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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?

 

What do you have growing in your vegetable garden?


I have three separate gardens where I grow vegetables, but they aren’t the only thing that are growing in the rich, moist soil.



There are also red poppies present alongside the Swiss chard and leaf lettuce.


It all started 4 years ago with a packet of red poppy seeds.

Thereafter, every year a new crop of poppies grow among the vegetables.


Poppies aren’t the only flowers that come up each year on their own – blue lobelia, marigolds and nasturtiums are always make their presence known every spring.

For this of you who enjoy colorful annuals, how about giving them some space in your vegetable garden?  It has everything they need – fertile soil and water.

Do you have anything else growing in your edible garden?  What flower would you add?

Do you like to try new things?


I do – especially in the garden.  I’m always on the lookout for new vegetables to try out, including some heirloom varieties, which aren’t technically new.



One year, I tried growing ‘container corn’.  You can read here how it did.

This year, I tried growing ‘White Icicle’ radishes, which are a cross between radishes and turnips.  My mother had given me the seeds and I’ve always had a very easy time growing regular radishes, so I thought I’d try these.  

They grew easily and the leaves reached over 2 1/2 ft. long!

It was exciting to pull them out and I couldn’t wait to try them.


While they were very easy to grow, I must confess that I didn’t like them.

I really wanted to and their flavor was a lot like a turnip, but they burned my mouth – much more than the radishes do.


My grand experiment last year was growing Swiss chard and afterward, I wish that I had been growing it all along.  It’s not only easy to grow, it also tastes great in salads!


I grow it both in my vegetable gardens and in pots.

So, while I wish that I liked ‘White Icicle’ I don’t.  But, it wasn’t a waste of time growing them.  You see, gardening is a grand experiment and it’s always fun to try growing new things and while there are going be some failures – there are also great successes (like my Swiss chard) when you discover what grows well that you like.
*This week, I’m sharing what I’ve harvested from my winter vegetable garden and sharing lessons learned.  Yesterday, it was broccoli and how to freeze it.

 

*This blog post contains affiliate link for a product that helps get rid of caterpillars. 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.*

Fall is a busy time for me in the garden.  However, you will usually find me in other people’s gardens helping them achieve their goal of a beautiful, low-maintenance garden. I did manage to get my cool-season vegetable gardens planted.  I planted my favorites, which include carrots, cauliflower, garlic, a variety of leaf lettuces and radishes.

 
 
I included broccoli in my list of vegetables this year, despite the fact that I have yet to grow a healthy head of broccoli (the broccoli in the photo above is from my mother’s garden).
 
Every year, I grow beautiful cauliflower while my broccoli decides to produce very few flowering stalks.  At the end of the season when I look at my less than stellar broccoli harvest – I promise myself that I won’t try again.
 
But, after 6 months pass, I am always tempted to try again hoping that this year will be different.
 
With the exception of carrots and radishes, I planted all of my other vegetables from transplants.  Normally, I almost always use seed, (with the exception of broccoli and cauliflower, which do better when grown from transplants) but I knew that I wouldn’t have time to come out and thin excess plants later.
 
 
This smaller vegetable garden is closer to my kitchen and so I put in vegetables that I would harvest more frequently throughout the season in this area.  Leafy greens such as lettuce, Swiss chard, spinach and kale all went in here.
 
The larger garden is a bit further away and so it was planted with broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, garlic and radishes, which are harvested once.
 
My artichoke plant from next year died back to the ground in the summer, (which is normal by the way) and is now growing again.



In addition to my artichoke, my bell pepper plant is also a holdover from last year’s garden.  Actually, it is 2 years old.  Although pepper plants can die from freezing temperatures, I protect mine when the temps dip below freezing, so they are qutie large and produce a lot of peppers much to the delight of my husband and children who like to eat the bell peppers raw.



I also dice them and freeze them for using in my favorite Mexican rice recipe.

I’ve already had to spray my leafy greens with BT (Bacillus thuringiensis) to deal with the caterpillars that had started to eat holes in the leaves.  It worked great, but I will need to reapply every once in a while. I use Safer Brand 5163 Caterpillar Killer II Concentrate, 16 oz.
 
