Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Pumpkin Crisp

 Pumpkin Crisp

  • 15 oz Pumpkin puree
  • 2 Eggs

  • 12 oz Evaporated milk

  • 3/4 cup Oats, Old Fashioned

  • 1 cup Brown sugar

  • 1 tsp Cinnamon

  • 1/2 cup Flour

  • 1 tsp Pumpkin pie spice

  • 1/2 tsp Salt

  • 3/4 cup Sugar

  • 1 tsp Vanilla

  • 1/2 cup butter


  • Grease 8x8" casserole. Set aside.
  • Combine eggs, pumpkin, sugar, salt, and pumpkin pie spice. Beat until blended.
  • Slowly mix in the evaporated milk.
  • Pour mixture into prepared dish.
  • Bake at 425 degrees for 30 minutes.
  • Mix together flour, brown sugar, oats, and cinnamon in a bowl.
  • Add in vanilla and cut in butter with a pastry blender or fork.
  • Work until mixture forms large crumbs.
  • Set topping aside.
  • After the pumpkin has baked for 30 minutes, pull from the oven.
  • Sprinkle the prepared topping over the dish.
  • Reduce heat to 350 and bake for additional 20-30 minutes, until the center is slightly jiggly.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

What's New ?

 Knock Out, Petite Roses.

Photo courtesy of 

Petite Knockout is the first-ever miniature Knock Out Rose. It offers the same flower power and easy care of traditional Knock Out Roses. However, these tiny treasures will only reach a mature height of 18" tall. They are perfect for decorative container planting or as a stand-alone in a small space. If you choose a more dramatic look they can be planted in mass along borders and edges. You cannot go wrong with these bright red non-fading blooms that  last all summer into early fall.                                                                          

Pugster Butterfly Bushes

Pugster Blue
 The Pugster line of buddleia or butterfly bushes from Proven Winners offers a small plant with a big impact. You get full-size blooms on a dwarf plant that will only reach 24" at maturity with a spread of about 36".
Pugster Pink
They offer sturdy limbs to support the large dense blooms with the same ability to bring in the butterflies from far and near.

Pugster Periwinkle

Photos courtesy of Proven Winners

And, as always, the Proven Winners' name always means quality and proven success in the test gardens.  Give your butterflies something to look forward to year after year.

Winecraft Black Smoke Bush

Photo courtesy of Proven Winners

This beautiful shrub can be used as a specimen plant in a focal area or as a hedge to satisfy even the pickiest of homeowners. 

Proven Winners have outdone themselves with this one. With a mature size of 4 to 6 ft. and the same spread it is certain not to outgrow the space. Winecraft Black offers plum-colored foliage through the summer then turns almost black before giving way to its brilliant reds and oranges for the fall. The blooms are delicate and feathery and range from purple to pink until frost. Everyone will be asking where you got this beautiful shrub and all you have to say is Proven Winners and Mitchell's Nursery. (shameless plug) The only two names you need for beauty and quality.

So why not visit your local Garden center and see what Proven Winners has to offer for your landscape.

If you happen to live in the local area of King NC, Mitchell's Nursery loves to see new or old faces! (shameless plug #2)

Now is the time to plant!

Happy Digging!

Do You Have a Planting Plan?

How often have you bought a tree or a shrub and just dug a hole and stuck it in the ground? You can drive around any town in this great country and you will find that people have been doing that for a long time.
A beautiful tree hacked and maimed because they have grown into a power line or overhead phone cable. Make no mistake, the utility companies are in no way obligated to trim and prune your trees nice and neat. It is simply their job to get your tree out of their power lines. So be sure to keep that in mind when planning your future plantings. When you get a case of planting fever, be sure to know the mature size of your plants and trees. What grows well under a power line today could be the cause of a power outage in the future. Then your tree will be like thousands of others. You will end up with a tree that resembles a slingshot or something straight out of a Dr. Seuss book. 

   You also may want to do your research before you plant. Check out not only the height and width, but find out if it has a deep or shallow root system. You don't want to plant anything with a deep root system near your water source or your sewerage lines. Always remember, the roots will grow as wide as the canopy. So if your tree has a spread of 30 ft. you can count on the roots spreading equally as far. Trees are the number one cause of power outages and cracked foundations. Tree roots don't care if they ruin your home, but, you will. 

