It is February (and 25% off at the garden supply store) and time to get started on planning this year's Fran's Victory Garden. No new veggies this year, more variation in existing choices tho. This year's changes are strawberries in the Topsy Turvy Strawberry Planter
and a new orientation to the trellises. The plants that use trellises are very phototropic, move toward the sun, so, since the garden is laid out diagonal to the compass points and the orientation and size are constrained by the property the trellises will be set diagonally facing south in the plots. This will be great or a yuuge mistake. Here is the in progress plan of the 2016 Fran's Victory  Garden.

From the garden store

At the garden supply store I bought two large pots to grow more herbs outside the kitchen door on the deck, a mess of peat starter pots and seeds. $64.33. This year's seed purchases are:

  1. Tomato, pole, Moneymaker from Botanical Interests
  2. Tomato, cherry, Sweetie from Botanical Interests
  3. Cabbage, Copenhagen Market from Botanical Interests
  4. Cauliflower, Early Snowfall from Botanical Interests
  5. Pea, snap, Sugar Snap from Botanical Interests
  6. Edamame, Butterbean from Botanical Interests
  7. Beet, Early Wonder from Botanical Interests
  8. Thyme, English from Botanical Interests, looked for Lemon Thyme as suggested by Wayne, no luck
  9. Dill from Botanical Interests for a pot on the deck
  10. Winter Squash, Waltham Butternut from Burpee
  11. Sweet Pepper, Red Majesty Hybred from Burpee
  12.  Oregan  from Burpee for on the deck
  13. Garden Bean, pole, Kentucky Wonder from Burpee
  14. Marigold, Happy Days Mix from Burpee
  15. Cover crop, Crimson Clover from Botanical Interests. Rather than leaving an empty patch for the remaning season, I will plant this as cover.
Last year's seeds
Last year's seeds

Seeds are good for several years if stored properly, but, I usually only use new and last year's. I will use earlier year's seeds in spots where there is an early harvest or when I run out planting a larger patch than planned. Last year's seeds I will use are:

  1. Pepper, Hungarian Hot Wax Pepper from the Seed plant
  2. Pomodoro, plum tomato from Franchi, IT
  3. Peperone, Corno Rosso di Toro from Franchi, IT
  4. Cilantro, Slow-Bolt from Renee's Seeds
  5. Italian Pesto Basil from Renee's Seeds
  6. Italian Parsley, Gigante from Renee's Seeds
  7. Eggplant, Black Beauty from Botanical Interests
  8. Beet, Early Wonder from Botanical Interests
  9. Tomato, pole, Red Siberian from Botanical Interests
  10. Pepper, Sweet Banana from Livingston Seed
  11. Squash, Zucchini Dark from Livingston Seed
  12. Cucumber, Straight Eight from Livingston Seed
  13. Radish from Burpee

In mid March I will get Strawberry starter roots from the garden store. They will be planted in the starter pots and then transplanted to the Topsy Turvy Strawberry Planter, an exciting new adventure in deck gardening.


by John Stone, Smooth Decorator

Living in the twenty-first century has brought us a lot of good things. The development of technology and science has extended the human life to the once unimaginable age, and we are thankful every day for spending them on Earth. However, with the development of big cities and rushing hours, we seem to forget about ourselves and the nature that surrounds us. Always running, we sometimes do not even have enough time to prepare a simple meal at home. Not to think of growing our own plants!

If you have decided to return to the nature and grow your food, be it in a small backyard garden, or even in your flat balcony or terrace, there are some things you need to know. So, in the following few paragraphs you will find out the basics of growing your own food.

  1. Make a good plan

Every food garden needs a good plan. Just like a start-up business plan, you need to work it out in all stages, without leaving everything out. This implies the following things:

  • Climate you are living in – Will your plants have enough water and warmth to endure the season and give fruit?
  • Soil – Is the soil good enough to yield as you expected or will you have to fertilise it additionally?
  • Rainfall – Is there enough water from rainfall to help your plants grow naturally or will you have to invest in a watering system or collect rainwater?
  • Space – Where will you grow your crops, do you have enough soil or is the space you have at your disposal limited?

Once you answer all these questions (and those answers are positive), you can go into next phase.

  1. Count every penny

Before we proceed, you will have to calculate everything in advance. Taking all these things into consideration, see if the crops you expect to get will pay off, that is if the money you invest into seeds and cultivation is going to return positively. You need to be realistic and think about so many things. Especially when it comes to the elements, such as hay and thunderstorms and floods, - will you be able to survive without the (potentially ruined) crops?

Think of agricultural insurance and see if they cover the Will of God. This can be very useful.

