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Saturday, August 29, 2009


HELLO GARDENING FRIENDS! Back from a short hiatus this week and ready to "dig" in again here at the garden home. I am showing you an update on the banana bloom saga. I finally got the tree tied up and stabilized for the time being. And a good thing as the bloom is over four feet (4') long at this time and not even half way there yet judging by the size of the pod that remains.
As you can see, the fruit is really making a statement now. It has finally dried up here in my area of the Mid-south but really at the wrong time for this to help these trees keep blooming. Each banana tree drinks approximately 5-gallons of water every single day. So this tree is mostly making blooms and NOT fruit due to the dry conditions we are now experiencing. I have some fruiting but mostly blooms only. I am waiting to see what else is in the pod that remains. I have had a bloom pod only one other time in 3-years and at that time I did not secure the tree and the sheer weight and length of the bloom broke the tree off at ground level before the pod finished its production. So I do not know what else is to come but hopefully I have it secure enough at this time to prevent that from happening again.
Also, here is a new photo of some elephant ear plants on the back deck. This specimen is huge and truly the size of an African Elephant's ear. I have never seen such a plant. Of course my very rich compost this is planted in and fed with did not hurt this I am sure and the right location for this helped as well.
I am still getting a very strong harvest of tomatoes now. I have picked twice this week thus far and need to be outside even now for today's gathering. My cucumbers are almost finished as I have mentioned they were damaged by some vehicle traffic that got off the pavement and onto my planting area and the dry weather. The summer crooked neck squash as well are going through a drop off due to the dryer conditions. I did end up watering the lawns and garden yesterday, Friday, afternoon but I feel the cukes and squash will not recover enough to be over producing again. We are many days away from fore casted rain and I am restraining myself from over using my utilities for garden watering at this time. I hope that in the future I can get some plastic 55-gallon barrels to harvest rain water and use this for garden watering. Here is a link for barrel harvesting of rain water that might help those of you interested in your own system. Remember though, barrel harvesting is NOT the same as "rain water harvesting" by any means. Harvesting is more the use of a cistern-type system that might also include filtration, etc., of the water. Here is a link to someone who I think did a pretty good job for a home/self installed system:
When I return to work this next week I will again be working on the garden homestead, the historic A.E. Estes home, in preparation for the upcoming home tour. I am also very excited...... did I say VERY EXCITED.....about starting my internship with the University of Tennessee Master Gardener program beginning this next Thursday, Sept. 03, 2009. And then making my plans over this winter for a revamping of the garden area in the back yard. I will NOT be raking my leaves and pine straw to the street this fall for city pick-up but will be putting it over the garden area to help smother out the existing grasses I want to eliminate from the future gardening area(s). And also adding it into my compost bays in the rear of my property for making new dirt. Again, in doing all this, I hope to have the best garden one can have and basically for free. Not purchasing any soils, compost, etc., other than the needed lime and any other minor chemicals needed for feeding this garden.
I leave you then today my dirt diggers with this, our ongoing gardening affirmation: "GARDENING: ONE YARD AT A TIME!"

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Greetings from the garden home today, Thursday, August 20, 2009. I have to share the abundant harvest I made early this morning. I picked 83-tomatoes, with another dozen or so I discarded into the garden plot due to bird damage, etc. I also picked 27-cucumbers & 4-large squash. So I was busy washing veggies, making deliveries to about 5-neighbors homes as well as taking the balance to a friend in Nashville.
I continue to work on the garden home as my chores heat up in the face of the holiday home tour. I have ordered my "measure" for a new front door to be installed. I am not going to tackle that job as there are so many variables to consider here in this historic house. The thickness of the walls, the fact the porch has sunk a little and the way the front entrance is made make me wary of the job myself. So I feel it will be well worth the money to have it done and done properly. I, of course, will be here and add my influence and my own insulation during the process to save on that issue. So all I have to do now is pick out the hardware (doorknobs, lock set, etc.) and pick up the door and accessories and wait on the installer after the measure is completed next week.
I am also looking at trying to go ahead and paint at least the very front of the house and porch floor before the tour dates. I was originally thinking of some earth tones, being coffee-browns, etc. but have almost decided to go on to a blue-tone now. And with the high gloss deck grey, white trim and the body of the house being yellow already (something I cannot change) I think the blue will be a quick fix and look good with the yellow or go more toward a sage green tone in that color area. And then make a darker statement on the door itself with white trim on the transom and the side lites.
Anyway, I am taking a few days off this week/weekend and will keep in touch with all my gardening friends in the mean time. I have my home garden in fair shape and just working on maintaining what I now have.
So remember your ongoing garden affirmation: "GARDENING: ONE YARD AT A TIME"!
I take a moment and say "HAPPY 30th BIRTHDAY, MELISSA", my daughter, of whom I am very proud to have as an adult friend and growing in maturity and endearment daily.

