Friday, February 29, 2008

A "Seedy" Stress Reliever

Since those frightening moments of Monday morning I've found that my mind has been in high gear as I try to figure out how this happened and what I need to do to make it better. I have to "watch" for suspicious symptoms all day and at night too. Which means my daughter has her own "camp" cot set up in our bedroom. Needless to say, I'm not sleeping well and neither is she. Stress has hit "Garden Girl" and Mom quite hard.

But I know I'm not the only one who deals with stress on a daily basis. Some very healthy people head straight for the gym to work(out) their stress away. Some very intellectual people head straight for a book to read their stress away. Some very talkative people keep dialing phone numbers until they've talked their stress away. But Gardeners are not normal people. What others feel are more household chores gardeners relish as the best type of stress reliever. Why?

  1. Sunlight. The news is constantly reporting both the benefits and the dangers of being in the sun. However, nothing feels better than feeling the sun warm your skin as you tidy a garden bed filled with the fragrant blooms.

  2. Sense of Accomplishment. One of the best stress relievers is feeling as though you've accomplished something. Creating a beautiful garden bed where once there was nothing is an excellent way to do just that.

  3. Connect with Nature. As we live our normal lives with cell phones, computers, automatic doors that don't seem to open for us we all encounter stress. Nature provides us the opportunity to disconnect from the world and tune into a quieter part of ourselves and our environment.

  4. Exercise. Only someone who has never weeded flower beds for hours on end believes that gardening is easy. Lifting, bending, stretching, digging, planting, raking. All of these vigorous activities get the blood pumping and can give the same benefits to a stressed out gardener as going to an "actual" gym. And the garden smells a lot better!

So, my dear "Garden Girl" daughter and I are planning to de-stress ourselves by planting our seeds together first thing Saturday morning. Last Sunday I received a call from my local Ace Hardware store. This was unusual but a happy surprise. The manager called to say that they were holding a one day only sale and were randomly contacting some of their Ace Rewards Members. We had nothing urgent planned for our Sunday so we gathered the tribe and went into town. Upon entering I realized that the store was prepping for spring! And there among their goodies were seeds...marked for the one day only sale...10 for $1.00! So instead of hemming and hawing over which I could afford I let my two girls pick out the pretty ones. Apparently we're going to have a lot of pink and purple flowers in our whiskey barrels this year. They chose:

They had so much fun...and I got a real bargain on my annuals. What could be better? Thanks Ace, and our wonderful manager who decided upon entering the store to have the one day sale!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Day My Heart Stopped...& Where I've Been

It was a typical Monday Morning in our household. Except that my it was the first day back to school after a week's worth of vacation. As usual I woke up my son and then went in to wake up my sleepyhead daughter. She lumbered into the bathroom (where she gets dressed in the morning so that we don't wake up her little sister) and everything seemed quite normal. Although, groggy would be an understatement. Shortly after I left her I heard her thump into something. I rolled my eyes and smiled because she's just so clutzy it's almost comical. "Are you okay" In a cheerful sing song voice she answered, "Yeah, I'm fine." Within just a few more seconds I heard a second thump. I decided to go back upstairs. I called to her and she didn't answer me. I'm not worried, just a little annoyed at having to go up and down the stairs so many times and it's barely even 6:15 am! I opened the bathroom door and found her in a full seizure on the floor. Luckily, I've been First Aid/CPR but still My heart just stopped. I went into action as I could hear her choking in an attempt to breathe. Her seizure lasted at least 2 minutes although it seemed like hours!

We live in such a remote area that the ambulance arrived 15 minutes after my husband's 911 call. And it took another 45 minutes after that to get her in a calm enough state to travel. She was suffering from what they call a Post-Ictal state. She was highly agitated and fearful. Repetively screaming when seeing anyone she didn't "know" prior to the seizure. It was a very tense, and alarmingly scary event for our family as there has never been a history of seizures with our children or any of our close relatives. So we were caught completely off guard. Although, I'm not sure anyone is ever prepared to see their child in such a horrible state.

We did get the the ER about 1 1/2 hours after the seizure (45 minutes at the house before she was calm enough to travel and 45 minute drive). The ER ran several tests. The CT Scan came back clear but her EKG was inconclusive. Their diagnoses was that she fainted, hit her head causing a concussion (and a beautiful black eye) and the concussion caused the seizure. She was released from the ER within 4 hours of her arrival. I was less than convinced that they had investigated her symptoms enough. So I immediately called our Family Doctor and he saw her Tuesday. After a very thorough check over (we were in his office nearly 2 hours) he concluded that she is hypoglycemic. After reading more about it I agree...wholeheartedly. She still needs follow up testing because she shows signs of having "partial" seizures previously. So we are being scheduled for an EEG and another EKG.

