Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Greens! (and favorite seeds)

I forgot! Yes--lettuce straight from the garden is a treat for sure! We enjoyed that this past spring immensely. I also realized that I really like the spinach mustard hybrid. And we ate our fair share of mustard greens as well--maybe they're better home grown because you can pick them early and/or eat them so soon after harvest. I agree that greens grown at home are much better than the storebought variety (not to mention that there is a better variety than at the store).

I also enjoyed the greens I got at the farmer's market.

A book I enjoy (although I, too, read books with whose authors I disagree) is Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. It's her family's year-long experiment in eating locally and growing/producing as much of their food as they can. A great read--if you read it this winter, you'll be inspired to plant an even bigger garden! I've read it twice now.

My favorite seed types so far:
  • Bonbon squash (Park Seed Co)
  • Mini spagetti squash (Park Seed Co)
  • Diva cucumber (Park Seed Co)
  • Jenny Tomato (orange cherry type)
  • Celebrity Tomato
  • Rutgers Tomato (I can find these at Lowe's in seedling form)
  • Mr. Stripey Tomato (also at Lowe's in seedling form)
  • Sweet Genovese Basil--maybe I'll plant an entire packet myself! :)
  • Spinach Mustard (seeds at Lowe's)

What I Learned

Well, the one thing I have learned this season is that it is very hard to garden, read about gardening, and write about gardening :)! ( I also learned that when you have teenagers that use the computer it is hard to get a turn for yourself!!)

Our garden was rather small, but it was very productive. I loved being able to trot out of my kitchen door and gather the produce I needed, right when I needed it!

Here are the things I learned this year:

* Companion planting is worthwhile, at least in the case of tomatoes and peppers. The 3 pepper plants by the tomatoes did much better than the three plants elsewhere in the garden.

* Home grown, freshly picked kale is WAY better than kale from the store. I need increase the number of seeds next year. ( I currently have seedlings of kale and Swiss chard in our fall garden, along with some lettuce plants...we will see how it goes. Some of them are not looking all that great.). I also learned that watering generously decreases bitterness.

* Swiss Chard and Kale are both delicious cooked. I grew them for green smoothies and only used them for this purpose a handful of times, although I did throw some green "pot liquor" in smoothies a few times.

* Swiss chard is an ideal container plant and has fewer pest problems in a container than in the ground.

* Future Farmers of America clubs sell seedlings in the late spring for around 25 cents per cup and our library has a seed swap each spring.

* Basil is wonderful to have on hand and we need to plant more next year.

* Zinnias are an easy and cheap way to add lots of color to the garden. They are also great cut flowers. My goal for "old-ladyhood" is to grow fields of zinnias and sell them at the farmer's market :). I love those things!

* A short row of Romain lettuce is not enough for our family of 7. We need a field of Romaine!!! Who knew lettuce could taste so delicious!!

* If I ever plan on canning we will need to have a much larger garden. I planted 6 plants each of tomatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers...we ate every bite, except for 2 zucchinis and 3 tomatoes that we gave away to relatives! ( Oh yes, the heirloom peas...eaten by a varmint, along with the melon plant.)

My winter gardening plans include watching my husband fashion a water barrel and rotating compost tumbler out of 55 gallon drums he acquired. I am super excited about the water barrel!! You can find You Tube "how -to" videos for both of these projects.

And if you need a good book, I highly recommend my current read, Farm City, by Novella Carpenter. You will have to step over some atrocious language at times, but it is a fascinating account of a garden in a ghetto. You will also learn a lot about raising and slaughtering animals, if you are into that kind of thing. A fascinating book! Another book worth skimming ( I did not read the whole thing, but enjoyed what I read...and be forewarned that I sometimes enjoy reading things I do not agree with !) is A Nation of Farmers. Do you guys have any good books to recommend? I also would loved some specifics on seeds that did well for you this year. I am excited to know about the Diva cucumbers. Our cucumbers were okay, but not super tasty. I have enjoyed reading your posts!

What I've Learned This Year....

My garden's had another round of "bounty" and I harvested so much basil yesterday! Mounds of it. Problem was, it's the kind of basil that's my least favorite, and there's plenty of my favorite still to harvest. I might even get rid of this batch! Maybe I'll freeze it while I ponder what to do with it. It's the Marseilles basil and it's flavor is just not as good as the Genovese; not as distinctive as the Thai or Lime.... This is the time of year to let basil go to seed and/or harvest as much as we can of it. That first frost will be here before we know it! Frost won't harm oregano, rosemary, thyme, etc.

Here's what I've learned during this year of gardening:

