Friday, August 14, 2009

August 14, 2009

It appears that I treat my garden blog the same way I treat my garden... plant it, then forget about it for a couple of months.

I actually haven't been that bad at neglecting the garden itself... but once we prepared the house and yard for the summer season we pretty well let it just manage itself for a while. For June and July we were either hosting guests, or out of town on any given weekend. I weeded the garden beds every couple of weeks, and the sprinklers kept it watered when the rain ceased... but I otherwise just wanted to let it grow and figured I'd pay more attention when things calmed down in the house. About a month ago, though... I was next door and saw my neighbor's massive squash plants - which were in the ground weeks *after* mine were, yet were easily 10 times the size. I suspected then that the dirt our gardener used to fill up my garden beds this year may not have been particularly rich in nutrients, so I dashed back home and threw some Miracle Grow on my garden.

Then we had a massive heat wave, and with 109 temperatures I frankly could have cared less if the whole thing dried up and blew away... it was too damned hot to care.

The heat passed, and we've returned to a respectable Northwest rainy spell.

Ahhh... rain!

So there's my list of excuses for the lack of updates. Haven't been here, and there hasn't been much to look at anyway. Moving on to photos:

This is a new resident in the back yard... we have so far named him "The Brown Rabbit". So far as I can tell he has not disturbed my garden, but I suspect he might be eating the hostas under the bird feeder, because the deer haven't been in back all summer and yet those particular plants have been munched on in the last couple weeks. But the bunny is cute and fluffy and eats clover in the grass, so we like him.
So far.

Please excuse the messy look of the yard... but I saw the "how's the garden doing?" request from SMT this morning, and I thought if I don't run out there and take pictures NOW I'm just going to forget again. So I hauled out there with my umbrella and snapped some shots - weeds and all.

The herb garden is doing great, now that it's being watered regularly... I've chopped down my oregano twice this year (each time I got over a pound of plantage) One nice thing about our heat wave... I chopped the oregano the day before it got supid hot, rinsed it, and laid it out on a giant metal tray to dry. Then we ran away to escape the heat, and the oregano dehydrated right there on the tray in my kitchen - no need to tie it up or anything. Woo!

I haven't been cooking with chives much, so they've flowered a bit... and the light green tuft you see behind the thyme is a type of really thin-leafed basil. Regular basil gets eaten to the ground the minute I put it in the garden... but this variety seems to thrive so long as it is watered properly.

Middle of the frame at the top is a small lavender plant, who is here temporarily while we decide if we want more lavender in the front. The middle row is the oregano, once again filling in thick and lush after having been mowed down just a few weeks ago. The 4 rosemary plants are the bottom row... and they have grown like crazy as well.
I bought these to potentially replace my BIG rosemary which grows at the top of my firepit wall - if they didn't recover from last winter's odd freeze. Turns out they did recover, quite nicely, so we are up to our ears in rosemary now.

One thing I LOVE about rosemary is that the deer don't eat it. Actually, nothing seems to eat it except for us humans... so these are plants we can move to the front yard when they get sizeable enough.

The right half of the vegetable garden. After feeding my plants, the tomatoes finally started to grow decently lengthed vines, and we've even had a few ripe cherry tomatoes. The front-most leafy plant in this pic is a foxglove - we can just pretty well ignore that, (I left it in the path between the garden beds as decoration, but it didn't flower this year) The squatty little plant on the right (can you see the little yellow flowers in it?) is my zucchinni. Tiny... I know... but keep in mind, this particular plant was eaten down to the ground when I first put it in my garden... then sprouted one weak little leaf so I let it go. In the grand scheme of things, it's not doing too badly.
The big squash plants are yellow zuchhinni, which I'd planted to replace the one that was eaten and came back from the dead.

My yellow zuchinni plants are doing quite nicely now, and I picked the first two veggies from them this morning after shooting these pictures.

