Tomayto Tomahto

It has begun…

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One days harvest.  And then two days later I came back in with this…

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And in another two days that basket will be full again.  And in another couple of days…you get the idea. I think some salsa making is about to ensue.  I am still dreaming about that salsa I made two years ago.  Yes it is weird to think about a salsa for that period of time.

So why so many tomatoes? 

I would like to say it is my excellent watering, fertilizing and weeding skills.

But that would be a lie.  In interest of full disclosure here is what the garden/weed patch looks like right now.

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Good thing tomatoes are red otherwise I would never find them in there. It is a mess.  And we have not had rain in weeks (hence the hose and fried grass).  Oh and it is has been over 100 degrees for a very long time. And it will continue to be for a very long time.

So maybe it is the heat.  Or my sporadic watering.  Or my non fertilization. Or the fact that our winter was so mild that three tomato plants came back from last year. Or the square foot gardening soil mix we added this year. Or the Bee Balm.

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This happens to be planted right next to the garden (you can see the dried remnants of the blooms in the weed garden pic above) .  And bees love it.  Especially bumble bees.  And I am thinking that when they are enjoying the pretty pink flowers, they could be moseying on over to the boring yellow tomato flowers and helping me out. And no stings yet.

That is just my idea though…it could be totally false.  I am just going to enjoy all of my tomatoes and pretend like I knew what I was doing when I planted it there.  Anyone want some salsa?

Flower Power

In honor of our first frost, I did some last minute flower cutting from the garden before they get zapped.  Which is very sad.

But to help me not come to grips with the fact that winter is coming very quickly, I spread some vases of prettiness around the house to help me pretend it is still summer.  Or at least early fall.  Happy thoughts.

This is not usually something I would blog about, because really flowers in a vase is not riveting. 

Being the non-flower designer I am, I usually cut some flowers and stick them in vase and call it good. But since all my plants even the non-flowering ones are on borrowed time right now, I added them to the mix.

And I could not believe what a variety of leaves did for my scrawny flowers. Hence why it gets a blog post.

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They actually looked like I put some thought into it….

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So now I can think summery thoughts while I at the computer…

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Or washing dishes…..

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How are you hanging onto summer?  Or are you telling winter to bring it on?

Finally

I have been promising this for awhile, but the outdoor space it finally ready.  But next time I want to finally get an outdoor space together, I need to actually make progress before August when it is too hot to be outside even at night….. and when all the flowers and herbs are looking a little wilty….well because they are hot too.

Anyway it would not be an After without an Before. So he is the unofficial before (stolen from the raised beds how-to).  Basically when we moved in we plopped a table in the middle of the deck with cheap plastic chairs and hung lights very very straight on the pergola.  Oh and Derek  installed outdoors speakers as soon as the wire was discovered.  Priorities.

Here we are now:

Outdoor space 8/10

I swear I did not have Winter pose…that is where she was laying when I walked out with the camera.

The other side-

Outdoor space 8/10

My reading corner-Outdoor space 8/10

The umbrella gets moved frequently to shade the plant and the sectional.  I can’t decide if I like it better with or without….hmmmm.

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The long view.  Yes I am aware that it leans.  I swear this is the only angle you can tell.  A couple of people have given us ideas about how to fix it but frankly none of them sound that fun and we have not cared enough to pursue it yet.  10 points if you can spy the shell pink mini blinds in the ugly master bath in this picture.

Outdoor space 8/10

On a daily basis I use our rolling cart for gardening stuff, but it multi tasks for entertaining or BBQing-

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Some herbs and the grape trellis.  Hopefully the grapes will be higher than the first level and able to be seen next year.  Outdoor space 8/10

And at night (without a tripod obviously).  I like how the sectional area is less lit but still bright enough.

Outdoor space 8/10

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And to prove they were not nearly so cooperative the entire time….

