Perfect Pumpkin

Now while pumpkins are plentiful is the time to start buying and baking–because pumpkin has so many health benefits not known to the general public.

About 10 years ago now my husband and I were in the middle of trying to adopt a greyhound. Our love and desire to have a greyhound become part of our family was huge. After most tracks in this country stopped racing greyhounds, local agencies formed to help people/families adopt the retired greyhounds. The one we were trying to get had really bad teeth (potential of hundreds of dollars of care) and she also had problems with her stomach also due to the poor diet given to racing dogs. Time and again at meetings we heard stories of how the foster families and forever families were always using pumpkin with their greyhounds. Pumpkin will bulk up their stool, settle their tummies, and boost nutrition. Unfortunately, because of where we were living at the time, which lacked the appropriate space for this particular greyhound, we did not adopt her.

I’ve never forgotten how much I learned about pumpkin–here’s what I know:

  • It’s rich in vitamin A
  • One cup of cooked pumpkin is 49 calories
  • High in antioxidants that may reduce your risk of chronic disease
  • It’s high in beta-carotene, vitamin A and vitamin C–boosts immunity
  • The nutrients in pumpkin are good for your eyesight
  • Nutrient dense, low calorie, may produce weight loss
  • Antioxidants lower risk of cancer
  • Is packed with fiber
  • Promotes healthy skin
  • Versatile foodstuff that you can add to anything–wraps, salads(cooked) veggies, stews, soups and more

Some people may not know this but pumpkins are a type of squash. Pumpkins and squash belong to the same family called Cucurbitaceae.  Every year I bake up two dozen squash and pumpkin, then let cool, place in freezer bags and freeze. We then are able to eat squash every single month, almost, until the next year’s season. If one or both of us is feeling ill I will make up a pumpkin risotto. Pumpkin risotto does the trick every time. Here is the recipe–Pumpkin Risotto

I also roast all my pumpkin seeds for snacks and to add to bird food.

When you’re done with your pumpkins instead of throwing them into the garbage, where they’ll just clutter up a landfill, choose to break them up and set them out in a place where the birds and other small animals can get to them.

As we head into the season of sickness I would also like to add this article that has natural health remedies such as pumpkin, ginger, rice, and sweet potatoes that help manage diarrhea, nausea, and flu-like symptoms.

Until next time– stay healthy and happy!

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Putting the container garden to bed & more!

Some of my container garden is going to try to overwinter in our apartment again–

My evergreen will be kept on our deck and wrapped in a wool blanket to protect its root ball. This has proved to be a very successful way for me to keep my evergreen tree alive. I’m hoping the ornamental grass, which I think is Variegated Japanese Sedge ( unfortunately I threw away the care instructions/plant ID), will survive too. Most of the birds I’ve been feeding have migrated south for the winter. The last time I saw a hummingbird at the feeder was the first week of October. The Orioles left first and then the finches followed. I set out peanuts and other assorted nuts for about a month and the nuthatches, several chickadees, and some tufted titmouse were able to get their winter stores set up. Now they too are gone and I’ve stopped feeding until sometime early spring when a few early birds will arrive back in this area.

What’s next in gardening?

Well, I planted a packet of tulips and narcissus and those along with my hens and chicks will be overwintering in the garage–insulated with newspaper and burlap. I’ve also got three boxes of paperwhites to start sometime around the holidays.

I lost the battle with my first fiddle leaf fig because it wasn’t properly draining. Truthfully I think it was dead when I bought it as the leaves were quite pale green. This past Saturday I was in a local greenhouse discussing my luck or lack of with a local gardener concerning fiddle leaf figs. She had one that isn’t doing great but isn’t dead yet either and she gave it to me to see what I could do with it. I’m hoping to nurse this one back to full health. I’m learning every day new things about plants and flowers that I will gladly share as time goes by.

The cute blue, orange and green solar lights are something my husband picked up at Shopko when they went on sale for $5.00 and we love them. They definitely brightened up our deck all summer long.

Here is what my container garden looks like today–

Until next spring this post concludes container gardening 2018. Happy fall and winter everyone.

Looking forward to future posts, I will be posting about taking care of fiddle leaf figs, fall food storing, fall/winter food recipes, and at least one post soon on supplements I’ve been using for low-iron, seasonal depression, and also chewable vitamins and are they doing anything for me?

