Category Archives: Gardening

Planting Seeds

Yawn. Stretch. Throw back the covers and stumble out of bed. Dare I say spring is here? (First, I knock on wood, because it’s probably too early to expect that we really won’t have any more snow). But I’m hopeful. Over the past few weeks here in the north, it’s very much like the earth is just waking up from a long winter’s nap. The last of the snow disappeared within days of a March 1st snowstorm, the winds blew, and now I’ve spotted the beginnings of tulip, daffodil, and crocus leaves bursting through the soil around my yard. Cue hours of drizzle, steady enough to tap tap tap on the windows at times, and that’s just the seasonal nudge I needed to put me in the mood to plant some seeds.

Luckily, we had a bumper crop of Howden pumpkins last fall, so I saved some seeds. After carving pumpkins last October, we roasted some of the seeds and spread others out to dry, placing them in an envelope and then storing it in a cool, dry place over the winter.

I made my own newspaper seed pots and added soil. These pots are great because they are easy to make, and, once the seedlings are big enough and the outside soil is warm enough, they can be planted right in the ground, where the paper will decompose. Detailed instructions for how to make these clever pots can be found in The Nitty Gritty Gardening Book, but here’s how in a quick and dirty photo essay of sorts:

Set the pots in a tray or bowl and then fill each to within a couple of inches of the top with potting soil. Use your finger to “drill” three holes as deep as your first knuckle, evenly spaced in each newspaper pot. Drop a seed in each hole, cover them up, tamp down the surface of the soil and spritz until evenly moist with water from a spray bottle or plant mister. Place in a sunny windowsill and check your seedlings each day. Keep soil evenly moist by spritzing with water daily. Seeds should sprout in a little over a week!

While you’re waiting for your seeds to sprout, I’ll be crossing my fingers that my pumpkin seeds will take, and we’ll have a plot full of big pumpkins again this year. After we gave several pumpkins to friends for carving and carved our own, we still had three pumpkins left. I was hesitant to eat them, as I thought they’d be tough and tasteless, but I cut them up, roasted the pieces, and stored them in ziplock closure freezer bags. I just finished the last of the pumpkin a week ago! Over the long winter I made several batches of pumpkin muffins, curried pumpkin soup, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin waffles, pumpkin pie, and these really yummy pumpkin scones. Nothing like making the harvest last!

For more fun gardening projects and recipes, check out my two gardening books, The Nitty Gritty Gardening Book and Dig In! 12 Easy Gardening Projects Using Kitchen Scraps. Happy Spring!

Stay-at-Home 2020, Week 2

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My neighbor down the block decorated the sidewalk with encouraging messages. Love it!

Well, needless to say it’s been an interesting couple of weeks. I’ve been holed up at home with my husband, two boys (ages 15 and 13) and our dog, EmmyLou. For the most part, we’ve begun to adjust to this odd new normal. Sure, we still sleep in a bit and sometimes eat dinner later than usual, but we are settling in somewhat to routines, finding time to work, get outside, and hang out together as a family.

Believe it or not, I still haven’t managed to dig into that things-to-do list from my last post, mainly because I had a new editing project come in that same day. I love it when the universe conspires this way. My having work with the promise of more to come is a always a good thing, but especially now. Just last Friday, my husband learned that all work with his main client—the work that essentially floats our boat each month—will be suspended from the end of April through ??. It may be for a few months, but it could be longer. Really, who can say at times like these?

So as we wrap our minds around what that means for our sweet family of four plus pup, we’ve been working on taking things day by day and practicing gratitude. These are a few of the experiences we’ve had over the past two weeks that wouldn’t have been possible in our hectic, pre-corona virus affected lives. I’m grateful for each and every one of them.

  1. Going for a run around Lake Nokomis with my 15-year-old and our pup at 10 am on a Wednesday morning.
  2. Family walks along the lovely West River Parkway. (With all family members present!) Feeling so thankful to live in Minneapolis, with miles and miles of biking and walking paths, and the fantastic park system.
  3. Learning to play Catan with Will, Theo, and Brian on a rainy Saturday afternoon.
  4. Cooking with my boys.
  5. Lots and lots of family movie time.
  6. Appreciating the little things…like chats over the fence with great neighbors and seeing friends while out on a run or walk.
  7. Time. I can’t really remember when I’ve had the luxury of this much time. Honestly, I think February may have been the busiest month I’ve ever had, and to go from that frenetic pace to almost a complete stop was a bit jarring at first, but now it’s rejuvenating. I’m trying to be thoughtful about how I spend this time.
  8. Instagram. (I know. Funny that I list this one right after what I just said above, right?) More specifically: pottery videos on instagram. I was deep into a pottery phase when the world came to a screeching halt. Now, with no access to a studio, I’m so appreciating the how-to videos potters have been posting on instagram. I’m looking forward to doing the Kurinuki lidded jar demo project from

    with my family.

