Mavis Mail – Jeannette Sends in Her Garden Photos

Magenta spreen

A big THANK YOU to everyone who has sent in their photographs and stories. I hope by sharing other people’s pictures and stories here on One Hundred Dollars a Month we can all have a rock star garden this year. Keep them coming!

purple runner beans

Hi Mavis,

I’ve been gardening in my rather small back yard (and blogging about it HERE) for the last 5 years. So, below is a little blurb about this year’s garden and some photos (including one of my awesome dried beans).

Magenta spreen

My vegetable garden creates sanity in my life – a break from the chaos of my graduate studies and role as a mom to an energetic toddler. It also provides piece of mind as healthy food is available for my family year round. And, I absolutely love getting my hands dirty.

leeks

Does gardening save me money? I’ll still collecting data to answer this question (after 5 years, my guess is yes, gardening is saving me money, but I could do better). With every harvest, I put on my science hat and pull out the scale. Weights of each type of produce are carefully noted in a kitchen notebook. What gets missed are the piles of strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, peas, beans, carrots, broccoli and other tasty treats my daughter and I eat standing in amongst the garden beds.

Kale and Collards

This year I expanded my food production beyond tomatoes, kale and squash – I produce boat loads of these, I can store them easily all winter and we all like them, but they don’t fill out a meal. I do get some eggs from my small flock of hens, but complete meals from the garden generally haven’t happened in the past.

backyard garden photos

To fill us up with home-grown goodness, I more than quadrupled potato production by taking over a near-by family member’s garden. Potatoes are the most calorie dense food I can grow, and I love, love, love them (I could eat them every meal, I’m not sure my family shares the same potato-enthusiasm). We’ve already harvested pounds, and most are still in the ground.

collecting dried beans

New this year, I started growing dried beans. I’ve carefully selected all heritage varieties with fascinating origin stories. My favourite so far is ‘Eye of the Tiger’ beans because I can’t help but hum the 80’s song with the same name whenever I see them. A bean with a theme song, how cool is that.

To add another frugality piece to my puzzle, I’ve went through several rounds of garden tetris to ensure each bean variety was far enough from each other to not cross so I can save seeds to plant again next year. Now, my dried bean harvest has started and I can’t wait to start taste testing.

Finally, a tip for getting locally adapted seeds for near free – check out your local library, some are setting up seed collections where you can sign out seeds in the spring and save some to return in the fall.

~ Jeannette

chicken

If you would like to have your garden, chicken coop or something you’ve made featured on One Hundred Dollars a Month, here’s what I’m looking for:

  • Your Garden Pictures and Tips – I’d especially like to see your garden set ups, growing areas, and know if you are starting seeds indoors this year. If so,  show me some picture of how you are going about it.
  • Your Chicken and Chicken Related Stories – Coops, Chicks, Hen’s, Roosters, Eggs, you name it. If it clucks, send us some pictures to share with the world.
  • Cool Arts & Crafts – Made from your very own hands with detailed {and well photographed} pictures and instructions.
  • Your pictures and stories about your pets. The more pictures and details the better.
  • Garage Sale, Thrift Store and Dumpster Diving pictures and the stories behind the treasures you found including how much you paid for them.

If I feature your pictures and the stories behind them on One Hundred Dollars a Month, I will send you a $20.00 gift card to the greatest store in the world: Amazon.com.

Go  HERE for the official rules.

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All the Cool People Pee in Their Garden

bag of urine

bag of urine

I thought I was cool, but according to Rodale Wellness, really cool people pee in their garden {or at the very least, use their urine in their compost piles}.  Say what?  Yep, studies have shown that urine is a pretty effective way to add a great “nitrogen-phosphorus-Potassium ratio” to the soil–and oddly enough, it is generally recognized as safe to put directly onto plants {though, it is really better suited directly on the soil, instead}.

So, in the off chance you want to give it a whirl…{Or a wizz?  Sorry, bathroom humor has never been my strong suit} just collect your urine throughout the day and dilute it one part pee to five to ten parts water.  Then, sprinkle it around the base of plants or on the base of the plants.  It’s apparently particularly effective for “cabbage, beets, cucumbers, and tomatoes.”

I feel obligated to tell you that pee-fertilizer comes with a warning label:  wash your veggies reaaallly well before you consume them {duh}, avoid using it if you have an infection {gross}, AND because of the high salt content in urine, make sure to water it in well and don’t over-use it {basic fertilizing rules apply}.

I guess it’s one way to go really green.  Who knew you were literally flushing money down the toilet?

Now get out there and wet the {garden} bed.

