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This past week, I was blessed with harvesting produce from two different gardens.

One was from one of my vegetable gardens…

Harvesting produce

Harvesting produce

About a 1/4 of my side vegetable garden is planted with cauliflower.

Over the weekend, I was able to harvest my first cauliflower of the season.  

Harvesting produce

Now, I am aware that some of you may not care for cauliflower.  Personally, I like it raw but NOT when it is cooked.

I’ll share with you a little secret that I have used to get my kids to eat cauliflower…

Harvesting produce

I cut the tops of the florets off, dice it and then sprinkle it on top of our dinner salads.  It looks like grated cheese.  I also slice carrots, celery and cucumbers to add to our salads, which not only add great flavor to salads – they are also a great way to get more vegetables into my kids 😉

The cauliflower was so delicious – it tasted like butter – seriously.

The next harvest was of another kind and from a different garden…    

grapefruit tree

On the family farm, my mother has a large grapefruit tree.

Now, as anyone who has ever had a grapefruit tree can tell you – these trees are overly generous in the amount of fruit that they produce.  

grapefruit harvesting

Luckily, my mother has 4 kids who are more then happy to help share with her bounty.

With my husband standing ready holding grocery bags, we picked some delicious fruit from the tree.

*While all the grapefruit looked ripe, some were not quite ready to be picked.  If they did not come off fairly easily when lightly pulled/twisted, then we left them alone.

If I am going to be perfectly honest with you, I do not like to eat grapefruit – at all.

But, I have another purpose in mind for my newly picked grapefruit – I am going to make a natural cleaner from it using vinegar.

I promise to blog about it soon, so hold onto some of your excess grapefruit or maybe offer to take some off of your neighbor’s grapefruit tree 🙂

harvest vegetables

*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

harvest vegetables

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.

harvest vegetables

Here is a close-up of my salad.  You can’t see the carrots too well, but they are there.

January Goodness From the Garden...

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.  

January Goodness From the Garden...

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!

Do you have a birdhouse in your garden?  Is it decorative or do have there ever been birds taking up residence inside?

This is a story about the birdhouses on the family farm, including one that has an unusual function.

Double S Farms is five minutes down the road from our house and is where my youngest sister and her family live along with my mother.

Double S Farms

I am over at the farm at least once a week – usually for the weekly dinner that my mother cooks for our entire clan.  It is a special time when I get to spend time with my siblings, their spouses and kids.  We get to catch up with each other’s lives and get to enjoy delicious food, cooked by my mother, Pastor Farmer.

(My mother is a retired pastor who loves growing food on their small farm).

Double S Farms

The backyard is dotted with numerous trees including apple, kumquat, almond, pecan, peach, apricto, plum, orange, lemon and grapefruit.  But, I always seem to find myself strolling by my mother’s raised vegetable beds to see what she is growing.

This past week, she was excited to show me her newest birdhouse.

Now, my mother has is a collector and has passed that gene along to her oldest daughter (me).  One of her collections consists of birdhouses.  Over the years, she has pared this collection of aviary homes down.  But there is still a small collection of birdhouses in her garden…

Birdhouse

I love this birdhouse, which is purely decorative.  But, the chickens seem to find it a nice perch back when it stood in the chicken yard…

Birdhouse

Now it sits with in the fenced-in vegetable garden area.

Double S Farms

The gardens are now fenced in because the netting was not enough to keep the chickens out – including ‘Francie’ my sister’s naked-neck chicken (yes, her neck is supposed to be featherless).

Birdhouse

If you look closely behind the first birdhouse, you will see one that looks like the ‘Tin Man’s head’ from the Wizard of Oz. 

Double S Farms

Like the other birdhouse, it is also decorative.  I remember being with her when she bought it at a roadside nursery just outside of Carmel, Indiana during our Midwest road trip.

There are many nesting sites around Double S Farms and the birdhouse below, is one of them.

birdhouse hangs

This birdhouse hangs from the Mesquite tree.  It is made from a gourd that I grew, dried and then made into a birdhouse for her.  I love this gourd birdhouse and have one in my own garden.

Well, now to the unusual birdhouse…

birdhouse

It doesn’t look all that unusual at first glance.

But, what this birdhouse is hiding is not a nest, but my mother’s hand tools that she uses for her vegetable garden.

They are easily accessible and are always on hand when she needs to harvest vegetables, remove weeds, etc.

She came up with this idea herself and just loves it.  The birdhouse was bought at our local Ace Hardware store and the top lifts up, making it easy to access her tools.

What types of birdhouses do you have in your garden?  

Are they decorative or have you had birds set up house in any of them?

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.

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. 

cool-season vegetables

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

My edible gardens

My edible gardens

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

Swiss chard

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

Artichoke

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.

