Building a Greenhouse and Growing My Food

Hello Friends!

The month which ushers in Spring is upon us! If you’re like me here in Southeast Missouri, Spring arrived in early February for the second year in a row, which concerns me about the upcoming summer. Last year from June until about mid-August, we only had roughly a week’s-worth of days where we did not see heat indices above 100 degrees, which was incredibly hard on my plants.

With positive hopes for what’s to come, I’ve started preparing for this year’s growing season, which for me in zone 6b stretches from February until about the end of October. Until now, I have always purchased my plants from a nursery or garden center, then planted them directly into the ground. I haven’t had a greenhouse before, so I’ve never started my plants from seed (with the exception of those you direct sow into the ground, like lettuces, squash and cucmber, for example).

An add for a greenhouse showed up in my Instagram feed, which happens regularly considering that a lot of my content is gardening. It was insanely expensive, as greenhouses tend to be, but I was curious to see what Google had to offer. So I did a search. In the results, a greenhouse from Harbor Freight showed up…for $399.99. My partner was sitting next to me and saw it, and immediately said “you need to go buy it!”

We hopped into my car minutes later and drove to Harbor Freight and purchased it. Michael is (lucky for me) an engineer and was already planning out the foundation for the greenhouse en route to pick it up. I would have probably anchored it to the ground with tent stakes and rope if I didn’t have him, but since I do – it has a proper concrete block foundation and is solid as a rock!

We spent a few weekends, the first one freezing cold, digging trenches, burying and gluing blocks, and assembling the greenhouse frame. I put in the panels, then he helped me assemble the door and windows. I put together a video of the process for Instagram reels and Tik Tok, which I will insert here:

In the meantime, I started some seeds! The first thing I started was onions, because they need the longest to be ready for transplant. Next up was bell peppers, with the tomatoes and marigolds following about a week later. Then I started some other companion plants: borage, nasturtium, basil, rosemary and cilantro.

During that time, I also planted my early Spring vegetables: beets, radishes, peas, swiss chard, kale and various lettuces. I’m getting ready to start carrots too, but we have a little cold snap coming up and they will not be under the cold frame this year, so I’m waiting just a couple more weeks.

Here is a little diagram of my planting beds, to help visualize where everything is going. Not pictured are the three tomatoes that are container varieties (early girl, big boy and cherry), that will go in pots in the sunniest spot in my yard above my retaining wall.

I will be sure to share more progress as my plantings come to life and gardening season takes off. For now, I will leave you with some snaps of the greenhouse and planting beds!

Good morning my friends!

In true fashion I was awake before 6 this morning, and have been lounging with a cup of coffee in my living room while thinking of what adventures await me today. It’s sadly going to be a chilly day here in Southeast Missouri – only 57 degrees after a high of 80 yesterday! Probably not much work outdoors for me today, except for weeding the yard and fertilizing my roses. And I may be making a run to a garden center somewhere to pick up a new outdoor rug to replace the old one that has met the end of its useful life.

I also need to get the meal prepping done sometime today, and have the week’s meal plan to share with you. It will be short and sweet for us this week – the boys have Spring break from Thursday until next Tuesday so they go to their dad’s Wednesday night. Which means I only have to make one full meal this week! Then Michael and I will get a little time alone to celebrate our two year anniversary! It is actually on Easter Sunday, and I have the boys for Easter this year so I pick them back up on Saturday. So we are celebrating on Friday night…official plans as of yet undecided.

At any rate, here is the meal plan for this week:

Tempeh Tacos

As for the rest of the meals, they are largely improvised using ingredients I always have in the house. Like these tempeh tacos I made last night using the rest of a package of tempeh I had open, some spinach and arugula, and pickled red onions. I topped it off with fresh cilantro, salsa and avocado, and it was a really quick, easy and delicious dinner (sometimes I actually remember to snap photos!

