Archive for My Garden

Tips and Tricks for Growing Perfect Sweet Potatoes

sweet potatoesIf you have perused through my blog then you know that I love gardening.  One of the things that gets me really excited each season is trying to grow something new in my garden.  Any of you that have a garden know that it is often not as simple as just planting what you like and then watering it. Many fruits and vegetables can be quite picky about the soil ph, the amount of sun they get and even the amount of water.

This year I have taken on a new endever and I trying to grow one of my favorite veggies. SWEET POTATOES!!!  I have been nervous about growing them in the past as things that grow underground seem really tricky to me so I just avoid them.  I mean how do you know how they are doing if you can’t see them?  This year I have tossed that concern aside and have planted 9 sweet potato plants in one of my raised beds. I have been doing lots of research on growing sweet potatoes so I thought I would share all that I have learned.  From my research, it seems like sweet potatoes are actually going to be pretty easy to grow.  This year I planted a variety of sweet potatoes called Beauregard Sweet Potatoes.  It is favored for high yields of uniform, reddish-purple potatoes with tasty, deep-orange flesh that keeps well in storage. They are also disease resistant and resist cracking.

Here are some tips and tricks for successful sweet potato gardening:

1. Till the soil to depths of about 10-12 inches

Sweet potatoes like rather sandy soil that is loose and well tilled. Soil that is packed tight will not allow enough space for the tubers to easily grow.

2. Water deeply about once a week

Sweet potatoes need moist well draining soil.  It is necessary to water them really deeply about one a week.   This would be a good time to use the sprinkler as it may be pretty time consuming (not to mention boring) to give them enough water. It seems about 1 inch of water a week is necessary. On a side note, I did read that you should not water your sweets in the last 3-4 weeks before harvest as this will keep your mature tubers from splitting. Not sure if this is true, but thought it would be worth sharing.

3. Keep them warm

Sweet potatoes like warm soil and sunlight. If you are in the south then the warmth should not be a problem.  My sweets are going to get about 6 hours of sun a day. I am not fully convinced that this is enough, but it is the sunniest place I have to plant them.  Due to the low sun, I am going to apply extra mulch or maybe even black plastic mulch to help keep the ground warm.

4. Side dress with compost

It sounds silly right?  What this means is that about a month after planting, it is a good idea to put a good amount (about a spade full) of compost on each side of the plant.  Then your plant is dressed.  🙂

5. Harvesting

This is the really scary part for me.  I mean what if I dig them up too early and they are too small or too late and they are all rotted.  Yikes!  It seems like the best thing to do is to follow the guidelines for the variety of sweet potato that you planted. Most will be ready for harvest somewhere between 90-120 days.  Make sure you make a note of when you planted them.  I also read that the leaves will begin to turn yellow when the potatoes are ready for harvest.

If this all sounds pretty simple, it is because I “think” it is.  This is truly a learning as I go experiment for me this year.  Want to learn more about sweet potatoes?  I am going to post a few links that the bottom that I enjoyed.  Do you know the difference between a sweet potato and a yam?  I thought I did, but it turns out I was wrong.

I am going to post pics and updates on my sweets as the season progresses. I would love to hear about your success/struggles growing sweets. Happy Gardening!

Sweet Potatoes are a superfood

10 ways to cook a sweet potato

Fun facts about sweet potatoes (who knew they are the official vegetable of North Carolina)

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Using Old Coffee Grounds in the Garden

coffee

If you come to my house, one of the things you will always find is coffee in my coffee pot.  I am truly a coffee addict. I drink it all day long and never start a day without it.  My love of coffee has however left me with a surplus of leftover coffee grounds.  As I was dumping yesterday’s coffee grounds into the compost bin last night, it occurred to me that maybe it was time for a post on all the awesome ways to use your coffee grounds in the garden.   Without further adieu…

1. Put coffee grounds in your compost bin:

Coffee grounds are a wonderful thing to add to your compost as they are high in nitrogen and will make great compost for nitrogen loving seedlings like tomatoes.  Coffee grounds have a ratio of 20:1 nitrogen to carbon which is great for compost.  The only thing you want to consider if you add a lot of coffee grounds to your compost is that for approximately every 11 lbs of coffee grounds you add you want to add about 2 tsp. of lime.  This will make sure that things are well balanced.  If you don’t already have a compost bin, check out how you can simply make your own compost bin from an old Rubbermaid container.