  1. Learn the plant life cycle

Once you have decided to grow your plants, you can start growing your food. If you do not know how to cultivate land, here you can find out all the basic things. The majority of plants need to grow from the ground, so you will have to break the ground in order to loosen the soil and allow the seed to be covered with enough soil. For this you can use either a shovel or a hoe, or some bigger machinery, such as rototiller (for bigger gardens). Next, place seed into the furrow, cover it with some soil and start cultivating (see step 4).

  1. Water is the source of life

If you want your crops to grow properly, you will need to water them every day. Especially if you live in a dry climate, you will have to be realistic in your expectations. You can help your crops grow by installing automatic sprinkler systems, which bring water from water cartage tanks that collect rainfall and recycle the water into your garden. This is a great option if you are planning to keep your water bills at normal levels and there is the additional benefit of saving the nature. A win-win situation for you.

As you can see, growing your own food is not that difficult after all. In the end, do not forget to collect the crops once they are ripe, and maintain the soil during the entire year (even in winter) if you want to grow another generation of crops in the spring.


The Cabbage growing in the Tunnel
The Cabbage growing in the Tunnel

First of the Autumn Cabbages from the Tunnel. I harvested the biggest cabbage and was proudly showing it off to The Neighbour Lady, I handed it to her to admire, she said "Thank You" and started walking away with it. I panicked and said I was just showing it to you, she looked so disappointed, I gifted it to her. Luckily there was another large cabbage ready for the Stuffed Cabbages Fran had planned. Everybody was happy.

What a pretty Cabbage
What a pretty Cabbage

The Neighbor Lady holding both Cabbages
The Neighbor Lady holding both Cabbages


Tomatoes (5 varieties), Peppers, Pole Beans, Butternut Squash and Raspberries
Tomatoes (5 varieties), Peppers, Pole Beans, Butternut Squash and Raspberries

Harvested the last of the Edamame last Sunday, 8/16, could have done it a few days earlier. The Peppers are starting to turn red, we start eating them while they are sill yellow or green but they are at their best when red.

Still harvesting Raspberries, Pole Beans & Tomatoes.

The Late Summer crop of Snap Peas and Kohlrabi looks good.

Starting to look at cover crops for fall.


My fifth go at drying tomatoes, not yet happy with the results. Almost dropped the phone into the barbie taking this pic.
My fifth go at drying tomatoes, not yet happy with the results. Almost dropped the phone into the barbie taking this pic.

Drying tomatoes on the barbie, these are mostly the plum tomatoes from the garden, some Siberian and store bought plums also. This time I tried to keep the pieces all about the same size. I have the draft wide open and am trying to keep it around 200F, which is hotter than the last time. Drying some eggplant also, they come out real nice.

I quarter up the tomatoes, scoop out the pulp, toss w/ a little olive oil, chopped basil from the garden and a generous dash of garlic powder. The quarters are arrayed on baking grids set on the grill one deep and if possible separated. If the fire gets too hot, I throw some wet smoking wood chips on the coals. The resulting smokey taste is a plus.

We are eating well
We are eating well

The harvest is in full swing now, Fran doesn't go into the garden w/o coming back with a double hand full of pole beans.

This will make almost sixteen butternut squash pies. Life is good.
This will make almost sixteen butternut squash pies. Life is good.

Just picked ten butternut squash, about eight left in the garden. These ten made eight two cup bags. Each bag makes two butternut squash pies. Life is good.


Succession planting, the replacing of a spring crop by an autumn crop has started. The Cucumbers which failed after early success and the second planting of snap peas have been replaced with Kohlrabi. This if my first time for Kohlrabi, the flavor is said to be mild, sweet, turnip-like. I have also planted a third crop of snap peas where an early zucchini planting was, a sunny spot but a bit late.

Cabbage Update II. The plants are doing well, it seems that in spite of the tunnels some cabbage moths have gotten a chance to lay eggs to produce caterpillars, can't find them tho. The moths maybe got to them while they were in the starter trays that were sitting out for hardening.

I have started a third planting of Cilantro and Basil in pots on the deck. Next year also Oregano and Lemon Thyme.

First Butternut Squash and first late Summer Raspberries
First Butternut Squash and first late Summer Raspberries

I have started picking late summer Raspberries. Winter Squash soon. Shall I challenge Fran to cook a butternut squash / Raspberry pie?



Fran in between the Pole Bean Trellises
Fran in between the Pole Bean Trellises

Fran picking beans.  She picks a double handful each day from two 7 foot trellises too close together. Fran also picks peas, zucchinis, peppers, tomatoes, cauliflowers, cabbages and the eggplants. I pick the raspberries and blackberries.

