Attention Gardener Wannabes–Now’s Your Time!

Always wanted to start a garden but afraid you didn’t have enough time or know how?  Well fret no more–you have enough of BOTH. 

“Seriously?”

Seriously.  Next week we begin our series “Ashley and Julie’s Garden — follow their progress!”  These two have always wanted their own garden, but were reluctant to take that first step, concerned it would lead them down a road on a downhill slide.  Not fun.  So instead they politely reply, “I’d love to start a garden, if only I had the time.” 

Typical, right? For many women these days, it is difficult to find the time.  Between kids and work and husband and life–who has extra anything to wander through brilliantly layered rows of a vegetable garden–despite the desire pumping through their veins, the urge screaming for release… 

Oh–wait.  That’s the kids in the bathroom.  Real life aside, these women yearn for the luxury of snipping fresh lettuce for their salad, clipping fresh beans to include on the dinner menu, pulling sweet carrots for the most delectable carrot muffins–and they can.  Once they catch on to the secrets of simple garden management, they can enjoy the benefits of growing their own vegetables.  Have kids?  Believe it or not, they’ll relish the adventure and together you will experience more joy than you ever dreamed possible. 

It’s the simple things.  Make that easy-to-do-and-not interrupt-my-schedule things that add quality to our every day moments.  So, if YOU have ever wanted to have your own garden but thought it utterly impossible, stay tuned:  we’re going to change your mind!

Series begins Tuesday.  Ashley will utilize a raised planter bed frame while Julie will opt for an in ground garden.  Join us, won’t you?

Trust me.  We’ll have fun.

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You Won’t Believe What Mandie Did

I’m still in shock myself.  Stunned.  Yes, I know her life’s in disarray at the moment.  She’s not living in her house, the ceiling is under repair, but THIS?  How could she?

Yep.  That’s her planter’s box, once filled with a wild tangle of sweet potato it’s now barren.   Sure vines were mussed, the yard unkept…

But to pull them all out?  That’s akin to pulling one’s hair out! 

“There were no sweet potatoes, anyway.”

“They take time!  Come October/November you would have had plenty of potatoes!”

“Ah, whatever.  I pulled them all out.”

“Why didn’t you call me?  I could have talked you through this!”  Why would you do it unless

You’re really in distress.  Which gave me pause.  Tearing open her computer case, whipping it free…  I could see.  Yes.  I’m afraid so.  It was the reality of no time, no energy.  Stress reared its ugly head and she yanked her vines free in vicarious delight. 

Something I can understand.  Mandie’s under a bit of stress right now and who can blame her?  Under the circumstance, I might do the same.  (Okay, maybe that’s a tad extreme.  I mean, I’m the woman who collects compost while away from home just to feed my plants–save the earth!)  But life is life and everyone’s is different.  I haven’t been driven from my home.  I don’t work in an office.  I have time.  She doesn’t.

So despite the evidence of potatoes in progress, she has foregone the harvest. 

But take heart — there’s good news!  She hasn’t forsaken the dream!  When her life returns to normal and she’s back and settled, she WANTS to try again!  Can you think of a better testament to the joy of gardening?

Hmph.  I’m hard-pressed on that count.

Mandie’s Sweet Potato Tangle

There’s something to be said about letting nature do her thing.  Take a look at these sweet potatoes (yes, that mass of vine is sweet potato!)  Can you imagine the golden harvest this woman is going to realize come fall?  Break out the casserole dishes, roll out the pie pans, we’re having sweet potatoes for dinner!  And dessert. 

Appetizers, anyone?

Now Mandie would not normally allow her garden to grow so wild and unmanageable, but she’s sort of displaced at the moment.  Air conditioner broke and in Florida, during August mind you, this is no minor issue.  Why, her two little boys could die of heat exhaustion if she didn’t move them out and quick!  But with a mother’s survival instinct comes a gardener’s back burner.  The sweet potatoes must now fend for themselves.

