Archive for the 'Gardening' Category


The Summer Garden Is Done, What’s Next?

Author: Meera, August 22, 2017

My summer garden is wild and chaotic and bountiful at the beginning of the season. You’ll find fruit trees, vegetables, vines of melons, corn, and perennial lavender and other showy herbs and flowers. Like a grand dame of faded elegance, the garden has matured and looks a bit weary and spent now that Labor Day approaches.

 

Just because the peak growing season is coming to an end, it’s not the end of garden chores. The following tasks can be started now.

 

 

HARVEST AND STORE

 

Harvested pumpkins and heirloom butternut squash symbolize the arrival of autumn

Heirloom butternut squash and sugar pumpkins

 

For some crops, the harvesting goes on. Examples include tomatoes, potatoes, melons, and winter squashes like Butternut that store well. If you haven’t already harvested the garlic, it’s a good time to do that.

 

 

 

Cut sunflower seed heads and place them in a warm area to dry.  Collect seeds from cosmos, nasturtiums, and other flowers to preserve for next year’s garden. Work out storage options, especially for food items to be harvested.

 

 

Snip summer table grapes and other varieties if they are ripe . . . or let them hang a while longer for extra sweetness.

 

Our grapes are Thompson Seedless and Merlot

These Merlot grapes will turn deep purple and taste quite sweet when ripe

 

 

CLEAR BEDS

Depleted, dying, or dried annuals can be dug, pulled, and composted now. If you plan to let the garden rest, plant a cover crop so the ground doesn’t become hard scrabble. The cover crop will feed the soil.

 

 

DO FALL PLANTING

If you intend to do a fall planting, take time now to enrich the earth with amendments. Turn and rake the garden soil. Put plants directly into the prepared earth and water well to get them off to a good start.

 

 

 

lettuce and peas and onions are already ready for our table

Lettuce and other greens  are easily grown in raised beds

 

 

For quick second crop before the weather turns cold, plant greens such as spinach, kale, and arugula. Cool season crops like beets, broccoli, and cabbage can go directly into the ground now, too.

 

 

CUT FLOWER AND SEED HEADS

Cut flower heads of hydrangeas for drying. Insert plant markers near peonies and other perennials that will die completely back during winter. Gather bunches of mint and other herbs, tie with string, an hang in a cool, dark place to dry.

 

 

CREATE MULCH

Designate an area to create a new compost pile. Use garden detritus and fall leaves as the trees begin to drop their canopies to enter winter dormancy. The resulting mulch will enrich the soil for next year’s garden.

 

 

Store onions in burlap bags; pomegranates

Store onions in burlap bags; pomegranates keep in the refrigerator for up a month

 

 

CHECK ON FALL PRODUCE

Pomegranates, persimmons, and pumpkins will soon be ripening. Ensure that these plants continue to get water. Check for pests and any signs that might indicate nutrient deficiencies that could show up in the leaves. Figure out your options for storing or gifting excess fruits and veggies. For example, pomegranates keep well in the fridge or remove the seeds and put into bags for freezing. Save  and dry rinds for potpourri.

 

 

TURN THE SOIL IN GROW BOXES

Aerate and amend soil in grow boxes and raised beds for cool season crops. Do these chores before the rainy season and cool weather arrives. Your garden, like a young maiden who flourishes from attention, will produce bountiful vegetables, fruits, berries, and flowers during its next growing season.

 

 

 

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If you enjoy reading about farmette topics, gardening, and keeping chickens and honeybees, check out my series of cozy mysteries from Kensington Publishing in New York.

