Favorite beautiful herb Holy Basil (1 of 1)

The vegetable garden is completely out of control

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A very messy late garden, but better after Bill weedeated the grass in rows.

A very messy late garden, but better after Bill weedeated the grass in rows.

While I was away so much this summer, the vegetable garden got completely out of control. The grass overwhelmed everything, but my husband, Bill, used the string trimmer to bring back the big garden. Believe it or not, warts and all, it’s much better now. Because I have a lot of work to do, writing-wise, for the next couple of weeks, I fear the harvest of late peppers and tomatoes will be the last one for this summer.

There’s a lesson in this. Don’t plant a big veggie garden when you’re going to be out of town a lot promoting a book.

Cleanup of the potager.

Cleanup of the potager.

Another lesson. There’s always next year, and I can still plant for fall. Beautiful, lovely fall with moderated temperatures. I’ve already started lettuce and spinach seeds indoors. I transplanted them along with sowing chard and kale seeds yesterday when the weather cooled. I’m also planting beets and turnips from seed. If home sooner, I would’ve planted more bush beans to be ready just as fall comes upon us.

I placed shredded leaves, about one, five-gallon bucket per raised bed, in the kitchen garden.

I placed shredded leaves, enough to fill about one, five-gallon bucket per raised bed, in the kitchen garden.

As for the potager, I completely rehabbed it. I pulled out everything that was overgrown and topped it off with shredded leaves. Anything I don’t plant for winter will be covered in chicken manure in a couple of weeks too. Then, over the cold months, the earthworms will work the leaves and manure down into the soil, and all will be ready at the end of February when the cycle begins all over again.

Another view of the rehabbed kitchen garden.

Another view of the rehabbed kitchen garden.

How is your garden doing? Mine is a beautiful mess. And, it’s okay. Oh, one more thing, purple holy basil is the most beautiful herb I grew this summer. You should try it next year. Collect seeds as they mature or  buy some online and then sow in place next spring. Here’s a shot of holy basil close up. Gorgeous stuff, isn’t it?

Beautiful shot of purple holy basil from this year.

Beautiful shot of purple holy basil from this year.


News about The 20-30 Something Garden Guide

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Our friend, Jennifer, who is twenty-one and just starting to garden.

Our friend, Jennifer, who is twenty-one and just starting to garden.

One of the best parts of an author’s job is spreading the news about one’s book. Not for sales so much, but because you get to meet so many people who are as enthusiastic about your subject as you are. I talked to reporters all over the country about Millennials and what drives them to be the fastest growing group of garden buyers in the county. Before I wrote The 20-30 Something Garden Guide: A No-Fuss, Down and Dirty, Gardening 101 for Anyone Who Wants to Grow Stuff, I did a lot of research on this exciting and energetic group of gardeners. What I found was that they were very engaged with the environment, and like so many of us, they want to grow their own food even if it’s in pots on their balconies and patios.

You don’t have to grow everything you eat after all–unless you want to of course.

I was fortunate to talk about 20-30 Somethings and their love of gardening with George Weigel of PennLive through The Patriot News. 

I thought you might enjoy it so I’ll share it here. I may share some of the other online stories from the rest of the year too. Thanks for reading.


The great tomato palooza

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Tomatoes, garlic, eggplant, corn and a few potatoes are all stacked on the kitchen counter.

Tomatoes, garlic, eggplant, corn and a few potatoes are all stacked on the kitchen counter in one great tomato palooza.

Tomatoes, tomatoes everywhere! It’s more than an abundant harvest at this Oklahoma red dirt ranch. It’s a tomato palooza, all because the head gardener and planner made a rookie mistake even though she’s gardened for 30+ years. You would think that someone who wrote The 20-30 Something Garden Guide: A No-Fuss, Down and Dirty, Gardening 101 for Anyone Who Wants to Grow Stuff wouldn’t have fallen for the oldest trick in the world, but she did. I confess. I overplanted, and here’s how it happened. I always start seeds for tomatoes, peppers and eggplant along with flowers I can’t find locally in the spring . I also buy two or three tomato plants from my local nursery, like ‘Rutgers’, ‘Big Beef’ and ‘Supersteak’, proven varieties that perform especially well in Oklahoma. So, I usually plant about twenty tomato plants in total, some are determinate and others indeterminate. That way, I get a good crop of tomatoes all at once which makes my mother happy, and I also get a steady harvest from the indeterminates over the entire season.

'Black Krim' tomato sliced and ready to eat.

‘Black Krim’ tomato sliced and ready to eat.

