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creating edible container garden

UPDATE: This blog post originally was published six-years-ago, and I still like to grow vegetables in pots. It’s hard to believe that my garden helper is now 16 years old and driving a car!

I hope you enjoy it!

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Earlier this week, I shared with you the four vegetables that I am growing for the first time this year.  I will be sure to share with you how they do as the season progresses.


In addition to my experimenting with new vegetables, I am also growing some favorite cool-season vegetables…


My favorite cool-season vegetable crop is leaf lettuce.  I love nothing better then being able to step outside to snip off a few leaves to make a dinner salad.  

Once you have tasted fresh lettuce from the garden, there is no going back.  Bagged lettuce is a poor replacement.

About 1/3 of my three vegetable gardens are taken up with beautiful leaf lettuce.  I like to grow different varieties of leaf lettuce including Romaine, Buttercrunch, Great Lakes and Black Seeded Simpson lettuce.

I usually grow lettuce from seed because it is so easy.  It needs temps below 80 degrees to germinate, so October is a good time to plant it.

**Don’t plant all your lettuce at once.  Stagger your planting dates by 2 – 3 weeks, so that when your first crop of lettuce is finished (bolting), then you will have more coming up.  Because lettuce can be planted throughout the fall, winter and early spring, you can enjoy lettuce until April, if you stagger your planting dates.  This is what experienced vegetable gardeners do to prolong their harvest.   


Isn’t this cauliflower beautiful?  I grew this one two years ago and made the mistake of not planting any last winter.  I’ll never make that mistake again.

I love cauliflower and cut the crown into small 1/4 inch pieces that we sprinkle over our salad – it looks like crumbled cheese and my kids like it.

Cauliflower can be hard to grow from seed, so I use transplants.

**Stagger the planting of your cauliflower as well, so that it does not all ripen at once.  For example: I plant 3 cauliflower transplants every 2 weeks until the end of November.


I do not like cooked spinach.  But, I do like putting it in salads or on a sandwich.  

I have grown spinach from seed and from transplants.  It lasts all winter and into spring.


Carrots are a mainstay of any cool-season garden.  Because they are a root vegetable, they need to be planted from seed.

**My first year vegetable gardening, I planted all of my carrots at once and was rewarded with an ENORMOUS harvest.  We couldn’t eat that many carrots.  So, don’t plant all your carrots at once.  I recommend planting some every month through February, so you will always have some to enjoy, fresh from the garden.


This is the only photo I have of radishes in my garden.  I must remember to take one when they are a bit more developed.

Radishes are the easiest vegetable to grow from seed.  They come up fast – 3 days after planting the seeds, which makes them perfect for kids to grow.

**Stagger your planting of radishes, just as I recommended for carrots for a continual harvest.


I have a confession to make…

I seem to have problems growing broccoli.  I’m not sure why and after each disappointing season, I resolve NOT to grow it again.  But, I am trying again this year.

The photo above, is not my broccoli – it my mother’s 😉

**I have only a few broccoli planted now and will plant more through November, for a longer harvest.


I always plant garlic in October.  I haven’t gotten to it yet, but plan to next week.

Last spring, I was happy with my larger then expected garlic harvest.

The last vegetable on my list is onions, which I will plant from onion sets this month as well.

I promise to keep you updated with how my garden grows throughout the season.  

I would love to hear about what you are planting and/or what your favorite vegetables to grow are.

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 🙂

*This blog post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). Thanks for your support in this way.*

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.

I don’t know about you, but I hate having to buy lettuce to make salad with.

Usually, I purchase the bagged lettuce because it is convenient and already cut up.  What I really don’t like is the price for buying it this way.  So, I have started buying lettuce and tearing it up myself.

Last fall, winter and spring, I got very spoiled by being able to just step outside into the back garden and cutting some lettuce from my own garden.

