Friday, December 27, 2013

Still Time to Plant Spring Bulbs!

After the buying, cooking, wrapping, eating, merry, enjoying family and friends, here again it's time for gardening! Regardless of what's your favorite medium, bulbs, bushes, veggies or fruit, now is the time to layer up, endure the colder weather and use those extra calories in the yard or garden to insure healthy spring flowers and crops.

If  you missed planting spring bulbs this past fall, there's still time to plant them for blooms in late March through April, now. Remove any dead growth, break up hard dirt with a regular garden hoe in beds or along walkways. 
Add new soil (I like the kinds with fertilizer added, most do now) and spread with a rake as seen in the prior picture. All that's left is to plant the bulbs or plants in the finely hoed soil.

Add any garden ornaments you like. As seen above, mine is terracotta lady planter. For years, she hung on my breezeway wall until the back was cracked.

I love the foxgloves blooming in this bed every spring (2013). But I planted yellow tulips in this bed a few days ago for extra spring color!

If you thought it was too late to plant spring bulbs for 2014, it's not here in the south.....

Just do it!

 Until Next Time...........

Happy Gardening 2013!

Posted by Wilma Smith

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Winter Garden -- Very Healthy

Growing a winter garden is not hard. Cooler weather plants like cabbage (seen above), collards, broccoli, bok choy and sugar snap peas enjoy the winter temperatures. The key is to insure these plants establish roots between September and November. Planting them in early fall is a must (late August or September).

Cabbage is full of anti-aging properties for skin and hair, vitamins c, a, d, including calcium, iron, sulfur, and magnesium,  plus this veggie is easy to prepare in a number of ways. Steam it, saute it, boil it with bacon or other meats, and one of my favorites use it raw in slaw or a salad.

I like growing winter plants for a number of reasons, antioxidants, vitamins and especially, virtually no insects growing in the garden this time of year.

South of the Mason Dixon Line, no doubt collards are a southern favorite, along with black-eyed peas and cornbread on New Year's Day. But did you know, collards are filled with vitamins C and K, plus antiviral, antibacterial and anticancer properties?

Luckily, in southern climates collards can be harvested, as soon as enough leaves make a meal (like other greens). Unlike mustard and chard, don't cut them to the ground because once the central bud is removed the collard plants won't grow, regardless of the care.


Bok Choy is not a southern favorite winter plant to grow but like any green it's full of healthy benefits. It will re-seed itself regardless of lying fallow in the hot weather just let it bloom and seed itself. The tender leaves and stems make a great addition to any salad or veggie drink with fruit. 

Broccoli has all the health benefits of every winter garden plant we grow in our garden. But I admit broccoli is my favorite because everyone in my family loves this recipe I make on Thanksgiving and Christmas and share at our table on both holidays. Using fresh organic broccoli out of our garden makes the dish better but frozen is fine.

Whether fresh or frozen broccoli, it's a good recipe for a family get together anytime:

32 oz. broccoli (fresh or frozen)
1 1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 cans mushroom soup
1 large block sharp cheddar cheese
4 eggs
Townhouse Crackers
butter or margarine
spices to taste (salt, pepper, garlic powder)

Steam or boil broccoli (adding salt) until tender, drain. In a large bowl mix, broccoli, mayo, soup, eggs, 1/3 block of shredded cheese and spices. Spray large casserole dish and place ingredients evenly. Shred more cheese and sprinkle on top. Crush one pack of crackers and sprinkle over cheese. Melt butter or margarine and spoon over crackers.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, cook 30 to 40 minutes or until crackers are browned.
Makes 20 to 25 servings, just half ingredients for smaller number guests.

Hope y'all enjoy and Merry Christmas!!

Until next time......

Happy Gardening 2013!

Posted by Wilma Smith

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Use Imagination to Make a Holiday Wreath

Deberah and I were in charge of the presentation at the November 25th, Crossroads Garden Club meeting. Our subject was "Making Holiday Decorations," we both made table and door decorations for the holidays using live plants from our yards and herb garden.

I made this wreath (seen above) from two types of holly plants that grow in my yard. Maintenance for both is practically zero, except for trimming. Benefits include year round green and best of all in winter, red berries when most plants in the yard add little or no color.

There are approximately, six hundred varieties of plants in the holly family, some date back to ancient times used in pagan rituals. Maybe, this is where using holly for our holidays started?

