Three Seed Catalogs To Check Out

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:58 am on Friday, March 6, 2015

It’s time to plan this year’s garden. And right on schedule, the seed catalogs are appearing in the mail.

Have you ever noticed how the majority of these catalogs have the same plants in them? In every magazine, there are the same broccoli, tomatoes, beans, and carrots seeds you can get anywhere. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it can get boring, especially when you start to realize the swath of edible plants out there just waiting to be tried out.

Luckily, several seed companies do go out of the their way to provide access to a more interesting variety of plants. Here are three see I like:

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. This company, which goes out of its way to “promote and preserve our agricultural and culinary heritage”, provides vegetable seeds that you don’t normally see in the hardware store–purple carrots, white eggplants, peppermint tomatoes, striped beets, purple bell peppers. They are “non-hybrid, non-GMO, non-treated, and non-patented seeds.” Order Baker Creek’s free–and rather beautiful–catalog here.

One Green World. While this company doesn’t offer vegetables, it does offer other fascinating-sounding trees, vines, and fruits. What exactly is a Tasmania Vine (pictured above)? What does a silverberry taste like? When I finally get around to planting honeyberries or a tea bush, I will look here first. Request a catalog here.

Bountiful Gardens. This is a great seed company that offers “untreated open-pollinated non-GMO seed of heirloom quality for vegetables, herbs, flowers, grains, green manures, compost and carbon crops.” Not only do they have the usual vegetables, they have categories like “mushroom kits” or “unusual hot-weather heirlooms” or “grains, fibers and oil crops.” You can get the Bountiful Gardens catalog here.

What is your favorite seed company? Why?

My 2015 Vegetable Garden

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:55 am on Wednesday, March 4, 2015

It’s that time again! What am I going to plant in my garden this year.

New experiment this year: Eggplant! I’ve never grown it before and I’ve recently learned to love it. Plus the plants are gorgeous.

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One Hop Plant (total of three now)

6-8 Asparagus (starting a new bed)

6 Strawberries

3 tomato plants: (Early Girl, Beefsteak, and some kind of heirloom wild card)

4 Sweet Bell Peppers (2 red, 1 purple, 1 yellow)

1 other sweet pepper

(No spicy peppers this year. I grew so many last year, which I canned, froze, and dried. I won’t need spicy peppers for quite awhile.)

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Sunflowers

2 Zucchini Plants

2 Acorn Squashes

2 Melons (Perhaps another Ananas D’Amerique Melon.)

2 Cucumbers

Spinach

Some Other Kind Of Lettuce

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Jerusalem Artichokes (if I can find them. People around here don’t seem to sell them.)

Peas

Leeks

French Green Beans

Stringless Green Beans

Radishes

Carrots

Potatoes

Basil

That’s it! What are you planning?

A Plant That Grows Both Potatoes And Tomatoes

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:45 am on Monday, February 23, 2015

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How crazy is this? The Ketchup ‘n’ Fries Plant grows both potatoes and tomatoes. One plant grows about 500 cherry tomatoes and over 4.5 pounds of white potatoes.

It might sounds like crazy GMO stuff, but actually a much more natural process–both tomatoes and potatoes are nightshade plants, meaning they’re related. So, this is a cherry tomato plant that has been simply grafted onto a white potato.

Sounds pretty fun to me. This plant would be great if you had limited space in a garden. I’m wagering it would do pretty well in a container, too.

4 Clever Vegetable Gardening Products

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:52 am on Tuesday, February 10, 2015

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Strawberry Supports

This set of six supports raises plants and berries off the ground. They’re supposed to decrease mold and mildew problems, especially during wet growing seasons.

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Melon and Squash Cradles

Last year, bugs kept crawling under my melons and eating from underneath. These melon and squash cradles might help with that problem–or at least I would see it happening. From the site: “these ingenious cradles allow air to circulate, promoting even ripening and minimizing rot. If you’ve been disappointed by misshapen melons and squash, or fruits that rot before they ripen, these cradles are for you.”

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Gentle Plant & Flower Clips for Supporting Stems

I started using these clips last year, and I love them. They loosely hold stems to trellises, eliminating the use of ties. They come in two sizes, small and large, for different sized stems.

