Monday, February 15, 2016

Grow Basil!

Genus: Ociminum       Species: Basilicum       Family: Labiatae

Basil is one of the most important culinary herbs.
Most popularly found in Italian dishes but also found in Asian & fusion cuisine.
Basil comes in many varieties with different overtones such as lemon, cinnamon, and spicy.
It goes well with many other herbs like parsley, rosemary, oregano, thyme, sage, and saffron.

In the Landscape

Basil is an attractive addition to the flower or perennial garden. An annual, most grow between
8-24 inches high with an attractive shape if kept clipped. It is easy to grow in most climes but timing is key to success in warm climes as it will die out in hot summer sun.

In the Kitchen

Basil is a mainstay in the Italian kitchen, making it’s way into spaghetti sauce, pesto sauce, or a chunky ragu.
Or simply a butter, basil & garlic sauce that pairs well with any grilled meats or fish.
As an appetizer, add dried basil, garlic, salt & pepper to olive oil for a delicious bread dip.


Monday, January 25, 2016

Baked Apple with Orange Marmalade

An easy and quick dessert using seasonal fruits and jams. A favorite in our family.

Orange Baked Apple with Orange Marmalade

1 sweet apple, cored & top only peeled
1 ½ tsp orange marmalade
1 tsp. butter
1 tbsp. brown sugar
4-6 blackberries
1 tbsp. chopped nuts
Dollop of whipped cream or ice cream

1. Place as many apples as desired in baking dish or pie plate.
2. Spoon rest in ingredients into the center and around the top of the apple.
3. Bake in 350 deg. oven about 30 minutes. They are ready when a fork can easily pierce the apple but not too mushy.
4. Top with half n half, whipped cream or ice cream while still warm.
Tip: For a more adult version, add a splash of Triple Sec before baking!                                               
Serves: 1

Monday, September 8, 2014

Just Chop off the Pineapple Top and Grow Another

Although pineapples will take up to 2 years to create 1 fruit, they are easy and low maintenance.  And you can grow one by just cutting off the top of the pineapple you just bought for $5. 

I love pineapples but I never realized how sweet they can be until I grew my own and let them turn yellow on the plant before harvest. Sweet as candy!

What they need:

SUN-                           mostly sunny to part shade

WATER-                    regular overhead but can withstand some drought

HARDINESS-           Zones 9 & 10, grow in a pot in northern zones and bring in as
                                    houseplant during the winter. Can survive temps down to 28°
                                    but won't grow unless over 55°.

SOIL-                         sandy with lots of organic matter, pH of 5.5-6

Commercially grown pineapples like most fruit are picked green so they will have a longer shelf life.  The home gardener has the luxury of leaving fruit until ripe from the sun and picking when ready to eat. This way the sugars are allowed to develop and create a much sweeter and delicious fruit.

Now, you must be saying, “Why should I bother with a fruit that takes 16-24 months to develop, taking up my precious garden space?”  I have found that they make a great ground cover and are drought resistant, they can be placed tightly together to crowd out weeds.  They will grow in full sun or part shade under trees.  They need little fertilizer, I only fertilize one time in spring with a spoon of organic fertilizer or manure.

If you are buying a pineapple at the store or farmers market, why not plant the top instead of throwing it out or into the compost heap?

Pineapples must be grown in a frost free area.  Here in central Florida where we have 2-4  cold nights I have to cover them or they will be top killed that won’t kill the plants but they will have to start over in their growing cycle.

How to grow a pineapple from the top of another:

  1. Chop off the top of a pineapple about 1 inch below the green leaves on the top.
  2. Let dry in the shade for a couple of days so the wet flesh doesn’t rot later causing mold issues.
  3. Plant in ground with some peat, coffee grounds or pine bark chips mixed into the planting hole.
  4. Bring mulch up around the base so all flesh is covered.
  5. Water the top into the center ‘cup’ so water trickles down to the base. Put under spray-type sprinklers or water lightly every couple days to promote root growth. (The top may die back some but don’t worry it will resprout thru the center.
  6. If grown in part shade with rich soil and mulch, you need not water them at all except in dry months. Always water from the top, wetting the entire plant.
  7. After plant is well established and mature, fertilize by putting a handful of organic fertilizer or manure directly into the center cup and water well.
  8. Keep watering in the center cup as that is where the plant takes up water and nutrients.
  9. About 2-3 months later, depending on the sun it gets, it will shoot up a center stalk and a pineapple will form taking up to 4 months to ripen but it will add such an interesting beauty to your garden.
  10. Cut when most of the fruit is yellow. Be patient and you will have the easiest sweet treat you can imagine!

Friday, August 22, 2014

                                                          Strawberry Sour Cream Muffins

1 cup unbleached flour
1 cup other flours, such as spelt, oat, nut
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 egg
1 cup sugar or ½ cup Splenda Blend
1 cup sour cream
1 ½ cups sliced strawberries

1. Mix dry ingredients in large bowl.
2. Add rest of ingredients, except strawberries.
3. Mix well with a spoon, mixture will seem dry.
4. Fold in strawberries.
5. Spoon into buttered muffin tins.
6. Bake at 350° for 25 min. for large muffins, do not overcook.

