Stop and Enjoy the Wildflowers

In the words of the late, great Tom Petty, “You belong among the wildflowers… Far away from your trouble and worries / You belong somewhere you feel free.” Whenever I hear this song, I picture myself among gently swaying blooms that form a new, unique tapestry, every day, without fail. Wildflowers are the details along a well-beaten path that make it seem somehow different and interesting every time you visit, not only by their blossoms, but through the rainbow of pollinators and other wildlife visitors they call in and sustain.

I have been reflecting on how our lives have become so busy, and I wish I could slow us all down so we could experience the wildflowers hitting that reset button in our brains. I may not have figured out how to slow down the entire world, but what I can do is provide native wildflower seeds (and easy growing instructions) so you can create a little retreat of your own.

Native plants are among the most care-free of any blooms you can grow. They are tough and able to grow without much attention, including being drought tolerant, which gives you more time to enjoy them. Natives provide pollinators with high-quality pollen and nectar too, so a native garden bed is also a pollinator garden.

For me, fall is naturally the time to think about revamping an area or filling in an empty space. Wildflowers are inherently adapted to being sown now—how convenient for me! Plants in their native habitat bloom, form seeds, drop those seeds sometime from summer to fall (depending on the species), and then the seeds rest until spring when conditions are just right for germination. Fall sowing is done!

When prepping your own, native retreat, do thoroughly weed and loosen the soil surface and place or rake seeds in. Winter snow and rain will work the seeds into the soil, so no need to work the soil too deeply. Our late spring storms are usually enough so I don’t have to water, but if you have a dry spell in spring keep an eye on the soil moisture and water as needed. Natives wildflowers grow well in average or even poor soils, so there is no need to amend most soils. You can choose a number of species with different bloom times so your space is always colorful, but be sure to put full-sun varieties in 6 or more hours of sun so they stand tall, rather than reaching for more light.  Once seedlings are all up and have put on some growth, say the end of June, I like to toss some mulch around the sprouted plants to help keep weeds down.

After that, I add a chair, and give myself some time to stop and smell the wildflowers.

Do you have any native garden tips? Please share them in the comments!

Butternut Squash “Noodles” with Kale

botanical interests butternut squash noodles

While our first love will always be traditional pasta, we can’t stop thinking about veggie noodles! It’s just what it sounds like–noodles made from thinly-sliced vegetables as a pasta substitute! In this recipe we used a spiralizer, a tool that easily cuts vegetables into long, thin ribbons, but you could also use the thin-strip setting on your mandoline.

Ingredients:

4 tablespoons butter, divided
2/3 cup diced yellow onion
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups chopped kale
2 cups spiralized butternut squash

Directions:

1.Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a pan on medium heat. Add onions and cook until translucent.

2. Add mushrooms and cook until browned. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add kale and cook until slightly wilted.

saute kale and mushrooms

3. Meanwhile, cut and peal butternut squash.

butternut squash

4. Spiralize squash.

spiralize butternut squash

5. In a second saucepan on medium to high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter and sauté the butternut squash noodles. Cook until al dente.

6. Gently fold all ingredients together.

 

Tulsi Holy Basil Tea

Give the gift of holy basil tea to warm up autumn’s chill.

Holy basil, also known as tulsi, is believed to have medicinal properties that could aid in treating the common cold, inflammation, digestive issues, and numerous other conditions. In the holistic health community, it has received significant attention for its stress-reducing benefits, as well.

Basil Holy Tulsi Organic

Although holy basil can be used in cooking, the unique flavor is best enjoyed when the leaves are dried and steeped into an herbal infusion. We’re making holy basil tea sachets to give as gifts this fall. For tips on drying herbs, visit Herbs: Tips for Preserving.

