Potting up plants – what does that even mean?

Good Sunday morning!!! I’ve been busy already today potting up tomatoes and eggplant.

But what exactly does potting up mean?

When you start seeds in a smaller seed tray, the plants can only get so big and stay happy for a short time. Just as kids grow and need bigger shoes, plants grow and need a bigger space for their roots.

That’s why gardeners have so many plastic or biodegradable pots around. As the seedlings grow out of their first home, we “pot them up” to the next size.

For tomatoes, this also helps strengthen the stem. If you’ve ever noticed, there are what look like tiny hairs all over the tomato stem/stalk. When put in the dirt, those “hairs” create roots and help make the plant stronger. That’s why when you pot up or plant out tomatoes, you bury them deep, so those hairs help the plant grow strong.

There are some plants, like squash, however that you don’t want to start in a small seed cell. You want to keep the roots in tact until you plant them in the ground. Many people don’t pre-start squash plants because their roots are so finicky but I’m trying to out run the squash vine borer this year, so I started them early and am hoping for the best.

Some plants, you don’t want to start early in cells at all. Those include carrots and, for me, nasturtium. Both like to be direct sown and left alone to flourish.

Got any questions about starting seeds and potting them up? Drop me a note or comment below.


Testing recipes to make the perfect bread or cookie

New peanut butter cookie recipe testing

Before I even think about offering a loaf of bread or a cookie, I want to make sure it is the best.

When I first started thinking about selling homemade sourdough bread, I was making a full rye loaf that was inconsistent and didn’t stay fresh. Not good.

So, I found a new recipe. I made it dozens of times – tweaking as I made it each time to make it my own – before I was comfortable with the finished product.

Then, I gave some away. I had people try it and give feedback. Only after that long process did I put it out in the universe that I could sell it. And even since then, I’ve worked on my recipe.

There’s nothing worse than looking forward to something only to find it wasn’t what you thought you were getting.

I also like to try new recipes – and tweak them to make them my own. I do a lot of research before I bake anything new – including recipe reviews, ingredients the recipe uses and what’s the baking process. If you read enough recipes, you can tell right away if something seems off or if it just won’t taste good. You also have to tweak a recipe based on how you mix ingredients and how your oven bakes.

Snickerdoodle cookies

Because of this, there is an abundance of baked goods at my house that aren’t for sale yet. I like to give a sample to someone with an order that day – and ask for feedback. I’ve approved some experiments – and paused others until I can do more research.

That’s how I decided to sell the snickerdoodle cookies. I made up a batch and people loved them. I first used a King Arthur recipe and have since tweaked it to suit my tastes and how I like to do my cookies. I’ve even taken requests from people and now do a full whole-wheat loaf and a sandwich loaf.

Today, I tested out a new peanut butter cookie. The ones I make are good – and I’ve sold some already, but I want a more peanut buttery cookie that comes together easy and stays soft. You’d be surprised how hard it is to pack strong peanut flavor into a cookie.

As Pig Dog Farms & Bakery grows, I want to hear from you! What cookie or loaf of bread would you like to see? If you’re willing to go along with an experiment and give feedback, I’d be happy to try anything new. Let me know!

To get any of my current offerings – CLICK HERE.


A short peek at what’s growing on Feb. 21.

Feb. 21, 2021

There are only 30 days until the last frost here in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

30 days!!! That’s exciting.

I am ready for some warmer weather, growing tomatoes, blooming flowers and bees. I miss the bees. Today, I planted some sunflowers, cabbage and peanuts so they can sprout and be ready to put in the ground when it warms.

Even with all the seedlings on the porch, there are still many things growing, happily, in the garden right now. Here is a short video of just a few of the better-looking winter items.

Enjoy!


It is officially, official. The bakery is open.

Well, as it states above, this is real. We’re in business. If you read this post…well, Pig Dog Farms & Bakery is set.

I can’t believe it and I am so excited. We even have a new logo! Thanks to Design and Word for your hard work on it. I think it perfectly shows Piggy’s smile.

Right now, I am still working building customers and trying out new recipes, but things have already grown from when I first thought about the idea.

There are quite a few new varieties of cookies and I am now doing a loaf-style sourdough bread in addition to the round loaves.

Burned cookie of the left. Remade cookie on the right.

I’ve also had some fails… like not correctly making snickerdoodle cookies and having them burn on the bottom. OOPS!

In the future, I hope to have more direct customers and also set up at one of the farmers markets. Let me know which one in the Myrtle Beach area is your favorite! I like the Conway market and the one at Market Common.

