If you're interested in my all-time favorite recipes, check out this post first: My Favorite Recipes
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Apparently I'm not alone with my frustrations. If you Google, "Keeping Cats Out of the Garden," you'll find hundreds of entries. I've tried so many of them...mothballs, cayenne pepper, citrus peel, coffee grounds, and more. But our Pacific Northwest rains dilute anything I might scatter faster than I can re-scatter. I've been cleaning out my "litter box" for years and I don't have a cat.
My latest idea is to use netting...the kind you put over your garden to keep birds out. I've attached it to the fence post and run it down the property line, tied in place. I know there are so many ways the cats can get in the yard, but this is the most direct. It's their main route in and their quick escape out when I find them in the yard. I'm also using the netting to place over a bed with fresh soil. It's not invisible, but it's the least noticeable type of netting/mesh I could find.
The best solution would be to keep the cats inside. They are healthier and live longer lives. I know people who keep cats outdoors because they don't want a litter box inside. Hello!!! I'm in the same boat. I don't want to clean out a litter box either, and yet, I'm forced to do so. Where do you think your outdoor cats poop?? Someone is cleaning up after them. And why are cats legally allowed to roam anyway???
For those who keep them outside, I found this suggestion which might be a happy medium for cat owners and their neighbors:
"22. Or if the cat owner doesn't want/can't have inside trays...Ask them to dig a pit in their garden, several feet deep and 2 foot square and fill with peat. Then all that is needed is for this outside toilet to be dug over frequently."
Anyway....here are some highlights:
Monday, June 29, 2009
Today, as I was contemplating what to make for dinner tonight, I remembered that it was the night of our meal exchange. That meant that someone else was cookin'! Whoohoooo!! That "someone else" was my friend, Debbie.
She emailed* a note that said she'd made Pesto Chicken Grill Packets. Well, the name alone just made my mouth water. Pesto. Chicken. Grill. The packet part was intriguing. I didn't really look at the recipe....just the directions, which were 25 minutes on the grill (in the packet) on medium heat.
When the timer went off I went and unwrapped my packet for the first time. It really was like opening a present!! This is what I found inside:
Katie & her friend had already eaten, and there was some pasta leftover. So I scooped out the food from the packet and placed it on a nest of pasta. YUM!
So here is the recipe for you to try, if you like:
Pesto Chicken Grill Packets
Victoria Spencer from Everyday with Rachael Ray
- Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
- 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (about 2-1/4 pounds)
- Salt and pepper
- 1 cup pesto
- 2 zucchini, thinly sliced
- 4 plum tomatoes, chopped
- 8 scallions, trimmed
Serve with rice. (I think I'd prefer pasta.)
Preheat a grill to medium. Cut four 12-inch-long sheets of heavy-duty foil. Drizzle 1 teaspoon olive oil into the center of each sheet.
Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Lay 1 piece of chicken in the center of each sheet and spread 1 tablespoon pesto on top.
Mound one-quarter of the zucchini, tomatoes and scallions over each chicken breast. Dollop 3 tablespoons pesto over each mound. Fold the foil over the chicken and vegetables; pinch the edges to seal.
Cover and grill the packets over indirect heat for 25 minutes. Remove from the grill and open carefully.
*(OK...she didn't really send me an email. It was a Facebook message. We are old, but modern!)
Oh, and let's be real...it will also be used for the neighbors' cats to use as a litter box. Yeah, there are major drawbacks to having good soil...
Support is essential if you want perky daisies! The simplest way I've found to support them is to tie 3 circles of jute around them as they're growing. It's a loose circle, just tight enough that the jute won't slip down. I've used stakes too. In fact the original clump in the back has 5 green stakes with the twine wrapped around those. No matter how you choose to do it, give them a bit of support.
Here's what they'll look like without support:
Inside the clump you can see the stems falling over in all directions:
Sadly, most of the things on here are from last summer/fall. I'd like to take care of 2 things a week from this list. So, that's what my Spring Gardening Resolution is! I'll cross out the task and date it once it's completed...just so I (and you!) can see how I'm doing.
Gardening To-Do List
Create a fence/barrior to hide the mess. (OOOoooo...One of my hydrangeas could help with this task!!)
Remove stepping stones by back patio. (This must get done. It will take 10 minutes tops!!!)
Put up a sturdier wire/wood trellis for the clematis by the shed.
Break down wooden pallet.
Create drip irrigation systems:
upper side patio
2 camellias (One died...)
Glowing Embers Hydrangea
LaRita White Mum
Apricot Twist Wallflower
Miss California Fuchsia
Add some aluminum sulfate to the two blue hydrangeas (by shed).
