Odds & Ends

Aloe from Seed – You Can Grow That!

how to grow aloe

Every gardener, whether they admit it or not, has at some point grown something in spite of themselves.

Perhaps they didn’t know any better; ask me sometime about my first experience playing golf (ps. don’t ask himself). Or maybe they gave up on a plant, only to have it thrive.

Such was the case with our (er, my) Aloe.

We (er, I) planted as best we (no, I) could following the directions given. Except, well, there was only cactus medium to use.

But we (that is, I) did pick out a nice clay pot, one that would hold moisture but had good drainage, and proceeded to sow the seeds. We (yeah, I) then covered the pot with 2 clear plastic baggies, to aid in germination.

Unfortunately, all that sprouted were fungi. We (I wanted to blame it on him) later read online that it is way hard to grow Aloe from seed. Drat.

So, giving up, we (not really) set the planter on the floor near our (ahem) seed growing system. Still some heat but not much, some light, but filtered.

It was almost 2 months later, after totally ignoring the planter, that we (::cough::) decided to clean it out and move on to something else.

After removing the plastic I (yeah, me) found all the baby aloe plants you see in the pic above.

So since this has been a successful growing experiment after all, we (I don’t mind sharing) are passing our error-turned-success on.

Botanical name: Aloe ferox
Yield: 1 plant per seed
Days to germination: 10 to 30 days
Days to maturity: 5-10 years to flower
Height: To 10 ft.
Hardiness: Mature plants can take a bit of frost, but generally keep away from the cold.
Culture: Keep baby plants in the same pot 3 months-1 year before transplanting.
Requirements: Succulent, requiring very little water. Prefers filtered light.
Uses: Medicinal

you can grow that

You Can Grow That! is a collaborative effort by gardeners around the world to help others learn to grow.
Click on the link above for some wonderful posts.


Categories: Herbs, Odds & Ends, You Can Grow That!



How To Grow Chick Peas

A veggie by any other name.

A veggie by any other name.

AKA Garbanzo Beans or Ceci beans, these legumes are actually neither a pea nor a bean.

They are not often found in the home garden, especially this far north. The reason is they prefer much hotter temperatures and lots of rain.
We are just getting our first beans now, partly because of the weather but also because the rabbits got to the plants early in the spring, setting them back a few weeks.

As we understand it these are delicious fresh, so of course we had to find out for ourselves.

Plant like you would any other bean, waiting until the ground is warm and after all danger of frost.
Put the seed in the soil twice as deep as the size of the seed, about 1/2 inch.
Rather than purchase seeds, we just bought some dry beans at the market.
Same thing, but cheaper.
And that way, we know we will have chick peas no matter what.

Chick peas don’t have to be staked, but they do fall over a bit when they get taller. If you prefer you can grow them along a support and tie as needed.

They really are a pretty plant, with delicate leaves similar to some ferns, and pretty little white flowers.

As for the taste? Give us a few weeks, and we’ll let you know first hand.

Botanical name: Cicer arietinum
Height: 10-18 inches
Days to Maturity: 75-90, depending on whether the rabbits find them or not.
Hardiness: Prefer heat, but will grow in cooler climates with lower yields.
Yield: One plant will provide a number of pods, each pod will produce 2-3 peas.
Use/Storage: Eat fresh, cooked, or let dry and store as a dry bean.

Categories: Beans, How to Grow, Odds & Ends, Peas


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Eat Vegetables? They’re Yucky!


it's a what?

If you read yesterday’s post, you’ll know that Mandolin and I are cutting out most animal products from our diets- to see if our health improves.

And although I do have some fresh veggies left from last season, as well and frozen, canned and dried- we wanted to add to that selection.

So off we went to the closest market that had a decent sized produce department.
It was actually fun- the only thing I normally buy in a produce section is reduced priced veggies for treats for the Ladies.

Mandolin picked out a nice variety of fresh greens, some fruits and a few veggies while I trolled (like a gardenaholic in a farm and garden store) for things we have never had.

I was picking up a Papaya (hard to believe, but it’s true) I saw a very unusual looking veggie.
Just them a woman came up next to me, picked one of these up and snapped it in half.
It was as white as coconut on the inside.

yuca peeled

“What is that?” I asked her- not quite used to being on this end of a veggie question,
“Yuca” she said, as she snapped another in half and place them in her bag.

“How do you prepare it?” I continued.
She then proceeded to not only share a few recipes, but gave me a brief history of where it grows and primarily which cultures eat it, additionally expressing her surprise to find it in this area.

yuca chips

fun fun fun

Excited to learn more, I did a little research when we got home and found out two major things:

1. It naturally contains cyanide, and eaten raw can be toxic.
2. If you live in Zone 7 or lower, you can just forget about growing it.

Now I found #2 to be a challenge (not #1).

So this is how I made:
Yuca Chips

I simply washed the root, peeled it, and cut into fairly thin chips.
I tossed these in a little olive oil, with lemon juice and Grillmates Five Pepper Flakes.

I put them on a cookie sheet and into a preheated 350F oven.
After about 5 minutes or so I flipped them over, and continued to bake until they started to get brown.
It took mine almost 15 minutes all together, it would depend on how thick you slice them.

