Like most people, growing up I was not big on vegetables. My mom would force me to eat many of the things I now love as an adult. Although vegetables such as green beans, mustard, turnips, and collards were often included in our daily meals, spinach was the only one I truly loved. I think my love for spinach came from watching Popeye the Sailor Man or something.
As a child, I would grudgingly eat what was set out in front of me, but when it came to trying something different, I was always a skeptic. One day last year while visiting my mom, she introduced me to what has become my new favorite green vegetable. Good old tender delicious Chard!
It’s a wrinkly looking leafy vegetable that comes in many varieties. It doesn’t require much seasoning ( I like to saute mine in olive oil and garlic) and is pretty easy to cook. This delicious green vegetable pairs well with steaks and I even can eat it solo which is a big deal for a carnivore like myself.
This year I planted my first crop and I absolutely loved growing it! It has continued to grow all through the season while my other greens have come and gone.
Nutritionally, it is not as high in nutrients as spinach but, it is still pretty close and, for me it’s good to break up the monotony of my spinach days. To harvest, I simply cut the outside leaves and the inner leaves keep multiplying and producing!
What makes this vegetable even more outstanding, and my favorite to grow, is the fact that none of the insects or critters that invade my garden periodically like it! There is never a hole and rarely a nibble. I guess it’s just too healthy for the animals in my area.
So if you have not tried this delicious green, be sure to include it in your next seasons garden. You won’t be disappointed!
Here is my favorite sauteed recipe from Food Network. Enjoy!
When we moved into our new home there were a lot of things left behind by the previous owners. They were thoughtful enough to leave us instructions on how to care for the pond ( which we ended up getting rid of ), the waterproofing warranty for the basement, and my favorite thing of all, a big old compost bin!
When we first discovered the bin, we’d planned on just getting rid of it. It’s not the fanciest container and it’s dirty and kinda ugly. But when I got more into my gardening and did more research, I realized this ugly container was worth more than gold.
I must admit that I did not know anything about composting until I actually needed compost. It all started when I learned that my tomato plants were lacking in calcium. The biggest indicator was the sign of blossom rot on the bottom of some of my tomatoes.
Seeing the black bottom on some of these tomatoes was a huge shocker to me. I wondered what I was doing wrong since all of the soil was store bought.
I figured that this new soil would be full of nutrients since I’d mixed together, organic soil for gardening, manure, and top soil.
What I did not know is that I should have mixed in some of my native soil but being that this bed was a new bed, there was little available at the time so buying was my only option.
Not sure if the native soil mixing would have helped, but it definitely would have made the purchased soil a little firmer. I read that light soil is good, but I think mine may be a little too light.
When I began to do my research about the black bottomed tomatoes, I learned that this could be easily fixed by mixing egg shells and compost into the soil. I had used Miracle Grow as my fertilizer in the past, but somehow the thought of putting a blue liquid on my garden no longer seemed right.
My fiancee then reminded me of the ugly bin of compost that the previous owners had left behind. I figured why not try it since it was available and free. My only concern was rather or not they had put dog feces in it or something else not desirable. I decided to put my paranoia aside and hope that was not the case.
In the event that they did put dog poop in the bin, it had been sitting from at least the previous year so, by now it would be safe. Needless to say I mixed some of the compost with the surrounding soil around my plants and have not had a problem since.
Now I have become a composting maniac. I constantly mix in the vegetable scraps, grass clippings, leaves, eggshells and the coffee grinds I come across daily. Because the bin is a little awkward and requires some strength to mix the bottom, I have my partner turn the compost every couple of weeks with a shovel.
I do plan on investing in a better container that is better looking and easier to turn in the future, but for now, this ugly bin has become my best friend.
Please visit the below link for things you can put in your own compost bin.
This past week has been a whirlwind of hot and humid days. We’ve had some crazy thunderstorms mixed with heavy winds, that have left my garden with muddy vegetables and soaked soil. It seems that summer is going out with a bang and a shout.
My newly planted fall garden is now three weeks old and although it is still in its infancy stage, it has been through some rough changes requiring some quick action on my part. Some of the issues could have been avoided, some not so much.
One thing that had to happen since my blog “Fall Gardening” was once my bush beans reached about two weeks old, I noticed that each bunch of seeds had sprouted into two separate plants. I had hoped to have avoided having to thin them out by trying to space the two seeds the recommended 4-6 inches apart upon planting. This still did not stop two plants from emerging.
Luckily I left space in the front of my box because I planned on planting in succession, but now this space will be utilized for my additional bush bean plants. The second issue that occurred was an attack on four of my seedlings by my dog Scooby. I accidently left the entrance to the box open and his curiosity got the best of him. He dug up a few of my mesclun lettuce plants and a spinach plant.
Luckily the damage was minimal and I had some leftover seeds so I was able to replant them with ease. This will only assure that those Items will need to be harvested a little later than the others, so I guess that’s a good thing.
My biggest problem and concern is that there seems to be some culprit who is nibbling on my greens and bean plants. I am not certain rather it is an insect or some sort of critter, but steps have to be taken to save my veggies.
