Saturday, November 28, 2009

Fall Produce ... Nov. 28, 2009

The collards, mustard greens and other fall veggies are going gangbusters - we have enjoyed fresh collards at least once a week and I have been taking bags to give to co-workers. But with gardening activities slowing down I have looked for other ways to save money while getting fresh, homemade vegetables. The after Thanksgiving sales had me finding ways to preserve sweet and white potatoes. So far I have frozen mashed Russet potatoes, baked sweet potatoes and twice baked Russets. Those will be so easy when we're tired - just pop them in the oven at 325 and 30 minutes later, hot twice baked potatoes! When sweet potatoes are on sale for 19 cents a pound and Russets for 25 cents a pound, I just had to find a way to put them up for the fall and winter! We will be enjoying dehydrated sweet potatoes as well in our roasted vegetables when the weather calls for a hearty meal. Tomorrow I will be dehydrating some of the Russets to add to vegetable soups. Frugal and delicious!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Micro Tomatoes, collards and fall...Oct. 30, 2009

The Micro toms are ripening under the fluorescent lights - will have them on some of our potted mesclun lettuce mix tomorrow... the collards have filled the beds and that beautiful October sky makes being outside so much more appealing now that the air is crisp instead of muggy.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Fall apples... Oct. 17, 2009

The NC mountains, besides being beautiful, produce great apples. Although I was unable to get up there, a friend brought me a bushel of Winesap, Granny Smith and Golden Delicious. Four pints and eight half pints of homemade organic applesauce are in the pantry now and tomorrow we will have apple maple crisp for desert. Certainly helps us get over the loss of ripe homegrown tomatoes as fall descends!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Micro Tom Tomatoes... Oct. 3, 2009

Had to share some pics of the fruiting Micro Tom tomatoes - they are growing now inside under fluorescent lights. Put a tablespoon in the pot on the right to show the relative size of the plant and tiny tomatoes.

Peppers, peppers everywhere.. Oct. 3, 2009

Took out the last of the pepper plants today - and harvested ten pounds of six varieties. The day was spent roasting Anchos, Round of Hungary and Corno di Toros, freezing chopped bell peppers and canning banana and jalapeno peppers. I tried a bread and butter jalapeno recipe and ended up with six pints- am hoping the sweet and hot flavors will be an interesting accent. We had two of the roasted Anchos with melted cheese with our tortilla pie dinner - their smoky hot flavor was fabulous!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Summer's last harvests ... Sept. 29, 2009

An Indian summer day... in the 80s, sunny, bluest of skies. Only downside was the wind - gusts up to 25 mph which actually toppled the last four tomato plants (6 ft. plus) in their cages. I staked the cages back up and worked to finish up some of the tasks and clean up for the summer garden and finish off the start of the fall plantings. Having more than one season of growing makes the end of summer much easier - just different harvests to look forward to! Pulled the last black beauty eggplant out - it only had one very small eggplant left after the large one picked yesterday and with night temps predicted to dip in the high 40s this week I don't think it was going to have a chance to grow up. I picked all the banana peppers and mystery Salsa peppers from three pots, picked 4 Round of Hungary from a wind broken plant and took those plants to the compost pile, refreshing the pots with organic potting mix, mushroom compost and organic Planttone. One was for another pot of mesclun lettuce, one for a mystery Thai Mixed Greens mix received free with an order from Baker Seeds, one for Tokyo Bunching Evergreen onions and one for another free packet of seeds, this time Red of Florence onion seeds - hoping for some fresh green onions late into fall. These will all stay on the deck along with the bin of spinach and the larger pot of mesclun lettuce for easy picking. Two more freebies, small cabbage starts from HD, were planted - one where the eggplant had been, now a collards bed, and one in the midst of the last pepper plants, which I have interplanted with a few collards. Those peppers will be coming out this week and the rest of that part of the bed will be filled with more radishes (French Breakfast and Chinese White Winter) and more greens.

