Sunday, December 27, 2009

Winter Landscape

I don't cut back a lot of my plants at the end of the season, for a few reasons: 1) I can be a bit lazy in the garden, 2) the plants provide food and shelter for wildlife, and 3) they just look so pretty with all that snow.

You can see all the bunny tracks in this picture; maybe not the wildlife I would like to be sheltering in my garden. But what you can't see is the several dozen chickadees and various other winter birds that dart around the garden picking food from the remaining vegetation. Nature's bird feeders.

They are especially good at getting the remaining seeds from the prickly echinacea. I love the contrast of the almost lethal looking spikes sticking from the soft, sparkly snow.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Winter Wind-down

We still haven't gotten any snow save for that little bit in October that melted rather quickly.

I have been working on my vegetable garden planting layout for next year and my seed order. I am hoping to find space to plant a little of all the seeds that I currently have now and will be ordering.

There are a lot of plastic containers in my basement ready for winter sowing -- my first attempt. Please leave me any advice and links to info!

I am also drawing up plans for a window greenhouse. I have a good sized window in my mud room that tends to get things piled in front of it (my son is the culprit) making it look really bad on the outside. It gets a lot of morning sun, so I thought it might be a nice place to set up some greens and herbs for winter use. I think that they will look much better through the window than piles of books and gym clothes!

I still haven't brought in my rosemary as it is holding it's own in the cold weather. It will come in this weekend. If you are a cold climate gardener - rosemary does just fine in a container and overwinters great in the house in a sunny window. In fact, the rosemary gets really tender in the winter and is even better!

I am continuing to research hoop houses looking for the best design for my uses. When I do build mine, you can be assured that there will be a step-by-step post. And I will be that much closer to year-round gardening!

Until then... I usually turn my attentions toward the kitchen in the winter, where I cook obsessively; much to the delight of anyone who knows me and lives near me as they get tons of great food (I cook way more than I could, or should, eat!). So, be sure to check out The Obsessive Gardener companion blog: The Obsessive Chef.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Who Ordered All This Damn Spinach?

I know it may be hard for a lot of people to believe, but when it comes to some things, I am not the best planner. Like my vegetable garden. I usually wait til the last minute and run out to the big box to buy plants and seeds, usually getting everything into the ground around, oh, mid-June. And as I'm planting I realize that I bought seeds that I already have 4 full packs of - like Bloomsdale spinach.

I am determined to change my ways! Who can eat all that spinach?

This weekend I spent some time inventorying my left over seeds. I have them listed by their plant types, variety names, amounts and age. Although many seeds remain viable for years, some have a shorter lifespan; I kept that in mind as I planned for which seeds I still need. I was surprised to see that I had most of the seed that I would need for next year.

Turns out, I have over 30 different kinds of vegetable seeds in hand right now:
Maxibel beans, edamame, jalepenos, sweet onion, AmericanFlag leek, Brandywine Pink tomato, Wayahead tomato, sweet basil, Romanesco broccoli, Listada de Gandia eggplant, Triple Treat pumpkin, Sweet Pie pumpkin, Black Beauty zucchini, buttercup squash, Table Queen squash, cantaloupe, SugarBaby watermelon, Blue Vates kale, Bloomsdale spinach, kohlrabi, turnip, mustard spinach, salad blend, Sweetness carrot, Baby Star lettuce, Buttercrunch lettuce, Ruby lettuce, Caesar Salad blend, Early Prolific straightneck summer squash, Waltham butternut squash, Packman broccoli, Swiss chard, and snow peas.
I just need:
beet, carrot, sweet pepper, parsnip, black eye peas, shallots, sweet peas, potatoes, rutabaga, brussels sprouts, pak choi, corn salad, arugula, and cucumbers.
I have been looking at the R.H. Shumway catalog (since they are now owned by Jung - a Wisconsin company). I have read some great things about them, and some not so great things. Generally the reviewers said that they have fantastic product, trouble is they may not ship it in time. I figure though with seed I should be safe, because if I do not get the seed when I need it, the stores should be stocked by then and I can just purchase from them. And seed will hold until the following season if necessary.

