Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Hey There Again!

It's me again!

Sorry I have no new pictures at the moment of what little I have going.  right now, though, things are mostly dormant this winter.  My garlic is doing very well in the two containers I have them in but that's about it.  I had a tomato plant go all the way through Christmas and it had tomatoes on it.  However, that last polar vortex grab at my area took it out.

I do have some stuff out in the garden but they are going slow and probably won't do much of anything until spring or so.  there is a construction project in the neighborhood and I'm going to go talk with the site boss to see if I can get some of the cast-off wood.  If that happens I'll have something to post and maybe even meet a goal for the year of posting a how-to video and launching a youtube channel.

If one hasn't already done so now is the time to make the decision to garden or not and to start getting things together for the garden.  for those who can start seeds indoors and live in the South, it is already time to do so for some things such as buy seeds etc.  Over the holiday season, I was offered something rather nifty I would recommend to my friends, a pack of playing cards from this here which have some pretty useful information on them about seeds and growing the plants.  Just go to the link and scroll through "all products" and you will get to them.

I'm looking forward to more visits with you in the coming months as we all head into a new year of gardening.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Why Garden In the First Place?


So, pull up a chair and sit down and mentally munch on a piece of mental homemade jalapeño pepper cornbread made from peppers from the garden.  I grew the peppers last year and made that cornbread from scratch myself, cornbread never tasted better!  We've already touched on getting into gardening out of necessity, because the government just doesn't pay the disabled enough to live on and eat quality food.  And for those of us on it growing a vegetable garden, even one consisting of a few carefully chosen vegetables in containers, can go a long way to supplement one's diet with some healthy vegetables.  And the beauty of it is that the cost of doing that compared to buying it in the store is unbelievable.

Last year I was at the hardware store late in the planting season with an unexpected windfall in the form of a gift which I was putting on some needed things for the garden when on an impulse I spent a couple of dollars on a set of Beauregard Sweet Potato plants marked down for sale.  On the way home I picked up a $3 bag of really cheap potting soil and a $2 bag of mulch/manure.  Again, the cheap stuff.  I took a $5 tote I'd bought on sale for another purpose and mixed the mulch with the potting soil and planted some of the sweet potato plants.  I ended up giving the rest away.  But come the Fall this is what I got out of that tote:


Now remember, that was from a late planting and it was in a container, albeit, one which wasn't that small.  Try adding up what you would pay that many sweet potatoes in the store and compare and you'll see what I mean.  Those plants didn't require much in the way of care, I just kept them watered, that's all.  Since nobody else in the house will even touch what I grow, i'm still eating off of that November harvest.  Added to that some of the potatoes grew slips for me this and years planting hasn't cost me a dime.  I just reused the container with its soil and planted some in some grow bags I used for tomatoes last year.  So, the only reason they will cost me anything this year is because I've added some fertilizer to help replace what was lost from last year's growth.  That cost is minimal.  I'll have more this year from the look of things and since I know how folks are going to be about them I have a better idea of how to make use of them and make sure I'll have slips for the next year as well.  With God's help they'll be a gift that just keeps on giving.

That is one of the reasons folks who aren't in our position and can afford the grocery store get into growing vegetable gardens anyway.  It is a good way to be frugal, to make one's money stretch even further and bring other things one wants within reach.  In my local store the sweet potatoes are sold individually and plastic wrapped.  I know because I bought one as an experiment in growing from the tuber.  Last year I got one tuber out of that experiment.  This year I discovered I'd missed a couple of tubers when I harvested and had some volunteer plants from that planting, in the soil in the back yard.  The long run frugality is also a good reason to switch to heirloom varieties when one has the hang of growing the plants.  Saving the seeds reduces that cost tremendously.

Since soil is generally free, all one has to do if they choose to garden organically is to take care the soil gets built up, bur then that will be the subject of a future post somewhere down the line.If one has to buy it for containers, that cost will be spread across the years since the soil, and generally the containers as well, will be reusable.  So economically speak it makes sense to set up some kind of a vegetable garden, one which fits what ever situation or lifestyle one has.


