Winter Break and Planning

After a long break from posting, I am back at least to say hello to everyone who reads my blog and hope you all are doing well.  My garden is at rest since fall.  Not much digging to do yet, but potatoes should be planted in March so I do have my pick axe and shovel ready.

Since I was blessed to make it to 70 years of age this January, I started thinking about how to make gardening easier for me, especially the digging and pick-axing part, so I rounded up eight empty feed tubs my daughter uses for her cattle. I drilled holes in the bottoms, put in a layer of small rocks and old wood pieces and will fill the rest with some organic garden soil.  Really looking forward to see how this works out and if I can make my containers produce healthy vegetables like you see in all those seed catalogs!

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As always, never giving up hope that this year will be a great year for an abundant vegetable harvest.  Haven’t had such a pleasure in several years, but this may be the one. Grasshopper plagues, drought, late killing frosts, and garden pests have really contributed to disappointments in gardening the last several years. But I will not give up. I really do appreciate all the people who can grow beautiful and healthy organic vegetables and I strive to be one of them. Learning how to do so never ends.

So what am I doing while awaiting the next planting time?  I’m enjoying looking at all the seed catalogs! What a fantastic array of vegetables God has created for our eating pleasure.  Getting orders ready for Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange and Seeds from Italy.

Even in winter, the garden is a lovely place. I feed the birds there, take pictures of them, sit and read on warmer days, watch my little dogs play, and await every evening to see what kind of a sunset show there will be!

Blessings to you all.

The most common bird in my garden is the Mockingbird, Arkansas’s state bird. This one taken today as I was out with my 3 little dogs in the garden.

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A sunset show photo from last night over our pasture and round bales.

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Garden Musings in August

024The zinnias and marigolds have grown fabulously this summer! Too bad the vegetables didn’t do as well as they have.  How do you like the zinnia that looks like a birthday cake with candles? 027

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Can’t complain too much, though, as the potatoes and garlic did very well.  We got about 2 bushels of potatoes.  Tomatoes have done okay, producing enough so we could enjoy a daily tomato, but not enough to can or share with friends.  We froze a few carrots and green beans but have not had the nice problem of being overrun by them.  The squash and pumpkin plants all died off from fungus and squash bugs.  A few beets and kale plants appeared; I used them in our “green drinks” made with the Magic Bullet.  Still getting a few green beans now as well as tomatoes, green peppers and lettuce.  Melon tiggers are doing well but the squirrels are raiding them too! I’ve put chicken wire cages around the melons hoping we’ll get a few for ourselves.

Melon tiggers! Grew this for the first time. Fragrant little 1-pound melons.
Melon tiggers! Grew these for the first time. Fragrant little 1-pound melons.

The 6 apple trees produced lots of apples but the squirrels raided the trees and ate them ALL before they were even ripe! Everything I tried to deter them didn’t work.  What did I try? I hung fresh garlic in the branches and around the trees, put barbed wire and chicken fencing traps underneath the trees, hung noisy things from the branches, and wrapped crinkly feed sacks around the trunk and branches.  Will be searching for other solutions….besides shooting them.

One thing that has been such a blessing this garden season is there have not been many grasshoppers!  Absolutely no plague this year! For three years in a row they demolished everything, even tree leaves and bark.  By the end of August it is not uncommon in our area to have grasshoppers seeking to finish off drying up vegetation but not all summer long as we experienced in the last three years.

Grasshopper resting on a zinnia........
Grasshopper resting on a zinnia……..

With all the work digging, planting, weeding and watering, I must say it has been a good season after all.  My dream of having so much produce that I could share with others in need didn’t happen this year, but maybe next year!

For the love of gardening is a seed that once sown never dies, but always grows and grows to an enduring and ever-increasing source of happiness – Gertrude Jekyll

Fresh Food, a Garden Joy

One of the joys of gardening is bringing in fresh food!  You know where and how it was grown.  Because I never use pesticides or herbicides in my garden, I know the food I have is safe to eat.  So what did I harvest today?

Potatoes! The first potatoes I dug up are Rose Gold, a variety I had never planted until this spring.  They look lovely and I expect they will taste good too.  Bought the Rose Gold seed potatoes from Wood Prairie Farm.  The nice thing about potatoes is you can leave them in the ground until ready to eat them.  Where I live in the northwest corner of Arkansas they will do fine left in the ground over winter, although I do dig up most of them and store in the refrigerator.

002A basket of garlic! Our family loves the flavor garlic gives to many different foods, plus all the health benefits from garlic.  This year I grew three small beds of garlic and here is the first harvest.  More to come.  The variety below is Red Toch, a soft neck garlic with a spicy fragrance.  It originates from the Republic of Georgia, near Tochliavri.

015 004Lettuce and young kale.  What a super good salad this makes.  Our family never gets tired of a fresh salad.  Sure, it is more work to have to go outside to pick the greens and then carefully wash it all, but for me this is actually a pleasure.

001For the love of gardening is a seed that once sown never dies, but always grows and grows to an enduring and ever-increasing source of happiness.

