“It seems like gardeners are never happy,” my husband commented a number of years ago, “Either it’s too hot or it’s too cold, too much rain or not enough. I thought gardening was supposed to be fun.”
Now I knew he wasn’t talking about gardeners in general, he only knows one.
He meant me.
And it struck me funny because I always thought I was a glass half full kind of person. Something had changed, and I decided right then to change it back.
When I went out to the garden I noticed how serious it looked.
There were no whirligigs, no gnomes, no smiles. So I began to add them.
Okay, I will admit, the gnomes got out of hand.
One thing I did was to make the planter shown above, affectionately known as The Pot Head.
So this year I will not complain about the fact that it was our second worst growing season ever.
Instead, I will enjoy our best pear crop of all time, fry the green tomatoes, and smile when I see the celery transplanted in The Pot Head and brought indoors to continue its growth.
And you know what?
When you do that with gardening, it infuses the rest of your life as well.
You really can grow a better way of livingÂ life.
And if you look at it the right way, you’ll seeÂ it in every seed packet.
You Can Grow That! is a collaborative effort from gardeners around the globe to help spread the word about the joys of gardening.
Click on the link above for more posts and Garden On!
A pumpkin is a pumpkin, right?
Well yes, and no.
That is, some pumpkins lend themselves better for decorating, and others for pies. So, which is which?
The best way to tell that is either through your own or a neighbor’s experience. The second best way is by reading the descriptions on seed packets.
And then, some pumpkins tell you straight out through their name.
For example: Jack O’ Lantern, Jack Be Little and Baby Boo are all good pumpkins to grow for decoration.
The first is a typical carving pumpkin shape with a nice thick skin that lends itself well to being carved. The other two are smaller, with the Baby Boo being a cute white pumpkin. Kids just love those.
On the other hand you have names such as Small Sugar and Sugar Pie. Yep, the flesh of these varieties is sweeter than most and perfect for baking.
Of course there is crossover; you can certainly eat the flesh of carving pumpkins. If you want a dual purpose veggie, the Jack O’ Lantern does both jobs well.
And we don’t want to leave out pumpkins grown primarily for their size.
The most common examples of this are the varieties Atlantic Giant and Big Max. Even if you’re not looking to break any records or enter the local fair, you can still get impressive looking pumpkins with these seeds.
Whatever variety you choose, be sure to give them plenty of room, frequent fertilizer, and a lot of water. Pumpkins should be planted after the temperatures are steadily above 70F. and take in the neighborhood of 3-4 months to grow.
All of the seeds mentioned can be found by clicking the links to the left.
If you have the space to grow vertically, grape vines are an attractive and easy to manage plant. Here’s more on that.
But on to the homemade grape juice:
1. Add 1/2 cup clean stemmed grapes per pint or 1 cup per quart to clean, hot canning jars.
2. Simmer a ratio or 1/2-1 cup sugar to 4 cups water for five minutes, add to the jars allowing only 1/4″ head space.
3. Add the 2 piece bands and lids to wiped rims, to be processed for 15 minutes in a hot water bath canner.
That’s it, could it be any easier?
If you let the sealed jars sit for a few weeks or so, you’ll see the color get slightly darker and the juice will have a better flavor.
We use a martini strainer when we open a jar to transfer the juice to another container.
It seems appropriate to launch a new series with the last of something from the garden.
Our final Sugar Baby Watermelon of the season was harvested a wee bit late, but still oh so sweet.Â This single fruit was plenty for the two of us, and we could have shared as well.
A small melon comparatively, we like it not only for the flavor but for the compactness that allows for container growing.
If you follow the first link, we talk about that some more.
We did start this early indoors and began getting fruit that much sooner. Anything to push the season makes us happy.
So we’re going to hook you up:
Have you ever grown Sugar Babies?
Or fruit, for that matter.
If you are new to growing food, you will find that what you harvest doesn’t necessarily look like what you see at the grocery store.