 

 

Click on this link: http://tinyurl.com/ya5vhhpm

 

 

The newest offering in the Henny Penny Farmette of cozy mysteries

The newest offering in the Henny Penny Farmette of cozy mysteries

 

 

 

 

 

My newest nonfiction book  is published by Adams Media/Simon & Schuster: http://tinyurl.com/y9vfw2t9

 

Anyone can find peace, clarity, and focus...all it takes is a moment

Anyone can find peace, clarity, and focus…all it takes is a moment

 

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Growing Blueberries in the Bay Area

Author: Meera, August 4, 2017

My Henny Penny Farmette is not far removed from ranch land populated by cows and dotted with towering oaks and pines. In the blistering heat of summer, the surrounding hills and canyons support little more than star thistle and wild grass that dries to become the perfect tinder for wildfires. Until recently, I doubted I could ever successfully grow blueberries that need the moist, acidic soils, more common to the Northeast and deep South.

 

 

Luscious blueberries--a great source of antioxidants, Vitamin C, and fiber

Luscious blueberries–a great source of antioxidants, Vitamin C, and fiber

 

 

 

However, after reading the University of California paper on growing blueberries here in the West, especially in the nearby Central Valley and also the Santa Clara Valley, I decided to try a couple of plants. See, http://ucce.ucdavis.edu/files/filelibrary/5842/25993.pdf.

 

 

I chose to grow Sharpblue (a southern highbush type of blueberry). These plants have beautiful blue-green foliage and a compact growing habit. When they reach their full height, they will stand 6-8 feet high and 4-6 feet wide. The plants are self-fertile.

 

 

This plant produces both flowers and fruit throughout most of the year; the fruit can be picked from midsummer through the fall. To my surprise, the plant bore fruit this year.
Northern lowbush blueberries grow well in northern U.S. states and in Canada where moist soil and long hours of winter chilling fulfill the plant’s growing requirements.

 

 

For best results in the Bay Area, choose highbush blueberries such as the following: Sharpblue, Sunshine Blue, Bluecrop, Blueray, Ozark Blue, Georgia Gem, Misty, Reveille, Cape Fear, and O’Neal. Plant them in acid soil that drains well and is porous.

 

 

They may also be planted in containers on patios but require plenty of water and six hours of sun. In the hottest areas, provide part sun/shade.

 

 

Highbush types of bluberries produce throughout the summer into fall

These highbush “Sharpblue” berries produce throughout the summer into fall

 

 

 

Blueberries taste great in pancakes, muffins, strudels, and coffee cakes. They’re delicious in jams or stirred into yogurt (my favorite). Just a single cup of this low-cal fruit is packed with Vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants. Freeze extra berries to enjoy later.

 

 

Try making this taste-pleasing recipe posted online at WebMD.com for Blueberry Nectarine Granola Crisp. See, http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/blueberries-nutritious-things-come-in-small-packages_ 

 

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If you enjoy reading about farmette topics, gardening, and keeping chickens and honeybees, check out my series of cozy mysteries from Kensington Publishing in New York.

 

 

Click on this link: http://tinyurl.com/ya5vhhpm

 

 

Murders at a N. California winery is a catalyst for ex-cop turned farmette owner Abigail Mackenzie

Murders at a N. California winery is a catalyst for ex-cop turned farmette owner Abigail Mackenzie

 

 

 

 

Click on this link to see The MURDER OF A QUEEN BEE: Click on this link: http://tinyurl.com/yd7pz7af

 

The second novel in the Henny Penny Farmette series comes out September 27, 2016

The second novel in the Henny Penny Farmette series

 

 

 

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Harvesting Garlic

Author: Meera, July 27, 2017

Now that it’s the last week of July, the garlic in my Henny Penny Farmette garden is showing signs of maturation. When the bottom stalk leaves turn brown and dry, it’s an indicator that the bulbs beneath the soil are ready for harvesting.

 

 

 

Onion and garlic are considered kitchen staples all over the world

Onion and garlic are considered kitchen staples all over the world

 

 

 

Garlic is easy to grow, harvest, cure, and store. If you like to cook, you already know how important garlic is as a culinary staple. Since it doesn’t require much space, you can grow it in a large pot or flower box on your patio. It’s well worth your time and effort.