Outdoor space 8/10

In case you are wondering, here is where I got stuff (on a budget of course):

Tile-Top table and umbrella- Lowe’s or Home Depot years ago on clearance

Sectional: Wal-Mart (blogged here)

Rocking Chair- Jo-ann’s (blogged here)

Outdoor Rug: Home Fabrics and Rugs (blogged here)

Garden Stool: Homegoods (here)

Blue side table- hand me down transformed with the power of spray paint

Outdoor Pilliows-made by me

Rolling Cart- made my Derek (tutorial here)

Painted Pots -another DIY project (tutorial here).  The non-painted pots are from Homegoods.

And the final DIY project- the canvas panels on the pergola (here)

So what do you think?  Now I am starting to get the itch for fall and cooler weather so we can start spending time out there again.

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Pretty in Pink- Chive Flower Vinegar

In the spring we, had a slight problem with overgrown chives.

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The rest of the garden had just been planted and they were spilling everywhere.  The purple flowers were pretty and I thought about bringing some inside as cut flowers….but the distinct onion scent wasn’t what I was going for.   So what to do with all of them because they obviously needed to be harvested and there was no way we were going to way that many baked potatoes??  Hmmmmm…

After some googling I learned that you can make Chive Flower Vinegar.  Different sites had slightly different procedures so I sort of mixed it all together and came up with this,

First, I harvested all the pretty flowers.  That basket was totally full.

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Then I washed them thoroughly and put them through the salad spinner to get all the excess water off.

Next, I put them in some glass containers with lids and then added boiling white vinegar over them.

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They sat in a sunny window for a week.   It was the perfect kitchen table centerpiece.

Then I strained out the flowers that were looking a little less purple.

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And was left with pretty pink vinegar with an onion scent.

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I bottled it in pretty jars and put it in the dark kitchen cabinet for another week

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So what does it taste like?  On a mixed green salad there is a slight hint of onion.  I think next time I will leave more of the stems  on and possibly refresh the flowers with new ones to increase the flavor.  But i love the color and it could make a great gift or look  fun on a table next to a salad when you are entertaining.  And best of all it is quick, easy, and uses parts of plants that were going to be composted.

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Stop and Smell the Flowers

I know what you were thinking since my previous post. That you wanted to see more pictures of the flowers in the perennial beds.  Lucky for your I have been playing with my camera so you can see what is actually growing back there.  And for me to refer back to in when I am feeling dreary in the winter. 

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And there is is still a whole lot more that I am sparing you from as I am thinking ‘flowers” are giving “dogs” a run for their money in the most frequent photo subject in our house.  Do you have a favorite?  Or something else I should add next year?

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War Has Officially Been Declared

Rabbits are no longer welcome in our yard.

It rained a lot last week.  Like a cold week of April rain in May.  It was weird but it was a good excuse to get things done inside and deal with the stress of the end of the school year.

But one afternoon I got home from work and noticed all the pink roses were laying on the ground at the back of the yard.  The roses that were among the plants that I had spent an entire weekend preparing a bed for and planting.

“Wow it must have rained really hard last night to knock all those petals off of the roses”

Then I walked out there and saw this.  I guess the stem right under the flower were the tastiest.

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And it made me very angry.  As in hoping the rabbits were bleeding internally from the thorns.  If we did not have a solid six foot fence around our yard, I would have thought that we had a deer problem.

Obviously with the rain, my number one rabbit repelling/killing team was not spending a lot of time outside.  Failures.

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When it finally stopped raining I went out to spray Liquid Fence to deter them.  And I found even more damage.  Which made me angrier.

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But, I have had success with this product in the past.   You have to reapply it every time it rains, which gets really old.  And it smells like a mixture of rotten eggs, puke, and toilets.  Two reasons why it is not a product that I look forward to using.

I was serious though so it applied it over all non-edible plats while muttering things like “die rabbits die.”  And even though the direction of the wind kept changing, dousing me in eau de rotten eggs that took two showers to get rid of, I was satisfied that I had foiled the mangy rabbits.  Victory!

The next day I walked over to the vegetable beds and witnessed this.

