Gardening Update

Seedling Planting Equipment


Hello again from the Cabin Garden! In the last Cabin Garden post we stated our intentions to plant our own seedlings this year. This post will review the seedling equipment utilized. You could get by without the items I have listed however, these items make the job just a bit easier.


1) Space to handle the project: A must! This project takes up room.

2) A pan with no holes in the bottom: Base will hold the seedlings and water. Be sure there are no leaks.

3) Seedling trays: Four sizes available depending upon soil options.

Pan 3Two type of pans: (1) Holds water  (2) Seed & Plant Trays

4) Watering tool: A sprinkler can that has spray and pour options.

Water canThis type has the long narrow spout to feed the seedlings  & the sprayer at the top. (looks like a duck head!)

5) Soil for seedlings: Commercial soil for seedlings or “jiffy” pellets.

DirtSeedling soil mixture on the left..texture drains well and is an airy mixture.   Jiffy Pellet on the right swells up with moisture and is the base for seeds when germinating.

6) Heat pads: 20 X 20 pads or larger to heat up the jiffy pellets and seedlings as they germinate.

Heating padWarms the rooting area to improve germination and rooting.

7) Planting tools: Scissors, Tape, Tweezer, Jiffy Pellet, Measuring Cup, Indelible Pen, Label and Tooth Pick.

Tools 2Tools for seed placement: Measuring cup holds seeds and helps carefully drop seeds into Jiffy pellet..Tweezer picks up seeds and helps "brush" seeds out of cup..Tape to reseal seed packets..Indelible Pen to write on label..Label to identify what you have planted !!!  Tooth pick..holds the label in Jiffy Pellet & Scissors for just about everything you might want to cut!!

8) Artificial lighting: Some type of lighting instrument. Do not depend upon the sun unless you have a green house or outdoors area with controlled temperatures.

LightingI have two Grow Light Systems. The one above is three level. Helps eliminate "legging" & provides warmth.

9) Shelving: Holds plant once they no longer need the artificial lighting.


ShelvingA shelving unit holds plants as you start moving them outdoors to "harden" them for the outdoors.

After doing this project on several different scales, I chose equipment based on making the process easier to manage. In the next post I will go over the process of planting the seedlings and caring for them into their germination stage.

  • funSeedlings start sticking their heads out of the jiffy pellets!! Yeh!!

The Fun Begins!!




Today in the Garden: August 2015 Update

tomato bushToday in the garden we were wow'd by the amount of growth that's taken place in the last few weeks! The Cabin Garden is flourishing with growth and luscious green plants.  It was too difficult for me to pick off tomato branches that had little produce advantages.  I let them grow in a sturdy home made cage.  Look at the size of this guy!    And there are lots of tomatoes on it.  I have 20 more that look very similar.  The plants had mulch and commercial mulches and the tomatoes are flourishing in this arena.

We also have a volunteer melon grow from last years seeds...what fun!!






Milkweed and Wild Flowers


 Garden July 28th

In an earlier post I reviewed our issues with weed control and the plan appears to be working.

Brush2There are still several areas where the weeds are dominating. As we looked at these wild uncontrolled areas we noticed a considerable amount of common milkweed plants. Which was brought to my attention by my granddaughter. I consider milkweed a weed and would have started figuring out how to get rid of them.

milkweed3 She explained to me that her science teacher has encouraged her students to promote the common milkweed in the wild because the monarch butterfly seeks out milkweed as a habitat and an eating station. The larvae hatch and continue to live off the milkweed plants.

There is concern that the monarch butterfly is losing their habitat to climate change.  So this felt like a good project to foster a home for monarch butterflies and the idea to develop this weed patch into a wild flower garden became a reality. My granddaughter was excited to participate and I welcomed her help.

DaisyyellowWe started looking over the area noting several colorful wild flowers flourishing in the dense weed area. Why not make this into a wild flower garden alongside our vegetable garden? The garden would also provide the monarch butterfly a natural habitat.  So, we needed to identify the flowers since most of them were not familiar. Actually, they were familiar. In my past, I considered them weeds.

Flower9I am now experiencing a whole new appreciation for flowering weeds!  Their beauty will be constant since most wild flowers act like perennials and return each year. They may also benefit companion gardening.  My granddaughter, and my son have taken pictures of some of the flowers. If you recognize any of them, please share their name and information on their growing patterns. Any information will help us on our journey to build a wild flower garden.

