Saturday, April 6, 2013


After the beds were prepared, and after I finished transplanting plants, I planted some seeds.  The only ones I planted are the vegetables that grow under the ground.  They are more hearty and can be planted prior to the last frost.  I do not start these indoors, and there are way to many to start indoors, and they do not transplant well.

I planted both of these varieties last year.  They did okay, but not great. I don't think any of the onions got up to even a golf ball size.  They were good, and great to slice up when you only need a little onion, but I am hoping this year the Stuttgarter's will get big enough to store.  I planted 100 onions total.  They are pretty small, the Red Of Florence I planted 16 in a sq ft, and the Stuttgarters I planted 9 per sq ft.

Last year I wanted to plant the Cosmic Purple carrots, and the seeds sold out before I ordered.  This year they were the first thing I added to my cart.  I was not going to miss out.  We grew the Amarillo carrots last year and they were great.  This will also be my first year growing the Muscade carrots.  Last year the kids loved picking carrots and eating them, and we got a great harvest.  We ate most of them, but froze a few bags as well.  We have used them throughout the year in dishes like chicken pot pie, and shepherds pie.  Yumm.  I planted 96 carrots.

Beets.  I love beets.  My husband insists they taste like dirt, I beg to differ.  Either way though, I am planting them.  They are great to can, and later use on salads.  Last year I planted the Chioggia Beets, they look like candy cane stripes inside.  They were pretty, but not very tasty.  Glad to have a more traditional beet this year.  I planted 36 beets.

I forgot to take a picture of the Amish Snap Pea seed packed,  They came from Seed Savers Exchange, and were gifted to me by our awesome neighbors. They got a few seed packets free from a Lehman's order, and they do not normally plant peas.  I used this trellis last year with our zucchini, and the zucchini plants were way too big for it, but I think it will work great for the snap peas.  I planted
64 pea plants, and I am sure each and every one of those pea pods will be eaten right out of the garden by the kids, and that is exactly why I planted them.

Last but not least, the Luffa Gourd.  I direct sowed (planted outside by seed) these last year but they were in the back of the property and did not get enough attention.  I started 4 plants indoors today, hoping this year will be a success. I really want some of these to make Christmas gifts.  I promise to give them more attention.


I have been stalking the 10 day forecast on the weather app on my phone for the past few weeks.  The minute I saw that the next 10 nights it would not get near freezing, I knew it was the right time to start moving some of the plants that have been growing inside, outside.  I have other plants that needs to be started indoors, and I am running out of room.  I have been hardening off these plants over the past week.  I have been taking them outside every day that I could.  That helps the plants get used to the weather outdoors.  Otherwise if you just stick them directly outside they could go in to shock.

I transplanted all 4 cauliflower plants plants . .

all 4 cabbage plants . . .

12 Leeks . . .

4 Rainbow Chard plans (and seeded another 4) . . .

and 9 Rhubarb plants.  This is the first year I have planted rhubarb.  From what I have read we won't get much of a crop this year, but it will come back next year.  The plants are doing great   .

When I was getting ready to transplant the leeks, I noticed in the square next to me, that the garlic is finally coming up.  Last year it was up this high in January.  I was worried the bed froze too long or something happened and our garlic was not going to grow, so I was very excited when I found this (and many others coming up).

I went outside tonight to cover some of the plants, but then I saw the overnight temp is only supposed to get to 52, so I left them.  Hoping they do well.

Preparing The Beds

Today we got the raised beds ready to be planted.  The very first thing I did was add compost to all of the raised beds, and mix it in real good.  We have 3 different compost areas.  A bin near our house (not pictured), the compost pile sectioned off with a pallet, and another black compost bin near the back of the yard.  We use all 3 of them, and add to all 3 throughout the year. 

After that, I raked all of the raised beds to level out the soil.  Here is my husband putting up new grids on all of the beds. We do the square foot gardening method.


