Monday, March 27, 2017

'Gardening with Children' workshop to be held at MSU center in Novi

Dr. Norm Lownds is presenting at Evenings in the Garden, “Gardening with Children-Finding Magic in Your Garden” is 6:30-8:30 p.m. March 30 at MSU Tollgate Farm and Education Center, 28115 Meadowbrook Road, Novi, register at events.anr.msu.edu/evenings17win, 248-347-0269 x229, tollgate.msu.edu, $20 per class.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

6 steps to growing indoors

1. The best containers are wood pulp pots or peat pots. You can also use plastic cell containers with covers or egg cartons with holes poked in the bottom and saran wrap on top. (Or reuse the annual flats from last year.) Whatever you use, make sure it has drainage.
2. Fill with potting soil, preferably a mix with sphagnum peat moss. Moisten the soil. 
3.Plant a few seeds, not many, about 1/8 inch deep and pat the soil lightly. Then cover with plastic and place in a very warm place, out of direct sunlight.
4. Keep watered. Once the seeds sprout, move the pots to a bright spot, a south-facing window is best. Water often, but not too much or too fast. The plants are fragile. If they get too big for their containers, move them to bigger pots. 
5. When it gets close to planting time, it's time to harden them by placing them outside during the day, to get used to it, but not in direct sunlight at first. Bring them in every night.
6. When it's warm enough at night, transplant to the garden. Dig a hole slightly deeper than the pot and put the plant in, supporting it with your fingers. Firm the soil gently around the stem. Water carefully.

For tomatoes, it takes 6-8 weeks before they'll be ready to transplant outside. For Southeast Michigan, wait until Memorial Day to put tomatoes and peppers outside, because they are very frost sensitive and will grow much better when it's warmer at night. Occasionally, there is frost after Memorial Day, so watch the weather and cover plants when there's a frost forecast.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Annual orchid show is March 25-26 in Madison Heights

63rd annual Michigan Orchid Society Show is 11 a.m.-5 p.m. March 25, and 11 a.m.-4 p.m. March 26 at United Food Workers Bldg., 876 Horace Brown Drive, Madison Heights, miorchids.com, free admission.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Sugar Maple trees are on tap for syrup season

We are tapping maple trees to collect sap and make maple syrup.
The process is pretty straightforward, but you need a little bit of equipment and clean buckets or milk jugs to collect the sap.
Then strain the sap with a mesh strainer before boiling it down to syrup. It takes a lot of sap to make a little syrup, but it's delicious. The ratio is: roughly 40 gallons of sap boil down to just one gallon of syrup.
Here's a link with step-by-step instructions, maple syrup.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

