The Gardener and the Cook

The Gardener and the Cook

Now that we are no longer in the restaurant and catering business, Mandolin and I have found we have more time for the things we like to do best; namely gardening, cooking, and playing music.

Our involvement with social media has shown us that there are many people just learning to grow their own food, which of course makes us happy. What makes us sad is the disconnect with our food that we have also seen. A lot of people simply don’t know what to do with what they are growing, or even how it grows. We were surprised a lot ourselves way back when, we understand.

So it seemed a no-brainer to us that we should share what we know on both subjects, which we have been doing here and on our food blog.

We decided to take it a step further, and put this into book form. This way the beginning gardener can have the most important information right at their fingertips. No need to get online and look things up, it’s all in the book.

Included are how to’s for over 40 of the most common veggies, with tips and techniques to help make the whole process more successful.

To that we added more than 100 of our own recipes that focus on what you grow, and numerous pictures to help show you what your veggies and some of the dishes should look like.

This really is a work of heart. I’ll be honest and tell you our royalties for a book sold on Amazon are $1.06. Of course, that does help cover the cost of maintaining the blog, but it isn’t the reason for writing the book.

Y’all are. You, if you are new to gardening and/or cooking, or someone you may know. For that reason we would appreciate it if you would help us spread the word, by sharing this link.

Happy Cooking and Garden On!
~ The Joneses
Find it:
Direct from the publisher
On Amazon

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Categories: Addiction, book & film reviews, How to Grow

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Confession #27 The Christmas Tree Killer

indoor trees

A Forever Christmas Tree

It was two Christmases ago that we decided to pare back the decorations in the house. With that in mind, we also thought it would be great to have a forever Christmas tree, rather than buying a fresh one each year.

Not wanting a fake tree, we decided to pick up a little Norfolk Island Pine tree instead. They are great for growing indoors. We found a nice selection at a local big box store early in December, all sparkly and ready for decorating. They were small but we knew it would not take long until we had a nice size tree that we would never need to replace.

Or so we thought.

The poor thing barely made it through Christmas, let alone the new year. Mandolin suggested we buy a fake tree on sale, but I refused to give up so easily.

And so I doomed myself to repeat killing a tree the following year. This second one held on a wee bit longer. I repotted it and fed it, but it was obvious by Christmas day it was not long for this world.

Admittedly I am not great with houseplants, but I can keep them alive longer than just a few weeks.

We stopped in the same store yesterday, and as we happened by the tree display I commented “Should we buy another tree to kill?”

Just as Mandolin opened his mouth to respond, a woman standing nearby said “I’ve had one of those in my house for years. It’s huge.”

Now I never miss an opportunity to talk about my favorite subject and to learn more about growing anything. Mandolin wandered off and the woman and I discussed what she did vs. what I did. We examined the trees that were there and it turns out some of them were not sparkly at all. “Oh mine didn’t have anything sprayed on it,” she said. “Mine was more like this one.”

And she pointed to an untreated tree with obvious signs of new growth. You could see the difference in the health of the trees. The sparkly ones already looked like they were soon to be goners, the untreated trees were greener and had a lot of new growth.

“Oh, look at this,” the woman said, “This has three trunks, just like mine.”

That was the clincher right there. Maybe it wasn’t me after all. Maybe the sparkly stuff killed those trees.

I thanked her for her help, picked up the tree she had pointed to, and set about trying to find my husband.

“I knew you would be buying a tree,” he said, “After I heard what that woman told you about hers.”

“It’s a matter of gardener’s honor,” I answered.

Categories: Addiction, confessions

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More of What’s New in Gardening for 2015

save money on seeds

Here are two different seed suppliers to check out for 2015:

Mike the Gardener

While a lot of seed companies are mailing out eye candy in the form of catalogs, Mike has done something different. He lowered prices.

How perfect is that in today’s economy?

By joining his Seeds of the Month Club, you can receive 4 packs of seeds in the mail for less than $3/month. This is a great way to get started on building a seed supply, and to keep one going. Not to mention how wonderful it is to get seeds when the ground is covered in white.

