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Tag: gardening

Meal Planning: January 2022 Week 1

Meal Planning: January 2022 Week 1

Whew. Another week of meal planning under our belt. We used up a lot of things this week from our pantry, fridge and freezer. We still have so many leftovers that we won’t really need to cook for the next few days but we are […]

Gardening Update 11.07.21

Gardening Update 11.07.21

A lot happened in the garden since my last post in July which can be found here. We had a large crop of green tomatoes, lots of greens, successfully grew two nice sized pumpkins and many other vegetables. We continued to battle pests throughout the […]

Gardening Update 07.08.21

Gardening Update 07.08.21

The last few weeks have been rough on everyone’s gardens in the Seattle area. There has been no rain and we had a massive heat wave a bit ago with temperatures well over 100 degrees which is super unusual for this area. I watered like crazy during the heat wave, some plants got water three times a day and others twice. Still, several of my plants were damaged and my vegetable output this year will be much smaller than previous years. For instance, I planted about a dozen cabbages and only got small one bug eaten one head of my spring crop. I will be planting more for fall but it was still pretty heartbreaking to see all of my plants either decimated by slugs/caterpillars or burnt from the sun.

 

zucchini plants
Squash Plants

Some of the plants that did not make it through the last few weeks were my squash plants. As you can see they have been decimated by slugs despite my best efforts to deter them. I put new soil here, fertilized and mulched but my plants are doing poorly in general. Last year this area had potatoes and they did ok. You can see that there are a couple of potato plants coming up from some of the potatoes left in the soil. I have planted both zucchini and spaghetti squash here in years past and they flourished but I realized this year when I was watching the light patterns that this area no longer receives the amount of light it did when we moved in five years ago. The trees surrounding it have grown significantly since then and I have lost one of the few full sun areas I previously had in my garden. I am not sure what I am going to do for next year in this area. For now, I planted some peas and installed some branches for trellising but at the moment not much seems to be growing. I will probably plant a cover crop here for fall and mulch extensively. It may be time to cut down the tree that provides shade to part of my garden but I am reluctant to take such an extreme measure. I may just cut it back significantly this year and plant more shade tolerant plants in this spot next year.

 

potato plants
Potato plants under a bush.

Speaking of potato plants, one of my strategies this year has been to plant potatoes all over in my regular garden beds and hope I get something out of it. We had a bunch from the harvest last year and some that started growing in our pantry and I basically just planted them wherever I had a bare patch. I have not been hilling them at all but I may add straw or mulch this weekend to some areas such as the one above to see if I get a higher yield. Last year I spent tons of time, money and energy carefully hilling my potatoes and it really didn’t increase my yield very much. These are in an area I have trouble growing things in front of our large bush. There isn’t a lot of sun and the large bush traps most of the water but these are doing well. I have been watering them on hot days with the hose and it has been enough. They are also crowding out the creeping Jenny which we can’t get rid of. I am not a fan of it and it is spreading all over my yard. It traps moisture and is a slug breeding ground and I am pulling as much of it out as I can.

 

Red Potatoes
Red Potatoes harvested after the heat wave.

A few of our potato plants did not do well in the heat wave so I dug them up and recovered as many spuds as I could. I ended up digging up about four plants and got double the yield shown above. I am guessing it was around two or three pounds worth. We steamed some of them with our single cabbage and they were delicious! I will probably either roast or steam the others for dinner in the next few days. My middle daughter and I love them steamed with butter and salt. She was very excited for the potatoes! I also planted a few more I found sprouted in our garage, probably victims of the heat wave as well and pulled the ones I could find near the zucchini patch. I have a few mid-growth cycle right now so we will have some more potatoes to harvest in about a month or so and then another month out from that. We really don’t eat a ton of potatoes but I do like to have them fresh when I can. I saved some of the sprouted ones which I will plant in two week intervals so we have a steady supply of potatoes for the next few months. I am not good at storing them (clearly since they all sprout) so having a steady stream of plants to dig up is better for our family.

