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While strolling through the vegetable garden the other morning, pulling out weeds, I spotted a pretty white flower growing on top of a weedy-looking stalk.


I stepped over to take a closer look and scratched my head for a few seconds trying to figure out where this mystery flower came from.

The flower was quite attractive and dainty in appearance.


While the green part of the plant resembled a weed, I noticed that the lower leaves looked much like a type of vegetable I had grown in my garden.  
That is when I remembered where I had seen the flower before.


A few weeks ago, I had asked my daughter to pull out any large radishes, which were too tough to eat.  It looked like she missed one.

If I let the radish flower remain, it will go to seed and new radishes will come up in its place.  However, because the end of radish season is at hand, I will probably collect the seeds to plant in the fall.

For now, I will enjoy the lovely, little flower.

Have you ever seen a mystery flower in your garden?  What was it?

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When much of the nation is freezing their socks off, and their gardens are covered in a blanket of snow, I realize how much of a blessing it is to live in a climate where I can harvest vegetables from my garden in January.
My latest excursion out to the vegetable garden found Swiss chard, leaf lettuce, peas, spinach, broccoli, and carrots ready for picking.
 
Except for the broccoli (which I had other plans for), all of my freshly-picked veggies were going into our salad.
 
 
One crop that I have really enjoyed growing this year, is Swiss chard.  It grows so easily and I love its rainbow-colored stems.  
 
Believe it or not, Swiss chard tastes delicious in salads.
 
My lettuce had a tough start this fall with caterpillars eating much of it until I brought out the big guns – BT Bacillus thurgiensis, which is an organic control for the caterpillars.  It worked just great! I used Safer Brand 5163 Caterpillar Killer II Concentrate, 16 oz.
 
I won’t go into all the details of how it works, although it is quite interesting.  For those of you who would like to learn more about BT, click here.
 
 
Here is a close-up of my salad.  You can’t see the carrots too well, but they are there.
 
 
It was so refreshing and delicious, especially when dressed with my grandmother’s ‘Top Secret’ Salad Dressing.  
 
 
I have recently revealed my grandmother’s secret recipe to my daughters, who now can make easily.  
 
So, what is in store for my vegetable gardens this month?
 
I have planted another crop of radishes, carrots, leaf lettuce and spinach.  
 
Next month, will be a busy month in the garden with getting ready to plant warm-season veggies.  
 
I can hardly wait!

I don’t know about you, but I have enjoyed the wet weather of the past few days.  We almost received 3 inches of rain where I live in a period of 48 hours.  For those of you who do not live in the desert – that is considered A LOT of rain for us 😉


I spent Saturday morning dodging raindrops as I visited two different clients regarding their landscapes.  The rest of the day, I spent indoors just thinking of how much my garden is enjoying this rain.


You may not realize that rain water is much better for your plants then the water that comes from your hose or drip emitters.  Our water is somewhat ‘salty’, which is a result of its journey down the Colorado river and all the rock it passes by.


Plants do not like salt much and a heavy rain will help flush the salts away from the soil.


As the sun began to peek through the clouds this afternoon, I ventured out into the garden in order to harvest some lettuce and Swiss chard for our dinner.

A small sampling of today’s harvest.

It had been a while since I had taken a good look at my vegetable gardens and there was quite a bit more to harvest then I had expected.


I am rapidly falling in love with Swiss chard (yes, I said ‘love’).  

While I do not like cooked leafy greens, I have been surprised at how delicious raw Swiss chard is in salads.

It also adds a nice bit of color with its red and yellow veins.


Sugar snap peas are covering their vines, but it is hard to find them all since they blend in so well with the leaves.

I plan on serving them on our veggie tray Thanksgiving morning.

Right now, I have more radishes then I know what to do with.  But, we had 5, thinly sliced radishes in our salad.  In addition to thinly slicing them, I also quarter them so that my kids will eat them.


Two of my favorite types of leaf lettuce – Romaine and Black-Seeded Simpson.

I have had some problems with caterpillars eating my lettuce, so I will head out tomorrow with my spray bottle of BT (Bacillus thuringiensis).


Fall is the best time of year for all of my pepper plants.  While they can handle hot temperatures, they don’t flower during the height of summer.  

Once it begins to cool down in mid September, flowers appear again followed by peppers.

Sadly, once the first frost occurs, they will stop producing and will often die.  Last year, I was able to save my bell pepper plant by covering it when temps dipped below freezing.