  • I will only plant Thai, Lime, and Sweet Genovese basil next year.
  • I do not need 4 cayenne/kung pao pepper plants (anyone need some peppers? One plant is almost as tall as I am now and is producing like crazy. I've already harvested upwards of 40 peppers--green and red--and the plants are still going strong.)
  • I do not need 3 jalapeno pepper plants. They've done better than ever this year, and I have tons in the freezer.
  • I do need a poblano chili plant and multiple bell pepper plants. They've done well this year with all this water--and they need some serious staking since they've heavy laden.
  • I do need 4 green bean plants--that was just right for us.
  • I'm not going to bother with limas, black beans, and so forth....
  • I only need one zucchini plant.
  • Green tomatoes are well worth harvesting.
  • I also need a plethora of cucumber plants--especially those "Divas" we got from Park.
  • The little orange cherry tomatoes were to die for.
  • Mr. Stripey tomatoes are the prettiest.
  • Rutgers tomatoes do quite well for me.
  • I will only plant tomatoes next year in pots or in a square foot gardening patch.
  • I only need 1-2 plants of each type of winter squash (what I had this year); they like being near the compost patch, and they are YUMMY. Bonbon squashes are a must for next year--especially since we can't buy those in a store. I need to save some pumpkin seeds, too, because whatever variety has volunteered this year is sweet like a butternut squash.
  • Herbs are the cheapest and easiest way to make your meals gourmet. If you have some growing, you can make a humble pot of beans shine.
  • Napa cabbage did well for me; I'll make a go of that in the spring (I've missed my fall window for stuff).
  • I'll only do spring stuff in square foot gardening plots that are well fenced in....
  • Snow peas did well for me AND my kids like 'em, so I'll do a couple of rows next year.
  • August and late September are heavy garden-harvest times, so I'd better clear my schedule.
  • Next year, I need to defrost my freezer in May, before the garden gets going. I keep trying to empty our freezer so I can defrost it, but every week, some new garden produce is going in (bell peppers, green tomato puree, hot peppers, spaghetti squash, salsa, pizza sauce, pasta sauce, bags of basil, pesto, green beans--there's a lot in there!)
  • I need to figure a way to keep my boys OUT OF THE GARDEN. I've kept a record of my harvest--but only the harvest that's made it to the kitchen. I should have kept a record of all the green tomatoes, green peppers, green cayennes, green cucumbers they've picked. The cucumbers they recognize and sometimes pick when ripe; the others have all been labeled "apples" and seem to call those little fingers with a siren call.... They can't resist picking them no matter how many times Mom loses it, spanks, makes them come inside, etc.
If I had to make a stab at what you've all learned, here's my guess:

  • Alicia's learned: moving in garden season is no fun.
  • Sara's learned: making friends with groundhogs is a bad pre-garden strategy. (And also that mushroom compost is your friend! Her plants are AMAZING looking)
  • Katie's learned: she won't be gardening too much next summer since she'll have a newborn to take care of!
  • Cassie's learned: I don't know! How were those heirloom peas you mentioned a while back?

Friday, August 28, 2009

A Moment of Silence for the Tomatoes, Please

Well, I feel like a true pioneer woman today... except that they didn't have a freezer! Technically, you're not supposed to water bath can tomatoes from dead/dying vines, so I have to freeze everything or pressure can it (which I just don't have the energy for).

My tomatoes, for those who haven't heard, have succombed entirely to late tomato blight. I'm about to head out and rip up every last plant, bag it up, and throw it away! I can't even compost them (sigh). But I harvested every last usable tomato and made 7 pints of green tomato salsa, 1 quart of green tomato ketchup, and pureed 10 cups for breads/cakes this week. I'm about to tackle the last bit of red tomatoes for some sauce for the freezer. I'm afraid to just freeze the tomatoes themselves because the few who have blight already on them are succombing. I'm afraid it might still eat the tomatoes in the freezer. So, I'm going to cut out all bad spots and cook those babies with some fresh basil--maybe I'll do some soup. I'm WORN OUT. The green tomato salsa and ketchup all got made today. I'm pooped. I'm actually glad I won't be harvesting any tomatoes next week. And then I'll start to get sad. Maybe my peppers will do even better without the competition for light and nutrients (my tomatoes have grown over everything and are so congested thanks to all the rain--it's no wonder they all got sick).

Here's my tomato count for the season: (no doubt it would be higher if the stupid squirrels hadn't shown such a love for green tomatoes--no telling how many they carried off!) (this includes everything I picked--many of which I've given away)

Romas: 58 (mix of several--some from Parks and some from Lowe's)
All-Purpose: 35 (mix of Rutgers (they do well for me), Fabulous, Early Girls, Celebrity)
Mr. Stripeys: 12 (these are my favorite and this is the healthiest plant... sigh...these babies are HUGE, very cool-looking tomatoes--even the green ones are prettier than other green ones)
Orange Cherries (cups): 8
Yellow Pears--cherry type (cups): 8

Green Tomatoes: 6 pounds miscellaneous plus 30 all-purpose/Mr. Stripeys and 20 Romas

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Harvest Continues....

I'm getting spoiled with all this rain! My garden is doing better than ever before! And I'm doing.... nothing... at... all... (except tie up tomato plants that are taller than I am, direct vigorous squash/cucumber/melon vines back into our yard, pull up weeds that are growing overnight, etc. etc. etc.).

As of today, I officially recant all of my complaining, frustrated lambastes of organic gardening, embittered diatribes against cutworms and the like. Instead, I've been fully restored to the joys of having garden produce on my back doorstep!