However, this year, I got sucked into the happy neurosis of seed starting by names like ‘Pink Furry Boar’, ‘Black Krim’ and ‘Sherry’s Sweetheart.’ When all these young plants I’d nurtured from their first days grew into larger seedlings, I managed to whittle things down to three plants apiece. You can only imagine how hard it is to cull seedlings, one-by-one, but I did it. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough. Here are the varieties I grew this year excluding the three or four plants I bought at my local nursery. I’ll give you my quick reviews next to each variety. First, the cherry tomatoes:

  1. ‘Black Cherry’–Absolutely delicious. Makes larger fruit than some of the other cherry varieties and a little less yield, but cherry tomatoes always produce too much anyway.
  2. ‘Sungold F-1′–Still one of the best yellow tomatoes ever produced. Delicious sweet flavor. Beautiful color.
  3. ‘Sweet 100 F-1′–Classic tomato flavor. Red fruit. Huge yield.
  4. ‘Sweet Gold F-1′–More orange than golden once ripe. Larger fruit than on ‘Sungold’ and sweeter. Delicious.

Then, there are the oddities:

  1. ‘Pink Furry Boar’–Super cute, medium-sized pink tomato. Taste is pretty good and skin is delicate. Not my absolute favorite tomato though. Probably won’t grow it again.
  2. Sherry’s Sweet Heart‘–Red fruit is distinctly pointed on the bottom and somewhat heart shaped. The taste is good. I might grow it again. However, ‘Lumpy Red’ tomato will probably win out next year.
  3. ‘Purple Dragon’–Prettiest tomato I’ve ever grown. When ripe, it’s purple near the stem and golden yellow on bottom. See below.
'Purple Dragon' tomato is the size of a medium egg and is the prettiest tomato I've ever grown.

‘Purple Dragon’ tomato is the size of a medium egg and is the prettiest tomato I’ve ever grown.

The Heirlooms:

  1. ‘Rutgers’–After some research, I see that the ‘Rutgers’ I’m growing may not be the one I grew a few years ago. It’s done okay anyway. Nice, round red fruits with a good acid balance. I like slightly acidic tomatoes. You may like super sweet ones. Pick accordingly. I’m also making a note here to try Ramapo‘ next year. I wonder if it will become another favorite. It’s considered the true Jersey tomato.
  2. ‘Black Krim’–Huge fruits that are black to pinkish when ripe. ‘Black Krim’ has really outdone itself this year producing a ton of fruit. The taste is very good and sweeter than I usually like. However, it’s a beautiful tomato and performs well in hot summers.
  3. ‘Abe Lincoln’ –Consistently round, medium sized, red fruits. Excellent producer. Fruit has slightly tough skin, but delicious and acidic. Old-time tomato taste. It’s an heirloom and indeterminate so expect fruit over a long period.
The perfect weekend breakfast, two slices of whole grain toast, two poached eggs and a 'St. Pierre' tomato sliced.

The perfect weekend breakfast, two slices of whole grain toast, two poached eggs and a ‘St. Pierre’ tomato sliced.

Basic tomatoes:

  1. ‘Roma’–Very disappointed in this one. It has consistently had blossom end rot where none of the other tomatoes have. I won’t be growing the plain ‘Roma’ anymore. I’ll replace it with another Italian tomato.
  2. ‘Super Sioux’–Good, basic slicer. Taste is very good. Nice round tomatoes, medium size. Plants are considered semi-determinate. I can attest that this tomato does perform well in hot and dry conditions. I often grow it.
  3. ‘Saint Pierre’–Wins hands down as the best tomato I’ve grown this year. It is a French salad tomato, and I bought the seeds from Franchi Seeds of Italy. I can’t say enough nice things about this wonderful red tomato. It’s isn’t a huge slicer, but the flavor is good and production is superb. The fruit is on the smallish side, but don’t have a tons of seeds and would be good for canning.

Now, add to this three or four tomato plants I couldn’t resist at the store. You see what happened. I have five rows with eight tomatoes each. That’s a lot of plants so it’s a tomato palooza at my house right now, and I don’t even mind. I’m giving fruit away, and I’m freezing some for winter too. This post is part of our Dear Friend and Gardener Virtual Garden Club series. Join us if you’d like. Link back to the badge, and I’ll add you to the clubhouse. Meanwhile, Carol at May Dreams Gardens has a postcard from her garden. Just check out the vegetable haul she had.


