Garden skinny – my personal scoop on gardening

The Verdict Is In…

I’ve been struggling with growing corn. Between the bugs and the food and water, my corn has not been happy with me. But no more. While it might not be the biggest cob of corn, it certainly is the most beautiful.

Corn harvest_2015

No worms, no black spots–not even missing kernels. Nope, this cob of corn is perfect! Sure, it’s somewhat on the small size, but I’m 100% organic and you’ll find no super-growth nutrient mixes in my soil which I’m convinced must be part of the issue with regard to size. That, and natural soil composition. I don’t know what California is made of, but they’ve got seriously good dirt. All the produce I’ve ever seen from California is HUGE. Ginormous. And delicious!

But I live in Florida and must make do with what I have. And right now, I’m feeling pretty good.

How did I do it? Liquid seaweed and fish emulsion fertilizer, plus a healthy blow of Dipel Dust. The worms are the worst offenders, followed by the grasshoppers/leaf hoppers. How about you? Any success stories to share?

Don’t Think Tomatoes Are Supposed To Look Like This

I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure my tomatoes are not supposed to have…to have… I’m not sure what the heck to call it! A deformation? An odd lump? Whatever it is, I know it’s not right. But is it still edible?

Beefsteak tomato anomaly

That’s the question inquiring minds want to ask! I mean, I’m growing these beefsteak beauties to eat them, say, with my homemade pesto.

tomatoes and homemade pesto

Hm. Doesn’t that look good? It’s a mix of your standard Genovese basil with the addition of Dark Opal. I don’t find the Opal as intensely flavorful as the Genovese, but I do love the addition of color. Now, as soon as the garlic in my garden is ready for harvest, I’ll be able to make this pesto entirely from scratch! (Except for the olive oil and cheese, of course.)

garlic under cover

Currently, my garlic is under screen cover due to the unnaturally high temps here in Florida. Garlic can be sensitive that way. Heat and solid sunshine is great for the beach, but bad for garlic. No worries, they’ll survive. As will my tender sweet onions…

sweet onions are in!

Just planted, I want to make certain they get a strong start and stay moist so I haven’t added mulch yet. This way, I can keep a clear eye on them and will watch them for about a week before adding mulch. Nothing more than a personal preference on my part. I’m sure they’d enjoy the ground cover.

corn is faring well

Elsewhere in the garden, my corn is thriving, as is my lettuce. From now until May, I won’t have to get my salad leaves from the store–I’ll pluck them from my backyard! What’s NOT faring so well are some of my tomato plants.

tomato leaf curl

Leaf curl. Ugh. It could have been caused by whiteflies. It could have been caused by weather stress. Either is plausible, especially considering the heat wave we’ve been having. At this point, I’ll remove it and move on. Not that the plant can’t produce–it can–but it can also infect those around it. Remember, I’m growing these babies with culinary intentions!

tomato pesto salad

Now, off to enjoy my lunch. :)

Forget Pumpkins–Fall Means Garlic!

While I adore all things pumpkin this time of year, I love growing garlic and October is the month to begin. You can purchase garlic online via a variety of seed growers, though I get mine from my local seed and feed. Gotta support my community, right? Better yet, I can choose the bulbs I think look best and not lacking in any way. One of the issues with garlic is fungal disease–another reason I like to eyeball my bulbs before purchase.

One thing to keep in mind when growing garlic is that these babies take time, and lots of it. Like sweet onions, I plant garlic in the fall and harvest the following summer. By my count, that’s about six months. UGH. Tough when you’re the gardener excited about growing and harvesting your garlic.

line of garlic

But once you make the decision and commit, you’ll be glad you did. Homegrown garlic is worth the wait. Here in Florida, I plant my bulbs in October, after I pre-soak them overnight in a baking soda-vinegar solution to prevent fungal diseases, about 1 TBSP of each per gallon of water. Some suggest the addition of liquid seaweed to the solution to encourage root growth, though I usually wait and use the seaweed to fertilize them once in the ground.