We've already used this picture before, but it gives us another reason to garden, the beauty with which the garden rewards us.  People think a vegetable garden has to be some sort of an eyesore.That isn't really the case.  The Seminole Pumpkin, the subject of the picture, is a beautiful plant on it's own which provides ground cover over a large area and, well, you see this male flower.  All one really needs to do with it is to prune it to make sure it stays within whatever boundaries on sets and keep it watered.  Those large variegated leaves will add to any landscaping scheme.

Scarlet Runner Beans have beautiful red flowers and seem to put them out all through the growing season.
Not all of the flowers are as large as the pumpkin above, but others, such as the watermelon to the right are still quite beautiful in their own right and pleasing to the eye as well.  If one wants to add herbs as well as vegetables and fruits the possibilities for an all edible garden really grow.  There are other plants which aren't edible but are useful for warding off certain insects.  Certain marigolds will discourage harmful insects and are beautiful as well.

Pride of accomplishment is something that cannot be overlooked.  After the work, and there will be work no matter how we do a garden, we can rightfully take some pride in a successful result.

Not to be overlooked, though, is the sense of peace one will feel by sitting in a beautiful garden.  I’ve mentioned before that I’m a Christian.  Well, according to the sacred text I follow, the Bible in its Protestant form, the first habitation of mankind was a garden which had everything in the way of fruits Adam needed to thrive.  Is it any wonder, then, that we find peace in nature or in a nice garden?  As little as it is, I often find that I can go to my garden the part in the back, and sit down at the chair there at the worktable and find it easy to calm down and find a sense of peace when things are so tense in the house there.  I also find that sometimes now I’m drawn to it when nothing is out of order, just to sit and enjoy the peace of my garden

So there are plenty of reasons to plant a garden, even if it is just a few containers on a balcony.  In the beginning there is much to learn and we want to help with that end of things.  However, as one progresses and learns enough to be able to paint a canvas, so to speak, with plants like and artist does with paints the benefits will be many instead of just few and more than worth it.


Sunday, July 3, 2016

A Look Around The Garden


Before going onto more areas it might be a good idea to take a look around the garden to see where I'm at right now.  To start the ball rolling, this is what I have to work with:





















So what I have is the raised bed out front and next to it then some of the beds on the side of the duplex we see on the right.  thanks to the generosity of those next door I also have all of the back yard next to the back fence.  So let's start there:


So, you get to see one of the reasons I can garden.  I use an old chair from the short time I was confined to bed by my back.  but what we also see is the work table I share with the housemate who prefers to grow flowers.  The biggest feature in the garden here is the Seminole Pumpkin plant, which grows all the way across the back space from the left to the right and climbs right up out fence.  The size of the leaves which mostly get partial light are awesome!  And that's just the one plant.  On the left we see one of the trellises I put together this year for my tomatoes.  The Pumpkin Plant is in the grow bag the vertical part of the frame on the left is.


This is a closer view of the same trellis taken not long ago showing the growth of some of my tomatoes at that time.  were going to take a look at a couple of closeup photos of them next.

This is the same trellis now:

 

 And close in to see some of the tomatoes on one of the plants.
And this is one of the cluster of flowers on another of the plants.








This is at the center of the back garden and these are Tiny Tim Tomatoes I have in a five gallon container along with some Genovese Basil.  these are the tomatoes I'm currently enjoying.








This is a potted set of Rainbow Coleus plants I am keeping on the worktable as an ornament at the moment.  They're a little something I put together because my wife loves Coleus.  A little later I'll save the seeds and plant again next year to keep them going for her.

Moving along to the next area, the one at the back of the side of the building:


These are some Aloe plants a neighbor gave me when i happened upon them dividing a ton of them for his sister.  So he asked me if i would like some and gave them to me.  Next to them on the left is a container of lettuce I'm growing for cut and come again harvesting.  And to the right we see some leaves from a Scarlet Sage plant.  Behind that we find:


This is the other trellis I made and it has both pole beans and tomatoes running up it.  For some reason the beans gave me plenty of flowers, but no beans.  I don't know if it was already too hot or what went I planted them.  I'm hoping to do better another time.  In front of those we find:


Bunching onions!  These were originally planted in that green container several years before I got started and then left alone until I started gardening and the ladies spread them out in the container.  I've enjoyed them for several years now and decided to divide them up and planted some in the other container and some along the front of my other bed.  Planted behind them are Morning Glories and we can see some French Marigolds to the right.  Those are part of my efforts.


