Summer begins in 12 days, get ready!

When the Red Red Robin Comes Bob Bob Bobbin' Along - with Doris Day
When the Red Red Robin Comes Bob Bob Bobbin' Along - 
with Doris Day

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This year grow your own figs!


A little over 15 years ago, I went to Plymouth Plantation, in Plymouth, Massachusetts, with friends and family to revisit this unique living museum. I have been there before many times and every time I go, I always learn something new about our American heritage. This year I noticed several containers with fig trees growing in them--and, to my surprise, they had fruit on them. Our guide told us that many homes on Cape Cod grew figs in their gardens and they were able to survive unprotected during the winter months.

He lived in Boston, in the North End, and he was able to grow them in his garden as long as he built a ring of straw bales around them during the winter months for added protection. There were several figs that were ripe on the plant and he picked two for us to taste and I was hooked! I expected "Fig Newtons," but got something much better tasting, and then I had to add figs to my garden--but how? Let me tell you how to grow figs no matter where you live, and you too will be able to enjoy their wonderful flavor this summer.

Figs are one of the oldest cultivated plants of all, dating back more than 11,000 years. The Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans grew figs for their flavor (and they were thought to be an aphrodisiac). If you have seen any classical sculptures, you might have noticed that the leaf of the fig was often used to cover parts of the body to preserve a little modesty.

Figs are a warm climate plant but no matter where you live, they can be grown--and you do not need to have a greenhouse. Cape Cod and the Islands are the one exception where figs will survive when planted directly into the garden without winter protection in the northern part of the country. If you live from Boston south to Washington D C they can be planted outside if you follow the following steps for winter protection. Begin by planting in a sunny, warm, and sheltered location that is protected from strong winds, like up against the house, or a solid fence that faces south to south west for late in the day sunshine.

Your soil must be well drained or the roots will rot in wet soils--so keep plants away from downspouts from your gutters and planting beds that have irrigation. Your soil should be on the alkaline side, so adding lime or wood ash every year will help with fruit production. Start with a soil that is conditioned with compost to help hold moisture during the hot days of summer but do not add animal manure as plants do better when the soil is not too rich. A rich soil or one that is fertilized often will encourage the plant to grow quickly, making more foliage and less fruit on the plant.

The plant will grow all by itself without much care by you, but there is one thing you must do to encourage fruiting on the pant and that is to restrict the roots from getting too large. If you're planting in your garden begin by digging a square hole two feet wide and just as deep. Place 2' by 2' concrete patio blocks on each side of the hole, so the hole is lined with concrete to keep the roots confined to this area only. Once the sides are in place, dig the hole 6 inches deeper and fill to the bottom of the side with 6 inches of gravel or broken concrete pieces for drainage and again to restrict root growth out of the box. This will keep the plant from getting too large; the plant will be easier to manage, and it will encourage fruit production rather than foliage.

Now fill your hole with your conditioned soil and set the plant in the middle of the planter you created but at the same level it was in the container it came in originally. Water well after planting and if you can use Protilizer plant start to help stimulate root development, the plant will be on its way to producing many figs even the first year you plant. Water as needed the first year to insure that the roots develop in their new home properly and then add 2 to 3 inches of bark mulch or straw to keep weeds out and moisture in during the heat of summer. The only feeding this plant will need is in the late spring when the foliage develops on the plant. Use plant-Tone  that's it for the year.

Winter protection will be necessary to protect this plant and it is easy to do. Make a square cylinder with bales of straw around the plant and stack them on top of each other until you cover the plant fully. This is done after the frost knocks off all the foliage from the plant in October. Now fill the cylinder with pine needles or leaves to the top of the bales of straw and cover the top of the straw cylinder with a sheet of plastic and tie in place for the winter. In late march remove the plastic covering and in mid-April remove the rest of the protection from around the plant. You can use hay bales in place of straw but the straw is weed-free and can be used as mulch in the vegetable garden to prevent weeds and hold moisture in the soil during the summer. In the fall till the straw into the soil and it will become wonderful organic matter during the winter months.

