Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New Year's Resolutions for Gardeners

New Year's Resolutions are not for everyone. I certainly can't be the example of one who keeps resolutions. But it is always good to examine where you have been and where you want to go, so that is the purpose of a resolution. Gardeners seem to be always assessing their gardens' performance, keeping journals, playing with garden layouts, rotating crops, reading seed catalogs for new plants. This year try making a resolution that will improve your garden.
Resolve to:

1. Take a soil sample to your county extension office so you will know what nutrients your soil needs to make a healthy growing medium for your crops.

2. Evaluate how you water your plants. Do you need to add a spigot to easily attach a hose? Would a soaker hose be a good addition? How about adding a water barrel to catch rain water? How about buying a new hose???

3. Plan a location for composting.

4. Find new recipes for using your harvested veggies.

5. Read a book on gardening this winter.

6. Plan a seating area so after all your hard work, you can sit quietly, rest, and enjoy the sights, fragrances, and sounds of your glorious garden.
Wishing you all a good-growing, Happy New Year 2010!!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Update on the Florida Garden

This has been an unusually wet year in Florida. With the nice rains and the horse manure that my DH worked into the garden, the plants are loving it. We have had delicious Romaine lettuce, green onions, and radishes to make colorful, tasty salads. I have added raisins to the salad bowl giving it a sweet sparkle in every bite.

Today my DH started Mighty Joe lettuce, Raptor MI romaine lettuce, Red Derby MI bibb lettuce, Hybrid spinach, and corn salad seeds in a flat. He will transplant the seedlings to the garden in about 14 days. Are you familiar with corn salad? He has never grown this variety of, we think, some kind of lettuce. It is supposed to spice up a salad. Give us 44 days and we can tell you how it is....

The broccoli heads are forming and the cabbage heads look very good. Last summer, after having so many great heads of cabbage, I thought I would never eat another serving of cole slaw again. However, at this point, I can hardly wait to cut the first crisp head and chop it up in the blender to make slaw!

One week from Christmas. Christmas in Florida is very different from the Christmases I have experienced in the northern winters. Palm trees lighted, warm sunny days, and walking around the neighborhood in shorts to view the lights are just a few of the examples of a Florida Christmas. But no matter where you celebrate Christmas, I wish you the joy, love, and peace that comes with the birth of Baby Jesus.

Merry Christmas!!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Birds Have to Eat Too

How do the birds find food to carry them through these difficult days of freezing winter winds and blizzards? Frozen ground. Snow-covered lawns, yards, woods. Many people use birdfeeders in the deep winter to keep their bird population in the area. Click here for bird feeding information.

You can plant your yard with bird friendly plants to attract these colorful flyers. These plantings will offer cover and food even during a harsh winter. Fresh water is needed also, so perhaps in these cold days and nights, you can make sure there is water available in your back yard.

A bright red cardinal on a snow-covered branch is a sight that will lighten your heart even on a dark, winter day.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Cooperative Extension Offices

You have a valuable partner in your gardening adventures. Your county agent through the Cooperative Extension Offices has a wealth of information about vegetable gardening. You can take a soil sample in for analyzing. The tests will determine what you need to add to your garden soil to produce a rich growing environment for your plants. The agents access the state's information about diseases, fungi, pests that could affect the local gardens.

Plan to use the resources of your local extension office to plan and grow your garden this year. To locate the office in your area, click here.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Recipe--Seven Layer Salad

Seven Layer Salad made with lettuce grown in our Florida garden
Seven Layer Salad is always a hit at potlucks and family gatherings. This Thanksgiving feast was no exception. We enjoyed a great picnic at Lake Tarpon Park near Tarpon Springs, FL, yes the city known for its Greek culture and sponge diving. The lake was beautiful and a bit windy, and the Florida sunshine was present in all its glory. We spent the day with our neighbor's family which numbered into 30 or so. Too many people for one house so they always have a picnic in the park for Thanksgiving. Lots of food and lots of fun including ladder golf and cornhole and a beautiful walk on the nature trail by the lake.
I am sharing this recipe for Seven Layer Salad, one of our family favorites. You may want to add or delete any of the layers. I like to add boiled eggs and radishes, so that may make it a nine layer salad. Use what you have from your garden to make this a tasty addition to your turkey or ham dinner or to your cookout with burgers and dogs.
Seven Layer Salad
Shred lettuce to fill a 9 x 13 pan.
1/2 c. chopped green pepper
1/2 c. celery
1 sweet onion, sliced thin
1 package frozen peas, not thawed
1 c. mayonnaise mixed with 2 T. sugar
Place veggies in pan in order listed above.
Sprinkle 4 ounces cheddar cheese on top of dressing.
Cook 6 strips of bacon. Break them up when cool and place on top of cheese.
Cover. Place in refrigerator for 24 hours.
Thanks Eichs for this great recipe!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone

Happy Thanksgiving!

This is why we toil in the vegetable garden--to produce a great food product. Food that is tasty, nutritious, and yes, beautiful. Thanksgiving is the time to celebrate all your hard work and to give thanks for our blessings and for this harvest. You may still have some produce to harvest at this time, or you may have preserved the bounty from your summer garden. I am sure you will enjoy it this holiday with friends and/or family making the meal more special because you had a hand in actually producing the food that sits on the festive table.

Give Thanks.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Garden Seed Catalog Time

We received our first seed catalog in the mail yesterday from Stokes Seeds. My husband spent the evening perusing it. A garden seed catalog for a gardener is like a toy catalog to an eight year old. The excitement, the possibilities, the new seeds, the heirloom seeds, and all the gorgeous pictures of products.

If you want an overview and review of companies and their garden catalogs check out this link to Dave's Garden. The site offers "the Garden Watchdog, a free directory of 6,964 mail order gardening companies." Now this may take you more than an evening to figure out what catalogs NOT to order. Have fun. It is a great way to spend a cold winter evening.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Recipe--Pumpkin Dump Cake

I know the name of this dessert doesn't sound appetizing, but believe me, it is tasty and an easy delight to make. Maybe we could re-name it, so it will not scare off your friends and family from trying this delicious treat. It has a base like pumpkin pie and an easy-to-make topping. You can serve it with whipped cream if you choose to do so. Thanks, Helen, for sharing this recipe.

Pumpkin Dump Cake

1 29 oz. can pure pumpkin (or use your fresh canned pumpkin from the garden)
1 12 oz can evaporated milk
3 eggs
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. salt
3 tsp. cinnamon
1 box yellow cake mix
1 c. chopped pecans (or walnuts)
3/4 c. melted margarine

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix first 6 ingredients until well blended. Pour batter into 9x13 greased pan.

Sprinkle cake mix on top, then cover with pecans. Pour melted margarine over top.

Bake 50 minutes.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Horse Manure, Yes!

Mission accomplished: The horse manure is in the garden.
My DH worked it into the ground today.

Beautiful horse country near Masaryktown, FL. This is beautiful, rustic country.
Not your Disney view of Florida.

