1 loaf crusty Italian bread, sliced 3/4-inch thick (about 16 pieces)
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 cups fresh, chopped tomatoes
2 Tbsp chopped basil
4 cloves of garlic, chopped very fine
1/2 tsp salt
1 oz. shaved mozzarella cheese
Mix the olive oil, tomatoes, basil, garlic, salt and cheese. Spread butter on the slices of bread, then spread the mixture over the slices of bread. Top with grated Parmesan cheese and broil for 3-5 minutes or until cheesed are melted.
I’ve noticed Monarch butterflies are visiting my gardens and have always found their story quite fascinating. See why here.
As gardeners, there are many ways that we can not only encourage Monarchs to visit, but also ensure that we don’t contribute to the reduction of these beautiful insects.
Organic gardening methods greatly reduce the destruction of the habitat that Monarchs favor. Using environmentally friendly pest and weed removal methods goes a long way in preserving Monarch’s natural habitat. Also by encouraging native plant growth in our yards and gardens, such as Milkweed which is essential for sustaining Monarch butterflies.
If you’ve ever come upon a flock of Monarchs clustered in the leaves of a tree, it’s a wonderful sight to see them take flight and fill the air with their graceful beauty.
You can even adopt a – what a great gift idea, and it includes an adoption kit as well.
It’s the time of year when Japanese Beetles find there way into your garden and they can create devastation in no time if they aren’t dealt with quickly. While they generally don’t eat dogwood, forsythia, holly, lilac, evergreens and Hosta, they’ll eat darn near everything else. These beetles feed on flowers and fruits making a skeleton of the leaves by eating the green parts and leaving the veins. Adults are most active from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. on warm summer days. These voracious pests prefer plants in direct sun, so shady areas are usually less damaged.
Adult Japanese beetles are one quarter to one half inch long with copper colored wing covers and a shiny metallic green head. Between the green head and tiny tufts of white hair along their side you’ll recognize them easily as they happily munch on your roses.
The bacterial spore, sold as ‘Doom’ or ‘Grub Attack’ is generally used to control these pests. Using a hormone lure in your yard simply attracts more beetles to your yard. Put the lure somewhere else a hundred yards away encouraging the beetles to go elsewhere. Unfortunately, reducing the beetles in your yard will not reduce their attacks in succeeding years. These beetles are great fliers and can travel upwards of ten miles from where they hatched.
Handpicking is also effective on your prized plants – drop the beetles into a bucket of soapy water to kill them. There is some data that suggests hand picking is as effective as spraying noxious chemicals and you know you have killed the beetle when it drowns in your soapy bucket. One trick is to hold the bucket of soapy water under the plant and then shake the plant. Beetles will fall off the plant right into the bucket and you’ll get more beetles if you do this in the early morning before they start feeding and flying. Several birds (grackles, cardinals, meadowlarks) feed on the adult beetles so encourage birds in your yard.
If you decide to use a lure, place it at least 100 feet away from your garden. Lures like the Tanglefoot 300000665 Japanese Beetle Trap attract beetles and if you place one in your garden, you’ll have all the neighbors beetles visiting as well. Find a neighbor who doesn’t garden to host the lures and traps.
My daughter invited me to attend an annual garden tour fundraising event put on by the organization that she works for. There is never any convincing needed to get me to go along on a garden tour, and I’m especially glad I didn’t miss out on this one. It was a wonderful opportunity to see beautiful private backyard gardens, while contributing to a very worthwhile cause. Fraser is a non-profit organization that offers support and care for children and families that have been affected by autism.
There were 12 gardens on the tour this year, all of them located in St. Paul, Minnesota. We didn’t get started until afternoon, but were still able to take in five of the gardens before the garden tour ended. We were treated to a beautifully landscaped backyard living space at the first home, complete with an En plien air artist.
The second stop featured gardens that placed third in the 2007 Saint Paul Blooming Gardens Awards and includes perennials and annuals arranged into formal gardens. Included in the setting is a retaining wall garden and a large fountain centered between pathways made of pavers and walls of vegetation.
