Friday, July 29, 2011
Thursday, July 28, 2011
Tuesday night when it had cooled down a bit (only 89 degrees instead of 109) I set out to "season" the garden bed. I felt like I was making a HUGE lasagna.
First I dug deeper, then I dug wider. My 4x4 became a 6x7 in a hurry. Once I finished digging I spread cow manure across the entire area then I added a layer of homemade compost. The next layer was the sandy soil I had previously dug out...time to put it back...but not all of it.
The next layers were a thin sprinkling of the remaining manure and then the rest of the original dirt. WHEW!! I didn't need to go to the gym for at least another day! Once my layers were finished I watered the entire area and it was time to shower.
Later this week I'll have to make another trip the the store for a few bags of garden soil. Florida soil is very sandy and not all plants like sandy soil. And next week it's time to transplant half of my remaining seedlings into their new home.
Pumpkins already have a new place in the garden, next will be Cucumber, Zucchini, Bell Peppers and Eggplant. The last of the transplants are Tomatoes and a few late-planted Zucchinis.
In the mean time I have started a few more seeds. I didn't get much of a harvest from my first Jalapeno so I've planted 3 more. I've also added another type of pepper and a Hungarian Heart Tomato...more on that later!
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
This morning I got up early (free parking before 8am) and went down to the beach with 2 grocery bags and a big plastic bin. I took my plastic bags down to the shore and picked the freshest seaweed which was just washing up on shore. After just 5 minutes both of my bags were full.
Back at the car I loaded the bags into the bin. I use the bin because it has a lid and I had a few errands to run before I went home.
Here it is!
Cleaning the Seaweed:
I used an old towel and spread the seaweed out over the towel. Just turn on the hose and rinse it down, picking up larger chunks to rinse more thoroughly. I'm going to let the seaweed dry just a bit before I use it.
Uses for Seaweed in the garden:
How to use Seaweed:
1. Make a tea. Put clean seaweed in a bucket and add water. After 2 weeks or up to 3months later, use the water on plants to fertilize the roots. Do not splash this "tea" on plant leaves and as with any fertilizer, do not over use.
~5 gallon bucket~Add 1/5 bucket of seaweed and fill with water.
2. Add to the compost bin or pile. Seaweed is a great compost activator and adds beneficial nutrients.
3. Apply directly to topsoil as mulch. As the Seaweed decomposes it will naturally feed the plants.
4. Use Seaweed when planting potatoes as the salt may deter slugs and other pests.
Monday, July 25, 2011
Not only does composting save money on expensive fertilizers and soil amendments, it keeps all of this "trash" out of your garbage bin and out of landfills.
Using compost improves soil structure, texture, and aeration and increases the soil’s water-holding capacity.
Warning: Everything I read about compost says not to use meat, diary or pet waste in your compost.
Do I need to buy a fancy (expensive) composter? No way!
In my own yard I have a big (dark) plastic tub which I drilled holes into the bottom. I've added my kitchen and yard "waste" and then a layer of soil...repeat! Every 4 or 5 days I go out into the yard and turn it over. No, I don't dump it out, "turn it" is garden-speak for stir or mix. The more I "turn" the mix the faster it seems to decompose.
What's in My Compost Bin?
Cherry stems, apple cores, lime rinds, coffee grounds, tea bags, celery leaves, potato peels, carrot ends, cucumber and onion bits, egg shells (washed and dried), grass clippings, dead leaves, dead flowers, mango skins. I might have forgotten a few things but you get the picture.
Stay away from using lawn clippings or additives with chemical fertilizers or pesticides!
Nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus are produced naturally by the feeding of microorganisms and decomposing waste. These three ingredients are essential for a thriving veggie garden.
Sunday, July 24, 2011
Last update I had a bunch of flowers on my watermelon. Well now I have a few mini watermelons popping up. I planted the watermelon on June 1st so in 54 days I have inch-long, soon-to-be juicy watermelon. This particular melon should be ripe in 90 days or less. 36 more days??
I've had to compost 2 of my old tomato plants. It was a very sad day!
Due to circumstances beyond my control...so sad...they were no longer viable plants.
The good news is my backyard project has grown into an enormous garden. I estimate I have 15 feet by 5 feet of in-ground planting area. Wow! And I dug it all by myself.