My DH and friend who has a garden too pitching the poo into the back of our truck. Big Blue.

I wonder if this pretty white horse made a contribution to our collection?

Picturesque tranquility.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Verdict is In on the Lettuce

My husband started seeds in Michigan to plant in our Florida garden. He planted them in the garden after the poor little things made the long trip stashed in the backend of the pickup truck, Big Blue, for 5 days. Needless to say they were not in the best of shape. After planting, the weather was in the 90's, hot and humid. Not exactly optimal weather for lettuce. But, the plants are big enough now so that he pulled off some leaves for a salad.

I washed them up, Romaine lettuce called Victoria, and tasted them. I was afraid with all the heat the flavor would be bitter. Unfortunately I was right. They taste bitter. They are crisp and crunchy so I am going to mix them in with some Romaine lettuce I purchased from the store and throw in a bunch of veggies and dressing. I am hoping the flavor will not be so strong as to make the whole salad bitter.

Lettuce likes a cooler growing season. Now I know why....

Sunday, November 1, 2009

As you can see, our little Florida garden is growing even in the 90 plus degree temperatures. The lettuce, cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower, radishes and onions make up the garden this year. We had the cold winter air (yes, it's true, even in Florida) that ruined tomatoes and peppers last winter. My DH is only going with cool weather crops.

When we arrived this plot was nothing but tall waist-high grass and weeds. But my determined gardener worked in the heat to get this plot ready for planting. No luck getting together with a horse stable owner to get a load of manure. So he has not amended the soil this year. Last winter he added peat moss.

We will cut some lettuce this week. It will be interesting to see if it will be bitter or not with all the heat. Today the weather is finally cooling off....all things are relative. Eighty degrees is cool now. LOL

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Heat and Lettuce

It is hot here in Florida...high 80' and nighttime temps in the 70's. Very unusual for this time of year. What is it going to do to our lovely lettuce plants? Will the heat make them bitter? Aaarghhh.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Canned Pumpkin Scarce This Year

I hear the growing buzz and notice the empty shelves usually occupied by canned pumpkin. Canned pumpkin is scarce this year due to crop failures especially in the 5000 acres of special pumpkins grown for Libby canning near Morton, IL.

So if you grew pumpkins this year, don't carve all of them into jack-0-lanterns for Halloween! Although those field grown pumpkins are not the tastiest for pumpkin pie, I bet we could add enough eggs, cinnamon, spices, and topping to make it acceptable. The article I read suggests growing small Sugar pumpkin, the squatty Cinderella pumpkin and the buff-colored Long Island Cheese to make a tasty pie. Cut the pumpkin into chunks, bake it on a cookie sheet, scoop the flesh from the rind and puree.

More information about the great pumpkin shortage can be found here.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Florida Garden

We are here in FL arriving in the midst of 93 temperatures...very unusual for Oct. Of course, this did not deter my DH from attacking our small plot we call a garden. The weeds were waist high and the ground is so dry, it was torture trying to dig it all out. He is afraid all the weed seeds will take hold and we will face a war on weeds all season.

He thought he was going to be able to pick up some horse manure for the garden, but sadly the lady on Kitten Trail never emailed us back to give us her address or phone number. He really wants to amend the soil.

He brought his lettuce plants, broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage plants that he grew while at home in MI. Alas, we were on the road too long and the plants are not in great shape for planting, but he is setting them out this afternoon. It finally cooled down today and is pleasant.

He is also planting the onion sets and radishes today. Again we are going through that honeymoon phase of hope that all gardeners have when first beginning the garden. We always envision fabulous crops, perfect weather, and no pests. We'll see how it goes this winter. I hope you will click in once in awhile to find out the news.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Winter Time Gardening

Perhaps to us Northerners winter gardening is an oxymoron. Our gardens lie sleeping under the blanket of winter snow. However, those who live in the Southern regions can grow beautiful crops in the winter, rather than during the hot summer time.

My husband's dream has always been to garden 12 months out of the year. He is now able to do that since we are snowbirds who fly away to Florida for the winter.

Gardening in the South is different than our Michigan gardens, so we have had to re-think gardening. We are learning. This year will be the third southern garden he has planted.

So those of you who thought you wouldn't be reading about gardening in this blog in the winter are wrong. You can read about our Florida garden. Come along with us for the hopes and dreams, ups and downs of gardening starting all over again this next week.

If you are a southern gardener, we would love to get some gardening tips from you.

Friday, October 2, 2009


Alas, the time has come to acknowledge that summer can't last forever. We must prepare our gardens for next spring. I know that you gardeners are already planning for next spring, aren't you? And you know that next year's garden will be even better if you change some of the things you did this year. My DH has decided he is going to run his rows the opposite direction next year and where he is going to plant the crops in the spring.

It is time to quit fertilizing so that all the plant's strength will go into the making of the vegetable. Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, sweet corn and summer squash, should be harvested before the nights drop below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. (FYI we already had a good frost on Oct. 1) We have no tomatoes this year due to the late blight. We dug the potatoes a little early too when we saw the blight on the vines.

Dig carrots and let them dry to reduce mildew or rot from forming before putting them in storage for the winter. Pull up the plants and place them in a pile to burn them. Burning gets rid of bugs and disease.

Better soil--Better production

Roto-till the clay-based soil now allowing the winter weather to further break up the soil before spring. This finer soil helps seed germination in the spring. It is also time to add amendments to the soil and work them in with the roto-tiller. We are fortunate to live in a city that collects yard waste and then piles it and turns it to make compost for the city residents. We had several loads brought in this fall and my DH spread it on the garden. Our soil is clay, but by roto-tilling in the compost, it helps to make it a clay loam soil which will produce better plants. If you have nice rich soil you may not need to break it up in the fall.

This is a good time to take soil samples to your extension office. Contact them for the best way to take samples from your garden and for the charge for the testing. The report will include a list of nutrients to add next spring before planting. The test will also determine the pH factor of the soil and recommend steps for making it more alkaline or acidic.

Taking time now to clean up your garden will make a great difference for next spring by ridding your garden of pests and disease and amending the soil so you will have better production next year.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Artprize 2009 Grand Rapids, Michigan

Pirouette I know an art competition has nothing to do with veggie gardening, but we all need some relaxing time. The Artprize 2009 in Grand Rapids, Michigan is definitely an escape. Gorgeous art work in all kinds of creative medium is on display for the public to choose the winner of the $250,000 prize. The event is through Oct. 7. Go if you are in the West Michigan area.

Nessie the Loch Ness monster looks pretty friendly and not shy.

Grand Rapids Museum with Mobile installed in the river.

Enormous table and chairs sitting atop the pedestrian bridge.