Besides food, I’ve also been working hard outside. I’ve spread 45 bags of mulch so far, and need to pick up about 5-10 more. The lawn received its first mowing this week and is ready to be weeded this afternoon now that we’re due for a couple of dry days. I repaired my Strawberry beds (boards were falling off because of old rusty screws) and topped them off with some soil. I got my pots filled and ready to be planted with flowers in a couple more weeks when the danger of frost has passed.

I put out a new trellis for my clematis, and strung twine between the pea trellises for them to climb. The peas are already up an inch or two, so they’re doing fantastic! All of my greens have sprouted, I thinned my beets, and the green onions and carrots have finally broken through the soil in the last couple of days as well. The radishes are up and going strong, so I need to get outside here shortly and thin those as well. I’ve also removed all of the rock from the tomato bed, so I need to get the bone meal and fertilizer in place and till the soil under.

The rose bushes were trimmed back a couple of weeks ago and are ready to be fertilized (something else I’ll be doing today), and the hostas shoots have broken through the soil and new mulch. The last outside work on the agenda for today is to pull up the outdoor rug and toss it in the garbage because it’s reached the end of its useful life – it has molded over and can no longer be cleaned, so I’m heading out to buy a new one. Then I will be able to sit back and enjoy my patio again until it’s time to start planting flowers!

It feels SO good to grow food, and flowers. I’m hoping to focus more on flowers this summer since I have the veggie gardens where I want them. I have a butterfly bush and clematis so far, so I want to bring in some phlox, sunflowers, zinnias and other bee and butterfly drawing flowers. It’s a little tough in my yard because I don’t quite get enough sun to really make these plants happy, but I’m definitely going to do my best!

It’s now almost 10am, so I need to get myself to work in the kitchen. Then it’s off to the garden center and working more on the yard. Have a wonderful Sunday, and I will see you back here soon!


Yard/Garden Plans and Spring Fashion

Good morning my friends!

Or I guess afternoon by the time you will be reading this. It’s set to be an absolutely gorgeous Sunday here in Southeast Missouri! Yesterday Michael and I picked up 20 bags of mulch, some potting soil, rose food, lawn food, and Preen weed preventer. We spent our day together yesterday, and now today we’re each on our own to get some things done. It’s currently sunrise and pretty chilly outside, so I’m taking this time to get a blog post out for you and a little meal prep done for Michael, then it’s outside I go!

This has been quite the rough week – in case you noticed a Thursday post didn’t go out. I caught my youngest son’s cold and was sick Monday and Tuesday. I also had some teenager drama to deal with – I’ve been fortunate that both of my boys have had good heads on their shoulders their entire childhoods. And they still do, but my oldest pushed some boundaries and is trying to “spread his wings” as I heard it stated. And some of his judgment calls haven’t been the greatest.

I’m still fortunate that he isn’t doing anything bad, and a little correction now should resolve things. But it can be hard to switch to “tough mom” mode, particularly when he is so much like me and we are very close. But my first role in his life is parent, and sometimes the discipline must come out. It doesn’t come without a toll, however. I’ve not had anxiety in a very long time but I sure did this week. Being sick and dealing with something emotionally draining at the same time has been a major challenge on my stress levels and on my sleep.

It’s proving to be a slow recovery, especially on the sleep. I’m going to enact some sleep hygiene rules that I had set for myself while struggling with insomnia, to ensure that I don’t end up back in that state again. I am very lucky that I have an amazing and supportive human in my corner, too. Michael has been such a huge help, from talking me through things and giving me ideas, to just squeezing me tight and giving me some needed comfort.

The boys are at their dad’s for the weekend and I will be heading off to pick them up this afternoon. Tomorrow starts a brand new week, and I’m hoping that everything will start to move forward.

On the meal planning front, I actually didn’t plan anything for next week – I was sick on Tuesday, my normal meal planning/grocery order day. So I just threw a bunch of usual items into my order and decided I’ll wing it. If you’ve been around for a long time then you know I used to love creating recipes. But with Michael and Gabriel around now I find it’s a lot easier to plan ahead for so many people to find things that will please them all – especially Gabriel who is even pickier than Hunter was at that age, which I didn’t think was even possible!

