2013 Gardening Goals

I have been compiling a list of goals for my garden this year for the past few months.  When I came up with my list, I considered what I want as my end result, and what I feel I can actually accomplish if I really work hard.  When I first started to garden it was just on a whim.  I had two tomato plants, a zucchini plant, and an eggplant plant.  I probably didn’t give these veggies the love and attention they needed to be their best, but it gave me some pride when eating something I grew out of my garden.  The next year I added more veggies to the mix and I discovered Baker’s Acres Greenhouse.  Baker’s Acres opened my eyes to varieties of vegetables I had never seen or heard of before.  Last year I studied their catalog and ended up with 11 different verities of tomatoes, added 32 square feet of fertile soil by building a square foot garden, and started this blog.  I already can tell from the expectations that I have set for myself in this list, that this gardening season is going to be awesome.

Garden Planner

My cute garden planner courtesy of http://www.giverslog.com/

1. Keep a gardening planner- I have created a gardening planner and have included my 2013 goals, a list of seeds I will plant, a section for transplants I will buy at local greenhouses, and a calender.  My calender will be used to record what I plant and harvest each day, and to hold me accountable for when seeds need to get sown in the ground based on the last frost date.  To take this even further, I have done a little research about gardening by the moon and plan to plant seeds, transplant, harvest, and weed based on my findings.  To learn more about gardening by the moon, check out these web pages: Farmers’ Almanac Gardening Calendar, The Gardeners Calendar, and Organic Garden Info.

2. More documentation- This includes taking a picture of my square foot garden EVERY day, taking one picture of every plant and vegetable variety grown, making these cute plant markers to identify veggies in my garden, write blog posts at least twice a week, post what vegetables are in season every month, and share more recipes on how to use them.

3. Succession pant and pant care- This gardening season I want to make sure I do what is best for my plants to give me the best harvest.  Succession planting means to follow one plant with another.  This includes crop rotation and sowing seeds every few weeks so that you will always have fresh veggies like carrots, beets and radishes.  I will do my best to weed and pinch suckers from my tomato plants.  When you see a tomato plant sprawling it seems like the plant is doing great, but in reality, by pinching off suckers, it enables the plant to give more nutrients to the already growing fruits.

4. Share- I love growing what you can’t find at the grocery store, but sometimes it gets to be too much.  I did learn last year how to can salsa and blanch tomatoes to freeze for tomato sauce, but I still had vegetables that would go to waste.  There is only so much I can eat.  Now that I work with a nice group of coworkers, I will be able to share my bounty with them and introduce them to varieties of vegetables they have never seen before.

5. Compost- I already wrote a post about building a compost bin for my friend Caryn’s garden, but I am ready to make one for myself.  I have purchased a trash can and have bricks to set it on, and I have started to collect green material.  Now I just need to drill the holes and it will be set.  I’m glad the weather should be nice this weekend so I can get my compost started for next year’s garden!

What are your gardening goals for the 2013 gardening season?

Growing Plants Year Round: The Office Plant

The view out my office window

The view out my office window

My office plant makes me look forward to the spring every day I look out my office window at the snow.  I recently got a new job and needed something to freshen and brighten up my cube, so of course I went out and got myself a plant.  I did a little research and found out that office plants not only decrease stress and increase productivity, but some even absorb toxins in the air.  Space, light, and water are always important when considering what to grow, so make sure you take these into consideration when picking out a perfect plant for yourself. Take a look at this list of common office plants and maybe one will be perfect for you!

 

Peace Lily: easy care, cleans toxins from the air, requires a modest amount of sunlight, drooping will let you know when to water

My Peace Lily brightens my day

My Peace Lily brightens my day

African Violet: continually flowers, requires good light but direct sunlight is not necessary, soil must be kept moist at all times but don’t let water get on leaves, works well in a small space

English Ivy: cleans air of mold and allergens, will climb as high as you allow it, keep soil evenly moist, thrives under fluorescent light

Pothos: easy to grow, reduces indoor ozone, water only when soil is slightly dry, low to bright light but looks best in moderate or bright light, trim a few times a year

Jade Plant: requires bright light, drench soil once it dries, prune as needed in order to keep in a nice compact shape

This is just a small portion of plants that live well in the confined living conditions of a desk. Do some digging online and check out what plants your local nursery caries.  These plants were picked out for even the brownest thumb, so which plant will you pick to make your work day a little more enjoyable?

