Have you ever found yourself intimidated by fashion magazines filled with beautiful celebrities and models who are then photoshopped to remove every little imperfection? Or perhaps an Instagram account where the home is filled with natural light, dust-free, and no mislaid items anywhere?
I must admit that I don’t like to follow accounts like that as they promote an unrealistic view and leaves me feeling like something is wrong with me when I don’t look perfect and my house doesn’t either.
This type of unreal perfection extends to the garden too! Just between you and me, I’ve been to many gardens that are highlighted on social media and they never look quite as good in person.
Believe it or not, vegetables also fall into this unrealistic realm when shown in magazines and online. Articles filled with photographs of perfectly-sized vegetables without a speck of dirt on them can be intimidating to the average vegetable gardener.
Well, I’m here to tell you the truth and reveal two dirty secrets of vegetable gardening with some assistance from my little helper.
This is my granddaughter Lily who loved to help me in the garden when she was little. She was always a willing helper when it came time to harvest vegetables from my garden.
Toward the end of spring, it was time to harvest the last head of broccoli, pick the carrots, pull the garlic, cut parsley, and harvest the first of our blackberries.
This is what our harvest looked like. Not particularly photo-worthy for a magazine or social media, is it? But, this is the reality of what it looks like.
If you haven’t guessed the secret about vegetable gardening – it’s that it is DIRTY!
Think about it – vegetables grow in the dirt. They don’t come out clean. In fact, it can take a while to clean the dirt away.
Lily was excited to help me clean the vegetables, so she would fill her ‘My Little Pony’ cup over and over and pour them over the carrots.
In fact, freshly harvested vegetables leave dirt behind on counters, floors too!
And those shiny, clean garden tools and spotless gloves? They don’t exist in a real garden.
Now, here is another secret of vegetable gardening…
“Not all the vegetables are the same size and come out unblemished.”
Here are four carrots that I harvested from the same garden. As you can see, they are all different sizes.
The tiny ones, came from an area where I accidentally dropped a small pile of seeds. The large one was a result of an area in the garden that received too much water and the carrot was so big that it broke off as I attempted to pull it out.
Of course, any decent photo would display only the ‘normal-sized’ carrots – but that is not necessarily the truth of what a real garden harvest would look like.
Lily’s Tigger was excited to try some carrots.
Here is another example. Our crop of garlic was bountiful. But, notice that there are not all uniform sizes.
While the majority of the garlic harvest is made up of normal-sized garlic heads – there are some very small and some giant heads.
But of course, that is not what you see when people typically show off their garden harvest – especially when they are to be photographed.
– First, only the most attractive vegetables are shown – ones with no blemishes and uniform size. Second, all the dirt is removed. And finally, the decorative dish towels come out for an attractive background.
I have several decorative dish towels that have never seen a dish and I use them when I photograph vegetables, herbs, etc.
Here is my ‘perfect’ garlic harvest. What is interesting is what you DON’T see. All of them are nicely shaped, roughly the same size, and most of the dirt is gone. This is NOT what they look like when they come in from the garden.
So remember that vegetables aren’t perfectly clean, they may have blemishes and come in all sizes and shapes. So, when you harvest vegetables, don’t worry about perfect-looking vegetables. Remember, it’s the taste that matters!
UPDATE: This blog post originally was published six-years-ago, and I still like to grow vegetables in pots. It’s hard to believe that my garden helper is now 16 years old and driving a car!
I hope you enjoy it!
I started growing vegetables in pots earlier this year, and it was so easy and the vegetables so delicious AND attractive that I had to do it again.
Last week, my mother took my youngest kids to the nursery and picked up some plants for me.
You know what? This is one of the happiest sights in my world 😉
My son, Kai was anxious to pull out the existing plants from our pots.
All my summer vegetables had been pulled a while ago, and all that was left was the Vinca that I had planted. I realize the vinca looks a bit yellow and I admit that I didn’t fertilize them enough (I kind of hibernated inside this summer.
Kai got to work at pulling out the flowers.
He used the hand shovel to loosen the roots so he could pull out the vinca.
Then he used the shovel to ‘bang’ the root ball to loosen the soil back into the pot. You don’t want to ‘throw away’ good soil by leaving it around the roots of plants you are pulling out.