~Mavis

photo credit

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Lawn Watering Conservation Tips

Lawn Watering Conservation Tips

Lawn Watering Conservation TipsAfter getting the utility costs down inside this year, I plan on heading off the rise in my water bill from lawn/garden maintenance pronto–no more learning the hard way for me.  Although I get quite a bit of rain in my area, I still have to water pretty regularly in the summer months {nothing like the hotter regions of the country, though}.  I have used these watering saving tips in the past with success, so I thought I would pass them onto you so you can use them as they apply to your area:

  1. Water early in the morning or late in the evening.  That will cut down on evaporation.
  2. Mulch your plants.  Give their roots a layer of cool insulation, that way, they can retain water.
  3. Plan a rainwater collection system.  That is FREE water {after initial investment costs}.  I love pretty much anything that is free.
  4. Group plants with the same watering requirements together.  That way, you don’t over-water/under-water any of them.
  5. If you plan on putting a walking path in your yard, use porous materials–like gravel or bark.  That way, any water run-off will soak back into the surrounding areas.
  6. Leave grass clippings on the lawn when you mow, instead of bagging them.  That way, it will shade the roots of the grass and retain moisture.
  7. Aerate your lawn in the spring.  It makes it easier for your lawn to pull in moisture.
  8. In the west, most varieties of grass only need about 2.5 cm of water per week.  You may be over-watering unintentionally.
  9. Dig a circular trench around plants so that water will stay where it needs to…it’s like a moat for the plant to draw on.
  10. Water slowly for a longer period of time, rather than blasting the spot with a hose for a couple of seconds.  That way, the soil can absorb the water without it just running off to places you don’t need to water.

How do YOU conserve water in your garden/yard the summertime?

~Mavis

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Lucy the Puggle Dog Helps in the Garden

lucy the puggle dog

lucy the puggle dogI set out to transplant some lettuce seedlings this morning and Lucy, my garden helper extraordinaire, decided to tag along.

lucy the puggle

At our last house she dug holes for me in the garden all the time, but here at our new house it’s a little harder for her because we built the garden boxes so high. 16″ to be exact. We built them higher this time around so we could grow root crops during the winter months {something that was difficult at our last place}.

lucy the puggle dog diggingWell today, Lucy finally got to do some digging.
lucy the puggle dog

18 holes to be exact. And she loved every minute of it.

Oh Lucy. I love you. You are such a good pup.

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9 Companion Plants to Grow with Your Squash

9 Companion Plants to Grow with Your Squash

9 Companion Plants to Grow with Your Squash
If you are toying with starting a garden and don’t know where to start, squash is where it’s at.  There are quite a few varieties {some that will store nearly all winter}, they offer high yields, and are pretty easy to grow.

Because squash can be susceptible to pests and disease, I typically use companion planting to ward off as much as I can.  Plus, using companion planting to enhance all of their awesomeness is another way to grow organically {and send a message to Mother Nature saying, “Hey, I get it, let’s do it your way.”}

bean teepees

If you are growing squash this year, here is a list of companion plants to try pairing it with:

  1. Beans.  Beans provide their own nitrogen {and give some back to the soil as well}, so they will leave plenty of nitrogen goodness for squash to grow.
  2. Peas.  Peas do the same as beans, so mix and match or pick whichever you prefer.shucking corn
  3. Corn.  In the dead heat of summer, corn will provide a nice amount of shade for squash.
  4. Marigolds.  Marigolds deter pests.  You can pretty much integrate them into any crop.
  5. Catnip or Tansy.  Both have been shown to reduce squash bugs–which WILL happen, so might as well make it less desirable for them to hang around.botanical interests sunflower seeds
  6. Sunflowers.  Sunflowers do the same thing as corn in that they provide shade for squash plants in the dead of summer.
  7. Mint.  The strong odor of mint will help deter pests.
  8. Nasturtiums.  This is another flower that will repel insects.  Mix them in with the marigolds and people will think you were just going for aesthetics, instead of being the master gardener that you are.  :)french breakfast radish
  9. Radish.  Again, the aroma is said to keep pests away.

Do you plan on using companion planting with your squash this year?

~Mavis

 

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10 Companion Plants to Grow with Your Tomatoes

10 Companion Plants to Grow with Your Tomatoes

10 Companion Plants to Grow with Your TomatoesIf you have read my blog for any length of time, you know that I am a huge fan of companion planting.  It makes sense to work with nature rather than against it.

growing lettuce and tomatoes together in the same pot

Tomatoes are like the measure of every good gardener.  I actually know people who grow them, and don’t really care for them that much {weirdos}.  Still, a bumper crop of tomatoes means you have arrived in the gardening world–you can officially wear dirt under you nails and a big straw hat with pride.  Because tomatoes can succumb to about a million different problems {rough estimate}, they are one of my favorite crops to use companion planting on.

sun-gold-tomatoes

In the interest of keeping it simple, I decided to make a list of some of the plants that do well with tomatoes.  Also, for the record, there are some discrepancies among gardeners about which plants go well and which don’t {I’ve noticed it in quite a few conflicts in my gardening books–who knew gardening could be so controversial? ;)}, so of course, if you have read conflicting information,  just keep skimming down the list until you find another companion plant you like…fresh-organic-basil