I'm trying to pace myself, but who knows... if I get the seeds early enough, I might even start some plants indoors!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

November Overhead

It was a beautiful day today and I got a lot done, but mostly I spent time in my garden (and a little time on my roof:). When I get enough money, I am going to get this power line underground. It is a nuisance for over head shots and when we want to sit outside and enjoy the stars.
This last week I even finished filling the new vegetable beds with compost. I also planted about 60 garlic cloves and the ten raspberry plants I got from a coworker. I still have rutabaga, Swiss chard, broccoli, kale, leeks, spinach and Brussel sprouts growing.

I know it seems a little weird to be thinking of this when we haven't even started winter yet, but I am feeling really good about next year.

Garlic Planting

I love garlic! And I was reading about garlic planting on so many blogs that I just had to find a way to get it done this fall in my garden. I hadn't purchased any specialty garlic for planting, instead, I just headed to the grocery store and bought 8 bulk garlic bulbs. I did this a couple of years ago with great success. The garlic doesn't taste the same after it grows in your garden - it's BETTER!

I tore the bulbs apart to get the cloves I would need for planting. I just plant the cloves, just as you see them in the picture above, in 2-3 inch deep holes about 2-3 inches apart. No fertilizer or protection necessary. They are very hardy and will sprout in spring giving me usable bulbs around mid-June. A lot of people take the biggest for planting, I take the smallest and save the biggest for kitchen use.

After planting all the small cloves, I chopped up the bigger cloves and put them in a sterilized jar with oil for storage in my refrigerator for later use. I find that the grocery store garlic does not store well in my kitchen, so I thought I would give this technique a try*.

What is really strange is that once this garlic has had a while to grow in my garden, it not only improves greatly in flavor, it also improves in storage quality. It easily keeps right on my kitchen counter for the entire winter!

*I have been reading that even if storing in the refrigerator this may not be safe to eat raw due to potential botulism - however, I will only be using this for cooking so this will be fine for me as high heat for ten minutes will destroy any toxins that may be present according to the FDA.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

What Makes A Good Blog (and what doesn't)

The Crafty Gardener was asking what his readers look for in a blog and what added gadgets they actually use and Nell Jean at Secrets of Seed Scatterer was telling her readers what she liked and disliked about blogs. And as opinionated as I am, I just felt a post a-brewin!

For choosing a blog to read I go through the following process:
(pause cursor on sentences for hover text)
  1. Intriguing blog title.
  2. A great blog header will keep me there for a look-see.
  3. Clutter is a big turn off.
  4. Newest post either visible upon entry or not too far a scroll away is a MUST!
  5. Author info at the top is definitely the way to go.
  6. A well thought out, well written post is also a MUST.
  7. I LOVE humor!
  8. Pictures aren't necessary for every post, but do add to the experience.
  9. I prefer blogs that allow comments.
  10. I HATE word verification!
  11. No pitch black backgrounds with bright white text - Headache City!!

  1. Fabulous photos
  2. Post labels
  3. Authors who read and respond to comments
  4. Blogrolls.
  5. Hyperlink references in posts
  6. Posts that teach me something.
  7. A passionate, funny writer that isn't afraid to go off on a good rant now and then ;)
Specifically for garden blogs:
  1. Wide shots of the garden
  2. Pictures that include the whole plant
  3. Step-by-step instructions
  4. Names of plants in the pictures
  5. Your planting zone and soil type
Now I'm not saying that mine is a perfect example of a perfect blog. In fact I have seen so many blogs that I feel mine can only aspire to be like. But, I found it useful to see other blog readers' ideas of a great blog and thought you might too.

Tell me what you like (and dislike) about blogs!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Veggie Bed Overhead

Here is an overhead view of my vegetable garden with the newest bed installed and two other "possible" beds laid out. The small bed will be for raspberries and the big bed is for pumpkins. The other bed will be a general bed. If everything goes well tomorrow I will be finishing all these and hopefully get them filled with compost before the end of the day.

