Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Cooking with Herbs: Pesto, Pesto, Pesto!

With basil production booming, Dianne shares her pesto recipe:

2 cups basil leaves packed
4 cloves garlic
½ cup walnuts*
¾ cup Parmesan or similar grated hard Italian cheese
½ cup EVOO

Process basil and garlic, then add nuts, then add cheese, then add EVOO in a steady stream. Turn off after oil is incorporated, add salt and pepper. I omit the salt because the cheese is salty.

Store in frig with thin coat of olive oil on top in air-tight container for a week or more. 

For keeping long term, spoon into quart freezer bags and flatten out. Put enough in each bag so that when flattened is no more than ¼ inch thick. Place flat in freezer. When ready to use just break off amount needed and return to freezer. Good on sandwiches, pizza, pasta and sauces.

*Pine nuts can also be used.

Great way to use up a bountiful basil crop. Make lots, cause you will enjoy it all winter. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Going, Coming, and a Question

First, the bad news about my 20+ year old Japanese Maple:

It's a fungus
It succumbed to a fungus, literally overnight.  I'm so sad.

But I had already planned to redo another section of that garden:

So I'll just include the Japanese Maple section in the redo.  In the section above, we'll remove the spirea and replace them with hydrangeas and loropetalums.  I'm getting a variety called 'Suzanne'!

Also going and coming will be plants in the front of my house.  This will be a major redo. We've lived here almost 13 years and have never done anything to speak of in the front, other than trimming the maples there.  Everything has gotten HUGE and I think it overwhelms the house.

Overall view of the front

South side of front
The liriope will be extended in a curve in front of the tree and over to the side of the house.


We're planning to remove the large hollies and azaleas right by the front door.  There are also Japanese hollies under the bay windows, behind the small azaleas, that will be replaced.   I'll share the replacements after they're done!
North side of front
The liriope on this side will be extended to the side as well.  We're also going to try tree-forming the large hollies on either side of the house.  

Isn't that the nature of gardening - going and coming?

Now for the question.  Can anyone recommend a weed-eater that is easy to load the string into and it doesn't constantly jam?   Grrr.  I have an Echo and I like the way it's easy for me to start.  It's a little too heavy, but I don't do a lot at one time, mainly because I'm constantly stopping to UNJAM THE STRING.  Please help if you can.

Friday, June 22, 2012

PAR Update, Including Shelby Farms!

We have regular reporters/photographers at our PAR gardens at CVG and at Davies Plantation.  Carl Wayne even maintains a beautiful blog for PAR-CVG, which we encourage you to either bookmark or subscribe to.  We post constant updates about PAR Davies here (so bookmark or subscribe to us, too!)

But our third PAR garden, at Shelby Farms, gets somewhat neglected for several reasons.  First, it's a seasonal garden, not a permanent one like CVG and Davies.  Located at Shelby Farms Park, it is subject to the Park rules and they have to clean up and close up every fall, only to begin anew in the spring.  So every year is a lot of work just to get started.  Second, there's never enough volunteer help!  So the people who do work at Shelby are concentrating on production, not reporting.  FYI, that's an issue at all three gardens - Master Gardeners, take note!

At the MAMG monthly meeting last week, Shelby reported its first harvest of over 30 lbs of vegetables, hooray!  They very kindly sent us some progress pictures.  We hope for regular reports.  (Hint, hint, hint!)

The garden on 5-5-2012
The garden on 6-16-12
Can you believe this is only five weeks later?

The bounty

The few, the happy few...
Congratulations and keep up the good work!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Gardening Bookshelf

My trifecta of favorite things to do are gardening, needlepoint, and reading.  So when I get to combine two of them, I just about can't stand it.  A couple of weeks ago Dominique Browning reviewed the season's new gardening books in the New York Times.  Oh my.  If only I had the time/money to get and read all of these.

Click here to read what Dominique has to say about the new books.  If I were forced to choose only one, I'd have to go with Free-Range Chicken Gardens:  How to Create a Beautiful, Chicken-Friendly Yard (Timber Press, paper, $19.95)  That's 'cause reading about it is as close as I'm going to get to having chickens!

