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)

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.

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.

Summer 2020 garden

Just a bit of the summer harvest for 2020.

Spring and Summer 2020 has been a whirlwind – not only for me, but for the world. Coronavirus left all of us with more time at home and for me – that means a ton more time in the garden.

I started the spring with high hopes. I started tomatoes, swiss chard, zucchini, peppers, tomatillos, okra, marigolds, watermelon, beans (pole and bush), cucumbers, zinnia, cosmos and many other things from seed.

The transplants grew well to start – and then I made a fatal decision for a lot of my plants…the wrong mulch. Instead of a mulch that helped feed the plants and keep the moisture in, I chose one that sucked the nutrients out of the soil and stunted growth.

Cabbage grown under cover to stop cabbage worms.

Thankfully, there are so many farmers who are willing to share their knowledge and help a gal out. I reached out to Nat Bradford of Bradford Watermelons for help. He is the one who opened my eyes about the mulch – and helped me fix it.

He, other great farmers I know and Martha Stewart (yes, that Martha) also helped me realize that…plants need food. You eat, so the plants need to eat, as Martha said. So! I realized I needed to stop being cheap and thinking that nature will do all the work to produce a large harvest. I need to buy organic fertilizer, other soil amendments and make compost that the plants will use as food and then thrive.

After coming to those realizations – and deciding not to be cheap anymore – things started to grow bigger than I could have ever imagined. I am still waiting for the edible parts to be ready, but the plants themselves are bigger, stronger and happier.

Another issue I’ve had this year is SQUASH VINE BORERS!!! They are horrible, horrible creatures. I hate them. They ate ALL of my zucchini, all of my yellow squash and then moved on to the pumpkins I planted… I have noticed a lot of my gardener friends have dealt with them a lot this year, too, so I don’t feel so bad. They just suck – literally…they suck the life out of your plant.

Eggplant was the latest plant to do well – and then suddenly droop for seemingly no reason…

I’ve also had to deal with grubs, roots, roots and more roots in four of my raised beds (which I have since moved to a new location and prepared them properly) and some kind of fungus or mold that caused an entire section of plants to wilt. (still working to figure that one out… see photo below)

I have had some successes this year. I successfully grew multiple ears of corn, 6 watermelons (others still growing), jalapenos, tomatoes, potatoes, a few cucumbers, radishes, eggplant, marigolds, zinnias, okra, tomatillo, cabbages, greens, lettuces, oregano, thyme, basil, poblano, key limes, meyer lemons, sunflowers, green peppers and…probably some I am forgetting.

Stay tuned!