Six Reasons to Grow Mache

The first two reasons:

  • It’s one of the most delicious greens you can find.
  • AND it grows in the winter without protection. Brush back the snow (or chip into the ice) and harvest.

Without considering its other great benefits, those are reasons enough for almost any gardener to want it.

Mache is well known in European countries. It’s available in grocery stores there in spring, late fall and winter.

Being low to the ground, mache has to be hand harvested. That makes profit difficult, so it’s seldom seen in US grocery stores.

Friend and reader, Amy, whose husband is German, was with me in the garden one fall. Mache was everywhere. She knew exactly what it was because whenever they’d visit her husband’s home in Germany (in cool seasons) they’d enjoy this green in abundance. Later, she told me how delighted and surprised her husband was when she served the mache salad with dinner that evening!

Reason 3 – It reseeds.

Once it’s established you’ll have it every year without any work.


Reason 4 – Seldom available unless you grow it.

Growing your own is about the only way you’re gonna be able to enjoy this green.

Reason 5 – Mache can almost single-handedly make a tremendous contribution to your health at a time that you’re not able to get other greens to supplement your diet.

If you’ve studied nutrition you already know that almost all the minerals and vitamins we need to be healthy come from plants.

In the spring and summer we have a multitude of plants to choose from to get all the necessary vitamins and minerals we need. But in the winter, fresh greens are hard to come by.

Power packed with Vitamins A and C, mache also  provides iron, Vitamin B6, manganese, copper, potassium, phosphorus, Vitamin B2 (riboflavin), and tryptophan (an amino acid).

These vitamins and minerals make it beneficial to your vision, immune system, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, skin-bone-teeth health, brain health, blood sugar levels and more.

Reason 6 – Growing it as part of a plan for emergencies (when there’s no access to stores and power is down) could help you stay alive and in good health.

It has it’s feet in the wild and is more likely to outlast things in the garden that need protection in cold weather.

For part of your emergency plan in warmer weather try malabar and/or magentaspreen. They have their feet in the wild as well and are edible for a much longer time than many garden greens. They’ll last until frost, and by that time mache will have made its appearance in the garden.

Final Thoughts

September is the perfect time to sow mache in your garden.

When you get all those rave reviews serving it as part of your Thanksgiving and/or Christmas feast, let me know.

Related Posts:

Growing Winter Greens – Starved for Lettuce and other Greens

Mache – Why Grow it and Secrets to Having Enough

Mulching, Weeds, Annuals, Crop Residue to the Rescue



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Fall planting – Lettuce – New Variety – Garlic – Winter Rye Strategy

Although we still have a few weeks of summer remaining, the change to fall is in the air.
It’s a great opportunity to enjoy one of the best and most enjoyable times to grow your own food.

Started my first planting for fall lettuce about mid August. Transplanted the seedlings to the garden day before yesterday. No rain. Soil was bone dry so carried in some buckets of rainwater to water them in thoroughly.

I seeded containers with 5 more varieties yesterday and will continue to plant at least every other week through October.

Key to a Continual Supply of Lettuce

If you want lettuce all through the fall, winter and into early spring just one planting of lettuce won’t do it. Succession planting is the key: plant some lettuce; in a week or two plant more; repeat.

For more tips to help you have all the lettuce you want, review the lettuce posts listed at the end. (I’ve written dozens of posts on lettuce; so if you put lettuce in the search box <upper left column> more will come up.)

New Variety (for me anyway)

It’s hard to beat my favorite varieties of lettuce: Winter Density (a romaine) and Sierra Batavia (a crisphead). Both delicious! And considered (by me) to be the best of the best in taste, performance and beauty.

Thanks to a friend, I’ve now discovered a variety that I like just as much as my favorite two. As a matter of fact, I’d go so far as to say that if this “new discovery” were in my garden along side the other two varieties, I’d be eating more of it than the others.

After looking at what various suppliers had to say about this new one, I understood why I liked it so much. It’s a combination of a batavian crisphead and a romaine!

It’s tolerant of hot weather. My friend brought me a crisp, beautiful head in the hottest part of July this year. Sweet as could be without a hint of bitterness!

I have high hopes of a great fall performance. And if it does well under my protective covers through the winter I’ll be overjoyed!

The variety is Concept. Why not give it a try. Serving it at your big Thanksgiving (and/or Christmas) dinner should bring all kinds of rave reviews.

Garlic – Tip for stress-free planting in October or November.

As fall and holidays approach, everyone seems to get busier.

Select the beds that you’ll plant with garlic and prepare them now. When the time comes to plant, all you’ll have to do is separate the cloves, plant, and mulch.

Mid October is a good time to plant in areas further North. Planting garlic that early here in Virginia gives me too much above ground growth before the cold sets in.

I wait until November to plant. That gives my garlic plenty of time to establish strong roots underground, but not make too much growth above ground.

Seed Garlic

Most seed garlic ships in October, in time for planting in almost all areas.

I’ve noticed the most popular varieties sell out rather quickly. If you haven’t ordered, it’s a good time to check it off your list.

If you choose to order from you might want to take advantage of the great savings on their Northern White, a porcelain variety that is big, beautiful, and easy to grow. And remember, you’ll get even more savings by ordering before Thursday, August 31, 2017. For the added 10% savings use the code earlybird2017. (That’s a total savings of 24% off the Northern White!)

(Click on the icon in the left column to shop.)

Winter Rye Strategy and Tomatoes (and other warm weather crops)

Now’s a great time to choose where your tomatoes are going next year if you plan on transplanting your seedlings into the stubble of winter rye.

With the help of still standing tomatoes and my garden chart I’ll look for spots that have not had tomatoes for at least 2 years; preferably 3. In late October or November I’ll sow winter rye seed into those spots.

Most of my beds are about 3’ wide by 16 feet long. Spots chosen for tomatoes will vary in size. I’ll sow the winter rye only where the tomatoes will go.

Makes it easy in the spring. I look at the rye and know exactly where my tomatoes are going to reside.

This strategy works great for almost any warm weather crop like cukes, squash, melons, peppers, eggplant, etc.

Final Thoughts

Even if you’re a beginning gardener, fall can be one of the best times to garden.

Grab the opportunity if you can.


