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First of all, let me begin by saying that I love green onions.

Scallions
I plant the seeds in my vegetable garden in fall and they are ready for me to harvest in May.
harvested_garlic
Freshly-harvested green onions on the right (Garlic is on the left).
I like to use them in my homemade salsa or sprinkled on top of any Mexican dish that I make – tacos, nachos, Mexican rice, etc.
What I don’t like is having to buy them at the store when they aren’t growing in my garden.  

BUT, I learned a great trick this year:
You can re-grow green onions by using the bottom part (the part you usually throw away).
Here is how you do it: 
1. Cut off the white base of your green onions (use the top green part for whatever delicious meal you are cooking 😉
2. Place the bottom part of your green onions in a glass or jar and fill with water.  Take care NOT to cover the top of the onion with water.
3. Place in front of a sunny window and change the water every other day.
4. In only a week’s time, you will see your green onion start to regrow.  The photo above was taken after 10 days.
You can see how the roots grew too.
5. Now simply slice of snip off the green tops for whatever you like to eat green onions on.
You can ‘re-use’ a green onion 2 – 3 times.  After this point, they will start to lose their ‘oniony’ flavor.
So, I hope you use this helpful tip.  It will not only save you $ at the store, but who doesn’t like more green onions? 

I’m sure you all have been waiting with baited breath for the second installment of how to grow and dry your own herbs….I know I have 😉

Clockwise from top left – Oregano, Basil, Sage, Purple Basil, Parsley and Thyme.

 Last time we talked about how to harvest and dry your herbsThe process is so easy – the ‘air’ does most of the work for you.

Once your herbs are nice and dry, it’s time to get the herbs ready for their containers.
Now, I will be the first to admit that dried herbs aren’t all that pretty.
Even though they aren’t all that attractive at this point, they are full of concentrated flavors that will help you create delicious food.
I bought inexpensive glass jars at IKEA for a $1 each in which to store my dried herbs.
Now it is time to get the dried leaves off, without the stems.


I found the easiest way to do this was to simply press the leaves between my fingers.  They came off easily, without too many stems falling in.


The few stems that fell in, were easy to pick out.  I then used my fingers to grind up my herbs to the desired size…


All there is to do at this point is to pour the herbs into my glass jars…

Jars of Oregano, Thyme and Oregano

My homegrown dried herbs are ready to use right away.  They also make great gifts.

Dried herbs should be stored in a dark, dry place (pantry or cupboard) and taste best when used within 6 months.

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I hope your week is off to a good start.

I had two consults last week, which went very well.  In the summer, I don’t do too many consults because many people don’t want to spend a lot of time in the garden in the heat.  I actually enjoy this time of year because it is a bit of a break for me 🙂     
Do you love using herbs when you cook?  I do – especially basil and oregano. I also appreciate how easy they are to grow. 
 
 

I grow basil, oregano, rosemary, sage and thyme in my garden.  To be honest, I don’t use a lot of fresh herbs and I really should.  I tend to use dried herbs instead.

While I do like to use dried herbs when I cook – I don’t like to pay $3+ dollars for a tiny container.  So, instead of buying dried herbs
at the grocery store – I make my own.  

It is very easy to dry herbs and they make great and inexpensive gifts. Herbs are best when they are air-dried – which is the method that retains their flavor best.  

Here is how I do it:

 

– I harvest my herbs, usually before they flower, for best flavor. In my herb container, there is basil, dill, oregano, rosemary, sage and thyme growing.  
 

– Pick your herbs in the morning and wash and dry them.  Discard any discolored leaves.  

– Using string or twine, tie your herbs into small bundles (this is especially important for basil, which as lots of moisture in its leaves).  Wrap the string a few times around each bundle to keep them from falling out as they dry.

Bundles of Oregano

Tie each bundle to a coat hanger.

Bundles of Oregano and Sage

 Herbs need to hung indoors to dry.  Hang them in an area out of
the sun in an area with good air circulation – I used our garage.  

You can hang them from a clothes rack that you use for drying your clothes, or you can tie them from almost anything.  Laying herbs on paper towels and placing them by a de-humidifier to dry is another method to dry herbs.

**To protect your herbs from dust, you can place paper lunch
bags over each bundle – to do this make a hole in the bottom of each lunch bag and thread the cotton string through it before attaching the string to whatever you are hanging your herbs from.  It is okay if the herbs stick out the bottom of the bag – it’s the top which need protection from dust.

Depending on where you live, drying herbs can take as little as a week in a dry climate up to 4 weeks in more humid climates.

Come back for “Part Two” to see how I how to crush and store dried herbs.

 
*If you are interested in growing herbs, learn how I planted my herb container here.

Earlier this week, I stepped into my new vegetable garden and was pleasantly surprised to discover that my bush beans were ready to be picked.

