Questions? Write Me at

Questions? Write me at fullcirclegardener @ cableone . net.

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween! 

Have you craved Jack-o-lanterns this year?  We carved two last week from two of the pumpkins that grew in my garden this year.  My plants produced 1 ripe pumpkin & 2 unripe pumpkins.  I was able to convince my kids to carve just the green pumpkins and keep the orange one for pie making. ;)  We also got 6 mini boo (white) & 6 jack-be-little pumpkins (orange) that they had fun painting.

Our pumpkin carving is pretty basic but I love to read the book the Pumpkin Patch Parable by Liz Curtis Higgs as we carve our pumpkin.  It describes the process of planting, growing and carving a pumpkin in a way that beautifully illustrates how God transforms people when they trust their lives to him.

 I'd love to know if you have any pumpkin carving traditions in your family.  Do you carve a traditional face, sculpt or etch your jack-o-lanterns?

Happy Halloween Garden Friends! :)

Fall Clean Up Check List

I am more likely to remember to get everything done and definetly more motivated if I have a checklist.  Here is my fall clean up check list.

1. Remove all plant debris from veggie garden & flower beds.

2. Mow and bag fallen leaves to add as 'browns' to the compost pile as needed or use as mulch.

3. Put away trillises, frames and cages used in both veggie & flower gardens.

4. Roll up and put away hoses, sprinkler and other watering tools.

5. Empty rain barrels & turn them over so they do not catch water and snow over the winter.

6. Put away decorative garden figurines, lights and signs.

7. Empty flower pots and store them for winter.

8. Dig up and store sensitive flower bulbs or roots (ex: Dalia and Begonia in my area).

9. Mulch newly planted flowers and other sensitive plants.

10.  Clean tools like hoes & shovels, & store for winter.

11. Winterize motorized lawn & garden equipment (this is my husbands job! ;))

Did I miss anything?  I hope not! ;)

Happy Fall Garden Clean Up! :)

Plant of the Week: Chamomile

Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) (photo credit)
This week's plant of the week comes at the request of my husband.  He was looking for a warm decafinated beverage this evening & I suggested some nice herbal tea.  After choosing his 'flavor', he looked at me and said, "What is chamomile and where does it come from?".

I told him it is a flower and common 'weed'.  While this answered his immediate curiosity, he asked me to dig deeper and see what else I could tell him.  My digging has been interesting so let's sit down together and learn about chamomile over a nice hot cup of tea! ;)

Chamomile comes from the Aster family (Asteraceae) and is a common name that is used for several different daisy-like plants though it is the German chamomile that is commonly used in tea.  A chamomile plant typically has several flower heads with white ray flowers (exterior petals) and a 'button' of yellow disk flowers in the center.  It is sometimes referred to as the pineapple plant because that 'button' of disk flowers looks like a pineapple and the plant has a sweet smell that is released at the slightest touch.   The plant is labeled a weed by many because it is extremely easy to grow from seed and can grow in some of the lowest quality soils.  Care should be taken if you plant chamomile in your herb garden, to dead head the flowers before they go to seed to keep them from becoming a weed problem.

Chamomile has been used as a household herb for centuries.  It was commonly strewn over the floors of homes to cover unpleasant smells and as a insect repellant in medieval Europe.  At some point people recognized that it has a calming effect as well and began to drink it as a tea to relieve stress and prepare for getting a good nights' rest.  Even today it is drank by many for that exact reason.  It is also called upon as a soothing beverage for an upset stomach, or can be used as a yellow dye if you are looking for a natural dye.  The National Gardening Association has a variety of articles relating to chamomile and it's current and historical uses if you want to do some exploring.

Next time you need a warm beverage to soothe away the stresses of the day, grab a cup of chamomile tea and relax with a good book for a few minutes before you head off to bed for the night.

Happy Herb Gardening! :)

Baked Caramel Apple Pancakes

This apple treat is a fall favorite in my home.  My mom clipped the original recipe out of the newspaper and passed it on to me a few years ago.  I have since adjusted it for our tastes and preferences.  It is another recipe that I'm sure your family will enjoy as much as mine! :)

Baked Caramel Apple Pancake
(Serves 4)

1. Preheat oven to 350F.

2. Saute' apples in butter and brown sugar in an oven safe 9 " skillet.

2 large apples peeled & sliced
1/2 c butter
2/3 c brown sugar

3. Meanwhile, combine in a large bowl the following pancake ingredients:

1 c buttermilk
1/4 c whole wheat flout
3/4 c all purpose flour
1 Tbs sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
2 Tbs oil

4. Slowly pour the pancake batter over the sauteing apples, and cook on the stove top until it begins to bubble.

5. Move to the oven and bake for 12-17 minutes.

6.  Serve hot with country sausage, bacon or ham.  No syrup necessary!

If you like this apple recipe, you might check out my Apple Muffin recipe as well. 