Vegetables harvested after vacation

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Dear Carol and Mary Ann,

It’s hard to take a trip in the summer. when you’re a gardener. It’s even harder when you’re a vegetable gardener. Most vegetables are annuals or tropicals grown as annuals, and they want to produce like crazy in summer’s heat. Oklahoma also had abundant rain this year. and the vegetables are all the more happy for it. I did this crazy thing and planted five rows of tomatoes with at least eight plants each. I started most of these from seed, and I made the classic mistake and planted too many plants.

Tomatoes, garlic, eggplant, corn and a few potatoes are all stacked on the kitchen counter.

Tomatoes, garlic, eggplant, corn and a few potatoes are all stacked on the kitchen counter.

I know better, but I couldn’t stop myself. So, this is a going to a be a tomato year to the max. I also harvest one of the three kinds of garlic I planted last fall. I can’t think of the name right now, but it’s a hardneck variety. Beautiful stuff. I’m using it in a shrimp sauté tonight with spaghetti squash as the base instead of noodles. It should be good. We’re also going to have the eggplant. I’ve fought potato beetles all spring on that poor eggplant, and I’m finally getting a few fruits for all of my labor. I grew the eggplant from seed too.

Corn and eggplant I grew in the garden this year.

Corn and eggplant I grew in the garden this year.

There’s corn too. Yummy, yummy corn. I knew it was ready when the I found corn husks in the yard. The bad raccoons are on the corn prowl. Well, I harvested most of it. They will be sad they lost out. I don’t have squash or cucumbers yet because I planted them late. I waited on the squash because I’m trying to outwit the squash bugs, and I simply forgot cucumbers until recently.

Grab the badge and join us in our garden adventures.

Grab the badge and join us in our garden adventures.

So, that’s my harvest. Good stuff all from a few packets of seed. For more vegetable gardening tips and ideas, see The 20-30 Something Garden Guide: A No-Fuss, Down and Dirty, Gardening 101 for Anyone Who Wants to Grow Stuff.

That’s all from the Red Dirt Ranch for now. What’s growing your garden? Share your links below so we can visit.

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Beautiful vegetable garden at the Idaho Botanical Garden

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Today we visited the Idaho Botanical Garden in Boise, and I saw this beautiful vegetable garden. I thought you’d like to see it too.

Field fence arbor and vegetables at the Idaho Botanical Garden. Beautiful vegetable garden at the Idaho Botanical Garden.

Field fence arbor and vegetables at the Idaho Botanical Garden.

Whenever I travel, I always try to visit the local botanical garden. I get such inspiration from their plantings. You can see new varieties of vegetables and flowers to brighten your own garden. Botanical gardens often have AAS plant trials, and it’s a good way to see how new plants perform in a particular area.

I just thought this vegetable garden at the Idaho Botanical Garden was so pretty this time of year.

I just thought this vegetable garden at the Idaho Botanical Garden was so pretty this time of year.

They also have enough money in their budget to do things in a big way. You can see different planting styles, structures and techniques like waterwise gardening and then adapt these ideas to your own personal space.

The herb garden with two kinds of basil along with hoops for frost cloth in the spring and fall, or shade cloth in the hot summer.

The herb garden with two kinds of basil along with hoops for frost cloth in the spring and fall, or shade cloth in the hot summer.

Above is part of the herb garden complete with picket fence. In the back of this photo is kale and cardoons with hoops for frost cloth in the spring and fall to provide protection from freezing temperatures. In the summer, the same hoops can be used for shade cloth, or for bug protection as part of an integrated pest management system.

This circular garden is especially nice.

This circular garden is especially nice. Kales and chard are the stars here.

So, when you get a chance to travel, try out the local botanical garden. From North Carolina to Idaho, there’s one near you.


Summer containers thirst for drip irrigation

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If you’re already tired of watering those containers on your deck or patio, install a drip irrigation system. Summer containers thirst for drip irrigation. Because we have more than twenty containers on our back deck, we used two kits from our local box store when we installed our drip system.

Install Drip irrigation for container plants. See how in The 20-30 Something Garden Guide.

Even strawberries in a large container like this whiskey barrel benefit from drip irrigation.

You’ll need:

  • A drip irrigation kit
  • Backflow regulator
  • Garden hose with a brass Y-connector for strength
  • Battery operated timer
  • Filter to keep sediment out of the system
  • Drip emitters in various sizes and flow rates.

The timer is essential because, believe me, you’ll forget to turn on the water. I can’t tell you how many times I forgot to turn on mine over the years. Summer sun is unforgiving and will kill plants faster than you think. I explain how to install a drip system for containers step-by-step in The 20-30 Something Garden Guide: A No-Fuss, Down and Dirty, Gardening 101 for Anyone Who Wants to Grow Stuff. Right now, the book is a steal on Amazon.

