organic

Have You Planted Potatoes, Yet?

I have and they’re going gangbusters. Just look at those gorgeous girls!

potato beds in early January

Yes, those are vacant spots in my row. Apparently, some of the gals haven’t sprouted, yet. Seems they’re taking their sweet time to emerge from the soil. Could be the weather. Could be my watering schedule. Could simply be a matter of nature. Not everyone grows at the same rate, you know.

There’s also the possibility of “theft by animal.” A few mornings, I awoke to find deep tracks through my garden. Wild hogs, armadillos, raccoons… I’m not sure who has been visiting me, only that somebody has.

Ugh. Living with nature is a beautiful thing, up to a point. But I will turn my positive attitude cap around and look on the bright side: I can always refill my bed with new potato sprouts. Besides, wild animals have to eat too, right?

mulch potato plants

Of course they do. I simply wish they’d chomp elsewhere. Now, back to my potatoes. I’ve planted them in a nice organic mix of compost from my backyard pile (shown below) and composted cow manure and have mulched them well. Mulch provides the moisture retention potatoes need, as well as encourages them in their upward growth habit. For complete details on how-to grow potatoes, check my How-To section.

Compost gold

 

I have one bed of red potatoes and one bed of white. Different size, different flavor–variety is the spice of life! And in about 2-3 months, I’ll be reaping my first gems from the ground. Can’t wait!

Shopping Season Begins

It’s time to buy your seeds!  If you haven’t been seed saving, that is.  Personally, I have beans coming out the wa-zoo which means I won’t be purchasing any of these babies. But I will be looking for some fresh bibb lettuce. While I know how to harvest lettuce seeds for seed-saving, I haven’t been making the time. Call me lazy, call me too eager for the next harvest, I’ve pulled most of my plants before they had a chance to flower (like this lovely lady below). Seeds will form in the flowers, whereby you can remove from the plant, hang it to dry in a bag making collecting the tiny seeds easy.

lettuce going to seed

Now, for those of you who are trying to save seeds, I completely understand how you could become so excited over your tomato crop making sauce–ketchup, salads, even canning the beauties–that you completely forgot to save a few ripe tomatoes for the purpose of saving seeds.  Yep. You plopped them right into the boiling water for skin removal without even thinking.  It happens.  It’s okay.  More Beefsteak tomato seeds are on my list, too. I mean, these guys are gorgeous, I can’t get enough of them!

seed shopping

But take heart.  You’re enjoying the thrill of gardening, reaping what you sow and cooking the dickens out of it.  Which is all good. However, keep in mind that when those seed catalogs arrive and you eagerly run to the mailbox (or jog), be careful. Ice tends to be slippery. You don’t want to break a hip or bruise a wrist–you’re going to need those limbs in good condition to begin the season!

Now, once you’re settled indoors, snug as a bug in a rug in front of a warm fire, pull out those gorgeous catalog pages filled with plump ripe fruits and vegetables, a colorful array of flowers and herbs, and look for heirloom seeds.  Not hybrid, not super-duper-extra-sweet or double the normal growth potential…

Uh, uh.  You want heirloom, preferably organic.  Why?

my salsa tomatoes

Because once you plant those hybrid seeds, the ones meant to overcome Mother Nature’s deficiencies (though don’t let her hear you say that out loud), you’ll be sorely disappointed next season when the seeds you saved don’t produce.  Hybrids aren’t natural and when you replant the seeds, your new crop of plants will not reproduce the original fruit, if they germinate at all.  Hybrid Better Boys will yield a bounty of produce, but next season?  These bad boys might only yield a crop of cherry-like tomatoes.  Se pasa. It happens.

So save yourself the heartache and only buy heirloom seeds.  And while you’re shopping, remember to only buy what you’ll actually eat. Otherwise you’ll end up with a rotted mess of unwanted produce. Plant seeds according to package instructions and keep moist.  Think of them as babies and treat them as such.

This spring I’m tripling my corn beds. Now that I know how to control those dastardly insects, I think I can reap a golden harvest this year. I’ll keep you posted. Until then…happy gardening!

Starting Strong (And Curried!)

Like everyone else, I’m “cleansing” this month. I’ve dropped the libations and decadent sweets–

What? You’re NOT cleansing the body of toxins this month?

Oh, wow, you must be one of those who doesn’t let it slip during the holiday season. You walk by the dessert table without blinking, pass on the wine and champagne, and don’t miss a single day of exercise. Not me. Unfortunately, the dessert table shouts my name as I walk by–occasionally grabbing my arm and chaining me close until I over-indulge. The bottle of bubbly whispers my name, winks, then insists I should celebrate with another glass of its delightful contents! And exercise? Who has the time?! I’m at the mall, at the office, the party–I don’t have time for walking, biking and dancing.

Oh–wait a minute. Dancing? I always have time for dancing! Maybe I DID exercise after all!! **sigh** Guess I fall prey to whim. But it’s probably because I know January will soon roll around, and I can hit the reset button. And have. Just look at this delicious breakfast I prepared this morning!

Curry Spinach Chickpea Egg Scramble

Spinach and chickpeas sautéed in olive oil with a few dashes of garlic and curry powder, plus a healthy dose of pepper. (Sautéed fresh garlic would have worked, too.) Add one egg over easy and you have yourself one healthy meal to start the day. Yum. I could have eaten two servings, but then again, I’m “cleansing” the recent addition of five pounds to my midsection and can’t afford the extra calories. Good thing I still have lunch to look forward to!

I only wish my garden spinach was growing well enough to have included it in the pan, but alas, Florida has been much too hot this winter for spinach. How about you? Any resolutions or dishes you’d like to share?

Mixed Kernels

It’s a sad day when you harvest your corn–the one cob you’ve been watching and waiting for the silks to turn brown–only to discover you have missing kernels when you peel back the husk. It’s like, your cob was forming, doing a great job, and *poof* suddenly became too tired to finish the job.

corn missing kernels

Hmph. It’s a disappointment, to be sure. Most likely occurred during pollination, or the lack thereof. If you planted your corn in one single row, pollination can be tricky. I mean, there’s a reason those commercial growers plant all those corn plants so close together–proximity packs a more powerful pollination! It’s power in numbers when it comes to wind, too. Corn is very susceptible to wind, and tends to be blown over at the first kiss of a summer breeze.

corn by storm

Missing kernels can also be caused by poor watering/feeding during pollination. Corn is a heavy feeder, and if you don’t give it what it needs when it needs it, well, you know… It kind of poops out on you. It happens. But I’m here to tell you, chin up, friendly gardener. It’s not the end of the world. So what if you can’t serve perfectly-formed cobs of corn to your family and friends, you can do one better (or different!). Roast them!

That’s right. Wipe those tears away and listen up. You’re going to scrape those beautiful kernels from the cob, toss them in a bowl with olive oil, salt and pepper, a little parsley and heck, while we’re at it, a sliced jalapeno pepper (mine was red) and roast those babies. Ta-da! You’ve made lemonade from your lemons.

roasted corn

I preheated the broiler to high, spread my mixture on a cookie sheet lined with nonstick foil, and then spread the corn mixture out in a single layer. Cooking time was about 15 minutes, with me turning the corn mixture once or twice during the process for even browning. Just keep an eye on them and roast to YOUR idea of perfection.

The flavor was divine; a wonderfully sweet corn flavor with a hint of popcorn that results in a belly full of pride and pleasure. YUM. I served mine with some garden broccoli and a filet of plank-roasted salmon for a fabulous weeknight dinner. The family was pleased!

Now it’s your turn. Enjoy!

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.

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?

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

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