- Planted five Seminole pumpkins. I plant this pumpkin every year. It's a great producer. One plant produces about 10 pumpkins. Seminole pumpkins are mislabeled, they are more like winter squash. The Seminole Indians grew them in the 1500's in the Everglades in south Florida. They are great for this part of the world because they are not bothered by either bugs or diseases of any kind. They are sweet and tasty when served like winter squash.
- Planted six summer squash. This is an heirloom called Early Prolific Straight Neck. I love it! It keeps producing and producing. However, here in the hot & humid south, it does get a lot of powdery mildew that requires spraying with a powdered milk and baking soda mix. Doesn't matter to me, I still love it. I expect to get about 200 squash this year. I need at least 150 to make it one year without having to go to the store to buy them.
- Planted four hybrid acorn squash. I don't have a yearly goal for this winter squash, I just eat it fresh when I have it but I don't bother to purchase any from the store when I don't have it.
- Planted 80 green beans so far. I have room for 240. I may just plant 160 and then use the rest of the raised bed for something else. I need 51 quarts to make it one year without purchasing any from the store.
- Planted 135 peanuts. 80 are Spanish peanuts and 55 are Virginia Jumbo. Normally, I plant just Virginia Jumbo. I switched to some Spanish peanuts because they have more oil in them. I am going to try to produce my own cooking oil this year. That will be one more item I can stop purchasing from the store! We don't use much oil in our cooking so I am shooting for 1 gallon of oil and I expect that to last most (if not all) of the next year. Will 80 plants produce enough peanuts to make 1 gallon of oil? I have no idea! I will let you know at the end of the summer.
- Planted five sweet potato slips. I received these slips in March. I was too busy with work to plant them and so they sat in a vase of water on the kitchen counter (by the window). I put them in one week ago. Three of the slips don't look like they are going to make it. Next year, I will just take an afternoon and plant them when they arrive rather than put it off.
- Planted about 30 tobacco seeds. Many of them germinated, but when transplanting, I eliminated some of the smaller ones. I now have 13 plants in six pots. You may be wondering what I do with the tobacco. Well, I use it as an insecticide! It is the only chemical insecticide I use and it is organic. I put many of my houseplants outside for the summer. When fall arrives and its time for the plants to come in, they get sprayed with a tea made from tobacco. It kills any bugs that may be lurking on the plants and no bug problems all winter long in the house. Here is a picture of my newly transplanted tobacco. Tobacco plants also make very pretty trumpet like flowers in September.
Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
- Place four wooden stakes or metal poles in the ground. Ideal size is 4 X 4, but a 3 x 3 or 5 x 5 will work as well. Poles or stakes should be 3 to 4 feet tall. Wrap the poles with chicken wire and secure the wire together at the ends.
- Place course material in the bottom of the bin you just created. This can be straw, hay, pine straw, corn husks or other course material.
- Add an 8' to 10" layer of leaves.
- Add a shovel full of soil. Any soil will work.
- Add a 2" to 3" layer of grass clippings. It is best not to use grass clippings that have been treated with pesticides.
- Add water.
- Start layering over with step #3. Repeat until you fill the bin.
What do you put in a compost pile?
Leaves and grass are staples of any compost pile. You will need to keep a good balance of brown material (leaves) to the green material (grass). It should be about a 25 to 1 ratio of leaves to grass. Keep this ratio and the pile won't smell. You can add lots of other things to your compost pile as well.
If you don't have any leaves, you can add:
- Paper plates (make sure the package states they can go into a compost pile)
- Hay, straw or pine straw
- Sawdust (not too much or you can compensate by adding more nitrogen)
- Dryer lint
- Wood ashes (not too many)
- Vegetables scraps from the kitchen (veggie peelings, fruit peelings, eggshells, and/or coffee grounds)
- Manure from animals that do not eat meat
- Weeds (preferably before they flower and set seed)
- 10-10-10 fertilizer (small amounts - you can use fertilizer if you don't have anything else in this list to replace the grass. It can also be used to help break down sawdust.)
- Diseased plants
- Oily food scraps
- Dog/cat manure
- Invasive weeds
If you make an effort, you will never have to purchase potting soil again!
Monday, May 28, 2012
If you don't have any family members who have served, find a vet and do the same thing. I bet you have one as a neighbor!
