"Gardening gives one back a sense of proportion about everything--except itself."
~ May Sarton, Plant Dreaming Deep, 1968
Labor Day, observed on the first Monday of September, celebrates the workers of our country, as well as the social and economic achievements of the labor movement.
It started off small, with local ordinances in the early 1880's in various cities across the country. Oregon was the first to celebrate the holiday statewide in 1887. By 1894, there were 28 states that celebrated Labor Day, and in that year Congress passed an act declaring that the first Monday in September would be a national holiday.
While always controversial, labor unions contributed a good deal to the welfare of the American worker. The 40-hour work week, the weekend, minimum wage, and workplace safety laws were all hard-fought triumphs of the labor movement.
With or without unions, the contribution of laborers to the development and advancement of this nation is unquestionable. Whether they work with wood, iron, tile, glass, or soil, their products are all around you. Every road, building, wall, window, appliance, or piece of furniture around you was made by someone. Labor Day gives us a chance to tip our hats to them.
We will be closed on Monday in honor of Labor Day. We will resume our normal operating hours on Tuesday, 9/5.
In the Kitchen Garden:
- Hoe regularly to keep down weeds.
- Lift onions and shallots as they become ready.
- Continue to thin vegetables sown earlier.
- Give plants that need a boost a dose of a quick-acting fertilizer.
- Sow cabbages for spring use.
- Pinch out the growing tips of runner beans when they reach the top of their support.
- Pay regular attention to outdoor tomatoes.
- Continue to harvest herbs regularly.
- Summer prune cordon and espalier apples if you have not already done so and if shoots are mature enough.
- Tidy up summer-flowering strawberries. Cut off old leaves and unwanted runners, remove straw, and control weeds.
- Protect fruit against birds if they are troublesome. A fruit cage is ideal.
The Flower Garden:
- Deadhead plants in borders and containers regularly.
- Feed plants in containers to keep the blooms coming.
- Hoe beds and borders regularly to keep down weeds.
- Take semi-ripe cuttings.
- Clip beech, holly, hornbeam and yew hedges, and most evergreen hedges, if you have not already done so.
- Plant spring-flowering bulbs.
- Take fuchsia and pelargonium cuttings.
- Sow hardy annuals to overwinter.
- Plant lilies.
- Clear summer bedding and prepare for spring bedding plants.
- Continue to watch for pests and diseases on roses and other vulnerable plants.
- Disbud dahlias and chrysanthemums as necessary.
- Lift and store dahlias after the first frost.
- Lift and store gladioli and other tender bulbs, corms and tubers.
- Take in tender aquatic plants from the pond if frost is threatened.
The Greenhouse and Conservatory:
- Bring in house and greenhouse plants that have been standing outdoors for the summer.
- Sow spring-flowering plants such as cyclamen, schizanthus and exacum.
- Clean off summer shading washes.
- Repot cacti if they need it.
- Repot seedling potted-plants as it becomes necessary.
- Plant hyacinth for early flowering under glass.
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Chrysanthemums are a mainstay of the fall garden. Pots of these colorful perennials really brighten up a porch, patio, or entryway.
They can also be used to decorate indoors; the fall colors are beautiful for holiday table settings. Mums come in a variety of types including daisy (single layer of petals), button mums (tiny spheres made up of dozens of petals), and spider mums (long arching petals with tips curved upwards). Yellow, rust, gold, bronze, and maroon, as well as pink, white, red, and lavender, are just some of the many exciting chrysanthemum colors.
All the crazy weather we have had this summer across the country serves as a great reminder to make sure to address any slope erosion problems before they arise. And fall is a great time of year to plant shrubs and ground covers that can help to prevent a hillside from slipping away.
Consider that the upcoming cool months provide a time when plant roots grow fast and the need for water is less apparent for new plantings. You and your newly planted stock now have an advantage over the hot summer sun or cold winter nights.
To see if you have a potential hillside erosion problem, be alert for these tell-tale signs:
• Bare spots anywhere on your property
• Tree roots exposed above ground
• Small stones or rocks appearing on the ground surface
• Small rills or gullies beginning to form
• Build-up of silt in certain areas
• Soil splashed on windows and outside walls
• Soil washout along driveways
A number of excellent plant and groundcover choices not only thrive with the good drainage conditions of most hillsides but will also go a long way in providing protection from heavy rains. The key is to plant a mixture of plant types and sizes. You want to have layers of vegetation for rainfall to hit, so it will be diffused before it reaches the ground. Generally the larger the plant grows, the deeper its roots, so don't neglect the larger, slower-growing plants.
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If you have an herb garden you know what a great pleasure it is to have access to your own home-grown herbs--ones that are exactly to your taste, rather than a generic supermarket blend. Drying or freezing some of your herbs can give you that pleasure year-round. Along with the taste advantage, your own herbs are much, much cheaper.
The method of preparing herbs for storage that gives you the best flavor and fragrance is air-drying. But if you don't have a warm, dry area that is suitable, or you have herbs that aren't suited for air-drying, don't despair! There are other methods that work almost as well.
