Trying something new – opening an etsy shop

Good evening! It has been a hot minute since I posted, but that happens sometimes. Times get busy, ideas for blog posts don’t come and sometimes inspiration is hard to find.

But! This past week, I’ve been inspired to do more to help people who want to start gardening themselves.

And, in order to help you get started, I’ve created by first garden planner and record keeper.

It is available in my newly-opened Etsy shop: CLICK LINK HERE.

As I have the time, I plan on adding other items to the Etsy shop, so stay tuned!



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.


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!


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!


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.


Bugs…ughhhh bad bugs

Gardening is not without bugs – of many kinds.

Leaf-footed bug
Leaf-footed bug

As I have written before, I do like most bugs. I love butterflies, bees, assassin bugs, spiders, dragonflies and other pollinators.

However, I hate bad bugs who eat my plants and ruin things.

This year has been really bad for some bugs. Thanks 2020…

Specifically, as I have said before, the squash vine borer was HORRIBLE. I lost all my squash, zucchini and pumpkins to them. I also really hate grubs. Grubs are kind of my fault because they thrive in soil that isn’t the healthiest. They eat the roots of plants and then the plants slowly die.

Eggplant killed by a bug…I think.

If you’ve watched my journey of moving four beds that were troublemakers from one side of the “farm” to the other, you’ll know just how many grubs I had. Yuck yuck.

Some other evil bugs are squash bugs, aphids, leaf-footed bugs, cabbage worms, caterpillars, stink bugs, tomato hornworms, cucumber beetles and pickle worms. Each one has been an issue this year in some way.

Today, I also found ants farming aphids. Yes, you read that right. Apparently the aphids secrete a sweet liquid (ew!) and the ants love it. So, they literally take care of the aphids as the aphids eat the plant. #nothankyou.

Pumpkin vines killed by squash vine borer.

For the ants, I put DE on the plants when I know the bees aren’t out. For the squash bugs, grubs, cabbage worms, caterpillars and stink bugs, I just try to be diligent in finding them and squishing them. For the vine borer, I tried everything. This coming year I have some new traps to try and will also try to plant earlier before their season.

What kind of bugs are you dealing with this year? And how are you fixing the problem? Let me know in the comments below.


So you had a good harvest…now what?

Gumbo with my okra, tomatoes and jalapenos.

Tomatoes, beans, peas, peppers, eggplant, okra, cucumbers, squash, potatoes, watermelon… if you have plants, and you try your best to take care of them, you’ll have a harvest.

So now what? What can you do with all those goodies?

Below are just some of the meals that we’ve (by we, I mean my husband) created this past spring and summer to enjoy the bounty from the garden. What are you cooking? Just leave a comment below or send me an email at pigdogfarms@gmail.com.

Tomatoes: salsa, gumbo, fresh pasta sauce, bruschetta,

Okra: gumbo, Chai Pani-style okra (sliced thin, cooked in a cast iron skillet and sprinkled with spices), fried okra

Jalapenos: add to nearly anything!

Corn: corn salad, add to pasta, stir fry or any salad

Eggplant: roasted eggplant and bean dip (my favorite), La Tienda-style fried eggplant with thyme and honey, Peter Chang-style dry-fried eggplant

Potatoes: Curate-style Spanish tortilla, potato salad, mashed potatoes, fried potatoes

Sweet potatoes: soup, chorizo and potato tacos, add to curry

Beans: sauteed with garlic and olive oil and topped with chopped almonds, stir fry (many kinds)

Peas: stir fry or in salads (or eaten raw off the vine, my favorite)

Cabbage: shredded on sandwiches, cabbage bake with sausage, Thai salad

Peppers: stuffed peppers, rajas for tacos, gumbo, sausage and peppers

Zucchini: fried zucchini, stir fry

Cucumbers: raw or make into pickles! (and then fry the pickles…yummy)

Watermelon: eaten fresh or…made into a margarita or daiquiri!


Fall garden plan – 2020

VERY rough sketch of how I’d like to plan the fall garden.

Fall is coming!!! Spread the word. The summer heat is almost over for us here in South Carolina – or it will be in about a month in a half…hopefully.

Since I usually start planning the Spring and Summer garden when January and February roll around – it is only natural for me to plan the fall garden when it is still 90+ degrees every day. (right??)

For the fall, I have quite a few plant babies starting on the porch (my own little protective spot to start seeds) and some broccoli, kale, cabbage and brussel sprouts already out under covers. Unfortunately, while my spring cabbages were beautiful and grew well, I think it is just a bit too hot for the fall ones. Two or three have also already been munched on by the cabbage worm – even though they’re under a cover… sneaky buggers.

More of the fall garden plan for 2020.

I have started a fall crop of tomatoes outside in a garden bed and have more seedlings growing nicely on the porch. This time, I plan on properly staking the tomatoes and fertilizing in the hopes of a great harvest.

I also plan to grow: peas, pumpkins, arugula, mustard greens, dill, lettuce, parsnips, turnips, marigolds, carrots, spinach, endive, swiss chard, garlic, leeks, cilantro and try again for zucchini.

As I said in the summer garden post, I’ve decided not to be so cheap – I mean frugal – in buying plant food. As Martha Stewart says, “you eat, so your plants have to eat!”

I’d love to hear any tips or tricks that you have for growing any of the items I’ve listed – just leave a comment or email me at pigdogfarms@gmail.com.