When to Pick Tomatoes

It’s the end of Summer already. The tomato plants are trying hard to hold the weight of the precious fruit.

Tomatoes are not easy to grow. It’s better to start them indoors, then transplant. They need a support system and to be watched closely for caterpillars and other pests. If you go ahead and do all that, it’s important to know when to pick the tomatoes. With all due respect to the caterpillars, worms, and other pests, they shouldn’t be enjoying your hard work. You should.

 

when-to-pick-tomatoes-4Like bananas, apples, and apricot, tomatoes are climacteric fruit. This means that they continue ripening after picking. Some say that the tomato tastes better if you leave it on the vine until it is bright red and soft. I prefer my tomatoes firm, and I don’t find them less juicy or sweet if the final stage of ripening is done on my counter or in my refrigerator.

When to Pick Tomatoes…

when-to-pick-tomatoes-6Therefore, I prefer to pick them when they are still somewhere between orange and red, but not bright red yet. Those tomatoes in the photo above are ready for picking in my book.

 

when-to-pick-tomatoes-9This one is not ready yet. I will give it a couple more days.

 

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The Cheapest Way to Pave a Driveway

Forget everything you know about driveways.

Asphalt, concrete, crusher run gravel, rail road ballast, paving stones… If you have a long driveway, or if you need a system of driveways on a farm, and you are planning to go with those common methods of paving a driveway, you are going to need a separate mortgage just for the driveway (or driveways). Believe me, I’ve been there. But no worries, I have a better idea for you. With a little bit of resourcefulness and work, you can cut your driveway expense significantly.

 

cheapest-way-to-pave-driveway-10My affair with driveways started after we bought our 20 acres of farmland, last August. There was no access to the land, so for a while we used the nieghbor’s driveway every time we came to visit. This could not last of course, so I started researching how to build a driveway.

I was very ambitious, I wanted to be able to park our RV at the end of the field, so we won’t be too close to the road. I thought “come on, how much can a 400 ft driveway cost? Surely not too much, it’s just stone…”

Well, try thousands!

Asphalt, concrete and paving stone were out of the question, we couldn’t afford any of them. And who needs a concrete driveway on a farm anyway? So we were left with rail road ballast and crusher run gravel and the widely known way of building a driveway. But wait, even then we couldn’t afford a 400 ft driveway, every truck load of stone cost $350-$400, and each truck load only covers about 50 ft. You need a layer or two of rail road ballast (the professionals told me), depending on how packed your ground is, and on top of that a layer or, more likely, two, of gravel. This adds up, and don’t forget the price of a hired tractor man and his machine, cause you are not going to rake it around, ain’t nobody got time for that! (this lady is hilarious, have a laugh…)

 

driveway4*Please forgive me for the quality of the next few pictures, it’s a long story, but some pictures are better than no pictures (maybe…)*

So anyway, we compromised on a 50 ft driveway (as if we had any other choice, pahh!), and I convinced myself that maybe it’s not that bad to park this close to the road.

A 15 inch concrete pipe had to be installed in the ditch. It cost $322.60 delivered, I was happy to find out that the local DOT people would install it for free if I didn’t mind waiting a few days. I didn’t.

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5 Easiest Cold-Weather Crops to Grow in Your Spring or Fall Garden

Pssst… Come closer. I have a secret to tell you… I don’t like gardening in the Summer.

Here, I said it. Here is the South, Summers are wet as the ocean, humid as a sauna, hot like a furnace, and don’t even start me on the bugs… Especially the mosquitos!

I still garden in the Summer, of course, but I much prefer the Fall garden or the early Spring garden. There are much fewer bugs, I don’t need to water almost at all, it is nice and cool so working outside is easier, and it’s not as wet and humid as in the Summer. Thankfully, there are a ton of cold-weather crops to grow in the Spring and Fall garden.

 

Lettuce copy006So, every year, after I clean my raised garden beds from the Summer garden or the Winter garden, I plant a bunch of cold-weather crops. Some of them are not easy to grow, for example, cabbage or broccoli. Others are as simple as can be.

When I say “easy crops to grow” I mean…

1. Easy to plant (can be direct seeded).

2. Can be started early (as soon as the soil can be worked).

3. No special soil requirements.

4. No pests (or almost no pests problems).

5. Useful in the kitchen and easy to handle.

6.  Fast growing (less than 60 days).

Before I start down the list, let me remind you that I am gardening in the South, zone 7b. I believe those 5 crops will grow well and easy everywhere, but you might need to adjust planting times and care according to your climate.