The reason is simple: Produce that doesn’t meet the standards of appearance that grocery chains look for gets tossed. Yep, wasted; and they were otherwise perfectly good.
There’s something called the 5×6 tomato. That’s simply a fruit that can be packed and shipped in standard boxes for that purpose. Nutrition and taste mean nothing, it’s all about size and trransportation.
Carrots are probably the most likely to vary in appearance from the store norm. The slightest pebble in the soil and these roots will change direction. Often they will grow multiple roots on one stem, or push their tops out of the soil.
It is quite common and there is nothing wrong other than how they look. They are perfectly safe to eat.
Potatoes, like the little monster shown above, will also vary in shape. We’ve seen many a Mr. Potato Head picture posted by other gardeners.
Again, regardless of shape, they are completely safe. The only exception is if a potato pushes out of the soil and turns green, Don’t eat them.
Have you ever seen a tomato with a nose? Yes, these fruit can grow funky as well.
If you harvest oddly shaped food from your garden, take a good picture and have a laugh. Then go ahead and eat it.
Here’s an interesting story on how one French supermarket chain is reducing food waste by selling oddly shaped fruit and veggies.
Wouldn’t it be great to do this here? In the meantime, spread the word on how everyone can grow their own food by sharing our posts.
Thanks and Garden On!
I would like to introduce you to two companies I love so much that I joined their affiliate program.
To your left you will see links for the Seeds of the Month Club, and Seeds Now.
Here’s why I like them:
Mike the Gardener’s Seeds of the Month Club gives you the opportunity to build your seed supply without spending a lot of money. They often send varieties of veggies, herbs and even flowers that you & I may not have thought to try otherwise.
A trial membership is just under $10 and gives you 16 packs of seeds. Shipping is included.
Since they are either heirloom or open pollinated seeds, you can save from the plants you like for the following year.
I must admit that at times like now, when the garden is winding down and no local stores have seeds in stock, getting that monthly envelope of surprises helps me plan for next year as well as make it through the winter’s seed withdrawal. I call it Methadone by Mail.
Similarly, Seeds Now offers something I love: 99 cent Sampler Packs.
Even for someone like me, who has been around the gardening block so to speak, choosing these smaller and less expensive seeds allows me to try new things without having to spend $2.50-$5.00 per pack. Since they are also heirloom or open pollinated, I only need a few seeds to start a good supply.
And if I don’t like the variety, eeehh. No harm done.
Seeds Now often offers free shipping and discounts.
As I mentioned I became an affiliate of these companies.
What that means is that should you decide you want to buy some seeds or join Mike’s club, if you click on the link to your left first, I get a commission that can help support the blog.
Sort of like selling Avon, except you come to my door. ðŸ˜‰
I’ve been blogging here sine 2009.
No Google Ad sense.
No Amazon or other affiliate program.
I waited until I found companies I was willing to put my name with;
two that I have had real contact with and use their seeds.
I wouldn’t give you anything less.
Our roadside gardens become completely inaccessible in the winter for us, mainly because they sit atop a small hill that can become dangerous when the wintry weather hits.
In these areas we do not attempt to push the season, but rather just make starting again when spring comes a little easier. Of course, this comes down mainly to weed prevention, and that’s what is taking place in the photo above.
The two main ways to do this are:
1. Plant a cover crop.
We have most often seen this on farms, particularly corn fields. Often these farmers will plant a nitrogen producing cover crop, something from the legume family.
We have never tried this method mainly because we prefer not to roto-till our garden beds, and a cover crop would really need to be tilled in. On the plus side cover crops have a number of other benefits.
2. Cover the garden.
You can use any number of things to do this. Some gardeners use black plastic, which has the added benefit of warming the soil faster in the spring.
Others mulch heavily with straw. Just note that this can attract critters that you probably don’t want in your garden, like rabbits and voles. The plus side is you can just move the straw aside to plant, and you already have next season’s weed protection in place.
