Greengirls Helen Yarmoska, Nicole Hvidsten, Martha Buns, Connie Nelson, Kim Palmer and Mary Jane Smetanka are dishin' the dirt from the back-yard garden and beyond. Whether you're a greenthumb or greenhorn, they're eager to learn from your mishaps, mistakes - and most importantly, your sweet successes - all growing season long.

Posts about Preserving

Jewels in a jar mean it's canning season

Posted by: Martha Buns Updated: September 6, 2011 - 9:50 AM

 

When life gives you lemon cucumbers, it's time to make pickles, pints of yellow summer packed into a jar. I've headed into full-tilt harvest preservation mode, putting up big vats of pasta sauce and bowlfuls of tomato soup for freezing, pickling peppers and digging out the recipes for tomato chutney, tomato confit, pretty much tomato anything in a mad scramble to make the most of it while it lasts.

 

Every year I seem to escalate. One year that meant a small chest freezer added to the basement to handle the overflow. But when I was in danger of overflowing the overflow space, I decided it was time to finally come to grips with the canner. My mother, whose gardening days were behind her, had passed on to me her canner and mother lode of canning jars, but I have to admit I procrastinated a few years before I used them. I'd helped my mother can tomatoes when I was a teenager, but had never canned without adult supervision, and I remembered it as a lot of work. Plus, I was a little leery of messing it up and creating Something That Could Kill Your Family.

Three years of canning have somewhat increased my confidence that I won't produce something in the lethal category, but I still hold my breath, counting those reassuring plinks and plonks as the jar lids seal. I'm starting to understand my grandmother's zeal for pickling anything, although I won't be heading down the road of pickling strange meat products in those funky triangular jars she used. But zucchini pickles, sure. Carrot pickles, yes. Bean pickles? Not yet, but that's next on the list.

What's cooking in your garden? Are you a canner, a freezer, or do you find nongardening friends with whom to share what you can't eat? And do you manage to eat up everything you preserved before it's time to start all over again?

 

Hi, Mom!

Posted by: Martha Buns Updated: May 8, 2011 - 11:07 AM

What's your Mom-related gardening story? I'm guessing anyone who had a gardening mom has some memories that are firmly planted.

I spend every Mother's Day in the garden, just generally speaking not my own. My longtime gardening mother is no longer spry enough to manage hers, so I spent yesterday cleaning it up for spring, helping her pick out what she wanted for her window box and getting it planted.

Not surprisingly, one of  my mother's oft-told stories involves gardening: She was weeding in the garden, sitting on the rustic stool she used, with my then very young older sister scooting along on a small stool after her as she worked. My sister asked why she moved so often, and my mother explained that she moved to tend to the next plant. My sister is reported to have said: "I move to get tooked care of."

While taking care of all of us, my mother managed to maintain a garden large enough to produce sufficient vegetables to take a family of six through the winter. She was the garden's primary caretaker, but it was a family affair in which we all learned our allotted roles: Father prepared the garden for planting and planted all the sweet corn rows. Granddad was the raspberry picker, donning netting over an old army pith helmet to enter the buggy thicket. My sister and I were the designated pea shellers and bean snappers, struggling valiantly to stay ahead of the mounds Mother picked.  Corn season was a bigger production number, with my brothers filling large wheelbarrows with the ripe ears, my sister and I husking and silking, and my mother once again in the kitchen in the hot Iowa summer, processing it all for freezing.

My childhood memories are filled with helping weed that garden, and much of what I know about gardening I probably absorbed then: how to know when produce is ripe, how to can tomatoes, which ones are the weeds, the payoff for hard work, and that blue cornflowers and orange cosmos make a "luscious" bouquet.

So to the woman who "tooked care of" us all as well as that garden, happy Mother's Day, even though you don't have a computer to see this.

Care to share your Mom garden stories?

Wintering tropicals

Posted by: Kim Palmer Updated: September 2, 2010 - 9:40 AM

 

Now that Labor Day is on the horizon, our gardening days are numbered.

 

Sigh.

I looked wistfully at my patio pots last night, knowing that I'll have just a few more weekends of treating my deck like an outdoor living room filled with lush blooms and foliage.

