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Category Archives: Gardening Advice: For Newbies, and “Old Hands.

Here you’ll find tried and true methods (and failures) from my garden (the newbie) and Billy’s garden (the “Old Hand”) There will also be some tips from my Dad.

It’s Pepper Plantin’ Time

It’s March first, here in the South we are in a full-blown spring-feverish pitch. The sky is overcast, the furnace is blowing and it is time to plant peppers. Many people say they have a black thumb. That isn’t true. What really happens is they purchase the wrong plants, seeds, and soil. So before we begin let’s talk about the peat pods you find in the store. Do not buy them. Instead, purchase a bag of good potting soil and packs of Botanical Interest seeds.

If you’ve followed my blog for a while you know that I am a cheerleader for Botanical Interest Seeds. Sure, I could go to any number of home improvement businesses and purchase their plants, but I don’t know what type of growth hormone they’ve bathed the plants in. Now, more than ever, it is very important to know what is in your food.

Pick a pack of peppers and plant

Pick a pack of peppers and plant

Step One:

Determine the seeds you want to plant. Here is the direct link to Peppers at Botanical Interests.

Step Two: Recycle old containers. I use empty lettuce containers and berry baskets

1393682614972Step Three: Shred newspapers. This provides a great base for your plants. Shred newspapers and water them well. Don’t use the colorful paper. Make sure you shred paper printed with non-toxic ink (read the front inside of your paper to determine the type of ink used). Press them down tight. Roots grow toward the moist newspapers. Poof. Easy Pea-sy.

Step Four:

Add dirt. In Atlanta we have to make our own dirt. We must mix organic matter in with the clay. This aerates the soil and promotes growth.1393682887930

Step Five: Sprinkle seeds.1393682743496

I’ve planted the seeds thick. Once seedlings start, place them in small cups and give them away. Many churches and schools have community gardens. Share your seedlings.

Step Six: Water lightly.

Step Seven:

Place top on the container. Notice how the moisture from the newspapers is already creating a greenhouse environment? 1393683449783

Step Eight:

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This is a TRICK. Place containers on a heating pad in a sunny window. This warms the soil quickly. Seeds will emerge in a few days and will grow in the container for many weeks.

Plant seedlings as soon as the risk of frost has passed.

While my methods are by no means purist, I am doing my best to feed my family healthy food. Happy growing.

About Renea:

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Mountain Memories: True Stories and Half-Truths from Appalachia. Her first book, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes earned her a SIBA and GAYA nomination. In 2014, Mercer University Press will release her next book titled Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches. Email her through her website at www.reneawinchester.com I would be honored if you’d download a copy of my work.

 

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The Soggy Summer of 2013

The soggy summer of 2013

It’s July 18, 2013 and I’ve yet to enjoy the first tomato from the garden, or bean, or cucumber. This time last year I had two pressure cookers humming, two food dehydrators desiccating tomato slices. I was happy, blissfully happy while putting up food for my family. Not to be this year my friends. The weather pattern has shifted. We’re in a rainforest this year (not complaining after so many years of drought). It’s not the rain that is worrisome. I can live with the rain; it is the complete lack of sunshine. In fact, July 16 and 17 were the first full-sun days since May.
I had already told Farmer Billy we needed to give up. Stop planting seeds because we were just wasting our time. Kelle’s brought seedlings over (they drowned the next day following a rain storm), I’ve planted bean seeds. She’s planted corn; all for naught. Yesterday, Billy tilled up the chicken lot. The raccoons got his chickens after a summer storm blew the door open in the middle of the night. Once they gained access they returned every night, despite reinforcing the pen, the coons systematically murdered all but seven of his chickens.
It has not been a good year for farming.

Sad cucumbers hoping to one day see the sun

Sad cucumbers hoping to one day see the sun

Yes, we are so desperate for beans we're planting in the chicken lot

Yes, we are so desperate for beans we’re planting in the chicken lot

But yesterday, with a never-give-up farming spirit, Billy and I planted beans in the chicken lot. I told him, begged him really, to “lay a tarp over the dirt in case it storms tonight.”

“They’re not calling for much. Says if it rains it’ll just be a few drops.”
It rained an inch and a half last night my friends.

An inch and a half!

And with that, I have declared war on Mother Nature. I have pulled out what I call the lettuce grower. A cold frame I used this February that grew Botanical Interests lettuce that was so beautiful I didn’t want to cut them.

Scrawny depressing tomato plants...be gone. And, check out how the rain has beat the paint off the wood of my deck!

