Carrot Balls?

I always talk about soft dirt. Plants like soft dirt. And I worked very hard to make my carrot bed very soft. However, something has gone awry. My carrots look comfy and cozy in their raised beds…

row of carrots

But alas, when I harvested them this weekend, a few did not fill out as intended.

carrot balls

They look more like carrot balls than finely-tapered carrots! ACK. Ugh. The trials of gardening. I don’t have an answer for this one. Carrots right next to them were beautiful. These were stunted. Cute, but stunted. No worries! I’m going to chop them all in my Cuisinart and make a lovely carrot cake.

light and fluffy slice

At that point, no one will care one iota about their shape when they came out of the ground. Ta-da! Gorgeous, isn’t it? Fluffiest Carrot Cake ever!

September in the Garden

Is one busy time! Now that the dog-days of August are behind me, I’m gung-ho in the garden. So far, I’ve planted red beans, black beans, lima beans, broccoli, cabbage, kale, tomatoes, peppers, scallions–and these are in addition to my peanuts, okra and sweet potatoes still in ground. As the latter wane and the former blossom, it’s a great time to be in the garden. Mornings usher in cooler temps, a slight breeze and I think even the bugs have eased a bit.

Of course, I don’t have to worry about bugs, right? My babies are tucked away beneath the screens of safety!

broccoli under cover

Wishful thinking. Unfortunately, white flies are tiny enough to penetrate my barrier. Crickets don’t have anything else to do but crawl around the perimeter, looking for a way in. At least my tomatoes are safe from the dreaded brown moth that lays the hornworm eggs. UGH. I am definitely beating those beasts this season. And with my new daily maintenance schedule–a quick spin around the garden before breakfast and after dinner–I am SO on top of any marauders, they won’t stand a chance! More

Winter in the Garden

I realize that “winter” is a relative term when it comes to Florida, but we really are experiencing some cold weather this month. It’s been in the 30s…!!! Brrrrrrr. Thank goodness there’s no negative sign before that number. I think my face would fall off! Instead, it’s seasonably cold, just enough to give us a taste of winter.

A taste my cabbage plants are loving. They thrive in brisk, sunny temps.

cabbage is happy

Peppers normally don’t, yet strangely, I haven’t lost them. I didn’t bother to cover them, deciding on a minimalist approach this year yet look at them. They’re fine! Sort of. More

Ever Juiced a Carrot?

We bought a Jack LaLanne juicer a few years back to make the most of our garden.  While there are a wide variety of juicers on the market, we chose this brand for no other reason than the commercials stuck in my head.  Besides, Jack was a fit guy, a motivational sort and I thought, if it worked for him it can work for us!

close up carrot juicing

It does, but so do most of them.  And healthy doesn’t begin to describe a life of juicing.  You’ll be infused with energy, discover a spring in your step (probably because you’ll be pounds lighter!), your complexion will be brighter, your skin luminous–what’s not to like?  Actually, the hardest part about the juicing lifestyle for me is the clean up.  I know, I know….wah.  But truthfully, juicing is so simple and makes great use of your harvest, you’ll wonder why you waited so long to start.

juicing carrots

My daughter enjoys juicing, so long as I handle the mess.  (See what I mean?)  She finds it easy and fun though I’ll warn you, before you pull out that juicer, harvest a lot of carrots, or spinach, strawberries–whatever it is that you want to juice, because you’re going to need a bunch of it. More

Too Close for Comfort

Justin and Eyry have been enjoying their garden without much issue, until now.  Recently, we experienced a few days of unseasonably heavy rain and fog, and their squash did not fare well.  Sad sight, isn’t it?

One problem was weather, perhaps bugs, but another is spacing.  As you see here, they look pretty and full, but beware… More

Hair and Bumps?

This can’t be good.  I understand nature isn’t always pretty, the dark side always lurking just out of sight, hidden from the light of day…  But really.  This is too much.  Hair and bumps on my carrots?  Dare I say, warts?