It's apple season in Michigan

Michigan apple orchards are open with fresh apples and cider mills are pressing out the cider as the season kicks into gear.
Apple orchards and cider mills in Oakland County
• Ashton Orchards, 3925 Seymour Lake Road, Ortonville, 248-627-6671 - Apples, cider mill, doughnuts, pies, baked goods, seasonal produce, playground equipment. Open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon-6 p.m. Sunday, August through October, then hours vary.
• Diehl’s Orchard & Cider Mill, 1479 Ranch Road, Holly, 248-634-8981, www.diehlsorchard.com - Open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, Aug. 15 through Oct. 31. Weekends in November. Apples, cider mill, doughnuts, hayrides and corn maze. A museum wall is coming soon, commemorating more than 60 years of family ownership. Cider Fest is Sept 24-25.
• Erwin Orchards & Cider Mill, 61475 Silver Lake Road, South Lyon, 248-437-0150,erwinorchards.com/wordpress/ - Orchard open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily Aug. 19-Oct. 31. Cider mill is open 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Hours vary. Cider mill is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Nov. 1-6. Already picked and u-pick apples, cider mill, petting zoo, corn maze in season, seasonal produce.
• Fogler’s Orchard & Farm Market, 3979 Rochester Road, (Rochester and Gunn Road), Rochester Hills, 248-652-3614, foglersgreenhouse.com - Open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. through mid-September, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Oct. 31. Apples, corn, tomatoes, peaches, melons, u-pick raspberries, pumpkins and hay rides. Open now.
• Franklin Cider Mill, 7450 Franklin Road, Bloomfield Hills, 248-626-8261, www.franklincidermill.com- Open 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. daily and 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. weekends from Sept. 3 to Nov. 27. Cider mill, doughnuts, pies, apples, pumpkins.
• Goodison Cider Mill, 4295 Orion Road, Rochester, 248-652-8450, goodisoncidermill.wordpress.com - Open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily Sept. 3 through November and weekends in December. Cider mill, apples, caramel apples, doughnuts, pies and Pistachio Nut Bread.
• Long Family Orchard Farm & Cider Mill, 1540 East Commerce Road, Commerce Township, 248-360-3774, www.longsorchard.com - Apples, cider and fresh produce. Open noon to 6 p.m. daily through October. U-pick hours vary.
. Paint Creek Cider Mill, 4480 Orion Road, Oakland Township, 248-656-3400,www.paintcreekcidermill.net - Open all year, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Cider mill, doughnuts, ice cream, cafe, by Paint Creek Trail.
• Rochester Cider Mill, 5125 N. Rochester Road, Rochester Hills, 248-651-4224,www.rochestercidermill.com -Open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, hours vary later in the season. Cider mill, doughnuts, pie, apples, produce.
• Yates Cider Mill, 1990 E. Avon Road, Rochester Hills, 248-651-8300, www.yatescidermill.com - Open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., weekdays, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and Labor Day, open through November. Cider, apples, ice cream, fudge, Dearborn brand hot dogs and Knackwurst, pony rides, petting zoo, river walk.
Apple orchards and cider mills near Oakland County
• Blake’s Big Apple Orchard, 71485 North Ave., Armada, 586-784-9710 and Blake’s Orchard and Cider Mill, 17985 Armada Center Road, Armada, 586-784-5343, www.blakefarms.com Open 8 a.m.-5:30 p.m. daily through Dec. 23.
• Hy’s Cider Mill, 6350 37 Mile Road, Romeo, 810-798-3611, www.hyscidermill.com, Open 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sept. 12-Nov. 8, weekends only.
. Middleton Cider Mill, 46462 Dequindre Road, Utica, 586-731-6699, Open 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Sept. 9 through October and 9 a.m.- 6 p.m. in November.
• Miller’s Big Red Apple Orchard, 4900 32-Mile Road, Washington Township, 586-752-7888,millersbigred.com, upick raspberries. Open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.
• Historic Parshallville Cider Mill, 8507 Parshallville Road, Fenton, 810-629-9079,www.parshallvillecidergristmill.com. Open 9 a.m.-6 p.m. daily, Sept. 3 through mid November.
• Parmenter’s Northville Cider Mill, 714 Baseline Road, Northville, 248-349-3181,www.northvillecider.com - Open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, through Nov. 23. Cider mill, doughnuts, pies and other food products and wine from the Northville Winery, across the parking lot.
• Porter’s Orchard Farm Market & Cider Mill, 12060 E. Hegel Road, Goodrich, 810-636-7156,portersorchard.com. (Open Aug. 6-Dec. 24)
• Spicer Orchards, 10411 Clyde Road, Fenton, 810-632-7692, www.spicerorchards.com. Open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, May to Dec. 31. U-pick and already picked apples, raspberries, and seasonal produce, playground equipment, winery and ice cream.
• Stony Creek Orchard and Cider Mill, 2961 W. 32 Mile Road, Romeo, 586-752-2453, open 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Sept. 10- through season, www.stonycreekorchard.com.
• Verellen Orchards, 63260 Van Dyke, Romeo, 586-752-2989, www.verellenorchards.com. Open daily all year, 7 a.m.-6 p.m.
• Westview Orchards & Cider Mill, 65075 Van Dyke (M-53), at 30 Mile Road, two miles south of Romeo, 586-752-3123, open 8 a.m.-6 p.m., www.westvieworchards.com.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Preserving fruits and vegetables

Whether to can, freeze or dry produce, depends on what vegetable and how much effort and time a person wants to devote. Freezing vegetables is the fastest. Canning takes longer, but is better for maintaining vegetable texture. Canning is definitely best for salsa and pickles. Drying might be the easiest, but it has limited use, such as for herbs, mushrooms and fruit.

