Posts Tagged ‘plants’

Another Garden Season is Upon Us. . .

Even though it is Farm Show Week, it is NOT TOO EARLY to start thinking about your garden and what you will plant when the gardens open (hopefully) in March.  They opened on March 17th last year, and considering that date, we could have only about 68-70 days until the gardens open once more.  In terms of weeks, that’s about 11 weeks—not a long time at all. That isn’t very long, and so you need to be thinking about what you will plant and when.


It is certain that the seed catalog companies are thinking about you and your garden.  I am simply inundated with catalogs.  Just to see if anyone is paying attention to this blog, I intend to leave a generous supply of seed catalogs on the Picnic Table over in the gardens on Saturday next, weather permitting.  The catalogs will be in a plastic bag.  Some will be 2012 catalogs, but there will be a few very nice 2013 ones there as well, including a Baker Creek Seeds Heirloom catalog.  Some fortunate person will have interesting reading over the winter. . .




In a past issue of this blog I mentioned the need to PLAN YOUR GARDEN.  Planning is absolutely essential to having a good harvest.  Planning is especially necessary if you only have one or two plots to work with.  A garden plan will save time, space and money. You will get much more out of your garden and you will be able to increase the length of the harvest season, at least well into the fall of 2013. You will make proper and complete use of your space, which alleviates crowding of vegetables or encroachment on areas where you should not encroach.

There are two ways to make up a garden plan. First, you can do it manually. Start by  making a scale drawing of your available garden area on graph paper. You can get graph paper at any office supply store—you will find it in among the school supplies. Divide the drawing into cool-season and warm-season vegetable planting areas.

Cool-season vegetables                           Warm-Season vegetables

Onions                                                                        Corn

Cabbage                                                                     Tomatoes

Sweet Peas                                                                Green Beans and Dry Beans

Radishes                                                                    Peppers

Collards                                                                     Okra

Kale                                                                             Potatoes  and Sweet Potatoes

Mustard Greens                                                     Summer Squash

Lettuces                                                                    Winter Squash

Spinach                                                                      Cucumbers

Broccoli                                                                     Eggplant


Cool-season vegetables can generally be planted as soon as the garden can be worked. These plants LOVE the cool early spring weather, and generally do better early in the season.  They can withstand some frost. They also flourish then because there are LESS BUGS to disturb them.  But the veggies on the Warm-season list cannot be planted until AFTER the last frost date for our area, which is ON OR ABOUT MAY 5.  White potatoes are an exception, as they can generally be planted by mid-April.  In the case of corn, it should not be planted until the soil has warmed up to about 55-60 degrees.  Also, both the NIGHTS and the days must be warm (temperatures at or above 55 degrees) if corn is to be successful.


Anyway, you plant your Cool-Season veggies early and harvest them before the summer heat begins, so that that area of your garden can then be used for the Warm-Season veggies.  This allows you to use your space to best advantage.


The Other Way that you can easily plan your garden is to use the Grow Veg Garden Planner mentioned in the blog post:  found here:


There is a free trial period, but after 30 days you must buy a subscription.  It is well worth it because of all of the beneficial helps this planner provides.  This is the planner I use.


Some of the Cool-Season veggies can be sown directly from seed as soon as you have worked your garden after it opens, but generally broccoli, cabbage and onions will do better if planted as PLANTS.  This can be done two ways.  You can wait until the Home Centers stock veggie plants and buy them (poor selection) or you can start them from seed (great selection).  Did you know that last year the ONLY veggie that was planted as a purchased plant in my garden was Eggplant.  All of the other plants that I set out were from seed that I started at home, or from seed that was directly sown. Starting your own plants from seed saves an enormous amount of money and it allows you to plant favorite, heirloom or unusual varieties that are not found in the Home Centers.

