Friday, March 23, 2018

Garden Friday

Welcome back to Garden Friday.
Each week, we share what's going on in our North Carolina gardens.
There is so much gardening going on right now,
that it may require daily posts to get caught up!
It's ALL GO(O)D!

 Last week, we showed you how we created potato towers.
I've gotten feedback on this method,
some folks swear by it, others say they didn't have much success with it.
It's all a great experiment!

seed potatoes

 With the towers in place, it was time to plant the taters.
They were cured for a few days,
which just means that they are left to dry out.
We sliced them in half and placed them on a cookie sheet which was covered with a large rag
and placed them on top of the refrigerator.
The vital step in this process is to make sure that you have at least 3 "eyes" on each piece.
These are the spots where the potato leaves sprout and grow up.

 Our materials were gathered and we headed outside.
I decided to make things interesting by planting with three different types of fertilzer.

 In all three towers, vermiculite was added to the soil.
This soil is from a big box store and wasn't as loose as I'd like,
so the vermiculite should help with aeration and drainage.

 In the first tower, rabbit poop was added.
I had gotten this supply from a fellow vendor at the 
Mooresville Farmers' Market last season.

 The second tower was fed with compost tea,
made from turkey poop and aged a good, long while.

In the third tower, the turkey poop (Mighty Grow) that I found at Ford's Seeds
(where I also bought the seed potatoes)
was added.  It will be interesting to see if there are any differences in growth.

Each tower got 7 seed potatoes, nestled into the soil and amendments.

 The cut side is placed down against the soil
so that the "eyes" can find the sun.
The spuds were then covered with a layer of soil.
The pinkish bumps can be seen here
and if all goes according to plan,
that's where the leaves start to sprout.

After some heavy rain, I noticed some of the potatoes were peeking out of the soil.
That's a no-no.  Potatoes don't like the sun.
If they are exposed to sun and start to turn green,
they are not fit to eat, and can make a body very ill.
Only the leaves should be showing themselves,
so I added a layer of composted straw to cover them up.
They've been watered each day when we've had no rain.
They will continue to be water only as needed,
and hopefully, soon, we will be seeing some foliage popping up! 
Once the leaves start to head for the sky,
more soil is added, and then more mulch or straw.
This is done a few times until harvest. 

One  astounding discovery was made earlier in the week
as I was adding leaves to the leaf mulch bin.
This pile was already quite large when we bought the house.
We have an abundance of leaves on the property.
I decided to dig into it to see what might be taking up residence there.

All sorts of wonderful slimy critters were hanging out.
What a goldmine for the garden!
I'll be adding some of these workhorses to the containers
and any beds I may decide to throw together.
They do a fabulous job of composting and adding nutrients to the soil.
There are plans in the works to start a worm bin,
but I guess I have a good running start!

 Although we are still having temperatures overnight in the 30's,
Mother Nature is screaming for spring to begin!
Look at these lovely, delicate Grape Hyacinths (thanks for the i.d., Ben) 
we have speckling our property.
After these have finished blooming,
the plan is to relocate them into some of the established beds,
although these bulbs are fairly easy-going
and can even be transplanted while blooming.

From all accounts, this looks like the foliage of a tulip.
I was thinking maybe they are some sort of parrot tulip,
but now I'm not so sure. 
There is so much to learn about all of these amazing bulbs shooting up.

What a treat to witness all of God's handcrafted wonder.

What's going on in your garden this spring?

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Chicken Visit

Happy First Day of Spring!

This year is so exciting because we are getting to witness
a true awakening of Mother Earth.
In Florida, the seasons were not too different,
(10 months of summer with a few variations the other 2 months),
so I relish the fact that we are about to experience our first true springtime in years!

A fellow gardening student invited me to come see her chickens.
That was an offer I couldn't refuse!

 Stephanie and her family live on a 10-acre farm right here in Lincolnton.
They relocated here from Arizona over a year ago
and bought this sprawling piece of gorgeous property.
 They currrently host almost 2 dozen Barred Rock and Australop chickens.
On the day I visited, they were enjoying pilfering through the garden area,
no doubt finding many a mouth-watering morsel.
One of the most invaluable tasks that chickens perform
is pest control in the garden.

Stephanie told me that the layers are part of their quest 
for a better life, enabling them to be more self-sufficient 
and have the ability to control at least some of what sits atop their dinner table.