Scrawny depressing tomato plants…be gone. And, check out how the rain has beat the paint off the wood of my deck!

I’ve pulled up the tomatoes. (they have zero blooms anyway) and I erected the cold frame making tiny teepee structures for the cukes to climb upon. I replanted beans, believing that when the rains come (and they will come) the structure will keep the ground relatively dry. And because the sun may or may not shine, I’ve also snaked the Christmas Tree lights through the structure.

Beans, please, please grow!

Beans, please, please grow!

Yes, my back porch would make Granny Clampitt proud. Regardless of what it looks like, I’ll have some beans and fresh cucumbers or die trying. For newbie gardeners, be not distressed. This just isn’t a good year for growing in most of the South East.

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 Farming, Friends & Fried Bologna Sandwiches. She is currently working on her first novel. She would love to hear from you. Visit her at http://www.reneawinchester.com

 

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The Biggest Gambler

July 3, 2013

Summer: At least that is what the calendar says, that it’s summer. Time to clean up the grill, assemble the neighbors and enjoy extended daylight hours and fresh vegetables from the garden.

Only this year there are no vegetables.

None.

Zero.

Nada.

We have had so much rain, so little sun that beans have yellowed on the vine, and tomatoes, well the ones planted at my house aren’t even blooming. Growing yes, blooming, no. This time last year I was in a summertime frenzy of picking, chopping, slicing, stirring, canning and dehydrating. I was blessed with an abundance, Billy was also. He had “the best garden ever.”

But that was last year. We’ve had rain and very little sun. This year no tomatoes, beans, chickens or corn. The last two have been systematically murdered and eaten by a legion of raccoons that we can not capture, despite having traps set.

Last week a friend traveled from Cartersville to Roswell, equipped the farm with a camera. But I also found tracks. Coon tracks.

Those, my friends, are coon tracks

Those, my friends, are coon tracks

If Billy could afford critter eradication, trust me, he would. You see, recently a developer began removing trees from a large piece of property just down the road from Billy. The coons have two places to go: Target Supercenter Shopping Center, and Billy’s Albertson’s farm. What we need is a truckload of Good-ole-boys with a couple coon dogs. But coon dogs aren’t quite as popular in Roswell, Georgia as a Pomeranian or a Bulldog. The critters have taken over. The garden has fed them, not humans.

Progress=tree killing

Progress=tree killing

Those who haven’t liked his FB page missed the news, last week a raccoon killed all of Billy’s hens, save two or three.

We are:

Discouraged

Downtrodden

Disheartened

Done

We are done my friends. Even the Outside Man himself is done, said, “I’ve give up. I’ve been farming all my life and I’ve never seen it so bad. It’s just terrible. I don’t have anything no more.”

The critters have taken what little God did provide. Eighty-year-old Billy just isn’t able to keep up with the varmints that see his farm as an all you can eat buffet. We can’t keep putting effort and energy into the saturated soil. Most-likely Billy will not open his vegetable stand this year. If he does the harvest will be a scant handful of vegetables. Kelle and her boys as well as many other volunteers have helped. We have planted, replanted and fretted along with Billy. We have prayed while dropping beans into the ground only to see those beans again after three more inches of rain washed the soil away, or worse never see a single sprout because the seeds rot in the ground.

This makes me sad; it makes the helpers sad. Billy is deeply frustrated.

Below are shots from the garden. As Billy Albertson once said, “A farmer is the biggest gambler there is.”

This year we gambled and lost.

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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Earth Day Activity: Making Seed-Starters from Recycled Newspaper

Earth Day Activity: Making Seed-Starters from Recycled Newspaper

Last week, while I was in the community garden ripping grass from the raised bed, I enjoyed a moment of being present. A moment where I felt the grime on my neck, the sweat trickling down my back; a moment of pure bliss. At that moment I thought if I could lead workshops, or teach people how to grow their own food that would be perfect.

I’m not big on perfection; but teaching others how to grow their food would be lovely. I would like to teach those intimidated by gardening that they can grow their own food. This was my focus as I tossed roots onto the compost pile, cursing Johnson grass.

Enter, Miss Liz, Go-Green Day chair at Crabapple Middle School. Someone suggested she contact me.

Would I speak to middle schoolers on Earth Day? she asked.

Would I ? Sign me up !

Deciding what to speak about was a challenge. At first I wanted to show them how to recycle newspapers in the garden. Then I determined that most of the students probably didn’t have access to a garden. (Being that they were trapped in the confines of a subdivision with a rigid Homeowners Association). That’s when the idea to demonstrate how to make a newspaper seed-starter emerged. WP_001385

Once I shared my idea with Liz, she suggested I have each student who visits my booth make their own seed starter. After the seeds sprout the students will plant them in their community garden. Imagine the Plant A Row for the Hungry concept. That’s what they’re doing.