Sunshine in a Jar: Tanagelo Marmalade

 

Yumm!

Sunshine in a jar

Did you know that the winter is actually the season for tangelos? On Friday I got a present from H  &S Citrus! I got a whole crate of Minneola Tangelos (a hybrid cross between a tangerine and a grapefruit) and a crate of Ruby Red Grapefruit.  If you have never had a tangelo before, it is a must!  They are sooooo sweet and juicy, but the membrane around the segments can be a little tough to chew.  The amazing fragrance and sweetness outweighs any con someone might have about these cute bell shaped citrus.  Having all this fruit reminded me of the time my poppy would take me to a fruit stand on the side of the road in Florida for fresh squeezed OJ.

Ruby Red Grapefruit

Ruby Red Grapefruit

Honeybell Tangelos

Honeybell Tangelos only found in January

Yesterday was a rainy afternoon and I didn’t know what I would do with all the tangelos, so I did a little googling and came across marmalade.  Good thing I had all afternoon, because you will need a lot of time to make this recipe.  I can’t thank my sister Tess enough with the zesting and other tasks she helped me with.  If you have never made marmalade before or canned before, please read the whole recipe and do some of your own research about canning. You will need a canning pot that is sold where you buy mason jars.

 

Tangelo Marmade

Recipe adapted from Eugenia Bone and Apt. 2B Baking Co.

Makes 6 half-pints

  • 12 to 14 tangelos (for 6 cups of pulp)
  • about 1 1/2 cups of tangelo peel cut in matchsticks/ zested
  • 2 cups water
  • 4 cups sugar
  • Cheesecloth

1. Either remove the peel from the tangelos with a vegetable peeler or zest the peel with a micro plane.  I ended up peeling 3 tangelos, and zested the rest.  If you peeled the fruit, scrape as much white pith away from the peel with a knife or spoon.  Cut the peel into matchsticks as thin as you can because they will be what is suspended in your marmalade.  In a medium sauce pan, boil the peel/and or zest in the 2 cups of water for 10 to 30 minutes, or until the peel is soft.

Zest/Peel

2. While the peel is boiling, cut the remaining pith off of the tangelos and throw this away.  Supreme the tangelos by cutting the segments of fruit away from the membrane into a bowl along with any juice.  Separate out the membrane and the seeds and place them in a cheesecloth bundle.  The bundle will add natural pectin to the marmalade while it cooking the marmalade.

Tangelos ready to be supremedPulp ready to be made into marmalade

3.  When the peel is done, add the pulp, juice, cheesecloth bundle and sugar to the pot and boil the hell out of it (about 40 minutes) until it reaches 220 degrees.  I used a candy thermometer to watch the temperature. When it is done, give the cheesecloth a squeeze and discard.

Pectin bundle ready to goBubbling away

4.  While the marmalade is cooking, start boiling your jars to sterilize them.  Once the marmalade and jars are ready, ladle the marmalade into the jars leaving a half inch head room and screw the rings on tight.  Boil the marmalade jars with at least 2 inches of water above them for 10 minutes.  Once you remove the jars from the water, listen for the lids to pop to ensure they have been properly canned.

What a sticky mess I made

5. Enjoy your tangelo marmalade for breakfast, on a cheese platter, or as a marinade for fish or chicken.  It is very very very sweet and makes you feel like the sun is shining, even if it was a nasty rainy afternoon like yesterday.

So proud of myself

So proud of the finished product

Exactly what marmalade should look like!

Note: I was using a recipe that I doubled and ended up using only 1 cup of water.  I would totally recommend using 2 cups.  I think that is why I only got 5 1/4 half-pints.  This was my first time making marmalade and I think I did a pretty good job.  It probably could have been a little thicker, but I didn’t want to include any membrane in the actual marmalade because I don’t care for too much for stuff floating around in my preserves.