Regardless, I just used a little imagination to make my holly wreath. 

The first step for making the wreath was to harvest the plants. I made sure each limb selected was full of berries.

Second, I gathered and organized materials and tools. For live woody plants such as holly, pine, and cedar, I like a straw wreath, as it holds moisture (wreath made for outdoors) and has a sturdier base than styrofoam. I also used floral picks, floral tape and floral wire (used to make the hanger), plus a glue gun to finish off the project. Needle nose pliers are a must when making live wreaths, or sprays with floral wire, add ribbons and bows to that list. I only used materials from previous holiday projects for this wreath making the price very cheap.

I covered the wreath with metallic paper ribbon using hot glue to secure it to the straw wreath.

Then I began to build the wreath with longer holly branches made from floral picks, wrapping the wire around the plant then wrapping with floral tape (as seen above) around the stems and pick. I make a hole in the straw wreath with a tool (pick or screwdriver) then inserted the pick. Continue with the longer pieces all around the base.

Continue to build the wreath the same way, except shorten the length of the stems as you fill in the wreath toward the inside.

Once the wreath appears full use the glue gun to fill in any spaces with greenery or berries (no picks needed).

You can make a similar wreath for the holidays, regardless of the evergreen plants in your yard or garden, you choose. Just use similar methods. Most evergreen plants will last 30 to 45 days outside before shedding, even longer, if misted with water regularly.

Just use your "Imagination" to make an inexpensive wreath or spray.

Until Next Time......

Happy Gardening 2013!

Posted by Wilma Smith

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Orchid -- The Air Plant

Winter is a good time to try growing new plants inside. I've always been intrigued by orchids. After some research, I found them to be a fascinating plant that I'd like to try growing this winter. Orchids basically need three key factors to grow; light, temperature and humidity.

Orchids, naturally, are epiphytes that grow mainly on trees above rain forest floors. Three key factors of light, temperature and humidity, combined with air flow around the tree limbs and foliage allows the production of the beautiful flowers we have long grown to love in corsages, wedding sprays and potted plants.

All photos in this blog were taken at the Botanical Gardens Orchid House in Atlanta, Georgia.

Growing orchids indoors need pots filled with ground bark and moss. Perlite, vermaitite and charcoal (not the barbecue kind) can also be combined to help the air flow (no soil). Make sure the pot has plenty of drainage, like ceramic or clay (clay my preference). Orchid's roots would rather be cramped, so make sure the pot is not too big for the roots. 
Light should be bright but not direct (similar to African Violets). Fluorescent lights are good but give the plant a rest by turning off the bulb at night. 
Water and fertilize less in cooler temperatures (water once every week or two depending on the variety of orchid, fertilize with 10-30-30 once every two weeks or less in winter). Better to under fertilize. Never use cold water.
Keep air movement going with a ceiling or small fan (like you buy for a vehicle).
Use a humidifier or mist with a spray bottle to keep moisture on the plant.
Keep the temperature constant between 68-75 degrees. In the rain forest it's warm during the day and temps drop at night.

The Phalaenopis orchid (also known as "Phal" or "Moth") is great for beginner's due to it's durable nature. They come in whites, pinks, purples, yellows and reds. Unlike some orchids they don't have dormant periods during the fall and winter.
Above along the wood rafters, you can see true air plants growing in the moss. Just like orchids, they live on trees above the rain forest floor. The three key factors apply; light, temperature and humidity. 

The Cattleya or Laelia orchid has the showy and even fragrant flower most of us are familiar with at our high school prom as a corsage pinned on the shoulder or worn on the wrist. Amazingly, it's another orchid plant good for beginner's to grow. However, it does need a dormant period during the winter months. Make sure the roots dry between watering. The three key factors apply like all other orchid plants.

Did you know the vanilla bean is actually an orchid? Unlike most of it's family, it grows as a vine. Although, I think it would be interesting to grow, I think I'll start with an orchid for beginners.

The bean extracted from this orchid is a long and complicated process and makes the extract expensive, however, the cuttings can be bought online for $8.99 at Florida Hill Nursery.

For right now, I'll try growing this beautiful flower out of thin air. Hope you do too!
Until Next Time........
Happy Gardening 2013!
Posted by Wilma Smith 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Happy Fall Ya'll...!!

