By Penny Stine
Monday, August 6, 2012
My gardening buddy, Jan, downsized last spring and moved into a small house in town on a fairly large lot. Over the last two growing seasons, she has transformed her yard into a very cool space.
This is it from the front. A little grass to keep the neighbors happy. Trees, shrubs and flowers to make it interesting and reduce mowing.
Rather than have a path of well-worn grass or an old, skinny, cracked and heaving sidewalk, Jan put in this great flagstone entryway.
In the back yard, Jan created several different spaces that serve different functions. Everyone wants a private retreat where they can drink coffee, read the paper or chat with friends. Jan's house had no trees for shade and very little privacy, because the lot is narrow and deep.
So she created this flagstone area, had her hubby build a shade pergola over the top, and built a privacy screen so she's not visiting with the neighbors every time she steps outside. The neighbors are lovely, but sometimes you just want to drink your coffee in your jammies.
Same pergola, just took the pic from a different direction.
As you can see by the photo above, Jan has two cute little mini Aussies. They need a place to play and romp. She gave it to them.
To get from one room to another inside the house, most builders add a hallway. A great landscape design can include a hallway, too.
This hallway leads from the sitting area near the house to the garden area next to the alley. The dog area extends to the left of the hallway.
And on the right, they built a fire pit.
Last, but not least, she has a garden area, complete with a short fence to keep the dogs out and raised beds to grow just about anything under the sun.
Jan and her husband (with the occasional assistance of their two 20-something sons) did all the work themselves, which reduced the cost significantly. She also designed the irrigation system so that every room has its own irrigation zone and can be watered separately from everything else. Jan completed her master gardener certification this year. Although she's never designed a yard for anyone else, I'd hire her in a heartbeat if I had a tired old yard and didn't want to tackle it myself.
For those who fall into that last category, Jan's phone # is 210-6445.
By Penny Stine
Tuesday, July 31, 2012
I'm growing okra for the first time this year. Knowing that okra can reach six feet tall under the right conditions and that it is native to Africa, I gave it prime location in my garden. It's in the sunniest area possible, and I tried to give it lots of space.
In mid-June, it looked rather sad, forlorn and silly, having such large areas for such tiny plants.
This particular variety was supposed to be a 50-day okra, so by mid-July, I was somewhat skeptical.
As you can see by the photo, it still looked less than impressive. And wasn't producing, but was taking up a huge space in my limited garden.
I gave the okra a privileged place in the front yard not just for the sun, but also because I saw a photo of this particular variety, which produces a red pod and has a gorgeous, cream-colored flower to go along with it. So I wasn't disappointed when it finally flowered in late July.
So far, I have picked all of four pods from three okra plants. One I stuck in stir-fry (and I finally learned what people mean when they say that okra is somewhat slimy) and the other three I just picked a few days ago and stuck in the fridge. I'm hoping that they all start producing like crazy, since my deep fryer is on stand-by and I'm eager to experiment with fried okra and gumbo. As you can see from the photo, I'll have a few more pods to add to the three in the fridge, so maybe fried okra will be on the menu this week!
By Penny Stine
Friday, July 27, 2012
OK, I know everyone is probably sick of looking at stuff growing out of a straw bale, but this is so cool!
The pumpkin vines like their home in the straw bale and are swallowing everything in sight.
They're also producing pumpkin! I hope these vines produce enough pumpkins for every child in the preschool to have one to decorate.
By Penny Stine
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
This sorry peach is the one lone peach that formed on my peach tree this year. I wasn't surprised or disappointed by the single fruit because I just planted it last spring. I had been watching it and checking for ripeness. Evidently some critter had been, too, since those teeth marks are not mine!
I would be much more devastated about his sorry, half-eaten, sad-looking peach if I couldn't go to the Teller Arms farmers market on Saturday and buy a flat of peaches every Saturday morning. But since I'm well on my way toward my goal of eating my weight in peaches this summer, I can just say "bummer," and chalk it up to learning.
Perhaps next year I'll have to buy a spy-cam to see what's stalking my peach tree.
By Penny Stine
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
My main reason for gardening is growing something tasty I can eat, so last night was a thriller at the dinner table. I had the first green beans of the season.
I grew two new types of pole beans, one was called Smeraldo and the other is Kwintus. Both beans are long and flat, and I got both kinds of seed from Park Seeds. I was disappointed in the germination and the way the bugs devoured them when they first came up, but I think part of that was my own dang fault. Beans like warm soil, but I'm always in such a hurry to plant in the spring that I think I plant them too early. Next year, I'll try waiting until mid-June to plant and I think they'll do better. The smeraldo beans are really sweet and tasty.
I've been reading various recipes for fried squash blossoms (and received a deep fryer for Christmas from my son) so I decided I had to try them last night, too.
I won't repeat the recipes since there are already a ton of them online, but I decided to not just fry them, but to stuff them with cheese and herbs, too. The only problem was I had to go to the grocery store after work, so by the time I got home, my husband was hungry and not willing for me to take my time thinking about herb combinations and the perfect ones to complement the ricotta cheese. I grabbed some basil while I was in the garden hunting for squash blossoms and called it good.
Which reminds me, if you know you want to try making deep fried squash blossoms, don't wait until the evening to pick them. Pick them in the morning, when they're open. At the end of the day, they're closed and wrinkled, making them harder to open, pluck the stamen out and stuff with cheese and herbs.
I stuffed with ricotta and basil, which was too boring. Next time, I'll try goat cheese and basil, rosemary and thyme.
I didn't take pics of every step of the process, due to the fact that my poor husband was wasting away from hunger. I used a sandwich bag as a pastry bag for the cheese, which made it easy to squeeze just a bit into each flower. I also dipped in an egg, and then a flour/corn meal mixture prior to plopping them in the deep fryer.
In spite of the boring stuffing mixture, the blossoms were pretty tasty. Of course, shoelaces would probably be tasty after dipping it in eggs and a seasoned flour mixture and then tried 'til golden.