Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Seed of the Month: Organic Stirfry Blend

Our fast-growing leafy blend gives all the colors, flavors and shapes needed for perfectly balanced quick and easy stirfries.

Includes: Mizuna, Mispoona, mild mustards and Russian kale.

Exclusive to Renee's Garden.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Trial Garden "Pumpkin Cam" 2012

For the first time we set up a time-lapse camera on our Certified Organic Rouge Vif d'Etampes pumpkin patch at planting time. Although it's not the best video, it's still fun to look at.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

November Recipe: Pumpkin Cobbler

Everyone who tries this delicious dessert likes it better than ordinary pumpkin pie. The crust mixture rises to the top during baking to form a rich topping. 

Our new Certified Organic 'Spookie' pumpkin is perfect in this recipe.

2 eggs, beaten
1 cup evaporated milk
3 cups cooked mashed pumpkin or butternut squash
1 cup white sugar
½ cup dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ginger
¼ teaspoon cloves
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt

½ cup butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons white sugar

Preheat oven to 350º

In a large bowl, combine eggs, milk and pumpkin; add the rest of the filling ingredients, mix well and set aside.

Prepare the crust: Melt the butter in a 9x11-inch baking pan. In another bowl, mix the remaining crust ingredients until just combined and pour into baking pan on top of the melted butter.

Spoon or slowly pour the filling evenly over the crust batter in the pan. Do not stir. Dot the top with the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and sprinkle with the 2 tablespoons sugar.

Bake 1 hour.  
Serves 8-10

For more great recipes check out
 Renee's Cookbooks:

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Growing Little Gardeners

  - By Sarah Renfro, Renee's Garden Business Manager

My son Mason started preschool this year and I’m pleased that his school incorporates gardening into the curriculum. We have a large front yard garden at home (see my previous blog posts) and of course working at Renee’s Garden has exposed him to growing vegetables and flowers. One of his favorite pretend games is to plant and harvest a vegetable bed (made out of blocks) and cook meals of wooden food from his play kitchen.

So when the preschool teachers asked parents if we had any special skills or hobbies to share, gardening came to mind immediately! The preschool facility is located behind a church which has a community garden plot. The members set aside one of the raised beds for the kids to use and got it prepped with compost and drip irrigation lines.

I brought a variety of seeds and vegetable starts (donated by Lindsay, our Trial Garden manager) and the class took a “field trip” down to the community garden to plant everything. The kids loved digging in the dirt and planting the seeds, although the concept of spacing was a bit lost on them. We will definitely be thinning quite a bit as there were many handfuls of seeds dumped in one spot!

The children will be visiting the garden regularly to see all the stages of growth and harvest the veggies. Of course the grown-up gardeners will be popping in also to give the growing garden little extra TLC!

Here are the Renee’s Garden varieties we planted:
Easter Egg Radishes
Sunshine Orange and Yellow Carrots
Rainbow Bright Lights Chard
All Season Broccoli
Farmer’s Market Blend Lettuce
Oregon Giant Snow Peas

Friday, November 2, 2012

Seed of the Month: Container Herb Collection

Enjoy the luxury of abundant fresh herbs at your fingertips with our assortment of delicious herb varieties chosen especially for container growing.

Includes: Cameo Container Basil; Fine Leaf Chives; Slow Bolt Cilantro; True Greek Oregano; Gigante Parsley plus our brochure on growing in containers.

Makes a perfect holiday gift for anyone who likes both cooking and gardening.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Newsletter Recipe: Drunken Pumpkin-Apple Pie

From our October 2012 E-Newsletter

A dramatic finish adds fun to this delectable dessert, perfect for this time of year. This pie is a great take-along for all upcoming holiday gatherings.
1 unbaked 9 in. pie shell
1 cup cooked pumpkin or
   winter squash, well drained
2 eggs
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup thick, chunky applesauce
1 T all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. allspice
1/8 tsp. cloves
1½ cups half-and-half (or use one 12 oz. can evaporated milk)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup pecan halves
2 T rum

Preheat oven to 425º

Chill pie shell until needed. Mash pumpkin or squash. In a bowl, beat together the eggs and brown sugar until light. Mix in the pumpkin (or squash), applesauce, flour, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, half-and-half and vanilla and blend thoroughly.  Pour into pie shell.

