Why do we garden?

“Of the seven deadly sins, surely it is pride that most afflicts the gardener.”

― Michael Pollan, Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education

the salad I speak of

Why do I have a garden? I started thinking about that very question as I enthusiastically told a coworker what was in my bowl: Red Russian Kale, Louisiana Pink Tomatoes, Cosmic Purple Carrots, roasted Detroit Dark Red beets, etc. Do people often get this excited about salad? Why was I so overjoyed?

I think there’s something extremely gratifying about seeing something go from seed to plate. It’s more fun than farm to table. It’s labor. It’s nurture. It’s my urban garden.

It’s a lot of work. My back gets sore, my legs ache, and I always have dirt under my nails. Wearing gloves just doesn’t cut it. I like to feel what I’m doing because, well, gardening is intimate. It’s a kinesthetic art just as much as it’s visual. I love it so much that I’m always posting photos of my little backyard farm. As I look back through my Instagram feed, I see just how proud I am. Sometimes, I even take selfies with veggies (don’t judge).

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crazy kohlrabi

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so much kale

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heirloom tomatoes after the rain

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cosmically awesome

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my first spinach leaves

But is it cheaper to grow your own? Some people think that we save a lot of money by growing our own veggies. It’s quite the contrary, actually. I’m sure I spend more. The veggies cost nearly nothing to raise from seed, but it’s the soil, the water (our rain barrel never has enough), the organic amendments, and the time. Oh my gosh, if time really were money…

In the end of the day, it’s amazing to say “this was a seed and now it’s in my tummy.” I love to share with my neighbors and friends, and I really love to talk to other gardeners. There really is a sense of pride, joy, and commitment to playing in the dirt. It’s a way of life, and I wouldn’t trade my shovel and dirty fingernails for anything.

Until next time, my gardening friends. It’s Spring! Go get dirty.

my happy place

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Organic Aphid Control for the Conscious Gardener

It’s that time of the year, my friends. For those of us in Florida, it’s already here. Aphids have latched onto my Calendula and Oleander already, and I fear it won’t be long before they’re on my flowering tomato plants. For those of you a little farther north and/or west, you may not have these little buggers yet (and hopefully you won’t), but just in case, here are a couple organic remedies to try:

1. Good, old-fashioned powerful blast of water: Yellow aphids have made their way to my oleander more than once. They latch onto newly forming flower buds and attempt to suck them dry. Instead of putting any harmful sprays or costly organic sprays on them, I go right for the hose. With the nozzle on the most powerful setting possible, I go for broke. Holding each flower cluster in my hand, I spray all sides. The aphids fall off in an instant amd the grass and neighboring plants get a nice watering. At first, I was afraid that the aphids would latch onto other plants, but that’s never happened. Because they’re soft-bodied, I’m not sure they survive the blast. This works every single time, but you’ve got to be thorough when spraying.

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2. Soapy water: My friend Justin Gay from the Seeds of Xanxadu has a YouTube video called “How I Handle Aphids.” Not only does he show how to identify them, but he shows exactly how to mix the concoction and how/when to spray. Besides, he’s a really engaging guy and fun to watch. Click here for the video.

Calling all Foodies: It’s Crunch Time for our Broccoli Harvest

We find broccoli easy to grow around here. No joke. It’s one of the few things that doesn’t give us problems. We always get an amazing yield, and the harvest is sweet and tasty. Starting them from seed indoors in December is easy peasy…

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Hardening them off in late January is a safe bet and, planting them in February is a piece of cake.

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We love the brassica family around here. Pests aren’t an issue, and we find them slow to flower. There’s a long sweet spot with these plants and, therefore, they’re a staple in our winter-spring garden.

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The one issue with the ease of growth (stupidest phrase you’ve ever heard, right?), though, is trying to come up with unique recipes for these perfect florets.

Broccoli slaw? Check.
Roasted broccoli? Check.
Broccoli and orzo pasta? Check.
Steamed broccoli? Check.

