Questions? Write Me at

Questions? Write me at fullcirclegardener @ cableone . net.

HSV Garden Challenge: Final Winners Announced

I am continuing to sit with my elderly aunt and haven't seem my garden in days, but I want to remind you that today the random winners of the HSV Garden Challenge were announced.  Congratulations to the winners. :)

I wonder what I'll find in my garden when I get back to it!?!  I would love to hear what you are harvesting from your garden right now.

Happy Gardening!

No Plant of the Week this week...

My friends, I am sitting with an elderly aunt in the hospital this week.  I'm sorry but I won't get a Plant of the Week post written this week.  If you feel so inclined, please pray for pain relief and comfort for my aunt.  Thank you, my friends.

Happy Gardening! :}

Dead Head Lillies

After your Asiatic Lily flowers fade, dead head (cut off the spent flower & seed pod) the plants.  Do this by cutting off the top 1/3 of the plant.  This will not only remove the spent flower but give these relatively tall plants some stability yet keep enough leaf area for them to store up energy to produce more beautiful flowers next year.

Don't forget you can toss those spent flowers into your compost pile.

Happy Gardening! :)

Herbed Imitation Crab Salad

I have been trying hard to be intentional about using fresh herbs for cooking this summer and today I just have to share my new favorite kitchen creation.  It uses fresh chives and dill.

I am a huge fan of crab salad and couldn't resist trying a recipe I found online that called for not just one but two fresh herbs.  I wasn't completely happy with it and started making adjustments to meet my taste (I'm the only one in my house who will eat crab salad so, yes, it was all just for me!).  Here is my final product.

Herbed Imitation Crab Salad
  • 1 pkg imitation crab (chopped or shredded)
  • 1/2 c sweet onion (finely chopped)
  • 1/4 c celery (finely chopped)
  • 1/4 c dill pickle (finely chopped)
  • 1/2 can black olives (sliced)
  • 1/4 c cheddar cheese (shredded)
  • 1/3 c mayonnaise
  • 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp pepper (or to taste)
  • 1 1 Tbl sugar
  • 1 tsp yellow mustard
  • 1 Tbl garden fresh chives (chopped)
  • 1/2 tsp garden fresh dill (I finely chopped the stem, leaves & flower)
Combine all of the ingredients in a medium bowl.  Stir well and chill at least one hour (I recommend overnight) to allow all the flavors to release and incorporate.

Serve by itself, on crackers or I recommend as a sandwich on a nice crusty bun, a couple leaves of garden fresh lettuce. I hope you enjoy this as much as I have the last couple of weeks! ;)

I'm sorry I don't have a picture.  I didn't think to take one before I ate it all.

Happy Gardening and Eating! :)

Plant of the Week: Dill

Dill (Anethum graveolens)
What is the first thing you think of when I say... pickles?  Ok, it's probably cucumbers, but what's next after that?  Dill?  It's definitely dill for me.  What would a pickle be without dill?!?! ;)

Dill is a versatile culinary herb.  The leaves, stem, flowers and seeds are all flavorful and used in the kitchen.  Dill quickly looses flavor when dried.  It does holds its flavor better if quick frozen, but just for a few months.  A word of caution, if you choose to freeze dill be sure to double or triple bag it to keep it from imparting its flavor to your entire freezer!

Dill is an annual herb that produces an umbel (umbrella shaped flower) on a tall slender stalk with fine, feathery leaves.  Common dill can grow to about 3 feet tall, but shorter and more compact varieties can be found as well. Dill tolerates the cold well and can be planted before the last killing frost in the spring.  It prefers a sunny location with well drained soils.  You may consider succession planting to keep fresh tender leaves available for a longer period of time.

Leaves (often referred to as dill weed) can be harvested once the plant has 4 or more leaves.  When the weather turns warm the plants will bolt (produce flowers).  If you allow the seeds to mature on the plant, it will self seed for the next season.  To harvest the seeds cut off the umbel just as the seeds begin to turn brown and hang it upside down to dry over a paper towel or piece of paper.  Collect and store the seeds in an airtight container as they fall off.

Note:  As I went out to get pictures today, I discovered that our neighborhood rabbit must like dill.  Today's picture is of the one and only dill that I could find in my garden that had not been eaten off at about 3 inches off the ground. :( 

Happy Herb Gardening! :)

Raspberry Harvest Beginning

The summer raspberry harvest begins this week at my home.  I collected a small cup full and presented to my family at breakfast this morning. :)  As a gardener, there is great joy in presenting fresh garden treats to your family that you know they love.  My yard is filled with eatables of all varieties for just that reason!  :D 

We have both summer bearing and ever bearing raspberries in our briar patch.  This summer bearing raspberry harvest will be consumed in its entirety by my kids right from the plants if history can foretell the future.  It is from my ever bearing that I get my most abundant harvest.  I manage my ever bearing raspberries so that they produce a more abundant fall harvest instead of two harvests. Check out my posts on establishing your own raspberry patch and  maintaining your summer and ever bearing raspberries for more details on site selection and why I manage my raspberries this way.