2. Spread coffee grounds around plants:

Some plants will love it if you spread the coffee grounds on the ground around the plant.  Spread them approximately as far out as the branches reach.  Plants like hydrangea, tomatoes, blueberries, cranberries, citrus fruit, camellias, gardenias, rhododendrons, and vireyas all love a ph of between 3.0 and 5.0 and coffee grounds will help to achieve this.

3. Make your hydrangea blooms blue:

Did you know that you can alter the color of your hydrangea blooms by controlling the ph of the soil. Blue hydrangea can be achieved through lowering the ph of the soil. Coffee grounds are a great way to achieve this.  On the other hand, if you prefer pink hydrangea you can add lime to the soil to help encourage the blooms to be pink.  For more information about hydrangea check out think article.

4. Using coffee grounds as mulch:

If you have access to a lot of coffee grounds (like if you live next door to a coffee shop), you can use the coffee grounds as mulch for your garden. Just remember to add about 2 tsp. of lime for every 11 lbs of coffee grounds. Also, don’t spread it on too thick as it will mold if it is too thick.  No more than 1/2″ is perfect.  On a side note, I have heard a rumor that Starbucks gives their used coffee grounds away for free for gardeners!

5. Make a liquid garden feed:

If you would like to make a wonderful liquid feed for your garden, place left offer coffee grounds in a bucket and fill with water.  Let the bucket sit for a day or 2 until it turns a nice rich brown color.  Then use the liquid to feed your garden.  My tomatoes go wild when I do this. They LOVE it.

6. Coffee grounds will deter some garden pests:

Did you know that garden slugs hate coffee. Maybe that’s why they move so slow LOL.  Anyways, if you sprinkle coffee grounds around your garden it will help deter slugs and snails from inhabiting your garden.  You can even use the grounds to make a sort of barrier around the garden.

7. Worms love coffee grounds:

If you are luck enough to have a worm bin :0 then you can add some coffee grounds to your worm bin.  About a cup a week is good for most small worm bins.  Maybe this is why I have so many earthworms in my garden.

8. Coffee grounds may fight some garden mold and fungus:

Some research suggests that coffee grounds might help fight off some  common garden fungus and mold such as Fusarium, Pythium, and Sclerotinia species.  This may be a great organic way to keep common garden mold and fungus in check.

I am hoping this article inspires at least one person to save their coffee grounds and reuse them in the garden.  I am sure there are many other uses for coffee grounds both in the garden and around the house.  Do you know one that I have not listed?  I would love to hear from you.  I hope this article was helpful. Happy gardening!

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Growing Fruits and Veggies in Part Shade

This year is not my typical gardening year.  In fact, it is totally different.  For starters, we moved to a new house so the garden that I have worked so hard to create over the last five years is gone.  I was thrilled to see that the new house has three raised beds already there, yippeeee! Due to moving and all the “fun” involved in that process, I have completely missed planting an early spring garden.  The three raised beds were completely over run with weeds and looked like no one had taken care of them in years.

Another big change in my garden this year is that the garden only gets part sun.  Many varieties of veggies and fruits require full sun so I knew from the beginning that I was going to have to make some changes.  There is one part of the garden that gets almost full sun so that area is being reserved for tomatoes and strawberries because they are sun lovers.  My garden this year will be considered “experimental” as many of the things I will be growing are new to me.  I have been trying to educate myself about shade gardens and I have learned a lot already.

 

gardening pic

These are truly words to live by when creating a garden and trying to figure out what can go where.  In the next post I am going to go over my garden layout and what I am planting where but first I wanted to add some more information about having a part shade garden.  I am going to save discussing a full shade garden for another day because that can be pretty tricky with fruits and veggies.

What kind of shade does your garden get?

This is very important to consider because all shade is not created equal.  Shade that results from trees hanging overhead is referred to as “dappled shade” vs. shade that results from a building or structure creating the shade. The significance of this is that shade that is created from trees often still lets through some light and may leave a garden looking shaded, but still be pretty bright.  True partial shade gardening is certainly tougher than dealing with dappled shade. With that being said though, many wonderful gardens can be grown in part shade.  If you are interested in creating more light in your garden you could certainly consider using reflective mulch or other reflective surfaces.   At least for this year, I am just going to stick with more traditional gardening.

