Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Seeds!

Did you ever wonder why some gardeners don't harvest every pea, or bean,  etc.? For me, it has a purpose! I leave them on to go to seed. This means that the shells will dry and wither and the insides will become hard. Once it is all dried out, it is ready to harvest for the next year!

Not only is it good to practice seed collection,  but it also saves you money. If I don't like how a crop tasted, then I don't bother, but if it turned out AMAZING, then why buy the seeds twice when you have the free versions right at hand?

Give it a shot, even if it makes your garden look slightly ugly for a bit. ;)

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Why are my tomatoes still green?!?!

We are almost into September which means by now you SHOULD be getting ripe fruit. If you are, congrats! If not, here is a small tip for you.  Once you have tomatoes on the vine and you need them to ripen, only water them once a week. The only time that is an exception is if your plants start to look wilted from the heat and then they need a little drink.  If you do this,  before long you will have a plethora of ripe tomatoes coming off of the vine!  :) I did a massive harvest today of different cherry tomatoes. ...now to decide what to do with them all!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Am I too late?

This is a question that I get regularly around this time of year. The answer? No! You are not too late for most anything. Will you be able to grow it from seed? Probably not,  but...you can still get starts and grow! I will say...you are probably too late for pumpkins and cutting it close on corn (if you can find corn starts) but beyond that. ..plant away!

In the next 3-4 weeks you will want to start planning your fall crops. Yes...you heard me right.  You will want to plant a second round of snap peas and bush beans if you can. You will also want to get those colder weather plants started. Cabbage,  broccoli,  cauliflower, lettuce, spinach. ..all of those plants that will bolt and go to seed when there is extreme heat, get them started indoors for getting in the ground by the end of August.

My garden is getting huge! I would love to see what you have growing! Send me your pictures!

~Bri

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Pardon my absence!

So this last month has been crazy for me and my family. My husband and I went away for a week to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary and now here we are at the end of the school year!  Ahhh! Time flies when you're having fun. ..or just crazy busy...anyways I wanted to share some pictures of my garden and my planting method...of sorts. Let me know if you have any questions!
For my pumpkins and zucchini plants I create mounds and plant 3 seeds in the top of each mound and gently cover with dirt.
For the corn I make rows and plant each seed 4-6 inches apart and again gently cover with soil before watering. Make sure you water gently for the first little while as they grow and develop their root systems!
I have peppers all in their own 8-10 inch pots scattered in all of the warm spots.
In this box there is sugar snap peas, cucumbers, 2 zucchini plants, a pumpkin plant and two rows of corn. This all fits in a 3'x6' planter. Pretty amazing what you can do with a small space, huh?
Bush Beans, they certainly have taken off!
Here is a mound that has a hole in the top for the seeds. It doesn't have to be too high.
Here is where I placed 3 seeds into the top of each mound.
This one here is for the corn. All I do is take my trowel and drag it in a line and then space out the seeds accordingly before covering with soil that mounded up on the sides again.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Lets get Dirty!

Ok...so that title probably sounded a little weird...and it was meant to be funny....but I digress...we are officially in the month of PLANTING! I love it, that's when my hands and clothes tend to get very dirty as I get to work out in the garden!

Over the next couple weeks is when it is best to do a direct sow for the warmer weather plants into your garden! I will be feeding my soil this week and then planting next week, or rather, whenever I have time! Now you are probably saying...but, but, but you said to plan the garden appropriately but you haven't told us what plants grow well together! You are correct! I plan to fix that today!

Companion planting is not nearly as hard as it may seem. It's just a matter of planting things near each other that don't hate each other. Sounds easy enough, right?

Lets start with A and work our way down...shall we?

Asparagus- loves Parsley and basil. (You can also plant tomatoes next to the rows of Asparagus if you have the space and they are mutually beneficial.)

Beans (bush beans)- likes celery, cucumbers and strawberries and can be beneficial to corn when alternating rows if you have the space. Hates: Fennel and onions.

Beans (pole beans)- Likes corn and will grow well with radishes. Hates: kohlrabi, sunflower and beets.

Beets- Likes bush beans, onions and kohlrabi, also grows well with lettuce and most memebers of the Cabbage family. Hates: Pole Beans.

