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planting-with-children

Learning about the natural world and how it works is one of the joys of being a child. I was reminded of this fact the other day with my grandson, Eric. He came over for a visit after preschool and was so excited to show me a science experiment that they had done in class.

Clutched in his little hand was a plastic baggie with a moistened paper towel and a sprouted seed. Oh, he was so proud of his little seed and he couldn’t wait to plant it in my vegetable garden.

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Such a tiny seed…

Do you remember doing this in school? I do! And the joy of planting a single seed was just one of the ‘sparks’ that ignited my passion and career in gardening.

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We selected the best spot in the garden.

 

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Eric dug a little hole and we carefully placed his seed in it.

Notice that the seed is located several inches away from a young bean plant. I did that on purpose, so if Eric’s little seedling doesn’t grow, he can ‘adopt’ the nearby bush bean.

Now, to pat down the soil.

 

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Eric loves my little blue watering can

 

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Watering in his little seedling.

Oh, I do hope that his little pea seed begins to grow. Eric has already spent a lot of time out in the garden with me and whether or not he follows in his grandma’s footsteps, he will always experience joy when spending time in the garden.

Have you ever successfully grown a seedling that you grew in school?

Disclosure: This post is paid for by the folks at Lava Soap. The opinions expressed, are my own.

Are you afraid to get your hands dirty when you garden? I’m not. In fact, I seldom wear gardening gloves when I’m working in the soil. Oh, gloves are useful when using pruners, raking, or dealing with thorny plants. However, I find elemental pleasure with working in the soil with my bare hands.

I especially like to ditch the gloves when I am working in my vegetable garden where whether I am planting seeds, smoothing out a new layer of compost, or harvesting plants – touching the plants and soil with my hands makes me happy.

Last week, I spent the morning out in the vegetable garden, cleaning out old plants and getting it ready for sowing seeds in mid-September. The experience was not unlike the feeling you get after spring cleaning. I have an almost blank canvas on which to add new vegetables this fall.

After the plants are ripped out, I add several inches of new compost to prepare the beds. I buy my compost in bags, which makes it easier to add just where I want it to go.

This year, I am changing things up a bit by adding mushroom compost, which has composted horse manure and straw among other things. I like to try new things to see how they perform and then communicate that information to you.

All told, we added a total of 6 inches of regular and mushroom composts to the garden.

Our desert tortoise, Aesop, came out to see what we were doing. Unfortunately, we discovered that he is able to climb up into the vegetable garden, which we don’t want as he will eat our leafy greens. So, we will have to replace the short wood sides with taller ones.

As if my hands weren’t dirty enough after pulling out plants, they became more so as I smoothed out the newly added mulch around the few plants that remained. Of course, any chance of getting his hands dirty, brings out my grandson, Eric, to help me out in the garden.

Back in the house, we had two pairs of messy hands. So, out came my favorite hand cleaner that I reserve for the dirtiest of messes. Lava Soap is the most effective way that I have found to get rid of the ground in garden dirt from my hands, and Eric was anxious to get started first. Within a couple of minutes, his little hands were nice and squeaky clean.

My hands were worse than Eric’s, coated with soil and plant debris and I knew from experience that regular soap wouldn’t do the job. So I grabbed my bar of Lava and got started.

That is a lot of dirt!

Almost done!

Finished!

In the past, whenever I would use regular soap, it never got them completely clean, and I would have dirt remaining in the small cracks in my hands. I also didn’t like how dried out my hands would feel after working in the garden.

Lava Soap not only gets my hands (and Eric’s) cleaner than regular soap, it doesn’t dry them out either. Most of us have heard of this famous cleaning bar and how it is useful for getting rid of grease, paint, and glue due to the pumice that within it. However, I’m here to state that it also did a fabulous job removing the garden soil from my hands while leaving them moisturized afterward.

So, ditch the garden gloves, reach your hands into the soil and experience the joy of gardening. Just be sure to have some Lava Soap ready to help you clean up afterward.

Lava Soap is available at retailers across the country, including Ace, Walmart, Dollar General and Family Dollar. To find a store near you, visit LavaSoap.com and click on the Where to Buy button.

