making progress

In the past week, the sweet peas have finally produced blossoms…

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… broccoli heads have emerged…

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… the tomatoes have been caged…

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… the beans have popped up… and the pests have feasted…

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… and all the curcurbits have a home.

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Garden – May Update

The weather is finally consistently warmed up and the garden is coming alive. Everything seemed to take so long this year to wake up. Here is our new Hawthorne tree that we planted two years ago, almost fully leafed out.

I’ve gotten most everything planted. In the flowerbed in the photo below, I planted my pepper plants because the peas aren’t ready to vacate their space.

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Here’s the other end of the backyard, in a bit of disarray. It’s finally warm enough to bring out the pool and have some serious backyard water fun!

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And here are Milo and Josh enjoying yesterday’s warm evening. In the background, you can see that the lilac finally blossomed.

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The grapes also have buds on them. We have five grape vines and they’ve never produced grapes. Maybe this will finally be the year.

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And the plum trees are LOADED with plums. I’ve started the process of thinning them out.

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Veggie garden. The asparagus continues to come in strong. I don’t have any pictures of the harvests, but I am bringing in about 200-300 grams per week. Thusfar, I’ve harvested 1204 grams of asparagus. My garden harvest spreadsheet isn’t setup for the year yet, so I don’t have a fancy way to display that yet.

I’ve planted my tomatoes and still need to cage them.

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Of course, my tomato cages are currently supporting the sweet peas that normally would have done their thing and been completely pulled by now. At present, I have yet to see a single blossom and am not sure if we’ll see any peas form before the insanity of the summer heat kicks in.

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Along the garden fence, I’ve planted beans and am using some old lilac branches for the vines to climb up.

The only thing left to plant/sow are all of the squash & cucumbers. I’m not sure where they should be, since the peas are taking their sweet time.

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Here is the blackberry zone, completely overrun by grass and poppies. I’ve been meaning to smother the grass and try to dig up the poppies for years, but always prioritize other projects. Good thing blackberries are hardy and resilient because they get pretty neglected.

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Also, I just LOVE these poppies but they are in the worst place. This is the side of the house where the gas meter and air conditioning unit are hidden, and the poppies get no visibility. It’s such a travesty.

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And here is my sweet boy. This weekend, he went with me to vote in the primary elections during the early voting period at City Hall.

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My heart melts so much, he is such a sweetheart.

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Garden – April Update

Despite our relatively mild winter, everything seems to be coming up a bit later this spring. This past week, I’ve finally been able to harvest asparagus. For over a month, I’ve been anxiously checking on the asparagus bed, wondering if they had died. Last year, I was first harvesting asparagus in March. Late indeed.

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I’ve had two harvestings similar to the above photo, and it seems like what started as a trickle might become a more steady stream. The photo above was from yesterday, and below there are already more spears that I can harvest today (as evidenced by the photo below).

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Unfortunately, most of what is growing in my asparagus bed is an invasive weed, Whitetop, that seems to be everywhere in my neighborhood. It’s one of those weeds that, if you pick one, 5 million more pop up in its place. My neighbors across the fence have tried smothering it with thick layers of cardboard and wood chips, and the Whitetop seems to be flourishing in their yard more than ever. In the ornamental areas I am actually applying a weed killer – – very systematically cutting off the top of the plant and applying the weed killer directly to the cut portion of the plant. I feel so guilty about this because I don’t like to use chemicals but I don’t know what else to do.

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Anyway, I’ve got two beds of snap peas coming up. I direct sowed these in February, which is what I normally do, and they have taken a really long time to come up. If I were more organized, I’d be testing the temperature of the soil rather than just doing the same thing from year to year. Oh well.

There’s also some overwintered carrots in this bed that I haven’t pulled yet. We have a bearded dragon who likes to eat the greenery from carrots, so I’m growing these for her.

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Here is my overwintered chard and garlic chives. I’ve been feeding the bearded dragon (named Lizzy) all winter from our garden. She loves chard.

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I planted the broccoli several weeks ago and the plants seem very happy. I’ve also been feeding Lizzy broccoli leaves. There is also some oregano that has spread to this bed.

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The raspberry plants I planted last year are coming up and already are sending out suckers.

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So, this is interesting, last year’s rosemary is still growing strong. Typically rosemary is an annual here so I’m impressed that this one made it through the winter. I don’t remember what variety I bought last year but I wonder if it was a cold hardy variety.

