Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Bountiful Harvest, or Why We're Having Salad for Dinner Every Night This Week + an Update

Salad, salad, everywhere . . . as far as the eye can see.

Is there such a thing as too much lettuce?
I've picked 4 of the 6 lettuce starts and we've had salad with dinner for the past 6 nights . . . and there is still lettuce that needs to be picked! Plus, the lettuce starts that I did already pick are starting to regrow at a very rapid pace. So it looks like salad will be on the menu for a while longer. Good thing we all love salad . . . and that we have enough ranch dressing in the pantry!

The rest of the garden is growing, along with the lettuce:

Planter Box #1
Everything is growing! The herbs are going crazy and I think we are going to have to make something with the cilantro (in the bottom, right corner) . . . maybe my wonderful husband's famous guacamole?

What's that I see? A sprout!?
The green beans have sprouted! The green beans have sprouted! Well, only 2 of the green beans have sprouted but I have high hopes for the rest of them.

Planter Box #2 is also doing pretty well.

Planter Box #2
The zucchinis have really grown quite a bit and even though the peppers are doing OK - though I can tell that they are suffering in the cold. Some of the leaves are a bit brown and they all seem rather wilted. But good news was hiding under one of the leaves:

You can't stay hidden for long!
A small flower on the Italian Sweet Pepper plant! Maybe they are going to make it!

Speaking of making it . . . the strawberries don't mind the cold. All of them have flowers, but this one has 2!

2 for the money!
In other news . . . I finally planted the pumpkin/potato/leek patch!

No there aren't any bodies buried here!

The potatoes are planted in the 2 grave-like locations at the bottom of the picture, the pumpkin seeds are in the small piles in the middle, and a little beyond the pumpkin piles, are a row of leek seeds. It looks pretty crappy now, but hopefully soon it will be lush and green and filled with mini-pumpkins!

Keeping my fingers crossed!


- c

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The First Harvest and an Update

The weather has been yucky lately and, though some of my plants are having trouble adjusting to the colder temperatures, many are thriving in the rain!

Planter Box #1

Planter Box #1 seems to be doing very well . . .  even with the coating of white petals that have  basically taken over our whole backyard. The neighbor's tree (which actually leans mostly into our backyard) decided it was time to grace us with the large clusters of tiny flowers it had been growing. Now our yard looks like the victim of a May snow storm. I asked my husband, B, how we were supposed to get rid of all these tiny, white petals . . . his response? "Snow Blower?" Ummm . . . ok?

Anyway . . .  the lettuce starts are growing like, well, weeds! In fact, they've become so huge that I knew it was the right time to actually pick a few of them and have them for dinner. I know I've been saying for about a week that we were going to have actual "garden" salad for dinner, but tonight it actually happened.


I tried to leave about a half inch stalk on each one, in the hopes that there would be some regrowth, but as you can see . . . even though I only harvested three starts, there was a lot of lettuce there!

Yum! Where's the dressing?!

The perfect amount for a hardy salad to go with dinner! After a wash and a spin in the salad spinner, we ate it and it was pronounced "great!" If you're wondering if it had a different, better taste being homegrown instead of store-bought . . . well, not really. I didn't notice a difference but then again, I'm not a lettuce connoisseur so . . . it was tasty, had a good crunch, and I was proud to say I grew it myself and that's good enough for me :-)

Also happening in Planter Box #1, the Black Cherry Tomato has the first blossom of the season!

The first blossom!
And the spinach and lettuce seeds are really starting to grow . . . which means I'm going to have to do some thinning soon.

Insert spinach and lettuce here
Planter Box #2 is doing pretty well too.

You can really see the "snow" here
The zucchini plants are growing and the Roma and SuperSweet 100 tomatoes seem to be doing ok. The Basil and the Peppers are definitely struggling in the cold. In fact, I think the Basil might be a couple of more rainy days away from fading gently in the night. Be strong, little Basil . . . it's got to get warm sometime, right? The Peppers aren't on death's door quite yet, but they are certainly looking a little "wilty" though there are some buds hiding tightly coiled by the base of one of the leaves. I'm hoping they can also hold out until that warm weathers comes.

