“The earth is a fine place worth fighting for“ – Earnest Hemingway
When I first started gardening I discovered these magical things called peat pots, trays, and pellets. The packages all said the same thing. I plant my seeds in a growing medium and the plants will grow within the pot, tray, or pellet. The miracle of peat was that my seedling roots would actually grow through the walls of the peat and I could just transplant the entire thing in the ground. This became even more magical, because then the pot, tray, or pellet would biodegrade in the soil.
So let me get this straight. I can plant in the pot, tray, or pellet. My seedlings would grow perfectly. I then plant the whole thing in the ground not disturbing roots and I enhance my soil as this breaks down. What could there be not to love about this product.
My first year I did tradition gardening and planted these items in the ground. After my short sad season was over I noticed the mesh wrapper on the peat pellets was still in the ground as well as the cups. I thought surely I did something wrong. The second year I added trays to my arsenal. I still believed the product was excellent and I had simply messed up. At the end of the season I found more mesh casings from the pellets and again all the pots and trays. I then did my research. Yes I know I should have done it before.
First let’s talk about pellets. The pellets are amazing in the fact you simply add water and they expand. Less mess and your seedlings are encased in the disk of perfect proportions. The disks do work. Yes I know I just told you to stop using them. Here’s why. You have to remove the mesh casing. I don’t know how long it’s supposed to take this to degrade but I think two years is long enough. The next issue was taking off the mesh. If I’m going to take off the mesh, why not just use regular soil or just peat? I chose regular soil. The purpose in spending the extra money was for these to require less work. Yes it’s a little step but again more money and more work.
Next the pots and trays. Again these don’t work. The roots in some cases do grow through the pots and trays, but in most cases I found them wrapped at the bottom. They also never broke down. After I took them off my seedlings I put them in the compost bin along with the mesh casings from pellets and guess what? They are still there.
I love slow gardening like the next man but if I spend extra gardening money the goal is to get something in return. The pellets, pots, and trays gave me nothing in return. I’m telling you to save your hard earned money and use it to buy more seeds. Get yourself some regular seed starting trays and some potting mix. Don’t make the same mistake I did by spending money you shouldn’t have been spending in the first place.
You will notice in some of my pictures this year pots, trays, and pellets. I used my remaining stock from last year because I’m not wasting any money. I did remove the casting from the pellets and also peeled away the peat from the pots and trays. Once the stock is gone I will not be buying this product again. I hope I can not only save you money, but save you time and as always Let’s Start Gardening.
“70 degrees on Monday, 40 degrees on Wednesday, thunderstorms on Friday, snow on Sunday.” – Machon Ross
If you garden in Ohio or anywhere in the Midwest for that matter you are very aware of temperature fluctuations. What you may not be aware of is how to combat them.
Three weeks ago the weather in my neighborhood was perfect. When I say perfect I mean 60 degrees and sunny. For me it meant I could begin to put out my cold weather crops. Being too excited I’m sure I began to harden off my cabbage, collards, lettuce, and peas. I also put out my potatoes. I watched the weather reports and although it was the beginning of April I got antsy. The latest frost in my zone (Zone 6A) was May 11th last year. I had written this date down and planted seedlings accordingly, but I still got antsy. I couldn’t resist so against my better judgment outside my plants went.
If you all are reading this, you know that we just went through a freak snow storm. Yes, April 20th a freak snow storm. Because I live in Ohio I don’t call it a freak storm. I call it simply living in Ohio. The issue was there became a possibility that I would lose everything I planted. Yes I knew this going in and I knew I could survive the frost or snow, but I still did what I could to save the plants. Here are a few things I did that actually saved my plants during this “freak” storm. I didn’t want to post any ideas until I was sure they would work. My advice is to get ready. I live in Ohio. This will happen again.
The first thing I did was thoroughly water all my plants. I know, this seems crazy. When I heard it I thought “why water?” I figured this would freeze my plants sooner. Truth is that is not true. I follow the MIGardener and this was his suggestion. The theory is the energy that would be used to freeze your plants goes first into freezing the water. If your plants are watered well enough the water closest to your plant will never freeze. Theory or not I can tell you it worked.
Second thing you must do is cover your plants. I used a variety of things. I covered with row covers, heavy blankets, and pieces of fabric. Everything worked. The blankets works best, but they were heavy and caused some leaf breakage. The row covers and fabric are very light so make sure you anchor them down or they will be in your neighbors yard. The tip with these items if if you get snow or sleet you must get that off of the covers as soon as possible. The extra weight is not good for the plants.
