Gardening in a Strange New World

Butterfly weed and Cucamelons

For those of us who remember life before personal computers, when your phone was attached to the wall and there were only a handful of TV stations and they actually signed off at night, social media is a very strange thing.

Almost Sci-fi.

The fact that you are reading this, likely many miles away, would have been thought impossible not all that long ago. Yet we see it as a part of our everyday life now, and it has had a great impact. For us, it is pretty positive.

We have been able to make equaintances, fellow gardening enthusiasts, from all over the world.

And so it was somewhat tongue-in-cheek that the Facebook group Gardenaholics Anonymous came about. Recently, it topped 10,000 members and is growing strong.

It’s a well monitored group that does not allow drama, negativity, or anything but helpfulness, pats on shoulders, and support. It’s a support group made up of enablers to be honest.

It is also a lot of gardeners with very big hearts, that do group projects. For many of us, who do not have someone that shares our addiction to gardening, it allows us to work together.

Our first project was a cookbook that raises funds for a wonderful young lady with SMA, the child’s version of Lou Gehrig’s disease. Read more here.

Our second group effort is both fun and helpful to the environment. Many of the members, and their friends outside the group, are growing either milkweed to help the Monarch butterflies, and/or cucamelons aka Mexican Gherkins, just to try something new. We will be sharing pictures from all over the map, and expect it to be a lot of fun.

If you are interested in participating, here is the link:
Gardenaholics Anonymous Group Growing Event 2015

We hope to see you there!


Categories: Addiction, All About Seeds, Gardening


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An Edible Garden – Evolution to Revolution pt. 2

1999 was an interesting year.
Many people were Y2K concerned and the local Farm and Garden stores were selling out of tomatoes. People were growing food that had never done it before, it was great.
The weather, not so much.

Yep, I remember that.

Yep, I remember that.

The mild winter led to an increased population of squirrels, rats, mice and rabbits- none of which one wants to find in the garden.

Add to that a summer that ended as an emergency drought situation, and things got worse.
Not only were the plants at risk, but the rodents started moving towards the waterways, which would be good, except the snakes followed them.

There actually came a point where we had to be careful where we stepped.

Fortunately for the garden we were never restricted as far as watering it.
We did learn about reclaiming water, and were as conservative as possible.

Expanding in the back.

Expanding in the back.

Of course that didn’t stop us from expanding the garden once again.
More blueberry bushes, an asparagus bed, more potted plants, and a new bed running up the middle. There was enough room to move the wheelbarrow between beds, but that was about it.

Even SaveTheWorld got in on the gardening by planting some flowers out in the front of the house.
Which led to a big change in 2000.

Expanding to the front.

Expanding to the front.

So began the frontyard garden.
At first it was merely a few fruit trees…
then squash plants, hot peppers and some more potted herbs.
Baby corn plants aren’t too intrusive, right?

All the while we still found some ways to get more from the backyard.
More blueberry bushes, more potatoes, more of everything.
Do we see a pattern here?

Full up.

Full up.

And we continued to learn as well.
It was in 2000 they we got serious about expanding the season here in Zone 5/6 as much as possible, by succession planting and through the use of cold frames.

garden 2000

For that we needed to also learn how to start many of our plants indoors.

As the millennium came, the garden began to take over.

Read part 1 here.

Categories: Addiction, Gardening


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An Edible Garden – Evolution to Revolution

It was 17 growing years ago that we first planted a vegetable garden on the site where we still live.
What started as a simple way to feed the family has changed a great deal over that time.

This is part one in a series to show what we have learned, what changed, and how things evolved from that beginning to a serious commitment to help others learn to grow their own.


The plans.

The plans.

The first year was a lesson in where the garden will actually get the most sun. We had moved in during February, and were guesstimating the sun vs. the trees in the yard.

The plan also included a hopscotch area, a grape arbor, and a seating and cooking on the grill feature.

While those didn’t happen, we did stick pretty much to the actual planting plans.

The reality.

The reality.

The main thing we learned was to do drawings in pencil, since actual plantings change.
We also learned some about succession planting, and made notes as to which plants finished first, leaving time for others.

The sun estimates turned out to be pretty good, except for the area closest to the house. We hadn’t figured in afternoon sun as well as we should have.


The first expansion.

The first expansion.

Not surprisingly, the size of the garden grew the following year.
We added an herb bed and strawberries, and we learned you can even grow your own horseradish from a store-bought root.