Cool-season vegetables

Onions                         Set out plants in March

Cabbage                      Start seed indoors by March 1; set out April 1

Sweet Peas                Direct Sow in March

Radishes                     Direct Sow in March

Collards                      Direct Sow April 1

Kale                              Direct Sow April 1

Mustard Greens      Direct Sow April 1

Lettuces                     Direct Sow in March

Spinach                      Direct Sow April 1

Broccoli                     Start seed indoors by March 1; set out by April 15


Warm-Season vegetables

Corn                             Direct sow between May 6 and June 15; Avoid corn plants!

Tomatoes                   Start seed indoors by March 1; plant out May 15

Green Beans              Direct Sow May 1

Dry Beans                  Direct Sow May 1

Peppers                       Start Indoors Feb 28; plant out May 15

Okra                              Direct Sow May 15

Potatoes                      Plant by April 15

Sweet Potatoes         Plant slips after May 15

Summer Squash       Direct sow between May 15 and May 31

Winter Squash          Direct sow between May 15 and May 31

Cucumbers                 Direct sow May 1

Eggplant                      Set out plants May 15


As far as the proper technique for starting seeds indoors is concerned, I had given complete instructions in a previous blog.  Three of the most important instructions are: (1) CLEANLINESS!  Everything must be very clean; (2) Do not use any fertilizers on seedlings, and; (3) Do not use seed starters based on peat moss or peat pots of any type. If these reminders bring forth questions, then you will have to re-read the blog in question.


Not Too Early to Talk About Preserving the Harvest. . .

In my last post, which was (shamefully) back at the end of July, I promised to talk about Preserving the Harvest by dehydrating vegetables.


This is my Vegi Kiln food dehydrator.  This device is used to dry vegetables and meats for storage.


Although you can dry food by placing it out in the sun, or by using the oven (if the oven on your stove can be turned down to at least 140 degrees), the most efficient and least expensive way to dry food is by using a dehydrator designed for the purpose.  The reason why is because if you intend to dry food in the sun, you must build or buy special trays for that purpose and you must observe the food at all times to make sure that bugs or birds haven’t gotten into it.  Also, kitchen stoves are not generally equipped with fans to keep  the air circulating about the food and so it takes a much longer time to dry things in the oven and the energy cost is higher.  Initially, a food dehydrator will cost somewhere between $50 and $400 (the one I own is closer to the upper end in price), but it is well worth the cost to have an easy way to preserve your food that does not require the use of a freezer or canning supplies.


This illustration shows eggplant, green peppers and summer squash that has been dried and sealed into jars.  The Half-Gallon jars in the background contain the equivalent of about 20 pounds each of eggplant and green peppers, and the quart jar in from contains the equivalent of about 10 pounds of dried summer squash.  To prepare these dried vegetables for cooking all you have to do is soak them in some water.  You can also simply add them to a soup and they will be fine.  I have also dried celery, collards, kale, okra, hot peppers and onions.  The really nice thing about storing food as dried goods is that it is lightweight and takes up far less space than traditionally canned or frozen foods.  For example, 20 pounds of tomatoes can be dried down to a pile that weighs only about 18 ounces. Drying is ideal for limited-space situations, such as apartment  or small home living.  The actual process of drying veggies and fruits is fairly simple.  Veggies are washed and cut into serving-sized pieces and blanched and drained, as if preparing them for the freezer.  The cut pieces are laid out in the dehydrator and the dehydrator is set for the specific temperature.  The drying veggies are then left for the appropriate amount of time until they are dry and brittle in texture. Fruits can be washed, cut and dried as serving sized pieces or they can be made into fruit leathers and dried that way.  There are easy to follow instructions and recipes here:

Next time, I’ll talk a little bit about prepping the garden for another season, and give some neighborly reminders.  I’ll also talk about the reason why you should care where your garden plants and seeds come from.



A reminder about Garden Planning. . .

Hello All!

Now that the assignment of garden plots is over, and everyone has their garden cards, it really feels like Spring is in the air.  I drove by the Gardens the other day and I saw that they have been both plowed and disced, and they look really good! Soon the Community Gardens will be a beehive as friends and neighbors meet while getting their garden plots ready for another great season.