This last week got completely away from me with everything that was going on. I had planned some quesadillas for one meal, and a lovely roasted veggie dish at another meal – and none of it got made! Which may be a plus, since I didn’t get to plan for this week. I can just make those meals for this week instead. The poor boys lived on sandwiches, leftover pizza that Michael had from the weekend before, and Chinese that I ordered on Monday, which was enough for two days.

I don’t recommend ordering out and avoid it except on occasion. But it is nice that the place I order Chinese takeout from has a vegan-friendly (although sadly definitely not oil-free) dish on their menu. It’s a tofu and veggie dish in a Hunan sauce that is pretty tasty. I always order with the noodles, too, instead of rice. Both boys, Michael and myself actually prefer the noodles to the rice, so it’s kind of nice to have something we all agree on!

While the meals didn’t get made this week (Michael’s dinner and lunch did, because I made it on the weekend before I got sick), here is the plan:

Here are the photos of the Salmon Salad and the Black Bean Salad, plus a stuffed sweet potato that I made for lunch one day and managed to snap a picture of to help fill in the gaps!

I’ve also been trying my hand lately at video shooting and editing, which it turns out I actually enjoy more than photography because there is just so much more creativity and fun things you can do with video. I’ve been shooting primarily on my iPhone for Instagram right now – no YouTube yet – but I’m loving making reels of my cooking and kitchen work. If you’re not following me on Instagram yet, I would love for you to see what I’ve been up to! You can check out my Instagram account at plantbasedloren. I just posted the latest reel over there of the healthy banana muffins I often make Michael for breakfast.

The one thing that has truly brought me some joy this week, is my Spring and Summer wardrobe makeover! I always add a few new pieces each year, but this year has been a bit of a wardrobe transformation with the change in work situations which is likely to be permanent. My professional wear has been retired to a rack in the basement, and I’ve been building a more fun, casual wardrobe since I’m now working from home.

I don’t have to worry about whether the outfits are A) business casual, or B) suitable to a dress code. That means I can buy tops that are V-cut, a little cropped, spaghetti strap, etc. I can wear shorts and cropped pants, and my skirts and dresses can be above the knee. It’s so freeing!

TJ Maxx Haul

Michael and I went to TJ Maxx yesterday to do a browse and I came home with a haul. Their dressing rooms are still closed because of Covid, so I have to buy, try on at home, and return. I ended up keeping about half of what I bought – three flirty, floral tops and a blue and white stripped dress that will look lovely with the new tan waist belt and sandals I have arriving soon from ThredUP. And I picked up a beautiful white Vince Camuto sweater – as if I really needed another white sweater!

I’ve ordered items from Chic Wish, petal & Pup, and ShowPo, and ordered a pair of white crop leggings from Amazon. My color palette is very much white, pink, sage and periwinkle for the upcoming Spring & Summer season. Now to hope that everything fits and there isn’t too much returning and exchanging!

I’ve never ordered from Petal & Pup before so I’m not sure what to expect from their dresses. But I have a lace top and pink skirt from Chic Wish that I am absolutely in love with, so I can’t wait for the new skirts to arrive! The ShowPo order I’m a little skeptical about – I’ve ordered from them several times, but the sizing is usually off because it’s an Australia-based company that doesn’t necessarily get their US sizes right. Sometimes my normal size fits and sometimes it’s tiny.

My normal size in the shorts already showed up in my email invoice as an AU size 6, and the current pair of shorts I have from them that just barely fit me say 8 on the tag – but the pink shorts also have an elastic waist so it might be okay – we shall see! The dresses are a toss-up. I bought in the same size as other tops and dresses I’ve ordered from there – sometimes they fit and sometimes they swallow me whole and I have to exchange for a smaller size. If the shorts and dress both fit and neither need exchanged, it will be a miracle.

That is the most frustrating part about ordering online – but honestly, the brick and mortar stores just can’t keep up with online fashion. I would love to purchase all of these lovely items from local stores, but they just don’t carry fashion like this. TJ Maxx is the only store in my town that has items that fit my style. We have a shopping mall, but it’s very hit or miss, and definitely geared more towards teens and 20-somethings.

