gardening and inspiration

Tomatillo and Okra Do-Overs

“Vitality shows in not only the ability to persist but the ability to start over.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald

After a long absence from blogging, my theme for this entry is totally appropriate for my return. A wonderful series of life events kept me busy and away from my writing desk (ironically one of those events involved teaching others how to write). It may be hard to pick back up after losing momentum, but it’s totally worth it. While I was away from the blog, I continued to garden. In my endeavor, there were two plants I wanted to attempt to grow again, and I can now say that I succeeded.

If you go back to my blog in May of last year, I posted an entry called “Twice Transplanting Tomatoes.” I posted an entry about their progress a couple weeks later I felt very successful planting my tomatillos and I even watched the plant become very large and full of blooms. I was sure it would be a success as blooms are the start of the coming fruit. What I did not anticipate was a vicious attack from microscopic red spider mites. The trouble with these pests is by the time you realize they are there, it may be too late for your plant. Not only were the pests a problem, but I also failed to plant more than one tomatillo plant and you need at least two for pollination. I never saw a single tomatillo.

Also last year, I tried to grow Okra. Again, the spider mites and caterpillars had a feast. I maybe ate three okra pods from that plant. It was sorely disappointing.

This year, I planted okra transplants in my front yard among my flowers and I gave tomatillos another chance late this summer. I used many of the same methods except this time the Okra had more room for its roots and a different amount of sun while the tomatillo transplants were placed in a bigger container with several garlic cloves (to hopefully deter spider mites). Also, even though I may have gotten a late start with the tomatillos, they did have the opportunity to grow in slightly cooler weather. Most spider mites thrive in the hottest weather.

SONY DSC An okra bloom

SONY DSC The arrangement: Okra, basil, chives, and low growing flowers

SONY DSC A sprouting okra pod


SONY DSC Did you know that okra is in the same plant family as the hibiscus? It’s no wonder the flowers are so stunning!

SONY DSC Pollinators help

SONY DSC  Mature okra pods, ready for the picking

As a result, we were able to harvest okra every 2-3 days in July through early October. We probably enjoyed at least ten dinners with fried okra! The plants began to de-leaf as the weather dropped and they were stripped bare in the last typhoon, but we got out of them what we expected. Like any annual, they fruited in season and stopped when their time was up.

Now, my four tomatillo plants are monsters! I’m very pleased with how big and healthy they look and this time, I actually see some tomatillos sprouting rather than just the blooms. This last month, I have not had time or energy to garden; all we did was add water and before I knew it the plants were huge and thriving. I couldn’t be more thrilled!


Last year, I didn’t have very much control of the spider mites and I had no control over the weather. I still had a choice as to whether or not I should continue. I’m glad I decided to give these plants another chance. Now, I have reaped and will reap a harvest from what I have sown.

Now, here is the How To:

For Okra:

  1. I used transplants from a local nursery. One advantage to this is the opportunity to get a variety of the plant that probably does well in this region. Another advantage is a slightly faster harvest.
  2. I dug up the soil in my yard and added some of my own compost mixed with vegetable and flower slow release fertilizer (You can make your own compost over the course of a few months or simply buy it at a garden supply). The soil here is a thick clay, but so is the soil used to start the transplants here so they fit right in; extra nutrients can’t hurt though!
  3. I chose an arrangement for my okra and accompanying plants. I planted chives and basil near the okra since I know they are compatible plants with one another and fragrant plants attract good pollinators and deter some of the pests. I also included some low growing, shallow rooting flowers. There are two things I consider when planning the arrangement—compatibility, and plant height. The tallest plants go in the back and the shortest in the front.
  4. I covered the remaining exposed areas with mulch and added water.
  5. After that, water when the soil looks dry or 1-2 times a week and try not to let okra pods grow longer than about 3-4 inches (more than that and they get tough and are hard to eat). Harvest as frequently as you can as that will encourage the plant to grow more fruit.

