Tuesday, December 20, 2016
Though the dark days of winter may cause distress for some, gardeners can always depend on some light reading to brighten up their waking hours. After all, when the seed catalogs arrive in your mailbox on a regular basis, it's Christmas right through December and up until planting begins in the spring.
Sunday, December 4, 2016
The first measurable snowfall of the season has heralded the arrival of Old Man Winter and the official end of the growing season here in NWI. I really can't complain since we had a far warmer November than usual and could still pull produce out of the garden as recently as last week. Nature has been kind this autumn. Let's hope she will be as kind through the days of winter.
Sunday, November 6, 2016
I can't thank Mother Nature enough for this unusual stretch of mild November weather we're having. My lettuce is certainly enjoying it as much as I am. I wonder if it would be too much to expect another week of this before the first hard frost arrives?
Thursday, November 3, 2016
Well, all of the winter squash are in and for the first time in several years I can celebrate the fact that I had a squash bug free growing season. I don't know why they didn't show up. We didn't have a winter that seemed harsh enough to kill all of them off in hibernation or destroy all of their dormant eggs. I don't know where they went, but I do hope they stay there and never return. So thank you Mother Nature and if it's not too much to ask, could we have a repeat of this performance next year?
Monday, October 31, 2016
Normally at this time of year discussions about anything orange in the garden would center around pumpkins, winter squash and particularly hardy chrysanthemums. But this growing season is ending as strangely as it began.
Just as winter didn't seem to want to move on and allow spring to take its place, now summer seems reluctant to make way for autumn. We usually have our first hard frost well before now. And there were times during my formative years when trick or treat treks took place in heavy coats and boots through inches of snow, but not this year. It will be cool and dry for the candy goblins tonight. And tomorrow's weather should be sunny with high temperatures in the mid 70's.
I'm not complaining about Jack Frost's delayed arrival. I'm overjoyed that he is late because it's given my Bulgarian Carrot Pepper time to mature and show its true colors. I planted it late and it takes a while to grow, but it seems that the odds were ever in my favor. Just a few more days of mild weather and I'll have the chance to see how it tastes.
That's all for now.
Thursday, October 6, 2016
This season I planted all of my tomatoes, from the tiniest cherry varieties to the larger types, in containers. And I managed to plant them in waves so they wouldn't all ripen at the same time. It has been a pleasing success. The early tomatoes that I planted last are ripening just as the growing season is coming to a close. Since they are bred to grow in cooler temperatures and shorter time periods, the post summer cool down has been perfect for them. In the immortal words of John "Hannibal" Smith, "I love it when a plan comes together."
Sunday, October 2, 2016
The vibrant colors of these banana peppers clearly indicate that they are ripe and flavorful enough to be collected. They'll make a great addition to my baked sausage, potato and onion dish.
Thursday, September 29, 2016
What is the best container size to use for tomatoes? Well, it seems that the answer is any size that works. I wouldn't have thought that I'd get any decent results planting Siletz Organic(a determinate variety) in a container the same size as the ones I use for cherry tomatoes. But as you can see, this plant has produced nice sized fruit. I guess the potting soil/compost mix along with some organic liquid fish fertilizer did the trick. Don't you just love it when an experiment is successful?
Friday, September 16, 2016
One of the great things about growing banana peppers is that you can never be sure what colors you'll get. And when there are multiple hues on a single plant, it's as though you're growing a very tasty rainbow.
Thursday, September 8, 2016
As revealed in an earlier post, it turned out that the squash seeds I couldn't identify before planting were of the dumpling squash category. All of these are from a single plant which sits by itself in a lasagna bed. The plant continues to grow and there are still squash to be harvested. The squash pictured above are those that appeared early in the plant's growth. The remaining ones I'll collect at the end of the month.
This squash plant has been fortunate as there have been no signs of squash bugs or powdery mildew on it. I'm hopeful my Honey Bear plants will fare as well.
Saturday, September 3, 2016
Maybe it's just my imagination, but it appears that this sunflower has twisted around to check out its own magnificence as it reaches ever higher towards the sky. Or maybe it's just surprised that it could grow so tall in a modest, discarded trash can container.
Wednesday, August 31, 2016
Like their cucumber cousins, once summer squash start coming they require daily inspection because the fruit can literally increase in size overnight. I am quite sure that this beauty was at least two inches shorter when I looked at it yesterday. But all it took was a passing shower or two to cause it to leap to new proportions. When growing summer squash it's best not to blink too often. You might miss something!
