Saturday, May 31, 2014

Harsh Winter - Hardy Plants!

This winter was harsh.  There was so much snow and so much cold and the only garden safety net we had was the covering of snow which settled in on December and did not melt away until April.  The covering of snow protected the plants when the weather turned bitter, going 25 degrees below zero at one point.  My favorite saying this winter was the ground is still white.  I was saying that in May when we had one last snow storm that covered the grass in white one last time making it impossible to plant even perennials until after May 18.

Good for the garden was the fact the snow fell in December and never melted.  This snow cover protected everything in the garden.  However anything not covered by the snow was wind damaged or killed outright.  The tops of some plants were dried out by raking winds.  Climbers, trees and shrubs have large amounts of winter kill.  My thyme bed is so disheartening that I could not take photos of it.  However, this year I have a special project-- a 20 x 20 foot community garden patch and in that patch is a 3 foot by 3 foot raised bed with thyme, so at least I have beautiful thyme plants to enjoy without memory of what once was!

The garden as first planted 5-18-14

These are a combination of French, German, English, Common Lemon and Doone Valley Thyme.  The Doone Valley I wintered over in the house, the others I purchased this spring from nurseries and plant sales.

The soil did not really warm up until between May 15 and 20.  I did no direct sowing in the garden until around Memorial day.  The winter sowing I did was slow too.  The plants finally germinated and sprouted in late April.

You can see the snow cover even in February

Here are the spouts on 4/27/14
They are large enough and have their first two real leaves, so I can plant them out in the garden now at the end of May.  For details and photos of that task, check out my Community Backyard Blog later this weekend.  Winter sowing was to give me a jump start on the seed season, but I think it is not going to be the coup I'd hoped it would be this year!

To my surprise the seed that fared worst was Nasturtiums.  These hard shell seeds usually are perfect for winter sowing, but the germination of the seed was 1 plant in the entire container.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Book Review - Small Space Garden Ideas

I was cruising the new book section of the library this month and ran across this great book from DK publishing.  It is entitled Small Space Garden Ideas by Phillippa Pearson (DK Publishing: London, 2014).

I like Dorling Kindersley Publishing because they have such great photos and the slick pages are just so easy to read and view.  All the books I have from them are heavy in weight and this is no exception.  What was exceptional about this book was the weight of information inside matches the weight of the book itself.  The author takes us through several different times of small gardens.  This is not a book just on container gardening, but micro gardens, hanging gardens, and even novelty planters.  There was even one on making a Fairy Farm!  There are step by step instructions on how to make each garden described with photographs of just the right steps.

One of the supreme features of the book is a small box that you find at the end of each project with the title "Care Advice."  These little boxes give watering and feeding details, general care instructions, and other tips to make the project more successful.  I think these boxes impart the author's special knowledge of plants giving the book so much more credibility.

If you are into succulents or air plants there were suggestions for making inventive gardens with these plants as well as traditional herbs, vegetables and flowers.  No matter what you grow you will find a garden idea for you to try in this wonderfully crafted book.

Photo courtesy of
The author Phillippa Pearson is from England, as is common with DK Publishing.  She is an accomplished gardener and award winning author. She publishes monthly features on gardens and plants in Hertfordshire Life and Essex Life and she has also contributed to regional and national media including BBC Gardeners' World magazine, The English Garden, Homes & Gardens, Cambridge News, Cambridgeshire Journal and the Soil Association's website.

Her gardening chops include three years as consultant gardener at the Brocket Hall estate, Welwyn, Hertfordshire as well as countless awards including several from the Royal Horticulture Society.  It is worth checking out the photographs of plants she has on her website under Plant Portraits.

My two favorite projects in the book were Saddlebag Patio Pouches made from oil cloth and a Tea Garden made on a tea tray with tea cups saucers and a tea pot.  She also shows how to make your own cement planters.

Here is my attempt at saddle bags.  I used a black material to match my railing.

I have not had a chance to try the tea pot idea yet, but in the book you can see it is stunning.

The book is a bit pricy on, but I found it to be more reasonable directly from the DK Publishing website.  There is a digital edition which will save you some money too.  Either way the book is worth a look for the detail you get and the exquisite photographs.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Herbal Recipe - Grilled Broccoli Raab

Although somewhat unconventional, grilling dark leafy greens like broccoli raab is a fun way to add subtle smokiness. Here, we bump up the flavor by tossing it with a garlic-rosemary vinaigrette.
Photographer: Ken Burris

Grilled Broccoli Raab

1 bunch broccoli raab, (about 1 pound), trimmed

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons red-wine vinegar
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon rosemary, fresh chopped
1/4 teaspoon thyme, fresh chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Cook broccoli raab in a large pot of boiling water until bright green and barely tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Drain in a colander and rinse with cold water; drain well.