I had grown a mixture of all kinds of leaf lettuce and spinach.
It was absolutely delicious too.
It was very hard when the warm temperatures came and lettuce would not grow anymore.
I have planted a lot of leaf lettuce and spinach in my vegetable garden and have lots of little seedlings coming up.
So, can you do if you want fresh lettuce and don’t have a vegetable garden?

What can you do?
How about planting a salad bowl?
I found these salad bowls for sale at a farmer’s market in North Carolina last year.
It is really easy to make your own.
Here’s how:
1. Choose a planter that is at least 8 inches deep (12 inches is best) with holes for drainage.
2. Fill with potting soil and wet the soil thoroughly.
3. Plant with lettuce seeds.  I like leaf lettuce, but you can arugula, escarole and water cress.  If you prefer, you can simply plant lettuce transplants, available at your local nursery.

4. Put your container by a window that gets at least 6 – 8 hours of sun, but avoid the hot, afternoon sun.

5. Keep the soil moist by using a spray bottle filled with water.  You will usually have to spray once a day.

6. Once the seeds germinate, back off on the watering, but don’t let the soil dry out.

7. Thin the seedlings to the recommended distance that your seed packet recommends and fertilize every 2 weeks using fertilizer at half strength.

8. Begin harvesting your leaf lettuce by simply snipping off the outer leaves.  Your lettuce will continue to produce new leaves to replace those lost.

Once your lettuce starts to ‘bolt’ (grow tall), it is time to pull it out and start over again.

So forget about paying a lot for lettuce at the grocery store and plant your own bowl 🙂

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I hope you are all of to a good start this week.  

Today is my daughter’s 25th birthday and she is 3 weeks away from her due date.  I am very excited about being a grandma 🙂

I just love Mondays….

But, I must admit that my love for Mondays is rather new.  I didn’t always enjoy sitting in traffic, headed for my office in downtown Phoenix, where I worked as a landscape designer.  (I did enjoy my beautiful office that overlooked the city from the 14th floor).

Fast forward to 5 years later, and I find Mondays refreshing.  For one, the kids are back in school after a hectic weekend, trying to get their projects finished on time.  I also love that Monday is a fresh start.  I rarely have time to garden on the weekends, so Mondays is a wonderful time to step outside and see what is flowering, smell the subtle fragrance of my desert trees and most importantly – see what has developed in my vegetable garden.

Two weeks ago, I planted my fall vegetable garden – on a Monday.  It all started with a visit to our local Home Depot, where I picked up bagged compost, aged steer manure, bone meal and blood meal.
 Earlier, we had ripped out what was left of our summer vegetable garden, leaving only our basil and oregano plants behind.  Since I had removed the shade cloth from the garden, I put in two plastic chairs to protect the basil and oregano from the sun.
We added a 3 inch layer of compost and 3 inches of aged steer manure.  Then I sprinkled both blood and bone meal on top.  We then lightly raked the layers together and then waited a week before planting our vegetable seeds.

We placed stepping stones through the middle so that we will have easy access to our vegetables.

I buy my seeds from different sources.  I have Burpee, some from Botanical Interesta, but I usually buy mine at the local Big Box store.
We decided to plant cucumbers, carrots, green onions, spinach, leaf lettuce and cauliflower.
I let each of the kids pick out what kind of seed they wanted to plant.

Decisions, decisions….

Gracie loves carrots, so that is what she picked to plant.
My son, Kai, planted the green onions and my daughter, Ruthie, planted the lettuce.
I finished up planting the rest of the seeds, using my top secret vegetable garden tool.   

I will share my special tool with you soon 🙂

 I had planted the sweet corn a few weeks ago, since they need to be in the ground by the end of August for best results.

So, do you know what you will be doing today?

I will be stepping out in to my vegetable garden, seeing what seedlings have started to sprout.

Stay tuned for how to plant garlic and learn about my ‘secret’ gardening tool.



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I hope you all had a great weekend and are off to a good start for the week.