This year we planted the first two blueberry bushes, and expanded the number of tomato plants.
By a lot.

A little more specific.

A little more specific.

We had purchased 4 dozen plants, figuring that would do well to meet our family’s needs.
Then my Dad showed up with another 18 plants he had surprisingly started for us. He’s thoughtful that way, and we were able to find more room.

What we really hadn’t planned on were the volunteers that came out of the compost.
So, 75 tomatoes it was; and two years worth of canned goodness.

The wonderful lesson we learned here was it’s a good idea to plant enough to have for more than one season, just in case the next year isn’t as productive.

Now we plan on that.

We also learned that a full packet of lettuce is too much, but the same of carrots is fine- if you don’t mind thinning.

Oh yeah, and that okra isn’t as easy as it looks.

STW adds her touch.

STW adds her touch.

This was also the first year that SaveTheWorld decided to be a part of the garden notebook.
Not bad for a 5 year old; and judging by the size of that smile- she’s enjoying it.

Categories: Addiction, Gardening



Back to the Future

It’s kind of difficult to write posts that are not about me when writing about my garden and my kitchen, and my family.

But I think of the blog as something that is more about you- your garden, your family and your kitchen, and do my best to present it to you that way.

I’m going to make an exception here though, because I think you will find this interesting:

Many of you know that this blog was started 4 years ago at the suggestion of our youngest daughter, SaveTheWorld.
What I haven’t mentioned is that 11 years before that Gardening Jones came into existence.

The original hand--drawn image of Gardening Jones.

The original hand-drawn image of Gardening Jones.

I find this whole internet technology thing really interesting. Seriously, I remember when we got our first color TV; so the idea of building a website back then just seemed like great fun. This was before a ‘blog’ was a big thing, but websites were easy to do.

I knew it would be about gardening, but it needed a name. There was a Cheech and Chong song that came out when I was in High School called Basketball Jones. It was actually the first time I heard ‘Jones’ used to refer to an addiction.

So I set about building the website called Gardening Jones. It wasn’t a big deal, some pages on different aspects of gardening, links, and so on. After it was done it basically just sat there.

The blog was started many years later on Blogger. I had heard WordPress was much better, but my hosting company at the time didn’t support it. When I switched hosting companies to move the blog, all the original website content disappeared.
Well, at least I thought so.

It was just recently that a garden writer I have e-met was inquiring about a particular gardening subject. Knowing there was something on the blog from early on about it I did a search. Lo and behold at the end of the post there was a link back to the original website. Attached to that page were more links to other parts of that site.

Perhaps it really is serendipity, as in the meantime Mandolin and I have also unexpectedly found ourselves looking at manufacturing a garden system we designed in answer to the frustrations we have not only experienced ourselves, but have heard from so many other gardeners.

This is fast becoming a reality and we are going to end up having a product to offer. We will need a place to do that of course, and now we have it. Back.

So after 15 years we find ourselves back where we started, but looking directly into the future.
Life- it sure takes some pretty interesting turns, doesn’t it?

Here is the website slowly returning to its original state. Of course, being a geek, I made the blog and the website match. :-)

Categories: Addiction


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Confession # 219 – Which Dry Bean is Which?

So the garden was over-planted with beans, there are far worse problems, right?
And okay, so we neglected to make a note of which bean was planted where, that shouldn’t be an issue, should it?

Alright… so the answer to both questions is “Yes!”

Fortunately, we keep our seed packets even when they are empty. That narrows down the possibilities.

Keeping seed packets is a high priority here.

Keeping seed packets is a high priority here.

Even better, some of the packets still had seeds in them. This helps with the matching a lot.

So we have narrowed down all but two. The brown ones resemble our Kentucky Wonder seeds, and our Blue Lake seeds. They also look a heckuva lot like a canning jar we have labeled simply “Dry Brown Beans”.
Yeah, let’s not get too specific, shall we? :-P

Narrowing down the possible suspects.

Closing the field on the possible suspects.

Now since these beans are being harvested from the trellis, and our Blue Lake as well as most dry beans are bush types, we’re going to guess they are the Kentucky Wonder pole beans.
Good thing, because those beans can be enjoyed as a dry bean as well as fresh.

Only one mystery remains- the white beans.
Not a clue, nada.
Because they were harvested with many others, we don’t even know if they were pole or bush.

Note to self: If you are not going to be specific and keep good notes, leave at least one seed in every packet until the winter comes.

