Thursday, January 31, 2013

My 2013 [Veggie] Garden Plans!

My garden, June 2012 (it's on a slight hill, so those rocks separate the flat levels)
Alrighty! After learning from last year, and giving y'all some history of my gardening experience, plus a look into where I get my seeds from, it's time to look ahead to this year's garden!

I've come to realize there are certain things I will always plant in my veggie garden.
  1. Green beans
  2. Zucchini
  3. Peas
These are things I know will always grow (although I've had trouble with squash bugs getting my zucchini plants the last couple years), and things that I will always have use for. I love cooking and baking with fresh zucchini. Beans and peas are great to blanch and freeze, and eat throughout the winter as well as fresh during summer.

(I'm still undecided on carrots... lately I've grown them each year and been able to harvest some, but unless we eat them fresh, the only reason I'd chop and freeze them would be to use in soup... which might be once a month throughout the winter??)

I try to limit myself to one (maybe two) "new" things each year. I've tried (and failed) with broccoli, peppers, lettuce, watermelon, and sweet corn. While I might go back and revisit them someday, for now I'm content to buy them from a farmers market instead.

So what will my new item be this year?? I've considered:
  1. Cucumbers -- Rocky doesn't like them (can't even stand the smell!), but I really do and I might be able to convince Abby to eat them with me. :) 
  2. Potatoes -- There are so many ways to eat potatoes, and they store well.
  3. Pumpkins -- For decoration more than for eating. Abby is at the age where carving or painting pumpkins next fall would be super fun.
As you can see from the photo above, my garden isn't very big, so I want to make sure I keep enough space for a good crop of the veggies I know will grow...

What do you think my "new" veggie should be?? Anything else not listed that I should try?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Why I don't start seeds indoors

The first year I had my own garden, I went all in.

I purchased seeds for peas, carrots, green beans, lettuce, broccoli, peppers, watermelon, zucchini and maybe more that I can't remember.

It was waaaay too much for me to start with.

I had visions of grandeur as I pictured my mom's huge flourishing garden, and reminisced about the seeds she would start indoors during the cold snowy winter.

I started seeds indoors that year. Broccoli, peppers, and watermelon. I had this cute little hutch I'd gotten at the local Meijer (along with my seeds that year) that lived on our dining room table (the best access we had to a window facing south).
Photo by Rachel Ross
I had the cutest little spindly green plants popping up. They grew and grew. Finally it was warm enough to transplant them outside.

Let's just say it was a total loss.

I had a couple broccoli plants survive, but they bolted before I could harvest the tiny crowns they produced. The pepper plants all died. The watermelon plants all died.

Oh and even though I didn't start the peas and lettuce indoors, those plants all got eaten by some little creature...

It was a rough first year.

Now that we are in a new house, I've decided to forego starting seeds indoors -- at least momentarily, perhaps forever. I don't have a decent place to put starter trays in a southern-facing window. And the time and money I devoted to it before just isn't worth it to me.

There are some vegetables that I will gladly buy from a farmers market. They include broccoli, peppers, and watermelon. Oh and sweet corn (that's a story for another day...)

Do you start seeds indoors? 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

How I Choose My Garden Seeds

"Always choose your garden seeds from a company
with a climate similar to your own." --my mom

I grew up on a 10-acre homestead with chickens, rabbits, pigs, goats, and the occasional other 4-H animal. And a huge garden. Some of my earliest memories are of "my" garden -- a small corner of mom's surrounded by 2x6 boards for me to walk on so I wouldn't step on any plants.

(This photo is actually inside mom's greenhouse. I searched and searched for a photo of me in the garden -- I do know at least one exists of me with a green pumpkin -- but couldn't find any. Not sure where they're hiding.)
Every year after Christmas I remember my mom pulling out her ice cream pail of seeds from the previous year(s) to the kitchen table. She would sort through them, then make a list of what she needed to order, then pull out her trusty Jung Seed Catalog. For as long as I can remember, my mom has sworn by Jung. They are located in Wisconsin, and she always had great success with their seeds.

Fast forward 15-20 years, and here I sit with four different seed catalogs on my kitchen table. This year I received two from companies I'd never heard of before, and I expect I'll still get my usual Johnny's, Burpee, and Gurney's soon. Whenever I get a catalog in the mail, I always check the return address to see where it came from. If it's from anywhere in the southern U.S., I toss it right away. Jung (Wisconsin) and Johnny's (Maine) and maybe one other will stick around.

I take a sharpie marker and start circling things I'm interested in (more on those interests in my next post!). The nice thing about keeping more than one seed catalog on hand at first is that they all have slightly different descriptions for the same exact seeds (especially Johnny's -- it's a huge catalog with a ton of great information!). After I've narrowed down which varieties of which vegetables I'm most interested in, I compare prices across companies.