Chuck, her husband even built this spacious coop for the girls.
The design is unique, as this whole side of door panels opens up
for easy cleaning.  There is plenty of ventilation with the chicken wire
surrounding the top of the panels.  The wire has been partially covered with cardboard
in order to retain more heat in the coop during the wintertime.

Inside, it was quite cozy, even though there was ample room for the chicks.
Suspended feeders and waterers help to keep things sanitary,
as birds aren't stepping in or soiling their rations.
As you can see, there are sufficient roosting spots for evening dozing.

A few of the girls were preparing for egg-laying.
These crates laid on their sides were just the right fit.
Shortly after we left the coop,
Stephanie pointed out the unique sound they make when their mission is accomplished.

Along with contributing to the family's focus on better health,
these ladies provide hours of entertainment.
Each has her own personality and almost certainly
adds delight and contentment to the family's days.
This visit brought me a bit closer to wanting our own flock.

Stephanie showed me some of her veggie seedlings that she houses in one of the outbuildings.
She's got a great start to her spring garden.
Her green thumb is undeniable,
even though growing conditions here are far different than from where she came. 
Her fascination with gardening spurs her on to learn more.
Hmmm, sounds familiar! 
The family has plans to expand their farm in the future,
possibly adding other animals and increasing the number of fruit trees on the property.

I so appreciate those who are willing to share their farming life with me.
It has been a source of motivation and intrigue,
 and there is always something to glean from others' experiences.
It's all about keeping the good stuff moving...

"Too often, parents whose children express an interest in farming
squelch it because they envision dirt, dust, poverty and hermit living.
But great stories come out of great farming."
~Joel Salatin
Too often, parents whose children express an interest in farming squelch it because they envision dirt, dust, poverty, and hermit living. But great stories come out of great farming. Joel Salatin
Read more at:

Too often, parents whose children express an interest in farming squelch it because they envision dirt, dust, poverty, and hermit living. But great stories come out of great farming. Joel Salatin
Read more at:

Friday, March 16, 2018

Garden Friday

Welcome to Garden Friday!
Believe it or not,
we had some snow this past week!
Is Spring really less than a week away?
Mother Nature sure has a funny way about Her.

On Tuesday, I showed you Ford's Seeds, the magical place where I picked up my Yukon Gold seeds. 
While the seeds are curing before planting, I decided to make a few potato towers.
(I'll post about planting the spuds next week.)
I used some critter wire (hole size doesn't really matter),
something sharp with which to cut through the wire, 
 and some heavy-duty gloves.

 I'm using chicken wire, which is a pretty closely-knit wire,
mostly because I didn't want to have to line the cages with anything but leaves or straw.
If you want to make these with wire that has larger holes,
just know that you will need something with which to fill in the spaces so you don't lose all the soil
(for example landscape fabric).
The bricks were used to hold down the wire while I spread it out on the grass
(unfortunately, I couldn't rope my son into helping me).

 Needle-nose pliers or wire snips work well to cut through the wire.

The wire was measured out into six foot lengths.
This will give me a diameter of about 2 feet.
When the taters are ready for harvesting,
the whole kit-and-kaboodle just lifts off,
so you don't need to go diggin' in the cage for your treasure!

After cutting the three lengths of wire,
the ends just get folded onto one another,
to form a (hopefully) tight seal.
Be sure to wear your gloves at this stage,
I forgot to put them back on and got pierced.
(Tetanus booster, anyone?)

 The three towers will stand next to the straw bales
where the sun shines most of the day.
I'll have to figure out how to snake the soaker hose 
on the towers since it's long enough.
That soaker hose was quite a find.
It should make this garden a breeze to maintain.

 To be sure that the tower cages don't decorate the neighborhood,
a stake was woven through one side of each of them.
Once the soil is added, it should be fine, 
but since the wire just sits on the ground, I wanted to make sure they stayed put.

 One thing we have plenty of here is leaves.
Some folks use straw or newspaper to line their towers,
but we always try to use what's on hand.

 Each tower was filled with a few bucketfuls of leaves,
just enough to give a good foundation for the soil.
This will compact down some when the growing medium goes in.

I grew potatoes once in Florida without much success.
It will be exciting to see how they do in these towers.
If they do well, the cages can be used year after year,
so it's worth the minimal expense.
I can't see any reason to buy potatoes when they are so easy to grow.
At least, that's what I'm hoping!

