Saturday, September 14, 2013

Communicate your community garden message

Michigan State University Extension advises community garden organizations to have their promotional programs and communication needs planned in advance. This contributes to an organization's long-term plan and promotes community within the group. Regular communications build trust, respect, cooperation and inclusiveness among community garden members. Regular publicity also draws in the greater community at large. Be sure to consider organizational goals when developing the community garden's publicity and communication plan.
Regular communication helps to build trust, respect, cooperation
 and inclusiveness among community garden members.

Clean up garden tools before storing them

If your garden season is winding down, this is a good time to inspect, repair and clean gardening tools before storing them for the winter. University of Georgia Cooperative Extension offers a checklist to keep garden tools and equipment in good condition and operating properly.
With proper care, garden tools can last for years.

National Indoor Plant Week starts Sept. 15

National Indoor Plant Week, Sept. 15-21, was established to increase public awareness of the importance of indoor plants and their many attributes. Annually celebrated the third week in September, it was established to promote and increase public awareness of the importance of live plants in interior spaces.

Numerous studies have shown that plants have a positive psychological impact on people. According to a recent study, employees exposed to interior plant settings demonstrated better attitudes, positive emotions such as happiness, friendliness and assertiveness.
National Indoor Plant Week was established to
promote and increase public awareness of the
importance of live plants in interior spaces.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Fig Fest!

Figs are the final burst of the summer bounty and in my mind, the ultimate form of food porn. I have never seen such a voluptuous and indiscrete fruit as the fig. Soft and tender on the outside and easily bruised, left one day too long on the tree and it is ruined by its own weight or marauding birds. Their delicate nature force customers pay dearly for them at the farmers’ markets or to purvey them in processed forms of dried fruit, preserves and jams, or dried-out cookies. If one can manage to find them, figs are best in fresh form, to better enjoy all their sensuous goodness.

The first fig of the season must always be enjoyed raw, unadorned, and in all its natural glory. But as with the dealing with this easily perishable fruit, nature in all her irony turns all the figs ripe at once, so time is of the essence.  Here are some of my favorite recipes:

Fig Pizza

This has to be Hubby and my favorite pizza. Better yet, it is very easy to make with pre-made dough. We head to our local Little Italy in Downtown San Diego to purchase pre-made dough, either from Assenti's or Mona Lisa's. Allow the dough to rise for a couple of hours then roll out into 2 thin pizzas. Transfer dough to pizza stone and cook in oven for seven minutes at 500 degrees. After seven minutes, pull dough out of oven to add toppings. First, smear goat cheese (not feta!) over the dough, then add sliced figs. Transfer back to oven and bake for ten minutes at 500 degrees. Remove pizza from oven (final time) and sprinkle arugula greens and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar over the figs. Buon appetito!

Fig Jam

A friend recently brought fig jam to an Afternoon Tea I recently hosted and was kind enough to share the recipe she found in the New York Times Magazine. It is so simple yet so unbelievably good! The key, as with all simple recipes, is to use only the best ingredients. (I used figs, fresh squeezed lemon juice, sugar, and 2 sprigs of thyme.) Please keep in mind that this recipe does not preserve the fruit, but rather, will last up to a week in a refrigerator. Hubby was in heaven in eating this recipe with cheese on toast. I offered to teach him how to make the jam, but he demurred, “a wife should always have her secret recipe; so her husband remains in awe of her.”

Healthy Fig and Yogurt Breakfast

Place 4 ounces of non-fat, plain Greek yogurt in breakfast bowl. Drizzle a natural honey over yogurt (to taste). Slice one large fig and add slices to yogurt. Add a tablespoon of slivered almonds for some added crunch. Just a satisfying as a doughnut, but so much healthier!

Figs with Goat Cheese and Prosciutto

Cut fig in half, add a dollop of smooth goat cheese (not feta) to empty pit of fig, then wrap the half fig in a thin piece of prosciutto, covering the cheese. How easy is that?! Now you can surprise your friends and family as a true gourmand!

Enjoy the figs while they last, for the won't last long!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Designing your "ideal" outdoor room

You can enjoy your outdoor living space by re-thinking your home’s landscape. Planting a few trees and shrubs along your home's foundation isn't going to cut it especially if you enjoy grilling and eating outdoors, bird watching or hosting guests. The outdoor spaces you desire need to be identified by “function” (e.g., grill area, flower garden, quiet space) first, then the design process can begin. Michigan State University Extension says that by combining basic principles such as scale, balance, repetition and dominance with artistic elements such as line, form, color and texture, you can create a beautiful landscape canvas to enjoy for many years to come.
To enjoy your outdoor living space may require
 re-thinking your home’s landscape.
Photo by Rebecca Finneran, MSU Extension

Create a four-season container garden

Have a decorative container that looks just too good to put away after the summer? The Chicago Botanic Garden offers some ideas on how to create a four-season container that can be enjoyed year-round. Miniature evergreens, low-growing perennials and ground covers can often survive winter conditions if they are heavily mulched.
The Chicago Botanic Garden suggests
rotating seasonal plants into containers
to reflect the best of the garden and to
extend the growing season.

Fall is a good time to upgrade garden beds

Fall is a good time to improve flower, shrub or tree beds by adding composted manure. Michigan State University Extension advises gardeners to remove mulch out of beds. Raking the bed helps to loosen the soil which may have become compacted during the summer. Add 2 to 3 inches of composted manure to the soil surface and replace the mulch. The soil on the bottom and the mulch above keeps the composted manure damp improving the habitat for beneficial earthworms and other soil insects. By spring the earthworms will have turned the compost into the soil. Also consider adding slow-release fertilizer which will be beneficial to the plants.
Adding composted manure to garden beds
during the fall can improve the soil for
plants and soil insects including earthworms.
Photo courtesy of Chicago Botanic Garden

The American Garden Award winners are...

The 2013 American Garden Award, now in its fifth year, featured four new flower varieties chosen by their breeders for their excellent garden performance. Once these new varieties were planted and put on display at 31 participating gardens across the United States and in Quebec, the public was invited to vote for their favorite variety. The votes have been counted and the three winners are:

Grand Prize Winner: Verbena 'Lanai Candy Cane'

Second Place Winner: Zinnia 'Zahara Cherry'

Third Place Winner: Impatiens 'SunPatiens
Compact Electric Orange'



Sept. 7 is National Planting Day

 The second annual National Planting Day, sponsored by Keep America Beautiful, will be held on Saturday, Sept. 7. The purpose of the event is to mobilize Americans to bolster local ecosystems by planting native species of trees, shrubs and plants. Through National Planting Day, Keep America Beautiful, its affiliates and partners are raising awareness about the importance of native species in restoring balance to local environments, while creating vibrant, more beautiful communities.
National Planting Day celebrates the value and power of native
species in restoring ecological balance to the environment while
creating greener, more beautiful communities.