Tuesday, October 8, 2013

How to grow your own garlic


I love being able to know where my produce comes from, and there is no better way than to grow it in your own backyard! One simple thing to grow in a small bed or even a container is garlic. All you need to get started is a clove of garlic from your grocery store. If you would like to grow organic garlic, then start with organic garlic.


Break the clove up into individual segments. 


Each segment will eventually grow into an entire clove of garlic. Keep the paper-like covering on the garlic segments, but peel back the covering from the very top of each so that the leaves can grow more easily.


Fold a paper towel in half length-wise and line up the garlic segments with the tops pointing up. Fold the bottom of the paper towel up to the top to create a little pocket. 


Roll up the paper towel and place it in a shallow glass with the tops facing up. Add just enough water to keep the paper towel wet without creating a puddle in the bottom of the glass.



After just a few days you will begin to see green shoots growing from the tops of each piece of garlic. In a few more days white roots will begin to grow through the paper towel to the bottom of the glass.


Then you are ready to plant! Bury each of the garlic deep enough to cover the entire garlic piece with the leaves sticking up. Plant the segments 6 inches apart in early fall or spring, and most varieties mature after 90 days. 


Happy planting and happy eating! Anyone have a favorite recipe using garlic???


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

EGG DAY!

We have been counting down for months...
We knew that the day was getting close...
The anticipation has almost been too much to bear...
But finally, EGG DAY IS HERE!!!!

As first time chicken owners, we have had our share of struggles getting started. From a total of 25 chicks that we began with, we now have 12 that have made it to adulthood. 

Meet Brandy Jr., our super lovable, very friendly, cuddly, and beautiful Buff Orpington. 


She has a pretty tragic story. She was one of our original flock of 7 Buff Orpingtons. Three of her sisters disappeared, some escaped under the fence to become snacks for predators and some were taken straight from the yard by birds of prey. She and three sisters survived the tough world or urban free ranging and had made it to their three month old birthday when a neighbor's dog dug under our fence and killed all of Brandy's sisters. There were feathers everywhere and it was such a devastating day to see our pets lifeless on the ground. We thought that the entire flock had been lost, but we soon discovered Brandy playing dead in the bushes! We had one baby left!


We have since started two new flocks of chickens, Americaunas and more Buff Orpingtons, and they have all flocked together but left out poor Brandy. She didn't really fit in with her new sisters. While they were skittish, she loved to sit with us and be petted. Far ahead of our other chicks, we counted down to Brandy's egg day for months! We had read about the signs, and she had them all- her comb and wattles were turning red, her hips were widening, and she was getting more vocal. Then we saw the tell-tale "egg squat" where she squatted down, lifted her tail and slightly spread her wings when petted. 

We made her a beautiful new nesting box and put in a ceramic egg. Six days after the first egg squat and at 22 weeks old, Brandy decided to plop down in the nesting box and get down to business. 
Right on time, you good girl!



Of course when it came time for her to choose a nesting box, she picked the disgusting plastic makeshift one we had put in there until the real ones were finished...


But who could complain when lo and behold, the first egg appears!!!!!


There is no feeling like a first egg! I hope Brandy feels accomplished, but not too overwhelmed- we have to do this again day after tomorrow!

So what did we do with the egg? Ate it that very day, that's what! I hear that the eggs get larger and more regular with time, but here is a comparison of a regular store bought egg to Brandy's handiwork.


I couldn't wait to see what the inside looked like. As you can see, the yolk is much darker in color that the pale yellow of store bought eggs. (That's where all the free ranging in my garden pays off). 


So you want to know...how did it taste??? Well, it tasted just as amazing as everything I could have hoped and dreamed :) Definitely worth the wait!



Monday, July 1, 2013

How to Make Sun Dried Tomatoes


Around this time of year there is an abundance of tomatoes coming from the garden, and sometimes you have to be creative to find ways to use them up before they spoil. A new recipe I tried this year is sun dried tomatoes!

You will need:
- Tomatoes
- Thyme
- Garlic powder
- Salt
- Pepper
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil

First cut the tops off of the tomatoes and then cut them into halves or quarters depending on the size of the tomato. Gently squeeze the tomato pieces so that all of the seeds and liquid seed cavities come out. Lay out the tomato pieces with the skin side down on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil. Sprinkle on top the garlic powder, salt, pepper, thyme and extra virgin olive oil.


While sun drying them would be nice, our Louisiana humidity would probably make them more wet than they started out, so we are going to dry them in the oven. Bake them on low heat at 200 degrees for 3-4 hours depending on how fleshy your tomatoes are. You can also do this in a toaster oven to use up less energy. When they are done the skins will look wrinkled and leathery, and they will shrink up to half of their original size.