Arrange pecan halves over the top of the filling. Bake in the lower third of the oven for 20 minutes, then reduce the oven heat to 350º and bake 30 to 35 minutes longer until the filling is firm and a knife inserted 1 in. from the edge comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack.

At serving time, warm rum in a small container suitable for pouring. Light the rum with a match and pour immediately while flaming over the pie. Delicious served with ice cream or whipped cream.

Serves 6 to 8

For more great recipes check out
 Renee's Cookbooks:

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

My Edible Front Yard: Year Three

 - By Sarah Renfro, Renee's Garden Business Manager

This is a follow-up to my original post from the summer of 2010, Creating My Edible Front Yard.

We are now finishing up our third year of front yard gardening and are happier than ever with the landscape. The biggest change that we have made is the removal of our massive Liquidambar tree. This tree was gorgeous in the fall but the canopy was shading our vegetable beds in prime summer growing season. Plus all those colorful leaves dropped onto my crops of fall veggies, requiring almost daily cleanup. After weighing the pros and cons, my husband and I decided that the tree must go.

Our garden before: with large Liquidambar tree
In keeping with the edible gardening theme, we selected a Manzanillo Olive as a replacement street tree. I was a bit nervous about the potential mess of a fruiting tree in this high traffic spot, but we harvested the olives before they dropped and enjoyed the process of curing them into salty, tasty treats!

After: with new olive tree
Our garden space now enjoys bright sunlight until late afternoon and we have taken full advantage of this. We removed some of the original perennial plantings from our largest raised bed so we can grow large crops of onions and garlic. We also grew potatoes for the first time this summer (in the large container that our olive tree came in). I had no idea that potatoes could taste so delicious!

Husband Brian loves the garlic harvest

Discovering potatoes!
It has been wonderful to introduce my son to the joy of growing food. His absolute favorite snack is fresh blueberries picked right from the bushes. One day in the middle of playing, he jumped up and ran into the kitchen saying “I want a snack.” Then he ran out the front door and into the garden to fill up on blueberries and strawberries.

Blueberries are my son's favorite
The addition of our backyard chickens (see my “Growing the Girls” post) has yielded an abundance of chicken poop. Of course, this rich fertilizer needs to be mixed and broken down to produce compost that can be added to our garden beds. We’ve developed a mini “dirt farm” to process this organic matter.  We also had success mixing in a slow release fertilizer prior to planting and at regular intervals in the growing season.

Experienced gardeners know that the key to a continuously producing garden is succession planting. It is very tempting to go on a seeding bonanza in early spring – fully planting all the beds at once. Then all your crops are ready at the same time. This year we tried planting our favorite veggies every 2-3 weeks so we had an ongoing supply of radishes, carrots, beets and lettuce. Homegrown salads almost year round!

The garden at work
Not everything has gone perfectly. We have an ongoing battle against leaf miner in our leafy greens – most of our chard and spinach went straight into the yard waste due to infestation. Plus a gopher dug a path of destruction thru several of our (underwired) beds before we called in the resident Renee’s gopher trapping expert, trial garden manager Lindsay del Carlo.

Now that the late summer harvest is in full swing, we have moved onto the next project – food preservation and canning. I hear the hiss of the pressure canner…the subject of a future blog post!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

October Means Pumpkins

We've been growing some cool new pumpkins in the Trial Garden this year. Take a look at this beautiful heirloom from our new Organic Line (available later this month) called "Rouge Vif d'Etampes."

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Seed of the Month: Renee’s Braising Mix

Plant now for fast fall harvesting.

Our Braising Mix is a blend of green and red leaf beets with silver and gold leaf chards. Eat as baby salad or grow for cooking greens; this tasty, tender mix is delicious either way.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Newsletter Recipe: Baked Stuffed Fresh Tomatoes

From our September 2012 E-Newsletter

A perfectly delicious way to enjoy your biggest, juiciest, sun-kissed garden beauties as a main course; just toss a simple green salad to join them. I always make a full recipe even if serving just a few friends, because the stuffed tomatoes are equally good for lunch or dinner the next day, heated up in the microwave.