Growing Tips Zone 7

Lessons learned from garden mistakes & triumphs past
... an ongoing post

1. Don't ignore your instincts... if you think something is going wrong, act on it, don't wait.
2. Plant a few new varieties each year - you may find a new favorite.
3. Fight early blight before it begins - work cornmeal into the top of your soil, mulch well so water and spores will not splash on the foliage, bottom water and strip any lower leaves starting to show signs of EB. Try 1 baby aspirin in a gallon of water as a foliar spray to promote the plant's own resistance. I don't think anything will prevent EB but you can help prolong the health of the plant and minimize its effects.
4. Pumpkins don't do well in containers :-(
5. As soon as your peppers have green full sized fruit, pick them - no matter how badly your mouth is watering for fully ripe, red peppers. They will set a second, much larger flush of blooms and produce twice as well.
6. No matter how well you have worked compost, etc. into the soil, a good balanced organic fertilizer will make a world of difference.
7. Sugar snap peas need to be started much earlier here than most charts show - Feb., even if there is snow on the ground, gives them a chance to produce much heavier yields than planting in March.
8. A few whiteflies become a zillion whiteflies. If you see evidence of whiteflies on a greenhouse plant, do NOT bring it home. Ask me how I know.
9. There is no such thing as too many tomato plants.
10. If your soil is the quintessential southern red clay, don't fight it. Amendments disappear as fast as you can work them in. Build raised beds, fill with a mix of soil, compost, peat and start a compost pile of your own. You will spend less money and way less frustration in the long run.

The Impossible Dream - a perfect garden...Sept. 28, 2009

I had the amusingly naive impression that if I grew my veggies in organic raised beds, fed them the perfect organic foods, watered exactly as needed, kept them weeded, etc. that I would have the perfect garden - beautiful, healthy, disease and pest free plants producing beautiful, blemish free fruits and veggies for our enjoyment and health, like the mustard greens and pak choi at the end of the raised bed to the left.


Like everything else in nature, there is no such thing as our concept of *perfection*. Living things, by definition, are volatile and nature always has a new curveball to throw. As a gardener you have to learn to accept the good and the bad. This season has certainly given me, as well as it seems most gardeners across the nation, plenty of good and bad. I have sympathized with the northeastern gardeners who watched their tomatoes fall victim to late blight and the Texan gardeners watching their plants blister in the heat and drought. By those standards my year has been pretty normal, despite the excess rain this spring and the lack of rain this summer.

Like most trials in life, we survive the garden disasters and hopefully learn a little wisdom from them. The tomato yellow leaf curl virus which struck most of my tomatoes early in the summer taught me to check any plant I buy and bring home for pests and signs of disease. The early blight which slowly ascended my later tomatoes has taught me the value of bottom watering, composting and mulching. Today I learned a lesson about cabbage worms.... that assumptions can still lead us in the wrong direction!
My collards, cole crops and other fall veggies have been growing well - though I had begun in the past few days to see some leaf damage. Since we have bunnies galore in our National Wildlife Certified Refuge back natural area, and I have seen the rabbits near the beds, I assumed the rabbits were the guilty ones munching on my baby veggies. However, after a close inspection and some reading I found smaller, less cute vandals - cabbage worms! The little devils were the exact color of the leaves - only an inch or so long, it was amazing the damage they had already done. Five of them met their maker while I was examining the plants, and I sprayed late afternoon with Bt mixed according to directions and with a teaspoon of liquid soap added to try to make it adhere better to the waxy leaves of the collards, brussels sprouts and broccoli. Though I would prefer not to have to use anything, when I have to, I use organically approved (OMRI) substances that hopefully will target only the destructive pests and leave the beneficial insects alone.

Hopefully now the rest of the fall garden will prosper, but I will remain alert.... Homeland Security at its most basic :-)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Vagaries of Weather.. and some Dang Cute Tomatoes...Sept. 27, 2009

Rain... finally. Mist and light rain all day and night. Seems as if it is always feast or famine with rain, especially if you are a gardener. The spring here in zone 7 near the NC/SC border was extremely wet, finally ending a two year drought. Summer was extremely dry - our water bill went from 25 to 60 dollars a month and we were only watering our beds and container plants - we let the *lawn* do its own thing. This fall much of the southeast is drowning while the rain has gone all around us. Glad to see the rain and feel that fall is finally coming - although it will be 80+ degrees today, the nighttime temps this week are predicted to be in the 50s....meaning the cute Micro Tom tomato plants will come in today and be put under lights. They are blooming and I am looking forward to the "crouton sized tomatoes"they are supposed to produce!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Fall Gardening...Sept. 25, 2009

Though the peppers and late tomatoes are still producing, summer is officially over. I picked the last Black Beauty eggplant today.