There are a lot of tropicals in my pots, and usually I treat them like annuals -- enjoying them for the summer, saying goodbye in the fall, then starting from scratch the next spring.

But in this year of counting my pennies, that seems wasteful. Plus, I have some really cool plants this year that I'd love to enjoy for another growing season.  

 

I've never tried overwintering tropicals -- except for a couple of ponytail ferns that I brought inside and treated like houseplants a few years back. They survived the season, but they weren't happy about it. After spending six months in my bedroom, they were small and straggly, and they  never quite recovered.

 

But I've never tried cutting tropicals back, letting them go dormant and wintering the bulbs. This year I have a few black cannas that definitely seem worth the effort. The jury is still out on my tibouchina grandiflora (princess flower), which is supposed to bloom in August but so far hasn't produced a single bloom. I'm a little annoyed with it, at this point. But it still has a few weeks to redeem itself.

What about you? Do you overwinter any of your plants? What's worth the effort? And how has it worked?

Garden art casualties

Posted by: Kim Palmer Updated: May 19, 2010 - 9:06 AM

 

I love garden art, the really good stuff made of iron or stone, that can take a pounding from the elements and still look beautiful. So far, I haven't splurged on any for myself. But I have bought a few things as gifts for my mother.

 

The small stone cupid I bought her a few years ago still looks great. But the statue I picked up for her, of two kids reading a book together, does not. When I first spotted it, it had a beautiful greenish patina, like old bronze. (I knew it wasn't bronze, since it was in my price range.) But it was heavy like stone, and it seemed durable.

Well, that "patina" finish started to crack and flake off almost as soon as it was exposed to sunlight. By the end of July, it looked patchy, like the children had some horrible skin disease. (Sorry, Mom.)

 

My next garden gift was a moss-covered dog. He looked furry and adorable when I presented him to her. She placed him in a garden bed where the sprinkler would soak him periodically, and his moss coat stayed healthy and lush throughout the growing season. But the next summer, the puppy was just a metal frame with some dead, shriveled moss residue inside.

 

Mom has a lot of moss in her yard, so I harvested some and did my best to patch him.  The bigger surfaces, like his back, looked OK, but I couldn't get the moss to stick to his face, legs or tail. He remained a scary-looking, mangy mutt for the rest of the summer.

Maybe I should stay away from garden art unless I can spring for for the really good stuff. Or maybe I should buy Mom a gazing ball next year. They look pretty indestructible.

What's held up in your garden? And does anyone know about the proper care and feeding of a moss dog?

 

 

Garden art casualties

Posted by: Kim Palmer Updated: May 19, 2010 - 9:06 AM

 

I love garden art, the really good stuff made of iron or stone, that can take a pounding from the elements and still look beautiful. So far, I haven't splurged on any for myself. But I have bought a few things as gifts for my mother.

 

The small stone cupid I bought her a few years ago still looks great. But the statue I picked up for her, of two kids reading a book together, does not. When I first spotted it, it had a beautiful greenish patina, like old bronze. (I knew it wasn't bronze, since it was in my price range.) But it was heavy like stone, and it seemed durable.

Well, that "patina" finish started to crack and flake off almost as soon as it was exposed to sunlight. By the end of July, it looked patchy, like the children had some horrible skin disease. (Sorry, Mom.)

 

My next garden gift was a moss-covered dog. He looked furry and adorable when I presented him to her. She placed him in a garden bed where the sprinkler would soak him periodically, and his moss coat stayed healthy and lush throughout the growing season. But the next summer, the puppy was just a metal frame with some dead, shriveled moss residue inside.

 

Mom has a lot of moss in her yard, so I harvested some and did my best to patch him.  The bigger surfaces, like his back, looked OK, but I couldn't get the moss to stick to his face, legs or tail. He remained a scary-looking, mangy mutt for the rest of the summer.

Maybe I should stay away from garden art unless I can spring for for the really good stuff. Or maybe I should buy Mom a gazing ball next year. They look pretty indestructible.

What's held up in your garden? And does anyone know about the proper care and feeding of a moss dog?

 

 

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