I harvested another bumper crop of basil leaves today (I'm getting 3-4 cups weekly now), a cucumber (3 more footlongs on the way this week), some orange cherry tomatoes (looks like a few quarts will be ripening up this week), some romas, some all-purpose tomatoes, some onions, and enough green and wax beans to feed my family for two meals (those are going into the freezer). My pepper plants have little babies (they never produced at all last year), my winter squash plants have babies, and there is a watermelon volunteer in the compost heap. To add to the contentment, my middle child (W) asked eagerly for a "cum-cum" as soon as we walked in the door to the kitchen (he LOVES cucumbers). Aaahhh.... maybe this post will remind me next spring why I'm digging in the dirt and muttering and wondering if this is all worth it.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Abundance in the Garden

After my very trying start to my gardening year, suddenly I'm looking at prospective (and actual) abundance! I just harvested a volunteer cucumber from last year: it's 13 inches long!!!!! Not sure what it's going to taste like. It grew in a matter of days, so I'm going to have to keep an eye on the vigorous plant and the other baby cukes on it. I have flowers on a couple of pepper plants, flowers on most of my bean plants, baby jalapenos forming, green tomatoes on most of my tomato plants, and.... a HUGE crop of basil. I'm going to be making pesto today because I brought in about 4 cups of leaves!!!! That's right: 4 cups. Crazy, eh? I've rooted some of the cuttings in water, so let me know if you're interested. I know Alicia is--I can always root more for the rest of you. I have Marseilles, Sweet Genovese, Lime, and Cinnamon.

Interesting Idea: Survival Seed Bank

So, I ran across this little idea in another blog: Survival Seed Bank. You can buy a certain amount of seeds that will last you quite a while due to the way they're sealed. The idea is that then you can ensure that your family will always have a source of food.

This is interesting to me partly because my cousin Cary Fowler (well, first cousin, once removed) was one of the key people getting the Svalbard Global Seed Bank up and running.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Gardening Take 2

Well... we left behind the first garden. I was sad to leave - had lots of squash, cukes, melons, beans, radishes, carrots, lettuce, spinach, peas, beans, basil,beets, mustard, and discovered (the day we left *sob*) that 3 pepper plants and 2 tomato plants were growing back! Not sure what happened to my cabbages, now that I think of it!

So... I'm trying take 2 at the new place. I planted some squash, zucchini, melons, lettuce, spinach, and mustard. It sounds like a lot, but it isn't - just threw a few seeds in the tiny plot and hoping something happens. I have some space in the front that I'm considering sticking some other stuff into. It'll be a late late harvest, but hopefully the weather will hold and we'll be good to go. I'd be overjoyed at some melons and spaghetti squash at this point. 2 things I hate to pay for!

Organic Gardening is for the Birds...

...and slugs, cabbage loopers, roly polies, weird black bugs, worms, rabbits, dogs,.....

I'm delighted to report that I harvested two monstrous heads of Napa cabbage Thursday night and will harvest two more this week. The amount of bugs in my kitchen sink as I did the preliminary cleaning of one head gave Elizabeth nightmares.... Seriously. They freaked her out, and she woke up in the middle of the night thinking there were bugs in her bed. It could have been because her mommy was also a little freaked out and working VERY hard to keep all the bugs in the sink/down the drain as they frantically crawled up the walls of the sink. Hmm.... Next time, I'll just hose the cabbages off outside or dunk them in the kiddy pool (when there are no kids in it).

ANYWAY, once that trauma was past us, I was willing to re-wash and eat this lovely, Swiss-cheese-looking cabbage. The bugs left me a little, and, when it's chopped finely in a yummy Mexican slaw, you can't even see the little holes and inroads from the bugs.

I've got baby tomatoes coming on one tomato plant, cukes/beans/zucchini/winter squash sprouting, and pepper and basil plants thriving. All greens, save the cabbage, have gone to seed. Oh, I even harvested a little broccoli. My peas look like they're packing up for summer vacation.

How's everyone else's little plots doing? Katie, I know, has some Swiss chard coming up.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Strawberry Season

Anyone else overdosing on strawberries? You can pick them at the Fruit and Berry Patch now, but I have yet to do that. I've gotten some from Pratt's and from the Farmer's Market.

Here's a website for strawberry picking info and one for strawberry jam! I didn't try this recipe; I used one of my sister's and had ok success. I've used others from this website before, though, and had good luck with them.

The Harvest Continues!

I'm sure Sarah and Curt are harvesting more radishes by now.... I, on the other hand, have yet to plant my radishes. Hmmm....

However, I just picked my first snow peas!! My sugar snaps are taking their time (and only about 1/3 of the plants have even survived to this point). I picked about 1 cup of snow peas, though, and there are more that will be ready soon! I read that you can pick snow peas when they're still flat, but about 3 inches long. I had flowers last week and, boom, this week I have peas--keep an eye on them if you have any.

Here's a website for freezing peas (any kind--shelled, edible pod, etc.). Check it out--you can always pick up some at the farmer's market and do this with them.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Stephanie's Garden

Stephanie doesn't have a computer at home, so that's the main reason she's not a fellow "author" on this gardening journal/blog. But I took some pictures of her terrific garden this week and thought I'd post them! She's got wonderfully thick rows of sugar snap peas and cauliflower, double rows of green beans and green onions, and a few tomato and pepper plants. To top it off, there were already strawberry plants and raspberry plants on her property! Check these pictures out (I'm envious--anyone else?).

Oh, the Drama....