Monday, August 17, 2009


Hello everyone from the garden home. This weekend brought yet a continued harvesting of tomatoes, cucumbers & summer squash. The casserole I wrote about on Saturday was excellent by the way. It had just enough of a "bite" to it to make the flavors very interesting with the bell peppers & "RO-TEL" (tm) and the addition of the Parmesan cheese made for a slightly crusty top which was very flavorful.
I picked and picked and picked tomatoes yesterday - and gave 4-bags, "WAL-MART" (tm) size about 1/2-full to 3-neighbors and one person at work today. I also gave some to my daughter to take home with her. Needless to say, I am having an abundant harvest on tomatoes. Also on the cucumber vines, even though some rain is needed now for the entire garden. I have intentionally neglected watering here at the garden to stop some of the tomato splitting that has been going on due to the excess rain we have had over the past months. But now we are finally having some dryer days and it appears this next batch of tomatoes coming on will be better. The squash remain the same with 3-4-6 picked about 2-3-times a week. I have mentioned that I planted the squash on the driveway side of my fence (photos lower on this site). And in that fact they have experienced some issues with "traffic" coming and going into the drive I share with a very good neighbor. But the harvest remains about constant on the squash. Attached are photos of the coming of the next tomatoes.

I am also very proud of my lawn this season. As you can see from this photo of my front lawn looking straight down & out it has really filled in this year and I have finally gotten the mixture of fertilizer (15-15-15 & ammonia nitrate/sulfate), compost, lime and hard work and lots of mowing and a lot of prayers to the "turf gods" to be kind to me! It is really nice out there and the back is just as good now. When I first moved here three years ago, there was no turf grass to speak of and what little was here was poor quality and not well. My back yard was grown up and had not been taken care of for over 18-years = no raking, clearing, etc. It was really overgrown and neglected. But now the front and back are real eye catchers. I am thrilled with the outcome and everyone thinks I had the place sodded when it was a lot of hard work and sweat. I have mentioned before I have been mowing my own lawn about every 3-5 days this summer. As I mowed on Thursday here at the garden home and realized I needed it again yesterday, Sunday, I pulled the mower from the garden shed and cranked it up. But the outcome was well worth it as you can see here. I believe this is the best my lawn has been in the 3-years I have been in this
garden home. In fact I know it is!
I send you off today with one thought in mind and that is our ongoing gardening affirmation:

Saturday, August 15, 2009


I have been experimenting with several summer squash casserole recipes in trying to NOT be bored with plain stewed squash & onions. I stopped some projects mid-day today and made one for the oven that I just took out and tasted that really got my attention. I used things from my pantry & garden (fresh picked) on hand today. I will outline the recipe at the end of today's conversation for your records.
Also today I will be working on a few more concrete castings made with smaller leaves this time and made to put on a rod off the ground for the garden home or to pass on to someone. One neighbor today said I should start giving classes on how to make these. I thanked her and said they were mainly for my personal pleasure or gifts for friends and neighbors. She reminded me that "she was a neighbor" so I guess that means she would like one as well. I know several family members who have seen them on this site and have commented they would like one (or several) so it looks like they might be okay after all.
Here is your new squash recipe which I will name "ITALIAN GARDEN CASSEROLE":
Ingredients: 2-large summer squash (cut up), 1-large onion (cut up), 2-tbs. butter/margarine, 1-large green bell pepper, 1-red bell pepper, 1-can "RO-TEL" with lime/cilantro,1-can of English peas, 2-small cans of chicken breast, 1-small can of sliced black olives, 2-cups cooked rice (cook rice using 2-c. water & 2-chicken bouillon cubes & pepper to taste), 1-sleeve of whole wheat crackers - crushed, 2-eggs - beaten, 1/2-c. shredded cheese (you can add more - that is all I had on hand today!), and Parmesan cheese.
Cook (in a large pot) squash, onion, peppers & "RO-TEL" till partially tinder and onion is translucent. Add chicken, olives, cooked rice & mix well. Mix crushed crackers and cheese and add to mixture. Beat eggs with fork in a separate bowl and stir into mixture. Preheat oven to 375-degrees. Butter or "PAM" a large casserole dish or 2-small ones to share with a neighbor. Move mixture to the buttered dish(es) and top with a generous amount of Parmesan cheese and place on foil lined cookie sheet for support. Bake for 50-60 minutes and check. Bake till edges are bubbly and browning. Turn oven off and leave in for about 15-20 more minutes and remove and cool. This is really tasty and a little on the spicy side from the "RO-TEL" & not BORING at all.
So all you garden folk have a good weekend and enjoy this tomato-growing weather. It looks like my plants are getting their second wind and the next bunch coming on are looking better and better every day. I may get some good slicers yet! See you next week.

