Monday, June 28, 2010

Rhubarb cream cheese pie recipe

Ahh, the rewards of gardening. Swiss chard, snap peas,asparagus, lettuce, rosemary, sage, broccoli, parsley which I shared as tabouleh with coworkers, rhubarb, from which I made a pie. Lemon balm and peppermint, I grow just for the smell of it. Michigan has such a good climate for gardening, it's far better here than other parts of the country.
I think I've shared my Swiss chard recipe before, basically just boil or steam with red or green onions and olive oil or Balsamic vinegar or butter or just water. It is such a delicious, melt in your mouth taste. Of course you can add smoked turkey or bacon to make it a meal. If you don't have Swiss chard, find it. It is so easy to grow, except occasionally the bugs or deer attack it. You can plant it now and have it all summer long. A very good reliable food source. We love Rainbow Swiss chard the best.

Rhubarb cheese pie
¼ cup corn starch
1 cup sugar
½ tsp salt
½ cup water
2-1/2 cups rhubarb, cut in ½ inch pieces
1 unbaked pie crust, regular or graham cracker

1 package 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar

In a saucepan, combine 1rst 3 ingredients, then the water and rhubarb. Bring to boil, stirring often until mixture thickens. Pour into pie shell and bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes. Protect edges of crust with aluminum foil. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Turn oven down to 325 degrees.
Meanwhile beat topping ingredients until smooth. Pour on top of pie. Bake for 35 minutes in 325 oven or until set. Chill and garnish with whipped cream, and sliced almonds or strawberries.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Weeding includes thinning

Weeding is zenful, except when the mosquitoes and flies are biting. I weed in the heat of the afternoon when the mosquitoes aren't so active. I would rather sweat than swat. But, there are other solutions. We have a little portable ThermaCell that repells bugs by heating allethrin, synthetic form of natural herbicide found in Chrysanthemum plant. It works if you have it near you. I usually wear a long sleeved shirt and pants, socks and shoes when I'm serious about it. I don't like to spray on bug spray.

When weeding, it's good to use a pronged claw tool or a pitch fork to loosen up the weeds' roots near your plants. Then get down and use a hand trowel if needed. You want to be able to lift out the weed, rather than yank them. Some weeds have roots so deep or so branched out, like grass, that you have to break them. Oh well. The main thing is to allow your good plants the opportunity to get ahead of the weeds.

Thinning is a good idea too if the plants look too crowded. I try to pull every third plant. Be sure and water when you're done. Jody Headlee wrote this article for The Oakland Press, Thinning plants helps make your garden healthy

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Its not too late to plant!

Broadcasting seeds is easier and more productive than planting rows for parsley, lettuce and herbs. I like to plant green onion seeds in rows, because they look so much like grass, it's hard to weed unless they're in rows. My coworker, Val the Volunteer has a planter on her porch that she planted basil in. It's close enough to the kitchen that she can dash out to snip off some leaves to use with dinner. I  have done this with lettuce in years past. Cherry tomatoes are nice to have in a planter on your patio too, to add to dinner.
Michiganders can still put plants out and plant seeds for lettuce, Swiss chard and other greens, beans and squash. Summers are long enough for two plantings of beans.

To plant a straight row, use a hoe to slide down the length of desired row or use a long string, tied to 2 sticks placed at each end. Then use that same string for every row,  putting sticks at each end of every row. For planting beans, push each seed down in the ground with a finger, 3 inches apart down the row. Then go back and cover with dirt. Be sure to make a garden map, writing down what you planted in what rows. I know it takes the mystery out of gardening, but its more rewarding that way.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Yesterday's news is today's mulch

I found this website which has an interesting way of starting a garden. Here's the link: Mother Earth News.  This is not the way we've ever done it, but it sounds reasonable and would be a great use for yesterdays' newspapers. It calls for using wet newspapers as mulch, several pages thick.
Other mulch ideas: Our neighbors used seaweed from the lake. We always use grass clippings and leaves. When we're waiting to plant in an area, we put down a couple layers of black plastic, when we're feeling smart.  I think I'll try the newspaper on our waterfall garden project that we put on hold until we can afford to finish.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Pass the peas please

We picked snow peas and had them for dinner tonight, steamed. What a treat. Ken planted them in March and then planted a second batch in April so we'll hopefully have some later. Peas like this cooler weather. It's supposed to stay cool until the weekend and might rain on Wednesday.
We've been picking asparagus for a month. My favorite way to prepare it is to roll spears in olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and grill it.
Ham and Swiss, asparagus spirals. Pre-fry spears in olive oil, lay on a slice of ham and cheese, dollop with Dijon mustard and roll up with the asparagus in the middle. Slice into spirals 1-1/2 inches wide. Dip in seasoned bread crumbs, insert toothpick to hold each spiral together, and fry.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Container gardening

 We have a raised bed container garden for our herbs, lettuce and green onions. It's nice as long as the deer stay out. I saw deer tracks in there this morning. They usually don't go in it, except the year I planted Swiss chard and green beans in it. Those are two of their favorites. Mine too, so I have been planting them in the maximum security garden ever since.
There are some advantages to container gardening. If you put it close to your house, its closer to where dinner is prepared. That's handy. My coworker planted some basil in a flower pot on her porch. The benefits for containers is you save on watering, labor and typically yield more plants per square inch. There are certain veggies that don't take well to small containers, like green beans, you really need more space for them anyway. Here's a link for how to do containers:   Container garden

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Gardening events in Oakland County

Some of these events are from an article by Karen Workman in The Oakland Press: Week of water-related events.

