There are several keys or critical tips to growing a good garden. The key for beginning gardeners is to find the critical tips from ‘master’ gardeners. There are plenty of novices like us out there with advice that may of may not be good.
We watch many of the successful YouTube gardeners, take notes and attempt to implement as much as possible. A few of these tips are; Planning, Timing, Logging Progress (and failure), Soil Maintenance, Spacing, Vertical Gardening, Succession Planting, and Compatibility Planting.
While watching a popular Homestead channel we discovered a gardening tool to help plan the timing of our next garden. It’s called “Clyde’s Garden Planner” which is pictured above. We were able to order the planner for $6 online and it was delivered within a few days of placing the order.
As stated in our previous post, we fell victim to the most common new gardener fail: planting too soon…and too late… We put out our tomato plants before the last frost of the season. If we follow the average last frost in the chart above, we run the risk of a repeat performance.
The Spring chart illustrated in our third photo of this post in Clyde’s planner shows an average for several cities in the USA and Canada. Averages are nice, but all of the seasoned gardeners we’ve talked to in Wisconsin tells us not to choose Memorial Day as the definitive last frost date of the year..
However, there were also crops that we planted too late. Like cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, lettuce, spinach and radishes.
So…Memorial Day is the day I set as the last frost for this season and let Clyde help us plan accordingly.
The first photo of this posts is set for a final frost date of May 31. Note that there is a relatively small variety of plants on the planner. However, it covers all of the crops we plan to plant except Pole Beans and Sunflower.
Note too that there are abbreviations. Here’s how to read the planner:
si – Indoor Seeding Dates
LP – last outdoor planting dates
Red Line – Last Spring frost date, First Fall frost date
green check mark – harvest dates
In addition to these planning tools; there are companion plants for each crop listed in blue, spacing recommendation, and sun light needs for each crop.
Clyde’s Garden Planner takes care of timing, succession planting, sunlight needs, spacing and compatible plants. Soil maintenance and vertical gardening will need to be found from other sources.
We think this a great tool to put in our mental gardening tool box!
What’s next? Onions…from seed starting cells to Red Solo Cups!
Planning has begun for year two of Operation Green Thumb. The operation has never really stopped; we have been growing micro greens and herbs inside all winter. It is now time to map out what the outdoor garden for 2022 will be and when tasks should be preformed.
The 2021 outdoor garden was in three raised garden beds near the backside of our garage and in several containers on the deck. Two beds were on the patio directly south of our garage and one along the fence line next to our neighbor Carol. We will need to move at least two beds to make room for a new deck going in this spring into summer.
The raised garden beds plus a plethora and wide variety of containers will be utilized as well.
We do not know for sure where the raised garden beds will be located this season, but we do know they will be located further south in the backyard or anywhere in the front yard for more hours of direct sunlight.
Last year’s companion planting can be improved upon and we need more flowering plants to attract pollinators. Plus, like most rookie gardeners we started some crops too early and some crops could’ve been started earlier in the season.
However…thanks to a handy tool called “Clyde’s Garden Planner” we have mapped out when each crop we are hoping to plant will be started from seed (if needed) inside, transferred to the outdoor garden, started from seed outside and when we can hope to harvest.
Here is the time frame that Clyde is recommending based upon an estimated last frost of May 26th and a first frost estimated at October 11th. Harvests will be on a different post.
February 6 – Started walla walla onions from seed indoors.
February 16 – Thinned walla walla onions to two per cell.
February 17 – Started red wethersfield onions from seed indoors.
February 24 – Chitted russet potatoes and stored in basement.
February 26 – Thinned the walla walla onions to 1 seedling per cell.
March 22 – Start cabbage and cauliflower from seed indoors.
April 12 – Transfer onion plants to Bed 3 outdoors.
April 19 – Start lettuce from seed outdoors. Start peas from seed outdoors. Start spinach from seed outdoors.
April 26 – Transfer cabbage and cauliflower outdoors. Start radishes and turnips from seed outdoors.
May 3 – Start pepper and tomatoes from seed indoors. Start beets and potatoes from seed outdoors.
May 17 – Start carrots and chard from seed outdoors.
May 24 – start watermelon from seed indoors.
May 31 – Start squash, cucumbers, beans and sweet corn from seed outdoors.
June 7 – Start pumpkins from seed indoors.
June 14 – Transfer watermelon outdoors.
June 21 – Transfer peppers and tomatoes outdoors.
July 12 – Succession Planting Begins: Start cucumbers, cabbage, cauliflower and winter squash from seed outside. Transfer pumpkins outside.