Sturdy, low-moisture herbs are best suited for air-drying. Some examples are bay leaves, dill, oregano, marjoram, parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. This method is also effective for large batches of herbs. Basil, lemon balm, and most mints have high moisture content--these can mold if not dried quickly.
Air-Dry Method 1:
- Cut large stems/branches from mature plants. Shake them to get rid of any insects, then remove any damaged leaves.
- Rinse them with cool water and gently pat them dry with towels or paper towels. Turn the branches upside down and take off some of the leaves along the lower stem (the top, after you've turned them upside down). Gather five or six branches together in a bunch.
- Get a large paper bag and make several holes in it for ventilation. Put the bunch upside down inside the bag, gather the opening around the leafless stem ends, and tie securely. The bag will protect the bunch from dust and other pollutants.
(You can skip the bag if drying for sachets - but keep them away from direct sunlight; that will tend to reduce the fragrance.)
- Hang the bag in a warm airy place and leave it alone for several weeks.
- When the leaves are dry, check for any signs of mold growth; if you find mold, discard the whole bunch! If the bunch is clean, strip the leaves off of the stems and toss the stems. Store the whole leaves in small airtight containers (plastic "zip" bags are great). Label them and store them in a cool, dry, dark place.
Air-Dry Method 2:
- The second way to dry herbs is to spread them out to dry.
- With fine-leafed herbs such as oregano and thyme, simply remove the foliage from stems and spread the leaves on a cookie sheet or piece of clean window screen and set in a warm, dry, airy place away from direct sun.
- Stir them up every few days to turn them over. Once the leaves feel crisp, you can store them in an airtight container for later use.
Drying in an Oven:
This works well for herbs that tend to mold if not dried quickly--but can also be used if you don't have a warm, dry, well-ventilated (and convenient) place to hang herbs.
For oven-drying, heat the oven to a low heat (150-200F), place the herbs on a baking sheet in the oven, keep the oven door open and bake the herbs until they are dry. This will take several hours, maybe longer if you are drying high-moisture herbs. Keep an eye on them--you want them dried, not burned!
Some people dry herbs in the microwave--we don't advise that, as it takes out a lot of the flavor and fragrance. If you must dry this way, put about 4 branches in the oven between paper towels. Heat for a minute or two on high. If the herbs are not brittle and dry when removed from the oven, repeat for 30 seconds more each time until dry.
Don't freeze herbs to use as garnish--they may become limp and unsightly. Some herbs that freeze well: basil, borage, chives, dill, lemongrass, mint, oregano, sage, savory, sorrel, tarragon, and thyme.
If they are to be used in soups or stews, you can do a quick and handy freeze in an ice cube tray. Chop up the leaves and put a teaspoon of the herb in each section. Fill with water and put the tray in the freezer. To use, simply remove the pre-measured herb in the ice cube, and drop as many as you need in your soup or stew.
You can also simply put a few bunches in a freezer bag or other container and put them in the freezer.
With summer still here, garden herbs are in high gear, producing lots of pleasing, aromatic foliage that is great for cooking and potpourris. Freshly harvested leaves are wonderful for cooking, but you might want to preserve some to use later in the year or to create sachets that will fill your home with wonderful scents.
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Will ants hurt my plants?
Not directly. But if ants are living in the soil around a plant, they can make the plant dry out and need water more frequently. This is because their ant tunnels create air pockets which dry out the soil faster.
On the other hand, those same tunnels help to aerate the soil, which is a good thing. If ants are on the foliage of a plant, that's usually a sign that harmful sucking insects such as aphids or whiteflies are feeding and damaging your plant.
These sucking insects emit a residue called honeydew that is sweet and very attractive to ants. The ants will roam your plant and feed on the sweet honeydew.
Unfortunately, they will do nothing to control the damaging insect. In fact, ants sometimes will move predator insects to fresh parts of the plant to help them create fresh honeydew. At this point, they become partners in crime and should be destroyed. Their criminal status may be determined by interviewing a sampling of suspected ants or catching them red-handed in the act of predator insect transport.
There are several effective methods to control ants, including aerosol sprays and ant baits containing boric acid. You can also place a sticky barrier around the trunks of trees or bushes that are vulnerable to attack. As always, do not use sprays on edible plants unless the sprays are marked for use on edibles.
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What You'll Need:
- 2 lg. cucumber, diced
- 1 zucchini, diced
- 1/2 lg. red onion, cut into quarters & very thinly sliced
- 3 lg. tomatoes, diced
- 1 green or red bell pepper, diced
- 2 (3.8 oz.) cans sliced black olives
- 2 tablespoons (or more) chopped, fresh basil
- 2 teaspoons (or more) fresh thyme leaves
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
- 1 teaspoon Mediterranean sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon white sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper (white or black)
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- In a large salad bowl, combine the cucumbers, zucchini, red onion, tomatoes, bell pepper, olives, basil and thyme - mix well.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, sugar, pepper and olive oil.
- Sample the dressing and adjust seasonings as desired.
- Pour the dressing over the salad (add a little at a time, mixing in between, to avoid using too much dressing--you will probably have a little more dressing than you need).
- Cover and place in refrigerator and let marinate (stirring a couple of times) for at least 4 hours.