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I refuse to spray liquid fence on the spinach because even if it was suitable for human consumption, I really don’t want my salad smelling or tasting like a toilet.  So I spayed some on the dirt in between the rows of spinach in the hopes that it may work.  And I laid some chives from my previously overgrown plant around it randomly.  Because in my mind, rabbits don’t like the smell of onions.  Probably not true, but in my agitation I was not thinking that straight.  And it sounded good.

According to my scientific google search, cayenne pepper and human hair also are good repellents.  But call me crazy, I again hesitate to put that all over food I hope to eat.

Sigh. So I think we are going to have to make a chicken wire fence around the raised beds to keep them out.  As well as to keep out one of the rabbit repellers who has shown a recent affinity for strawberries fresh from the plant.

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Fence….Ugly? Yes….but probably will be necessary. 

Because I will win this war one way or another.

I hope.

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And So It Begins (Edible Edition)

I just may have the garden planted.  Took awhile and I still may add a couple of things here and there, but overall it is ready for the “before” picture.

Last year was a lot more labor intensive with building the raised beds and planting everything from scratch.  So compared to that fun, this year was pretty easy.  And I even had some of my plants come back.  And I strategically moved the others around to help combat disease and bugs.

I also stuck pretty closely to the original plan.  Except there was no room for cantaloupe and asparagus…and Derek threw another random pepper in the cart.

So I will stop babbling and share the beginning of the 2010 gardening season-

Bed #1: Raspberries

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Yeah this is the “before” picture.  They have really taken off and I am so excited that I will be able to get fruit of them this year (and that they are hiding ugly the electrical box per my plan).  Tying them up to the trellis was a long and thorny morning so if the birds get to the berries first I will be very peeved.

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Bed #2- jalapeño, other random pepper, beans, red onion, yellow onion, spinach, and leaf lettuce.

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I planted the beans from seed and they are just starting to sprout-IMG_0961

 

And the Bed #3- strawberries, tomato, bell pepper, more beans, green onion and snap peas

Let’s just say the strawberries cam back with a vengeance-IMG_0967

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As did the green onion.  The flowers look pretty….IMG_0964

But it needs some serious dividing as it is taking over other plants.  Supposedly the best time to so this is after flowering and I am counting the days.IMG_0966

Speaking of flowering edibles…who knew that sage could be so pretty?  Good thing looks good because I have no idea how to cook with it.IMG_0956

All the other herbs (cilantro, lavender, oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary, sage, tarragon, and mint) are happily in their pots on the patio.   But already are so much larger than when I planted them.

We also added a grape trellis to the side of the patio….I am a little nervous because from what I read the pruning protocol is very specific to get fruit.   So this falls in the “experimental” section.  Hence the tags still on the plants….once I take them off I am committed in my mind.  I know….weird.  So they just might be on there all summer.

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And to go with the beginnings of the garden, I am happy to report that we have already eaten a small portion of this years bounty.  It rained  a l l  weekend here, but I sloshed through the yard to get this to add to dinner (and dessert).  Note to self-backyard drainage is probably another upcoming expensive yet unglamorous project.

First garden harvest 2010

First garden harvest 2010

First garden harvest 2010

I am so excited to start the almost daily trips out there to add to our meals.  And I can’t wait to see the “after” pictures.

Stay tuned for the spring pictures of the rest of the landscaping….I am happy to report that the perennial beds are looking a lot more full than last year.  Not that would take much.

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Flower Power

I may of mentioned it before, but I loooove spring and summer. 

It may have something to do with the flowers.  Doing dishes or responding to emails is suddenly more fun when there are bits of prettiness from your garden next to you.   Bonus points if they smell like roses.

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I used to try to make these elaborate arrangements and only buy plants that would be perfect for cut flowers.  But that took too long and I had lots of plants that did not fit that mold.   And let’s be honest, floral designing is not one of my gifts.

Now I just keep a cabinet full of random vases ready for the flowers of the season.   And a pair of clippers right by the back door so every afternoon I can see what is inspiring me to come inside.