Flower2 (1)



Three lessons on weeding


Help! Help was my first thought as I entered the garden in mid June.  As we all feared might happen, the weeds are taking over.Even with GBS, we had decided that we would tackle the garden on our own this year. And the planting went well! We were feeling great about how quickly and how well the planting went!

Here's a view of the garden before we planted... isn't it lovely and WEED FREE?!


Unfortunately, the one issue that just cannot be avoided is weeding! Where there was not adequate protection from weed growth, weeds have taken over.

One month later:

weed side

So - here we are in early July and we are struggling with how to tackle the weeds, given my inability to weed - and my family's time constraints in helping. But - we did take some steps to prevent weeds - some of which have worked, and some have not (obviously).

Here are three lessons on weeding we've learned so far this summer:

1 - Control the amount of potential weed seeds by not cultivating deep. The deeper you cultivate the more seeds are available to germinate. Weed seeds are everywhere. If you mix up the soil too much you create more opportunities for the weed seeds to germinate. (Unfortunately, we cultivated too deep.) So - to combat our error in cultivation, our focus is on destroying any possibility of the weeds to continue to grow. We are mowing down the areas that weeds have taken over. At this point, the weeds had not gone to seed which should mean we use the greens as “green manure.” Then, we will continue to keep it mowed and turn the remains over with our tiller.

mowing weeds

2 -  Commercial mulching controls weeds by blocking the seeds and plants from the sun. They provide a neat appearance and it seems to work.

commercial mulch

One of the things we did this year in order to prevent weeds was to place a landscape fabric down to protect certain crops such as tomatoes, herbs and peppers

We used four different kinds of commercial weed prevention and mulch - and will share more about these in another post with our reviews (because if they're working for us given how little we're able to weed, they'll work for you)! And if they don't work... well, that's good to know, too.


And 3 - Cover any other open areas with our natural mulch from the seedless hay and leaves that have been breaking down in mulch piles around the garden. This process should eliminate any weeds from receiving sunlight. It also provides enrichment to the soil as the mulch breaks down, as well as smothers the weeds and their seeds. Weeds do not grow and your soil takes in rich nutrients. We are learning a lot - especially in how to best prevent weed growth if you're not able to spend as much time in your garden, like us this year. We're excited to share more with you as we learn these lessons. Question for the future:

”How can I avoid the weeds from coming back so abundantly every year?”


Mulching Promotes


Mulch Two Mulching promotes many benefits. Three significant benefits are stopping the growth of weeds, keeping moisture in the soil and maintaining a cool atmosphere for plants.

Weeds can slow down and stop healthy plants from producing. Using mulch to suppress weeds is a much easier method compared to pulling or hoeing all those weeds.

Tomato One

I use a layered system for mulching. I start with a covering of newspaper and than drop a layer of leaf compost, grass clippings or seedless straw or hay.

I have also utilized the commercial biodegradable as the first layer if I am not able to obtain newspaper.

It is much cheaper to use newspaper if available. Some commercial brands advertise their mulch adds to the productivity of the plants. We are trying the plastic type for some of the tomatoes to compare results. I will provide a report of the comparisons at the end of the summer.

Tomato TwoMulching provides a protective covering around the soils that surround plants. On hot dry summer days a lack of moisture can quickly affect the progress of your plants. The mulching layers keep moisture levels constant for feeding hungry plants.

The coverage of mulch also provides a cool bed for your vegetables to survive baked ground in mid summer.

Be aware, cool soil can slow down transplants from taking hold in the soil. Because of the cooling effect, be careful when distributing the mulch around “warm blooded” plants such as peppers and tomatoes.



The need for warming mulch is an advantage some commercial mulch extols.  Check out these advantages. Given the cool temperatures this spring that might be something to consider.

In future posts we will review our distribution of various mulches this spring.



Ask Jer Bear-Preparing Asparagus Patch


I received a question from a the cabin garden reader regarding spring care for asparagus. How to "spring clean" an asparagus patch? Asparagus patches should be protected in the fall with a good mulch covering of leaves and other mulch debris.   As spring arrives I take the following steps to prepare the patch for the emerging asparagus spears.

Perennial Maintenance

1)  Carefully began removing the mulch directly around the emerging spears.  It is important to gently remove the mulch as these spears are your future meals.  They also are the lifeline of the future growth and strength of the patch.  The spears provide nutrients to the plant's growth.

