Cider Press

Autumn, a beautiful time when the weather is perfect, nights are cool, and the apples are ripe. A friend, Kit, offered the Garden Gals the use of her family cider press and so we got together and had a pressing party! Their backyard was the perfect September setting to work at crushing apples and pears and hanging out together.

Kit's family at the Cider Pressing Party
Kit’s family at the Cider Pressing Party

We were all learning to operate the cider press and so we had to experiment to see what would work best. The nice part about making cider, is you can use the whole apple and the apple does not have to be perfect. Worms and all can go into the press! The first thing we did was fill up some containers with water to wash off the summer dirt and sand on the outside. The press has its own grinder and that’s when the work began. Grinding requires a bit of arm strength. Fortunately, we had many willing volunteers to take turns with the crusher.

Working hard to crush the apples!
Working hard to crush the apples!

As the apples were crushed, they then fell into the wooden cider bucket- that bucket was lined with a porous cloth to hold the apples together.
When the bucket was filled, it was time to turn the crank and do the pressing of the apples. The juice then poured into the bottom tray that had an opening for the juice to drop down into a bowl. Then we poured the juice through cheesecloth into jugs.
Cutting apples
Cutting apples

Some of the apples were too large to place into the apple grinder and so we had a crew of ladies quartering apples before they were placed in the crusher. That was a good thing, since then we could also catch and throw out the rotten apples.

Best cider ever! We tried pear cider also and what we discovered were the pears were much easier to crush because they were so soft. And their juice had a lot more pulp in it, but still delicious.

Thanks Kit for allowing us to come over and enjoy the beautiful yard and your cider press.

Help! My branches are breaking- OR How Many Ladders Do I Need to Hold Up My Fruit Trees?

peach tree loaded with peaches
This ladder is supporting an over abundant peach tree branch that will snap off without some kind of intervention

Home orchards are a lot of work- trees need pruning, thinning and a watchful eye for pests and diseases. If you are growing organically, the work is probably doubled! So it seems many people with backyard orchards, find themselves overwhelmed and frustrated in order to produce healthy fruit trees and healthy fruit. But if there is one job you should NOT neglect on your home orchard, it is thinning and summer pruning.

If you see a ladder holding up a fruit tree branch, it is because the gardener did not thin the spring blossoms or did not thin enough of the blossoms. The result then, is that you will see sticks, boards, shovels and ladders propping up overloaded branches in order to save the fruit.

Continue reading Help! My branches are breaking- OR How Many Ladders Do I Need to Hold Up My Fruit Trees?

Pampered Plants or Plants that Thrive?

After many years of gardening in Idaho I have come to a conclusion about how I will grow my garden. I am tired of pampering plants, I am tired of buying some new beautiful variety to find out in a year or two, they don’t like my soil, or the humidity or the winter snow or the summer sun. I have spent a lot of money on “eye candy” plants that I bought ’cause the nursery had them front and center and they looked so beautiful in the greenhouse!

Aha, that should have been my first clue…. plants that look great in a greenhouse are going out into the rough harsh weather conditions of my yard and I expect them to more than to just survive, but to FLOURISH!
That may just be too much to expect from some plants. Blame it on the growers who promote their new plants as the biggest hottest thing going since the David Austin rose. Blame it on the nurseries who buy those plants from the growers, breeders because they know their valued customers need to, want to, are salivating for some new green, chartreuse or red leaved thing to put in their yard.

Continue reading Pampered Plants or Plants that Thrive?

Saving Water in the Garden

This is a HOT week. Probably every day will be over 100 degrees. Hot weather, drought, expensive water- all reasons to pay attention to how you water your garden. You want to make every drop count.

First, you should watch what happens when you are watering. I say this to those people who do not hand water, but have their plants on a timer or automatic system. You may well be sending a lot of water down the street or into an area that does not need water. You may be making weeds by not paying attention to your water. You want to make sure when you are watering, you are watering the plants, not the street, gutters or the fallow area nearby.

