Thursday, October 31, 2013

End of summer Tomato Jam

Michele K. Koskinen

The end of the tomato season leaves me a bit sad as I enjoy tomatoes more than any other fruit (vegetable) in the summer. I wait for them to grow, pick them and often pop them in my mouth as I am tending the garden. I have put up tomato jam, green dilled tomatoes, whole tomatoes, salsa, and recently a new recipe, yellow tomato and basil jam.

Stopping at a local farmer’s market for gourds, I spied lovely yellow tomatoes and decided to try a new jam. I grabbed apples for butter and sauce, plum tomatoes, and the yellow tomatoes. A day spent preserving is on the schedule. Just enough produce for a few small jars to go along with all of the other foods I have canned over the summer.

I use recipes from a book on small jar canning and also the Ball book on canning. You can also find a multitude of recipes on small batch canning today on many blogs and cooking sites. It is the modern way of enjoying preserving food for the entire year. No longer putting up dozens of quarts many, including me, simply do small batches of pints, or 4 and 8 oz jars. 

Before you begin to can or preserve using the hot water method, you should read carefully and follow the sanitary instructions for food safety. Careful preparation of your jars and food temperature is important to prevent foodborne illness.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Food Forest Demonstration Garden

Philadelphia Master Gardeners in collaboration with the Philadelphia Orchard Project (POP), Fairmount Park Conservancy and the Department of Parks and Recreation planted the first phase of the new Permaculture Food Forest Demonstration Garden at the Fairmount Park Horticulture Center on Saturday October 19th.

This new orchard can be found next to the Butterfly Garden on the Horticulture grounds and is adjacent to the Japenese House, and a few steps away from the Master Gardener Edible Garden in the park. Over the next year, a varity of trees, shrubs and understory plants will be planted in stages.  The Master Gardeners will help maintain the orchard with other volunteers, help provide signage, and have an opportunity for educational and hands on programming for the community with this project.

Planning the orchard and learning about the proper planting depth of the trees, how to work with the roots and mulching correctly.

       Apples, Plums and Pears of different variesties.

Shinseiki Asian Pear
HoneyCrisp Apples
Santa Rosa Plum

Chehalis Apple


Protecting and Watering........... final steps to a proper planting.

A job well done with an invitiation to Orchard Day on 

Saturday, October 26... 09:00 AM
Join in on our 3rd annual Philadelphia Orchard Day! This city wide event features harvest festivals, plantings, work days, fruit tastings and other events at orchard sites across the city. Philadelphia Orchard Day is intended to highlight the wonderful work of our community partners and the celebrate the fantastic fruit growing in neighborhoods throughout Philadelphia. See individual event postings by clicking the link

For additional information on this project here is some background information.

Philadelphia Parks & Recreation released the Parkland Forest Management Framework in October 2013. The plan is a guide to long-term healthy and sustainable forest management for Philadelphia’s parkland forests. It is a living document that results in a set of activities and steps that return healthy functioning and self-perpetuating processes to the forests.     Parkland Plan PDF

Joan S. Blaustein, Director
Urban Forestry and Ecosystem Management Division, 
Philadelphia Parks & Recreation wrote:

"The Framework lays out a series of goals, including expanding and connecting existing forests, meadows, shrub lands, and wetlands to create longer corridors, and engaging the assistance of volunteers, friends groups, local experts, government agencies and others to help implement these goals.  The plan also recommends a number of pilot projects related to those goals to provide opportunities to test approaches and methods across a spectrum of forest resource needs and that also can be tailored to spread pilot projects out across the system parklands and diverse neighborhoods. Pilot projects have the added potential benefit of garnering stakeholder support, providing stewardship opportunities, and for collaborating with partnering organizations and funders.  

