Category Archives: Gardening in the South

Winter Sown

Mad fury internet research after a friend posted a weird picture of a gallon milk container with ‘Swiss chard & Cilantro’ written on the side. It looked strange. 

But her comment got me hooked. Sow the seeds, and basically ‘set it/forget it.’ Leave them exposed a bit with the rain/snow/sun. But protected from the wind and predators until early spring when the seedlings are ready to transplant into their permanent spots. 

She sent me to Winter Sown plus searching on ‘winter sowing zone 7.’ Love this so much…especially when my last attempt at fall planting failed so miserably. I wanted a simple low maintenance veggie/annual garden. 

This is works for northern zones as well as my area in zone 7.

Now my problem is not enough milk jugs. So am scrabbling to gather whatever will possibly work. 

Seeds have been ordered and received from Southern Exposure. Found them through a Mother Jones review post on seed companies.  I have no personal experience with them or their seeds. 

Fall planting & frost tolerant plants are the first seeds to sow, Swiss chard and kale. I’ll also sow the milkweed seeds send from my sister-in-law. (These seeds need a winter to germinate. Right now they are tucked in my freezer since they are from Minnesota.) They will be planted up by the house next to the future Thai basil. All for the bumble bees and monarch butterflies. 

Oops, got too excited and sowed the new seeds first. Will do Swiss chard, milk weed and kale tomorrow. Radishes, beets, parsley, arugula, spinach, and lettuces when in Friday. 

I’ll sow more radishes & lettuces in a week. Actually, I sowed milkweed, arugula, lettuce & radish. 

The last batch will be a few okra and hopefully a third batch of radishes. 

Ok…am realizing I’m being over enthusiastic about planting area. But as a gardener, I am always optimistic. 

But I know better than to start tomatoes or zucchini or melons. I just can’t hide any of those things in the front yard. The HOA might not like the milkweed or okra. I happen to think they are beautiful plants/flowers. 

I do need to get some coleus in the spring.  The flashy color in front hides a lot. 

How to: 

Clear or translucent plastic disposable containers. I’m using old accumulated aluminum trays and a row cover over the top. 

Drill or cut drainage hole in the bottom and top.  I used a wood burning tool for the holes and cutting the milk jugs. I saw a video to makes holes by heating a long nail (held with pliers) over a candle. 

2 options cutting the milk jug:

  1. Cut all the way around about 4-5″ from the bottom. You’ll ‘telescope’ the top over the bottom after sowing seeds. 
  2. Cut around about 4-5″ from the bottom, except keeping the top attached below the jug handle. You’ll need duct tape to close milk jug after sowing seeds. 

Label each container (top and bottom) with something weather proof. Or label your seeds with stakes. 

I cut up a tyvec bag, duct tape and a sharpie for labels. 

Labeled incorrectly (switched at birth)

Well-drained soil is damp. I mixed potting soil, perlite with water in a big bucket. 

2-3″ of soil, sow seeds, sprinkle more soil over the seeds and pat gently. 

I sprinkled a small amount of snail/slug bait. 

Set outside in indirect sun or sunny spot. 

No extra watering needed. Only winter rain & snow. 

On warm days in late winter/early spring, open the tops during the day to prevent overheating.  Cover again if danger of frost. 

Plant in the garden after last frost. 

I will keep you updated on how this works for me. 


So far so good. Radishes, arugula, beets, lettuces are up. 

Radishes, 10 days old

The best information:

Bachmans Winter Sowing Seeds
Juicing Gardener Youtube channel


Winter Wonderland 

How many times does it snow in the South? MAYBE once or twice a year. 

Fresh falling snow is an unicorn moment for macro photographers, including amateurs like me. 

This time, I was prepared. 

  • A platform with dark fleece left outside to be at ambient temperature. 
  • Down hooded coat, fingerless gloves & snow pants and snow boots to keep me warm
  • Heated beanbag (for me and the phone)
  • Small tripod and macro len on camera/phone. 

I goofed with the phone. It shutdown after 10 mins from the cold.  Recharging it gave me time to evaluate the first batch of pictures.  Out of focus and snowflake selection were issues, leaving only a few are saved. 

The white ones weren’t very interesting. You can’t see much detail. They look like they have frost on them. So next time, find more interesting snowflakes. 

And fortunately, it continued to come down and I had a second chance. 

Last bit of advise…Slip the phone next to the heated bean bag between shots, to keep it from shutting down and my hands warmer. 

And last last bit of advise…patience. 

Next time I might try velvet or velveteen for the background. 

I had so much fun! 

Technical information: 

  • Camera- iPhone 6 Plus default camera, olloclip 15x lens, cheap/useless mini-tripod. 
  • Background- Black fleece, glass pie plate
  • Editing app-Snapseed free version. All the snowflake pictures were edited for contrast, rotated & cropped. 

I JUSTED learned about winter sowing seeds. I’ll post about it next week. Right now I’m waiting for seeds ordered from Southern Exposure

Just in time for crazy weather change from the 20s to 60s.

Stashing, Not Destashing

Forget about KonMari decluttering system at least for this month. 

Instead of tossing away clothes that didn’t spark joy. I started playing with them. 

Overdyed this mauve dress with purple and shortened it from a maxi to knee length. Love the color except it’s a blotchy dye job. Next step is shibori the dyeing. This month I am all about accumulating, acquiring, loading up, but not quite hoarding. 

Shibori overdyeing silk dress prep

  • Hancock Fabrics in our area is closing in a few days. I’ve spent a lot on just about every craft supply I MIGHT need and then some. Except someone else acquired ALL the batik fabric. Darn!
  • I am following a lot of SSK vendors (yeah, I moved Instagram back to my main screen.) This helps me plan for the marketplace next Saturday. And I may have already purchased and received yarn from one vendor, Leading Men Fiber Arts.  