Broccoli- Likes aromatic plants:dill, celery, camomile, sage, peppermint and rosemary. Also likes potatoes, beets and onions. Hates: tomatoes, pole beans and strawberries.

Carrots- Likes onions, leeks and herbs (rosemary, wormwood and sage).

Cauliflower-Likes the same things as broccoli and also does not like tomatoes or strawberries.

Celery- Likes leeks, tomatoes, cauliflower and cabbage as well as bush beans. (use kitchen scraps to start)

Corn- Likes potatoes, peas, beans, cucumbers, pumpkin and squash. Dislikes: tomatoes.

Cucumber- Likes corn (mutually beneficial), beans, peas, radishes, and sunflower. Dislike: potatoes and aromatic herbs.

Lettuce- Likes strawberries, cucumbers and carrots. Mutually beneficial with onions and radishes taste better when grown with lettuce.

Melon- (heavy feeders) Likes corn and sunflowers. Dislikes potatoes. Place wax paper under the melons to reduce loss from rot/insect activity.

Onion- Likes all members of cabbage family (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, etc.), also like beets, strawberries, tomatoes, lettuce and camomile. Dislikes: peas and beans. (again use a kitchen scrap to start)

Peas- Likes carrots, turnips, radishes,cucumbers, corn, beans and potatoes as well as aromatic herbs. Dislikes:Onions, garlic and gladiolus.

Pumpkins- Likes corn. Dislikes: potatoes.

Tomatoes-Likes onion, chives, carrots, garlic. Dislikes:corn and potatoes.

Watermelon- Likes: potatoes, Dislikes: anything that grows tall...artichokes, corn, etc.

Hopefully this helps with your garden planning! Please comment with any questions and I will happily answer them!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Gardening for Dummies Part 2

Ok, so we've talked about soil, and what kinds of seeds to get...and now you are probably wondering...what's next? Well, there are two things that you need to do, start your seeds indoors if you can and you need to plan your garden.

I was recently told that there's no real need to plan your garden, and "wasn't most gardening trial and error?", to this I respond that with a good plan, there will be a lot less error with your garden. Feel free to disagree, but when you plant plants that work well together you will have good results instead of having one choke out the other. With how much heart goes into my garden, it honestly makes me sad when a crop fails, so I try to plan my garden so that there will be as little loss as possible.

You are probably wondering...what plants do you start indoors and which ones can be put right in the ground? I can tell you! (Well, maybe not a complete list, but if you don't see what you want to grow, ask and I will find out for you if I don't know it off the top of my head!

Direct Sow (plants that do best when seeds are planted straight out into the garden and not started indoors.)

Beans (push and pole)
Carrots
Corn
Garlic
Lettuce
Onions

Potatoes
Pumpkins
Spinach
Sugar Snap Peas
Watermelon (any melons really.)
Zucchini


Start these indoors (they tend to be weaker at first and more susceptible to the elements, etc.)

Artichokes
Broccoli
Cauliflower
Cucumbers
Herbs
Kale
Mint
Tomatoes
Peppers (Hot and sweet)


That said, there are some things that it is worth letting the experts get started for you in their greenhouses. It might not be as cheap, but can certainly be less stressful in the long run! For me, those include Kale, mint and peppers.

Given the time of year, all of the direct sow plants that I mentioned are all still fine to plant, it might be a touch late to start any of the indoor plants and would probably be easier to get from the farmers market or a reliable nursery unless you have a designated greenhouse. I got my broccoli and Kale starts from the Farmer's Market and they came with 6 less mature plants for $2-3 or $3-5 for more mature single plants. This weekend I plant to pick up my pepper starts, those I spend the extra money to get the more mature versions.

If you want to start your plants indoors yourself still you absolutely can, they just tend to mature a little later (but they still have plenty of time to mature and produce fruit, it will just be a little later in the season than if you were to buy starts.) On that note...how do you start plants? It's really quite simple. You can start in egg cartons (granted I don't like that method because the egg carton can get moldy...) or if you have small containers left over, or you can buy a start try from any local store. All you have to do is fill it with the same good soil that you will use in your garden and plant according to the directions on the seed packet. (example: tomatoes you plant 1/4" into the soil, so not very far where cucumbers you place 1/2" in the soil.) Once the seeds are in there, I usually use 3 per start so that I have guaranteed germination, then I cover loosely with soil and water evenly. If you don't have a greenhouse (which lets face it, you probably don't unless you inherited one on your propery...even I don't have one yet!) then place the starts in a sunny window. Keep the soil moist but don't soak it and within 7-10 days you will see the start of germination making its appearance.

