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Guess who went plant shopping!
Not me….
But, my mom did.
She went to buy her fall vegetables at Baker’s Nursery, which is a hugely popular nursery in Phoenix.
Since I knew was going, she kindly offered to buy the remaining plants on my list.
And as another example of how wonderful she is – she took my two youngest kids (Kai and Gracie) with her and treated them to lunch.
So, what did we get?
 Dill, Parsley and Thyme, which are herbs that will do well through the winter in my garden.
Green and Purple Leaf Lettuce that I will be growing in pots and in a very unusual place that I will share later.
 Lobelia and Alyssum, which are great flowering, low-growing annuals that I will use in a unique container.

Lots of Broccoli, which is my favorite vegetable.
I didn’t get the garlic from Baker’s Nursery.  I usually buy my garlic from my local grocery store and it works just fine.  Although, you can buy different varieties from online nurseries.

The last thing they bought were Petunias, which weren’t on my list.  But, my mother loves to help foster a love for gardening with her grandchildren.  
So, she let Kai and Gracie each choose a six-pack of flowering annuals.  They choose Petunias, which they planted just after they got home.


Okay, I admit that my son looks less then thrilled.  But to be honest, that is how he looks in most of his pictures now.  He really was happy – he spent a few hours with me helping me to plant everything.

Why is it that young boys get this ‘fake’ smile once they hit 5 years old and then later – it is almost like pulling teeth to get them to smile at all?
I promise to share with you the few different things we did with our ‘goodies’ from Baker’s Nursery over the next few posts 🙂


Oh, I have been imagining the bounty of vegetables that will come from my cool-season vegetable garden.
I have visions of of harvesting lettuce, garlic, carrots, green onions, cauliflower, spinach and radishes fresh from the garden.
Marigolds and nasturtiums will also be included in the
vegetable garden to help keep bad bugs away and they make the
vegetable garden pretty.

Of course, I still have cucumbers, peppers, bush beans and tomato plants in the garden, which keep me busy.  But, I can hardly wait to plant my cool-season vegetables.
 And so in a few weeks, I will add 3 inches of new compost and 1 inch of manure to my gardens, to get them ready for the seeds that I will plant.
I prefer starting vegetables from seed, except for cauliflower & garlic.  Cauliflower does best when started from transplants.  I’ll plant my garlic in October from cloves (I still have about ten heads of garlic left from my spring harvest :-).
I am putting my order in for my seeds now so that they will be ready to plant.
How about you?
What are you going to plant this fall?
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For information on what kind of vegetables to plant in your garden and when to plant them – check out this link (simply enter your zip code for a customized vegetable planting calendar).

**Here is a link of when to plant cool and warm-season vegetables Maricopa County, which is where I live 🙂

The other day, I stepped out into my vegetable garden to get a close up look at how my veggies are ripening.

It may be hard to tell what is what because at first sight, it looks like a sea of green.
In the back I have cauliflower and carrots growing among the nasturtiums.  Toward the front, I have green onions, green leaf lettuce, spinach, parsley and oregano.
The front part of the garden is full of San Marzano tomatoes, pink-flowering Oxalis (not a veggie), garlic and nasturtiums, which are spilling out of the garden.
 
Lastly, the side garden has shallots, sugar snap peas and a single cauliflower.
I love this time of year when there is so much going on in the garden, don’t you?


Check out more gardening tips at
Gardening Tips at Readers Digest
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I would like to thank you all for your supportive comments concerning the flooding of our house.  
We currently have 30 high power fans and 2 large de-humidifiers working in our house.  Unfortunately, that makes the air very warm – 90 degrees inside.
My kitchen is non-functional while appliances are pulled away from the walls, so we are eating out quite a bit (which really isn’t all that bad 😉
The interior walls, furniture and carpet were destroyed.  Thankfully, the insurance company has been very helpful.
I hope you all have a great weekend!

Okay.  It’s really happened to me.  

I had heard about what can happen when you grow your own vegetables from other gardeners, but I didn’t think too much about it until….

It happened to me!


So, what happened you may ask?

I discovered the danger of growing a vegetable garden.

Oh, I know it looks quite innocent in the picture above.  
But, there is a real danger lurking there.
What is the danger?
Well you see, I have discovered the wonderful benefits of growing my own vegetables.  I love their delicious, fresh taste.  I enjoy saving money and passing by the produce section at the grocery store.
So what is my problem?
Although I can grow vegetables all year long, unfortunately I cannot grow the same vegetables 12 months out of the year.
I still look back to that late spring day when I harvested my first planting of garlic from my garden.

