Gardening Outlook 2015

I’m approaching my organic garden with a good deal of optimism this year! Last year I had several plants do very well. Specifically, the tomatoes and bell peppers and EVERY herb that I planted in our community garden plot.

We have two plots again this year: the community garden plot up at the elementary school where my children will attend and one in our backyard.

The community garden plot is small, probably 4 feet by 4 feet. Raised bed. The soil was put there by a master gardener who set up the community garden. It is MAGICAL soil. Everything I have planted there has grown huge quickly. No pesticides or non-organic fertilizers are allowed. It gets full sun and we take turns watering so that it is watered every other day in the summer months. I have had no problems with pests aside from some beetles that took out the lettuce at the end of it’s growing season last year. But they didn’t touch anything else, and those plants were finished producing anyway.

Our backyard plot is 4 feet by 8 feet. This is our third year to attempt to plant things in it. It is also a raised bed, the soil came from a local composting plant that uses city scraps for compost. Everything I put into this soil has done poorly, if not immediately died. We also have terrible infestations of squash bugs, caterpillars, and extremely aggressive roly polys. I did not even know roly polys were aggressive until I got this garden. Those roly polys eat ALL the baby plants from the ground up. They never make it to full grown plants. Those that do make it to medium size never get any bigger, and the tomatoes do not produce much. I spent all of last year amending the soil with a number of different soil additives (organic) and spraying with garrett juice (compost juice). The soil failed all soil tests, showing that it has basically no nutrients at all. Kale grows well consistently, but it’s pretty difficult to kill kale. I planted a lavender plant in the fall and it’s not dead either, but it hasn’t grown. The broccoli I planted over the winter produced a few times. I also trapped thousands of roly polys by setting traps of tuna cans full of (cheap) beer. Roly Polys LOVE beer! But they get drunk and drown in it. It’s pretty awesome.

I spoke with another friend who is a master gardener about my raised bed in the backyard and she suggested mushroom compost. I have added 3 bags to the backyard bed and attempted to mix it in. I will also continue to add the soil amendments I added before, as well as the garrett juice. Hopefully this will be enough to allow some things to grow.

This morning it was our turn to water the community garden, so we stopped by a local gardening store and bought some small plants. Another way I am attempting to improve our results is to buy from local gardening stores rather than Home Depot, as I have in the past. I am hoping that the quality will be better.

Today we bought:

tomatoes (I do not even understand the types of tomatoes, who knows what I bought? My 4 year old daughter picked it out)
bell pepper
salad mix

Garden Plants 2015 - starting plants | Living Consciously Blog

We already had seeds for:

marigolds (to repel harmful insects)
green leaf lettuce

In addition:

an onion from my pantry sprouted and I have planted it in the community garden plot, it’s already huge!
a “volunteer” squash from last year has started re-growing in the community garden plot

I have a lovely little herb garden going at the community garden now! I am hoping that soon I won’t have to buy fresh herbs at all. The thyme and oregano from last year made it through the winter and are already so large that I had to trim them back. I even dug up some offshoots of the thyme and am going to try to plant them in our backyard garden.

Garden plants 2015 - herb garden at community garden | Living Consciously Blog

I think the only thing I might be missing is basil. Not sure why I forgot to buy that!

What are you planting? Do you have any recommendations for soil improvement?

Really organic rosemary kale chips from our fledgling garden

This post brought to you by Organic Choice by Miracle-Gro. All opinions are 100% mine.

It’s been a few weeks now since we started back on our organic gardening efforts, and I’ve killed a lot of poor, defenseless seedlings since then. I have watched my dreams of tomato and basil bruschetta curl up and blow away. Fortunately, there are two plants nearly impossible to kill: rosemary and kale.

My kale hung on through the single-digit freezing, ice, and snow of the winter — with it’s leaves still green. It looks even better now that the weather has warmed, and I couldn’t wait to eat it!

Kale in garden 2014 | Conscientious Confusion

The rosemary has done equally well in the past, but this year’s low winter temperatures left more than half of it brown and withered. I love my rosemary in the giant galvanized steel pot, so I had to find a way to revive it without any dangerious chemicals, keeping it safe and healthy to eat.

Here’s how it looked when we started:

Rosemary bush BEFORE organic fertilizer | Conscientious Confusion

The good folks at Miracle-Gro Organic Choice sent me a bag of Organic Choice potting soil and organic fertilizer, which I also noticed is sold at Target in the gardening section (in case I need more later!). I decided to give the fertilizer a try in reviving my rosemary.

My son volunteered to be my little helper. All he had to do was sprinkle the appropriate amount of fertilizer around the base of the rosemary and then water it.

Little Sir helps add organic fertilizer to our rosemary bush | Conscientious Confusion

We also added additional Miracle-Gro Organic Choice soil to the rosemary’s pot, which was low on soil.

