How To Harden Off Garden Seedlings


My seedlings have germinated and are thriving.  I had a 90% successful germination rate.  All starters have been re-potted to larger pots, but for now they’re still under the grow lights.  I plan to start hardening them off this week.  


My herbs, oregano, dill, cilantro and basil germinated.  All of my tomato seeds germinated, which is unusual for me.  I usually lose a few.  This year, I allowed then to stay in the starter pots longer.  I think this method allowed the roots to get stronger before I re-potted them.  I save pots from the garden center when I purchase my flowers and reuse them for my vegetable plants the next season.  My squash, watermelon, peppers and zucchini germinated as well.  I’m looking forward to a great growing season.  

The plants are ready to be hardened off.  What is hardening  off?  It’s where you expose your plants to the elements gradually.  First, I sit them outside for a few hours in the shade.  The next move is to gradually expose them to the sun and longer hours outside, and than I leave them out overnight.  Once they get used to the temperatures, I leave them out until I’m ready to plant them in the garden.  


I have about 20 plants ready for the garden.  I estimate that I have $5.00 in seeds this year.  I would never be able to purchase 20 plants from a nursery or garden center for $5.00 and another $3.00 for potting soil, which I will also use in other areas of the garden.  I will direct seed the cucumbers and green beans.  


This week I will work on getting the manure in the garden and having it tilled. I should have the plants in by the end of the month.  Stay tuned for future posts.  






                                                                   

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.  










How To Attract Blue Jays To Your Backyard


Blue Jays


First, Blue Jays are large and beautiful birds.  Unfortunately, I didn’t see them at the feeder this winter.  So, I’m glad I was able to capture the photos below this fall.   Apparently, some Blue Jays migrate and some do not.  I’m assuming mine decided to move on this winter.  Check out my other attracting backyard birds posts.

 

 

 

Next, Blue Jays start their courtship in February. The breeding season is from March to July.  Spring is around the corner, so I wanted to give you a few tips on how you may be able to get them to a feeder in your backyard for a photo op.

A few facts about Blue Jays, they are large birds and stay with their partner for life.  So they understand the meaning of until death do us part.  They are loud and love to make their presence know with their “jaaaay” call early morning.  Wooded areas are preferred.  I have trees along my back property and the adjoining property has a roll of evergreens, so I have the perfect environment.  The average life span for a Blue Jay is 7 years.

blue jay

It’s difficult to tell the male from the female, they look identical.  These two show up together, or one shortly after the other.  Blue Jays don’t eat at the feeder.  They pick up their treat and eat elsewhere, but return often for more.  Their color is striking.  Blue is my favorite color, so I may be biased.

 I was so excited to see this Blue Jay since they had been missing all winter.  I don’t know if this is the male or female, but the other is around somewhere.  I’m hoping to see little Blue Jays this summer since breeding season has started.

Here are a few tips to lure these beauties to a feeder in your backyard:

  • Purchase a platform feeder as shown.  I ordered mine from Amazon and love it.
  • Use raw peanuts.  They also love shelled, but make sure they’re unsalted.  You can buy them in bulk at Costco or SAMs.
  • Add acorns, sunflower seeds and fruit to the feeder.  (I use old grapes).
  • Spread cracked corn and sunflower seeds on the ground under the feeder.
  • Plant an oak tree and you will have them for life.  (They love acorns).

Last, bird watching is a great activity to do with children.  Turn bird watching into an educational lesson. Additionally, bird watching gives them an opportunity to become involved with nature and learn the habits of various backyard birds.

Planting Fall Bulbs for Spring Color

                                                                                                                                                   

                                            
                                        
                               

I decided to expand my perennial garden next year and found these gorgeous flowers at Michigan Bulb.  I started the perennial garden below this year and want to add to it in the spring.  I fall in love with these pink bouquet tulips.  I’m going to add them along with Alpine Rosy Bells around the rocks in the garden.    


I currently have Knock Out Roses and Yarrow planted.  I will be adding more rocks to give it a more naturalized look.  I had a difficult time keeping the weeds down, so landscape fabric is must in the spring. 


I live these pink parfait lilies.  I’m going to plant these behind the birdbath and feeder shown in the picture.  I hope to mix in some wild flowers and add a bird house.  The great thing about bulbs, you plant them once and the plants come back each year.  Planting bulbs is a great way to add color next spring and summer and an inexpensive way to expand your garden.  The stock at Michigan Bulb has gotten low, but check out Lowes or Home Depot.  They usually have a good selection of bulbs for fall planting too.  Winter is around the corner, hurry before you miss your bargain.   

