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

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

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

Picking Vegetables

 I used our bounty to make a delicious salad for dinner.

The only thing from the grocery store in our salad was the cucumbers, which aren't in season until summer

The only thing from the grocery store in our salad was the cucumbers, which aren’t in season until summer.

As I was picking the vegetables earlier today, Lily was busy picking something entirely different…

Picking Vegetables or Rocks?

Rocks!

She absolutely loves to pick up rocks.

Thankfully, she doesn’t like to eat them 😉

broccoli flowers

I went out in my garden today and saw these flowers growing.

While they are pretty, I was NOT happy to see them.

Why?

Maybe this next photo will give you a clue…

broccoli flowers

Can you tell why I’m not happy about these flowers yet?

Maybe this photo will tell you why…

growing broccoli

It is my broccoli that is flowering.

The goal of growing broccoli in my vegetable garden is to eat it before it flowers.

Thankfully, there is plenty of broccoli that isn’t flowering yet.

I don’t claim to have the ‘perfect’ garden and I sometimes don’t get out there much as I’d like, but it really doesn’t bother me that some of my broccoli is flowering.

You know why?

Because I still have a refrigerator filled with fresh broccoli (that hasn’t flowered yet), some still in the garden and a little vase filled with pretty, little, yellow flowers 🙂

The gifts are wrapped and the house is decorated for Christmas.

I do still have to clean my house and start baking goodies for Christmas Eve dinner.  My mother-in-law is bringing her famous lasagna, so I only have to focus on side dishes and dessert – yum!

I am fairly prepared for the holidays at this point.  Tonight, we are expected to experience our first freeze of the season.  I needed to harvest the remaining green peppers and tomatoes today before they were harmed by the frost.  So, I went out this morning to my vegetable garden to harvest the remaining green bell peppers on my two pepper plants and my tomatoes.

Green Vegetable

Green Vegetable

I had some big peppers left along with some smaller ones…

Green Vegetable

It is amazing how hidden the peppers are under the leaves of the pepper plants.  But, I got them all.

Then I got to work on my tomato plants.  They are over a year old and I decided to start over with new tomato plants this coming season, so I will let them go ahead and freeze.

I did however, pick off the green tomatoes.

When I came inside and poured out my bounty, I was surprised at how many green vegetables I had.

Green Vegetable

I got to work at cutting up my peppers and diced them before putting them into freezer bags.

Green Vegetable

Over the next 8 months, all I have to do is take out  as many diced peppers as I need.

I realize that I probably should have ‘flash frozen’ them by placing the diced peppers on a single layer on a baking sheet until frozen before putting in a freezer bag.  That way, they are separate and come out of the bag easily.

But, I am a bit lazy and don’t like to wash extra dishes so when I need some diced peppers, I simply bang the freezer bag on the counter, which loosens them so I can take out the amount I want.

Now, all I have to do is decide what to do with all those green tomatoes.

I could make a green tomato salsa OR I could let them ripen.

What would you do with green tomatoes?

Grow Vegetables in Pots!

This morning, I spent some time outside in one of my vegetable gardens with my granddaughter, Lily.

 cool season containers

While I worked, she had fun with the plants in my containers.  

 cool season containers

cool-season containers

My cool-season containers are in full bloom.  Leaf lettuce, petunias, garlic, parsley and nasturtiums are growing very well.

 cool season containers

My 1-year old tomato plants are huge.  They extend over the fence between my containers.

There is even a small tomato seedling coming up in front of the yellow container.

vegetable garden

They have taken over this part of the vegetable garden.  I admit that they aren’t particularly beautiful with the dead, brown area in the middle (the result of sunburn before I got my shade cloth up this summer).

There are a few green tomatoes on the vines, but they won’t have time to ripen before the first freeze.  So, I plan to keep an eye on the weather report and pick my green tomatoes just before a freeze is scheduled.

The green tomatoes will ripen indoors in my kitchen.

bell peppers

My bell peppers are doing just fabulous.