If you live in an area where you have public water and sewer you want to be extremely diligent when planting. Paying for that repair will ensure that your kids never go to college. The same with underground power lines, fiber optic cables, and phone lines. Be sure to call 811 BEFORE you dig because after may be too late.

In short, no one will be responsible for damage caused by your plantings other than you. Not the power company, not the phone company, and not your home builder. Ultimately you are the one who makes the decision. Unless, of course, trees were already in place before you acquired the property. Even if that was the case, you need to make an assessment after you have bought the property and have trees removed if necessary. Mortgages are far too costly to allow an ill-placed tree to ruin your investment. 
Plan smart, and enjoy the comfort of knowing you will not be the reason your entire neighborhood loses power, phones, water, or the internet. That last one may spawn a lynch mob of angry teens and nobody wants that. 

Great plans produce great plants.


Saturday, August 29, 2020

Native Trees and Why We Shouldn't Overlook Them

 Everyone is talking about native plants these days. Most people do not know the difference between native and non-native plants. Some believe that if you see a plant growing in the wild that it is native. That is not necessarily true. There are many plants that have established themselves among our native plants and trees that actually were introduced from foreign countries somewhere in our past.

Native simply means that a certain thing has been a part of a particular area for as long as man has been documenting plant discoveries.

For example, in the North Carolina region, you are likely to see mimosa trees growing along the edge of wooded areas and roadsides. However, North Carolina is not home to these trees. They are actually considered an invasive species because they were introduced here in 1745 from Asia and due to their adaptability they spread very quickly and rob native plants of the light, nutrients, and space to grow efficiently. Ever wonder why you don't see mimosa trees growing within most state parks? That is because of their invasive status.

Invasive plants threaten biodiversity in the U.S.  Native animals and insects feed and grow on native plants. If invasive plants are left to spread, they will eventually choke out a lot of the native plant species and in turn, it will deplete the area of natural food sources and nesting habitats for the native animal life.

Photo: Kudzu, Invasive species originating in Asia.

The growing interest in native plants is bringing hope to many. If you do your research before you do your landscape you can find native alternatives to most things. 

A lot of people will ask for red maple, and then get upset when their red maple has green leaves. Most of the maple trees you see in people's yards are indeed a variety of Japanese maple. Native red maples are only red in the fall after they have changed colors and begin to drop their leaves for winter. While red maples are native to our area, most of the ones that are red all year are not. 

There are several more native trees you may have overlooked in your search for the perfect addition to your landscape such as oak, river birch, and the Slender Silhouette Sweet Gum. Though you may associate native with common, that is a misconception, as they are not so commonly used in a landscape plan. Many are underutilized in a manicured setting, and that is a shame because all natives have a unique personality that is capable of lending a wow factor to any landscape plan. 

If you are looking for an ornamental tree, there are three natives to consider. The redbud tree is a native that most are familiar with. In the spring they offer beautiful blooms and interesting heart-shaped foliage. The foliage of the Carolina Sweetheart Redbud is variegated,  Ruby Falls and Forest Pansy are purple, and Rising Sun is yellow and gold. This provides visual interest all summer.

Dogwood is another native that is growing in popularity among homeowners. Their gorgeous spring blooms, their interesting shapes, fall, and winter red berries, and their growth patterns definitely make this native tree a winner every time. 

We must not forget the southern favorite, the magnolia. With their large, fragrant, white blooms and dark green waxy foliage that is present year-round, you can't go wrong.

Native plants support native wildlife and keep the ecosystem balanced and happy. Which, in turn, keeps native food sources plentiful and thriving. This circle of life that we are all a part of is a delicate balancing act. When invasive species of any kind are introduced it can upset the entire circle. Plant native, plant happiness.

To Do or Not To Do?

 Well, it's that time of year again- your garden is fading and so are the wonderful moods that come with all the summer blooms. Many of us are left wondering what to do now in this space between summer and fall.

Begin with making sure you rid your garden spaces of any unwanted weeds. Even small weeds can turn into big problems if left through the fall, as many of them will seed out before winter and prepare for a healthy new crop of weeds for the spring. 

Do not fertilize trees and shrubs now. At this point, your plants are going to begin the process of going dormant. Fertilizing now serves very little purpose for the plant growth, as the nutrients will not be utilized by a dormant plant and may actually be harmful. It will cause new growth that may be killed by the first cold snap. 

