Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

February Yardwork: Trimming bushes and trees

Saturday, February 12th, 2011

According to Gardening in the Carolinas, it is time to whack back our shrubberies and trees.  It was a blustery day with temps in the 50s.  The entire family bundled up and went outside for some sun and a lot of fresh air.

The hubby did most the whacking and I got sidetracked playing with the kiddos.

OMG! He is adorable!  I’m sure the hubby could have used a hand cutting off a 30 foot limb while standing on a ladder using a bow saw, but look at those eyes!  Who could walk away from this?

And if her brother wasn’t cute enough, Evelyn kept cooing at me.  She didn’t like the wind too much, but loved staring at the bushes and trees.

We put Oliver to work hauling branches.  This lasted all of 10 minutes until he figured out it wasn’t a game after all!

Here’s the hubby struggling with that limb.  Needless to say, the day ended with him going to buy a chainsaw.  There are times to be frugal and save the money, but then there are times to be safe and do the job right.

Oliver can’t wait to see how everything looks after we finish with the trimming tomorrow.

Have you started working outside in preparation for spring?  Depending on your climate and what zone you live in, you might need to get outside right now to trim back your bushes and trees before they start to bud.  Check out a local gardening book from the library or search the internet to find out what should be trimmed and when.  For us, our legustrum bushes, holly, and trees need to go now.  Our azaleas have to wait until AFTER they bloom in the spring since the flowers grow on last years branches.

More on this landscaping project to come…

Project 52: Glimpse Into Motherhood

Gardening: Harvesting and Storing Basil/Herbs

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

I let the herbs in my garden grow wild for the past month and just hauled in a huge harvest today.  In Thai basil alone, I have made back the cost of starting this year’s garden.  Today’s harvest netted me 18 servings of basil.  Including what I have already picked this year, I probably have 30 servings.  Paying anywhere from $2.50 – $5 a pop in a store, my basil is worth anywhere from $75 – $150.  This is all from one single basil plant and there are a couple more harvests to go before the frost kills the plant.  I’ve also been harvesting and drying rosemary, oregano, and sage to refill my spice bottles.  In fact, I have enough to fill 5 – 10 spice bottles of each!

To store my herbs for future use I either dry them or freeze them.  To dry them I simply wash the cuttings, cluster them in small bouquets, tie the stems together with twine and hang upside down until nice and crispy.  I then strip off the dried leaves and package how I want (whole, crushed, powdered, etc…) .

Some herbs I like to use for stir frying and don’t want them all dried out.  The following technique is how I store fresh leaves for future use, yet maintain the color and integrity of the leaf.

1) Harvest your herbs. 

2) Wash herbs in cool water the same day to prevent wilting and browning.

3) Strip the leaves off the stalk.  I like to pinch the ends of my basil off and keep those intact.  I then strip the rest of the leaves from the stalk.

4) Package the herbs in ziploc bags in single serving sizes.  Single serving meaning enough to make your entire meal from.

5) Add some water to each bag.  The goal is not to fill the bag with water, but to ensure the leaves will be enclosed with water when you seal the bag.  The water will freeze, thus preserving your leaf.  Leaves not exposed to water will turn brown/black and be gross when you thaw them out to use.

6) Flatten the bag, press the air out, and seal.  It is hard to tell in this photo, but there is only water in the bag – no air.  Stack your baggies and freeze them.  When you are ready to use, just thaw the bag out, drain the water and you have the second best thing to fresh herbs to cook with.

What are your tips and techniques for storing herbs and spices?

Frugal Tip of the Day:  If you have a favorite herb that you continually buy, it IS worth it to grow your own.  Herbs are easy to grow and are great container plants.  All my basil came from one single plant, the same for my rosemary and oregano.  You will save quite a bit of money by preserving your own herbs, rather than buying those little spice bottles at 5 bucks a pop.

Weeding the Garden: Day 3

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

Woo Hoo! It was only 80 something today! My LO (little one) and I spent the morning outside pulling the last of the weeds, mulching and planting my seedlings. He was a “big help” pulling weeds from the garden. He watched me doing it and then spontaneously started pulling weeds too. After 30 seconds of that he started putting them back into the garden, so I turned on the water and let him splash around.

