On Gardening

Normally there would be a wonderful how-to post or something of the sort here on a Saturday… but not this time.

This is why I am not posting today:

There are seeds to be sown.

There are seeds to be sown.

Sweet tater slips need to be planted asap.

The sweet tater slips need to be planted asap.

A lot to harden off.

A lot to harden off.

And many more plants to find homes for.

And many more plants to find homes for.

Mandolin is now referring to this as Lily the Sink.

Mandolin is now referring to this as Lily the Sink.

I have all the tools...

I have all the tools…

And there is very little help.

but am a little short on help.

Happy gardening everyone!

May 23, 2015  Tags: , , ,   Posted in: Gardening  No Comments

8 Edible Plants You Can Grow as a Wall

how to grow grains

If you are looking for a little seclusion in your yard, as we are here in this Before picture, there are a number of edibles you can grow to form a wall of sorts.

The bed above will give us some privacy this summer, when we are tending to the garden. We live next door to a church and it can get busy there on the weekends. It isn’t that we mind showing the garden, it is more the bending over in front of a full parking lot of people, you get the idea. :-)

Included above are:

1. Amaranth. There are 2 varieties, Love Lies Bleeding will grow about 4 ft. tall, and Golden Giant as high as 6 ft. Harvest the leaves and seeds.

2. Quinoa. Also harvested for the seeds, this vegetable grown as a grain is a very healthy protein substitute for meat, and packs a lot of nutrition when added to other dishes. Again we have two varieties, making the ‘wall’ more interesting as well as our menu.

3. Chia. Yeah, sorry about the ad song worm, but all pets aside this 6 ft. tall plant can provide some privacy and then nutrition when the seeds are used.

4. Papalo. Two plants are probably enough for this similarly tall herb. Harvest the leaves when they are small, sparingly to let the plant grow tall. Then harvest the rest before a frost.

Not in this bed, but other tall plants we have grown this way include:

5. Sunflowers. Here we inter-plant a variety of heights, so the bottom areas of the taller plants are filled in by the shorter ones. We just love the way a wall of sunflowers looks, neighbors or not.

6. Beans. You will need a support of some sort. Bean netting is fairly inexpensive, and usually at least 5 ft. wide. Or you can just run some string between two posts. This gives you a good base to grow those taller pole beans. It looks so lovely when they are in bloom. We suggest a few different varieties so the flower colors vary. For added privacy, plant some bush types at the base.

7. Tomatoes. Could there be anything better than a wall of homegrown tomatoes? The tallest we have ever grown was a Sungold cherry type, but many indeterminate varieties can easily grow 6-8 ft. high. Add some tall varieties of basil at the bottom and you are all set for Bruschetta.

8. Okra. Easily growing to 4 ft. or more, okra comes in both purple and green podded varieties. You can prune some to vary the height and fill in the space at the bottom, or just inter-plant with flax seed for a wonderful yet edible display.

You can also grow corn for privacy, but we wouldn’t say as a wall specifically as you need it to be a few rows deep.

Still, when we are in the roadside garden and just want to be alone, behind the corn bed is the most secluded place.

May 19, 2015  Tags: , ,   Posted in: Garden Projects, Keeping up with the Joneses  No Comments

How & Why to Grow Papalo

Move over cilantro.

The start of something big.

We tried growing this unusual herb twice last summer by direct seeding.
No go. They are reputed to have a very low germination rate, so we figured that was the reason.

We were anxious to try this herb, widely used in Hispanic recipes and described as similar to cilantro but stronger, and with a hint of lime. Others say it resembles a cross between arugula and cilantro. How wonderful does that sound?

Apparently there are restaurants that let customers help themselves to this herb growing indoors. Can it get any better?

Well, yes. It doesn’t bolt like cilantro and produces much more of a crop.

So we had to give it another go this year, and started the seeds indoors just 2 weeks ago. We sowed heavily, just in case.

Well they sprouted, pert near every last one of them. Which presents a dilemma.

But back to sowing.

The seeds look like little whirligigs, so we figured they spread naturally by wind. With that in mind, we placed a few seeds on the top of the soil in 5 small plastic cups. Then we added a wee bit more soil, just enough to cover; and of course we kept them moist and warm.

These little ones pictured were just transplanted today, and will be out side after a little hardening off.

And the problem?

Well apparently they can grow a good 6 feet high, and will bush out if you pinch them. One or two plants will be more than enough for us and family, and about all the room we have anyway.

And we have 28 plants. :-P

Botanical name: Porophyllum ruderale
Seed: Start indoors 2-4 weeks ahead, we recommend; or direct seed in spring.
Germination: Supposedly low haha!
Days to harvest: 80
Habit: Tall, bushy plant. Full sun to partial shade.
Uses: Use leaves in Mexican types dishes, pesto

Quick update: I just tasted one of the tiny leaves. Holy moley was it powerful, and yes- lime cilantro whoa!

