Fall Gardening is for the Birds

broom corn

Over the years, I’ve noticed there is a pattern to my gardening. In the spring, gardening is full of excitement, so much so that my big yard even feels small as I search for spaces to poke in new varieties or add more color. By summer, however, my yard feels so large that keeping up with deadheading is nearly impossible. While deadheading spring and summer flowers keeps plants blooming and branching, at the end of summer, you can leave seed heads on for migrating and over-wintering birds, who gladly consume the seeds for much needed calories and nutrition.

Leaving seed heads doesn’t just cure your late-summer gardener guilt, it is also beneficial to the plants, too. By waiting until the following spring to do your clean-up, any still living tissue is saved, preventing a wound which can be a weak point for possible infection. Those branches also collect leaves and snow, naturally mulching the crown of the plant, and in turn providing cold protection and moisture. The sculptural aesthetic of standing stems and seed heads is referred to as “winter interest” by landscape professionals; a term you can use freely if you are accused of being a messy gardener.

As we think about fall-sowing flowers, here are some tips if you want to design your garden to be more inviting to birds next year.

  • Live on the edge. Edges are the spaces where two habitats meet, like where shrubs meet a garden, or where shrubs meet trees, creating varying heights. Birds love the edge because there they find protection from the elements and predators, usually a diversity of food, and a lot of different perches. If you are designing a new edge or hedgerow, consider a meandering natural line instead of a straight line, and adding shrubs that hold fruit in winter. Add a border of perennials and annuals from the list below to these edges to provide winter seeds.
  • Leave a few snags. A few dead branches (provided they are safely away from structures and high traffic areas) attract birds for nesting, feeding, and perching, and offer winter protection from the elements.
  • Winter water. Give birds water in the winter by providing a heated birdbath or place an immersible de-icer in a birdbath or shallow dish. A low-tech option is a covered black container with a small hole in the top for birds to sip out of. The container collects solar energy keeping water from turning into ice until temperatures dip below 20°F.

If the winter interest method just doesn’t fit your comfort zone, do your usual fall clean-up, but save some seed heads to create a bird feeder wreath, or simply bundle and hang them near a safe perching place for the birds to enjoy.

Here are some flowering plants that you and the birds are sure to enjoy.

Amaranth
Aster
Bachelor’s Button
Broom Corn
Columbine
Cosmos
Dill
Echinacea
Fennel
Four O’Clock
Hollyhock
Larkspur
Lavender
Love-Lies-Bleeding
Ornamental Grasses
Poppy
Black-eyed Susan Rudbeckia
Pincushion Flower Scabiosa
Sunflower
Verbena
Zinnia

These are excellent flower mixes for feeding the birds and providing a feast for the eyes during the growing season.
7003p-L-Perennial-Bloom7017p-L-Songbird-Mix

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

i-L-Prairie Splendor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Easy Zucchini Refrigerator Pickles

zucchini pickles

Cucumbers get all the pickle glory. Try zucchini pickles! Enjoy these easy, delicious, no-can pickles. Your dinner guests will be amazed! Debatably better than cucumber pickles.

INGREDIENTS:
9 medium (3 pounds), unpeeled zucchini cut into wedges or slices
1 medium onion (red, white, or yellow), thinly sliced
4 1/2 tablespoons salt
2 1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup fresh dill flowers and leaves or 1/4 cup dried dill
2–4 hot peppers either cut in half lengthwise or scored on the bottom (1/2 or one whole per jar depending on preference); chili flakes may be
substituted
2–4 cloves garlic (or to taste), sliced in half
1 1/2 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Add salt to zucchini slices/spears and onion; stir to coat.
  2. Place salted zucchini and onion in a colander over a bowl, and refrigerate for 24 hours. (liquids will drain into the bowl.)
  3. Discard drained liquid; set salted zucchini and onion aside.
  4. Heat vinegars and sugar on the stove until sugar is dissolved.
  5. Divide remaining ingredients among the jars or other non-reactive, clean containers.
  6. Fill the containers with zucchini and onion leaving a little room on top (1/2″) so liquid will cover.
  7. Pour vinegar-sugar mixture over zucchini, onion, and spices.
  8. Place lids on containers and refrigerate once cooled.

Enjoy after one week of marinating. Makes about 4 pint-sized jars.