For Tomatillo:

  1. I started with seeds for these plants. I like to use egg shells as my starter containers and I keep them well watered in a sunny window. Peat pots are great but in my area they tend to mold quickly. I prefer not to have mold on my windowsill.
  2. Once there were at least three sets of leaves, I was ready to transplant into a pot outside. Egg shells are biodegradable, but they don’t break down as quickly as other materials. I gently crack the egg shells and pull them away from the roots before dropping the root ball in soil.
  3. To prepare the pot, I added some fresh as well as previously used soil. I removed old roots from the pot, added compost, and added slow release fertilizer. I mixed them well and moistened the soil. My choice pot is one with a water reservoir so that the plants can wick up the amount of moisture they need and I don’t have to water them as frequently.
  4. I planted each tomatillo plant along the back evenly spacing each one. I then planted a row of garlic cloves* along the middle and sprinkled pansy flower seeds along the edge.
  5. I added water to the soil and filled the water reservoir. Every couple of days I add more water to the reservoir. The plant has since cared for itself.
  6. Final tip: Check under the leaves periodically for pests. The cheapest and most organic control you can use if you find anything is to get a spray bottle with water or a garden hose and dislodge any pests you find. For larger pests such as caterpillars, slugs, snails, and beetles, you can pick them off with gloves or a tool and drop them in soapy water. If you see a lady bug or a praying mantis, leave it alone! Those bugs will kill bad bugs when you’re not around to catch them and they won’t hurt your plant. Ditto for spiders but I don’t blame you if you don’t want them around either!

For garlic:

  1. Take a garlic head from your kitchen and break off a few cloves.
  2. Stick your thumb in the soil and place a garlic clove in the hole with the pointy side up.
  3. Add water and forget about it. You’ll soon see garlic chive shoots pop up and when they brown and tip over you’ll be able to dig up a new head of garlic. It may be a small head, but it’s edible.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my return entry and can take something valuable away from it. Thank you for reading and feel free to leave me comments or questions!

gardening, gardening and inspiration, sprouting new seeds

How to become an Heirloom Gardener (Lesson in seed collection)

Do  not let spacious plans for a new world divert your energies from saving what is  left of the old.
-Winston Churchill

How do you save these seeds? This was the question I was asked after I posted a reflective blog entry called, “I am an Heirloom Gardener on Foreign Soil”. My husband was the first to tell me, “When I read that blog, the first thing that came to my mind was “How?”. You have written about the “Why?” and should give your readers the “How?”. So now I will heed his advise and share with you some of the things I have learned about seed saving.

First, lets discuss a basic question. “What makes your seeds heirlooms?” To me, the answer is simple. If your grandmother gave your mother a piece of beautiful jewelry, then your mother gave you that jewelry, it is an Heirloom. The same is true for seeds. You extract the seed from a parent plant, sow it into the soil, watch it grow, then produce its own seeds which you then gather for the next generation of plants. So why then are red tomatoes just called tomatoes and purple or orange tomatoes called Heirlooms? To put it simply, these unusual varieties would disappear if gardeners did not save the seeds. Red Tomatoes can be heirlooms too, it’s just more popular to call rare varieties heirlooms. Make sense? Many mainstream varieties of vegetables have actually been genetically modified or developed to have longer shelf lives, which is what you normally see at your local grocery. This isn’t to say “everything” on the shelves is modified, but you get the idea. In a nutshell, heirlooms are about trying to grow particular varieties.

Here are my Seven Steps for Heirloom Seed Saving:

1. Determine where the seeds of your desired plant come from.
As you are all aware, many fruits and vegetables have seeds within them while others do not. Some seeds come from other parts of the original plant. If you have a fruit or vegetable with seeds, go ahead and dig them out and move to step two.

If the plant you are trying to derive seeds from doesn’t have a core of seeds, you may need to do a little research. I’ll give you a few examples. If you want seeds from a potato, garlic, onions, or ginger, you will need to let sprouts develop on the veggie itself. You can then pluck those sprouts off and plant them in soil. A new root crop will develop and the cycle will repeat. Often times, the plant that grows on the surface from those sprouts–root crops included–will put off a flower head that will eventually dry up on the plant and produce a seed head. Then you will be able to get seeds from that dried up flower.

DSC03404 [Spuds sprouting from potato and ginger]

Many ornamental flowers (flowers can also be heirlooms) will produce seeds from the dried flowers as well but some will create seed pods. For example, the Petunia will bloom for several days and then suddenly the bloom will droop and fall off the plant. The spot on the plant where the flower fell will grow a small pod. When the pod is mature, it will dry, crack open, and release its teeny tiny seeds. The same is true for many herbs such as Basil. Flowers such as Marigold dry and the seeds are actually attached to their petals. It’s easy to miss if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Marigold seeds actually look like little match sticks.