If you live north of Boston, upstate New York or where the winters get real cold, it is best to grow figs in containers as I do. My plant is 5 years old now and I grow it in a 24 inch plastic pot on my front patio for the all-day sunshine it receives. Figs in a pot will require weekly watering--but I fertilize it only once yearly, like the garden grown type. The foliage is beautiful to look at and fruit forms early on the plant. My fig has 3 inches of new growth now and small fruits are already beginning to form on the plant. This fruit will be ready by August to harvest and eat. My plant is 6 feet tall and makes a wonderful decorative plant for a patio or deck. If you have fruit that is late to ripen bring the plant in your garage at night when a frost is predicted to give the plant additional time to ripen, and back outside during the day if the temperatures are above freezing.

Once the fruit is off the plant let the cold weather knock off the foliage and allow the plant to go into dormancy for the winter. By mid to late October, depending on the weather, I bring in the fig plant into the garage for the winter months and water well. Before I built the garage I put the plant in the basement--or you could lay it down in a crawl space for the winter and leave it alone until April first. April first, bring it upstairs from the basement or crawl space into the light and water well with an application of Plant Thrive fertilizer to wake the roots and get the plant active again. If it's in the garage--water, feed and place the plant near a window but the rest of the year, tuck the plant in the back of the garage away from everything and sheltered from the cold. I stick my fig in the back corner of the garage and wrap the plant with burlap for extra protection. My garage is insulated, so it does stay warm during the winter months; if your garage is not insulated use your basement or crawlspace.

I only prune the plant to control the size and shape, in the early spring before the new growth begins and that's it. Insects and disease have not been a problem and there is no spraying of the plant like other fruit trees in the yard during the year. Figs are easy to grow, trouble free and they taste great! The best variety for a cold climate is the 'Brown Turkey' fig. Enjoy!
The Andrews Sisters - Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree (from the 1942 movie Private Buckaroo)
The Andrews Sisters - Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree (from the 1942 movie Private Buckaroo)

Mexican Tarragon is easy to grow in your herb garden!


Tarragon is a native herb to southern Europe. Its species name, "dracunculus" means, "little dragon" in Latin. Some say that was because of its fiery flavor, some that the shape of the roots resembles a dragon; it was also thought to cure the bite of serpents and mad dogs. It was brought into England at the end of the 16th century and it was present in the garden of Henry VIII. Records from that period in history also tell that Henry VIII divorced Catherine of Aragon for the reckless use of tarragon. As herbs go, it is said to be friendly to your head, your heart and your liver. No herb garden is complete without tarragon, for the flavors it will bring you.

The first thing you need to know is that there are two types of tarragon, French and Russian--and they are very different. The most popular (and infinitely superior in taste) is the French, because of the very strong flavor found in the foliage and stems of the plant. French tarragon is a half-hardy perennial, which means if you live in a cold climate during the winter there is a very good chance it will not survive. It will produce tiny yellow flower heads that are insignificant and if you live north of Maryland the seed will not mature on the plant due to the cool summer weather; it loves the heat. If you have a cool summer, it will not flower!

The foliage is unique growing 1 to 2 inches long and only 1/4 inch wide, long and narrow. These leaves are smooth, dark green in color, flat, pointed tip, and they grow alternating on its stem. If you have a nice summer and you care for the plant, it will grow up to three feet tall and spread out as much as 18 inches wide. The plant produces many branches, almost like a miniature shrub, and there is no main leader--just a wonderful soft and airy looking clump of beautiful foliage. Tarragon has a wonderful creeping habit in the garden as the tall growing stems develop on the carpet of green. The foliage is also rich in vitamin A, niacin, calcium and iron.