Here are a few of our favorite varieties for zucchini pickles.

0240p-Squash-Summer-Emerald-Delight-ZucchiniBlack Beauty Zucchini 

 

Bird Feeder Wreath

Bird Feeder Wreath

Bird Feeder Wreath

Winter is a great time to relax and watch a variety of birds visiting your bird feeder wreath. Birds that are used to eating seeds from a traditional feeder will love all the edible seeds they discover in birdseed wreaths. These wreaths provide a variety of dried seed pods including; broom corn, millet, love-lies-bleeding, wheat, sea oats, love-in-a-mist, zinnias, sunflowers, echinacea, and black-eyed-susan. Bird feeder wreaths are perfect for hanging on a shed door, fencing, wall or deck railing.

Bird Feeder Wreath

What You’ll Need:

•A wreath form. We used a form with twisted twigs.

•Floral wire

•Dried seed pods from varieties such as broom corn, millet, love-lies-bleedingsea oats, love-in-a-mist, zinnias, sunflowers, echinacea, quinoarudbeckia, and wheat.

•Twine

•Wire cutter, scissors

  1. Create bundles of broom corn, wheat, millet, etc… by tying groups together with twine or wire.

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2. Attach each bundle to wreath form with floral wire. We like the “spray” look for wreaths. This means that each dried seed stem is attached in the same direction creating a radial spray.

Bird Feeder Wreath

Bird Feeder Wreath

3. Continue to fill the wreath so that there are no bare spots. The fuller the better, and the birds will be impressed!

Bird Feeder Wreath

Finally, attach a loop of twine to the back of the wreath and hang on a shed door, fencing, wall, or deck railing, preferably in a location where it will be protected from strong winds.

Tag us in your photos on Facebook, Instragram, or Pinterest. #botanicalinterests

 

Roasted Tomato Sauce

Roma tomatoes

It’s tomato season, and we couldn’t be more excited! With baskets of tomatoes being pushed around the office, we’re thinking of ways to use them. One of our favorite recipes is roasted tomato sauce. Enjoy this delicious sauce over crusty Italian bread, on pizza or pasta, or even for breakfast with over-easy eggs! Perfect for freezing, too.

 

Ingredients:

3–4 pounds of Roma or other “paste” tomatoes, sliced in half with stems removed
1 medium onion, sliced
2–3 garlic cloves, peeled
5–10 leaves of fresh basil, roughly chopped
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
salt, pepper, and sugar to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 300ºF.
  2. Mix all ingredients together, ensuring each piece is covered in olive oil. Pour on a sheet pan and roast in the oven for 2 to 4 hours or until the tomatoes split.
  3. Once removed from the oven, let the tomatoes cool. Pour all ingredients into a food processor or blender. Blend on high, adding salt, pepper, and sugar until desired consistency and taste are reached. (If preferred, strain out the seeds before blending).

Grow some of our favorite tomatoes for this sauce.

3039n_Tomato-Bush-Ace-ORG (2) 3055p-Tomato-Bush-Italian-Roma-Organic 3087p-Tomato-Pole-San-Marzano-Organic0236p-Tomato-Pole-Principe-Borghese

 

Fall Container Gardening

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Fall is a great time to transplant cold-hardy plants into containers. But we’re ditching the reds, oranges, and yellows of traditional fall arrangements in favor of rich jewel tones, such as dark burgundy, purple, dark pink, and white. For our arrangement, we followed the tried and true container recipe, including fillers, spillers, and thrillers. We added a selection of cold-tolerant annuals that fill in empty spaces, spill over the edge, and take center stage.

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What You’ll Need:

•A selection of Botanical Interests cold-tolerant annuals. Try pansies, violas, ornamental kale, sweet alyssum, dusty miller, select grasses, or snapdragons.

•Containers with adequate drainage and sized proportionally to the number of plants.

•Potting soil

•Botanical Interests gardening gloves

•A small garden trowel

 

1. Thoroughly clean the container.

2. Fill the bottom of the container with potting soil. Depending on the container’s depth, fill with enough soil so that the plant’s root ball sits on the soil’s surface with a small gap between the top of the plant and the top of the container.

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3. Place the seedlings or plants into the container. Crowd the plants tightly into the container. Put thriller plants in the center, spillers along the edge, and fillers in the space that’s created between them.