 

Baby Pumpkin
Baby Pumpkin

One plant I had to baby through the heat wave was our pumpkins. They loved the heat but needed watering two to three times a day otherwise they wilted like crazy. Since it isn’t good to get the leaves wet during the heat of the day, during lunch I very carefully watered them with the hose on a super low setting under the leaves. I roasted in the noon sun but it saved my pumpkin plants. I did not see any bees for about a week and a half during and after the heat wave and the pumpkin started flowering in earnest once everything cooled a bit. I had to hand pollinate for about a week and we now have two pumpkins growing. Usually you don’t want more than one per vine if you want large ones but we have had such bad luck this year with pests I am probably going to pollinate one more per vine just to guarantee we get something in the fall. To hand pollinate I took a paint brush and transferred pollen from the male flowers to the female ones. The flowers on my variety of pumpkins only lasted one day so I had to go out there first thing in the morning to pollinate before anyone else had taken all of the pollen. It seemed like there was very little pollen this year. Usually I have enough to pollinate several flowers but we haven’t grown this variety before so I don’t know if it is the variety or the heat.

 

Mammoth Beets
Gigantic Beets forming.

One of the giant varieties of vegetables we are trying this year is these Mammoth Red Mangel Beets. These are traditionally used for animal feed since they get so large but I thought it would be fun to grow them. I am not a huge fan of beets but have discovered that I love eating the greens. I will definitely grow beets again next year if only for the greens. This particular variety forms the beet super slowly and has a 100 day growing period. I was really happy to see the beginnings of a beet forming on one of my plants. I am hoping to harvest one or two by the end of summer just to see how they taste. The rest I will leave until late September or so to see how large they get. Any guesses?

 

baby cucumber
Baby Cucumber on the vine.

Another plant that did well in the heat was our cucumbers. I planted these in a super shady spot that get some afternoon sun in the summer when the days are longer. I purposefully put the garden bed here in the hopes of extending some of my shade loving crops into the summer and so far it is working. My cucumbers are thriving here and I have a few small fruits on the vines. We eat a lot of cucumbers so I am hoping in a month or so there will be a bunch more and both plants will be well on their way up the trellis. The greens I planted in this bed did bolt during the heat wave but I am going to wait until the end of July and try again. I also have giant Kohlrabi in this bed and it is my first time growing that as well. I am not really sure how they are doing. A couple were eaten by slugs and one had an aphid infestation but they haven’t really grown much the past few weeks. I am going to have to do some Googling and see if there is anything else I need to do for them besides wait. I am not seeing any bulbs forming under the soil but I may need to add more dirt around the bases again.  I mounded dirt up around both my beets and kohlrabi when I planted them but some of it has washed away during watering.

 

apples
Apples growing on our tree.

Our apple tree did really well in the heat. I thought for sure we would lose some leaves or they would be burnt but I just watered it when the sun wasn’t on it and not even that much and it did fine. This area is where the water settles from the rest of the yard and I typically don’t need to water it as much. The apple tree got a lot of runoff from the sprinkler and the pool water and I really only watered it once or twice during the heat wave. We did get way fewer apples this year but that is actually a good thing because last year we had way too many and it attracted pests. I do need to go through and thin a bunch but I am still recovering from my surgery last month and limited in how much gardening I can do. Maybe I will be able to get to it next week. The few apples that we do have are larger and much healthier looking than last year. We don’t put nets over our tree but I might try it next year after the flowers have been pollinated to prevent insects from getting in there.

 

Weeds
Weedy area needing attention.