Clean all of your pruning tools and put them away. Cutting your plants back now will encourage new growth. If that new growth takes place before dormancy, you could potentially be setting your plants up for failure for spring as the tender growth may not survive the colder temps. Remember, do not butcher your crape myrtles. Pruning them severely like is seen will eventually kill them. Plant the right size where you want it to grow, so it will not outgrow its space. Also, If you prune spring flowering shrubs, you will be cutting off your spring blooms. That defeats the purpose of them. They will just be another green bush.

Prepare your soil for cold weather crops and begin to plant them. Leafy greens such as cabbage, kale, lettuce, mustard, spinach, and collards do very well in cooler temps, as do, broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts. 

If you are not planting cold crops, you can begin to clean out your summer veggies that are no longer producing. Turn your soil, add compost and mulch well. This will help to add nitrogen and nutrients to your soil and keep some weeds at bay for your spring planting season. Compost will make it easier for water to penetrate the soil.

Now is the time to think about adding pansies and mums to your garden. Mums are the flower of fall. Even one mum on your front porch or several around your mailbox say welcome. Just be sure to keep them watered as mums are thirsty plants. Pansies are the longest blooming flower, with the most color variety of any other flower. If planted in the fall, pansies or violas will bloom most of the winter and will be beautiful in the spring. I have even seen the blooms peeking through a light snowfall. They will brighten a winter or rainy day. An added bonus is they are edible. I have seen them sugar coated as cake decorations or added for color to a salad. Pansies are deer's favorite food. We spray the blooms with Liquid Fence, which is organic. It works to keep deer out of our pansies. That is why we sell it.

So get out there and jump into fall with all the enthusiasm that you had in the spring. Trust me, you won't regret it.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Judy's Chick Peas and Squash

Judy’s Chickpeas and Squash



3 large squash, sliced

1 onion chopped-may also add 1 green bell pepper diced.

1 tsp turmeric


1 tsp Italian seasoning

1 tbs. teriyaki sauce

Add no water- the squash has enough.

Cover with plastic wrap

Microwave until tender, stirring as needed- about 20 minutes. I stir about every 5 minutes.

Drain 1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans) and add to squash.

Microwave another 5 minutes.

May top with shredded cheese.

Serves 6 or 2 meals.

Savory? Not just a descriptive term.

When you think of the term savory, you probably think of a warm thick stew or some really nice dish that is full of rich warm flavors. Well, I am here to tell ya, it is not just a descriptive term. Savory is actually an herb. It is a very attractive woody, upright plant that is so aromatically pleasing to the senses that you may grow it for that reason only. 
Savory is best used for meats or stews and makes a wonderful addition to any bean dish. Chopped leaves can be sauteed with butter or olive oil to release its flavor prior to adding it to your dishes. Or it can be dried to use as a rub for meat. 
Savory is a key ingredient in what is known as a french blend. This mixture includes Marjoram, Rosemary, Thyme, and Oregano along with Savory make this a perfect blend for your french cuisine and can be used with olive oil for a seasoned oil for bread dipping. 
The ancient Romans believed it had mysterious powers and even made love potions from its leaves. They believed in it so much that the monasteries banned it for fear that their monks would fall victim to its spell. 

Friday, July 17, 2020

Grow the Flora, Attract the Fauna

We spend a lot of time filling bird feeders and trying to find the right combination to bring in the most beautiful and the rarest species. When the reality is, our natural surroundings will bring in a lot more than any feeder ever will. Understanding the plants that surround us naturally is the first step toward making a home for wildlife. 

Robin Hatchlings

A lot of times we pull up the perennial plants or cut them back to the ground as soon as they start to lose their foliage and look as though they are waiting at death's door. However, if we can discipline ourselves to look past the unsightly twigs and remnants of beauty that once was, we can begin to see the beauty that is attracted to the unattractive. Birds! Leaving our perennial gardens intact through the winter gives our winter avian residents a food source. When we cut down what's left at the end of the growing season we are denying the birds a fulfilling meal and we deny ourselves the pleasure of watching them engage their survival instincts and do the things they were created to do in the way that is natural to them.  

