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.