 

 

The leaves of a garlic plant sprout from the bottom of the stem upward. The oldest bottom leaves will indicate maturity of the bulbs.

 

 

Garlic sends out green shoots as it grows in the spring

Garlic sends out green shoots as it grows in the spring

 

 

Use a fork to carefully loosen soil around the base of each garlic plant. It’s a good idea not to pull from the stems as they might snap. You don’t want to bruise or otherwise damage the garlic bulbs.

 

 

Once the plants are harvested, you’ll need to cure them by drying them in a cool, dark place. You could also tie them by their stems in small allotments and hang in protected shed or ventilated closet where the air can circulate around the bulbs.

 

 

Cloves of garlic ready to be peeled and prepared for cooking

Cloves of garlic ready to be peeled and prepared for cooking

 

 

 

When the garlic has been cured, remove any remaining soil. Braid the stems to hang the bulbs in your kitchen for easy access when cooking (these braids also make great gifts to friends who cook). Or, leave about 1/2 inch of stem in place before cutting off the rest and storing the garlic in a cool, dark, place.

 

 

Softneck Garlic: This type of garlic is preferred for braiding and includes the varieties of Creole, artichoke, and some Asian types of garlic. Softneck garlic grows best where winters are mild and this type of garlic stores for a longer period of time than hardneck types.

 

 

Hardneck Garlic: If you want garlic adaptable to cold winter climates and a taste that is closer to wild garlic, this is the type of garlic of choose. It includes the rocambole, purple stripe, and porcelain varieties.

 

 

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If you enjoy reading about farmette topics, gardening, and keeping chickens and honeybees, check out my series of cozy mysteries from Kensington Publishing in New York.

 

 

Click on this link: http://tinyurl.com/ya5vhhpm

 

 

The third novel in the Henny Penny Farmette series is due out in September 2017

The third novel in the Henny Penny Farmette series is due out in September 2017

 

 

 

 

 

Click on this link: http://tinyurl.com/yd7pz7af

 

 

The second novel in the Henny Penny Farmette series comes out September 27, 2016

The second novel in the Henny Penny Farmette series

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Heirloom corn shares space with vegetables and fruits in my potager garden

Several patches of heirloom corn shares space with vegetables and fruits in my potager garden

 

 

I’ve long been enamored of the traditional French jardin potager or ornamental, vegetable kitchen garden. The kitchen garden has its roots the medieval jardin de curé, described by garden author Jean-Paul Collaert in Kitchen Gardens of France, by Louisa James (Thames and Hudson 1999), as a “garden of lines . . . not dabs of color” as opposed to the English cottage garden and the traditional vicarage garden.

 

Most potagers grow the traditional four types of plants: vegetables, fruit, flowers, and herbs. What I love is the revival of interest worldwide in heirloom fruits and vegetables, which are perfectly suited for a kitchen garden. On my farmette, I grow plants almost exclusively from heirloom seed.

 

 

Corn and cucumber share space with tomatoes

Corn, cucumber, and tomatoes share ground space; onions, garden peas, and eggplants thrive in boxes, table grapes spill over the fence

 

 

The medieval jardin de curé has been characterized by scholars as having plants in distinct beds laid out along formal lines (the Latin cross was popular). Gardening plots were defined by ge0metric shapes that could be quite complex (for example, the historic knot garden). Plants included herbs and flowers (many for medicinal uses), vegetables, berries, fruit trees, and ornamental trees and shrubs. This type of garden could be rustic or highly formal and could be found throughout France, from small farms and cloisters to country estates.

 

 

Cosmos, corn, pomegranate, and grapes

Cosmos, corn, pomegranate, and grapes work as disparate companions in the potager

 

 

Our farmette garden has characteristics of the jardin potager and also the jardin de curé, although it could not be  described as a true representation of either.