Earlier this week, we were at my mother’s house for our traditional Tuesday night dinner.  I love having one night off a week from making dinner and it is nice to hang out with my siblings and their families, who also come. However, as I entered the house, I saw my mother’s beautiful fall display on her dining room table…

beautiful fall display

It is pretty, isn’t it?

Many of the gourds she grew herself and I like how she placed bare branches in mason jars.

Now, while I was admiring her display, I realized that I haven’t done anything to get ready for fall in my house, not to mention my garden.

So, this weekend, I will add a few bags of manure and compost to my vegetable gardens along with a sprinkling of bone and blood meal. Hopefully, I will be planting seeds and transplants soon – I promise to let you know what I plant.

In the meantime, I will gather my younger kids together and pull out our Fall / Halloween decorations (if I can just remember where I stored them 😉

When will you plant your fall garden and do you decorate your home for fall?

Great Small Shrub for Fall: Autumn Sage

Fall is definitely in the air.  I can stand outside and feel a slight coolness to the breeze, which I love.

This is my favorite time of year.  One of the many reasons is that it is time to get ready to plant my fall vegetable garden.

lettuce

One of my favorite vegetables to grow is lettuce.  It is so nice to be able to step out into the garden and snip off fresh, delicious lettuce leaves for our dinner salad.

To get a head start on my lettuce, I planted the seeds indoors.  The reason is, is that lettuce seeds need temperatures below 80 degrees in order to germinate.

my fall vegetable garden

After a few weeks growing indoors, I will be able to transplant them out into my garden.

Growing lettuce is very easy and you don’t need many supplies to start them indoors.  I used plastic food containers that I had been saving.

Why don’t you join me and grow your own lettuce too?  You don’t have to have a vegetable plot.  Lettuce grows just fine in containers or even in a recyclable grocery bag.

my fall vegetable garden

Fall vegetable garden

For how to start lettuce seeds indoors, check out my latest Birds & Blooms blog post – “Grow Your Own Lettuce in Recycled Containers”.

I hope you will grow some lettuce with me!

I am so glad that September is finally here!

Oh, I realize that it is still hot, but if you look carefully, there are signs that summer is beginning to wane.  The days are becoming shorter and you can see lengthening shadows at days end.

Fall is a busy time in the garden if you live in the desert Southwest, because that is the best time to add new plants to the garden.

Are you wondering what to do in your garden this month?  Here is my latest garden article from Houzz.com

Southwest Gardener’s September Checklist

 

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From Shabby Chic home décor to contemporary furniture and decorative mirrors, browse thousands of decorating ideas to inspire your next home project.
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What are your plans for the garden this month?

**There is still time to enter the giveaway for a fabulous book, “Gardening for the Birds: How to Create a Bird-Friendly Backyard”.

I’ll announce the winner tomorrow!

Did you have the opportunity to get away for awhile this summer?

Our summer has been a bit tough this year.  The reason is that my son, Kai, had hip surgery (his 5th) and was confined to a wheelchair this summer.  He was in quite a lot of pain for the first few weeks, which thankfully subsided in July.

We were blessed to go on a family vacation toward the end of July before school started.  Every year, we go on a trip with my mother, my siblings and their families.  This year, we decided to go to Pinetop, Arizona.

Salt River Canyon

We got on the road and started heading east from Phoenix.  The mountains of the high desert were beautiful along Salt River Canyon and we could see swimmers below.

Believe it or not, I have never been to the Eastern part of our state even though I have lived here for over 27 years.

Getting Away From It All

Parts of the highway wound back and forth.

As we neared our destination, I began to see the pine trees that promised cooler weather.

Arizona

Pinetop, Arizona

We finally arrived at the cabin that my mother had rented for us all to stay in.

It was quite big – 7 bedrooms and plenty of bathrooms to go around for 5 individual families.

We stayed on the bottom floor so that Kai could get around easily.

Arizona

Pinetop, Arizona

A few of our mornings were spent going for walks.

Arizona

Pinetop, Arizona

We love to walk outdoors, but in the summer it is tough because of the heat.  So this was a real treat for us.

If I were at home, I would be busy writing, gardening, managing the kids and/or consulting instead of taking a walk outdoors on a beautiful morning.  Pure heaven!

Arizona

There were some beautiful gardens in the surrounding neighborhood.

Pinetop, Arizona

This was my favorite garden.

Did you know that you can grow these flowering perennials in the desert?  It’s true.  The only difference is that they will bloom in spring rather then in summer.

friendly cat

We didn’t see any wild animals, but did pet a friendly cat and saw a horse getting new shoes.

Pinetop, Arizona

This kids favorite house had a model train track set up throughout the entire front yard.

