I’ve found many crazy-looking edibles in my garden, but the tomato I named “Casper the Friendly Cyclops” is the most memorable.
This misshapen, but smiling, tomato could be a winner in the WesternGardeners.com annual Weird Veggie and Funny Fruit photo contest.
Every year gardeners send in images of the kookiest produce they pull from their gardens.
The vegetables are certainly entertaining and it’s always fun to guess what went wrong to cause those weird-looking shapes. Some environmental problem is the most common reason behind these oddballs.
In the case of Casper, the weather was exceptionally cold when the tomato plant was starting to set fruit. That’s what caused all those odd shapes on the blossom end of the tomato.
When carrots grow in rocky soil, their roots can form into strange configurations.
There will always be several jalapeno plants, but each year I enjoy adding new-to-me varieties. I’ve been known to pick a pepper plant just so I could grow enough chiles to prepare a single recipe. ‘Holy Mole’!
I’m drawn to peppers because they’re versatile in the kitchen and grow in so many different sizes, shapes and colors. There are baby bell peppers, slender green Thai chiles, long red paprika peppers and even black edible ornamentals.
Then, of course, there’s the thrill of the unknown when taking that first tantalizing bite.
Has a pepper ever made you cry or cause steam to vent from your ears? That painful burning sensation is nature’s way of letting you know you’ve had too much capsaicin. Capsaicin is the flavorless, tasteless alkaloid compound that stimulates the pain receptors in your mouth.
All of these tomatoes, from the smoky Black Krims to the small yellow pear tomatoes, grew in my small-space vegetable garden.
Some grew in the postage-stamp sized 6 x 8 vegetable bed, but most were harvested from my patio container garden.
After years of experimenting with growing vegetables in containers, I’ve learned what works best.
I’ve also learned that gardeners can grow just about any fruit, vegetable and herb in a small-space garden.
All of those tips and tricks for growing vegetables in small spaces are packed into my Craftsy online gardening class. In seven video sessions, I share all of my gardening secrets.
To celebrate summer, I’m offering my class at a special discount. Just follow this link to sign up now and you’ll save $20 on Vegetable Gardening: Innovative Small Space Solutions!
The comic book hero helped build spinach’s reputation as a power-house vegetable because of a chemist’s simple mistake.
Instead of recording spinach with 3.5 milligrams of iron per 100-gram serving, he wrote 35 milligrams. With that much iron, it’s no wonder Popeye sprouted instant biceps whenever he squeezed opened a can of spinach.
Even with the decimal in the right spot, spinach is still considered one of the healthiest superfoods around. These good-for-you greens are rich in vitamins A and C, as well as minerals like calcium, magnesium and, of course, iron.
Spinach is an easy-to-grow cool-season vegetable that belongs to the Goosefoot family with beets and chard.
One of the other great things about spinach is that it grows as well in fall as it does in spring. So get ready to plant your spinach in mid-July.
It’s peanut butter and jelly for lunch; cookies and milk for dessert.
When it comes to the garden, there’s tomatoes and basil; radishes and spinach.
These combinations of vegetables and herbs make perfect partners when grown together in the garden, especially if you’re gardening in a small space.
Basil makes the tomatoes tastier and radishes attract destructive leafminers away from the spinach. These botanical buddies are two examples of how plants team together to help each other.
Companion planting is the art and science of arranging combinations of two or more plants to benefit one another. Planting certain crops together saves garden space, controls pests and encourages healthy gardens.
Native Americans practiced companion planting for centuries by growing corn, beans and squash together. These vegetables are called the Three Sisters because they complement each other when planted in the same hill.
Because there’s a lot of confusion these days about seed and plant terms, I thought I’d share my answers to help you with your seed sorting, too.
Common Seed Terms Defined
GE—Genetically Engineered seed describes the method of incorporating genes directly into an organism. These seeds are not found in nature, but they are genetically engineered in the laboratory. Some examples of genetically engineered crops include corn modified to protect itself from corn borer damage and herbicide-resistant soybeans, canola and other crops. It’s unlikely that home gardeners will see any packets of GE seeds in garden centers or catalogs.
It’s time to celebrate all that pollinators do for gardeners by doing all we can for pollinators.
Insect pollinators, like honey bees and butterflies, do much of the important work in our gardens. They fertilize plants by feeding on or walking through flowers, moving pollen from one part of the plant to another.
It’s estimated that 80 percent of plant fertilization depends on pollinators. Without their help we wouldn’t have much in the way of the fine fruits and vegetables we grow in our gardens.
Pollinators need our help to stay healthy and active. Are the bees buzzing, butterflies floating, and hummingbirds darting from flower to flower in your garden? Whether on a tiny balcony, small patio or large backyard garden, you need to encourage activity by planting flowers that provide nectar and pollen all season, from early spring to first frost.
Cucumber seedlings are especially attractive to garden pests, but I think I’ve found a simple, organic gardening method to outsmart the hungry critters, like cutworms and birds.
Last season, the trouble cropped up right after planting the seeds.
I’d soak the seeds overnight to soften them a bit for planting, then I’d prepare the garden bed, plant the seeds, and celebrate seeing the first seedlings pop up from the ground.
The next day their heads would be missing, leaving a tiny stalk standing.
My first thought was that cutworms were feasting on the cucumber seedlings, so I tried protecting them with collars, toothpicks, and other homemade guards.
But when these defenses failed, I knew I had other pests, probably birds and squirrels were snacking on the seedlings.
The rainy weather is sure to bring out these slimy critters. Slugs may look like harmless pinkish-blobs of goo, but they can cause a lot damage in the garden.
These disgusting pests usually appear in my garden after prolonged periods of rainy weather.
It can sometimes be difficult to find slugs because they do their damage overnight and hide out during the daylight hours. You can use a flashlight to go slug hunting at night or look for slugs along plant stems and under leaves in the early morning hours.
You can also search for their clusters of clear, round eggs by looking under rocks.
Slugs will feast on anything from vegetable and flower seedlings to ripe fruit. I’ve even found their telltale chewing damage on ornamental plants. Look for missing leaves or irregularly-shaped holes on the edges or in the middle of leaves.
Landscape designer, horticulturist and author Maureen Gilmer’s book, The Small Budget Gardener: All the Dirt on Saving Money in Your Garden hit the bookstores a few years ago, but her frugal gardening advice will never go out of style.
In fact, you can snatch up a copy of her book at a bargain, too. I found new and used copies of this great little guide on Amazon for under $1 (plus shipping).
The Small Budget Gardener will appeal to any gardener who wants to save money on gardening. And that describes just about every gardener I’ve ever met. Who isn’t looking for ways to find inexpensive or free alternatives for soil amendments, tools, seeds, plants and garden structures?
The author writes from her own money-saving experiences and recommends all gardeners pretend they live 30 miles from town, as she once did. That means every trip to the store to buy gardening gear is carefully considered before hopping in the car.