Why You Should Winter Sow Seeds

 

winter sow seeds

 

I started my winter sowing this week-end, and I started about 25 tomato plants indoors.  I’m hoping to get my garden in early this year and possibly get some plants in the garden twice.  I’ve found that I’ve just about depleted my stash of canned tomatoes, sauce, corn, green beans, peppers and herbs.

Also, I may expand my garden this year.  My grandchildren love my tomato sauce and my sister and daughter enjoy the fresh vegetables as well.  After taking inventory, I realized that I needed to replenish my stock.  So, I’m going to winter sow some vegetable seeds and plant others under the grow lights for my garden.  Check out my other backyard vegetable gardening tips too.

Continuing, if you don’t winter sow you should.  Here’s a few good reasons why you try it:

1. Cost Effective –  Winter sowing can be done cheaply.  For example, plastic containers, duct tape, a utility knife, seed starting mix and outdoor space is basically all you need.  A single plant at a garden center will cost $2.00  –  $4.00Things can get expensive if you’re trying to plant a garden to feed a family over the winter at that price.  

2.  Saves Indoor Space Indoor germination requires space.  Once the seedlings germinate they require a warm space with proper lighting.  Many gardeners don’t have space inside their homes for this endeavor.  As a result, they resort to direct sowing in the garden or purchasing expensive plants at the garden center.  Furthermore, you can use your deck, shrubbery beds, backyard tables, backyard benches, your garden, the options are limitless.  I don’t recommend concrete areas unless you have a bedding of straw.  Your plants won’t appreciate a cold bottom from the concrete.

3.  Nature Does The Work Once you place your containers outdoors, you let nature take its course.  The rain, snow, light and moderation of the temperature will help germinate the seed and cause the plant to grow at the right time.  Once spring arrives, you will have to take the top off the plants and give them water, separate or thin them and prepare them for spring/summer planting. How easy is that!

4.  Doesn’t Require A Light System Nature will provide all the light that your plants will need when you use the winter sowing method.  Indoor sowing requires grow lights or some type of fluorescent lighting system.  I have an indoor system and it works great; however, if you have to spend money to set up a system why not go the free route.

5. Doesn’t Require Hardening Off The rigid, mild, and warm temperatures prepare seedlings for movement to the garden.  When you sow seeds indoors you will have to get your plants adjusted to being outside. This requires you to harden off your plants.  Gradually expose your plants to shade, sun and nights before transplanting them in the garden will be necessary.

Once I complete my outdoor sowing, I will be posting a list of seeds you can outdoor sow successfully too.  Start gathering your jugs and containers, you will have plenty of time to start your winter sowing too.  You may also like My Winter Sow Seed List.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7 Uses For Sunflowers

sunflowers

 

First, I love the strength, grace and beauty of sunflowers.  They’re one of my favorite summer flowers and a must in my garden.  I love sunflowers because they stand tall, erect and they’re showy.  They tower above everything else in the garden, and their bright color makes an impact.  Furthermore, there are different varieties to grace your garden and they all grow to various heights.  This particular variety is the Russian Mammoth.  It usually grows to about 10 or 11 feet.  The fence in the background is 6 foot.   It is truly massive.  Can you see a bee enjoying the pollen on this particular sunflower.  Today, I’m going to share a few gardening tips on uses for sunflowers.

It is true that sunflowers make a statement.  But did you know that every part of the sunflower is beneficial? They are actually considered the cash crop.  The seeds, petals, stalk, leaves and roots can be used in various ways.  Here are a few examples:

1.  Seeds – Humans eat the seeds raw, roasted or dried. Therefore, they are a healthy snack and a great source of protein, Vitamins A, B, E and iron.  I love the seeds raw in salads or roasted to snack on.

2.  Commercial Use – Birdseed mixtures often contain sunflower seeds.  Furthermore, I actually leave the majority of my sunflowers in the garden for the cardinals and finches to enjoy.  You will find black oil sunflower seeds in my bird feeders during the winter.

3.  Petals – Additionally, sunflower petals can be dried.   and used along with other natural items for summer or fall potpourris.

Mammoth Sunflowers, sunflower variety, how to grow sunflowers


   4.  Leaves – Another use is the leaves.  Also, sunflowers leaves can grow quite large and tasty.  Sunflowers leaves are often used to feed livestock or seeped to make tea.