This is the bed at the front of the side.  It is planted along the lines Dr. Lind Scott-Walker of the University of Seattle, WA, recommended to me when I first planted this bed.  The near part is oriental vegetables with Chinese Cabbage and Bok Choi planted, the Cabbage in front.  My lettuce and carrots are n the distance there and some of the lettuce is bolting.  As you can see I do have some weeds i plant to do what is called a chop and drop on. But the real problem children are the grass rooting its way in and Dollar weeds doing the same from the other side.

 Now we're around front and see the 3x5 raised bed which is a little underutilized right now.  It does have peppers, the ones in the back are Habenro Peppers and in front of them are some California Wonder peppers I think.  In the front corner is a small patch of Spicy Oregano.

Another view of the of some of the peppers and the sweet potatoes planted beside them.  The Habanero in the pot is in its second year of production and popping with fruit.







And those are containers of Beauregard Sweet Potatoes and the red one in the back has my Moon and Stars Watermelon plant.

 I failed to mention when we were around back that I have another kind of Sweet potatoes growing behind the Pumpkin plant.  They are volunteers from some I grew last year I'd grown from one Sweet Potato I bought in the store.  I also have Bee Balm, three kinds of Basil and a Tiny Tim Tomato plant in the same bed.  The Tiny Tim was a volunteer which sprang up in the front bed and which I transplanted to the back.
 The flower at the left is a Seminole Pumpkin flower.  The Seminole Pumpkin is the variety the Indians grew right here in South Georgia and took South with them as they fled the forced deportation to the West.  After they became the Seminole and started profiting from gambling the pumpkin became a wild plant which grows in the Everglades.  I got the seeds for these from a gardener on E-bay who is growing them and selling the seeds to those interested in keeping this old variety going in gardens.


And the red flowers are an attempted close up of the Scarlet Sage Flowers.

Well, that's it.  That is my small garden I am working with and how I'm doing with it right now.  So I wish all of you the best and as always:

Smile!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

So, What Is All This fuss About Seeds Anyway?





Seeds are such an important part of our gardens that I decided to tackle them first as we get into the meat.  That is because without seeds, there are no plants and without plants, there will be no harvest of the vegetables we are after or flowers we want to delight the eyes (there are such things as edible flowers as well we'll get into as another topic).  Of course, because of their importance, they are also something which can be quite intimidating as anyone walking into a store soon finds out

Yes, even that simple act confronts us with a bewildering array of seeds to choose from of different kinds.  We find hybrid varieties, open-pollinated varieties, heirloom varieties, some labelled non-GMO, and organic seeds.  And all of this in addition to the varieties themselves!  And one's selection can have a real effect on the price of the seeds we buy.  So how do we know what is what and what are the pros and cons of the different seed types.  It is my hope to simplify the matter a good bit today and boil it down to the information you can use, thus leaving it down to the varieties themselves.



Hybrid Seeds

These are the backbone of the seed industry and by far the bulk of whiat is sold.  That is because they come in varieties bred to flourish in hot weather and cold as well as resist various diseases.  Because these seeds tend to be lower in cost than the others because of the bulk of sales most gardeners will use them for the short-term savings.  Those would be the pros.  The con side comes from the fact that these seeds are developed by taking and cross-pollinating different varieties with desired characteristics to produce a new proprietary variety the company patents.  Hybrid varieties, as the name implies, are really only good for the current season.  when one saves the seeds and sows them the next generation they start a process of reverting with some plants being the original variety and other the parent varieties.  For this reason, one has to go back year after year and purchase new seeds of the varieties they like.  So the savings is short term only.

