My grandmother was a very frugal woman who often told me “if you will mind your pennies your dollars will mind themselves.” I hope to share here some of her wisdom and the wisdom of others I have learned over the years

Saturday, April 13, 2013



As I am working on my “How Much to Plant” chart I thought of all of those that are in apartments, have HOA’s and landlords that won’t let you till up the yard, and people who don’t want to spend a lot of time gardening, but do want to grow something.

On the Dave Ramsey list some of us have been picking on one fellow because every year he talks about how he should garden,  but life always gets in the way.  It’s all good clean ribbing and he takes it very well. This year I have suggested to him, again, that he start with just one large flower pot.

I know some of you are thinking “A flower pot? You can’t grow much in a flower pot!”  But you can, and anything you do grow yourself is of course that much better than anything you will ever buy at your local grocery store.

An excellent source of information on how to do this organically would be the book by Patricia Lanza “Lasagna Gardening for Small Spaces, a layering system for big results in small gardens and containers.”

In the book she walks you through various types of small gardening tricks and gives ideas on containers, both sitting on a ground or table, or hanging baskets, along with ideas for tiny spots in your yard.

I particular like the idea of a themed garden when doing a small space.  Her themes include recipes for using the food you produce for a Tex-Mex Garden.  This includes either a small garden or using one or more large containers on your patio to grow basil, bell peppers, cilantro, chile peppers, garlic, onions, oregano, thyme and tomatoes. 

The Linguine Garden has you planting, basil, garlic, onion, oregano, tomatoes, sweet frying peppers, zucchini and parsley.

For a pizza garden I would recommend tomatoes, garlic, oregano, basil, onion, thyme, bell pepper, and pepperocini peppers. 

Do you notice a pattern here?  Many of the ingredients to grow for each theme are the same.  All three have tomatoes and the herbs grown with them vary only slightly.

So the ‘mater challenge is born.  If you do not have the time, space, or inclination for a big kitchen garden, how about a single large flower pot garden?

How you build up your soil in the pot is your choice.  Because I garden strictly organically my flower pot plantings are done via the Lasagna Gardening method with lots of layers from found materials around the farm, but that doesn’t mean you have to do the same.  If Miracle Grow is your cuppa then use it, I simply prefer not to for personal reasons. 

However, I’d rather suggest you purchase a bag(s) of organic garden soil and organic compost (I personally like mushroom compost) to fill your pot. 

Garden soil too expensive?  Consider what we did as I was growing up and have done here on the farm more than once.  Find a chemical free area you can dig your soil from and dig up some dirt for the flower pot.

When I was a kid you didn’t have to worry about what was in rain water run off so every spring after Bird Creek had flooded Mom would load up my brother and I and we’d go to the banks of Bird Creek and fill every container she had brought with mud from the banks of the creek.  Back then her theory was some of the best top soil in the state had just been deposited in that creek.  Sadly, that might not be a good idea these days.

Now I do a lot of digging around my own ponds, and from the deep leaf mulch in our woods.  Because we use no chemicals here on the Rock ‘n Tree Ranch I have no fear of what might be in the dirt.  The leaf mulch is deep and rich in our woods, so it is well worth digging.

However you fill your pot is up to you, don’t forget to open the drain holes on the bottom of the pot before starting.  If there are no drain hole tap outs available put a layer of gravel, small rocks or even marbles to help allow for drainage and to keep the plant roots from drowning if you or God happen to over water one day.

Now it’s time to plant it.  I’d start with the biggest space taker in the pot, in these three scenarios it would be the tomato plant.  I would suggest a heirloom indeterminate such as Brandywine, Champion of Goliath.  All produce well all season long and are hearty plants. 

Be prepared though, heirlooms are not going to be your perfect round gmo rich tomatoes.  They may be odd shaped, multi-cheeked, are even a slightly different color (I love Cherokee Purples).  They will also have TRUE tomato taste, something you will never get with a grocery store tomato.

Once you’ve chosen your tomato plant go ahead and plant it with its trellis in place.  Yes a trellis.  It can be something as simple as a stake that you tie the plant to as it grows—be aware some tomato plants get quite tall.  Or you can do any number of other trellising ideas.  Cruise u-tube and you will be amazed at all the ways you can trellis plants. 

So now you have the tomato and trellis in place  and you know this tomato plant is going to grow up, not out so you have all that extra space around the bottom of the tomato plant to plant in.  Don’t get too carried away, because anything you plant there is going to need growing room.

But plant underground and above ground plants both.  Onions and garlic do most of the growing underground, they stay pretty compact as well. Herbs,  of course , are above ground and look gorgeous hanging over the side of the planter as the summer progresses.

Should you want to put other upright tall plants such as peppers and zucchini in your planter then supply them with a trellis as well.  The sky is the limit on how far up you can go.  Just remember you can plant in three layers in one pot, below ground, above ground and in the air.  That’s a whole lot of gardening in one container.

Food for thought.  Put this big pot on a wheeled plant dolly with a saucer under it when you first plant it and when cold weather comes just roll that baby indoors for fresh food throughout the winter.  Tomatoes, herbs, and many other vegetables are perennial and only die off in our gardens because the cold weather is murderous on the tropical plants like tomatoes and peppers.

All you would need would be a couple of cheap florescent light fixtures to have home grown goodness year round.