This is the left half of the garden, another story all together. Since this was the half that was filled in significantly by the garden guy, this is the reason I suspect his dirt was not particularly nutrient rich. Those little squatty plants are lemon cucumber plants... and they are struggling to grow. They were nothing more than a couple leaves until after I fed them last month, and I will be feeding them again this week.
My beans did somewhat OK for a while - they grew and produced enough sugar snap pea pods to collect for a side dish for dinner (however I ended up eating them as a snack like potato chips instead) The Looooong bean plant on the end is the one Gayle planted in school - and it made a respectable height before drying up.
I think I'll be pulling what's left of these plants this weekend, and maybe tossing in a different kind of bean seed just to see if I can get another bunch of plants before October rolls around.

I do have a few tomatoes getting ready to ripen... we are supposed to heat up again next week so perhaps we'll get some red ones.
It kills me that we had so much heat a couple weeks back, but my plants were not yet big enough to take advantage of it and ripen.

This is Gayle's Garden - she planted this pumpkin seed in school as well. This patch of dirt is the very back part of the back yard... it had been overrun with blackberries until we had our big wind storm a few winters back - half a cedar fell into this spot and killed everything that was growing there. Since then it has been a hotbed for weeds... and we systematically scrape them off. When Gayle's seed sprouted she wanted to put it in the yard, but I didn't want to put it in the garden beds where it would take everything else over, or potentially grow out into the lawn.
Enter the Empty Patch. We plunked her pumpkin seedling in the ground and I re-aimed the sprinkler so it would swing around to hit this spot. Now we have big beautiful leaves taking over the weed bed, and Gayle has her own garden spot.
The vine has sprouted over some of the odd ferns we have in the back, so after I took this photo I re-aimed the vine to wrap around in front of the bird on the dirt. Next year I think we'll plant a bunch of pumpkins, and turn this area into a whole pumpkin patch.

Monday, June 01, 2009

June 1, 2009

I'm failing in the update arena again this year... ironically it's the photographing that slows me down. One would think in this digital age I could snap a few shots more often, but when I'm all dirty and grimy from working in the yard, I don't want to handle the camera.

This is the before picture of my garden... taken Saturday morning. I've been wanting to make the makeshift cinder block wall prettier, and stop the weeds and grass from growing up through the center of the blocks... but still make it possible to easily take apart in case I decide to change the shape of the garden later.

It only took two years, but I finally found the paver stones that are the exact size of the top of my cinder blocks. I give you... the neat and tidy garden wall.

Such as it is.

I lifted all those myself. 50 paver stones from the shelf at Home Depot to the big flatbed cart... through the store and out to the truck, where I loaded all 50 into the trailer. At home Dan drove the trailer to the top of the yard, and I pulled each stone off the trailer and onto the wall, pulling weeds and straightening bricks as I went.

This is one of the reasons I go to the gym... so I can do projects like this without killing myself.

The plants themselves are coming along. Something ate my crookneck squash plants, so I've replaced them, and added a couple other veggies. My peas are growing like crazy, just reaching the bottom rung of my volley ball net-like climbing wall.

Here is the herb side of things, just prior to me chopping down the oregano (that's that tall leafy thing on the far end) We've gone a little crazy with rosemary this season. I wasn't convinced my big plants would grow back, so I bought some replacements... then the big stuff kinda sorta came back. It still looks a bit woody... and half of one plant is gone forever... but the rest is turning green, so I've stuck a few extra little rosemary plants in my herb garden, they'll probably find homes around the yard next year.

I whacked down over a pound of fresh oregano. I thought it would make the garden look barren, but it just looks like it got a hair cut.

We are doing a *lot* of projects around the yard, getting ready for a summer of visitors and parties galore... next weekend I'm planning to pace the yard and shoot all the improvements we've made (oh, so many decorative pots and we even finally bought a wine barrel planter!)

Friday, May 01, 2009

Happy May Day

Our winter was kind of a nasty one. Not too many snowy days, but all in all the cold weather came in and just stuck around from about mid-Fall to... about two weeks ago. Our temps were so cold for so long that my freakin' rosemary froze. It's supposed to be this really tough evergreen plant, and it just dried up, froze, and 4 of the 5 large bushes dropped their needles like a Christmas tree. We've trimmed back the the sad little plants, but I have little faith they will come back.

