The Halloween season is upon us and there are many superstitions and symbols connected with this holiday, many coming from the home garden. The Irish have a legend about Jack-o-lanterns telling of a man named Jack who couldn’t enter heaven because he was in so much misery. He was also afraid to enter hell because of all the jokes he had played on the devil. So, Jack was sentenced to wander the earth with a lantern until Judgment Day. Jack’s lantern was a hollowed-out turnip stuffed with coal.
The ancient Druids of Britain believed that on Halloween night, ghosts, spirits, faeries, witches and elves came out to harm every day people. They thought cats were sacred and had once been humans, turned into cats as punishment for evil deeds. This Druid belief is the basis for modern-day witches, ghosts and cats at Halloween. People began dressing as these creatures, using dyes made from vegetables and fruit to turn their faces into grotesque monsters.
The Druids also had an autumn festival called Samhain, or summer’s end. This holiday is still practiced by the Wiccan religion and pagans today. It is a time of feasting on all kinds of food that has been grown in the garden throughout the season. The custom of using leaves, pumpkins and cornstalks as Halloween decorations also comes from the Druids.
In the United States, Halloween was not a significant holiday until the 1800s arrival of Irish and Scottish immigrants. Halloween celebrations began to take on a modern form as Americans replaced the Irish turnips with pumpkins for making Jack-o-lanterns. The practice of “souling” – visiting homes and offering prayers for the dead in return for gifts of food – was replaced with trick-or-treating and Halloween parties.
My article earlier in the week on Basil received an overwhelming response - thank you so much to all my readers. One reader asked for more information on the different varieties of Basil, so check out my article on the 6 most common varieties of Basil grown in the Bluegrass at Examiner.Com.
Mulberries are one of my favorite fruits, but it's also the messiest to have in your yard. The yum-yum yummy berries are slightly larger than pea size and are a deep purple color when truly ripe. These berries come on quickly and don't last very long, so you have to enjoy them for the short time they are around, then they're gone until next year.
Typically the mulberries start ripening during the 1st or 2nd week of June and they will only last until the end of June. Birds loves these small seeded fruit, as evidence of purple splotches dripped on clean laundry hanging out on the line. The easiest way to harvest mulberries is to spread a sheet or tarp on the ground under a tree and then shake the tree branches. The fruit will tumble to the ground. Mulberries are extremely soft when ripe and they do not store well, so it is best to eat them fresh.
Although I don't raise silk worms, I do know the silk worms main food source is mulberry leaves. I can remember going to the Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill - the largest historical Shaker Museum in America - to see the silk worm exhibitions. Silk worms are no longer raised at Pleasant Hill, but they do have the occasional traveling silk worm exhibits.
See that dark pink peony mixed in with the white ones? Pretty isn't it? And it's growing on a white plant ... that right, this is one hugh peony bush. It has been blooming profusly for the past 5 years, but this is the first year a pink bloom has shown up on the white bush. Strange, huh?
This is the same peony bush at the end of April. This clump is located at the top of my driveway garden - the one closest to mine and my neighbor's driveway and the blacktopped road out front.
This is a wide view of the peonies the day after Mother's Day.
Although I think it's beautiful to have a rogue bloom appearing on an all white bush, it is a mystery to me how this mutation happened. In the 15+ years I've been growing peonies, this is the first time I've had a totally different color bloom show up on bush of another color.
Dandelions always receive a bad rap from people who see them as weeds, But I know the truth of their nutritional value and every day uses. The leaves contain many good vitamins and make the perfect addition to summer salads, And the buds can be brewed into tasty oils and vinegars and fermented into dandelion wine.
All the rain we've had over the past week has been wonderful for the gardens - things are beginning to grow and look beautiful. One of the plants I'm most proud of is the Wisteria in my backyard - and yes, I know it can be aggressive, but my backyard is almost one acre and I love the blooms so much!
I planted the Wisteria 6 years ago - 2 plants at each corner of my girls' treehouse - one Chinese Wisteria and one Japanese Wisteria. In that 6 year period, the Wisteria has taken over the tree and the treehouse!