I think Kai did a good job getting all the soil out of the roots, don’t you?
**Vinca will over-winter in my zone 9 garden, but will not flower much. I prefer to treat them as an annual.
Now for the fun part – planting!
I added some more potting mix (not potting soil, which can get soggy), mixed with some compost to each container.
Then each pot was planted with a combination of green leaf lettuce, purple leaf lettuce, garlic, spinach, dill, parsley, nasturtium seeds, and petunias.
In just a few weeks, the lettuce and spinach will be ready to start clipping the leaves for salads. The garlic cloves that I planted will form whole heads of garlic, which will be ready in late spring.
I will start snipping off dill and parsley soon as well.
Garlic, leaf lettuce, spinach, parsley, and petunias
Flowers look great when planted with vegetables, and I always include some. Nasturtiums are easy to grow from seed, and their leaves and flowers are edible. Petunias (and nasturtiums) are great companion plants for vegetables because they help to control damaging insects from eating your vegetables.
https://www.azplantlady.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/DIY-Pumpkin-Bird-Feederemail@example.com://firstname.lastname@example.org 08:26:232022-10-02 00:51:02What To Do With Pumpkins Once The Holidays Are Over
Do your kids beg you to feed them kale or other dark green, leafy vegetables?
I confess that I don’t particularly like to eat kale when it is in large pieces. But, after planting it for the first time in my vegetable garden this year, I was determined to learn to enjoy eating this vegetable along with my kids. The question was how?
I decided to take my freshly picked kale and cut it into narrow strips, about 1/3 of an inch wide.
I did the same with radishes from the garden since some of my kids don’t like them either
My idea was to make their individual size smaller and then mix them with other leafy greens, hoping that they could blend in with the rest of the salad.
Salads in our house consist of leaf lettuce from the garden, a little iceberg lettuce (the kid’s favorite), diced cucumbers and finely chopped kale and radishes.
Once mixed together, the kale, along with the radishes, blends in rather nicely as do their flavors.
So, did it work? Do my kids now like kale?
Well, earlier this week, I overheard them discussing what we were going to have for dinner and my two youngest kids said, “I love kale and radishes”.
You know what? So do I.
**Have you ever found a way to get your kids to eat certain foods? If so, please share your experiences with me 🙂
https://www.azplantlady.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Finely_chopped_kale.email@example.com://firstname.lastname@example.org 21:18:002022-10-16 05:04:25How to Get Kids to Eat and Love Kale
Imagine a garden with containers filled with a variety of colorful flowers, herbs, ornamental grasses, succulents and even vegetables.
Wouldn’t you love to have pots that look like this, overflowing with beautiful plants?
But, what if you live in the desert? Can you grow plants in pots that aren’t just beautiful but that can thrive in our hot, dry climate?
Believe it or not, you can. Whether your container garden is limited to one pot or several – you can grow plants in pots in the desert garden.
Now before you say, “I’ve got a black thumb…everything I plant in pots die”, I have a great resource for you.
“Getting Potted In The Desert” is a wonderful resource that shows you step-by-step instructions on how to create beautiful potted gardens that will thrive in our desert climate.
While you can find other books that offer helpful advice on how to create potted gardens, “Getting Potted In The Desert” speaks specifically to those of us who live and garden in the desert Southwest where our hot, dry summers bring about special challenges.
Beyond the helpful advice on selecting containers and the right location, the book also talks about plant choices including flowering annuals, perennials, grasses, herbs, succulents and vegetables.
Clear and easy to understand guidelines are given on how to water, fertilize and how to adjust to changing weather conditions including freezing temperatures.
What’s even better, the guidelines are broken up into monthly guides, making growing plants in pots, easy.
Lists of plants that do well in the desert container garden are also given along with lovely photographs of pots filled with plants, which will inspire you.
Herb Container Garden
The author, Marylee Pangman, has over 20 years of experience growing potted plants in the desert. In fact, she is a certified Master Gardener and had her own company, “The Contained Gardener”, where she designed and maintained container gardens for clients.
In addition, she has taught numerous classes on growing potted gardens that can withstand hot summers and desert winters.
Flower and Vegetable Container Garden
As a horticulturist who has planted and maintained container gardens over the years, I can tell you that Marylee’s book is a godsend for those who love container gardening and need practical guidance.