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Votive holders and any old glass jar work just as well.  I have found that I use my shallower ones the most often as they do not require a long stem so any bloom can float.  Like simple shrub roses and marigolds-

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But I have to admit that in my opinion nothing can beat a red long stemmed rose.  And now that I have my new camera I can bore you to death with pictures of them.

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Bored yet? I will try to restrain myself in the future and keep the pictures to myself.

And for those in my neck of the woods that are wondering how I have a rose in full bloom already, I will admit that I cheated….slightly.  You see when I cut the flower the plant was firmly planted along side our deck.   However, it was bought from the store yesterday and that is why it is blooming.  We lost one rose last year and this is it’s replacement.   With the insanely cold winter we had, I am pleasantly surprised that a single rose was the only plant we lost. 

But I will just pretend that it all had to do with my amazing gardening skills and not the fact that I actually killed the plant. 

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Herbs on the Move

Know what my favorite thing about winter is?  How much it makes me appreciate spring. 

Because who can appreciate the absolutely gorgeous weather we have been having without going through the cold and incredibly long winter?

That is what I tell myself at least during the winter.  Sometimes it actually works.

Since spring is in the air, gardening is on my mind.  We are still in the iffy part of planting in good ole Zone 5 because we have been known to still have a random freeze this late.  But being the rebel I am, I decided that I could start planting my pots last week.  I know I am living on the wild side, but I figure that in the unlikely event we have a freeze, I can always pull them inside at night.

Since I am freeing up garden real estate this year, I decided all the the herbs were going to planted in pots on the deck.  There are two added bonuses to this.  First, most of them smell heavenly which brings a nice ambience to the deck space.  Also, all the flowers I planted in pots last year did not do very well so hopefully the herbs will succeed  much better.  And flowers can start to add up in terms of $$$.  So by replacing most of them with herbs I would be buying anyway, we are saving some money.

But then I stumbled onto a problem- pretty pots are expensive, especially when I plan on planting tons of herbs and some random flowers. 

I did have a stack of old terra cotta ones  in the garage and they are inexpensive for new ones as well…..but orange rust does not mesh with the color scheme of the outdoor decor I am going for. 

So I turned to my favorite thing for sprucing something up…..I bet you can guess what that is…..

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But terra cotta is not a material that you can just slap some paint onto and call it good.  It took some prep work and specific materials.  So of course I am sharing the how-to so that you can also score some cheap and springy pots.

The How -To

1. First, gather all your posts and scrub them with soap and water.  I used a combination of new and old pots and definitely spent a lot more time scrubbing the mineral deposits and grime off of the old ones.

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2. Let them dry for at least 24 hours.  Learn from my mistakes and do not set them on a cement garage floor if there is any moisture at all in the ground.  The terra cotta will suck it right up and they will never dry.  Which is not fun to discover when you are ready to start painting them.

3. Spray with a water proofer.   Terra Cotta is porous and when holding plants will suck all the moisture in from the dirt into the clay.  Which is bad news for your paint if you are expecting it to stick.  There are a lot of water proofers out there and some people suggest painting them with oil-based polyurethane to do the trick.  But we had cans of Thompsons spray water sealer laying around from some past project that I now have no memory of.  The terra cotta absorbed it right away and did not appear any different after spraying.  Spray every surface with this stuff- both inside and outside.  We went though a can and a half for all the pots pictured after applying one heavy coat.

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4. Paint with Patio Paint in your desired color on both the outside and the inside.  All terra cotta surfaces must be covered so that no water permeates any part and causes your paint to peel.  This includes the inside of the water hole.  I found my patio paint at a local craft store next to the terra cotta pots and not next to the acrylic paint which caused me a little bit of confusion.

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I covered everything with two coats of paint using a foam brush.  The yellow and the white did not cover as well, so I added an extra coat.  This paint dries really fast so the process did no ttake very long.   I also used the green on the lower inside part of most of the pots because I knew you would not see it but it covered very well.  And I had a big bottle of it.

