Roots & Wings

Gardening expertise comes in time and from experience, not to mention a lot of trial and error. I’ve had my share of failures and not just in my novice days. With nature itself always in flux, organic gardeners are constantly striving to work with Mother Nature as much as possible whether dealing with pests, soil issues, or weather. Here in the southwest, the weather is a constant ever-changing issue. And since gardening is my hobby/obsession, reading and researching about plants, disease, and any number of other plant related topics, this often leads to my implementing something new to see what results. Sometimes it turns out a failure. Other times, I am pleasantly surprised. Gardening is always an exercise in faith that often reminds the gardener of life’s resilience. This was the case recently when I transferred my tomato plants outdoors. Every year I start tomatoes indoors from seed, and when there is no longer a threat of frost, move them to their spot in the garden beds. Soon after I transplanted several young tomato plants to their chosen spots, the winds as they always do, came sweeping down the plains. I soon noticed one of the newly placed tomato plants lying on the dirt. The wind had snapped its stem. While it looked pitiful as it lay wilting, I snatched it up and thought maybe if I placed it in water, it might grow roots. After about 45 minutes in water, the injured plant’s leaves perked up and no longer limp. I felt I was onto something. So, I reached for my laptop to do research on tomato propagation. I’m happy to report that tomatoes can be easily propagated from cuttings. I sure wish I knew this a long time ago, as I’ve experienced this same wind damage before which is why I always start so many tomato plants from seed every year. With this newfound knowledge, I plan to reduce the number of tomato starters and rely on cutting propagation as it is so much easier.

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rooting tomato plant

I plan to apply this technique to a grapevine cutting and broken hydrangea stem as well. One of the grandbabies accidentally stepped on the young hydrangea. My research revealed that these plants will grow roots if placed in water too. We shall see.

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grapevine and hydrangea stem

Other plants that I do know propagate well when placed in water are the following: Rosemary, Mint, Thyme, Oregano, Basil, Begonias, and Sweet Potato. I’ve always made cuttings of the herbs to overwinter in case of a harsh winter season. Eventhough I use row covers to protect them, I have lost some herb plants due to prolonged cold snaps. Another reason to do this, it saves money and increases the number of plants to grow in the garden or share with others. I forsee some more experimenting on cutting propagation in my future.

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Rain Makes Everything Beautiful

We got some much needed rain this weekend. The thing I love about rainy days is that it brings out the creative juices. Having no place to be and a house to myself, the rhythmic pitter-patter played like soothing music to my ears. I pulled out some reclaimed wood from an old flower box we dismantled last year and acrylic paints and stencils. The results look as good as any of those decorative signs sold in craft stores or gift shops.

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Cute little garden plaque that will soon hang on the garden gate.
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This one hangs above the window in my bedroom.

Seed Saving

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My seed collection from the last few years.

Growing your own vegetables, fruits, and even flowers is not only fun but also healthy and economical. While there are costs up front such as purchasing seeds, soil, and fertilizer, gardening using a sustainable approach cuts costs considerably. Making your own compost helps to cut down on the need to use commercial fertilizer and soil. And, collecting seeds from your plants can also save on the need to purchase new seeds year after year, plus you can trade excess seeds with other gardeners. While I have saved certain seeds over the last few years, such as tomato, pepper, cucumbers or watermelon, pretty much the easier types of seed in my opinion, I have never tried to save seeds from leafy greens such as lettuce or spinach.

What does it mean when your plant bolts? It is when the plant produces blooms and seeds. Basically, the plant’s survival mechanism kicks in, in order to produce the next generation. Now, usually once my plants bolt, I will let some of them flower briefly because their blooms attract a lot of good pollinators. When their flowers disappear, the plant often looks scraggly and unattractive. That’s when I normally yank them up.

Every year I try to improve upon my organic gardening skills. However, this year in my goal to have a much more sustainable and even perennial garden, I am on a mission to save as many seeds as possible, and even allow some of these plants to self sow. Because I am letting many of my winter and early spring vegetables go to seed, this has required me to reevaluate space for spring planting, bed rotation, and the means to contain some of these bolting leafy greens.

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Arugula blooms and seed pods

Because of the mild winter we’ve had in the southwest,  various leafy vegetables, particularly Chinese cabbage, ornamental kale, Russian kale, spinach, and a variety of lettuce have begun bolting. I’ve had to use small wire fencing and cages to keep these from overtaking the other young seedlings in the same bed.

After researching how these plants create seeds, I am now noticing the seed pods. Once these plants begin to die, I am going to harvest the pods. It’s been a very interesting process. A lot of the blooms are beautiful little gems with a lilac fragrance, such as the Chinese cabbage.  I’ve noticed an abundance of lady bugs, butterflies, and bees partaking of their nectar. Once the seed pods dry, I will break them open to harvest seed and keep seeds in  airtight mason jars.

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Chinese Cabbage
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Chinese Cabbage seed pods

Salad on the Fly

Tending to the vegetable garden today, I couldn’t help but partake. I have an abundance of lettuce and various greens. It’s times like these when I haven’t had time to stop at the grocery store that I feel blessed to have my own fresh veggies. Today, I whipped up on the fly a quick and tasty salad with just minimal ingredients. Of course, salads are by their nature a mishmash of selective ingredients, so here’s my creative salad for one:

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Ingredients:

Salad
1 cup salad greens torn to bite-sized pieces
4 scallions chopped
1 carrot shredded
2 TBSP almond slivers
1 slice Swiss Cheese chopped into small pieces
1 to 2 TBSP aged Asiago cheese shredded
5 to 7 Kalamata olives or one dill pickle chopped

Dressing
2 TBSP olive juice or dill pickle juice or Balsamic Vinegar (either one of these tastes great in a dressing)
1 to 2 TBSP olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

 

 

All’s a Bloom

What a long and busy week! It was wonderful to be able to spend most of the day, today, in the garden. I am so happy spring has finally arrived. Because we had such a mild winter, I’ve gotten a head start on spring planting. And, while we had a couple of freeze warnings in March, I was able to successfully protect my tomatoes, peppers, and basil plants with hay or bell jars. So, in celebration of the coming growing season, I am sharing some of my favorite photos I’ve snapped over the last couple of years.

I love my sunflowers.  I always grow them in the same bed as my cucumbers, spaced so they aid in trellising of the cucumber plants. Plus, they are a magnet for pollinators like bees and butterflies.

Flowers are a special companion to the vegetable garden, whether wild flowers or potted patio gems. I make sure I have them sprinkled about the vegetable garden not only for visual appeal but also because you can never have enough of those beneficial little buggers like bees, butterflies, lady bugs, and even hummingbirds flitting from bloom to bloom.

April showers bring may flowers and hopefully another abundant crop of tomatoes. This is one of many tomato harvests last year.

And, sometimes nature does have a sense of humor.  Life in the garden is always an adventure. I am so looking forward to this year’s growing season.