easy

Bloggers in Bloom!

Taking part this year in the Authors in Bloom Blog Hop where you’ll find ten days of gardening tips, recipes and giveaways! Decided the more the merrier and why not? Gardening is merry and fun. :)

authors in bloom

Better yet, creating scrumptuous dishes with our produce makes it all the better. For new gardeners, herbs are a great way to begin the adventure and lend themselves to all types of recipes. A simple way to use herbs are by making pastes and freezing them. Not only will you lock in the flavor, but you’ll make it easy to enjoy the fresh taste of herbs all year round.

For a simple basil paste, I use about 4 cups of basil (or 4 oz. stemmed) and approx. 1/4 cup olive oil. Place the leaves in a food processor and drizzle with olive oil. I pulse to begin and then hit a steady high if need be. Transfer paste to freezer-safe bags, flatten to remove all air and place in freeze. That’s it! Fresh herb paste ready to use when you’re ready.

basil paste

Variations include oregano and parsley. Use other herbs that don’t keep their same bright flavor when dried such as the mints, lemon basil, lemon balm or lemon verbena, and use cold-pressed nut or seed oils. Be sure to label the containers.

chop rosemary add to butter

You can also use the freezer method for herb butter. Rosemary butter with a hint of lemon is one of my favorites. Cilantro, too! For full recipe and details, check my previous post: Where Garden Meets Kitchen. For those who want to forgo the paste and make a delicious pesto, use about 2 cups basil (1 large bunch), 3 med. cloves of garlic, 1/4 cup pine nuts, 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese (freshly grated) and about 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil or less, depending on how thick you like your pesto. The key is to chop the ingredients using a mezzaluna knife (shown above) and not to use a food processor. If you must process, do. Your pesto will still taste delightful, but don’t tell your Italian grandmother. She would NOT be happy. You see, chopping vs. processing allows the flavors to blend into a true emulsion or paste, allowing flavors to retain their individuality.

For my giveaway, I’m offering up a spring mix of goodies including a basil dipping set for that basil you’re growing, a ceramic garlic storage, garden-themed notepad and scented gift soap. Once you try your hand at herbs, growing garlic should be next on your list. It’s easy, minimally fussy and makes a great companion in the garden for roses and your other vegetables. And when you need an organic pesticide? Garlic will be your new best friend!

authors in bloom giveaway

To enter my giveaway, you can leave a comment, subscribe to my blog by entering your email in the upper right corner, follow BloominThyme on Twitter and like our Facebook page. Four chances to win! Remember: to be eligible for the grand prize, you must leave a comment with your email contact info. For my garden giveaway, use the rafflecopter giveaway box below and good luck!

Congratulations to Shadow on winning the prize! And a BIG thanks to all who hopped with us. :) See you next year!

Think “OUTside” the Garden

With so many things to do in the garden, it’s a wonder you can plan for tomorrow, let alone next week or month—but you should try.  The payoff will be well worth it.  From fastidious pruning for an increase in yield, to prepping for vegetable storage when your harvest comes in, you’ll want to be ready for the abundance of joy you’re going to reap!

What should you be thinking about when it comes to crafting this marvelous plan?  Why, your kids for one!  Are they weeding?  Digging?  Bug dispatching?  Wonderful!  Reward them with some “down-time” in the garden, as in “no chores.”  You do want them to come back, don’t you?

teacher's gift

We’ve all heard about creating the classic corn husk dolls, but have you considered using those same husks to make mini baskets?  Basket weaving is an excellent exercise for little fingers to practice dexterity—beats the DS hands down—as well as producing a keepsake for their bedroom, or a share for school.

Growing berries?  Perfect!  How about mixing them with a dash of organic sugar and make your own preserves?  They make great teacher gifts.  Speaking of teachers, how about teaching your children the value of seed saving?  When all these vegetables reach maturity, they’ll be chock-full of seeds.   How about collecting them and storing them in your very own seed packets?  (You can find simple how-to templates in the Kid Buzz section here on the website) More

Get Composting!