The rosemary can be viewed from my kitchen window, whereas my garden beds are a trek up the hill from the back door... so my general outlook about my yard has been based on my poor, scraggily rosemary. You can imagine my surprise when, after two weeks of "warm" weather (read: above 50) I wandered out to my garden to find my oregano, chives, and thyme thriving.

If you listen closely, you can hear it saying "I'm not dead yet!"

The two bits of dried up stems in the center of the bed were my lovely lemon balm and citrus sage... I'm not sure those will make it back from the dead either. I'll give them all a couple more weeks, then if I see no progress I'll replace them.

My chives were a couple of strands of green a few weeks back, now they are developing great purple flower buds already.

The oregano has spread out to where it has overtaken the plant label. Looking forward to lots of dried oregano this year.

I swore off tomatoes again last year, so this year I decided to plant some sugar snap peas. Just before vacation I ran out to my prepped garden beds and plunked some seeds in the ground, just to see if they would grow. When we came back I only saw one little sprout, so when I went to the garden store I picked up some sweet pea plants. Today when I went to plant them, I found that my entire row of seeds had sprouted (see below) So I had to improvise a spot to stick the plants I bought... hence... the tomato cage (see above).

My wee little sprouts are barely the size of my thumbnail, but every one of them sprouted.

I know... I swore off tomatoes last year.... but after talking with our landscaper guy I changed my mind. All my neighbors had a horrible time with tomatoes last year, however when I mentioned this to the guys doing our yard clean up, he said "everyone says that, but I had a ton of cherry tomatoes!" His secret? He stuck his plants in the ground the end of April instead of waiting for Mother's Day like everyone else around here.

So what the hell... $10.00 in plants, it's worth a shot. This year we're trying yellow pear tomato, roma, and a red cherry.

The raspberries need some TLC this year. We didn't cut back the stems from last year, and they have sprouted a rather impressive bunch of leaves already. We'll need to build some kind of support structure that will hold them upright against the fence.

The raspberries also spread like MAD... there are a few weeds in there, but most of this is little raspberry sprouts. The long stems above are the "early" crop, and these little sprouts will be a late summer bunch of berries. With any luck I'll have enough to make some jam.

Friday, September 12, 2008

September 12, 2008

Half the herb garden. We are looking at chives, lemon balm, and the melon sage plants, which have rebounded after my mini-harvest a few weeks ago.

My flatleaf parsley has grown out of control... it is as tall as I am and flowering like crazy.

Oregano might be the easiest herb for me to grow - I've already filled 4 spice jars with dried leaves, and here are the plants filling back in again. At the bottom of the picture you can see the random tomato plant which has decided to grow on it's own. My dill just didn't do well... it may be too fragile of a plant for me to grow.

My Julianne tomato vine is the most prolific of all the plants this year. It is weighing down my tomato wall and producing tons of fruit (look! Some is even ripe!) A few more days of decent sun and I might have enough to do something with it.

Here's the center section of the tomato wall. It looks like that mystery "yellow" plant I picked up is the same kind as the six pack of plants - a "yellow pear tomato" - they are shaped like pears, about the size of cherry tomatoes and very sweet.

The porch roma tomato vine has kept to it's name... it seems stunted regardless of the amount of space I gave for it's roots to take off. It is dense, but full for sugh a little guy.

This little fella is right next to my roma plant. I didn't plant it, it's just one of those random guys that came up on it's own, and has one teeny tiny little tomato growing on the very end.
It's the Charlie Brown Tomato Plant.

One of the pear tomatoes.

Now... this squash was labeled to be like zucchini, only yellow. They have yet to grow to a decent size before starting to rot at the ends, so I've had to pick them while they are roughly the size of a pickling cucumber. They taste good... they are just smaller than I expected.
My other squash plant just produced it's first squash.
It's September.

Here is one of the tomato plants that decided to grow on it's own in the herb garden, right up next to my thyme. I know it won't produce any fruit, it's way too late in the season, but I can't bring myself to pull a plant that I've been trying to grow every year since we moved here!

The vine of another mystery tomato plant... this one has lots of fruit. I suspect it's a cherry tomato type (I had those planted last year, one of the vines fell over and a bunch of tomatoes fell off. I'm guessing that's why the seeds are sprouting in odd locations)

An overview of the entire garden.