Serves: Makes about 12
Try sprinkling some of your favorite granola or cereal mixed with a little sugar
on top before baking for a streusel-like topping!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Rasied Beds or Rows? What is Right for YOUR Vegetable Garden


Now that you have selected your garden site on your property, you will need to decide what structure & design you will have.  Sometimes the design is defined by the boundaries of the existing yard actually making it easier to decide.

Fences, patios, existing ornamental gardens will restrict the flow of the garden & how large it can be.

When placing veggie plants among your ornamental, consider the look of the entire plant

Some veggie plants are attractive and others, quite frankly, are not!  They may start out looking great, but not so at the end of their cycle. Take that in consideration when placing veggies among ornamentals.

Rows vs. beds:

Rows are just sections measured out 3-4 ft. wide & any length.  Usually you can just remove the grass & weeds, till deeply, 6-12 inches. Incorporate any amendments & fertilizer when tilling. Paths between rows should be 3-4 feet wide.

More highly recommended would be beds. You can make beds, sections made into any shape. Beds fit well into smaller established yards, just find pockets of space in the sun.
Read More....

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Winter Squash and Apple Soup

I used the last "Seminole" pumpkins from the Crowley Garden in Florida.  A great variety of pumpkin to grow in Florida. More squash like flesh than pumpkin like.


So dreamy, creamy and delicious!

Friday, January 24, 2014

What’s Wrong with Using the “Blue Stuff” in Your Organic Garden

So you think that just avoiding the use of pesticides and herbicides constitutes an organic garden?  Well, not so fast.  The use of what I call the “Blue Stuff” (aka chemical fertilizers such as Miracle-Gro) is not considered an organic addition to your garden. It is just a processing to concentrate urea and rock minerals and other strong elements that in of themselves are not toxic to the environment.

Consider chemical fertilizers like vitamin pills or steroids for your plants.  As the concoctions rise in percentages upwards to 45-45-45, so does the probability the more synthetically concentrated they are.  So what is the problem with using the “Blue Stuff” in your home garden?


Organic fertilizers such as manures, compost or bone meal are derived directly from plant or animal sources. They are bulky with nutrients in low concentrations. These nutrients have to be converted by soil bacteria and fungi before plants can use them, so they are more slowly released.


But organic fertilizers also reduce soil crusting, and improve water movement and retention. They add structure to the soil and feed beneficial microbes. Though initially more expensive, the increase in fertility by growing your own fertilizer if you incorporate cover crops will reduce your inputs year after year.


 The addition of organic minerals such as rock phosphate and granite dust or greensand will last for years in the soil.  Also, manure is a necessary addition to the organic farm or garden to make it work. Well composted manures supply many minerals and nutrients not found in even bagged organic fertilizers.


The difficulty is in how much to apply.  Almost all bags of organic fertilizer have application rates on the bag.  As far as compost and manure, can you ever have too much?  Our Florida soil is so horrific that my plants do best IN the compost pile as long as it isn’t too hot. 


Research is rarely done by our government to promote the advancement of organic farming. Many farmers say that the inputs and labor make organic too costly to pay back.

Although the world was organic before the industrial revolution with poor results, we now have modern technology that helps us to understand the relationships between plants and the microbes and any additions that are in the soil.


When converting from conventional to organic, many farmers are still using conventional practices. That may be the problem with increased costs. Practices such as no-till and cover cropping have shown promising results and cost savings.


Gail Fuller, an Organic farmer has reported great results from no-till cultivation by the addition of cover and companion crops. He sites not only stopping soil erosion but replacing it, cutting his fertility costs 25% in the first years, and plans to cut 40% this year.  In addition the reduced costs of labor and fuel have allowed him to farm 2,000 acres with minimal seasonal help..


When converting from conventional to organic, many farmers are still using conventional practices. That may be the problem with increased costs. Practices such as no-till and cover cropping have shown promising results and cost savings.


According to Ross Penhallegon, horticulturist with the Oregon State University Extension Service, is that synthetic inorganic fertilizers usually contain only a few nutrients - generally nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and some sulfur, either singly or in combination. These nutrients are concentrated and readily available to the plants, but they are easily leached from the soil, especially after a heavy rain. Hence, they need to be applied several times during the growing season unless you use time-release. Also, since they are concentrated, they are more easily used to excess and will burn your plants.


The main problem with the “Blue Stuff” seems to be the leaching into the creeks and rivers encouraging blooms of algae that die and then encourage excessive bacteria to eat the dead algae. Hence, it causes imbalance in the ecology. 


While farmers will calculate their rates of application with more intent since it is their bottom line, they cannot predict a heavy rain that will come after application to leach it down and out of the field.


As far as the home gardener, we all have such diversified planting that we couldn’t possibly know just how much the plants need at any given time, so any excess will be leached out.  Also, use of synthetic fertilizers eliminates the need of adding any bulky compost or manure containing all those water and nutrient retentive qualities that are so important for the soil life.


So, I hope I have made my case as to the importance of the home gardener “bagging” the “Blue Stuff’ in order to grow a truly organic garden.