 

When we first moved to the farmette, we created and followed a master plan. The acreage  follows a large rectangular-shape perimeter with our small house situated in the middle. Behind the house, a lawn is lined with gravel pathways. The pathways are dotted with boxes of herbs and flowers, mint, and berries. Between the boxes, the apricot, cherry, apple, fig, and persimmon trees are flourishing and producing bountiful crops.

 

Lavender, lemon, yarrow blur the lines of the fence and walkway

Lavender, lemon, and yarrow blur the lines of the fence and walkway

 

In chaotic disorder, the beds of French perfume lavender and Spanish lavender that we planted have taken over one side of the property (much to the delight our honeybees), effectively erasing any lines that might have been obvious in an early layout. Interspersed with the lavender beds are iris, hydrangea, roses, lemon trees.  Where the lavender turns a corner, bamboo creates a privacy screen, and then the fruit and flower-lined gravel path continues to the chicken house.

 

We moved dirt from the back half of the property and built a retaining wall along an L-shaped gravel path leading to a vegetable garden. Both sides of the path are lined with trees–apricot, pear, and pomegranate. On one side under a massive elm is a bed containing white geraniums and a variety of rose bushes.

 

 

A potager can include space for a lawn and  boxes of blooms

A potager can include space for a lawn and raised beds, enclosed beds, or boxes of blooming flowers

 

 

We are following a plan for our own vision of a potager and, although I wish it had more of the lines of the medieval jardin de curé, our garden has the appearance of gentle disorder while being a prolific producer, in short, an edible landscape.

 

I love this living tableau. The appearance of the garden and grounds changes with the cycles of the seasons. Also ever-changing are the types of wildlife and songbirds frequenting the fountains and foraging on the fruits. There’s always something new to discover.

 

 

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If you enjoy reading about farmette topics, gardening, and keeping chickens and honeybees, check out my series of cozy mysteries from Kensington Publishing in New York. Click on the link.

 

 

Check out my newest mystery (Sept. 2017)

http://tinyurl.com/ya5vhhpm

A HIVE OF HOMICIDES

 

 

 

 

 

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Swimming in Fruit

Author: Meera, July 12, 2017

Our cherry trees became so heavily laden with fruit this year I couldn’t work fast enough to make the fruit into cookies and pies and jars of jam, conserve, and chutney.

 

 

What fruit the birds and squirrels didn’t devour ended up drying on the trees and looking like ornaments. I’m heartened that at least the wildlife will have something to forage on through fall and winter.

 

 

Once cherry picking season is over, I can hardly face another  piece of cherry pie (no matter how flaky the crust).

Ripe cherries make a lovely filling for a delicious  pie

 

 

 

The apricot trees did a massive drop of their fruit and seemingly all at once. I made more jam than we’ll probably eat, dried some, and gave away more than a few full  buckets of cots to neighbors and friends. I also had to do a messy cleanup of fruit on the ground.

 

In the cycle now are the summer peaches; so, here I go again  . . swimming in fruit.

 

 

Fresh Elberta peaches are firm and juicy, perfect for summer dessert

Ripe Elberta peaches are perfect for eating fresh or preserving

 

Next year, I’m going to get my act together early with  teams of backyard pickers who can help me remove the fruit, divide it, and distribute it. Right now, however, I’ve got peaches to pick and preserve. The summer pears and figs will be next.

 

 

Pick Bartlett pears before they get soft and ripen in a bag to get peak flavor

Pick pears and ripen in a brown bag to two days for peak flavor

 

 

I’m not complaining; I’m enthralled that all this bounty is due to the work of our industrious little honeybees. All this fruit and I haven’t even mentioned finding time to harvest honey. Yet, the bees don’t stop, so neither will I.

 

 

 

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If you enjoy reading about farmette topics like keeping bees and chickens, caring for an orchard, or growing heirloom herbs and vegetables, check out my mystery series from Kensington Publishing (due out September 26, 2017).

