Making Fragrant Potpourris

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During this year’s growing season, I have been actively drying and saving various flowers and foliage to create garden crafts for the holidays. One craft in particular that I truly love is making garden potpourri.

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I craft several different types from dried flowers, fruit and various herbs. Each mix has it’s own fragrant and wonderful bouquet. But my all time favorite is a mixture of rudbeckia and sunflowers. The vibrant colors and scents give me an instant boost during the winter months.

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Listed below are a few suggestions to create your own unique potpourri, which is a very fun activity to do with children:

Allspice

Cinnamon sticks

Citrus Peels

Cloves

Lavender

Mint

Rosemary

Roses

Rudbeckia

Scented Geraniums

Scented Salvia

Sunflowers

Zinnias

 

 

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Fall Gardening

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In my home garden, I recently finished sowing seeds and transplanting seedlings for the Fall growing season. I truly enjoy the freshness and quality of Fall’s seasonable vegetables and fruit. I am looking forward to the abundance of nutritious stocks I will be making at summer’s end, which will bring delicious flavors to warming soups and stews this winter.

(Gardadibble – Seed Planting Tool) http://www.Gardadibble.com

This year’s Fall garden will include the following:

Florida Broad Leaf Mustard
Danvers Half Long Carrots
Tokyo Long White Bunching Onion
Broccoli (Chinese)
Sugar Snap Peas
Dinosaur Kale
Little Marvel Dwarf Peas
Purple Top Turnips
Mini Greens Blend Lettuce
Detroit Red Beets
Space Hybrid Spinach
Georgia Collards
Ferry’s Round Dutch Cabbage
Broccoli Rapini
Dwarf Blue Kale
Gourmet Salad Blend Lettuce
Zermatt Leeks
Toy Choy Hybrid Pak Choi
Patricia Radish
Parade Onions
Early Jersey Wakefield Cabbage
Bright Lights Swiss Chard
Scarlet Nantes Carrots

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A Dream Come True: Anna’s Garden Design

Anna's Gardening Antics & Musings

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Hello my gardening companions. As you know, gardening and design are my true passions; my purpose. So, I am super-excited to announce the launch of my new garden design site, aptly named Anna’s Garden Design. This is a dream come true for me after years of study, real-world experiences and many personal sacrifices.

Basically, I provide an online garden design service based on my clients projections of their dream garden landscapes. I offer everything from basic design consultations to a full-scale site designs. Using information provide by clients, I create virtual designs and offer specific recommendations so that homeowners and business can create their own sanctuary entirely online, without the usual hassles or expense.

I would love for you to stop by my new site, Anna’s Garden Design , and let me know what you think. As always, I thank you for your time and support. Take care!

P.S. The…

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It’s Broth Making Time….

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Adapted from my sister blog, Anna’s Gardening Antics and Musings…

Hello my friends. I hope you are well and enjoying this beautiful and bountiful summer season as much as I am. Fall is rapidly approaching, however, so I have began planting for the season with crops such as kale, lettuce, chard, spinach, collards, turnips and root vegetables.

Fall is undoubtedly my second favorite season, mainly because of the vibrancy in color of falling leaves, the cool and crisp air, the smell of wood burning in fireplaces and, of course, warm and hearty soups and stews. I prepare my soups and stews with delicious bone broths I create around the end of September from homegrown vegetables and pasture raised/grass fed chicken and beef bones I purchase from local farmers.

In addition to creating delicious soups and stews , I also use bone broth when making rice, certain pasta dishes or have a cup when I am feeling poorly or in between meals. It is a perfect remedy to warm you on a brisk, winter day. I typically make three batches; beef, chicken and vegetable over a week’s time due to the long cooking times required and I freeze my broths.

I am including basic recipes for the bone broths I make each year. Again, the only variations I make is using grass feed chicken and beef bones I purchased from a local farmer instead of store brought for nutritional purposes… However, you can use whatever you have on hand:

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Beefy Bone Broth:

5 pounds of beef knuckle and short rib bones (will a small amount of meat still attached)
4 quarts of water
3 carrots cut into large chucks*
3 celery stalks cut into large chunks*
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
3 small onions (halved)*
1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar
2 bay leaves
1 medium sized leek, trimmed and cut into chunks*
1 head garlic (halved)*

*leave the vegetable peelings attached to add additional nutrients

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Place the bones in a large pot of cold water; add the apple cider vinegar and bring the bones to a boil and continue cooking for 15 minutes. Then drain, the bones and pat them dry. Place the bones on a large roasting pan and place them in the oven for about 1 hour. Make sure they are browned well before removing. Remove the bones from the pan an place them in a large stock pot along with your veggies Add your reserved water making sure the bones and broth are completely submerged. Add your seasonings and bay leaves. Bring to a boil and scum off any residue that emerges at the top.