The Russian tarragon is very hardy, as it originated in Siberia. It is hardy to zone 3--Canada. It will also grow much larger--up to 4 feet tall with a spread to 18 inches wide. It also flowers if you have a nice warm season but few of us see flowers on the plant. The foliage is more coarse and the plant does grow faster in the garden but it has one major drawback, as the foliage it produces has practically no aroma or flavor. If you buy tarragon from seed, it is most likely the Russian type. French tarragon is grown from division or rooting cuttings. When you go to the nursery or garden center for your herbs this spring, be sure to crush a leaf or two of the tarragon plant to determine which type you have. French tarragon foliage that has been crushed will have a smell similar to aniseed; Russian tarragon sadly has no smell.

Now is the best time to divide your tarragon in the garden if it survived the winter. Just dig up the underground runners and pull them apart, do not cut the plant. You will notice a small nodule or bump on the underground stem and you want to place the runner with some roots and nodules in pots or back into the garden until they root. The nodules will produce new shoots this year. The same can be done in the fall if you have real French tarragon and you want to bring it indoors for the winter to save the plant from the killing cold of winter. If you're rooting cuttings in pots, be sure to use Seed Starter soil, as it is sterile, well drained, rich in organic matter and airy for good drainage preventing rotting of the roots. Place pots in a bright window with good air movement and water sparingly to keep soil moist but NEVER wet. If you live in a cold climate, you must cover the tarragon plant with several inches of salt marsh hay or straw in the late fall to keep plants protected during the winter months.

Plant tarragon in a garden with sun ALL DAY LONG--it's a must if you want to grow this herb. This plant loves the heat, so if you can plant near a stone wall, fence, or building for added protection from the wind. Look for the hot spot in your garden or you can grow it in a container filled with good potting soil on a hot and sunny patio or deck and then it move indoors in the fall for the winter for additional fresh foliage to cook with when the snow flies. Container grown herbs of all types do best in a soil that is as much as 50% compost blended with your soil, the better the soil the better the plants will grow. One last thing with potted tarragon grown indoors; never water at night as this plant does not like wet soil--the roots will rot easily, so morning watering only.

If you start with a rich soil when planting tarragon, you will not have to fertilize often. If you are accustomed to fertilizing often (and you should NOT), your foliage will grow fast and the leaves produced will have poor flavor. Feed at the time of planting with a good organic granular fertilizer or seaweed kelp and again a couple time with a liquid fertilizer like Neptune's Harvest fish and sea fertilizer or Espoma organic grow fertilizer during the year and that's all. Tarragon has one disease problem called rust, so when you purchase plants inspect the underside of the leaves for possible small round rust spots. If you see spots do not purchase the plant, and if you have this problem in the garden, dig it up and dispose of it. Do not replant tarragon in the same spot where you had problems before or they will return. This is not a common problem but it does happen.

You can harvest the foliage from early summer to fall. If you're drying the leaves for storage, be careful not to bruise or rip the leaves when drying or you will lose some of the flavor. The best way to preserve the foliage with the best flavor for the future is to pick the sprigs of foliage, place them in a freezer bag and freeze them until you're ready to use them. The foliage will last all winter and keep the flavor strong until you pick the leaves off the sprig when you need it.

Use tarragon when you cook meat, fish, egg dishes or salads. Tarragon is known as one of the best herbs when cooking chicken and root crops like carrots, parsnips, turnips and beets. When I think of tarragon, I think of stuffing, sauces and gravies--how about you? If you have never used fresh tarragon before make room in this year herb garden and your family will be in for a real treat when you use it in the kitchen fresh from the garden. You won't be sorry, so get ready for the compliments. Enjoy.
Rhubarb Pie - John Fogerty
Rhubarb Pie - John Fogerty
 
Coriander aka Cilantro

 
This wonderful herb is a plant native to the Middle East and Southern Europe. It was brought all over Northern Europe and the British Isles by the Romans, who used it as part of a mixture that was rubbed onto meat to help preserve it. Early European settlers who came to America carried it with them to their new home--and so did the Spanish explorers as they arrived in Mexico. Coriander has been cultivated for over 3,000 years in gardens all over the world; seeds from this wonderful herb were even found in the Egyptian tombs. Coriander is also mentioned in the Old Testament; it is said that when the children of Israel returned to their homeland from slavery in Egypt, that they ate "manna" in the wilderness to survive. Manna was described as being like coriander seeds--and it is still a custom to eat this bitter-tasting herb during Passover to remember the great journey the people of Israel went through so many years ago.