5.  Stalks – Noteworthy, the stalks of sunflowers are strong.  I actually use some of my sunflowers stalks as a trellis for my cucumbers.  Consequently, you can cut the sunflowers off at the base and allow the stalks to dry over the winter. Next season you have a great source of poles to use as a trellis for your veggies.  You can also break them in sections, dry them, and use them in fire pits or wood stoves over the winter.

6.  Roots – Next, the roots of a sunflower can grow quite deep and large.  As a result, tten used to make herbal medicine.

7.  Dried Flowers – Sunflowers can be dried and used in floral arrangements.  They are quite pretty in fall arrangements or on wreaths.  Some of the best flowers for dried arrangements are those that are just opening.  So, pick sunflowers before are they fully open.  They will continue to open as they dry.

Finally, you may also like:  How Make Bottle Greenhouses   As a matter of fact, this is how I start my sunflower seeds.

10 Vegetables For Container Gardening

Image-Container-Gardening.jpg

 

Short on space but big on fresh vegetables in the summer. I understand, there’s nothing better than fresh veggies during the hot summer months. My people think that they must use land to create a kitchen garden. That is simply not true. Container garden has become popular. It’s a great way to grow fresh vegetables when you have limited space. I have listed 10 vegetables that I plant in my garden each year, but are also excellent choices for containers.  You containers can be regular flower pots, crates, 5 gallon buckets, or plastic tubs from the dollar store.  Check out my other backyard vegetable gardening posts too.

 

 

1.  Cherry Tomatoes – First, cherry tomatoes are a great choice for hanging baskets on patios or balconies.  Don’t you love the idea of reaching up and grabbing a few tomatoes for a salad or snack. My favorite cherry tomato is the Sweet 100. It’s hard for me to make it out of my garden with devouring my harvest.

 

 

2.  Eggplant – Great for growing in pots. A 4 foot garden stake can be used to support the plant. Black Beauty is an excellent plant for containers. The blooms alone are worth finding a spot in the garden for eggplant.

 

 

3.  Bell Peppers –  Second, green, red, yellow, white or orange peppers can be grown in pots.  Five gallon bucks make excellent pots for container gardening. You will need a 4 foot stake to hold the plant.

 

 

4.  Herbs – Small clay pots are excellent for growing herbs in windows or on a patio.  Basil, oregano, sage, mint or Rosemary can be grown as shown.

 

 

5.  Chili or Jalapeno peppers  – Depending on your pot size, you will need a 2-4 foot stake to support your plant.

 

 

 

6.  Salad Bowl – Next, I have 2 wash tubs that I use.  For example, I grow ButterCrunch, Black Seeded Simpson and Salad Bowl lettuce so that I have a good mix of salad greens. If you use metal containers, place bubble wrap at the bottom to keep the roots of the plants from burning. Lettuce likes cooler weather so if you use metal containers remember they hold heat. Place your container in a shady spot so the lettuce doesn’t bolt.

 

 

7.  Lettuce – If you’re lucky enough to have wine crates, they’ve excellent for growing lettuce and herbs too.

 

 

8.  Tomatoes  Five gallon buckets, rectangle, square or round pots can be used.  Depending on the variety you will need to stake or cage them. A 5 foot stake or cage should suffice, but be sure to stake or cage early. Look for varieties that can be grown easily in containers like Early Girl, Patio Princess or Tiny Tim to name a few.

 

 

9. Cucumbers  – You will need a trellis so they an climb. Nothing fancy, find 2 sticks in your yard and wrap twine around them as shown.

 

 

10. Radishes or Carrots – Last, grow a pot of rainbow carrots with your children or grandchildren. The rainbow carrots are yellow, orange, purple and red.  Great idea to introduce kids to gardening while having fun.

Finally, make sure your containers have adequate drainage.  For example, use a quality, organic potting mix. Don’t limit yourself to the 10 suggestions above.  You can also grow peas, beets, squash, and zucchini in containers too.  Now that you know space is no longer an issue, you can enjoy fresh vegetables too.

Note:  Container garden photos courtesy of my Pinterest.   Additionally, you may also like: How To Grow Bigger Tomatoes or How To Stake and Cage Tomatoes

How To Companion Plant In The Vegetable Garden

Now is the time to start winter sowing flowers for your kitchen garden.  So start planning your seed purchases for outdoor or indoor sowing so you can transplant them in your garden.  I use companion planting in my kitchen garden.  Companion planting is the pairing of flowers and vegetables.  It’s a must in my garden, so I wanted to share my flowers in the garden and how I pair the with vegetables.  You can also check out my other backyard vegetable gardening tips.