If you’re in the area and interested in an order, you can see what I have HERE. I also can try a new cookie by request. Bake a cake by request and try a new style of bread. Just send me a note.


Winter gardening

A winter harvest

Today in Myrtle Beach, S.C. it is 39 degrees F and raining.

A typical winter day for us on the coast. It has been a bit rainier than normal, but not by much.
Even with the cold and rain, it doesn’t mean that gardening has stopped here. In our zone 8b, gardening is year-round.

Right now, I have lettuces, onions, peas, broccoli, mustard greens, 3 types of kale, cilantro, kohlrabi, pak choy, calendula, swiss chard, carrots, parsley, oregano, fennel, dill, collard greens, and garlic.

Carrots fresh out of the dirt

Under a cover, I have started radishes and spinach. In the seed starting area, I have tomatoes, peppers, marigolds, zinnias, eggplant, cabbage, broccoli and mustard greens. These, as they grow with heat mats and are moved in and out of the sun, will be ready for spring when the ground has warmed.

It was just last year that I bought the heat mats to start seeds earlier than March. It has helped get a jump start on the season. It also extended my season because the plants are ready to go and then new ones can be put in their place when they’re finished.

Collard greens with frost

Winter garden crops also need less attention. There aren’t as many bugs, it rains so you don’t have to water as much and the plants are hardier than delicate square or tomatoes.

However, that doesn’t mean they don’t need to be checked and fertilized. Because of the extra rain, nutrients in the soil can be washed away faster – so you’ve got to feed your plants. As Martha Stewart says, you have to eat and your plants have to eat.

So what can you do if you don’t live on the coast like me? Well, you can have a green house. You can have a cold frame or you can plant some herbs or smaller items on a sunny window sill. You can also enjoy a break from digging in the frozen, cold dirt and dream of spring and summer.

Camellia

Winter is a great time to plan and many gardeners also order their seeds during this time of year. If you’re craving winter vegetables and you’re not growing them – contact your local farmer. See what they’ve got in the fields right now. Because there are not many farmers markets in the fall and winter, buying some of their produce will likely help them out a lot.

Got questions about winter gardening? Send me a note or comment below.

Also, stay tuned this week for some exciting news!


Wait, she does cakes, too?

Italian Cream Cake with cream cheese frosting and pecans

Fun News! I am now taking custom cake orders. I’ve always loved baking cakes and usually only got to do it for birthdays, but now, I’m ready to bake for you!

Baking has always been something I love and turn to when I’m stressed.

I got into baking when I was about 8 years old.

It started by helping my mom make cookies. This is when I learned there is something about measuring and mixing together ingredients – and then eating a warm cookie out of the oven – that just makes me happy. I find it very relaxing.

When I was in my teens, I pretended I had my own baking show – whipping up cakes, cookies, waffles and kuchen. Kuchen is a German dessert that my grandma, great grandma and aunt taught me to make. It is a family favorite.

Now, more years that I like to admit later, I’ve decided to share these tasty goodies with you!

And boy, have I been busy. For the weeks of Jan. 18 and Jan 24, I have baked 27 loaves of bread and 11 dozen cookies. That is a heck of a lot, but I absolutely loved every minute of it – including waking up first at 4:15 a.m. to feed “Sally” my sourdough starter and then at 6:30 a.m. to get everything mixed up before my full-time job. I’m tired, yes, but happy.

If you’re interested in anything, please let me know! I have a new order page HERE.

I can also ship! I sent two dozen cookies to Bismarck, N.D. and a loaf of bread to Minot, N.D. and everything arrived in a timely manner and still tasting fresh. Just let me know – email at pigdogfarms@gmail.com.


Am I starting a baking business? Maybe…

White & rye sourdough bread with caraway seeds and honey.

Almost everyone dreams of someday being their own boss and becoming a successful entrepreneur.

A small, teeny part of that dream for me, might be coming true. Maybe.

Just yesterday, I put out a note into the Facebook universe to see if anyone in the Myrtle Beach area would like some to buy some homemade sourdough bread.

After years of trying recipes, tweaking them and starting over, I think I have finally found a base recipe that I’ve changed enough to call it my own. So, I thought, why not see if others would like some… Within a few minutes, I had orders!

Some from people I know and some from others I don’t. They’re all on my friends list, but when you’re in the news business, as I am, you “friend” people from all over the place.

Wait… Am I leaving my job, you ask? No, definitely not. I like my job. I do not plan on leaving. I also don’t want to get ahead of myself with excitement over a new idea.