Combine oil, vinegar, herbs, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Grill the broccoli raab, turning once, until tender and the leaves are just beginning to char, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Toss the broccoli raab with the reserved dressing.
If you love grilled vegetables and herbs we recommend our salt-free dressing mixes as the perfect marinade.  You can find them all in out Etsy Shoppe.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Weekend Recipe - Citrus Salad

Nothing brings more bright and summery flavors to the table than citrus fruit.  This recipe will give you an amazing side dish for grilled foods or sandwiches.

Citrus Salad

2 teaspoons very finely grated fresh orange or Meyer lemon zest
1/2 cup fresh citrus juice
1/4 cup light, floral honey (you can use BYP Lavender Honey!)
1/4 cup Grand Marnier
1 to 3 teaspoons fruity bitters 
1/2 tsp. lemon balm or lemon mint

6 cups fresh citrus fruit pieces, such as oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, clementines, satsumas, kumquats, pomelos, and/or tangelos

Whisk together the zest, juice, honey, Grand Marnier, and herbs  & bitters in a large bowl. Taste the dressing and make sure it is balanced. The bitters should be perceptible yet mysterious. Some are more potent than others, so start with a little and work up.
Add the fruit and toss gently to coat. Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes and up to 12 hours. Let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes and stir gently before serving.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

What is a Meat Rub?

What really makes a rub a rub is how it is applied. I suppose that you could say sprinkling salt and pepper over a steak was like adding a rub, but this really isn't what we mean when we talk about rubs, particularly a traditional barbecue rub. A rub should coat the surface of the meat. You should work a rub evenly into to the meat to get the flavor inside as much as possible.    

Rubs come in two varieties, wet rubs and dry rubs. A dry rub is made of herbs and spices and can be either sprinkled over meat or actually rubbed in. A wet rub contains a liquid ingredient, usually oil and is coated over the surface of the meat. Beyond this, practically anything goes. What you want in your rub is really a matter of personal taste. You want a good rub to add flavor and color but you don't want it to overpower the flavor of the meats you are rubbing.   

Most dry rubs contain such things as paprika, chili powder, granulated garlic, cayenne, etc. To get these dry ingredients to stay on requires the natural moisture of the meat.  You want to enhance the flavor of the meat without over shadowing it, so a good rub will be a mixing of strong spices with mild, complimentary ones to create an even distribution. If you're going for a hot spice combination, chose a blend with chili powder, cayenne or paprika. It will give the meat a good color and add the level of heat you want without making the meat too hot to eat.

This example is a Sweet / Hot blend with a combination of sugar and spices.  It will get you started on a journey to create some rubs of your own.

Spicy Barbecue Rub

2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
3 tablespoons paprika

Combine all ingredients. Use on a large piece of beef, chicken, lamb or pork when barbecuing or spit-roasting. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 1 month.

If you want to try out the sugar and salt-free rubs of the Backyard Patch, see this Etsy listing.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Tuesday Recipe - Sage Butter

Do you like butter on cooking steak?  Then a sage butter will be amazing.  Because you are using fresh sage for this, the flavor will be more gentle and sweet than strong dried sage making it a good companion for oven roasted potatoes, grilled summer squash and grilled chicken. 

Sage butter
2 1/4 sticks butter, softened
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage leaves
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
10 pitted medium green olives (1/4 cup), roughly chopped
2 anchovy fillets, finely chopped

Place softened butter in medium bowl. Add remaining ingredients; mix until well combined. Place butter mixture on a piece of plastic wrap about 8 in. long. Roll mixture into a log about 2 inches in diameter; wrap tightly. Chill until required.

Formed into a log and wrapped in plastic wrap, butters like this will keep for up to 1 month in the freezer and up to 5 days in the refrigerator. Allow to soften slightly at room temperature before slicing into rounds. You can halve the quantities given here, if preferred.

If you love herbal butters, the Backyard Patch makes a selection of different blends crafted especially to blend into butter.  You can find them allhere.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Weekend Recipe - Garlicky Escarole

Esarole is a great summer green.  You can use it as a substitute for bibb letuce and red lettuce.  I like it because it makes a wilted green dish like lettuce never can.

Try this so you see what I mean:

Garlicky Escarole

2 heads escarole, chopped
1 Tbls. Olive oil
2 cloves fresh garlic, finely chopped
¼ tsp. crushed red pepper
Salt & pepper
1 8 to 10 ounce can cannellini beans
1 Tbls. capers


Heat extra virgin olive oil in 12-in. skillet on medium. Add garlic, finely chopped, and 14 tsp. crushed red pepper; cook 1 minute, stirring. Add escarole, and 1/8 tsp. each salt and pepper; cook 3 to 4 minutes or until wilted, stirring and tossing.

Stir in cannellini beans rinsed and drained, and capers, drained and chopped. Cook 2 minutes.

Serve as a side or on baguette slices as an appetizer.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Herb Recipe - Honey Mustard Chicken

Enjoy another recipe over on Facebook.  And come back each Tuesday for more!  We also post a weekend recipe too!