Now we’re growing, and feeding the hungry nutritious vegetables!

For those interested in making these; or students who want to show their parents how to create a newspaper seed-starter, here are the instructions:

WP_001378Supply list:

Newspapers

Seeds

Potting Soil (Note: try to feel the quality of the soil. If you feel small sticks and pebbles, most-likely you are purchasing woodchips, not potting soil).

Glass container cylindrical in shape. (Note: glass works best because it is sturdy and newspaper).

Instructions:

Fold one sheet of newspaper lengthwise.

Place glass on paper. Leave some newspaper hanging over the lower edge of the glass.

Place glass on paper. Leave some newspaper hanging over the lower edge of the glass.

Place glass on newspaper. Allow one inch of paper to hang over the bottom end of the glass. You will fold this later and form the bottom of planter.

Once you have wrapped glass, fold ends toward the center to create bottom of seed-starter.

Once you have wrapped glass, fold ends toward the center to create bottom of seed-starter.

Wrap the glass with newspaper. When you reach the end, fold edges inward to form the bottom of the planter.

Stand glass up and press down firmly to secure the bottom.

Remove glass.

If desired, staple top of planter to keep pages intact.

Fill planter with dirt. Each planter will use approximately half a cup of dirt.

A shout out to the Roswell Garden Club ladies featured in the newspaper.

A shout out to the Roswell Garden Club ladies featured in the newspaper.

Following the instructions on back of seed packet, press seed into soil. Water lightly. Don’t worry if water leaks through planter. Once seedling starts growing it is ready to plant in the garden. Dig a hole in the garden, place planter in the earth and fill with dirt. Water well. The newspaper will deteriorate and allow the roots to grow deep in the soil.

This is an inexpensive way to start seeds, and recycle. I want to thank Miss Liz for allowing me the opportunity to fulfill a dream. If your school or church has a community garden and you’d like me to teach the fledgling gardeners in your area, please contact me through my website.

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

Follow Billy on Faceboook HERE

 

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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.

WP_001039

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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Growing Potatoes in the Middle of Winter

Before I begin, readers PLEASE leave a comment and share my blog. This Wednesday I will award a $ 10.00 gift card from my favorite seed supplier, Botanical Interests. One lucky person who comments this week, or subscribes to the blog will be chosen. It is my way of saying thank you for reading my blog and my books.

I fancy myself a lucky gal, lucky to have friends such as Billy Albertson and Mr. Thomas. Both gentleman are expert gardeners and sometimes, when I’m paying attention, I pick up a thing or two.

I haven’t written much about Mr. Thomas, primarily because he made me swear I wouldn’t. So to his friends and family who might be reading this blog, please don’t tell. Mr. Thomas has a top-secret proven method of growing potatoes year round. For me not to share would be, as we say in the south, a sin.

We have all reached in the potato box and uncovered something that looks like this.

Image

Coral-reef like appendages protrude from potatoes. Gardeners refer to this growth as “eyes.” Left unplanted, the potato will shrivel and die. But wait, you can turn these unsightly potatoes into tasty taters in a few simple steps.

After cutting away the fleshy part of the potato, as seen in this picture  place several cups of dirt in either a hanging basket, or a Topsy Turvy tomato planter. Image

Use enough dirt to fill half the container. Then scoop a small hole and press the potato into the dirt as shown.Image

According to Mr. Thomas, moisture is the key to growing potatoes during the winter. While I am afraid of applying too much water, Mr. Thomas reminded me that potatoes require a lot of moisture. His advice: place the container in the sink and water until liquid comes from the drainage holes in the container. After watering well and allowing the container to drain, place it in a sunny location, or hang the container beneath a light.

Image

As you can see. His advice works. Now that the plant has sprouted I will apply a small amount of dirt to the original potato. You should do that as well. I left it uncovered so you could see the stages of growth and development.

When I asked about pollination, Mr. Thomas told me that when tiny blooms appears, he gives the plant a shake. He believes this assists the pollination process. If you’re like me and are continually searching for ways to organically feed your family, try planting a couple potatoes. The only think you have to loose is unsightly tubers that you’re going to already going to toss in the trash.

Renea Winchester is an award-winning author of the book In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes, and the soon to be released sequel: In the Kitchen with Billy: Farming, Friends & Fried Bologna Sandwiches. Copies of In the Garden are available through her website and electronically.

