RSS

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.

Seed Sewing Success

A quick follow-up about the seeds I started on 2/21/2015. As always I enjoyed tremendous success with my Botanical Interests Seeds.

If you are just joining me. follow this link to read my seed-starting tips, and how to convert items we discard into mini-greenhouses.

20150305_080352

20150305_080346

Check out the seed clinging to the tender leaf.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

20150305_080513

Aerial view

 

 

I hope you will give my suggestions a try. I enjoy a high germination rate due in part to these techniques and ordering awesome seeds.

Now it is time to begin the process called “hardening off,” which means I will place the seedlings outdoors on a sunny day when there is some wind. They will NOT go in direct sunlight as that will burn the tender leaves, but slowly work their way into the sun. This process strengthens the seedlings and prepares them for the growing season.

If you haven’t visited the Botanical Interests website, or ordered a catalog, please do so today.

20150305_080441

20150305_080459

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amazon readers: Please remember that I receive no compensation from used books purchased on Amazon. Please follow the links highlighted and underlined on this page to order, or contact a local Bookseller for copies.

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches; Mountain Memories: True Stories and Half-Truths from Appalachia. A Hardscrabble Christmas. Her first book, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes earned her a SIBA and GAYA nomination. Order signed copies or, email her through her website at www.reneawinchester.com. She welcomes new friends on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter Here.

 

 

 

Seed-starting Success #SeedSaturday

Gardeners can’t wait any longer. Though the ground be covered with snow and ice, we know these days will soon be gone. It is time to start seeds indoors. Hence the hash tag #SeedSaturday.

Peppers particularly.

Peppers take longer to germinate, and have a longer time from plant to harvest. For that reason we should start them now. Today I share a quick post about what works, and what doesn’t when it comes to seed starting.

What doesn’t work:

Starting seeds in egg shells

Start seeds in egg cartons

Why? Seeds contain most everything they need to germinate. For that reason they will germinate in egg shells, egg cartons, even a plastic bag. However, the seedlings will not survive in a shallow-rooted environment. So step away from Pinterest unless you can plant seedlings days after they sprout (which most of us can not).

Containers that work:20150221_121333
Milk Jugs
Tupperware containers
Plastic bottles
Bakery Department containers

Why? Plastic containers serve as mini-greenhouses for seeds. The environment is warm and cozy. Start saving things you would normally toss in the recycling bin.

The Dirt: I do not purchase “name-brand” dirt infused with fertilizer. Instead, I use topsoil.

Why? I have a terrible habit of over watering. Potting soil compacts when wet and becomes a perfect environment for mold. If you know you won’t over water, use potting soil. But, topsoil works for me, and is far cheaper.

Another tip: 

Heat the dirt. Yes, my friends. I place a bowl of dirt into the microwave for approximately two minutes (or until it is warm to the touch). Doing so gives your greenhouse the added boost of pre-heating, kills most diseases and even some weed seeds. Warming the dirt also shaves a day off the germination process because the dirt doesn’t take a day to warm to room temperature.

abpostIf you use water bottles, or milk jugs, do not cut the top off. Instead, open a door. This allows you to tape the door shut, cap a lid on the top and keep the seeds nice and toasty.

Seed-Soaking: 

I prefer to soak all of my seeds for at least a few minutes prior to planting. This gives the seeds an instant drink, and I also believe it helps in germination.

As you can see I add approximately two inches of dirt in each container.

Then I water the dirt.

Before adding seeds.

Why? Because if I plant the seeds, then add the dirt and water the force and weight of the water scatters the seeds. Moistening the dirt first keeps seeds in place.

Seeds scattered in pre-moistened topsoil

Seeds scattered in pre-moistened topsoil

Finally, don’t forget to label the containers. We all want to think that we will remember the contents of our containers. However, once seedlings emerge I have forgotten.

20150221_124303

Don’t forget the labels

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hope you will give my suggestions a try. I enjoy a high germination rate due in part to these techniques and ordering awesome seeds. If you haven’t visited the Botanical Interest website, or ordered a catalog please do so today.

bi1

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches; Mountain Memories: True Stories and Half-Truths from Appalachia. A Hardscrabble Christmas. Her first book, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes earned her a SIBA and GAYA nomination. Order signed copies or, email her through her website at www.reneawinchester.com. She welcomes new friends on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter Here.