The strawberries are doing well and seem to be alright with the rain. In fact the one plant at the very top of this picture has a flower on it that I hope will one day bloom into a beautiful strawberry. Ironically enough, this plant with the flower is the very same plant that a certain little man has stepped on countless times in his haste to get to the planter boxes. Who knew that W apparently has magic growing feet? I guess that means that the blueberry twig he stepped on and broke a couple of weeks ago should start growing like crazy any minute now!

Flower Power!

Crazy Columbine
Last year's left-for-dead Columbine plants are certainly showing me that they are alive and kicking. I love the color combinations! They are growing so large that they are in danger of blocking out some of the sun from my planter boxes . . . I'm going to have a talk with them about that and hopefully they will tone it down. Or I just might pick some of these beautiful flowers and enjoy some of them indoors.

Dahlia! Dahlia! Dahlia!
The Dahlias are starting to get some giant buds on them as well . . . I'm hoping for some huge flowers from these babies later in the season. I didn't realize it when I planted them here, but this little area gets a ton of light and they are thriving (even though the sunlight has been scarce lately, they will take whatever they can get)!

Still haven't gotten around to planting my pumpkin and leeks seeds, or the potatoes, but that is still on the agenda. Maybe this long weekend, if the weather turns nice.

Keep wishing for sunshine!


- c

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Tomatoes and Peppers and Zucchini, Oh My!

The new additions have arrived!

Tuesday evening my long awaited tomato, pepper, and zucchini plants arrived from the green house and were ready to be planted. Though I did debate about keeping them inside for a little while longer, since the weather is going to cool down over the next week and nights are still pretty chilly, I ultimately decided to just go ahead and plant them. I know myself better than to think anything good will come of leaving plants indoors in this house. I'm sure I would either forget to water them or they would get knocked over. So into the ground they went!

Planter Box #2 - suddenly filled up!
Planter Box #2, which had been pretty empty for a couple of weeks with just the Basil, onions, and carrot seeds to keep each other company, bore the brunt of my digging. I ended up planting 4 tomato plants (2 Super Sweet 100s, an heirloom tomato plant, and an Early Girl), 2 Zucchini, and 2 peppers (1 Green Bell and 1 Red Italian Sweet). Then I stuck my handy tomato trellises in, watered completely, and they were all set to grow!

Planter Box #1 gets a new addition too!
Somehow I ended up with an additional Golden Pepper plant and, not wanting to overcrowd the pepper plants in the other box, I popped it into Planter Box #1. You can see it there on the right side of the box between the green bean trellis and the lettuce. I have a sneaking suspicion I may have put some more lettuce or spinach seeds in that exact same spot a couple of days ago, but . . .  oops, oh well! :-)

While I was digging and planting, I noticed some other interesting things were started to sprout:

Yes, the carrots in Planter Box #2 have finally started to sprout! So we may have some yummy carrots at the end of summer after all.

The spinach marches on . . .
The spinach seeds are also coming up like crazy . . . I'm supposed to tidy them up when they get two inches high and it looks like they have less than an inch to go. Then I'll cull the plants until they are spaced out about 2 inches apart. My gut tells them to just leave them all because the more plants that grow means the more spinach we'll have to eat, right? Apparently not if I want to have actual edible and abundant spinach . . . keeping them all would just crowd everyone and make them unhappy. And unhappy plants do not grow and produce . . . so I guess that means I'm be culling those spinach plants some time next week.

Today was pretty overcast but the sun is trying to peep through . . . I hope it does because my new plants need sunshine!


- c

Monday, May 14, 2012

Some New Additions, Week 3 Update and a Memorial

Seattle has been experiencing some beautiful weather -  and both people and plants are thriving!

A belated Happy Mother's Day to all the mommies out there! We spent the day eating the best croissants in Seattle and beautifying the garden.

Wine and beer . . . included. The wonderful husband is all mine!

We bought some great Adirondack chairs from Fred Meyer (plus a little W-sized chair as well) and did quite a bit of relaxing in the sun.

