Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Garden Week: Start With Produce to Eat Fresh

*Readers, would you please leave me a comment today and let me know if you already garden or not?

And if you would like to see this series continue?


The results of much hard work!

"...Now blackberries were ripe, and in the hot afternoons, Laura went with Ma to pick them.  The big black juicy berries hung thick in brier patches in the creek bottoms.  Some were in the shade of trees and some were in the sun, but the sun was so hot that Laura and Ma stayed in the shade.  There were plenty of berries.

Deer lay in the shady groves and watched Ma and Laura.  Blue jays flew at their sunbonnets and scolded because they were taking the berries.  Snakes hurriedly crawled away from them, and in the trees the squirrels woke up and chattered at them...."  

--from Little House on the Praire by Laura Ingalls Wilder

There is little doubt that children in America's past knew where their food came from and did their part to help in the family in bringing the good food to the table.  Perhaps that is why there is so much obesity now, we are not eating enough real food, and we are not working hard enough to get it where it comes from.  

There are good memories to be made in the garden.  My son will remember stuffing his face full of juicy raspberries he picked off our bushes.

All the kids will remember the big pumpkins dad helped them grow, and the pride when it was time to load up the wheelbarrows with the giant, smooth, cool orange orbs to display proudly in the front of the farmhouse.

When we work in the garden...there are sounds to hear, quiet to listen to, and dirt to smell.  Growing things are a pleasure to look at and enjoy for their season.  There are leaves to learn the shape of, mud to get between your toes, and of course, weeds to battle.

Gardening is love...

There was also a work ethic instilled in the children, especially of the pioneers and they grew up to be quite productive citizens.  Very few could stay lazy and still have something to eat. 

Now we may not need to go back quite to those sort of days, but I really think we do a disservice to our children to be "too busy" for a back yard garden.  

If, for nothing more than them to learn and realize what wonderful results from growing plants from seed, and that work is required to get that delicious fresh produce from the garden to their tummy, and that we truly need to pray sometimes for rain.  Right?

If you want to know where to start, start small.  Grow your successes and add something and increase the size each year if possible.  Your confidence increases with each success.  Conversely, if you have things that don't work out, you remember after a couple tries not to go there again.

You will also learn that gardening is truly hard work.
You have to bend over, so your back hurts.  You get callouses from the rake or the hoe. It can be hot.  Yes, the bugs bother you sometimes.  You might see a snake.  

But...there's nothing like the satisfaction of sitting down to the table with all the food on it from your garden.

Is it worth it?  YES!  

And if there's extra, you can always freeze or can it!

("CAN DO" is an attitude a gardener needs!)

When you decide to have a garden, sit down and figure out what you'd like to grow.  If you start out small, you're going to decide just what it is you like to eat fresh in the summertime and early fall?  What is it you find yourself buying at the farmer's market or in the grocery produce section?  

Choose your favorites and make a list.

A good list of basics:
Green beans
and for fun...a *pumpkin plant!
*these starred items spread when they grow and will need a little extra room

The above items are all WONDERFUL to eat fresh.
Of course, if you buy a lot of eggplant in the summer, then put those on your list!  They're easy to grow!

And don't forget to put ONE FUN ITEM on that list for fun and frivolity, and for the reason that it makes going to the garden fun and fine to look at.  

One of my favorite items just for fun is ZINNIAS!  They are little showoffs and put out plenty of blooms for lots of wonderful color in your yard and garden.

There are so many varieties, so many colors of zinnias, and little girls and boys love to pick a new bouquet for you every now and then!  As you can see, the bees love them, too and you will have lots of pollination going on in your garden!  That's a good thing!

Choose a spot with plenty of sun and a well-drained location (meaning somewhere that does not hold water in puddles).  Make your area clean for planting.  Stake out an area and cut into and then take up the sod.  Turn the soil and rake it out.  Pick up rocks and break up dirt clods.  Buy some bags of manure, or better yet, go to a nearby farm and ask for some poo....if it's aged a little, then all the better.  Turn the manure into your soil.  
(*Fresh chicken poo can be too hot.  It needs to be aged.)

Let the manure sit for a few weeks after turning it into the soil.  (Do all this about a month before planting.)