2)  Keep the mulch you removed.  Once the spears are up and growing place the mulch  around the plants for nutrition.  it will also keep the soil moist around the plants as well.

3)  Sprinkle a light covering of an organic fertilizer for nutrition.

4)  Remove weeds and grasses from the patch.  Be careful not to disturb the spears. Also, asparagus plants from past years leave red berries in the fall containing  seeds for natural propagation.  Be aware of the toothpick size seedlings from the berries as you remove weeds.  I would suggest not digging more than an inch or two in depth to remove weeds.

5) As the asparagus spear picking begins, I leave at least 1/3 of the spears for the future.  Do not pick them all.

Asparagus Dish

photo credit: grilled asparagus photopin (license)

Constant maintenance of the asparagus patch is a must. Keep control of the weeds through out the summer and feed the seedlings that emerge with light sprinklings of organic fertilizers.  This care will pay off with years of delicious asparagus on your table.

Grain and Garden Recipes


Anniversary celebration (6 of 23)-1

The memories of Grain and garden recipes bring back the warmth of our rural heritage.  One of the many fortunes of a farming garden is the ongoing fresh garden vegetable eating we experience.

wheel barrow of tomatoes As in the past,  we will share a variety of recipes made from the garden produce. Future recipe posts,  will include: canning with fresh garden produce and baking with field (grains) produce.

IMG_8996 We are fortunate to enjoy some of the best baked breads anywhere! These breads represent the grains from the plentiful grain fields that are part of my garden farming background.  When grain breads recipes are presented, we will look at the grain's qualities.

Blueberry Flax Muffins SubmitWe are looking forward to sharing the various recipes and stories from my grain farm and  garden farming heritage.  Heritage from the farm brings us grain and garden recipes to enjoy and share.  We also welcome your comments and ideas!



The Benefits of Trying Different Types of Tomatoes

frozen whole tomatoes 3

In the past two years I have  planted 25 different types of tomatoes.  Exciting new types as well as standard types most seasoned gardeners know and trust. My exuberance for growing all types is a bit over the top.   Yet, each year I cannot resist trying a new type of tomato.


Linda Tomatoes and Basil What have I learned and been able to apply to future tomato planting plans? The variety offers a larger list of recipe options.  Although one could say that a tomato is a tomato, the varieties provide different looks and taste to salads. The variety of plants have created new and enticing recipes.Cucumber-Salsa-Prep-2 My tomato garden has become enormous with more than 100 plants in 2013 and also in 2014.  I do have favorites that make up the majority of plants. Some of these are: Roma, Big Boy, Beef Steak, Lemon Boy and the smaller tomato, Grape tomatoes.  Without experimenting each year, some of the above would not be a yearly selection.  My new favorite lists grows yearly.

Tomatoes on the Vine

Although my purchase of an overload of tomato types causes anxiety on how to care for them, I do believe that the outcome has provided me with a quality selection of types for future gardens.  And it is always fun to see the differences in tomatoes. In future posts, I will zero in on the types I have planted and the results in production. I welcome your experiences on the types I list as well as suggestions you experienced both negative and positive.Tomato Corner 2013

Gardening With A Disability - The Choices We Face


Who would have thought that I would be thinking about gardening with a disability?  But here we are. If you don't already know, I was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré Syndrome in  January of this year. I am coming back - but it's going to be a long road! Which puts us into a bit of a pickle about this summer. How do we garden this giant garden when the main gardener (me) is not able to do the physical work of it?  (Who knows - maybe I will be! But, it's unlikely I'll be able to to move with ease in the garden this summer.)

So - considering this, I am reviewing the following choices.

1)  Do not have a garden in this 2015 summer production. Earlier this winter i read an editorial in Organic Gardening Magazine. The writer is considering taking a “year off.”  The rationale indicates some times a break is good for the psyche.  Give the land a rest and also the intense labor a break.  Sounded reasonable and given the dedication necessary it had an appealing message.

I admire this magazine’s advice and reading one of the major editors was suggesting this provides support for the suggestion. (Check out the Organic Life Magazine Dec/Jan Issue: Maris’s View, “Going Fallow”)

This is my least favorite option. It may be the one that we end up going with, but I would rather we find a way to make something work.

The Cabin Garden

2)  A much smaller garden.  Our garden is 100 feet by 100 feet. This choice would likely mean a garden 20 by 20 with limited items planted.

This might be the way to go. Or, maybe we accomplish this by doing some of the other options below...

