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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Beans – Easy to Grow, Good for the Heart!

Red beans, black beans, Lima beans, Garbanzo beans (reminds me of Dr. Seuss), boy, do we have beans!  Healthy beans, especially black beans and kidneys.  Add them to soup, chili, or try my recipe for black beans, best served with chicken and yellow rice.  And be prepared to try a variety of recipes, because not only are these good for you, they’re probably one of the easiest plants to grow.  Top of my list in importance.

While growing, you can tell them apart by their blossoms and bush formation.  Black beans have beautiful purple blossoms. 

Kidney beans have white.

Limas also have white flowers, but their growth habit is more bush — less vine — fanning out from the ground in a nice stable “triangle” of sorts.  No need to stake or trellis Lima beans, but a must for kidney and black beans.

Garbanzo beans are wholly different.  They have petite flowers and large oval-shaped pods (the others are long, traditional style pods).  Garbanzo leaves also form small ovals, while the others tend toward the heart-shaped.

Harvesting beans is simple, performed when the pods turn color from green to tan – lavender in the case of black beans.  Coincidence their blossoms are purple?  Normally I would pluck ready pods from the bush, encouraging more growth, but in the case of my kidney beans, I pulled the entire plant from the ground.  They hit a dry patch in the watering schedule (corn was too tall for my sprinkler to reach over). 

Next up, the business of shelling.   When done in batches it’s an easy task, best performed poolside with a glass of ice-cold rosemary lemonade while watching the kids swim.  I’m an avid multi-tasker.  You can allow them to dry in pod (even while still on plant), or shell them at once.  Just pinch the ends, split open the pod, and remove the beans.

Once shelled, set the beans on a plate or shallow dish and allow to dry completely before closing in an air-tight container for storage.  If you don’t give them ample time to dry out, they will become moldy and icky.  Gross, really.  And totally ruined. 

We learned this the hard way last fall.  Very sad day when your entire batch of black beans is lost.   So be sure to let them dry.   Give them a few days and you’ll see them shrink and “seal” themselves with a nice hard coating for dry storage.

Limas are a different story.  For long-term storage, you’ll need to freeze them.  To do this, you have to blanch them first.  Toss them into a pot of boiling water for about two minutes (a minute if they’re small) then immediately submerse them in a bowl of ice water.  After about a minute or so, remove them from the water, pat dry (or set between paper towels) and pop them into a freezer container.  Finito!

Now you have beans to last you through next season’s harvest.  Provided you planted enough.  That calculation is a trick in itself!

To give you an idea, I planted one row of each bean, two plants wide, about 40 feet long.  While it sounds like a lot, it’ll probably yield about 20-30 servings of beans.  I’m approximating, mind you, but it’s within the ball park.  But since my family loves beans, come fall, I already have plans to expand.  Chili, soup, you name it, they’ll eat it!

P.S.  Don’t forget that beans contain lectin phytohaemagglutinin.   It’s a toxic compound, most concentrated in the kidney bean.  When eaten raw, soaked for an insufficient amount of time, or even cooked for long hours on too low a heat setting, it can cause some bad things to happen to your body, ie. stomach pains, cramps — perhaps even more severe abdominal issues — so beware and be safe!

Conch Peas Live!

I knew they’d be okay.   Once host to a few bugs, (okay, so it was more swarm) they have recovered nicely.   With a little fish emulsion, they’ll continue to flourish.

Next door, the lettuce is flourishing a bit too much.  Bolting.  Yep, blame it on the heat, but this plant is heading for bitter territory.  Granted, it’s still edible, but by now it has lost most of its sweet flavor. 

It’s too hot.  Lettuce likes it cool.  Eat up, Mandie.   Before you have to pull it.   At least you’ll make way for new plants!

Carrots are good.  (Ignore the spelling.  I’m sure it was one of the boys who scribbled in all those “t”s.)   Foliage nice and thick, I sense there are some real beauties growing under that bunch of green.

Meanwhile, tomatoes are growing by leaps and bounds, the promise of red, plump, juicy fruit drawing us near.   Unfortunately, the pepper fellow is too near and must be moved.  (I must have been gone when Mandie planted this pup, for I would have surely seen this coming.  I’ve never had to move any of my plants.  Ever.  Hmph.  I also have some swamp land to sell you – couple of lots right behind my house!) 

But I digress.  Back to our poor little pumpkin.  Already hampered by his proximity with the lush tomato, this sweet boy will never have a chance and should be moved as soon as schedule permits.  Speaking of schedule, don’t ask about the dirt in the second box.   Nope.  Not good.

 

But there is good news!  We just so happen to have some space available nearby to move our pepper plant —  bye, bye, buttercrunch — a bright sunny spot, perfect for peppers.  They do like it HOT!

As do we.  Florida is fun, fun, fun but tough on plants.  So remember:  pamper those cool weather plants if you plant them in spring and eat quick.   Before they fall prey to the sunshine and heat.  Unless you’re at the beach, it’s intolerable.

You may be asking yourself why we haven’t met our Chihuahua friend.  The answer is simple.  Mandie is a busy woman and has thus far been unable to accommodate my film schedule.  But she promises this will change.  After all, who can stand the suspense?

Mandie’s in a bind and on a roll!

Okay.   Things are good, sort of.  Still no dirt and the weeds are sprouting.  Maybe not sprouting, more like shooting for the stars.  I mean, look at these things!  They’re taking over!  Aaaaaaaagh!

Of course they are.   They’re weeds.   That’s what they do.  But have no fear.  Mandie assures me she’s on dirt patrol.  It will be delivered any day now…

Well, I’m not holding my breath on that one but I am looking toward the positive — the other box!   Good news — these babies are growing with awesome results. 

The lettuce is fanning open, begging to be plucked for a beautiful salad, the tomatoes are blossoming, the broccoli is blooming and the potatoes are growing larger, safe and sound, tucked away in their underground incubator after being properly hilled. 

Carrots are sparse.   More fertilizer, more water and they’ll be fine.  Just give them some time.

Conch peas?  They’ve been touch and go and Mandie is concerned for their welfare, certain they won’t make it. 

Me, I think they’ll pull through, so long as she keeps an eye on the aphids.  Ladybugs, anyone?  They’re one cure, but so are insecticidal soap and finger smudging.  Either way, keep up the maintenance, Mandie!  Once they gain a little more stature and strength they’ll be fine.

More good news?  No Chihuahua tracks in the dirt.  Very good.  They can be lethal to the delicate greens struggling through the sprout stage, not to mention pure terror for those meant for human consumption!  Who wants to eat salad stepped on my the pup who’s been who knows where…???

Not me and if Mandie knows what’s good for her — not her, either.   But she assures me it won’t be a problem.  The boy is on a leash when outdoors.  Hmmm.  I have kids and I have a dog.  I know how habits slip and slide until the next thing you know, the dog is sitting smack square in the middle of the kitchen floor which is off-limits to him!  (But he’s so cute, Mom.  How can you be mad?)

Hmph.  As one who has lost this battle, time will tell if she proves any tougher.   Good luck with that girlfriend!  Where no dog seems to have made tracks, one of the boys apparently has.  Left this Easter bunny plant creation next to the lettuce (in case he gets hungry, I presume). 

They’re so smart and creative at this age, aren’t they?  And green.  Chalk up one more for Mama’s column!