Garden Update: What We’re Growing

One never knows what to expect when they start a gardening season. We think about the previous year, the mistakes we encountered and the successes we made. We relive the prior year over and over again, with hopes that this season will be better than last. We sure had our fill of critter encounters last year to last us for awhile, so as we near our new gardening season, we can only hope for the best, and do lots of praying!

All day long, I check on the plants downstairs under the grow lights. I make sure that I rotate them to ensure even light distribution and I keep them properly watered. I think the plants like all the attention!

So here is what we are planting this season:

Juliet Tomatoes: If you followed along with our garden last year, you will know how well our Juliets produced. We picked over 1,200 tomatoes and this was from only six plants! (yes, I actually counted each and every one, just so I could see how many we produced) Our best tip for growing tomatoes was that we used a small amount of Epsom Salt sprinkled once a week around each tomato plant. Tomatoes can lack in magnesium, so the Epsom Salt provides them the magnesium that they require to grow big and healthy, not to mention, it stops the tomatoes from “splitting” and it stops the “bottom rot” you find on some tomatoes.

PLANTS 5-7-14

Big Boy Tomatoes: Although I am a huge fan of the Juliet Tomato, we also grow six Big Boy Tomato plants. I think we produced over 300 Big Boy Tomatoes last year with only six plants, so we can’t wait to see what we produce this year! Once again, these plants lack in magnesium so we use Epsom Salt on them too.

Flat Dutch Cabbage: We grow all the cabbage plants for Grandma! One thing that we will be doing differently this year is how we protect our cabbage heads. I read on Pinterest on how you can lay netting on top of your cabbage row to protect them from those nasty white moths, or you can wrap each head individually with a nylon. The object here is to keep the white moths off the cabbage and prevent them from laying their eggs.

FLAT DUTCH CABBAGE 5-7-14

Red Peppers: We eat red peppers almost every night, so it seems a perfect fit that we have eighteen plants heading into the garden this year. Pepper plants also lack magnesium, so we use Epsom Salt on them too and it provides the much needed nutrients to grow healthy plants and produce nice sized peppers. No bottom rot on any of our peppers!

RED PEPPERS 5-7-14

Green Peppers: We grew green peppers last year too, but this year, I am going to make lots of stuffed peppers with these guys! We also use both the red and green peppers when we make kabobs on the grill!

Zucchini: Last year was a dud for our zucchini. We directly sowed the seeds in the ground last year at the end of our strawberry bed and we had not one of them produce anything. Every time we planted a seed, the chipmunks dug them up. We planted more, and the same thing happened. So this time, I have started the zucchini plants indoors in the hopes that they have a chance to make it this year. Heck, all I want is to make zucchini bread!

ZUCCHINI 5-7-14

Leaf Lettuce: If you follow along with our garden updates from prior years, you know that we plant two uniform rows of leaf lettuce that produce more than enough lettuce for our family. And, when you cut the lettuce, it regrows more! Looking forward to many healthy salads this year!

Romaine Lettuce: Last year we “would” have had some nice Romaine Lettuce, but when that one deer got into our garden and ate it down to a nub, we had no chance at it ever regrowing. This year we hope that we have a better chance at actually tasting this delicious lettuce.

Straight Eight Cucumbers: Oh boy, we are excited again to be growing cucumbers because I enjoy them every day for lunch with tomatoes & Italian dressing! Yum! I am working on creating a new trellis for the cucs to grow up this year.

CUCUMBERS 5-7-14

Peas: Now, this is one thing that we have never grown before, so if any of you have any suggestions on how to grow peas, let me know! I surprised my Sweetie by purchasing a pack of Peas this year and I have them growing under our grow lights right now. The pea plants are truly a unique looking plant, as the leaves don’t look like any of our other plants, and are so neat to watch grow! I believe that peas need a trellis of some sort to grow up, but I am not sure, so if you have any advice on this, be sure you pass it along!

