Tag Archives: victory gardening

Growing Your Own Fresh Veggies

As a child, I remember walking through grandmother’s garden.  The whole thing was huge and ringed with marigolds to keep the bugs and rabbits out (not sure if that trick works or not).  The rows were neat and weed free and everything that the family would eat during the winter was growing there.  In my mother’s slightly smaller garden, I learned how to keep the rows weed free with a hoe and a lot of hard work in the hot summer sun.  As an adult, I live on a lot in the city where there is not enough space for a huge garden.   However, I still want to grow some of my own food.  Let’s be honest, it just tastes better than the produce you buy at the store.  I am going to give you some tips on how to grow your own veggies in a small space. 

Choose a good location for your garden.  This should be an area with 6-8 hours of sun light.  To prepare the soil remove the grass or sod growing in that area.  You can place this in your compost pile to break down for use in your garden next year.  Dig up the soil with a garden fork or tiller and add 2” of organic matter or compost.  Fluff the soil again until it is loose and crumbly.  Your “bed” is now ready.

When deciding which plants to grow you have two choices, either start them from seed or let someone else do the work and start with a small plant.  If you’re starting with a small plant, it is important to purchase your plants from a local nursery that you trust.  Though the box stores might have cheaper product you can never tell what diseases they might be selling as well. www.extension.org/…/Plant_Disease_Threatens_Tomatoes_and_Potatoes

Great plants for beginners would be tomatoes, bush beans, peppers, and cucumbers.  You can grow early spring crops of leaf lettuce and peas. 

Plant at least 2 but no more than 3 plants of every plant; unless you have a huge family or plan on canning or freezing the excess.  Plant the plants with enough space to grow, 2 to 3’ spacing for tomatoes.  3’ space for cucumber etc.  I let my cucumber vine trail through the tomatoes to keep the weeds down.  After planting, you should water carefully and soak the soil at least 1” deep.  I place newspaper in between the rows and cover them with grass clippings to reduce the weed growth .  After all, who has time to weed a garden these days?  This will break down over time and you can till the organic matter back into the garden in the spring.

Keep an eye out for insects and disease.  If you remove the insect by hand, you can reduce the need for chemical control.  If you have to spray you should use an organic product.   http://extension.agron.iastate.edu/organicag/supplpm.html

It is always good to remember that any chemical product will leave a residue which you will then consume, not a good thing if you want to live a long life.  For fertilizer you have several organic options.  Cow or poultry manure can be applied to the soil and worked in before planting or you can use topdressing of fish emulsion or bone meal. 

With these tips you can grow enough food for fresh salsa, BLT’s minus the B of course, or a cucumber salad in a space as small as 10’x10’.  Pick and enjoy!


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Filed under Community, I'll Grow It Myself!, Landscaping, TimberPine

The Incredible, Edible… Eggplant

In our last visit we covered a simple recipe for one of my favorite garden treats, Cilantro Pesto. There have been a few questions this past week as to what uses there are for this wonderful herb-y treat. I am glad you asked… Aside from using as a spread for grilled Sweet Corn (Seriously, this is really amazing), it works well as a garnish for soups (especially Jalapeno Potato or Tomato w/Smoked Peppers…I will share those recipes soon), as a “sauce” for pizza (use a thin crust with a little Mozzerella or Asiago cheese, some grilled Asparagus or Zucchini, and a few halved grape tomatoes), use it as a spread on crostinis topped with a little queso fresco and diced tomato, use a Tablespoon with Buckwheat Soba Noodles and Oyster Mushrooms for a nice little twist, served with nice, big, fresh seared scallops, I could really go on for days here, and Cilantro Pesto really shines as a topping for TACOS. This week, our focus will be on Tacos. Specifically a long time favorite of mine (and of my catering clients), EGGPLANT TACOS. This version will be making use of your GRILL, which is a great way to bring out the fresh flavors in your veggies, so fire that baby up and let’s get cooking!


For the Taco Filling:

2 large eggplants, sliced lenthwise ¼” thick

1 red bell pepper, halved, seeded, cut into 1” sections

2 large, ripe tomatoes

*Brush Eggplant and Pepper with oil, sprinkle with a little s&p and grill until both have softened, but aren’t cooked through. Set aside to cool.

*For the Tomatoes, brush with oil and grill until the skins crack. Let cool, remove skins, halve, scoop out seeds and core, then cut into thin strips

1 yellow onion, Julienned

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and cut into rings (if you want to kick the heat up, put these babies on the grill)

1T+ Ground Cumin

1T+ Ancho Chile Powder

1t Dried Oregano

S&P to taste

-Chop the cooled Grilled Eggplant and Red Pepper into a small-ish dice.

-In a large skillet (or cast iron skillet on top of your grill) Saute the Onion, Garlic, and Jalapenos over medium heat until onions turn soft and transluscent, about 6 minutes.

-Add the Cumin, Chile Powder, Oregano, and a little S&P. Saute for 1 minute

-Add Eggplant, Red Pepper, and Tomato. Continue to cook until all ingredients are heated through.

You can skip the grill all together and just work strictly from the Skillet, but the grill…oh the grill.


`-Juice and Zest of 1 Lime

-8oz Sour Cream

-pinch of Salt

Whisk all ingredients together. Just that simple.

Then, see last week’s recipe for the Cilantro Pesto.

Serve the tacos in corn tortillas, heated on the grill of course, the Lime Sour Cream, Pesto, Chopped Yellow onion, Sprigs of fresh cilantro, lime wedges, and maybe a pitcher of your favorite Margaritas or some other non-alcoholic Lime-based drink (I really like home made Cherry-Lime Ade). Serving all of the components separately in festive colored bowls really adds a nice touch (that’s how we do it at our house).

