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.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Quarantine Breakfast Casserole

Quarantine Breakfast Casserole

1 - 9x13 casserole dish or baking pan
Frozen tater tots
6  large eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/2 lb of bacon or sausage (or both)
1/4 cup diced green pepper
1/4 cup diced sweet onion
1 cup shredded cheese of your choice

Cook sausage and/or bacon and drain and crumble.
Preheat oven 350*
Spray the bottom of your baking pan with non-stick cooking spray.

Line the bottom of the baking pan with a layer of tater tots.
Add crumbled sausage and/or bacon evenly over the tots.
Add onions and peppers evenly over the sausage/bacon layer.
Mix eggs and milk in a small bowl and pour over all of the ingredients.
Bake for 15 min.
Remove from oven, add cheese, and bake for an additional 15 minutes or until golden.

Cut into squares and serve.

*Add spinach for added nutrition.

Building a Bird Garden

Bird Gardens

Who doesn't love to listen to the birds throughout the spring and summer? Whether you are watching through a window or from a porch or deck, there is a certain peace that comes from looking into the world of our avian friends. If you really enjoy bringing the birds to your yard, you may want to think beyond just your feeders. Bring them in naturally with plantings that take their needs into consideration.
1.) Shelter
Baby birds Mitchells Nursery King North Carolina
Shelter does not have to mean a formal birdhouse. This can mean providing evergreen trees and bushes to provide shelter and protection year-round from weather and predators. Some birds do not winter over in certain areas. Migratory birds are often what you will find nesting in your birdhouses. Year-round avian residents tend to favor the warmth and safety of dense brush or shrubs. That is not to say that some strategically placed houses wouldn't bring in some beautiful birds for the season. When placing birdhouses, we all tend to want them where we can watch them. That's a great idea till the neighbor's cat starts watching them too. You want to try to be mindful of where you place the houses keeping in mind that most birds are somewhat territorial and like space. So, you don't want to hang a bunch of them together. If you are trying to attract communal birds such as purple martins they like to have their flock all together. Keep them from being easily accessed by predators. Make sure the houses are not in full sun all day long as the daytime temps inside the house can easily reach over 100 degrees.
2.) Food
Mahonia berries Mitchell's Nursery King North Carolina
Mahonia Berries
We are all familiar with our favorite bird feeder. We are often compensating where nature lacks in our yards. You can attract more birds with nature than with feeders. Planting bushes, trees, and flowers that provide seed and berries will attract a wider variety of birds than just a feeder alone. We as humans try hard to keep the birds out of our food so consider berries that are not favored by humans, such as hollies, certain junipers, and viburnum. Flowers that produce seed such as, sunflowers, black-eyed Susans, and coneflowers also welcome a wide variety of feathered friends. Mahonia also produces berries that the birds cannot resist.

3.) Water
Birdbaths are great. However, they are made even better if you have one with a solar pump as it helps to hinder the growth of algae and keeps the water cleaner for your birds. If you do not have a pump, be sure to keep the water as clean and fresh as possible to keep the birds coming back. If you are lucky enough to have a natural water source on your property, of course, that is optimal. Most of us don't have that option though. Garden ponds and birdbaths work very well when kept clean and filled with fresh water. Shallow water is best, not over 1 to 2 inches deep.  Birds enjoy bathing and preening in the water and you will enjoy the antics from your place of watch. No matter how you go about planning your garden, natural is always better. Combining natural and man-made elements together can provide a diverse selection that will attract an equally diverse bird population. With all of your ingredients in place, sit back, and enjoy what nature brings to your yard.

The Return of the Victory Garden

Victory Gardens are Back!