Third I covered pots with larger pots. Since all of the garden is not planted yet I had several empty pots. I used those to cover smaller pots. I also had several ten gallon fabric pots that I used to cover plants. This was actually the best system, but the most time consuming to set up.
The last step for me was to uncover everything when the sun came out. Yes the sun can get through the row covers, but I needed to get all the snow and sleet off. I also wanted to make sure my plants were getting some full sun after the trauma they had just gone through. If you cover smaller plants with plastic totes of mile jugs this is also another step you can avoid. The method you use will be 100% determined by the size of your garden.
These are just three hacks that saved my plants. I’m actually going to head to the store this weekend and get myself some PVC pipe to create a better row cover system. My garden is not large, but large enough where I know I will need some type of protection. After all, it’s April. I still have several weeks before I am anywhere near past the threat of frost.
Below are a few of my plants that survived. You can see snow on the first set. The row covers blew off and this was the result. I was sure I would lose some plants during this storm. I’m happy to report not one plant was lost in Unicorn Crossing during this storm. One storm down, many more to come.
“Who loves the garden loves the greenhouse too.” – William Cowper
When I started gardening I planted trays and trays of seeds. I must have planted over 300 seeds in 72 cell seed trays. That was a horrible idea. If I had not lost most of them to a wind storm I have no idea what I would have done with all those plants. I still did end up with a food jungle, but I had learned my lesson.
This year I found these 12 cell trays with a drip tray and dome on Amazon. They were perfect for what I needed to plant. This allowed me to plant four varieties of three seeds in one tray. I had already decided I was only going to plant one of each variety so this was exactly what I needed. When you direct sow you are told to plant two seeds in each hole to ensure everything grows. You are also told if both of the seeds grow to cut the smaller one and throw it away. This is called “thinning”. I don’t know about you, but I could never do it. I know they were only plants but I could not ever bring myself to throw away any plant. My theory was if it grew, I was planting it. I know it might sound crazy but I gave every seedling a chance.
Below you will see the 12 cell trays. Please note the labels. Label everything. When you repot seedlings to the next pot, label all the pots. Last year I labelled only the first pot in the row. Then I would move the pot out of the row and have no idea what it was. Label everything. Below you see popsicle sticks, plant labels, and post it flags. They all work as labels. Label, label, label.
The other thing you will notice is my seedlings are sitting in a plastic tote. Let me explain why. Last year I rushed out and purchased four tier greenhouses. They were on sale at Menards and I just thought this would solve all my issues. When you plant seedlings in the house you have to harden them off outside. “Hardening Off” is exposing the seedlings to the sun for a few hours a day. You can’t take seedlings from inside the house directly outside in the sun. They will burn and die and all your work will be for nothing. The greenhouse was where I hardened off these plants. Well not one, not two, but three wind storms knocked my greenhouse over. One wind storm threw my seedlings across my stone banister. What didn’t flip across the banister laid in a pile on my patio. I wanted to cry. All my hard work had laid in a pile on the ground.
This year I was not about to live through that again. I discovered instead of $30 greenhouses I could use $5 plastic totes. The key is you must use plastic totes with clear lids. This allows sun to come in on all sides. I chose these with handles which made it easy to carry my plants in and out of the house. I hardened off the plants using these totes and also used these when the temps dropped to the mid thirties. YOU MUST take the lids off when the temperature begins to rise. If you keep the lid on you basically turn the plastic tote into an oven. This is the only thing you have to watch when using the plastic tote method.
This was probably the most genius hack of the year. All of my plants not only survived but thrived. In most cases all three seedlings survived and I still ended up with too many plants. I still can’t throw them away so I’ve offered them to friends and family. Any extras that remain I plan to set in front of my house with a sign that says “Free To A Good Garden”. A lot of my neighbors garden so I’m hoping they can find a use for the veggies. If they don’t find good homes, you guessed it. My garden will be a little larger this year.
I hope this hack helps you. I also hope the label hack helps. I’m not a gardening pro but I am a much better gardener than I was a year ago. My goal is to get everyone growing their own food and sharing. I’ve never tasted any veggie better than one I’ve grown myself. The season is still early so Let’s Start Gardening.
When you try something new people always have a tendency to say it gets easier. No, no it doesn’t. Some stuff is just hard no matter how many times you do it. After my first few workouts my body was asking me what the hell I was doing. My back began having spasms and my legs began cramping up. I was a couch potato and now I was walking for twenty minutes everyday. I ended up getting a knee brace because the pain was causing me to limp. This was not a good look. As I would hobble down the stairs daily for my workouts not one of them because easier. Let me add I never did the same one twice so maybe if I had done that it would have been easier. I was going for variety over consistency.