Supplies

  • 1 tsp. dried holy basil leaves per sachet
  • Empty tea sachets (You can find these at a tea store or gourmet grocery store) or a small, glass jar

  1. Fill empty sachets or jars with dried holy basil leaves. Pull string taught to secure tea leaves inside sachet or secure lid on jars. Each should have about 1–2 teaspoons of dried holy basil.
  2. To make the tea, steep 1 teaspoon of dried leaves in 1 cup of boiling water for about 5 minutes. Try mixing in lemon juice, cardamon, honey, ginger, cinnamon, milk, or pepper to create your own special tulsi tea blend.
  3. Enjoy!

We’d love to see how creative you get with your holy basil tea gifts. Hashtag your creations with #botanicalinterests on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

5 Favorite Ways to Enjoy Roasted Garlic

Botanical Interests roasted garlic

Arguably one of the best ways to eat garlic is roasted. It’s mild enough to eat straight from the oven on its own, but packs a flavor bomb when mixed with other foods. We collected our favorites to inspire your next

Basic Roasted Garlic recipe:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Cut the top of the garlic bulb to expose the cloves. Place the bulb on a piece of foil and heavily drizzle olive oil over the exposed cloves; add salt; wrap tightly in foil. Place on baking sheet and cook in the oven for about an hour or until cloves are browned and can be easily squeezed out of their skin.

how to roast garlic

Ways to enjoy:

  • Mashed potatoes: Our absolute favorite way to use roasted garlic cloves is in mashed potatoes. Mash the garlic cloves and mix into boiled potatoes before they are whipped. It’ll incorporate the flavor into every bite.
  • Garlic bread: This is a no-brainer! Blend the garlic into butter and spread over loaf. Sprinkle with mozzarella or Parmesan cheese (and fresh rosemary!) and bake or broil until crispy. Perfect addition to your Italian night dinner.
  • Salad dressing: Use an immersion blender to whip up several roasted garlic cloves, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, honey, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper. We love ours over a fresh arugula and endive salad.
  • Deviled eggs: Mash cloves and add into your usual (or unusual!) deviled egg recipe. What a pleasant surprise for guests at your next party or brunch.
  • Hummus: Throw some roasted garlic cloves in the food processor with chickpeas, lemon juice, and tahini. Devour with crackers or cut, raw veggies.

roasted garlic recipes

Plentiful Pleasing Poppies Next Spring

‘Black Swan’ Poppy

Fall is a great time of the year to reflect on your garden and write down some new ideas for next year. And I have poppies on the brain! What’s great about poppies is their diversity—all shapes, colors, sizes, perennial, annual— I love them all! Regardless of their annual or perennial status, they do best when sown in place, and by sowing this fall, seeds are primed for the earliest possible germination next spring. Poppies are quite cold tolerant and you may be surprised how early they come up.

Mission Bells Poppy Blend

Sowing Poppies
Choose a full-sun to part-sun area and consider the height of the poppies and any neighboring plants so none of the flowers get overshadowed. All I really need to do for soil prep is to get rid of weeds, dig out rooted perennials, and scrape away wimpy annuals. Poppies are happy with near neglect; they are drought tolerant, and do fine in poor soils but need good drainage. I scratch the surface of the soil with a hard rake to loosen the top ½”–1″, leaving the surface fluffy but level. Then I’m ready to sow! Poppy seeds need light to germinate, which means they need to be close to or on the soil surface. I usually just broadcast the seeds (adding a few extra in case birds find them), rake them in very lightly, and I’m done! Late winter and spring precipitation usually provides enough moisture to germinate seeds next year, but if I have a dry winter I will water these seeds come spring. (P.S. You can also sow in raised beds to improve the drainage of your soil.)

Oriental Blend Poppy

I am already imagining all the beautiful blooms I will be seeing next spring and summer! Poppies aren’t the only flowers that germinate best after the chill of winter. Read more about Fall Sown Flowers for ideas on what you can sow now.

