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Fall is starting to show its colors and is sure to be a beautiful one! Even now in the garden I am picking up falling Chestnuts (OK, it’s really Jim) and watching my Japanese Persimmons as they ripen to the perfect shade of orange. My American Persimmons are attracting a lot of attention too. These two babies didn’t seem to mind posing for me so long as they could find sweet mushy persimmons upon which to dine.
Japanese-American chestnut trees are bread to be resistant to the chestnut blight that devastated our huge American chestnuts in the early 1900s. If you want Chestnuts, you will have to wait about 8 years after planting. I know you can’t wait, so just buy some for your Thanksgiving stuffing or an amazing Butternut squash and Chestnut soup. RECIPE BELOW. Chestnuts have almost NO fat and you can even find chestnut flour. The sweet nutty taste goes perfectly with winter squashes. By the way, I harvested over 75 lbs of Butternut squash from only 6 seeds! (A fabulous return compared to many investments I have made.)
If you are into immediate gratification, Japanese ‘Fuyu’ persimmon often fruits the first year you plant it. It grows to be a beautiful small tree that is very happy in Greensboro’s climate. And don’t bother making pudding, these are so yummy to eat fresh!
Speaking of edible fruits, BLUEBERRIES are a great addition to any landscape. They are covered with delicate white or pink blooms in spring, give you delicious fruit in summer (even longer if you freeze some), and have beautiful red leaves in fall. You can still find plants in nurseries now and fall is the perfect time to plant them.
Blueberries grow best in acidic soil (around 5.5 pH) that is high in organic matter and has excellent drainage. Your success is ALL about the soil! My Summerfield garden has plenty of acidic red clay that blueberries hate. To amend it, I bought top soil at Greensboro Mulch at Highways 29 & 150 in Browns Summit. The soil test came back showing a pH of 4.6 (great for blueberries, way too acidic for vegetable gardens), add some compost which usually has a pH of around 7, and you will have the perfect combo to mix with half & half with our piedmont clay. If you must, you can use peat moss with course sand as an alternative. I avoid using sulfur to lower soil pH because it can burn plant roots if it is not thoroughly mixed into the soil several months before planting, and it can kill many of the beneficial critters living in your soil.
The next step is choosing the best varieties for our area. Here are some that should do well in the Upper Piedmont of North Carolina (that’s us, Greensboro, Summerfield, Rockingham County…): Highbush varieties including ‘Spartan’ & ‘Duke’ are some of the best early varieties. ‘Blue Crop’ is a good mid-season variety. ‘Jersey’ is a god late season producer. There are very good reports on newer varieities including ‘Chippewa’, a “half-high” blueberry that has tighter growth and a mature height of 3-4 feet. ‘Premier’ has large berries, and ‘Chandler’ is reported to produce the largest berries of all, providing a mid to late harvest over a long period. You will need more than one variety for successful pollination and for continuous summer fruit production. I found many of these recently at Greensboro Shrub Nursery.
Space plants 4-5 feet apart in full to part sun and water them when the top 2 inches of soil are dry. Don’t mind my pet snakes if you come to visit. These blow-up reptiles do a great job of scaring off birds. You can read about growing blueberries on NCSU’s website: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/hil/hil-8207.html
Ahhh, sweet dreams of blueberry pie!
Get ready to celebrate the Fall season by attending my Holiday Decorating Workshop! On Saturday, November 22th at 2-4pm. This 2-hour workshop will focus on creating Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday decorations using natural materials. Everyone will be making a “Fall-to-Christmas” arrangement to take home. Click here for a printable flyer with all the details: 2014 Holiday Decorating Workshop . The class is full at 18 people so please RSVP ASAP if you would like to attend! Registration is $40 payable by check or credit card.
My 2015 Schedule of Gardening Classes is posted on my website. Here is a printable version: 2015 Course Schedule. I accept only 54 students per year to keep class size to 18 people. A $50 deposit by check or credit card will hold your place. You may reach me though the “Contact Ellen” tab on my website at www.learntogarden.net
The Guilford Horticultural Society meets at 7:15 pm the third Monday of every month, September through May, at the Greensboro Science Center. The next meeting is this Monday, October 20th and includes our fall plant swap which you will not want to miss! You may attend the first meeting FREE and check us out. Membership is only $25/year. It’s a bargain any way you look at it! More info at http://www.guilfordhorticulturalsociety.org/ MORE… There is so much information available on the web these days. I had to share with you another of my favorite blogs called “A Garden for the House” by Kevin Lee Jacobs, a Northeast gardener, writer & food lover. Click here to check it out: http://www.agardenforthehouse.com/& sign up for his newsletter. The latest recipe is for a Cranberry Crackle Tart. (Now I am hungry.)
o 1 medium butternut squash (about 2-1/2 lbs)
o 3 tablespoons butter o 3 shallots, very finely chopped
o 12 chestnuts, roasted, peeled and finely chopped
o 1/2 teaspoon salt
o 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
o 1-1/4 cups fresh apple cider
o 2-1/4 cups chicken broth
o 1/4 cup heavy cream (or more to taste)
o 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
o White truffle oil or walnut oil for drizzling
o Fresh thyme leaves for garnish
Preparation: Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Scrub the butternut squash and cut in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and brush the cut surface with vegetable oil. Place, cut side down on a shallow baking pan that’s been sprayed with nonstick spray. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until the squash appears wrinkled and is very tender when pierced with a knife. Allow to cool slightly.
While the squash cools, melt the butter in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté just until softened, 1 minute. Add the chestnuts, salt and pepper and continue cooking, stirring frequently, 2 minutes longer. Do not brown the mixture. Stir in the apple cider and bring to a simmer.
Scoop the butternut squash from its skin and add it to the simmering cider. Using a spatula or large spoon, mash the squash as best you can, then add chicken broth. Bring the soup back to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes longer.
Using a hand-held blender, purée the soup directly in the pan, or, blend in several batches in a conventional blender and return to the pan. Stir in the cream and nutmeg and heat through, 1 minute. To serve, ladle the soup into serving bowls, drizzle with truffle oil or walnut oil if desired and garnish with a sprinkling of thyme leaves. Makes 6 servings