Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Grow potatoes in a trash bag?!

So a friend was telling me of growing potatoes in a bag of potting soil. I was so perplexed by this that I just had to research it more.

I'm all out of room in my veggie beds but really want some Irish potatoes. So I'm thinking I'm going to try this.

I have another friend that has no means of making a large garden and wants to do container gardening. I decided to include links on growing root vegetables in (that's right) TRASH BAGS!!!!!

Check it out!!!!!

And here for carrots!!!!

While the second site recommends a "growbag" I don't see why you couldn't do the same thing as the potato trash bag. Maybe use contractor bags like these for a more heavy duty, puncture-resistant material.

When I get mine started I'll post updates! Let me know if you decide to follow suit!!

Rain, rain where are you????

Perhaps one of the biggest problems I've had with my plants is watering properly. Some plants require more water than others. But how do you know? Most times your plant will tell you and I hope to share some of the signs with you here.

The first and easiest place to check for moisture needs is your soil. If you have container plants, the surface of your soil should be damp, not soaked. Containers should have some form of drainage, at least one hole in the bottom so that excess water can seep out.

When watering container plants, water at soil level, around the perimeter of the pot. Not at the stem of the plant where the plant enters the soil. You don't want to wash away the soil from this area as you will expose the root system to the elements. Water slowly, allowing the water to soak into the soil. When the water starts to pool on the surface of the soil you have watered enough. If the water seeps out of the bottom, the soil in your container can not absorb any more moisture and additional water will lead to root rot.

When watering larger areas like flower gardens or vegetable gardens it's always best to water the ground instead of using a sprinkler or spray nozzle on a hose. Soaking the soil around the base of the plants instead of spraying the leaves will get moisture to the roots, which is best for strong plants.

Adequate moisture will promote root growth. Focusing water at the leaves and not allowing the water to soak into the ground will keep the roots from growing further into the ground. The roots will remain short, shallow and not produce large plants or fruits. Watering less often but more thoroughly, really drenching the soil will encourage deep root growth and stimulate larger fruit.

Signs of too much water:

1. Yellow leaves
2. Drooping plant
3. Stunted growth
4. Brown spots, mold
5. Wet, sour smelling soil
6. Leaf curl, see pic

Signs of inadequate water:

1. Spotted leaves
2. Dropping leaves
3. Dry, cracked soil
4. Brown, crisp leaves, see pic

If you suspect over or under watering, adjust moisture for a week or so. Plants really are like people and can recover from being "sick."

If you change your watering habits and the plant hasn't rebounded there is likely another cause. In the case of container plants, larger plants will outgrow their pots and need to be moved. Soil can become diseased. Bugs can bring blight and other issues that can't be remedied.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Planting Seeds

I don't pretend to be an authority on gardening. I learn as I go and do lots of research, either by reading or asking my elders for advice.

If you're new to gardening or need some help with seeding, here's a few tips.

Seeds need warmth, moisture, and light. The sprout will find the light. The deeper you plant it, the longer it will take it to break the soil. Different seeds need to be planted at different depths depending on their root needs. Consult your seed packet or the internet/farmer's almanac for specifics.

If you're going to transfer seedlings to the out of doors you'll need to start inside in January. You can buy a seed starter kit but a big bowl or tray, something relatively shallow will work fine.

Fill your container with soil. Hard clay is not ideal. You can buy potting soil or seed starter mix at a garden store. If you're planning on transferring your seedling outside mix some of the soil from your planting destination in with your container soil so your seed won't be shocked by their new home when the time comes.

Once you have your soil in place and your seeds selected, sow your seed. Most seeds only require being sown no more than 1 inch into the soil.

Water your container. Not so much that you wash everything away, but make sure everything is very moist.

If you keep your home cool, or whatever room you're keeping your seed container in, you'll want to cover your container with clear plastic to trap the moisture and generate heat. To encourage this you have to have a light source. If you don't have a sunny window to do this use a lamp placed about 12 inches above your container. This will provide heat. Be sure to turn it off for at least 8 hours a day, mimicking night time.

In about a week your seed will sprout, depending on what type of plants you're growing. Most vegetables and fruits will sprout in 7-14 days as long as they're kept warm and moist and don't have a substantial amount of eart to work through.

That's the easy part. If you're going to transplant them you have to wait until they've grown at least 3 mature leaves per plant, about another 7-14 days. This will insure you have a root system that can withstand the trauma of being moved.

If you're moving them outside there are several things to consider. Plants are like people. They are easily acclimated to being indoors and become "spoiled." They adapt to the humidity, lack of wind, steady temperatures, and moderate light we have in our homes. Before they can survive outside they must be gradually introduced to the more extreme conditions, a process referred to as "hardening off."

To harden off your transplants, make sure your seedlings have at minimum 3 defined, mature leaves. The bigger your seedling the better.

