Betty Crocker’s Kitchen Gardens

This winter has been long, with hardly any snow, lots of cold rain, and never ending wind.

But this weekend, the garden began! Twenty eight blackberry and raspberry plants got planted on Saturday, and this week 150 onion plants and a 20 foot row of potatoes, a few broccoli and cilantro plants and the first planting of peas. Tomorrow some lettuce seedlings go out, and sweet peas and dill will be seeded. This is exciting.

And so is the arrival of this:

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I have wanted this book for a long, long time. I finally ordered it as a gift for my sister in law.  I decided to keep it.  I suppose that is terrible of me.

There are chapters on planning the garden, preparing the garden area, and harvesting.  Then, as most gardening books do, it delves into individual plants.   First a second on herbs (quite a bit of space is devoted to this, much more than most modern gardening books), and then vegetables.  The vegetables are divided into “favorites”, ones that anyone can grow, even in containers, and then “elbowroom vegetables”, for people with larger plots. There is a section for kids gardening, including sample plans, and finally a chapter on  using your harvest, with ideas for herb mixes, vinegars, and teas.

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I must be approaching old age because all of my favorite housewifey books are out of print. (The Mothers Almanac, How to Live on Almost Nothing and Have Plenty, Taste of Home Best Loved Recipes). Some of them I’ve gotten from the library, decided I had to own, and ordered used copies of. This book reminds me of them. It is practical and beautiful. I love sketched illustrations in gardening and homemaking books. You can imagine the scene belongs to you, in a way a photograph would never let you.

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I love how someone has circled the name of some of the herbs. I just imagine some now-grandmother, then-young woman, going through this very copy. She was not interested in lovage, salad burnet, or watercress. (Is anyone?) She starred the line about corn being an attractive ornamental in the back of the garden, and that really is true. It just looks right, and very American .

There is a faint round mark from a mug of coffee or tea, and I am drifting into maudlin territory here, imagining her setting down her cup to attend to a little child. It’s just a book.  And funnily enough, a book only ends up on the secondhand market because someone doesn’t want it!  So I am being ridiculous.

If you are interested in gardening and like Tasha Tudor, I know you won’t be disappointed if you are able to find a used copy.

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Garden Plan Pro App Thoughts, plus my 2018 Garden Plan

This is probably the 20th version of my garden for this year. I love planning more than anything, and really enjoy redoing it. I had many graph paper versions, but this morning I decided to buy the growveg app for my iPad mini. It was 7.99, and I have been tinkering with it all morning.

Here are my two plans, one for spring and one for fall (only a few changes between the two, as most crops are all season long, like tomatoes and peppers. This is my main garden. I have separate areas for berries, garlic, and fruit trees.

Spring:

Midsummer:

(Onions finish up in July, fall potatoes and broccoli are planted in their place. Spring broccoli is done, and pumpkins get planted July 1st as small transplants.)

I have a few thoughts on the app that I wanted to share.

What I liked:

1. The fact that I can use it on my iPad. This is big for me because I can tinker with the plan while nursing and when I wake up at 4:30 and don’t want to turn on lights and wake up the kids.

2. How easy it was to customize. I could have written out the name of each tomato variety if I so chose. I was able to change dates easily to plan for succession planting. (For example, I said my onions would be in from March to July, and then fall broccoli from July to November.) I was able to change plant spacing easily also. The program recommended tomatoes 18 inches apart, but I like them 30 inches apart, so I changed it and the app automatically spaced them that way.

3. I liked the variety of plants available. After choosing “zinnia”, most of the varieties I plant, even ones exclusive to certain seed companies, were already available to chose from. If one was missing, I could create my own.

4. I think the pictures are cute and make for an attractive plan that would be a nice keepsake if printed out. You can draw shapes and add your own text if you wanted to do a whole homestead plan to include your chicken coop, barn, compost, etc.

5. The automatic spacing is very useful and shows you that small crops like onions and carrots will yield a lot in a small space.

What I didn’t like:

1. When the plan is finished, you are able to print it. But the printed image does not include the graph that shows square footage! So when you take it out to the garden, it won’t be terribly useful. I guess I will take the iPad out with me, or print a screenshot, which is what I have for my first plan.

2. It is pretty time consuming. Much slower than graph paper and a pencil.

3. The gardening “how to” articles are the same old stuff you hear everywhere. (Didn’t buy it for these, so I don’t care.)

Overall:

I am glad I bought it. It is not revolutionary, but I really enjoy it so far!


Planning a vegetable garden that makes sense

For years, and I mean years, I planted vegetable gardens that were complete nonsense.  I would look through seed catalogs, choose far too many plants, plant them too close together, and have tiny harvests of a million different vegetables.  Also I lived in the suburbs where there was too much shade and no bees.  Also I had my husband build raised beds, purchase soil, and generally spend so much on my hobby that there was no way I could come out ahead, even had I planned my garden well.

So it is now fall, the ending of gardening season, with nothing to dream of but next year.  I have improved in my planning a lot, but still find that this time of year is the best for planning.  What did I need more of? What was timed poorly?  How was my spacing and my aisle widths?  What did I end up giving away because there was too much?  And what varieties have earned a spot for next year?

So in the spirit of planning, here are some things to keep in mind.