5.  Let dry for at least 48 hours per the paint’s instructions.

6.  Fill with plants!

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We put a coffee filter at the bottom the pots so that water could seep through but the dirt would stay put.

7. Color coordinate where you want particular herbs and enjoy!

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Budget Breakdown:

$37 for pots (I already owned some)

$16 for paint

$0 for water sealer (already owned)

=$53 total…..which I think is great for 11 pots and some of them being large ones at that.

And I love what the color brings to the deck….I am so excited about how it is coming together.   Now I just need to figure out what I can cook with that monstrous sage that came back with a vengeance this year…..

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Spring Steals

So I am taking a big step and taking a personal day today.  I have never taken one before, but I am so proud of myself for taking a day to myself and all the projects waiting to be completed. 

Well let’s be honest…..half a personal day.  I have things scheduled at work in the morning but I will get out of there by noon.  Promise. 

Small steps.

While I use my extra couple of hours to work on the ten different spring projects that are partially done, I wanted to share all my great spring buys that I have found recently.

First, has anyone else noticed how expensive outdoor furniture is?  Ouch….especially when you are looking at comfortable outdoor sectionals.  Even at all of our favorite cheap places were were looking at least $1000.  Sigh. I will admit I was frustrated and thought that our outdoor space would be bland and not as functional for another year.  And what fun is that?

But then Wal-Mart.com came to the rescue with this-

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Any guesses on how much?  Under $500.  Yeah, so it probably won’t last a million years and become a family heirloom but oh well.  A couple of summers of enjoyment is all we are asking for.  It was also free to ship to the store. 

The box barely wedged into my small SUV.  And by barely I mean we had to take out the carpet in the back for that last centimeter and actually take the sectional out of the box piece by piece while it was in the car because it was so snug in order to extract it.

I am in the process of buying fun fabric for pillows to make it more summery and bright.  Because the throw pillows it came with were pretty ugly. Add that to the project list.

And did anyone spy the other thrifty find I scored this past week?  I will give you a second to scroll up in case you missed it. 

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Yep a garden stool for 20 bucks at Homegoods.  I am thinking to use it as a little side table right now but as the outdoor space comes together we will see where it ends up.  Anyway I love it.  And the color.  And the price.

I can’t wait to put together all the details and make our deck an extension of our house.

But in the meantime I will pretend that I am going to spend my afternoon of freedom stopping and smelling these-

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(and because of my spring fever I not able to resist at least one flower pic in every post….it will pass soon I promise)

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Garden Report Card

Last year at this time, I was a gardening newbie.  Other than a couple of strawberries in a pot that were rather unsuccessful, I had never grown anything edible.

But I had grand visions and we built three raised beds.  And largely it was a success.  If I can do it with no background knowledge, so can you.

We started with three empty raised beds and a lot of gravel….

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And planted some little sprouts in the them (wow my old camera was pretty crappy)…MOV02216

And by July we had this…DSC02382

Since it is now officially spring and am now a “seasoned” veteran, it is time to  plan for this year’s selections.

Should I have done this earlier?  Yeah probably.  Especially if I was going to start seeds indoors.

And this would be the case if that did not miserably fail at this task last year.  I blame the sunny window that was not sunny enough.

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So this year we are sticking with plants that I buy and direct sowing seeds in the garden.  Once it thaws out I mean.

So here is what I planted last year -

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Strawberries- A  We did not get a lot of fruit last year, but according to my sources that it normal and we should get a lot more this year.   Our lack of fruit also could be a result of a furry friend named Jack hijacking the fruit.  The entire summer, I was cursing the birds thinking they were the culprits.  Until Jack was caught not once, but four times with a perfect red wipe berry in between his paws.  Which he promptly ate as soon as saw him.  So even though this crop will not need to be replanted, a dog deterrent/fence will be in order.

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Radishes- C  They grew very quickly and easily.  But I do not think we will replant this because Derek does not like radishes.  And other than an occasional one on my salad I am not huge on them.  So we decided that the garden real estate will be better served for something else.  But if you are new to gardening, this is a quick and easy crop to start with.