We dipped them into spicy hummus, and ate with some marinated olives and jalapenos.
The hummus helped cut the heat a little.

yuca chips

mmm... spicy!

They were really very good- much better than store bought potato chips, and as I understand it, yuca is a little healthier than potatoes.

And you know I’m going to give growing it a try!

Have you ever grown or eaten Yuca?

Yuca AKA Cassava
Botanical name: Manihot esculenta
Grown in Zones 8 and higher (I scoff at that!)
Perennial in these areas and can be invasive.
Storing: Does not store fresh well, can be dehydrated or covered in water and frozen.

Read more about it.
Yuca vs. Potato

Categories: How to Grow, Odds & Ends, Recipes



February Friday Fairy Gardens

how to make a fairy garden

plants and power tools, gotta love it

As a child I vividly remember watching one evening as the fairies danced and played on top of the tall grasses in the fields near our house.

I have no idea where the memory comes from- a dream perhaps, or a book- but the memory remains.

how to build a fairy garden

seeds for planting and for decorating

So when I heard about ‘Fairy Gardens’ recently I was immediately intrigued.
The folklore goes that if a Fairy takes up residence in your garden, your plants will benefit.
So- how do you attract a Fairy or two?

Simple- give them a place to live.

So this is my first Fairy House.
Over the remaining Fridays this month you’ll learn more about Fairy Gardens from a few guest authors.

fairy gourd house

a nice thatched roof and windows for a little light

Oh- but hold the phone!
This is First Friday- which means a give-away.

building a fairy gourd

oh I see she's been collecting marbles

How abut a few plants-or perhaps some furniture?
Better yet- a surprise!

fairy gourd garden

ooops- she's missed a few

Just leave a comment here. If it’s your first time, I’ll just need to approve it before it shows up.
I’ll let the online randomizer choose two names on Monday- and they will each receive a package to help them get going on a Fairy Garden of their own.

Fairies in the garden? Oh yeah, I’ve seen them.

Making Gourd Bowls and Planters
Wake Up! with guest Jayne Locas

NOTE 2/6/12Thank you all for your comments and for stopping by the blog! Through the use of Random.org’s online randomizer, the first 2 names to come up were Trish and Tom.
Remember every First Friday there will be a chance to win something gardening related!

Categories: Garden Projects, Gardening People, Places & Things, Keeping up with the Joneses, Odds & Ends, Whimiscal Gardens



How To Grow – Vietnamese Fuzzy Gourd

A relative of cucumbers and melons, this interesting veggie is just as easy to grow.

aka wax or ash gourd

aka Wax or Ash Gourd

It’s sensitive to transplanting, so be careful if you choose to start indoors, about a month or so before the frosts have ended.
You can direct seed in early summer, covering the seeds a bit and watering.
It produces a much larger flower than cucumbers, so it’s quite striking growing up a trellis.

Vietnamese fuzzy gourd flower

Bee shown for size reference. :-)

Picked at about 8″ long or so, there are only very tiny seeds.
Be sure to scrub the little hairs off before eating with the skin; or you can just peel it.
That would have been too easy, I had to go for it.

Vietnamese fuzzy gourd

Scrub those whiskers.

It smells like a cucumber when cut, has the consistency of a zucchini, but the flavor is very mild.
I used some of my first harvest for a delicious stir fry, and plan on trying a soup this weekend.

Vietnamese fuzzy gourd stir fry

fuzzy gourd stir fry

This same veggie goes by many names, such as Winter Melon and Wax Gourd-
Wikipedia has a niece piece on it here.
I just love the sound of Winter Melon Soup!

Botanical name: Benincasa hispida
Yield: one plant per seed, many fruit per plant.
Spacing: 2″, trellis
Storage: I’m sure it can be dehydrated, but I’m new to this veggie too. I’ve read that a fully grown plant can be kept in cool storage, but doesn’t taste nearly as good.

Growing Cucumbers

Categories: How to Grow, Odds & Ends



How to Grow Scorzonera

scorzonera edible flowers

Beautiful as well as edible.

How to grow what?

It was the name of this veggie that first caught our attention while thumbing through seed catalogs. It was also the description of its flavor; it was compared to artichokes and oysters, an odd combination.

Wanting to know more we did a little research:

1. It’s a member of the sunflower family
2. You eat the roots, but you can also eat the pretty little flowers
3. It can be difficult to dig up, so it’s best planted in a pot. This, naturally, we discovered after we had planted it in the ground and it was already well established.
4. It’s often referred to as ‘black salsify’.
5. It takes either 80 days or 8 months to grow- here’s why:

The seed packets and catalogs will indicate you should plant scorzonera in the early spring for a summer harvest, or late July (zone 5/6) for a fall harvest.
We’ve also read it grows similar to parsnips, both like cool weather better.

Parsnips can be wintered over and the flavor will be improved that way, the same is true of scorzonera. So late in the summer you can plant seeds of parsnips and scorzonera in adjacent rows and wait.

scorzonera aka black salsify

Not a'peeling at this point.

