Charting your garden
Here's a great idea for keeping track of garden progress across the seasons. You can use the technique to note the blooming period for each of your flowers and shrubs or to chart the production timetable for different vegetables or fruit trees.
All you have to do is set up a graph with days across the top--five-day increments work well--for the period you want to chart. For instance, to keep track of when your perennials bloom, you might run the dates from April to October. Down the left side of the graph, list all the plants you want to chart. As each plant blooms (or ripens vegetables or bears fruit, etc.), simply use a highlighter to color in the squares for the dates when the event occurs. At the end of the season, you'll have a record that lets you know exactly when your plants hit various milestones--and which events overlapped. This will help you in the planning and timing of gardens in the years to come.
Everybody knows manure is a great fertilizer--but do you know which kind is best for your garden? Depending on the animal who provides it, the proportion of nutrients in manure can vary quite a bit. A glance at an NPK analysis (which details the ratio of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium in fertilizer) reveals that rabbit manure tops the list in terms of nitrogen, followed by chicken and horse manure. But whatever manure you decide to use in your garden, NEVER use cat or dog manure. Both can carry hazardous disease organisms.
One of the best ways to preserve herbs from your garden is to freeze them. Try chopping them up and adding them to water. Now pour that water into ice cube trays and you'll have herbed ice cubes to drop into soups and stews all winter long.
Another great way to freeze herbs is to make an herb paste. Use a food processor and a good, strong blender to mince the herbs. Add oil to the mixture and process, usually 1 cup oil to 2 cups hard-packed herb leaves works well. Pour into airtight, freezer-safe containers and store immediately in the freezer (the refrigerator is NOT cold enough to prohibit botulism). Because the oil won't solidify completely, you need only use a paring knife to slice some herbs whenever you care to use them.
If there be thorns
Keep a spring-clip type clothespin in your gardening supplies and take it with you when you prune those plants with thorns and stickers. Just gently hold the stem with the clothespin instead of your fingers. When it's not needed, simply clip the clothespin to a sleeve, belt loop or shirt tail.