**THERE ARE 2 DAYS LEFT TO ENTER YOUR MONTHLY GARDEN BOUQUET FOR THE MONTH OF SEPTEMBER.**


Please email me a photo of your bouquet, or leave me a link to your blog post with you bouquet in the comments section of this post.  I will then feature your bouquet and a link back to your blog.


I hope you decide to take the time to send me your bouquet.  I do enjoy seeing the beautiful flowers from your garden 🙂

I just love spring….and not just because everything is turning green and beginning to bloom in my garden.

I love this time of year because I have both winter and summer vegetables growing in my garden.  I have harvested some of my winter vegetables already including my broccoli and lettuce.  But, my spinach, garlic and carrots are still going strong.

I love how the leafy greens of my carrots look like ferns…


My dog likes them too…
I must confess that my spinach has grown huge.  I had been really good about picking it when the leaves were small and using them in salads, but life kind of got away from me and so did the spinach leaves 😉
I cannot wait to pick my garlic in May.  It takes a long time to grow, (I planted it in September), but it will totally be worth it.  I just need to wait for the green tops to start turning brown and then I can harvest them.
In early March, I planted my spring and summer vegetables.  I went for less variety this year and concentrated on what we love to eat the most.
My San Marzano tomatoes are growing quickly and is flowering.  I cannot wait to use the tomatoes for cooking.
My young cucumber plants are enjoying the protection that their friend, ‘Marigold’ provides.
I just love fresh corn, straight from the garden.  In our area, we are fortunate to be able to not only plant a corn crop in the spring, but we can also plant corn in late summer for a fall harvest.
This year, I have planted 3 separate areas of corn and each area was planted 2 weeks apart from each other.  That way, not all of my corn will be ready at once and I can extend my corn harvest.
Young corn seedlings.
While not a vegetable, Sunflowers are always present in my vegetable garden.  I cannot wait for them to bloom…
 
I love to venture out into my vegetable garden to see how rapidly everything is growing.  
The weather has been so nice and my garden has really responded.
Our spring weather has been rather crazy going from extremes.  Last week we broke a record when we hit 100 degrees in Phoenix, which was 20 degrees above normal.
Tomorrow, we are expecting a storm that will bring temperatures down to 22 degrees below normal for this time of year.
So far, my garden doesn’t seem to be affected by the extremes.
So, how about you?  How is your garden growing?  
Have you experienced any crazy, spring weather?
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Please check out my latest Birds & Blooms blog “Raising Butterflies Part 3”

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  We had a great time with my in-laws, my brother and sister-in-law and my two new nephews.  All in all, we had 18 people at our house.  

I may have mentioned before that I am a planner.  Whenever possible love to prepare ahead of time, so I had all the tables set the day before Thanksgiving. 

I only use my grandmother’s china once a year at Thanksgiving.  Every time I use them, I get caught up in my memories of her.  The kids created place cards using turkeys they made out of their handprints.
I like to collect things, (just like my mother).  For example, I have a collection of refrigerator magnets from destinations around the world.  I also have a dish collection…..my grandmother’s china, my Irish pottery, my Polish pottery and a newer set from Holland.  My dish collection actually quite useful at Thanksgiving because I have three tables to set.
 Our dining room table is laid out with my Nicholas Mosse Irish Pottery.  I collected the pieces of this beautiful pottery during two separate visits to Ireland when I was fortunate enough to visit the factory.  I have also bought some pieces online as well. 

The silverware on this table was given to me by my mother-in-law, which makes it extra special to me.  I plan to give it to my future daughter-in-law someday, which is a long ways a way since Kai is only 8 years old.

Okay, no one likes to be seated at the kid’s table, right?  But, I decided to use a little psychology (it has been a very long time since I took it in college).  Last year, we received a gift of a small set of dishes from Holland from some friends who live there.  The plates are ringed with little pictures of Dutch houses.
Well, I thought they would work out great for the kid’s table and I told Gracie and Kai that only the people who sit at the kid’s table get to use the special dishes.  I also put out two candlesticks with two led candle lights and told the kids that there table was the only one with candles.  Well, they were just so excited about it and had to show everyone their special table.