What was interesting to note was how each flowered the second summer, the scorzonera produced pretty little yellow flowers and the parsnips something akin to Queen’s Anne’s Lace.

They did dig up easily, so we washed them on the rinse cycle in the dishwasher, and began to trim and peel.
After waiting all this time they better be worth it!

how to grow scorzonera

Not much bigger than a pencil but mmm... so much flavor

There are a number of ways to prepare scorzonera, we used this recipe but wrapped them in prosciutto.

They were served at SaveTheWorld’s Graduation Party.
The consensus was a thumb’s up, with the larger root-to-meat ratio preferred so the flavor of the veggie stood out better.

scorzonera as an appetizer

And now for something a little different.

Definitely worth planting again, but we will use a whiskey barrel this time; partly because that will free up some garden space, but mainly because the flowers looked so darn pretty they deserve to be shown off.

Botanical name: Scorzonera hispanica
Yield: 1 root per seed
Spacing: 2″
Days to maturity: 80
Harvest: After a frost, or overwinter.
Storage: Holds in cold storage, so I’ve heard; we ate them all the first day

Categories: Odds & Ends


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How to- Dry Birdhouse Gourds

drying gourds

gourds come in many sizes

Gourds are about 90% water.
Towards the end of the growing season, about the mid to end of September here in Zone 5, reduce watering to encourage gourds to dry.

It is best to leave the gourds on the vine until after the first frost. They can be left this way all winter, but will dry better if taken indoors.
Be careful not to bruise the gourd, this will cause it to rot.
Cut the gourd from the stem leaving 12” or so of stem where possible. The stem helps draw the moisture from the gourd.

drying gourds

and can be made into many things

Spray the gourds with Clorox Spray or dip in a bleach-water solution of 1 part bleach to 10 parts water to cut down on the amount of mold that develops.
The gourds will need good air circulation.
It is best to store them in an out building as they have a disagreeable order as they dry.
Wood pallets are a good surface for them.
Spread them out giving each plenty of room.
You can wipe the mold off occasionally if you wish, but it isn’t necessary.

Drying can take up to 6 months, depending on the conditions – I’ve never had any that took that long.
The gourd is ready when you can hear the seeds inside rattle and the gourd is completely tan.
Sometimes the seeds will form a ball inside that is still attached to the inside wall. This can be deceiving as the gourd is completely dry but there is no rattle.
Don’t let them fool you!

Before crafting wash the gourd off thoroughly.
Let it dry, and then wash again.
The life of the gourd will depend on this step.

Growing GourdsGourd Resources:
AmishGourds.com Gourds, Craft Supplies
welburngourdfarm.com Thick walled gourds, gourd craft supplies, and tutorials
Numerous people sell the gourds they grow on Ebay.

Categories: Drying-Roasting, How to Grow, How to Store, Odds & Ends



Grow Your Own Birdhouse

As a Master Gardener, I go out to groups to present talks on different gardening subjects.
My most requested presentation is on how to grow and craft birdhouse gourds.

birdhouse gourd

pretty in pink, and mauve

Birdhouse Gourds, Lagenaria siceraria (also known as Bottle Gourds) are the seeds most commonly used for gourd birdhouses.

They require a full growing season, 100-120 days.
The longer they have to grow, the thicker the walls become- making them sturdier.
The vines grow 25 ft. long and longer, and usually produce 10-12 gourds per vine.
Vines can be trellised up, but keep in mind that each gourd can easily weigh 10 pounds.

Start seeds indoors 4-5 weeks before expected last frost date.
In this area that would be the third week of April.
Start in peat pots so there is little disturbance to the roots upon transplanting outside.
Keep moist and give plenty of light.

birdhouse gourd

and blue

Gourds need a lot of sun and a lot of room.
Gourds are usually grown in ‘hills’ of well composted fertile soil.
You can dig a hole about 12” deep, pour in some composted manure and top off with good potting soil.
Plant seeds about 3” deep and cover with soil.
Water in the morning so leaves are dry at night to help prevent leaf mildew.
Water well throughout the growing season. Do not fertilize again or you will get more vine than gourds.

Gourds have male and female flowers.
The female is distinguished by the bulb at the base of the flower, resembling a tiny gourd.
You will get more gourds if you hand pollinate the female flowers by using a Q-Tip (cotton swab) to get the pollen from the male and generously dusting the female flower’s interior.
Male flowers generally bloom 2 weeks prior to the females.
The females only bloom for about one day.

gourd birdhouses

or with a simple design

If growing gourds on the ground, it is best to put hay or straw underneath to prevent rot.
You can also use a wooden board to give the gourd a nice flat bottom.
If trellising, you may want to help support the gourds using pantyhose legs or net bags (like onion bags).

I will be following this post with information on drying gourds and making the birdhouses.

Gourd Resources:
AmishGourds.com Gourds, Craft Supplies
welburngourdfarm.com Thick walled gourds, gourd craft supplies, and tutorials
Numerous people sell the gourds they grow on Ebay.
Audubon.org For more information on birds/birdhouses

Categories: How to Grow, Odds & Ends



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