Tucking in the Garden

Screen Shot 2017-09-30 at 8.36.00 PM.pngFrost is expected again tonight.  Jim M. and I covered as much as we could with the sheets and row cover we had but not all beds are covered.

If it matters to you, go to the garden and throw a sheet over your tender plants tonight.

BTW – Covering the beds with fabric and an upholster is good fun. He was pulling the cover, draping it like a pro, securing it here and there with an exaggerated care.

“Upholsterers don’t like wrinkles,” he said with a smile.

Made my day. I’m still chuckling. Thanks twice, Jim. Once for coming out to help and agains for the good humor.

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Beautiful Blue Borage Flowers

Next time, you’re in the Pitney Meadows Community Gardens, look at the community herb plot for an arresting display of blue flowers on the borage plants. Screen Shot 2017-09-27 at 1.32.19 PM.png

The flowers are star-shaped and can be added to salads, frozen in water in ice cube trays for fancy ice cubes when serving drinks, or sugared, like violets, to garnish cupcakes for a garden party.

Borage is an ancient herb and has other uses, too. For one thing, it is an excellent soil enhancer as it contains calcium and potassium. It also attracts beneficial insects especially bees, and is said to repel tomato hornworms when planted alongside tomato plants.

But my favorite use is to make crystallized flowers. And, it’s easy.

Recipe for Crystalized Flowers

Pick the flowers when they are dry and fully open. You can also do this with violets, rose petals, nasturtiums, and pansies.

Lightly beat an egg white. In a separate shallow bowl, have a 1/4 cup of superfine granulated sugar. With a paintbrush, paint the egg white onto the flower getting into all the nooks and crannies. Then dip it into the sugar. You may want to use a second paintbrush to get the sugar well distributed. Shake off the excess sugar and place the flowers on parchment paper to dry. Once dry, use them to decorate your cakes, desserts, pancakes. They even look pretty on top of a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

The community herb bed is grown for the use of all the Pitney Meadows Community Garden gardeners. If you would like to join us next season and have access to the plants, let me know.

 

 

Do You Know When to Harvest Onions?

I was recently asked this question in the garden.

If you know the clues,  onions tell you.

When onions are mature, the tops yellow and naturally fall over.

When most of the onion planting has flopsy tops, harvest. To harvest dig around the bulbs, pull them up and cure them by spreading them on a surface where there is good ventilation. I have found using an old window screen as a shelf in the corner of the garage works well.

Let them dry for two to three weeks. You know they are ready when the tops are dry and the outer skin is paper dry, crisp to the touch.  Trim off the roots and tops.

If your harvest was abundant and you want to store some for winter, place them in a container with good air flow. Some people use mesh bags but a cardboard box with some holes cut through works too.

If the onions are kept cool, around 40 degrees, and away from sunlight they can last for months.

Gardener’s Tip: While you are harvesting onions, try not to bruise them. They will last longer.

 

 

Herb Class Wednesday in the Gardens

Screen Shot 2017-08-15 at 2.58.53 PMKim London will be leading an herb class Wednesday night starting at 7 p.m. in the Pitney Meadows Community Gardens, 233 West Avenue.

Kim, a well known chef, and will share her knowledge on using herbs in the kitchen to flavor our meals.

The program is free and there is no registration necessary.  Just come and enjoy.

 

Tomato Hornworms in the Garden

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This morning, I found tomato hornworms, Manduca quinquemaculata, on a single tomato plant in one of the raised beds.

These are destructive caterpillars that will defoliate a plant very quickly and decimate your tomatoes. They also like to devour peppers, potatoes and eggplants.

Here’s what to look for: black turds, defoliation of the tender top leaves and a green caterpillar that is both fascinating and disgusting at the same same.

Usually there are many turds on a leaf or on the ground. If you see this, start looking for the hornworms, which can be up to four-inches long. They are called hornworms because they have a black “horn” on the last abdominal segment.

Handpick hornworms from infested plants and remove them from the garden.

Hornworms become a moth commonly known as a hummingbird, hawk, or sphinx moth.

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Enter a captionDamage down by Tomato Hornworms

 

 

 

A Gardener’s Trick for Day Lilies

Screen Shot 2017-08-06 at 6.40.37 PMFour years ago, I acquired a lot of day lilies.  They had no labels. I didn’t know what color they were or any of their characteristics.

They were mysteries. And I would have to patiently wait for them to mature and flower before their secrets were revealed.

Mystery solved

This year, as the flowers unfolded the show was, and still is, spectacular. The bloom started in mid-July  and has been continuously dazzling. There are reds, corals, mauves, lemon yellows, many hues of oranges, strong yellows and an almost white. There are some with double petals and others with multiple colors. Some are lanky and others short and stout.  Some have frilly edges on petals or a margin of a different color. The display is stunning.

While all are beautiful, their placement in the garden could be better. When they were planted, I had no idea what color they were and, that considered, an amazing number are right just where they are. But a few would be better complimented by other flowers in a different part of the garden. Or the size of the scapes would make them more suitable as a front of the border plant rather than a back of the bed planting.

A Clever Trick

I could take photos each week to show the size and color and refer to these when transplanting. But, I had another solution taught to me by a wise gardener. Screen Shot 2017-08-06 at 6.38.08 PMShe would tie a strand of embroidery thread to each scape indicating the flower color. That way when the flower faded, she could still tell its color.

 

In addition, I used blue thread to indicate long scapes and green for those with short scapes. When I transplant, I will know who can go further back in the border and who needs to be up front.

Meanwhile, the thread on this yellow day lily is barely noticeable.Screen Shot 2017-08-06 at 6.42.07 PM

Clever trick isn’t it? Happy Gardening.