December 22, 2014

MY CHRISTMAS CACTUS - Schlumbergeras - How to have blooms from Thanksgiving til Christmas!

I have pink and red flowering Schlumbergeras. I grown them in pots and put them outside as soon as the spring weather is stable here in Tennessee. I bring them into the house (or greenhouse)  before the first frost. Up until this year they have bloomed at Thanksgiving rather than Christmas. This year  brought my big pink one into the house and put the smaller ones in the greenhouse. The pink one bloomed at Thanksgiving as usual but the ones in the greenhouse are blooming for Christmas this year! 

Christmas Cactus Red Flowers
So now I know how to have flowers from Thanksgiving through Christmas. If you don't have a greenhouse a cool basement or garage will work too. Check them and when they have big fat buds like the one here bring them into the house. These are really not cactus so do give them a drink more often than you would a cactus. As the blooms fade, carefully pinch them off so your plant stays pretty and fresh. When its done blooming put it somewhere near a window or other light source and take it back outside in spring (semi-shaded location) until fall. 

I had several in small pots that I started in spring from leaves, I brought them in and tucked the pots in container gardens that I was wintering over in the house. I loved they way they set off my Angel Wing Begonia!
Potted Cactus in container garden
Christmas Cactus Pink Blooms




December 19, 2014

GROW YOUR OWN MEYER LEMONS FROM SEED

I look forward to December every year not only because of Christmas but because our local grocery has Meyer Lemons for sale.

They are a real treat for us tea sippers and lemon lovers. Nothing beats the tangy Orangey/lemony taste of a Meyer lemon. Last year I saved seeds from one and planted it in the spring. I was rewarded with this little seedling. You can grow one too - no matter where you live.

Look for Meyer lemons in the produce isle and my store has them in a separate area from the other lemons. Meyer lemons are bigger than normal lemons and much juicier.

Save the seeds that you will find near the center of each lemon. Some of them have lots of seeds and some only a few.
Rinse the seeds and allow them to dry. Store them in a little container until ready to plant. I put them in a small pot of regular potting soil, cover with about a quarter inch of soil and keep moist until you see the little seedling. Keep it moist and warm and it should grow for you. Remember these are tropical plants so be prepared to winter them over inside if you are above zone 8. If you are lucky enough to have a greenhouse that's perfect. I have grown several types of lemons from seed and I winter them over in my little greenhouse. One is pictured below. It doesn't get below 40 degrees in there so they make it through the winter just fine. A sun room or brightly lit window will work too.

2 year old lemon in my greenhouse
As you can see in the picture above, my little tree is small but happy in the tall pot I planted it in. As it gets bigger, I'll move it up to a larger container. I'm not sure how long it takes for it to bloom. Probably three or four years - I can hardly wait. My friend bought a tree from a local garden center. It was EXPENSIVE and full of blooms. she said every bloom fell off about a week after taking it home. I think one of two things probably happened; she went from cool greenhouse atmosphere to dry house. A humidifier or steamer may have helped. Some plants simply don't like to be moved and will drop blooms and leaves due to shock. If that happens just water it sparingly and wait. They will usually recover and put out new leaves. Keep it happy and you should have blooms the following year.


December 5, 2014

Make your own "Craisens"

We love Craisens (dried sweetened cranberries) and eat them on cereal, salads, I even put them on my glorified peanut butter sandwiches. I'll put that recipe at the end of this post.

Craisens are expensive and since this is the time when fresh cranberries are plentiful, I decided to try drying my own. I figured I'd stir some fresh ones up in a little sugar and toss them in my dehydrator...not! I dried those things for days and they still are fat round berries for the most part. Well, I guess it's time to Google dried cranberries! I found the following from the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers Association. I figure those guys would know their stuff. Heat them first - who knew??? Then put in freezer for a couple of hours! I would never have figured that out on my own! So read on...


Servings: 12 ounces
Ingredients:
1 (12 oz.) bag of cranberries
2 quarts boiling water
1/4 cup sugar or corn syrup
Method:In a bowl, pour boiling water over the cranberries or submerge them in a pot of boiling water with the heat turned off. Let them sit in the water until the skin pops. Do not let the berries boil or the flesh will turn mushy. Drain. If desired, coat the berries with either a light corn syrup or granulated sugar. Transfer the berries to a cooking sheet and place them in a freezer for 2 hours. Freezing the berries helps in breaking down the cell structure promoting faster drying. Put the berries on a mesh sheet in the dehydrator and dry for 10 to 16 hours, depending on the make of the dehydrator, until chewy and with no pockets of moisture.

Another method of drying is to turn on the oven for 10 minutes at 350 F. Then place the cranberries on a cookie sheet in the oven, turn off the oven, and let them sit overnight.

Store dried cranberries in the freezer. Keep in mind that dried cranberries can be used in place of raisins in recipes!

Source: Mary Bell 's "Complete Dehydrator Cookbook" 

Now for my Glorified Peanut and Banana Sandwich:
I make these "open Faced"  - one piece of Honey Nut bread or other wholegrain loaf bread. I get mine at Wally World and it's Arnold brand bread. I cover the bread with creamy peanut butter mixed with a teaspoon of whipped honey. An alternate method is to drizzle the whole concoction with honey at the end. Now I add craisens, chopped walnuts, a teaspoon of chia seeds, sometimes raisins sometimes not, I sometimes sprinkle wheat bran on top too. A sprinkle of ground Ceylon Cinnamon is good on top! This one is definitely not gluten free.  It is my husband Bill's favorite sandwich. I served it one night as a sandwich bar to my girlfriends who meet regularly at my house - they were dully impressed!

November 28, 2014

Frogs!

Really, I try to keep my house clean and we don't leave the doors open but one day a few weeks ago I went into the bathroom and there in my sink was this!

I think this little tree frog came in on a sweater I left on the deck and later put on the bathroom counter. Scared me half to death when he popped out! It took a couple of tries to catch him and put him back outside.

I truly love frogs though, the other picture is of a toad that lives in my greenhouse. I think it is a "she". She has been there all summer and I think it is a good thing. One day before she went into hibernation (in a flower pot) she was sitting near where I was working, I lifted a pot and a thousand legs ran out from under...that toad lapped it up before I could blink! Good Girl! So protect the the toads and frogs, you never know what kind of bad bug they might protect you or your plants from. Now if the frog doesn't attract a snake we will be OK!