Monday, April 30, 2012

May Garden Tips and Chores

Tomorrow is the first day of May, which is one of my favorite months. In May my lilacs and peonies bloom, as well as the chives, irises plus more wildflowers. Below is one of my miniature iris, which just started blooming.

It was the month of May, the month when the foliage of herbs and trees is most freshly green, when buds ripened and blossoms appear in their fragrance and loveliness. And the month when lovers, subject to the same force which reawakens the plants, feel their hearts open again, recall past trysts and past vows, and moments of tenderness, and yearn for a renewal of the magical awareness which is love." - Sir Thomas Malory 
Today I have some general garden tips for this time of year. 

-It's important to care properly for spring bulbs such as tulips and daffodils because what you do now helps the bulbs grow and multiply for next spring.  After your spring bulbs have bloomed, snip off the spent flower.  Leave the foliage alone until it yellows and turns brown. The plant won't put energy into forming seeds, instead it will go into the bulbs. This is a good thing, and worth putting up with the wilted foliage for a bit.  If you want to divide your bulbs or move them to a new spot, wait until the foliage is yellow, then dig them up carefully and move them to the new location.  Leave the foliage on the bulb even if you move it.  Again, don't trim it off until it's brown.

-It's also time to mulch around young or new trees and shrubs. We do this each year and it's made a big difference in their growth.  Don't pile the mulch up tight to the trunk, leave an inch or so of space. We put down compost first then a thick layer of mulched straw. Grass clippings can also be used as long as they are dried first. Never use the clippings while they are fresh, or if the lawn has been treated with chemicals. 

-Prune any hedges or shrubs that need to be shaped. If the shrub is spring blooming, then wait until it's finished before pruning, unless there is dead, damaged wood-that can be carefully cut out right away.

-In Michigan our chrysanthemums are just coming back, but in warmer climates, start watching for buds which should be pinched out until July. I was busy one year and forgot to do this. It made a huge difference in the blooms, which were very sparse by time the fall rolled around. 

-Now is also the time to put plant supports in place for peonies, delphiniums or other perennials that tend to become heavy and bend over when in bloom. It does make a big difference, especially with peonies.

-Even in the North it's time to direct sow calendula, bachelor button, nasturtium, marigold,  morning glory and cosmos.  

-Zone 6 and above should be able to sow cucumbers, beans, squash, corn and okra.

-Zone 3-5 should wait til June 1st for the above if they don't have protection, but we can sow peas, spinach and greens of all types.  

Lastly, be sure to enjoy the spring by taking walks, watching for the wildflowers, butterflies and new blooms.  I took this picture over the weekend when I noticed this type of butterfly on our cherry blossoms.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Sunday Dinner Menu:

Today I'm sharing a nice, simple Sunday dinner menu with roast chicken, rice and vegetables. Serve with rolls, and a simple dessert. I love roast chicken, and always make homemade chicken noodle soup with the leftovers. We certainly need homemade soup this week, since we seem to be picking up every virus going around. I've had sick kids needing extra nurturing on and off all month. I was finally able to go for a walk and take some pictures today since the sun was out, the wind had died down and it wasn't raining or sleeting. I hope all of you are having a nice spring and keeping healthy. 

  Sunday Roasted Chicken 
 2 (3 1/2 lb-4 pounds each) chickens 
1/2 stick butter, room temperature 
2 tsp. dried basil 
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. salt 
1/2 tsp. pepper 
1 tsp. garlic powder 
1 c. canned chicken broth 

 Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove any fat and the neck/organ packet from from the chicken cavities. Rinse and pat dry. Place in a large roaster pan. Loosen the skin over the breasts. In a small bowl, mix the 1/4 cup butter, dried herbs, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Rub 1/2 of butter mixture under the breast skins. Rub remaining mixture over the surface of the chickens. Season inside and out with salt and ground black pepper. Place the chickens breast side up in a large roasting pan. Roast the chickens 15-20 minutes at 400 degrees, then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Continue roasting until juices run clear when thickest part of thigh is pierced. Baste occasionally with the chicken broth.

Brown Rice and Mushrooms
 2 tbsp. olive oil 
1 cup sweet onion, chopped small
1 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms, any type
1 can (14 1/2 oz.) chicken broth 
2 cups instant brown rice, uncooked 

Heat oil in a saucepan on medium heat. Add onions; cook until softened.  Add mushrooms and cook 3-4 more minutes until mushrooms are tender, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken broth while stirring. Bring to a boil, then stir in rice; cover. Reduce heat to low and  simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat, then allow it to stand 5 minutes.  Fluff with a fork, and serve. Makes 8 servings. 

 Green Beans With Herbs 
1 pound fresh green beans 
4 tbsp. butter or margarine
1/2 cup minced onion 
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced 
1/4 tsp. dried rosemary
1/4 tsp. dried basil 
3/4 tsp. salt 

Trim ends of beans, cut into 2 inch pieces. Cook in several inches of water in a covered pan for 15-20 minutes until tender. Drain beans and keep warm.  In a skillet, melt butter and saute onion and garlic for about 5 minutes. Stir in the rosemary, basil and salt. Cover and simmer for 5 more minutes. Just before serving, add the cooked greens beans to the onion and garlic mixture. Stir gently and serve.

On OFL we have another nice Sunday menu here: