One of the benefits of growing vegetables in zone 9 is that we are able to grow vegetables all year long.  

warm-season vegetables

However, despite our relatively mild winters, warm-season vegetables such as  peppers and tomatoes can’t handle temperatures when they dip below freezing.  So just before freezing temperatures hit, I run out to the garden and pick off all our tomatoes and peppers before pulling out the plants.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with doing this – I’ve done it for years.

green tomatoes

I allow my green tomatoes to ripen indoors – click here to see how.

overwinter my tomato and pepper plants

I then dice my green peppers, place them in a freezer bag and keep them in the freezer where I can use them whenever I make my kid’s favorite Mexican rice for dinner.

A few years ago, I decided to try to overwinter my tomato and pepper plants instead of pulling them out. 

overwinter my tomato and pepper plants

This is what my tomatoes looked like with no frost protection.  That was no surprise.

But the next year, I decided to protect my tomatoes & peppers by covering them with old sheets when temperatures dipped below 32 degrees.

I even went one step further and hung an outdoor light underneath the sheets.

To my surprise, both my tomato and pepper plants came through the winter just fine, with a small amount of frost damage, and I had an early start to the growing season.

It was a lot of work though – having to cover them and uncover them whenever temperatures dipped below freezing.

Also, that winter was a relatively mild one and temperatures never strayed below the upper 20’s.  However, we do occasionally experience temperatures that dip in to the low 20’s and in that case, protection or not, the peppers and tomatoes would most likely die whether or not they were protected.

So, do I still try to overwinter my tomato and pepper ?

The answer is “yes”and “no”.

overwinter my tomato and pepper plants

I do throw sheets over my peppers, but not my tomatoes.  The reason is that tomatoes are slightly more sensitive to the cold.

If we were to experience temperatures in the low 20’s, my 2-year old pepper plants would most likely not survive.  But, that is what it is like to grow vegetables – you try your best, but sometimes it’s not enough.

**Have you ever successfully overwintered a warm-season vegetable?**  

Newly Planted Vegetables

*This blog post contains affiliate link for a product that helps get rid of caterpillars. If you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). Thanks for your support in this way.*

Fall is a busy time for me in the garden.  However, you will usually find me in other people’s gardens helping them achieve their goal of a beautiful, low-maintenance garden. I did manage to get my cool-season vegetable gardens planted.  I planted my favorites, which include carrots, cauliflower, garlic, a variety of leaf lettuces and radishes.

my mother's garden)

I included broccoli in my list of vegetables this year, despite the fact that I have yet to grow a healthy head of broccoli (the broccoli in the photo above is from my mother’s garden).

Every year, I grow beautiful cauliflower while my broccoli decides to produce very few flowering stalks.  At the end of the season when I look at my less than stellar broccoli harvest – I promise myself that I won’t try again.

But, after 6 months pass, I am always tempted to try again hoping that this year will be different.

With the exception of carrots and radishes, I planted all of my other vegetables from transplants.  Normally, I almost always use seed, (with the exception of broccoli and cauliflower, which do better when grown from transplants) but I knew that I wouldn’t have time to come out and thin excess plants later.

Newly Planted Vegetables

This smaller vegetable garden is closer to my kitchen and so I put in vegetables that I would harvest more frequently throughout the season in this area. Leafy greens such as lettuce, Swiss chard, spinach and kale all went in here.

The larger garden is a bit further away and so it was planted with broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, garlic and radishes, which are harvested once.

My artichoke plant from next year died back to the ground in the summer, (which is normal by the way) and is now growing again.

bell pepper plant , Newly Planted Vegetable

In addition to my artichoke, my bell pepper plant is also a holdover from last year’s garden.  Actually, it is 2 years old.  Although pepper plants can die from freezing temperatures, I protect mine when the temps dip below freezing, so they are qutie large and produce a lot of peppers much to the delight of my husband and children who like to eat the bell peppers raw.

bell pepper plant

I also dice them and freeze them for using in my favorite Mexican rice recipe.

I’ve already had to spray my leafy greens with BT (Bacillus thuringiensis) to deal with the caterpillars that had started to eat holes in the leaves.  It worked great, but I will need to reapply every once in a while. I use Safer Brand 5163 Caterpillar Killer II Concentrate, 16 oz.

Nasturtiums ,

Nasturtiums are coming up again from seed in the gardens.  I just let them go to seed each year and they always come back.  I use nasturtiums in my vegetable gardens because they repel bad bugs.  Besides, they look pretty, don’t you think?

Nasturtiums

Nasturtiums aren’t the only flowers in my vegetable gardens – marigolds are also great at keeping damaging insects at bay.  This year, I planted a marigold at the end of each row of vegetables.

I love how their orange flowers brighten up the garden in the middle of winter.   Marigolds and nasturtiums are just a few of the flowers who actually help vegetables.  For more information on other plants to include in your vegetable garden you can visit my previous post, “Even Vegetables Need Friends”.

weed

I am having a problem in one of my vegetable gardens that began this past summer – spurge!  I have come to truly hate this creeping weed and it has decided to move from the nearby landscape areas into my vegetable garden.

It got pretty bad last summer and we ripped it all out.  To help combat it, we added 4 inches of compost/manure, which did help to smother some of the weeds.  But, some are still coming up.  So, I go out every week and spray them with my homemade weed killer, taking care not to spray my vegetables by accident.

You may see homemade weed killers that list salt as one of the ingredients.  DON’T add salt to weed killers – especially if you live in the desert Southwest. Our soil and water already has a lot of salts in them and adding more is not good for your plants – in fact, too much salt can kill them.

Homemade weed killer made from vinegar and soap works just fine on most weeds, except for the really tough ones.

Have you planted a vegetable garden this year?  What are you growing?

It’s a beautiful summer day outside, yet my mind is on fall and Halloween?

Why?

Because, this is what I discovered growing in my vegetable garden this morning…

Desert Vegetable Garden

Okay, maybe you cannot see it yet, but once you part the leaves…

white pumpkin

You can see a white pumpkin happily growing.

Desert Vegetable Garden: Getting Ready for Halloween???

I’m so excited to have a pumpkin growing in my garden again.

You might be scratching your head at this point and wonder why I have a pumpkin growing in the middle of summer.

Look at any vegetable planting calendar for zone 9a deserts and you will see that pumpkin seeds should be planted in mid-June if you want pumpkins ready for Halloween.

Pumpkin vines are fairly easy to grow and they will spread out a lot!  We found that out the hard way when we grew our first pumpkin vine a few years ago.

Even though pumpkin vines grow well, they rarely form pumpkin fruit (yes, pumpkins are technically a fruit) when planted in the middle June as recommended.

Our first pumpkin in 2010

Our first pumpkin in 2010 

BUT, pumpkins will often form if you plant the seeds a couple of months early.  I’ve grown pumpkins from seeds sown in spring before (click here).  Unfortunately, I have had no luck having pumpkins from from seeds sown in June (as recommended).

So my plan is to allow my pumpkin to continue growing and then pick it when it is ripe in late July  or early August.

I’ll then store it in a cool, dry place where it should (hopefully) keep until I put out fall decorations in September.  I’m hoping it will last through October, but we will see.

*Incidentally, my mother has a white, heirloom pumpkin that she purchased last October that is still doing well and shows no signs of rot.  

heirloom pumpkin

I planted some heirloom pumpkin seeds from a pumpkin that I bought last fall, and the vine is growing well.  I hope to see a pumpkin forming on that vine soon.

From what I have observed, heirloom pumpkins with hard outer skin/shell seem to last a long time.

I’ll keep you updated as to how my pumpkin patch is doing and when my new pumpkin is ready to pick!

Springtime in the garden

Springtime in the garden is my favorite time of year.

Cool-season flowers are still in bloom while summer-bloomers are getting started.  The garden is awash in colorful flowers, vegetables, young fruit AND a few bugs and suckers.

I have two areas in my backyard where I grow edible plants.  Today, I invite you to take a tour of the largest edible garden, which is located along the side of my house.

Apple trees

Apple trees – April 2014 

At the back of the garden, are two apple trees that I planted last year.

They have grown so quickly.  This is what they looked like last year…

Newly planted apple trees

Newly planted apple trees – February 2013 

What a difference!

I’ll admit that this area looks rather barren.  There used to be flowering shrubs up along the wall, which we took out in order to plant edible plants.  

small apples forming

Usually, you have to wait a few years before you apple trees will produce fruit, so I was very surprised to see small apples forming.

apples

This is what they look like now.  The apples will ripen in June and I am all ready to make homemade applesauce, which tastes so much better then store-bought.

I wrote a post about how to make applesauce, which you can view here.

Blackberry flowers

Blackberry flowers 

Against the wall, behind the apple trees, are a row of blackberry bushes.

One of my favorite childhood memories are those of the blackberry bushes we had growing in our backyard in Southern California.  We would try to pick all we could before our dog would eat them.

Blackberry bushes are surprisingly easy to grow and there are thornless varieties available.  Unfortunately, some of my blackberry bushes are not thornless;-)

They are covered with flowers and small fruit.  BUT, I also saw something else on my berries…

few of my berries

Orange/black bugs covered a few of my berries.

I hadn’t seen this type of bug before, so I got to work on researching what these were.  Turns out they are the juvenile form of stink bugs – not good.

Evidently, they are fairly resistant to organic pesticides.  You can pick them off and squish them.

herb container

The chives, garlic, parsley, thyme and sage are doing very well in my herb container.  However, the purple petunia is beginning to fade due to warming temperatures.  So, I will pull it out soon.

Flowering Sage

Flowering Sage 

I don’t add flowers to my herb container during the summer.  I usually let my herbs flower, like my basil and sage.

small peaches

At the same time we planted our apple trees, I also added two peach trees.  I was surprised that this tree produced 19 small peaches just months after we planted it last year – that is not normal.  I used them along with peaches from my mother’s trees to make peach jam.

This year, the same tree has decided to put it energy into growing just 2 peaches – which is normal.  They are huge!  I love to look out my kitchen window and see the fruit slowly ripening.

While admiring the peaches on my tree, I noticed something that did NOT make me happy…

Bugs and Suckers

Can you see what the problem is?  SUCKERS!  And I don’t mean the sweet candy that your grandma used to give you.

Fruit trees are grafted onto rootstock and occasionally, the rootstock decides to send up its own branches.  They are called ‘suckers’ because the ‘suck’ up the nutrients that would otherwise got to your fruit tree.

To learn how to recognize and get rid of suckers, click here.

Bugs and Suckers

Underneath my apple and peach trees, I have garlic growing.  Garlic is a very helpful plant.  In this case, it helps to repel borers, which are beetles that lay eggs on the bark.  After the eggs hatch, the larvae bore their way into the trunk of the tree, often killing it.

Bugs and Suckers

Small fruit is beginning to form on my orange tree.  Like other fruit trees, it can take a few years before producing substantial amounts of fruit.

Our orange tree has been in the ground for 2 years and we got three oranges last winter.  I was so excited that I wrote an entire post about it.  

Bugs and Suckers

Looking toward the vegetable garden, my artichoke plant is busy.  It has 9 small artichokes growing.

I have a confession to make…

I don’t like eating artichokes.

But, the plant itself is very attractive and is often grown as an ornamental because it is a perennial and lives for more then 1 year.

I do have plans for these artichokes though.

– I will cook a few for my husband, who loves them.

– I will dry a few for fall arrangements.

– And, I will allow some to bloom – the flowers are gorgeous!

Bugs and Suckers

The purple violas in my rusty, old watering can will soon fade as the heat rises.

I do not plant anything in it during the summer months because it is too hot.  The soil temperature in small containers, literally ‘cooks’ the roots of plants.  Stick with planting larger pots for the summer and let your smaller containers take a break.

Bugs and Suckers

 At the beginning of this post, I showed you a picture of my edible, side garden from the opposite side, near the wall.

This is the other view, looking in.  Toward the left side, are two ‘Summertime Blue’ Eremophila shrubs.

Can you guess the last time that they were pruned?

3 years ago!

I love these shrubs and their bright-green foliage and purple flowers.  

Bugs and Suckers

Bell-shaped, lavender flowers appear spring through summer.  This is a great ‘fuss-free’ shrub for the garden. It is hardy to 15 degrees and thrives in full sun. A definite must for the southwest garden.

For more information about ‘Summertime Blue’, click here.

************************

Well, that is what is happening in one area of my garden.

I invite you to come back next time, when I will show you my other edible garden, which is in full flower.  *I will also share with you the rest of our adventure when we hosted three young girls for the weekend from the Ugandan Orphan’s Choir.

Yesterday, I asked you on my Facebook page, what was blooming in your garden right now?

March is a glorious time in the desert garden and also time for some needed garden maintenance. 

We don’t have a landscaper, so we gather our kids together for a day of yard work each spring.

My son helping me prune several years ago

My son helping me prune several years ago.