  9. Messages and thoughtful gestures from friends and neighbors. Last week I opened the front door to head out for a run and discovered a bag of chocolate-dipped biscotti and a sweet note from my friend, Renata. So kind! And the sidewalk notes from neighbors have warmed my heart. I’m also appreciating seeing posts about the ways people are helping others. From making masks, to dropping off flowers or much-needed groceries, to simply checking in on one another. These actions give me hope.
  10. Spring. Can you feel it? Okay, spring would have happened in spite of this outbreak, but now we have the time to actually enjoy it. On Friday I was thrilled to get an email from Mother Earth Gardens, our local garden store, offering a chance to order pansies, seeds, and other seasonal garden items online for curbside pick up. This lifted my spirits immediately. I predict this will be a banner year in the garden! In fact, it’s a great time to start seeds. (For plenty of fun gardening projects to fill your days, check out The Nitty Gritty Gardening Book and Dig In!)

What are you doing to appreciate the extra time you have these days? I’d love to hear from you! Be well!

What’s growing

Gardening never ceases to amaze me. I’d almost write the whole process off as a miracle, but then I’d be forgetting about the hours I spent hunched over a spade or hoe turning the soil, pulling countless weeds (thousands? millions??), swatting bugs (again, thousands? millions?), and wiping the sweat from my brow, just to prepare the garden for planting.

I guess the miraculous part comes when I’m too busy to even venture into the garden. Let’s say I head off across the country to see family and while I’m gone, it rains. It rains a lot. And by the time I return home two weeks later, there are 6 inches in the rain gauge. All the plants seem to have grown by at least 6 inches as well.  I come home to a yard that’s blooming like it’s never bloomed before.

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The best part is that these blooms are buzzing with bees and a flutter with hummingbirds and monarch butterflies. I’ve been taking a moment here and there to stop and watch the bees and butterflies as they go from flower to flower. I highly recommend this sort of meditation, by the way.

At our community garden plot, things are flourishing as well. My sweet husband tended it while I was galavanting across the country—he harvested cucumbers, raspberries, and steered the squash vines away from the neighbor’s plot.  A few days ago, my 15-year-old harvested beets, the garlic crop*, more rhubarb, broccoli, and Swiss chard. So great to have him go to the garden while I got a little editing done. Ah, the teenage years! (I’m crossing my fingers he doesn’t wake up tomorrow and realize he should be rebelling…)

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Meanwhile, I’ve been pulling all those weeds that also thrive on 6 inches of rain. And coming up with ways to use the veggies and fruits from the garden. I won’t ramble on again about raspberry jam, but I will urge you to try a raw beet grated over your next salad. Especially if you make it a spinach salad and you add 1/2 cubed avocado**, 1/2 cup dried cranberries, candied walnuts, and a splash of a sweet, spicy balsamic vinaigrette. Yum!

So that’s how the gardening is growing. I’m guessing I have an abundance of beets in my future, so if you happen have any great beet recipes, send them my way! I’ll enter your name in a drawing to win a free copy of Dig In! or The Nitty Gritty Gardening Book (your choice). Until next time, happy gardening!

* Like Garlic? Learn how to grow your own bulb from a single clove on page 34 of my book, Dig In! 12 Easy Gardening Projects Using Kitchen Scraps.

**Crazy about Avocados? Start your own avocado plant from an avocado pit! Learn how on page 42 in The Nitty Gritty Gardening Book: Gardening Projects for All Seasons, also by yours truly.

Harvesting

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Well, here we are, already at the tail end of the gardening season. I’ve been busy raking leaves over the gardens and making plans to plant garlic. I’ve also been pondering the possibility of digging a few holes around the yard and tossing in a tulip bulb or two in a last ditch effort to bring a little color to my dreary northern landscape come spring. Maybe this weekend…or maybe not. This is kind of how this growing season has gone for me. Despite my better intentions of going to the garden a few times a week and reporting my discoveries here, the entire summer and fall has slipped away without a word from me.

Thankfully, though, the plants don’t seem to care if I pay attention to them or not. While I was off camping with friends, traveling cross-country to visit family on the West Coast, or squeezing in another training run for the Twin Cities Marathon (Yay! I did it!), most of the plants thrived. With each sporadic trip to the garden I was rewarded with something unexpected…like the butternut squash, with vines that snuck into the weedy trenches of the raspberries and beyond. I think I harvested ten squash from one plant alone! (If you have any good squash recipes, send them my way… I think my family is getting a little tired of squash soup;)

 

And these purple cauliflower gems! My Brussels sprouts and cabbage, which have done well in the past, produced nothing, nada, zilch. But the beautiful purple bouquets of cauliflower more than made up for it, and I harvested three giant bunches. Roasted cauliflower has become one of my faves, and it looks and tastes amazing when mixed on a tray with cubed squash, broccoli, and carrots. Yum.

Another gardening surprise was just how prolific the apple tree was this year. We planted our Honeycrisp apple tree as an espalier on the south east corner of our house a few years ago. Last year was kind of a bust. The squirrels pretty much made off with the few small apples the tree reluctantly sprouted. This year, though, the tree went gangbusters. I think we may have harvested 40 plus apples, which is a lot for this tiny space. We’ve had apple brown betty, apple crisp, apple pie, and today I’m making a batch of roasted apple sauce. More yum.

 

Of course I don’t want to leave you with the idea that neglecting your garden will lead to great results. Those apples I was just telling you about weren’t perfect. While they taste good, I’m convinced they have a condition called bitter pit, a calcium deficiency caused in part by inconsistent watering. Next year I’ll water more thoroughly during those hot, dry days. The raspberries were also disappointing. For the past couple of years we’ve been dealing with wormy fruit…I know, not very appetizing. I think we may actually pull the plants in the spring and let that soil be for a season. I’m feeling like we need a fresh start, but I don’t want to sink new plants into larvae-infested soil.

These are all lessons learned in the course of a gardening season. I’ll celebrate the successes and replace the duds with something new. My main take-away?  I’m not going to let myself get all consumed with guilt over not making it down to my community plot as often as I’d like. Whatever. Life happens. Savor the squash and purple cauliflower!

 

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Not quite ready to put away your gardening tools for the season? Check out a few of the fun, windowsill-friendly projects from my book, Dig In! 12 Easy Gardening Projects Using Kitchen Scraps. 

 

 

Back in the Garden Again

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Can I just begin by asking how it’s possible that we’re already to June 12? I’m blaming the late snow storm we had on April 14. In my mind it’s only May 1, but the ripening strawberries say otherwise.

They are small this year, but bursting with flavor. We harvested a few at the community garden plot, but many more at home.

Because I’ve been a little behind this year, I had to scramble to give the garden at least the appearance of having been somewhat cleared and planted by the June 1 deadline. As usual, I had to have a little heart to heart with the weeds. In the end, they always win, but I have the upper hand for now. Here’s before, and a bed-by-bed slideshow of the weeds “disappearing”… if only it were that easy! I think next time, a time-lapse video is in order…

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Before…

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Before I left for the day, I did get the beds planted with seedlings I’d bought at the school’s annual plant sale: tomatoes, bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, sweet banana peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and squash. And, the garlic I planted last fall is looking great…check out the garlic patch in the closest bed, far right. (Garlic is easy to plant! Check out instructions for you to do it yourself in Dig In! Easy Gardening Projects Using Kitchen Scraps.)

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Garden planted. Ignore weedy scene to right for now…

I definitely had more to do, but over the next few days, my son’s soccer tournament and a little rain got in the way. (Is it just me or does a rainy Saturday in June bring an overwhelming sense of relief? Not only does it water the gardens, but it gives me an excuse to do something cozy inside…like sew more of these origami bags!)

I regrouped and planted the flower boxes instead. I found the cutest little garden shop in the St. Croix Valley (traveling to soccer tournaments that then get rained out can sometimes be rewarding!), and stocked up on pretty multicolored petunias, salvia, and, one of my favs for window boxes—ivy geraniums. These bright beauties fill a box with vibrant color and remind me of small villages in France, where geraniums seem to overflow from every windowsill.

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The flower boxes are a lot less work, but for some reason, they’re more satisfying. I chalk it up to my need for a little instant gratification every once in a while.

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The next day, I made it back to the garden to continue weed pulling and wood-chip spreading, all while slapping mosquitoes…another sign that it’s June, not the first of May! On this trip, I also added a compost bin to our plot. This is the first year we are not allowed to add our compost to the gigantic community pile in the woods. Rather than haul it all home, many gardeners are composting on site. I even managed to pull the reel mower out of the shed and trim the grass along the edge of our plot.

