Glory in the Garden: 31 Days of Devotionals – FREE Download

Glory in the Garden Cover

If you stay up until 4:30 a.m., and then get up at 6 a.m., does that count as an all-nighter? Even in my college days I never pulled an all-nighter so this was new to me. Now before you think I’m just highly motivated, I must confess I just happen to be on prednisone – steroids – at the moment and since I couldn’t sleep I figured I’d try to knock all of this out.

And it’s DONE!
I can hardly believe it!

My e-subscribers will receive a free download of Glory in the Garden. (Not Subscribed? It’s free and quick. Click here to subscribe and your copy will be on its way!) When you subscribe, you’ll be sent multiple download options. I’ll also have paperback books available in a few weeks. All of those details are in the email I’ll send with your free download. Oh, and don’t wait. This free download will only be available through December 21st.

I can already see you now. The fire is going, you have coffee in your hand, the Christmas tree lights are twinkling, and you’ll be reading this book, dreaming about gardening – whether you garden or not. But most of all I hope you’ll be inspired. I hope you’ll see familiar Scripture passages in ways you never have before. I hope you’ll be challenged and encouraged in your personal walk with God and your ministry to others wherever you are. God spoke to me in the garden. My prayer is that he’ll speak to you.

It’s HERE!!
Glory in the Garden: 31 Days of Devotionals
FREE e-version for e-mail subscribers!

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Click the link above to receive your free download of Glory in the Garden!
*The paperback version will also be available – a great Christmas gift!*

 

Why I’m Having to Take a Writing Break

Do you have any idea what it is like for a writer to have multiple thoughts swimming in the mind, unable to be penned?

Torture, mind you, torture.

I’ve got some good ones that have come out of circumstances of late: spiritual warfare, intercession, Christian unity, the cost of following Jesus, investing in others…. And they’re good. (Admittedly they’re always better in my head than on paper it seems.)

But I have had to take a break because, well, the garden. I should know by now.  With the harvest, canning, freezing, and drying on top of two children’s birthdays, back to school, starting preschool with Alyssa…August should be my writing Sabbath. Not that I’m resting, mind you.

But I thank God every day for a garden that is producing and the physical strength equal to my harvesting and preserving tasks. And I’m thankful for Matt’s new photography hobby so he can capture some of these special memories.

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Above: Breaded okra for freezing, basil pesto for freezing, banana peppers, green beans, okra pickles, black-eyed peas, sweet pickle relish

 

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My Garden in Photos – May 9 Update

It has been about a month since I posted a garden update so I thought I’d update you on my growing garden!  I couldn’t be more excited about it!

Below are my potatoes that came right back up after the freeze knocked them out.  Unfortunately the Colorado Potato Beetles are out early this year but I’m trying to stay on top of the little boogers.

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Next are my pole beans that are about to start climbing the strings on the trellis Matt made for me. I planted two types: Kentucky Wonder and Blue lake.  The Kentucky Wonder came up fast and strong. The Blue Lake came up slowly and sparsely.  I may have to replant that row if they don’t show improvement after this latest rain.

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My broccoli and Better Boy tomato garden is growing great! All of my broccoli have heads forming but the ones I planted later are very small.

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Blueberries!  I can’t wait!  The freeze, though I covered them, got several of the blossoms on each plant but thankfully I think I’ll still have a plentiful harvest.

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This is my hodgepodge raised bed.  In the middle is rosemary, on each side of that is broccoli (look closely and you can see the heads!), below the trellis are cucumber seedlings, on the upper right side is oregano and thyme, and the whole bed is filled with dill from last year’s seeds.

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I felt the center of a cabbage plant last week and exclaimed aloud, “I can feel the head!” It was at that moment I realized that growing a garden isn’t all that different from giving birth. 🙂  My spinach did remarkably well, but now it’s beginning to go to seed with the warm weather.

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Underneath my trellises I planted carrots, hoping that the growth of the beans in the summer will shade this cool weather root crop. Carrots grow extremely slow so I’m finally seeing them after 2 months!

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This is a wide shot of one of my beds. In the front of the trellises I planted black-eyed peas, bush beans, and okra.  Behind the trellises are potatoes and onions.

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Can you tell we’re having salad A LOT right now?  On the left is romaine lettuce, and on the right are Bibb and Buttercrunch.  Behind the lettuces are peas and cilantro.

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My climbing peas are finally beginning to bloom and set pods! I’ve got a couple of devotionals written about this new crop in my Glory in the Garden ebook that will be available this summer. 🙂

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This is my pepper garden. I have bell, banana, and jalapeno.