Then, go and enjoy time with your family. When everyone is seated and ready to eat, say a prayer for those service members who have died to keep you free.
Enjoy your day!
Friday, May 25, 2012
I use a unique method of preparing and managing the garden. It's different from 99% of the gardens around the world but I bet you'll find it can really help you succeed with your garden. One of the key differences in how I manage my garden is bug control. I aim for minimal to no bug damage each year. However, I don't use chemicals for bug control, even organic ones. This requires a completely different way of looking at the problem of bug control. Let me explain how you can garden bug free too!
The first step to keeping bugs under control is good soil. If you read Mel Bartholomew's New SquareFoot Gardening book, he states that good soil is a mixture of 1/3 organics (read that to mean compost), 1/3 peat moss, and 1/3 vermiculite. I agree with and follow his advice. Just add the mixture in the amounts listed to prepare the soil if you are starting from scratch. Think of it as a one time investment. If you have already created your raised beds, you can continue to improve your soil by adding compost. Even if you don't use raised beds, you can still greatly improve your soil by following Mel's advice and adding the ingredients above as well. Don't worry if you don't have a compost pile, you can easily purchase bags of compost at a local gardening center. However, it is much cheaper and easier to make your own. Look for a post on how start your own compost pile next week.
So, to refresh the soil from last year's garden, you need to add soil amendments. I added compost and a bit of 10-10-10- fertilizer. The fertilizer was in support of my favorite squash. Since squash are heavy feeders they'll need additional fertilizer throughout the season. Mix the amendments into the soil and rake flat. Since our summers are hot and can be dry as well, I added a soaker hose. Here is a picture.
This is where I break with conventional gardening practices. The next step is to cover the entire bed with aluminum foil (shiney side up). I haven't seen this technique covered in many other blogs or gardening books, but it really does work great! It keeps the bugs away. Here is a picture of the bed half covered.
It is a little hard to see in this picture, but the aluminum foil is simply taped together using regular scotch tape. I placed about a 2" piece of tape every 2 - 2 1/2 feet. I also stapled the foil to the wood of the raised bed. Here is a close up of the staples. The image isn't too clear the sun was shining directly on the foil. But, you can still make out two of the staples.
What exactly is the aluminum foil doing? Well, the foil confuses bugs that want to land on the leaves and deposit their eggs. The bugs can't figure out which side is the underside of the leaves because the sun appears to be shining on both sides. They move on to an easier plant. This treatment works extremely well for squash vine borers, squash and stink bugs and mexican bean beatles. Unfortunately, all of these pests are in great supply where I live. My raised bed is about 25 feet long. It took four passes to cover the whole bed. I bought a 250 sq ft roll of aluminum foil on sale last Christmas (purchased with coupons!) and I used half the roll. All together it cost me just a few dollars to cover the 25 foot long bed. It is a lot cheaper (and safer) than spraying chemical pesticides all season long.
Once the beds are covered, you can plant your seeds. Poke a hole in the aluminium foil where you want to put the seed. Make the hole fairly large to accomodate the seed and let the sun shine on the soil. Here is what mine looks like. Remember, I only planted squash and pumpkins in this section.
The last step is to poke some drainage holes in the foil so water will seep in when it rains. Go easy on the poking, you don't really need too many holes. The rain will find the soil through the gaps in the foil. What I do is spray the foil with the hose and see where the water is standing in puddles. Then, I poke holes there. I use a fork to keep the holes small.
If you have a plant that requires additional feeding throughout the summer, you can add fertilizer in the gaps in the aluminum foil. Be careful with the application and you shouldn't have to worry about tearing the foil. If you accidently do tear the foil, just cover it with scotch tape. I am amazed each year how well the scotch tape holds. It doesn't have to hold forever, just until the plants appear. Once they start to come in, the weight of the plants will hold the foil down. I have yet to require a large repair job. The foil just seems to stay in place.
This works so well, I know I won't see any bugs at all until late August. That is when the leaves grow so large that they completely cover the foil and the sun can't reach it. At this point, I start spraying, if necessary. However, I don't use conventional sprays. My motto is, "If you can't eat it, don't spray it on the vegetables!" I promise I will cover what to do about bugs in a future post. In the meantime if you have a bug problem, email me and I will be happy to help.