One of the things that is easy to overlook at you design your garden layout is that the amount of sun and shade that each part of your garden gets is going to change over the course of the season (depending on what type of shade you get).  Make sure to take this into account as you plan your garden so that you are not disappointed with the results.  This will be very important for me this year because I am planting a few things that actually prefer shade.  Many leafy greens prefer cool spring time planting over summer planting because they can not tolerate the heat of the summer.  These same greens can however be grown in the summer if they only receive a little bit of sun.  If I plant these in an area that will eventually get more sun, then it is very unlikely that I will not get a good yield.  I know it is boring and for me hard to remember to do, but spend a week or so tracking the amount of sun your garden gets. Write it down and then use this info to design the layout for your fruits and veggies. This little bit of work will help ensure that your garden has great yields.

If you are interested in more information about shade gardening, please follow my blog and receive updates and articles all season long about gardening in sun and shade.

Next Post:  Laying out a part shade garden

 

 

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Refrigerate Your Bulbs Now to Increase Blooms in the Spring

This was called “Holland’s Most Beautiful Flower Garden”

If you are like most gardeners, you plants your bulbs as part of your fall planting and then pretty much forget about them throughout the winter months.  Then on that first beautiful spring day you suddenly remember those bulbs and anxiously wait to see them appear.

If the conditions have been right over the winter  (cold for long periods of time) then your bulbs will likely come up beautifully.  If you have even been disappointed by your bulbs performance and thought “I wonder what I did wrong”, then the answer may not have been something that you did.  Bulbs need a good LONG chill for optimal growth.  A mild winter could leave your bulbs coming up short and you feeling disappointed by the first arrival in your garden.

There is a quick and easy trick that you can do now to help ensure that your bulbs will be beautiful in the spring.  Buy your bulbs now (in July) and store them in the veggie drawer of your refrigerator until you are ready to plant them.  You want to place them in the fridge at least 6-8 weeks before you plan to plant them in  the fall.  When you do this you are adding an additional 6-8 weeks of chill time for your bulbs and they will surely thank you for it with big beautiful blooms.

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How to Prepare Your Roses for a Second Bloom

WOW! Who would not love to have this by their front door?

A beautiful rose bush can really bring a flower garden to life and learning how to care for your roses is important. When my husband and I bought our home 7 years ago, there was a beautiful rose bush growing on the side of our house.  It was the only thing planted in the whole yard that I liked, so I was determined to take good care of it.  I have heard people complain that their rose bushes don’t do as well as they would like and they are not sure why.  Well I am here to give you a few quick tips that are guaranteed to significantly increase your blooms and the health of your rose bushes.

The first thing you want to remember is that rose bushes need to be cut back each year.  I used to think that cutting my bush back in the fall was enough, but that is wrong.  If you want to get a second bloom from your bush, cut it back in mid to late summer.  First trim off the dead leaves and then cut back the healthy shoots by about one third.  This may seem like a lot, but I promise your roses will love you for it.  Next apply fertilizer specially formulated for rose bushes and then a nice layer of mulch.  There are several different brands of fertilizer and I have had good luck with pretty much all of them.  No need to spend a lot of extra money of the more expensive ones. The mulch will help to keep the soil from drying out in the hot summer heat.  You will want to water your roses about once a week if there is no significant rain fall that week.

That’s really it.  If you follow these 3 simple steps your rose bushes will not only be healthier, but they will produce more beautiful flowers this season.  If you want to learn more about fertilizing your roses check out this link. It is a quick read, but has lots of valuable information in it.

Do you grow roses in your garden?  What are your special tricks to care for your roses?  I would love to hear from you.

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Growing Watermelons Vertically!

Growing watermelons up up up!

If you read the title of this post and thought “what, vertical watermelon…she must be crazy” then you might be right, but I think it is worth a try. I have read about people growing watermelon vertically and so I know it is possible. Now I just need to figure out if it is possible for me.  I started my watermelon from seeds a couple of months ago. I started training then to grow vertically just recently (once the plant had gotten pretty big.  I bought a wooden trellis from the garden store.  When I put the trellis into the ground I made sure to put it extra far into the ground to give it some extra strength.  The watermelons will be heavy so it is really important to reinforce the trellis.  I also planted sugar baby watermelons so that they would be on the small side.