Update (Saturday 2:18pm): I got called in to work, so I didn't make very great progress on this project. I will post a picture of my progress most likely tomorrow.

Update (Saturday 5:56pm):

I don't have the rebar in or the beds filled with compost, but I do have them leveled and ready to go whenever it quits raining...

Update (Sunday 5:32pm): It didn't rain like it was supposed to so I got the rebar installed on all the beds. Yay for me! I got an abrasive saw disc to cut the rebar to shorter pieces (1' instead of 2'); and I got an auger bit big enough to get through all three stacked pieces of landscape timbers which really sped things up! The disc cost $6 (but you can get them at the Big Boxes for $3) and the auger bit cost me $8 (and boy was it hard to find! Got it at Menards). Both were definitely worth their prices!

Monday, October 19, 2009

I Have Leeks!

I started leeks from seed three years ago. I didn't get any that first year that were big enough to eat, but I was very glad that I didn't pull them out in the fall as they overwintered just fine, much to my surprise.

The second year the leeks didn't get big enough either, but one of them did bloom. Again, I left them over the winter. And again they did just fine.

This year I found new leek seedlings from the seeds that blooming leek produced. Back in September I reported that the leeks had yet again failed to produce stalks big enough to use, so imagine my surprise when I pulled one that had seeded in an inconvenient place as I was cleaning the beds for winter and found that it was indeed big enough to use! In fact I found enough that were big enough that I could make my yummy leek and potato soup!

So it only took three years. I'm patient, because it's no work at all just waiting. I had 5 blooms this year, which means even more leeklings next year. I will just keep letting them do all the work and enjoying the results :)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Weather Reprive

After snowing/sleeting much of the week, it warmed up for the weekend allowing me to get some things done:
  • Weeded all the main garden paths
  • Raked the yard and mowed the leaves for mulch
  • Pulled all the dead plants and weeds from the veggie beds
  • Emptied the rain barrels for winter storage
  • Weeded some of the main garden for planting
  • Weeded the whole front bed for planting
  • Planted all but one of the 99cent plants I got from Home Depot
  • Laid out a new raised bed (to be finished later this week, hopefully)
  • Planted about half of the remaining spring bulbs
  • Harvested the rest of the beets, black-eyed peas, the shallots and the carrots
I was really surprised to see the carrots. I grow them in small pots because I have a nematode problem in my vegetable garden. Usually they never make a nice root. I was pulling them up to store the pots for the winter and there they were, chunky little carrots :) Not enough to make pickled carrots like I would like, but great for snacking. Garden fresh carrots are the best!

Speaking of canning, here is a picture of some of my harvest preservation efforts so far. I have canned lots of applesauce, tomato sauce, salsa, pickled beets, strawberry jam, grape jam, zucchini dill pickles, and zucchini sweet pickles. I have also dried mullein, black eye peas, apple wedges and made apple chips. Then there is all the vegetables I froze. A couple of days ago I used some of the broccoli that I froze earlier in the season - it was so GREEN! Even after cooking it!

Here are all the spring bulbs that I needed to get planted. Notice that there are bulbs here that weren't in the picture I took last week? I told you they follow me home!

I planted all the species tulips, one bag of the Princess Irenes, the Mr. Fokker anemones, The irises, and the bleeding heart. I still have almost 300 bulbs to plant! I'm going to love it in the spring, but right now - UGH!

UPDATE 10/19/09: It's 1:30pm and I am done planting ALL the bulbs! WHEW! Now I have to tackle the raised bed...

Monday, October 12, 2009

My Garden at the Moment...

Of course. Because I still have so much left to do in the garden.