My greenhouse stands empty as I now find it hard to not be within arm's reach of my daughter. For the time being (at the request of the doctor) she sleeps on a camp cot in our bedroom so we can monitor her. It's been a very stressful and very frightening time for our family and suddenly the seeds I bought but have yet to plant just don't seem as important. But as she recovers she seems interested in helping me plant them so...Maybe if we have a chance today. If not...the seeds will wait. I have more important things to do:

  1. Stare at my oldest daughter.

  2. Thank God that she's okay.

  3. Hug my son.

  4. Thank God he's okay.

  5. Chase my little daughter.

  6. Thank God she's okay.

A lot to do and only one day to do it! Ofcourse, I can (and will) try again tomorrow.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Greenhouse Dreaming and Ramblings

My "Accidental Forcing" bulbs are thriving in my kitchen window. They seem to be quite happy which makes me quite happy. In other parts of the house I have set-up my greenhouse (hopefully in a better position than the "stock" photo from yesterday's post.) I have placed the greenhouse in front of my sliding glass door which gets the most light and sun of any room in the house. It's also a placement which should ensure pretty consistant temperatures.

Yesterday, I excitedly said that it was time to start pepper plants. However, I was mistaken. After checking my Storey's Basic Country Guide and speaking to a local farmer (he's a Farmer's Market favorite) I learned that I needed to wait at least until Mid-April. So, before rising from bed this morning I told my husband that although it may be too early for vegetables. It's never too early for annuals. I think he rolled his eyes at me. But how can I get a new greenhouse and not immediately start some seeds? It just seems wrong not to!

So today I turn my attention to deciding what kind of annuals I'd like to decorate my front porch with this year. Suggestions are welcome as always.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

A Seedy Gift & Successful Seed Starting Tips

Don't you love it when hubby shows up with a gift? Especially one that proves how well he knows you? Hubby did just that when he brought home a greenhouse last night. Since Robin posted about Winter Sowing late in January I've been frantically looking for a shelf system to meet my needs. It's been a difficult search as most of February our garden centers were still in the midst of "seasonal" stocking. At last, they've brought out the real goodies... the garden gear! Yippee!

I think hubby was fearful that I was going to try and "repurpose" his workshop shelves...I had threatened to steal his workshop lights. So tada! Greenhouse gift! And just in the nick of time too... It's finally time to start my peppers! As I've admitted I have had difficulty with seeds before. Matter of fact, my three year old was "helping" to assemble the greenhouse last night and asked, "What's this for?" Daddy answered, "For Mommy's seeds." To which she said, "Mommy's seeds don't grow!"

Seed starting can be overwhelming. And the information available tends to focus on how to start the seeds which is a pretty straight~forward task. To help improve my seedy chances this year I've ignored all that info and bought the peat pellets. I've heard good things about the pellets and am ready to give them a try. Through my research I've found these really simple starter's guide to:

Seed Survival~The Basics
Provide your seeds with the following for happy seedlings.
  • Light! You have two options natural or fluorescent. For natural light place your seedlings near a sunny, southern window. Rotate your seedlings often so they don't bend over as they search for the sun. For fluorescent the key is to use a cool white bulb and to hang the fixture directly over the seeds.
  • Warmth! Most seeds like a warm environment. Seeds will germinate and grow best in a 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit (21-24 degrees Celsius). After they've become little seedlings though they tend to enjoy temps between 60-70f (15-21c).
  • Mositure & Humidity! Keep the germinating medium moist but never soggy. To keep moisture levels high slide your seed flats into clear plastic bags. Or cover your shelving system with clear plastic. Remove the cover as soon as seeds sprout. Check medium everyday for drying out. (TIP: Dryer medium will be lighter in color.)
  • Water! As your seedlings grow they have to establish they're "feet" in the soil. Just like babies they can fall over easily. So as your tempted to grab your watering can...STOP! When you add water to the top of your planting medium your seeds/seedlings have no way of anchoring themselves into the soil and so they will "float" on the water and fall over! :( So ALWAYS water from the bottom until seedlings are quite large.
  • Fertilize! I've made the mistake before of fertilizing too early so when is the best time to add those extra vitamins? After the first True leaves appear. The first leaves are food storage's those second leaves that really spell success! This is a good time to begin fertilizing with liquid soluable plant food as you bottom water your seedlings. When seedlings are very small use 1/4 of the amount of plant food directed on package. Increase to 1/2 the normal stregnth as seedlings begin to mature.

With simple steps like these I hope even seed challenged people (like myself) will find it easier to get healthy plants from those amazing little seeds.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Benefits of Cooking Your Soil...Yes, Cook It!

