Monday, April 29, 2013

Let's Just Keep Chemicals Out of This

No, you don't need herbicide for your garden. Or pesticides. We see so many advertisements these days for chemicals that "help make the most" out our your garden but that leads to who-knows-what on your harvest. Outside of very rare situations, all you really need for a successful garden is healthy plants.
My sage is about to bloom!
Healthy plants fight off their own diseases and pest. It's simply allowing nature to be nature! And it's not that hard to provide your plants the tools they need to stand their ground. First, they need good soil. I'll admit I don't get into soil acidity, but it's easy to simply keep your soil full of nutrients. That's through nutrient-rich compost and rotating your plants. Planting the same annuals in the same spot every year will leave your soil useless overtime. But giving mother earth tasty compost and switching out plants that leave what the next plant needs creates the groundwork for a healthy garden.

Then there is my favorite tool: companion planting! It's kind of like the tick bird and the rhino. It turns out certain plants work really well together and keep nasty pest and disease at bay. One flower I heavily rely on in my garden: marigolds.
As previously mentioned, I planted A LOT of dwarf french marigold this year. And a few Inca marigolds. I'll also buy a few more after we finish off the third bed.
There's a lot of mixed results out there however on whether marigolds live up to their name. Several small-time garden bloggers praise marigolds at keeping bugs and animals away from the garden with their strong fragrance. Others aren't so generous, like the Alabama Cooperative Extension System writing "little documentation exists showing marigolds actually repel insects. In fact, they may attract harmful pests damaging not only the marigolds but also your vegetables."

Later on the provided link above does note that dwarf french marigolds appear to be the most consistent at keeping soil-dwelling nematodes away. Nematodes are microscopic parasite that looks like a miniature worm. Depending on the species, it can do a decent amount of damage to some plants like tomatoes and strawberries.

I keep finding myself going back to the several garden bloggers who swear by marigolds. And they are beautiful. So what's the harm in creating a colorful marigold fort around my cherished plants. It appears to have worked for us before.
Some marigolds keeping guard for my squash and zucchini
Marigold isn't the only flower you can consider to deter pest. In my research for marigolds, I suddenly came upon pages and pages about a beautiful flower called nasturtiums. It apparently keeps away squash beetles, whiteflies, and striped pumpkin beetles. With our beloved squash and future pumpkins, we will have to give it a try.

Some gardeners also swear by certain mints (warning: it's very invasive!) , catnip, and various kitchen herbs to prevent certain bugs. Just mindful planting of your produce plants can improve your harvest too. This simply just takes some research into what you want to grow. Here's a Companion Planting Guide by seed company Burpee.

Oh and before I forget, I decided I will occasionally provide a link to a recipe I discovered on Pinterest. The kicker is that it will be based on what's in season. May is just around the corner so I just finished up a batch of Strawberry Crunch Bars! It's a shame it's only seasonal a few weeks year in my area. But it's worth the wait!
Last year's Strawberry Crunch Bars!

If you ever want to check my attempts at Pinterest recipes and crafts, be sure to follow this board!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Gardening In Stages

So despite my allergy attack last week, I still braved the outdoors to get another round of gardening done. It's been a rough week for everyone, including in our news department. Nothing gets you in a better mood though than getting outside and muddy! Before I lay out what we've planted so far, I have to give my husband some major kudos. He recently did some major yard work to prepare our garden. First he did the typical mowing & weed-whacking. Then some simple landscaping to protect some of our plants that are in the yard.
Would you believe this is from my tiny echinacea from last year?!
We still had our two garden beds from last year. Thankfully the hubs did such an awesome job at tilling that we really didn't need to weed the area at all! We decided though to put in one more garden bed. Several of our crops (especially squash and zucchini) need to be rotated every year. Rotating crops helps your soil recover from all the nutrients that were once removed. A three year rotation works best for us so my husband tilled up and installed a third bed. Doesn't it look great?!
With that being said we stopped by a local nursery this weekend and picked out some of their early plants. There's still a few more I'd like to find. We have a whole garden bed that's blank! But we got a head start on some of our garden this weekend.
Our brand new garden bed as we figure out what goes where
Now I have to give Schmidt's Farm in Paducah, KY a decent shout out. We were able to get all of this for roughly $33:
- (3) Zucchini
- (3) Straight-neck summer squash
- (4) Jet Star Tomatoes
- (4) Jalapeno Peppers
- (4) California Wonder Bell Peppers
- (4) Garlic
- (1) Oregano
- Lots and lots of french dwarf marigolds and a few Inca marigolds
- Two small pots

 We were able to get everything in the ground Saturday. To keep my histamines at bay, I took up some more benadryl and tried something new: wearing goggles. I'm sure the whole neighborhood thinks I'm crazy. But hey, my eyes didn't end up burning like five thousand suns afterwards. So maybe it pays off to look like a science-kid.
Hubs was nice enough to take this unexpected photo
Over the next few weeks I'll share a few tricks of the trade to simple gardening. We will also have a few additions this year including (but not limited to) green beans, strawberries, and best of all: pie pumpkin! Feel free to share what you're growing this year along with any questions you have.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Don't Be A Literary Snob

My life is genuinely ironic during this time of year. Or at least what most people consider to be ironic, according to my husband. But if our great American society has taught us anything is that the majority rules, right? So what I'm about to explain is a perfect example of irony.