The weeds have gotten out of control in my side yards, strawberry patch and backyard. My goal the next few weeks is to spend maybe 30 minutes a day working on clearing them out. I can’t do much more than that at the moment but hopefully it will help with my recovery. I worked on the the vegetable bed last week and this week but there is so much to do in my yard I probably won’t catch up until fall. I haven’t done much trimming back of the many bushes that grow faster than the speed of light and the ones I did trim have grown about three feet since I trimmed them last March and need trimming again. I did trim the Smoke Bush pictured above after I took this picture. It had grown about five feet out into the “gravel area” that is now choked with weeds. I do want to take this bush out eventually. It grows super fast and weedy and if I remember correctly they are considered a weedy species here. I also have a rather large Butterfly bush I need to remove that is on the Noxious Weed list. I was waiting for it to bloom since the bees are struggling so much this year and they love that bush. I want to replace these non-native species with native ones over time.

 

Red Huckleberries
Red Huckleberries on our gigantic bush.

One bush I forgot to water but should have is our Red Huckleberry bush. I always water it during the hot parts of summer but this year I forgot for some reason. My son picked a bunch of berries off of it earlier this week and I guess they were good but they look super pale to me and I think they still need a couple more weeks before they ripen. The squirrels have been eating the berries though and usually that is our litmus test to see if they are ripe. I will probably water this one and keep watering it over the next few weeks since we don’t seem to be getting any rain this summer. This bush is older and well established so I am not super worried about it but if I can avoid stressing it by watering it a bit I will.

 

My goals the next few weeks are to keep our plants hydrated, weed like there’s no tomorrow and start getting beds ready for fall planting.

 

How did your plants do in the Seattle Heatwave?

Gardening Update 06.20.21

Gardening Update 06.20.21

Hello and welcome to the first gardening update of 2021! This year my goal was to expand our vegetable garden and add in more pollinator friendly plants. My usual spring garden supply budget was much larger than usual because we ended up needing a large […]

Covid – 10 Months and Counting

Covid – 10 Months and Counting

We are about 10 months into dealing with Covid and things don’t seem to be letting up any time soon. I was looking back over pictures from the year today and I was struck by how sudden everything was last Feb/March when everything shut down. […]

Gardening Update 09.05.2020

Gardening Update 09.05.2020

As the nights get cooler and the days shorter our summer 2020 garden is winding down for fall. This summer our vegetable garden stepped up a notch and I planted way more than previous years. We also had a huge pest problem with rodents, ants, slugs and pill bugs decimating some of the plants. I planted a full packet of green beans and got only one viable plant. I was very bummed about the lack of green beans this year. Fresh green beans off the vine are one of my favorites!

 

Zucchini harvest.

 

We had a bumper zucchini crop this year with so many grown that I contemplated becoming one of those gardeners that leaves baskets of zucchini on neighbor’s doorsteps and runs but seriously, we shared the wealth with relatives and the local food pantry during the height of the season and my husband became an excellent maker of zucchini fritters and muffins which everyone loves. My goal this weekend is to blanch and freeze a bunch of it and maybe try canning but honestly I am not sure if we will eat it once it has been canned. The PNW is scheduled for our annual September last gasp heat wave next week and once that is over my summer squash plants and tomatoes will be pulled to make room for fall crops. I will miss checking the zucchini plants daily with my kids to see how many we have and how big they are but we are getting just a little bit tired of eating it so it will be nice for a change.

 

 

Cabbage harvested from the garden.

 

This was our first year growing cabbage with mixed success. My Nappa cabbages were much anticipated but didn’t end up working out. All of the ones I direct sowed into the garden were munched to the base by slugs and the couple that I started indoors were crowded out and then eaten by a variety of bugs and not good to eat. We did however get a couple of nice green and red cabbages although they were pretty small. I have started some more cabbage seeds for the fall garden and hopefully they will work out better with the cooler weather. We had a massive cabbage butterfly problem at the start of the summer and my daughter and I spent weeks scraping off butterfly eggs by hand every day to keep it in check until the cabbage plants were big enough to fend them off which made me pretty sad because we love butterflies but there were literally hundreds of eggs and the cheeky butterfly in question was aggressively laying eggs while we were scraping so I am sure a few made it to the end.