We have also tried layers of newspaper, when we had access to a lot for free. We currently can easily get our hands on used cardboard boxes, which we have found to be the easiest material to use.
Cardboard covers more area, making the task much faster to complete. Of course, you will need a way to dispose of them or reuse them in the spring. We have found they work great the following season and even the year afterÂ in the pathways. Just be careful as they can become slippery when wet.
What’s your favorite way to prevent weeds?
“Just like that,” he said, “and it’s Fall.”
It was onlyÂ a week ago we still had the AC on, and now our overnight temperatures are quickly approaching the 40’s. Fall can come fast in the Northeast.
But that doesn’t stop the gardening of course.
Today we are moving a planter tomato and an eggplant into the greenhouse. There they will join cucumbers, carrots, spinach and one each winter and summer squash. The peas should be up within a few days, and the heater is ready to go.
In The Jones’ Garden SystemÂ the vining crops will get their final harvest and all four sides plus top will be covered in clear plastic to keep things warmer. This still gives us time, about an extra 3 weeks, to plant more fall crops such as beets, greens, more peas and carrots. The indeterminate tomatoes will keep on producing for a while, past the frost and into October.
This is very good news for us, as this year was one of the worst we have ever seen for the much desired tomato, and without a way to extend the season, our crop would be really sad.
Our intention is to see how far into the cold weather we can keep going. Of course, we’ll share that info with you.
But probably not the tomatoes.
There’s a lot of money in the seed business. My husband saysÂ I have played a major part in that area. ðŸ˜‰
In the long run though, I prefer to save money where I can by saving seeds. Here are a few things I have learned:
- Save only seeds from heirloom or open-pollinated plants. Forget GMO (genetically engineered) you can’t buy those seeds. Hybrid plants are wonderful, but saving the seeds from them could prove problematic. If you like a challenge, though, go for it.
- Think outside the seed packet to start. Dry beans, unroasted peanuts and sunflower seeds, and some fresh veggies can give you food and seeds as well. Most of our dry beans came from seeds we first bought as ‘soup beans‘. Man, they were cheap and have kept us in seeds for years. Learn more hereÂ (turn down your sound).
- Learn how to save the more temperamental seeds like tomato and cucumber. Once you do it a few times, you’ll be a pro.
- Also learn about cross pollination. If you live in a suburban setting, you may need to protect a plant or two from getting pollen from another plant. Note that only plants of the same species can cross. Your cukes are safe from your melons. Here’s more on squash cross pollination.
- Pick the best of the best for saving seeds. That perfect tomato, theÂ ideal pumpkin. Save those seeds. Ever hear the story of The Mortgage Lifter tomato? Choose the biggest zucchini, for example. Let it get good and ripe, then harvest the seeds.
- And finally, if you are giving them as gifts, choose or make a nice package. You can purchase ours, or make your own. We used a rubber stamp and permanent ink on ‘coin’ size envelopes, then hand finished with colored water pencils and oil pencils. Tuck them in with a few jars of your home canned goodness, and you have gift giving all wrapped up!
The expression “doesn’t see the forest for the trees” refers to a person who is so caught up in details that they are missing the overall picture.
As gardeners, we sometimes do the opposite.
There is so much detail happening in the garden, and too often we miss it.
So today I’m going to share a simple sunflower with you; and show how really not simple it is.
In the picture above, did you notice the yellow pollen on the leaf?
How about the sheer beauty of the seed head?
Of course, you probably did notice the bee.
I couldn’t get a close up of it, but I did find this happening on the back of the flower.
Can you see them? Click on the picture for a better look.
If you want to improve your eye for detail, exercise it.
That’s right, get a camera.
The lens will pick up details you may have missed; and soon you’ll be seeing them quicker on your own.
This can make your whole gardening experience, and life actually, that much richer.