Keeping It Real

Here in Southwest Wisconsin, we enjoy all FOUR seasons of the year. We laughingly refer to them as Fall, Winter, Spring and Road Construction. However, this year has been anything but the usual 4-season year for us. Our Christmas was brown and we have had the 9th warmest winter on record since they started plotting this information 100 years ago. We had quite a series of 30 and 40 degree days in the month of January which is almost unheard of for us and now that the ground hog has seen its shadow, we appear to be heading into a series of storms which will hit us every 2-3 days for the next 2 weeks with rain, sleet and snow expected.

The farmers in the area have been quite worried that the moisture content of the soil is far too low to sustain the necessary early planting that occurs around Easter each year. Perhaps this forecast will help relieve some of these negative effects.

With all of this turmoil in the soil, moisture and air conditions, it is hard to fathom a good gardening season, but I am optimistic anyway. I have saved all of my kitchen scraps, egg shells and other “compostables”, and continue to brew the brown “gold” I will spread on the gardens once the magic date of the proverbial last frost occurs around May 15th. I’ve also sent away to get my 4 different types of tomatoes seeds, a type of bush cucumber which hopefully won’t take up the entire garden this year, a new kind of garlic to put in my homemade spaghetti sauce and bell peppers for stuffing. The planting areas have been cleared and fresh bulbs have been put into the fluorescent lights which will help nurture the tiny seeds into plants strong enough to be put on the back deck for a couple of hours a day to harden off.

We planted 4 lilac bushes in an area of our yard which gets 4-6 hours of sunshine a day and although I know it will be another couple of years, I am looking forward to a westerly wind that will bring a fragrant smell through the front screen door as those tiny purple flowers open in the spring.

So I say “bring on the Spring and Road Construction”. I’ll be busy in my yard doing some great “construction” of mine own!
Happy Gardening!

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Take a Closer Look

In the past 20 years there have been studies done to test the fertility of soils around the world. The results are not good. Over-planting, massive amounts of man-made fertilizer, genetic seeds and air and water pollution have taken their toll on the lands that were once so pristine.
As a further influence of this disturbing turn of events, our food has become less and less nutritious. Fruits and vegetables are being picked before they peak of freshness to make sure they can be delivered to the grocer’s shelves at the precise moment that color and texture can be assured. This takes away the cellular nutrients of most fruits and vegetables. Others are dipped in wax or sprayed to preserve their color. But, those preservatives then enter our bodies where they do harm to our bodily systems.
It has truly become a vicious circle.
Won’t you please join the millions who are researching back to methods of gardening where chemicals are no longer used; where the soil is allowed to rest for a season and to rebuild. We can no longer continue to deplete our Earth of the elements that have sustained us for millions of years.

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Fall Color Bonanza

After having read the headlines about the Eastern Seaboard being hit with snow and power outages to over 2 million people, I just had to add this post. I understand that much of the reason was that the snow fell on colored leaves still attached to the trees there. The sheer weight of the snow accumulating on that vegetation caused many of the branches to snap and fall to the ground, or worse yet to fall onto vehicles and power lines.

I’m feeling a bit sad for those on the East Coast that they didn’t have more time to enjoy those beautiful colors. The pictures on this post were taken by my husband just a few days ago. The brilliance of mother nature’s palette has no equal.
Winter is my favorite season of the year, but Fall comes in as a very close second.

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Stocking Up For Another Winter

When I realized how long it has been since I’ve been back here, I just had to bring you up to date. As I told you back in July, the garden growth just went “nuts” with heat and humidity encouraging the plants to really soar. This year’s harvest includes 30 pints of salsa which includes both red and green tomatoes in the mix; 15 quarts of kosher dill spear pickles and 6 meals (and counting) of stuffed green peppers.

I wasn’t able to get to the store early enough to buy onion sets for this year’s planting, but there were enough “volunteers” from last year that I was able to make 7 braids to use over the winter. The only casualty this year was that I bought 3 strawberry plants and only one of them survived. But, if past experience serves, these hearty little “sweeties” will be back stronger than ever next year.

I used mulch on the gardens this year and that really helped to keep the weeds down. Since we live out in the country, we burn our trash, so we have 2 barrels full of ash to spread on the garden to winter over. Along with a slow-release fertilizer which I put on just before the first frost, the soil should be in good shape for next year’s garden.

I suspect we’ll have an Indian Summer here soon and then the last of the green tomatoes will come in to be included in a tasty casserole. A gardener never knows quite when the season will end and that’s a part of the fun of this hobby.

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Growing like crazy!!

My $10 Wonder Machine!

We have had a series of 90 degree plus days with humidity levels that are off the charts !! As uncomfortable as that is for us – my plants are just thriving in these conditions. The tomatoes especially have grown like crazy. An hour or so of watering every 2-3 mornings has kept the ground moisture in good shape – even though we haven’t had rain in 10 days or so.
Just before the hot spell arrived – I spread mulch under each cucumber, pepper. strawberry and tomato plant and this has really helped to keep the moisture in the soil. I just picked 2 – 9″ cukes and plan to make cucumber salad for supper. The tomato plants have golf ball-sized green fruit on them which is great considering I didn’t plant until the 3rd week in June. This is absolutely the latest planting I have attempted, and still, remarkably, come out of it with produce.
The moon plant in the front of the house has spread from 1 foot in circumference to a 5 foot by 4 foot BUSH!
My secret weapon is a cultivator my husband picked up at a sale. He is very handy with mechanical things and the sign on the machine said – “DOESN’T WORK”. So he paid $10.00 for it, spent an hour working it over and I now have a great cultivator which maneuvers in between all the tomato plants without harming them. It’s great.

