Strawberries from the Garden

Strawberries from the Garden

Jul 12, 2011

My Dill Pickle Recipe

6 pounds of cucumbers (cut into spears and/or chips)
2/3 cup pickling salt
6 quarts of water (enough to cover)

Spices for each Jar:
1/4 teasp. dill seed
1/4 teasp. yellow mustard seed
1 sprig of fresh dill
1 clove of garlic
1/8 teasp. (or a pinch) of Alum

Vinegar Mixture:
2 cups cider vinegar
4 cups water
1 1/2 Tablespoons Salt
1Tablespoon Sugar

Bring the Vinegar Mixture to a boil to prepare for pouring over the cucumber packed jars.

I process my pickles in a water bath canner for 20 minutes and let them cure for as long as possible before opening. (easier said than done!) At least 4-6 weeks!

My First Dill Pickles of the Season

So today I was able to can the first dill pickles of the season and now I can't wait for the next batch. It's one of those things that I kind of dread preparing for in terms of kitchen prep. Gathering all of the 'canning gear' and the large canner and making sure there is enough 'undisturbed' counter space for the jars to cool. But once you start, it's addictive! So this was the first thing I canned this year and I am excited for the next canning experience! 
Judging by the quantity of yellow squash I have this year, I may have to come up with something creative for a lot of yellow squash! Pickles? Relish? Any suggestions?

Jul 11, 2011

Early Italian Purple Garlic Harvest, 2011

 I am so excited! This weekend I was able to harvest my garlic and it looks like it did very well. I had never planted a lot of garlic and I had never planted an early soft neck variety.

I waited until about 40-50% of the tops had turned golden and had all started to lay over. It seems that maybe the instant summer we experienced may have hurried along this process. I was pleasantly surprised with how well the garlic grew.

I knocked off the excess dirt and laid all of the garlic on plastic gardening trays with the vented bottoms. Now the garlic will dry for about 2-3 weeks. Once the garlic is dry, I am going to try my hand at braiding garlic. (I'll keep you posted on my progress!)

I think now I want to try a fall planted variety and just see what happens. For the moment, we definitely have enough garlic to last until our next harvest. (and we eat a lot of garlic . . . )

Jun 15, 2011

Fresh Red Raspberries Are Here!

My garden is going crazy with the heat we have had. Evidence of this can be found in the red raspberry bushes. My raspberries are about 3 weeks ahead of schedule, but they are amazing! I can't tell you how many we have just eaten off the canes without even bringing them in from the garden. Yum!

The ones that do make it inside, we have enjoyed in a variety of ways. Mainly fresh, but they are really good over vanilla ice cream. If they keep the pace they are at right now, I think I may be freezing some. We still have plenty of jam from last year so I think we'll just freeze some for eating later.  For now, I think we will just enjoy eating as many fresh as possible! They are so good! I highly recommend dedicating a space in your garden for red raspberries. They are relatively easy to take care of and the harvest is well worth it!

May 31, 2011

Protect Your Fruit and Veggies From The High Heat!

Here in the Mid-Atlantic the temperatures are just crazy! We have been hitting the mid 90's and it is very hard on veggies that are trying to produce but it is even more difficult for your fruit. If you have strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries this is not the time for them to struggle for water. Be sure to keep plants mulched and keep the watering regular. If you have irregular timing and/or amount of water your fruit harvest will suffer. As someone who loves all berries fresh and canned as jams and preserves, I will be babying my plants with a little extra TLC.

May 30, 2011

Fresh Strawberries- First of the Season!

 This weekend was the first real harvest of berries from my strawberry beds. I am so excited about how they are coming along! This is when gardening becomes a real family affair and is appreciated by everyone. I think we ate about a quart fresh, many before we could even bring them inside.

When we saw how many we had my girls thought maybe we should make some homemade strawberry ice cream for the holiday weekend. What a great idea! I really enjoyed slicing the berries for the ice cream and observing how these berries are actually red all the way through to the center of the berry. None of that white center in these berries. The ice cream was almost as wonderful as the strawberries! It was really good, I just prefer eating strawberries fresh.
So, if you haven't tried adding strawberries to your garden yet, think about it. They don't require a lot of space and they are pretty easy to take care of, and then the harvest, well that's the easiest part! I think the only trouble I have is keeping them from the birds. I put up bird netting around the beds and although it can be a pain to work around, it guarantees actually being able to enjoy the strawberries. Unless of course, a family member can't resist the temptation of a red, ripe strawberry as they pass by the strawberry bed . . .

