Gardening

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!

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Categories: Addiction, All About Seeds, Gardening

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Beat Those Winter Blues by Growing Some Green

Untitled

There are a number of edible plants that are easy to grow indoors, and help make the winter go by just a little faster. Here are a few we suggest:

1. Micro Tom Tomatoes are the smallest growing tomato plant, only getting to a height of about 8 inches. In just less than 3 months they will go from planting the seed to providing tiny pea sized fresh tomatoes. They can be grown on a window sill or in a hanging basket, need no pollination, and will provide you with the fresh flavor of homegrown tomatoes all year.

2. Carrots such as Short and Sassy, Caracas or Parisienne are perfect for a small pot indoors. Be sure to keep them moist until they sprout. Just seeing the fern like leaves is enough to bring a smile to your face, but tasting a fresh carrot straight from the soil can’t be beat.

3. Most varieties of leaf lettuce can be grown indoors. They have a shallow root system, so a small planter is all you need. Of course, like all these plants, be sure they have good drainage and sufficient light. Just trim off the lower leaves as you need them, and your lettuce will provide for many months.

4. Your cat can get in on the action too. Indoor cats, and all cats in winter, can use catgrass as a supplement to their diet. It aids in their digestion. Of course, it is for cats only; but it is super easy to grow and good for your pet.

5. Cucumbers indoors? Yes, if you have a large pot with a tomato cage or other support. You will need to find a hybrid labeled as parthenocarpic, which simply means that the flowers do not need bees to pollinate them. These plants are bred for greenhouses, but do well in a warm sunny room.

6. Baby watermelon plants, such as Sugar Baby, do not need as large a pot to grow as you might think. Their root systems are comparatively shallow, and their vines only grow to about 4 feet. Of course, here you will need to hand pollinate by gently rubbing a small paintbrush on the male flower and then on a female flower. It is easy to tell the difference, the females have what looks like a tiny melon behind the flower. Again, give the plant support and plenty of sun.

7. Fruit trees, such as Meyer lemons, clementines and avocados can all be grown indoors. Just tending to them as the fruit grows provides smiles. We suggest you place the pots on plant stands with wheels, so you can bring them outdoors when the weather warms. This is also the time the fruit gets the attention it needs from bees and other bugs.

8. Most herbs can easily be grown on a windowsill in the winter. Adding homegrown fresh basil or cilantro to a recipe is so much better than dried or store bought. Greek recipes benefit from a pinch of oregano, as do Indian dishes with a little fenugreek.

There are other fruits and vegetables that can be grown indoors, depending on how much light and room you have. We’re going to be trying a small grape developed for indoor growing this winter. Just experiment and have fun, that’s the most important part of growing indoors.

The winter may still be cold, but it will be spring inside.

Categories: Container Gardening, Extending the Season

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Fresh Food Year Round – You Can Grow That!

The shovel helps make a path to the greenhouse.

The shovel helps make a path to the greenhouse.

In some regions of the country they can grow fresh food year round because the weather is well suited for it.

For the majority of us though, as you can see from the picture of our yard, it’s a challenge.
And in some areas, it is for opposite reasons- it just becomes too dang hot.

So what’s a gardener to do?

For those of you with the issues of cold, I would recommend two books:

Four Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman
The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener by Niki Jabbour

The first was my gardening bible when we were just starting out. We dabbled in cold frames, and later in high and low tunnels, and were able to easily add at least 6 weeks and then more on to a season that is basically only 4 months long.

The second book was the kick in the pants we needed to take it even further. With the recent addition of a small greenhouse, and by using our own gardening system, we have been able to grow fresh food even longer into the season.

I must admit though as we get older, the idea of shoveling a path to the greenhouse or even going out into the cold to harvest becomes a little less appealing. So, what we are looking at primarily this winter is growing food indoors.

If you have an area that you are heating anyway, this is a great way to get fresh food throughout the winter.