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An overall view of the main veggie area. I’ve been doing a lot of weeding, but still there are weeds everywhere.

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Oh gosh, I forgot to mention that I put tomato cages around each of the asparagus crowns because Milo likes to play with his construction vehicles in my beds and has crushed a good number of asparagus spears. I’m hoping the cages will somehow prevent this. Of course, I’ve asked him not crush the spears and then have asked him to play in a different place in the garden, and this is basically like giving him a double dog dare to do the exact thing I want him not to do.

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Here are my tomato plants that I started from seed.

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And speaking of the care and feeding of bearded dragons, I’ve got a nice selection of ‘dragon salad’ plants that I started from seed. These plants I actually place in her enclosure and she eats directly from the plants. I rotate them out every few days to give them a break. But in addition to the chard, carrot greens, and broccoli she eats from the veggie garden, she also enjoys mustard greens, collards, basil, mint, cilantro, and some variety of lettuce.

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Oh, and out of the 20 or so flats of peppers I tried to start, here are the two that germinated. I guess next year I’ll be investing in new pepper seed. And this year, I’ll be buying plants from the nursery.

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Onto the ornamental areas. Below is my newest flower bed in the backyard that I started last year and have continued to work on this spring. I’ve added more soil, moved the plants around, scattered flower seeds (many of which have already germinated!), and have added some compost. In the foreground of the below photo shows a pile of compost that I dumped right on the lawn. Our city has a great new compost program where it collects unlimited compostable materials from residents, and then we get to pick up a few yards of compost for ‘free.’ Because it’s a city program and there’s no way to regulate what people put into their compost bins, I’m only putting this compost on the ornamental areas. Just in spreading around this batch of compost, I’ve discovered a decent amount of trash (mostly remnants from plastic bags). So that reinforces that I don’t want to put this on anything that I’m going to eat.

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Here’s my other main flower bed in the back. Nothing new to report here, just that the existing plants are coming up nicely. In the background, the lilac still hasn’t blossomed. And you can see my sad excuse for a forsythia which I think has actually gotten smaller since I got it about 5 years ago. It was actually just about this size when I first planted it. Each year, it has grown a bit during the warm months and died back a bit over the winter. Forsythia’s are ubiquitous here and I assumed that one couldn’t go wrong with them. Kind of like with Black Eyed Susans. But maybe I got a lemon.

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And here is my main ornamental area in the backyard. I’ve been working to pull the neverending weeds, freshen mulch, and clean up the rock scapes. I procured a new trellis because I wanted to transplant the clematis that’s in the front yard to this space (because I think it would do better back here) but I wasn’t able to make that happen soon enough while it was still dormant.

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Front yard. I love our walkway that Josh installed last month (lower right). And all of the plants that I planted last year are doing well. I’ve placed rocks around some small and tender ones that I want to discourage Milo from crushing with his bulldozer. He really is an amiable kid with such a positive and funny personality, and I’m so happy that he loves playing outside in the dirt. But when it comes to dissuading him from doing something, it’s much better to modify the environment to create physical barriers and inconveniences rather than asking him not to do something. So, rocks around plants I don’t want him to crush.

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And here’s just the other side of the front yard. This past weekend, Milo helped me spread our compost on the ornamental areas and he did a great job. He helped me shovel the compost into the wheel barrow and then helped scatter compost. It was so cute because he kept saying things like, “This is hard work!” “There’s so much work to do!” and “I’m working hard!”

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I’ll leave you with a photo of the two of us at the local ‘March for our Lives’ last month.

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June 2017 Garden Update

It has been over a month since I posted any kind of update. I am way late in posting a Milo update and have many updates on the garden (which I will post today, in a photo-heavy and somewhat disorganized post). To say that I have been busy is an understatement. I had been experiencing normal busyness with a full time job, many spare time activities, and my rambunctious little guy, then I unexpectedly applied for and was offered a new job, and soon thereafter we went to Arkansas for a family reunion. Currently, I’ve been working a lot of overtime to wrap up the projects in my current role so that I can move into my new role with no loose ends. Since I wasn’t even thinking about looking for a new job, my previously expanded timeline was suddenly scrunched. Basically, one Thursday, a colleague approached me and said, “Hey Jennifer, there is this position that the Sr. Director isn’t satisfied with her pool of applicants and I think you would rock the job.” I met with the Sr. Director the following day to discuss the role, thought about it over the weekend, applied on Sunday, had an interview on Tuesday, and was offered the job on Wednesday.