I know this Artprize 2009 video is not dealing with veggie gardens, but I just had to share it because it is such a wonderful and uplifting experience. Artists compete for $250,000 prize judged not by art critics, but by the general publ

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Fall Garden

Yes, there really is a fall garden that produces food for your family until frost. Unfortunately the blight hit our tomatoes, so we have no tomatoes on the vine now. But you may be lucky to have some. Broccoli, lettuce, cabbage, radishes, onions are all doing well in the garden and will be good even in a light frost.

Our sweet corn has not developed fully this year. We blame it on the cool rainy season we have experienced this year. It is disappointing, but my DH already has plans for next year's planting.

The "Knucklehead" pumpkins are orange and ready. They have warts on them...even our grandkids commented on the warts. I think we all prefer non-wart "punkins" for next year. We don't know yet how hard they will be to carve. Earlier in the summer my DH carved each grandchild's name in a the pumpkin the child picked out. He used a dremel tool to cut the skin. The name grew as the pumpkin grew. It turned out beautifully. Unfortunately Ethan's pumpkin didn't quite grow as quickly as the rest. So naming them may be a bad thing because you can't switch the pumpkin for another. But Ethan took it in stride. We all laughed because the six month old baby granddaughter had the biggest pumpkin!!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Recipe--Green Pepper Heaven

Delicious recipes including green peppers are a must if your garden is like ours this time of year. The green peppers are really producing. It's almost as if they know that the first frost will be here soon, so they are going to dazzle us before they die.
Peppers are relatively easy to grow, so if you are a beginning gardener, try green peppers. California Wonder is a good old stand-by. Don't stick to just green peppers either. There are 100's of pepper varieties to choose from. We have planted yellow, chocolate (no, just the color, not the taste of chocolate..LOL) and purple, as well as some of the hot peppers.
If you leave the green peppers on the plant, they will begin to turn red. These are sweeter and have a different texture. Salads and salsa are so pretty with the green and red mixed peppers.
Recipe--Stuffed Green Peppers
We like the peppers stuffed with or without the meat using corn or peas or more veggies from the garden.
Place 6 peppers (either a full-sized pepper with the tops off and seeds cleaned out or a cleaned pepper cut in half) in a micro-waveable 8" x 8 " dish. (Yes,this is so much easier than boiling them for 5 minutes in boiling water, I think.) Salt the inside of the peppers. Cook the peppers in the microwave for 3-4 minutes depending on how thick the wall is. They need to be hot.
Prepare a cup of rice--instant, brown, whatever your family prefers.
Brown one pound of ground beef with onions in a large skillet. Drain. Return to the skillet.
Add rice and 3/4 can of diced tomatoes with onion and green peppers including juice. You may add salt and garlic to taste. Heat through.
Stuff peppers with meat mixture. Top with remaining tomatoes and juice. Return to microwave and cook covered 10-12 minutes or bake in 350 degree oven, covered, for 45 minutes. Remove foil from oven baked peppers, and cook 10-15 minutes longer.
Remove from heat and sprinkle tops with cheese. No need to return the peppers to the heat as the cheese will melt.
I let the dish of peppers set for five minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Information on Tomato and Potato Late Blight

The county extension agent wrote an excellent article in our local paper about tomato and potato blight that is hitting our area. Brought on by cool and rainy weather, she said that the late blight is hitting every corner of Michigan and the Northeast. Late blight produces spores that are carried by the winds to infect the gardens. This infection rapidly kills the foliage of tomato and potato plants and can affect the fruit.

If you have infected plants, remove the plants, place in a plastic bag, seal and discard in the trash or bury the plants deep enough that they will not sprout. DO NOT put them in a compost pile because the spores can spread.

If your potato vines show signs of blight, cut off or mow off the tops before the stems get heavily infected. This helps to prevent the spores from washing down into the potato tubers. Wait to dig the tubers 2-3 weeks after the vines are completely dead to limit the number of spores on the soil surface when the tubers are dug. Be sure to get all potatoes out of the ground so that there will be no spores living in tubers and surviving the winter. Do not wash the potatoes after harvesting them until necessary as that could spread the disease.

One sigh of relief is that the blight or fungus does not live in the soil from year to year, so it should not be a problem for gardeners next spring.

The extension agent explains that the unaffected fruit of blighted plants is safe to eat. But, the National Center for Home Food Preservation suggests using only "disease-free, preferably vine-ripened, firm fruit for canning. Do not can tomatoes from dead or frost-killed vines."

If there are signs of infection on the tomato or potato, cut away the bad part. It is safe to eat the healthy part, but it is likely the fruit will deteriorate quickly due to the disease.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Freezing Corn from Our Vegetable Garden

My DH and I spent a little over an hour freezing sweet corn from our garden this afternoon. We process it very quickly by boiling it, after shucking it of course, for about 3 minutes in a big tub of water. We immediately throw it into a sinkful of ice water to cool it down and keep it from cooking anymore. Then drain it in the other side of the sink on a rack. We cut it off the cob and then place it in the quart size freezer bags. DH came up with a great idea of cutting the corn off the cob on a plastic, flat cutting sheet. Then when we had the corn cut off, we just picked up the sheet and used it as a funnel to place the corn in the bag. We quickly bagged 9 quarts in that short time. The cutting sheets save a lot of time and clean up. He is so clever.

My DH and two grandsons dug potatoes yesterday. Surprisingly we had great success with them. The ground seemed pretty hard where he planted the eyes, but he mulched the plants, so it helped to keep them cool and moist. The little boys are so amazed when the potatoes are dug and love to see who can pick up the biggest ones. That really helps Grandpa's back!

We have been camping and I have neglected writing the blog. I apologize, Dear Readers, for not keeping up. While we were gone the blight got our tomatoes. I have heard several gardeners in our area suffering the same misfortune with their tomatoes. But gardeners will be gardeners and all are still planning on raising tomatoes next year. My hubby pulled all of our plants up, so that is the end of the 'maters for us.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Preserving Green Beans

How do you preserve all the green beans, string beans, snap beans that are waiting on the vine for you to harvest? The fruits of the gardener's labors have come to fruition. Some years are better than others, but if you are lucky enough, you will have oodles of beans to eat and preserve. I found an article in Dave's Garden weekly newsletter on Preserving Beans: Canning versus Freezing by Angela Carson. It lays out clearly the equipment, the process, and storage for canned beans and frozen beans.

An individual's preference in taste and texture determines which method to use. The frozen beans remain a bit crispy even after cooking and they keep a brighter green color. The canned beans are cooked more thoroughly and lose their color. Try both methods and see what you think.

Dave's Garden Article on preserving beans.

Dave's Garden website is packed full of information for gardeners. Check it out and sign up for the newsletter.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Video--Vegetable Stir Fry

This is a good video to help you make an easy stir fry. Substitute your garden veggies.

Recipe--Green Beans with Bacon

Our green beans are producing now! I promised I would try some new-recipes-to me and share them with you. Here is the one I made the other night with fresh green beans. The recipe suggests canned or frozen, but not during the height of the green bean harvest! I just boiled the fresh beans till tender, then substituted them for the canned or frozen. (If you freeze beans, I bet this would be a great recipe to try.)

