The Apple Jelly Saga – Part 1

Last winter, I planted several apple trees — two in my yard, and four at the family farm. Of the two in my yard, one is doing spectacularly. It needs to be pruned, but is healthy and growing well. The other was the victim of a small accident — my husband cut down a small mimosa growing on our fence line and it fell directly onto the apple tree, breaking most of its tender branches and splitting the trunk all the way down to about a foot off the ground. But it came back! I couldn’t believe it when I found new growth all around where it had been split. We’ll see what it does next year.

Of the trees at the farm, one appears to be dead, another is living but suffering, and two others are doing well. I’ve tried to identify the pests and/or disease that killed the first one, but apples are susceptible to so many different things. We are lucky to also have two fully mature, producing trees at the farm! They are old — they’ve been there as long as I can

They may not be grocery store pretty, but they are farm fresh delicious!

They may not be grocery store pretty, but they are farm fresh delicious!

remember — and no one is sure what variety they are. The fruit is small, splotchy red, and very slightly tart.

This year, they both produced heavily so I decided to try my hand at making apple jelly. Then I read some recipes and decided to try apple preserves instead! What I actually ended up with could be more accurately described as apple flavored syrup with pieces of apple…Here’s the recipe I (sort of) followed:

I say “sort of” because I did things out of order, which, no doubt, was the downfall of my preserves. I put everything in the pot together and simmered it until the apples were tender, then brought it to a boil and then put it in sterilized jars. It didn’t gel. Live and learn,

The jars look nice, anyway!

The jars look nice, anyway!

my friends.

On a positive note, that apple syrup will be perfect for sweetening oatmeal and for eating with pancakes. AND — there are plenty of apples left to try again. This time, I’m going to go with a traditional jelly recipe, and follow the instructions much more closely. I’ll let you guys know how it works out!


Turn old bottles into plant markers

Some ideas are just asking to be shared more! When I saw a post from Lorilee at Cackleberry Cottage about using wine bottles as row markers in the garden, I immediately thought about giving new life to all types of old bottles by recycling them into iris and daylily plant markers.
Being short on empty wine bottles, I used an empty beer bottle instead.  I wrote the name of my plant on the bottle with a pink, waterproof chalk pen, nail polish and a black paint pen.  Maybe I am a bit compulsive? I do like the pink chalk pen the best but only time will tell which method has the most staying power.  To help the bottle stay put, I pushed a 40D nail into the ground and anchored the bottle upside down over the nail head.

Bottle used as Plant Marker

Forgetfulness in the Garden

As soon as it was warm enough, I was out in the garden digging around. I had a few hardy perennial seeds to put out, and decided last year to consolidate two or three beds into one big one so still had a few things to move. There was also a tall, floppy sedum that

the consequences of bad (read: no) garden planning

The sedum ended up on top of a hosta. Now I’ll spend the summer seeing which one dominates.

needed to go from the center of the garden to the outskirts.

Anyway, there was almost immediately a problem: not everything was up and I had exactly zero markers. Deciding to rely on memory alone (yes, yes, laugh if you must), I planted some asparagus, moved the sedum, scattered some rudbeckia seeds, built a grape arbor, and moved some raspberry plants.

When it became obvious that markers are a necessity in my garden, I started researching different ways to make them (because of course I don’t want to buy them — that would be money that could be spent on plants!) There are some great ideas out there, and I just happened to have a bag of old silverware.

Flattening spoons and stamping names of plants on them seemed like a lot of work, so I decided to just stick them utensils in the ground next to the plants as they came up. Forks marked the hostas, for example. Immediately, my husband started listing off all the reasons this was a terrible idea (mostly he thought the dogs would pull the silverware up and scatter it all over the yard and make mowing hazardous). I ignored him and proceeded to plant spoons and forks all over the garden.

A couple of hours later, I was walking around, staring at the ground, looking for anything new popping up (I spend hours doing this every spring), and noticed that a fork was missing. The inevitable “I told you so!” was not long in coming…but then I found the fork — buried all the way in the ground. Someone had stepped on it!

Clearly ONE piece of flatware would not do the trick. The next week I planted a small

Spoon markers

Spoon markers

patch of onions, and used spoons to outline it.

While this works great for the onions, it’s not really practical for each hosta, coneflower, peony, and other perennial in my garden. The search for effective, attractive, and free markers continues!

Belle’s suggestions:
Try knives and write on them with a paint pen or a bit less attractive but  functional: plastic slats from window blinds and write on them with nail polish pens.



Growing Citrus Trees from Seeds

Meyer LemonsMy mother-in-law sent some Kumquats (C. japonica) and Meyer Lemons (C. × meyeri) fresh from her garden.  They were beyond delicious!

You are probable familiar with Meyer lemons, their sweeter, less acidic flavor is a favorite for lemon cakes and fresh squeezed lemonade. Kumquats, on the other hand, may be a type of fruit that you have passed up.  Bitter centers and huge seeds!  Yuck! NOT!

Kumquat fruit may look like a mini orange but unlike oranges, when eaten raw, one eats the peel and outer flesh only.  The whole fruit can be eaten cooked and is mainly used to make marmalades and jellies.lemon2

Best of all, both of these delicious fruits can be grown from their seeds.  It’s easy peasy as one of my friends likes to say. The most important (and tedious) part is removing the fibrous coat from the seeds. I use a sharp knife to peel away the white coat and end up with the naked seeds (top).

All that’s Citrus Seeds in Potleft to do is pucitrus seeds in pot covered with plastic bagt them in a pot and cover with a plastic bag.  The bag holds in moisture and has to be removed once the seeds start to sprout.

It will take about 6 weeks in 65+ degree temperatures until sprouts appear.  Once there are a couple of leaves, I transplant my future citrus trees into small pots (3-4 inch size, front) after about 6 months, the seedlings are ready to move along into a quart size pot (back) and, hopefully, in about 3-4 years time, fresh Kumquats and Meyer lemons will be ready for harvest.

Citrus Trees

Citrus Trees from Seeds