Today I transplanted Pumpkins! The little guys had outgrown their seedling pots. Here they are in their new home.
The picture above is the far east side of the garden. I'm starting here and moving west!
Zucchinis are growing but not quite ready to go out on their own. And neither are the Cherokee Purple Tomatoes. They're still growing into their pot and need TLC.
I can't forget my garden cats!!! Rita (little black cat) and Rocky (the big maine coon)
My tip of the day: Watch out for buried pipes.
Friday, July 22, 2011
I have had my work cut out for me recently. I've battled leaf miners, tomato hornworms, cutworms...UGH!!
Here's a list of a few nasty little bad bugs:
Slug or Snail
Just thinking about these little guys makes my skin crawl. I've just come in from the garden, defending my harvest, and now it's time to get cleaned up.
There are many natural forms of pest control, from companion planting to homemade recipes using regular household items such as dishsoap or milk.
Before you go out and buy poison from the local garden store, try a home-remedy!
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Green Lacewing- called "aphid lion"
Centipede and Millipede
Each of these bugs is beneficial in their own way. The good bugs eat "bad" bugs, spread pollen from flower to flower, aerate soil naturally, produce natural fertilizers through feces and "castings" and are the best form of natural (organic) pest-control.
So next time you're in the garden, watch out for the good guys!
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
So now comes the hard part...Waiting! I am anxiously waiting for planting day. Like I said, I'm on a budget, so the raised bed will have to wait til next week to be built. IF that is the method I choose. I don't have a "homestead" to manage so my duties are light. The dishes are clean, the house is picked up...so what do I do now?
My hubby jokes that I'm a "Martha Stewart without the record" but I still have so much to learn.
Soapmaking comes to mind. I have all of the tools necessary to make melt-and-pour soap but I'd like to try cold-processed soap. It will involve more research, which I love to do, and more materials.
Candlemaking sounds like fun but I don't use candles all that much. Candles make great gifts and so does soap...lightbulb...Christmas presents in July!!! Maybe.
More on that later. My coffee is calling!
Sunday, July 17, 2011
Using a raised bed garden design does not requires digging or rototilling. After a bit of research I've found that it's cheaper to build your own bed than to purchase one, especially since I have my own handsome handy-man.
Materials include: wood, screws, drill and a level. Here are a few examples:
Left: raised bed using wood planks
Right: raised bed using concrete blocks
To make the bed even cheaper and more eco-friendly I can use recycled wood, use homemade compost and use dead leaves for mulch. The more expensive aspect of a raised-bed garden is the fill.
Even if you have a large area to garden in, the square foot method can be used to maximized productivity!
Just to recap:
-uses less space
-uses less water
-less work (in theory)
I think I have found my garden solution...Today! I reserve the right to change my mind tomorrow. I still have 2-3 weeks before any of the seedling are ready to be transplanted.
Grow babies grow!
Saturday, July 16, 2011
I started with half dead and thirsty grass...
And I dug a hole...
Then I added dead leaves and buried them for compost.
THAT was all last week!!! I was pretty sore from all the raking and digging so I decided to take a break.
Yesterday I picked up where I left off.
I dug a 4 foot x 4 foot hole that is almost a foot deep. I am calling this Phase 2.
I am sore this morning but I feel GOOD!!
I'm still not completely sure what type of garden style I will choose. I might just use 3 methods: containers, in-ground and raised bed.
Today I'll cover my dirt mound (compost heap) with a sheet of thick plastic so that everything will decompose faster. This way, when I'm ready to plant in 2 weeks I have nice fertile soil to use without having to purchase much from the garden store.
Thursday, July 14, 2011
My current garden is planted in containers. Having recently moved into a house from an apartment, containers were my only option. Now that I have an actual yard I am weighing my garden-style options.
Do I plant everything in the ground or keep a few in containers? Do I plant directly into the ground or a raised-bed?
I have looked at so many different garden designs and layouts and I'm still not sure which to choose.
This is an amazing garden and beautifully laid out. Although I don't have this much room, I could grow something similar.
A large container garden is another great option. I would need more recycled containers for something as large as this space.
Planting in hills would be a great idea but I think that rainfall in my area might wash it all away.