                                                                                                  Coneflower and black-eyed Susans have very sturdy stalks and can withstand some snow and ice. Just imagine for a moment that you are a bird. Overnight your world has been blanketed by snow and ice.
Black-eyed Susan
 Finding food can be a challenge. But if we leave our perennial stalks standing, they provide a food source that stands above the wintery weather and can make the snowy winter days a lot easier on the little birds.
 Maybe you could plan to make a garden in the back yard for the sole purpose of feeding the birds and wildlife through the winter. Choose flowers and shrubs that offer berries and seeds throughout the winter.
Asters, Black-eyed Susans, and coneflower all offer nutrition for the birds that overwinter in our area. 
Joe pie weed offers a source of food but also adds the luxury of warmth. Birds will use the "fluff" that comes with the seeding process to line their nests in the winter. 

Gaultheria not only is a beautiful little plant but it is also evergreen and produces beautiful red berries that feed birds and squirrels. 
A buttonbush is a great option if you are looking to attract butterflies and birds. While in bloom the butterflies and other various nectar loving creatures will visit often. When the blooms begin to seed, birds will gather for the feast. 
Beautyberry is a native and attracts insects while in bloom. These insects help to provide a source of food for the seasonal birds and its berries help provide food for the ones that are year-round residents. 
If you are looking for a centerpiece for your fauna food bed why not consider a styrax tree. they are 6 to 12 feet tall at maturity so that makes them perfect for a focal point. They have small white bell-shaped flowers that attract many different kinds of nectar loving pollinators. This, in turn, will attract the birds of summer. Then the blooms give way to many seeds that birds enjoy through the fall and winter.
There are others that you can plant for you and the birds to enjoy such as blueberry, blackberry, mulberry, and raspberry. Just plan to plant more than one so you will have enough to share with our feathered friends.
The possibilities are endless. Most perennials offer something in every season. the key to success is to be patient and let nature do what it was created to do. Think about it, you plant to repel bugs, you plant to attract hummingbirds and butterflies why not plant to feed the birds of winter? Did you ever stop to think about how they survive the winter? It isn't easy I'm sure but we can share our blessings and make it a little easier. All those seeds that you pour into a feeder had to come from plants somewhere. Why not grow those plants and provide your feathered friends with some natural order. Birds are used to fending for themselves and by providing feeders we deny them the experience they need to survive. So many of the seed mixes that are available commercially are not native blends. It can be confusing to the birds as they are not accustomed to some of the varieties within those mixes. We think we are doing them a favor when in reality we may be making survival harder than it has to be. 
Think natural. Think native!
For more information on when to feed, how to feed, and why or why not to feed, Visit the Audobon website.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Native Shrubs for Curb-Appeal

Native shrubs are often over-looked when we think about curb appeal. However, by choosing to plant natives you are ensuring that your plantings will grow to their personal best, and will tend to be a bit less stress and worry. 
There seems to be a growing trend toward native planting. People are veering toward naturalization more so than the perfectly manicured specimen plantings of the past. 
People are also looking to plant more edibles. Native edibles are even better.

Lindera is a member of the laurel family. It is native to the eastern U.S and north as far as Ontario.
It is commonly known as spicewood, spicebush, and Benjamin bush. These shrubs are very aromatic and produce berries in the fall that the birds enjoy. Native Americans used the dried fruits from these plants as a spice for cooking. The fruit has a somewhat peppery taste and smell.

Sweet Shrub
Sweet Shrub
Calycanthus enjoys full sun to partial shade and well-drained soil. They grow best in neutral to slightly acidic soil and only need to be watered in times of drought. Sweet Shrub is also known as Bubby bush, Bubby rose, Sweet Bubby, as well as Carolina allspice. 
Calycanthus can be used as a foundation planting but they can grow rather large so keep that in mind. Sweetshrub can grow 6 to 10 ft tall and wide. Their dark green foliage and very fragrant wine-colored blooms can send out a very sweet spicy aroma wafting in the breeze

                                      Carolina Jessamine
Carolina Jessamine
Carolina Jasmine is a common name for Carolina Jessamine. This is a woody vine with golden yellow trumpet-shaped blooms. It can be trained to posts or trellises or if left to grow on the ground it makes a beautiful mounding ground cover.
Photo credit :
Carolina jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens) is South Carolina’s state flower.
Karen Russ, ©2007 HGIC, Clemson Extension