Thursday, May 24, 2012
In my garden, I use commercial potting soil. No need to get new bags every year,I resuse the same soil from year to year. Here is my pile of potting soil from last year's tomatoes. It sat like this all winter.
Now that I am ready to use it again, I will need to refresh the soil by adding some admendments. I added a bit of fertilizer, (tomatoes are heavy feeders) and some compost. Here is the refreshed soil ready to go into my pots.
The first thing you need to do is find a suitable pot. The 3 gallon buckets you got from the grocery store for free work really well for tomatoes (see Monday's post) and the best part about using them is you won't need to repot again later in the summer. That is what I am going to use here.
Planting tomatoes in pots does require some additional amendments. These amendments help tomatoes planted directly into the ground as well. To add amendments, fill about 1/3 of the pot with the soil. Then add four antacid tablets to the pot. Yes, antacid tablets! I use the big box store brand . Doesn't matter if it is fruit flavored or mint. I use 750 mg. This stuff is calcium carbonate which tomatoes need to prevent blossom end rot. Don't put too many in the pot at once. If there is too much calcuim in the soil, the tomato can't get the other trace minerials it needs (such as baron). My experience has been that four antacid tablets seem like the right number to add at the time of transplanting into a large pot or bucket. You will need to add two or three more to the pot each month to prevent blossom end rot.
If you are placing your tomatoes directy in the ground, you are less likely to have a problem with blossom end rot so only put the four in the hole with the tomato when you transplant it, you won't be adding more tablets each month.
The other amendment I use is Agrosoke crystals.The label calls them Root Watering Crystals, Agrosoke is the brand name. I get mine at one of the home improvement centers in the gardening department. This stuff will help keep the soil evenly moist between waterings or rain. Evenly mosit soil reduces blossom end rot and split or cracked tomatoes. Here is what the pot looks like when you add the soil amendments.
At this point, you can add a couple of additional handfulls of dirt, then mix it well or just leave it like you see in the picture and fill the pot up with soil.
Now, lets address the tomato plant itself. Tomatoes transplant easily. However, to give the plant the best possible chance to establish itself in its new home, submerge the plant in the soil up to the top leaves. Do this whether you plat the tomato in a pot or in the ground. Before submerging it, remove all the bottom leaves. You can just pinch them off with your fingernail. Here is a before and after picture to show you what I mean.
Now the tomato is ready to be planted. Gently firm the soil around the stem of the tomato so it doesn't break.
Tomatoes don't like to have the soil splash on their leaves so the last step is to mulch the plant. You can use hay, small pebbles or pine straw. The point is to make sure when you water or when it rains, the leaves don't get dirt on them. I use pine straw because it is widely available here in the south.
So there you have it! A tomato plant transplanted to its new home and all set to grow and produce wonderful jucy tomatoes for eating all summer long!
Monday, May 21, 2012
- Green beans
- Sweet Potatoes
- All kinds of herbs
Wash the buckets out and they are ready to use. It is important to use food grade buckets so the plants don’t pick up any chemicals that may have been used in making non-food grade buckets. Don’t forget to put some holes in the bottom. I usually don’t drill the holes, because I think it is a pain to get the drill out. I drive a nail into the bottom of the bucket. Once I have a good size nail hole, I open it up a bit more with a screw driver. Here is one I did last year.
I plan to put them along the fence where the vines can grow but won’t overtake my small yard.
No need to purchase new potting soil every year. You can definitely reuse the potting soil. It will just need a bit of fertilizer next year. And, there you have it - a garden in a pot! I will show you how to plant tomatoes in a pot next.
Friday, May 18, 2012
- Heat 1 cup of vinegar in the microwave for 1 minute. Pour into a spray bottle. Add 1 cup of Dawn dishwashing liquid. Shake to mix well. Spray your shower and/or tub. Let sit for at least two hours. The more soap scum and hard water spots you have, the longer you should let it sit. You can even let it sit overnight if necessary. Wipe down with a wet sponge and rinse. That’s it! Soap build up, dirt, grime, EVERYTHING disappears. You are left with a clean shine. It even smells pleasant – not like vinegar at all. I saw this recipe on Pinterest. I modified it a bit for half the tub to see if it made a difference. First, I turned on the water to wet down everything. Then, I sprinkled baking soda on half the tub. Then I sprayed the entire tub. The half with the baking soda fizzled and foamed up and stayed put a bit better (good if using on vertical surfaces). Go easy with the spray. If you use a lot, it will take a long time to rinse because of the bubbles made by Dawn. On Pinterest, it specifically stated to use the blue Dawn, so that is what I did. It worked so well, I tried it on my grout. My bathrooms are white. White everything - to include the grout. So as you can guess, it is really hard to keep the grout clean. No more! This mix did a great job on the grout as well. I sprayed it on and after letting it sit for 2 hours, I lightly scrubbed with a stiff brush and then wiped it up with a damp sponge. I will no longer use any harsh chemicals to clean my grout!