One of the first pilot projects to be implemented is the Agroforestry Edges, which by creating food forests, will enhance and expand edge conditions along forested areas to enhanced tree cover along wooded edges that promote woodland function, while supporting productive landscapes (nut or fruit harvest), community engagement and awareness.  We selected the location at the Horticultural Center for a number of reasons:  it is a highly visible location where we can educate the public about permaculture and food forests, we have the active participation of the Penn State Master Gardeners who will maintain the forest, and easy access.  

The Department of Parks and Recreation’s mission of connecting people to the land as well as providing public amenities in open spaces makes this department a natural home for urban agriculture in a variety of settings.   Parks & Recreation has supported a number of orchards on our sites already, including Woodford Mansion, Bartram’s Garden, and soon Strawberry Mansion and the Carousel House.  FarmPhilly, a new program will directly engage Philadelphians in improving their communities through the urban agriculture by saving long-term community gardens that are currently on vacant land and facilitating the creation of new urban agriculture projects on vacant land. We will also continue to look for locations to create Agroforestry Edges in our parkland as a way to expand our forests. "

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Community Gardens in Salta, Argentina

By Linda and Sandy Grimwade

We are spending 6 weeks doing volunteer work in the city of Salta in northwest Argentina. It is a beautiful old colonial Spanish city with about 700,000 inhabitants. Situated at an altitude of about 4,500 feet in the foothills of the Andes, and only 90 miles from the Tropic of Capricorn, the city has a wonderful climate of mostly warm dry days and pleasantly cool nights. It is springtime, and trees are coming into leaf, bulbs are flowering and the barrows on street corners are full of wonderfully flavorful strawberries. Despite this favorable climate and pleasant situation, there are significant areas of the city where signs of poverty and poor nutrition are clearly visible.

Sandy giving a lesson on plants in Spanish
Under the auspices of the city government, we have started a project to introduce education about the benefits of home gardening, and to build small vegetable gardens in “comedores” -- food kitchens run by local people to give children in poor areas at least one good meal per day. The Argentine diet is heavy on protein, carbohydrate, and, increasingly, sugar, but fruits and vegetables are quite expensive, and there is little tradition of growing your own. Armed with materials from Philadelphia Master Gardeners and the Harvest for Health program (thanks to Jackie Simon), Sandy, with Linda’s help gave his first of 4 talks, in Spanish, to about 20 children and 12 parents in one of the comedores a few days ago. We then helped the excited kids to plant tomato, pepper and squash seeds in potting soil-filled cups, started cleaning out an area about 3 feet by 9 feet and building a low wall for a raised bed. 
Children with their pots of seeds

Over the next few weeks we are planning more short talks on caring for a small vegetable garden and will plant seeds of herbs, beans, chard and other greens, as well as setting out the seedlings once they have grown. We hope we will leave here with small gardens growing at several of the comedores and a group of enthusiastic helpers to keep them going. We are also planning to introduce some tasty vegetable recipes.

It is gratifying to be able to share our Master Gardener knowledge with parents and children who are so enthusiastic and willing to become involved.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Fall Containers for Your Garden

Michele K. Koskinen
Ornamental Cabbage and cold hardy pansies

Fall is here and most of the summer plants will not survive the cool nights and moderately warm days. Many gardeners don’t renew their containers for a variety of reasons. Changing from the summer to fall winter plant selections is often perplexing because we don’t see many of our favorites. They are unsure of how long the containers will survive and plants other than the quintessential MUM are often difficult to find. So let’s reboot that thinking.

Selection of plants for this time of year uses the same rubric as the summer months. The place and how the container will be viewed, planting zone, type of light ( full sun to full shade), the design basics of thriller, fillers and spillers and the container you use.

