Winter Gardening Projects (To Keep You Sane!)

I do realize that even the mere mention of the word ‘winter’ usually puts most of you off but what if a few indoor projects made the time go faster? Maybe a break from gardening is just what you need. On the other hand, keeping your hands in the dirt may be just the cure for the winter blues!

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Kitchen Windowsill Gardens

What can you grow on your kitchen windowsill? How about a winter culinary herb garden? You can use some herbs that you’ve brought in, start them from seed or pick a few up at the store. Many greenhouses keep a few potted herbs on hand through the winter months. Choose three or four of your favorites and pot them up in a long, narrow planter. Snip herbs as needed for all of your cooking needs.

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Salad with microgreens!

For more edible options, try growing microgreens or sprouts. Fresh green treats to add to soups, salads and sandwiches. Sprouts can be used within days of putting in water and microgreens can usually be harvested in around 10 days. With this relatively short time between planting and harvest, you will be eating fresh greens in no time! Another bonus to sprouting is that it requires no dirt. Try alfalfa, broccoli, radish or a host of many other sproutable greens.

Forcing Bulbs

When it comes to indoor growing, few plants brighten your home as much as forced bulbs. The rich shades of red, white and pink of the amaryllis. The frosty white blooms of paper whites. The heavy scent of vibrant hyacinths. Tulips can take a bit more effort but can be totally worth it. Some of these bulbs can be kept for years and revived annually for winter bloom. Forcing bulbs brings a huge sense of anticipation and sometimes a second blooming!

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Potting up an amaryllis!

Houseplants 

With the low sun of early winter, suddenly I’m reminded that my houseplants are so dusty! Some even have long, wispy webs that reach to the ceiling. Pretty scary if you ask me. Winter is a great time to revitalize tired houseplants. Maybe a dusting is in order. We often put our larger plants in the shower for a quick bath. Just allow them to dry and return them to their spot. How about repotting a few to freshen them up?

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All the materials for our terrarium!

Do you have a large glass container just begging to be transformed into a terrarium? Building a terrarium is a great way to display rocks, plants and woodland treasures in a contained environment. Terrarium assembly is an excellent way to get children excited about gardening.

Arts and Crafts

I’m one of those people that always picks up driftwood and beach glass. There are stashes of it in my shed and in the house. I imagined that I would make some sort of garden mobile out of them. Maybe some snowy day I will get all of these beach finds together to make some sort of masterpiece.

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Hey, that’s me with my unfinished bug hotel!

Many other items can be made for the garden with no artist skills required. Try making plant markers from painted wooden spoons or put together a bee and bug hotel. We probably all have some stuff kicking around that could be used.

Garden Planning

It may seem a bit early for planning your 2018 garden but I feel that it’s never too early. Seed and gardening catalogs will soon be streaming in filled with endless varieties of seeds. Why not sketch out your gardens while they are still fresh in your mind? You will have a jump on the next season. What are you planning for next year?

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A rough sketch of the garden is all you need.

The temps have been up and down here in midcoast Maine. The old freeze and thaw! Since we had such a dry season, it seemed strange to see actual mud this past weekend. I missed putting what few bulbs in that I had. I may slip them in the veggie garden on one of these warm days. How did this happen? I guess we are all just busy! Thanks for dropping by this week and I hope that these winter projects will spark a desire for some I ndoor growing! Feel free to click on the blue links for more info. Have a fantastic week!

Hilary|Everlongardener

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Foraged finds!

 

Rustic Apple Cranberry Galette

Many of us enjoy baking throughout the year but it seems like when the weather gets colder, baking in the kitchen takes on a whole new meaning. Tea brewing, music playing…making the kitchen is one of the coziest places in the house. Using fresh local apples and cranberries, this week I’ll show you how to make a super easy, positively delicious galette!

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A galette is a rustic country pie. No pie plate, no attention to fancy crust or fluted edges. Filling can be whatever you like, sweet or savory. The key is to not overwhelm the crust with filling. Let’s get started!

Ingredients 

  • 1 recipe of pie dough, top and bottom crusts, homemade or store bought
  • 4 apples, Cortland, Macoun or any other baking apples available
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup whole cranberries
  • raw sugar
  • 1 egg

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper.

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Parchment paper on the pans.

Peel, core and slice apples. In a bowl coat apple slices with the sugar, spices and flour. Stir and set aside.

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Apples.

