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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A garden party book launch for the 20-30 Something Garden Guide

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ST LYNN'S 20-30 Something CoverMaybe you haven’t heard, but my book,The 20-30 Something Garden Guide: A No-Fuss, Down and Dirty, Gardening 101 for Anyone Who Wants to Grow Stuff, comes out today!!!

Let’s throw confetti and blow our party horns! For the book launch, we’re having a huge garden party, and the prizes are all for you. I wrote this book because I think 20-30 Somethings want to garden. They just don’t know where to start. They know good food when they see it, but so many think gardening requires a large space and budget. You don’t have to move to the country to garden. You just need a garden coach.

Trust me, you can grow a lot of vegetables, flowers and herbs in a few beds or even in containers on your balcony. And, it won’t take that much of a time investment.

If you don’t have any experience, don’t worry. Gardening may look mysterious, but it’s simply a skill like cooking, crafting or baking that must be learned. The magic happens after you plant that seed. Imagine me on the sidelines cheering for you from every page. Click through and look at the book to see if it’s right for you. I want to give you the tools to garden effectively along with the ability to slow down and ponder. I hope by writing this book I’ll plant seeds because without gardeners like you, we won’t have nearly as much beauty in our world.

Oh, and one more thing, this book is for anyone who is a novice gardener, no matter what our age is. We are all 20-30 Somethings in our hearts anyway.

I’d love to go along with you on your garden journey, and I’m here to answer questions every step of the way. Please feel free to comment here or email me at [email protected] You can also visit me over at Red Dirt Ramblings.

You’ve heard enough from me. I want you to know The 20-30 Something Garden Guide through twelve of my blogger friends, and they have prizes galore for you. To enter, simply leave a comment on the individual blogs. This giveaway runs through February 23 at Midnight, and it is only open to citizens of the continental United States. We’ll announce the winners on Monday, February 24. We have twelve wonderful bloggers from all over the U.S. just waiting to hear from you. Without further ado, here they are:

Shawna Coronado’s website — a gift certificate to High Country Gardens for a Summer Dreams Garden.

Whitney Curtis at The Curtis Casa — David Austin Rose, ‘Princess Alexandra of Kent’ and Authentic Haven Brand Moo Poo Tea.

Colleen Dieter at Red Wheelbarrow Plants — Garden Girl shorts and Fiskars PowerGear 18” loppers.

Robin Haglund at Garden Mentors — Buckaroo Brand Worm Castings, a hula planter and Empire Soil Builder, from Sanctuary Soil.

Rachel Hough at The Domestic Artiste — Fiskars Tools, two sets of loppers, one is the PowerGear Lopper 32” and the other Power-Lever 28”.

Niki Jabbour at Niki Jabbour, The Year Round Veggie Gardener.

Carmen Johnston at Carmen Johnston Gardens — Garden Girl pants with knee pads and a David Austin rose, ‘The Alnwick Rose’ catalog link for ordering bare root roses.

Carol Michel at May Dreams Gardens — DeWit Tool kit and Botanical Interests Organic Heirloom Seed Bank Collection. 

Pam Penick at Digging — Three small Bee Preservers, www.glassgardensnw.com.

Jenny Peterson and J. Peterson Garden Design — is giving away a two-part prize from the Seedkeeper Company, a Seedkeeper Deluxe and Burlap Girdle(s).

Genevieve Schmidt at North Coast Gardening — Annie’s Annuals gift certificate and Keira Watering Cans.

Marie Wreath at the (Not Always) Lazy W Ranch — Longfield Gardens tulips & daffodils


You gotta have friends

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Helen Weis at the Ft. Worth Botanic Garden

Helen Weis at the Ft. Worth Botanic Garden

You may not be old enough to remember that song, but I bet you  believe the sentiment. While friends come and go throughout one’s life, some = touch your heart with such genuine care. Yesterday, my friend Helen Weis of Unique By Design Landscaping and Containers announced on Facebook that she had preordered ten copies of my book, The 20-30 Something Garden Guide: A No-Fuss, Down and Dirty, Gardening 101 for Anyone Who Wants to Grow Stuff and was giving them away autographed to ten lucky people. All you need to do is comment on her Facebook page or shoot her an email with your garden story. You don’t even need a garden either. She’s completely open to new gardeners, those just starting to get their feet and hands dirty.

Well, I am overwhelmed by her kindness and thoughtfulness. I didn’t know she was going to do this, and I’m completely charmed. I hope her gifts go round the garden world and come to rest with new friends and tillers of the soil.

You could be a winner. You’re welcome to comment with your story here too. Ten winners will be chosen by Helen.


Dreaming of citrus trees

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Closeup of orange tree in Rebecca Sweet's front yard.

Closeup of orange tree in Rebecca Sweet’s front yard.

I often dream in watercolor landscapes scented with bright notes of blood oranges and Meyer lemons. In these fantasies, I grow citrus and let their juices dance the tango upon my tongue. Glasses are filled with clinking ice cubes and tawny iced tea or even Orangina. Lemon tarts, lemon squares, orange marmalade cream cake, blood orange cheesecake, beet salad with orange segments…the possibilities are endless in my reveries.

In my dreams, there are no food allergies like wheat and dairy. Even when I wake, I’m already thinking of how to make these foods gluten and casein free. I often do. Part of what makes all food good is freshness, and there’s nothing fresher than your own orange tree.