Composting is one of the easiest aspects of gardening. It requires little maintenance and produces amazing results. You remember my compost chickpeas, don’t you?

compost chickpeas

Well, they’re aren’t the only thing that’s been growing in the compost pile. I’ve grown, potatoes, squash (that’s a little squash there to the right), tomatoes, beans…the list goes on. And trust me, I do very little when it comes to composting, other than faithfully dumping my kitchen scraps and fall leaves.

Compost is the mixture of decomposed remnants of organic matter (those with plants and animal origins) used to improve soil structure and provide nutrients. 

inky compost

Basically, a compost pile consists of plants, lawn clippings, kitchen scraps and the like.  Formed into a pile and turned occasionally, nature takes its course and the materials break down.  We add compost to our garden soil because it provides nutrition for vigorous plant growth, improves soil structure by creating aeration, increases the ability of soil to retain water, moderates soil pH, and encourages microorganisms whose activities contribute to the overall health of plants. More

Trying My Hand at Chickpeas

Also known as garbanzo beans, chickpeas are one of my favorite beans. I love them in hummus, fresh on my salad, mixed with Indian curry spices… In my opinion, there’s nothing not to love about these beans. Which brings me to my latest venture. As I always say, “Grow what you’ll eat.” I eat chickpeas. I should grow chickpeas. My compost pile seems to have no problem growing them! (That’s them, to the left. They look sort of like ferns.)

 compost chickpeas

Shoot. If my compost pile can do it, I can do it, right?

First up, I amended my soil with the very same compost. Seems a no-brainer. Next, I set out a drip hose (chickpeas like low water and NOT on their leaves) and planted my organic beans along its line. Once they sprouted, I scattered some corn gluten (excellent weed preventer) and voila – chickpea sprouts! NOTE: Wait until you have sprouts before scattering your corn gluten. Otherwise, you guessed it. Like unwanted weeds, your chickpeas won’t sprout, either.

chickpeas

Aren’t they adorable? Chickpeas don’t require a lot of fertilizer, especially nitrogen. As with other legumes, they fix nitrogen into the soil, so choose a fertilizer that is low to nil on the nitrogen. I like a bit of seaweed emulsion and bone meal.

Each plant will yield several pods, each containing about 2 peas. Not a lot, which is why I planted so many! Seeing as how these are doing so well, I’m already planning another row of them. After all, I have 23 beds in my backyard garden. Why not fill them with the stuff I love?

Easy Grow Wheatgrass

I’ve been wanting to grow wheatgrass but wasn’t sure where to start. With a pretty busy schedule and no idea what the process involved, I was a little hesitant to take on a new project. But after reading a few articles on the amazing healing powers of wheatgrass juice, I must admit, I was intrigued. As a fan of holistic healing solutions, this juice seemed too good to be true. Story after story extolled the benefits of drinking the stuff and I knew I had to try it. I’m curious that way. :)

I was completely sold when a few locals began growing wheatgrass. I thought: here’s my chance to get a personal tutorial and tutorial I received. This video was made by a local fellow working with World Wellness. It explains everything, shows everything, as well as offering a handout which I’ve included below for your convenience. I’ve also added a few personal notes for further clarification.

I purchased my seeds from GotSprouts and soaked them as directed. Sunflowers float, wheatgrass sink. More

Kale Chips Made Easy

Here in Florida the weather is cooling, providing the perfect conditions for growing kale, broccoli, cabbage, spinach…all the yummy, dark leafy greens. And with these dark leafy greens come with numerous health benefits. Rich in folic acid, vitamin C, potassium and magnesium, as well as containing a host of phytochemicals, such as lutein, beta-cryptoxanthin, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene, you certainly want these guys in your belly.