So now the fall plantings are in - this is the bed at the end of the driveway with the last eggplant and squash left for one more eggplant parmesan but three varieties of collards interplanted - Georgia Southern, an old reliable variety for southern NC, Morris Heading for a change and our first Yellow Cabbage Collards, a specialty in eastern NC. After two weeks they are already tripled in size and beginning to fill in all that space!

To refresh the beds after the summer plantings we added cow manure based compost, mushroom compost, peat to continue the battle to keep the soil light and an organic complete vegetable fertilizer. The mushroom compost, though three times more expensive than the cow manure based compost, was a joy to work in - dark, crumbling, beautiful! From the way the collards, mustard green, pak choi, brussels sprouts and broccoli transplants are growing they are enjoying the refreshed soil!

End of Summer...Sept. 25, 2009

A few pics of the last of the summer... A toma verde tomatillo, corno di toro pepper and a fish pepper - love the variegated leaves. Supposedly fall is here... but it is still in the high 80s and despite the rest of the southeast drowning in rain, we are still not getting any here near the NC/SC border. My peppers have slowed their ripening, so it looks like I will be freezing and canning a lot of different green peppers this weekend. The collards are growing well and the carrots, beets, turnips are coming up. Ready for cooler weather and some fall veggies!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Preserving the harvest...Sept. 19, 2009

My newest toy is a dehydrator - an inexpensive one since I don't know how often I will use it. So far I have dried tomatoes, which came out well. Tonight I am trying banana chips for my son and a friend. I didn't realize until I started looking for recipes that most of the commercially available banana chips are deep fried and coated in honey - so much for a healthy snack! I found a great tip on spraying lemon juice on the slices instead of dipping them, so we will see how the truly healthy banana chips turn out in the dehydrator. Tomorrow I have to pick some peppers :-) ... a branch on one of the bell peppers broke under the weight of four bells - still green unfortunately. I may dehydrate them for use this winter in salads, soups, etc.

I have canned tomatoes for years, but last year started expanding my repetoire. Relishes, pickles, pepper vinegars, freezing tomatoes instead of canning. It is amazing the sense of accomplishment one feels when opening a freezer or pantry full of homegrown food you have put up yourself. You can spend a fortune on all the latest gadgets or do it more frugally as I have - I bought a water bath canner years ago, purchased a simple food saver pump and bags when they were on sale at the grocery and have gone to town. I am going to try dehydrating some of the last San Marzano paste tomatoes along with some green peppers to bag together for winter sauces.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Fall Garden in...Sept. 15, 2009

The fall veggies are in, the garden is cleaned of the summer SWCs and I am feeling oh so virtuous :-).... The list is full of old standbys as well as a few new trial veggies:
Collards - Morris heading, Yellow Cabbage, and the always good Georgia Southern (72 plants!)
Mustard Greens
Pak Choi
Brussels Sprouts - one of my trial veggies - probably planted too late, but will see...
French Breakfast Radishes
Daikon Radishes - new for me
Turnip Greens
Purple Top Turnips
Carrots - Little Finger, Red Core Chanteney, Deavers Half Long
Beets - Golden and Detroit Red

Still have one eggplant (the old standby Black Beauty), four of the midsummer tomatoes I trialed for next year and all but one of the pepper plants. Am hoping for a few more summer goodies before true fall starts here.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Peppers and Starting Fall Veggies...Sept. 11 2009

