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"Possibility and promise greet me each day as I walk out into my garden. My vigor is renewed when I breathe in the earthiness and feel the dirt between my fingers. My garden is a peaceful spot to refresh my soul." Meems

Welcome to my Central Florida Garden Blog where we garden combining Florida natives, Florida-Friendly plants, and tropicals.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

No Wrong Choices in the Veggie Garden

These past two months have been 'gardening intense' around Hoe and Shovel.

The one good thing about January being so cold was the opportunity it gave me to get out in the side-yard to expand the veggie garden area. It is one of my favorite times of year to do big projects in preparation for spring without sweating... errrr... perspiring is what I meant to say.

In January and February all thoughts and energy were focused on implementing expansion plans, dreams, and goals in the veggie garden and in the landscape. Once the new beds were dug, soil was brought in to raise the beds and amend the newly unearthed dirt.
Next it was all about the part I feel most comfortable doing. Planting plants. It has been my goal to learn more and more about the age old methods of companion planting. It is the concept of planting with vegetables, flowers, and herbs in order to work with nature to attract beneficial bugs, butterflies, bees, birds, toads... you get the idea... all our "friends" from nature to help with the garden AND to expand my efforts to keep the garden chemical-free.
A Friend Indeed

As a matter of fact, while sitting at the edge of one of the framed beds hand picking and systematically squishing tiny snails Mr. Toad startled me when I came nose to nose with him. A friend! He was doing his job taking good care of the parsley plants.

Once the foundational elements were in place, with baskets full of seed packs, plant labels and all my lists, charts, and diagrams tucked into my handy new guide it was time for seeds and purchased plants to go into the ground.
This is the easy part really. But I tend to belabor it more than I should.
Picture this: me sitting in the middle of the garden Indian style with open book and reference papers spread out while filling out my garden diagram. Three blank copies for rough drafting. Most of the layout was decided prior to seed-planting day but "just to be sure" I felt it necessary to plop myself right where I could 'see' everything all at once to finalize my plan.

Gazania blooms open each day with the sunshine and close back up at nightfall. They are delightful plant friends.

I cannot tell you how thrilled I will be when the information from companion planting charts become more like second nature to me. There are combinations that work against each other you know. And, oh my, my head swirls with notes and lists I'm doing my best to assimilate. Serious stuff like crop rotation, and feeding families, and plant friends/enemies and botanical families and cover crops and performance families and the three sisters interplanted of corn, beans, and squash... and on it goes.

All information researched from wonderful websites on the subject AND mostly from what has become my second Bible, Great Garden Companions, by Sally Jean Cunningham. She gardens in New York. I garden in Florida. Needless to say, there is much adjusting that must be done to the particulars and specifics in timing, seed choices, even flowers and herb choices she uses. More head spinning ensues! But her concepts and easy-to-understand methods are well worth the efforts.

It just wouldn't be right if I didn't give mention to some really good help I get along the way.This little garden visitor helps me to keep things on a bit more of the lighter side of things than my own personality leans toward when working on a project. My most attentive garden assistant is with me on some of these beautiful Florida winter days to water and digging is his very favorite past time. He has the most diligent manner a Mimi just can't resist. For his absolute wonder and amazement for my garden I am most thankful!

Decisions were finalized... Stakes for pole beans in place. ..The soil has been worked and settled in with bone meal and blood meal and mushroom compost. The temperatures are good.
Seeds were planted. Seeds for veggies and seeds for wildflowers. I'll post later about what seeds I planted. (This post is getting way too long.)
Now we move on to planting some purchased veggies and herbs. Just in case my own tomato seedlings don't mature in time. There are trays of heirloom seedlings on the back porch. They are doing well but I'm not certain about the timing of transplanting.
I'm practicing something new this year for transplanting 4" purchased plants. A tip from the pages of Sally Jean's book again.

1. Using a few sheets thick of newspaper laid on the bed and soaked with water
2. Place the pots where they will be planted.

3. trowel a hole right through the paper and plant the plants one at a time.

4. Stake the tomatoes-again right through the newspaper (I use stakes vs. cages simply on Carol's recommendation at May Dreams Gardens- she's the garden guru for such things) . I've never tried cages.

