Posts Tagged ‘vegetables’

The garden before we left…

We’re on vacation right now but I wanted to share what the garden looked like before we left!  Fingers crossed we get some rain while I am away. If we don’t, I fear some seedlings won’t make it.

I am very pleased with my tomato growing efforts this year. I am hoping that my absence from the garden for the week, doesn’t give them any setbacks. I have 7 or 8 green tomatoes like the ones above.

The kids have been growing carrots for a few years now.  To liven things up this year we planted organic purple dragon carrots as well. :) Our first batch is almost ready. They little gardeners picked a few too early but they were still delicious.  (They taste like an orange carrot if you’re wondering).

All the herbs are doing great, especially the pineapple mint, sage & rosemary! I haven’t seen the rosemary grow so thick in years.

The lettuce & radishes are gone in the garden for now.  We enjoyed over 54 heads of lettuce & had the opportunity to learn about saving lettuce seeds (post about this soon)!

The okra, green peppers & eggplant are getting bigger every day. I can’t wait to see their first blooms! Below: eggplant & okra about thirty days old.

Our lantana is blooming like crazy. It looks so bright & pretty in our backyard.  Just another reason I love this time of year…

Happy Gardening!

April Garden Update

The garden is in full swing this month!  We are enjoying daily fresh radishes, lettuce & carrots!  We have green tomatoes on our plants, something that is somewhat of an accomplishment because I have horrible luck with growing tomatoes.

Early sunflowers & marigolds are blooming for our pollinators & we have been starting new seeds almost every chance we get.  Leeks are just sprouting & we are waiting on more basil, sunflowers & onions to sprout.

I walked to a local farmers market last week & came home with more than just fresh collard greens.  These herbs (basil & Vicky’s plant) followed me home as well. :) We replanted them in these homemade chalkboard pots. The little gardeners loved helping me mark them. :)

Eggplant & green pepper plants are getting big in the garden & we look forward to their first blooms! Something has been munching on them a little but this is something that comes with sustainable gardening & I think they will be just fine.

Earlier this month we read a great post by The Gardening Mom on our Facebook feed about making a home for the frogs & toads in the garden!  We gave it a try last weekend & are still hoping for a new residence to move in! :)

Happy Gardening!!!

Spring Garden Update

Well, spring is flying by here in Florida. The weather is back in the upper 80s and the mosquitoes are back biting again. We sure didn’t miss them.  I’ve had to adjust the garden’s water to help the new sprouts deal with the humidity and heat.  A few more months and it will be too hot for most of the veggies currently in the garden. 

Tomato blooms are appearing daily on our four Celebrity tomato plants.

Our Teddy Bear Sunflowers, which we planted from seeds, are now about a foot tall and showing us the first signs of future blooms. Two even survived a recent transplant!

Strawberries have been plentiful on the plants, but have been eaten by little critters before they are ripe enough for harvest. 

Our Pineapple mint has been plentiful. We have been harvesting it left and right for teas, salads & other yummy creations.

We finally got some parsley to sprout and look forward to more fresh herbs for cooking.

We have also transplanted more French Marigolds in our raised beds. This is the first year we have started them from seeds and have been very happy with our results!

One of the great things about nature is it’s always teaching us something, if we are paying attention.  I disgarded some dried up marigolds last fall. I simply tossed the dead plants into an area full of banana trees.  To my surprise I have wild marigolds in the banana trees this season!  How cute! 

Other gardening notes… our composting is doing lovely with the return of the heat.  I should have a new batch in just another week or so. We have also added organic blood meal & organic fertilizer to the garden to help boost spring time production!

Happy Gardening!

Our Garden Party

Last week one of our little gardeners turned 5 years of age. We celebrated the big event with two small garden themed parties!  We decided on two parties, as we feel smaller groups offer more learning and interaction for party goers.  Check out our previous post for all the fun gardening party preparations.  The parties were held two days in a row. The first one was 4 and 5 year old girls. The second was co-ed 4 and 5 year olds.  And of course a few younger siblings attended both parties.

Once all our guests arrived we put on our gardening aprons (that were part of the party favors) and headed outside!  We first talked about the garden and tried to name the things we could see, eat, smell, etc.  We also investigated the compost bins and what was inside.   Then we started picking!   