Each workout was as intense as the last. Each day I asked myself did I really want to go walk on that dumb treadmill or could I just quit. A few times I decided I didn’t want to do the treadmill but decided I would do another workout. We had a heavy bag (boxing bag) in our basement and I decided a few days a week I would just punch that. This by the way was another gift my amazing husband had purchased for me along with pink boxing gloves. After I hit this thing with all my force one day the next day I couldn’t lift my arms. It felt like someone would burn my muscles with a blow torch each time I decided to have my arms defy gravity. So now I had a limp and couldn’t lift my arms. Imagine a T-Rex with a broke leg. Yea that was me.
Realizing I couldn’t hit the punching bag daily drove me back to the treadmill. Let me add that with my arms in pain walking also sucked. I swing my arms when I walk as normal people should. The mere act of swinging my arms made that torch like pain reappear. This I remember was why I didn’t workout.
After a couple of days the pain did go away. When I went back to the punching bag it was with a lot less force than the first time. I even had my husband come workout with me on the bag and realized that was a bad idea. My husband really worked out with the bag. I think he thought he was training for the big fight. I as you can imagine was trying to lift my arm without pain. After ten minutes he left me to my own devices, he had no time for my madness. Twenty minutes of walking and some punching were going to be my staples for the next thirty days. I was not happy at all, but I had to do something.
I was going to punch this bag and use the treadmill using the Peloton app. As with everything as soon as I downloaded the app and thought about purchasing the bike I was flooded with ads about the bike. The cookies are real. I had ads on Facebook, Google, and even YouTube as I was watching gardening videos. They were stalking me and they were winning. I told myself if I was still using the app at the end of thirty days I would really explore Peloton and see what they had to offer. The act of acknowledging I was losing the Peloton battle didn’t stop the ads but provided me with less anxiety. I knew there was a date for me to do my research and I was again able to focus on getting through the next day. I didn’t need any additional anxiety.
I will tell you this week was rough for me. It wasn’t just the pain but the hunger. The extra workouts left me starving. I did not have a plan for this hunger and often times it caught me off guard. I just ate to stop my stomach from screaming at me. I did not lose weight this week. I did not gain, but I did not lose. I am 100% sure it because I would just grab what was convenient and eat it. My advice to you, and what I did the following week was have healthy snacks handy. Let’s clarify healthy snacks. I had string cheese, fruit, nuts portioned out, and apples with peanut butter. I needed more snacks in my arsenal but that’s all I could think of to stop the hunger.
Let me know what exercises you’ve been doing? Fill me in on some healthy quick snacks to stop the hunger? I will add any snacks you all share to the blog. I know we all need a little help in this department. Remember we’ve got this. Look how far we’ve come.
Below is a picture of the knee brace I purchased. I have turkey legs. Huge thighs that flow into tiny ankles. I swear I’m still amazed my ankles can hold my weight, but it is what it is. This knee brace worked great for my huge thigh. This was the second knee brace I purchased. The first one I learned was made for skinny people. I had enough issues. Buying the correct knee brace should not have been one of them.
“The best way to multiply your happiness is to share it with others” – Unknown
I post a lot of information about gardening on my Facebook page. I usually don’t know if people are following the information or if they are just astonished that I’m growing stuff. Please remember that I never had any intentions on eating vegetables so the fact that I’m growing them didn’t make much since. A friend sent me the following picture. After I read this it really summed up exactly why I garden. Thank you A.F. for being the inspiration for this blog post today.
I thought I would add a few more things to this :
Basil – Base all your thoughts on the fact that people at their core are good
Pepper – Pepper the world with kindness
Carrots- Care about those around you
Spinach – Spin each and every moment you can surrounded by those you love
What I’ve gained from gardening is peace of mind. When I’m out there I don’t have to worry about anything. You can’t rush plants. They grow when they grow. Since I suffer from a thing called impatience I still get amazed I am able to garden. A plant may sprout in four days or two weeks. It comes when it comes. All I’m able to do is sit back and wait.
I’ve learned to compare gardening to cooking. Not cook book cooking, but my grandmothers cookings. When I was around twenty years old I asked my grandmother how to make gingerbread. She listed all the ingredients I needed and I rushed to the store and got the exact brands. I got back to her house, took everything out of the bag and thought I was ready. I asked my granny what did I need to do first. She began to talk about “sprinkling”, “dashes”, “some”, and “a little of” when describing amounts. I stood there thinking “what the hell is this lady talking about?” I asked “Do I use a cup, teaspoon, tablespoon, what?” Again she told me a pinch, dash, sprinkle, and some other crazy forms of measurement that made no sense to me. Needless to say I didn’t get a gingerbread made that day. I wasn’t ready for her maddening form of directions. She actually gave up as well and just make the gingerbread for me. I thought making gingerbread had to be easier than this. Let me state it was not. I found some recipes but they never tasted like hers. How she deciphered the madness I would never know, but she produced the perfect gingerbread every time.
