Build and Rebuild

“Storms make trees take deeper roots.” ~ Dolly Parton

Hi.. Remember me? It has been awhile since I have blogged. We lost touch in May and June of this year but now it is July, (an odd season for Florida gardening I am learning) but I am back. For more on what happened in the “lost months” see the gardening log below:

May 2018

  • 17th: The rains began. At first I was excited – the garden needed water and I thought the rain was better than dragging the hose out to the garden to water it. Plus isn’t rain supposed to help the garden grow?
  • 19th: It is still raining. Three days and nights of rain, hard rain. Doesn’t this rain know that we are in Florida? There are supposed to be light sporadic afternoon showers, not continuous hurricane like rains in May! I hope it stops soon. It is all just so wet, I haven’t been able to check on the garden in days.
  • 20th: Finally, the rain has stopped but the entire yard is flooded. I have to put on rain boots and carry Lulu (our King Charles Cavalier) outside just to take her for a walk. The garden is FLOODED! Hopefully the water will recede quickly. How bad could it be?
  • 25th: The waters have “mostly” receded but it is all gone. Dead. Finite. Months of planning and working in the garden destroyed. I don’t even want to go out there any more….

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June 2018

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  • 2nd: I will focus my efforts on the herb garden in the front. The orange mint is a bit “wilty” but otherwise everything seems to be thriving after the rain. I better go out and start weeding it.
  • 4th: I can’t just avoid the backyard forever (mostly because small child keeps running out there). Let me go and look at the garden. Wow, the strawberry plants and peppers are ok and so is that new row of okra I had planted right before the flood. I can’t believe those baby plants survived. And the little blueberry bush plant seems to be ok.
  • 11th: I need to get the pumpkin seeds in the ground if I want pumpkins by October. Lets get these pumpkins planted in the watermelon bed. I will deal with the main garden later.
  • 20th: It is time. Time to plan. Time to rebuild. Time to clean out the dead plants, add lots and lots of dirt and start up the summer garden. Plus the nature’s care organic soil I like is on sale at Lowes.img_9731

Several hours later…… small child and I planted three different types of squash, two rows  of sunflowers and a raspberry bush.

The garden is once again starting to come alive reminding me of a few things:

  1. Overwatering is real.
  2. My backyard floods.
  3. You can always start over.
  4. Some plants are like people, surprising and resilient.

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    July 5, 2018

I am reminded of stress theory. When a crisis occurs (in this case the flood) we have 3 options for the outcomes: Option 1 – give up and things will get worse. Option 2: Adapt and stay at the same place you were when the crisis occurred and Option 3: Rise to the occasion and end up better than you were before the crisis occurred. Some plants I thought would survive because they were big and beautiful before the storm like the tomatoes died. Some plants are the same now as they were before the storm like the blueberry bush. Other plants, like the okra seeds I had just planted before the storm hit weathered it well and are now flourishing. If I were asked today “what kind of plant would you be if you had to be a plant” I would say confidently that I would be an okra plant.

Happy planting and eating!

~ The Gardening Dietitian

 

The Tomato Massacre of 2018

“A garden requires patient labor and attention. Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfill good intentions. They thrive because someone expended effort on them.” ~ Liberty Hyde Bailey

It all started 2 weeks ago at a party. I invited my favorite gardeners, Erin and Moses, from St. Simon’s Farm to the party. As we were enjoying refreshments and watching the small child run around like a crazy man – I took Erin and Moses for a tour of my garden.

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They immediately noticed my tomato plants. The tomato plants had been growing literally like a weed – there were branches everywhere and they had gotten to be almost as tall as I am. I was very proud of how abundant they looked and excited to show them to Erin and Moses. Always helpful, Moses gave me some advice about my tomato plants.

Moses looked at the tomato plants and gave a disapproving stare as he began to explain my problem. For tomato plants to be prolific, he explained, I would need to cut them back and streamline them. If the tomato plant is busy using its energy to keep making these long branches and leaves, it wouldn’t have enough energy left for a large harvest of tomatoes.

That was not what I was expecting. My big beautiful tomato plants were too big and beautiful? I was having a tantrum in my head. So like most things I don’t like to hear – I decided to put it in the back of my mind and deal with it later… For 2 weeks, every time I went in the garden (which is every day) I stared at the tomato plants. The more I stared the more I realized that Moses must be right. The branches were starting to break off themselves, and the leaves at the bottom of the branches were starting to turn yellow and die. Some clean up was necessary.

So yesterday, I finally took the plunge and started to clean up the tomato plants. With every cut, I was close to tears. So many branches, some with tomato flowers, some with some actual tomatoes all chopped off and tossed to the side. Moses said I could replant these branches but I had no more room in my garden plot for them. It was a massacre. Literally a garden massacre had occurred.

