Sunday, January 30, 2011

Gardening for the yard-less

I've had lots of people tell me they can't have a garden because they don't have a yard, or because the landlord won't let them tear up the yard. You can too! You can grow food without a yard. Container gardening is a great idea for those who rent or for those that don't want to commit to a giant hole in the yard..

My friend Audrey really is the queen of container gardening. She's creative and really makes the best out of a small space. But I've done some container gardening too, and it's worked well. You can use any type of container. There's terra cotta pots, which are beautiful, or ceramic pots, which are also quite nice. Some prefer wooden boxes or half barrels. I've even seen people use the bottoms of empty milk jugs and plastic Taco Bell or McDonald's cups. It's really up to you, your aesthetic, and your budget.

Lots of different plants grow well in containers. Peppers and tomatoes grow well in containers because they are fairly compact plants. Peas will grow well in a container too, but they need a trellis. Lettuce and other greens are a great and ornamental choice. Carrots and onions will do well in a pot too.



Tomato plant in a container



Carrots from a terra cotta pot



Great pot for strawberries or herbs.



An unconventional, but budget and eco-friendly, container garden.


My favorite thing to grow in a container is herbs. I love cilantro and basil, and both do well in pots. Mint is best grown in a container, because it will spread so easily. Oregano does well in a container too. If you are familiar with what each herb looks like, you can combine them in one container.

You know the oh-so-popular Topsy Turvy tomato and strawberry planter? You can make your own, and they are great for patio gardeners. Below is a link from one of the best websites ever, http://www.instructables.com/. It outlines one of the many ways you can create your own upside-down planter.

http://www.instructables.com/id/Upside-Down-Hanging-Self-Watering-Earth-Filled-Box/

There are so many ways to garden. Get your hands in some dirt! (Well, when the dirt isn't frozen anymore.)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Pollinators, unite!

Hey fellow gardeners!

Found this article on the rareseeds.com site: http://rareseeds.com/blog/ca-seed-store/northern-california-farmer-sings-praises-of-bee-friendly-farming/ . The article discusses making a pollinator-friendly environment, and welcoming the birds to the yard or field.

I can attest to having birds in the garden. They do a great job of keeping the bugs down. And I know it horrifies my father, but I like to have dandelions around too. They are fun for the kids to pick for me, keep the afore-mentioned kids out of my flowers, and they draw the bees. What's not to love? I do try to keep them out of the actual garden though. Why not let nature do some of the work? You'll have healthier food and a happier environment.

Yellowbanded Bumble Bee-photo from http://www.xerces.org/

On a related note, bees are having a hard time. We can help with pollinator conservation in the easiest and prettiest way of all. Planting flowers! Below are some links that outline some of the plants pollinators in my area like best. You can visit the Xerces Society website to learn more at http://www.xerces.org/.

http://www.xerces.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/uppermidwest-plants-for-bees-xerces.pdf

http://efotg.sc.egov.usda.gov//references/public/IL/BTechNote23.pdf

http://www.xerces.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/xerces-organic-farming-practices-factsheet.pdf

Friday, January 21, 2011

They're Here!

My seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds have arrived! It's like opening up an envelope full of hope and promise. These seeds will help me feed my family, give me a creative outlet, and help keep rare and historic varieties alive. I love the idea that I am growing seeds descended from plants that were grown 100 years ago. Heirloom seeds are great because they produce fruits that have more flavor, and you can save the seeds and get a new plant that was like the parent. This lets you choose the qualities you like best and keep them going in next year's garden. If you choose hybrid seeds, you will not get a true replication in seeds you save. Therefore, you become dependent on others for seed.

Without further ado, my seeds for the gardens of 2011:

Red Romaine Lettuce (this was actually a gift from the seed company)
Bloomsdale Long Standing Spinach
Sanguine Ameliore Lettuce (AKA strawberry cabbage lettuce)
May Queen Lettuce (a butterhead variety)

Bonny Best Tomato (red)
Mortgage Lifter (pink- so named because the grower originally sold the plants for $1 each, and paid off his mortgage!)
Woodle Orange tomato
Sungold Select II tomato (orange cherry variety)

Sweet Chocolate Pepper
Ozark Giant Pepper
Orange Bell Pepper

Tante Alice Cucumber (grows up to 18 inches)
Ruby Wallace's Old Time White Cucumber (wins the award for best name ever!)

Purple Podded Pole Beans
Blue Lake Bush 274 Beans

Parsley- Giant of Italy
Oregano Vulgare
Lavender (not to eat, but I love the smell)
Dill- Elephant
Cilantro
Genovese Basil

This year, for my flower beds, I'm doing a completely different color scheme. Since we built the raised beds out front, I had orange tiger lillies out there. I love them, but I moved them this fall to be out in front of the fence. That gave me a lot more color freedom, since I had always been tied down to the orange. This year, I'm doing pink, white, red, purple, and black.

Sensation Candy Stripe Cosmos
Jet Black Hollyhocks (I am so excited about these!)
Laura Pansy
Bowle's Black Violet
Farewell-To-Spring
Bird's Eyes
Pink Sunday Sage Salvia
Rose of Heaven Petunia

I cannot wait to get started. This year, I am starting from seed indoors for my tomatoes and peppers, as well as some of the flowers and herbs. This will be an adventure! What are you growing in your gardens this year?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

January Blues

This time of year makes me get antsy to start digging in the dirt. It's cold out, snowy, and windy. Trips to the grocery store yield nothing but mushy, bland, pale tomatoes that have no flavor. Fresh green beans are a thing of the past. Even if you can find corn on the cob, you don't want to eat it. Zucchini and peppers are expensive, and honestly, they aren't worth the money. So what's a garden girl to do?

To start, I ordered my seeds from Baker Creek Seeds (rareseeds.com). This year, I'm starting seeds in the house for transplant to the garden instead of trying to buy plants. For all that I live in such a farm-filled area, finding plants is a challenge. I'm also planting lettuces for the first time this year. I'm drawing diagrams and plotting my flowerbeds and herb garden. All this planning is fun, but I want the real thing. I want mud under my nails, and dirt streaks across my cheeks. I want to feel the sun above me and warm dirt beneath my feet. But....it's January. The best I can do is remember last year's garden and look over some pictures. I'll have the garden dream tonight again, I'm sure. 

 Jerimiah planting beans.
 Anthony planting beans.
Beautiful purple beans. Probably the ones the boys planted. This is a tasty variety, and the beans turn green when cooked.
My tomatoes, before they went totally crazy. I should probably prune them or something this year. Last year the tomatoes took over, and I had a hard time getting to the center of the plants to pick. There's also corn in the background and pumpkins in the foreground. 

Until spring, I have these pictures to remind me.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Here I am....

Blogging is something I've thought about doing for some time now, but I wasn't sure it was for me. I decided to take the plunge and share myself with the world. (Look out, world.)  This blog will be about things I find interesting, or funny, or sad, or useful, or thought-provoking. Don't worry, I'm not the deep emotional type. I'm only kind of a hippie, not a full-fledged one. I hope to have some fun with this, and my hope is that people will share things back with me. This is not the Amanda Show. Well, it could be, but maybe it will be more of an interactive show, with questions from the audience. See you soon.