how to grow

Monster Okra

Now this is enough to scare you plum out of the garden–so don’t let it come to that.  Okra are one of the easiest and tastiest veggies to grow and when eaten fresh from the vine (stalk, stem…) are not slimy in the least.  They are divine.  My son prefers them fried–and they are good this way–but I like them fresh.  But if you let your okra grow to gargantuan proportions, they will be tough, stringy and icky.  Leave these mammoth pods for seed saving.

And the only way to prevent this from happening is to visit your garden every day during harvest time.  Like I said, okra are EASY to grow and grow they will–inches a day!  Or so it seems.  These are Tami’s okra (no, we haven’t forgotten her) and in need of plucking.  But in between home and the beach, work and vacation, it can be downright hard to visit your garden every day.  (Yet another reason I close most of my rows for the summer.  Summers are for vacation in my household!) 

For optimum taste, you want your  okra about two inches, maybe a tad more if you’re frying them. This little guy is perfect, isn’t he?  Gorgeous AND delicious. 

Speaking of gorgeous, her pepper plants are thriving.  Beautiful and green and only a couple of holes to speak of, these babies are blooming and producing.  Now remember, perfection is overrated.  I don’t mind one bit if the leaves have a couple of blemishes.  So long as they don’t kill the plant or prevent peppers from blossoming, I’m good.  How about you?

Now her tomatoes are wild and wooly and taking full advantage of her divided attention.  They need pinched and pruned, but Tami’s been too busy to do either.  Like I said, Florida during the summertime can be very distracting.  Sunny skies, warm waves and beautiful beaches…  Who can stay home?

It’s tough.  Forgive her.  She’ll get back into the swing of it soon.  Why, she has this cute little melon fella to take care of! 🙂 

Isn’t he adorable?  Precious.  Just precious.  So if you’re in the same predicament as Tami, don’t worry.  You’re not alone.  For all you lucky gardeners out west and up north, take heart–this is YOUR season to shine.  And do share!

How’s YOUR Garden Growing?

Mine is growing GREAT.  Take a look-see for yourself? I have carrots. Popping up as we speak!

And you remember my tomatoes, dressed in red and soaking up the rays.

And my sweet onions. As they brown at the tips, the bulbs are rounding, plumping with juicy goodness.

Garlic look almost identical, just not as full right now. They have a way to go. But more than veggies, I have flowers.  Gerber daisies, to be exact!  New mulch, old mulch…you can tell what I’ve been up to this spring. 🙂

And I transplanted Bird of Paradise.  Along with a few zinnias…

My herb garden is in full bloom (those are my Hungarian Wax pepper sprout trays in the background).

Love my herb garden. Steps outside my door it’s the perfect location for cooking use.

When my pepper sprouts are ready, they’ll head out to the garden.  Interestingly enough, some of my trays had tomato sprouts popping in, which meant my organic compost was a bit too young.  Oops!  Excitement can do that to a gal!

 

 

Learn Something New

Did you know that basil can kill rosemary? I had no idea.  Did you know that some plants don’t like to be near each others while others do?

This concept is called companion planting and very important when planning an organic garden.  As you know, the kids and I are moving the garden, planting in a new spot this spring, but “planter beware” when it comes to what goes where…

Cucumbers love sunflowers, so we’ll plant them both along the fence.  But potatoes?  Not so much.  Best to keep them away from each other.  How about corn?  It wants nothing to do with tomatoes and vice versa, but it enjoys the companionship of squash and peas.  And bush beans?  Can’t stand everything about the onion family or basil, but they like potatoes!

Are you confused yet?  Don’t be.  It’s just a matter of using your reference guide well.  Here’s a good list from Absolute Astronomy to get you started, but there are a ton of others out there so don’t be shy—click your mouse away!  The main thing is to keep a plant’s needs in mind.  For instance, in our garden here’s what we’re planting by row:  cucumbers, tomatoes, peas, corn, squash, bush beans, potatoes.  Along the fence next to our cucumbers will be the sunflowers.  (We LOVE sunflowers!)  On the opposite side, we’ll plant a small herb garden.  We’ll interplant some herbs with our vegetables (basil with tomato, etc.) but we wanted to keep this area separate, as our rosemary and lavender will continue to grow.  No sense pulling them out!  Wanna see? Take a peek at our excel file: School garden layout

We’ve planted potatoes already and today the kindergarteners planted corn.  Very exciting.  You’ll notice we keep track of our progress by recording the dates of each planting. 

I like to color code according to rotation group as well (another key tenet of organic gardening) such as beans (blue), leaves (green), roots (orange) and fruits (pink).  Have to keep it fun!  Corn is part of the grass family so it has its own color.  And while potatoes are technically in the same family (nightshades) as tomatoes, I treat them differently when it comes to crop rotation. 

As we move forward, we’ll talk more about the “what” and the “why” of how we plant, but in the meantime, check out the Garden Elements section of this website.  You’ll find tons of information to get you started!

Happy gardening!

Ashley’s Topsy Turvy Experiment

Ashley received a lovely gift in the form of a Topsy Turvy Tomato plant.  What every gardener-extraordinaire needs, right? Well, yes and no.

You see, gardeners are do-it-yourselfers and generally like to get up close and personal with their vegetable plants.  A Topsy Turvy simply hangs there, doing all the work for you.  How much fun is that? 

Not much at my house–worse, it’s one of those doggone things you must remember to water.  Not a good match, Topsy Turvy and I.  But Ashley’s a good sport and gave the contraption a whirl.  She hung it from her tree and hoped for the best.

Things went well, for a while, but one stiff wind put an end to her tree-hanging tomato experiment and down it came.  Crashing to the ground.

Now what?  Re-hang it?  Send it off to the compost pile?  Or move it to better digs. 

Ashley voted for the latter.

Doesn’t he look more comfortable? 

I thought so and for each visit to her garden, I photo-journaled his progress.  Growing alongside her raised planter, he seemed to prosper.  Thrive, really!

Until something happened.  I have no idea.  Could have been the heat.  Could have been the drought.  Could have been anything.  Whatever it was, as some of you may recall (from last week’s photos), he didn’t look so good.

But I told you not to lose heart.  With a little love and care this pumpkin (term of endearment) would be back on track in no time. 

Ashley was diligent and didn’t give up.  Remember:  she’s been bitten by the garden bug (a good bug, not one of those nasty beasts that eats you out of home and garden). 

She moved the boy to the patio and continued to feed him.  She watered and watched and generally lost sleep over the lad’s predicament like any good mother would. 

And do you know what happened?  That puppy produced!  Look at those gorgeous plump and juicy red tomatoes just begging to be sliced and slipped between two pieces of bread or layered in fresh salad greens. 

Any you slice them, these babies will be brilliant.

Absolutely brilliant.  Can you believe it?

I can.  But I’m plum crazy.  (Make that tomato.)