Hello, Spring!

With spring on the horizon, it’s time to finalize your garden plans. 

Already?  Great beets alive, pull your heads out of the sand and get busy!  There are seeds to buy, ground to prep, compost to turn—

Oops—did we forget to start the compost pile?  Can’t find it under all the snow?  Well, leave it be then, there are plenty of other things to keep us busy.  Like gather the tools, plan for location, check the water supply…  Now where did that sprinkler go? 

So many things to think about could scare a gal clear out of the garden, but hold on to your tool belt, because we’re going to make this easy!  As pie.  (Because we all have time to bake pie, right?)

By being prepared, you’ll be certain not to miss your first day of planting.   While this day varies from region to region based on frost dates, most gardeners can plan on March-April to begin their outdoor festivities. 

But why wait?  You can start many of your seeds indoors and get a jump-start on the season!  Which brings us to the first item on the checklist:

1 – Order seeds.  Grow what you’ll eat—not what’s easy.  I know it’s tempting, but there’s no sadder day than the one when you witness perfectly good food withering on the vine.  So if you haven’t already, order those seeds.

2 – Design layout.  If building container beds, get your lumber now.  I don’t know about you, but my husband likes a bit of notice before he’s asked to perform.  Getting your creative juices warmed and flowing now, will help speed the process later.  “Oh, sweetheart…  About that little favor!” More

Get Out and Get Your Berries!

It’s that time of year again, when the strawberries are calling your name.  From Plant City, Florida to your local grocery store, the filed up the road or the guy on the corner making your purchase all the more convenient, it’s time to get your strawberries.  And here in Central Florida, it’s a beautiful time to get outside and get pickin’…

We go to our area strawberry farm, Oak Haven.  They have plenty of u-pick hours for the kids to race down the rows (only kidding–they prefer you don’t run :)), a country kitchen open on the weekends, serving up the best strawberry shakes and now, strawberry wine.  Ah….  Fun for the whole family!

Out back, they also have a playground and zip line (of sorts).  Definitely a place to check out if you’re looking for something fun to do.  And speaking of great country fun, the Plant City Strawberry Festival is opening its doors THIS week.  From February 28 – March 10, stop by and enjoy fresh strawberries, strawberry shortcake, petting zoo, garden shows and live music from some of the hottest names in country!

 So if you’re not growing strawberries in your garden this year, don’t dismay.  There’s plenty to choose from out there.  For a strawberry farm in your area, check the website Pick Your Own.  This is a GREAT resource for everything fruits and vegetables.  It’s a BloominThyme favorite!  For recipes to highlight your bounty, how about a little Strawberry Goat Cheese SaladJuicing? Maybe the kids would like to give their favorite teacher a sweet giftStrawberry cupcakes always sound good around my household. 

But no matter how you like your strawberries, get outdoors and enjoy the season.  Blueberry pickin’ will be here before you know it!!

Well I’ll be frostbitten…

Yes, I know it’s 80°F today in Florida, but last weekend it was cold. I mean really cold — 32°F of cold.  And as I mentioned, it was over the weekend.

Unfortunately, the garden lady doesn’t go to school on the weekend.  Yep.  Covered my potatoes at home but at school?  No could do.

So I did what any wise old sage would do and planned this week’s lesson around the realities of life. 

“Sorry kids, Mother Nature got us on this one.  Layered the landscape in cold when we were least able to protect against it.”  (That, and your garden lady completely forgot about to bring sheets with her to school on Friday.)  It happens.  It’s real life.  We cope.

Printing out the pages, I tucked them in my pretty floral folder and went to school.  Walked the kids out to the garden and stopped cold in my tracks.  “What the–” More

Happy Valentine’s with YOUR Man in the Garden

Have you ever wondered about the similarities between plants and men?  Probably not!  Most sane people don’t.  But me, when I’m not writing, I spend a lot of time in my garden—maybe too much—and my thoughts?  Well, they naturally veer in that direction and I realized men and plants have much in common!

