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.




Cook 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts.
Add salt to the water when boiling.

Drain and chop cooked chicken into small cubes
Add 1/4 cup of pickles (I prefer sweet pickles)
 2 Tbs. of mustard
1 cup of salad dressing mayo.
1/4 cup chopped celery- optional
2 boiled eggs chopped- optional

Mix well and chill.

This makes a large amount of chicken salad. Perfect for a gathering or pot luck dinner.



Herbs are becoming very popular for a myriad of reasons, ranging from culinary purposes to insect repellent and essential oils that can be rendered from the plants.
No matter what your reasons for buying herbs, they are a beautiful addition to even the smallest areas. Container gardening is a growing trend hitting urban America.
Herbs are the quintessential cure-all for what ails us. In this article, we will dive into the best herbs to grow individually and together to best suit your needs.

Insect Control

For insect control, we recommend any herb with a very pungent scent or anything with a citrus smell such as citronella, lemon thyme, lemon verbena, oregano, orange mint, lemon grass, catnip, lemon balm, lavender, bay laurel, rosemary, and dill. All of these possess some insect repelling properties. Citronella is often used in candles, oils, and even sprays that keep mosquitoes at bay while we are outside.
You should consider a mixed pot with about 3 different herbs to get the maximum effect. You could add citronella, lemon grass and rosemary for a nice combination of textures and aromas, or dill oregano and lemon balm. Use plants that complement each other, but have a powerful effect on the winged biters. I would never recommend insect-repelling plants to keep things away that are beneficial to our environment. So, please be mindful of the pollinators. If you are planting herbs for repelling insects please use them sparingly and only in your living or entertaining areas. Try not to place them where your pollinators will be repelled from nearby blossoms and blooms.

Italian Cooking

If you are like me, you never turn down a great Italian meal. Fresh herbs really bring out the flavors for these dishes. You can plant a pot combination for this purpose. Combine basil, thyme, and oregano for your tomato-based dishes or if you like Alfredo and wine sauces you could pair fennel, rosemary, and sage. I personally don't use extra sage in my Italian dishes that include Italian sausage, but to each their own and a kitchen is a laboratory experiment!

Chicken Recipes

If you eat a lot of chicken and are into all-natural and organic eating, then you may want to try these combinations for optimal flavor. Cilantro, rosemary, and garlic blend nicely for light grilled meals and tarragon, sage and thyme are great for baked or fried chicken. These look lovely together in a container as well.

Fish Recipes

Fish is such a delicate flavor you do not want to have herbs paired with it that will overpower its light flavor. A container with lemon balm, parsley, and dill will make quick work of a delicious meal for your family or if you fry your fish, you can season your batter or your sides with a combination of mint, chives, and basil.

Beef Recipes

For seasoning red meat, beef, pork, lamb, and venison, you may want to try a combination of chives, basil, and cilantro. Or, for a lighter taste, you may opt for parsley and garlic with rosemary. No matter what your preference you could easily grow these cook ready combinations to use and be the envy of the neighborhood or family.

Of course, if you eat veggies all the time you already know how important herbs can be in making your dishes very tasty. You can never go wrong with cilantro and dill in fresh salads or basil and garlic in your sauteed meals. Even if you are frying your vegetables, it's a delicious choice to add thyme, chives, and oregano.

Planting your combination planters according to your cooking habits will make it so easy to cut as you need or to dry in combination packs. Why pay big bucks for dried herbs when you can do it yourself?

Growing your insect repellent is much more cost-effective and visually pleasing. While a lot can be said of the oil burning tiki torches and the tabletop candles adding to the ambiance, nothing can compare to the natural aspect of live plants in your outdoor living spaces.

If you're growing your herbs simply because you have a deep-seated affection for the plants then any combination is fine, but I recommend lavender, eucalyptus, and lemon balm if your goal is simply aromatherapy and a love of all things natural.

Have fun building your combinations. Ultimately, the choice is yours.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

How to plan the perfect flower bed or vegetable garden

Planning for Planting

In the last few weeks of winter, we are more than ready to get on with spring. If you find yourself stuck in the house because it is simply just too cold to try to be outside right now you might want to sit down with a cup of hot cocoa and browse the internet for local plant nurseries. Once you find one, eh hem - " I hear King, North Carolina has one of the best around, just saying".  You should start to visualize your dream. Scope out your locations. Check out the available lighting in each place and begin to plan what you will put into each area. Note if the area is facing north, south, east, or west, paying attention to where the sun rises and sets. Also note if it is shaded by buildings or trees and has tree roots. Tree roots extend as far as the branches. It is helpful to draw it out on paper with measurements. You do not have to be an artist. It isn't like you are going to hang it in the local art gallery.