 

 

These novels feature a whodunnit for you to solve and are filled with farming facts, trivia, and delicious recipes. The novels and my other books are available in traditional and online bookstores everywhere. Seehttp://tinyurl.com/yb42zd2d

 

Murders at a N. California winery is a catalyst for ex-cop turned farmette owner Abigail Mackenzie

A mystery on a N. California winery

 

 

 

Novel #2 in the Henny Penny Farmette series, available September 27, 2016

Novel #2 in the Henny Penny Farmette series

 

 

 

My debut novel, the first in a series of three cozy mysteries set on the Henny Penny Farmette

BEELINE TO MURDER, the first in a series of cozy mysteries

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Plant for the Pollinators

Author: Meera, June 20, 2017

I seldom need an occasion to put in another bed of flowers, but this is National Pollinator Week. I think a new bed is in order to attract local bees, birds, bats, and butterflies–all considered pollinators. Having these small creatures around benefits landscapes, gardens, and orchards.

 

Between showers and periods of sunlight, this beauty showed up in the bee garden

Between showers and periods of sunlight, this beauty showed up in the bee garden

 

 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has noted that over 75 percent of our plants are pollinated by birds, animals, and insects. We can help ensure these creatures will be around for a long time if we restore their habitats and ensure they have food and water.

 

 

 

A longhorn bee is twice the size of a honeybee

A longhorn bee is twice the size of a honeybee

 

 

 

There are many lovely plants you can grow that don’t require a lot of care.

 

 

 

  • lavender
  • bee balm
  • echinacea
  • sage
  • cilantro
  • thyme
  • sunflowers
  • sweet alyssum
  • anemone
  • borage
  • geraniums
  • scented pelargoniums
  • mint

 

The florets are falling off and the seeds have formed on this giant sunflower head

Sunflowers are a favorite of bees and the seeds are loved by squirrels and birds

 

 

 

 

A tapestry of colorful herbs and flowers beautifies your landscape and pollinators love the diversity. If you don’t have a lot of space, grow some of these plants in planter boxes, clay pots, or other types of containers.

 

Robins drinking from a pottery saucer

Robins drinking from a pottery saucer

 

 

 

Put in a water feature, too, such as a table-top or larger fountain that recycles water. Even a pottery saucer filled each day can attract pollinators.

 

 

It won’t take long for the bees and hummingbirds to find the water. Their frequent visits are fun to watch, and they’ll likely be sipping throughout the day.

 

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If you enjoy reading about farmette topics, check out my Henny Penny Farmette series of cozy mysteries from Kensington Publishing. My newest novel includes delicious recipes, tips on keeping bees and chickens, and much more. Click on this URL for more information, http://tinyurl.com/ya5vhhpm

.

 

 

Coming Sept. 2017

Coming Sept. 2017

 

 

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Grow Seasonal Greens Now

Author: Meera, April 6, 2017

The cool season of spring is the optimum time to grow seasonal greens for salads and healthy blended shakes. In my kitchen garden, I’ve planted a variety of lettuces, spinach, kale, and chard. Most salad greens are easy to grow also in containers, raised beds, and window boxes when gardening space is limited.

 

 

Newly planted Swiss chard is a valuable source for Vitamins A, C, and K

The newly planted Swiss chard shown here is a valuable source of Vitamins A, C, and K

 

 

 

Add compost and aged chicken manure to enrich the soil with nitrogen. Plant heirloom seeds about 1/2 inch in the soil, cover, and water. Within a week or 10 days, you should see the seedlings pop up. The greens will be ready to pick in about 25 days.

 

 

 

 

Water the plants to keep them hydrated but don’t drown the plants. When you are ready to make a salad, snip the leaves you want with kitchen scissors. New leaves will soon form if the roots are not disturbed and the plant continues to get nutrients and water.

