Gardening in July

Gardening in July is a little challenging because of the weather. In order to make the most of your garden in mid-summer, you need to be in your garden every day. It is hot, so you need to get up early to check your garden. We are picking cherries so it is very important to be outside as early as possible, otherwise the birds will devour all our cherries.

In our garden we are picking the last of the peas and the spinach.  The cucumbers are blossoming and may be ripe already in your garden.  Onions are growing and can be picked for immediate use.  Onions should be harvested when the stems start to bend over, so they should not be ready yet.  Keep weeding so your plants have room to reach their full potential!

Another reason to be in your garden every day is to keep an eye out for anything that is attacking your garden.  July is the time for Japanese beetles to be hatching.  Potato beetles are a potential threat to potato plants and related plants.  Sometimes ground hogs try to invade your garden.  You will experience the least amount of loss from pests if you are watching for them daily.  Luke 21:34 reads “Be on your guard, so that your minds are not dulled…”  Just like we have to be on our guard to protect our minds, we have to be on our guard to protect our gardens.

Black raspberries or as they refer to them locally, black caps, are ripe in July.  Black raspberries grow wild so if you do not have any in your garden, you may be able to pick them in a nearby hedgerow.   Picking black raspberries in July is a great way to save money.  You can freeze the berries after rinsing them, to eat in the winter.  Black raspberries make great pie filling.  You can also cook down the  raspberries to make juice which you use to make jelly.  Black raspberry jelly is one of our favorite jellies.

Red raspberries are also ripening.  Red raspberries can be made into delicious jelly as well.   They make great muffins too.  Red raspberries do not usually grow wild.

Gardening in July can be challenging with the heat and also the many items that need to harvested.  To motivate yourself, think of how much it will mean to you and your family to have the food you grew, safely packaged in the freezer or canned in jars down in the cellar this winter.  The winter of 2013-2014 was extremely cold and heating bills may have been very high.   When you can food or freeze it, you will have quality, nutritious food safely stored in your home.   Proverbs 19:15 reads “Laziness casts one into a deep sleep, and an idle person will suffer hunger.”  Gardening in July is challenging because of the heat and the many  vegetables ripening at the same time, but keep in mind the cold winter that may be in store for us and keep motivated to harvest all you are able.

Planting in Early Spring

     If you want to reap a harvest, you have to sow.  Now is the time to start planting your garden if you want to make the most of the growing season.

      You can start your garden as soon as the soil is tillable.   In zone 5 where we live, the soil has just warmed enough to be planted.  At this time of the year, you can plant peas, spinach, onions, and potatoes.  Pea seeds once planted can withstand temperatures down to 10 degrees Fahrenheit, so plant them early and know that they will sprout as soon as they are able.  Peas need to be planted near a fence so they can climb the fence as they grow.  Plant pea seeds about 4 inches apart in a row about two inches deep.

      Most spinach seed packets say to sow the seeds in a row wait for them to come up and then thin them.  In other words you plant seeds too close together, wait for them to come up and then pull out most of the plants. 

    To me this practice seems like a waste.  In our garden we turn the soil with a digging fork until it is loose. We stand on boards that we have in the garden so that we are tilling the soil in which we are going to plant.  At this time we add compost to the soil if we have any and turn the soil again.  We rake the soil nice and flat.  Raking breaks up the big clods of earth as well.  All the time we are doing this process we pick out the rocks and put them in a bucket.  We cut paper grocery bags in half.  The paper bags are laid on top of the soil.  We put rocks on the edges of the paper to hold the paper down.  Now we are ready to plant.

     After that is finished, we take a sharp object like a metal pipe and poke throught the paper and into the ground.  We put a seed or two into the hole.  Cover the seed with dirt.  We make our holes in the paper about eight inches apart for the spinach seeds.

     Onions are planted as sets not seeds in the north especially.  Prepare the soil. Rake it flat.  Push the one onion set at a time into the soil about four inches apart.  So if your space is twelve inches wide, you can plant two rows of onions in that space.  If you stagger the onions, you can fit more onions in less space plus, there will be less room for weeds to grow.

     To plant potatoes, prepare the soil by turning it.  Potatoes require much nutrients in the soil so add a large amount of compost.  Turn the soil again.  Take a shovel and dig trenches on either side of the potato bed you are going to create.  Place the soil from the trench between the treches.  Rake the long pile of soil you created so the top is flat about ten inches or so wide.

     Dig a hole in which to place your seed potatoe, but do not cover it.  Builders paper works best for the next step.  Roll out the builder’s paper on the top of the bed.  Secure it with just two rocks at the end.  Now cut a hole in the paper over the hole in the soil where the seed potatoe is located.  Then cover the seed potato.  Again if you stagger the potaoes in a zig-zag pattern, you can fit more potaoes in the same area.  About fifteen inches across the bed diagonally dig another hole, put in a seed potato and repeat the process until you have filled the bed.  Place more rocks on the edges and even in the middle to secure the paper.  Cover the entire paper with slightly composted wood chips.   This process may seem time consuming at first, but it greatly reduces the time required for weeding!  Include the whole family and the time spent becomes valuable as family together time and an investment in the garden that will pay off in the fall.

