Health benefits to gardening

Did you know that gardening is not only great exercise, but that playing in the dirt can keep you healthy both physically and mentally?

It’s true. Dirt has so many different things growing in it, it actually helps build your immune system by exposing you to these microbes. In fact, the BBC recently did an article all about how it can help.

Here’s just a few reasons why gardening is great for your health:

  • Good exercise when digging or planting
  • Exposes you to sunshine for vitamin D (wear sunscreen!)
  • Dirt microbes can help strengthen your immune system
  • Peaceful space for a mental health break
  • Growing your own food is not only an accomplishment but can also be more nutritious
  • Growing flowers can help the pollinators, which help food production
  • Great bonding experience with children or friends (unless you prefer alone time)

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.

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.

How did Pig Dog Farm come to be?

There once was a dog named Pig. He was what is known as a Valley Bulldog, which is an English Bulldog/Boxer mix.

He was a very happy boy, who went on many adventures during his 11 and a half years.

But, he also had many obstacles to overcome. You see, he had hemophilia – a blood disorder that made him very delicate.

Piggy in the car on a trip.

HOWEVER, none of that stopped him from loving life and loving adventures.

He loved walks, hikes, breweries, car rides, couches, grass, towels, Milk-Bones, cheese, chips, snacks, gravy and cuddles (sometimes.) He was very loved by everyone and, especially, his mama and daddy. Everything they did included him and that’s why he got to go on so many adventures.

Piggy was born in April 2008 in North Charleston, S.C. He came to live with his mommy and daddy in June 2008. They drove down to Charleston to get him. On the way home, he sat in his daddy’s lap and bit his fingers the entire way home.

Piggy was a special boy right from the beginning – even before his parents knew of his health issues. He loved to sleep under the bed and under tables and run around outside while chewing a stick. He was a very happy boy who loved to be comfortable…no matter what.

Piggy also had about a million names. They included: “Pig Dog Gole,” “monkey-monster- dog-Pig-bear-goat-camel-cow -hippopotamus,” “Bertha,” “Marge,” “Margorie,” “Bubbles,” “Bubbie,” and “Baby.” The name “Pig Dog Gole” came after a pharmacy got our last name wrong on a prescription for him, and it stuck. We called him that for years.

During the first few years of his life, he went on many walks, ate lots of sticks, saw his grandma, who lived in Forestbrook, and went to “camp” to see his other grandma in Anderson. Everyone loved to see him because of his smile and his beautiful personality.

In 2011, Piggy got his own yard! His mommy and daddy moved into a house with a big yard that was all his. There is even a video that shows just how happy he is to have his own space. From then on, Piggy was the king of his domain. He would explore, sniff and snaff, pee, eat dirt, lay in the sun, and roll in the grass.

Piggy rolling in the grass.

The yard was all his. He also had a great porch where he could lay, on a towel of course, and catch the breeze to sniff. He loved the breeze. If he wasn’t on the porch, he would sit on the back of the couch with the window open and sniff the air. His cute little nose was always sniffing.

For many years, most of Piggy’s adventures were just around town. But after Pig’s mom got a new job, there was more time to explore and to go on adventures further away from home.

Piggy’s first trip was to Banner Elk, N.C. His daddy found a pet-friendly hotel and planned things for him to do. Piggy went hiking on many trails, walking on many greenways and to more breweries and wineries than most people. He loved every minute because he was on an adventure and he was with his mom and dad. Once he was tuckered out, his mom and dad put him to bed in the hotel. He was such a good boy – they never once got a call that he was causing a ruckus. He just slept and slept.

Piggy as a baby.

That first trip was an eye-opener. Piggy was such a good boy that his mom and dad started planning more fun places to go. He went to many places including: Charleston (multiple times), Banner Elk (multiple times), Asheville (multiple times), Charlottesville, Pittsburgh, Richmond (multiple times), Williamsburg (multiple times), Norfolk, Alexandria, Charlotte (multiple times) and many other small towns along the way. As long as he had his crate to sleep in and food, he was a happy boy.

In his life, Piggy did have many health problems because of the hemophilia. He underwent multiple fresh frozen plasma transfusions to stop the bleeding if he hurt himself. His mom was always ready to go and get him any help he needed. After he got help, everything went back to normal. One day, however, the doctors couldn’t help him and he went on to heaven. He died on Oct. 19, 2019. His mom and dad were devastated, but know that he will continue to live on in their memories and hearts.

Piggy and mommy on an adventure.

Piglet Bully Gale, his official full name, was so very loved by everyone he met and led such a fun life – in spite of his medical problems. He could be a beacon of hope for anyone facing obstacles because he never let anything get him down. Even at the very end, when he couldn’t walk anymore because of the blood clot stuck in his leg, he didn’t let what was happening get him down.

There is not one moment going forward that his mom and dad won’t miss him, think about him or wonder what he is doing. He will always be missed and will always be loved.