Friday, August 14, 2009


I should be more modest I know but this is only my 3rd summer in my house here in Jackson. Today after finishing my outdoor chores and cleaning up a bit I had 3-ladies stop by to present this garden home with the 3rd yard award I have gotten in 3-years. I received the "LANA 'S Most Creative Yard Award" and the sign will remain in my yard for 1-month. The presenters took several photos of the yard and asked many questions and were requesting a tour of this garden home when I finish the prep work for the LANA Christmas Home Tour later in the fall. I made some new, good gardening friends I hope and maybe some new blog followers as well. One lady in particular was involved in the TN Master Gardener program and I mentioned I will be interning for that this fall and she told me I would really enjoy that study. I know I will and look forward to the program with great anticipation. Thank you to anyone who voted for my yard and the little different take I have on gardening and making my garden home a true standout in the neighborhood. My first summer here I received the "MOST IMPROVED" award and the second year I received the "HONORARY MENTION" award.
That has been my goal all along of course. Not to receive awards, etc., but just the fact that someone notices besides myself is a nice affirmation on one's hard work and dedication to thanking God and the universe for allowing me the health and dedication to maintain such a project and to SHARE the outcome with those who might pass by. I have repeated in these pages so often that YOU MUST try to make your garden home one that not only shows pride but gives praise and love to the ONE who made us and what better way to do that than make someone smile and make them have a better day. And give up our "OFFERINGS" to HIM in the blooms, colors, fragrances and abundant harvests as we work toward these ends.
I leave you again today with your gardening affirmation: GARDENING IS MORE THAN A HOBBY - IT IS REPETITION, EXPERIMENT & MOST OF ALL LOVE!

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Here we are in mid-August and I would almost say it is October from a look at the temperature for this week. It is supposed to be around 87-degrees today. Not like the worst of the summer. It seems like even the garden is going through a slow down on production due to the milder weather for this time of year. So as the garden is on slow down this week, except for the grass, I am concentrating on the inside of the house a lot this week. I am preparing the garden home for the 2009 Christmas Home Tour for my historic district. Week before last I was at the library and did the needed historical research on my home. My deed says my home was built c.1910. But I found it was actually built and deeded around Jan. 29, 1922. It appears the land was purchased on April 04, 1920 by Mr. & Mrs. A.E. Estes (A.E. & Annie Estes). The Estes evidently owned several lots here on Division and were quite the property owners here in JACKSON, owning many parcels of land in town. They sold one of the lots next door to me (I do not know which side though) in 01/29/1922 for the sum of $1.00 for the lot. But the overall investigation was very interesting and fun and I even found out what each owner did for a living, children, etc.
Now that I know I am the owner of the historic "A.E. Estes Home" I can proceed with working on my home and setting the mood for an excellent tour that I will be proud of and hopefully inspire others to get in the Christmas mood by the end of the tour dates, Dec. 4-6, 2009, Friday night through Sunday afternoon. I look forward to having anyone who is not able to attend the official tour showing dates to come in for a private tour when I have the decorations up and the beds dressed for the holidays, etc.I am attaching an update on the blooming bananas. You can see the baby bananas at the base of the blooms. I keep forgetting to stake up the tree or I will go out one day and it will be broken off like the last one I had bloom. This bloom stalk will grow about 2-3 ft long and will pull the tree over. It is already leaning a bit now so I must do that when I work my yard later today after the dew dries. That is one tip I would like to pass on to you for today...remember to NEVER mow wet grass and that is for multiple reasons. Here is a copied notice from the U. of Ohio: "Avoid mowing when turf grass is wet. Mowing wet grass causes clippings to come out of the mower in clumps. Clumps of grass left on the lawn are unsightly and can damage the grass under them. However, do not allow turf to become so high that mowing removes more than 1/3 of the leaf blade. It is better to mow when the lawn is wet than to let the grass grow too tall. If the grass does grow taller, raise the blade so that no more than 1/3 of the leaf blade is removed". Another reason for not mowing is that the wet grass build up on your mower can often affect the precision mowing of your machine and cause it to stall with the wet grass clumping under the mower or bogging down in the opening of your grass catcher. I personally ALWAYS "catch" my grass as well as leaves, etc. And of course as long as it does not have seeds in it should be added to your compost pile for the "green" additions that will help the pile. Also, I have a neighbor who has a washing hillside and I have arranged to put my clippings as well as theirs on the hillside to not only stop the washing away of the hill but it also adds the grass seeds that will germinate and stop the washing. It also stops the growing of unwanted vines and the ugly stuff that comes up naturally from bird dropping, etc. This grassy addition to their hillside also packs down and looks like a mulch when the green turns brown and it is better than muddy soil and looks like your put down your own mulch.
So all you Southern gardeners enjoy this mild weather and get to thinking about your fall garden maintenance as I think about my fall UT internship for the TN. Master Gardener program.