Mike’s seeds are all either heirloom or open pollinated varieties, so you can save the seeds from what you grow.

We’ve never received a pack we couldn’t use, but if that happens, there is a Facebook group for trading. His website also offers a great deal of information on gardening. You can even sign up to be an affiliate and make a little extra cash.

Johnny’s Select Seeds

Based in Maine and employee owned, Johnny’s offers what we consider to be the most informative catalog we have ever seen. We probably have learned more about gardening over the years from them over any other printed source.

Johnny’s carries both heirloom and hybrid seeds and plants, and they cater more to market growers; so you’ll see many of the 318 new products for 2015 are along those lines. Because of this, they offer a lot of hybrids that are resistant to particular pests, diseases, and weather. These seeds can help insure the success of your garden if you have been having specific issues.

One new seed that caught our eye was this summer squash, don’t think we have ever seen a yellow ball type. The fact that it will turn into a pumpkin if left unattended is neat.

They carry a wonderful selection of flowers and culinary herbs, many new varieties this year to choose from.

We have found both of these companies to have great customer service and wonderful products. Note that we are not compensated in any way to write about them.

Happy garden shopping!

Categories: Addiction, all about seeds

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Popcorn – You Can Grow That!

how to grow popcorn

So much of the corn being grown in the US is now genetically engineered by crossing it with e. coli, then doused heavily with pesticides.

Although you can find organic alternatives, if you have the room you can grow quite a lot of popcorn. Just 10 plants can yield anywhere from 4000-12000 kernels, in only an area about 12″ x 30″.

Choose a variety that is recommended for popping, here are a few to look at.

Grow like you would sweet corn, just don’t harvest as soon. Let the corn stay on the stalk until the plant starts to die off, or the ears begin to fall over. Leave in the husk to dry for about a week. The longer it dries the easier it is to get the kernels off, simply by pushing on them with your thumb. You can make it even simpler by twisting the cob or breaking it in half.

When the kernels are completely dry, just store in a food grade container.

How you pop it is up to you. It can be done in the microwave, but we prefer the old fashioned stove top method of popping it in just a little oil in a covered pot on med-high heat.

And just to be on the safe side, we also have a really old popcorn popper that can be used over an open flame, back from the days before Jiffy Pop and Monsanto; you know, when corn was just corn.

you can grow that

You Can Grow That! is a collaborative effort by gardeners around the world to encourage others to grow something. Click on the logo above to read many more such posts.
Garden on!

Categories: corn, you can grow that

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New Vegetable Varieties for 2015

baker creek seed catalog

And so it begins.

The catalogs are already arriving in the mail, the emails have started to show up as well; the new vegetable varieties for 2015 are here. It is always fun to see what new varieties are available to try, or what is new that a favorite seed company has stocked.

Of course we can’t list everything here, or even all the companies in one post. So for the month of December we will offer some links as well as our personal take on some of what we find.

Then you can go have at it!

Botanical Interests

A wonderful company that we have purchased from for years. For 2015 they have 50 items new to their line of seeds, including some fairly priced seed tapes.

Eggplant Listada de Gandia is a variety that has been around, but we haven’t tried yet. It was recently recommended to us by fellow GA member David G.

The Cucamelon Mouse Melon is another heirloom seed they are offering, and one we are anxious to try. We have heard some gardeners have a difficult time with this one. If you have tried it, please let us know how you made out.

Be sure to check out their new hybrid Sunstripe Summer Squash. It is a beautiful yellow striped bush variety that produces early. Just lovely.

They also have a nice assortment of seeds for edible sprouts.

Baker Creek

The people at rareseeds.com are always on the look out for new heirloom varieties. This year they once again do not disappoint. They have over 300 new items total, it is easier to separate the veggies away from the rest of the new items by using their catalog vs. online.
Pink and purple sweet potatoes, the list goes on.

We were impressed with the Sunrise Bumblebee Tomato for its visual appeal, the Moranga Squash aka Pink Pumpkin, and the huge 1 pound Oxheart Carrot which is great for those with heavier soils.

Don’t even get us started on their selection of Amaranth.

