Fall Tasks For A Better Spring

Don’t hang up your clippers and gardening gloves just yet! By doing some of your fall tasks now, your garden can be all ready for next spring. Yes, spring seems a long way off now but with a few extra fall chores, you may just be getting ready for your best garden yet! After all, the greatest gardens often start in the fall. Let’s look into a few ways to make this happen!

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Save Seeds

Now is the perfect time to collect mature seeds from your favorite garden varieties. The weather has been perfect for keeping those seeds dry. Some seeds to start out with could include beans, kale and nasturtiums. If you have seeds forming from open-pollinated plants, why not give seed saving a try? It’s a great way to save money and keep those special varieties for next year. You will also have some garden seeds to swap with your friends.

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Saving bean seeds.

I’ve got the seed saving basics outlined right here. Get the kids involved. They will love getting the big seeds out of the bean pods once dry. You can make a game out of hunting for the nasturtium seeds that are ready for drying.

Garden Cleanup 

Much of spring garden work can be eliminated by cleaning up as much as possible in the fall. A garden left in tact can be pretty when covered with snow or frost but it’s a huge mess come spring. Why not leave some plants for winter interest and photo ops while cutting down the rest? If you have dealt with disease or pest problems, cleanup is an excellent way to ensure that you get rid of the problem. We deal with tomato blight in our area so my plants need to be bagged up or totally destroyed.

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It’s a messy job!

Garden cleanup can be a hot topic but as a gardener, I love getting the garden put to bed every autumn. It helps with the following spring when things get really busy. I have put together some tips right here for fall cleanup!

Start A Compost Pile

Have you been dreaming about making your own compost? It may be the time to get started. With all of the garden debris from your garden cleanup, you could be on your way to a big start in composting! Most perennial plant matter and spent annuals can go right into the pile. Veggie garden vines and such can go in there too. Add in some fallen leaves and kitchen vegetable scraps for a balanced mix.

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A nice mixture of greens and browns for the compost.

Whether you purchase a contained composting drum or just build a square frame with wire, composting is one of the best ways to deal with garden plant matter. There are endless ideas out there for making your own bin. You can even keep adding stuff over the winter if you have access to it. Maybe this is the time to start that worm composting bin you’ve always wanted.

Season Extension 

How could I not mention season extension? If you planted a fall garden or have greens that are still doing well, give them some protection from the cold. Construct a cold frame or make a mini greenhouse over the plants. Kale, spinach, hardy lettuce or parsley. Many things can be overwinter and even harvested through the winter months. Yes, even in Maine!

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Floating row cover suspended over greens.

To learn all about 4 season growing click here. For some simple season extension tips, check this out. We have been growing in this way for many years and are thrilled with the results!

Plant Some Garlic

Growing your own garlic is fun and rewarding. Fall planted garlic is easy to grow and is super exciting to harvest the following summer. From mild to spicy hot, there’s a garlic variety for every palette. Even if you have a small garden space, a 3×3 area can yield a decent amount of garlic. Many of us use a ton of garlic in the kitchen. Why not try your hand at growing some for yourself?

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Red Russian seed garlic.

Did you grow garlic this past year? Then select some of your larger cloves to replant! You can find out the simple steps to growing garlic here!

Plant Spring Bulbs

What would spring be without the snowdrops, crocus and tulips popping up? Ever wish that you had more color in your spring garden? The stores are full of plump bulbs right now. The bulb catalogs are coming in the mail. You could plant some bright blooms near your doorway. Grab a bushel of sturdy daffodils for an amazing natural display on the edge of the forest.

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Bulbs ready for planting!

The possibilities are endless and only limited by your budget or ambition! Try growing some of the more unusual bulbs such as allium, fritillaria or some bizarre tulips. Frilly tulips, double daffodils or fall blooming crocus. If you do, your garden will be bursting with spring color! You can find more suggestions here.

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Last show before frost!

These are just a few fall tasks that will get you well on your way to garden success in 2018! Get out and enjoy that fabulous fall air. There is still so much beauty to behold! The air is cooler and the ticks are out. Be careful out there as you take in all that fall has to offer. I’ve been taking the greenhouse plants down with a little assistance from my little garden helper. Let’s just say that there is never a dull moment! Until next week…happy gardening!

Hilary|Everlongardener

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Beau is always in a tangle!

 

Roasted Tomato Basil Soup!

Believe it or not, I had a few requests for the roasted tomato basil soup that I mentioned in last weeks blog post, What Will I Do With All These Tomatoes? I’ve been trying to eat all of our tomatoes and I think I’m finally at the point where I’m keeping up. Cooler fall temps have slowed down the ripening process and now my green tomatoes outweigh my ripened ones by far. But if you are still drowning in ripe tomatoes or you’ve picked up some from a local farm, here’s another delicious recipe for you to try!

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Pretty much any tomatoes that you might have available will work for this tasty soup. I used a combination of colors, shapes and sizes for my soup. Since I grow a wide variety of tomatoes, it’s hard to say what I will have on hand each week. This soup is packed with flavor and is suitable for a wide range of diets. It is by no means an ordinary tomato soup! All of these measurements are approximate, so you can’t mess it up. Use what you have and improvise if you like.

