Seedlings Growing Strong

“I grow plants for many reasons: to please my eye or to please my soul, to challenge the elements or to challenge my patience, for novelty or for nostalgia, but mostly for the joy in seeing them grow.”David Hobson

Late winter, I started my garden inside and on the porch. I had researched and bought seeds to what varieties I wanted to try growing this year. I planted lettuce, marigolds, cilantro, Thai basil, jalapeno, and poblano peppers in the milk jug greenhouses. Trying something new, I got specific grow bags to try growing carrots. I bought seedling soil-less soil. I installed my seed starter heat mat and my grow light. I planted 2 or 3 seeds per cell in my seedling trays. Then I wait.

After a few weeks, my seeds have sprouted. In the past, I plant more seeds than come up as seedlings. This time, almost all of the seeds sprouted!! Way more plants that I can use. I counted 126 tomato plants (in 10 varieties) and 70 sweet pepper plants (in 6 varieties)!!! Way more than I have space in the garden for. Even with a 780 square foot garden! I still wanted to plant peas, beans, squash, and flowers. So I share. I share with church folks, family, and friends. I can’t wait for harvest time!

The garden continues to teach me patience. These pictures I took in March. I had hopes to post them before now. But alas, I didn’t feel like writing. Last September, I fell trying to step over the garden gate. I injured my left knee, which I had to have surgery on in December. It has been a long recovery and I still tire easily. God continues to show me to be patient with myself and the garden. Keep on moving and progress will be revealed.


Plants Change to Adapt to the Weather

“Unlike your favorite painting or sentimental vase, a landscape is alive and constantly changing.” –Author Unknown

As it has become autumn on the calendar and in the weather, the garden has changed in production and appearance. The cool days and even cooler nights has made it difficult for the plants to absorb enough nutrients to stay healthy. Add wet weather or excessive dew that doesn’t dry up quickly cause of lack of sunshine, mold and other disease can settle into the plants.

Tomato plants are heat loving plants. Mine has stopped putting out new fruit and the leaves have turned brown and dropped off. The same has happened with the purple hull peas. My pole beans and peppers are confused though. A lot of the pole bean vine has turned brown and dropped leaves. But then we had a week of hot weather again. Guess what – new flowers appeared and even new sprouts came up from the ground. Did you know that pole beans can produce right up to the frost date? The pepper plants reacted similarly, new flowers and veggies growing.

To extend your vegetable garden, one could plant crops suited for cooler climates. Some of those would include broccoli, greens, cabbage, radishes, beets, pumpkins, and numerous others. I personally do not plant for a fall garden. I can’t have the roughage (that most of those vegetables have) due to my Crohn’s Disease. So as the fall season begins so does the ending of my vegetable garden for the year.

The Bible verse says in Ecclesiastes 3:1, ‘To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.’ Now that the garden isn’t needing a lot of attention, look around and see where you are needed next. Just because the visible growing season may be coming to an end, doesn’t mean life isn’t still growing. Rely on God through all your seasons.

Bountiful Harvest to be Savored Now and Preserved for Later

“It is like seeds put in the soil – the more one sows, the greater the harvest.” –Orison Swett Marden

I have been very pleased with my vegetable garden this year. Even though it was started late (due to a cool, wet spring) and had several challenges (insect pest, fungal disease, and drought like conditions) to deal with. This is the first year I can say that everything in my garden I started from seeds. Each year, after reviewing the previous growing season’s records, I challenge myself to try new designs, new varieties, and to try to get a bigger harvest.

In the spring, I filled my seed trays with several varieties of tomatoes, sweet peppers, and spicy peppers. The other plant seeds were direct sow, once the ground was ready for them. I ended up with 50 tomato plants in the garden!! Varieties included Rutger, Beefsteak, Amish Paste, Druzba, Brandywine, and Granny Cantrell’s German Pink tomatoes. All produced tomatoes except for 2 plants (which one the stem broke early on and had to be transplanted again). The sweet pepper plants all produced and varieties included Carolina Wonder Sweet Bell, Jimmy Nardello’s Italian Sweet, Lipstick Sweet, and Gypsy Sweet. The spicy peppers were slow to produce, however, finally did with the late summer heat. Those varieties included Orozco Carrot Chile, Jalapeno, and Ancho Poblano. The pole beans and purple hull pink-eyed peas also produced a lot of vegetables. Oh, I can’t forget about the numerous flowers interspersed in the garden. The marigolds, zinnas, and wildflowers were a big help attracting insects to the garden.