July 19 – Start peas and chard from seed outdoors.
July 26 – Start beets and and beans from seed outdoors.
August 9 – Start radishes and turnips from seed outdoors.
After a winter of micro greens and herbs we turn our attention to getting ready for outdoor gardening.
Outdoor gardening in February?! In Wisconsin?! Are we crazy?!
While the soil in the garden beds will not be ready to work for several weeks, there are a few crops that can be started from seed inside.
Which crops? Onion, Kale, Lettuce, and Swiss Chard for a few. We will concentrate on onions. Walla Walla were started from seed last Sunday and peeked out from under the seed starting soil 6 days later. Thank you heating mat.
We have potato seedlings on order and will begin the chitting process next weekend. What is chitting? Wait for it. We will highlight the process in a future post.
After the “Big Game’ is over tonight, we will start a tray of Red Wetherfield Onions. All other cold loving crops will be planted directly in the garden beds when they thaw out. Carrots, Radishes, Beets, Peas, Spinach and Lettuce for us.
Most crops this year will go into the beds on or after Memorial Day weekend. That’s safe haven here in Zone 5A for crops that will fail if planted prior to final frost. Last year we set out the tomatoes and peppers too early. They may have been stunted.
However, we set out cold loving plant’s too late. Our cabbage, cauliflower, spinach and lettuce all suffered through a hotter than normal June. Our spinach and cauliflower bolted making them useless. Only one cabbage plant matured and it was tiny.
Lessons learned…we hope.
What other lessons were learned? We didn’t give plants the correct companions. Spacing was too tight for many crops. We didn’t thin out the carrots, onions and beets correctly.
Year two begins with more knowledge and the same determination to learn the craft of gardening. we will continue to research via the internet and YouTube. Wish us luck!
We are living in interesting, if not alarming times. Supply chains world wide have been disrupted. At any given time one isle or another is lean of inventory and has been since the middle of 2020. How are retailers dealing with the problem?
I’m offering some anecdotal observations from our last two or three trips to Walmart.
During our last few trips to Walmart we noticed that they were doing less spacing out to hide a lack of inventory. Why? They are now hiding the poor optics of low inventory by removing shelves completely.
A photo that we didn’t take was the Seasonal food isle which has seemingly disappeared. From September until January our Walmart seasonal isle was full of seasonal candies. Halloween goodies from September to the end of October, then Christmas goodies from November until early in January. Now? Completely empty. Why? Not sure, but we will keep an eye on it and report back.
So where are the Valentines Day goodies? Good question. In Point of Sale (POS) displays in the isles and end-caps of shelving. Basically hiding a lack of inventory by placing product in small spaces like POS displays and end-caps.
What I do not see is panic buying at our Walmart. You know, crammed full carts or multiple carts by couples or families filled to the brim. Oddly, I’m more likely to see overstuffed and multiple cart buying at ALDI who, at least in our town, does not seem to be experiencing the same empty shelves.
Operation Green Thumb continues despite the middle of a Wisconsin winter. This is an easy, inexpensive and healthy way to supply your own greens. Here’s my YouTube video of one of three ways we’re growing our own greens.
New years eve and football bowl season provides a plethora of party recipes. We found this one touted as a NYE snack. To be honest, it is a little messy for a party if served in the cast iron skillet used to cook it in. But, Beth and I thought this was a great entree to be served with our first harvest of micro-green pea shoots as a side dish.
There was plenty of the buttery juice left over. We saved it for the next day and made a meatless shrimp flavored linguini with the juice. It was fabulous!
1 pound De-veined, Unpeeled Raw Shrimp. We used13-15 count..
2 pounds salted butter, thinly slide
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F
In a 10″ cast iron skillet, line thinly with shaved butter. Cover entire bottom of the skillet and cover the butter generously with cracked pepper.
Place entire 1 pound of shrimp over butter. Sprinkle on minced garlic and smoked paprika.
Top the shrimp with 1 pound of thinly sliced butter and cover butter with a generous amount of cracked pepper.
Bake at 450 degrees F for 10 to 15 minutes. Pull and let rest for 15 minutes. Serve and enjoy!
Pea Shoot Ingredients:
1 pound pea shoots
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon avocado oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon Rice Vinegar
1 teaspoon Dark 18 year old Balsamic Oil
1 teaspoon Sesame Oil
Heat avocado oil in Wok over medium high heat. Add minced garlic and cook for 1 minute.
Add pea shoots and all other ingredients. Cook for 1 minute and pull.