Monday, August 29, 2016
At last, the Cherokee tomato plant which I placed in an old, plastic lined milk crate has reached the harvest stage. The tomatoes have a mild sweetness that makes them absolutely delectable. This is my first year growing them, but it certainly won't be my last.
Saturday, August 27, 2016
Most tomato soup recipes start with the words, 'peel and seed tomatoes'. And if you're like me, your first thought is, do I really have to go through all of that for a tasty tomato soup? Well, the fact is you don't. What follows is a recipe for delicious tomato soup that involves none of the tedium of peeling and seeding tomatoes.
Coarsely chop one medium sized onion and saute it in a deep, heavy pan with olive oil until it is soft and translucent. Then add about one pound each of coarsely chopped tomatoes and carrots, three diced stalks of celery and four or five cloves of minced garlic. Saute all ingredients for another 1-2 minutes.
Add four cups of water or chicken stock, a couple of bay leaves, a little pepper, and one tablespoon of a non-salt spice mix such as Mrs. Dash.
Mix all ingredients and then bring the mixture to a boil. Allow it to simmer for 30 minutes. Then puree in a blender or food processor.
You don't want a perfectly smooth soup. So short bursts at the puree setting should be enough create a thick, coarse-textured soup.
You may serve your soup topped with chopped green onions, chives or whatever suits your taste. And I have found that this soup goes well with thick slices of garlic bread.
Wednesday, August 24, 2016
The seed packet advertised these as Giant Hot Peppers, but I decided to plant them in a modest sized container and see how they progressed. After all, I don't care about size, I care about sizzle! And I can hardly wait until they turn red.
Monday, August 22, 2016
Sunday, August 21, 2016
The first Cherokee tomatoes are starting to ripen. I thought it would take longer for them to reach this stage but I'm not going to complain. If the weather behaves as it usually does, they should have the rest of August and all of September to reach their full, flavorful glory.
Saturday, August 20, 2016
Friday, August 19, 2016
In the never ending struggle to thwart the ever present woodchucks, my best friends have become large, discarded, plastic trash receptacles and discarded plastic storage bins. When combined, they make great high rise containers that keep the fruits of my labor beyond the reach of the relatives of Punxsutawney Phil. In the photographs above pepper plants, basil and a container tomato plant have found a happy home.
Of course, I can't do this with all of my plants, but every little bit helps.
Thursday, August 18, 2016
I'm growing Honey Bear squash for the first time this year. The catalog said that this is a great variety for containers, but I couldn't resist growing at least one plant in a lasagna bed. And as you can see, it is doing just fine. I put another plant in an Earthbox and it is doing well too. But the third plant has not fared well in the smaller container where it was placed. So I guess the lesson learned is that when it comes to this squash, the bigger the container the better.
Wednesday, August 17, 2016
Planted a few mystery squash seeds earlier this year and only one of them sprouted. It has grown into quite a large plant on its lasagna bed and it looks as though the fruits are all of the dumpling squash variety. I can't wait to try them and see what they taste like.
Tuesday, August 16, 2016
This year, thanks to some uninvited guests in my garden, I've been forced to take container gardening to new heights, literally. And it turns out that repurposed trash cans are a very effective way of keeping my summer squash beyond the reach of worrisome woodchucks. I wish I had about a dozen of these, but one does what one can with what one has.
By the way, I've discovered that groundhogs don't like the smell of basil. So placing a few well developed basil plants in containers alongside my smaller container veggies seems to keep the rapacious rodents at bay.
Tuesday, August 9, 2016
It's not easy keeping order in the garden. The cabbages always want to be the head of everything. The potatoes are so annoying, eying everyone around them. And today, the peppers were peckish and got into an argument with the celery, causing them to stalk away . But arguments aside, most of the vegetables agree on one thing. Their favorite talk show host is Okra Winfrey.
Monday, August 1, 2016
As this photo of the initial harvest of Tumbling Tom and Tiny Tom container tomatoes clearly shows, the season of bounty has finally arrived. And the larger tomato plants are not far behind. It's been forecast that the next two months in this area will be warmer than average. So I hope the bounty will last at least until the end of September.
Thursday, June 30, 2016
A few days ago I went to our neighborhood dollar store hoping to find some planters on sale for 50% off or more. As I rounded the corner to enter the aisle containing the gardening and outdoor products, there in the middle of the floor was this blue beauty. It was bruised beyond use for its original purpose of storage, but I instantly recognized that it would make an excellent plant container. The price for this 30 gallon gardening treasure? Eighty-nine cents!