Here's What I Still Have To Plant:
About 2/3 of these bulbs/plants plus three 14ct packages of Princess Irene tulips (which I bought a month ago and completely forgot!), 24ct bag of Mr. Fokker anemones, a 24ct bag of Azureum muscari and a 50ct bag of Lilac Wonder tulips.
And all of these 19 perennials, which I picked up at Home Depot when I was playing hooky Friday to... stop looking at me that way! It was fate! I got there just as they finished re-pricing all their perennials to 99cents!! I could not pass that up. I was practically stealing them. And they had some great plants, not just all Autumn Joy sedum and no-name hostas. I got: 2 Twilight hostas, a Christmas hosta, 2 Silver Mound, a Frances William hosta, 4 Can Can heucheras, 2 May Night salvia, a Snow Hill salvia, 2 Sunny Border Blue speedwells, a Moonshine achillea, a Pizzaz hosta, an Elegans hosta and a clematis (that I forgot to grab a tag for so I don't know what it is, but I think it was Jack).

Oh and just in case you don't yet think I am crazy...I was playing hooky to pick up another two bushels of apples from my orchard friend/coworker and to go pick the remaining apples at another friends house (another bushel worth). I am determined to not run out of applesauce!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

New Approach to Bulbs - Trial 2

I have been planting spring bulbs every year for years, and it has gotten to the point that I spend more time replanting bulbs I accidentally dig up trying to plant new bulbs than I spend actually planting the new bulbs! Also, I can't really tell where I need bulbs and what colors I need where.
Last year I devised a plan to have my bulbs planted yet portable so that I could place them in the garden in the spring when I would be able to actually see where they should go. I gathered all the perennial pots that I had saved (and even got a few from my friends) and planted a big cheap mixed bulb pack in the pots, secured those in a little loose compost and covered with leaves. The bulbs did just fine and I was able to group the bulbs and plant them where I needed them in the spring.

It worked so well, in fact, that I decided to try it again this year. I already planted the area I used last year with perennials, so I used my vegetable garden this year - I'm not going to be using it until after I can get these bulbs out of the ground anyway. I put them in pots rather than planting them directly in the garden and digging them out to transplant because I tend to do a lot of damage digging bulbs and I want these blooming next spring. I will be trying a straight planting for the purpose of transplanting with some smaller bulbs that don't need to be planted so deep.

Last year I planted one bulb per pot since I didn't know what each bulb would be, since it was a mixed pack, and I wanted to be able to group the like bulbs together. This year I used specific varieties and planted 2-4 per pot.

So far this year I have purchased 486 bulbs - I have about a third of them now planted -- and there most likely will be more to come, they just follow me home :)

Monday, October 05, 2009

Barter Harvest

I don't have an apple tree, but I do know people with them and I know one that owns an orchard and loves grape jam and pickled beets. And I have that to spare. So what do you get for a couple jars of jam and a jar of pickled beets? Two bushels of apples; quite a bargain barter!
He asked me what I wanted, I told him whatever would be good for applesauce. I got one bag of Sweet Sixteen (very sweet), 2 bags Cortland (very tangy and crisp), 1 bag Macks (very firm), 1 bag Honey Crisp (set those aside for fresh eating), 1 bag Chestnut Crab (very good, sweet, crisp apples - just the right size for a quick snack. Those I saved too), 1 bag Connell (good all around apple), and 2 mystery mixes.

I looked up a bunch of applesauce recipes and they all said that you needed a food mill. I didn't have a food mill, and wasn't going to be able to get one at 8pm on a Sunday night, so I winged it, as usual. I thought I might be able to press the cooked apples through my steamer basket, but then decided that I would just peel the apples instead and use an immersion blender. Worked perfect, except that peeling two bushels of apples is a pain in the butt!

Here's a tip to keeping the apples from browning while you're peeling all those apples: add some crushed vitamin C tablets to a bowl of water to keep the cut pieces in. The ascorbic acid in the C keeps the apples from browning.

The recipe is easy, just cored peeled apples, some water, and if desired: lemon juice, sugar and spices. Apples are high acid, so water bath canning is fine. The lemon juice option is just to maintain color. Some batches I sweetened, others I left plain. I used cinnamon and ginger for spices and dark brown sugar for sweetening.