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4. Fill the space between the plants with soil so that the top of the root ball is even with the new surrounding soil, not buried or sitting on top. There should not be any airspace left between root balls and the container’s edge.

Finally, water thoroughly.

TIP: Remove spent flowers and leaves as they begin to fade or brown. This will keep the plants blooming and will ensure that your container stays looking it’s best. Keep evenly moist and fertilize regularly.

Are you planting a fall container garden? Tag us in your photos on Facebook, Instragram, or Pinterest.

Garden Journal Notes to the Future

Botanical Interests Trial garden

Fall is approaching. The angle of the afternoon sun creates a beautiful glow in the garden. I love this time of year; it is a great time to sit in my garden and reflect on what I like and what I want to change. I need to divide my crowded delphiniums and give them to a neighbor, sow more leeks next year, remember to sow a fall succession of peas, and plan for more color in June. While my landscape boasts every color of the rainbow in April and May, come last June it was ablaze with yellow, and only yellow. So now I sit, enjoy, and make these notes in my trusty garden journal.

Taking some time this fall to review what you did or didn’t like in your garden will make a world of difference for next year. Having firm ideas of what to change will make seed ordering a snap when you receive our catalog this winter. Not only do I make notes to remind myself what to do differently next year, but I also use garden stakes to mark the space noting the variety I want to add and its bloom period (you can search by bloom period or color on our website, too!). I also like to print out a photograph of my garden and draw in plants to add, leaving a little room for new varieties. These techniques really help me visualize the changes I want next year, and get started on this fall. That’s right, this fall. In addition to dividing and moving established plants, I will sow some flower seeds now, as several annuals and perennials perform best when sown in the fall.

The coming of fall usually feels slightly bittersweet, but after a hour of dreaming and journaling in the garden, and watching my goldfinch friends enjoy the sunflowers, I feel excited for the changes to come, and the garden feels like a fresh palette.

Garlic Confit

garlic confit

Sounds fancy, doesn’t it? Confit (kōn-fēʹ) comes from the French word “confire,” which translates to “preserve.” Today, confit is a condiment made by preserving food (and intensifying flavor) in fat, sugar, or wine through a slow cooking process. For example, a confit can be fruits cooked in sugar, meats cooked in fat, or vegetables cooked in oil or wine. In our case, we are making a garlic confit by poaching garlic cloves in olive oil. This process produces a rich, garlic flavor in the cloves with the bonus of also having garlic-infused olive oil. Delish!

5–10 garlic cloves, peeled
1 ½–2 cups of high-quality olive oil (or enough to cover garlic cloves)

Pour olive oil in a small saucepot and add garlic cloves. Heat on low for about an hour until garlic cloves are tender. Do not fry or brown the cloves. Cool before putting into jars.

Oil and garlic can be stored in an airtight glass container for up to a month in the refrigerator.

Once you’ve made this epicurean condiment, try it in your favorite recipes as a substitute for raw garlic. See below for our favorite garlic hummus recipe with garlic confit.

2 cups chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
2 tablespoons tahini
4 tablespoons garlic-infused olive oil
8 cloves of garlic confit
2 tablespoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon of salt
Warm water as needed

Place all ingredients into a food processor or a blender. Blend to a creamy consistency, adding water to thin as necessary. Serve with vegetables, pita chips, or as a sandwich smear.

Plant our organic or virus- and nematode-free garlic this fall!

Garlic Duganski 250x350Garlic Metechi ORG 250x350

Easy DIY Upcycled Self-Watering Planters

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Take the time and stress out of summer watering with these surprisingly easy to make, and affordable, upcycled plastic bottles. Less time watering means more time enjoying your garden. It also makes a great gift for the beginning gardener.

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What You’ll Need:

 

•1, 2, or 3 liter plastic bottles thoroughly cleaned and labels removed (We used BPA-free bottles)

•Plastic spray paint or spray paint with primer. We used black.

•Utility knife

•Scissors

•Cotton cloth or t-shirt cut into long thin strips about 2 inches wide and 12-14 inches long.

•Potting soil

Seeds

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1. Pierce the bottle below the neck using the utility knife. We cut about 1/3 down from the top.Once you have pierced the bottle, using the scissors, cut along the edge of the bottle until the top portion is removed.