These are the cucumbers as they were making their appearance.

No, that is not a maggot...those little white spots are some tomato plants that are making their way to the surface.

This was the very next day for these little Tomatoes!

More tomatoes....


Pardon the messy kitchen, but this is where my starts are, in my kitchen window!

Once those little guys make their appearance, it doesn't take long to bring about massive change! The next pictures were taken over the course of about a week....and they continue to grow and change more every day!
This is that same cucumber plant, look at it go!


The tomatoes sure had started growing fast at this point!






You'll notice that the center is sprouting new leaves, this is where tomatoes will really start to look more like tomato plants as they grow.


The same is happening with the cucumber plants, new leaves are coming out to show it's true self.

This is the fun part of starting seeds yourself, you get to watch the progression from a tiny little seed all the way to a massive plant that will produce food to feed your families.

The plan...we need a plan! Ok, well, lets talk about the plan! I have 3 raised beds that are 3'x6' and then I have another that is 4'x4'. I also have several large planters (which are all currently full and I will need to buy more....anyways). My first planter that is closest to my house gets the most shade of the entire area, so it wouldn't be very wise to plant my corn in that bed, so what do I plant? I plant my herbs on one side, carrots next to the herbs (closest to the chives because they grow well together) and then I have a little bit of space (and by little I mean under 6") before I start my spinach and lettuce rows. I also have my Kale in that planter in the far corner opposite the herbs. Now if I grew beets I could easily plant them next to the lettuce since they grow well together, we are not big beet people though, so that's why I don't grow them.

In my second box I have it mostly designated for tomatoes, however this year I am considering doing a row of Onions in between each tomato plant. In that planter I can fit 4 plants if I don't use onions, however so that it isn't too crowded I will plant just 3 plants.  The other tomato plants that I have started will go into barrel planters and around those if I chose I could plant garlic, or onions, or carrots as those all work well with tomatoes and are beneficial to one another. Tomatoes like to grow in the same spot year after year, so keep that in mind when planning your garden.

In my third box, the one closest to the street I have the most sun, I also have my trellis in this  planter so this is where I plant my climbing plants. Specifically, this is where my sugar snap peas go, and this year I am planing cucumbers next to the sugar snap peas as they grow well together and I can tie the cucumbers up to allow for straight cucumbers! I also plant 2 zucchini plants opposite the peas and cucumber. To plant those I built up 2 mounds and plant at least 3 seeds in each mound. This all takes place in the 4 feet on the right hand side of the bed, the remaining 2 feet are used for corn and this year, pumpkins! Corn likes pumpkins because it vines through their base and protects it from rodents such as racoons.

In my 4x4 box I have my broccoli and cauliflower. It takes up the entire box because those plants get pretty big, so I have 1'x1' designated for each plant.

I will be planting peppers in their own planters (with the exception of sweet peppers, those I can fit 4 plants in 1 of the 25" barrel planters that I love so much.) This year I will also be trying my hand at watermelons in one of those barrel planters, I will let you know how that goes! I also plant my bush beans (green beans) in a planter because they only really grow well with cucumbers, celery and strawberries. If you have a lot of space they can be beneficial to corn, but they have to be in alternating rows and takes up too much space for smaller gardens.

Hopefully this helps some of you, and as always if you have any questions, please ask! This is something that I love and I am always willing to look up reliable sources/answers for you! Happy gardening! Get out there and enjoy this warm weather this week!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Yes...I am a gardening nerd...

Ok...I admit it...I am a gardening nerd. My friend teased me that I was having a nerdgasm when I noticed a new crop had sprouted and actually started growing in my garden. I have never had this in my garden...so to say I am/was excited is an understatement. 

If you have seen the movie The Ugly Truth with Katherine Heigl then you will have an idea of the goofy dance and squeel that I did! 