 If you aren't going to eat them all immediately, you can can them. Place the tomato pieces in a mason jar and pack them in tight. Then pour extra virgin olive oil until the tomatoes are completely submerged. The jar must be refrigerated and will stay fresh for two weeks or can be frozen for up to three months.


These taste delicious on crackers, sandwiches, pizza or pasta. Or you can eat the straight on a slice of cucumber (especially if you have a lot of those to eat up as well!).

What recipes are your favorites foe eating up fresh garden produce?

Monday, June 24, 2013

How to grow MORE potatoes in a raised bed

I had a little extra garden space and wanted to try something new for the first time, so I bought a set of 6 seed potatoes on half price. If doing an experimental plant in the garden, the ones on clearance are less of a risk, even if they do get in the ground a little late :)

I planted them directly into the ground, but quickly learned that they grow well in containers where you can build the soil up around the stalks as they grow. The idea is that the more the plant is under ground, the more roots it can grow, and the more potatoes you will get. 


It was too late to transfer them into containers, so I took an old plastic pot that I had bought a shrub in and cut out the bottom of it. I then set it over the plants and filled it with dirt as the plants grew.


To make the experiment officially scientific, I left some of the potato plants alone to simply grow in the raised bed. At the end of the growing season, we'll see which type of growing conditions the potatoes like best!


Any predictions???

Sunday, June 23, 2013

How to get rid of powdery mildew...ewww


I was so excited watching my squash plant growing, blooming, and starting little squashes. I couldn't wait to saute them up! However, as they started growing I noticed a recurring problem. The squash would get about an inch or two long before the end would turn black and shrivel up. 

I did a little research and learned that powdery mildew on the leaves is an indication that the plant has a fungus that effects the fruit production. I inspected the leaves, and sure enough...powdery mildew!


More research told me to use a fungicide to get rid of it, but I try to avoid chemicals (and spending money) as much as possible. I heard about some people using a skim milk and water solution to spray on the leaves for powdery mildew, so I thought I would give that a try.


All you need is Skim milk (I have heard that it MUST be skim, but I'm not sure why), water and a spray bottle. Simply mix 1 part skim milk to 6 parts water in a spray bottle and spray any leaves that show signs of powdery mildew.


After just a few days, the improvement was undeniable! All of the powdery mildew is completely gone! 


Now I am back to having a healthy squash plant and lots of yummy squash to eat.



Now that I knew about the powdery mildew, I started noticing it on other plants in my yard as well- camellias, sasanquas, zucchini and watermelon. I promptly sprayed every spot of it that I could find, and the skim milk solution worked on all of them as well!

I love it when I can use what I already have at home, especially when it works as well as what you would buy at the store. And all natural is even better!

What are your favorite garden home remedies???




Saturday, June 1, 2013

How to Start Sweet Potato Slips


This year I am planting sweet potatoes in my summer vegetable garden. As always I am looking for the least expensive way to do it, so I decided to start my own slips instead of buying transplants. The process is SO easy, I just had to share. Here are the 4 simple steps:

1) Buy a sweet potato from the grocery store. If you want organic plants, then buy an organic sweet potato. Cut the potato in half and use toothpicks to suspend the cut end into a cup of water. 


2)  Place the cup in a warm sunny place. In a few weeks you will begin to see sprouts growing from the potato as you can see in the picture above. If the potato isn't sprouting, it isn't warm enough. Give it more heat and more time, and it will sprout.


After a few weeks you will see significant growth on your potato. Each potato can make 15-20 shoots and each of these will become a plant that yields 1-2 pounds of sweet potatoes!


3) Once the shoots are a few inches tall, twist each one off of the potato- this is your potato slip. Put all of your slips into a glass with their tips in water. Over the next week the slips will grow roots.


 4) Once your slip has a pretty good amount of roots, simply plant it in the ground once the weather is warm. I ended up with more slips that I had room for in the garden, but have heard that they grow great in pots, so now I have lots of container plants growing as well. 


Within just a week or two of planting, you will see the vines beginning to take over the garden!


The way I see it, you can't have too many sweet potatoes! I hope this helps you successfully grow a crop of your own. Do you have a different way of starting sweet potatoes? Please share!

Friday, May 24, 2013

My Top 18 flowers for spring in the South

With the summer heat really rising, I wanted to take a moment to look back on some of my favorite flowers from the spring. Here are my top 17 picks from my yard. The best of spring in South Louisiana!

#1) Apostle's Creed
Love these! They are called Apostle's Creed or Twelve Apostle plants. Each bloom lasts only a day, but where they fall to the ground, they sprout a new plant :) They bring a nice bloom to a shady spot and are super hardy. Definitely a top favorite.

