Hoop House

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So, I built a hoop house a few weeks ago in hopes to start my garden early, but I didn’t want to post anything about it in fear of failure. After several frosts and a couple inches of snow, I think it’s safe to say this hoop house was a success!!

To attach the hoop house to the existing raised bed, we screwed larger PVC piping to the bed frame. We used 1/2″ PVC for the skeleton, and 3/4″ PVC for the anchor. I first pounded the anchor in the ground until flush with the bed frame, and then we attached the anchor with screws and attachment. When assembling the hoop house the pipes fit perfectly and slide right into the anchors and have good stability. I have seen this done many ways, but we were going for cheap, efficient, and easy.
photo 5 (1)photo 4 (1)Once all the “ribs” were in, they were still flimsy, so we attached a “sternum” on top by drilling a hole and then bolting them together. (Pardon my anatomy referencing, I am a nurse, you know!) This really strengthened the hoop house. *Note: drilling pvc pipe and then bending pvc pipe puts too much stress on it and caused it to bend with a peak rather than a smooth curve. Not sure how that could have been prevented, but I’m not too worried.

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To attach the plastic covering, we just screwed some scrap wood to the bed frame with the plastic in between. Not the most aesthetic, but serves its purpose. The other end of the plastic was stapled to a long board. Now if we want the plastic off all we have to do is roll it up over the board. *I’m terrible at explaining things like this, so hopefully the pictures can do what I can’t.

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Broccoli, cabbage, and leek seedlings survived temperatures below 25 degrees, and radish, kohirabi, bok choy, kale, spinach, and lettuce seeds have all germinated and are looking good!
photo 1 (1)Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, basil, and parsley seedlings inside doing soooo well!! They’ll be in the ground soon, can’t wait!

Warm Thoughts

It’s officially been spring for a few days, and like a bear awaking from hibernation, I can start to feel the change in seasons. It has been an extreme winter, hasn’t it? Not to brag, but the weather channel listed Toledo, OH as the worst weathered city this winter, and that’s not far from where I live. Tons of snow, tons of bitter cold days. Even today it snowed for a few minutes leaving no more than an inch accumulation. The good news? It won’t last!! The promise of spring is so enlightening.

Even though I haven’t been on the “blogging scene” much lately, I promise you I haven’t been slaking on my garden adventures. I have been prepping for this year’s garden since January, and my seedlings are starting to get big. Check out these pictures! I have many more varieties than I did last year, and I’m planning on having more plants too (assuming they all survive).

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Cabbage and broccoli ready to be transplanted!! Also some basil seedlings in the yogurt cups.

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Hopefully I have better luck this year with onions. I’m trying intermediate varieties. These should do better in my location, I think?

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Peppers and eggplants, 1 month old.

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Tomato seedlings one week old.

I have plans for a hoop house over one of the raised beds and more gardens in the front yard. This is going to be a great year, so keep in touch and hopefully the garden grows as well as it did last year! Everyone keep thinking warm thoughts!!!!!!!!!

Sky High Tomatoes

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My love for tomatoes has been evolving since I can remember. As a child, the tomatoes were always my favorite part of my mother’s garden. My parents always had a huge garden with lots of variety, but especially tomatoes. Every year they would add another row of tomatoes to the garden because they did so well the year before. It got to the point of us harvesting 5 gallons or more of tomatoes at a time, and consequently we would have fresh sliced tomatoes for every meal. Honestly, I could eat tomatoes until my whole mouth is sour from all the acidity (and I usually do).

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Here’s my vertical tomato experiment when I first planted them. I had no idea how terrifically successful they would turn out.

With my intense love for tomatoes, you can imagine my excitement when I found out tomato yields can be increase when grown vertically. Last winter, I was obsessed with absorbing as much knowledge on vertical gardening as possible. It’s perfect if you don’t have much space AND anyone can do it. This was my first year gardening (ever) and I had wild success with growing tomatoes, squash, melon, cucumbers, beans, and peas vertically. Please try it!

I used a raised bed (9’x3′) with 100% compost. The two beams on either side are 4x4s roughly 8 ft tall. This leaves 6 ft left for the tomatoes to grow up. I used a 2×6 to border the top. Finally, I added concrete reinforcement mesh to hook the tomatoes to.

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Most varieties made it over the top of the trellis reaching 6-8 ft tall. Apologize for the poor picture quality.

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I also grew tomatoes on bamboo stakes, roughly 4 ft tall. The tomatoes did well, but overgrew the stakes and became a tomato jungle. Although, I didn’t mind.

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Yellow pear tomatoes did very well growing on the trellis. Here, you can see them bushing out at 7 ft high. I had to get on a latter to reach the top of the plant. They were incredibly prolific.