I have been doing lots of research on this topic and have learned that when growing melons vertically it can be necessary to create some sort of hammock to support the growing melons. However, I have read many garden blogs that report that with the smaller melons (like sugar baby), a hammock is often not necessary.  When growing squash and melons vertically, the stem thickens more than when the fruit is on the ground so that it can support the hanging fruit.  This makes sense if you really think about it.

Here is what I have done so far. I planted my seedlings and let them grow to about 3 foot long vines. Each plant has had 3-5 vines.  Next, I added the trellis and when the vines get to be about 3 feet long, I attached them to the trellis.  I used zip ties to loosely attach the vines to the trellis. It is very important for the zip ties to be loose so that the vines have room to grow.  The vines will also begin attach to the trellis on their own over time.

My watermelon plants have done beautifully since attaching them to the trellis.  I actually think they are growing faster than before and look healthier (tons of yellow flowers and green leaves).  I am truly learning as I go on this adventure. I am going to add the link to several of my favorite websites that discuss and give tips about growing watermelons vertically.  I will update this post in a couple of weeks as to how this vertical adventure is advancing.  I sure hope this works because wouldn’t it be amazing to grow each watermelon plant in just one square foot?  Wow! Happy gardening!

Have you every grown melons vertically?  What is your favorite thing growing in your garden this year?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kMzjsCDJ7Hw

http://minicontainergardens.com/vertical-gardening-grow-watermelon.html

http://www.weekendgardener.net/blog/2007/04/grow-squash-cucumbers-and-melons.htm

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It’s Time to Plant Brussel Sprouts

Wow!

I can remember a time in my life when the idea of eating a brussel sprout repulsed me.  Now as an adult, I have learned how to prepare these tasty little vegetables and they are one of my favorite foods. In fact, when I was pregnant with my first daughter I ate brussel sprouts nearly daily.  They were definitely my number one craving.  If you are one of those people who thinks you don’t like brussel sprouts than I dare you to give them another try.  I am going to post some of my favorite brussel sprout recipes at the end of the post.  If you are like me and can’t get enough brussel sprouts then it is time to start planting your brussel sprout seeds.

I am trying something new this year and I am planting my brussel sprouts mid summer rather than early spring.  Brussel sprouts will not mature well and form those delicious mini cabbage like treats if the weather is too warm.  Over the last couple of years, I have had horrible luck with my brussel sprout plants.  I plant them mid March and they start off beautifully. Each year they have grown into these huge healthy plants, but never give off any brussel sprouts.  After a little research, I have decided to try planting them now and letting them develop into the fall.  This way as the fruit is developing the weather will be getting cool which will encourage the plant to produce more fruit.  I spoke to the owner of my local garden store and she supported this idea and said that she has had more luck growing them into the fall too.

Here is CT our summers can be pretty hot so I did a little experimenting with my seed placement.  I planted the seeds directly in the ground because the soil is warm which should be good for my little seedlings.  I planted the seed in different amounts of sun because while brussel sprouts like the sun light and can require full sun, I am a bit worried that full sun in the dead of summer will be too much.   I planted the seeds about 2 weeks ago and here is how they are doing.  The seeds planted in full sun are doing the worst. They have barely sprouted.  The seeds planted in partial sun and the ones in the mostly shaded garden have done equally well.  My guess is that the partial sun ones (about 4-6 hours of sun per day) will do the best because they will need that sun as the fall approaches.

Most varieties of brussel sprouts take about 90-110 days to mature. This means you need to start them now for a fall harvest.  There are several different varieties of brussel sprouts.  I planted Long Island improved because these are said to taste better if they mature after a frost.  I can’t wait to find out if that is true.  Like I said before, I have not had too much luck with brussel sprouts over the years so I will continue to post growing updates as the seedling mature.  All I have done so far is plant the seeds in well drained, compost enriched soil and they are off to a good start.  I will keep you posted.

 

Long Island improved seeds

Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Shredded Brussel Sprouts

Kielbasa and Brussel Sprouts

Brussel Sprouts with Hollandaise Sauce – this is my favorite! Even people who don’t like brussel sprouts will love these.

 

 

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