 The Victory Garden made its debut during World War II. It was a way to lessen the demand on public food systems and allow more of that food to be produced for the troops. This allowed more people to contribute to the war effort. The government asked the citizens of the United States to plant their own gardens to help with food shortages. The public response was very positive. During this time, 20 million families were growing 40 percent of the country's vegetables. You could find these gardens everywhere. Much like today, they came in many shapes and sizes. Schools even had their own gardens to provide fresh vegetables for student lunches. Produce grown in Victory Gardens was often preserved for winter. At the time there was no shortage of magazines and newspaper articles that were full of helpful information about growing and preserving your own vegetables. Women were doing their part as their husbands went off to war.
Though we are not at war, the Victory Garden has seen a bit of a comeback. More and more people are trying to become more self-reliant and are showing more interest in gardening and preserving their harvest. Many people are also sending their surplus vegetables to local food banks and hostels to help feed the less fortunate.
 Urban areas are utilizing vacant lots by creating community gardens. Everyone plants, everyone eats. This brings families and communities together for positive growth and sustainability. During uncertain times we all need to work together for our future, even if we have to do it from 6 ft. apart.

 No matter how big or how small you decide to make your garden, make it your own. There is some satisfaction in knowing exactly where your food comes from and everything that it has come in contact with during its growing process. You choose what goes in and ultimately what comes out of it. Enjoy your garden and all that comes from it.

 The return of the Victory Garden is a sign of the times. However, it does not symbolize the negative energy that has made its return necessary but rather, the hope and perseverance that comes from human nature when faced with challenges and changes. The spirit of a gardener exists in all of us, as does the strength to overcome adversity.

Happy Gardening!

Monday, March 23, 2020

D,s Easy Apple Pie

D's Easy Apple Pie

5 apples (I used gala)

peeled, cored and sliced (thick slices)

1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 TBS. apple pie spice
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 stick of butter
1 tsp Salt.

  a sprinkle of salt and sugar for crust

Put all ingredients except butter into a 1-gallon ziplock bag.
Seal the bag and shake it well.
Set aside
Pre-heat oven to 375

Spray your favorite pie plate with cooking spray and line with your favorite pie crust recipe. My favorite recipe is Pilsbury pre-made refrigerated, roll-out crusts!

Grate 1/2 of the butter into the bottom crust and distribute evenly. Sprinkle granulated sugar and salt on the bottom of the crust. Add the apple mixture to the crust. Place the second crust over the top. You can seal your edges with a fork and cut off the excess but I prefer to roll the edges. It is not as pretty but my family loves the crust. Grate the remaining butter on to the top of the crust and sprinkle about a tablespoon of granulated sugar and a 1/2 teaspoon of salt on the top of the crust. Be sure to butter the edges of your crust well so the sugar and salt stick. Poke holes in the top with a knife or a fork.

Bake for 45 min. If your crust begins to get too brown you can add foil to the edge to cover it but it has been my experience that 45 minutes is perfect.

let us know how it turns out!

Azaleas: A simple Guide for Happy Blooms

A Simple Guide for Happy Blooms

  Azaleas have been a long-time southern staple in most yards and landscapes. Most people recognize their abundant spring blooms even if they don’t know much about them. As the blooms fade and you are left with just an attractive shrub you may be longing for the color that was there in the not so distant past. 
It is these azaleas that are so lovingly planted in front of your grandmother’s house and are now blocking every window within 10 feet. Sadly these are also the ones that get dug up and discarded because of their over achievement in the growth department. Now, don’t get me wrong, these take many years to reach their full potential but the next generation is not amused when they inherit these beauties. Thankfully there are alternatives now that grow much smaller. Some actually as small as twelve inches at maturity. This gives you many more options when deciding where you want to plant.

   When considering azaleas for inclusion in your landscape there are many factors to contemplate. You want to be mindful of your space. Be sure to pay close attention to the growing habits of your selection. You don’t want to put an azalea in a corner area with tight spacing if its mature size is going to be 6 ft tall and 5 ft wide.  Lighting is also a huge consideration. If your area is full sun you may love one variety but that variety may not fare well. And you must always think about soil drainage. You definitely do not want to try to plant an azalea in a swampy area and likewise, you don’t want to try to get it to grow in a barren wasteland where even the grass has packed up and left the area. Within this article, we will try to make it easy and painless to decide what is best for your area to bring years of enjoyment and beauty. Hopefully, without it landing on the demolition list for the next generation.

 Deciduous azaleas are those that lose their leaves prior to the onset of winter. These are a good choice for areas that are prone to more extreme heat and are cold hardy in zones 4 through 9. While all azaleas do well in partial shade or filtered light, some deciduous varieties can tolerate more direct sunlight. Azaleas that are grown in full sun tend to grow just a bit smaller and their blooms will fade much faster. Generally, these azaleas only bloom one time per growing season.