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The Roma tomato plants are looking healthy!

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It’s strawberry season! My kids are going out every day hoping to find a ripe red one. They are delicious!!  Also, the garlic are growing amazingly well.  Can’t wait to see what they look like.

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I’ve also got squash, zucchini, watermelon, and cantaloupe planted.  The corn never sprouted so I gave up on that.  Hopefully the recent rain will help jump-start much of the summer crops.

My favorite thing to do is walk in my garden. Just yesterday I took the umbrella out at dusk and just admired it all.  So peaceful.

My Garden in Photos: April 12th Update

Today could not have been a more perfect gardening day.  Perfect temperature, light breeze, some shade.  Today was spent planting pole beans, corn, and cucumbers as well as preparing the ground for more tomatoes and other crops.  This week’s photos show even more growth!

Cabbage and Spinach: I picked my first spinach this week to use in Gouda and Spinach stuffed pork chops. Yum!  The cabbage are growing beautifully with such deep green leaves.

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Potatoes: Almost all of my potatoes are now emerging, with this photo showing the ones with the best growth.

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Garlic and Strawberries: The garlic are growing taller and taller, and the strawberries are beginning to put on flowers.  These are all second or third year strawberries so I’ve got high hopes!

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Tomatoes and Broccoli: The first photo are my Romas, which are growing very well, although it’s hard to see from this photo. I also planted Better Boy tomatoes between my broccoli rows (second photo).  The broccoli are really starting to grow. I’m hoping I’ll get some good broccoli before they bolt like they did last year when the weather got too hot in May.

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Peas: The peas are growing well, but I hope they start producing before it gets too hot.

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Here is a photo of the trellises that Matt built for me.  On the right side are my peas. On the left side I planted pole beans.

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Herbs: I can’t tell you how excited I am about my herbs!  The middle plant is a multitude of oregano that self-seeded from last year.  To its right is thyme that survived the winter.  At the top left is rosemary that barely made it through the winter and is now producing new growth.  I also have dozens of dill plants that self-seeded from last year and a few cilantro plants.  I’ve decided that herbs are the easiest to grow after the first year because they grow themselves!

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Blackberry: All of my berry plants are growing vigorously, but this blackberry bush is the best by far.  I’m looking forward to a summer full of berries!

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My Garden in Photos – April 5th Update

This week has been a week of growth!  I’ve been amazed at the difference I’ve seen in many plans each day.  I’ve also done some decorating, as you’ll see.  The sign below says, “Happiness Grows in My Garden.” 🙂

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Below are photos of cabbage and spinach compared to last week.  The rains really helped them!

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Blackberry this week and last week:

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The blueberry bushes began putting on leaves almost overnight! Here is my pink lemonade blueberry bush this week and last week:

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The peas also began to grow and pop up tremendously this week compared to last week, when I just had a few:

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In new developments, my potatoes have finally broken ground!  I love growing potatoes! They might just be my favorite.

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Last weekend I bought some Roma tomatoes at Blossomberry nursery in Clarksville. They were beautiful and healthy. I know it is really too early to plant tomatoes, but with the warm weather this week I thought I’d try so they could get established before the colder weather returned.  I planted one set and am keeping the other set indoors on cold nights. We’ll see how the growth of the two will compare.

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And I couldn’t help but share my very first flowers. I’d never planted bulbs before and I have been thrilled with my jonquils and tulips!

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My Garden in Photos – March 29th Update

It’s garden season again!  I’m so excited to be back outside in the warm sun and cool breezes of spring.  I took my first garden photos on March 15th and again today, March 29th.  I’m at the very early stages, but it’s fun to see the progress already. The photos that are side by side are photos from March 15th compared to today.

Blackberries and Raspberries

My goal is to add at least one new crop each year. This year I’ve added two: blackberries and raspberries.  It’s hard to see from the pictures below because they are just beginning to grow, but the new shoots have emerged significantly in just two weeks.

Below: Navajo Blackberry

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Below: Raspberry

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Below: Arapaho Blackberry

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Below: Raspberry

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Cabbage:

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Spinach:

I have had horrible luck with spinach the past two years, so I’m really excited that I’m actually seeing growth this time!

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Below is an overhead view of my cabbage on the left and spinach on the right:

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Blueberries:

These are my second-year plants. I’ve been amazed by the vertical growth over the winter, and they are just beginning to produce new growth. Maybe this year I’ll have more than a cupful after Alyssa eats her fill off the bushes. 🙂   The varieties I have are Climax, Tifblue, Pink Lemonade, and Brightwell. These are photos I took today. There were no blooms two weeks ago.