Do you grow garlic in your garden? If so, you know that it takes a long time to grow with planting in October and harvesting it in May.  During the long growing period, the leafy green tops of the garlic plant are all that is visible while the garlic bulb is growing below ground.

But, did you know that the garlic greens can be used in some of your favorite dishes? Here is how I use them…

It’s always fun to find new ways to enjoy the vegetables in your garden. Have you ever tried garlic greens or other non-traditional parts of vegetables?

For tips on how to grow your own garlic, click here.

*This blog post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). Thanks for your support in this way.*
This is what my mother’s vegetable garden looks like in the middle of winter.  
 
She works hard at growing a variety of vegetables in her two raised beds.  On Wednesday nights, we all gather for dinner at her house and get to enjoy many of the delicious vegetables straight from her garden.   
 
Sadly, her plans for this season’s vegetable garden faced a serious setback.
 
 
My mother fell and broke her leg while cooking dinner with my youngest daughter.  Both bones in her lower leg suffered multiple fractures, and a metal rod had to be inserted down into her tibia.
 
Understandably, she cannot put any weight on her foot for at least two months.  So, while she works hard at physical therapy to gain as much independence as she can – we decided to help out with her garden.
 
 
My kids, along with my nephews, were eager to help with Grandma’s garden.  We stopped by the nursery to pick up broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and leaf lettuce transplants while I brought some carrot and radish seeds from home.
 
Lucky for us, she had already amended her soil with one of my favorite soil amendments – used coffee grounds (from Starbucks).  I added some of my favorite organic vegetable fertilizer for the garden, and we were ready to start planting.
 
 
I instructed the kids on where and how to plant the vegetable transplants in staggered rows.
 
My sister was also watching us and even stepped in to help out, despite the fact that she never gardens.  
 
 
The kids were eager to help out their grandmother, and we all enjoyed out time out in the garden.  
 
I took a few photos to bring back to her at the rehabilitation facility where she is recuperating, to show her what her grandkids had done for her.


My mother is doing well and is working hard at her daily physical therapy sessions so that she can get home as soon as possible.  We visit her daily, and her room has pictures drawn by her grandchildren and cards from friends and family.

On our most recent visit, my grandson discovered the delights of pushing around his grandpa using great-grandma’s wheelchair.  His smile and laughter brightened everyone’s day.
 
Meanwhile, back at the vegetable garden.

 

 
I came back to check on the newly planted vegetables.  Most were doing quite well, but I did see a few plants with telltale holes in their leaves.
 
 
I discovered the culprit nearby.  Cutworms are caterpillars that eat holes in leafy vegetables as well as ‘cut’ off young vegetable transplants at their base. 
 
  
The cutworms did kill some of the newly transplanted broccoli, but most of the leafy greens were fine other than a few holes in the leaves.
 
I brought my favorite organic pesticide, BT (Bacillus thuringiensis), which kills the caterpillars.  I like to use Safer Brand 5163 Caterpillar Killer II Concentrate, 16 oz in my own garden, which helps keep the caterpillars at bay.
 
 
I sprayed all the vegetables, taking care to spray both top and underneath the leaves.  
 
BT can be reapplied every 7 – 10 days until the caterpillars are gone.  
 
**Note; it can be hard to find BT in your local big box store or even some nurseries.  However, you can find it offered online from garden supply companies and Amazon (affiliate link).
 

Have you planted any vegetables this season?  What are your favorites?

Thanks to all of you who entered to win a free copy of this fabulous, vegetable gardening book – Grow For Flavor.

The randomly-picked winner is, Brandi – congratulations!

For those who didn’t win, I will have two more book giveaways coming up.  In the meantime, you can order your own copy of Grow For Flavor here
June is here, which marks the official beginning of hot, dry weather throughout the southwest.

While most of us can be found indoors in the comfort of air-conditioning – your plants can be suffering from the heat and intense sunlight.

May and June can be some of the most difficult months for plants in the garden until the summer rains arrive in late June.

Need some helpful tips for your June garden?

Here is my June “to-do” list that I wrote for Houzz.com.

Does the fact that Christmas is fast approaching make you think of growing tomatoes?