The start of school has kept me so busy I haven't had a chance to catch up. The peppers are coming in daily - bells, anchos, the fabulous corno di toros and the Rounds of Hungary. Have been freezing and roasting them for winter. Am playing with my new dehydrator - tomatoes and eggplants mainly - hoping for some eggplant parmesan this winter!
Starts for the fall: three types of collards, mustard greens, pak choi, and for fun some Micro Tom tomatoes - supposed to be only 4-6 inches high with tomatoes the "size of croutons". Should be fun on winter salads! Planting time this weekend for outside veggies!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Peppers!...August 27, 2009

The orange and red bells (upper right), corno di toros, jalapenos are coming in by leaps and bounds and the Rounds of Hungary (on the left above) are finally turning red - going to can those for homemade pimento cheese this winter. The others have been frozen, roasted or used in pickles. The Corno di Toros are fabulous roasted, filled with fresh mozarella, and served with pasta. My fish pepper plant, started in July, is setting buds - hoping to get at least a few before frost and since I put it in a SWC I should be able to move it to keep it warm. Looking forward to trying those hot ones!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Pickles...Aug. 15, 2009

Hot and spicy bread and butter pickles... yummy and all organic :-)
These have our cucumbers, onions and peppers. Unfortunately, we are going through them as fast as I can them. Our youngest son loves them and I am mailing a jar of pickles and a jar of chow chow (a southern necessity for pintos) to Colorado for our older son.
Next year will be tripling the number of cukes I plant.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Summer winding down...August 14, 2009

Summer is winding down but the gardening isn't! Not a great year for tomatoes, here or anywhere else it seems, but we have a few dozen in the freezer despite the early blight and TYLCV and the Cherokee Purple is finally getting ready to start giving us great eating! I noticed the two biggest tomatoes on it are finally blushing from the bottom up - can't wait to slice those babies on some white bread with Duke's mayo!

Started 144 cells of fall veggies today - two types of broccoli, three types of collards, Brussels sprouts, mustard greens, Pak choi, leeks and something just for fun - Micro Tom tomatoes. They are touted as the smallest tomato plants, will grow and produce in a 4 inch pot. The tomatoes are supposed to be the size of croutons - thought it would be fun to have some over the winter.

Going to try making squash pickles tomorrow... the cukes have played out, and I am not sure two cases of bread and butter pickles will get us through the winter, so will try some of these for winter meals.

Corno di Toro peppers are to die for - we picked the first three red ones, roasted them on the gas range, peeled and stuffed with fresh mozzarella then baked... with pasta in fresh tomato sauce it was a perfect meal. The Ancho peppers are starting to turn - had them stuffed with Monterey Jack - hot but delicious!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Squash, squash everywhere....July 27

The yellow crookneck and straight squashes are still producing as are the dark green and Fordhook zucchinis.... this is why you should check your zucchini plants every day! The zucchini was shredded and frozen for winter bread, the dog was given a treat to make up for his humiliation at being compared to a vegetable :-)......

But the garden is producing and we are eating fresh vegetables every day - is there anything better than a fresh heirloom tomato on soft bread with Duke's mayo? Or eggplant parmesan with fresh marinara sauce?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Eggplants Galore!...July 17, 2009

Which is a good thing around my house because we love eggplant parmesan with homemade chunky marinara sauce. I use both the heirloom Black Beauty eggplants and the tiny but delicious Fairy Tale eggplants in them. As long as the black beauties are picked young they are not bitter - no need to sweat in salt first.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Summer dinners...July 7, 2009

are the best... this week we have had zucchini & tomato casserole and last night Eggplant Parmesan. Wonderful! Used 2 Black Beauties from the garden, sliced thin, dipped in beaten egg and homemade Italian bread crumbs, baked for 8 minutes on each side on a greased baking sheet at 400. Layered in a casserole dish with homemade tomato sauce (homegrown tomatoes, peppers, onions, carrots, spices, simmered for four hours), parmesan cheese and fresh basil. Sliced fresh mozzarella on top, baked at 375 for 30 minutes and served with cold cucumber salad (from our garden of course - cucumber & onion slices with a tsp. of sugar and covered in balsamic vinegar - chill for several hours) and homemade sourdough rolls. YUM!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Newstead Philosophy of the Day...July 1, 2009