My son assured me that these will not be around longer than a month. I'd better get more apples.

BTW: the really dark jars are pickled beets.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Mullein Harvest 2009

I grow mullein in my garden for a few reasons: I never have to plant it, the birds love it, it is pretty, and it makes a fantastic decongestant!

You can see how I use it in the garden here.

And you can see how I use it in my kitchen here.

To dry the leaves, I usually just clean them with either a little water or brush them off with a soft brush (like a paint brush) and then lay them on baking racks to dry for a couple of weeks. The results have been good, but I recently tried a drying method that works even better and faster. I just got some cheap thread, strung them up and hung the string of it in my kitchen.

I left a few mullein growing around the garden here and there just for picking off the leaves throughout the summer. I pick all but a few in the center to keep the plant alive so it can continue to produce leaves. Here is my harvest so far this year, dried and packed for storage:

Last year I had filled that big jar in the back, and it was gone before March. This just might get us through the winter this year.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Little More Left

Concord grapes. This is less than half of the harvest. I picked two more of these large bowls full of grapes and even left a bunch on the vine for the birds anxiously waiting in the lilac for me to finish. I have preserved over dozen pints of jam - and if you haven't had home-made grape jam, you don't know what you are missing! I traded some of the grape jam for apples from an orchard owner I know. He gets sick of apples, so was very happy to get something grapey instead.

Empress of India nasturtium and some kind of aster that I don't immediately remember the name of. This aster always looks like it is just not going to make it all summer, but then some time in mid-August it takes off and starts to bloom in September. It doesn't look very good with that red nasturtium, but I think the nasturtium leaves match well. Perhaps a pastel nasturtium next year?

I know a lot of you may see this bloom and say, "Oh no!" But I love this little weed! It is an annual hibiscus. Although it self-seeds freely, it is easy to weed out where you don't want it. I was lucky enough to have a large patch of these this year so that they packed a bigger punch when they did bloom -- which is usually for a few hours mid-day.

Purple Prince zinnia. I need to grow more zinnia next year. They are so easy and beautiful. Some of them even looked like dahlias, which I won't grow because they are too much maintenance.

Gaillardia. I have been trying to spread this sport around. I think yellow is rather harsh, but the orange and red in this one is very beautiful. So far I have managed to multiply this from the initial sport to about a dozen of the same color pattern in the last two years.

Blue Boy phlox. I have had this phlox for years and this is the first that it has bloomed. Not really blue, but a welcome bloom for the garden anyway.

Main garden. It is such a lovely view from my kitchen window.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

GBBD September 2009

I couldn't take pictures on the 15th for Garden Blogger Bloom Day, hosted at May Dream Gardens, as I was at work all while the sun was out. And today, well, it might finally rain, yay! But not such good weather for taking pictures :( So forgive me for the far less than average quality.

Repeat bloomers:
Blue Ravine clematis
I planted these with Comtesse de Bouchard because Blue Ravine blooms in spring and fall and CdB blooms in summer.

It is a native to this area and I was surprised to see it repeat after blooming in early summer. But not as surprised as I was to see this next flower repeat...

Oriental poppy
I do not remember ever having one of these repeat bloom. It must have been the cool summer.

Non repeat bloomers:
Desdemona Ligularia
As always this one is great, for the foliage and the flowers. I grow this one in full sun and it LOVES it! It is usually one of the last plants I have to water too. I don't know if it dug a well or it is just not as thirsty as other ligularias, but I'm not asking if it keeps performing like this.

Plum Crazy hibiscus
I am "plum crazy" for this, the queen of my garden. It is my longest lived hibiscus (all others have perished long ago) and I would like to expand its area, or get other hibiscus. There are a few that I've had my eye on.