I have a ton of bell peppers and jalapeños.  I will dice them up and place them in freezer bags so that I can enjoy them throughout the winter months.


I discovered that I had a lot of parsley growing and I only harvested about half of it.

While parsley will last through the winter months, my basil won’t survive the first frost.  So, I picked some basil too.


I plant to dry my basil and parsley.  Once dry, I will crush the leaves and put them into spice jars.

Drying herbs is easy and you can learn how to do it here.

The remainder of the fresh parsley that I have growing outdoors I will harvest on Thanksgiving to use as a garnish for a few of my favorite dishes.

While I spent part of this afternoon harvesting vegetables, I noticed that I still have not thinned out my carrot seedlings.  Oh, they will still grow if I don’t thin them, but what I will get in return are small carrots not worth eating.

So, I’ll grab a pair of scissors and head out into the garden and snip off the extra.

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How about you?  

Have you put your garden to bed for the winter or do you still have things growing in it?

I’d love to hear what is happening in your garden…
A few days ago, I received an unexpected gift.  This gift was a morning where I had no appointments, I didn’t have to babysit my granddaughter, the kids were in school and I was caught up with all of my garden writing.

So, what should I do with this gift of time?

I spent it in my garden, taking pictures of the plants that make me happy right now.

I’d love to share my favorites with you if you have a few minutes of time…

Pink Trumpet Vine (Podranea ricasoliana)

One of my favorite plants growing in my gardens is Pink Trumpet Vine.  It stands at the corner of one of my vegetable gardens.  It is in full bloom right now as you can see.  Gorgeous pink flowers appear in spring and fall.

It can grow as a vine, with support, or as an open, sprawling shrub, which is how I like to grow it.

Pink Trumpet Vine does suffer frost damage and has even been killed to the ground in winter, but quickly grows back.  It is hardy to zone 7.

Cascalote (Caesalpinia cacalaco)

Bright-yellow flower spikes cover my Cascalote tree in fall.  I love this small tree for so many reasons.

It is slow-growing, so there is not a lot of pruning required.  I love the round leaves that stay on the tree all year unless we get a cold spell of temps in the low 20’s.

Best of all, are the yellow flowers that appear in fall when most plants are beginning to slow down.

*Cascalote are very thorny and I personally think that the thorns are very cool-looking as long as you don’t get pricked.  There is a new variety called ‘Smoothie’ that is thornless.

Queen’s Wreath Vine (Antigonon leptopus)



Despite my best attempts, my Queen’s Wreath Vine insists on growing up the trunk of my Cascalote tree instead of up on the nearby garden wall.


But, I love this vine no matter where it chooses to grow.  It has heart-shaped leaves and stunning pink flowers that appear in summer and fall.


This is a tough vine that can handle reflected heat and does not need support to grow upward.  In winter, it will die back to the ground, but grows back in spring.  Hardy to 20 degrees F, or zone 9 gardens.

Gold Lantana



I know that Lantana can seem like a rather boring plant to some – but I wouldn’t write it off, if I where you.


Lantana is not fussy and it’s hard to find a plant that will bloom more throughout the warm months of the year.  I have it growing up along my front entry and I really like how it looks.


Maintenance is simple – prune back to 6 inches once the danger of frost is over (early March in my garden), removing all frost damage.  Lightly prune back by 1/2 in August and that is all you need.


Lantana are frost-tender and hardy to 10 degrees (zone 7).



My side garden is filled with another vegetable garden, apple and peach trees, blackberry shrubs and herbs.


Because I do not like looking out at bare walls, I have Pink Trumpet Vine, Arizona Yellow Bells (Tecoma stans stans), ‘Summertime Blue’ (Eremophila x ‘Summertime Blue’) and Pink Emu Bush (Eremophila laanii) planted along the wall.


These large shrubs are pruned once a year and that is all they need because I have given them enough room to stretch out.  


While these flowering shrubs make my bare wall disappear, they also benefit my edible garden in the side yard.  First, they help absorb the heat that the walls re-radiate out, keeping temperatures down.  Secondly, they also attract pollinators which pollinate my vegetables, fruit trees and blackberries.


Hummingbirds and other feathered visitors like to take shelter in their branches and I get to watch from my kitchen window.



In this garden, the vegetables are still rather small. But there is a collection of broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, carrots and Swiss chard.