No pics for today - it is too peaceful out on the deck to even think about moving. There is a young squirrel gorging on sunflower seeds from one of the bird feeders, crows yelling in the next yard, sun on the ripening tomatoes and dogs sleeping in the shade. I don't know that it gets much better than this - forget the TYLCV on some of the tomatoes and the blight? on the bush beans... sitting out here with the fountain gurgling, birds singing in the trees and all quiet elsewhere is panacea to the soul.I dream of my perfect small country home on many acres with orchards, free range chickens, a large paddock for the dogs with a pond - but sometimes we have to just revel in the moment and enjoy what we have today.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

a little more each day....June 28 09

Today's take from the raised beds: 2 zucchini (one Organic Dark Green, one giant Fordhook), two straightneck yellow squash, one Burpee's Pickler, one White Wonder x Marketmore F2 cuke, 2 Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes (a few never made it to the deck), five Viva Italia tomatoes, two Homestead tomatoes! Tonight's menu features Zucchini & Tomato casserole with cucumber salad and homemade Sourdough Rolls!

On the left, a Burpee's Pickler cucumber on the vine. On the right, some Viva Italia hybrids on the vine (note the lack of foliage on the bottom of the plants - thanks, early blight!).

Saturday, June 27, 2009

TYLCV - the HIV of tomatoes...June 27, 2009

Challenging year for the garden. TYLCV on many of the tomatoes, but getting ripe tomatoes already (before July 4th!) from the Sweet 100 cherry, Viva Italia and Homestead tomato plants. As I have learned through talking with the extension office here, corresponding by email with the agricultural specialists at NC State, and researching on the web, TYLCV is no picnic. I have ordered resistant variety seeds to trial this summer, and have taken suckers from the healthy plant to start new ones to fill in as I pull out the infected plants. Luckily the virus does not affect fruits already on the plants or the seeds, for a couple are rare to find heirlooms that I do not want to lose seed for! The squash, zucchini and eggplants are producing nicely as are the cukes- already have several pints of pickles and chow chow put away - if I can keep the pickles from my youngest son, that is! Starting to see squash bugs, Japanese beetles and still battling the whiteflies that brought the Tomato Yellow Leaf Curl in from a greenhouse, and am still trying to stay organic. So far the homemade soapy spray using Pantene Pro-V Clarifying Shampoo and water seems to be keeping the whitefly population in check but not eradicating them, so I will try Neem spray interspersed and see if that will take care of the little suckers.

Still with all the tribulations, there is nothing like going out and picking some fresh food that you have grown yourself for dinner!

Monday, June 15, 2009

1st Tomato...June 14, 2009

Ok, its just a cherry Super Sweet 100, but still - a ripe tomato in the first half of June! I had to pick it and just admire it... Now if someone can tell me why the pics keep loading sidewise we could all admire it.

Someone said if farming were easy all farmers would be rich... I am learning by fire and trial this year. As you can see, I still have yellowing
of leaves on the tomatoes. The tops of several are still yellowing and curling. I have researched and it could be anything from overwatering (wet spring and summer here), overfertilizing (doubtful - they have only been fertilized twice in two months) or some type of virus. Sigh.

Successes this year so far with the squash and zucchini - last year we had no squash as the vines were killed by vine borers while blooming. Have already picked 8 or 9 yellow squash and 4 zucchini. I tried wrapping foil around the stems and on the ground around the squash and as the stems grew, I have been adding soil over them. Fingers crossed this continues to work. The cucumbers are curly since they are from the bottoms of the vines - the upper ones are coming in nice and straight.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

... and the living is easy...June 12, 2009

Summer is here and the garden is producing... We've enjoyed sauteed squash, radishes and onions, squash and zucchini casserole, fresh carrots and radishes with ranch dressing, and finished off the last of the sugar snap peas which lived up to their name. Our tomatoes are still suffering from whitefly, but I dare to hope we may be winning the battle. Cukes are coming in every few days - won't be long now til homemade pickles!

