Love ‘Em to Death

Last week Adam and I transplanted the seedlings from their starter kits to larger flats. The seedling’s love the extra leg room and are beginning to look like plants.

Zucchini, Cucumbers and Kale... getting big!

Zucchini, Cucumbers and Kale… getting big!

While we were transplanting the seedling’s I noticed that the tomato plants didn’t look so great. They didn’t have a good green color. They looked… purple.

As I pulled the flat closer to me I realized it was kind of heavy and with further investigation I found that the plants were sitting in about a half inch of water.

Water is important for plants, but these guys were saturated.

We found that the cause was from Adam and me both watering them each day. I had been traveling for work so Adam thought I wasn’t able to get to it. We didn’t talk about it. One thing led to another… and the seedlings were over watered.

Yes. Like I just said, watering your plants is important. And necessary. But, there’s a fine line.

Over watering is actually worse than under watering. Over watering prevents a plant from obtaining nutrients and oxygen to develop their roots.

You would think that the more attention you give your plants, the better they would do.

But, that’s not the case.

You can actually love your plants to death.

Fortunately, with the tomato plants, we found it early and acted quickly. We put them into new flats with new soil. The tomatoes are looking much better and my mind is running wild with images of all the caprese salads that will grace my table come August.

Tomato plants looking better and getting adult leaves.

Tomato plants looking better and getting adult leaves.

I have fallen victim to loving a plant to complete death before. I bought a rosemary plant and thought it would be so cute to grow on my kitchen island in a large, rustic coffee mug. I didn’t know rosemary needs to be in pot that drains water well.

My coffee mug did not do the job.

BMOC, Herbs-2

The old water sat in the bottom of the mug causing the root to rot which prevented water and nutrients getting to the plant. What happened is that it looked like it was dry and I kept watering it. Soon, the plant was dead.

I now have a rosemary plant in a Terra cotta pot that I water when the soil dries out and it is doing great.

Much better!

Much better!

Here are a few other watering tips:

– Gardens typically need about an inch of rain each week. But, like a healthy diet, everything in moderation. One inch in twenty minutes isn’t great for a plant. Keep an eye on the weather and supplement as needed.
– If the weather gets particularly hot and dry, you may need to water more. And, if it’s cool it may not need as much.
– Water plants in the morning. This ensures that water dries off, instead of staying on the plant all through the night making it susceptible to fungus and bacteria. And, if you water them in the middle of the day, the water might evaporate before it’s absorbed by the plant.
– Provide water directly to plants roots versus spraying all over.
– Get a sprayer head that is designed for gardens. It will ensure the rate of the spray isn’t too strong and some are designed to make it easy to reach in-between plants.

Love your plants.

… Just not to death.

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Why Garden Weekends: Money

Okay, so… I had full intentions of doing “Why Garden Wednesday’s” all through the month of February to inspire you to start a backyard/balcony/windowsill garden this spring.

But, Wednesday came and went without a blog. I had been on the road for work, we had a major snow storm (again…), and I just wanted to spend sometime with this cute kid.

Sleep dude.

Sleepy dude.

Can you blame me?

Instead, welcome to “Why Garden Weekends!”

Spring is coming, even though it sure doesn’t seem like it in the Midwest, and every weekend in February I will be posting reasons on why YOU should start a garden.

So, without further adieu, Numero Uno, a reason top of mind for everyone: Money.

Last fall, I wrote as I reflected on the summer’s garden that gardening has definitely saved Adam and me a little cash. Thanks to the garden, I do not buy as a much at the grocery store and we are far less likely to go out to eat than we had been in the past. This is because we had so much food of our own to eat!

I have been seeking out garden workshops around Indiana to try to gain more knowledge and skill. At a program last September, put on by Purdue Extension, I picked up a flyer illustrating the benefits of gardening and the numbers listed for dollars saved. It’s impressive!

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Home gardening gives you a 1:25 cost benefit.

