Thursday, October 8, 2015

Fall Gardening Ideas

Now that Fall is in full swing around the nation, many of us are thinking about things like.." How cold will our winter be?", and "Will some of my outdoor plant survive?" or even  "Why even bother to garden at this time of year when I know that "old man winter" is going to be breezing through in a few weeks from now?" and then..there are some of us that are harvesting items like pears and apples and pumpkins.

 It is a marvelous time of the year, a time when friends and family gather together around bonfires and sip warm apple cider and enjoy slices of caramel apples,and the air is nice and crisp, and in some places the weather seems just absolutely perfect... and so much more.
There are things like carnivals and arts and crafts shows to attend...but what about the garden?

Just because it is Fall, it does not mean that we cannot grow and enjoy certain items in our garden areas.

Here is a list of a few things that can still be easily grown before winter's snap blows through:

Radishes: radishes only take 28 days from seed to harvest, and their young green leaves can be incorporated into salads as well.

Beets: beets and beet greens generally only take about two months to reach a decent size.

.Bear in mind that while these plants listed  can take several months to reach full maturity the leaves on these plants can be harvested while they are rather young as a "micro green" and added to salads at any time.

Broccoli: most of them take less than two months to form a head of broccoli.

Turnip Greens, Collard Greens, and Mustard Greens: again these items  can easily be used in "micro green" growing for salads as well as taking less than two months to reach a desirable harvest size.

Lettuce: I like to plant a mixture of all types of lettuces close together and create what I call a "cut and come again" bed of lettuce greens. It is so fun to harvest young leaves of lettuce for winter salads and to also share the bounty with neighbors that might not garden. Try varieties like Red deer tongue, oak leaf, and more.

Sugar peas/snow peas: one of my absolute favorites! They don't take long from seed to harvest, and oh my goodness there is nothing quite like a "from the garden" sugar pea/snow pea. I've been known to eat them like candy right out of the garden.Great in salads or lightly steamed.

~Enjoy this time of year! And enjoy your garden!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Have Seeds will Garden (Planting Guide for a wide variety of vegetables)

So you want to start a garden but you don't know exactly how deep to plant the seeds or how far apart. Check out this list for tips and guidance. ~Happy Gardening!

Planting Guide  

Asparagus: Soak seed overnight. Sow ½ inch deep. 2 inch apart. 60 degree soil. Let grow 1 yr. then transplant to permanent area. Harvest begins 3rd year.

Beans/Peas:  Sow 1 inch deep. 24 inches apart. For peas and pole beans provide a trellis. Peas and pole beans can be planted a bit closer at 6-10 inches apart. Full sun/well drained soil. Keep pea pods picked early and often to keep plants producing, same for bush beans- keep bean pods picked often so that plants keep producing blossoms.

Cabbage: Sow 1/8th inch deep as soon as soil can be worked. Full sun. Thin to 24 inch apart. Average 100 days to mature.

Carrot: Sow seed ¼ inch deep. Thin to 6 inches apart. Full sun. About 65 days to harvest.

Cucumber: Plant 4 seeds per mound. ½ inch deep. 1 foot apart. Provide trellis. About 60 days to harvest.

Eggplant: Start indoors. Transplant to garden when 6-8 inch tall. Full sun/well drained soil. About 80 days to mature.

Endive: Sow seed directly in garden as soon as soil is workable. Thin to 12 inch apart. 85 days to mature.

Lettuces/ Chards/Greens: Sow directly in garden. No deeper than ¼ inch. Thin to 12 inch apart. Full sun. Average 40-55 days to mature.

Tomatoes: Sow seed 1/4 inch deep. Start indoors 6-8 weeks before last frost date. Transplant to garden when 6-8 inches tall. Space plants 2-3 ft. apart. Full sun. Provide trellising or tomato cage. Full sun. Matures at about 70-80 days.

