Something Bugging You?

Last year, our backyard was filled with mosquitoes and other biting insects.  I often thought that there had to be something we could do to reduce the bug population and bug bites without using some sort of insecticide.  I may have finally found an answer.

Recently, there have been a multitude of articles and blogs about how to deter mosquitoes, either with bug sprays or certain varieties of flowers, herbs and other plantings.  Personally, I would rather go with the more natural method of planting things.  There is a perfect location in our backyard to do just that.

Here are some of the plants that may help with your bug problem:

Ageratum Garlic Pineapple weed
Basil Lavender Pitcher Plant
Cadago Tree Lemon Balm Rosemary
Catmint Lemon Grass Scented Geranium
Catnip Lemon Thyme Snowbrush
Cedars Lemon Verbena Stone Root
Chrysanthemums Marigolds Sweet Fern
Citronella grass Mexican Marigold Tansy
Citrosum Neem Tea Tree
Clove Nodding Onion Vanilla Leaf
Eucalyptus Pennyroyal Wild Bergamot
Floss Flower Peppermint Wormwood

Check out this site for more information on how and where these beauties grow best.  Some of them may do better than others in your area.

We are going to try Marigolds, Catnip, Basil, Chrysanthemums, Rosemary, Peppermint, Lavender and Garlic.  By the end of summer, I’ll have plenty of “research” completed in this war against biting insects!

Springtime is Asparagustime!

Along with the tulips, daffodils, and crocus, the early days of spring bring life to the asparagus patch. We started our asparagus patch around five years ago, nestled in the corner next to the barn and the green house. This year, we should get enough asparagus asparagusPatchfor several meals. Picking every couple of days is essential so they can be picked at the optimal moment. Pick them too early and they haven’t grown quite enough, wait too late to pick them and they will start to open up.

We’ve planted asparagus by roots and by seed, but always seem to have better luck with seeds. Seeds are cheaper than roots and can be found at our favorite home and garden center. The only problem with planting asparagus by seed is that you have to wait a few years to get enough to make a meal, but it will produce for years to come so it is definitely worth the wait!

This year, we will add more of the Jersey variety that we started by seed several weeks ago. Eventually, our asparagus patch will cover a 15 x 120 foot area with baby asparagusJersey and Purple Passion varieties. The Jersey has more flavor, but I wanted a little Purple Passion for color.

Conventional gardening wisdom would have you believe that it is necessary to keep your asparagus patch free of weeds and grass, but we buck that notion. Before the asparagus begins to pop up, we mow the patch down really short, then wait for the magic to happen. When we first start to pick the asparagus it is taller than the grass. As the season goes on, the grass will catch up to the asparagus but by then we have what I like to call “asparagus eye.” We see it no matter how tall the grass gets!

Whether you’re growing it yourself or buying it from a local farmer (always seems fresher than store-bought), a great (and simple) way to cook asparagus is by placing it in aluminum foil, pouring a little bit of olive oil on it with some salt and pepper and cooking it on the grill until it is tender. Absolutely delicious!

And So It Begins…

Back in February, we planted seeds in small containers and placed them on the shelves in our four season porch (thanks to the fireplace).  The seedlings are coming along quite nicely and were recently moved them out to the greenhouse. Before we know it, we’ll be planting these in one of the many raised beds on our one acre homestead.seedlings3

The greenhouse was built a few years ago as an addition to the machine shed and has been a huge part of growing our own food.  This bed was put in last winter so we could have fresh spinach a few months before it could even be planted outside.

spinach

Now that it is time to start planting outdoors, we’ve begun the cleanup process in the raised beds.  Since we leave plants in some of the beds for the birds and butterflies after growing season is over, we have to pull a few dead plants.  We like to use the Square raisedBedFoot Gardening philosophy wherever it works for us, so some of the beds need to be tied off as well.

Here in Northern Illinois, April is the time to start planting cool season crops outside.  We’ve already planted spinach, radishes, a few varieties of lettuce, green onion, garlic, chard, kale, broccoli, cauliflower and some other cool season plants.  Within the next few weeks we will be planting succession crops of most of these plants.

The rhubarb is coming up nicely again this year and the asparagus behind the machine shed is just starting to be visible through the weeds.  This year we hope to expand this patch of asparagus a little.

Follow along all summer for weekly gardening updates and share what you are growing with us. We love to see gardens, regardless of what you are growing! Share your story with @lisakruggles on Twitter.