Thursday, February 13, 2014

Pre-snowstorm Preparations with a Solar Flower

It would be redundent to add to the many snow photos and videos being circulated about this crazy winter we are having in Southeastern Pennsylvania.  Even now, it is coming down hard and the snow drifts make it hard to know if we have 10" of snow or 2 feet!  It depends where you measure.  Knowing this snow was coming, along with the rest of the world, I took a few precautions.  This included the usual gas, groceries and kid activities (library books, videos, etc.).  However, I also made a pit stop for my husband's Valentine card and was drawn to this solar dancing flower. 

How happy it looked as it danced in the store window with the sunlight hitting the tiny solar panel.  It promised spring.  It promised happiness.  It reads, "love" on the base.  What's not to like?   Yes, it's a plastic flower.  And yes, any other day I would have thought this was a cheesy novelty.  However, with storm #9 approaching, and a "historic storm" to boot, I grabbed it and headed to the checkout. 
This morning at 8:30am with snow still coming down.

That was yesterday.  Today the storm is here.  It has already piled so much snow in my window box that the solar panel can no longer receive enough light to dance.  However, as I look out the back window in to the 2 foot drifts in the backyard, I realize that my garden is somewhere under that 2 feet of snow.  It will be a long time before this girl sees the garden again.  So dance on plastic love flower!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Signs of Autumn in the Garden

[I'm temporarily back from my hiatus.  After a very rainy season, with not much to do but harvest in between rainfalls, and beginning cyber school at home with my oldest son, I'm back for a quick garden update.]

Fall is all around us.  We see it in the beauty of the leaves changing colors and, the long shadows of the sun and the tremendous sunsets we've been blessed with recently.  However, we also see it in the dying summer flowers and withering gardens.  Autumn is here and frost is around the corner.  Before Jack Frost hits the last of the garden, I wanted to share some shades of fall.
Euonymus (Burning Bush)
They call this a burning bush for a reason!  Come fall, the leaves turn bright red.  It's beautiful.  Unfortunately, they also grow really big, and recently were named one of the top 10 "invasive" bushes for our area. 

"Autumn Twist" Azalea
A blooming azalea in the fall?!  That's exactly what I thought when we bought this little guy back in 2004.  Being the skeptic that I am, I figured it was a scam by the garden center.  Afterall, we all know that azaleas bloom in the spring.  However, this variety is called Autumn Twist because it blooms in the spring and then reblooms in the fall again! 
And then there's this ugly thing on the other side of the yard.  My once gorgeous tomato plant that was taller than my husband, is now slumped over with dying leaves.  Any gardener would be tempted to put it out of it's misery, except that it's earned it's stay by giving me 6-10 tomatoes EVERY day still!  They may be small, but they're still red and juicy.
Holly getting itself ready for Christmas
When preparing your gardens, it's really important to make sure you have year-round color.  The holly bush is a great example of how to add color year round.  This little bush was "rescued" from a friend's yard when they no longer wanted it.  The red berries look redder as a sign that the crisp days of autumn are upon us and it will soon be ready to adorn a fireplace mantle or shelf for Christmas.

Monday, August 26, 2013

When Your Garden Smiles Back at You! (Harvest time for Jack-be-Littles)

One of 13 adorable pumpkins!
One of my favorite Philadelphia Mummer's Songs to hear on New Year's Day is "When You're Smilin'".  It not only reminds me of my PopPop, but also makes it impossible not to smile!  So as I put my kids on the bus today for the first day of school, I couldn't help but smile.  This same day that is a day of sitting at desks for them, is freedom for Mom's everywhere!  That also meant more time for me to get back to the garden.

While I was away doing back-to-school shopping, my Jack-be-Littles all turned orange.  It's harvest day for this gardener!  And don't you just love when your garden smiles back at you!  Sing with me. 

"When you're smilin' keep on smilin'
The whole world smiles with you
And when you're laughin' oh when youre laughin'
The sun comes shinin' through..."

[Shared at: Clever Chicks Blog Hop]

Friday, August 16, 2013

Pico de Gallo Overwhelmed by Cilantro and Stink Bugs

It looks innocent now, but wait till you smell it!
With the overabundance of tomatoes, I decided to get creative and experiment with some recipes.  I'm a huge fan of eating a tomato sliced with salt.  I love them.  I grew up with the deliciousness of the "Jersey Tomato" just over the border.  So when my garden gave me plenty, and some even tasting Jersey-ish, we have eaten our share.  My husband calls it the "no option salad" we get every night with dinner. 

Last year I made at attempt at homemade marinara sauce that was a big fail.  I guess I'm just a store-bought sauce girl.  So this year I decided to try my hand at yummy pico de gallo.