Main Garden
Again, sorry about the fuzzy shot, but you can see that I have a lot more blooming: Autumn Joy sedum, sunflowers, Purple Prince and mixed zinnias, sweet allysum, White Swan and purple echinacea, alpine strawberries, feverfew, Stella de Oro, catchfly, Red Prince weigela, Picote cosmos, two kinds of heliopsis, garlic chives, two kinds of rudbeckia, gailardia, and lots of different kinds of asters. Fall has never looked so good out in my garden!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Black-eyed Peas

A few years back my son ate black-eyed peas for the first time and loved them. Even though a bag of them is pretty cheap at the grocery store, I decided to try to grow them this year for him. They have proved to be a very interesting plant.

They were easy to start, just set for a few days in moist paper towel to sprout, then plant in the ground. Just about every one of my bean sprouts survived.

They do not seem to be bothered by pests. Whereas my edamame and Maxibels without protection were eaten to the ground by rabbits, the rabbits left these completely alone.

The flowers are beautiful and vary in color from bright white, to cream, to almost light tan. Unlike a lot of bush type beans, these flowers are held high on the plant so you can actually see and enjoy them.

The beans are, of course, also held high on the plant. They actually sit almost on top of the plant and are held out horizontally. This adds its own interest to this plant. It also makes it very easy to monitor and harvest the beans.

The black ants love these plants and can always be seen at the base of the bean stems. They seem to be harvesting a thick sap that is oozing from that place on the plant. This may be one of the factors that keep the insect pests away. The ants do make it a little tricky to harvest, as they do try to protect their plant, but I haven't been bit yet and a simple shaking of the plant knocks loose most ants.
Here are beans harvested from two ripe pods. The nice thing about harvesting dry bean is that you don't need all the beans to ripen at once for processing. I will just pick as they ripen, dry the beans, and store in a jar for later use. Easy. I like easy.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Food Garden Results Summary - 2009