As many of you know I'm addicted to raised garden beds. Although, now that I know the difference I'm determined to call my beds by their proper name: framed beds. (Thank You, P. Allen Smith) Because I love framed garden beds so much I tend to have a lot of soil trucked in. I'd love to say that I buy only the finest in garden soil, rich in nutrients and completely bug free... BUT it just isn't so. I am the ultimate garden scavenger. I've gotten topsoil from construction sites, the town DPW at ditching time, anywhere that has free soil. Which means I spend a lot of time removing unwanted "stuff" from my garden soil. Although, it is time consuming to remove bottle caps, stones, etc. it's always the other stuff in the soil that worries me.
I don't know where this soil has been, and I don't know what's living in it. EEWWW! Which means that pest removal is my biggest priority. If I told you that there is a easy and fool~proof way of eliminating practically every harmful insect egg/larva in your garden would you do it? What if I told you that by doing this you also provide other garden benefits? What if I told you that it is LOW to NO cost?
I bet that you're pretty interested! The process itself is called Soil Solarization. It's a fancy term meaning to use the sun to cook your soil to a temperature of 140 degrees at the top of the soil to over 100 degrees as far as 18" deep!
  1. Prepare the soil: You know the drill. Clear debris/weeds, Add amendments, Rake to remove any trapped "air pockets".

  2. Water thoroughly. This creates 100% humidity. Without the humidity it's like trying to steam your veggies without any just doesn't work.

  3. If your working with a ground level bed then dig a trench about 6-8 inches deep around your garden. If your working with a raised/framed bed usually you have about that much soil above ground so you can skip this part.

  4. Cover with clear plastic (6 to 8 mm) overlapping the trench/framed sides. Fill in the trench with soil weighing down the plastic while pulling it as tight as possible. In a raised/ framed bed you can also use soil/rock to weigh down the plastic or you can staple it to your frames. Remember the key to success is a air tight covering.

  5. Patience....Patience! 4-6 weeks of sunshine and you have healthy soil. No matter where it came from.

This process is cheap and easy. Although if you have a patience problem like I do...Good luck. Soil Solarization has many benefits. According to one of my long time favorite books: Storey's Basic Country Skills "It kills insects, nematodes, harmful fungi, weeds seeds, and eliminates plant diseases. At the same time helpful microorganisims within the soil apparently benefit, possibly from lack of competition. Soil that has been solarized allows plants to draw on nutrients, especially nitrogen, calcium, and magnesium more readily. Seeds germinate more quickly. Plants grow faster and stronger, often maturing earlier with substantially higher yeilds, than in unsolarized soil." All I know is that I can't ever remember having any of my gardens infested with anything. I generally never have to worry about bugs or disease. So does it work? I'll let you try it and judge it for yourself.

I love this book. Like I said it's one of my all time favorites. But if you don't own an old beat up copy like I do...Try The Green Man (warning it's a PDF) for some good soil solarization info.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

I've been Tagged: 6 Unimportant Things About Me Me Me

Apple has tagged me for a little online game. Because I've been tagged I get to tell you 6 unimportant things about me. Believe it or not this is a harder challenge than I'd like to admit. Okay here goes:
  1. I have been a Girl Scout Leader for 6 years and was in Girl Scouts myself (when I was younger) for a total of13 years. Yikes! Thatsa longtime.
  2. I am a Choc-aholic! Hershey's Kisses, M&M's, Cocoa Puffs, Cakes, Brownies, Fudge, Hot Cocoa, Thin Mint Cookies, anything from Gertrude Hawke. That's my Top 10 List for Chocolate fixes!
  3. I love to play games. My husband does not. So everytime I get to visit with my parents we end up playing Phase 10 or Uno Attack.
  4. I am the Cupcake Queen of my kid's school. I love to search the internet for new cupcake ideas. I send an average of about 400 cupcakes to school each year!
  5. If I could move anywhere I would move to the Adirondacks! I make the 2 hour trip to the Adirondacks at least once a month with my kids. We pack a lunch and go hiking and spend time together. It's our family place and I'd move there in a hot NY second if I had the chance.
  6. I'm a wannabe writer. Did you guess? LOL. I have written a romance novel but have never had the nerve to send it anywhere.

  7. There that's 6 things about me that I'm sure you never wanted to know about me. Now who to tag?

Tag Your It: Joy & Anna

Have Fun!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Re-Worked Kitchen Schematic

After closer inspection on the BHG Eye-Catching Garden from yesterday's post I think it could use a little re-working to fit the needs of my family. Meaning I spent hours and hours last night trying to cook/eat/cleanup dinner while refusing to put down my schematics.