Monday, August 10, 2009


I removed my leaf casting today from the sand form. I AM SO THRILLED with the outcome. The deep veins in the casting are going to be great. I made this very, very large with one 80-lb bag of the concrete mix with the plans to use it as a on-the-ground birdbath. I will definitely make more but smaller ones. I will make some on stands and some as wall hangings now. I find this a rewarding endeavor and will now recommend it to anyone. Not only was it a lot of fun but it has now become a rewarding experience to share with you and now YOU will be getting one as a gift along the way somewhere. So you "FOLLOWERS" better tell me what you want as you will be getting one for sure! HERE ARE THE RESULTS:

Saturday, August 8, 2009


I tried my hand today at leaf castings I have been seeing on different DIY shows on TV. I have a brief pictorial with this posting but forgot to take a shot of the sand pile with the bare leaf on the sand. So here are the steps as I did them. I chose a large elephant ear leaf that had good veins and ribs.
1. Cover work area with plastic and make some sort of holding pan for sand (I used an old water heater drain pan.
2. Mound up sand to form the basic shape of your chosen leaf and to the depth you want your bird bath, feeder, wall hanging - whatever you are making. I chose a "sit on the ground" birdbath.
3. Spray clear water on the pile of sand to moisten and cover with thin layer of plastic - I used a garden trash bag. This keeps sand from getting into the concrete mixture.
4. Lay your chosen leaf on top of the plastic over the sand pile. Choose a leaf with lots of deep veining as you will want to see these in the castings.
5. Mix your concrete in some sort of container near your work area - I used a large storage tote, water hose, hoe and flat shovel for the mixing. I used some "QuikRete"(tm) that was donated to the garden home by Darlene Millson.
6. Put on rubber dish washing type gloves. Then by hand fulls, start scooping up the slurry mixture and adding to the back of the leaf, patting gently toward the outer edges. Then when the entire leaf is covered, I pulled the bottom plastic up and used it to round up the edges of my mixture to give a finished edge. At this time I also added a large pedestal base that my birdbath will rest on. If you want to hang it as garden art, at this time you would add a cut-up metal coat hanger made into a hook and inserted or add a piece of pipe nipple if you want to use it on a rod raised up in the garden.
7. Now you spray the entire surface with misting, clear water and pat it smooth. Continue spraying until you see it like you want it and again I pulled the base plastic up to re-smooth the edges. By the way, one could pre-stain the concrete mixture if your chose to for a solid colorization.
8. When satisfied, pull the edges of the base plastic up around the form, cover with another piece of plastic and secure corners. This is to keep it from drying too fast which will cause the form to fracture.
9. Check the form later in the day and re-mist as needed if very hot, dry weather exist. Let dry for 24hrs then check again and spray again. Let dry for another 48hrs, spraying occassionally. Then check the casting and gently remove from sand pile and clean off leaf deposits gently with a soft brush or paint brush. This might not come off easily but will rot over time. You can gently use a screwdriver to clean out any deep grooves or veins that have plant material in it. Allow the casting to cure another 72-hrs before moving further. Wait 2-weeks more for complete curing then paint or stain your casting as you would like and you should be good to go.

