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It may be awfully hot outside, but my garden is awash in brightly colored flowers from my single bougainvillea, Arizona yellow bells and ‘Rio Bravo’ sage, which shrug off the summer heat.

Last year, we decided to create an edible garden along the side of our house. 

This was a large underused area that we look out at from our kitchen, family room and bedrooms.

To get it ready for planting, we had our ghost gum eucalyptus tree removed.  It was a beautiful tree, but was quickly outgrowing this area with its overhanging limbs.

The next step involved pulling out some of the flowering shrubs along the back wall and along the side of the house.  We kept the flowering shrubs along the side wall, because they add beauty and help to break up the bare expanse of the wall.

This is what the side garden looks like today…

The centerpiece of the edible garden is the vegetable garden.  Right now, it is filled with corn, zucchini, tomatoes, cucumbers and sunflowers.

In front, is my colorful container filled with a variety of herbs including basil, parsley, sage and thyme.  I bought an inexpensive plastic container and spray painted it a bright blue.  The container is connected to the drip system of the vegetable garden.


In the foreground (not pictured) is our new Arizona sweet orange tree.  We planted it last year and are excited to have three oranges growing on it.  

You may be thinking that three oranges is not much to be excited about, but the first couple of years after a citrus tree is planted – you are lucky to get any fruit at all.

Newly planted citrus trees shouldn’t be fertilized during the first year, because you want them to focus on root growth, not upper growth when there is not a substantial root system for them to rely on.  Since it has been a year since we have planted it, we will fertilize this year.


In front of the vegetable garden are a pair of new peach trees.  

I love peaches and have enjoyed the fruit from my mother’s peach trees for years.  I finally decided that I wanted to grow my own.  

We got 18 peaches this year, which is a lot considering that we planted them in January.

Notice the green plant at the base of the peach tree?  It is a gourd plant that will quickly grow and cover the ground.  This will serve as a ‘living mulch’ and help to prevent weeds and shade the roots of my peach trees.


Inside the vegetable garden, sunflower seeds are beginning to form.  It is so fun to see the birds hanging upside down trying to get to the seeds.  

You can allow the birds to eat the seeds or if you want to save them for yourself, simply tie a paper bag around the flower to keep the birds away.

I’ll probably save some flowers for ourselves and let the birds enjoy the seeds of a couple of unprotected sunflowers.


A large zucchini plant is growing in the background and as anyone who has grown zucchini will tell you, it is prolific.

The slightly wilting plant in the foreground is a pumpkin plant.  If you want a pumpkin for fall, then June is when you want to plant them.

It is normal for the leaves to wilt slightly during the heat of the day.  They will return to normal later in the day.


Zucchini can hide underneath the large leaves of the zucchini plant.  I’m going to use this one to make my chocolate chip zucchini bread.  It’s delicious and your kids will never know there is zucchini in it 😉

I found the recipe on Pinterest and have already made it once.  My family keeps bugging me to make more.  Here is the link to the recipe, if you are interested – Chocolate Zucchini Bread


My tomatoes are flourishing in the natural shade provided by my sunflowers.


One of my cherry tomato plants has even decided to expand a bit outside of the garden.


Behind the vegetable garden are my two apple trees, planted this January.  One is a Anna apple tree and the other is a Dorsett Golden.  These apple trees do well in the desert and although they will produce apples if planted alone – they will produce more apples because they will cross pollinate each other.

It will take a few years for any apples to appear, but the blossoms in spring are just lovely.


Behind the apple trees are six blackberry bushes.  This year, we enjoyed the berries so much and are hoping for even more next year as they grow larger.

Blackberries won’t produce the first year after planting because the berries appear on 1-year odd canes.

Did you know that there are now thornless varieties of blackberries available?  I have one….I only wish that the other five were thornless 😉

Well, that is what I have growing in my side edible garden.

Tomorrow, I’ll share what is growing in my original vegetable garden.

What do you have growing in your garden right now?

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.


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.


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.


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…


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:

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 🙂


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?