Categories: Addiction, All About Seeds, How to Grow, Jonesen'


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Confession #923 Garden Folklore

Wooly Bully

Wooly Bully

Every fall at the sight of a wooly caterpillar, two things come to mind:
1. The upcoming winter.
2. This song worm.

And not necessarily in that order.

But this post is about folklore, not music; or weatherlore as some call it.
Do you believe that the wider the middle band is on a wooly caterpillar the milder the winter will be?
If that is true, then we’re in for a nasty one!

How about the activity of critters? Do squirrels stocking up signal an upcoming bad winter?
If that is the case, then the squirrels and the caterpillars are at odds this year.

Admittedly, I live in Pennsylvania… and not far from me is a town where they, tongue in cheek, let a rodent predict the coming of spring.
So perhaps it is not for me to talk about these things. Except I do know that some of them are true.

“Red sky at morning, sailor’s warning.
Red sky at night, sailor’s delight.”

This is one I remember learning from my Dad, and it is actually based on meteorological observances and evidence.
Not that I can explain it.

Suffice it to say that a red sky at sundown really does signify a clear sky the next day, and vice versa.

Still it is fun to learn the lore, and discover what is true and what is just for fun.
Will thick skins on onions really predict the upcoming winter weather? Probably not… but then there is that “If there is thunder in winter, it will snow 7 days after.”

Darn if I haven’t seen that one come true.
Do I remember the times it didn’t? Well, er… no actually…

What are your favorite weather folklore sayings?
C’mon, share. It will be fun!
(PS f you don’t see your comment right away, it’s only because it has to be approved first. Hang on!)

More on Wooly Bears
Farmers Almanac Folklore

Categories: Addiction, Jonesen'



Confession # 102 – Living with Mandolin Jones

My husband’s work schedule and mine are different, so it’s not unusual for us to leave each other notes.
Usually, they just say something like ‘Call the electric company’ or ‘We need dog food’.

So I admit I was a bit taken aback when I found this note on the bathroom vanity:

cat fur on toilet

Now since the toilet was recently cleaned, I decided this was a statement of past tense rather than a request for me to go get the glue gun and the cat.

The question that came to my mind was ‘why?’

Sherlock Holmes often said “Eliminate all other factors, and the one which remains must be the truth.”

There were only two possible reasons I could think of for the cat to be at the toilet.

It had been a week of unseasonably hot weather, so I checked her water dish to be sure it was still full.

And it was… so that left only one other possibility, so I wrote back:

clean the litter box

Now there’s one thing about my husband; whenever there is a joke going on, he likes to have the last word.

I knew when I came home from work that day there would be a response:

clean the box

Of course I saw no reason to let it stop there.

there is no or

Once again, he answered back:

beer and whiskey

Since my birthday was coming up, I thought this might be a good opportunity to carpe diem and leave a hint:

More like a manicure.

He didn’t want to take the bait I guess, so he ended the conversation by finally admitting what men and women have known all along:

There is on cure for man.

I kept the napkin. :-)

Categories: Addiction, Jonesen'



Confession #72 The List

Broccoli in the spring garden

Did you know that in musicals by Rodgers and Hammerstein, they tended to include a ‘list’ song?
It was obvious in Oklahoma! where they actually sang “Here is the jist, a practical list…” and pretty blatant in The Sound of Music and one of my favorite man-songs in South Pacific.

Why am I telling you this? Because this gardener’s brain works in strange ways.
You see, my head is full of odd snippets of information. I actually read footnotes, directions and disclaimers. I find what is unusual is often more fun.
My brain was not a victim of the 70′s, but it did reach capacity around 1985, so every time I learn something new, well… you get the idea.

yellow snow peas

It is pretty interesting though, if you are into musicals; and it’s a good lead-in for this post.

You see, the question often comes up:
“What are you growing this year, GJ?”
“What’s for dinner Grandpa?” <--you see, there it goes again.

So, without further eloquence <-- this year's garden includes:

-26 tomatoes, mostly romas, a few strange ones and 2 white cherry types. Like white cherry types aren’t strange. My mind wanders. <--
-120 sweet corn, 5 varieties
-24 ft. green soybeans
-26 ft. assorted dry beans
-25 ft. carrots

Fava Beans

-12 ft. fava beans
-40 lbs. potatoes

potatoes in May

-16 sq. ft. sweet potatoes
-6 each broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower
-30 ft. parsnips
-1 doz. each sweet and hot peppers
-6 eggplants
-9 assorted squash (so far)
-3 baby melons
-21 garlic
-24 ft. onions
-10 ft. beets
-15 ft. green beans

Pears in the home garden

Of course there is an assortment of fresh greens, a handful of kale and collards, a partridge in a pear tree <-- numerous herbs and all the perennial fruits and veggies.

