Tuesday, 31 May 2011

At last! Kentucky Wonder Green Beans Begin to Produce

Yes, they are getting it done. Exactly 60 days after sowing the seeds, the first Kentucky Wonder green beans are showing up on my trellis.

They may be small yet, but they are present. I will post pictures when they grow big enough to eat.

Yesterday was Memorial Day, and I had company for lunch.

Here was my menu:

Baked chicken, with mushroom and sour cream gravy
Green Beans (my home-grown ones, the Roma II bush type bean)
Squash Casserole
Boiled Yukon Gold potatoes
Iced Tea

For dessert:

Blackberry crisp, warm with a scoop of ice cream. Instead of using sugar, I used agave nectar. Instead of straight brown sugar, I used the 50% brown sugar/50% Splenda mix sold in my grocery store. No one knew the difference. It was delicious.

The company was pleasant, and my green beans got rave reviews.

I love gardening. More pictures of the beans later.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Cucumbers and Yogurt: They Go Together

I just pulled my first cucumber from the garden yesterday.

As I experienced last year, my cucumbers are excellent. Last year, I sliced up the cucumbers and dipped them in homemade Hidden Valley Ranch dressing. Yum.

However, if you can get used to plain old yogurt, and you find a brand you like, the cut-up cukes are excellent mixed with yogurt, salt, and pepper. This makes an awesome dip that does not have any of the mayonnaise (or fat) of Hidden Valley dressing.

The plain yogurt I'm currently enjoying is Brown Cow yogurt. They actually produce Cream Top Brown Cow Yogurt (where the first 1/2" is a layer of cream!), but I have a feeling that's just a little too indulgent and fattening to eat every week.

The Brown Cow brand advertises that its creamy taste is superior because of the four active live cultures in its yogurt. In addition, the company never uses artificial growth hormones in the cows' feed.

Greek yogurt is also very good, and usually a lot thicker than regular yogurt.

Here is a recipe to try, using cucumbers and yogurt!

Greek Yogurt with Cucumber

1 grated cucumber
6 oz. plain Greek yogurt
1 t. prepared mustard
1 T. grated onion
1 T. fresh lemon juice
1 t. fresh dill
Salt and pepper to taste

Peel and grate the cucumber and let the excess water drain from it, or press it out. Add cucumber to the other ingredients and chill everything for at least an hour.

Makes a great pita pocket sandwich. Makes a great dip for crackers or veggies.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Water Gardening: 6 Reasons to Add a Pond to Your Back Yard


Relaxing retreat, roaring rapids, roiling rivers, or reassuring renewal?

Is there anything more enchanting than a waterfall? What kind of waterfall and mood do you wish to create? There are gently trickling water features, and then there are boisterous and splashy water flows. Your decision will be influenced by the volume of water in your pond and by the arrangement of your rocks.


Coy koi, delighted dragonflies, friendly frogs, and beautiful birds

Your pond will become a haven for beneficial insects, amphibians, and fish. Beneficial insects, frogs, and fish eat many nuisance insects that may be destroying prized plants and flowers in your back yard. Birds will appreciate having a place to get a drink, and consequently, they may be less inclined to peck those ripening tomatoes on which you’ve lavished so much time and attention.

Landscape Enhancement

Lovely lilypads, lilting lotus, lush lizards’ tail

For color, texture and interest, you cannot go wrong with water plants. Water lilies, the mainstays of your pond, are available in many pretty colors. The umbrella palm, with its tall, graceful, upright stalks adds dimension and interest to your pond. Dozens of varieties of rush feature interesting flowers, or no flowers at all, if that’s what you want.

Carefree Maintenance

Once per day (look), Once per year (clean)

You can’t believe this one. Water gardening is one of the easiest ways to carefree plants in your landscape. My pond, now in its third year, is virtually maintenance-free. I’ve noticed that the growth of the taro (elephant’s ear) has become especially vigorous in my waterfall now that it’s established. Indeed, with a pond, you may eventually grow alarmed at how your plants are taking over. But typically, your water plants will only need repotting once per year, at pond-cleaning time. Other than that, you won’t do much except make sure your pond’s water level is topped off during hot months when evaporation is high.