We are still harvesting basil from last fall, and our cucumber, tomatoes, baby belle pepper and watermelon plants are up and soon to be transplanted.

The cucumber is a variety that does not need pollination, known as parthenocarpic. Peppers contain both the male and female close enough together, as do tomatoes and eggplant, that with just a wee bit of help they will produce fruit. The watermelon will need some hand pollination from us. We’re also trying a container variety of butternut squash.

All of these are doable things, and we will be posting throughout the experiment how things go.

In the meantime, know that snow falling or cold temps, or even the opposite of blistering heat, does not mean you must stop growing fresh food, because the truth is:

you can grow that

You Can Grow That! is a collaborative effort by gardeners around the world to help others learn to grow.
Click on the link above for more.

For more info on Extending the Harvest read here.

Categories: Extending the Season, You Can Grow That!

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The Colors of Vegetables – Is it Just Eye Candy?

three colors of cauliflower

You probably have heard terms like phytonutrients and antioxidants used when people are talking about nutrition, or maybe when they are trying to sell you a food product.

It is part of the same idea of eating a rainbow, in that by choosing a variety of different colored fruits and vegetables, you will get a more diverse assortment of phytonutrients, and therefore a healthier diet.

But is there a difference in these substances when they are the same vegetable, as is the case with the white, orange and green cauliflower shown above?

Actually, there is. The chemical process that makes these heads different colors also offers different phytonutrients. This is the case for all veggies, you can read about different colored carrots here.

Now when it comes down to it, eating orange cauliflower is still, overall nutrition wise, more like eating white cauliflower than it is like eating an orange carrot.

So why bother to grow a variety of different colors of the same veggie?

Eye candy; but in a good way.

It is a well known expression in food service that people eat first with their eyes. Who wouldn’t be much more interested in a cauliflower salad or a crudites plate that had 3 or 4 different colors of cauliflower?

Whether you feed kids or picky adults, consider color when you choose what to plant. Not only will they be more likely to eat it, they will get a better assortment of those phytonutrients.

May as well bump up that nutrition while you’re at it!

Check out our Veggie Comparison Tables here for more info.

Categories: FAQs, Gardening

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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, Techniques & Issues

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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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5 Types of Season Extenders

season extenders

The only snow that got in was when I lifted the cover.

There are a number of ways you can get more growing time for your garden. Which you choose will depend on your budget, the size of your garden, and the extent to which you want to grow in the cold weather.

Here are a few to consider:

1. Cold Frames
Not only good for starting seedlings, cold frames can also house veggies and keep them protected enough to go farther into the winter. They are basically boxes, higher on one side that the opposite side, with glass or plastic hinged tops. The clear panels let light into to warm up the interior. Tops can be kept ajar when the day temperatures are still warm. Cold frames can get buried in snow; but if it isn’t too deep, it can actually help insulate the boxes.

2. Low tunnels
These can be made by bending PVC pipe or heavy wire into an inverted U-shape. This is then covered in plastic, again protecting the plants while letting the light through. To ventilate, the plastic must be pulled back and clipped.
Low tunnels are by design used only for shorter types of plants.
In large gardens, using portable low tunnels can help you protect different areas each year. This helps when you are rotating crops.

3. The Jones’ Garden System
Our favorite of course, the system acts similar to both a cold frame and low & high tunnels, allowing you to start seedlings as well as protect all sizes of plants in place.
It also grows more food in less space than a high tunnel, and is easier on the back than a cold frame. You can go farther into the cold with the help of heat tape.

The design makes it user friendly and we think the best solution for smaller gardens. To ventilate, simply move the top frame to the side.

4 & 5. High Tunnels and Greenhouses
Similar in that you can walk into them, these season extenders can help protect taller plants. They don’t hold the heat overnight as well as you might think, but do warm up fast during the day. They both do have the advantage that they can house a heating unit, and that you can be out of the cold weather while gardening.