These seedlings would be too small to transplant:

This seedling would be ready to transplant but might need additional protection:

Start by placing the seedlings outside in a fairly shady spot for 2 or 3 hours a day. This will introduce them to the difference in humidity, temperature, and wind. Bring them back inside.

After doing this for about a week, start leaving them in direct sunlight for 4-6 hours a day, remembering to bring them back inside. After another week of this they should be ready to live full-time outside.

Almost every time I lose 1/3 of my transplants. I usually plant twice as many plants as I anticipate surviving. Lots of things happen throughout the growing season. Bugs, draught, flood, unscheduled frost (thought not likely here in TX), etc. But if some of your seedlings don't make it, let them be--I had several that got frost-bitten and came back, much to my surprise.

One of the pepper plants I lost but came back:

If you have space restrictions and have to do container gardening, don't think you can't have an equally AWESOME harvest! Container gardens can often provide a much more manageable gardening experience.

Once your seedlings have matured enough to be transplanted, decide how many containers you have room for and place your seedlings in their new homes. Place 2-3 seedlings per container at first, in case you lose some. If they all survive, keep the strongest plant. You only have so much real estate and can't afford crowded roots!

Now all you have to worry about are watering correctly and bugs which I'll cover next time!

Interesting Reads

I follow the author Anne Rice's Facebook page and she posts some of the most interesting articles, IMO.

The following article deals with inaccuracies in the Bible, specifically authors of certain books lying about their identities. What are your thoughts?

Click here

Saturday, March 26, 2011


I get major mom points this week. Regi learned about coconuts at school and by total coincidence I bought a coconut at the store. So what do we do on our Friday night? Make like Gilligan's Island and play with coconuts!

Let me just say if Gilligan really got hit in the head that many times with these things then no wonder he acted so dopey. That bugger was tough to get into!

That's me holding a screwdriver while Regi hammers into it so we can drain the water out. The idea here is to poke holes into the 3 eyes (looks kinda like a bowling ball).

Now that's the easy part! We have to crack this thing open. I've seen this done on Top Chef. They used hammers and chisels and did it fairly quickly. Or maybe that was good editing. Still I didn't expect this...

After several minutes of both Regi and I hammering into it with the meat mallet I made an executive decision: I threw it on the floor. And guess what...

That's right! Just a crack...but the kids thought it was funny.

So after additional prying with the screwdriver and mallet I finally managed to crack it open.

I flaked a piece off for Regi to taste to complete the coconut education. The verdict:

Then the kids decide they want coconut ice cream of all things. I think, okay what else am I doing?

The coconut meat looks the picture of innocence...all white and pure. Like snow or cotton, something soft and pillow-ish. This is not the case. It's a exercise in determination to get that crap out. You'd HAVE to be starving on a deserted island...

After some googling, and being abandoned for basketball by the kids, I ditched my sharp, pointed fruit knife for a serrated steak knife. I'm not sure either did a great job. But the steak knife was thinner, longer, and able to slide between the shell and the meat. Basically I scored the meat and shaved it out of the shell, kind of like a mango. But much, much more difficult and time consuming.

45 minutes later...

I grated my coconut in a small food processor:

And from one coconut I yielded about 3 cups of shredded coconut:

I found a simple coconut recipe here

As most cooks know you can add flavor to any raw ingredient by heating it first. So, before steeping my coconut in my sugar/milk mixture I wanted to toast it to highlight it's flavor.

I then added it to a mixture of 1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut milk, 1 1/4 cups sugar, and 1 cup milk and brought it to a boil.

Then I strained the liquid from the coconut.

Then I covered the liquid with plastic wrap and placed in the freezer for 2 hours. Once it was cool I let it do it's thing in the ice cream maker:

20 minutes later I have:

In case you can't tell that's coconut ice cream. Like soft serve. And I did add the shredded coconut back into the liquid before I put it in the ice cream maker. It added a lot of texture to the ice cream.

I tasted it and it was magnificent but I wanted something else. So I'd read about making a "magic shell" topping with coconut oil. Why not keep the coconut thing goin'? So...

Two parts chocolate (whatever kind you like) to 1 part coconut oil, heat in a saucepan (NOT the microwave) and pour over your frozen dessert of choice. It hardens just like the stuff you buy in a bottle.

So was it worth it? Absolutely not! lol But my kids did see what otherwise seemed a useless hard thing turn into a very sweet confection. Which in itself is useful. Regi now has life experience to take back to his friends and teachers at school that will directly relate to something he was taught. I feel accomplished as a mother. And the ice cream and chocolate was GOOOOODDDDD!!!!!!!! :)

Friday, March 25, 2011


Since plants take several days to make significant changes I won't bore you to death with gardening every day.

I'm going through my pre-midlife crisis. It sucks.

It's been going on for about a year now. I'm not quite sure what brought it on but I suspect it had something to do with my husband getting a vasectomy and realizing that the child-bearing phase of my life has come and gone with my 30s rapidly approaching.

