Posts

What do you have growing in your vegetable garden?


I have three separate gardens where I grow vegetables, but they aren’t the only thing that are growing in the rich, moist soil.



There are also red poppies present alongside the Swiss chard and leaf lettuce.


It all started 4 years ago with a packet of red poppy seeds.

Thereafter, every year a new crop of poppies grow among the vegetables.


Poppies aren’t the only flowers that come up each year on their own – blue lobelia, marigolds and nasturtiums are always make their presence known every spring.

For this of you who enjoy colorful annuals, how about giving them some space in your vegetable garden?  It has everything they need – fertile soil and water.

Do you have anything else growing in your edible garden?  What flower would you add?

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?

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 😉 

****************

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

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:




************************

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 🙂


All of us (I hope) have experienced the benefits of having a good friend.  A good friend is someone that you can enjoy good times with, but they are also there to lean on in times of trouble and provide support.


Well, don’t you think your vegetables deserve the same benefits that friendship offers?



Now at this point, some of you may be thinking that I have finally turned into a crazy plant lady…..seriously – vegetables need friends?  Well, the answer is yes.  Vegetables do best when special ‘companion’ plants are planted among them.

Okay, so what does a companion plant do?  Well depending on the kind of plant, they can repel damaging insects and/or attract beneficial insects.  If you add companion plants interspersed throughout your vegetables, they will be much healthier and you will have fewer headaches due to fewer insect problems.


Here are some of my favorites…..

Alyssum (Lobularia maritima), not only has a beautiful, sweet fragrance, but they also attract butterflies and ladybugs which are important pollinators.  Insects that eat mealybugs, scale, thrips and spider mites are also attracted to the alyssum and will help to keep those damaging bugs away.

 
Bachelor’s Button (Centaurea cyanus), also attracts pollinators that are so important to the formation of your vegetables.  They also attract insects that will prey upon damaging insects such as scales and thrips.
Now who doesn’t love the bright flowers of Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus)?  Well your vegetables would love to be friends with them.  In addition to attracting insects that will feast upon mealybugs, Cosmos also serve a general deterrent to insects.

Pelargoniums commonly called Geraniums not only beautify your vegetable garden, but their distinctive smell deters many insects.

Anytime you encounter Lantana in full bloom, you may also notice butterflies hovering above, which serve as pollinators in the garden.  Lantana are also a magnet for the irritating whitefly.  By planting some Lantana in close proximity to your vegetables, the whiteflies will be so busy with the Lantana that they are more likely to leave your vegetables alone.  Try to think of it as a choice between eating an ice cream sundae or broccoli 😉

 I just love Lavender and now I have a reason to include it in my garden.  It serves as a great repellent for ants, aphids, fleas, ticks, mosquitoes and silverfish.  In areas where I used to work, it was one of only 10 plants that the rabbits and javelina would leave alone.  Butterflies and bees do not seem to share the same aversion to Lavender…..they love it.
 
Petunia hybrids are a very popular flower and it is easy to see why with their large, bright flowers.  But they also make great companions for vegetables (& roses) as well because aphids do not like them and tend to stay far away.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) isn’t just for cooking.  When in flower, bees are attracted to this wonderful herb and will often stick around to pollinate your vegetable flowers (yes, vegetables do flower and need to be pollinated).  It is thought that the aromatic fragrance of the Rosemary messes with the ability of damaging insects to detect delicious plants in the vicinity.
Anyone who has grown Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus), knows that bees are drawn to them.  Well, if you didn’t already know this…..bees are vital for a healthy garden.  Sunflowers also offer another benefit to the vegetable garden.  When planted on the west side of the vegetable garden, they will provide shade in the summer for your vegetable garden.
These are just a sampling of companion plants (and the only ones that I had pictures of).  There are many more wonderful companion plants:
 
Basil

Calendula
Catmint

Catnip
Chives

Coreopsis 
Dill

Fleabane
Marigold

Mint
Nasturtium

Sage
and 

Thyme
 
I currently have both Marigolds and Nasturtium growing inside my vegetable garden.  I am also (meaning my husband) in the midst of building a flower garden which will surround my vegetable garden.  I will include many of these companion plants as well as some purely ornamental flowers.

And so, if you have a vegetable garden that looks a little lonely, or if you are tired of the battle with damaging insects…..try bringing some ‘friends’ into your garden.  Your vegetables will thank you for it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bagged Compost

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


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

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

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


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

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


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


I can almost taste my fresh grown vegetables…..


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

Geraniums

Last week, on a trip to our local big box store, I was greeted by the pallets loaded with beautiful, red geraniums.  This is a sight that made me angry.
 

You may be wondering why on earth the sight of beautiful flowers made me angry.  Well, I do love flowers, (obviously… I’m a horticulturist) –  so that is not what made me mad.

What if I told you that most of the annual flowers that were on display at the beginning of April, are the same kind of flowers that were for sale in September and October.

Petunias

Now, if you take a minute to consider this, you come to the conclusion that the annual flowers that the big box stores are being offered for sale in early April – just in time for summer.  That doesn’t make much sense does it?

Well, winter annuals are called “winter annuals” for a reason….because they grow in the winter, NOT in the summer.  They cannot handle our hot summers here in the desert.

You may think that this problem does not apply to you if you don’t live in the desert and your summers do not get as hot as ours.  Well, I hate to inform you that this problem occurs all over the US.  

Violas

I love Violas, but these beautiful hanging violas that were hanging outside of the nursery department will be toast, literally, in just a couple of months.  My violas that have been growing beautifully since late October, are starting to show signs of stress with the couple of 80+ days we have experienced last week. 

And so, this is what makes me angry this time of year, when I enter the nursery section of my big box store.  The winter annual flowers are beautifully laid out in order to entice shoppers as they enter.  You can see the shoppers envisioning how beautiful their gardens will be once they add some of these colorful flowers.  

 

Marigolds, Alyssum, and Petunias

 What they do not realize is that in two months, the alyssum and petunias, pictured above, will be dead and their money wasted. **Interestingly, the petunias and alyssum are placed alongside the orange colored marigolds, which usually will do quite well through most of the summer.  

Arizona is different from many parts of the country.  Our mild winters allow us to grow annual flowers that are grown elsewhere in the country in the summer. 

Stock

 
People put their trust in their plant nursery and believe that they would not sell anything that would not thrive in their garden.  They rely on their expertise to sell the right plant for the right time of year.  Sadly, this is not true of all nurseries, especially those at the big box stores.  People begin to believe that they cannot grow flowers or that they have a “black thumb” instead of a green one when their newly planted flowers begin to die soon after planting.
But do not DESPAIR….there is hope!

You can avoid being a victim and the solution is really quite simple….do a little research.  It can be as simple as doing a Google Search and enter the term….summer annuals for (your city or area).  You should be given a long list of plants that should thrive in your area.  
 
**For residents of the Arizona and California desert, I have done the online searching for you.  You can check out the following link for information on what kind of flowers to grow and when.