Beginner Gardening Series: September Edition

September is the month where you can look at your garden and take stock of what worked and what didn’t, harvest the remaining produce growing in the garden (except for a few frost loving plants, will talk about that later) and put your garden to bed for the winter.   If you live in some of the warmer climates, you can now restart your garden!   For the plants that like the heat (like tomatoes and peppers), start the seeds indoors or buy starter plants. I, however, live in zone 5-6, so no replanting of the garden here.  I will be taking the steps to put my garden to bed and do what I can to get it ready for next Spring.

T A K E  N O T E

Get yourself a cute little notebook (don’t we all buy one everytime we go into Target?!) and take note of your garden.  What grew well in the garden this season?  Did your tomatoes get enough sun?  Did your squash plant succumb to mildew?  These are observations that will help you in planning your garden for next year!  Your placement of plants may change based on your observations.  For me, I need to move where I planted my squash because it was affected by mildew.  So…I need to find a place that gets more sunshine to prevent this from happening again.


W H E N  T O   H A R V E S T

Are you daily looking at your peppers wondering if they are ever going to turn red??  While it is ideal to let peppers, like tomatoes, ripen on the vine, there does come a time when all the peppers and tomatoes need to be harvested from the garden and left to ripen indoors, out of direct sunlight.  So yep, harvest your tomatoes and peppers, even if they aren’t perfectly ripe and let chemistry do it’s thing indoors. Now with this said, if you have planted some “cool crops” you can leave them in the garden until after the first frost.  Some cool crops are Kale, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Brussel Spouts, Spinach, Collard, Asparagus. A quick Google search of “cool crops” will provide a great resource if you are wondering if any crops you have planted are considered a “cool crop”.

 

 

 

TIP: you can leave carrots in the ground through the Winter (they may actually get sweeter as the carrot holds on to it’s sugar to combat the cold), however, you will need to harvest them before Spring as they will go to seed and not be edible.

P U T T I N G  the  G A R D E N  to  B E D

One thing I always need when going to bed is a blanket, your garden likes one too!   There are a couple of ways you can create a “blanket” for your garden.  You can grow a cover crop.  Stay with me here, this sounds much more complicated than it really is.  A cover crop is as simple as tossing some seeds on your cleaned out garden bed.  This helps create a barrier between the Winter elements and your garden soil.  Cover crops also give back vital nutrients that were taken from the soil to produce all your yummy veggies!  A seed that I recommend is Cereal Rye.  Sprinkle the seed ideally 4 weeks before the first hard frost, or as soon as you can after cleaning your beds.  Literally let nature do the work and watch it grow.  If planting another crop has you rubbing your temples, then a nice layer of straw or some other type of mulch will also provide a sufficient barrier for your garden soil against the harsh winter elements.

Categories

Gardening with Kids

Meet Sarah beach, 2nd generation owner of Sunshine Garden Center.  Sarah has so much garden knowledge to share, so when I asked her to write about what her favorite thing to grow in the garden, and her answer was “kids”, I couldn’t wait to read what she had to say.  Whether you have children of your own, nieces or nephews, or just special kiddos in your life, you are going to enjoy this post by Sarah!

It all starts with kids in the garden!

Over the years I have been asked many times what my favorite crop to grow in the garden is. I have a hard time trying to pick just one. I love different vegetables and herbs or trying new flowers and mixing both in my beds and pots. When I was asked to write about it, I really had to think about it to pick just one.  Of all the things I plant and grow, my favorite thing to grow in the garden is kids.

Why kids

in the

garden?

I grew up in the garden. As kids, my siblings and I ran free here at the store. We had our fair share of responsibility growing up in the family business, but man do we have some great stories. Most of them take place in a garden of some kind. When we were kids we used our imagination to build things like forts and treehouses in the landscape. We made pretend meals from flowers, sticks, mud, and rocks.  We planted seeds and watched them grow and pulled a ton of weed. We learned by trial and error, got dirty, and worked really hard. To this day I still reflect on what we did then and try to bring pieces back for my daughter and niece and nephews.

My daughter, Olivia, has been growing up in gardens since she arrived. As an infant, she would sleep in her swing in the sales yard while I moved displays. As she got older she would explore the area where we were working. Her sense of wonder is magical and infectious. I always find myself just staring at her in awe. As she has explored, she discovered rocks and sticks, bugs and varmints. She has gotten dirty and she has learned to use caution. I don’t force her to do anything specific out there yet; I just let her have fun. We try to have teachable moments, but sometimes the memories are the teachable moment.