Trees and shrubs can still be planted now. Take advantage of warmer days to put them into the ground.

 Be sure to plan for blooms at different times throughout the season. Do not be tempted to plant an explosion of color. Your flower gardens will be more visually pleasing if you choose just a few colors and carry that theme throughout your entire landscape. Your vegetable gardens will produce better if you are mindful of the placement and lighting. For instance, you don't want your trellised beans to block the sun from your tomatoes and likewise, you don't want your tender lettuce in full sun, so you want to put this in the shadows of something larger.
 There is a myriad of apps available for download for IOS and ANDROID to help you along the way through the planning process.
are just a few that have really captured my attention.
 Soon you will be able to hit your local garden center and begin to fill your spaces with plants and in no time you will have the beautiful blooms you have waited all winter to see once again.
I cannot stress enough that you can never measure too much. Lay your boundaries and measure, measure, measure. you don't want to get your garden too full. If you don't take the time to plan you can easily get too much going on and by the end of the season, things will look overgrown instead of lush and beautiful. Do some research on the plants you want. Make note of how tall and wide they will be at maturity and keep in mind that the width of a mature plant reflects your spacing between plants. For example, if your mature plant will reach 18 inches across, then you need to space your plants 18 inches apart.

Now you are ready.
As soon as the threat of frost has passed for your area you can start putting your gorgeous gardens together. Whether its vegetables or flowers, planning will make the planting go a lot quicker and smoother. It will eliminate the guesswork and prevent regret later.

I hope this helps a bit as we enter into the new planting season.

Getting Your garden in Tip Top shape

Getting Ready...

Now is the time to start preparing for spring. Begin by turning soil and pulling remnants of last season out of the ground. If the soil that you are working in does not hold any perennial promise for this spring, turning the soil is good practice. This will allow you to add organic compost and get it worked in prior to the planting season. Each growing season depletes the soil of nutrients. By adding composted organic matter back to it, you are adding food for your spring plants. If you do not have your own compost, it is readily available for purchase. We sell Daddy Pete's that is made here in the Piedmont.

 If you are just planting a small area you can turn the soil with a shovel or a hoe. Remove all of the old roots and work in some new soil or compost with the existing soil. This will allow further decomposition of your compost prior to new plants being added. If you are working in a larger area you may want to til your soil to loosen it and then rake all the old root matter out. Some root matter is good. You just don't want to have too many old root systems hampering the new ones. 
 If you choose you can add a thin layer of mulch to your area to help keep the soil moist and loose until planting. Pine needles or shredded leaves make excellent mulch.
 If you are starting a new area, you will need to remove all the sod. Loosen the soil that is left then add compost or planting mix and be sure to mix it up well, to a depth of at least 6 to 8 inches.
 As I sit here writing this informative piece for this blog, I am haunted by the fact that I have not yet done any of this for myself. We are all very busy in today's world and if you are like me, you don't get to spend as much time being one with nature as you would like.
 So I have broken this down into a printable shareable chart that will allow you to get it done before spring and not have to work yourself to a near-death experience all in one weekend.
Click here for PDF
 Be sure that anything from last season goes into your compost to aid in feeding the garden next year.  You can even compost weeds if you use the hot compost method. This method kills the seeds and most pathogens so there is no need to worry about this causing weeds in your soil later, though they will show up uninvited by other means I am sure. I personally like to add my kitchen scraps (plant-based and eggshells but no oils or fats) and my old potting soil to my compost heap.

When you begin to use your compost be sure that it has reached a satisfactory level of decomposition. You should see dark rick soil within the heap, probably closer to the bottom of the pile but if you have been turning your compost regularly then it should have a fairly uniform level of decomposition throughout.

Adding compost to your soil is very important before planting. Especially if you are using the same area or the same pots as last year. That soil has been depleted of most of its nutrients that are vital for healthy plant growth. I cannot stress enough, when you are planting new plants it is imperative that you prepare the area before you plant to give your plants the best chance at surviving and flourishing.

Find more information on composting at the link below.

Happy Gardening!