You can order your own copy of “Getting Potted In The Desert” and find out more about Marylee at www.potteddesert.com
*I was provided with a free copy of this book for my honest review.
https://www.azplantlady.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/colorful_containers_penstemon_Sedona_garden.email@example.com://firstname.lastname@example.org 13:30:002022-10-22 10:56:00Container Gardening Book Review: “Getting Potted In The Desert”
Whenever I look back on my garden travels, I find that my favorites tend to be the smaller ones with more of a personal feel. Ones that I can take my time walking through without feeling like I have to hurry in order to see the entire garden.
Recently, I visited a small garden run by Washington State University that is located in Mount Vernon, WA. The WSU Discovery Garden was designed by master gardeners and divided up into multiple smaller-themed gardens filled with creative elements.
Last week, I shared with you about some of the themed gardens, including the Four Seasons, Herb, Naturescape, Shade as well as the composting area along with its ‘Yuck Bin’.
While these gardens were fun to explore, I’ve saved the best for last!
I am a strong proponent of teaching children the joys of gardening, so I was especially excited to explore the Children’s Garden.
The gateway to the garden started down a ‘yellow brick road’ through an archway with weeping mulberry growing on it, creating the impression of entering through a green tunnel into a land of make-believe.
The curving pathway that ran down the center of the garden, included the game of ‘hopscotch’. I confess that I had an overwhelming impulse to hop down the pathway, but restrained myself. But, it did bring back memories of playing hopscotch on the playground when I was in elementary school!
For those who may be unfamiliar with the rules of ‘hopscotch’, there were helpful instructions.
Other areas in the garden included a small playground set and a bench that encircled a small tree.
Two vertical gardening towers stood sentinel in the center of the garden and were planted with strawberries and carrots.
In the corner of the Children’s Garden, sat Alice with the Queen of Hearts and the Mad Hatter.
An unusual ‘hotel’ was sitting off to the side. This insect hotel has lots of nooks and crannies for solitary bees and other pollinating insects to stay. In addition, insects that stay in the ‘hotel’ also help to keep damaging insects away from the garden.
Insect hotels are typically made up of scrap bits of wood and hollow bamboo reeds.
This hotel was quite fancy and had a roof planted with hen and chicks succulents.
A giant checkerboard beckoned kids (& adults) to try their hand at a friendly game.
Of course, instructions were also included.
Visitors strolling along the ‘yellow brick road’ must pass underneath an arch with a flying monkey keeping watch.
The next garden on our tour was the Enabling Garden.
The word “enabling” means to “give someone the means to do something”, which is exactly what this garden does. It gives people with disabilities the means to garden.
This garden bed was created for those who are visually impaired.
It’s filled with a variety of plants along with rock to provide a variety of textures that are experienced primarily through touch.
The velvety feel of lamb’s ear is a favorite of many gardeners and I find myself always reaching out to touch their leaves.
White rock is used to create small planting islands and helps visually impaired visitors to experience the separate planting islands in the raised bed.
A collection of ‘hens & chicks’ add spiky texture that can be touched safely.
A variety of mosses also grew in the garden.
This raised bed was built with a sitting ledge around it, which makes it easier for those who have trouble standing or bending over to garden. With this type of bed, you can simply sit on the edge and tend to the garden.
I have several clients who have had raised beds built since they can no longer bend down to garden for a variety of reasons.
At first glance, can you tell how this planting bed can be enabling?
Note the empty area underneath the bed – can you see how it would make someone who was wheelchair bound or uses a walker be able to get up close to garden?
Besides having garden beds to enable people with disabilities to garden, there was a helpful display with a variety of gardening tools that can make gardening easier.
Each tool had a description of how it can help make routine gardening tasks easier, which is helpful for those with disabilities and even those who don’t.
The display of enabling gardening tools spoke directly to my heart as a mother of a child with disabilities.
My son, Kai, has a disability that affects his joints, which makes everyday tasks difficult. He loves to help me in the garden, but even using a pair of hand pruners is hard for him to use correctly.
Photo: March 2006
In Kai’s short life, he has had several operations, which have left him wheelchair bound for weeks at a time and having a place where he could enjoy everyday activities, such as gardening, would be a blessing.
Walking through the garden, I noticed a sign pointing off to the outer area of the garden toward the Native Plant Garden.
Being in the Northwest, you can imagine that the path through patches of lush greenery.
As a landscape consultant, I hear of people’s frustration at trying to grow certain plants.
No matter where you live – the desert, jungle or in the Arctic Circle – the easiest way to garden is to grow plants that are native to your area.
The next best thing is to grow plants that are adapted to your area, which are native to climates similar to yours.
If you follow that simple piece of advice, you will enjoy a beautiful garden with a minimum of work since the plants will thrive with little to no attention because they are adapted to your climate.
When traveling, I always like to take time to learn more about the native plants that grow there.
Walking back toward the main areas of the garden, we passed by the Meadow Garden.
The garden consisted of grasses and wildflowers.
Throughout the year, you’ll find different flowers in bloom.
The last garden we visited was the Vegetable Garden.
However, it wasn’t just anyone’s vegetable garden…
It belonged to an infamous gardener.
Mr. McGregor’s garden was a good-sized plot filled with a variety of vegetables, including some that I decided to try in my garden in the fall.
This lovely row of leafy greens are green and purple spinach. I didn’t know that there was such thing as purple spinach. But, I do like to add unexpected color in my garden and so I will be sure to add this to my garden.
Garlic was growing nicely and would be ready to harvest in a month. You can tell when it is ready to be harvested with the outer leeaves begin to yellow and turn brown.
This crop caught my eye.
Can you tell what these are?
To be completely honest, I’ve grown them a few times, but it is a lot of work for only a few potatoes in my desert garden so I don’t plant them anymore.
A healthy crop of sugar snap peas were in full flower.
I particularly love the color and shape of their flowers, don’t you?
This is one crop that I do plant each year.
An old wheelbarrow planted with radishes caught me eye as did the watering can with its strawberries.
My brother-in-law found an old, rusty wheelbarrow for my garden and I can’t wait to plant it!
It was obvious that Mr. McGregor took very good care of his garden and it was well fenced in.
But, that didn’t keep a particular rabbit from getting in 🙂
Thank you for joining me on a tour of this special garden. If you ever find yourself driving north of Seattle, toward Vancouver, take an hour and visit – you won’t be disappointed!
On another note, we just returned from a weekend trip to Southern California where we visited my daughter, Rachele, who is stationed there in the Navy.
While we always have fun visiting her, it is even more so now because we also get to spend time with our new grandson!
He is absolutely darling and smiles more than any baby I’ve ever seen. He is one happy baby!
When we visit, we are able to stay on the Navy base with our daughter in her townhouse, which makes visiting her easier and less expensive than having to stay in a hotel.
As often occurs whenever we visit, we usually find ourselves driving the short distance to Santa Barbara. This California city is not only a beautiful place to visit, but it also holds a special place in my heart since it is where I met my husband in college.
We are back home now but look forward to seeing Rachele and her son, Eric, next month when they come out to visit us 🙂
I do – especially in the garden. I’m always on the lookout for new vegetables to try out, including some heirloom varieties, which aren’t technically new.
One year, I tried growing ‘container corn’. You can read here how it did.
This year, I tried growing ‘White Icicle’ radishes, which are a cross between radishes and turnips. My mother had given me the seeds and I’ve always had a very easy time growing regular radishes, so I thought I’d try these.
They grew easily and the leaves reached over 2 1/2 ft. long!
It was exciting to pull them out and I couldn’t wait to try them.
While they were very easy to grow, I must confess that I didn’t like them.
I really wanted to and their flavor was a lot like a turnip, but they burned my mouth – much more than the radishes do.
My grand experiment last year was growing Swiss chard and afterward, I wish that I had been growing it all along. It’s not only easy to grow, it also tastes great in salads!
I grow it both in my vegetable gardens and in pots.
So, while I wish that I liked ‘White Icicle’ I don’t. But, it wasn’t a waste of time growing them. You see, gardening is a grand experiment and it’s always fun to try growing new things and while there are going be some failures – there are also great successes (like my Swiss chard) when you discover what grows well that you like.
*This week, I’m sharing what I’ve harvested from my winter vegetable garden and sharing lessons learned. Yesterday, it was broccoli and how to freeze it.
https://www.azplantlady.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/ContainerCorn.email@example.com://firstname.lastname@example.org 13:00:002022-10-30 01:45:50Trying New Things In My Winter Garden: ‘White Icicle’ Radishes & Swiss Chard
Do you grow vegetables in the winter? Here in the low desert regions of the desert Southwest, we can grow vegetables all year.