So here are two companies to get you started. Get out your notepad, make a few lists; and the best of luck paring that down.

Been there, bought that.

Categories: Addiction, all about seeds

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How to Grow Turmeric – Update #2

homegrown turmeric

The turmeric rhizomes were planted in a pot last July. By September there was significant stem and leaf growth.

Although the plants are only half way to maturity, we wanted to make sure they were doing what we wanted, and were curious to see if it was the way we expected.

In the picture above, click on it for a closer look, you can see the original rhizome, about 2 inches in length to the right. The stem sprouted from that, and the plants are about 2-2 1/4 ft. high. There has not been a lot of top growth since September, mostly it has been the leaves and stalks getting bigger.

You can see the new rhizomes growing at the base of the stem. There’s at least 2, probably more. We didn’t want to harm the plant to find out.

So basically they grow similar to ginger, living off the original parent plant as long as possible. From the looks of things, the homegrown fresh turmeric will have less of a peel on it, as did the ginger.

Come March the turmeric should be ready to harvest. It can be dried at that point, and ground as needed.

For a longer fresh supply, you can stagger plantings or simply harvest the largest plants first.

Categories: ginger, turmeric, How to Grow

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4 Natural Ways to Keep Squirrels Out of Your Garden

keepinh squirrels out of the garden.

Often referred to as Tree Rats by aggravated gardeners, squirrels can do a lot of damage. They can jump 6 ft. straight up, and have been known to use sunflowers as a mode of transportation; snacks included. Fencing does little to stop these pests, unless it is an electric fence.

Squirrels enjoy taking just a few bites from a juicy tomato, and then moving on to the next one. It can be very frustrating to pick a beautiful, long anticipated fruit, only to find bite marks.

But there are a number of things you can do to help keep your veggies safe.

1. Use hot pepper.
Squirrels hate that stuff. You can use it as a spray or just buy a cheap powdered spice. It will need to be reapplied after a rain or after watering, that’s the down side.

If you have a bird feeder, lace it with hot pepper as well. The birds don’t care, but it will help keep the squirrels away.

2. Use a motion sensitive sprinkler.

This will startle the squirrels and then may just move to some other garden instead.

3. Let nature do it’s thing.

If you already have a dog, try letting it get in the area of the squirrels. Cats can be great at scaring off squirrels, just be sure they don’t damage your garden themselves. Letting your pets into the garden, unless they are trained, can also do harm.

You might consider attracting some owls to your neighborhood instead. They do a great job at rodent control in general. Supply them with a place to live, and you get the added advantage of catching glimpses of these beautiful birds.

4. Give them what they want, but on your terms.

Squirrels only take a few bites of a tomato because what they are really after is the water content. Of course they do more damage in the hottest part of the season, which is also when the tomatoes are ripening.

You can help by providing them with a water source. We use an old birdbath set on the ground. Little by little, move the water source away from your garden and you’ll be drawing their attention away as well.

Categories: gardening, pests

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13 Items to Upcycle for Indoor Growing

a very tiny greenhouse

There are a number of items you may be recycling that can save you some money when it comes to indoor growing.

You can start seeds in a lot of clean containers, such as:

1) Yogurt Cups
2) Plastic produce containers
3) Empty toilet paper rolls
4) Likewise, scaled down paper towel rolls
5) Aluminum cans, be careful cutting these
6) Tin cans from canned soup or veggies
7) Milk cartons
8) Wax cartons such as for orange juice
9) Disposable cups such as solo cups
10) Other food grade plastic containers such as tofu tubs, guacamole, and ready to eat food trays

The main thing to remember is that you need some form of drainage holes. This is easy enough to do in plastic with a scissors or sharp knife. Use caution of course.

For metal containers hammering a nail through them in a few places should do the trick.

Keep in mind you need enough room for the plants to be able to establish their root systems. We would say no less than 3 inches.

You can aid germination by covering containers with (11) recycled plastic sandwich type bags, as shown above. You can see a tiny seedling just sprouting, surrounded by water droplets. This creates a green house effect, keeping your seeds moist until they sprout.

