Saturday, June 28, 2014

A Day with Mom: Veggie Garden Planters How-To & A Quick Blue Bird Lesson

This summer Eric decided he wanted a bigger vegetable garden.  To do this he completely dissembled the fence so he could rebuild it, but with this summer being so crazy with the wedding he never got around to finishing it.  So long story short, we still wanted veggies but didn't have a place to put them.  
Enter: Planters!  

I've known people to use planters to grow vegetables, but have never tried it myself.  So naturally, I called Mom.  She found the planters big enough to fit everything in and even painted them for me! Then she had me over and taught me all about how to do it just right to make sure I got some really great results.  Now, I can't selfishly keep all this great knowledge to myself so here you go! From my mom to me and now to you. 
First you need the planters.  The bigger the better, but a 3-5gal should be fine.  And a lot of potting soil.  The multipurpose is great and I like to make sure it has the moisture control because, let's face it, I'm not so great at remembering to water my plants.  

Next you'll need a wheel barrel or something to mix the potting soil up with. 

Dump in a good amount... 

Now for your additives.  You didn't think my mom would just use potting soil, did you?! 

First you'll need a little Osmocote plant food (just a few shakes) which will "ensure a continuous supply of nutrients to feed your plants for 4 months".  This is great and will last you all season long.  Next, add some Coast of Main Lobster & Kelp plant food (one scoop) which is "ideal for fertilizing vegetables".  I know people who swear by this stuff to help the plants produce awesome crops for the season.  And last, add some Hydrated Horticultural Lime (about 1/4 cup) to "reduce soil acidity and increase efficiency of fertilizers".

The next thing she does (which is genius by the way) is fill the bottom of the planter with styrofoam popcorn.  This is done for two main reasons: 1st, to help bring down the weight of the planter after it's complete and 2nd, to help the filtration of the water and keep loss of soil when watering to minimum.  Then after they're in, go ahead and fill up your planter with your potting soil mixture and start planting your veggies, adding more soil as you need. 

Plant whatever you like to eat, of course, but if you're planting tomatoes, start with them.  When planting a new tomato, place it on it's side in a valley of the soil (rather than the traditional hole) after scraping the bottom of the stem with your nail.  This will allow the plant to root along the stem as well as getting it's existing roots established, and will result in a stronger mature plant.  Then plant everything else around them.  

We planted lettuce, bell peppers, a squash, some lettuce, and even threw some oregano and magnolias in there to help deter the bugs from eating the plants. 

When planting, be sure to not plant them too close to the edge of the planter.  You want to have about an inch of soil all the way around the outside of planter.

We added some stakes for when the tomato plants need some additional support as well. 

Drooping of the plants is completely normal and they'll bounce back in a couple of days.  Next we gave them a shot of some Miracle Grow when we watered.  Also, keep them in a shady spot for the first few days so they're not baked by the sun and make sure they're watered every few days, or when you see them wilting. 

And there you have it!  Keep them watered and watch them grow!  After I got them home I put them on a stand that placed them about 2ft above the ground to help with the rabbits that just LOVE my veggies every year, and we've gotten a great crop from them.  Even when we get our vegetable garden rebuilt, I might still do a planter or two instead of annuals.  They serve as decoration too, so why not?!  Hope you enjoy!

Boomer helped!

After we were done making the planters we took a walk around her property.  Since I thought you might be bored of seeing mine all the time, I thought I'd share.

Mom's Veggie Garden :)
As we walked I got a quick lesson on Blue Birds that I though you might also like...

My mom is a member of the North American Blue Bird Society and watches her Blue Birds very carefully and takes great care of them each season: switching out their babies' nesting materials to avoid them being bit by blow flies, watching them fledge, & shooing out invasive birds to allow for the Blue Birds to nest.  She has many Blue Bird houses on her property and says the main thing that makes or brakes a good bird house is ventilation.  She bought the white one seen below online and doesn't get many residents because it's too hot for them.  But the one she built herself is always one of their favorite.  Though it might not be as pretty, the ventilation is the seller.  As you'll see below, she has equipped it with drainage holes on the floor of the box as well as ventilation on the roof. 

Operation Blue Bird
Bought online, but not the best box for Blue Birds

Drainage for the rain as well as ventilation.
Ventilation where the roof meets the wall of the box.
Handmade and it's their favorite!
It was great being able to spend the day with Mom on her property.  She loves tending to her gardens and her land and takes such pride in the result of her hard work.  Here's just a little more of our walk on this beautiful day. :)  Thanks for reading.  Till next time! 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Dinner in 5 Ingredients or Less

Sometimes when I'm in a rush and hungry I just want to cook the food I have. I don't want to do anything fancy with other ingredients or seasonings, I just literally want to COOK. THE. FOOD.

Which brought me to this post. I have a feeling I'm not the only one.  Well this meal is just that. Cooked food.  Takes no brain power whatsoever and is done in no time. 

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 pork sausage
2 bell peppers
1/4 cup mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup marinara sauce

Cook sausage 10-20 min on med heat in a large skillet until browned
Add peppers about half way in, cook in same skillet 5-10 min depending on preference of tenderness.
Add to roll or bowl and serve. Add marina and/or mozz cheese if desired.

Prep 5min; Cook 20min; Serves 2

First, I heat up the olive oil on med heat, then add the sausage and cook for about 15 min turning them every so often so not to blacken one side more than another.

Meanwhile I got my peppers ready.  I'll share this with you because I one point I thought it was the coolest thing.  Some of you will already know this little trick and think it's old news, but for the rest of us...

Just cut the peppers in half along the stem and take out the stem with your hand! Rinse out all the seeds and viola!  Then cut them into strips, then cut the strips in half. Another good tip: cut with the peppers in this position. The peppers are softer on this side and it's not as slippery making it less likely to slip off and cut your finger. (Yup that happened a few years ago, so thought I'd share)

After the sausage is about 1/2 way cooked throw in your pepper and stir occasionally. At this point I put it up to med-high (or just a little hotter). In total the sausage take about 15 min to cook through.  I like to cook them a little on the slow side so the outside doesn't get too crispy but if you like them a little crunchier turn it up a little and they'll be done quicker too.

Then your done! Eric's likes his plain on a roll, but me, I like mine cut up...

With some sauce on it...

And some peppers on top...

Sure why not, throw some cheese on there too...

And a little more sauce for good measure.

And that's it! Dinner in less than 5 ingredients!  Quick and easy!

Enjoy! What are some quick meals you guys like to throw together when you're hungry and just NEED FOOD? These recipes are my favorite! 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Beauty of June Continues

I'm so excited with how beautiful our gardens are this year that I couldn't wait to give you guys an update!

I don't know if it's because we're paying more attention or if it's because we've been working so hard on them this year, but everything is saying, "Thank you!" in a big way.

I mean, check out this Peony, would you!
According to The Plant Expert (and if I picked the right one in the list) this beauty is called Mother's Choice and was the winner of the American Peony Society Gold Medal in 1993!  Why am I not surprised?!

If you're looking to grow peonies, they're pretty easy once they get their feet down.  I do virtually nothing to these and they keep coming back every year.  Just a little weeding around their base.  I've heard that some will cut them back after they bloom, but I never have.  In the fall I will take away the dead from the year before, but only if it's not connected anymore.  I don't ever clip anything off.  I've heard that the leaves and stalk from tulips actually feed the bulbs, so maybe that's true for the peonies as well.  Whatever I'm doing (or not doing) they seem to like it.  There are a few things suggested by the Plant Expert to help you out if you'd like to take the extra mile.  Also, if you're planting them for the first time, or moving them, tho pretty hardy, they can be temperamental, so definitely check out that sight on the how too's for best results.

And our roses have started blooming.  I'm not certain enough about the names to list them, yet, but that's some homework I'm going to do.  Always learning!

For all my roses, I can't say I do much to keep them looking great.  They pretty much take care of themselves.  I try and cut back the dead from the previous year but only after the buds of the new growth start to form as some of those dead looking stalks have surprised me with growth, even blooms before.  So around this time, right when they're about to bloom, I cut the dead off (about three inches above the green) to make way.  A little weeding at the base, but leaving some leaves or something to cover it's feet is always good to keep the moister after it rains. 

If I move any though I take great care to make sure everything is just so for them when they get to their new home.  First thing I make sure of is making the new hole good and deep and big.  Then I throw in fertilizer and horse manure (magic ingredient to any rose transplant).  Then when I take the rose from it's original home, I do my best to make it like it never left.  In other words, I take as much original dirt as I can.  Then I place it so gently in it's new home and give it lots of water.  I kind of think of it like moving a sleeping baby.  As long as they don't realize their being moved, they'll stay sleeping.  And when they wake up the hope is, they won't be cranky, but they'll love their new environment.  

And the Spirea have taken off this year and are more beautiful than they've ever been.  Maybe it's because all the weeds have been yanked out from their centers for once!
Spirea are hardy and reseed like crazy.  This one came up on it's own one year!  Eric takes to them with the hedge trimmer whenever he feels like it and they just keep on truckin.  They're a great little shrub for anyone that doesn't have the time to really trim on the regular though because they don't grow like crazy or shoot runners out.  They're pretty tame (besides sending volunteers out every once in a while) and just stay in their little spot and look pretty.  They do like full sun as well, and the butterflies, honey bees and bumble bees just love them.

Narrowleaf Evening Primrose is so cheery!
These can be easily mistaken for a flock if you're not careful in the early spring before they bloom.  But they are much shorter and their leaves are a bit deeper green.  You'll also start to see the fuzzy red bloom so watch for those so not to pull them out, because they are such an eye catcher.

Sweet Summer Love Clematis is very happy this year. 
They like full sun and something to climb. This clematis has even outgrown it's little trellis but I keep putting the shooters down through the trellis again to make it fuller and it seems to be working beautifully. 

And our Lambs Ear is right below that because they like to have something by their feet just like the roses, and is blooming too. I don't think we've ever seen this bloom before.  These perennials can get out of hand if you let them.  They need a little tough love every once in a while.  My rule, if they're out of bounds they get yanked.  It take a couple of years for them to get to that point, but they always do.
Whatever is going on this year, it's all good!

After our hard work, we took a walk on the backtracks behind our house and a little on the edge of the freshly cut farm behind that.  It was a beautiful day.

Till next time!  Thanks for stopping by!