Saturday, July 24, 2010

Chapter 9 Blueberries from Hiram

The Blueberries Are Ready

Nancy texted our son Paul last night to see if he wanted to go Blueberry picking this morning. He usually sleeps in on Saturdays. He texted her back that he would be here tomorrow at 8:00 AM. Sure enough, he was here at 8 o'clock sharp! Nancy fixed him a breakfast sandwich, a cooler for us; we said good bye to our Chocolate Lab Jonah and off we were down Rte 82 to Hiram Ohio.

We go to Wolff's Blueberry Patch. I believe it's the best in North East Ohio. We drive through the Aurora countryside and Mantua area on the way to Hiram. Hiram College is nestled in the heart of Hiram. We enjoy the country scenery. The corn fields are teeming with a tall crop and the blooming chicory on the side of the road gives a nice blue border to the highway.

The Blueberries shown above are brimming to the top of a hand made bowl. Do you see the blueberries etched on the side of the bowl? This bowl is one of our treasures bought at a quaint Gift shop in Ashland Wisconsin. (We lived in Northern Wisconsin for several years) The shop was called Roxanne's and I am not sure if it is still open for business.

Blueberry Bushes were Thick with Berries

We picked about 15 pounds of Blueberries among the three of us. Nancy of course picked the most.

On the way back from picking we stopped at Monroe Farms, located on Pioneer Trail Road. We saw the 'peaches' sign out front and were concerned that the Red Haven peaches were already ripe; we usually get them mid August. We were happy to learn the peaches that were ripe are an early variety called Summer Serenade. We bought a half a peck for eating. We also bought some farm fresh Maple Syrup and some Sweet Corn for dinner.

Nancy cans about 4 pecks of peaches each summer; which translates into about 24 jars of 'pure heaven'. There is nothing so tasty as your own canned peaches. (I will cover this topic when it's canning time)

When we arrived home Paul thought it would be nice to have brunch; "How about blueberry waffles with the fresh Maple Syrup and some strawberries?" Nancy obliged and before long we were enjoying the fruit of our labor. Nancy always heats the syrup and we ate the waffles while they were hot. Delicious!

After brunch, Nancy packaged up some pint size containers for Paul to take to his girlfriends house. He said her Dad likes blueberries as well. It was great to take a restful ride out in the country. It has become a tradition and Paul has fond memories of picking with Mom when he was younger. I think it's 'in his blood' to go blueberry picking. It put a real smile on my face today to see him enjoy it so much. If you have never gone blueberry picking you must try it. See you in the Garden.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Chapter 8 Digging New Potatoes

Digging New Potatoes is like a Treasure Hunt

This morning Nancy and I walked to the garden together. I coaxed her for a walk by telling her the garden had a surprise for her. The tomato plants were leaning over so it was like walking through a jungle. We got to the cucumber patch and she got the idea. I wanted her to search for new cukes. Sure enough she found the slender six inch cucumber that I spotted when watering. She could not believe how fast they are growing. She saves them until she has enough for her canning recipe.

It's time to harvest potatoes when the tops turn brown

On the way back into the house, I looked to my right and realized that my garden next to the house had potato plants that were drying out on top; a sure sign that the potatoes are ready in the ground. I said to her" Hey, its' time to harvest the taters". We excitedly scurried over to the spot and gently pulled the plants out of the ground and began digging with our hands for hidden treasure.

If you have never grown potatoes they grow under ground and you never know how many you will get or how large they will be. We were literally digging for hidden treasure. As you can see in the picture above we did quite well. New potatoes, as they are called, are the most tender potatoes you can imagine; they literally melt in your mouth and they are a true delicacy of the early vegetable harvest. We are planning to save them for a few weeks and take them up to Canada for our family vacation. We want to savor the gourmet quality of our fresh home grown potatoes. I encourage you to grow them next year. I will discuss the soil requirements necessary to grow a decent crop of potatoes in a future post. See you in the Garden.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Chapter 7 Pole Beans and Three Bean Salad

The traditional Bean Patch

For years my good wife Nancy has always planted a ‘bean patch’. She always plants ‘wax beans’ (yellow), regular green beans and pole beans. I turned over the soil by hand, with a pitch fork, raked it smooth and she planted the pole beans and regular beans.