 
 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Spring Fever Free Seed Giveaway

Spring Fever Free Seed Giveaway

It is #Gardengiveaway time. I’m talking FREE SEEDS. I know that I probably speak for a few of my Northern friends when I say, “We need the sun!” We’re not exactly happy with the groundhog right now either.

Here in the Southern zone  of 7A, we can see the lackluster-colored ground. We have no snow. No ice. We aren’t experiencing anything like our Northern friends who are blanketed with both. Who shovel snow, and have to walk to work.

Still we grow weary of winter.

Our fingers itch to scratch the dirt; we long to watch our little seeds emerge from the soil.

The mailbox bulges with seed catalogs.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We just can’t wait much longer for spring to arrive. (At least I can’t). That is why I am tickled to giveaway FREE SEEDS courtesy of Botanical Interests. Botanical Interests is the brainchild of Judy Seaborn and Curtis Jones.  Judy at an early age could be found in the garden, her hands touching the dirt. Twenty years ago, Judy wanted to create a company that both provided high-quality seeds for veteran gardeners, and, educated newbies who were planting for the first time. When Curtis offered their glorious seeds to you-my readers- I snatched up that offer snappy quick.

An EXAMPLE of seeds available. Seeds awarded will vary from picture.

An EXAMPLE of seeds available. Seeds awarded will vary from picture.

Because for a gardener nothing could be better than FREE Seeds. (except maybe free beans and tomatoes).

What’s the catch?

Well, really the only way I can give away the free seeds is to ask y’all to leave a comment on my blog. I’ll ask my daughter to pick a random number and whoever left that particular comment will receive the seeds. So please, leave a comment, any ole comment. Your words are your registration.

I will contact the winner and ship the seeds.

It really is that easy. Oh, and you might want to consider subscribing to my blog. One never knows what I might give away next .

bitwitter

This is what community looks like my friends. Happy growing from the staff at Botanical Interests, Inc

Note: The winner is expected to take a photo of their winning so that Botanical Interests and others know that I am awarding the seeds. Please note that I ship at my own expense directly from my home. All comments left here and in future posts are considered entries. I will pull a name each weekend thru the end of February.

I also encourage you to order a catalog from Curtis and Judy. They do more than sell seeds, they support the local food bank. Follow this link to place an order.

 

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches; Mountain Memories: True Stories and Half-Truths from Appalachia. A Hardscrabble Christmas. Her first book, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes earned her a SIBA and GAYA nomination. Email her through her website at www.reneawinchester.com. She welcomes new friends on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter Here.

 

 

Tags: , , , ,

Do you see what I see? Why I do not add pesticides . . . ever!

Another #Wordless Wednesday glimpse at my garden.

garden2014 175 garden2014 178 garden2014 184 garden2014 194 garden2014 195 garden2014 202 garden2014 143 garden2014 146 garden2014 147 garden2014 150 garden2014 151 garden2014 153 garden2014 154 garden2014 155 garden2014 170

 

 

 

 

 

 

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Farming, Friends and Fried Bologna Sandwiches (available through all booksellers);  and 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. 

Order Copies of Farming directly through Mercer. Call for 20% discount and free shipping.

Email her through her website at www.reneawinchester.com 

 

When Tomatoes Take Selfies

When Tomatoes Take Selfies

What happens when our Botanical Interests Tomatoes decide to take Selfies:

Click the links to order your own Botanical Interests Seeds

Pictured: Cherokee Purple; Beefsteak; Romas; Indigo Rose

20140805_14080720140805_140818 20140806_101145 20140806_101234 20140806_101845 20140806_102201 20140806_102306
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 September of 2014, Mercer University Press will release her next book titled Farming, Friends, & Fried Bologna Sandwiches. Email her through her website at www.reneawinchester.com. She welcomes new friends on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter Here.

 

Tags: , , , ,

Extending The Growing Season

Extending The Growing Season

After July 4, a panic fills my soul; fear that the growing season will soon come to a close. Admittedly, this year I have yet to put up the first jar of tomatoes as – again – the gardening began late due to cold weather. Last year it was too wet to plow. . . this year, too cold to start early.

Still, I can do the math. 30-60-90 means frost will be here before you know it.

Thankfully, Southerners experience two growing seasons.

Now is the time to plant late beans and squash, but most important, it is time to root tomatoes for an extended harvest.

Simply snip off a section of the plant (preferably one that already has blooms), and place the cutting in water. Seven to ten days later you have this. 

