The Impatient Gardener 

  • By Good Earth
  • 24 May, 2017

Parents, Professionals, all who feel pressed for time...

I'm talking about y'all. And about me, for that matter.

I am new to Augusta. My family are part of the wave of military families flocking to Fort Gordon. I have two kids, a job, hobbies, interests, and no experience in a garden whatsoever.

When I arrived in Augusta last June, Georgia was experiencing a particularly hot summer. In fact, every person I met kindly pointed out that the summer of 2016 was exceptionally stifling. It was nice to know that I wasn't the only one suffering, but it did not make me want to venture outside much. 

My handy husband, on the other hand, found himself bit by the Pinterest bug. While I was alternating between AC and pool time, he went to work building me these pretty impressive raised garden beds .

How amazing are those?! And do you know what happened? Nothing. 

For about 9 months, my beds remained unmade. What can I say? life got in the way. It was too hot. Then school started. Then the holidays. Then it was too cold. Then I changed careers. Then... it was time to begin. But I had so many questions! And I didn't want to take the time to research. I just wanted to get my hands dirty and pray that something grew.  

That's right: I wanted  to plant fruits and vegetables. I wanted to harvest them in a beautiful bonding moment with my two children. But I suffer from the syndrome that so many of my generation do: impatience. 

When I came to work at Good Earth, I admitted I would need a lot of coaching (on everything). I was fortunate to come upon someone who was  patient. *ahem...*

In a quick tete-a-tete , Good Earth's Garden Center manager Joe walked me through some of my "silly" questions, and he added a few of the FAQs that he hears from our customers as well. Here they are, in no particular order:

Q. Am I starting too late?

Joe: Nah. People do say that Easter weekend is the ideal time to plant a garden, because the last frost is most likely past, and the summer heat has not yet set in. But it's not a hard and fast rule. Simply know that the later you wait into spring and summer,  the larger the plant will need to be to get a good solid start in your garden. Don't plant seedlings in June, for example.

Q. What kind of soil should I use in my garden beds?

Joe: There are two types of soil you can buy. There's potting mix, and there's garden soil. The difference pretty much boils down to density. Potting mix has "things" in it that allow for water to move throw it easily. As its name suggests, potting soil is meant to be used for potted plants. Garden soil is dense and well-suited to a raised bed, garden box, or traditional garden. It contains nutrients but does not need to facilitate the spread of water.

Q. What are “companion plants” and do I need them?

"The theory behind  companion planting  is that certain plants may help each other take up nutrients, improve pest management or attract pollinators," says Tom Maloney, horticulture educator for Penn State Extension. 

Joe:
Is it necessary? No. Is it potentially beneficial? Yes. For example, I frequently recommend planting marigolds with your tomato plants. It's a simple place to start.

Q. What fruit or vegetable plants are most likely to thrive and produce fruit?  

Joe: Peppers! Peppers are easy. So are tomatoes. Strawberries too - I grew strawberries when I was in the first grade. Zucchini and yellow squash. These are all pretty hearty, pretty "easy" to grow. 

Q. What about the melons I planted? Will I grow a watermelon?

Joe:  (shakes his head regretfully) You probably [definitely] won't see a melon in your first year of gardening.

Q. How often and how much should I water?

Joe:  People oftentimes think that vegetable plants need more water than they do. They tend to over-water. I always tell people, "You have to touch the dirt." Water your plants when the soil feels dry. Keep watering until the soil is dark. Don't overthink it.

Q. How far apart should I space my plants?

Joe:  When you're transplanting, dig a hole that's about twice the size of the container your plant comes in and just as deep. Place the root bed in the hole and fill in around it loosely with the garden (or potting) soil.

And most importantly:

Q: When will my fruits and vegetables come in?

Joe:  The answer obviously will depend on how big your plants were to begin with. But supposing you have smallish plants (pictured below), you'll want to allow 2-3 months. That means  be patient .

Armed with my handy-dandy notes, I bit the bullet and endeavored to create my FIRST EVER home garden.

And wouldn't you know...  It didn't take long at all ! It wasn't hard. And it involved shopping (which is always enjoyable).

In hindsight, the biggest obstacle I faced was my own ignorance. I didn't know where to begin, and I didn't want to invest the  time  into answering my own questions.

