Thursday, September 27, 2012

A gift idea

Yesterday, I went exploring, primarily for ideas for work but one of the best places I went was Boxwoods in Buckhead. It was really a wonderful place.

While there, I took a few photos of their ivy topiaries. I love ivy and I love topiaries and I have thought about creating my own over and over from my ivy beds. They certainly could use thinning and I certainly would love to have topiaries.

I have also been thinking about gift ideas for Christmas and this is certainly a good one. This simple one, above was priced at $30 and I think it is such a great idea. It's just a pot, potting soil, wire and ivy trained to grow around the wire.

I will have more on Boxwoods and more about topiaries later. But isn't this lovely?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Fall is great for greens

I love the fall because I can grow the best greens of the year. The weather is just perfect for gardening and because we started in August, we are just now beginning to pick some of our fall produce.

The bok choy, above was grown from seed from our spring harvest. My mom just loves bok choy and we have already taken her some tender shoots.

We are loving the fact that we have collards in the ground and if we get more rain, I think we could have a very good crop of it by Thanksgiving.

We also will have plenty of turnip greens and kale, I am hoping. We picked some this weekend for making healthy smoothies and I am hoping to have turnip greens one night this week for dinner.

Our big surprise--the winter squash that is thriving! It looks so wonderful and I am seeing tons of blooms and little acorn squashes everywhere.

It looks beautiful. No bugs yet.

The only think we need to do now is pray for rain. That is a constant thing this year but it will be worth it, especially if we have greens and cool weather crops.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Garden Club Meeting tonight!!

The September meeting of Crossroads Garden Club is tonight at 7:00pm!!

Our speaker is Kim Jackson who is with the Fayette County Extension office. Kim is originally from Coweta county and was a graduate of East Coweta High School Her topic will be "Growing Roses in Georgia."

Please join us at 3072 Highway 154, Newnan in our restored barn building.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Yesterday was a "fair" day

Yesterday was a great day for the children in our family. We took them to the fair and had a wonderful evening of delights like you can only find at a county fair. The fairway was covered with rides, games and fun. That included a terribly un-nutritious but delicious dinner of corn dogs, french fries and at least one funnel cake.

Riley, our granddaughter, liked any ride that moved as long as it was close to the ground. Eli liked every ride and his favorite was the ferris wheel.

It is great to be seven years old because you can throw up your arms as if the slowest ride on the fairway was as much fun as the largest roller coaster at Six Flags and adults will join you for the sheer fun of it.

I must admit, I enjoyed it because they have so many tame rides that a special-needs child can ride, too. Our Noah didn't get to ride all the rides but he did have his share of fun.

Here he is with mom spinning around and around in a cute little dinosaur.

We did spend some time with the rabbits, chickens, turkeys, donkeys, goats, sheep and one curious little pony who wanted to make friends with Noah.

We saw a wild west show featuring trick riding, whips and rope tricks, trained horses and even a beautiful Arabian stallion who rared and walked on his hind legs, then gave us a graceful bow to end the show.

We had so much fun. I think our Coweta County fair was clean and more family friendly than any I have ever seen. It was worth the trip, and I can't imagine how anyone could go and not have at least a few moments of amusement or nostalgia.

Compared to the price of taking your family to a movie, this was about the same and the memories will last forever, especially for my crew who agreed they wanted to go again as soon as possible.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

My new tea plant

I am again the proud owner of a tea plant, camellia sinensis, thanks to my good friend Angela who has a tea shrub in her garden. She sprouted this one just for me. (Unfortunately, the last one she game me did not survive.) This is actually the plant from which we get our wonderful black, green, oolong, pu-erh and white teas. There are variations of camellia sinensis, but it all comes from the same plant, primarily grown in far eastern countries. As far as I know there are only two tea producers in the United States, the largest in Charleston, S. Carolina and another in Burlington, Wash.

Of course tea plants are grown locally by individuals like Angela, and there is a tea hedge thriving in the gardens at Hills and Dales Estate and Gardens in LaGrange, Georgia. Tea is supposed to grow well in zones 8 and 9 and I am hoping that since we are in 7b that my camellia sinensis will grow well here, too. I intend to give it my best efforts in the hope that I one day have my very own hedge. I can promise that if I do, I will dry my own tea leaves and will do my best to make my own tea. I can't imagine that it will be as good as the Assam tea that I love but it is my long-held wish that I can produce some of my own.

I have a spot in my yard that I have all picked out for my hedge and I hope I will have a nice shrub to plant there in the spring.