And homemade kale chips make for a healthy snack that will delight the taste buds! Not only healthy and packed with vitamins, these kale chips are versatile and wonderfully easy to make. Simply clip the kale leaves from the garden, clean off the dirt and arrange on a cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper–a little garlic powder–and voilá!

kale chips roasting

kale chips roasting

My kale chips might look a bit dead and brown, but that’s only because I went heavy on the olive oil and it soaked through.

kale chips in the oven

roasted kale chips

It didn’t affect the taste in a negative way. Quite the contrary. I loved them! And if you don’t want to eat them straight from the dish, toss or crumble into your salad. Definitely worth a try! And think of how healthy you’ll feel about it.

Time to Plant Those Sw-eeeeet Onions!

Sweet onions are delicious when purchased from the store, but they are butter creamy delightful when pulled from your garden. You can eat them raw without the “bitter” taste, or sauté with to a sugary caramel glaze. How about baked onions? This recipe is easy and really brings out the flavor.

Baked Sweet Onions

Hmmm good! Best of all? They’re easy to grow. EASY. But they take time. Six months’ worth. But take it from me, these gems are worth the wait.

However, now is the time to plant. Contact your local seed store and see if they have the seed “sets” in stock. If not, maybe they can order some for you. The kids and I planted this row over the weekend. One hundred and twenty-four sweet baby onions! YUM! More

Tired of Weeding?

My kids are, most definitely. Me, too. With a garden 40 ft. X 100 ft. the weeds can get a bit crazy. I’ve instituted the use of heavy black paper to cover by beds between plantings, which cuts down on the time spent pulling those rascally weeds, but what about the beds where I’m actively growing?

They still need weeding. The solution? Corn gluten. It’s all-natural and the perfect organic solution to weed prevention–prevention being the key word.

Corn gluten meal contains naturally occurring substances which inhibit the growth of the seed’s tiny feeder roots. This causes the weed seedlings to die before their roots ever have a chance to become established. Also, many products sold on the market contain nitrogen, which makes them a good fertilizer, too. Best of all, corn gluten is safe for children and pets.

corn gluten

The only downside is the solution doesn’t come cheap. A 25 lb. bag will run you around $35 and you must apply liberally to gain the full effect, as shown above. You could even stand to apply heavier than I’ve done, but you get the idea. Liberally means a lot. However, this stuff works.

So if you have established plants in your garden, weed the area well and then sprinkle corn gluten around them as a weed preventer. If they’re only seedlings, I’d wait a bit, continuing to pull weeds by hand until the plants are of decent size. I once had a batch of okra and although I didn’t apply the corn gluten very close to the babies, it still worked to prevent their growth. :(

Look forward to hearing about YOUR experience!

Pick Okra at Peak of Perfection

When growing okra, daily vigilance is a must. Not because of bugs or disease–okra are pretty tolerant on these counts–but because of harvest. Okra will range in size from an inch to six inches–a big difference.

Okra in varying stages of maturity

And in this case, size DOES matter. Those six-inch okra might look grand and delightful, but you don’t want to eat them. They’re tough and not nearly as tasty as their younger counterparts. Go figure.

Anyhoo, speaking of their younger counterparts, tender young okra are most definitely what you’re after when it comes to harvesting okra. The small ones are tasty straight off the vine, tossed in a salad, soaked in a tomato stew… There are a host of ways you can use okra, particularly if you enjoy Cajun-style cooking. YUM. My son prefers them Southern-style which means rolled in cornmeal and deep-fried. More

Kids and Seeds

As our school year winds to a close, the kids are dutifully preparing for next year, eager for another season in the garden. We’ve planted our seeds, watched them grow and have reaped our bounty. Now comes the question: What to do with the seeds?

Why sell them, of course! We’re forward-thinking self-sustaining gardeners with a mind for planning, and we know that if we sell some of our seeds, we’ll have enough money to purchase more nifty magnifying glasses, spray bottles, worm poop and the like!  (We can grow and harvest seeds, but we’re NOT harvesting worm poop.)

And where are we going to store our seeds?  How about these fabulous seed packets?

seed packet variety

Aren’t they divine?  The kids made them and it was so easy. First, we sat in our circle of creativity. More