2015 Garden Tour Part 3

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:56 am on Friday, June 19, 2015

See 2015 Garden Tour Part 1 Here.
See 2015 Garden Tour Part 2 Here.

Elsewhere in the garden:


Fruit! All new this year, I’m getting apples, nectarines, currants, grapes, and figs. This is on top of strawberries and mulberries.


Volunteer plants. My compost didn’t heat up enough to kill the seeds this year, so I’m getting volunteers everywhere this year. Much of it is squash plants like these taking over my strawberry bed. I’m letting them grow. I figure hey, free food.


Experiment bed:
This is what I call my “experiment bed.” It’s right in front of the house, so it gets very dry and hot no matter how I much I water. It’s also open below to gophers and voles, so I have to plant things they won’t eat.

So far the only thing that has survived is sunflowers, if I can get them to grow past being tasty little snacks for the birds. But this year I discovered something else that seems to like the box:


Eggplant. This plant has been completely neglected, and it’s growing. It seems to like the heat. And so far, the voles are leaving it alone.

2015 Garden Tour Part 2

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:46 am on Thursday, June 18, 2015

See Garden Tour Part 1 Here.

BOX 4:


This is the busiest box in the garden. In addition to growing spinach under a mesh food cover, it has French green beans, carrots, and celery root.

And more lettuce.


In the second half of the box, there are a row of leeks and a green zebra tomato.


Still have to trellis that tomato…


Then there are herbs and several bell peppers: red, yellow, orange, and purple. I’m growing all sweet peppers this year. I grew so many spicy peppers last year, I won’t need anymore for a long time.

BOX 5:


In this box, the plants are struggling a bit. I’m not sure why. I have two tomatoes in the box, a beefsteak and an early girl.


There’s also two types of cucumbers: Armenian cucumbers and a small spiny pickling cucumber that I like to eat raw as much as I like to pickle them.

Also in this box are some limping-along peppers, eggplants, and another row of leeks.

Tune in tomorrow for 2015 Garden Tour Part 3

2015 Garden Tour Part 1

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:22 am on Wednesday, June 17, 2015

This is shaping up to be an odd year in the garden. Lots of strange things are emerging, and I’m excited to see where they go. It never ceases to amaze me how every year in my garden is different.

Let’s take a look.

BOX 1:


In this box, the zucchini has gone nuts.


It has even taken over the pea plants, as you can see by this picture.


I think I accidentally planted bush peas instead of vine peas, so they never got very tall. As a result, they aren’t getting much light because the zucchini is shadowing them.

But they don’t seem completely unhappy. They’re still producing peas.


Also in this box is a yellow squash and a pumpkin, both of which are doing well.

And in front, in a separate container, is the Jerusalem artichoke.

BOX 2:


This box has two melons, but I can’t remember what kind. Just goes to show, always write down the names of the plants, even when you think you’ll remember.

One is a cantaloupe-like melon and the other is either a Queen Anne Pocket Melon or a Ananas D’Amerique A Chair Verte Melon. We’ll have to wait and see.

There’s also an acorn squash and a row of stringless green beans in the box.

And, in a nearby pot, is an apple melon.

apple melon

These are great if you have a small container garden because the melons are small and easy to trellis.

BOX 3:


I’m growing four tomato plants this year: a purple brandywine, a beef steak, an early girl, and Green Zebra Tomato.

Anyway, this container was supposed to just be a tomato, but a volunteer nasturtium appeared at the bottom of the container.


I’m happy about this. It should trail to the ground and a cover the container with orange flowers. It’ll look very pretty in a month or so.

Garden Tour Part 2.

Growing Mulberries

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:16 am on Friday, June 12, 2015


Awhile back I asked you Which Fruit Tree Should I Plant? I ended up putting in a mulberry bush, a black mulberry bush, to be exact. Here’s the first berry of the year:


It’s in its second year and I’m happy with it so far. For one thing, it takes almost no care so far, except water. I put the plant in, and it immediately produced quite a few berries in its first year. It has no pests and seems happy with only getting a half a day of light. In the future, I’m sure birds will want to steal the mulberries, so I’m going to keep the plant in a bush form so it’ll be easier to net.

Some people say they don’t care for mulberries and I have no idea what they’re talking about. Mulberries taste like a blackberry crossed with a plum. They are great.

If I get a bumper crop, I’m excited to try mulberry preserves and mulberry galette. I’ll try freezing and drying them too.

Keeping Leafminers Off Spinach With Mesh Food Covers

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:05 am on Thursday, June 11, 2015


Leafminers are disgusting pests. They are fly maggots that burrow into the leaves and eat them from the inside out. It looks like this:

As soon as I tried to have spinach in my garden this year, the flies were immediately there trying to lay their gross eggs on it. So I found a solution: I had mesh food covers with my barbeque supplies. I popped them over the spinach and voila! The flies couldn’t get to the spinach.

It also had the added benefit of giving the spinach more shade, which may prolong their growing season.

Plants From The Grocery Store: Jerusalem Artichoke

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:47 am on Wednesday, June 10, 2015


This is my Jerusalem artichoke plant, otherwise known as the sunchoke. I love Jerusalem artichokes so I’m excited that the plant is doing so well.

(And before you say anything, yes, I know Jerusalem artichoke plants can be invasive. That’s why it’s in its own pot on the end of the garden.)

Jerusalem artichokes grow much like potatoes. If all goes well, that pot should be full of tubers that I can dig up in the fall.