This means, if you were to spend $50 on seeds you could produce over $1,200 of food.

Here’s a break down of a few items from our garden explaining what we pay and what we could be paying if we were to purchase them at a store.

Organic, Pasture raised Eggs:

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Store Price: $3.50 per dozen

The chicks were $1 each and its $11 for feed every month. We get around 11 dozen eggs a month from our five hens. So, our eggs are about a $1.00 a dozen.

Organic Tomatoes:

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Store Price: $3.00 per pound

One tomato plant can give you around fifteen pounds of tomatoes. You could buy a tomato plant for about $2.50. We started our tomatoes from seeds and were able to get twenty plants of various varieties about six bucks. So, a pound of our backyard tomatoes were a whopping two cents.

Organic Zucchini:

I thought this was a funny picture from last summer.  Zucc's the size of wine bottles!

I thought this was a funny picture from last summer. Zucc’s the size of wine bottles!

Store Price: $3.00 per Pound

A packet of zucchini seeds is about $2.00. You could get about 10-15 zucchini plants per packet. Zucchini plants are like weeds. They just keep coming! We would get one zucchini from each plant about every day last summer. A typical plant will give you around nine pounds of zucchini each season.

We had six zucchini plants last summer making a pound of our zucchini about four cents.

Organic Cucumbers:

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Store Price: $2.00 per pound

A packet of cucumber seeds is about $1 and could give you thirty plants. We planted four cucumber plants and got about three pounds of cucumbers per week per plant when we were harvesting, making well over thirty pounds of cucumber for the season. Our cucumbers were less than three cents a pound.

Organic carrots:

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Store Price: $3.00 per pound

You have to sow carrot seeds directly into the ground. A packet of seeds is about $2.00 and you could yield at least thirty pounds of carrots from one packet.

We plan to plant many more carrot seeds next year. The taste of a backyard carrot versus a carrot from a bag of baby carrots in the store is amazingly different. It has so much more depth of flavor and at six cents a pound, why not?

When I start to add in our entire garden’s lettuce, broccoli plans, snap peas, strawberries, herbs, peppers, and more the savings really start to add up.

Money savings is one of the big reasons I enjoy sharing our garden stories. There are so many people in America struggling to feed their families, let alone feed their families well. Gardens help make this possible. The knowledge just needs to be shared. There are many groups around the nation such as Farm to School and Extension offices working to inform people the benefits of gardening and teach the skills needed.

Community and Urban Gardens are popping up in cities everywhere. And, SNAP, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Plan, participants can purchase seeds or plants from any SNAP retailer or Farmers Market. This is awesome because the participants can use the seeds to grow food that they normally couldn’t purchase… in large quantities, too!

Still not convinced a backyard garden is worth it? Tune is next weekend and we will talk about your health.

Oh, Deer.

Written June 17, 2013.

So, remember how I wrote about the huge, beautiful heads of lettuce just a few days ago? Remember that photo of all the green heads of romaine?

Here’s are a photo to remind you:

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Yeah, it now looks like this:

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Not Pretty.

They were attacked by a deer overnight. They ate the Caesar Lettuce Heads, the Romaine Lettuce Heads, Strawberries and even my cute, yellow squash.

I was so upset. So, I started asking our family and friends how to combat this animal.

Adam joked that he could shoot it, but he didn’t want to make that news for poaching deer. Yeah, that wouldn’t be good. No thanks.

One of his friends joked we could “accidently” hit it with a car. I have done that before on an icy road, without a doubt by accident. It’s scary and expensive. No thanks.

I didn’t want to hurt this deer; I just wanted him to get out of my garden.

A neighbor, after a couple of beers, suggested using pinwheels. Pinwheels?! That seemed a little far-fetched and possibly alcohol infused (…?), but I guess at this point it wouldn’t hurt to try.