The S.S. Weston!

Our backyard neighbors gifted us with a tugboat sandbox, just the right size for W. He spent most of the afternoon yelling "boap" and throwing rocks into the bottom. I believe that's his idea of a perfect afternoon :-)

We did do some actual work though:

Awaiting pumpkins . . .

My wonderful husband, B, tilled the future pumpkin (and potato and leek) patch and bought some compost so it is all ready for planting. He had quite a time removing the bamboo stalks (those suckers have some DEEP and STRONG roots!) and was only able to saw the tops of the stalks off above the soil . . . so we'll probably be revisited by bamboo next year. But at least he'll know what to do. My goal this week is to dig the trenches for the potatoes and plant the leek and pumpkin seeds. I found information on growing potatoes here at one of my favorite gardening blogs, One Hundred Dollars A Month.

We also suffered a loss this week in the garden:

R.I.P. 5-13-12

Someone (and I won't name names, but this person has tiny little feet and is known for running wild through the garden, yelling "Was Dat?!?!") stepped on the poor little twig of a blueberry plant and broke it off from its roots. Now it truly IS just a twig. Oh well, guess that means no homegrown blueberries this season . . . unless I can get my hands on another plant (preferably one that looks like something more than a twig!).

Now for the Week 3 garden tour:

Planter Box #1 . . . sprouting and proud!

Planter Box #1 is doing great! The lettuce is almost ready to be harvested, I think! Several websites I read (and one video) gave me a good idea of when to pick it (when it grows between 4-6 inches) and how to ensure regrowth (leave 1/2 inch of the stem). We are almost there! I'm thinking that maybe Thursday or Friday would be a good day for a garden salad. More good news, both the spinach and leaf lettuce seeds have sprouted and are forming 2 wonderful lines of green stems. I know I'll have to cull them a little when they get bigger, but for now I'm enjoying the abundance of future salad fixins! The beans haven't sprouted yet (I really think the weather hasn't been warm enough) so I went ahead and planted 5 more seeds, but I have to admit that I did see a newly sprouted green bean seed starting to grow underground, so I'm confident I will see something very soon. And before you wonder, how did I see what was going on . . . UNDERGROUND? Well, let's just say that someone (yes, the same someone that stepped on the poor blueberry twig) pulled out one of the trellis twines and when I was digging it back into the soil, I saw the sprouted seed. I quickly covered both the seed and the twine with soil and let it be. I'm hoping the seed didn't see me and doesn't become too shy to find its way to the surface :-)

The Basil has friends . . . finally!

Planter Box #2 is still awaiting several tomato, pepper, and zucchini plants (which will arrive on Tuesday and hopefully be planted soon after!), but I was able to plant some more Walla Walla onion starts at the far end to join the lonely Basil and yet-to-sprout carrot seeds. The onion starts came from a neighbor and friend who already had too many onions so she offered them to me and I said yes. After planting and looking over both planter boxes, I'm thinking that I probably had too many onions before I took the excess, but . . . oh well, we can always use more onions. The Basil is loving the warm weather and the carrots have yet to make and appearance but I'm keeping my eye out.

First bloom!

The Columbine I planted last year (that I had thought had died about 2 weeks after I planted it and I basically forgot to remove what I thought were the dead roots) is thriving this year! It has started to blossom and is producing the most beautiful flowers. They make a nice backdrop for my planter boxes. It just goes to show that something that fails one year can be a huge success the next. I'm hoping that goes for a lot of the things in my garden this year!

Also, the strawberries, Dahlias, and Raspberries are doing quite well and seem to be growing, growing, growing everyday. I swear the Dahlias have doubled in size since I planted them last Tuesday!

Strawberries soaking up the last rays of sunlight . . .
Grow little Dahlias, grow!

Awaiting the raspberries to come . . .

Overall, the garden is coming along nicely and it's only been 3 weeks! I really hope this beautiful weather continues. The sun is a garden's best friend.

Cheers (and enjoy the sunshine!),

- c

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Dahlia Dilemma and Some Sprouts!