As with most vegetables in the garden, garlic prefers an organic-rich well-drained soil. If you live where it freezes, you’ll plant your bulbs in fall and mulch well, protecting the garlic and encouraging worms to hibernate with your bulbs. More

My Secret Weapon

When it comes to gardening, there’s nothing better than amending your soil with compost. Not only does it feed your plants, but it aerates the soil, invites the worms to slither in and generally keeps the environment in balance. However, there is ONE thing better than my backyard compost and that’s mushrooms.

Mushroom compost, to be exact. It’s inexpensive (when you buy it straight from the farm – Monterey Mushroom Farm – $10 for a trailer-full), readily available at most warehouse garden stores, but stinky. What makes it stinky?

I’m guessing there’s a fair amount of composted manure in it. From what animal? I can’t be sure. It’s just a guess on my part, but make sure you grab those gloves before you head out. And while it looks nearly the same as cow manure compost, I think my plants actually prefer the mushroom stuff over the cow stuff. 

Some of the biggest fans are squash and zucchini. I’d bet cabbage and broccoli would benefit, too, but the squash family shows the most improvement. Come to think of it, I bet my corn would love some mushrooms. I mean, they are heavy feeders, same as their squash friends!

found a big one

What else am I growing this fall? Tomatoes, green peppers, jalapenos, lettuce, carrots, peas, red beans, black beans and soon to be garlic and sweet onions. How about you? What are you growing?


Cute, But Unwelcome

These little guys are awfully cute, you have to admit. I mean, look at them. Out for an evening stroll, they’re not causing anyone any harm.

pesky piglets

Or are they?

According to my neighbor, these little fellas tore up his entire backyard. Ruts, holes–it looked like a Polo field at half-time. “Call out the divot-stompers!” The pristine grassy field is a mess (courtesy polo clubs and pony hooves). Not ideal for the home garden.

With this in mind, we scared off the piglets with a stiff bark and a quick dash down the fence line from the dogs next door and haven’t seen or heard from the little buggers since.

Cooper and Fadra


Easy Edible Landscaping

Why everyone doesn’t have an edible garden, I don’t know. Perhaps it’s because they have husbands, similar to mine, who feel vegetables belong in the vegetable garden, herbs belong in the herb garden, fruit trees lined up in neat rows, orchard style out back, and well, you get the point. Everything has its place. Much like his tools (a lesson my son is still trying to master).

However, I’m the creative type who likes to think outside the box. Okay, “like” is a relative term here. I think outside of the box, period. “Box?” my brain asks. “What box? I don’t see any box around my head.”

You get the point. I’m odd that way, but that oddity tends to lend itself to GREAT ideas. Awesome! Like my homemade herb sachet for the dryer, and my wonderfully tasty rosemary lemonade. Basil lemon ice chips, anyone? Oven-sundried tomatoes? Why not? There are a ton of creative things you can do with your vegetables and one of my favorites is edible landscaping. I mean, why banish the vegetables to a faraway garden where you have to trot off to collect every meal? Why not place it right outside your door? We are a convenience-oriented society these days. Makes sense to keep your herbs and veggies close.

Besides, vegetable plants are simply beautiful. Take this gorgeous cabbage. It looks more like a flower than a head of chow.

Red cabbage

And I don’t know about you, but grazing a bushy basil or rosemary plant garnering a whiff of scent in the process is sheer decadence.

rosemary hedge

Below your rosemary hedge, lettuce would make a lovely addition.

Tami's gorgeous lettuce

What about corn? These fellas grow to be six-foot tall? Why not plant them for a summer hedge around your backyard? You’re going to be spending more time outdoors, anyway. Makes sense to add a bit of privacy. Me? I live in Florida which means I can grow these beauties fall AND spring.

Cody the garden dog

Now that you’ve got the hang of it, maybe a lovely squash border near your corn?

school squash and corn

The two are wonderfully friendly, as in companion planting perfection. Really, when you get down to it, there are all kinds of options for edible landscaping. From year-round herbs to seasonal fruits and vegetables, your plants can provide dual benefits.