Ingredients

  • 10 medium sized tomatoes
  • 20 small or cherry sized tomatoes
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 cloves of garlic
  • 1 cup fresh basil
  • thyme, marjoram or oregano
  • salt and pepper
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Cover the entire pan with tomatoes.

Instructions

Anyone can make this soup. With simple methods and fresh produce, you will be no more than an hour or so away from a hot meal. Set oven for 375 -400F. Wash all of the tomatoes. Cut small tomatoes in half and medium ones tomatoes into 4-8 pieces. Position them on two cookie sheets face up.

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Sprinkle with basil and your choice of herbs.

Sprinkle basil leaves and your choice of garden herbs over the trays of tomatoes.

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Time for the garlic!

Remove the outer papery covering from the garlic cloves. Place them with the tomatoes whole, no chopping required. Then drizzle with olive oil and add salt and pepper to taste.

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Looks good already.

Roast pans of tomatoes for about an hour.

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Look at that luscious tomato stuff!

Allow pans to cool for a few minutes. With a spatula, put the tomatoes into your blender or food processor. You will now have to resist the temptation of eating the entire pan of roasted tomatoes. Notice how the olive oil and tomato juice settles into an ooey, gooey liquid.

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Scrape that pan!

Blend cooked ingredients until smooth. At this point you can thin the soup without water or chicken stock. I left it thick for a really satisfying fall meal.

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Blend it up!

To serve, pour into bowls and top with grated Parmesan cheese. Try serving with crusty bread or a sandwich. This soup would also go well with a big salad for lunch. It comes out so thick that you could even serve it over pasta! This recipe will make about 4 cups of soup.

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Hot and healthy tomato soup!

There are many roasted tomato soup recipes out there. I just used what’s I had from the garden. Why not try mixing up different types of tomatoes or choose the herbs that you happen to love. The combinations are endless!

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Just look at that melted cheese!

There’s nothing like using fresh produce in the kitchen! Whether you grow your own food or get seasonal vegetables from a local farm, you can use your imagination with your family’s weekly menu! Garden cleanup has begun for most of us around here. The crunchy leaves are falling, the ticks are out and the squirrels are on the move. Beau has been eagerly helping with garden cleanup. He’s really good at pulling plants out of the ground and digging big holes! I always wanted an assistant! Enjoy your week everyone!

Hilary|Everlongardener

For more articles to boost yourself into fall mode, try Build Up Your Soil This Fall, Wonderful Winter Squash and Fall Cleanup Tips all right here on Everlongardener!

What Will I Do With All These Tomatoes?

They all seem to come at once and by the time the tomatoes start to ripen, they just keep coming! Small ones, large ones and crazy colored ones. Traditional types and unique varieties. The tomato harvest is upon us and there’s no turning back now. What will you do with all these tomatoes? Leave them on your neighbors porch? Let them rot on the windowsill? I don’t think so. Let’s get in the kitchen and use those tomatoes!

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Canning and Freezing

One of the best ways to preserve your tomato harvest is canning. From spicy salsa to sauce, relish to tomato jam, there are endless ideas for creating winter pantry delights. Bottle your own tomato juice, soup or Bloody Mary mix. Can stewed tomatoes for future winter soup and chili recipes. Your local Extension office website is a good source for canning guidelines.

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Use those tomatoes!

If you are like most of us though, there is very little time for the whole canning process. Chopped or whole tomatoes can be frozen in freezer bags. Homemade sauce can be frozen in containers. For more information on preserving tomatoes in the freezer, go check out my post Quick Food Preservation Tips. This article has time saving ideas for tomatoes, herbs and refrigerator pickles.

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Place tomatoes in zipper bag to freeze.

Get Creative in the Kitchen 

It may feel like you need to cram tomatoes into every meal of the day to eat them all. I too have been eating so many that my mouth is getting sores! I like to slice tomatoes for sandwiches, cold ones or in hot grilled cheese sandwiches. Some of us could eat this every day for lunch. So many combinations. Cucumbers, ricotta, cheddar cheese…BLT’s! They are all so good this time of year.

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A simple Caprese salad.

Salads present countless opportunities for the addition of fresh tomatoes. Smaller cherry tomatoes add so much flavor to a garden salad. Chop them into a bowl and add chunks of mozzarella, basil, balsamic vinegar and olive oil for a scrumptious salad that everyone will love. Comfort food like bruschetta can be a light and speedy summer supper.

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Roasted tomato soup.

Winter isn’t the only time for soup! Try preparing a fresh tomato chili or garden veggie soup. This week someone was suggesting roasting the tomatoes with herbs and olive oil. When the tomatoes are finished, put everything into the blended for a thick and savory roasted tomato soup. I tried my hand at it and it’s wonderful! I may have to do a recipe post for all of you in a few days!

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A bountiful harvest!

How about using all these tomatoes in the form of a pie? A light frittata or a flavorful quiche? A tomato pie, tart or a colorful heirloom tomato galette? This can elevate the tomato to center stage instead of just an addition to a salad. Fresh tomatoes of any size are so  wonderful on homemade pizza. Either use them for a topping or slice them to use instead of sauce. Mix up the cheese for all kinds of different flavors. Feta, cheddar, goat cheese…all of this tomato talk is definitely making me very hungry. Do you have any ideas yet?

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They just keep coming!

While canning tomatoes is a fantastic way to preserve them, it doesn’t take much time to add them to your weekly menu this time of year. There are endless recipes out there if you just look. From snacking to meals, it’s not hard to figure out what to do with all of these tomatoes! For some fabulous garden to table recipes try The Four Season Farm Gardener’s Cookbook. Full of gardening advice along with recipes for everything that may come from the garden.

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A variety of beautiful tomatoes.

This week has been a hot one! Feels a little unusual for late September but we’ll take it. With no major frosts in our zone 5b area, the garden has been able to keep going. It sure has been easy to pretend it’s still in the middle of summer! The leaves have begun to change to their golds and reds so fall is coming for sure. We had a chance to visit the Common Ground Country Fair last weekend. I have to say that I didn’t get to see nearly enough. When you bring a little boy it’s all about the farm animals and sheepdog demos! No gardening talks for me! Oh well…maybe next year! Thanks for joining me this week and use those tomatoes! Hey, and don’t forget forget to subscribe in the sidebar for more great fall posts!

Hilary|Everlongardener

 

Dreaming of Next Years Garden!

I know what you are thinking. Why is this girl thinking about next years garden? She is crazy! You’re right, my garden, like yours is a wild, dry jungle. Sometime my fails seem to outweigh my successes. Many veggies are ready to be pulled and composted. I can’t help but think that right now is the perfect time to make an honest assessment of what you want to do next year.

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While everything is still fresh in your mind, or still clinging on for dear life in the garden, walk through and see what did well. Are there any of the veggies that you would plant more of next year? Are there varieties that performed poorly?

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Morning in the garden.

Where there vegetables that thrived even through dry conditions. Did you have any flowering plants that were particularly good bee magnets? Where certain tomatoes more susceptible to blight? Do you have any greens that beat the heat?

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A bountiful harvest!

How effective was the compost that you used? Does the soil need any improvement? Any experiments you need to report on? These are just a few examples of how to gather data for future garden success.

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Kale in the garden!

Bring a notebook and a pen out to the garden with you. It’s a great idea to keep a garden journal from year to year. This way, it’s easy to look back and learn from the information that you accumulate. Try to record the varieties that you planted and how they did. This helps when ordering seeds during winter.

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Take garden notes…

This is a great time of year to pick up plants that are on sale. Think ahead to next year when browsing perennials, shrubs and trees. Is there empty space in your garden or landscape? Will you be eliminating or adding a garden bed? Maybe you’ve always wanted a hydrangea or a rose. Do you have room for a fruit tree or two? How about starting a row of raspberries? The fall season is the perfect time to plant for next year. Even if you find some bargain plants and don’t have a place just yet, simply make a small temporary bed somewhere in the yard. They can always be relocated in the spring. I’ve actually used empty vegetable garden space for this purpose many times.

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Sunflower from the garden!

I started a new garden journal this fall. I’m trying to carefully record the greens that I plant. It’s easy to run out to plant, then promptly forget which varieties are which. When the garlic gets planted this fall, a garden map will show me what’s what. It may sound tedious but it only takes a few moments to make a rough drawing. Then you won’t have to rely on your perfect memory! Ha!

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Apples are ready!
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Pumpkin everything…

The Autumn season begins next week. There are small traces of fall in the air already. Apples are turning red and people are talking about going picking. Pumpkin flavored everything is everywhere you turn. Red leaves are starting to dot the green landscape. Did I mention that I love fall? Anyway, I hope my dreaming of next years garden gets you on your way to garden success for the 2018 gardening season! Thanks for your interest in Everlongardener this week.

Hilary|Everlongardener

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Beau is always ready!

 

Simple Season Extension Ideas

Did you ever wish that the garden harvest could keep on going? Ever wonder how to incorporate season extension into your yearly garden routine? If you’ve been reading Everlongardener for any amount of time, you know that I’m crazy about wintering over salad greens. We are still harvesting kale that I sowed last year at this time. Seeds have germinated for this winters greens. It’s the rhythm of the seasons around here for us. I know that many are just ready to pack it in, especially after such a dry season. Let’s get organized and rethink how we can extend that garden harvest.

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I often find myself not wanting my readers to be overwhelmed by me constantly talking about winter gardening. Recently, I was listening to an interview with Monty Don, British gardening expert, about this subject. The journalist who was interviewing him was a Swedish gardener named Sara Backmo, who personally grows much of her family’s food, including greens through the winter. She wanted to find out how important season extension was to Monty. I think she was satisfied with the impressive information he relayed to her. As I listened, I felt really good about my efforts with greens but not so great with the other winter hearty veggies. I do realize that I can’t take it all on and local growers do have a lot to offer when it comes to seasonal produce.

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‘Ruby Streaks’ mustard loves winter weather.

I’ve published countless articles on the topic by now but many readers are still learning the ropes of four season gardening. In my post Plant Now For An Extended Harvest, I outline what to plant right now to ensure a continuous harvest. All it takes is a few types of leftover seeds to make a winter salad garden happen.

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You can’t fight the winter from coming!

