Archive for the 'Gardening' Category


Svalbarg–Protecting Seed Diversity for Our Planet

Author: Meera, December 14, 2017

If you’ve ever saved your favorite food crop seeds from one year to the next and then lost them because of flooding or storage failure, you might feel disheartened. But a cataclysmic loss of seed diversity for food crops in certain parts of the world could mean starvation for millions.

 

 

A squash plant will grow well in small gardens up a teepee of three poles or on a fence

Genetically modified seed (such as corn) will not be accepted in the Svalbarg Global Seed Vault

 

Roughly 1,750 genetic seed banks have been established around the globe to save seeds and preserve agricultural plant diversity. But many banks are vulnerable to threats such as war and civil strife, lack of funding, man-made and natural disasters, equipment failures, mismanagement, and other factors.

 

 

Established to protect diverse seed collections against catastrophic loss, the Svalbarg Global Seed Vault (SGSV) is a long-term backup storage facility for the world’s 1750 seed banks.

 

The SGSV houses millions of diverse seeds for food crops. However, Norwegian law prohibits the facility from storing genetically modified seed.

 

The Svalbarg Global Seed Vault is located inside a mountain on a remote island in the Svalbarg archipelago off the coast of Norway. The island is situated halfway between the Norwegian mainland and the North Pole.

 

Climate change affects the environment and ecosystems supporting agricultural food crops.  Crop diversity underpins food stability and security.

 

Onion and garlic are considered kitchen staples all over the world

Onion and garlic are considered kitchen staples all over the world

 

Rising populations along with changing environments and diminished resources are global challenges the world is facing. A secured food supply is necessary to end hunger. Gene banks and seed saving trusts help maintain genetic diversity and ensure greater resources for all of humankind. (See, https://www.croptrust.org/resources/)

 

Civil strife and war have resulted in the loss of many seed banks throughout the world. In 2015, the first withdrawal of seed from the vault was made by Syrian researchers after the bombing of Aleppo destroyed their seed bank. Some seed banks like that of Iraq and Afghanistan have been completely lost.

 

To take a tour inside the Svalbarg vault, go to, http://www.sciencealert.com/watch-inside-the-doomsday-seed-vault-in-svalbard.

 

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If you enjoy reading about environmental and farming topics, check out my Henny Penny Farmette cozy mysteries. Besides a mystery, they include helpful tips about heirloom gardening, caring for fruit and citrus trees, keeping chickens and bees, and delicious farm-to-table and canning recipes. For more information, click on the URLs.

 

 

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

A California winery murder impels  beekeeper and farmette owner Abby Mackenzie to smoke out a killer

 

 

 

http://tinyurl.com/ya5vhhpm

 

 

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

Abby stirs up a New Age cult as she searches for clues into the murder of Fiona, her free-spirited friend

 

 

 

http://tinyurl.com/yd7pz7af

 

 

First book in Meera Lester's Henny Penny Farmette series of cozy mysteries

The book that launched the Henny Penny Farmette series in which Abby investigates the murder of her town’s celebrity pastry chef

 

 

 

https://tinyurl.com/y6ue28xb

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Autumn Brings A Honey Harvest and Hive Treatment

Author: Meera, November 24, 2017

Harvesting sweet-tasting, amber-colored honey from my hives has become an autumn ritual. This past Sunday, my beekeeper neighbor and I opened, inspected, and removed ten frames of honey from the one hive I have left.

 

The other hive succumbed to stress, a hive beetle infestation, and a steady march of ants. This despite me keeping my hives (and the apiary) pristine, dry, and facing the sun.

 

Honey and comb

Honey and comb

 

 

I found a beetle (no larvae) in the super we removed from the hive box when I scraped the frames clean of wax and bee glue. The tiny black insect had established itself in a crack under a plug of wax. Bees can’t sting through the beetle’s hard shell.

 

Without a powerful way of combating an infestation of beetles, the hive becomes stressed.Thank goodness, my neighbor had just the treatment to eliminate any other unseen beetles from my hive box.

 

Beetle Bee Gone sheets are an all natural and chemical-free method for treating hive beetle. Bees munch on the sheet that then becomes a fuzzy trap that ensnares the beetles. The beetles die.

 

In cool weather, which is what we have now, the hive beetle moves to the interior, above the brood, and/or under the hive cover. When the weather gets warmer, the pests move downward and so the placement of the sheets must be moved down.