To save time and money you can also use the same container and plants to make a summer container and then reuse it with a fill in fall plant. 
Summer Container:     Japanese blood grass,
Geranium, Alyssium, and Eurphobia

Fall Container:    Japanese blood grass,
garden mum, and Euphorbia going to seed

Every container needs three types of plants: thrillers, fillers and spillers.
1. A thriller is a taller plant that steals the spotlight,towering above other plants in the container. In general, the height of a thriller plant shouldn’t exceed more than 1 1/2 times the pot height.
2. A filler plant clusters around the thriller, filling in the space between its stems and soil.
3. Spillers cascade over pot edges in a waterfall of flowers or foliage. In autumn containers, low growing ornamental cabbages frequently fill the role of spillers, despite their lack of trailing growth.
Spillers typically belong near pot edges, thrillers fill the center, and fillers land between the two. If your container will be viewed from one side only, place the thriller toward the back of the pot.

For zone 6/7 the following are suggestions for your containers. There are many other plants you could use that will be in your nursery. Pick you favorite and add a new inspiration.

Aster (Aster spp.) – Daisy-like blooms in shades of pink, white or purple. USDA zones 4-9. 1 1/2-5 feet tall x 6-24 inches wide. Sun to part shade.
Garden mum (Chrysanthemum) – Cheerful flowers in various forms and hues, including orange, red, purple, yellow and white. USDA zones 5-9. 12-26 inches tall and wide. Sun.

Pansy (Viola x wittrockiana) – Colorful flowers open in many hues, including purple, yellow, burgundy, white and almost-black. USDA zones 7-10. 6-9 inches tall and wide. Sun to part shade.

Coral bells (Heuchera hybrids) – Leaves unfurl in shades of mahogany, orange, purple, silver, chartreuse and various combinations of these – and other – hues. USDA zones 3-9. 6-10 inches tall and wide. Sun to part shade.

Elijah Blue fescue (Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’) – Blue leaves form grassy tufts. USDA zones 4-10. 6-18 inches tall x 6-9 inches wide. Sun to part shade.
Image from an article in Fine Gardening

Ornamental cabbage (Brassica oleracea) – Colorful cabbage-style leaves with centers of pink, white or lavender, as well as variegated blends. Annual. 10-12 inches tall and wide. Sun to part shade.

Pink muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris ‘Regal Mist’) – Green grassy leaves topped with pink-mauve feathery seedheads in fall. USDA zones 5-10. 36-48 inches tall x 24-36 inches wide. Sun to part shade.

Sedum sieboldii – Blue-green succulent leaves on trailing stems. USDA zones 2-10. 6-12 inches tall and wide. Sun.

Mexican feather grass (Nassella tenuissima) – Silky seedheads glow in autumn light. USDA zones 5-10; 18 inches tall x 12 inches wide. Sun.

Variegated Japanese sedge (Carex oshimensis ‘Evergold’) – Creamy yellow leaves edged in green. USDA zones 5-9. 8-10 inches tall x 18 inches wide. Sun to part shade.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

What is this plant?

Michele K.Koskinen

On a recent visit to Cape May I observed a plant that had no leaves, a tall stalk, and flowers like a lily. I asked the owner of the home and she explained they were perennial amaryllis and they were in the garden when she purchased her house.. They grow leaves in the spring that die off, and magically, the stalk and the flower appears in August. She also said many of the older homes have them in abundance so they must have been planted years ago.

Finding a plant I have never seen is always fun. They could be very common but often overlooked or not spectacular but new to my eye. What is this plant?

Thank goodness for phone camera's. Web search to the rescue....

    This plant belongs to the Amaryllidacae family. 
    It is planted in the fall with the tulips and other spring bulbs. Leaves appear in the spring, die off, and the flower does not bloom until August.
    It is cold hardy and naturalizes by bulb offsets.
It is an heirloom bulb from 1882 and probably brought        from China.

It is often called resurrection lily,naked lady, spider lilly,
autumn amaryllis, and magic lily. 

There are 13 to 20 species in this family.  

They are a great companions to perennial foliage plants that have already bloomed.

Readings of interest:

My name is  Lycoris squamigera   If anyone has this plant share a photo on our facebook page. Did you purchase it or was it in the garden when you purchased your home?