Cross-stitching is something I picked up many years ago when I was having some health issues and forced to rest for periods of time. If you know me, I hate sitting around watching TV and I love to keep my mind/body busy so when I […]
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 […]
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 amount of soil and I bought some larger metal garden beds that are supposed to last a really long time. My wooden garden beds are starting to show their age and I am having a bug problem in that area so I was hoping that metal garden beds would solve some of that. We also cleared out a large section of bushy area from the front of our house and mulched most of the front really well. I of course don’t have before pictures of that because I didn’t take any but needless to say, it looks much better.
I must confess, I have become a bit obsessed with gardening channels on You Tube over the past several months trying to do as much research as I could. I learned quite a bit about gardening but honestly not all of it was helpful since there don’t seem to be very many gardening channels specific to the Pacific Northwest. Perhaps I will do a post with a rundown of my favorites. If you know of any good ones please comment below! We have such a unique climate here that advice from other parts of the country may not be the best fit. My house in particular is in it’s own microclimate and we seem to be two to three weeks behind many of my fellow PNW gardeners that live even just ten minutes away (or even in different parts of my neighborhood). I did however find a common theme with large numbers of people recommending these metal garden beds from Australia so I ordered two of them. I have one installed with some of my giant vegetables and some cucumber in the area in front of my house that we cleared this spring. We have not installed the other one yet but my goal is to get that done this weekend and plant onions and carrots.
I spent quite a bit of time on some rare seed sites over the fall and winter and ended up buying a few large varieties of Kohlrabi, Radishes and Beets. My favorite so far has got to be the Sakurajima Radish seeds I ordered from Japan. These Daikon radish can grow up to about 100 pounds in their native Japan but I am hoping for closer to 10 pounds. I was impatient and did not plant them at the right season though however so I will be planting more later this summer after I harvest my cauliflower to see how they do over the winter. So far they have grown quite large but I am not seeing any bulbs forming. My goal is to get them fertilized this week and maybe poke around under the soil and see if anything is forming.
Another seed I tried out were these Mammoth Red Mangel Beets. Traditionally these are used for animal feed and can get up to 40 pounds. I planted these in my new garden bed and they grew great for a few weeks before the bugs got to them. I have broken down this year and I am using some Sluggo Plus around the garden because the slugs, earwigs and piddle bugs are eating everything. I lost lots of plants this year (including most of my zucchini) to bugs so we are trying to save at least a few of them. We treated these shortly after the picture was taken and I am now seeing lots of new growth happening. I have been eating some of the greens off and on and I was pleasantly surprised by how good they are. I am not a fan of beets but I am going to try roasting them this year and I also thought it would be fun to play around with beet dye that we make from our own beets. My dad also loves pickled beets so I was thinking of maybe making those for him at some point. They have not started forming the beet part of the plant yet but I have heard that this particular variety can be slow going. I am hoping by the middle of July we will see some beet action.
Another plant I am trying for the first time is garlic. Last fall I planted a large number of cloves pretty late in the season so I was a little bit nervous about them growing but so far the ones that survived are doing well. I honestly don’t remember which varieties I bought but I did get both a soft and and hard neck variety from Territorial Seeds. I did a big no no and I did not top off the soil in my garden beds before planting so we have fertilized these beds a couple of times hopefully to make up for that oversight. I will be filling these beds this fall before my fall planting in late September. My garlic is getting closer to harvest but it will probably be mid to late July before everything is ready. I checked this morning and my scapes are starting to curl and should be done in the next week or two. I will probably pull a test garlic a week or so after we harvest the scapes to see where the plants are at. One thing I did do in these beds however is to plant some tomatoes and peppers in between the garlic. The tomatoes are doing really well but it was a pretty wet spring so my peppers are struggling a bit. I haven’t done peppers before so this year is a trial period for those as well. Next year I will put them in a different spot that gets more sun.
The plant that surprised me the most was my cauliflower. I have tried growing it before and the seedlings were devoured by slugs faster than the eye could see but this year I stuck some plants in grow bags in our sunniest spot and they did well. One of the varieties I planted was this purple one and I was pleasantly surprised one morning to discover a few heads peeking through the leaves. They are smaller than our white cauliflower so I am going to give them another week or two if the heat wave coming this weekend doesn’t send them into bolting. I am pretty excited to eat these though!
I am trying again this year to grow some sunflowers. I started a bunch in March and this beauty is the sole survivor of about 20 or 30 seeds I started indoors. It is currently about 4.5 feet tall and starting to flower. I am really hoping I got this one in the ground early enough that we will be able to harvest the seeds this year. Last year we got a gigantic bloom but the weather turned before the seeds could ripen and it just got moldy. It was super disappointing. I also had my daughter poke a bunch of sunflower seeds directly into the soil and although a few came up we currently only have one that is about 8 inches tall. Next year I am going to start a bunch more seeds in March and maybe try a different variety or two.