 

 

Our potato harvest.

 

I should probably confess my massive impatience with our potatoes. I may have been super eager to free up some garden space and to see if our potatoes had actually grown and dug them up a little bit early. I probably should have left some of them longer so that we had some larger potatoes but overall I am pretty happy with the harvest. I wish I had measured the pounds of everything we harvested this year but that will have to go on the list for next year. Our potatoes did mediocre for how many spuds I planted. We ended up with about 20 plants and got about 3/4 of a dish pan of potatoes total. I went back through the potato beds a few weeks after our harvest and dug up about 15 more small ones. There were also quite a few starts that I left in the dirt that might sprout next year for some surprise potatoes but if they don’t I am not worried. I am formulating a better plan for potatoes next year. We need to move them to a different spot that is easier to harvest and I need to leave them in the ground much longer. I haven’t decided where to put them yet but I am definitely thinking about it!

 

 

Brussels Sprouts
Brussels Sprouts

 

Our Brussels Sprouts our growing slowly but surely. This is our first year planting these and we did have a huge slug problem with a couple of the plants but now they are growing really well and I am hoping to be able to harvest in another month or so but honestly we haven’t done these before so I am not sure when they will be ready. I may have over planted these just a little bit with 5 in a decent sized pot but I was running out of space and I really wanted to try them this year. A large part of our garden this year was experimenting to see what works and where to put plants. I am not sure if we will grow these again next year because it was a lot of work and it looks like we will only have a few meals worth of sprouts. Our space may be better off growing something more prolific but I am waiting to see how they turn out once we harvest them. If I do Brussels sprouts again next year they will be in the ground and not in pots though. It was too hard to keep them watered and they need more soil.

 

 

Pumpkin!

 

We have three pumpkins growing this year. Two of them are pie pumpkins and we got one medium sized jack-o-lantern one whose shape is pretty lopsided. I love getting a bunch of pumpkins for Halloween so we will be buying more from the store or hopefully from the local pumpkin patch if they open. I would love to grow a bunch of varieties of pumpkins but they take up a bunch of space and we just don’t have the room. Our ripest pumpkin should be ready in a couple of weeks and our kids are pretty excited about it. I am really hoping that they don’t get eaten right before I pick them since we have been watching them all summer to see how they grow.

 

 

Tomato

 

We had mixed results with tomatoes this year. I could not get my cages to fit in the pots we planted our tomatoes in so they were not very well supported and lots of branches were broken. I won’t be doing them in pots next year because the amount of watering needed was ridiculous. I had to water twice a day most days this summer and even that wasn’t always enough. We planted three varieties which were cherry, roma and beefsteak. Our cherry tomatoes are doing well and we are getting a handful every day which the middle child promptly eats. Our roma tomato plant has lots of tomatoes on it but only a couple are ripe. I have been trimming the flowers and I put a sprig of ripening cherry tomatoes over the romas to try and speed up ripening but I am not sure if they will ripen quickly enough. After our heat wave next week I am pulling all of the tomato plants and hopefully any that aren’t ripe will ripen indoors.

 

We have one sad small beefsteak tomato on our plant and I am not hopeful that it will be remotely ready in the next week. For some reason this plant did not flower until a few weeks ago even though we used the same type of soil and fertilizer as the others. It was actually the healthiest plant but only produced leaves. I am doing more research into tomatoes for next year and hopefully we will have a better crop next year. Everyone in our area struggled with tomatoes this year though so I am not surprised our crop wasn’t that great.

 

Spaghetti squash

 

Our spaghetti squash crop has been surprisingly great this year. I almost pulled the vines in late June because they simply weren’t growing but I am really glad I didn’t. I have harvested 4 or 5 good sized squash so far and there are several more on the vines that should be ready in the next couple of weeks. We also lost probably 4 or 5 smaller ones to squirrels and slugs which was pretty sad and I am harvesting the last few a little bit smaller so they do not get eaten. I had better luck with the squash that were up off the ground this year, even though in the past it wasn’t an issue, so next year I am planning on trellising these somehow. We grow spaghetti squash every year and it is one of my favorites. The variety we grow does not get that yellow color you see in the store but once the rinds are hard they can be stored for a up to a few months. I keep them on my kitchen counter so I don’t forget to eat them.