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Red Leaf Lettuce- B  I really learned last year that lettuce is a cold season crop.  Once it it gets too hot, it starts to bolt and then tastes nasty.  So this will definitely be repeated this year but I will not be afraid to harvest some of it early and will replant a second crop for late summer/fall when in cools off.

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White Onions- A  These were easy and we used them a lot.  I started these from an onion set which was easier than seed.  And they stored well.  Will be a repeat this year and I may add some purple onions. 

Chives-B These would get an A except we did not use them as much as I thought I would.  But they are a perennial and are already looking very robust in the snow.  Even if they did not I would be replanting.

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Pole Beans-B  This grew after the bunnies decimated them twice (note to self to install dog and rabbit deterrent).  But the trellis I installed was not tall enough and I waited a little too long to harvest them.  So they were, well, stringy.  But I have learned from my mistakes and they should be spectacular this year.  At least I hope.

Sugar Snap Peas-F  One of the lowest grades in the garden because…well they never grew.  I replanted them twice and really thought that I had been successful.  But my “success” turned out to be giant weeds that I spent the summer fighting and no peas in sight.  But I will not be beaten by these peas and will be triumphant this year.  Hopefully.

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Tomato-A  We bought this plant on a whim and ended up with so.many.tomatoes.  We are not huge tomato people, but the sauce and salsa and brushetta is already being planned for this year.

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Jalapeño- A A random purchase and we ended up with tons of them.  Way too many for our Mexican nights.  So I gave a lot away and made jelly with them.  I was happy how that turned out and  a single plant does not take up too much space, so it is on the shopping list for this year..

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Mint-A  We bought it for the mojitos.  And it did not disappoint.  Enough said.

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Basil- A+ Probably the most used plant in the garden.  So easy to grow and so easy to use.

Parsley-C Looks pretty and was easy to grow but I did not find a whole lot of uses for it.  But it is a perennial so it is back.

Cilantro-F The only other F in the bunch.  I killed it planting it.  But let’s try it again.

Sage- C-See parsley.  Exactly.

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Raspberries- Since they fruit during the second year, I can’t comment on that yet.  But they grew really well and I have high hopes for this summer

Carrots-D Since Derek is allergic to uncooked carrots (i know weird) and I hate cooked carrots these did not used that much.  Not to mention I really struggled with unearthing them.  As in hours digging struggled.  So these will not be repeated.

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Pomegranate- B  I bought a dwarf pomegranate online last year.  And I had to plant it in a pot because it cannot survive the winter outdoors. So it is growing in my kitchen right now.  There is tons of fruit on it but I am a little unsure how big they will grow.  I can’t wait to see what it does this summer, especially now that it is in a bigger and prettier pot.

I am also planning on moving all the herbs out of the raised beds and into pots on the deck.  Why?  First of all I want to free up some space in the beds for some new things. And my hope is that if they are closer to the kitchen that they will be used more often.  And last but not least, the more pots I fill with herbs , the less I will have to fill with flowers.  There will be flowers of course, just not every pot.

So with all the new space what is going in there?

Here is what I am thinking, but I am open to suggestions and to my whims when I am staring at plants and I decide something looks good.

-Cantaloupe-  I love this fruit and they are not cheap at the store.  From what I read they take a lot of room but I am up for the challenge.  Maybe.

-Spinach- This will like lettuce in that we will not be munching on it in July, but we have been trying to eat more of it.

-Grapes-I really want a grape arbor.  Just need to figure out a place for it that will not look dumb.  We will see….

-Red Pepper- We use this a lot in cooking and hopefully it will as easy as the jalapeño

-Potato-  I am considering this but am still unsure.  They are cheap at the store and we really should not be eating them that much.  But I really like them.

-Asparagus-I think I might give this one a whirl because we should be eating more of it and it a perennial

So what do you think?  Anything I need to be adding or subtracting off my list?