3) More Family Participation.  In the past, I have gladly done 90% of the labor. Given my present physical situation, the family would have to commit to even more time and labor.

I am retired with a good deal of free time, and my family all have busy work and family lives. The Cabin Garden is 90+ miles from our families employment area. Hmmm?  Probably not going to be likely, though they've all made generous offers to help!

Last Harvest 12

4)  Pay Someone.  Hire out the labor.

Too expensive, hard to manage and who would want to do such work?  But perhaps we could find someone who would be willing to help if they also benefited by working for some of the garden goods. A community garden of sorts?

Which brings me to the last option:

5)  Provide a % of the garden to a group.  Find a group in this rural area that would put the labor into the garden to reap the crop, with the agreement they care for the other remaining % for me. We have rich soil, many seeds to use, we have many advantages for quality growth, I will be available for management ideas. Ideally, I would focus on a group that would use the food for “meals on wheels,” food shelves, or other community needs. Would anyone do this??

Kids Harvesting Onions

We haven't made any  decisions yet.  I have to do some investigating and promotion. As part of this site..your thoughts are welcome!

What do you think?  Any ideas or suggestions for us as we contemplate this?

Coming Back After GBS


Hello!  This is “Jer Ber,”  fondly named by my daughter.  

I am the “Captain” of The Cabin Garden ship.  My role the past four years has been to plan, work and oversee most of the aspects of the garden production.

photo 4

As you've noticed, it's been pretty quiet around this blog lately. Part of that is because Sally, the one who has done a lot of the writing and creating of this blog, is busy creating her own podcast and blog (called This Moved Me) on the art of public speaking. It's been a busy and great year for her!

But the quiet is also due to the fact that in January I was suddenly unable to use my arms and legs, and kept falling. I ended up in the hospital for five weeks for treatment of Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS), an auto-immune disease that attacks your nerves, disabling your muscles, rendering me essentially paralyzed. I am now (and have been) in a rehabilitation transition care facility, where I'll likely be recovering for the next few months. 

Jer Bear GBS

(Here I am, in the first month of the disease, standing with help.)

The good news: this disease reverses itself, and I am improving each week. I am coming back from GBS!

The bad news: the reversal process is slow, and the level to which I will recover is unknown.

And that leaves us with a big question:

What are we going to do with my beloved, and demanding, Cabin Garden? 

This is my twelfth week of therapy. The present diagnosis is continuing care into the summer.  So, I can walk with a walker with limits, depending on terrain and also the level of the land.  No stairs and unleveled walkways...YET!  The reality with all of this is that there will be no hands and knees in the garden this summer!!

The experts are optimistic that with time I will overcome most of the issues….BUT in the meantime:  HOW DO YOU HANDLE A GARDEN AND NOT DO MOST OF THE LABOR??  The next few weeks will be time to work through the options we have for The Cabin Garden in 2015.  Though it will be different, The Cabin Garden is still very much a part of our lives.

grandkids at cabin

(Here, Cathy and I pose with some of our grandkids last summer, before GBS hit.)

Stay tuned for discussions on: 

  • What must be done, even if your garden goes fallow  
  • Alternatives to hands-on gardening  
  • Exploring some "old-wives tales" (this disease has me thinking back a lot to my farming days, and my mom and dad)  
  • What we can learn from farming
  • What has worked for us in the past
  • What hasn't worked
  • And, of course, recipes of all kinds. My amazing wife, Cathy, continues to use all the goodies from the garden in her delicious cooking, and we'll continue to share it with all of you.

And so we begin a new chapter for our beloved garden... 

Thanks for joining us here, for your support, and for continuing on with us in this journey!

Garden Planning - Happy Garden Week!

Happy Garden Week! Like I said last week, there is a hilarious list of official “holidays” this month that spans the gamut of food from the garden to the garden to something that might happen in or around a garden. Hmmm. (See: Walking Day, or Raisin Day.)

I’m already behind, my friends.  Who knew there were so many holidays in April?!  Not me.

But I’m behind for a very good reason.  Just look where I was all weekend:

photo 1

Yes, while the rest of the universe in Minnesota (that doesn’t make sense, but I think you know what I mean) headed south during their spring break, we headed NORTH.  Why? Because it’s just the way we roll. And because this place is so beautiful, it’s totally worth it.

It was a weekend of sunshine and happy kids playing games and more sleep than I’m used to...and going to the bathroom in places I’d rather not...but all in all, it was awesome.