    Midnight Renderzous in Soliliquy Gradient by Leading Men Fiber Arts

  • SSK will be my first big trip since changing to the ketogenic diet. The retreat center has wonderful food. Not a lot of extra planning and preparation needed, except creating fat bomb snacks and electrolyte drinks. I’ll just enhance everything else with a bit of MCT oil. 
  • Got the Instant Pot pressure cooker along with a million others on Amazon Prime day. It’s been on my wish list for a year. Already made hard boiled eggs, meatloaf, steamed veggies and collard greenies. This thing is definitely my favorite kitchen tool besides my knife. 

    Newest kitchen toy/tool

  • Prepping easy meals for hubby while I’m away. 
  • The sneaky veggie garden is at maximum production. Spinach picked and eaten. Double batch of pesto has been stashed away in the freezer. 

    Opal and sweet basil prepped for pesto

Sneaky Gardening Success

  1. So far, no neighborhood complaints. 
  2. 2 batches of pesto made and frozen
  3. Second harvest of the New Zealand spinach
  4. First pick of yellow peppers EVER!
  5. Dreams of seedlings starting in a month for fall plantings. 
  6. Dreams of next spring plantings. 

Just call me Farmer Jo.

Clockwise: New Zealand spinach, Opal basil, sweet basil, & yellow peppers

Sneaky Gardener

I live in a zero lot house. Meaning there is little lawn to mow, a patio, a few weeds to pluck every week because the ‘garden’ is under 600 square feet total. And most of it is in deep shade of neighbors’ houses. 

You see, I wasn’t sure whether or not a whimpy California girl could deal with the heat, humidity and hungry mosquitos of the southern summer. I can’t. But apparently neither can southern born natives. I didn’t know you get as much done as possible between Februray and May, hope the weather stays reasonable through June, go out only to harvest or go to the beach in July and August, and come back in September to start your fall and winter plantings. It’s only taken me ten years to realize that. 

Shade garden favorites

I LOVE having a shade garden. Maidenhair and autumn fern love it enough to self seed every year. Just added hellebores and toad lily. 

Only problem.  Shade is NOT good for veggies. And I miss my homegrown tomatoes, green beans and zucchini. They were SO EASY to grown in California. No amount of soil improvement, best sun exposure, in a pot or in the ground, or even a portable greenhouse produced a single veggie. 

That changed a tiny bit this year. 

Last harvest of Little Gems lettuce

Early April I put in lettuce, New Zealand spinach and peppers. The lettuce was semi successful. Some already were tough and bitter (need to start in Feburary or March next year). Battled with slugs. But Little Gems were a champ. Definitely will repeated them. Parsley, basil and thyme are also now happy.All are thriving in the only sunny spot with good afternoon shade, my front yard. 

First harvest of herbs

If you remember, the tiny balding patch of lawn in the front yard was replaced with very large raised brick beds, new shrubs and perennials. When the daffodils were fading, I put in the veggies inbetween. I was hoping no one from the HOA would notice. My justification: the professional landscapers in our neighborhood put in rainbow chard and all kinds of kale last fall. They survive our winters and are beautiful in the spring. The only difference is I planned to harvest and eat mine. I’ll put in plenty for pretty and food. No one but my landscaper said anything, except that the yard looks great. 

New Zealand spinach is thriving among the coleus & begonias

I have my seeds ready to start in about six weeks. Rainbow chard, Dino kale, some other romaine lettuce and more Little Gems. 

Oops forgot the kale

If I add taller perennials like echinacea, do you think I could sneak in some okra next year?


Love My Garden

We waited ten years to rework the front yard. 

We are done until spring. Just in time to shut off the irrigation system for the winter. 

Lessons learned:

  • I did not buy enough plants. Kurt added two to three times the numbers of plants. Of course that means more money. 
  • I bought the wrong plants. The house & garden  is symmetrical. But the microclimate conditions are almost opposite. Ranging from full sun, hot & dry on the left to full shade on the right. No plants do well in both conditions. So the left & right rhyme in color and texture. 
  • Kurt found better plants. I think he had fun looking for unusual things. 

As a DIYer, I was out of my league. Very happy the professionals did all the heavy lifting. It was fun to be out there working along side them. But better that I could give up when the aching started. 


Right side:Kurt & JC wheelbarrowed 4 truck loads of soil.

I did get a compliment from JC, “She’s a hard worker.”  That feels good. Even though I whimp out after a few hours of digging. 

Kurt did a great job. 

David, the brick layer, did a fabulous job. 


Right side:David & his crew bricklaying

I now believe we have one of the nicest front yard in the neighborhood. 


Right side:Stones removed, trenches dug for footings


Right side: footing poured


Left side finished


Right side finished


Re-focus on the Garden & Studio


Pansies just planted

In the South, we plant pansies in the fall. It seems counterintuitive to plant such delicate flowers now. They survive minor freezes and frost and are about the only color until Februray.  

Garden renovation started

The old stone wall was been removed. I’ll be transporting some of them to Mom’s garden. 

The 4 guys spent all day digging the trenches for the footings. It’s a tiny yard by all standards. But with 12 year old crepe myrtle trees, digging has been difficult. 

I’m so glad I’m not doing the digging. 

Next step, rebar will be laid in the trenches, the footings poured, and then the brick layer does his magic. 


In the meantime, I hope to focus on that custom order. I finally found the perfect lining. 


Fabric & trim selected

Shapes have been cut. Pockets started. I hope there’s enough scrape to make her & myself a zippered pouch.  

Custom bag started