I was so excited.  
You really have to look underneath the leaves to see the beans.
So, I ran into the house for a basket and got to work, picking beans.
This will be enough for my family for dinner.
But, instead of eating them now – I decided to blanch them and freeze them.
Why?  Well, so I could show you how to do it 🙂
You may wonder what ‘blanching’ is?
 ‘Blanching’ is the process of submerging your vegetables in boiling water for a short period of time.
This is important to do before freezing your vegetables because:
– it halts enzymes, which decreases the flavor and texture of your vegetables.
– it cleans the surface of your vegetables and kills any germs.
– it improves the color of your vegetables.
– it helps to retain vitamins.
So, how do you blanch vegetables?
Well, the process is pretty much the same for most vegetables with the only difference being the amount of time they need to be submerged in boiling water.
To blanch green beans:
 
Cut off the stem ends.
Add to a pot of boiling water and boil for 3 minutes.  This step varies depending on the type of vegetable (check here for more info).
Immediately scoop out your beans and submerge in ice water.
Keep in the water for 3 minutes until the beans have thoroughly cooled.
Drain off the water.
Aren’t they a pretty green color?
 
Pack into a vacuum-sealed bag or put them in a plastic freezer bag.
It is very important to remove all the air, or your vegetables will get freezer burn.
To do this, close the zipper more then halfway and then carefully ‘roll’ your beans up, pushing out all the air and then seal the bag completely.
You can see all the air is gone and now my blanched beans are ready for the freezer.  They will last up to 9 months in the freezer.
But I’m so excited about my first harvest this year that I think I will serve them to my mother on Mother’s Day.
To cook, I will simply add my frozen beans to boiling water (the same way I cook frozen beans from the grocery store).
I grew Bush Blue Lake 47 Beans.  I bought the seeds from Burpee.  I planted them in late February, although you can plant them through March in our area.
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Guess what??
Only 6 days to go before my road trip with my mother.
I’ll share our destinations next time 🙂

I have really enjoyed growing cauliflower this year.

But, we have an awful lot of it.  Much more then we can eat.
And even though my kids will eat it….I’m afraid if they see it at every meal that they will soon get very tired of it.
So, I gave a whole head away to my mother and then got to work on preserving my cauliflower so that we can enjoy it for the next six months.
It is very easy to do and this method works for broccoli as well.  It called ‘blanching’, which scalds vegetables in boiling water for a few minutes.

Blanching must be done to vegetables before they are frozen.

Why?
Well, blanching stops enzymes that would normally cause the vegetables to loose their flavor, texture and color.

In addition, blanching helps your vegetables to retain their vitamins and even improves their color.
Here is how I did it:
Cut the cauliflower in equal sized pieces – about 1 – 2 inches in size.
 This is about 1 1/2 heads of chopped cauliflower.


 Place the cauliflower in a pot filled with enough water so that the vegetables are covered.  The add 1 teaspoon of salt.

Bring the pot to a boil and then cover for 3 minutes and keep boiling.


 Immediately pour the cauliflower into a colander and cool them off with cold water and ice.
You can also dunk them in a bowl filled with ice water.
This ‘shocks’ them and stops the cooking process. 

Now it is time to store your newly blanched vegetables.


 Divide your blanched vegetables into plastic freezer bags and squeeze all the air out before sealing the bags.
Label your bags and write the date on the bag when you blanched your vegetables.
Put in your freezer, where they will last 6 months.
So, what type of vegetables would you like to preserve this year?
**Thank you all for sending me your ideas for using cauliflower earlier this month.  I can’t wait to start using them 🙂

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Do you like to use fresh herbs when you cook?

What if you could just step outside your door and snip some herbs without having to go to the store?   
Have you seen how expensive fresh herbs are at the supermarket by the way?

A few days ago, when I taped some “How To” gardening segments, I was asked to do one on how to plant a container herb garden.   

This is the herb container garden that I created on-camera and I thought you might like to create your own.
 
Here is how to do it:
 
1. Place your container in an area that receives at least 6 hours of sun.
 
Basil
 2.  Fill your container with planting mix, which is sterile, has a light texture and is specially formulated for container plants.  It retains just the right amount of moisture for plants. Potting soil can become soggy.
3. Add a slow-release fertilizer, such as Osmocote, and work it into the top 2-inches of soil.
Oregano
4. Plant your herbs. Oregano, rosemary, sage, and thyme are easiest to grow when you start out with transplants. Basil grows easily from seed, but can you also use transplants.
 
Sage
5. Water deeply. Do not wet the foliage when you water them as they prefer to stay dry.
Thyme
6. Herbs like to dry out between watering. To check when they need water, simply stick your finger down to 1-inch deep – if the soil is moist, don’t water. However, if it’s almost dry, then water deeply until water runs out the bottom drainage hole.
Purple Basil (Not the healthiest specimen, but it was the only one they had – it was over-watered at the nursery).
7.  Don’t add any additional fertilizer after planting.  Herbs don’t like extra fertilizer since it causes them to grow larger leaves with fewer oils, which is what gives them their flavor.
 
I am going to place my new herb container in front of my new vegetable garden.  
 
Later, I plan on drying some of my herbs, which I will share with you.

I’m sure most of you know how much fun it can be to garden with your kids.  I remember my dad building each of us a raised planter where we could grow vegetables and flowers.  Today, my kids and I went to the store to buy flowers for their new garden.  You will NEVER guess what they are planting their flowers in 😉

Our first stop was our local nursery.  Each child was allowed to pick out 2 six-packs of flowers.  The kids decided to each pick a different type of flower and then share them with each other.  My youngest daughter selected geraniums and blue petunias.