Ever wonder, if your man were a plant, which would he be?  Just for fun, I’ve listed a few.

Corn – Tall and slender with silken hair, this man provides well and yields a harvest of golden treasure.  While pleasing to look at, beware:  he also tends to be needy; easily blown over by the slightest of breezes—not the man for you hardier types!

Peanut - This good ole boy is made of solid stuff, on the inside and the outside, not to mention he’s filled with sweet old-fashioned appeal.  For most ladies, it’s a tough combination to resist.  Add the fact the kids love him and you’ve got yourself a marrying man!

Watermelon – This well-rounded fun-loving guy is always welcome at a summer barbecue and usually proves a big hit with the kids.  Prone to balding, his colorful personality distracts one from notice.  However, take heed.  If left to his own device, this one can grow wild and get quite out of hand!

Garlic – This fellow is somewhat distant, as he spends long periods of time out of sight, only to emerge when conditions improve.  Strong and distinct, he’s not for everyone, but given the right environment, he can show great depth, even mellow his pungent tone with time.  A worthy peer, indeed.

Okra – Strong, of firm build, this one likes it hot and enjoys it spicy—very at home in the Big Easy, too.  Generally speaking, he blends well with others, can plant himself anywhere, but caution:  he can be seedy, even a bit slimy at times.

Potatoes – These fellas are generous producers, enjoyed by most everyone as they appeal to a variety of tastes.  They can get easily crowded, though, so give them plenty of space.  If you do, you’ll have yourself a real winner with this one.  Note:  be patient with the sweeter types—they need a little more time before they’re ready to hit the dinner-date table.  But if you can wait, go for it.  You’ll reap the gold with this gem!

Onion – Sometimes sharp, sometimes sweet, this notable companion enhances every dish he meets.  But don’t be fooled.  You have to watch yourself around this double-edged treat.  He tends to “age” those around him quicker than most, and will often make you cry.  But if you like a challenge, give him a try.  He will infuse your life with flavor!

Raspberry – Sweet at first sight, this guy may follow up with a tart bite.  He generally likes to be left alone—literally thrives out in the wild of nature.  Ah…an adventurous type yourself, you’ll feel drawn to this bright and colorful character, but be forewarned:  he’s got thorns and lots of them.

Squash – Talk about diversity, this one has it!  From sunny yellow summers to cold and cozy winters, this man will keep you well supplied no matter the season.  The cutest of pumpkins, he’s always welcome during the holidays, and his cousin plays a mean racquet ball—for you sportier types.  But keep him moving; stagnation easily leads to illness with this one.  Rest assured, if variety is your thing, take heart.  This dazzling character can fulfill your desires, tenfold.

Carrots – Bred from firm and solid fiber, these men are steady and strong and always there for you.  Given proper attention, they can also become quite sweet in nature; a true hidden treasure, if ever there was one.  They do need some elbow room, exhibit a bit of thinning at times, but if you’re willing to work for it, this one’s a keeper!

Beets – Down to earth is putting it mildly with this guy—he’s knee deep in it!   Quiet, mellow, well-rounded…  It’s a wonder he doesn’t rank top of the list for every woman in town.  Perhaps he can come on a bit strong, in an easy-going sort of way.  But if you have thick skin and like to keep it real?   This one’s for you. More

A Photo Journal of My Winter Garden

It’s February in Florida and that means different things to different gardeners.  Some have closed up their garden until spring, opting out of the fight with Jack Frost.  Others are focused on cleaning out and preparing for spring.  Me?  I garden all year-long–except summer.  It’s simply too hot and my garden is supposed to sustain me, not kill me. :)

You understand what I mean.  So this February, my garden holds mixed blessings.  My potatoes are thrilled with the warmer winter.