Harvest red raspberries when they are deep red and start pulling away from the plant where they attach to the flower.  Yellow raspberries become almost translucent when they are fully ripe.  Either way, the fruit should pull readily away from the plant when it is pickable.

I did notice one plant on which the fruit looks small and limp, and the leaves are dying.  Obviously something is wrong with it.  Rather than take the chance that it has some sort of disease, I will cut the plant off at the ground and drop the whole thing in the trash can this afternoon after we our summer sports practices are done.  It is never worth taking a chance of letting one plant infect the whole lot.

I hope you are enjoying some summer fruit from your backyard this summer!

Happy gardening! :)

Vertical Gardening: Trellis training

Back in May I told you I have become a great fan of using the vertical space in my garden.  I never have enough space for everything I want to plant and going vertical allows me to grow more in the same space.

In May I planted mini pumpkins and cucumbers on two different A-frame trellises.  The plants are starting to get big and last weekend I decided it was time to start training the plants to go up those trellises.

Suitable Ties
First I tore an old cotton t-shirt into strips to use as ties.  You could also use some old panty hose or other soft stretchable material.  You are looking for a material that will not damage the plants.  

Mini Pumpkins

The mini pumpkins have the taller trellis with chicken wire on a large frame.  The pumpkins do not readily climb the trellis , so I carefully lifted the plant and loosely tied each to the chicken wire using my new tie strips.  I gently pulled up and placed the vines separately and tried to be sure they were spaced so that they all would have room and sunlight.  Now that I have gotten the process started, as the vines grow the tendrils will secure the vines to the trellis and I will not need to do add any more tie strips.


The cucumbers have an A-frame that I made by tieing together an old crib railing.  The wide spaces between the rails allow me to weave each vine through the rails.  The tendrils will attach to the rails providing strength as well as the actual weaving of the vine.  Since cucumbers are handled and tugged at more often, this works better for me and the plants.

Heavy Fruit Vines
If you are growing a vine with a more substantial fruit (ex: squash, watermelon, full-size pumpkins), you may have to support the fruit as it gets heavier.  Here again you can use strips of cotton t-shirt or pantyhose, just larger.  Securely tie one end of each strip to your trellis, sling it under the fruit and then secure the other end to the trellis.  This will keep the fruit from pulling down or damaging your vine as it grows.

Happy Vertical Gardening! :)

Plant of the Week: Thyme

Thyme (Thymus sp.)
I'm back to my summer fascination with herbs again this week.  I just couldn't stay away, but I think it is time we had a look at thyme. ;)

Thyme is a hardy perennial herb that tolerates cold and drought fairly well.  It likes full sun and should be planted in well drained soil.  Like chives, it is a good herb for a new gardener or someone who doesn't claim to have a 'green thumb' because of its hardiness.  It has been in use at least as far back as the ancient Egyptians who used it as part of their embalming spices, but it is used today for culinary and ornamental purposes. 

Most culinary thyme is the  English thyme variety according to the National Gardening Association, but there are many varieties/'flavors' of thyme.  Thyme releases its earthy flavor slowly and so is best added early when cooking with it.  Most information I have read says that it is not overpoweringly strong, but my family finds it strong and prefers it used in very small quantities.  Harvest thyme all summer.  Just strip the small leaves off from the woody stems and use whole or chopped depending on the application.  It can be dried or frozen for post growing season use. Thyme typically grows between 8 and 12 inches tall and should be trimmed to control the woody growth and keep the leaves fresh for kitchen use.

Creeping thyme is smaller and forms a good edging or rock garden plant.  Its woody stems and small green leaves offer a nice backdrop to the little lavender flowers.  The small flowers are also a great source of nectar for pollinators like honey bees.  My herb garden is buzzing with activity between the thyme and oregano right now.  :)

Next week I have one more herb I'd like to explore with you before we turn our attention to some other plants.  I hope you have been enjoying this exploration of the culinary herbs as much as I have.

Happy (Herb) Gardening!  :)

Thinking Through Making Your Own Rain Barrel

As I said a couple of weeks ago when I first posted about rain barrels, "What could be better than storing free water to use later when it is less abundant!?!"  I am always watching for ways to save money in everything I do and when it comes to gardening, water can be one of the biggest expenses.  To reduce this expense, I mulch to retain as much water as I can in the soil and I have rain barrels to catch the free water God provides and use it to water when the soil is dry.  When I do need to water I am careful to water long and slow as I talked about in my post on watering basics.

