an apple pie

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds Al’s Garden Center Ice Apples (about 4 to 5 large)
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Your favorite pie crust recipe - Here is a wonderful pie crust recipe from Grand Central Bakery

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375°

Prepare Filling

Peel and core apples and slice 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick; you should have about 8 cups.

Toss apples with sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg and lemon juice, then set aside for an hour or so until the apples begin to release juices.

Place bottom crust in pie pan and fold and pinch edge to form a border. Pour filling into bottom crust and shake gently to settle it into the pan.

Cover with top crust, then tuck the overhang under the bottom crust border and press down around the top to seal it.

Crimp or flute the border using your fingers or a fork. Use a paring knife to cut about 5 steam vents into the top crust. This will prevent the edges of the pie from bursting open and spilling the filling from the crust.

Bake for 30 minutes then rotate the pan. Lower the oven temperature to 350° F and bake for an additional 30 minutes until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbling.


Along with that bottle of wine you may be taking to Thanksgiving dinner, why not include a hostess gift that will last long after the last piece of pumpkin pie. With a little thought, you can bring color into your host or hostess’ home during the winter months.

Cyclamen and Anthuriums
light purple cyclamen in bloom

Cyclamen

  • Place in indirect light or bright indirect light.
  • Cyclamen like to be a little on the cooler side, with temperatures around 61˚F.
  • While in bloom, keep the root ball moist and feed the plant every 2 weeks.
  • Water Cylamen in a tray allowing the roots to take up the water, instead of watering from above the plant.
  • Remove yellow leaves and spent flowers.
fuchsia Christmas Cactus in bloom

Christmas Cactus

  • Treat your cactus as a regular houseplant for most of the year.
  • Keep it in a bright location and let it dry out between watering.
  • To promote bloom at holiday time, give your cactus long uninterrupted dark periods, about 12 hours each night.
  • For timely blooms, begin the dark treatments in mid-October. You can place the plants in a dark closet from about 8PM to 8AM each night for 6-8 weeks or until you see buds forming.
  • Alternately, cacti can be encouraged to bloom if they are subjected to cool temperatures of about 50-55° F for about 6 weeks. This will eliminate the need for dark treatments.
  • Remember to water less during this time of bud formation.
red Anthurium bloom

Anthurium

  • Grows best in bright, indirect light.
  • Soil should be free draining but hold some water.
  • Only water when the soil is dry to the touch.
  • Fertilized with a one-quarter strength fertilizer once every three to four months.

Tree spraying can be as easy as 1-2-3 when you follow these simple guidelines:

an orchard of apple trees
Liqui-Cop RTS fruit tree sprayMonterey ®Ligui-Cop controls many diseases that can attack dormant fruit trees. Available at Al's in a 32 oz. ready-to-spray bottle and 1 pint concentrate.

1) Fall

As soon as all the leaves have fallen off, use Monterey ®Ligui-Cop. Spraying your tree will help control bacterial blights, leaf curls, and other fungal diseases. Usually between November – December.

2) Winter

When trees are dormant, use Monterey ® Liqui-Cop again. Proper application requires a second coating to ensure that all bacteria and fungus have been controlled. Usually in January.

3) Spring

Use Monterey ® Liqui-Cop when buds have started to swell, and then again 7 days after the 1st Spring application. This spray is usually in late February.

These basic applications should control the most common diseases and insects and have you enjoying better fruit yields.


The goal of home composting is to support nature’s self-regenerating power in ways that work harmoniously with the needs of your back yard. Many people start composting for practical reasons. Home composting your leaves, grass clippings, garden waste and food scraps reduces the amount of garbage you generate. Plus, compost is essential for a great garden, and starting your own pile ensures a free, regular supply.

a bin full of compost

A compost pile starts out as a diverse pile of kitchen and garden “waste.” Left alone, any of these materials would eventually decompose. But when a variety of materials are mixed together and kept moist and aerated, the process accelerates. Compost matures into what soil scientists call active organic matter.

Why add compost to garden soil?

  • It increases its water-holding capacity
  • It invigorates the soils food and provides a buffet of plant nutrients
  • It enhances your plants’ ability to respond to challenges from insects and disease
  • Starting a new compost pile can be a fast, easy project
close up of compost material

Balancing ingredients is optional

To help compost decompose rapidly, a balance of “two parts brown to one part green” is often preached as composting gospel, but in truth, keeping a balanced ratio is simply an option.

  • Brown materials: Dry materials, such as leaves, pine needles and dead plants
  • Green materials: Wetter materials, such as grass clippings and kitchen waste

Good compost can be either hot or cold

Most people who carefully manage their compost piles for a balance of ingredients are trying to produce hot compost, which heats up or “cooks” as the materials decompose. Hot compost is the fastest type of compost to produce, but it’s not necessarily better. Intensively worked hot compost that’s produced in only three to four weeks ranks pretty low in terms of microbial diversity.