We loved being able to go to the garden in the and pluck tasty and healthy snacks out of the garden during outdoor harvest times last summer and fall. When the first killing frost arrived, that all ended…until January 1st.
Well, we couldn’t go out to the garden which is now a micro tundra, but we did start some indoor micro greens one week prior to Christmas that we began to harvest of New Years Day.
We do not have any photos from planting day. The following photos begin on day 2 when the seeds began to sprout and continue until to day 14 when 1/3 of the micro pea shoots are cut and converted into a tasty side dish for our evening meal.
What is not included in this post: 8 hours soaking the 4 oz each of mixed lettuce blend and pea seeds in water before sowing them. Pouring 2 cups of water in the bottom of the trays prior to adding organic seed starting soil into the trays. Soil filled trays withing 1/4″ of the top. Evenly distributing the soaked and rinse seeds across the top of the soil.
Finally the trays were covered with an empty tray until the seeds become established seedlings 3 to 4 days later. Why? To keep the seed in the dark until they germinate and to give the sprouts a little resistance while they are growing to simulate pushing up through soil.
R Dub is planning to produce a video of the next round from tray preparation to harvest for late January upload.
Wisconsin winters, cold and snowy. We like it, but sometimes we need a little assistance taking the chill off when we get inside the house. A piping hot bowl of soup always hits the spot on a cold Wisconsin winter day.
Temps are predicted to dip below zero the weekend of New Years. Perfect timing.
R Dubs mom Jan sent us home with a ham bone after Thanksgiving. It’s been in the freezer looking for an opportunity to be cooked for a month. Today is the day!
Today’s soup – Split Pea with Ham.
2 tbls Olive Oil
1 medium sized onion – chopped
2 medium leeks, pale green parts only – chopped
2 celery stalks – chopped
4 garlic cloves – chopped
2 Yukon Gold potatoes, unpeeled – cut into small pieces
1 cup ham – chopped
1 ham bone
6 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
2 cups split peas
2 tbls Worcestershire sauce
Sour cream and croutons for serving (optional)
Heat oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add onions, leeks, celery, garlic season with salt and pepper. Cook for 10-12 minutes stirring occasionally until veggies are soft.
Add ham and potatoes. Cook until potatoes are just softened, 8-10 minutes. Stir occasionally.
Add ham bone, thyme sprigs, bay leaves and split peas. Add water to cover. Bring to boil, then reduce to simmer for 90 to 120 minutes until peas are very soft and falling apart.
Remove the ham bone, thyme sprigs and bay leaves. Add Worcestershire sauce and season with salt and pepper as needed. (Ours didn’t need added seasoning!)
I’m looking over our first significant (plow-able) snow of the season while typing this post. Writing, sipping on a cup of coffee and admiring our white backyard is a great way to recover after finding the driveway with the help of young Chris across the street. Snow removal on the deck will be tackled later.
Our calendar was, as always, full during the weeks and days leading up to and including Christmas. Beth and R Dub put up Christmas lights on the house a couple of weekends prior to December, however, for the sake of the neighbors and the electric bill they were not lit until December 2nd. The solar timer set to light them up from dusk to dawn.
On December 4, the tree is assembled, lit and decorated while wearing our new matching Christmas PJs! How old are we? None of your business! We’ve been living our second childhood since 2017, and it is wonderful!
December 4 was a double Christmas day. We are fans of live entertainment. Whether it be a national touring band, comedian or theatrical show or a community production, we love it. As most people who know us are aware; we participate in, are patrons of, and regular consumers of live productions at the Beaver Dam Area Community Theatre’s Fine Arts Center.
We also, however, have become fond of a very small venue in Slinger, Wisconsin called The Kettle Moraine Playhouse. If you are not familiar with the venue, it is quite intimate between the performers and the audiences. 64 seats strong on two floors. Quite small. We typically buy tickets in the balcony, front row, right wing.
We bought tickets for the December 4, 2021 matinee performance of “Another Night Before Christmas” a musical with only two performers written by Sean Grennan and Leah Okimoto. It is a classic tale of one person who no longer believes and is turned around by stranger with a few timely miracles. Fun and inspiring. We loved it.
On day 7 of our twelve days of Christmas series we highlighted R Dub’s role as George Bailey in the radio production of “It’s A Wonderful Life.” What was not chronicled was a side project from the same story. R Dub and co-actor in the show Amy Hopp who played the part of adult Mary (Hatch) Bailey joined forces on December 9th to record a video dramatic reading of “It’s A Wonderful Life” for the Juneau Public Library in Juneau, Wisconsin. The video is used for the children’s department.