Our garden had enough produce at the time for everyone to pick one or two things. So at both parties we picked onions, radishes and carrots. I loved seeing the kids’ faces when I pulled up the first carrot! At the first party we ate lettuce leaves right off the plant. One child did it with me, one licked it and we all laughed.

At the second party we had more time to play in the garden, so we had the children plant okra seeds. I chose okra seeds because they are dark in color and a good size for the children’s small hands.  It is also something that if by chance sprouted, it would be in season.  They were able to plant more than one seed, which I think they enjoyed.  One or two wouldn’t have been enough. They enjoyed digging the holes much as they did planting and covering them up.  Of course we got out a huge watering can and took turns watering the seeds.

We also had time for each child to harvest a lettuce head.  The children snapped off the roots and threw them in the compost bin.  At the end of the party I sent the heads of lettuce home with the parents. I loved how each kid was so proud they had pulled it right out of the ground and given it to their parents to take home.  

Other fun backyard activities were the bean bag toss game, the sandbox and the bounce house. The bean bag toss was a big hit at the second party. Winners took home colorful packs of tomato, pepper and onion seeds.  The sandbox was a big hit with the younger children. We hid toy butterflies in it for them to dig and find.

After all the gardening and outdoor fun, the kids had worked up an appetite. At the first party we headed inside for drinks and healthy snacks.  Afterwards, instead of cake or cupcakes, we all sat down and made mud pudding!  Each child got a “flowering pot” or small clear green bowl. They scooped mud (chocolate pudding), dirt (crushed chocolate cookies) and worms (gummy) into their flowering pot.  Each child was then given a sprig of fresh cut pineapple mint to stick into their mud creation. Of course I had a bite of the mint to show the girls that it was yummy.  They all giggled and started in on the yummy mud.

At the second party we opted for a sunflower cupcake.  I totally took the idea from Martha Stewart Living Special Gardening Issue, March 2011.  We made cupcakes & decorated them with plain orange and yellow icing.  We placed a bowl of dark colored fruit (blueberries, blackberries, grapes) on a table and then surrounded it with the cupcakes. We added a stem and some leaves to finish it off.

I know by my daughter’s actions that she had a wonderful time at each party. Each offered a different chance to learn about the outdoors with her friends. Though gifts were discouraged, we did receive them (and are thankful).  Some gave thought to our garden theme and we had to include them in this post…

Handmade Childs Gardening Apron that was embroidered with the birthday girl’s name. The gift included gardening tools, matching gloves, a hand painted watering can and even a ladybug knee pad. Awesome!

An outdoor memory book was given with markers, stickers and other scrapbooking supplies. It is designed to help record outdoor adventures. We will use it to describe what we see, hear and smell. There are places for us to tuck nature treasures into keepsake pockets. It even has an easel on the back cover, where you can stand it up to display your photos and work. We will really enjoy this book in the coming months!

We are almost done writing all our thank you cards. And as I look back at the parties I have to smile. I didn’t have much time to take pictures but I really enjoyed working with all the kids in the garden. One child at each party enjoyed the garden more than the others. They asked a million questions and even stayed at the garden after all the kids had left.  I may never get another request for a garden themed birthday but if I do I will be thrilled.

Happy Gardening… and LOOK the children’s okra seed sprouts are already sprouting!!!!!!

 

February Garden Update

We’ve been busy bees: planting seeds, harvesting fresh vegetables, composting, and eating!  Life in the garden has been fabulous.

Here’s an update in pictures…

We also planted the following seeds over the weekend… my little gardeners can’t wait for the sunflowers & carrots to sprout!

Radish (Champion)

Sweet Pepper (Big Dipper)

Sunflowers (Teddy Bear)

Eggplant (Black Beauty)

Carrots (Purple Dragon)

Spring is almost here! Happy Gardening!

Children’s Gardening Book Review

The Children’s Kitchen Garden by Georgeanne & Ethel Brenna

“A well-tended kitchen garden allows children to experience daily the relationship between the earth & the food they eat. As they bring freshly dug carrots into the kitchen, the dirt still clinging to the spindle-shaped roots, children are spellbound by the notion that these beautiful vegetables were once tiny seeds, sown by their own hands weeks and weeks ago…” (xii)

This is a great backyard gardening book for beginner gardeners. It includes the basic information needed to begin gardening with kids.  Organized into six chapters, the importance of the relationship we have with the land is emphasized on every page! Chapter 1 gives the background of the East Bay French-American School garden project. Chapter 2 discusses educational opportunities in home and school gardens. Chapter 3 provides the practical how-to, hands-on information needed to teach children about gardening. This chapter allows parents and teachers to be informed guides, not just providing information on how to grow, but also what to look for as the crops reach maturity, are ready to harvest, etc. This chapter is especially important for the beginner gardener. Chapter 4 profiles herbs; chapter 5 introduces the seasonal garden; and chapter 6 discusses cooking tips for children with recipes using the fresh garden produce.