Open-pollinated Seeds


Simply put, open pollinated seeds are the kind of seeds which can be saved and planted from year to year with the anticipation of harvesting the same variety of vegetable every generation.  These are the stock from which hybrid varieties are bred.  open-pollinated seeds include the heirloom or legacy varieties we'll talk about next as well as new varieties.  The Oregon State University recently developed a line of tomato plants known as the Indigo line, the most famous of which is the Indigo Rose at the right.  The entire line features tomatoes which have that dark blue coloring and are high in antioxidants making them a healthy part of a diet.  The upside to the newer varieties which are usually called open-polinated is that like hybrids they are often bred specifically for certain traits, such as sun resistance, or the health factor such as the Cyanins in the Indigo line.  The downside is that these varieties are often hard to find and among the more expensive seeds because of their scarcity.  However unlike hybrids, they don't have to be purchased every year if one saves and uses their seeds.  That is the big advantage of all open-pollinated varieties.  If one collects the seeds and processes those which require special handling correctly one then quickly finds their seed cost reduced to nothing but a few new varieties now and then to tweak one's garden.

Heirloom Vegetables



Back before seed companies started introducing hybrid varieties in the mid-twentieth century all seeds were open pollinated.  Although there was a thriving seed business because folks could always use varieties of vegetables resistant to such diseases and early blight, the tobacco mosaic virus etc,  most varieties of vegetables were basically vegetables which were selected by individuals and localities because of certain traits or taste and handed down for many generations in those groups.  One such variety is the Moon and Stars Watermelon grown by the Cherokee Indians which almost went extinct and is the one above and left.  The story of how that watermelon was found and rescued from extinction and how that helped lead to an organization dedicated to preserving these old varieties was told in Readers Digest years ago and introduced this author to Heirloom seeds.  It led to me wanting to grow that variety, and I have one sitting on the kitchen counter right now for my family to eat.  Heirloom or legacy seeds are seeds from open-pollinated varieties with a known history as a variety stretching back more than fifty years and now include many old commercial varieties our grandparents planted.  But they also often have a history stretching back into the mists of time, such as the Zapoteca Tomato from Mexico below the watermelon.  Scientists think that variety goes back some six thousand years and that it is the ancestor of all modern beefsteak varieties of tomatoes.

After they were introduced hybrid vegetable seeds quickly dominated the market as the family kitchen gardens declined due to the new industrialized modern lifestyle which didn't leave much time for a garden as folks had been taught to grow a garden.  We have no idea how many older varieties of vegetables became extinct during that period when garden hobbyists bought hybrid vegetable seeds and simply sprayed herbicide to cut down on weeding and pesticide for garden pests.  The plant industry brought down the cost of that way of doing things enough to make it viable for folks in the fifties and onward and it is thought that thousands of varieties of vegetables were lost that way.

But around the late 1970s to the early 80s,  a small but avid group of seed collectors started collecting these varieties and cultivating them to preserve them.  One family started a seed exchange as well and since then the movement has grown as folks seek out heirloom varieties of vegetables and make them available to a growing market of home growers who want their food to be organic and now prefer to avoid modern hybrid varieties in favor of the old legacy kind.  I am in that group and all the vegetables I grow are open-pollinated and skewed towards the older legacy types.

The pros of heirloom vegetables are that they are often proven performers in all kinds of growing conditions.  Remember, these are old family varieties primarily and were cultivated in specific localities, often in specific growing zones over many centuries.  So they are maximized for the conditions in the areas and planting zones they were raised in and often resistant to the diseases natural to those areas.  So it is possible if a new disease is somehow brought in from one area to another to find an heirloom variety resistant to that disease from another area with similar growing conditions and grow it.  Some heirloom varieties, such as the old Arkansas Traveller or the Riesenstraube at the right, are quite happy in areas with very different conditions from where they were bred and resistant to a wide variety of diseases on top of that.  The Riesenstraube is an heirloom tomato brought to the Pennsylvania region by German immigrants in the mid-1700s which did well in the new world.  However, it is comfortable in the Deep South here in the United States and produces prolifically.