Peppers: Sow seed no deeper than ¼ inch. Peppers need soil temp. of 70 degrees to germinate well. You can provide a heat mat underneath your seed tray to assist in germination. Germination takes 7-24 days. Transfer plants to garden when 6-8 inches tall. Full sun. 70-80 days to mature.

Radish: Sow direct in garden ¼ inch deep. Full sun. Thin to 2 inches apart. Matures in 28 days. 

Okra: Plant seed ½ inch deep directly in garden. Thin to 18 inch apart when 2 inches tall. Harvest pods when 3 inches long. Keep pods picked to ensure good production. About 55-70 days to mature.

Pumpkins: plant 2 seeds per hill 1 inch deep. 4-6 ft. apart. Full sun. Keep free of weeds. Rich fertile soil. Average 95-110 days to mature. 

Melons:  Watermelon / plant 2 seeds per hill 3 ft. apart. 1 inch deep. After danger of last frost. Full sun. Keep weed free.  75-80 days to mature.
Cantaloupe/ plant 2 seeds per hill 1 inch deep. 4 ft. apart. Full sun. 10-20 days to germinate. 80-90 days to mature.

Squash: Summer squashes/ Sow 2 seeds per hill. 1 inch deep. 3 ft. apart. Full sun. 60-65 days to mature.
Winter squashes/ Sow 2 seeds per hill. 1 inch deep. 4-6 ft. apart. After danger of last frost. 80-90 days to mature. Full sun.

Turnip: Sow seed directly in garden as soon as soil is workable. ¼ inch deep. Full sun. 50 days to mature.

Herbs: Sow seed direct in garden or pot at a depth of 1/8th inch. Full sun.
Harvest as needed.

(Article copyright/ T. Wilson/ Small Town Living)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Friends for Life: The Simple Art of Companion Planting

Two days ago I planted seed for tomatoes, peppers, okra, and carrots. Not such a big deal really, but I planted them all together in the same raised bed area. I know your probably thinking “whoa, can all of that be grown together in the same area?”  And the answer is “yes, as long as you learn what types of plants work together compatibly.”
A blend of lettuces
Of course there is a bit of an art to learning what types of plants work well together and are actually of benefit to each other. This afternoon I plan to plant corn, cucumbers, and some beans together.
There are quite a few benefits to learning about companion planting and what does and doesn’t work well together.
Companion planting allows the plants to benefit from being able to help each other deter pests, attract beneficial insects, helping to boost the growth of the plants by which they have been planted. For example if beans are planted next to corn they work to add nutrients to the soil ,namely nitrogen, which the corn feeds upon to grow strong. Likewise, peanuts (which are an underground legume) can also be planted next to corn to add nitrogen to the soil.
There are also beautiful flowers that can be interspersed throughout your vegetable garden, not only to help make your vegetable garden a thing of beauty, but the flowers also help to attract beneficial insects and to deter bad insects, and some flowers even help to ward off deer and rabbits.
For instance marigolds can help keep deer away and also repel nematodes. Plants in the mint family will keep aphids at bay and are not only good for the vegetable garden, but how about planting them in your rose garden to keep the aphids away?  Basil also works well planted near tomatoes and can serve to keep mosquitoes and mites and funguses away.
Nasturtiums work very well around the garden to repel whiteflies and squash bugs. Plant it around your pumpkins and tomatoes for a pretty look, and the added benefit of nasturtiums is that the pretty flowers can add a peppery taste to your salads.
French Breakfast Radish
Here is a list of plants that can work together in your garden, not only to be of benefit to each other, but also to beautify the vegetable garden a bit as well. You may later find that there are even more plants that are compatible or non compatible within these groups. This list just serves as a starting point to help you along the way to discovering “The Art of Companion Planting”

