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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.

 
 
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.
 
 
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.



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.



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 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 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”.
 
 
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?
 
 

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’
 
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.
 
 
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.  



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.

 
 
The local dry cleaner allowed the property adjacent to their store to be used for this inner-city community garden.
 
 
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.
 
 
We measured out the placement for the beds with assistance from the folks at Troybilt and the Miami chapter of “Keep America Beautiful“.
 

 

 
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.
 
 
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.
 
 
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…
 
Limestone rock lay right underneath the grass, making digging all but impossible.
 
 
We filled the beds with topsoil and aged steer manure in alternating layers.
 
 
Troybilt supplied us with the necessary garden equipment including a cultivator, which we used to help mix the layers of topsoil and manure together.
 
 
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.
 
 
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.
 
Members of the community came out to watch our progress, including the neighborhood police officer.
 
 
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.
 
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.
 
 
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.
 
 
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.
 

 

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!
 
 
 

 

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?


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


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?

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.


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


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


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


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…

Do you know what these are?


They look like a pile of match sticks, don’t they?

I never cease to be amazed at the humble beginnings that most flowers arise from.

Can you tell what type of seeds these are?


They are marigold seeds.

Marigolds are very easy to grow from seed.  Once the flowers die, simply pull out the dried petals and you have seeds with which to plant new ones.


I use marigolds in my vegetable gardens as a companion plant.

They not only look pretty, but also help to repel damaging bugs from attacking my vegetables.

During mild winters, they will grow from fall through spring – but can be killed back from freezing temperatures.  They usually die in summer in my desert garden.  But, once  the cooler weather of fall arrives, they come up again from seed.

They meet my criteria of a fuss-free plant.  Marigolds don’t need rich soil or fertilizer.  Where you plant them is up to you, but they do best in sunny areas.

Marigolds also make great container plants and also look nice in bouquets.  

You can find marigolds at most nurseries where annual flowers are located.  Or, you can plant them easily from seed.

How about you?  

Have you ever grown marigolds?

How do you use them in your garden?

I have been waiting, rather impatiently I might add, for a certain item in the mail – a magazine with my published article!

And, I am happy to say that it arrived a couple of days ago….

Here it is!
Although, I have written articles for magazines before – but this is the first one that I wrote for a national magazine.
Last year, I was asked by the editor of Birds & Blooms magazine to write two articles for their magazine this year.  (I do write twice a week for their blog).
This is the first article, which is about ‘companion gardening’.  
I practice ‘companion gardening’ in my own garden and have written smaller articles about it, including posts on this blog.  
But, I did do some additional research for this article and was pleasantly surprised to find out more combinations and practices that use combining certain plants together that benefit each other.
I wrote this article from a hotel room back in March, while we were temporarily evacuated from our house when it flooded.
The next article is due out next month and is about ‘drought-tolerant’ gardening.
**Birds & Blooms is a Reader’s Digest publication.  I have found it at my local Kroger’s grocery store as well at Barnes & Noble.
Of course, you can always subscribe to it.  It has lots of great gardening ideas and DIY projects. 

**If you would like to order an individual issue, you can get one here 🙂

I love using companion plants in my garden.  

Companion or complementary plants have qualities that help other plants in the garden.  They can repel bad bugs, attract pollinators and good bugs, fertilize the soil, prevent plant disease and in some cases – improve the flavor of fruit and vegetables.

I am a huge fan of using companion plants in the garden.  Nasturtiums and marigolds are planted among my vegetables and help to repel damaging insects.
I also plant garlic and onions, not only to eat, but also to help keep the bad bugs away.
The other day, I was researching an article that I was writing for a magazine and I found out that companion planting has its roots in early American history.
Native Americans would practice the “3 Sisters” method of companion planting.  They would grow beans, corn and squash in the same area.
All of these plants help each other:
– The corn provides support for the bean vines to climb upon.
– The beans take nitrogen from the air and convert to a form that the corn and squash can absorb in the soil.
– The squash shade the soil, helping to maintain moisture and keeps weeds from growing. 

So, my daughter, Gracie and I decided to adapt this plan for our garden and called it the “Two Sisters”.


We decided to plant some of our Kentucky beans (that we had been growing indoors in Starbucks coffee cup sleeves) next to the young corn in our garden.
(Gracie was happy to help me.  Please ignore the unbrushed hair, but it was an early Saturday morning and we had better things to do – like PLANT!)
You can see how big the beans had grown.
They grew quickly in the 2 weeks on my windowsill – just look at all the roots.


We planted them next to our corn, keeping the cardboard sleeve around them.  (The cardboard will disintegrate in the soil).

Just 3 days later, I can see the beans already climbing up on the corn.

I realize that we did not plant any summer squash to complete the “3 Sisters”, but to be perfectly honest – I don’t like squash.

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I spent 4 hours this morning, helping to add a hummingbird / butterfly garden with a pathway and benches in an area that is dear to my heart.

I can’t wait to share it with you soon.

On another front – we have been told that our insurance company will replace our carpet and paint some of our walls.  They took a piece of untouched carpet and padding and sent it to Florida to a place that will determine the quality of what we had, so that they can replace it with carpet/padding of comparable quality.

So, our living room is full of furniture of the kids rooms and other stuff.  We aren’t sure how long we will have to wait for our lives to get back to normal, but I am so grateful that insurance is covering the damages.

I hope you are off to a good start.

What are you doing in your garden this week?