Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Wild Mushrooms

When I got up this morning, it was just an ordinary Wednesday. I always take my mother to get her hair done early on Wednesday. But as we left for the beauty shop, I saw one of the biggest mushrooms in my yard, I had ever seen. I grew up seeing wild mushrooms in our yard, pasture and woods but from a distance it looked like a soccor ball that a neighbor's child had kicked into the yard.

Since mushrooms are one of my favorite foods, I began to ponder how (especially one this size) and why it sprang up suddenly in my yard. As a true novice gardener, I was facinated at what I discovered.

Mushrooms feed on living or decaying food matter and have two major parts the mycelium and the fruiting body. The fruiting body is the cap and the mycelium is the stem. The cap produces spores that are carried away by air, afterwards the fruiting body or cap dies and decays. Only a small number of the spores find the right amount of soil and moisture to produce, resulting in few mushrooms growing at the same place. Often the mycelium dies in place and reproduces later on the spot.

I've always known that wild mushrooms can be poisonous, but I found out that if your an agarist (mushroom expert) you can tell the good from the bad. Also there is a "Mushroom Club of Georgia" that meets once a month, if you would like to learn more about wild mushrooms growing in Georgia.
Until next time...........
Happy Gardening 2012!
Posted by Wilma Smith

Friday, September 21, 2012

How The Fall/Winter Garden Is Growing

As you can see above our fall/winter garden is beginning to to grow without all the rain we needed. The cooler weather helped, as fall/winter crops can't survive in temperatures above ninety degrees during the day and similar hot temps at night. A few recent showers have also been helpful, plus the mulching on individual plants.

In a few days the kale will be ready to pick.

The row of bok choy is up and growing. It will grow through the winter, even if we have a little snow. This is the third generation of plants grown from seeds we planted. We just let the plants bloom, cut the dry blooms and saved the seeds then planted the next year.

We planted another row of okra the last of August. Here is the proof  that summer crops can grow and produce in our Georgia climate in late fall.

Just like many summer crops, winter squash (don't let the name fool you) is growing and blooming very good in our late garden.

The squash blooms seen above are also a sign that fall/winter is a good growing season in our area.

I was worried about the collard, broccoli and brussel sprouts we planted several weeks ago because of the heat and lack of rain.

However, as seen above, a few showers at the right time insured some good root growth.

The turnip greens are in a race with the kale to see who gets picked first. My bet is on the turnip greens, what's yours?

Although, we dug sweet potatoes six weeks ago, there are plenty of shoots growing this fall. Hopefully, there will be another harvest before December.

The strawberry plants look good and should produce in early spring.

We planted lettuce earlier, but we didn't have a great success, only about three or four plants made it. I'm sure the temperature was still too hot or maybe we planted the seeds to deep. I feel like any garden is an experiment, you never know for sure the outcome in the beginning or at the end. Each year the weather, pests, etc. are different. This is regardless of your experience or knowledge, but if you love gardening it's always fun!

I wanted to update you on our garden cat, Mr. Basil. Tia is still looking after him like any good mother.

Hope your garden is growing well, too and that like us you keep experimenting every season.

Until next time........

Happy Gardening 2012!

Posted by Wilma Smith

Monday, September 17, 2012

Calaboose Cellars Winery Visit

A couple of months ago Deberah, Jerry and I, took a trip to Andrews, North Carolina to meet some cousins for a fun week-end. This was our third trip to Andrews to hook up with family cousins and I must admit, I enjoy visiting this quaint mountain town every time. It's located twenty minutes from Cherokee, close to rafting on the Natahala, hiking on the Appalachian Trail, and fishing for trout on some of the cleanest creeks and rivers I've ever seen. Oh yes, close to the casinos in Cherokee, if you prefer indoor sports.
Regardless, we always stop by the local winery, "Calaboose Cellars," for a little tasting and to take home some souvenirs. I was excited this year to see the raised bed vegetable garden added this year. It was the first thing we saw as we parked.
The size of their tomatoes and peppers were amazing, unfortunately, I had a senior moment (or maybe tasted to much wine) and didn't get the name of the variety or ask the owners what technique they used to grow such a fabulous crop. 
The "Romas seen above were huge! 

The bell peppers were big and a beautiful green. There wasn't any trace of disease or pests. 

A few feet away from the vegetable garden were grape vines overlooked by mountains and a white church steeple.


Customers enter through the back of the winery by the deck.

A better photo of the mountains from the deck.

I caught a photo of a friend harvesting some bamboo poles.

As soon as the previous customers left, Judy got busy getting our glasses down so that we could sip this years best wines.

Inside you can see some of the vats used to make their delicious wine. "Up the River," a strawberry rhubarb wine was one of my favorites.

If a taste is not enough for you, enjoy a glass on the deck before you leave while also enjoying a view of the Great Smokey Mountains.

I loved the wine bottle tree on the side of the building. It makes a great garden ornament, I think I'll try one somewhere in my yard, maybe on a smaller scale.