Last year we put our grids up real fast.  We used twine that we tied on nails that we put in every foot.  Over the year, the rabbits ate through the twine, it broke, and started decomposing.  The nails rusted, and stuck out of the beds.  I did not like that at all, we had to be real careful around the garden beds.  And we have kids, and dogs, and I would hate for either of them to step or put their hand on a rusty nail.  So we decided to remove them.  This year we used a nylon rope that should not break down, and we used the staple gun so nothing is sticking up above the bed.  I have seen people making grids out of thin wood paneling  but that would take up some of the space in the garden and I don't want to lose any more space than I need to.

Below is what we used as our herb garden last year.  This is the next garden bed I need to get ready.  This is where all of our tomatoes will go this year. Big project.  We are waiting to get the rototiller fixed before we tackle this.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Salad Time

It's spring, and it is snowing.  The high today is in the upper 20's.  Last year we hit 80.  I am so anxious to get the plants outside in the ground, but we are a few weeks away from that as the ground is still frozen.  Even though I have already started a lot inside, there is a lot more to go, and I was counting on having some of these outside already. I am running out of grow light room!

Regardless though, I started our lettuce today.  I am only strarting one variety indoors, the rest I will direct sow in a few weeks.  Rocky Top Mix.  This is perfect for salad.  We will buy romaine and add lettuce and greens from our garden in with it for variety.  I started only 8 plants for right now.  Like I said, I will be planting more directly outside when the ground thaws.  We also use our kale, swiss chard, beet greens, and spinach in salad, so we do not need as much "lettuce".  This just adds a little more color and texture.  And it grows fast :)

This is our little snow covered herb and lettuce garden, it goes along the side of our garage between the garage and the house.  It is thinner, and get's a good amount of shade.  Being between the garage and the house gives it a lot of shelter too from the winds.  When everything was bone dry last summer, this bed stayed moist a little longer and  did not need to be watered as much.  It's perfect for lettuce.  Last year we planted our lettuce, greens, and garlic here.  The garlic has been moved to a raised bed this year, and our herbs moved here in the fall to make way for a larger tomato garden.  I am hoping the herbs survived.

Even this little squirrel that is eating all my bird feed is ready for spring . . .

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Spinach, Full Of Health!

Spinach, Monstreux D'Viroplay.  It went in to the dirt today.  I planted 8 plants.

Last years spinach was from a seed packet purchased who know when, from who knows where.  I am hoping I will have more success with this variety, from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.

Now that the majority of my early seeds are planted and under the light, I am planting smaller quantities at a time.  I d not have a lot of small planting containers, so I am using a tray that my husband brought home these delicious chocolate pistachio doughnut things in.  It works perfect as it allows the seeds a lot of light, which warms the soil, and helps the seeds germinate.

We used most of our spinach fresh last year.  As salad, in salads, sandwiches, omelettes, as a side for dinner, you name it.  We did not have nearly as much spinach as we did kale and swiss chard last year.  Hoping this years crop will be more plentiful.

Next week . . .lettuce.

Spring, we are ready.

I am trying to be patient.  Really I am.  We had a nice weekend with temps up to 60 degrees.  Now today is another story, its hovering around freezing and we have had snow flurries.  Spring came early last year, and caused a lot of damage to fruit crops around here, so I don't want to rush it this year, but I am ready to see
green. Last year at this time I had already planted our spinach, kale, and swiss chard outside, and I was getting ready to put all of our herbs outside.  No where near ready this year.

The counter is full under our grow light right now.  I am hoping we do not have to set up another.  I have moved the leeks and rhubarb to the windowsill in the kitchen.  The leeks are doing great, they are about 3-4 inches tall right now, the rhubarb has been looking slightly wilted so I am moving it back under the grow lights for today.

Just about all of the tomatoes have now sprouted.  I am cutting back the plants as they come in so there is only one in each pot.  Every time I snip the second or third plant coming up, I feel like I am cutting off an arm.  But I know it is for the best.  Doing so allows the surviving plant to get all the nutrients and have all the space it needs. The peppers are looking very healthy.  I am excited as my peppers did not start to well indoors last year.

