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Monday, April 30, 2012

Protecting Your Plants- How Does Your Garden Grow?

Today is the last day of "How Does Your Garden Grow?". I hope you have found the posts so far informative. Today I am going to talk a little bit about protecting your plants once you get them in the garden. While sunshine, water and good soil are most important for helping your garden grow, plants do need some protection from outside threats.

Pests are one of the things that are difficult to keep away from your yummy new plants. Last year we had our biggest issue with deer. They ate all of our pepper plants and our beans. Talk about frustrating! So this year we had a plan. We built a 4 1/2 foot high fence out of cedar split rail. Then we put a welded wire fence on the inside of it to keep out the smaller critters. Then my husband put some natural deer deterrent around the perimeter of the garden. We haven't had problems with the deer jumping the fence so far, but if we do we may electrify the top portion of the fence.

Another pest problem are insects who like to eat on the leaves or fruit of plants. In the past years we have always used chemical pesticides, but this year we are trying to do more healthy options and switch to organic gardening. I have been doing a lot of research and found the website Organic Gardening pretty helpful. I am hopeful we will be able to control the pests with organic pesticides.

Cold and Weather
In the spring when your garden is just planted there is always the possibility of frost. We planted our tomatoes and peppers a little bit before the average frost date, just because my husband is a risk taker. There are a lot of different ways to protect your plants, but one of the easiest we have found is to save back the containers that your flowers, bushes and trees come in. They are already vented and are pretty easy to stack.  This spring we have had to put them out once because of frost and once because a hail storm was coming. If you use these, make sure you take them off the next day before the sun heats them up and fries your plant!!

They do also sell water filled cloches in the store for tomatoes and row covers can be used as well.

I wish you all the best of luck this year with your gardening and hope this series has inspired you!

Don't miss any of the other posts from the gardening series- thanks for joining me!
How Does Your Garden Grow Button

"How Does Your Garden Grow?" Part 1- Stretching Potting Soil
"How Does Your Garden Grow?" Part 2- Stevie from Garden Therapy- Starting Veggie Seeds
"How Does Your Garden Grow?" Part 3- What To Grow?
"How Does Your Garden Grow?" Part 4- Annie from MamaDweeb Raised Garden Beds Vs. In Plot Garden

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Raised Bed Garden Vs. In Plot Garden

Today we are lucky to have Annie from Mama Dweeb sharing with us about her experience about in plot gardening vs. raised beds! Annie and I went to high school together and she has such an awesome blog!!

Last year my husband and I tilled up a huge area on our land for an in plot garden.  We planted a huge variety of veggies - corn, radishes, tomatoes, peas, green beans, kohlrabi, potatoes and squash, just to name a few. 

We thought our biggest threat was going to be the deer. We did not anticipate the soil and weather being our biggest adversary!

In the end, we only harvested a ton of tomatoes, a handful of peas, a few ears of corn and lots of kohlrabi and radishes. 

This is why I think a raised bed garden is going to be better than our in-ground plot: 

1. Less back ache
If we raise the raised bed high enough, we shouldn't have to hurt our backs nearly as much when we are weeding. 

2. Control the size
It was way too easy to over-plant our garden when it was in the ground. With a raised bed, we only have so much room to use. This keeps the size manageable and prevents us from creating more work than we can handle. 

3. Easier to water
If we put our raised bed closer to the house it will be easier to water. Last year we had yards and yards of hose strung out and it was a huge pain to water my plants every day. This led to over and under watering. 

4. Looks nicer
You cannot deny that raised beds just have this aesthetic beauty about them that in ground plots do not. Ok, maybe you can deny it, but I sure love the look of a raised bed! And I don't mind having a raised bed garden close to my house. 

5. Easier to keep pests out
This part is totally my hopes!  I hope that by raising the garden higher off the ground, the fence will keep the critters off my food.  Our fence last year was way too flimsy and they just crawled underneath. Maybe the problem was the fence - in that case, I am going to invest in a nicer fence. 

Do you have any tips about raised bed gardening for me? Please share! 

About the author: 
Annie is a Kansas mom blogger. She started Mama Dweeb  when her son was a baby.  Now she writes about parenting, technology, fashion/beauty and helps new bloggers with her Blogging Basics series.  