And when that happens, there is one more way to upcycle using a sharpie marker. (12)

plastic ware make great plant markers

Don’t tell me you’ve been getting rid of free plant markers. ;-)

13.) When you transplant, you can still use some of the larger food containers, 5 gallon buckets, as well as reuse pots from plants you have purchased. Again, be sure all containers are clean and have drainage.

Categories: all about seeds, extending the season, How to Grow

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12 Fruits, Vegetables and Herbs to Grow Indoors

growing food indoors

And so it begins

When it comes to larger financial decisions, my husband and I hold off unless we both agree. Usually, when one person doesn’t want to spend the money, the other one finds creative ways to talk him into it. ;-)

And so it was with an unheated room that would be a great place to not only start seedlings, but also to grow food through the winter.

“You would have to make it worth it,” he said, not really wanting an increase in a utility bill.

To a gardening addict, just the activity itself is worth it.

“Like how?” I asked.
“Well, if you grew tomato plants and sold them, that would be good.”

Hmmm, that was part of the plan but that would be months away yet.
“How about having fresh tomatoes and herbs all year?” I suggested, appealing to the cook in him.

“And hot peppers?” he asked.

Let the growing commence.

Here are some of the best veggies to grow indoors:
1. Carrots- small round types such as Parisienne.
2. Tomatoes- romas, Tiny Tom or patio
3. Parsley
4. Basil
5. Hot peppers
6. Scallions
7. Garlic chives
8. Meyer lemons
9. Snow peas
10. Beans
11. Watermelon- small types such as sugar baby
12. Fruit trees on dwarf tree stock

Note there are a number of fruiting trees that are available grafted to dwarf root tree stock, far too many to list.

Categories: container gardening, extending the season, garden projects, The Experiments

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How to Over-Winter Gnomes

large gnome

Winter’s ill effects.

Not all gnomes are cold hardy, in fact some do not handle the outdoors well at all. Unfortunately they are not labeled and won’t tell you themselves. As of yet nobody has compiled a classification table for them, but we’re working on it.

So all a gardener can do for now is to use your best judgement.
Here are a few tips we’ve learned that may help:

1. If your gnome is a one of a kind or an unusual breed, and not from a family of metals, consider it to not be weather hardy unless you are told otherwise. These, the most unique of gnomes, are likely descendents from the family line of Plaster of Paris. The gentleman pictured above is a good example. These gnomes require the utmost care and should be afforded the best accommodations.

2. If your gnome originates in the orient, it may have the wherewithal to handle the harsh weather, but will likely not last more than one winter without showing the dire effects. These folk are usually happy to be hoarded into any enclosure, and left to their own devices until spring.

gnomes in the home

Happy in hiding.

3. Smaller gnomes often prefer to associate themselves with a land feature, and are unlikely to handle the weather well. This is not only true for winter, as many of these gnomes are very outdoor-sensitive. Unless you can offer them protection such as a covered porch, it is best to keep them inside all year.

4. Some gnomes can handle decades of being outdoors 24/7. It has been our experience that these types are usually from a family of Ceramics. They can be distinguished by accessories in bright acrylics, and often will have distinguishing marks in the form of initials on their bottom-most feature.

5. And finally, if your gnome is wearing anything other than a red hat, consider it suspicious. Red is the traditional color, any other implies a rebellious nature. These fellows are best placed year round in such a way that they cannot go anywhere unseen. Do not trust them too close to other gnomes, as they may try to convert them.

rebellious gnomes

Are they plotting?

In summary, you can tell a lot by just looking at a gnome. Most cannot handle winter weather, and are best brought indoors. Some cannot handle wet weather at all, and others well… just don’t turn your back on them.

Naming gnomes and some gnome links.
Gnomes on Pinterest.

Categories: fairy and miniature gardens

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Everything here is original (unless otherwise noted) and has legal copyright 2014 by Gardening Jones (tm), and cannot be re-posted or reproduced without permission. Any re-posting of information, photographs, and/or recipes is considered theft and subject to prosecution.

As gardeners, we love to share, so just let us know what your intentions are and we can work together. Please feel free to link any post you see. They say they call that Link Love.

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