Couldn’t resist adding two pictures of my entrance path bordered by the annual, summer poinsettia, that I use as a cover crop in some of my beds each year.  It’s above my elbow in height and beautiful.  All kinds of bees and insects swarming on it everyday.  They love it as much as I do.

The first is a close up view. The second shows more of the garden. (Pepper, tomatoes and asparagus ferns are visible as well as the summer poinsettia.)

Entrance path bordered by summer poinsettia at the end of August.

Taken from the entrance gate to show summer poinsettia and some of garden.

Related Posts:

Growing Garlic – A Good Reason to Grow Your Own

Growing Garlic – Yours Large Enough for You?

Lettuce – Making Sure You Have Enough for Fall/Winter/Next Spring

Still Eating Lettuces from Your Garden In January/or Not?

Lettuce – A Reminder – Ways to Have a Continual Supply from Fall Through Spring

Lettuce – Varieties to Keep You Eating All Year or at Least 10 Months

Lettuce – Sierra Batavia

Growing Lettuce Plan for a Continual Supply

Winter Rye as a Cover Crop – 2 Strategies


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Cover Crops – Hairy Vetch (and others) – Know the Facts Before You Plant

Cover crops for the home garden have gained popularity.

Many articles make every cover crop sound like one you’d want in your garden. And although the articles might mention some of the downside characteristics, most do it in a way that many gardeners wouldn’t recognize them as being possible problems.

Cover crops are a great way to help build healthy soil. BUT, in order to avoid a less-than-desirable outcome it’s best to do your home work first.

Learn the characteristics of the crop and how that will impact what you plan.

One Reader Recently Commented:

  • Not having any previous experience I planted winter rye into my garden beds last fall for the purpose of maintaining living roots through winter.

I assume his purpose for wanting “living roots” was to keep mycorrhizal fungi in the garden over the winter. But you don’t need large areas of cover crops (or living plants) to keep these beneficial fungi in your garden.

Here and there plantings of herbs like oregano, arugula, thyme, and/or sorrel will overwinter and keep these fungi alive and well.

So will strawberries.

Any perennial flowers you have in the garden will do the same.

When warm weather arrives and you plant the rest of your garden the mycorrhizal fungi will multiply and spread throughout your plantings.

He continues:

  • In the spring even after cutting and waiting two weeks direct seeding and transplanting had issues, no germination, stunted growth effecting some things more than others.

Winter rye has allelopathic properties. It suppresses the germination of other seeds. That’s why farmers wait at least 2 or 3 weeks after cutting and incorporating the rye into soil before they direct seed another crop like corn.

It can also affect transplants. (It doesn’t always. I dig planting holes into my winter rye stubble for transplanting warm weather crops and have never had a problem.)

And towards the end of his comment he stated:

  • This fall I’m going to try hairy vetch which I hope will not have all the side effects.

Although weak, hairy vetch also has allelopathic properties.

An even less desirable trait is the strong possibility of it becoming a weed. If it reseeds you’ll have it forever. I wrote about my experience with hairy vetch in this post.

To further insure the chances that it’ll be around forever is the fact that it contains “hard” seed. That means that not all the seed will germinate the year you plant. The “hard” seed will wait in the soil and germinate in future years.

All it takes is a plant going to seed unnoticed — and it’s off and running forever. I planted it almost 35 years ago; moved to a new location 18 years ago; and I still have it!!

Costs me time every year to pull it out to try to control it. (The seed came over in perennials I brought from my previous garden.)

Final Thoughts

I gardened many years before I knew about or how to use cover crops. Before I use anything new, caution is my guide.

When finally deciding to use winter rye in my garden, I planted only a small 5 x 3 foot area the first year. After reading so many “nightmare” accounts, I wanted to see first hand what it did and how I could manage it before I did any bigger plantings.

Cover crops can be great for our gardens. But I recommend you do your homework and start small.


Related Posts:


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Adjusting a Cover Crop Strategy for the Home Gardener

Readers who write to me about cover crops are sometimes under the impression that to use them they need heavy duty equipment.

That impression might come from articles and videos that show farmers on tractors tilling under various cover crops.

It can also come from a gardener using a crop like winter rye without knowing ahead of time how to deal with it. They’ve not planned a strategy that takes into account how difficult winter rye would be to turn into the soil without power tools.

Fortunately, we can use most all cover crops to improve the soil in our home gardens without the need for heavy equipment. With the right strategy,  a hand sickle and/or your other favorite hand tool is all you’ll need.

Know the Characteristics of the Cover Crop

You do have to educate yourself on the characteristics of the cover crop. Once you know that, you can work out a plan that gives you the benefits of the crop with minimum effort.

Example of a Farmer’s Strategy You Can Adapt

Here’s an example of a strategy a farmer might use. Altering it slightly will make it easy to use in your garden.

*The farmer might plant a field in buckwheat.

He might have decided on buckwheat because it can take insoluble rock forms of phosphorous and turn them into soluble forms that vegetables can absorb. It also scavenges calcium and other minor nutrients.

*Whenever the farmer’s strategy dictates, he plows the cover crop into his soil.

*After that he’ll plant another crop like rye which will hold in its green growth all the good stuff the first cover crop put into the soil.

*In the early spring the farmer might till under the rye which will slowly break down and return all those nutrients to the soil for use by whatever crop will follow.

Adapting the Above Strategy for the Home Garden

Here’s how I’m going to adapt that strategy for various beds in my garden this year.

  • This week I’ll plant buckwheat in a few garden beds. With a bit of rain, the buckwheat should germinate quickly (4 to 5 days) and be ready to flower in about 6 weeks.

My garden beds are permanent and have not been tilled in the 18 years since they were first prepared. I just pull back the mulch and plant.

  • With hedge shears I’ll cut it to ground level before it makes seed.

(I don’t use my hand sickle to cut buckwheat because it comes out of the ground too easily when you grab a handful to cut. )

  • I’ll leave the roots in the ground and scatter the cut biomass evenly over the bed.

At the end of October or into November:

  • I’ll sow seed of winter rye. It should come up just fine through the buckwheat roots and cuttings.

Next spring I’ll let the rye grow until the pollen hangs on the seed heads. That’s usually the last part of May in my area.

  • Then I’ll cut it (with my hand sickle) and lay the cuttings on top of the bed.

