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Gardening~ Advice, Tips and Mishaps

Gardening ideas, tips and advice offered by experts can be found elsewhere, but my adventures in gardening are chronicled here.


"We never repent of having eaten too little." - Thomas Jefferson


Life is like photography, you use the negatives to develop.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Tomato Gardening Guru

I've gone hog wild with the tomatoes this year. My friend (Ro) is a tomato expert and I raided her stash yesterday—coming away with a plethora of varieties—and nabbing more selections than I’ve ever have before! I’m a greenhorn compared to Ro. She said she cut back this season, planting only 85 tomato plants and God knows how many variates. Grab a cup of tea and peruse the list of what’s growing in my tomato garden this season.Check back for updates throughout the growing season.

These are all descriptions that Ro has gathered together from various places. She also shared a bunch of growing tips I'll write about in my next post. 

Golden Sweet Hybrid - (yellow-orange) sweet grape tomato. Long clusters of deep yellow grape tomatoes that stay firm and crisp. Sweet scrumptious flavor, crisp flesh. Excellent production on tall plants. Indeterminate. 60 days. 

Green Grape– (green) Very short compact plants yield 3/4 to 1 inch fruit that is yellow-green when ripe and easy to harvest. Full of flavor, sweet and juicy, these cherry type tomatoes are a real taste treat. Prolific. Determinate. 70 days. (Ro says it behaves like indeterminate according to Ann, a friend and fellow tomato lady.) 

Green Zebra Cherry- (bi-color, striped green/orange) Round to slightly elongated, striped green cherry tomato. Sweeter than Green Zebra. Indeterminate. 75 days.

Indigo Apple – (purple/black/red) New to Ro in 2014. Immature fruits show deep purple, almost black coloration, which is caused by high anthocyanin (an anti-oxidant). The 2 to 4-ounce, cherry-type fruit turn red when ripe, have a good, complex yet sweet tomato flavor. Descended from famed OSU Blue Fruit tomato. The pendant clusters of immature black fruit present a striking appearance in the garden. Resists sun-scald and cracking, lasting long into cool autumn weather when others plants have quit producing. Shows disease tolerance and great shelf-life. Indeterminate. 75 days.

Sun Sugar FT Hybrid - (orange) very sweet, cherry tomatoes, just under 1 “. Prolific. Indeterminate.
65 days.

Sunset Falls Hybrid - (striped bicolor orange/yellow) 1-2 oz. trailing type plant, with pendant branches. Can grow in container or basket. Plum shaped and tasty. Determinate. 65 days.

Super Sweet 100 - (red). Produces long strands of up to 100 super-sweet tasting cherry tomatoes. One inch in diameter fruits that are great for salads. Super sweet plants produce over a long period.  The fruits slightly larger than a cherry tomato, with very sweet flavor. Prolific and delicious. Indeterminate. 65 days. 

Super Sweet 100 VF Hybrid - (red) Small round 1 oz. cherry tomato. Like candy. These are delicious and prolific too. Indeterminate. 70 days.

Sweet Gold Hybrid - (yellow) deliciously sweet, prolific cherry tomato. Vigorous vines produce abundant clusters of 1/2 oz. bright yellow-gold cherry tomatoes with delicious sweet flavor. These tomatoes are sweeter & fruitier than red cherry varieties. Indeterminate. 60 days. 

Sweet 100 Hybrid- (red) Huge, multiple branched clusters of 1 inch fruit, very sweet, flavorful. The plants do needs staking. Indeterminate. 65 days.

Brandywine – (Pink/Red) This variety is legendary for its exceptional rich, succulent flavor. Large beefsteak fruit can become 1-1/2 lbs. with creamy flesh. Vines grow quite tall, have potato-leaved foliage. An Amish heirloom since 1885. Not a heavy producer.  This is one of my favorites and although it's listed as not a heavy producer I've had good luck with it.
80 days.

Brandywine Suddith Strain - (pink/red) delicious large heirloom, many consider this the best Brandywine with fruit that’s superior in taste and smoothness. 1 to 2 pound beefsteaks with the complex, rich, sweet flavor. Indeterminate. 85 days. 

Cherokee Purple – Heirloom from Tennessee cultivated by the Native American Cherokee Tribe. Very productive plants producing loads of dusky rose to purple 12 oz. – 1lb. beefsteak tomatoes with deep red colored interior flesh. Indeterminate - 80 days.

Caspian Pink - (pink) From Russia, tastes like a Brandywine and it's a big one too. Ro’s husband loves this tasty variety and I'm pretty partial to it myself!