The next day, my sister-in-laws and I were relaxing at Adam’s parent’s home for Father’s Day. She was reading a home magazine that happened to have tips in keeping deer away from gardens.

The first tip was to construct a fence at least 10 feet high. This one made me laugh. Um, no.

The next was to use human hair. This one made me gag. Um, no.

The next was to get stakes and tie on plastic ribbon on it. The ribbon blows in the wind creating noise. This one got me thinking. Maybe creating sound like a pinwheel?

The next idea was to use repellent sprays. I was kind of wary about sprays as I wanted to try to keep this garden as natural as possible. Aimee, Adam’s oldest sister worked at a nursery in high school, said that they used to spray a repellent to keep deer away. She said it stunk, but it worked. The repellent wasn’t sprayed right onto the plants, just around the border.

So, today I hit the stores. I could not find pinwheels anywhere. I was shocked. I figured with the Fourth of July just around the corner I would be able to find at least some patriotic pinwheels. (I knew they might have looked silly. But if it worked, I was fine with the silliness.)

In defeat, I went to a garden supply store to look at the repellents.

There I found Liquid Fence, an eco-friendly spray that would not harm animals. The ingredients listed mainly eggs and garlic, just like some of the sprays listed in the magazine. This scent is unattractive to deer and rabbits, keeping them away from gardens and landscaping.

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I figured at this point it was worth a shot. I purchased the bottle and sprayed it around the perimeter of the garden. I did get a whiff of the spray at one point, and PHEW! It did stink.

But, so far, it works!

(I still plan to stock up on pinwheels if I ever see them.) 🙂

“Lettuce” Eat Well.

Written June 12, 2013

When I returned home from Virginia I found that I had a totally different garden.  Thanks to the care of my lovely husband, the plants were so much bigger, fuller, and flowering to show that produce was coming.

Adam tending our growing, green garden.

Adam tending our growing, green garden.

Peas were climbing.

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The cabbage was huge and full of color.

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The carrots and green onions finally looked like they were doing well.

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The tomatoes were so full and looked strong in their cages.

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Zucchini’s were budding and I even had a cute, little squash growing!

Yayyy!

Yayyy!

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Even the chicks had grown up!  No longer little, fluffy adolescents, but now resembling real chickens.  Their feet were so different; they were huge!

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But the biggest change had been in the lettuce.  It was big, beautifully green, and ready to harvest.

Trio of Greens!

Trio of Greens!

That night we opted for some fresh romaine on the side of dinner.  I snipped one of the largest heads of lettuce close to the base but not directly on the ground.  Cut here, the lettuce will continue to grow so that we can use romaine from this head again.  To cut the lettuce, I actually used shears that I received at a flower arranging class at West Elm.  (Tons of fun and really informative!  I can keep fresh flowers in my house going for nearly two weeks now.  Check out your store.  They typically do events once a month or so.)

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Once I had enough for Adam and me, I headed inside.  There I rinsed each head very well in the sink, tore the leaves into bite sized pieces and tossed them into the salad spinner.

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I placed a couple handfuls of the romaine in bowls and topped it with a chopped tomato, a little crumbled feta, and a splash of balsamic dressing.

It was the perfect complement to our steaks.

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As we took our first bites of the homegrown lettuce, Adam exclaimed, “It taste like lettuce!”  I laughed.  Umm, yeah?  “I just was nervous.  We have never done this.”

True.

But, not only did it “taste like lettuce,” it had a fabulous flavor.  And knowing that it came straight out of our yard and had never been in contact with any chemicals or processing made it even better.

So, what’s in our Garden?

Written May 28, 2013.

Strawberries– Adam’s favorite. They probably won’t be that great until next year as they are a spring plant. However, the deer beg to differ. They seem to like the big strawberry leaves coming out of the ground. We are lucky there have not been more casualties with the other plants around the strawberry bed thanks to their hoofs and appetites. And, the deer are very lucky that it is not deer season, or else they would be seeing more casualties on their end thanks to my shot gun bearing, camouflage wearing husband.