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2. Spray paint the outside of the bottle top. Be sure to paint only the bottle exterior so the paint will not come in contact with the soil, as this top portion will become the planter. (The bottom portion will be the water reservoir.) Allow paint to dry thoroughly before handling. While painting the bottle is not essential to this project, plant roots are adapted to grow best in darkness.

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3. Feed the cotton cloth through the opening on the painted bottle top (planter) using the excess cloth to plug the hole and prevent soil from falling through the opening. This cloth strip acts a wick, pulling water from the lower reservoir. Insert the planter into the reservoir.

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4. Fill the planter with pre-moistened potting soil and soak thoroughly,  draining excess water from the reservoir. The water level should be just below the soda bottle lid opening.

Finally, sow seeds by following our indoor seed sowing guide or plant transplants. We planted yummy windowsill herbs: Oregano, Chives, Winter Savory.

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Keep your eye on the water level in the reservoir and refill with water or organic fertilizer as necessary.

Enjoying my bee garden

been on lavender

While my garden is my reprieve­­­­­—a place to recharge—I like to share it with my sweet, bee friends, and at this time of year the garden is a-buzzzz with bees. I need these hard working, fuzzy heroes to pollinate. Did you know that there are over 4,000 native species of bees in North America? Talk about diversity! Some bees are generalists, like the European Honey Bee, collecting pollen from a number of various plants, while other bees are specialists, pollinating specific plants–like squash bees with squash and pumpkins.

Over the years, I have made little improvements to make my garden more inviting to bees—a few seeds here and there, larkspur, borage, thyme, and asters to name a few, which keep the garden humming. A well-placed shallow water dish with rocks placed on it for landings, provides needed water for busy, thirsty bees (and butterflies), keeping them in the garden longer. Growing flowering plants that bloom from early spring to frost gives bees year-round food in the form of pollen and nectar. I also added a smattering of natives, which generally provide the highest quality food for these fuzzy foragers. Your space doesn’t have to be large; a container on a high-rise patio or a window box can still attract a plethora of pollinators.

Bee population decline is a serious issue that we can all help to remedy by providing food, water, and habitat. Most Botanical Interests flowering plants provide bee food and our Save the Bees specific flower blend provides color and food for foraging bees from spring until fall. We bee-lieve a small seed can make a big improvement in bee populations.

 

4516i-Bee-Happy-Collection

 

Bee Happy Seed Collection includes flowers that attract and nurture bees in your garden.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7020p-L-Save-the-Bees-Mix

Save the Bees Flower Mix provides food for many of the over 4,000 bee species in North America. With so many gorgeous flowers and tasty herbs you’ll appreciate this bountiful mix as much as the bees! Available in regular and large packet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edible Lavender

lavender butter syrup and sugarWe often think of lavender only in lotion, oils or candles with its relaxing aroma, even though it’s also edible! You can easily substitute lavender for other herbs, especially rosemary, when flavoring sweet or savory dishes. We added lavender to three common kitchen staples—sugar, butter, and syrup—which you can then add to a multitude of recipes. Use lavender sugar in shortbread cookies for a floral surprise; lavender butter over roasted chicken for a pleasant, earthy flavor; or lavender syrup in lemonade or cocktails for a flowery taste of summer. You’ll be surprised how delicious the lavender from your garden can be!

Lavender Sugar

1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon of dried lavender or 2 tablespoons fresh lavender

Mix the two ingredients together and seal in an airtight container for two days before using to ensure the flavors meld. Recipe can be doubled or tripled, depending on how much sugar you need.

Lavender and Herb Butter

¼ pound of butter (1 stick), softened
1 tablespoon of dried lavender
1 tablespoon of dried parsley
1 tablespoon of dried oregano

Mix all ingredients and chill in the fridge for a few hours. If you prefer, you can use almost any other dried herb, such as basil or chives.

Lavender Syrup

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 tablespoon dried lavender or 2 tablespoons fresh lavender

Mix ingredients in a small pot and bring to a boil. Once boiling, stir the mixture until the sugar is completely dissolved. Let cool for a few hours, strain, and pour into an airtight container. Syrup can be stored in the fridge for several weeks.

Any of our lavenders are perfect for these recipes!

1311_Lavender-Provence-Blue       1053p-Lavender-Hidcote-Dwarf

1156p-Lavender-English-Tall       1238-Lavender-French-Purple-Ribbon