This year I planted what was labeled as "creeping rosemary" in my hanging baskets. Rosemary is resistant to drought, which is why I figured it would do OK in the baskets (since I forget to water things) It is doing well and has grown, but it's not dangling so much as it's stretching. I call it the Alien Rosemary.

I didn't grow these cukes... but my neighbor signed up for a veggie co-op with a woman at her work and came home with bags of giant cucumbers - which she gifted to me with a "So... you were planning on making pickles tonight, right?" I've put up 18 pints of Grandma's Bread and Butter Pickles (and two additional which didn't seal properly are now in my fridge) I may have sliced the first batch a little thin, as they don't seem quite as crunchy as I would normally like, but the second batch seems to be better with texture. The flavor is great either way (imho) Over the years I've tried Grandma's recipes for dill and sweet as well, but the bread and butter recipe is the one everybody likes, so I'm sticking with that one.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

August 3

Yeah... it has been a while. Sorry SMT! I meant to update last week (and the week before, and the week before) but things kept getting away from me and we went out of town and [insert plausible excuse here]

I took the pictures in the sunshine... should have waited for the shade to get lower contrast, but maybe next time it'll be cloudy.

I had to finally pull my lettuce. It grew like crazy, but I let it go too long and it just tasted bitter as all get out.
Nice to know I *can* grow lettuce though.
Here is the right half of my veggie garden. The tomato vines are growing like crazy and the one in the center and the one on the far right have fruit. The others are still just in the flower phase. My yellow squash is finally producing, though they are far smaller than I expected. (I guess they are the baby variety)
We had such a long winter this year that everything is running several weeks late. I remember last year at this time one of my vines was already toppling over and I was up to my ears in cherry tomatoes. Though I didn't actually plant any cherry tomato plants this year (couldn't find them) They mystery "yellow tomato" plant is producing some oddly shaped little guys.

The "Window Box Roma" on the far left truly is... the little squat plant is just not stretching very far at all, though it has more fruit than any of the others. (you can barely see it in the shadows... next time I'll shoot on an overcast day)

The herbs are turning out to be great fun. The borage (see the blue flowers from the last update) became overgrown and finished flowering, so he was removed. The dill... *sigh* I just don't have good luck with dill... it's so frail. My onions (if you look in the upper right corner of the bed you might see the greens) are laying out to dry for two days. I think next year I'll put green onions in where the dill is now... I actually eat those and have had good luck with them in the past.

Today I did a decent harvesting of the herbs. I now have a bunch of lemon verbana, melon sage and oregano drying in my laundry room.

I've decided I like herbs, but I need to pay better attention to harvesting times if I'm going to use them.

Cilantro I planted because Dan likes to cook with it sometimes... but only sometimes... so I let it go. Turns out it flowers *really fast*... and I tried to cut it back so it would grow bushier instead of sprouting flowers, but it doesn't really work that way (apparently) I now have long stalks with little "fruits" on them... which I will let dry and become coriander seeds.

My thyme seems to flower quickly too... but I've been on top of it and harvesting bits here and there... clipping the flowers to make it grow out more.

The lemon verbena is just crazy big. I'm not sure I'll ever cook with it (maybe I'll drop some leaves in my tea sometimes) but I'm drying a bunch and will possibly use it for some kind of potpourri.

the flat leaf parsley was bent over to the dirt and I didn't want it to rot, so I cut pretty far down last week & have a fresh bunch in the fridge. We actually cook with that fairly often, so I'm glad to be growing it so well.

I'm learning a lot this year with my first "real" herb garden. I kind of expected them to act somewhat the same, but the plants all have a mind of their own. Oregano and chives seem to be the easiest to deal with... I chopped one oregano plant to the ground last month, and to day packed the dry leaves in my spice jars (filled 3 spice jars with dried oregano leaves!) and today cut some more branches down. I'm trying to cut just some to keep each plant in tact so it doesn't look like a massacre happened in my herb garden. Maybe some day I'll find that balance between keeping it pretty and keeping it useful.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

June 21, 2008

This spring, turning to summer, has seen another "unusually cool" string of weather (which begs the question, how unusual is it if it keeps happening year after year?) But to spite the lack of hot sun, the garden appears to be plugging along. The tomato plants are surviving... not thriving yet, but at least the 40's at night haven't killed them off. The herbs are going like crazy:

I have a whole lot of oregano I should cut down and dry already. I'm attempting to keep the thyme from flowering, but every time I look at it there are more new little white flowers trying to seed.