Squash Varieties

Fall is really here in Southwestern Wisconsin with temperatures overnight of 40 and in the upper 50’s during the daytime. I was hoping to get a lot more accomplished this month, but colder than usual early October temps have dampened my plans. We’ve been trying to take a walk in a favorite spot for almost three weeks–rained every weekend. Now for almost a month, we’ve been trying to go to a corn maze and yes you guessed it, it has rained every weekend. This weekend is set to rain all weekend so I’m assuming we’re going to have to hang up what we want to do until next year. Once November hits long duration outdoor events come to a halt. We do hike in a local refuge all winter long, but only on days above freezing. Though last year we did take one brisk hike when temperatures were in the teens. My container garden is almost gone and it’s time to clean things up. Of course, I planted the pumpkins too late again. All the flowers on the plants that came up were male so no pollination happening this year. Next year I’m going to start my pumpkins when they’re supposed to be started and that’s in June. This weekend I am going to plant tulip bulbs in some of the dirt left from herbs I grew and mulch them with pumpkin plants. Our tree and my prairie grass will both be overwintering on our deck. I’ve brought in my beautiful rosemary plant and I am planning on trying to overwinter rosemary again.

It’s fall decor time and we’ve purchased squash (pumpkins) just as we do every year– but this year is a bit different. Thanks to someone I follow on Instagram I’ve learned how to identify squash varieties (way more than my lovely picture above) and also what each variety is good for. Usually, I buy pumpkins for decorative purposes. Not unlike many millions of other people. I know they’re food, but when they’re bought I have no intention of eating them as food. Once they look soft we chop them up and feed them to the birds. Sometimes I’ve dried/baked the seeds and fed them to the birds. This year I am going to carve one pumpkin and bake the other two for pie. I will still throw the seeds to the birds to give them extra energy for their flight south or to get ready for winter. Currently, I’m feeding nuts to a nut hatcher and several chicadees/titmice–that are storing them up for winter. The nuthatch, chickadees, and titmice live together in a small community all winter, watching each other’s backs and protecting their communal territory. Which of course I find so neat because prior to winter the nuthatch is all business/and a bit selfish and doesn’t look like he gets along with anybody. I am definitely the ant in the ant and grasshopper fable. I can definitely appreciate the planning and the storing of food/ winter preparation well before the snow flies.

Until next time–enjoy your fall and on the other side of the world happy spring!

2018 Container Gardening–Week 16

Well, this week will be almost the final week I will share this year’s garden pictures. I will put up one last photo when our deck gets cleaned and everything is put away for winter. I started feeding the birds last summer and continued through until this summer without any breaks.  We’ve been feeding birds or occasionally squirrels for many, many years. Feeding them from a second-floor apartment with neighbors directly below has been a challenge.  Birds drop seed, feeders leak, and my favorite thing–birds poop. A LOT.   My life of late has been cleaning everything up out on the deck before work, and feeding–then returning home 8,10, sometimes 12 hours later and doing it all over again. Year after year for many years especially since we moved into this apartment. So, I’m taking a break and the birds are just fine with it. We cut off the syrup early for the Orioles and Finches so they were able to find other sources of food very easily before the Orioles migrate. We feed finches all winter long along with many other little birds that stick around these parts during the cold weather.  As far as gardening goes, I started seedlings late last winter/early spring, so I’ve been at it several months now. My container garden has been growing and producing a total of 16 weeks, but my seed starters for several plants started almost seven months ago. Again, busy because I water prior to work, then water and deadhead as soon as I get home. Because of the type of plants I choose to grow, I don’t get to take days off without having plant issues (mostly wilting).  So, it is nice that things are winding down. Fall is coming fast I’m afraid. I picked up a container of Henry Blue Asters and a mum plant the other day when I was out.