Get Planting

Pick a space in your garden that is currently not in use. Maybe where your garlic was growing or where you’ve ripped out your green beans. Select some cold hardy greens such as spinach, kale or cold loving lettuces. This is the perfect time to get your greens established before the snow flies. Think about all of the warm autumn day for growing we have ahead of us.

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Planting cold hardy seeds.

Plan Your Covering

Whether you plan on purchasing a greenhouse kit or coming up with your own structure, now is the time to figure out what you will do to extend your garden season. We use a 12×20 gambrel style greenhouse with raised beds and we build a mini greenhouse over an outside garden bed each fall. Both have their advantages and both work really well. There are countless plans out there so just look around online for one that suits you.

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Our greenhouse last winter.

The smaller greenhouse that we construct has a wooden frame and is covered with plastic for the winter. Access to it is not always easy but it protects the greens very well. As long as you have the plastic secured at the base everything will be fine.

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Our quick greenhouse is very effective.

A simple cold frame can be a small start in season extension for the beginner. Usually built from wood with an old window or glass door on top. This method gives the garden  protection while allowing sunlight in. If the glass is setup with a hinge, it’s so easy to vent the box on hot fall days. You can even make a temporary cold frame with 4 bales of hay. Just make a box out of the hay around the garden and lay the window on top. Instant season extension protection! Here is an example of a basic cold frame made from wood.

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An example of a cold frame. Greens are protected from critters with netting.

The second layer is also the key to extending the harvest. Eliot Coleman started out by building cold frames inside a big greenhouse. He found this to be costly so he started working with floating row cover under a simple plastic covered hoop. The results were more than unbelievable. Just using the row cover for fall and spring frost protection can be a real benefit. There are many ideas out there so just find a few that will work for your garden!

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Harvesting spinach in the greenhouse.

Preserve What You Have

Do you have root vegetables like carrots and parsnips in the ground? Why not leave some under a protective layer of insulation? Construct a make-shift cold frame over the garden bed. Or cover the crops with a thick layer of hay. It can be as easy as that.  The crops will be cold but probably not freezing. This will allow you to harvest the vegetables throughout the winter months if it’s accessible.

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Homegrown carrots are the best!

Four season growing need not be elaborate or complicated. If you have one successful season of it you may be hooked. Feel free to browse other articles under the category of ‘season extension’ in my archives. During these warm late summer days I have been out planting when I get a few minutes here and there. Planting those seeds makes me think of the salads we will enjoy during the coming fall, winter and spring!

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Winter salad is the best!

Our tomatoes are really starting to ripen over the last week or so. Pretty soon, I’ll have to decide how I will be using them. For the moment, the smaller cherry and grape varieties have been in every salad or they just get popped into my mouth as I walk by. Larger tomatoes get stuffed into grilled cheese sandwiches or just sliced with salt and pepper. Yum! I’m glad I grew out of my childhood hate of tomatoes. I can’t tell you how many years that I just ate bacon and lettuce sandwiches, not even with mayonnaise! On that note, get planning what you can harvest through the winter with season extension! Thanks for sticking around and don’t forget to subscribe for more seasonal info!

Hilary|Everlongardener

Beau the gardening sidekick!

Dealing With Drought In The Garden

Late summer tends to be an exceptionally dry time of year for many of us. It’s hard to believe that we can have near drought conditions in Maine, while in Texas they are suffering from horrific flooding from hurricane Harvey. Not to mention Irma right on it’s heels. Whether we are in a real drought or not, water conservation and drought tolerant plants should always be a part of our garden design.

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Water Saving Tips

If all summer weather were ideal, we would have ample rain at night and endless, sunny warm days. We all know that doesn’t happen! We had a pretty wet, cool start to the growing season here in Maine but soon enough it turned very dry. Many plants in the garden are struggling to thrive.

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Gardens generally need water.

What are some great ways to save water when it comes to the garden? If you ever grew up with a well that gets really low every year, you know how creative a family can get when conserving water. If you choose to water with a hose or sprinkler, remember to water deeply so you won’t have to water as often. Using soaker hoses in strategic places can be an efficient way to water. Some gardeners install irrigation systems designed to come on only when they want them to.

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Soaker hoses gently water the garden.

Consider saving water inside the house by placing a dishpan in the sink to catch any water left over from hand washing or cleaning off garden produce. Simply take the pan out to a thirsty plant when it’s full. Some folks have constructed rain barrels to collect water for the garden use.

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A split valve helps you select which bed to water.

When we had some rain the other night, we placed all of the potted porch plants on the lawn so they would be watered with rainwater. If you are planting any new shrubs or larger plants, form a berm around the base of the plant with soil. This way, you can fill the space with water gently for the plant to soak up the water gradually. The berm acts like a moat around a castle. Mulching your gardens will help to keep moisture in. Some useful mulches are bark mulch, grass clippings, chopped leaves or hay.

Perennial Gardens

Some trusty favorites for perennial garden design are rudbeckia, echinacea and yarrow. For some real color, try gaillardia also known as blanket flower. Bees love it and it blooms right through the fall frosts. Perovskia or Russian sage is a woody plant with a crazy spray of lavender branches.

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Echinacea and Russian sage.