We also have stores like Target & Kohls outside of the mall. But again, they are very hit or miss. Actually, Kohls is just a miss – they have a teenage girl section, and a frumpy older women’s section that offers very little for those of us aged from upper 20’s to upper 40’s. And they definitely don’t have much for small-framed, petite women like myself (anyone else in the 5’3 club??). Even their smaller sizes are still meant for women who are full-figured in the hips and thighs, which I frustratingly am definitely not.

I feel like these companies need to watch their online competitors and adjust accordingly if they hope to compete with a web-based world that is forcing their brick and mortar closures. The styles and the fits that they offer are lackluster in comparison.

The sun is up and shining brightly now (it’s nearly 9am), and it’s warmed us up to whopping 41 degrees. I need another 20 degrees to be comfortable out there, but by the time it’s that warm I will already be on the road. So I will have to bundle myself up and get to work. On the yard and garden plan for today:

  1. Water my tiny little sprouting seedlings in the raised bed (we’ve had tons of rain but they’re hiding out under a cold frame/greenhouse cover)
  2. fertilize my roses and mulch the beds around them
  3. spread preen in the garden beds and lawn
  4. start mulching the large bed in the front yard, and replace any landscape fabric that has ripped or shifted
  5. if there is time left – mow the lawn and spray for weeds (I suspect this will need to wait for another day)

I also need to till up my tomato bed and work in the bone meal that I bought yesterday, but tomatoes won’t go in for about another month so I don’t need to be in a big hurry. I have pots needing filled with soil so they can be planted with flowers in another month or so once the lows begin raising up above 35 at night and the danger of frost is past.

At this time of year it really is more yard work than gardening. The grass is starting to come back to life – and the weeds always outpace the actual grass, so this is the time for weed control if I want to keep it from getting out of hand. I sow my grass seed in the fall so that it can sprout and take root before winter. That way I can spread pre-emergent weed control in the spring (this is the kind that prevents weeds that come up from seed, like crab grass, from growing and taking over the lawn) without having to worry about it killing my grass seed. I also spray a 2-4-D weed killer on the lawn to hit all of the broad-leaf weeds that come up from root rather than seed (goggles, gloves and mask are a must for this). Both the pre-emergent and the weed killer will need done again around the 1st of July . I also re-mulch everything since leaf cleanup around here sadly takes a lot of the mulch along with it.

About mid-April, the fun stuff begins! I get to plant the rest of my vegetables and pretty flowers. I’m planning to buy a new trellis for my clematis since it’s outgrown the one I had up for it. I’ll get to start more herbs in my herb garden too, and the strawberries and lilac bush should be in bloom. Since I’ve finally sorted out my garden situation (my back yard struggles for enough sun to grow vegetables, so I’ve had a lot of trial and error the last four years), I can start to work more on flowers and I’m very excited for this!

Okay lovelies, it’s time to stop talking and start doing! I’m headed to bundle up and get outside. Thank you for reading, and I will see you back here again soon!


My Spring Garden Tour + A Date Night in St Louis

Hi friends!

At long last, things are slowing down. I went from working 54 hour per week, to 47, to now just under 43 this week. PPP funding is still open until March 31st, but the loan volume has slowed dramatically from when it first opened up in February. I actually found time this week to do a short health and wellness post on Thursday. In case you missed it, it was about the connection between gut health and nature. I have it linked here if you’d like to go back and read it.

I made a switch this week and did my meal prepping Saturday morning so Michael and I would be free to enjoy the rest of our weekend. Once upon a time (i.e. before Michael) my weekend routine included cleaning on Saturday mornings, so it was sort of a throw back to my previous life! At any rate, I got it all done – and even recorded it! For the first time ever I have a video of my meal prep, which I posted over on Instagram as an IGTV video.