Friend:beets,celery,corn,cucumber,marigolds,eggplant,melons,potatoes,strawberries,brassicas(cabbage family plants such as cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts,etc.)
Foe: garlic,onion, fennel
Friend: carrot,cucumber,dill,fennel,lettuce,onion,brassicas
Foe: pole beans
Friend: bush bean,cabbage, chamomile,corn,garlic,potatoes,rosemary
Foe : strawberries, tomato,pole bean
Friend: celery, corn, dill,onion,peas,potatoes,rosemary, fava bean
Foe: strawberries, tomato, pole bean
Friend: chives, leeks, onion,lettuce, peas,tomato
Foe: dill
Friend: beans,lettuce,marigolds,potatoes,brassicas
Foe: tomato
Friend: beets,cabbage,lettuce,roses,strawberries
Foe: beans,peas
Friend: beets,carrot,cucumber,garlic,onion,radish,strawberries
Melons (such as cantaloupe, etc., other than watermelon)
Friend: beans,corn
Foe: potatoes
Friend: beets,brassicas,carrot,lettuce,strawberry,tomato
Foe: beans,peas
Friend: brassicas,corn, eggplant,legumes,potato
Foe: garlic,onion
Pole Beans
Friend: corn
Foe: beets,broccoli,cabbage
Friend: beans,cabbage,corn,eggplant,marigolds
Foe: melons,tomato
Pumpkins and Squash
Friend: corn,legumes,nasturtium
Foe: potato
Friend: bush beans
Foe: brassicas
Friend: basil,carrot,celery,nasturtium,peppers
Foe: brassicas,corn,potato
Friend: potatoes
Foe: tall vegetables (any kind)

(Article and photos copyright: T.Wilson & Small Town Living/

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Successfully Starting Your First Garden

I am often asked tips and hints about gardening and although I am not a professional I have had my fair share of success in the garden and with plants.

One of the things that I have often been asked about are tips on growing your own food/planting a garden.

So I thought I would share a few ideas here with you on how to start your first garden successfully. Things that have helped me personally.

1. When planning out your garden you will need to know the following things first and foremost. Your planting zone and your last frost date for your region.

These 2 things are very important in learning what can and cannot be grown successfully in your area of the country.

For example: Asparagus can be grown in just about all areas of the U.S. except for Florida. Here it is just too hot and humid to attempt growing things like that . Also things like raspberries just won’t work here either, the photosynthesis on a raspberry plant will shut down once the temperatures rise above 90 degrees which happens often in the Florida summertime.

So, know your zone and know your last frost date for planting.

Knowing your last frost date is important as well, because if you try to plant things too early they’ll simply freeze and its a lot of work putting in a garden and sowing seeds only to have your hard work destroyed by frost damage. and in the same regards you don’t want to start items like peas and lettuces too late, when these types of items rely upon early Spring’s cooler weather to germinate and grow properly. Timing and zone are key to success.

2. Not only are timing and knowing your planting zone a key to a successful garden, but knowing your soil is also key. In fact one of the most important elements in a garden is the proper soil blend and ph balance. To grow most any type of vegetable successfully try for a ph balance of 6.0.

6.0 is the magic number to try to achieve in your garden. Once you have reached that number you will be on your way to success.

Proper soil blend. One of the best soil blends that works for me and that is extremely successful in my being able to have seeds/plants sprouting up and growing beautifully in no time at all, is a soil blend that includes the following: an aged blend of mushroom compost, horse manure, cow manure, chicken manure and top soil. We have this type of soil hauled in from a dirt company to use in our raised beds they call it “Gardener’s Friend” and it definitely is at that. Yes it stinks a little bit but not too much, but it is this blend of ingredients that makes the soil a great growing medium.

If you do not have a local source for a specially blended soil like this you can create your own special soil blend by using equal parts of the following: top soil, cow manure, peat. Blend all together in a wheel barrow and use in the garden.