For others in the south suffering from the extra rain after two years of drought, I am trying a cornmeal *tea* to ward off early blight - 1 cup plain cornmeal soaked in a gallon of water for 24 hours, then strained into a spray bottle. Also I am adding 2/3 of a plain, uncoated aspirin per an article I found on the web about aspirin increasing plants' resistance to disease. Will keep updates coming on the progress (or lack thereof)...

Monday, May 25, 2009

Tomato Problems?... May 25, 2009

Pictures of what I am afraid could be Tomato Yellow Leaf Curl virus -someone tell me I am wrong!

Mortgage Lifter on left, Better boy on right
Normal tomatoes behind. Notice the difference in sizes.
Better boy exhibited signs first and was purchased from
a highschool greenhouse. Mortgage Lifter was purchased
from a personal greenhouse. The rest were grown by moi.

Campbell's 1327 with symptoms. Raised by myself.
Shorter and bushier than another tomato planted at
same time in same type SWC.

Bushmaster with same symptoms. Purchased at highschool
greenhouse along with the Better boy. Whiteflies were
in the greenhouse.

Normal plant for reference.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Rain ...May 16

Rain... what a surprise. Four and a half inches for the first half of May. I know I should be thankful but its hard when you are watching all those hours of work gasping for air under all that water. Trying a milk/water spray for the tomatoes and peppers in hopes of preventing fungal attacks from the (shock) rain.

Baby tomatoes on the vines, baby peppers peeking out, blooms on the sugar snap peas and already pulling some onions - the fun part of gardening! Used two of the mystery "hot salsa" peppers above in making chow chow today - 5 pints worth - to use up a head of cabbage and some green peppers I had bought on sale and had not cooked.
Finished filling the experimental potato bin with compost today - the leaves are already to the top on the side where I planted some Kennebec seed potatoes. Not surprisingly, the side with the grocery store Yukon Gold had tiny plants that something had already snacked on - I just covered it all with compost. Gardening is full of little surprises - in one of the tomato beds there are six or seven potato plants coming up from the compost we layered in the bottom of it. I dug several up and finally just decided to live and let live - we'll see what happens come summer.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Spring garden...May 15 2009

Thunderstorms again this evening with punishing rain - I am almost scared to go out in the morning and see the sugar snap peas - they were blooming this afternoon and I already had visions of stirfry with our green onions, spinach, etc. The eggplants seem to be recovering from the flea beetle attacks and the scarlet runners are coming up in their pots at the bottom of the arbor. Blooms on most of the tomatoes and peppers and the beans are getting larger by the day... is there anything more relaxing than going out and just visiting everything in the garden?

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Flea beetles...May 9, 2009

Attack of the flea beetles on my eggplants. For someone who carried bugs out of her home and school room, I have dark murderous thoughts at the moment. Am trying garlic and hot pepper sauce diluted in water and sprayed on. Hope not to have to go to anything else. Scarlet runner beans are up - will be trained over an arbor and hopefully the hummingbirds will love them this summer.
Note from end of summer... Nothing seemed to faze the flea beetles. Tried all the organic methods I could find - from the garlic spray to DE to soapy sprays. Despite them, the eggplants produced well although their leaves continued all summer to look like someone had taken buckshot to them!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Planting frenzy...May 2, 2009

I may never be able to use my hands again, but all the planting is done - at least for now! Spent all last weekend and 9 hours today planting every freaking tomato seedling, including my husband's pet with one leaf, and everything else. So far the count still live and growing at this point includes:

37 tomatoes - heirlooms, cherries, and a few hybrids for back-up
19 pepper plants - 6 varieties
8 eggplants - 2 varieties
10 squash, zucchini and cukes
10 gazillion onions, green onions, shallots and garlic - no fear of vampires here
Carrots - 3 varieties
Sugar Snap Peas
Bush Beans - two varieties in ground so far
Scarlet Runner beans

Still have a few broccoli plants left - heads are small but tasty, but the heat is getting to them - stirfry tonight!

Did I mention the four pots of herbs? Sage, several types of
thyme, dill, two kinds of chives, oregano, Genovese basil....