It boiled down to the following steps:

1) purchase plants and soil (or potting mix for potted plants)

2) fill beds with appropriate soil and then dig holes (with hands or spade)

3) place plants in desired locations

and

4) water new plants until the soil looks dark

So without further ado, here are the “fruits” of my labor thus far:

As you can see, I planted a smattering of things: herbs, vegetables, fruits, and flowers. Some - like the gorgeous kimono and marigolds, as well as the herb plants - I purchased at Good Earth. Others, I purchased at big box stores (like the festive rosemary bush shaped like a Christmas tree that I got at Costco last December).

I have high hopes for this little venture, and I expect my family and I will soon be harvesting squash, tomatoes, melons and peppers of our very own. In the meantime, I’ll grab my fruits and veggies from the farmer's market. Food? Now  that  is my wheelhouse!

Good Earth Summer Series

By Good Earth 24 May, 2017

I'm talking about y'all. And about me, for that matter.

I am new to Augusta. My family are part of the wave of military families flocking to Fort Gordon. I have two kids, a job, hobbies, interests, and no experience in a garden whatsoever.

When I arrived in Augusta last June, Georgia was experiencing a particularly hot summer. In fact, every person I met kindly pointed out that the summer of 2016 was exceptionally stifling. It was nice to know that I wasn't the only one suffering, but it did not make me want to venture outside much. 

My handy husband, on the other hand, found himself bit by the Pinterest bug. While I was alternating between AC and pool time, he went to work building me these pretty impressive raised garden beds .

By Good Earth 24 May, 2017
Add that to the list of things you never thought you'd say (but will).

I mean, come on. Who really pays attention to the quality of a baking potato? Potatoes just are what they are: brown, kind of lumpy, and really delicious with butter and salt. 

That's what you likely think until you talk to a potato farmer. "I had no idea there were different grades of potatoes," Good Earth owner Rick Catts admits, echoing what the rest of us are thinking. "The truth is, in the same way there are different types of apples, there are also different types of potatoes!"

Indeed, until you have tried a Pink Lady or a Honey Crisp apple, you may think that the Red Delicious  is the only (and therefore the best) apple on the stand. 

The Burbank baking potato is like the Honey Crisp of the potato family. It's flesh is more flavorful and buttery than any Idaho or Russet you'll ever bake. 
By Good Earth 12 May, 2017
I'm a big fan of anything that falls under the "fix it and forget it" category. Because the truth is, I usually do anyway.A busy mom of two, I basically have two treatments for vegetables: roasted or grilled. Recipes that involve both of these techniques tend to involve the same simple ingredients: vegetables, oil, salt and pepper. The prepping process, too, is minimal. 

Lend me your ears
It's now May, and corn on the cob season is underway. Corn on the cob as a side dish is the epitome of simple. Growing up I always had it boiled, rolled in butter, and generously coated in table salt. My mom had these corn holders that looked like little ears of corn, themselves, and they stuck out of either side of the cob so we could hold them without getting our fingers coated in butter. Funny: they never seemed to work that well, and I recall quite a bit of finger-licking occurring once the kernels were eaten.

Anyway... Now that I'm the mom, I don't have the time or patience that mine did to boil corn - let alone to shuck it. Enter: Good Earth.

Now, I have heard about grilling corn, but I hadn't even got on board. However today , because 1) the price was right, and 2) it's in season,  I grabbed a few ears of pre-shucked corn and a few still in the husk. (I also picked up zucchini and squash , portobello mushrooms, and a "broccoflower," because as long as the grill is on, I might as well toss on some extras veggies.)

By Good Earth 11 May, 2017
Zucchini is one of those vegetables that is easy to grow in a home garden, so everybody does. When summer rolls around, zucchini and squash are abundant and available at great prices at your local farmer's market. Suddenly, everyone's got tons of zucchini and only one or two ideas for how to transform it into something edible (think: zucchini bread). 

I love zucchini bread as much as the next person. After all, I have two children, and sometimes adding a vegetable to a baked treat might be the only way to get it past them at all. (Note to self: make zucchini bread)

The thing is, I just don't have time to bake right now. Still, I do have a food budget, and when zucchini is available at a bargain, I just can't pass it up. And because its cute little yellow squash cousin is almost always the same price - and it adds a splash of color - I'll grab a few of those as well. 
By Good Earth 03 May, 2017
In a perfect world, we would remember every birthday, holiday, anniversary, or special occasion, and have ample time to create a thoughtful, handmade gift specifically designed with the recipient in mind.