During the last few years I've developed a true love of nature. There's so many ways to enjoy being in tune with Mother Earth: hiking, camping, boating, scuba diving, even going on a safari! My real passion though is gardening. It's even sweeter that I've developed a small knack for it.
Saving my calendula last year
But there's one thing keeping me from really enjoying the start of this year's garden. And there's no amount of admiration of the outdoors that could change it. If you've been an avid reader than you know this is the time of year that I deal with my allergies. I'm allergic to various kinds of pollen, but it's really tree pollen that gets me. I'm lucky enough to only need medication for about 3 months out of the year, but I tell ya, April is normally the most miserable time of my life. And it's every year. We've been lucky to have a cold spring this year and I've been pushing the limit of how much I can be outside before walling myself indoors for a few weeks. But alas spring is in full bloom. I learned that the hard way this weekend.

Don't get me wrong, it was totally worth it! In fact, let me share how much fun I had playing in the dirt the past couple of days, eh? First off, as a belated birthday present, my husband bought me a a bundle of strawberry plants! It's the first time we're trying it out, so lets hope for a sweet success this year!
Isn't it cute?! Hopefully they will enjoy their new home.
Potting the strawberries was a good warm up for Saturday afternoon. I caught wind of a local church working with our city's park department and local school to set up a community garden that will be an after school project for students! Not only is this a safe program for kids during the summer, but hopefully they will learn the value of what they grow. Who knows, a lot of big wigs out there say a child will more likely eat a vegetable they assisted in growing. And if their harvest is plentiful, some of the produce will go to a agencies that help feed those in need. With all that being said, who wouldn't want to help out?!
We went out and planted some cabbage and broccoli
The rows may not be straight, but these kids were great. They just loved digging! They should be getting a few more plants too. If not, there's plenty of seeds to start. As an extra bonus, I actually won a door prize for a free plot in the community garden these kids weren't using. Since I already have more than enough space in my own yard, I gave it to a woman who was interested in starting her first garden. Here's hoping she gets good "pay it forward" beans out of that.

By Saturday afternoon I had already taken a few additional anti-histamines in hopes of keeping my immune system from going crazy. I felt good and decided to do more garden work which included attempting new seeds & potting some seedlings I bought a long with the strawberries. That included some stevia. I'm so excited to try out a sugar substance that's not processed! I also apparently found out what a purple shamrock root looks like...
Have to admit... it's not what I expected...

By the time I called it a day it felt like my eyelids were covered with sand paper. Thankfully my medications plus some benadryl kept everything else at bay. Runny nose? Hives? Ain't nobody got time for that. I really don't have time for my eyes to burn and entire face to feel like there's layers of pollen on it either but I'll take what I can. Apparently I felt good enough to do it all over again on Sunday. Stayed outside to replant my calendula (which survived the winter, wha?!) with some new seedlings. I was also able to set up my porch in green fashion.

With all that being said, I feel great... and awful at the same time. You know that feeling when you get something caught in your eye and you can get it out? Or when you wake up in the middle of the night and suddenly have to turn the lights on? Well mix those two and multiply that by 15 million times. It also makes me slightly exaggerate. But really, my eyes are so sore that the rest of my face is tender. I also developed a small rash on my hands. So I'm increasing the benadryl. And in case you didn't know, that stuff knocks. you. out.

But I'm not here for a pity party. Far from it. I love what I did this weekend, even if that meant playing it low for the next few days. Knowing that I got this far with my garden before imprisoning myself in my own home makes me really happy. Hopefully I'll be back at in a few weeks.

So a gardener with awful allergies to pollen. I don't care what you say, I think it's ironic.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Happy Little Home

Wow, has it already been a year?! Yep, it was a year ago that Lawson & I bought our first house. A quaint little bungalow on a quiet street in Western Kentucky. I'm amazed at how quickly the year has flown by for us.
This may look familiar...
When any milestone like this comes along, I like to take the time to reflect on what we've able to accomplish and what still needs work. Let's take a look at what we've gotten done within the first year of buying a home.

First- We got straight to work on our new lawn and garden!

That included moving around some calendulas
Let's not forget the rush to move. We gave ourselves a month to move out of our rental home. It did test our patience and our wallet, but I'm so glad we took the time to get it all done correctly.
It took us an entire month, but we were able to leave it better then when we first walked in
We picked up a new sofa & love seat and did some minor work to make it our home. Before we knew it, it was time for our house warming party!
That turned into a very long party, let me tell you!
We fought off a tough drought last summer and enjoyed the fruit of our labor in the garden. I introduced you to some delicious recipes and why you should think about what you eat.
Yummy backyard bell pepper!
The entire summer flew by and we realized we really needed to get to work on our little abode. We began (and have yet to finish) our first main project: replacing the duct work.
The duct behind me was what we first replaced.
Christmas quickly followed and we turned our home into a Winter Wonderland! It was also the first year we hosted Christmas for our family.
And sure enough we're already at Spring of 2013. There was one last thing we were able to do before this weekend. We replaced the windows in our basement and let me tell you, it needed it! The glass was old and feeble. The sill was practically decaying. We realized new windows would help keep us safe during severe weather along with keeping out any intruder. The old windows were also the main reason we had bugs & spiders getting into our basement. But it now all sealed & fresh. We are so happy with the results!
I bring you the nasty before and the beautiful after
So, we've accomplished a few things, but there is so much more work to be done! Hopefully we can finish of the duct work this year. We also plan to replace the toilet in a couple weeks. There will soon be the day that we tackle the biggest project of all: the roof and attic. 

There will most likely not be a new post next week. We will be busy on the road and celebrating my 26th birthday! I want to thank each and every one of you that's stayed with me at Limelight Musings. It's turned into much more than I could of ever dreamed of. But it's not over yet! There's many more recipes, crafts, home improvement projects, and rants ahead!
One of our first photos at the house. Couldn't be happier!