Category Archives: Gardening

Harder struggles

Watermelons are growing.

Wherever you’re at on your life’s journey, the truth is everyone’s path takes twists and turns that are a little bit different than everyone else’s. Everyone learns different things and forms their own perspective and views. A phone conversation with my youngest daughter this morning got me thinking about how there’s so much blanket advice and how many people become committed to a one-size-fits-all approach in so many areas – even gardening.

I mentioned the watermelons growing in my container garden and my daughter right away reminded me of how when I grew watermelons and cantaloupes in my backyard years ago they got rotten spots on them before they were ready to pick or the bugs got them. I told her I remember all that. That’s why when I posted a picture of the little watermelon the other day, I said I don’t expect much.

I used to plant an in-ground garden. After my melons rotting the first year, in subsequent years I put mulch underneath the melons right when they formed to keep them off the wet soil, with no success. Then I tried trellising the cantaloupes and gave up on watermelons. I had minimal success with growing melons in my backyard, which was GA swampland before they built this residential area.

Our property wasn’t a designated floodplain when we bought our house, but many years later FEMA redid the floodplain map and a small corner of our backyard fell into being part of a designated floodplain. We had to purchase flood insurance, in addition to carrying homeowners insurance. The new designation cost us money, but the reality has always been that the backyard is often very swampy. And yes, my husband put down more top soil and he added a lot of amendments to the garden area, but it didn’t help much.

One of the first things my father told me when my parents first visited our new house was that we would have been better off buying a house up the street, because it’s on higher-ground. Luckily, knock-on-wood, our house has never flooded, but if we get a heavy rain we’ve had our backyard remaining a swampy mess long after the front yard has dried out.

An in-ground garden was a constant struggle in my backyard and even with this container garden effort, I weighed the pros and cons of using weedblock fabric and putting woodchips down to keep the containers out of sitting in mud, if it rains a lot vs. woodchips attracting more insects and voles. We’ve had voles many times in our backyard.

With gardening a lot of people have very strong views about which methods, which seeds ( I buy some heirloom, some hybrid and I don’t care one iota about “non-GMO” truthfully), which products and how to deal with challenges are the right ways and I’m pretty much agnostic. I’m willing to try different things, but I don’t have rigid views on gardening. I’m an amateur gardener and have had more success growing flowers than vegetables, but even with flowers, I’m a realist. My climate and especially my yard isn’t conducive to growing things like tulips or daffodils, so I just buy a small pot at the store to put on my table, if I think I need some tulips in the spring.

I bet some of the backyards in my neighborhood up the street, that are on higher ground, are probably better suited to growing vegetables, but I live here and will make-do with what I’ve got. I’ve been grateful for everything in my container garden that grew this year and produced food. I made 7 pints of dill pickles today.

I’ve seen a lot of debate about back-to-eden/no till/lasagna gardening methods vs. traditional tilling methods or using woven groundcover.

I had an elderly friend give me some Jerry Baker gardening books many years ago, but I never was taken with his home plant concoctions. I did try mixing up one long ago, but when I told my mother about it, she didn’t think much of using that. It didn’t work.

Instead, one of the gardening books I’ve found most useful is a GA Master Gardener’s Handbook I bought for under a dollar at my local Goodwill store many years ago. That handbook has clear information and science-based advice from UGA’s College of Agriculture and Environmental Studies. UGA has a ton of information specific to my area online. Someone else might be a Jerry Baker adherent or Ruth Stout or think back-to-eden is the best method.

I did buy the Patricia Lanza book on lasagna gardening and a Ruth Stout book, based on a recommendation from a guy who has a YouTube channel about no-till gardening. I’m curious to learn more, but at the same time I’ve seen numerous gardeners and homesteaders who say why these no-till methods didn’t work for them in the Deep South. I am open to trying a small area in my backyard using a no-till method and seeing how it does.

The truth about my backyard is it’s naturally GA swampland and that’s a reality no amount of gardening information and savvy will change, so I’m trying to work with what I’ve got and what I can manage. The container gardening has worked better than in-ground gardening did, but I would like to try a couple raised beds and see how that works.

There’s very productive farmland just a little further inland (my area is considered part of coastal GA) and I used to tell my husband repeatedly that I wished we had bought a house out that way in a more rural area, but at this time here’s where I am and the benefits are medical care is nearby, grocery stores are nearby, friends are nearby and aside from the swampy backyard, I like my house a whole lot.