Early Girl –  A medium globe popular with home gardeners because of its early fruit ripening. It is tall growing and needs support as the plant grows. I planted this to get some larger tomatoes earlier in the season. Ro doesn't plant any early season tomatoes. She hasn't found any she likes. Determinate. 50-60 days.

German Orange Strawberry - (orange), Oxheart, prolific large fruits. Strong, sweet taste in juicy fruits that are a vibrant, deep orange in color when mature, averaging 8 oz. to 1 lb. Indeterminate. 85 days.

German Red Strawberry - (red) Oxheart, size 10 oz to 1 lb. heirloom tomatoe, excellent taste on acid side. Tall plants.  Indeterminate. 85 days. 

Hillbilly - (bicolor yellow with red marbling). Also known as Flame. Huge heirloom. Rich, sweet flavor. Indeterminate. 80-85 days. 

Honey Hybrid - (pink) Wonderful, sweet rich flavor. Large yields of beautiful, smooth 8 oz. fruit keep coming all season long on vigorous, disease-resistant plants. Indeterminate. 76 days.

Oaxacan Jewel - (bicolor pale yellow with red streaks) Fruit size from 6 oz. up to 1 pound, but this is strikingly beautiful bicolor, with brilliant red marbling inside when sliced. Rich, fruity taste is refreshing, almost melon-like but nicely accentuated with acid.  (A fave of Ro’s. Deer like it too. Yike's ... with my critter problems I'm sure to watch this plant carefully.) Indeterminate. 80 days.

Orange Russian 117– (bi-color, gold with red streaks). Ro says this is the first bi-color oxheart tomato she grew, and it exhibits the best qualities of both types. Tomatoes weigh 8 oz. or more and are heart-shaped with smooth golden flesh marbled inside with streaks of red. They are delicious and sweet, somewhat fruity in flavor, and are meaty with very few seeds. Indeterminate. 85 days. 

Orange Strawberry – (orange) Large, beautiful oxheart-fruit shaped like strawberry. Fruit from 8 oz to 1 lb. Favor outstanding, rich and sweet. Excellent yield, 80 days. 

Pink Honey- (pink) Sweet, large 12-16 oz sweet, irregularly shaped oxheart fruit. From Siberia

Royal Hillbilly - (pink) Beautiful deep pink color with a purple tinge and exquisite flavor. Expect l-lb. beefsteak tomatoes brimming with juice and flavor that is a complex blend of sweet and tart. Large yields. Indeterminate. 85 days. 

Russian 117 - (red). Large, oxheart heirloom. Can weigh up to 1 lb, excellent flavor and juicy with solid meat and few seeds. More productive than the typical oxheart. Indeterminate. 90 days.

Tidwell German – (red) Excellent Brandywine-like flavor; TN family heirloom from the 1920s. 1-2 lb pink beefsteaks. Indeterminate. 79 days.

Wes - (red) Large, heart shaped red fruit, meat texture and outstanding flavor. About 12 oz. fruit, and very few seeds. High yield heirloom. Indeterminate. 80 days.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Garden Gnome~ Persona Non Grata

Perhaps, you are as behind the times as I am and are just now asking the question, “What is the deal with garden gnomes?” Let me say up front that I am solidly against too much yard art. An occasional tasteful piece is acceptable, but peppering the yard with tchotchke yard trinkets is just plain tacky. 

Now that I’ve offended you, let me say that I am having a hard time adhering to my own stand on this issue. The problem manifested itself after I did some research on the “life and times” of the garden gnome and because recently, I have come across a plethora of hilarious pieces of yard art that I haven't been able to resist. Yes, I too am a tacky yard art owner

As such, I thought I should become more knowledgeable about these decorative fine artworksI visited the website Mental Floss to become educated on the history of the garden gnome and came across the following report.
At the risk of accidentally sounding biblical, we regret to report that gnomes have been banished from the garden. To be a bit more specific, gnome figurines, those whimsical, pointy-hatted denizens of home gardens and front lawns, have been banished from gardens entering England's famed Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower Show.

According to the article, the restriction has actually been in place for a long time, but it was challenged and indeed, openly defied in the 2009 competition. The worst of it was that the tacky traitor who introduced the offending gnome was one of their own. You can read that hilarious story here. The Society (RHS) is lifting the ban on gnomes at this year's show as part of the its centenary celebrations and to raise funds for the nationwide RHS campaign for school gardening. But the ban has only been lifted for one year. Seems a bit sacrilegious if you ask me.

As I’ve been in and out of various garden nursery’s I’ve noticed a plethora of these strange little figures with a bright red hats and bushy beards staring out at me from every nook and cranny.