I can't wait to see tomorrow's harvest. I think we'll be making strawberry jam or preserves any day now!

May 22, 2011

Garden Progress May 22, 2011

A walk through the garden reveals a garden that is starting to come alive! We are on our way!

May 18, 2011

Cooler, More Rain, More Peas! (even if they are late!)

I checked the garden for a few minutes today when I got home just to see how everything is doing with all of the rain we have been getting lately. Rain is good, but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing!

So, with the cooler weather and all of the rain, it seems that the peas are all doing very well! As I checked all of the peas I found that not even half of them are in bloom yet and already it looks as though I have more than last year.

I wanted to have enough peas this year to actually be able to freeze some so I planted more peas in a variety of spaces. With the weather being more cooperative than usual, it seems that we are actually going to have more peas anyway even without actually planting more. Who knew?

Usually, whoever picks the peas gets to enjoy eating the peas. If we're lucky, they will make it in the house for a meal or two, but we never have enough to freeze for later.

After looking around today, I am hopeful that I may even be able to freeze some as well this year. Now if I can just get them to hurry along so I can get my tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants in the the ground!

May 16, 2011

Overlapping in the Garden

Okay, so the weather has been a lot cooler and wetter than usual after we had a string of crazy hot days in the 80's. So now, my veggies are all confused. My peas are just now in full bloom and yes my beans are already starting to come up. My tomato, pepper, and eggplant transplants that I started from seed are all bursting out of their little peat pots and begging for space in the garden. Oh, and did I mention every time I decide to transplant in the garden I find myself dodging rain? I'm not talking a little rain because I am the last person afraid of melting. We're talking 'fill the rain barrel all at once' showers.

Some day, maybe by the weekend, the clouds will part and there will be enough sun to dry out the soil so I can transplant my plants. I know it will take some fancy trowel work in one of my tomato beds! I wanted to be sure to utilize all of the available space so I planted my early garden peas in my tomato bed. Since the peas are not -so -early, it looks like I will be 'interplanting' my tomatoes with my peas. As soon as the peas are finished, My tomatoes should be established enough to add supports and/or cages. My tomato bed is a good example of utilizing 'overlapping' in the garden. It's a little more extreme than normal, but then in the garden it seems 'normal' is always redefining itself!

May 7, 2011

Making The Most Of A Small Space

 A bountiful kitchen garden in a small backyard is my goal. I use raised beds and companion garden to optimize my space. I have found that if I use successive and relay planting with the companion plantings I can get an amazing amount of veggies from this small garden. The great thing about companion garden besides the fact that it helps you to have a chemical-free garden is the fact that the flowers and herbs make it a pretty vegetable garden.
 Right now my garden is in the early spring stages so it is mostly shades of green. Soon, it will be alive with color and developing vegetables. Right now, I just have to keep planting!

May 3, 2011

Getting Momentum!

The strawberries are looking great! I know everything is ready to start rolling when my strawberry plants fill in the strawberry bed and the plants are loaded with blooms! I can't wait to see them in a few weeks!

Everything is starting to show it's time to get serious. The blueberries have blooms and the raspberries are in full leaf and are starting to form buds for the blossoms.

My roots and greens are doing well and starting to fill in the garden beds and my peas are finally starting to act like they may actually get some height. It has been cooler and wetter so far this spring and everything seems to be moving at a snails pace. But I think we may start to get some momentum now.

I love all of the different shades of green this time of year. This is when the garden is starting to come to life with new seeds that have been sown and the perennials are just starting to wake up and show their leaves. I love it!

Apr 25, 2011

A Welcome New Addition To My Garden

     It's the little things that make me happy and excited! Right now, I'm so excited that my rain barrel is set-up, ready for use, and already full of rain water! Yeah! My mother-in-law and father-in-law gave me a barrel they got from a winery in upstate New York. I purchased a downspout diverter from Gardener's and my husband and I found the spigots and handles we wanted at Home Depot.
     Thanks to April Showers, my barrel is full and ready for use. I think I will be using it to water my new transplants and seedlings. On Sunday, I put together a strawberry pot for my mother-in-law and father-in-law with strawberry plants from my garden. I watered the transplants with water from the rain barrel. With fresh rain water they should be off to a great start!
     I think I'm going to plant some hostas around the base of the blocks that the barrel is setting on. I think it will look better. Yes, it's just a rain barrel. But it is a welcome new addition to my garden and I think it will be well loved!

