11 February 2014, by gj
Life is not even.
It was almost 40 years ago now that I sat in my first college Psychology class. The Professor walked in and proceeded to warn us of something called Medical School Syndrome.
This is when young premed students find they have the symptoms of many different diseases and disorders. The same thing can happen when you start reading psychology books.
The truth is whether it is physical or mental health, we all have a few symptoms. As long as they aren’t severe, we’re okay.
Squash and beans creating a green wave.
Now a few years later, and married with children, the first two garden beds go in. Growing up I had mostly seen flower gardens, so with those in mind I planted the trellised veggies in the back, followed by a handful of bush beans, then the greens in front. There were two beds, one for each of our kids, and they looked pretty.
There were no rows, but one thing I noticed is that they were even; even numbers of vegetables that is. That was the first time I realized that although I do not have an affinity for straight rows, I also don’t like odd numbers.
Not to the extreme that it has a negative impact on my life mind you, but it does affect the appearance of the gardens.
Letting them trickle out into in the garden paths.
So our gardens are all raised beds, with mostly even numbers of veggies. The roadside garden is almost even on each side, but for the swerve of the fence lines and the esthetic addition of trees and brambles somewhat scattered about. No one bed is solely planted with just one veggie, and that intermix appeals to me.
Although my mind does prefer evenness in numbers, my heart leans towards more of a natural flow in spaces.
And that’s what makes my garden my happy place.
28 January 2014, by gj
Dear Gardening Friends,
Since we began posting late in the fall of 2009, we have had many occasions to celebrate-
A graduation, weddings, beginnings at college, the birth of our grandson.
We also have had the wonderful experience to get to connect with many like minded gardeners both seasoned and new, professionals in the field, wonderful entrepreneurs who love gardening, garden writers, and all around fantastic people whom we are happy everyday to be linked to.
By answering questions and listening/reading what others say, we have learned a great deal, and our gardens show it.
That gift is also priceless.
Our friendly group Gardenaholics Anonymous is fast approaching 3000 members, and if you look to the right you will see this blog is about to break 200,000 wonderful people who took the time to stop by.
Even our personal page on Facebook stays just shy of that ominous 5000 mark and the new page past 1400.
So this post is a Big Grin Thank You! to all of you for being a part of our lives, even if our only connection is through the written word- we are still connected.
Very soon this site will reach the Quarter Million mark.
Can you believe it?
If you had suggested that might happen 4 years ago, we would have laughed so hard we probably would have gotten the hiccups.
So as another Thank You! we are planning something (Shhh!!! It is a surprise!)
For now, we just want you to know how much y’all mean to us, and we hope we have helped you in someway because you sure have made a great difference to us!
Namaste and Happy Harvesting!
Categories: Addiction, jonesen'
26 January 2014, by gj
This is the final post in this series, as we come to the present.
It was in 2010 that we made the garden smile, with a simple truckload of mushroom soil. If ever we are asked to recommend one soil amendment, that would be it.
Every single part of the garden thrived and the larder was overflowing with filled canning jars. It was only recently that the last jar was opened.
2011, from memory.
Likewise the abundance continued into the following year. We were starting to see more of a problem with critters, though; attracted by all the food I guess.
This was part of the inspiration, along with the difficulties we know more urban gardeners face, that led to a design for a garden system.
The following winter was extremely mild with an early spring, and the squirrels in particular were everywhere. Mandolin Jones started referring to the garden as the ‘Squirrel Buffet‘.
Yeah, it was that bad.
As if that was not enough the weeds were also quite prolific.
This must be what it is like to live in a warmer region.
The first year.
We were armed though. With the garden design built, we were able to protect most of what we grew.
In the roadside garden 1 of every 5 tomatoes was being bitten by squirrels, in spite of the deterrents we used.
In the new system all were safe.
In 2013 the squirrels were not as bad but the weeds were worse in the roadside garden. The entire front row was covered in a think layer of newspaper and landscaping fabric, and filled with pots of herbs.
That worked very well to keep the weeds out, and container plants are easier to take care of when they are grouped together.
More perennials were added that year, including a number of fruit trees and berry canes. We got our first serious harvest of cranberries too.
The Jones’ Garden System
Most of the experimentation took place closer to the house.
With the garden design, now being referred to as the Jones’ Garden System, we were able to extend our harvest by 3 weeks on each end of the season.
It sported the first ripe tomato in the area, and didn’t lose a single one to critters. The beans were also producing sooner, and continued to be harvested longer into the fall.
