Fall Planting Guide: Enjoy fresh greens and more until the snow flies!

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My garden is so forgiving… it never gets angry or shouts at me, even when I miss a weed or two. If I don’t get it watered, well her roots will go down a little deeper and rather then wither up and die, she’ll work harder to become stronger for me.

Each spring she rises up with rejuvenation and power… through the cold, hard surface life bursts forth. And if that wasn’t enough, she creates new off spring so I can I have more of her beauty. Just when I didn’t think I can take another miserable day of nothingness, she suddenly appears. As if to say, “Here I am dear. I’m back for you tend” …and most lovingly of all, she’ll never leave me.

The garden’s are screaming, “Harvest us! Harvest us! We’re cold out here!”
“It’s just the beginning of August my dears… we’ve got more time…” I whisper to no one in the garden, yet to all things green… but time is ticking.

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Now is the time I start my fall planting so my family has fresh greens and more, right through until the snow flies… I’ve even drawn up next summers raised bed gardens. I’m a planner 😉

Here is what you can be planting now in your gardens! Please remember that I live in Zone 5 and this guide is for folks gardening in similar climates.

*Snow Peas~ Dwarf White Sugar- 50 day edible pod. This plant will produce with several frost, they’ll actually make her sweeter!

 

 

*Broccoli~ can be sown now as well. I recommend the hybrid Marathon. A 50 day variety that will do well with several frosts.

brocolli

 

*Cold hardy lettuces are a wonderful addition to the fall garden. Here are some of my favorite tried and true Heirlooms.~Red Sails- 40 day loose leaf with maroon tinged leaves

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~Ruby Red- 40 day loose leaf with beautiful glossy bright-green frilly leaves with heavy intense red shading. One of my favorites!
~Speckles- 45 day a dense bibb like head with apple green leaves flecked with red brown polka dots- Amish Heirloom
~Tango- 40 day loose leaf resembles endive but a darker green. Plant forms tight erect rosettes and deeply cut leaves. Very nice lettuce.
~Merriveille De’Four Seasons- 45 day French bibb type with reddish leaves producing a pale blond green tight head with excellent flavor. This is by far one of my favorite varieties!

*Kale is another wonderful cold hardy crop with lots of great nutritional value along with a wonderful nutty flavor!  It will tolerate several frosts.

Red Russian Kale in our hoophouse

Red Russian Kale in our hoophouse

~Red Russian 25 day for baby- 45-50 to maturity. This is the variety I use for it’s short day length to maturity and it’s nice thick, purple leaves. It’s wonderful fresh snipped into a salad or steamed with a splash of plum vinegar on it.

*Spinach is a cold weather loving green that is delicious tossed into a salad mix, all on its on as a salad or steamed. I love to toss into a stir fry, omelets and quiches.
~Rushmoor is a 40 day quick grow.
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~Bloomsdale- 45 days is my old stand by. Nice small leaves and will continue to produce after many frosts.

*Swiss Chard is a wonderful addition to your winter greens mix. I typically grow Fordhook and Rainbow.
~Ruby Red and Rhubarb Red-30 days for baby chard are both beautiful red stemmed varieties with tender leaves
Chard
~Fordhook – 30 days for baby leaves. This is a white stemmed variety that is the standard.

*Radishes are a great choice for your fall garden with their fast production and love of cool weather. Here are a few of the quickest to maturity.
~Champion is the fastest at only 20 days. Bright red globe with a true radish flavor
~Cherry Belle- 21 day is the old time favorite!
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~French Breakfast at 24 days is one of my personal favorites. With it’s oblong half white and half ping… it is just pretty on a salad.
~Pink Beauty at 27 days is a nice, firm quarter sized radish with a milder flavor. This is much nicer for folks who don’t the spiciness of a standard radish.
~Purple Plum at 28 days is very similar in size and flavor as Pink Beauty.

A couple tips to keep the harvest going longer:
*If you have access to straw bales, make a straw bale hot bed. Follow this link for a great how-to. http://www.ehow.com/how_12166098_build-bale-bed.html

*When there is a predicted frost, cover your tender plants with bed sheets, being sure to secure the edges with rocks or another heavy object so it doesn’t blow away if it becomes windy. Do not use plastic to cover your plants, because this will actually ‘burn’ the plant causing black ‘burn’ spots where it touched.

