Sunday, September 30, 2012

Saving Seeds

Beautiful begonias blooming bountifully

Well, I've been collecting seeds from my garden and preparing them to save over the winter.  I've never been very good at growing plants inside - in fact, I'm downright terrible at it.  But hope reigns supreme and I'm going to save seeds to start late winter/early spring so that I can have more of my favorite perennials in the garden.  

I'm learning that it's very important to let the seeds dry completely before putting them in storage.  Moldy seed stuff is kinda gross!  But that's what this is all about -- learning something new.

I found a really neat idea on Pinterest for saving seeds in TicTac containers.  So I bought a bundle of mints and emptied them into snack size zipper bags where they will be used up just the same.   Then a little washi tape and label and look how fun and official they are. 

So on to a new adventure and I'll be honest and show how things go in a few months.  I'll save a few seeds for sprinkling outside in the garden just in case.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Back Among the Blogging


Blanket Flower
Fall Asters

Well - I see that it has been slightly over a month since my last post.  I have lots of good reasons or excuses whichever you prefer.  First we had company - then I was company - then I had to recover from all the company!  

Succulent Garden

My hubbie did a great job keeping my garden alive for 2 weeks in the summer heat while I was gone.

Its funny how fast the garden turns into autumn mode.  I was outside the other morning and noticed a real change in the air.

Autumn Joy
Autumn Joy

Reminder to southwest gardeners - don't cut back your perennials. Since our winters are dry the plants need protection and the dry stuff on top helps keep the crowns safe.  Springtime is the best time to trim perennials.  I know that means that the garden looks a bit ratty during the winter, but it is better in the long run.  Besides the birds enjoy hiding out and eating the seeds from the plants.  

Bumble bees are especially active right now in my garden.  They aren't at all bothered by me and I just let them do their jobs.  

Now that life has returned to 'normal' I'll be blogging some suggestions and hints for fall and winter.  

Happy Gardening! 


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Alien in my Garden


I'm not terribly fond of bugs or even pictures of bugs - but I'm fascinated by the preying mantis.  This one was outside our family room hanging on the screen so I hurried out to take a couple of pictures.  It was about 3" long and not at all bothered by me.


These are great to have in your garden as they are really voracious eaters of the bad bugs as well as their male mates ;(  Once they've taken up residence they'll start to multiply and spread around your neighborhood.  Some garden centers sell the eggs in the spring and it might be worth the initial investment if you don't have these 'aliens' in your garden.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Being Overcome by Zucchini?

Are you being overcome or over run by zucchini?  Here's one way to use up your bountiful harvest without having your neighbors locking their doors and closing their curtains when you appear.

I wash the squash and cut the ends off leaving the seeds in - nobody will even notice.  Then through the shredder attachment on my food processor.  (I used to grate it by hand, it just takes longer.)  Mine holds about 2 cups of shredded zucchini or yellow summer squash.  I often mix them, it just depends on what I have at the time.

Two cups of shredded squash makes a batch of our favorite zucchini bread recipe.  I bag and freeze the rest in 2 cup portions to use the rest of the year.  Hint: I always double bag it to make sure it stays without freezer burn.  Lots of goodness to share with neighbors later this winter - and they will welcome you with open arms!

Here's our favorite zucchini bread recipe.  It's a variant on a recipe from the Lion House Lite cookbook.

1/4 cup olive oil
Bagged and ready to freeze
2 cups splenda (instead of 2 cups sugar)
1 1/2 cups egg substitute
3 tsp vanilla
2 cups shredded raw zucchini
3 cups flour
3 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Spray 2  9 x 5 loaf pans (you can use smaller pans, just watch the baking time)with nonstick spray.  Mix oil, sugar substitute, vanilla, egg white, and zucchini.  Then I mix in everything but the flour and nuts.  Add the flour carefully and scrape the bowl well.  Bake at 350 for 1 hour or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Let sit in pans for 10 minutes then tip out onto cooling rack.

I experiment with different spices: Pumpkin pie spice, nutmeg, and different combinations.  And even though I try to keep it lite, sometimes a little sprinkle of chocolate chips on top makes it just a little special.


