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Summer’s Coming: Thyme To Start Your Herb Garden

Summer is coming and that means outdoor fun, grilling and delicious salads. All the more reason to get your herb garden started today! Growing herbs is an easy, money-saving hobby that also happens to be good for your health. Whatever you’re cooking up at your cookout can be even tastier with your own fresh, homegrown herbs – so let’s get started!

Flavor Things Up with Your Own Herb Garden
Plant these easy-to-grow herbs in your garden and enjoy some fresh-from-the-earth taste at your dinner table. Some herbs, such as Mint and Thyme, should be purchased as plants and transplanted or propagated by cuttings to ensure proper production.

A Fresh Take On Mint
Not only good for your breath, Mint is good for what ails you – including digestion, headaches, asthma, even pimples and cavities. But be careful! This herb needs its space. Mint grows so fast it will choke out anything else in its path.

The Thyme is Right
Thyme is virtually calorie-free and provides a delicious boost of flavor to soups, salads, and just about any other recipe you can think of.

Don’t Pass On Parsley
So much more than a garnish, Parsley is full of nutrients and Vitamins A, C, and K. And while Parsley grows slower than most herbs, it’s worth the wait. Just make sure the soil doesn’t get too dry; once the plant wilts, it rarely recovers.

Sage is All The Rage
Used as a natural remedy for anxiety and fatigue, Sage is a relatively high-maintenance herb – it needs plenty of sunlight, good soil, and a watering every other day.

Cilantro – Two Spices in One
A staple of Mexican and Asian cuisines, Cilantro supplies fiber and iron and helps clear heavy metals like mercury out of the body. Because of its deep taproot, Cilantro needs deep soil to thrive. If your plant does go to seed, don’t throw the seeds away – they’re the tasty spice known as Coriander.

Chive Talkin’
This tasty herb adds oniony flavor to salads, eggs, cream cheese, mashed potatoes, and more. Even better? It can help boost your immune system. Chives grow easily, and don’t need much light. They grow to be about 18″ tall, but don’t require much space to flourish.

Presto, it’s pesto! Go Basil
Known for its leaves’ warm, spicy flavor, Basil is a good source of fiber, and has a detoxifying effect on the liver. (Out late? Try incorporating basil into your brunch!) Basil is a hardy plant that grows easily. It doesn’t need much care and requires watering only every other day.

Have You Herb These Handy Tips?
Let the sun shine in.
An ideal spot would be a few steps from your kitchen, but choose a site that gets at least six hours of direct sun each day. Avoid ground where water stands or runs during heavy rains.
Loosen up – the soil, that is.
 If you’re using a container, plant herbs in a superior potting media, such as Espoma’s Organic Potting Mix. In the garden, till or work the soil and fortify it by mixing in a rich organic plant food such as Espoma Plant-tone®. Plant early in the am or late in the afternoon to prevent transplants from wilting in the midday sun.
Dig a little deeper.
Because you are starting some herbs from bedding plants and not seeds, you will need to create larger planting holes. Dig each hole to about twice the width of the root ball of the new plant.
Give ’em some space.
Space the bedding plants about 18″ apart to give them room to spread out and grow. Place taller herbs, like Sage and Rosemary, toward the back of the garden, and place Parsley and Cilantro at the front.
Can we see some ID?
Add labels to each of your freshly planted herbs to make the easy to identify when cooking.
H2Oh! Water Regularly
Once established, make sure your herbs get an inch of water each week throughout the growing season.

Start your herb garden today and start enjoying the big flavors of summer right from your backyard. It doesn’t get any fresher than that!


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Hanging Basket Maintenance

Here we are a couple of months into the spring/summer season and most of you have had your hanging baskets up for a month or possibly more. This means it is time for you to take the baskets down and give them a little mid-season TLC.

Maintaining your hanging baskets come down to 3 things: Watering, fertilizing and finally pruning and dead heading.


Proper watering is the most difficult part of taking care of flowers and giving your plants the correct amount of water is vital to your success and overall plant health. If you water too much then you can rot the roots. If you water too little then your plant dies. You need to find just the right amount by checking the soil on a regular basis until you feel you are comfortable with how much your particular basket needs. When you are dealing with baskets it is even more important because we want our baskets to be big and bountiful with huge flowers. The problem with this scenario is the actual basket container is not very large and your flowers only have that little container to get its water and nutrients from. In the early spring when the plants are small they won’t require as much water, possibly every 2-4 days. As it gets warmer and the plants have grown you will need to water once or twice per day. If you live near the water then constant breeze is a huge factor in how much you water. Constant wind over the basket can evaporate moisture quickly.

