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This weekend, I spent a lot of time out in my vegetable gardens.  I harvested carrots, the last of the cauliflower, herbs and green beans.

I am still amazed at how much I enjoy working in the garden, growing vegetables.

My new vegetable garden is doing very well.  Yesterday, I took a photo of it from a different perspective – at the ground level….

You can see the stepping stones leading their way through a ‘forest’ of bush beans, marigold, cucumbers, cosmos and corn.  It’s all very green and lush.
The carrot tops look like miniature trees, don’t they?
*Okay, I realize that carrots are NOT a warm-season vegetable and I have no idea how it ended up in my new vegetable garden that we planted this spring.  But it looks pretty, so they can stay – even if I don’t get any carrots.
  
Here is a different view of the garden, where I spent some time harvesting green beans.
I need to start building supports for my cucumbers to climb up on.
In the back part of the garden, corn is rising up quickly….I can hardly wait!

It is hard to believe that this vegetable garden was brand new only nine weeks ago…



If you would like to read about how we built our garden and planted it, you can visit my previous posts, if you like:




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I hope you have a great week ahead!

I will be hitting the road again soon with my mom on another road trip.  Last year we visited the Midwest for 10 days.  This year we are going to a totally new area.

I can’t wait to tell you all about it and of course, I will blog from the road 🙂


Last week, I spent some time checking the vegetables my cool-season vegetable garden.  

I was looking to see how they were growing and if any were ready to harvest.  I’ve also learned (the hard way) that it’s important to check for any insect damage so you can treat it early – I got hit bad by spider mites last summer because I wasn’t paying attention.

I have been checking up on my cauliflower plants lately.  Seven days ago, the largest one looked like this…

Today, it looked like this…
Okay, this photo doesn’t really show how big it is, so I put my hand next to it to show the scale…
 
Now, compare this photo with the first one and you can see how big it grew in just one week!
My son, Kai and I harvested this large cauliflower by simply pulling the entire plant out of the ground.   
It was quite heavy.
Of course, you can simply cut the cauliflower, but you have to pull the plant out sooner or later.  We chose sooner.
It was at least twice as large as the cauliflower in my local supermarket.  The photo really doesn’t show that though, but this bowl is very wide salad bowl.
I’ve really never noticed how pretty the cauliflower florets are before, have you?
We used some of the cauliflower in our dinner salad, which also included Romaine lettuce and carrots from our garden as well.
Our cauliflower is so huge, I will have to figure out other ways to serve it.
My son’s favorite is smothering it with ranch salad dressing.
I have three other cauliflower plants in the garden.  I may have to give some to my mother, since I don’t know how we will be able to eat it all.
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Cauliflower is a cool-season vegetable, which does best when planted from transplants and not seed.  I have had no problems with growing mine at all – no insect problems, etc.
What is important for growing cauliflower is fertile soil and regular irrigation.
How about you?  Do you grow cauliflower?
Do you have any cauliflower recipes to share? 

I think my kids are ready to go back to school tomorrow after 2 1/2 weeks of being on fall break.

How do I know this?  Well, my two youngest daughters, Ruthie and Gracie, just asked me if there were any jobs that I needed them to do.


So after, I picked up my jaw from the floor, I told them that the patio needed to be swept and then thanked them for being so thoughtful.

A few minutes later, I saw them sweeping the patio.  Then I saw the hose come out as they sprayed the patio.  BUT, they didn’t stop there.  As I watched them, Ruthie started to squirt dish soap on the patio and then proceeded to scrub the patio using the broom.

I just didn’t have the heart to tell her that she didn’t need to use soap.  She was working so hard and looked like she was actually enjoying herself as she walked through all the soap suds.  

And now, I probably have the cleanest patio in the entire neighborhood 😉


Earlier this morning, I went outside to see how my vegetable garden was faring.  As I examined my plants, I paid special attention to many of my vegetable seedlings.


I planted Cauliflower for the first time this fall.  We will see how it does.  I must admit that I am being a bit selfish about including it in my garden since I am the only one in our family who likes cauliflower.  But, since I’m the one who takes care of the garden, I think I’m entitled, don’t you?



My lettuce seedlings are a bit late in getting started this fall.  The reason being that I didn’t learn my lesson last fall, when birds ate my new seedlings, which is what happened again this year.  So this is my second attempt this fall.