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Broccoli:

I’m sad to report that rabbits ate my first batch of broccoli I planted two weeks ago.  This is my second try.

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Onions:

I planted onions about 5 weeks ago. The cold snaps and snow didn’t help their growth, but they’re coming back.

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Oregano:

Either my oregano from last year survived or it self-seeded. Either way, I’ve got some beautiful oregano in the garden already, with no effort!

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Garlic and Strawberries:

I planted garlic cloves last November and now that the days are getting longer and warmer, they are growing really tall. This is exciting since I’ve never planted garlic before.  I planted them in my strawberry bed, and in just the last week the strawberries have begun to come to life.  Very exciting!

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Peas:

This is my first year to try peas. They’ve been in the ground for three weeks and I was wondering if they were ever going to sprout.  In just this past week they’ve come up and begun to grow quickly.

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In the next few weeks I’ll be planning and planting my early summer crops: tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, corn, and beans.  Later in the spring I’ll add peppers, okra, watermelon, black-eyed peas, and cantaloupe.  I’ve also begun to plant from seed several herbs: chives, sage, mint, spearmint, basil, cilantro, stevia, and dill.

Potatoes: Easy and Fun! [Garden Planning Blog]

 

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It took a couple of tries to get my potatoes right, but once I did, they were one of my favorite crops to grow and harvest.  They were also my kids’ favorites because Drew and Alyssa had so much fun digging for them!  I’m definitely doing potatoes again and expanding to do more.

My first try: fail

Last spring we had an incredibly wet and cold spring.  Ideally, from what I read, potatoes should be planted between February 14 – March 1 here in Arkansas.  My problem was the soil simply wouldn’t dry out.  I decided to plant them anyway in late March, but because the soil was so wet, they rotted in the ground.

After this, Matt ended up tilling a new garden in a better-drained area of the yard where I tried again.  This time, it worked perfectly.

Garden Log

4/16/13: planted 15 Yukon Gold potato pieces
5/9/13: 10 plants emerged (followed later by the other 5)
6/1/13: flower buds emerged
7/5/13: harvested tennis-ball sized potatoes

8/2/13: planted Red Norland potatoes and Kennebec (white) potatoes left over from failed spring planting, and planted small Yukon gold potatoes from spring harvest
11/20/13: harvested mostly red potatoes

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Garden notes

I believe my potatoes did really well because I ended up planting them in a well-drained location and the acidity of my soil is so low.  (A soil test yielded a pH of 4.9, and potatoes thrive at 5-6.)

Pests

The Colorado Potato beetle showed up early in the season when the plants were about 1′ high. These yellow and black striped bugs were easy to spot.  I diligently picked them off one by one and fed them to the chickens, though they still were able to lay their eggs. The eggs are bright yellow clusters on the underside of the leaves, and I took care of those by squishing them (with garden gloves on, of course!).  Later into the season I simply wasn’t able to keep up with the egg-squishing and the eggs would hatch into tiny red bugs.  It was these baby beetles that wreaked the most havoc on the plant.  The adults did little damage compared to their progeny.  I tried Sevin dust but it really didn’t help and I wanted to keep my garden as close to organic as possible.  I tried diatomaceous earth, too, but that didn’t help.  This year I will simply work to be more diligent at hand-picking the adults and eggs, and the kids will help. They loved spotting the beetles and the eggs.

My fall planting did not have any problems with the Colorado Potato beetle, so the fall was the easiest crop by far in that respect.

For the beginner

Planting the potato pieces are easy.  Always buy them at a garden center, as the ones at the store are sprayed with an anti-sprouting agent.  Cut the pieces with at least two eyes on each piece.  Make sure the soil is loose (by tilling or hoeing), and place the pieces eye-side-up about 4″ deep.  Cover with soil, and do not water until the plants emerge a couple of weeks later.

Next, do an Internet search on what an emerging potato plant looks like.  I tried to unsuccessfully pull one up, thinking it was a weed!  Then I decided it might be a potato plant, and it was!  When the plant is about 6″ high, take a hoe and “hill” dirt around the plant.  Then add mulch to conserve moisture as the plant is growing.

Water until the plant flowers, and after that it doesn’t need much water.  Once the plant flowers, the tubers (future potatoes) start to form.  You know the potatoes are ready to be dug up when the plants start to die back.