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Beauty of Pollination

You must watch this - it's incredible.  That hummingbird flying upside down!

This is from a TED talk.  If you're not familiar with TED, check it out, the talks are amazing.

And now, one of my favorite poems:  Emily Dickinson's Hummingbird.

A route of evanescence
With a revolving wheel;
A resonance of emerald,
A rush of cochineal;
And every blossom on the bush
Adjusts its tumbled head,
---The mail from Tunis, probably,An easy morning's ride.

Common Smoketree

Smoketree at Memorial Cemetery Park

Showy, tough, & compact, the Common Smoketree (Cotinus coggygria)  is bound to catch your eye from late May through July.  My grandson calls it the cotton candy tree. The unique smoke effect is caused by the 6 to 8 inch hairs (pubescence) on the flower stalks (pedicles), not the flowers.  In fact, the 1/3 inch, five -petaled yellow flowers are rarely noticed.

Adaptable to various soils types, this drought tolerant and deer resistant tree thrives in locations with full sun and good drainage.  Its resistance to most diseases is another asset. The common smoketree makes a colorful impact when it’s planted in masses, and can be used as an accent or focal point. 

Smoketree form

The multi-stemmed upright form of this 12- 15 ft. tree can be rounded or open. Young trees have smooth brownish purple stems, while older tree develop light gray bark. The alternate, simple, bluish- green obovate leaves appear later than other leaves. The long 1.5 inch petioles are often the same length as the leaf which ranges from 1.5 to 3.5 inches.  Fall foliage can range from medium yellow to reddish –purple.

Originally from Southern Europe to Eastern Asia, the smoketree has flourished in U.S zones 5 -8 since the late 19th century.  Several cultivars, many with descriptive names like ‘Black Velvet’, ‘Golden Spirit ’, and ‘Royal Purple’ have been developed from the Common Smoketree (Cotinus coggygria). The award winning ‘Grace,’ a hybrid of C. coggygria ‘Velvet Cloak x C. obovatus, was developed in 1978.  With massive pink pubescence  and leaves that turn from red, to blue green to reddish orange & yellow in the fall, ‘Grace’ reaches a height of 20 ft.  The smoketree should be at its best in June and can be seen at Dixon Gardens and the Memphis Botanic Garden. 

Cotinus coggygria 'Grace'
---Jan Castillo

Saturday, June 16, 2012

PAR Davies Thursday 6/14/12

Rocky the raccoon?? He's very unhappy and about to find a new home.
We had an interesting morning. The temps are definitely getting warmer. Bob, G.A., Emily and myself showed up. As you can see by the picture, we caught a critter. I don't know if it is THE critter, or one of many. Bob was checking with the animal control people when I left to see if they would take him. Maybe we will catch more if there is more than one, and keep our garden from being so dug up. 

Emily and I stuck the tomatoes back in their cages and tied up errant branches. G.A., Emily and myself dismantled most of the potato bed and spread the straw on the unmulched beds. 

Some of the potato harvest. There are still some to be dug.
Bob had a lot of grass clippings which he spread on the beds also. We did dig a few potatoes in the ground, which I put on a shelf in the barn for the next delivery. Cucumbers were picked also and put in the frig. There were not enough beans to even bother with. The squash on the hugelkultur bed are starting to get those ugly squash bugs!!! I removed the most infested leaves and sprayed the Bon-Neem on all the leaves and also doused the ground, and picked off eggs. Yuk. I see that there are what look like sweet potato vines trying to grow there also. I did see a few squash bugs on the cucumber vines close by. I'm not familiar with the type of squash on the plants, but hope that keeping them sprayed works. Do we have the Neem/Bt/seaweed mixture yet?

A good guy
Are we out of the mesh to make the hammocks for the melons? We were looking for it because there are a lot of melons that can be tied up. I think the watermelons might need bigger more expandable mesh. The melons all look great and are getting so big.

Meshed-up watermelon
We had a good morning of work overall and the garden looks great. I believe it won't be long before we will be having big harvests.


I can't believe how these have climbed in just one week!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Letter from Dianne 6-15-12

Hi Suzanne, here's an update on the garden….