My kitchen sink gets dirty, really dirty. In addition to normal household chores, I use my sink sprayer to water plants. I also repot small plants in my sink. As a result, I wash my sink a lot. Long ago and far away I used to use an abrasive powder cleanser with bleach. Then I switched to my own dishwashing soap. Now, I use vinegar. Here’s how it works. Wet the sink and lightly sprinkle baking soda over the entire surface. Pour about ¼ cup vinegar in the sink and let it foam. Use a scrub sponge to lightly scrub and/or wipe out the sink. Then rinse. I have been amazed that this seems to actually repel the dirt. My sink stays cleaner, brighter and shiner longer and it is easier to wipe clean in between the vinegar cleanings.
When washing fresh produce, add vinegar to the rinse water and you will remove any tiny bugs you may not be able to see. This works great for garden vegetables such as carrots, green beans, squash, or broccoli.
Wipe down your cutting boards with vinegar before washing them. It cuts down on grease and makes them easier to clean. Use it full strength, then wash as usual.
Here is an idea women may find helpful! Nail polish will go on smoother and stay on longer if you wipe your nails down with vinegar. Saturate a cotton ball with vinegar and wipe each nail. Let dry. Then apply your favorite nail polish.
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
I have lived in my house for 11 ½ years. How many times have I painted my house? Zero. Why not? Pressure washing. I have my house pressure washed each year in the spring. I have used the same company each year. B & M Pressure Washing.
Now full disclosure here, I have spot painted sections of my house. If the caulk breaks around the windows or trim, it needs to be replaced and then repainted. Also, the houses in my neighborhood have wood trim. Wood trim doesn’t do well in high humidity. It rots. So, I have had to replace some wood trim with new composite pieces. They are caulked in and then painted. Still, the most I have spent on house maintenance dealing with paint is about $2,000 total over the life of the house. It is really just a couple of hundred dollars each year. And that includes the fee I pay Bryant every year. It seems like a no brainer to me.
Monday, May 14, 2012
I encourage you to read the labels on the boxes, borax is recommended to boost the cleaning power of your dishwasher. The picture is missing some optional ingredients. Here is the basic recipe:
5 cups super washing soda
5 cups borax
I mix big batches and store it in empty vinegar bottles. I fill the pre-wash cup and then add about 2 TBS per load to the wash cycle dispenser. (Don’t forget the vinegar in the rinse cycle!)
5 cups borax
2 cups course kosher salt
Friday, May 11, 2012
I had to go to the dentist the other day and parked a bit away so I could walk. My dentist is located in a shopping center so I got to window shop along the way. When I crossed the parking lot, I stepped over one of the landscaped islands that you see in most shopping center parking lots. I walked between some juniper bushes and to my surprise, I saw juniper berries! I was so busy with daily life that I forgot this is the time of year juniper bushes set berries.
You are probably wondering why I am so excited over juniper berries. Well, juniper berries are a key ingredient in potpourri. For example, here is a potpourri recipe from the book, Potpourri, Scented Souvenirs by Gail Duff (page 22):
1 cup costmary
½ cup peppermint leaves
6 tablespoons rosemary leaves
2 tablespoons each juniper berries and allspice berries
4 tablespoons orris root powder
4 drops lavender oil
2 drops each rosemary and peppermint oil
People have been making potpourri for centuries. I heard that when archaeologists opened some of the Egyptian tombs they found potpourri in clay jars that was still fragrant after thousands of years. Pioneer women often gathered herbs and flowers to create wonderful fragrances in their homes. You can too! You can purchase all the ingredients you need but why pay for store-bought ingredients when you can gather them yourself. I found the juniper berries in a shopping center parking lot! You can too!