There is is the ‘mater challenge I challenge each  and everyone to  plant at least one flower pot of fresh food for their family.

Jan who will be doing flower pots, other containers and in the ground gardening all in OK.


Friday, April 5, 2013


It happens every spring.  We get a flash of warm weather, then some dreary cold days and of course the “crud” hits the household in one way or another—generally me.  I, of course, always recover but while I’m hacking my way back to the land of the breathing my thoughts turn toward the warmth of summer and the beckoning garden plot out back.

Oh, I’ve already heard that siren’s call earlier in the year—like January 1, but I’ve not really done anything about it.  Now as I cough and carry on I look over my budget for the coming year and feel panic rising at the cost of groceries and animal feed.  I know in my heart I’m probably over estimating the cost of those items, but the sheer numbers of it is enough to send me back to bed to pull the covers over my head.

So the natural segue for me is to think about gardening.  I have the area, I have seeds, or can buy them, and I have the time.  So why not?  Oh I could come up with a long string of why nots.  But the truth is the only main one is laziness on my part.  I’ve always got an excuse as to why not to get started, but there is always a work around that excuse too, if I’d just apply myself.

Acknowledging this publically is one way I am hoping to push myself to have the garden on my dreams this year.  I’ve decided to use Mind Your Pennies as a way to journal my path to what I hope will eventually turn into a year round garden. 

I invite you to come along on that path and to blaze a trail of your own.  Whether it’s an herb in a pot on a window sill, or a full blown garden let’s see how we can work together to help feed our families on a budget. 

Along the way I’ll list my excuses for not doing something, and how I dealt with those.  I’ll list reference materials, websites and give some recommendations. Or at least that is my plan.  

I would love to have your input along the way.

 So here goes.

EXCUSE #1: The birds are living in my garden, so I can’t start now, it will have to wait.  While it is a fact of life right now, it is also merely an excuse. REALITY CHECK: We have other places we could safely house the 18 geese each night IF we’d just do a little repair. 

EXCUSE #2: Gary is working overtime all weekend, so he can’t work on the other locations this weekend.  Sean and I are still recovering from our annual bout with the crud. Whine!  REALITY CHECK: There are other things I can be doing to prepare for gardening that do not necessarily require I be in the garden this weekend.  In fact most of those other things can be done sitting down and fairly still. 

So enough whining woman, get started!  Did I mention I often talk to myself?

So let’s look at those things I can do sitting in the warmth of my home and in fact at the computer while recovering from this stupid head cold. So pull up your favorite cuppa and let’s get started.

PLANNING:  Any good garden plan includes just that a plan. So let’s start with that.  Planning the garden.

All good plans start with a list.  Great, I’m good with lists, it’s the follow through I often have trouble with. So let’s go there. Just exactly WHAT do I WANT to raise.  Well I want to raise it all of course.  But that is where I generally get in trouble.  I over plan my garden area, and as a result end up with an uncontrollable jungle I am afraid to go into for fear of not seeing a snake until it is too late later in the summer. So much of what I plant goes to waste.  So I need to keep my urges under a reasonable control this year.

I’ll start out with my ideal garden list and then trim it down on paper to a realistic list as I go over the next several posts. 

So here’s what I’d ideally like to grow this year:

FRUITS: watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberries, grapes (two types), blueberries, various other melons, gooseberries I love trying new fruits and veggies and Baker’sSeeds makes that all too easy.

VEGETABLES: green beans, garden peas, purple hull peas, black eyed peas, corn, snow peas, potatoes of various colors, sweet potatoes, acorn squash, turban squash, zucchini, crookneck squash, a variety of summer and winter squashes, cucumbers of various types,  Jerusalem artichokes, artichokes, asparagus, assorted beans, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, carrots, turnips, rutabagas, beets, radishes, lettuces, okra of various types, salad greens, onions of various types, spinach, rhubarb, tomatillos in various colors,

TOMATOES: Roma/paste, yellow, white, green, red, pink, slicers, grape, and cherry of various colors, lots and lots of tomatoes!

PEPPERS: Bell of a variety of colors and sizes, jalapeno, chipotle, poblano

HERBS: sage, oregano, marjoram, mints of various types, catnip, thyme, dill of a couple of types, stevia, cilantro, parsley of various types, chamomile, chives of various types,

EDIBLE FLOWERS: Pansies, Nasturtiums, violas, roses, calendula, sunflowers (for seeds)

Whew!  I’m already tired and I know I’ve missed some of the things I THINK I MUST have. 

REALITY CHECK: I only have a certain amount of basic garden space.  That is currently the following gardens (1 each) 24 x 24; 24 x 8; 24 x 4 (which currently have my grapevines in it) and 8 x 8.   I do have a lot of planters around the gardens edge inside the garden cage that herbs and similar items could go in.  I also have areas outside the garden that I could hang planters out of the reach of goose necks that could be used.

So my list is made—ha, ha.  Now how much of each should be planted to meet our needs. We are a family of three, plus I want to preserve foods for this coming winter and future needs, just in case I don’t make it to year round gardening.  Enough of that negative thought Jan, you must be positive you can do this AND do year round gardening (sorry had to take a time out to scold myself.).

So step #1 making the list, the subject of this post is sort of completed.

 I’ll end this post here by encouraging you to make your own ideal list and move on to step #2 where we’ll trim that list.

Jan who knows her list is far bigger than her gardening space and capabilities in OK