In my last post, I did promise to give some more canning recipes that do not involve the pickling of vegetables, and I will post those.  But first, I want to go over the issue of garden planning.

Last February, I posted information regarding the importance of planning the layout of your garden. Since the garden assignments have been made for the season, the need to plan your garden is more important than ever.   Do you want to start out the season on bad terms with your neighbor?  It is easy to make an enemy.  By failing to plan out your garden space, could run out of space for planting. At worst, you might end up being the one who blocks someone from access to their space by putting part of your garden in public walkways or driveways OR putting your plants and seeds in another person’s garden.  Unbelievable, yet true!  This is why planning is all important.

Planning, planning and more planning!  Very important to Planting!!

Have you ever gotten your plants and seeds together and started enthusiastically planting them only to find that you’ve run out of space?  Believe me, it has happened to all of us.  However, the answer is NOT to:

–  Plant your leftover seeds and plants in the walkway, blocking your neighbor’s access to their garden;

—  Take  over the driveway/walkway space adjacent to Elmerton Avenue by simply (ahem!) moving the blue topped stakes to accommodate the “growing” size of your garden, or

–  Planting your leftover seeds and plants in the neighboring gardener’s space. Yes, this actually happens, believe it or not.

People, PLEASE!!!





to quote directly from the garden rules:

“If you mistakenly or intentionally plant in another gardener’s plot you will lose those seeds and plants. . .”

The same thing can be said of planting in the Elmerton Avenue park service driveway/walkway (that section of the garden immediately next to Elmerton Avenue) or of planting in the pathways and walkways.  No one is allowed to park on Elmerton, and so if you “landlock” your neighbors by blocking the pathways and walkways, your neighbors have the right to tear your plantings out because parking a car on Elmerton to access a garden plot is NOT ALLOWED.  When I was landlocked one year, this is what I did.  I took a hoe and destroyed the offending plantings.  Of course, the offending neighbor yelled at me, but I pointed to the garden rules and told him that I was not going to endanger myself by parking on Elmerton just so he could have the walkway as part of his garden.

Just last year, we had a problem with certain users of the Children’s Gardens who blocked other gardeners’ access to their plots and access to the pump by using the garden path as part of their plots.  I am not ashamed to say that I took my hoe and cleared the path for my neighbors.

If you notice that anyone has moved the blue path-marker stakes, or has “Landlocked” your garden by placing plants inappropriately , please call the Parks and Recreation Department at 599-5188 ext. 2117 to complain.  Then use your hoe to remove the offending plants.

The blue-topped stakes are there for a reason; namely to provide access to ALL gardeners.  Those set the size of each space at 30′ x 30′ (or 10’ x 10’ for a Children’s Plot) to make it fair for everyone.  You don’t have a right to use the space in the walkways or driveways as part of your garden. You don’t have a right to do that even if you have two spaces on either side of a pathway. The paths are for walking or so that people can get water and equipment up to their gardens without parking where they don’t belong.  No one has the right to force people to park on Elmerton Avenue so that they can reach their garden!!

A friend reminded me the other day of yet another problem that is associated with poor planning—using the walkways and pathways as equipment or water barrel storage areas.  Yes, some people feel that they need every inch of garden space for their planting (because they fail to plan out their garden) and so the hoes, rakes, trellises, garden stakes and water storage barrels, etc. are placed IN THE WALKWAY.  My friend complained to me that one of his neighbors had stored a bamboo fence or trellis along with a huge pile of stakes in the walkway leading to his garden, landlocking him.  I told him that he could move the pile of garden equipment gently over into its owner’s garden.  That stuff has no business in a walkway.

But what is the initial cause of this sort of problem?  POOR PLANNING!

In order to have a successful garden, you need to plan!  You need to know WHAT you are going to plant; but, more importantly, you need to know WHERE you are going to plant it.  Since the basic garden plot is 30 feet by 30 feet square, it pays, then, to consider what type of plants you will have, how many, and how much space each plant will need.

