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Posts Tagged ‘gardening’

June 20 in the garden

 

carrot_flowersfuture carrots

carrotslast year’s carrots

rhubarb_artichokes_0some of the last of the rhubarb

harvest_june20_0typical picks these days

berries_cherries_0blueberries and cherries!

harvest_june20_3one of the first full fava pods

Today was the first day I felt that well of excitement that comes with the anticipation of days of full, real garden harvests. The fruiting plants all had quite a growth spurt last week and I’m seeing a lot of tomatoes, zucchini and cucumbers forming.

So far this spring we’ve been eating plenty of rocket (one of my favorites and luckily it’s doing so well this year!), arugula (which is starting to bolt pretty quickly now), lettuces, kale and cilantro. The past week or so we’ve been enjoying artichokes, and are just now starting to be able to crunch away freely on sugar snap peas.The fava beans are filling out, and I think it won’t be long now til I’ll be able to start really picking. We discovered our love for favas last year and couldn’t get enough of them.

The crows have been helping themselves to the cherries this year, but they’ve been nice enough to let us get to at least a few handfuls. And the first few blueberry clusters are ripening.

Today I planted more seeds, filling in every nook and cranny of space that was left – parsnips, carrots, beans, spinach, more cilantro, more zucchini. I don’t think it’s too late (or in some cases not too early either I hope).

Still dealing with aphids on some of my kale plants. Strangely, it’s the only plant that seems to be a target. After pulling last year’s kale plants I thought I might have a fresh start, aphid-free.

The eggplant leaves have been getting chewed by flea beetles. This is the first time I’ve ever dealt with flea beetles. They’ve been few enough that it’s been manageable, and luckily their only interest has been the eggplant. Picky eaters, these bugs are. And the basil has had something chewing it’s leaves, but no matter how much I inspected, I never seemed to find anything – until one night last week I found a bunch of earwigs on the plants! To my surprise, it turns out they feed on many types of plants. Those creepers of the night.

I’d love to know what’s happening in your garden, if anyone wants to share.

 

 

 

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garden chat

hoophouse_april

Little by little our spring veg garden is coming along. I’ve felt really relaxed about it all this year, and it’s been coming together naturally and at an easy pace. I am sure I’ve overlooked some things, and still need to do a bit of direct sowing, but I think I’m almost finished planting starts. A lot of them are in the hoop house, soaking up the extra warmth. The hoop house is almost weeded of the grass that runs up the sides (in the sections not shown in the photo) , which got pretty thick this year, and the garden is holding us over with kale, small treats of arugula, and the last few carrots while we wait for new greens and peas to start picking up the pace.

cucurbits_basil_april

I just planted cucumbers and squash last week. In the past I have tended to plant them a little too early. I’m hoping the timing aligns, so that once they are ready to go in the ground, we are past the threat of excessive soaking rain and coolness. I saw the first sign of basil germination yesterday. I wish I might have started basil a little bit sooner! I like to grow a lot of basil each year, in a few successive plantings. I did pretty well last year, and we still have a little bit of pesto in the freezer to look forward to. One of my favorites.

tomatoes_april

Since moving the tomatoes from the house to the hoophouse, I am seeing visible growth by the day. Some of them seem to have doubled in size since this photo was taken less than a week ago.

rhubarb_april

I keep talking about making a rhubarb galette or pie of crisp or what have you. It’s time to actually do something about that.

fruit_trees_april

We were able to take the fencing down from 2 of our fruit trees this year, as they are finally tall enough to reach out of harms way of nibbling deer. A deer can strip a little tree of new growth pretty quickly. We expanded the fencing around the other 2 trees and all of them are looking pretty happy for the changes. We should have quite a few pie cherries this summer, and I think we might have our first small set of plums this year.

carrots_kale_april

This is a fairly regular harvest these days – though more so on the greens than the carrots.

carrot_tops

What’s happening in your part of the world? Are you growing food this year? Anything you’re particularly excited about? A funny little thing I’m looking forward to is parsnips. This will be my first time growing them.

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going wild

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leek_flowers

wild_1000_3

Hi folks! I’m over at Tend today, talking about my wild garden. Come on over if you’re interested.

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mason_bees_0

I have a fun, simple project for you this week, and it will most likely cost you nothing, take you just a few minutes to make and will create habitat for garden pollinators. It’s also an enjoyable way to observe nature at work. With a little pile of scrap wood we made a few mason bee houses for our garden and yard, and a couple to give as gifts as well.

mason_bees_3

Mason bees are small, cute, oblong, fuzzy little bees that make efficient pollinators in the garden. They can be blue-green, or dark-colored like the one pictured above. This little lady is not the first to make a nest in this hole in our unfinished door frame.

