Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sheet Composting Benefits the Soil

This is a method I've tried before --successfully-- and wanted to share it with you. Let me know if you're going to give it a try.

Monday, May 9, 2011

T Is for Tomatoes

Home grown tomatoes

If I had to choose just one plant to grow in my garden, the tomato would win hands-down. Nothing says summertime to me like home grown tomatoes.

Those pinkish to red colored globes supermarkets sell during the winter resemble their summer counterparts for the most part, but once you slice into them, all bets are off. The insides of hot house tomatoes are frequently light pink to white and the texture is mealy or hard. If you've only eaten hot house tomatoes and decided fresh tomatoes aren't for you, I completely understand.

Visit your local farmer's markets to try field-grown tomatoes in season, or better still, grow your own. There is nothing to compare to the flavor, texture, and juiciness of a freshly-picked, home grown tomato. In my mind, it is a food of the gods.

I've planted three varieties of tomatoes in this year's garden: Early Girl, Rutgers and Better Boy. I'm also planning to plant some San Marzano tomatoes--they are the preferred by many chefs for making tomato paste and sauce because of their meatiness. The other three varieties that I've planted are good eating/slicing tomatoes and can also be used in various ways.

What tomato varieties have you grown or experimented with? Do you have any tips on canning or preservation that a newbie like myself could learn from?

Picture Credit: Kenneth Allen; Wikimedia Commons

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Unicorn in My Garden

When I am in the garden, I feel as if I am in a world of my own. I'm able to let go of the concerns of the day and enjoy my time outdoors. My imagination runs free and all sorts of silly, happy thoughts come to visit.

What if a unicorn came to my garden? Would I be frightened? Likely not. We have horses, and unicorns must be somewhat like horses. Would the unicorn stay while I tended the garden? Maybe if I didn't frighten him on his first visit, he would return again.

Is it a secret I would keep, just between him and I? I think so; unicorns are magical creatures. Talking about them aloud to others probably ruins the magic. Besides, no one would believe me. Other people would say I had been out in the sun too long.

But there is magic in the garden. You can feel it when the first sprouts peek up from the ground. There's life there, where there had been none. A garden is filled with possibilities, even of spotting a unicorn.

Friday, May 6, 2011

V Is for Victory Garden

During World War II, American citizens were urged to grow their own produce--vegetables, fruits and herbs. The government's reasoning for this was to decrease the demand on the public food supply.

The engagement of so many American men in the war effort decreased both the labor and transportation markets. Not only was it difficult to harvest produce in the fields; it was equally difficult to process and ship produce to national markets. There were rations on food items such as sugar, dairy products, eggs, meat and canned goods.

Americans at home were encouraged to grow a garden, whether living in rural or urban areas. And grow gardens they did; 20 million Americans responded by growing their own food in their victory gardens. Part of the positive response was due to need on the part of the citizens, but many also felt it their patriotic duty to support the war effort at home.

Today, victory gardens have taken on a new meaning. Victory over high food prices, victory over the quality of taste and nutrition, and victory over chemical pesticide and herbicide use on produce. I've planted my garden this year for all of these reasons, but my real victory will be in watching my garden plants grow and harvesting their bounty.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

W Is for Watering

With the exception of a xeriscape garden, flower and vegetable gardens need adequate water to not only produce their best, but to prevent wilting and withering altogether. In reading gardening forums and from personal experience, I've found that drip irrigation/watering is the preferred method for providing moisture to your garden.

Drip systems and soaker hoses allow water to be slowly provided to the plants and earth. This watering system allows the water to slowly soak into the ground, so no wasting of the precious liquid in puddles or run-off. A drip/soak system ensures that there is minimal evaporation of water, so more of it it available for your plants.

Another benefit of watering at the base of the plants is the avoidance of wetting plant leaves, so there's less danger for leaf disease.

Whether you're paying for city/county water or watering from a well, the drip/soak systems make the most efficient use of water resources.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Compost: A Green Practice that is Good for Your Garden

Compost: A Green Practice that is Good for Your Garden


A gardening blog is a tough place to find an "X" word for the Z to A in May Blogging Challenge in which I am participating, but I think I've found my word. Xerophytic. The word is an adjective meaning something is able to withstand drought.

Given the drought conditions here in central Oklahoma that is only slowly improving, I hope that my vegetables prove to be xerophytic. Not that I won't be watering them when necessary, but there's nothing like a long, quenching rain to see the lawn, flowers and veggies perk up in a way that watering doesn't seem to bring.

