Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Rain Rain Don't Go Away

One of the delicious salads we enjoyed from our Florida garden this winter.
Yesterday, Monday March 28, the Heavens opened and forgot to close. It rained all day long and not just sprinkles here. Downpours. All day. Three inches of rain! The retention pond behind our house was full to the brim. I have never seen that and this is our fifth winter in this location.

Of course, being Florida in the winter time, we really needed a good soaking. I'm just not sure how much actually soaks in when it comes down so hard and heavy.

Soon my DH will begin tearing out the garden as we will be moving back north. He will need to prepare this one for summer. Funny how we have to adjust our thinking from northern gardening to southern gardening and back again. He is living his dream of gardening twelve months out of the year.

I must say this has been a good winter garden. We have enjoyed cabbage, broccoli, lettuce, onions, radishes, and a large harvest of the sweetest peas we've ever had.--yes, including the northern peas.

When we return to the north country in April my DH starts all over again. He already has seeds started for the northern garden. Stay tuned....

Friday, March 25, 2011

Why Do You Garden?

I imagine the number 1 answer to the question, "Why do you garden?" would be because you like fresh vegetables! There is nothing sweeter than a sweet pea from your own garden or a stir fry of veggies you harvested from your garden plot.

In this day and age, I'm sure saving money is an answer high on the list. We really DO save a substantial amount of money and we have the records to prove it.

The emphasis on going green and sustainable farming has driven many families to gardening. Maybe you don't realize it, but gardening is good for your health both physically and emotionally. Weeding, roto-tilling, planting, and harvesting gives your body a work out. And no gym fees to pay!

I like to think the just good fun and satisfaction is a strong force in deciding to put our sweat and time into a garden plot.

From my other posts, you probably realize I believe a gardener is a dreamer, an optimist, and a hard worker. So personality also comes in to whether a person gardens or not.

There is a poll on the right side of the page. Please vote for a reason why you garden. If you don't see your choice, please put it in a comment. This is definitely an unscientific poll, but it will be an interesting one! Thank you.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Vegetable Garden with Four Season Planning

I know you are dreaming and planning your garden whether just in your head, on paper, or on the computer with the Plan Garden site. (click on the photo of the woman gardener to learn more about Plangarden.)

A garden needs to be organized. Here are a few things to remember during your planning stage.

1. Determine the size and location, preferably with 6-8 hours of sun a day with water nearby for watering the plants. The Plangarden helps you determine how much space you have for each vegetable crop. It is so easy to buy too many seeds or plants for the space you have available. Planning helps you in this category.

2. Decide which way to plant the rows in your garden.

3. Remember to save room for a path or paths through the garden in order to water, fertilize, weed, etc.

4. Select areas for planting for the seasons. It is best to plant those veggies you will harvest in spring in a group. For example, plant lettuce, peas, green onions, radishes together for spring harvesting. In another section plant beans, cucumbers, eggplant, peppers, squash, and tomatoes for summer harvest, and broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, spinach, lettuce or cool weather crops for fall gathering.

5. To efficiently use the garden area, it is possible to "double-crop" the section. When the spring plants are depleted, re-plant the section with another group of plants for late summer or fall harvest time. See how grouping the seasonal plants together allows this extra perk?

6. Another advantage of planting with the season of harvest in mind helps you clear out a section to re-plant or to clean up for the winter. So instead of planting the cole crops like cabbage and broccoli which like the cold weather on the opposite ends of the garden, plant them with the fall harvest crops like pumpkins and winter squash.

7. You may live in an area where it is possible to keep root crops such as parsnips and turnips in the ground longer for a winter crop. Be sure to keep these vegetables planted in the same area so you can clean up and prepare the rest of the garden for winter.

Think first about the harvest times for your vegetables and group them accordingly in your garden. With some pre-planning, you can eat fresh all year.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Vegetable Garden View--Florida Garden

Close up of beets, cabbages, lettuce in our Florida garden

Here are the latest photos of our Florida vegetable garden. We have an abundance of lettuces, beets, and cabbage shown here.

Notice the tall broccoli spear in the foreground of the photo. I thought my DH had really missed cutting this sprout, but he tells me he is letting it go to seed so he can collect the seeds for planting up north.

It has been a very cool winter in Florida. But this garden seems to have come through pretty well for us. We were amazed at how the lettuce leaves would actually freeze practically pure ice, then when the day warmed up, the lettuce would come back crispy. My DH placed pine needles under the lettuce plants. It really kept them much cleaner, no sand or dirt to speak of on the leaves when harvested.

One of the wonderful perks of having a garden--the joy of sharing the produce with friends.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

EarthBoxes--a Boxful of Veggies

Pennsylvania farmer Blake Whisenant developed this easy-to-use, easy-to-grow system capable of growing veggies in a small, self contained garden box, the Earthbox. Marketing the box since 1994, Whisenant's idea has been adapted by handy gardeners for their special circumstances.

According to Leigh Spann, News Channel 8, Tampa, FL, a water reservoir at the bottom of the box keeps the soil damp. There is no watering from the top so there is less evaporation.

If you are getting anxious to get your plants outdoors, but the weather isn't cooperating, plant them in the box to give them a headstart on the growing season. 

If you have no area for gardening, but want fresh vegetables out your kitchen door, the Earthbox could be the answer for you.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Book Review: Eating Local: The Cookbook Inspired by America's Farmers

Eating Local: The Cookbook Inspired by America's Farmers by Janet Fletcher certainly applies to the vegetable gardener gathering their fresh produce right from their kitchen garden outside the back door. This beautiful book packed with 150 recipes and profiles of 10 farm families offering shares of food to consumers is filled with ideas for people who want to cook fresh food for their families. Luckily the recipes include familiar and unfamiliar vegetables to help the cook learn how to prepare various new dishes.
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a community coming together to support the local farmer by purchasing shares of food and sometimes volunteering to work for the farmer in growing, harvesting, and delivering the produce. The shares include seasonal produce such as herbs and fresh vegetables during the local growing season. This idea dates back to the 1880's but has had a re-birth with the interest in purchasing local and organic food at farmers' markets and local farms.

I recommend Eating Local: The Cookbook Inspired by America's Farmers for you, my dear readers, because the variety of veggies are amazing and the recipes will be fun to prepare and to test for your family's taste.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Plangarden--a Tool for Vegetable Gardeners

This is the time of year to get your vegetable garden planned out. You have time to think about it and play with ideas. I know you have been drooling over seed catalogs and ordering seeds..LOL..With Plan Garden you can play with how you want to set up your garden. Instead of graph paper and pencil, you can use beautiful graphics and measurements to design the exact garden you want.  Perhaps you are wondering how much more room you need if you add more pumpkins or tomato plants this year. It's easy to figure it out with this tool before you have to start preparing your extra plot.

Not only does Plangarden help design your garden, it provides a journal/blog to keep track of your progress and the ability share your garden online for others to see. My DH is having a blast, once he learned the program through the tutorials. He is designing all kinds of gardens with so many possibilities.

If you are interested in this fun program available on the web, no need to download to your computer, click on the picture below or at the right side of the screen. Let me know how it works for you.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Time for Fun

A real spider web at Disney World, Florida.

An early morning at Disney with the sunlight at just the right angle and this delicate spider web sparkled. I had to take a picture of this masterpiece of engineering. Compare this work to the Disney Park I believe the wonder of this web wins hands down.

We had a wonderful time with our daughter and her family. Disney was certainly a man of vision. There is no other business like it. They know how to merchandise and promote their items and to offer a magical stay there. It is fun to live in fantasy for a few days, but good to get home to the real world too.

Cinderella's castle at Disney World, Florida