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Delayed Gratification

This weekend it looked like a small animal had started to make small, systematic burrows all throughout the garden. So should we start setting traps? Or set the dogs out on a hunt?


Actually we were the the culprits. Why? To plant bulbs of course. Tulips are on my top five favorite things about spring and you have to plant them in the fall in order to get the enjoyment in the spring.

I fell in love with tulips while we were in college. They planted millions of tulip bulbs every winter and the campus was covered with them in the spring. It made me so happy to walk around campus and know spring was coming.

Bulb planting used to be one of Derek's least favorite activities because honestly digging hundreds of tiny holes in heavy clay soil took forever. But this weekend we planted over 150 bulbs in less than a half hour. How? With these two tools-



The specifically designed drill bit for bulb was a life saver. Derek drilled the holes and I followed behind him throwing in the bulbs. Then we just covered it back up with dirt and start the countdown until spring to see all the pretty flowers pop up.


When we did it the old way, we used this thing. The soil just got stuck in it and we had to pry out with a stick.

After a particularly frustrating bulb planting session two years ago, Derek asked why we did not drill like the landscaping guys at college did when they were covering hills with hundreds of them. I assumed that the drill was a specialized piece of landscaping equipment not available to mere homeowners. But luckily for us we found it at our local hardware store for a couple of bucks. So this year, after just a half hour, our backyard beds were prepped to hopefully look like our front ones did last spring.




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My One Seed Success

Last winter I had the bright idea of starting tons of seeds indoors to get a jump start on the spring.

The bright idea failed miserably as everything died a) when I set the tray outside to "harden" the seedlings or b) when I planted them in the ground. I even followed the instructions and everything. Sigh....

When I planted my side yard I put a couple of dahlia seedlings in between the other plants just to see if they would survive. Much to my surprise this is what they look like now-

The bees even like them-
The side garden has really turned into the "cutting" garden despite the fact that it does not get tons of sun. I can't wait to plant even more flowers there next year.
And what is the point of having a cutting garden without vases of flowers?

So worth the packet of seeds that cost a dollar. Dahlias won't survive a frost, but I have read that if you dig up the tubers and store them over the winter that you can replant the same plants in the spring. Hopefully they will be as successful as the seed. Well the dahlia seed at least....

Call Me Boring....

But if I had to pick my favorite flower, roses would be #1. Part of me wishes I loved something exotic and interesting even more then the classic, but nothing can beat the beauty and fragrance of a rose in my opinion. My choice of wedding flower is also a tribute to that classic beauty.
At our first house, one of the first things I did was plant a row of rose bushes. I was lucky that I picked a good spot in the sun considering at that point I knew nothing about them except that I loved how they looked. I learned a lot from those plants and I was tempted to add them to the sales contract and move them to the new house. But for some reason Derek and the realtor did not agree with that idea.

When we moved to our new house, the landscaping took second place to the interior renovations so all last spring and summer I was roseless. It was a very sad summer not to have vases of flowers in the house like I had gotten used to. So when we, I mean I, decided to do all the landscaping this year the roses were on the top of my list. We got them planted a little late so they took some time to really start blooming, but now I have more blooms than I know what to do with. Here is a rather blurry pic of just one of the bushes (there is a reason why this is not a photography blog)-
And a bloom on another bush-
Here is the collection that I spread through the house. There is nothing like a vase of beautifully smelling flowers to make you smile. I set a vase the places that I spend a lot of time in- next to the computer, on the end table in the family room, next to the kitchen sink, on the counter in the powder room, on the kitchen table and on my nightstand. When I snapped this pic the white bush was really producing and slowly it has been changing over to the red bush with the pink one bringing up the rear.

While I don't pretend to know everything about this plant (there are some people that are really into it), I have picked up some knowledge along the way. So here is my version of Roses for Dummies (again based on my experience and no formal training:))

-Roses need a lot of sun to thrive- 6 hours of direct sun at a minimum. If you don't have this you won't get a lot of blooms and you will get a lot more disease.