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?

Okay, after many of you read this, you will come to the conclusion that I am a bit strange when it comes to gardening.

A few days ago, I was checking on my vegetable garden.  Specifically, I was checking to see if my corn was ready to harvest.

The corn silk was brown, so I knew they would be ready soon.  But there was one more test to perform.  I made a slit with a knife through the husk so that I could pierce a corn kernel.  The liquid that comes out should be translucent – not clear or opaque.
Thankfully, some of my corn was ripe and ready to be picked!
I did plant three separate crops of corn, about 2 weeks apart so that we will enjoy eating corn for a longer period of time.
 
Okay, so you may be wondering how I am weird about gardening.  I was looking forward to my corn being ready to harvest, but truth be told, I forgot about my other vegetables.
The reason is, is that I get so into the process of planting and seeing my vegetables grow, that I sometimes lose sight of the fact that I will have fresh vegetables to harvest.
So, I was honestly surprised to discover that I had ripe cucumbers…


I was so excited about my new cucumbers and I realized that I had other vegetables to check up on.



In addition to the corn and cucumbers, I had quite a few tomatoes from my single cherry tomato plant.  I still call tomatoes vegetables even though they are technically a fruit 😉

I then decided to check up on my San Marzano tomatoes.  To be honest, I was a bit frustrated with them because I had been seeing numerous flowers on them, but no tomatoes.  I had planted them the same time that I had planted my cherry tomato, which had been producing tons of tomatoes for over 2 months.

Well, guess what I saw when I looked closely at my San Marzano’s?



They are absolutely covered with tons of green tomatoes!  I can’t wait until they ripen.

Why did I choose San Marzano tomatoes?  Well, I love to watch the Food Network and all the chefs swear by them for making Italian sauces.  I’m not Italian, but I absolutely love Italian food. 

They should be ready next week for harvesting.  I read up on them and found out that they do take longer to produce than many other tomato varieties, but when they begin, they go crazy.
I did not plant tons of different things in my garden this season.  I decided to concentrate on our favorites – corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, basil, oregano and….



Gourds!

This is the only one that I have found so far and it was hard to see behind the large leaves.  I plan on making a bird house out of it later.

So, that is what is going on in my garden this week.  I definitely learned my lesson – I will remember to always look for ripe vegetables 🙂

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I apologize for my lack of posting this past week, but it has been a busy time with….

6th grade graduation
Doctor’s visits
Landscape consults
My son’s birthday party
Getting carpets cleaned and moving furniture
Babysitting my 8 month old twin nephews
I am so ready for summer vacation, how about you?
I am making some strawberry jam tomorrow.  I have been waiting for strawberries to go on sale at our local grocery store and they are only $1.15 a pound.  The kids are going to help me.  I will post more later.
I hope you are all having a wonderful holiday weekend and take time to remember those who have fought for our freedom 🙂

Well, it’s official….my vegetable garden has gone crazy.  When I left for my trip to the Midwest at the end of April, it was nice and somewhat neat.  My winter lettuce, spinach, green onions and garlic were doing well and my newly planted corn, cucumbers, gourds, tomatoes and sunflowers were coming up nicely.

I came home 10 days later to this sight….

My sunflowers were reaching over 7 feet tall and my corn, to the right, was not far behind.
My garlic leaves were starting to droop and fall over, indicating that I can harvest them soon.
My spinach and lettuce both began to ‘bolt’ and start to form flowers, so it was time for them to leave the garden.
My gourd has started to escape the garden, which is fine with me because it can’t crowd my other plants.
I think gourd plants have interesting flowers, don’t you?  They open at night and moths are frequent pollinators.
I am hoping for some gourds this year that I can turn into bird houses.
I just love how sunflowers face the rising sun.
I plan on harvesting a few seed heads for the family and the rest we will feed to the birds.
My Alyssum and Oxalis that I planted as companion plants in my vegetable garden are still blooming.  Soon the Alyssum will dry up with the heat of our desert summer and I will pull it out.
My tomatoes are enjoying being planted next to my Bachelor’s Button.  I just love their vibrant blue color.  They are going to seed and I am collecting it so that I can replant them next fall.
The first set of corn that I planted have corn cobs growing.  I can almost taste my roasted corn on the cob in a few weeks 🙂
I have to spend some time the next couple of days harvesting my garlic and green onions as well as pulling out my spent spinach and lettuce.
Now, I am off to my local big box store for shade cloth for my tomatoes, which will survive the summer heat if they have some shade.  Temperatures are forecast into the 80’s this week, but it is never to early to get ready for the triple digits.
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I hope you all have a wonderful week!