Pinetop, Arizona

The kids were interested in the model trains and small buildings while I like to observe the miniature landscape plants.

Pinetop, Arizona
Pinetop, Arizona

This is one vine that you probably will not find growing in the low desert.  This is a lovely Clematis vine and I have grown one before years ago when we lived in Phoenix.  The problem was – it never flowered because it was too hot.

I haven’t grown one since.  

bountiful vegetable garden

We passed this bountiful vegetable garden.

Pinetop, Arizona

I love this terraced garden, don’t you?

landscape

You don’t have to rely solely on flowers for color in the landscape.  I love the trailing ivy underneath these oak trees.

Besides our walks, there was fun to be had back at the cabin…

Pinetop, Arizona

The kids had fun racing monster trucks down the driveway every evening after dinner.

It was nice for Kai to be able to participate in racing without having to run.

Gracie

Gracie enjoyed sitting on the porch and reading her favorite book.

grandma

On rainy afternoons, grandma kept the kids busy with art projects.

making dinner

During the week, each family was responsible for making dinner for everyone.  It was nice only having to cook once the entire week.

Kai

After dinner, the big kids would carry Kai and his wheelchair upstairs to play.

They would ‘charge’ the bad guy armed with a plastic gun and a cushion for a shield.

Kai

They usually triumphed over the villain.

Kai

Of course, we made sure to spend time fishing.

Pinetop, Arizona

My husband kept our fishing line untangled and our hooks baited.

fishing

We spent quite a bit of time enjoying the peace and quiet of fishing.

fishing

Unfortunately, there was a little too much peace and quiet since we didn’t catch any.  Not even a nibble.

Pinetop, Arizona

On our last day, we hiked around the lake enjoying the beauty of the woods.

We had a wonderful trip and 2 days after we returned home, it was time for the kids to start school.

**Thank you for letting me take you along on our summer vacation.**

Salt River Canyon

Family Vacation Getaway…

It may be awfully hot outside, but my garden is awash in brightly colored flowers from my single bougainvillea, Arizona yellow bells and ‘Rio Bravo’ sage, which shrug off the summer heat.

Summer Edible Garden

Last year, we decided to create an edible garden along the side of our house.

This was a large underused area that we look out at from our kitchen, family room and bedrooms.

To get it ready for planting, we had our ghost gum eucalyptus tree removed.  It was a beautiful tree, but was quickly outgrowing this area with its overhanging limbs.

The next step involved pulling out some of the flowering shrubs along the back wall and along the side of the house.  We kept the flowering shrubs along the side wall, because they add beauty and help to break up the bare expanse of the wall.

This is what the side garden looks like today…

Summer Edible Garden

The centerpiece of the edible garden is the vegetable garden.  Right now, it is filled with corn, zucchini, tomatoes, cucumbers and sunflowers.

In front, is my colorful container filled with a variety of herbs including basil, parsley, sage and thyme.  I bought an inexpensive plastic container and spray painted it a bright blue.  The container is connected to the drip system of the vegetable garden.

Arizona sweet orange tree

In the foreground (not pictured) is our new Arizona sweet orange tree.  We planted it last year and are excited to have three oranges growing on it.

You may be thinking that three oranges is not much to be excited about, but the first couple of years after a citrus tree is planted – you are lucky to get any fruit at all.

Newly planted citrus trees shouldn’t be fertilized during the first year, because you want them to focus on root growth, not upper growth when there is not a substantial root system for them to rely on.  Since it has been a year since we have planted it, we will fertilize this year.  

new peach tree

In front of the vegetable garden are a pair of new peach trees.

I love peaches and have enjoyed the fruit from my mother’s peach trees for years.  I finally decided that I wanted to grow my own.

We got 18 peaches this year, which is a lot considering that we planted them in January.

Notice the green plant at the base of the peach tree?  It is a gourd plant that will quickly grow and cover the ground.  This will serve as a ‘living mulch’ and help to prevent weeds and shade the roots of my peach trees.

sunflower

Inside the vegetable garden, sunflower seeds are beginning to form.  It is so fun to see the birds hanging upside down trying to get to the seeds.

You can allow the birds to eat the seeds or if you want to save them for yourself, simply tie a paper bag around the flower to keep the birds away.

I’ll probably save some flowers for ourselves and let the birds enjoy the seeds of a couple of unprotected sunflowers.

zucchini plant

A large zucchini plant is growing in the background and as anyone who has grown zucchini will tell you, it is prolific.

The slightly wilting plant in the foreground is a pumpkin plant.  If you want a pumpkin for fall, then June is when you want to plant them.