Kids at Jay Cooke

But - I was not allowed to bring my computer. Which, once the shaking stopped, was actually kind of nice. Ha ha.

So I could not post Fresh Tomato Day on time.  Nor could I post this post at the very beginning of Garden Week. But I will get to them, I will! Just not on their exact holi-DATE.  But who are we kidding?!  Nobody knows when it’s actually FRESH TOMATO DAY! So, if I never told you when it officially was, you wouldn’t know that I’m off by four days! (So, let’s pretend you don’t know, and I’m not late. Ok? Good deal.)

But it IS Garden Week!  And what a great way to celebrate garden week than to share with you all of our garden planning for this year!  Jer-Bear has been working really hard on the planning part of his gardening. And though the cabin saw a foot and half of snow LAST WEEK and it feels like summer will never come - it IS coming… and we want to be ready!

Michele - my lovely sis-in-law posted about the Top 5 Things to Do in Winter to Prep Your Garden…(super cute graphic, Michele!)  And Jer's taking his own advice and getting ready for the big thaw when he can spend most of his days out in the beautiful garden.

Here’s what Jer-Bear’s been up to:

Cabin Garden Plan 2014

This year, Jer Bear is focusing on three main things:

1. -  More organized purchasing: 

I love shopping for the garden, and so I get there and just start buying based on what looks good.  I end up forgetting stuff, getting too many of one thing (90 tomato plants last year!), not having space for what I bought, etc.  I know it sounds silly, but I'm being much more organized about my purchases this year, and being more efficient.

2 - Companion Gardening: 

Just read an article about companion gardening, and it suggests that instead of doing two rows of potatoes and a row of flax, for example, you put combine them throughout one row. Like, in one row: potatoes, then flax, then more potatoes - and then in the next row you do the opposite: flax, potatoes, flax. So that they are pairing up together much more. I'm really excited to see what impact this has. We've had so much luck with our companion gardening in the past, and this year we're trying some new combinations.

Some NEW companion pairs we're trying this year:

  • Tomato and Garlic
  • Radishes and Squash
  • Parsley and Asparagus
  • Broccoli, Cabbage and Rhubarb
  • Strawberries and Thyme
  • Borage and Tomatoes/Strawberries
  • AND OTHERS!.... more on this later this season.

3 - More Row Space: 

It's always hard to imagine when you're planting your garden that you don't have enough space. They say you need 2' between plants, and you think, "Really? For that little thing?" so you scrunch it a bit... and then before you know it, the plant is huge and you wish you had more space. Or, maybe that's just me.

This year, Jer-Bear wants to increase the space between rows:

I want to fit my tiller in between the rows more easily, and to help with mulching.  The weeds can get so bad, and being able to till helps tremendously. I am losing a little plant space, but I think it will be worth it.

top 5 ways to prep your garden

So excited to get started on this year's Cabin Garden!  Jer - thanks for all your planning to make this garden another bountiful harvest.

AND - If you have gardening question, ask Jer-Bear!  He's not only an incredibly skilled and knowledgable gardener, he's a really nice guy.  Love ya, Dad!

Top 5 Ways to Prep Your Garden


Recently, we were lucky to have Jerry and Cathy visit us again here in Chicagoland. We had a great time eating (of course!), drinking wine, hanging out and sharing our daily life/routines. While they visited (and in between snacks, kid activities and the Olympics), I had the chance to sit down with Jerry (our garden expert and a former farmer) about how he’s used these wintery months to plan for the coming year’s Cabin Garden. If I learned one thing from our talks (and I learned a lot!), it’s that for gardeners, winter is the time to reflect, learn and plan. tomoil (1 of 4)

Being that we're all about sharing here at The Cabin Garden and want you to experience the most out of your own gardens, I'm happy to share Jerry's top 5 ways to prep your garden during the cold months...

1) Review last year’s plantings Jerry spends considerable time evaluating the plants of previous years. He looks at and analyzes his plants’ production, past disease/pest susceptibilities and the overall desirability of the harvest. As an example, last year we grew flax. While beautiful and a healthy addition to the plot, it was a nightmare to harvest (click here for the full story). Since its harvest wasn’t a success for us, not as much space will be devoted to it this year. Also, any bug issues are reviewed/troubleshooted and potential mitigations are evaluated. Finally, if any seeds were saved, an inventory is taken and plans for their use (or not) is made.