The Children’s Kitchen Garden covers very basic information on 18 types of vegetables, 13 herbs, and has dozens of fresh recipes.  I was happy they included a composting section and found that we added a few of the recipes to our family collection.  My favorite parts are the gardening, science, and food activities dispersed throughout the book. I found the activities very informative and have many planned for the coming months. In fact, I will probably blog about a few of them soon!

Happy Gardening!

Painting for Spring

This week we found ourselves trying to stay warm indoors. Since we couldn’t get outside to play & work in the garden, we brought the garden inside (well via some painting).

In preparing for spring we had ordered our seeds online a few weeks ago & upon arriving in the mail my little gardener was very curious about the new seed packets. When she found out one of the packets were Purple Dragon Carrots, carrots that were purple on the outside & orange on the inside, she was more than delighted!!! She wanted to know where I had gotten them, how long before we could plant them, how many days would it take to grow them & what would they would taste?! After telling her to slow down, I answered all her questions.  :)    

Earlier in the day before the seeds arrived, we had been learning about sequences & the order of things in our home & in our world.  My little gardener wanted to know what the sequence of the purple carrots would be & I told her to think about it & to tell me what it would be. She went to her arts & crafts table & came back and asked for five pieces of paper & something to draw with. I smiled & dug out the paint (her favorite) & she drew the sequence of our purple dragon carrots for me!  I love how she ended the sequence with the carrots on the dinner plate, such an important part of the relationship we have with the earth & the food we eat. Our lesson even got mommy excited about the purple dragon carrots. :)

Happy Gardening!

Purple Dragon Carrot Info (I will report & post pictures in the spring garden)
Gloriously sweet with the richest, most intense purple color.
Slice it, shred it, love it. This gloriously sweet carrot is the richest, most intense purple. We love to make a cool summer carrot salad of yellow, orange and purple varieties, delicious and a treat for the eyes. Carrot aficionados (and who isn’t) will delight in this unique, yet tasty, variety with its purple skin and light yellow core. 65-70 days.
Product Details
Sun: Full Sun 
Height: 4-8  inches
Spread:3  inches
Days to Maturity: 65-70  days

taken from: http://www.burpee.com/vegetables/carrots/carrot-purple-dragon-prod000637.html?catId=2009&trail=

Fall Gardening

It seems way too hot to even begin thinking about the fall garden, but September is the time to start preparing for Florida’s fall gardening season!

We loved our okra blooms this summer.

Our summer garden just finished growing big beautiful okra for us. We’ve enjoyed it in all the traditional southern ways…fried, with tomatoes & in gumbo! 

Planning the Fall Garden:    before we could plant our seeds we had a little garden prep work this year!

After four years of gardening, three gardens a year, our soil needed a jump start. Even though we had added organic compost after every season we just hadn’t been doing enough for our soil, as last season’s garden had let us know. This season we removed the top foot of soil & spread it places in the backyard that needed attention (i.e., where the dog always tries to dig, where our gutters had washed it away, etc).  We then added new organic compost & organic gardening soil (10 cu ft to be exact)! 

After tilling our new soil & purchasing our seeds, we designed our garden with consideration to companion gardening rules. For instance, carrots are said to be compatible with beans, cabbage, lettuce, onion & peas & incompatible with celery, dill & parsnip. We design the garden so that the carrots will be located near the peas & onions, etc.

Then we were finally ready for seeds, much to our little gardeners delight!  Our fall selections & placement are always made based on what we’ve grown in previous seasons.  Crop rotation is important to all garden types & especially to a raised garden’s soil. We diagram the crop locations in the garden box with the kids before planting seeds, but really just use photographs of each year’s garden to reference in the coming seasons. 

Lil Gardener helping decide where to plant crops.