Sunday, April 26, 2009

SWC How To on the cheap....April 4, 2009

After reading about the wonders of self-watering containers I decided to try a few this year for myself, but didn't want to lay out over forty dollars apiece. Using information gleaned from various sites and an idea shared on a gardening list, I made a few changes and came up with the official Newstead El Cheapo SWC.

STEP ONE. Ask at your local grocery deli for empty frosting buckets - the largest they have (We were able to score them at Costco, Food Lion and Lowe's Food). Cut a 3-4 inch hole in the top.

STEP TWO. Buy or scrounge some 3 inch diameter PVC, drill holes all around and cut into 2-3 inch sections. Use one to measure up from the bottom of the bucket and drill a large hole in the bucket at the top of the PVC support.

STEP THREE. Try your local dollar store for plastic colanders. Cut the handles off, then cut out the bottom solid circle and drill two holes, one on each side of the central hole. Attach the PVC support to the colander using the holes drilled in each.

STEP FOUR. Place the colander in the bucket, resting on the PVC support. If you are concerned about soil falling through the holes (some do, some don't), you can use screening material or landscape fabric to hold the soil. Fill the hole in the colander first then continue up the bucket with soil, moistening as you go (use a good organic potting soil mixed with some compost or mix your own from compost, potting soil, peat, soil conditioner.

STEP FIVE. Fill the bucket all the way to the top with moist potting mix. Firm gently. Make a trench around the edge and fill with 1/4 cup or so of a good organic balanced fertilizer (I used Garden Tone). Plant your plant (here a squash) in the middle of the bucket, watering in well. Cut a 3-4 inch diameter hole in the top of the bucket and place the top carefully over the plant. Fill the bottom reservoir with water and voila! A self-watering container for about $1.25 plus the soil!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The planting is ON...April 25, 2009

What a difference a week makes~ Its in the high 80s here in the piedmont of NC so the race is on. Today 16 tomatoes went in a 4x8 bed covered with red plastic mulch. Going to see if it really does increase yields by 20% as claimed. Lots of different flavors expected - planted 4 bells of two varieties, three ancho/poblanos, four Rounds of Hungary (hopefully will be canning my own pimientos this year - tired of paying 1.60 for a tiny jar!), three Jalapenos and two Corno di Toros - they look absolutely fabulous in pictures. Started in earnest making the self-watering containers from free buckets gleaned from local delis/groceries. I am so out of room in the six raised beds I am trying squash, zucchini, cukes, eggplants and a few tomatoes in them. Oh, and of course more peppers - a jalapeno and two sweet banana peppers for pickling. My youngest is home for a time and he is already excited about the fresh veggies out growing... four months in Colorado with his older brother turned him into a parttime vegetarian and fulltime healthy eater. We harvested the last of the collards today - would be a sad event if they hadn't been so delicious with a poor man's dinner- pintos (flavored with vegetable bouillon and garlic) served with the last jar of green tomato relish, mashed potatoes and collards with balsamic rice wine vinegar - and since this is the south, cornbread of course! Still, we are already looking forward to a fall crop of collards. A wonderful woman on one of my garden email lists read my love paens to collards and mailed me a wonderful packet of heirloom yellow Cabbage Collard seeds - only found in one area of NC. Can't wait to try those this year.

If you have never heard of Seed Saver Exchange, get thee over to For 35 dollars a year you not only support their effort to preserve heirloom vegetables and animals but receive a phone book sized listing of member offerings in practically every heirloom seed out there (my only disapointment was - surprise - the few collards offerings) and several magazines a year. Well worth the expense to help support this type of preservation effort.

Looking forward to another day of planting and gardening tomorrow. The peonies are breathtaking now -for those short few weeks of spring they are such a rich delight. Hope to get some more pics up tomorrow.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Loving the spring...April 2009 Pics

Pansies on the deck... just for enjoyment. They are such cheerful little guys!

My first Self-watering Container - homemade with a free food grade bucket from a local deli. Baby Marglobe tomato installed!