My winter vegetable garden is filled with a variety of cool-season vegetables and I have rarely had any problems growing any of them except for broccoli.
For some reason, in past years my broccoli has been rather lackluster. Oh, the plant grows, but the broccoli heads are always small with no real central head forming.
winter vegetable garden
It’s been frustrating because my mother’s garden (just 2 miles away) always produces gorgeous heads of broccoli. Every year, after harvesting a small amount of broccoli stalks, I decide that it is the last time I will grow it.
But come fall, I always relent and plant some more. So, imagine my delight when I ventured out in to my garden this month and found two large heads of broccoli ready for picking!
Aren’t they beautiful?
So, what did I do differently?
I simply planted them in a different location (about 10 ft. away) in the vegetable garden – that’s it! When planting them this year, I remembered that many people plant tomatoes in a different location from year to year to allow the soil enough time to replenish and I thought that I’d try it with my broccoli and it worked!
My entire family loves broccoli and nothing compares to the flavor of fresh broccoli. But, you can also freeze it for later. To do this, you need to ‘blanch’ it by cutting the broccoli into florets and then putting them into boiling water for 3 minutes. Immediately afterward, dip the florets into cold water with ice cubes to stop the cooking. Dry the cooled broccoli the best you can and place meal-sized portions into plastic freezer bags and freeze until you are ready to use!
So the lesson is, that if you grow a type of vegetable that does not seem to grow well despite doing everything right – try growing it in a different location.
Come back tomorrow, when I’ll share with you a new vegetable that I grew in my garden!
https://www.azplantlady.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/desertSouthwestvegetablegardeninwinter.email@example.com://firstname.lastname@example.org 13:00:002021-01-05 11:43:43Winter Vegetable Harvest: Broccoli and How to Freeze It
You can grow many different types of vegetables in a grocery bag. Would you consider doing this in your own garden?
https://email@example.com://firstname.lastname@example.org 12:00:002021-01-07 10:47:35Favorite DIY Posts – Day 6: Growing Vegetables in a Grocery Bag
If you had asked me a year ago, I would have said “no”. I had done some filming for “how-to” gardening videos for SheKnows.com – but they weren’t live and took place in my back garden. Somehow, live TV is quite different.
Last time, I told you about my upcoming appearance on our local ABC station to talk about creative container gardening tips.
Posing next to my newly-planted container filled with purple basil, thyme, rosemary and parsley. White petunias add beauty to the pot.
This was the second time that I had been asked to appear on Sonoran Living, which is a local morning program.
Last time I was on the show, I spoke about ‘Fuss Free’ Plants. This time, I would be talking about creative tips for container gardening.
So, I went shopping for my ‘props’. I decided to plant an herb container as well as a pot filled with vegetables and flowers. I bought several medium-sized pots, a variety of potting mixes and of course, plants.
My sister came along with me to help with the props and setting up. I had planted the pots ahead of time, so setting up wasn’t too difficult.
The main focus of the demonstration would be the three pots, the potting mixes and the recyclable grocery bag.
They tell you to bring a lot of props, which look good on television. So, I brought gardening gloves, some hand tools and extra plants to help ‘set the stage’. My microphone was there for me to put on and I was almost ready.
Finishing up planting my vegetable/flower container.
Last time I was on the show, mine was the first segment. It went very fast and we were back on the road before the show was over.
This time, I was to go last. So after everything was set up, my sister and I were invited to wait in the staff break room.
To say that I wasn’t nervous would be an exaggeration. But, I was not as nervous as my first time. It’s actually not as hard as doing a “how-to” video where you have to talk to the camera. On the show, I am talking to a person who asks me questions so I don’t speak directly to the camera at all. If you lose your train of thought, they are there to get you back on track.
Of the tips I shared on air – using recycled, plastic containers to fill the bottom of large pots as well as using a recycled grocery bag as a container were the most popular with the hosts.
I had a great time and hope to be invited back again.
Below, is the link for my container gardening segment and at the end you see where I accidentally got involved in a conversation at the end about “Dancing With the Stars”.