Coriander has been used in all types of mixtures for many purposes all over the world. The ancient Chinese once believed it would bring you immortality if eaten regularly with your meals, and--if mixed properly--it would make a wonderful "love potion" as an aphrodisiac. Besides being used for flavoring foods, the best use of coriander seed is to help aid the digestive system, to help relieve indigestion and to help stimulate appetite.

Coriander is an annual herb and must be planted every year but if you allow the plant to dry in the garden, it will self-seed and come up everywhere, making you believe that it is a perennial plant. If you're going to start seedlings indoors to transplant into the garden, start the seedling in late March or early April and transplant to the garden when the threat of frost is over--after mid-May. Grow several plants together in a 4-inch pot and thin to 3 or 4 seedlings when you set them out into the garden. Because Cilantro has a "TAP ROOT," it does not transplant well, so set the entire pot into the garden and do not divide the seedlings as individual plants. You can also scatter the seeds and let them come up by themselves as the weather warms up.

Coriander will grow best in a sunny garden, as partial shade will force the plant to grow taller--and when you receive heavy rain or strong winds, the plant will topple over. In the sun, the plant will grow up to 2 feet tall if you're not picking the foliage for salads and cooking with it regularly to control the height of the plant. You can pick the young leaves any time you want to use in salads, stews, soup and sauces. The stems are also edible, so chop them up also and use them when you cook, waste nothing on this plant.

The plant will grow best in a rich soil that has been conditioned before planting with compost--and if you're growing organically, look for Black Gold Compost, as it is an OMRI-Listed organic compost available today at your local garden center, go to www.blackgold.bz for more information. Your soil should also be light and well drained or you will have problems with the root system rotting in the soil. If you have a wet summer or you water the garden often--keeping the soil too moist--the plant production will be compromised and less productive.

The coriander will flower in late June and most of July, producing a delicate pinkish-white multi-petaled flower cluster that will grow flat and to a diameter of 3 to 4 inches wide. The plant will branch out and the entire plant will be covered with flowers, giving the appearance of lace to the garden; the flowers look somewhat like the wild-growing Queen Ann's lace plant. While in bloom, the bees and butterflies will have a field day in your garden. A word of caution for you to remember: if you are growing fennel in the same garden give them space and keep them away from each other because fennel has similar properties to this plant, and your fennel plant will have a hard time producing seed.

The foliage resembles parsley and is sometimes referred to as "Chinese parsley." The smell of the foliage is not loved by all and is very distinctive, that is why many people only grow coriander outside during the summer and not on the windowsill during the winter months. The seed has a very different smell, and when ripe it is delightful, with an orangey scent to it. It is great when used as a spice when cooking. Homegrown seeds are much more fragrant and flavorful than what you purchase in the supermarket, so store them in an airtight container with a rubber gasket to keep in the flavor.

When the flowers begin to fade and you can smell the orangey scent of the seeds be careful and pick the flower stems. Place them in a large PAPER bag (never plastic, or the seeds will develop a mold on them) and in just a few days the seeds will begin to fall from the flower, dead. Keep the bag in a warm and dry place like your garage until the seeds fall and are ready for harvest, and then store in your airtight container in your kitchen until you're ready to use them.

Cilantro is related to caraway, dill and fennel. All require the same growing conditions but they need their own space in the herb garden to keep their unique flavors. Plant other types of herbs in-between them, and each year when you plant, try to rotate their position in your garden to give the soil a chance to rest. When you grow herbs in your garden it is important to feed the plants regularly with a good slow-release fertilizer to keep the plant growing properly--or it will go to seed early and stop producing foliage. I like Vegetable -Tone is organic, and contain microbes to help make the fertilizer work more effectively and keep the plant productive and not going to seed early.