Despite the busyness, today I am able to possibly post a garden update because I find myself unexpectedly home with a sick Milo. He was throwing up all yesterday evening and all night and had a fever of 101 this morning. So far, he’s slept most of the morning and is currently lying in bed watching some Thomas the Train.

Okay, as for the garden… good news and not-so-good news, as always. Harvests are trickling in, though I’m not bothering with weighing anything. I have several garden projects I’m working on and just don’t think weighing the harvests is a priority with my limited time.

For this update, I’ll take you through the different areas of the backyard & veggie garden.

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First up, is the general space in the backyard. Last year, we installed this flower bed that I planted randomly with many things. I love its wildness, though I am thinking about moving the blue flax. I also want to remove the grass between the bed and the fence and have a low-maintenance zone.

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Along with ornamentals, I’ve planted strawberries that are doing quite well.

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I also planted cucumbers bought from a local nursery, and they are not doing well. Previously, I’ve explained how I decided not to start my summer garden from seeds but to buy transplants from a nursery. I did this not only because I thought I would save time but also because our trip to Arkansas overlapped with prime- Summer garden planting time (ie, mid-May) and I didn’t want to leave seedlings at the hands of a housesitter.

Unfortunately, many of my nursery-bought transplants are not doing so well.

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Blue flax in the back yard. I love this plant.

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Here is another one of our flower beds in the backyard.

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It is also home to strawberries.

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And self-seeded Calendula.

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As well as this butterfly bush. I’ve been trying to plant more ornamentals favorable to pollinators.

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Over by the shed I have this strip for flowers – california poppies, yarrow, delphinium, rudbekia, etc.

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I also planted summer crookneck squash, which is doing much better than the cucumbers but I am concerned about something munching on the plants in this space. I planted six bunches of marigolds and they are also decimated.

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The rudbeckia are also being munched on.

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This one might not make it.

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I’ve had other problems with some flowering plants this year. We had a late hard frost that destroyed the flower buds on the magnolia as well as the lilac. Flowers that I had been eagerly awaiting never arrived.

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And sadly, the plum trees experienced a glorious flowering but the hard frost killed off most of the blooms so I suspect it will be a dismal year for plums.

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On the Hollywood plum, there are but a handful of fruit.

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Likewise the Satsuma plum has relatively few fruit.

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But look! A bird’s nest. I think it’s been abandoned.

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Fortunately the Hawthorn we planted last fall has survived the winter. We enjoyed its flowering and now leafing out.

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The grapes are also coming alive.

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Now we progress to the back where I have my official veggie garden. As a side note, I’ve planted several cukes, squash, pumpkins, and gourds outside of this area, so that’s why it seems mixed up.

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This area is a mess because I’m trying to install a drip irrigation system. The one I did last year didn’t work very well so I’m redoing it.

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The bareroot raspberries I planted are coming up.

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My wild herb perennials are wild.

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Asparagus is out of control. I had a good harvest and it exploded while we were in Arkansas.

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I cannot keep up with harvesting peas.

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Broccoli forming nice heads.

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I harvested a bunch of rhubarb and enjoyed a new-to-me rhubarb muffin recipe.

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Eight ball zucchini is doing well.

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And then the tomatoes… ugh. All of the tomatoes that I bought from the super nice local organic nursery are badly off. I’m not sure what exactly is wrong but I’m wondering if I should pull them all out. (I’d appreciate some advice on this actually).

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It’s a huge bummer, as homegrown tomatoes make life worth living.

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Also, you can see that I spent a not-insignificant amount of money on transplants and the number that I doubt will survive is really disappointing.

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Seriously, what the hell!

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Oh look, a single tomato that appears sort of okay.

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This one might make it as well.

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In desperation, I bought this Better Boy at Home Depot. It’s doing great.

As for the peppers, I am unsure if they are doing well or not. All of their leaves are curling upwards. Every single one of them. Otherwise, they seem healthy and some even have fruit growing.

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Then we move to the ornamental zone. I’ve been doing quite a bit of work here as well.