I am proud to say that I did find a solution to birds eating my lettuce seedlings that didn’t involve netting.  But I warn you, it isn’t particularly pretty looking…


I decided to use burlap.  I didn’t put the burlap directly on the ground since the plants would grow through it and be caught.  So, I put two of my plastic patio chairs in the garden and draped the burlap over them and the garden fence.  My goal was to shield the seedlings from the bird’s view and so far, I have been successful.


No, this aren’t grass seedlings.  They are my green onions.  

You know what?  There is just something about seedlings that I find so attractive.  I think it is a combination of the bright green of youth and their tiny shapes.  What do you think?


Another first in the garden this fall is shallots.  I haven’t heard much from people in our area growing them, so I am anxious to see how they do.  

Now, I didn’t order any fancy shallots from a mail-order nursery.  I simply went to my local grocery store and bought a bunch.  I planted each bulb with the pointed end upward and covered them with 2″ of soil.

I can’t wait to see how they do when I harvest them this spring.


This little garlic sprout looked much better yesterday then it does today.  The torn leaves are courtesy of the newest member of our family, Max, who hasn’t learned that a fence means “keep out”.  We are working his obedience….


The carrots are doing beautifully and I will soon thin them.  The easiest way to do this is to simply snip off the unwanted seedlings at soil level.  If you pull them out, you risk disturbing the surrounding seedlings.


I planted Nasturtiums throughout my vegetable garden because they make great companion plants because they repel damaging insects and attract insects that will eat Scale (which I have problems every year).


Corn silk is beginning to appear on my fall corn.

This last seedling is not one that I planted or planned on growing this fall.  

But, it showed up on its own and I decided that I will give it a chance….


Yes, it is a tomato plant.  To be precise, it is a ‘San Marzano’ tomato plant that came up from seed.  Its parent plant produce a ton of tomatoes for me last spring and some of the tomatoes fell to the ground, and so here is the result.

I’m not sure how it will do.  Tomatoes are susceptible to frost, which we do get here and on every vegetable gardening guide for our area, tomatoes are never listed as being started in the fall.

But, I am cautiously optimistic.  With shade protection in the summer and frost protection in the winter, a tomato plant can live for years UNLESS a severe frost occurs (like last year).

So, I will baby this little tomato plant (and the 3 others that also came up) and provide protection from frost this winter.

I will let you know how they do.  If they survive, I will have a huge head start on growing tomatoes next spring 🙂

How about you?  
Have you planted any vegetables this fall?

I just love Mondays….

But, I must admit that my love for Mondays is rather new.  I didn’t always enjoy sitting in traffic, headed for my office in downtown Phoenix, where I worked as a landscape designer.  (I did enjoy my beautiful office that overlooked the city from the 14th floor).

Fast forward to 5 years later, and I find Mondays refreshing.  For one, the kids are back in school after a hectic weekend, trying to get their projects finished on time.  I also love that Monday is a fresh start.  I rarely have time to garden on the weekends, so Mondays is a wonderful time to step outside and see what is flowering, smell the subtle fragrance of my desert trees and most importantly – see what has developed in my vegetable garden.

Two weeks ago, I planted my fall vegetable garden – on a Monday.  It all started with a visit to our local Home Depot, where I picked up bagged compost, aged steer manure, bone meal and blood meal.
 Earlier, we had ripped out what was left of our summer vegetable garden, leaving only our basil and oregano plants behind.  Since I had removed the shade cloth from the garden, I put in two plastic chairs to protect the basil and oregano from the sun.
We added a 3 inch layer of compost and 3 inches of aged steer manure.  Then I sprinkled both blood and bone meal on top.  We then lightly raked the layers together and then waited a week before planting our vegetable seeds.

We placed stepping stones through the middle so that we will have easy access to our vegetables.

I buy my seeds from different sources.  I have Burpee, some from Botanical Interesta, but I usually buy mine at the local Big Box store.
We decided to plant cucumbers, carrots, green onions, spinach, leaf lettuce and cauliflower.
I let each of the kids pick out what kind of seed they wanted to plant.

Decisions, decisions….

Gracie loves carrots, so that is what she picked to plant.
My son, Kai, planted the green onions and my daughter, Ruthie, planted the lettuce.
I finished up planting the rest of the seeds, using my top secret vegetable garden tool.   

I will share my special tool with you soon 🙂

 I had planted the sweet corn a few weeks ago, since they need to be in the ground by the end of August for best results.

So, do you know what you will be doing today?

I will be stepping out in to my vegetable garden, seeing what seedlings have started to sprout.

Stay tuned for how to plant garlic and learn about my ‘secret’ gardening tool.



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I hope you all had a great weekend and are off to a good start for the week.