The pieces to start the dough!

Instead, I am going to take things step by step. Steps that actually started years ago.

The first was nearly six years ago when I created my sourdough starter. Her name is Sally. Sally has been through good breads and bad breads. She’s a trooper.

The second was starting the Pig Dog Farms brand with this website and on social media. The third was testing and testing bread recipes, tweaking them and testing them again.

The fourth step, the one I am in now, is putting the word out to see who is interested. I am also working with a friend to get a logo and read up on what I am allowed to do in South Carolina when baking and selling things out of your home. Thankfully, the state has the Home-Based Food Production Law (Cottage Food Law) that allows what I’m doing.

Dough rising with a bit of oil to stop sticking

So what’s the fifth step? I’m not sure right now. I think I’ll stick at step four to see if I get any repeat customers.

If you’d like some homemade sourdough bread and live in the Myrtle Beach area, let me know! I make white with honey; white/rye with honey and (optional) caraway seeds; and white/rye/whole wheat with honey. I also make delicious cookies. Just send me an email – pigdogfarms@gmail.com.


Dreaming, and planning, for spring

Let me set the scene for you for most gardeners in the northern hemisphere in January.

Me, trying to figure out how to get all the plants I want into my space.

If you live anywhere not in zone 9 or 10, January is quiet time in the garden. You, of course, can plant kale, collards, cabbage, carrots and other crops under a cover that don’t mind the cold weather, frost and snow, but most gardeners take the winter to regroup and plan.

That planning process, for me, consists of as many seed catalogues as I can get my hands on, a comfy robe and blanket on the couch, my garden notebook and a pencil with a good eraser.

Seed starting dates

I try to keep good notes every season on where I plant things so that I can practice crop rotation. This practice helps keep the soil healthy by not using all of one type of nutrient. It also helps keep plants healthy as diseases can build up in the soil if you plant the same thing in the same spot all the time.

Because of this, and the excitement of trying new varieties, planning out where things will go is quite a process. I consider the date of the last frost, seed germination time, when to start the seeds indoors or when the soil will be warm enough to direct sow, the time it takes the plant to reach maturity and soil nutrition.

Garden 2021 goals and wish list

These things are all very important because the last thing you want to do is buy heirloom seeds, plant them and the seed never germinates. That is a waste of time, space and money. I have done that before and it is quite disappointing.

Once I’ve read every page of the catalogues, drawn out what space I have available and referenced what I grew last season, I try to set goals for the season and create a wish list. This helps me fix problems I had before and plan the space, if I want to get a trellis or plant a specific vegetable, herb or flower.

Spring 2021 garden

Now, I’ve been gardening since 2009 – as referenced in the post. But, I only started making a detailed plan for the garden in the last few years, not only because I want to garden to succeed, but I really love the planning process.

So, what can you do as a beginner or someone who has a year or two under your belt? Here is my list of things to do:

  • consider your growing zone. In Horry County, we are in zone 8b. This zone has quite a long season compared to others. I can grow tomatoes into November and start things as early as late January/early February. Don’t waste your time starting a warm season crop if your last frost isn’t until the end of April.
  • consider your frost dates. This is really important. As I said above, starting a seed too early leads to wasted money and time.
  • get free seed catalogs. I particularly love Park Seed, Southern Seed Exchange, Burpee, Seed Exchange and Gurneys. The catalogs will expose you to new seed varieties and options you can explore in your own space.
  • get a notebook. This can be a simple one or one that is more like an artist book. This will be where you keep your notes, ideas, and designs.
  • buy seeds or started plants. If you’re just starting out, you may want started plants from a local nursery. This takes the guess work out of starting seeds or buying seed starting mix, containers and heat mats. If you’re wanting an adventure, get some seeds and read up on what you can do to help the plant succeed.
  • get a ruler. I can’t draw a straight line by myself.
  • find a link to your local agriculture extension. Here is South Carolina, the Clemson Extension is the go to website. There are articles and plans to take some of the guesswork out of when to plant something.

So what questions do you have? Let me know in the comments below or email me at pigdogfarms@gmail.com. I’m here for ya!


Gardening: A History

My first memory of gardens goes way, way back. My great-grandma had a beautiful flower garden in her backyard. I remember running through, stopping to smell the flowers, and then heading over to my friend’s house for some red hot candies.

My second memory of gardens is also a long-ago memory. My grandma in Wyoming had an amazing garden in her front yard – and raspberry bushes in her backyard. I loved playing near the flowers and pretending I was in a secret garden. Even now, every time I see daisies, I think of her beautiful yard.