I'm very excited about the lettuce in the background there... the night that I took this picture I enjoyed some of those leaves pictures in my salad mix. The tomato plants are not full enough to stand out of the background on their own, but they are being real troopers so far.

All three basil plants have, unfortunately, been discovered by some critters that enjoy the taste of basil as much as I do. Lesson learned... basil should be kept in a pot closer to the house where it is safe.

The raspberries in the back are also growing like crazy... nice to have some plants that enjoy our mild climate. I weeded the area last weekend and we're going to need supports soon as the plants are starting to want to lean here and there. I can already see new shoots spreading as well.

I planted borage in my herb garden because it was suggested as a bee attractant to help with pollination of the vegetables. I had no idea the flowers would be so interesting looking:

This next image is of the area we have dubbed either the "right flower bed" (standing on the deck, looking into the back yard, this is the group of trees/planting area to the right) or the "bird feeder bed". It looks a little chaotic with the various shades of greens and large bushes running into each other... but when we moved into the house 4 years ago this bed was relatively barren - not only for the lack of plantings, but because the deer were regular visitors who delighted in keeping the area nicely groomed.

We need to clean a couple things up, but I'm actually quite happy with the chaos of plants running into plants - for one thing it's a much nicer backdrop than chopped bushes and bark dust, and for another... proper plants taking up all the space keeps the weed way down.

And I learned something new this year... did you know that "tea rose bushes" actually produce roses?!?!? It's a crazy notion, I know... but keeping the deer out of the back means the tiny little buds are no longer dessert offerings to passers by, and the bushes are (probably for the first time ever) able to produce honest to goodness flowers.

I'm not sure what this plant is, but last year it attracted a sizable butterfly, when it cropped up from underneath the driftwood by the deck I made a point to clear some space for it. Last year we had about 5 or 6 tufts of white flowers, this year the plant spread to three places, each with something like 8 to 10 tufts. I haven't bothered to check the species of this winged visitor, but he's the first that I've seen to hang out by my deck.

We have lots of work ahead of us tomorrow and next weekend, including finishing the remodel of the waterfall/pond area. I'll have before and after pics ready when we're all done.

Monday, May 26, 2008

May 26

I wasn't expecting to work too much in the yard this weekend. The forecast kept saying "rain, rain, and more rain" and I interpreted that to mean that it would rain.

Silly me, believing those funny weather guys.

Saturday morning dawned dry, so we packed up and headed out to a giant nursery up in Snohomish. There I finally found some tomato plants, though they were not the plants I was looking for.

I wanted to do just cherry tomatoes this year, maybe romas, but that was it - it seems that anything larger just doesn't seem to ripen in my yard.

The nursery, though acres and acres in size, had no cherry tomato plants to be found. They did have romas, and something called Jullian - which look like romas only longer and thinner. I also picked up a yellow pear tomato plant (looks like they are pear shaped, and slightly larger than cherry) and a mystery plant labeled simply "yellow".

They also did not have any zucchini plants - yellow squash, but no zucchini.

Wha?!? Either they sold out, or the weather has just been so bad that the greenhouses aren't moving.

We made it back to the house about mid-afternoon, and still no rain... so I went to work in the back digging holes and removing the wild foxgloves from the garden beds.

Last year I put up these posts with the nylon lattice for the tomato plants and they tipped under the weight of the plants. This year I dug them into the ground further, and spread the plants further so hopefully we won't have a repeat of last year.

First, here is an update of the herb garden (freshly weeded - those forget-me-nots are prolific as hell) I added a few basil plants.

Here is the beginning of the Tomato Wall.

A couple of the plants were actually quite large to begin with, and I sprang for those to help get a jump start on my garden (since my growing season is so short) The two little squigilly guys are a couple of yellow squash plants. My lettuce is growing pretty well... it hasn't been eaten by critters yet, so I guess that's good, eh?