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Visiting a Family Garden in the German Countryside

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Visiting a Family Garden in the German Countryside

Roof covered tomato plants, overloaded fruit trees bursting with apples, pears, plums and peaches, multitudes of blooming flowers, rows of freshly laundered sheets hanging on clotheslines next to a field of Shetland ponies and historic homes, barns and fence surrounded by lush green grass and stately trees — all vivid images of  my friend’s country home in Tornow, Germany.

My friends are film producers who spend much of their time living and working in Berlin with their family.   Weekends, vacations and summers are spent at their country house 60 miles north of the city.  During my visit this summer, I had the good fortune to accompany them to this beloved retreat.   While they worked, I harvested tomatoes, apples and plums in their garden.   Later, Marijke made a lovely meal from the fresh ingredients and afterwards, took me for a walk around the neighborhood, nearby farms, through the grounds of an old estate turned into a vacation escape for Berliners and the surrounding woods.

The tomatoes are covered by a roof to protect them fungi in the rain and are watered with an irrigation system.  The garden around the house is abloom with many flowers — lavender, huge nasturtiums, potted plants summering in a courtyard, salvia, sunflowers growing from seeds I’d given her last summer and more.   Near the barn, there are two new raised beds filled with a cover crop.   I urged Marijke to start a fall garden with cold crops — onions, lettuce, kale, spinach, carrots, garlic and beets.    Several fruits trees – peach, plum, pear and apples are surrounded by fallen fruits and loaded with ripened fruits which I begged to pick.   There is an incredible brick compost structure built from materials found on the property which my hosts filled with food scraps from the city and I with rotten apples collected from under one of the over laden trees.   Such abundance, color and fresh air blue sky peacefulness — easy to imagine why my friends love to travel here as often as possible.

A short walk from the house is a country retreat situated on the estate of an old mansion.   The property featured old barns converted into small apartments, a lodge house, a central dining hall with an outdoor sitting area, ponies and farm animals, a fire pit, fruit trees, a large rambling vine-covered mansion, an old chapel, paths through the woods, an expansive clothesline with sheets and towels blowing in the breeze,  farm fields, and lots of space for kids to play, dogs to run and places to simply relax in nature.   A couple lovingly manages the estate despite the challenges of making enough money to create a sustainable enterprise.   Charming and rustic — an idyllic place to escape to!

My day in the German countryside was very nearly perfect.   My only regret is that the drizzly morning made us skip a swim in the local river.  Just as we were packing up to return to the city, the sun broke through the clouds and brightened up the afternoon.  Phooey!  I hope there is a next time!

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Life in the Garden, “Exclusively Yours”, July 2016

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Life in the Garden, “Exclusively Yours”, July 2016

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Its been a busy garden season and with the big harvest this year, I’ve been too busy to write.   But today, I received a copy of an article that features my garden exploits and want to share it.   Several months ago, my sister’s friend Tyler, asked if she could interview me about my experience as a master gardener for an article she was writing.   I answered a few quick questions late at night so she could meet her midnight deadline — and forgot all about it.

Fast forward three months and I receive an email from a Wisconsin woman wondering if she could hire me to help plan her son’s garden in Denver.   Of course, that’s the kind of thing I do — plan gardens — but I wondered how she’d gotten my contact information.   In her email, she mentioned an article in “Exclusively Yours”, a local magazine I grew up reading in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin.   In an effort to locate the article, I googled and called the magazine, called my mom and sister who live in Wisconsin.   Nothing.  Finally, my new fan emailed a copy and it all came back to me.

Its fun to share my passion for gardening with everyone I know.   In the article, I mention the master gardening program at Denver Urban gardens, my donation garden at St. Philip Lutheran Church, the new donation garden I helped plan at Harvard Gulch Golf Course and more.   Check it out.  Please contact me if you want to talk gardening or need help getting yours started.  anaincolorado@gmail.com.

 

exclusively-yours

The Dog Days of Summer in the Garden

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The Dog Days of Summer in the Garden
Ripening blackberries

Ripening blackberries

Its late August and my garden is  bursting with vegetables and berries.   Although some of it is starting to look a little ragged, most is growing like gangbusters.   One notable exception is my tomato crop which was delayed due to an unusually cold and rainy Colorado May.  I am hoping that Mother Nature will delay autumn’s first frost and give my tomatoes a few more weeks to ripen.

