Everyday Gardeners

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Now that my garden is kaput for the season, I can turn my attention to what remains. Like the coneflower heads bobbing in the frozen wind.  I don’t trim them in the fall, despite their bedraggled appearance, in hopes of luring a few birds to my dormant garden.  But that is not enough to sustain the local birds overwintering in my area. It’s time to clean and fill the bird feeders and hang out the birdseed ornaments.

Birds expend much more energy during cold periods to keep alive, while ice and snow obscure their natural seed sources.  Droughts in some parts of the country this year have further reduced the amounts of seeds and berries birds rely upon. Audubon Park, a company that sells wild bird feed, gives these 5 tips for keeping your local birds happy this winter:

  1. The right seed – research what the birds in your backyard prefer to nibble. High-fat (high-energy) foods like suet and sunflower seeds help keep them warm during frigid winter nights.
  2. Multiple feeding stations – mix it up by setting out various types of seeds in different areas, such as hanging feeders, platform feeders, and scattering some seed on the ground.
  3. Protection – place feeding spots in the sun, sheltered from the wind, and hopefully close enough to your window to provide ample glimpses of your visitors.
  4. Wet their whistle – offer clean water for drinking and bathing. Bird bath heaters keep water from freezing. Fountains with gently moving water will attract attention from birds.
  5. Landscape for the birds – Birds appreciate a variety of plants regardless of the season. Shrubs, tall grasses, and trees provide shelter from wind and predators as well as nesting space.

For more information on what and how to care for the birds in your neighborhood this winter, check out: www.bhg.com/gardening/design/nature-lovers/bird-feeding/


The following is a guest blog post from Scott Jamieson, Vice President with Bartlett Tree Experts.

Deer, they are so cute—who doesn’t want to see a deer? One in the landscape can be a fantastic sight, at first. In many places in the country deer have overpopulated their natural habitat and have moved into the urban and suburban landscape. Many communities that have never seen a deer are being overrun by the doe-eyed creatures.

An adult deer eats about six pounds of plant material each day which adds up to about a ton of plant material each year for every adult deer. When they are feeding in the forest that is not a problem but it is when they find the delectable food of our landscapes it becomes a serious issue.  Landscapes that have been nurtured for years can be stripped clean in one winter if hungry deer find their way to the previously undiscovered gourmet dining spot. Our landscapes can contain plants that deer absolutely love and once they find a spot to dine, they will be back for more.

Keeping deer out of your landscape is also a health concern. Besides denuding the landscape, deer harbor ticks that can carry Lyme disease, babesiosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. A single deer tick can introduce 450,000 tick larvae a year into its territory.

Deer are most effectively managed by keeping them out of the landscape physically. This typically involves putting a fence around the entire property or certainly the areas you want to protect. A deer fence must be tall enough to keep leaping deer out—at least 7 feet tall. You can also install products such as the Shrub Coat on smaller plantings that will keep deer from feasting on the plants while also protecting the plants from cold temperatures.

Many property owners spray deer repellents on valuable plants.  No repellent is foolproof but several have proved to be quite effective in reducing deer damage if used regularly and with the correct timing.

Click here for a list of deer-resistant plants from Bartlett Tree Experts you should consider for your landscape. Know, however, that under extreme populations deer will eat just about anything and you may find that a plant deer have never touched becomes their filet mignon the next year.


Scott Jamieson is Vice President with Bartlett Tree Experts. He leads Bartlett’s national recruiting and corporate partnerships efforts and also heads the Bartlett Inventory Solutions team in providing innovative and technologically advanced tree management plans to clients across the country. Prior to joining Bartlett in 2008, Scott was President and CEO of a national tree care firm.





Bloody Mary Cocktail Salad by Shawna Coronado

From the 1930’s to 1950’s women were preparing cold tomato aspic; a popular side dish of that era served at luncheons and card parties across America. This recipe for Chilled Bloody Mary Cocktail Salad is my own modern day take of my 96 year old grandmother’s tomato aspic which I remember fondly. Filled with nutritious veggies from the garden, it is perfect on a hot day served with sandwiches or at a picnic with cold chicken. Best yet, it uses all the fresh veggies I can harvest from my garden which is currently bursting with bounty.

Chilled Bloody Mary Cocktail  Salad

Chilled Bloody Mary Cocktail Salad by Shawna Coronado

Ingredients -
2 (3 oz) packages lemon gelatin (or 2 .30 oz packages of sugar free gelatin)
3 cups Spicy V-8 Juice
1 cup chilled lemonade
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
1 ½ cups diced carrots
1 ½ cups diced onions
1 ½ cups diced celery
Salt and pepper to taste

How to -
Heat V-8 juice to boiling. Stir in the boiling V-8 with the lemon gelatin until the gelatin is dissolved. Stir in chilled lemonade (or water if you prefer), horseradish, and salt/pepper. Refrigerate until slightly thickened, about one hour.

When the gelatin has set up a bit, gently stir in the diced vegetables (feel free to substitute with whatever veggies you are currently harvesting), place in martini glasses or serving dish. Chill in the refrigerator for four hours or until firm.