Monday, August 6, 2012

Catching the Rain

 When we came to Albuquerque 13 years ago I started calling around to find a rain barrel. (Yes - we actually get rain here in the desert.  It usually comes in July and August and we call it the monsoon season.  We get about  13" of precipitation yearly and really need every drop.)  Anyhow back to my story.  Everywhere I called they acted like I was from another planet.  A rain barrel???  No one seemed to know what I was talking about.  So I ordered one from Gardener's Supply Company.  It holds 70 gallons and because we have a single story home with a lot of roof area it fills in about 7-10 minutes of steady rain.

The first one worked so well that I ordered a second one.  They have a screen guard on the top.  That's really important to prevent mosquitos from taking up residence there.  Also it catches the big gunk that washes off the roof.  I've heard stories about women washing their hair in rainwater but you wouldn't catch me doing that!  After it washes off the roof its pretty gross and although my plants love it, its pretty disgusting.  This picture is shows the second rain barrel connected to a third one as the overflow barrel.
The overflow barrel(65 gallons) is a Fiskars one that I got at Lowes.  I've kept the lid solid and drilled a hole in the upper side connected to the green barrel.  When the green barrel fills it overflows into the gray one saving even more water.  All three rain barrels have an outlet at the bottom that can be connected to a hose.  That makes it easy to water plants and containers around my garden.       
As you can see, this system works well for me.  And now you can find rain barrels all over Albuquerque.  The city will even give you a rebate for having one (with the proper paperwork).  So I wasn't crazy - just ahead of my time.

One reminder - empty the rain barrels before a hard frost so that the water doesn't freeze and crack them.   

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Repurposed Colander Planter

My mom taught me about reusing things from the kitchen in the garden.  I'll admit though that I used to roll my eyes and groan inside at her thriftiness.  Now I do the same thing. 

I had an old colander that had been banging around in the garden for a couple of years and then - aha!  This is how it was turned into a pretty little hanging planter.

I used this really lovely color - 'peekaboo blue' and sprayed inside and outside the colander 4 times.  I did the inside even though it won't show to protect the metal from rusting and running through onto the exterior.

The chain is from ACE Hardware (it's right around the corner from us).  And I love s-hooks, they are so handy I use them for hanging stuff outside all the time.  To keep the soil from washing out put a coir liner inside the colander.  When you first water go slowly so that the liner can absorb as much water as possible.

I always use a swivel connector for my hanging plants.  It makes it easy to rotate the planter to get even sunlight.  They are 'officially' used on dog chains to keep them from getting twisted up.  I added my chains to the colander with the s-hooks and pinched them closed. 

I guessed too long on the length of the chain that was needed.  But instead of cutting it off I let it dangle down in the center of the plant.  It turned out to be a nice touch and added some interest and movement.


And here's the finished planter on my front porch.  It's hanging over another pot which catches the drips when I water.  Check the weight of the planter after you water and see how heavy it is - this can be used as a guide for when to water next - never let it get too lightweight or your plants will quickly suffer.  Remember to put another pot underneath and the runoff won't be wasted.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Saving Seeds

My neighbor has been saving seeds for a few years and has shared some
with me.  Now she has shared this great resource with me:
This is the perfect time to start learning about collecting and storing your own seeds to grow again and to share with others.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Still Alive!

Well, our granddaughters' visit is done.  They were here for a month and and I promptly came down with my post-visit cold.It  was lots of fun (not the cold) and exhausting too.  Sadly I'm not as young as I wish and my personal energizer bunny now has lots of gray hairs.  (Oh no, not another gray hare!)  

We had lots of fun and they spent a great deal of time out in the garden.  E told me that my garden keeps expanding even though the size stays the same.  I try to have things in the garden that they will enjoy.  

This summer  we made a hopscotch place for them from concrete blocks.  They numbered and decorated it themselves with sidewalk chalk which has washed off in the rain. 

 I also have an old repurposed breadbox that I use to store a few garden tools and supplies down on the lower level.  The girls got to decorate it for me.  Now its lovely with birds, bees, flowers and K's contribution of pink.