As you may recall I planted three raised vegetable beds this year. I always crowd my beds, but I stretched the limits this year seeing where I could gain a bit more space. This is an updated report on my findings. All amounts were based on the needs/usage of a family of three.
  • 4ft of curled vates kale More than enough and then some. There was enough for us, our neighbor and the food shelf. It is still producing strong too! Will grow in some shade but prefers full sun. Allow for it to spread at least 12" across.
  • 8ft Bloomsdale spinach Plenty unless you do a lot of freezing/canning. This was direct seeded and was producing within a month. Seed was collected and it was torn out sometime in mid August. I planted some of the seed at that time and it is almost producing secondary leaves. OK to crowd with itself, doesn't make a great understory/interplant plant.
  • 10ft mixed lettuce This was maybe too much unless you eat salads EVERY DAY. I did bring some to the food shelf. I like the mixed lettuce. If one kind does not do well, you always have others and it makes your salads much more interesting. Worked great to plant this under the broccoli along the edge of the bed where it would still receive light but also receive cool shading from the broccoli.
  • 8 Packman broccoli This was a good variety and amount. I had enough for all our uses and some left over for the food shelf and the neighbor. I planted this early (late April) with no cover. They grew well even when spaced only 10" apart - I might try 8" next year. I would also insert a corral around the row when young as they get tall and flop over sometime in August -- or I could just try cutting back hard when I harvest to keep them short.
  • 11 mixed pepper plants These were fussy! Only interplant with very short plants. They do not like competition for light, and they need lots of it! I had 4 jalepeno plants and although this pepper did the best of all that I planted, this was not enough for salsa.
  • 4 Early Girl tomatoes & 11 mixed tomatoes I really like Early Girl tomatoes; they are my favorite that I have grown so far - excellent flavor, size, and consistency for both fresh eating and sauces; and they can be started a lot earlier than all other tomatoes that I have grown (I started them in early May with a row cover). I made the mistake this year of getting indeterminate plants, oops! But these four plants out-produced all my other tomato plants combined! Although, part of the reason that the other tomatoes didn't do as well was because I grew peas on their cages and the peas did better than expected, ultimately completely covering the tomatoes! I might get the indeterminate again and trellis them.
  • 2 spaghetti squash I had interplanted/understoried these in the middle of the tomato corral. This actually worked fairly well as the vine was very long and easily found its way out of the corral and wound around it. I only have one squash fruit - which actually is better than the none that I have gotten in previous years.
  • 2 zucchini This has always been sufficient... except this year. They had silver leaf and only produced three squash so far.
  • 57 garlic Need more garlic!!! This only produced a quart of garlic bulbs for me. I tried interplanting some with the broccoli -- no deal. The broccoli choked them out. The garlic I harvested were planted in a patch all by themselves.
  • 34 Maxibel filet beans This was more than enough, they started producing in June and have produced fairly heavily until a few weeks ago. I ripped out a few of the plants to allow room for my peppers. This sparked another wave of bean production in the remaining bean plants. I LOVE the flavor of them, but I do not like their fuzzy texture. I need to find a great tasting smooth green bean. I tried to interplant spinach and rutabaga, but the beans quickly choked them out.
  • 16 rutabaga I got these from over-crowded seedling in my neighbors garden some time in early July. I interplanted and underplanted them throughout the garden. They work out great for growing along the edge of the bed, but do not survive in shady spots. I have one mature rutabaga right now. My others are suffering from not enough watering. I do not know how well they will store, so I don't know if this is a sufficient amount.
  • 100+ sweet peas Can you ever have enough sweet peas? I think that I did reach that perfect amount this year. I grow enough for me and my neighbor (family of 3+), since she can't seem to grow them. I only use them fresh. If I were to start freezing I would have to grow about twice as many. I found that sprouting the seeds before planting made a huge difference in survivability and proper spacing. I usually grow these on my tomato cages/corrals without any problems, but this year the peas went nuts and overtook most of my tomato plants!
  • 50-75 large leaf sweet basil More basil please!! It takes so much just to make a little pesto that I almost need to grow a whole bed of basil to fully meet my basil demand. I thought I didn't like basil until I tried this variety. I can use this in many of the same ways that I use spinach -- it's just spicier. I always harvest the top half and let the plant regrow, but I'm thinking what I might want to do in the future is harvest just the big leaves and leave all the side buds; they might regrow faster. OK for interplanting as long as they get enough light.
  • 3 yellow straight-neck summer squash I actually loved this squash. Why haven't I grown it before? It turns out my squash-hating husband loves it too. This number of plants was sufficient unless I find more ways of using and storing.
  • 8sqft of volunteer American Flag leek They don't like to be crowded by other plants. These start well for me and even overwinter, but I have yet to get a usuable leek from my patch. What's the secret?
  • 6 turnips They are still tiny as the turnips that I thought I planted earlier were actually something else - salad mustard?? I started these plants from seed late July. I might get some turnips out of them. I've interplanted them with the brussell sprout plants I picked up in late July from Menards for 6/50cents. That's working out very well as the sprouts get tall and leave plenty of room for the turnips to spread out underneath.
  • 1 Triple Treat pumpkin Not enough. Luckily I was able to take over my friends' unused garden and plant 7 more of these :) I tried these on a trellis. They get a little too heavy for that and are probably better off grown ground level. Fantastic pumpkin for pies and seeds (the seeds lack the woody shell), and are great small Halloween pumpkins. Although you can carve these, I want to use the meat, so I just paint them.
  • 2 Table Queen acorn squash This will end up being plenty. They were great producers and grow well on the trellis.
  • 2 buttercup This one is producing better than last year. I am growing it on the trellis and it is taking that well. I haven't tried this squash yet as I didn't get any of the plants to fruit last year, so I don't know if I want more of this one.
  • 2 Waltham butternut The year before this was plenty, but this year they aren't producing as well. I think it is because it is very cool. I am trying them on the trellis for the first time and they are taking that well. I don't think that this affected the production.
  • 6 edamame This will not be enough. They have yet to produce any beans. That could be because the rabbits kept eating them down to nothing all spring until I put a fence around the plants. These plants are tough! I interplanted a few beets with them and this worked out well.
  • 16ft Detroit Red beets I though that this was going to be too many, but now I am finding I wish I had more. If I was just using them for fresh eating it would be plenty, but I want to can some pickled beets and am falling short of what I'd like to have. They are easy to grow and the seeds last FOREVER. They are great for interplanting and underplanting as their leaves don't get very tall and they tolerate shade very well.
  • 16ftblack-eyed peas This is the first year that I have grown them. My son loves them so I thought I would give them a try. They have beautiful flowers and unique fruits - they hold the bean pods horizontally above the leaves. Ants love these plants! I think the plants give the ants a nectar in return for them protecting the plants from pests as I see the ants eating a clear goo from the base of the pod stems and the plants are not bothered by any pests. If these turn out to be worth growing for beans, this will not be enough; otherwise it is a good amount for just some interest in the garden. They don't seem to mind the encroaching squash either. They get too bushy for inter or underplantings other plants with them.
  • 10 sweet yellow onions Not enough, because I really have none. The onions did not mind being transplanted once, but when I had to transplant them again to get them out from under the over-growing squash leaves, they gave up. Not successful for underplantings, but might work well in a loose interplanting - need lots of sun.
  • 6 shallots These were re-freshers (I had bought them from the grocery store but didn't use them before they got too shriveled to use, so I threw them in the garden to re-beef - I do that with my spring onions too). I might try to grow them for real next year. They are growing well even in their shady spot.
  • tons of volunteer lamb's quarter which not only are an edible weed, but are high in nutrients and are darn tasty! I started to pull these out of the garden around the time that the lettuce was on its way out to make way for the other plants growing bigger.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The CobraHead Cometh