There is an easy way to plan out your garden space.  Go to

and try out the free trial garden planner.  After you try it out, I think you’ll be hooked! This excellent helper device knows exactly how much space each type of vegetable plant needs and will tell you how many will fit in a given amount of space.  It also helps you to have a much more productive garden because you can actually plan the size of your garden paths to avoid wasting space.

For example, here is a link where you can view one of my garden plans.  What’s cool about this is that you can see the types of veggies I am planting and view information about them as well.


And now, some more canning recipes that don’t involve pickling the veggies. . .

REMEMBER, these recipes REQUIRE the use of a Pressure Canner.  I am in NO WAY suggesting that a Boiling Water Bath Canner can be used at all for processing these, and I take no responsibility whatsoever if anyone attempts to substitute the proper use of a Pressure Canner in preparing any of these recipes. The recipe information for canned beets includes some links to places where you can buy a pressure canner.    Processing times shown below are for Harrisburg, which is about 1000 feet above sea level.  If you are in an area with a different altitude, you need to refer to the manual that comes with the pressure canner for the correct processing time.

Canned Beets (Not Pickled)

Many people enjoy buttered beets as a side dish.  Here’s a very good recipe. . .

One good thing about this recipe is that you can turn these beets into pickled beets by simply draining the water out of them and adding a Bread and Butter Sweet Pickle brine.  Or you can turn them into Harvard Beets (another side dish) quite easily.

Whole Kernel Corn (Cold Pack)

3 to 6 Pounds of Corn on the Cob per quart

Salt (Optional)

Boiling Water

Husk the corn; remove the silks and wash thoroughly.  Using a sharp knife, cut the kernels from the cob, but do not scrape the cob.  Pack the corn loosely into clean hot jars, leaving 1 inch of head space.  Add ½ teaspoon salt to each pint or 1 teaspoon salt to each quart if you wish.  Cover the corn with boiling hot water, filling to 1 inch head space.  Use a spatula to remove the air bubbles and apply the caps, but do not over tighten.  Process pints 55 minutes and quarts 1 hour and 25 minutes at 10 pounds pressure in a Pressure Canner (refer to canner manual).

Peas (Cold Pack)

Who can resist delicious, buttered sweet green peas?  How about some nice Crowder Peas or Cowpeas for soups and stews?  Hopping John  (BlackEyed Peas) on New Years Day?  Here’s how to enjoy nice Peas when the snow flies next winter! This recipe is suitable for any type of shelled peas.

3 to 6 pounds of unshelled peas per quart


Boiling Water

Wash, drain and shell freshly harvested peas.  Wash again and drain. Pack the peas loosely into clean hot jars, leaving 1 inch of head space.  Add ½ teaspoon salt to each pint and 1 teaspoon salt to each quart if you wish.  Cover peas with boiling water, up to the 1 inch headspace.  Use a spatula to remove air bubbles, apply caps, but do not over tighten.  Process pints and quarts 40 minutes at 10 pounds pressure.  (Refer to Pressure Canner Manual for processing information).

Green Beans (Hot Pack)

Here’s a shortcut to that Thanksgiving Green Bean Casserole or Green Bean and Ham Dish!

1-1/2 to 2-1/2 pounds of green beans per quart


Boiling Water

Wash the green beans thoroughly, rinse and wash again. Drain. Trim ends, remove strings and cut or break into pieces.  Place beans in a large pot and cover with Boiling Water.  Boil 5 minutes, drain.  Pack the hot beans into clean hot jars, leaving 1 inch of head space.  Add ½ teaspoon salt to each pint or 1 teaspoon salt to each quart if you wish.  Cover beans with boiling water up to the 1 inch headspace.  Remove air bubbles with a spatula and apply caps, but do not overtighten.  Process pints 20 minuts and quarts 25 minutes at 10 pounds pressure (refer to manual for Pressure Canner for further information.)

Well, I can’t wait to get into the Garden!  I have Potatoes, Onions, Cabbage, Brussels Sprouts Collards and Kale that are ready to go!