Bring to a low simmer and cover. I generally cook my stock over 24-36 hours depending on the bones sizes and flavor intensity I am looking for. During the cooking process, I continue to skim off extra fat and scum floating at the top.

After the cooking process is complete, I slowly and carefully strain the mixture through a large piece of cheesecloth, into a container which has been submerged in a bed of ice (in the kitchen sink). The idea is to cool the broth down rapidly. I then pour the broth into individual containers (I use recycled take out plastic soup containers), label, date and freeze them.

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Chicken Bone Broth

4 pounds of chicken bones (backs, necks, feet)
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 large onions (quartered)*
3 carrots chopped into large chunks*
3 celery stalks cut into large chunks*
1 garlic head (halved)*
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
6 quarts of water
3 sprigs each (fresh thyme, parsley) – optional

*leave the vegetable peelings attached to add additional nutrients

Place the bones, vegetables, seasonings, vinegar and water in a large stock pot. Bring to simmer, cover and cook 24-36 hours skimming fat and residue from the top occasionally.

After the cooking process is complete, I slowly and carefully strain the mixture through a large piece of cheesecloth, into a container which has been submerged in a bed of ice (in the kitchen sink). The idea is to cool the broth down rapidly. I then pour the broth into individual containers (I use recycled take out plastic soup containers), label, date and freeze them.

I highly suggest you try making your own bone broths. It takes a bit of time to make them, but you will not regret it. Take care!

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My Love Affair with Tomatoes….

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As the end of summer approaches and the first frost looms not far behind, I usually began to get a bit anxious about harvesting and preserving my summer vegetables. In particular, homegrown, ripe tomatoes. I truly love tomatoes and have been known to hoard as many as possible for preserving to enjoy a taste of summer during the brutal winter months.

Every year, I grow an abundance of tomato varieties from seeds started indoors then hardened and transplanted outside after the last frost. In my area, USDA Zone 6B, I keep them protected with homemade cloches until the outdoor temperatures are warm and steady. As the plants grow, I typically pinch of the suckers and create new seedlings by placing the cuttings in a shady, moist area of my garden I generally use for outdoor propagation. The cuttings usually take root after a couple of weeks and then I plant them in the main garden or give them away to friends and family.

My favorite methods for preserving harvested tomatoes are canning and drying/dehydrating. However, I occasionally dig up my plants and bring them indoors to hang up in a cool, dry area to allow the green tomatoes to ripen at the end of the growing season. Another method I use is to pick the best green tomatoes from the plant before the first frost and bring them indoors. I gently place them on a tabletop in a cool, dry area, making sure they do not touch each other. This allows them to ripen slowly in a protected environment over the winter.

I have included a few of my family’s favorite recipes below. Happy Gardening!

Tomatoes and Rice Bake

3 large tomatoes (peeled and sliced)

1 cup of cooked white rice

1 teaspoon of chopped fresh parsley

1  large sweet pepper, finely chopped

1/2 cup of fresh, grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons butter

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Liberally coat a baking dish with extra virgin olive oil, then add a layer of the slice tomatoes. Sprinkle with a bit of the grated cheese, then cover with a layer of cooked rice and peppers. Continue layering until the dish is full ending with the topped tomatoes. Place small pieces of the butter on top, then cover with foil tightly. Place the dish in the preheated oven for 20 mins. Remove the foil and bake uncovered for and additional 15 mins. Remove carefully from the oven and sprinkle the fresh parsley on top. Serve hot.

Butter a baking dish; put in a layer of tomatoes; sprinkle with sugar, and cover with rice and peppers. Alternate the layers until dish is full, having the tomato on top. Dot with the butter; bake (covered) three-fourths of an hour; uncover and bake for quarter of an hour longer, serve hot.

Stewed Tomatoes, Corn and Okra

3 large tomatoes

4 cups of okra, trimmed and cut

1 cup of fresh corn kennels

3 tablespoons of sugar

1/4 cup of green pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon butter

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 medium onion, peeled and diced

3 slices of bacon

Place tomatoes in a rapidly pot of boiling water for 1 minute, then remove them carefully. Gently peel off the skin of the tomatoes and place them in a large pot along with the onions, pepper, sugar, salt, pepper and butter. Cover the pot and boil on medium heat for 15 minutes or until the tomatoes are tender, stirring regularly.