The end of driveway bed with the last of the collards, our spring broccoli, sugar snap peas and at the end spring spinach. Bush beans are being planted from the spinach down as we eat the collards - with balsamic vinegar and cornbread of course!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Tomato planting - FINALLY...April 18, 2009

Weather has finally stabilized enough to plant tomatoes! Planted 4 Viva Italia, 3 Homestead, 2 Heinz 1439, 1 Rhoades Heirloom, 1 Costoluto Genovese, 1 Big Boy, 1 Better Boy, 1 Goji Faranji, 1 German Giant, 1 Campbell’s 1943, 1 Carolina Gold, 1 Mortgage Lifter, 1 Sun Gold, 1 Super Sweet 100. Very sad, though, that my Cherokee Purple seedlings did not make it... still have a dozen or more assorted seedlings that I will try to find room for in containers or family/friends' gardens.

The garlic is 18 inches or higher, the onion sets and transplants are a foot or more, several of the broccoli plants are forming heads and the sugar snap peas are over 6 inches! I love spring - the birds are outdoing themselves in song and a very pregnant squirrel is filling up at the sunflower feeder every day. Some little beggar, though, helped his or herself to every single beet seedling
:-( ... and didn't leave a trace behind. Caterpillars???

Friday, April 10, 2009

Global Weirding...April10, 2009

Global Warming? or as someone wittily rephrased it, Global Weirding? Tornados in Arkansas, storms across the southeast - normal for the spring, but where IS spring? So far this week we have had frost warnings, 75 degree days and now severe storms. If the storms come through this area with the large hail and winds the weather Channel is warning about, I am going to have a serious talk with someone. My collards are in full swing. Last week I pulled four plants to make way for some bush beans, and my husband and I had pintos with homemade chow chow, fresh collards with balsamic rice wine vinegar, and cornbread... pure ambrosia... Southern cooking is such comfort food -and such a cultural quilt from slave influence to Scotch Irish to Native American.

Tomato seedlings are literally dying to go outside... hopefully by Sunday. Potato plants are peeking out of the soil in the experimental bin we set up for them, the beets, turnips and carrots are all starting to show true leaves and the garlic and onions are more than a foot tall. We saw the first tiny head on one of the broccoli plants today. I love watching the birth of plants! Cucumber, squash and zucchini seeds went into their peat pots today - with the wildly swinging weather I waited to start them til it was almost time to get the tomatoes out - running out of room under the lights!

Has anyone else noticed the upswing in gardening this year? Definitely a sign of the bad economic times - hopefully one that more people will keep up with even after things turn around. There really is nothing like that first homegrown tomato sandwich....

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Waiting for Godot... March 28, 2009

And Thank the Lord the rains are almost over...four solid days now of rain, rain, rain.... I know we will appreciate it this summer, but for now I am anguishing over the fate of my tiny carrot, beet, spinach and turnip seedlings outside. Will be up at dawn to check them out. The tomato seedlings are taking over the kitchen. Peppers not far behind. Collards in the beds outside are ready to start picking... try them with some rice vinegar and cornbread and its heaven on earth.

My new adventure will be container blueberry bushes - they arrived this week already in bloom. It will be painful to debud them, but from what I have read, necessary for their longterm health - like so much in life!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Starting Seedlings...March 14, 2009

Ready for spring... really. This past week it was 80 degrees... past two days 40 and raining. Sigh. Keeping the tomato, eggplant and pepper babies rotating under the lights and telling them only a month more... The garlic, onions and shallots look great outside and we are trying a potato bin for the first time. Carrot and beet seed first plantings are done and we are waiting anxiously for the delivery of our first container blueberry bushes!

Monday, March 2, 2009

In like a lion... March 2, 2009

March 2, 2009... Coming in like a lion for sure... Four inches of snow and 27 degrees this morning... can't see the broccoli and collards, but hope they are still alive under the snow. The onions are under their plastic cover, but since 17 degrees is projected for tonight, we will be lifting the plastic this afternoon and adding straw, then covering it all with plastic again. Fingers crossed! This is the SOUTH???

Tomato seedlings are safe inside and growing like weeds...

hope they can last another 4-6 weeks inside.