So armed with a knife, cutting board, homegrown tomatoes and red onions, I started chopping.  Then came the other ingredients including the store-bought Cilantro.  Now let me back up a minute to yesterday when I bought this cilantro at Wegmans.  By the time I got to the check out, I asked the cashier what smelled of stink bug.  She didn't smell it.  Hmmmm.  In southeast PA, and many other areas, we're still recovering from the invasion a few years ago.  The bug's name is appropriate, it stinks!  When I got home, the smell was overwhelming coming from the groceries in the back of the car.  I thought for sure a stinkbug had hitchhiked home in my bags.

So what do stink bugs and cilantro have in common? Apparently, a lot!  They both smell alike.  Turns out, cilantro smells (and tastes) like stink bug to some people.  To other people, it somehow tastes very different with almost no smell.  I don't get it.

So I chopped it up convinced that when all the yummy ingredients blended together, that I would not taste the cilantro. That's like saying you won't taste the coffee in one of those frou frou Starbucks concoctions.  Oh, it looked so pretty.  And it made my wrap look so healthy.  However, one bite into it and STINK BUG taste!  Yuck!  My lesson from the garden for this week is to leave out the cilantro next time!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Garden Update: A day in the garden in photos

If you live in the Northeast, you'll agree this was a crazy summer of high heat and lots of rain!  If it wasn't a heat wave, it was raining.  Sometimes, we had both!  Apparently, this was great for my garden and the daily harvest is still so much that I have to share.  In fact, sometimes I think my neighbors are tired of me begging them to help me eat all the tomatoes.  That said, here's an August update in pictures.  Enjoy!

Six heirloom tomato plants gone wild!  I've picked over 100 tomatoes already!
Cherry Tomatoes almost ready
The cucumber outgrew it's trellis so I spread the tomato trellis around the back. 
It came all the way down the other side to make a tent perfectr for a kid.
Cucumbers hiding under the trellis

The Jack-be-Littles aren't so little anymore!  The plant has wound around the house!
There's at least a dozen of these tiny pumpkins hidden through the two plants. 
Can't wait for them to turn orange!

The 3 zucchini plants have been the under-producers this year.  I've only picked 4 zucchini so far. 
This time last year I had at least 2 dozen!
We can't forget the flowers.  Here's the mandevilla I added to the deck this year.
The roses are also gorgeous again!
After the camera was put down, I found six huge cucumbers waiting to be picked!
In a few weeks, the cucumber vines should be withered and I'll be ready to plant my fall lettuces and other cold-weather crops.  It's been a great season already!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Tomato and Cucumber Update

One day's harvest!
My favorite salad ingredients are the tomatoes and cucumbers.  So when I saw my plants growing like weeds this summer, I got excited.  And now, earlier than ever in my garden, the tomatoes are ripening.  They're ripening really fast! 

Just this morning I gave away almost 10 tomatoes just from yesterday.  So I was suprised when I went out and needed my son's help to carry in the "load".  Just today, we picked 22 tomatoes and 4 cucumbers.  There's still plenty of tomatoes that will be ready tomorrow!  It's so satisfying to grow enough in the garden to share with others.  So if you're local, come help us eat these!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Jack-be-Littles in Little Spaces

Morning in my tiny pumpkin patch next to the dahlias
When the free packet of seeds arrives in the mail, and they always do, I have a hard time throwing them out.  Where these seeds come from is far and wide.  They might arrive from a garden society, or come free with a mail flyer.  The best arrival was after I carefully picked my heirloom seeds from a catalog, they sent a "complimentary" packet of melon seeds that I did not plan to put in my garden.  It wasn't a small veggie they sent but melons!   

My huband says to just throw them away.  They were free.  He says I'm not obligated to use them.  But I must.  The drive to plant is stronger than the urge to purge.  And so I look for spaces to plant these seeds (if I can't find them another home).  This was the case with those adorable tiny pumpkins you see in the fall.  They're called Jack-be-Littles.  They're really more a gourd than a pumpkin but who cares.  They're cute pumpkins to the kids.  And so the seed packet sat on my counter.  I couldn't throw it out but I didn't want to use precious garden space for a plant with vines.  So I thought vertical.  And then I thought of the trellis where the dahlias didn't grow last year.  So I took a chance. 

Going Vertical
Except for the morning, this spot gets 8+ hours of sun a day!  It's perfect.  And unless it wants to grow beyond the small space I've given it, I think these seeds found a great piece of real estate.  So I hope the Great Pumpkin will be pleased this autumn.  It might not be the largest pumpkin patch, but it will most likely be the most creative one.  At least in my neighborhood.
This is what I hope I'll find later in the season!