Repair back lawn.
Set into the ground 7 stepping stones in the north side yard.
Plant more bulbs in fall: front & back yards.
4/13/08: Added about 20 more daffodils to the front.
Move the fence back
Tear out the weed barrier by the maple tree.
Amend the soil by the maple tree.
Put thyme in the V by the pavers.
Place the barrel of mint on pavers.
Weed some more.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Cool beans!! In researching my new "Miss California" fuchsia, I found this fabulous site, the Northwest Fuchsia Society. They have a whole list of hardy perennials for the Pacific Northwest. WHOHOO!!! There are some gorgeous fuchsias shown!
As I tore out the Creeping Jenny in the southwest (shadiest) corner of my backyard, I was busy at work dreaming about what would replace it. I already have a Nikko Blue hydrangea, two Lime Rickey Heucheras, and two Hellebores in that spot. Originally there were three of each (well, only one hydrangea!), as I do believe in the rule of odd numbers, but eventually you just get what you get...
Today, at our local Garden Faire, I scoped out the shade plants. The first to catch my eye were the hydrangeas. I have a huge weakness for hydrangeas. That's not a good thing, as they do take up some space! (But they are so hard to resist.) Somehow, someway, they will fit!!
The first to catch my eye was an oakleaf hydrangea; specifically Hydrangea Quercifolia Snowflake. I have one lacecap, and four mopheads (the round puffy blossoms you see most often), but I don't have an oakleaf. The blossoms weren't round, but kind of conical (like those from a butterfly bush or lilac), with double white flowers. Supposedly they will give me great fall color and winter interest...can always use that in the garden! The price was right...just $6! It's not much more than a twig right now, but I love buying smaller plants. They're usually much less expensive and don't need as big a hole.
After reading a bit, I've learned that they simply don't survive in heavy clay soil. They need good drainage. Our soil is heavy clay, though we did amend it when we first started landscaping the yard 5 years ago. It hasn't been amended since, so I'm going to have to be patient and wait until I can work the dirt and add more amendments (50/50 soil/compost mix). I don't want it to die!
Another booth had a lot of 1 gallon Heuchera plants for just $4 each. I snagged four that I don't have: Carmel, Hercules, Miracle, and Harvest Lemon Chiffon. Several other booths had Heucheras...but at $8/9 each! Later on, I found 1 or 2 gallon containers at a local garden store for $15! Honestly, there's not much difference between a 1 and 2 gallon plant. If you can buy them in 4" pots (which I usually do...just couldn't find them today) the prices are about $3-4. So I figured my 1 gallon plants were true bargains!
I did find a perennial fuchsia for the shady area: Miss California. I've had good luck with the perennial ones in my side yard, and am hoping this one does as well.
Also catching my eye (just as I was leaving...isn't that how it always is?!) was a Shasta Daisy "Crazy Daisy" (Leucanthemum superbum...or Chrysanthemum). The frilly petals were whimsical and fun. The shopkeeper explained that every blossom on the plant was different. Though it's not a shade plant, I am crazy about daisies, and brought it home with me too!
The Garden Faire usually has some incredible yard art. Two years ago I purchased this copper/tin watering can birdhouse which I (as Eloise would say) love, love, love! This year, a rusty iron flower caught my eye. I gave it a serious lookover, quickly looked at the rest of the yard art and came back minutes later. I'm not sure where it will go, so I'm playing around with locations in the back. I'll live with it in different spots a few days at a time until I love, love, love the location! I also need to decide whether to use it as a trellis with beans/flowers growing up it. Part of me loves that idea; the other part worries that the flowers will cover up too much of the shape. Again, I'll just have to play around with it. Maybe some years I'll grow annuals (sweet peas??!) and others I'll let it go naked.
Just after the Garden Faire, I went on the local garden tour that coincided with the events. I'll post about that tomorrow, and just mention the one plant I saw that I had to have. Seriously, out of all the plants I saw, I just fell in love with this little mini daisy plant that was in a mixed container. It's not really a daisy, but Argyranthemum "LaRita White". Excitedly I asked the owner if he knew where one could be purchased. He did...and off I went in search of one!
I found it at Kraemers...but for 19.99!! Looking more carefully, I discovered it was three separate plants. And the garden home owner I spoke with said it re-seeded prolifically. I looked elsewhere and didn't find it, so I splurged and brought that home with me too.