Our fourth stop was at the 1889 Victorian home of co-owner of Tangletown gardens who displays his artistic abilities and green thumb on a flourishing garden canvas.
The final stop of our tour was the St. Paul Hotel English cottage-style gardens which have been maintained by a full-time gardener since 1994. The gardens include hundreds of summer annuals, topiary trees and tree roses.
This ended the annual garden tour and it was time for a cool refreshment of fresh squeezed lemonade and peach, berry cobbler. We are already looking forward to next year when we will get an early start so we can take in all of the gardens on the tour.
As much as I love the ability to walk barefoot through the back lawn to my raised bed gardens and pick fresh, pesticide-free peppers, tomatoes, herbs and whatever else I’ve decided to plant in any given year, I love perennial flowers even more.
What is it about perennials that enthralls me the most? Certainly the longevity of the plants is at the top of the list. I have irises and peonies that have been passed down through several generations on both sides of the family. Deep red peony blossoms that are fragrant beyond belief – unlike many of the hybrid flowers on the market these days (which brings me to the second reason – the heavenly smell). Memories of strolling barefoot through my grandmother’s flower gardens, carefully tiptoeing along the limestone paved paths as summer breezes carried the sweet scent of garden phlox through the air.
Here are my top 10 favorite perennials and the reasons why I like them:
Irises – One of the hardiest plants you can find that require very little care other than keeping them free of borers. They come in hundreds of colors and you can even create your own with a little practice.
Peonies – another very hardy plant that is available in a multitude of colors. The size and smell of the blossoms are heavenly. A fresh bouquet will brighten any room. Very romantic too.
Blanket Flower – these are low maintenance, bright and cheerful and do well with little water. They make a great mid-summer colorful addition to the garden.
Bee Balm (Monarda didyma) – bright and compact, this winner will attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds to the garden. It spreads easily but is not invasive.
Black-eyed Susan – similar to the blanket flower, this compact daisy-like flower adds sunny color the mid-summer to fall garden. It can easily be reseeded and is hardy and low maintenance.
Coneflower – This is a daisy-like flower also, but is taller. It adds height to the garden and is great for attracting bees and butterflies as well. The roots are used in the natural cold remedy echinacea.
Hostas – Talk about hardy! Hostas will grow in the shadiest area you can find. The number of options and selection of colors and varigated leaf choices is almost unlimited.
Delphinium – these are not so easy to grow but when placed in the proper location they produce the most romantically beautiful spiked blossoms. The colors of blue and purple simply can’t be beat.
Creeping Phlox – This is a low creeping ground cover that flowers in mid-spring. I love the way it drapes over a rock edging. It’s works wonderful as a rock garden border.
Garden Phlox (Phlox paniculata)– A mid-summer bloomer that will attract many friendly garden visitors too. Traditionally a tall spikey plant, it can also be found in 18-20″ heights with white, purple, or pink blossoms.
Finally – the thing that I love most about perennials is how easily they can be shared with friends and family. Plant exchanges are a popular way to increase the variety of plants in your garden. Perennials need to be thinned out every few years, so it’s a great opportunity for you to offer to share your garden favorites with others. Younger family members are sure to love a shoot from Grandma’s favorite peony bush or Aunt Mary’s purple irises. If only these treasured heirlooms could talk – think of the family history (and secrets) they could share!
When most people think of bulbs they often think of daffodils or other similar flowers. However, the bulbous variey of flowers goes well beyond that. While tulips, hyacinths and snowdrops also belong with the ‘true’ bulb family, there are many flowers that have corms, rhizomes or tubers. These include agapanthus and hippeastrums, dahlias, cannas and other lilies, irises, begonias, anemones and amaryllis, to name just a few. Not only do bulbs do the work of reproducing the plant, they store food for those months when the leaves die and the plant is dormant. Thus, when the conditions are right the new plant has all it needs to thrust new shoots up into the sunlight.
