What’s in the Garden? Zucchini and Crookneck Squash

The zucchini plants have grown a lot in the past month.  Big yellow flowers began appearing and the honey bees have been busy spreading the pollen from flower to flower.  I have enjoyed my morning strolls in the garden watching the tiny zucchini grow larger each day.  This week I began harvesting zucchini and crookneck squash from my garden.  Oh, the joys of springtime in the garden!Read More »

What’s in the Garden? Tomato Plants are Growing!

Spring is here.  It’s my favorite season.  Today, I thought I would take you into the garden with me to check on my tomato plants.  Plants that I started from seeds in January (What’s in the Greenhouse-Seedlings post).  In February, after the seedlings grew a set or two of true leaves, I transplanted them into small foam cups (What’s in the Greenhouse You win some You lose some). Only four weeks ago in my post (What’s in the Garden Tomato Plants), I shared how I planted 32 tomato plants (8 varieties of tomatoes – 4 plants of each variety) into two raised garden beds that measure 4 feet wide by 16 feet long.   Most of these tomato plants were still quite small.  In four short weeks, they have grown amazingly.

It is time to support each plant.  My original plan was to tie the plants in one bed to a hog panel and allow all branches and suckers to grow.  In the other bed, I planned on attaching them to strings and breaking off most of the suckers. After my husband set up the hog panel in the first bed, I decided to put hog panels in the middle of both beds.  In the first bed we placed the panel 18 inches above the ground so that we would end up with about six and a half feet of height to support the tomato  plants.  In the second bed we already had a frame that allows us to put shade cloth over the bed.  Because of the height of this frame, we placed the hog panel only twelve inches above the bed.

Tomato Plants Growing 2

Next, it was time to start  training them to grow toward the hog panel.  In the first bed I attached one end of a piece of  bailing twine to a long spike  and the other end to the hog panel.  I pushed the spike into the ground.  Lastly, I used plastic tomato trellis clips to attach each plant to the twine.

Tomato Plants Growing 1

In the second bed, I already had twine attached to the frame and spike in the ground, so all I had to do was attach the plants to the twine.

Tomato Plants 3

Once the plants are tall enough, I will begin attaching them to the hog panel.

The plants have grown a lot in the past month and upon closer inspection, I have found a few plants have begun flowering.   Oh, the joys of springtime in the garden!

–Penny

What’s in the Garden? Tomato Plants

In January I planted my tomato seeds for my Spring/Summer garden. (What’s in the Greenhouse-Seedlings post).  In February, after the seedlings grew a set or two of true leaves, I transplanted them into small foam cups. (What’s I the greenhouse- you win some you lose some)  I have 179 tomato plants.  These young seedlings had lived a sheltered and pampered life in the greenhouse.  To make it in the “real world” of the garden, they needed a transition period in the garden.   Each day the plants were gradually exposed to the wind, sun, and rain.   Without this gradual exposure to the elements, you would find them limp and withered the next day. Plants can even get sun and windburned. This transition process is called hardening off.  It is best to begin this process one to two weeks before you plan on transplanting them into the garden.

The first day, I brought the plants outside in a sheltered spot and left them there for a few hours.  Then I returned them to the greenhouse.  Each day I gradually increased the time they spent outside by 1-2 hours before returning them to the greenhouse each night.  At the end of the week the plants were able to stay outside all day and night as long as the temperatures did not drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.  They were ready for planting in the garden.

tomato-plants-potted-in-garden

I am planting 8 different varieties.  I am keeping records of which plants have grown the biggest so far.  The Rutgers, Beefsteak, Bonnie’s Best and Brandywine are inches taller than the Moneymakers, Creole, Homestead, and Floradade.  I will continue keeping records. I want to know which ones produce first, have the largest yield, and best flavor.

transplanting-tomato-plants

Today, I planted 32 tomato plants (8 varieties of tomatoes-4 plants of each variety) into two raised garden beds that measure 4 feet wide by 16 feet long. I planted 2 plants of each variety in each bed.  In one bed I will be tying the plants to a hog panel and allowing all branches and suckers to grow.  In the other bed, I will be attaching them to strings and breaking off most of the suckers.  I will keep records to see which methods works best for me.

transplanted-tomato-plants-with-watering-bottles
Once I decided where each plant was going to be planted, I dug a hole and placed a tablespoon of organic fertilizer and a tablespoon of Epsom salt into the hole.  I mixed it into the soil at the bottom of the hole.  Then I removed the plant from the cup and placed it into the hole.  It is a good idea to plant tomato plants deeper than they come in the pot, so they are able to develop roots all along their stems which makes a stronger plant.  I then filled in the hole with the soil that I had dug out of the hole.  Lastly, I watered the plants with rain water from my rain barrels.  This is my first year using these Aqua Cones.  I like knowing how much water I have given to each plant and the fact that the water is directed to the roots instead of the top layer of the garden.  Hopefully, with this method I will have less weeds also.  Once again, I will observe and keep records.

Now it’s time to share the other 147 plants with friends and neighbors.

–Penny

What’s in the Greenhouse? You Win Some, You Lose Some

 

 

In my last post, Let’s Grow Basil,  I encouraged you to plant something and learn about gardening. I also wanted you to know that if your plant dies, you didn’t fail.  You just learned something that didn’t work.  As long as you don’t give up, you  will eventually succeed and this will build your confidence in gardening.

Today, I want to bring you back into the greenhouse.  In my post In the Greenhouse-Planting Seeds,  I chose to use 162 Cell Plug Trays for starting my seeds so that I could maximize the number of plants without taking up a lot of room in the greenhouse.  Then after the seedlings grew a set or two of true leaves, I will transplant them.  Let’s see how many seeds sprouted.Read More »

Let’s Grow: Basil!