Anyone else having such a dramatic (and traumatic) gardening experience this spring? Short list of my troubles as of the beginning of May here:

  1. Slugs!!! And not just a few... oh no... my snow peas, in particular, are COVERED in them!!! So, here's a link to a rundown of some organic gardening slug control practices, courtesy of  magazine. Katie, you'll notice that your dad's solution of putting the board down is mentioned.... I'm going to have to try that one.
  2. Cutworms!!! Well, that's Katie's diagnosis for what's ailing my tomato plants and it sounds about right (sigh). Of the 15 plants that I planted last weekend, only 5 have stalks and leaves left. The rest: vanished. This time, the kids aren't the culprits because the plants are behind the garden fence. I've been nursing these babies for months, now, and am so depressed. Again, it sounds like Katie's dad has the popular solution: a "collar" made by a paper cup. This is what Organic Gardening recommends. Katie also suggested tying popsicle sticks to the plants' little stems.
  3. Cabbage Loopers!!! These are ATTACKING my napa cabbage, broccoli, and mustard greens with a true vengeance. They're pretty little things, but, if I'm going to stay organic here, will take more work to get rid of, if I'm following OG's solutions.... (sigh). Stephanie's father-in-law (who is a big-time gardener) also recommends sprinkling sawdust on plants such as broccoli and cauliflower. Since I had some of that in the basement courtesy of my hubby's wood-working habits, that's what I went with tonight.
  4. Mustard greens bolting: not a terrible problem in and of itself, but I'd hoped to get more greens out of the plants before they bolted. We'll be eating them tomorrow, but I doubt I have more than one-two meals' worth. I suppose I'll be trying these again in the fall (incidentally, OG mentioned that there are fewer pests in the fall, so maybe I'll have better luck all the way around with the cabbage family then). 
Hope the rest of you are having better luck! On the positive side, my cucumbers have reseeded themselves from last year.... I can't remember if I'd planted hybrids or not, they're not in the place I'd earmarked for cukes this year, and there are about 10 of them in a tiny clump. But, nonetheless, they cheered me up.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Pea Shoots....

You have to try the pea shoots recipe--with any Asian greens (we did a combo of young mustard greens, bok choy, and pea shoots). It's wonderful! Here's the link again: Pea Shoots Stir-Fried with Garlic

You'll all going to have stuff you could try this with sometime soon I bet. Mmmmm

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

More on Pea Shoots

If they're good, then I might try this for a continuous supply.... It would be a terrific project for my intrepid 3-year-old.

Storebought Tomato Plants v. Home-seed-started Tomato Plants

Thanks to my sacrificed tomato seedlings, I succumbed and bought a few replacement tomato plants at Lowe's today. Here's what I've noticed (yes, a picture would be helpful, but that would require me finding the camera, putting my shoes on, heading outside, taking pictures, and then waiting for the upload--I'm counting on my fellow gardeners' imaginations here):

Lowe's plants are much bigger, taller, leafier, and prettier than mine. Am I discouraged? Maybe.

But then I remember: tomato plants gain more root structure each time you repot them more deeply (you can bury up to 80% of the plant when you transplant it and it will grow roots from the buried stalk). Mine are in their 3rd pot, having been buried nice and deeply each time. So, we'll see which plants do better when the hot, dry summer weather hits: the fancy, leafy Lowe's ones or the looks-can-be-deceiving-killer-root-system-home-started ones. Any guesses? I'll make sure I label them clearly so when the rubber meets the road in August, we'll know.

Incidentally, one of the ones I bought was a Mr. Stripey--these are very fun looking tomatoes in case you want ANOTHER tomato plant. (Maybe I should have taken the tomato murder as a sign from the Lord that I already had too many tomato plants--especially for a family that doesn't like them raw very much.)

First Harvest!!!

After much distress over my brutally, savagely murdered tomato seedlings* (a Golden Gem, 2 Early Girls, and 1 heirloom), I noticed with delight that we'll be eating our first meal from the garden this week!!!! What a nice pick-me-up.

I'm choosing to ignore the fact that, were the rabbits not so greedy in their nibblings, we could be eating baby bok choy several times instead of the one, small, brave plant I'm going to harvest today. Since you can't make a meal on 1 baby bok choy plant alone, I'm also going to harvest some pea shoots. My 3-year-old helper planted them rather thickly, so we have some thinning to do. I'm going to try this recipe. We'll also have Napa cabbage soon, some mesculun mix, and probably green onions if I wanted them. How're everyone else's gardens growing?

*the murder of aforementioned tomato seedlings went something like this in my imagination: "Hey, W, come over here and look what I can do." "OK." "Ooohh... cool.... we can pinch off all the leaves." "Yeah, and we can pinch off the ENTIRE stalk, too!" "This is so much fun." "It's just like what Mommy does with those plants near the sidewalk [herbs]." "I bet we're being big helpers, the three of us."

Monday, April 20, 2009

What to Plant When...and a book/blog suggestion

This is a great web site for knowing what to plant when in your particular "neck of the woods".

Would you like to know how I found it :)? Well, I recently read a book called Made from Scratch, and while reading discovered that the author ( a mere youngster!) had once lived in our previous corner of the planet! I have had a great time reading her blog. You can read an excerpt of it here, on Mother Earth News:

Anyway, one click lead to another and I thought the "what to plant when" info. was very helpful!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

No mow lawns

So, I've been reading this book called the "Gin and Tonic Gardner" - which basically takes a very (often VERY) relaxed view of gardening. The lady who wrote it likes to use plants that aren't fussy and can survive some neglect. The book itself is not as detailed as I was hoping/expecting, and there are some personal comments and remarks mixed in that I find somewhat annoying (she was newly divorced at the time of the writing and often refers to certain plants - like a rose bush she bought - as a "fussy man" who needs too much attention and care). She is very into recycling and re-using all kinds of things for her garden (like an old bathtub sunk into the ground as a planter.)