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Makin’ Progress !!

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Changing the Way Things Are Done

Ordinarily, we as human beings are a pretty staid lot. We like things done the same way, in the same order and using the same components. But sometimes Mother Nature throws us a curve and the need to adapt becomes the most important part of planning.

This year has been anything but normal. The spring has come late and with it there has been a lot of rain, wind and in some cases – hail. Usually my iris plants are blooming at Easter time, but yesterday was the first sign of color from them. My hostas are doing well now, but not after quite a bit of encouragement in the form of fertilizer and mulch. In a way this has been the ideal start to the gardening season for me. My school year ends this Friday at which point I can devote a lot of time to the gardens.

We have decided this is the year, we will borrow the skidsteer and carve into the earth to finally put our retaining walls in. The rain has made it mandatory that we finish this project this year. Cost will be a factor, but in the end we need to put in 4 retaining walls to preserve the integrity of the parking area and to make sure we don’t have a mudslide into the propane tank.

I plan to take pictures as we go. (It always encourages me when I watch the HGTV shows and see how much better everything is when they show the BEFORE AND AFTER pictures.)

Happy Gardening !

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Waiting for the perfect day . . . and waiting, and waiting . . .

Again this year, the weather has been quite uncooperative. Rainy days, when I’m free to work, have kept me inside while the garden “screams” for attention. Last year’s dead leaves still lay next to this year’s new growth and my standing reservation for a rear-tined tiller at the garden rental shop is still “standing”.

The weather continues to be unpredictable here in Southwestern Wisconsin. Last Tuesday our temperature reached 91 degrees and last night we had a frost warning. However, this has not stopped me from starting my pepper and tomato plants which are enjoying steady temperatures and regular watering on my kitchen table.

We have decided to increase the actual planting area all the way out to the fencing of our 30 foot circular garden. We started with about a 3 foot grassy area between the fence and the plantings so we could get tillers and other equipment into it. But we’ve since decided that having to mow the grass of the perimeter of the garden is just plain extra work.

A new addition to the tomatoes, onions, peppers and herbs will be a raised bed or 2 of strawberries – an everbearing variety.

With 3 weeks left until school is out – my planner is already full. Now – Mother Nature – could you just find the water spigot and turn it off please???

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Cleaning Up The Shop

It is at this time of the year, when gardening season in Wisconsin comes to a screeching halt, that I have a chance to finally clean and organize my garden shop.

My “half” of the shed is sometimes hard to get to as my husband has his four-wheeler, riding lawn mower, air compressor and various and sundry tools scattered in it as well. Because of this, I’m a great believer in peg board and hooks. There is one workbench and also a 6′ X 12′ overhead shelf that extends from the back of the shed. I have all of my garden stakes and tomato towers stored in this overhead compartment. Plastic seed starter pots are stacked upside down below the workbench. Terra cotta planters that have survived the season are also stored upside down in the same area. Each year when I buy new ones, I coat them with a clear spray to help slow down their deterioration.

Each of my hand tools is given a bath in oil and sand. I fill a 5-gallon bucket with builder’s sand, coat the metal part of my spades, forks and bulb planters with oil and sink them all in the sand for 2-3 days. After that I pull them out and clean off any excess rust. I re-coat them with more oil and hang them on the peg board for a winter rest. This really helps to eliminate the growth of more rust on the tools and extends their useful life span.

Window planters and other pots used on my decks are dumped of all nutrient depleted soil and dead plant material and soaked in a mixture of 1 part bleach to 10 parts water. I do this to make sure that plant diseases don’t have a chance to winter over and affect the new plantings next spring.

Fertilizers and other soil enhancing materials in the shop are checked for freshness. When I buy these products I take a permanent marker and write the date of purchase on each one. I’ll usually keep these for about 2 years – after that amount of time, I believe they lose their potency and effectiveness.

Sprinklers, hoses and hose attachments are checked for leaks and allowed to thoroughly dry out before I hang them for the next 6 months or so. Water frozen in the hoses or sprinklers can cause real damage.

In the Spring I like to know that all my supplies and tools are ready to go so that when Mother Nature loosens up the soil I won’t have any reason not to get right back to playing in the dirt.

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Keep It Growing !

If you’re like me when the end of summer comes, I go through a bit of withdrawal. I really like being surrounded by colorful flowers. Houseplants have their place and I have many of them in my home, but nothing replaces a combination of brightly colored blooms to brighten up a room.

Well, I’ve found the answer. I’ve discovered

    Aero Gardens

These are indoor, no dirt, seed propagators. Seed packet combinations for flowering plants are available in many different colors and textures. After planting, the device lets you know when to water and when to add nutrients. There are several different models to choose from and color schemes to brighten up any space. You can plant seeds to grow lettuce, herbs, start seeds for your spring planting or bring color into your home for those long winter months.

Along the sidebar of my website is a link to these terrific products. You can even ask to receive their catalog free.

Happy Propagating !

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