I can’t honestly say that working out in the garden is my kids favorite activity.  But, if you promise them their favorite dinner and dessert afterward, they usually don’t complain.

I started teaching them at a young age how to prune shrubs, using hand pruners.  My son is a lot taller then when this photo was taken.

Normally, I do the pruning using loppers and hand pruners.  The kids then carry the branches into a large pile on the driveway to be picked up later.

Branches and clippings from the late summer's pruning

Branches and clippings from the late summer’s pruning.

Once the danger of frost is passed, it is time to prune away all frost-damaged growth and see what else may need pruning.

Pruning Spring Garden

Pruning Spring Garden

Every few years, I prune my Texas Sage shrubs back severely.  This rejuvenates them and stimulates the formation of new branches and gets rid of old, woody unproductive branches.

I allow them to grow out naturally after pruning.  Of course, you can lightly shape them using hand pruners, if desired.

For more information on pruning flowering shrubs, click here.  

Pruning Spring Garden

Pruning Spring Garden

A few years ago, my Yellow Bells shrub died back to the ground during a severe frost.  I pruned back all of the frost-damaged growth and it soon grew back.

While most of the day was spent pruning, I did take some time to walk around and take pictures of what is currently blooming.

Pruning Spring Garden

I love my Hollyhocks.  This old-fashioned flower can grow in most climates and mine self-seed each year, giving me new plants!

Pruning Spring Garden

Normally this time of year, I am pruning away the frost damage from my Pink Trumpet Vines.  But, this year we had very little frost, so they are already flowering.

Globe Mallow

I have several colors of Globe Mallow growing in my garden.  I will soon be pruning them back severely once it has finished flowering.  Pruning keeps them from looking straggly and also helps keep too many seeds from coming up later.

Pruning Spring Garden

Like my Pink Trumpet Vine, my Purple and White Trailing Lantana did not get hit with much frost.  So, they look beautiful right now.  Normally, I prune them back to 6″ in March.

Pruning Spring Garden

The alyssum and violas are still happily blooming away in their old, rusted watering can.  In about a month, they will start to die once the temperatures begin to rise.

I leave my watering can empty in the summer because it gets too hot and other plants won’t survive if planted in it.

Pruning Spring Garden

My young apple trees are in bloom.  It takes a few years after planting for apple trees to produce apples.  We planted the trees last winter and I don’t really expect to see the blossoms turn into apples, but secretly I am hopeful!

Pruning Spring Garden

This is the first year that I have planted ‘Cherry Red’ nasturtiums.  I love their vibrant, red color!

Pruning Spring Garden

My vegetable garden is in transition this month.  Cool-season vegetables such as leaf lettuce, carrots and radishes are still growing.  I have planted warm-season vegetables such as bush beans, gourds and cucumbers already.

The garlic will soon be ready to harvest.  

younger leaf lettuce

Some of the leaf lettuce planted last fall has begun to ‘bolt’, but I have younger leaf lettuce still available to eat.

Pruning and Blooms in the Spring Garden

Fall is the best time to add new plants to the garden, but spring is the second-best time.

My husband and son are always so nice about planting things for me.  

*You can see our puppy ‘Penny’ sitting in the shade watching them.  She is now 8 months old and we just love her!  I’ll post an updated picture of her soon.

I will most likely have more for them to plant after I visit the Desert Botanical Garden’s plant sale this weekend (March 13 & 14th)

Well, this has been a small snapshot of what is going on in my garden.

What is happening in yours?

Have you ever visited a community garden?  

I had the opportunity to help create a community garden with some very special friends in Miami, Florida.

Me (Noelle Johnson), Matt Mattus, Helen Yoest, Amy Andrychowicz, Steve Asbell and Dave Townsend - the 'Saturday6'

Me (Noelle Johnson), Matt Mattus, Helen Yoest, Amy Andrychowicz, Steve Asbell and Dave Townsend – the ‘Saturday6’

So, who are these special friends?

They are garden bloggers, like me and we’ve been brought together through our partnership with the folks at Troy-Bilt. We came from all over the United States and came together to work with the folks at a service project in Miami.

Community Garden

As part of our partnership, we share our gardening knowledge via Troybilt’s gardening newsletter – ‘The Dirt’, Facebook and Twitter.  We also create how-to videos and test Troybilt equipment and offer our honest opinions.

This year, we were invited by Troybilt to help create a community garden as part of their continuing efforts to give back to the community.  