Green Beans with Bacon from About.com Southern Food, Diana Rattray

2 cans (16 oz each) cut green beans, drained, or 16- 20 oz. frozen green beans, cooked and drained
5 slices bacon
1/4 c. chopped onion
1/2 c. cold water
1 T. vinegar
1 T. cornstarch
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
dash of pepper

In a large skillet, cook bacon til crisp. Drain bacon on paper towels, leave 1 T. drippings in the skillet. In remaining drippings, cook onion till just tender. In a measuring cup, combine water and vinegar, stir in cornstarch. Add sugar, salt, and pepper, then pour liquid in skillet. Cook, stirring, till thick and bubbly. Add drained beans, stir to coat beans with sauce. Heat through. Transfer green beans to serving dish. Top beans with crumbled bacon. Serves 4 to 6.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Kitchen Garden Day

Kitchen Garden Day is being promoted by Kitchen Gardeners International. They suggest on Sunday, August 23, to open your garden gate wide to allow people to tour your vegetable garden. No matter how large or how small, even if it is a few pots of vegetable plants on your back porch or patio, share your excitement about gardening with your friends, family, the neighborhood, the county. Well, you get the idea. This initiative promotes the idea of growing healthy food, saving money and energy (such as fuel, not your own energy...lol). It also hopes to encourage a new generation of gardeners and to re-kindle a flame in those who have dug in the dirt in the past. Besides, it would be fun just to get together for an afternoon.

According to the KGI newsletter "The United Nations has estimated that we will need to increase world production by 70% by the year 2050 if we are to keep up with population growth. Put in another, more sobering way, we will need to grow more food over the course of the next 40 years than we have produced over the course of the past 10,000 years combined." Having an edible garden will help to supply food to this growing world population.

For more information about the Kitchen Gardeners International go to http://www.kitchengardeners.org

I know most of you plant a garden as a hobby. Perhaps now you will realize that your hobby is an important contribution to your health, the greening of America, and to society in general.

If it is too late to make plans for a garden tour this year, put it on your calendar for next year.

Friday, August 14, 2009

National Community Gardening Week

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack proclaimed August 23-29 National Community Gardening Week. A community garden is an opportunity to educate everyone about where food comes from, either a Farmers Market or a garden. This exposure to growing our own food is important to generations of healthy eaters.

The People's Garden is located on the grounds of the USDA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. It is the nation's demonstration plot that puts into action the gardening concepts that the USDA emphasizes--providing healthy food, air, water quality. The plot offers the opportunity to teach environmentally responsible practices and offers exhibits for the public. Read more about it at The People's Garden site at http://www.usda.gov/peoplesgarden

Perhaps it would be a good time to look around your community to establish a community garden next year. We have several active, thriving farmers markets in our county, but I am not aware of a community garden.

Do you have any experience with community gardens? If so, perhaps you can share here and give us some info on how this works. Thanks.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Amish Gardens

Candy onions at the market

Farmers bringing in the hay.
Last week we camped in Shipshewana, IN in the heart of Amish country. Every Amish/Mennonite household has a garden it seemed. We enjoyed our drive through the countryside observing a completely different way of life compared to ours. The Amish are friendly and always waved to us.
This is just one of the enormous homes with lovely garden.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Pumpkin Carving Time

Oh no, it isn't pumpkin carving as in designing jack-o-lantern faces. This carving is very important at this time of the year though. We have four grandsons, ages 4-9, who always pick out their Halloween pumpkin while it is growing on the vine. This weekend Grandpa took them out to the pumpkin patch so they could designate their pumpkin. In order to remember whose is whose, G'pa came up with the idea of carving their names on the pumpkins they choose. He uses a Dremel power tool and bit to write each boy's name. You could also use a sharp knife to etch a name or initials on the pumpkin. It is fun to watch the pumpkin grow larger, and the names stretch right along with it. This year the boys picked out a pumpkin for the new baby girl in the family too.

My husband is always trying something fun for the kids. One year, the boys built wooden boxes and laid a cucumber inside each box. As the cucumber grew, the box formed around it making it a square cucumber. It worked pretty well, but they discovered the strength of the growing cukes when they grew big enough to pop the box apart. It was an odd looking cucumber and provided a lot of laughs and conversations.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Cauliflower Salad Recipe Re-discovered

Alright, I admit that I really need to go through my recipe box and re-organize. I happily discovered this Cauliflower Salad recipe when rummaging for a different salad recipe in one of the index card file boxes which house my recipes. Yes, filed in S for salad, not C for cauliflower. (My daughters laugh at my filing method....)
This is a special recipe because it is written out in my mother's distinct Zaner-Bloser handwriting which she taught as a second grade teacher. Beautiful writing on a yellowed blue lined sheet of paper. She passed away in 1993, so finding this brought back great memories of sharing recipes.

I made up the salad, and, after the first bite, my husband said, "This is good." I haven't made it for awhile as you can tell from this story. It was a refreshing way to use up the cauliflower and lettuce we are in the final stages of harvesting. The dressing would be good for any veggie salad I think, easily prepared and kept in the refrigerator if you can't use all of it at one time. Enjoy...

Cauliflower Salad

1 head lettuce
1 lb. bacon, fried and crumbled
1 medium onion, chopped
1 head of cauliflower, broken up
1/2 c. parmesan cheese (I used colby shredded cause that's what I had)

Layer above ingredients in order.
1 c. sour cream (light would be okay to use if you like the flavor)
1 c. mayo (I used light Miracle Whip dressing)
1/2 c. sugar

Pour over salad. Toss before serving. It would be fun to experiment adding other veggies and ingredients such as raisins, nuts, sunflower seeds.....

Thanks, Mom.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Green Bean Harvest Time

Here they come!! The beans are on the bushes and picking has begun. Hooray! Green beans are the second most popular plant for gardeners after tomatoes. We picked our first crop this week and cooked them up in a big pot of boiling water along with potatoes, onions, and bacon. Add seasoning, and let it simmer for 45-60 minutes or till tender. The first batch of beans are always the best, and this pot was deeeee-licious.

My husband staggers the plantings so that they all don't mature at the same time. In this way we will just be finished picking the first planting when the next planting will be ready...ideally that is the way it should go...He usually plants another batch every three weeks. Just be aware of how many days till you can harvest the variet of bean you chose. Check the information on the back of the seed packet. Don't plant them too late in the gardening season or they won't be ready before the first frost. Bean plants do not like frost.

The first pickings should be worth your while, getting lots of crisp, tender beans from healthy bushes. Picking the beans encourages the plant to grow more beans. I don't like them when the pods have mature beans in them because the beans are tough. Everybody has a different take on their favorite flavor and texture, so if this is your first attempt at growing green beans ( also known as snap beans or string beans in different parts of the country), you can experiment with the maturity of the beans.