  1. Basil.  It totally makes sense, basil and tomatoes taste amazing together.  It’s a symbiotic relationship.
  2. Marigolds.  Marigolds are like the golden child of companion planting.  They deter pests, and they look good doing it.
  3. Carrots.  Plant carrots a couple of weeks before you plant the tomatoes, to give them a chance, and then plant tomatoes in around them.  That way, in the hot summer months, the tomatoes will shade the carrots.  Fair warning:  the carrots might be a little smaller, as the tomato roots will probably win the space battle, but they will be flavor-packed.cutting lettuce leaves
  4. Lettuce.  Really, this one should be in a lettuce post.   The tomatoes shade the lettuce in the hot summer months, making it easier to grow lettuce all year.
  5. Borage.  Borage supposedly repels hornworms.
  6. Peppers.  These work well together because they have a lot of the same growing requirements:  full sun, nice hot soil, and similar watering needs.bowl of fresh green beans
  7. Beans.  Beans provide nitrogen to the soil.  Tomatoes love nitrogen.  Beans and tomatoes sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G.  I’m twelve, I can’t help myself.
  8. Celery.  Again, big ol’ tomato plants shade celery.
  9. Thyme, Parsley and Dill.  Basically, a tomato and herb garden planted together are as happy as pigs in mud.
  10. Asparagus.  You can plant your tomatoes all around your already established asparagus patch.

How about you, do you have any swear-by tomato companions?

~Mavis

 

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Basic Guide to Growing Wisteria

wisteria

wisteria-over-garden-gate

Yesterday I planted my Japanese purple Wisteria in front of our NEWLY CONSTRUCTED FENCE {that’s right, privacy is back, baby!}.  I have had Wisteria in my yard for years because it’s pretty quick growing, looks pretty freakin’ fantastic crawling across just about anything, and it requires almost nothing of me after planting, except a yearly pruning.

Wisteria is super easy to train to grow up a trellis or over an arbor or pergola.  It adds a wall of color–which is pretty darn cool, if you ask me.

wisteria

To plant Wisteria, you need to start with a nice healthy vine.  In these parts, at least, those are easy to come by.  Pretty much any major nursery will have them available.  Then, choose your location.  Wisteria doesn’t have to have full sun, but it will flower much more if it does.

To get that sucker in the ground, dig a hole about 2-3 times the size of the root ball or roots.  Place it in the hole, and then back fill the hole with a mixture of soil and compost.  For the first year, at least, you should also cover the base of the plant with a thick layer of mulch.  The mulch will help protect it’s initially delicate roots and keep moisture constant.  Finally, water it in, and walk away–your job is done.

wisteria-growing-arbor

To maintain Wisteria, you really only need to prune it once a year {more if it starts to take over}.  It’s best to prune it AFTER the flowering season, otherwise, you run the risk of stopping it from flowering at all.  There really isn’t a secret to pruning it, just trim it back to your eyes’ liking.

As far as watering and fertilizing go:  forget about it {please read in heavy Italian accent}.  You really don’t need to water it if you live in an area that receives more than an inch of rainfall per year.  And since it will grow fine all on its own, no need to waste your money on fertilizer.

wisteriaOne last word of warning, when I first started planting Wisteria, readers chimed in to let me know not to plant it too close to any other trees, as it could eventually choke them out.  So, I always consider that bit of advice before I choose a location for my Wisteria.  {Apparently, in the South, Wisteria is even considered a bit invasive, which is a big giant bummer.}

How about YOU, do you have Wisteria in your garden?  Does it make you giddy with delight when you see it draping across your eye-line, or is it just me?

~Mavis

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The 411 on Succession Planting

The 411 on Succession Planting

The 411 on Succession Planting
After I wrote the title for this post, I wondered, do people even know what 411 stands for anymore?  Should I have called it the Google on Succession Planting?  Man, technology makes me feel old sometimes.

Anyway, moving on.  Succession planting–do you do it?  If you don’t, you totally should.  It gives you a continuous crop of your favorite veggies, without overloading you with one massive harvest.

root vegetbales potatoes carrots beetsIn case you don’t know, succession planting is basically just staggering when you plant the same thing {instead of putting it all in the ground at once} to ensure that your harvest time will be staggered as well.  Does that make sense? Sometimes I feel like I am just mumbling through the computer?  Let me give an example, instead of having 5 ripe cantaloupes all at once, you stagger your planting, and have 2-3 for several weeks in a row.  It requires you to leave some empty space in your garden and plan ahead, but it is totally worth it.

growing green beans in garden boxesIf you’re interested in trying, here a basis succession planting schedule:

Green Beans – Plant every 10 days
Beets – Plant every 14 days
Cucumbers – Plants every 3 weeks
Kale/Colloards – Plant every 3 weeks
Lettuce – Plant every 10-14 days  {this is my favorite thing for succession planting.  It’s impossible to eat it all at once, so having different types of lettuce that will produce every couple of weeks is perfect}.
Melons – Plant every 3 weeks
Radish – Plant every 7 days
Spinach – Plant every 7 days
Summer Squash – plant every 6 weeks
Sweet Corn – Plant every 10 days
Carrots – Plant every 2-3 weeks {as weather allows, stop when it gets too hot and resume in late summer/early fall}
Cauliflower – Plant every 2 weeks {as weather allows, stop when it gets too hot and resume again in late summer/early fall}
Turnips – Plant every 7 Days

dinosaur-kaleDo you already do this?  What are your favorite crops to practice succession planting?

~Mavis

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