Later in the day, as I walked through my garden showing it to a friend, I realized how right Moses was. My tomato plants actually looked happy and healthy. There were no dead leaves, no sprawling branches, just healthy looking tomato plants still with many flowers and tomatoes growing on them. Again I am reminded just how many life lessons gardening can teach us. Just like the tomato plants it is important to cut away damaging acquaintances, friends or even activities so that we can reach our true potential. This is another lesson I am learning and working on as I grow older. It is ok to say no sometimes so that you can make sure you are surrounding yourself with people and things that help you grow instead of things that prohibit you from being fruitful. Its that extra effort and pruning that is necessary for true success.

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Green Beans are Sketchy

“Why shouldn’t you tell a secret in the garden? – Because the potatoes have eyes, the corn has ears and the green beans stalk….” ~ Unknown

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The green beans in my garden are sketchy, ninja vegetables… Green beans grow on a bush or a vine – I have both types in my garden. The Bush green beans, however, are the ones you should really look out for..

Green beans have large green leaves and produce little delicate white flowers. Then out of nowhere baby green beans start to emerge from the flowers. After the baby green beans appeared in my garden, I was excited but figured it would be awhile until they reached full size (I mean I have been waiting for my tomatoes to turn red for weeks now!). Then all of a sudden, like a ninja stalker, full grown green beans jumped out at me while I was watering. You know green beans are ready to eat when they are bright green and snap easily when bent. It is important to note that when a green bean is full grown and tender – you only have a little while to pick it or else it will go to seed, become hard and inedible. You need to be on your A-game in order to harvest green beans while they are edible.

Health Benefits of Green Beans: A serving a green beans is about 1/2 cup or 10 green beans. Green beans are a good source of vitamin C, vitamin K and fiber.

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Picking green beans is the other problem I have with this sketchy vegetable. They are such a sneaky vegetable. After you pick the string beans you should store them in a porous plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to one week. This is the plan (this is always the plan) – pick the beans, store the beans and then partake in wonderful dishes with the beans. img_7855But the sketchy, ninja green beans are not having this plan. When we go to pick them, its like they put a spell on small child and I. Green beans are one of the few types of beans that can be eaten raw straight from the garden. After we pick them, these enticing vegetables, karate jump into our mouths and we regularly eat them before leaving the garden. We sit on the hammock snacking on our green beans while staring out at the garden and listening to the wind chimes and don’t realize what the green beans have done until it is too late and there are not enough green beans to bring back to the refrigerator.

I would love to provide you with a variety of delicious green bean recipes and tell you I have tried them. Recipes like:

But alas – I haven’t gotten to try them. The ninja green beans keep winning. Keep checking back to The Flamingo Garden and hopefully one day soon we will beat the green beans at their own game and will transform them into delicious side dishes. But until that day you can find small child and I on the hammock munching away on our green beans while listening to the wind chimes…

Happy planting and eating!

~ The Gardening Dietitian

The Seedlings are Crawling

“You have to get up and plant the seed and see if it grows, but you can’t just wait around, you have to water it and take care of it.” ~ Bootsy Collins

It has been about a month since we planted our Flamingo Garden. In some way taking care of a garden is like taking care of an infant or a puppy or maybe less intensive than that. Ok, so it is like taking care of a baby goldfish. Yes – I think that analogy works the best. Every day I go outside to the garden to check on its progress, water it and assess the situation for other things I need to do in the garden. Literally every day I am astounded by how different the garden looks and how much things have grown literally over night. Like a baby goldfish (or just a baby – the analogy has gotten away from me) I have been tracking the progress of the garden each week and documenting it via pictures. Again I am THAT mom (ahem – I mean goldfish owner or maybe gardener?)…


We had our first “harvest” from the garden about a week after planting. It was one lone strawberry. Yes, I admit – this was kinda a cheat harvest. When we purchased the strawberry plants, we bought one that already had a baby strawberry attached. Throughout the week that strawberry went from green to a beautiful red. I am not sure how it tasted but small child really seemed to enjoy it.

During week 2 the seedlings really started to sprout up from the ground. I quickly saw that I completely overseeded the carrots and the cucumber plants. In fact – the carrots looked like chia-pet hair there were so many of them! After much internal debate and discussions with my CSA farmers, I knew what I had to do. It was time to thin out my crops. It was completely heart wrenching to pull out baby carrots and cucumber plants and I complained the entire time I was doing it.

Week 3 was an exciting week in the garden. Things were really starting to pop up and look strong. My baby plants were starting to look like miniature versions of their grown up selves! In fact I had to tie up the tomato plants more because they were growing so fast and frantic and I even had one large tomato growing on the plants with many other plants starting to have flowers!

That takes me to now – approximately 4 weeks after planting. The garden looks completely different than when we started this operation. My baby plants are literally starting to crawl! In fact, I had to modify my trellis system for the beans this past weekend to make it easier for the green beans to climb!