Don't miss out on the other posts in our beginner gardening series.
How Does Your Garden Grow Button

"How Does Your Garden Grow?" Part 1- Stretching Potting Soil
"How Does Your Garden Grow?" Part 2- Stevie from Garden Therapy- Starting Veggie Seeds
"How Does Your Garden Grow?" Part 3- What To Grow?
"How Does Your Garden Grow?" Part 5- Protecting Your Plants

Friday, April 27, 2012

Want to Start Gardening? What to Grow- Guest Post by Austin

I am so excited that my brother Austin agreed to contribute to this beginner gardening series.
He has been busy for the past several years turning my parents' acerage into a hobby farm! He has learned a lot about vegetable gardening and hopefully it will help you decide what to grow!

What To Grow?

Deciding what to grow in your vegetable garden can be tricky, especially when starting out.  A lot of it will depend on why you are wanting to start vegetable gardening, so your reasons and goals should be your main guide.

The first place to start in choosing what to grow in a garden should be what you like to eat.  I find it a lot easier to keep up with watering, weeding, and care of vegetables that I'm really looking forward to eating.

Certainly your tastes and situation should guide your decisions, but if you're struggling to decide, here are some recommendations and reasons to consider.

Grow a Staple


Tomatoes are probably the #1 staple for home vegetable gardeners, and with good reason.  They are great used fresh or preserved, are fairly easy to grow, and can be very productive.

My personal preference with tomatoes leans toward preservation.  I love to have canned salsa, tomato soup, and diced tomatoes through the winter.

The first tomatoes I tried to grow were romas, but I didn't have much luck with them.  I had problems with fungus and rot on the tomatoes,which was probably because I had grown them along the ground without any support.  Processing the small roma fruits was time consuming, and I decided to make a change.

I've had a lot more luck with beefsteak tomatoes, and have switched to growing only that variety.  I grow them in tall cages with plenty of space for circulation and keep them well watered through the heat of summer, which has led to a bountiful harvest.

Good harvest of beefsteaks for processing.

Other garden staples to consider: Sweet Corn, Potatoes

Grow Something Easy

Garlic is very easy to grow, assuming you start it at the right time.  It takes a bit of weeding, but not much else.

The first time I grew garlic I planted it in the spring at the same time as onion sets.  That didn't do too well.  Afterward, I did someresearch and found that it was best to plant it in the fall, around the first frost date.  For the last 2 years I've done that, and it has been very successful.
My garlic patch today.

As a bonus, hardneck varieties produce scapes in the late spring, which are very delicious.  I planted my first hardneck garlic this last fall, so I'm very much looking forward to harvesting scapes in the next month or so.

My recommendation: mark your calendar for your first frost date, and plant some garlic.

Other Easy crops: Potatoes aren't much harder than garlic, I've found turnips to be quite easy also.  Some perennial herbs like mint are almost dangerously easy, and should be contained if grown.

Grow a Substitute
I like using celery, especially in some canning recipes, but it won't grow here due to the heat.    This year I'm growing some lovage to try as a substitute for celery in my recipes.  I found it in a search for celery substitutes, and it seems like it should grow well for me.

Lovage may not work out great, but I'm very hopeful.  Finding alternatives that thrive in your growing conditions can be very rewarding. 

Other Substitutes: Swiss Chard and Amaranth can replace cooler weather greens for the hot summer months.  Coriander (Cilantro seeds) can begrown to provide a flavor similar to some tropical spices.

Grow Something Fast

Radishes are the fastest crop to grow in the garden, by a wide margin.  From seed to first harvest can be as short as 22 days!

I've grown radishes for a couple years, and find that it's important to have loose, non-compacted soil for them to grow in.  They really like to develop a long root from the part of the radish we're used to eating.
Radishes Harvested this morning.

I've also been harvesting and eating radish greens for the first time this year.  They are very good steamed and then topped with some vinegar or wilted in bacon grease.
Radish Greens from this morning.

Other fast crops: Nothing else is very close to the speed of radishes, but some things are still suitable for the impatient.  Spinach and Lettuce are fairly fast.  Once Summer hits, cucumbers can produce surprisingly fast as well.
Thanks again Austin for the great information!
Don't miss the other parts of How Does Your Garden Grow?

How Does Your Garden Grow Button

"How Does Your Garden Grow?" Part 1- Stretching Potting Soil
"How Does Your Garden Grow?" Part 2- Stevie from Garden Therapy- Starting Veggie Seeds
"How Does Your Garden Grow?" Part 4- Annie from MamaDweeb Raised Garden Beds Vs. In Plot Garden
"How Does Your Garden Grow?" Part 5- Protecting Your Plants

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Starting Veggie Seeds: Root Vegetables and Heat-Lovers (Guest Post from Garden Therapy)

I am so excited to have Stevie from Garden Therapy here to talk about starting veggies from seed!
She has an amazing blog with so many inspiring and creative ideas for gardening.