Of course, when you're at Kraemers, you're bound to be distracted by all sorts of fabulous beauties that are just begging to come home with you. I don't know if you hear the cries, but I sure do..."Choose me! Choose me!" Today it was a perfect pink "Glowing Embers" Hydrangea. Oh, I hope I can keep my soil the right amount of acidity (trying for 6.7-6.8) to keep it that perfect pink!!!
I love, love, love new plants!!!
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Back in April when they were in full bloom, I was sitting in our swing beneath the two backyard plums. It was a quiet warm day, and the only noise around was the constant buzzing of the bees. They were everywhere! I kept saying to them, "Pollinate, pollinate, pollinate!" Sure enough...they pollinated. So now, two months later the trees are full of cherry sized plums. These plums don't get very large, maybe around 1" in diameter. They'll be ready in August and are quite tasty!
We are growing three different types of blueberries, and just yesterday I found this little volunteer plant in the garden. As tiny as it is, there are berries on it! I'm going to let it grow a bit more and then find it a new home.
Two other surprises were the pink snapdragons and a yellow calibrochia which came back. In the PNW, these are considered annuals, and I usually pull them out in the fall. As I've talked with other friends they say theirs sometimes come back too. So, from now on, I'm not going to leave them alone, and hope they'll return!
And, finally, the most exciting growth for me to watch this year is the formation of our first four pears. This pear tree was planted two years ago, and I'm thrilled to have pears so soon!
Saturday, June 13, 2009
This might be one of my absolute favorite pictures of our Golden Retriever, Tahoe. Today I was outside taking pics of the garden, and found Tahoe in the herb garden. I quickly called his name and snapped this photo.
I've had a garden longer than I've had a dog. I was a bit concerned about how it would all work out. Would he dig everything up? Would he trample the plants? Would he pull out my plants? Would he eat the plants?
Digging: As a pup and young dog he was quite the digger! He'd find a bare spot of ground and in mere seconds we'd have a hole. We were diligent and got after him every single time. I did consider trying to train him to dig on command, but neither he nor I were smart enough to do that. Plants 1; Tahoe 0.
Trampling: I don't have a lot of fussy plants. I wanted to have a pet/kid friendly yard, so the great majority of my plants are perennials and can take a beating. I wanted little ones to feel welcome among the flowers. Tahoe has always been very careful in the yard, choosing to run on paths between the plants. The one exception is the half circle bed right in front of our swing. When we're in the swing, he wants that spot. Nothing will grow there. Plants 1; Tahoe 1.
Pulling: This was quite frustrating in the beginning. We were landscaping our yard at the same time Tahoe came into our lives. So every single plant was new. I learned that I could not plant anything if Tahoe was in the backyard with me. If he saw me put it in the ground, he'd pull it out right away. However, if he stayed in the house while I planted, my plants were safe. Thankfully we caught onto this quirky habit pretty darn quick! Plants 1; Tahoe 0.
Eating: I have been very careful not to plant anything toxic in the backyard. All the rhodies, grapes, foxglove, etc. are in the front yard. Thankfully Tahoe has never munched on my plants. He is quite the connoisseur of long, tall grass. Anywhere it pokes out he'll snack on it. Not all that great for him, but a habit we've not been able to break! Considering I don't care about any bits of long grass that sneak up on us: Plants 1; Tahoe 0.
All in all, I'm thankful that our rambunctious pupster doesn't give me much grief in the garden!
I have a large supply of tomato cages. Most are made of sturdy galvanized steel, but a few are the smaller cheap ones that bend quite easily. I keep them all, as the little ones will fit between the larger ones in the bed. My advice though, would be to completely skip the bendy ones and spend a bit more for the sturdier cages. Take a look at the welding too. If it's just a little melty-looking dot at the joint, they are likely to come apart as you push them into the ground.
Anyway...back to the funky garden part. Last year, I spray painted the bean-poles lime green. Next to the green, the plain metal cages looked quite boring. Today I went out and spray painted some cages sunny yellow and hot pink. I love the color!
Painting them was quick and simple, but it took a lot more paint than I expected. I only got 2-3 cages covered with just one can of paint. The newspaper beneath the project got most of the color! If I did it again, I'd try painting them with the cages loosely nestled within each other. I think you could get at least one more cage painted that way.
To avoid toxins in your soil, don't paint the ends of the cages (the part that goes in the ground).
Tonight I put them in the garden bed while the tomatoes and tomatillos are still small. I do like the fun, unexpected burst of color. And, the yellow and pink go well with the watering can birdhouse I bought a couple years ago...not to mention these HUGE columbine which are right across the path from the veggie bed.
Lime green bean poles (from last year's garden) --->