May 17, 2015  Tags: , , , , , , ,   Posted in: Herbs  2 Comments

Decorating Your Garden

garden decorations

Whether you are growing flowers or food, or likely both, it is fun to add some decoration to your garden area.

That is why I jumped at the chance to have a blog post sponsored by LTD. Commodities.

They let me choose a few things to keep and/or give away, plus a gift certificate as well. Can’t beat that!

So, here’s the deal. Pictured above, and also found here, is an antiqued metal angel. I am going to make her part of a memorial area of our garden. But I could use your help.

She’s a little over 2 ft. tall, and her skirt is perfect for a vining plant that would grow to about 18″.

What would you plant at her base? Just leave your answer in the comments section below for a chance to win:

1. A $25 gift certificate to LTD. Commodities.

2. An angel like this one.

3. A solar Dog Napping decoration.

Everyone who comments will get their name added to an online randomizer, and the winners will be chosen on Sunday May 24th. and notified by email.

If your comment doesn’t show up right away, don’t worry. It only means it is your first time and needs to be approved.

Thanks for your help and good luck!

May 16, 2015  Tags: , , ,   Posted in: Gardening People, Places & Things  30 Comments

Can a Greenhouse Pay for Itself?

starting seeds indoors

Yellow Ox Heart Tomato

Many gardeners dream of owning a greenhouse, but think the price is too high; or so we thought, too.

The problem is that nobody sells heirloom, let alone organic, plants in our area.

So it was a few years ago that I drove to the Hudson Valley just over the border in New York State to get some really nice tomato plants.

They sold for about $5-6 each and were wonderful! I only purchased a few because I had started some seeds indoors. Mine were way smaller though, as I didn’t have the wherewithal to start them as soon as a nursery could, because I had no place to hold them.

With the Jones Garden System, soon to be available online, I could put the plants in about 3 weeks early. That very first year we had tomatoes by 4th. of July, about a month early for this area!

That’s why the following spring we built this little greenhouse from used windows. It was small, but it helped a lot when it came to saving money on plants.

So much so that when Mandolin Jones found a little greenhouse kit on sale at Tractor Supply at the end of the season, he bought it.

Now, we can start our tomatoes earlier and get them into the greenhouse. This opens up space to start more plants indoors.

Not only do we have about 70 tomato plants ready to plant, plus a number in the Jones Garden System, we have a lot of other plants jump-started and ready to go.

The tomato plants alone could cover the cost of the greenhouse.
And if you are growing indeterminate tomatoes, I would expect a longer harvest season would mean a higher yield.

Sounds like a win-win to me!

May 12, 2015  Tags: , , , , , , ,   Posted in: Extending the Season, Gardening  No Comments

How to Grow Pineberries Pt. 1

pineapple flavored strawberry

Although white strawberries have been around for a very long time, they almost became extinct.

This more recent variety is a hybrid cross between two strawberry varieties, and is reputed to have a slight pineapple taste.

Some gardeners have suggested that has been bred out over time, so we’ll get back to you on it.

You grow them just like strawberries, though I must say I would be hard pressed to pinch off all the flowers the first year. Maybe just most.

At first we were concerned that this hybrid might cross with another strawberry, and lose its white fruit, but then discovered that they are not closely enough related, being Fragaria ananassa and Fragaria chiloensis.

If they are like squash, they won’t cross.

We also came across this post that suggests they should be planted together for better fruit production.

So later today we are going to plant the pineberries in a new bed, and add a few strawberry plants. We’ll get back to you on the results, and particularly, on the flavor.

Botanical name: Fragaria ananassa
Height: 8-12″
Hardiness: Zones 5-8 (but transplant only after danger of frost)
Light: Some shade to full sun
Growth habit: Reproduce runners just like strawberries
Yield: Increases over time. Berries are smaller than most strawberries.

May 10, 2015  Tags: , , , , , ,   Posted in: Fruits  No Comments

5 Great Reasons to Grow a Pixie Grape

growing grapes in containers

Okay, so we know this Pixie Grape is still a wee plant, but we wanted to share info about it in case you want to get your hands on one as well.

So use your imagination, and picture this:

1. This variety grows best in a container, even small ones. So, even if your garden is tiny, or if you have no garden at all, you can still grow grapes.

2. It only gets to be 1-2 feet tall. Ever.

3. Unlike most grapes, it begins producing the very first year.

4. You can bring it inside when it gets cold, and it will still keep producing grapes; all year, for many years.

5. If you grow organically, no junk- just grapes. Did you know imported grapes are on the 12 Worst Foods to Buy Non-Organic list?

Is this wonderful or what?
Fresh grapes, even in the off season. You can grow that!

And from what we have read about them, there will be a #6- Flavor.

We promise to get back to you on that!

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 my friends!