Gardening for me is the exact same science. You sprinkle in some of this (fertilizer), some of that (worm castings), a pinch of this (compost), and some of that (water). Pop it in the oven (sun) and see what happens. You may get a plant, or you may not. It may be attacked by bugs it may not. What I’ve learned is trying to figure it out on your own is not the route to go. While every area and growing zone is different just knowing to “sprinkle” some stuff in your garden may actually help.
I read a lot of gardening articles and purchased a lot of books. My favorite online source is The Spruce. I also watch a lot of YouTube videos. I have a few favorites. Epic Gardening, M.I. Gardening, and The Rusted Garden. I followed each person for different reasons but they each add something to help supplement my garden. I also reach out to people on Facebook who can help me with specific issues.
Gardening can be scary, but it can also be just what you needed to gain a new perspective. It may be the conduit you have to talk to someone, to begin a conversation. Gardening may bring the peace you’ve been looking for or the solace you need to relax. Gardening can be nerve-racking and it can also be your calm in the storm. I can’t promise you that you will find joy in gardening, but I did. After putting in hours of work to grow something that you can actually eat is not something I can even describe.
The title of this blog was share the wealth. Share with me what you plan to grow. Share seeds with someone who wants to grow something new. Share tips or tricks you’ve learned over the years. Share with your kids the art of where food actually comes from. Sow love, gratitude, and happiness with those around you. Plant joy, peace, and wealth to all those around you. Do something you will be proud of tomorrow.
The girl you are looking at is not the girl I was when I started this journey. The girl you are looking at was not very fond of herself. The girl you are looking at actually treated herself like crap and really didn’t appreciate how strong she was. Yes, thats me you are looking at. Now I’m going to stop talking about myself in third person because I think that’s just creepy.
This picture was taken after a workout. I don’t know if it was a good workout, but for me any workout is a good workout. Having back issues makes it hard for me to do anything, but not doing anything makes my back worse. Carrying the extra weight around for all these years did not help my back or my knees for that matter. Last year when I started this journey they were both starting to break down along with some other body parts. I was a mess.
I wish I could tell you that simply eating well will help you lose weight, it won’t. You will need to move something. Preferable that something is your body. I know you didn’t think you would make it all the way to the end of the program and never work out. Shame on you. I’ve always heard you can’t just workout to lose weight. Basically they are saying you also need to eat well. I’m here to tell you just eating well is not going to be enough either. If you are as big as I was and just lose weight without working out or weight training you will deal with flappy skin. Extra skin in some cases looks worse than being fat. Now before you come for me, if you are ok with flappy skin, do you. I didn’t want to get to my goal body and have to deal with moving skin around to put my clothes on. I didn’t have money for plastic surgery. I had just spent all that money getting my teeth fixed. Braces were not cheap. One thing at a time was all my family could afford.
Let me give you my little workout back story. At my heaviest I never worked out. Working out was getting up from the couch to go to the kitchen for snacks. After I had weight loss surgery I became a workout nut. I was not only walking and lifting weights, but I was running half marathons. I was unstoppable, until I was stopped. Back issues from running along with the family tragedy I mentioned earlier shut me down. I didn’t want to run, I wanted to hide. I began to eat and the weight came back with a vengeance. The love I had for running and all physical activity died. My mental health was destroying my physical health. Then my physical health started destroying my mental health. I didn’t like anything about myself so I just stopped looking at myself. I didn’t take mirrors down in my house, I just never used them. I put on my brave face and went through the motions.
Machon Tip- Don’t go through the motions. Please get help. I eventually did something about my mental state. This was the only way I could even attempt to take care of my physical state. Yes I’m going to keep telling you to get mentally strong. Yes I’m going to keep talking about depression. For the first time in my life I’m not trying not hide my issues. I’m trying to help others get help for theirs. Now back to my story.
I knew I was going to eventually begin working out again. When I started I was pissed. I was comparing myself to the old me. The half marathon me. This new me couldn’t walk a mile without dripping with sweat and gasping for air. It was so bad I didn’t want my husband to walk with me because he was moving too fast. He was walking to race, I was walking to survive. I decided we needed bikes, because biking would be easier than walking. I was wrong. Biking was just as hard because our neighborhood is a bunch of hills. I was getting hit with one failure after another. After a failed bike outing I just pushed all this working out to the back of my mind, that is until the fourth month challenge came up and I was told I needed to move.