Schematics sounds like a technical term but I've been drawing schematics since I was old enough to write my name. From that time until now my Dad has operated heavy equipment for a living. So when a long holiday would roll around it would only make sense that he would want to enjoy himself. And he did...immensely. Because whenever he could talk his bosses into it he would borrow a piece of equipment to bring home. Our long weekends were full of landscaping adventures and they all began at the kitchen table with paper and pencil. The drawing of a detailed work plan became a family tradition. And like all good family traditions it got a nickname. Schematic. To this day I begin every project with a schematic only now I start at the kitchen table and end at the computer.

Back to the Kitchen Garden Schematic: First, remove all tomatoes. Wait! I know that a lot of gardener's love them some tomatoes and I certainly give kudos to all those tomato lovers. However, hubby and I aren't fans. After all of my minor changes to the garden plan I ended up with the finished layout plan above. But maybe, you are a fan of tomatoes and peas and all the other things that I took out. If so, you can get your own copy of the original garden plan (minus the color coding I've added) by visiting Better Homes & Gardens by clicking on the BKG link above or by clicking the original layout below.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Veggie or Kitchen Garden? There's a Difference!?!

I'm apparently the only person in the world who doesn't know that vegetable gardening comes in many forms. As I've delved deeper into the vegetable gardening world I have readily admitted that I'm an idiot. I know nothing. Absolutely nothing. And so as always I grabbed my trusty mouse and began my research. In a past life I might have been a researcher for the NY Times or something more devious like the IRS. Today however, I believe that I have turned my researching knack into an artform. For today, I have turned an idiot into a novice in the ways of vegetables.

As I began my research journey I started with Wikipedia's Vegetable Garden and then proceeded to Wikipedia's Kitchen Garden. I was struck with a new thought. "There's a difference?" Why had nobody told me?!? After hours of research I've determined that ultimately the difference is this: Veggie gardens grow veggies and some fruits like tomatoes. Kitchen gardens grow veggies, fruits, herbs, and flowers edible and decorative. Now that I know the difference I believe that I've been wanting a kitchen garden. Go figure!

However this discovery provided yet another "I never knew that" moment. (I know that's common with me.) It was as I moved from Wikipedia to more traditional garden sites that I read a wonderful 2 part article by P. Allen Smith aptly named Starting a Kitchen Garden. From this article I learned that there is a difference between raised garden beds and framed garden beds. Again, Why had nobody told me!?! The main difference: A raised garden bed does not need to have sides. It can be just mounded soil. Meanwhile, a framed garden bed needs (obviously) a frame around the soil such as wood, rock, bricks, etc. However, a framed garden bed must be bottomless. That sounds kinda dirty...P. Allen Smith explains it so much better.

With that useful information tucked inside my brain (probably never to be heard from again) I made my way to BHG's Eye-Catching Kitchen Garden. Aha! I'm already a member of this site so I am eligible to download the PDF file that gives me a detailed layout diagram, a list of plants for the garden as shown, and complete instructions for installing the garden. Finally (tears of joy streaming down my face) I've found Gardening for Dummies! I've been just praying for someone to tell me where, how and what to plant. It's a Halleluiah Moment! But it looks too good to be true. Can I really do this? Is it really possible?

If only there was a gardener out there who showed a real picture. Or better yet a slideshow! A real gardener showing that yes kitchen gardens are possible, are pretty, and can be a dream come true. Wait! I've found that Gardener. Terry L. Yockey of Northern Gardening (a site I'm sure most of you are fond of) has been gracious enough to provide a visual step by step through the construction of a beautiful and real kitchen garden. This slideshow (viewable only in Internet Explorer) gave me a feeling of "I CAN DO IT!"

When I joined my garden club 10 years ago I begged the ladies to help me to stop killing my plants. It's taken me 10 years to finally feel comfortable claiming to be a "gardener". I love my ever changing flower beds. And as a friend recently pointed out to me...I've become obsessed. So I've set myself a new goal. In 10 years, I hope to be just as comfortable with being a "kitchen gardener" as I am with perrenial flowers. Give me a few decades and I might even try hydroponics!

Monday, February 18, 2008

FREE Roses?

Roses for Valentines Day? Nah! Hubby and I agreed long with roots only! So how did these long stemmed beauties end up beautifying my kitchen? Well...

It was Saturday afternoon and less than 24 hours to the biggest smack talking event of the year. With desperation we found the nearest Wal-Mart and then Sam's Club. Preparations needed to be made! As we scavenged the stores for much needed supplies we came up empty handed! Whatever would we do when the family came and we had naught to offer except Soda and Beer. On our way out of Sam's Club (with our measly purchases) the receipt checker posted at the door asked if we'd like a flower. There was a wide variety of flowers featured in store bouquets. So I asked my oldest daughter if she'd like one. Can you guess what she answered? She was handed (to my surprise) a lovely long stemmed rose. And then the girl took the time to find a thornless rose for my 3 year old daughter. Who immediately cried out, "Now, I'm like a Barbie Doll!" By this time a rather long line had formed behind us so she got quite the chuckle.

