August 2013 Garden Tips!

 From Fox Island’s own Master Gardener, Linda Dodds:

August Tip of the Month

The month of August is an artistic delight with a riot of flowers cascading over pots and produce in abundance gracing your vegetable gardens.

The spent blooms of flowering pots need to be deadheaded every week to keep the blooms in force.  If you just let the wilted flowers stay on, the plant will decide it has done it’s job of raising a family and retire to the nursing home.  However if you keep the dried and wilted blossoms pinched off the plant will decide that it still has offspring to produce and will continue to keep healthy and vigorous in it’s floral production.  And you didn’t think that plants had a brain!

Produce is in full swing this month so make daily trips to search out hidden zucchini and look for newly produced green beans.  Cucumber fruit are blooming and they also tend to get lost under the leaves growing on their vines so a little searching there is also necessary.  You may always be able to find someone who wants a giant zucchini, but no one wants a giant cucumber.  Keep tomatoes staked and watch for ripening tomatoes that may also be hiding in the center of the plants.  Don’t negate keeping a watering schedule of infrequent but deep watering to keep plants well hydrated.  Basil is such a tender and delicious herb that you want to take advantage of every leaf so do NOT let it bloom.  Once it sets blossoms it will turn bitter and all your mouth watering dreams of a Caprese salad or a bowl of homemade pesto turns into a bitter memory.  Next month I’ll feature a how to for preserving and drying your own herbs and produce.

Fruit trees need some maintenance also in the summer,  It’s the perfect time to snip off any water-sprouts off your fruit trees.  Water-sprouts are easy to recognize as they are branches that grow straight up at the top of the tree.  They do not produce and they actually take strength away from the tree.  Easy to do but just be sure to cut them right at the joint of where they are attached to the lateral branch they are growing from.

Berries are in huge supply this time of the year and along country roads you can usually find someone with a pail they are filling with wild blackberries.  In less than a half hour, a person can pick enough to make a wonderful blackberry pie or in my case…several quarts of blackberry vinegar.  My problem is only finding small 1 or 1 1/2 cup bottles to store it in to give as gifts.

This is one of my favorite vinegars to make and give away.

Mulled Blackberry Vinegar

4 cups blackberries

4 cups cider vinegar, divided

2 cinnamon sticks

1 Tlbs whole cloves

1 Tlbs whole allspice

In a large glass bowl, combine blackberries and 1 cup of the vinegar.  Using a potato masher, lightly crush blackberries.  Add remaining vinegar, cinnamon, allspice and cloves, stirring to combine.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let stand in a dark cool place (70 to 75 degrees) for up to 4 weeks, stirring every 2-3 days.  Taste weekely until desired strength is achieved.

Prepare canner, jars and lids if using regular 8 oz  jars instead of bottles.(See note)

Line a strainer with several layers of cheesecloth and place over a large stainless steel saucepan.  Strain vinegar mixture without squeezing cheesecloth.  Discard cheesecloth and residue.  Place saucepan over medium heat and heat vinegar to 180 degrees F.

Ladle hot vinegar into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  Wipe rim, center lid on jar and screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.

Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water by 1 inch.  Bring water to a boil and process for 10 minutes.  Remove lid from canner and wait 5 minutes before removing jars.  Cool and store.

NOTE:  When I am using bottles to store vinegar I use a little different process.

Fill bottles with hot water and place in a canner with metal screw tops and boil gently for 10 minutes.  Bring vinegar in saucepan to boil for 10 minutes, drain bottles and fill with hot vinegar to 1/2 inch of top of bottle.  If using corks instead of screw tops, boil them  also for at least 5 minutes and push in to hot filled bottles.  Once cool, it is nice to dip the corked tops in sealing wax to add a touch of elegance to the finished bottle.  Make your labels to decorate the bottle and you will have a lovely gift to share.


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