Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Season Extenders: 5 Vegetables You Can Plant in July

By now your garden may be producing well. But are some of the crops done, leaving space that is sitting idle?

I know that you are probably used to planting in the spring and harvesting in the summer and fall, but there is more to the growing season than that. You can plant more vegetables now with time for growing and harvest this fall. Some vegetables can be planted now (July in my zone 5-6 garden in Ohio) and some will do better if you wait for a while.

In July, you can seed directly bush beans (green beans or lima beans), cucumbers and summer squash like zucchini and crook necks, cucumbers, okra and kale. You are looking for 50-60 days from planting to harvest. (Check the seed packet or catalog description for maturity times.) Prepare the soil well as you would in the spring.

It is hot (and usually dry unless you live in my area this year- it is very wet this year here) so you'll need to water more than you typically would in the wetter, cooler spring. And there are probably more bugs out and about, so be vigilant in your trips through the garden inspecting for pests.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Lost Week

Whoa! Where did THAT week go?

Time flies when you're having fun, as they say. (As I get older, the time flies even when I'm not having fun.)

But this week was a fun week. Had visits from both my sons, my daughter-in-law and all three of my grandsons. How great is that? Gave the grill a work out, had baked fish twice to make up for the red meat three times, the rain stopped for a day and we got to sit outside under the trumpet vine on the patio. (I love that trumpet vine!)

The rain is wreaking havoc on my garden. The peppers are stunted, the onions that I dug when I knew they were already too wet are rotting in storage a week after harvest. The weeds are gaining on me, and no dry days in the forecast.

If this this was my first year for gardening, I might consider myself a failure. I might decide not to try again. But, as they say in the weight loss ads, results are not typical. You may have done everything right and the weather was against you. Don't give up. Try again. Please.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Fairy Gardens

The second item that came in my goodie box with the big smile was the book Fairy Gardens, by Betty Earl. Unlike Janit Calvo, Earl deals as much with the fairy part of fairy gardens as the garden part. I think I learned more about fairies from this book than I ever had before!

Did you know, for example, that most fairies are offended by a spoken "thank you." They respond better to shiny trinkets left just for them.

And the best time to connect with fairies is Beltane (the first of May) when the barriers between our world and that of the fairies is at its weakest. Nights with a full moon and the Solstices and Equinoxes are especially welcoming to fairy activity.

So have an open mind and create a welcoming fairy garden in a container or your yard. Who knows what magic might happen?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Miniature Gardens

Goodies in my mailbox today!

People who know me, know I love Amazon.com! Yes, I shop locally, too, when I can, but you can't beat that box with the smile on it for brightening up your day! Spread the joy!

Today I got my copy of Janit Calvo's wonderful book, Gardening in Miniature. (I got something else, too, but we'll talk about that next time.) I am in mini-Heaven! Just the pictures make this worth the price, and there's a lot of information in here, too, to make it easy for you to choose plants and accessories for your miniature garden.

What? You haven't heard of miniature gardens yet? Some folks call them Fairy Gardens, but Janit chooses to appeal to more gardening fans by calling them miniature gardens. Either name works for me, since there is a part of me that understands that the wee folk come around from time to time to create havoc in what would otherwise be a sane place. We need to give them a welcoming place to rest and dance while they are here!

I've been collecting accessories and a big old laundry tub to create my Fairy Garden. I'll use Janit's book to give me that gentle push I need to get 'er done!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Toscana Soup (Like Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana)

We like soup as a light supper, even in the summer. Serve with a loaf of crusty bread and a green salad and you have a nice summery meal that can be mostly done ahead and won't bog you down.

One of our favorites to eat (and one of my favorites to make-- it's good and pretty simple) is a recipe adapted from Top Secret Restaurant Recipes by Todd Wilbur. There are a whole series of these cookbooks, which aim to replicate dishes that are popular choices in everyone's favorite chain restaurants. They aren't the ACTUAL recipes, mind you, just Todd and his staff's attempts to copy the flavors at home. And they do a really good job, especially with this soup. I modified the recipe a little, and I usually double* most of the ingredients to have left-overs, but I won't here. It should serve two as written.

3 cups chicken broth (I use Imagine Organic Free Range Chicken Broth. If you have never used this, try it. It adds so much more flavor than regular chicken broth. It should be available in the natural foods section of your grocery store. If not, you can order it online from Amazon.com. Or, better yet, make your own homemade broth and freeze it for quick recipes like this.)
1/4 cup heavy cream.
2 small or 1 large russet potatoes
2 cups chopped kale (chop small)
1/2 pound spicy Italian sausage (sweet or hot as you prefer)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Grill or sauté the sausage until cooked through. Set aside until cool enough to handle.

Combine broth and cream in a large saucepan (or if you're doubling, a soup pot.) Put on medium heat.

Slice the unpeeled potato into 1/4 in thick slices, then cut the slices into halves or quarters (depending on the size of your potatoes in the first place. You want a generous potato piece in your spoon of soup.)

Add the kale.

Slice the cooled sausage on an angle into 1/4 inch thick slices and add to the soup.

Add the salt and hot pepper flakes. Reduce heat to medium low and allow to simmer for about 2 hours, stirring when you think of it, until the potato slices are tender.

*When I "double" the recipe I keep the amount of sausage the same. (I think we all consume more meat at a meal than we really need. I then use 3 potatoes and 3 cups of kale, but double the stock, cream, salt and hot pepper flakes.