Lavender flowers will be blooming soon (here in the south anyway – those in the north will have to wait a few more weeks). Peppermint and rosemary are also growing now in the south. All three of these plants are available in home improvement centers throughout the spring season and they are all easy to grow. For those of you in the north, you may have to grow your rosemary in pots; it is only winter hardy from zone 7 (in a protected spot) to zone 10.
Women in the last half of the 19th century grew costmary in their herb gardens. It is very sweet smelling. You should be able to find seeds or plants in the home improvement store as well. You can also find all these plants anywhere herbs are sold. Orris root powder can be omitted if you prefer. I have made potpourri with it and without it. The purpose of the orris root powder is to hold the scent. It is considered a ‘fixative’ to help the scent last longer. Orris root is the rhizome of the iris flower. If you happen to have some iris flowers that you no longer want, pull up the rhizome, wash it off and grate it up. Let it dry and it is ready to use. Orris root has no scent when first dried; it can take up to two years for the orris root to gain a scent on its own. If not scented with oils as part of a recipe, the orris root will have a fragrance like violets.
Dry the herbs and flowers in the sun and be sure they are completely dry before you store them. All ingredients store well in glass jars.
Making your own potpourri is fun and doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, if any at all. If you keep your eyes open this summer you can gather up ingredients you can use to make your own potpourri this fall!
Wednesday, May 9, 2012
My church counsels us to be prepared for adversity in life by having a basic supply of food and water, and some money in savings. Being prepared in such a way is the first step on the journey to self-reliance. Today, I would like focus on one of the most fundamental steps along that journey; having a supply of food. You should have a minimum of a 3-month supply of shelf stable food for you and your family (including pets).
Many LDS church members store one years’ worth of basic supplies like rice, powdered milk, honey, wheat and beans. Then, a three month supply of the everyday foods you eat. Having this much food stored away gives you a feeling of peace. When adversity comes your way, having food storage allows you to spend what money you do have on other critical things. You can rest assured that you and your family do not have to worry about how you are going to eat.
You may be wondering where you put all this food. Well, the easiest place to put your food storage is in a basement, if you have it. I do understand if you are saying to yourself, “But I don’t have a basement.” I don’t either. Those of us without basements need to think creatively on where we can put our food storage. I promise I have lots of ideas and tips to get it all to fit in your house, apartment or condo. Watch for some posts on that in coming months.
Before we need to have a place to put our food storage, we need to have food to store. You don’t need to purchase it all at once. My one year supply of food and other necessities took me 3 years to gather. Start slow and gradually add to it. When you go to the grocery store, buy an extra can of vegetables and an extra can of fruit. Then, on your next visit, buy an extra bag of rice. Slowly, build up a week’s supply of the foods your family likes to eat. After you have a one week supply, set your goal at two weeks, then one month, and so on. Some of it, you don’t have to purchase at all. You can grow it. Every year, I grow a one year supply of all the vegetables we eat in our house. Don’t have a garden? It isn’t too late to start. I live in the south and I don’t have this year’s garden in yet. I plan to put my seeds in sometime during the next week or two. I’ll post pictures and show you. Don’t have any room for a garden? You can grow select vegetables and herbs in pots on a patio. All my tomatoes and sweet potatoes will be grown in pots.
One common problem with food storage is finding new ways to cook with it. I am constantly looking for new ways to use my food storage so everyone in my house will eat it. Recipes that receive the ‘thumbs up’ signal will be shared here. My goal is to post food storage recipes two to three times a month. Can’t wait that long? Check out my blog list. The blogs listed there frequently feature shelf stable recipes you can try right now.
Monday, May 7, 2012
I am sure you all have heard about the many uses of vinegar. You can find them all over the web. Here are five such uses that you can easily put into practice now. They will save you money and eliminate the need to purchase commercial products. These are all jobs your great-grandmother would have accomplished using good ole vinegar.
Saturday, May 5, 2012
- Learn to love work and avoid idleness
- Acquire a spirit of self-sacrifice
- Accept personal responsibility for spiritual strength
- Accept personal responsibility for health, education, employment, finances, food, and other life-sustaining necessities
- Pray for faith and courage to meet challenges that come
- Strengthen others who need assistance