What garden projects do you have going on?

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Easy Crockpot Chicken Wings (gf, df, sf)

While shopping at our new Publix,
(whoo-hoo! we have a Publix nearby!),
I found Springer Mountain Farm chicken wings on sale.
I picked up a package , knowing that the crockpot would be the easiest way to prepare them.
C doesn't do spicy, and with his multiple sensitivities,
the ingredient list is usually pretty slight.
These wings are gluten, dairy and sugar free.
The crockpot is the perfect vehicle for this recipe.
It does all the work, and you get all the credit!

Easy Crockpot Chicken Wings

2 pounds chicken wings (you could use thighs)
1 t Italian herbs
1 T paprika
1 t onion powder
1 t salt 
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1/2 C ketchup
1/3 C local honey
Spray crockpot interior with olive oil cooking spray.
After washing and drying the wings,
place in the crockpot.
Add remaining ingredients to a bowl
and stir thoroughly before topping the wings.
You can reserve some of the sauce for dipping.
Cook on low for 4-6 hours,
checking after 3 hours for doneness.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Ford's Seeds

Last Tuesday was cold, rainy, and fairly miserable.
The perfect setting to check out a new gardening resource.

Welcome to  
Ford's Seeds.
This Southern treasure is about 25 minutes from our hometown
and well worth the drive.
Started in 1920 and relocated down the street in 1928,
Ford's Seed Store is a staple of downtown Gastonia.
It's a seed store, but SO much more!
You can find their facebook page here.

Although the day was gloomy,
this place picked my spirits right up.
The pansies and other plants outside proved too tempting
to go home empty-handed.
Is anyone else getting that itch to plant something- anything?
I brought home a couple of flats of cheerful pansies to hold me over until the veggie sowing begins.

As soon as I stepped inside, I felt at home.
The jars that line the back wall contain every seed imaginable.
One of the benefits of shopping in this more personal venue,
is that seeds can be acquired by the ounce,
so that you can get exactly what you need.
This family-owned business is all about
customer satisfaction.
David Long, the owner, showed me the difference 
between a few of the roomy glass jars.
Some of them fit in one's hand like a glove
while others were just a bit cumbersome to handle.
The smaller jars were said to be moonshine jars.
What a kick, huh?
He also shared with me that early on,
folks often used to barter for supplies,
bringing in eggs or produce to trade for items.

The greenhouse was hosting an amazing array of herbs, ornamentals and veggies.
Their seedlings are way ahead of mine here at home,
and they look as healthy as can be.

If this doesn't inspire you to start growing,
I don't know what would.

In another area of the store, potted plants and cut flowers are available.
It was surprising to see even tropical plants for sale.
What a great place to find a gift for the plant lover in your life.
Everything I saw looked so well-cared for.

In another area (the store has expanded into the next two shops),
were birdfeeders and birdhouses as far as the eye could see.

We are looking to enlarge our feeder supply this spring,
so we can peruse the selection at Ford's.

Big K collects Lego campers,
and I couldn't help but think of him
when I saw these two cuties.

You need pots, watering cans or decorative baskets?
This place has options galore!

There are all sorts of garden-themed adornments available for your patio, porch or home.

The wooden birdhouses were quite appealing.
Having a place for our feathered friends to rest and roost
has become one of our goals for this spring.

I picked up some Yukon Gold potato seeds,
which were weighed on an old-fashioned scale.
This will be the first time I am growing any kind of white potato,
and I know that I am off to a good start by buying them here.

One of the main purposes of my trip to Ford's
was to pick up this fertilizer.
They are the closest location that carries it
and fortunately, they had some in stock.
This is the same turkey poop that Faye, Lynn and I used in Florida
for our Farm School posts,
and Farmer Lynn swears by it.
I brought home a couple of bags 
and hope to acquire a few more soon.

Ford's also has a gift shop just down the street
with all kinds of decor for your home or office.
I'm hoping to get there in the next few weeks and do a post on the shop.
The sign here says it all about this gem of a place.

Feel free to visit Ford's online website .
Better yet, pay them a visit in person at 
231 E Main Ave, Gastonia, NC 28052 .
 (704) 866-7058
Tell 'em daisy sent you!

Ford's Seed Store Hours
March to June                 8:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.
July to August                   9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
September to December 23        8:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.
January & February               9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.