Planting – Butterfly Garden Host Plant – Dill

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In the Spring, garden seed racks are available in almost every store I shop in. It’s hard to resist taking a moment to look over their display in search of something new. I’ve noticed almost every seed company offers a packet of mixed flowers that will draw butterflies. I enjoy growing flowers for butterflies and find zinnias are a favorite of the delicate winged creatures.

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An additional way of bringing butterflies into your yard is to grow the plant/plants they use as a host for their offspring. Dill is one of the best for attracting swallowtail butterflies to your yard. Dill is  readily available as a plant or seed in most garden centers.

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Dill is easy to grow and a good choice for a child’s garden. The yellow flowers resemble a burst a fireworks, and the seeds they develop can be collected for cooking. The fern-like foliage is  a perfect addition to many recipes. I sow dill seeds directly in the garden beds, and also start it indoors for quicker blooms. Give dill a try, you won’t be disappointed.

Plants – Autumn Volunteers

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While cleaning out garden beds today I noticed some volunteer dill seedlings. When I harvested the dill seed this summer some must have fallen to the ground and sprouted. I love volunteer plants.

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I placed a few of the sprouts in a pot, watered them, and in a day or two will bring them in to grow through the winter on my kitchen windowsill. Check your garden beds to see which of your plants might have a squadron of volunteers growing there.

Projects – Dill Part 2/Over the Top Crafting

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I’ll admit sometimes I delve into the near ridiculous in my quest to use what is at hand, but this time, the ethereal aspects of what I created delighted me.

After I pulled away the dill seeds from the flower-head, I noticed how strong and intact the skeleton had remained. I don’t know what possessed me, but white spray paint and beads flared up as an idea in my addled head. I couldn’t resist…I sprayed the dill, let it dry, and then inserted beads into each umbrel with a pair of tweezers. It was easier than I had assumed, and within a few minutes, I had a very unusual pair of everlasting flowers to place in my living room.

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* Crazy Crafter’s Tip – Hold the beads between two fingertips, grab with the tweezer, dip the bead in a dab of glue, and place into project.

Plants – Dill/Part I

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Dill, a type of herb, has thrived in my garden this year. The slender leaves can be harvested at any time and used fresh, or dried for later. Swallowtail butterflies use dill as a host plant for their eggs. I often find caterpillars dining on my dill. I never pick them off as I plant more than enough dill for both the caterpillars and myself. A little dill goes a long way; the herb is very pungent.

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After flowering, the dill will form seed. Allow the seeds to dry, but keep a close watch, and when they easily pull away from their slender stems it is time to cut and harvest. I prefer to do this indoors over a plate to gather every seed.

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Allow the seed to sit in the open air for a few days to completely dry out. Save a little to plant next year, and store the rest in a jar for culinary uses.

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As with so many herbs, dill is a powerhouse food for your health. According to George Mateljan Foundation: Dill is one of nature’s healthiest foods.

Dill florets are a stunning addition to pressed flower arrangements. Press between books and in a week or so they will be ready to use for crafting. The flowers are delicate and add an ethereal air to pressed flower compositions

Cucumbers and dill are perfect together. I’ve included a very basic salad I make throughout the summer. Enjoy!

DILLED CUKES (can be halved)

4 medium cucumbers
3/4 C. white vinegar (I’ve used apple cider vinegar in a pinch, works fine)
1/4 C. sugar
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. Dill leaves (less if using dried)
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper (I sometimes leave this out)
1 1/2 C. water

Cut cucumbers in chunks, or slice in medallions, or cut lengthwise and slice in half moon shapes. In a bowl combine cucumbers with all the ingredients and stir gently. Cover the bowl, refrigerate for 4-6 hours. If possible, give the salad a gentle stir a few times. Drain before serving.

Plant Tips – Bountiful Herb Harvest

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Autumn has arrived, winter approaches, I have been purchasing potted herbs to grow on my windowsill through the colder months. I will still take cuttings for rooting from my outdoor herbs, but they will not reach harvest size until Spring of 2015. In the meantime, when I need fresh herbs through the winter, I will “pinch” them from my lovely windowsill garden. Another plus in growing herbs indoors is the scent they “whisper” into the air when you run your hands over them…heavenly!

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Photo collage courtesy of Picmonkey.com

Our area of the country experienced a very cool summer, but my herbs didn’t seem to mind and have thrived. I don’t want to waste the bounty of my gardens so over the next few days I will be harvesting everything I have room to store. I will hang aromatic herbs such as lavender, catnip, and a portion of my mints, in dark closets to dry. Those I use in cooking I will freeze in ice cube trays.

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Step 1

Soak herbs in a bowl of water for a few minutes. Remove the herbs from the water, check for debris, refill and repeat process at least three times.  There is no need for scrubbing or agitation, the water floats the dirt away leaving the essential oils intact. (Organic potted herbs grown inside do not need to be washed.)

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Step 2

There is no need to dry sprigs when they are finished soaking. Break leaves away from the stem, place inside empty ice cube trays, add water and freeze.

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Step 3

Remove frozen cubes from tray.

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Step 4

Place inside a labeled zip-lock freezer bag and store in the freezer. Your “fresh” herbs are now available anytime you are ready to cook a good meal.  The cubes are terrific for making soups and stocks. I also freeze onion, scallions, peppers and other produce for quick stocks.

Perspective – Decimated Dill

My Dill plant has been doing incredibly well…until…yesterday. The plant is being decimated, and instead of me doing my usual stomping about and muttering about insect and animal pests I am doing a happy dance. Why you may ask?

Because under the umbrella of blossoms I spotted a Black Swallowtail Caterpillar. Oh Happy Day! On closer inspection I found five more, and I am sure there were many more in the surrounding garden that I did not see.

The caterpillars are small, only about an inch long at most, but they are voracious, fast growing, and I am sure in a few weeks I will be seeing many Black Swallowtail Butterflies flitting around my yard. I must have my camera ready at all times. I can’t wait.