 
Nasturtiums are coming up again from seed in the gardens.  I just let them go to seed each year and they always come back.  I use nasturtiums in my vegetable gardens because they repel bad bugs.  Besides, they look pretty, don’t you think?
 
 
Nasturtiums aren’t the only flowers in my vegetable gardens – marigolds are also great at keeping damaging insects at bay.  This year, I planted a marigold at the end of each row of vegetables.
 
I love how their orange flowers brighten up the garden in the middle of winter.
 
Marigolds and nasturtiums are just a few of the flowers who actually help vegetables.  For more information on other plants to include in your vegetable garden you can visit my previous post, “Even Vegetables Need Friends”.
 
 
I am having a problem in one of my vegetable gardens that began this past summer – spurge!  I have come to truly hate this creeping weed and it has decided to move from the nearby landscape areas into my vegetable garden.
 
It got pretty bad last summer and we ripped it all out.  To help combat it, we added 4 inches of compost/manure, which did help to smother some of the weeds.  But, some are still coming up.  So, I go out every week and spray them with my homemade weed killer, taking care not to spray my vegetables by accident.
 
You may see homemade weed killers that list salt as one of the ingredients.  DON’T add salt to weed killers – especially if you live in the desert Southwest.  Our soil and water already has a lot of salts in them and adding more is not good for your plants – in fact, too much salt can kill them.
 
Homemade weed killer made from vinegar and soap works just fine on most weeds, except for the really tough ones.
 
Have you planted a vegetable garden this year?  What are you growing?
 
 

In the past, I have shown parts of my garden, but never a comprehensive look.  So, I thought I would share with you a more comprehensive look at my garden.


First, I’d like to show you my newest part of my garden, which is located on the side of my house – just outside of my kitchen window.  


This part of the garden is looking remarkably good considering that it is still winter.  For those of us who are fortunate to live in the Southwest, we didn’t really experience much of a winter this year.
In fact, I recall only 1 week of freezing temps and that happened back in December.




This is the largest of my three vegetable gardens.  It is hard to believe that it didn’t exist 2 years ago.

I had always dreamed of having a nice side garden and because ours is rather large, there were many possibilities.  So, we decided to create an edible garden in this area.
You can read our planting journey, here. 

This year, I planted Swiss chard for the first time and don’t know why I didn’t do it sooner – I love this plant!

Well, I don’t really like it cooked (but I’m weird that way).  I do like to use it in salads along with leaf lettuce.  My kids even eat it!

I think it also looks really pretty too with its brightly-colored stems.

In the corner, is my single artichoke plant.


It was about 6 inches high when I planted it last fall.  Needless to say, it has grown so fast.  I can’t wait to see the artichoke buds (the part you eat) begin to form.

I will harvest some of the artichokes, but also plan to allow some to turn into flowers, which are beautiful and fragrant.

I like the idea of using artichokes as ornamental plants as well as for eating.


In the center of this vegetable garden sits a stump from a eucalyptus tree that we had to cut down to make space for this particular garden.

An old watering can sits onto of the stump and I fill it with cool-season annuals.  This year it is purple violas and alyssum.

In summer, the watering can sits empty, because it is too hot for plants to grow in it.  Roots will literally ‘cook’ in small containers during the summer.  I think it looks just fine without plants for part of the year.


The second crop of radishes of the season are just beginning to come up.  There is still time to plant radishes before it gets too hot.


Behind the vegetable garden are two apple trees.  They are growing so well during their first year.  I will have to wait a couple more years before I get any apples, so I’m trying to be patient.

I planted garlic around the base, in order to help keep borers away.

Not shown – behind the apple trees are blackberry bushes.  I had a great crop of last spring.  I plan on making blackberry jam this year!


Along the garden wall is one of my favorite shrubs called ‘Pink Beauty’ (Eremophila laanii), which is evergreen in my zone 9a garden and has pink flowers in winter and spring.  

It rarely needs pruning as long as it has enough room to grow – mine stands at 9 feet tall.

Next to is Pink Trumpet Vine and Yellow Bells shrubs, which serve two purposes.  The first, is that the cover up an ugly, bare wall.  Second, they help to cool the garden down because the shrubs keep the wall from re-radiating heat that it absorbs in the day.