It’s what they look like.  At least that was my first impression when my son hauled the harvest in.  They were a huge mess of warts and hair and reminded me of some gnarly old man in a horror movie (or book!).  It was not what I had in mind when preparing our salads for dinner.  I was envisioning gorgeous fat smooth orange beauties.  Sure, a little hair never hurt.  Can always strip it clean from the length of them (ouch).  But these fellas?

No siree bob was I touching them!  ICK.  And scrutinizing them further, wondered if a brave attempt would even be worth the trouble.  Once the bumps and hair were skinned from them, there would hardly be anything left to speak of.  Nah.  These are compost food.  The pile out back has been hunkering for a little beta carotene and here’s its chance to swallow them whole. And make fresh dirt.  Mother Nature is a beautiful creature, isn’t she? 

For those of you wondering what on earth happened to these golden babies, it’s probably due to a couple of things.  Water for one.  I’ve been having the hardest time with my sprinklers this season and more bound and determined than ever to install that soaker hose system I’ve been thinking about.  You see, if you water too much, your carrots can crack and split.  if you water too little, they can develop small feeder roots that shoot from the main root in search of water.  Helpful little buggers, aren’t they?  Bumps are probably hair that actually had a chance to grow a bit. 🙂

Too much fertilizer can cause the same hairy problem and I have a hunch that this may be part of our problem as well.  I say “our” because speaking of helpful, my kids tend to water and feed without restraint.  They don’t understand there’s a happy medium to be found.  They hear fertilize and they fertilize.  Vacation didn’t help, either.  We may have left our bounty in the soil longer than necessary.

Huh.  It’s a process.  Or learning curve–something which I tend to slide down the front side of more often than I care to admit!  So here we sit with no gorgeous carrots for my salad.  And it’s dinner time. *sigh*

Pullin’ Carrots…

So my son and I weeded the carrot and beet section this weekend and next thing I know, we’re harvesting.  “Hey, Mom!  Look at the size of this carrot!”

I turned from the row of squash and sure enough, there was huge carrot in his hand.  “Wow.  I guess the carrots are ready…”  At this point I could have reminded him that he was supposed to be weeding and not harvesting, but as any experienced gardener knows, there’s no greater excitement than harvest time—with the exception perhaps of the fresh burst of sprouts—especially when it comes to kids.  When it comes to the garden, these little ones are all about action.

But before I could utter another word, he’d already pulled out a second.  “Look at this one!”

It was a beauty, I had to admit, albeit a malformed one—shoots poking out every which way.  The next one he pulled took the cake (carrot cake). Rather than one interesting shape, it was more an interesting intertwine, like two carrots growing simultaneously out of one.  Guess a gal could look at this as a nice pair of legs! 🙂

Silly wabbit.  Tricks are for Mother Nature!  Not only will she swirl carrots together like this but I’ve seen her do much the same with tomatoes and onions!  Crazy old broad…

But stay on her good side—if you know what’s good for you—because she can make a gardener’s life downright miserable if she so chooses.  Which is why I try to obey her rules at all times.  Take companion planting, for example:  my beets and carrots are planted together because they work in harmony with one another AND the glory of nature. 

And don’t you think my son left any beets in the ground, either.  Oh no, they came out right along with their carrot friends—filled a whole wagon full!  Now I know what to do with carrots.  What I’m not making into the fluffiest carrot cake you’ll ever want to taste, I layer them in damp sand for long-term storage.  But beets? I usually save those for my Dad.

Would have cooked them up for Easter supper too, had I an ounce of energy to do so.  But lagging behind after spring break with the kids and playing catch-up on work and laundry, “no could do.”  They’ll simply have to sit in the refrigerator a few days more until I can come up with some edible concoction to serve the family. Any ideas?

I’m all ears!

Mandy’s Planting Olive Trees!

Wow—leave this gal alone for a couple of weeks and *POW* she and her edible landscape have gone crazy! 