Heirloom and legacy tomatoes also tend to be tasty and are available in a wide variety of tastes.  Our ancestors wanted to taste their food and often selected seeds based on the taste of the fruit.  In modern times vegetables are bred by the commercial market for handling as well as growing in specific conditions.  These fruits in the case of the fruited ones are often harvested befoe they are ripe and handled by machinery.  They are also expected to have a long shelf life to accommodate the modern supply line from the farm to the market.  So the taste has been bred out of most varieties and this trait has also slipped into the hobby gardening market as well.  Scientific studies are mixed on the matter so it seems the jury is still our, but many claim modern hybrids don't have the nutrient value the old heirloom varieties do.  That is probably so in some cases, such as tomatoes, peppers, and other where the dark red to black fruit and leaves contain more antioxidants than even most heirloom varieties.




The disadvantages.  Prices and rarity, which are related.  As some old varieties and some newer ones come on the market they command a premium price because the supply is low and they are hard to find.  The variety known as Glass Gem Corn, pictured above, is one of those exciting finds from a collection of Indian corn varieties which came into the market in the last several years.  It is basically a popcorn variety also good for making cornmeal but is primarily prized for its wonderfully beautiful appearance of the cobs when harvested.  So it is grown by many as an ornamental Corn.  it is also quite pricey.  Prices for open pollinated and heirloom seeds can run double, triple or even more than hybrid seeds.  Although that cost can be brought down by saving the seeds and using them in the future, some people either cannot or will not make the extra effort to save those seeds.  This can be an added concern for those of us who are disabled and the effort really is too much.  So a disabled person living on government income or a tight lower income might be better off sticking with hybrid varieties which are now getting some taste back as consumers demand it. 

Choosing Seeds

I hope I've been able to clear up some of the confusion about seed types.  I've only left out one, but that's simply because some seeds, mostly heirloom, are certified as organic which means they were produced under a very strict set of regulations for certification for organic gardeners and have no coatings or any of the like on them.  But that's one of the many considerations one must factor into their decisions.  So let's look at some of those factors.

Of course, we've already mentioned the matter of hybrid or open-pollinated.  Price and availability could be an important factor.  In the case of hybrid varieties, they are all over the place.  If one has soil that is good and all they have to do is plant the seeds and tend the garden the convenience of hybrids.  In most cases, the seeds one will find in most hardware or big box store will already be varieties optimized for one's growing zone and locale.  So much of the need to research specific varieties to find out which are the best for one's area is eliminated.  The pricing may also be a selling point.  Since they tend to be much lower in price the beginning gardener might want to concentrate on learning how to grow a garden first instead of perpetuating it through saving seeds and propagation.  Given the aforementioned factors are also taken out in the case of store-bought varieties the seeds should germinate and grow easily and the plants should also grow well and easily.  Those are prime factors for disabled gardeners.

Many varieties of vegetables are also available as seedlings in various stages of growth at various prices and the smaller ones are the most reasonable.  This takes some of the uncertainty out of  getting the seeds started.  However, there are some caveats to that which we'll cover when we talk about growing pregrown seedlings and plants.

Buying Seeds And Plants


We've already mentioned that all you have to do to purchase seeds or plants is to go to the and hardware store or a big box store with a lawn and garden center to buy seeds and plants.  They usually have hybrid varieties, however, the growing popularity of heirloom varieties is causing them to now include many of those varieties among both seeds and plants to cater to the organic market and the curious.  There are other options, though.

Buying online is another option and a good one for those who can't get into the stores for whatever reason but still want a garden.  Commercial seed companies, such as Burpee's, are online.  So are heirloom seed companies.  Baker Creek Seeds, Annie's Heirlooms, and MIgardener all deal in heirloom seeds only.  And Territorial Seed Company sells both popular heirlooms and F1 hybrid varieties.  By the way, the F designates the variety and the number how far it is generationally from the original.  I happen to have some F4 seeds in my collection as part of an effort to stabilize a rather interesting and rare hybrid tomato into an open-pollinated variety.  I also haven't mentioned GMO seeds up to this point because they are not in the small gardener market yet.  GMOs are varieties which have had genes from other plants or even animals inserted into their DNA to produce some desired traits.  Right now those are only in the commercial farmer's market, so they aren't a concern yet.