 

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My October Beans

My October Beans

Friends, Farmers, and others who shudder at the encroaching winter, I must share photos of my babies.

Those who chuckled  when I planted pintos while everyone else prepared their garden for winter; those who laughed when I posted pictures of my baby beans, take a gander. My wee ones made it. Next week one of my favorite holidays, Halloween, is upon us. During that week I shall pluck the remaining beans from the vine.

Picking beans in October. Tell me; is there any place more glorious than the South?

Carrying reclaimed water, I have coddled and encouraged these babies. Not because I possess the power to actually make anything grow, but because I so enjoy watching miracles such as this happen.

Rough tendrils wrapped around sticks and traveled into the prized Japanese maple. I did nothing to correct the vines. A child must grow where it must in order to seek the sun.

Pouring love and pride, I sprinkled used coffee grounds and tea leaves into the soil. Egg shells and a dash of milk (that was past its prime) added calcium. Even beans need a bit of calcium in order to grow up big and strong.

Temperatures dipped during the night. Daylight lessened. Darkness arrived earlier each afternoon. Leaves fell. Still the beans bloomed.

Positioning a mirror between the deck slats that reflected the sun’s rays, I focused the light on the plants and whispered, “I think you can.”

They did not disappoint.

Of course the harvest isn’t as plentiful as during the summer. That wasn’t my intent. My purpose was to grow something up until the very moment the icy breath appears. Soon a frost will blanket my deck planter. Only then will I remove the vines, dig out the glass door in the basement and plant the winter greens. For now, I give the smaller beans every possible moment to develop and mature. Friends, fledgling gardeners, and those who dread winter, next year you can do the same. “I think you can.”

Renea Winchester is an award-winning author. Visit her website at www.reneawinchester to learn more.

 

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Keep Calm and Plant Some Lettuce

The longing for a healthy salad during a stroll through the produce aisle was all it took to create a full-blown panic bubbling deep inside my soul. Have you noticed grocery prices lately? When did the price of lettuce jump to $ 3.29?

Doesn’t anyone realize how long an employees must work just to purchase a head of lettuce?

Panic accurately describes my feelings. I am also depressed. Apples are $ 1.99 a pound, same for nectarines and plums. It seems the only place in Atlanta offering affordable vegetables is the DeKalb Farmer’s Market. Alas, how many people have the time, or can afford the gas to drive that far? It is becoming impossible to feed our children-and ourselves-healthy food.

And then there was my daughter’s math assignment, complete with recipe. Total cost for ingredients: $ 20.00. Don’t get me started on that little surprise grocery store trip.

It is time-today-to plant some lettuce. Time to plant spinach, kale, collards and anything else green you can think of. All these “winter greens” will thrive in southern fall gardens. Most of these plants will last through the winter until temperatures rise in the summer.

For those trapped in a subdivision, empty a plastic storage container, plunk in a bag of dirt, and shake in a packet of Botanical Interests seeds. I have provided a link for many tried-and-true varieties here.

Do you like snow peas? Plant ‘em my friend, plant them today. While you’re at it, plant garlic too. It is a tasty winter crop.

We’ve got to do something. Soon and very soon, growing our own food will become a necessity. I am trying to remain calm, but the reality is this: consumers have little control over pricing.

Enter my red-neck lettuce bed. I took this photo from the side to show the simplicity of this project. The container is a plastic drawer. When the wheel of the cabinet broke, I converted it into a tiny lettuce garden.

It is easy to convert clear plastic containers into lettuce beds.

How? I purchased one bag of potting soil (with fertilizer in the bag). Drove the bag home. Opened the bag. Poured two inches of dirt into the container. Because the container will remain on the porch, and away from winter rains, drainage holes are not necessary. I sprinkled a package of Botanical Interests Buttercrunch Lettuce seeds. Added a thin layer of dirt,  and then said a prayer of thanksgiving as I lightly patted everything into place.

Lettuce does not transplant well. Neither will any of the previously mentioned “greens.” Determine where you want the plants to live, even if it is alongside the Gardenia outside your front door. Grow spinach in a fancy container, lettuce in the terra-cotta alongside the garage, in a plastic container, greens do not care. They are not persnickety.

Be not proud, my friend, and try not to panic. Keep calm and plant some lettuce, kale, and perhaps a packet of spinach.

Renea Winchester is an award-winning author. Order copies of her books through her website www.reneawinchester.com. She is currently writing, In the Kitchen with Billy: Friends, Fords, and Friend Bologna Sandwiches.

 

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