Please note the deer tracks.

Please note the deer tracks.

Spinach– We could eat spinach every night. We were able to transplant eight spinach plants that we started from seeds. We bought eight more from the store that had been started and transplanted them into the ground.

Caesar, Iceberg and other Lettuces

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Cabbage and red cabbage– These plants are doing so well. They were one of the first plants we transplanted into the ground.

Broccoli– Another hardy plant that is thriving.

Zucchini and Squash– Since transplanting these plants have never looked 100%. Their leaves have gone from green to yellow and back to green again. I really hope these plants take off because I love zucchini and squash on the grill. Adam’s also a huge fan of chocolate zucchini cake. Yes, I am that sneaky wife who hides veggies in dessert. Just wait ‘til we have kids.

Peas and green beans– We tried to grow green beans a couple years ago and maybe got one serving out of our plants because it was so dry. Hoping for some better luck- and weather- this year.

Carrots– We planted these straight into the ground and have not seen anything happen since. I really hope there is some magic going on under ground…

Green onions– These were planted right into the ground and look great. I am so happy because this is the best addition to any stir-fry or Mexican dish.

Cucumbers and pickle cucumbers– This is my favorite vegetable. I cannot wait to see how they do. So far, it’s not bad, but that deer has made some close calls with his feet.

Peppers– Currently, we only have sweet and poblanos. Great, yes. But, I need jalapenos. For salsa, chili, appetizers, etc. etc! When I purchased the large amount of seeds at the home and garden store back in early April on packet was sucked under the conveyer belt. At that point, I probably had fifty seed packets so I wasn’t even going to try to begin to figure out which one was missing. But, it was my beloved jalapenos.

Tomatoes– The definition of summer in my book. We have roma’s, cherry, better boys, and best boys. I love a good, August tomato. With all these tomato plants we hope to give canning a good try. (… Things I have never done before. I am already a little nervous.)

Herbs:

All the herbs are in their own planters as herbs have a way of taking over if they are not contained.
We have basil, oregano, thyme, parsley, cilantro, and rosemary.

Potting soil really brings out the color in my mani.

Potting soil really brings out the color in my mani.

I am sad because the rosemary is not growing like I wish I would. Rosemary is one of my favorite herbs. It is great for chicken, vegetables like carrots or asparagus, and even makes good kabob skewers for some extra favor.

I planted a tomato plant with the basil because I read that, if planted together, they help fight off bugs. So, it’s an experiment.

The parsley and cilantro did great in the starter kits, but I must have sent them into a little shock when they were transplanted into larger planters. The cilantro started to turn a little pinkish purple, which I read was a sign of stress. I am hoping they get used to their new homes. I would think they would have loved the extra root-room. But, as always, you learn something new every day.

My stressed out cilantro.  Any one else have ideas on why it's turning red?

My stressed out cilantro. Any one else have ideas on why it’s turning red?

Oh, and I can’t forget our chickens! We have twelve birds that made the move to their beautiful coop that Adam built in late May. The coop is about eight feet by eight feet with a little door so the chickens can roam in about a thirty foot long fenced in area. We still are not 100% sure how many egg layers we will have as they won’t lay eggs until October or November. At this point we are pretty sure we have about four boys. They are getting little crown combs on the top of their heads. And definitely have a stronger, more seeming to be testosterone fueled demeanor.

It's a boy...?

It’s a boy…?

I never thought I would say this, but we LOVE the chickens. They are a lot of fun to watch and have been pretty simple to take care of.

Adam could watch the birds for hours.

Adam could watch the birds for hours.

In fact, we love everything about this garden. We were afraid when planning it that we might be getting in over our heads. But, so far (knock on wood), it’s been enjoyable work and it’s really neat to see things change every day. Most nights, Adam and I catch up over a beer or a glass of wine as we walk through the garden. Sure beats sitting in front of the TV!

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