So... aside from the personal diary style, a comment that she made about her yard was that she was considering taking the sod up and planting ground covers so that she doesn't have to mow. Now, I don't mind mowing - BUT the idea of ground covers and no need to mow a lawn is very intriguing. Besides, who wouldn't rather spend the time with the kids instead of pushing the mower?? :)

Basically, I'm day dreaming for the future. When we get our final house, I've got plans... oh yeah - I've got plans!

My must haves: creeping buttercup, crested iris, lamium, Epimedium, wild ginger, soapwort, cotula, sedum, and snow-in-summer (the only kind of snow I like.)

I found a neat article here about 28 different ground covers. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Nifty discoveries!

So... I was wandering about my yard and happened to look up into the brambles. There were what appeared to be lilacs pretty high above me, and I got excited. After examining them, however, I think that it may be a Wisteria vine! It's beautiful. The neat thing is that I cut some of the blooms and a few of the shoots to try rooting - and after doing some research, it appears that they tend to root easily and it's one of the best ways to grow Wisteria!

I also found, as I was dumping my compost, that we have a bunch of Japanese Honeysuckle back in thicket. It smells great and is gorgeous! Both of these appear to be bee attractors and from what I read they attract hummingbirds and butterflies. Now I have to figure out where I want to move some of this to in the yard! I definitely would like to have some in a spot that is a little easier to enjoy!

It was such a beautiful day! I managed to dig out a bit more around the annoying tree stump in the back garden - but didn't have much time to really work it out. There's a section that appears to have been a garden at some point in the back (or side??) yard and behind the camper in our driveway, so I am going to dig those up in the next few days. I'm still sore about never getting some reasonably priced dirt for where I really wanted my garden - but I think I'll manage without it.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Well, I am glad that someone has dogs that are helpful!!

Here is our garden update: http://cassie-mrstsblog.blogspot.com/2009/04/garden-update.html It appears that I posted it to the wrong blog!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

What is this weed?

It is taking over my front flower beds--and it seems to spread several feet at night. I don't remember it being there before. It's a creeping thing and isn't too hard to pull up.... any thoughts? We've got it in the back yard, too. The late freezes last year and the year before must have also killed some weeds.... This year, they're flourishing.

Some Garden Photos

I enjoyed seeing Sara's garden a bit over the weekend, so I thought I'd post some pics of our (struggling) crops. You'll have to drive by on the Dogwood Trail to get the full impact of the azaleas coming out and the few dogwoods that survived the previous years' droughts. But the azaleas are electric!!

First, we have a nice, flourishing row of snow peas. They're doing the best and coming up nicely. I'm even going to have to thin them out, I believe. Struggling to grow just in front of them is some bok choy--hardly even worth a picture.

Next, I have a nice small amount of mustard greens growing. The few plants are finally doing quite well... no thanks to the rabbit I saw fleeing down my street last night.

Third is my row of sugar snap peas--not doing as well as the snow peas, but finally making a brave appearance.

I've put my tomatoes and peppers out to harden off this week, so here's a shot of a few of them. I'm pretty proud of them, but I was also proud of my bok choy, broccoli, and napa cabbage seedlings before they got munched on in the garden.

I'm including a small shot of some oregano in my herb garden--anyone need some? How about lemon marjoram (nice yellow/chartreuse color, no noticeable flavor difference)? My parsley is coming back from last year, too. And, if you can root rosemary, then bring your shears over because I have a nice, big specimen. Come to think of it, this might be marjoram in the picture--they look so similar at this point in the year and the genius that planted them (me) put them right next to each other....

This brings us to some hostas I transplanted from my back yard into my front (the flowers are primroses--can't take any credit for those). I'm including some ornamentals here to cheer myself up--not all my plants become lunch for the local wildlife.

And, finally, some black-eyed Susans from a neighbor's yard that are also doing nicely. I'm going to give her some of my maidenhair ferns--you can just seem their new leaves in the front left of the black-eyed Susan picture.

Now, it's your turn! I want to see what everyone else's garden looks like! And, I should offer full disclosure here: my garden looks WAY more impressive from a few close up shots of the plants that are doing well than the overall first impression of weeds, grass that needs cutting, and chewed off leaves of vegetable plants.....


So much for the predicted rain and cloudy days ahead... now, they're saying sunny and no more rain really. Yeah, I'll believe that when it happens.

I don't know why I believe the weather forecasts anymore--this past winter, I remember vividly checking the weather online at about 8:45 a.m. Forecast: 40's, cloudy, maybe some rain. 10 minutes later it was below freezing and snowing....

Anyway, the temperatures should still be good for hardening off plants, but you might want to watch their sun exposure the first day or two. And, make sure you water them! Wind and sun are a lot more drying than our houses sometimes.

Happy Gardening! I'm going to post pictures soon of my little estate.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Better Late than Never

I finally started my basil seeds (about 3 weeks late), my hot pepper seeds (about 4 or 5 weeks late), and the last of my tomatoes (6 weeks late). Oh well. Alicia convinced me that, since we have a long growing season, all is not lost.

On a positive note, I noticed that the little rabbits that have been partaking of my outdoor salad bar seem to have moved on. I scattered some dog hair around the periphery of the garden, and it looks like it's working!!! There IS a benefit to having dogs around! I now have bok choy leaves, mustard greens, and a few other things growing again.

The weather is perfect this week for hardening off your plants: cloudy, some rain, mild temperatures. Then, you'll be in good shape to put them in the ground this weekend (herbs, maybe even peppers and tomatoes?). I'm thinking of putting bean seeds in the ground, too. I might wait a bit longer for cukes and squashes--any thoughts from the peanut gallery on that one?

