My Writings. My Thoughts.
After six long months of closing on our house, moving, unpacking and settling in, plus going through Master Gardener training, it’s finally almost summer and time to jump back into blogging and gardening!
We spent a few days hauling compost and spreading it around in our garden beds. I have the trellises I’ll need setup. This past weekend we had to repair part of our irrigation system – very necessary since its been so hot! It feels like late June, not May! Looks like this week will be cooler, which will be nice.
Jon and I don’t have a separate room available for seed starting, so I needed to buy most of the things I wanted to grow. Hopefully next year we’ll have a greenhouse built for starting seeds, but this year it was nice to not have to worry about that part. Last week, my mom and I went to a greenhouse near my old house to buy our plants. I got all the herbs I wanted and more! I also got tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers.
Since it looks like we’re going to be frost-free from now on (there’s no snow left on the mountains) I’ve debated going ahead and planting everything, but we need to sort out our drip lines a little bit first. I did plant all my herbs in pots and the new herb bed, so I’ve made some progress! I’ve also planted my carrot and bean seeds, and our lettuce is thriving in the shade of a tree.
I’m looking forward to sitting on our lovely backporch, eating grapes from our huge grapevine, and having BBQs all summer. This is going to be a great year.
Another gardening seasons is coming to a close and I’m always amazed by how fast time passes. It seems like just yesterday I was planting seeds and then struggling with my seedlings being damaged by the frost.
The last 2 and a half months have kept me busy with looking for a house, and then paperwork! We found one house (with a half acre!) only to have to give it up when the home inspection turned up structural issues and other things we weren’t prepared to deal with. That was very disappointing. Then, a few weeks ago, we found the perfect house for us and it happens to have a beautiful garden already built!
Our closing date is fast approaching and as soon as we move in, I will take pictures of the garden and show you all! In the meantime, I’m busy packing and cleaning up our garden here. I think this is the earliest we’ve ever cleaned up the beds, but its always nice to get things ready for next year. I’m still planning to help my sister-in-law with her garden next year. The focus will shift; she’s really interested in canning and preserving so I will learn a lot about that! I did try making sauce with my tomatoes this year and that was a fun, messy adventure.
I’ve lived in this house for about 5 years, which is the longest I’ve been settled in one place since high school. It’s been so long since I’ve packed up and moved that I’ve forgotten how much work it is to go through everything I own and somehow get it in a box. And we’re just going across town, so we don’t need to seal all the boxes up for a long trip! Thank goodness for that.
I’m very excited for a new beginning and I can’t wait to share pictures of my new garden space with you all! Happy Autumn and enjoy the lovely weather!
As helpful as it is to see the big picture, its just as important to lean in and really look closely at a garden. There are all sorts of surprises to be had! Plus, you learn so much more about how the plants grow and you’ll be able to see potential problems before they get out of hand.
From left to right – Top: Green Bell Peppers, ready to pick; Chocolate Mint with its helpful sign; A ripe Tigerella tomato; Bottom: A cantaloupe ripening on the trellis; Extreme closeup of Candlelight Peppers, finally starting to change colors; My second Sugar Baby Watermelon to appear.
During July, I read Our Life in Gardens by Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd.
In this book, the two gardeners write in detail about some of the plants they’ve collected and grown throughout their 30 years at North Hill Garden in Vermont. Sometimes minute detail. I really like the format – chapters about one kind of plant or a concept (tools, hardiness, etc) – but had a hard time absorbing all the descriptions of the various kinds of snowdrops or magnolias. The chapters are in alphabetical order, but you still get a sense of how things have developed over time in their garden.
I enjoyed the chapters that were more broad, and of course when they talked about edible gardening. There is a vegetable gardening chapter as well as chapters about artichokes and peas. They talk about WHY we grow things to eat when fresh local produce is becoming easier to buy, and I probably don’t have to tell you the reasons: because nothing is fresher than something grown in your backyard, and because we love to!
One issue they bring up is invasive plants, which are plants that are not native to an area and then proceed to take over, killing native plants. They admit that they grow things that would run rampant if they didn’t manage them and explain how various plants spread. I plan to research what plants are considered invasive here in Idaho and will write an article about that!