~Gertrude Jekyll

Birds and Blueberries

011Blueberries are ripening and we are enjoying a small handful every day.  What fun to walk in a garden, pick a blueberry and eat it right off the plant.  Even if you don’t have a garden spot or wish to grow lots of blueberries, you can plant yourself a blueberry bush in your backyard or even in a patio container.  If you need, or like, having some kind of hedge plant, consider blueberry bushes.  They are green all summer and have in the fall lovely orange and red leaves.  And in the summer you can eat fresh fruit from your hedge!

I just happen to be a bit obsessed with blueberries as my children tell me; I have 50 young plants growing now. They ask me what I will do with so many blueberries.  “Wouldn’t that be a nice problem”, I reply.  The plants I have are all young and it will be a few years before they reach 4 and 5 feet high and produce “tons” of blueberries.  If that ever happens and I have too many berries to freeze, make jam, give to family and friends, I would sell to local markets.

But, in the meantime I’m greedy with the small amounts I am getting from young but fruitful plants.  The many birds in my garden, especially the mockingbirds, and I are in competition for blueberries.  Why should they reap the fruits of my labor?   I do love birds and invite them into my garden, except to eat blueberries.  My first attempt to keep them away was bird netting.  That was a problem because the leaves and twigs from the berry plants got tangled in the netting and hard to access the berries.  Then, I heard about bird scare tape and bought some from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.

birdscareflashtapeIt has worked wonderfully for me!  You might be able to find this flashy tape at a local garden center as well.

At first I tied the tape onto a berry branch but when the wind blew it would tangle the tape into the branches and berries.  Keeps the birds away no doubt but I didn’t like the tangled mess.

My next idea was to put in some staking rods here and there along the rows.  I tie the tape to an end rod and pass it through a couple more rods to the other end of the row, twisting the tape loosely a couple of times so it really looks flashy with its red and silver color in the sunlight and wind. The slightest breeze ruffles the tape and apparently does its job of scaring away birds from the berries.

010005In years to come, if I ever get too many blueberries and don’t know what to do with them all, I will designate a bush or two just for the birds who come to my garden.  😊

A Little Garden Tour

It’s May 1, and a lovely day here.  Welcome to my little garden tour!  Come on through the arch at the top of this blog.

One thing I enjoy is walking in my garden.  It has become my favorite place just to walk. In the winter months I like to hike around the meadows and woods; that’s when the snakes, ticks and chiggers are into their winter sleep.  We live on a dirt road and I often like to take a nice long walk with our four big dogs on these roads, but if we’ve not had recent rain you can get pretty dusty when a vehicle passes by, therefore, walking the perimeter of my garden is a good solution to my love of walking.  Come along for a little walk with me…………..

Here are some photos to enjoy along the way.  The garden is completely fenced in because I have three little dogs who get to run free within the 80′ x 130′ enclosure; it’s a safe place while mama is tending the garden.

008Here’s a view to the west.  Apple trees on the left and a solar-power clothes dryer!  See it?  😊  What’s not to enjoy about hanging clothes out to dry in the fresh air and sunshine?

One long bed dug up and ready for planting.  005 Apple trees on the left as well as some blueberry bushes.

View to the north.  Garlic beds on the right and brick-lined lavender bed.   Rosa rugosa bush starting to bloom.  Red creeper will be climbing up the lattice by the bird house later.

003View to the south.  Potatoes growing nicely in the foreground.  Grape vines starting to green up in the background.  Two elderberry bushes are behind the grapes but hard to see in photo.  Blueberry bushes barely visible to left of grapes.

002The southwest corner of the garden is where we have a black metal table and chairs under the lovely Southern oak tree.  On warm Sunday afternoons my daughter and I play Scrabble (Garden Scrabble!) here and drink a cup of coffee.  Birdbath is nearby as well as royal purple raspberry and current bushes.

Hope you enjoyed your tour!

“Regardless of geographical region or culture, gardening is perhaps the most common shared experience of Nature.” ~S. Kelley Harrell

The Joy of Compost

Well, who in the world would find joy in compost?  Gardeners!  That is, gardeners who try to make their own and actually do turn out some nice dark, soft compost know this kind of joy.

When I first started my garden I bought a whole pickup truck load of mushroom compost and filled every bed with it.  Mistake made.  It was too much compost and not enough just plain old dirt.  Things didn’t grow as well.  A couple years later I wanted to add a little compost so I bought some bagged compost and it stunk so bad.  Whatever was in it I don’t know.  Never bought that again.  I decided to make my own.  I bought a compost tumbler but even following the directions, it never seemed to produce all that nice dark compost I dreamed of.  My next attempt was a compost pile.  008Just a fenced in area where I throw grass clippings over the summer and leaves in the fall.  I toss in raw veggie scraps and used coffee filters (we use only biodegradable filters and organic coffee).  The pile “brews” over winter and by spring it sinks down to almost nothing and underneath the dry top layer is this wonderful dark, soft compost.  Joy!

010So what happens to this lovely compost?  I sprinkle it on top of my tilled garden beds.  Not too much of course.  Compost improves the quality of almost any soil.  It improves the structure and texture of the soil, thus enabling it to better retain nutrients, moisture and air for the betterment of plants.