Sedums, whether short, tall and in between, thrive in dry conditions. Colors range from burgundy to yellow. With their succulent foliage and late summer flowers, members of the sedum family are a three season addition to any flower bed. The foliage comes in shades of green, blue and burgundy.

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Late blooming sedum adds so much to the garden!

Asclepias or butterfly weed, is a wonderful garden perennial which comes in several varieties. With its showy pink, yellow or orange blossoms to its quirky seed pods, this plant offers continuous interest for the eyes.  Butterflies, especially Monarchs and other pollinators flock to this bushy plant! It self seeds readily and is hardy to gardening zone 3.

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Black eyed Susan’s grace the late summer garden with endless color!

Some other fantastic perennials for the drought tolerant garden include euphorbia, helenium, lychnis, ecinops or globe thistle and members of the towering perennial helianthus (sunflower) family. Try ornamental grasses like ‘Blue Fesque’. Most of these plant species offer late summer and early fall flowers. Perfect for those dry times in the garden. If drought tolerant perennials are dispersed throughout your landscape, late summer color will continue. Late blooming shrubs like hydrangeas and hardy hibiscus bushes such as Rose of Sharon put on a brilliant show this time of year. Flowering shrubs bring structural interest to the flower garden year round.

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Hydrangeas!

Annual Flowers 

There’s nothing like dressing up a garden with sturdy annuals that seem to take care of themselves. Annuals such as cleome, tall verbena bonariensis and zinnias make a huge impact as perennials start to fade. In most cases, the more you cut, the more they flower.

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Zinnias in hot colors!

Cosmos, marigolds and bright calendula seemingly do there own thing in the garden. Needing little more than some light dead-heading. Cosmos come in so many pretty varieties including ‘Double Click’ and ‘Cupcake’. Marigolds come in tall, medium and small varieties. The ‘Gem’ marigolds may be a solution if you are not a marigold fan. It has a tiny flower with a lemon scent. We have been using a light cream marigold called ‘Vanilla’ for a few years now. It looks great with purple. Prolific portulaca and nasturtiums also thrive in drought conditions.

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Calendula bloom nonstop and are beneficial.

For barrels or deck containers, try lantana, angelonia, mandevilla, sweet potato vine or salvia. Garden centers sell many foliage plants such as annual ornamental grasses that work well too. Remember the rule of thumb for container growing, use some plants that fill, some that spill and a few that thrill!

Vegetable Garden 

For most vegetables, water is required for production. We’ve probably all seen shrivled up cucumber and bean plants scorched by the summer heat. Most salad greens have gone to the compost bin by now unless they are particularly heat tolerant. Many things are holding there own like the copious amounts of tomatoes, carrots and leaks.

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Garden harvest!

Some other veggies have needed continuous water. The squash, cucumbers and beans have really struggled. I’ve hand watered them as needed to save water instead of watering the entire garden.

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Green beans.

For more ideas on sprucing things up this time of year go to Late Summer Flower Bed Care. For some choices for fall color in the garden, see my top picks in 5 Perennials For Fall Color. Remember, your garden is never beyond repair…usually!

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Fresh rain on the hibiscus.

This past week our new pup, Beau, has been learning all kinds of new things. Mostly pushing us to our limit! Or trying to attack my hostas! We’ve been taking him just about everywhere that we can for socializing. Our schedule is a little off because our son has started kindergarten.  It seems impossible that this day has come. All of the usual anxieties are floating around in my brain. I’m sure I’ll settle into my new routine soon! Our garden is still producing but dry conditions have been slowing it down. I’m hoping this rain will get it through the next month or so. There is that familiar chill in the air in the morning and evening all of a sudden. Those warm fuzzy fall feelings are starting to creep in! Have a great gardening week everyone!

Hilary|Everlongardener

Discovering Wild Blueberries

Summer in Maine would not be complete without wild blueberries! Many of us grew up reading Robert McCloskey’s book Blueberries for Sal. We can still hear our mothers reading the words, “Kerplink, kerplank, kerplunk.” That’s supposed to be the sound of Sal’s mother dropping plump, ripe blueberries into her metal pail. That’s right before they run into mama bear and baby bear! After picking enough berries, they head back to the house to can the sweet berries for the upcoming winter. I’m sure if you’re a fan of the book, eating wild Maine blueberries triggers these fond memories from the story!

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Much of coastal Maine is covered with large shafts of blueberry land. Many people of a certain age in Maine have raked blueberries for a summer job. Whether it was supplementing the family income, for buying badly needed school clothes or getting just enough money to go to the fair, the blueberry industry has supported countless Maine families. Starting in late July, the blueberry season stretches through the month of August. Over 44,000 acres of blueberry land are farmed annually in Maine contributing millions of dollars to the local economy.

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Wild blueberries against the ledge rock.

Although they are referred to as wild, if left unattended, these precious plants would probably be engulfed by small trees only to turn into a forest. Care must be taken to ensure a decent harvest. Burning or mowing the blueberry fields is a great way to keep unwanted weeds from growing in. Berries have a two year cycle. Pruned fields will not produce until the following year. Some farms have half of their land in production each year. In our area, spraying blueberries for blueberry maggots is still common but more farms have been going organic in recent years. Hand raking has also becoming rare. Blueberry raking used to be a great job for teens but a lot of growers have gone to mechanical raking for efficiency. Many a young person has stood by a blueberry winnowing machine for hours picking out unacceptable berries, leaves and stems.