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Big Freeze

We're expecting freezing temperatures this coming Monday and Tuesday (low of 29 degrees). So, wait on any iffy crops until after then if you still haven't planted them (little flowers and such). If things are in the ground, you might want to cover them up with sheets if they're not very cold hardy.

Does anyone know what spring crops should be protected and which ones can take the cold? I've got pea shoots coming up, broccoli, greens, etc..... I also HAD bok choy, spinach, and some lettuce, but I think the little bunnies and squirrels have been munching away.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Working in the garden

is wearing me out! LOL!

Just had to share. I hope you are all having a good time in yours!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Children in the Garden

Check out Children in the Garden for a list of articles about including kids in your gardening experience!

Pole Bean Staking

Here's an interesting website outlining some of the ways to stake pole beans:

How to Stake Pole Beans

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Is Gardening "Fun"?

My back aches, my nails are no more, my fingers are dry, my feet hurt,...but I got my compost shoveled in/around the garden and all cool weather crops planted!!!!!! So, maybe I'll look back on today with fond memories when I'm actually eating my hard work. For now, I'm looking forward to an easy dinner and a night of vegging out in front of the TV.... Anyone else out there feel the same way? Isn't it great that we're not actually dependent on these food crops for survival? I'm now thinking that folks who garden to survive probably don't miss TV--they just go to bed as soon as dinner is over.

Rundown of what I planted (this is sufficing for my garden journal)
  • 20-foot row of sugar snaps
  • 20-foot row of snow peas
  • 4 bok choy plants, some seeds as well
  • 4 broccoli plants
  • 3 spinach plants plus some seeds
  • 3 spinach plants (different kind) plus some seeds
  • 3 spinach mustard plants plus some seeds
  • 3 mustard greens plants plus some seeds
  • 4 napa cabbage plants (seeds, too?)
  • 3 lettuce plants plus a TON of seeds.... oops.... we might be eating mesculun for dinner a LOT

See everyone tomorrow!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Seeds Have Sprouted!

Just a note to say that ALL my herbs have some sort of sprouted representation. I'm still waiting on some peppermint seeds, but in general, at least a few of all the herbs (haven't started basil yet) have come up--even the "old" seeds. So, that should encourage everyone.

Also, I have sprouts for all cool weather crops (save cabbage) and peppers and tomatoes. I'm going to transplant them into bigger containers (the peppers and tomatoes) and harden off the cool weather stuff so I can plant it in the garden soon! (Of course, I still have to get that garden ready!!)

Don't forget, Katie and Alicia, about the seed chart I emailed you out weeks ago--it has timing, companion planting, and other info on it in brief. It might help if you're trying to figure out how to fit this massive, over-zealous garden of ours into a smaller space..... I just figured out how to link it in the side bar--so the charts are in the Gardening Resources!


Don't forget to label your posts! Then we can find them more easily later on. I tagged a few of my older ones--feel free to create your own or use a label already in use (they're in the right margin).

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Neat site on how much to plant.

I forget how I found this site (clicking through links from one site to another, I presume), but it has some interesting information on what you would want to plant to feed a family of 4 for each type of plant. I know we were discussing not knowing how much our garden would produce and how to make sure we plant enough to not only feed us through the summer but to also put up via freezing or canning if possible. Anyway, I thought it was interesting, and hopefully not a re-post of something!

Hume Seeds

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

More thinking - on bugs

(I'll edit as I come across more info and have more time)

Ants - cornmeal works good at getting rid of them. It's safe for kids and pets too. Sprinkle liberally around the nest if you know where it is - or around problem areas. I've heard that tansy works well too (planting around your garden or sprigs placed in cabinets), but I think it may be poisonous - so if you have little ones or pets you'll want to do a bit more research on that before using or growing tansy. I think it's also invasive, so if you do plant it - probably best to do in pots.

Cutworms - are these a problem in TN? I read that you can put little sticks (like toothpicks or twigs) around your seedlings. I got to thinking - why not toilet paper tubes that are trimmed down? Certainly not in short supply around here, and likely to break down with relative ease.

Nematodes - I've heard that planting marigolds and nasturtiums help with these little buggers. Especially around your tomatoes.

Thinking about companion planting...

I'm considering picking up some corn. I'd love to get the colored kernels that you can make into popcorn so that it doubles for neat Christmas gifts, but we'll see... At any rate, I've been doing some reading on companion planting. The Native Americans used to do what they call the "Three Sisters" planting - planting members of the corn/bean/squash families together.

Apparently, you form a hill. In the very middle you would plant corn. Then, around the middle of the hill, you would plant the beans; and at the bottom of the hill you would plant your squash. The sister plants are: corn, beans, peas, sunflowers, white potatoes, squash, melons, cucumbers, and pumpkins.

Okay, so I know we have some sunflowers already, and I have spots picked for those so I'll probably just throw some beans/peas and squash in with them. I just mainly wanted an excuse to add some corn to my plan. LOL.

Can anyone help me with ideas for how to plant my herbs? I know some are invasive - but if they are planted with other herbs, does that mean they will eventually overtake the others as well? I have a place in the front yard by my mailbox/driveway that I'd love to use for a giant herb bed - so I'd love to know what would be a good way to plant the herbs for maximum capacity/usage. It's a wide-rounded pie shape if that helps...

Oh yeah - still looking for ideas on how to box in my big garden area. Anyone ever use landscape rock? I'm thinking that maybe with some hunting around, I may be able to find some decent rocks to use for this...