3. Weed control: I do not and will not use chemicals in or on my garden. When I create my raised bed gardens I use a thick layer of newspapers (not the glossy kind, just the black and white printed paper) and get it all moistened and then add the soil on top of that. If a weed happens to stray into the bed I remove it the good old fashioned way, by simply pulling it out roots and all. If you decide to plant your garden in rows instead of utilizing a raised bed method the moistened newspapers are a good way to keep weeds down between the rows of your garden.

4. Siting the garden. Where to put your garden is just as important as the other elements I have mentioned in numbers 1-3. You will want to site the garden in an area that is within close proximity to a water source and is also located in full sun. The garden will need at least 6 hours of full sun a day.

5. What to plant? Sometimes when one begins a garden they can get a bit overwhelmed with the decisions on what to grow. Sometimes it may seem enticing to try to grow something new and exotic the first year you attempt a garden. My advice to you: Don’t! don’t try anything unusual or new. Start out with the baby steps first or you will be disappointed before the journey has even begun. Get a bit of experience under your belt first before you branch out into other areas of gardening.

O.k., back to “what to plant?” Start with the basics and the easy to grow. They are: radishes which take only 28 days to mature, peas (look for bush varieties of peas if you do not wish to build a trellis your first year into gardening, bush beans (try varieties like Blue Lake 274, Provider, Royal Burgundy: these varieties all are hardy and grow quickly)lettuces: a good variety to try and fun for kids is Tom Thumb an heirloom variety that is about 6 inches around when mature and only takes about 55 days to get to harvest stage. Try a type of lettuce called Mervielles des quatre saisons (or Marvel of the 4 seasons) this variety germinates quickly and makes large heads of lettuce, allow about 12 inches between each head of lettuce. Try some cut and come again varieties of lettuces such as Salad Bowl Red lettuce. You can harvest this type of lettuce by cutting the outer leaves as the plant grows. Squash is one of the easiest garden vegetables to grow. Try a variety like yellow crookneck summer squash or even zucchini. But, be warned only plant a few seeds of the squash or you’ll find yourself trying very hard to come up with creative ways to cook up this very productive vegetable. Carrots: a hardy variety is Chantenay or try Danvers. Tomatoes: tomatoes will need to be started indoors in a good quality seed starting mix. Transplant outdoors when 6-8 inches tall. Try varieties like Roma, Green Zebra these are easy to grow varieties. Peppers: peppers can be a challenge for the first time gardener as they need a soil temperature of at least 70 degrees to germinate properly. Start indoors, one way to get the proper soil temperature needed for germination is to use a heat mat under your seed starting pots.Once the plants are about 6 inches tall transfer to the garden. Cucumber: plant 2 seeds per hill and space about 3 feet apart. Provide a trellis.

6. Proper moisture. One of a new gardener’s worst enemies can be too much moisture or not enough moisture. One thing to remember when siting your garden in full sun and when the seeds have not yet sprouted is that the garden will need to be watered daily, yes, every day. Do not make your garden look like a big mud field, but do make sure that you have provided at least an inch of moisture per day on the garden. Basically is you have raised bed gardens that you have created you will need to spray the garden bed for about 5-6 minutes per garden bed with a light shower of water.

7. Proper spacing once seeds have sprouted. Once the seeds have sprouted in your garden you’ll want to ensure that the plants have adequate spacing and air flow around the plants to allow them to grow properly to maturity. Follow directions on the seed packets on spacing your plants. Of course some plants can grow successfully a bit closer together than the seed packets suggest but with your first garden do try to provide the plants a bit of the room that the seed packets suggest. Simply pluck out the extra seedlings in your row and discard or…if you haven’t the heart to discard them pot them up into containers and give as gifts to friends that may wish to start their own garden also.