Which you see, they seem to do quite well.  Not surprising, since these babes are one of the easier veggies to grow.  Lovers of sandy soil, light water and minimal food — sounds more like a beach babe waif than sweet potato, doesn’t it? —  bothered by a few bugs, yes, but nothing they can’t survive.  Why, this crisis is a no-brainer for them!

last year's offspring

 

As if this example wasn’t proof enough, I have a wild child of my own, growing with abandon in the opposite end of the garden. 

Looks better than the ones I’m actually paying attention to and trying to grow!  

Go figure.

this year's crop

 

So if you want an easy, healthy vegetable to grow, consider the sweet potato.  Chocked full of anti-oxidants, Vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene), Vitamin C, as well as a good source of Vitamin B6, this one is an all out winner on the serving plate.

Mandie’s still growing strong!

Most of her garden is cleared out now, but her tomatoes are still thriving.  Sort of.  Despite the weeds and stake neglect, they’re still producing —  Whoa, Dolly, look at them go!  While they may not be pretty (July heat is tough on a girl), they’re still supplying Mandie with fresh from the garden goodness. 

And just look at that sweet potato!  Off to a wonderful start, this plant will literally take over and fill the planter box with sumptuous golden sweets, with little or no effort on her part.

A good thing.  Apparently, Mandie’s summer has been a busy one, taking them in and out-of-town and around the state.  But didn’t I say, summers are for vacation?

They are indeed.   But don’t forget:  August starts Central Florida’s fall planting season, with pole beans, broccoli, collards, corn, onions, squash–the list goes on!  In fact, I’m seeding my tomatoes right now for transplanting in September.  Didn’t have good luck with my spring batch, but fall is a new season and hopefully new results. 

We can all hope, can’t we?  Besides, my local ag center is offering a course in master gardening which I just might check out.  Would make this whole gardening adventure a lot more fruitful if I knew what I was doing.  I’m mean really knew what I was doing.  Then I might actually warrant Mandie calling me Master!  (Not that it’s proved an obstacle, mind you, but it would make for a nice feather in my cap.)

For now, Mandie is holding her own, looking forward to starting her fall garden.  This woman is hooked

But fresh vegetables will do that to you.  They not only do they taste better, but every bite’s infused with pride, pleasure, and the will to continue the process.  So get ready and plan YOUR fall garden — right along with Mandie.   If she can do it, YOU can do it.  Trust me.  Too busy means nothing until you’ve walked in this woman’s shoes.

Mandie’s doing fine

Busy, but fine.   And look at these conch peas!!!   (To think she was worried about a few little old aphids…crazy talk!)   Her carrots are flourishing as well.   Probably because they make great companions, right?   Makes sense to me.  Like a successful marriage — compatibility is everything.  Much like companion planting.  So pay attention to who likes who in the garden and your plants will thrive!  Even if you do become a bit busy to pay much attention (or send your blogger friend photos on a timely basis).

The tomatoes are blooming, too, though we have a lesson in staking.  The picture below represents what a nice, healthy well-staked tomato plant should look like.  See how strong and upright it stands?

Now here you see what happens when the staking process isn’t done adequately (no offense to Mandie — I’m sure the dog did it.) and the tomato plant is splitting apart.  Still surviving mind you, as Mother Nature can be a tough old broad, but struggling.  It’s very possible this plant will break apart, leaving Mandie with some dead branches. 

But she can save the tomatoes! 

I learned last fall that tomatoes can be harvested when full and green, then left to ripen on a windowsill.  Before the unusually cold weather we had, I was forced to collect all the fruit I could and discovered, out of a wagon-full, nearly half of them made it to sauce. 

So take heart:  even if you miss prime picking time, or plan to be out of town when expected ripening occurs, pick them and place them by the window.  You’ll have ripe tomatoes upon your return.  Remember:  summer is vacation time so this is likely to happen often.

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