Tag Archive | garden planning

Consider Growing Broom Corn This Year

Broom Corn Arrangement

Broom Corn Arrangement

Every year I like to grow at least one plant I’ve never tried to grow before. It isn’t always a success, such as my luffa experiment, but it’s always fun. Last year, I chose broom corn because I knew I would be hosting a gathering in the fall, and I wanted a table decoration that would also serve as a conversation piece. It was a success on all accounts.

 Broom corn is interesting because it’s more like sorghum than corn. Here are the colorful seeds:

 

broom corn seeds

broom corn seeds

 

After it pops up and in its early growth stages is the when it looks the most like corn.

Broom Corn Seedling

Broom Corn Seedling

My husband and I were amazed at how tall it grew. Notice how it has no ears.

 

Broom Corn

Broom Corn

Broom Corn

Broom Corn

 

As the name suggests, broom corn can be used to make brooms. We cut several stalks to dry in the barn. Our stalks were too curved to make a good broom which was okay by me since I wanted table decorations.

Broom Corn Drying

Broom Corn Drying

I loved the decorations so much and they lasted so long, that I’ll grow more broom corn this summer. Give it a try. You and the birds will love it.

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Green-Striped Cushaws

green striped cushaw

Ever hear of a green-striped cushaw, aka Tennessee Sweet Potato Squash? It can be used as a fun decoration or eaten as a tasty “pumpkin” pie. I first grew it about twenty-five years ago when we lived south of Kansas City, well over one hundred miles south of our present home. I’d forgotten about them until last winter when I noticed them in a seed catalog and decided I need to try them again.

I started one green-striped cushaw seed last May in a grow/light box and transplanted it to our clay-filled hill garden. The plant spreads like a pumpkin—all over the place, and it’s normally prolific. However, this summer has not been a normal growing season. The excessive rains made it the worst gardening season I’ve ever experienced. The cushaw kept setting on fruits but they would quickly rot. Finally, two fruits persevered and matured. The picture above shows one of them.

sliced cushaw

 Cushaws are great for autumn decorations, but they’re also great for pies. I processed this cushaw just as I would process a fresh pumpkin. I removed the stem, scooped out the seeds, and cut it up in large slices.

                                                                                             cushaw in pans

I placed the slices on baking sheets, drizzled them with olive oil, and set them in the oven for about 40 minutes at 450 degrees. After the slices had cooled, I peeled off the skins, put the meat or pulp in a food processor, and pureed them. I put 2 cups of puree in each freezer bag.

                                                                           cushaw puree

I think any pumpkin pie recipe would work great for cushaw, but here’s a recipe from American Food Roots for Sorghum-Sweetened Cushaw Pie that I plan to try during the holidays this year. Oh my, it’s not even Halloween and I’m already planning for the holidays!

 

Time to Plan and Plant

crocus 2013

The northbound geese are incessantly honking overhead, the bluebirds are inspecting how well I cleaned their house this past winter, and the crocus are bursting in bloom. No matter what the calendar says, spring has already sprung at our place. For me, it means I can buy seed packets without sales clerks muttering, “Little early, ain’t it?”

Over the years, I’ve learned planning in the spring is almost as essential as planting when it comes to getting the most satisfaction from my garden. Obviously, growing veggies we enjoy eating is a priority, but so is sharing. Of course, some vegetables are more fun to share than others. Most people love to take those extra tomatoes off your hands, but when you bring in a bucket of zucchini those same people run to the hills.

What are your plans for your garden? Are you going to make relish out of those zucchini? If so, be sure to plant plenty of onions and peppers. Same goes for your salsa and pickles. Will you try to grow all of your ingredients including the herbs?

Here are a few other things to keep in mind when planning your garden:

Do you have any summer picnics or barbecues scheduled? Perhaps you’d like to serve something fresh from the garden, such as sweet corn, watermelon, tomatoes, or cantaloupe. We normally have family get-togethers in June and in September. New potatoes, onions, broccoli, carrots, and lettuce usually are ready for the early summer meeting. In early September, tomatoes, peppers, onions, zucchini, and watermelon are big hits.

Would you like fresh flowers on the table this summer? I’m planning a cut-flower garden that I will use to provide a weekly bouquet for our church altar as well as brighten our kitchen table. Easy-to-grow flowers such as daisies, zinnias,zinna 2012 and bachelor buttons are great not only for bouquets, but also to bring bees in to pollinate. The zucchini are especially appreciative of these bee-magnets.

Don’t forget autumn with Halloween and Thanksgiving holidays. Would you like to decorate your home with Indian corn and gourds? Don’t forget pumpkins for jack o lanterns and pie. How about sweet potatoes? At our September family gathering, it’s fun for everyone to go out to the garden and pick their pumpkins and gourds.

What about Christmas? It’s not too early to think about Christmas gifts. It may sound strange, but a quart of canned tomatoes makes a great gift. It’s a taste of summer during the cold winter. Creative, “crafty” gardeners can use gourds to make birdhouses or paint for use as Christmas ornaments. Luffas can be grown to use as a natural sponge. All gourds require a long growing season, so you’ll need to start them as soon as your growing zone allows.

These are but a few ideas I try to keep in mind when planting. I hope you, too, feel the excitement and hope of a new gardening season. Gardeners are truly blessed to watch miracles unfold before our eyes.

Happy Spring and Happy Gardening!

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