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One project was replacing all three of my well-established spurge plants that were crushed by the astronomical amount of snow this winter. I was so in love with my spurges and it was so sad for me to have to dig them up.

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Bottlebirdhouse Gourd

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Galaxy of Stars Gourd

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Staghorn sumac is doing well and actually sending out suckers.

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Elderberry is blossoming and the squirrels planted this oak tree that is doing well and I have yet to pull. We definitely don’t want an oak tree here, but it looks like such a sweet little tree that I don’t want to pull it up.

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Hooligan pumpkin.

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To replace a dead bush, I planted an hydrangea.

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And spaghetti squash.

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Finally, blackberries are going bananas! This is after I severely pruned them several weeks ago. They are exploding with growth and are loaded with blossoms.

Anyway, that’s it for now. Hopefully soon I’ll post a Milo update.

Harvest Monday [ 04-24-2017 ]

The asparagus continues.

 

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to harvest as much asparagus as I could have considering that we’ve had several hard frosts in between warm weather, so I’ve lost a decent amount of spears.

Nonetheless, this is my first year harvesting asparagus and I am delighted with it.

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Despite the fluctuating weather, the rest of the garden is doing well.

This year, I’ve decided to experiment with using tomato cages for the snap peas. We’ll see how that goes.

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Here is the broccoli.

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And the potato leaves are starting to emerge.

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Here is my little helper enjoying himself in one of my carrot beds. I haven’t been at all concerned about him wreaking havoc in my garden because I love that he enjoys digging in the dirt. Of course, I would prefer he play in his sandbox rather than my garden beds, but I would also prefer he play in my garden beds rather than watch tv and play video games all day. So I absolutely want to encourage him to play outside and cultivate his love of dirt.

Anyway, for the rest of my spring garden that is not photographed, I have one bed dedicated to beets, and one bed with chard and spinach. I’m about to begin harvesting rhubarb (seen in the background of the above video).

Harvest Monday is hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres.

Harvest Monday (March 20, 2017) and Official Spring Garden Update

Spring came to us early this weekend, with glorious temperatures and sunshine. I was fortunate to spend time in the garden AND harvested my first batch of asparagus, both for the year and in my lifetime! This weighed in at 181 grams and I sauteed the spears in butter, with pepper and the juice from half a lemon. DELICIOUS!

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I also wanted to provide an update on the garden.

But first, a follow-up about the weather. Previously, I described how we received record-breaking snow this year. So did the mountains all over Idaho and it’s starting to melt. What happens with record-breaking snowfall… record-breaking snowmelt. Currently, the Boise River is (literally) overflowing with water, as evidenced in the below photo where the walking path, which is normally about 20 feet away from the river (and 5 feet higher), is completely flooded.

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Anyway, we have continued to receive higher than average snow and rain this past month. About a week ago, I rode my bike to work with the trailer hitched on, thinking it was nice enough that I could pick up Milo from daycare on the bike. Instead, I had to dash home after work to get the car because a snowstorm hit and it was FREEZING.

However, it looks like spring is finally on its way in! The snow is melted, temps are rising, forsythias are blooming…

The asparagus is coming in strong!

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The rhubarb is coming up nicely.

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And the peas I sowed in early February are finally emerging. No photo, but I also noticed that the carrots and beets are also coming up (also direct sowed in early February).

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In between the storms, Milo has been helping me in the garden and I love it. He has a mini set of garden tools and last weekend we were clearing off the last of my beds together. I pointed out worms when I found them and he was fascinated. If you look closely, there is a worm he is observing.

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After we cleared off the beds, he helped me plant the broccoli I started whenever ago (end of January?). He loves moving dirt around, so he was thrilled to help with this. Although, he also loves continuing to move the dirt around, so there’s that. But, a week later, the broccoli has settled in nicely. This is Acadia and Atlantic broccoli.

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Not garden related, but I had decided to get Milo a sandbox so that he could move dirt around to his heart’s content and not disrupt my veggie beds. And just this past Thursday on our neighborhood’s NextDoor social network, a family in my neighborhood  was giving away (for free) their well loved sandbox and two new bags of play sand. The timing was amazing because on my list for the very next day was to obtain a sandbox and play sand. Score!

