Deck the Hall with
by Sally the Garden Guru
Oh, putting that garden down! While we concentrate on pulling out the
leggy petunias and putting a few pots of chrysanthemums on the front
porch to assure folks that we know it’s autumn, that very
concentration often prevents us from also realizing that there is a
whole lot of productive gardening left--some live plants, some dried,
and some for next spring. In fact, now is the right time to plant
spring bulbs and sow some seeds suitable for a late fall harvest, many
greens and lettuces, for instance. It is the time to divide
perennials, replanting some divisions for strong plants next year and
giving others away to gardening friends. It’s time to hunt the ditches
for cattails, interesting pods and a few good weeds. Such rustic
bounty signals that nature is announcing autumn. Perhaps they are a
signal for us, too: Deck the halls with fall…and also the mailbox,
window boxes, decks, porches and doorways.
Where do we start? Thankfully, in
Michigan, if you seek a pleasant idea, look around you. There are
many, but sometimes they are akin to the “hidden pictures” of
childhood. But, with a concentrated perspective, you’ll find things to
bring autumn into the home right in your own garden or yard and in
roadway ditches and woodsy trails, too. There are even ideas in
putting away the summer garden. Consider these starting points:
…As you empty pots of their summer
plantings, take cuttings to root from suitable plants and vines.
Tender ivies, pachysandra and common impatiens are only a few of many,
many plants that root easily and give color to fall and autumn homes.
Garden shops and catalogs offer beautiful, colored Italian glass
“rooters” that are sheer joy in a sunny window.
… Scrub the summer’s pots well with a
disinfectant in the water, and reserve the prettiest pots in various
sizes to use now. Large ones can be focal points aside doors,
including garage doors, when filled with interesting twiggy and
grasses, and even the smallest pots are bright spots on the desk with
a few rose hips and the dried herbs or special grasses like lemon
…This time of year, local markets feature
gourds for easy arrangements and dill, meant for pickles, is great
fill material in natural arrangements. The bright orange of dried
Chinese Lanterns is lasting--and, with miniature pumpkins--perfect for
Halloween time, too
… Mature rose hips, large and colorful,
from tough garden roses (rugosa) or from wild roses in the woods are
the old faithfuls of dried arrangements, giving bright reds to holiday
… Alone, and placed in a perfect place,
even a handsome stone brings nature and art into the home. Artists
are known to wrap a smooth stone in twine or raffia like a precious
… Do you have a blue room? Small bouquets
of fall’s sky blue roadside chicory work nicely into a blue theme.
Frilly white Queen Anne’s Lace is the perfect background for more
prominent blooms, fresh or dried.
…. Rings, often called “collars” by
florists, blossoms, fresh or dried (cut stems short) that circle
inside the rim of a low container. The star of the arrangement is
placed in the middle. Materials, last of summer fresh or newly dried,
work well. Perhaps your (or a friend’s) garden will furnish fresh leek
blossoms before they go to seed. Also, French marigolds, dills,
fennels, lavenders, sages and savories and the last large leaves of
summer lettuces from palest green to darkest red make attractive
collars in low bowls to highlight one last dahlia or a late-blooming
… Here, in our countryside, in our small
city, we can’t miss with cornstalks. We all can find a farmer’s market
nearby or on a short drive from the city. Those last leggy petunias
will never be missed.
# Sally Ketchum is a northern Michigan
garden and food writer. She likes to hunt in her gardens and woods to
find pretty or unusual plants, live or to dry or already dried, to
arrange with a few other natural autumn treasures—pods, twigs and
Author and Gardener
Sally D. Ketchum
A Practical Student Success Guide for
by Sally D. Ketchum
Sally Ketchum is a Michigan
food and garden writer. She works in a large kitchen garden, two herb
gardens and borders with English roses.
Sally is also the author of
Super Student/Happy Kid,
a practical student success guide for everyone.
Sally's Summer Garden
“I do not have to
lean or squat,
To garden in a
A basket full of
A mini-garden to
Color in a window
A bright array of
Four O’ Clocks
Pale water lilies
in a bowl
Are ample garden
for my soul.
--Sally D. Ketchum
Field of Dreams
by Sally the Garden Guru
While a few of us can look the window and look over amber waves of
some of us might see a tomato plant or two in a small kitchen
garden; a lot of us are city folks whose windows have more urban
views. Nevertheless a field of dreams is possible for all, and that
particular bounty is in our local farm markets.
In mid-summer farmers spread the generosity of nature in
bushels and baskets and stacked in pyramids and mounded in colorful
heaps on tractor-trailers. From apples to zucchini, local vegetables
fill recipes, inspire recipes or simply serve as snacks or as dishes
in a healthy menu. Do you aim to eat a certain number of servings of
fruit and vegetables daily? Farm markets are an answer.
Obviously getting the freshest,
usually organically grown, produce is a worthy accomplishment. And
as, experienced customers of farm markets say, “they are an
uplifting experiences. Psychologists agree. University
of Michigan’s experts on mental health suggest, “breaking the
supermarket habit.” By this, they mean passing up impersonal
supermarkets for specialty stores and, when possible, shopping farm
At farm markets, the buyer can talk
to the seller (in this case the farmer of farm family member), get
information about how the produce is grown, what its special merits
are, and—if ever so lucky—a possible tip on preparation or even a
recipe! Ginny Girard, a Michigan State home economist, says
that getting to know the growers means that the shopper gets
information such as what is the best and freshest produce and who
has it. Besides chatting with the growers, here are some tips
for getting the freshest and finest vegetables in season and having
the happiest shopping experience to boot!