One of the most rewarding ways to grow your own vegetables is to start them from seed plus it’s a great educational experience for kids big and small.  Root veggies like carrots, beets and radishes do the best when planted directly in the soil where they will grow as they have a delicate taproot that doesn’t like to be moved.  Other garden edibles appreciate the helping hand of growing up a bit indoors before braving the elements.  Tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants are good examples of great seeds to start indoors.

 Planting Root Vegetables: Carrots, Beets, and Radishes

Plant root vegetables in fertile, well-drained soil that has been sifted to remove any stones or hard debris that will obstruct the root growth (and make funny shaped veggies).  Sow seeds according to the plant depth and spacing as recommended on the seed packet for each variety.  Carrot and radish seeds are quite small and beet seeds come in clusters, so it will be necessary to thin out your plants when they grow.  You can do this by cutting (not pulling) out the seedlings that are the weakest, leaving the strongest lots of room to grow a yummy root.  Keep seeds moist while they germinate. Once sprouted make sure they get lots of sun (8 hours/day) and water (don’t let them dry out on hot days).  As they grow they will push up their shoulders from the ground so mound soil around them periodically.  Plant root veggies in spring and summer for a fall harvest or plant over-wintering varieties in late summer for a winter harvest.

Planting Heat-Lovers: Tomatoes, Peppers, and Eggplants

Heat lovers like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants like to be started indoors between 4-6 weeks before the last date of frost.  Starting seeds indoors gives them a jump-start on the growing season, and ensures that your plants will have lots of time to produce fruit before it gets chilly outside again. 

Start seeds in homemade newspaper pots set in a plastic nursery tray or even a plastic salad box.  Newspaper pots can be made by wrapping 5” strips of newspaper around a wooden pot maker or a household item like a glass or a can. Wrap the paper strip around the form leaving 1” of paper overhanging the bottom.  Crimp and fold the overhanging paper so that it tucks into itself and makes a pot that holds its shape when you remove the form.  Use a bit of tape to hold it if necessary. 

Fill each of the paper pots with seed starting mix, a light, disease-free soil mix made specifically for seed starting.  Don’t use garden soil that can have many fungi, bacteria and critters that can attack little seedlings. Plant each pot with 3 seeds, cover with soil, and water well.  Keep pots moist until seeds germinate and the little green sprouts come up.  Sadly you will have to choose only one strong seedling per pot to keep by cutting (not pulling) the others with clean scissors.  Keep your seedling in bright sunlight until it gets 2-3 true leaves (the plant will initially have 2 “seed” leaves which are rounded then grow the “true” leaves which look quite different), then transplant the whole pot, newspaper and all, into a larger plastic nursery pot filled with a container mix soil.  Grow your plant into a teenager in this pot and when kit’s warm enough (as determined on your seed packet) you can move it outside. 

These tips will hopefully have enough information to get you started keeping in mind that there are variances to different vegetables and climates that you can determine by visiting your local nursery.  Read seed packets for the most specific information on planting seeds and transplanting seedlings. 

For more information on seed starting check out Garden Therapy’s Seed Starting Series including Seed Starting 101, Homemade Seed Starting Containers DIY Projects,  The Best and Worst Store Bought Seed Starting Containers and Seed Starting Outdoors Under Umbrella Greenhouses.

Don’t forget to visit Stevie at Garden Therapy for more DIY garden projects, yummy recipes, and crafty goodness.  You can also find Garden Therapy on FacebookTwitterPinterest, and Etsy.

Thank you so much Stevie for sharing that information with us!!
Don't forget to check out the other posts in our "mini gardening series"!

How Does Your Garden Grow Button

"How Does Your Garden Grow?" Part 1- Stretching Potting Soil
"How Does Your Garden Grow?" Part 3- What To Grow?
"How Does Your Garden Grow?" Part 4- Annie from MamaDweeb Raised Garden Beds Vs. In Plot Garden
"How Does Your Garden Grow?" Part 5- Protecting Your Plants

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Stretching Potting Soil- How Does Your Garden Grow?

Welcome to the first day of my beginner gardening series- "How Does Your Garden Grow?" I am very excited about the posts we have coming up in this series and I hope you find it helpful!

How Does Your Garden Grow Button

I am going to start the series out by talking about how to stretch your potting soil.