And last but not least, the raised bed garden. But wait...there seem to be several methods to the raised bed garden. The most popular, from what I've read, is the Square Foot Garden method.
Raised beds can be made to fit just about any space. If I have a large area to use I can make several beds. Or if I only want to use a small space I can build a smaller bed.
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
I've got new seeds to plant, leaves to rake and plants to water. The new compost pile is coming along nicely.
I've got BELL PEPPERS!!!
And flowers for more bell peppers...
My watermelon is coming along nicely...
With lots of pretty flowers.
The Pumpkins are on the move!
Off to work I go!
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
(from my hubby's bachelor days)
that reads "If I am what I eat-I'm quick cheap and easy."
It was a gift from his brother...need I say more?
Last week my mom asked me "What's the easiest thing to grow that will come up the fastest?"
This one's for you Mom!
The quickest maturing veggie I'm aware of are Radish and Spinach.
The German Giant Radish germinates in approx. 3-5 days and grows well in soil temperature of 45 to 85 F. Radish is ready to pick and eat in 21 to 30 days. Planting radish can be done in the Spring, Summer or Fall in almost all zones making this one easy veggie. Mary's Heirloom Seeds sells seed pack with 300 seeds for only $4. Now that's quick, cheap and easy!
Spinach is another great crop. It can be grown indoors or out during almost any season. Spinach germinates in 7-14 days and grows well in soil temperatures between 30 to 60 F. For container gardeners, choose a 12 inch deep pot and keep the soil moist. Spinach can be harvested as soon as leaves are big enough to pick.
What about Broccoli? Mom always said "Eat your vegetables."
Broccoli germinates in approx 5-20 days (depending on temperature) at 50 to 85F. Compost is a must for this heavy feeder. This cool-season crop can be grown in containers or in-ground and matures in 48 days.
While at the library I picked up a few books I hadn't read:
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
by Stieg Larsson (third third book in the series)
Down and Dirty: 43 Fun & Funky first-time projects & activities to get you gardening
by Ellen Zachos
The Art of the Kitchen Garden
by Jan & Michael Gertley
I highly recommend the Stieg Larsson series!
There are a few books in my personal library that are useful tools for just about everything.
I have a subscription to Mother Earth News,
If it Makes You Healthy (cookbook) by Sheryl Crow & Chuck White
Growing 101 Herb That Heal by Tammi Hartung
My Favorite Book:
The Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery
While I don't live in the country, this book provides information for just about every household need. The cover reads ""Find and buy your land-Site and build a house or cabin-Create a vegetable garden-Log your land-Manage a herd of cattle-Raise chickens, goats and pigs-Mill your own flour-Bake your own bread...Treat your family with home remedies-learn basic beekeeping-Light your table with candles you made."
What a book! According to the chronology, the first edition of this book came out March 1, 1974 with many updates since.
Monday, July 11, 2011
I learned to be more careful where I place my seedlings. My screened in patio is cat territory!
I learned how to make my own tomato cages from an awesome video.
From that same video I learned how to use screen-like material to shield my tomatoes from pests.
I learned how to make my own garden trellis. This will be very useful with my cucumbers.
Today was all about research! I have not decided whether I'll grow everything in the ground or half container and half raised-bed. I am intrigued by the "square-foot-garden" method. Using this method is supposed to cut down on water usage, make the most of small spaces and control weeds naturally.
I need more time to decide what to do with the new garden. Fortunately for me, mother nature takes her time in the garden so I have a few weeks til my seedlings are ready to be transplanted.
I've been a busy girl today between work, research and now heading off to the gym.
Tomorrow is another day. I see more research, more work and more sunshine in my future!
Sunday, July 10, 2011
My Chiropractor always says "Stress is what kills us; Chemical, Physical and Emotional."
It's true! Just a few of the side effects of stress include migraine, depression, weight gain or weight loss, heart disease and sickness. Just being out in the sun makes me feel better. If I'm feeling anxious or stressed out, working up a sweat gives me great relief.
This week I dug the first stage of my "in-ground" garden. I dug 14 inches deep, 2 feet wide by 5 feet long...then I buried leaves to make compost. The second phase will be an identical 14x2x5 trench. When I was finished I was tired but also proud of what I had accomplished.
