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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…

I hope you enjoyed the grand tour of my edible garden that I created in my side yard.


Today, I would like to show what is happening in my original vegetable garden…


As you can see, there is a lot growing in this area.

Among the vegetables is a giant sunflower, pots filled with ornamental plants AND vegetables and hollyhocks that have finished flowering can be seen alongside the garden.

Off to the right side, you can see my container corn.

And yes, those are plastic patio chairs inside my vegetable garden.  (I’ll explain why later.)


This edible garden is actually made up of three parts.  My original vegetable garden was a fenced in square space.  Like many gardeners who like to grow their own food, I realized that I needed more space – so we added on an extension a couple of years ago…


The third part of my edible garden consists of vegetables growing in containers along with ornamental plants…



I currently have zucchini growing in the closest pot along with a jalapeño plant, parsley and sweet potato vines.

The middle pot is filled with a Thai pepper plant, chives, cucumber, celosia and kangaroo paw.

The third (and my most favorite container) has a bell pepper plant, cinnamon basil, green & purple sweet potato vines, dianthus and angelita daisy growing inside.


The outer vegetable garden is filled with sunflowers and bush beans.

Our family loves to eat ‘string beans’.  They are easy to grow and to freeze for later.


Here is something that you may not know about growing beans.  “They make their own nitrogen, so you don’t need to add any nitrogen fertilizer.”  

In fact, if fertilize them with a fertilizer that contains nitrogen – it can cause them to grow beautiful leaves, but not beans.  That is because there needs to be a balance between the other major nutrients – phosphorus and potassium.

If you do apply a fertilizer, make sure that contains a low amount of nitrogen.

I have lots of cucumbers growing in the original vegetable garden along with a couple of pumpkin plants.

As a child, I grew up calling cucumbers ‘gurkens’, which is what they are called in German.  I spent some time when I was young, in Germany, visiting my grandparents while my grandfather was working over there.

I love cucumbers and we eat them 3 or 4 times a week.


It can be a little hard to spot ripe cucumbers.  Most of my cucumber plants are growing up onto the trellis, but sometimes you can find cucumbers growing on the ground.  You need to move the leaves aside to see them.

I like to eat cucumbers with salad, using my grandmother’s top secret’ salad dressing recipe.

I only wish that I could grow cucumbers and leaf lettuce at the same time….


Okay, back to the patio chairs sitting in my garden.

Why on earth would I place chairs in my garden?

Well, they are an easy way to provide shade for vegetables that quickly wilt in the full sun.


And so, that is what is going on in my edible gardens this summer.

**I am excited to share with you a gardening video that I made for Troybilt as a part of my involvement with the ‘Saturday 6″.
I’ll debut it for you on Monday 🙂

Earlier this week, I shared with you the first garden on the Arcadia Edible Tour.  It was just wonderful to see the Sweet Life Garden in person.


However, we had to tear ourselves away from the first garden because there were more to see…



We stopped by Larry’s “Living the Dream Micro Farm”.  


Like many of the gardens we visited, Larry had chickens.

But, what really caught my attention was his row of trash can compost bins.


Each trash can was filled with compost in a different stage.  The trash cans are re-purposed by the City of Phoenix and are available to their residents for $5 a bin.  
Other cities offer free or inexpensive trash cans or compost bins.  Check your local city’s website under waste management to see what they offer.

Larry loved talking about his composting.  He primarily uses chicken manure, coffee ground and leaves.  It takes approximately 2 1/2 months from start to finish according to Larry.


Larry had huge tomato plants growing, heavily laden with fruit (yes, tomatoes are technically a fruit).


After leaving Larry’s garden, my mother asked to stop by Baker’s Nursery, which is her favorite place to buy vegetables.  Baker’s is the favorite nursery of locals and is located on 40th Street, South of Indian School Rd.


The problem with me going to a nursery as nice as Baker’s, is that I become like a child in a candy store.


I always come home with plants and seeds.  In this case, I bought more bush beans for my garden along with some perennial flowers and Angelita Daisy.

Back on tour, we saw some great examples of vegetables being grown.


Eggplant.


Aren’t these cucumber vines impressive?  The trellis is made up of rebar and wire mesh.

