Sundays in the South

Growing Up and Moving Out

AmyNo, I'm not talking about my children, although they are hedging their way to the door way too quickly for my taste, but that's an entirely different story!

I'm talking about my little seedlings. They've been sitting under grow lights for weeks now, and I did my best to keep them watered, warm with just the right temps from the grow mats, but now it's time to take them outside.

As a newbie veggie gardener, I try to read as much as I can get my hands on, talk to as many experienced gardeners as I can, and then let nature do the rest. (While I keep my fingers crossed, naturally!)

But now, as we head into warmer temps, it's time to move them from their protected little world under the grow lamps to face the harsh realities of hardening off outside. But before you think me a heartless gardener, wait! Check out their new digs.

Mini greenhouse

I bought this mini greenhouse from my local housewares store for about $20 plus tax, Trust me, this little greenhouse is well worth the money I spent on it. Especially since right now here in Oklahoma our temps are all over the place. One minute they're in the 80s during the day and then a storm front blows in with 50-mph winds and temps quickly drop to the 40s and that's all in one day! Yep! That's Oklahoma weather for ya!

As you can see, they're happy little veggies, all thriving and branching out, and soon it will be time to move them into bigger pots as I wait for the ground temps to reach above 50 degrees.

Now let me tell ya, I'm not a bettin' woman by any means, but ... something in my gut is tellin' me that although our days are unusually warm lately with temps hovering right around 80, I get this feeling that good old Mother Nature has one more cold front in store for us. So I'll be keeping my veggies in pots until I'm fully convinced we're having an early summer and not a late frost!

In the meantime, now that my first seedlings have been moved outdoors into the greenhouse, I've started my next batch of seeds. These are the ones like carrots and radishes that don't have as long of maturity dates as their counterparts like the zucchini's and beans.


Now I will say that being a brand-new veggie gardener, this whole timing thing is rather overwhelming. "When do I plant the tomatoes, what about the sunflowers; is it too early for the carrots and what about those marigolds, and did I actually leave enough space in the garden to plant all of these things?"

I tell ya, it's confusing trying to figure out who's on first and what's on second as Abbott and Costello used to say. So for me, it's slow progress. But I will say it's all been worth it so far!

Just to see the seeds sprout, watch their initial leaves turn into sets of two and three and then branch out to a degree that you need to transplant them into bigger pots. And as I recently found out, nothing is more relaxing when you're sicker than a dog with a month-long chest cold, than spending time transplanting your seedlings into larger pots while watching gardening shows on YouTube.

YouTube gardening

So while it's slow progress at the moment, my gut tells me that any minute, when Mother Nature stops throwing her temper tantrums with our weather, my veggies are going to explode!

Here's to warm weather and great gardening days to you and yours!


And don't forget to follow me at Sundays in the South.

Seeds of Joy

AmySee this sweet face?

Goat Kitty 

At first glance you might mistake our Little Miss Tessa as a cat. If you thought so, then I must tell you, you are wrong. She's not a cat at all, in fact she's public enemy No. 1 when it comes to my houseplants!

Don't believe me? Just take a look at what she did to my orchid. Shock! Horror!

Damage by the goat

Let's just say I was not a happy girl when I found out. I did my best to keep that little pygmy goat out of my houesplants, but nothing I did kept her out of the orchids and African violets. Nothing worked until I brought home some wheatgrass from the market to add to my morning juice. Can you say, goat-kitty lottery?! Literally Tessa went cat loony.

But here's the thing, now she was attacking my wheatgrass, so I had to keep it under a garden cloche but when I did that, she'd rub her face all over the glass. Seriously? What type of animal is she? Finally, I figured, "Hey, if she likes the wheatgrass maybe she'll stay out of the house plants."

By golly it worked like a charm!

Dinner Time 

So I took the wheatgrass out of the plastic container plopped it into a planter, added some dirt and a bit of water and voila! Tessa's very own garden. And talk about a happy cat, she noshed on that wheatgrass like a lion on a gazelle.

At this point we're thinking she's not quite normal. Somewhere in that little cat body of hers, she most definitely has goat DNA.

After about three weeks of buying wheatgrass for said goat-kitty, which can add up rather quickly, I figured why not buy some seeds and reseed as we go.

Now to be honest, I wasn't quite sure the seeds would germinate in our kitchen with very limited sunlight. Nor did I think they'd hold up against Tessa walking all over them (she has a weird knack of climbing into the planter and sitting on top while noshing on the grass that sticks out around her – yeah ... I know, she's weird!) But so far, so good. The seeds are surviving her abuse and sprouting rather quickly.

Catnip heaven 

I have to say that as a new gardener this brought me a jolt of joy when I first spied the seedlings sprouting.

Funny how life can be that way sometimes. You have an idea, you put it into motion, hope and pray it works, and then when you have that first glimpse that you're making progress, WHAM! Pure joy!

That's me with this wheatgrass. Because it would seem (fingers crossed here ...) that Tessa loves having her very own "garden" enough to keep those fangs of hers off my orchids and violets, which makes me very, very happy!

So while this gardening success is small in the scheme of things, to me, it's huge because it's a win-win. The goat-kitty gets her daily dose of plant material, and my houseplants don't shake in fear every time she steps into the room!

Therefore there is peace and harmony once again in our suburban garden.

Peace and harmony

Until next week,
Blessings & Best Wishes,

2000 New Friends

AmyThey're here!

Now before I introduce you, let's back up a few weeks to when I decided to jump on the homesteading bandwagon. Keep in mind that I'm basically starting from scratch out here in suburbia so I'm reading everything I can get my hands on, and the one thing that kept popping up over and over was composting.