I don't care as much for the cooler weather but no doubt, I love the changes that come with our different seasons in the great state of Georgia. A single sycamore leaf (seen above), says it all for me in fall. A time to change, new ideas for the garden, festive color for the holidays and more time spent indoors with houseplants (that from spring through summer I neglect). 

You don't have to live in the mountains for the leaves to change just have more patience. I had a couple of fishermen enjoying the fall weather on this morning.

Sweet gum trees come in all colors, red, yellow, orange and even burgundy.

This golden maple in my backyard looks orange in the evening with the sun going down but earlier in the day it looks golden yellow.

Close to my house on the driveway there's plenty of red colors, native persimmon, sassafras and a few trees, I need to identify.


A golden young hickory enjoying rays from the evening sun.

An early morning picture of the same golden maple taken off my new deck.

Another view of the big lake and fall colors (all native trees).

The yellow tree on the right is a native sycamore.

 I love the reflections seen in the water on a beautiful fall day!
Winter will begin December 21st and maybe snow will replace the fall leaves in my driveway before spring. But right now...Happy Fall Ya'll..!!
Until Next Time.......
Happy Gardening 2013!
Posted by Wilma Smith


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

October -- Cooler Weather Plants Love the Temperature

Lately, nights are cooler and our October garden plants love the drop in temperatures. Collards (Brassica olerocea) is just one plant in this family that thrives in cooler temperatures. Other cousins include broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, kale, turnip greens, spinach and mustard greens.

No doubt, collards and turnip greens are a favorite of southerners, year round. But a true tradition to cook on New Year's Day, with ham hocks, black-eyed peas and cornbread seeped in "pot liqueur" or not.

As a kid, I was told eating greens meant dollars in my pocket and peas were change in my pocket the next year. You can imagine, I tried to eat my weight in both! Regardless, I enjoyed the meal.

Our cabbage plants are beginning to head, however, will need at least 6 to 8 more weeks to grown big firm heads prior to harvest.

I love cabbage steamed, in cole slaw, as an addition to stir fry and even in vegetable soup. Also, it's a great diet food, fills you up and burns off more calories digesting than in a serving (0 fat, 0 cholesterol, plus good fiber content).

We planted organic sugar pod snow peas to our cooler weather garden. Usually, we plant these in early spring but decided to try them to harvest late November or early December this year.

These sugar pod snow peas will grow into bushes 24-34" and produce 3-4" pods, unlike most snow peas we have planted early spring in the past needing a trellis or fence.

And, yes the name snow pea does mean, it will continue to grow even if it snows and can survive freezing temps, if not prolonged.

Broccoli, seen above is also a member of the (Brassica olerocea) family. It's hard to tell the difference between the broccoli and collard plants, unless you look close and see the leaves of the broccoli is more scalloped or frilly.
This plant was first introduced to America by Italian immigrants and is no surprise that Italy takes credit for it's origin.
Brussel sprouts is another member of this family, I call "mini cabbages." They certainly look and taste similar. However, Belgium takes credit for the origin, even though this plant was first documented growing in ancient Rome.
The family of cool weather plants we're growing in our garden this year need between 40 - 67 degree temperatures (some can grow in 75 degrees temps and below 40 degrees) to thrive and produce.   
There is no doubt all are beneficial to our health, full of vitamins, minerals and vital nutrients. There is no doubt with a little work in the yard or garden they are easy to grow in cooler temperatures (especially in our climate), whether you use a conventional garden, raised beds or containers. So....
Until Next Time.........

Happy Gardening 2013!

Posted by Wilma Smith

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

"Favorite Cousins" -- The Legend of Blowing Rock

A couple of week ends ago, Deberah, Jerry and I attended an annual "Favorite Cousins Reunion" in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. My dad's side of the family had annual reunions, as long as I can remember. As, many brother's and sisters passed away (including my dad), us first cousins decided, we wouldn't let our parent's family tradition fade away. Around 12 years ago we began to have cousins reunion week ends every year. At first, it was a little awkward, as we weren't kids anymore and all had different interests but after several reunions we bonded and found lots in common due to the love of our parents and heritage.

This year "Favorite Cousin," Judy and her husband Eric, recommended spending a weekend at Blowing Rock, North Carolina. Judy and I were elected to find the accommodations, as well as, make the agenda.