 

By the third trip a few days later, I was finally able to recruit a little help. This guy is often willing to do his share of work in the garden, especially if I bribe him with rhubarb. Together we finished pulling weeds, watered, and spread more wood chips. Whew! We were rewarded with Blizzards from DQ, delivered onsite by Brian and Theo, so it was worth all the blood, sweat, and mosquito bites (Yes, blood. see: mosquito bites).

Back at home, I’ve been weeding, tidying up, and weeding some more. I’m checking the garden every day for signs of life. I just planted a slew of lettuce seeds in a planter in my back yard. This is so easy to do, and it’s one of the projects in The Nitty Gritty Gardening Book. No planter to fill? Use a pot or a plastic clamshell container for store-bought lettuce! Set it in a sunny spot, water it, and in no time you’ll have lettuce to clip for a dinner salad.

For more gardening projects, check out Dig In! and The Nitty Gritty Gardening Book.

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Bring on Spring: A Little Windowsill Gardening

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Spring is clearly in the air, and I couldn’t be more giddy. The longer days, noticeable warmth of the spring sun, puddles edged in ice crystals, and robins chirping away add a renewed bounce to my step. This time of year, those of us in the Bold North can see the light at the end of winter’s darkness and we have the irrepressible urge to jump ahead to true spring, when the snow is gone and the sidewalks have dried out. (Heck, some of us have already started wearing shorts, for goodness sake!) And gardeners, of course, are anxious to start planting.

Well, here’s a little something to tide you over until those true spring days really do arrive in earnest. Way back in December a box arrived on my doorstep filled with copies of my latest gardening book for kids, Dig In! 12 Easy Gardening Projects Using Kitchen Scraps.

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Inside you’ll find a few ideas for getting things growing on your sunny windowsill during the final days of winter (I know, to call these the final days is a stretch, but I’m trying out a little optimism here, so stick with me). Best of all, these projects make use of fruit and vegetable scraps that you might otherwise toss in the compost bin.

Take, for example, the stubby root end of a bunch of romaine lettuce. Have you ever tried sticking that root end in a little water, setting it in a sunny spot, and seeing what it will do? Here’s what I have growing on my living room windowsill right now. This will work with any bunch of lettuce (or celery, or leeks…) that still has a root end. Make sure to keep these stubs watered (just an inch at the base is all you need…and soon you’ll have mini lettuce leaves. Once the leaves get a little larger, trim them off and add your own freshly grown greens to a salad! Leaves will continue to sprout up from the root base as long as you keep watering them. How cool is that?

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This is also the perfect time of year to get a head start on growing plants for your garden from seed. One of my favorite projects from Dig In is planting peppers in a newspaper pot. This expands on a project that originally appeared in The Nitty Gritty Gardening Book, making newspaper seed pots. But instead of buying a packet of seeds, I harvested seeds directly from the inside of an organic bell pepper I bought at the grocery store. Sure enough, the pepper seedlings eventually produced delicious bell peppers!

Making newspaper seed pots is super easy. Check out this quick video I made (with a little help from Brian Cornell) last summer to demonstrate the process. Now you have no excuse…buy a copy of Dig in!, make a few pots of your own, and get growing!

Planting Garlic

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This past Sunday, I finally managed to find a  couple of hours to put the garden to bed for the winter, and my timing couldn’t have been better. Temperatures the last couple of days haven’t climbed out of the thirties and there’s a definite winter bite in the air. After pulling up the last of the Swiss chard, red cabbage, and carrots and doing some general housekeeping in the strawberry bed, I decided to plant some garlic.

Long ago a friend told me how easy it was to plant garlic, but it took me years to actually get around to trying it. When I planted garlic with my oldest (above) a couple of years ago, we used organic garlic I purchased at a local farmers’ market. It worked great! From one lovely head of garlic we grew 6 new heads with ease.

But I had read somewhere that you should really use garlic from a local garden center, as garden centers will carry only varieties that are hardy to your growing zone, so that’s what I did this time. (Although I’m guessing that garlic I bought at the farmers’ market was most likely local as well, no?) I planted a few different varieties so we can do a little taste and see which ones we like best.

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I started by digging holes, 6 inches deep and about 6 inches apart, one for each clove.

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Then I separated each of the heads of garlic into individual cloves. From this point on, planting garlic is very much like planting tulip bulbs; simply place each clove root-side down (and pointy side up) into each hole.