My oldest daughter, Brittney, asked if she could co-host Thanksgiving with me.  Well, of course I loved the idea because she is a great cook and I can always use more help in the kitchen.


Besides cooking, our morning was filled with watching the Thanksgiving Parade then football.  Perusing the Black Friday ads and holding babies also filled our time 🙂
It is amazing at how quickly my brother has become a pro at handling babies.  We all love any opportunity to hold the babies.
My son-in-law and daughter started planning their early morning shopping for the next day while the turkey was cooking.


Our turkey cooked more quickly then expected so we played a little catch-up while my father-in-law sliced up the turkey.   My husband quickly made his delicious mashed potatoes.


My sister-in-law, Marisue, made sure the potatoes tasted just right.
Doesn’t she look fantastic just after giving birth to twins 9 weeks ago?  I still haven’t lost all the weight from being pregnant 19 years ago  😉
Our Thanksgiving dinner was wonderful, especially because so many family members brought their special side dishes.  I really like this newer tradition of ours so I can focus on making the turkey and mashed potatoes and stay relatively sane throughout the day.
Well, after a day full of delicious, high caloric food, I usually try to make myself feel better by preparing lighter fare over the next couple of days.  And so salad was definitely on our dinner menu for the next day.
Do your kids like salad?  It is not a favorite of my children.  Sure they like it better then cooked squash and some other vegetables, but if they had a choice, they probably would not eat it.  So whenever they ask what we are having for dinner, they try to mask their disappointment when I say “salad”.  Now I don’t just serve lettuce….I add chicken, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, croutons and shredded cheese to the salad as well.
Each time I am preparing salad, the kids almost always ask if they can drown it in ranch dressing.  I usually say no and make my homemade vinagrette the same way that my grandmother used to make it with a combination of apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, vegetable oil, sugar and salt.
Well, my kids have recently become very excited about eating salad.  What caused this turnaround you may ask?  Well, ever since we planted lettuce seeds this past September, the kids have eagerly waited to see the lettuce leaves grow larger and larger.  To be honest, it was funny to have my kids wait impatiently for our lettuce to grow large enough to make a salad with.
Well, the day finally came and I ventured out into the garden to cut some lettuce…..
Now Tobey is not allowed in the vegetable garden which is why we have fence around it.  He seems to think that when I open the fence that it is an invitation to come inside.  I chased him right out 🙂


There is just something so rewarding about cutting your own lettuce and spinach green from your own garden instead of buying it in a bag at the grocery store, which is what I usually do.


The salad was delicious and the kids asked for seconds.  Can you believe that?  I was happy that the lettuce was not bitter, which can happen if you do not irrigate properly.  So, our first experience with growing lettuce has been a success so far.

****I do hope you are enjoying this long holiday weekend with your family and friends****

As for me, today I will be busy decorating our house for Christmas.  Did I mention that I also have a collection of Christmas tree decorations from places I have visited over the years?  I know, I know – I am addicted to collecting, but I only have 4 different types of collections….so far 😉

One of the many things that I love about living in the desert southwest, is the ability to grow vegetables 12 months of the year.  Now I have mentioned before that I grew vegetables during college as part of required classwork out in a field owned by the school.  I have instructed clients how to grow vegetables and have planted vegetable gardens for others.  But I had never grown vegetables in my own garden.  I had not experienced the excitement and wonder of checking the garden each day to see my plants growing bit by bit, see the flowers form and leaves grow and culminate in vegetables ready for harvesting.  I did not know how much better vegetables taste when they are from your own garden. 

And so, I had not experienced any of this…..sad isn’t it?