December 10 marked the date that Ron’s daughter Riane and her guy Michael arrival in Wisconsin for an early Christmas with Michael’s family in Racine, then to our ranch in Beaver Dam and back to California’s Bay Area where they live via a flight out of Madison, WI.
Beth and I met up with the kids and Michael’s family for Mexican food in Racine on the evening of Saturday, December 11th, then we headed to Milwaukee late evening for a stay at the historic Kimpton Journeyman Hotel in Milwaukee’s Third Ward. Why? For a Sunday December 12 performance of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” at the Pabst Theater. We also took advantage of the hotel’s proximity to the venue to do some Christmas shopping at the equally historic Milwaukee Public Market in the Third Ward and lunch at Beth’s favorite place Conejito’s Place on 5th and Virginia.
The Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s production of “A Christmas Carol” at the historic Pabst Theater. A great venue for a classic tale. R Dub wanted badly to take photos of the awesome revolving set, but thought better of it. If you’ve never seen it and live close to Milwaukee, this is a must see. Our seats were perfect. Row 4, center section main floor. It felt like we could reach out and touch the performers when they were down stage, plus several members of the cast entered the stage from the auditorium. Frequently running by us on the way to their entrances. We are so glad we went!
December 14, Riane and Michael travel to Beaver Dam to spend a day with R Dub. We exchanged gifts, ate at Benvenudo’s Italian Grill, took a stroll through BD’s Christmas light displays at Swan Park and finished the traditional Christmas jigsaw puzzle before turning in.
Due to a freak wind storm the evening of December 15, the kids flights were cancelled and rescheduled for December 16. The bonus, Beth got home that evening so the kids were able to see both Beth and the final dress rehearsal of “It’s A Wonderful Life” before heading to the Madison airport dark and early on Thursday December 16th.
December 17, 18 and 19. Live performances of an old time radio production of “It’s A Wonderful Life.”
December 21 is gift exchange and dinner at Benvenudo’s Italian Grill with my eldest Alyssa and her guy Trevor. The gift of clothing is received, some thermal boot socks and a nice pullover sweatshirt. Always needed and welcome headed into a cold and snowy Wisconsin winter.
December 22. Madison comes to BD for an extended visit! Beth comes home this day for our long Christmas holiday time off. R Dub and Beth together 4 consecutive days and no work for the second time in as many weeks. Pretty rare.
Madison spends the evening with us to catch up. Thursday December 23 is a full day with Madison and an overnight stay. Breakfast at Edith’s Cafe and Catering for the final time before they close the doors for good after Christmas. Dinner at Benvenudo’s Italian Grill followed by a stroll through the Swan Park Christmas light displays. There is some familiarity and a theme here isn’t there?
The morning of December 24, Christmas Eve finds us in the kitchen making breakfast for Madison and us, plus a nice turkey, potato dumplings, glazed carrots and turkey gravy meal to enjoy and give as gifts this evening.
Christmas Eve candle light service was at a church that Beth’s brother John goes to. It is a nondenominational church called Riverglen Christian Church in Waukesha, Wisconsin. They have a campus in Pewaukee too. The praise band is the featured part of service with the lead pastor Ben Davis giving a sermon that featured the word Joy and why we as Christians rejoice the coming of the light of the world with the birth or Jesus.
While the sermon was brilliant and uplifting, the whole praise band ‘show’ type atmosphere is one that R Dub has had trouble warming up to. A sign of my advancing age, perhaps? But I like the structure of a traditional service and a choir in the loft.
I think my main issue with the praise band is this; while they put the lyrics up on the megatron video displays (and usually turn the pages a little too slow) there is no score. You know, the musical notes. Praise bands are similar to lounge singers, they change the songs slightly and it is difficult to sing along plus you can’t hear the congregation sing due to the high volume of the band amplifiers. It takes away from true congregational involvement in the service. Most people stand and listen as opposed to what I prefer. An open hymnal and most of the flock singing along. Ok, I am getting too old…but that’s OK.
After service we went with John to a nice Japanese hibachi grill called Asiana in Pewaukee. We each had a different Thai entree. Fog was extremely thick on Christmas Eve night, call for Rudolph! We chose wisely to spend the night with brother John.
The fog lifted by morning, so back to BD we go! Gift exchange with Madison in the morning, listened to the rebroadcast of “It’s A Wonderful Life” on WBEV, an afternoon dinner with Madison’s father and extended family, watched the Packers beat the Browns…and a much needed rest. Woah. That’s a full day.
That’s a full month! Merry belated Christmas from Beth and R Dub everyone!