There are two strong antiseptics directly extracted from plants: one is tea tree oil, only found in the leaves of the Australian plant, and the other one is thymol, a potent antimicrobial found in thyme and oregano, a substance bee balms also have in abundance. Read more…
If you choose the color purple for a monochromatic color scheme there is no scarcity of plants, annuals and perennials alike, to carry it through all four seasons.
You can start very early, even before spring sets in, with the intense magentas of the Lenten roses and as soon as the snow melts they are in the cheerful company of sweet violets, crocuses and hyacinths. Read more…
Us hopeful rosarians have to admit that roses are not just another pretty flower. There is something very special and noble about them, the older they are the more rare and valued their flowers and often the more persnickety they get.
Here are some cultivars to test your rosarian mettle. Read more…
I learned the most important facts about roses from my grandfather and they go like this:
Roses are not fussy plants, if they have full sun exposure they will put up with conditions that few perennials can withstand: drought, heavy soils, extreme temperatures on both sides of the spectrum and even salty water. Read more…
There is great comfort in a wispy bowl of hot soup on a cold winter day, whether it is the all times favorite, the chicken noodle, the creamy, melty seafood chowder, the sweet crunchy corn kernel, the smooth textured potato cheddar, the sophisticated French onion, the spicy creamy tortilla, the complex broccoli cheese, or the silky lobster bisque, the list could go on forever. Read more…
I don’t know how many people grew up with fruit compote as a staple of their diet. My grandparents made it throughout the summer to preserve fruit for the winter months. My grandmother’s apricot compote was so good I still dream about it on occasion. Read more…
I gingerly stepped out the door and a blast of cold air threw me back in. It’s February. So much for my gardening enthusiasm, I guess I can stick to potpourri and fragrant sachets for now but since late winter is a good time for tree planting, let’s talk about fruit trees. Read more…
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.
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.