Of course my prep-ahead dishes are always Michael’s for the week, so I’ll give you the full report on next Sunday’s blog which includes our weeknight dinners – which at this point have yet to be made. In case you aren’t following me on Instagram, I will be sharing the meal prep video next week as well. To tide you over, I managed to snap a few photos of dishes I’ve been making over the last few weeks that I’ve been on a blogging hiatus.

Wild Rice & Mushroom Soup
Balsamic Bean & Mushroom Salad
Vegan Banana Bread

This week has been my personal best of 2021 so far! For the second week in a row we had days in the upper 60’s, with lots of sun and no wind. It was absolutely gorgeous and provided the perfect weather to start my Spring gardening season! I like in Southeast Missouri, which is in planting zone 6. That means we can start our cool weather vegetables over these next couple of weeks.

Long before I was a nutrition researcher or a plant-based advocate, I was a gardener. I grew up in the country outside of the small town of Perryville, Missouri. I spent my summers at my grandparents’ house, and they always had a large garden. Grandma even canned tomatoes and green beans – they had a long hallway in their basement that ran from the back door down to Grandpa’s work area. The hallway was a long row of closets, and I can remember the shelves of the first couple of closets being stacked full with vegetables canned from the garden. Both of my grandparents were raised on farms – Grandma on a dairy and Grandpa on a traditional “we do it all” style farm. So growing and canning food was a natural way of life for them.

They’ve stopped doing it as they’ve aged – it is a lot of hard work, after all. But it played a large part in shaping my own habits and relationship with food. When I was a kid, I was raised on processed foods just like a majority of kids in America are. But our dinners were always homemade and included veggies, and so even though there was nothing I loved more than mozzarella cheese sticks, Coca-Cola, easy-cheese in a can, and roast beef lunch meat slices (my picks every time we went grocery shopping), I also developed a love for vegetables.

I can remember kids talking in elementary school about how gross spinach was, and I would sit in silence afraid to admit that spinach was my absolute favorite, for fear of being shunned. In fact, when my mom would make canned spinach, she and my dad would take their servings and I was allowed to finish off the rest of the bowl because I loved it so much! I loved my processed junk, but I loved my veggies too. And nothing was more fun than helping Grandma and Grandpa in the garden. We didn’t have a garden at my parents’ house every year, but we did quite often and I got to grow some of my own veggies.

I planted potatoes once, outside of the parameters of the garden. These weren’t seed potatoes meant for planting, but regular old grocery store potatoes out of the bag. I cut up a couple and planted them, despite my parents telling me those wouldn’t grow. But grow they did! Unfortunately my dad failed to notice my successful green thumb and mowed off the tiny emerging plants. I remember being so mad at him for that! I couldn’t have been more than 8 years old that summer.

Fast forward to my 35-year-old self, and I’m now growing my own gardens. I have been every year of my adult life, although I’ve had to adapt a great deal since buying my current home. Cape Girardeau, Missouri was developed in a very hilly and heavily forested piece of landscape. Most of the neighborhoods are still wrought with large, mature trees – a gardener’s worst nightmare. It wasn’t until buying this house in 2017 that I truly understood the importance of sunlight in gardening. I naively believed I’d be able to grow the same garden in my back yard that I always had – and finally had the first major garden failure of my life.

The spot I’d originally chosen was shaded all but about 3-4 hours of the day, so nothing was successful. Plants would grow, but they would not mature or produce anything. I had a tree removed after that first growing season, but it did little to help as the biggest culprit of the shade was a massive tree at the corner of my neighbor’s back yard, which I can’t remove. I started dating Michael in 2019, and he is an engineer who can build just about anything you’d ever want. I had purchased a raised bed to set up in the sunniest part of my yard (it gets 6-7 hours of sunlight – the bare minimum for plants needing full sun), and was planning to build some sort of structure to cover it to keep the squirrels from stealing all of my tomatoes.

Michael came to the rescue and designed something better than I ever could have come up with on my own as a novice builder, and he and my son worked together to bring it to life. I now have an 8 x 4 raised bed with a 6 foot high enclosure for my tomatoes. I also had another 8 x 4 raised bed made from concrete blocks where I planted greens in the spring and green beans in the summer. Last year I bought a greenhouse cover to put over it and realized what a game-changer it was for my low-light problem.