Keeping with the brassica theme we also started some cabbage and broccoli this spring. We had such good success with our cabbage last year that I planted a bunch of them. Unfortunately the pots were too close to our Hydrangea bush and they were shaded too much and attached viciously by a number of bugs and slugs. I spent every morning for a couple of weeks removing slugs and butterfly eggs but I could not keep up with the onslaught and many of our cabbages are very damaged and not forming heads. I did last week pull some of them out into the sunshine and treat them with a second dose of Sluggo but we really only have one head and it looks pretty buggy. I will still harvest this one and we may or may not eat it depending on what I find on the inside. I am not really sure what we will do for cabbages next year. They did much better in the spot I had them in last year where the garlic is now so I may try that again and see if it works. I am pretty sure all of our broccoli plants did not make it. The spot I put them in is completely covered by my Hydrangea bush and I may get out there this weekend and trim it a bit. Maybe I will find some broccoli plants hiding under there?
We are having mixed luck with our fruit trees this year. Currently we have an apple and a pear tree and although both flowered really well we don’t have a lot of fruit. It was a cold spring and the bees were not quite out yet when our trees flowered so I am assuming that is why. Last year our apple tree had way too many apples on it and many of them were diseased so I am hoping that with fewer apples the tree’s overall health will be better. I would like to eventually put in another pear and another apple tree but honestly I am not sure where I would have them room for them at our current house. Although we do have a lot of space, we also have a lot of ornamental plants that we inherited and only a few spots with decent light.
One of the goals for the garden this year was to reduce our insect issues and to plant some things that would lower our weeds. We have a bumper crop of weeds this year, let me tell you, even with all of the mulching and weeding I did in the spring to prevent it. I am trying to avoid spraying with chemicals and usually if I start out the season with hand weeding we can keep it in check but this year there are so many I can’t even keep on top of our garden areas. One of the biggest indicators of this was going outside about a week after we completely redid the mulch in the front garden to find a large area of new mulch covered in wind blown Stinky Bob baby plants. I also allowed the girls to plant some “native wildflowers” last year in a small area against my better judgement and I was not so surprised to discover that this year most of those plants are weedy. Unfortunately they are super close to my vegetable garden area and I am thinking I will have to pull out a bunch of soil from that area and start fresh.
I planted the Shasta Daisies above in an area near our transformer that I can’t really maintain alongside the street but definitely is a weed source for my garden. These spread and can survive with not so much water and they attract bees. I am hoping they will eventually take over that part of the garden and I won’t have to be weeding around the transformer in a couple of years. I am also hoping it will take at least 5 or 6 years for them to get close enough to the garden to become an issue. I do have a barrier of Rosemary, Lavender and some sort of bush in between that should slow their spread. Maybe I am creating bigger issues later on but honestly it can’t be any worse than what I am already pulling out daily.
Wrapping up this garden update with one of my favorite surprises in the garden this year, finding this Gerbera Daisy coming up in the pot I planted it in last year! I had no idea they would over winter and I had already replaced it with some Kale and Primroses so when I saw the little flowers poking up through the Primroses it was exciting to see. I will definitely be buying more of these to plant next year since they are some of my favorites.
What surprises have you found in your garden this year?
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. […]
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, […]
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 that after work I put on my garden clothes and take the kids outside for some sunshine. My workplace is closed for until the fall and even then they are only allowing a few people in the office and things are up in the air as far as going back to school so I have planned an ambitious vegetable garden this year.
I started out this spring with sprucing up our front garden bed. We share part of it with our neighbors and our side needed a bunch of work. Every fall/winter I am good about cutting our monster hydrangeas back so that was taken care of this year. They grow so much over the summer that if I don’t cut them they will cover most of the garden bed! In late February and early March I pruned back the sword ferns, redid the edging, weeded aggressively, pulled out a bunch of salmon berry and then mulched the whole thing with a thick coat from the stuff that has been hanging out on our driveway for far longer than I would like to admit. The mulch is not super great quality but I needed something to make it look more uniform. The front bed looks fabulous and it was so uniform at first that people were walking in it as if it was empty so our asparagus was slightly trampled this year and we did not get more than a few spears before I decided to let it grow. We have since installed a small fence where the asparagus is and I am hoping that will keep people and dogs out of it in the future.
I was a little bit late starting my seeds this year. I am not the only one upping their gardening game and many of the seeds I wanted were on backorder or were out at the first couple of places I looked. I ended up ordering from Territorial Seed Company and they took a while to get here but the quality was fabulous and we had a very successful germination rate so l ended up ordering way more seeds later on for my fall gardening. For the spring I planted Napa cabbage, two different green cabbages, a red cabbage, bush peas, pole peas, pole beans, lettuce, spinach, potatoes (from a bag in the pantry), watermelon, cucumber and several varieties of squash.