*If you experience an unexpected frost, you can sprinkle the damaged plants lightly with a sprinkler or hose as long as the sun has not touched the plants. As soon as the suns direct light touches the plants it will be too late under most circumstances. Some plants will come out of it.

If you’re interested in more info on growing crops through cold months, a great resource is “Winter Harvest Handbook,” by Elliot Coleman. This is my go-to book for everything with regards to winter harvesting! It’s a must have for every gardener!

Elliot Coleman's Winter Harvest Handbook is a regular go-to for me!

Elliot Coleman’s Winter Harvest Handbook is a regular go-to for me!

For more information on season extension growing, check out Michigan State Universities website on hoop houses. Follow this link http://www.hoophouse.msu.edu/

If you’ve never tried a fall garden, now’s the time… go for it and enjoy your gardens until the snow flies!

Be sure to check out my Facebook page for daily tips, photos, recipes and lots more fun. Follow this link or simply click on the icon on this page! Enjoy friends!
https://www.facebook.com/pages/For-Dragonflies-And-Me/550000798362651

Happy Day,
Jean

A Dreamy Garden, Rhubarb Harvest Tips, Rhubarb Pie Recipe

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Gardening stirs up a passion in me like no other. I often find myself thinking about a new project or a dream I have in the middle of doing something not garden related at all.

It seems that we gardener’s tend to do that…

I live in my mind’s garden dreaming of what I imagine will be.

Projects.

Projects seem to line my mind’s eye… and now Facebook page!

I imagine my entire property a sprawling garden…
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I imagine our beautiful old barn a sought after B&B… a retreat for the weary and heavy laden
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I imagine beautiful garden’s abounding…
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I imagine our back field filled with raised beds overflowing with veggies, herbs and flowers…
…that will feed our guests… and my family
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I imagine gardeners and gardener-wanna-be’s coming to take classes where I and other’s teach…
…teaching how to love your gardens… how to let them be for you… how to live in them…

I imagine my life with nothing to do but garden… and of course writing about and sharing it… with all of you.
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I imagine a place where people will want to come for farm to table dinner events…
I imagine harvesting the good food right from the gardens…preparing… and serving to those guests.
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Do you have a dreamy garden? What will it take to get there?

Well, some of my dreams are unreachable… at this point, but I have them… I cherish them and I won’t let them go, no matter what. My gardens are my souls sincerest desire…

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I’ve been able to create some of my dream gardens here at The Garden Gate Farm.
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Most recently we are working on a fish pond that will be connected to the rose garden. Don’t stop dreaming… no matter what you do, don’t stop.

So lets talk about springs first fruit here in Michigan, rhubarb. Yes, I said rhubarb. Yes you can still harvest and enjoy it.

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Here are a few do’s and don’ts for a full season of enjoying springs gardens first love!
*After you’re regular spring harvest, let your plants go to seed. This is when the plant shoots up the flower stalks.

*Once all the flower stalks have fully seeded out, you can harvest lightly again.
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*The most important thing to keep in mind when harvesting rhubarb is to always leave at least 1/3 of the stalks on the plant. NEVER fully strip the plants stalks- at anytime of year.

…and now… drum roll please…
Taylor’s Homemade Rhubarb Pie (of course all my ingredients are Organic 🙂

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit

1 9″ unbaked pie crust
2 cups rhubarb, cut into 1 inch chunks
2 eggs, beaten
1 Tbsp. butter, softened
1 Tbsp. white flour
1 cup sugar

1. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients until rhubarb is completely coated.
2. Pour into unbaked pie crust and bake for 45 minutes or until rhubarb is soft.

Serve with some homemade vanilla ice cream… enjoy friends!

I recently posted my first video on For Dragonflies And Me Facebook page. I gave a short demonstration on how to properly harvest rhubarb. Stop by and check it out! Hope to see you there!
Here’s the direct link to the video. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=184040798434306

Happy Day,
Jean

Harvesting Herbs: Tips to get the most yield from your herbs, yummy herb butter recipes

My soul belongs in the garden… it seems the only place that I can truly find the peace that I’m longing for is there in the rich, soothing soil. All my cares seem to fade away as I stroll through and become absorbed with the beauty that surrounds me.

The colors. The patterns. The shapes. The intricacies. No human could recreate these miracles that His mighty hand has designed. Perfection.