May 4, 2015  Tags: , , , ,   Posted in: Fruits, Preparedness & Green Living, Techniques & Issues, You Can Grow That!  No Comments

The Simple Way to Space Plants

an easy way to space plants

How far apart to space plants is a function of how big and wide the plant will get, and how large the root system will grow. This information is found on seed packets, in plant and seed catalogs, and usually on plant markers for live plants.

Some gardeners have made the whole thing more complicated IMHO. Square foot gardening is the most famous example, although that does involve getting the most from your area as well.

One of the silliest examples I have seen is currently on the internet, and it is a picture of someone using a muffin tin to make holes.

In the first place it doesn’t make holes, only dents; and they are 3″ apart if it is a standard tin. That’s only good for plants that should be spaced 3, 6, 9 or 12″ apart and I think it’s a waste of time.

Anyone who has been gardening a while just eyeballs it, so to speak. If you are new to growing plants, just measure your hand.

As you can see in the pic, my outstretched hand is about 8″ long. My finger to the first knuckle is about 1″, to the second 2″ and the whole first finger 3″. What you can’t see in the picture is my palm, horizontally to my outstretched thumb, is 6″.

Not only does this pretty much cover everything a gardener would need to help measure, it also helps with plant depth.

So go ahead and measure your hand, and make it your gardening tool.

It’s simple, consistent and free. Nothing to store, and the only thing you have to wash is your hands.

Which you would be doing anyway.

May 2, 2015  Tags: , , , , ,   Posted in: Techniques & Issues  No Comments

10 Plants for Gardening with Little Grandkids

gardening sprout

Last year our Sprout was just a wee bit little, as pictured above, for gardening.

Sure, at 1 1/2 years old he could poke his finger in the soil and add a seed, but the concept was completely new.

This year we really get to have fun!

He’ll be both growing things with his parents, and have some special plants at Grammie’s and Poppie’s house.

Some examples:

1. Pixie grapes will show him how small a grape can be, that he can reach them himself as they are container grown, and they can be harvested all year indoors and out.

2. Sugar Baby Watermelon is already producing flowers in our Zone 5/6 greenhouse, and will most certainly be his first taste of a homegrown watermelon.

3. Asian Yardlong Beans should grow to be about as tall as he is, how much fun will that be!

4. Similarly, Rattlesnake Beans will give us a wonderful opportunity for play.

5. What child, or adult for that matter, could resist the Rainbow Blend tomatoes, producing orange, yellow, white, green, brown or pink/white striped tomatoes. We plant a few to see what varieties we get.

6. With Cucamelons, a small lime tasting cucumber that looks like a watermelon, it will be interesting to see how he likes the taste. This one could go either way.

7. A few Butterbush Squash, just beginning to set flowers in the greenhouse, will give us the chance to show him how to hand pollinate. Okay, so he’ll only be 2 1/2… isn’t every grandchild the smartest? :-)

8. Carrots, as well as other veggies in multiple colors, will show Sprout that everything isn’t only what you see in the grocery store. And of course, homegrown carrots are as good, or better, than candy.

9. We’ve mentioned the Micro Tom tomato, and now have 2 that are producing flowers. How cute will they be with pea-sized fruit?

10. Finally, Dinosaur Kale will give all of us the perfect chance to play one of his favorite games: chasing each other around and Roaring!

Always remember fun, after all, is kid’s work.
And it should be taken very very lightly.

NOTE: As will all kids, especially 3 and under, take precautions when they are eating to prevent any possible choking hazzard.

April 28, 2015  Tags: , , , ,   Posted in: Kids & Gardening, Specific Purpose Gardens  No Comments

Adding Perennial Fruit Trees to Your Garden

pear flowers

No matter the size of your garden, adding fruit trees and shrubs can insure your ability to easily have a supply of healthy edibles.

Small gardens, such as my equaintance Jack’s, can use the espalier method for growing fruit. See how very little space was needed yet can still provide fresh fruit.

We’re fortunate to have a large area to grow in, so have included full size apple trees, dwarf peach and pear trees, and a number of berry producing plants including blueberry, cranberry and many more.

Depending on how the sun hits your yard, you can often grow the smaller plants, especially the crawlers like strawberries and cranberries, right under the trees. This helps save space and can also protect your berries from birds by making them a little less visible.

Fruit trees also add beauty as you can see in the picture above. Anyone who has ever seen a field of cherry trees in blossom can attest to how gorgeous fruit trees are.

We enjoy watching as our different varieties come into bloom, and hearing the buzzing of the bees as they happily go from flower to flower. This also means that the larder shelves will be filling back up with jams, sauce, butters, brandy and even some homemade fruit cocktail.

Another truly beautiful sight!

Click on this link for more information on growing fruit trees, shrubs, canes and more, or to obtain quality plants in the UK area. While you’re there, check out their blog. We especially liked the one entitled Chatterpie.

April 26, 2015  Tags: , , , ,   Posted in: Fruits  No Comments