You can buy a rain barrel at home improvement stores & garden centers or you can easily make your own.  Homemade rain barrels can be very simple to make and do not have to require a huge monetary or time investment.  In the most basic form, all you need is a large leak-free container, a source of water and a way to get the water out.  We made ours several years ago & I don't remember enough details to give you a detailed & specific 'how to', but here are some points and the basic steps to help you make your own in an afternoon or weekend.

The Container
I purchased two large barrels that were used to store untreated wood scraps from a local store, but you could use any large food grade container or garbage can.  Just be sure your barrels were not used to store chemicals or oils in their previous life.  Review point #2 in my Capturing Rainwater post as you consider what you want in a rain barrel.

First, review point #1 in my Capturing Rainwater post as you consider the location for your barrel.  You might also consider setting your barrels on a stand of some sort to give a little more room to get water out of a valve, if you want one.  Several cinder blocks could be used to form a simple but study platform.  My barrels are sitting next to each other on the ground on the northeast side of the house.

Water Access
You have to be able to access the rainwater in some way for a rain barrel to be useful.  I have two options.

#1: Dip from the top.  This requires no extra investment of time or money.  You just have to make sure that you have a way of opening and closing the top so that you can dip in a bucket or watering can to access the water.

#2: Water valve.  My husband installed water valve that I could attach a hose to on the bottom of one of the barrels so that we can gravity drain the water.  This required us to purchase a valve, drill a hole in which to insert the valve and seal it so that it would not leak.

Covering the Barrels
This is the most important step in making a rain barrel!  Invariably, where there is water, there are children, insects (especially mosquitoes) and critters attracted to that location.  The very last thing you want to find is a child in your barrel so covering the top is essential.  Until recently, I molded some chicken wire over the top of my barrels to keep children out.  This did not keep out insects or keep kids from dropping rocks & other things through the holes into the water.  Recently I replaced the chicken wire with screening that I salvaged from an old screen door we replaced on the house.  I am securing the screen with bungee cord so that I can access the water from the top easily if I need to.  (I realized tonight that I do not have a photo of my new cover.  I will insert one tomorrow.)

Direct the Water
(These pictures were taken as I transitioned from chicken wire to screen to cover my water barrels.  They were at no point left unattended and uncovered.  PLEASE be sure your barrels are covered at all times!)

Shorten your rain water down spout and direct the outlet into your container(s) so that water from your roof is captured.  My husband just removed one section of the downspout and attached a curved piece so that we'd be sure not to have water shooting down behind the barrel.  When the first barrel is full, I have to attach a second piece to re-direct the water into the second barrel.  It is my 'someday' plan to connect the two barrels so that they feed into each other without my help.

Upgrades I'm Still Wanting
 As I just eluded to, I want to connect the two barrels so that I do not have to manually move the spout to fill each one.  My plan is to connect them at both the top and the bottom so that water can freely pass between the two as the water level goes up and down.  Once I have made this connection I will also be able to install a more permanent top on the second barrel & have one less point of water access for all creatures!

The other thing I want to add is an overflow spout that I can attach a hose to and direct water further away from the house when the barrels are full.

I sincerely hope that this post has inspired you to add a rain barrel to your watering arsenal.  Don't let it be intimidating.  Start with a simple dip barrel and upgrade as you have time/energy and money.

Happy Gardening! :)

Other Post in this Series:
Garden Watering Basics
Mulching Basics
Capturing Rainwater for Drier Days
Thinking Through Making Your Own Rain Barrel

Our Weekend Project: Deck Framing

About a month ago we tore out our old deck that was rotten and falling apart.  A couple weekends later we jack hammered out the cement patio that was under the deck because it was sloping toward our house, and now this weekend was consumed by framing up our new deck. 

Some close friends came for the weekend and the men framed up our new deck.  Yeah!  (Thanks Mike!  I was so thankful not to have to participate in that project!)  The rest of us had a great time hanging out.  ;)

I had planned to write up a post on making your own water barrel for today, but my youngest developed a temp of about 100F this morning and my time is more limited today then I had expected.  I will continue to work on the water barrel post and put it up for you later... maybe late this evening.  Wednesday's Plant of the Week should come on schedule barring an outbreak of fevers from multiple family members or myself over the next couple of days, and I'll have an update on vertical gardening for you on Friday.

So for now, I'd love to hear what you did this last weekend.  I heard that a lot of people were working on decks over the weekend.  Did you have a big deck, yard or garden project you worked on?

Happy Gardening! :)

Preserving Backyard Fruit: Nanking Cherry Syrup

Just before lunch yesterday, my eldest came rushing into the kitchen very excited.  "Mom!  Mom!  The cherries are red!  The cherries are ready!"  I followed him out to the backyard and found kidos and robins harvesting bright red nanking cherries.  There is something very precious about about bright, glittering, excited eyes and fruit stained smiles.  This alone is reason enough to have backyard fruit in my opinion! :)

With the help of kids, husband and friends, I ended up with an ice cream bucket full of cherries.  If I get the bushes covered with bird netting today, we should have several more buckets before we're done with cherry season.