All of the companies mentioned except MIgardener also offer catalogs and Baker Creek's is a really nice one.  All of those companies except MIgardener also ship some of their varieties as plants as well.  Baker Creek and Annies take some of the guesswork out of choosing by offering package deals for vegetable seeds put together for specific regions such as the South, Pacific Northwest, etc.  Those packages run anywhere from $20 to $40 but are worth it for the beginner since we're talking about a basic garden with varieties specific to the region and easy to grow comparatively speaking. 

 MIgardener's appeal is in that the seeds he sells are all $.99 and the seed order also has a single shipping cost no matter the size of the order.  This year he offered a $10 beginner's collection of vegetable seeds in cooperation with a YouTuber called Calikim, who walked a friend of hers who wanted to start a garden through the process this year using that pack.  I don't know if he is going to keep on offering that collection every year but it would be something to check on., 

One can also get seeds through E-bay and Amazon and with a little comparing and savvy one can get them pretty cheaply.  However, one needs to be careful.  I ordered some seeds of a very rare variety I wanted which were reasonable in price only to have them seized by customs because the overseas vendor didn't file the right paperwork on them.  So I had to find and get that variety from another source and lost what it cost me to buy the seeds on top of that.  The price had been low enough I didn't lose that much at all, but that illustrates the need for caution.

So there you are.  I hope I've taken some of the confusion and mystery out of the subject of seeds for you and that you are now in a position to start thinking about what you want to plant.  The companies I mentioned can all easily be found by using a search engine on the internet.  They will deliver right to your door, another advantage for the disabled.  As you start your new garden one thing to mention.  Order only what you like to eat in the beginning.  If one chooses a package deal because it takes some of the guesswork out of the decision-making, that's fine just give it away to somebody who will grow and eat it.  The simple fact is that if you don't like it, then it's a waste of money and space to grow it.

As always,


Smile!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

From The Beginning




Hello again!

My wife does hats she sells, this is one I photographed for her to use for showcasing her work.  beyond just the nice and silly way to start off a post, the idea is that Deb and I are basically the kind of folks who believe in looking out for ourselves even though I am now disabled.  We just do what we can.  So when I was challenged to start a vegetable garden I decided it was time to do just that.

The First Step

The great military strategist and tactician, Sun Tsu, explains that the first thing to do is to take stock of what one has to work with before going to war.  War is an expensive undertaking as we ourselves can well testify considering the 6 trillion dollars I understand our country has spent on our wars since 2000.  At first glance, gardening is an expensive undertaking as well.  What we are taught is that we have to buy soil amendments and fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, tools, and a whole host of things, some of them quite heavy as well as invest tons of our time in the enterprise to successfully grow the vegetables one seeks.  The payoff is that even with all of that one can still grow food for less than buying it at the grocery story, which can put it within the reach of those of lesser means who have the determination.  So one has to take stock of what they have to work with in terms of money, available space, and physical ability.  

The point, though, is to take stock not with the question "can I do this at all," rather, one really needs to take stock in order to decide how they will.  I hope you have already decided to start a garden and simply want to know where to begin.  As you will find out as we move along in the journey the cost factor can be brought down.  Consider this, if one has land available for a garden all one really has to do is to clear out some grass or weeds, buy some seeds, plant them, keep the ground moist, and weed around the plant as it grows, stake the plant if needed and keep it watered, and one will harvest vegetables.  In the foregoing simple scenario, the only cost if one already has some basic yard tools is for the seed and the water.  That's it!

However, things often aren't quite so simple.  If one rents their home one may have a limited amount of space like I did, perhaps even to the point of a patio or balcony space.  Naturally one may have to buy containers and do things in conformance with restrictions placed on one by their landlord.  Most of the time one will be able to get permission.  I've even seen small gardens in government housing projects!