Apr 19, 2011

Keep it Coming!

Think about it, if you keep the soil in your garden covered, there is less room for weeds. So what do you keep your soil covered with? Plantings of new crops! Plant a new crop as soon as you harvest a crop and pull up the crop that is finished. For example, you can have a cool weather crop in the ground now, and then pull up that crop as the temperatures rise and it's time to plant something like tomatoes or squash. 

So what about relay planting? Let's say I have a cool crop in the garden such as cabbage and it's going to be ready to harvest soon. I can plant bean seeds next to the plants or slightly under the leaves of the plant a couple of weeks before you want to harvest. When you harvest the cabbage, you have your beans well under way and ready to fill in the space. You can do this again in the fall. In an area where you have something like squash, start putting in seeds for a new crop like lettuce or broccoli.

I plant lettuce, radishes, and carrots at regular intervals using the shade of other plants to get through the hot summer months and then when fall comes around you have a good foundation started for your fall harvest.

Apr 16, 2011

Spring has sprung!

So today is Saturday, April 16th and I am finally starting to get the feeling that spring has sprung. The red raspberries and blueberries are coming into leaf, the strawberries are starting to form their first blossoms, and my first plantings of spinach and carrots are starting to show themselves. It's a few weeks later than normal, but our peas are finally reaching for the sky. Yeah! It doesn't matter what the almanac says or the date on the calendar. It just doesn't seem like spring until I start to see the garden wake and stretch in the sun.Life is good.

Apr 9, 2011

A New Favorite Pepper!

The Fish Pepper; This is my new favorite! 
I love it's history, it's variety of characteristics and uses, and I think it is just a cool looking plant in the garden with it's green and cream variegated leaves! The history is pretty interesting. It is an African-American heirloom pepper that was popular in the Baltimore, Philadelphia area in the fish and shellfish cooking pre-1950's. When the pepper is very young, it is a cream, almost white pepper. It is at this stage that it was used in white soups and sauces in the fish houses. It is very spicy and it changes from white to off-white and green striped, to a bright red. Living near Baltimore, it would be a crime not to include it in my garden! I found my first fish pepper seeds at Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and now I save my own seeds. I Love this plant!!!!

Apr 3, 2011

Make Room For Bees!

I know some people are a little afraid of bees and some people, like myself, are somewhat allergic, while others are down right deathly allergic. But I want to make a plea for the safe passage of bees in and around our gardens. We need the bees for the pollination of our plants and flowers and we need to do our part to help provide a safe haven.

One of the first things you can do is to avoid using pesticides and/or harmful chemicals, and detergents. We need to remember that when we spray something for the 'bad' bugs we are probably going to have an effect on the 'good' bugs. There are all kinds of things that can be done to eliminate the need of such dangerous chemicals. 

Try row covers, companion gardening, and homemade pepper sprays and the like. Think about keeping everything in your garden 'natural' enough to eat yourself. If you keep this in mind, you will be able to help provide a safe haven for bees. Remember to also provide something shallow filled with water and plant flowers that draw bees such as sunflowers, cosmos, bee balm, etc. 

If you keep a safe environment that is 'attractive' to bees, then they will stay busy in your garden helping you to grow the things you love whether it's the amazing sunflower or your garden veggies!

Mar 30, 2011

Getting ready for the "Pea" Snow!

No, I'm not crazy! I'm just a little tired of being cold and I'm longing for visions of garden peas climbing upwards toward the sun! My father-inlaw and I have a running joke about the onion snow, and the broccoli snow, and the pea snow. . . Basically, each spring we are ready to get out into the garden and plant our peas. Each spring, we seem to have a series of 'snows' that impede our progress. So, we've resorted to naming them and convincing ourselves that they in some way actually help our garden.

The forecast says we can have 'possible flurries' right on through Saturday. What comes after the pea snow?

Mar 25, 2011

Snap Back!

