B is for Blueberries!
- From Al's Experts
July is Blueberry Month! So whether you like your blueberries in jams smeared on buttered toast, or baked into muffins, here are a few varieties we believe are the best.
The Berkeley blueberry is known for being a dessert quality berry. Because it is an excellent producer and does well in the freezer, you might want to make some room.
Bluecrop is an all-around great berry. It’s good for fresh eating, preserving, baking or freezing. You can’t go wrong with jams and jellies made from Bluecrop.
The world’s largest blueberry! We think the Chandler is best fresh as a dessert with fresh whipped cream and a sprig of mint.
The Duke has a full, rich flavor, so it is favored for baking and for eating fresh. Check out this New York Times blueberry pie recipe, and give it a go!
Early to bloom and first to ripen the Earliblue does just what its name suggests. Try these blueberries in your morning smoothie, for a great way to start your day.
Fresh Blueberry Pie
- Garden Recipes
Recipe adapted from The New York Times
There is nothing like a fresh blueberry pie to let you know it’s summer. It’s even better when the blueberries come from your own backyard.
For the crust
- 2 ½ ups of all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon of kosher salt
- 1 ¼ cups of unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
- 8-10 tablespoons of ice water
- 1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon of water
For the filling
- 8 cups of blueberries
- ½ cup of white sugar
- 2 tablespoons of fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 2-3 tablespoons of arrowroot flour or cornstarch
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
Make the pie crust.
Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl or food processor. Add the butter, and mix the flour with your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse meal or pulse the processor a few times to achieve a similar result. Gradually and lightly mix the ice water, a few tablespoons at a time, until the dough just comes together.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and gather into a ball. Divide the ball into 2 equal portions, and flatten each into a disc with the heel of your hand. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 2 days.
Prebake the pie shell.
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Roll out one of the discs of dough on a lightly floured surface, and fit into a 9 inch pie plate. Trim the dough so that there a slight overhang at the top of the pie plate, then place the shell in the freezer for 20 minutes or so to chill. Remove the pie shell from the freezer, cover the dough with parchment paper and fill the shell with pie weights or dried beans. Place the shell into the oven and bake until the bottom has just started to brown, approx. 20 to 25 minutes. Take the pie shell out of the oven, remove the parchment and pie weights and allow to cool.
Make the filling.
Separate 1 cup of blueberries and combine them in a bowl or a food processor or blender with sugar, lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of arrowroot flour or cornstarch and the salt, the pulse to puree. Put the blueberry mixture into a small pot set over medium heat and cook, whisking constantly, until the liquid has just thickened, approximately 1 minute. Pour the thickened mixture over the remaining blueberries, and stir to combine.
Bake the pie.
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Mound the filling high in the center of the cooled pie shell, and apply the egg wash to the top edge of the cooked bottom crust. Roll out the second disc of dough, and place over the top, gently crimping it onto the egg-washed edge of the bottom crust. Place the pie into the freezer to set, approximately 20 minutes, then cut vents into the top with a sharp knife, place the pie on the baking sheet and set it into the oven to bake for approximately 30 minutes. Then turn the pie, reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake until the pie is golden brown and the filling has begun to bubble up through the vents, another 25 to 45 minutes. Allow the ice to cool to room temperature before cutting.
Vacation Watering Tips
- From Al's Experts
Maintaining your landscape and your vegetable garden can be a very demanding job, and in the summer months when it gets hot your plants require daily attention.
Keeping up with the daily watering can be difficult and time consuming, especially if you have summer vacation plans. Fortunately, there are a few different things you can do to ensure that all of your plants will survive without you for a few days while you get a chance to get out and enjoy your summer vacation.
Never Dry Planters
The Oya is an interesting product that you can use to water your plants slowly and efficiently while you are out of town for a few days. It is a porous clay (terra cotta) vessel that is designed to be buried amongst your plants to provide them water directly into the soil and into their roots. Fill it with water before you leave on a weekend vacation and your vegetables and other plants will have enough water to last until you get home. The Plant Nanny is another product that uses the porous clay concept. It is a terra cotta stake you can put right into your houseplant or hanging basket containers. Just fill a bottle with water, flip it into the terra cotta stake and the water will slowly seep through the clay over the course of a few days.