20140707_20351520140706_185523

 

After strong roots have developed dig a very deep hole.
Then add shredded newspaper and egg shells. Do not add fertilizer at this point. You will kill the plant.20140707_202512

Water well until the newspapers are a mushy mess and add tomato.

20140707_202534

Add Dirt. Add MORE water. I mean enough to make a puddle. Then wait a moment and let the newspapers absorb the water.

After that, water a bit more. Think of this as the mud-pie phase. 

 

20140707_202723

Then walk away. There is nothing more to do. Just walk away and let the tomato do its thing. This week is the perfect time to plant tomatoes. We’re getting a bit of daily rain and the plant shouldn’t even wilt. n the beginning you may have to water every other day, but please, for love of your tomatoes, do not water tomatoes every day. Why you ask? Because they will taste like water, of course, instead of having that rich flavor we all enjoy.

 

 

 

 

20140707_202809

 

 Two weeks after planting your rootlings, sprinkle a bit of fertilizer around the plant, FAR away from the stalk so that you do not burn the plant. Remember, most tomatoes fail and get blossom end rot because they are receiving too much water and too little calcium. Egg shells=calcium. Too much water=unhappy gardeners.

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 September of 2014, Mercer University Press will release her next book titled Farming, Friends, & Fried Bologna Sandwiches. Email her through her website at www.reneawinchester.com. She welcomes new friends on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter Here.

 

 

The True Meaning of Community Gardening

This year in addition to having a tiny spot for tomatoes at Farmer Billy’s place, a friend and I decided to plant a row for the hungry at the community garden. I am breaking my promise to her with this blog post; we had vowed to keep our project silent, but today I must share how community gardens bring people together, and, sadly, how sometimes it brings out the worst in people.

aCommunity gardens require team efforts and most feature raised beds that are planted as a group. Come harvest, all participants share in the bounty. The one I belong to has individual plots that allow each gardener to grow what they want. This year we had trouble finding enough gardeners for all of the raised beds.  Johnson grass and weeds- the bane of existence for gardeners-quickly took over approximately 6 unplanted beds.

Enter the Garden Stranger

The church had opened a farmer’s market each Saturday and on one particular Saturday a man moseyed over to where I was hacking in the dirt, I was trying to get enough space to plant some sweet potatoes, which one of the ladies at church really like. Because the dirt is so rock-hard I was failing.

The man said, “I didn’t know there was a garden over here?”

What a mess this bed is...more grass than sweet potatoes

What a mess; more grass than sweet potatoes. But I’m trying.

By the way his eyes lit up, I could tell that he knew a thing or two about gardening. Straightening, and leaning into the shovel, I said, “It’s a community garden, feel free to come over and claim a spot.” I felt a bit embarrassed my the grassy overgrown plot I was working on, but I unhooked the gate then walked him through the area. A gate is necessary or deer will eat everything. This veteran gardener walked around taking in the peace that comes by watching things grow. Stopping at a particular plot he said, “They’re overwatering.”

“I know,” I replied with a nod. “Soaker hose.”

He nodded. “Ruination of many a garden,” was his reply.

Moving  to the next row I said, “Now I’m serious. Come over here and pick out a spot.” I gestured around. “All of those are empty. Then I squished over to the pipe and turned off the water. (which probably broke some unwritten rule, but bear with me).

20140622_195216

The Garden Stranger’s Plot. (Genius idea using straw)

The garden is my mission field. Beside the soggy soaker-hosed-raised beds, a nineteen-year-old young lady has started her first garden. She desperately wants to grow her own food, to eat healthier. She and I had pulled weeds, planted onions, beans, one tomato plant and some spinach. I want her to succeed. Want her first garden to yield something she can be proud of. Returning to the garden two days later, I noticed the Garden Stranger, had cleaned off two raised beds and planted some tomatoes. He had reserved the second bed for squash. I don’t know when he managed to get the work done, but our little community garden was looking great and yes, the soaker hose was still on.

Then Bible School week hit and I had the opportunity to reach more gardeners. A father of two walked over with his kids. He was having trouble with his tomatoes at home. By now the community garden was getting away from us. Weeds were growing fast and I hadn’t had the time to get all the stakes piled out of the way before I began the search for someone to cut the weeds around the raised beds. Each morning I dropped off my daughter at Bible School and then worked until the Georgia sun stole most of my breath. Then I hydrated and headed toward Farmer Billy Albertson’s place for more of the same. That particular day, I had several realtor signs I had recycled. Billy and I use them to let his customers know that fresh produce is available.

