Thursday, June 25, 2009

Our First Tomato

Our first tomato was a big surprise this morning when I went out to water. I hadn't looked for it in two days but this morning its orangy-red skin flashed brilliant in the morning sun.

Further inspection of the garden yielded some crooked-neck squash and a zuchini. Guess what's for dinner tonight?

See the grass in the picture? The grass on the left is wheat grass and the one on the right is oat grass. My kitty loves them both.

Killer Tomato Plants!

Four heirloom tomato plants--2 Brandywine, 1 Mortgage Lifter and 1 Mr. Stripey--are the tallest tomato plants I have ever seen. I am 5'2" tall and they are taller than me and half the the vines are bent over. Ever see the sixties horror movie Day of the Trifids? Sort of reminds me of that.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

We'll Be Eating Well Soon!

My Garden May 28, 2009

Here's the Device that Separates Honey from the Frame

This is a centrifuge that spins and forces the honey to release from the honeycomb.

Good Class on Bees in Sandy Springs, GA

Here is a photo of my class just after taking a break from the morning session.

Bee Frame, Queen Box

You can see what a section of a hive looks like. It is one box of several in a hive. The smaller frame sitting on top is an inner hive frame where the queen will lay eggs and bees will make honey.

Tools of the Beekeeper

Some of the beekeepers' tools haven't changed in hundreds of years--like the smoker on the left that calms the bees when you are opening a hive. THe beekeepers hat with netting is also important, and gloves. But the most important thing for a beginning beekeeper to remember is that slow, steady, determined movements do not alarm bees as much as quick movements.

Bee School Is Important

Bees are just as important to the casual gardener as they are to farmers raising crops for animals and human consumption. For better yields and larger flowers, we should each try to have at least one hive to care for and manage. There are many things to consider about beekeeping. Location, neighbors and keeping the hive healthy.

Butterfly Gardens Are Fun!!

There is more to the butterfly garden than I thought. I visited the Spalding Garden Club's curbside butterfly garden in Sandy Springs, GA. The garden has been there on a busy corner for twenty years and was started by a founding member of the club. It was educational and inspirational. Here is what I learned: butterflies are attracted to penta, milkweed, seedum and similar plants. They love parsley. Caterpillars are attracted to bronze fennel. At the club garden, the fennel are crawling with caterpillars. Must have those to make butterflies.

Butterflies also like to have a basking rock. In my garden, the rock sits on a clay saucer filled with moist dirt. Butterflies alight on the moist earth then bask on a sun-warmed rock.

I rimmed my flower bed with wine bottles. It creates an interesting affect that I am not sure what to think about it. Will evaluate.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Our Garden May 2, 2009

Haven't had time to post anything in a while, so today I'll catch up. Here are some photos of our garden taken May 2, 2009. We harvested our first batch of sweet peas and devoured them raw. They were the sweetest peas I ever tasted. It's been 25 years since I ate a fresh, organic vegetable from my backyard. What a taste sensation. Backyard gardens and farms are the way to stay healthy and to save the planet. Wish I had done this for the last 25 years.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Frost Barrier

This purchased cover is not quite large enough for the four-foot square bed. It's an 8' bag and it almost works. It will be perfect for the three-foot square garden, however. I plan to purchase more PVC and adjust the length for the smaller garden. Frost barriers come in a lot of sizes.

How to Make a Frost Barrier for Your Square-Foot Garden

Using two 12-ft. PVC pipes and a twist tie, you can make a frame for holding a frost barrier, whether it is designed for that purpose, a large sheet of plastic, or even blankets. This frame and cover can keep young plants safe from freezing temperatures. Most covers will work down to about 28 degrees.

The Grid Is On!

It's almost complete. I still need to nail the grid in place so I can keep track of what and how much I have planted in the bed.

Three-foot Square Garden

This little garden next to my back door gets a little too much shade for cut flowers, so it's going to be an herb garden. It makes sense because it is closer to the house so I can just run downstairs and take a quick clipping of whatever herbs I need.

This size garden is recommended for growing enough salad vegetables for a child during the growing season. Continuous planning can keep the garden full year round.

No Spring in Sight

Just when wishful thinking makes you think spring is here, the expected unexpected happens. It snowed and snowed. It was beautiful.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Rain Barrel Is So Full!!!

We've had so much rain and so much snow that I wish I had the heavy duty version of these babies. Come on spring.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Peas Are Taking Over--Hurry Spring

The peas are the happiest of all the seedlings. I don't think I have enough light for the tomatoes, cabbages, and cosmos. In my master gardener class I learned that "leggy" seedlings are stretching to get more light and that is called etiolation. Great new word!!

