Spring is my favorite season. Everything gradually wakes up from the winter nap and pops of color fill the world. Around this time in South Carolina, some early flowers start to bloom – giving a peek as to what is ahead.
Right now, in my yard, I have calendula, petunias and daffodils.
Soon, there will be tulips, irises and Hyacinth. I can’t wait for them to pop.
I’ve also got some seeds started for late spring/summer flowers including multiple kinds of sunflowers, a variety of zinnias, marigolds, cosmos and strawflowers. This will be my first year with strawflowers and I can’t wait to see how they’ll do. I also have an abundance of lilies and dahlias that I am looking forward to this year.
So, I ask, what are your favorite flowers? Have you had success in growing them? Let me know.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Let me set the scene for you for most gardeners in the northern hemisphere in January.
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com. I’m here for ya!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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