Buy your plants from a good local greenhouse, preferably NOT your local BIG BOX.  The reason? The plants you buy at the greenhouse are a whole different quality than those huge trainloads of mass-produced and ill-treated plants at the big box stores.  I view those plants as seconds:  something the greenhouses didn't want to sell themselves.  

Also, the big boxes dictate to the grower what price they want the plants to come in at.  Therefore, the grower will take whatever cuts are necessary to get those plants to the price dictated to it by the big box.  Maybe they cut back on the quality of seed, or soil, or fertilizers...you just don't know.

Most big box stores do not have the proper amount or kind of help that even cares or are properly trained to care for your plants while they wait for you to come and buy them.

BUT...if big box is your only source, then by all means get those plants and treat them like gold once you get them home.  There may be hope for them yet.

BUY LOCALLY if possible.  We want to keep growers local, don't we?  If we lose our local growers, we lose a wonderful resource of knowledge.  The gum-popping, texting, droll-faced teen at the local big box has probably not worked with plants and may not even care what the names of them are or what they like!

Also, most greenhouses or your local mill will offer good quality seeds for crops that are usually only grown from seed.

BASICS for a back yard garden

(something you won't mind getting muddy)
A FENCE if possible (chicken wire will do!)
Stakes and kite string to make straight rows
All purpose plant food, such as Miracle Gro
Cages if you are growing tomato plants
*If your garden will be large, a rototiller is a handy tool, but not necessary.  Hand cultivators work well, too.


To grow from seed:

To grow from plants already started:

To buy in "sets":

Peonies that have been on this old farmyard forever,  line up against our garden fence,
and raspberries stand in rows along each side.

The best thing to do between now and spring if you're thinking of a garden, is to order a couple seed catalogs online, BURPEE offers a nice one, and I'm sure there are others.  Read and learn.  Garden reading is my bedtime reading this time of year!

You need to buy this book!

Also, there's a handy and SIMPLE easy to use book that won't throw you for a loop with too much techno-talk, that is sold fairly cheap on Amazon.com--used, as it is out of print, but I've found it to be a very valuable resource for gardeners, and have bought many copies to give to beginners.

It's done by Reader's Digest and is a simple, alphabetical dictionary for the gardener.   Usually, these can be found for less than $5 on amazon!  It will be a worthwhile investment, I promise!  If you want to know about growing carrots, look in the "c" section and learn all you could possibly want to know!  

Please let me know any questions you may have about gardening.  I may be preaching to the choir and don't want to waste my time either, so if all my readers are already gardeners, PLEASE LET ME KNOW.  It takes time to compose these posts and I only want to continue if they are USEFUL!

Have a wonderful day!

Serenity can be found in a garden...we can all use more of that!


Valerie said...

Good morning. Just finished making breakfast for my junior and senior. They are now off getting ready for school.
I do garden and LOVED your post! Also, we can the extra tomatoes, green beens, apple pie filling, freeze corn, etc...
I agree. There is such a wonderful satisfaction eating the bounty of your own harvest.

Carey's Farmhouse Kitchen said...

Yes, I do garden. We also can and freeze our harvest too.

Cheryl Ann said...

Oh, PLEASE continue this series! It brings back wonderful memories of my parents' and grandparents' gardens! Here in the desert, I grow tomatoes, beans, peas, and peppers in my garden spot. And, yes, I agree with you about the work ethic!

Susan said...

I LOVE IT!!!!! Due to the loss of a job in April I will be trying my luck at a small garden. This is a wonderful help to me. Please!!! continue. I live in Georgia and plan to start tilling soon. I have a small tiller which will work fine. We love fresh veggies at our house and will eat anything. I thought about tomatoes, cucs, pole beans. I'm unsure as to what else. I want to start small and make sure I can do this. Thank you so much for your blog. I enjoy it so much.

Brenda Evans said...

I love your post about gardening and the pics are wonderful. I picture myself there with a garden. I only have a patio but I am reading up on how to patio garden this year instead of a million flowers that I also love. I want to try some cukes and maybe some green onions, some herbs and maybe a squash since I love squash. Any help that you know of in that direction would be great. I already have 2 big 1/2 wine barrels on my patio and they do get at least 1/2 day sun. I also have numerous other pots that I could move around that I'm counting on. Happy farming!