It’ll then be the perfect time to transplant warm weather crops.

  • Using a hand tool I’ll dig a few holes in the rye stubble for transplants like tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, cukes, or squash.

The stubble will decay by early or mid- summer. (You can add more mulch to the bed either before or after that happens.)

Final Thoughts

In this strategy, how the soil receives the benefits has been adjusted.

Rather than turning under the cover crops, I’ll let the soil life incorporate them for me.

However, I feel confident the benefits will be about the same. but with very little effort and a couple of hand tools.


Related Posts:

Winter Rye as a Cover Crop – Two Strategies

Cover Crop Ideas to Help You Make the Choice


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Garlic – A Good Harvest – Possible Even with Too Much Rain/ Tips/Proof/and Some Fun.

If you’re a garlic grower you’ve probably checked out a few (or numerous) sources about growing garlic.

On any topic there’s always something that just about everyone parrots as part of their two cents worth. One such statement about garlic is “Harvest when it’s dry.” Another is simply “watch out for rain”.

Those two statements leave much unsaid.

“Harvest when it’s dry” gives rise to more questions. And what in the world do you do if natures throws a curve ball with torrential rains when it’s time to harvest?

The “watch out for rain” warning is one of my favorites. What exactly does that mean? And what are you suppose to do when you see rain on the horizon?

Why Wet Conditions Can Ruin Your Crop

The bottom line about harvesting almost any crop in wet conditions is that too much moisture invites mold and decay. With garlic (especially in heavy soils) it can also stain wrappers and make the bulbs tough to clean. (Two concerns primarily for market growers.)

Being knowledgeable about how garlic develops from a few weeks prior to harvest through the curing stage greatly increases your chances of having a great harvest that will store well in spite of wet conditions.

Knowing When to Harvest

Leaves starting to brown are an indication that harvest is near. A good rule of thumb is to harvest when 40% (up to 50%) of the leaves have browned.

Keeping in mind that water stress can also result in browning of the leaves, it’s good in a rainy season to pull the soil away from a few bulbs to see what’s going on under the soil. Are the bulbs a good size? Are the skins pulled tight over the cloves? You might want to cut a bulb open to take a better look.

What Happens When All the Leaves are Brown

The cloves dry and pull away from the stem. Similar to a flower opening. The bulbs can be used for immediate use in the kitchen, but they won’t store well when they’ve gone this far.

Two Things to Help You Better Understand When to Harvest

  • #1  –when garlic bulbs are formed

“— the bulb swells as the leaves START to dry down. Bulbs should be well-sized by the time about 25% of the plant leaves are brown.”

  • #2 – why the number of green leaves is a key factor in determining time of harvest

“Brown or dead leaves represent bulb wrappers, either — already decayed or in the early stages of decay — In other words, brown leaves above ground usually indicate bulb wrappers that will be lost as the garlic is harvested, cured and cleaned.”

It’s important to save as many bulb wrappers as you can to help insure better storage. Green leaves represent the wrappers that will most likely make it to storage.

I learned both things from Ron Engeland’s book, Growing Great Garlic (considered the definitive garlic grower’s guide).

After Harvest

Keep the garlic out of direct sun and get it to the curing area as quickly as possible. (Direct sun deteriorates quality.)

Do NOT wash.

Leave the roots and leaves on the bulbs until after curing.

Curing to Preserve Your Garlic

Curing usually takes 2 to 4 weeks. It can take up to 2 months if conditions are humid.

The most important things you need to consider in choosing your curing location are

  • good air circulation and
  • protection from the sun.

Below is a picture of the Greenberg’s curing set up.  The old corn crib on Troy’s grandmother’s neighboring property perfectly meets the requirements for air circulation and protection from direct sun.

Now for the FUN:

As you will recall from past posts, is a small family owned company growing organic garlic on about one acre. The “laborers” 😊 are the Greenberg kids (and an occasional borrowed neighbor)  under the supervision of their Dad, Troy.

5 of the Greenberg kids and a neighbor bundle and tie garlic after harvest.

The garlic growing area is saturated this year from all the rain.

Troy tells me that this section of Wisconsin gets torrential rain just about time for garlic harvesting every 3 to 5 years. So far they’ve had no trouble with the mold and decay associated with harvesting in wet conditions. They, of course, do everything they can to follow good principles for garlic growing — many already mentioned at the beginning of this post.

Because of the rain, the Greenbergs now have their own temporary pond, complete with giant frogs.  The kids take advantage of the water and have fun while it lasts.

The Greenberg kids sail their boat on the rain-made pond.

Frogs came when the rain made the pond.

Special Scoops for TMG Readers:

Scoop #1
In spite of all the rain, Troy was very excited about the huge bulbs of Russian Giant, a purple stripe variety of garlic. Some of the bulbs are 3 inches! That’s some kinda BIG garlic!

Last year they didn’t have enough to sell. This year they do!

You’re getting this scoop ahead time, so if you want to grow this “giant” put your order in now! (Click on the Get Garlic icon in the left margin.)

Scoop #2
For ordering early (before August 31, 2017) you get 10% off. (Don’t woryy, garlic won’t be shipped until September.)

I didn’t see the 10% early bird special on GetGarlic website, so be sure to ask for it when you order before 8/31/17.  (Update: – Use the code earlybird2017 by August 31, 2017 to get the discount.)

Scoop #3

When GetGarlic first started, they over bought Northern White, a porcelain variety.

When they realized they’d grown too much, they put it on sale. (Other garlic is $19.00 a pound and Northern White is $16.34 a pound. A substantial savings of 14%.)

Troy told me customers have loved it because it’s so beautiful and the cloves get so big.

This porcelain variety would be a great one to try, even for beginners. And with 10% off by ordering before August 31, 2017 you save a bundle.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully you found a piece of information in this post that you didn’t already know and that you can apply next season to get an even better garlic harvest.

And I hope the pictures and stories that Troy shared made you smile!

When you order your garlic from, please thank them for their continued sponsorship of TendingMyGarden. (This is their 3rd year with TMG.)

Their sponsorship goes a long way towards making it possible to keep TMG up and running and continuing to give you the help you need to be successful.