As the bean plants get bigger and thicker, you may have a problem with mold/fungus if there is too much moisture. Moist soil keeps the beans growing, but avoid over watering. I know Mother Nature may interfere with this plan by dumping rain on the garden, so work with her as your partner in gardening. Keep your eye on weather forecasts to judge how you care for your garden.

In the next few weeks I am going to experiment with a few green bean dishes and give you a report on the recipe. If you have a great bean dish you like to prepare for your family, please send it so I can try it too. Thank you.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Pesky Tomato Problems

Tomato season is fast approaching and I know some parts of the country are in the thick of it. A member of the yahoo group I joined, The Veggie Patch, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/TheVeggiePatch/ suggested a resource for identifying what the problem is for the plant by having very clear pictures. Click on the photo, then read the symptoms. The page includes suggestions for controlling the disorder.

The link to this helpful information is

Thanks Dev in OK..

Friday, July 17, 2009

Add the Herb, Basil, to Your Fresh Veggies Stir Fry

Fresh veggies from the Garden in an easy stir fry.

All of these vegetables, peas, brocolli, Swiss chard (the pinkish color), onion, zucchini, green pepper were grown in our garden. The yellow squash was given to us by our neighbor. Growing the veggies and harvesting them may be the hardest part of the preparation for a stir fry, but chopping them up is very time consuming. My DH chopped all of these for me.
After that, stir fries are so easy once you get the extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) into the pan. No, I don't use a wok. just a large skillet. Experiment a bit on the length of time to cook them. Some individuals like the vegetables warm, but crispy. We like ours cooked more than that, so I add a little tiny bit of water to the pan to steam them after the frying. So I guess I should call the dish a stir-fry-steam. I added fresh basil to this concoction giving it lots of flavor. When using fresh herbs, add them at the end of the cooking time to get the most flavor and you can mix in quite a bit more than when using dried herbs. I also cheat if I want to make it Asian flavored by just shaking on the soy sauce and stirring it into the veggies. It is a lot easier than making up a special sauce using cornstarch, etc. Thanks to Pat for that tip.
We like the stir fry with walnuts or sunflower kernels sprinkled on top. I also love it with brown rice or mixed in with pasta.
Our peas are really producing now. We have been lucky this year with this crop. Do you have any suggestions on how to prepare them? Our grandkids love going in the garden and just biting into the peas right off the vine. They are so sweet and snappy.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


My hubby was planting tiny little lettuce seeds into the sectioned flats this morning at coffee time. Yes, instead of talking to me, he was planting, and I was talking...LOL. He had to concentrate on picking up the seed with a tweezer and carefully placing it in the soil. In a couple of weeks, the plants will be ready to put in the garden for mid-September lettuce salads. He plans to put the broccoli plants in soon.

I usually just take for granted that the crops are ready to eat at the proper time during the season. Writing this blog makes me more aware of the timing that is necessary to hit the optimum growing times for the plants to get the best production. It is like preparing a meal. The meat, gravy, potatoes, biscuits, vegetables, and salad all have to be ready at the same time so they will be tasty. (It's also easier to put it all on the table at one time rather than hopping up to get an item when it is cooked, then the next, then the next, etc. I learned this in high school in Home Ec 101 !!!)

Gardening in the Southern states requires the same optimal timing so you don't bake your plants in the summer or frost them in the winter.

Perhaps I should have titled this post, Timing is Everything.....

Monday, July 13, 2009

Camping with Cabbage

The photo on the left shows the cabbage heads forming. (Everytime I look at cabbages I think of Peter Rabbit in Mr McGregor's garden in the children's story. It must have been an image I saw when I was a kid.) The photo on the right is a freighter passing through the Muskegon Channel that connects Lake Michigan to Muskegon Lake.

We cut our first cabbage to take with us on our camping trip last week. Mmm...roasted hot dogs over the campfire and fresh cole slaw. I shredded the cabbage at home, not in the camper. We had a fantastic time at Muskegon State Park parked in the channel cammpground. Fun to watch sailboats, yachts, the Lake Express ferry, and a huge freighter go in and out of the channel connecting big Lake Michigan to Muskegon Lake. Weather was fantastic!

We have found the easiest way to shred cabbage to make slaw is to use the blender. Chop the cabbage into wedges, add water so the swirl will help to distribute the wedges for chopping. Drain in a colander. Try different settings on your blender till you find the right "shredding" you like. Throw in some carrots too to chop in for color. I like to cut up green pepper to make the slaw even more colorful.

For dressing, I toss some sugar on top of the chopped cabbage in the bowl. Let it sit a minute, then just spoon on Light, yes light, Miracle Whip and mix it in. Add celery seed for a flavor boost.

My friend fries cabbage and onions in butter. Then she adds cooked wide noodles. It is so delicious when she makes it. What are your favorite recipes that call for cabbage? We are going to have a lot of cabbage to consume in the next weeks to come. My DH plants them so that they all don't come on at the same time, but are spaced out over the harvest time.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Garden Check Up

Checking in on the progress of our veggie and fruit production. Yes, I have to include fruit because the strawberries are absolutely going bananas! In our patch that we planted Spring 2008, this year we are taking out 12-15 quarts of berries every other day. AND they are nice sized berries, and may I add, delicious. The neighbors and our kids love them too. Yes, we are sharing rather than making jam or freezing. Check out my strawberry pie recipe in an earlier blog if you are in the midst of berry season.

The following is my husband's garden report in a nutshell:
Have bibb and romaine lettuce galore, but with the heat it is starting to bolt.

The first sweet corn I had planned on having by 4th of July tassled out at 2 feet, so it will not have ears worth a darn. It has been too cold this spring and early summer.

I planted tomato seed the end of April and those plants are just as big as the plants I bought in May. Go figure.

I have 36 pepper plants. They are doing real well in the heat-- yellow, red, purple, brown, green.

We have eaten all the broccoli up. Now waiting on side shoots to grow out. Cabbage is just heading up. Cauliflower is still a ways off.

Beans aren't growing worth a darn, but the onions are growing great.

Watermelon and cantaloupe are just limping along.

We have little zucchini forming on the plants.

Pumpkins are going great. We have a new one this year called Knucklehead. It has warts all over it. We haven't told the grandkids yet, so that will be a surprise. Maybe they can win the Ugliest Pumpkin award at the Harvest Festival this year.

That's the run down on the garden at this point. Summer is half over. Hope your gardens are growing well. Leave a comment and let me know how you are doing. Thanks.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Broccoli Heaven

Broccoli plants in our garden taken a couple of weeks ago. The heads are now mature and ready to eat.
We have had steamed broccoli, boiled broccoli, with cheese sauce and without cheese (I prefer cheese of course). Now I am into making broccoli salad.
Broccoli is a cold crop which means we can start this plant early in the spring in Michigan. It can survive 20 degree temps. Optimum temps are between 50-70 degrees. Once the summer heat starts, the plants will bolt to seed. It takes about 6 weeks from seed to transplant, so plant seeds now to have a delicious fresh crop in the fall. Or if you want to buy plants, put them in the ground in late summer.
We keep an eye out for the little green worms that sometimes attack broccoli. They are so hard to see since they are the exact color of the leaves. I always soak the head in salt water for a few hours since that will get the critters off the florets. I have heard, but not tried, sprinkling cayenne pepper on the leaves before the head forms will deter aphids and caterpillars. This is a tip to use if you are into organic gardening.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Delicious Greens

I am beginning to pick up a distinctive nose twitching as I look in the mirror this week. I attribute it to all the lettuce we are eating now. We have had great success with lettuce crops. Not only do the salads taste good and fresh, they are so pretty too! Ted planted several kinds of lettuce with colors other than green.