I panicked. Here I was again trying to start a workout routine. It was so hard last time and honestly the failure just made me more depressed. I told you all before, I don’t question the message I receive so I just decided I was going to make it work. I found a way. Next week I will tell you how I found my way but for this week lets focus on you. Let me just tell you that yet again it involved and app.
You need to move. You have to figure out something you can do for five, ten, fifteen, or twenty minutes. If you can do this thing longer YESSSS. The goal is to be consistent with this thing for thirty days. It will eventually become a habit so find something you can do daily. For some people you might decide to put on your walking shoes everyday. Putting on those shoes may inspire you to walk. You might walk to the mailbox, the end of your driveway, or the end of your block. The point is you are doing something you were not doing the month prior.
You might decide you want to do a workout video, is that a thing anymore? If you decide to do this don’t start with P90X or Insanity. You know you’re not going to do that video daily. It was hard as hell which is why you stopped the first time. Find something you can keep doing. Walking, biking, running, yoga, jump rope, skating, rowing, or using some of the equipment in your house I know you have. Fat people always how a few staples. We have food or course, but we also have workout clothes and workout equipment. We are always trying to lose weight so we have things laying around we said we would use. Sit on the stability ball you purchased or walk on the treadmill that’s holding your clothes.
If you don’t have any of these things, you have a phone, tablet, or computer. Get yourself on YouTube and watch one of the millions of free workout videos they have. You can also use Beach Body, Weight Watchers, or Peloton. There are tons more, but those are the ones I can think of off the top of my head. If you have some other options please email me and I will make sure I post them.
I don’t care what you decide to do, but you need to do something. I suggest you figure out really quick what you are capable of doing. Again don’t judge yourself on what you use to do, you are not that person. The track star you were in high school is gone. You are not running any miles anytime soon. You need to start at the beginning.
After you decide what you plan to do send me a message. There is no better way to be held accountable than to tell someone what you plan to do. Now that you have a plan, DO IT. Leave the excuses at the door as you lace up your shoes and move. If thinking about this in terms of thirty days and it’s too much let’s focus on one. You just need to think about what you can do tomorrow. Just focus on one day. Remember, this journey is about baby steps. We’ve got this. I know you can do it.
“Don’t ever get too comfortable….ever. ” -Alex Toussiant
This is a journal entry I wrote during my workout month that I thought would help someone.
When I decided I was going to follow the directions I received and workout I was scared to death. If I could workout I wouldn’t have gotten fat again. If I could workout I wouldn’t be in all this pain. If I workout I will be in pain. I’m not sure if I told you that my mind never stops running, but this is an example of some of the thoughts I had before this months challenge.
I decided I would breathe and attack this month how I had done so many others. I was going to take it one day at a time and simply try. I was going to do my best. As with everything else when I finally gave up trying to fight working out an answer to all my questions was revealed. I was laying in bed watching tv and an ad for Peloton came on. I don’t even remember which ad it was, but during the commercial they said “Together we go far”. What the hell did that mean? This was of course the company that caught so much flack for the Christmas ad.
Backstory- A woman’s husband gave her a Peloton for Christmas and she began working out and talking about how strong she had become. There was an outcry from women because of how horrible this gift was. I heard this being compared to receiving a vacuum for Christmas. How dare this man give this woman a bike and basically tell her she’s fat. Wellllll. Let me tell you what I thought. First I thought how much I would love a vacuum for Christmas. I would love a Dyson to be specific. I don’t know what’s going on with other women but when I got my Shark Steam Mop one year I was mopping everything I could. My face was beaming. Another year my husband got me a KitchenAid mixer and again I went crazy. This is that same fancy machine I told you about in the first blog. The device that allows me to turn into Betty Crocker at a moments notice.
If my husband would have gotten me a Peloton for Christmas I would have been just like that lady in the commercial, ecstatic. Have ya’ll seen the price for a Peloton? Yea, please get me a Peloton for Christmas. I don’t know what the rest of the people were screaming about, but get me a Peloton and some Calphalon cookware while you’re at it. If that hurts the feminist movement we really need to talk about what’s wrong with the movement. Again I digress so let’s get back on topic, I can talk about the feminist movement later.
