Now that it’s planting season, you will find our Mamma Mary Ellen in the garden. Knees covered in dirt and gloves on her hands, Mamma knows that the best tasting veggies and herbs come to you still a little dirty and well loved throughout the growing season.
Mamma Mary Ellen attributes her love for gardening and fresh veggies and herbs to her mother-in-law, Mammaw. Mammaw grew up in Conway, South Carolina and was the daughter of a tobacco farmer. Growing up Mammaw was constantly surrounded by local farms of friends and family members, and through that learned the hard work and love of growing things. She passed this on to her daughter-in-law, and eventually to her grand children whom she would have out in the garden picking beans and tomatoes.
Mary Ellen eventually tried her own hand at gardening when she and the family moved from the coast to the upstate of South Carolina. In the upstate, she had more room to grow a garden and all her children by then had swapped their backyard running days for 4 wheel cruising. Saturday mornings then became a time for our Mamma May Ellen to play in the dirt and plant seeds without interruption. Much to the benefit of her household, Fall would be filled with the fruits of her labor! We in the office even got to partake in the harvest this past season!
While the harvest season is in the Fall, Mamma Mary Ellen enjoys her veggies and herbs year around. “I spray a baking sheet with a bit of Pam, place the sliced veggies on them and the put the whole tray in the freezer. Once everything is frozen, I pull out the tray and slide all the veggies into a freezer bag so that everything isn’t frozen in one big lump and I can pull out what I need for meals.”
Mamma Mary Ellen’s favorite veggies to grow are asparagus, tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions. The cucumbers, tomatoes and onions are her favorites because of their utility...the asparagus she loves because she doesn’t have to share! While those are her favorite, in her garden you will find: mint, parsley, basil, string beans, busch beans, squash, zucchini, green peppers, okra and radishes. She tried corn last year, but found that “the squirrels like the corn too much. I won’t be planting that again.”
Try your hand at gardening this spring! Follow these helpful tips from Mamma Mary Ellen on some great things to grow this season!
To plant a tomato plant, dig your hole deep enough that you can set the base in along with half of the plant. In the hole, mix in fertilizer with the soil, and add water. Place the plant in the hole and mound dirt around the stalk of the plant. Tomato plants end up being very heavy, so much of its maintenance is just trying to keep the plant upright. Dig a trench around the mound. This is to ensure that the roots get enough water, and not just the leaves of the plant. To help keep your plant from falling over, we recommend purchasing a cage to hold it in place.
Generally, Mary Ellen waters her tomatoes up to two times a week. This is subject to change according to how much rain you get during the Spring and Summer months. If it rains a lot, back up on the amount you water. If it is a dry Summer, water your plant more than twice a week.
Favorite Tomato Dishes: Tomato Sauce, Tomato Pie
To plant beans, dig your hole a little deeper than the roots. Beans have a large vine that goes everywhere if you don’t watch it, so Mamma suggests that you make/buy a trellis or some chicken wire.
Water about twice a week. Like tomatoes, this is subject to change according to how much rain you have that season.
Favorite Bean Dishes: Green Bean Casserole, Roasted Parmesan String Beans
For basil, Mamma Mary Ellen plants it in a large and deep terra cotta pot. Basil is a pretty resistant plant so for those of you that think you don’t have a green thumb, this is a good herb to try to grow. Once you see basil starting to produce little flowers, pinch those off. The flowers are what is produced when the plant starts to seed.
Basil is a pretty thirsty plant, so this is a good plant to water every other day or even every day. Start out with every other day, and if you start to see the plant look a little wilted, water more often.
Favorite Basil Dishes: Pesto Tortellini, Caprese Salad
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