Available Space

 This is the front yard of the duplex I rent.  I have a housemate who likes to grow flowers and we've kind of divided up the available space which was largely existing flower beds.  In the front at the center of the picture is a 3x5' raised bed which was created for my wife to use for vegetables which mostly failed on her.  My experience is that the concrete pavement for the driveway heats up the area increasing the brutality of the afternoon sun and that is probably why.                                Next is the side of the unit, which is easy to tell from the next one over because I have my garden planted.  Again, my housemate (the wife of a couple who lives with Deb and I) and I divided up the available space there, though, I also garden in the area at the back fence and all the way across with the permission of the owner of the property next door.  I pretty much have the permission of my landlord to do what I want.  However, my housemates have restricted me from planting in the ground I haven't already planted in.

Basic Method

So I am forced to rely heavily on containers.  But that's an area I'll get into on down the road.  So that's what I have available and we'll concentrate this blog on my use of it, though, the principles involved apply across the board.  I am fortunate that I do have the space available to try out three different ways of gardening at the same time.  Since there was already a raised bed of 3x5 feet in the front, I decided to use that bed for square-foot gardening along the lines of that popularized by Mel Bartholemew.  I don't have the grid in place over the bed as he advocates, it's a matter of money at the moment but I can measure it out and run it along those lines.  That bed is roughly 15 square feet, just one square foot shy of his base unit of 16.

I made a decision on the front side to plant a bed along the lines of those advocated by both Paul Gautschi of Back To Eden fame and permaculturists to a degree.  Like Paul, I am a Christian and look to God to give me the feedback I need for a successful garden.  However,I'm not at all averse to science as a guiding light in the physical world and actually have several scientists I look to for advice as well when needed.  They advocate something along the lines Mr. Gautschi does because studies back his core method up.  But they are able to fill in the gaps left by his intuitive method.

The rest of my garden is a container garden.  That, of course, increased my outlay monetarily, however, I was able to get around some of that with a low-cost alternative to the traditional containers and the mix of soil I used to fill them.  I chose to plant heirloom or open pollinated varieties of vegetables so that I could lower my long term cost for seeds by harvesting the seeds and using them to plant new generations.  That's another thing I'll do a topic on a little later.  I was also able to spread the cost over some months instead of all at once.




 This is last year's peppers in my front bed.  There were three varieties in that bed, Jalapeño, Yellow Hungarian, and Habanero, all of them hot, hot, hot!  ;-)  They went on to make many a delicious meal.  The container at the lower right-hand corner has a Tiny Tim Tomato plant in it and it went on to produce a surprisingly copious number of little salad tomatoes.

Money


 That is always the big factor in any decision these days because everything has a cost somewhere along the line.  I am disabled and live on a form of disability payments.  That is what got me into this in the first place.  That lack of funds governed every choice I made.  My wife was working part-time and was able to chip in some.  A Youtube friend also sent me a little out of the blue at a time I needed it.  But I had to do things as cheaply as I could get away with.

We do have the internet, so researching the options online was just a matter of time on my computer.  I was able to look at different providers for containers, soil, seeds and fertilizer.  As we go along you are gong to get the benefit of that research as I hit specific subjects.  Obviously, there are some specifics I cannot give because it would be tantamount to free advertising for some folks.  However, there is still much I'll be able to pass on where it come to money saving tips.

That being said there will be some companies and individuals I will provide links to because they are resources I think everybody should find out about for good reasons.  One is a fellow in Michigan who started out as a Youtuber to show his love for gardening.  As he reached the age to think in terms of starting a family of his own he launched his own business, MIGardener, selling seeds and an organic fertilizer mix he created.  He founded the company on the principle that everyone, no matter the income level, should be able to get heirloom seeds at an affordable cost.  I was already a subscriber to his channel when he started that venture and I've spread the word on him since the beginning.  He now has a wife and a baby daughter.  There are also others dedicated to making heirloom and open pollinated seeds of all kinds of varieties available to keep them from going extinct who are worthy of mention and will get mentioned in their turn.