  1.  Look at your grocery lists, not the seed catalog.

Plant what you eat.  Sounds obvious.  It is not.  Why are are there so many sample plans with rows of turnips and rutabagas? Why?  I am proud if you if you really eat these things, but if you don’t, please do not plant them.  I am tempted every year by beautiful summer squash, but… I think it is gross.  So does my family.  Same goes for Lima beans and sweet potatoes.  I remember once reading a book where a character makes a salad with beets on top and all the other characters like it.  I planted beets, we ate one, it was okay.  The others languished.  Look at what you pay for at the store! (For us this means lettuce, onions, garlic, celery, carrots, tomatoes, extra tomatoes for canning, bell peppers, jalapeños, extra peppers for canning, sugar snap beans, green beans, corn, cucumbers, extra cucumber for pickles, spinach, cilantro, basil, and a lot of watermelon.  We buy our potatoes because they do not do well in our humidity and I have nowhere suitable to store a years supply.)

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     2. Plant enough of one thing to be self sufficient in it for the season.

This might means reducing the number of varieties in order to get a usable amount of one thing.  What will you do with twenty green beans a week?  Nothing.  Plant enough so that you do not buy any green beans for the season and you eat them as a side dish regularly.  For us this means a thirty foot row, half planted late April and half planted late June.   If you just want tomatoes for fresh eating, two or three plants should be plenty.   Some things will need to be planted in succession to avoid being unusable.  In the spring and fall, I plant small amounts of lettuce and spinach in trays every week.  They are something that I want a little of, bit by bit.  What would I do with thirty heads of romaine, all ready to eat in one day?  Pay careful attention to how much, and when, each plant will produce.  Plant enough so that you aren’t buying it at all; plant at the right time so you are actually eating it.

 

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3. Obey the seed packet

It truly tells you all you need to know.  Most gardening books have a first half of generic advice that boils down to “fertilize and weed your garden”, and then a second half with information of specific varieties.  The second half reads like pages of seed packets.  There  is so much information on those little envelopes, and you really should listen to it!  The most important thing is how far apart to plant your seeds and how to thin so that they have enough room to reach their full potential.  Planting things too close does NOT result in more to harvest.  EVER.  If the seed company, whose motivation is to have you use a lot of seeds, wants to you to space them 12 inches apart, trust me that 12 inches is the absolute minimum distance they should be.  Too much competition for water and nutrients will hurt all of them and you will wonder why nothing is turning out.  Take a ruler with you to the garden.  Also do not plant them 12 inches apart to start with, thinking you can skip thinning.  No.  Part of thinning is that you are selecting the strongest plants.  Just do what the packet says!

4.  Work in the garden every day

Water and plant in the mornings.  Weed and harvest in the afternoons.  Don’t touch it when it’s wet with dew or rain.  Just stay out of it.  If something is growing too slowly, feed it with some granular fertilizer worked in around the plant and then watered in.  Set yourself a schedule for weeding, one row every three days, or 100 weeds a day, or whatever you can see yourself sticking to.  It needs constant attention, but only a few minutes a day.  Take your older children to help you.  They can snack as they go.  Just get out there and keep an eye on things.

 

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5.  Make it beautiful

Keep things in nice tidy rows with wide and comfortable aisles.  Make it so that it were visible from the road, you would slow down and gaze at it in longing.  Plant flowers that will beautify your home and the garden itself.  If there is room for beautiful pumpkins, plant them.  (Keep your herbs out of there, by the way, and put them in containers or a separate herb garden.  Their variety makes things look messy, and it is nice to have them somewhere else, right outside your door.) Let your garden be a source of pride.  It will draw you to it by being pretty and you will love keeping it up.  Keep it as weed free as you can so that you feel accomplished, not defeated, when you see it.

 

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We just got back from a family trip to Disney World, which was very fun.  I loved it!  Matt was a little overwhelmed with the crowds.  But it was so nice to not cook dinner for a week, relax in pools, and watch the girls have fun.  I love Disney, and how well everything is themed, how meticulously the landscaping is done, just everything.

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The parks and our hotel were gorgeous!  It was the beginning of the Flower and Garden Week at Epcot, so there were character topiaries everywhere.

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Our hotel had a quiet pool near our room that we used most days, coming back after lunch at the parks for a swim break, then venturing back out to see fireworks or do rides when it was cooler and the lines weren’t so bad.  It also had a little water taxi that went to an outdoor shopping/ eating area.  We ate there twice.  IMG_5171.jpgIMG_5167.jpg

Maddie was VERY brave, and rode Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, and both girls rode a water rapid ride.  Big Thunder was not a success, but the others were.  (Anxiously waiting here, having been told by Daddy she could not get out of line.)

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Home now, I am having a hard time focusing on the upcoming baby and being home.  I want to be planning our next vacation, which is of course years away.  I’m not sure what is wrong with me, but I have anti-nesting.  The baby will be here in 11 weeks or sooner, and the nursery is not painted, I have no interest in the quilt or sampler I started, the crib is missing pieces and can’t be assembled yet, and I just want go away again.

But I am trying to get settled, arranging some outdoor treasures found by a small friend.

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And enjoying our changeable weather on its good days.

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Trying to focus on the garden, my favorite hobby.  At least Maddie has made her plan.

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We started tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant on Sunday.  Eggplant is new to us, since no one in the family eats it, but we are going to give it a try.  We also added cherry peppers in addition to the usual bells and jalapeños.  For tomatoes we did sungold, our favorites for snacking, and two big red slicers, Brandy Boy and Madame Marmande that we enjoyed last year.  In two weeks I will start some cutting flowers in flats.  Watermelon, sunflower, cucumber,  and pumpkins last.  I will get excited again about being home.

Back from Vacation and Settling In