I can’t wait to see what the next month brings to the garden. Until then ~

Happy planting and eating!

~ The Gardening Dietitian

Planting Day

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds you plant.” ~Robert Louis Stevenson

Saturday was planting day at my house. I woke up in a tizzy of excitement and anticipation for what the day would hold. First I re-reviewed my garden plans with my garden assistants (my husband and dad).

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Since this was our first real garden, I spent a lot of time developing the garden plan. To develop the plan, I reviewed my gardening books, read the seed packets to determine how much light and space each piece of produce needed and also tried to think about how each would grow for optimal use of our garden plot.

Then we went over to evaluate the space where we had prepped the garden to see if there were any additional supplies we would need. We determined we needed additional soil (for some reason we always need more soil), stakes (for the tomato and bean plants), plant velcro (to velcro the plants to the stakes), twine, a new rake and the plants we weren’t going to grow from seeds (tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, blueberries and marigolds).

IMG_5945So after picking up our additional supplies it was finally time to plant our garden! I was especially glad my dad was with us – he has actually created a garden before so he took the lead.

  1.  The first thing we did was plot out the rows. I wanted at least a foot in between each row so we measured it out and found out we had room for 9 rows in our garden bed.
  2. Then we started to make the mound of dirt using a hoe to space out our rows.
  3. Once our mounds were created it was time to plot out where the seeds/plants were going to go – using my garden diagram as a guide.
  4. It was finally time to start planting the seeds. For each seed packet, I read the instructions on the packet for how many seeds and how far apart they should be planted. I made a slight trough in the dirt, planted the seeds and then covered them with dirt.
  5. Next we planted the plants we had bought by digging holes, planting and then covering the plants with dirt.
  6. We added the trellises for the tomato and bean plants.
  7. It was finally time to water our garden. We wanted to give the garden a great start in life so we gave it lots of water to drink. New seeds need lots of water in order to germinate. SO MUCH WATER!

 

Now we wait, water, wait, water and more waiting to see if things start to sprout!

In the meantime, happy eating and gardening!

~The Gardening Dietitian

My Flamingo Garden

“If you build it – the food will grow.”

We moved into our new home in December of this year. The previous owners were avid gardeners and had planted various vegetables including asparagus, tomatoes, and basil in the front garden. In the backyard they had 3 massive garden beds that had completely grown over and were a total mess. Since we have been working with various garden and CSA projects recently I knew I wanted to keep the gardens but not in their current form. And so my flamingo garden was born!

The first thing we had to decide is where we wanted the new garden. Our backyard has a clay tennis court that wasn’t taken care of and the previous owners put their garden beds right in the middle of that tennis court. Since we have a VERY active small child we decided we wanted to turn the tennis court into a field for the child to run and play sports on when he gets older. A small section on the corner of the yard was already fenced off and contained an ugly tan garden shed. We knew it was the perfect place for my garden.

 

So I took the wood and cinder blocks from the existing garden beds and moved them over by the tan shed to plot out my garden. The wood and cinder blocks were surprisingly heavy – so thats about as far as I got that day.

I am a novice gardener so I decided I needed to read a lot of gardening books so I would be prepared for spring planting. In addition, the new garden area needed some sprucing up to get the aesthetic I was looking for in a garden – because you know it needed to be cute! We live in Florida so I wanted to give the garden a tropical beach feel. I started with the shed. It desperately needed a paint job and the obvious choice was turquoise of course.

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Painting the shed

I taped up the edges of the shed with painters tape and actually spray painted the whole shed turquoise. My brother made fun of me for about 2 weeks over the spray paint but it was quick, easy and I think had great results! I also felt the wood around the garden bed needed a bit of sprucing up so I spray painted them (outside only) a lime green color.

Next we needed to dig up the grass that was in the middle of the garden space. For this I needed my husband’s help because lets be honest I don’t really do manual labor. 🙂 Small child loved this part and insisted on helping his daddy. I went and got flamingos for the garden (because every florida garden NEEDS a flamingo) and a hammock so I could sit and watch the boys work.

 

So soil composition for Florida gardeners is a complicated topic. After reading several gardening books I was and am still confused. Since this is our first attempt at gardening and we have the boards to create a somewhat raised bed we decided to add organic raised bed soil to our garden. We added about 10 bags of natures care organic raised bed soil. We will see how this works once we start planting!

Finally it was time to add details to really make the garden look special. I added some plants on each side of the garden shed, a spring wreath to the door, a statue one of my colleagues gave me to remind me my mother is watching us from heaven and two plastic adirondack chairs with cushions to add some seating for when we want to sit and watch our garden grow.

 

This weekend we will finally be ready to start planting!!!

Happy planting and eating!

~The Gardening Dietitian