We fertilized on March 27.

On April 11, I took this picture of the rosemary bush.

Rosemary bush AFTER organic fertilizer | Conscientious Confusion

What a difference! I was truly surprised. I realize that fertilizer helps encourage growth, but this is really neat, right?!

Since the kale and rosemary are our only fully grown plants worthy of harvesting right now, I created a Pinterest board of Garden Recipes that contained kale and rosemary. Kale chips were one of the kids’ favorites from last year’s garden, so I found a rosemary kale chip recipe that utilized rosemary-infused olive oil. Perfect!

Making Kale Rosemary Chips from our garden! | Conscientious Confusion

The chips were approved by both of my kids (3 and 4 years old)! We’ve tried the kale chips from the store in the past, but they were never fans. I think the key to getting children to grow up eating healthy, fresh foods is really to involve them in the process. They have been so excited to be participating in our gardening this year.

I haven’t given up on the rest of our garden! We have some spinach, bell pepper, lettuce, swiss chard, and strawberries that seem to be doing quite well. I am particularly hopeful about the bell peppers, and I have actually Pinned a few articles from the Miracle-Gro Learn And Grow web site that has helped me toward a successful harvest. According to this bell pepper article, last year I probably let the bell peppers get too dry. This year I have a new hose system that I am very optimistic about, and a new resolve not to get so lazy with my watering.

Stay tuned for continued progress reports! I’d love to hear about your gardening efforts, and your favorite rosemary and kale recipes in the meantime!

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It’s (organic) gardening time again!

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Miracle-Gro Organic Choice. All opinions are 100% mine.

I think we’ve seen the last of our 16 degree days here in Dallas, and just this week one of our chickens started laying again! I’m so excited to be doing yoga outside and cleaning the chicken coop (ok, maybe not the coop…), that I’ve also forgotten my past failures and I’m gearing up to start another organic garden.
In fact, I’ve already planted some seeds in biodegradeable seed cups. I have actually been keeping them in our downstairs bathroom because it’s the only window with a wide ledge inaccessible to children and the cat. Classy. The seedlings need to be watered several times a day to stay moist, so at least it is convenient!
This weekend, we went on a road trip. We had the cat’s autofeeder on, a weekend tablet for the fish, and plenty of food for the chickens. But the seedlings needed constant watering. So we took them with us!
Taking our organic seedlings with us!
You don’t pack your seedlings with your beach towels and cooler, too?
What am I planting? Right now, the seedling cups contain:
bell peppers
I have more seeds for growing kale, swiss chard, and dill which will be planted directly into the ground as soon as I’m sure it won’t freeze again. There is also a bunch of rooted basil in a cup of water on my windowsill waiting to be transplanted into the ground.
I have this vision of being able to create freshly picked, organic bruschetta from my garden this year, on my own homemade bread. Yum!
Of course, it’s very important for me to keep my garden organic. Organic veggies are expensive, so if I can grow even a few, it is a great savings. And what could be more yummy than fresh organic veggies? The raised bed we built two years ago is low on soil, so I’m adding additional organic soil this year from Miracle-Gro Organic Choice before transplanting the seedlings. It is easy to find, available at the Home Depot down the street. If you’re looking for it at your local store, here’s what the bag looks like:
Organic Soil photo 72859510_22_zps758b34b4.jpg
If you’re a novice gardener like me, I recommend visiting the Growing Something Greater site, they had a lot of great posts with tips for successful growing.
Is it warming up where you are? Have you starting planting or sprouting indoors?

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2013 To Do List: How Did I Do?

I don’t make resolutions, I make To Do Lists. Here is 2012. Here is 2013.