Of course not.  Our thoughts are focused on making sure our homes are decorated for Christmas, looking for the perfect gift for that special someone and hopefully some holiday baking.

But, I am going to tell you why you should also be thinking about growing tomatoes this time of year.


But, did you know that December is the best time to start growing your tomatoes from seed indoors?

For those of you who have grown tomatoes in the arid desert, know that our tomato growing season occurs in spring and fall.  

Oh, your tomatoes will live through the summer with a little shade – but they will stop producing new tomatoes once temperatures hit the 90’s because their pollen is not viable.

The other limiting factor is that you can’t set out tomato plants into the garden until the danger of frost is past, which is usually around the beginning of March in the Phoenix metro area.

So, to get the most tomatoes, you want to plant the largest (oldest) tomato plant you can in early March.

Many nursery greenhouses are starting their tomato plants from seed right now where they will grow, protected from the elements until March arrives when you will find them on the shelves of your nursery.

You may be wondering why you should start your own tomato plants instead of buying them at nursery?

Well the problem with purchasing your tomato plants from the nursery is that they have a very limited selection of tomato varieties.  And, they may not have the variety you want, or it is sold out.


**Right now, many seed companies are having Christmas sales on their seeds including Burpee and Botanical Interests.

Growing your own tomatoes from seed is very easy and rewarding.

Here is how I have done it…


I like to use Starbucks coffee sleeves or toilet paper rolls, cut in half as my seedling containers.



Grab some seed starting mix from your local nursery or big box store.  Some seed mixes have fertilizer already added.  If not, then I recommend adding a slow-release fertilizer to your potting mix.

Wet the soil before adding to your containers.

Fill your recycled containers with the seed mix and add your seeds.



Place your newly planted seeds in a warm area, such as the top of your refrigerator.  The heat will help them to germinate.

**Use a spray bottle to keep them moist.  Don’t allow the soil to dry out.

Once the seeds begin to sprout, put them in front of a sunny window.


In just a few weeks, you’ll be surprised at how quickly your tomato plants will have grown.

During warm winter days, you can place them outdoors to get a little extra – but be sure to bring them indoors at night until the danger of frost is over. 

As your tomato seedlings grow, you can transfer them to larger containers until you are ready to put them out in the garden.

*For more information on seed starting, click here.

I don’t know about you, but I have enjoyed the wet weather of the past few days.  We almost received 3 inches of rain where I live in a period of 48 hours.  For those of you who do not live in the desert – that is considered A LOT of rain for us 😉


I spent Saturday morning dodging raindrops as I visited two different clients regarding their landscapes.  The rest of the day, I spent indoors just thinking of how much my garden is enjoying this rain.


You may not realize that rain water is much better for your plants then the water that comes from your hose or drip emitters.  Our water is somewhat ‘salty’, which is a result of its journey down the Colorado river and all the rock it passes by.


Plants do not like salt much and a heavy rain will help flush the salts away from the soil.


As the sun began to peek through the clouds this afternoon, I ventured out into the garden in order to harvest some lettuce and Swiss chard for our dinner.

A small sampling of today’s harvest.

It had been a while since I had taken a good look at my vegetable gardens and there was quite a bit more to harvest then I had expected.


I am rapidly falling in love with Swiss chard (yes, I said ‘love’).  

While I do not like cooked leafy greens, I have been surprised at how delicious raw Swiss chard is in salads.

It also adds a nice bit of color with its red and yellow veins.


Sugar snap peas are covering their vines, but it is hard to find them all since they blend in so well with the leaves.

I plan on serving them on our veggie tray Thanksgiving morning.

Right now, I have more radishes then I know what to do with.  But, we had 5, thinly sliced radishes in our salad.  In addition to thinly slicing them, I also quarter them so that my kids will eat them.


Two of my favorite types of leaf lettuce – Romaine and Black-Seeded Simpson.

I have had some problems with caterpillars eating my lettuce, so I will head out tomorrow with my spray bottle of BT (Bacillus thuringiensis).


Fall is the best time of year for all of my pepper plants.  While they can handle hot temperatures, they don’t flower during the height of summer.  