DSC03405 [Basil Seed Pods, most are already dry]

DSC03406 [Marigold Seed Heads]

2. Clean the “messy” seeds if necessary.
What if the seeds are gooey and wet? You must find a way to dry so that they will not end up molding. For tomatoes, some heirloom gardeners will put them in water, blend them, and let them ferment for a couple of days so that the seeds will actually separate cleanly and able to be dried. Personally, that’s not how I do it. I am too concerned that I would leave them too long. I actually place the seeds with the sticky pulp into a kitchen strainer and wash them with cool water thoroughly. Often times I can’t get all of the excess pulp off but I get as much out as possible and then I prop the strainer over a bowl for a couple of days to dry. The remaining pulp will dry and flake away from the seeds after that. Other “messy seeds” that aren’t so gooey will be okay with a simple rinse and air dry. You can actually lay them out on a piece of butcher or news paper. I like to write on the paper so that I can keep track of the days they are laid out.DSC03237[Gooey Dragon Fruit Seeds]

DSC03233 [Shikuwasa Seeds; messy, but not as messy]

3. Let them dry, TOTALLY!
This step is very important. The slightest amount of moisture can cause mold when you try to save the seeds. Usually the magic number is three days. So set the seeds out for three days and let them dry. If you extract seeds from seed pods, they may already be quite dry. Let them sit in a paper bag or cheese cloth so that they can drop out easily when they are ready.

DSC03232 [Moist Okra Seeds left out to dry]

4. Protect them from the elements.
Some seeds lose their germination capabilities when they are left out in the air or too much light for too long. When leaving the seeds out to dry, place them in a darkish spot in the house where they are undisturbed. Once they have dried completely, place them in a sealed jar or plastic bag then in a dark place. I usually go with one plastic bag and one envelope for each set of seeds so that they are air tight and placed in the dark. I used to only use plastic bags and often that still worked but this year I found that many of my Jalepenos refused to sprout. I learned then that pepper seeds are more “light-sensitive” than most seeds. So, I’m using envelopes from now on.

DSC03342 [Plastic bags for the seeds then to be placed in a dark spot]

5. Be a master Labeler.
Seeds do last a while; many of them for years. But they don’t last forever. Different seeds have different life expectancies. So, that’s a good reason to label by date. A few years down the road when you’re sifting through your collection, you can determine which seeds will stay, which ones will go, and which ones need to be used up ASAP. I like to label mine with the name, dates, and place of origin (as best as I know).

DSC03384 [Inside the seeds are sealed in plastic bags then placed in labeled envelopes]

6. Plant in season if know the season. If you don’t, fret not trial and error then take notes.
Many fruits, vegetables, and herbs grow as annuals. There is no guarantee that they will be productive in the winter if they are meant to be a summer crop and vice versa. Lettuce crops grow well in moderate to cool weather, tomatoes grow well in warm weather, and hot peppers grow well in blazing hot weather. A little planning goes a long way. If you’ve saved seeds from a vegetable you have limited information on, don’t be afraid to test them out. You can always try again a couple of months later or the following year. Be sure to take notes about your results or lack there of and you’ll get it.

7. Research early, relax and enjoy later.
In addition to knowing about your crop’s seasons, find out about potential bug pests and diseases that affect the particular plant you are trying to grow. Find out about water and light needs. Get to know all that you can so that you can plan accordingly. Use labels so that you don’t have to keep it all memorized in your head and get overwhelmed. My system for container garden watering is as follows: I find out if the plant needs consistent moisture or drying in between watering. I place the dry plants in clay pots and the wet plants in self watering containers like “Plant Spa.” It takes the guess-work out of it for me and I can avoid under/over watering. If you know a certain bug likes to attack your selected crop, find out what plants repel that pest and apply a little companion planting. This is a lot of research and work at the beginning of each growing season, but hard and purposeful work in the beginning saves you a lot of trouble later on. It’s worth the effort.