The only place hanging baskets can get their nutrients is from you. Not only do your plants use them, constant watering quickly leaches nutrients from the soil in your pots. It is up to you to make sure you consistently replace these nutrients for maximum plant performance. We use water soluble fertilizer like Miracle Gro often here at Dees to keep our baskets looking perfect. Use this at least once a week. If you feel mixing is too much trouble, consider using a controlled release fertilizer that you would add to the soil. This type of fertilizer breaks down slowly over a period of weeks giving your flowers a consistent source of nutrients. Osmocote or Miracle Gro Shake & Feed are great control release fertilizers.


Pruning & Deadheading
You are guaranteed 3 things in life. Death, taxes and yellowing leaves. Even if you are the best gardener in the world, your plants will get yellow leaves occasionally. Once a week take your hanging baskets down and clean them up. Deadheading is removing spent flowers. When you do this it helps promote more blooms. Pick off any leaves that are old and yellowing. Pruning is the technical term for giving your flowering baskets a haircut. I don’t suggest you cut the plants in half, but when you prune weekly by taking a little off here and a little off there, it allows you to keep the baskets in full bloom without wrecking the look of the plant. Nobody likes anything overgrown and bushy. Pruning allows you to keep that thing neat and tidy. This is also a great time for you to inspect for possible insects that may be attacking your flowers.

Hanging baskets are great additions to your landscape. If you just hang them up and forget about them then you will get just what you asked for, overgrown, ugly plants that are destined for the garbage pail. By following my proper maintenance techniques you will give yourself a summer full of enjoyment for you and all who enter your garden!

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Composting Made Easy

Composting will benefit both the environment and your wallet!  When you make compost, you create a source of high quality nutrition for your garden.

Did you know that composting can be not only easy but a great way to provide your soil with beneficial nutrients to help plant life thrive?  Composting is a process of taking everyday waste from your kitchen, or leaves and other natural matter and decomposing it to provide a rich fertilizer that you can use throughout the year, in your garden, on your lawn, and even for potted plants.

  • Compost systems range in size from small bins used to recycle a household’s scrap all the way to industrial sized bins for farmers.
  • Composting will benefit both the environment and your wallet!  When you make compost, you create a source of high quality nutrition for your garden and eliminate the need to constantly purchase a fertilizer.
  • Composting will improve the soil structure and moisture retention which can actually protect plants from certain diseases.

A good compost starts a home!  Begin your search for ingredients for your compost in your own backyard, kitchen and even your neighborhood.  What waste could you divert from the trash into your compost pile? Most of us can find a wealth of nutrient rich materials such as grass clippings, pine needles, cones, hay, manure, kitchen scraps, coffee grounds and dried leaves to turn into a soil nourishing compost.

Your goal to build a compost pile is to provide the best possible conditions for the proliferation of a hardworking micro-herd of organisms.  Begin your compost pile or bin with a compost starter.  This is done to introduce organisms to your pile. Composting piles or bins are quite simple actually, they need only a balanced diet, water, air and warmth.

Remember anything living can be composted, but the quality and quantity of the materials you use affects the process and determines the nutrient value of the finished compost.

The ideal Carbon/Nitrogen level ratio is 25-30 to 1.  You can achieve this by layering your compost.  Build your compost into alternating layers of high carbon materials like saw dust and high nitrogen materials like fresh grass clippings.

As with anything all living organisms need water, however; too much water will drive out air and will drown the pile.  Good, rich compost is about as damp as a moist sponge.  Make sure your compost pile is in a place that is well drained, you can achieve this by building the compost pile on a layer of sand.

Finished compost is one of the most versatile fertilizers you will ever use.  You can apply it freely at any time of the year without fear of buring plants or polluting water.  Compost can be used on vegetables, annuals, perennials, trees, shrubs and even in potting mixes for your house plants.  Composting is easy, beneficial to the environment and most importantly beneficial to your garden, lawn and all living plants!

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Fall Pumpkin Soup

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 large pumpkin
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 medium onions, diced small
  • 1 Granny Smith apple [peeled and diced small]
  • 2 teaspoons of oregano
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 lbs. of acorn squash seeded, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 3 cups chicken broth (optional); substitute a vegetable broth if on vegan diet
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • pepper to taste
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • chopped scallions for garnish

Step by Step:

  • Remove pumpkin meat from pumpkin and discard seeds (or save them to roast).
  • Put the pumpkin meat in a large bowl and set aside.
  • Melt the butter and sauté the onions, apple and oregano with pumpkin pie spice for 7 – 10 minutes.
  • Add the acorn squash and the pumpkin meat and sauté for another 5-10 minutes to ensure squash is softened.
  • Stir in the stock (vegetable or chicken), along with the pepper and salt.
  • Place on low heat for 20 – 25 minutes.
  • When the squash begins to fall apart this is done.
  • Using an immersion stick blender or food processor, blend until smooth.
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • In the pumpkin shell, add the cream and the purée.
  • Bake for 30 35 minutes, covering the top of the pumpkin with foil.
  • When ready to serve, garnish with scallions and serve the soup right out of the top of the pumpkin.