 Re-blooming azaleas keep their foliage year-round.  Most of these varieties are hardy in zones 5 through 8. These will usually thrive in more sun. You can choose a Bloom-A-Thon or Encore variety and enjoy blooms two or three times within a growing season.

   The perfect location for your azalea will be one where the plant is sheltered from harsh winds, dappled light, and good drainage. Fall is the best time to plant your azalea. However, you can plant anytime during the colder months if the ground is not frozen. If your azalea is going into new ground, be sure to till or loosen the soil to a depth of about eighteen inches and add organic compost to the soil, taking care to mix it well. Poor drainage is a sure-fire way to kill your azalea since they have a shallow root system, you don’t want to smother them with heavy clay or too much mulch. Be sure to plant your azalea with the root ball one to two inches above the ground level. Backfill the hole with loose amended soil.  You will want to finish off your planting with a light layer of mulch. Not more than 2 inches and be sure not to pile it around the trunk of the azalea as it may cause rot.

 If planted properly, azaleas are low maintenance. Azaleas need very little pruning. If you feel the need to shape them up a bit, you can do so after they are done blooming. Only taking off the leggiest branches and pinching back the tips will encourage fullness. Avoid late summer pruning as the evergreen varieties will be setting buds for the next growing season.  During dry weather, you may need to provide extra irrigation. Water your azalea deeply when you water so that the ground is soaked through the root system. You will also want to water well before the first hard freeze. Fertilize after blooming in the spring with a timed-release fertilizer. Never put lime on an azalea. 

  Most problems that arise with azaleas are due to poor soil, improper drainage or watering or aggressive pruning. If you are having issues with your azalea and none of these are a factor, there are a few other things that can cause problems for your azaleas, such as lace bugs. These are the most common pests that affect azaleas, causing yellowing foliage. You can usually find tiny black bugs on the underside of the leaves. This can be treated with insecticidal soap, available at most garden centers and farm supply stores.
Powdery mildew is another problem that can damage your azalea causing leaf drop. This is treated with fungicidal sprays.

Azaleas can offer up years of beauty and satisfaction for even the pickiest of plant connoisseurs. Once you decide on the best fit for your space and preferences just plant and enjoy.

For more interesting facts and information check out this book:

"American Azaleas"
By: L. Clarence Towe

Available on Google Books and Amazon

Happy Planting!!!


Squash, Melons and Cucumbers 

Most people don't think of vining vegetables when they think of container gardens.
The biggest thing to remember is anything that vines like melons and squash and cucumbers need a lot of room to grow. But don't let that scare you into thinking you can't do it.  Start with a pot large enough to accommodate your vine. Then understand that your vine needs to spread. If you are limited on space, think vertical. Adding a trellis will allow your vine to grow upward. But, when the vines go up they are weighted down when they begin to fruit. You will need to fashion a system of slings to support larger fruit such as cantaloupe and watermelon.  Most squash and cucumbers will be fine. 
Mulch the top of the soil to retain moisture. Keep the soil moisture consistent. Don't allow it to dry too much for too long and then water or it could cause the fruit to split. The soil should be moist but allow to dry between watering, being sure to soak the soil until the excess drains out.

It is recommended that you use a container no less than 12 inches across per plant or 24 inches across per 2 plants. when adding your support you may use tomato cages that you have turned upside down and wired the "legs" together at the top or simple trellises. If you are using 2 containers you can fashion an arch between them out of rabbit wire and PVC pipe. It may be necessary to prune back some of the ends as they reach beyond their designated areas. However, you do not want to trim off any blooms as that will reduce your yield. Be sure you twist the vines around the support as they grow to keep them growing upward.
It is quite possible to grow enough for sharing or even freezing or canning. However, I wouldn't plan on preserving large quantities from a pot or two.
 Many plant lovers are joining the trend of container gardening as they move toward a more self-sufficient lifestyle. Who doesn't love the thought of eating organic vegetables without the cost that is so often associated with organics?
There is a peace of mind in knowing exactly where your fresh produce is coming from. Who knows, you may find yourself an avid container gardener before it is all said and done.

