Canning Tip

Any jar with a pop up lid can be used for home canning. Here you see the pears I just canned using a variety of jars – mostly Trader Joe’s Pasta sauce. These lids can be used over and over and are more reliable and easier to work with compared to traditional canning jars with the two part lids. Apple juice can be easily preserved in old glass juice bottles. Those usually always have a pop up on the lid.

My Method:

I put the clean dry jars in the oven at 275 F for 20-30 minutes and take them out one at a time and fill them with the boiling hot fruit. The utensils, funnel, etc I use have been boiled for 5-10 minutes in water.

I add the boiling hot fruit slices or applesauce, pear sauce, chutney to the jars with a canning funnel and then use a rag dipped in the boiling water to clean off the rim. Using sterilized tongs I take a lid out of the boiling water and screw it on.

The pop ups on the top will all be up while the jar is hot, but you will hear them popping down as the jars cool. When they are cool, you can press on the pop up button and it should be in the down position with no movement. If they didn’t seal and the pop up is up, it means the lid wasn’t screwed on tight enough. The contents are still good, just put it in the fridge and use it up.

If the pop up comes up during storage it means some bacteria is growing and producing gas. The gas pressure forces the button up. These you want to discard. I’ve never had that happen. Items high in fruit sugar tend to preserve easily.

Happy Harvest!

Preparing a Garden Bed in Arizona

I was recently asked if I compost.  In a world were composting often means making a pile of vegetative waste, keeping it moist and turning it often, I would have to say no.  I am much too lazy for that.  However, I do save all my organic kitchen waste, as well as my vegetative yard waste, and I recycle it back into the soil.  This post will discuss my method.


Authentic urban compost can converted from city trash cans. Only $5 at the Phoenix Dump. Choice of colors and sizes. Complete with graffiti!

I use a combination of “double-digging” and “layering” to make vegetative waste disappear in just a few months.  But first, before I start digging, I usually accumulate quite a bit of waste.  This I store in large converted trash cans that I purchased from the City of Phoenix.  These come with holes drilled out for aeration and the bottoms cut off.  Pick up yours today at the dump.  Click here for more information.


Here is my method.

Click on the pictures to see them full size.


Ready to become garden.


First step is to wet the ground.

Preparing Garden Bed at TESLI

Then I scrape out the wet surface to create a basin.


Basin filled with water. The scrapings go in the wheel barrow


I fill the basin a couple of times. Once the water has soaked in I am ready to dig.


The soil is much easier to dig when moist. This shows that only a couple inches down, it is bone dry still.


Dig out soil until the hole is two feet deep


21 inches is close enough for me.

gardening at TESLI

Here are some fresh weeds and dried leaves I need to get rid of.


Doesn’t matter how you put it in. Here I put the leaves in first.


Then I put some fresh weeds next.


I added fresh kitchen waste next.


Then more leaves.   The dog is looking for that kitchen waste.


Now comes the dirt. I start digging the next section and put that soil on top of the compostables.


I buy mulch or compost from my local landscape supply.


The compost is the next layer


Then I alternate dirt with compost.



The first section will end up mounded. That is fine. You will pull the soil back later onto the second section.


I enjoy mixing the top layers of soil and compost together by hand. I break up clods and remove any large rocks.


When the second section is deep enough I start the process over.


Here the first and second sections are done. The next area is being scraped and getting ready to be soaked.


This is the finished bed at the end of the summer season.  All that vegetable material is done rotting and often times the bed will settle and be lower than ground level.  Nice basin for moisture.

I am into keeping things simple and efficient. I like to garden about an hour a day. My method is conducive to this. Wet it one day, dig some the next day, fill in the next day, dig some more the next day, etc. However, I’ve also done this at a recovery center where hard core workers dug out the entire (rock solid) bed in a couple hours. Definitely harder work than I want to do. If you are trying to remove Bermuda grass at the same time, the ground definitely needs to be moist or pieces of the rhizomes will break off and sprout later.

I’ve used this method in a variety of ways.  Sometimes I just dig one big hole and slowly fill it with kitchen waste, etc.  Other times I use a smaller hole to get rid of a smaller amount of kitchen waste.  If I am replanting a bed, I usually do not go down as deep.  The deep hole is best when you are starting a garden to maximize the aeration and nutrition of the soil.


I was delighted yesterday afternoon to look our my living room window and see a  giant swallowtail butterfly flighting around my Gelsemium vine.  At first I thought she was newly emerged from her cocoon, since she was flying in a drunken pattern, but it turns out this species of swallowtail has a characteristic pattern of flying that looks like hopping.  Isn’t she lovely?!
Swalowtail on Gelsemium in phoenix arizonaSwallowtails are dear to my heart.  Last year the fennel I planted was completely decimated by dozens of the swallowtail caterpillars.  Any other creature would have gotten the boot, but I was willing to sacrifice the plant for my favorite butterfly.  Luckily the plant survived and this year is boasting a full crop of seeds.

Fennel is one of the host plants for anise swallowtails and black swallowtails.  Perhaps I love the swallowtails simply because if I plant fennel they always appear in my garden.  Such a reliable friend!  Pretty stunning caterpillars as well.  Hungry little guys though!

Black Swallowtail caterpillars from Wikipedia

Black Swallowtail caterpillars from Wikipedia

While I am familiar with the larvae (caterpillars) of black swallowtails, I was surprised to see the caterpillar of the Giant Swallowtail. It is designed to look like bird droppings.


Not exactly attractive.  Also, it doesn’t host on fennel, but prefers citrus.  I’ll have to keep my eyes open for this one.  My citrus are too small to support a group of gluttons!

Giant Swallowtail caterpillar

“Papilio cresphontes larva” by TokyoJunkie (Wikipedia)