White Chocolate Cherry Cake

White Chocolate Cherry Cake

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 large eggs
1/2 cup veg oil
1 cup buttermilk
1 tbsp vanilla

Other ingredients:
6 oz. white choc. chips
2 cans cherry pie filling
1 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup cool whip

Pre-heat oven to 350.
Spray 2 nine-inch cake pans or 1 11x13 sheet cake pan.
Melt white choc chips using a double boiler or the microwave.
If you are using a sheet cake pan - pour half of the batter in the pan and spread evenly, add one can of cherry pie filling and distribute as evenly as possible without stirring. then add the remaining batter and spread evenly.
If you are using round layer pans- omit the cherry pie filling for now.
In a large bowl whisk together all dry ingredients except sugar. In a separate bowl whisk the eggs until fluffy, add vegetable oil and sugar and whisk again until light. Add vanilla and buttermilk to the mixture. Fold in the melted white chocolate. Add dry ingredients a little at a time folding in gently.
layer pans - 35 minutes
sheet pan - 45 - 55 minutes. Times will vary with altitude and individual ovens. The cake is done when a toothpick inserted into the middle come out clean.

Mix cream cheese, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1 cup cool whip until smooth. Set aside.

Let the cake cool completely.
Add cream cheese mixture to the top of a sheet cake or to the top of both layers then add 1 can of cherry pie filling to the top of each, stack, cut and enjoy.

I baked this in a sheet cake pan. I believe the layer pans might be a better choice for this particular recipe.
The cake is very dense and moist.
Great texture and flavor.

Gifts of Love

Gifts Rooted in Love
Spider Plant; Airplane Plant
spider plant

Calla lily(top)primrose (bottom)

  The season of love is upon us. Valentine's Day is approaching fast. Men and women everywhere are scrambling to find the perfect gift. So as hoards of people inundate the local flower shop or the fresh flower kiosk at the grocery store, equally as many are staring blankly at the lacy heart-shaped boxes of mystery chocolates. Stop the madness! What better time to consider visiting your local garden center? There you will find a plethora of living plants that are sure to make someone happy. You could choose to go with a simple succulent that doesn't take up much room and does not require lots of attention. Or if your loved one is more impressed by a plush garden look, you can find many, many choices among the hanging baskets and climbing plants. Keep in mind, just because it is in a hanging basket, it does not have to hang. You can remove the hanger from the basket and place it on a tall plant stand to produce a great look. Some may prefer a tropical look. You will find a variety of tropical options available from colorful and lush to minimalist.
The key to great gift-giving is knowing your recipient. Put that knowledge to use and you are sure to find the perfect gift.

succulent hawarthia

Succulents are growing in popularity. Some people are beginning to 'collect' them like some collect stamps. If your loved one is one of the many that have started their own collection, you cannot go wrong with the gift of a succulent. Or, maybe you have heard them talk about the desire to own one. Either way, these plants are so easy to take care of and some are even hardy outside. They don't take up a lot of space and some need very little light and water. It is best to gather your information on the succulent of your choice to judge if it is a good choice for your loved one.

 Hanging Baskets
Mixed hanging basket
mixed hanging basket

Hanging baskets are so versatile. You can hang them or put them on a plant stand or even sit them in an empty chair. They can easily be set into the top of an ornate urn or nice clay pot that seems too tall for anything else. Maybe you could make it a combo. Buy a nice pot and then something to add to it. There are so many varieties of plants that you will find in hanging baskets, it would be hard to name them all. So, we will just mention a few. A spider plant offers variegated foliage and produces long shoots that have smaller plants at the end. The smaller "babies" can be cut off and easily rooted in a new pot or shared with others. These are also excellent natural air purifiers.
If you want something with a little more color you could go with a variety of wandering jew. A fern is a beautiful option for someone who has an ample light source and ability to water frequently.

House plants

Chinese evergreen
   House plants of any variety can bring joy to any plant lover. It allows the recipient to bring a little nature into their house. There are so many different choices that we could never name them all. But, trending right now are pothos in all of its varieties, snake plant, ZZ plant, monstera, and Chinese evergreen because of the ease of care. I personally like the variegated varieties because it offers more dimension to the surroundings. There is a snake plant here at the office that is over 30 years old! Technically a house plant is any plant grown in the house. Some plants can be either indoor or outdoor. or some may only be inside plants during the colder months.

Trees and Shrubs

butterfly bush shrub
butterfly bush
   A gift of a plant does not have to be limited to indoor options. If you look for a tree or a shrub instead, that will be a gift that will be around for many years, maybe even generations. If you really want to give a great gift, buy a tree or a shrub and go the extra mile to plant it too! If your recipient has limited space, there are many outdoor options that do well in a pot. You can find dwarf varieties in a lot of outdoor shrubs and trees. Trees can live in a pot, but not for many, many years. As they become root-bound they will need a larger pot or they will need to be put into the ground. You can get more time out of your pot if you start with smaller specimens.
 So this Valentine's Day, walk past the chocolates, cut flowers, and stuffed animals. Visit your local nursery or garden center and give a flower or plant that will continue to remind your loved one of your generosity for a long time to come.