I think cucumber flowers are so pretty, don’t you?


I do love the bright colors of blanket flower, which attract pollinators to the vegetable garden.


I think vegetables are beautiful.


This may look like a green tomato – but it isn’t.  It’s a tomatillo.


Zucchini is so impressive in the vegetable garden. They grow so quickly and get so big.  I have them growing my garden too.  Now, I just have to get a recipe for chocolate zucchini cake so my kids will eat it 😉



I haven’t grown strawberries in my garden, although they are my favorite fruit.
I spent time in Germany as a child with my grandparents who had a huge strawberry garden and one of my favorite memories is chasing the rabbits away.

I may have to try growing some next year.

In addition to fruit and vegetables, we did see a beautiful lily pond…


And something quite unexpected…


That’s the thing with garden tours, you never know what you will see…


As you can tell, we were enjoying ourselves very much.


There was so much to see, that I still have one more post showing you some of our favorite parts of a few more gardens.


So come on back….you hear?

I love visiting other people’s gardens, particularly if they have fruit and vegetables growing in them. So, I was thrilled to be able to go on a tour of local ‘edible’ gardens earlier this month.

 
 
This is the second year of the Arcadia Edible Garden Tour, which is made up of a collection of residential gardens in the ‘Arcadia’ area in east Phoenix.  I used to live in this area and it is one of my favorite regions of the Phoenix metro area.
 
Because my mother loves gardening almost as much as I do, I decided to buy her a ticket too and take her with me as a Mother’s Day gift.
 
Our first stop was to see Jill’s Sweet Life Garden.  I made sure to visit there first because I had been following her blog and couldn’t wait to see her gardens in person.
 
 
As we entered the garden, We headed straight for the raised vegetable beds.
 
 
My mother and I love to grow leaf lettuce, so we had to see what varieties were being grown.
 
 
One of the reasons that I was excited to go on this garden tour, was to get ideas to use in my own garden.  
 
Like, using regular wire mesh over the garden.  This would be great to use as a support for shade cloth in summer or frost cloth in the winter.  It is much more attractive then PVC supports.
 
The trellis is made of rebar and wire mesh and provides an attractive support for vining vegetables.
 
 
As many of you know, I love to grow nasturtiums alongside my vegetables.  They aren’t only pretty, they help to keep bad bugs away from my veggies.
 
This bed had a variety of nasturtium that I was anxious to try ‘Cherry Rose Jewel’ (I found seeds at Botanical Interests).  I will definitely be planting these next year.
 
 
As I was busy admiring the raised beds, my attention was drawn upward by a massive trumpet vine that was growing up a Phoenix date palm.
 
 
Talk about an unexpected support for a vine – I loved it.
 
I have been growing a special variety of corn in a half wine barrel.  
 
 
Sweet Life Garden had cucumbers growing in a barrel with a beautiful trellis.  
 
Baker’s Nursery had these wine barrel trellises available, but I’m not sure if they still do.  You could certainly make your own.
 
 
In addition to cucumbers, sunflowers were also growing in a barrel.  I may have to try this.
 
 
I love growing herbs in pots, but I think Jill’s look better then mine because of the half barrels.  I think I need to get more for my garden.
 
 
Tomatoes were growing like crazy with some beautiful heirloom varieties ripening.
 
 
Wouldn’t this look beautiful on a sandwich or on a salad?
 
 
I think it is important to have seating areas scattered throughout the garden, which invites you to sit and enjoy your surroundings.
 
 
Here is another example of the wire mesh being used as a trellis.
 
 
For those of you who mourn the fact that they cannot grow leafy greens for their salad in summer – let me introduce you to Malabar spinach.  
 
Okay, it’s not exactly a spinach but tastes great in salads and tastes like spinach when cooked.
 
It loves hot temperatures and needs a trellis for support.  I have seeds, but will probably wait until next year to plant mine.
 
The seeds can be a little hard to find at your local nursery, but you can buy some through Amazon.com for under a $1 – just type in Malabar spinach in the search.
 
 
Why limit yourself to growing just vegetables?  
 
Fruit on shrubs and trees is also fun to grow as you can see from the large peach tree, above and the espaliered apple tree, below.
 