Related Posts:


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Tomatoes – Ways to Stake – Tip to Help Prevent Splitting and No Taste Fruit after Rain

A week or so ago we had torrential rains! Friends a couple miles down the road measured 6.5 inches of rain in just a short few hours.

For the most part, I stay out of the garden when things are this wet. But the day after the rain I was anxious to see if any of the stakes holding my tomatoes had fallen over.

If that happens it may not unearth the roots totally, but disturbs them enough that the plants could put all their energy towards ripening the existing tomatoes and not producing more.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing at the end of the season when there’s little time for new tomatoes to form, but August is way to early for that to be desirable.

I can’t remember how Bill and I first staked tomatoes. But eventually, I found steel stakes like those pictured below. Each year I’d get a few more. (They stack easily for storage after the season.)

Steel Tomato Stakes

They’re a 59 inch length including the 14 inch prongs that go into the ground.

They’re sturdy (to a degree) and hold a lot of weight. The description online at Gardener’s Supply indicates they’ll hold over 100 pounds. That sounds about right. The problem comes when it rains a lot and the ground softens. Then the stakes are prone to lean with the weight of the plant and its fruit. That can loosen (pull out) the roots to one degree or another.

Wind intensifies the problem.

And that’s why I was anxious to get out and inspect after that rain.

Could the Problem Be Avoided by NOT Staking?

It could be avoided by not staking and letting the tomatoes sprawl.
BUT, everything has it’s pros and cons.

The first year I gardened I just let the plants sprawl. It only took that one season for me to decided I didn’t like that.

First, it takes more space than I’m willing to give.

Second, I got tired of crickets and slugs feasting on tomatoes laying on the ground.

That can happen with staked tomatoes too, but seldom compared to when plants sprawl.


Help for Splitting and Tasteless Tomatoes After Heavy Rain

*Soil that has been deeply prepared and improved every year with organic matter will drain water, rather than becoming water logged. The soil will be wet — but well drained. (If you have framed beds that have been filled with soil but still have hardpan at the bottom, your soil will be water logged after a lot of rain.)

*Plants with heavy foliage can absorb much more water and thus, the fruits don’t take up as much water.  (This would be a reason in favor of not pruning tomato plants heavily.)

The 6.5 inches of rain we had the other week did not affect the taste of my tomatoes. Nor did it cause any splitting.

If we were to have days of that, I’d be concerned.

Also, keep in mind that some varieties are more prone to splitting than others. Those might need to be picked before the rain.

Tomato plants and pepper plant in garden.

Tomatoes picked from plants in the garden after the heavy rain. (Cherokee purple and Mikado.)

Tomato plants usually get very large. I only prune when a branch is getting in the way. Or maybe at the end of the season when I know that there’s no time for new fruit to develop.

Tying up the same plant to just one stake would not only get too heavy, but the foliage would be too thick for good air circulation. At least 3 or 4 stakes per tomato plant is ideal. <See the previous picture of tomatoes in the garden.>

By the way, these stakes are perfect for pepper plants. Use the 59 inch ones for peppers that get about 4 feet tall. Shorter ones are available for peppers that grow only 2 1/2 to 3 feet.

(I use old stockings cut in strips to tie plants to the stake.)

One stake and one plant – the exception. Just to have a tomato close to the house I planted this one in the worse possible spot.  In spite of that, it’s a gorgeous plant, but just didn’t grow a lot of foliage like the ones in the garden.  The red mark is where the stake ends.

Tomatoes picked from the plant just pictured after the heavy rain. Open pollinated Big Beef. (by Gary Ibsen)

Some tomatoes and peppers in the small meadow bed. I found a huge tomato concealed in the foliage where I’ve drawn the red circle.  Its picture is below this one.

My old scale is about an 1/8 of a pound off. The tomato is only a little over a pound. It too is the open pollinated Big Beef. but just a lot bigger than the other 3 from the plant in the poor spot.

Other Methods to Stake Tomatoes

The ways to stake tomatoes are probably endless, but below I’ve mentioned two that really appeal to me. If I were just starting out, I’d think about trying one.

They’d be more secure than what I have and not require the constant vigilance over the entire season.

Cylinders of Concrete Reinforcing Wire

I had a friend who made 4 feet tall, 19 inch cylinders out of concrete reinforcing wire. (You’ll recall from the second picture down in this post that wire comes flat.  You can then cut and bend it to the shape you want. The 4 inch square openings in the wire are large enough to get your hand  in and out with a big tomato.)

T-posts were driven two feet into the ground and he’d weave the wire cylinder over the posts to hold it upright and secure. Never had trouble with wind and heavy rain causing them to fall over.

Utility Panels (a/k/a Cattle Panels)

I don’t have the room for this method, but I like it a lot.

T-posts go in the ground every 5 to 10 feet for the length of your row.

A utility panel (available in various lengths and widths) is then secured to the t-posts. Tomatoes are planted every 2 or 3 feet.

Each plant can be tied to the panel after it’s about a foot or two tall and then it’ll take care of itself. No need to worry about more tying or pruning. The few branches that end up on the ground are not much of a problem. You can leave them or cut them off; whatever you prefer.

Final Thoughts and Two More Pictures

Because of the cold in May, I didn’t transplant tomatoes into garden beds until the last day of May and the first week in June.  Needless to say, I was into mid July before getting a tomato.

It was worth the wait!

I’ve drawn red over the top of the tomato stake so you can see how the plant towers over it.

From inside the garden looking out at one of the borders. I enjoy the beauty and long bloom time of this Heliopsis each year.

Garden notes and pictures – May

Eating asparagus, some strawberries, onions, various lettuces and greens, rapini, collards, radishes, parsley, sorrel, and thyme.  Potatoes are growing quickly so “new” potatoes are not too far in the future.

Garlic and Onions

After that nice rain we had yesterday I noticed that about 8 garlic plants had turned brown over night. I pulled them up right away because I’ve had that happen before.

The root rots and the plant dies. It doesn’t happen to all of them, but it does happen to some. I’ve come to be on the look out for this especially when we have ongoing cold overcast and/or rainy days.

Also happens to a few onions each year. And no, I’m not 100% sure what to call it although my first guess after researching when it first appeared 5 years ago was pink root.   What I do know is that it’s best to get those weakened plants out immediately since the fungus (if its pink root) can stay in the soil for years.