My first step was to dust my plants with a preventative powder. Because I am trying to use natural ingredients, I have decided to use diatomaceous earth as the means for controlling insects.
The type of diatomaceous earth that I use is a food grade powder that does not affect the taste of the vegetables and is completely edible. Since this is my first time really using it, the jury is still in session.
What I dislike so far about it, is that it is quite messy and I have to wear a mask when applying. It is not recommended that this powder be inhaled.
If in fact it is some sort of small animal that is invading my garden, I have started to sprinkle the dirt and surrounding areas with good old fashioned cayenne pepper. This too looks messy but always seems to work. The downfall of it is that once it rains or I water the garden it has to be reapplied. Lucky, for me I can buy it at my local dollar store so the cost is minimal for the most part.
So that’s it for now. Please be sure to follow my blog for updates on my progress as I continue on my journey of being a Top Shelf Gardener.
I lie in the bed at 7:20 a.m unable to go back to sleep. I have been up since approximately 6:47 and although I didn’t go to bed until after midnight, I am no longer tired. I decide that is is time to get my day started, for lying in the bed wide awake is much like lying in a coffin waiting to die.
I am very careful not to wake my family because I simply love my quiet mornings alone. I like to work fast in the a.m and pace myself into the afternoon. There is nothing better than not being disturbed while I am working.
I go downstairs to my dining room where I do most of my writing and thinking. I open my curtains and look out the window at my “work in progress” yard. Everything looks pretty good on my side except the dead vines hanging on the cable wires that remind me of the privacy I once knew. I take a deep sigh as I stare at the rusty shed that is totally ruining my view. This eyesore is something I can’t control.
I try to consider (for the hundredth time) how my neighbors would feel if I offered to paint it for them. I have never spoken a word to the strange people on the other side of the fence. Why strange you wonder? Because they keep dropping air conditioners out of the same dang window! It’s quite a funny thing to see and it reminds me of an episode of Laurel and Hardy. I giggle at the thought.
I again wonder would they be insulted or would they be glad for the free labor? I decide not to be a busybody and continue to keep this dream to myself. Next year, we will put up a privacy fence but until then I will just have to deal with it.
I begin my morning routine….
Coffee check, incense check, shower check. Now time to check the weather forecast for today. Whoa!!! A wretched high of 87 degrees (which usually means at least 90) and it will be 77 degrees by 9:00 am. Guess I better go water my babies.
First thing I do is visit my three-week old fall garden. “Goodmorning,” I say as I gently begin spraying my tiny seedlings with my new super long water hose. The smell of the water somehow soothes me.
I usually water my garden at night so that the water does not burn the plants or dissipate too fast, but it will be super hot today so I will probably do a light watering again in the eve.
Now that the ground is wet and the worms may come out, I begin to worry about the birds bothering my poor plants. I decide it’s time to wake up my trusty sidekick “Scooby” to keep away the predators.
He grudgingly obeys as I yell to him “get the cat”. This always makes him run around in circles like a madman. Scares the heck out of anything in the yard even me sometimes.
The nice thing about having a super crazy, I mean, intelligent dog is that he will chase away just about anything. The other day he tried to gently attack my daughter’s new beau. I haven’t seen that kid since.
Next I tend to my two petunia hanging baskets. They are really dry and brown at the bottom but still have some pretty blooms. I wonder if it is time to just let them go. Nah, maybe next week, as I finish watering my backyard and head to the front.
The front of my home has been sort of neglected lately. About two months ago I decided to plant pumpkin seeds in my front yard since I didn’t have an appropriate full sun space in the back.
I had the brilliant idea that I would have some beautiful vines and pumpkins once Halloween got here. There were only a few perennials in this space and most of my annuals would need to be pulled up soon anyway. This seemed to be an ideal spot until this happened.
The vines look pretty I think. Honestly, I am not certain how I feel about them which is why I kept putting off pruning them! But today is the day!
Once I read that I could cut the vines to lessen the length and then the plant would concentrate more on making larger pumpkins instead of a lot of pumpkins, my mind was made up. I have only noticed one pumpkin in all of this mess and this lucky guy is on the driveway and side I want to keep.
The clock is ticking now and if I don’t get moving soon it’s going to be a sweltering hot miserable project! I decide to start with the smallest patch on the left side and work myself to the right. I dig down with my shovel and it comes out easily. I realize I don’t really need tools at all. What a strange plant it is with barely any roots.
Just when I get going, here comes Mrs.Busy Body from next door. “Oh, I see your plants are taking over Aye,” she says. I nod my head in agreement, “My squash are dying and I have no idea why,” She waits for me to tell her.
I glance over to the front of her yard and as usual, a hot mess. I see her sorry pumpkin vines that are struggling for survival in all of her chaos and I want to scream “WATER THEM LADY,” but instead, I offer a few umm-hmms as she jabbers about randomly. Her conversation is very similar to her yard with all kinds of random things being thrown about.
I start to zone her out and keep it moving. It is just too hot for chatter. Just when I think she is getting the picture, her husband walks up. I decide to say good morning since I don’t want to appear to be too rude. To be quite honest, I kind of like this guy. He barely talks and he minds his own business. My type of neighbor.
