easy

Tired of Weeding?

My kids are, most definitely. Me, too. With a garden 40 ft. X 100 ft. the weeds can get a bit crazy. I’ve instituted the use of heavy black paper to cover by beds between plantings, which cuts down on the time spent pulling those rascally weeds, but what about the beds where I’m actively growing?

They still need weeding. The solution? Corn gluten. It’s all-natural and the perfect organic solution to weed prevention–prevention being the key word.

Corn gluten meal contains naturally occurring substances which inhibit the growth of the seed’s tiny feeder roots. This causes the weed seedlings to die before their roots ever have a chance to become established. Also, many products sold on the market contain nitrogen, which makes them a good fertilizer, too. Best of all, corn gluten is safe for children and pets.

corn gluten

The only downside is the solution doesn’t come cheap. A 25 lb. bag will run you around $35 and you must apply liberally to gain the full effect, as shown above. You could even stand to apply heavier than I’ve done, but you get the idea. Liberally means a lot. However, this stuff works.

So if you have established plants in your garden, weed the area well and then sprinkle corn gluten around them as a weed preventer. If they’re only seedlings, I’d wait a bit, continuing to pull weeds by hand until the plants are of decent size. I once had a batch of okra and although I didn’t apply the corn gluten very close to the babies, it still worked to prevent their growth. 🙁

Look forward to hearing about YOUR experience!

Pick Okra at Peak of Perfection

When growing okra, daily vigilance is a must. Not because of bugs or disease–okra are pretty tolerant on these counts–but because of harvest. Okra will range in size from an inch to six inches–a big difference.

Okra in varying stages of maturity

And in this case, size DOES matter. Those six-inch okra might look grand and delightful, but you don’t want to eat them. They’re tough and not nearly as tasty as their younger counterparts. Go figure.

Anyhoo, speaking of their younger counterparts, tender young okra are most definitely what you’re after when it comes to harvesting okra. The small ones are tasty straight off the vine, tossed in a salad, soaked in a tomato stew… There are a host of ways you can use okra, particularly if you enjoy Cajun-style cooking. YUM. My son prefers them Southern-style which means rolled in cornmeal and deep-fried. More

Kids and Seeds

As our school year winds to a close, the kids are dutifully preparing for next year, eager for another season in the garden. We’ve planted our seeds, watched them grow and have reaped our bounty. Now comes the question: What to do with the seeds?

Why sell them, of course! We’re forward-thinking self-sustaining gardeners with a mind for planning, and we know that if we sell some of our seeds, we’ll have enough money to purchase more nifty magnifying glasses, spray bottles, worm poop and the like!  (We can grow and harvest seeds, but we’re NOT harvesting worm poop.)

And where are we going to store our seeds?  How about these fabulous seed packets?

seed packet variety

Aren’t they divine?  The kids made them and it was so easy. First, we sat in our circle of creativity. More

Planting Peanuts

These delightful little nuts are a joy to grow.  Not only do they mature through the summer season, they take their time doing so–while YOU go on vacation!  Yep, plant these puppies in April/May and check back in July/August to reap your bounty!

peanut roots

Okay, just kidding.  You don’t want to leave anything alone that long–except maybe your bathroom scale–because who knows what could pay your garden a visit in the meantime?  Not that peanuts are prone to insects or disease, they aren’t really.  Pretty tolerant from what I can see and living with me–plants need to be tough.  I vacation!  I write!  I have other things to do!  (Don’t we all?)

That said, optimum practice is to “visit” your garden on a daily basis.  Not “work” or “weed” or “water” but simply visit.  Say it with me:  “Ah…it’s so lovely out here among the beds of lush green fruits and veggies.”  More

Stake and Tomatoes

Take it from me—trial and error gal—don’t learn this the hard way.  Your tomatoes want big stakes, firm stakes.  Sturdy, semi-permanent. They want to know there’s support for them when the wind blows, that they won’t lose their ruby-red jewels dripping from their vines.

triangle cage

Trust me when I say, “think strong” (as in men, too.;)). Next time you’re shopping for tomato cages and you see this packaged structure, walk on. Don’t stop. Don’t waste your time.

Admittedly, I thought this three-walled triangle style cage would be the secret to success. It was–for a while. But when the tomato plant grew and the tomatoes hung heavy, it fell over like a twig.

And this round, loopy one? More

How to Make Sweet Potato Slips

Summer is fast approaching (in Florida, anyway) which means it’s time to get your slips in the ground and growing.  They require a long growing season and they require warmth.  But they don’t grow from seed potatoes, rather the “slips” created from your sweet potatoes.  How does one create a sweet potato slip?

The technique is easy.  You simply cut your sweet potato in half, perch it upon the mouth of a jar or glass (suspended by toothpicks works well) submerging the bottom half in water.  Voila!

creating slips

Place in a sunny location and keep the water level high enough so that the bottom half remains wet and then watch your potato sprout.

After a while—times vary, but you can expect to wait days, even weeks in some cases—shoots (leaves) will form on the top of your potato.  You can gently remove these and place them in water, again half-submersed, and a tangle of roots will develop.   More

Justin Has Carrots!