Without further ado–

2018 Container Gardening– Week 15

This week my container garden is winding down. Some plants have been removed because they are done for the season while others seem to just be getting started. Lo and behold my pepper plant is beginning to produce fruit/veggies. I have one pepper that will be ready by the end of this week and possibly three more before seasons end. This week one of my patio tomato plants was removed–it’s done producing and my petunias were done as well as one of my new guinea impatiens. It’s a hot and humid week so far so my heirloom pear tomatoes should ripen up well and then that will be the end of that plant too. Still thriving are plants I bought almost four months ago–a new guinea impatien, a fuschia, a prairie grass plant, lavender, rosemary, hen and chicks, and the lime coleus plant. This week I purchased a fall plant that I have never seen before– a purple aster. So, we’ll see how that goes. I have horrible luck with mums on my deck. In my photos, you can see in one week my peppers progression. Also, my pumpkins plants are thriving, but will they do anything before the first frost? The last photo has the last of my homegrown tomatoes on the right and an heirloom–for size comparison– on the left that I purchased at the Farmer’s Market this past weekend.

 

2018 Container Gardening–Week 14

My garden is blooming this week–the petunias are going crazy and my pepper plant has grown another foot. The big question is, will it produce fruit? At week 14 I’ve made a very big decision regarding my container garden. I’ve been growing patio tomatoes on my deck for a decade now. Each year I drive to my favorite garden and plant nursery and I spend anywhere from $10.00-20.00 on each patio tomato plant, and then go buy dirt ($20.00), and fertilizer (12.00), and then end up with an average of 5 tomatoes from each plant all season. Some years have been more and others way less. Truthfully they don’t even have much of a taste to them. I spend about 30 minutes getting them planted and then for around four months I water them and care for them every day for an average of 5 tomatoes the size of golf balls, sometimes a tad bigger, every year. So, if we are still living in this apartment next spring I will be ordering two Pink Brandywine Heirloom plants and caring for them all season. Because life is way too short to spend the amount of time I do on growing tomatoes and then they’re not even my favorite kind of tomatoes. Pictured is one I had today because ya–my plants are done producing this year–I paid $3.99# for this beauty. My yield for my patio tomato plants this year was– 5 grape-sized heirloom pear-shaped tomatoes and 3 patio tomatoes the size of golf balls. Total cost for less than 1# of fruit–$65.00 (my time not included). You’ll notice in the photo of my pepper plants some plants popping up–those are my pumpkins. This year instead of planting pumpkins in their own pot and spending countless hours for nothing (seems like a resounding theme at times when container gardening) I decided to throw a few seeds in dirt and see what comes up. Also, you may notice my New Guinea Impatiens and Fuschia are still in their nursery containers vs. being replanted in pots of mine. This is the first year I’ve done that and been able to keep New Guinea Impatiens and Fuschia’s alive. I bought a pretty container to put them in and voila! They’ve done great. Until next time–Happy August!

P.S. my patio tomato plants must have heard I was blogging about them and that what I was typing wasn’t very nice. Yesterday, out of the blue,  a softball-sized tomato on one of the plants began to ripen after being green for nearly a month. In defense of these plants, I never really looked into what kind of tomatoes I would be getting growing them. They were suggested to me for their hardiness (which they are) disease resistance (which they are) and most importantly they are perfect for container gardens (which I have). One of the biggest reasons my yield is so low is that I don’t get a lot of bees on my deck. Some years I have had a lot of sweat bees, which usually pollinate both my tomatoes and my plants. But this year–almost none. I highly recommend patio tomato plants for patios, but would think twice about recommending them to people like me who are living in upper apartments and container gardening on their deck.

 