I transplanted 6 seedlings – 4 Thai peppers and 2 Thai green eggplants to the garden.  I just have enough room and am kind of glad now that the other 54 seedlings died.  (Long story) 

On the plus side, my first batch of eggplants are ready to be picked.  I like them nice and young so they are tender and juicy (that could be taken sooo out of context).  My mom taught me how to make a stir fry with a little bit of fatback, sliced eggplants, and sweet Thai basil.  Yum… 

After helping mommy all morning, my LO was covered from head to toe in dirt.  I keep him dressed in very thin long sleeve jammies and socks to help protect him from both the sun and the mosquitos.  It has also been easy to clean him up afterwards – just strip him down to his skivvies on the deck and into the house he goes.

After a hard morning of child labor, I decided to take him to the kid’s museum as a reward.  He loves driving that little red car. 

Some red-heads jumped into his ride and he charged them $10 for taxi fare.  That’s my little capitalist!

Weeding the Garden: Day 2

Sunday, June 20th, 2010

Helping Mommy Water the Garden

Day 2 of our mission to clean up the garden was cut short by scorching sun and hot temps.  The best we could do was to water the garden and drag the mulch out of the shed.  Of course working at 12:30 PM probably didn’t help, but we had to make daddy a nice father’s day breakfast/brunch and celebrate a little. 

My son LOVES, LOVES, LOVES to play with water.  I gave him the hose and let him have at it.  We got some water on the plants and most of the water on him, but at least it kept him cool!

He loves splashing in the water

I filled a large dishpan with water so that he could splash in it.  He was thrilled!  Mini-science lesson: What happens when you throw stuff in the water?  Does it float or sink?  We tossed everything in there from pine cones, grass, rocks, and sticks to my flip-flops.  I think I spent more time playing in the water with the baby than actual gardening.  That’s okay – it was HOT outside and we were losing all our shade.

Soaking Wet Baby

After about an hour, the little one had enough.  He was soaked to his bones and his diaper probably weighed 10 pounds from all the water.  He literally stood up without any prompting, made a bee-line to the house, climbed the porch steps, sloshed across the deck, and started banging on the glass door.  Smart kid!

Luckily we were able to water the garden fairly deeply and my hubby dragged the mulch out of our spider infested shed for me.  We will have to tackle the rest of the work another morning…

Pregnant Gardening

Sunday, June 20th, 2010

Planting a garden in my first trimester looks like this.

So this is what happens when you plant a garden in your first trimester!  I can barely tell my plants from the weeds or the lawn for that matter.  Many moons ago I planted jalapenos, purple egplants, a tomato plant, and a smattering of herbs.  I left room for my seedlings (Thai pepper, basils, eggplants, and cilantro).   I promplty went into hibernation for 2 months and voila!  I have an overgrown garden.  If it wasn’t for the continual rain we’ve been getting, my poor plants would have shriveled up.

Armed with mosquito coils, bug spray, sunblock, and a hoe, I tackled weeding my garden today.  It turns out that this will be a 2 day job!  My darling son came out to help me and bless his heart, he ended up covered in dirt from head to toe.  I wish I had a pic of the after, but my camera battery died.

My son helping me in the garden.

I think he dug out more dirt from the garden than weeds! 

I had been putting the weeds into the pot as I pulled them and when I turned around, he had been pulling all the weeds out of the pot and throwing them back into the garden!  It was too funny.

After several hours, we finally made some progress.  We had to call it a day as the temps climbed into the 90s.  We will go out tomorrow morning and finish up our project.

All the empty space in the front of my garden is for my seedlings.  The rest seems to have survived!

I have tomatoes!!!  So far for the amount of work that I have put into the garden the payout is incredible.  I should have a dozen or so fresh tomatoes in a few weeks and I’ve already been harvesting my herbs for cooking.  It’s getting to the point where I can start drying the excess for the winter months. 

Tomorrow: Pull rest of weeds, clean up mess we made today, mulch, and plant seedlings.

Broke Ground for a Garden

Saturday, April 3rd, 2010

My husband made short work of turning over my garden plot! 

We decided not to grow tomatoes this year.  Without adequate space, the tomatoes were too buggy and I didn’t want to turn half my yard into a garden.  We had 4 or 5 old landscape timbers left over from 2007 and decided to use those to frame the garden.  That made the size decision easy – 8′ x 8′.  That should be plenty of space to grow all my herbs and peppers.

Oliver supervised while munching on a cracker.

The soil looked good and was nice and soft.  The last time I had planted here was 2008.  Can you believe that this same soil used to be red clay???  To get it looking like this took 3 truckloads of compost spread out over 5 years.

Oliver liked being outside with us.  He had his afternoon snack of 1/2 a graham cracker and cup of water.  He will go to the edge of the blanket, but won’t touch the grass yet.  He has tried to eat what he can reach (a leaf, some bark, and a pinecone).  It’s only a matter of time before he’s chasing after bugs too.