Happy Harvest Cooking! :)

Old Fashion Recipe Exchange

Ripening Green Tomatoes Indoors

Tomatoes harvested before the killing frost on Tuesday.
There are always at least a few tomatoes that didn't get to ripen on the vine at the end of the season.  This year my tomatoes were still in full swing so I have lots of green or partially ripe tomatoes sitting in my house right now.  If you are wondering if your green tomatoes will still ripen, let me encourage you.  As long as they were fully mature when you collected them, they will!  It will take some time, but they will ripen.  (Any tomatoes that were not fully mature will never ripen; eventually they will get old and rot.  They are perfect compost! ;)  Sometimes it is hard to tell the difference so don't be afraid to bring everything in and give them all a chance.

The key to ripening green tomatoes is to not let them get too warm while they ripen.  It is best to keep them at about 55F but under 75F is ok.  It is also best to keep them out of direct sunlight as the sun will heat them too much and may cause them to rot before they ripen.  Keep a close eye on your tomatoes as they ripen.  Just like apples, one rotten tomato could spoil the whole bunch so don't forget to check on them frequently!

 Whether you have six tomatoes or dozens, the basic idea is the same; just adjust the size of your 'system'.  You will want to place your tomatoes in a breathable container (paper bag, cardboard box) in a single layer giving each one some space so it doesn't touch its neighbor.  (You may do two layers if you really need to, but place a layer of newspaper between your layers.  Two layers are difficult because it makes it hard to check on the bottom layer quickly. More than two layer could cause the bottom layer to get damaged.)  Cover the box with a layer of newspaper or close up the paper bag. Again, remember to check on your tomatoes frequently and remove any that are ripe or rotten.

Headed to my basement pantry where I can keep a close eye on them.
It could take anywhere from one to six weeks for all of your tomatoes to ripen.  If you are wanting them to all ripen quickly and close to the same time add a banana to your container.  The ethylene gas that the banana gives off will encourage ripening.  If you want them to ripen slowly and only a few at a time, be sure to remove any ripe tomatoes right away. 

Do you ripen your green tomatoes or do you have a favorite preserve or dish you use them in?  I'd love to here what you do with your green tomatoes.

Happy Harvesting! :)

Plant of the Week: Peonies

Double Peony (Paeonia sp.)
Peonies are a favorite spring perennial and though right now spring may not be your first thought, it is a good time to think peonies...

Wild peonies are native to the northern hemisphere and come in three forms, herbaceous, tree, or a hybrid of the two called intersectional.  Whether cultivated or wild, peonies flower in the spring with cultivated peonies classified for sale by their flower type which may be as simple as a 'single' or complex as a 'bomb-double'.  Flower color may be white, red or yellow with many shades and combinations there of.

Cultivated peonies should be planted or transplanted in the fall (late August - October).  (This is why now is the time to be thinking peonies!)  If you have a well established peony that has not flowered well or at all for a season or two, it is time to dig it up and transplant it, but be aware that peonies develop extensive root systems.  While digging up the tuber may take time and energy, it is important that you take your time and try to keep the whole root intact.  Before digging, cut all the stems back to about 4 inches above the ground and then carefully start digging keeping in mind that the top of the tuber will not be more that two inches below the soil surface. 

Rinse off any remaining soil and debris on the tuber with spray from the water hose.  You will find that you can divide the old plant into several smaller sections and multiply your planting, or share the floral blessing with friends, family and/or neighbors.  As you divide the tuber, remove and discard any diseased or insect infested sections and keep those with 3-5 buds or 'eyes'.  A section with less than 3 eyes will take several years to produce a flower and then only in optimal conditions.

Whether transplanting an old plant or planting a newly purchased tuber, be sure to prepare the soil well.  Dig a hole twice as deep as you need for your root and fill the bottom with compost and a handful of bone meal.  Plant the tuber with the eyes facing the soil surface no deeper than two inches below the soil surface.  Be sure to tamp and water down the soil well as you back fill to ensure that the tuber is no deeper than two inches or it may not flower.  It is a good idea to cover the peony with 3-4 inches of  mulch the first winter, especially if it didn't get planted until late October, but peonies do not require mulching beyond the first winter.

Happy Gardening (& Spring Thinking!)! :)

Super Moist Apple Muffins

'Tis the season when apples are in abundance!   I shared with you a few weeks ago about the 35 gallon tote full of apples my husband picked for me, and since we have been enjoying many apple treats!  I hope to share a few with you over the next several weeks and here is the first.

A few years ago a friend shared this recipe with me.  I have made some slight changes to fit my family since then, but it has stood the test of time (and many breakfasts!) at my house and I think it will at yours too.  Enjoy! :)

Apple Muffins

2 c flour
1/2 c whole wheat flour
1 box instant pudding (your preference, Devil's Food chocolate was used in the batch pictured above)
3/4 c sugar
4 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 c butter/margarine (melted)
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2/3 c milk (more if too thick)
2 c chopped apples

Pre-heat oven to 400F.  Grease or line muffin tin. In large bowl, combine dry ingredients and mix well.  In a separate bowl combine butter, milk, eggs and vanilla.  Add to flour mixture and stir until moist.  Mix in apples.  Spoon into the muffin tin.  Bake in upper 1/3 of oven for 20 - 25 minutes or a toothpick comes out clean.

Makes about 24 muffins.

Happy Harvest Cooking! :)

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