I had mixed reviews on the varieties I used. Yellow pear was VERY prolific and sweet, definitely a variety to keep. The perfect tomato for fresh eating and salads. Stupice, a red small-medium sized tomato was very early to produce, but didn’t really give me the results I was hoping for. They lacked flavor and didn’t produce the numbers I was hoping for. They also didn’t grow up the trellis well, probably because they are semi-determinate. Cherry Chadwick was the perfect cherry tomato. Sweet flavor and prolific, climbing over 8 ft high. Pink Brandywine was wonderful. Large, beefy and prolific. Definitely a keeper. Green Zebra is a well known green tomato, I wasn’t all that impressed. They were medium sized, so-so on producing, the plants were small, and the flavor was mediocre. They had great color though. Kellogg’s Breakfast was my favorite variety. Large, beefy yellow tomatoes with the best flavor. So prolific. Violet Jasper was a small purple variety with stripes. Plants grew tall, and they were fairly prolific, but they lacked flavor. Really not impressed.

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Yellow pear.

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Violet Jasper. These are beautiful, but not all would ripen to this deep color.

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Green Zebra.

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Kellogg’s Breakfast.

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Green Zebra

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Stupice (small red) and Kellogg’s Breakfast (large green)

Cranberry and Ground Cherry Crumble

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If you grow ground cherries, you know that with just a few plants you can harvest a TON of little berries. We could never keep up with the harvest by eating them fresh, and we even made several pints of jam to use up the surplus ground cherries. We still had a few cups of them left so I decided to bake them into a dessert.

I used a recipe from a seed catalog (suprisingly) that was suggested for just ground cherries, but it’s Thanksgiving time so I added cranberries to it (and adjusted the other ingredients). This would make a great dessert for your Thanksgiving meal. We both loved it!

Cranberry and Ground Cherry Crumble

2 cups of ground cherries
2 cups of Cranberries
3/4 cup of sugar
5 Tablespoons flour

1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup oatmeal

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Shell husks from ground cherries. Once shelled, rinse ground cherries and cranberries.
  3. Coarsely chop the fruit. (I used a food processor, just a few pulses)
  4. Add chopped fruit, 3/4 cup of sugar, and 5 tablespoon flour in a medium bowl. Mix.
  5. Put fruit mixture into greased pan. (I used a 9″ pie pan)
  6. Combine all topping ingredient in a small bowl and mix until it becomes crumbly. Add onto of fruit, spreading to cover most of the fruit.
  7. Bake for 30 minutes or until top becomes brown. Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream.

I really enjoyed this dessert. It’s definitely a sweet/sour dessert (thanks to the cranberries). Plus it has a STICK of butter (I know…). Hey, if you’re going to indulge in a dessert, you might as well do it the right way. We baked it today, and (sad to say) it’s almost all gone.

This was my first time baking with cranberries. Know any good recipes?

Peppers 2013




Peppers were one of my biggest successes in my first year garden. I planted quite a few of them because I was already familiar with the wonderful flavors of garden fresh sweet/hot peppers. I started all my peppers from seed, and after some troubleshooting, I had 25 (or so) little pepper plants growing. All had germinated by March, and I planted them in the ground the 3rd week of May.

One issue I did have, some of the big sweet pepper varieties didn’t rippen until the very end of the season (I’m talking September). I know peppers love hot weather. Perhaps it was the unusually wet and mild summer, but I think next year I’ll start my peppers a couple weeks earlier and see if that helps.

I bought all my pepper seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co.


King of the North variety.


Golden Cal Wonder variety.


Purple Beauty and Albino Bullnose varieties.

I was very pleased with the King of the North, Golden Cal Wonder, and Purple Beauty varieties. King of the North and Golden Cal Wonder both produced great quality (and decent quantity). Purple Beauty was an early producer, even if the first few peppers were puny. As the summer progressed, Purple Beauty produced larger and larger peppers. I plan on growing these again next year. I also grew a variety called Albino Bullnose. Neon-bright sweet peppers attracted my rookie eyes while flipping through the seed catalog, so I added them to the garden. They were early producers and produced more fruit than any other pepper plant, but every pepper I got was small, very thin walled, and lacked any flavor. If you’re having a pepper garden, then I’d say they’re a nice extra I guess.


Anaheim variety.


Cayenne variety. (turn red when ripe)

I grew two varieties of hot peppers, and I wish I had grown more varieties. I was timid with my variety selections because I didn’t want to grow a pepper that my mouth couldn’t handle. The Anaheim peppers I grew were actually really sweet. The only way you got any heat out of them was to eat them raw, and even then, very minor heat. Maybe I got some cross-pollinated seeds that don’t represent the true heat of the pepper… or maybe I just have badass taste buds that I was unaware of. They were, though, very prolific. The plants grow to at least 2 ft tall and branch out like little trees. Tons of peppers. The other variety I grew was cayenne. These little peppers had the heat that the Anaheims were missing. They were very prolific also and great for cooking. They are warm enough that all you need is one or two pepper per dish to add a good amount of heat. I’ve read that many people dry these to make red pepper flakes and ground cayenne pepper. I’m planning on having more plants next year so I can try this. 

Next year I’m going to have more varieties of hot peppers.  Any suggestions?