Freezing Chives and Other Herbs

In Virginia’s zone 7b, milder climate allowed us harvest our herbs year round. But that is not the case in New Hampshire. Since we are now living in the land of ice and snow, we must beat old man winter to the punch by freezing our herbs indoors.

It is easy-peasy! After washing and drying, picking out the dead stems, and chopping chives, I like to freeze them flat in quart-size freezer bags, squeeze out all the air, and simply break off the amount I need for garlic bread, soups, casseroles, deviled eggs… you name it.

I do the same thing with my other herbs: parsley, basil, sage, rosemary, thyme, and oregano.

chiveschopped chivesquart bags/chivesThere are other methods of freezing herbs. Check out some neat ways that Margaret Roach at A Way to Garden freezes her herbs.

Garden Tools

One of my required master gardener classes was a lecture on garden tools. Instructors were scheduled to instruct the class on the tools available for gardeners and the purpose of each. They were bringing examples of spades, shovels, trowels, rakes, saws, shears, weeders, pruners, loppers, hoes, garden forks and pitchforks. Whew! In the world of gardening there are as many tools as there are jobs and we were going to learn all about working in the soil with some and working with plants with others. I felt a little smug going in to this class. I was already a gardener and I had my basic arsenal of garden tools. I knew I’d be yawning, drawing doodles in my book, and looking at my watch a lot during class time.

No rust on these tools!

Boy, was I wrong! I began the class elbows on the desk and head in my hands. Several hours later, I was sitting up straight and had taken copious notes with small sketches in the margins. I found I did not know all the names of the tools I already owned. And I learned a few new names of other handy garden tools. A Winged Weeder? A Garden Bandit?  A Swoe?  A dibber? I learned when to use bypass pruners and when to use anvil pruners. I discovered I knew nothing about choosing a tool to fit my grip, did not understand the benefits of short-handled tools and long-handled tools, styles, weights, and materials. I learned, like proper shoes, garden tools need to be fitted to the gardener.

That was then....

This is now.....

And I learned valuable knowledge on sharpening my own tools (I tossed the dull and bought new ones) and the proper care of tools (I tossed the old and bought new ones).  I took my tools for granted and left them where I last worked in the garden. I’m much better now about wiping tools clean of any dirt or grass before storing them in the garden shed. I sharpen tools regularly and coat the metals with a mixture of petroleum jelly and light oil or a rust blocker spray like Bull Frog Rust Blocker (environmentally safe) to prevent rust. Another master gardener tip for treating metals is to fill a pail with sand and mix in used oil. Any oil will do… cooking, motor… but I do wonder about the environmental impact of eventual disposal.

I still have my favorite tools in the garden shed and it’s nice to know their names, to know how to use them, to know they are better cared for and that they might last a lifetime.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

Slice it, Dice it with Fiskars

According to the manufacturer, the Multi-Snip is the ultimate tool. “It slices! It dices! It washes the dishes and makes your bed.” Well, it doesn’t do all that at my house but it has fast become an indispensable gardening tool for me.

I was introduced to this handy tool at a master gardener meeting where our County Extension Agent wore one in a sheath on his belt, displaying it and saying he couldn’t do without it. It was his most used tool in the garden. I bought two of them on his word, one for me and one as a gift for a gardener son.

The Multi-Snip features four tools in one: pruning/multi-purpose snip, fine-edged knife, serrated kniife, and wire-cutting notch. It comes with a sheath that hooks over a belt or pocket to keep the precision sharp blades covered. This is important as the blades can cause injury if not used properly.

It’s a perfect snip for soft or smaller woody stems. As Fiskar says, “…when it comes to garden chores, there’s nothing this handy device won’t do. It clips wayward stems, slices twine, eats through burlap bags, and even cuts wire.”  Check it out at Amazon or a good gardening store. It is a versatile small tool for gardening that I highly recommend.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

Our New Rain Barrel

We love our new rain barrel. We’ve been in the market for one since spring and finally decided on the Kyoto 75-gallon barrel made by Koolatron, a Canadian company with warehouses in the states and elsewhere. It didn’t cost an arm and a leg and the barrel is is able to withstand extreme temperatures that we occasionally have in our temperate zone. It came well packed and ready to use. I pulled it out of the box and at 18 lbs., I could lift and easily carry it to its chosen location. At this time, there is only one color available: sandstone.

No rain barrel is particularly lovely but this one works for us. The 75-gallon capacity is the primary reason for selecting this product. We diverted our gutter directly into the barrel and I attached a net to the end of the gutter for easy removal of leaves. The screen guard lid on the top is heavy duty but the larger holes allowed mosquitoes to enter and breed.  We solved that problem by attaching porch screening to the bottom of the lid.

The brass spigot works great.  It is threaded which allows me to attach a short hose to fill sizable or bulky watering cans or buckets.  Lower than the spigot is a clean out spout, the black cap seen on the footing.  It screws off for cleaning of sludge buildup.  There is an overflow valve on the top rear of the barrel that we attached a permanent drain for a rain garden, not knowing if this would work or not. It works! A recent 1 1/2″ rainfall filled the barrel and nicely watered the rain garden.

The most surprising thing for me for how quickly the barrel filled in any rainstorm. At first, I found myself running out and checking the level. “Oooo, we have two feet of water!”  But now, I just know I can fill my buckets and water those plants that need it between rainfalls. This one works so great, I do want to add more barrels.  And I tell myself, it’s one small step for the environment but a giant step for our gardens.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count The Ways.

Not everyone feels the same way I do.  Many love it but others have a love/hate relationship with it, while some simply hate it.  It is not uncommon to hear unflattering whispers about it when gardeners gather:
“It smells bad.”
“You give it an inch and it takes a mile.”
“What’s that yucky sticky secretion?”
“Touch one and you bleed.”
“It never grows where you want it to grow.”
“It’s just a 4’ stick with a flower on the top.”

Tisk tisk.  They’re talking about cleome or spider flower, a bloom I think is exotic and jazzy. For me it was love at first sight.  I’ll be the first to concede the leaves and flowers are pungent, the stems are covered with spines, they are sticky, and you never know where they will germinate. But the flamboyant purple, pink and white blooms are spectacular and I’ll overlook any shortcomings these plants have.Cleome

Let me count the ways that I admire this oft-criticized and maligned flower.

1.  Heat tolerant. Cleome scoffs at high temperatures and brings welcome color to the borders until first frost.
2.  It’s free.  That’s the beauty of a self-seeder.
3.  Fun surprises when the babies appear in the borders.
4.  Drought tolerant.
5.  Bees love it.
6.  Hummingbirds love it.
7.  Bunnies hate it.
8.  They pull up easily.

cleome

Advice:  Water occasionally to prevent leaves from drying.  Plant in established borders so other plants will support the stems.   New varieties like Senorita Rosalita are more compact and have no odor, nor spikes.  They are sterile however.  No fun there.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester