June 16, 2011

DOUBLE-HEADER FRIDAY - MISSION: GARDEN!

Posted by Ethne~

Thrifty Nana and I were on a serious WOM mission this past weekend – her garden!

Geraniums add color; KD and Easy Mac add lunacy fun

We usually go way overboard, but it’s so fun!  It started with our annual pilgrimage to Ace, Home Depot and Menards – plant hunting. 

TN’s and my gardening breaks down to three categories – flowers, herbs and produce.  We’ve grown just about everything, but this year we decided to streamline.  We went for flowers we know will grow, like geraniums and petunias (see my post here).  We went with produce that will grow well and won’t be hard to harvest – basically our faves only.

I’m a fan of food in general, as y’all have probably guessed.  After the long winter of heavy, rich foods, a light meal with garden veggies and fresh fruit is just about the best thing.  Toss some warm whole wheat pasta with chopped tomatoes, fresh basil, mozarella or a crumbled cheese like feta, olive oil, salt and pepper.  You’ll love it, I guarantee. 

An added bonus to gardening, and of particular WOM appeal, is that when your garden starts to produce, you are getting every bit of it for FREE and you know exactly where it’s been – from garden to plate in literally minutes.

So this is what we were after:

Tomatoes.  These are one of the most prolific veggies (don’t quibble, I know they’re really a fruit) in our latitude.  Easy to grow for sure – you just need a few tips and some water.  We chose a brandywine (probably one of the tastiest, juiciest of the lot – perfect BLT fare), early girl (produce fruit quickly), big boy (beautiful, round and red – they are prolific too), and a few others.  The brandywine we purchased on its own – it cost about $3 for the one plant.  The others we purchased as smaller plant packs, which cost about $1 per plant, or even less.  In all of our zeal, we ended up coming home with 20 plants.  Criminy!

Each one of those will produce loads of tomatoes

Tomatoes like acidic soil.  Minnesota has lovely rich soil, so we can grow loads of stuff, but to give it a little more acidity, TN throws her coffee grounds and fire pit ashes into the garden too.  Plant each tomato about 2 feet apart from each other – a little more won’t hurt.  Dig a hole deep enough to put the plant all the way down to its first leaves (that’s right, you bury a good segment of the lower stem), fill the hole with soil and tamp down around with your hands.  Done deal.  As the tomatoes get a little taller and start to blossom, we put tomato cages over them to help them grow up, not fall over with their heavy fruit.  Nothing is wrong when the tomatoes tip over while growing, but the tomatoes that grow touching the ground end up getting eaten by worms on their bottom side.  Water daily for best results.

A little grape tomato - like candy to KD and Easy Mac

Peppers.  Peppers like the hot sun, all day long.  TN and I put them along the sidewalk up to her front door.  It’s a little stretch of dirt that’s too dry and sunny to grow anything else.  The peppers are in heaven so there they went.  I have a jalapeno on my deck.  TN just wanted green and sweet (yellow, red) peppers.  We got these for about $1 per plant, or even less.  Peppers are great because they’re hard to kill.  They love to roast in the sun.  But they still like a drink of water every day.

Roast away you peppers!

Zucchini.  These little squashes we plant from a seed pack.  They need some space to grow, so we planted them on the other side of the garden from the tomatoes.  They kind of vine out – envision a pumpkin since they’re related.  Shaun grills zucchinis in planks with olive oil, salt, pepper and his secret herbs and spices.  Then in August we make my favorite cake: MoJo’s Zucchini Chocolate Cake.  Words cannot express how good this is, but I’ll have to come up with something. 

Zucchini plants coming from seeds;
Trust me, they'll get a lot bigger

Basil.  Home Depot had this great ‘pesto pack’.  Three different types of basil in one pack of six plants for $2!  What a DEAL!  Though if you plant herbs from seeds, the packs are about $1 and you get a lot of seeds.  That’s perhaps the most economical route.

3 types of basil - yeah pesto!

BONUS: Perennials and volunteers like catnip (for Sweet Baby T-Rex), cilantro, tarragon, rhubarb, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries are an initial investment (but even then, pretty cheap) or get ‘starts’ of a plant for FREE from a friend.  TN has all of the above.  In August when the raspberries are producing, I disappear into the brambles and eat until there’re no more ripe berries.  Till the next day.  Sometimes I’m a bad mom and don’t even share with my kids (TN distracts them with something like a fresh ripe tomato, which they happily eat like apples).

Rhubarb
Raspberries coming up
Great-grandma Berg's strawberries;
flower coming up in the middle is a chamomile volunteer

Friends, Lori and I will share the fruits of our garden with you all summer long.  We’ll have lots of garden-fresh recipes, gardening tips and outdoor fun.  One of Lori’s special requests is TN’s and my fried green tomatoes.  That should come late July and is another of my last-meal-on-Earth selections.  We’ll also talk to you about how to preserve your produce into the fall and winter with canning and freezing techniques.

Happy gardening!  And Grizz and Slags – you have houses now, so I’m chomping at the bit to get at least one plant in each of your yards this summer.  Call me!

My lovelies!

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