Are you one of the many people who would love to grow a garden but haven’t started one yet. What’s stopping you?  There are usually some common reasons why.   It takes too much time…too difficult…cost too much money…don’t know where to begin…  No more excuses.   The best thing you can do is try.   Start with one plant.  You don’t even have to dig a garden.  You can begin your first plant in a planter or cup.  Let’s grow basil.  It is an herb that you can grow in a pot outside or inside on the window sill.

Read More »

What’s in the Greenhouse? Planting Seeds

At the end of last year, I was blessed with a greenhouse for my garden.  It was something I hoped for but didn’t think I would ever own.   Close friends of ours were moving from the outskirts of  a nearby city to a ten acre farm near our home.  They did not plan on moving this beautiful greenhouse to the farm because they were going to build a larger one.  I was so excited and blessed that they helped make this dream a reality.  With my husband’s labor of love, he made a spot in my garden by leveling the ground and laying pavers.  Then he disassembled the greenhouse, hauled it to our property and reassembled it in our garden. Now it is time to put the greenhouse to use.Read More »

What’s in the Garden? Cauliflower

As I stated in an earlier post, I didn’t plant much of a fall garden.  After walking in the garden today,  I wish I had planted more cauliflower.  Although I have tried planting cauliflower in the past couple of years, I had not been very successful.  I would wait for them to grow to a size similar to what I purchase in grocery stores.  This never happened.  The heads of cauliflower were small and if I waited for them to grow larger they became too mature and began to separate.  My harvests were small and of lower quality than I hoped for.   Looking at the picture of this year’s cauliflower, I am sure that you will agree that my cauliflower was a success this year and that is why I wish I had planted more.Read More »

What’s in the Garden? Compost

It is autumn here in southern Louisiana.  Our daytime temperatures have been in the seventies and nighttime lows have been in the forties.  Take a walk in my garden and you will soon see that my plants think it is springtime.  My green eggplants and all my pepper plants are still producing.  I had a volunteer tomato plant that came up in the garden a couple of months ago.  It is now 3 feet tall and loaded with tomatoes.  Wouldn’t it be a blessing to eat fresh tomatoes from the garden in December?  I am watching the weather and if we get a forecast for frost I have a plan to try to save the tomato plant.  I will let you know if I succeed.

I didn’t plant much in my fall garden this year.  A fall garden is planted at the end of the summer and at that time it was hot outside and I was busy doing other things so I failed to plan for much of a fall garden.  I did manage to put six cauliflower and 32 kale plants in the raised bed.

With 32 kale plants you are probably thinking we  must eat a lot of kale.  No.  We use a few kale leaves in our salads, as a wrap in place of tortilla when eating fajitas and for a snack as kale chips. Why so much kale?  It is for my workers.  My compost makers.  My chickens.  They LOVE kale and as you will see they have been helping me get my garden ready for the springtime.  Yes, springtime.  I am feeding my garden bed by adding compost and then I will lay a blanket of shredded leaves on top.  After giving my garden this little TLC (tender loving care) I hope it will yield a bountiful harvest next summer.

How did I make my compost?  Besides the daily scraps that I throw to the chickens, we removed some grass, dirt and old mulch from an area in the garden to make room for a new project.  I will share this project in a future post.  Each day I hauled a wheelbarrow full of the grass etc. into the chicken run.  The chickens would scurry to the pile scratching and pecking at the grass, bugs and worms.  Oh happy chickens.

The next day I returned with my wheelbarrow, shovel, and a frame with wire screen attached.  I used the screen to sift through the now loose and mostly grass-free soil.  What was left was my new soil for my garden beds.  After emptying the compost into the garden, I would bring the chickens another load of grass etc.

What if you don’t have chickens or piles of grass and dirt at your home?  You can still work on getting compost for your garden.  Begin by making a compost pile.  Throw all your leftover fruit and veggie scraps (don’t add meat) into the pile.  Also add your egg shells and used coffee grounds. In the summer add grass clippings and in the fall add leaves.  Turn the contents of the pile each week and then spray it with  water.  With time, and some effort, you can make compost too.

Since I have started raising chickens, not only do I get eggs but I no longer have to turn a compost pile. They  turn it for me.  I just grow more kale.

–Penny

What’s in the Garden? My Basket of Blessings Runneth Over With Peppers

It has been a couple of weeks since I’ve harvested peppers.  As I walked past the raised bed each morning on my way to feed the chickens, I would glance at the pepper plants.  The red, orange, yellow and green peppers were peeking out of the branches.  I knew it was past time to harvest more peppers, so this morning after feeding the chickens I figured I would harvest a full basket of peppers.  To my surprise, I harvested not one but four baskets full!

blessings-runnith-over-peppers

I brought the peppers inside, washed them, and let them dry.  On one of the shelves in the freezer of my refrigerator, I keep a plastic bin with incomplete bags of veggies.  I first cut the peppers that I needed to fill the bags of sweet and spicy veggie mix (see previous post here).  Then I finished filling the bags of fajita veggie mix (see previous post here).  I moved the completed bags to the upright freezer in my utility room.

wash-peppers

I spent the next couple of hours prepping and completing more bags of the veggie mixes.  I also decided to cut the larger peppers in half so  that I could make stuffed bell peppers.  When I finished cutting, bagging and freezing all the peppers, it was lunchtime.

I think it is time to  put some stuffed peppers on the grill.  I will share that recipe with you in my next post.

–Penny