Also, in that garden bed with the volunteer tulip, I planted potatoes – – this year I’m growing Epicure and Red Gold. Normally, I plant potatoes directly in the ground, but I always have a hard time finding all of the potatoes in our rocky riverbed soil (it’s so weird how Idaho is an agricultural state but we have terrible soil).

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Anyway, this past Friday, I took the day off work so I could get some work done in the garden. The weather was GLORIOUS and I had a blast! Of course, the list of things I wanted to accomplish stretched across two pages of legal sized paper and I was barely able to make a dent on the first page.

The main thing I wanted to accomplish was to build new strawberry beds. Last year, I pulled up all of my strawberries because they were no longer performing and their runners never produced a single blossom, so decided to start from fresh stock. I also decided to change the location of my strawberries and to significantly expand them.

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I was able to complete two new strawberry beds (I’m hoping to have one more). This one above is home to ten Fort Laramie strawberries and below is home to ten Tristar strawberries. I was able to use boards we’ve had laying around for years, from an old mini-pergola that someone gave us. So it was nice to use up material that’s been taking up space.

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That’s it for this garden update. I expect to harvest more asparagus this week and accomplish a few more things on my list.

I’m linking my post today to Harvest Monday, hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres.

How My Garden Grows, 2017

It’s been a few years since I had much of a garden. Two years ago I was heavily pregnant during prime gardening season and last year I was a sleep deprived new mama, which are not ideal states for cultivating the soil successfully.

This year, I finally feel ready to once again dig deep into the soil, renew my spirit with compost and summer rain, and fill my lungs with the earthy smell of… earth.

This year, I have a helper. Someone who is stubborn as he is cute, resilient as he is finicky, and determined as he is wobbly. Together, we will experience trowel and error, peas and kindness, and lettuce be thankful for his patience with me. Here is my helper, enjoying his morning cereal.

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Before I describe the exciting happenings in the February garden, I first must summarize what befell the garden in the past few months.

Snow.

Lots and lots of snow.

So much snow, that our neighbors constructed an igloo.

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This is what my garden looked like after most of the snow had melted. When the snow was at its height, it almost covered the tops of the hoops over the beds.

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Sadly, after all the snow melted, the garden looked a bit worse for wear…

For fear of flooding, we had to dig drainage paths in our ornamental areas.

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Many of the ornamentals had been smooshed by the weight of the snow.

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Even stupid things like our solar garden lights were broken. It was truly so.much.snow.

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Below is what this ornamental area looked like a few months ago. There has been a lot of damage.

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Fortunately, even though there is still a lot of work to do, the garden, the yard, and the house are in their best state since before we moved in.

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So, what about the veggie garden?

I had every intention to do a comprehensive cleanup last fall. But I got busy and then the snow hit and I continued to be busy. Excuses, excuses.

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Last week, I took a day off work to spend time in the garden. I was able to clean up six of my eight raised beds. I also direct sowed seeds for sugar snap peas, carrots, beets, chard, and spinach.

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While I was puttering along, I discovered several carrots that had overwintered. Perhaps past their ideal plucking stage, I nonetheless considered them my first harvest of the year and tossed them into a DELICIOUS beef stew that my family enjoyed.

This is 1.3 pounds of carrots, BTW.

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Another point of interest is that, while I was cleaning up the beets that I should have pulled, I found a number of beets that seemed to be growing strong. Granted, most of them had gone mushy or were otherwise ready for the compost pile, but some of them seemed like they might yield a nice beet in the near future.

 

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I also indoor sowed broccoli. This year, I’m growing Atlantic and Arcadia. A week later, I’m excited to see Arcadia seedlings poking their heads up!

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I am intending to be realistic this year about how much garden I can handle. Gone are the days when I planted 40 tomato plants. And I’m not bothering with crops that don’t do well in my garden. I’ve spent years trying to be successful with cabbage, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts. They just take up a lot of space. I’m also ditching kale in favor of chard. It’s time to face reality; I love chard. I don’t love kale.

The last thing I’d like to write about is a list of the projects I’m hoping to accomplish this year, in addition to managing the existing spaces.

  • Install irrigation system for the edible zones.
  • Mulch the blackberry space.
  • Install a raspberry space.
  • Plant LOTS of strawberries.
  • New shade structure.
  • Install tall ornamentals in the front.
  • Install more flower beds in the back:
  • Install a trellis system for grapes.
  • Clean up & prep future chicken run.