                                                                       

Freezing Green Tomatoes

fried green tomatoes

Fried Green Tomatoes anyone?  They’re delicious.  I had a ton of green tomatoes left in my garden, and decided to freeze them for use during the winter.  Yes, you can freeze them or water bath them in the canner in wide mouth pint jars. 

I decided to slice and freeze mine.  The easy way to prepare them for the freezer is to slice and than place individual slices on a cookie sheet or pizza pan.  Make sure slices are completely frozen, otherwise, they will stick together.  Place individual slices in freezer bags.  When you’re ready to prepare them, place the frozen slices into an egg and flour batter and drop them into hot oil until golden brown on both sides.  Season to taste.

Vegetable Garden Closed



I’ll be spending the day closing out the garden.  Frost it hit Friday night, so it’s done for the season.  This is my second year gardening, and I’m really enjoying it.  There’s nothing better than picking fresh vegetables in your back yard and preserving them for future use.  This year I planted a variety of tomatoes, squash, zucchini, peppers, green beans and Sugar Baby watermelons.  

I love sliced tomatoes with a little mayo.  I freeze the green beans to use with green beans and corn for holiday meals and family gatherings.  This year I froze a variety of peppers and tried my hand at pickling them.  I have to say the pickled peppers are the bomb.  I sent a few jars home with my daughter and in-laws and they received great reviews.  They are so good the cleaning lady at my office chased me down as I was leaving with two empty jars asking me to refill them, lol. 
I eat them on nachos, in chili and anything else that I can find to put them on.   I made fresh salsa and canned it.  It’s a lot of work, but so worth it.  I love being able to pull out a jar of garden fresh salsa during the winter and it tasting like I just worked down to the garden and picked the ingredients.  I’ll be munching while reading my kindle when the cold weather sets in.  What I’ve enjoyed most is having my grandson involved in watering and harvesting the veggies. 

Here’s a picture of one of my prized tomatoes weighing in at 1.136 ounces.  It was huge and delicious.  I managed to harvest at least 6 colanders of green beans putting away 5 – 6 quarts in the freezer.  Probably the same amount for peppers.  In addition to the frozen peppers, I’ve canned (pictured below) 30 – 40 pints/quarts of pickled peppers, most given away.  
 
I’m working on 12 pints of salsa this week-end.  I’ll be putting them in baskets along with salsa chips and homemade cookies and brownies for Christmas gifts.   Do you have a garden?  How productive was it?  If not, are you interested in planting one and exchanging gardening techniques and seeds next season?  Please leave me  a comment and let me know your thoughts.  You can find my gardening blog here

Vegetable Gardens

It’s almost time to get the vegetable garden ready.  That’s my grandson wearing his Lighting McQueen rain boots.  He’s watering the garden last year, and was quite a little helper.  He was actually fascinated to see the blooms develop and turn into luscious veggies.   This was my first vegetable garden and I’ll be doing it again.  It was so relaxing tending to the garden, and it was nice to have fresh vegetables in the house instead of the cardboard sold in grocery stores.  I hope that I will never have to purchase another vegetable from a store again, that is unless it’s from a farmer’s market.   

I canned tomatoes and froze peppers for soup, chili and salsa.  The veggies were as fresh when I used them this winter as they were when I plucked them from the garden.  My peppers were huge as you can see.  I’ll be planting those babies again.  Those are Amish Paste tomatoes shown and are great for sauce and salsa.   I planted a few Hybrid and a few Heirlooms last year.  I’m going with Heirlooms this year.  I’ve decided on a variety for color and taste to include:  Boxcar Willie, German Johnson, Kellogg Breakfast, Cherokee Purple and Aunt Ruby’s Spicy Green.  It’s just about time to get the seedlings started indoors so they can be germinated, harden off, and planted in the garden by June.  I’m in zone 6, so I usually garden from June to October.  I may plant collard greens this fall, we’ll see. 

Here’s a few of my crookneck squash.  They were so yummy.  I froze a few squash and zucchini for baby food for Zarriah and zucchini bread for me, lol.   Did I mention I put away 50 ears of corn and about 6 quarts of fresh peaches for baby food.  Yes, I was quite busy in the kitchen last year. 

