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Saturday, April 30, 2016

What is companion planting with vegetables plants?

The gardening season is among us, you are probably in the midst of getting your garden planted. When planning out your garden and as you are planting you might consider companion planting with your vegetable plants.

Here in the Midwest, we have had a mild Spring so far. Some pretty decent warming spells piggybacked with some cooler temperature days and rainy days in between. But it is warming up and summer is on its way. Here on our produce farm we have a variety of cooler weather crops planted outside as well as some tomatoes and peppers planted in our cold frames to get a head start on growing for the season and things are growing well.

When we are planting our garden, some of the varieties of produce we grow we plant according to companion plants. We have had a few of our customers at the farmers market ask us if we companion plant. We do with some of our produce. Here is a little more about what companion planting is.

So what does companion planting mean?

Companion planting is a simple concept. It is planting two or more plants together for a mutual benefit. Companion planting with vegetables can enhance quality and growth.

There are several benefits of companion planting with vegetables:
- Support - some vegetables are used to physically support other vegetables. For example, pole beans or peas can be planted with sweet corn so the sweet corn can act as a trellis for the beans or peas.
- Shelter - tall plants provide shelter and protection from wind and too much sun.
- Attracting beneficial insects - attracting insects such as bees are beneficial with pollinating.
- Soil improvement - some vegetable plants improve the soil conditions for other plants to grow. For example, beans add nitrogen to the soil being beneficial to other plants.

There are so many different ways you can do companion planting in the garden! The following are some combinations you can try.

Beans: Combine with carrots, cauliflower, cucumbers, and cabbages. Pole beans pair with corn.

Beets: Combine with kohlrabi. They have similar growing requirements, work great together, and also a space saver. The beet grows under ground and the kohlrabi grows above ground.

Lettuce: An all around good plant to have in the garden. Does great with strawberries, cucumbers, carrots, radish, etc.

Tomatoes and peppers make a great combination.

Potatoes: Combine with beans and corn.

Marigolds: Plant throughout the garden and around the border to deter pests.

Do you practice companion planting in your vegetable garden? What are some combinations you do? Give some of these combinations a try or experiment with some of your own to strive for enhanced growth of your vegetables by using plants that work well with one another.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Chocolate Cherry Trifle Dessert

Fruit desserts are always a favorite of mine! This Chocolate Cherry Trifle Dessert is definitely one of them and great for a large crowd occasion.

I hosted a get together this past week and thought the trifle would be a great addition to the other appetizers I had available. This time of year is the start of the busy season here on our farm. We have been busy getting the greenhouses planted with tomatoes and peppers. We also have cool season vegetable crops planted outside. Its been a mild Spring so far, but looking forward for our produce crops to grow. Since it's a busy time of year, this trifle is perfect to put together when you don't have a lot of time to spend in the kitchen. Plus it looks nice layered so pretty in the trifle bowl.

 So many flavors packed into one dessert! A delicious blend of chocolate cake gives each bite a rich chocolaty flavor. The cherry add a little tart juiciness to the dessert. The mixture of pudding and Cool Whip adds a nice texture of creaminess. An extra blast of chocolate and little crunch is added with the chocolate chunks within the trifle and on the top.

Chocolate Cherry Trifle Dessert


1 pkg (9 oz) devil's food cake mix (plus ingredients to make the cake)
2 cans (30 oz) cherry pie filling
2 large bars of Hershey's milk chocolate candy bars,  chopped into little chunks
2 pkgs of cheesecake pudding (prepared)
1 8 oz container Cool Whip


Bake devil's food cake as described on the box. Cool Completely. Cut cake into 1 inch cubes and set aside. Prepare the cheesecake pudding in a large mixing bowl as described on the box. After the pudding is set, mix in the thawed Cool Whip and blend together well with the pudding. Chop the milk chocolate candy bars into little chunks using food chopper. In a trifle bowl, layer the chocolate cake cubes, the cherry pie filling, the cool whip/pudding mixture, and sprinkle the chocolate chunks. About 2 layers of each will fill up the trifle bowl with the cool whip/pudding mixture garnished with the chocolate chunks sprinkled on the top. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour before serving.


If you're looking for a delicious crowd pleaser, than this dessert is for sure it! 

Monday, April 11, 2016

New Look for The Backroad Life

If you have been over here to the blog the last few posts you have noticed a new look! I am loving the fresh new look with the colors, the wider and cleaner screen, and the little touches of country in the graphics.

The home page is where all my blog posts are.

There are several tabs under the header that will lead you to other areas of my blog.
About me to tell you a little more about myself.
In the farm tab, I share about our produce and pumpkin farm.
The recipes tab, is a collective list of all my recipe posts in one spot.
I have an Etsy shop tab, that will link to my Etsy shop.
Then there is a media tab for advertising, a contact and a subscribe tab. Feel free to subscribe to my blog for occasional and eventually regular newsletters.

I am so excited about this new design done by Traci Michele! I was given her name by a fellow blogger and she is great to work with. She was able to put together a combination of things that I was wanting to achieve the new look of my blog and great to work with. I definitely recommend Traci if you need any blog design work done!

Thank you for stopping by The Backroad Life....my little place in the country.....

Friday, April 1, 2016

What to Plant In Your Spring Garden

The Spring season is here! If you're like me, you look forward to the warmer months and are glad when Spring rolls around to know you're pretty close to those warmer temperatures. With the Spring season comes garden and flower season. Who doesn't love to spruce up their garden or home with a little Spring color! There are some great annual flowers you can get started with in the early Spring to add that pop of color and to get your garden season going.

The cooler weather can be hard on a garden as you never know how long it might last. But there are several annual flowers you can plant in the early Spring. They prefer the cooler temperatures of Spring and Fall. They do well in containers and planted in the ground and can stretch the garden season to seem much longer by planting early and late in the season.

Here is a list of some great cool season annuals you can print in your Spring garden. Most garden centers and shops will have a variety of these annuals in stock in the early Spring for those who like to start early.

- Diasca
- Pansies
- Violas
- Primrose
- Marigolds
- Cosmos
- Lobelia
- Verbena
- Geranium
- Dahlia

Pansies and Violas area a popular one that I like to add around my garden area. I specifically like to add them to my porch of my little garden shed. I have some window boxes and like to just set some pots of pansies out to add some Spring color.

You'll also want to keep an eye on the weather in early Spring. Be sure to not "jump the gun" when purchasing. The Spring weather still sometimes surprises us with random cold spells or continued snow. If not ideal weather is expected and you have annual flowers planted or in pots, cover them during the period of time or bring them into a protected area. Also, when the weather gets warmer, these cool weather loving annuals don't always thrive as well. So you'll want to add more warmer temperature annuals.

There are also many Spring blooming bulbs that you can add to your garden in the Fall for new planting to enjoy the following season. I will talk more about Spring bulbs in a later post. Most garden centers will also have these available in pots. I like to set them out and about around my garden shed or inside the home while they are blooming. Then after they bloom, you can transplant them to your garden to have for next year. Some of them are:

- Tulips
- Daffodils
- Hyacinth
- Crocus
- Anemone
- Grape Hyacinth
 - Iris

Lengthen your garden season and add some beautiful color by adding some spring annuals! You'll love the fresh pop of color and spruce up you'll be doing!!

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