Tammy said...

Your blog on gardening is very helpful. I've only been gardening for 2 seasons so far the first year was wonderful I canned and froze food that lasted through the winter. But last year was awful I only got 2 cucumbers all season nothing seemed to to anything. Your advise is very helpful. Please continue with this. I need all the help I can get.

Laura said...

Please continue!
I used to garden, but my allergies were so bad that I gave up. My allergies seem to have let up a bit in the summer (now I only have fall allergies). Last year I decided to start again. The garden was prepped and ready to plant, but my mom was in and out of the hospital before she passed away in July. The garden was never planted...
This year I am determined to try again! Besides, in my grief, I think it will be therapeutic.
You are doing a great job here and I thank you!

Anonymous said...

I have a garden and I can and freeze things from it. I also made all kinds of pickles (a southern thing I think) but I enjoy reading about your garden and seeing the pictures, you can always get new ideas. By the way I also live in a old farmhouse and have a 67 convertible mustang.

Rosemary said...

I live in San Diego county and live on one of those Southern California postage size lots. I still garden with low water plants, however I still enjoy fresh grape tomatoes from containers. Yummy! Your photos remind me of my grandmother's garden (the one who inspired and taught me to garden)and my own veggie garden when I lived in Wisconsin on a dairy farm. Keep it up Joni...I love reading what you post.

Laura said...

And I wanted to add that it's always a plus when you include a passage from one of the Little House books.
Joni, if you're a Laura Ingalls Wilder fan have you ever visited www.beyondlittlehouse.com? It's all about Laura!

Mary Peterson said...

I love your posts on gardening. Having an urban garden myself, I enjoy your pictures and words about country life. Please, keep up the great writing!

Anonymous said...

We garden in Texas every year. So far we have collards, beets, spinach, Swiss chard, carrots, and English peas up, and have set out transplants of cabbage, brussels sprouts, and broccoli, but our potatoes are just barely coming up yet, and our onions aren't up yet. We will plant the summer stuff in a couple of weeks: blackeyes peas, purple-hull peas, green beans, summer squash, cucumbers, okra, corn, cantaloupes, watermelon, and set out tomato and pepper plants. Our best crops are in the fall garden, planted when it is still scorchingly hot, at the end of July, but by the time it is time to pick, it is cool and nice. I love your posts.
Mary Sunshine

lil red hen said...

Yes, please continue this gardening series. We plant an early garden but it's usually too dry for many summer things. I love that row of peonies; I have one plant that was here on this place when we moved here in 1968. They must live a long time if taken care of. You take such lovely pictures.

Unknown said...

I would love to have a small garden in my back yard, but we don't get enough sun. Sun is a very important thing for a garden. go figure. :) But you are right, there is nothing like a fresh home grown tomato! Think of me when you are enjoying yours.

Anonymous said...

Oh my, I love gardening. We grow most of our food and out ultimate goal is to become as self suffient as possible as we are planning to retire in 3 years. ALong with a big garden we have started an orchard with pear,peach apple, and plum trees, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries and blueberries. We bought a small farm (18 acres) 3 years and plan to sell our house in town and build a cozy farmhouse to retire in. We are building a chicken lot and plan to raise pigs and a beef cow so we can have our own meat also. With prices growing higher each day I know this is a smart choice for us. Last year I canned 500 jars of vegetables and froze more. It is so good when it is cold outside to go to the basement and choose canned vegetables then go to the freezer and get berries for a cobbler. I love your blog

Diane said...

I garden but had no luck with it last year, I'm ready to try again. Really enjoy canning and want to have fresh veggies to can.

Anonymous said...

Gardening is always a fun topic. And your pics are too pretty. We will have for the 3rd year a 30 foot long wire tunnel to grow pole beans on. Hubby and son came up with the idea and my daycare kids and I have a blast picking the beans. The ones growing from the top hang down like stalactites. And our clothes get leaves and such on them. But the kids sure do enjoy participating and getting to take a mess home. Peggy

Kathleen Grace said...

Gasp, Joni, your garden is glorious! We put in raised beds a couple years ago and they have been the greatest thing. We grow sugar snap peas, tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, pumpkins, green beans and I load all the zinnias in among everything as I can:>)