With these steps, you can begin saving your favorite varieties as you come across them in your local market or travels. It’s not very hard, it just takes a little time, planning, and organization. I hope this article helped. Please feel free to ask me questions or share your Heirloom Garden Experiences!

Food and Travel, gardening, gardening and inspiration

I am an Heirloom Gardener on Foreign Soil

Life  is divided into three terms – that which was, which is, and which will be. Let  us learn from the past to profit by the present, and from the present, to live  better in the future.
William Wordsworth

I am an heirloom gardener on foreign soil. Originally from Texas, I have Hispanic and Jewish Roots on my Mother’s side; European Roots on my Father’s side. My great grandparents were immigrants from Mexico, Lithuania, Ireland, and Germany. My parents and I were born in America; we are American. I now live in Japan.

I began this journey as a gardener in the States where everything was familiar and comfortable. Seed packets at the local stores were almost always Ferry-Morse or Burpee, not that you had to use seeds because the hardware stores had transplants for just as cheap every spring. You never had trouble finding the name of anything unfamiliar to you. You could count on tomatoes to be red, cucumbers to be green, and all other things to be entirely predictable. You also realized that you would have start up costs for your garden and reason that it was an investment.

Then I started doing something a little different. When we bought produce at the store that I particularly liked; I saved the seeds. What did it cost me besides a little bit of time? I began saving seeds in every fruit and vegetable that I liked. Next I found new produce at places like Whole Foods such as “Yellow Pear Tomato” or “Speckled Roman”  or a Mexican variety of a Cherry Tomato. I began recording where I was finding my seeds, when I found them, and if I knew where they were shipped from.

That is when I learned about Heirloom Gardening. Heirloom seed collection is much like passing down family Heirlooms. You attain seeds from a parent plant and replant those seeds in the future then repeat the process with the generation of seeds that follows. Seeds are passed on to family, neighbors, and friends so that future generations can enjoy growing something as  tangibly in the present as a vegetable but at the same time capable of rebirth through its seed. This is how Heirloom Varieties have stayed around without being stocked in grocery stores; old time gardeners are still saving and passing them on for future generations. I now order seeds from a catalogue (the way the old timers used to do) by Baker Creed Seed Company as they specialize in collecting rare varieties of seeds.

Now I too specialize in collecting rare varieties. I am an heirloom gardener on foreign soil. I am presently growing vegetables from seeds that were from Texas, Mexico, Georgia, and Florida. I now collect new varieties from mysterious foods I find here because today is a part of the story my garden will tell. Imagine a garden in the future where I will tell people, “This is a small Shikuwasa tree started from seeds I collected in Okinawa. Over here is a plant some call a Cape Goose Berry, but in Okinawa it’s called a Hozuki and is said to be extremely rare. At my parent’s house is an Avocado tree I actually started in Georgia and then loaded into the car and took with me to Texas. Then over here is a collection of rare purple varieties of veggies like Jalapeños, Tomatillos, and Cayenne Peppers.” Rather than seeing them only as plants, I will recall the history that is theirs and mine alike.

One thing I find amazing is the miracle of how small a seed is and yet the greatness of it’s potential. It reminds me of myself–of all of us really–and how we start out so small but have the potential to grow to endless heights. A single seed appears so insignificant; yet it can become a huge tree or three foot plant that produces hundreds fruit. Plus, each seed carries the DNA of it’s parent plant. It won’t just randomly turn into another plant–it will be like it’s parent. AND, each new generation of seeds carries traits that help it adapt to the environment that it has been introduced to. Also, if you allow it to be in close proximity to a similar plant variety, the cross pollination will cause it to have traces of the other plant’s DNA. The new generation might come out looking a little different but in most ways it will be the same.

Anyway, this is what I’ve been striving to do when I shop at the local markets. I’m searching for the pieces that I will add to my story–the one that my garden tells. Now you’ll know the significance of Market Day Sunday.

DSC03237 DSC03238 DSC03233 DSC03232 DSC03225 DSC03227 DSC03153 DSC02913 DSC0292520130729-140605.jpgDSC03330DSC03342


Garden Pests, gardening, gardening and inspiration

First a Birder, Now a Bugger

I wanted to know the name of every stone and flower and insect and bird and beast. I wanted to know where it got its color, where it got its life – but there was no one to tell me.
George Washington Carver

I can second Mr. Carver’s sentiments. Like Carver, I have a love for growing various plants–especially those of the edible variety. I can also attest to the complimentary pastime of observing wildlife as it goes hand in hand with gardening.