Meanwhile, I will be spraying it with water and fertilizing it as recommended, in hopes that I will have success. I do have a camellia sasanqua,  close to my front door that is thriving. It is a Yuletide Camellia that blooms every year at Christmas and grows so much that I am always having to give it a trim so it won't cover a window. I hope my camellia sinsensis surpass that one.

We do live in the camellia belt so if I can get it to the stage where I can set it out, that will be a good test of my camellia-growing skills.

I think I will make a cup of my favorite tea while I search out ways to make my camellia grow.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Tea party faire

This past weekend our Crossroads Garden Club had a very nice Harvest Tea Party. We were celebrating the end of summer and we all had a very nice time, eating treats and sipping tea.

We started with Cranberry Scones with mock clotted cream, pumpkin butter and blackberry jam. I learned to make butter curls for this occasion.

I really enjoyed the bowl of fruit that was just plain berries. We were concerned that we needed a sauce or something and we didn't. The berries alone were fresh, sweet and made a menu item.

I made plenty of fresh scones from the recipe in the July/August issue of Newnan-Coweta Magazine. I thought they were good, but not quite as good as the ones made by Amelia Adams and her niece, Callie.

The truffles above were made from a Bakerella recipe with a couple of changes. The oreo/cream cheese truffles were coated with chocolate candy coating and I added lemon to a yellow cake mix and blended it with cream cheese frosting to make the lemon/cheesecake truffles.

The Caramel-glazed Pear Cake was from a Southern Living 2002 recipe. You can find it on their website, though they have two glazes listed, depending on which one you find when you click on the Internet link. I chose the one that had brown sugar and evaporated milk. I made it back in 2002 and I am now wondering why I have waited so long to make it again.

We also had brownie bites, made by Dianne and Lemon Teacakes that Sam brought. They were so much help for me since they came early to help me set up and stayed late to help with the clean up.

Our tea choices were Ceylon, Decaf Ginger Peach, Pumpkin Ginger Spice and Rooibois Rising Sun. I did serve cranberry lemonade and cold tea for those who preferred it.

The thing everyone really loved were the sugar rosettes that Angela made and brought. People LOVED them. They were very pretty and I had quite a few people ask for one to take home. They were a special added treat and I appreciate Angela for making those and also providing the tasty Rooibos tea.

Everyone seemed to have such a good time. I think I enjoyed it more than anyone and I'm convinced it is a perfect way to celebrate the end of summer.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Fall flowers

This past weekend I hosted a small party of my garden club friends at my house for an afternoon tea. I had a wonderful time and I enjoyed coming up with ideas to decorate for my gardening friends. I decided to go "semi-organic." I picked flowers from my sister's mop-head hydrangeas. Some were turning a bit brown and they were drying but since they had turned from white to a beautiful color of pink and green, I thought they would be perfect for a fall get-together.

I just quickly put them into my vase and then I chose one of my favorites,

cuttings from a magnolia tree. I have always loved to decorate with magnolia leaves. I also love the fuzzy seed heads. My mother used to surround punch bowls and decorate mantles and just about everything with magnolia leaves and flowers. They give a very nice, warm southern welcome.

I bought the yellow sunflowers at Kroger. One pack of eight flowers for less than a dollar each. I believe I paid $6.99. They make beautiful accent flowers. If we still had them in our garden I would have picked them rather than buying them but they did make a lovely fall arrangement.

To finish, I added some yellow wildflowers, maybe they were a type of black-eyed Susans or Rudbeckia but I do know they were little wild flowers and then some ivy from my yard.

I had two arrangements, one in my foyer and one in my living room and I only paid $6.99. I could have done a better job arranging but I think the price was perfect for a beautiful September afternoon.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

I choose organic

 A couple of people have mentioned to me, a new study by Stanford University that organic and non-organic foods have the same nutritional value and they want to know what I think. Their study might be entirely correct and I know this is not the only study out there that has come to the same or a similar conclusion. But, they miss the point entirely about why people do, and should in my opinion, eat more organic foods and raise their own food whenever possible.

It's not the nutritional value I question about non-organic foods but the chemicals used on the foods. The dyes, the additives and the practice of genetically modifying such basic foods like corn and soybeans. These practices are widespread and many feel the rise of autism, antibiotic resistant, germs, ADHD and some cancers may be the culprit of these food practices.