My beloved Potager

My beloved Potager

The sound of bees buzzing in the Potager… a low hummmmmmm. They’re busily doing their work, faithfully pollinating the blossoms that will all too soon be peppers, tomatoes, eggplants that we’ll finally feast on after a long winter… we’ll again eat of the bounty our gardens provide from our tender nurturing.

"White Rose Bud", by Jean Smith

“White Rose Bud”, by Jean Smith

The aromas… those of musk and sweetness mingled together in a moment inhaled that only a rose can exude. The herbs. My legs gently brush their delicate leaves. The intense licorice of basil… Lemon grass’ eloquent citrus scent… Chives don’t want to be forgotten; her oniony promise while we wait for the real thing. Parsley, marjoram, ohhh and thyme… I love to stop and strip a few of her leaves off, roll them between my fingers feeling the precious oils soften my fingertips… then bringing the bruised herb up to my noes… inhale. Richness. The wise men of old knew the value of these garden treasures.

Fresh herbs growing

Fresh herbs growing

Perfectness… It’s a feast for the senses. My garden, my faithful friend..

My Tree Frog, by Jean Smith

I was relaxing in the patio today reading a new garden memoir and there and behold a tiny tree frog nestled on the patio chair across from me. Some of you may be thinking, “ewhhhh”, but not me… I named him Norman and greeted my fellow garden friend and went on reading. Before long he hopped down over beside my leg… well, I had to get my camera- it’s not usually too far from my grasp, but I for some reason left it in the house. So I dashed in and grabbed it. Norman was waiting. I picked him up… to his dismay, yet he patiently let me take his photo.

The birds are so chattery right now…and I am loving this moment… Peace. In my gardens.

I’m passionate about herbs as most of my dragonfly readers know. Recently I posted info on preserving them… well today lets discuss harvesting your herbs.

Here’s a few tips to help you in your harvesting!

*The leaves of herbs are most flavorful when harvested before the plant begins to flower. If you aren’t able to get to your herbs and you notice they are beginning to form flower buds, simply cut the buds back. This will provide you with a bit more time to get them harvested.

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*You can pick individual leaves or whole stems or branches. Small leafed herbs are easier to pick by the stem or branch such as thyme, marjoram, tarragon, fennel, rosemary and oregano. Basil, cilantro, dill, parsley and sage are larger leafed, but can be done in stems as well. I personally harvest all by cutting branches.

Stems are sometimes easier to pic off then individual leaves

Stems are sometimes easier to pic off then individual leaves

*Chives should be cut as close to the ground as possible.

*Pick most herbs, with the exception of basil, in the morning after the morning dew has dried. Basil, seems to keep longer and fresher when picked in the late afternoon.

*Harvest annual herbs right until they are killed by frost or bolt (flower and set seed). To prevent bolting, keep them trimmed back.

*Stop heavy harvesting of perennial herbs about six weeks before your fall frost date. This will allow the plants a chance to harden up before the cold weather sets in. Mulching them will help protect more tender perennials in cold climate areas.

Herb butters add a lovely finishing touch to cooked veggies, fish or chicken and are so easy to make!  All you need to do is beat your favorite fresh or dried herbs into some softened butter, cover with some plastic wrap and chill until you’re ready to serve it up!
Here are some yummy Herb Butter Recipes to try this year!

Lemon & Fennel Butter ~ the flavor of fennel goes very well with fish or grilled corn on the cob!
1 Stick salted butter, softened
2 tbsp. chopped fennel fronds
zest of half lemon, grated
1/8 tsp. pepper
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl until thoroughly blended; pat into a roll about the size of a tangerine, cover with plastic wrap and chill.  When ready to serve, cut into chunks~ very cute!

Cilantro & Scallion Butter
~ Use this on some new potatoes and enjoy the sweet savor of scallions blended with the pungency of cilantro!
1 Stick salted butter, softened
2 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro or 1 1/2 tsp. dried
1 scallion (green onion) finely chopped.
Follow prep method above.

Chive Pepper Butter ~ So yummy on grilled chicken or roasted cod fillets!
1 stick salted butter, softened
2 tbsp. chopped fresh chives or 1 1/2 tsp. dried
1 tbsp. mixed peppercorns, lighted crushed
Follow prep method above.

Happy Day,
Jean