Most bulbs need moist, rich, free draining soil and a sunny position to grow happily. Many flower in the spring, but such is their diversity, it is possible to have bulbs flowering in every month of the year. To grow bulbs such as tulips in a temperate region, keep them in the refrigerator for four to eight weeks before planting out at the coldest time of year. In cold ares, plant in late autumn. Tulips like warm, dry summers alkaline soil. They may be affected by aphids, or a fungal condition called ‘tulip fire’ if there is too much moisture about. Their vibrant colors make them well worth a place in the garden.
Bulbs will usually do well if their natural habitat is approximated in the garden. For instance, daffodils are meadow flowers, so like plenty of sun. They will naturalize successfully in the lawn and flower early before the grass becomes too competitive. It’s best not to mow for at least six weeks after the flowers die, because the leaves provide food to the bulb for next years’ growth.
Woodland bulbs like bluebells and snowdrops will do better in a semi-shaded or a dappled sun position. They do well under deciduous trees. Spring-flowering bulbs may be planted near a well-used path or where they can be seen from a window to save trekking over soggy lawns to admire them. Most bulbs can be grown successfully in containers, but need at least four inches ((10 cm)) of soil below them and 2-4 inches (5-10 cm) above. It’s a good idea to plant bulbs in a pot and bury it in the garden to prevent them from being accidentally hoed during a weeding session.
If you have trouble with rodents eating your bulbs, plant them inside a wire cage buried in the garden. Many bulbous varieties grow easily and are quite tolerant. Do your research, however. Some of the more unusual ones can be found via mail order or on the internet, so take the time to look for them. You’ll be pleased with the result.
Organic gardening is the way of growing vegetables and fruits with the use of things only found in nature.
Why would one want to indulge in organic gardening?
1. One can easily make compost from garden and kitchen waste matter. Though this is a bit more time-consuming than buying prepared chemical pesticides and fertilizers, it certainly helps to put garbage to good use and so saves the environment.
2. Organic farming does not use chemicals that may have an adverse affect on your health. This is especially important when growing vegetables. Chemical companies tell us that the chemicals we use are safe if used according to direction, but research shows that even tiny amounts of poisons absorbed through the skin can cause such things as cancer, especially in children.
On the average, a child consumes four to five times more cancer-causing pesticides from foods than an adult. This can lead to various diseases later on in the child’s life. With organic gardening, these incidents are lessened.
Remember, pesticides contain toxins that have only one purpose – to kill living things.
3. Less harm to the environment. Poisons are often washed into our waterways, causing death to the native fish and polluting their habitat.
4. Organic farming practices help prevent the loss of topsoil through erosion.
The Soil Conservation Service says that an estimated 30 – 32 billion tons of soil erodes from United States farmlands every year.
5. Cost savings. One does not need to buy costly chemical fertilizers and pesticides with organic gardening. Many organic recipes for the control of pest and disease come straight from the kitchen cupboard. Sometimes other plants can be grown as companions to the main crop. An example of this is the marigold, which helps to repel aphids from vegetables.
Mixing 1 tablespoon of liquid dishwashing soap and 1 cup of cooking oil can make a cheap garden pest spray. Put 3 tablespoons of this mixture in 1 quart of water and spray on plants.
6. A simple mulch of pine needles will help to suppress the growth of weeds as well as keeping the moisture in.
Organic gardening practices help to keep the environment safe for future generations.
There’s been a great deal of coverage in the media about disappearing honey bees in the past year or so. Experts speculate about what may be causing the mysterious disappearing act – cell phones, viruses, weather (climate change/global warming). It may be years before we know the answers, if we ever do.
As an avid gardener, it’s concerning to think that the bee population is on the decline since our food supply is so dependent on these little buzzing pollinators. I live in a suburban area with not enough property to become a bee keeper and I have enough respect for the honey bees and all types of bees that I would want to learn as much about bee keeping as possible before attempting to raise bees for honey.