I’d never needed a greenhouse before, living in areas with no tree cover and blinding sunshine from sunrise to sunset. But last year’s gardening season was leaps and bounds better. It was my fourth season at this house, and I was finally getting the hang of it. This year, I’m making some changes to expand my garden. I relocated my concrete block raised bed, and doubled it in size creating an “L” shape around my tomato cage. I’ve pinpointed this area as the one spot in my yard with the most hours of sun during the day.

I also purchased a second greenhouse cover. This will allow me to get away from using large pots as overflow for my greens, and have them all in the ground under a greenhouse. I bought more concrete blocks and soil from Menards, plus some grass seed to fill in the former raised bed space. I relocated the garden bed, shoveled in all of the soil from the old location, then added 8 (2 cubic foot) bags of new garden soil. Then, since I have greenhouse covers, I went ahead and planted all of my seeds.

I put out beets, carrots, peas, green onions, radishes, spinach, arugula, endive, a spicy mesculin mix and a looseleaf lettuce mix. The new greenhouse arrived Thursday, so that evening I took my work light outside and put it together, then got it over the garden. Now it’s all set up and ready to grow! The last thing I need to do, aside from keeping it watered, is run string between my two pea trellises to give them space to climb. I did a little garden tour video here for you!

Spring Garden Tour

I’ve been aching to get out and do things this week with all of the beautiful weather! Aside from starting back up my outdoor lunchtime walks, I’ve also been inspired to get dressed up a little (I’ve lived in leggings and sweaters all winter) and leave the house. Michael and I met at an event called Beer:30 put on the first Thursday of each month at a local business called Codefi. We haven’t been since the pandemic started, but they were having an event this week so we decided to go.

This month they were having giveaways, and I actually won a bottle of Chardonnay! I threw together a quick dinner when we got home, then set Michael up on my patio bench with a chilled glass while I assembled my greenhouse.

Yesterday we got to have a little adventure. Michael’s brother and sister-in-law live in the Chicago suburbs, but they both work from home which means they can live anywhere. They’ve decided to move back closer to home and buy some land to build a house on. They have some acreage for hiking, four-wheeling and general exploring, and they wanted the family to come up and take a tour of it with them. Their land is smack in the middle between here and St. Louis, so we decided to make our date night count.

We stopped and spent an hour touring his brother’s land. I’m really excited for them! It reminds me a lot of my grandpa’s farm, where we have our cabin and our family just bought a new camper to set up out there. We did a fall hike this year and I flagged off a hiking trail, which we will soon be working on clearing as the plants all spring back to life. Their house is expected to be finished by Christmas, so next Spring they’ll have their very own land to have adventures on. Michael and I were also talking about how cool it would be to have them around to explore St Louis with, because they’re the closest to our age (Michael is the oldest, and this is the next sibling under him) and don’t have kids, so they have lots of freedom.

One thing I miss so much with this pandemic are all of the events in the city. Nothing is happening right now – the virus is understandably worse in a large urban area, so events aren’t happening, and restaurants and businesses are restricted to half-capacity. Which pretty much means you need a reservation to get in anywhere, so no spontaneous decisions. My absolute favorite restaurant in the city, which is definitely not plant-friendly, is Broadway Oyster Bar. So I made a reservation and Michael and I ventured up there for our date night after we finished touring his brother’s land.

There was definitely nothing plant-based about it, but I’m very much okay with having the occasional non-healthy meal. In fact, I pretty much plan for it every other Saturday when Michael and I are kid-free and get to have our date nights. This is our time to live it up and do what we want – and as a plant-based health coach I can tell you that I encourage this, because giving yourself a little freedom to have the things you enjoy from time-to-time will help you stay on track the rest of the time. It’s when tell ourselves “I can’t have that ever again, even though I love it” that we are most likely to give up and return to our old ways. Planning, discipline, and not being too hard on ourselves will take us far!