The most interesting thing about him is the fact that he always looks like he is going out for a pack of cigarettes never to return. I think it’s only a matter of time.
He gives her a look and they head off towards their home. I am grateful that he intervened since the last time she talked to me for over an hour and I couldn’t get a word in edgewise. I will never understand why people come up to you just to have a conversation with themselves.
As I continue to work and pull up the prickly vines, the bees start to chase me. I run in circles looking like a maniac in my moo-moo, sweat socks, and rubber shoes. I dodge there every attack not caring how foolish I must look. I will not let them bully me away from my garden today.
When that fiasco is over, I then notice that the vines I have removed have tiny baby pumpkins on them. Where the heck did these guys come from? At that very moment is when I realized, in all of my haste, that I am a murderer, and I have killed my own children!
I fed and took care of them just to snuff them out when they were no longer convenient. What started out as a trim became a full blown massacre. I hurriedly shoved them into the paper bag of death hoping no one will ever know just what I have done…
When I am finished the front looks sort of bare again and I feel a little empty. But now, I am happy that I can see my Japanese Maple and rose bush again. I was somewhat worried that a .99 cent pack of pumpkin seeds was going to choke the life out of my overly expensive tree.
Now I can concentrate on putting more fall colors in the front and getting ready for my favorite holiday. I have made the right decision. I think…
Over the last few years, I have acquired a strong interest in gardening. It started off as a love for flowers but then evolved into a full-blown desire to grow things almost anything. Last year I planted my very first vegetable garden. I started out with an expensive two level pine raised garden, but then when I ran out of space, I moved to a shady space under a fence in my yard.
The funny thing was that my second garden, in the shady area, consisted of nothing more than the native soil in my yard, but the vegetables grew much better than in the expensive raised garden which consisted of fancy store bought soil. The area was under a fence with bushes on the other side which provided just enough shade for vegetables such as cabbage, zucchini, and cucumbers.
This area also had enough sun for corn which grew lovely! The soil was very rich and had tons and tons of worms which were the first indication of fertility. What I gained from this experience is the notion that sometimes what is readily available to you can be your very best option.
Although I had learned a lot about my soil and gardening in my first year as a vegetable gardener and knew the next year would be even better, I ended up moving to a new home where uncharted gardening and home improvement awaited me.
As of now, I have been at my new home for 8 months and have tackled many projects in this short time. After trying to figure out where I would put my new garden, my fiancee made the suggestion that we convert the pond (which I was not a huge fan of) into a raised garden! The area had large flowering bushes around it, and also a separate area for flowers. In theory, this area would be suitable for both sun and shade plants.
With this new space, a lot of new challenges came with it. We first had the task of removing over 4 ft of water, filling the pond with about 2.5 feet of fill dirt, plus 2 feet of top soil manure and other amendments.
I researched what items grew best in full sun or part shade. I carefully created a draft showing where everything was to be planted. I even made a calendar that kept track of the dates I planted my plants (I did not start from seeds) and a fertilizing and feeding schedule. I had it all figured out… So I thought.
At the beginning of this spring season I had planted two types of tomatoes, (Roma and big boy) zucchini, cucumbers, bush beans, basil, two types of red swiss chard, okra, broccoli, collards, kale and hot peppers.
By late summer which is as I am writing this, I no longer had okra because they took too long to take off and I felt the space was overcrowded so I gave the plants away, and I learned that collards were the hardest to keep the insects off naturally so eventually I pulled them up. I did get at least three harvesting’s from them which was more than enough for me.
The red cabbage formed heads, but they did not get very big. This was the same problem I had with them last year, so I’m not sure I will try again with the red ones. The green ones tend to do well anywhere I put them. The bush beans did not produce very much so I pulled them up too.
The previous year I did a vine variety of beans which produced a lot, but they were not flavorful so I think I will try vine again next year but a different variety.
My zucchini suffered from powdery mildew all season but still produced some decent sized zucchini but nowhere near the large ones from the previous year. I think they were not getting enough air which caused the mildew and slower growth.
But still, all in all, I consider my new garden to be a huge success and it looks beautiful in my yard! People come by and marvel over its greatness! I am very pleased indeed! 🙂
Even though it is in full bloom, it is still a lot of work. Over the season, I have had to cut down and prune my tomato plants because they were entirely too tall, and most of the nutrients were going into the height of the plant and not the fruit. Once I learned the art of pruning (kinda) they started to produce more fruit, and much faster. I continuously have had to add support to my tomatoes so I think next year I will use cages.
I also had a very slight case of rot bottom on just a few plants. I also moved one of my cucumber plants from the garden to a pot because it was competing with the zucchini. I originally thought zucchini could be grown on a trellis but was wrong.
Now we are approaching the end of summer here in Michigan so I have decided to start a whole new vegetable garden! Yes, I am venturing into fall gardening this year. Stay tuned for my next posting which will take you step by step with me, as I challenge myself to dig deeper and become a Top Shelf Gardener!