Typically, this time of year tomatoes are my biggest haul with 20-40 pounds a week but alas, an abundance of other crops are filling the void.   Kale, cucumbers, chard, lettuce, scallions, peppers, onions, herbs, beans, squashes, greens, beets, broccoli, cherry tomatoes are filling my counters and refrigerator.   With so much to process in August,  I am always torn between staying home to cook the bounty or going out to enjoy the last beautiful sunny hot days of summer.   Trying to do it all presents its challenges!!!   Here are some photos from my last summer garden.

Black-eyed Susans are blooming for weeks!

Black-eyed Susans are blooming for weeks!

Wine barrel tomatoes and basil are slow but steady.

Wine barrel tomatoes and basil are slow but steady.

The only flowers in the window boxes to survive the southwest sun -- still gorgeous.

The only flowers in the window boxes to survive the southwest sun — still gorgeous.

 

 

 

When are my grapevines going to grow grapes?

When are my grapevines going to grow grapes?

Beets are ready!

Beets are ready!

Picking raspberries for my snack is the best!

Picking raspberries for my snack is the best!

The apple tree I nurtured for 6 years is not well.

The apple tree I nurtured for 6 years is not well.

Jack be littles are climbing over the green striped Romas.

Jack be littles are climbing over the green striped Romas.

Can never have enough basil.

Can never have enough basil.

Shallots are ready for the best vinaigrette in the world -- thanks Zoe!

Shallots are ready for the best vinaigrette in the world — thanks Zoe!

Front porch blooms were a door prize at the Littleton City Dinner. Looking good.

Front porch blooms were a door prize at the Littleton City Dinner. Looking good.

Rainbow chard and spinach ready to harvest!

Beers ready to harvest!

Just planted new onions last week and they are growing!!!

Just planted new onions last week and they are growing!!!

Basil and parsley on the patio.

Basil and parsley on the patio.

Jack be littles, cone flowers and tomatoes on the trellis.

Jack be littles, cone flowers and tomatoes on the trellis.

The "Ketchup and Fries" plant is producing tomatoes. Wonder about potatoes beneath the surface!!!

The “Ketchup and Fries” plant is producing tomatoes. Wonder about potatoes beneath the surface!!!

Broccoli is shading the newly planted greens.

Broccoli is shading the newly planted greens.

A mouse is nibbling on the strawberries. Hope the mole cage will protect the other ones.

A mouse is nibbling on the strawberries. Hope the mole cage will protect the other ones.

Leeks are growing tall. Anticipating potato leek soup very soon.

Leeks are growing tall. Anticipating potato leek soup very soon.

Zinnias are my favorite!!

Zinnias are my favorite!!

Posing next to my flower bed.

Posing next to my flower bed.

Selecting some herbs to harvest.

Selecting some herbs to harvest.

Canning Summer Pears for Winter Eating — No Sugar!!!

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Palisade Pears from the Farmer's Market

Palisade Pears from the Farmer’s Market

After years of buying boxes of Colorado grown fruit at the Farmer’s Market,  I decided it was finally time to preserve these delicious fruits for winter eating .   With such a short window of ripeness, often only weeks, I have to buy the fruit when the time is right — and hope I get there before the season is over.   When the pears arrive in late August, it is always a feast of these juicy sweet fruits for a few weeks when they are at the peak of perfection.

So, when the pears arrived at the Aspen Grove Farmer’s Market last Wednesday, I snagged a box of green ones.    Instead of refrigerating them to slow ripening, I left them out in the hot garden and by Monday, they were yellow and ready to eat — and can.

Armed with fresh pears, time and supplies, I started the canning process at 5 pm tonight.    The first step was to decide what sugar solution I would use.   While researching this subject, I found out that the sugar content can be reduced by using a natural juice instead.    What a great idea!   Since I had a load of grapes  from a friend’s vines, I decided to use juice from these grapes for my pear project.   I started out by washing and de-stemming  the grapes.  Then, I loaded them into a pan (about 8 cups) and covered the grapes with water.  I boiled them for 30 minutes and then strained the grapes, separating the juice from the seeds and skins.   With 7 cups of fresh white grape juice, I was ready to start peeling the fruit.

After washing the pears, I peeled, cored and sliced them into eighths.    The slices went into a solution of 3/4 cups lemon juice and 1 gallon water to decrease browning while I boiled the jars. to sterilize them.    I ended up filling about 4 quart jars with what seemed like 20 pears, covered them with the grape solution and then after cleaning the lip of the jars, closing them with new lids and seals.   At an altitude of 5400 feet, I added 10 minutes to the 25 minutes processing time.   The water bath worked its magic and in 35 minutes, I had 4 jars of freshly canned pears for winter eating.   More to come.

Making grape juice and preparing the lemon solution for the pears.