I had an MMA fan girl moment today as well where my favorite fighter responded to a comment of mine and liked my comment...my hubby said he is surprised I didn't swoon...what can I say, we all have our hobbies and likes, right? ;) 
 
Anyways, I wanted to share my excitement with the world. This year I got 2 year old asparagus crowns as part of a bulk buy....yes...I even buy my plants in bulk... I got them for $0.25/crown! So anyways,  I took my big barrels (the ones formerly used for tomato plants and one that I had used for peppers in the past) and planted all of my crowns in them. All told I have 3 huge barrels full of asparagus coming my way every year for the next 15-20 years! So exciting! Here's the best part....you can fit 6 crowns in 1 square foot of space! They just need a minimum of 12" depth and they are happy as clams. You add in that each crown can produce up to half a pound of asparagus and I am going to save a ton by not having to buy it at the farmers market!

I will say this...don't try this from a seed if you have the option to get crowns as they do not produce for 3 years...that is a long time for a maybe in a home garden...fork out the extra for the crowns. It is completely worth it! Also, they absolutely love the soil mix that I have recommended in my Gardening for Dummies post so if you haven't seen it, go check that post out!

Beautiful little asparagus spear in my planter....it makes me happy!
This is in a second planter, I found more in the 3rd planter but didn't take pictures.
This is another spear peaking it's head out of the earth. I actually had to water today because it has been so dry and beautiful!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Oh ye of little space!

If you are anything like me, you don't have a lot of room to grow in. My parents have an awesome spot that is large and gets a ton of sun for most of the day that they use for their garden. Me...I don't have that luxury. I have a decent sized backyard...which has two giant oak trees in it so it is full of shade all summer long. Wonderful for relaxing in the backyard, not so wonderful for growing veggies in. My side yard is tiny, but it will be used for growing grapes starting this year! I'm so excited! My friend graciously shared one of her shoots and gave it to me, the plant was from a 30 year old strain, I LOVE getting stuff like that! Anyways, back on target...so where do I grow? In my tiny front yard that my landlord originally wanted to pave over and make into more parking. Over the last few years what I have learned in that you don't need a ton of space to grow enough food for your family. No, really, you don't need a ton of space!

I have 3 planter boxes that I use, they are 3'x6' and I have 1 planter that is 4'x4' which came with the house. I got the 3'x6' planters on sale at Bi-mart, they are 100% cedar wood and I got them in the $30-50 range for each one. I LOVE my planters, but I didn't start out with planters. Truth be told, I barely had the money to buy the seeds, let alone dirt to fill all of the planters and the planter boxes as well!

I looked on craigslist and got a bunch of different planters for free or close to it, went to the Dollar Tree and did makeshift planters. One of the makeshift ones that worked really well was an old aquarium that had a cracked bottom, the crack allowed for the water to drain and thus worked perfectly! I managed to come up with the money for some organic soil and filled my pots and planters and I was on my way. Back then I had NO clue what companion planting was, and I just started planting what sounded good. Needless to say, that was a learning curve year! I had way more flops than I had successes that year! Since then I have upgraded my planter pots to ones that are a bit bigger...yeah, I love them...like..a LOT. This planter here has become my favorite style of planter, however I get the 25" ones directly from Costco in the store, not online. They will run you around $18 each, which for planters, that isn't bad at all. They call them whiskey barrel planters and are made of a resin material so they are weather resistant so all you have to do is drill out the holes at the bottom of the barrels for draining and fill with dirt.

You are probably wondering why on earth I love these so much...well, let me tell you! I use my barrels to grow anything and everything! I grow blueberries, raspberries, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, peppers and beans in them. I also use them for asparagus, and this year I am trying my hand at Elderberries, although the starts might not have survived the transplant, but we shall see over the next few weeks. In my smaller planters, I use them for salad. I call them my salad bowl planters, because I grow lettuce and spinach in them, and since I like baby lettuce and spinach, I harvest before they get too large.

These are my salad bowls. In the center I plant spinach and then surrounding it I plant different types of lettuce.
As you can see I have several different planters. Two are designated for blueberries as once they are planted, you don't ever have to move them...gotta love that!  The others I trade off with using it for tomatoes or peppers usually as needed.

This barrel in front is used for my raspberries. Now they are contained and don't take over an entire section of my garden! As you can see there are other planters used for tomatoes as well. I plan on growing my selection of planters and building a grow platform, just not this year!