Physical Limitations

As I mentioned in the very first post, I am physically disabled by a degenerative disease.  First and most obvious, it causes the body to gain copious amounts of fat, no matter how much or little eaten.  Add to that weakening of and loss of mass of the muscles.  Since cortisols are a regulator of blood sugar it causes type II diabetes., Victims also tend to have osteoporosis and the back goes first with the thigh joints and knees, the joints bearing the most weight, to fail next.  It also causes lung problems, heart problems and many other problems the victim has to deal with.  And it also has profound social consequences as well because of the massive weight its victims carry.  Research has shown that even doctors will discriminate against Cushing's victims by refusing to consider it and test and test, or to do half-assed testing because the patients are overweight and considered more along the lines of morally weak than victims of some rare disease.  I've been there and done that.

By the time I started my garden pressure on my sciatic nerve at the spinal joint because of degeneration made walking so hard due to both pain and weakness that I was seriously considering ending that fight and going into a wheelchair.  I'll show it to you in a video on youtube when I get that going.  So obviously I am very limited in my ability to hoe, shovel, till, prune, and most anything else.  I have a video I shot one day as I walked out to the garden. sat down, and did a little rant.  I'll include part of it in a video on my youtube channel because it will give you a good idea of just how difficult it is for me to get about even now.  I've gotten around some of that by having two seats in the garden I sit and rest on frequently.  I also take my time and don't push it.  However long it takes, that's how long it takes.  So it takes me longer than if I didn't have the limitations.  This isn't about competition.  It also means I do some things differently and I'm going to take some pleasure in telling you how.

So, now, I will leave you with a little smile.



 That was fresh from the garden Jalapeño cornbread from scratch!










Saturday, June 25, 2016

Hello!

My name is Stanley and I am your Cushie Gardener.  What that means is that I am disabled by Cushing's Disease, a disease which causes an overproduction of a group of hormones called Cortisols which are a form of anaerobic steroids with somewhat similar results to long-term intake of steroids or steroids therapy, such as prednisone therapy which can cause a form of Cushing's Syndrome called Exogenous Cushing's Syndrome.  So I am massively overweight with muscle mass loss, a degenerating back, diabetes, and many other ailments.  this severely limits my ability to do manual work, yet I do garden, but more on that in a moment.


Those are some of the Beefsteak Tomatoes I grew my first season still on the vine in the fall  which brings me to how I became a vegetable gardener in the first place.  As I mentioned in my introduction I'm disabled by Cushing's Disease, something you can learn more about at http://originalzebra.blogspot.com/ if you want to.  Because I do have a medical background because of a short career as an LPN before I became disabled I make myself available on a number of forums for informational help.  One night a bunch of us were up complaining about how little money we had for food after paying the bills on what the government gives us to live on and the fact we just cannot afford quality food such as fresh vegetables for our health when a counsellor who makes herself available online made a suggestion. 

She suggested we grow vegetable gardens within whatever limitations we have to work with in respects to money, physical, and space limitations.  Well, you can imagine how that went over!  But while others were giving their reasons why they couldn't I asked myself why not?  My dad raised me to do that and to be as self-sufficient as I could.  So I went to the front of the house where my housemates had a few packets of vegetable seeds they'd bought a few years before but never planted and grabbed some unused planters and an unused raised bed and the Cushie Gardener was born! 


Peekaboo!  The first pepper this year is in there if you can find it!  hit, it's still green!

That start was three years ago and in that time God has blessed my efforts.  I did research online, made contacts with folks through both Facebook and Youtube who know what they're doing and were glad to hand out advice that works.  The needs I started out with and continue to have are a garden that will produce all the fresh vegetables and fruit I need all year-round and within both my physical and monetary constraints.  So the garden needs minimal care,  It must be low in cost on both long and short terms, and nutrient dense and healthy.  That is one tall order!  But i now have more than faith in the fact it can be done and I'm going to share how with everybody in hopes I can inspire others like myself to get out and do what they can to provide what the Government won't.  It doesn't owe us, so we owe it to ourselves.  I'll even show you how the government actually encourages folks to grow their own vegetables, though it isn't exactly widely advertised

So please join me on this journey with both this blog and the youtube channel I plan to start so you can help yourself, or get into gardening for yourself whether disabled or not and here's to blessings in your own garden!