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I am always looking for new ways to make things from what I grow in my garden.


Fruit vinegars are an easy and fun way to use fruit you may have growing in the garden. 

What can you use fruit vinegars for?  I use them to create vinaigrettes, marinades and glazes, where they add delicious and unexpected flavor.


Making fruit vinegar is simple to do – all you need is the fruit of your choice (chopped) and white wine vinegar.  Fruits that can be used include apple, berries, peach, pear, plum and strawberries.

I recently made some strawberry vinegar that is so good, my husband has been making his own salads – it tastes that good.

The process is the same for whatever type of fruit you choose.  Are you ready?

1. Dice fruit into 1-inch size pieces.


2. Fill a glass jar 1/3 of the way full of copped fruit and then pour white wine vinegar until it reaches the top.


3. Store your fruit/vinegar jar in a cool, dark place such as a pantry for 4 weeks.

4. Once a week, shake the jars, to help mix up the contents.


After a month has passed, your fruit will have taken on a colorless appearance while the vinegar will have beautiful, color, which means lots of delicious flavor.


5. Place a strainer over a bowl and put a paper towel inside.  Pour out the contents of the jars.


6. Pour the strained liquid into a clean jar.  Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.

Congratulations!  You now have a jar filled with delicious fruit vinegar ready to use to flavor your favorite dishes.

You may wonder how I used my latest batch of strawberry vinegar.  Well, I have a top secret family recipe for salad dressing that my kids and husband love.  

It’s from my grandma, who coincidentally, was NOT a great cook – but she certainly made a delicious salad dressing.

I’m sure that she would be tickled pink to know that I am sharing it with all of you – just click the link below for the recipe.


I hope you decide to make some fruit vinegar too! In addition to strawberry vinegar, I also like to make it from peaches from our fruit trees – you can see how I made this earlier, here.

How about you?  What fruit would you choose to make vinegar from?


Springtime in the garden is my favorite time of year.

Cool-season flowers are still in bloom while summer-bloomers are getting started.  The garden is awash in colorful flowers, vegetables, young fruit AND a few bugs and suckers.

I have two areas in my backyard where I grow edible plants.  Today, I invite you to take a tour of the largest edible garden, which is located along the side of my house.

Apple trees – April 2014

At the back of the garden, are two apple trees that I planted last year.  

They have grown so quickly.  This is what they looked like last year…

Newly planted apple trees – February 2013

What a difference!
I’ll admit that this area looks rather barren.  There used to be flowering shrubs up along the wall, which we took out in order to plant edible plants.


Usually, you have to wait a few years before you apple trees will produce fruit, so I was very surprised to see small apples forming.


This is what they look like now.  The apples will ripen in June and I am all ready to make homemade applesauce, which tastes so much better then store-bought.  
I wrote a post about how to make applesauce, which you can view here.

Blackberry flowers

Against the wall, behind the apple trees, are a row of blackberry bushes.

One of my favorite childhood memories are those of the blackberry bushes we had growing in our backyard in Southern California.  We would try to pick all we could before our dog would eat them.

Blackberry bushes are surprisingly easy to grow and there are thornless varieties available.  Unfortunately, some of my blackberry bushes are not thornless 😉

They are covered with flowers and small fruit.  BUT, I also saw something else on my berries…


Orange/black bugs covered a few of my berries.

I hadn’t seen this type of bug before, so I got to work on researching what these were.  Turns out they are the juvenile form of stink bugs – not good.

Evidently, they are fairly resistant to organic pesticides.  You can pick them off and squish them.  


The chives, garlic, parsley, thyme and sage are doing very well in my herb container.  However, the purple petunia is beginning to fade due to warming temperatures.  So, I will pull it out soon.

Flowering Sage

I don’t add flowers to my herb container during the summer.  I usually let my herbs flower, like my basil and sage.


At the same time we planted our apple trees, I also added two peach trees.  I was surprised that this tree produced 19 small peaches just months after we planted it last year – that is not normal.  I used them along with peaches from my mother’s trees to make peach jam.

This year, the same tree has decided to put it energy into growing just 2 peaches – which is normal.  They are huge!  I love to look out my kitchen window and see the fruit slowly ripening.

While admiring the peaches on my tree, I noticed something that did NOT make me happy…


Can you see what the problem is?  SUCKERS!  And I don’t mean the sweet candy that your grandma used to give you.

Fruit trees are grafted onto rootstock and occasionally, the rootstock decides to send up its own branches.  They are called ‘suckers’ because the ‘suck’ up the nutrients that would otherwise got to your fruit tree.  

To learn how to recognize and get rid of suckers, click here.


Underneath my apple and peach trees, I have garlic growing.  Garlic is a very helpful plant.  In this case, it helps to repel borers, which are beetles that lay eggs on the bark.  After the eggs hatch, the larvae bore their way into the trunk of the tree, often killing it.


Small fruit is beginning to form on my orange tree.  Like other fruit trees, it can take a few years before producing substantial amounts of fruit.

Our orange tree has been in the ground for 2 years and we got three oranges last winter.  I was so excited that I wrote an entire post about it.


Looking toward the vegetable garden, my artichoke plant is busy.  It has 9 small artichokes growing.  

I have a confession to make…

I don’t like eating artichokes.

But, the plant itself is very attractive and is often grown as an ornamental because it is a perennial and lives for more then 1 year.

I do have plans for these artichokes though.

– I will cook a few for my husband, who loves them.

– I will dry a few for fall arrangements.

– And, I will allow some to bloom – the flowers are gorgeous!


The purple violas in my rusty, old watering can will soon fade as the heat rises.

I do not plant anything in it during the summer months because it is too hot.  The soil temperature in small containers, literally ‘cooks’ the roots of plants.  Stick with planting larger pots for the summer and let your smaller containers take a break.


At the beginning of this post, I showed you a picture of my edible, side garden from the opposite side, near the wall.

This is the other view, looking in.  Toward the left side, are two ‘Summertime Blue’ Eremophila shrubs.  

Can you guess the last time that they were pruned?

3 years ago!

I love these shrubs and their bright-green foliage and purple flowers.


Bell-shaped, lavender flowers appear spring through summer.  This is a great ‘fuss-free’ shrub for the garden.  It is hardy to 15 degrees and thrives in full sun.  A definite must for the southwest garden.  

For more information about ‘Summertime Blue’, click here.

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Well, that is what is happening in one area of my garden.  

I invite you to come back next time, when I will show you my other edible garden, which is in full flower.  *I will also share with you the rest of our adventure when we hosted three young girls for the weekend from the Ugandan Orphan’s Choir.


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?

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.

Yesterday evening, we enjoyed dinner at Double S Farms.  My mother hosts the family every week and we not only get to enjoy her delicious food, but we also get a night off of cooking.


We ate outside and the chickens surrounded us, hoping that for any food scraps. 


My mother’s vegetable gardens are doing so well and are full of lettuce, beans, artichoke and so much more.


I was so happy to see that her fruit trees are laden with little green fruit that will soon ripen this summer.  Peach, plum, apple and for the first time…..


She has two apricot trees that my siblings and I gave to her for Christmas 2010.  You can read more about our gift and how to plant fruit trees here.
 
One apricot tree has 4 little fruits and the other has a single apricot.
 
When you plant a fruit tree, the first fruit that appears is a reason to celebrate….even if there are only five of them 😉
 
How about you?  
 
Do you remember the first fruits that appeared on your fruit trees?
 
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I can hardly wait until early June to start making peach jam!