8. Fertilizer. While I do not typically use a fertilizer of any kind on my garden, but choose rather to make sure that I start with a manure rich growing medium and rely upon the manures to provide the fertilizing elements that my plants need I will be utilizing an organic fish emulsion liquid (Dramm products) in my garden this year and will also be using a liquid horse manure tea from Ubiogrow. The products I will be using are natural earth friendly,chemical free products. If you decide to utilize fertilizers on your garden I hope that you’ll choose organic products only and avoid chemicals as much as possible. Remember to always read the instructions and to wear gloves and or a face mask while using any types of fertilizers/chemicals. I do not in any way advocate the use of chemicals in the garden but I do know that some people choose to use them. Exercise caution.

9. Research. I always research a new to me plant. With so much information available via the Internet you will find so many helpful hints and tips on how to grow all types of plants. Utilize this tool. It is a gardener’s friend for sure. Simply do google searches for things like “how to grow carrots successfully” and so forth. You’ll be amazed at the information that is out there that can really help you to succeed.

10. Books that I personally recommend: Grow Great Grub by Gayla Trail, Carrots Love Tomatoes by Louise Riotte, Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening, One Magic Square by Lolo Houbien, All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholemew, Small Plot High Yield Gardening by Sal Gilbertie. These are just a few of my favorites to get you started in the right direction.

These are just a few of my tried and true tips that have helped me to have a successful garden. I hope that they will be of help to you. Gardening is absolutely wonderful to get started in as it is a terrific stress reducer and it is also just absolutely terrific to watch a plant grow and mature and to know that you helped it to do so.

~Happy Gardening!~

copyright: Tina Wilson/Small Town Living

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Radish Romance

The Radish-  one of the fastest growing root vegetables your garden is likely ever to meet. Ready to serve at your dinner table in less than a month, the radish is also very popular for use in children’s gardens as something that promises results very quickly.

Radish Seedlings/ by flickr user katerha
Did you know that radishes are related to both the horseradish and turnip? Yes they are, and they have a bit of a hot, peppery taste and crunch to remind you of this fact.
Radishes work well in salads, as colorful garnishes, sliced thin and serve on your sandwich to add a bit of “kick”, or of course eaten “fresh from the garden”.
~How to grow~
Radishes can be grown in any average soil, but do their best in a rich, well draining soil. Sow your radish seeds in a weed free prepared area. Planting to a depth of 1/2 inch. Once the seeds start sprouting thin them to a spacing of 2 inches apart. After 2 weeks you can start another crop of seeds going, to keep a constant supply though the season. Keep them watered well. You should be able to harvest your crop within 25-28 days. If you do not have a garden area radishes can also be grown in containers.
One thing you should know about growing radishes is that during the hot summer months/mid summer the radishes can have a tendency to bolt and become a bit bitter/hotter in taste. If your radishes have a bit hotter flavor than you’d like simply slice them and add them to salty water to soak for about 30 minutes. The salt and the water help to draw out the heat from the radish.

Radishes come in a variety of fun colors/photo by flickr user clayirving
~Storing after harvest~
Simply remove the green tops off of the radishes and store in your refrigerator  in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks. Green tops can be stored for up to 3 days.
~Another..Did you know?~
Did you know that the green tops of radishes can be eaten? Use them in salads or added to sandwiches or cook as you would spinach. Highly nutritious and good for you 1/2 cup of fresh radishes is only 12 calories!
Have fun growing radishes. They are a fun variety for children to try in their own little garden area and can be grown year round.
(content property of Small Town Living/Tina Wilson)