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The rest is easy…cover with dirt, pat down the soil, and give the cloves one last drink before saying goodbye for the winter.

Then, the next spring, with a little watering…you will have a a sturdy row of very healthy-looking garlic plants…

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That will grow into lovely heads of garlic within a couple of months! So if you have time before the ground freezes, I encourage you to give it a try…for minimal effort and cost, you can easily grow garlic just like this in your own garden.

Now for a little teaser…this is one of many fun and easy projects that will be included in my upcoming book, Dig In! 12 Easy Gardening Projects Using Kitchen Scraps, due to hit shelves in the spring. Until then, check out some of the winter projects in The Nitty Gritty Gardening Book!

 

Pickling Time

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Six or seven years ago, when my brother and his family were still living near Fairfield, Iowa, we made our way across the countryside, past many fields of corn, to the original American Gothic farmhouse, 45 minutes away. We did what all tourists do: we donned the costumes provided in the museum shop and posed for a family portrait in front of the iconic scene, complete with pitchfork in hand. It was a small museum, but very well done, and we were glad to have made the trip. I hadn’t thought of that day for a long time, but this photo reminds me a bit of American Gothic with dill and cardboard dagger. I snapped this shot after the boys had returned from a quick jaunt to the garden to gather dill for the first batch of pickles this season…and believe me, there will be many more batches to come!

Unlike last year’s crop, which produced only a handful of pathetic looking specimens, the pickling cucumbers I planted from seed back in late May, early June are going gangbusters.  In fact, I can’t seem to spot them early enough to harvest the cukes pickle size, so I’ve been chopping them into salads and donating them to the community garden foodshelf bin as well. As I gear up to make another round of pickles and dilly beans, I thought I’d share this easy recipe for refrigerator dill pickles. I was pretty happy with how they turned out…they are crisp and have a great garlicy flavor. And, seriously, you can whip up a batch in less than 30 minutes. Here’s how.

 

Quick Refrigerator Dill Pickles

  1. Wash jars and lids in hot, soapy water, rinse well, and allow to dry. I use a couple of quart-size jars and a couple of wide mouth pint-size jars per batch.
  2. Fill a clean kitchen sink with cool water and add the pickles. Use a clean brush to scrub off any dirt. Dry pickles with a fresh kitchen towel and trim off the ends of each pickle.
  3. Gather spices. I used dill seed, mustard seed, turmeric, red pepper flakes, and peppercorns.
  4. Peel and slice 4 or 5 garlic cloves. Slice a large yellow onion into rings, then cut rings into fourths.
  5. Add the following to each pint-size jar: 1/4 tsp. dill seed, 1/4 tsp. mustard seed, 1/4 tsp. turmeric, 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes, 1/4 tsp. peppercorns, 5 onion slices, 1 garlic clove, sliced, 2 3-inch fronds of fresh dill. (Double spices if using a quart-size jar.)
  6. Slice larger cucumbers into spears or thin rounds. Smaller, pickle-size cukes can be left whole (I tend to group pickles into jars according to size for consistent results…all baby dills in one jar, etc.). Pack the pickles into jars as tightly as you can without smashing them. Make sure tops of pickles are 1/2 inch below the rim of each jar.
  7. In a medium saucepan, make the brine. Combine 2 cups apple cider vinegar, 2 cups water,  2 tablespoons kosher salt, and 1 tablespoon sugar. Heat to boiling, stirring to dissolve salt and sugar.
  8. Use a canning funnel to ladle hot brine into jars, filling until pickles are submerged. Cover with lids and rings and allow to cool to room temperature before storing in fridge. Pickles should be ready for sampling in 48 hours, but will taste better the longer they chill and marinate. Keep refrigerated and eat within two months. Enjoy!

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The pickles of my labor…looks as if I need another fridge! Since I had a batch of brine on the stove, I made pepperoncini, dilly beans, and some sweet sliced pickles as well. Seriously, if you’ve never pickled before, give it a try! It’s easy, and the results are delicious.

Stay tuned for more from the garden in the coming weeks! Until then, get busy with one of the autumn projects featured in The Nitty Gritty Gardening Book.

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Growing Like Crazy

So much has happened in the garden since my post last month! Here’s proof: The raised bed on the left is the same bed as the one on the right, with about a month of growing time under its belt. The onions have taken firm root, and on some I can see the onion bulb growing just beneath the soil. The green beans are so tall I had to check the package to make sure they were bush beans and not climbers…I swear they are reaching for the raspberry bushes to the left of the bed! And the swiss chard and mixed lettuces are amazingly lush and ready for salad. Here’s a close up of the lettuce…I definitely need to harvest this weekend before it decides to bolt.