My very first garden photo – cilantro and basil in 2009.

Now, fast forward a few decades. I first got the inkling to play in the dirt in 2009. This was the first time I bought a pot, some dirt and a “plant baby” from Lowes. We had moved to Myrtle Beach the year before – we’d gotten Piggy – and now, it was time to start. Little did I know gardening would become a big passion of mine.

Snow in Feb. 2010.

That first year, I don’t think I did much more than plant some basil and cilantro in pots. And, as you can see in the picture, I made a few mistakes by leaving flowers outside…when we were expecting SNOW! Yes, snow…at the beach.

April 2010 front porch garden

But, in the spring of 2010, I got a few more pots and things started to take off. That first year, I planted cucumbers, basil, squash, lettuce, cilantro, strawberries and a few other things that I can’t tell what they are from that picture.

As you can see, I learned that cucumbers need supports to grow – so I made a makeshift trellis.

Beans in the ground

The next year, in 2011, we moved to our new house. The following spring, I started working in the ground to build our garden. That’s when I learned that pine tree roots are very hard to dig through. Some of the vegetables survived, but many did not.

Baby tomato seedlings

It took another season of unsuccessful in-ground gardening for me to take the next step and get raised beds. This is when things clicked. If you have poor soil – full of roots – like I do, raised beds are a blessing…if you prepare them properly.

Collards from 2018

That first year, I got a little TOO excited to get plant and could have done a better job putting down a weed blocker and enhancing the soil. But, you live and you learn.

In 2019, I got a few more raised beds and after reading a book on companion planting flowers with vegetables, everything really took off.

Zinnias and cosmos in 2019.

I started growing zinnias, cosmos, sweet peas, black-eyed susans and marigolds. I couldn’t believe how many pollinators came to the garden to help the vegetables grow. That season, I really learned a lot about attracting the right kind of bugs to the garden.

Lettuce and cabbage from 2019

This year, 2020, has been a major learning year. If you’ve been following along on Facebook or Instagram, I had to move four of the raised beds because they were infested with roots and grubs. In their new location, I properly prepared the soil and now the plants are healthy and successful. I also had major issues with a mulch that stunted the plants’ growth.

I also learned to feed your plants. As Martha Stewart says, “you eat, so your plants have to eat, too!” I never really used fertilizer because I am cheap, excuse me…frugal, but now I am using organic fertilizer to give the plants what they need and now they’re are growing so much better.

Below are some photos from my 2020 garden.

I’d love to hear about your garden journey, so send me a note! I might just feature you right here on the blog.

…And, if you get the movie reference for the title of this piece, leave me a note in the comments below.


For the love of a gardening community

When I started this blog, the Facebook page and the @pigdogfarm Instagram account, I knew I’d be sharing with people I know. My mom, sister, best friend, husband and mother-in-law are my biggest fans and I love that.

I also hoped to find some new friends along the way.

But, I never expected to walk into such a beautiful gardening community on social media – and here in Myrtle Beach.

People who love to dig around in the dirt, cultivate seedlings and watch things grow just have this way about them. They’re innately caring – and that care shows in how they treat others along with their plants.

In just the last few weeks, I’ve turned to that gardening community for support, for help and for praise.

It is so wonderful to post a picture of an evil monster (bug) eating my plants and immediately getting comments from people all over the world on how to defeat them. And, because of their advice, my potatoes that were ravaged by army worms are growing back nicely.

Another new friend told me to check inside my grow bag, even though I’d covered it, because a different bug eating my plants might still be there. Sure enough! It was still there and it had eaten my kale seedlings.

Eggplant, okra and poblano harvest

It is also wonderful to post a picture of your harvest or of a beautiful flower you grew and then hear from others who have had the same success.

People think social media posting is just about getting “likes” or “new followers,” but, for me, it is a way to connect with people who love things that I love like books, dogs (especially English Bulldogs), gardening, dirt, flowers, being outside, learning new growing tips, and funny, wholesome memes or dad jokes.  

Zinnia flower

I have found that community on social media – and I’m thankful for it. It is nice to know you’re not the only one in the world who likes the things you like.

So, on that note, I’d love to hear from you. I’m here on this blog, I’m on Facebook at Pig Dog Farm and I’m on Instagram at PigDogFarm.

So connect with me! Send me your photos. Send me your garden victories or fails. I can’t wait to see them.

To read more about how Pig Dog Farm came to be, check out this post.