There is a lot of history to this establishment. It is actually an old jail. The owners Eric and Judy, added on to the left side, but the small rock structure is the original jail. You can find out more about the history by visiting their website at www.


The original cell door is used as another garden ornament in the yard.

Leaving I took a picture of their shed decorated with old wash tubs and tools. Check out the Black-Eyed Susan's blooming to the right.

You may not have cousins to meet, but if you ever visit Andrews, North Carolina. I hope you'll stop buy the jail and experience the fun!

Until next time.........

Happy Gardening 2012!

Posted By Wilma Smith

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Progress in the Fall and Winter Garden

We have made progress in our Fall and Winter Garden, although the plants look a little droopy, actually the garden is growing fine! I took these photos after lunch when the sun is the hottest and the most direct on the plants. The turnip greens above are growing like weeds, even though this past weekend we weeded the grass out of the plants and rows. Jerry did a good job tilling where needed.

The Bok Choy is up and growing bigger. The drought hasn't broken and we all need some good rain, regardless of where it falls yard, flower beds or gardens.

The onions and leeks don't seem to mind the dry weather as much, but they would be bigger with showers on their roots.

The kale patch above is also doing ok. The lakes give the garden plants a shot of moisture at night and early in the morning when the dew falls.

We planted gourds around this upright cage. The vines will climb up and around the cage, the flowers will bloom on the vines then the gourds will grow and hang from the blooms.

A second stand of okra has already produced pods for a meal.

Not pictured are collards, broccoli and brussel sprouts we planted over the week end. Jerry worked hard today mulching around all these plants. That was a full days work he accomplished in two or three hours, I have to give him a pat on the back (he will probably need one later, maybe more of a massage).

I feel this garden is making good progress and remember, the first day of Autumn is September 22, ten days from now, hopefully we will be getting more rain throughout the fall and winter season.

Just a final note, today is the 11th anniversary of the attack that changed America, September 11, 2001. I hope you didn't know or lose a loved one, friend or acquaintance, regardless, I hope you pray and remember those who did, those who lost there lives. And please pray for our country, as this is the GREATEST COUNTRY ON EARTH!

Until next time...........

Happy Gardening 2012!

Posted by Wilma Smith

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Growing Greens for Fall and Winter

Don't worry if you haven't planted your fall or winter greens yet, as they like the cooler weather and in our southern subtropical climate will grow better in colder months, often lasting through February or March, even later, depending on freezing temperatures in January thru March. The seeds pop up in seven to ten days and depending on rain and heat grow very quickly. Seen above is a stand of Kale, the formal name is "borecole," a form of cabbage, closer kin to wild cabbage. Kale was first cultivated in Greece, Italy and Europe and called "Sabellian Kale" by the Romans. Different varieties range in color from light green, dark green to violet green and are rich in beneficial health goodies like beta carotene, vitamin k, vitamin c, lutin and calcium.

Kale freezes well and can be used in salads, stir fry or boiled for a vegetable side. Deberah often adds some to her breakfast smoothie with fruit to boost her daily vitamin intake.

Above is the southern classic, turnip greens, first grown in Northern England and Scotland. Packed full of many of the same health properties as Kale or other dark green leafy vegetables. The hardest thing about turnip greens is washing off the grit prior to cooking.

One of my fondest memories as a little girl is visiting my grandmother and enjoying her corn bread crumbled into the "pot-likker," or liquid poured off the greens after cooking. She taught me to make corn bread by using the basic ingredients of one cup cornmeal, an egg (use a fork to blend it into the meal), one half cup buttermilk (or more if needed to get a medium consistency) and one fourth cup vegetable oil. Of course you need a heated cast iron skillet coated with oil (Crisco was the oil used then) to keep the bread from sticking and adds to the beautiful crust, cook at 350 degrees until a knife comes out clean in the middle. I use a cast iron skillet that measures seven to eight inches in diameter. Adjust the ingredients for a smaller or larger size skillet.

Bok Choy or Chinese Cabbage is another green planted in our garden this fall. It's not pictured, as we just planted a row with seeds saved from last years crop and they have not sprouted. This tasty veggie has plenty of foliate, vitamin a, vitamin c and fiber. It is easy to grow and can withstand very cold temperatures to include snow, as after the snow is gone, it will continue to grow, as if nothing had happened.

It was first recorded centuries ago in the Ming Dynasty by a pharmacologist named "Li Shizhen," who studied and praised it's medicinal properties. Since then it grew as a favorite in many oriental recipes including the Korean favorite "kimchi," and Chinese and Japanese stir fry and soups.

We love it and have been growing it for three seasons. Bok Choy is a beautiful green plant with succulent white stems which can also be used in cooking.

Luckily, we still have hot peppers growing. The perfect kick to complement any variety of fresh greens that will last several months in the fridge, hopefully until after New Year's Day. However you cook greens roasted, pan fried, boiled, grilled, used in a salad or smoothie, even in a casserole, there is still plenty of time to plant some in your fall and winter garden.
Until next time..........
Happy Gardening 2012!
Posted by Wilma Smith