Next week, I plan to take an elderly friend, who is 85, to Lowe’s so she can look at the flowers and get a new flower arrangement for the table on her front porch. I worked with her for years and she lives nearby. She loves purple and I had gotten a container with purple petunias and some other lighter lavender flowers earlier in the spring, but I told her yesterday, it’s time for some new flowers for her front porch. The heat’s taken a toll on those petunias.

Her mobility has gotten very poor, so she uses a walker even in her house. She keeps telling me how much she’d love to be able to work on planting flowers in her yard, but that’s not possible. Instead, she has a lot of houseplants she tends by pushing her walker around with her watering can on the seat. She loves the flowers on her front porch, which I water for her, but she can’t safely work in her yard. I’ve been telling her about my container garden challenges and she told me for years she kept buying ferns for her front porch, which gets full-sun most of the day, and no matter what she did they died. I told her ferns love my front porch, because it gets a lot of shade. Sometimes we have to accept that some things we really want to grow where we’re at, aren’t going to thrive there.

I started buying cut flowers for her often and putting them in a vase on her kitchen table rather than putting flowers on my husband’s grave. She loves having a vase of pretty flowers to look at and truthfully, I know my husband would think getting flowers for her makes more sense than putting flowers on his grave. Her remaining son died last summer, a couple months after my husband died and she lives alone. She’s on home hospice care. Whenever you think things are bad, you don’t have to look far to find someone who is facing even harder struggles.

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Filed under Food for Thought, General Interest, Gardening

Pass it on

Pass it on.

In the past couple weeks the belief that the food facility fires are part of some deliberate, politically-motivated effort to destroy our food supply has spread faster than, well, wildfire among the right. In the past couple days I’ve seen various people on social media proclaim it’s “eco-terrorism” and I’ve seen several mentions of some iteration of “he who controls the food supply, controls the people,” being bandied about. None of these people can give details of who exactly they believe is responsible for these fires or evidence that supports that conclusion. but they’re convinced there are just too many fires for it to be a coincidence or accidents.

The right-wing crazy spreads as fast as the left-wing Trump derangement spread. I’ve yet to see any real evidence indicating these fires were eco-terrorism or that they are all connected. A whole lot of people on the right believe Biden, Democrats and liberals pushing climate change/green policies will do anything to force Americans to comply with their agenda, so believing these fires are eco-terrorism fits perfectly with their belief that these people on the left are evil. People on the left, who went totally bonkers about Trump being akin to Hitler, were caught up in that delusional belief pattern too.

So, yes, there are plenty of people on the left who want to force Americans to comply with their green agenda and yes, many of these people put their ideological beliefs about climate change above individual rights and our liberties. Some even spout that their policies, which are crushing small businesses and even the American economy, are a small price to pay to move to their vision of green energy. However, I’ve seen no evidence linking these fires or bolstering the conclusion they’re part of some diabolical plot to destroy the food supply.

Where I do see efforts to control people is on social media – trying to control information (the endless spin information war) and efforts to silence numerous people on the right or people who did not accept the “trust the Covid science” put forth by health officials and politicians. However, here again the overreach centered on a four-year effort to silence Trump, but it also spread to include other Republican politicians and mostly people on the right, but there was also a massive effort to kill the Hunter Biden laptop story in October of 2020. Twitter and other social media platforms banned users from reposting the NY Post story on Hunter Biden’s laptop.

Distrust permeates between partisans in America, but often even between people who hold differing views on preparedness or what to stock up on. I don’t care what people stock up on, but I will keep preaching about how important it is to try to get out of debt, especially consumer debt. I also believe it’s important to stock up on hope and optimism too. I’m not going to run around calling anyone evil if they disagree with me and I prefer to assume most people are operating in good faith, even the people who I think went down a right-wing rabbit hole on this “they’re trying to destroy our food supply.”

I haven’t seen much in the way of competent strategic planning on the left – even with the Davos crowd. The policies they’re proposing and most of what Dems in America have pushed will definitely lead to worse economic woes, but if you watch how much of a mess the baby formula crisis is and how inept the response, well, it’s hard for me to believe these people are the masterminds of some grand plan to destroy the food supply via arson at food facilities. They might wreck the food supply through their total incompetence and stupid policies that don’t work, but I just don’t see them as strategically plotting arson attacks to destroy the food supply.