But I had no time for all this cuteness! I am on a mission and I mustn't be thrown off track. So with one more stop at a grocery store I was ready! Of course, now it's 9 o'clock at night and I've less than 15 hours to prepare.

On Sunday morning, I awoke bright and early. I began cutting, chopping, mixing, grilling, baking. Hours passed as I frantically threw together recipe after recipe. Finally the family arrived. You could tell that it was going to be a tense day as the smack talk started early! As we ate Ranch Ham salad in Kaiser Roll bowls and munched on chips with 3 types of homemade dips the teasing continued. And finally the moment of truth was here: Time to drop the Green Flag. As Darryl Waltrip says so well, "Boogity Boogity Boogity, Let's go Racing, Boys!" And it just so happens that my team had the pole position. Go Lowes! (We built our log cabin by hand but whatever we needed to buy came from Lowes. Gotta stay loyal to my favorite company.) Ah, but that happiness was not to last for me as the Lowes Car ran into trouble all day long ending with getting spun down into the dirt. My father and oldest daughter were rooting, cheering, crying for Junior all afternoon. Hubby watched the Jim Beam car (he's loyal to his favorite company too~heehee) as it had a decent start to the race season. And my mother was thrilled that Bobby Labonte wasn't involved in any wrecks.

Not even a pace car could've slowed down the good natured verbal bashings that continued throughout the race. With homemade pepperoni and chicken wing pizzas for dinner it was the perfect family fun day! Aside from the roses there was no talk of gardening or anything flower related. My "accidental forcing" bulbs are doing well. I think I'll have a couple beautiful spring containers. No yesterday Green didn't stand for flowers, eco-friendly, or gardening instead it stood for Green Flag Racing.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Adirondack Fire Garden

Continuing from yesterday I'm taking another look at my backyard gardens. Prior to last season I had no back yard plantings. So when I was given so many wonderful and (more importantly) FREE plants & bulbs. I knew it was time to beautify the back yard. We own just under 2 acres of land with a tree line between us and our only visible neighbor. We have no fences to distinguish our property from someone elses. So it's difficult for me to know where to start as the yard seems so large. After returning from our annual camping trip to the Adirondacks I decided we could not live another minute without a fire ring of our own. A place to gather at night and to have S'mores with the kids and to sit and chat with hubby. So as we began work on our "Adirondack Fire Garden" we decided on (as usual) a raised rock bed. The sides were made from logs that we hadn't used while building our home. In the center we dug a small pit and set our fire ring with bear and pine tree cutouts over it. Around it we placed logs for seats. Then as I glanced around our lawn I saw my sad little "bridge to nowhere" sitting all alone in the middle of a dry lawn. I hate bridges that have no purpose. Before construction on our log cabin we did have a need for the little bridge but all those "problem" areas were resolved with some proper landscaping. So with a bit of pleading I convinced hubby to help pull it over to the new fire garden. With the bridge placed as an entry into the raised bed the kids had a new and exciting way into the fire area. And I had two new areas for planting...heehee... my diabolical master plan is working! It might be the first planting beds I've done here that aren't raised. And to be truthful...I think I'll raise them up this year.

During a trip to get mulch with my oldest daughter she asked if she could start her own flower bed. How could I say no? The she informed me that she had her own money to spend! Well, hello Miss Independent! LOL. And so we walked through the garden center and she checked the price and the sun/water requirements. She dreamed and fawned all over the plants (like mother like daughter) and then she grabbed 4 nice looking asters from the clearance rack. When I asked why she replied, "I can get 4 for the price of 1 larger plant in the regular section. And with time and patience these will get just as big. And I'll have 4!" I've never been so proud. She's a frugal gardener!!!

Friday, February 15, 2008

The beauty of a New Bed

Yesterday I posted a computerized layout of my garden. Shortly after I realized that the layout was quite ugly! I defintely had a 'What was I thinking moment'! But I use the layout as a way to plan my next move and (although it's not to scale) it does give me a pretty good idea of where the garden stands~or lies...whatever. So today, I've decided to stroll down memory lane with a few of my new backyard garden beds. The picture above is the completed bed next to the house.

It started out as an ignored area to house snow-mobiles. I say ignored because no matter how many times I begged hubby... He ignored.

This is before the tilling began. Why did my hubby stop ignoring me? Maybe because I came home with this one day...