**THERE ARE 2 DAYS LEFT TO ENTER YOUR MONTHLY GARDEN BOUQUET FOR THE MONTH OF SEPTEMBER.**


Please email me a photo of your bouquet, or leave me a link to your blog post with you bouquet in the comments section of this post.  I will then feature your bouquet and a link back to your blog.


I hope you decide to take the time to send me your bouquet.  I do enjoy seeing the beautiful flowers from your garden 🙂

You know what?  I don’t think that I know anyone who doesn’t like spring.  Do you?

This past week, I spent a some time capturing some of the signs of spring around me with my camera.  


I hope you enjoy them…..

The beautiful vermilion colored flowers of the Ocotillo.
Hummingbirds think they are not only beautiful, but delicious as well….

There are signs of new life all around….


Canadian Goslings with their mother.

The desert is starting to bloom as well…..


Flowering Prickly Pear Cactus

I am starting to count down the weeks until the peaches are fully ripe….



I can almost taste the peach jam that I will be making with my mother next month 🙂

Yesterday evening, my daughter and I spent time harvesting carrots from our vegetable garden.




Anyone have a recipe for carrot soup?

How about you?  
What signs of spring do you see where you live?

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Please stop by to read my latest Birds & Blooms blog
“Even Vegetables Need Friends”

I just love spring….and not just because everything is turning green and beginning to bloom in my garden.

I love this time of year because I have both winter and summer vegetables growing in my garden.  I have harvested some of my winter vegetables already including my broccoli and lettuce.  But, my spinach, garlic and carrots are still going strong.

I love how the leafy greens of my carrots look like ferns…


My dog likes them too…
I must confess that my spinach has grown huge.  I had been really good about picking it when the leaves were small and using them in salads, but life kind of got away from me and so did the spinach leaves 😉
I cannot wait to pick my garlic in May.  It takes a long time to grow, (I planted it in September), but it will totally be worth it.  I just need to wait for the green tops to start turning brown and then I can harvest them.
In early March, I planted my spring and summer vegetables.  I went for less variety this year and concentrated on what we love to eat the most.
My San Marzano tomatoes are growing quickly and is flowering.  I cannot wait to use the tomatoes for cooking.
My young cucumber plants are enjoying the protection that their friend, ‘Marigold’ provides.
I just love fresh corn, straight from the garden.  In our area, we are fortunate to be able to not only plant a corn crop in the spring, but we can also plant corn in late summer for a fall harvest.
This year, I have planted 3 separate areas of corn and each area was planted 2 weeks apart from each other.  That way, not all of my corn will be ready at once and I can extend my corn harvest.
Young corn seedlings.
While not a vegetable, Sunflowers are always present in my vegetable garden.  I cannot wait for them to bloom…
 
I love to venture out into my vegetable garden to see how rapidly everything is growing.  
The weather has been so nice and my garden has really responded.
Our spring weather has been rather crazy going from extremes.  Last week we broke a record when we hit 100 degrees in Phoenix, which was 20 degrees above normal.
Tomorrow, we are expecting a storm that will bring temperatures down to 22 degrees below normal for this time of year.
So far, my garden doesn’t seem to be affected by the extremes.
So, how about you?  How is your garden growing?  
Have you experienced any crazy, spring weather?
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Please check out my latest Birds & Blooms blog “Raising Butterflies Part 3”

One of the many things that I love about living in the desert southwest, is the ability to grow vegetables 12 months of the year.  Now I have mentioned before that I grew vegetables during college as part of required classwork out in a field owned by the school.  I have instructed clients how to grow vegetables and have planted vegetable gardens for others.  But I had never grown vegetables in my own garden.  I had not experienced the excitement and wonder of checking the garden each day to see my plants growing bit by bit, see the flowers form and leaves grow and culminate in vegetables ready for harvesting.  I did not know how much better vegetables taste when they are from your own garden. 

And so, I had not experienced any of this…..sad isn’t it?