The wattage of the flourescent light is important to check if you use it for seedling starts. If you have started seedlings, be sure to "harden them off" before you plant them in your garden. Hardening off is placing them in full sun for a couple of hours a day to accustom them to the outdoor temperatures.

Square-foot Garden

So many people recommended a book called Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew that I had to give it a read. This photo shows my attempt at a square-foot garden. It isn't quite finished because I still need to add more grid. I also made a calculation mistake and now my 4x4 isn't square exactly.

I made this bed out of a 2x6x16 that I purchased and had cut at Home Depot. That way, the wood fit in my car easily and I didn't have to get out my hand saw. My 3-foot garden took a 2x6x12.

I just put two big nails in at each corner and the bed was solid. I've seen people use corner angles, and that might be better, but nails are easier.

After I dug up the weeds where my 4x4 was going, I leveled the ground and placed my new garden frame over it. Then, I put down bark to block weeds and provide drainage. Finally, I shovelled in left-over Farmer D compost and started adding the grid.

The grid is very important because without a grid, you don't have a square-foot garden and you cannot make the best use of every inch of soil in the bed. Spacing plants and seeds properly will get you the best bang for the buck.

Finally, I added pine straw all around my beds and in between. I did this for several reasons: first, to deter pests from entering my garden bed from soil level; second, to deter more weeds; third, to keep the mud down around the beds; and finally, to keep moisture in. It was more aesthetically appealing.

A 4 foot square garden can produce enough salad greens for one adult. A three-foot square garden will feed a child. If you want vegetables, too, and some for canning, you would need to add another bed. So, for example, my husband and I want lettuce and vegetables to feed us this summer; therefore, we would need four 4-foot square beds. If we planned on having our granddaughter for the summer, I would plant two three-foot beds for her. I am planning to put cut flowers in my 4x4 and herbs in my 3x3.

Rain Barrel

Photos of this installation were on the disk of my squashed camera. Putting this together was not difficult and of course, with just a little rain--the statistics are on the Fiskars website--it is full. We installed two so now we can harvest and save enough rain water to take care of our gardens!

We chose the Fiskar because of the gutter insert. Fiskars is one of the only, if not the only, system with a built in overflow system. Once the barrel is full, the water no longer flows into the barrel, but through the gutter again. I wanted their terra cotta "Tuscan" barrel but couldn't find it anywhere locally and it wasn't sold on the internet either, although it was featured at the Southeastern Flower show. If a rain barrel can be attractive, the terra cotta barrel would be the one.

The most difficult part of this project was getting the pavers under it level. The base has to be level for safety reasons. A full barrel this size weighs around 450 pounds. Cutting the gutter pipe seemed difficult at first, but once tried and looking back, it wasn't difficult at all.

The last thing that we need to do is find two adaptors for the water spigot on our two barrels so we can attach a hose. Some barrels come with a hose spigot.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Blog Blues

I can't believe it. My camera got run over by a truck. We'll be posting a new series as soon as my new camera arrives. What was on the disk was how to put together a Fiskar's rain barrel and how to make your own 4' X 4' raised bed garden, which will now be called my "Square Foot Garden." There is a lot of talk about how much you can force a square foot of great dirt to produce. More to come about that.

There's a new "bee" store in Atlanta and Saturday March 7, my husband and I will be attending a one-day seminar on bees and bee keeping. We will report on what we learn.

Finally, if you haven't tried Consumer Supported Agriculture groceries from, you're missing a chance to pick up some great organic and local foods and great prices. More to come on that.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Grass Fed Beef vs Corn Fed Beef

It's amazing. If you watched King Corn you know that corn fed beef has so much fat in it that it is no wonder we are a nation of mostly fat people made of corn. I just recently learned that there is as much Omega 3 in grass fed beef as in fish, only there is no mercury. Grass fed beef are leaner, but the chemical makeup of it will help to keep us thinner. We really can have our beef. It costs more, but what we will save in the long run on medical bills could add up. No more corn fed beef for me. We will resume Friday night steak nights at our house! For more information, go to

How to reach Farmer D

If you want to reach Farmer D, you can go to

At Last, I'll Be Able to Ask: How does my garden grow?

This is the nicest garden spot I've ever had and I am looking forward to planting, tending and harvesting some of the best vegetables ever--some I've never grown before, like broccoli and brussels sprouts. Now the search is on for hardy heirloom tomato plants. I've started the seed, but I want to make sure I try growing them from different sources and different methods. Something will work, I just know it. Does anyone know of a source for organic heirloom tomato plants?

Step 5

Just a little more tweaking on the first one. It is getting late in the afternoon now. The bed on the right has the bark mixture in the deep end to help level and drain the bed.

It Takes Longer Than You Think Sometimes

They've almost got it. You can see how deep the back end is. It's much deeper than the bed has to be, but again, it will be level.