Oh - I just read that Larkspur companions with beans and cabbage!

Welcome, Sara!

Fellow composters and pitchfork-wielding ladies, we have a new member: Sara J! Welcome, Sara, to our very incomplete online gardening journal! Maybe Sara can help us out with her advanced plant knowledge (anyone growing poplars?).  

My garden right now is growing a bumper crop of random spring onions (wild ones), some unidentified weed, and miscellaneous leaf litter. Hmmm... time to get to work. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Canning Jars

Just a reminder to save all canning jar possibilities. If you want to actually can/seal things, I think you have to have jars that will fit the canning jar lids/seals. If you're just pickling stuff, you can get away with just about anything!

Local honey (at Pratt's and, eventually, the Fruit and Berry Patch) comes in canning jars. Peanut butter often comes in glass jars. Of course, pickles and things come in those jars, too! I bought a bunch of quart canning jars last year to store grains and beans in (the bugs can't get into them that way). I'm now trying to use up some of those supplies so I can use the jars!

You can also use quart jars to make yogurt in. Mmmm....

Any other uses, ladies? I'm gathering quite a collection of "trash" (I prefer to think of it as possible planters, canning jars, food preservation containers, and the like). I'm glad I have a basement, even if it is more radon risk :).

Today's gardening task: compost (if hubby is amenable) and transplanting seedlings (herbs, broccoli, peppers, tomatoes, etc.) into bigger pots (i.e. yogurt containers, cottage cheese containers, etc.). We'll see if it all gets done! The transplanting might be saved until a rainy day (i.e. tomorrow (sigh)).


Pratt's has herbs for $1.99--some varieties we haven't planted by seed: variegated oregano, variegated mint, variegated sage for instance. I bought a couple--they'll be so pretty next to the darker green ones! They have great, healthy plants, and I've always had really good luck with them (that's where all my herbs have come from). 

New Look

I changed our template/look--thought the old one was a bit hard to read after a while. Any other thoughts? Whenever we have time, we can browse through the myriad free templates/looks out there, but that's for another time....

Monday, March 9, 2009

Nature's Best Organics

Katie and I've been discussing this possible compost source for our gardens (while our own compost piles are working hard to get ready). It turns out that they sell their products to local retailers, so I'm including a link below if you're interested in trying out their products (I think this is what I'm going to do, partly because Hall Nursery (in Halls) is just up the road from us). Shamrock Organics (which I've had a hard time finding info on) and Natural Resources Recovery (which produces Nature's Best) are the two sites that kept coming up as good sources for Knoxville folk. It appears they're a step up in quality from Lowe's. Hines Fine Soil was mentioned, but most seemed not to like this place much. I don't know what the pricing is like--I may be in sticker shock after I call the nursery and hope that my bare dirt can suffice!

Anyone else have any thoughts in this area? I'm going to try to get some pea seeds in the ground. Can we put broccoli and the greens in the ground yet? I have some broccoli seedlings which I'm pretty excited about. I also have parsley coming up like crazy, some greens, and some tomato seedlings (all in our basement).

Gotta run! Hoping to take advantage of today's GORGEOUS weather.

Our snow peas came in the mail this weekend--I forgot to bring them to church, but if you want them before next week I can get them to you!

Sunday, February 22, 2009


I always feel a wee bit like a new parent again when my seeds sprout or my plants produce their first fruit. And, we have lots of little sprouts! When I get a chance, I'll post a picture. I'm not exactly sure what's sprouting--there are some in both trays. I'm pretty sure some parsley has sprouted and some peppers (it's going to be a challenge to keep these peppers going until they can be put in the ground!!!). So, let's see... that means the peppers (I think) sprouted in less than a week. Same for about half the herbs. No tomatoes, greens, cabbages, etc. yet. Speaking of cabbages, we haven't actually gotten our regular ol' green cabbage seeds yet. Better hurry!

Next project for me: getting that garden ready so I can plant cold weather stuff! We have a bit of work to do (compost, digging, bean/pea teepees...). Thanks, Katie, for the tip about letting peas climb up branches! 

Garden Dreaming

I am laughing that our fine editor-in chief, Mrs. Betsy, has listed me as a gardener with "lots of experience" ! If I happen to have any more experience than any of these ladies it is merely because I am the only one with a significant collection of gray hair and an age that is dangerously close to having a "4" as the first digit! Anyway, I am thrilled to be able to record our gardening journey this season and share what I am learning.

This February afternoon finds me stuck in the "reading, planning, dying for spring to arrive" stage of gardening. I have been intending to buy supplies to get our seeds started, but regular life just keeps happening all around me! As I have been able to create a spare moment I have been reading garden encyclopedias and books and jotting down notes to help in my planning (when to sow indoors, when to plant outdoors, companion planting, and so on). Our biggest challenge is that we are living right smack in the middle of a city and have very little sunlight. Last year I had several little garden patches scattered around the yard. I believe this will continue to be our only option, so I am having to plan carefully. I am also trying to aim for continuous crops this year and am attempting to take careful notes about which plants need new seeds sown every 10 days, which ones we should plant early-summer/mid-summer/ late-summer and so on. My focus is always on producing the foods we eat the most of: peppers, zucchini, tomatoes, cucumbers, and as many greens ( Swiss chard, spinach and lettuce) as I can possibly fit in our garden spaces! * Although I miss my herb garden dearly, I am trying to limit my herbs to window sills and containers so the sunny ground can be used for produce.
The book pictured about is one of my recent reads. It is packed with interesting and educational material. Although our family of 7 consumes everything our tiny garden produces, it gave me lots of ideas about storing locally grown summer produce. I highly recommend it! And now, regular life is calling again...happy garden planning to you!
* As an aside, this year I was able to keep Swiss chard going nearly all year round. I love my daily green smoothies and being able to go out and pick my own greens ( and organic greens at that!) was a huge money saver. Next fall/winter I am going to try some kale as well.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Free Green Onions!