Where will we go?
This flat of poor Dahlias and Snapdragons have been patiently waiting for me to find a spot for them to live (at least for the season). Since they've been sitting there for about 2 weeks, I finally decided now was as good a time as any to get them in the ground.

I decided they would go in the bed on the side of our yard. But first, some maintenance was needed:

Side bed - before
There was plenty of weeds that needed to be removed, as well as some ivy that was making its way over from the neighbor's yard. You never know what you're going to find when you dig in the dirt:

Missing something?
I was a little leery pulling that thing up. I could only see the tip of the handle peeking out and I had no idea how big it was or even what it was. Turned out to be an innocent (though well-rusted) pair of pliers, but it could have been anything - including a cast iron pan, which we have found in the garden before! I wonder what the people who lived here before were thinking? Did they just bury unnecessary objects in the ground? I'm a little nervous about what else I might find!

After about an hour of work (and disturbing several earthworms and other various garden residents), the side bed was ready for planting:

Side bed - after
I planted the 6 Dahlias on the left side of the rocks and 3 of the Snapdragons to the right. The other 3 Snapdragons have found a new home at the front of the house, near the front door (I'll try to get a picture of the front yard plants later this week). I'm hoping they grow and bloom into some beautiful summer flowers!

In other garden related news - some seeds have sprouted in Planter Box #1!

Someday we will be spinach!
In a perfect little row, right where I planted the spinach seeds, some sprouts have appeared! Yay! I'm pretty excited and finally have some proof that those itsy-bitsy seeds are actually doing their thing underground. I'm hoping for lots of big salads later in the summer!

I continue to be grateful for the milder and warmer weather and hope that the sun keeps shining down on my (soon-to-be) beautiful garden!


- c

Sunday, May 6, 2012

A Trip Around the Garden & Week 2 Update

Finally, a sunny day in Seattle! We really needed this sunshine and dry weather, especially after what felt like ages of rain (OK actually only about 3 days, but when you're ready for sunshine, even 1 day of rain feels like an eternity!). I was afraid that my poor, little, newbie plants had gotten waterlogged, but I guess Seattle plants have to get used to the rain too and just tough it out (much like their human counterparts).

Let's take a tour around the garden and check on the Week 2 progress:

Planter Box #1 - filling up!

 As you can see, there have been some changes to Planter Box #1! The salad lettuce seemed to have loved the rain and I think definitely looks bigger and fuller than last week. I'll have to use the newbie gardener's best friend (Google) and look up information on how and when to harvest the lettuce. I also separated the Walla Walla Onions so they could grow to normal size and, let me tell you, THAT is a dull job. Six little bunches of onion starts quickly became hundreds of separate onions . . . alright, not hundreds, but probably 25-30 and when you're kneeling on the ground, gently pulling those little suckers apart and then digging separate little holes for each one . . . it sure feels like hundreds! But it's done and now they had better grow some good, large onions for me! Also, since the onions took up a lot of room, I decided to move the zucchinis to the other planter box and plant the parsley and sage in here. See them? They're right next to the Black Cherry tomato plant that is now sporting a lovely tomato cage ($1 at Fred Meyer, can't beat that!). Hopefully that little plant will grow into its cage and use the support to grow tons of yummy little tomatoes for W.

No sprouts yet!
No sightings of any lettuce, spinach, or green bean sprouts. I'm not surprised because of the rain and lack of sun, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I see something soon. I can't wait to see those green beans winding their way up the twine trellis!

The basil stands alone!

I also had a chance to work on Planter Box #2 this week. I didn't do much, since my tomatoes, zucchinis, and peppers are still growing big and strong in their warm greenhouse at the nursery, but I did mark out some space for the tomatoes when they do arrive (rocks and plant tags seemed like a good way to reuse materials - recycling!). For now, I planted the basil and some carrot seeds around the perimeter of where 2 of the tomatoes will eventually go . . . so basically they are in a square around the rocks. I read a great article about companion gardening here and learned that carrots and tomatoes grow great together. I'm excited to see if it works!

