Friday, September 08, 2006

In time for fall [2], plus a recipe

To post on less salacious topics, I'll revert now to my obsession with the front yard landscaping project that I decided to thrust on myself and overworked husband when Fall started staring me down in the front yard.

This weekend the highly anticipated dirt and bark will arrive. It is a bizarre time in one's life when dirt and bark can be highly anticipated items. I've clearly crossed some invisible line without knowing it. I'm not sure when I traded sleeping until 10am for shoveling top soil, but I have.

This project also gives new definition to the ways in which I've fallen prey to the seasons. It used to be that my life only had two seasons; winter and summer. They were defined by two activities; school and swimming. Then, I graduated college, moved to a crappy duplex that had a tiny strip of dirt and, BAM, my life had three seasons. Winter, spring and summer. Granted, I still only had two activities; work and gardening (swimming is hard in a crappy duplex with no pool), but I had a new season to care for and also plenty of plants to "get in the ground as soon as frost passed." I thought my life was complete. I had a purpose. Things to plan for and execute. Living things to care for (note: cat is nearly self-sustaining). And right as I thought I had a good bead on things, I found a reason to care about Fall.

Clearly this Fall thing is an issue. I mean, it will detract precious time from caring for said Summer and Spring activities and from planning for time-intensive Winter activities (which now also includes a healthy dose of snowboarding thanks to enthusiastic snowbunny husband). Can this be good?

Well, for the garden, it is good. I found out the hard (easy?) way that getting plants in the ground in the fall, just before the first rain starts, is a really good thing. (Note: I'm in NorCal) Rocket science? No. Farmer's Almanac wisdom bestowed on only a chosen few? No. Something I wandered the earth blissfully unaware of until only a few years ago? Yes. Somehow this keen, perfect and otherwise common sense piece of horticultural information escaped me for a long time. And I had a lot of plants fall victim to my widespread ignorance of Fall as Planting Season Extraordinare. Ok, so not all things can go into the ground in fall (most vegetables and things that will die with frost, for instance), but as far as landscaping with hardy perennials goes, this is the time. And I've got trees to go in, NOW! And nothing's better than doing a fresh sea of landscaping right before the rainy season to really get the new plants set for Spring.

So, how did I run across this gem of gardening knowledge? Not by my own thorough research or cunning gardening know-how, I assure you. It was actually through pure impulsiveness crossed with my characteristic laziness that it came to my attention. I bought some plants on clearance (buddleia and lavender), even though I didn't know how to care for them, and promptly jammed them in the ground about three weeks before the winter rains started. And, blimey!, they grew. And grew and grew and grew. And attracted butterflies, hummingbirds and bees just as the plant stick said they would. Miracle! They did not die! They didn't wither in the oppressive summer hell sun like all the other plants I'd put in the ground before them. I had stumbled across a rare or unknown piece of gardening information. I was flush with my success. My thumbs were practically radiating green.

Until I shared the *secret* knowledge with my mom. And she gave me a look as it if to say, "Oh, I hadn't realized that you were retarded until just now." Then she graciously thanked me for the information and modestly gestured to her thriving flower beds, fruit trees, vegetable garden and sweeping landscape to illustrate to me that she had, in fact, been privy to this knowledge at one point and apparently put it to use.

It is only recently that I have come to be more fully acquainted with the wider scope of my ignorance.

Regardless, I learned an important, if not already widely understood fact that, prepare yourselves:

Plants grow well with regular watering.

Which is basically what planting in the fall provides.I know, it's amazing I'm allowed within ten feet of a trowel.

And now to divert your attention from my gardening idiocy with the recipe that I used to kick off this, The Fabulous Fall season:

Zucchini Lasagna

2 large zucchini (or four medium ones), sliced lengthwise into 1/4 inch thick strips (to resemble lasagna noodles)
1 jar of your favorite pasta sauce (or use your own homemade recipe)
1 lb ground beef, browned
1 cup lowfat ricotta (or full fat if you like it like that)
2 cups + 1 cup shredded mozzarella
1 + 1/2 cup shredded parmesan
1/2 cup of chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup of chopped fresh basil
1 tsp dried ground oregano
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 egg

  • Preheat oven to 375
  • Brown the beef in a medium skillet with garlic, half of the parsley, half of the oregano, salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
  • (If using your own tomato sauce recipe) Prepare tomato sauce. Set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, mix ricotta, 1 cup parmesan, 2 cups mozzarella, egg, other half of parsley, other half of the oregano, basil, a bit of salt and pepper. Set aside.
  • In a 9X9 oven-safe pan, layer ingredients in the following order TWICE after adding a thin layer of tomato sauce to the bottom of the pan:
    • Zucchini strips
    • Ricotta mixture
    • Ground Beef
    • Tomato sauce
      • Start again with zucchini here...
  • Finish with a thin layer of tomato sauce, thecup of mozzarella, 1/2 cup of parmesan and the rest of the basil
  • Bake in 375 degree oven for about 20 minutes, turn the oven up to 400 and bake until the sauce is bubbling in the pan and the cheese begins to brown around the edges.
  • Remove and let cool for about 10 minutes.

Eat it and think about planting some trees before it rains. Then consider yourself a genius and give yourself a healthy pat on the back. Repeat.


  1. The sheer gardening hilarity of it all! Shame on you for making me laugh like this. Waiting for the photos that bark...

  2. So, you want to give me some advice with that fancy almanac of yours and tell me what I should be planting in my little strip of land? I've got several months until I travel again...


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