I took the beautiful photo, above at my friend, Rebecca Sweet’s house when the Garden Bloggers Fling visited California. Seeing it the other day made me sad I don’t live in a mediterranean or tropical climate. The windswept prairie is where I call home, and isn’t it always the gardener’s lament that we can’t grow certain things in our climate? Don’t we always try to stretch our hardiness zones? Sometimes, this stretching results in failure and hurt feelings, but other times, it can be a wonderful surprise.

Lime tree in a heavy glazed container.

Lime tree in a heavy glazed container.

In the center of the U.S. citrus, of course, isn’t grown as a backyard tree. Still, it can be grown successfully even here. Let me explain how.

  1. Find a sunny spot in your yard. Citrus likes full sun and needs at least eight hours to produce plenty of fruit.
  2. Use a heavy container to keep your citrus grounded even in high winds. This glazed pot is ideal.
  3. Protect your citrus tree from high winds that will tear its beautiful leaves and knock off fruit. Plan where you’ll overwinter your plant before cold temperatures arrive. Planning ahead is always a good idea. It will need to reside indoors, or in a lightly heated hoop house or greenhouse before winter. Keep your hand cart or dolly handy for that move too. Heavy pots aren’t fun come moving day, but this one is important to our success.
  4. Arrange for some type of watering. I think drip irrigation is easiest and best. You want to go on vacation don’t you?
  5. Use good potting soil that drains well. This and water are probably the most important aspects of this project.

One more thing . . . the book is off to the printer. Now the real fun begins. Don’t forget that many more tips, ideas and garden plans are in my guide. I hope you’ll enjoy it.


Vegetable and flower seeds: starting and buying

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Repurposed containers to start seeds.

Repurposed containers to start seeds.

Seed catalogs are very tempting when the weather outside wants to turn the hardiest person into a popsicle. Even the most frugal of gardeners can go quite mad for seeds. Before you plunk down your credit card this year, I wrote a post on Red Dirt Ramblings with some seed tips to consider before buying.

What are you planning to grow in 2014? I’ll have lettuce, spinach, peas (snow and snap), onions, radishes, kale and chard, and that’s just in the early spring garden. I might even try kohlrabi. Last year and the year before I grew fennel, and it was quite tasty. My summer garden will hold even more, but I can hardly think about it now other than starting tomatoes and peppers.

Will you grow in containers? Or, build raised beds? Will you till up a small square of land? You can grow any way you want, and I hope The 20-30 Something Garden Guide: A No-Fuss, Down and Dirty, Gardening 101 for Anyone Who Wants to Grow Stuff will give you even more ideas. Get your motor running. We have seeds to swap and buy.

 


Video for the 20-30 Something Garden Guide

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I made the video below for The 20-30 Something Garden Guide: A No-Fuss, Down and Dirty, Gardening 101 for Anyone Who Wants to Grow Stuff last night when I was trying to watch the Sugar Bowl between Alabama and Oklahoma University, my alma mater. It was a nail biter as one friend said, but we persevered.

I hope you enjoy the video as much I did making it.


A rooster in a friend's garden keeps watch over the garden. You should too.

A clean garden is a happy one

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A rooster in a friend's garden keeps watch over the garden. You should too.

A rooster in a friend’s garden keeps watch over the garden. You should too.

Walk the walk each day.

Tobacco horn worms can be hand picked from plants. However, keep in mind that these worms turn into  sphinx moths later. It's always a tradeoff in the garden, isn't it?

Tobacco horn worms can be hand picked from plants. However, keep in mind that these worms turn into sphinx moths later. It’s always a tradeoff in the garden, isn’t it?

Garden cleanliness is one way to keep disease at bay. Take a walk in your garden each morning or evening. You will spot trouble before it starts, and if trouble does occur, you can stop it sooner. Look for diseased plants and chewing or sucking insects. Hand pick any little beasties you find on your plants and toss them into a can of soapy water. If you’re squeamish, wear pliable gloves. The tobacco horn worm above will later turn into a sphinx moth. However, I usually pick these and feed them to my chickens anyway because the worm will destroy my tomato plant before it has a chance to do its thing. See the bite this worm took out of the green tomato on the left? Tomato hornworms, Manduca quinquemaculata, are not the same as Tobacco hornworms, Manduca sexta, but they do have the same appetite for tomatoes and other plants in the nightshade family. You can tell the difference by look at their markings and their “horns.” Tobacco hornworms have diagonal markings and a reddish horn, while tomato hornworms have a blue-black horn and v-shaped markings. Both give me the creeps quite frankly, and I’m glad several species of wasp find them tasty.

Keep tools clean and shiny.

Pruning a rose cane. Clean tools stop disease.

Pruning a rose cane. Clean tools stop disease.

Between pruning jobs, dip pruners in rubbing alcohol or Lysol to prevent disease from spreading from plant to plant. If you don’t want to dip, carry a spray bottle of alcohol with you and spritz your tools instead. Don’t use bleach because it corrodes many tools and is harder on plants. Alcohol works just as well. At the end of the gardening season, clean, sharpen and oil all of your tools before storing. It’s also a good time to repaint any handles with spray paint. Take care of your tools, and they will last a long time. It’s a nice job on a clear, fall day.

Clear away garden debris.

I think tomatoes are beautiful.

I think tomatoes are beautiful.

Between plantings and at season’s end, clear away any dropped leaves or other debris. If you notice plants with diseased leaves or stem–tomatoes come to mind–snap off or prune the diseased section and dispose of the material somewhere other than your compost pile. This will help stop many diseases from consuming your entire plant.

Although you can compost diseased material if your compost pile temperature is 160˚F or above, only a well-maintained pile will reach that number consistently. So, I don’t suggest you ever compost diseased plant material. It’s just not worth the risk.