Serve with a dollop of mayonnaise and a smile.

If you want to add a real quick kick to this Cold Bloody Mary Cocktail Salad recipe, toss in a couple shots of cucumber vodka with the lemonade during the chill up (like this delicious vodka seen in the photo – Organic Cucumber Vodka from Prairie). Harvest those vegetables, make some deliciousness, and if you have leftover vegetables from the harvest be sure to donate to your local food pantry.

According the FTC, I need to let you know that I received products in this story at no cost in exchange for reviewing them.

The following is a guest blog post from Theresa Loe, a garden writer for television, print media and video; and producer for Growing a Greener World. 

Garden-fresh flavor is very seasonal. We are given just a small window of time to enjoy things like vine-ripened tomatoes, honey-sweet berries and juicy, drip-down-your-chin peaches. They may be short, but these seasonal moments are one of the reasons many of us grow our own food. We want to not only savor these moments, but also capture them to enjoy later or share them with friends.

Well that’s where canning and preserving can help!

With a few simple techniques, we can save a bit of our garden and essentially create a little time capsule of flavor. Later when the growing season is long over, we can go to our pantry or freezer, open that time capsule and be taken back to that delicious season in an instant.

But many people are unsure about preserving or they feel intimidated about trying. Well, I’d like to change that! I am life-long canner and also one of the producers of the national public television gardening series, Growing A Greener World where we feature organic gardening and farm-fresh food. My mission both on the show and on our website is to take the fear away from the idea of preserving the harvest.

Next week, as part of our yearlong campaign to promote canning the harvest, we are launching a new mini-video series on preserving that offers simple, timesaving tips and techniques for capturing the garden’s flavors. And it covers much more than just “canning”. It also includes freezing, pickling and many ideas for how to use the things you preserve. Be sure to tune in for ideas. In the meantime, below are a few simple things you can do now to savor a few of those flavorful moments in your own garden. Enjoy!

Tips for Preserving Fresh-Picked Flavor

TOMATOES: Freeze tomatoes whole (no peeling required) on a cookie sheet and when frozen solid, place in freezer bags or containers. Later, when you defrost them, they have a stewed tomato consistency with all the fresh-picked flavor. The skin just peels off. They are perfect for soup, stew, chili, etc.

BERRIES: Try freezing blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, etc. in a single layer on a cookie sheet until they are frozen solid. Then transfer to freezer bags or containers. The advantage to freezing before packing into containers is that they stay separated and you can reach in and grab a handful at a time (for smoothies or pancakes) without defrosting the entire bag.

HERBS: Chop fresh herbs like basil, cilantro and sage in the food processor and drizzle in vegetable oil until it forms a paste. Store in small containers in the freezer and when a recipe calls for a spoonful of freshly chopped herbs, use a spoon to scrape off the amount you need. The oil allows you to remove a small amount without defrosting the entire container.

MORE HERBS: Dry your herbs like sage, thyme and rosemary by cutting them in the morning when their essential oils are at their peak. Tie them in bundles with rubber bands and hang upside down to dry. The rubber bands will hold the bundle as the stems shrink and the hanging keeps the oils in the leaves. When they are crisp to the touch, crumble the herb leaves into a jar and store on the pantry for up to one year.

GREEN BEANS: Blanch fresh beans for 3 minutes in boiling water to kill some of the enzymes that cause spoilage. Then plunge the beans in cold water, drain and freeze in baggies or containers. They will last up to 6 months this way.

ZUCCHINI: Grate or shred your zucchini, squeeze out the excess liquid and store in containers in the freezer. When you defrost later, the zucchini will be soft but is great for adding to muffins, breads and other baked goods.

MISC. FRUIT: If you want to try your hand at making jam but lack the time, chop fruit such as peaches, nectarines, or plums and measure out what you need for your jam recipe. Freeze the fruit in a container up to 6 months. When you are ready to make your jam, simply defrost the container and you are half way done. (Chopping takes half the time of any recipe.) Then just follow your recipe and use the water bath canning method to process the jam. The flavor will be as if you just picked and chopped the fruit the same day.


About Theresa Loe :
A life-long canner, city homesteader and graduate of the Master Food Preserver Program, Theresa Loe is passionate about taking the garden full circle (from seed, to table, to pantry) and capturing that fresh-picked flavor with style. She is an award-winning garden writer for television, print media and video and one of the founding producers of Growing A Greener World TV.


The following is a guest blog post from You Grow Girl: Gayla Trail, a Canadian gardener, blogger, author, and photographer. 

Both spring and summer have been unseasonably cool in my neck of the woods, and unfortunately the tomatoes have suffered.  I lost a few straight out of the gate and fear that some of the late season indeterminate varieties will not ripen in time for the fall frost. Fortunately, I tend to over-plant so there will be tomatoes regardless.  A few indeterminate plants are filling up with fruit and many of the fruit in my patch of dwarf and determinate varieties are starting to show their colour.