 

 

The treatment packet contains sheets

The treatment packet contains sheets

 

 

 

My neighbor also inserted under the hive box lid a small plastic trough (as long as a pencil) with holes. He poured vegetable oil into the trough until it was half full. This, too, is a natural treatment against the hive beetle. The pests drown.

 

I’m optimistic that these treatments (along with others I’m using for mites) will keep the hive protected over winter so that in spring, I’ll get a new swarm to grow my diminished colony.

 

 

The hive box "super" with ten frames of honey awaits separating and straining into buckets

Ten frames of honey await separating and straining into buckets

 

 

With the bees tended to, I turned my attention to the honey harvest. In all, the single super of ten frames produced roughly three gallons of honey once I’d prepped the frames and put them in the extractor. That’s more than enough  honey to get my family through the winter and to present as gifts to friends along with jars of fruit jams and homemade sweets come Christmas.

 

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If you enjoy reading about backyard beekeeping, caring for chickens, or growing organic vegetables, check out my Henny Penny Farmette series of books. All are available  through traditional and online bookstores. To see more, click on the link.

 

 

http://tinyurl.com/ya5vhhpm

 

The third novel in the Henny Penny Farmette series is out in time for holiday gift-giving

The third novel in the Henny Penny Farmette series is out in time for holiday gift-giving

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Let’s Talk Tulips

Author: Meera, November 11, 2017

A jolt of color can energize dreary surroundings. Imagine seeing a pot of searing-red or brilliant yellow tulips in full bloom in a window box or in your garden when little else is blooming in early spring.

 

 

These Kaufmannia tulips make a bold statement wherever they are planted

These Kaufmannia tulips make a bold statement wherever they are planted

 

 

Right now, many garden centers, DIY nurseries, online plant retailers, and seed catalogs feature tulips bulbs for sale. Fall is the time to plant them for spring blooms.

 

 

The standard tulip is an excellent cut flower. It offers consistent pure color in a single layer of petals. A double tulip possesses two petal layers and provide lush color grouped together with other tulips or in a cut-flower arrangement.

 

 

Kaufmanniana tulips are short in height with pointed petals. In bright sunlight the tulip bloom will open wide to lie almost flat making them the perfect bulb to grow in a rock garden.

 

 

Parrot tulips come in a variety of colors and have ruffled petals. These beauties grow fast (stalks bend a bit more than the standard tulip because of the weight of the bloom), and are multi-colored. See, http://www.hollandbulbfarms.com/items.asp?cat=Parrot-Tulips&Cc=TULIPPARROT

 

 

Pique assiette mosaic adorns this garden step

Inspired by parrot tulips years ago, I made this pique assiette mosaic on the step up into my garden

 

 

Fringed tulips feature a bloom edge that resembles fringe. The edges have also been described as frilly or ragged. Nevertheless, these are beautiful grouped together in an arrangement or simply enjoyed in a bed in the garden or a pot on the patio.

 

 

A bi-colored tulip surprises with a two-color bloom–perhaps an orange with a purple base. Prinses Irene is a beautiful specimen of this type of tulip.To see an image, check out https://www.whiteflowerfarm.com/211402-product.html

 

 

Rembrandt tulips are striped and tall and stand out anywhere they’re planted. Today’s version of this tulip is a non-viral variety (a virus is what originally caused the striping element of the standard tulip.

 

 

Emperor tulips feature bold color, large delicate blooms, and variable height. Although Emperor is the common name, these tulips also are known as Fosteriana tulips. They came from a wild mountainous species found in Central Asia. See, http://www.tulipworld.com/Fall-Planted-Bulbs/Tulips/Fosteriana-Tulip/Red-Emperor-Tulip.aspx

 

 

As its name implies, the Lily-flowering tulips in bloom have the appearance of lilies. The bloom looks like a star-shaped cup. Although color choices are limited, the hue is rich–for example, a fiery red with yellow-tinged edges of the Aladdin type. See, https://www.tulips.com/product/aladdin/lily-flowering-tulips

 

 

pots with tulips poking up-web

 

 

There are many more types of tulips–those I’ve mentioned are only a few. Now is the time to search your garden centers for the tulips you want blooming in your spring garden. There are many to choose from so if you don’t find what you’re looking for at your local nursery, check seed catalogs or online nurseries that can ship bulbs directly to you.