 

 

Spinach can be started in seed cell flats and then transplanted into your garden when all danger of frost has passed

Spinach can be started in seed cell flats and then transplanted into your garden when all danger of frost has passed

 

 

 

 

SALAD OF FRESH GREENS

 

1. Snip a variety of greens in the early morning. Wash and thoroughly dry the leaves.

 

2. Place them in a bowl and crumble on some sharp cheese such as your favorite goat cheese or a Gargonzola (blue-veined, sharp tasting, and crumbly).

 

3.  Add 1/2 cup sugared or candied walnuts.

 

4. Add some slice red onion and a handful of dried cranberries or chopped dried apricots.

 

5. Drop into the bowl some slices of a pear such as Bosc (considered the prince of pears).

 

6. Gently toss the salad and then spritz with red wine vinaigrette prior to plating on pretty salad serving dishes.

 

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If you love reading about gardening and other farming topics, check out my Henny Penny Farmette series of cozy mysteries that include A BEELINE TO MURDER, THE MURDER OF A QUEEN BEE, and A HIVE OF HOMICIDES.

 

 

Coming Sept. 2017

The newest mystery in the Henny Penny Farmette series

 

 

 

  • Delicious recipes

  • Farm quips and quotes

  • Tips for gardening and keeping chickens and bees

  • An exciting whodunnit mystery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How to Grow a Fruit Tree from a Pit

Author: Meera, April 5, 2017

Nothing beats a breakfast of summer fruit picked fresh from a patio or backyard tree. I’m referring to fruit trees such as apricots, peaches, and nectarines. Cherries and plums are also among my favorites. The fruit from these trees is often referred to as stone fruit because of the hard pits (holding the seed) around which the fruit forms.

 

Ripe apricots can hang on the tree only so long before they drop

By mid-May, ripe apricots hanging on the trees in my backyard don’t last long–they’re eaten fresh, made into jams, and dried

 

 

Apricots in the Bay Area ripen in mid-May and peaches often ripen a bit later during the three months of summer (depending on the cultivar). If you love eating the fruit, don’t toss the pits. Consider that an apricot or peach grafted onto rootstock might cost upwards of $20 during bare-root season but $35 to $50 if sold in a pot. Growing from seed costs nothing.

 

Planting the seed extracted from the pit of your favorite apricot or peach variety can generate a tree with a very good chance of carrying the parent trees’ traits and producing fruit within three to five years. In fact, I’ve found that pits of my apricot, cherry, wild plum, peach, and nectarines that are left on the ground or discarded by the squirrels who’ve eaten the fruit will often sprout on their own.

 

Perfectly ripe peachs can be made into luscious jam

Perfectly ripened peaches make luscious ice cream, jams, pies, cobblers, and tarts

 

 

 

 

Use this ten-step method to grow a peach or apricot tree from seed.

 

1. Choose a pit from a locally grown ripe fruit that tastes juicy and delicious.

 

2. Dry the seed on a paper towel in your kitchen window for several days.

 

3.  Carefully crack open the hard shell of the pit to reveal the seed inside (it will resemble an almond).

 

4. Put the seed (or several seeds) in a sealed container in your refrigerator and let it chill for up to three months. The cool temperature exposure helps the seed get ready to sprout.

 

5. Time your removal of the seed from the refrigerator to a month before the last frost date in your area.

 

6. Cover the seed in water overnight and in the morning plant it a clear glass jar of potting soil (no lid on the jar).

 

7. Return the jar to the refrigerator and keep the seed moist until it has sprouted (about one month).

 

8. When the outside weather conditions are right (no more frost and the soil begins to warm), plant the seedling in your garden in fertile, well-drained soil.

 

9.  Dig a basin around the planting hole for watering.

 

10. Mulch to keep down weeds and ensure the roots stay cool. In three years, watch for blossoms in the spring with fruit to follow.