All of the trillions spent for COVID hand-outs and other rash spending have put us on the path to massive economic problems, then add in the war in Ukraine, sanctions on Russia, and other assorted weather problems, shortage problems, shipping problems, well, we’re heading into some trying times.

Rather than sit around doom-casting or worrying about everything from what I’m going to do if people come to my door asking for food, to worrying about America collapsing, I’m focusing on what I can do each day to positively affect my life and help my family and people I come into contact with. I’m not wasting one second worrying about what I’m going to say to a family member or friend who made some comment about me stocking up and then comes to ask for help. It’s pretty easy for me to offer help, if I can, but my help comes with telling them they need to pass it on.

True story from my trip to visit my youngest grandchild last month – my daughter thinks my level of stocking up is ridiculous and she assumes life will continue as normal. Until the federal government puts out some bulletin, I doubt she’ll believe me about the precarious economic situation.

In my usual travelling mode, I took some cash with me, to have in case. At my daughter’s house one day, the guy who does the yard at the house where they just moved into, came and mowed. My daughter came in the house and asked my son, who travelled with me, if he had cash to pay the yard guy. My son said he doesn’t carry cash. I asked her how much she needed and I told her I had it, so I gave her the cash. She said, “Who carries cash?” I said, “Everyone should carry some cash.” Perhaps they’ll think about it, but even if they don’t, I’ll help them regardless, because they’re family.

Rather than preach about growing food, I decided to attempt container gardening and it’s working for me, but I also gave 6 people plants and I offered plants to two other people, who didn’t want any. I’ll still be happy to share extra vegetables with those two, because they’re nice neighbors, who would help me out too. I am not investing any energy into getting angry at anyone – even people I totally disagree with or who hold differing political views.

With other things I’ve done to try to be more prepared, like most people, I’m a work in progress and have a lot of gaps – some from deciding what my budget allows and some from I feel totally out of my depth in knowing what’s best for me – like a generator or portable solar power. With talk of rolling black-outs being likely across the country this summer, thinking about this area of preparedness seems more pressing, so I’m trying to do some research.

I have several ways to cook food – butane burner, gas grill, charcoal grill and there’s still some little gas stove thing my husband used in the garage – plus if push comes to shove, I have a fireplace, but I sure don’t want to light that in the summertime in GA. I’ve thought about a sun oven, but the All American sun oven is expensive and I doubt I would use it much. A long time ago I watched a video on how to construct a sun oven cheaply, but I haven’t tried that.

A huge problem for me is organization and figuring out better ways to organize my food pantry, my supplies, tools, craft and sewing stuff and now more gardening stuff has become a priority. What good is buying a lot of stuff to be prepared, if during an emergency I can’t find things quickly or am digging through closets, boxes, plastic totes, and even store bags, hunting down the vital preparedness supplies I bought? Yes, a lack of good organization will neutralize all my good preparedness intentions. Things here sort of float about too long without a designated home and labeled containers are a rare sighting in my closets, although I do label and date every container or bag that goes into my freezers. Organization remains my biggest challenge.

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Filed under Emergency Preparedness, Gardening, General Interest, Politics

Marching forward each day

Yesterday, I got outside early and watered my container garden before heading to the veterans cemetery where my husband is buried. Clouds were gathering, as some boys and men were preparing for a Memorial Day ceremony, but I didn’t want to sit through speeches. The rain hit before I got home.

I think my husband would shake his head at my container garden effort, but he would approve of me not giving up and trying to do the best I could this spring to get vegetables growing again. I’m thinking about more durable infrastructure for my garden, but so far this container gardening effort is working. I’ve found loads of container gardening information and inspiration online, but truly the hardest part was just getting started and taking the first steps to start some tomato and pepper seeds indoors. Once those seeds took off, well, then I was committed to figure out something to transplant them and get them outside.

I picked this Reba McEntire song as one of the music selections for my husband’s funeral service last year:

My husband loved Reba.

Each step forward made me feel a bit more optimistic, but there were plenty of problems and a few failures, like the bareroot strawberries I bought at a local store didn’t grow. I saw several homesteaders and gardeners online recommend Stark Bro’s Nurseries as a good place to order fruit trees and bushes, so I went ahead and ordered some more strawberries and a few other things. The 25 pack of bareroot strawberries was on sale for $9.99 and every single one is growing.

I planted some of the Stark strawberries in containers with flowers and I put these in a rectangular grow bag in my gorilla cart temporarily, until another tiered container from amazon arrives. I’m glad I bought more strawberries and gave it another try.

