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Cool-season vegetable transplants

One of the things that I enjoy about living in the Southwest is the ability to garden throughout the year.  Well, that may be a slight exaggeration – I don’t especially like gardening in July or August.  During those months, I simply like to view my garden out the window from the air-conditioned comfort of my home.  But, you’ll often see me outside spending January in the vegetable garden through the winter months.  

So far, this year’s cool-season garden hasn’t been very impressive.  In fact, it was quite disappointing.  Our drip irrigation system wasn’t watering this particular vegetable bed well because the tiny holes had become clogged from mineral deposits left behind by our notorious hard water.  As a result, a handful of romaine lettuce transplants survived, but none of the seeds that I planted in early October germinated except for the radishes and a couple of carrots.  

To make it worse, when I discovered the problem last fall, I was so busy trying to keep up with my landscape consulting that I didn’t fix the irrigation troubles.  Spring and fall for horticulturists is much like tax season for accountants, and little else gets done.

Well, I felt bad looking out at my sad little vegetable bed, so I cleared my calendar to give it a little TLC earlier this week.  First on the list was to pull out the lettuce plants, which had bolted and were ready to be taken out.  I was able to get a few radishes, much to the delight of my youngest daughter who loves them.

Before planting, I added a 4-inch layer of compost to help refresh the soil.  There wasn’t any need to mix it in with the existing soil – in fact, it’s better if you don’t do that.

Like many people, I find working out in the garden therapeutic and the stresses of day to day life simply melt away.  What made this day even better was that my husband came out to help me.  At this point, I should mention that he isn’t one of those men who loves to work out in the garden.  Oh, he does a great job at it, but he doesn’t like it – at all. Poor guy, he had no idea that the woman he married 30 years ago would turn out to be a plant lady who lives, eats, and breathes all things related to the garden.  

My darling husband took an entire morning out of his busy schedule to help me in the garden, fixing the drip irrigation system in my garden.  Forget flowers, if spending a morning out in your wife’s vegetable garden fixing irrigation doesn’t shout “I love you,” I don’t know what does.

The drip irrigation system in my vegetable garden is made up of a main poly drip line that runs up the center of the garden.  Micro-tubing, with small holes along the length, are then looped along the length of the main drip line.  We pulled out the old micro-tubing and replaced it.  

Once the irrigation repair was finished, it was time to add plants.  Luckily, there is still plenty of time to plant cool-season favorites.  To get a head start, I bought romaine lettuce, Swiss chard, and spinach transplants.  The rest I would grow from seed.  Irish Eyes Garden Seeds is one of my favorite seed companies.

Another seed company who I have used over the years is Burpee.  I remember perusing my dad’s Burpee seed catalog when I was a child and planning on which ones I would order for the little plot of land that he gave me in the back garden.  

I still order seeds from Burpee and was pleasantly surprised to receive a gift from them this Christmas – an advent calendar where each door opened up to a seed packet filled with one of their new 2017 plant introductions.  What an ingenious marketing tool!  Every morning, I felt like a kid again waiting to see what new seeds I would find behind the door.  

I selected ‘Dragon Tail’ radish, where you eat its purple seed pods and NOT the roots.  It is a version of an Asian heirloom radish and has a more delicate flavor than regular radishes.  I am very excited to see what this one does in my garden.  ‘Rido Red’ radish and ‘Bend and Snap’ snap peas also found a spot in the garden.

Marigolds and nasturtiums are always present alongside cool-season vegetables as they attract beneficial pollinators, discourage harmful insect pests, and just make the garden look pretty.  Imagine my delight when I saw new varieties of my favorite flowers in the advent calendar.  ‘Strawberry Blonde’ marigolds and ‘Orange Troika’ nasturtiums will add welcome beauty to my vegetable bed.  There were other seeds in the calendar that I plan on using including ‘Bend and Snap’ snap peas.  I plan on giving some of my seeds to my mother for her garden.  Burpee has a list of their new 2017 introductions, which you can access here.  I’d love to hear if you grow any of them.

Next to the vegetable garden is my young ‘Meyer’ lemon tree.  We planted it two years ago, and this is its first ever fruit.  Young citrus trees can take a year or two, after planting, before it produces fruit and I look forward to years of delicious fruit from mine.  

Meyer lemons aren’t true lemons.  They are a cross between a regular lemon and mandarin orange, and this gives them a sweeter flavor and a deep yellow skin.  The story behind Meyer lemons includes overseas exploration, threatened extinction, and Martha Stewart.

Well, that is what is happening in the January vegetable garden.  What is growing in your winter garden?

 

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Last winter, I was enjoying a rare moment of peace….no kids or husband in the house, the garden didn’t need any attention and no articles to write. So, I decided to see what was on television.  As I was channel surfing, I saw a gardening show and of course, I stopped and watched.

What I saw was the host and featured garden expert, showing how to grow vegetables and flowers together in containers. Since I love both vegetables and flowers, I was intrigued.  So I bought the book written by the featured garden expert and got started.


I found nice plastic containers on sale along with some tiny trellises, as well as planting mix (NOT potting soil, which gets too soggy for container plants).
Planting mix is specially formulated for containers – it has a light texture and holds just the right amount of moisture for plants.


