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Cool-season vegetables transplants

Cool-season vegetables transplants

One of the things that I enjoy about living in the Southwest is the ability to garden throughout the year.  Well, that may be a slight exaggeration – I don’t especially like gardening in July or August.  During those months, I simply like to view my garden out the window from the air-conditioned comfort of my home.  But, you’ll often see me outside spending January in the vegetable garden through the winter months.  

Cool-season vegetables transplants

So far, this year’s cool-season garden hasn’t been very impressive.  In fact, it was quite disappointing.  Our drip irrigation system wasn’t watering this particular vegetable bed well because the tiny holes had become clogged from mineral deposits left behind by our notorious hard water.  As a result, a handful of romaine lettuce transplants survived, but none of the seeds that I planted in early October germinated except for the radishes and a couple of carrots.  

To make it worse, when I discovered the problem last fall, I was so busy trying to keep up with my landscape consulting that I didn’t fix the irrigation troubles.  Spring and fall for horticulturists is much like tax season for accountants, and little else gets done.

Well, I felt bad looking out at my sad little vegetable bed, so I cleared my calendar to give it a little TLC earlier this week.  First on the list was to pull out the lettuce plants, which had bolted and were ready to be taken out.  I was able to get a few radishes, much to the delight of my youngest daughter who loves them.

Cool-season vegetables transplants

Before planting, I added a 4-inch layer of compost to help refresh the soil.  There wasn’t any need to mix it in with the existing soil – in fact, it’s better if you don’t do that.

Like many people, I find working out in the garden therapeutic and the stresses of day to day life simply melt away.  What made this day even better was that my husband came out to help me.  At this point, I should mention that he isn’t one of those men who loves to work out in the garden.  Oh, he does a great job at it, but he doesn’t like it – at all. Poor guy, he had no idea that the woman he married 30 years ago would turn out to be a plant lady who lives, eats, and breathes all things related to the garden.  

Cool-season vegetables transplants

My darling husband took an entire morning out of his busy schedule to help me in the garden, fixing the drip irrigation system in my garden.  Forget flowers, if spending a morning out in your wife’s vegetable garden fixing irrigation doesn’t shout “I love you,” I don’t know what does.

The drip irrigation system in my vegetable garden is made up of a main poly drip line that runs up the center of the garden.  Micro-tubing, with small holes along the length, are then looped along the length of the main drip line.  We pulled out the old micro-tubing and replaced it.  

Cool-season vegetables transplants

Once the irrigation repair was finished, it was time to add plants.  Luckily, there is still plenty of time to plant cool-season favorites.  To get a head start, I bought romaine lettuce, Swiss chard, and spinach transplants.  The rest I would grow from seed.  Irish Eyes Garden Seeds is one of my favorite seed companies.

Cool-season vegetables transplants

Another seed company who I have used over the years is Burpee.  I remember perusing my dad’s Burpee seed catalog when I was a child and planning on which ones I would order for the little plot of land that he gave me in the back garden.  

I still order seeds from Burpee and was pleasantly surprised to receive a gift from them this Christmas – an advent calendar where each door opened up to a seed packet filled with one of their new 2017 plant introductions.  What an ingenious marketing tool!  Every morning, I felt like a kid again waiting to see what new seeds I would find behind the door.  

Cool-season vegetables transplants

I selected ‘Dragon Tail’ radish, where you eat its purple seed pods and NOT the roots.  It is a version of an Asian heirloom radish and has a more delicate flavor than regular radishes.  I am very excited to see what this one does in my garden.  ‘Rido Red’ radish and ‘Bend and Snap’ snap peas also found a spot in the garden.

Marigolds and nasturtiums are always present alongside cool-season vegetables as they attract beneficial pollinators, discourage harmful insect pests, and just make the garden look pretty.  Imagine my delight when I saw new varieties of my favorite flowers in the advent calendar.  ‘Strawberry Blonde’ marigolds and ‘Orange Troika’ nasturtiums will add welcome beauty to my vegetable bed.  There were other seeds in the calendar that I plan on using including ‘Bend and Snap’ snap peas.  I plan on giving some of my seeds to my mother for her garden.  Burpee has a list of their new 2017 introductions, which you can access here.  I’d love to hear if you grow any of them.

Meyer' lemon tree

Next to the vegetable garden is my young ‘Meyer’ lemon tree.  We planted it two years ago, and this is its first ever fruit.  Young citrus trees can take a year or two, after planting, before it produces fruit and I look forward to years of delicious fruit from mine.  