When and why did it become popular to put short bearded figures – gnomes – in gardens? And what is a gnome anyway? And what’s with all these stories of people stealing garden gnomes and even taking them on trips around the world?  

The stories surrounding these little creatures had me in stitches.

What is gnome roaming or gnome-napping anyway? The premise is simple: A neighborhood garden gnome is stolen and sent on adventures. The gnome-nappers usually photograph the gnome's exploits along the way or send postcards to the befuddled gnome owner, before returning the gnome, often with his new photo album of vacation shots, to his garden home. Hilarity ensues.  

There is also an official site dedicated to the liberation of garden gnomes and they even have garden gnome Facebook pages. You can buy t-shirts and mugs to support the cause, stop oppressive gardening and help free the gnomes.

The Mirror revealed yesterday how Murphy the gnome was nabbed from Eve Stuart-Kelso's garden in Gloucester, only to turn up safe and sound seven months later with holiday snaps from 11 different countries.

But Murphy was one of the lucky ones. Many never make it back.

And it's not just gnome-lovers in Britain who are being targeted.

The GLF is an outfit that can strike anywhere, at any time - and they seem to be particularly active in France.
It seems gnomes have been kidnapped, held for ransom, and 11 gnomes were found strung up, hanging by their necks under a bridge in the city of Briey in 1998. 

I don’t live in Britain or France, but to be honest, I’ve become a little concerned that this may not be as funny as initially I thought it was. I think this gnome napping is taken seriously in many places and I fear for my own little gnome’s safety.

Any good gnome stories out there? Anybody have a favorite gnome, or any strong opinions about gnomes in general?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Caralyn's Basil Beet Blooms

Last night I tried a wonderful new recipe from Gluten Free Happy Tummy’s. I’ve actually prepared a few of this gals recipe’s over the past year and all of them have been delicious. Caralyn used diet as a means to heal herself from a debilitating illness and she's chronicled her story on her blog

The Basil Beet Blooms I just made were fantastic. I think my husband was a little worried looking at his plate the he was going to starve, but he was pleasantly surprised at how full he was. We highly recommend this meal—you won’t be disappointed!

(serves 2-3)

2 large beets, cut into 1/4 inch rounds

1/2 cup peas
1 cup cauliflower
5 basil leaves

12 grape tomatoes
Chiffonade of basil (garnish)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Scrub and dry your beets. Cut them into 1/4 inch rounds. Place them in a single layer on a tin foil-lined, olive-oil-sprayed baking sheet. Do not sprinkle with salt or pepper yet. Spritz them with olive oil, and bake for 35-40 minutes, flipping once halfway through. When you flip them, put your tomatoes on the baking sheet and roast them along with the beets for the final 20 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper after they're finished.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Avocado Toast

I was sitting out on my patio enjoying a cup of coffee, and reading a new cooking magazine I picked up yesterday, but I only got to page 6 when the most simple recipe caught my eye. What do I do? First, I Googled the recipe on the Internet, which I luckily found in a flash. And then, to my delight, I found a little story. There’s nothing that makes food taste better than a good story.

Adam started out his post by saying, “Funny how the tastiest dishes are often the simplest.

Last summer, Adam hosted a little gathering splurging on a dry-aged, bone in rib eye and a whole branzino (fish – also marketed as Mediterranean seabass). But he realized that he hadn’t thought about an appetizer and found himself rummaging through the fridge to see what was available. He came across the makings of this quick recipe, which turned out to be the hit of the party, including overshadowing his prized rib eye.

He mentioned he was hardly the first guy to serve avocado toast. And that in New York, you can always order it at Cafe Gitane, which is famous for its cool clientele and even cooler waitstaff. And a few months back, his art director, Elizabeth Spiridakis, instagrammed a beautiful shot of the avocado toast she'd had for breakfast while on vacation in Tulum, Mexico.

Luckily, I hadn't had breakfast this morning either. I flipped on the grill and popped into the house to grab a slice of bread and assemble the ingredients I needed. Yes, it was that easy. I’m thoroughly enjoying my avocado toast right now—it’s delicious. Plus, I had invited a friend to join me for coffee and scones later this week, but I think I’ve just changed the menu!

Avocado Toast

6 slices of rustic bread
1-2 garlic cloves, halved
1-2 ripe avocados, sliced
Extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt
Crushed red pepper flakes

Grill the bread slices until they begin to char, then remove from the grill and rub one side of each slice with garlic. Layer the toasts with avocado slices, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with sea salt and crushed red pepper flakes.