If you want the best compost, you want cured compost. This is mature compost that is set aside in a covered place where it can age for at least a couple of months. Bacteria produced this way “prime” plants to do a superior job of defending themselves from pests and diseases.

Small or large — any size pile will work just fine

Simply pile stuff together until the heap is big enough to merit some attention. Then, one day, when you’re in a composting mood, pick up a digging fork and spend some time mixing the materials in the pile, adding water to keep it moist.

Turning compost is optional.

Reasons to turn compost include:

  • Achieving a good mix of materials
  • Discovering dry pockets in need of moisture
  • Breaking compost into smaller pieces, which helps push almost-done compost to full maturity
  • Satisfying your curiosity as to what’s happening in your heap!

Gauge the moisture level of your compost pile by its fragrance

When you dig around in a heap and don’t smell the desired earthy fragrance, lack of moisture is usually the reason. To make it easier to keep these piles wet, there is no easier way to moisten the inside of a dry heap than by using a soaker hose.

Unpleasant odors in compost can be caused by the materials themselves, but even smelly things won’t stink if they are buried a few inches deep. Enclosed compost can go stinky if it’s too wet. If you’re using a plastic bin or tumbler, do pay close attention to water, because it’s easy to add too much.

Compost need not be a secret

Locate compost as close as possible to where the materials are generated or where the finished compost will be used.

an earthworm

With a worm bin, you can even compost indoors

Composting with captive earthworms, called vermicomposting, is a great way to compost paper products and food waste from your kitchen. Vermicomposting bins can be kept indoors or outside, but they work great indoors in winter, when outdoor heaps often freeze.

You can safely compost livestock manure

This biologically active material is a terrific soil amendment, and composting livestock manure makes it safe to use in the garden. You should use caution with animal manures because many do contain bacteria, but making and using manure-enriched compost won’t make you sick unless you’re careless.

There are good uses for immature compost

You can make compost by piling up stuff in layered beds, some people call this lasagna compost. If you top off the layers with burlap or some other water-permeable cloth, you can call it Interbay compost, named after the innovative gardeners at Interbay Community Garden in Seattle, who reuse burlap coffee bags to cover layered compost. I call it comforter compost because it’s such a good way to tuck in soil for winter, or begin the healing process for soil that’s been neglected or abused.

Every gardener wants to make great compost, and experience is the best teacher. Just know you cannot fail, because compost knows what to do. Trust the composting process, follow nature’s lead, and things will turn out great in the end.


This soup has a creamy texture and is thick with lentils, sweet potato and pumpkin that melt into a delectable and hearty dinner. If you prefer a lighter soup, add more stock to thin the base, or try adding more coconut milk for a savory and unique taste.

soup in a bowl made from a pumpkin.

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, pressed
  • 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • 2-3 inches of gingerroot, grated
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander AND 1 teaspoon ground cumin OR 3 teaspoons yellow curry powder
  • 1 can (13oz.) coconut milk
  • 1 liter vegetable stock
  • 4 ounces split red lentils, washed and drained
  • 1 medium to targe sweet potato, cubed
  • 1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin puree
  • ½ - 1 tablespoons Thai Red Curry paste
  • Black pepper to taste

Directions:

Make a thick past by mashing ginger and garlic together. Use a pestle and mortar, or a small bowl and the heel of a wooden spoon will do just fine.

Heat vegetable oil over medium heat in a large saucepan. Add onion and sauté until transparent.

Add garlic paste and sauté another 2 minutes, until fragrant. Lower heat and stir constantly to avoid burning.

Add coriander/cumin mixture OR yellow curry powder.

Stir in coconut milk, stock, lentils, sweet potato and pumpkin puree.

Simmer over medium to low heat for 40-50 minutes, or until the sweet potato is soft and almost melting into the soup. Stir occasionally.

Before serving, stir in the red curry paste, garnish and enjoy!


September is Houseplant Month
A Homalomena plant

This Week: Homalomena

Homalomena is a clump-forming evergreen perennial with arrowhead or heart-shaped leaves. It's this shape that gives it the common name "Queen of Hearts". The flowers are tiny and without petals, enclosed in a usally greenish spathe hidden by the leaves.

Homalomena generally need indirect light and well-draining soil. Tropical in origin, the foliage will stay evergreen as long as temperatures never drop below 40 degrees F. They are widely considered great houseplant, due to their ease of care, disease resistance and their ability to tolerate low lighting conditions.

  • Easy care, no fuss
  • Keep soil evenly moist
  • Low to bright light, no sun conditions
  • Great for office settings
  • Native plants that can be found on the Rain Forest floors in Costa Rica, Columbia and The Philippines
  • Relative of Philodendrons