 

 

Massive sunflower.

 

By far our most impressive garden growth has been with one of the five sunflowers I got to grow this year. I planted about two packets worth but most of the seeds were eaten by squirrels and the rest that came up were chomped down by the slugs. I have a few smaller ones that were planted in the kids’ fairy gardens but only one of those will flower in time. I am not sure if our massive one is an American Giant or a Mongolian Giant sunflower since I planted both varieties but I do know that it is so tall I have to go to the neighbors yard to check the status of the flower. I am really hoping it will open soon and we will get a few seeds from it. Next year I am going to start my seeds indoors and hopefully we will get more sunflowers but this year I was late starting my seeds and magically out of sunflower seeds when I went to do my spring seeds. I ordered a bunch more seeds for next spring already in anticipation of shortages again next year.

 

 

Winter Squash

 

We are not huge fans of winter squash at our house but I ordered some buttercup squash seeds from Territorial Seeds this year to try. I was low key worried about supply chains last spring and I figured since we were expanding our garden and trying to grow new things that adding a couple of winter squash in there wouldn’t hurt. Seeds were in short supply when I ordered them in March and there weren’t a lot to choose from so I got buttercup squash since they store well and are easy to cook. They are very dense and I have accidentally picked three of them just trying to see how heavy they are. We did cook one of them a few weeks ago and it tasted like winter squash for sure so we may have some difficulty eating these. There is at least one more small one on the vine and this variety is supposed to produce four to five squash per vine that are about four pounds each. I did weigh our largest one and it was about 3.5 pounds which is pretty good. These plants did not appreciate our wet spring and early summer and a large number of the first fruits they put out rotted on the vine. I am going to have to plant these away from the summer squash next year and farther apart so that water on the plants dries faster and to prevent rotting.

 

 

Apple tree crop.

 

We are going to have a decent amount of apples this year mostly because I did not thin them enough. We have a tree from Costco that produces several varieties of apples and it looks like the Fujis are the most prolific this year. I am not really sure when they all will be ripe but we have been harvesting a few and picking up the windfalls and so far I would say we have picked about 5 pounds of apples and there are still lots more on the tree. I am making applesauce out of some of them this weekend and maybe fruit leather. We are having an issue with our apple tree leaning heavily to one side and I have been researching ways to fix it. We cleared out all of the bushes that surrounded the tree and we are going to try staking it to the house as well as doing a meticulous trim of the branches after all of the apples have been harvested this fall. I cut it back every year but it grows so fast that I can’t really keep up. I am going to work on the shape of our tree and thin the apples much better next year so that the tree isn’t so overloaded.

 

We have had a great time gardening this summer and it has really broken up the monotony of being stuck at home. It has been a great bonding experience with my kids and we have loved eating food that we have grown! My fall seeds have been started indoors including cauliflower, cabbage, onions, kale, and broccoli so I am eager to get those in the ground in a few more weeks. Look for an update after our fall seeds are in the ground and happy gardening!

 

Helpful links with no affiliation, just things we enjoy:

 

Seattle Urban Farm 

 

Territorial Seed

 

Buttercup Squash Recipes

 

June Gardening Update

 

 

 

Gardening Update 6.14.2020

Gardening Update 6.14.2020

This year is the first one in a while I have been excited about my garden. Working from home for the past few months due to the Corona virus has greatly reduced my commute time from 3-4 hours a day to nothing and this means […]

Victoria Part 1: Butchart Gardens

Victoria Part 1: Butchart Gardens

This past June as soon as school got out we took a weekend trip up to Victoria, B.C. with the younger kids. One of our goals this year is to increase our travel and since Victoria is so close to us we decided to take […]

Garden Update 06.08.19

Garden Update 06.08.19

It has been a while since I have done a gardening update so I though I would take a few pictures and talk a little bit about them. Our family has been super busy with travel, kids, work and the frequent birthday parties that happen this time of year so not much gardening has been going on. I have made an effort to do some weeding and mulch some areas of the garden but time is limited and the garden is still rough around more than a few edges.