Always rotate your onion (and garlic) crops so that a bed only has onions every 3 years; 4 is better. Some sources suggest 6 years which would be almost impossible for me.

Looking at an angle across garden rows.

Lettuce all Year (or at least 10 months)

Lettuces from last fall are stalking and look great.

I’ve been starting and transplanting new lettuces since mid February. Once a jug or flat germinates, I start more.

I’ll continue to plant through June although if it turns really warm I’ll have to start it inside where it’ll be cool enough for germination. After that I’ll resume starting seed in mid August through October.

If you want lettuce continually as I do, you’ve got to succession plant or more than likely you’ll find yourself without lettuce for a few months. Of course, there are lot’s of secrets to getting a continually supply even from lettuce that most folks consider “finished”. (See this post for one. )

Winter rye was ready to cut the last week in April. Laid it on top of its stubble.

#1 – onions in the meadow bed; #2 – cut winter rye; #3 – mache seeding; #4 – single onions; #5 – a group of onion seedlings planted to produce sets


As regular readers know from prior posts the invasive roots from the monster trees on our bordering property have pretty much ruined my asparagus beds in the garden. The picture below will give you a better idea of what I mean.

The widest part of the red handle is 3/4 of an inch wide. The asparagus on the left are from an asparagus plant put in 3 years ago on the other side of the property. It has no root competition from the invasives. The asparagus on the right are in the garden and have to compete with the roots. They still taste good, they’re just much smaller and getting smaller every year.

asparagus comparison – ones on the left have no competition — ones on the right do

I started 3 different varieties from seed this year. Now to find a place to put the seedlings so they can grow undisturbed until next spring. I transplanted Connover’s Colossal seedlings in a grow bag. A garden bed will house the other varieties for the year; just not sure where yet.

Then next year I’ll move all to a permanent location as far from the invasive trees as possible. This will help insure that I have some asparagus to eat after those root totally diminish the other plants.

asparagus seedlings – If you have maple trees you already know those brown things in with the seedlings are maple seeds. They fall like rain from my big maples.


I dug a hole in some of the rye stubble and put in 5 tomato plants yesterday.

I’ll put in at least 15 to 20 more plants over the course of the next couple of weeks. I’ll also pot up a few seedlings to have on stand-by just in case I lose a transplant for one reason or the other. (Back up is always a good policy.)

tomato seedlings ready to transplant


Pepper seedlings are tiny. That’s nothing new around here. See this post.

An observation: the seed that I saved from last years crop of a certain variety germinated more quickly than seed from other varieties that were purchased. Also the seedlings are larger. Other variables could account for it, but I’m definitely making a note of it.

pepper seedlings from seed I saved last year

The borders are starting to bloom and it’s most welcomed.

Pink tradescantia is not as strong a grower as the blue, but I just love it.  Makes me want to have company so I can decorate the plate with the flowers (which are eatable).


I never tire of these royal purple iris. Elizabeth’s gold, my early day lily in the picture below, has an abundance of blooms this year making the purple iris show up more than ever.  Also note the blue tradescantia behind the iris.


Elizabeth’s gold.


Planted last year, these snapdragons are at least 2 1/2 feet tall.  In spite of the wind and rain we had last week, they’re still standing straight.


Easy Going is a floribunda rose in my fence border.  Blooms are beautiful and prolific!

Final Thoughts

I hope you are enjoying your garden.

My thoughts are of you as I tend mine.


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Garden Talk – mid-April

Looking at the garden from a distance there’s not much too see. Nonetheless, I took pictures so you can get an idea of what’s going on.

The tall blue/green is winter rye.  That’s where most of the tomato plants will go.

The low light green is mache flowering and going to seed.  (It’s hiding the winter lettuce from view.)

The light purplish haze to the right are the blueberry bushes that are keeping the bumblebees busy.

The wheelbarrow of straw I’m getting ready to take into the garden.

The buckets of rain water I’ve moved to the entrance so when I transplant more seedlings I can fill the watering can without having to go over to the rain barrels across the yard. (I usually don’t water-in seedlings but it’s been a little drier this year.)

Approaching my garden entrance gate.

Below is my attempt at a photoshop drawing. Pretty bad drawing, but it still gives you a better idea of the garden layout than the photo does.

The garden’s approximately 40 by 60 feet. The beds and paths are permanent. There is a center path down the middle. And there’s a border of at least two feet from the fence (all the way around) so the beds won’t run right to the fence and so I’ll have room to walk.

My photoshop drawing of the garden layout.

The Unknowing Visitor

Folks who know only conventional gardening and end up on my property for one reason or the other are prone to thinking they’re looking at weeds.

A lady last year who saw my garden in April asked me a month or so later if I ever got my garden into shape. I just laughed and said “It was never out of shape.” I’m sure that puzzled her, but there was no point in explaining.

The fellow who is going to cut my grass this year was here about a week ago to cut for the first time. (My friend who cut it last year moved to Florida.)

Anyway – he glanced over and said “I see your garden’s like mine. I haven’t done anything either.”

What he did see growing, I guess he thought was grass or weeds. And the new seedlings of onions (over a thousand), lettuces, rapini, collards, beets, radishes, parsley, cilantro, cabbage and peas were too small to see. Even potato growth is still small and not visible unless you’re right next to it.

Below are some close ups of various things so you can see there really is something growing:

Endive/escarole lettuce.

The endive/escarole lettuce is one I’d not want to be without in the winter.  Even without protection it can make it through.  But with a bit of protection you’ll be eating it all winter.  I had planned some for bean soup like Lisa makes (you remember Lisa from this post), but every time I’d harvest with soup in mind, I’d end up eating it fresh.

Small bunches of onion seedlings.

Using Extra Seedlings

I ran out of space for onions before I ran out of seedlings.  So I planted a few small bunches in various available spots. Being so close together they’ll stay small but will make nice sets for me to replant in the fall for spring onions.

Winter Density lettuce surrounded by flowering mache.

Wow! Better than Lettuce!

I had an unexpected visit from a young friend (24 years old) yesterday about 45 minutes before dark.  I picked lettuce while we chatted.  As I harvested, he said, “Aren’t you going to let me sample some lettuce, Mrs. Martz?”