I thought the ad was telling me to get a Peloton, so of course to Google I went. I was watching the videos and all excited until I went to see the price tag of a Peloton. $3000 was my sticker shock. Whoa! I was not even close to committing to that price tag with my garbage workout track record. What I did find after my dreams were burst about the bike was they had an app. At the time they were having a free trial and you could sample everything it had to offer. I had planned to shop around for other apps since many of them did the same thing, but I got lazy. I went ahead and signed up for the free trial app and vowed to begin the next day.
The following day I did some research on the app and found they had a walking portion. I had no idea how an instructor was going to guide me through a walking workout, buy hey it was free. I got my workout clothes on and travelled into the basement where my treadmill lived. This was the treadmill I had used in my half marathon days. My husband had brought it for me a few years ago. I was thrilled which is another reason I didn’t understand the Peloton uproar.
I loaded the app on my phone as well as my tablet. This whole concept seemed very silly to me but I was going to give it a shot. They had workouts ranging from five minutes to sixty minutes. I figured I could pull off a twenty minute workout for my first attempt. That first walk was with Peloton instructor Chase. I selected a soul walk and from the beginning I was mesmerized. The music was fantastic and I found myself walking and singing with this stranger. It was like a party was going on in my basement. I totally forgot I was on the treadmill. My only complaint was with my treadmill, not the app. Chase would tell me to increase the incline for my walk and by the time my treadmill reached the suggested height he was already going back to a flat road. Yes this got on my nerves, but I’m extra so I wasn’t going to get too worked up about it. Five minutes turned into twenty and as I was getting into the groove the walk was done.
Whew, that was fun. I was excited. Look at me moving and stuff. I didn’t toot any horns because my first workouts are always great. Actually all my workouts are great for the first two weeks. It was usually that third week that caused me issues. I’m sure you have figured out since this is week two that I survived the first week. I loved everything about this app and wondered what week three would bring.
FYI- I lost two pounds the first week I started moving. I was officially down fourteen pounds.
If you haven’t found a workout routine you like I would advice you to try the Peloton app. There are several apps available like I mentioned before but the vibe of this one was something I could not describe. I instantly felt what the ad was saying. I got “together we go far”. If all the instructors were as much fun as Chase I really got it. At the time of this blog the Peloton app cost around $15 a month. If that’s too steep for your pockets right now, again check out free videos online. I also want you to walk outside if that’s what you would rather do.
For me I used the app because I had this treadmill in my basement collecting dust. I had spent no money and had lost two pounds. Why not keep going? The app also had meditation, yoga, strength, walking, running, biking, and bootcamps. It pretty much covered anything I was trying to do or wished I was doing.
This is not a plug for Peloton but my next two blogs will be talking about my experience with Peloton. You can skip ahead to month five if you don’t want to hear specifically about Peloton. Remember this is my journey and my journey involved this app. The app that sparked my interest in moving again.
If you have found something you like and you plan on doing the next thirty days please send me a message. I want to know all the things that people are doing to stay motivated and focused. Remember, we’ve go this. We simply have to do this together.
“The nation that destroys its soil destroys itself.”- Franklin D. Roosevelt
I garden in containers. Containers are a great way to garden for people who have soil with issues, lack of space, or mobility issues. For me container garden checked off two major issues. The first issue for me was a clay based soil. I could have amended the soil over time by bringing in extra soil and nutrients, but I didn’t have that kind of time in my life. The other issue I have is related to mobility. I have degenerative disk disorder which basically means my back hurts all the time. Traditional gardening requires a lot of bending down and squatting. All things that are not very pleasant for my back.
For me the benefits of container gardening outweighed and negatives. With that being said there are some negatives. You must select the right size container for the veggie you plan to grow. You must water containers more often, and then there is the biggie. The start up cost is higher in container gardening vs. traditional gardening.
If you plan to container garden you must pick the correct soil. DO NOT USE soil from your yard or top soil. You must use container mix or potting soil. I even go a step further to make sure my soil drains well and provides optimal conditions for my plants. I use 1/3 potting mix, 1/3 compost, and 1/3 vermiculite or perlite. You can also use peat moss or coco coir in place of potting mix. This is known as Mel’s Mix. I select potting mix because it already has some amendments in it and it also contains nutrients for my plants. I will continue to promote Miracle Grow until I find something that performs better.
To create this mix simply put 1/3 of each item in your container and mix very well. This is when I throw in some fertilizer. If you are fertilizing the plants you aren’t doing much. You need to fertilize the soil. Your plants need a good home that provides them with everything they need to flourish.
A question I get often is regarding saving soil. Once your planting season is over or you have accidentally purchased what I call garbage soil, it can be saved. I save soil in five gallon buckets from season to season. I chose this method, because I had five gallon buckets. I know you thought I was going to give you some profound reason. No, it was because I grew potatoes in five gallon buckets and found if I put lids on the buckets they would hold all my soil over winter.