Green and yellow snap beans: choose those that are about the
same size, the size you prefer for cooking and presentation. Beans
should be free of spots, crisp and they should “snap” when broken as
their names suggest. Seeds should be hardly visible.
Broccoli: Avoid limp, hollow-stemmed, loose-headed heads.
Look for closely bunched flowers with a blue cast. The best will be
kept cold, even iced.
Carrots: If the tops look fresh, the roots will be fresh,
too. There are many colors available in carrots now, purple to
yellow. Deep colors signify high vitamin A content.
Eggplant: A glossy skin means fresh eggplant. Happily, farm
markets, unlike most stores, may have eggplants in different types
and colors: purple, fuchsia, green and white, and also in a variety
of sizes and shapes and ethnic types, Italian, Oriental, Lebanese
and more. The best will seem heavy. If you can easily impress a mark
with a finger, the eggplant is too old. (Diet tip: Baked eggplants
stuffed with other vegetables and grains and mixed with the eggplant
flesh are among the healthiest of all vegetable dishes. Look for
Greens: Lettuces, spinaches, chard, leafy herbs and the newly
popular greens like mizuna, rocket and mustard-spinach crosses
should have springiness about them. “Crisp” is the key.
Leeks: Fresh leeks should have moist upper leaves and clean
Melons: Cantaloupes should have an old-fashioned cantaloupe
fragrance. Since watermelons can no longer be “plugged” for taste,
a shopper might thump to hopefully hear a hollow sound. The
watermelon stem should be attached, and the underside should be a
pale yellow. Honeydews will have a fruity scent and be very slightly
soft at the stem end.
Onions and garlic: Green onions should be bright green, moist
and firm. Garlic heads should be fat. Avoid yellowish or very dry
Peppers: Peppers should feel heavy. Red peppers are more
mature and will not keep as long.
Summer squash: Small squash are by far the best. Look for
unblemished young squash under 7 inches and baby squash about 3
inches in diameter.
Tomatoes: Some of America’s best chefs, e.g. Alice Waters and
Paul Bertolli, will not use fresh tomatoes out of season. In season,
look to the farm markets for a range of taste and color in tomatoes.
Fruit should be firm, although very ripe, but not spotted, tomatoes
are good for sauces. Take advantage of the heirlooms, the best in
taste and available at farm markets but rare at stores since they do
not ship well commercially. These include
Brandywines, German Green, Old Yellow Pear, Oxhart, Arkansas
Traveler, Yellow Sausage (paste) and Opalka (paste).
Exploration of a local farm market is a shopper’s field of dreams.
It is a happy
time. There is camaraderie among farmers and customers. There are
sensations that delight the eyes with the color and the nose with
the fresh fragrances. It is no wonder that health experts find
market shopping invigorating. Often, adding an irresistible
purchase or two enriches the fun. The surprise might be an informal
bouquet of cosmos and cornflowers or dried Bells of Ireland. On
rare occasions, and very happy ones indeed, a small child, finishing
shopping with the family might tag along behind, holding a small
puppy or kitten. Family shopping. America’s local farm markets.
Fields of dreams.
"Adopt the pace of nature;
her secret is patience."
by Luanne Torblaa
Weeds, yes, weeds! What an appropriate subject
for spring. Some people are probably sneezing because of them at
this very moment. A weed is a plant of no value that chokes out
desirable growth. Everyone has a few obnoxious growths to contend
with whether you're an apartment dweller, renter, or a mortgage
owner; weeds are an aggravation yet a beauty.
Without a few weeds around in yards and fields
it would look rather boring around here. Just look at all the free
blue ground cover, small white flowers sprouting and yellow posies
on the landscape. These and other wild flowers grow from weeds. In
fact, many states have wild flowers as their state flower.
Children are attracted to weed-flowers; they pick bouquets for
everyone in the neighborhood. It makes kids proud to decorate the
kitchen table with such beauties of nature. I know a few grown-ups
who do the same, especially while camping. Some weeds make
gorgeous arrangements, fresh or dried; most of the time they're
free to the picker.
Weeds come in all shapes, sizes and colors; and
they functional to boot. They're used to spice foods, make
potpourri sachets, salad greens, decorations and to enhance flower
arrangements. Although, you can get arrested if you smoke them. Who'd
think a thing such as a weed could be so useful? Even the color
green seems to blend with everything.
Gardeners have a tough time controlling these
green sticks. Weeds seem to grow where they're not wanted,
and proliferate at that. Some farmers even grow weeds, such as
dandelions, on a controlled basis to sell as salad greens.
Lawn tenders usually spray them until they're brown and disappear.
I truly believe a few weeds in a lawn are acceptable and even
colorful, but then, I'm in the minority. A favorite pastime of my
kids was to blow the dandelion white seeds all over the
yard. (Dad just loves it!) We spend lots of money to fertilize
weeds, then more to eliminate them. Whoever said grass had to
simulate a green velvet carpet? As long as the lawn is not full of
stickers and rocks; you can play football and volleyball on it.
Happy weed sneezing, and pulling this season!
Try not to sacrifice too many fingernails, protect your knees,
watch out for your back and don't sneeze too hard (hernias, you
know). Weeds are sometimes more trouble than they're worth. Maybe we
should just enjoy them!
Author, Luanne Torblaa
For Books and items by Luanne, click on the
Ring Bearer embroidered
Hand -Crocheted Poopa Ducks