Caring for Houseplants–Snake Plants, Violets, and Succulents

This week I have pictures of my houseplants since my garden hasn’t changed much in seven days! All of my houseplants are in my home office. My home office is the only room that has a large desk that sits in front of a window with northern and western sun. We get zero southern sunlight which the experts say is best for all plants. My succulents, ferns, and English ivy grow in greenhouses bought at IKEA. If they weren’t in these greenhouses they would be dead. I have had over 20 succulents die in the last 5 years, and have never ever kept a fern alive. I tried growing the first two English ivy plants outside the greenhouses and they lost all their leaves. So I bought two more and put them in the greenhouses and they are doing fabulous. Our apartment is too dry to keep these kind of plants alive. Greenhouses=humidity. I group all of my plants together to help me efficiency water them on several different watering schedules–I have 8 Christmas cactus, 2 orchids, 9 African violets, 5 succulents, 1 ponytail plant, 1 organic wheat cat grass, 1 Opuntia cactus, 2 ordinary cactus, and 1 Nerve plant (Fittonia)also kept in a greenhouse. My last purchase is my lovely Snake plant which had 3 babies coming up shortly after I bought it. I didn’t know how to propagate it correctly so I think I killed the first two. Happily I read a bit about propagating in close quarters (the baby was growing tightly between plant and container)and was able to save the last one and replant it. We shall see how successful I was with that. This year I started watering all my plants from the bottom. I stick all of them in a wash basin with about 1-2″ of water. After about 15 minutes most of that water is gone and soaking in the plant’s root system. Watering this way has made all the difference. This week I bought 3 snake plants from our local coop and I’m very excited to find a suitable place for them to sit and look forward to taking care of them. Until next time–Happy Gardening!!









2018 Container Gardening–Week 12

Finally a sunny day for picture taking–everything is doing fabulous! Gardening is amazing therapy. It keeps you on your toes no matter how big or small your garden is. And the rewards–everyday there is a reward. This year is the first year I kept not one but two new guinea impatiens alive and surprise surprise a fuschia. This year’s trick was keeping them in their original containers and NOT transplanting them into one of mine. My container garden started as a few 6 inch plants or seedlings and here it is at week 12–









2018 Container Gardening- Week Ten



Each time as I sit inside listening to the rain or hail pelt against my deck, I feel like my Dad must have felt when his crops took on flood waters, or we had a drought during the growing season. What can you do? I feel helpless to protect my plants, although I have been known to stand on my deck holding on to my containers during high winds and such. There is nothing I can do when it rains really hard or hails. My plants get very wet and have had their leaves and in some cases stems destroyed by hail. Thankfully, my entire family isn’t depending on the income from my crop of tomatoes. That said I never take growing food on my deck for granted. This week my tomatoes are beginning to ripen–so far they have made it through intense heat, high winds, and thankfully at this time remain free of pests. Year after year anticipation of how well my garden may do and harvest time force me to plant again even though the previous season may have been a total loss. I’m guessing that’s a little like the kind of faith my Dad must have had each year to keep on planting his fields of corn and beans.

All in all this spring/summer has really flown by–it’s hard to believe we are already half way through July. As soon as I harvest my tomatoes my husband and I will be going on vacation. By that time most people will be getting ready for the new school year. This year once again we will be traveling to Door County, WI.

I hope everyone following along is having a wonderful summer. Until next time happy gardening!

2018 Container Gardening- Week Nine

So this week things have stayed pretty much the same in my container garden. Missing are both Walmart non-smelling
geraniums. Not only did they not smell like geraniums, they basically bloomed once and died. I have since visited a nursery and purchased a new geranium plant along with a new petunia plant plus more Purple Cow composting soil. My husband and I live in an apartment complex for now. We are hoping by this time next year to be moving. A few years ago maintenance came around and planted shrubs etc. near everyone’s front door. I am assuming they felt that the tenant should thereafter be responsible for all care and maintenance of said shrubs and plants. Well, the soil these plants were planted in was all wrong, not to mention the kinds of plants planted, and the fact they were hastily put in and during one of the hottest days of the year. For over a year I watered an entire courtyard near our door and four plants right next to our front door. I also fertilized all the plants that were around our unit. Unfortunately, most could not be saved–mostly due to the fact of the soil they were planted in, they were planted shallow, they were planted late fall during a heat wave, and then come spring the area was sprayed by them with a toxic weedeater. This spring nearly everything was dead so we decided to go out and buy hostas at our own expense. I thought hostas would do well near our front door and they still might. However, the spot near our front door gets extreme heat in the afternoon and shade in the am. Hostas need warm sun in the am and shade in the afternoon. This information did not deter us, instead, we went ahead and dug holes, filled them with Purple Cow composting soil, and planted the hostas. Today I made a sunshade for both plants and will cover with said sun shade for part of every afternoon. Keeping fingers crossed. My lavender is doing well since being cut back, and so is my rosemary. Our tree is still recovering, the lime coleus continues to flower and is about 2.5 ft tall, and I have a total of 14 green tomatoes waiting to ripen. How’s your garden doing?