It's true, planting this time of year is always a gamble. But it's a gamble I'm willing to make! We got a hard frost last night and I'm sure now all of my peas can be called 'frosty'! Time will tell if I need to replant. I always plant successive plantings anyway, so I should be fine. It's just sad to look out and see frozen ground and not so happy strawberry plants in the morning. Luckily, by afternoon, even though it's only about 45 degrees, the strawberries have snapped back and they look pretty good.

One year, I will get the timing just right on my peas. I guess I'd rather gamble and plant early, just in case! Regardless, in the next couple of weeks we should have peas starting to come up! I can't seem to find enough nice days to start hardening off my plants so I can set them out in the garden. At this rate, I may be harvesting bok choy in my kitchen!

Mar 22, 2011

It's Planting Time!

This weekend the weather was in the upper 50's so I put on a jacket and proceeded to prepare some of my beds and started planting! Thank goodness for my husband helping me! My left hand is slowing me down. I have what the doctor thinks is a scaphoid fracture in my left hand. Never fear, I split a glove, covered the hand and taped it closed so I could work the soil and plant with my right hand and not get my left hand dirty. Quite a sight I'm sure!

I planted two types of peas; the Early Frosty Pea and the Early Alaska Pea. Both varieties take about 55-60 days to mature so I plant them everywhere. By the time they're done, I'll be able to plant my warm-natured veggies such as tomatoes and eggplant in their place.

I also planted spinach, ruby queen beets, hollow crown parsnips, purple top white globe turnips, scarlet nantes carrots, shallots, and yellow onions.

Let the gardening begin! There's no turning back now!

Mar 17, 2011

When I think of St. Patrick's Day- I think of Peas!

So today is St. Patrick's Day and the weather is amazing! As soon as I got home I went out to the garden and started uncovering my raised beds. They have been nestled in fall leaves all winter and it is time to see what the dirt looks like. I love how great the soil is after being covered in leaves all winter! So, I uncovered the dirt, worked some of the more decomposed leaves into my soil with my garden fork and now I'll let the beds set for a day or two. I'll add some dirt, hummus, and compost and then let the pea planting begin. What a wonderful day! I can't wait to get started. As soon as I plant peas, there's no turning back. It's garden time!

Mar 15, 2011

The Tomatoes Are Coming!

I find the first sign of tomatoes to be very exciting! I planted all of my tomatoes on March 5th and all but two varieties have sprouted. My grape and coldset tomatoes are taking a little longer. I was excited to experiment with the Black Krim tomato this year, but when I planted my seeds I realized I somehow forgot to order them. So, on Sunday I picked up some at Valley View Farms in Cockeysville. They only had a pole variety. My tomatoes are always over 6 ft. anyway, having 'pole' as a descriptor only makes me laugh! This should be interesting! 

Mar 13, 2011

Keeping Seedlings Happy and Healthy

Some of the seeds that are started inside are started a good 6-8 weeks before they can go outside. The initial nutrients in your seed starting mix is starting to be depleted and needs feeding at about 4 weeks. Depending on how crazy my schedule is at the time, I usually fertilize my seedlings at 4-5 weeks.

My favorite fertilizer to use at all stages of growth is Neptune's Harvest Organic Fish & Seaweed Fertilizer. I use about 1 capful per gallon of water. When I water my seedlings, I carefully water each plant, careful not to get any on the plants. It doesn't seem to be a problem if you get a little on the leaves, I just prefer not to get any on the leaves. Normally I water from the bottom, but the fish emulsion and seaweed can stink and I prefer to avoid it. The odor seems to fade pretty quickly when watering each individual plant.

I also do my best to 'simulate rain' and spritz my seedlings with a spray bottle of plain water periodically. The goal is to keep the soil from drying out because the seedlings are very fragile. You do have to be careful not to water too much or you'll start to see signs of mold, not exactly what you want!

I try to make sure that I do not fertilize right before I set my seedlings out in the garden. I find it is better to wait until they have been transplanted and then fertilize to give them a little boost while they are establishing their roots in the garden.

Mar 8, 2011

Seed Starting Progress in Early March

This is such a crazy time for seed starting indoors. You're crossing your fingers as you watch your cole crop seedlings, hoping they'll start to get some girth to their stems and that their leaves will really start to look big enough to support anything worth harvesting. Meanwhile, one day the weather seems to be a balmy 50 and the next it seems to be hovering around 35 degrees. You can't imagine ever being able to set these fragile little seedlings out in the garden. But everyone knows a gardener, while realistic, is always full of hope.