Elderberry has been around for a very long time. Most people used to believe them to be poisonous. That is not entirely true. While the plant does have some toxicity, you can rid the fruit of any possible toxins simply by cooking them. Elderberry, when used properly has a variety of health benefits. However, even though you can purchase manufactured derivatives of the elderberry plant, natural is always better

PawPaw is a small deciduous fruit tree that is native to 25 states. It will produce a small to medium-size fruit that has a soft texture and tastes somewhat tropical. For ages, the paw-paw has been used to treat and even cure some gastrointestinal issues and even prevent renal failure. It may take 5 to 8 years for trees to produce fruit when started from seed. If they are grafted from cuttings then you may see fruit in as little as 3 years.

Witch hazel

Witch Hazel
Witch hazel is a large deciduous shrub/tree. It has yellow fringed blooms from September to December and sometimes longer depending on the severity of the winter, usually appearing after it has dropped its golden fall foliage. These shrubs can grow rather large. Topping out at 20 to 30 feet with a comparable spread makes them the king of all native shrubs. These shrubs can be used in rain gardens or to create a tall hedgerow. Bear in mind witch hazel is not very drought tolerant. Frequent watering may be needed when we experience prolonged periods with no rain. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Native Perennials for Lasting Beauty

Gaillardia, also known as blanket flower, is a beautiful and bright addition to any perennial garden. Native to the US, blanket flowers are low maintenance and tolerate poor soil as long as it is well-drained. They will please the eye with bright yellow to red blooms with brown to deep red centers. Blanket flowers are a very good choice if you are planning a pollinator garden as they attract bees and butterflies of many varieties. Gaillardia can be sensitive to rich soil and over-fertilization. So be mindful not to fertilize these gorgeous bloomers too often. They will grow best in full sun and tolerate heat very well. If you are planting from seed your blanket flower will most likely bloom in its second year. However, if you purchase plants from a local garden center you will see blooms likely on the plant when purchased or shortly thereafter.

Echinacea or coneflower as it is commonly known is not only a beautiful native perennial, it has also been used as an herbal remedy for generations. The purple coneflower was used by the plains Indians and early settlers for internal illnesses such as the common cold or upset stomach. External wounds were often treated with salves made from the plant. Teas made with the leaves and petals have been thought to boost the immune system and fight off viral infections as well. It is thought to have anti-inflammatory properties as well.  While science has studied these claims for many years their findings have been less than impressive. In spite of this, many still depend on its healing power in the form of supplements added to their daily diet. However, you should discuss it with your doctor before taking any herbal derivative as it may interfere with any other drugs you may be taking.
If you decide to add a coneflower to your perennial or pollinator garden you will not be disappointed with the results. With big beautiful flowers, they will have the bees, butterflies, and birds visiting you often. They will grow best in full sun with well-drained soil. Fertilize lightly.

Rudbeckia or blackeyed Susans are found all over the United States. They brighten the sides of many back roads across the map. You can plant them from seed or buy them from your local garden center. Not only are they native, but they also attract a variety of pollinators in the summer and birds in the fall and winter as they produce seed. These plants are tough. They will grow in poor soil and are drought tolerant. They love full sun but will tolerate some shade. If you take time to deadhead these beauties. you will encourage more blooms to develop and help to build a sturdier, more compact plant. If your area is prone to visits from local wildlife such as deer and rabbits, you may want to think about planting some repellent plants such as rosemary or lavender nearby to keep them from feasting on your blackeyed Susans.

 What's not to love about this stunning native? Yarrow is a hardy plant that withstands a lot of adverse conditions from poor soil to drought but what it doesn't like is shade. Plant this lovely perennial in full sun but be mindful of your spacing as yarrow can become invasive. Give it plenty of room to grow. If it has to battle for the territory it will undoubtedly win. Early Native Americans used this plant medicinally for the treatment of mental disturbances such as depression and anxiety. There have been some studies that have suggested, though not proven, that yarrow can offer some help for ADHD. However, do not take any herbal derivative prior to speaking to your doctor. Yarrow is also an excellent choice if your goal is to attract pollinators. Butterflies and bees will flock to your garden to visit these beauties daily.