I've not read any science on the matter, but through observation I've noticed that electrical storms seem to inspire growth in outdoor plants. Have you ever noticed this, or do I have an overactive imagination?

Monday, May 2, 2011

You're Really Going to Do This?

I am a procrastinator and a dreamer; those two attributes sometimes cause those near and dear to me to doubt the veracity of my statements. I found this to be true when I made up my mind to put in a vegetable garden this year.

People listened to my plans and nodded their heads in agreement, but I could tell it was only half-hearted. I can't blame them; I've wanted to do things in the past and never got past the talking-about-it stage.

This year was different. I enjoy being creative and gardening allows me to fill that pleasure. Prices of fresh produce are high at times; growing my own would allow me to save some money overall. Home grown, freshly-picked vegetables provide the best taste and highest levels of nutrition. In growing my own produce, I can control what chemicals are or are not used.

Yep, I had all those reasons, and still the people said, "You're really going to do this?"

It wasn't until I had dirt under my fingernails and rows of seeds planted that these doubting Thomases really believed I was going through with my project.

Did I say I was going to save money? I did forget about the start-up costs of getting some basic equipment to work and water the garden. Maybe I'll learn to can some of the garden goodies--wonder how much those supplies cost? And a food dehydrator--I want one of those, too.

Okay, well home grown, freshly picked produce has the best taste and...

My Place of Zen

Many of us look for ways to manage the stress brought about by daily life. In planting my vegetable garden, I have found a place where I can leave my daily concerns behind me. My garden is my place of zen--of peace and serenity.

Which is not to say that having a garden, whether it be vegetable or flower, is not work--but then I don't necessarily believe you can only achieve serenity by being still. Taking care of a garden is a daily task, but a pleasant one.

Even a vegetable garden is creative. You get to choose what you want to plant and where. You can have rows, you can plant on trellises, in containers--there's lots of possibilities. Your method of weed and pest control is specific to your needs. You water when you see fit.

And best of all, you can watch something that you put into the ground as a small seed emerge from the ground. It was fascinating to me as a child and it remains fascinating to me to this day.

While your busy tending to the needs of your garden, you are free to let your mind wander. Sure, you could take the concerns of life to the garden with you, but why? What will be accomplished by doing so? Isn't it refreshing to take this break with nature and enjoy the sights, sounds and scents around you?

I hope you find a little bit of zen in each of your days.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Zucchini: A Summer Squash

If you've ever grown zucchini, you know the trick isn't so much in getting it to grow as it is making use of all the zucchini your garden produces. I've learned from past gardens that a couple mounds of zucchini produces plenty of this fruit for my family's use and enough to share, too.

This video from the Garden Guru discusses a problem some gardeners have with zucchini, which is the squash yellowing and rotting before ever turning green. According to the Garden Guru, this is an issue of the plants' flowers not being pollinated. The video shows you how to do it yourself. It's a simple procedure that doesn't require more than a few minutes, especially after you've done it a few times.

Zucchini, like tomatoes, is not actually a vegetable, but a fruit.

Friday, April 29, 2011

You're Planting a Vegetable Garden?

Maybe you've had it happen to you, too. Friends and family members learn you are planting a vegetable garden. And since you are, would you mind planting some____ for me?

I am as neighborly as the next person, but it raises my hackles to be asked this. The way I've handled it so far this time around is that if the requested veggie is something I was planning to plant anyway, I respond with, "That's already in the ground. When it's time to pick it, I'll give you a call."

"Oh," is usually the first comeback response..

And my full intention is to notify that person after I've harvested what I need for my family. After all, that was one of the biggest reasons I planted a garden in the first place.

If the vegetable is something I haven't yet planted, but also would enjoy it as much as the person requesting it,, I'll go ahead a plant a little, space providing. I enjoy variety in my vegetable garden and sharing extra with others feels like the right thing to do to me.

Do you plant extra when planning your vegetable garden? If so, what will you do with the extras?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

X Is for Excited About My Emerging Plants

Yes, I've cheated a bit on the alphabet challenge by using a word that only begins with the "x" sound, but I really wanted to share my excitement at finding two of the vegetables I planted from seed starting to sprout from the ground.

Even though I watered the seeds after planting them, nothing emerged from the ground until after the rain--at least nothing I was hoping that would grow. Yesterday I found my "Early Girl" tomato seeds had sprouted and today I was pleased to find my green pea seeds pushing up through the earth.