I don't know if it is the gardener in me, the artist in me, or both. I love watching the stages of growth as the seedlings become plants, ready for the garden. With Nikon camera ready, I start taking shots of the seedlings! I love the play of light and shadow on their leaves and the occasional water drop on a seedling. So, I have a few close-ups of my seedlings to share. I hope you find them as interesting as I do!

Seed Starting for 3-5-2011

So I finally took the leap and started my seeds for my tomato neighborhood. (Seeds for peppers, herbs, and beneficial flowers such as marigolds were started on Sunday, February 20th.) I decided to just start my favorites this year and I will probably try a few new varieties this weekend.

The favorites that I started were as follows;
Coldset, yellow pear, Cherokee purple, San Marzano, and the  Riesentraube Grape.
The coldset is great because it can be harvested in about 55-60 days and it makes a nice, medium size, meaty tomato. This is a great tomato for canning whole. The Cherokee purple is great sliced and I found I like to dice it and cook it with basil and garlic and can it for making a quick pasta sauce. The San Marzano is a very good tomato for making salsa, tomato sauce, and canning.

In terms of eggplant, I planted the long purple variety and I am still looking for the Ichabon variety. I like the smaller eggplants. Oh, I almost forgot. I also started seeds for the Mexican Two Color Fiesta Tomatillos. These are great for salsa and for making a tomatillo and garlic sauce that can be frozen and used in chicken dishes.

Mar 2, 2011

Kitchen Gardens: Your Own Potager: Organic Gardening

Kitchen Gardens: Your Own Potager: Organic Gardening

This is a great article for anyone interested in having a kitchen garden! There's nothing like stepping out your back door and finding you're just a few feet away from fresh veggies and herbs! Love it!

Feb 27, 2011

Spring is Near!

I am so excited to see that the last of the snow in the garden has melted and now the garden can begin to wake up! A quick tour of the garden and I see that there is a lot of work to do before my beds are ready for the earliest of spring plantings such as peas.

In the fall I covered all of my beds with the leaves we raked and the leaves will be worked into the soil as I add extra soil and hummus to get my beds ready. The leaves always add a wonderful natural compost to my beds and I always have a lot of great earthworms to keep the soil looking great.

I checked the cold frame again, now that it is not covered in snow. I still have a fair amount of scarlet nantes carrots to pull. They have been great during the winter and I love how sweet they are after being in the cold frame through the fall and winter. In November I planted some oak leaf lettuce to see what would happen and I noticed today that we have oak leaf seedlings that look pretty good for late February! I highly recommend some type of cold frame to add to the length of your growing season.

Now, I just have to wait for the soil to dry out a little so I can start preparing my raised beds. With all of the snow everything is just too wet. As tempting as it is, you never want to work your soil when it is too wet. In the long run, it's not worth the damage it causes to the soil. So, I'll be patient and go back to working with my seed starting indoors for a week or two more. 

Feb 24, 2011

Potatoes or Border Collie?

If you're wondering why there is a choice between potatoes and a border collie, it's a funny story. (until harvest time!) We have a young border collie named Luna, she's about 14 months old. I don't know if she's outgrown her puppy ways, I'm not ready to find out!

Last year Luna discovered she loved raw potato, especially if she dug it up out of my garden! She managed to rearrange all planted potatoes, dig up a lot, and dig endlessly in search of more. No surprise, harvest was almost equal to the amount planted. So in the interest of precious garden space and an otherwise very good puppy, I choose the border collie over the potatoes!

If you do decide to plant potatoes, I find the perfect companion plant to be beans. You can plant rows of beans in between the rows of potatoes or plant a couple of teepees of pole beans at either end of your potato bed.

So, Luna and I will enjoy the garden a little more this year. Now if I can just keep her out of the fresh peas.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Feb 22, 2011

Response to howgardengrow. . .

I'm glad it helped! I have been experimenting with different varieties for several years and I am starting to put together 'all-time' favorites! But I must confess, I can't resist trying something new each year! This year I'm going to try the heirloom black krim tomato. It might be a new favorite!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tomatoes, Peppers, and Eggplant

I don't think I can ever plant enough tomatoes, peppers, or eggplant! We love Italian and Mexican food and these three ingredients are a staple in our house!