Don't let the summer heat get to you - remember to water your garden, planters and pots enough.  They get sick of the heat the same as we do.  Fertilize your heavy feeding veggies especially tomatoes.  Container plants and pots need deadheading and fertilizing.  Keep up with your garden now and it will reward you with a new blast late summer and early fall. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Little Bit of Earth

L packed her planter box

Twice a year my granddaughters E L K get to plant their own little garden in a garden box.  In the fall they do pansies that winter over and do great in the spring.  

The droopy African Marigolds are fine now

When they come in the summer they get to choose their own plants. They get to learn about proper planting and watering (at least that's the general idea). 

K likes to supervise, doesn't like dirt on her hands.

We've had quite an assortment over the last few years - tomatoes, zucchini, lots of pinks and reds.  I send them pictures to update them on the progress of their gardens.  

E went with a minimalist look with lots of textures.
L's African Marigold is fine now, just needed water and good soil.
K is quite proud of all 'her' work.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Childhood Rite of Passage

 Lemonade stands seem to be a rite of passage for children.  My granddaughters E and L have been planning one for a few months now.  They finally had their chance last Saturday.  Youngest sister K also joined in and they had a ball.  Many thanks go out to good neighbors and friends who generously tipped the little business owners.  They made up their own jingles and were great hawkers, even persuading the mail carrier to have a nice drink of 'ice-cold lemonade with real lemons'.


Monday, June 18, 2012

A Few of My Favorite Things

I brought our daughter and granddaughters (E.L.K.) back to Albuquerque to get out of some of the Arizona heat for a few weeks.  Very understanding SiL (son-in-law) is great about letting us have them for a long time and will join us for a few days in July.  So I took some pictures of some of my favorite plants to share with you for inspiration while I am busy adjusting to the chaos.

Whirling Butterflies
This is gaura also known as apple-blossom grass or my favorite name whirling butterfliesThis is a perennial, which means it will come back year after year, and comes in several colors now.  White, light pink through dark pink.  It blooms continually spring through late summer.  Its light and airy which allows other plants to be put in around it.  In this picture I have some purple drumstick allium coming up through the gaura.   Once established it handles our dry hot weather really well.

Check the variety you are interested in to find out how tall it grows.  Whirling butterflies will often reseed itself and it's best to move it when small since it later develops a tap root which makes transplanting difficult.  Don't cut it down in the fall but let it winter over all messy and scraggly - this will protect the crown.  Clean it up in the spring and it will be ready to grow again.

Coral Bells

One plant variety that gives a cottage feel to the garden is heuchera also known as coral bells.  There are lots of varieties and they are mainly planted for the leaf colors and shapes.  I have some in my garden that came from my Mom's garden in Utah.  They are slow growers but can be divided and are also perennials.  I like the little flower stalks with their bell-like flowers and so do hummingbirds. 
Some of the varieties have really cool foliage and the blooms are rather boring.  Always read the label to see what you are getting.  Although mainly a shade to partial shade plant there are plenty of types that do well in the sun.  I have a number of them in my sunniest beds.  They like to be mulched well in the winter time and sometimes have to be replanted in the spring because they have a tendency to grow up out of the soil. 
Autumn Joy Sedum

This is an easy plant to have around:  Autumn Joy SedumTechnically it's not a sedum according to the botanists, but we call it that anywayAutumn Joy has a fun shape and is perennial also.  Pinch it back from late spring until July 24 and it will gladly give you tons of blooms in the fall. The blooms start out looking like broccoli and then become dusty-red darkening into a bronze in the fall.  I leave the heads on all winter and the birds enjoy picking them in the winter.  There are a lot of sedums to choose from and they can all be propagated by cutting off a stem with several leaves and sticking it in the ground - easy peasy.  In fact, one year my Mom had tons of them growing in her compost pile where she had tossed away some cuttings earlier in the year!

Chocolate Flower
Here's a fun addition to a desert garden:  Chocolate Flower (berlandiera).  Yep it really does smell like Hershey's chocolate bars - especially in the morning.  It's very xeric when established and if you collect the seeds or let them go you can multiply the fun.  It dies away almost completely in the winter but comes back reliably in the spring.  Beneficial insects love this plant and we want to encourage them in the garden.