Making grape juice and preparing the lemon solution for the pears.

Sliced pears.

Sliced pears.

Filling the hot jars.   About 6 pears each.

Filling the hot jars. About 6 pears each.

Canned pears will cool over night.   The sound of popping tells me my project was successful.

Canned pears will cool over night. The sound of popping tells me my project was successful.

While I was canning, I made a German Pancake with Pear for dinner.   Mmmm....

While I was canning, I made a German Pancake with Pear for dinner. Mmmm….

Harvesting My First Crop of Hardneck Garlic

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Freshly harvested garlic from my garden.

Freshly harvested garlic from my garden.

Inspired by another community gardener, I planted my first crop of garlic in October.     Following Dana’s  advice, I sought out the hard neck variety at a local gardening center and once planted, carefully covered the buried cloves with a pile of wood chips to protect it over the winter.    Knowing that growing garlic is a long process , I patiently watched through the winter and spring when finally, the bulbous garlic scapes appeared.    As advised, I cut off the garlic scapes to divert energy to the bulbs growing below.   The garlic scapes added a nice flavor to several of my summer dishes.

After several weeks of watching the stalks dry in the ground, I decided to finally dig the garlic up today.   I used a large shovel to dig deep below the bulbs.   The bulbs were a little smaller than I anticipated but still, I could discern a cluster of hardy cloves.    I brushed off the dirt, tied them up in bunches of 5 and hung them to “cure” on the pot rack in the kitchen.   I am told that I should let them dry for about three weeks and then store them in a cold, dry place for use through the winter.   We eat a lot of garlic in our home so this home grown crop will be a welcome addition to our recipes.

I waited for the stems to dry after clipping off the garlic scapes several weeks ago.   Ready to dig up the garlic cloves.

I waited for the stems to dry after clipping off the garlic scapes several weeks ago. Ready to dig up the garlic cloves.

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Tying up bunches of garlic cloves for "curing".

Tying up bunches of garlic cloves for “curing”.

Hanging the clusters of garlic bulbs next to last summer's dried birdhouse gourds.

Hanging the clusters of garlic bulbs next to last summer’s dried birdhouse gourds.

25 Essentials in My Garden Bag

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The essentials I take in my garden bag.

The essentials I take in my garden bag.

I do most of my gardening away from home so I travel with a bag full of essentials.   If I forget something important, it can be a crisis,    Ever resourceful, I have been know to improvise.   The scissors has doubled as a Philips screwdriver, flowers have come home in plastic bags and water bottles and hay bale rope has been used to tie together stakes, fences and poles.

Here are some of the essentials I like to have with me:

  • Cold Water
  • Snack
  • Sharp scissors
  • Small shovel
  • Horihori
  • Gloves
  • Pencils
  • Paint sticks, tongue depressors and popsicle sticks
  • Seeds
  • Garden shears
  • Paper for drawing
  • Sunscreen
  • Washers
  • Goof plugs
  • Apron
  • Cups for flowers
  • Hose repair parts
  • Bulbs/flowers to plant
  • Cell phone
  • Hair tie
  • Money
  • Sunglasses
  • String/rope
  • Flashlight
  • Camera
  • Zip ties
  • Extra plastic bags
  • Tissue/paper towel

So, this exercise helped me to think of a few things I missed (extra bags, zip ties, string, duct tape, etc.) so now I am stocked and ready to hit the road.

Clay Pot Irrigation: A Workshop on Water Conservation

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Here are some examples of authentic ollas produced in Albuquerque.

Here are some examples of authentic ollas produced in Albuquerque.

Water conservation is always an issue in dry, sunny Denver.    As a leader in the community garden, I have worked with the committee for years to encourage gardeners to incorporate water conservation methods in their gardens — mulch, soaker hoses, drip irrigation, watering earlier and later in the day, hand watering, etc.     I am always looking for new ways to reduce water usage so when a fellow gardener introduced the idea of using clay pots to irrigate, my interest was peaked.    Here are some photos from the Clay Pot Irrigation Workshop given by Rosedale Gardener, Syd Uphoff, at our garden several weeks ago.   I am definitely planning to test drive some ollas in my garden this year.

Syd is talking about how to use the olla's to save water in your garden.

Syd is talking about how to use the olla’s to save water in your garden.

The cost of making your own ollas is significantly less than purchasing the authentic pots.    The cost to make your own is under $7 each.

The cost of making your own ollas is significantly less than purchasing the authentic pots. The cost to make your own is under $7 each.

Here are some examples of authentic ollas produced in Albaqueque.

Here are some examples of authentic ollas produced in Albaqueque.