He has the usual Bibb lettuce, a spotted one called Freckles, and a very deep red one called Deer Tongue. When I mix in the dark green leaves of spinach, radishes, and fresh onions, I feel like an artist designing a painting. (I never thought I would arrange lettuce to look as pretty as a bouquet of flowers.)

In the photo there are carrots and cheese, but neither came from our garden............

Swiss chard is ready now too, so today I will experiment with this in a salad. We have never grown it, so it will be a new experience. Do you grow it? If so, how do you prepare it? Fresh, boiled,???

Oh dear, there goes that twitching nose again...

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Herbs for Flavor, Herbs for Fragrance

Herbs are not veggies, so they may not actually be a topic for a vegetable gardening blog. But after extensive lolling this over in my mind, (about three seconds), I concluded that they ARE edible and should be included in this blog.

That is not to say, however, that herbs have to be grown in the veggie garden. Fragrant herbs are welcome and easily accessible in a pot growing outside the kitchen door. Perhaps you have a meditation area or walkway that would allow interspersing the plants between your shrubs, trees, rock garden.

The most important tip to pass along is definitely planting herbs in a convenient location for you to go and snip the leaves and actually use them in your cooking. After all, the purpose of the herb garden is to have fresh herbs and not those dried up leaves in a can. Make them easily available to assure that you will use them while they are fresh.

There are so many herbs to choose from and so many ways to use them, that I cannot include all of them here. Google "growing herbs" for a ton of information from the Internet. I have included a few that you may like to check out.

Creeping Rosemary--This is a perfect plant for a ground cover and is beautiful in a rock garden. Pale blue flowers from early to mid summer. Easy to grow in sunny locations and hardy to five degrees Fahrenheit. Good for flavoring meats and dressings.

Oregano-for the fragrance. Beautiful plant whose leaves add so much flavor to Mexican and Italian dishes.

Sage--Lots of varieties of sage. Sage Pineapple has a delightful pineapple scent and is a show-stopper with its stunning red tubular flowers which attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Add a few of the red flowers which are edible to your next green salad or fresh fruit salads for an eye-popping dish your guests will love.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Strawberries Under Attack

The strawberries are forming here in Michigan. I can't wait to pick these tasty ruby jewels packed with flavor. Take some precautions to protect your crop because there are others interested in getting a bite of the berry too. Basically the birds love feasting on the berries just when they are at their prime.

We cover our strawberry plants with a netting that allows the sunshine and rain in, but keeps those pesky birds out. Last year the netting worked very well, so I am recommending it to you. The netting is available at garden centers during strawberry growing season. Pick some up today so you won't be disappointed when you go to pick a bowlful of berries for your favorite strawberry dessert or cereal topping.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Taste of Spring

Woo Hoo! It's beginning to look like a garden now. In Michigan most folks wait till after Memorial Day to the first week of June to plant due to crazy frosts. Tonight, June 2, a frost is predicted in our area. Yep, DH just planted the tomatoes and peppers.......Wouldn't ya' know?
We have had delish salads from our lettuce decorated with home grown radishes. I am anxious to try a new leaf lettuce that is red and spotted, Freckles. There are so many colorful lettuces available. I know, I know. The deeper the green, the better for you. But, um, how about red??
The broccoli has little tiny heads on it now. Onions are lookin' great. And oh, those strawberries are full of blooms. DH started the corn in the greenhouse and it is standing tall right now.
Just a reminder that broccoli and lettuce are crops that can be planted later this summer and harvested in the fall. However, in our area the seed cannot be found when it is time to plant again, so be sure to buy enough seed for fall plantings now. These cold crops grow better in cool weather and the flavor is milder. It seems as the weather heats up, the flavor turns bitter. Enjoy that fresh spring taste while you can!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Tomato Cages

Caging tomatoes makes it sound like tomatoes are wild and ferocious beasts. But as I said in the previous post, you really can grow tomatoes. It isn't rocket science or brain surgery. My husband prefers "caging" tomatoes in the garden, but you don't need to do that. He likes to keep them up off the ground to produce a ripe, healthy fruit.

Check to see if the variety you are growing is a bush (determinate) or a free growing, vining tomato (indeterminate). The bush plant is a compact plant, but the vining tomato plant needs to be confined as it can spread out into the garden and grows tall needing substantial support.

You can purchase cages at a nursery/greenhouse center, but hubby likes to make his own because they are very sturdy and can hold a large plant. He uses 4 x 6 concrete re-enforcement wire and encircles the plant with it. He stakes the wire to help hold it securely so that when the winds hit, it won't blow over. Be sure that the openings in the wire are large enough so that you can get your hand in to the plant to harvest tomatoes and big enough to withdraw your hand holding onto that huge, ripe, juicy tomato....mmmm, yummy.

I can just envision this treat in my salad. And, don't you know, there is no taste comparison to a ripened-on-the-vine tomato to a hot house tomato. The vine tomato wins every time. I guess that is what keeps gardeners going knowing what tasty rewards we get at harvest time.


Sunday, May 24, 2009

Terrific Tomatoes

Terrific, tantalizing, tasty tomatoes describe this juicy fresh fruit. But when thinking of planting tomatoes in the garden, people may describe them as terrifying, troubling, trying. Puh---leeze...Growing terrific tomatoes is not rocket science.
A tomato plant will thrive in a pot, in a small plot, or a field if it has lots of sunshine, water, and of course another necessity for living is well-drained soil. (People overlook the importance of a good growing medium, so I will always lecture on it whenever I get the chance...Don't dig up dirt from your yard and throw it in a pot to start or grow your tomatoes. Starting soil and garden soil in a bag is, excuse me, dirt cheap.)

Deciding on which tomato to grow is probably the most difficult step in the process. Do you want tons of little tomatoes for salads? Then choose the cherry or grape tomato. If you can't wait for the first tomato or you want to be the first on your block with a tomato, then plant Early Girl so that in about 45 days from transplanting to the garden, you will have one on your plate for lunch. (Do you like salt or sugar or nothing on your slices?)

Many of the old stand-bys like Rutgers, Beefsteak, Big Boy are the tastes you have grown up with. But there are so many more tomatoes available for you to experience. The newer tomatoes are resistant to disease, produce more fruit, and may be tastier. Try Tastee Lee and Fabulous.