 

Faded Peony

Our Peonies came up beautifully this year. They seem to be recovering from their accidental stomping the first spring we lived in our house. We bought our house in the fall and a large number of dormant plants popped up during our first spring that we had no idea were there. This particular plant was stepped on as it first started emerging while we were digging our asparagus beds. Last year it had one blossom and this year there are several which are very beautiful! We have two Peony plants and honestly even the second year one of them was so damaged I didn’t really see it until much later in the season. Strangely one only one of our Peonies is blooming and almost done. The other has several blooms ready to pop, and even the bees are trying to get inside but they have not opened yet and it has been a couple of weeks. It is pretty interesting how these plants are probably about 20 feet away from each other but they each have their own micro climate and are blooming at different times.

 

Strawberries

Our strawberries are coming along nicely. We planted one of these Alpine Strawberries we inherited from the neighbors a couple of years ago and now we have several plants along with many, many June bearing plants that have all taken over one area of our garden. These tiny tart strawberries were our son’s favorite last year and the only fresh fruit he would eat. So far this year he has not been as interested but hopefully he will come around eventually!

 

Gigantic bush with white flowers.

Our gigantic bush that shades our front door is blooming beautifully this year. In the afternoons it is buzzing with the hum of dozens of bees.

 

 

I finally got around to planting annuals in our gigantic pot. It is really heavy and under the cover of the roof so every year I plant annuals in it since watering can be tricky. I also filled most of the pot up with Plastic milk bottles before I added soil to cut down on the soil used and to keep the pot from getting too heavy.

 

 

We did official fairy gardens this year for both kids. My daughter had only a couple of hens and chicks left in her pot and some of her fairies were broken so we added a couple more to her pot, some more hens and chicks (a girl after my own heart) and some annuals. I like to do annuals in the kids’ fairy gardens because they love choosing plants every year. Since we use smallish pots there isn’t a lot of room but it is nice for the kids to have a little piece of their own gardens.

 

 

My son got to make his own fairy garden this year. He was too young the first year and last year we never got around to it so he was very excited. He picked out mostly pink and red flowers and they look really good. He also picked the red gnome because he looked like Santa Clause which was really cute.

 

 

I bought some vegetables for the kids to plant as well. They picked out some squash, snow peas and cantaloupe which is tricky to grow in the PNW. I fully intended to plant them immediately but when I got home I discovered that my garden beds are missing quite a bit of dirt and are at best half way full. I am going to get more soil this weekend so I can get these in the ground before I forget.

 

 

I should probably show you a few of my weeds that popped up despite the mulch I laid down. Next fall my goal is to lay down cardboard and mulch and try to keep the weeds in check for next year.

 

 

Most of the gardening I have gotten to has been in the front yard. This picture is of my side yard…there is supposed to be a path through there but clearly it is super tiny and mostly non-existent. This area was way over planted by the previous owners and is prone to weeds, despite mulching and regular weeding. I have taken out about half the plants but everything that is there overcrowds. At some point I will probably take out everything on the right hand side but I am hesitant since a lot of those plants bloom later in the year and they feed our resident hummingbirds and healthy bee population.

 

Despite my lack of time to garden ours is flourishing. How is your garden going this year?

 

The Dreaded Lay-off…

The Dreaded Lay-off…

A little bit ago I was laid off from the job I started last spring. It was very sudden and shocking to me but the job was not going that great and if I had not had the most dreadfully awful week I probably would […]