I plant a lot of different types of tomatoes. I like to plant tomatoes that are good for sauce, salsa, canning whole, and eating fresh. I have found the heirloom yellow and red pear tomatoes will produce more tomatoes than you can ever eat! My grape tomatoes always look more like the size of small plums, and the Cherokee purple tomatoes are amazing anyway you eat them! For sauce to can, I prefer the meaty San Marzano tomato.

My favorites are; yellow and red pear tomato, grape tomato, Cherokee purple tomato, San Marzano tomato

In terms of peppers, I plant all different colors of sweet belle peppers in order to make my homemade salsa a real visual treat as well as delicious! I enjoy the fish pepper, Italian pepperoncini pepper, patio red marconi pepper, and the serrano pepper. I use them fresh, in canning, and some of them I dry, crush and use in cooking throughout the winter.

I love to grow eggplant and I especially enjoy the smaller ones such as Ichaban, Long Purple, and I like the Black Opal. The trick is to give them plenty of space and treat them like a tomato plant.

I interplant carrots, lettuce and basil around my tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant.

In early spring, when it is not warm enough yet for this bed, I plant peas and lettuce and then clear everything out in time for the 'warm weather crew'.

The Squash and Legume Neighborhood

I have two beds set aside for squash and legumes. I will start the season with peas and then as the peas are finishing up, I will have my beans planted and ready to roll. I also plant beans on my two trellises that are at the edges of some of my raised beds. Vertical is a great way to go for beans.

In the squash and legume neighborhoods, I will be using bamboo teepees for the pole beans and the area around the teepees will be interplanted with bush bean varieties and yellow squash and zucchini. I also interplant small size sunflowers and I plant nasturtiums in and around the squash.

If more space is needed for beans, I will use the extra space I have in planting areas 10 and 13. They are not part of a raised bed, but they seem to work fine for bush beans.

I will plant my beans about 3 different times during a growing season in order to take advantage of a continuous supply so I will have plenty for eating fresh and plenty for freezing.

I will plant peas again in the late summer for a fall harvest.

Roots & Greens; What do I plant?

I follow the guidelines outlined in Sally Jean Cunningham's book Great Garden Companions; A Companion-Planting System for a Beautiful, Chemical-Free Vegetable Garden. I have made adjustments to fit our needs and the growing conditions of our area.

So, in my two beds I have designated for Roots and Greens I will plant the following;
Swiss chard, kale, lettuce that does not bolt, carrots, parsnips, turnips, onions, beets, garlic, shallots, celery, spinach, and then greens that will do well in the fall such as Kale and Swiss Chard.

Interplanted with my roots and greens will be bachelor buttons, cosmos, and marigolds. I like to tuck nasturtiums around the edges of my raised beds of roots and greens.

Planning for Companion Gardening

Baby it's cold outside!
When it is too cold to do anything outside in the garden, I stay inside and layout my plan for this year's garden. I plan by neighborhoods, or families of plants. I also do a lot of successive planting which means there is always something to plant, something growing, and something ready to harvest. As I mentioned earlier, my garden notebook keeps me organized.

How does my garden keep growing? 
What am I planning for this year? First of all, as I look at my notes and look outside, I realize I lost track of how many 'planting' areas I have. (oops!) I have 8 raised beds for veggies, 1 coldframe, 2 half size raised beds for strawberries and blueberries, and 4 other planting areas around the raised beds where I manage to squeeze plants in as needed.

What neighborhoods am I planning?
Beds #1 and #6 are Roots & Greens
Beds #2 and # 7 are Cabbage
Beds #3 and #5 are Squash & Legume
Beds #4 and #8 are Tomato
#9 = cold frame (currently, carrots and lettuce)
#10 = open for now
#11= Blueberries
#12 = Strawberries
#13 = open for now
#14 = Asparagus
#15 = Herbs

Feb 21, 2011

Snow? 4-8 inches?

Here I am watching the current forecast in disbelief! It's snowing and we're supposed to see 4-8 inches by morning. I think I'll go tend to my seedlings under their grow lights and I'll keep positive thoughts of spring! If we do get all of this snow, I'll be able to make a more detailed post tomorrow. I want to take a few minutes to explain how I set up all of my beds which can help with placing seed orders. Time will tell!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Feb 20, 2011

Decisions, Decisions!

Starting around the winter holiday season, I began getting seed catalogues from anyone and everyone. Some are tried and true, some I've never even heard of before now. All of them together make any gardener excited about the possibilities!

