Last summer, in a conversation with the lovely Lois and Roberta of KosherEye, they mentioned that they pluck all their summer produce right from their backyards. What does it take to enjoy garden-fresh veggies every day? We invited them to share the tales from their garden with CookKosher members - CookKosher
How do two food website owners relax? Grow a food garden of course! We each maintain a summer vegetable and herb garden that we start working on it in March or April, depending on the weather, and continue 'babying' until the early Fall. And over the years, it has also become home to many beautiful flowers as well, along with many butterflies and the blooming plants that attract them.
Between us, we have in-the-ground beds, raised beds, assorted containers, and raised garden tables. You name it and we use it to grow our bounty. And last year our bounty was plenty! We harvested tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, sweet peppers, eggplant, squash, potatoes, and assorted herbs. Plus, beautiful flowers for table arrangements.
So how does our garden grow? We are not gardening professionals, but over the years have learned by trial and error.
Photos: Tomatoes and Cucumbers
The number one rule is:
• Prepare the soil. Don't just dig a hole and plant - that usually does not work over the long haul. For in-the-ground beds, take the time to properly prepare the entire area − in other words, dig it up. It is hard work, but only needs to be done once. Dig as deep as you can. We live in the South and our soil is Georgia clay! We loosen it (and get rid of the large globs of clay), add organic garden soil, plus mulch (we use Nature's Helper which is a soil amendment that helps the dirt to retain moisture), and some mushroom compost. We have no recipe for the amounts; like when our grandmothers made challah and used their hands as cups to measure...when it looks right , feels right, you got it right. Each year, we refresh with additional organic soil and compost.
A great hint for tomato beds: we sprinkle a little Epsom Salt in the dirt and mix it in prior to planting the young tomato plants.
• Our raised beds contain a yearly refresh of an addition of an organic soil, compost mix and a bag of garden lime. Also through the year, we toss in our morning coffee grinds as well.
For our containers, we use premium-potting soil and add small rocks at the bottom of the container so that the water won't run out of the pot.
We stake our tomatoes, squash, cucumbers and use strips of old panty hose and pipe cleaners (from the craft store) as ties. Don't wait until they start to grow to put in the stakes and tomato cages. Do it at planting time. Tomatoes need both a cage and stakes.
Water on a regular basis and do it in the early morning hours. During the hot days of summer, the heat does stress the plants. There are days when we may even give them an extra drink around dinner time; when the sun is starting to go down.
We feed our "babies" organic plant food and when we find that the creatures of nature are feeding on them, we use an organic, non-toxic spray to eliminate pests. (We don’t like to share!)
Photos: Green Pepper and Herbs
Fresh grown veggies are so sweet and delicious that they need no recipes for cooking. For the tomatoes, we just slice, drizzle with EVOO, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. The eggplant and squash are equally easy to prepare - we slice, drizzle with EVOO and place them on the grill for a few minutes. Delicious!
Each morning we walk through our gardens, visiting and "speaking" with our "kids." We notice if they look especially good or are looking peaked; if a new addition is beginning to bloom, who needs extra TLC, or if someone is making dinner out of their leaves. Time to spray!
All-in-all, working in our gardens is our magic stress elixir. We highly recommend it and are busy relaxing, as we nurture this year's bounty.
How does your garden grow?