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Archive for the ‘flowers’ Category

We went from unusually cool weather to dramatically (and unseasonally) hot weather in the second half of last week.  As a result, I found myself doing emergency harvesting of lettuce and other cool season crops, but I also got to see this lily burst into bloom.  I couldn’t resist sharing it with you.With this early heat has come a lot of humidity, like a giant’s warm, moist breath very time you walk outside.  That brought us critters, though, that might stay closer to the creek ordinarily, like this baby Ozark Zigzag salamander.  No, really, that’s what it’s called.  The photos are blurry because it was so tiny and I was so close.Can you see the little salamander on the big thumb?  Maybe that’s the giant whose breath I keep feeling.

No, that’s my husband’s hand.  The salamander must be really tiny.

Don’t worry; we set him free in a safe location near where my husband found the little guy.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader, including photographs.

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First off, happy Earth Day! I thought about doing an Earth Day post, but other time commitments prevented me.  I’d like to direct you to a fabulous post from Herban Lifestyle about how to make Earth Day everyday.  Click here.

Frugal Living:  Get the Most out of Your Chicken Leftovers

If you’ve read here here the past few days, you’ll know that I got really excited by our spicy barbeque smoked chicken earlier in the week.  We have continued to enjoy it, each time with a little variation in its saucing to make it fit a new menu.  Monday night we had paninis with the chicken in a smokey, sweet barbeque sauce and good cheese, served alongside spinach soup in the beautiful bowls I won from Polly’s Path.

Wednesday I cut a  big bowl of fresh lettuces and endive from our garden, pulled some carrots and radishes to slice, and clipped some chive blossoms for what I called buffalo chicken salad.  I sauced some of the chicken with hot sauce and used that with bleu cheese and homemade croutons to pile on top the salad.  I did take a photo of the lettuce (see below), but an untimely phone call and then hunger distracted me from shooting the salad.

Tonight?  It’s Mr. Homesteader’s cooking night, but I hear that we’ll be having something Mexican and that he’ll be using the smoked chicken.

Do you cook whole chickens?  If so, what’s your favorite way to dress up the leftovers?

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Lettuce Lessons:  Selecting Looseleaf Seeds

This is the big bowl of loose leaf lettuce, endive, and a little chard I picked from the garden.  The red frilly lettuce is Lolla Rossa.  If you see red and green on the same leaf, it could be Lolla Rossa inner leaves, or it could be Marvel of Four Seasons.  The lime green lettuce is called Black-Seeded Simpson.  It and Lolla Rossa are so attractive that I think either of them would be lovely as a border around a flower bed.  The frilly medium green stuff is in fact curly endive, and the leaf in sort of the middle left with red rib and veins is ruby chard.  All of these lettuces and other greens are easy to grow in cooler weather, and the chard has actually survived summer heat and freezing winters twice now as well as repeated cuttings in between.  We like growing head lettuces like butterhead and batavian, but these loose-leaf lettuces are really easy to grow for cut-and-come-again picking throughout the season.

Do you have favorite salad greens?  What grows well in your area?  Do tell!

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts with full URL and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome.  Please ask me for permission to use photographs.

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Today apparently a reader found this blog by typing the question “tomato shoots have come up now what?”  into a search engine.  It’s a really good question, so I’ll answer it as a follow-up to my Little Green Shoots post.  My knowledge on planting tomatoes comes from learning from my grandfather, from reading, and from my own experience.  The summer that my grandparents had to give up their place, Granddaddy planted his tomatoes in April and then hurt his back in early May.  By early June, my grandparents were living out of state. I did the last clean-up on the house in late August.  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  Despite months of complete neglect, Granddaddy’s tomato plants were all full of big, juicy, ripe tomatoes, some of the biggest, most flavorful I’ve ever seen.  I’ve included some of his techniques here.

Once you’ve successfully started tomato plants, you’ll need to make sure that they have three–okay, maybe four–things:  strong light, room to grow, and adequate water (but not too much!).  They also need wind to make them strong.

Let’s start with your light source. If you live in a warmer climate (so that the temperatures are at least 70 degrees F during the day), you can put your seedlings first in dappled sunlight and then gradually in full sunlight during the day.  If your climate is a bit cooler, you’ll either need grow lights or a greenhouse or grow tent.  Grow lights should be full spectrum lights designed specifically for growing plants, and you need to make sure that the light source is no more than about 2 inches from the tops of the plants.  Otherwise the seedlings will be leggy–tall and spindly.  Grow tents or a greenhouses should be warm–around 75 to 80 degrees F but not much warmer than 90 degrees F–and should have southern exposure.

When I say tomatoes need room to grow, I mean their roots.  Tomatoes rely on big root systems to feed lots of fruits at once with lots of liquified nutrients.  The root system helps them do that.  As soon as your tomatoes get their real leaves (the second pair of leaves), plant them in a bigger container–at least the size of a pint milk carton.  I use old plant pots I got with nursery plants, plastic cups with holes cut in the bottom:  you name it.  If you can drain it, you can use it.  And every year I end up giving some plants more room than others.  The ones with more room always grow better.