Aren't the blooms gorgeous?!! This is the Chinese Wisteria - it has more of a lilac color bloom
This is a view from inside the treehouse.
This is the Japanese Wisteria - it has more of a pink color to the blooms
Whoa! Where did Spring go? It was downright HOT working in the garden this afternoon! I think I got overheated.
A good friend brought me some black-eyed Susans and hollyhocks from her garden today - yippee!! I got part of them planted, but the rest will have to wait until tomorrow.
Because of the 80 degree weather for the past 3 days, I had to water the veggie garden and the new flowers and plants. Hopefully this will be the only time I have to water for at least one week because we're scheduled for rain starting Tuesday.
In the veggie garden, everything seems to be settling in. The cabbage, lettuce, brussel sprouts and strawberries look good and the onions are coming up. I applied some more straw around the plants and between the rows.
Spring is here and as I look at my shaggy yard, I realize there are several patches of yellow dandelions blooming in the grass. However, all my neighbors have tall fluffs of white dandelion seed heads bobbing around their neatly "scalped" lawns. One of my pet peeves is when people scalp their lawns by cutting it as low as it will go. I have a tendency to mow my grass on the highest setting and thus, I have fewer dandelion problems. The few dandelions I do have are really pretty growing among the green grass, plus there are all kinds of uses for dandelions.
Dandelions is a natural herbal remedy with numerous health benefits. All parts of the dandelion can be used: leaves, roots and flowers. A few ways I use dandelions are as follows:
1.) Use freshly washed leaves in salads for an added crunch plus extra vitamins and minerals. The leaves have strong diuretic properties and are a good source of potassium. 2.) Use dandelion flowers to make dandelion oil and vinegar for cooking. Dandelion vinegar is nice light dressing for a summer salad. 3.) Ferment the dandelion flowers to make dandelion wine - a drink that is not too sweet and not too tart. 4.) A tea made from the dandelion roots is helpful in relieving muscle spasms and for calming menstrual cramps and other symptoms.
Medicinal properties of the dandelion:
1.) It has mild laxative properties and helps relieve constipation. 2.) It aids in the process of digestion and boosts appetite. 3.) It is good for the complexion and helps prevent dry skin conditions and the occurrence of black spots. 4.) It is rich in potassium, iron and other vitamins that help in the treatment of anemia. 5.) The roots help in purifying the blood and removing toxins from the liver and the kidneys. 6.) It helps in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome. 7.) It is rich in boron, calcium and silicon and so protects women from osteoporosis and rheumatism by boosting the production of estrogen. 8.) It helps weight reduction by regulating blood sugar and improving fat metabolism.
Other uses for dandelions I have not tried yet, but look interesting:
1.) The sap from the stem and root of dandelions is supposed to contain astringent properties and helps in the treatment of warts, blisters, corns and acne. 2.) It is supposed to be a good substitute for coffee because it contains a similar taste but no harmful caffeine content.
A few things to be cautious about:
1.) Avoid if you are allergic to plants like chamomile and yarrow. 2.) Consult your physician if you’re using antibiotics or drugs that reduce blood sugar levels or act as diuretics.
So next time you look at the yellow blossoms popping up in your lawn, think before you call your lawn service.
I don't normally buy many things from Walmart, but after a friend told me about the great price on Hostas in the garden center, I had to go check it out.
My gardens are just a smidge over one acre and about half of that is in shade. I have been working on my shade garden for several years, but it's taking a long time to fill in the area on a limited budget. The $2 hostas were the perfect solution!!
And these are tiny little hostas either - I was able to get 10 Sum and Substances Hostas and they are one of the bigger size Hostas. I was also able to get 10 varigated and 10 golden Hostas. Now, if the ground would just dry up a little I could start putting them in the ground!
This is 3 pots of varigated Hostas grouped together.
After being so excited about the Cardinal nest in the mulberry tree outside my bedroom window - I was so disappointed today when I noticed the nest was empty. We first found the eggs on April 10th and they have not had enough time to hatch and the babies to learn to fly.
I don't know if something happened to the eggs and the parents abandoned the nest, or if something ate the eggs. I was so looking forward to watching the babies grow.