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Tomato Tray

“Helps protect all vine crops against droughts and cutworm – brings earlier, tastier harvests.” Hmmm…

Thinking Of Getting Chickens This Spring? Here’s A Round-Up

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:36 am on Friday, February 6, 2015

Yesterday I went to the chicken coop and came back with a dozen eggs. I really like keeping chickens.

Are you thinking of getting chickens this spring? Here’s a round-up of posts about raising your own chickens.

Homegrown VS Store Bought Eggs

Which Chickens Lay The Most Eggs?

A Year Of Owning Chickens

5 Recycled Chicken Nesting Boxes

Does Having Chickens Save Money?


From Playhouse To Chicken Coop

From Cabinet To Chick Brooder

From Sofa To Chicken Tractor

Peace of Mind at Breakfast

Sweet-Smelling Flowers For The Garden

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:30 am on Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Between the herb garden and vegetable boxes and chicken coop, my yard is pretty utilitarian looking. This year, I’m going to put in some flower beds and shrubs to make things look prettier–and part of that includes fragrant flowers. I love it when a pleasant fragrance wafts over you from a nearby garden bed. Here are some sweet-smelling flowers I’m thinking of this year.

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ALYSSUM

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GARDENIA

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JASMINE

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Via

LILY

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LILAC

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Via

STOCK

tuberose
Via

TUBEROSE

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LILY OF THE VALLEY

MirabilisMarbles
Via

FOUR O’ CLOCK

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Via

HONEYSUCKLE

What is your favorite fragrant flower?

Colorful Houseplants

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:10 am on Friday, November 21, 2014

I was looking at my Christmas Cactus, which is in the middle of blooming lovely pink and red flowers on my kitchen sink. It gives me a lot of pleasure to look at.

It occurred to me that the reason I don’t have a lot of houseplants is that I associate them with the 1970s. I can’t get it out of my head that houseplants go in spaces that look like this:

Of course, that’s ridiculous. I know that.

I decided the way to cure my houseplant problem is to buy colorful ones. Here are some options I’m considering:

Red: Solenostemon ‘Glory of Luxembourg’

Purple: Oxalis

Pink and Green: Polka Dot Plant

Yellow: Croton

Purple and Green: Purple Passion Plant

Red and Green: Caladium

Purple And Pink: ‘Kingswood Torch’ Coleus

Growing Cover Crops On Raised Beds

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:43 am on Wednesday, November 5, 2014

That is one of my garden beds. The plants your see are my cover crop, also called “green manure.”

Cover crops are plants that are grown over the winter to protect the garden bed and enrich the soil.

In this bed, I used a Green Manure Mix, which “contains 50% Conventional Bell Beans, 25% Organic Biomaster Peas and 25% Organic Purple Vetch. Peas cover the ground, while vetch climbs up the beans.”

In another bed, I’m trying out red clover.

Here’s how a cover crop works: you plant the seeds in the fall and it grows all winter. About 6 weeks before you’re ready to plant your spring garden, you dig the cover crop into the dirt and let it decompose. The organic matter enriches the soil and leads to a happier vegetable garden.

Someone once told me that soil doesn’t like to lie barren. In a forest, patches of dirt are soon covered with plants. Growing a cover crop in your raised beds is to simply put beneficial plants into your garden before weeds can sprout.

So what’s beneficial about green manure/cover crops? They

    * Fix nitrogen to your soil, a major nutrient all plants need.

    * Improve the structure of the soil.

    * Keep rain from washing away your good soil.

    * Stop weeds from sprouting in your garden.

    * Keep soil from compacting.

    * Encourage beneficial insects.

    * Discourage pests.

And, for me, there’s the added benefit of keeping my cat from using my raised beds as a litter box.

Here’s a list of cover crops. For most of us, now is the time to get them in the ground.

Why Plant Garlic In The Fall

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:40 am on Thursday, September 18, 2014

savvyhousekeeping garlic bulbs fall versus spring when to plant

Here’s a great tip from Mother Earth News–if you plant garlic in the fall and harvest it next spring, you’ll have bigger, better bulbs.