In addition to not having had a vegetable garden for a number of years, I am working on a shoe-string budget. I know what the experts recommend and I know what I money I have available to spend. I'm hoping I can creatively solve the most necessary of concerns.

Have you begun to see success with your plantings this season?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Tomatoes for Health, Nutrition and Flavor

Tomatoes for Health, Nutrition and Flavor: "http://hubpages.com/hub/Tomatoes-for-Health-Nutrition-and-Flavor"

W Is for Wagon

My little wagon, or perhaps more correctly, cart, has been a Godsend in helping me minimize trips to and from the shed and garden for needed tools and supplies. A family member had been ready to pitch the little green gem when I rescued it.

The cart holds much more than a wheelbarrow can and have to say it is also easier to navigate. I use it to peruse the yard for sticks and debris than need cleaned up, for moving objects too heavy to carry by hand, and for my gardening needs.

Maybe I should spruce it up with a new coat of paint, but then I'd feel like I needed to use it more gingerly so as not to mar its beauty. Nah, I think I like it just the way it is.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Composting: Good for Your Garden

Read article here.

V Is for the Vegetables I've Planted

If you garden, you know the difficulty in choosing what you will and will not plant. Everything looks so darn enticing in the seed books and catalogs. I almost succumbed to the temptation to plant eggplant--just because that purple-black color is so attractive. But no one who eats at my house eats eggplant. I'm just going to have to enjoy looking at pictures of them.

As I talk to other gardeners, I listen to their lists of vegetables planted. I begin second-guessing myself. Maybe I should have put in some white potatoes or not decided to wait on greens until fall. Then I remember that gardening isn't a competition--and if it is, it's not with other gardeners but with the elements.

Of all that I have planted, the tomatoes hold the most interest for me. It just isn't summer without homegrown tomatoes. Or fried green tomatoes. Lots of other vegetables will be growing, but I will consider this gardening year successful if I have a bumper crop of tomatoes.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Gardening in Earnest

Ah blog, I have forsaken you--but not my garden. Have planted seeds for pole green beans, peas, three types of tomatoes, two types of pepper, cantelope, cucumber, beets, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts and broccoli. Also planted three garlic cloves. All this went into the ground around April 17.

Then I waited for the rain, as did farmers and gardeners throughout my area. The newspaper reported that we were in the worst 4 month drought since the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. Just my luck.

I've been watering the garden daily, but so far I haven't seen any green sprouts. Today, Easter, our area was blessed with rainfall. It rained through the night and much of the day. It was wonderful. I'll be keeping an eye on my plantings much closer now; the real thing--rain--just has to be what the sprouts have been waiting for.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Breaking Ground

I had no idea that getting the plot ready to plant would be such a frustrating endeavor. Without a rototiller, it seems that I am only left with the option to shovel up what I need to use. Far easier said than done; have tried to use the shovel, but cannot penetrate deeper than two inches. The ground is as hard as if elephants had pastured there.

I am not giving up, but see that this will be a slow-but-sure process. To the steady goes the race, right?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Finding a way to get the garden plot tilled/shoveled is beginning to be a headache. If finances weren't an issue, I am sure there would be many solutions at my disposal. I've considered raised plots as an alternative, but making them and having dirt hauled in isn't an inexpensive proposition.

I purchased seeds and plants for a few of the cool weather crops today. Tomorrow I am going outside and am determined to at least find the space for these veggies.

Bought some compost to add to the soil for the planting portion.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Time to Get Started

My project for this year will be a backyard garden. Haven't gardened in many years, so it's pretty much like starting from scratch. I already have gardener's fever and haven't turned over a shovel-full of soil.

Have spent the last week reading information from the Oklahoma County Cooperative Extension Office to educate myself. At this point, I am on system overload, so it's time to go outside and get this thing started.

My first order of business is to get the soil tilled. I'm fortunate that a neighbor has a new tiller he is excited to try out. I'm happy to let my 20x35 foot plot be his guinea pig. One thing at a time, but I know the next step will be some organic soil amendments. I'm still checking out my options, but thinking peat moss will be at least part of the plan.

Compost would be the best choice, but unfortunately I did not have the foresight to begin a compost pile last summer. My plan is to put a simple one together so I won't face the same problem next year.

Maybe you're a first-time gardener, or re-beginner like me--or maybe you're an old hand at this. No matter your level of expertise, I hope you'll follow my journey and add some tips or suggestions along the way. I'm looking at this first garden as a learning experience, but of course, hoping for the best too.