But alas, nature's cycle goes 'round and 'round.
I do have a Robin nest in the tree near my veggie garden - Mr. and Mrs. Robin get very angry with me when I'm working in the garden. The nest is too high in the tree to see how many eggs there are, but I'm looking forward to hearing the little chirps of babies.
There is also two Mourning Dove nests in one of our pine trees - we've watched countless Mourning Doves raise their young, so they aren't as exciting as the Robins or the Cardinals.
This year I decided to move my kitchen garden from the Back 40 to my front yard so it will be more accessible when I'm cooking. Our home is the last house on a dead end street, so I had not problem picking the front corner of the yard for this new garden. This plot will get full sun for most of the day and will make watering and other maintenance easier.
The first thing I did was lay out the 12 x 12 foot plot.
Then I moved several old tires to line the perimeter between the veggie garden and the perennial border. I will use the tires for my compost heaps and to start cuttings of shrubs, roses and other plants. The black frame in the background is an old futon - when I add the cushions it becomes my garden settee.
Because I want this to be a natural garden, I did not use any weed killers or poisons to kill the lawn. Instead, I layer thick pads of newspaper on top of the grass within the garden. The newspaper will kill the weeds, attracts beneficial worms and will decompose within a few months to enrich the soil. Vegetable roots will be able to easily penetrate the newspaper as they begin to grow.
I then hauled several wheel barrels of bark mulch to cover the newspaper. The mulch is almost 18 months old and it started as trees that Kentucky Utilities trimmed back in the winter of 2007. It is now rich, crumbly goodness that the veggies will love.
In a few days, I'll post a few more photos. As I have been planting the spring garden, I've been adding garden soil on top of the mulch and nestling the plants in snug. I'm then using straw to cover the soil and help protect the veggies.
The kitchen garden is slowly starting to take shape. Between rain storms and bouts of cold weather, it has been difficult getting the garden ready.
I have started a new kitchen garden this year because I wanted it to be closer to the house. To some people it may seem strange to have a kitchen garden in the front yard, but that's where I wanted it. I have a sunny corner of the front yard that is perfect for a garden because it is in full sun most of the day. Of course, because I live on a dead-end street, no one will see my front yard garden.
Over the weekend, I got the strawberry plants nestled in the ground and they received a nice, gentle rain overnight.
Today, I planted 18 cabbage plants, 9 rutabagas, 9 head lettuces, 25 Romaine lettuces and 2 hills of yellow summer squash. Boy, is my back killing me!
I have started some more indoor seeds which I hope will be ready for transplanting just after Derby Day: pickling cucumbers, bell peppers, banana peppers, Roma tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, yellow tomatoes and beef steak tomatoes.
I'm having trouble getting my pictures from the camera to the computer, so as soon as I can, I'll post some photos of the progression of my garden.
My bloggy friend, Lisa, from Tribal Witch, set me some strawberry transplants from her garden - happy dance! The problem is, it has rained for 2 days and the ground is too wet to work in. On top of that, there is a freeze warning for this weekend. I know strawberries are perinneals, but I'm still afraid that newly transplanted berries may freeze.
I can't decide whether to plant and then cover them at night, or to just baby them along until Monday when the temps are supposed to be 45+ at night. What to do, what to do???
Here are some pictures of the Momma Cardinal who had made a nest in the Mulberry Tree outside my bedroom window. The first one is a little fuzzy because we shot it through the window to prevent scaring Momma off the nest.
Of course, the flash scared Momma, so this is a picture of the two speckled eggs in the nest. It has been a week since she layed these two eggs, so I guess this will be the only two she lays. Notice the bits of plastic and yarn she has incorporated into the nest. This time of year, I put snippets of yarn on many of my trees and shrubs for the birds to use on their nests. It is fun to see what yarn shows up in the nests.
I'll be keeping you updated on the progress of the Cardinal family. I haven't given the Momma a name yet, so if you think of a cute name, let me know.
I am a married mother of 3 grown daughters and I have 2 granddaughters and 1 grandson. I currently have a gardening column in the Sunday's Advocate Messenger and I freelance for Kentucky Monthly magazine and Examiner.com.