 

 

 

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If you enjoy reading about gardening topics, check out my Henny Penny Farmette series of cozy mysteries. Interspersed throughout the book are tips on growing plants, keeping bees and chickens, and delicious farm-to-table recipes and, of course, there’s a cozy mystery to solve.

 

 

A Beeline to Murder, The Murder of a Queen Bee, and A Hive of Homicides are all available from traditional bookstores everywhere and online. Click on the URL for more information:   http://tinyurl.com/ya5vhhpm

 

 

When a couple is killed at a local winery after renewing their wedding vows, ex-cop turned farmette owner Abigail Mackenzie launches a personal investigation of her own. The victims are her good friend Paola Varela and Paola’s husband Jake Winston.  Jake was a good-looking, a town flirt, and someone who’d had an affair that had ended tragically. Was he finally getting a karmic payback from an incensed husband or boyfriend? Or, was Paola the intended target?

 

 

 

This new novel is available Sept. 26, 2017

Murders at a winery draw  ex-cop Abigail Mackenzie into action

 

 

 

Also see, http://tinyurl.com/yd7pz7af

 

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

A New Age cult takes over a local nudist lodge and an ex-member is found dead

 

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Time to Harvest Seeds from Annuals

Author: Meera, November 1, 2017

If you are like me, you hate to see anything wasted. Case in point, seeds from a summer flower garden.

 

Giant cosmos dazzle when planted as a hedge, the middle of the garden, or in a container

These cosmos show off feathery foliage and a bonanza of blooms

 

Walking around my farmette this time of year, I see many seed pods on flowers that I can take off, dry, and store. Scores of my flowering plants are perennials that come back again next year, but may others are annuals, grown throughout one season.

 

Just because they are annuals doesn’t mean that I have to buy new seed in order to grow them next year. No. I will gather their seeds (found in flower heads or seedpods or the calyx, located at the base of the flower on the plant). I can then pull the annual and toss the plant biomass into compost pile. The seeds I’ve collected will be further dried and stored in paper envelopes labeled with the date collected and the plant’s name and color.

 

 

In the plant store you’ll find hybridized plants along with those NOT MARKED as F1 hybrids. Seeds you collect from the non-hybridized plants will come back true to their parents the next year.  Non-hybrids include heirloom, open-pollinated plants that some gardeners (myself included) prefer for their gardens.

 

Zinnias are old garden favorites spanning generations of family gardens

Zinnias are old garden favorites spanning generations of family gardens

 

This year, I sowed zinnia seeds that I had collected two years ago. Tossing them into a bare area of the garden, I forgot about them. When they not only grew but bloomed profusely, I felt immensely pleased with myself for taking the time to collect that seed.

 

Zinnias are annuals. Their tiny seeds are located in the flower heads. They can be removed once the plant has finished blooming and dried.

 

Nasturtiums are annuals that drop their seeds (the size of a pinto bean) and will often re-seed where they’ve grown before. I  like to collect these into paper envelopes and label according to color and whether they grow as a vine or bush. They actually prefer poor soil and bloom well in full sun (less so, in shade). Nasturtiums are also edible flowers–just wash, dry, and toss into a salad or use as a garnish.

 

Petunias are lovely annuals that carry their seed in the calyx (just under the flower). The calyx swells with seeds so you’ll want to remove the dead flowers along with the part of the stem that includes the calyx (top of stem) . Pull off the petals. When the calyx dries and splits open, you’ll see the seeds. Save these for planting.

 

 

Marigolds come in shades of yellow, gold, red, and rust

Marigolds come in shades of yellow, gold, red, and rust

 

Marigolds add splashes of bright yellow color to your garden. Remove the dead flowers and save part of the thickened stem beneath the flower head (the calyx). Split open the calyx at the top of the stem to find the long, slender seeds. Dry and save these for your next year’s flower garden.

 

 

There are lots of other annuals that you can grow in a flower garden if you take the time to harvest and dry their seeds. Consult a gardening guide or plant grower’s catalog to learn more about the annuals you might want to grow. Then give seed harvesting a try so that you’ll get all your favorite blooms in a future garden.

