Getting Ready for a Winter Garden

For those of us down here in the south August is a time to pull up your dead spring plants, and till up the ground as best you can for a winter garden.  Right now I still have Blueberries and Grapes in the garden of course, they’re perennials. fallgarden03

I have sunflowers I planted from seed, which should finish up any day now. fallgarden04

I also have Tomatoes which should be done end of Sept mid October, and Peppers which could go till December.

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The tomatoes were starting to look dead, but it started to cool off and rain and they have grown all anew.  Complete with tons of little tomatoes. fallgarden05  fallgarden01

Somehow I also still have some Collard Greens, and Kale which managed to survive all summer.

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In the garden pictured above these are the seeds I will be planting for winter. I’m going to make the upper garden all salad greens, and plant the larger plants down on the bottom level.  Mesclun is just a mix of different greens you can buy premixed from Burpee.

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On the top row are the seeds I will sew this week.  The greens on the bottom row I will wait until early September, when I am sure it is cool enough.  I mixed in a lot more soil into my boxes this year as my 100% composted manure mix was too strong for a lot of my plants, and dried out quickly.

I’ve never had any luck germinating sweet peas.  This year I’m going to try my mothers method of soaking them overnight, and then planting them in the morning.  I’ll let you know how that goes.

Summer Garden Update: Our first squash!

Our summer garden is starting to produce now. By the time we get back from Puerto Rico everything should be in full swing.

Our first (and biggest) harvest was this Tatume Squash and one sweet pepper.

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However, I don’t remember planting any Tatume Squash. The seed packet was marked “Yellow Summer Squash,” with a picture of the small yellow squash that you normally see in the grocery store.

You can imagine my surprise when the vines grew to the size of pumpkin vines and took over the entire yard.

I spent many evenings cutting squash bores out of them, and I was worried we might lose them altogether, but they have survived.

Then this giant watermelon looking monstrosity of a squash showed up on the vine. Anyway it tastes very good, like zucchini, and just one makes several meals.

My tomato plants were slow starters but are now doing well. The peppers are at about at the same stage — lots of green, no red yet.

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The grapes are continuing to hang on the vine, taunting us as we wait on them to ripen. Thankfully we have this little lizard working to keep the bugs off of them.

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I’m growing more greens, fruits and vegetables than I thought possible in just two small raised beds in the backyard of my suburban home. If you’ve got soil and sunlight, you can do it too.

Summer Garden update

So now that summer is really in full swing here, I thought I would give you an update on our crop shifting. In the main garden the squash is really taking over everything, and the greens, while large, are coming to an end.  In fact right after this picture was taken we had to pull all the spinach as it was starting to flower.  The kale and collard greens are still going strong for now, and the carrots are not ready to be picked either you can barely see them under the squash on the right side.

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Not much change on the grape vine.  No grapes have ripened yet, and probably wont until fall.  We really could use more trellis, basically everywhere in the yard.  Garden02

On the other side of the yard to make room for more summer veggies I had to build another bed.  I didn’t expect that squash to get so huge and fill the other one.  Really overall everything got bigger than expected.  In the below garden I did 3 different tomato plants.  Then behind that two pepper plants.  Along the fence here I also did a row of sunflower seeds.  They are supposed to grow to 10ft and I’m hoping they keep our neighbors from looking over the fence, as well as providing a little bird seed. Garden03

Pretty much no progress on my little mandarin seeds I planted.  Maybe they will grow more in the summer?Garden04

This is all the spinach we had to harvest.  I ended up making 3 salads, and then freezing the rest.  All in all I’m happy to see it go, as I am super tired of picking it! Garden05

I’m looking forward to some different veggies this summer (tomatoes and peppers), and looking forward to saying goodbye to my greens.  I have really enjoyed having them, but it’s time for a change — one of the best things about gardening!

A glimpse into my garden

So, Fred has convinced me that I need to share a little gardening blog with y’all.  Even though it is not sailing related, I realize the world of self-sustainability can bring the two together.

