Healthier Boxwoods (and Free Holiday Greenery!)

IMG_1701Boxwoods often get a bad rap for being fussy and highbrow – shrubs more befitting Versailles than a New Jersey backyard. Not so, I say! We have at least 5 different varieties of boxwood in our yard (there are about 70 in the Buxus family), and they’re much more Sallie Sue than Marie Antoinette.  These well-mannered evergreen shrubs provide year-round structure in a landscape, and don’t demand much in return. As an added bonus, if you open-prune them in early December, they’ll reward you with free holiday greenery and healthy new growth come spring. 

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Strawberry Short Course

garden strawberry

Few things are as delicious as garden-grown strawberries. Unfortunately, the chipmunks, birds and squirrels agree. As a result, despite numerous attempts at fencing and netting, we never yield more than a handful of strawberries from our 4’x6’ patch. Frustrating! So year after year, we trot off to the local U-pick farms for our fill (literally – see photos below). Those berries are good, but they’re still a commercial variety—bred for maximum yield and disease resistance. They’re not the same intensely flavored, deep crimson jewels that home gardeners can experience (if they are lucky enough to live in a squirrel and chipmunk-free zone).

This year, however, we’ve unleashed our latest weapon in the battle of the backyard rodents: Keith’s Strawberry Cage 1.0!

strawberry cage

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Cheating Spring: Growing Pea Shoots Indoors


Even though the promise of spring is only a few weeks away, my vegetable garden is still a threadbare blanket of winter’s despair.

OK – that’s a little dramatic, but month after month of cold, dark days can really bring on a case of Spring Fever in a person. The remedy? Planting a pot of pea shoots or micro salad greens indoors, to savor spring a little earlier than Mother Nature intended.

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Tomato Caramel

Did September swoosh past anyone else? It seems like just yesterday we were chasing the ice cream truck and agonizing over First Day of School outfits, and now we’re cracking open the candy corn and planning Halloween costumes.

Well – the month is almost over, and with it comes the end of one of the best tomato seasons in recent years here in the Garden State.  (Or at least in our garden, and this is a nice consolation since I’m sorry to report that the zucchini plants never fully recovered from their vine borer surgery.) Needless to say, we’ve been eating a lot of tomatoes lately, and some of us are happier about this than others. . .

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Borer of Bad News

Friends, I’ve got a zucchini problem and it’s not what you think. I only wish I could join in on the “too much zucchini” jokes and share the bounty with friends, neighbors and the UPS guy. Alas, there’s something sinister squelching my summer squash:

The dreaded squash vine borer! Right before leaving for vacation, my two zucchini plants were thriving and we were harvesting zucchini daily.  Thinking I’d whip up a zucchini risotto for dinner the night we got back into town, I headed out to the garden only to find the plants half-dead, with two mini zucchini withering on the vine.  The sawdust-like stuff around the base of the plants (frass) was a sure sign that this was the work of the squash vine borer. Immediate surgery would be required to save the plants!

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