Thursday, July 02, 2015

How much basil is too much?

Every year, when I plant herbs, I tell myself I will harvest them when their flavor peaks. And then I don't. But now that I am retired, I am doing a better job of meeting that intention. So yesterday was the day of the first big basil harvest.

Like kale, a whole lot of basil may be reduced to usable portions very easily. I chose to freeze some whole leaves, which I intend to use on pizza sometime this winter. I chopped the rest in a food processor with a bit of olive oil (1T per packed cup (about 30g) of pre-chopped basil), then froze the results in an ice cube tray, for later use in sauces, soups, stirfry, etc.

Unlike kale, I don't think one can have too much basil. It enhances almost any food. This morning, after transferring the frozen cubes to a freezer bag, I mixed the errant basil "crumbs" with a hard boiled egg. Delish!

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

How much kale is too much?

I have never (successfully) grown kale before this year. Last summer, I made a late-summer, direct-seeded effort, for naught. This summer, I started plants inside. After giving some to my daughter, I transplanted eight into my garden. And they have grown magnificently.

Red Russian Kale, post-harvest, pre-weeding

Then came the question of when to harvest. Many recommended picking off the outer leaves as they became big, letting more form from within, which is also how I harvest leaf lettuce for my salads. And it turns out, one may blanch and freeze both the leaves and stems, which I did last night, with the intention of using the former for soup and the latter for stock.

But then what? Some can go into salads and stirfry and smoothies. But still. That's a lot of kale for one person. Maybe I can leave the extra on my neighbors' porches, a hint of things to come after the inevitable zucchini-apocalypse.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Aye, aye, admiral

Some years there are butterflies in my yard, and some years there aren't. This year we have a plethora of Red Admirals, aka Vanessa cardui (Linnaeus). I read somewhere that they like thistle blossoms, which is too bad; last weekend we frantically yanked up all the Canada thistle because it was starting to bloom. Fortunately, Red Admirals like other flowers as well, including Scabiosa (I think this is 'Butterfly Blue').

The only other butterflies I have seen are Cabbage Whites (Pieris rapae), never a welcome sight.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Art in the garden

My SO and I recently spent a few days in New York City. Among the sites and sights was the Highline. I didn't take photos of the plants - those may be viewed at their web site - but I did snap a few of the sculptures.

There was some "found art" in view as well.

I'm interested in introducing more art and hardscape, maybe even a water feature beyond my little fountain, to my yard and garden. This kind of display gives me ideas.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Suddenly it's summer

You go away for a few days, it rains a few inches, and the garden goes from this...

... to this.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Whack, whack, whack

Spring would not be the same without the bright yellows of daffodils and forsythia. BUT. Forsythia can really get out of control if left to its own devices. An unruly forsythia shrub is especially problematic if the gardener plants them too close to the gates to the backyard (ahem). So in an effort to contain and hopefully transform the offending bushes, I told my SO to whack away at them. And whack he did.

I also invited him to reduce the burning bush to a miniature size, to give the gold mop and barberry a chance to fill out. If the filling out does not happen, we can let the burning bush return to its so-called dwarf size.

And let's not leave out the boxwood.

Now I can see out my living room window.

Once the privet at the back of the lot drops its blossoms, it's turn will come. Whack, whack, whack.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Newbies (and some controversy)

This year I have been surprisingly resistant to making purchases for the yard and garden beyond bales of peat, bags of compost, and a bit of this and that. However, there were a few holes to fill, so some plants followed me home the other day. (Sorry for the quality of the photos - the light was not ideal.)

I am crazy for Coreopsis, but most cultivars crap out after a couple of years, so I have been replacing them with other loves. Somewhere along the line, the Penstemon disappeared from the yard, so I added some into the bed by the front walk, to fill the spots absented by some Coreopsis. This variety is 'Red Riding Hood', purchased at Arbor Farms. I hope the hummingbirds like it.

I am also a sucker for Sedum. While visiting a new-to-me nursery north of Auburn (Garden Gate), I saw some new-to-me Stonecrop, 'Blue Spruce'. Thinking I had no room for it, I passed, only to succumb when I saw it later at Home Depot. It too is now in the front bed.

I have also added some calendula and white alyssum, with the hopes they will self-seed next year. At any rate, I think this bed now is as full as it can be (until something else dies off).

Another full bed is the hosta bed on the north side of the garage. That did not stop me from picking up another Heuchera, this one 'Zipper', to contrast with the darker two in this bed.

I'd also like to add something tall, maybe Ostrich Fern, maybe even replacing the hostas in the back as they are an older variety that is susceptible to slug damage, but that idea will have to wait for another year.

No photos, but I added three Purple Coneflower plants to the south side of the house, all 'Magnus'. This is the bed that contains the Catmint that is spreading every which way. Maybe if I fence it in, it will stay put?

When I started seeds for the vegetable garden this year, I aimed to produce the exact number of plants needed. Unfortunately, this did not allow for the fact that some transplants would not survive. Something has eliminated a few marigolds and 'Roma' tomato plants, so I purchased replacements.

Now for a controversial topic: Neonicotinoids. Some of the plants I purchased from Home Depot came with the following tags, tags I noticed only after I pulled the plants from their pots for transplanting.

My first inclination was to return the plants to the store. But after reading HD's policy online (their suppliers must include these tags for plants that have been treated), I realized that while I now *know* these plants had been treated, I have no idea if any of the other plants I have purchased now or in the past from wherever have also been treated. I could ask, but I would be surprised if many of the local nurseries even know whether their suppliers use Neonicotinoids. And if they do know and the answer is yes, do I stop buying from them even though they are local businesses, which I try to support? It's a bit of a quandary. What would YOU do in my place?