We harvested quite a bit.
 
We let it cure for a couple of weeks, then cut off the leafy tops and stored all that garlic in a cool, dry place out of the sun.
Now, I love garlic and use it a lot for cooking.  All I had to do when I needed some garlic was grab one from the bowl I was storing them in on a dark shelf.
But, the other day when I went in there, there was no more garlic.
Now, I have to buy it at the grocery store again.
I never used to mind buying garlic from the store.
But now, I sure do!
The same thing happens when I have to start buying lettuce from the store in summer after enjoying my own homegrown lettuce the rest of the year.
And it goes on and on with corn, broccoli, cucumbers, green onions, carrots and tomatoes.
So, now do you see the danger of growing your own vegetables?
You get spoiled!
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I would like to thank you all for your kind comments regarding my recent “grandmotherhood”.
I am relishing the time I get to spend with Lily Mae.  I could just sit and hold her for hours 🙂

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?

Garlic has to be one of my favorite vegetables.  I use it in almost everything and I almost always use more then the recipe asks for.


I love growing my own garlic and it’s very easy to do.


Fall is the best time to plant garlic and it starts with a visit to your local grocery store.


Garlic is easily planted from cloves.  Take the whole heads of garlic that you have purchased at your grocery store and separate out the individual cloves.

Chose a location in your vegetable garden that receives at least 6 hours of sunlight.  If you do not have an existing vegetable garden, then amend your existing soil with compost and aged steer manure, mixed in well.


Space them approximately 6 inches apart.


Plant 2 inches deep, with the pointed side of each clove pointed upward and cover with soil.
Garlic like regular water, but do not let them become soggy.

They will soon send up green shoots.  In cold climates, add a straw mulch over your garlic.  Freezing weather will cause the green shoots to turn brown, but they will grow back in spring.

Once the outer leaves begin to turn brown and droop, you can harvest your garlic. 



Pull it up carefully and keep the green shoots attached.  Remove any clumps of dirt, but do not clean the heads.

Put your newly harvested garlic in a warm, dry area out of sunlight to ‘cure’ for a few weeks.  Then cut the shoots off.  
Your garlic is now ready to cook with.  Store your garlic out of sunlight.  I keep mine in a bowl on a shelf in my laundry room.

So start growing your own garlic.  You can spend the time they are growing selecting your favorite recipes that need garlic.

In my last post, I showed you how my vegetable garden had gone crazy growing a multitude of different vegetables.  I had the remainder of my winter vegetables ready to harvest as well as pull out.

So over the weekend, I put my kids to work helping me in the garden.


First off, I had to pull out our spinach and lettuce plants that we had enjoyed eating since last October.  You know, it is so hard to have to buy lettuce in the supermarket when I have gotten used to getting it from my own backyard 🙂

Old spinach growing in front of my garlic plants.
I love how easy it is to pull them out.
We collected all of the lettuce and spinach that we pulled and gave it to my mother for her compost pile.  It is really embarrassing that I do not compost, but I have plans to start.
Now for the fun part….my son Kai got in the garden and started to pull out our garlic.
It is harder than it looks, but he got it out.
Then it was my daughter, Ruthie’s turn.  I think this was our largest garlic.

We were almost done, but my daughter Rachele pulled out the last few.



Now it was time to start pulling out the green onions.
You know what?  This is the absolutely the best part of having a vegetable garden – harvesting your vegetables and figuring out how you are going to prepare them.
I checked my cherry tomato plant and found some delicious tomatoes for our salad.
As we were harvesting our vegetables, my mother stopped by with some extra bush bean plants that she had left over after planting her vegetable garden, so now I had something to put in my newly bare areas.
It was a wonderful Saturday and I got to spend the afternoon with all of my kids, including my four daughters.

My youngest daughter, Gracie, tried to smile but couldn’t because she had 6 teeth pulled the day before and her mouth was a bit swollen.  By the way, she did great and is a real trooper.  Thank you for your thoughtful comments 🙂
Okay, so back to my vegetables.  I will let the garlic cure for 4 – 6 weeks in a cool, dark place before using.  Thankfully, my green onions are ready to use right now.  I think my homemade salsa sounds good right about now, don’t you? 

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”

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!