This year Nancy was unable to locate the yellow bean seeds for a while; it seemed all the stores were out of them. She finally found some packets of wax bean seeds and I planted them for her. I was amazed how quickly they germinated. It was less than a week. Of course, I could not wait to tell her, “Wifey, guess what? Your wax beans are up!” I escorted her back to the garden and she was all smiles when we got there. Her bean patch was now complete.

A Trellis is functional & decorative

You can see in the picture that the Pole Beans are really coming along. I use a few Trellises for the Pole beans to climb on. You achieve three benefits when using a trellis; 1) you give the beans something to climb on and boy do they want to climb. If the trellis were five feet taller I am sure they would climb five more feet. 2) You give the plant more sunlight because there is nothing to shade the plant, like another plant in front of it, because they grow six feet at least. And 3) “Easy pickings”. When it comes time for Nancy to harvest her beans (our beans I should say) it is easy to pick them because they are easily accessible on the trellis. I have used a trellis with pickling cucumbers and it works like a charm. If you have never tried a trellis for your pole beans, it will give you greater convenience.

Nancy recently said, " Green beans, tomatoes and cucumbers would be all I need for a meal." They are that delicious; with a little butter and salt. MM mm Good. I love it also when she makes home made Three Bean Salad. I think I will get her recipe and post it. Why go to the deli when you can make it fresh? You can have fun adding your own special seasonings and herbs from the garden. I can't wait for the harvest. We will have fresh beans in a few weeks.

Nancy's recipe for Three Bean Salad

Nancy has been making her own Three Bean Salad for years. I thought some of you might enjoy trying the recipe.

Place the following in a large bowl:
1 can of kidney beans
1 can of green beans
1 can of wax beans
Add onion slices- thin
Add chopped green pepper
Add celery sliced thin
Add celery seed
1/2 cup vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
Stir and place in refrigerator

When our beans are ripe we use our own; otherwise we buy canned beans from the grocery store. You can actually make the salad in the morning and eat it in the evening; but I prefer a few days in the refrigerator so the flavors have more time to blend. Three bean salad is so delicious. Please let us know how you liked the recipe. See you in the Garden.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Capter 6 Pelargoniums & Lavender

Are you enjoying your floral hanging baskets this summer?

Every once in a while, when relaxing in my back yard, I just take a breather and notice something in particular that catches my eye. Today, my Hot Pink pelargonium (see above) just seemed to stand out and I said to myself, "Wow, now that is a brilliant pink". The pink bloom and the dark green foliage create a dramatic contrast that adds a special flair to my patio experience. In the hanging basket above you will see some Vinca Vine poking its way out on the left part of the basket.

I used Vinca Vine originally (a few years ago) because my dear wife requested it. Actually I have learned to love the interesting look the Vinca Vine brings to the table. Especially when the vine starts growing over the edge of the basket and starts cascading down; it gets really showy. I will go out in the yard right now and get a picture of some Vinca Vine that is definitely cascading.How is that for immediate service? This site is a virtual living blog; happening sometimes while you are actually reading.

Did you know that Vinca Vine can perform like a perennial?

I had a pleasant surprise a few years ago when during the early Spring I was digging in the prior years heap of potting soil (dumped out of all my hanging baskets) I generally save the potting mix from year to year. I could not believe my eyes. I spotted some Vinca Vine sprouts that survived the Winter. The first year I thought it was a fluke. However I was able to generate several plants that year and come late fall; sure enough, I dumped the Vinca Vines in a heap and covered them up with soil mix to protect them from Winter.

The following Spring I had even more plant stock with great roots to make even more plants. At $4.00 per pot at the Greenhouse, I made a valuable discovery. Now, I have no idea if all Vinca Vine will do this, but the variety I had performed like a perennial. I think the virtual complete covering, in a protected location had a lot to do with it. This is a Deegan in the Garden Tip that can save you a lot of money. If you have some Vinca Vine try out this technique; let me know next spring if it worked. If you have never grown Vinca Vine I recommend you try it.

Have you ever grown Lavender in your garden?

In an out of the way spot, on the east side of our home, in the shadow of the large Arbor Vitae trees we have a large clump of Lavender. See the picture to your left.