We have had a good year so far, the only failures are the cucumbers which started well and then died off completely, a mystery. The zucchinis are dying off, the roots are rotting away, I planted in the same plot as last year, I guess that is why they have crop rotation. The bunny proof fence is still a success and bambi hasn't found the garden, yet.

I plan to enlarge the garden next year, there are still sunny spots just growing grass.


Wild Raspberries
Wild Raspberries

On July 2nd I pruned the Raspberries, and tied up the canes to baling wire strung between two fence posts. This is the first time I have correctly pruned the Raspberries. I am a low maintenance type gardener so I had just allowed chaos to reign. The wild raspberries across the street appear to be just fine, but, it seems you have to prune the type of raspberries I have to get a spring and fall crop. Since I know nothing I went to youtube.com, looked up "pruning raspberries", watched three or four videos and was an expert. I went to my local hardware, bought some baling wire to string between two fence posts, and got started.

I must say it was fun working with the baling wire, easy to bend, wrap, tie, and cut. It made me think of my visit to the Curtis Museum in Hammondsport, NY and the days when high tech was held together with baling wire.

Victory Garden Raspberries before pruning
Victory Garden Raspberries before pruning

There are four Raspberry plants, the first two to the left, this year's. The next bush is two years old and yielded good, and the one to the right is last year's bush, not so good last year and disappointing this year.

The basic method of pruning is cut all the brown stems, aka canes, and the pencil thin green canes. Tie the remaining canes to the wire. I used a clove hitch around the wire and a square knot around the canes. I used to sail. The end product looked like I knew what I was doing.

Raspberries pruned and tied up
Raspberries pruned and tied up

I left one cane untied, couldn't resist a little anarchy. Notice, the Holy statue can now see the sun.

Cabbage Tunnels, still not stretched completely out
Cabbage Tunnels, still not stretched completely out

Cabbage update: I wound up planting eight cabbage plants each with two foot spacing in the cabbage tunnels stretched out to eight feet. The tunnels can stretch out to almost ten feet, next year. The seedlings in the tunnels were germinated June 19th and the 21st. The sprouts were put into a starter tray about June 27th and the seedlings transplanted into the ground July 9th. Most of the timing was determined by social events, but, everything seems fine.


First Zucchini & Cucumber, and the last of the Beets. Not pictured, 3 cabbages.
First Zucchini & Cucumber, and the last of the Beets. Not pictured, 3 cabbages.

I picked the first Zucchini and the first Cucumber. Harvested the remainder of the beets. Also harvested the cabbages.

Getting ready for the fall Cabbages. The seeds have germinated and I will move them to the planting trays. After the seedlings poke thru the potting soil and are looking sturdy, I will put the the trays out under the tunnels before transplanting.  Looking to plant 10 cabbages.

Still picking a half dozen Raspberries a day, tasty.  I will be pruning the raspberry plants July 1st, saw some very good pruning videos on youtube.com, I liked the Green Garden Guy.


Raspberry Peach Pie w/ Oatmeal topping and Ground Cookie crust
Raspberry Peach Pie w/ Oatmeal topping and Ground Cookie crust

Now harvesting the last of the Spring crop of Prelude Raspberries. The three year old plant was the bulk of the harvest, the two year old was disappointing, and one of the two new plants did pretty good. Prelude Raspberries promise a harvest in the fall also, haven't had a fall harvest the first two years, maybe this year with pruning as the trick, more later...

Here is the promised "Fran's Raspberry Peach Pie Recipe"

  • Crust
    • 1 box of Fig Newton thin cookies (1 and ½ packs) ground. (or any cookie of choice)
    • 6 tbsp melted butter
    • ¼ cup sugar
    • ¼ cup almond flour
    • Ground cookies, melted butter, sugar and almond flour in food processer until crumbly. Then transfer to pie plate (which has been sprayed w/ pam). Use bottom of a juice glass to pat to form a crust.
  • Filling
    • 1½ to 2 cup Peach (About 4 to 5 large peaches)
    • 1 cup Raspberries
    • ¼ cup tapioca
    • 1 tsp lemon rind
    • ¾ to 1 cup sugar
    • Cut peach and mix raspberries with, tapioca, lemon rind and sugar. Let set for ½ hour.
  • Topping
    • 1 cup oatmeal
    • 2 to 3 tbsp butter
    • ¼ cup flour or almond flour, Nuts (almond or pecan) ¼ to ½ cup
    • Mix butter w/ other ingredients until crumbly.
  • Combine filling into pie crust then top with topping. Bake for 1 hour at 350 until bubbly.
Raspberry Peach Filling
Raspberry Peach Filling
Raspberry Peach pie w/ Oatmeal topping
Raspberry Peach pie w/ Oatmeal topping
A Bunch of Raspberries
A Bunch of Raspberries