WOW.  Justin has carrots!   Checking a few, he realized they were ready and his wife Eyry said, “Harvest them ALL!”

 Juicer, anyone?  It is the new rage….  But are they gorgeous, or what?  Have you not grown carrots?

Easy, simple, and oh-so-delicious!  Now at our house, especially this time of year, we tend to shred these babies into the fluffiest carrot cake you’d ever want to sink your teeth into– and while not as healthy as carrot juice, it’s DIVINE.  Trust me.  Check recipe here.

But if you’re not harvesting carrots like Justin, fret not–it’s not too late.  Haven’t you heard?  Spring is around the corner and BloominThyme is gearing up for the festivities!  So stay tuned….we’re diggin’ in for the adventure!

Progress Report

The kids have been diligently tending their garden, learning about the cold, learning the ways of crop rotation.  Rotating crops helps to improve soil structure, increases a plant’s ability to absorb nutrients and aids in pest control.  As we prepare to harvest and begin the new season, organic gardeners need to know what they grow, know what grows where, when and why.  Quite a mouthful, isn’t it?

But we make crop rotation easy at BloominThyme and sing our way through the garden ~ beans – leaves – roots and fruits!  Beans – leaves – roots and fruits! More

Getting Creative with Bugs

So I have this cricket problem.  They’re eating me out of plant and garden.  Voracious little critters, they seem to be able to destroy a pumpkin vine in a matter of days, a helpless little Brussels in a matter of hours.  I tried bird netting.  But the squares are a bit too big.

Crickets can jump clear through them.  Not always on the first try, mind you, but give them enough chances and out they go!  Rascals.

So I had to get creative.  For my netting, I’ve doubled up.  This way, the pattern won’t match up identically and some of the squares will be rendered to triangles and the crickets won’t be able to escape.  More importantly, they won’t be able to get in.  The hoops are 9 gauge wire cut into pieces that I bend to suit my needs. More

Companion Planting and Your Garden

As my fall garden season approaches, my mind is filled with visions of splendor.  With a freshly tilled garden, I can see my plants grow lush and full, their bounty promising a fruitful harvest.  What do I want to grow this year?  More important question is what do I want to eat?

Pumpkins.  Or should I say, homemade pumpkin pie.  The kids and I are set on pumpkins this year, both at home and school, so those babies are first on the list.  Second?  Beans, of course.  Who doesn’t love beans?  And onions–but not in adjoining beds.  No.  These two do not care for each other and will not yield the fabulous crop of my imagination.  Why not?

They’re not good companions in the garden and companion planting is KEY when it comes to organic gardening.  What is it and why do we do it?  In a nutshell–or bean pod–it’s organizing your beds according to plants that help one another and steering clear of those combinations that don’t.  For more details, my friends have Companion Planting have explained it pretty well:

Companion planting is based around the idea that certain plants can benefit others when planted next to, or close to one another.  It exists to benefit certain plants by giving them pest control, naturally without the need to use chemicals, and in some cases they can give a higher crop yield.

Generally, companion planting is thought of as a small-scale gardening practice, but it can be applied on larger-scale operations. It has been proven that by having a beneficial crop in a nearby field that attracts certain insects away from a neighboring field that has the main crop can prove very beneficial. This action is called trap cropping.

While companion planting has a long history, the benefits of companion planting have not always been understood. Traditional recommendations, for companion planting have been used by gardeners for a long time, but recent tests are proving scientifically, that they work.

Other ways that companion planting can be beneficial is to plant a crop like any Legumes, on an area where it will feed nitrogen into the soil, then it will not be necessary to use any chemical fertilizers for the next crop.  (Corn and beans are excellent companions.)

The African marigold, along with other plants, are well-known for companion planting, as they exude chemicals from their roots or aerial parts that suppress or repel pests and protect neighboring plants.  (My roses love marigold!)

Companion planting also exists in a physical way. For example, tall-growing, sun-loving plants may share space with lower-growing, shade-tolerant species, resulting in higher total yields from the land. This is called spatial interaction, and can also yield pest control benefits, for example, the presence of the prickly vines is said to discourage raccoons from ravaging sweet corn.

Another type of companion planting is called Nurse cropping, where tall or dense-canopied plants may protect more vulnerable plants through shading or by providing a wind break. For example, oats have long been used to help establish alfalfa and other forages by supplanting the more competitive weeds that would otherwise grow in their place. In many instances, nurse cropping is simply another form of physical-spatial interaction.

Beneficial habitats-sometimes called refugia—are another type of companion planting that has received a lot of attention in recent years. The benefit is derived when companion plants provide a good environment for beneficial insects, and other arthropods, especially those predatory and parasitic species that help to keep pest populations in check. (Ladybugs are super-beneficial insects, too!)

So as you contemplate your next crop, take companion planting into account and organize accordingly.  It really will make a difference, particularly when it comes to alleviating trouble spots.  From bugs to weeds, companion planting is the way to go.  And anything that takes the “work” out of gardening is a friend to me. 🙂  For an idea of who likes who in the garden, check out their complete list of companion plants.