In a heated sauce pan, add the bacon slices and cook until crispy. Then add the bacon and rendered fat to the pot of stewed tomatoes along with the okra and corn. Continue cooking for an additional 15 minutes then remove from the heat. Serve hot in a bowl  or over a bed of hot, buttered cooked rice.

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10 Plants That Repel Mosquitoes

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Summer has finally arrived and with it’s arrival the proliferation of the blood-sucking and possible disease-carrying garden foe: the mosquito. In my home garden, I typically place several types of plants to deter mosquitoes. Typically, I either plant them in masses or dry leaves such as sage or rosemary to burn during outdoor gatherings. I also crush fresh leaves from my citronella grass, lemon thyme and lemon balm plants in my hands to release the oils and rub them on my skin instead of using chemical mosquito repellents (if you have skin allergies or sensitivity, I would not recommend this method).

The following plants are well known repellents for any home gardener to keep mosquitoes at bay:

Basil – Usually grown in many gardens, the lemon and lime varieties are my favorites.

Catnip – This useful herb is also a favorite of cats and makes a tasty herbal iced tea.

Citronella Grass – Although it has not been proven as a reliable repellent in its natural form, by crushing the leaves you can release the oils and let the scent permeate the air to deter mosquitoes. Citronella oil is also extracted from the leaves to produce essential oils for candles and sprays.

Lavender – A true world wide garden favorite, the oils from the flowers can deter mosquitoes and other insects. Crushing the flowers can release scent and can be rubbed moderately, directly on the skin. The flowers from lavender can also be used as a culinary and medicinal herb.

Lemon Balm – Another home garden favorite, this highly prized herb repels mosquitoes when the oil is released from the crushed leaves or extracted. It has numerous culinary benefits as well and is a favorite addition to any summer time iced beverage.

Lemon Grass – This herb can be difficult to grow from seeds but can be easily propagated from cuttings. The leaves carry the beneficial oils to deter mosquitoes and is also used quite extensively for it’s culinary and medicinal qualities.

Lemon Thyme – As a deterrent for mosquitoes or used for culinary or medicinal purposes, this spectacular herb is a summer favorite of my family. I typically place them in numerous containers throughout my garden.

Marigold – The Mexican and French varieties are extremely effective as deterrents for mosquitoes, aphid, white flies and bad nematodes. They also repel small mammals such as rabbits.

Rosemary – Very difficult to grow from seeds and has a long germination period, but can easily be propagated from cuttings. I usually dry the leaves and burn them to deter mosquitoes. This well known herb is also used for it’s phenomenal culinary and medicinal uses.

Sage- Can easily be grown from seeds and its crushed fresh leaves releases it’s oil to keep mosquitoes and other insects at bay such as cabbage moths, carrot flies and ticks. It can also repel mammals such as deer.

Additional Resources:

www.herbsociety.org

www.herbs.org

 

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Fallen Fruit…..

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(Revised from my sister blog: Anna’s Gardening Antics and Musings)

Greetings fellow gardeners! We are experiencing great weather in my area, so I am writing this post on my laptop, in a shady part of my garden. It is so beautiful outside. Nature is a beauty to behold and a true testament of God’s presence.

I had an intriguing conversation yesterday with my great aunt who lives in North Florida. She is the daughter of my late great-grandmother Anna (to whom this blog is dedicated) and lives in the very house my grandmother raised her five daughters in. My grandmothers’ garden is a bona fide confirmation of her love of gardening and is one of my favorite places on earth.

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My aunt is having a problem with her persimmon and grapefruit trees. Everyday, young fruit are dropping from her trees. I asked her the basic questions: is there any noticeable damage to the trees such as disease, pest infestation, have they been over-watered or over-fertilized, etc. She answered no to all of them. She mentioned the trees had nice, healthy blooms and high fruit production. But the fruit was dropping. Not all of the fruit, but enough to have her worried. I told her I would look into it. After, a bit of research, I found out about “June Fruit Drop.”

June Fruit Drop is natural process in most fruit trees. The tree produces fruit so it can provide seeds. However, if it produces too many fruit, they will begin to compete against each and tap the tree’s resources; thus leading to smaller, inferior fruit with less seeds. To counteract this, the tree will thin out the crop by dropping some of it’s fruit. It is generally recommended to hand thin fruit trees that produce less seeds such as persimmons, plums, nectarines and figs to add the trees with this process. This process can occur during June, but earlier in southern states.

I have included several links below to give you a little more information about June Fruit Drop:

Royal Horticultural Society

Stark Brothers Nursery

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