How did I do this year? Let us review

  1. Finally make those reusable snack bags.
    I am going to cross this one off simply because I bought reusable snack bags. Well, when I say “I”, what I mean is that my BFF found a bunch on sale and mailed them to me. So yay! No sewing. I still have the fabric for the bags I didn’t actually make. Maybe I will make them before my kids are in high school.
  2. Print family blog books.
    Done, and now I have to do 2013. Which means I have to actually update our family blog that I haven’t touched since October.
    2014 To Do List, here I come.
  3. Meal planning. solved this whole issue for me. I seriously love them. I should get commission for recommending them. That, by the way, is NOT an affiliate link. Oh, how I wish it were.
  4. Patch some giant holes in our walls.
    Um, no. I did buy a patch kit at Home Depot last week in a frantic effort to make it by the end of the year, but I am going to have to admit now that it’s just not going to happen before midnight tomorrow.
  5. Repaint other messed up paint…or do something about it.
     I totally did this! At least, in the living room. The downstairs bath still needs help. I partially did the living room because we got this awesome Nest smart thermostat and removing the old thermostat exposed some unpainted wall.
  6. Do something about the front yard.
    We started this. We removed the bushes and created flower beds lined by bricks. However, all the mulch we filled them with has sunken in or washed away, and I never planted anything in them. So it looks weird. But at least we removed the bushes? So, kinda done?
  7. Go to the dentist.
    I never did. Again, tried to figure out a way to get this done in the last 2 weeks but with the kids not in preschool over the holiday there was no way. I really do need to do this, my teeth need whitening and I want to try peroxide but not until I get my teeth cleaned. Now it’s been 3 whole years since I’ve been to the dentist. Whee!
  8. Take Little Sir to the dentist.
    Yep, he has actually been twice! We found a great pediatric dentist just down the street from our house and both kids LOVE her and her office. They are actually sad to leave because she has so many neat toys there and the visits are so quick that they don’t get to play as long as they want!
  9. Try again with the garden.
    I did try. I got a lot of kale and swiss chard, so that was awesome. I pretty much killed everything else. Even the bell peppers, which were doing so well right before Thanksgiving. It must have frozen while we were gone because when we got back they had shriveled up, never to recover.

I feel like I actually did really well this year, if I could only stop fixating on that dentist failure. I really want to get my teeth cleaned. I know that is a weird thing to say.

Stay tuned for the 2014 To Do List, coming soon!

Update on the 2013 To Do List

It’s June already, what?! Where does the time go? I think it goes here:

Kids swimming

Still, I remember that back in January I made a To Do List for 2013. How am I doing halfway through the year?

1. Finally make those reusable snack bags.

Nope. Have not done this. Once, I took all the fabric out and looked at it for 15 minutes. That is the farthest I’ve gotten. I keep buying plastic baggies for snacks and I feel extremely guilty EVERY TIME.

2. Print family blog books.

I did this! Almost immediately after making the To Do list. It was super easy, as it always is (I use Blog2Print, this is not an ad, I don’t get anything from mentioning the site. Every year I pay for a book. I don’t even have coupon codes!). Unfortunately, I am doing a crappy job of keeping up with our family blog again this year so next year will be a depressingly sparse blog book. Or I will be staying up until 2am one night publishing 15 blog posts at one time.

3. Meal planning.

I am doing so much better with this since discovering The Fresh 20. This is NOT an ad, I did not get paid or compensated or receive anything free to say that. I heard about The Fresh 20 meal planning program from OneStarryMom when there was a Groupon running, which I then purchased with my very own money. I just found out a few weeks ago that the founder of The Fresh 20 will be my co-panelist at BlogHer this year! I was so excited I nearly peed myself. It might not bode well for me to be such a ridiculous fan girl. But I love her product SO MUCH. Everything made from scratch, all whole foods, super easy shopping lists, and the meals themselves take very little time to prepare. Recommend!

4. Patch some giant holes in our walls.

Nope, the holes are still there. Home Depot scares me.

5. Repaint other messed up paint…or do something about it.

Nope, the paint is getting worse. My children have applied stickers to the wall and ripped additional paint off of it.

Sticker wall art
Sticker wall art, the unprofessional kind

Procrastination on this one has to do with my fear of the 100 paint cans in our garage. I just can’t bring myself to try to figure out which one is the correct one for the living room.

6. Do something about the front yard.

We kinda started this.

bush destruction
Ripping out the bushes

We took a chainsaw to the giant shrubs, got rid of them, and created flower beds. However, I neglected to line the beds with newspaper for a weed barrier and we didn’t use enough mulch, so the grass is growing back up through the beds. It looks pretty ghetto.

Front yard: An "after", of sorts
An “after” picture, but before the weeds came back

A solicitor (who did NOT see my Do Not Solicit sign, I suppose) commented yesterday on whether we were going to do anything about that. No, young-single-guy-without-kids-who-doesn’t-even-live-in-this-area-and-can’t-read-signs, I have not gotten around to “doing something about that”.

7. Go to the dentist.

I looked up some Groupons but I did not do this in enough time before school got out. Now preschool is out for the summer and there is no way for me to go to the dentist because I have a 2 and 3 year old with me at all times. This will have to happen in the fall when I have 2-3 hours per week kid-free.

8. Take Little Sir to the dentist.

I did this! It was super easy! He loved it! And the dentist taught him to spit out his toothpaste, which he is doing like a Big Boy. He has great teeth. Hooray!

9. Try again with the garden.

My garden is doing surprisingly well considering how little effort I have made.

Garden June 2013

Most of the plants came from seeds I forgot that I planted last fall or scraps from our compost heap. It’s very scientific.

How are you doing on your To Do list or resolutions? If you posted a list at the beginning of 2013, I’d love to see a link to an update in the comments!