I want to get the luffa gourds potted but I am trying to hold off until the ground thaws so I can get the kale and a few other hardy plants outside.

I have been saving milk jugs the past few weeks.  I rinsed them out, and cut the bottom off.  They will make perfect little mini greenhouses for when the plants first move outside.  Last year I used mason jars, which worked great, but the plants quickly grew to touch the top of the jars.  Once I move the plants outside, I keep an eye on the weather and when it seems like there could be a frost, I cover them at night.

My sister Becky got married late last summer, and had tulip bulbs as wedding favors.  I tried planting them in the ground over the weekend, but it was still frozen.  They are sitting in bowls filled with an inch or so of rocks, then filled with water.  Overnight the roots started sprouting like crazy, and the buds are growing super fast too.  I am hoping in two weeks I can plant them outside, but for now, our little kitchen table it looking like spring.  And I don't mind.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

23 Tomato Plants

We love fresh tomatoes from the garden.  The taste can not be duplicated.  Tomatoes from the grocery store do not compare.  The majority of tomatoes that you get in the store are bland, tasteless, and mealy.  That is why I would consider tomatoes to be the most rewarding to plant.  Not to mention you can get packet of 25 organic heirloom tomato seeds for $2, try beating that price.  That is 25 tomato plants you could grow for $2.

We planted 23 plants.  It sounds like a lot, and I guess it kind of is, but once you break it down it does not sound so bad (or good).

 This is what tomato seeds look like, and the hands of my beautiful daughter :)  Her hands are way cuter than mine, so she is now my hand model.  We plan to save our seeds this year, so hopefully we will have more for next year.

We planted 5  tomatillo plants last year. Grande Rio Verde specifically. They grow about as tall as a tomato plant, but are not as bushy and full, and do not produce as much fruit.   The fruit is pretty interesting, the size varies but most were about the size of a golf ball, and covered with a husk.  The husks grow bigger and faster than the fruit inside.  When the fruit fills out in the husk, and the husk stars to split, they are ready.  The fruit is super sticky, and they are kind of a pain to pull off the husk and wash off the stickiness. I used them sparingly fresh from the garden, and canned the majority of them as salsa verde.  Being that I still have a half a dozen pints left, I am only planting one lonely tomatillo plant this year.   These tomatillos will be used fresh, no canning this year. 

Snacking Tomatoes
I call these snacking tomatoes, as that is what the are used for.  Last year we were picking about a pint of these a day.  My son can easily polish off a pint on his own in one sitting, so it worked well.  I shared them with neighbors, and at work.  I am secretly planting a plant of each for our neighbors, Mrs. Cindy and Mr. Dan, as they liked them a lot too.

Black Cherry Tomato
This is one we will probably plant every year now, and it is our second year planting it.  The fruit is about the size of a normal cherry tomato, and the color varies from a greenish red, to a dark red.  All the tomato eaters at my house love these!

Egg Yolk
I like small yellow tomatoes, butt he yellow pear tomatoes we planted last year were slightly mealy so I wanted to try a different variety.  Very excited to try these, I love having all different colors of tomatoes.

Slicing Tomatoes

These I plant to slice for sandwiches, salads, and whatever else we can use them for right off the vine.  If you are Jonathan that means it is perfectly acceptable to pick a tomato off the vine and eat it like an apple.

Red Tomato - Riesentraube
This was a free gift that came with our seed order.  Therefor it must be planted.  I am only planting 2 plants as I am not sure what to expect.

Bonny Best
I bought these because my mother in law's name is Bonnie, and I like her :) I am planting 3 plants. And they have rave reviews. I plan to use them for slicing, and the over abundance for canning.
  Here is the description from Baker Heirloom Creek's website:
The famous old canning tomato that was introduced in 1908 by Bonnie Plant Farm in Union Spring, Alabama. It became one of the most respected canning varieties in America in the first half of the twentieth century. Medium-sized fruit are round, red, meaty and loaded with flavor. A good producer that makes a fine slicer too. Becoming hard to find due to modern, flavorless hybrids.
How could I not buy them after reading that?