A spring Plant Sale is 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, June 5, at the Michigan State University Tollgate Education Center, 28115 Meadowbrook Road. A variety of plant selections will be available for purchase and master gardeners will be at the event to answer garden-related questions. Funds raised will be used for the development and maintenance of the Tollgate Education Center gardens. For more information, visit[cq] or call 248-347-3860, ext. 251.

The Ortonville Creekfest will be from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 5 in downtown Ortonville. Family activities, information on keeping waterways clean and environmentally friendly crafts and activities will take place.

Native Plant Festival, National Trails Day & A Sense of Place Plant Sale will be from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., June 5 at the Paint Creek Cider Mill, 4480 Orion Road, Oakland Township. A potting demonstration, trail tours, children’s crafts, educational sessions and more will be available. Contact Heather Huffstutler at 248-601-2816.

Volunteers can help improve the habitat along the stream at the Lloyd A. Stage Nature Center, 6685 Coolidge Highway in Troy, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 5. River debris removal, invasive plant removal, putting wood chips on trails and more is planned. Call 248-524-3567.

Home Composting & Healthy Garden Demonstrations will be from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, June 12 at the SOCWA Garden Area located near the camel exhibit at the Detroit Zoo, 8450 W. 10 Mile Road, Royal Oak. SOCWA Master Composters will demonstrate how to make and use compost for a healthy garden. Call 248-546-5818 or e-mail

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Magazine renews relationship with an old friend by Jody Headlee

I saw the following article in The Oakland Press, and just had to post it. I too, was a dedicated reader of Organic Gardening, particularly Mike McGrath's witty and informative, free-flowing articles and columns on gardening projects and problems. Please visit the link to his current publication.-KB

Magazine renews relationship with an old friend
By Jody Headlee, contributing columnist for The Oakland Press

It’s been 12 years since I wrote the column reflecting my disappointment at the departure of Mike McGrath from the editorin-chief position at Organic Gardening magazine. I have missed his writing and his on-target information the whole time until this spring, when I received a copy of the latest issue of GreenPrints.
To my surprise, buried inside as contributing editor, was a Mike McGrath peek at a planting conundrum.  I couldn’t have been more delighted to discover, he’s been connected to GreenPrints since the summer of 1998.
    I still would not have discovered his latest connection had not GreenPrints, the weeders’ digest, sent me an introductory copy to celebrate its 20th anniversary. Located in Fairview, NC, 28730, the issue salutes old and new correspondents who, under the guidance of Editor Pat Stone, have on every page, contributed to the reality that reflects the kindness, warmth and humor of true gardeners.
    I found their penned efforts fun to read as well as informative and was so pleased to reconnect with the writings of McGrath.
    Should you be interested, you can order a yearly subscription online for $19.97 at www. or call 800-569-0602 for more information or phone orders.
    To celebrate the issue, McGrath himself paid homage to Editor Stone by planting That Tree, the one discovered in a most unlikely place – his gutter.
    It all started some 25 years ago, when the city-folk McGraths moved to the country and McGrath by himself undertook an undergrad course in country living. Not by choice, but necessity.
    He learned about sump pumps, septic tanks, power failures, electricians, plumbers and gutters – new industrial-sized, double-wides and older smaller types tucked behind and through prize-winning rhododendrons.
    “They were magnificent, about 40 years old,” wrote McGrath. “Come spring, there were over 500 big ‘balls’ of flowers. I couldn’t take credit. By my guess, they were there when we moved in. Yes, I did count them; so would you if they were yours.”
    It was the rhododendron, in the middle, that shielded the gutter and wreaked the havoc.
    There had always been life in the gutters. McGrath shared memories of birds sitting on its edges relishing the tastiness of poison ivy berries as well as the vines’ contribution to spectacular fall color displays.
    “Yet, my wife still made me clean them. Perfectionist!”
    That year, when he climbed up to clean, he discovered a king-size leaf jam held snugly by the rhodo. No problem until the rake’s removal of the debris revealed a clear view of The Tree.”
    “I wish I could say it was a little sprout,” wrote McGrath. “But no, it was a sapling. A big sapling, about two feet tall with a nice circumference and dramatic roof flare – growing in the gutter.”
    He tackled the dilemma but couldn’t reach the tree. It was locked in the middle of that rhododendron-proofed gutter.
    “I tried to use the non-business-end of the leaf rake to evict the tree but the handle went under and lifted the whole schmageggie like a piece of poorly laid carpet, exposing an enviable tangle of roots.”
    Working slowly, he wriggled the tree free, pushing it to the other side. Then he moved the ladder, cursed, apologized to the rose bush he’d forgotten was there, moved the ladder again, went up the other side and brought down the tree – in one piece. It was a struggle he remembers clearly.
    When his wife saw the saved tree, tangled roots bare on the ground, she couldn’t believe it.
    “We’re already lousy with trees,” she needled, reflecting distress at his role as Savior.
    “I’m planting it in honor of GreenPrints 20th anniversary,” he countered.
    Approving the comeback, she nodded, quietly heading back into the house.
    Pleased at discussion closed, Mike tells of continuing planting, pointing out the tree looked as relieved as he felt when the job was done, closing the story with, “Thanks, Pat.”
    A double thanks, Pat, from another gardener who would do just about anything to save a tree, not to mention, discover an old friend. Happy anniversary!