Two very generous gardeners and very dear friends had let me pick through they're compost and rock piles. And I'm not too proud to go roaming through a compost pile especially when it's full of newly "uprooted" bulbs. Although, they needed to be removed from their old home for a new project I just couldn't bear to let them just rot in a compost pile. So I dove in! And what a great friend she was to let me! The rocks were donated by a longtime friend of mine who overheard me saying that I was in need. He quickly volunteered to let me get what I needed from a stone wall that needed to be removed. Sometimes, the planets and stars all align... And then sometimes you realize that you have some awesome friends!

My first "garden visitor". Bandit the cat is very well-behaved in a garden and can often be found laying under some of the plants. But that night he was strolling through the half completed garden inspecting the work. Some plants in bloom to add color and some mulch complete the 2 day project. Ofcourse, now it's all hidden under snow. But I remember.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine's & Veggies?

Happy Valentines Day!
My hubby and I have never been huge Valentine's day people. A card here or a box of candy there. We're much more apt to buy flowers with roots rather than flowers for vases. And I'm great with that! After all, he is just feeding my addiction.
My heart (while always filled with love for my family) has been in the garden planning, plotting, preparing, cursing the snow! Hubby knows how I long to start a veggie garden. So last night we sat together and he helped me bring my graph paper into the computer age. We planned, plotted and prepared. He even cursed the snow with me! Awww! We searched the seed catalogs. And we made some decisions. Yeah! We want to plant: corn, beans, cucumbers, peppers, carrots, potatoes, onions, pumpkins, and some herbs. As you'll notice I haven't put in the variety names...there's a simple reason for that. I CAN'T DECIDE! I don't know what I'm doing. I have no clue how much space I need for all this. I've never veggie gardened in a raised bed. I've learned about square foot gardening, and intensive gardening, and whatever happened to hoe a row? Obviously, I'm overwhelmed. I've grabbed my garden buddy: Time Life's Gardener's Guide: Summer Vegetables. This book is one in a series printed in 1988 and I'm not sure that it's even in print anymore! It doesn't have all the modern gardening trends but it's my most valuable source for starting a veggie garden. Which seeds can start inside/which can't!
So on this Valentine's Day we are celebrating with Veggies! By Day's end we are placing our Veggie order. If you have a fave variety please let me know! I'd really appreciate any and all help. Thanks! Oh and Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Veggie Virgin

During the past 8 years my family has been focused on building our log home and then we focused our efforts on landscaping around our new cabin. Last year was a great year for our flower beds. We were given an amazing variety of plants from some very generous friends and gardeners. It took our planting beds from looking like year 1 to being established and vibrant! And so now, I will admit that I have never had a Veggie garden before. Yes...I'm a Veggie Virgin!

But I've been inspired by all the veggie garden bloggers such as Carol's lovely & organized veggie garden and other websites such as Daily Weeder. And by Chris the Gardener as she gets excited over the arrival of the Johnny's seed catalog. I also received my Johnny's catalog and my Territorial Seed Catalog yesterday which immediately sent me from excited to PANICKED! I have no clue what I'm doing! I'm positive that I need to only order the least amount of seeds they offer. But I know nothing about varieties of corn or onions or anything. My hubby and I aren't big tomato fans (I know it's practically sacreligious) so I don't think I'll attempt them this year. Same with Peas. But I'm dying for really great green beans like I used to have out of my mother's home garden.

I love my raised flower beds and have heard great things about raised veggie beds but...I have no idea what I'm doing. My mother says not to bother will all the fuss of a raised bed because veggies don't need all that. Ofcourse, that's what she says about my flowerbeds too! So I will gather my graph paper. I will research the internet. I will make a decision and I will order my seeds. And by the end of the 2008 growing season I will no longer be a Veggie Virgin! I hope....

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A Gardening Fairytale

Once upon a time a pretty flower blossomed in a pretty little flowerbed. The villagers watched over her and tended to her every need. They were so grateful to be blessed with such beauty. Then one day a cool autumn breeze began to blow from across Lake Ontario. It chilled the pretty little flower and she knew she must hide her beauty away. So she faded and she fell. The villagers who had gazed upon her loveliness with such joy were saddened by her retreat and they cursed the cool breeze. The breeze grew angry and vengeful. It vowed to punish the villagers for their foolishness. And so on one cold wintery Monday the cold breeze had it's revenge!
The villagers regretted their angry curses at the cool autumn breeze! And they promised that if they could enjoy spring once more they would be more friendly to the autumn breeze next year. At least they would try. As for the pretty little flower...she still sleeps...Happily Ever After! (until spring).

Monday, February 11, 2008

Little GreenThumbs

Being a Mom to three makes me always on the lookout for new and unusual gardening products that might help them to enjoy gardening the way that I do. So as I explore the world of online garden stores I am always pleased when I find garden sites that are as dedicated to young gardeners as to older ones.