Below is a picture of the midway point. I had to stop and drink water. It's HOT outside!It's hard to feel depressed or anxious when the first little seedlings pop out from the soil and the sun is shining down, nurturing new life.
This morning I check on my little "babies" and was shocked to see them already poking out of the soil...so I ran in the house to grab the camera!
Saturday, July 9, 2011
I don't have enough growing in my garden to live off. But I'm working on it.
As I've mentioned before, parts of the world have seen record droughts while others have had terrible flooding. Add in a few natural disasters, rising fuel costs and gmo contamination and you have a recipe for food shortages and starvation. Several economists predict that in the near future, food will still be available but it will become so expensive that most people won't be able to afford it.
What if nothing happens?
GREAT! I'm all for a harmonious balance in the economy and nature but I'm not going to sit around and wait. I don't expect to be able to produce a sustainable garden in a few short days or weeks so I've got to start now. Practice, practice, practice!
Be aware when starting a garden what grows best in your area. The best resource I have found for guidance is Mother Earth News. They have a carefully planned month-to-month guide for what to plant and when to plant.
Once I have a garden large enough to produce more food than my family can eat, I'll use several methods to store produce for later. Freezing, canning and dehydrating are 3 ways to store food (more on those methods later).
My tops 5 favorite (and easiest) plants to grow are:
For more information check out Mary's Heirloom Seeds for growing instructions.
Friday, July 8, 2011
I'm on a budget. I clip coupons and buy an extra item or two when they go on sale. Store bought produce has gotten more expensive and Organic produce is much more expensive than the other stuff. It's no wonder people opt for a "dollar menu" item instead of fresh produce
But how organic is it? How can I be sure it's not growing using Frankenseeds (GMO) and sprayed with cancer causing pesticides? One of the more fancier organic grocery stores recently admitted to using gmo produce in their food.
So what do I do now? Start my own garden! (on a budget of course)
One packet of Beefsteak Tomatoes from Mary's Heirloom Seeds costs $4 and contains approximately 50 heirloom seeds. Each seed should produce a plant which bears fruit ranging in size from 10 ounces to 2 pounds...Yes, 2 pounds.
At the same time, 1 pound of tomatoes at my local grocery store costs $1.69 on sale. Triple that if I buy organic!
Each tomato plant will require stakes or cages which can be made from recycled material for free or purchased at a garden store for about $6. I use containers for my tomatoes which can also come from recycled items.
One huge money saver is compost.
By making my own compost (in a recycled tub) using kitchen scraps and yard waste I save about $100! A store-bought compost bin ranges in price from $80-$400. Store-bought bags of compost (who knows what's in that) costs between $2-$20 each.
Each tomato plant should bear 10 pounds of tomatoes or more...That's 500 pounds of tomatoes for a $4 seed pack and $6 cage and homemade compost.
Thursday, July 7, 2011
Today I have great news...Cherokee Purple plants are on the move! YEAH!!!
THIS gets me excited about growing things in the garden. LIFE!!!
I have several plants already maturing and several producing: Marglobe tomatoes, Jalapeno, Cal Wonder Bell pepper, Cucumber and Georgia Rattlesnake Watermelon.
My next big feat to conquer will be growing all of these in the ground. We've been in a drought here recently so I've been cautious about what I plant. This morning however, it's pouring outside. We've had rain off and on for a week now but this morning is the heaviest. I'm looking forward to my next adventure!
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
To find out what might be on your food if purchased from the grocery store check out "What's on my food?" It is a great resource and an eye opener. If reading about hormone interrupting, cancer causing pesticides doesn't get you motivated, hopefully the following list of vitamins and minerals found in raw vegetables will.
There are many health benefits of eating raw fruits and vegetables. Processing and cooking vegetables can destroy the essential nutrients. Vegetables are rich in vitamins and minerals, low in sodium and fats and are cholesterol free.
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
For now, I'll highlight the most important reasons for a vegetable garden and go into more detail in the next few days.
Food grown in your own garden is far healthier than store bought produce. As the gardener, I have complete control over my veggies. They are not irradiated and have not been sprayed with chemicals.
A packet of seeds from Mary's Heirloom Seeds costs $4. With that one seeds pack I might be able to grow 20 pounds or even 50 pounds of food. Seed saving is free.