Finally, they consider how the garden will change as they get older and what will happen when they are gone. This chapter takes on a bit of a sad note, since in my research into North Hill Garden I discovered that Wayne Winterrowd died not too long ago. Nature eventually reclaims what we have built, whether it’s gardens or freeways. We can only hope to create the garden of our dreams and enjoy it right now.
For the month of August, I will be reading From the Ground Up: The Story of a First Garden by Amy Stewart.
I realized I hadn’t posted any pictures of the entire garden since we planted everything, and thought you might be curious to see how the garden is coming along. I’m very happy with the progress so far this year, and I feel like its mostly due to the weather. We had a nice, warm June, and July, of course, has been very hot. Other than some really spectacular wind storms, the weather has been consistent and enjoyable.
(Click on the photo if you’re curious which plants are what; I added notes to my photo so you can mouse over and see.)
I’m growing four kinds of peppers this year, which is a first for me. I usually only grow green bell, but this year I added Bull Nose Bell (heirloom seeds from Monticello!), Jimmy Nardello’s, and Candlelight. I’m very exciting for the Candlelight peppers. They’re tiny, bright colored peppers that should be a lot of fun.
I’m growing more kinds of tomatoes than I have before – every one of the plants is something different. I can’t list all the types off the top of my head… we’ll see which turn out the best, though. I’ve had two tomatoes off my plant called Tigerella, which have neat stripes on them (obviously, haha).
I will have pumpkins galore at the end of the season! Big orange and white ones, as well as little ones of all colors (if those plants start growing a bit more, that is…). Also a first this year is watermelons, which have taken over the area I planted them in, like I knew they would! I only planted two and wondered, at the beginning of the season, if that would be enough. It certainly is.
The cantaloupe and honeydew on the trellis have been very, very slow and I wonder if we’ll get anything out of those. I figure that every year there’s something that just doesn’t work out, and everything else has been great, so I guess its those melons this year.
This is the point in the season where the harvest is beginning, mostly cucumbers and zucchini, and I wait with excitement for the chance to pick tomatoes, onions, and peppers! How are your gardens doing? Have you picked your first tomato?
I’m sorry it’s been quiet around here for the past couple weeks! For those of you who get the newsletter, I wasn’t able to send one out this month, but we’ll pick back up again in August! For those of you who would like to get the newsletter, sign up here!
I want to make sure everyone knows about these 7 ebooks that are on sale during the month of July. I’ve downloaded most of them and I’m sure they will be featured in the Garden Book Club in the near future! You don’t need an e-reader to view them.
I’m signed up for this year’s Master Gardener program, and I’m really excited for that to start in September!
And now for the biggest announcement! We are looking for a new house! My sister-in-law’s family will be moving into the house we currently rent, and I will help her start gardening next season. So you will see pictures of a familiar garden for at least another year! And when we find a place of our own, you will be able to see us create a new garden. I’m really excited about this new adventure!
Zucchini, a type of summer squash, is one of my favorite things to grow. It’s a low maintenance bush-type plant, easy to grow from seed and tends to be very productive. Above is the standard, no-frills zucchini which will take about 50 days to mature and start producing. To the right is another kind of zucchini called Baby Round; I got the seeds this year from Botanical Interests. These take 45 days to mature. Maybe next year I’ll branch out again and try something like Patty Pan Squash.
These plants do need a lot of room – each plant will eventually take up a circular space about 3-4′ in diameter. They don’t seem to need a lot of water and do well during dry spells. Very soon in the season you will see blooms appear, but there won’t be any zucchini that form. Don’t worry – these are the male flowers and soon female flowers will bloom, producing zucchini.
Pests and Problems
I personally haven’t encountered many pests that bother my zucchini plants. Earwigs like to hang out in the blossoms and munch on the leaves, but those are more annoying (and gross!) than anything. They can harm the seedlings if you have planted seeds in the ground, of course. I find that setting out a shallow dish filled with water and a piece of bread inside tends to shrink the population, since they like yeast and will climb into the dish and drown. Beer can be used as well, apparently!
