tree frog in the garden 

Tree frog blending in on Swiss chard

This cool little tree frog is hunting for insects in the Swiss chard out in the garden.  Each evening I can hear their cool little songs.  No idea how many insects one of these can eat during the course of a week, but I’m glad to have him around.

Tree frog hunting insects in a Mittleider garden
Tree frog hunting insects in a Mittleider garden

Why we grow Swiss chard

Honestly, I am not a big fan of chard.  We grow a small amount of it just to add to our smoothies.  While I may not be a fan of how it tastes, with out question it is packed with nutrition.  It is grown in a section of the garden we refer to as the smoothie section.

Identify your tree frogs

If you too are in North America then you may find this book on identifying frogs and toads  It will help you to identify them by sight as well as recognize them by their song.

garden smoothie section

garden smoothie section

This short part of our row is the garden smoothie section. The Swiss chard and kale are both doing well in the garden, I like to call it the smoothie section of the garden.  A couple times a day I go out and clip some of each.  I take it right inside to the little blender to make one of my favorite smoothies.

It is getting ahead of me and is going to need pruning soon.   If I can’t find someone to take what we prune then it will go into the freezer.

garden smoothie section - Swiss chard and kale
garden smoothie section – Swiss chard and kale

Preserving kale and Swiss chard by blanching

When there is an over abundance of of the kale and Swiss chard we bring it inside and give it a good rinse.  After blanching it in our 16 quart stockpot it will get dunked in cold ice water.  Excess water is strained  and then placed in freezer bags.  The kale get used more often during the cold months in stews at our house, but they work well frozen in smoothies too.

Planning a fall smoothie section of the garden

With the fall season approaching it is time plan our fall garden.  Part of that fall garden is going to be grown under mini hoops to extend our season.  A section of that will be dedicated for our garden smoothie section.

In addition to the chard and kale currently growing we will be adding two varieties of beets and another type of kale.

Growing tomatoes vertically in a Mittleider garden

Growing tomatoes vertically in a Mittleider garden

We’ve got half a bed of tomatoes in the garden that needed twine to train them to grow vertically.  The tomatoes are planted 9 inches apart and alternate which direction they will be trained to grow.  Growing them this way ensures they will get adequate light and space when pruned properly.

Growing tomatoes vertically with 170 pound bailing twine in a Mittleider garden
Growing tomatoes vertically with 170 pound bailing twine in a Mittleider garden

We will also be growing other things vertically in this manner such as cucumbers, squash, pole beans and melons.

Growing tomatoes vertically with either t-posts or a-frames

So what do you need to grow those tomatoes vertically?  First of all, you are going to need a structure that is capable of supporting the weight of the plants and the fruit that they will eventually bare.  It is built from treated lumber comprised to 2x4s and 4x4s.

For the gardener who decides to grow a single row of vertical crops you will need to build a t-frame.  The Mittleider Gardening Course book discusses building t-frames on page 132 and has illustrations of them on page 278.

Growing tomatoes vertically under a-frames in a Mittleider garden grow box
Growing tomatoes vertically under a-frames in a Mittleider garden grow box

You can see the A-frames we built over our 18 inch grow boxes in this video:

What twine do I need?

The twine you need for growing tomatoes vertically needs to be rated at 170 pounds or better.  The common 110 pound is cheaper and often more readily found on shelves, yet it is too small in diameter and will end up killing your tomatoes.

To help identify the correct twine for growing vertically in your garden look at the package.  you will see numbers similar to “9600/170”   That means that on one roll there is 9,600 feet of that twine which is rated to support 170 pounds.  Do NOT settle for the 110 stuff.

Here in our garden we use Tytan International twine.  It is orange in color and is generally sold in a two pack. Especially relevant in your choice of twine is something that is UV stabilized.  UV Stabilization helps ensure your twine can be used year after year and won’t breakdown under frequent exposure to the sunlight.  Rather than replacing twine every year buy something UV stabilized.

This is a picture of what we use in our garden.

baler twine for growing tomatoes vertically
baler twine for growing tomatoes vertically


Rather than buying this online you can try and source it locally at a farm store.  In my area we have Orscheln’s, $31.99 at Tractor Supply and even grain elevators and Coops that sell grain and other ranch supplies to farmers.


easy way to plant carrots

Easy way to plant carrots

Are you looking for an easy way to plant carrots?  If you are like me you dislike the task of trying to shake out those tiny seeds in an orderly fashion.  Even worse yet is trying to handle them one at a time!  It is very frustrating and very time consuming.  But there is an easy way to plant carrots.

Mix 100 parts sand to one part seeds

We mix our carrot seeds in with dry sand and then pour the sand into the area we want the carrots to grow. One cup of sand leaves enough room in a int sized mason jar to shake and mix in the seeds.

The carrot seed is added into a mason jar at one part seeds to 100 parts of sand and mixed thoroughly.   For our purpose we added 1/2 a teaspoon of carrot seeds to 1 cup of sand.

In the picture below you can see the sand that was applied in a row just over the top of the seed packs.  The one cup of sand and seeds ended up being 10 feet long once applied.

easy way to plant carrots using a jar and sand
easy way to plant carrots using a jar and sand

A better way of growing carrots if you have heavy clay soil

Our soil is has lots of clay and it makes any type of tuber grow funny.  This year I decided to try to grow carrots in a custom soil mix. The custom soil mix is two parts sawdust mixed with one part sand.  This custom soil will not compact around the carrot as it grows like would happen with clay.  You will see straight carrots with no deformity caused by the carrot growing around the clay.

We are trying two heirloom varieties this year in a section of our 30 foot long grow box.  They are Scarlet Nantes and the Imperator heirloom carrots.

Watch the video

And here is a follow on video that shows the results.  We didn’t thin them out like we should have done but are still enjoying carrots.