Think Spring- Strawberry Jam

     Winter winds are still whipping the snow covered landscape. What can you do to keep away the winter blues without spending much money? How about making a batch of strawberry jam? You will need 2 bags of frozen strawberries, a package of pectin, jelly jars, and some sugar. My daughter took 2 bags of frozen strawberries, thawed them in a large pot. She then crushed them with a potato masher. She then followed the manufacturer’s instructions on the box of pectin, with exception to the amount of fresh berries. She used the two whole bags of frozen strawberries. Do not forget to boil the jars for at least ten minutes.  Strawberry jam is delicious!

     If you make strawberry jam, what will you achieve? You will make the house warmer. You will add precious moisture to the dry air. Your house will smell like strawberries for a little while. You will have made a treat for your family with some to share. The smell of strawberries may bring pleasant visions of spring. A little encouragement that spring is not too far away, but remember to rejoice in the moment! What are the pleasant things that you can enjoy in this season? I like looking all that snow- it makes the landscape look so beautiful! Try eating a homemade biscuit with homemade strawberry jam on top while watching the snow fall: very pleasant I believe!

Smart Sewing Tip

   The winter wind is wonderfully brisk! Wonderfully brisk? It is freezing outside! Well it is wonderful if you like to sew and the cold weather means you have to be inside. How do we sew and save money at the same time? The obvious things are buy fabric when it is on sale. Utilize the fabric you already have. Sew clothing that you would have to buy anyway.  Buy a pattern that you can use more than once.

   I have a creative tip for you if you sew and are going to buy a new pattern. The price of a new pattern is sometimes $14.00 or more.  The tissue paper the pattern is printed on tends to fall apart if you use it more than once or twice, so what do you do? You could copy the pattern onto another medium such as interfacing or  paper bags but this process will take some time. If you bought a pattern and you are going to use, for example, the medium size and the extra large size, then you will have to copy the medium size onto something else.  I recently purchased a pattern for boys pants with the four pockets. The pattern has a medium size, a large size, and an extra large size. I copied the large size onto a virtually see-through fabric. I painted the edge of the pattern, that I copied onto the fabric, with clear nail polish to keep it from fraying. I then wanted to use the extra large sized pattern for two different pairs of pants. I used clear tape and taped wherever I would put a pin in the pattern, using about a two inch piece.  So far I have cut out four pairs of pants with one pattern and it is still holding together.  Putting the tape on did not take very long at all.  We cannot make something from nothing, but we can stretch our money so that we make every dollar count.

Christmas Eve

Merry Christmas Everyone!

   Today is Christmas Eve!  Many people are  checking their gift lists to see if they have gotten a present for everyone. Many parents are asking,” Did we get all the presents the children asked for that we could afford?”

    Want to have a more meaningful Christmas? Why not ask yourself what could I do with one hour to help or to bless someone or a family that has less than we do? Do you have some toys that are in nice condition, could you bless a less fortunate family with those toys to put under their tree?  Could you take cookies to an elderly neighbor or maybe just stop over and spend a few minutes listening to them?  Are you having a big meal at your house and is there someone you could invite that has nowhere to go?  Do you have an extra roast in the freezer and know someone who has need of some food? If you have children, please take them with you or involve them in whatever you decide to do.

   If you are bold enough to accept my challenge to spend one hour of your Christmas Eve blessing others that are less fortunate than you, you will have a much better Christmas. You may realize how blessed you are. You may feel more content. Paul said in Acts 20:35′”I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of our Lord Jesus, that He said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.””

   You may ask, Donna, what does doing for others have to do with saving money or ‘making do’?  Answer: for just a little bit of money that you spent on the cookies you gave away or the gas to drive to a neighbor’s house or whatever you gave away, you may feel better about yourself, better about the world we live in, and the benefactor of your benevolence feels better too. You get all that good feeling from the little bit of money you spent in helping someone who has less than you.

Christmas Gifts

    With Christmas less than a week away, how can we curb expenses without lessening our joy in the Christmas experience? Gifts are a very important part of Christmas. Older people tend to get joy from watching younger people open a special gift they purchased or made for them. Young children are almost wild with anticipation of the gifts they are going to receive this year. If you still have gifts to purchase make sure the person who is receiving the gift truly expects a gift from you. For instance if you are getting Uncle Chuck a tie just so he has something to open don’t bother.  Men prefer home baked cookies or candy. If you are purchasing a gift for a grandchild and don’t know what to get, think about enduring quality. As an example close relatives who asked me what to get for my young sons, I suggested real tools. You could spend ten to twenty dollars on a real tool that the child could use and keep for years or you could spend twenty dollars on a plastic construction worker toy which may last six months. Which gift would have the most positive impact?