 

 

Cherry pits are much smaller than other stone fruit

Cherry pits are much smaller than other stone fruit; pits of sour cherries (and also wild plums) may self-seed but sweet cherries less so. Cherries must have a period of cold to germinate

 

 

 

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If you enjoy farmette topics like gardening heirloom vegetables, herbs, and fruits as well as keeping chickens and bees, check out my Henny Penny Farmette series of cozy mysteries from Kensington Publishing–A Beeline to Murder, The Murder of a Queen Bee, and A Hive of Homicides.

 

Coming Sept. 2017

Available from online and traditional bookstores everywhere (release date is Oct. 2017)

 

 

You’ll find in the Henny Penny Farmette series

 

  • Delicious recipes

  • Farm quips and quotes

  • Tips for gardening and keeping chickens and bees

  • An exciting whodunnit mystery

 

 

 

 

Also, check out MY POCKET MEDITATIONS, my newest forthcoming nonfiction title from Adams Media/Simon & Schuster, at http://tinyurl.com/l6lzorq

 

My Pocket Meditations: Anytime Exercises for Peace, Clarity, and Focus by [Lester, Meera]

 

 

 

 

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French Lavender–A Favorite of Pollinators

Author: Meera, March 1, 2017

It’s bare-root season, a special time of the year for me. I like to visit local nurseries and check out the new offerings of heirloom roses, fruit trees, berries, herbs, and flowers. No matter which nursery I visit, I always seem to spot the lavender first.

 

 

Honeybees love lavender

Honeybees love lavender

 

 

After we moved to the Henny Penny Farmette, we put in lots of French lavender. But after a few years, the stalks have grown old and woody.

 

Recently, on a visit to a nearby nursery, we purchased twenty one-gallon plants of French Lavender, an upright perennial that we’ve discovered blooms almost all year long in our Bay Area climate.

 

 

Pots of lavender await planting

One-gallon pots of lavender await planting

 

 

 

 

Now, they are hardening off in my garden until I get around to planting them.

 

 

The word “dentata” means toothed and a closer examination of the foliage reveals fringed indentations.

 

 

This aromatic, shrub has been around for centuries. Valued for its ornamental and medicinal properties, it also is used for soil erosion control. Once established, the lavender is drought tolerant.

 

 

Many gardeners love this lavender for its gray-green leaves. When other flowering plants in the garden have finished their blooming cycle, this lavender keeps producing tall spikes of bright purple florets.

 

 

Not as brilliant in color as the English or Spanish lavender, the French lavender is lovely grouped together in a single area where its flower stalks can sway in the wind. Our honeybees and other pollinators love it.

 

 

 

*          *          *

 

 

 

If you are a fan of cozy mysteries and love farmette topics like gardening of heirloom vegetables, herbs, and fruits as well as keeping chickens and bees, check out my Henny Penny Farmette series of cozy mysteries from Kensington Publishing.

 

 

The first book in the Henny Penny Farmette series, Kensington Books 2015

The debut novel in the Henny Penny Farmette series sold out its first printing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Besides a cozy mystery to solve, these books mix in delicious recipes, farming and gardening tips, facts about keeping bees and chickens, and morsels of farm wisdom.

 

 

The third novel in the Henny Penny Farmette series is due out in September 2017

COMING SOON– Sept. 2017, the third novel in the Henny Penny Farmette series

 

 

 

 

 

The second cozy  mystery in the Henny Penny Farmette series, available Sept. 29, 2016

The second cozy mystery in the series

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The Star of Spring–the Mighty Magnolia

Author: Meera, February 24, 2017

My spouse hails from the Caribbean where a variety of magnolias grow, but many in the islands are under threat from deforestation and small distributions. He’s wanted to plant a magnolia tree since we moved to the farmette. Recently, on a rainy evening, we ventured out to our local nursery and purchased a Royal Star and a Jane magnolia for the large entrance area at the front of our property.