The vertical aspect also did quite well, and was so much fun having squash and melons growing up and out the top. It was so neat to see the fruit hanging down and growing completely free of pests.
There were hardly any weeds to pull either.
It was so much easier in fact that we are now in the process of turning the roadside garden over primarily to perennials. We will still need to protect them from critters of course, but it won’t be as much of an issue.
I’m thinkin’ we’re going to have extra time on our hands; time well spent canning.
Categories: Addiction, gardening, Keeping up with the Joneses
17 January 2014, by gj
It is wonderful every year to get things just a little more organized and free up some wasted time that is better spent gardening.
Here are a few ideas we have found to help:
The garden notebook keeps growing.
- A garden notebook can keep a lot of the information from previous years as well as what is collected throughout the year for the upcoming season. Include a flash-drive for what you find online.
- Likewise a clipboard can not only keep you planting maps handy, it is an easy way to hold seed packets that are slated to go out to the garden for planting. Just use the clip to keep them safe from spilling or blowing away.
- A potting table allows for an area to organize your supply of soils, amendments and fertilizers.
Right at our fingertips.
- We use a free seed rack from the local farm & garden store to keep seeds organized. This year the stash has been reduced from 3 racks to one, to further simplify garden planning and seed ordering.
Oh… there you are!
One thing that eludes us is keeping track of tools.
It is as if the small ones intentionally hide, and the larger ones are like chameleons blending into their surroundings.
- Here is a solution we are going to use this upcoming spring: Use duct tape, now also called ‘duck’ tape or paint to brightly color the handles on your tools, making them easier to find. We have in the past used the wonderful idea of adding an old mailbox to your garden area to hold tools.
We did learn to be careful it is mounted level or pointing towards the ground, otherwise rain water can get in.
Some lessons are always learned the hard way.
What tips do you have for staying organized?
Categories: gardening, jonesen', saving money & time, techniques
12 January 2014, by gj
In 2005 we started naming names; that is, we really concentrated on trying different varieties of the same veggie. The idea was to see if we had a preference, and in most cases we really didn’t.
We do prefer white eggplant to the traditional dark purple, but only for the uniformity of the slices.
It was also the year we first planted Amaranth, but we did not know it was edible.
That would be a few years yet.
We learned the hard way that hot peppers and sweet peppers can cross pollinate in 2006. Of course this only affects the seeds, but hot peppers seeds have heat. A few of the sweet peppers picked up some of that heat, and it made eating them real interesting.
We also added a cherry tree that year, but that would not last long.
A birdhouse gourd grew up from the compost, and as it vined it’s way up a nearby pine, it grabbed the little cherry tree and pulled it right out of the ground.
Unfortunately it was too late by the time we noticed.
Another expansion took place in 2007.
It had been 3 growing seasons since we tried to limit the garden until we finally gave in.
Actually, we did better than expected.
That year we learned you can grow strawberries underneath dwarf peach trees if you keep the fruit trees pruned to give the berries enough sun.
We also learned that year how easily corn will cross pollinate, even if they are not down wind from each other.
An experimental ‘Compost Garden’ was planted in 2008. The idea was to see how many volunteers we could get if we didn’t put a single seed in the ground, and only used our own compost.
It certainly did show how easy growing food can be.
We didn’t get nearly as much of a harvest, a few potatoes made it and late in the season we had a nice supple of green tomatoes. None of the squash produced more than 1 or 2 fruit, mainly because they came up later than what we planted elsewhere by seed.
But experimenting is fun, so it was all good.
Finally in 2009 we expanded just a wee bit more. We added some kiwi vines, which always looked wonderful but never produced. We also got smart with the potted herbs, and put them all together in a shadier area, which also made keeping them watered easier.
Our experiment that year was with dry beans. we purchased a bag of 15 assorted dry soup beans at the local market and planted them.
To play it safe, we planted them in amongst the corn. That way if any were pole types, we were covered.
It was a bit of a madhouse in that bed, but it worked well.
For the most part, that was the last time we bought dry bean seeds.
It was in the late fall of 2009 that this blog began.
Since then every year has been a combination of trying new veggies and cultivars, and more experiments.
A lot of that has been documented here, but there is one more thing that hasn’t.
Not to leave you hanging, but that will be the final post of this series.
Categories: Addiction, gardening
22 December 2013, by gj
It was four years after we moved to this house that the front, roadside garden really began.
This area is a knoll, mostly covered in weeds and gravel, that is at the center of the half-circle driveway.
Because it was already a bit higher level, it warms up faster. It also gets more sun, so was the perfect area to grow.
