Steps To Plan Your 2015 Kitchen Garden

It’s time to start planning your kitchen garden.  Yes, there’s snow on the ground and it’s cold outside, but January is the time to start planning your spring and summer kitchen garden.  A well planned garden will lead to a successful garden. 

If you’re striving to get healthier, there’s nothing better than fresh vegetables. I have been gardening for years, and my focus has been on tomatoes, peppers, garlic, green beans, watermelons, and herbs. I do add in sunflowers and marigolds. Planting a kitchen garden helps save on the grocery bill, and you will be able to to freeze and preserve your harvest.   


Here’s a few steps you should be taking now to ensure your kitchen garden success:


  • Plan your garden layout – Will you be using raised beds, row gardening, or containers? Will you plant a small, medium or large garden? The size of your garden will determine how many plants you will need to purchase or need to start from seed.  You also need to start thinking about the containers you will be using or pricing material for your raised beds if this is the route you will be taking.       
  • Decide what you want to plant – Do you want to do herbs only or a variety of vegetables? Will you be planting Hybrid or Heirloom seeds/vegetables?  What and how many will you plant.  My suggestion is that you plant what you like and will use during the summer and winter months.   
  • Order seeds – Browse catalogs and on-line websites to determine what you need to purchase or join seed swaps. The Dollar Store has a great selection of seeds for bargain prices. Check your local store now for the best selection.  I also purchase from Gurney, Johnny’s Parks , Territorial and Baker Creek seed companies.  
  • Prepare for indoor sowing – If you indoor sow, set up a schedule for sowing your seeds. 
  • Start winter sowing  – You can start summer flowers in containers and place outdoors to get a head start on the growing season. I start my sunflowers using the winter sowing method. I have also been successful winter sowing vegetables.     
  • Check your inventory – Do you have seeds that need to be used this growing season?  Do you have enough seed starting mix and peat pots for indoor sowing? Are your grow lights in working order? What about your outdoor fencing?  Get a head start, make sure you have everything in working order and you have sufficient supplies for your garden.  

I’ve decided to increase my basil plants from 2 to 6 so I can dry and share them with my sister and daughter. I will be placing herbs in my Christmas gift baskets this year.  I normally put in 9-12 tomato plants, 3 – 4 belle and hot peppers, 2 squash, 2 zucchini,  6 cucumbers, 24-30 cloves of garlic and a few rows of green beans.  I will be cutting back on these vegetables as I have an adequate supply stored.  I will be replacing some of the plants with cauliflower, cantaloupe, water melons, leaf lettuce, collard greens, and a variety of herbs.  


I use the direct sowing method for my green beans, cucumbers and lettuce, winter sowing for my sunflowers, and indoor sowing for my tomatoes, herbs, squash, zucchini, peppers, cauliflower and fruits. 

I will be doing a series of posts on sowing seeds, gardening in containers, row garden preparation, preserving the harvest and everything in between on Saturdays from now through October. Stay tuned and check back for the 2015 Kitchen Garden series.  


If you have a question while planning, starting your seed, implementing your garden or just feel overwhelmed, send an email to The Mail Box using rhonda@mother2motherblog.com, and I will respond to your questions.  Lets get healthy together!      

 If you like this post you may also like:  How To Dry Kitchen Garden Herbs

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                                                                   Planting and Harvesting Garlic

Planting and Harvesting Garlic



I finally have garlic!  I planted garlic last year and had no success.  I decided to try again in the fall and look at these nice healthy garlic plants.  I planted onions in this space last year and they did great, so I decided to amend the soil with my homemade organic compost and plant the cloves in the same spot.  They loved it.  






I finally harvested the plants this week, and I’m quite pleased with the size of the bulbs.   Harvesting the bulbs required a little muscle.  The roots at the end of the bulbs run deep, so you must dig the bulbs out.  You can’t pull them out like onions.  Since this was my first year planting garlic, I didn’t realize how much muscle would be required.  


To avoid damaging the bulbs, I decided to remove the dirt until the entire bulb was exposed and I could get to the bottom of the bulb.  I used my garden shovel and my hands, please wear gloves, to remove the dirt until the bulb was exposed.  I than placed the shovel under the bulb and worked it until it became loose and than pulled it out.  Nice way to get an upper body work-out, lol.  