5 Easiest Cold Weather Crops to Grow in Your Spring or Fall Garden

lettuce copy004Lettuce: who doesn’t like lettuce? The crisp, juicy, sweet leaves are the perfect base of every good salad and a must ingredient in most sandwiches.

lettuce seeds can be direct seeded as early as the soil can be worked (soil temperature around 40F) in the Spring, or when temperatures cool down a bit at the end of Summer. Sow 8-10 inches apart. Since those seeds are tiny and it might be hard to space them correctly, consider making seed tapes ahead of time or use tweezers, this way you won’t have to thin later. Lettuce grows best at 60-65F and will be ready for harvest around 56 days. I sow them in the middle of March and  harvest at the end of April, right when summer crops need to be sown (I harvest a bit early since I have a small garden, and I need the real estate for Summer crops). I never had problems with pests when it comes to lettuce and as long as you have decent soil you’ll get great lettuce, of course, compost makes everything better so don’t hesitate to mix it in your soil before planting or add it around the plants later.

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Using Tweezers in the Garden

This past week, I started cleaning parts of my Summer garden. I removed the hay mulch, loosened the soil a little, and added homemade compost. Then, I was ready to plant my Fall/Winter garden.

 

using-tweezers-in-the-garden-3There are many kinds of cool weather crops that I can plant this time of the year, but, since my garden is pretty small, I choose to concentrate on the ones we use the most. Those are carrots, lettuce, beets, green onion, potatoes, chard and kale. The plan is to plant as many of those as I can right now, then mulch and cover them two weeks or so before the first frost (with the exception of the potatoes which I will harvest around the end of November, hopefully). The ground become a refrigerator for the roots, the plastic cover keeps the leaves from freezing, and we have vegetables from the garden all winter long.

This week I was planting  tiny seeds of carrots and lettuces and thought I will share with you how I used tweezers to do that. This technique is not going to work for everyone, like everything in life (except of Nutella, of course…), but it might work for you.

 

using-teewsers-in-the-gardenI know that the first thought that comes to mind is to use the tweezers to catch the tiny seeds, but this is not the only reason I use them. They also help me make sure I am sowing the seeds in the correct depth which is especially important when planting root crops.

I use a Sharpie to make a mark at one inch, which is how deep I wanted to plant my carrots…

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Moving a Garden Shed the Redneck Way

Sometimes I think we need to seek mental help. I mean… What husband and wife attempt to move a 2000 lb garden shed while their three little kids are running around on a Sunday morning? Can’t we just take a day off for crying out load!?

Did I just say a day off? God forbid!

My husband found this truck box for free. Free is as cheap as a storage shed can get, so we had to have it. We will use it like a garden shed, for outdoor storage of tools and such.

 

how-to-move-a-shed-11It was once sitting on a truck, but now stuck in the corner of the yard of an abandoned house.

 

how-to-move-a-shed-08After we had got the OK to pick it up from the new owner of the house, we pulled into the neighborhood with our heavy duty trailer.

 

how-to-move-a-shed-13After a bit of maneuvering, we backed the trailer up to the box.

 

how-to-move-a-shed-15Next, we used a high lift to raise one side of the box…

Just to clarify, by “we” I mean my husband. I was too busy yelling stuff like “oh my God, it is going to fall on the fence!” Or “it is going to kill us all!” While trying not to have a heart attack.

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Healthy Green Beans Recipe

Here is my favorite quick, easy and healthy green beans recipe. Those green beans are made with butter and garlic and are a great easy and healthy side dish.

 

healthy-green-beans-recipe-18My pole beans are doing great this season. So far I harvested  6lb of beans from five plants. They climb all over the railing of the front steps of the house so dinner is, literally, right out the door. Ha! My kids sit on the front steps and eat them fresh from the vine. I am lucky I actually got to cook some.

 

healthy-green-beans-recipe-01Here I have just a little under 2lb of beans. I think every recipe is better if you use fresh ingredients, but I make this same recipe with frozen beans I buy at the store during the Winter months.

 

healthy-green-beans-recipe-03Trim both ends of all the beans…

 

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What is Flax Seed, and How to Use it

What is flax seed? Where is it coming from? What are the benefits of flax seed? What is flax seed oil and what is flax seed meal? Where to buy flax seed? How to use flax seed?

In this post, I would like to answer those questions, show you how I use it, and direct you to some other great resources, so you know everything you need to know about how to incorporate this healthy, wonder food in your diet.

 

what-is-flax-seed-10The flax plant is a part of the Linaceae family and is a fiber. The plant is a low growing shrub, with beautiful purple or yellow flowers. The flax plant is cultivated for its fiber, which is used to make linen fabric (yes, you sleep on flax every night), and for its seed that is sometimes referred to as linseed.

 

what-is-flax-seed-13The golden flax seeds are harvested from the yellow flowering plant, and the dark brown seeds are harvested from the purple flowering plant. The nutritive value of both kinds is very similar. Oil can be extracted from the seed; however, it can also be used whole or milled and used as flax seed meal.

What are the Benefits of Flaxseed?

1. Beautifies the skin – regular consumption of flaxseed beautifies the skin from within. The oil in the flax seed makes the skin smooth, velvety, and radiant, saving you the need to use expensive external creams.