We love nanking cherry jam/jelly and syrup in our home and since there are only 2 pints of syrup left in my pantry, today I made syrup.  Making syrup is an easy and relatively quick process.

First step: remove the juice from the fruit.

1.  Wash and remove debris.

2.  Just cover the fruit with water and cook until the skin on the fruit starts to split.  (For this batch it took about 30 minutes.)

3. Remove the seeds and skins from the fruit.  I use an old fashion food mill and a little one anxious to help. ;)

Note: If you are looking for a clear, county fair blue ribbon product, you will want to strain off the juice and not collect the pulp'  I love the texture the pulp gives and cannot imagine wasting any of the fruit, so we mash out as much pulp as we can.

Second Step: turn the juice into syrup.

1. Gather supplies and recipe.  I have adjusted a syrup recipe that I found in a NDSU extension service bulletin to fit my family; it now has significantly less sugar than recommended. 

Nanking Cherry Syrup
4 c juice
2 c sugar
3 Tbs lemon juice (needed for the pectin to work)
1/2 pkg powdered pectin
2.  Mix all four ingredients together and heat to a rolling boil.  Boil 2 minutes and remove from heat.
3.  Skim off foam and pour into 1 pint jars to within 1/2 inch of the top.  Adjust lids and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes (for everyone under 10,00 ft elevation).
4.  Cool and check lids for seal.  Reprocess or refrigerate unsealed jars. 

Third step: label and store in a cool dry location until you are ready to use it.

And that is it!  What is better than turning the fruits of your labor into something that your whole family will enjoy for months to come!

Happy Gardening and Preserving! :D

all crafts Homemade Projects ~ Add Yours {7/12} 

Plant of the Week: Sedum

Stonecrop (Sedum sp.)
Sedum, or Stonecrops, are perennial, succulent plants that are a perfect addition to a rock garden or any dry location.  There hundreds of species of Sedum.  This means that there is bound to be at least one that will be a perfect match for your landscape and you!  I have xeriscaped a dry location in the front of my house using several species of Sedum.  It is a flower bed that is still in developement, but I am enjoying the variety in colors, textures and heights that the many species of Sedum have.

Sedum can be low growing like Gold Dust (Sedum acre) which get only about 3 inches tall. These make a great ground cover.  I have this particular variety planted in my Sedum bed.  It is petite with fine leaves and it roots where ever it touches the ground.  It spreads quickly and has pretty little yellow flowers in late June.  I am using this species as the base carpet in my flower bed.

Sedum hybridum is another common species that is a bit taller.  It gets about 9 inches tall according to the information I could find.  It has larger leaves and spreads by underground stems.  While it is spreading, it is not as aggressive as Gold Dust, but it too has yellow flowers that appear in June & July.  It adds some height to my Sedum bed around an old milk can.

I was given some Sedum this year by my mother that stands 12-18 inches tall and has green/greyish leaves that add a new dimension of color and height to my bed.  It will be flowering soon & I look forward to seeing what color it's flowers are. (The flowers ended up being a salmon/pink color & they lasted a couple of months!)  Some others in my bed have coppery red stems (probably Sedum spurium) and yet others have bright red flowers.  I just love the diversity of this genus!  :)

Sedum love full sun and well drained soil, but may need to be watered if you get less than an inch of water per week.  (I have planted my more water needy species close to the water valve so that they get the runoff from our water use.)  After a few years some Sedum will need to be divided.  It is best to divide them in the spring, but they will tolerate division at any time if you keep them well watered until they are re-established.

Take some time to check out the many varieties of Sedum and find those that will work well for you.  You can see more pictures and descriptions on-line.  I found the NDSU extension pictures helpful in identifying some of the species I have.

Happy Gardening!  :)

Plant an Herb Garden

My fourth guest post for Tip Junkie came out today.  :D  I have been on a mission to use fresh herbs in my cooking this summer and today's post reflects that mission as I am sharing 5 Easy Herbs to Grow for Kitchen Use.  For more details on these herbs check out the Plant of the Week for the last several weeks.  You can also view my previous Tip Junkie guest posts on growing Garden Strawberries and a Salsa Garden, and 6 Steps to Reduce Garden Water Needs.

Welcome to visitors from Tip Junkie.  Feel free to explore and ask lots of questions.  I'll do my best to answer any questions you send my way.  Check out my Facebook page for more fun and interactions.

Happy 4th of July everybody!  I hope everyone has a great weekend celebrating our country's birthday.  I'll be back on Wednesday with a new 'Plant of the Week'.  See you then.

Happy Gardening!  :)