Is there any thing like a whiff of Lavender fragrance while watering your garden? It is no wonder people use Lavender for so many aromatic purposes. Lavender tends to stay alive and well long into late fall. You almost think it will survive the winter. One year I cut it way back, but I learned that is not necessary. Some years it acts like a shrub; getting blooms on last years stems. Being located near the home; of course it gets protection from the wind and heat from the basement; so that may help its staying power.

If you have the room, Lavender will make a wonderful addition to your garden palette. The blooms are a lovely color, fragrance is haunting and you can make Lavender potpourri for friends and relatives for Christmas gifts. You owe it to yourself to experiment with Lavender if it's not already in your garden. Another plant that reminds me of Lavender is Russian sage. I plan to grow it when I move to the Country. If you have Russian Sage please send me a comment and tell me how you like it. I believe it grows quite tall. Well, that's it for now. See you in the Garden.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Chapter 5 Tomatoes & Sunflowers

It's definitely time to tie the Tomatoes

How do you support your tomato plants in your garden? Or do you have a large enough garden that you simply lay straw down throughout your tomato patch and let the plants spread out naturally? Commercial growers allow the plants to 'do their own thing'. It would be fairly impractical to stake acres of tomatoes. The average gardener like you and me have much to gain by staking.

I have always staked my tomatoes with either bamboo or wooden stakes; I prefer cedar stakes because they hold up the best, but at times I have used pine 1 x 2's that you can get at your local lumber supplier. They also call 1 x 2's 'furring strips'. You can buy them in a bundle; pretty cheap.

In the picture to the right you can see several tie strips which help keep the plant growing upright. The symmetrical and healthy looking tomato is positioned to grow to maturity without any problem; largely because the vine is stabilized.

Right now in my garden I am using bamboo stakes and I am starting to see their limitations. My plants are starting to get heavy and full. As more fruit develops, the bamboo will need support to keep from bending over and possibly breaking. I will likely supplement the bamboo stakes with some wooden stakes (right net to the bamboo) as the plants get taller. As the plants grow I will tie the branches to the cedar stake. I have decided that next year I will use the bamboo for my peppers and eggplant and get some new cedar stakes.

I find it very helpful to tie the tomato branches in order to support the fruit. Also, the plant is easier to manage, and easier to harvest when you control the direction and growth of the plant. I use old cotton sheets for my tie material and I simply rip off the strips, the size I want, and then cut the length with the scissors. If you have not done this, it's pretty cool.

You simply make a small tear in the upper right end of the sheet, and with one movement just take the piece of material where the tear is and pull straight down. Because of the way the material was created the tear stays in a straight line, so your cotton strips are uniform without having to use scissors to cut the entire length.

Do you have Sunflowers in your garden?

I just have to show you this perfect Sunflower that I photographed today. It is growing in a terraced garden next to my home. After the deer chewed most of the leaves on this plant about a week ago, the large bloom you see was untouched. Also notice the other Sunflower buds coming near the top of the plant.

Yep, you guessed it. This garden area has enriched soil; some of my 'magic deegan soil'. This Sunflower is about 8 feet tall. Someday I would like to have several rows of Sun-flowers in my country garden; different types and colors.

Take time to garden with the Children

Did you know that there is a Dwarf Sunflower? Good for the little children in your family.

Speaking of children let's all be sure to garden with the children and grandchildren; what a wonderful habit to get them into while they are young. They will always remember those childhood days when something special happened; like when they planted some dwarf Sunflower seeds and the flowers bloomed for the first time. "Dad, come and see, my Sunflower just bloomed!"

I have very fond memories when I was nine years old and the Four O'clocks bloomed that I planted. The colors were deep reds and purples. The blooms opened each day in late afternoon, just like their name said they would. Also, I remember something else that is unusual about Four O'clocks; they shoot their seeds out. The seed pods actually burst open and the Beebe like seeds get disbursed over a large area. They propagate themselves very well. I was fascinated then and I am fascinated now. This would be a great flower for the children to plant. See you in the Garden.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Chapter 4 Handling the Heat

When you feel the heat your flowers feel the heat

It must be 95 degrees today, full sun. We have had the air-conditioning on since 8:30 AM. There is no air-condition for our flowers, however.