Divide dough into four pieces. Form them into round discs. Dust surface with additional flour. Roll out one at a time into approximately 9” circles.

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Rolling out the dough.

Move dough onto the pans. Arrange apple slices in a pinwheel fashion in the center of each crust.

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Arrange the apples.

Scatter the cranberries in top of the apples. Fold the edges of the crust over to make a rim.

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Add cranberries and fold the edges.

Whisk the egg and brush it gently on top of the crust.

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Egg wash.

Bake for 45 minutes until golden brown. Move to a wire rack to cool.

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Golden brown.

Serve warm or cold. Especially good with rich vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce!

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For such a simple dessert it makes quite an elegant presentation!

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With garden chores wrapping up, there is more time for catching up on indoor things. The trees are bare, all but a few copper-colored oak and beech leaves. Bright red winter berries are everywhere. Beau has been cutting more teeth so you can imagine how that’s going! Until, next time, happy baking!

Hilary|Everlongardener

Batten Down The Hatches!

I believe that this phrase, ‘batten down the hatches’ must be a nautical term. A few weeks ago, we prepped for the rain storm that would come that night. Checking this and that. Making sure that all of our garden stuff would not blow away. My mind has been pondering garden structures and if they are strong enough for that old North wind. Of course, there are the usual end-of-season gardening chores. How can we really be ready for extreme winter weather? It sounds like the NOAA weather predictoons could go either way. It could be milder than usual or wilder than usual. We will have to wait and see.

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Greenhouses

Depending on the greenhouse that you have will determine how much you will need to do. It is advisable to keep doors and windows secured during windy weather. End windows can even be boarded over. Make sure the structure is secure so the greenhouse will not blow away. Removing the snowload is also wise. We place posts under the center ridge of our gambrel greenhouse to hold it up during storms. Doing just a few precautionary things can ensure that your greenhouse structure stands for years to come.

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Inside our greenhouse.

Temporary greenhouse structures need to be secured too. Make sure the plastic that you use is long enough for tie down. Plastic needs to be attached with wood and screws or with heavy objects. These can be hefty boards, logs or sand bags. Any openings will allow the wind inside and create a possible parachute effect, so do what you can to keep it tight.

Salad greens From the hoop!

Protecting Tender Plants

Most of the plants in a Maine garden have no trouble making it through a New England winter. Some plants on the other hand need special care to survive. Basil can be rooted for winter use by cutting and placing in water. Tender herbs such as rosemary need to be brought in. Potted geraniums can be brought inside and used the following year. Bulbs or tubers such as glads dahlias and begonias can be stored for future use.

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Bring in your rosemary!

Some plants are known as tender perennials. Butterfly bushes or buddleia can get through a few winters. Here in Maine zone 5, they can make it or not depending on the weather. One way to help such plants along is to mound the base with mulch or compost. This gives extra insulation to the base of the plant. Roses do well with this treatment too. In the spring, simply spread the compost around the base of the plant. I’m going to try this with a hardy hibiscus that I planted this summer. Burlaping tender shrubs can also be beneficial for new planting. Especially if they are near roadways or will be exposed to a heavy snow load. These are just a few ways to get your garden through harsh winter conditions.

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Current views in our area.

Storm cleanup has been a huge task in our area. Many lost power for as much as a week after the storm took so many trees. Thankfully, the trees that we lost were not near our house. Downed wires and trees were a common site on most side roads. Things are slowly getting cleaned up and back on track now.

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Beau’s latest adventure!

Working in the garden with Beau is always interesting. Last week he got stuck inside a tomato cage. Don’t ask me how he even got in it!  At least he let me help him out.

Thanks for checking in this week. Make sure you ‘batten down the hatches’ in your own yard! Now I’m leaving you with some words about the season. The part of fall before the snow flies!

A Change In The Weather 

The crisp morning brought a hard frost to the dry ground. A chilly shock to the system after so many warm days.

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Every blade of grass, every frozen flower and each evergreen branch was coated with sparkling frost. A dazzling kaleidoscope in the early morning sun.

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Bittersweet winds it’s way up the trees in the woods. The orange berries are bright against the grey bark.

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Frosty!

The lake was like a mirror with only a ripple from the loons gliding through the water. They call out as if to speak me. They are only talking to each other. The doves and chickadees work with renewed urgency now. I must hurry too…if I am to finish my work!