The female mason bee gathers nectar and pollen and stashes it in the back of the hole until there is a sufficient food store for her young. Once there is enough food to supply the larvae, she lays an egg on the food store and then seals the egg in with a bit of mud. She then brings in more pollen and nectar in front of the previous mud layer, lays another egg, covers it with more mud, and stacks like so until the cavity is full. Once the cavity is full, she seals the hole with a final layer of mud. Maybe you have seen these mud filled holes and wondered what was in there.

Here is a link to more information on mason bees, if you are interested in learning more – http://gardening.wsu.edu/library/inse006/inse006.htm. I think these little bees are pretty fascinating!

mason_bees_2

We have an endless supply of scrap wood from our various home projects and are always looking for functional ways to use it up. We cleaned up some sections of 4×4, cut an angle at the top to accommodate a little sloped roof, and then drilled 1/4 inch diameter holes in the outer rows and 3/16″ holes down the center. We used all the depth we had in this case, and drilled almost to the back of the 4×4. Typically, larger diameter holes are recommended (5/16″), but maybe our bees here on the coast are pretty small, or maybe they actually prefer smaller than the recommendation. The hole in the door frame is about 1/8″ in diamter, for example.

We used sections of old fence pickets for the roof (not totally necessary, but shelter from rain is nice, right?) and as a backing to make mounting it easy.

Apparently, it is best to hang the house facing east or southeast, for morning sun. The face of that door frame above is pretty much dead south, so a little variation from that recommendation probably won’t break the deal.

mason_bees_1

I’m looking forward to observing these bees more closely. We really enjoy creating habitat for beneficial species of all kinds at our place.

How do you invite beneficial insects to your garden?

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This is a repost from a blog article I recently wrote for Tend with a few additions I have learned since I originally wrote it. I have also added a list dedicated to flowers here. I have had a few searches for “deer resistant flowers” showing up in my stats, so I thought it might be useful to share this here as well.

deer

Young bucks, in the wildflowers last summer

When we first moved to our home, we felt pretty lucky to have deer frequent our yard. They are beautiful, peaceful creatures and we love to observe their antics, and behaviors amongst each other. As soon as we started to think about gardening though, and particularly landscaping, we realized we were in for  quite a challenge. Our dream landscape, which would be somewhat of an unending, textured garden; with fruit trees, berries, and a diverse array of edible and medicinal herbs and plants…. vs reality…. Oh my. Where to begin.

deer_resist_5

Lavender is distasteful to deer but so useful, fragrant and beautiful to us

One of our very first projects here was to fence in a small veggie garden, and then to fence in a few fruit trees. Fencing was a relatively easy solution, even though not ideal. The greater landscape has posed a much bigger challenge, and one we have been slowly trying to learn how to overcome. A lot of the things we like to eat, deer like to eat as well.

deer_resist_1

Dwarf Greek Oregano and other small leaf varieties are left alone by deer

Now that we have lived here for nearly 4 years we have learned some things, and finally, I am starting to feel like it is actually going to be possible to achieve a full, lush, beautiful, and even edible landscape.

deer_resist_2

Rosemary in bloom. The bees sure love it but the deer do not.

We started out knowing of very few plants we could successfully grow unprotected (we planted lots of lavender and rosemary that first year!). Some of the things that are said to be deer resistant aren’t necessarily, and there were some tough lessons involved there. And sometimes plants that are typically pretty resistant, will suddenly get eaten for a short period of time, though in these cases, it usually passes and the plants will fully recover (some recent surprises included lemon balm and catnip). With time, observation and experimentation, we have a growing list of plants we can grow and enjoy here.

deer_resist_7

Rhubarb has toxic leaves. They are occasionally tasted in the early season, but nothing more.

deer_resist_4

Fennel grows big and bushy, and shows no pressure from deer

Following, is a list of edible and/or medicinal plants that have proven to us to be deer resistant. This doesn’t mean the deer don’t taste some of these things now and then (and keep in mind, a taste can mean a whole plant if you only have a small amount), but these plants have stood the test of time, and are thriving and look beautiful – or in the case of annual edibles, are able to produce a harvest.

calendula
sage
dill
fennel
rosemary
lavender
oregano and marjoram (smaller leaf varieties)
thyme
savory
mint
lemon balm
catnip
chives (sometimes!)
rhubarb
artichoke
garlic
onions
potatoes
jerusalem artichoke (tops are often getting nipped here, so don’t be bummed if you don’t get many flowers, but you will have edible tubers)
summer squash
winter squash

.

Flowers:

foxglove
poppies
daisies
black eyed susan
lavender
calendula
cosmos (to some degree)
catnip
rhododendron
daffodils
sweet woodruff
calla lily (which is not a true lily)
iris
grape hyacinth
lamb’s ears
hellebore
fuchsia

deer_resist_8

Calendula has been of no interest to the deer. This one still surprises me.

