It’s the last day of March! Can you believe that? Tomorrow it’s April 1st, Daylight Savings Time begins Sunday morning, and all the smoke detectors get new batteries this weekend. Woo-Hoo!
[A day without sunshine is like, night.]
[Hard work pays off in the future. Laziness pays off now.]
-IT’S NATIONAL REPOT YOUR PLANTS DAY! – That’s right, April is National Gardening Month, and to help kick it off, Sunday, April 3rd is National Repot Your Plant Day! If you’re not sure whether your potted plants need repotting, lay them on their side and gently slide them out of their pot. Look for –roots densely wound inside the pot – excessive roots growing out of the drainage holes – lack of visible potting soil / all you see is roots - plant looking peaked, yellowing, not growing. If your plants do need repotting, -use a top grade soil-less mix – upgrade to the next size pot, no larger – loosen dense roots before repotting – always repot at the same depth as from the original pot. Water thoroughly when finished. If you’d like to upgrade or change pot styles, now’s the time!
[Some people appear brighter until you hear them speak, proving that light travels faster than sound.]
-CUT THOSE GRASSES! – Many ornamental grasses are starting to show green growth at the base of the clumps, so be sure you get that old foliage removed as soon as you can. Cut those grasses (old foliage) back anywhere from 2 to 10 inches above the ground. If you have liriope, wait until you see it starting to re-grow, then cut it back if needed (and most of it looks pretty rough this spring!). This is also the time for transplanting and dividing ornamental grasses if needed.
[What happens if you get scared to death twice?]
CUT THAT GRASS! –Sort of, yes. As the lawn begins to green, and the soil becomes dried enough that you mow without leaving ruts, go ahead and give your lawn its first spring mowing. And be sure to lower your mowing height by an inch for this first mow. It’s that first spring mowing that not only gets rid of those beige colored grass blades left over from the winter, it also helps to pull up small debris, pulls up dead grass blades, and pulls up the existing grass blades that may be laying down from the winter months. All this pulling up and fluffing up helps the soil to warm quicker, cleans up the lawn environment, and gets that lawn off to a quicker start. You’ll be amazed how your lawn responds to this first early mowing! Especially since you’re mowing with those newly sharpened mower blades. You did have your mower blades sharpened, didn’t you?
[When everything is coming your way, you’re in the wrong lane.]
[How do you tell when you’re out of invisible ink?]
-GROW IT IN A POT - Container gardening allows anyone the opportunity to grow plants. Annuals, perennials, herbs, trees ands shrubs, vegetables, water plants; if it grows, chances are it can be grown in a pot. Container gardening is mobile, can be a quick fix, quick spruce up or decoration, can be short or long term, helps to extend the seasons, can be year-round, and works for homeowners, condo and apartment dwellers, kids, senior citizens, physically challenged, or anyone who just wants to do a little gardening. So, let’s take a look at the basic materials you’ll need to get started with container gardening.
Here’s what you’ll need:
1.) The first thing you’ll need is the container. And you know what? Any container will work, as long as it’s large enough to support the root system of the plants you intend on growing in it, and that it has excellent drainage holes. There are so many pots and decorative containers to choose from today, it’s unreal. But again, size and great drainage are the 2 most important factors. Do not add gravel to assist in drainage. All it does is add weight to the pot!
2.) Next, you’ll need a good soil-less potting mix. These mixes are what the professional use, and although there are many brands to chose from, the basic ingredients include sphagnum peat moss, vermiculite, perlite, and sometimes a small finely ground pine bark. Forget the 99cent bags of muck, invest in the soil-less mixes. And remember, you can use them year after year. Depending on the soil-less mix, you may want to add extra Pine Soil Conditioner to the mix (25-30% pine soil conditioner). Combining soil-less potting mix and Pine Soil Conditioner makes one very nice growing medium!
3.) Soil-less mixes are basically nutrient free, so you’ll need to add a little fertilizer to the mix. Use a slow release fertilizer such as Osmocote for a slow all season feeding, and then supplement additional feedings as needed with good old Miracle Gro, Fish Emulsion, or fertilizer of your choice, and feed as needed depending on what you’ll be growing in your containers.
4.) And here’s a real secret to container gardening. Plants in containers will be depending on you for water. So make sure you have a good water wand. And to help cut down on your watering, add Soil Moist to your soil-less mix. These tiny polymers absorb water, swelling to 200 times their original size, and as the soil-less mix becomes dry, the Soil Moist releases water back to the soil, basically cutting your watering in half. Also consider using ‘Aqua Cones’ to help you water your pots.
Okay, now you’ve got the basics for container gardening. The rest is up to you and your imagination. "If it grows in the ground, chances are it’ll grow in a pot. And if you aren’t doing some type of container gardening, you just aren’t gardening!"
[The early bird may get the worm, but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese.]
-From Rita - Rita Nader Heikenfeld, CCP / Macy’s Regional Culinary Professional / Herbalist / Author / Local TV and Radio Cooking Expert / Adjunct Professor U.C. Clermont College / Community Press Papers [email@example.com attn: Rita]
My hens are enjoying a taste of France today – they’ve been pecking happily at the sorrel and tarragon in my herb garden. I don’t mind that a bit, but I do hope they keep away from my costmary and savory, which are barely showing green. And remember that dill and cilantro I planted in the garden last fall? They’re up several inches and the stems are unbelievably thick. And talk about chives – they’ve volunteered all over the garden and even into the flower bed!
Today I’m sharing recipes using chives and spring vegetables in one of my favorite grains: couscous. Couscous, as you know, is a grain shaped pasta which takes only 5 minutes to "cook". Whole grain couscous is best for you, since your body absorbs it slower than regular couscous, and this helps stabilize blood sugar. Chives, of course, are good for your heart, and the asparagus is rich in folate, a really important B vitamin. I’m ahead of you again this year planting my potatoes – Yukon gold are in my bushel baskets ready to sprout!
Vegetarian Couscous with Spring Vegetables
1 cup couscous
1 teaspoon cumin or to taste
Asparagus: several nice stalks, cut on diagonal about 1/2" long
Handful onion chives, minced or 3-4 green onions
Handful garlic chives, minced or 1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 can chicken broth, 14.5 oz approx.
Salt and pepper to taste
Film the bottom of a pan with olive oil. Add garlic and cumin and cook until fragrant but don’t let the garlic brown. Add asparagus and cook just until they turn bright green but are still crunchy. Add chives and chicken broth. Bring to a boil and add couscous. Give it a stir, turn the heat off, cover and let sit 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork, salt and pepper to taste. Serve with plenty of Parmesan.
Tips from Rita’s kitchen:
Ground spices are always more flavorful "toasted" in a bit of olive oil before adding to dishes. Whole spices can be toasted in a dry heavy skillet for half a minute or so, just until they smell fragrant.
No chives? Try Yardboy’s (and my) favorite stand-in: wild onions and wild garlic. Just make sure they haven’t been sprayed with non-edible chemicals.
Add some cooked chicken strips, flank steak or salmon to the couscous to augment it for more protein, etc.
I feel like I’m diagonally parked in a parallel universe.]
That’s it. Thanks to Bob Moss for the one liners this week.