I especially enjoyed seeing the peach orchard.
My peaches are almost ready for picking 🙂
 
 
I have been busy picking the blackberries off of my vines and have been thinking of adding more next winter.  
 
 
After seeing the berries at Sweet Life Garden, I will definitely add more to my own garden.
 
Did you know that there is a thornless variety?  I have one thorny blackberry bush and the rest are thornless.  Guess which kind I like best?
 
 
It was time to wrap up our visit because there were more gardens to visit.
 
 
Did I mention that they have chickens too?  
 
On our way out, we enjoyed seeing a variety of products offered by Sweet Life Garden and local vendors.
 
 
 
I had already eaten breakfast, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying a few samples.
 
 
 
The three-cheese black pepper bread came home with me.
 
We had a great time visiting Jill, at Sweet Life Garden.  
 
But, our adventure didn’t end there.  There were more gardens to visit.  I will give you the highlights of the other gardens in my next post.
 
**You can find information about the Arcadia Edible Garden Tour on Jill’s blog, Sweet Life Garden.  Be sure to order early next spring, when tickets are available.

Summer is officially here.  To be honest, I think it is funny that summer ‘starts’ on June 20th when we have already had temperatures above 100 degrees for weeks.

It may be hot, but my vegetable garden is thriving. 

Here is a snapshot of the past week in my garden:

 My newest vegetable garden is doing very well.  Actually, it is doing better then I had even hoped.  The reason for this is that it receives filtered shade in both the morning and afternoon.  
 The result is that my marigolds and nasturtiums are still thriving even though they normally die off by the end of May.

I am a thrifty person by nature and like to save money when I can in the garden, so I collect the seeds from dried flowers in order to plant them again the following season:


 Hollyhock seeds
Marigold seeds
I save the seeds in regular envelopes.
About 3 weeks ago, I cut back my spent hollyhocks and have been pleasantly surprised to see them come back.
My vegetable gardens continue to produce corn, tomatoes, string beans, sweet bell peppers, cucumbers and herbs.
Before you see the following picture, I need to remind you that I am far from a perfect gardener…
 This is what happens when you are out of town and don’t get to harvest your corn.

You can see that the kernels are sunken and even dried out.

Now if you grew an heirloom variety of corn, you can save the dried kernels for planting next year.  
(Heirloom varieties of vegetables aren’t hybrids and will grow the exactly the same as the parent plant).

OR, you can allow the corn cobs to dry out completely and set them out for the birds, which is what I plant to do since I planted a hybrid type of corn.
(The seeds from hybrids won’t produce the same plant).
Clockwise from top: Basil, Thyme, Sage, Rosemary and Purple Basil.
 
I normally dry my herbs in bunches, hanging upside down.  But my sister has done it by drying them on cookie sheets.  Because we live in a desert, this is a viable option.
I must admit that I haven’t tried this before, so I’m anxious to see how it works.  I set the cookie sheets out in my garage, covered with a dish cloth.  
We’ll see how it works.
Lastly, I have planted some vegetable seeds outside of my garden.  More about that later….
As for the rest of the week – I will be spending much of my time indoors in air-conditioned comfort, viewing my garden from indoors 😉 

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How about you?
What are you doing in the garden this week?

Have you ever noticed that not all treasures (and by ‘treasures’, I mean vegetables) in your vegetable garden are obvious?

A particularly sneaky vegetable are cucumbers.
You can look at a beautiful cucumber plant and not see any cucumbers, despite the fact that there may be quite a few just ready for the picking.
Cucumbers are very easy to grow and need support to grow up onto.  I use both tomato cages and thin bamboo stakes tied into a ‘tepee’ shape.
One thing you may not know about cucumbers is that each plant produces two different kind of flowers – one is male and the other is female.
Above, is a picture of the male flower.  They appear before the female flowers.
Female flowers have a thick base, which has the shape of a tiny cucumber.  It is from the female flowers that the cucumbers are formed.
Earlier this week, I went out to check my vegetable garden and to make sure there were no pests bothering my young cucumber plants.
All five of my cucumber plants looked happy and I didn’t expect any cucumbers yet.
But, just to be sure, I moved the large leaves aside and found….
A beautiful, fully ripe cucumber.
In fact, there wasn’t just one, there was another cucumber as well.
So the moral of this story is to check up on your vegetables often and look beyond the large leaves.