Hint: for a nice twist, serve with cheddar cheese grated over it.

Fall Pumpkin Recipe by Rickey Esto

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Garden Tips For Growing The Juiciest and Tastiest Tomatoes!

You always remember a good juicy tomato bursting with flavor!

Each tomato has the potential to be juicy and full of flavor a extra attention now will pay off big when it is time to harvest. Here are a few tips to help you achieve that goal:


  1. Healthy soil, healthy plants. Enrich soil with a good fertilizer amendment and compost every other week to keep plants supplied with their necessary nutrients.
  2. Remove damaged plants. Remove any fruit that shows dark patches on their bottom. These leathery patches, known as blossom end rot, cannot be reversed.
  3. Water well.  In hot weather, tomato plants need deep waterings. Tomatoes are also less vulnerable to cracking when the soil is kept moist.
  4. Cover the soil. Mulch will help block weeds  Mulch will save water and protects your fruit. Spread a 2-3” layer of mulch around plants, leaving 2” of room around the stem so water can reach the roots.
  5. Protect plants from heat. Hot sun has the potential to cause sun-scald, leaving tomatoes with pale, leathery patches on the fruits that pucker when they should be ripening. Bushy plants with lots of leaves naturally shade fruit from sun, however, plants with less leaves are more vulnerable. Cover plants with lightweight cloth covers through the first few heat waves.
  6. Remove tomato suckers. These small shoots sprout out from where the stem and the branch of a tomato plant meet. Though harmless, tomato suckers drain energy away from the main stems.

You pick tomatoes when you are ready for them, avoid letting them get soft and mushy. Tomatoes picked at the breaker stage, when they first show signs of changing color, are considered vine-ripened. These tomatoes will continue to ripen off the vine and on your kitchen counter.  Tomatoes picked at the breaking stage can still have the same flavor as one that has fully ripened on the vine. Never place tomatoes in the refrigerator to ripen.

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Victory Gardens

Victory gardens, also called war gardens or food gardens for defense, were vegetable, fruit, and herb gardens planted at private residences and public parks in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and Germany during World War I and World War II. They were used along with Rationing Stamps and Cards to reduce pressure on the public food supply. Besides indirectly aiding the war effort, these gardens were also considered a civil “morale booster” in that gardeners could feel empowered by their contribution of labor and rewarded by the produce grown. This made victory gardens a part of daily life on the home front.

In March 1917, Charles Lathrop Pack organized the US National War Garden Commission and launched the war garden campaign. Food production had fallen dramatically during World War I, especially in Europe, where agricultural labor had been recruited into military service and remaining farms devastated by the conflict. Pack and others conceived the idea that the supply of food could be greatly increased without the use of land and manpower already engaged in agriculture, and without the significant use of transportation facilities needed for the war effort. The campaign promoted the cultivation of available private and public lands, resulting in over five million gardens in the USA[2] and foodstuff production exceeding $1.2 billion by the end of the war.

President Woodrow Wilson said that “Food will win the war.” To support the home garden effort, a United States School Garden Army was launched through the Bureau of Education, and funded by the War Department at Wilson’s direction.

In 1946, with the war over, many British residents did not plant victory gardens, in expectation of greater availability of food. However, shortages remained in the United Kingdom, and rationing remained in place for at least some food items until 1954.

Land at the centre of the Sutton Garden Suburb in Sutton, London was first put to use as a victory garden during World War II; before then it had been used as a recreation ground with tennis courts. The land continued to be used as allotments by local residents for more than 50 years until they were evicted by the then landowner in 1997. The land has since fallen into disuse.[13]

The Fenway Victory Gardens in the Back Bay Fens of Boston, Massachusetts and the Dowling Community Garden in Minneapolis, Minnesota remain active as the last surviving public examples from World War II. Most plots in the Fenway Victory Gardens now feature flowers instead of vegetables while the Dowling Community Garden retains its focus on vegetables.

Since the turn of the 21st century, interest in victory gardens has grown. A campaign promoting such gardens has sprung up in the form of new victory gardens in public spaces, victory garden websites and blogs, as well as petitions to renew a national campaign for the victory garden and to encourage the re-establishment of a victory garden on the White House lawn. In March 2009, First Lady Michelle Obama planted an 1,100-square-foot (100 m2) “Kitchen Garden” on the White House lawn, the first since Eleanor Roosevelt’s, to raise awareness about healthy food