In the last 5 years or so that I've had a garden, Jung always wins. Usually by only 10-30 cents per packet, but it's enough to keep me coming back.

I haven't ordered my seeds yet this year (why let them sit on my counter when I can't do anything with them until late March?? [and no, I don't start any of my seeds early, that's a post for another day]). I'll be taking my time browsing catalogs. I'm still trying to decide what to plant this year...

Where do you order your seeds from?

*As much as I love Jung seeds, I am not writing this as a promotional post. They don't even know my blog exists. I'm just sharing my insight and experience with you. :)  *

  Grow Write Guild

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Cabin Fever: Reflections on my 2012 Garden

I must be crazy.

Here's what our weather forecast looks like the next few days:

And here's my reading material of choice:

I actually got my first gardening catalog of the season on December 22. I swear it gets earlier and earlier every year! (kind of like when I worked in retail and we put out the Christmas stuff in October... then September... then Labor Day weekend...)

Before I drool too much over the plants and seeds I'm looking at for 2013, I probably should step back and see what did and didn't work last year.

I planted peas, carrots, bush beans, sweet corn, and zucchini from seed, and a couple tomato plants (got for free - I probably wouldn't grow them otherwise). I try to only choose one "new" thing each year -- this time it was the sweet corn -- so I mostly have tried and true things that I know I can grow!

I felt that considering I was pregnant during the worst of summer (Ellie was born August 4), I did a decent job of weeding and watering.

Yet in spite of my best efforts, my garden was a flop.
  • I harvested a half cup of peas. Total.
  • My zucchini plants got eaten by squash bugs, even though I put them in the opposite corner of the garden from where they were the year before when the same thing happened.
  • My green beans (which I typically have an abundance of) were either fried or something was up because I noticed tons of tiny ants in the soil...
  • I had about a half dozen ears of sweet corn, which never developed properly and eventually became nasty.
  • I did harvest a small bowl of small carrots, but didn't take the time to chop and freeze them properly so they went bad too.
I was sooooo disappointed! I guess it was just a rough year overall. The majority of the country experienced a drought and really high temperatures. I'm hoping next year will be better...

Let's learn from the past! How did your 2012 garden turn out overall?

Stay tuned for my plans for my 2013 garden!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Since everybody else is doing it...

I haven't been writing much lately and I apologize to those of you who look for new posts from me every day... Life with a 2.5 year old and a 5 month old is pretty crazy, and any time I do have a chance to write a post I often feel like doing other things instead (like sleep, or shower, or zone out with a book).

But since I've recently read year-in-review posts from my sister-in-law and husband, I thought I could add a little one myself. Especially since I created a poster of pictures through Shutterfly -- something I've done the last three years, which gets hung in our dining room. In chronological order:

  1. Abby is old enough to enjoy playing in the snow.
  2. NorthPointe's homecoming.
  3. Debbie was about 36 weeks pregnant and I was about 20 weeks at Critter & Ian's wedding.
  4. Abby loves books, and Abby loves Curious George (we got an iPad this year and she watches cartoons in the mornings)
  5. Rocky graduated from Cornerstone with his Masters Degree.
  6. Rocky and I went to the Alive Music Festival with the youth group -- when I was 34 weeks pregnant.
  7. Abby loves hanging out with Opa and Oma at the lakehouse.
  8. More lakehouse fun.
  9. Abby's first Detroit Tigers game, with Staperts, Westrates, and Poppens.
  10. Go 'igers!
  11. Abby & I went to storytime at the library each week.
  12. Abby's ready to be a big sister.
  13. The year all this stuff happened.
  14. Eleanor Gracelyn was born on August 4.
  15. First sister pic.
  16. Ellie is constantly active and alert.
  17. Abby still loves Sami -- unless Sami is sitting in her chair. Or on her toys. Or in her room.
  18. Just a cute pic of a sleeping baby. :) 
  19. Rocky's dad got a Hobie Cat -- one of the highlights of the lakehouse summer.
  20. Abby is following in her mommy's footsteps -- she loves music. 
  21. Hanging out with Presley & Lucy. 
  22. Ellie's baptism
  23. Happy baby
  24. Abby was Doc McStuffins for the lakehouse Halloween party. 
  25. Just another cute pic of Ellie. :)
  26. Ellie and James -- 4 months apart. First crush? 
  27. Abby and daddy love playing at the park
  28. Sisters!
  29. Abby's Christmas tree
  30. I love my girls.
It's been a great year, here's to a great 2013!

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