My harvest days from the garden began about a month ago. Along with watering two to three times a week (since we hadn’t gotten rain in a while), I picked vegetables twice a week as they ripened. With all the abundance of vegetables, I have cooked with some, frozen some, made pizza sauce, veggie pasta sauce, salsa, and even canned some up for later cooking and enjoying.

As harvest relates to God, I leave you with a few scriptures:

Sow fields and plant vineyards, & gather a fruitful harvest. Psalm 107:37

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

If you plant goodness, you will harvest faithful love. Plow your ground, and you will harvest with the Lord. He will make goodness fall on you like rain. Hosea 10:12


Garden Supports to Love, Natural or Man-Made?

“Encourage, lift, and strengthen one another. For the positive energy spreads to one will be felt by us all.” –Deborah Day

Supports in the garden benefit both the plants and the gardener. They can be man-made or ones that occur in nature. Most man-made supports are made from various metals and shaped into cones, circles, squares, and lines. Examples of natural supports are corn stalks and bamboo poles.

Benefits that supports give to the garden include stability to the plant, more air circulation, and more sunlight for the leaves. Tomato plants need a lot of support. The stems tend to grow tall and the weight of the fruit can be heavy. If they didn’t have some kind of support, the stem is more likely to break – damaging or killing the plant. If not enough leaves are getting sunlight, production of vegetables and fruits are diminished. Enough air circulation around the plants is crucial to limit the possibility of viruses or other non-beneficial conditions for plant production.

Using garden supports helps the gardener in several ways. Not only do they keep the garden healthy, the supports make it easier to maintain and harvest the garden. Pole beans, by their nature, are to planted at the base of poles or trellises. This allows the bean vine to climb vertically and the beans to hang down. This makes them easier to pick and takes up less square footage in the garden. Tomato cages come in varying sizes and shapes (cone, square, and circle). The function is the same – to support the plant from breaking with the fruit and making it easier to harvest.

I use a combination of supports in my garden. I start out using metal tomato cages and wooden posts with string trellis for my beans. Once the plants have outgrown the boundaries of those, I add bamboo poles to aid in supporting the plants. This year a series of strong storms broke most of my bean poles. So I weaved in bamboo poles into the trellis and the beans are very happy.

Did you know God wants you to have a support system in your life too? He wants you to have folks to turn to when storms beak your footings. Let it be God, family, friends, and even coworkers. As long as they hold you up, keep your soul well, and allow you to produce the fruit you are meant to produce. Just remember support is needed by all.

My Rare Allergy Increases the Amount of Plants

“Gardening is medicine that does not need a prescription… and has no limit on dosage.” –Unknown

I bet that title got your attention and you are wondering how an allergy of mine can increase the amount of plants in my garden. Well, I am allergic to the spice called pepper. It now can be found in a ton of foods, sauces, and even powdered mixtures. I no longer have the convenience of eating out a most restaurants or picking up already made foods from the store. I can’t eat a lot of items on a buffet or pick up a pizza for dinner. I can’t even pick up a bottle of barbecue sauce to go on chicken for a quick meal or have ranch dressing unless I mix it from scratch. I joke with family that I would have more available food choices if I was gluten intolerant (thankfully I am not).

So with fixing practically everything from scratch, I need a lot of whole foods or minimally processed ones. I have learned to make my own pizza sauce and pasta sauce. Which taste so much better than jarred versions!  I have started really enjoying fried bell peppers. By the way, bell peppers are a different plant species from the pepper plants that are spicy or used to make black pepper. I enjoy my food a lot more than I use to by seasoning it from individual spices instead of mixes (which is huge seeing as eating was always just another chore to do when it hurt to eat with Crohn’s disease for so many years).

My garden has grown from 14 tomato plants to 50 tomato plants in 3 years! This was the first year I has success with growing them from seeds. I even gave away about a dozen of them. I cook with tomatoes, process them into sauces, can them up for later use, and even freeze some. My bell peppers or sweet peppers has also grown from 4 plants to 28! I freeze them and cook with them all year long. I can’t wait to see what amount of harvest God will bless me with this year.