Sunday, October 30, 2011

Mulching with Fall Leaves...or someone else's

Mulching your garden beds with fall leaves is a free resource that is readily available and very effective. Leaves can be used exclusively for all your mulching needs, provided you keep a few things in mind. You only want to apply 2” to 4” of mulch flat over the root zone. You’ll also want to keep mulch away from stems and trunks.
 To use your fall leaves they will first have to be shredded, and to do this there are several methods. If you have a lawn mower you can simply eat away at your pile of leaves to shred them or spread them out flat and roll right over them. I find my bagging mower helps make things easier by only having to mow the leaves and empty the bag, no raking needed. If you have a blower with mulching/ shredding attachments this will also turn those fall leaves into beneficial mulch. It was also suggested at the latest Master Gardener meeting to use a weed wacker in a large trash can for those of us that don't have lawn mowers.
Whole leaves will layer like shingles and shed water, not allowing it to sink into the root zone, leaving your plants and trees pretty thirsty. A layer of whole leaves will block airflow, which leads to rotting of leaves and of plant roots. While decomposition is a good thing in the garden, rotting is not. That’s why we shred the leaves to create mulch that will block sunlight, let water penetrate, retain water, suppress weed activity, decompose beneficially, and allow airflow.
Submitted by Jamaal Brown

Friday, October 21, 2011

City garden ------winter interest




The last dragonfly of the summer at my roses.




Viewing my garden in the city from my back door in the dead of winter is often a drab affair. Brown fences and wires running down the alley, morning glory vines someone planted that have taken over the alley, everything in repose for the winter. But wait, I do have life, the cast of a thousand different sparrows, juncos and cardinals at the feeders. Of course, there are pigeons and squirrels trying to raid the feeders. We battle every year and usually they win.

But, the shin tailed hawk 
that appears from Fairmount Park takes care of that problem for awhile. He is beautiful, sitting on the fence in the middle of urban spaces of squared off, fenced 10x15 parcels often looking like receptacles for trash cans and BBQ grills and plastic furniture past it’s prime.


So how do I make this a better viewing area in the winter? What garden bones do I have in place to make my garden have winter interest? The workshop with the Master Gardeners showed plants and trees that bloom in the winter. They also talked about texture and bringing art into the garden to give it my personality.
Let’s see. I have the ivy on the fence that stays green and allows the sparrows a place to dwell in bad weather. There is the potted rhododendron with the yellow star, the metal door mat hanging like a sculpture on the wooden fence and the blue container planted with bulbs for the spring. Since I lost the Acer Griseum 2 years ago the corner is barren and ugly. 
I need to view my garden with a different lens. 
                                                                Think sepia not bold color.  

Next I am going shopping for a small tree to put into the corner. I am looking at maples and crabapples that will give me winter interest.

I found a Japanese Maple (Acer Palmatum) Shigure Bato. Small 10 to 12 feet, colorful red branching, delicate leaves and it fills the corner beautifully. It makes me smile. Now to give the red star to my neighbor and the corner is complete for my interesting winter garden. Irises and tulips in the spring and a wonderful tree in the winter





Monday, October 3, 2011

Freeze Those Herbs


Rosemary
Freezing herbs is a great alternative to drying as it locks in the flavor over a longer period of time and can be done in a variety of ways.


Herbs like dill, rosemary, thyme and sage are best kept on the stalk, placed in a zip lock freezer bag with all the air pushed out. You then snip or break off the amount you need or toss the entire stalk in the pot.


An alternative is drying leaves overnight on the counter on a cookie sheet. Wash and dry the leaves then spread them out onto a cookie sheet, freezing them on the sheet the next day. This prevents the leaves from sticking together and you then can package them to be used straight from the freezer.

Parsley                                            

Dill


Using ice cube trays is another way to be ready to cook with your favorite herbs. Wash, chop, measure and freeze the herbs of   choice in an ice cube tray. Once frozen, the cubes can be put into a ziploc bag and you can scoop out the amount of basil or dill as you need.

Finally, making herb butters is a great way to have that special butter to cook your favorite meal. No going to the market and starting from scratch the day of the meal. Dill butter for your favorite fish, garlic and chives, tarragon or whatever is your favorite for meat, poultry, pasta, corn, or vegetables.

Recipe for herbed butter
 Stick of butter (softened unsalted)                                               1/4 C of herb of choice 
 1 tsp. Of lemon juice                                                                        fine sea salt to taste 

Cream the butter and herbs together with a fork. Add lemon juice and salt to taste. Using a piece of plastic wrap, roll into a log and freeze. When ready to use, slice off the desired amount. Let warm a little before using.