One way I like to use up the bounty is in making homemade tomato juice. I know it sounds like a chore when you can just buy tomato juice in a can, but wait until you try it. The difference between the store-bought product and this one made with seasonal ingredients is incomparable, and I mean that without an ounce of sentimentality or exaggeration. It’s a scientific fact!

The following recipe is the one I use at home, reprinted from my book, “Drinking the Summer Garden: Homegrown Thirst Quenchers, Concoctions, Sips, and Nibbles.”



Homegrown Tomato Juice


  • 3 pounds ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1⁄2 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1⁄2 cup fresh parsley (stems and leaves), roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon honey (optional)
  • Pickled green tomatoes, for garnish (found on page 17 of Drinking the Summer Garden)


  • Place the tomatoes, onion, celery, bell pepper, parsley, oregano, and salt in a large pot and simmer on medium-low heat until the vegetables are cooked through and soft, about 20 minutes. Stir regularly to prevent sticking.
  • Press through a food mill or old-fashioned chinois and discard solids.
  • Stir in the honey and lemon juice and season with black pepper and/or more sea salt to taste.
  • Serve in a frosty glass on ice, garnished with skewered cherry tomatoes, pickled onion, or sliced cucumber.
  • Store the juice in the fridge for a couple of days.

Variations: There are countless ways to turn this healthy drink into a fun afternoon mocktail. Before serving, wet the rim of each glass with a slice of lemon and dip into celery or lovage salt (instructions for how to make these are included in my book, Drinking the Summer Garden.”  Shake or stir in a dash of Worcestershire sauce or balsamic vinegar to taste. Season with dried or finely chopped fresh herbs such as basil, marjoram, or thyme. Spice it up with a hot pickled pepper. Drink it through a hollow lovage stem made into an edible straw.

GAYLA TRAIL is the creator of YouGrowGirl.com, where she has been sharing her experiences gardening in difficult urban spaces for 13 years. Gayla is the author/photographer of four books on urban gardening: You Grow Girl: The Groundbreaking Guide to Gardening, Grow Great Grub: Organic Food from Small Spaces (translated into three additional languages), Easy Growing: Organic Herbs and Edible Flowers from Small Spaces and Drinking the Summer Garden: Homegrown Thirst Quenchers, Concoctions, Sips, and Nibbles.” She lives, cooks, and gardens in Toronto with her partner Davin and their sweet pup Molly.

55 gallon rain barrel installed

Now is the perfect time to install a rain barrel. Summer is here and some parts of the country get very hot and dry late in the season – installing a rain barrel now means you will get some water in the barrel to help you save money and save water later in the season. Benefits of rain barrels go beyond saving money and watering your garden. By having a rain barrel, you are keeping rain water out of urban sewer systems, giving water back to the water table, and helping our environment. Today we are assembling and installing the 55 gallon Rain Saver from Tierra Derco with Quattro Downspout Filter and Universal Spout (see top photo).

Rain barrels come in many shapes and sizes, but almost all rain barrels are gravity fed and have no power to push the water through a hose. If the rain barrel is installed on blocks or raised slightly on a base support, it will guarantee that the water will more easily reach your garden beds if a hose is attached. Most frequently, I use a bucket or watering can and take water from the rain barrel spigot.

To install a rain barrel you will need tools – a rain barrel, flexible downspout, and a hacksaw. If you have an aluminum downspout you will need several screws, screwdriver, and a drilling rain barrel holedrill. If you have a PVC downspout you will also need PVC cement instead of screws. If you are unskilled in assembling and drilling like I am, you will need to find a helper like my buddy Ricky Rolon (thanks for helping me assemble the rain barrel Ricky – you’re the best).


Connecting a Downspout To A Rain Barrel in 3 Easy Steps

1. Place the barrel near a downspout. Position exactly where it will be when complete and measure the downspout portion you will need to cut in order to put the connection or downspout filter to the downspout. If your rain barrel does not have predrilled holes for the water tap and hose attachment, drill those now and install tap (photo right).

2. Disconnect your downspout by sawing the downspout above where the top of the rain barrel rests. Be sure to save all the parts you have removed so you can reattach during the winter.

3. Assembling downspout drain for rain barrelAttach a downspout filter or a flexible elbow to the cut end of your downspout so water is redirected into the rain barrel either through the filter hose or through a screened hole on top of the rain barrel dependent upon which rain barrel variety you have (photo right). Secure with screws. Or if you have a PVC downspout, secure with PVC cement so it will not come off during a heavy downpour. Make sure the water overflow is redirected away from the house foundation.


Rain Barrel Success Tip

Additional care for a rain barrel includes when temperatures in your community fall below freezing you should reconnect your old downspouts and drain your rain barrel to protect it from cracking. I turn my rain barrels upside-down, but you could simply keep the rain barrel spigot open so that rain does not gather in the barrel basin.

Helping the environment and saving money while watering your plants is a win-win. Including a rain barrel in your garden is a great way to contribute to a drought tolerant landscaping plan.  Get a rain barrel and make a difference.

According the FTC, I need to let you know that I received a product in this story at no cost in exchange for reviewing it.

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