     
It’s amazing what can happen in 2 – 3 week in the garden.  I harvested the bulb on the right 3 weeks before the other plants.  You can see how much smaller it is than the other cloves, but it cured beautifully.  It’s ready to use.  I just need to cut off the roots and stem.  Some people braid their harvest, but I’m just going to store mine in a dish on the counter since it’s a small batch.  


I will allow the newly harvested bulbs to cure for 3 – 4 weeks.  Once it turns white and the covering is like paper, I’ll shake off the dirt, remove the roots and stem and than store it.  Some gardeners leave their harvest in the garden to cure, but I brought mine in the house and played them in a spot in the kitchen.  Stay tuned for a post on what it looks like after it has cured.  Do you plant garlic? How do you allow your plants to cure?

Guide to Companion Planting Book Review

I am now a book reviewer for Crown Publishing, a subsidiary, of Random House.  I will be reviewing various books published by their company.  I jumped at the opportunity to become a member, I love to read and I also love to have reference books around if I need to refresh my memory on a particular subject. As you know, I’m a home gardener.  I received a copy of The Mix & Match Guide to Companion Planting by Josie Jeffery to review.  This book was heaven sent, as I companion plant my kitchen garden.  


I was impressed with the book when I opened the package. The cover and binding of the book are beautiful.  It would be easy to wipe off dirt or accidental spills and the illustrations as you see are just lovely.  It’s a hardcover book with a strong binding.  You won’t have to worry about this book falling apart, it is quality.  


The book is very detailed, but not to a point where you would loose interest in the details.  For example, it gives the history of companion planting and how it is used around the world.  It provides information on soil preparation, manure, composting, and setting up rain barrels to help water your garden.  This is information that you truly need to know if you want to become a sustainable gardener and do it efficiently and at minimal cost.  I have been composting for years, added manure, have devised a method to keep weeds down, but have yet to add a rain barrel.  I hope to add a barrel this summer for next year’s use.  


Lets move to the content. I love how the book is designed.  The book is set up with 2 cards, for a lack of a better word.  One card has the name of the vegetable/flower along with information on when to plant, where it should be planted, growing tips and when to harvest.  Opposite the first card is the second card which shows a beautiful picture of the plant.  The content is set up with three sections, which is great if you want to hold your place to make notes on a particular plant, but still want to browse another section or find a particular plant in another section.  


In the back of the book is a place to make notes.  I think the books to beautiful to write in, so I would make notes elsewhere.  It also contain an index in the back of the book, which will help you find a particular page for the plant you wish to research.  


I have this book a thumbs up and 5 stars.  It’s actually one of the most beautiful and informative gardening books that I have come across, and it’s an easy read. The book retails for $17.99 in the states and $20.99 in Canada. I would encourage you to purchase a copy, especially if you’re a beginner gardener.  It’s a great reference for the advance gardener as well.  I’m grateful that I now own a copy.  


Note:  I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books for this review.  



5 Benefits of Garden Chives

home vegetable gardens



My chives are in full bloom.  This is a volunteer that showed up in the back of the garden.  I’ll give it another week, and than I’ll remove the flowers and cut it back to 1 – 2 inches. This should give it a good start for another harvest later in the season.  

Removal of the flowers is important; otherwise, the seeds will blow and the plant will take over your garden.  This is how I ended up with this volunteer.  I was a little slow removing them last season.  


Supposedly, the flowers on this plant are edible, but I’ve never consumed them.  For some reason, I just can’t get past the thought of flowers in my food.  They can be used to decorate a dish or vegetable tray.  

Chives can be used fresh or frozen.  You can chop and seal them in an airtight container and keep them in the refrigerator.  I also freeze them for use over the winter.  

There are several other benefits to eating chives and they are very easy to grow.  Once they are planted, they require regular watering and a little fertilizer.  My soil is so rich, I usually by-pass this part of the maintenance, but I do water them.  Here a few other reasons to grow and eat chives:






1.  They’re a magnet for beautiful butterflies.  


2.  They are delicious on baked potatoes, omelets and other dishes that call for onions.  I love them in salads as well.  


3.  They are a great source of antioxidants and can help fight cancers in the breast, colon, prostate, ovaries and lungs.  This study is from the University of Maryland Medical Center.   