One place we decided to visit was "The Blowing Rock." I didn't realize the name of the town was named from an Indian Legend until I did a little research. The afternoon we visited, it became cloudy, except for a few openings in the clouds allowing sun rays to shine down on some of the mountains and valleys.

The legend goes something like this:
In the area, two tribes, the Cherokee and Catawba Indians were hostile to each other, however, a brave from one tribe and a squaw from the other tribe became star crossed lovers and once met on the rock above the John's River Gorge. During their meeting a storm with red clouds formed over the mountains. The brave felt he should return to his people and resume his duties, but his lover begged him to stay. In his turmoil to choose he jumped off the rock into the gorge below. The squaw seeing him jump chanted to the wind to bring him back. Her prayers were answered as the wind blew the brave back up into her arms. 

 Above you can see, "The Blowing Rock."  I was surprised to find you can actually climb to the top.

Eric and I were the only two cousins brave enough to climb to the top (the rock was slippery).

An overlook has been built close to the rock. Judy and Eric (my favorite cousins) said they felt the wind behind them when I took their photo. Star crossed lovers?

Blowing Rock, North Carolina is located along the Blue Ridge Parkway. We were a little disappointed as the leaves weren't as colorful as we had hoped, but Judy's thoughtful agenda took us to a cheese factory in Ashe County and a visit to Ben Long's famous frescoes at two beautiful Episcopal churches located 45 minutes from Blowing Rock.

After we returned to Blowing Rock then shopped and ate on main street, enjoyed the house we rented with a mountain view, fire pit, outdoor Jacuzzi and rocking chair front porch, while grilling and chilling.

Me, I love the legend of the rock and the time spent at our "Favorite Cousin Reunion." I'm looking forward to next year. I need to mention all my favorite cousins enjoy gardening!

Nobody knows where we'll go next year or what legends we'll discover in 2014!! So...

Until Next Time........

Happy Gardening 2013!

Posted by Wilma Smith

Monday, October 14, 2013

Sweet Potatoes -- "Sweet Memories"

Several weeks ago, working in the garden we harvested our sweet potato crop. Above you can see, it was enough to share between, Deberah, Jerry and I, as well as, several other families. Previously, we had dug some for a few family dinners. While digging, I was reminded of "sweet memories."

The sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) vine is a perennial summer crop grown all over the world. The fruit ranges in colors from red, orange, yellow, brown, purple and beige. This root vegetable was first domesticated in Central and South America thousands of years ago and spread to other tropical warm climates and eventually made it's way to Europe, Asian countries, North America (including Hawaii) by sea, birds and explorers.

The sweet potato prefers hot or warm weather, unlike the regular (Irish) potato that needs the cooler early spring or fall growing seasons seen in our region. Also, these two types of taters are not related at all.

After the first frost, we bought one flat of "Bonnie" plants called "Beauregard" sweet potato, tilled a row until the soil was fine, trenched the row 6 or 8 inches, then planted each 12 inches apart, while soaking the roots with water. After the vines began to grow, we broad casted organic fertilizer over the plants. Rows should be spaced 3 feet apart but as you see above one row was all we needed.

The fruit matures in approximately 95 days and continues to grow until frost or longer depending on the temperature. Once the vines begin to yellow, you should harvest (we always dig a few to check earlier).

Amazingly, the Ipomoea genus of the sweet potato is a cousin of the morning glory. It's heart shaped vine and short lived flower has also been cultivated today as an ornamental plant used in yard and garden landscaping.

Sweet potatoes are filled with beneficial nutrients and fiber to include vitamins A, C, B6, iron calcium, magnesium and plenty of potassium. The leaves and shoots are also edible and used in recipes in some cultures.

After the harvest, sweet potatoes need to sit and cure (unless used or processed, as they can be frozen). Dry for 10 to 14 days in a dark spot (like a basement) or somewhere around 75 degrees. If properly cured they can last up to 6 months.

Just a bit of sweet potato trivia, currently in the U.S., North Carolina leads all states with 38.5% production, followed by California, Louisiana and Mississippi.

Growing up, my "sweetest memories" of this nutritious root called sweet potato was associated with holidays, brown sugar, pecan topping, hot butter, melted marsh mellows that my mother made into casseroles, pies, pancakes, french fries, fried pies and whole, as a baked side!

Until Next Time..........

Happy Gardening 2013!

Posted by Wilma Smith