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Maine wild blueberries!

Wild blueberries have long been a Maine food source but they were not picked commercially until the 1840’s. The low-bush variety (vaccinium augustifolium) grows well in Maine’s naturally acidic soil. They can survive harsh winter conditions and offer year round beauty. From their white blossoms in late spring to their flaming red foliage in fall, blueberry fields are a feast for the eyes as well. High-bush berries also grow throughout Maine and abroad but prefer marshy, wet areas. The fruit can be slightly bigger and the flavor is comparable.

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Sweet, delicious berries.

Benefits From Blueberries 

It’s no secret that blueberries are are excellent for your health. They often show up in the category of ‘super food’ and are rich in antioxidants. According to Wild Blueberries, wild berries have 2x the antioxidant power of ordinary cultivated berries. So, pour on the blueberries when you get the chance!

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Low-bush berries.

Uses for Blueberries 

It probably goes without saying that there are endless uses for blueberries and they are only limited to the imagination. Blueberries can be sprinkled on pancakes, mixed into waffles or added to buttery muffins. Blueberry pies, crisps and rich coffee cakes are a huge hit around here. Dried blueberries can be put into granola or trail mix. Frozen blueberries give summer flavor to oatmeal, smoothies and yogurt during the winter. Blueberries can even be used in savory applications such as sauces and dressings. Personally, I think eating them on cereal or by the handful is my favorite. The flavor of wild blueberries far surpasses that of commercial berries in most Mainer’s opinions!

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Blueberry muffins!

If you have wild blueberries in your area, try to get some while you can! You’ll see how sweet they really are. The berries are very easy to freeze. Just place them in freezer bags, seal and lay flat in your freezer. Some prefer to freeze them on cookie sheets in a single layer to prevent clumping. If you are like Sal’s mother from the story, you might feel like canning them or making a few batches of jam. Whichever way you use them, take advantage of the season while it lasts! Many farms are taking orders for 10 lbs. or more. Some will even ship to your door. It’s hard to find a place to pick these days because most of the blueberry land is for commercial use. If you haven’t experienced wild blueberries yet, get out and get some while they last.

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Fresh blueberries!

All of the gardens here have been suffering from the lack of rain. At the same time, the beans are wanting to be picked every other day and the cherry tomatoes are beginning to get their color. I hope that you get to experience wild blueberries in your area. They really are a highlight of the summer season here. So if you will excuse me, I think I need to go make some pie now!

Hilary|Everlongardener

 

What Your Garden Needs Right Now!

Although around here it seems like summer has just barely started, the growing season Maine is about half over. Most of us have people coming and going, summer trips to go on and all of the other obligations that we already have. On top of that, you planted a garden with big hopes and dreams of fabulous harvests. So, with that being said, what does your garden need right now for success?

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Be Mindful of Watering

Probably most of us want to be conservative with water. Whenever I wash salad greens I quickly bring the wash water out to water something. Does anyone else do stuff like this? It seems like they keep forecasting rain but we don’t really get anything. A good soaking can do wonders for a struggling garden.

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Thirsty hydrangeas!

My peas will be done soon but I’ve been keeping them hydrated so they can produce as long as possible. Any new garden plantings will need to be watered until they become established. We expanded a few areas this year and the few perennials we planted have needed daily watering. Of course, I would love to depend on regular rainfall to do the work for me but you can’t always rely on the weather.

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A split valve.

We have been using soaker hoses in our gardens that are furthest from the house. This has proved to be a real time-saver and they are really efficient if positioned properly. We simply run a long hose that goes by each garden. A split valve allows a soaker hose to come off at each garden and then ends up at the greenhouse. The greenhouse houses most of our tomatoes and the climbing cucumbers. Watering in the early morning allows the garden to dry out during the day. This way, the plants don’t sit in water all night. With tomato blight being an issue here, drier conditions are better. Removing the lower leaves of the tomato plants is helpful for keeping the plants disease free.

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Soaker hoses can be real timesavers!

Thin Garden Seedlings 

It might be time to thin carrots, beets or anything else that’s crowded. Carrots may need an inch or more between them for maximum growth. Beets need many inches to reach their full potential for fall harvest. Turnips, parsnips, onions…just do an inspection and see what needs attention.

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Overcrowded turnips.

Feed Your Plants

Even if your soil is top-notch, a boost of nutrients never hurts. I usually make up a bunch of fish emulsion fertilizer to feed my garden. You could also make a batch of worm casting or manure tea. Whatever you choose to use, a shot of fertilizer here and there may be just what your garden needs to get it through the rest of the summer.

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A little fertilizer!

Our garlic is nearly ready for harvest. Last week I gave it a nice drink of fish emulsion for the final week or two before we pull them up. There’s nothing like pulling up those fat garlic bulbs!

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Garlic likes a little shot of fertilizer.

When annual flowers are tended at a commercial greenhouse, they are usually given daily doses of fertilizer. After a while in your own garden, they may go through withdrawal from lack of nutrients. Next time you water, give them a feeding. This will help with continuous blooming for the rest of the season.