Thursday, August 6, 2009


While walking little Max this morning for his usual block walk we saw the Madison Co. school bus stop and pick up two children down on the corner. I did not realize they started back today. That can only mean that the season is going to slow down soon and the harvest will start drying up and heading toward the compost bin. And speaking of composting, you gardeners who are as I jokingly call "LITE GARDENERS", should try it for your own gardens. One doesn't need a "bin" as such to try composting but just a small, designated area in your own garden home and start piling up your garden waste, grass clippings, tea bags/coffee grounds, egg shells, leaf raking & any other garden refuse that will "DECOMPOSE" in the pile, thus the term "compost". You can contain it if you wish by using some old discarded fencing formed into a circle, some brick or blocks stacked up or make something called a "compost corral". I will add a video link to making compost corrals on the blog today. But I am very satisfied with my 3-bay compost bin. So you can add your own 1200-lbs of yearly waste to your garden instead of your local landfill.

I needed some leaf waste (brown) for my bin this week and after helping a neighbor clean up her yard, I brought a bag home and added it to my "cooking-off" left bay and after this week will "stir" the mixture. Remember though to add your waste in layers in which you have the raw product, leaf waste and then some soil. You can recycle from your finished pile for the soil. You can also go to WalMart (tm) and purchase a box of earthworms from the sporting goods center and dump them into the pile to start your break-down processes. I have a friend at my place of employment who has access to a family farm with a lot of cow manure and I am making another bin (next to my compost bin) as soon as I take up my temporary garden fencing on the back of my lot to add a manure pile. I will add that into my composting as well and then the finished pile will be fertilized as well as adding to the cooking off process.

So with fall really being one of our best seasons for compost additions I look forward to the end of the growing season with anticipation of the rebirth of this garden home from the outlook of a Tennessee Certified Master Gardener aspect after completing my internship this fall at UTREC and my subsequent certification. I aspire to have the best garden in Jackson or at least on my street anyway! And again remember your daily gardening affirmation for today: 1. Soil preparation - dig into your soul (soil), 2. Plant seeds - do a service for others, 3. Feed & Water - nurture your friendships and relationships, 4. Harvest - Enjoy your abundant life of love and giving to others and they will return the love especially when you need it most!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Hello everyone and here it is August 2009. This is the time of year when one must start thinking of finishing the growing season and either canning or freezing their harvest and when I at least start thinking ahead to NEXT season. But really this year my mind is on my Tennessee Certified Master Gardener classes that are starting in one month now, Sept. 3rd. I am looking forward to this training course as I think it will not only give me some credence but will allow me the opportunity to meet some new and interesting gardening friends. I especially hope to become involved to some extent in the TN AG Research & Education Center here and look to their knowledge, experience and expertise to help guide me into the next phase of my lifelong love of gardening and digging in "the good earth".

My plan in the garden home here on Division Ave is to go back to the drawing board during the long, dark winter months while not much but rain and cold are the norm here in West Tennessee and start almost from scratch in my plans and layout. I am dedicated to making this garden home the best one possible and in that fact I must redo my entire think processes. I have wanted to get as much bang for my buck so to speak and seem to always overplant. I still want to use my theory of "square inch gardening" and using every single inch I can but this year I have really had it with running out of harvesting room and running into baby snakes everywhere due to the extra rain/wet we have had. They love the deep shade provided by the heavy coverage I now have in the garden with the huge tomato plants, the abundant cucumber vines and the now defunct pea patch. I hope to round up some sturdy bamboo from a neighbor that will allow some light harvesting to make myself some tripods to grow running greenbeans, stake up my sunflowers and to have as misc. uses around the garden home.

This plan also involves in having fewer tomato plants and going to a larger, steak variety and leave the "Jet Star" & "Rutgers" alone. I have not had luck the last two years with these two and will only have the "Beefsteak" & "BetterBoy" varieties I think this next year. Better slicing and they will make fewer maybe per plant but better turnout without having to resort to cutting them up & cooking them down for more sauce in the freezer. I also would like to have some okra next season.

So as you can see I have much to do for next year and I continue even today to do daily maintenance by keeping the tomatoes tied up and keeping the harvest going by picking and freezing as much as I can at this point in time. I also have been sharing with neighbors on the street and they are still enjoying weekly deliveries of fresh vegetables delivered to their doorstep. I send you off to the rest of your week with our garden affirmation: GARDENING: One Yard At A Time!