At our house I try to only plant useful plants. Three years ago I started with a small garden plot and two trellises which we placed on our fences. I’ll start by explaining that we just have a small suburban lot that is mostly covered in house, so we try to use as much of the available space as possible, while still leaving space for the dogs to play.

The first year of gardening we planted a miniature dwarf lime tree and grape vines on either fence. The lime tree survived almost three years but then was finally killed off by a year of several hard frosts. If I had that to do again I would have planted a more hearty Myer Lemon tree. On the fence trellises we planted concord grapes on one side, and niagra grapes on the other. The niagra died after being mowed off by the lawn crew, not once but twice. Our concord grapes have grown in nicely every year, but we’ve only had one bunch of grapes. This year I trimmed them way back and fertilized well. We’ll see how they do. The first leaves appeared this week.

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For our vegetable garden I like to start some seeds inside while some things I plant outdoors when it’s time. Here in Houston the season starts early, and it will be different everywhere so just go by temperatures. About two or three weeks before the last freeze I like to plant my tomato and pepper plants in little seed pods. You can get about 40 pods for $3. I just put them in little food tubs with no drain holes. I water them every other day or so and always drain the excess water into my house plants.

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I like to reuse any of these seed pods that don’t end up growing plants by planting random seeds from my food in them.  The most recent attempt was several mandarin orange seeds. Some are actually growing! When they get too big for their little seed things, if the weather is still not warm enough for them, I will move them to some small pots like you see above.  The black plastic pots you get when you buy plants are the perfect size for this. To move peppers outside it needs to be consistently warmer than 60 degrees, even at night. Tomatoes need temperatures higher than 50 degrees. However, while you are growing your seeds inside it’s a good time to start growing your greens outside.

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You can grow these when temperatures are above 25 degrees, and they grow fast, so don’t be afraid to start early. Some cold weather plants that I currently have growing are spinach, kale, collard greens, cauliflower, carrots, chives and onions.

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With the greens I stagger planting. I like to do about two rows at a time and plant maybe every week or two weeks depending on how much salad we can eat at a time. There are only two of us. This way you can have fresh salad all spring. The larger greens can also just be picked and left in the ground. Pick from the outside in, and for sure pick leaves that are blocking sun for other smaller plants first.

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When you have a lot of small plants in a clump like above, just randomly pick around trying to thin them out. I chop off the roots and throw all of my greens into a big strainer. That way I can rinse them all off at once when I get into the house.

My recycling routine also ties into my gardening routine. I like to keep all of my vegetable scraps and grow them into new plants.  I cut off the base of onions, set them out to dry, and then plant them in the garden wherever I have an empty spot.  Later on you cut the green shoots off that grow up, and divide the base. Each old onion cutting will give you two new onion plants. Also with celery you can take the base, trim off the outside layers, and put it in a bit of water. New celery shoots will begin to grow, and then you can just plant it in the garden with everything else. Sure, it’s a slow process, but who doesn’t want never-ending celery?

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The last section of my garden is where I keep my squash and cucumbers.  I like to grow these on a sort of table shaped trellis.  I pull the vines up through, and let the fruits grow hanging.  This keeps them from growing all over my garden.  It also helps with keeping the fruit from bruising, and keeping the bugs off of them, which is a huge problem for these vines.

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Well there you guys go — a small window into my gardening routine!

Can you identify this flower?

Mary and I came across this plant with very interesting pink and yellow flowers while taking a walk last weekend. We want to plant some at the house. Can any of our brilliant readers identify it for us?

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Meanwhile, Mary’s vegetable garden, which we planted on February 1 is doing very well. Looks like we’ll have plenty of fresh kale, spinach, peppers, carrots, onions, cucumbers, squash, cauliflower and tomatoes this year.

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We keep discussing how to combine gardening with boating, but there’s not much space on Gimme Shelter for tomato plants.