The porous clay vessels are great options for short vacations, but if you are going out of town for more than a week or two, you will need something more substantial to keep your plants happy. Some self-watering planters can provide water for weeks. Self-watering planters are essentially a pot within a slightly larger pot, and at the bottom of the larger pot there is a reservoir for extra water and a wick that slowly soaks up water and delivers it to the roots of the plant above. Depending on the size of the planter and its water reservoir, self-watering planters can deliver water from a few days to several weeks.
Another thing you can do to water your plants while you're away is to install an irrigation system that operates on a timer. There are digital timers out there that hook right up to your hose faucet and can be programmed to water at specific times of the day. Hook up a soaker hose to your faucet and your plants will get a nice and even, deep soaking. An irrigation system like this is more efficient than overhead watering and takes a lot of the pain out of watering your plants.
Regardless of what you decide to do, there are a few precautions you can and should take every time you leave for vacation. If the forecast calls for a lot of heat, pull your plants into a shady spot while you are going to be gone. Also, give your plants a deep soaking just before you leave. If you are worried that you are going to be gone too long for your plants to survive, for a small fee you can pay a neighbor's kids to do the watering for you. Taking these simple precautions will help make sure that you don't return home from your vacation to a dry and desolate vegetable garden.
Al's Backyard Garden: Patio Peppers
- Al's Video Tips
Check out our new video series featuring our edible garden located at our Sherwood Location. This week we take a look at the Redskin Patio Pepper
Big Color Hydrangeas for Little Spaces
- From Al's Experts
Hydrangeas today bloom earlier, don’t require pruning, and are re-blooming. They are a versatile plant that can solve many problems in the garden, especially when you want big color in a small space.
From providing a bright focal point among our plants, or holding its own in a container. Their new tighter habit and stronger stems aren’t like the big, unruly Hydrangea’s you might recall. Check out these available varieties to see how you can have hydrangea blooms all summer long.
Cityline™ Venice is an attention getter with giant fuchsia-colored blooms and fresh, attractive green foliage. Its place is front and center in your shrub border, patio garden, or your best container. Venice only reaches 1 to 3 feet in height and has a neat, tight habit so pruning is never required. It’s small enough for containers or any tight spot.
Like all the Citylines™, it was bred for stronger stems to hold its large, heavy flower head. Large beautiful blooms are great for dried or cut flowers. It requires a full sun to partial shade and well-drained soil. Moisture is a necessity for this plant.
The smallest of the Cityline™ series, Vienna is a lovely little plant with dark blue (or pink) flowers. The blooms emerge with an attractive cream-colored throat and remain large and showy even as they age. Flower color will vary depending on soil pH and aluminum availability. Since it is a compact plant, it does not need pruning. Cityline™ Vienna is a great choice for container gardens and foundation plantings.
This vibrant lace cap blooms every summer! Starlight blooms on both new wood and old delivering seasons of flowers and lots of wow. A real workhorse, Let's Dance™ Starlight is the first re-blooming lace-cap hydrangea, and has exceptionally rich, vibrant flower color. It's an elegant addition to any garden.
The flowers of this latest Let's Dance™ re-blooming hydrangea are truly amazing. The florets have a distinctive geometric shape, and are closely packed into full, richly colored mop head flowers. A real workhorse, it flowers in early summer, and then re-blooms in later summer. The reliable blooms are held up on sturdy stems; a tidy habit and good wilt-resistance add to its appeal. The real show, however, is its easy shift from pink to rich amethyst-blue flowers by adjusting the soil pH. It has the richest, most vibrant blue seen on a hydrangea!
Little Quick Fire
Little Quick Fire is an early blooming, flowering about a month before other hydrangeas. This paniculata has white flowers which transform to pink-red as summer progresses. This dwarf plant fits easily into any landscape, including container gardens. Add it to your existing hydrangea garden to extend the hydrangea season.