Next, I purchase the majority of my flowers from the local garden center off the clearance rack. Flowers don’t have to go into your garden immediately, which will allow you time to find bargains on what you want to plant. Just save a spot in your garden for them and start looking for sales around Memorial Day or the clearance racks around early or mid-June. 

Here’s my list:

  • Marigolds (scented)  – The number 1 flower in my kitchen garden. I plant a combination of scented yellow and orange marigolds with my tomatoes and throughout the garden.
  • Petunias – Great with tomatoes, cabbage, cucumbers and beans.
  • Cosmos – Great for attracting bees, which you need for pollination. I usually find a good deal on Cosmos at my local nursery.
  • Sunflowers – These are a must in my garden. I plant them to feed the Gold Finch, but they are also great for pollination. I use them as a trellis for my cucumbers too. The cucumbers will grow up and wrap themselves around the stalk of the sunflowers.  Direct sow your cucumber seeds at the base of your sunflowers when the soil is warm enough. I winter sow my sunflowers.  You can see my post here, How To Make Bottle Greenhouses
  •  Sweet Pea – These are climbers and are great to plant with pole beans.
  • White Geraniums –  Great with tomatoes, corn, peppers and cabbage.  They keep Japanese Beetles away, so place them randomly in your garden.
  • Basil –  Although Basil is not considered a flower, it can planted with tomatoes.  I actually plant basil with my tomatoes plants as well as in my herb garden each season.  Using basil in my sauces and in my chili is a part of my recipes, so I must have plenty.  I also freeze it in ice trays. So, it’s a must in my garden.  I can never have enough.

Likewise,  I also do companion planting with my vegetables, especially tomatoes.  In addition, planting compatible vegetables help ward off insects that can destroy one or the other plant.  Most importantly, make the most of your space and make use of your plant’s ability to help the other grow. Here’s my list:

  • Tomatoes – Plant with basil, carrots, chives, garlic, cucumbers, lettuce, onions, or peas. Do not plant cabbage, kale, collards, cauliflower, broccoli or turnips with your tomatoes.
  • Peppers – Plant with basil, cucumbers or eggplant. (See the Do not plant list above).
  • Squash – Plant with bush beans or peas.  Do not plant with potatoes.
  • Cabbage – Plant with melons, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, spinach, or tomatoes. Do not plant with sage or peppers.
  • Cucumbers – Plant with peppers or sunflowers. Do not plant with potatoes.
  • Bush Beans – Plant with or near cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, corn, cucumbers, potatoes, or strawberries.  Do not plant with garlic, onions or any vegetables in that family.
  • Garlic – Plant with cabbage or tomatoes.  Do not plant with peas or beans.
Last, you can plant your companion plants together or in the same vicinity.  As a result, consider the pairs when you’re planning your garden layout.  Also, if you have questions about this list or other gardening questions please send an email to The Mailbox using rhonda@mother2motherblog.com.

You may also like: Winter Sowing

Growing Dill In The Home Garden

 

growing dill

One of the herbs that I grow in my garden is dill.  I started a few plants under grow lights this year, but it did not do well.  As a result, I purchased a plant from the nursery to place in the garden. This is what I found when I went into the garden.  Volunteer dill in several places.  I wished I had saved my money purchasing the plant from the nursery.  Lesson learned, check the garden for volunteers before you head to the garden center.  A volunteer onion is in the background.  Dill and onions are great companion plants.  Check out my other gardening tips too.

Wondering how to use dill?  I have several uses:

1.  Dill Pickles
2.  Dip for potato chips and veggies
3.  Garnishes
4.  Sauce for salmon

I’ve made make spicy dill pickles for the past two seasons and used fresh dill from the garden. This year I will be making bread and butter.   I also dry my dill and store it in an airtight container for dip.  Fresh dill can also be used on various fish, not my thing but many people love using it in that manner.

 

growing dill

Last, we hope you like our growing dill tips.  It is an easy herb to grow, and has given me lots of volunteers this season.  It loves my garlic plants.  I have to harvest often, so it doesn’t choke out my onions and garlic.  As a result, I should have more than enough to dry and store for dip and to share with family.  If you love veggie dip, this herb will enhance it immensely.  It’s much more flavorful than store brought dill.  I’ll be sure to post my dip recipe the next time make it, which will be soon.

