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Monthly Archives: February 2013

It’s a Gardening Record: Seeds Sprouted in THREE Days!

TOP NEWS STORY: Seeds Have Sprouted !

Today I intended to spend the day writing. Instead a took a peak at the seeds, thinking they might need a mist of water. Surprise, the seeds are up! Three days: a new record at my house for seed starting. For the skeptics I must share these two words: Holy Crap! That’s exactly what I said this morning when I checked my seeds.

Look at those Cherokee Purple tomatoes. Aren't they precious?

Look at those Cherokee Purple tomatoes. Aren’t they precious?

Holy Crap, the Cherokee Purple’s are up!

See, heating the soil and adding Christmas Tree lights do work.

Holy Crap, the Brussels sprouts are up too!

First year growing Brussels Sprouts. I have some planted outside also.

First year growing Brussels Sprouts. I have some planted outside also.

Again, I must ask why in the world are you planting anything other than Botanical Interests Seeds?

Click the above link today, right now, and order something, anything.

Why are you fertilizing with anything other than Nelson’s Grow Best? I only soaked the seeds for about two minutes.

The proof is here.

If you’ve missed my other blogs you need to shred the newspapers.

Cook the dirt.

Plant the seeds Dear Ones…plant the seeds.

Next week I might try sprouting The Garry Farm’s Zinnias. Oh I can’t wait.

P.S. please subscribe to my blog. You’ll receive an email each time I post something new and exciting. I promise, my “news” will never feature the Kardashians.

My view through the plastic shoe-box this morning. BIG SMILES!

My view through the plastic shoe-box this morning. BIG SMILES!

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes. In 2012 she released Stress-Free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author. 2014 will see the release of In the Kitchen with Billy: Farming, Friends & Fried Bologna Sandwiches. She is currently working on her first novel. She would love to hear from you. Visit her at www.reneawinchester.com

 

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Cooking The Dirt: Sprouting Seeds Speedy Quick

Hello again from zone 7B (otherwise known as Atlanta). It’s a dreary day today. The thermostat displays 50 degrees.

It lies.

The wind is howling and without the sun, it feels like thirty. This means today is the perfect day to start seeds indoors. Regular visitors and followers of my blog know that I like to try new tricks that expedite the germination process. Sowing seeds indoors is a fast, easy way to get a jump on spring planting. Today’s tip falls in the “must-try” category.

TIP: Soaking seeds in Nelson’s Grow Best Plant food is the best way to give seeds a head start.

Soaking seeds in Nelson's Grow Best for five minutes is an excellent way to start your indoor seeds.

Soaking seeds in Nelson’s Grow Best for five minutes is an excellent way to start your indoor seeds.

Georgia residents can buy Nelson’s Grow Best from Home Depot using this link. Non-Georgia residents, purchase it here. This concentrated fertilizer is the best I’ve ever tried. One only needs to soak the seeds a few minutes to give them an added boost.

TIP Two: The fastest way to germinate seedlings is to heat the soil and then maintain a continual temperature. Seeds are smart. They won’t germinate in cold soil which is why you can trick them by warming up the dirt. Using a disposable pie plate (or pan like you cook the Thanksgiving turkey in) heat potting soil in the oven. Bake the soil for 5 minutes.

Yes Virginia, bake the soil . . . just not in your mom’s favorite casserole dish.

Pour dirt into a plastic box that you have lined with shredded newspaper.

TIP Three:

Shred newspaper (black and white only...no color). Then add enough water to moisten.

Shred newspaper (black and white only…no color). Then add enough water to moisten.

Shredded newspaper (that is moistened) provides necessary moisture and encourages a strong root system. After adding warm soil on top of the newspaper, sprinkle seeds on top of the soil then, using your finger, press the seed firmly into the dirt. (no deeper than ½ inch).

Super Cheater TIP Four: Now this is a big one. Did you know the best way to maintain soil temperature (and trick your seeds into thinking it’s spring) is to place Christmas Tree lights on top of the soil? Don’t y’all go stealing this and blogging about it like you thought this up. This little Redneck idea is all mine.

After planting the seeds and making certain the soil is warm and toasty, I located a string of lights that only partially worked. I placed it on top of the dirt, covered the container with the lid and coiled the remaining lights in another container.