PEAS 5-7-14

PEAS2 5-7-14

Connecticut Field Pumpkins: So far, I have started eighteen pumpkins downstairs under the grow light, and half of them have already popped through the soil, as we are getting them ready to head out to the back flower bed. Last year, we had the same problem with chipmunks as they dug up and ate all of our seeds when we directly sowed pumpkin seeds in the ground, so this is why we are starting the plants indoors this year. We learn from our mistakes, as every gardener knows.

CONNECTICUT FIELD PUMPKINS

Sunflowers: Ah, sunflowers! I saved every seed from the sunflowers that our Auntie Rene gave us last year and I currently have eleven sunflowers growing that I started from the seeds I saved. I can’t wait to find some awesome places to plant them around the yard this year!

SUNFLOWERS 5-7-14

So there you have it, a complete list of what we will be growing this year! On top of this, we are also planning on building a second raised garden to accommodate a lot of our new plants. The new raised garden bed will be 6′ x 5′. Here’s the difference between a “garden” and a “raised garden” and why we chose to use a raised garden bed. A regular garden is when you till up your lawn and plant directly into the ground. A raised garden bed is when you build a structure to hold your soil, add blackout weed netting on the bottom to keep the weeds out, then fill it with soil. A raised garden beds soil has better drainage, and the soil is warmer because it is not in the ground, it is above the ground. Just in case you did not know the difference in these two, now you know!

Itching to Grow Something

As a gardener, the winter months weigh on you.  You flip through all of your seed catalogs, you dream of what your garden will look like, and you salivate at what you will be eating. You are itching to just get out in the yard to dig around in the soil, pull weeds, water, and baby your plants.

RP 1-11-14 POPPED UP

But we are not even close to gardening season yet. Our snow covered ground has slightly melted, only the high piles of snow still exist. The snow piles by the edge of the roads are all nasty looking with dirt.  Yet, we are still dreaming of gardening.  We won’t be starting any of our seeds indoors yet until around the end of February/beginning of March, but I have been itching to grow something.

RP CONDENSATION

So, I pulled out two red pepper seeds that I saved from one of our peppers and planted them in a little McDonalds sundae container, and put another container on top as a lid  to keep the condensation inside. I set the container under our little light we have on our kitchen counter to keep them warm and provide the light they needed to germinate. They were planted on January 3rd, and just yesterday the 11th, one popped up!  I was beginning to think that they would never germinate, but one did, finally.  Now, I have something to watch grow!

FIRST RED PEPPER PLANT OF 2014

As a gardener, we love to watch things grow.  You feel the need to nurture something, and when you see it finally pop it’s little green stem from the dirt, you do a happy dance. And I did just that!  We are a long way away from starting the rest of our seeds indoors, but just having the chance to watch these little peppers grow under the kitchen light, is good enough for us right now.

I bet McDonalds never knew that their sundae cups were good seed starters!

 

Garden Update: August 19th

GARDEN UPDATE 8-19-13

At this time of year, your garden should be in full bloom and producing veggies by the handful, and our garden is definitely on track with that.

We continually weed on a daily basis, feed our plants the nutrients they need, and use the rain water that we catch in our rain barrel to water every day. The vines on each and every tomato plant is jammed packed with green tomatoes getting bigger with the sun rays, and we are basically picking ripened ones by the handful a few times a day.  Not bad for our small 6′ x 16′ garden, eh?

JULIET TOMATO 8-19-13

Skully has done a tremendous job keeping all of the critters away in the garden and has asked me if I had some other small jobs that he could do. Well, of course, I had some jobs for him to do and I immediately put him to work – – mowing the lawn!

SKELETON MOWING THE LAWN

SKELETON MOWING WOO HOO

We are starting to pick cucumbers each week, and the one that we picked the other day was such a nice size, I just had to weigh it.  Yeah, I know, I am weird, but I am having lots of fun gardening.  That cucumber weighed in at 1 lb. 8 ounces!  Bazinga, that’s a nice sized cuc!