Meyer' lemon

Meyer lemons aren’t true lemons.  They are a cross between a regular lemon and mandarin orange, and this gives them a sweeter flavor and a deep yellow skin.  The story behind Meyer lemons includes overseas exploration, threatened extinction, and Martha Stewart.

Well, that is what is happening in the January vegetable garden.  What is growing in your winter garden?

A couple of months ago, the new Burpee seed catalog came in the mail, which is always an exciting event in my world.

You see, I have been reading through their catalog since I was a little girl.  I would go through the entire catalog and read the descriptions of flowers and vegetables and circle the ones that I would plant in my imaginary garden.

Now that I am all grown up, I actually buy the seeds I like and plant them in my ‘real’ garden.  

One of the seed descriptions caught my attention.  Corn that you can grow in a container – yes, you heard me right…in a container.

growing vegetables in containers

Well, I have been a recent convert to growing vegetables in containers, so I knew that I had to try these out.

They came in the mail a few weeks ago and I had wait very patiently (not!) until my local gardening calendar said that it was okay to plant them.  The official date to begin planting corn on my zone 9a garden is March 1st.  But, I decided that today (Feb. 23rd) was  a good time to plant them, even though I was a week early.

Did I mention that I am a patient gardener?

I found the perfect container for my new container corn….a half whiskey barrel that I found at our local Home Depot.

container corn

The barrel still smelled like whiskey, which I think makes it just that much cooler.  It didn’t have any holes, so I drilled some holes on the bottom.

container corn

Then my wonderful husband added the soil for me.  I like to think that I am able to pour big bags of soil and I can, but not without a lot of ‘huffing and puffing’ followed by a bit of a backache the next day 😉

Now, it was time to add my precious new corn seeds…

Sweet corn

Originally, I was going to place the container of corn plants next to my vegetable garden located in the side yard – but, I am already planning on growing ‘regular’ corn in that garden and you have to keep different types of corn separate from each other or they will cross-pollinate and the resulting corn will be different.

So, we placed the corn next to my smaller vegetable garden just off of the patio where it will get full sun.

The seeds should take 7 – 14 days to germinate and then I can harvest ears of corn in 63 days.

I can’t wait to see how they grow.  If they turn out well, I may plant them again in August.

If you want to try this new type of corn – clink the link below:

Burpee’s On Deck Corn Hybrid

Earlier this week, I stepped into my new vegetable garden and was pleasantly surprised to discover that my bush beans were ready to be picked.

 bush beans

I was so excited.

You really have to look underneath the leaves to see the beans.

So, I ran into the house for a basket and got to work, picking beans.

 bush beans

This will be enough for my family for dinner.

But, instead of eating them now – I decided to blanch them and freeze them.

Why?  Well, so I could show you how to do it 🙂

You may wonder what ‘blanching’ is?

‘Blanching’ is the process of submerging your vegetables in boiling water for a short period of time.

This is important to do before freezing your vegetables because:

– it halts enzymes, which decreases the flavor and texture of your vegetables.

– it cleans the surface of your vegetables and kills any germs.

– it improves the color of your vegetables.

– it helps to retain vitamins.

So, how do you blanch vegetables?

Well, the process is pretty much the same for most vegetables with the only difference being the amount of time they need to be submerged in boiling water.

To blanch green beans:

 bush beans

Cut off the stem ends.

 bush beans

Add to a pot of boiling water and boil for 3 minutes.  This step varies depending on the type of vegetable (check here for more info).

 bush beans

Immediately scoop out your beans and submerge in ice water.

Keep in the water for 3 minutes until the beans have thoroughly cooled.

 bush beans

Drain off the water.

Aren’t they a pretty green color?

plastic freezer bag

Pack into a vacuum-sealed bag or put them in a plastic freezer bag.

It is very important to remove all the air, or your vegetables will get freezer burn.

To do this, close the zipper more then halfway and then carefully ‘roll’ your beans up, pushing out all the air and then seal the bag completely.  

plastic freezer bag

You can see all the air is gone and now my blanched beans are ready for the freezer.

They will last up to 9 months in the freezer.   But I’m so excited about my first harvest this year that I think I will serve them to my mother on Mother’s Day.

To cook, I will simply add my frozen beans to boiling water (the same way I cook frozen beans from the grocery store).

I grew Bush Blue Lake 47 Beans.  I bought the seeds from Burpee.  I planted them in late February, although you can plant them through March in our area.

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Guess what??

Only 6 days to go before my road trip with my mother.

I’ll share our destinations next time 🙂