 

 

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If you enjoy reading about gardening and other farming topics, check out my newest novel, A HIVE OF HOMICIDES. It contains not only an entertaining mystery but also tips for growing plants and trees, keeping chickens and bees, and making delicious farm-wholesome foods.

 

 

Click here to see more: http://tinyurl.com/ya5vhhpm

 

This new novel is available Sept. 26, 2017

My new novel is online and in brick-and-mortar bookstores everywhere

 

 

 

 

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The leaves of my plum and cherry trees are beginning to drop. The fig leaves have dried to a crisp and are also falling. I’ve got pumpkin and squash vines and stalks of corn pulled and lying in piles in the garden.

 

 

The corn I grew over summer is now just a pile of dried stalks

The corn (pictured here in spring) has been harvested and is now just a pile of dried stalks

 

 

This dead, particulate organic matter (detritus) in my garden is too good to throw in the green recycle bin for the city to compost. By composting it myself, I’ll save the money I might spend on buying compost next year.

 

 

Pumpkins are quintisenstially asociated with autumn

After harvesting pumpkins, throw the vines onto your compost pile

 

 

If your garden has a pile or two of of similar detritus but you’ve had trouble getting it to break down into compost, you might be missing a secret ingredient.

 

 

Add one to two cups of a nitrogen-rich garden product like blood meal, bone meal, or cottonseed meal–all are available from your local nursery or garden center.

 

 

Follow these simple steps.

 

1. Dump a wheelbarrow load of leaves where you will be composting this fall and winter. I use a rectangular raised bed.

 

2. From a cup of blood meal, generously sprinkle the meal onto the leaves.

 

3. Layer onto the pile grass clippings, pumpkin and squash vines, corn cobs, chicken house straw, dried oats, weeds, and other biomass material.

 

4. Add more blood meal, more leaves, and more organic material.

 

5. Sprinkle the remaining blood meal from your cup onto the compost pile and then wet it using a garden hose.

 

6. Cover with plastic sheeting.

 

 

The compost pile generates heat as the plant material breaks down. Thoroughly turn at two or three week intervals. Keep the pile moist (not drenched) and covered.

 

 

Using this method, you can expect to have lovely nutrient-rich compost to use on your spring flower and vegetable gardens.

 

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If you enjoy reading about gardening topics and you are a mystery lover, check out my Henny Penny Farmette series of mysteries from Kensington Publishing. Each charming  novel features a wholesome whodunnit along with delicious recipes and farming facts and tips.

 

 

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

This newest novel involves murder at a N. California winery

 

Click here to see more: http://tinyurl.com/ya5vhhpm

 

Join me for “Coffee and Conversation” at Towne Center Books in Pleasanton, The date is Wednesday, October 18, 2017, at 11:00 a.m. The address is: 555 Main Street, Pleasanton, California. Phone is (925) 846-8826.

 

I’ll be sharing information about my farmette, my mystery-writing process, and my newest novel, A HIVE OF HOMICIDES.

 

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Fruit Drop with Young Hachiya Persimmon Trees

Author: Meera, September 21, 2017

My three-year-old Hachiya persimmon tree was loaded with fruit but recently went through a huge fruit drop. Possibly the long stretch of triple-digit summer heat coupled with the tree not getting enough water may have caused this problem. Young trees are more prone to fruit drop than trees that are mature.

 

 

Succulent, sweet, and juicy, these hachiya persimmons are worth waiting for

Succulent, sweet, and juicy, these ripe hachiya persimmons have a jelly-like texture

 

 

I find the fruit drop disconcerting because Hachiyas are my favorite persimmons. It did the same thing last year.

 

 

Each autumn, I wait with anticipation watching the fruit and checking it often until October for ripeness. This fruit is highly astringent so must be eaten ripe. The fruit texture  is like jelly with a sweet and slightly spicy flavor.

 

 

Besides the fruit, what I like about this persimmon is that it becomes a showstopper in the fall with red, gold, or yellow leaves. During winter, the fruit hangs on the tree like ornamentation.

 

 

These persimmons need another month to ripen to that telltale bright orange color

These persimmons need another month to ripen to that characteristic orange color

 

 

The Hachiya trees are not much bothered by pests or disease. They require at least a half day’s sun and well drained soil. These trees grow to 15 to 20 feet tall. They make great landscape trees and the fruit is a wonderful bonus.