Garden Maintenance 

Weeds can quickly choke out crops, so pay attention to any weed situations. It can be difficult to pull tiny weeds. Sometimes I leave them till they are a bit bigger so that I have something to pull. A garden claw or collinear hoe can be very helpful. If weeding is not an option for you, consider mulching weeds with grass clippings, hay or newspaper.

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Pullin’ weeds…

Some early crops may need to be pulled. This makes room for fall planting. Succession Planting can really extend your garden harvest. Plants such as tomatoes may need staking or pruning. Climbing veggies such as beans or cukes can be repositioned for better growth.

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Pinching tomato suckers!

Flower beds can be spruced up too. Peonies and iris can have their stems trimmed. Anything that looks sprawling and ugly can be tidied up. You can find more tips in my article Late Summer Flower Bed Care. Dead-heading plants can keep them looking spiffy. A quick weeding in the front of a bed can make all the difference.

Harvest Time

Many herbs and other crops may need harvesting. Things don’t hang on forever, so grab them while they are at their peak. Basil and parsley keep on producing as long as you keep harvesting. Peas need to be picked or they will grow too large and bitter.

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Borage!

These are just a few helpful tips to keep your garden going through the heat, drought or any other situations that might come up. There seems to be a bit of a lull right now in my garden. The salad greens have been slowing down. Some crops are stunted this year, possibly due to the slow start to summer. Soon we will be overrun by tomatoes and hopefully many zucchini. Always something to look forward too! What’s going on in your garden? I would love to hear from you. Give me a shout in the comment section. Make sure to subscribe so you don’t miss any upcoming posts. I will be writing about local produce and other seasonal topics soon! Thanks for joining me this week!

Hilary|Everlongardener

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Rudbeckia.
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Day lilies!

 

Gardening With Kids

“Why try to explain miracles to your kids when you can just have them plant a garden.”~Robert Brault.

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One of my earliest gardening memories is standing barefoot in the soft dirt of my neighbors vegetable garden. We were picking carrots for canning. I remember picking potatoes bugs with a childhood friend. My grandmother always had garden chores for me to do. All these little things contributed to my love of gardening. The thrill of watching things grow! Where am I going with this? Never underestimate how much gardening will effect a child. When I say  gardening with ‘kids’, I don’t mean baby goats, I mean children, young people, tiny humans! Those little people that mean so much to us.

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Kids love to plant!

Why Garden With Kids?

Kids ask a lot of questions. Hundreds a day in fact. As I think about the opening quote, I realize that my son doesn’t really ask much about gardening. He’s learned so much already. Since he was a newborn, he’s been in a carrier or in the stroller watching me work. As soon as he could, he was digging in the dirt. The beauty of sharing gardening with children is that they get to see first hand how things grow. They don’t need to ask where carrots come from or how they grow. They even know that all food doesn’t have to come from the grocery store. It can come from their own garden, a neighbors garden or a local farm.

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Planting peas is always a fun spring activity!

What to Grow With Kids

Young ones can help with growing nearly anything but some things are easier to do than others. When planting, the bigger the seeds the better. This way little hands can grasp the seeds. Peas and beans are a great start. Pumpkins, cukes and zucchini are all easy to grasp and push into the ground. Potatoes have been one of the favorites around here to plant and to dig up. Radishes and carrots are exciting to harvest. When choosing your vegetable varieties, why not appeal to the eye with bizarre colors and shapes. Purple string beans, pink and white radishes or rainbow carrots!

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Picking small fruits.

Gardening doesn’t have to be limited to veggies. There’s nothing like that first strawberry, raspberry or blueberry! Start a strawberry or raspberry patch. They may not make it to the house but little fingers love plucking berries. Another idea is growing flowers. Try a few bold choices such as sunflowers, gladiolus or marigolds. You could even designate a garden just for them.

Peas on the vine.

Gardening Chores

Not all things grow well after they’ve been dug up and replanted. Not all things like to be run over with a dump truck. For several years now I’ve utilized fencing for our gardens. Some things just can’t be disturbed. On the other hand, there’s lots of things for kids to do. Give them a watering can, they’ll water everything! Have your little one pick beans, cherry tomatoes or peas.

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Watering.

We have acquired an assortment of child sized tools. Not only are they easy to work with, it really makes them feel a part of things. No matter what task is at hand, he can go grab a trowel, a leaf rake or a hoe. These pint sized tools are even great for adults when cleaning out tight spaces. We’ve even found gardening gloves in tiny sizes.

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Kids gardening tools.

Have Fun!

There are so many ideas out there for gardening with kids. Try growing a bean teepee. Grow a whimsical sunflower house or start a miniature garden. Many of our summer and fall activities are agriculturally based. Strawberry picking, hayrides, corn mazes and apple picking. Take these opportunities to educated them about food and growing. Talk about bugs and worms. Most of all, have fun when gardening with children. Take the opportunity to teach. Use these moments to explain things. Even if they never grow up to garden, the skills that you share can last a lifetime. If you don’t have children of your own, garden with the kids in your life. Nieces, nephews, grandchildren, friends or neighbors. It’s a great way to spend time with them.