CUCUMBER 8-19-13

I found something hilarious in the garden.  I placed two Halloween black birds in the garden and move one of them every once in awhile to a different spot to scare my Sweetie (and it works every time).  Right now, one of them is perched on top of the cucumber trellis and what was funny is that one of the cucumber runners has wrapped around the birds beak.  It looks like a little lasso, or rather the cucs are trying to “silence” the bird from talking!  LOL

BIRD IN GARDEN 8-19-13

BIRD IN GARDEN CUC VINE 8-19-13

Our neighbors, family, and friends are definitely enjoying our harvests from the garden and have hands down all said that they love the Juliet Tomatoes the best!  The taste of these tomatoes far exceeds any expectations, and in my opinion, taste better than the Big Boy Tomatoes.  Definitely, we will be planting more Juliet Tomatoes next year too!

OUR GARDEN 8-19-13

Both the green and red pepper plants have had a huge growth spurt since last week, and are producing tons of peppers.  We even cut up a green pepper and added it to some beef tips & onions and served it over rice the other day and boy was that a great meal!

RED PEPPER 8-19-13

FLAT DUTCH CABBAGE 8-19-13

Our second round of leaf lettuce is almost ready to pick, so we are planning on enjoying more fresh garden salads soon.

LEAF LETTUCE 8-19-13

Our sunflowers are doing great and the tallest one is now 21 slats high next to the garage.  The sunflower should be blooming soon and I can’t wait to see it.  The only problem we now face are the squirrels.  We heard that they love sunflower seeds, so we will now have to figure out what to do to protect the sunflower from them.  Probably wrapping a light netting over the top of the sunflower will be in order to keep them away, as we want to keep the seeds for next year so we can plant more.

SUNFLOWER 8-19-13

One thing that we are doing also this season, is saving our seeds from our veggies to use next year.  Why would you go out and purchase seeds for your garden when you have all the seeds you need in your own garden right now?  When cutting up our veggies, I just carefully extract the seeds from the veggie, wash them, and let them dry on a paper towel.  Then I just put them in a small container that has a good seal and save them for next year.

The Romaine Lettuce that was eaten by that deer attack we had a few weeks ago has now gone to seed.  So this means that we can harvest the seeds from these plants to use next year.  We still have some more Romaine shoots coming up, but we are unsure if they will get big enough to pick any lettuce, but we still might be able to.

Skully finally got done with the lawn and asked if he could come in and use the bathroom facilities.  I agreed as I would not want him to be urinating out on the lawn and make a scene for the neighbors.

SKELETON ON TOILET

This is our garden veggie’s picked to date:

  • Juliet Tomatoes – 80
  • Big Boy Tomatoes – 33
  • Cucumbers – 5
  • Red Peppers – 3

All in all, it has been a great gardening week with no critter attacks of any kind, but we’re biting our tongue, as something is always around the corner trying to either dig under the fence or jump it for a little snack.  Glad we have Skully to patrol the garden area!

 

Garden Update: 6-24-13

OUR GARDEN 6-24-13

I know you are all on pins and needles anxiously awaiting our garden update, so sit back and take in the view from our garden!  It’s been 10 days since we have had any rain, and we need it badly.  Our rain barrel is close to being empty and desperately needs to be filled back up again.  We also have a huge garbage can placed next to our rain barrel to fill that up, once the rain barrel is completely full.  I just switch the gutter extension hose from the barrel to the can…presto, instant rain container that I just dunk my watering can in!  I think we are supposed to get some rain later today, and I am keeping my fingers crossed on that!  Our grass is even starting to dry out from all of these hot humid temps.  We are just doing our best to use only rain water that we collect for watering the garden to cut down on our water bill, and this has definitely helped tremendously!  You can not imagine the amount of water you use when gardening!