#2) Petunias
This is a pretty commonplace flower in the south- Petunias. Reliable bloomers, and lots of colors to choose from. You can't go wrong. And the white flowers behind them (in the pic on the left) is what my mom calls a "wishbone" plant- not sure of the technical name, but it blooms constantly from spring through fall and reseeds each year if the ground goes undisturbed.

#3) Louisiana Iris

Louisiana Iris, obviously a good choice for south Louisiana. Mine have been growing from baby transplants, so this was their first year to bloom. Well worth the wait!

#4) Dianthus

This photo has a combination of Petunias, "wishbone" flowers, Vincas, and Dianthus. The Dianthus are a must have in any southern garden. In the warm temperatures they are perennials. I bought some three years ago- they have never stopped blooming, have continued to grow in size, and even propagated new plants. This is the perfect touch of year round color!


#5) Gaillardia

Gaillardia comes in several varieties- two of them are shown here. I started with a few plants a couple of years ago, and as fast as the old ones die off, new ones reseed around it. They bloom year round and add a brilliant splash of color.

#6) Canna Lily

Canna Lillies come in many colors, but the brilliant white is my personal favorite. It completely dies down in winter, but it makes up for lost time in the spring with huge gorgeous flowers.


#7) Black Eye Susan

Another perennial that readily reseeds and blooms spring through fall is Black Eye Susan's. I started with one plant grown from seed and now have a garden full! (Bonus question: Can you spot the chicken? My chickens all come running when I pull out the camera...)



#8) Roses

On the left is a bloom from my climbing rose. (Can you spot the chicken now?) And on the right is a bloom from the knock out roses. Knock-out roses are the best plants ever! One plant gets huge and blooms consistently almost year round. Prune it to whatever size you want it to be. Super low maintenance and still has all of the beauty of a rose.

#9) Coreopsis
Coreopsis is another plant I started from seed that didn't die down last winter and have multiplied in the garden. There are two varieties shown here- one with a few large yellow flowers and the other (a wildflower variety) that has literally hundreds of little flowers with brown centers. Both varieties love my yard. (How about the chicken in this one?)

#10) Amaryllis

Amaryllis blooms are just breath-taking. They are bulbs so you just stick them in the ground and forget about them until this bloom the size of your head comes up in spring and makes all the neighbors stop and gaze :)

#11) Tulips

Tulips are another easy bulb to grow are Tulips. The comes in so many colors and varieties! The only problem is that they only bloom once and they aren't the cheapest bulb to buy, so I use them sparingly.

#12) Daffodils

Daffodils are one of the happiest flowers in the garden :) They bloom year after year, and who can resist this bright and smiling flower in spring???

#13) Agapanthus

Agapanthus or Lily of the Nile is a perennial that stays green and leafy year round and sends up these beautiful bunches of blossoms in the spring. I started these from baby transplants, so this is the first year that they bloomed for me. No maintenance at all!


#14)Sparaxis

I planted these bulbs last year and nothing. I thought they had rotted or just didn't like where I had put them, but this year they all came up in bunches and gave off a huge show of blooms. I immediately bought more and planted them...and nothing. I guess I'll wait until next year to see about those!

#15) Gardenias


Gardenias seem to personify the south- delicate, fragile, and sweet. I have two different varieties, and love them both. I can tell they are blooming before I see the flowers because the whole yard smells like honey! Another good flowering plant for shady spots.

#16) Azaleas
Sadly, I somehow ended up with no pictures of my azaleas this year! Azaleas are beautiful flowering shrubs. They may only bloom a few weeks out of the year, but it is definitely worth the wait with so many blooms you can't even see the leaves!

#17) Fruit trees

I know this isn't your typical garden flower, but I love seeing all of my fruit trees bloom in the spring because it means delicious edibles in late summer and fall. The in the picture is a satsuma- a citrus fruit unique to Louisiana. I have lemon, grapefruit, satsuma, blood orange, kumquat, apple, pear, mulberry, blueberry and pomegranate. Seeing these blooms always brings a smile to my face and makes my mouth water :)

#18) Best for last- Double Ruffle Amaryllis

















I absolutely love my double ruffle Amaryllis plants. Each plant blooms multiple times a year with multiple blooms per stalk, and each bloom is easily 12 inches across. The double ruffle is just breathtaking, and it makes a wonderful cut flower. A friend gave me these, so I have no idea where to get more, but every time I get to divide them I get so excited to add another to my collection. God had fun making this one :)

These are just a few of my tried and true favorites. What are yours?