Insect and disease problems are minimal. During wet weather--or if you water the garden late in the day and the foliage stays wet at night--aphids can become a problem. Water the garden early in the morning so the foliage has a chance to dry off with the sunshine. If insects do become a problem, use "All Season Oil" or another natural product designed for the vegetable garden on the foliage because you are eating the foliage often and you do not want insecticide residue on the foliage when you eat it.

If you're going to grow herbs in your garden, get yourself a good herb gardening book and read about them before you decide what you want to grow in your garden. Learn how to grow them and what they need to thrive in your garden, also how to harvest and store them properly until you're ready to use them. A few years ago, I planted an "Italian Seasoning Herb Garden" and selected the herbs that were listed on the back of the box. That was the year I made my best homemade fresh spaghetti sauce ever--from scratch. I used all my own tomatoes, peppers, onions and--of course--the fresh herbs from my garden. Give it a try this summer--you can do it too, and enjoy flavors you never tasted before in your cooking. Enjoy!
"Why try to explain miracles to your kids when you can just plant a garden."
 
Robert Brault


                                         
                                                              Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp

With the arrival of nice weather this spring, the Rhubarb is now ready for picking. One of my favorite Rhubarb dishes is Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp and it's easy to make. You can serve it warm or cold and a big scoop of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream on the top gives it an extra kick. This is one dessert your family and friends will enjoy and you will never have leftovers. What I do I make couple of them and freeze the second on for later while the Rhubarb is still productive. Strawberries are inexpensive now, so use store bought fresh until your crop comes in late June in your garden. You can also freeze Rhubarb for up to a year if you cut It into inch pieces and place them on a cookie sheet and freeze until firm. Place in a FREEZER bag for storage and you're ready to make this recipe with your fresh picked Strawberries you also froze in season.

Ingredients:
3 cups of fresh Rhubarb, cut into 1 inch pieces. If your Rhubarb is "large" peel it before cutting
1 pint of fresh Strawberries cleaned and cut in half
cup granulated white sugar
1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract

Topping
cup all-purpose flour
cup of quick cooking oatmeal
cup of brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup of butter, melted

Directions:
1} Preheat your oven to 350 degrees

2} Mix Rhubarb, Strawberries and granulated sugar in a large bowl. Pour in an ungreased 9-inch square baking dish, metal if you're going to freeze. Drizzle with your Vanilla extract

3} Mix the remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl until crumbly. Sprinkle over Rhubarb mixture. Bake for about 40 minutes or until the Rhubarb is tender. Serve warm with Vanilla Ice cream or whipped cream. 

If you should have any leftovers refrigerate or freeze for another day. Serves 8 kids or 6 adults. Enjoy!


Day to look forward to:

June 14th - Flag Day is 5 days
June 16th - Paul's Birthday is 7 days
June 19th - Father's day is 10 days
June 20th - First Day of summer - 11 days
July 4th -  Independence Day is 26 days

Keep records will make you a better gardener!!

      

Garden Journal

        Garden Journal - A garden is a friend you can visit any time. Gardens require planning and cultivation, yielding beauty and joy. This garden journal helps make planning and organizing easy. This book makes a great gift for gardeners, family, friends, birthdays, Christmas, new home or as a self purchase.

 

Cover holds a 5 x7 or 4x6 photo, Heavy-duty D-ring binder

1. 8 tabbed sections
2. 5 garden details sections with pockets for seeds, tags....
3. Weather records page
4. 6 three year journal pages
5. Insect & diseases page - 3 project pages
6. 3 annual checklist pages
7. Plant wish list page
8. 2 large pocket pages
9. Sheet of garden labels
10. 5 garden detail sheets
11. 5 graph paper pages for layouts
12. 5 photo pages holds - 4- 4x6 photos in landscape or portrait format

Journal, Planning, Inspirations. 

 To Order call 207-590-4887

Regular price $34.95  Special Price $31.95! 

special!        Supplies are now limited!

 

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