2) Research new plants and techniques Jerry is a bit of a data hound... If there is data that can be put in a spreadsheet and analyzed, Jer is a happy man. He scours books, magazines and the internet for useful tidbits to apply to the garden. One of his great interests is companion gardening (for those unfamiliar with the concept, it’s all about putting plants together that benefit from each other). One of his favorites, is the basil plant. Not only is it a natural bug repellant (natural mosquito repellant, anyone?), but it also is known to enhance the taste of tomato plants. Look for some other great companion planting tips in the coming weeks...

3) Draft potential garden designs Graph paper is Jerry’s friend. Some of the drafts he shared with me featured ways to improve past space issues. His layouts included plans for walkways (for easier navigation) and wider row spacing to allow the tiller to fit (greatly reducing the weeding effort). Other drafts featured ways to optimize his companion gardening techniques - it’s quite the puzzle to ensure the plants are situated near other “friendly” plants and vice versa.

tomoil (2 of 4)

4) Finalize your final garden design - and stick with it! After settling upon your ultimate garden design - stick with it and buy appropriately. Jerry admits this is sometimes hard - he loves his plants and sometimes it is hard to exhibit self control when planting. :)

5) Evaluate your soil and plan for mulching materials Being a former farmer, Jerry is a huge believer in getting your soil “right”. Not all earth is created equal... and soil is what ultimately feeds plants. If your soil is missing key elements and nutrients, you should plan to ammend it. As an example, my soil in Chicago is predominantly clay, which is suffocating to most plants. To improve the soil, much of the clay had to be removed from the beds (backache, anyone!?) and various types of compost and manure were worked into the soil. I was also instructed to add a layer of compost every year to continue building up the bed. Makes a lot of sense!

While the soil at the Cabin Garden is already packed with nutrients from our lake, Jerry still religiously works old leaves, compost and turkey manure (he loves this stuff) into the earth in the Spring. While turkey manure isn’t the most desirable substance to most, the prolific results of Jerry’s soil-building cocktail are hard to protest (though it does tend to prompt an extra wash after harvesting our vegetables!).

So, there you have it. Some great ideas from a farmer to get you started on your next harvest - even if your ground is a bit more frozen than you’d like...

And, before I close with a snazzy infographic outlining the above tips, I leave you with a photo of our garden planning guru, Jer Ber.  Look how happy he is getting our garden off to a great start! Thinking about Spring makes me happy, too. It's just around the corner - right??  Errrr...Right!!

tomoil (4 of 4)






Top 10 Cabin Garden Moments of 2013


Yep, like so many people out there, we want to recognize the blessings and hilarity of 2013 with a top 10 list - the top 10 Cabin Garden Moments of 2013.  It's been a big year of growth and learning for us.  Here are some of those stand-out moments: #10:  We started experimenting with sharing the garden through video... like this one:

Cabin Garden June 13 Video Update from Sally K Zimney on Vimeo.


#9:  We started an herb garden, and made these out of them!

The Herb Garden


#8:  We got a lot better at taking photos of our garden food!

Here's a photo from a year ago:


And here's a recent photo:

Asian Slaw 6 A shout-out to Lindsay and Bjork over at Pinch of Yum, and Food Blogger Pro.  I have learned so much, thanks to them!  There's more to learn, of course- but it's fun to see the progress.

#7:  We celebrated four years at Camp Koering.

Take a peek at this video of me and my kiddos prepping for Camp... Ha ha.

Camp Koering Rouser from Sally K Zimney on Vimeo.

#6:  One of our ginormous zucchinis got kind of famous.  Another Pinch of Yum shout-out!  Hey-o!

Lindsay Big Baby Zucchini #5:  We started a Companion Planting series... There's so much more to do here, but glad we got it going... Here, a lovely pic of green beans and corn, working together:

Green Beans and Corn

#4:  We convinced Michele to start writing with us!

Friends, this is awesome.  I am super excited to do more with Michele-my-bell this year.  She is a natural, and I love to share.  And sharing makes this whole adventure that much more fun.  Yay!

#3:  A hummingbird came strangely close to us in the garden.  Not gonna lie, it was a magical moment.


 #2:  We grew the most giant(est) plants ever.  This photo, in particular, won us some new friends.  I mean, how cute is Jer-Bear?!  So cute.  And the turnip's pretty amazing, too.