Thursday, February 27, 2020



In a world full of bagged soils, each one claiming to be better than the next. You may be left in a cloud of dirt and confusion. After all, it's dirt. Why does it have to be so complicated?
Most people don't look at the ingredients of the bag. Again, it's dirt! Believe it or not, every soil that is marketed has a different set of ingredients that makes it good for some uses and maybe not so good for others. But, chances are you never thought about that. If its intended use is not in its title then most assume it's good for all things. The reality is, the names and titles are vague at best. Potting mix, potting soil, planting mix, garden soil, it all seems very ambiguous at best.

Here at the nursery, we have many different types of soil as well, but we want to take a moment to explain the difference so you can make an informed decision. There are many additives you can purchase to combine with existing soil to make it more hospitable for new plantings. Understanding your needs is key to making a great home for new roots.

We carry Daddy Pete's soils and Jolly Gardener products as well.
Daddy Pete's is a local company and we try to support local as much as we can. Without local businesses, Mainstreet America will fade into the past. But, that's a blog for another time.

Planting Mix

Planting mix, generally speaking, is a mixture of composted cow manure and finely ground pine bark. The combination of this composted organic matter makes the soil very nutrient-rich so it is a superb choice for adding to the native soil when planting trees and shrubs or enriching the soil of a tired flower bed or garden spot. It also helps with drainage and water penetration.

Lawn and Garden Soil

This is a combination of composted manure, finely ground pine bark, sand, and garden gypsum (calcium sulfate). This is a good choice for amending gardens and raised beds which may have exhausted the nutrients from the soil and need some revitalization.

Raised Bed Mix

This is a well-balanced combination of composted cow manure, finely ground pine bark, sand, perlite, and gypsum (calcium sulfate). As the name says it is best used in raised beds and containers or vegetable gardens as it promotes good drainage and nutrients for good growth.

Moisture Mate* Planting Mix

Moisture Mate is a Jolly Gardener product that is used for containers. It contains polymer crystals that help to maintain moisture in containers. It also helps prevent over-watering with its superb drainage properties. Moisture Mate also contains timed release plant food that will feed your new plantings for up to four months.

  1. a form of obsidian characterized by spherlulites formed by cracking of the volcanic glass during cooling, used as insulation or in plant growth media.

Perlite used as an additive helps to keep soil from becoming too compacted and aids in drainage.
While widely used as a soil amendment for planting, it has become popular as a stand-alone planting medium for hydroponic growing. acting as more of a support for the plants while keeping the tops of the plants relatively dry, thereby preventing rot.


  1. a yellow or brown mineral found as an alteration product of mica and other minerals, used for insulation or as a moisture-retentive medium for growing plants.

Vermiculite is widely used as an additive in soil because of its water retention properties. Making it supreme for plants that need a lot of moisture. You can purchase this separately to add to existing or native soil or you can purchase bagged soil that already has it added. Percentages of content can usually be found on the outside of the bag.

Peat Moss
Peat Moss is an organic decomposed moss with extremely good water retention properties. Peat moss is added to soil that has a high sand content so that it can aid in keeping the soil moist and loose. Most bagged soils have some percentage of peat moss added. check your ingredients. the higher the Sphagnum content, the more water that will be retained in your pot or area. Peat moss can be added to your native soil to keep it more workable for planting. 

Composted Cow manure

You really don't want to put fresh manure on a new bed or garden just before you plant but you can add it for the next season. However, you can buy composted cow manure by the bag and add it just before planting to act as a fertilizer for your plants. It is no secret that any composted organic matter makes your soil more nutrient-rich and gives your young plants the solid start they need.

In short, you can purchase bagged soils that already have what you need, or you can purchase additives to make your existing soil better. I recommend that very poor soil be amended with bagged soil when planting new shrubs and trees. and occasionally to beds and gardens. If you have already used some bagged soil in your area and just need to freshen it up, you can add a singular additive based on your needs. Or find the perfect combination for your plans. Either way, it is good practice to know what the needs of your plants are, then make your purchase based on that.  The key to successful gardening starts at ground level. Soil is key to plant health and crop abundance.
 Get in the dirt, good dirt looks rich and feels food to the fingers and the soul.