Thursday, June 21, 2018


  5 Things That Might be Plaguing Your Garden

The Garden is in the Ground!

Whew!  You finally have gotten your plants in the ground.  Perhaps you've harvested those earliest Spring crops for a great fresh garden salad.  It's been so nice spending time outside after that long Winter.  Now it's time for a cold refreshing drink by the pool and just watch your garden flourish.  Tomatoes, Zucchinis, Cucumbers, Corn on the cob...You can barely contain yourself.  All the hard work is done.  Now, FINALLY, you can sit back and just wait for the dividends.

Ah Oh!  What is that?!

It's finally cooled off for the evening and dinner is eaten.  Hey!  What would be better than a casual walk around your Garden of Eden?  Ahhh, the Tomatoes...BUT...Why are some of the leaves yellow and brown?  And what happened to the top of that plant?  It's gone!  Just a cut stem!

The Green Beans...BUT...All the leaves have holes in them?  On to the potato plants, beautiful and blooming...BUT they look like they've been shot up with a tiny shot gun!  Tiny holes on nearly all the leaves!  This could be you, but in fact, this was me over the last two weeks.  Minus the pool (my wife is still asking why we don't have one yet!)

You Need Help!

All is not lost.  With a little investigation you can discover what is wrong with your beloved plant and fix it!  Here are 5 possible culprits and how to ID the suspect 



It could be insect damage.  Many different varieties of insects love your vegetables just as much as you do.  Typical culprits are caterpillars, beetles, and bugs .  Cut off leaves, holes in leaves, damage trails in leaves and webs on leaves are common signs that an insect has feasted or set up their new apartment in your garden.


Too much water or a lack of hydration could be the problem.  As a general rule of thumb most garden plants need enough water to soak the top inch of soil per week.  Periods of drought for your plant weaken it.  If discovered in time watering it can revive it but the more stressful situations your plant goes through the harder it is for it to recover.  Repeated droughts can permanently stunt its growth if not out right kill it.  Likewise, too much water can make the plant's roots rot killing its source for minerals and food from the soil.  Also ALWAYS, ALWAYS water your vegetables at the ground level.  More on this in the next point.


There are many diseases out there that may plague your plants.  The roots of these can be found laying dormant in your soils, airborne, on the plant when it came from the garden center, or even brought to your plant by an insect!  Luckily the list of diseases can be narrowed down for each individual plant.  Damage from disease can be identified by discoloration, foliage drying out, and wilting.  A great preventive measure is to water your plant at ground level.  Many of the spores for disease are laying dormant in the soil.  All they are waiting for is the right temperature, moisture, and contact with your plant to start their life cycle of destruction!  You can't stop the rain from splashing these spores on your plants, but you can stem the tide by not helping give the diseases a free ride.


Garden plants need food and nutrients.  Most of this is obtained through the soil. Plants need both Macro and Micro or trace minerals. The Macronutrients include; Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium, Calcium, Sulfur, Magnesium,Carbon , Oxygen, and Hydrogen.  The Micronutirents or trace minerals include; Iron, Boron, Chlorine, Manganese, Zinc, Copper, Molybdenum, and Nickel. When a plant has too much or too little of a nutrient, it will show physical signs,  Often the tricky part is that different minerals will show the same sign.  The only way to know for sure is a complete soil analysis.  All is not lost though.  Many nutrient problems can be identified and corrected with soil amendments from many Organic sources.  Discoloration, stunted growth, leaves drying up or dying are often signs of a nutrient problem.


Most garden plants, especially vegetables, will need full sun.  Many of your flowers and herbs will as well, but not all. First know your plants lighting needs.  So I'm sure most of you knew this when you planted your garden.  You chose a great sunny spot for your plot that got a good 6-8 hours of full sun every day.  So how could my full sun loving plants be suffering from light deficiency?  How much shade did you incorporate into your garden?  Psst...plants grow.  Some perhaps taller than their neighbor that they are now shading?  This will more than likely have to be chalked up to a planning issue.  Record it in your journal and make sure you don't plant that tall plant where it will shade that short plant next year.  Also, how are your weeds growing?  Weeds by definition are successful at living; easy to germinate and quick to grow, flower and seed.  Keep up on those weeds.  Put to practice as many weed prevention methods as possible and weed when the weeds are small!

If you like to know more about identifying that plant problem and how to fix it, contact me about my  class, GARDENING WHODUNNIT: INSPECTOR GREEN THUMB AT YOUR SERVICE and subscribe to Survivalist in Suburbia, for more upcoming articles with Garden tips that you can use today!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

EarthShaper Arts: Dolmas: Grape Leaf Wraps

While Waiting for the Grapes Recipe (Dolmas)
BY:  Earthshaper Arts
        When growing our own grapes there was a harsh reality this little tree-hugger had to come to terms with; healthy grapes means less leaves. Bringing myself to pull off all the enormous, sprawling leaves and whimsically reaching, but fruitless, vines took a leap of faith. I couldn’t believe this much waste could have even been a practice of the ancients, till I remembered an authentic Greek restaurant called the Greek Islands that we once went to in Indy back before we had our own kids. They had a belly dancer and everything! The dish I ordered was Dolmas, which looked like a Greek style lettuce wrap, off the menu. So I put my Chef Hubby to work making Dolmas with our grape leaves for the family. The results were even better than I remembered, as food from our own garden always seems to be. (Am I wrong? ha)

Turns out you can even purchase preserved grape leaves if you don't have grape vines of your own. This may be a new skill to learn on down the road.

12- 4 to 5 inch wide grape leaves
4  cups water
1 cup salt
1 cup white rice
1 ¾  cup water
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp butter
½ cup golden raisins
1 lb ground beef or lamb
1 tsp cinnamon
½ cup diced onions
2 thinly sliced garlic cloves
½ tsp red pepper flakes
¼ cup chopped fresh dill weed
Finely crumbled feta cheese
Black pepper
Approximate time: 35 minutes

Pick grape leaves with no insect damage, no chemical spray, 4-5 inches wide in late Spring, sometime in May or June. Avoid fuzzy thick leaves. Wash in cold water and drain thoroughly.

Blanch the leaves in a brine of 4 cups water with 1 cup salt. Bring brine to boil. Drop leaves 12 at a time into boiling brine. Bring brine back to boil and remove leaves immediately and immerse in ice cold water. This will set the color in the leaf better. Dry off leaves and store in olive oil.

Make stuffing mixture. Start 1 cup of rice, 1 ¾ cup water, 1 tsp salt, and 2 Tbs butter cooking in rice cooker. Meanwhile cover ½ cup golden raisins in hot water and soak. Brown 1 lb ground beef or ground lamb seasoned with salt and pepper and 1 tsp cinnamon, ½ cup diced onions, 2 thinly sliced garlic cloves, and ½ tsp red pepper flakes. Drain ground meat and set aside. When rice is cooked add meat mixture, ¼ cup chopped fresh dill weed and raisins with juice in rice. Mix well.

Lay out grape leaf and put 1/3 to ½ cup rice mixture and finely crumbled feta cheese in center of leaf. Sprinkle with lemon juice. Wrap up like an eggroll or burrito. Put on plate and garnish with a salad of mixed olives, med size crumble feta cheese, slices of pepperoncini peppers, diced tomato, diced cucumber, diced red onion with a dressing of salt, pepper, olive oil, ½ tsp chopped dill weed and red wine vinegar or lemon juice.