5. Lastly, I covered the newspaper with oak leaves. This method is proving so good at holding in the moisture that now I'm hoping the roots won't rot. LOL If it isn't one thing it's another with gardening.
No Wrong Choices
And just about the time my head feels it could explode with trying to get it all "right" I go back to some words of encouragement ~~~ again from Sally's book. She says, "Just remember that there are really no wrong choices, and with experience, you'll discover which combinations of plants work best in your garden."
I know this to be true in essence. It is the way it has worked out for me in my landscaping adventures. All the fun along the way cannot be measured. It can only be cherished and appreciated.
The Critters We Don't Want

Speaking of landscape. I've been pruning all the dead frost-bitten stuff like a mad woman. Once the seed was planted out I have only to be concerned about armadillos digging, birds plucking up seedlings, peacocks trampling, raccoons wandering through out of sheer nosiness. As I was piling up branches, from all that pruning, to be thrown in the trash heap it dawned on me to lightly lay them over the planted areas. I have never read this or seen this before but it made sense at the moment. Maybe a deterrent to the smaller creatures.
What I didn't account for was one of my neighbor's dogs to come walking right through the center of two of the beds the day after seed went into the ground. Since the soil is very loose her paw prints were left distinctly in the middle of the squash, bean, and radish rows. I must admit, it was distressing. I've spoken to the owner and asked that she not be allowed loose without a leash. He was very apologetic. Still my neatly planted seed is not so neatly planted in those places. No telling what the result will be.

Here we are today all planted out except for the aforementioned tomato seedlings and a few spots left for succession planting of beans. Now we wait for the seeds and plants to do what they do best. Grow.
It is most interesting that one year ago today we posted about the building of the first ever veggie garden at Hoe & Shovel. You can link back to see what it looked like then. The seeds weren't planted then but I made notes in my journal to plant a few weeks earlier. We've managed to follow those directions.
Now onto the other landscape beds we've carved out for planting. I'm going to plant a few veggie seeds in one of them.
Just for fun... because I'm learning as I go...
I do hope you are enjoying your weekend. Meems


  1. It's very exciting to see your garden being planted. We are still a few months off from planting tomatoes, but in just a few weeks, we can plant peas.

    Yes, there are no wrong choices, other than the choice not to grow vegetables!

    Thanks for the link,
    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  2. Here I am, a newbie vegetable gardener, armed with what I thought was all the information on the how too of vegetable production. Well now that I have read your post, I am reminded about companion planting, so I will go do some research, and will probably have to rearrange my garden plan.Good thing I have a laminated scale drawing of my garden plot, which can be drawn on with dry erase pens, so moving the planting locations around will not be a big deal.
    thanks for the information.

  3. Dear Meems, It looks beautiful to me~~well thought out and planted. Your little garden helper is a delight...if he doesn't like vegetables now...He will when he picks them from Mimi's garden. I remember your first vegetable meal last year. I can see the photo very clearly! I think I've read that placing sticks in beds works to deter cats...but I don't know anything that deters the determined! gail

  4. Don't worry so much Meems, just enjoy the fruits of your labor! ;) Can't wait to see the results of all that hard work & thought you put into your vegetable garden.

  5. Hi Meems,
    I was a vegetable and herb gardener before I started growing flowers. I remember planting by the moon, companion planting, and square foot gardening. Now a days, I just try to get my compost spread out and about, and get the seeds and plants wherever they will fit, trying not to plant them in the same area from year to year except for the lettuce and early spring salad plants, as they pretty much go all over.

    I loved reading this post, and the pics are awesome! I love your toad!

  6. Meems, Everything things looks fantastic! It will be fun to see the growth as the season progresses.

  7. everything looks so great. how exciting to get your seeds in the ground. that silly neighbours dog. hopefully that won't continue to be a problem.

  8. Thanks, Carol, peas must make you happy then... a good start to the summer garden. Now I can't imagine not growing vegetables... it is so rewarding.

    I'm a newbie, too. Smart of you to use the dry erase laminate. Good luck with your plans.

    Hi Gail,
    My little guy is a good vegetable and fruit eater so he gets excited about knowing what I plant and where. Are you referring to the $1,000 stir-fry? I forgot about it until you mentioned it. I'm not sure if we're breaking even yet but hopefully this year! :-) Cats are the only critter I think I don't have to think about. I was mostly trying to deter the peacocks and armadillos until the seedlings get to be of some size... then I'll compost. We'll see... now the birds are landing on the stick piles and singing songs to me. that works for me too.