Carol, over at May Dreams Garden was hosting a CobraHead weeder giveaway - and I won! did everyone else who entered, which is fantastic. What a generous company CobraHead is! Ehem... did I mention that they are a Wisconsin company?

The handle is the kind of plastic that I really like, a warm, strong composite. The grip is ergonomic, which is really important since I have a LOT of weeding to do! Example:

Garden pathway before.

Garden pathway after.
Much better. Thanks CobraHead!

I found that the thing that this tool was best at was grabbing the break-away weeds that are so difficult to weed by hand. It cut through the compact soil of the pathway without any difficulty at all. I was able to get all the weeds out of this 10ft section of pathway in less than half an hour without any fatigue, soreness or blisters. Hurray!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Down and Dirty

I had read on a few blogs about the Picture This photo contest over at Gardening Gone Wild but had never thought to enter it until now. The theme for August’s Picture This Photo Contest is “Down on Your Knees” - a picture taken at knee level or lower. I LOVE those pictures! And I had the perfect subject out in the garden. So here is my first entry to Picture This:

Saturday, August 15, 2009

GBBD August 2009

When I went out in my garden for photos for this post, I was sure there would be none to find. I was wrong.


I had a White Swan echinacea a few years ago that looked to have been taken over by its purple babies. Now, this year, I have three white cone flower plants!

I have no idea what this plant is. It was labeled "Blue Lake" veronica.

I planted over a dozen Stargazer lilies, and I am left with three.

I always liked the way that the "Goldsturm" and the dwarf liatris looked together.


I got a few Zebrina malva plants from my parents a few years ago and they have been self seeding the same area ever since. I move them where I want them in the spring when they start popping up.

I didn't think that these Empress of India nasturtiums would ever bloom.

These touch-me-not volunteers are very welcome in my garden since they help combat the affects of the gas plant.

Catchfly, one of my favorite volunteers.

Rudbeckia hirta, another of my favorite volunteers.

And, finally! My black eyed peas are blooming!

Go see what other gardeners are doing on the 15th of August over at May Dreams Garden's Garden Blogger Bloom Day.

BTW- I am going out of town for a few days, but will catch up on your comments and all your blooms when I get back.