Getting kids in the garden early in life has so many benefits for their immune systems and their mental health. This goes for adults too! Starting healthier lifestyle habits at a young age has proven to carry through life as the person grows. It’s so much easier to start something from the beginning than to try and change your ways years later.

Why is it important to get kids active in the garden?

Being outside and playing in the dirt increases your intake of Vitamin D and boosts your immune system. A common misconception is that getting dirty will expose you to germs and lower your immune system; when in reality it actually helps build up your immune system. There are bacteria in the soil. One of them, Mycobacterium Vaccae, has been linked to alleviating symptoms of psoriasis, allergies, and asthma. The bacteria also help to build up resistance to other things like the cold and flu. Gardening without sunscreen (in short bursts, like 10 minutes) midday also gives you enough Vitamin D to help ward off heart disease. If you are going to be outside for prolonged periods, do use sunscreen! Protect yourself from a sunburn and the harmful rays. If you are gardening through the heat of the summer, make sure everyone stays hydrated!

Gardening is also a great source of exercise! The bending and reaching, lifting plants and moving pots around gets you a whole body workout.  It gets you active and outdoors. Both are things that kids easily miss out on with the new age of technology. The activity boosts your energy levels and lets out endorphins associated with mood boosters and stress relievers. Just letting them play improves their motor skills too. Being outside and allowing the kids to get dirty and experiment with their crops also gives them a sense of accomplishment and pride in their work. The boost in self-confidence helps them fend off insecurities and anxiety. 

Having a garden or even just a few plants that they take care of gives kids a sense of responsibility. Working in the garden teaches kids work ethic too. Getting a good crop doesn’t just happen. They have to work the soil, weed it, feed and water it. They get excited about taking care of something and watching it grow. This process also keeps them invested in the plants. Also, if they grow vegetables, they are more likely to try eating a new one if they watched it grow versus one they found in the store. Why? Because they can get excited about it!

What do you do with them in the garden?

This depends on their age, how much real help you need, and your level of patience. Oliva has been a “helper” in my garden her whole life. Sometimes its been easier than others but we really try to enjoy it and make memories (the early days were my memories). When she was an infant she played the cheerleader role. She would watch as I planted and weeded, then crawl around in the sprinkler. As she got older she would help me pick our veggies and put them in the baskets. Sometimes she would taste test them for me. She absolutely loves to plant the seeds and then watch them grow. It makes my heart full when we see the first signs of growth and she squeals with excitement and pride.

My philosophy has always been if its safe for her to do it then let her try. Sometimes we both struggle (me with control and her with actually being able to do it) but we don’t know until we try what will work for us and what won’t. Sometimes we surprise ourselves and sometimes we chalk it up to–we’ll try again when you’re older. We ALWAYS try to make it fun though.

How do I get my kids started in the garden?

If you are working with kids or creating a garden for them, then you want to plant easy to grow varieties like marigolds, beans, carrots, and sunflowers. Head to your local independent garden center and they can help you get started. As always make sure that its something fun for both you and your kids. Gardening should be fun! Ask questions, laugh, and get your hands dirty. Enjoy the moments with your kids, they grow like weeds.

Sara Beach

Sunshine Garden Center

How To Grow a “Spaghetti Sauce” Garden

 

How to Plant a “Spaghetti Sauce” Garden.

One of my husband’s favorite quotes in the summer is, “There ain’t nothing better in life than true love and homegrown tomatoes”. I would have to agree. No matter how good those nice, plump, red tomatoes look in the store, they will never measure up to the ones you grow in your garden. A large part of our vegetable garden is planned for an abundant crop of tomatoes. The tomatoes in our garden are grown for the enjoyment of summer eating and snacking, but there’s also a much bigger plan. Our tomatoes will be made into spaghetti sauce to be enjoyed all year long. My husband and I come from a long family line of canners. Our parents, grandparents and great grandparents preserved their harvest for the winter months. We may not go to the lengths they did, but we still do our share of canning. My goal each year is to can about 30 to 40 jars of spaghetti sauce. This way, we can have spaghetti about twice a month throughout the year, plus my kids steal a few jars for their dinners. This makes a quick, easy meal that everyone loves.

 

“There ain’t nothing better in life than true love and homegrown tomatoes”.