Early this spring, I looked all over for Jerusalem artichokes to plant and couldn’t find any seed tubers in the nurseries or hardware store. Finally I asked a friend where she got her Jerusalem artichoke to plant and she told me she bought one from the grocery store and planted it. Duh!

So that’s what I did. I went to the organic section of my grocery store, bought a Jerusalem artichoke, and put it in a pot. So far so good. The plant seems pretty happy. It likes a lot of water and a lot of light, and pests mostly leave it alone.

Reading Your Weeds In The Garden

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 9:44 am on Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Did you know that your weeds tell you a lot about your soil?

Because certain weeds grow in certain conditions, when one appears, you can bet it’s there because of the kind of soil that’s there. So knowing your weeds can tell you whether your soil is wet or dry, rich or poor, alkaline or acidic, aerated or compacted.

Here are some examples according to here and here and here and here and here.

Acidic Soil (A good place for blueberries, azaleas, and hydrangeas)





Fertile soil (Maybe a spot for a vegetable garden):







Clay Soil:


Creeping Buttercup


Canada Thistle

Weeds That Improve Soil Fertility


Clover—pulls nitrogen from the air and puts it in the soil


Vetch—the same


Dock–Deep taproots bring up calcium, potassium, phosphorus and iron, and help soil structure.

What have you learned from reading the weeds?

Get Free Tomato Plants From Tomato Laterals

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:48 am on Wednesday, May 6, 2015

I had no idea you could do this! Apparently, you can root tomato plants from a tomato laterals. What’s a tomato lateral? They are the little shoots on the tomato plant that grow between the main stem and leaf.


To root them, you can cut off the lateral and stick it in dirt. It will root and grow. Or you can start them in a glass of water and see the roots develop yourself.


If you did this early enough in the season, you could feasibly buy one plant and get several free plants from it.

How To Plant A Tomato Plant

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:10 am on Friday, April 24, 2015

savvyhousekeeping how to plant a tomato

People ask me how I get 5-foot tomato plants loaded with fruit. I use my dad’s method. The secret ingredient? Cow manure. Tomatoes like a lot of fertilizer, so I mix the cow manure with the dirt and use that to fill in the hole. It works great. Here’s more:

How To Plant A Tomato:

You will need:

    A tomato plant
    Well-prepared soil
    A bag of cow manure
    Watering can


Step 1: Buy your tomato plant or grow it from seed. Prepare your soil for planting.

Step 2: Dig a deep hole, about a foot or so deep.

Step 3: Mix the dirt from the hole with cow manure. Take about one-third of the bag of manure and stir it into the dirt until it is about 50 dirt/50 manure. It is important to mix the manure since it would be too hard on the plant to just put manure in the hole. Adding the dirt cuts the heat of the manure and still gives the plant plenty of fertilizer.

Step 4: Prepare the plant by pulling off all the leaves except for the top bush of the tomato. So it will go from this:

savvyhousekeeping how to plant a tomato

To this:

savvyhousekeeping how to plant a tomato plant

I will put most of the tomato plant underground with only the top poking out. Why? All the stem you see there will grow roots, which will give the plant twice the roots it already has. That leads to a stronger, healthier plant that produces a lot of tomatoes.

Step 5: Plant the tomato plant. Remove it from the pot. Put a little bit of the dirt/manure mixture in the bottom of the hole and sit the tomato plant on top. Fill in the hole using the manure mixture. At the top, pack plain dirt around the plant. Make a little mound and a ditch around it for water to collect, like so:

savvyhouskeeping how to plant a tomato plant

Step 6:
Thoroughly water the plant. Keep adding water until the ground saturates and the little ditch around the plant fills with a puddle of water. Voila, you’re done.

It’s important to note that this method is just for tomato plants. Many plants can’t handle the heat of the cow manure and still other plants won’t root if you strip their leaves off. But with tomatoes, I find it works like a charm.

What are your tomato planting secrets?

Companion Planting

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:36 am on Thursday, April 16, 2015

Check out this chart on Companion Planting. Click the image for the full version.

Here’s when I started believing in companion planting: in 2005, I planted an oregano plant. It started to have problems right away, drooping and looking sad. I watered it and waited, but the plant got worse.

Then I read that chives are a good companion plant for oregano, so I put some in the same planter as the sad oregano plant. Within 24 hours, the oregano perked up and began to flourish. It even grew into the space that the chives took up, as if to hug it.

savvyhousekeeping companion planting

I still have both plants now, 8 years later. They are remarkably healthy. The oregano has spread under my lemon bushes and the chives–which is very old for a chive plant–is amazingly sweet and tasty. I think their health has something to do with planting the two together when I first got them.

Companion planting makes sense when you think of how plants work in nature. In a forest, you see a mix of many types of plants, not a row of just one type. In a video on companion planting, a gardener explains:

Plants can’t get up and walk away. If they don’t like their environment, many plants do the next best thing and alter their environment chemically, physically, and biologically. When a plant does this, there are other species that benefit from the environmental alteration or are discouraged by it.

Watch the rest of the video here:

The bottom line is that it matters which plants you put together. Sometimes this has to do with chemical alterations in the soil. Sometimes it has to do with root depth of the different plants. And sometimes it has to do with a common pest.

For example, I made a huge mistake this year planting beets and spinach together. Turns out there’s a special leafminer that loves to eat these two vegetables, so putting them together insured I would be dealing with that pest all spring.

That’s how you learn, I guess.

For more on Companion Planting, here’s a post on The Three Sisters: Corn, Squash, and Beans.

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