My bargain hunting doesn't pay off nearly this well most of the time, but on the occasions when it does it makes all the misses worth the time and effort. As you can see I have placed two tomato plants in it and they are thriving. I hope they will both have a bountiful yield.
Wednesday, June 29, 2016
This year, I'm trying to grow Cherokee purple tomatoes, and I guess Mother Nature heard about it, because she sent a plant that has been used for years by the Cherokees to give my tomato plants company. This is yucca filamentosa. And Adam's needle, Spanish bayonet and the sentry plant are just a few of its common names.
The Cherokees used the sharp, spiky leaves at the base of this plant to stun fish. And the Spanish settlers in the New World traditionally planted it under the windows of their daughter's bedroom to keep away males. By all reports it was quite effective.
I'm not sure how this one ended up in our yard, but it sprouted up through one of the shrubs near our back fence. Seeds travel by many means and I guess some of them manged to find their way to the fertile soil of our residence. I'm told the blossoms attract hummingbirds as well as bees and other pollinators. So it is an unexpected but welcome visitor that should help with my gardening efforts.
Saturday, June 25, 2016
Early last year I saw an ad in the Sunday paper about blueberry bushes that had been developed specifically for growing in containers. The price of the plants seemed reasonable, so I ordered two. The ad said that the plants would be sent out at the proper time based on the zone from which they were ordered. In fact, the plants were sent far too early to be planted outside. And they appeared to be somewhat starved for water to boot. So I potted them in small containers and kept them indoors for quite a while waiting for the weather to warm up.
When outside temperatures finally reached a comfortable level, I hardened off the plants and eventually transplanted them into five gallon containers. It took so long for them to become accustomed to their new environment that they hardly grew at all during the summer. As fall approached I began to wonder whether they could survive our Mid-western winters. I emailed the company that sold the plants for some advice regarding this matter. There was zero response. I looked on the web site to see if there was any information there which would be helpful. There was none. Finally I decided to take the risk and see if they would make it through the winter outdoors. Fortunately, they did.
So now, after two years of waiting, I'll be able to find out if these blueberries were all they were touted to be. If they're not, I'll be the one that's really blue!
Monday, June 13, 2016
As the leaves were beginning to fall last year, I decided to see if I could overwinter rosemary. I cut several tender branches and placed them in water to see if they would root. In time, some did. And when the roots were sufficiently developed, I planted each sprig in it's own small pot. Only one plant made it through the winter. Mind you, I probably could have increased the chances of all of the cuttings if I had used grow lights on some of the dark cloudy days of winter, but I was trying to see if I could manage to be successful using a minimum of resources.
I'm glad that the plant that did survive is growing so robustly. I guess my experiment proves you don't need a great deal of green if you want to keep some green in your life.
Thursday, June 9, 2016
Sunday, June 5, 2016
If you'd like to grow herbs or other small plants on your window sill, but don't want to visit the store to purchase plant pots, you can make your own from something you probably have in your house or apartment right now, a two liter plastic bottle.
The illustration is very straightforward, but here are a couple of things I did that you won't see on the diagram. First of all, after thoroughly rinsing the plastic bottle, I filled it with water, screwed on the cap and put it upright in the freezer overnight. Don't fill the bottle all the way to the top. Water expands as it turns to ice so leave room for that expansion. If you don't, the bottle may burst and be of no use as a container.
It is much easier to cut the bottle with a craft knife and drill holes in it with a power tool or screwdriver when it is full of a substance that keeps the plastic from flexing and stretching. You may have to wait a bit for the ice to melt in order to separate the bottle after cutting it, but it shouldn't be too long. Just leave it in a sink for a while.
And I obtained my wicking fabric for FREE through a sample offer I found on the Internet. You may not be as fortunate, but it's worth a try. Local garden stores and hobby shops would also be good places to look for this kind of fabric.
I have grown basil, chives and cilantro using this arrangement. It is one of the thriftiest and best ways of keeping a small indoor garden that I've ever found.
Friday, June 3, 2016
Every year the garden brings a new season of discovery. This rose bush wasn't nearly as large last year as it is now. I'm not sure why, but it's busting out all over! I have no complaints whatsoever. A rose explosion is something I can deal with anytime.
Wednesday, June 1, 2016
Baby lettuce leaves straight from the garden are a welcome addition to any sandwich. And in case you were wondering, these were taken from a lettuce plant that is being grown in a modest sized container.
Saturday, May 28, 2016
Pickled banana peppers provide a bright note that goes well with just about any kind of sandwich. And they provide a handy reminder of last year's garden success and hopes of success to come.