Solar Flair
These seeds were a special addition to Baker Creek's catalog this year from Wild Boar Farms. I am also planting 3 of these. I read a very interesting article about the farmer, and had to try them, and they look gorgeous.  Again, they will be used for slicing, and the excess will be canned or frozen.

Amish Paste Tomatoes
This is the third year we have planted this variety.  The first year we were in the process of moving, and I planted them in my parent's garden.  These are great canning tomatoes, and great for sauce, as there is not a lot of juice in them. That is why I am planting 6 plants. They are similar to a roma tomato, but even better if you ask me.  I will plant these every year.

  I planted all of the tomato in peat pots.  I hate peat pots.  They suck the moisture out of the soil, get moldy if you water them a lot, and they never compost like the description says.  But . . .they were the only pot I could find in the size I wanted.  So I am using them.  I will not plant them however, I will take the plants out before planting, and then compost the pots.  They take forever to break down.

This is what happens when you lose the lid to your only small seed tray.  It has been replaced with a crockpot liner bag, and it's the perfect size.  I do not use these in the crockpot, that would be like microwaving in plastic and that gives me the heebie jeevies.

And this is what it looks like when you run out of plant markers.

I am so excited to have my tomatoes planted, I am sure I will have more updates on them soon.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Swiss Chard, Kale, And A Seedling Update

Today I planted 4 seeds of both Swiss Chard and Kale.  Well I guess I planted 8 of each, 2 in each section, but I will cut back the weaker or second one to sprout.  I will only keep 4 of each.  This is important so each little section in the tray is not over crowded, and so the remaining seedling can get all the nutrients to grow.  Planting an extra seed just help bump up the germination rate, pretty much guaranteeing that a seed will sprout in each section.  And some of my seed packets have 250 seeds in them, it's not like I am ever going to plant that many. 

Swiss Chard
This is our second year planting Swiss Chard.  This is one of the first veggies to go in the garden, along with kale.  We are planing Rainbow Swiss Chard again, from the same seed packet we purchased last year from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.  I love the rainbow variety.  You get stalks in varying shades of off white, yellow, orange, and pink.  As long as you cut your swiss chard on a regular basis, it will keep growing back.  I always cut the outer larger leaves, leaving the new ones to grow in the middle.  We planted this last spring, and it lasted until late fall.  We will cut up swiss chard and use it in salad, saute it like you would spinach.  I made a swiss chard gratin last year that was great.  This is what the swiss chard seeds look like:

This is our third year planting kale.  We planted it at the condo when we lived there too.  This year we are planting Blue Curled Scotch Kale from Baker Creek.  Last year we had a Red Kale, and I really wanted to plant a more traditional kale this year.  This stuff is so hardy, it's takes plenty of abuse, and still produces well.  Kale is also one of the first plants to go in the garden, and one of the last to come out.  If you don't cut it on a regular basis, it will bolt and flower or go to seed.  Sometimes during the summer we just can't eat any more, so I will a big cut and cut them way down.  Just like the swiss chard, you can easily blanch the leaves, and freeze.  We have been using up both from last summer, and still have more in the freezer.  There are so many uses for kale.  It's great in smoothies, you can chop up some in mashed potatoes, put it in omelets, make kale chips, use it in salad, soup, saute it, really it's very versatile.  The kale seeds are much smaller than the swiss chard seeds, they look very similar to the cabbage seeds, itty bitty little round black balls.  If you drop one, it may never be seen again.

The rhubarb seedlings are doing very well, they love the grow light they have been under this past week.  They are starting to get their second leaves in. 

The cabbage was an early sprouter, these things germinated in just a few days, and they are growing very fast.

The cauliflower seedlings were just a day or so behind them, but they are coming in a little slower. 