Years ago, there were no chemicals added to foods. What you saw growing in the field was what you got. Today dyes, flavor enhancers, chemicals that extend the shelf-life of foods and genetically-modified products are in almost everything we see in the grocery store. Food travels across the country and in some cases across oceans to reach our markets and are kept looking fresh by chemicals. Chemicals are pumped into our foods to make them tastier and keep them looking better, for a longer period of time. The object being to get us to buy more.

The foods we grow in our gardens can go from garden to table in a day, keeping the nutrients intact until we eat them. Fresh vegetables are more nutritious and better for you. There are many studies out there that agree with this statement.

Also the study fails to mention that children are more susceptible to chemicals, bacteria and additives because they are smaller, with less developed digestive systems. They are more affected by these things than adults.

I am a very conservative person and I feel that people have to make their own choices about what to buy. I also feel that if we knew what went into some of the things we eat, we might make different choices.

I never buy things like ground beef anymore. Meat is so filled with hormones and antibiotics that I can't feel good about it. I try to grow my own vegetables free from chemicals and though I sometimes have to battle insects and weather, I think this decision gives me a healthier lifestyle.

I am off my soapbox now, but if you want more info look at the following website and see what you think:

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

More from the garden

After we planted all weekend, my husband went over and mulched in the garden. It is kind of hard to see but our collards now look happier and we will begin watering them this afternoon. We planted over 50 collard plants and we still have a few more that we grew from seeds that are not ready yet. I don't think you can have too many collards. They are so good for you!

Above, you can see the Brussels sprouts and in the background our almost spent green beans. Believe it or not, we picked enough green beans last week for a meal over the weekend. I wouldn't be surprised if we had a few more random beans, maybe enough to add to a pot of vegetable soup. These green beans were very prolific.

On the right side of a half-row of winter squash we have a couple rows of broccoli. The round wire tower in the back if for our gourds planted all around the base. We are growing dipper gourds this year.

We do have a few more things to plant, like garlic and maybe carrots, some parsnips and a few more plants we grew from seeds but our fall garden is in the ground, for the most part. It is a chore but the fall garden doesn't need quite as much as the summer garden because you don't have to battle the weeds like you do in summer. We also need to watch for army worms. A weekly spraying of BT should do the trick there. I am so glad to have completed this part.

Monday, September 10, 2012

What a weekend!!

 I had quite a weekend this week because we had a big push to get our fall garden in before the weather turned really cool. We wanted to get the quick growth while the weather was still warm and we do have a good start already. Our kale is looking really great. I was pretty excited about the start we have gotten because kale is a big favorite of mine.

My mother is very excited about our bok choy that we are growing from seed.

Our late okra is beginning to produce. We love our okra!

Our onions and leeks are looking good.

We still have some hot peppers that are producing.

And our turnip greens are beginning to look good, too.

We planted some more winter squash and though I don't have much hope of it producing before frost, it is worth a try.

We are also leaving our zinnias which are still blooming. Our bees still have something to come to the garden for. On Saturday we had hummingbirds buzzing around them.

We had to do quite a bit of plowing because things had grown up more than usual for us. We need to do some major mulching and we may have to do some hand watering before we get rain again.

We also planted about 150 collard, broccoli and Brussels sprout plants which need mulching, too. We planted them after we took these photos--but I was just too tired and my muscles ached too much to take more photos. I just went home and took a very warm bath. Obviously, I need to get out in the garden more often.

This was a great start for our winter garden and of course we are hoping and praying for more rain.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Taking advantage of summer sales

Yes, sadly, these are my feet in flip flops--corns, bunions and all. I am not trying to be a foot model and I am neither proud or ashamed of my feet. I am proud of one thing. I bought these new flip flops I am wearing for just 75 cents at CVS.

If you are like me you plan to take advantage of all those summer bargains out there and though summer is almost over, it's hard to resist buying end of season bargains. I have a few rules for myself that I consider conservative bargain shopping rules. Even if I really like an item and it is very cheap, it must fall in these categories or I won't purchase it:

#1: Is the item cheap enough so that I can get enough use from it so that the item pays for itself? These flip flops were cheaper than a pack of gum and roughly the same amount as a small candy bar from a vending machine. Flip flops are more pricey than they used to be (isn't everything?) so I think these have already paid for themselves.

#2: Can I use this item? Certainly I can. I think I can use them for the remainder of the warm weather and for next summer. Truth is, I can use them better than the before-mentioned candy bar.

#3: Is it stylish enough to use next year? I believe they are. I bought two pairs--one, the blue ones above, and a solid black pair. If I had chosen different colors, maybe not. These items are not out there, so it is a yes for this rule.