Spinach, Sausage, and Tortellini Soup

Spinach Tortellini SoupFor gardeners, the arrival of fall can be bittersweet. It’s rewarding to finally harvest all that you’ve worked for, but that also means our growing season is coming to an end. So we cooked up this savory soup to use our garden spinach in, and to enjoy as the days get cooler.

INGREDIENTS
4 sausage links (we used chicken apple), cut into half circles
1/2 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons flour
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
10 ounces fresh or frozen cheese tortellini
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
8 ounces fresh spinach, chopped
Salt, and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

    1. Sauté sausage, onion, and garlic in olive oil in a large pot until sausage starts to brown, about 6 to 10 minutes. Add flour and stir.
    2. When flour is browned, about 1 to 2 minutes, add broth and mix well (you may have to use the spoon to scrap the brown bits from the bottom on the pot, but that is where the flavor is!)
    3. Bring broth to a boil and then add tortellini and cook until tender, about 10 minutes, or if frozen, until they float to the top. Add Parmesan cheese and fresh spinach. Cook until spinach is wilted, only a few minutes.
    4. Top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and serve with crusty Italian bread.

 

Botanical Interests Spinach Bloomsdale Botanical Interests Spinach Matador Botanical Interests Baby Greens Spinach

Endless Harvests: Inspiration for All Those Veggies

It happens every year. Each spring I am so excited to garden that I grow more than my family could ever eat. I realize this is a bonus, so I try to make the absolute most out of every single vegetable I harvest. If you are also fortunate enough to have too many veggies, try these preparing and sharing ideas.

  1. Freezing. Greens (kale, spinach, collards), onions, peppers, tomatoes, and winter squash can be frozen without blanching (boiled quickly and then cooled in ice water to preserve nutrients and color). Vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, carrots, cauliflower, and green beans maintain a better quality when blanched before freezing.
  1. Batch meals. Cook up a big batch of tomato sauce, eggplant cutlets, or even a whole casserole and freeze the extra portions in well-marked, freezer-safe containers.
  1. Canning. Preserve the bounty by canning. Be sure to follow a tested recipe (like these from the USDA) to avoid any chance of food-borne illness.
  1. Meet your neighbors. You’ll not only make new friends (or delight the old ones), but you may even turn some into gardeners! The more gardens in a neighborhood, the higher everyone’s sense of pride, too. So bring over that extra zucchini, flower bouquet, or basil.
  1. Donate. Do you know that food banks around our nation find it difficult to consistently provide fresh vegetables to their communities? Find your local food bank and share the harvest.

For more ideas see our article Preserve the Harvest. Share your creative uses for extra garden goodies in the comments!

Summer Fun in the Trial Garden

Every year we go to garden shows where we “ooh” and “aah” at the gorgeous, the unusual, and the unique, and yearn for a big enough space to grow them all. Alas, we must choose only those that most capture our attention, and bring back the seed with growing anticipation. Then, when the time is right, we sow them in our trial gardens, to see for ourselves how they perform.

Our seed buyer, Alex, has a rich history of market farming, so he is our guy for our on-site trial garden. He “fixes” the soil, sows the seeds, and tends the plot, with a little help from other staff members. We all provide encouragement, of course! And there is no shortage of volunteers to test out that new tomato, or corn, or pepper.

We’re growing some of our new varieties this year to make sure we deliver the high-quality product we promise. These can be found in our 2017 catalog, or on our website:

Hollyhock Outhouse Several of us couldn’t run fast enough for the seed after seeing this glorious display of old-fashioned hollyhocks.

Pea Sugar Magnolia What a beautiful color in a snap pea, and the blossoms are equally as appealing.

Sunflower Schock O Lat Shockingly beautiful, isn’t it? And sunflowers are so easy to grow, everyone should!

This summer we are also trialing some special things that look very promising for a future season. Color and form are catching our attention in a mix of burgundy and lime green celosia with red and golden plumes bursting forth; a small, adorable zinnia with quite bold colors; gomphrena in hot pink and creamy white; an interesting grass that is reminiscent of fireworks; and a stunning sweet corn that has striking, deep burgundy stems, tassels and husks, with contrasting white kernels!