I looked at my Hydrangea about 5:00 PM yesterday and virtually every bloom was hanging; totally limp from the heat. A soon as I noticed the sad shape of my star performer I got the hose out and gave it a serious drenching of water. I have great water pressure and I watered with my 'water wand' all around the plant and in the center of the plant where the thickest part of the roots congregate. Within 20 minutes Ms. Hydrangea perked up and was as impressive as ever. I was happy again.

Do you use a 'watering wand' when you water? The nice thing about the wand, versus a standard nozzle attachment, is that the wand disperses the water over a wide area and the water is softer when it hits the soil, or the plant. A standard nozzle just doesn't seem to have the appropriate adjustment, even though I've tried them all.

I have noticed that several of my neighbors tend to water the entire plant when they water. I have 'bit my tongue' to purposely avoid lecturing any of my friends about the downside of watering the leaves of the plant. Since you understand I am just discussing practical ideas I have learned from experience, you wont be offended. Good. The fact is unless we are dealing with tropical plants such as ferns or orchids (that may prefer a misting now and then) it is the plants roots that absorb the water the plant needs to be healthy and achieve its full potential. Therefore, we want to water the soil around the plant, not so much the leaves. I know many of you know this; so forgive me. But if this is a new insight for you, than you have gained a worthwhile tip.

One more point. You can damage the bloom or the leaves by watering them directly. What if I have a sprinkler system, and have no control of the watering system? Some of you may have had an irrigation system installed when your lawn and landscape was completed. As long as the water pressure is not excessive you should be alright; but it may not be ideal. The preferred approach is to protect the blooms and the integrity of the leaf system by avoiding direct contact with the water.

How often do you need to water when it's super hot?

So how often do you need to water when the temperature is in the 90's with no let up? The best thing is to observe your plants; take your cue from the way they look. If they are wilting badly, they are in need of water. While I normally prefer watering in early evening or early morning, if my Hydrangea looks like it is dying of 'heat stroke' I water in the middle of the afternoon. So far today, the drink I gave her yesterday is carrying her through the heat of the day. My guess is about 4:30 PM it is going to go limp again.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Chapter 3 White Iris

A poem for the Iris lover in all of us

A friend of mine from Iowa recently sent me a poem written by Bliss Carman. He was a Canadian poet who lived from 1861 to 1929. He titled the poem: White Iris.

Wouldn't it be interesting to research the Irises that were popular during his era and see if we could discover some of the white irises he may have feasted his eyes on? As a tribute to Carman I thought we should feature a few charming white Iris from our era. Perhaps one of them will do his poem justice. The Iris you see to the left is a Siberian Iris, named Swans in Flight, hybridized by R. Hollingworth.

White Iris
Chris Carman

White Iris was a princess
In a kingdom long ago
Mysterious as moonlight
And silent as the snow.

She drew the world in wonder
And swayed it with desire,
Ere Babylon was builded
Or a stone laid in Tyre.

Yet here within my garden
Her loveliness appears
Undimmed by any sorrow
Of all the tragic years.

How kind that earth should treasure
So beautiful a thing -
All mystical enchantment,
To stir our hearts in spring!

For the sake of good measure, I have included two more white Iris that may stimulate our imaginations. The white Iris above is named Beyond the Pale, hybridized by Potterness in 2006. This is the Tall Bearded variety.

In Carman's time there were probably a 'handful' of white Iris to admire. Today there are probably several hundred white Iris to contemplate. We live in a time of abundance, yet one may wonder how much progress we have made when it comes to happiness. Some great thinker once said 'a person is about as happy as he or she makes up his or her mind to be'. There may be some truth in that.

The white Iris to your right is nameless. Perhaps it is poetic that it has no name, just as Carman's white Iris had no name. I encourage you to look for the differences in the white Irises shown on this post; their shape, their texture and their subtleties.

I hope that you are beginning to enjoy the gardening adventure that is unfolding at Deegan in the Garden. I had no idea a friend would send a poem entitled White Iris. Someone once said "If you expect the unexpected you will never be disappointed." I think you can look forward to many more pleasant surprises from this site. See you in the Garden.