The one plant that has blown me away is my Early Girl tomato. I quit counting at 47 tomatoes a couple of weeks ago. They are starting to ripen more rapidly now. Not the most luscious tomato, but sure beats the store bought. The Black Cherry has lots of tomatoes but none ripe yet. The other three varieties are similar with many green tomatoes--all looking great with no disease or pests. I have planted basil next to the tomatoes. I always plant plenty of basil because I make lots of pesto to freeze.

Last of the snow peas - I like them steamed with butter

I pulled the snow peas and put in bush cukes to climb the trellis. We are continuing to harvest swiss chard, which is doing great in the warm weather. I read that chard is packed with more vitamins/nutrients than any other green including spinach and kale. The tepee is up and Kentucky Wonders are climbing.

Pole beans just starting to climb

I have several squares each of okra--Red Burgundy and Clemson Spineless, which are about a foot tall. The Dixie Butterpeas are growing and look like they might be climbers. These were seeds in a plain paper bag and no other info other than the name, so I am clueless as to what is going on here. I have been picking the banana peppers and jalapeƱos, and the bell peppers are ready to pick. About 2 weeks ago the peppers just quit producing blossoms, so no new peppers are coming on. The plants look very healthy otherwise, so I might try some bone meal to see if that will help. In addition, I have 2 squares of carrots which haven't really taken off. There is an Ichiban eggplant which has a few blossoms and one good-sized fruit.

Ichiban eggplant

The lettuce has bolted and turned bitter, so it has been pulled up. Kay from PAR Davies gave me a packet of lettuce seeds that are supposed to grow in the heat--Baby Romaine. I have sown some of these seeds in the space under the tepee, in the hope that the beans will shade the lettuce.  

Last of the lettuce

I am starting to think of a fall garden. I am going to start some cabbage seedlings this month. I also think I will try a fall crop of snow peas. I've never heard of anyone growing peas in the fall in this area, so this will be another experiment. And of course, I will have lots of lettuce from a variety of seed packets I've collected lately.

I am now thinking of making another raised bed. My husband is enjoying all the yummy veggies so much, he thinks I need more room to plant more stuff!! He was skeptical when I first started talking about a raised bed, but he is a believer now.


Thursday, June 14, 2012

PAR Experiments, Old and New

Remember the tomato experiment?  Tuesday morning we found one of the plants looking like this:

Closer inspection revealed that a critter had chewed the stem in two at the base.  The other plant is doing well so far, so we'll keep you posted.

Next, remember the potato experiment?  The results are not so good.  We pulled the straw back to see what what happening and the answer is:  nothing.

No potatoes forming
That's what experiments are for, right?  It's not failure, it's feedback!

We moved the ayurveda bed to what we hope is a better location within the garden.  Builder Bob built a great frame and treated it with a linseed oil/charcoal mixture.  See the explanation here.

Bed with oiled charcoal finish
Next on our experiment plate is a high tunnel bed!  We were excited about the article in the Commercial Appeal earlier this week and we're planning a field trip.  More to come...

Oiled Charcoal Wood Finish

Bed with oiled charcoal finish

PAR - Davies has a new bed designed and built by our master craftsman Bob.  The bed itself is beautiful with an “antique” look.  Bob treated the wood with linseed oil and charcoal; and promised the wood would last “longer than we would.”

Bob used this 100-year-old recipe for "Everlasting Fence Posts" he found online at

"Take boiled linseed oil and stir in it pulverized charcoal to the consistency of paint. Put a coat of this over the timber, and there is not a man that will live to see it rotten." (From "Lee's Priceless Recipes" 1895)

A little “Googling” led me to an old furniture preservation technique called “oiled charcoal”-- not to be confused with “oiled charcoal” pastel sticks used by artists.

Per my reading, Linseed is the preferred oil; but olive oil may also be used. 

There are two types of Linseed oil:  raw and boiled.  The boiled Linseed oil is not actually boiled, but has certain solvents added which speed up drying.  Theoretically, the solvents evaporate when drying.  The raw linseed oil takes longer to dry but has the benefit of helping the wood retain its natural moisture, thus retarding cracking and shrinking.