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The lights generate a small amount of heat. When combined with the moisture from the newspaper I turn a recycled ice cream bucket into a mini-greenhouse. Since I didn’t have a lid for this bucket, I fabricated a lid using plastic wrap and secured it with a rubber band. Since the containers share one strand of lights I placed the bucket on top of the box. Once seedlings emerge I will remove the lids.

All together now let's sing. "I keep my Christmas Lights on...."

All together now let’s sing. “I keep my Christmas Lights on….”

Stay tuned to this blog, or better yet, subscribe. I’ll keep you posted on the seedlings. Until then, visit the Botanical Interests online Seed Catalog and place your order. And remember to visit the website for your fertilizer.

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love * Tomatoes. In 2012 she released Stress-Free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author. 2014 will see the release of In the Kitchen with Billy: Farming, Friends & Fried Bologna Sandwiches. She is currently working on her first novel. She would love to hear from you. Visit her at www.reneawinchester.com

 

 
 

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Time to Make Some Dirt

Here in zone 7b (otherwise known as Atlanta), spring is partially here. Tree buds have unfurled, daffodils erupted and spring fever is at a pitch. We have been blessed (yes blessed) with rain and for the first time in ages, the meteorologist reports that we are (almost) out of our drought. In a few weeks we will be planting, planting, planting which is why now it is time to make some dirt.

Veteran gardeners have noticed a change in pre-bagged potting soil. Regardless of the brand or monetary investment one makes, most garden soils look like this. WP_001032

Touching the “soil” one immediately recognizes two things: peat and ground-up bark. These do not make soil (well, technically they do, just not quickly).

Always on the hunt for a quick way to add organic matter, I take to the shredder and grind up as many newspapers as I can get.

Note: this process works best when rain is imminent.

Also Note: You can dig a trench and bury the newspaper.

The nest step: Adding Straw. After placing these shreds of paper directly on top of the soil, I add straw on top of the newspaper. I acquired the straw for FREE.  I stopped at a church after Thanksgiving while their “fall display” was still out and before their Christmas Trees went on display. The church was happy to give away the straw (they were going to throw it out).

Shredded newspaper and straw break down rapidly, especially in rainy weather.

Shredded newspaper and straw break down rapidly, especially in rainy weather.

Newspapers: also free. If you don’t subscribe, ask someone who does to save their papers for you.

After both the paper and straw are in place I sprinkle a liberal amount of fertilizer on top. The fertilizer, when mixed with rain, hastens decomposition. Either commercial or organic fertilizer is sufficient.

Sprinkle in a little fertilizer to expedite decomposition

Sprinkle in a little fertilizer to expedite decomposition

Now, for those who follow my blog often this organic fertilizer (see below image of bag)  is the best one can buy. You can use regular fertilizer (picture on right), but this particular organic brand is my favorite. You must ask for Top Organic from a “real” hardware store (not Lowes or Home Depot). You might need to purchase in bulk (go in with your neighbors, split the cost). This organic fertilizer breaks down in a matter of hours, transforming your soil into a rich, lush planting ground.

WARNING: “Top Organic Fertilizer”  is desiccated chicken manure. It smells…badly. Wear old clothes. Use when rain is imminent. Trust me on that one. This fertilizer is a wonderful additive to the lawn as well.

Top Organic Fertilizer. Find it, use it, but be warned, it smells !

Top Organic Fertilizer. Find it, use it, but be warned, it smells !

Incorporating these additives will give your plants and flowers the boost they need. When you have finished your garden will look like this for a while. If you wish, you can sprinkle a bag of potting soil on top to cover the straw. WP_001031

As always, I love hearing from you. Feel free to comment or contact me through my website

www.reneawinchester.com

Renea Winchester is an award-winning author of In the Garden with Billy: Lessons about Life, Love & Tomatoes, and Stress-free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author. Look for the release of  In the Kitchen with Billy: Farming, Friends & Fried Bologna Sandwiches in 2014.

 

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Those Delicious Dilly Beans

Laugh if you will at jars of Dilly Beans. Whisper behind your hand into the ear of another, “that Renea is country come to town.” Go ahead, whispers don’t bother me. As we say back home, “you’re just leaving more for us.”