I couldn’t help but smile.  I know he loves mache, but I didn’t realize he likes my lettuce too.  After a dozen or so leaves of Winter Density and Sierra Batavia, he said, “Wow! that’s better than lettuce!”  I replied, “It is lettuce.”

Of course, what he meant was – it’s better than store bought lettuce  – which has no flavor at all.


I started Rapini (sorta like brocolli but doesn’t make a head) seedlings in mid February.  I transplanted half to the garden the first week in March.  The very next night was below 20 degrees.  The Rapini had not even had a chance to recover from being transplanted.  Needless to say, I lost it.

I left the rest of the seedlings (which remained in the jug)  in the garden for the next couple of weeks and then transplanted to the place I’d lost the others.

This is my first time growing it.

Strawberries, parsley from last year, mache flowering.

I have three parsley plants growing from last year. Never can get enough parsley no matter how many I plant.

parsley seedlings

Happy Ending for Beets Planted in February

Started to plant these parsley seedlings the other day in a spot where I had sown beets back in February.  Thought the beets were not gonna come up.  I was surprised to see them up about an inch and looking great. Had to find other spots for the parsley.

The first beets to go in the garden were seedlings that I transplanted to soon.  Lost them.  Waited a couple of weeks and put more in.  They’re doing great.

Peas breaking the ground.


The first peas I planted were pre-germinated.  They’re still just barely coming up.  The other plantings of peas (4 total) the seeds were soaked over night and then sown.  They’re all coming up as shown in the photo above.

Mako onion seedlings.

Onions from Seed

I plant so many onions every year that I try to schedule transplanting with rain so I won’t have to water them with my watering can.  No rain came this year.  I still waited 3 days – hoping for rain.  Finally gave in and did the task.  The next day, I could tell the difference.

By the way, notice how nice and tall the seedlings are?  So many folks promote the idea that seedlings started from seed need to be cut back.  I NEVER cut mine back and they do wonderfully as you can see.

Breen and Sierra Batavia lettuce.

Lettuce Seedlings

We had a nice shower tonight that was not expected.  Tomorrow I’ll see a difference in these seedlings.  It’s always fun to see the amazing growth that takes place after a rain.

A closer look: Winter rye, mache flowering, sorrel (it’s 3rd year) between the mache and the blueberry bush.


Garden from the top end looking “across” the rows.

From this view, you can see some garlic growing.

Still have the bricks in the garden that anchored the row covers. Also, I’m in the process of removing the hoops and concrete reinforcing wire supports.

Found the first asparagus today.  It’ll be a while before I get enough each day for a meal.

Final Thought

Anything interesting to report about YOUR garden?  I’d love to hear it, as would your fellow TMG readers.


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Why Not Go for Being All You Can Be/A Story to Encourage/7 Tips to Help Get You There

Earlier this year I was asked by a long time acquaintance to tell our story publicly. Since she first heard the story years ago, she  found it encouraging and thought others would benefit by it as well.

Tonight, I happened to come across my notes for the talk. In reviewing them, I thought it contained information that might lift you up, encourage you, and help you to do things that maybe you’ve been a bit hesitant to tackle .

Life is so short. That in itself is enough to make it important to do what you really want to do in life. Things won’t always be perfect, but you’ll never know what you can do until you try.

Bill and I followed a rough road. But amazingly we accomplished what everyone said couldn’t be done. (More details on this will follow.)

Most long time readers know that I started gardening to eat. But this is the rest of the story – at least in part.

A Little Background

Bill was the middle of 3 kids.
 I was an only child.
 Both of us came from families where we didn’t do anything that suited our parents.

We were looking to get out of that situation as soon as we could.

Bill left when he was 17 and joined the Navy.
 He served 5 years and was a 2nd class machinist mate when he got out.

That’s when we met.
 We rented rooms at the same boarding house.

He’d knock on my door to wake me in the morning and leave a cup of coffee in a plastic cup at the door before he left for work. (He left much earlier than I did.)

Whenever I’d come home from a date, Bill would be painting and we’d talk into the wee hours. 
Six months later we married.

From Virginia to Baltimore

We moved from Virginia to Baltimore. No money of course. All I had was high heels shoes, so if I wasn’t working I was barefooted. (I remember being barefooted into November.)

During that time I worked mostly for attorneys.
 Bill had a variety of jobs, but mainly in air/conditioning and refrigeration.

Still in our 20’s he was accepted and attended Maryland Institute College of Art
. Also attended air/conditioning & refrigeration schools during the years he worked in that field.

When Bill turned 36 we gave serious thought to the possibility of getting into our 40’s and 50’s and never doing what we really wanted to do because we’d always been told it couldn’t be done. (Making a living with his art.)

My guess is that many of you can probably relate to being told what you want to do is impossible.

Starts when we’re young and want to do something that society as a whole, your parents or your peers are not doing. Then folks start telling you very emphatically in most cases, that what you want to do can’t be done. They give you excuses (usually called reasons) like you’re either too young or too old, the economy’s bad, you have children, you don’t have enough money and on it goes.

The sad part is that in most cases we start to believe all that propaganda and accept it as fact. Then we don’t follow through on things that could make life great, rather than just muddling through in the grey zone.

And of course, we make excuses ourselves.  The two most popular being lack of time and money.

But the fact is – what you accomplish and what you’re able to do has more to do with how much you want to do it than it does with how much money and time you have. I wrote in detail about this in a previous post.

Helps if You Know Someone Who’s Already Done It

If you want to be successful in any given field, it helps if you know of someone who’s already done what you
 want to do. Then copy them. (For example, even if you have absolutely no experience in gardening you can copy my example and be successful. That’s why I wrote the book – to help you be successful almost instantly.)

In our case, we had never even heard of any artist who had taken our approach – so there was no one to copy. Quite frankly, it seemed like an impossible goal – even to us.

Driven To Do It

We didn’t know how to go about achieving our goal, but we were so driven to get out of the city and be where we wanted to be (which was here in the Northern Neck) that we quit our jobs and moved here even though we had no money.

I take that back – we had $80.

To make it even more of what most would call insane – we wanted to make our living with Bill’s artistic abilities.

So here we were, in the middle of a remote area (especially back then), knowing no one, having no income,
 with only $80, and everything we owned in a truck that still belonged to the bank in Baltimore. And not a clue as to what we were doing.