Everyone's getting older.

My oldest son is about to turn 11 and has been begging for a cell phone for several years now. unknown to him, we are about to cave and add him to our plan. This is yet another milestone in his life that takes him closer to adulthood.

We have been on the fence about enrolling our youngest who is 4 in pre-school next year since he won't make the cut off for kindergarten. I decided to keep him in the part-time program because I "only have one more year left until he's gone to school 5 days a week! *sob*" Then I needed several hugs and kisses before I could calm down from the mini breakdown.

Yet another nail in this coffin called "AGE" is that my parents are aging and quite honestly I don't know how to handle it. Recently my dad had heart surgery. I still don't know how I'm dealing with it. My mom has been having health problems for a while now and while she's not entirely honest with us about everything going on (yes I'm sure you're reading this!) we worry and can only hope and encourage her to take care of herself.

My husband's mom has had a rough bout of health the last couple years. Despite his definite alpha male-ness he's not taken it as well as one would have thought. His surviving grandmother is in her mid-90s. Mortality is something we haven't had to deal with in a very long time.

I want to age gracefully I'm just not ready for it. I don't remember relinquishing my youth.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


I will trust my instincts and wait for rain this weekend, hoping nature's water will suffice my needs. Here is how everything is looking so far:

The above bed contains peppers, tomatoes, onions and garlic, mainly because they all need and return the same materials to the soil.

I have 6 tomatillo plants. I've never planted them before and upon doing a little research discovered that in warm climates they can reach up to 12' tall! And that they reseed vigorously like weeds...they may get moved!! However, they have beautiful yellow flowers that attract lots of bees which aid in pollination which is necessary for a successful harvest. The tomatillo plant has become a staple in many gardens for that fact alone!

Did you know it takes YEARS for an onion to go from seed to approximately 1 lb size? This onion was planted last year and forgotten about. Its leaves this year are HUGE compared to last year. It currently looks like a green squid wriggling from the earth:

My husband works for a beverage plant and I was fortunate to score these liquid containers for free! He converted them into rain harvesting barrels for me. See how hippie-ish I am?

BTW, the very rudimentary chicken wire fencing around my garden beds was my first attempt at fence building. I don't think I did that bad of a job!

This bed (that looks empty) is just corn. It's between 1 and 4 inches tall right now. As I mentioned in my last post I haven't had luck with corn in the past. Pollination is a concern for producing kernels. For each silk on an ear you will yield one kernel of corn. The only way to produce said kernel is to transfer pollen from the tassel atop the stalk to the silks. Wind normally takes care of this easily in large fields, but in a smaller bed like mine I will have to make sure this gets done by shaking the stalks myself once pollen is visible. I've got some time to prepare myself!

A note on fertilizer: you can use manure from any animal as long as it doesn't eat animal products. That would exclude most domestic animals like dogs and cats. Any animals that consumes a plant based diet will provide excellent fertilizer.

And those flowers I mentioned? Here's how they're looking after 2 weeks of nail-biting:

Again, they don't look like much now but FINGERS CROSSED!!!!

Here goes!!

Well I can't sleep and have been thinking about doing this for a while so figured I may as well do it now.

Most people that know me know that my first love was music. What they may not know is that I'm all about some politics. And science. And gardening. And crafts. Heck, I have a lot of interests. Figured I'd share 'em.

I'm perfecting my gardening skills. I believe it's an underrated skill in our modern society. As the older generations pass on, there are fewer left to carry on the knowledge of working the land. Of course this carries into many other areas of our heritage. That's why you get your parents and grandparents, any surviving family members to write down or record in some fashion every memory or piece of advice they can. While they're still sane of course.

Growing up our "farm" was really a very large garden, several acres worth of vegetables and fruits. My dad was responsible for planting and watering and telling us (my mom and sisters and I) when to pick said veggies and fruits. So as an adult trying to raise my own crops, I've made lots of phone calls to Daddy asking questions of how he did certain things trying to discern where I'm falling short.

Like last year. My corn ears had nary a kernel on them. I was saddened and defeated. I wanted nothing to do with corn this year but alas, I have one entire bed full of it and thus far it is coming along nicely.

This year's garden: corn, cucumber, yellow squash, zucchini, bell pepper, banana pepper, chili pepper, serrano pepper, tomatoes, tomatillos, watermelon, onions, and garlic. I'm like a parent to that garden. It's a week old and every morning and evening I go out and see what new seeds have sprouted or if the sprouts are a little taller. I think I need a life!

I also have flowers I planted 2 weeks ago. This is Texas and most landscaping here consists of evergreens, thorns, and draught tolerant things. Planting 40 flowering plants may prove too optimistic a task. But it's early Spring and I'm ready for it for now at least.

Anybody gardening this year or have a good farming story? Curious about gardening or composting? I plan on building a composter soon.