Tag: garden (page 2 of 4)

It’s Spring Again!

With yesterday being the first official day of spring, a lot of people’s thoughts turn to gardening. Maybe you’ve still got snow where you live, but you’re itching to see something green. Or maybe it has felt like spring for a couple weeks now, but you’re wondering when it will be safe to start planting. To help answer some of your questions, or satisfy your need for green, I’ve rounded up some of my “getting ready to garden” posts:

Hardiness Zones

When Can I Plant?

Bucket Gardening 101 and Bucket Gardening Video

The Dirt on Soil

Starting Seeds Indoors (1)

Starting Seeds Indoors (2)

Hardening Off Plants

 

I’m interested to know what the gardening timeline looks like in your neck of the woods. Is it at your doorstep? Or still only a distant dream?

Either way, when the time comes, Happy Gardening!

Tomato, tomahto

It’s funny that when I think of summer garden bounty I always think of tomatoes first. It’s funny because here in Northern Utah they don’t really start coming on in force until the end of summer. And that is where we are at now; the very end of summer. Fall officially, or atsronomically, begins on Thursday (meteorologically speaking, it’s been feeling like fall for a week or so now).

But guess what? Tomatoes are still to be found aplenty; slowing down, perhaps, but still around. I can still enjoy a fresh tomato with practically every meal, and hopefully I still have time to bottle some for the upcoming winter months (babies tend to have their own plans, I’m discovering, which aren’t always conducive to preserving fruit).

Whether or not I get to the tomato-bottling project, I did want to record a few notes about the tomatoes I planted in my garden this year. This is probably more for my own benefit than for anyone else, but maybe it will help you in deciding what kind of tomatoes to plant next year in your garden.

This year I planted five different varieties. There were more options available, and I considered buying one of each, but in the end the research technician inside of me came out and said, “do you really want to try and compare that many? Limit the variables!” I listened to that voice, and came away from the greenhouse shop with two cherry tomato varieties and three types of slicing/canning tomatoes. What follows is my very non-scientific review. I promise I’m much more detailed in my other research endeavors.

Since the cherry tomatoes were the first to ripen, let’s talk about them first. I planted them in my bucket garden where I could easily keep track of them, and easily harvest and eat them. Here are my thoughts about the two varieties I planted this year:

  1. Supersweet 100 – the tag indicated they mature in 65 days; according to Instagram, I harvested the first ones around July 27, so without knowing the exact day of when the plant was started, I’d say that timeline is pretty accurate. These tomatoes were pretty uniform in size (maybe about a U.S. nickel-size diameter), and ripened up to a lovely red. Though the name says they will be “supersweet”, I found them to have a pleasant, though definitely prominent, acidic note. I wish I had some quantitative measurements on the  yield I’d probably plant these again, but if other options were available I wouldn’t have a problem trying something new.
    Cherry tomatoes, tomatoes, supersweet 100

    The Supersweet 100 tomatoes are what you typically think of in a cherry tomato: cherry red color, and cherry-sized.

     

  2. Sunsugar – these were said to mature in 75 days; again, according to Instagram, I harvested the first ones around August 2, so my guess is this timeline is also fairly accurate. These tomatoes had a wide range of sizes, from very small to largeish (about a U.S. quarter-size in diameter). I found these to be much sweeter than the “Supersweets”, and much to my pleasant surprise they were a bright orange when fully ripe. My first few were perhaps a little under-ripe, but I learned that they only got sweeter and more orange with time. I will definitely be planting this variety again.

    tomato, cherry tomato, sunsugar

    This bright orange color means they are ripe and ready to eat.

As for the other tomatoes, I planted the following varieties: Early Girl, Better Boy, and Hamson (also known locally as DX-52). I don’t have a lot to say about these because my garden was so neglected this year due to my pregnant self’s lack of motivation to weed. I chose Early Girl so I could have some early slicing tomatoes, but I didn’t harvest my first one until well after my cherry tomatoes were ripe, and I’m pretty sure well after any of my grandpa’s were ripe. Better Boy is supposedly known for producing abundant fruit, but as of this writing, I have picked maybe two tomatoes from it. I planted the Hamsons so I could have some tomatoes to bottle, but again, I have harvested a paltry dozen; enough to eat, but not enough to bother with for canning. I knew it would grow well, since my grandpa swears by it, and this is the only kind he grows. It was bred by a USU Extension Professor to grow well in Utah conditions and be able to hold up well under the canning process. Unfortunately for me, it was not bred well to produce abundantly even while neglected. Here’s hoping I have more motivation and time next year.