Stay tuned!

 

Hollyhock Dolls

Hollyhock dolls have been enchanting folks for generations. They make delightful table decorations and are fun for the whole family to make. This old-fashioned craft is easy, requiring only blooms from a hollyhock plant and some toothpicks! Here’s how to create a hollyhock doll.

Supplies

Instructions

Break off an open bloom including the green sepal, and invert it for the skirt. You can use multiple blooms for a layered effect.

Push a toothpick horizontally through the sepal to form arms.

For the face, push a toothpick vertically through the middle of a green (unripened) seed pod, with the seedpod in the middle of the toothpick; then attach to body by pushing it down through the middle of the sepal.

For the hair/hat, attach a small, barely opened bloom to the toothpick sticking up past the face.

We’d love to see how creative you get with your hollyhock dolls. Hashtag your creations with #botanicalinterests on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

10 Crops in Under Two Months

August has arrived and it has me thinking about all the tasty fall crops I can still sow and enjoy in two months time before a frost is likely in my area. So if you are also right up against the two-month mark and want to squeeze in just a little more gardening, I suggest trying cool-season crops (frost tolerant)! Several of the cool-season crops I grow are even more enjoyable in late summer because I can worry less about pests and bolting, while the cool temperatures of fall will sweeten my leafy greens (kale is particularly improved by a kiss of fall frost). But you may notice that these crops seem to take longer–and you’re correct! Late summer/early fall warm-season crops may take a couple of more weeks to reach maturity than usual as day length wanes and temperatures cool.

Try 10 of my favorite varieties to sow in late summer. They will not disappoint!

  1. Arugula sown in late summer/fall provides a mellower flavor, and attracts flea beetles less than spring-sown crops.
  2. Beets are silky, earthy, and delicious. We love them roasted, pickled, or raw. Our new, white, ‘Avalanche’ beet has a mild flavor that is a hit and better for juicing without the stains of red beets.
  3. Broccoli Raab is so fast, and what a delicacy! You can cut it 2-3 times and keep enjoying the delicate, slightly spicy flavor for weeks.
  4. Collards are heat tolerant and survive to 20°F, which lends to my love of this productive, heirloom green.
  5. Kale just keeps on going past first frost, getting sweeter, and adding depths to soups, and diversity to fall salads. ‘Dwarf Blue’ and ‘Redbor’ are exceptionally cold tolerant and the latter’s purple color intensifies after frost. ‘Nero Toscana‘ is my favorite!
  6. Kohlrabi has the crunch of an apple, is mildly sweet, and has a touch of a mild radish flavor. I love it raw with a sprinkle of salt.
  7. Lettuce is a staple in my garden all summer long, and I love to grow a bunch of different varieties, but always the ‘Marvel of Four Seasons’ which glows cranberry red as the days shorten, and ‘Little Gem’ that forms a perfect head. Both are more heat tolerant and frost tolerant than others.
  8. Peas are for fall too! ‘Cascadia’ is my favorite snap pea for fall because it is not only delicious, but also mildew resistant, an issue I often battle in the late summer.
  9. Radishes are always welcome in our kitchen, and late summer is the time to sow winter radishes which only form during shortening days. I grow daikon (if you’ve never tried daikon you are missing out!), black radishes, and the stunning, scarlet centered, watermelon radish. When you remove (and eat) the greens these radishes store for a month or more in the crisper.
  10. Spinach is also sweetened with cooling temperatures and can over-winter, even in my climate (USDA zone 5B). I like to sow a little extra for freezing.

There’s more to grow, too! Check out other quick crops like cucumbers, mustards, summer squash, and turnips. Get the full list and read more about our most frost tolerant crops. Well, those garden beds aren’t going to prep themselves; I better get sowing!

What are you sowing now for fall? Share with us in the comments below.