Other than our constant battle on a daily basis chasing off the Chipmunk we named “Chip” from our garden, we have not experienced any issues yet and everything is coming along nicely.  Nikita has been very helpful in chasing away “Chip” and the birdies that sneak under the strawberry netting.  We have seen a few white garden moths around and they usually like cabbage, so I did some reading on Pinterest and a lot of people are stating that we can minimize and/or rid these moths with just plain flour, by sprinkling it on top of the cabbage.

NIKITA SNEAKING UP ON A CHIPPIE IN THE GARDEN

We had some nice garden soil left over from the garden, so we decided to add the rest of it (and get it off the driveway as I am tired of looking at the blue tarp already) to our backyard flower bed behind our garden.  This spot is now the home of all of our pumpkin plants.  I forgot to count how many pumpkins we have planted back there (and I will be planting about 8-10 more this week) which range from Connecticut Field Pumpkins, Jack Be Little Pumpkins, and the famous Red Warty Thing Pumpkins.  Since this flower bed looked 100% better, just by adding the nice dark garden soil around the pumpkins, I decided that I would finish the garden bricks around this bed.  Man oh man, this totally completed the garden area with beautiful results!  I could not wait for a certain someone to come home from work to see what I did, and when he did, he was WOW’d!

PUMPKIN BEDS

RED WARTY THING PUMPKINS

Our Romaine Lettuce has finally had a growth spurt.

ROMAINE LETTUCE 6-24-13

The cucumbers are coming along nicely.

CUCUMBERS 6-24-13

The zucchini has its moments, and some days the leaves turn a little yellow, but that is from all the rain we had been getting, but they are green again.  And today, I looked really close and I think I can see a really tiny zucchini forming!  Yeah – zucchini bread is on my mind!

ZUCCHINI 6-24-13

We finally have sight of small Big Boy Tomatoes this week!  Yeah!  As you can see, you can tell the difference from a Big Boy to a Juliet from the shape.  Big Boys are round, and Juliets are longer in shape.  The Juliets usually sprout in groups of 8-10, so you can just imagine how many we are going to harvest this year!  Nice!

BIG BOY TOMATO

JULIET TOMATO BUNCH 6-24-13

This Juliet Tomato plant is now over 6 feet tall!

6 FOOT JULIET TOMATO

Our Flat Dutch Cabbage is growing by leaps and bounds.

FLAT DUTCH CABBAGE 6-24-13

Both Red & Green Peppers are multiplying daily.

RED PEPPER 6-24-13

And our Black Seeded Simpson Leaf Lettuce will be picked this week!  Parts of our two rows of leaf lettuce has gotten so big that it is now ready to eat!  Gotta stock up on lots of salad dressing now!  Look at that row of lettuce, nice eh?!

LETTUCE 6-24-13

So there you have it, our garden update for the week!  Everything is coming along nicely and we can’t be more pleased with its progress!

BEE BALM

WILD FLOWER

The flower bed is also popping with colors, from our Russian Sage, yellow wild flowers, Bee Balm, Cat Nip, and our hot pink Phlox just bloomed today.  Our Coreopsis will probably start to bloom in July, so just a little more time to wait on them!  We snuck about 8 pumpkin seeds in this flower bed too, and although we knew better to not plant them, we did, and we were not surprised that when the deer roamed in the other night, they nipped down about half of them.  We knew it was coming, we just kept our fingers crossed that they would not find them, they did.  Live and learn.

Summer would not be the same if we did not have a garden.  This is something that we truly love!

Our Garden Adventure Begins

Click on photo to enlarge to read our garden markers

Click on photo to enlarge to read our garden markers

The time has finally arrived.  The tedious task of tending to seedlings in the basement is over.  Keeping a watchful eye on them for months in the basement & babying them has ended.  It’s do or die time.