When I look back I’m amazed and almost find it hard to believe that we were so driven to take such a hard road.

I had someone say to me one time, “But it really wasn’t that hard was it?”

Yes, it was! It was very hard. As a matter fact when I look back, it amazes me that we got through it.

The only reason we had a roof over our head when we arrived in this area, was because a fellow who had worked with Bill owned a trailer and said we could stay in it.

It doesn’t take a lot of thought to figure out that we were pretty much destitute within a week or so.

Nonetheless, Bill went out every day to draw and paint. And I think that was just as much to remind us of what we were suppose to be doing here, as anything else.

Looking for Work

We also looked for conventional “jobs”, but no one would hire us. Bill went to all the a/c and heating companies looking for work. I went to all the offices (especially attorneys). We both told folks they didn’t have to pay us until they saw what we could do and that we’d be willing to do the jobs that their other employees didn’t want to do.

I remember one day – I made an interview appointment with one of the larger companies in Kilmarnock. Bill and I hadn’t eaten in two days and I sure didn’t “feel” like an interview.
 To make a long story short, the guy told me it was so nice to have us in the area (I guess he felt that was the right thing to say)
, but he couldn’t possibly hire me.
 That was a downer.

This story was repeated many times.
 It’s especially difficult when you don’t have food and other necessities and still have to put your best foot forward to do what you can to try to change things.

Finding work – but

Now the story gets even more unbelievable and I’m sure anyone who would have known this would have really thought us crazy.

After many months, a fellow who owned a company in Kilmarnock decided to take a chance on Bill and hire him. At first we were excited. The idea of having some income was WONDERFUL!

And then things started to sink in and we realized what would happen if Bill took the job.

We may as well have stayed in Baltimore. We’d be right back to not doing what we really wanted to do and never really making more than enough to survive on. (Which seemed pretty appealing at the time.)

So as hard as it was, Bill turned the job down.

Nickles and Dimes to Keep Going

In the meantime Bill had put notes up at the various post offices stating he would do odd jobs.

A fellow who was building a home a few miles away showed up at our door and asked if Bill could do some work for him. That was exciting. A bit of income — but a job that didn’t tie up your life forever.

Found in the Middle of Nowhere

And somehow, I can’t for the life of me figure out how, a newspaper reporter found us and wrote the first article ever written about Bill. (No money came, but it seemed encouraging at the time.)

Getting Those Bums Out of the Trailer

Within the year, the fellow who owned the trailer we were in decided to sell it.

The real estate agent told him “Let’s get those bums (that was us) out of there so we can sell it.” (The owner of the trailer repeated her comment to us.)

And by the way, the same real estate agent called me years later. After she introduced herself, I said “Oh yes, I remember you.” She then went on to say how proud everyone was to have Bill in the area — and could we contribute something to whatever cause it was that she was promoting.

And in case you’re wondering, no, we didn’t contribute anything.

Bottom line – the guy sold the trailer.

House Sitting, Cottage in the Woods, and Finally an Old Farm House

We had a week to find another place to reside.
 Fortunately, a couple who wintered in Florida needed a house sitter.

When they returned from Florida we moved to a tiny one room little cottage in the woods across the creek from where we wintered in return for Bill doing odd jobs for the owner.

That lasted almost a year.
 After that we moved to an uncared-for old farm house that was occupied by thousands of crickets, snakes, mice and the occasional raccoon and rat.
 No heat (later we were able to get kerosene heaters), no running water in the house, no bathroom, no phone. But the price was right. We got it just for living in it.
 And we stayed there 20 years.

It’s what we had to do, and I can’t say it was easy. Poverty’s not fun.

Somehow we got through more than 20 years of doing without just about everything.


Life, in the best of circumstances, presents challenges. On the road we chose to walk some of those challenges seemed insurmountable.

We met the challenges. Some times better than other times. And we learned. But it was slow going.

One of the things we learned was that you can’t always wait for conditions to be perfect to take action. We probably did more with nothing during those years, than many people do with a lot.

A few of the things Bill did:

About the first thing we created to sell were notepapers. When all was said and done, Bill did over 150 notepapers, most of them pen and ink drawings of our Chesapeake Bay area that were popular for more than 20 years.

Hundreds of original watercolors and oil paintings were created and sold.

Some color reproductions. (a/k/a prints).

In 1986 Bill was one of 86 artists in the U.S. chosen to take Robert Bateman’s Master Class at Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in
 Wausaw, Wisconsin. (Bateman, for those who don’t know, is a world reknowned Canadian artist.)

By invitation Bill had many shows throughout the area, including one sponsored by the Northern Neck Audubon Society. And almost every bank within a 5 county area invited him to exhibit and/or hold a show there.

We visited and Bill drew life at Smith Island and I wrote a little book about that adventure. We also visited Tangier, but I promised everyone we’d never write that story. 🙂

Created the first two travel guides for the Northern Neck.

Taught for a few years at both campuses of Rappahannock Community College.

Held workshops for artists.

Over the years he did portraits by commission (two of which hang in our county’s courthouse). Created letter heads (including county letterheads), logos for businesses, and designs for various organizations.

In 1991 Bill did a design for a tee shirt that was so popular we sold out just by word of mouth within a week. That’s how we “accidentally” had the idea for Bill’s line of sportswear that we named Chesapeake Bay Designer Sportswear. It was a good accident because it enabled us to live a little better than we’d been living. We sold primarily at our shop and the boat shows creating a good following there.

Created commissioned commemorative prints for 4 of the 5 Northern Neck counties.
Created the Chesapeake Bay Watermen commemorative print in 2000.

Created and published the Northern Neck Illustrated Journal in 2003 with well over 100 drawings of the 5 county area.

In 2006 he was asked to paint George Washington’s Birthplace, which took him two years to do. The event unveiling those paintings took place in 2008.

He was honored posthumously by the James Monroe Sons of the American Revolution this past May and was credited with doing more to preserve Northern Neck history than any other single person.

More Recognition

Over the years Bill’s goal as an artist (in addition to earning a living) was to be the best he could be and continually improve his artistic ability.
 He did that.

Just this past November that accomplishment was recognized by the former Director of Collections at the Hirschhorn Museum of the Smithsonian Institute.

