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Last week, as I was frantically rushing around getting ready to fly out to Chicago to attend my daughter’s Navy graduation, I received an email from a reader of my blog, which literally stopped me in my tracks and brought a huge smile to my face.


When you blog, it is almost always a one-way conversation.  I don’t often get to know if my ‘ramblings’ help or inspire others, except for when I meet some of you in person.  So, this email just made my day (or should I say, my entire month).



Here is a small excerpt…



Since moving here (from SC three years ago) my son and I have found your Pinterest Page, and Facebook page AND blog as our source when we have questions about things we have planted. Because of that my 14 year old has been mightily successful in his gardening efforts: veggie gardens, herbs and his hummingbird garden too. This mother thanks you for being willing to show not only your success but not quite so successful growth too (ie your onions.- they weren’t failures, just small).  Jacob, my son, was so gleeful (as most boys [I guess] would be) when he pulled his onions this week and they were bigger than yours.  (I don’t know what it is about competition and boys…. ) He is currently awaiting his corn harvest.  He has planted two varieties to compare the difference- one The Golden Cross Bantam (Hybrid) and some other kind I cannot think of at the moment (silver queen or something..)


I wrote her back and told her how much her email meant to me.  And then, I wondered if she wouldn’t mind if I make her son’s garden a subject of an upcoming blog post. 


Jacob is 14 years old and in addition to being a great gardener, also likes birding.  



Are you ready to see Jacob’s garden?




This is the hummingbird garden.  I asked Jacob, what he planted in his garden and what species of hummingbirds that he has seen visiting.

“There are many things I have added to my hummingbird garden. 

Here is a list: 

Dianthus
Spanish Lavender
Fern leaf Lavender
French Lavender
Columbine
Kangaroo paw (orange red in color)
Ivy Geranium (to add color to garden not specifically for hummingbirds)
May Night Salvia
East Friesland Salvia
Pink Salvia
Blue Black Salvia
Trailing Verbena
Verbena
Guara Ballerina Rose
Cardinal climber vine
Black eyed Susan vine
Rocket Snapdragons
Snapdragons
Pineapple Sage
Autumn Sage
Cinnamon Basil
Basil
Bee Balm
Aloe Blue Elf
Aloe Vera
Lantana (yellow and a new variety which is white with yellow on the outside of the flower)
A few rogue sunflowers
and a young Desert Willow sapling that I started from seed last year.

That is it so far but you never know what tomorrow will bring. 


Anna’s Hummingbird

Four different species have visited my garden; Anna’s hummingbirds are year round residents, Black-chinned hummingbirds stay throughout the summer, the Rufous and Broad-tailed hummingbirds are common in migration. The hummingbird garden is situated near our kitchen window(s), I really enjoy sitting at the table watching them. Last year we actually got to enjoy watching a mama Anna Hummer feeding her babies. The house Finch and sometimes the red headed woodpecker visit too. The curved bill thrashers love to eat the bugs.”




I wanted to hear more about Jacob’s vegetable garden so I asked him what types of vegetables he likes to grow.

“Some of my favorite vegetable(s) to grow here is corn, and tomatoes The corn partly because it is something new for me to try producing. I am growing two types this year; Bantam corn and sweet corn. I will compare the two to see which harvests the most and grows better. The tomatoes have so many new varieties that I have not grown before so I am having a blast trying new tomatoes this year. I am trying the Summer Set tomato, Lemon boy, Roma, Cherry tomato, Big Beef, Early Girl, and of course the Phoenix. All have produced except the Phoenix, so far.
I also planted Okra last year. The plant generated much, but I waited till they were to big and they were bitter. I kept the plants though because the flowers were very pleasing to the eye. 



White Icicle Radishes were another vegetable I had fun growing. I found a watermelon called Moon and Stars that was believed to be extinct, I am growing that also.”


As many of you may have experienced, there is one or two vegetables that you have a hard time growing.  I asked Jacob, if he struggled growing any type(s) of vegetables in his garden.

“Squash seems to be the hardest for me to grow here in Arizona. I haven’t been to successful but I keep trying. I have Zucchini and crook- necked squash growing this year, hopefully I will be a little more successful.”



I have a list of vegetables that I want to try to grow for the first time in my garden.  I just don’t have the room to grow everything I want 😉  I asked Jacob what was on his ‘wish list’ for his vegetable garden.

“I would love try Purple Bell Peppers. They would be fun to grow, and to eat.”



While I enjoy teaching people how to garden and sometimes ‘how not to’ – I wondered if Jacob had any gardening tips that he has picked up along the way that he would share with you.

“My gardening tips are more of an encouragement. Never be afraid to try new things even here in the desert. Some things might be successful, some may not. Don’t give up even if your things don’t produce. Try again, they may in the next year. Gardening is about succeeding and failures and learning from them.



This year my mother found some pins that she shared with me, on Pinterest., that I tried. Regrowing celery from the root, lettuce, and onions too. The celery flourished! The Romaine lettuce did well also, the yellow onion not quite as successful. It did produce an onion, just not a very large one. This was a fun gardening experiment, some I may retry once the summer heat has passed. 

Praying Mantis hatched from a purchased egg case.

Something else I am doing this year is allowing the plants to go to seed in hopes that I can use the seeds for next years garden. 


Gardening is about succeeding, failures, experimenting with new things, and learning from them.”

I must say, that I am very impressed with Jacob’s garden and also with how much he has learned since he started his garden.

As he stated, don’t be afraid get out in the garden and try.  Of course, you will have some failures (all gardeners do – I have had my share).  But, you will also have successes that make failures pale in comparison.  Gardening is a huge experiment, which makes life fun and exciting.