The pepper seeds have not sprouted yet.  Hopefully raising the temperature in the dirt this weekend, while they sit on the warm running dryer, will help them along.  Doesn't surprise me  though, peppers take a while to germinate, and they are slow growers.  I am guessing the kale and swiss chard will sprout about the same time as the peppers.

I am waiting for the snow to go away, last year our beets, swiss chard, and kale all went in the ground mid March, I don't think they will be going in as early this year. 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Peppers, cauliflower, peppers, cabbage, peppers, leeks, and peppers.

Dreary day today, and the snow is falling down, perfect for planting.  I wish.  I would prefer a little sunshine, but you take what you get.  Being that we are at about 11 ish weeks until around our last frost, I had some seeds that needed to get started.  I am going slightly ahead of schedule, just a week or two, but mother nature was ahead of schedule last year, and I would bet she is again this year.  So I am planning accordingly.

Last year we planted some mini peppers, and they were a little too mini, as in the size of a large marble.  And Mike was the only pepper eater in the family.  This year, Jonathan has a new found love for red, orange, and yellow peppers,  as in he eats them almost every day in his lunch.  And I am tolerating them much more than I use to, and even enjoying the every now and then.  So we are planting peppers.  To eat, and to freeze.  They freeze great if you dice them up, and they are great to add on to homemade pizza, in omeletts, hash browns, homemade sloppy joes, and much more.  We will eat what we can, and the rest we will dice and freeze.  W are planting King Of The North, which is a hardy sweet red pepper good for short growing seasons, California Wonder, a sweet yellow pepper, and 2 Jalapeno plants which I saved seeds from a farmers market pepper, and trying again the Burpee organic Carnival Pepper mix.  I was hesitant with the Burpee seeds, even though they were organic, worried that they were owned by Monsanto. They are in fact not owned by Monsanto, however they do get some seeds from a Monsanto subsidiary..  They also pledged not to sell any GMO seeds.  They are not my first choice in seed companies but I did want to try out these peppers. In all, I planted 2 Jalapeno plants, 2 Carnival Pepper, 4 King Of The North, and 4 California Wonder.

I planted the Giant Of Naples from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.  4 of these giants.  Let's hope they live up to their name.  After our broccoli fail last year we are trying cauliflower instead.  This we will eat raw, or cook up, or freeze. Everyone but Lilah likes cauliflower, but she will at least take a few bites.

Late Flat Dutch, and this bad boys look huge.  In the seed packed picture a little boy is holding up a giant head of cabbage.  I hope mine look as nice when they are done growing.  I am also planting 4 heads of cabbage. I plan on using most of it to can sauerkraut   And eat some fresh sauteed or as coleslaw.  We bought a few small cabbage plants last year, they did decent despite the fact that they went out late and it was super hot and dry last summer.  Hoping starting these early will give them enough time to mature.

I love leeks.  In scrambled eggs, quiches, soups, you name it.  I bought quite a few from the farmers market last year, they last a while in the fridge, and I even diced and froze quite a few.  These seem to be needy.  I will be taking half the dirt out of the squares in the garden before they are transplanted outside.  Then when planted, you have to pile the dirt up around them as they grow to get more of the white are in the leeks, and that is the best part.  This is our first time planting leeks.  Hopefully we'll have enough time to tend to them.  I am planting 12 of them to start.  Technically you can put 9 in a square foot, but I think I am going to do 2 squares with 6 in each.

All of these seeds are in one of my larger seed trays, covered with a clear lid.  They are watered good and the lid will stay on until the seeds germinate. Until they germinate, they like it warm, so they will be hanging out on top of the dryer for a week or so.  After that they will move to the counter in the kitchen under a grow light.

Let's hope I can keep these all alive for the next 10-12 weeks.  Fingers crossed.  And toes.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


Today is special.  Because it is Wednesday.  And I do not have to work.  Even though I love work, I also love home. 

And today I planted the first plant of the year. 
Rhubarb.  Glaskins Perpetual to be exact.  From Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.  My favorite seed company.