Seedlings need constant but light moisture.  Too much water and you’ll get damping off, where the stem shrinks and withers and the seedling dies.  Too little water and, of course, the seedling will die.  Always water from the bottom to avoid leaf problems. I use old salad containers for my saucers.  Seedlings have everything they need to start, so you only need a tiny bit of light fertilizing (like fish emulsion) every two weeks or so after your seedlings are a few weeks old.  If you are using a potting soil with fertilizer already included (yes, you can get organic mixes this way), you won’t even need to add fertilizer with water.  Over-fertilizing can also kill your plants.

The only problem with using grow tents or green houses for seedlings is wind.  A light breeze pushing on the stem will help it grow sturdier.  If you don’t have wind available, make some using a fan.

What if you do get spindly, leggy seedlings?  Re-pot them deeper.  Tomatoes and other nightshade plants like peppers and eggplants have a remarkable ability to grow extra roots along their stem.  Some plants suffocate if you plant them deeper than they were originally, but not tomatoes and their close cousins.  Just be sure to gently strip off any leaves that will be under soil, as un-stripped leaves can rot and kill the plant ultimately.

Finally, when your daytime temperatures are in the 70s and nighttime temperatures are in the 50s, you can plant out your seedlings.  If you are able to plant now and live in warm area, by all means plant!  Dig a very deep hole–at least eighteen inches–and fill it with peat, organic compost, manure, blood and bone meal, and soil. (Your county extension agent most likely offers free soil analysis; he or she can tell you specifically what you need to add.) Now strip off all of the leaves except the top two splits of leaves. Plant your tomato so that only the top two splits of leaves are showing and everything else is underground.  Your plant will develop a very strong root system that will let it survive dry spells without your watering much.  Fashion a collar to go 2 inches above and 2 inches below the soil around the plant.  This collar will protect against cut worms. (I use half-gallon paper milk cartons cut in half.) Next, plant a marigold or two next to each tomato plant. Marigolds secrete a substance that confuses tomato parasites like cut worms–and the flowers are pretty!

Happy harvesting!

Do you have favorite methods for planting tomatoes?  Share!  Do you have questions?  Feel free to ask them here, and I’ll do my best to answer.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts with full URL and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome. Please ask for permission to use photographs.

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A few days after I got out of the hospital some dear friends came to visit.  They gave my husband and me a break from each other and a chance to hang out with, shall we say, our own kind.  The wife of the couple walked around the yard with me, picking the spring flowers that I could not bend over to pick.  Our country yard is full of grape hyacinth, daffodils, buttercups, blue-eyed grass, and lots of other flowers I can’t identify, some wildflowers and some planted here decades ago and now naturalized. I’m reminded of Elton John’s lyrics:  “Lived here, he must have been a gardener who care a lot . . . .”  

My friend took some blooms home, and I added some forsythia and quince blossoms from branches that needed to be pruned to make bouquets.  As the flowers fade from both yard and home here, I want to share them with you.

quince with daffodils

daffodils

grape hyacinths actually smell a little like NuGrape

(Yes, Linda of Flourish Now, that’s an egg cup as a vase–told you I like using them that way!)

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As you select your seed for summer, consider planting a flower garden for your salads this year.

If you look closely in this salad, you’ll see two of my favorite edible flowers, borage and pinks.

Borage is the beautiful blue flower that is shaped like a star.  Borage flowers taste ever so slightly like cucumber or watermelon. The leaves are edible too, but since they are a little furry, they aren’t my favorite.  Pinks are in the same family as dianthus and carnations.  Just be sure only to eat flowers that you know were produced without pesticides.  In other words, please don’t bite into your carnation corsage!

In the foreground of this photograph are the unopened buds of chives.  Chives form puffy, porcupiney balls.  I pull the individual frilly petals out and sprinkle them in salad for a really mild onion or garlic taste.

Are you serving chicken salad?  Consider adding the purple tiny trumpet-shaped flowers of traditional sage.  For a splash of color, add the ruby red flowers of pineapple sage.

Other edible flowers include

  • nasturtium:  one of my favorite, both the flowers are leaves taste like mild horseradish; the leaves look like tiny lilly pads, while the flowers come in brilliant bright colors. Pull the petals out of the tough base.
  • calendula:  like a small golden daisy, calendula has sunset-gold petals that are lovely in salads and sprinkled on top of pasta.
  • violets:  violets are sweet additions to salads of baby greens or as edible garnishes on cakes and cupcakes; they can also be crystalized, but I’ve never attempted it.
  • pansies:  like violets, pansies are sweet, but I prefer them in salads.
  • rose petals:  sweet like violets and pansies, with similar applications.

Consider planting edible flowers this year.  You’ll love how they add vibrant color and new flavors to your meals!

Have you used edible flowers?  Which are your favorites?  Do you have questions about edible flowers?  Ask away!

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts with full URL and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome. Please contact me for permission to use photographs.

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