Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Beneficial Flowers

Do you plant flowers in your vegetable garden?
Here are four flowers I plant with my veggies and their benefits.


Nasturtiums are planted in several of my garden beds. Not only are they beneficial, pretty, and easy to grow, they are also edible. They are really good at attracting good bugs. Nasturtiums also repel potato bugs, squash bugs, striped pumpkin beetles, Mexican bean beetles, and aphids. I grow them in my greenhouse because they are suppose to destroy whiteflies. For those of you who have orchards they will help control the woolly aphid, if left to wander.
Nasturtiums with my tomatillos and pumpkins.

This one is planted in a pot with a tomato plant in my greenhouse.


Sunflower come in a wide range of colors and sizes. I have planted many different ones in the past. I like to try new verities each year. One year I planted the mammoth sunflower, it was over 6 feet tall and the flower head was HUGE. Unfortunately they get so heavy they fall over even staked up. Now why do I plant sunflowers? Well one my honey bees love them, so do other pollinators and good bugs like lady bugs. Ants also like to herd aphids onto them, keeping aphids off neighboring plants. Sunflowers also giving shade to plants, like cucumbers, that need it during the hottest part of the day. Before modern Europeans arrived in the US, sunflowers were grown as a companion for corn, it supposedly increases corn production. I planted a row of sunflowers between my corn rows to try this theory out. 
Sunflowers with my corn.
Helping shade my cucumbers.

Marigolds and Zinnias

Marigolds are said to produce a pesticidal chemical from its roots. Because of this they repel bean beetles, aphids, potato bugs, squash bugs, nematodes, and maggots. They can also stimulate vegetable growth.

Zinnias are good for the vegetable garden because they attract pollinators and hummingbird, which eat whiteflies.

I planted marigolds and zinnias around the edge of my potato bed.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Hillbilly Garden Hack

Every year I garden I have a huge horrible problem with cabbage worms (they're really caterpillars). It seemed like a never ending battle. It starts with trying to catch the white cabbage moth butterfly ( yes it is a butterfly). Then checking every cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprout and kale plant leaf for teeny tiny white eggs or cabbage worms. Those cabbage worms are REALLY good at hide and seek. It would take hours every other day to do this. 

This year I wanted to be proactive and keep the cabbage butterflies away from my plants. I came up with window screen. It keeps flies and bugs out of your house, why not away from my plants. 

Now I didn't want to spend hundreds of dollar on this project. I also wanted it to be easy enough for me to do by myself. I went to Walmart and Home Depot looking at screen rolls and pvc pipe. Everything was either to expensive or not quiet what I wanted. I thought what I need is just some old window screens. The light bulb went on. We have a reuse it store just down the road from where we live. So tape measure in hand, off I went. For $15.00 I was able to build my hillbilly screened in garden bed. 

I used oak stripes we had laying around to hold the screens in place. If one screen was a little taller, I just wiggle it down a little farther in the soil. I should mention that I went over every square inch of each leaf to make sure there was no eggs or bad bugs. So far so good.

How do you deal with those leaf devouring worms caterpillars?

Linked to:
Farmgirl Friday Blog Hop #229
From The Farm
Simple Saturdays Blog Hop July 2nd

Sunday, June 19, 2016

My New Favorite Jam

Strawberry Honey Jam

I got my first large harvest of honey from my bees last fall. So I wanted to try using honey instead of sugar in a batch of strawberry jam. I wasn't quite sure if we would like the honey jam, so I also did one batch with sugar.

I used Ball Lower Sugar Jam jar of pectin. With this pectin you can use less sugar, honey, or other sweeteners. The jar makes up to 22 half pints, but it says do not exceed 10 jars per batch. 

For my jam I used:
6 cups cut up strawberries
1 1/2 cups water
6 Tblsp + 2 1/4 teasp pectin
1 1/2 cups honey

1. On the pectin's instruction it say to crush one layer of strawberries at a time using a potato masher. I like to cut the strawberries into fourths and mash them a little altogether.  This makes for a chunkier jam.

2. Combine strawberries with water in a large saucepan. Gradually stir in pectin. Bring mixture to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down, over high heat, stirring constantly.

3. Add honey. Return mixture to a full rolling boil. Boil hard 1 min. stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam.

4. Ladle hot jam into hot sterilized jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rims, top with warmed lids, and apply bands, fingertip tighten.

5. Place filled jars in canner ensuring jars are covered by 1 to 2 inches of water. Place lid on canner. Bring water to gentle, steady boil. (200 degree F) 

6. Process jars for 10 minutes. (adjust for altitude, mine is below 1,000 feet) Turn off heat, remove lid and let jars stand for 5 minutes.

7. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours.

After thoughts:

I like Ball Lower Sugar Jam better than Mrs. Wages Lite Fruit Pectin. Mainly because the Ball is a flexible batch pectin.