I would also encourage you to shop at a garden center that actually labels the tomato plant with the variety name instead of a generic tag that says "Tomato." After the growing season make a note about each variety so you will know what you liked and didn't like by name. When you shop next year, select the varieties that performed well or tasted the best, etc. You can't do that if you only know that it was "Tomato."

Pay attention to the length of time it takes to produce a ripe tomato from your plants... Early Girl can be ready in July in our area, but some plants won't produce an edible fruit until September. Read the information on the tags to help you have a successful and satisfying experience in gardening.

So far my husband is planting Early Girl, Way Ahead, Super Boy and Husky Red. The large tomato in the photo is Husky Red. He raised it from a cell pack to this large 8" pot in a month in the greenhouse. The price for this size plant at one of the big box stores this weekend was $10.00!!!

If the acid in tomatoes bothers you, try planting yellow tomatoes.
Planning this spring for a harvest of terrific tomatoes this year is essential. Enjoy!!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Memorial Day Thoughts

This Memorial Day weekend that in our area is perfect for working in the garden, attending parades, and enjoying cookouts with friends and family. Please take some time to remember those who have served and are serving our country. We honor those who have sacrificed their lives in order to allow us the freedoms and rich lifestyle that we enjoy in the USA.

When you see our servicemen and women and veterans, take time to say thank you.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Favorite Strawberry Pie Recipe

My friend, Trude, gave me this recipe for Strawberry Pie. It is so easy and so tasty. This is the season for the best-tasting strawberries. We also enjoy strawberries in February in Florida, so I make quite a few pies then too. If you make it, let me know how you liked Trude's Strawberry Pie.

Trude's Strawberry Pie
Recipe for a 9" pie

Place about 1 pint of strawberries whole, not cut up, in a 9" pie shell.

Stir together in a pan--1 3 oz box jello, 1 cup sugar, and 3 T. cornstarch.

Add 1 1/2 cups water to the mixture and cook till thickened--It will start to boil and get clear. Stir constantly. This takes awhile, so be patient.

Pour mixture over strawberries. Refrigerate after one hour.

Serve with whipped cream or ice cream or both!!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Frosty Nights in Michigan

We had to cover up the lettuce, cabbage, and peas last night. We had a frost the night before, but these crops can take some frost. However last night, the weatherman predicted a hard freeze for our area of West Michigan. My husband saved the aisle runner from our daughter's wedding a year ago just for the purpose of using it as a cover. And did it ever work well! So go scavenge the aisle runners from any weddings you are attending this spring/summer. LOL

He does save gallon milk jugs to put over plants too to protect them from frost. Just remember to remove them the next day if you have sunshine or you will cook the plant for sure. Never use plastic sheets to cover your garden. The plastic traps the cold and lays on the leaves of the plant. If you are an early riser, you may save frosty plants by sprinkling them with water early in the morning before the sun comes up.

The frosty nights certainly try the patience of Northern gardeners who are chomping at the bit to get the garden planted. But after several years of fighting it, it really is better to wait to plant. However frosts can occur after the frost date in MI. Grrrrrrr......

Friday, May 8, 2009

Critters Keep Away

This time of the year looks like a fantasy land in my neck of the woods. The abundant blooms on the flowering trees, the colorful spring flowers, and the eye popping green grass combine to make a gorgeous setting much like something Disney himself would paint for one of his animated movies. Add the great sunshine and blue skies today to make it an Oscar winning day!

Unfortunately there always has to be the bad guy in a movie, and the ones spoiling our setting are the deer. They love to nibble on the tulips. We put a netting over them earlier this spring to save them but removed it recently to allow the tulips to rise and open. Needless to say other varmints are in the area too such as rabbits and squirrels. They are also apt to make our garden their number one dining room this summer, so what do you do?

My husband has learned to put up a fence around our garden early in the spring, even before he plants. It is only about three feet tall, but somehow it trains the deer not to step in or bother our plants by being up early. I know it sounds crazy, but we had real good luck with this little fence last year.

Some gardeners rely on liquid sprays to keep the animals away, but the rains will wash them off. I have never used them. I wonder how effective they are and how costly.

I have heard that some folks plant a special plot for the deer, but I don't know how they would stay in that one area after tasting the goodies in the plot. Unfortunately they can't read a sign that says "Deer Only." LOL

Blood meal, urine, dirty hair clippings, marigolds around the perimeter of the garden are suggested ways of keeping away the hungry critters. Have you found anything that works?

Birds love to hit our strawberries, but we have learned to place netting over those plants, and it helps. Simply hanging aluminum throw-away pie tins also helps to keep the birds away when the plates blow around and flash in the sunshine.

So what are your stories about critters in the garden? Good luck on keeping your plants and produce for you and your family and not for the wild animals.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

It's Holland Tulip Festival Time

Talking about tulips in a Vegetable Gardening blog? Yes, because I can't help to digress once in awhile to include flowers. Afterall, this is springtime and the tulips are gorgeous.
Holland, Michigan is the site for the Tulip Festival, May 2-9, 2009. If you are near that area and you have never attended, go see all the colors and varieties of these lively floral landscapes. You will be amazed. A little tip for next year--go a few days before or after to catch all the beauty, but miss the crowds. (However, you'll miss the dancers, the food, and the parades too.)
For more information click this link--http://www.tuliptime.com/
While visiting Tulip Time, check out beautiful West Michigan-- http://www.squidoo.com/westmichigan

Friday, May 1, 2009

Trusting the Plant Hardiness Zones

Have you ever seen a palm tree on a Michigan Main Street? How about a Bird of Paradise plant in Wisconsin? Why are Texans already harvesting tomatoes in May? That certainly points out the different growing climates in North America.

The USDA has classified eleven plant hardiness zones to indicate where plants will thrive. The low numbers are the northern zones and the high numbers are warmer areas. For example, I live in Michigan in zone 5. As you travel south, the numbers increase. If you end up near Tampa, FL, you could be in zone 9.

A zone number is found on the backs of seed packets indicating that the plant grown from that seed is hardy for that zone. Tags on nursery stock also include the zones that are best for that plant.

Have you heard of microclimates within certain zones? The presence of a river or lake, the low lying areas, the protection from trees all change the growing climate for plants. Some plants could be hardy for your zone, but due to a microclimate in your location, the plant won't make it for another growing season. Be aware of all these factors when planting this spring.
To find out what zone you are in, click on the link below, then enter your zip code.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Asparagus Time

We live just about 30 minutes from the National Asparagus Capital, Shelby, Michigan. The National Asparagus Festival is held every year in mid-June. In this celebration of all things asparagus, you can bet there are a lot of tasty asparagus recipes, the crowning of the Asparagus Queen, and all the fun activities for the weekend.

It is not real easy to grow your own asparagus, but if you want to try, read the information provided in the link below, How to Plant Asparagus. It is very tempting to want to get a crop off the first year, but wait so you can enjoy a bountiful crop the next spring and the next and the next.