A nice recipe for oiled charcoal wood finish is found on Ehow
  1. Place several lumps of charcoal into a heavy duty plastic bag. Crush the charcoal with a mallet into a semi-fine dust.
  2. Pour the charcoal dust into a measuring cup. Measure 1 cup and pour into a bucket.
  3. Pour linseed oil into a measuring cup. Measure 2 cups of linseed oil and pour into a bucket.
  4. Mix the charcoal and linseed oil with a stir stick. Apply the mixture to wood with a paint brush. It will be like spreading oil with sand suspended in it.
  5. Wait a day and apply another coat to the wood. Wait 24 or more hours for the second coat to dry before exposing it to the elements. 
The best thing about linseed oil and charcoal is that it doesn’t contain the arsenic used in many of the treated woods currently available.  The next best thing: it’s truly beautiful.

----Sharon Lusk

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Hydrangea Tour

The Mid-South Hydrangea Society hosted their annual garden tour last Saturday.  Four residential gardens plus one commercial garden were on the tour.  I didn't have time to get out to Gardens Oy Vey in Arlington on Saturday, but it's a definite destination for me sometime this summer!

All of the gardens were wonderful, each in its own way.  I guess my personal favorite was Ann Riordan's because it seemed more doable to me.  She has a long narrow lot that she has transformed into a series of garden rooms, each with its own focus and feel.  I could have spent the entire afternoon there!

fountain in the front garden

Mr. Rooster

Loropetalum tree
Dang, I got so carried away that I failed to take pictures of her fabulous hydrangeas!

Next on my list was the Dudley garden, an estate sized garden with lush borders of hydrangeas.

front garden

Finally - hydrangeas!

I love pretty garden sheds
Then over to Central Avenue for two more gardens.

Love these dark pink blooms!
It would have been nice if the plants had been labeled.  At Ann's house was a table full of blooms in vases with names attached.  I was grateful for that because I'm about to redo a section of my garden and want to add several hydrangeas.  A few that particularly struck me were Dooley, Forever and Ever Red, and Goliath.

What are your favorites that I should consider?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Self Watering Container

One of the major attractions at the Through Our Garden Gates tour at PAR Davies was the HUGE tomato plant growing in a self-watering container that one of our volunteers made for us.

PAR tomato in self-watering container
There was lots of interest in how this container was constructed.  Sharon L directed me to the source that we used in our Organic Gardening classes at the garden, from

There are two versions of this container, one with a pipe to pour the water in and one without a pipe.  The no-pipe version looks simpler to me, but here are videos showing how to do both.

No-Pipe Version

Pipe Version

We did the pipe version at PAR, but we used PVC instead of copper.

Friday, June 8, 2012

PAR Update 6-8-12

Emily with a bouquet of carrots

It was a good morning at the garden….not too hot yet and a little breeze. Pam, Bob, Dianne, Susan, Emily and Kay were there. We harvested bush beans, cukes, peas, carrots, lettuce, and 2 tomatoes from the self watering tomato plant. Emily cut off all the lettuce in the gutter garden, with the roots remaining in the ground. We pulled out the snow pea vines. We weighed all the produce on the new scale, which worked great, with a total of 27 lbs. 

Kay brought okra, cucumber and tomato plants which she got from the Bonnie rep she met this morning.  Cukes were planted in the area where the snow peas were and will climb on the tepee and cages, and also in bed 9 to climb on the fence. Kay finished out bed 19 with the tomatoes, and Susan filled in the empty spaces damaged by the critter in bed 10 with the okra. Bob had compost tea brewing which he used in the garden. Pam placed several of the baby cantaloupe and watermelons in their hammocks.

Beautiful morning glories

Climbers starting on Bob's neat arched trellis. Can't wait till it's covered.
Check out the Collierville Victory Garden blog for an update on PAR CVG,

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Ray Bradbury 1920 - 2012

Whiskey River:

"Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you're there.

It doesn't matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that's like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime."
 - Ray Bradbury

Tom Rieman's garden

Ray Bradbury, prolific and best-selling science fiction author, died yesterday at the age of 91.