People have laughed at my Dilly Beans. Those million-dollar home kind of folk, the kind that turn up their nose and have no idea what they are missing. True foodies, those that embrace heritage, appreciate the sacred relationship formed when Dilly Bean lovers open a can.

Each spring I travel to Ladd’s farm supply in Cartersville, Georgia and load tiny paper envelopes with beautiful seeds such as rattlesnake, and October beans. I adore beans. I eat them raw, bake them southern style (with a hunk of seasoning meat), and pack them into jars of garlicky brine. It is this process that creates a delectable delicacy called Dilly Beans.074

First, in order to create Dilly Beans you must grow the bean. For the love of humanity, and my personal sanity, please do not attempt to make Dilly Beans using rubbery store-bought beans.

Mercy no !

In Bryson City, North Carolina where I’m from, (and where those million-dollar home folk love to visit, people plant fields of white half runner beans. In the alternative a  “crease back” (also called Greasy Beans) will do. If you want a good Dilly Bean, don’t waste precious space planting a Bush Bean.

While Bush Beans are delicious and have their place at the table, one

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must grow a bean that, when mature, has a white bean inside. Full beans resemble fingers. They are crunchy and bursting with flavor. Garlic and dill are two other key ingredients. Both easily grown in most parts of the country, or purchased in stores, if it is an actual emergency.

After picking and rinsing beans, add garlic and dill to the jar. If necessary use a butter knife to press beans together.087

Now it’s time to make the brine, but first a story about how I discovered Dilly Beans (excerpt from my book In the Kitchen with Billy: Farming, Friends & Fried Bologna Sandwiches 2014 release).

I first tried dilly beans at the Sawmill Hill Freewill Baptist Church in my hometown of Bryson City, North Carolina. As ladies unwrapped fried chicken, potato salad, and a bounty of other made-from-scratch dishes, Annie Mae Cooper popped open three wide-mouth jars.

“What are those?” I asked as she placed one jar on each table.

“Dilly beans,” she replied.

I am certain my face revealed confusion. Perhaps I even turned up my nose just a bit which is why she pierced two beans with a silver fork, cupped her hand to collect the dripping brine and approached.

“Just try ’em.”

Crisp and filled with garlic flavor, dilly beans are delicious. They are so scrumptious they have replaced pickles at my house. Annie Mae, thank you for sharing this recipe. It is with great pride that I pass it along to others. If you like dill pickles, you will love this recipe.

Supplies: 4 to 6 pint jars, rings and can lids.

Ingredients:

2 pounds unbroken green beans (washed with stems and strings removed)

4 heads fresh dill

1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes

4 cloves garlic

2 ½ cups water

2 ½ cups white vinegar

¼ cup pickling salt or kosher salt

Combine water, vinegar and salt in a saucepan. Heat until mixture begins to boil, and salt has dissolved. Set aside to cool.

Place a small sprig of dill and one slice of garlic in the bottom of a glass canning jar. Sprinkle pepper flakes into jars then tightly pack beans lengthwise inside.

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Pour liquid into jar. Leave ¼ inch of space at the top. Wipe the jar opening with a clean cloth to remove any trace amounts of moisture. Place a lid on the top, secure lid and tighten ring just enough to seal the jar.

Sealing Instructions: 

Dilly beans are processed in a water bath. No pressure cooker is required. One only needs a large pot with enough headroom to cover the jars with one-half (1/2) inch of water.

To prevent glass from breaking, pour warm water into the pot. Add jars. Make certain water covers the lids. Cover pot with lid and heat water until boiling. Boil in water bath for ten minutes.

Use metal tongs to remove and then place jars on a towel to cool. When the lids make that unmistakable popping sound, they have sealed.

Place any jars that do not seal in the refrigerator. Dilly beans are ready to enjoy three weeks after processing. This time allows the spices to flavor the beans.

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of In the Garden with Billy: Lessons about Life, Love & Tomatoes. Her next release, In the Kitchen with Billy: Farming, Friends & Fried Bologna Sandwiches features delicious recipes like this.

 

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