Part of my goal for this post was to offer some of our experience to those of you who have similar challenges, but also to see if there might be some of you that have learned some things about deer resistant gardening that you could share.

We will be working on adding to this list this year. If you have anything to add, I would love to hear! With what I’ve learned so far, I have a better sense of what deer like and what they don’t, and am looking forward to experimenting with some new herbs this spring and summer.

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mid June

 

june_weekend_daisies

rhubarb_greens

mid_june_herbs

A few June highlights

Hi friends. Welcome to a new week.

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lotion_process_3a

This time of year my hands are especially prone to becoming rough and dry – constantly in the dirt planting, weeding and digging. I rub them daily with lotion, to restore lost moisture and smooth any roughness (this and this have been my all time favorites for years).

Last week I finally decided to try my hand at making my own lotion with herbs we grow here in our gardens… Let’s just say, it is a little bit ridiculous how excited I am at the outcome. I don’t know why, but I didn’t think I would achieve such an amazing final product. It’s pretty much everything I could hope for in a nourishing cream – save for a super minor tweak here and there. I’m psyched. Totally!

I did some research to get a sense of the process. I started with, “A Complete Book of Herbs – A practical guide to growing and using herbs,” by Lesley Bremness. I also found a few online resources. I knew I wanted to use lavender – possibly my favorite floral herb,  and we have an abundance of the notoriously skin-supportive calendula blooming right now. I have also been learning about the healing properties of elder flowers, which are blooming right now, so they felt like a natural addition as well.

With a general feel for the ratio differences between salves and lotions, a sense for what I wanted as my outcome, the help of this site for the process and quantities,  and then with what I had on hand, my recipe ended up something like this:

Approximately 1/2 cup of a mixture of calendula flower petals, elderflower and dried lavender

then fill to 3/4 cup with olive oil

.4 ounce beeswax

1/2 ounce witch hazel

3 1/2 ounces calendula infused water

15 drops lavender essential oil

(ounces are by weight)

lotion_process_0

A little bit about the herbs I chose:

Calendula – Reduces inflammation and soothes the skin. It is a wonderful herb for the general care of skin irritations of all kinds. “Calendula has been used for centuries to heal wounds and skin irritations. Calendula has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, astringent, antifungal, antiviral, and immunostimulant properties making it useful for disinfecting and treating minor wounds, conjunctivitis, cuts, scrapes, chapped or chafed  skin, bruises, burns, athlete’s foot, acne, yeast infections, bee stings, diaper rashes, and other minor irritations and infections of the skin.” (mountain rose herbs – http://mountainroseblog.com/healing-calendula/).

Elderflower – Soothes dry skin and has anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties. It is a supportive tonic for all skin types, particularly mature skin. Reputed to soften skin and smooth wrinkles, fade freckles and soothe sunburn.

Lavender – Has antiseptic, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, soothing and stimulating. A healing and gentle cleanser and tonic for all skin types. Aroma-therapeutic as well, acting as an uplifting nerve tonic.

.

I measured a generous 1/2 cup of calendula petals, dried lavender flowers and elder flowers (separated from the stems), and then covered this combination with organic olive oil until I had a total quantity of about 3/4 cup.

lotion_process_2

I poured the mixture into a double boiler, covered it, and slowly warmed it, letting it set at a very low heat for about 3 hours.

lotion_process_2a

I weighed out nearly 1/2 ounce of beeswax

lotion_process_3

and made an infusion of calendula petals and purified water.

lotion_process_4

When the oil and herbs were steeped to my satisfaction, I strained them into a jar,

lotion_process_5

squeezing any excess oil out with clean hands.

lotion_process_6

The oil infusion was then placed back in a warm pot of water and gently heated with the beeswax, until the beeswax was fully incorporated.

lotion_process_7

Once incorporated, I set the jar on the counter to cool to room temperature, blending periodically with an immersion blender. Then I measured out my witch hazel, calendula infusion and essential oil.

lotion_process_8

All the ingredients were gradually blended until I reached my desired consistency.

lotion_process_9

The final step of blending was the most exciting, as the whole mixture gradually transformed into something beautiful and creamy.

lotion_1

The cream is smooth and silky, and not too heavy or oily – particularly when applied to freshly washed skin. Steven is appreciating it as well, for dry elbows and knees, and areas that have been exposed to a lot of sun recently.

Next time I will try different, more deliberately chosen oils, and will explore some other herbs with properties specific to my skin and it’s particular needs at the time. My skin is loving this combination though, and my hands haven’t felt so soft in quite some time!

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