High tunnels are usually ventilated by opening the door flaps. Greenhouse have ventilating panels as part of the design.

Read here about a high tunnel in Holland.

Do you use season extenders to get more from your garden?

Categories: Extending the Season, Gardening, Keeping up with the Joneses

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Forever Food – You Can Grow That!

reseeding parsnip

When most people think of perennial edible plants, they probably think of apple trees and berry bushes, and that’s a great start. Fruit trees will bear for decades, berry bushes and canes give out new growth each year, grapes new vines, and even strawberries reproduce themselves providing younger, more vigorous plants.

But you don’t have to stop there if you want a lifetime of food. Plants such as asparagus and perennial onions never seem to stop coming back, and in fact, produce more. One horseradish root can provide you with more than you probably want. Be careful with these, they can be very invasive! Likewise, sunchokes aka Jerusalem artichokes. Although also invasive these have a bonus feature of producing lovely flowers that smell like chocolate.
Can you imagine?

Many herbs like sage, chives and thyme are perennial, others such as all the mint family including the balms and oregano, as well as dill, will reseed themselves. Our oregano bed is a good 10 years old and still going strong. The joke in this area is ‘Don’t trip carrying a pack of oregano seeds.’ Yep, it is that easy to grow, and that willing to spread.

Then there are the plants that give you something to put back, most in the form of seeds. The easiest example of this would be dry beans. With little effort on your part, you can purchase seeds once and never need to buy more. Forever.

You can save the seeds from many other edibles, just watch for cross pollination. Even then, a surprise once in a while is fun.

And it doesn’t stop there. You can replant some of the potatoes you harvest the following spring. Just be sure to start with a variety that holds well, and use the best of what you grew. Garlic is the same way, except that it gets planted just a few months after harvesting.

Let a few of your sweet potatoes start growing vines or ‘slips’ and you’ll be ready to grow another crop.

There are 3 ways new to us that we are trying this year to grow forever food. The first was to bring in a sweet pepper and an eggplant to see if we can keep them alive until spring and then bring back outside to start producing again.

The second is the parsnip experiment, shown above. We let a few roots go to seed, and the bed is now full of free plants. If they can get big enough to survive the winter, that’s one less thing we’ll need to plant.
If not, well we have a jar full of seeds.

The last was an accident. When harvesting some basil, we found a number of smaller plants that still had their roots on when pulled. They are now happily growing in a jar of water by the window, with no signs of giving up.

So what it comes down to is there is very little we need to buy to have a great harvest each year.

Of course, we still do. We just love trying new varieties.

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: Gardening, How to Grow, You Can Grow That!

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Winterizing the Garden

It’s spring in Australia, and just cool enough now that our southern neighbors are starting their fall gardens.

Areas north have already received snow.

Here in Northeastern Pa. it’s time to put most of the garden to bed for the winter.

winterizing the garden

cardboard keeps the weeds away

There are a number of ways you can do this, this is what’s happening here.

Towards the end of the summer, we place cardboard over harvested beds to keep out any weed seeds until the frost kills them off.
If we plan on tilling a bed, which is rare, we leave the cardboard on through the winter to also keep out the spring weeds, and till in the soil amendments when the weather gets warm again.

winterizing the garden

summer's mulch and fall leaves add organic matter naturally

Between the falling autumn leaves and the straw that was used as mulch, some beds have a head start on winter. For the ones that won’t be tilled, we begin with nature.

winterizing the garden

so that's where my knife went

We add more rough compost to the beds. It will break down further over time, and can just be worked into the soil if needed before planting.

winterizing the garden

spread rough compost on top of your soil

To top this off we add a nice layer of leaves. These will also break down over time.
Just remember that some of your furry friends may decide to make a home underneath.

winterizing the garden

leaves act as mulch

You wouldn’t want to find a little bunny’s nest there…

winterizing the garden

...or something worse.

Categories: FAQs, Gardening, Techniques & Issues

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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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