Now that I am a little further along in my gardening experience, I have learned a lot more about what grows better together, and what really doesn't. I have also learned how to condense into a small space. I am able to feed my family of 5 with much of what I grow from my garden (and that is with neighbors coming a taking some of the literal fruits of my labors...I figure if they really need the food that badly, then they should go ahead and take what they need!)

This planter I got at the Dollar Tree. I even got the plant hanger from Dollar Tree!

This is the makeshift planter made from the old aquarium/terrarium. It would have worked much better if I had picked different plants for it, like I said, that was the year of not knowing what the heck I was doing!
This year I plan to make even more use of my planters by companion planting in the containers, and not just in my boxes. I will be planting onions, garlic and carrots around single tomato plants for my larger barrels as those are all beneficial to each other. That's the cool part about companion planting, both plants benefit from being planted next to each other, be it for the nutrients in the soil, the shade provided by others, or how the soil is broken apart to make easier root paths, there is always something to gain when you plan your garden well.

The moral of the story is, even if you don't have space for planter boxes, almost anyone has room for a few planters on their porch or in their yard. Using the right techniques, you can plant a lot in a small space! As always, if you have questions, ask away! Until next time...Happy Gardening!

This is just an example of a strawberry planter, I love it, but the birds tend to get to many of my strawberries before I do, so for next year when it is time to replant (strawberries only produce fruit for a few years in a row) I think I am going to try some other methods in addition to replanting this beauty. :)

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Bugs...can't live with them..can't live without them!

So during the constant rain that fell last week the slugs took advantage of their time were I couldn't combat them easily. Well...the sun is out and those little buggers are going DOWN! Slugs are a pain, but are very easy to manage during the drier times.

Salt is not a good gardening option as that changes the ph of the soil and makes it harder for plants to grow.
This leaves two real options that are easy.

1. You can add diatomaciois earth to your soil and it essentially rips them to shreds as they slide across it. This method works really well for root maggots as well as long as everything is mixed together really well.

2. Beer. Yes, you read right.  I bury a small jam jar into the soil of my raised beds and I buy the cheapest beer there is. (Right now a 40oz bottle of Old English is working its magic. ) Fill the jar with beer and the slugs come to the beer and drown. You need to empty it out every few days...and yes...it stinks...but it is an all natural way to keep out the slugs to minimize the damage they can cause to a garden. If for any reason you are opposed to buying beer for slug bait, then you can also mix yeast and water and that will also draw the slugs in.


I will post more soon, but thought I'd share with you that little tip for the colder weather plants if you have any planted!  (They decided my kale and broccoli looked delicious and attacked....)

This is what Kale looks like after slugs have had their way for a week. My poor plant. Good thing Kale is very hearty and will grow back just fine in a couple of weeks!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Gardening For Dummies

Don't worry, I don't actually think that anyone is a dummy for not knowing the finer points of gardening. I did a LOT of reading and research and guess what? The first year, I had a lot of things that totally flopped and had crap yields. (I nearly killed off a flowering plant that I was told is basically indestructible if that makes you feel any better!)

I had a request to go over the basics, what to plant and when to plant it. Basically....a Dummy Guide for Portland, OR area Gardeners. This obviously can't be managed in a single post, so I will get started here!

First things first: Cold Weather vs. Warm Weather plants. What's the difference? Cold weather plants do MUCH better in the cooler months. They tend to go to seed during the summer months. Broccoli is a fine example of this, if it goes to seed, it will flower into these very pretty yellow flowers and sprout up or "bolt" and will not give you the head or crown of broccoli that you are used to seeing in the grocery store. Warm weather plants, I'm sure you can guess...are plants that do better in the warmer weather. That is when they grow to their fullest potential. Corn is a great example of this. If it is too cold and rainy, then you will get a garbage crop of corn and it can even mold and rot while still on the plant. 