10 Benefits of Vegetable Gardens

 

benefits of vegetable gardens

 

I love gardening.  It’s a rewarding experience and there’s nothing better than fresh vegetables in the summer and throughout the winter months.  My grandfather had huge gardens when I was growing up. He planted enough vegetables for his kids and their kids. There was a catch, the grandchildren had to help weed the field, I mean garden.  It looked like a field and felt like one when we had to walk it and pull the weeds.  You can also find other vegetable garden and backyard vegetable gardening tips on the blog too.

I remember the garden holding tons of tomato plants, green beans, peas, onions, corn, greens and the list goes on. The garden became a part of my soul. For as long as I can remember, I thought about my own vegetable garden.  I decided to finally put one in several years ago, and I look forward to digging in the dirt each spring.

It’s time for me to decide what I want to grow this season.  I planted garlic in the fall, and I saw green sprouts yesterday.  I was unsuccessful last year, so I’m really excited.  My freezer is full of squash, peppers and, zucchini now, so I was thinking that I wouldn’t plant any. It dawned on me that others aren’t as fortunate, they would love to have fresh veggies this summer and maybe freeze a few for the winter months.  For the veggies that I don’t use or give to family, I can take to a food bank.

vegetable gardens
I have found so many benefits from planting my own vegetables.  Here’s a few:

  1. I save money on my food bill. 
  2. I have delicious vegetable for summer gatherings and snacking. 
  3. I’m able to make my own tomato sauce for pizza and pasta.
  4. I’m able to can and freeze vegetables for use during the winter.
  5. I share my bounty with neighbors, family and friends.
  6. Gardening is a great way to exercise and get fresh air.
  7. Gardening is a great way to relieve stress.
  8. Learning to grow a variety of vegetables is educational.  
  9. Provides an opportunity to bond with my grandchildren.
  10. Growing produce from seed is challenging and rewarding.     
Finally, Urban Gardening has become popular. So, growing fresh vegetables in small places is possible.  A little creativity, and you can have fresh garden vegetables at your door. Fresh vegetables are being grown on decks, patios and balconies. How you ask?  In containers.  Furthermore, the containers can be paint buckets from Lowe’s or Home Depot, planters, or old whiskey barrels. Use your imagination.  Grow lettuce, peppers, tomatoes or herbs.  Herbs can be grown in small flower pots and don’t take up much space.  You can place these in your kitchen window, and they really enhance dishes.  Start small, but start growing your own greens.

 

Homemade Salsa Canning Recipe

gardening, canning, salsa recipes, fresh garden recipes

 

I decided to make a batch of salsa for the winter.  It was delicious.  This recipe can be eaten fresh or canned for later use.  I thought it would be a great dish during the holidays while watching movies or entertaining, and wanted to share my recipe.  Check out my other backyard vegetable gardening tips before you leave.

I used ingredients from my garden to make this batch, but you find the ingredients at your local grocery store or Farmer’s Market.  Farmer’s Markets in warmer climates are usually open during the holiday season and still have fresh produce.  Take advantage of the fresh produce if you’re lucky enough to have a farmer’s market near you.

Here’s what you need:

  • 5  – 6 lbs. tomatoes skinned and chopped  (I used whatever variety I had that was ripe.  I suggest allowing them to drain in a colander after chopping to get rid of some of the water).  Check out your local farmer’s market for fresh home grown tomatoes.  Roma and Amish Paste are great tomatoes to use for salsa.
  • 3 cups chopped onion (I used yellow, red and white from my garden)
  • 1 1/4 cup chopped peppers (You can use a combination of Belle Peppers. I like my salsa spicy so I used a combination of chili, jalapeno, and belle)
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons garlic
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Kosher salt

Combine all ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.  I like mine chunky. If you don’t like yours chunky, cook it longer. Water batch for 15 minutes if your canner. This recipes makes about 8 pints of salsaIt can be served fresh, and it’s just as delicious too.  I couldn’t resist eating the salsa while I was trying to get it into the jars.  So, I only managed 7 pints.

Finally, grow your own tomatoes, peppers and onions next season.  Paint buckets or tubs on your patio, balcony or deck are great ways to grow tomatoes and peppers during the summer.  I will doing a post on how you can start your seed inside to give you a head start on the growing season and planting your tomatoes in a small growing area in March.  I hope you enjoyed my salsa canning recipe, and you will be putting up a few pints for the winter.

You may also like: How to Pickle Peppers and Heirloom Versus Hybrid Tomatoes

 

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.