I read somewhere on Pinterest that Rhubarb starts sprouting sometime in February outdoors, and first cutting is ready in March, April.  So I decided I better get a move on.

We were gifted some rhubarb last summer by a coworkers of Mike's, and we planted it, but it seemed to die off right away.  I have hopes that it may come up this year, but just in case I ordered seeds.

Rhubarb seeds are funny looking, and need to be soaked a few hours before planting. I have no idea if one seed grows a big rhubarb plant, or just one stalk.  I am still kind of new to this gardening thing.  So I soaked 12 seeds for a few hours, and planted them this afternoon indoors.  I am hoping I will be able to put them outside early to mid March.

I am also hoping I do a better job at tracking events like today, when I plant the seeds indoors, when I put them outdoors, and when I can start harvesting.

I moved my garden map to excel this year.  And I also have a spreadsheet that tracks such gardening details as I mentioned above. 

I have high hopes for seed saving this year.  I did save some seeds from a Jalapeno pepper that I purchased at the farmers market last year, and plan to plant this year.

For now, here are some very exciting pictures of Rhubarb seed starting.  Hopefully in a few more weeks I will have more seeds starting, and Rhubarb growing happily.

2012 Garden Review, and 2013 Garden Plan

I am a blog slacker.  But I can't quite delete it either.  So we are stuck her in limbo where I post a few times a year.  I would make a promise to post more this year, and I would like to, but life happens. 

I know it's only the beginning of February, but I am already dreaming of spring.  I held on to my seed catalogs and waited to browse until January. And I browsed.  And Made Lists.  And ordered.

Our garden plans were so big last year I really did not know if we would accomplish everything we wanted to, but we did.  And we learned a lot.  Somethings worked well, some worked a little too well, and some not so well. 

For our 5 raised beds, we used the Square Foot Gardening method.  I love how our beds look all sectioned off, and they were easy to plant this way. 

We did however find a few things that this method did not work so well for:

Zucchini, even though we use a teepee trellis, they needed more room. 

"Picking" tomatoes (smaller tomatoes for snacking and eating), I have these "small" tomato plants 4 squares, which I thought would be more than enough room, two plants could easly fill an entire bed.  These seriously were the biggest, highest producting, tomato plants I have ever seen.  For real.  I don't know if is the garden soil mix we got that was half compost, or all of the compost and egg shell powder that I added, but we had a phenominal crop.  No bugs, no disease, just lots of healthy tomatoes.  And I lost my basil to them.  As in the tomatoes took over the basil squares and  the basil did not get enoough light, and was lost under the tomato branches.  And I am allergic to tomato plants.  I break out in a horrible raised red rash that will not go away.  I thought gloves would help, and they do, until I itch another part of my body with them on, or try to take them off.  Anyways though, we had LOTS of little tomatoes.  We planted Black Cherry, Yellow Pear, and Red and Yellow Currant Tomatoes.  I want to try a new variety this year.  Mike does not, as he loved the ones we had.  So we are compramising, we are planting the Black Cherry tomatoes again, and then a few new varieties.  And we are moving all tomato plants out of the raised beds, and in to a separate "tomato garden".

I loved that once the beets were done, I could harvest them, and still have time to plant another full crop of green beans.

We will be making permenant grids for our gardens this year, the twine broke part way through the season on almost all of our beds. 

Pumpkins.  We had 14.  That is a lot.  So this year we are going to try a few different heirloom varities, and a few different squashes and guords.  My high hopes for the luffa guord went down the drain when the plants struggled to survive forgotten in the back of the garden.  This year, I will try again.  Along with bird house guords.  And more melons, as ours did not do so well last year.  And we had squash bugs.  Not sure what they are called, but we had tons.  They seemed to kill the pumpkin plants, but the pumpkins all made it out alive. 

We had "picking" tomatoes from May through October.  Lots. 

This year we are hoping to apply the lessons we learned, and try again, and hope for even better results.  Here are a few pictures from last year, as everything is covered in snow right now. 

The seeds are in now, and it is almost time to begin.