When in Georgia, I had the joy of backyard birding in my small balcony garden. We were visited by Cardinals, Woodpeckers, Chickadees, Sparrows, Finches, Jays, Wrens, and Eastern Bluebirds. I learned about a few bugs too. I learned the difference between a pest and a beneficial insect. I saw more pests than beneficials, but I knew the difference.

Now in Okinawa, I hardly see a bird. I miss backyard birding, but I am hardly ever at a loss for sightings of a different kind. I now find myself BUGGING. Like Carver, sometimes there isn’t a book or a person who can tell me for certain what I’ve seen. It is also difficult at times to determine what exactly is causing damage to some of my plants. I’ll show you what I mean.

DSC03195 I discovered this curious webbing on my okra recently.

DSC03194 Normally, a regular wide web would just simply mean it’s a spider. Spiders aren’t pleasant to us, but they don’t harm plants. They are considered the “good guys” of the garden because they eat other bugs and leave your plants alone. This web however, is one that is causing damage and that means it’s not really from a spider. I previously learned that thin webbing close to leaves and stems can come from microscopic mites called “spider mites.” The spotting on the leaves could be another indicator of mites but I found another problem. Spider mites usually do their damage UNDER leaves but this damage is on top of the leaves. Spider mites also don’t chew holes; they suck juices from the plant causing discoloration. After much inspection, it appears the damage came from tiny caterpillars. The possible solution may be to remove heavily infected parts of the plant and spritz around the leaves with slightly soapy water. I watered thoroughly as well because stressed plants are more susceptible to problems.

DSC03215 Then I found this little guy. If you look closely at this picture, you should see a lace like spot on the leaf under the bug. At first, it looked like a Ladybug which is an extremely beneficial garden helper. Here’s the problem, there are imposters who look like Ladybugs. Notice the next picture:

DSC03216 Notice the similarities? Now look below at a picture of an actual Ladybug:

DSC03217 If the red beetles have long protruding heads with white spots on the side, please leave them alone. Due to increases of insecticides, Ladybugs are becoming harder to find (except for in Northern States where they try to overwinter in people’s houses and are seen as pests–send some to the rest of us!). A single Ladybug can eat 500 Aphids or 1,000 Spider mites in a single day.

The Mexican Bean Beetle took a soap bath after this photo shoot in case you’re wondering.

20130712-174449.jpg Then I found this guy on my door. I don’t know what he is. He looks cool.

Of course, the most exciting site yet is definitely this next fella:

DSC03191 For the first time ever, I have spotted a Praying Mantis. The thing about these bugs is, they aren’t very picky eaters. They eat beneficial insects as well as insect pests. Like a Great Blue Heron, they find a place to stand very still and they wait for prey to come near them so that at the opportune moment they can snap!

DSC03192 DSC03189 There’s that “Praying” stance; or maybe it’s a “Preying” stance.


Then today I saw this flying crawler:

DSC03221 DSC03220 It’s hard to judge from the picture but believe me, it’s a very large bug. I sort of doubt that it has any interest in my plants since it’s big enough to devour other bugs. It’s also a very loud flyer; but look at the detail in those wings. You might think this bug looks gross, but you have to admit its wings are pretty spectacular.

I still miss the garden birds, but sometimes you just have to embrace what you have. A garden free of bugs is unnatural. Unnatural is inorganic. Inorganic is less healthy. In America, mass farms consist of one to maybe two crops which become overrun with those crops’ most common pests–which leads them to the need for insecticides. In India, mass farms consist of a wide variety of crops inter-planted amongst themselves. This same garden practice is utilized throughout Asia as well. I once heard a Doctor of Agriculture there say, “In India our crops are not pest-free or disease-free; but we utilize such variety that no pest or disease is able to have a threshold. That is how we are able to garden organically.” I now feel that dealing with a few bugs isn’t always so bad after all.

Keep Calm, Garden On,


gardening, gardening and inspiration

Don’t Blame Your Beige Thumb!

Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement. -C.S. Lewis

When I talk to others about gardening I normally get one of two responses. The first is one of enthusiasm: “Oh I like gardening too. Right now I am growing (insert plant name here).” The other response is, “I just don’t have a green thumb.” I continually meet people who claim that they kill every plant they bring home and they are just too discouraged to make any further attempts.

Well I have news for you. I too have unwillingly killed plants. I didn’t know how to care for them properly and needed to do some research. For some odd reason, I decided a couple years ago to try again with tomato seedlings and a Rosemary Bush. After my first successful harvest, my husband mistakenly assumed that I felt passionate about growing things and that Christmas gave me a handful of photographically captivating books about gardening. The truth was, in the beginning I just wanted to grow tomatoes so that we could avoid a few extra trips to Wal-Mart during the week to feed our tomato addiction. I had the Rosemary bush because I knew that it grew well in poor soil with minimal care and it seemed like a good way to balance out my empty porch. I however was a complete softy for my new husband with his big dewy eyes and warm smile as he welled up with pride at the gift he had given me. Something happened to me too at that moment; I was proud of myself as well. I knew that for the first time I had done a good job caring for a plant and that plant in turn was producing fresh, organic food. I also realized that actually my husband wasn’t wrong about me–he just knew something about me before I saw it in myself.

The following January I filled my small sunny windowsill with seeds to get a jump start on my growing season. My new garden books were ever present by my spot on the couch and my bedside table. At the very onset of spring I perused the local nurseries in town. I filled my balcony with vegetables and herbs to the point that some of my plants couldn’t get enough sunlight due to the lack of space. It was that year that I also had my first encounters with plant diseases and pests. I became aware of the other things I had to learn but I didn’t mind that extra effort because the fruit that effort could bear was worth it. My husband also got me to invest in grow boxes that I use to this day and out of those grow boxes I harvested approximately 350 Habaneros, 100 Jalepenos, 20 bell peppers, and dozens of tomatoes (out of just two growboxes). My success that year was very encouraging in spite of a few plant losses.

The very first gardening books I owned and read from Brian were about container gardening since we lived in a second story apartment. One of the specialties of the books dealt with successfully combining plants in containers for looks and productivity (an example would be growing flowers with vegetables). Becoming increasingly familiar with combos and techniques, I have become bold with some of my experiments. You might remember my blog entry, “Odorous in a Good Way.” I combined three plants for a container to place at my front door.

Here’s how it looked then:


Here it is now:


There appeared to be something white and foamy on the plant that went brown. I think it may have been a fungus. I carefully cut away all the brown leaves and looked online for a way to create my own natural fungicide and sprayed that spot after scraping the top layer off carefully. In addition to washing my tools, I threw away the leaves instead of composting to avoid disease passing. The plants that remain have been returned to our front door. At least the citronella is still alive, I need it to repel mosquitoes.

My other failure comes in the form of seeds that haven’t germinated in almost two months.


Yes, it is sad losing these plants; but that does not diminish the joy I have on this porch:


Our patio is lined with flowers, tomato plants, tomatillo plants, pepper plants, herbs, and ornamental plants that are thriving. This would not have been achieved if I didn’t keep trying and remain willing to learn from failures. I can categorize all of my failures into a few simple tips that enable my current success:

Water correctly: Too little or too much? Know how to water and when to leave the plants alone. Watering near the roots in the morning prevents diseases and overwatering. Self-watering containers prevent under-watering a very thirsty plant. The rest just need good drainage.

Basic pest knowledge: If you know the most common pest for your area and take steps to prevent it from being a problem then you will ensure safety for most of the plants you have. Sometimes it’s as easy as planting a Marigold and a garlic clove with your tomato. Just do a little research and plan ahead. Most of the time when I do this, I no longer have to fuss over it for the rest of the season.

Fertilize once in a while: This is a lot like watering. Read the recommendation on the label and follow it. Sometimes with container gardening you only need to fertilize once and you’re done. Maybe do it again in 3 to 6 months. That’s it.

Place your plant in the right spot: Most plants like sun. Some like it a little. Others like it a lot. A few don’t like much sun at all. Find out which one your plant is and place it accordingly.