Examples of Cold Weather Plants:
Beets
Broccoli
Cabbage
Carrots
Cauliflower
Chard
Kale
Leeks
Lettuce
Onions
Parsley
Peas
Radish
Spinach
Turnips

Examples of Warm Weather Plants:
Bush Beans
Chile's
Corn
Cucumber
Eggplant
Melons
Potatoes
Squash
Sweet Peppers
Tomatoes

Colder Weather Plants can be planted as early as March. (I have already begun planting some of my cool weather plants. Right now I have Kale, broccoli, lettuce and spinach in the ground already and I will put some seeds in the ground over the next week for my peas and cauliflower.) These are the plants that I know for a fact will survive if we get a freak hard freeze over the next two weeks. By the middle of April I will begin planting my warmer weather plants. My corn, cucumbers, zucchini, and pumpkins will go into the ground, and by the start of May I will move my Tomatoes from inside into the garden. I direct sow (put the seeds directly into the ground) for peas, corn, cucumbers, zucchini and pumpkins, however my tomatoes I start indoors and take outside in the start of May.

There are also plants that grow very well together, this method is called "Companion Planting". I will do a whole other post about that, this is just the introduction to the method of planting. An example of this method is to plant pumpkins with your Corn. As the corn grows taller it allows space for the pumpkins to vine through, and the pumpkins prevent pests (like racoons) from climbing the stalks to steal your corn. Another example would be planting Carrots in rows next to Tomato plants. The carrots do well with the cooler weather, so the shade from the Tomatoes allows you to grow your carrots all summer long, and the tomatoes benefit from the carrots as well.

Now...lets talk SEEDS!

I am a firm believer that science is a great thing.....just not where food is involved. Give me non-genetically modified seeds any day of the week! (As a matter of fact, I refuse to grow anything that is GMO.) This is one of the main reasons why I chose to spend the little bit extra and buy organic seeds and organic starts. This year I got seeds from a new supplier that is geared for the Pacific Northwest Climate. The two companies that I used were Uprising Organics and Territorial Seed. The link for Uprising Organics is here. You can also find the link to Territorial Seed Company here. I also have friends and family that live in the Southern States, so for them, I have another great option for seeds. Southern Exposure Seed Company. I have used seeds from them and had tremendous success from there! You can find the link to Southern Exposure Seeds here. Now...you are probably wondering where I get starts from? Well, I do it two ways. I order from my daughters school plant sale (they have an organic nursery that they do a fundraiser through.) The other way is from my local farmers market. Yes, you read that right. Farmer's Markets will have starts before they have a lot of food available. My farmers market has a VERY strict non-GMO policy, so contact your local farmers markets and ask what their policy is about GMO's. (Most of them are very anti-GMO....with good reason...but that's a whole opinion page in and of itself.)

The other question I have been getting a LOT is about soil. What soil should you use? How you can prepare hard earth for a garden? How do you re-feed your soil so that it can feed your plants? 

If you are in the Beaverton/Hillsboro area of Oregon, then the company that I highly recommend and the soil that I recommend most is this. They have a wonderful soil that has given me excellent results. If you need to add nutrients to your current soil, then I have two methods that I use. The first method is to mix in compost. I use the garden blend that is certified organic, you can get a description of it here. The second thing that I do (now don't be grossed out) is I use seasoned horse manure. I put it on top of the soil and use it to surround my Kale and other plants that need that extra "boost". I get mine from the stable where my daughter takes riding lessons. Most places will give it to you for free, so just call around and you will find someone. I will give this warning. DO NOT use fresh manure or you will burn your garden and kill all of the plants. It must be "seasoned" for several months and turned within that time. When it is seasoned it will be a brown color and be very crumbly instead of greenish and firm. Yes, I realize I just gave you a description of how horse crap should look...but it will help your garden as it helped mine, so you'll just have to get over the gross factor. =) As for the hard clay that you likely have in your yard (as that is what most yards are made of up here!) you will need a rototiller to till the ground, add in the same soil that I recommended and till it together to mix it well. Also adding both the compost to the yard and tilling that in, as well as tilling in some horse manure and it does great. (the only down side is trying to keep the weeds out of it as you don't have the option of a weed barrier like I do!)

I hope that this helps at least a little! It's really not as daunting of a hobby as it seems at first! I promise! =)
As always, if you have any questions, comment below and I will happily answer them! Happy Planting!

My front yard garden at the start of May.

Tomato Plants just before they got transplanted. I learned that this was too many to fit in that space...and it killed off my Basil as a result! We live and learn, right?

