Saturday, March 14, 2015

Here's an idea: Herb blocks

If you already have some concrete blocks, like I did, why not line one edge of the garden with them and plant them with herbs? Last spring I filled the holes with the same rich dirt as my garden. All my herbs came up except the chives, and I am trying those again.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Sweet potatoes taking root

In Master Gardener class, I learned that sweet potatoes are super easy to grow. That usually means something won't work out for me. But I decided to at least try growing them.
Sweet potatoes are a hot-weather crop. You can make your own "slips," or little cuttings that you will plant in your garden. Start them six to eight weeks ahead of planting time. Simply get a sweet potato from the grocery store, cut it in half, hang it in a jar using toothpicks, and have the water come up over the bottom (cut side). I remember doing this in elementary school.
Within a few weeks you will have sprouts in the top and roots in the
bottom. Let them keep growing and make sure they get some light.
With any root vegetable you absolutely must have deep, loose soil. This is how I've messed up in the past. It's best to dig up the soil at least 8 inches deep and at the same time dig in some rich compost. Then on top of that, create ridges another 8 inches tall. Ridges should be 12 inches wide and you can flatten them out on top. Simply poke the rooted ends of the slips into the soil about six inches apart. Within a few weeks they will take off.
Here the sweet potatoes are just starting to spread. Choose your sweet potato plot carefully. Sweet potatoes are Plants That Take Over the World, so create a finite space for them. Mine are in a deep bed at the edge of the garden so if I need to, I can grow them up a trellis on that side. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

How to make a baby afghan

I have six grandchildren and as much as I cherish them, I am way behind on making the baby afghans. The first two got theirs pretty early in life. I'm finishing the next two afghans, then I'll launch into the last two. Problem is, I have to be in the mood to crochet, and I haven't been in the mood for years. I think it's because I make such a mess with the yarn, crochet hooks, scissors, snipped yarn and all the other stuff I use. It's like the mess a 3-year-old would make. I'm just not that good at keeping things picked up during a project. But it's one of my life goals.

These baby afghans have been well-loved and are still holding up
to washings and typical little-kid wear and tear.
This pretty much shows what I do for the afghan and why I call it multi-media.

For the first two grandchild afghans, which they call their Mimi Blankets, I combined crochet, cross-stitch and sewing. I used soft baby yarn. The kids are now 7 and 5, so you know how behind I am.

I did single crochet, made a border, then finished up with a cross-stitched initial on the front and sewn-on satin on the back. The satin is to make the blanket absolutely irresistible to my littlest sweeties.

I do single crochet: 100 stitches across and about 33 inches long. This first afghan for some reason is a lot larger than subsequent ones.
For any crochet project, I tend to make it up as I go along. The reason for this is the type of instructions which are as follows: With Main Color, ch 105. Row 1: Right side - SC in 2nd ch from hook, *DC in next ch, SC in next ch*,repeat from * across row, ending with DC in last stitch (104 sts). Row 2: SC in 2nd chain from hook,... and so on and so forth for line after line of jibberish. Yikes.*

To personalize, I take a square of aida cloth, turn the edges under and cross-stitch the grandchild's initial, using an alphabet I printed off the internet.

I add decorative stitching then the alphabet square is ready to be mounted at the top of the afghan. After that it's time to sew the silky fabric on the back.

*Gotta love those asterisks

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Tomatoes: Determinate vs. indeterminate

Two very healthy indeterminate tomato plants.
Tomatoes come in two basic forms: determinate and indeterminate.

Determinate tomatoes have a pre-determined height and size. They're bushy and compact, usually topping out at 3 to 4 feet in height. Determinate tomatoes may not need support but are good caged, are good in either pots or garden, and tend to bear their fruit over a shorter period of time.

Indeterminate tomatoes are the vining type. With proper pruning and support, they can reach 8 feet or more. Determinate tomatoes are good in the garden, and they tend to bear fruit over a longer period of time.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

How to harvest lettuce

Lettuce is a wonderful cool-weather crop that is best enjoyed while the leaves are young and tender. To harvest it, all you have to do is snip off the outer leaves. Be careful not to uproot the plants. I'm finding that harvesting encourages the lettuce (and other greens like turnips, mustard and spinach) to put on new leaves.

Even though it's now too late in the season for it now, I experimented with growing lettuce a couple of years ago. I had quite a few varieties of lettuce/greens in my garden, growing them for the first time. They include Romaine, Caesar's Favorite Romaine, Fordhook Giant Swiss Chard, Purple-Top White Globe Turnips, Double Choice Hybrid Spinach, E.B. Nace Mix Mustard, Black Seeded Simpson Leaf Lettuce, and All Season Romaine Mix Leaf Lettuce. I think.

I had my doubts about whether my Square Foot Garden (the method I was using at the time) would produce enough lettuce/greens. But not to worry. I was able to get this much salad every day or two, so I was happy. It's more than it looks like. Kind of like ordering a salad at a restaurant and it seems bottomless. Ever had one of those salads?

Sunday, March 8, 2015

How to make organic pest control spray

If you don't mind your plants having garlic breath, you can't beat this organic mix that you blend up and spray on your beleaguered plants.

Put these things in the blender and chop as finely as you can:
3 garlic bulbs (six to 10 cloves each)
6 large hot peppers
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
A little less than 1 teaspoon liquid dish detergent
3 cups water

Strain this stinky mixture through a coffee filter, cheese cloth or muslin. Stir in four more cups of water. Keep it away from your eyes as you inhale the fresh aroma.

Put what you need right now in a labeled spray bottle. Save the rest in labeled jars.

Experiment and see if your garlic spray is working on the bugs. You can dilute it if necessary or change the ingredients slightly.