Coreopsis or tickseed as it is commonly referred to is a tall delicate looking flower that grows well in the moderate climates of zones 6 through 8. It isn't delicate as it has been spotted growing in traffic islands in the heat.
If you pinch off spent blooms often you will encourage new blooms throughout the summer. If you cut the plants back by one third about halfway through the summer it will generate new blooms late summer into early fall. 
Tickseed is named such because of the resemblance of its seeds to ticks. The seeds are a favorite of the goldfinch in the fall and winter and the flowers are a favorite of many pollinators throughout the summer. 
These gorgeous summer bloomers love poor well-drained soil and are still surprisingly drought tolerant once established.
Mulch well in the winter and say hello again in the spring. 

Zucchini Lasagna

Zucchini Lasagna

2 medium zucchini sliced thin lengthwise ( I use a mandolin to slice)
1 jar of your favorite pasta sauce
1 lb ground beef 
1 small onion (chopped)
1 bell pepper (chopped)
1 tsp minced garlic
1 cup Ricotta cheese
2 cups mozzarella cheese grated or sliced

Brown ground beef and add onion and green pepper. Cook until veggies are tender. Add minced garlic and let simmer for 3 minutes.

In a 9 x 11" baking dish put 3 Tbs of the pasta sauce in the bottom and spread evenly.
Add a layer of zucchini slices.
Spread the ground beef mixture.
Add a layer of pasta sauce.
Add a layer of mozzarella.
Add another layer of zucchini.
Spread all of the ricotta cheese as evenly as you can (can be warmed in the microwave to help spread).
Add a layer of mozzarella.
Add a layer of pasta sauce.
Add a layer of zucchini.
Add a generous layer of pasta sauce and the rest of the mozzarella.

Bake at 350 until the cheese is golden and zucchini is tender.

Monday, June 29, 2020

July's To-Do List in the Garden

Things to do in the Garden in JULY

Check plants and treat for insects or disease.

July presents us with the perfect time to give our gardens a proper check-up.  First, you probably want to rid the area of weeds. Weeds will compete and ultimately win the competition for space, water, and nutrients. If you keep the weeds to a minimum, your vegetable plants can give you their maximum. Weeds also harbor insects that will attack your crops. Check the plants closely. Look at everything. Start at the base of the plant and look for signs of disease or damage caused by insects. Be sure to check the underside of leaves and the areas where leaf and stem meet. If you see anything out of the ordinary now is the time to treat the problem and rid the plant of the stressors.

Plant for late harvest
You can still do some planting in July to continue the harvest into the fall. Squash, cucumbers, cilantro, basil, and dill will still grow fast enough to produce a harvest before frost. A late crop of tomatoes may still be planted in early July. If you have extra tomatoes, chop them and freeze for sauces and soups later. If you are growing for the goal of preserving, you may want to plant successive crops two to four weeks apart to keep the bounty coming. This will allow you time to prepare each crop for preserving without being overwhelmed. Likewise, if you are planting just for consumption, planting in succession will keep fresh veggies coming to the table for you and your family well into the fall.

Fertilize your heat-loving plants

You should have fertilized your plants when you planted them. Now is the time to do it again. Replenishing the ground with nutrients can help your plants make it through the hottest part of the summer without all the stress. If you use a slow-release fertilizer you likely won't have to do it again this season. But, if you prefer to use a water-soluble fertilizer such as Miracle-Gro, you may want to do it about every week.

Plan Your fall veggies.

On the really hot days, you may want to stay inside and put some thought into planning your cool weather crops. It is still a bit early to plant as most cool weather crops do not grow well in the heat of summer. Hence, their cool weather classification. If you are like me, making a plan is the easy part. Executing it is when the real work begins. Now is the perfect time to do some research and plan what, when, and where you want your cool crops to go.

Last, but not least, you may want to keep a journal of your garden journey if you are new to the gardening scene. Write down what you have planted, where it is, how it is doing along the way, and how many you planted of each.
Make a note of any pruning or fertilizing you do as well as the varieties that you planted. If something didn't work so well this year, make a note of that too and do something different for next year. Once you get something that works, make a note of that as well so that you can repeat it in the following years. It is also good practice to make note of the weather, maybe not daily but at least weekly so that you can use that as a reference tool for the future. A rain gauge is cheap and helps you track the actual rainfall.