 

 

 

 

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If you enjoy reading about growing fruit trees or heirloom plants or trying delicious recipes or keeping bees and chickens and you like a mysteries, check out my Henny Penny Farmette series of cozy mysteries from Kensington Publishing in NY. They’re available online and in traditional bookstores everywhere.

 

 

This new novel is available Sept. 26, 2017

A HIVE OF HOMICIDES is the newest offering in the Henny Penny Farmette series; available Sept. 26, 2017

 

 

 

 

Currently, A HIVE OF HOMICIDES is a featured title in Barnes & Noble’s September promotional BUY 3, GET 1 FREE sale.

 

WHAT IS THE BUY 3, GET 1 FREE OFFER?

 

Everyone who buys a Kensington cozy mystery from the B&N in-store display or any Kensington cozy mystery from BarnesandNoble.com between 9/5/17 – 10/5/17 and registers their purchase at http://sites.kensingtonbooks.com/kensingtoncozies/BN/ will:

 

–     Automatically be entered into Kensington’s “Cozy Mystery Bonanza” sweepstakes for a chance to win a $300 value gift basket. One grand prize winner will be selected after the sale has concluded.

 

–     Automatically receive a free Kensington Cozies recipe booklet plus a download code for the novel A STORY TO KILL by Lynn Cahoon after the sale has concluded.

 

 

*                    *                     *

 

DON’T FORGET TO ENTER THE FREE DRAWING AT GOODREADS.COM.

 

Win a signed copy of A Hive of Homicides along with a gorgeous reversible apron and a set of 2 chicken napkin rings. Enter before September 26 for a chance to win.

 

Reversible apron features a floral backside. Ties make it totally adjustable.

Reversible apron features a floral backside. Ties make it totally adjustable.

 

 

See, https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33911114-a-hive-of-homicides?from_search=true

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Helping a Kitchen Garden to Grow in Clay Soil

Author: Meera, September 2, 2017

Under the searing summer sun, the clay soil of my farmette will grow amazing pin oaks, white oaks, and pine trees. But for a gardener like me who wants to grow  vegetables and herbs, clay soil frustrates and challenges.

 

Plants can be coaxed to grow in clay soil with help from the resident gardener

Plants can be coaxed to grow in clay soil with help from the resident gardener

 

 

 

Before planting next year’s kitchen garden in a new area of the property, I’ll have to change the soil structure now. This will take time and a lot of effort, but it will pay huge dividends over the long term.

 

Here are a few things things a gardener can do to improve clay soil.

 

1. A few weeks before working an area, mulch the area with an eight to ten-inch layer of wood chips to help the soil retain moisture and regain structure.

 

2. Use a pickax to break up the soil to the depth of 10 inches and work in composted organic material.

 

3. Avoid working the soil after a rain or when the ground is wet because the soil will ball up into unwieldy clumps.

 

4. Work in sand or perlite to create more pore space for aeration and drainage. Beware of adding too much sand; the soil becomes like concrete. Ideally, the soil should have roughly fifty percent pore space with minerals and organic matter filling in the rest.

 

5. When not growing plants, sow a cover crop of legumes to reduce weed germination, prevent erosion, and help water penetrate deeply into the soil. A legume cover crop provides plant matter that can be turned back into the soil or mowed, leaving the plant’s bio mass  in place. Legumes fix the nitrogen in the soil that will nourish the plants of the kitchen garden.

 

6. Repeat all of the above steps annually and dig, turn, rake, and water. Over time, the soil should support healthy roots of plants and give you a robust kitchen garden that will provide many tasty vegetables and culinary herbs.

 

 

A healthy garden visually delights

A healthy garden visually delights

 

 

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If you enjoy reading cozy mysteries and are interested in gardening/farming topics, keeping bees and chickens, or creating delicious recipes from heirloom vegetables and herbs, check out my Henny Penny Farmette series. All are available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other traditional and online bookstores everywhere.

 

 

 

 

Coming 9/27/17

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

 

 

PUBLISHERS WEEKLY  08/14/2017 noted:
“Lester’s sensitive portrayal of Abby’s struggle with her wounded psyche raises this traditional mystery above the pack.”

 

See more at: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-hive-of-homicides-meera-lester/1125424538?type=eBook

 

 

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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.

 

 

_______________________________________________________________

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

read comments ( 0 )