Once it begins to cool down in mid September, flowers appear again followed by peppers.

Sadly, once the first frost occurs, they will stop producing and will often die.  Last year, I was able to save my bell pepper plant by covering it when temps dipped below freezing.

I have a ton of bell peppers and jalapeños.  I will dice them up and place them in freezer bags so that I can enjoy them throughout the winter months.


I discovered that I had a lot of parsley growing and I only harvested about half of it.

While parsley will last through the winter months, my basil won’t survive the first frost.  So, I picked some basil too.


I plant to dry my basil and parsley.  Once dry, I will crush the leaves and put them into spice jars.

Drying herbs is easy and you can learn how to do it here.

The remainder of the fresh parsley that I have growing outdoors I will harvest on Thanksgiving to use as a garnish for a few of my favorite dishes.

While I spent part of this afternoon harvesting vegetables, I noticed that I still have not thinned out my carrot seedlings.  Oh, they will still grow if I don’t thin them, but what I will get in return are small carrots not worth eating.

So, I’ll grab a pair of scissors and head out into the garden and snip off the extra.

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How about you?  

Have you put your garden to bed for the winter or do you still have things growing in it?

I’d love to hear what is happening in your garden…

For those of you who are kind enough to take time to read my “ramblings”, you know that I absolutely love to grow vegetables.


So, when I heard of a brand new book called, “The Speedy Vegetable Garden”, I just knew that I had to read it.



The publishers at Timber Press, were kind enough to give me a copy of the book to review and I must say, that I have already dog-eared more then 15 pages of things that I want to try in my garden.

What I really like about the book is that its focus is on growing vegetables and harvesting them within a relatively short time frame.

For example: I love to grow carrots.  But, I often get impatient and harvest a few carrots when they are still rather small.  Well, according to “The Speedy Vegetable Garden”, very young carrots are sweet and delicious.  

So, I went out into my garden and harvested some young carrots and enjoyed their delicious sweetness in my dinner salad.  I love this idea because I can spread out the harvest of my carrots – I can enjoy some while they are about 6 weeks old and the rest later.

Another project that I am anxious to try is making sun-dried tomatoes using cherry tomatoes, which ripen much more quickly then large tomatoes.  


I also learned that very young radish leaves make great micro greens for salads.

I was also inspired to start another gardening project – growing potatoes in containers.

If these potatoes were in your kitchen, you’d probably throw them out.  But, seed potatoes are supposed to have sprouts growing 😉
The last time I grew potatoes – I was a college student and we had each been given a piece of farm land to plant vegetables.  Since french fries was among my favorite foods at the time, I made sure that I included potatoes in my vegetable plot.


This time, I bought an inexpensive container with holes on the bottom for drainage, some seed potatoes and potting soil.  I filled the pot with 4″ of potting soil, added 3 seed potatoes (they are really small potatoes), and then added 4 more inches of soil.  


I must keep them well-watered, but not soggy.  I will apply fertilizer as well.  Soon, green leaves will appear and I will cover them with more potting soil.  This cycle will repeat itself (adding more soil once leaves appear) until the soil reaches the top of my container.  In just 8 – 12 weeks, I will be harvesting my own potatoes.

I can hardly wait!

I encourage you to read “The Speedy Vegetable Garden” by authors Mark Diacona & Lia Leendertz.

Maybe your copy will become as dog-eared as mine 😉

You’ll probably never guess what I am growing in a recyclable bag…

Lettuce!
So what made me think of growing lettuce in a grocery bag?
Well, it wasn’t my idea.  I actually saw an article about it and thought it would be fun to try in my own garden and share with you.
Here is how I did it:
I took my recyclable grocery bag and made a few little holes on the bottom, using scissors, for drainage.
Then I placed the bag where I wanted in the garden.  It is hard to move after you fill it with soil.
I filled the bag with planting mix and then planted my lettuce transplants.  Of course, you can simply plant lettuce seeds instead.
Add slow-release fertilizer because all vegetables need fertile soil.
Then water.  I simply put a drip emitter on my new lettuce planter. 
I love how it looks and just a few weeks after planting, I can already pick lettuce.
So how about you?  Is this something you would like to try?