It is normal for the leaves to wilt slightly during the heat of the day.  They will return to normal later in the day.

zucchini plant

Zucchini can hide underneath the large leaves of the zucchini plant.  I’m going to use this one to make my chocolate chip zucchini bread.  It’s delicious and your kids will never know there is zucchini in it 😉

I found the recipe on Pinterest and have already made it once.  My family keeps bugging me to make more.  Here is the link to the recipe, if you are interested – Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Summer Edible Garden

My tomatoes are flourishing in the natural shade provided by my sunflowers.

cherry tomato plants

One of my cherry tomato plants has even decided to expand a bit outside of the garden.

two apple trees

Behind the vegetable garden are my two apple trees, planted this January.  One is a Anna apple tree and the other is a Dorsett Golden. These apple trees do well in the desert and although they will produce apples if planted alone – they will produce more apples because they will cross pollinate each other.

It will take a few years for any apples to appear, but the blossoms in spring are just lovely.

Summer Edible Garden

Behind the apple trees are six blackberry bushes.  This year, we enjoyed the berries so much and are hoping for even more next year as they grow larger.

Blackberries won’t produce the first year after planting because the berries appear on 1-year odd canes.

Did you know that there are now thornless varieties of blackberries available?  I have one….I only wish that the other five were thornless 😉

Well, that is what I have growing in my side edible garden.

Tomorrow, I’ll share what is growing in my original vegetable garden.

What do you have growing in your garden right now?

A Summer Edible Garden: Part 2

This past Memorial Day, my mother had the entire family (minus my daughter, Rachele, who is in the Navy) over for brunch to celebrate the beginning of summer.

As we drove up to the farm, we were greeted by the following sight…

Memorial Day at Family Fsrm

My nephews along with my son, Kai, were selling lemonade made from the lemons from the backyard tree.

Memorial Day at Family Fsrm

They had quite a few people buying a refreshing cup of lemonade, including my son-in-law, Jeff.

Memorial Day at Family Fsrm

Kai and the boys were kept busy filling cups with lemonade.  In addition, they also sold homemade jam made from the peach trees.

Memorial Day at Family Fsrm

My daughter, Brittney and Lily (my granddaughter) came over too and Lily got her first taste of lemonade.

Memorial Day at Family Fsrm

As we entered the house, we were greeted by delicious smells of eggs, sausage, fruit and cinnamon rolls.

I couldn’t wait to finish eating so that I could go outside with my mother to see what was growing in her vegetable garden.

Russian gourds

She was most proud of her Russian gourds.

Russian gourds

Okay, they really aren’t Russian, but my sister-in-law brought the seeds in Russia for my mother.  You can buy the same gourd seed in the US.

But, we like calling them Russian gourds because it sounds more fun and exotic.

Russian gourds
Russian gourds

Her pattypan squash is also growing well, above.  This summer squash is a lot like zucchini.  My mom plans on cutting it into small pieces and adding to salads, much like you would cucumbers.

sunflowers

Her sunflowers provided much appreciated shade for the garden as well as seeds for the birds.  My brother considered trying some of the seeds.

sunflowers

If you want to keep the birds from eating the seeds, you can place a paper grocery bag on top of the flowers.

zucchini

Lots of zucchini were beginning to form.  If you are relatively new to vegetable gardening, then zucchini is a great vegetable to get started with in the summer.  They are easy to grow and there is something so satisfying when you bring a large one inside.

My 2-year old twin nephews took some time to play in the toy front end loader…

Memorial Day at the Family Farm

Then it was time to celebrate Kai’s birthday.  He is now 11 years old.

Memorial Day at the Family Farm

His favorite gift was a ‘Navy’ hat from his big sister, which we bought at the Naval base after we saw our daughter graduate.

Memorial Day at the Family Farm
Memorial Day at the Family Farm

His second-favorite gift was a huge squirt gun from his grandma.

Late May is also the time that we pick peaches from the trees.  

pick some peaches

So my mother and I headed out to pick some peaches for me to take home so that I could make peach jam.

pick some peaches
pick some peaches

I love making peach jam and enjoying it throughout the year.

own peach tree.

The peaches, above, were picked from my own peach tree.  We planted it in January and I was quite surprised when it produced so many peaches.  But, I certainly wasn’t complaining 😉

Of course, I didn’t have enough peaches from my own tree, so I used those that I picked from my mother’s trees to supplement my own.

own peach tree.

When you pick peaches, use them the same day if possible because they are so soft and bruise so easily.  I waited only one day and already had some soft spots on my peaches.

My mother taught me how to make peach jam a few summers ago.  I blogged about it back then in “A Harvest Of Peaches and Jam”

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I wanted to thank those of you who left such kind comments regarding my last post about my daughter Rachele’s graduation from Navy basic training.