Last year was the first year that I added herbs and Kale, they are both coming back, however, this time it will just be one Kale plant as last year it got over 3 feet high and quite literally fell over!

This shows my lettuce right next to the flag. This is about as big as it gets before it "bolts" and goes to seed. Believe me when I say, don't eat it...it is incredibly bitter tasting once it bolts!




What's bugging you?

I got my seeds in the mail this last week along with my Praying Mantis egg! Did you know that just one full grown Praying Mantis can keep many of the pesky bugs out of your garden? No harsh chemicals needed, just another very cool insect (which also doesn't eat your garden, just the bugs!) There are plenty of organic methods to keeping pests away from your crops. How do you plan to keep them at bay? If you need suggestions,  just let me know!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Spring has Sprung!

I could just sing seeing all this beautiful sunshine here in the NW! I really do live in a beautiful part of the US. With spring in the air, I am now starting to plan out my garden, and while I am doing that, I figured I should ask.

What questions do you have about organic gardening?

Companion planting?

 Square Foot Gardening?

 Please, fire away and that way I can do a blog post designated to each one!

For those out there who think "I don't have any space, I couldn't grow anything." to you I say...I thought so too once upon a time. You can grow almost ANYTHING in a container if you are limited on space, you just need sunshine for several hours a day to do it!

If you think "It would take too much work to prep the ground and I don't have the tools." I have solutions for that too!

My backyard is beautiful, and I love it....however it has two lovely and HUGE Oak trees that shade my entire back yard. No joke...So I don't get to garden in the backyard. I converted my front yard into a garden. The problem was...in an attempt to kill the grass, poison was used on the ground (no, not by me...). I have zero desire to plant my plants in that dirt. So, you are probably thinking, how on earth did she turn her front yard into a garden then?

Answer?

Raised garden beds. I slapped down a few double layers of weed barrier, put the raised beds on top of it and then filled it with a special organic garden blend of soil that I get from a company called "Best Buy Bark" and it is located in Hillsboro, OR. Fantastic results! Each year I enrich the soil with organic compost from the same company and have gotten amazing results. But I don't just use the raised Garden beds. I also use containers. I have tiny containers and I have HUGE barrel like containers, I do what fits in my area and grow accordingly.

This years garden will include: Asparagus, Sugar Snap Peas (a favorite!), Green Beans, Carrots, Tomatoes (Many types), Zucchini, Cucumbers, Lettuce, Spinach, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Corn and several types of Peppers, along with Strawberries, Raspberries, Blueberries and a new addition of Elderberries!

You're probably thinking I have a HUGE front yard....I don't...I truly and honestly don't. I just make the best use of the space that I have by companion planting and square foot gardening!

Spring is in the air and I can't wait to get gardening! I'm ordering my seeds today! So tell me...what will be in your garden?
My Garden Mid-Spring 2013

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Beef Stir Fry

Want a quick and super easy meal? Look no further! This is such a super easy meal and it comes together in a flash! (Ok, so maybe not a flash, but it's certainly in the 30 minutes or less category!)

Here is what I did for this particular batch.
1 lb stew meat (or strip steak that you have sliced)
Veggies (as many as you want!) For this batch I used broccoli, shredded carrots and snap peas.
Almonds (again, as many as you want) 
Sauce...recipe to follow!

Ok, so here is what I did. I put a little bit of oil into my electric skillet which was set between 325 and 350 degrees F and I browned all of the meat. I then added the frozen veggies and almonds. If using fresh, add a about 1/4 cup of water so that the steam can help cook them. Put the lid on for 5-10 minutes until the veggies are cooked, but not soft. Now is the time to add the sauce to finish cooking (that way the flavor infuses into everything)

Sauce:
1 tsp ground ginger
3 tsp sugar (you can also substitute honey as a sweetener)
3 Tbsp Soy Sauce
3 Tbsp Water
1 Tbsp Corn Starch
1/3 cup apple juice, chicken broth or beef broth (your choice depending on what type of stir fry you are doing!)

Mix everything together and make sure there are no lumps then slowly incorporate into the stir fry. Cook for another 5-10 minutes with the lid on until the sauce is reduced a bit. Turn off the heat and serve over rice!
Looks good, huh? I must say, it tasted good too! :)