“I’ve got a problem with my tomatoes,” this gentleman said while his children chased each other. “Wonder if you can help me out.”

I let him and his children inside the gate and said, “Tell me the trouble.”

For the record, I don’t consider myself an expert on tomatoes, but one does learn a thing or two when she helps an 82-year-old farmer tend 300 plants.

“Well they are yellow and all wilted,” he said. “Kind of like those.” He pointed to the bed with the soaker hose attached. Again, I walked over and turned off the hose-which was unscrewed all the way to wide open. By now, the spinach in the neighboring plot next door had rotted.

After a quick discussion, the gentleman told me that his wife was watering his plants every single night. “It’s like a ritual at my house. She unrolls the hose and I can’t get her to stop. What should I do?” I gave him some suggestions and then had the idea of making a sign so everyone in the community garden would have success, and others who chanced by the garden might incorporate some tried-and-true tips. He snapped a picture of the wilting plants and said, “I’m going to show her these. We’ve got to stop watering. I explained that I rarely water my plants and more water equals a less-tasty tomato. “That makes a lot of sense,” the man said.

Tomato Love Sign with the help of Bible School kids

Tomato Love Sign with the help of Bible School kids

Retrieving a sign I jotted down the tomato tips. The man’s daughter helped. His son found a June-Bug. We had a great time.

Tomatoes  Love

-Eggshells, coffee grounds, tums, powdered milk (sprinkle around plant)

– Mulch

-Hot Dry Weather

Tomatoes Dislike

– Soggy, wet soil and wet leaves, water only once a week (too much water = rot and disease)

We placed the sign at the entrance of the garden where others who might be growing their own tomatoes could see. Then we walked around the garden and his children (ages 6 and 4) help weed. Even though they weren’t growing anything in the garden, his children begged to help.  I have found that most young children love the opportunity to learn about growing their own food. I invited them to claim their own spot, and I hope they do.

Then I sent an email to the community garden organizer and expressed my concern over the enormous amount of water being used by the soaker hose. No plant, not even grass, needs water every day. Too much water encourages shallow roots and breeds disease. And besides, it takes a lot of water to fill a raised bed, even more to rot the vegetables planted in the adjacent plot.

Figuring that my email would solve the problem, I didn’t give my suggestion much thought until I returned again and found more standing water. By now they had re-planted the tomatoes and were on the same path toward another failed crop. I unhooked the hose and wrapped it around the base of the pipe. I didn’t remove the soaker hose because it is beneath a layer of landscape fabric.

I am blessed with the ability to step on the toes of others because – apparently -my opinion about the water was not well received as evidenced by the writing on the sign which greeted me today. YOU WIN, WE GIVE UP. (As an aside, the birds didn’t like his message either!)

I Win? I Win what?

I Win? I Win what? Community Gardens are not contests.

This type of hateful attitude hurt my feelings (which we know was the intent). Stepping into my space I will admit that I cried a little and had a bit of a pity party. I was only trying to help, trying to make sure everyone was successful, that water was conserved, and their neighbor could grow her own food. The garden was becoming a mission field. Already four people had entered the garden and one felt welcome enough to return and plant two raised beds!

I sought comfort in the green peace of the garden. Moseying over to the Garden Stranger’s spot, I smiled to see his tomatoes growing strong and healthy. Then I noticed something that caused me to cry for another reason. Someone had tilled all of the spaces where nothing was planted, this same someone had cleared away the weeds and then scribbled upon the back of a piece of cardboard the following message I tilled this spot just to get rid of the weeds, feel free to use. Then I found another sign, and another, all with the same message.

This, my friends, is the note from a Garden Stanger who may just be a Garden Angel.

This, my friends, is the note from a Garden Stanger who may just be a Garden Angel.

Not only had he tilled the plot, he had removed all of the horrible roots and other junk that was in the beds. Hours of selfless work. This, my friends, was the work of the Garden Stranger, whose name I don’t even know. He understands the meaning behind the words community. He knows that when we all work together instead of getting hurt feelings, and lashing out in a juvenile, immature, not-so-Christlike-manner, everyone benefits. Some people- like me- might even catch a glimpse of Jesus in the freshly tilled dirt.

 

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 September of 2014, Mercer University Press will release her next book titled Farming, Friends, & Fried Bologna Sandwiches. Email her through her website at www.reneawinchester.com. She welcomes new friends on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter Here.

 

 

Tags: , , ,