Summer containers thirst for drip irrigation. I couldn't grow these blueberries in containers without drip irrigation. These have overwintered on my back deck for three seasons.

I couldn’t grow these blueberries in containers without drip irrigation. These have overwintered on my back deck for three seasons.

More summer garden tips:

  • Use large containers. The whiskey barrel, above, is ideal.
  • Fertilize now with a balanced, organic fertilizer. You can use a manure or compost tea, or you can sprinkle dry organic fertilizer on top of potting soil. Containers leach out nutrients because they are watered every day–sometimes, twice a day.
  • Pick any fruit as soon as possible to keep plants bearing and disease free.
  • Place compost or other biodegradable mulch at the base of plants to keep roots cool and comfortable.
  • Stake or tie up any vegetables wandering onto the ground beneath your containers to prevent damage and disease.
  • Watch our for insects. Caterpillars and worms are very likely mid-summer. So are striped potato beetles. Frass is an indication that problems are afoot.

I hope these tips keep your containers happy for the rest of the summer. Install drip irrigation for best results.


Dear Friend and Gardener: June vegetable garden update

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Vegetable garden update. The potager in June when we've had loads of rain. I harvested the lettuce and planted squash and melons in here now.

The potager in June after lots of rain. I harvested the lettuce and planted squash, cucumbers and melons for summer.

Dear Carol and Mary Ann,

I have so much to tell you for the vegetable garden update this month. It has rained almost weekly in Oklahoma since late spring. These aren’t true drought busters, but still good news for the vegetables, herbs and fruit grown in the potager and the rest of the garden. It’s bad news for grassy weeds. They’re growing like . . . well, weeds, and keeping up with them is more work than almost any gardener can do.

Pole beans climbing the teepee.

Pole beans climbing the teepee.

The green bean harvest is ongoing, but I planted squash late to avoid squash bugs. The little plants are up , but still small. There are also two kinds of melons growing, one being ‘Collective Farm Woman.’ I also noticed in the larger veggie garden, i.e., the jungle, that I have volunteer watermelons. This happens when you grow heirlooms.

Some of the French green beans I've harvested.

Some of the French green beans I’ve harvested.

The garlic is ready or nearly so. I’ll harvest it next week. The potatoes in bags have been very successful in spite of all the traveling I’ve done this month and last. Yes, my son watered while I was gone, but we also had rain which helped more than anything. The potatoes are blooming so I’ll be harvesting soon.

Garlic ready to harvest and 'Gray' zucchini which actually does have gray on its leaves.

Garlic ready to harvest and ‘Gray’ zucchini which actually does have gray on its leaves. The grassy weeds are also difficult to fight.

I planted heirloom yellow crookneck squash and ‘Gray’ zucchini because they are considered more resistant to squash bugs. I also planted seeds of a ‘Lemon’ zucchini that was given as a bonus in an order. I inspect the plants everyday for squash bug problems. I planted the squash, melons and cucumbers in the potager this year for crop rotation.

'Carmen' sweet Italian frying pepper.

‘Carmen’ sweet Italian frying pepper.

In the big garden is corn, okra, tomatoes, eggplant and hot peppers. Italian frying peppers are isolated from the hot peppers in case I want to save seed. I also planted some zinnias and sunflowers in the larger garden for beauty and to attract pollinators and other beneficial insects.

One of the sunflowers in the Drop Dead Read collection from Botanical Interests seeds.

One of the sunflowers in the Drop Dead Read collection from Botanical Interests seeds.

I had an infestation of striped potato beetles on my eggplant. I picked them off for two weeks, but I finally decided to spray them with pyrethrum. I waited until there were no other insects on the plants, and I only sprayed what was needed directly on the potato beetles. I hated to spray even though pyrethrum is organic, because it is a broad spectrum insecticide. I try never to use even organic insecticides unless I must. I did save the eggplants which are already looking better this morning.

The jungle, a/k/a the large veggie garden. It is full of tomatoes, hot peppers, green pole beans, sunflowers, zinnias, eggplant, corn and okra.

The jungle, a/k/a the large veggie garden. It is full of tomatoes, hot peppers, green pole beans, sunflowers, zinnias, eggplant, corn and okra.

Well, that’s it in this report from Oklahoma. What do you have growing in your garden this month? Join our Garden Club and tell us what you’ve got growing.