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There are surprises along the way!

Introducing them to gardening at a young age can get them interested in trying new things. I had a dear young friend of mine who used to help me harvest lettuce. He needed to try every single kind. He even liked the spicy ones. Even though he’s almost grown now, I’d like to think that those memories will stay with him. My son doesn’t like to try things but he calls out flower names as we drive through town. He describes them as ‘gorgeous or beautiful’! I’m thrilled to instill a love of gardening in him!

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Stop to smell the flowers!

In our garden, the peas are plumping up. Cherry tomatoes have set their fruit and the lettuce is still coming. The peonies have been in full bloom and the roses are flourishing in the warmer weather. Booming thunder showers have helped with the watering. The nearby fields have been hayed and the corn fields are starting to get knee high! If you have some kids around you, get them out in the garden. So much awaits you! Thank you for your interest in Everlongardener this week and don’t forget to subscribe for seasonal gardening posts!

Hilary|Everlongardener

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Salvia in bloom.
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Dogwood in the morning light!

How To Avoid Garden Overwhelm

I’ve talked with several friends this spring about their gardens and many of them are feeling overwhelmed. Life is really busy…

I’ve talked with several friends this spring about their gardens and many of them are feeling overwhelmed. Life is really busy for most of us these days. Ticks and other biting insects keep us indoors. The somewhat dismal spring weather we’ve had has weeds flourishing and seeds rotting in the ground. With all of these factors working against us, how can we avoid garden overwhelm?

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Life throws us countless curve balls. By missing a week or two in your garden, things can really go downhill fast. When you finally get out to the garden, it’s hard to avoid garden overwhelm. Unless your vegetable or flower beds are completely carefree, they do need weekly attention.

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A weedy spot in our garden.

Don’t Take On Too Much

When spring finally hits we can feel unstoppable. When drawing up a garden plan it’s easy to plan way too much. When I look through seed catalogs, I circle everything that catches my eye. I reason that I have plenty of space for this or that. I know what you’re thinking. You don’t just want peas, you want green and purple podded ones. You want 4 kinds of garlic and 28 tomato plants of different varieties. The struggle is real! It’s just not possible for every gardener to grow everything. Another consideration is harvest time. If you don’t have enough time to deal with crates of tomatoes and 100 radishes all at once, plant fewer plants. You could even try planting several different types with different maturity rates.

So many things to do…

A trip to the nursery is no better. I may start out with a list but then my eyes hit those colorful seed packets and fresh, young seedlings stretching out on tables before me as far as the eye can see. You go in for a few basic things and end up with a carload. Just planting may cause overwhelm.

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Seed packets.

So, what can be done to eliminate garden overwhelm? Make a list and stick to it. Leave a little bit of room to possibly try something new. This year, I purchased a few geraniums for the porch and some annuals for the shed window boxes. Other years, I’ve tried to cram flowers in so many pots here and there. Then, I find I have little time to water them. It can be hard when you are staring at endless lines of hanging baskets that are just gushing with flowers. Ask yourself, will I have time to water and deadhead them? Why not choose a few high impact plants rather than many smaller ones? If you’ve been reading Everlongardener for any amount of time, you are familiar with the many ideas I’ve shared for simplifying your garden.

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Zucchini are finally up!

Check Your Garden Daily 

I know that this may sound like a lot, but checking on your garden daily can head off future problems. Just taking your morning tea or coffee out to the garden can be a refreshing experience. Try an after work detox by strolling through the garden. Maybe some post-dinner weeding during the cooler part of the day. This way you can see what needs water, check if any pests are eating leaves or you might notice that a certain weed is taking over your carrots. A few minutes a day may not even feel like work. Make sure that when you pull those weeds you get the root. This means it will take longer for them to come back!

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There’s always something to weed!

When harvest time comes, if you neglect checking on the garden, you may even miss the harvest completely. Imagine if you didn’t look over your cucumber or zucchini plants for a week! The harvest would completely get away from you.

Mustard greens going by.

It’s better to do a few things well than to do many things haphazardly. Focus on a few things if you are strapped for time. I made a few simple suggestions in 5 Easy Vegetables For The Beginner Gardener. If you can’t pull off having a vegetable garden every single year, consider joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Members pay a local farm for a weekly share of fresh produce. This gives the farm spring capital and provides the customer with plenty of weekly vegetables. I have a friend who wondered why she was growing lettuce when the farm down the road sells a head for $1.50. She has a point. Another option is to make a weekly trip to your local farmers market. Anyway that you choose, eating local, consciously grown food is one of the joys of summer!

We joined two of the garden beds last week.

Amid all that spring entails and the speed with which summer passes by, try to get out while the weather is warm. Garden if you can and if it makes you happy. Just don’t get overwhelmed. Hope you liked seeing some of my weeds this week! We’ve been picking away at one project at a time around here. Many other things are going on. We are now in for some gorgeous Summer days in mid-coast Maine. Here are a few shots from the garden. Thanks for checking out Everlongardener this week and don’t forget to subscribe in the sidebar!

Hilary|Everlongardener

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Second round of basil, hope it makes it!
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A few strawberries!
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Peonies are opening!

From my garden to yours, over and out!