Vizcaya Museum & Gardens

The day we all arrived in Miami, we had the opportunity to tour the Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, which you can read about here.  

The next morning, we all gathered on a vacant lot in the Perrine Neighborhood in Miami.

Community Garden

The local dry cleaner allowed the property adjacent to their store to be used for this inner-city community garden.

Creating a Community Garden In a Tropical Place...

We were excited to be creating an edible garden for the surrounding neighborhood.

Imagine six gardeners together, trying to plan out a community garden.  Believe it or not, it all went smoothly and we all agreed on a plan as to where to put the raised beds and what size they should be.

Creating a Community Garden In a Tropical Place...

We measured out the placement for the beds with assistance from the folks at Troybilt and the Miami chapter of “Keep America Beautiful“.

Creating a Community Garden In a Tropical Place...

The surrounding community was very excited about the garden.  We were happy to meet the Perrine neighborhood community activist, Ms. Townsend who would help to distribute the produce from the garden.

Steve Asbell (The Rainforest Gardener), took time to talk with her about the different vegetables and flowers that we would be planting in the garden.

Creating a Community Garden In a Tropical Place...

Ms. Townsend, was very interested in learning about the plants and seeds we would be planting.  She listened carefully when Matt Mattus (Growing With Plantsexplained to her how the seeds would grow.

*This special lady takes care of those in her neighborhood, including picking up day-old bread from the local supermarket, putting it in her car trunk and then delivers it to those in need.

Creating a Community Garden In a Tropical Place...

Once the outlines were painted, we used cement block to create the sides of the of the beds.

You may wonder why we put cardboard on the bottom of the garden beds. Well, the cardboard will form a nice barrier to keep the grass from growing through and will also serve to ‘smother’ the grass.

Initially, we had discussed planting some fruit trees alongside the raised vegetable beds, but we ran into a little problem with that plan…  

Creating a Community Garden In a Tropical Place...

Limestone rock lay right underneath the grass, making digging all but impossible.

Creating a Community Garden In a Tropical Place...

We filled the beds with topsoil and aged steer manure in alternating layers.

Community Garden

Troybilt supplied us with the necessary garden equipment including a cultivator, which we used to help mix the layers of topsoil and manure together.

vegetable gardens

I have a smaller cultivator that attaches to my Troybilt string trimmer that I like to use in my vegetable gardens.

You can read more about my gardening adventures with my Troybilt cultivator, here.

Community Garden

Amy Andrychowicz (Get Busy Gardening) and Dave Townsend (Growing the Home Garden) raked the soil smooth while Helen Yoest (Gardening With Confidence) filled the holes of the cement block with soil for planting.

Community members posing for a picture with a Troybilt representative

Community members posing for a picture with a Troybilt representative.

Members of the community came out to watch our progress, including the neighborhood police officer.

Creating a Community Garden In a Tropical Place...

We took a quick break for lunch then took a picture with people from the neighborhood, Troybilt, Keep America Beautiful and officials from the Human Services Department who were on hand.

Local Master Gardener, Sheila Martinez, assists Dave Townsend with planting

Local Master Gardener, Sheila Martinez, assists Dave Townsend with planting.

After lunch it was time for my favorite part – planting!

Sheila Martinez, a local Master Gardener, assisted us throughout the day and will be in charge of caring for the garden.

Community Garden

I had fun planting the first bed with tomatoes and herbs including flat-leaf parsley, purple basil and rosemary.

Other beds included strawberries, peppers, leaf lettuce, collard greens and onions.  Beans were planted from seed.

Community Garden

The holes in the cement block was filled with soil so that we could add companion plants, which help to attract pollinators as well as repel bad bugs from damaging the vegetables.

To that end, we planted sage, basil, green onions and marigolds in the holes, which will not only help to protect the edible plants but also add beauty to each garden.

Community Garden

 After a productive day in the garden, we were tired but happy with all we had accomplished.

This is the second year that we have all been part of the Saturday6.  Imagine how much fun six garden bloggers have when they get together!

Last year we all met in Arizona and enjoyed a great time, which you can read about here.

I am so grateful to be a part of this group of great people and the opportunity to work with Troybilt again.  I will be reviewing another piece of Troybilt equipment this year and giving one away, so stay tuned!

harvest vegetables

*This blog post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). Thanks for your support in this way.

When much of the nation is freezing their socks off, and their gardens are covered in a blanket of snow, I realize how much of a blessing it is to live in a climate where I can harvest vegetables from my garden in January.