I’m going to expand my garden by approximately 5 feet this year.  I’m leaving out the eggplant, and putting in pickling cucumbers for homemade pickles and small, but sweet watermelon.   Below is my dream garden.  I love the arbor and bench in the back.  I would sit and admire the fruits veggies of my labor.  You would be surprised at how many vegetables you can grow in a small amount of space.  My garden was less than 10x 20, and I was able to produce an abundance of fresh veggies and flowers.  I will be expanding it to 10 x 25 this year.  If I ever get this baby built, I would expand to 10 x  40 feet.  This year I’m putting up a 250 feet privacy fence, so this garden fencing will have to wait.  In the meantime, I’ll dream about it.  A girl can dream can’t she?  We’re also building a tree house for my grandson, stay tuned. 

Be sure to follow or subscribe to Mother 2 Mother so you don’t miss my Gardening With My Grandson posts.  You can also connect with me by clicking one of the social media buttons on the right.  Do you garden with your children?  What are you planting this year?  I think it’s important for children to understand the land and how to grow your own food.  With this economy, we need to teach our children how to survive and save when and where we can.  My grandson loves flowers, and has a small area where he is responsible for watering them and pulling weeds.  He takes his job seriously.  We lead by example, would you agree?  Leave a comment and let us know what’s happening in your backyard. 

Grow Your Own Veggies

I decided to plant a vegetable garden this year.  I have fond memories of my grandparent’s garden when I was growing up, and I remembered the taste of a tomato straight from the garden.  There’s nothing like it.  I want Xavier to experience his summer’s in Mama’s garden and enjoying the taste of fresh veggies and fruit.  He loves apples, pineapples, and strawberries.  I’ll be planting an apple tree next year and a strawberry patch in the fall so we can have fresh strawberries next spring and summer. 

This year I planted tons of tomatoes for canning and salsa, green beans, peppers, eggplant, squash and zucchini.  He’s not fond of veggies yet, but I’m adding a little to my sauces so I can sneak some in.  I’m also looking for recipes that I think he may like without there being a hint of veggies.  So far Zucchini Bread without the walnuts, don’t trust him eating those yet, is at the top of the list.  He loves spaghetti, so I’m finely chopping and I do mean finely chopping peppers and onions to add, lol.  He saw a carrot in some sauce once, and it ended his entire meal. 

Planting your own garden is also a great way to save on the grocery bill, and there’s no pesticides used.   It’s also a great family activity.  Xavier is picking hot banana peppers for Mama’s hot pepper ring mix.   He loves a hot banana pepper, cauliflower and jalapeno mix that I purchase from the store.  I’m going to can a few quarts for his enjoyment. 



After picking the peppers, Xavier watered the garden for Mama.  He now understands the importance of sunshine and water to a garden.  I didn’t leave out weeding either, lol.  We’re going to put a little patch for him next year to include strawberries, raspberries and colorful carrots.  Check out his gardening boots.  He loved them so much, he took them home with him to wear when he waters his mother’s flowers.  Aren’t they adorable, I’ll be doing review on the boots in another post.

Because I acquired poor eating habits growing up, I want to teach my grandson the importance of eating fresh veggies and fruit.  What better way than to walk into your back yard and pluck them off the vine.  I must saw that Michelle Obama’s Get Moving program and White House garden inspired me to plant mine.  What an excellent idea to get children involved in an outside activity, and one that is so important to their health.  We need to get them off the computer and sofa and back outside to get some physical activity and fresh air.  I’m grateful that Xavier would rather be outside than in the house.  He runs an entire acre catching fire flies, making mud pies and cakes, swinging from trees.    Do you have a garden?  What outside activities are your children involved in?  Leave us a comment, we may want to try it. 

Mallards Visiting My Backyard

Mallards

mallards

mallards

I stepped out on my deck this morning to sip a cup of coffee and found these little guys taking a swim in my creek.  Aren’t they adorable.  One of the pleasures of living in the country, you never know what you will find in your backyard.  Happy Wednesday everybody. 

Fried Pumpkin Blossoms





I had someone comment on my Mama’s Growing A Pumpkin Patch, Unexpectedly post.  She suggested that I fry the pumpkin blossoms on my plant.  I had never heard of fried pumpkin blossoms, so I decided to Google fried pumpkin blossoms.  I came across several recipes and blogs referencing these treats.  I thought I would share this recipe:

  • 24 pumpkin blossoms
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2/3 cup cracker crumbs

Cut your pumpkin blossoms off where the pumpkin starts on; take the center out and wash well. Make a batter of the milk, eggs, salt and pepper, and dip the blossoms in this batter; then in the cracker crumbs or cornmeal and fry until light brown. Serve hot.

I have not tried this recipe, but I will try it before all of my blooms die out. I hope you enjoy.