What to do, what to do…

This is where you, my friends of the blogosphere, come in. I need some new and interesting broccoli recipes! Healthy or coated in cheese and butter (oooooooh, breadcrumbs, too), all things not mentioned above are welcome. And, what’s more is that if I make it successfully and love it to bits, I’d love to post it to Delicious Daydreams!

Thank you, culinary whizzes, for your help. Happy cooking!

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It’s December and We Finally Grew a Cucumber!

I probably shouldn’t jinx us, but this is too good not to share. Ladies and gentlemen of the blogosphere, I think we have a cucumber! So maybe it’s only about three inches long and it’s not ready to be picked, but it’s there nonetheless! And there’s about ten other tiny guys that appear to have been pollinated and on their way to full-on pickle status.

Now I understand what some of you might be thinking. What’s the big deal, right? You see, those of you who live in places that get a winter, you have far less pest issues than we do in sunny Florida. My honey’s family is in Michigan, amd they strike harvest gold nearly every year. Me? Not so much. Sure we can technically garden year-round, but there are soooo many issues to combat. And doing it organically is even harder. So this one cuke? It’s a huge deal. (disgruntled Floridian rant over…for now. ;))

We’ve spent the last eight months trying and failing, trying and failing, crying (well that’s just me), whining, begging and pleading with the melon worms and pickle worms to just leave us alone. And finally, we have a smidge of success. Isn’t he cute?

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This variety is called Homemade Pickles and the seeds come from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange or SESE. I’ve been longing to try them; will I finally get the chance?

The plants stay fairly compact, so they’re great for containers, too.

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Happy gardening, my friends, wherever you are!

-Jenna

Florida Fall Gardening: Starting Lettuce and Brassica Seeds Indoors

I’m quite fond of starting seeds indoors. Why? Because it’s easier. And because I have a small garden and can’t afford to waste precious space on things that might not even germinate. In the past, I’ve started all of my heirloom tomatoes and peppers indoors, then hardened them off appropriately before sending them out into the cruel, cruel world. This time, however, I’m trying something new. About 10 days ago, I sewed seeds for major hybrid broccoli, lime green brocoverde cauliflower, sweet Valentine romaine, and black seeded Simpson leaf lettuce.

I placed good quality organic seed starting mix in each compartment, and, initially, I thought I’d just put one seed in each compartment. Then I added a few more thinking I could tip the scale in my favor. I didn’t go overboard, though…I think. I labeled each row, watered gently with a spray bottle, and placed them in my sunroom. It’s the most humid and warm area of the house. I watered only when the mix felt dry-ish because seeds hate too much water.

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In about a week, this is what sprouted:

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There was a good show from the broccoli and cauliflower, but less from the lettuces. I wonder if I should have used a humidity dome. I wonder if the seeds from the black seeded Simpson lettuce were too old  (they were six months from expiring) as only one reared its cute little head. I wonder if the seeds are too finicky for the potting mix I used. I wonder if I could learn to communicate with seeds. (You think I’m kidding…)

I’d like to increase the seed germination rate next time. Thoughts? Advice? Words of wisdom?  I’m calling out to you, the big, beautiful blogosphere, for help.

Love and happy gardening,

Jenna

To All Organic Gardeners: I Need Your Help!

Every day when I get home from work, I putz around in the garden and examine all of my plants. Not only do I get the chance to pluck a lot of harmful caterpillars and worms from the leaves, but I get a chance to just sit and enjoy my blessings. Today, though, I’m stumped.

This is the front and back view of a Chadwick Cherry heirloom tomato plant leaf:

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These black, shiny, bean-shaped things are actually embedded inside of the leaf. They look like seeds of some sort…maybe? Of all the years I’ve been a Zone 9 Florida organic gardener, I’ve never seen this. Please, please, please, gardeners, friends, bloggers, I beg you, help me.

Thanks in advance,

Jenna