How many to plant

Each of my plants produced about 4 potatoes, some smaller, some larger, and I liked that I didn’t have to harvest them all at once, meaning I was able to have fresh potatoes for weeks.  From what I’ve read, the plants should have produced more than that. I think I should have been more diligent about watering my potatoes between sprouting and flowering, and the soil wasn’t all that fertile.  But for my first time, I was extremely pleased.

Spring plans

My plans for spring are to plant the potatoes in the new extension to my previous garden in an area where nothing has grown before.  During the winter, we have been spreading manure from the chicken coop on this area to improve the nitrogen content, which potatoes need.

The Yukon Gold was a delicious variety, but we enjoyed the red potatoes, too.  I think I’m going to do a mix of Yukon Gold, Red Norland, and Kennebec varieties, with more Yukon Gold.  I’ll probably do between 20-30 plants in the spring and hopefully that many in the fall to keep us in potatoes for a longer period of time.

I haven’t found any gardening centers in my area that sell potatoes in the fall, so I will just keep any extras from the ones I purchase in the spring in the refrigerator until fall.  I will also save some of the smaller potatoes from the spring harvest and replant them for the fall harvest, keeping them in the refrigerator in between. (Keeping them in the refrigerator simulates the winter dormant period needed for growth, from what I’ve read.)

Have you ever planted potatoes?  What has been your experience?

2013 Garden Recap and 2014 Garden Planning

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Now that Christmas is over, I’m starting to get that garden itch.  I was so exhausted in September and October between harvesting and canning that I couldn’t wait until the dead of winter when I could REST.  I have to admit, it has been nice not to have garden chores every day.  But it has also seemed like something is missing.  The sheer fact that I’m excited to begin my garden again – with added square feet – tells me that last year’s garden wasn’t simply a whim.

The first thing I’ll be doing now and into the new year is planning.  I recall last year reading every garden book I could get my hands on.  I had all this book knowledge but had no experiential knowledge.  This year, I’ll at least have some experience under my belt. I’ll know which pests to look out for.  I’ll know which varieties to plant and to avoid.  I’ll know I don’t need quite so many cucumbers but could use some more beans.

In my planning, I will be taking each crop individually and evaluating last year’s experience while planning for this year.  Since I’m going to be doing all this anyway, I thought I’d share it with you.

If you’ve always wanted to start a garden, I think you’ll find lots of useful ideas because I was brand new at it last year and I remember what it felt like to have no clue.

If you want to expand your garden and plant some crops you’ve never planted before, hopefully you’ll find my hits and misses useful.

If you’re a gardening connoisseur, please read my blogs and add your experiences.  I still have so much more to learn.

Here’s to a great gardening season!

My first blog post will be on the first crop I’ll be planting: potatoes!

Summer Garden Recap

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My last garden post was two months ago, and that definitely wasn’t on purpose.  But, you see, in late August and through September, I’ve been quite busy.  It wasn’t uncommon to have my kitchen island looking like the photo above.  Which necessitated pictures like the ones below.

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A dear family member warned me in the spring when I was working my hiney off that it would get worse in the fall when the harvest began coming in earnest.  Boy, was he right.

If I skipped even one day of harvesting, my okra would get too large to eat.  But, it wasn’t the harvesting that was so much trouble. It was preserving the bounty. I froze and canned, froze and canned. And of course ate fresh.  One night Matt’s remark was, “squash again?”  Another comment was, “We may not have anything in the pantry to make a full meal, but we certainly won’t run out of pickles!” He was right.

If you’re curious, here’s my latest count of items I’ve canned for the winter:

Green Beans – 15 pints
Dilly Beans – 3 pints
Stewed Tomatoes – 2 pints
Salsa – 6 pints
Spaghetti Sauce – 6 quarts
Jalapeno Jelly – 13 half-pints
Tomato Sauce – 2 pints
Dill Pickles – 7 pints
Dill Relish – 4 pints
Hamburger Dill pickles – 6 pints
Sweet Pickle Relish – 8 pints
Sweet Pickles – 3 pints
Okra Pickles – 2 pints

That was just from my garden. I also canned banana peppers, peaches, muscadine jelly, and more green beans that others gave me.

Have you ever canned anything?  Whew! It’s incredibly rewarding, but INCREDIBLY time-consuming.  I just canned my sweet pickles yesterday, which was my very last canner load for the season.

In addition to canning, I froze umpteen quarts of freezer pickles (I stopped counting), 10+ quart bags of okra, and 8 quart bags of squash.  That’s to eat in the winter, although I’m so sick of fried okra and squash I wonder how long it’s going to take to want to eat it again!