Get some easy plants: These are the plants that thrive naturally in your region. It’s nice to have a few that you don’t have to work at caring for whether you love digging in the garden or garden once a year (at best). Regional plants seldom need to be watered if ever and you don’t have to think about fertilizing. You’ll be able to guess which ones they are by looking around town; they are the ones you find the most of!

Lastly, remember that there is a season for everything: I can guarantee you that if I plant lettuce on my balcony today it will sprout quickly, become bitter, then die quickly. I can do everything else right but the truth is it is not it’s season. If I plant it when the temperatures drop in the fall to winter time however, it will be a super easy crop! If you’ve ever had a plant that was doing great for 6 months and all of the sudden failed, it may just be the season.

With a little practice all this knowledge can become automatic–especially with your favorite plants. If you have a desire to grow things, don’t be discouraged if a few attempts fail. Be willing to grow yourself. Take it from someone whose beige thumb turned green after all.

Grow on,


gardening and inspiration

Sweet Shy Flowers Are a Treat

The flower that smells the sweetest is shy and lowly. -William Wordsworth

Some of nature’s daintiest flowers produce the most delicious and beneficial foods. Other flowers which are simply pretty to look at, provide pollen so that other flowers, fruits, and vegetables can be more plentiful. Some simple flowers act as great defenders, assistants, hostesses, or producers. Furthermore, a single flower that wilts when its season has passed can leave behind a seed pod with dozens of seeds. None of my flowers are roses, camellias, azaleas, or hydrangeas–I enjoy those flowers too–but all of my flowers serve a great purpose.

You’ll remember that I started sowing seeds in April and May for flowers and vegetables. The first sign of production in progress for my vegetable plants comes in the form of shy flowers. Some of my earliest vegetable flowers appeared this week.

[The Following Pictures were taken between June 8-12]

DSC03054 This is the first flower that has appeared on my okra plant. It only lasted a day and then wilted. In it’s place will be an okra pod that will turn into an okra of course. It’s smaller, but it reminds me of the beautiful Hibiscus that also only lasts one day. Here’s a great surprise: the petals are yellow and the center of the flower is a deep red. It’s an inversion of the tiny petunias I planted with the okra as they are deep red on the outside and yellow in the inside.

DSC03061DSC03059DSC03062 I also had so many Chamomile DSC03068blooms that the plant was beginning to look leggy. I thought maybe I should pick some in hopes that the plant will want to reproduce more petite daisy-like little Chamomile flowers. I clipped some lavender as well for this fragrant sweet bouquet which will make a calming decaf tea.







DSC03063It was only a day later that I encountered, for the first time ever, a tomatillo bloom. At first glance, it looked similar to a tomato bloom, but upon closer inspection it turned out to be very different.  The pistols are purple and the yellow petals bend upward. When you view it from DSC03070above the plant, it looks like a star-shaped lantern. It appears to have its own little covering much like the way tomatillos have papery leaves covering their fruit.

Then today I discovered the opening tomato blooms. It won’t be very long before tomatoes take the place of these tiny flowers. They will be several times the size of the flowers and in my experience, tomato flowers are always the same size whether I am growing large or small tomatoes. DSC03076DSC03077 Also today came the first white Petunia bloom. I am particularly proud of this flower because I planted the seeds from white petunias I grew in Georgia. Petunias are among my favorite flowers of all. They are easy to grow, forgiving, and give lots of seeds (but if you’re not paying attention, you’ll miss the appearance of seeds as they are quite small). To me, the Petunias are lady-like. They remind me of flowing skirts, handkerchiefs, and Mexican restaurants. I’m sure it seems like a silly connection, but there have been so many times that I have sat on a patio designed with colorful tiles, lanterns, and terracotta pots filled with Petunias. Furthermore, I have yet to meet a plant that a Petunia didn’t grow well with.  DSC03078 Here’s the bird’s eye view of the okra arrangement now. Soon the bottom of the container will be full of white and red Petunias of varying sizes and okra will come up the shoots of the large leaves.

Here’s to the sweetest flowers!



Coming soon: Baker’s Creek Heirloom Seeds Arrive, re-arranging plant arrangements for a fragrance that is loathed by mosquitoes, what to do with sunflowers, up cycled plant containers, purple food in Okinawa, and much more!