Now it’s time for me to head out on a little adventure of my own. Right as this post goes live, I will be on my way to my family farm to spend a couple of hours with my family before I have to pick up my boys from their dad. It’s been a wonderful, full, happy week, and I’m ready for more sunny and warm days to come. Wishing you all lots of love and adventures this upcoming Spring!


How the Copper Fungicide is Working, and Prepping the Garden for Fall

Dear Friends,

It’s that time again — to get the fall plantings ready in the garden! But before I get too far into that, I must admit that my plans have again had a wrench tossed in the gears. Did you know that garden centers stop carrying seed packets by the first of August?! I did not know this, and this is the first year that I had no seeds left at home and needed to buy more for my fall plantings. So that means….

My only fall veggies this year are going to be beets, and green leaf lettuce. Because I could not find seed packets anywhere for spinach, arugula or green beans. The garden centers are sold out, and not restocking. Something to take note of for next year – double up on seed packets!!

Now then, moving on…

I’ve done away with the planting bed next to the patio, because it’s too shaded to grow much of anything besides lettuce and carrots. So for the Fall plantings, I’m utilizing one of my raised beds. I’ve removed the summer crop from the bed, turned the soil, and added fertilizer. Then I sowed beets and lettuce, and gave it a good watering.

As for the rest of my crop? The watermelon is vining out well now, and has a couple of cute baby watermelons growing. The pumpkin is definitely a little behind and is just now really starting to fill out the pot, but still isn’t vining. That is because it almost died a few weeks ago thanks to squash beetles (I got rid of the little jerks, but it stunted the growth of the pumpkin). They also got in the watermelon, but didn’t seem to effect it as badly. I used to grow a small field of pumpkins, and honestly never had trouble with squash beetles before — this was my first year with that experience.

The bell peppers and jalapenos are starting to produce more now, and I made my first batch of salsa last weekend for a date night treat (more on that coming up on the blog next week) with jalapenos and tomatoes from the garden. I also had to cut my sage and mint because they were growing absolutely wild! I have the sage drying so I can grind it up for winter use. The basil I started from seed is coming up nicely now as well, which is great because I use that more than any other herb. The strawberries are starting to fill in quite a bit too, and should be getting ready to bloom for a fall crop soon.

As for the tomatoes — they are looking so much better! I think just the fact that things are starting to dry out (finally) late in the season is helping pull back the anthracnose fruit rot. But in addition to that I purchased this copper fungicide from Amazon and have been spraying it directly onto the tomatoes once a week for the last couple of weeks. I’m seeing the tomatoes ripen beautifully without spots! I have this photo for comparison, with the before photo on the left and the now photo on the right:

While the copper fungicide is preferable to bleaching, it’s still important to wash the tomatoes before eating them. This is the one disappointment I’m facing, because I had no trouble at all with insects so up until this point I’d grown them entirely chemical-free. However, I have a method that I use to wash fruits and vegetables that works really well:

I place the produce in a large bowl, and sprinkle baking soda on to cover the top. Then, I pour on a lot of white vinegar; enough to cover almost half of the produce once it’s done fizzing. When the fizz has gone down, fill the rest with water until it just covers the produce. Then let it sit for up to 20 minutes (I do about 15 for strawberries and other soft fruits or veggies that don’t hold up as well to the acidity of the vinegar). There are some things that can’t really be washed this way, such as broccoli, because it absorbs some of the vinegar flavor. Most produce, however, will do just fine with this and it takes off so much gunk you’ll be shocked at what is floating on top of the water when it’s time to drain and rinse!

It’s once again time to sit back and wait for nature to do its job and sprout the seeds I’ve planted…with crossed fingers that the oppressive heat coming up this week doesn’t do any damage. In the meantime, I’ll continue to focus my attention on the tomatoes and hopefully get a good crop to finish out the summer growing season. If all goes well I should still be getting tomatoes into September…so fingers crossed!

Up next — the boys start school tomorrow! Hunter is off to high school and I can’t believe it! Photos and first day of school post coming soon!