Gardening is not complicated. However, there is a science to it for sure. If you are a novice, you will learn from your mistakes. If you are a seasoned pro you have learned from your mistakes and will continue to make new ones. There is no way to have a perfect plan. Sometimes you will get it right, and sometimes everything goes wrong. We cannot control every aspect but we can do our best to put all the pieces into play that your plants will need to grow successfully. When mother nature gives you drought, you water, water, water. Watering should be done in the morning to afternoon. Be careful not to water in late day so plants won't stay wet all night, which causes disease. Always be sure there is no hot water in the water hose when you water. When she gives you rain, you pray, pray, pray. No matter how it turns out, enjoy the journey and the challenges. After all, that is what it is all about.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Judy,s Broccoli Casserole

Judy's Broccoli Casserole

3 cups of fresh broccoli, chopped and lightly steamed
1 cup cooked rice
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 medium onion chopped and sauteed in 1/2 stick of butter
1 stalk celery chopped and sauteed with onion
Dash of paprika
1 cup chunked Velveeta cheese

Mix all ingredients.
Pour into a casserole dish.
Bake at 350 for 25 minutes.

It doesn't get much easier than this.
This can be made ahead and frozen until you are ready to bake
or you can keep it in the refrigerator overnight to be baked the next day.

 Optional additions:

Chopped cooked chicken
chopped fresh spinach

You may add bread crumbs to the top before baking to add a little crunch
or crushed Ritz crackers on top for a buttery flavor.

Avoiding Crowded Spaces: The New Norm?

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, we have seen the world take on an entirely different way of life. Small businesses have closed, large businesses have chosen to close some of their locations permanently and the general public has spent more time at home than they have in decades.
While it seems like we can't wait to get back to normal, we have to ask, what will that be?
Social distancing is not the worst thing that could happen, but it does make daily life a little more inconvenient. We have taken our daily tasks for granted in the past and paid no mind to who was around us. Now we watch each other closely so as not to infringe on anyone's space and to make sure that no one is invading our own bubble.

With the easing of our state-mandated stay at home order, parks and trails that had been previously closed are opening back up. People that have been home for a while are ready to get out and enjoy the outdoors only to find enormous crowds of people in these areas. This can be a little scary if you or a loved one is at risk. However, there are a lot of places where you can enjoy nature and avoid the crowds that may not show up in your first line of thought. This is where agritourism comes in. There are many farms, orchards, and vineyards as well as nurseries and greenhouses that welcome visitors. They are off the beaten path and out of the mainstream public eye. While you are almost sure to find others there, you probably won't find the hoards of people that are now inundating our public parks and recreation areas.

Check online in your area for businesses that welcome visitors. Or, if you prefer, you can just take a stroll down your local Main Street. Meander down the side streets and visit local businesses of the mom and pop locations that are the backbone of our communities. You will see things that you don't see on a daily basis and you will be getting your exercise while supporting local businesses. We have lost interest in our Main Street businesses. Now would be the perfect time to rekindle the love. You do not have to be on a trail to walk and enjoy the sunshine. You just have to be present.
Think outside the box, explore agritourism. The only thing you have to lose is the need for structured trails and parks. Get off the beaten path. Don't follow the masses. Support your local businesses and explore new resources for recreation and shopping. Let agritourism be the new norm for a new way of life.