I love planting annual flowers every year- geraniums, petunias, impatients, and so many more. They do get a little costly though. And also potting soil can be a little expensive.

Here is a great way to stretch it.

Take your pots or planters and fill them all the way up with organic materials such as grass clippings or leaves.

Add  potting soil to the top of it until it is about an inch from the top. The leaves will compress and there will be plenty of room to transplant your flowers.

I like to let mine sit for a couple days and add a bit more soil as it compacts.
Transplant your annual flowers and enjoy.

There are a few benefits to this process:
Spending less money on potting soil and more money on beautiful flowers!
It uses up organic matter that would just be hanging out behind my bushes (those darn leaves get everywhere).
And it makes the pots lighter and much easier to move into place.

How Does Your Garden Grow Button

I hope you found this helpful!
Don't miss other posts in this series!
"How Does Your Garden Grow?" Part 2- Stevie From Garden Therapy- Planting from Seed
"How Does Your Garden Grow?" Part 3- What To Grow?
"How Does Your Garden Grow?" Part 4- Annie from MamaDweeb Raised Garden Beds Vs. In Plot Garden
"How Does Your Garden Grow?" Part 5- Protecting Your Plants

Thanks for stopping by!
I will be linking to some of these parties!
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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Scout's Sweet Sunday #5

After a short delay I am pleased to announce that Scout's Sweet Sundays are back!! I am doing it a little bit differently though. This is no longer a link party but more of a feature party! I plan to feature projects I see that inspire me.
Some weeks I may make it fun and even do a theme!

I also plan on doing a short recap of what I posted about that week to keep everyone up to speed!

So here we are, without further ado!!

Scout's Sweet Sunday Features:

I love this book- and the technique for the embroidery! She has a link to the pattern she used.

She is making a pattern for this to sell- so cute!! This one reminds me of the Wizard of Oz!!

These look just so good and asparagus is in season.

I can't believe this skirt used to be a t-shirt- what a transformation!
This dress is just darling- I love the collar and the piping. It doesn't hurt that the model is a cutie pie! Can't wait for the tutorial.

If you were featured feel free to grab a button and show it off!
Scout's Stitches Featured Button

And in Case You Missed It-
This week on the blog:

Upcycled Pumpkin Spice Cardigan Tutorial
Book Review Guest Post at Garden Therapy
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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Garden Therapy Book Club Book Review

I was fortunate enough to be chosen to review the book "The Year Round Vegetable Gardener" by niki Jabbour for Garden Therapy's April Book Club.

You can check out that review and reviews from 2 others at Garden Therapy!
Have a great Day!!

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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Pumpkin Spice Cardigan - DIY Tutorial

Hello Readers!! I am so excited to bring you an actual craft post!

This project is what I made for the first week of Project Recycled over at the T-Shirt Diaries.
I decided to reuse this beautiful orange men's shirt that my realtor had given my husband. It isn't really my husband's style, but I loved the color and the fabric so I decided to keep it.

The first step in this tutorial is to find an old cardigan that fits well and you don't mind cutting up.  I chose one of mine that used to be black but after years of wear was very splotchy and faded.
I did save back the pieces of the cardigan to use again.

Then you will need a men's  shirt to use for fabric- It should be pretty big- I think mine was an XL.
Cut each piece of the cardigan apart very close to the seams. There are five pieces in all- back, R sleeve, L sleeve, R front, L front.
Then cut apart the shirt that you are using for your new cardigan- close to the seams.

I chose to reuse the ribbing at the bottom of the sweater and sleeves. Line up the corresponding fabric with the pattern pieces. Trace around pattern leaving about 1/4 seam allowance.

Sew together both sleeves- right sides together. I used the serger type stitch on my sewing machine because the material was pretty stretchy.

 Press Seams flat.

Sew shell together, right sides together at top and side, leaving armholes open.

 Place sleeve inside of shell, right side together, lining up side seam with bottom of sleeve seam.

Pin and sew.

Now to add the embelishment on the front. I got this 2" crocheted trim from Joann's.
Measure the total length around the front and neckline of shirt to get the amount of trim you need. Add about 6 inches to this number- I cut it kind of close!

Pin edge of crochet on inside of cardigan along both sides and neckline.

Sew into place about 1/4" from edge of cardigan.

Flip over crochet and pin to outside of cardigan so it lays flat. Sew it into place.

Sew small hook and eyes along inside of cardigan for closures.

If you have any questions let me know.

I will be linking up with some of these parties!
shabby creek cottage
Skip To My Lou

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by!!
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