Still to plant: limas, more winter squash and green beans, some okra and cantaloupe <--; as well as the Kitchen Scrap Experiments on the windowsill.

So here's to another growing season. May Mother Nature <– be kind to us all, and may we not tick her off.
Perhaps a list song would help?

What’s growing in your garden?

Categories: Addiction, Jonesen'



18 Reasons Why Spring is to Gardeners Like Christmas is to Kids

With our most recent snow storm just ending, and another one on its way, it looks much more like Christmas outside than anything garden related.
At this point, gardeners waiting for spring are in many ways like little kids approaching Christmas.

not spring 013

Here’s why these two occasions are similar:

1. They take forever to get here, and are over before you know it.
2. You get to make a list.
3. They involve some shopping.
4. You may not get everything you want, but there will be some fun surprises.
5. They both involve at least one plant.
6. Getting ready is half the fun. Okay, maybe a third or a fourth; but it’s still fun.
7. You get to write things on the calender.
8. Edible treats, just sayin’.
9. They both involve a ‘parent’- Father Christmas and Mother Nature; though some may argue their reality, or whether they possess quality parenting skills.
10. You can’t wait to get up in the morning to see what you have.
11. Footwear plays a major roll.

botanical gnome

12. They both involve chubby men in odd clothing… with beards.
13. Opening each seed packet is akin to opening a shiny-wrapped present.
14. Great photo-ops, and sharing the pics is priceless.
15. Angst while awaiting both the red suit and the first red tomato are understandable feelings.
16. ‘Letters to Santa’ as well as ‘Gardening Notes’ are equally acceptable things to retain for posterity.
17. Drive by admirations of your outdoor efforts by others are expected.

The single best way Christmas for kids and Spring for gardeners are the same?

18. You get to share with others.

Thank you to my gardening friends who contributed to and/or inspired this post:
Aud, Christine, Jack, Maddie, Amy, Jacky, Cheryl, Brenda and Derek!

Categories: Addiction



Confession #11 -It’s Complicated (Not)

A Garden is a wonderful analogy for the relationship aspect of our lives.

It is so exciting finding that piece of land, planning the garden down to every detail, and then finally getting a chance to set shovel to soil.
You want to check on it every day to see how it is progressing, maybe even take pictures to show your friends.
You get a rush of adrenaline when it starts to produce.
You miss it when you are parted, whether it is the winter months or just on rainy days.

climbing gnome

Gardening can be hard work.

But over the years it may start to become more work than fun.
Perhaps the weeds and the rabbits are winning, and you’re just tired of the battle.
You might think to yourself “Oh look at that spot over there. There aren’t any weeds there. Maybe it even gets more sun or the soil might be richer. Maybe I’ll garden over there instead.”

searching for something better

Are the beans really greener?

Think about what would happen. Sure, it would be fun and exciting at first.
Eventually the rabbits would find the bed and the weeds would start to grow.
Maybe those weed seeds were actually on the bottom of your wellies, and you’re the one bringing them in after all.

Imagine it. Look back at your first garden, how are your perennials doing since you’ve been gone?
Is your asparagus getting thin or your strawberry bed overrun?
What if you had stayed there instead, what then?

Okay sure, I realize sometimes you get Bermuda grass, and there may be nothing you can do.
In most cases though, its simply a matter of mulching the weeds and enriching the soil. You may need to add a little manure to boost up its nutrient content, nothing wrong with that. You can even try some new varieties of veggies once in a while.

Cultivate the plants that do well, and minimize the ones that don’t.
Gardening, like life, doesn’t have to be complicated.

Gnome friends.

Do your friends see what you see?

Over time, you will have a garden that, although maybe not as exciting as it once was, you can trust to provide you with its best year after year.

Those friends of yours will stop by and admire your garden.
“You’re so lucky!” They’ll say.

happy gnome

You know the truth.

And you’ll smile, because you know luck had nothing to do with it.

Categories: Addiction, Jonesen'


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Everything here is original (unless otherwise noted) and has legal copyright 2009-2015 by Gardening Jones™, 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.

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