However, if you decide to incorporate an edible garden into your landscape, be sure you’re not the only one who knows about your new endeavor. If you are, you may emerge from your home with the same great disappointment as I did one sunny afternoon. My husband sprayed my bright tender greens with insecticide. Seems he thought the little gems were weeds and not a salad garden in the making. But it’s not his fault. I didn’t label the area as “edible landscape” in progress, nor did I advise him to stay clear: organic only. Lesson learned.

Come fall, I’m looking forward to a fresh try at edible landscaping. Why not try it for yourself? No lawn? No worries! Move those silly flowers from their boxes and replace them with bean blossoms!

beautiful pole bean blossom

Works for me. :)

Recycling Gone Amuck?

Call me a waste-not-want-not kinda gal, but this is a motto I can live by, but I think we can all agree there’s no sense in waste. From frugal consumption to garbage disposal, we should all practice clean living habits, using the old instead of increasing our dump sites and generally be good stewards of our environment. I mean, even a dog knows better than to soil his living space, shouldn’t we humans?

We should. And we gardeners know better than anyone the value of leftovers and waste—we collect it and build gorgeous compost piles with it! From our veggie omelet to our lawn clippings, we reuse everything. And for good reason. We’re building piles of black gold, a.k.a. organic soil for our gardens.

But how about your coffee? Sure, we use old coffee grounds to decrease the pH of our soil, scattering them among the blueberries, raspberries, potatoes, azaleas and gardenia (don’t fight kids, there’s enough for all of you!). My rose bushes, too! Some plants simply thrive in acidic soil. But what about the coffee I didn’t drink? Need I pour it down the sink?


Absolutely not! Save that old coffee and dilute it with water for a most effective spray against insects. Whiteflies abhor the stuff, but your plants don’t mind a bit! And don’t forget that newspaper you’re reading. When you’re finished, use it as mulch in your garden, maybe beneath the more beautiful hay or pine needles? More

Homemade Hummus From The Garden

One of best things about having a garden is the ability to create healthy dishes using ingredients you KNOW. You know where they came from, how they were handled, what’s in them, etc.  I don’t know about you, but this is a definite plus, for me. And my kids, though I don’t think they can totally appreciate this aspect, yet!

Homemade Hummus

But they can appreciate a good meal, and both adore hummus. And what’s not to love about hummus? It’s easy to snack on, delicious and healthy–perfect on pretzels or simple crackers. We added roasted red pepper to this recipe because we have peppers in our garden and happen to love the taste. We also grow chickpeas, garlic and lemons, a few other important ingredients in this recipe. More

How to Grow Okra

It’s summer which means okra around these parts. This veggie loves warm weather and is the perfect plant to grow in Florida. From March through September, you’ll find okra in my garden. I start these plants from seed. in ground. about 1/2 – 3/4” deep, then stand back and watch them grow. It’s almost that easy.

clemson spineless okra

In about a week or so you’ll see the first leaves popping up through the soil. Okra cab grow several feet in height so be sure to give them plenty of space when planting, about 12-18” apart. More

Planting Pineapples

It’s that time of year when I dream of tropical getaways and long to bury my feet in the sand. It’s also that time of year when whole pineapples are plentiful on the grocer’s shelves. Sweet, juicy and delicious, pineapples are wonderful in smoothies, casseroles or simply fresh from the core. As a gardener, I’m always interested in how to plant the fruits and veggies that I love, and pineapples are no different.

And now I know how! Thanks to a friend, I’ve learned just how easy it is to grow pineapples at home. I mean, this fellow is no gardener. He’s just a guy who enjoys his pineapple and decided he’d try to grow some for himself. And he did!


How? He simply cut the crown from his recently devoured pineapple, allowed it to dry for several days, then dug a hole out by his pool and planted it. That’s it. He didn’t water or fertilize it to speak of. He just let it grow. And grow it did. More