook" them.  I generally add cider vinegar to mine when I eat them and refuse to eat these things cold!

The hubs and I started a family garden in our backyard last year and LOVE to plant all sorts of wonderful veggies in it.  We really try to hard to utlize it all year round and not just in the summer when the tomatoes are best (although, those are my favorite).  So this past fall we my mom planted the collards and cabbage we purchased (it was early October and our little girl arrived a little earlier than planned so my momma was nice enough to not let these little collards die a slow death in their store bought container).  We have watched them grow, get covered in over a foot of snow, see the first signs of springs, and FINALLY it was time to harvest our goods.  They (all of those real farmers who have FAR more experience than me) say that the best time to pick collards is January through April and well, its April and I need the bed/box space for my summer stuff.  So, this past weekend, I harvested and froze the collard greens (clearly we weren't going to eat collards for breakfast-lunch-dinner, repeat) from our garden.  I thought I'd share how we did it because prior to this weekend, I'd never frozen collards and trust me, it wasn't bad.  So, here's the play-by-play on a process called "blanching" (yep, just learned that too this weekend - I think I'm becoming more domestic by the minute:)):

Things You Need:
* Stock pot filled 2/3 full
* Bowl filled with cool water
* Bowl filled with COLD water and ice cubes
* Collander
* Tongs
* Timer
* Garden shears

Step by step:
1.  I first clipped the collards I wanted off of the plant using my garden/kitchen shears.  I discarded those greens that graced the ground as well as the itty bitty greens that were new growth (basically I stuck to the middle 2/3 of the plant).

2.  Place the stockpot on the burner (filled 2/3 of the way with water) and bring to a boil.

3.  Place the picked greens in a large bowl of cool water (I didn't do them all at once because I had far too many so I did it in sections).  Once they had soaked for about a minute, I looked each leaf over to check for bugs or any signs of fungus and brush off anything that hadn't fallen off in the water.  I dumped the water and then re-filled to give the leaves another bath.

4.  Place the greens in the stockpot (once the water is boiling) and cover tightly and let boil for 3 minutes.

5.  After 3 minutes, remove promptly using the tongs and place in bowl filled with COLD water and ice cubes.  Make sure the greens are fully immersed in the water to ensure the cooking has stopped.  Allow to cool in the bowl for 3 minutes.

6.  Remove from the bowl and place in a collander to drain off excess water then squeeze the greens out to remove as much water as possible.

7.  Once water has been removed, place in a freezer bag and remove as much air as possible for sealing.  One trick I like to use if you don't have a food sealer is to leave just enough room along the zipper to place a straw in the corner and suck any remaining air out.  It helps, promise!!  Your collards are now ready to be put in the freezer for a later date!

So that's it, super easy!  I now have several bags of collard greens that we can eat whenever our hearts desire.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Composting 101

the final product
So as I mentioned in my post here, one of the ways we reduce our trash in our house is by composting.  Not only does it reduce the amount of trash we have but it also really helps our small family garden that we use to grow all sorts of tasty things during the year.  I wanted to share our experiences over the last two years that we have been composting in unscientific terms, so here it goes:

How did we get started?  We were visiting with the hub's grandparents and discussing their wild success with their tomato plants and the hub's grandpa mentioned that he had a secret in his soil - which he proceeded to refer to as "black gold."  That reference made me curious so I asked him to explain further and I got a good lesson in composting and the benefits it has in gardening.  Needless to say (I should mention that I can be a bit impulsive at times) - We bought a composting bin the next week at Lowes, I did some research, and we got started.  We set up the bin in an inconspicuous location in our garden and started with some bits of cardboard, kitchen scraps (vegetable and fruit scraps, egg shells, and coffee grounds), and old potting soil from old pots, and just kept piling on from there.

What can you compost?  LOTS of STUFF!!!  We regularly compost our coffee grounds (including the filters as we use unbleached filters), vegetable and fruit scraps, egg shells, leaves, unfertilized grass clippings, weeds, dead plants and flowers, and small pieces of plain cardboard.  It is important to keep a balance of those items that are considered "brown items" and those that are considered "green items."  We steer clear of any animal by-products (other than the egg, shrimp, or crab shells) and any grass or weeds that have been treated with fertilizer or other chemicals.  Also, pine straw, pine cones, and large branches are not recommended as they seem to have a hard time breaking down at the same speed as everything else.

the sealed container we keep on our counter for kitchen scraps
What is the time commitment?  No more than a few minutes per week and thats really only to take the scraps we have collected while preparing our meals out to the compost bin and then use the pitch fork to mix everything around to make sure the compost bin is getting enough air to keep it healthy.  You also want to monitor your pile to make sure it doesn't dry out.  It should be about as moist as wrung out sponge but if you notice it looks dry, just spray some water in it or add green items which hold a lot more moisture than the brown items.  If you notice its too moist, just add some more browns to help absorb the excess moisture.

Does it smell?  Surprisingly enough it doesn't!  As long as you have the right blend of greens and browns, it doesn't smell like much more than dirt.  The composting action does make the material inside of it hot, so you may notice during the cooler months some steam coming from the top.  That's just the compost decomposing and generating heat so don't worry, it won't catch on fire or anything crazy like that.

How long does it take to make dirt?  This can vary depending on how "hot" your compost pile is.  It took ours about 8 months to get dirt but we also started ours in the fall so a good part of that time was in the winter which slows the process a little bit.  The finished compost settles at the bottom so our bin has doors at the bottom that we simply pull out when we are ready to use the compost.

our compost bin
Our experience with composting has been a great one and it really reduces the amount of trash we throw away.  We keep our kitchen scraps in a sealed container on our counter top (unless company is coming over and then we stow it away under the sink) and run it out to the compost bin about twice a week.  The soil the bin makes is rich with natural nutrients and fertilizers and is a welcome addition to our garden.  Trust me when I tell you that it is pretty amazing to put a bunch of vegetable and fruit scraps (I have even put in watermelon and cantaloupe rinds) in the bin one day and see them beyond recognition two weeks later and with no rotting smell.  As the pile decomposes it shrinks quite a bit so we are never surprised when the bin we fill to the top is only a third of the way full several weeks later as things start to break down.

Please feel free to e-mail me with any questions (theworkaholicmomma@gmail.com) or click here for another great online resource about composting which also provides all of the scientific reasons it works (there is a lot of good information on the web too).

J