*This blog post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). Thanks for your support in this way.*

Last winter, I was enjoying a rare moment of peace….no kids or husband in the house, the garden didn’t need any attention and no articles to write. So, I decided to see what was on television.  As I was channel surfing, I saw a gardening show and of course, I stopped and watched.

What I saw was the host and featured garden expert, showing how to grow vegetables and flowers together in containers. Since I love both vegetables and flowers, I was intrigued.  So I bought the book written by the featured garden expert and got started.


I found nice plastic containers on sale along with some tiny trellises, as well as planting mix (NOT potting soil, which gets too soggy for container plants).
Planting mix is specially formulated for containers – it has a light texture and holds just the right amount of moisture for plants.


Then, I started planting.  I came up with the vegetable and flower combinations on my own and I must admit that I was happy how they turned out…




The first container has purple violas, spinach, bell pepper plant and nasturtiums. I started all of these from transplants, except for the nasturtiums, which came from seed that I planted.
 
I periodically snip the spinach for salads and I have harvested a single bell pepper so far.  However, there are flowers on my pepper plant, so more peppers are on the way.
 
 
This container was planted with red and green leaf lettuce, pink dianthus and cucumbers.
 
I snip the lettuce for salad and the dianthus has been blooming nonstop. The only problem that I have had with this container are the cucumbers.
 
Cucumbers do best when started from seed, not transplants.  I have grown a lot of cucumbers over the years.  So, I placed two small trellises in the back of the container and planted cucumber seeds at their base. I picked a variety of cucumbers that were small and would do well in a container.
 
Unfortunately, they never came up.
 
I tried planting them in my regular vegetable garden and they never came up.
 
I tried starting them indoors and they didn’t sprout.
*I had purchased the seeds online from a very reputable seed company, but the entire package of seeds was defective. 
 
So I planted my go-to cucumber seeds and they are starting to grow beautifully.

 

My last vegetable/flower container has romaine lettuce, sugar snap peas and Icelandic poppies.
 
The lettuce has done very well, BUT my little dog discovered that he likes lettuce, and he would take some little bites from the sides of the lettuce.  I simply put some plastic patio chairs around the pot and he kept away.  Later, I took the chairs away and he left the lettuce alone.
 
The poppies haven’t bloomed yet, but I can see their buds, so it won’t be long now.

I have been picking off sugar snap peas every time I am in the garden and eating them on the spot.
 
So, does the idea of growing vegetables and flowers together appeal to you?
 
The book I read was “Easy Container Combos: Vegetables and Flowers” by Pamela Crawford. (I haven’t been asked to promote her book – I bought it myself and really enjoyed it so much). 
 
I can’t wait to try some different combos this summer once the lettuce fades away.  I promise I will share 🙂
 
**One thing I love so much about gardening is trying new things. This one was a home run for me.

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 🙂

Believe it or not, it is time to plant certain kinds of vegetables right now.  

Yes, I realize that it is August and it is hot and the last thing you probably want to do is have to plant seeds out in your vegetable garden.  


But, just keep telling yourself that by working a little bit now, you will reap the rewards of fresh vegetables in just a few months when the temperatures are cooler.

So what seeds can you plant now?  Here are some of my favorites….

Sweet Corn…
Yes, we can grow two crops of corn here in the desert – once in spring and in the fall.  Aren’t we lucky?
 
Cucumbers…
Mine are still going strong from the spring.  Mostly due to the shade cloth.  I am still getting cucumbers.  It is amazing what a difference shade cloth makes 🙂
Leaf Lettuce…
I think this is my favorite vegetable.  I love going out in the garden with scissors and clipping our dinner salad.
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There are also other vegetables that you can plant now from seed and they include:
Basil (okay, this is a herb, but I do grow it in my vegetable garden)
 Cabbage
Celery
Green Snap Beans
Head Lettuce
and 
Summer Squash

It’s important to remember to start these from seed when planting this time of year.  However, if you prefer using transplants, you will need to wait until fall to plant.
So, do you have any plans for planting vegetables soon?
I would love to hear what you will be growing 🙂
 

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 🙂