Giants 1

#1:  We whacked our tomatoes, and they rewarded us with a bajillion of them.  I am exaggerating only slightly.  With those tomatoes, we made Tomato Oil, Cabin Garden Salsa, Spicy Cucumber Salsa, Garlic Crust Grilled Pizza, Garden Fresh Italian Eggbake, Harvest Chicken Chili...and CG Benefactors (aka, friends/neighbors/anyone we could pawn our food off on) made some of these.  Pretty awesome.

Cabin Garden Aug Harvest

It's been quite a year.  We feel lucky.  Thanks for being a part of it!

How to Grow Giant Produce


We have a few giants in the garden this year.

Giants 5

This zucchini that I gave to Lindsay at Pinch of Yum - or this hubbard I gave her a few days ago (that you can see on her Facebook page) - and piles and piles and piles of huge produce that we've given away, or eaten, or carved or ...

Well, I suppose to some people it can be alarming. I take a strange kind of pride in its ginormousness. And no, that is not a word, but it still seems right.  See how happy my Dad is?  He grew that HUGE TURNIP.

Giants 1

It's his baby.

Giants 4

Awww!  I know.  But honestly, my Dad has a genius-feel for this gardening thing.  But of course it's more than just his innate abilities with the soil.

Giants 2

Giants 3We think there are four reasons these things grow to giant proportions here at The Cabin Garden:

#1: Fish Emulsion:  We water the garden with water that comes up from the lake... in other words, it's full of fish goo.  And fish goo is goo (hahaha) for plants.

#2: Turkey Manure: Jer-Bear gets his manure from a local farmer, and says it's just the best. It adds important nutrients into the soil.

#3: A Horse History: The garden used to be a horse pasture.  Again, it's all about the poop.

#4: The location of the garden: It's hidden away, so there's a bit of a greenhouse effect in the garden.  It's protected from the wind, it's sunny, and it's warm.

And then of course there's the magical element of gardening that is out of our control: the weather, the seeds... and the mysterious green thumb, where some people have the 'touch' and others don't.  Jer-Bear's one of those people who has the touch.  Lucky for us!

Giants 6

Put all these together?  And, you've got a recipe for how to grow giant produce!

Today's garden visitor: a hummingbird!

Today's my birthday!  And just look and see who came to visit in the garden... this sweet little hummingbird visited the garden this morning, and stayed for quite awhile.  Long enough for me to take some (read: hundreds of) pics.  Taylor, my sweet niece, tried enticing it with her cut flowers, and it was intrigued enough to stick around for quite some time.  Here are my favorites: Hummingbird in the Garden 1 IMG_2403 IMG_2406 IMG_2412 IMG_2417 IMG_2418IMG_2423

IMG_2425 IMG_2434So magical.

My Dad thinks it must have been a baby Hummingbird to stick around for so long and hang so near us.  What do you think?  Are there any bird-watchers out there?  A baby?  Just a super-friendly Hummingbird?  Or is this what they do?

Whatever the reason, I loved those precious minutes with my birthday hummingbird.

Hope you are experiencing some magic in your garden today!

Companion Planting: Corn and Green Beans

Last week, my parents had some of their college friends up to the cabin, where they took the obligatory walk out to the garden to see what the fuss was all about.  And much of their conversation turned to something my Dad has been experimenting with a lot this summer: Companion Planting. Jer in the Corn

The idea of companion planting is to pair together different plants that aid in each other’s growth.  Sometimes shoring up the other’s weaknesses, even.  Kind of like teaming up Spock with Jim Kirk.  (Ummm, HELLO, I just watched the Star Trek sequel and I loved it so much that I cannot promise this will be the last Star Trek reference in this post.)


Anyway.  Sorry about that.  EXCEPT THAT I'M NOT.  I mean, look at these two:

star trek hands

Ok, back on track.  Companion Planting!

We'll be sharing some of Jer-Bear's Companion Planting pairings that he experimented with this summer, and how it's working.  Some pairings have been wildly successful; some have been pretty good; and then there are a few flops out there.  Again, not so different from Star Trek.  Ahem.

Today, we want to start with the pairing of green beans and corn, mostly because it's just sooo cool!  Look at this:

Green Beans and Corn

The green beans wrap themselves up the stalks of corn, creating not only a handy place for the beans to grow, but a lovely picture.  But it's more than just a convenient pairing; the beans help anchor the corn more firmly in its place. They also provide more nitrogen in the soil - which is great for the corn.

And finally - it helps keep the 'coons away!  Not that we have any racoons. But just in case.

