Any healthy, seed free plant material can go in the compost pile. You can also include grass clippings, if you don’t treat your lawn with herbicides. Adding vegetable scraps and eggshells will speed up the process of turning compost into fertile garden soil material, and adding well rotted manure will too. Layering plant material with a matter rich in nitrogen in 6″ layers will provide the optimal compost pile.
Unfortunately, the entire process doesn’t smell or look good, so you might consider a closed system with a wheel so that you can turn the compost without stirring up the smell. These systems are designed to speed up the process too, so you get compost sooner. Also, be courteous to your neighbors and place the system in a remote enough location where it won’t bother anybody.
How much and when?
Feeding: Some people like to compare the synthetic fertilizers with drugs. They have high potency and feed only the plant, which becomes dependent, not the soil, which in time deteriorates and does not replenish its resources to allow plants to thrive. If you have to use fertilizer, try an organic, slow release product twice a year, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Don’t fertilize in the fall, except for newly planted bulbs. Plants need to adjust to going dormant and eating less. Otherwise, the best option for fertilizing would be your home made compost, which turns all your plant waste into a rich, nourishing material resembling top soil. Quick tip: you can drop plant material in not so visible locations of your flower beds and they will turn to compost without the pile and the smell, enriching the soil in place.
Watering: Some say that watering is a luxury, not a necessity, and the plants, other than the ones in containers, should be able to thrive on the rainwater available that year. I say if the dirt looks dry, water. There is nothing that looks sadder and more neglected than a garden full of wilted plants.
The summer garden has a more tired look than the exuberant garden of spring. It needs a little more care to look its best:
- make sure to water it often enough (if the plants look wilted or the dirt cracks, it has been too long)
- keep the plants deadheaded and remove the dead leaves from plants that go dormant after the spring bloom
- keep the weeds in check, they will sprout out of nowhere and take over if you let them
- feed the plants for a second wave of bloom
- wait for fall to move perennials, especially the larger clumps, heat can be very stressful for a transplanted plant.
INGREDIENTS: (1) bowl of black raspberries, (2) pounds of sugar, (3) cups of water, juice from one lemon.
Wash the raspberries, drain them well and dry them on a paper towel until all remaining water is completely absorbed.
Boil the water and sugar together in a nonstick pot on low heat until the sugar dissolves completely. Turn the heat up and let it boil quickly until it turns to syrup. To check for the right consistency, spill a droplet of syrup on a cold plate. It should look like a little bead and keep its shape. Don’t let the syrup boil for too long, though. When it cools down it will turn too tough to use. Skim the surface foam as it appears until the surface is clean.
When the syrup reached the desired consistency, drop the raspberries in it. Do not stir with a spoon; just shake the pot gently to move the fruit around without crushing it.
Bring the mixture to a boil and set it aside for 15 minutes, so that the raspberries can release their juice. Skim any additional foam off the surface. Add the liquid from one lemon and stir very gently. Boil the preserves again and try the consistency with the method above until droplets keep their shape.
Allow the jam to cool down. Cover the pot with a damp cheese cloth and let the preserves rest till the next day.
Fill glass jars to the brim, seal them with parchment paper and/or lids and boil the jars in at least 2 inches of water for 15 minutes. This process will sterilize the contents and seal the jars. Pull the jars out and let them cool down slowly. Enjoy.
This recipe is for the real hard core foodies out there; it is an old fashioned fruit preserve that successfully graced my grandparents’ pantry year after year when I was a child. It calls for black raspberries, but it will work with any kind of raspberries or blackberries, or even wild mountain strawberries if you have them.
If you never made fruit preserves before, the heavenly fragrance that envelops your home while the fruit and sugar meld their flavors alone is worth the effort. So, put away the fragrant candles and start the pot boiling. You will have a wonderful aroma in your home, a great sweet treat to enjoy, brag about and offer as a gift, and have the satisfaction of creating a product from your garden produce, if you are one of the lucky few whose garden is producing more berries than you can eat.
Local craft stores have an infinite supply of raffia, bows, colorful printed wax paper, old fashioned little jars and labels, so you can package this little product beautifully to decorate the open shelves of your kitchen or offer as a gift. If you want to go old school, don’t put lids on the jars: cut a little cardboard circle to fit the top of the jar perfectly and cover with wax paper or colorful plastic wrapping; tie with raffia or brown string. Make sure to tie it very tightly around the jar neck. If any air gets in after the jars are sterilized, the preserves might get moldy.
INGREDIENTS: (1) bowl of strawberries, (2) pounds of sugar, (3) cups of water, juice from one lemon.
Soak the strawberries in ice water for an hour. Change the water a couple of times so that it stays ice cold. Strain them and drain them on a towel. After they are dry, place them in a heavy non-stick pan in alternating layers with sugar and end with a thick layer of sugar on top. Squeeze the juice from half a lemon on top. Cover the pan with a cheese cloth and let stand over night in a cool place for 10 to 12 hours.
Place the pan on low heat till all the sugar dissolves, mixing very gently as to not crush the fruit, and then turn up the heat and let it come to a boil. Skim the foam as it appears. Add the juice from the other half lemon and let it boil until a bead of syrup will keep its shape when dropped on a cold plate. Do not over boil, it burns and turns very tough quickly.
Pour the preserves in a clean dry pan and cover it with a damp cheese cloth. When the mixture has cooled down, pour it in mason jars and follow the sealing and pasteurizing instructions written in the black raspberry jam recipes.