As big as it is, it did not take long for us to fill it with plants.
We used the fencing not only to keep the deer out, but to grow vertically as much as we could.
The back garden, compressed.
We still used the back garden, but over time the trees were growing tall and reducing the amount of sun this area received.
In 2002 we tried expanding sideways, along side the house and towards the front.
As much as I did not want to admit it, it was becoming too much garden for the amount of time we could put into it.
The back garden had one last hurrah in 2003.
The two older kids were not home as often at this point, so we didn’t need quite as much food.
We focused on variety rather than quantity that year, learning to grow more of what we prefer to eat.
The time was coming to stop expanding, and start gardening smarter.
And so it was in 2004 that we gave up the back garden.
We added a few dwarf fruit trees out front, some raspberry canes, and moved the strawberries to their new home.
The intention was to keep things simple from now on.
Guess how long that lasted.
Categories: Addiction, gardening
21 December 2013, by gj
Ready to go.
Many gardeners have already either ordered their seeds for the upcoming year, or at least made tentative plans.
Although we are still in the planning stage, there are a few things we
expect know we will be adding in this year:
1. Sugar beets
Concerns about our food supply combined with our efforts to be more self-sufficient have led us to look at growing sugar. White sugar beets have a higher sugar content than regular red beets, and can be dried and ground into a powdered sweetener.
This should be
interesting fun fun fun!
Our daughter in law and son gave us some of the abundant crop of these green beauties last summer, and we were hooked. The salsa verde that resulted is both a treat to the eyes as well as a wonderful topping to many dishes.
want need more from our own garden.
Scorzonera, or ‘black salsify, is a delightful root veggie that we have grown in the past, but we have never planted salsify.
We’re thinking a side-by-side taste comparison would be
a great way to find the difference between the two a neat way to spend an afternoon in the kitchen.
Prepping for 2014.
4. Parsley root
Up until a few weeks ago, we didn’t even know this existed.
Just think of the possibilities of a parsley-flavored root veggie.
This time next year we are looking forward to trying a
recipe few lot of recipes out.
5. Bitter melon
This is a veggie we had heard of, but never grew. The bitterness is mild and lends itself well to oriental dishes, which we
love eat almost daily.
Do we see a ‘fun in the kitchen’ theme here?
6. ‘Lunchbox’ sweet peppers
The plan here is to stuff these as they ripen and toss in the freezer for a quick winter snack or side dish.
No need to blanch, how easy is that?
If the crop is really abundant, we
might absolutely will try some pickled as well.
If it is good enough for Peter Piper, hey, it works for us too.
7. Strawberry spinach
This unusual veggie caught our attention in Baker Creek’s seed catalog.
If your spinach is going to bolt anyway, it may as well produce bright red edible berries.
The catalog describes the flavor as bland, but we’re thinking it should would be a
delight conversation piece in a tossed salad.
Technically, this is not new to our garden as we did grow both yellow and red a number of years ago.
Unfortunately, we didn’t know you can eat the grain it produces.
We just tasted that recently and it had wonderful flavor, not to mention lovely on the plate.
It is considered a highly nutritious ‘pseudo-grain’ and will be
a good one to grow for our health another food we can play with in the kitchen.
Is it ever enough?
Of course we may very well end up with other veggies we haven’t planned on, as there is always something new out there to find.
And isn’t that just a part of the wonderful
hobby habit called Gardening?
Categories: gardening, jonesen'
8 December 2013, by gj
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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
1 December 2013, by gj
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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
27 October 2013, by gj
Well, it happened Dear Journal… Frost.
Let the processing begin.
Admittedly, we had an unusually warm fall and the gardens thrived better than ever. Then we went from highs in the 70-80′s. to lows below freezing.
Pretty much overnight.
No pun intended.
As you can see it took out most of the garden.
Clean up time.
The counters are all loaded, the dehydrator is running 24/7, and most of today will be spent in the kitchen.
We still need to go back out for more beans and some of the herbs that are still growing.
Mint sure is durable.
But most of the beds are now getting their fall amendments of leaves, compost, and aged manure.
Time to put the beds to bed.
Of course we still have beets, turnips, Chinese greens, carrots, peas, arugula and the cole crops. The latter seem to have been somewhat thwarted by the warm days, we’ll have to just wait to see how they do.
Some veggies like the cooler temperatures.
If there is one thing gardeners know Dear Journal, is that there is an invisible line where what they do ends, and where nature takes over.
The only problem is that from year to year, that line moves.
Categories: Addiction, dear journal