In order to have easy meals throughout the winter, it takes a little work to set up the garden. Each summer, I plant at least 8 tomato plants. I try to find a tomato plant variety that has the shortest growing season because we live in the Inland Northwest so our growing season is a little shorter. A few varieties that I like to plant are Early Beefsteak and Celebrity, but I am always on the lookout for new early tomato varieties. Make sure you read the labels to see how many days it takes to get to harvest before you buy the tomato plant. I also buy about 6 green Bell Pepper plants, and a bunch of Walla Walla Sweet onions.  Look for onion sets that are about the size of a dime.

Once I’ve purchased the perfect vegetable plants, it’s time to get the vegetable garden ready. The first thing I do is look back as to where I planted everything the year before. When I am planning the layout of my garden I consider where each plant was planted the year before. This is because it is important to rotate your crops each year for two reasons. The first is because it will keep your soil healthy and fertile. Planting the same thing in the same place year after year drains the nutrients from the soil that the plant needs in order to thrive and produce big harvests. The second reason is that rotating plant families helps manage soil-borne diseases like verticillium wilt, and soil-dwelling insects like corn rootworms. These types of diseases and pests prefer certain kinds of plants, and the longer the plants stay in the same soil, the better the chance that these enemies will show up and cause trouble. I draw out a simple map of where I plant everything each year and keep it in my Garden Journal. This way, I have a resource to refer to each Spring that is easy and quick.

It is important to rotate your crops each year

A long time ago, I bought some heavy duty tomato cages that I love. The cages are made of small angle iron, so they will be passed down to many generations of Bosma’s who like to garden. I like these cages because they are super sturdy and can hold up the weight of the tomato plants. The cages give the tomatoes the support to grow up. This way the tomatoes are not laying on the dirt and roting  It’s important to spend time loosening up and preparing the soil for the tomato plants. Then, I space out the tomato cages and mark where each tomato should be planted. Each tomato should be planted in a hole about 6 inches deep. I only want about 4 inches of the plant to be above the soil, so I carefully trim off all the leaves that will be under the soil when planted. Dropping a small amount of plant fertilizer in the hole and mixing it up with a little dirt before you plant each vegetable plant is a good idea. Set the plant in the hole and fill it with dirt and firm the soil gently around each plant. Water well. This deep planting method helps to encourage a better root system, which benefits the tomato plant during prolonged drought and/or hot weather.

I plant my peppers about a foot apart. When the plants are mature they like to have their leaves touching. I like to think of it as if they are holding hands, this just makes you like bell peppers even more, right? The onions sets should be planted about an inch deep, about 3 to 4 inches apart.

I think the fun part of gardening is planting and harvesting. The middle part where you are weeding, watering and keeping the bugs away can be more work, but is super important so we can have spaghetti sauce. Here is the spaghetti sauce recipe that I received from my friend Kristi. Your family will love this sauce and might even be more willing to help you out in your “spaghetti garden” next year.

weeding, watering and keeping the bugs away can be more work, but is super important so we can have spaghetti sauce.

Spaghetti Sauce for Canning

20 tomatoes, chopped (scald & remove the skin first)

2 large onions, chopped

3 green peppers, chopped

2 large cans tomato paste

2 pkgs. Mrs Wages spaghetti sauce seasoning

¼ cup vinegar

¼ cup sugar

1 tsp. Garlic powder

1 tsp. Oregano

1 tsp. Basil

1 tsp. Salt

½ tsp pepper

Mix all ingredients in a large pan. Bring to a boil, then simmer on low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring often to prevent burning on the bottom of the pan. Be very careful during this time, you don’t want to burn all of your hard work. Pour sauce into hot jars and seal, using boiling water canning method (about 30 minutes for pints and 40 minutes for quarts – check canning chart for the exact time in your area). Let cool and remember to label before you store them away.

 

2018 Mother’s Day Gift Guide for the Mom who likes to Garden

Do you have a mom in your life who likes to garden?  We have the perfect gift guide for you!  While there are only 6 products listed here, I have to say, I love all of them, and your mama will too!  We love ❤️ supporting small businesses, so when we found out that each of these products has a small business (some family owned for decades) standing behind them, we couldn’t wait to share them with all of you!