Hilary|Everlongardener

Magnificent Milkweed

You are probably wondering how anything with the word ‘weed’ in it could possibly be magnificent. For butterflies, bees and a host of other insects, milkweed is a major source of food. Of course, most gardeners know the importance of keeping such wild species of plants around. The more pollinators that you can get into your garden the better! I think that once you find out about milkweed you’ll agree that it truly is magnificent!

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On one of our evening walks we stopped at a large mass of milkweed plants. The sun was low in the sky and rays of light were bouncing off of the plants leaves. The bees were buzzing in and out of the tiny pink blooms. They worked quickly as if in a hurry to finish before sundown.

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Bees were buzzing!

The sweet scent of the flowers was heavy in the air on that warm evening. We searched for Monarch butterfly caterpillars. There were none to be found. Just the bees and a Japanese beetle or two.

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Evening sun…

Every time after that we searched for the butterfly larvae only to find nothing.

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Lovely pink blooms.

Each year at our local library, the children’s librarian raises many Monarch butterflies in jars for the children. Some years ago she was able to find some to grow in the wild. Last summer she couldn’t find any. After contacting a Monarch butterfly organization, she was able to obtain a quantity of larvae. Each child that signed up named their caterpillar. As the days and weeks went by the larvae would one by one form the ‘j’ shape and start the process of metamorphosis. When we stopped at the library we had to check on ‘Rockland’ or this year the name of choice was ‘Snake’. This year our little guy didn’t make it but our dear librarian found some in the wild to use as replacements.

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Library larvae!
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Our little caterpillar!

One day, we got the call that our morphed butterfly was ready to be released. The library has a dreamy little garden in it’s front courtyard. There we let our female Monarch butterfly ‘Snake’ go. She didn’t take off immediately. She flitted around the library garden with a male butterfly. Landing on hot pink zinnias, tall verbena and prickly purple cone flowers. The late afternoon sun made the whole occasion quite serene. One of the butterflies landed on my sons arm and stayed a while. Finally we let them be. Leaving them so that they could start their long journey southward.

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Beautiful Monarch butterfly!

Benefits of Growing 

Do you have room to allow some wild milkweed to grow on your land? If you do, you will be providing much needed food for the Monarch population as they stop to take in nourishment along the way. Many native plants are being removed from modern landscapes. By supporting native plants and allowing them to thrive, pollinators have a steady supply of food. Farmers are encouraged to leave large shafts of land for native plants to support the very pollinators that are responsible for pollinating much of our food sources. One third of it to be exact! Truly magnificent.

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The wind blown seed stage.

How to Grow 

If you already have a stand of milkweed near your house, little needs to be done to keep it going. In fall, the seed pods will mature and a multitude of seeds will come out of them. Equipped with their own parachute of sorts, the wind will simply carry the seeds to a quiet resting place where the seeds can take hold. This is how the plant reseeds itself on it’s own.

Starting a new patch is quite easy. Seeds and even plant plugs are available through mail order or online. Seeds grow best after going through stratification or a cooling process. Normally they will go through this process outdoors. It is possible to speed this up. “Place seeds into a container of moist soil, cover with a plastic bag and refrigerate for at least 3 weeks.”-Growing Milkweed. Milkweed does not like to be moved once planted.

The most common milkweed variety in the New England area is Asclepias syriaca. There are many attractive cultivated types that are useful in borders and perennial beds. We have Asplepias tuberosa that makes a dazzling orange show in our July garden. Bees and butterflies alike flock to this plant. Because it is derived from a wildflower plant, it is also drought tolerant. For more ideas for attracting pollinators go here. I even came across a native pollinator preserve called Peaked Mountain Farm in Dedham, Maine.

Butterfly weed is a pollinator magnet!

If you happen to do any clearing this fall, take notice if you have any milkweed plants. Collect seeds or cast more in other areas if you wish. Maybe next year you will find a few Monarch caterpillars! All because you grew magnificent milkweed!

The gardens here are pretty much demolished after recent high winds and rain. Trees are down everywhere. Many lost power and are still without it. We only lost it for a day so no complaints here. It’s always a good lesson to stay prepared for anything that might come our way. Keep those flashlights ready and some gas for the generator. The weather has now taken on the familiar chill of fall. Feels normal now after an above average fall. The smell of wood smoke drifts through the air at night and blaze orange is the color of the month. Thanks for stopping by Everlongardener this week! Don’t forget to subscribe below for weekly seasonal gardening info.

Hilary| Everlongardener

Beau has legs as long as his body now!