Crazy as in olive, fig, peach AND pear trees.  Crazy as in blueberry hedges, lettuce walkways… Bok Choy, red cabbage, carrots and radish—oh, my!  Apparently radish are a gardener’s best friend.  Not only easy to grow, these little fellas are the workhorses of the garden!

They keep all sorts of bugs away.  For instance, they lure leafminers from spinach, deter cucumber beetles and rust flies, squash borers and more!  Just keep them away from the cabbage family and turnips. 

I had no idea about this amazing fact.  So for you first-timers, radish are for you!

And how about these carrots? 

Just lovely and lush against the porch beds filled with greens.  And this Kohlrabi looks splendid! 

Never even heard of Kohlrabi in the garden, save for a few passing mentions in my gardening magazines.  Check out the Bok Choy and cabbage!  All just steps away from the kitchen…

Not to mention the blueberries I told you about.  Look at these babies, in line and ready to go in!

And don’t think I forgot about those beautiful peach blossoms.  Can’t wait for the fruit to begin forming… 

Now how about you?  Planned your edible landscape, yet?

All Around Update

As you may have noticed, my website was down for some time last week–technical glitch–but has since been repaired.  However, my gorgeous design didn’t fare as well; something I hope to remedy soon. 🙂  In the meantime, we’ll work with what we have and catch up on what we missed!

First off, Mandy’s edible landscape is coming right along and promises to provide us with the perfect example of companion planting at its best.  In the raised planter she has rosemary and cabbage–real snuggle bugs in the garden.  Down below she planted carrots, beets and radish (the larger ones)–all BFF!  Why?  Refer to previous garden coaching post for full details but know that as they grow, they’ll not only prove to be a help to one another, but they’ll also fill in for a lovely layered landscape–great for curb appeal. 

 Moving to the school garden, we see the kids have been busy too.  As part of a move to make better use of our yard space we’re moving the garden to a sunny section located just around the corner from our current spot.  Tucked away in a back corner of the school sports field, it will turn an empty space into a productive space.  And isn’t that what we’re all about?  Productivity?

Of course!  Speaking of productive, the kindergarteners learned a valuable lesson in seed saving.  As organic gardeners, we like to be self-sustaining–a really big word for the little ones to comprehend, but the concept is simple.  We grow beans, we eat beans but we save some beans for next season!  Kids understand independence and that’s the kind of gardeners we are (a.k.a. self-sustaining)!

We used the seed packets made from the templates found in the Kid Buzz section of this website.  So easy, a child can make them on their own!  (I know, because I had my two demonstrate this fact. :))

So this season when your labors turn to fruit–save those seeds for next season!  Around these parts that means spring.

Mandy’s Companions in the Garden

Companion planting is a key to organic gardening. It helps reduce the need for pesticides, weeding and even fertilizing!  How so?  Well take corn and beans–neither of which Mandy is planting at the moment, but it makes for a great case in point. 

Beans fix nitrogen into the soil, while corn uses lots of nitrogen!  It’s a heavy feeder you know.  So you could plant beans and corn next to one another.  Add a line of squash around their base and voila!  You have weed protection.  The wide leaves of the squash will shade the ground thereby reducing the ability of weeds to grow!  In fact, this is a technique used by Native American Indians years before the invention of fertilizer sprays and such.

In Mandy’s case, she’s planting cabbage and rosemary together, carrots and beets in the row just below them.  Rosemary makes a wonderful companion for cabbage and carrots because it repels cabbage moths and carrot flies.  Carrots and beets are great friends too, so lining them in the same bed makes perfect sense.  I mingle beets with my garlic as the garlic helps to improve the flavor of the beets.  And beets could use a little help in this department if you know what I mean.

The only words of advice in companion planting are the obvious:  make sure they are indeed companions and second:  each plant has enough room to grow and mature without being overtaken by its pal.  Otherwise, the friendship may suffer. 🙂  You see, these red cabbage may have been planted too close to the struggling rosemary transplants, but only time will tell.  Stay-tuned and happy gardening!