Here's a potential way to get free green onions! Worth a try!

Harvesting Tomato Seeds

Here's something to think about this summer if/when we can't use all of our (hoped-for) tomatoes: letting tomatoes rot for seed.

Monday, February 16, 2009


Well - I haven't started anything yet! I feel behind already! LOL!

I was looking around outside, and I think I'll have a lot more work to do than I originally planned. I also need to get some tools!

I think I will plant the things that definitely need started indoors to thrive the most - tomatoes, peppers, broccoli - those are things that I've had the best results with when starting indoors. The majority may need to be started from seed this year. I just don't know where to start my plants that will be safe from little exploring hands!

I did take some pics around the house to get a good idea of the sun-fall on the property. I also took some close ups of a few plants that I am unsure what they are. I may have to make a trip to a nursery and get some idea of what they may be and what I can plant near them. Part of me wants to ask the landlord if I can just rip out all the bushes and start my own project - lol. But, that's probably being very ridiculous when you aren't planning to stay in a particular place for years and years! (it's tempting though...)

I also discovered that in one of my front beds, I have a lot of ivy growing (which just looks like a mess), and there are some flowers poking through amongst the ivy and bushes. I am unsure what they are yet - but almost look like they may be tulips. No actual flower buds yet, so I'll have to wait and see!

I've also discovered some things for later - when we actually have a house of our own. I think I love lilies the most. I found one that I've decided will be a must have in our future garden - it's called the fire lily.

Makes me want to paint - lol! I am very excited about planting all the flowers this year as well. I can't wait to have fresh cut flowers in our house! I know I will completely over do it this year - but I will love it! Even David seems to be excited about the prospect of my gardening!

I think I will review that seed guide and force myself to get some things started by the end of the week. I'm just going to have to do it!


Looks like we can/should start most of our flower seeds in the next couple of weeks! 

We should also be starting tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, etc. in the next couple of weeks (indoor), as well as prepping soil for peas, greens/lettuces, cabbages outside! 

Any tips?

I'm going to start cabbage, broccoli, bok choy inside. I think I'm just going to do greens/lettuces/spinach outside with the peas--any thoughts?

My basement is going to look like a greenhouse! I don't know if I have enough little Jiffy pots for all the seeds we have. I'm going to try to have a tray that can be reused: plant it with cold season stuff, move the cold season stuff out, then start basil and other later starting seeds. I suppose we'll be transplanting seedlings to bigger cups and then I can put new little pots in.... Hmm... I'm feeling overwhelmed and I haven't even started digging yet!!!! 

Herb Seeds Begun--February 16

Well, I planted most of my herb seeds today! According to a new site I discovered, dill doesn't transplant well, so I didn't start that today. I'm also waiting to start my basil from info I wrote down (can't remember from where!): it said start basil 2-3 weeks before FFD. So, here's the line-up in my Jiffy tray: parsley (2 rows of 6), cilantro (1 row of 6), chives (1 row of 6), thyme (1 row of 6), lavender (1 row of 6), savory (2 rows of 6), sage (1 row of 6), marjoram (2 rows of 6), and peppermint (1 row of ?? super tiny seeds, so not quite sure). I did 2-3 seeds per Jiffy pot. 

Most will go in the garden--both to eat and to help be good companion plants. I'm thinking of using the excess as plants elsewhere in the backyard--especially along back fence. If all grow well, I'll have excess marjoram, lavender, and thyme. The others will be interplanted with beans and tomatoes mostly. These will be ideal plants for our backyard: they aren't poisonous to kids, have pretty flowers, and can always be eaten! So, I've officially begun my gardening adventure this year and gotten my fingers dirty. Anyone else planted anything yet?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Flail? Winnow?

I did a quick peruse of a new seed-saving site today after our discussion of saving seeds for next year (since we had so much fun sharing seeds today!). Well, girls, it looks like another work day:

PROCESS: Small amounts of pods can be opened by hand. Flail larger amounts. Remove large chaff by hand or fork. Winnow remaining particles.

That's a direct quotation for the section on beans. I laughed... there's another work day for us in the fall. I'm sure our kids would love a chance to flail something....

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Red Wheelbarrows

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

(William Carlos Williams)

Wouldn't it be great to have kid-sized wheelbarrows, too? I covet, but will stick with my Dollar Tree, neon plastic variety....

Gardening with Toddlers

Since we all have kids who love to dig in the dirt as much as their mothers, we're in the process of raising future gardeners! Here are some of my favorite toddler tools for gardening-alongside-Mommy: Small Garden Hand Tools. You can get them through this link, or you can get them (cheaper) at Lowe's. They're made of metal and wood, so they look, feel, and operate much like Mommy's! My kids also like using heavy plastic trowels, toy rakes, and the like. Lowe's has a nice little selection of bigger tools like hoes, shovels, and rakes that are sized for younger elementary aged kids.