9 to 10 large ripe tomatoes
1 pound mild (sweet) Italian sausage
3/4 cup uncooked Arborio or long grain rice
4 large cloves garlic, minced

1 cup chopped fresh basil
3/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
3/4 cup freshly grated Asiago or Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Slice tops off tomatoes and set aside. Carve out the inside of the tomatoes, leaving the shell intact. Coarsely chop the tomato pulp. Drain, reserving the juices separately. Put the pulp in a bowl and set the pulp and juices aside.

Remove the casings from the sausage and crumble the sausage into a deep skillet. Sauté over medium heat, stirring to break up the meat until it loses all its pink color and fat is rendered. Drain and discard fat.

Combine the chopped tomato pulp, uncooked rice, garlic, basil, parsley, cheese, cooked crumbled sausage, and add the salt and freshly ground pepper.

Liberally oil a 9 x 12-inch ovenproof baking pan with 2 tablespoons of the oil and place the tomato shells in it, open side up. Stuff each tomato with the tomato mixture and then replace their reserved tops. Pour over the reserved tomato juice and dribble the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over the tops.

Bake for about 60 minutes or until rice is just tender and tops of tomatoes are nicely browned. Cool in pan, and serve while still warm.

Serves 9-10 

For more great recipes check out
 Renee's Cookbooks:

Monday, September 17, 2012

Dividing Mediterranean Spearmint

by Renee Shepherd and Lindsay Del Carlo

Mediterranean Spearmint is a vigorous, hardy perennial that will grow happily in a container all year long. Mint plants spread by roots that will eventually fill the container.

In just one growing season, this vigorous grower can become root bound, with roots filling up the container and leaving little soil. The plant becomes stunted, doesn't thrive and produces only small leaves.

Mint will do best if the root ball is divided each year in early spring.

Step-by-step instructions for dividing  mint plants
First, lay down a tarp because this is a messy process! Remove the entire plant from the container. You will need a tool to help pry the plant out if the container does not have straight sides like this one. We use a Hori Hori (Japanese Digging Knife) but an old serrated kitchen knife will work as well. You will likely see that the thick roots have started to circle around the sides of the container and they may be quite bound together.

Remove mint from pot using a Hori Hori
Thick roots of mint bound in the pot
Next, with a Hori Hori or knife, cut the root ball first in half. Then cut one of the halves in half again so the you have 1/4 of the root ball to replant.

Cutting root ball in half with a Hori Hori
Piece of root ball to be replanted
Use new, good quality potting soil to replant the piece of root ball in the same pot.

New bag of potting soil to replant into same pot
First, put a layer of potting soil in the bottom of the container. Then set the root ball into the pot, then fill around the sides. You can shake the container back and forth to settle the soil down around the sides.

Fill the bottom layer first
Replace piece of root ball in center of pot
After the soil has been filled back in, trim the stems back by half so that it will grow back fresh new thick leaves.

Refill with new potting soil
Trim back old stems
Make sure to water it in thoroughly right away. This will help the roots recover quicker and will also help to settle the new soil in around the roots. This is an easy way to manage your Mediterranean Spearmint container. Dividing mint is a good way to control the container size that you need. It is not necessary to keep moving it up to a bigger and bigger container.

Watering in
Newly divided and replanted mint

6 weeks later, grown back after dividing
Mint will quickly begin to re-grow and produce large bright green leaves for you to enjoy all year. You can also replant extra pieces to have more containers around your garden, or cut them up and give them away to mint loving friends.

For pieces you are not keeping but want to compost, you should first shake out the potting soil from the roots and let the roots dry out in the sun for a few weeks so that they will not continue to grow. Mint roots are very resilient! Once they are completely dried out they can be thrown into the compost.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Making Lavender Gifts

by Renee Shepherd and Lindsay Del Carlo

If you love the scent of lavender, you will want to preserve and share your summer harvest of sweet smelling florets. Here are the quick and easy ways we dry our lavender every season to make perfumed dry bouquets and pretty, useful sachets. The following Renee's Garden varieties are L. angustifolia, the sweet-scented type you can use for crafting: French Perfume, Hidcote, English Munstead and White Ice. Here is an article about growing lavenders from seed; be sure to follow the packet directions.