How do you decide what to grow? First, only grow things you like to eat or anything new you'd like to try. Next, I like to stick with as many heirloom seeds as possible. I like to save seeds from year to year and I want to know that the seed I have saved will hold true and not break down into a vegetable plant that is not quite what I had in mind.

In terms of seed catalogues, I order from John Scheeper's Kitchen Garden Seeds, Henry Fields, and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Henry Fields is good for basics, and Baker Creek and Scheeper's are good for more unique varieties of seeds.

One of my favorite places to purchase seeds is from Bowman's Home and Garden in Westminster, Maryland. It's one of those wonderful places where you can go up to a seed counter where the seeds are stored in bins and glass canning jars. The seeds are weighed and packed in a small seed packet or small brown paper bag depending upon the quantity.  By far, seed purchased from Bowman's is always a better value. I also love the fact that I can purchase my peat pots in bulk and receive a quantity discount.

At this point, I think I have purchased just about everything I need in terms of seed. Now it's just a matter of keeping up with my seed starting so everything will be ready to set out when it is time.

Feb 16, 2011

What do you plant in the Cabbage Neighborhood?

What I have learned about companion gardening is the importance of your 'neighborhoods' being little planned communities. Everyone in the neighborhood has to get along and they should all work together to make one big happy section of your garden. One of the first neighborhoods you should address is the Cabbage Neighborhood because of the need to plant your cole crops first.

What do you plant in the cabbage neighborhood?
Broccoli, bok choy,  cabbage, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage, collards, kale, radishes, turnips, parsnips, carrots and brussels sprouts. Now I plant everything listed except brussels sprouts because no one in our family likes them. Whatever you do, don't waste precious garden space planting things that no one will eat!

I do not plant a lot of broccoli and cauliflower in the spring. I find those plants do better in the fall. I also will plant the Chinese Cabbage and collards in the fall.

Now in the early spring I will plant, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, radishes, turnips, parsnips and carrots. I will also include onions, beets, lettuce (all varieties) and swiss chard. As soon as it warms up a little I will work in calendulas, cosmos, and marigolds. You can also add in some herbs such as rosemary and thyme.

Basically, you want your flowers and herbs that complement and help the growth of your vegetables, and you want to keep pests confused. Sometimes I find it is not just the pests that get confused! Companion gardening is what drove me to keeping a notebook so I could keep up with what to plant where. When I'm in the garden, my notebook is right there in my gardening bucket for quick access if I get confused.

Think of the vegetables as the family and the flowers and herbs as the friends. In terms of space, I always allow plenty of room for the cabbages and bok choy. I use two 4'x8' beds because I figure if you have too much, make kimchee or sauerkraut. Besides, the cabbage neighborhood always looks great from spring until about October.

Feb 14, 2011

Garden Neighborhoods

So, before I ever order one pack of seeds or go to my favorite local store, I plan where I am going to plant my 'neighborhoods'. This is where the book Great Garden Companions by Sally Jean Cunningham is MY constant companion! This is the book that introduced me to the benefits of beneficials, companion planting, and crop rotation.

My backyard is not very large and space is at a premium. My husband came up with a great design for building raised beds and now I have 'grown' to have 7 full size beds that are 4' x 8' and 2 half size beds that are 4'x4' square. My husband was also able to help me with space by building 2 trellis' that work like arbors straddling 2 beds each. This provides great vertical space for things like peas and beans.

Here is a sketch from my garden notebook of the layout and how I am going to plant my Neighborhoods this year.
Layout of Neighborhoods for this year's garden

Feb 13, 2011

New Year, New Garden

This is something new for me. I have been keeping a detailed notebook of all of the planning, preparation,and day to day garden activities for me to keep track of my small kitchen garden for years now. Starting today, I will be sharing those notes in a blog. Here goes . . .

Today is Sunday, February 13, 2011, I have started seeds inside for my cole crops in hopes of having everything I need when it's time to set out transplants. I started my first seeds on Jan. 17th and they look pretty good. I have found that starting seeds indoors is much easier with the help of aquarium hoods outfitted with grow lights. Last year was the first year for this set-up and I think it worked very well.

As the weeks go by and warm weather gets closer, I will be starting seeds, planning my 'neighborhoods', and preparing my raised beds,for this year's kitchen garden.