Last summer, I treated them with epsom salts, which helps to promote fruit production.  (You can read more about my experiment with epsom salts and my pepper plants here).

bell peppers

The epsom salts did their job.  I have over 6 bell peppers ready to be picked.  I’ll pick them before the first freeze, dice them and freeze them until I need them for making my Mexican rice.

Both tomato and pepper plants are damaged or killed in freezing temperatures in my zone 9a garden.  I will protect my pepper plants from frost by covering them with old sheets.

I will not do the same for my tomato plants because they are very large and it would be hard to cover them all.  The other reason that I won’t bother to protect them is that many gardeners report that the size of tomatoes decreases as the plant gets older.

I will start again with new plants in late winter.

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I hope you are enjoying this holiday season.  You might have noticed that I haven’t been posting as often.  Partly this is due to the fact that I get busier in December preparing for Christmas.

The other reason is that I am having tendon trouble in my thumb.  I wear a splint, which helps somewhat – but it is very hard and laborious to type one-handed.

I do have some new posts coming up though, so stay tuned 🙂

You’ll never guess what I made this Christmas tree out of…

Christmas tree

A tomato cage, mini-white Christmas lights and a hair band is all that it took to create this festive Christmas tree.

Christmas lights

I brought out my tomato cages and grabbed some Christmas lights and took the hair band out of my hair 😉

I used the hair band to wrap the top of the tomato cage.  Then all I had to do was to begin wrapping lights around the cage, starting from the bottom.  

holiday decoration

This is what it look like when I was finished.

holiday decoration

I decided to use them in my vegetable gardens since I can see them from the house.

holiday decoration

My son, Kai, had fun helping me get all the lights up and connected.

Before we connected the lights, Kai said “This is like the movie Christmas Vacation just before the plug in the lights.”

holiday decoration

I must say that I am so happy with how they look.

I liked it so much that I did the same thing in my other vegetable garden…

holiday decoration

holiday decoration

Who knew that a tomato cage could turn into something so beautiful?

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How about you?

Have you ever transformed an everyday object into a holiday decoration?

Blue Booties, Hot Wheels and Christmas Decorations….

One of my favorite memories as a child was visiting antique stores with my mother.  We usually did this whenever we went on vacation.  My dad would stop the car whenever she saw a store that looked promising.

Now that I am an adult, my mother and I have fun visiting antique stores when we travel together.  I don’t have a lot of antiques myself, but I do have some special pieces.

Last summer, our family traveled to Prescott, which I blogged about back then in “Antique Junk for the Garden”.

visiting antique stores

One of the pieces that I got was an old, antique watering can.

I had a vision of seeing it full of flowering annuals.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t plant in the summer because it was too hot for plants to survive in the container.  (It can be very hard to grow plants in smaller containers in summer because the outer 6 inches of soil is often too hot for roots to grow.

However, once fall arrived, I was ready to plant my new (old) container.

First, I had to make some holes on the bottom for drainage.  Then I filled it with planting mix and then my annuals…

visiting antique stores

I planted alyssum, violas and lobelia.  The watering can is now sitting in the middle of my vegetable garden. I added a drip emitter, so my new container is watered whenever my vegetables are.

I must admit that I am quite pleased with how it turned out.

Have any of you used old, antique containers in the garden? 

My tomato plants are turning one-year old this week.

tomato plants

I didn’t plant them.  They sprouted up from fallen tomato seeds from a stray tomato that was unpicked the previous year.

When I saw the little seedlings coming up, I decided to protect them from the winter frosts in hopes that I would have a jump start on the growing season in spring.

I covered them with sheets when temperatures dipped below 32 degrees and even put a light bulb underneath the sheets to provide additional warmth.

In the spring, I did get a jump-start on the tomato growing season.  They performed very well.

In May, as summer temperatures arrived – I put up shade cloth to shield them from the sun and keep them from burning up.

My hope was to be able to enjoy a fall harvest of tomatoes once the temperatures cooled.

Now that November has arrived, my tomato plants are covered with flowers, just waiting to form into new tomatoes.

I checked over my tomatoes today and this is what I found…

tomato plants

A single ripening tomato.

I’m not too sure I will see any more tomatoes form because soon we will be getting too cold.