After you have grown veggies in the soil there will be roots, mulch and other things you don’t want to carry from season to season. I discovered a secret that has transformed my garden.
This is a sifter I purchased on Amazon. You should be able to find some type of sifter at hardware stores but let me explain why I got this one. This particular sifter fits perfectly on a five gallon bucket. There are grooves at the bottom that allows it to sit firmly on the bucket as you sift the dirt. The second reason I selected this sifter was because of the size of the holes. 1/4 inch allowed all the soil and vermiculite to fall through while trapping straw, mulch, roots, and even rocks.
Above is the soil I started with. This was soil from the potatoes I grew last year. Notice all the roots, mulch and rocks in the mixture. This could have come from compost or amendments I put in the soil, or it could have come from birds. The goal is to remove all this from the soil while maintaining the vermiculite or amendments you have placed in the soil.
Above is what I was left with after sifting the soil. Yes it will seem like a lot of items are being removed from the soil but don’t panic. Place these items you remove from the soil in your compost bin. Outside of the rocks the rest of the items can be broken down. You can also place much of this on top of many of your plants to protect them from the sun in the heat of summer. Note that these items are not bad for your plants. You just don’t want roots or tiny seedlings competing with rocks for space. You are trying to make it as easy as possible for your plants to thrive.
Above is what you should be left with. This soil will be light and almost fluffy to the touch. You should be able to stick your hand all the way to the bottom of the bucket with no issues. This is the growing medium you want for your plants.
So the big tip here. Never throw out soil. Just grab yourself a $27 sifter and save the soil you already have. Here is another tip. One five gallon bucket of sifted soil gets me three buckets of premium growing mix. Remember you are mixing 1/3 of this sifted soil with 1/3 compost and 1/3 vermiculite. Depending on the quality of the sifted soil you may only need to top dress it with compost. You may not have to buy new soil from year to year, but you will have to buy compost. That is a small price to pay for the savings you will receive.
So at the end of the season grab those five gallon buckets and some lids. Sift the soil as you close out the growing season. I did not discover the sifter until this year so I’ve been sifting for hours in the garden. Yes its time consuming but the work is worth the reward. I repotted cabbage in the mixture after growing the seedlings in seed starting mix. They doubled in size in one week.
Currently growing three container friendly varieties of cabbage. Tiara, Katrina, and Early Jersey. Hopefully as the season goes on I can tell you about my favorites.
“Everyone can lose weight, the trick is keeping it off” – M. Ross
As most of you know I am writing this blog post some of my weight loss. I am still very much on this journey but I didn’t decide to write everything down until I was halfway done. Part of me decided to blog because I didn’t want to go backwards. The other part was I wanted some accountability.
Month three week four should have you tracking a weight loss of twelve pounds. If you have been following this blog, and you haven’t started trying to lose one pound at a time I’m going to have a real conversation with you. When did you discover the blog? Have you lost more than twelve pounds since you started reading? If you are either the same weight or you have gained weight I’m really not sure what you are waiting for. I can’t believe I have been blogging for almost four months, and I also can’t believe you haven’t attempted this method. If you are doing something different please let me know. If you had some New Years resolutions that you have already dumped FOLLOW THE PLAN!. I’m writing this to help other people. Those other people include you. Let’s kill the excuses.
Today as I write this I had a few huge moments outside of yelling at you. I had on an extra large t-shirt from Gap and an extra large Nike jacket. When I went to take the items off it really hit me. I was wearing both these items with no Spanx or any type of body shaper. I was wearing these items and they were not tight and I could breathe. I also could have left the house and been totally fine with what I had on. I wasn’t worried if I looked ok, or if I looked like a busted can of biscuits. I felt comfortable and looked comfortable in the clothes I had on.
When I started this journey I was in a 3xl in shirts and a 22 in pants. I was in these sizes while everyday wearing a Spanx tank top. I didn’t leave my house without this tank top because of all the rolls that occurred when I wasn’t wearing it. If you wear Spanx you understand. The goal of Spanx is to smush everything into place and not allow it to move. I wore these EVERYDAY. I wore them in the summer when it was 100 degrees. I wore them while working out. I wore them when I competed in my first half marathon. I wore them in the winter under three layers of clothes. I wore them while sitting around my house, and really never thought about not wearing them. I had four tanks that I kept in rotation that are currently a size 2xl. You are always instructed to buy Spanx a size down to help with the smushing. Putting on Spanx for me was just like putting on underwear. It was just something I’d always done.