Food prices are on the rise and the world has been plagued by natural disasters. Flooding in Australia, China and parts of the United States as well as earthquakes in Japan have pose a serious threat to food sources around the world. Fuel costs are also on the rise which means even higher food prices in the future.
Working in the garden allows me to let off a little steam or let my mind wander. I hear the bird chirping and the lizards in the yard scurry away as I approach and I feel good.
“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” --Marcus Tullius Cicero
Today my additions to the garden are Black Beauty Eggplant, National Pickling Cucumber, Jack B Little Pumpkin and Cal Wonder Bell Pepper . I'm starting them from seeds so they aren't "in" yet but they are on their way.
I started by first soaking the seeds overnight. After 24 hours they are placed into prepared growing flats and labeled. In a few weeks the seedling will be ready to be hardened and placed in the ground.
Monday, July 4, 2011
The term Victory Garden became popular in the 1940s during World War ll.
Faced with food shortages due to labor and transportation issues, the US government called upon it's citizens to provide their own fruits and vegetables. It is estimated that nearly 20 million Americans answered the call.
This initiative not only conserved fuel but generated food which had become a scarcity in both the states and abroad.
Today, there is a renewed interest in Victory Gardening.
With rising fuel and food costs and concerns about overall health, the home gardens and Victory Gardens are back!
I enjoy the "Back to the Basics" feeling of gardening.
Whether you garden for self-reliance or just for fun, you can grow a garden just about anywhere. A few acres can support a small community or a large family but even a few containers can get you started on the right track.
Here are a few examples:
1940s Victory Garden
California Victory Garden
Florida Victory Garden
From container gardening to square foot gardens, from butterfly gardens to Victory gardens...
Get out there and get dirty!
Sunday, July 3, 2011
This weekend I'll be celebrating and exercising my freedoms!
My goal for my garden is to become less reliant on store-bought produce and herbs. I do enjoy my weekly trips to the farmer's market but I would still like to be more self-sufficient. Saving money is one reason to grow your own food but taste is what I really notice. Growing up, my Gran always had the most delicious homegrown tomatoes.
Today I am planting herbs: Cilantro, Echinacea Purpurea, German Chamomile and Oregano. In a later post I'll explain how to make your own plant markers. For now I've posted a picture below.
Planting and growing herbs can be very simple. Use good soil, sprinkle seeds over desired area, gently cover with 1/2 inch of dirt (a few specify NOT to cover) and lightly water. Keep soil moist as containers dry out quickly. Harvest when ready.
Cilantro growing in soil that reaches 75F will bolt and go to seed. This means that the ideal growing conditions are cool but sunny. Cilantro will only last about 8-10 weeks before flowering. Once it does flower, it will make seeds which can be harvested as Coriander seeds or they can be replanted to grow more Cilantro plants.
Echinacea, also known as coneflowers, enjoy a sunny location with fertile soil. If your soil isn't particularly fertile, work in a little compost and supplement with a good organic fertilizer. Well-drained soil is a must.
German Chamomile prefers well-drained sandy soil and self-sows freely. Sow seeds indoors on surface of soil (do not cover). Transplant outdoors in early spring just before last frost.
Oregano is a perennial warm-season herb, hardy to frost and light freezes. Sow seeds indoors just beneath surface of soil. Transplant outdoors after danger of frost has passed. Prefers very well-drained soil.
I like to recycle as often as possible. I've used a containers from my salad and poked small holes in the bottom for drainage. I added dirt but not to the top. Sprinkle with seeds and add more dirt if necessary. Water gently.
Here's a picture of the Cherokee Purple tomatoes from a few days ago. After they were all settled in the dirt I put them out in the sun.
Saturday, July 2, 2011
Lately I seem to be obsessed with tomatoes. I've spent hours reading about natural remedies for pests and disease and there is STILL so much to learn. The internet makes learning so easy. However, the local library has so much to offer! I've started a list of remedies that have worked so far.
For white fly: Mix liquid soap and water in a spray bottle. Spray every 2-3 days for 2 weeks.
For powdery mildew and fungus: Mix organic neem oil and water in a spray bottle. Follow the directions on the bottle. Do not get this in your eyes!
For Ants: Sprinkle Cinnamon or Cayenne pepper to form a barrier.