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Another thing that’s growing like crazy (aside from the boy pictured in the top photo who just turned 13 for goodness sake! Where has the time gone? And when will he stop needing a bigger pair of shoes every few months??) are the weeds. Eek. My straw “solution” turned out to be no deterrent at all for the ambitious weeds that stalk every available inch of unplanted ground at my community garden. So much for that idea. When I visited this morning to water and pick raspberries, I spent a good chunk of time pulling weeds, but a return visit is definitely needed. With spade in hand. I’m telling you, these weeds are a determined lot.

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In addition to raspberries (gathered enough to make a quick batch of jam, which I’m planning to do today), lettuce, and swiss chard, I’ve got this amazing broccoli. I planted broccoli for the first time last summer, and I loved it because it keeps producing florets all summer long. Can’t wait to toss some of these beauties in a stir fry. And the first yellow wax peppers and tomatoes are on the plants! I should clarify–the tomato plants are more like trees and it’s clear that I haven’t provided enough structure in the tomato cage department. Luckily a neighbor was tossing some substantial cages that are in decent shape, so I’ll be going back with reinforcements later today. It’s fair to say that the garden is in full swing. Yay! This is the most exciting time in the garden.

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This also happened a few weeks ago. My oldest and I set up shop at the Fulton Farmers’ Market, where we sold a few copies of The Nitty Gritty Gardening Book and helped about a zillion kids make their own newspaper pots in which to plant seeds. It was a beautiful day and we had a great time. Special thanks to Nordis, who keeps inviting us back! If you missed it, check out my how-to video here.

I leave you with a couple of photos of my summer flower boxes and pots. I finally ate the lettuces and pulled the leggy pansies I’d planted in the boxes for spring. Best salad ever. Until next time, happy gardening!

Raised Beds!

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Look what we did last weekend! We built three new 3×8 cedar raised beds for the garden! After three years of gardening at our community garden plot, we decided it was time to make some improvements. Truth be told, I was pretty garden weary at the end of last season, and I considered giving up the plot to someone who was more invested in the idea. But then my husband (that’s him there, in one of the new raised beds he built!) talked me out of it. I’ve been really wanting to add raised beds to better use the space, provide structure, and to make weeding and watering less of a chore.

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It was a ton of work, but in two days we managed to build the beds, haul in a dirt/compost mix, carry the dirt by wheelbarrow across the garden to fill the beds, and then plant them with seeds and seedlings. Whew! I was glad to have help from my family, and the use of a friend’s pick up truck. My husband built the beds, my 12-year-old shoveled dirt into the wheelbarrow, I hauled the dirt and loaded it into the beds, and my 10-year-old stomped it down (and chomped on rhubarb stems, which is always helpful ;).

I’m so happy with how they look, and watering has been a breeze. In past years, we’ve had issues with water pooling at the base of the garden, as the plot is not level. The beds fix that problem. We planted tomatoes, bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, swiss chard, bush beans, lettuce, spinach, carrots, beets, onions, cucumbers, sweet peas, and cantaloupe. The seeds are sprouting, and the straw is keeping the weeds at bay.

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Here’s a view of all three beds with straw added. I had originally gotten the straw to place under the strawberries and the raspberries, but I had a ton left over, so I used it in place of wood chips, which can change the pH of the soil. I’ve since read that hay, especially hay that has been composted somewhat, is best for the soil, but oh well…maybe next year.

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On the home front, I have very exciting news to share (well, to me at least). Finally, I have peonies! After countless attempts in different areas of the yard, I’ve grown a bumper crop on the south side of the house. Who knew it would be such an ordeal? At our last house, we transplanted an entire row of them from a neighbor’s yard and they grew like crazy, their huge white, bright pink, and pale pink pom-pom blooms drooping to the ground. (I actually don’t mind the droopiness, so I’ve never staked them). At our current house, though, I’ve had a heck of a time getting them to take. I think, in the end, I was planting them too deep. At the end of last season, we dug them up and replanted them just below the surface of the soil. Now, results! They were blooming on June 1, our wedding anniversary…21 years ago, these beauties would have made their way into my bouquet.

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Stay tuned for more news from the garden! And be sure to stop by and see me at the Fulton Farmer’s Market on June 17. I’ll be making newspaper seed pots and selling copies of The Nitty Gritty Gardening Book. Happy growing!

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