An newly-planted artichoke is growing nicely next to some young carrot seedlings.  This vegetable doesn’t just produce delicious artichokes – they are also quite ornamental.



Just one month after sowing radish seeds, I am harvesting radishes already.  



In the corner of my vegetable garden is a Mexican Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) that I grew from seed.



They are irresistible to butterflies and bees like them too 🙂



I have a rusty watering can that I just love.  Every fall I fill it with flowering annuals that will last through spring.


I poked drainage holes in the bottom of the can and put a drip emitter next to the flowers.  Once temperatures heat up into the 90’s, it gets too hot for the roots to survive in the pot, so it sits empty during the summer.  But even empty, it adds a touch of whimsy to my garden.



In front of my vegetable garden sits my herb container garden.  Chives, parsley, sage and thyme are growing nicely.  I like to throw in some petunias for additional color.



This young peach tree was planted back in January and is doing very well.  


That little plant next to it is a volunteer basil plant.   It will die once our first frost appears, so I will harvest it soon.



In front of my other edible gardens sit three brightly-colored pots filled with an assortment of flowers and edible plants.


This one is filled with a jalapeño pepper plant, garlic, ornamental kale and cabbage, bacopa, petunias, violas and red nasturtiums. 



Along the back is a small trellis that has sugar snap  peas growing on it.  They are just beginning to flower.



This is my daughter, Ruthie’s, vegetable garden.  She has leaf lettuce, strawberries, carrots and garlic growing in her garden.



This is my youngest daughter, Gracie’s, garden which has celery, broccoli, sugar snap peas, carrots, malabar spinach and radishes growing in it.


*One of my fondest childhood memories was of my dad giving me a raised garden in the backyard of our Southern California home.  I was allowed to grow whatever I wanted, which was usually vegetables, violas and cosmos.



Thank you for taking a few minutes out of your day, allowing me to share my favorites in my fall garden.


What is growing in your garden right now?

Today was a beautiful winter’s day.  The temperature was a little above normal for this time of year. 


We spent time out in the garden today with our granddaughter, Lily.


I spent time harvesting leaf lettuce, radishes, carrots and cauliflower for our dinner salad.

 I used our bounty to make a delicious salad for dinner.
 
The only thing from the grocery store in our salad was the cucumbers, which aren’t in season until summer.
 
As I was picking the vegetables earlier today, Lily was busy picking something entirely different…
 

 

Rocks!
 
She absolutely loves to pick up rocks. 
 
Thankfully, she doesn’t like to eat them 😉
 
 

Who knew that you could grow ‘houseplants’ using kitchen scraps?

I was inspired to find ways to find gardening projects that could be done indoors for those gardeners who are stuck inside during cold winters because they are a large part of the audience that I write for on other websites.

The photos below were taken over a 14 day period from planting to what they look like just 2 weeks later.  I must admit that I am quite impressed.

I started with growing a radish…

I am hoping that my radish plant will flower at some point because I have heard that radish flowers are quite pretty.

My garlic cloves grew quickly and I will use the greens as a garnish, much like I would use green onions.  Garlic greens have a mild garlic flavor.
My lentils are quite pretty and delicate looking.  I am waiting for them to flower, which will make them even prettier.

I realize that many people have grown a vine from a sweet potato – but I haven’t.  The vine will be a pretty addition to my kitchen windowsill garden.  Now that the roots are growing, I will hopefully see some green sprouting on top.

I did have one plant that didn’t come up.  The book that I was inspired by said that you could plant fresh green beans, but mine didn’t come up.  

**You can plant dried beans after soaking them overnight and they should come up.

The goal of this project wasn’t to grow ‘food’, but to enjoy the foliage of the plants themselves and brighten up a dreary winter for those who live in cold climates.

I have really had fun with this project.  I think it would be a great project to do with kids, don’t you?

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I have some exciting new writing projects coming up and I will let you know where you can read them if you like soon 😉
You won’t believe what I have been working on…


I have been inspired by the book,


So, I decided to grow indoor plants using a radish, garlic, lentils, a sweet potato vine and green bean seeds.  

The object isn’t to grow food itself, but to enjoy the pretty plants that these kitchen scraps will grow.

I’d love it if you would follow along on my Birds & Blooms blog “An Unorthodox Winter Gardening Project”.

I promise to keep you updated on how it is doing 🙂

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 🙂