 

 

A honeybee checks out the blossom on this Royal Star magnolia

A honeybee checks out the center of the fragrant blossom on this Royal Star magnolia

 

 

Often, it is the m.  grandiflora that comes to mind when someone mentions a magnolia tree. It’s a big evergreen tree with glossy leaves, large tulip-shaped white flowers, and dense canopy. This tree blooms summer and fall, while other types of magnolias bloom before their leaves show in the spring.

 

Magnolias offer gardeners many options–evergreen or deciduous types, wide-range of flower colors, slow or fast-growing trees, and small to large and stately specimens. Named for the French botanist Pierre Magnol (1638-1715), the genus includes about 100 species.

 

Magnolia blossoms are fragrant and attract various pollinators. While some magnolias grow well in containers for a few years or as espaliers, the larger, showy trees are often planted along city streets and in parks.

 

Until we have settled on the exact planting site for each of our magnolias, they will remain in their pots. Where to plant them is an important decision since magnolias do not like to be moved once established. As a general rule, they need rich well-drained soil and benefit when the soil has plenty of organic matter like leaf mold, peat moss, and ground bark mixed in at planting time.

 

 

Unfurled buds of the Jane magnolia hold the promise of gorgeous blossoms to come.

Unfurled buds of the Jane magnolia hold the promise of gorgeous blossoms to come.

 

 

Magnolia trees must be planted no lower than their original soil level (where the trunk begins in the planting pot). Because they need plenty of water until established, it’s a good idea to dig a watering basin around them. Young trees must be staked to protect against wind damage.

 

 

We chose the Royal Star magnolia (magnolia stellata) because it can hold abundant and spectacular white (or pink) perfumed blossoms throughout spring into summer. Reaching a height of 15 feet with a canopy spread to 10 feet, this beauty looks magnificent against a garden fence. Such a barrier will help protect it against the wind and also create a foil for the blossoms. Come autumn, songbirds will feast on the high-fat content of the star magnolia’s capsules of orange seeds.

 

 

Still in its pot, this "Jane" magnolia is positioned in what will be its planting hole

Still in its pot, this “Jane” magnolia is positioned in what will be its planting hole

 

 

The Jane magnolia is one in a Little Girl series of hybrid magnolias that include: Ann, Betty, Judy, Pinkie, Randy, Ricki, and Susan. These magnolias were developed in the mid-1950s at the National Arboretum by Francis DeVos and William Kosar. Jane has large-cup flowers opening reddish-purple with white interiors. Shortly after the blossoms show, the leaves emerge as a coppery-red before turning green.

 

At the moment, our Jane magnolia, with its roots balled and wrapped in burlap and looking like a shrubby bush, is covered with an abundance of buds as yet unfurled. The buds hold the promise of the fragrant purple blossoms in a couple of weeks. This slow-growing magnolia will reach a height of 10 feet with a 10-foot canopy spread. The plant will be a sure show-stopper in any Northern California  garden, especially in spring.

 

 

 

 

 

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If you enjoy reading about gardening or other farm topics like keeping bees and chickens, check out my cozy mysteries–A BEELINE TO MURDER, THE MURDER OF A QUEEN BEE, and (coming Sept. 2017) A HIVE OF HOMICIDES (in the Henny Penny Farmette series from Kensington Publishing).

 

My farm-based novels feature delicious recipes, farming tips, chicken and beekeeping tips, sayings and, of course, a charming cozy mystery. The books are available through online retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Target, BAM, Kobo Books, and Walmart as well as from traditional bookstores everywhere.

 

 

The first novel in the Henny Penny Farmette series

See, http://tinyurl.com/hxy3s8q

 

 

 

The second cozy  mystery in the Henny Penny Farmette series, available Sept. 29, 2016

See, http://tinyurl.com/h4kou4g

 

 

 

 

The third novel in the Henny Penny Farmette series is due out in September 2017

See, http://tinyurl.com/zsxqmm3

 

 

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