Well, early last spring we decided to plant a vegetable garden.  The kids were so excited, but I must admit that I was even more so.  My husband, always supportive of my gardening endeavors, was not quite as excited as I was, but was more then willing to do a lot of the grunt work.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again, any woman whose husband shovels manure for his wife, is blessed!
I won’t go into more detail about our spring/summer garden because I have written about it before and I don’t want to bore those of you who have already read it 😉  But for those of you who have not seen it,  you can read about our early adventures in the vegetable garden here.
Once September came, I was eager to plant winter vegetables.  Visions of broccoli, carrots, lettuce and cauliflower filled my head.   Before we planted our seeds, we added additional bagged compost and aged steer manure -both available at our local big box store.
Then it was time for planting.  Now a common problem for many gardeners, including me, is that my eyes are bigger then my gardening space.  So, I had to cut my list of desired vegetables to the following: broccoli, spinach, carrots, romaine lettuce, garlic, basil and bunching onions.
My daughter Ruthie and I planted the seeds and then eagerly waited to see tiny green leaves break through the surface.  They did within a few days and then the unexpected happened….birds got to them.  So we began again and spread bird netting on the top, which thankfully worked.
My tiny vegetable plants were growing beautifully, but they faced another hurdle.  I was leaving for two weeks on vacation and my 18 year old daughter was staying at home and therefore responsible to take care of my garden, including watering my vegetables.  Now those of you who are gardeners understand my trepidation.  House-sitters are not always super reliable when it comes to caring for your garden.  Couple that with the fact that my daughter has not shown any inclination towards gardening….at least not yet.  Between college, church and her job, she has little spare time.  I was worried that she my not take her watering responsibilities seriously.  I might have mentioned to her ahead of time that you can always tell if a vegetable garden has been watered correctly by the taste of the lettuce.  If the leaves are bitter, then there were periods of dryness.  I think that maybe made the difference, because when we returned from our vacation, my garden was absolutely thriving.
I was so thankful for how wonderfully my daughter cared for my garden.  The one thing in the garden that really surprised me was how tall my tomato plants had grown….they were over 4 ft. tall.
I had planted Marigolds throughout the garden to help ward off any undesirable bugs and so far they are working – doesn’t my lettuce look beautiful?.  I also planted some Nasturtiums for the same reason as well.  I am fast becoming a firm believer in companion planting.
I love carrots and will thin them soon once they grow a little larger.
I do not like cooked spinach.  But I love putting baby spinach leaves in my salads.  It is hard to not to grab some and eat them when I am out in the garden…..I just know that I will succumb to temptation soon 🙂
My broccoli is coming up too.  They may be too close, but I will wait and see for sure before I pull any out.

My basil is growing in front of my tomato plants.  Whenever I look at the two together, it makes me want to go and make marinara sauce.

In front of my lettuce is bunching onions (scallions) and the taller one is garlic.  Did you know that you plant garlic from garlic cloves?  You can even plant cloves or garlic you buy at the grocery store.  My kids thought that was so cool.
As hard as I try to have straight, neat rows of vegetables, I always fail.  But, that is really not the point is it?  Vegetables respond to fertile soil, sun and water….not whether or not they are perfectly straight 🙂
It may seem like the rows are too close together….I did follow the instructions of the seed packets, but I can always pull something out if it gets too close.  I would rather fit all I can in my vegetable garden then have large bare spots which contribute nothing to my table.
**I am somewhat proud to say that everything in my vegetable garden, with the exception of the tomatoes, marigolds and the garlic, were all grown from seed.**  I personally have nothing against buying transplants at the nursery and growing them, but your options of picking out certain varieties of vegetables is limited and it does cost more.  I recommend growing vegetables from seed and if some do not, then by all means….buy the transplants 🙂
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Today, we are celebrating my daughter Gracie’s 9th birthday.  She wanted to have her party at our local pizza restaurant where she and her friends can enjoy all of the games.  I love the fact that I don’t have to have a sparkling clean house (I seldom do), I don’t have to prepare the food or clean-up afterward.  I did make the cake, which is something I do love to do.  

Happy 9th Birthday Gracie!

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

I am what many people would call a “planner”.  I absolutely love to plan things ahead of time…..trips, schedules, and my garden.  As the month of August begins to wane, it is time to start planning my fall vegetable garden.

As a child, I would enjoy sitting down with my dad’s newest Burpee catalog, looking at the newest vegetable and flower seed offerings.  Now times have changed and instead of looking through a paper catalog, I was looking at a ‘virtual’ online catalog of numerous seed company sites.  One that I especially like is Botanical Interests.   They offer high-quality flower and vegetable seed at reasonable prices.  Even if you do not purchase seeds from them, they offer extremely helpful growing tips for each type of seed that they sell.  I have seen them for sale at some local nurseries and they are also available online as well.