If you have a larger pond, many fish, and a biological filter, you’ll have to be more diligent to attend to the needs of your fish, and your filter will need regular cleaning. The truly stunning water features require a little more work and care.

Property Values

Selling feature, simple addition, shrewd investment

Many years ago, everyone wanted a swimming pool in his/her back yard. Long ago, my realtor told me that a swimming pool on the property made a house sell faster, even if it didn’t add a lot to the price of a house. In today’s economy, however, this is increasingly not the case. With the declining U. S. real estate market, it may be very difficult to recoup your investment in a pool, and many people do not want the expense and maintenance of a swimming pool. Once installed, a pond adds a charming water feature at a fraction of the cost of a pool, and with far less maintenance required. It is even possible for you to build your own pond, and thus save more on your investment – which brings me to the last point.

Emotional Rewards

Salutary, salubrious, subtle support

Many of the award-winning ponds in my area were built by women. One woman I know of remarked that building a pond is a soul-enhancing, therapeutic adventure.
First you do all the construction – the building of the waterfall with its interesting rocks, the digging of the pond and placement of the liner. You place small plants in the water and bless them as they send out their roots in hesitant communication. You watch, stupefied, as, within days, your water turns the color of pea-green soup, the result of microscopic algae. Then you observe, as, magically, about two weeks later, the chemistry balances, and your water turns sparkling clear. In time, your plants take off, and you may be thrilled by the appearance of that attractive green moss on the boulders in your waterfall. Your pond has become its own quiet eco-system, ever-changing in response to life, pulsating with surprises year after year.
I can’t think of a better reason to have a pond.

Third photo in this article is from Everything Fishy. Used by permission.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

The Gardens in Mid-May

Firstly, here is the water garden. It's coming along well, and the second water lily that I got last year is near to blooming. I've got more overhang from a peach tree this year, and this means more shade for the pond, but it can use it in the afternoon. Obviously I've got enough solar rays to make the lily bloom.

Next are the yellow pear tomatoes, an heirloom variety that measures about 2 inches long. When the tomato plant comes with a sticker that reads, "Maturity in 78 days," it isn't kidding. And frankly, I've found that it usually takes longer -- especially since we've been having nighttime temperatures below 55 degrees. Those unseasonably cool nights will just mean that the tomatoes will take longer to ripen, and new fruit longer to set. Oh well, one must be patient.

Why grow yellow pear tomatoes? Well, I think they make perfect dog treats, don't you? I can just see Meadow now, licking her mouth in anticipation!

Next we have the vining plants -- Kentucky Wonder green beans and cucumbers. There is no better green bean in this world than Kentucky Wonder, another heirloom vegetable. And because it has that attribute, the vines will take longer to produce, unlike my bush beans which have little beans on the stalks already.

Finally, we have the pepper plants. The first to produce is the lilac pepper bush. They say that the fruit will turn from lavender to red; however, I think the color this moment is more of a purple-black. A most unusual color!

Friday, 13 May 2011

More Pond Woes

Well, it's been about three months since we fixed the leak in the vinyl liner where the rat had chewed a hole.

I had the exterminator out, we put out rat bait boxes at strategic spots, and after two months of setting the bait, what happened?

That's right -- another rat chew on the waterfall liner, except a bigger hole, and harder to patch.

Today, when my pond servicer was here, I decided to look inside the bait boxes. There are 4 of them in all, and I checked 3 boxes. They were installed two months ago, but just about all of the bait is gone!

This means that Clint's comment about the bait lasting about 3 months was off, a little. It looks like I am going to have to check the boxes every month.

What a bad year for rodents!

Clint also says you can tell what kind of year it will be for squirrels and rats by noting the number of acorns falling, the abundance of pecans, and the availability of the fruit harvest. When conditions are optimal, you get more rodents.

Also, the winter was very dry, and that makes the rats show up more -- especially in an aquatic environment like a pond. Likely, the bait drew many rats from the neighborhood.

We will be installing new bait next week. A pain it may be, but I'll have to check the boxes more often, and add more as necessary. In the meantime, Alice says that the patch she put on the liner is probably going to fail before too long. It is very likely that I'll need to get part of a new liner, up to the point where the dropoff on the waterfall is. This is likely going to cost $175 - $200.