2. Flax seed is an excellent source of essential fatty acids – linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acids are both essential for human health. Flax seed also contains a protein that has all the amino acids essential for adult’s health, and an extra one called histidine, which is essential for infants.

3. A great source of fiber, minerals and vitamins.

4. Flax seed is the best natural laxative – it can correct digestive disturbances. It protects and smooths the stomach and intestinal lining. It prevents irritation and keeps the contents in our stomach moving along smoothly.

5. Flax seed is one of the best sources of omega 3 and omega 6 – those two fatty acids are very important for human health. Our body can convert omega 3 and 6 into essential substances needed in the membranes surrounding our cells and organelles within them. Our body can also convert omega 3 and 6 into substances needed for balancing our metabolism. In addition, omega 3 and 6 fats provide the fluidity needed for proper transmission and reception of impulses between brain cells, helping to improve brain functionality.

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Name the Seedling, a $25 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway!

present-copy

This giveaway is now close.

The winner of the giveaway is comment 21. Congratulations Linda! I hope you’ll enjoy your gift. winner

 

 

 

 

Lets turn up the heat, shall we?

This week, I am giving you the opportunity to win a $25 gift card to Amazon, that is, if you can name the following seedlings correctly.

Here is how we are going to do this…

I will post three pictures of three different seedlings. Then, I will give you three plant names. Comment on this post, and in your comment tell me which seedling is which plant. Easy!

This giveaway will stay open until Saturday at 10pm. Enter only once please, by commenting only once. Also, make sure you start a new comment and not replying to somebody else’s comment. Each comment has its number. I will use random.org to choose the winning number. If the answer in this comment is incorrect, I will go back to random.org to generate another number until I find a correct answer. The first correct answer wins a $25 Amazon gift card. I will post the winning comment number here on Sunday and email you the gift card, so please make sure you use an email address that you regularly check.

I would love to do one of those giveaways every month, or every couple of months so please like my Facebook page, so you know when the next one is.

Or subscribe to get my posts via email here:

One last thing, those seedlings germinated from seeds I bought from Johnny’s selected seeds. If you need seeds for your Fall garden, or if you are looking for a company with a wide verity of seeds and tools for a farm or a home garden, check them out.

Ok, lets start. Here are your three photos…

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7 Crops You Can Plant in the Middle of the Season

Do you know this bare patch of soil forming in your garden right about this time of the season? The one which, most likely, held onions, garlic or zucchini? The one you were hovering over, thinking, what can I plant here in the middle of the Summer…..
Today I wanted to share with you seven crops you can plant in the middle of the season.

 

vegetable-basket1Before I run down my list, let me share with you how I built it. Since each one of us is gardening in a different zone (I am in 7b), and our weather is different, you might need to change things around a bit.

First, calculate approximately how many days you have until the end of the season. There are 31 days in August and 30 days in September, for a total of 61 days. I will add 15 more days since usually it is still warm here at the beginning of October. So I still have a total of approximately 76 hot/warm days until Fall arrives, which means that I am looking for crops which can germinate in warm soil, can tolerate heat, and reach maturity in less than 76 days.

7 Crops You Can Plant in The Middle of the Season

(Note that many of those crops mature in less than 76 days, so even if you live in colder areas, read on. Also, I will link to the verities I am using from Johnny’s Selected Seeds, but I am sure you can find those in other places)

 

plant-in-middle-of-season5Bush or Pole Beans – Those beans can germinate in cool soil but germinate better if the soil temperature is between 70 to 90F. You can keep planting those beans until mid-Summer. Bush beans reach maturity around 50 days while pole beans reach maturity around 60 days.

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Harvesting And Storing Yellow Onion

This is the first year I am growing yellow onion in my garden. Last week was time to harvest and store my yellow onion.

 

harvesting-and-storing-onions-01In Spring of 2013, I planted onion seeds in my garden. They didn’t grow so well, and at the end of the season I harvested little, baby onions. Basically, I had onion sets in my hands. I could have added them to a stew of some sort and used them as shallots but instead I decided to save them for this year’s Spring. At the beginning of April, I planted my sets, and last week harvested a bunch of beautiful onions.

I do very much want to figure out how to grow onions from seeds, since the seeds are much cheaper than sets, so I researched some more and discovered that some growers plant onion seeds in September (to remind you, I am in NC, zone 7b). The seeds germinate and grow few leaves, then stop growing in the Winter but don’t die. In the Spring when the temperatures start to warm up the onions start growing again. I think I’ll try this in the Fall. When do you plant your onions? From seeds or sets?

 

harvesting-and-storing-onions-02Last week was time to harvest the onions. It is very easy to figure out when to harvest onions….

 

harvesting-and-storing-onions-03As you can see, the tops fall to the ground….

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