#4: Will it go with other things in my wardrobe? Yes. Jeans, a blue sleeveless dress and plenty of casual clothes. These flip flops will go with most of my casual clothing.

#5: Is the item age-appropriate for me? Yes. Another color, maybe not. Flip flops are for everyone. I can't wear them just anywhere but I have plenty of places I can wear them. I can't work in the garden in them but I can walk to the mailbox and go to the beach or the pool and they are great at-home wear.

#6: If I get it home and don't like it, can I give it to someone? I think the answer is yes.

I will have to wait until next summer to really make good use of this purchase but right now I am pretty pleased with myself about this find--even if I don't look like a foot model.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Our summer garden: The good, bad and the ugly, plus the top 12 things we will do next year!

 At this time of year, I feel it is the time to review the successes of our garden, the good, bad and ugly and see what practices we need to continue and what we need to change for next year. Here are the winners, losers and the top 12 things we will do next year.

We grew many of our plants from seed and we will continue that practice for sure. We saved so much money. Our favorite seeds? I would have to say that the Chianti Rose tomato seeds from Renee's Gardens were wonderful. We also thought the lilacs and Italian Roasting Peppers were great but those giant, meaty red tomatoes were the best. We had an early period of drought and unfortunately some of our seeds didn't come up. If we had watered during that time, we would have had a better result but we left the seeds in the ground too long without rain. So:

Number 1: Plant more Chianti Rose tomatoes from Renee's Seeds

Number 2: Continue raising our own plants from seeds. It really does save money.

I liked the peat discs but my sister did not. I think after the plants reach a certain size, they contain the roots too much and might stunt plant growth.

Number 3: Either forget the peat discs or be sure to cut them off when planting.

Number 4: Continue to plant herbs throughout the garden. This year we planted cilantro, basil and lavender in the garden. Next year we will plant more and include dill for sure. The bees love the flowers on the herbs and they are great to have in the garden.

Our squash growing saga--growing organic squash where there is an infestation of squash vine borers. I didn't get so upset this year when we had vine borer's and that was a good thing. The row covers we used were a big help and helped the vines grow until mid-summer. The drought was a factor with the squash and hurt their overall health after being attacked by the dreaded worms.

We did have some success in growing squash in straw bales at another location but we had a little too much shade in that area and we eventually had squash borers there, too.

Number 5: For squash, the row covers are vital. We must use them every year to protect from vine borers.

Number 6: Also, next year we try spraying with an oil solution, a kaolin clay (Surround) solution and something like diotomaceous earth to help protect squash from vine borers.

Number 7: We will plant squash in two week intervals to hopefully keep them coming. We have two vine borer invasions in our area and we need to continue planting for a larger harvest.

Number 8: We love, love, love Ronde squash. They are wonderful and we will plant them again and also straight-neck yellow squash rather than the crookneck variety. Straight-necks have better yields.

My husband did learn a new way to cook zucchini. That was a real plus.

It was a terrible year for cucumbers. We had an awful crop. The weather was way too hot and dry for them and I guess that you just have better yields some years than others.

We also had more wild blackberries this year. I think if it hadn't been for the drought we would have had more but I still have enough in my freezer for another pie. Yum.

One of our biggest success stories this year was green beans. We had kudzu bugs on them and that was a negative but we tried planting rattlesnake beans this year and they are the best! We had tons of beans and they were so delicious.

Number 8: We WILL plant Rattlesnake beans again next year. They can't be beat. The weather conditions weren't the best yet the yields were so high and the beans were wonderful. We will be changing from Kentucky Wonders to Rattlesnake beans. We are sold on them.

 We picked them by handfuls and bugs didn't seem to go for them quite like before--maybe that was because of the tons of diotomaceous earth we used on them. We finally used Neem oil and the kudzu bugs. They are such pests. They didn't seem to cause as many problems but they would fly into your face when you picked beans. They didn't like Neem oil at all.

Number 9: We will continue using lime in the fall. I feel like it helped with our tomatoes. Not much end rot and better yields.

Number 10: Sweet cherry tomatoes. They were so sweet. We picked them and ate them off the vine. I have never enjoyed miniature tomatoes so much. We will plant them again.

Number 11: We will grow sweet potatoes next year. They were SO good.

Number 12: We will mulch even more this year. The mulch was probably one of the best things we did this year because of the drought. It kept the water in and helped us, probably more than we realized. We will continue to mulch--but even heavier next year.