Give a gift that is rooted in love.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Winter Plants for Visual Interest

We all know that springtime brings beautiful new growth. In many cases, buds soon become beautiful new blooms. Spring is surely a sight to behold. However, we forget about all the beautiful shrubs that add winter interest to our gardens and landscapes.
When most people think of winter shrubs, they automatically think about evergreens. However, many shrubs maintain their visual interest after they lose their leaves as well.
When choosing plants to include in your landscape, it is always a good idea to look ahead. Familiarize yourself with its hardiness to your zone, and its visual properties through the winter. Not every tree, shrub, or annual can be beautiful in the winter. You can find the perfect combination to provide cold season beauty.

Winterberry Hollies and Needlepoint Hollies

These hollies are such a gorgeous example of the beauty that winter has to offer. Their vibrant green foliage and bright red berries, they are the epitome of winter beauty. Winterberry hollies lose their leaves for the winter. However, the berries stay around until almost spring and provide a winter food source for the birds that overwinter here.

Red Twig Dogwood and Yellow Twig Dogwood

These shrubs are deciduous. They are noted for their bright fiery red, or golden yellow limbs after their leaves are gone. Their personality adds dramatic contrast to a very dreary winter backdrop.
Red Twig Dogwood and Yellow Twig Dogwood are spreading, suckering shrubs that grow 6 to 9 feet tall. In the spring they bloom with tiny, white, flat top flower clusters. This shrub is also known to attract birds and pollinators.

Corkscrew Willow
The visual interest created by these trees is most evident in the wintertime after they lose all of their foliage. The bark of the younger growth has a bright gold tone. Each branch twists and turns in random directions creating a contorted shape. They can create interest in a floral arrangement. This can be an aesthetically pleasing feature added to your yard or garden. However, as with most willows, they can grow quite large. Bear this in mind when you choose one for your landscape. These trees only have a life span of about 25 years.

Coral Bark Japanese Maple
These maples offer four seasons of interest. In the early spring, as the new foliage begins to unfurl, its bright palmate leaves emerge as bright, neon green. Then, as the season progresses, the foliage turns to a much deeper green through the summer. In the fall the foliage offers a vibrant mixture of oranges and yellows. As the color of fall winds down, and the foliage drops to the ground, the beautiful red bark is left exposed. When viewed against the grey backdrop of winter, it certainly becomes the star of the landscape.

Harry Lauder Walking Stick
This deciduous plant really shines in the winter. After all the foliage has fallen, its bare and the contorted limbs are exposed. Early spring showcases its beautiful yellow catkin type blooms. Each one growing to 2 to 3 inches long. Spring and winter are the times for this shrub to show off. Though this shrub is considered a hazelnut, it rarely produces nuts. When it does, it is in September or October, but most likely the squirrels will get them before you do.

Forever Goldie Thuja     Thuja is known for its hedge and privacy screen uses. But, some varieties, such as Forever Goldie are also ornamental. With their bright yellow color in the winter, how can you go wrong adding it to your landscape? During the spring, Goldie will surprise you with bright green new growth that quickly becomes a very vibrant yellow. Then, in the fall it becomes a beautiful golden yellow.
This shrub will definitely bring some cheer to the cold grey winter.

 Sasanqua variety Camellia

Camellias not only offer green foliage throughout the winter, but they also offer up some gorgeous blooms, yes, blooms- flowers in the winter. Sasanqua varieties bloom primarily in the fall and winter, while japonica varieties bloom in the winter-spring. With their green glossy foliage and cheerful winter blooms, you can't go wrong with a camellia

Helleborus  (Lenten Rose)

Helleborus is a low growing winter bloomer. It has dark green, leathery evergreen foliage. The blooms can be found in many different colors, from white to black with shades of pink, purple, yellow and green in between. In late winter it is good practice to cut back the old foliage just before the new growth emerges in the early fall.
These are well suited for hillsides and raised beds to fully enjoy their downward-facing blooms. The heat of summer will force the hellebore into dormancy. Fall and winter are when these beauties really shine.

While it is easy to automatically assume that conifers and evergreens are the way to go for winter interest, keep in mind that sometimes what lies under the leaves is more beautiful and interesting than what you see in the spring and summer. These are just a small representation of some of the beauty that winter has to offer.
Every plant on the earth has its own personality and beauty. Much like people, beauty isn't always in obvious places. Remember to look beyond the surface for the true wonderment of plants and people.