I am so grateful to Jacob and his mom, Deb, who took the time to write to me and then to share their garden and thoughts with me.  

“THANK YOU!”
 I must confess that I have avoided going out into my garden.
Now, I love my garden and spending time outside tending my plants.  But, not when we have had record-breaking heat.  I normally don’t have a problem with the summer heat and I don’t like to complain about it.  
It’s not so much the heat itself, but when it is coupled with bright sunlight, it can be hard to bear if you are working out in the garden for an extended length of time.
 
So, I have been waiting impatiently for the temps to get back down to normal so that I can get out and get my vegetable garden ready for fall planting.  It is almost too late for me to plant my fall sweet corn.
Well, since the weather was not going to cooperate and I refused to be overcome by the heat, I had to take matters into my own hands.


I asked my husband to hang a light outdoors by the garden so that we could work out there at night.

My daughter, Ruthie, loves to work in the vegetable garden and was helping us to rip out some of the old summer vegetable plants that had stopped producing.
 
Believe it or not, gardening at night is not all that hard as long as you have some light source.  We made quick work of cleaning out the vegetable garden, adding compost, manure, blood meal and bone meal.

Now it was still hot outside, but the sun was down, which really makes a big difference.

As we were working in the garden, we had a little visitor who came out to see what we were doing….

He was actually hanging upside down, but I like how he looks ‘right side up’.

This praying mantis was fascinated by what we were doing.  I was very happy to see him because he helps to eat the harmful insects that would normally bother my vegetables.
He was soon joined by his friend or maybe it was his wife?
We were soon finished with our work and I could hardly wait to see the fruits of our labor in the morning….
I just love a blank canvas to add plants to, don’t you?
The step stones provide easy access for me to step out into the garden to harvest vegetables without crushing them with my feet.
(Once I took out the step stones, thinking I wanted the extra space for vegetables, but I had an awful time getting into and out of the garden without stepping on vegetables.)
We did leave the basil plant in the back, oregano on the side and a single cucumber plant, which will continue to produce once the temperatures cool down (I’m not sure it will ever cool down again).
I have wonderful plans for my vegetable garden….
I can hardly wait to harvest fresh corn, carrots, green snap beans, garlic, green onions, leaf lettuce and spinach.
  
You may wonder why I have a fence around the garden.  Well, the reason is that I have a little dog named Tobey that would love nothing better then to get inside and dig around in all the wonderful smelling compost and aged steer manure.

Now, I was bound and determined to get one thing planted in the garden, even if it was hot outside and I would probably start to sweat 😉
 
I got my corn seeds planted!

It only took me about 15 minutes to plant 3 rows of corn.
(It is important to plant corn in more then one row, which helps with pollination and helps all of the corn kernels to develop).
As you can see, I didn’t bring out any fancy tools to plant them.  I only needed a ruler to make sure that I planted them 1 ft. apart and I borrowed a spoon from my kitchen.  
Thankfully, I can wait until later this month to plant some of my other seeds when the weather is cooler.

Some people may think I am crazy to work in the garden at night and there are some things that you do have to have daylight for.  But I have pruned my shrubs at night to avoid the excess heat of the day.  
I wouldn’t advise doing any gardening tasks that require any detail work, such as planting vegetable seeds.

But, you never know….if it doesn’t cool off on time, I may be planting seeds at night with a flashlight 😉

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So, how about you?  
Do you have any strategies for dealing with the summer heat when you garden?
 

Now you may be wondering how on earth am I going to combine the above topics into one post.  

Well, they all occurred yesterday while we were visiting my in-law’s house.  We go there every week to help out around the house and do the things that my father-in-law can no longer do since he is suffering from ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease).

Okay, first I will talk about curiosity and a bug.  Actually this involves my three youngest children and a praying mantis that they found in my in-law’s backyard.

Do you remember how curious you were as a child about living things?  There seems to be a natural connection between kids and certain bugs.  Now, my kids will not touch a spider knowingly, but they are fascinated by other bugs.
Yesterday, they discovered a praying mantis on a Pink Trumpet Vine in the back garden.
As you can see, it was very young and small.  I don’t think my kids would have handled a full grown mantis.
The kids had fun taking turns holding the little praying mantis, who in turn would walk up and down their arms.
I remember playing with pill bugs as a child and seeing them roll up into tiny, gray balls.  We would put them into a margarine container with some grass and leaves.  Of course, they would die if we didn’t let them loose.
My youngest daughter, Gracie, who can be a little afraid of bugs even decided to hold this little insect (you can just barely see it on her arm)
It lasted about 3 seconds because the praying mantis scurried up her arm and she was afraid it would go up her sleeve 😉
We have a rule that if the bugs are beneficial, that the kids can play with them for a while, but have to release them out into the garden the same day.
So, since praying mantis are great at eating harmful insects, we let him go.

**Here is an interesting fact for you – Did you know that praying mantis are carnivores and have been known to actually eat hummingbirds if they stray too close?  It’s true!
The kids were having so much fun with their new little friend that they forgot about the chocolate chip cookies that they had just helped to make with their grandma.
 I didn’t forget though….



I must confess that I ate 3 of those big cookies, which is why I don’t make a lot of cookies at home.  I did try to make it up for it by eating salad for dinner 😉

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I hope your week is off to a good start.  My kids start school today and my husband and I are ‘celebrating’ by going to the movies and enjoying some time alone.  

Does that make me a bad mom or maybe one that just needs a little break…..