My first bit of advice is don’t quit when you face failure with gardening (or any other endeavor). If it’s feasible, due to your growing season and within your budget, try again as soon as you can. The longer you talk yourself into excuses and defeat, the harder it is to get started again – trust me on this, because I’m the queen of “I Tried That Once And I Can’t.” I’ve faced slug problems, some bug problems, and made loads of dumb mistakes and I’m sure all three of these gardening maladies will hit again, plus some more. I planted 4 zucchinis and they were thriving, so I gave away two of them, thinking I’d be flooded with zucchinis. I picked one nice zucchini off of the best looking plant, then one day that plant started drooping a lot and by the next morning it had fallen over and the stem looked demolished.

My remaining zucchini doesn’t look terrific, but I transplanted it into an 18 gallon tote container. I also planted a few more zucchinis, because there’s a long growing season here. I have 3 pattypan squash plants that have started producing and two yellow crookneck too.

One of the yellow squash is conjoined twins.
More yellow squash growing.

In previous posts I mentioned that I’ve used a lot of grow bags, but here in the GA heat, these grow bags dry out quickly. I bought small black trash bags and have put the grow bags inside of the trash bags and I can pull the bags up all the way or push them down, coming up only a few inches along the sides of the bags, to hold in moisture.

The trash bags seem to be helping to hold in water with the grow bags. The Burpee seeds for these veranda tomatoes have formed tons of cherry tomatoes, but the foliage is very tight and dense, making it hard to prune them and hard to get at the ripe tomatoes. These are determinate tomatoes.

The cucumber seed packet said “bush variety,” but these were vining out a lot, so I staked them. I see a lot of people online put up cattle panels as a durable trellis. That’s something I might invest in later, after I figure out if I’m going to stick with container gardening, put in some raised beds or go back to in-ground gardening. This year is just getting my heart and mind committed to gardening by myself.

Problems and troubleshooting are just a part of gardening (and life). I hadn’t planted a vegetable garden in probably 15 years. There are pros and cons with container gardening and definitely with using grow bags too.

The portalacas in the top of the tiered container have gone crazy blooming.

Before I forget, the 5 cabbage plants that I started in a gallon milk jug with that winter sowing are still alive – slow to form heads, still in the Dollar Tree bags, had some bug damage, but, well, they’re alive. I will plant more cabbage later this summer to grow through the fall.

Bottom corner, that’s a spaghetti squash growing from that same “winter sowing” experiment.
Basil and parsley in Dollar Tree dish pans, with drainage holes burned into the bottom.
Back in late Feb-early March I planted seeds in some square Dollar Tree food containers and these violas didn’t grow, but then some seeds sprouted and now some are blooming. It’s way too warm for violas here, but no one told these violas that, lol.

Here’s a photo of the overall garden and yes, with all this container gardening on my patio, my patio really needs to be pressure washed:

I planted everything by myself, which I’m proud of doing. I put down almost all of the weed cover and wood chip mulch by myself, One of my sons helped a little with the first weed cover and mulch area, but then I expanded several times since then. On my back fence, there are weeds taking over and I’ve cleared some of that and need to get the rest of it cleared. The area behind my fence is like the woods are encroaching. My husband used to keep that area cleared and mowed to keep the woods further back from our back yard. I miss him, but I’m thankful everyday that he helped me learn not to be a quitter. If I can do this, I think just about anyone can. Just bite off a little bit at a time, then each day do a little bit more.

There’s so much bad news almost everyday now, that finding some rays of hope can be challenging. Working on my small backyard container garden is helping me find some inner peace and being out in the sunshine gets me away from my computer and away from the chaos roiling through the online news and social media world. It’s peaceful in my backyard.

As a child, I spent a lot of time in our garden and following my great-grandmother around as she tended her flowers. She could get anything to grow and taught me how to propagate a lot of plants. My mother was big on saving seeds and it seemed wondrous to collect flower seeds, then plant them the next spring and see beautiful flowers grow all over again. Each seed that has sprouted this year still feels like a small miracle unfolding before my eyes.

Here’s the song I chose to close my husband’s funeral service – it fit him and all the other veterans perfectly:

Don’t quit.

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Filed under Food for Thought, Gardening, General Interest

Some gardening and Memorial Day thoughts from Australia.

Came across this gardening video that I want to share:

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Filed under Gardening, General Interest