  1. Can someone let my family know I want this for Mother’s Day!  How pretty is this??  Spoil your mom with this large macramé plant hanger, hand made by Amy Pixton, owner of WeavingPix.  For only $25.00, you might even be able to include a live plant😉. $25 Etsy-WeavingPix

2. The Latin Quarter Sun from Conner hats, is made from crocheted organic raffia. A great beach hat that will crush in your bag for travel.  This darling hat is made from hand-braided organic raffia harvested in Madagascar.   We think your mom would love looking pretty in this hat and you will like it too, with a price of $49! connerhats.com

3. Womanswork takes their gloves seriously, and this “armsaver” pair is no exception!  The most beautiful paisley cotton twill print in shades of green is used for this garden glove with nearly elbow length arm saver cuff.  Palms are made  with sturdy synthetic leather.  A stretchy pull cord at the top of the cuff tightens the glove around the arm to prevent garden soil from getting inside.  Great as a gift too! $30 womanswork.com

4. If you are serious about gardening, you can appreciate a nice pair of gardening tools, and no one may do it better than Lee Valley.  Easier to maneuver in pots and planters, these scaled-down versions of our garden 🌱 tools are equally well made and have all the same features as the larger tools. The handles are a comfortable size and shape for smaller hands. All are under a foot long; the narrow trowel has a 5-3/4″ long, 1-1/2″ wide blade. $75 leevalley.com

Available individually or as a set of all three.

5. Keep your day running smoothly and your desk looking pretty with this watercolor fern notepad.  Reminiscent of symmetrical fern leaves grown in New England wood, this design is hand-crafted using only the highest quality watercolor paints for best colorfastness.  Printed on highest quality 70 lb. uncoated paper, versatile enough to use as stationary writing paper for penning a letter to a friend. Notepad included 50 sheets individually printed with our hand painted original Maidenhair Fern design. $12 Etsy-ElizabethSt

6. Give the mom in our life the extra hand ✋ she needs in the garden with the Roo Apron.  The Roo is perfect in assisting with harvesting vegetables, weeding and deadheading or collecting anything that needs to be put away. One size fits all. $32.95 rooapron.com

🛍️Shop all of these products in the links provided and support small business all while giving the mom in your life a gift she is sure to love!🛍️

Valentine’s Day Gift Guide for the Gardener Under $40

Do you have a Valentine on your list who likes to garden?  Just for you, we have put together a gift guide of 6 amazing items, all under $40!  All of these items can be shipped to you or directly to you valentine.  Enjoy these fun finds;  I am adding all of these to my “please get me these..now!” list.

1. Macarons freshly made by hand.  The vivid hues of our unique macarons reflect the natural flavors and essences that infuse the ganache filling of these delicious almond cookies – each has its own personality, and all of them are made to savour for their delicacy and unique character.

Choose from our everyday classics as well as seasonal specialties. Orders placed online will be shipped overnight or may be picked up at a ‘lette shop nearby.  $25 for a box of 12

2. The Roo is perfect in assisting you with harvesting your vegetables, weeding and deadheading your garden or collecting anything that needs to be put away. O/S fits all.  Machine washable. $32.95

3. Rifle Paper Co. Peony Pink Floral box of 8 note cards.  Natural white cover paper, blank interior.  Made in the USA.  $16.00 for a box of 8

4. Fresh, colorful plants and flowers contrast beautifully with the Round Textured Ceramic Planter from Threshold™. Though neutral in color, this round ceramic planter features a gorgeous textured surface which gives it a completely unique look. This sleek rounded planter can hold one large plant or a variety of small plants. It looks great indoors on tabletops or on outdoor patios.  $14.99

5. All plants in each collection are different varieties. There will be repeats if you purchase more than one collection (by using “Quantity” selector above).

Echeveria are tender soft succulents and will tolerate only light frost.

What You Receive

4-16X 2″ pots (choose quantity above). Each plant is 1.75″ to 2.75″ in diameter.

6. Indispensable Compact Pruning Tool Kit in a Ready-to-Give Box

Compact, easy-to-carry pruning tools make precision cuts

Ergonomic design reduces hand fatigue

Set includes pruners, snips and sharpener

Gift-boxed set will delight any gardener, from beginner to expert

Carry these handy snips and pruners any time you head to the garden for harvesting vegetables, herbs and fruits; cutting flowers for bouquets; and light pruning and deadheading. The ergonomic, non-slip grip and super-sharp blades allow you to make precision cuts without damaging nearby stems. A sliding lock lets you stow them safely. And the Tool Sharpener lets you maintain the sharp edge on these tools, as well as other pruners, loppers and shears. Set includes our exclusive Pocket Pruner, Pocket Snips and Tool Sharpener.