So with a few tips from gardening books, tons of YouTube videos, and talking to some experienced gardeners, I figured if I was gonna do this right and help amend this Oklahoma red dirt that's harder than a brick, I'd need a little help. OK, change that to a lot of help!

Enter my new best friends. Approximately 2,000 new best friends ... The Red Wiggler Worms!

In my research Red Wigglers are some of the best for composting. Frankly they seem a bit like slithering little vampires. I mean, they don't like the light, they're blood ... I mean, veggie thirsty critters with voracious appetites, and the weirdly cool thing about them is that what they excrete is pure gold for us gardeners. Sounds gross I know, but when you live with two teenage sons, nothing grosses you out, least of all worm poo.

Now I'm all for organic, no pesticides and adding back into the garden as possible the all natural way. And since I'm not the squeamish sort and thought those little critters were rather cool considering all they'd be doing to help this gal out in her new garden, I knew I needed to invite these critters over to our worm shanty (read: converted Rubbermaid into worm bin).

About the same time, I started saving all of my food scraps. No meat. No grease. No crusty week old Cheetos the dog wouldn't eat, just plain old fruit and veggie scraps. Oh! And those little fruit labels, those went in the trash, worms don't like those. But all the yummy food that worms like to eat, got tossed into the worm bin.

To set up my worm bin, I took an old clear shallow plastic bin (24-by-15-by-15) threw it into a big black yard waste trash big (because worms don't like light – think veggie vampires), layered it with damp torn newspaper shreds, about a half gallon of organic soil and then started adding food scraps to the bin.

Worm bin set up 

Now I've read that worms like when food starts to rot. Something to do with bacteria and all that jazz. So I started the bin about a week before the worms actually arrived in order to get the decomposition rolling. I made sure everything was slightly damp, not soaking wet and then popped the lid on, put it in the garage to percolate a bit.

With the compost cooking, I needed worms.

I hit all the local nurseries first but who knew no one carried worms in the winter. What? Worms go on vacation? They diet in the winter? I don't get it! Not a single worm to be had. That's ridiculous. Now I'm sure there's a good reason why it seems like the worms all went on vacation but I haven't a clue. I had garbage and I needed worms pronto.

Not to be deterred I hit the 'net and within minutes found Uncle Jim's Worm Farm.  

Here's the cool thing. Apparently there are sales on worms in the winter. Yep! Love that! So I placed my order and a few days later, shipped Priority Mail, my veggie vampires (Red Wiggler Worms) showed up in a peat-packed breathable bag.

Priority Mail 

I followed the directions just as Uncle Jim suggested and got the worms transferred to their new home with nary a problem. And so far, it would seem that everyone is happy!

Very easy!

I want to encourage everyone to start a worm bin. There are tons of videos out there on how to put together a bin made out of plastic containers, buckets, filing cabinets (yes, filing cabinets) and wood. Whatever you want it to look like, however big you want to make it, it's all up to you.

The point is, if you want compost that is pure heaven's nectar for your veggies and flowers, get a bin, save your scraps and order your own set of vampires! Your plants will love you! And frankly these little critters are so cool to watch.

Until next time,
Happy Gardening,

New Beginnings for a New Gardener

AmyHope and joy fill my heart as I ponder what is in store for the New Year.

As a wife and mother, there are so many hopes and dreams that I pray for my family as we begin this new year, things like happiness, good health, success and safety, just to name a few.

And as a novice gardener I’m excited about all the things I want to accomplish outside. There’s the raised garden bed I want to build and fill with my family’s favorite veggies, like carrots, green beans and kale. I also want to try my hand at sweet potatoes and growing them from slips I start here in the kitchen.

Then there’s the potting bench I want to build out of an old double-seated swing that used to grace the front porch of our first home.

Thorn-less blackberries and raspberries will be added to the garden in hopes that our family will be enjoying them atop a big bowl of homemade ice cream after a day spent in the sweltering Oklahoma heat.

Now I realize it may be a bit nostalgic to think that I can grow veggies and a few fruits for my family to enjoy just as my grandparents did for us grandkids. And the nostalgia I feel when I remember running up and down the rows in my grandparents' garden chasing “horny toads” and breaking out in a rash because I’d eaten myself sick by plucking cucumbers and tomatoes right off the vine, well ... frankly I want that for my children, too!

I want to slow life down a little, enjoy what's been given to us in our own small suburban backyard, step away from the hectic pace of "go, go, go" and simply live life a little better, centered more on our home, family and what we can achieve together right here. I want to bring back the simple pleasures, hard work and precious time with loved ones in such a way that I simply cannot wait to get the beds built and seedlings in the ground and see what springs to life.

And yet I must remember that with new beginnings come a new set of challenges, some seen and some unforeseen. Gardening, especially for a beginner like myself, is bound to have a huge learning curve. So, while I have grand plans, I think it’s best for me to start small, like say, with a few of my family’s favorite vegetables instead of tearing up the entire backyard and planting 20 different types of rare and ornamental vegetables. My motto this year is: Start small and learn big.

Oh! And a couple of other things: Enlist the help of a few good strong fellas like my dear hubby and teenage sons for the heavy lifting. Secondly, take advantage of all the wonderful folks who share their immense knowledge and experience through the Capper's Farmer magazine and blogging community. Knowing when you need help and where to go to get that help is HUGE when starting any project, big or little.

So I invite you to follow me this season as I head back to a simpler, quieter life and test out the results on my unsuspecting family here on my little piece of suburban heaven, or at my Sundays in the South blog.