Honey Mustard Chicken
A honey and mustard coating flavors succulent boneless, skinless chicken thighs. Red potatoes baked with the chicken soak up the juices.

4 (6-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/2 teaspoon salt
Coarsely ground black pepper
4 tablespoons Dijon mustard (or herb mustard)
2 tablespoons honey
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 Tbls. minced fresh thyme leaves or ½ teaspoon dried
½ Tbls. minced fresh savory or 1 tsp. dried
1 pound small red potatoes, cut into halves
Olive oil cooking spray


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Sprinkle chicken thighs  with 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Place in a 13 x 9-inch baking dish. Combine mustard, honey, shallot and herbs in a small bowl to form a paste. Spread over thighs, covering them completely.
  3. Add potatoes to the pan and spritz with olive oil spray. Sprinkle potatoes with 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper.
  4. Bake about 50 minutes, stirring potatoes once, until potatoes and chicken are tender.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Herbal Vinegar Around the House - spring cleaning

There are many uses for herbal vinegar, and it is simple and easy to make.  Check out these recipes I have shared before.  I am cleaning up the house for summer visitors and pulled out the vinegar from last summer to use it up before I make more from the garden. I have thyme, sage, lemon herb, and lemon and peppercorn, and several others.  Each of them or just plain white vinegar can be used with these great tips.

My Top 10 Springtime Uses For Vinegar

1. Clean out the refrigerator with a vinegar / water solution. Apple cider vinegar helps to absorb bad odors for a couple of days if left in an open container.

2. Cleans wooden cutting boards. Works as a great substitute for baking soda, making the boards clean and free of germs.
3. Insect repellent. Vinegar is a safe and effective insect repellent, chasing away ants and other insects once you wash the counter tops with a vinegar solution.
4. Fruit Fly Trap. Place a small bowl of vinegar on counter, add a few a drops of liquid dish detergent. The detergent creates a skim on the top of the vinegar, and the gnat or fruit fly can’t escape and drowns. Works like a charm!

5. Weed killer. Vinegar is a great natural way to kill weeds in the lawn.  Over the counter weed killers are full of harmful chemicals, and vinegar is a great alternative. Be sure to just spray your unwanted plants and not the ground. Vinegar will kill your grass as well, so be careful to get it just where you want it!
6. Enhances the acidity in soil. When some plants call for high acid soil, use a gallon of water to a cup of vinegar then water these plants.
7. Alternate fertilizer. Vinegar, used an in eight to one mixture with water helps to fertilize plants that are in need of help. Do not use on healthy plants.
8. Soap scum remover. Rub in white distilled vinegar followed by a nice scrub with baking soda to remove soap scum from tubs and showers. Rinse well with water.

9. Toilet cleaner. Vinegar works as a substitute for baking soda to clean the toilet, inside and out. Allow vinegar to stand in bowl for half an hour before flushing.

10. Shower cleaner. If you soak a towel in vinegar then wrap around the shower head to remove the corrosion and buildup of hard water.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Baked Tomatoes - Weekend recipe

I know it is early for garden tomatoes, but I just planted my plants this week and all that gardening and thoughtful planning, as well as day dreaming about what my garden will yield in the future, I could not resist sharing a fresh tomato recipe.  Enjoy!

Baked Herb Tomatoes

·         4 large ripe tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick

·         1/8 cup grated Romano cheese

·         1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs

·         salt and pepper to taste

·         1 teaspoon Backyard Patch Italian Seasoning or Garlic and Herb Combination

·         1 tablespoon olive oil




Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Coat a shallow baking dish with cooking spray.

Place tomato slices close together in prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with cheese, bread crumbs, herbs, salt, and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil.


Bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven, or until cheese is lightly toasted.  Serve warm or cold.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Soothing Bath Sachet - Monthly Bath Recipe

Soothing Bath Sachet
  • 1 1/2 cup powdered milk
  • 1/2 cup Epsom salt
  • 1/8 cup baking soda
  • 2 Tbls. cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup Oatmeal 
  • 1/4 cup Rosemary 
  • 1/4 cup Chamomile 

Blend all ingredients together, then divided into muslin bags or other pouches.

Make drawstring pouches out of cheesecloth, organza or muslin, enough to hold anywhere from 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of the mixture. Tie them tightly shut so the loose ingredients won’t float out. After use the contents can be emptied, the pouches rinsed out then washed to be refilled and reused.

TO USE: Two ways these can be enjoyed, either hang them on the tap while the hot water is running, making sure the water is running through them. Once the tub is filled, let them float around. or the Infusion Method: Boil a quart of water, turn off heat, add pouch, cover, then steep (for at least 20 minutes for best results). Add the piping hot infusion (and the bag) to a full tub, being careful while pouring to avoid burning yourself.

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