The buds on my peach tree have not begun to swell yet, but it is just a matter of time.


My other peach tree is covered in blossoms.  Planted just last winter, it produced 19 peaches for me last year.


My herb container sits in front of the vegetable garden and is filled with lovely, purple petunias.  I like to add flowers to my herb pots for an extra splash of color.


I hope you enjoyed the tour of my side garden.

Next time, I will show you the main part of my backyard and maybe a peek at the ‘other’ side yard, which I never show anyone.

What is growing in your garden this February?  
I’d love to hear about it.

*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.

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!

Where do you expect to see vegetable gardens planted?


Most of the time, vegetable gardens are found in the backyard.


But, have you ever  thought of locating your vegetable garden somewhere else?


This home in the Encanto district, in downtown Phoenix, has a great way of utilizing space in the front yard for growing vegetables.  


The homeowners decided to utilize the space beside their driveway for planting a vegetable garden.

I think that this vegetable garden looks great in this area, don’t you think?

By the way, do know why the homeowner has planted flowers at the end of each vegetable row?

The marigolds and lavender not only add beauty to the garden, they serve an important role in keeping bad bugs away from the vegetables.

Pairing flowering plants and herbs with vegetables is a practice known as “companion gardening”. 

 There are many other plants that can be planted with vegetables to keep damaging insects away.  You can read more about companion gardening here.


I also like how the homeowners added vegetables in front of the house.  Some people would tend to plant annual flowers in this area instead, but think how much more fun it would be to plant vegetables there instead.

The vegetables look at home among the ornamental plants such as Agave angustifolia, Texas Mountain Laurel and Red Yucca


A couple of years ago, I was driving home from a landscape consult and saw this home’s front yard filled with raised beds.


I returned a few months later to visit these vegetable gardens filled with zucchini, Swiss chard, tomatillos and carrots.


This is another home in east Phoenix that has homemade trellises, made from rebar and wire, with cucumber plants growing up on them.  

The cucumbers are in the perfect spot where they receive afternoon shade from the large front yard tree.

Both of these gardens are planted and managed by the Farmyard group, who grow organic produce on urban farms in Phoenix and Scottsdale.  You can find out more about this group and the services the offer here.

As cool as these vegetable gardens are, most of us cannot grow vegetables in our front yard due to HOA restrictions.

However, if you do not live in a neighborhood with an HOA, maybe you should think about including vegetables in your front yard?

You can start out small – maybe that area that you would normally plant flowers?  
** A word of caution: don’t plant vegetables in front if you have problems with deer, rabbits or javelina.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about growing vegetables in the front yard…

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.

*************************

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…

The past two weekends have been busy ones in my household, or should I say, gardens.


The beginning of October signals great planting weather for all types of plants and vegetables.  As a result, I have been busy planting cool season vegetables in my edible gardens as well as sprucing up my container plantings.

Introducing my granddaughter to the wonders of plants at our local nursery.

The past two weekends involved visits to the nursery to peruse the vegetables as well as a few other types of plants.

It is very hard for this horticulturist to NOT get carried away with buying plants.  I try very hard to stick to my list of plants but I often fail and come home with another plant or two. 


In addition to my regular cool-season vegetables, I decided to introduce four other vegetables this year… 


Kale (I may try making Kale ‘chips’ and also using the younger leaves in salads).


Swiss chard (I plan to use the young leaves in salads).

Artichoke (I’m not sure if I will harvest the artichokes or let them continue to grow, since artichokes make great ornamental plants too).

The last vegetable I will be trying this year is celery.  Now, celery is said to be fussy and hard to grow in the Phoenix area.  But, part of the fun of gardening is experimenting.  So, I bought 2 celery transplants, just to see what will happen.

Of course, I have many other types of vegetables in the garden.  Most have been planted, but I still have some still to plant.

Later this week, I will show you what else I have planted in the garden.

Do you grow vegetables?  If not, it is easy to do and you don’t even need a plot of land.  You can grow vegetables in pots if you like.  

**Last week, I took you along on my shopping trip to the produce section of my local supermarket in my quest to create a natural, fall centerpiece.  I promise to show you what I came home with and what I created with vegetables and fruit in my next post.