I may have planted too many potatoes. I planted a bunch early from a bag in our pantry that had started to sprout. A couple of weeks later I noticed squirrel holes all over the bed so I planted more, and some in another part of the garden. Then a couple of weeks after that I replanted more potatoes to fill in even more squirrel dug holes and planted some potatoes into the potato bags I found in the garage and we somehow ended up with about 20 plants which is way more than I wanted. I keep running out of soil so I have not been great about mounding dirt up around the potatoes but if things go ok we should have enough potatoes to last us a little bit. My kids don’t really like potatoes except when they are made a couple of ways so I may end up donating some of them to the local free pantry if we have too many.
This year I decided to put our plants into garden beds instead of directly into the ground. Our soil is not that great and I wanted to mulch around the beds to create a path and reduce the mud. In the past I planted directly into the ground with squash varieties but since we are doing more than squash this year we got some raised beds off of Amazon. We bought three total and used some landscape fabric underneath to reduce the weeds. Our older beds need a soil refresh and but I discovered that after I had done some planting so one of my plans for next fall is to add a bunch of soil and plant some cover crops for the older beds.
Over Mother’s Day weekend the family got together and planted some seed starts from the store of tomatoes, pumpkins and cantaloupe as well as the Brussels sprouts and artichokes I started in March. I should have planted the seeds I started earlier but honestly I ran out of space in my main vegetable garden and we had to buy both containers and more soil. We had some issues transplanting two of the pumpkins and the cantaloupe and as of right now our cantaloupe won’t make it and the pumpkins might recover. In order to use up more of the empty space in the tomato planters I also sprinkled some lettuce seeds in there and so far we have a few plants coming up.
One part of our garden that is thriving is the cabbage bed. I totally over planted this one with nine or ten cabbages but they are doing great. These seeds were started around the 14th of April and most of them should be ready to eat around the first week of July. This year I got smart and I wrote the day I planted them and the days to maturity from the package on the popsicle stick labels. I already have another set of seeds planted under these ones so we shall see if those do ok with the larger cabbages in there as well. If not, I plan on starting more seeds indoors with our grow light just in case although I have heard that Napa cabbage will bolt when the weather turns so I may try something else here over the heat of the summer. Cabbages are just starting to form and it is really cool to see. I have not grown cabbages before and honestly I didn’t do any research ahead of time but I view the garden as a gigantic experiment so if these don’t work out I will have a better idea for next year.
We have always had good luck with zucchini and yellow squash in our garden. This year is no exception. This bed has three zucchini plants in it as well as some bee attracting flowers. They are probably too close together but that was not a problem for us last year and we fertilized this soil so there is plenty of nutrients. Our male flowers are already blooming but I have not seen any female flowers yet. We have about 8 total squash plants so I am sure we won’t have any issues with pollination. Usually we do three or 4 plants and it has never been an issue for us. We have a really healthy bee population which helps tremendously.
We have been harvesting quite a few strawberries off of the plant I threw into a pot a couple of years ago. For some reason it does really well in the spot that it is in and has strawberries on it weeks ahead of our actual strawberry plot. I think this spot is more sunny than the other and even though the bees have been pollinating away in our main strawberry bed the berries are still super immature and won’t be ripe for another week or two.
One fun thing we tried this year was releasing ladybugs into the garden. I ordered them from Territorial Seeds a couple of weeks ago along with my fall planting seeds and some garlic starts that will ship in September. My kids were a little scared of the lady bugs at first but by the end of it they were picking them up gently and letting them crawl around for a bit before asking for the grownups to remove them. We will definitely be doing this again next year or maybe even later on this summer since we had such a good time. I would have loved to do praying mantises as well but everywhere was out so we haven’t yet. Ladybugs only stick around long enough to lay some eggs and then they move on to the next area. I am hoping in a few weeks we will have lots of little lady bug larva crawling around eating up any aphids on our plants. So far the weather in the PNW has been mostly gloomy and wet and I haven’t seen many aphids but I know that as soon as it warms up a bit we will start to see them more.
We are having a great time in the garden this year and hopefully in a few weeks we will be able to start eating most of our vegetables out of the garden instead of buying them at the store. Below are some resources for your garden with no affiliate links, just sites we have used and liked. Happy gardening!