7 Food Trends You Will Want to Try in 2018

The New Year typically brings about the desire to eat healthier; maybe trying to undo some pounds that may have been accumulated during the holiday season? But, do we really even stop eating candy until after Easter? I feel like I am eating candy from Halloween until Easter, anyone else??  Back on track here…food trends.  You will be encouraged to hear that most of the food trends for 2018 are on the healthier side and may make transitioning from all the sugar to better snack options a little easier!

Floral Flavors

 

  1. Floral flavor infusions aren’t a new thing, but this is going to be a big trend in 2018.  From lavender lattes to elderflower making it’s way into everything from cocktails to at home elixirs, floral flavor is going to be front and center this year.

 

Bubbly Drinks

2. Bubbly drinks came on strong in 2017 and are here to stay in 2018.  I have to say, a sparkling water hits the spot for me when the mid afternoon cravings come on strong.  Look for new and interesting flavors as more brands get into the game this year.

 

Mushrooms

3. Mushroom coffee jumped onto the scene last year, still haven’t tried it, but you will likely see more and more ways to enjoy and incorporate mushrooms.  Mushroom broths mixed into smoothies and teas along with body care products boasting of this ingredient will be more available as well.  This is a good thing as new research has shown that mushrooms, particularly porcini mushrooms, have very high levels of two anti-aging antioxidants: ergothioneine and glutathione.  So ask for extra mushrooms on your next pizza and maybe give the mushroom coffee a try 😉

Middle Eastern Food Influence

4. We have seen an influence of Middle Eastern cuisine for quite some time.  From hummus to pita to spicy curried dishes, Middle Eastern flavors have become a mainstay in many of our pantries.  However, this year look to see an increase of these exotic options, as there is a growing desire in experiencing flavors from this part of the world.  I am not sure about you, but I am looking forward to this food trend!

Knowing your foods origin

5. There has been a growing demand for knowing the origin of our food, and this will continue to grow and become more and more expected in 2018.  Look for your local grocer to highlight where they source their fruit, veggies meat and dariy.  Restaurants will likely make this a highlight of their menus as well.  Ingredients will increasingly be more visible on most food products, as more and more people are wanting to see what is in their food at a glance.

vegan

6. Vegan options are going to be on the rise in 2018 as more and more people are choosing to eat a more plant based diet.  Many companies are coming up with new ways to offer creative plant based alternatives for those that just can’t give up their bacon burgers🙋.  Some of these options are getting pretty tasty, and may even have you reaching for the vegan option without even realizing it!

Puffed & popped snacks

7. We all love a good potato chip, but may not love all the grease that is used to create the crunch we crave.  So three cheers to the puffed and popped revolution!  Many of the big snack brands are taking to air to create tasty snacks that compromise with calories but not on flavor.  So yes, pass the chips please!

5 Best Plants for a Host or Hostess Gift

It’s that time of year when our calendars are full of parties!  Deciding what to bring the host or hostess can be a bit overwhelming.  Well,  we have a list of 5 amazing plants that every host or hostess will love, green thumb or not.  And, all of these plants can be enjoyed all year long!  Now who can say that about a bottle of wine or box of chocolates?

1.The Lemon Cypress.  This is such a fun a festive plant with it’s chartreuse shade and almost fuzzy feel.  A little reminiscent of the Grinch Stole Christmas don’t ya think?  The beauty of this plant is that it can be transported into a pot in the Spring and be enjoyed throughout the Summer.

2. The Wintergreen Plant.  This plant is an evergreen and can also be planted outside once it has been enjoyed indoors through the holidays.  Plant this beauty outside and enjoy green foliage all year long, even during the cold Winter months.

3. The Norfolk Pine.  This is another plant that can be enjoyed all year long both indoors or outdoors.  Something especially fun about the Norfolk Pine is the ability to decorate it!  Your host or hostess can enjoy dressing up their plant with lights or ornaments.  A great gift idea for the host or hostess with kids.

4. Christmas Cactus. A holiday classic, the Christmas cactus looks so festive with it’s bright red blooms to be enjoyed through the holidays.  If your host or hostess has any shade of green in their thumb, this should be a plant they can enjoy for years to come.  The Christmas Cactus needs a little TLC in regards to watering and light, but easy enough for most of us to handle.

5. The Succulents. There is a reason these little plants are all the rage; they are as cute as can be and require minimal care.  Plus…you can find the cutest little pots to in which to plant them…Bonus!  These make a great gift for any host or hostess and with all the different varieties, you are sure to find a succulent just perfect for your host or hostess’ style.