Strawberries . . . and a blueberry!

Along the edge of my planter boxes, I've planted 3 new strawberry plants to go with the strawberry I planted last year (the one from last year is at the top in this photo). We only had 2 strawberries actually grow to pick-able size last year, but man they were good! This year, I hope to harvest at least 4 times as many! LOL! Luckily my older strawberry plant is showing signs of at least 6 buds so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

This is a blueberry!?
Barely visible between the oldest strawberry plant and the one below it is a blueberry plant . . . at least it's supposed to be a blueberry. Right now it looks like a stick. Hmmmm . . . how in the world will this twig become a fruit bearing plant? I hope it somehow transforms because W loves blueberries!

These raspberries were here when we moved in and have consistently borne lots of fruit without any effort on my part. This year, I trimmed them back over the winter and culled all the dead plants, plus I'm in the process of removing a bunch of what my neighbors calls 'bind weed' from the base of the plants. This little weed wraps itself around any plant it can find and basically sucks the life right out of it. The poor raspberries were covered with it! That they actually bloomed and gave fruit every year is a miracle and I'm hoping that my efforts this year will help it do even better. Of course, there's always the chance that I broke something that didn't need fixing but . . . *sigh*

A weed garden?
In the next few days, I'm hoping to pull all of the weeds and bamboo out of this sunny spot and turn it into . . . a pumpkin patch! Well not just a pumpkins patch since I'm going to experiment with growing potatoes and leeks too, but pumpkin patch just sounds better than pumpkin, potato, and leek patch.

Hope everyone out there is enjoying the sunshine, I know my plants are!


- c

Friday, May 4, 2012

My New Favorite Website!

Currently I'm following the adventures of Mavis at One Hundred Dollars A Month. She's trying to grow 2000 lbs of food this summer in her backyard, and she lives somewhere in Seattle so I know that her gardening tips are relevant to my own crazy-rainy climate.

So far, she's given me the idea to plant potatoes and leeks, as well as directed me to some really helpful gardening tutorials. I hope to know half as much about gardening as she does someday.


- c

Gardening for Dummies

I'm a total gardening newbie. I've dabbled for the past two years with growing a few tomatoes and herbs, but this is the first year that I've really planned out a full scale vegetable garden and then gone ahead and actually implemented it. Thanks to my wonderful husband B, I now have two beautiful planter boxes that will hold my (*fingers crossed*) abundance of yummy veggies.

Here is the picture of my half-completed garden, Planter box #1

I've got bush bean seeds planted under the string trellis, then between that and the salad mix starts are a row each of leaf lettuce and spinach. It's my first time ever growing from seed and I know I probably should have started them indoors, but if you saw what a mad house I live in, you'd know that the seeds are much safer starting themselves outside in the ground.

Beyond the salad mix starts is one black cherry tomato plant, then 6 little bunches of Walla Walla onions. I was told by a neighbor this morning that if I want the onions to grow to their normal size, I need to separate each bunch into individuals plants and put them about 3 inches apart, so the next time a sun break coincides with my toddler, W's nap, I'll be out there separating. At the very end of the planter (on the top in this picture) are 2 of my herbs, Cilantro on the left and English Thyme on the right. And if you notice just below the Cilantro, there are two sticks. No, I am not planning on growing sticks. Those were just to remind me that I needed to leave room for my zucchini plants which haven't arrived from the greenhouse yet. Though I might have to reconfigure things now that I know that each onion has to be separated. I might move one zucchini plant to the other box and spread the onions out a little more. I plan on either letting the zucchini trail over the side of the planter or staking them up somehow. I also need a stake or one of those tomato tower thingies (that's the technical term I believe) for the tomato in this planter and the 5 more I plan to plant in the other one. Yes, we love tomatoes! Especially W who eats grape and cherry tomatoes like candy.

It's a pretty wet day here in Western Washington, so I'm glad I got my garden started before the rain and wind came . . . otherwise I might have been tempted to just wait until the next sunny day (which in Seattle, might NEVER come!).


- c