    Do I sound like I worry? HA. I probably do "think" way too much about everything before I "do" anything. I'm going to look forward to the fruits... thanks.

    That's kind of ironic. You started out as a vegetable gardener and then flowers. I wanted a vegetable garden for many, many years and just didn't take the plunge until last year. I shrieked at the sight of the toad out of surprise... then covered him back up with some cut parsley. He was still there a few hours later... I guess I didn't scare him away with my girlie scream.

    Well, thanks for that kind compliment. I think everything will look better in a few weeks when the seeds start popping out in the form of plants.

    Thank you, I'm glad you like it.
    Oh, that dog. Very annoying. I politely told the young man who owns him, "I didn't acutally see your dog in my garden but she is the only one on the street who is allowed to roam around unleashed with that size of paws (pointing at her feet)."
    I know it was her... I've seen her here before. He said it wouldn't happen again.

  9. It all looks beautiful, Meems. I'm positive you'll have wonderful veggies.
    My hubby just mentioned the newspaper mulch the other day. We'll cover it with hay, which is what we mulch our larger veggie garden with.
    I've used small branches and trimmings for covering a newly planted area that I wanted to keep the cats out of. It works great. As I said, they love newly composted areas.
    I love that photo of your little garden helper. He's adorable :)
    Have a lovely Sunday Meems!

  10. this is just wonderful. Love all of the head spinning you put into your gardens. Great Big "little' garden helper you have. Even the most experienced gardener can still learn a few things.

  11. Hi... I totally agree with you on using stakes vs. tomato cages. The cages always caused me more problems than they are worth (hard to get at the fruit, blowing over, breaking branches etc).
    I must also admit though, I've never seen anyone using more than 1 stake per plant... this seems a bit odd. Perhaps you should try this product
    This is what I use and its perfect and verrrrry easy. The stake has built in twist tie supports and hugs the main stem of the tomato plant as it grows.

  12. Meems,

    I must say that I'm impressed with your research. More than that, I'm impressed with how LOVELY your veggie garden is, right from the beginning! Your tutorial is most helpful, too.


  13. Oh Meems this looks like so much fun. I can't wait until I can get out there and enjoy working in the garden.

    Your new garden looks great. I am sure you couldn't have done it all without your little helper. What a handy guy to have around the garden.

    I was just wishing I could get out in the garden today. The sun is shining but the wind is 20-30 mph and it isn't getting much over 30 temperature wise. So the sun is deceiving. WHINE... It won't be as long as it has been though. Just seeing your progress makes me chomp at the bit.

  14. Meems - Your vegetable garden is much better planned than mine will ever be. I am happy to get a few of the veggie beds planted before I head off to visit my mother. Love the newspaper tip - and my dad will love seeing how you staked your tomatoes. He stakes, ties, and pinches the suckers - Since I found square tomato cages that fold flat for storage, I'll probably never stake - although I do think that your wooden stakes look much prettier than my metal cages. Keep us posted on which companion plantings work well for you. I love your little helper! Mine slows me down a bit - but sometimes I need to slow down and just enjoy!

  15. I've heard of the newspaper mulch before,but have never tried it.Let us know if it works.
    Moth balls deter cats and critters,but the garden smells like moth balls,tho.A trade off I guess...

  16. Hi Kerri,
    Seems I had some kind of instinct about the branches but it might not ward off my specific intruders. I used newspaper last year to kill some grass before planting but I've not tried this method before... newspaper has many uses doesn't it?
    Hope you are enjoying your sunday, too.

    Too much head spinning I'm sure. Not at all the same as the landscape which is part of me... it is second nature to me. Couldn't do it without the little big helpers spicing up my days!

    Thank you much for the tip and the link... it does look like a useful tool.

    So much to learn... really! Now that it is planted out we are seeing little green sprouts everywhere and soon we will have plants. It is amazing how fast it will grow now. Thank you for your kind words.

    It is cold and windy here today, too. which oddly enough is a nice break for me. It makes me feel justified for staying "out of the garden" for a change. Tomorrow though I will be there alllllll day. You are right spring will be here sooner than later at this point. And hopefully you will have days in between to get out in the garden during the transition when days are sunny and warmer.