I also dried my homegrown herbs to last me through the winter.

One thing that  was priceless in the garden:

 

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My children loved getting involved.  Alyssa snapped beans with me, and they both helped pick the veggies.  We made lots of memories together, and they both got a great hands-on education.

As did I. 🙂

I do have a fall garden coming along, though it isn’t the scale I would have liked. I simply didn’t have the energy to put a full effort into it. What I get, I get.

What’s next?  I will be evaluating each crop and making adjustments for next year.  My plan is to blog on each crop, not only to help me collect my thoughts but also to share with you what I’ve learned my rookie year.

All in all, I couldn’t have asked for more my first year.

Garden Update – A Reminder that We Live in a Fallen World

One surprising thing I’ve learned in my first garden is how the Bible’s truths speak so clearly and tangibly in the simple act of growing food.  In the springtime it was the first bursts of the seedlings, the miraculous growth, the sense of accomplishment and hard work.  I haven’t had time to pen all the blog posts that have swirled in my head just about every time I have walked out my door into my garden.

Oh, how my view of my Creator and His Word have been profoundly impacted!

But these last few weeks, I have also been reminded that we live in a fallen world.

For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. –Romans 8:19-20

As I battled pest after pest, disease after disease, deer after rabbit, drought after downpours, I was reminded that this was not the creation that God intended!  It reminds me that not only am I a fallen, sinful person in need of a Savior, but creation waits to be redeemed as well!

And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the plants of the field.” –Genesis 3:17-18

Such a simple thing as squash bug damage reminded me that this world is on its way out, and those who have faith in Christ have hope of a new earth, free from sin, free from decay.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more…And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”…No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him.  –Revelation 21:1, 5, 22:3

Let me tell ya, I want to work in that garden!  But until then, here’s what my current one looks like.

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On the left, you see my cucumbers currently.  They are still producing, and they have had an excellent crop!  I’ve got frozen cucumbers in my freezer to last all winter!  But on the right was what they looked like just a few weeks ago.  I have no idea what is wrong with them. They have had water and I have seen no insects.

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On the left you see my current Roma tomatoes. Although there are more tomatoes, and they are beginning to ripen, you can see that the plants on the right are more healthy than what I have now.

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Both of the above plants are my squash plants right now.  The one on the left was the most vigorous I have had, so it has withstood the squash bug damage and powdery mildew (what you see on the right plant) better.  I also lost another very vigorous plant to the squash vine borer.  I could do more to curtail the squash bug damage, but I’m just tired, honestly, of fighting the battle. I’ve gotten a wonderful crop of squash. We’ve eaten it several times a week, given it away, and frozen it.  So what I get from this point, I get.

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The first three pictures are my current green beans.  The one on the bottom right is what it looked like a few weeks ago.  We had a storm come through two weeks ago that snapped two of my bamboo poles, and as it would turn out, those are the best producing vines right now.  We’re hoping to save them, somehow.  The other beans started dying and I couldn’t figure it out, until I looked at their base. It appears that something has eaten the vines at the ground level, causing the rest of the vines to die.  It’s very frustrating, but I am still grateful.  I’ve canned 10 jars of green beans, and I have several vines still producing, so I’m hoping to get 5 more.  I also planted some follow-up bean plants to harvest in the next few months.

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This is my melon patch. It has done great! I’m on my third watermelon and I’ve given my dad a couple. These Charleston Grey watermelons have to be the best tasting ones I’ve ever eaten, and I LOVE watermelon.  On the right picture you’ll see a cantaloupe growing next to the watermelon. I thought I had lost all my cantaloupes to some creature that liked those plants but not watermelon ones, but I guess my lack of controlling the weeds in the watermelon patch worked to my advantage.  The cantaloupe started growing back in the midst of the weeds, effectively hiding.  Hopefully I’ll get some cantaloupes soon!

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On the left are my okra plants, which are finally producing very well.  I have to pick them every day and I get about 8-10 per day.  I’m planning on eating them fresh (’cause you can’t top fresh southern-fried okra) and freezing them to eat all winter.  On the right are my new cucumber plants. I learned that the other cucumbers I had were not the pickling variety, so I planted these to make pickles and relish.  So far they are growing fast!

 

One thing I have noticed about myself lately…. I find myself longing for winter!  This garden has been a lot of work! I’ve been very pleased at how productive it has been considering I have had no idea what I was doing.

I’ve also figured out my favorite part of gardening:  canning!  There’s nothing more satisfying! Except, maybe, that first bite of cold watermelon. 🙂