My latest excursion out to the vegetable garden found Swiss chard, leaf lettuce, peas, spinach, broccoli, and carrots ready for picking.

Except for the broccoli (which I had other plans for), all of my freshly-picked veggies were going into our salad

harvest vegetables

One crop that I have really enjoyed growing this year, is Swiss chard.  It grows so easily and I love its rainbow-colored stems.

Believe it or not, Swiss chard tastes delicious in salads.

My lettuce had a tough start this fall with caterpillars eating much of it until I brought out the big guns – BT Bacillus thurgiensis, which is an organic control for the caterpillars.  It worked just great! I used Safer Brand 5163 Caterpillar Killer II Concentrate, 16 oz.

I won’t go into all the details of how it works, although it is quite interesting.  For those of you who would like to learn more about BT, click here.

harvest vegetables

Here is a close-up of my salad.  You can’t see the carrots too well, but they are there.

January Goodness From the Garden...

It was so refreshing and delicious, especially when dressed with my grandmother’s ‘Top Secret’ Salad Dressing.

I have recently revealed my grandmother’s secret recipe to my daughters, who now can make easily.  

January Goodness From the Garden...

So, what is in store for my vegetable gardens this month?

I have planted another crop of radishes, carrots, leaf lettuce and spinach.

Next month, will be a busy month in the garden with getting ready to plant warm-season veggies.

I can hardly wait!

Where do you expect to see vegetable gardens planted?

Most of the time, vegetable gardens are found in the backyard.

But, have you ever  thought of locating your vegetable garden somewhere else?

Vegetable Gardens

This home in the Encanto district, in downtown Phoenix, has a great way of utilizing space in the front yard for growing vegetables.  

Vegetable Gardens

The homeowners decided to utilize the space beside their driveway for planting a vegetable garden.

I think that this vegetable garden looks great in this area, don’t you think?  

Vegetable Gardens

By the way, do know why the homeowner has planted flowers at the end of each vegetable row?

The marigolds and lavender not only add beauty to the garden, they serve an important role in keeping bad bugs away from the vegetables.

Pairing flowering plants and herbs with vegetables is a practice known as “companion gardening”.

There are many other plants that can be planted with vegetables to keep damaging insects away.  You can read more about companion gardening here.

Vegetable Gardens

I also like how the homeowners added vegetables in front of the house.  Some people would tend to plant annual flowers in this area instead, but think how much more fun it would be to plant vegetables there instead.

The vegetables look at home among the ornamental plants such as Agave angustifolia, Texas Mountain Laurel and Red Yucca

Vegetable Gardens

A couple of years ago, I was driving home from a landscape consult and saw this home’s front yard filled with raised beds.

zucchini, Swiss chard, tomatillos and carrots

I returned a few months later to visit these vegetable gardens filled with zucchini, Swiss chard, tomatillos and carrots.

cucumber plants

This is another home in east Phoenix that has homemade trellises, made from rebar and wire, with cucumber plants growing up on them.

The cucumbers are in the perfect spot where they receive afternoon shade from the large front yard tree.

Both of these gardens are planted and managed by the Farmyard group, who grow organic produce on urban farms in Phoenix and Scottsdale.  You can find out more about this group and the services the offer here.

As cool as these vegetable gardens are, most of us cannot grow vegetables in our front yard due to HOA restrictions.

However, if you do not live in a neighborhood with an HOA, maybe you should think about including vegetables in your front yard?

You can start out small – maybe that area that you would normally plant flowers?   ** A word of caution: don’t plant vegetables in front if you have problems with deer, rabbits or javelina.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about growing vegetables in the front yard…  

Yesterday on Facebook, I showed you a photo of my latest project and encouraged you to guess what I was going to do next…

growing garlic and onions

As you can see, I have two pots filled with potting soil.  In front of the pots are a head of garlic (grown in my garden) and onion sets (not grown in my garden 😉

So, what do you think I will do with the garlic and onion sets?

Hint: I am not planning on harvesting the garlic and onions in spring.

growing garlic and onions

I am growing the garlic and onions in order to use the ‘green parts’ to flavor my favorite dishes.

Garlic ‘greens’ like a mild form of garlic while onion ‘greens’ have a mild onion flavor.

You can dice them, much like you would chives and sprinkle them onto garlic bread, on salads or on your favorite Asian or Italian cuisine.