The consensus with the family is the honey jam is better than sugar jam. The honey jam is a little sweeter and has a slight honey taste. I also used a 1/2 cup less of honey than sugar.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Garden Update

The last couple of weeks for us have been cool and wet. I haven't been spending much time out in my garden. Every couple of days I would go out to make sure the outside tomatoes were covered and check the greenhouse plants. So today with the sun shining and blue sky showing, I spent a little time checking on my garden. I was pleasantly surprised to see most of the garden was doing very good.
This is my brassicas bed. The plants have tripled in size. They sure liked the cool wet weather, even though I didn't.

My corn and bean are growing great also. Along with the sunflowers in the middle of the corn.

I'm very happy with my tomatillos. They are huge and full of flowers and fruit. I'm looking forward to homemade salsa verda.

My cucumbers, sunflowers, cabbage, bean and potatoes (in the background) are doing good as well.

My peas and onions happily growing.

My spinach, red lettuce, and green lettuce in my deck boxes. I found the easiest way to water them is with an old milk jug.

Now what isn't growing good.

The zucchini and pumpkins aren't growing as good as the others. Hopefully with more sun in the forecast they with do better.

Who else is happy to see sunshine, besides me?

The Honey Bees!

What I have learned so far this season.

Alcosa a savoy Cabbage.
I had never grown this type of cabbage before. I bought these two plants at my local farm and garden store. They were on the half price rack. This cabbage grew very well, but because of its wrinkly leaves, it is impossible to keep the aphids off of it. These two heads are kind of small but I have decided to harvest them anyway.  I don't think I will grow them again next year.
Here are the two heads in my basket, along with seedless wild blackberries and basil.

The chickens will get the rest of the cabbage roots, aphids and all.

The next thing I learned.
This deck box gets too hot. The arugula barely grew and it is already bolting. See the flowers and what you can't see is the pak choi. They are struggling to grow. The kale is doing okay. Next year I will grow heat loving herbs there. I may pull them out and do that now.

After playing in the yard it was time for lunch.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Strawberry Picking We Go

The strawberries I currently grow are everbearing. So we have strawberries to eat for several months but not enough at one time to make jam. I am slowly working on planting more June bearing strawberry beds. For now it is strawberry picking we go.
So my daughter and I went to our local u-pick strawberry farm. They only charge $1.75 a pound. We were only there maybe 10 minutes and picked 11 pounds of strawberries.

 See the strawberries in the background. You can't see my daughters eyes but she is rolling them at me. After we got home I spent hours washing, cutting up and processes strawberries.

 I made 14 jars of jam, 7 low sugar and 7 with honey. ( I will post about that another day.)

 Another 8 cups of strawberries to freeze.
And last 3 trays of strawberries dehydrating. We will have strawberries to last us until next season. Although we are still snacking on the ones growing in our yard.

Linked to:
Clever chicks blog hop
The Art of Home-Making Mondays
Simple Saturdays Blog Hop

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Another Garden Helper

This toad is another one of my garden helpers.

We all know it eats flies, mosquitoes, and other insects that eat my plants or me. But did you know these big ones eat slugs and snails too! 
This toad was under a empty garbage can I no longer needed near my garden area. When I picked up the can to put it back where it belonged, there sat the toad. I could tell that it had made its home under the garbage can. Since I know how helpful this toad is, I carefully put the garbage can back how it was. (Of course after I took a picture first.) So in some of my garden pictures you may see an out of place garbage can near my potted potatoes, well that is Mr. Toads home.

Linked to:
Farmgirl Friday Blog Hop #227
Simple Saturdays Blog Hop June 11th

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Cannig Chicken Breasts

My husband found a really good deal at the store for seasoned boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Not only were they buy one get one free, they were also 50% off. So he bought A LOT. This made me happy because we had run out of canned chicken.

Preparation steps

First thing I did was put the chicken in the freezer. This makes it easier to cut up. Next I got 3doz. wide mouth pint jars out and put them in the dish washer to sterilize. Last was the task of checking my pressure canner out. I have not used it this season so I did a practice run of bring it up to pressure. I do this to make sure of course it comes up to pressure, but also to make sure there isn't any big leaks around the seals. Canner checked out, now to the daunting task of cutting up all that chicken.


1. Remove any excess fat from the chicken breasts, then cut into chunks. (If you get done cutting up the chicken before your jars are ready put chicken in refrigerator.)

2. Warm lids per manufactures instructions.

3. To each warmed up pint jar add 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp chicken bouillon granules (this is  optional but it does make it tasty). If using quart jars add 1 tsp of each.

4. Loosely fill jars with chicken chunks, leaving 1 1/4 inch headspace for expansion during processing. Do not add any water or broth . The meat will form its own liquid as it cooks in the canner.

5. Put warm water in the canner per manufactures instructions. For raw packed foods, the water should only be about 140 degrees F.

6. Process times pints 75 minutes and quarts 90 minutes at 10 lbs. of pressure.
*Important Note- Depending on your altitude,you may need to process this at a higher pressure.
I end up with 25 pints of chicken. With tattler lids I can't write on the lids, so I use a dry ease maker to write on the jar.

Linked to:
Making a Home
Tuesdays with a Twist #165
Home and Garden Thursday
Farmgirl Friday Blog Hop
Country Fair Blog Party: July 16