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Garden 2018: Kicking Things Off

Spring brings with it not only a host of inside spring cleaning projects, as I talked about in this post. It also brings a lengthy list of outside projects as well. It can be a delicate balance ensuring that the inside, as well as the outside tasks are completed. Colorado weather lends itself to this balance with weather shifts that force one inside, sometimes right after beckoning them outside. This week was no exception. The nice weather through part of the week made being outside irresistible. And so, we are kicking things off with Garden 2018!

Generally I wiggle with excitement at the start of my annual seedlings project.

This year I wasn’t quite as excited. Hence the reason you didn’t read one post about seedlings 2018 (spoiler alert: there aren’t any!).

I needed a new spot for growing. One of the two babes in my life has taken over the bedroom where the project has been executed <with much success> in the past.

I struggled to come up with anything, but eventually did. I wasn’t thrilled with the concept but decided I’d make it work for just one year. Then, I’d get my thinking cap on and come up with something better for 2019.

So…I got the first of the planting done and the area set up. Lights. Moisture. Heat.

My enthusiasm began to build.

And then…

The project ended in catastrophe even more quickly than it had started. And, I mean CAT-astrophe!

That’s right! Just a day after I finally got moving with the seedlings, the cat LITERALLY destroyed the whole thing. One BIG awful mess. It came on the heels of a particularly difficult day with the kiddos.

Defeat set in.

I scrapped the whole project.

I am not thrilled about having to purchase plants this year. It is rewarding beyond measure for me to start my own seeds but more than that – it’s so much more cost effective to go the seedlings route.

Sometimes push comes to shove. In this instance, feeling backed into a corner (and on my very last nerve – between the kids and the cat), I made the decision to forego seedlings for 2018. I’ve got a couple gift cards from the wellness program at work that will be designated for garden 2018 ‘stuff’ (including plants) and will be cutting some corners I don’t normally cut for the sake of cost-savings.

I’ll also probably be looking for some new and creative ways to make a dollar stretch that isn’t all about cutting corners. More to come on that!

So, back to Garden 2018.

We broke ground last Sunday!!

The soil has been tilled. Compost has been purchased. The first of my store-bought plants are acclimating in the greenhouse!

Technically, I probably could have the greenhouse planted by now. The weather ought to hold up from this point going forward without much in the way of really hard frost.

But…life.

Busy schedules. Competing priorities. Illness and injuries.

The plants will go into the ground very soon. As will the seeds.

Right now I’m working on my plant mapping for garden 2018. The reason this is important is because it helps me keep track of where different plants have taken up residence year to year. Different plants pull different nutrients from the soil. Rotating what is planted, where – in addition to adding compost to the soil annually – helps ensure that plants will have everything they need to grow and produce.

Curious to know what all I have planned for garden 2018?

Check it out:

Don’t forget that Simply Writeous is hosting a giveaway. Click here for details on how to get your name entered, if you haven’t already! You have until midnight on Thursday 4/19/18 to enter – winner announced on Friday!

Cheers!

2017 Garden Update: The Blessing of Sharing

August is coming to a close and Fall is just around the corner. Fall might actually already be here. At least in our neck of the woods. The nights are cool but the days continue to be quite warm. Leaves are starting to turn on some of our trees. I suppose it won’t be long before our winter season hits. If we can hang on to some Fall for a while, I can be content with that. All that to say the timing felt right for a quick garden update this morning.

Garden Update

I still have those dreaded aphids in the greenhouse but the ladybugs seem to be helping get them under control. If you missed hearing about that disaster, click on over to my post Attack Of The Aphids: The Saga Continues. I’m no longer worried about them destroying everything, much to my relief.

Some of the plants are starting to taper off. The green beans and cucumbers seem to have run their course, or are nearing reaching their end. Two of the tomato plants are fading as well, for reasons I can’t quite understand because the others seem to just be hitting their stride. The pepper plants are coming on strong! Corn is ready for harvest.

Several weeks ago I harvested the cabbage. It was ready to be picked far more quickly than I had planned. The heads were HUGE. To give you an idea, here’s just half of one:

I was busy in the kitchen putting together cabbage burgers for the freezer. Definitely another post for another time. For now we’ll continue on with the garden update.

Let’s see…squash and zucchini are steadily producing. I’ve picked a couple okra. Oh! The pumpkin plants, which were a bit of a disappointment initially have really begun to impress. You see, I planted 12 and only TWO came up! Of the two, only one is doing much of anything BUT I’m so in love with the little funky pumpkins being produced!

Garden Blessings

One of the best parts of having a large garden is when we are blessed in abundance and able to share that blessing with others.

We live just up the street from an older, retired couple. Though we don’t spend a lot of time with them, we are their ‘go to’ when they leave town and want someone to keep an eye on their house. We also do a fair bit of food trading with one another. The woman is from the Philippines and the most wonderful cook. Every so often sends her husband up the street with little treats for us. Likewise, I hand off fresh produce from our garden whenever able.