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”

Well, I have to admit, that in the past, I did not truly understand the allure of vegetable gardening.  Sure, I had to grow my own plot of vegetables in college for my horticulture class – but that was for a grade.  I also dutifully helped people create their own gardens, but I never had one for myself.  

That was then, and this is now….I am completely hooked on vegetable gardening!  Each morning, I go out to see how my plants are doing and the kids hurry home for school and check to see if there have been any changes.  Their favorite thing to do is to find the newly ripened cherry tomatoes to eat – they never make it to our salads.

It has been six weeks since we planted our seeds directly in the ground and you can read about it in my earlier post, “A Vegetable Garden – Completed” if you like.

I just love this view outside of my family room window.  I can see the tops of my corn just over the fence and my flowering Palo Verde in the background.  The Palo Verde flowers are providing a nice layer of mulch for my garden.
At first, it seemed like it was taking a long time for my small plants to begin growing.  I celebrated each time a tiny seedling germinated, but it seemed to take a while for them to really get going.  But, that is probably because I was watching them so closely every day, which reminds me of the saying “A watched pot never boils.” 
That is where pictures help to provide a healthy dose of reality for me.  Below, is a picture I took of our little garden, just two weeks after planting from seed….
*The transplants in the seed trays were for an upcoming service project and I also gave some to my mother for her garden.
Now, I know that I did not organize my plantings very well and probably have done quite a few things wrong, but that is what is fun about gardening.  You can learn so much just by doing.  For example, you should have three rows of corn in order for them to pollinate each other.  Since I do not have that much corn, I will have the kids help with the pollination, so they can learn even more about how things grow.
Below is a picture taken two weeks ago of my tomato plant in the right back corner and there is such a difference.
 
You can see above my tomato plant has grown quite a bit in just four weeks and I have pumpkin growing in the foreground ( I realize that we sowed the pumpkin seedlings too early and will probably have pumpkins this summer, but the kids were so excited to grow some right now).
Now, come see the garden at just six weeks after sowing the seeds.  I must admit, that I am a little bit proud of our garden 🙂
 
The corn is now taller then the fence and I can see the corn flower starting to emerge.  
Our single tomato plant is growing so beautifully and produces quite a few tomatoes for us.  I will be planting a lot more tomato plants next time – maybe give each of the kids their own plant.
Our climate is ideal for growing watermelon and I cannot wait to see the flowers start to appear on our watermelon plants.
 
The  flowers are starting to appear on our cucumber plants.
I love the large leaves of the pumpkin plant.
My tiny oregano plant is starting to look more like a little plant then just a couple of leaves.  *This is a macro-view and the plant is actually still quite small.
You can tell that I have already started to use some of my basil 🙂
My sunflowers are starting to grow tall.
And I can see that flowers are almost ready to appear….
Some years, it seems that we go straight from winter into summer and skip over spring.  But this year, we have had a lovely spring, but now that temperatures are climbing into the 90’s, I have covered some of the garden in shade cloth (the corn are too tall and do not require shade).  This helps to protect the leaves and vegetables from becoming sunburned.  

My daughter, Ruthie, is so proud of our little garden and made me a sign for the garden for Mother’s Day.  She cut it out of wood (with her dad’s help) and painted it for me.

Thank you so much for letting me show you how our garden is growing.   

I will post another update soon, probably as soon as I see some flowers.

Have a great day!