Green Beans and Corn 2

You know what else we should do, just in case?  WATCH STAR TREK AGAIN.  Just sayin.


Gardening Meditation

Early-Aug-Garden-2013 I took a quick trip up to the cabin this weekend because my Dad said the garden was suddenly bustling with goods.  And, well, I just didn't want to miss it!  I have found myself yearning for the quiet of the garden.

Relax at the Lake

The mornings when I'm up there–and the kids are occupied enough–I sneak out into the garden, wander through the rows a bit, and settle into a section to pull some weeds.  It is so quiet.  And in that moment, it is almost sacred. My gardening meditation. Quiet does not come easily in my life.  I have three kids; they are noisy; I am a talker; I work with talkers; I even have a hard time being with my own quiet little thoughts.  But in the garden?  In the garden I am re-discovering the quiet. And I need it. The sound of sing-songy birds, and then pretty much nothing else.  Ahhhhh.... In the middle of a crazy week,  I cannot wait to get out there again.

I am here to "help" my Dad.  But really?  I am helping myself.

Butterfly Touch


The Cabin Garden July Update

Helllllooooo!  Time for a Cabin Garden summary for July.

Cabin Garden July Update 1

We started off July with the best of the best up at the Cabin: a few fun-filled days of the now traditional Camp Koering.  It's cousin time.  It's garden time!  It's jumping off the dock time!  It's having too much fun to bother to go inside to pee time!

Cabin Garden - PeeingAlrighty-then!   Well, you don't want to miss one single moment.  Not one. single. moment.

Because there's a lot of this:

Jumping off the Dock

And this:

Camp Koering

Yeah, It's pretty much cousin-heaven.

But, of course - these kids are not the only ones who are literally growing up in front of our eyes.  Oh no.  July is about major growth in the garden.  Take a peek at the Tomato area in early July:

Cabin-Garden-July And now look at it, from late July - a mere two weeks between photos:



And we did some harvesting, which I find to be so rewarding!  It's not rocket-science but it's awesome: My Dad plants them; the kids and I pull them out of the ground; then we make delicious food out of them. Excuse my gardening-geekiness, but WHA?!  It's sooo super cool.  So far we've started harvesting Kohlrabi, Radishes, BeetsLettuce...  and a few others that I can't remember right now.

And soon, we'll have more cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, jalapeños, onions (ETC., ETC.!) than we know what to do with.


And these next few weeks are all about harvesting, canning, storing, cooking, recipe-ing, sharing... There will be a bountiful harvest. We are lucky, and also feeling a little nervous. Can we handle all of this?  To help, and ensure that we are able to utilize (and share, and give away, etc.) all of the harvest, I think I'm organizing a little canning shin-dig up at the cabin. I mean, why not, right?  There's work to be done; we might as well do it with wine!  [That's Kate, above, my friend who joined us for a weekend of fun/weeding.]

Kids in the Cabin GardenThe best part?  Watching the kids get excited to see the garden grow and wander out there and try new foods and enjoy the whole process.

July: you were delightful and summery and productive and so much fun.  August: you might kick our gardening butts.


Harvesting Lettuce 2013

I'm working on a July gardening update for ya'll... but I've been having so much fun creating recipes - and sharing them - and cooking them - and eating all the vegetables that are now coming up in the garden... I haven't had much time to think about the actual garden that is giving us these veggies! Lettuce 1

We started this season's planting later than in the past because the weather here in Minnesota was sooooo weird and cold so late in the season.  Even when Jer-Bear started planting in early June, he was worried about temperatures being too cold for good growth. But all seems to be doing well - just later than expected!

So it's fun to see things really start to get on a roll. This is such a fun time in the garden: to walk out there and see all kinds of vegetables and flowers and new growth - especially when it's only been days since the last time we were out there.  Amazing growth can happen in such a short time.   And that's what happened with the lettuce.  All of a sudden there was so much of it!  We had to get in there and get it before it became too "tough."

photo 21

So out we went, coffee in hand.  (Ok, I don't drink coffee–my Mom does–but I love the idea of walking out to the garden with a cup of coffee and plopping it down because there's lettuce just waiting to be picked.)

Lettuce 3And the best part?  I bagged up tons and tons of lettuce to give away to friends, rellies, neighbors.  And of course, a few bags ended up in our fridge to entice me to eat salads all week.

photo 23

It worked!  (Mostly.)  You don't need anything fancy when you have lettuce fresh from the garden.