Last weekend I walked a big, heavy bag of veggies down the street. After giving them a garden update, I headed on my way. Then, last night, an unexpected phone call. I was informed that the neighbor lady had prepared some of the green beans and wanted me to ‘taste test’ them. I mean, who is going to decline that offer?? Not this girl!

What showed up wasn’t a green bean side dish but rather a full on meal. It was AMAZING! I will most definitely be asking for the recipe!

All this got me thinking about what a blessing it was for me first to give and then to have my giving come back more abundantly. Not only did those beans return even more delicious than when I sent them down the street BUT I was tired and stretched for time last evening. The arrival of this gift from the neighbor came just after 6pm and saved me from having to figure out, and cook, my own dinner.

It all reminded me of this scripture…

Deuteronomy 15:10 – Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.

So, there you have it! August comes to a close today and we are on the heels of a holiday weekend. Wishing you all the best with the long weekend ahead. And, if you haven’t yet, jump on the bandwagon and get registered for my Giveaway!!

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Attack of The Aphids: The Saga Continues

For the second year in a row, there’s been a serious infestation of aphids in the greenhouse. It’s a gardener’s nightmare!

Last year I didn’t notice until the aphid infestation had spread. Several plants were affected but the pepper plants and one row of green beans seemed to have taken the brunt.  I didn’t want to spray a bunch of chemical bug killer in the greenhouse. I also knew I needed to get the situation under control before the entire greenhouse was overtaken. Aphids and plants are not a match made in heaven and I didn’t want to lose everything. So, I made the difficult decision to pull the pepper plants and that one row of green beans…before I ever got a harvest off any of them! Predator bugs seemed to take care of the rest and the remainder of the garden plants survived.

This year the aphids are back, in full effect. I thought keeping a closer eye on the situation and the presence of so many lady bugs this season would be the ticket to preventing a serious outbreak. Turns out, that philosophy wasn’t spot on either. The aphids came on seemingly overnight and the pepper plants are once again COVERED in those volatile little beasts!

They’re light green in color so they blend in with the plant and they seem to congregate on the backside of leaves. So, unless you’re really looking for them, they are easily overlooked. In fact, it wasn’t until I was wandering through the garden wearing black pants that I even became aware of their presence! As I brushed past the pepper plants  I noticed my black pants were covered with aphids! Grr (and gross)!!

Further investigation left me convinced they were pretty well contained to the pepper plants. So, I didn’t freak out and start pulling up plants like last year. Instead, I sprayed the plants with an insecticidal soap and came straight inside to place an order for lady bugs.

Homemade Aphids Insecticidal Soap

  • 1 quart water
  • 1 tsp dawn dish soap
  • couple dashes cayenne pepper

**Mix together in a spray bottle and mist plants (recipe credit to Almanac.com, see more in link below)

I knew that this soap combination wasn’t going to yield immediate results with eradicating the aphid infestation. The purpose was to try to slow the aphids down (not that they’re overly fast or active, except with reproduction, apparently) while I waited patiently impatiently for the arrival of my lady bugs. It would have been my preference to purchase lady bugs locally so there didn’t have to be wait time but I was unable to locate a local nursery that carried any.

So…internet order it was! I ended up ordering from High Sierra Lady Bugs, a small family & friends operation in California (<— this is not an affiliate link, and I don’t get any compensation for the nod to this company. I’m just satisfied with my order and think they deserve a shout-out). The ladies arrived in just a handful of days and there appeared to be only dozen or so casualties that didn’t make the trip. When you order 500, losing a dozen is no big deal. They came with great instructions on releasing them. I didn’t follow the instructions. I figured that my aphid infestation was enough to supply the food needed for all 500. Plus the confined area inside the greenhouse would help ensure that they didn’t all just high-tail out of here.

I wish I had taken a picture – or a video – of the release. It was fun to open the bag and watch them make their way up the pepper plants and immediately begin devouring those aphid frenemies. When I checked again last evening it appeared that the lady bugs had more evenly dispersed themselves within the greenhouse (and some out into the outside garden area), many remaining on the pepper plants, eating until they just can’t eat any more.

Future Aphids Control Plans

So, clearly I need to get a different plan in place for next year. While I feel confident the garden will be okay this year, I would feel SO MUCH better if I had a better handle on it in years to come. Or, at least a plan of attack so I’m not frantically ordering lady bugs and anxiously awaiting their arrival.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac has a wonderful article with suggestions for aphid control. I’ll keep this one, and those suggestions, top of mind for next season.  I’m particularly interested in planting catnip. A simple solution to deter aphids from setting up shop to begin with. I also think I’ll also get some lady bugs ordered early and just have them on hand. My research has taught me that they can be kept in the fridge for up to 2 months so it seems a no-brainer.

Have you had issues with aphids trying to take over your world? Any creative solutions you could share? I’m certainly NOT the expert (clearly!) and would appreciate any ideas you might have!