Update: Wade in the comments has some info about squash bugs. I’ve been lucky enough to avoid them so far, but in case you haven’t, he says “Washing them out of hiding spots near the base of the plant with water, then squishing them works, but it’s not the most pleasant.” Yeah, that doesn’t sound like much fun… if anyone else has experience with them and ways to deal with them, please share!
One thing to keep in mind: make sure you harvest the squash before they get too big because they won’t taste very good! Anything from 6-8″ long for standard zucchini will be just about right (I picked the zucchini in the top picture soon after taking the photo). Near the end of the season, you may feel like giving up (I usually do) and you’ll end up with baseball bat-sized zucchini!
Using and Storing the Harvest
You may hear people joke that giving your neighbors your extra zucchini can be seen as an act of aggression! While the situation may not be that serious, zucchini don’t store well in their original form, so it’s a good idea to have lots of plans for using your harvest for cooking and baking (and then you can give that away).
Books like The Classic Zucchini Cookbook are a good place to start, as well as sites like Martha Stewart. Zucchini blooms are edible too, and can be fried or cut up to use as garnish for salads. Follow my Edible Gardening board on Pinterest to see more of my resources for using what you harvest.
Check out the progression my zucchini plants have gone through already this year. The first photo is from June 20, the second is June 29, and the third is from July 5! Truly amazing.
For the month of June, I read The Beekeeper’s Lament: How One Man and Half a Billion Honey Bees Help Feed America by Hannah Nordhaus.
This book was pretty sad! All the stories about collapsing colonies, accidents, illness and thefts made the practice of beekeeping seem a little hopeless. But there were happy stories as well – there’s a lot of new research being done to help us understand bees and to improve their lives.
It was fascinating to learn about the history of beekeeping and all the advancements that have helped a select few be successful. The book focuses on one man, John Miller, who has dedicated his life to beekeeping.
If scientists and beekeepers can help bees be more resistant to mites and other problems that can destroy hives, they’ll be able to use less pesticides and other chemicals. There may be some improvements that can be made to the management of colonies as well, including not moving them around the country every year.
Without bees, humans would be in trouble. WIthout humans, bees would be in trouble. We’d both probably survive, but we’re much better off working together.
Update: For July, I will be reading Our Life in Gardens by Joe Eck.
Note: The house numbers I’m using on my posts do not necessarily correspond to the numbers used in the tour.
This second house was a lovely retreat and I would love to spend more time there (and use some of the ideas in my own garden)!
The tour started with this beautiful staircase, and as we came to the top, we saw an edible garden (photo above) and a meadow-like area with lavender and lots of other flowers. The bees were buzzing and I laughed to see the metal bee in the middle of the lavender bush.
Most of the yard was in shade and there were some lovely hostas, as well as lots of bright alliums (below). There were a few that grew together and I thought it was sweet.
The porch at this house looked like a very nice place to spend warm summer evenings. I absolutely loved this bird fountain off to the side – the bucket fills up and then tips down. Very cute!
Note: The house numbers I’m using on my posts do not necessarily correspond to the numbers used in the tour.
The annual Garden Tour was this past weekend and since the tour was later in the summer than usual, everything was really blooming! It was very warm, too. My mom and I had a lot of fun.
At this first house, we were charmed by the whimsical items used throughout the garden. I really liked the arrangement in the kitchen jars (above). There were a couple tins to the side you can see as well, so it was like an outdoor pantry!
I think this car was my mom’s favorite thing in this entire garden, though it was hard to choose just one thing. There were so many details included everywhere, such as a tiny driver on the very front of the car. All the flowers were so colorful as well.
There was plenty of metal artwork, like a trellis with blue beer bottles and these flowers to the right. Random things like bed frames, shoes and old washing machines were filled with plants, and I observed that it would be so fun to spend every day in this yard!
The current trend of miniature gardens was included here too, but I’ve never seen an actual dollhouse in someone’s garden.
Click on any of the photos and you’ll get linked to my Flickr account, where there are more photos of the garden at this house. I couldn’t decide on just 5 photos to use, but I also couldn’t fit any more in this post!