When the pandemic hit I stopped wearing Spanx. I stopped caring like the rest of the world. Rolls were the least of my concerns. When I decided to lose weight I wasn’t really paying much attention to what I wore. When you barely leave your house you really don’t notice. I was losing weight like I had gained weight. I wasn’t realizing I was actually doing it. One day I remember the 3xl shirts being too large and just put on 2xl. No mental notes were taken and no celebration. It just happened. After my son began making shirts for his company I remember asking for an XL because all my other shirts were too large. Again not much was thought about it. I do remember when he had a fit about making me a smaller shirt I posted on FB. I was upset that he wasn’t excited his mother needed a smaller shirt. Outside of that moment I can’t really think of many where I’ve rejoiced in my weight loss.
This is not normally me. The normal me would have already purchased two or three new wardrobes. The new me would have been throwing everything out the moment I realized I was in a smaller size. The new me would have also still been wearing Spanx. So why is this time different? It’s the no Spanx. I’m really an XL. Not an XL because of Spanx. I’m and XL because I worked hard and got the weight off. I’m and XL without depriving myself of food and without beating myself up. I’m and XL while enjoying Girl Scout cookies and occasionally having desert. I’m not going to tell you I eat everything I want when I want. That’s a lie. What I am going to tell you is I don’t feel like I’ve suffered at all.
The title of this blog is Stay The Course. You really have to do that. I know you are dying to drop five pounds and flaunt the new you, problem is that doesn’t work. That’s what you have done in the past. Let’s continue doing something we have never done. Let’s continue moving at this snail pace to get to where we are trying to go. I stated everyone can lose weight, keeping it off is the trick. I’ve kept all the weight off. The scale hasn’t even crept up anywhere near where I started. There are some weeks when the scale didn’t move and there were some weeks where the scale went up. I stayed the course.
Please give the plan a try. Try for one week, two weeks, three months. I just want you to try. I want you all to share some of the joy I am currently feeling. I’m finally conquering something that has alluded me for 30+ years. I was 8 when I first tried to lose weight. I don’t want to be 80 still trying. If you are also tired please join me. Send me your stories. We can do this together.
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” – Socrates
You are not the same person you were twelve weeks ago. First off you’re twelve pounds lighter. Second mentally you should be in a different place. You should have learned what you can and cannot eat. You should have learned that eating while hiding is a bad idea. You should have learned how to Be Still. There are also a million other things you should have learned that I cannot name. This was your journey, not mine. What I learned will be a little different from what you’ve learned. This is where this recap can help you put some of what you learned on paper.
What did you start doing that you want to keep doing? How do you plan to keep doing it?
What did you do that you want to stop doing? How do you plan to stop doing it?
Is there someone who is helping you on this journey? How do you plan to thank them?
How do you plan to thank yourself? Let’s try to not make it about food.
What are you most proud of? I hope you are proud of yourself.
What I learned after 12 weeks was that I could not eat after 9pm. Eating late caused my scale to either stay the same or go up. There is a lot of science that backs this up, but again I’m not about to give you that science. Google is amazing. What I did was listen to my body. Now with that being said my body always wanted to get hungry at 10pm. Since I don’t go to bed at ten this always caused issues. I learned to trick my body by drinking hot tea. If I drank some chocolate flavored tea it was a double bonus. No hunger and I felt like I was getting a treat.
I also learned I could not eat more than 1800 calories per day. On days when I barely moved 1600 was max. I learned this by using the Lose It app. I logged what I ate and paid attention to the scale and how I felt. I didn’t learn this overnight. There was a lot of trial and error. What this caused me to do was think about what I planned to eat. If I had a heavy breakfast I got a light lunch. If I was having a big dinner I ate less earlier in the day. Staying in the calorie window at times was hard. There are 400 calories in a medium Chick-Fil-A fry and 440 calories in the sandwich. Once I put my 90 calorie mayo packet on my sandwich and drink my 20 calorie diet lemonade I’m at 950 calories. That is half my budget on a good day. Before I began logging food I would have regular lemonade and two mayo packets. We are not even going to run those numbers.
The point is I’m more conscious of what I put in my mouth. I’m more aware that my decisions today alter my tomorrow. I’m more aware that I feel better when I do better. Take some time and evaluate how you feel. Take some time to appreciate what you’ve done and how far you’ve come. Write down what you’ve learned. You will appreciate all these little notes the further you get in the journey.
For month four, get ready to move something. Ok I’m showing my age. If you get the reference just keep singing the rest of the song in your head :).