 

My Summer of Growing Both a Garden and a Baby

During these last few weeks of waiting for my baby to arrive I’ve been thinking about how things (babies, in particular) grow. I really think it’s quite a miraculous process. And maybe we can blame it on all of the BabyCenter weekly updates comparing my growing baby to a random piece of produce, but I got thinking about other miraculous growth processes – like my garden, for example – and how they are kind of the same.

Growing a baby and growing a garden. I mean, sure, they are both living things, but at first glance that seems to be the only similarity. One happens on the inside, one on the outside. One you can eat or put in a vase when ready, the other you probably shouldn’t. But as I’ve been doing both this summer – growing a baby and a garden – I’ve realized that there are some things that are true for both.

First, let’s talk about water.

I’ve written specifically about watering your lawn or garden a couple of times this year, and in every house plants post I mention something about watering, and really, I could probably spend more time talking about it (and most likely will at some point). It really is that important for growing healthy plants.

sprinkler, beans, garden, watering

Keeping that garden, and that baby-growing body, properly watered can sometimes be a delicate balance.

Well, it seems that proper hydration is the answer to a lot of pregnancy complaints too. Have a headache? Try drinking more water. Feeling Braxton-Hicks contractions? You’re probably dehydrated, so drink more water. Swelling up? Here’s a glass of water.

The problem with drinking all this water is that, like when you over-water your house plants and it starts to leak out the catch trays, over-watering yourself may also lead to unfortunate leaks. Or at least increasingly frequent trips to the restroom…

A word on nutrition.

Earlier this month I gave an update on my bucket garden and mentioned how much better my tomatoes were doing this year because I had actually fertilized them. I’ve also discussed the nutritional benefits of compost over at the Longbourn Farm blog, and given a brief explanation of what that sometimes-confusing fertilizer label means here. Though plants technically make their own “food” through the wonderful process of photosynthesis, having the proper nutrients available benefits growth and increases yield. Both good things for that garden you are growing.

lettuce, spinach

I mixed in some extra fertilizer to the potting soil when I planted my lettuce and spinach this year, and got some early, healthy crops.

While I don’t make my own food in quite the same way plants do, eating well is important for both me and my growing baby. And it seems to me that my prenatal vitamins are doing the same kind of thing as the fertilizer – supplementing what is already there (through what I eat) to grow a healthy baby.

s'mores, campfire, mountains

So maybe making s’mores isn’t the best nutritional choice, but it’s summer time, so s’mores must be eaten.

Time flies when you’re having fun.

Oh time. Sometimes it seems to fly by and sometimes it drags on and on and on. Especially when you’re waiting for those tomatoes to ripen or that baby to make her appearance. When growing either plants or babies there are general timelines for reaching “ripeness”; but for both they are really just guidelines. Sometimes it takes longer than the 75 days it says on the label before you can pick that juicy tomato. And sometimes babies show up earlier (or later) than that magical 40 week deadline. Gardens and babies both seem to have their own timetables.

flowers, bucket garden, patio garden, pink zinnia

Though all the zinnias were planted at the same time, you can see there were a couple early-birds among the bunch.

Excitement about “milestones” helps that time to pass more swiftly.

From the moment a seed germinates or starts to sprout through the soil I get excited and love to follow its progress. I often come in to the house reporting to my husband things like “ooh, you should see how much the lettuce is growing!” or “my zinnias have buds!” or “the tomatoes are almost ready to eat!” Whether or not he really cares is a mystery because he always responds encouragingly.

He does get more excited about the “milestones” of growing a baby, though. Maybe not exactly about my monthly (and then weekly) doctors visit updates: “the baby’s heart rate was ___” or “my blood pressure was ___”,  but definitely about the big things (which have been the best parts) like actually seeing the progress – the ultrasounds, watching my belly expand, feeling the kicks, etc.

Comparing our growing bellies with my sister-in-law.

Comparing our growing bellies with my sister-in-law.

The ultimate milestone for gardening is picking that perfectly ripe fruit or enjoying that perfectly beautiful blossom.

This sunflower was a welcome volunteer from last year's flower garden.

This sunflower was a welcome volunteer from last year’s flower garden.

By the time you are reading this, I hope we’ve also reached that ultimate milestone of growing a baby: meeting her for the first time.

Understanding the Fertilizer Label

Have you ever found yourself on the fertilizer aisle at the garden center overwhelmed with all the different options? My sister and my sister-in-law both did earlier this year. (And I really hope I helped them out when they texted me with questions.)

But I had almost forgotten about those incidents until I mentioned last week in my garden update that my cherry tomatoes were doing much better this year, thanks largely to the additional fertilizer I gave them.