FLAT DUTCH CABBAGE 5-19-13

We started hardening off our plants last week, and yesterday we started bringing out all of our 40+ plants from the basement, away from the gentle warmth of the grow lights and safety in the basement, and brought them out to the cruel world outside.  We planted two of our Juliet Tomato plants, one Big Boy Tomato plant, one Red Pepper and one cabbage plant yesterday in the garden just to see how they would survive the night in the “real world”.  They all made it!

JULIET TOMATO PLANTS 5-19-13

Now, today, I will be planting the rest of our plants out into the garden and hope for the best!  We hope that we get a nice rain here soon, as I want to start using the rain water in the rain barrel to water the plants, as rain water is so much better for the garden.

LEAF LETTUCE 5-19-13

We are so pleased to see that our leaf lettuce is already starting to pop up in two nice straight rows.  We already have about 4 Romaine Lettuce sprouts popping up, one Cucumber has popped, and one Zucchini made its appearance this morning!  Man, we are so pleased to see this!  Yahooooo is what we actually said!

JULIET TOMATO BLOOMS 5-19-13

Now, this is the fun and exhilarating part of gardening.  Watching your plants grow! Nothing is more satisfying than knowing you can plant a little seed and pick veggies from it!

FIRST CUCUMBER EMERGED

I hope you also noticed the little red brick plant markers all around the garden too!  What?  You didn’t notice them?  I picked up a handful of little brick slices when our city was laying bricks in town and I knew that one day I would find a “purpose” for them.  I did at that!  I painted with nail polish plant markers!  Another way to re-purpose nail polish!  LOL

ROMAINE PLANT MARKER

Our garden adventure begins.

 

It All Started From A Little Seed

JULIET TOMATO 3-29-13

With the unusual crazy weather we have been having, it is hard to think about gardening.  But, with all gardeners, the thought of gardening is always on your mind. When we get to the end of a gardening season, it is like a huge let down, that we have to say goodbye to our gardens, kinda like saying goodbye to an old friend.  We have grown so close over the months, we have babied you from a little seed, watered you, gave you light, watched you grow, and like all parents do at one time – – we kick you out.  Yep, we kick you outdoors and into the nice garden soil we have prepared for you.  Ah, your new home, rich soil with the right amounts of nutrients to grow big and strong.

JULIET TOMATO SEEDS

But it all starts with one little seed.  Some of our seeds we carefully saved from our harvest from last year, but others, we ordered and impatiently waited for them to arrive in the mail.  Not sure why we were so impatient for their arrival, because when we ordered them, it was not even close to the time to start those little suckers indoors.  Or was it something else?  Was it our impatience to start gardening again? Just seeing and holding a seed pack in your hands made you drool.  You start dreaming.  You start dreaming of the day when you pick your first tomato.  Tomato & cucumber salads.  I gorge on these in the summer and can’t get enough of them.  Oh wait, then there’s those awesome tomato sandwiches, and by far the best – salsa & chips!  Man, I can’t wait for the day when I can walk outside and pick a handful of tomatoes and enjoy the fruits of our labor.

RED PEPPERS 3-29-13

We started lots of red pepper plants this year, as last year we did not have enough. We use red peppers in almost all of our meals, so we planned accordingly this year to be ready for a great harvest.  Right now, I think we have about 18 red pepper plants getting bigger every day, getting ready for the day when they head outside and into the garden soil.  And if you missed our post last year on our World’s Famous Rolled Chicken Recipe, you’ve got to check it out and make some for yourself!

I can taste those stuffed cabbage rolls now!

I can taste those stuffed cabbage rolls now!

Our little babies are growing up and soon will be leaving the nest.  They will have to be strong to survive the elements, be able to withstand torrential downpours, stand tall in heat waves, and survive the small critter attacks.  It is what happens in the day in the life of a gardener.  We learn, we make mistakes, we fix them for next year, and we harvest what we sow.

GARDEN SEEDLINGS 3-29-13