There you have it, a great veggie-based recipe that can be multiplied for larger parties, or served as is to a few of your closest friends. I look forward to our next encounter, but until then,

Happy Gardening & Good Cooking!


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So…how’s your victory gardening coming along?  Mine surprisingly~very easy.  I’ve only watered once since I sowed the seeds and have rotated the tray probably every 4th day or so.  Rotation is important to balance the stalk from reaching for the sun.  And from this view you can see clearly the 2 sprouts per soil pack I stuck in based purely on the lack of patience I had.  We’ll see if this will prove a wise decision….or not.

If you’re still struggling to figure out which seeds to sow…whether to sow inside or wait for the frost to disappear, don’t fret.  Next week I’m going shopping with Hannah Inman with KDC Builders and we’ll be digesting the overwhelming decisions surrounding seed selection.

Til then…Happy Planting!

Author: Katie Ketelsen

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Filed under I'll Grow It Myself!, Rantings by Katie Ketelsen

I see a sprout!

Just wanted to share with you all that I saw a sprout yesterday….several sprouts in fact, and I’m barely 14 days into it. Getting excited!

What do your seedlings look like?  Did I start too early with  my peppers?  Still got enough snow here to last us till July!

Author: Katie Ketelsen


Filed under I'll Grow It Myself!, Rantings by Katie Ketelsen

I hate tedious work.

My cabin fever was overwhelming and the smell of soil was too appealing, so I have begun my Victory Garden.  Just in case I didn’t tell you….I found some of the Burpee seeds I’d been eying online, marked 40% off at a box store here in town.  I also managed to grab a 72 soil pellet pack for under $6 (online $8-10).  Needless to say, I was VERY excited with my find.  And alas…. that’s where my frustration began.

I hate….HATE with a passion tedious work.  It drives me crazy bonkers.  Makes me want to scream!  And distributing those dainty little seeds, into their respecting soil pods was TEDIOUS!  I only plugged in the peppers (as it’s too early for the others), however, when the time comes, I’m contemplating hiring my husband to do the sowing.  He’s gotta earn his keep around here anyway.

Soil pellets need to be saturated before setting the seed.

Pellets should expand approximately 1-2″ tall with the soil loose.  (weird sidenote: I love the smell of soil.  Something about it makes me feel good.  If someone knows of a “soil perfume” drop me a line)

It’s begun….tedious tedious tedious!  Keeping my hands steady enough to drop the seeds on the pellet, and NOT along side the pellet where my fat fingers could not rescue a seed=TEDIOUS

Call it frugal or that sowing these seeds was getting the best of me, but I packed 2 seeds in each pod.  In less than 10 minutes, I had had enough.  I’m fairly certain this is one of those moments, that I previously disclosed may happen, where I make up my own rules.  Two to three seeds in one soil pod is just fine guys!

Now, if I was really pinching my pennies, and had a little more patience in me, I would have possibly researched further the many ways I could have re-purposed some of the crap lying around my house.  So take it from the amateur and try following one or more of these frugal methods to starting seeds, I think I’ll be smarter on my next trial.

Happy Planting!

Author: Katie Ketelsen

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Filed under I'll Grow It Myself!, Rantings by Katie Ketelsen

“I’ll grow it myself!”

Some people call it “Victory Gardening.” Well…we’ll see what kind of Victory I’ll be eating by the time this veggie adventure is over.

I’ve decided to grow it myself this year…in my own backyard!

I know what you’re thinking:  This isn’t a big deal, Katie.  You went to Iowa State, you majored in Horticulture, you’ve been gardening for years.

I know.  I know.  This is what I keep telling myself as I teeter back and forth between sanity and…well… gardening hysteria.  But I figure, if any regular Jane can do this, I sure as heck need to.  So I’m inviting you to stroll along with me, through my trials….my disappointments…and doubtfully a bountiful harvest so that you can learn from my mistakes and create the Victory Garden your grandma’s grandma would be proud of.

The FINEPRINT right UPFRONT: I am not a veggie expert, nor do I claim to be.  I might not follow all the rules and I might make up some of my own.  I have no idea how this garden will turn out or if it will even turn out anything.  If you’re a veteran veggie gardener, you have my permission from this point on, to poke, snicker, chuckle and talk smack about my lack of veggie gardening skills.  Just make sure you share your own wisdom with the rest of us newbies.

So let’s be realistic for a moment.  If this is your first garden rodeo, let’s start small this year.  Think about what might be the top 3-4 vegetables you know for sure you and your family would eat and go with those.  What you don’t want to do is get burned out the first year and ban vegetable gardening all together.  That being said, I am in no way following said sage advice and have already collected too many seeds that I know what to do with.  And here are the lucky ones thus far:

  • Jalapeno Pepper
  • Hot Mix of Peppers~Anaheim TMR 23, Ancho, Long Slim Cayenne, Jalapeno and Hungarian Wax
  • Big Dipper green pepper
  • Large Bottle Mix Gourds
  • Cilantro
  • Flowering Cabbage (Kale)
  • Iceberg Lettuce
  • Bells of Ireland (I know this isn’t a vegetable…but I love their color and well I’m a sucker).

If you’re struggling to narrow down the laundry list of potential vegetables, take a cue from Thomas at Park Seed as he explains the best vegetable seeds for kid’s to plant.  Hey, if they can do it, you can excel.  Right?

Author: Katie Ketelsen


Filed under I'll Grow It Myself!, Rantings by Katie Ketelsen