So I thought I’d share a quick and brief explanation of just what those fertilizer labels mean. Continue reading

Bucket Garden Update – August 2016

I thought I’d give you a bit of an update on my bucket garden and how it is doing this summer compared to this time last year.

Continue reading

How to control those pesky weeds

Last week, I confessed that my garden was not in the immaculate weed-free state I would hope for it to be – or that you might expect from a weed scientist.

Today let’s talk about some options for controlling them. That is, if you are in the same state as me. And if you haven’t yet subscribed to the “if you can’t beat ’em, eat ’em” (or use them as dye) theory.

Continue reading

Are the weeds really that bad?

Once again, I’m using some of my grandparents’ garden space this year. Only this time instead of flowers, I’m growing: tomatoes, onions, peppers, eggplant, cantaloupe, and a cucumber. It was only going to be a “small” garden this year. And, compared to my grandpa’s side, I guess it is.

Also, compared to my grandpa’s side, it is a disaster. I planted it, watered it, weeded it once, and then left town for work. When I got back – and finally got around to going out to check on my little plants – the weeds had completely taken over my little section.

Now, as a weed science research technician, I spend a lot of time thinking about weeds, working with weeds, and killing weeds. I appreciate them. I love to hate them. But with all of that, you’d think I could keep my garden weed-free. At work we like to joke that if you’d like to find an abundance of weeds, just go to the house of a weed scientist. Unfortunately, in this case, it is all too true.

It’s not that I don’t understand the importance of maintaining a weed free garden – believe me, I do – it’s just that I’m really good at coming up with excuses this summer for why I haven’t been out to weed.

Like: it’s hot. And, I’m pregnant. I think those two cover it.

But, I’m here to tell you to not be like me! Not only do they make a garden look messy, but here are a few more reasons for why the weeds really are that bad:

  • they compete with your crops for water, nutrients, sunlight, and space (and crops like my poor onions are pretty poor competitors) which can lead to reduced harvests
  • they can harbor diseases that can then spread to your crops
  • they can harbor insects that can then move on to chew up your crops
  • they are notoriously good seed producers – and will just keep perpetuating themselves if left unchecked

So, even though it’s hot, and even though I’m pregnant, I will get out there more often (if even only ever so slightly) to keep my vegetable garden happy and the weeds at bay.

Hardening Off Plants

A common complaint among novice gardeners is that they buy a beautiful looking tomato (or pepper or what-have-you) plant from the garden center, they bring it home to their own garden, and it seems to suffer. The plant, not necessarily the gardener. It gets brown leaves, maybe. Or doesn’t seem to grow. Or a myriad of other problems, and the gardener concludes they just don’t have a “green thumb”. Continue reading

May is for Gardening

It’s that time of year again…

Time to get that garden planted! We have had quite a bit of cool, rainy weather here in Northern Utah the past couple weeks, but it’s time to start planting. And if you were thinking it was too late, well I have good news: you’ve still got time!

I planted up some of my buckets a few weeks ago with lettuce, spinach for a salad garden; and since I have a goal to beautify my outdoor space a little more, I also planted up some buckets with gladiolus and zinnias. Everything is coming up and looking good so far, but I’ll keep you updated on how the flowers do as the season goes on. When it gets a bit warmer (i.e., the threat of frost is gone), I’ll plant some cherry tomatoes as well. In my kitchen, I started some basil and cilantro that I’ll move out to the patio when it gets warmer.

If you’re in a similar hardiness zone and climate as me, and if you were wanting to plant lettuce or spinach or peas you should get those in as soon as possible. They like the cooler weather. Broccoli, onions, carrots, and beans can also go in now. But, hold off on the cucumbers, the tomatoes, the squashes, and the corn until after the danger of frost has passed (a good rule of thumb is the middle of May if you have a way to protect them, otherwise wait till after Memorial Day).

For more info on when to plant, or how to start your own bucket garden, check out these posts:

When Can I Plant?

Hardiness Zones…Do They Matter

Bucket Gardening 101

Bucket Gardening “How-To” Video

Starting Seeds Indoors (and another method to starting seeds indoors)

 

Houseplants: African violet (Saintpaulia sp.)

Chances are you or someone you know (your grandma, maybe?) owns or has owned an African violet. They’re the standbys and workhorses of every garden center – and perhaps the most well-known of all the houseplants. But, they’re lovely, so it’s a well-earned place. And there are so many varieties and hybrids available that you could amass quite a collection of them – and then join the African Violet Society of America (or a local chapter) so you can show them off and collect more! Continue reading

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