Easy freezing
It’s easy to freeze vegetables and fruits. Some don't require cooking or blanching. For celery and rhubarb, just wash, chop, bag in serving sizes and freeze. To freeze zucchini for making bread: shred or grate and freeze without blanching. For peppers, just cut out the seeds, wash and let dry, then freeze in bags. The quality and texture is reduced after freezing, but they still have that garden fresh taste when used in cooking.

Apples
For apples wash, peel and core apples. Slice, cut into chunks or quarter. As you prepare apples, dip the cut pieces in a solution of 1 tablespoon each salt and vineqar to 2 quarts of water, to prevent darkening. Drain well, rinse and drain again. Then you can either pack plain, with sugar or with syrup. Leave a ½ inch headspace for pint containers and 1 inch for quarts. When using liquid, place a piece of crumpled paper or plastic wrap on top to keep fruit under the liquid. For syrup, mix 1/14 cup sugar and 5-1/2 cup water top yield cups. Thaw fruit in refrigerator or bowl of cool water. If cooking, thaw only enough to separate.

Blueberries
Blueberries can be put in the freezer with very little preparation. Remove stems and bad berries, wash in cold water, drain, pack in freezer bags. Label and freeze.

Blanching 
Most other vegetables and fruits require blanching, which is pretty easy. To blanch vegetables, you need:
a large porcelain or stainless steel pan with basket strainer and lid, 2/3 full of water
large bowl in the sink filled with ice water
colander
bags or plastic containers and a permanent marker
Bring the water in the saucepan to boiling. Meanwhile, wash and trim the veggies. Place the veggies in boiling water, close lid and time. See chart below. Then remove from the pan and drain quickly. Next, place in ice water for the same amount of time as boiled. When the time is up, remove and drain well in a colander. To remove more moisture, place clean towels on the counter and lay the veggies out for a few minutes before bagging in labeled freezer bags and placing in the freezer. Here are blanching and cooling times for vegetables:

Vegetable blanching times - equal time in boiling water, then ice water, (Except for corn on the cob, most vegetables should be blanced 2 to 3 minutes).

Broccoli, 3 minutes
Cabbage, 3 minutes (cut into wedges)Corn on the cob, 6 to 10 minutes
Green beans, 3 minutes
Peas, 1 to 2 minutes
Swiss chard and other tender greens, 1-1/2 to 2 minutes (avoid matting leaves)Zucchini slice, blanch 3 minutes

Tomatoes
Tomatoes taste better when sliced in half, and baked or roasted on a cookie sheet, (350 degrees for 30 minutes for large tomatoes). Or you can blanch them for 30 seconds.

Do not freeze too much at one time in your freezer. It could raise the interior temperature. Leave space between packages so air can circulate freely until frozen.

Can if you can
Canning takes some time. It’s more fun when you undergo the canning process with good friends or family, plus it’s less work. You will have the sweet, or sour rewards all winter long, so much better than store-bought. You will thank yourself and your canning buddies. Hot water bath canning is good for high acid foods, like tomatoes, pickles and relishes. It’s also good for sugary spreads, jams and jellies. You need to buy jars, lids and a big stockpot with wire canning rack. The pan needs to be 3-5 inches deeper than your canning jars. For other foods, like green beans, a pressure canner is needed. For further information, get the Ball Blue Book Guide to Home Canning, Freezing & Dehydration. It is a very good, easy-to-reference guide, and it under $10. It is available at freshpreserving.com/

For a good salsa recipe, see my recipe page on the right or visit gardentogarden.blogspot.com/p/recipes.html

Monday, July 25, 2016

Bees are needed for some plants to bear fruit

These beans didn't need bees. 
A fellow blogger was wondering why his zucchini plants are not producing foot-long zucchini like his neighbor's plants. It turns out, something is missing: bees.
Bees are needed to pollinate squash, cucumber and melons. These plants form both male and female flowers. Humans can intervene by transferring the pollen from the male flowers to the female flowers. For more information, visit www.growgreatvegetables.com/plantinggrowing/pollination.html
There are vegetables that don't need bees or other insect pollinators, such as peas, okra and most beans. There are also plants that can be pollinated with help from the wind, such as tomatoes, peppers, kale and corn.
For more information, visit www.hortmag.com/plants/fruits-veggies/vegetable-crops-that-do-not-need-pollinators.