My older daughter selected stock, (beautiful and fragrant despite its ordinary name) and white alyssum.


My son decided on dianthus and snapdragons.


We finished making our selections and then got ready to go home and start planting.  The only question the kids had was – where were they going to plant their flowers?  Well…..
 

How about their old kiddie pool?  You know, the ones that cost less then $10 and your kids have fun playing in during the summer.  When summer is over, most people either throw it out or store it somewhere out of the way.  Well, you can use it as a planter for either flowers or shallow-rooted vegetables or herbs.

First, move the pool where you want the garden to be as it will be too heavy once you fill it with potting mix.  Then make multiple holes on the bottom for drainage.  Then fill with a mixture of planting mix and compost.  Sprinkle some slow-release fertilizer and now begin planting! 


My youngest daughter planted the first plant, a peach-colored geranium.


My teenage daughter is overseeing our planting while texting on her phone.
 

We finished!  The kids are so excited to see their flowers grow.  The garden will be a riot of different colors and has no sense of design, which is as it should be for a children’s flower garden.

This will be our “before” picture.  We planted geraniums, stock, snapdragons, petunias, dianthus and alyssum.

If you would like to try this at home and you want the garden to become a somewhat more permanent part of the landscape, you can add a brick border or plant shrubs and perennials around the outside of the pool.

**Some of you may have noticed that my three youngest children do not look like me, (my two oldest daughters do).   We adopted our youngest children from China.  I call them my “Three Chinese Miracles”.

Each year, around the end of August, I walk into the plant section of our local home improvement store just to look at the colorful, flowering annuals


While I may be sorely tempted,  I don’t buy any; I just like to look.


BUT, I know that I am in trouble when the majority of the nursery shelves is covered in a sea of winter annuals – I feel like a kid in a candy store.  The vibrant colors and scents are almost intoxicating – to me anyway.

 

In the past, when I managed landscapes on golf courses, I would come to the store in our work truck and load countless flats of annuals for planting around the golf courses and the other buildings.  I loved planning ahead of time what I would plant and the color combinations that I would use.

Petunias, bacopa, and alyssum

In the low desert, winter annuals typically show up in the nurseries around late August, and it is so easy to get caught up in the excitement of fall being just around the corner along with the promise of cooler weather.  So before you know it, you buy a bunch of flowers and run home and plant them.  The problem is, is that it is often still too hot for them to survive.

 Red geraniums with bacopa
For years, I would tear out the summer annuals around the golf courses and plant winter flowers in late September, usually with good results.  Of course, I would have to be vigilant and replace a few plants that would fall victim to the warm September temperatures, but overall they did fine.  
 
That is until one year when we had higher than usual temperatures in early October.  The flowers kept dying despite my best efforts.  Each day on my way to work, I would have to stop by the nursery to buy replacement plants.  This got kind of old after 2 – 3 weeks and I would have to go from store to store to find the same kind of flowers that I needed.
 Blue Petunias 

So, I learned my lesson – no matter what, we would not plant winter annuals until late October.  I mean, it was silly to pull out the summer annuals in September when they still looked great.  I think people want to get a jump start on winter flowers because it makes us feel like the weather is cooler when it isn’t.  So unless you want to make extra visits to your local nursery, WAIT until mid-October.

Now, since I no longer manage landscape areas, I am only responsible for my annual pots.  Last year I planted hot pink geraniums with alyssum, and they did very well.  In the past, I have tried the following combinations with good results:
 
– Yellow Snapdragons with Blue (Deep Purple) 
– Petunias and White Alyssum
– Red Geraniums with White Alyssum
– Hot Pink Geraniums with Lobelia
– Yellow Pansies with Lobelia 
– Light Blue Pansies and Alyssum
– White Snapdragons with Pink Petunias and Lobelia 

 

Snapdragon

 PLANTING:  For containers (pots), I use a planting/potting mix, which is specially formulated for containers – not potting soil, which can become soggy.  

 
If you are planting annuals in the ground, then I add compost or potting soil to the existing soil at a ratio of about 1 part compost to 1 part existing soil.  


If you do not have a compost pile at home, you can buy bagged compost at your local nursery.  Add slow-release fertilizer, following directions on the label.  Plant your winter annuals, making sure that they have enough space between them to grow.
 
CARE:  Water twice a day.  I usually water in the morning and maybe late in the afternoon as the plants are becoming established (about two weeks).  You can then water once a day or every 2 – 3 days, depending on the weather.  


In a managed landscape setting, I would also fertilize weekly with a liquid fertilizer to promote maximum blooming.  At home, I usually fertilize every other week.
Viola
 

Now that we are in the second half of October, I am ready for planting winter annuals in my garden.  I have been thinking about planting violas.  I have not planted them since I was a little girl and I did notice some beautiful ones at the nursery back in August.  Those violas are probably dead from the heat of late August.  


Hopefully, they will have some new ones in now that it is really time to plant!