Radish on FoodistaRadish

Monday, August 2, 2010

Deer Proofing with Plants

Deer Proofing Your Garden…With Plants

July 23, 2010
By Small Town Living
What?! ?? What do you mean? I can actually deer proof my know the garden that has nice vegetable plants and flowers in it that Bambi and all of his kin like to munch on… simply by planting more plants??
Deer photo by flickr user: Noel Zia Lee
Yes, you can…really. But the key is in knowing exactly what types of plants deer do no like and will not eat.
These varieties will keep the deer away from the “good stuff” and will (we hope) have them looking for other ground to munch from.
The key is making sure that you plant a lush border around your vegetable garden starting with the tallest plants and then tapering them down to the low growing specimens that deter deer. In other words …you want to build a living fence… A living deer deterrent. Sure Bambi and his kin are cute, but when you work hard on tilling the ground and planting a garden, having Bambi dine on what is intended to be your dinner just isn’t very fun at all.
Delphinium by flickr user: MShades
Below is a list of flowers and plants that deer do not find very appetizing.
You’ll find varieties like nasturtiums which have a peppery taste, mints, and a few herbs like thyme,oregano, and lemon balm that deer do not find appealing.
American Mountain Mint
Anise Hyssop
Baby’s Breath
Bachelor Buttons
Bishop’s Weed
Daffodils by flickr user: Mason2008
Bleeding Hearts
Blue Flax
Blue Star
Butterfly Bush
Butterfly Flower
Butterfly Weed
Butterfly Bush by flickr user: tophera
Forget Me Not
Geranium — Hardy, Scented Geranium; Cranesbill
Gloriosa Daisy
Grape Hyacinth
Lady’s Mantle
Lamb’s Ear
Lemon Balm
Lupine by flickr user:mwri
Ligustrum — Privet
Mariposa lily
Monarda — Bee Balm
Moss Pink
Northern Bayberry
Ornamental Chives
Ornamental Grass
Pincushion flower
Pincushion flower by flickr user: uzvards
Russian Sage
Siberian Iris
St. John’s Wort
Sweet William
So, just because Bambi likes to take his evening walks across your property it does not mean that you cannot have a beautiful garden area with gorgeous flowers and vegetables. Give it a try..plant a living fence.
~Happy Gardening!~

Artisan Farming

Book Review: Artisan Farming: Lessons, Lore and Recipes (Richard Harris with Lisa Fox/ Gibbs Smith 2010)

August 1, 2010
By Tina Wilson
Have you ever wondered how other farmers do what they do? How they keep the family farm going despite rough terrain and trying conditions? What the passion is that drives them to rise at the break of dawn and work from sun up to sun down and do it all over the next day…again and again?
Within the pages of “Artisan Farming: Lessons, Lore, and Recipes”(Richard Harris with Lisa Fox/Gibbs Smith 2010)You’ll have the chance to find out about the farming history of the New Mexico region, and how  some family farms across the region have kept their crops and farms going in an area that is known for its harsh terrain and hot weather. Many would look at the New Mexico area as being a very difficult area to farm in, but there are many farmers that have thrived and continue to thrive on what this area offers to those willing to stick it out and give it a try. This is their story.
You’ll read stories from buffalo farmers to garlic farmers to pepper farmers, corn farmers, wheat farmers,goat farmers, and many more specialty farmers. They’ll share with you their tips on what has worked for them on their farms and some of the challenges they have faced.
You will also find a wide variety of recipes that some of the farms and farmers markets share utilizing the ingredients grown in the New Mexico region, but that you should be able to find at your local grocers or farmers markets in your area as well. Recipes for such tasty items as: Indian Blue Corn Tortillas, Traditional Enchilada Casserole, Salsa Casera (Homestyle Salsa), and so much more.
You’ll also find a regional ” road trip touring guide” listing out a number of farms worthy of visiting, along with a list of farmers markets in the area.
If you desire to read a book in which farmers share their passion for what they grow, as well as their passion for preserving the traditions of their elders, and sharing with others the tips they have learned, as well as a bit of advice on just how to prepare some delightful food items from fresh produce this is definitely a book that you will enjoy.

Find Your Copy HERE

About the Authors:
Santa Fe gourmet cook, Richard Harris, author of 36 travel and history books, has teamed up with organic farmer, Lisa Fox, who produces “Farming in Season”, a Taos public radio broadcast, and Trent Edwards, a Los Cerrillos photographer, to provide this authoritative guide to the history, methodology,and intriguing character of independent farming in New Mexico.