Planting the Fall Garden: our garden will contain the following 100% certified organic Burpee seeds

  • Spinach, Bloomsdale Long-Standing
  • Carrot, Scarlet Nantes
  • Carrot, Long imperator
  • Radish, Champion
  • Onion Evergreen Long White Bunching
  • Onion, Granex Hybrid
  • Pea, Burpeeana Early (the little gardener’s favorite)

Our lil gardener is of preschool age this year & just loved planting seeds. She can tell you that both types of onion seeds are black, radishes are always the first to sprout & peas will need a ladder to grow on. :) Marking the seed rows was also very important to my lil gardener this year. She didn’t want to wait to see the sprouts to figure it out what was where, so we used leftover pieces of recycle wood from our business & made little garden row markers.

We also added Flat Italian Parsley & Stevia to our existing collection of herbs (rosemary, lemongrass, greek oregeno & pineapple mint) this fall.  Spinach & Stevia will be a garden first! We will update more on our seedlings soon! Check out our blog for more info on our gardening methods & subscribe to see what we will learn in this season’s garden!

Happy Gardening.

garden update

Current Garden Contents:

cucumbers, radishes, corn, cubanelle peppers,  cherry tomatoes, okra

For this months post I took pictures at the beginning & at the end of the month. I think this helps show how quickly things can change & how a garden can entertain!

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The garden is a buzz with life!  The cucumbers are climbing well & looking healthy.  Ants have been bothering my yellow cucumber blooms though so I’ve been sprinkling cinnamon & white pepper. However, this just made the ants move to another cucumber plant. I plan on reapplying & hope they won’t do too much harm. I have dozens of baby cucumbers!

My cubanelle pepper plants are the most mature.  One is giving me two beautiful peppers that should be ready any day!  Cucumbers & cherry tomatoes are next in maturity. Both are showing us lots of tiny veggies & yellow flowers! Okra, corn & radishes are in the earliest stage of growth & all have been under attack by bugs. I had to spray Organocide (an organic insecticide & fungicide) & will have to again this week. I’m a bit worried about the corn. I have never had success (or space) for growing it but my four year old daughter really wanted to grow it this season so were giving it a try. I hope I can get a few ears big enough to excite her!

Check out the rest of the garden blog for updates too!!!  Backyard Gardeners are sending in picutres & reports & I even had a chance to update the farmers market page!

Happy Gardening!

Do what we can, summer will have its flies!

Do what we can, summer will have its flies! ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

As the pests & weeds begin to appear in my garden & yard I glanced over gardening notes & did a quick refresher on natural ways to ward them off!  I thought I would share a few of my favorites:

  • Marigolds are companion plants that help ward off pests like bean beetles & harmful nematodes. They also encourage growth when planted around tomatoes, strawberries, beans & roses.  (I always find my beneficial lady bugs in & around the marigolds in my garden).
  • Sprinkle baking soda lightly around tomato plants. This will sweeten the tomatoes by lowering acidity.
  • A strong solution of saltwater can kill an area infested with poison ivy plants.
  • Boil 1 quart water, then add 2 tablespoons salt and 5 tablespoons vinegar. While still hot, pour mixture directly onto weeds between cracks on sidewalks & driveways.  This is one of my favorite weeding tips. I do this once a year!
  • A squirt of vinegar may help invigorate a plant & make it more resistant to disease and pests. Mix 1 ounce vinegar with 1 gallon of water or compost tea, and use as a regular spray on garden plants.
  • Blood meal is great for deterring small animals, like rabbits & squirrels.  Sprinkle some in & around your garden. It is a high nitrogen fertilizer so remember to include that in your gardening plan so you don’t over fertilize your plants.  You can also use blood meal to help activate your compost as well. It will speed up decomposition since it is 12% nitrogen!
  • Lavender repels ants & so does sprinkling a mixture of 1/2 cinnamon & 1/2 white pepper around the garden when you see them. 
  • Radishes are good to plant with cucumbers, they will deter cucumber beetles.

The new gardening tip I’ve come across this season…fresh basil!  We love the aroma of basil but houseflies don’t! Use potted basil in your kitchen, screen porch & elsewhere to ward off the little nuisances.  Basil will also ward off tomato hornworms & should be planted in & around your tomato plants. Makes me want to go plant some basil seeds right now!  

Happy Gardening!

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