Cut lavender stems roughly from the plant to collect
for making bouquets and to dry the florets for sachets
Lavender has significant aromatherapy properties that both soothe and relax, so lavender bouquets make welcome gifts that have real functionality. I like to keep several on my car's dashboard and give them an additional squeeze to release the fragrance.

The delicate scent of lavender sachets will gently perfume the cupboards where you keep pillowcases, sheets, blankets and towels, and it also helps repel moths from stored woolens.

The best time to harvest lavender is when the shrubs have come into bloom with ¾ of the florets open on the stems. This is when the aroma of the essential oils is most intense.

Begin by roughly cutting long stems of blossoms from the plants.

Making Dry Lavender Bouquets
Match up the flower heads until you have a nice sized bunch. Pull all of the stems straight and cut them all off at once evenly at the end leaving a long handle.

Match up the flower heads until
a nice big bunch is formed
Pull the stems straight and cut
them off evenly all at once

Then fasten a rubber band right below the flower heads, and another one at the bottom of the stems to hold them tightly bunched together so they will dry this way.

Twist a rubber band tightly just below the flower heads and
another an inch or two from the bottom to hold stems tightly
Now you need to hang the bunches upside down to dry in a cool, shady, airy place. Ordinary coat hangers can hold the bunches while drying: use opened up paper clips as hooks, hooking one end in the bottom rubber band and the other on the hanger.

Hang lavender bunches to dry in a cool, dark place;
a wire hanger and paper clips work great
They should be quite dry to the touch in about a week. The finished lavender bunches look very pretty wrapped with colored tissue paper and tied with a bow; the tissue paper also helps to catch any florets that drop off. Any time you want to refresh the scent, just give the bouquet a little squeeze.
Lavender bunches wrapped and ready to give as gifts

Dry lavender on a sheet in a sunny place,
covering with a sheet for protection
Making Sachets
To dry the lavender for sachets, scatter the cut stems of bloom (in a single layer as much as possible) onto a sheet in a sunny place like a driveway and put another sheet on top to keep out falling leaves and other debris.

The lavender will take about a week or 10 days to dry fully, depending on how humid your climate is, but check it often and plan to remove as soon as the florets are thoroughly dry, because the essential oils will begin to dry up and lose pungency if left too long.

When the lavender is completely dry, bundle it in the sheet and
smack it on the ground until the florets separate from the stems
Now this is the fun part; after they are dry, bundle all of the flower heads up into the bottom sheet and smack the bundle on the ground until all of the florets have fallen off of the stems.
Spill all of the lavender, stems and all, into a sifter on top
of a wheelbarrow to separate the stems from the florets

Then you need to separate the stems. We have made a sifter that is a simple 2x4 wooden frame with a piece of ½ inch hardware mesh stapled to it.

We spill all of the lavender, stems and all, into the sifter and shake it over a wheelbarrow. The dry lavender florets spill into the wheelbarrow and all but the smallest stems stay in the sifter.

Then we use a smaller sifter with 1/4 inch hardware wire mesh to separate out the remaining stems. When the lavender is fully sifted, we collect it in a bag or pillowcase and store it until we are ready to make sachets.

Use a smaller sifter to remove
the remaining small stems
Sifted lavender is ready to be
sorted for later use

We put the lavender in decorative sheer nylon bags available at most craft stores or on the Internet (our current source is - search for 3" x 4" lavender organdy bags). You can also use the inexpensive but decorative little socks made for babies and toddlers, filling the feet of the socks up with lavender and then stitching under the cuffs to keep them closed.
Lavender sachets made with decorative bags
Fill the little bags with loose lavender florets and tie them securely. They make great hostess gifts and stocking stuffers. They are nice to put in lingerie drawers, car glove compartments or anywhere you want that lovely lavender scent.

Final Pruning of the Lavender
After you cut the flower stems roughly from the plants to use for crafts, then you can go back over the plant and fine prune it into a nice, rounded shape. To keep lavender shrubs from getting too leggy, prune the stems to a low point on the older stems where you can see new growth. This helps them to grow back fresh new stems each season and prevents them from developing thick woody bases.

Pruning lavender shrubs to a low point on older branches where
new growth is coming out will help renew its growth each season

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