How to Plant Asparagus http://www.ehow.com/how_9880_grow-asparagus.html

The fern-like foliage is so pretty that it makes a great addition to fresh cut flower bouquets. The plant also adds a soft, beautiful touch to your landscaping. But, for me, the best use of asparagus is as a food that is tasty and nutritious. Below is a link to ways of preparing asparagus and lots of fun information from the Utah State University.

Fun Ideas for preparing asparagus and even a word game. http://extension.usu.edu/fsne/files/uploads/tips/May%20-asparagus_FSNE.pdf

Sunday, April 26, 2009


Kids and gardening go hand in hand. Our grandsons' excitement about planting the garden is contagious. It is fun to share all the steps of planting the seeds, watching them "pop up", and transplanting them to the garden. The lessons learned from working in a garden are ones that are remembered for a lifetime.

Saturday, April 25, 2009


The rhubarb has broken through to herald one of the first gardening signs of spring. The forsythias are in full bloom as well as the daffs. Even the yellow dots of dandelions are springing up. Did you ever notice all these yellow plants appear, in Michigan anyway, about the same time? I wonder if that is a coincidence that the bright yellow flowers warm our hearts at the same time the bright yellow sun warms our earth.

If you have always wanted to have a rhubarb patch the following link will lead you to an excellent easy-to-understand article on creating your own. http://www.ehow.com/how_2006_grow-rhubarb.html

Rhubarb is a perennial that practically takes care of itself. Once you establish the patch, you will enjoy this tasty springtime treat every year.

My husband cherishes his rhubarb...even raw! But it is better stewed....I cut it up into one inch pieces and place it in a pot and cook it. It will cook down without adding water. Then I stir in the sugar once it is stewed. What recipes do you have for using rhubarb?

Thursday, April 23, 2009


In this day of money-saving ideas, it just makes sense to start seeds for your garden rather than buying the plant set. A package of seeds will cost under $2.00 for about 20 seeds. A tomato plant in a 4 inch pot may set you back $3.00.

Germinate Seeds in Great Soil
Again I am preaching on the importance of soil or growing medium to germinate your seeds. Plant them in a flat, a paper cup, a plastic box that held a salad, or whatever you choose, but do not, do not, fill those containers with dirt from your garden. The delicate roots don't need to compete with rocks and sand and clay to grow. Make it easy for them to snuggle into a nice comfy home of sterile soil. This will make a stronger plant that will be able to transplant nicely when it is grown from a baby to a teen ager.

Timing Seeds to be Ready to Transplant
Read the back of the seed packet to see how many days it will take until you can enjoy that delicious vegetable. Then you must calculate backwards when the weather will allow you to set the seedlings outdoors. Figure from that point the date to plant the seed inside to grow it to transplant size. Some folks get the urge to plant and start their seedlings so early that soon they have a huge plant that needs to be transplanted but the weather is not favorable for growing. So especially be careful when figuring tomato and pepper plant seedlings.

Choose a light area to begin your seeds whether a bright window, grow light, cold frame, or greenhouse. If you see that the plants are growing tall and stringy, then you definitely need more light. Yellowing leaves is usually a result of keeping the soil too dry or too wet. Always, always feel the soil before watering.

Cold Frames and Greenhouses
Cold frames can be constructed as simply as a box with an old window on top of it. Just be sure that you have a way of propping open the top so that the plants won't bake in the spring sunshine.

Greenhouse kits are available in every size, but I can assure you that once you get into raising plants in the greenhouse, you will soon outgrow that greenhouse. It's just a law of nature, I think. Check out the photos here of the greenhouse that my husband constructed this year. It is made of pvc pipe which is inserted into a larger sleeve in the ground. After the plants have been transferred to the garden, he will take down the greenhouse and put it away until next spring. He put two sheets of poly on the house with a small fan to inflate the layers. This helps to keep the cold out and the warm in, and the poly is tight and not blown about in a wind. If you have questions about the construction, please contact me.

Best of luck in seed starting, germination, and transplanting. I bet you can't wait to sink your teeth into those delicious tomatoes, peppers, or your favorite vegetables.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Earth Day is all about taking care of our Earth. Isn't that what all of us gardeners are doing? Whether you are gardening an acre full of vegetables, a small, sunny patch, or have tubs of veggies on your deck or patio, you are helping. Gardeners enrich the soil adding nutrients by composting which saves garbage build-up. Growing vegetables cuts down on the enormous fuel consumption needed to move food from miles away to our grocery stores. Even buying locally at farm markets and farms helps reduce this wasteful practice of energy.

If you haven't read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, please do. It is eye-opening information about our food supply and waste of energy. It is also a journal of her family's adventure in growing their own food or buying locally. Her narrative of the year's experiment in planting and harvesting, new recipes, and "laying by" their foodstuffs is written in a humorous and informative way.

As gardeners we recognize Earth Day everyday, not just one day out of the year.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Don't Forget the Soil

Soil is an important component in growing plants that flourish into food producing assets. We all grew up knowing that plants need sun, water, and food. But, I bet your first grade teacher didn't mention that soil, the growing medium, is important so the plant's roots can dig down to establish a path for food.

Take Soil Samples

Autumn is the time to till up the soil, especially clay, so the winter freezes and thaws can help break it up allowing better seed germination in the spring. If you didn't take soil samples to your extension service in the fall, do it now. With a trowel, dig about six inches deep into the soil. You can either place each sample from the different areas of your garden in a separate bag or combine the soils for one test. The University Extension Service will send you a report that includes a list of nutrients to add next spring before you begin planting. The test will also determine the pH factor of the soil and recommend steps for making it more alkaline or acidic.

Amending the Soil

Adding manure or compost makes a richer medium for growing plants. Composting is a collection of decayed kitchen scraps and leaves. When added to the soil this organic matter puts nutrients into the soil. Spring is a great time to rototill this natural additive into the ground without having to maneuver around growing plants.

Another healthy addition to your garden is earthworms. They help aereate the ground and the castings are rich in nutrients for fertilizing the plants. (One morning a few weeks ago, my husband told me at breakfast he had just ordered 2000 worms for worm farming this year. I about fell off my chair at this news as he had not mentioned a word of it to me. Needless to say, we now have 2000 of the dear creatures living in a Rubbermaid tub feasting on shredded newspaper, kitchen scraps and coffee grounds. Currently they are residing in our guest bedroom---but don't tell the guests..LOL. When it warms up in Michigan, the worms will be relegated to the out of doors. Yes, you can be sure you will be hearing more about this new experiment.

Gardeners and Hope

Something new and different is always expected every year with my gardener husband. I have noticed that every gardener is filled with hope and anticipation with what the garden will bring each year. No matter how great or how terrible was last year's harvest, every spring he vows that this will be the best season ever. And this spring, like every other spring, I always think so too.

I am so glad that you are coming along with us on our gardening journey this year. Best wishes to you all for a productive and satisfying gardening season.