Garden Companions
Garden Companions

Plants are living breathing things that need food, water, and sunlight to grow and flourish, not so different from we humans. It is human nature to search out companionship from others. When we have this suitable companionship, we tend to flourish in our lives and live a richer existence. Did you know that plants fair better with companions as well?
Maybe you have heard of a three sisters garden. That is a method of planting that incorporates three different vegetables planted near one another so that they may aid each other as they grow. One is corn. Corn will grow tall and will act as a trellis of sorts for the next plant that is placed in front of each stalk and that is climbing beans. As the beans mature they will climb the corn stalks and save you from having to trellis them. Last, you would plant squash between each stalk of corn to help keep the weeds at bay and aide in maintaining moisture for the other plants by shading the ground. While this may be the most common companion planting, it certainly isn't the only one.
Your tomatoes will enjoy the company of some basil and marigolds. Basil is thought to produce a sweeter taste in tomatoes when grown together. Though there is no scientific proof of this claim, gardeners have sworn by its validity for ages. Some gardeners even claim that they taste a hint of basil in their tomatoes. But aside from the claims that basil improves the taste of tomatoes, there is scientific proof that planting basil and marigolds with tomatoes can ward off some unwanted pests. Insects that normally wreak havoc on tomato plants and their fruit are kept away by the pungent scent of the basil and marigolds. Marigolds planted between tomato plants also help to repel root-knot nematodes. These pesky little plant-parasitic nematodes are responsible for about 5% of the world's crop loss every year.
If you plant marigolds or nasturtium among your cucumbers you will be able to keep the aphids and beetles away. However, you don't want to plant aromatic herbs with cucumbers as they may stunt the growth of your cukes.
Basil planted with peppers is thought to improve flavor and keep away aphids and spider mites. Also if you are planting onions you can plant them alongside your peppers to help keep insects away.
Planting rosemary and summer savory with your beans help to keep away beetles. Summer savory will also improve the growth rate of most climbing beans. A customer mentioned that she always puts savory in her beans when she cooks them.
If you want to try your hand at carrots, plant onions with them to help keep the carrot flies away. Generally speaking, you should not plant root crops with other root crops so that they will not compete for available phosphorus in the soil. However, onions are an exception to the rule. Planting sage and rosemary among your carrots is thought to keep some foraging furry friends at a distance as well.
Mint planted among your lettuce and leafy vegetables is a tremendous help with keeping away slugs. It is also thought that spearmint and peppermint actually help to sweeten the taste of your leafy plants. It is best to keep peppermint and spearmint in a container as they are aggressive.
In general, a good companion just makes life sweeter and less stressful. Without all the pests to bother them, your plants will grow happier and be more productive.

Growing Great Tomatoes

Growing tomatoes should come easy, right? Not for everyone. You may have trouble getting them to grow and produce fruit without losing them to blossom end rot or blight. Growing beautiful tomatoes really is a science but it is not rocket science.

Planting is best done at depths beyond the depth of the pot. Lay your plants on their side and bury them up to the top few leaves. This will allow roots to grow all along the stalk. The more roots the plant has the stronger the plant will grow. You will have to be careful not to drive your stake or cage through the roots or stalks. If you prefer, you can dig a deeper hole and just plant your tomato upright, up to its top few leaves. Either way the plant needs strong roots to grow a strong plant.


Sunlight is a huge factor in the amount of fruit that you will get from your tomato plants. The more sun they receive, the more fruit they will produce. Tomatoes love heat and direct sun. But the love of both makes watering a full-time job. 


Beef up your soil to provide the best start for your tomato plants. you can purchase a soil pH test at your local garden center or obtain one from your local cooperative extension office. Your tomatoes will grow best with slightly acidic soil. 6.5 to 6.8 is prime. If your soil is too acidic, add dolomite lime. If it is too alkaline, add sulfur or compost to your soil. Adding a calcium source is always a good idea and will help to ward off blossom end rot. You can use crushed eggshells or you can add calcium tablets to water and pour around your plants. Magnesium also can help to prevent some forms of blight and blossom end rot. Add a timed release fertilizer as most soils do not have enough. Plants need feeding just as we do.


Tomatoes require regular watering. Inconsistent watering can lead to fungus and a plethora of other diseases and problems. You cannot let them dry completely out and then drench them in an effort to compensate. Keeping the soil at an even moisture should be your goal. If you know it is going to rain then you can skip water till the rain subsides. Don't leave it up to mother nature alone to take care of your tomatoes. This past year has been an indication of how unpredictable and unstable she is. Do not trust her with the well being of your tomato plants! Once established, plants should be watered only once or twice a week, depending on the temperature. Water so the water soaks throughout the root zone. Water in early morning, so the foliage will dry before evening.


Your tomatoes will need support. You can give them what they need by purchasing a tomato cage or by staking and tying as they grow. Whichever method you choose will ensure that your tomatoes have the support they need to keep their fruit off of the ground. Being on the ground often causes disease and rot. Not to mention, being on the ground makes them easy targets for critters looking for a quick meal.


Removing suckers from the plant and bottom leaves will allow the plant to produce more abundantly. 

If you take the time to tend to their needs, tomatoes will provide you with fruit for your family. You can share with family and friends or you can preserve them in many different ways to get the most from your efforts. Or even better, send some to a local food pantry.