My sweet onions don’t mind either way… More

Martha and Me

I love Martha Stewart.  There.  I said it.  She cooks, she crafts, she gardens, she adores her dogs–what’s not to love?  Her desserts are to die for, her garden is poetry in nature…

Okay.  That’s a lie.  It’s a perfection of nature. I’ve browsed the magazines.  I’ve seen the pictures.  It’s intimidating.  Really.  Which is why personally, I’ve given up perfection in my garden.  Weeds need to live, too.  That, and my kids have revolted.

Gloved hands to my hips, I stared at them.  “It’s once a week.  What’s the problem?”

Both returned a frown.  “It would be more fun if we had a friend.”

Huh. You see, for them, gardening is a group activity.  At school, when surrounded by their classmates, all is well.  They weed, they chat about movies, discuss video games (depending on which kid we’re talking about here), they spend time in the glory of nature…  It’s a sight to behold.

As an avid gardener myself, I understand this completely, though I tend to enjoy my solo moments in the garden, too.  Nice break from the family, if you get my drift. :)

But more than a break, gardening can be an obsession, too.  And featured in this month’s Martha Stewart Living, you’ll find a host of wonderful garden books, like Thomas C. Cooper’s The Roots of My Obsession.  A collection of 30 essays from notable gardeners such as Rosalind Creasy, author of The Edible Garden and Stephen Orr, gardening editor for Martha Stewart Living, this book is packed with the love of gardening, the joy, as well as the adventure.  (I do love a good adventure, don’t you?)  It’s like receiving letters from your garden friends, notes sure to bring a smile to your face.  Most likely a nod from your head, too! More

Where Have the Students Been?

You mean between field trips to the butterfly gardens and fossil museum?  Christmas break and Martin Luther King Day?  Well, they’ve been in the garden, that’s where, expanding and tilling and generally having a grand old time!

You see, we have learned a valuable lesson.  Plants need sunlight to grow and they need a good dose of it–especially during the winter months.  During spring and summer, our Florida kids enjoy an early afternoon break in the shade, but right now?  Not so much. More

Peppers in January?

“Who’d a thunk it?”  Especially after the frost just before Christmas, when I was out shopping and too busy to cover them, in addition to the fact that my local weather folks had it in the 40′s until I arrived home that evening.  Frost alert!  Maybe even a freeze!

AGH?  Are you kidding me?  This is not something to joke about!

But alas, it was true.  Two nights in a row.  Ho, hum.  Who expects to grow peppers in the winter, anyway?

Only the most optimistic gardeners like myself!  I left the peppers in ground after the damage was done, deciding to pull them out at a later date.  Then the green peppers started turning red, and the Hungarian Wax started sprouting a host of new leaves.  What the heck?

The curious sort, I left them in and kept an eye on the little fellas.  Checked one of the red peppers, turned it to and fro.  Didn’t appear frost-bitten.  Was it possible it was good? More

Out Of This World

And into the next—that’s what I discovered with my current garden coaching project. While poking around the peas and carrots, conversation changed from the ground to the sky. No, not the weather.  The stars.  And it just goes to show, you never know what’s going on over the neighbor’s fence.  Incredible.

When he’s not gardening, working, or hanging out with the family! Justin is staring up into the sky, but the stuff he’s seeing? It’s not what you and I see.

This picture was not downloaded from the NASA website. It was downloaded from Justin’s new blog: J Low’s Astrophotos.  He took theses photos, not NASA.  I’m still in awe. More

Meet My New Best Friend

Hello Milky Spore powder, goodbye grub worm! 

Or so they say, “they” being a miscellany of organic experts I discovered while surfing the net. :)  It’s an addiction–and one that keeps my garden in tip-top shape.  From garden blogs to garden forums, I’ve learned more than I ever could, if left to my own device–and I share it all with you, here.

So I’ve effectively eliminated my cricket nuisance with my netting solution…

I’ve minimized my snail issue with French marigolds and a sprinkle of natural snail/slug bait…  More