According to the site:

Try to plant your garlic about a month before your ground freezes, so the plants have time to get established. During winter, the crop will go dormant; then once spring and warmer temps roll around again, your plants will experience a burst of growth. By summer harvest time, you’ll marvel at the success of your crop!

The above picture, also from the site, illustrates the difference between planting garlic in the fall versus the spring.

Lessons From My 2014 Garden

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:05 am on Monday, September 15, 2014

As my 2014 summer garden is winding down. It was a strange year. The plants I normally get a lot of produce from didn’t do well, while plants I’ve never had much of a yield from thrived.

Last year, I got a lot of tomatoes, potatoes, cucumbers, and blueberries. This year I got a lot of chard, carrots, lettuce, beans, and peppers.

But that’s what I love about gardening. Every year is completely different. You could plant the exact same plants every year and get a completely different yield.

That’s what makes it fun and exciting (and challenging and frustrating, too).

2014 FAVORITE PLANTS: My mulberry tree! I planted it in the winter and it produced quite a few berries right away. I love how mulberries taste, like a mix between a plum and a blackberry.

I also planted Gherkin Cucumber and am pleasantly surprised by how tasty the cucumbers are raw. Plus they’re cute.

And, of course, there was the delightful surprise of the Ananas D’Amerique A Chair Verte Melon.

2014 LEAST FAVORITE PLANTS:

I’m mad at all my other fruit trees right now, since I just didn’t get much in the way of fruit this year. The nectarine and cherry trees were as happy as can be, but didn’t give me any fruit. Last year, the blueberry bushes yielded 700 berries last year, but only 100 this year. My lemon crop was destroyed by frost. The strawberries were doing well but the crop was cut short by bugs (more on that in a minute). In fact, the only fruit-bearing plant that didn’t give my problems was the orange tree, which gave me a lot of oranges this year.

So all the fruit trees are in the dog house, is what I’m saying.

LESSONS:

An Experiment In Corn:

I tried growing corn in a planter along the front of my house. Here’s the corn after I put it in.

I learned a lot about corn. I learned that they like rich soil and regular, consistent watering. Even so, my plants didn’t get as tall as I wanted, only about 4 feet instead of the 6 feet I was going for. And the ears weren’t that great tasting. I’m not sure what the deal is, but I don’t think I’m going to bother with corn again. Corn is so cheap in season, and the corn plants took so many resources, it just didn’t seem worth it.

Then again, never say never.

An Experiment With Grocery Store Onions:

As I wrote before, I put some sprouting grocery store pearl onions in the ground and ended up with a surprise bunch of full-grown onions. They were fun to pull up. I’ll probably make French Onion soup with them.

Too Much Lettuce:

My method of growing lettuce was just too successful this year. I ended up with so much of it, there was no way I could eat it all. Next year I’m going to focus more on spinach and other greens that can be cooked and frozen.

You Can Get Control Of Insect Infestation (Without Poison):

Every year, there is a new pest. This year it was Largus Bugs. Though they’re pretty harmless if there’s just a few around, but if there are hundreds of them–as was the case with me–you have a problem. They suck the juice out of fruit, so they were happily destroying my strawberry crop for awhile. But I just buckled down and killed tons of them, and then the plants rebounded. Now I’m getting strawberries again.

Sometimes gardening isn’t so pretty.

And sometimes it is:



Always Amend Your Soil:

The biggest mistake I made this year was I was lazy about amending my soil in two of my big raised beds, and so didn’t get as much squash and tomatoes as I usually do. Lesson learned: I will never be lazy about this again.

What I’m Changing Next Year:

    I’m going to put in more blueberry plants and increase the amount of water they get.

    I’m putting in regular orange carrots instead of weird purple ones.

    The raspberries are going to get more water too.

    I’m not going to prune my nectarine so drastically and see if that makes any difference in why it’s not producing anymore. (Tips on this?)

    I’m putting in spinach instead of lettuce.

    I’m planting stringless green beans. Mr. Savvy is very particular about strings on green beans.

    I’m amending the soil!

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