Then, I started planting.  I came up with the vegetable and flower combinations on my own and I must admit that I was happy how they turned out…




The first container has purple violas, spinach, bell pepper plant and nasturtiums. I started all of these from transplants, except for the nasturtiums, which came from seed that I planted.
 
I periodically snip the spinach for salads and I have harvested a single bell pepper so far.  However, there are flowers on my pepper plant, so more peppers are on the way.
 
 
This container was planted with red and green leaf lettuce, pink dianthus and cucumbers.
 
I snip the lettuce for salad and the dianthus has been blooming nonstop. The only problem that I have had with this container are the cucumbers.
 
Cucumbers do best when started from seed, not transplants.  I have grown a lot of cucumbers over the years.  So, I placed two small trellises in the back of the container and planted cucumber seeds at their base. I picked a variety of cucumbers that were small and would do well in a container.
 
Unfortunately, they never came up.
 
I tried planting them in my regular vegetable garden and they never came up.
 
I tried starting them indoors and they didn’t sprout.
*I had purchased the seeds online from a very reputable seed company, but the entire package of seeds was defective. 
 
So I planted my go-to cucumber seeds and they are starting to grow beautifully.

 

My last vegetable/flower container has romaine lettuce, sugar snap peas and Icelandic poppies.
 
The lettuce has done very well, BUT my little dog discovered that he likes lettuce, and he would take some little bites from the sides of the lettuce.  I simply put some plastic patio chairs around the pot and he kept away.  Later, I took the chairs away and he left the lettuce alone.
 
The poppies haven’t bloomed yet, but I can see their buds, so it won’t be long now.

I have been picking off sugar snap peas every time I am in the garden and eating them on the spot.
 
So, does the idea of growing vegetables and flowers together appeal to you?
 
The book I read was “Easy Container Combos: Vegetables and Flowers” by Pamela Crawford. (I haven’t been asked to promote her book – I bought it myself and really enjoyed it so much). 
 
I can’t wait to try some different combos this summer once the lettuce fades away.  I promise I will share 🙂
 
**One thing I love so much about gardening is trying new things. This one was a home run for me.

Last week, I spent some time checking the vegetables my cool-season vegetable garden.  

I was looking to see how they were growing and if any were ready to harvest.  I’ve also learned (the hard way) that it’s important to check for any insect damage so you can treat it early – I got hit bad by spider mites last summer because I wasn’t paying attention.

I have been checking up on my cauliflower plants lately.  Seven days ago, the largest one looked like this…

Today, it looked like this…
Okay, this photo doesn’t really show how big it is, so I put my hand next to it to show the scale…
 
Now, compare this photo with the first one and you can see how big it grew in just one week!
My son, Kai and I harvested this large cauliflower by simply pulling the entire plant out of the ground.   
It was quite heavy.
Of course, you can simply cut the cauliflower, but you have to pull the plant out sooner or later.  We chose sooner.
It was at least twice as large as the cauliflower in my local supermarket.  The photo really doesn’t show that though, but this bowl is very wide salad bowl.
I’ve really never noticed how pretty the cauliflower florets are before, have you?
We used some of the cauliflower in our dinner salad, which also included Romaine lettuce and carrots from our garden as well.
Our cauliflower is so huge, I will have to figure out other ways to serve it.
My son’s favorite is smothering it with ranch salad dressing.
I have three other cauliflower plants in the garden.  I may have to give some to my mother, since I don’t know how we will be able to eat it all.
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Cauliflower is a cool-season vegetable, which does best when planted from transplants and not seed.  I have had no problems with growing mine at all – no insect problems, etc.
What is important for growing cauliflower is fertile soil and regular irrigation.
How about you?  Do you grow cauliflower?
Do you have any cauliflower recipes to share? 

Okay, I know that I am terribly late in blogging about Christmas.  As a result, you will probably not be surprised that I didn’t get organized enough to send out Christmas cards this year either 😉

But, we did have a wonderful Christmas.  Much of Christmas day was spent at Double S Farms, where my mother, my sister and her family live.  

It was a beautiful day and I stole out into the garden to take photos of all that is growing….

My mother’s vegetable garden is growing like crazy….
We always enjoy fresh broccoli from her garden in winter.  We all love it….even the kids.
Curly Parsley with Marigolds planted nearby to discourage pests.
My mother makes a delicious salad using her Romaine lettuce.  I promise to share our family’s special salad dressing recipe sometime soon.
Lemons are ready for picking at Christmas time.
So are the grapefruit…
The apple trees are almost bare.
The chickens are oblivious to all the festivities.
Although their coop is decorated with a Christmas wreath 😉
My mother’s beautifully decorated table.  Notice the table gifts are decorated with a feather from the chickens.
We had a wonderful day and a delicious dinner.  It was so much fun enjoying each others company and the fact that now we all live within 20 minutes of each other.
This Christmas was extra special to me because of my new granddaughter, Lily….
She is just so darling and makes me so happy.
Not so special was turning 46 the day after Christmas…
My nephew, Finley getting ready to help me blow out my candle 🙂
Although, I must say that I was so grateful to have my family all around to spend my birthday with.
I must say, that I feel pretty good being 46….so far 😉

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We are finishing up our special project that I mentioned earlier.  This project is for my mother’s 70th birthday, which is coming up this week.  I can’t wait to share it with you all once we are done!

I hope you are having a good week.