We are going to Lowe’s tomorrow to buy a couple of bags of compost to work into the soil.  I’ll be pulling the root clumps out as well and laying down my pathway. 

We also have to figure out how we are going to irrigate.  I’ve done soaker hose before, but that really works best in long rows.  I might try drip irrigation since I will be planting in a grid.  Next week I’ll sow some seeds!

Gardening – Money Saver or Not

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

My husband doesn’t know it yet, but he will be turning over the ground for my garden tomorrow morning.  I haven’t had a garden since 2008 and cannot wait to get the seeds in the ground. 

Here are the crops that we plant regularly:

Cool season:  Sugar snap peas, radishes, lettuce, and arugula.

Hot season:  Tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, yellow squash, zucchini, bell peppers, cilantro, Thai eggplant, purple eggplant, spicy basil, lemongrass, Thai basil, rosemary, oregano, thyme, cucumbers, watermelons, cantaloupe, Thai peppers, okra, and mint.

We save money buy planting items that we consume a lot of, such as sugar snap peas, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, and zucchini.  We also save money by planting items that cost a pretty penny in the grocery store, such as arugula, bell peppers, Thai eggplant, purple eggplant, lemongrass, Thai peppers, and the fancy leaf lettuces.  Lastly, we save money by growing fresh herbs that we use fresh at our leisure, or dry to fill up our spice rack.  The rest we plant just for fun, such as the watermelons and cantaloupes.

For me, planting the herbs and Thai spices are the most important.  These single things seem to cost the most at the grocery store for a tiny portion.  These items tend to rot in the refrigerator “crisper”, because we don’t use an entire package at one fell swoop.  If you haven’t noticed, cilantro has a shelf life of about 1.5 days!

Have you ever had a garden?  If not, here are some things to think about before you ever pick up a shovel or buy your first seed.

1) Do you have sunshine?

* Fruiting Vegetables need 6 hours – 8 hours of sun.  This includes tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and vine crops such as cucumbers, melons, and squash.  This also includes many herbs, such as basil.

* Root Vegetables need 4-6 hours of sun.  This includes carrots, beets, etc.

* Leafy Vegetables need 4 hours of sun.  These are your “greens” such as lettuce, spinach and collards.

2) Do you have land?  Or do you have the space for a container garden?

I have had garden plots from small (3’x5′), medium (6’x10′), and large (17’x25′).  I have also had successful container gardens, especially when growing tomatoes, herbs, and peppers.

3) Do you like getting dirty?

Digging around in the dirt and compost isn’t high on some people’s likes list.  Neither is getting sweaty, getting mosquito bites, and dealing with grubs, insects, and other pests.

4) Do you have the time?

Once you put in the initial work, you will need to do maintenance on a weekly basis at the bare minimum.  Ideally, you will be in the garden every few days pulling weeds, inspecting for disease, drought, bug damage, etc…  You will be tending the plants, pinching suckers off, tying up branches on sticks/stakes, mulching, and fertilizing.  Don’t forget the harvesting!  If you are growing herbs, you will need to pinch the plants back frequently so they don’t bolt.  If you have fruits and veggies, you cannot let them rot on the plant or go to “seed”.

5) Do you have easy access to water?

Several years ago we had a severe drought and I used rain barrels to water my garden.  I had to use a sprinkler can and go back and forth from the rain barrel to the garden.  Half of my garden died.  I’ve also used sprinklers where the spigot was on the opposite side of the house from where the garden was.  Half of that garden died too due to not remembering on a regular basis to turn on the water (out of sight, out of mind) and too many issues working out the kinks in a 150ft hose.

I see articles all over the web that say: Money saving tip – Plant your own garden!  Gardening tools, supplies, compost, fertilizers, mulch, seeds, plants, water, etc…  all generally cost money.  Your time is also money.  The time spent gardening is time you could be doing something else that you will have to give up to garden.

If you can say yes to these 5 questions, then jump in and have fun!  If you say no to these questions then you may want to second think your garden idea.  I’m not saying that it couldn’t or wouldn’t work, but you might not get a good return on your investment of time, energy, and money.  At that point, gardening is no longer frugal.  It is more cost effective to buy your veggies at the farmer’s market or grocery store.

Frugal tip of the day:  If you are overwhelmed by the idea of gardening, start small and plant high dollar items, such as herbs and unique veggies.  An herb garden can be as small as a 2’x3′ plot or a few nicely sized containers.  You’ll make your initial investment back quickly by never having to pay $2.25 for 3 sprigs of basil again!

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