Hint from Adam: The toasts are brilliant done on the grill, but they also turn out just fine under the broiler.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Best Foods for Runners

Both are health all-stars, but a study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry reported that blueberries (particularly wild ones) showed the most antioxidant activity of all the fruits tested. "These antioxidants help keep your immune system strong," says Dulan, "and reduce muscle-tissue damage from exercise."

Almond butter has more calcium and magnesium, a mineral that's often lacking in runners' diets and is important for muscle contraction. While the two nut butters contain about the same amount of fat, the almond variety has 60 percent more monounsaturated fat. "When consumed in place of saturated fat," says Dulan, "monounsaturated fat lowers harmful LDL levels to help decrease heart disease and stroke risk." Almond butter also has three times more vitamin E, an antioxidant that may reduce cancer risk.

Kale's nutritional might would win over even Popeye. Gram for gram, kale contains four times more vitamin C, and one and a half times the amount of immune boosting vitamin A and vitamin K. "Vitamin K ensures that blood clots properly," says Eberle, "but it's also needed to make a bone protein essential for strong, healthy bones." Kale contains three times more lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants deposited in the retina that work together to protect eye health.

When Spanish researchers compared cow's and goat's milk from animals raised under similar conditions, they found that both have the same amount of essential amino acids needed to repair and build muscle. But goat's milk contains a larger percentage of omega-3 fats, as well as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and conjugated linoleic acid (or CLA). Studies suggest CLA has a number of effects, including lowering cancer risk, improving bone health, and helping reduce body fat.

According to a study in the Nutrition Journal, researchers in Sweden found that participants who ate rye bread for breakfast experienced less hunger later in the day compared with those who ate wheat bread. Hanna Isaksson, the lead study author, believes that rye's ability to quell hunger is due to its high fiber count. Rye can have up to eight grams of fiber per slice—even more than whole wheat. Rye bread often contains some refined wheat flour, so to get the most fiber, buy "100 percent rye" loaves or make sure whole rye flour or meal is the first ingredient.

Quick Hits
Pick the best runner's staples

Quinoa beats brown rice
WHY Quinoa has three extra grams of protein per cooked cup, plus more fiber, iron, and magnesium.

Greek yogurt beats regular yogurt
WHY The Greek variety has about twice as much protein as traditional types.

Green tea beats coffee
WHY It's bursting with antioxidants (such as EGCG) that help ward off diabetes and certain cancers.

Goat cheese beats feta cheese
WHY Goat cheese has nearly half the cholesterol and a third less sodium.

Orange beats apple
WHY They have similar amounts of calories and fiber, but oranges have 12 times as much vitamin C.

Red pepper beats green pepper
WHY It boasts eight times the vitamin A, which keeps your immune system strong.

Flaxseed beats flaxseed oil
WHY The seeds have lots of magnesium, potassium, selenium, and fiber.

Source: Runners World

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Train for Faster Running

Okay, I’m getting a little carried away with the running video training, but I’ve found some great stuff I want to try out and I’m in the mood to work a little harder right now. Why not take advantage, right? 

I recently posted a dynamic stretching routine, and a progressive strength training series. You know what I’m missing though, speed. Fear not! I found something simple that I’m going to add in to my strength training, and according to the trainer, I’ll be running faster in 1 week. Let’s start the countdown, today is the 5th of March. I'm on my way to the stairwell right now! ;-D Stay tuned for the results one week from today.  


In a hurry- Spicy Garlic Shrimp

If you’re in a hurry and you still want to prepare a healthy meal, I recommend this spicy garlic shrimp. I’ve fixed it a number of times and varied the veggies depending on what’s about to expire in my fridge. 

I’ve added bok choy, celery, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers (all kinds), and ginger. Like I said, whatever needs to be eaten at the time gets tossed in. I’ve even used a toasted sesame seed oil in place of olive oil and that was delicious too. 


2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, diced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
24 jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails intact
2 teaspoons grill or steak seasoning blend 
1 lemon, zested and juiced
2 tablespoons chopped parsley leaves
1 cup diced cooked asparagus
1 -2 cups spinach

Heat extra virgin olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and red pepper and cook 1 minute. Add shrimp and steak seasoning. Cook for 2 minutes. Add asparagus. When shrimp is almost all cooked (not pink) add spinach. Once shrimp is cooked (about 6-8 minutes total) remove from heat and top with parsley, lemon juice, and zest.

Hint: If you buy your shrimp in the freezer section of the grocers you usually have the choice of precooked or uncooked. But make sure you get the peeled, deveined type with the tails intact--you don't want to spend more time peeling your shrimp than it took cooking it.