    Sometimes I wish I was a little less methodical -- it would probably all turn out just fine anyway.

    I can only get so much done when my little helper is around so I plan accordingly. But he loves it so much I'm using it as a teaching tool. As a matter of fact he is here right now - not at all liking it that I'm using my computer and not playing with him... LOL

    Chris and Jon,
    You know first hand how quickly the exposed ground dries out here. So far the newspaper is keeping the soil moist around the tomatoes. I'm crossing my fingers my neighbor keeps his dog leashed.

  17. believe it or not, i'm actually going to attempt to plant a garden this year. a small one, but this is big for me. i'll start with growing herbs indoors to get ready for outdoor planting come spring time.

    is it too early to start growing herbs indoors when i probably won't get to transplant them outside until mother's day?

  18. It looks like you've got it all under control, Meems. You look like you've been at it for years. Good luck with this year's garden.

  19. Meems, beautifully done. I'm loving those stakes for the tomatoes. Very attractive, and they look quite functional too. You might also read Carrots Love Tomatoes, by Louise Riotte. She was an Oklahoma gardener extraordinaire, and she wrote two books on companion planting. She also wrote one on astrological planting too. Can't wait to see your results.~~Dee

  20. Meems,

    The garden sounds great. The dogs don't worry too much. I help dig out a water garden once and my friend picked out an expensive maple tree with the deep cut leaves, she paid over $100 for it, we planted next to the water garden, the next day a large dog smashed it.

  21. As always, an enjoyable and informative tour & tutorial, Meems. A 'tender of the earth', those that follow you are blessed.

  22. Hi Meems, I think your garden is lovely. I like the idea of planning things out before one starts.
    You sure have the best helper there is.
    I need to get things planted. My potatoes are up & I'm anxious to see if they do any good. This crazy weather is a deterrent.

  23. Looks great Meems! You're really going gangbusters on the veggies! I admire all the space you have for your beds. They look so pretty with the ornamental plants.

    You're getting to be an old hand at veggie growing already.

  24. I may be late arriving here, Meems, but I'm so glad I didn't miss this post! You have some great ideas here, but I especially like the planting through the newspapers. Perhaps that's an old trick, but I've never seen it before. I'm going to use that this year, especially for the tomatoes.

    I admire all your careful preparation, but wouldn't you know that the best laid plans are always going awry--this time in the form of a dog:) Can't wait to see how your garden grows!

  25. Lisa,
    YAY for you! I am so happy for you-- stepping out and taking the plunge. I say if you have the desire at all go for it and you will learn as you go. starting small is a good idea. Unfortunately I know NOTHING about the dates for planing in Iowa. I suggest you go online to see what the planting schedule is for your zone... zone 4 I think. E-mail with any questions and I'll try to help.

  26. Susan,
    Not at all under control... but it is surely fun trying to get there. I am certain I over-think growing a vegetable garden. LOL

    That book has been on my wish list at Amazon for a while. It will be purchased soon as a compliment to companion gardening... thanks for the tip.

    Trying not to although I'm not one to work hard and not figure out a way to keep that dog out.

    Thank you.
    I like that 'tender of the earth' saying... It would make a good post title or even blog title. Anyone?

    Hi there, Lola,
    I haven't tried potatoes yet. Love to eat them though. Any tips or tricks for growing them? This weather is turning again... from cold to warm by the weekend.

    Hardly an old hand but thanks. Old maybe -- now that I think about it.LOL But I am having fun learning. I wish I had more space in the sun... but here the shade is a precious quality during the summer.

    Thank you. Never too late.
    I'm pretty sure the newspaper layering before mulch is old hat but I didn't know about it either. Down here watering is required daily in the veggie garden. This method is taking me to every other day. That's a good thing.

  27. Hi Meems, Thanks SO much for visiting my blog. Your sister is one talented gal---but it looks (from your blog) as if you are equally as talented. I cannot believe that we were both in Savannah in June of last year. Small world, isn't it????

    I'm going to check out your blog some more. Come back to visit mine often.

  28. love this website. believe it or not, i am learning a lot.
    your painting buddy


Have a blessed day,

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