Fortunately I work with an organic farmer who has become quite adept at raising honey bees and he’s very generous with the harvest each year. He studied at the University of Minnesota and has been raising bees for honey and to pollinate his crops for several years now. The sweet taste of clover honey cannot be beat by any store bought honey on the shelf. To learn more about raising your own honey bees, start here: BeeKeeping For Beginners
Organic gardening is an easy way of increasing vegetables and fruit production with the use of simple items found in nature.
So why would one desire to indulge in organic gardening?
1. It can immediately help make compost from garden and kitchen waste products. Though this is a bit more time-consuming than purchasing prepared poisoned baits plus fertilizers, it certainly really helps to put garbage to good use and thus saves environmental surroundings.
2. Organic farming doesn’t use chemicals that can build up and have an adverse affect on your health. Almost all of the essential when growing veggies. Chemical companies tell us that the chemicals we use are safe if used based on direction, but research indicates that even tiny levels of poisons absorbed throughout the skin can cause diseases such as cancer, especially in youngsters.
An average kid ingests four to five times more cancer-causing pesticides from foods than grown-ups. With organic gardening, these incidents are lessened.
Keep in mind, pesticides contain toxins which have just one purpose – to kill living items.
3. Less harm to the environment. Poisons in many cases are washed into our waterways, causing death in native fish and polluting their habitat.
4.Organic farming practices help prevent losing topsoil through erosion.
It is a well known fact that a great deal of soil erodes from US farmlands every year.
4. Cost savings. There is no need to purchase expensive chemicals when organic gardening. There are many organic recipes that aid in keeping pests away, and many of these ingredients come straight from your kitchen cupboard. At times other plants may be grown as companions to aid in the healthy grown of a main crop. An example of this is the marigold, which helps to repel aphids from veggies.
Mixing one tablespoon of liquid dish-washing soap and even one cup of cooking oil could make an affordable garden pest spray. Put three tbsps of the mixture in 1 quart of water and spray on plants.
5. A fairly easy mulch of pine needles will assist you to suppress the growth of weeds plus keeping moisture in.
6. Organic gardening practices keep the environment risk-free for generations to come.
One of my favorite places to sneak away to when I want a little R&R is Lanesboro, MN – a quaint small town just 15 miles from the farm where I grew up in southeastern Minnesota. This past week, Steve and I were able to take a few days off, which allowed us to attend my annual (large) family reunion on Sunday. Afterwards we drove along the windy gravel roads through the limestone bluffs and valleys to Lanesboro.
There are many activities to keep the whole family entertained including paved bike trails, Amish tours, tubing or canoeing the Root River, or just strolling through the colorful, flower lined streets window shopping in the many (art) shops along the way.
Two years ago, Steve and I biked the entire 60-miles of the trails, visiting each of the small towns along the way. It was a vacation that we’ll always remember. This year, we were not up to biking yet, as Steve is still recovering from a stroke that affected his left side, just a few months after that trip. He is building up his strength with the aid of a Sun trike that we purchased earlier this summer from Edina Bike & Sport, and we are confident that it’s only a matter of time before we’re able to get back out and do 5-10 miles of biking at a time.
This past weekend was spent enjoying the beautiful flower gardens, enjoying fresh, locally grown food at Petal Pushers Cafe (which was bustling with activity on Sunday evening and featured live, festive music from a local artist).
We drove up the steep hills and captured some of the beauty of the private gardens that are abundant in Lanesboro.
The Root River was running fast and high with the recent heavy rains.
We made it back to camp at the Eagle Cliff Campgrounds, located 3 miles east of town, just in time to enjoy the sun setting behind the bluffs.
Some of the family discovered they had a leaky tent and woke up with soaked bedding early in the morning. We were fortunate to have a comfortable room in the Eagle Cliff motel. It was one of the best night’s of sleep I’ve had in months – nestled in the valley the cell towers and 3G networks don’t work so you really can get away from it all. Not to worry though – there is cell coverage in downtown Lanesboro, and one only needs to drive to the top of a hill outside the campgrounds to get coverage for most services.