Admit it: we don't always have the time for that! Life has a tendency to get in the way of crafting. But you musn't berate yourself if your Pinterest boards go untouched for another season; if you don't have the time to design, shop for, and create a gift by hand. The art of gift-giving is knowing who is receiving the item(s) and choosing that which will be meaningful to them.
By Good Earth 29 Apr, 2017
Wait...is that a joke?

Okay, so tomatoes and mangoes aren't a classic duo, but they do have a few things in common: they are both fruits (yes, even you, tomato); they both taste great in salsa; and they are both essential to this unique recipe that was conceived by Good Earth's resident chef. Props to you, Carmen!

If you have not yet been bitten by the salty/sweet bug (think: salted caramel - or chocolate!), this recipe will bring you over to the dark side. Crispy phyllo shell cups, a bed of melted cheese - always a winner! - and a heaping helping of the aforementioned fruits, marinated in local honey. What more could you ask for? If you say "basil," then you are ready for the full recipe! 

Here it is, y'all!

Recipe:
Makes 15 cups
Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 5 min

1 package mini fillo shells (we recommend Athens brand)
1 ripe mango, finely diced
1 lb heirloom tomatoes, finely diced
2 tbsp Byne Blueberry Farm local honey
1 lemon
4 oz Troyer mozzarella cheese, grated
8-10 basil leaves, julienned
kosher salt
pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

While oven is preheating, combine diced mango, tomatoes, honey, the juice of 1 lemon in a bowl. Allow ingredients to marinate and flavors to meld. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Once the filling is prepared, line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place fillo cups on baking sheet and fill with 1 tsp grated mozzarella. Bake in preheated oven for 5 minutes, until cups are crispy and cheese is melted. 

Remove cups from oven and allow them to cool slightly. Fill cooled fillo cups with tomato-mango filling. Top with a few strips of julienned basil.

Enjoy at room temperature!



By Good Earth 14 Mar, 2017
Broccoli and casserole seem to go hand-in-hand. But sometimes, even a casserole requires too much effort. Roasting broccoli is incredibly simple; the result is impressive and unexpectedly good. Serve with grilled salmon or steaks, and you'll be hooked on this side dish. It's actually healthy (but no one will notice).
By Good Earth 13 Mar, 2017
Asparagus has gotten a bad rap. For years it was served blanched or boiled to death, which is hardly appealing. But, like so many other green vegetables, even delicate asparagus spears can be roasted. The heat gives the tips a crispy texture and a smoky, caramelized flavor. When you are tired of green beans, roasted asparagus are a perfect, classy alternative.
By Good Earth 13 Mar, 2017
It's been said that bacon makes everything better. In this recipe, bacon's Italian cousin dresses up simple asparagus and turns it into something fancy. After a simple drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkling of S&P, and a quick trip into the oven, your next favorite appetizer/side dish is ready to serve. The best part: this is one of those super-simple recipes that will dazzle your dinner guests - and it takes almost no effort at all to make!
By Good Earth 10 Oct, 2016
Not only is it fall, but it's apple season! Depending on your use of the apples you purchase, you may need some guidance on which apples are best for: baking, sauces, butter..the list goes on. ...Or maybe you're wanting to get several different kinds of apples but aren't quite sure what the taste or texture is. 

Well, you've come to the right place. We've jotted down descriptions of each of the apple varieties to make things a little easier!

Red Delicious : A creamy texture and a sweet, tart flavor; this relatively soft apple is quite the all-purpose apple. You can bake it, cook it, or just enjoy it raw.

Fugi : Hailing from Japan, this sweet fleshed apple is great for storing.

Jonathan : A classic American heirloom, with a crisp bite and lots of juice. Its flavor is mildly sweet with a subtle hint of tang and spice. Great for baking!

Granny Smith : A native of Australia, this large, firm, tart apple can be eaten alone, or baked into a delicious dessert.

Gala : Aromatic and juicy! Great for slicing or just sinking your teeth into.

Rome : With its thick and firm flesh, this apple is primarily used for baking, as cooking will only cause its flavor to deepen.

McIntosh : This soft fleshed apple is perfect for making apple sauce or butter; but not necessarily for baking.

Golden Supreme : An all-purpose apple! Ideal for salads, sauces, freezing, or just taking a big bite out of.

Honey Crisp : A sweet, firm, tart apple that explodes with flavor when eaten raw. 
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