4.  They are a great source of Vitamin K, which is good for bone strength.  


5.  They help lower blood pressure and cholesterol according to the University Hospital of Columbia and Cornell.

Plant a few chives.  They return year after year and will enhance the flavor of your dishes.
                                                                     

5 Health Reasons To Garden

Summer is around the corner and I’m looking forward to having fresh and chemical free vegetables.  I’ve been gardening for several years and wanted to share the benefits of having a kitchen garden:


1. High In Antioxidants – Herbs help reduce heart attacks and are high in antioxidants according to Fitness Magazine.  Oregano, basil, rosemary and parsley are a few of the herbs that you will find in my kitchen garden.  I love using oregano and basil in my sauces, parsley on potatoes and rosemary on chicken and in stuffing dishes.  


2. Exercise – Having a kitchen garden provides an opportunity to get moderate exercise.  


3.  Boosts Vitamin D – Sunshine is the best way to boost Vitamin D intake.  Ten to 15 minutes a day should be sufficient.  (Be sure to wear sunscreen while gardening). 


4.  Reduces Stress – Gardening reduces the Cortisol level, which is produced when you’re feeling stressed.   


5.  Better Nutrition – Home grown vegetables, herbs and fruits provide better nutrition and are more flavorful and chemical free.     


Home grown vegetables and herbs have become an important staple in my home.  I look forward to picking fresh lettuce, tomatoes and herbs for my dishes and preserving them for use during the winter.  The flavor versus what is purchased in a grocery store is beyond comparison.  That alone is a great reason to have a kitchen garden.  I enjoy walking into my garden retrieving peppers and tomatoes straight from the vine when I’m cooking.  The fresh herbs provide a wonderful enhancement to sauces, stuffing and salads.  


Start planting and reap these health benefits as well as a new found flavor and perspective on fruits and vegetables.  Start with a few herbs and tomatoes which can be planted in containers, and than start planning for next year’s garden.  


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Gardening With Children


Using Eggshells In The Garden


My 2014 Vegetable Garden                                                        














My 2014 Vegetable Garden Plan

home vegetable gardens


Spring is here and I’m making plans for my 2014 vegetable garden.  This is a picture of a few of my sunflowers from last year’s garden.  It was quite productive.  
I’m planning to put more flowers into my garden and cut back on the peppers this year since I have a nice supply stored.  My pepper focus will be belles this year for vegetable trays and the freezer.  

I started my seeds this week and have several that have germinated already.  I use my laundry room to start my seeds since they don’t need light to germinate.  I like to grow everything from seed, because it’s cheaper than purchasing plants from a garden center and because it gives me a jump start on the growing season.  Direct sowing everything can be quite challenging.

I purchase my peat pots on clearance each year from Big Lots or the Dollar Store and save them for the next season.  Each pot is filled with a seed starting mix, I use Miracle Gro, watered from the bottom by placing them in a tray filled with water, and covering them with Saran Wrap, which helps keep the pot moist and assists with germination.  Once the seeds have germinated, I immediately move them under this grow light to keep them warm and assist with growth.  My grow light is 4 foot long, so I’m able to get quite a few pots under it, and I raise the light as they get taller.

Here’s my list of seed starts for 2014.  I only plant vegetables that I will eat, can or freeze:


Fruit:



2 Sugar Baby Watermelons
1 Yellow Watermelon
2 Hales Cantaloupe

Misc.

2 Crookneck Squash
2 Zucchini


Tomatoes:



1 Mortgage Lifter 
1 Paul Robeson
1 Tiffen Mennonite
1 Oxheart
1 Early Girl
1 Delicious
1 Cherokee Purple
1 Red Brandywine
1 Sweet 100

Herbs:


2 Spicy Globe Basil
2 Genovese Basil
1 Oregano
2 Dill (Use to make dill and spicy hot pickles)
2 Cilantro (Use to make salsa)


Peppers:


1 White Belle
1 Golden Wonder
1 Mixed (It will be a surprise)
1 Jalapeno

I will be direct sowing the following:

Greens:



Blue Lake Greenbeans (Pole)
Jade Greenbeans (Bush)
Butter Crunch Lettuce
Noble Spinach

Cucumbers:


Boston Pickling
Marketmore
Lemon

Salt and Pepper

Garlic  (Already growing)
Red Onions

Carrots

Not sure I will get 100% germination, but I’m hoping for at least 80%.  I currently have 1 1/2 flats on the heating pads to germinate and about 6 starts that have already sprouted under the grow lights.  I’m hoping to have the 1/2 flat germinated by next week.  Stay tuned.