-There are so many different types of rose but the two families that you see most often are hybrid teas and grandiflora. Hybrid teas produce less flowers, but they are more the "classic" rose shape and the blooms generally last longer. Grandiflora are covered in blooms, but are more difficult to cut because their stems are so much shorter . All my current roses are hybrid teas.

-Roses also need to be fed in order to produce blooms. I have see a lot of slow release stuff that is really easy to use, but I have had the most success with weekly feedings of Miracle-Gro for Roses. Yes I have to do it weekly, but I just dump a spoonful in a watering can and go. Also stop feeding a couple of weeks before the end of the season. If the rose is in bloom when a frost hits, it is much harder on the plant.

-When you water roses, water at the base and do not douse the leaves. Wet leaves equal fungus.

-I spray them with fungicide every other week and an insecticide every six weeks. Hey I never said they were organic and this really helps prevent disease before it starts.

-Don't feel bad cutting blooms and bringing them inside to enjoy, this actually encourages more flowering.

-In Zone 5 I have winterized them two ways. The first year, after they were completely dormant, we covered the bases with a huge amount of mulch and wrapped burlap and twine around the branches. I sure the neighbors loved how they looked all winter. The second year, we were selling so I was bad an just mulched a little and called it good. Since we sold in the spring I can tell you that they came back just fine with the "lazy" way but I can't comment if the flower production was affected in the summer. The roses were also against the deck so they had some wind protection.

My last tip (and I am exhibiting my bad sense of humor with this one)- Make sure you take the time to stop and smell them. I crack myself up:).

Reason # 28475008

In case you have not noticed, summer is my favorite season. One of the reasons is I have a lot of vacation (duh). But I also love being able to garden, eat outside, casual entertaining and summer drinks like margaritas. A margarita while you are wearing a sweatshirt and sitting under a blanket on the couch is just not the same as sipping one in a swimsuit on the lake or on the back deck.

Another reason I love summer is easy decorating. No need for expensive accessories or centerpieces. All you need is a cabinet full of various sized vases and your backyard garden. A couple of snips and you have an awesome centerpiece with no cost and minimal effort. I am not a flower-arranging pro but anyone can throw some flowers in vase and bring a natural element into the house.

For example here is one that took me three seconds to snip and throw in a bowl but I love it next to the lamp on our side table in the family room. And I only had to fight one bumblebee to get the flowers.


Obviously it is not the most creative since it involves only one type of flower but that is the point-it is supposed to be easy and not fussy. Ahhhh summer.

Yeah for Spring!

Since all my new plants need to have some time (OK a lot) to grow in, I am trying to make myself be patient by enjoying spring bulbs and the pots I have planted. Patience is not one of my strengths so I am going to have to keep looking at these pictures.

We planted tons of bulbs in the front yard last fall. Tulips are one of my favorite flowers and I hope to have even more in the yard next year. I spent hours in the local garden store last fall picking out my favorites and could not wait to see what they looked like when they bloomed this year. Unfortunately bunnies ate the buds off one of my favorites but we still had plenty.
Some pots are still empty but I did plant the three in the planter on the deck last week. Last year I put the same flowers in each pot. Not the best idea. This worked for two of the three but the third pot was shaded so I could not get the dahlia to grow.

So I learned from my mistake and this year each pot was planted with different flowers better suited to the light it will be receiving. I did use a "spiky" plant (the technical term) to unify the three in some way. It probably would also look better if all the plants were the same color, but I could not find what I needed all in one color. If I was patient enough to go to more than one store that might have happened. Next year I will be posting that I learned from this mistake:). Here are the three pots in all their "I need to have time to grow in" glory. (the roses in the black pots still need to be planted in the ground)
Pot #1 (the shady one)-Calla lilies and impatiens
Pot #2- Marigold and Snapdragons
Pot#3- Gerbera daisies and a white annual I can't remember the name of

And even though the roses are not in the ground yet, I am still enjoying the flowers. Nothing is better than fresh cut roses from the garden