HortiKids is a fun and educational site. They offer unique kid friendly containers, gloves, tools and topiaries. My personal favorite! The topiaries are fun shapes that any kid would love to begin gardening with.
Kidsregen is a great site for the kids to navigate through themselves! It's fun and easy to view. The motto of this site is: Healthy Soil~Healthy Bodies~Healthy People. I love that they show everything from yoga moves to Healing Herb Windowsill gardens. How cool!

Garden Mosiacs offered by Cornell focuses on the science behind the growing! It goes in depth into composting, interplanting for pest control, soil texture. It's a really educational site that is ideal for the "tweens" who still loves to play in the dirt.

Center for Ecoliteracy while not technically a site for kids it is still a site that (in my opinion) every parent should visit. They're "Rethink our Lunch Programs" is definetly a step in the right direction to help our children understand the importance of healthy food.

And finally who doesn't love Butterflies? On this site you can learn just about everything you need to know about our favorite garden visitors!

There is nothing more fun than gardening with your children or grandchildren but if that just isn't possible right now...(due to snow, bitter cold, an endless winter, etc.) then researching the web together can be a great way to get excited about gardening. I hope you have as much fun on these sites as my family and I did.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Wish Me Gardener's Luck

Today's photos by John Elliot 4/2007

In the past few years my garden has become my sanctuary. A place for me to find peace, beauty in a sometimes dismal world. Yet, what provides us shelter during troubled times can sometimes also leave us feeling isolated or sheltered. I think we all have moments when we look up from our gardening chores and realize that hours have passed without contact with another human being. Before that magical time (when all non-gardeners seem fuzzy and far away; when their voices seemed covered by the buzzing of the bees and the singing of the birds) that I refer to as Garden Isolation sets in we should all find some new garden inspiration.

For that reason, this year I hope to travel to the Adirondack Garden & Flower Show in April. I love garden shows and this one seems to have a special flair. I've heard that it boasts a truly Adirondack eclectic-ness to it. Cross my fingers and pray for sun...Maybe this year I can go!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Accidental Forcing

I spent most of yesterday (another cold and icy day) wishing that I could begin my winter sowing like Robin has. Unfortunately, my last frost date is May 22nd. It's so long to wait.

I have bulbs stored in my basement (as most gardeners do) but only because I wasn't able to get them in the ground last fall before it froze. I keep them stored neatly on a shelf about 4 foot off the floor. So late last night as I journeyed down into the basement to retrieve frozen pork chops for Thursday's dinner I decided to give my bulbs a peek. I was shocked to find that many of the bulbs had begun to sprout! Why!?! I grabbed up my little babies and hurried upstairs. Yes, I forgot the pork chops. (I hear you giggling!) I grabbed a new pot that I had gotten on clearance and began rescuing my premies.

As I lovingly planted the newborns again my mind was screaming, "Why!?!" I've successfully stored bulbs before. Why did they sprout so early this time? After considering the question all night: I blame my husband! He has fluorescent shop lights placed all over the basement and I've only just realized how many hours he has spent in the basement lately as he works on one of his winter projects. I do believe that I accidently forced the bulbs by leaving the basement lights on!

What a happy accident!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

How to Start a Gardening Club...and Why!

About ten years ago I saw a small announcement in the local newspaper stating that a gardening club was holding a wreath making event that would be open to the public at a cost of $10 for supplies. I went to the event and enjoyed the people so much that I asked if I could join their club. They said yes and I paid my first membership dues of $5 that night. Before I joined the average age of the gardeners was at least 60 and I was in my early 20's. My hubby would giggle and say, "My wife isn't here right now she's at her old ladies club." However, I wasn't the only young gardener who wanted to learn from these wonderful ladies in only 10 years the club has gone from the 7 original members to 40! And I'm from a small community. Truthfully, I would never have dreamed that there were even close to 40 other gardens in my area.

Now, I tell you all this to get the WHY of why you should be a member of a garden club. While I love the internet it does pose some limitations. One of the biggest benefits of my membership into my garden club has been free plants. Many I had never heard of. Many I would never would have tried to purchase. If you are a gardener with a shoestring budget being in a garden club is a great way to try new varieties with very little risk. Although, it is difficult to admit to your club friends when you've killed their plant. LOL. How do you get free plants? My garden club holds two annual plant swaps. If you bring 5 plants you take 5 home, bring 2 take 2, etc. There is never a disappointed customer!
That just leaves us with the How.
  1. Well, first check to see if there is a local club. Although many small community clubs (like mine) may not choose to be part of a national club.
  2. So what to do now. Ask your local nursery. Small nurseries (who are forced compete with Lowes and HomeDepot) often know of local gardening clubs. If after asking around you've determined there is no club to be found...Start one! It's worth it for you and your community.
  3. Ask your small nursery if they would be willing to allow some of their loyal customers to meet at their store for an hour or two once a month. The store reaps the benefits of their best customers returning (and probably shopping) and they offer a service that other small nurseries don't.
  4. If they agree then run off a stack of flyer's stating the time and date and mission of the new club to put in the shopping bags of shoppers. You'll be surprised how many gardeners are looking for someone to talk to.