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Trap Crops

Trap crops are used to keep the bugs busy eating a plant you don’t care much about so they leave your more treasured plants alone.
Consider a trap crop a distraction, a red herring crop? It’s like they are saying, “Hey, look at me- over here- ignore that big green handsome crop down the way- I taste much better!”
I think I have discovered -inadvertently- a new trap crop for some kind of bug. I am guessing it is earwigs.

Continue reading Trap Crops

Spring Plants That Repel Animal Pests

GBtulip2Today, I have a guest writer on Vicki’s Garden Tips:
Her name is Trisha Miller, from


You can find more about Trisha at twitter @thatdangvegan, or email her at thatdangvegan (at) gmail (dot) com.
Thank you, Trisha for your timely article! Thursday, this week, I had a gopher tunneling through my front door flower bed, eating my tulip bulbs.

Spring Plants That Repel Animal Pests
Animal pests are inevitable when growing any fertile garden. However, some early spring plants actually attract critters much more than others. Often times, pesky intruders will chomp on just about anything living – seemingly without purpose. Even if this seems the case, annoying animals always leave behind clues of their identity and exactly which plants are their favorites to nibble on. We are here to show you that there are steps you can take to ward off any trespassing animals that intent to destroy or eat all of your hard work this spring.

Continue reading Spring Plants That Repel Animal Pests

Tour a Peaceful Boise North End Garden


Last summer, we filmed a beautiful North End garden in Boise, Idaho. The tranquil sounds of water from the stream and waterfall greet you upon entering the backyard.
Take the tour of Gail’s garden.

Or follow this link to the vimeo site for full page viewing:

Continue reading Tour a Peaceful Boise North End Garden

A Simple Guide to Pruning Hybrid Tea Roses in Spring

Double Delight

I said simple, so I’m gonna make bullet points for those who skim read only. For you who want more detailed info, it will be after this text.
1. Clean all your pruning tools.
2. Prune all the canes for height. You determine the height you want. More info below
3. Cut to the base of the plant all canes that are damaged, diseased, broken. Also any canes that are growing towards the center of the plant or that are crossing over another stem.
4. Cut to the base any stems that are smaller than a pencil.
5. Thin the rose plant buy cutting more canes so there is room for each remaining stem to move with the wind and to grow. Leave the center of the plant uncrowded.
6. When pruning the stems develop good pruning technique — see below.
7. Rake up all the refuse under the plant and dispose by burning or putting it in the trash. Don’t compost rose cuttings.
8. Fertilize

Continue reading A Simple Guide to Pruning Hybrid Tea Roses in Spring

Spring is almost here!

Sometimes, I dread the approach of spring. There is so much work to be done, raspberries, blackberries and grapes to prune, cleaning out the old garden scraps that were left over the winter. Once I get outside, though, it is a different story. I love the sunlight on my body, the fresh breezes, the solitude of being outside alone.
If you have grapevines, time to get on with the pruning in February. This is also the time to consider what went right or wrong with the grapes from last year. In the past few years, I have kept a garden journal, writing notes about the type of pruning, size of my harvests, the month I pruned, etc. I never remember this stuff from year to year, even though I often tell myself I will. I think, “How could I possible forget how I pruned the raspberries this year”. Then, next spring I will have no idea at all.

I have become dependent on that little garden journal, the entries are very helpful to clear out the mental cobwebs each spring.
If you had poor pollination of your grapes last year, this is the time to do some research and find out why. If most of your grapes didn’t ripen before the frost, maybe you need to change your pruning technique. Last year, I tried 2 different ways to prune raspberries. I left one row taller and thinned out and pruned another row at 6 inches or less. Then, I documented the amount of harvest. Now, I know in order to get the largest individual raspberries and the largest quantity my raspberries must be thinned to 3-4 canes per linear foot and the canes trimmed very little for height.

When I am looking for information on how to prune, I always check out Youtube, since I find it so much easier to understand while watching someone pruning, rather than just reading about it. But there are a lot of good and bad videos out in youtube land so I will watch a couple of individuals and see their methods and then I always look at a couple of Cooperative Extension videos. The extension videos are most often based on current research rather than wives tails or personal experience. Always check the accuracy of your information source so you can have the best garden season ever.

Gardening in beautiful Idaho!