When she visited me prior to the last show this past November, she talked at length about Bill’s ability, calling him an artist of quality. What impressed her most, she told me, was his continual improvement over the years.
 She mentioned that many artist’s that are now dead and famous, plateaued at a certain level and stayed there. But, she said, it was so obvious to her that Bill continually improved.

It would have been nice for Bill to have heard that compliment with his own ears and know that someone who really knew what they were looking at saw that in his work.

Some Tips to Get You Down the Road Less Traveled (should you chose it.)

#1. Walking a different road than the majority is seldom easy.

It’s a bit easier when you know up front that you can’t expect anyone – no matter how close they are to you – to share your point of view, your goals, or to see exactly why you’re doing what you’re doing.

In all probability if what you want and are doing does not match what the vast majority is doing, you’ll be criticized.

Start walking in the direction you want to go.

You don’t have to take huge steps. Tiny steps will get you there.

Hopefully your “road less traveled” won’t be as hard as ours. 
I had to make myself walk in the direction we wanted to go even though I sometimes felt in my heart we’d never get there.

But the fact is – you have a much better chance of reaching a destination in the north if you’re headed north rather than south.

 Keep a Check on Your Attitude

Sometimes life can be like a card game. You don’t always get the hand you want, but you have to play with hand you’ve been dealt.

So if something can’t be avoided, work with it the best you can. Sometimes the only choice we have is what attitude we’ll embrace.

The right one can get you mentally past the unavoidable and help you see opportunities in the situation.
 It’s not so much the event that shapes our world, but the thought process we adapt in going through it.

I’ve come home many times with a bad attitude and Bill would said, “Nothing can change for the better until you change your attitude, Theresa.”

Surround yourself with quality people.

Statistics prove that people we’re around definitely make an impact on our life.

Ask yourself, does this person move and inspire me to do my best, be my best and give my best?
 Also turn that question towards yourself to find out if you’re being a quality person. Do you inspire others to do their best, be their best, and give their best.

The very same can be applied to what you watch for entertainment, the books and magazines you read, the newsletters and websites you subscribe to. Are they helping you to be your best?

Set your Standards Ahead of Time

If you’ve not already determined what you stand for and what values you’ll hold to, you’ll be caught off guard many a time.

Just about everyday we’re given opportunities (in the form of choices) to show what we’re made of.
 Some are seemingly more insignificant than others.
 But make no mistake, every decision is taking you either towards your goal or away from your goal.

Each decision either makes you stronger or weakens your resolve.

Don’t allow the noise of the opinions of others to drown out your inner voice.

For the most part, turn a deaf ear to all that.
 Had Bill and I listened to all the “noise”, our life would be void of the things that made it wonderful.

We were told

  •  Our marriage wouldn’t work. (We were married 51 years and hoping for another 50.
  • It wasn’t possible to make living with art. (I must admit it’s not easy, but we finally did it.)
  • Can’t garden without chemicals. (I’ve been organic gardening for almost 40 years.)
  • When we created sportswear with Bill’s designs other exhibitors at the boatshows couldn’t get to us fast enough to tell us
 that we would not be able to sell goods of that quality at a boatshow.
  • The Annapolis Boat Show was another thing we were not suppose to be able to get into. We were told we had
 to be on a waiting list and it would take 5 to 10 years to get in. My reply was, ” Well – I don’t have 5 to 10 years, I have to get in in one year.”  And I did.

 I mentioned earlier. Keep in mind: what you’re able to do has more to do with how much you want to do it, than it does with how much money or time you have.

Final Thoughts

Thank you for taking time to read this.

I hope you’ve latched on to something useful in our story as well as the tips that you can use to propel you forward in your life’s goals and desires.

Today, Bill would have been 75 years old.  If I could have him here with me I’d start by saying:

I love you Bill Martz and I will always love you. Having had you in my life for 51 years was a tremendous gift.

I’m saddened not to have you here with me and miss you more every day.  But I know that each day is part of life’s curriculum with it’s own lessons to be gleaned and learned. So, I’m trying to go forward.

I now face life’s challenges alone. If I can meet those challenges, it will be because of what we learned as we walked through life together.

I love you. Happy Birthday.


NOTE: In case you haven’t already checked out Bill’s website you may do so at


Related Posts:

Gardening and Life In General Walking in the Direction You Want to Go

Choose Your Path Carefully

Your Focus Will Determine Your Outcome and Lifestyle

Simple Secret to Increase Your Chances for Happiness and Success

Choices – Making You Stronger or Weakening Your Resolve


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You Might Want to Try This Lettuce – Breen – a Mini-Romaine

Most of the time I don’t get too excited about something new that I’m trying until all is said and done at the end of the season. Breen lettuce, (one of the new varieties I’m trying this year) is definitely an exception.

As with most romaines. Breen is said to have firm crisp leaves with excellent flavor. From what I’ve seen of Breen seedlings I think the leaves are going to be the same texture as Sierra Batavia – one of my favorites. The leaves are almost succulent and absolutely delicious.

Pictures on the internet of Breen show various colors from deep red to red with green closer to the base of the leaf; so I’m not sure if mine will change as they grow. I love the color just as it is on the seedlings – olive green with an overlay of dusty red.

The red arrow is pointing to the Breen lettuce seedlings.

I started transplanting a week ago and finished up today in anticipation of the rain Friday.

Usually when I transplant lettuce seedlings, they’ll take a while to establish themselves and stand up firm and straight. The Breen seedlings I put in last week, looked perfect even the very next day.

Sometimes I tend to plant too many seeds in one container. If time slips away on me before I get to transplant them, those little lettuce roots get long and twisted together and not all of those seedlings can be pulled apart.

Surprisingly, Breen is not like that and was relatively easy to separate.

Final Thoughts

Since we’re talking lettuce, if you’ve never tried a dressing that I think is one of the most versatile, why not plan to give it try this year.  Check it out here.

Hope you’re growing something new this season. If you have some space — why not order some Breen lettuce. From what I’ve seen so far, it might be destined to be one of my favorites – and possibly one of yours.

Related Posts:

Secrets to getting Eatable Lettuce Well into Summer

Lettuce in 100 Degree Heat

Lettuce – Harvesting for Dinner on July 16th


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