After you snip off some greens, they will grow back.

growing garlic and onions

You can grow them in pots in front of a sunny window or out in your garden.

In my zone 9a garden, I can grow them outdoors if I wanted to, but I like having some food crops growing on my kitchen windowsill in winter, where there are easily within my reach.

 basil, parsley and chives

Other food crops that I like to grow in front of my kitchen windowsill include basil, parsley and chives.

planting the garlic and onion

When planting the garlic and onion sets, be sure to plant them with the pointed side upward and then cover with 1 1/2 inches of soil.

growing garlic and onions

I like to use a regular spoon for planting small things like this.

Now all they need is some water.  *An easy to tell when to water them is to stick your finger into the soil, up to your first knuckle.  If it feels dry, then water.

Of course, you can steal out into your vegetable garden and snip off some of your onion and/or garlic greens now and then.  But, you don’t want to do that too often because these green leaves make the ‘food’ for the garlic and onions growing underneath the soil.

kitchen scraps

**Last winter, I had a real garden growing on my windowsill, using what most of us would call ‘kitchen scraps’.  You can read more about that gardening adventure here.

Earlier this week, I shared with you the four vegetables that I am growing for the first time this year.  I will be sure to share with you how they do as the season progresses.

In addition to my experimenting with new vegetables, I am also growing some favorite cool-season vegetables…

My Vegetable Garden

My favorite cool-season vegetable crop is leaf lettuce.  I love nothing better then being able to step outside to snip off a few leaves to make a dinner salad.

Once you have tasted fresh lettuce from the garden, there is no going back.  Bagged lettuce is a poor replacement.

About 1/3 of my three vegetable gardens are taken up with beautiful leaf lettuce.  I like to grow different varieties of leaf lettuce including Romaine, Buttercrunch, Great Lakes and Black Seeded Simpson lettuce.

I usually grow lettuce from seed because it is so easy.  It needs temps below 80 degrees to germinate, so October is a good time to plant it.

**Don’t plant all your lettuce at once.  Stagger your planting dates by 2 – 3 weeks, so that when your first crop of lettuce is finished (bolting), then you will have more coming up.  Because lettuce can be planted throughout the fall, winter and early spring, you can enjoy lettuce until April, if you stagger your planting dates.  This is what experienced vegetable gardeners do to prolong their harvest.   

My Vegetable Garden

Isn’t this cauliflower beautiful?  I grew this one two years ago and made the mistake of not planting any last winter.  I’ll never make that mistake again.

I love cauliflower and cut the crown into small 1/4 inch pieces that we sprinkle over our salad – it looks like crumbled cheese and my kids like it.

Cauliflower can be hard to grow from seed, so I use transplants.

**Stagger the planting of your cauliflower as well, so that it does not all ripen at once.  For example: I plant 3 cauliflower transplants every 2 weeks until the end of November.

I do not like cooked spinach.  But, I do like putting it in salads or on a sandwich.

I have grown spinach from seed and from transplants.  It lasts all winter and into spring.

My Vegetable Garden

Carrots are a mainstay of any cool-season garden.  Because they are a root vegetable, they need to be planted from seed.

**My first year vegetable gardening, I planted all of my carrots at once and was rewarded with an ENORMOUS harvest.  We couldn’t eat that many carrots.  So, don’t plant all your carrots at once.  I recommend planting some every month through February, so you will always have some to enjoy, fresh from the garden

My Vegetable Garden

This is the only photo I have of radishes in my garden.  I must remember to take one when they are a bit more developed.

Radishes are the easiest vegetable to grow from seed.  They come up fast – 3 days after planting the seeds, which makes them perfect for kids to grow.

**Stagger your planting of radishes, just as I recommended for carrots for a continual harvest.

broccoli

I have a confession to make…

I seem to have problems growing broccoli.  I’m not sure why and after each disappointing season, I resolve NOT to grow it again.  But, I am trying again this year.

The photo above, is not my broccoli – it my mother’s 😉

**I have only a few broccoli planted now and will plant more through November, for a longer harvest.

garlic

I always plant garlic in October.  I haven’t gotten to it yet, but plan to next week.

Last spring, I was happy with my larger then expected garlic harvest.

The last vegetable on my list is onions, which I will plant from onion sets this month as well.

I promise to keep you updated with how my garden grows throughout the season.

I would love to hear about what you are planting and/or what your favorite vegetables to grow are.