Gardening can be a very isolating hobby and a Gardening Club is a great way to meet local people who are dealing with the same soil, pests, and growing climate as you are. And more importantly, a great way to share your Gardening Triumps!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

I've been Accepted!

February is not a hotbed of garden activity for me but that doesn't slow me down in my quest for more garden time. Now, I've found a feast of garden blogs for my green thumb appetitie. I've been bitten by the Blotanical bug! And I've been accepted into their blog directory!
Don't laugh...I was really nervous that I'd get an e-mail saying, "We're sorry to say but your blog doesn't meet our high standards. Are you really a gardener?" So I was thrilled when I received the good news this morning that I had been accepted. Already, Joy from GardenJoy4Me has welcomed me. She has been so amazing to me as I literally grope and feel my way through this blogging experience. I love visiting her blog as it reminds me that I'm not the only frustated snowbound gardener!

I've had such a good time getting to know the ins and outs of blotanical. I'm probably going to spend all day online trying to figure all the features out. What better way to get a garden fix on yet another dreay, dismal, icy winter day? Well, maybe a shopping trip like Joy's.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

My Secret Love: Daylilies

My daughter came to me today with my wedding album in hand (something she does quite often). As usual, she pleaded, "Tell me a story about this..." Despite having my hands in dishsoap at the time I said OK. We sat down together and were soon paging through the album. As I reminsced and she listened intently my eyes were drawn to my bouquet.

I remember as hubby and I planned our wedding he wanted a June wedding but I gently nudged him into an August wedding. I had a secret desire for my wedding day. Only one person knew of my secret desire: My Mom. I remember the day Mom and I visited the florist (the only florist for 35 miles). How excited we were to purchase flowers for such a happy event. We spent the usual amount of time pouring through her pictures before deciding on a very simple round bouquet. Then began the discussion I'd been waiting for: FLOWERS! I smiled at the florist and said, "I want the orange daylilies found along the roadside to be the main star of my bouquet." Immediately, I could sense that she was less than pleased with my announcement. "Dear," she said condescendingly, "I'm not sure that's possible. After all, those are daylilies." The young me still didn't understand the problem so my mother said, "If it's an issue of you trying to find them we can deliver them to you that day." The florist said, "Mam, I'm sure YOU understand that daylilies just don't make good bouquet flowers. They wilt so quickly. Besides, those ORANGE flowers will leave dust all over her dress. It will be positively ruined." I began to get emotional because those flowers had special meaning to me. As flowers often do. When I would visit my soon-to-be hubby I would travel down a road that was lined with these spectacular flowers. Just seeing their orange beauty reminded me of him, of us. Seeing how upset I was quickly becoming she said, "No. I just will not make a bridal bouquet with those roadside weeds!" Knowing I had no other affordable options I chose carnations & roses to fill my bouquet.

My flowers are my only wedding day regret. Had I been a bit older and a bit more confident in myself I would've argued with her. After all, the customer is always right. But I was young and unsure. Still, if that's my only regret...It doesn't seem that bad, does it? Besides I did end up getting my way because now my garden is filled with my secret desire. I've got big clumps of "those roadside weeds" strategically placed throughout my front garden beds. I've also begun collecting some of their "uptown" cousins. I love the beauty of these simple flowers but I also the love the idea that I have to treasure them today because tomorrow will be too late. It's a good motto for a garden and for a marriage.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Digital Gardener

Right now, I have no visible garden. I can imagine where my lovely new beds are but unless I dig through feet of snow I won't see them for a long time. So instead I spend hours online looking for gardening ideas or pouring over idea books or checking my mailbox for seed catalogs. So much desire and yet so little dirt! Today, I intend to sit at my kitchen table with my garden journal and my graph paper. Why not spend these cold wintery days planning and plotting until I can do the digging and the mulching. With three easy steps I can get a jumpstart on my spring chores.

Step 1: Using my digital garden photos I can find weak spots easily. It's easier to spot where there is color lacking, where the height isn't quite right, or where a plant isn't thriving like it should be. Also black and white copies of your garden photos will point out where the garden needs more texture or an architectural element.

Step 2: Tape tracing paper to the top edge of the photos to create an overlay. Write plant names and any additions onto tracing paper.

Step 3: Use graph paper to plot out your gardens in relation to your house. Use a second sheet to begin adding your 2008 projects to your landscape.