The order form for ollas in New Mexico.

The order form for ollas in New Mexico.

Syd demonstrates how to seal the two terracotta pots with silicon caulk.

Syd demonstrates how to seal the two terracotta pots with silicon caulk.

A larger ollas made to hold a gallon and a half of water.

A larger ollas made to hold a gallon and a half of water.

Here are the olla's buried up to the white paint which seals the top from water evaporation.

Here are the olla’s buried up to the white paint which seals the top from water evaporation.

The smaller olla hold a gallon of water.

The smaller olla hold a gallon of water.

Ollas need to be filled 2-3 times a week.    You plant within 12-15 inches of the olla and the roots will grow close.   Seeds should be hand watered until they have roots.

Ollas need to be filled 2-3 times a week. You plant within 12-15 inches of the olla and the roots will grow close. Seeds should be hand watered until they have roots.

The rocks on top keep water from evaporating.

The rocks on top keep water from evaporating.

Coffee, Homemade Jam and Water Conservation

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Coffee, Homemade Jam and Water Conservation

One my favorite aspects of gardening are the conversations I have with my gardening friends.   Today, I made plans to meet master classmate, Teri, for coffee at Stella’s, a favorite hang out spot on Pearl Street.    We met at 9 am, sandwiched between my Red Rocks boot camp and her client meeting in Cherry Creek.    I was interested to hear how she’s parlayed her love of gardening and organizing into a thriving business helping clients organize, pack and move valuables, design, plant and maintain home gardens and design decorate pots.     Teri’s passion for  her work really shines and I can see why she is so successful.      This is her busy time of year so I felt honored to have an hour of her attention to talk about her work and discuss our master gardening “give-back” classes.     She asked me for some tips on her upcoming water conversation class; a subject I know intimately from my work at Rosedale and in my own garden.   Beyond talking about the irrigation options (overhead watering, dip, soaker hoses, clay pot irrigation and hand watering), I thought a discussion of mulching, using water wise plants, moisture retention and timing of watering would be relevant.    She invited me to join her at tomorrow’s workshop — which I hope to do it I can arrange my family obligations.    Aside from our delightful gardening discussion, the highlights of our coffee hour was a beautiful quilt hanging on the wall near our table and most definitely, the two homemade jams she brought me from her pantry.   Thank you Teri!!!
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Master’s Presentation: Putting the Garden to Rest

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A class photo of the master gardeners taken at the end of our last class on April 24.

A class photo of the master gardeners taken at the end of our last class on April 24.

Giving my 3 minute talk.

Giving my 3 minute talk.

On the last day of our 12 week master gardener program, several students and I were assigned to give a 3 minute presentation.    My topic was “putting your garden to rest”; a topic I needed to learn more about.    In years past, I have been guilty of running out of steam and spending as little time as possible cleaning up my plot before winter sets in.    I usually remove the old plants and compost in situ.   I collect up the tomato cages, roll up the hoses and go home.

Reading up on this topic was eye-opening and made me realize that I need to pay some attention to certain steps that might create a better spring planting season.   Here are some things I learned:

  • Remove annual crops and trim perennials; chop up and compost
  • Remove diseased plants like tomato vines and those infested with pests
  • Fortify soil with chopped up leaves, compost, grass clippings
  • Till soil 4-6 inches with pitch fork to disrupt any pests at burrowed underneath — wait until after several frosts
  • Plant cover crops like hairy vetch and winter rye in October, turn under in April before they go to seed
  • Clean garden tools with brush, oil handles and store in dry sand
  • Drain and remove hoses; put away tomato cages
  • Prepare area for planting cold crops in spring
  • Assess what went right and what went wrong
  • Celebrate!!!

As sad as it is to see the class end, this last day was a lot of fun.   The presentations were interesting and informative.    The potluck food was delicious.   And Emily Frost’s  trouble shooting discussion and group exercise were very thought provoking.    Having been in the thick of Rosedale’s leadership transition this last year, I can certainly attest to challenges of working with a variety of strong personalities in a community garden.

I especially enjoyed the variety of visual aids from Sharon’s brightly colored posters of 6 tips for organic gardening to Ruben’s 3 M’s — Mulch, Microorganisms, Moisture to Nick’s presentation about olla’s and  Rosedale’s upcoming workshop of using this ancient form of irrigation.    I look forward to the next phase of becoming a master community gardener which involves putting in 30 hours of service.    I am excited to reconvene with the group this summer and in the autumn to share stories and experiences.     Thank you to Shannon Spurlock, coordinator of the program, for a wonderful experience.