It's Starting to Take Shape

The back end of the bed is quite a bit deeper than originally planned, but the bed will be level after the bark and compost are shoveled in. The bags are bark. Compost is in the wheel barrow.

More Boards, More Work

The work progresses and it has taken an hour to get this far, but they plug on.

Farmer D Helps Out One Garden at a Time

My backyard isn't easy to get to, but Stanley Joffe and co-worker managed to bring the organic boards down the slope and start set up. Before they even began putting the boards in, they had to do a bit of shovel work. Then, because the slope was bigger than originally thought, a trench had to be dug to prepare for leveling. The boards are put together with a bolt. Each board is notched to attach to the other.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Rain Barrel

Gotta have a rain barrel in this drought in Atlanta. What a great way to save water! This is a Fiskars rain barrel and the reason we chose it was that it has an insert that goes in the gutter pipe that allows the water to go through the gutter as usual once the barrel is full. You don't have a messy hose or overflow with this barrel.

Installing the rain barrel is not as easy as you might think. A 54 gallon barrel weighs 450 pounds when it is full so caution has to be taken to make sure it won't tip over. It could hurt someone if it fell on them. This barrel won't work properly either unless it is completely level and the pipe attachment is also perfectly level. To make this work, you have to be patient and careful as you make it come together.

There is a prettier version of the barrel in terra cotta called Tuscany. I wanted it, but it was nearly impossible to find. While Fiskars will tell you that they are widely sold at Home Depot and Lowe's, the reality is that only a few of the major stores carry it and then not in the style you might want. This is a whole lot better than nothing and the price was only $89 at Home Depot on Windward Parkway in Alpharetta. Next week, after we get some pavestone and get our barrel leveled, we'll have some more photos.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


Master Gardener Class

What a great day we had in my Master Gardener's class. We learned about herbicides, pesticides and organic gardening. I don't think I will use any chemicals on my garden. Someone said that they had read that urine was good for a garden. Our instructor said that s/he didn't want to be quoted, but that "clean urine" is actually good for the garden. What is clean urine?

Saturday, Farmer D is going to help me build two raised-bed gardens. Famer D is a very interesting person and his website is He is only 32 and has been an organic gardener and volunteer for ten years and now has a garden store in Savannah, GA. One of his projects was a prison garden.

I saw his exhibit at the Southeastern Flower Show and it blew me away. His exhibit was awarded a National Garden Club Award for Conservation (and a bunch of others). The judges said that "he demystified organic gardening" and showed us how to be "better stewards of the earth." Having him or his brother do this seems like I'm going to start my garden right. They are going to fill my beds with their organic mulch. He makes it from scraps he collects from Whole Foods Markets. I've seen his plants. They are strong and large for organic.

I am posting a "before" photo of my "plots." Monday I will show you the "after" photo. My seedlings are coming up rapidly.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


This is definitely a first for me. My husband said it looked like the Clampett's had moved in. I said it would work fine once we started collecting grass clippings to "green" it up a bit. The bin is made by taking a 12 1/2 foot piece of medium wire and forming it into an upright container. You just wire it together. The bin has to be placed where sunlight can get to it. Next, you need a piece of drain hose that you drill random holes in up and down it. You do this because you need to let the compost "breathe," and you need a way to get water down inside the pile.

Since my bin/pile is not full, I had a difficult time getting the pipe to stand up straight, but with time, the bin will fill up and it will "cook."

What goes in the bin/pile? I created a "floor" for it by spreading pine cones on the bottom. Next I tore up old newspapers and raked in some dead leaves. Dead leaves and newspapers are the "brown" ingredients in a compost pile. Coffee grounds from Starbucks are also "brown." Next you put in a layer of "green." This would be household garbage. The way I started my bin is not exactly optimal. I started in January when there are very few "greens" to put in my bin. One of the best sources of "green" is cut grass, and we just don't have that in the winter. You never put meats or oils in the compost pile.

First Time for Everything

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

My parents were the real original hippies in the 1950's. On a 160-acre farm in Southeastern Kansas, they grew wheat, barley, rye and a ton of vegetables, including some peanuts. That wasn't all. They also grew milk cows, slaughter steers, pigs, and chickens--and did I mention three kids? It's the memory of the Sawyer farm in South Haven, Kansas, that's rekindled my need to garden.

Now's the time to garden and to raise animals for your own consumption if you can. If you haven't seen King Corn, it is a must. It will make you want to feed your own cattle and can your own vegetables. We need food with natural nutrients and corn-free. Almost everything we put in our mouths is made with some form of corn or was fed corn. Not only that, but it is a kind of corn that you can't eat right off the cob. Please see King Corn.