Well, early last spring we decided to plant a vegetable garden.  The kids were so excited, but I must admit that I was even more so.  My husband, always supportive of my gardening endeavors, was not quite as excited as I was, but was more then willing to do a lot of the grunt work.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again, any woman whose husband shovels manure for his wife, is blessed!
I won’t go into more detail about our spring/summer garden because I have written about it before and I don’t want to bore those of you who have already read it 😉  But for those of you who have not seen it,  you can read about our early adventures in the vegetable garden here.
Once September came, I was eager to plant winter vegetables.  Visions of broccoli, carrots, lettuce and cauliflower filled my head.   Before we planted our seeds, we added additional bagged compost and aged steer manure -both available at our local big box store.
Then it was time for planting.  Now a common problem for many gardeners, including me, is that my eyes are bigger then my gardening space.  So, I had to cut my list of desired vegetables to the following: broccoli, spinach, carrots, romaine lettuce, garlic, basil and bunching onions.
My daughter Ruthie and I planted the seeds and then eagerly waited to see tiny green leaves break through the surface.  They did within a few days and then the unexpected happened….birds got to them.  So we began again and spread bird netting on the top, which thankfully worked.
My tiny vegetable plants were growing beautifully, but they faced another hurdle.  I was leaving for two weeks on vacation and my 18 year old daughter was staying at home and therefore responsible to take care of my garden, including watering my vegetables.  Now those of you who are gardeners understand my trepidation.  House-sitters are not always super reliable when it comes to caring for your garden.  Couple that with the fact that my daughter has not shown any inclination towards gardening….at least not yet.  Between college, church and her job, she has little spare time.  I was worried that she my not take her watering responsibilities seriously.  I might have mentioned to her ahead of time that you can always tell if a vegetable garden has been watered correctly by the taste of the lettuce.  If the leaves are bitter, then there were periods of dryness.  I think that maybe made the difference, because when we returned from our vacation, my garden was absolutely thriving.
I was so thankful for how wonderfully my daughter cared for my garden.  The one thing in the garden that really surprised me was how tall my tomato plants had grown….they were over 4 ft. tall.
I had planted Marigolds throughout the garden to help ward off any undesirable bugs and so far they are working – doesn’t my lettuce look beautiful?.  I also planted some Nasturtiums for the same reason as well.  I am fast becoming a firm believer in companion planting.
I love carrots and will thin them soon once they grow a little larger.
I do not like cooked spinach.  But I love putting baby spinach leaves in my salads.  It is hard to not to grab some and eat them when I am out in the garden…..I just know that I will succumb to temptation soon 🙂
My broccoli is coming up too.  They may be too close, but I will wait and see for sure before I pull any out.

My basil is growing in front of my tomato plants.  Whenever I look at the two together, it makes me want to go and make marinara sauce.

In front of my lettuce is bunching onions (scallions) and the taller one is garlic.  Did you know that you plant garlic from garlic cloves?  You can even plant cloves or garlic you buy at the grocery store.  My kids thought that was so cool.
As hard as I try to have straight, neat rows of vegetables, I always fail.  But, that is really not the point is it?  Vegetables respond to fertile soil, sun and water….not whether or not they are perfectly straight 🙂
It may seem like the rows are too close together….I did follow the instructions of the seed packets, but I can always pull something out if it gets too close.  I would rather fit all I can in my vegetable garden then have large bare spots which contribute nothing to my table.
**I am somewhat proud to say that everything in my vegetable garden, with the exception of the tomatoes, marigolds and the garlic, were all grown from seed.**  I personally have nothing against buying transplants at the nursery and growing them, but your options of picking out certain varieties of vegetables is limited and it does cost more.  I recommend growing vegetables from seed and if some do not, then by all means….buy the transplants 🙂
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Today, we are celebrating my daughter Gracie’s 9th birthday.  She wanted to have her party at our local pizza restaurant where she and her friends can enjoy all of the games.  I love the fact that I don’t have to have a sparkling clean house (I seldom do), I don’t have to prepare the food or clean-up afterward.  I did make the cake, which is something I do love to do.  

Happy 9th Birthday Gracie!