Okay, back to my planning.  I have cleaned out much of my vegetable garden, which leaves a tomato plant (which weathered the summer heat very well under shade cloth), a pumpkin plant that is growing mostly outside of the garden and a few basil plants.  The landscape designer in me loves nothing better than a mostly blank palette 🙂  Tuesday evening, found me at Double S Farms having our weekly dinner with family and my mother (Pastor Farmer) brought out a wooden chest full of seeds.  She had more than she needed and offered to let me have some.  *I am often blessed by the generosity of the residents (my mother, sister, and her family) of Double S Farms.

 

Needless to say, I was in heaven.  The different seeds were stored in tiny plastic bags and then placed inside of little Gerber baby food containers.  I opened the broccoli container and was so happy to find 4 different types of varieties to choose from.
I filled up my share of Ziploc bags with all different types of seeds.  Have you heard the phrase “My eyes were bigger than my stomach?”  Well, in this case, I believe that my eyes were bigger than my vegetable garden.  I know that I do not have room to grow everything that I would like, but I have some definite favorites that I will plant.
The time to plant many vegetables and flowers begins in September in the lower deserts and I hope to find room to plant the following…..
Broccoli
Garlic
Scallions
Carrots
Lettuce
I am not sure that I have room for the following, but they can also be planted in September in our area:
Beets
Cabbage
Cauliflower
Celery
Eggplant
Peas
&
Radishes
I have also decided to plant some companion plants to help attract beneficial insects and deter damaging insects to my vegetable garden.
 Bachelor’s Button / Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus)
I plan on planting Bachelor’s Button, Nasturtiums and Marigolds.  Each of these flowers can be directly sown by seed.
Bachelor’s Button can be planted September through November from seed and attracts many different pollinators to my garden.

Nasturtium is a powerhouse in the vegetable garden.  They repel damaging insects such as aphids, whiteflies as well as some beetles.  Another benefit is that insects that eat scale are also attracted by nasturtiums.  *A lesser-known benefit is that both the flowers and leaves of nasturtium are edible.  The leaves taste great with mixed salad greens and the flowers make a pretty garnish.

Marigolds are well known for their ability to repel damaging insects in the garden such as aphids, whiteflies, crickets and grasshoppers.  French Marigolds (Tagetes patula), also help to repel nematodes in the soil.  The bright flowers of all Marigolds attract butterflies and other pollinators.

Here are a few other great companion plants you may consider growing in and around your vegetable garden….

Alyssum (attracts pollinators, beneficial insects)
Basil (attracts pollinators, repels damaging insects)
Chives (repels damaging insects)
Coriander (attracts pollinators, repels damaging insects, attracts beneficial insects)
Lavender (attracts butterflies & bees, repels damaging insects)
Petunias (repels aphids)
Rosemary (flowers attract pollinators, repels damaging insects)
Thyme (attracts beneficial insects while repelling damaging insects)

I plan on preparing the soil in my raised vegetable garden by adding a mixture of compost and aged steer manure.  *If you are like me and do not compost (I really should), or have cows in your backyard (I really don’t want any), you can buy both at your local big box store or local nursery.  I apply compost and manure twice a year – in in late summer and late winter.

Other types of manure that are recommended for vegetable gardens are chicken and horse.  Just make sure that they are aged and not fresh – fresh manure will burn your plants.

Nothing says “I love you” quite like a man who shovels manure for his wife’s vegetable garden.
I am so blessed 🙂 

**Many professional and amateur vegetable gardeners have their own special garden soil recipe and they all have great results using different ratios and types of compost, manure and other amendments.  What this really means to the backyard gardener is that there is no one ‘right’ recipe.  Rather, there are many.  The one overriding ingredient is compost.  Even if compost is all you use for your garden soil, you will grow great vegetables.


I tend to go organic when I work in my vegetable garden in terms of fertilizer, but I have been known to apply a slow-release synthetic fertilizer in the past.  If you decide to use a slow-release synthetic fertilizer, the labeling will tell you how long the fertilizer should last once applied.  However, in our warm climate, it will not last that long….cut the length of time in half to determine how long it will really last.  

 Big box stores are now carrying a wide variety of organic fertilizers.  I saw an organic fertilizer blend there just the other day that combined both bone meal, blood meal, micro-organisms as well as myccorhizae, which would work just great in my garden.  *Mycorrhizae is a fungus that forms an extremely beneficial symbiotic relationship with plants via their roots.


And so, this weekend will find me adding my semi-annual application of compost/manure and organic fertilizer to my vegetable garden and allowing it to rest for a week or so before planting my seeds, which will actually help the soil. 


I can almost taste my fresh grown vegetables…..


For more information about vegetable gardening including what and when to plant, you can check out this link.