I must admit that I have mixed feelings about working hard to help my tomatoes survive another winter.

I’m not sure why I feel this way.  It was worth it because I did get a jump-start on the growing season and as a result, got more tomatoes.

Even when working to protect tomatoes from the occasional freeze – there is no guarantee that they will survive.  A colder then normal winter will kill them no matter what protective measures I try.

Oh well.  At least I don’t have to make a decision for a few weeks.

**How about you?  Have you raised tomato plants for over a year?  Was it worth it?  Or was it easier to start off fresh with new tomato plants in the spring?

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Grand Canyon University is getting ready for their third Run to Fight Children’s Cancer, which is a 5k/10k run that will raise money to support children and families dealing with childhood cancer.

The run will benefit the Children’s Cancer Network & Phoenix Children’s Hospital (a wonderful hospital – our son, Kai, had surgery there on his hip).

Please take a minute to check out the video link

which shows childhood cancer survivors in an honest, heartfelt way that will leave you inspired. 

I have two vegetable gardens, just sitting there, ready to plant.

my newest vegetable garden

my newest vegetable garden

This was my newest vegetable garden, last February, just before I planted it.

Just a couple of months later, it was full of growing bush beans, cucumbers, corn and much more….

my newest vegetable garden

The flowers not only made the garden look pretty, but they also helped to repel bad bugs and attract pollinators.

So why haven’t I planted it yet?

Well, I had all good intentions to get it done last weekend.  BUT, my kids, specifically my youngest daughter, had other plans….

1. On Sunday morning as we were getting ready for church – she decided that she wanted to run away and live in the desert with the coyotes.  She has this idealized view of the desert from one of her favorite tv shows.

Thankfully, she only made it to the next door neighbor’s house before she reconsidered.

2. Monday was a crazy, busy day and I was happy that I was able to keep my head above water.

3. Tuesday, as I was making my toast for breakfast, I noticed teeth marks in the butter.  From the distinctive shape of the teeth marks – I knew that my youngest daughter was the culprit, eating our butter.

My husband then told me that he caught her eating flour.

*Have any of you ever had your kids eat some strange things?

4. Finally, last night, she started crying and it turned out that she had stuck a plastic fork up her nose and one of the tines had broken off.  We used a flashlight and we could see it, but it was too far up her nose for us to get it.

So, we made a trip to urgent care.  Thankfully, they were able to get it out easily with long tweezers.

Tomorrow, I have 2 consults.  BUT, come Friday morning – I will be out in my garden planting seeds (by myself, without my kids who will be in school).

I must admit that I am looking forward to the break from being a mom and just enjoying working out in the garden.

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How about you?

Do you have any fun stories of things that your kids have done, ate or stuck up their nose?

I’d love to hear about them 🙂

‘Friendly’ Plants in the Vegetable Garden

cool-season vegetable garden

cool-season vegetable

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 🙂

I have been waiting, rather impatiently I might add, for a certain item in the mail – a magazine with my published article!

And, I am happy to say that it arrived a couple of days ago….

Birds & Blooms

Here it is!

Companion Gardening

Although, I have written articles for magazines before – but this is the first one that I wrote for a national magazine.

Companion Gardening

Last year, I was asked by the editor of Birds & Blooms magazine to write two articles for their magazine this year.  (I do write twice a week for their blog).

This is the first article, which is about ‘companion gardening’.  

Companion Gardening

I practice ‘companion gardening’ in my own garden and have written smaller articles about it, including posts on this blog.

But, I did do some additional research for this article and was pleasantly surprised to find out more combinations and practices that use combining certain plants together that benefit each other.

Birds & Blooms

I wrote this article from a hotel room back in March, while we were temporarily evacuated from our house when it flooded.

The next article is due out next month and is about ‘drought-tolerant’ gardening.

**Birds & Blooms is a Reader’s Digest publication.  I have found it at my local Kroger’s grocery store as well at Barnes & Noble.

Of course, you can always subscribe to it.  It has lots of great gardening ideas and DIY projects.

**If you would like to order an individual issue, you can get one here 🙂