Oscoey’s three year anniversary passed in March and as much as I wanted to write a post about it we were dealing with Covid-19 and still adjusting to working from home, teaching our kids and being home together all the time. Oscoey was something I […]
Out last post detailed the first half of our Victoria, B.C. trip last year when we went to Butchart Gardens. June was definitely a great time to go and see all of the flowers in bloom and it seemed far less crowded that it would […]
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 the plunge. Our last trip to Canada with the kids was not so great and afterwards we took a two year break from traveling. We wanted to wait until the youngest was older since he had such a difficult time on both the trips we had taken with him when he was a baby. We have received a lot of criticism for our decision to take a break from traveling when the kids were little and some people get it and others try to push the whole idea of getting kids used to traveling when they are little so it is easier when they are older but it is such a personal decision and every kid is different. Our youngest is not a good traveler and even though he has gotten way better we will probably always have to shorten or modify our plans with him to accommodate his needs. Not every kid handles travel well and in our case the change in routine, lack of “normal” foods and being confined to a car seat for long periods of time lead to a pretty disastrous trip for the kids’ first time to Canada. We are working our way up to longer trips and I am hoping to try a 5 hour flight with them at some point in the next year. My ultimate goal is international travel but I think we will probably wait to leave the continent until the kids are much older.
It was most of our first time to Victoria, B.C.. We drove across the border and took the Tsawwassen Ferry across the water to Victoria. We didn’t feel confident that we would make a 8:00 am sailing on the Port Angeles Ferry and the Tsawwassen Ferry has staggered sailing times without reservations which fit our schedule better. It was also a nice break from the drive since the ride is 90 minutes long and everyone is required to get out of their cars to go above deck. We watched a nature talk, ate some lunch and played in the kids’ play area. The kids had a lot of fun on the ferry. Although we ride the Mukilteo ferry pretty frequently it is only 15 minutes long and we almost never get out of the car. I have been riding that ferry all my life to visit relatives that lived out there and getting in and out of car seats does not always go over very well with cranky children so usually we opt to stay in the car for that one.
We got off the ferry and immediately drove to our must see spot of Butchart Gardens. We went on the last day before the price increase for the summer tourist season and saved a little bit of money. We got there at about 11:00 and it was also pretty cloudy so our first few hours there were not too crowded. It did get very busy after lunchtime and I would highly recommend going early in the day to beat the crowds. We had no problems finding parking and getting photos mostly without other people in them (see the peekaboo head in the sign picture?). Our kids don’t really like crowds so we always aim for low traffic times to avoid the inevitable meltdowns that come from over stimulation.
We love looking at gardens and I get a lot of inspiration from seeing how other people plant their flowers. There were so many ideas and great combinations of flowers that there is no way I could ever incorporate them all in my garden. I also had some guilt about how little gardening I have done this year. Time is short and adding the extra travel in has taken up some of my weekend gardening time. I don’t mind though since I am really enjoying all of the traveling we are doing. These beautiful pink flowers I took a picture of because our daughter loved them so much she wanted a picture. It was great to see her wonder and delight at all of the plants. She has been helping me quite a bit in the garden this year and I am loving how much she enjoyed the flowers, at least until the kids both got bored.
We saw quite a bit of wildlife in the gardens including this cool lizard that was just hanging out on a rock way along the staircase to the Sunken Garden. Another older girl noticed it and we spent some time looking at it before moving on to other things. We don’t really see lizards at our house so our kids were pretty excited to see something different. I bet if we hadn’t been rushed through the gardens with eager children we would have seen more of them or even a snake or two but I am glad we at least got to see one!
The gardens are part of an old quarry that was turned into an awesome display of gardening skills. There are a lot of ups and downs and fabulous vistas. My favorite part was looking out over a large vista and then walking along the path to look at the details. There were so many things to see you could probably go many times and not see it all. We are currently listening to “A Secret Garden” in the car and the Butchart Gardens kind of remind me of the story and how the gardens at the manor had so many hidden gems that came out at different times of year. I would love to look at the Butchart Gardens during different seasons to compare. We went during the height of the flower season but I wonder if the fall and winter gardens have some interesting plants as well.
There are several ponds throughout the garden and we loved looking at the water plants and how the water moved. Some of the ponds were more still and it was interesting to see how the trees on the shore cascaded over the edge. I was inspired by the use of smaller water plants along some sides of the pond to create a different effect than the larger trees and shrubs along other sides. It was cool to see how the gardeners had used light and position to create a scene with greenery.
One of my favorite fountains was the Ross Fountain. The backdrop was the quarry walls and the way the water moved against it was very pretty. The view coming up to the fountain was superb. You come out of some trees and across a gravel path and there below you is this beautiful fountain that is spraying water in many different patterns. I had a really hard time getting a human free picture of it since so many people were gathered in this area to look at it.
One of the coolest things we saw at the gardens was the owl that flew right over our heads as we were walking along the path. It then perched itself in a tree until some robins chased it off. I am pretty sure it was trying to have a baby robin snack but it looked like the robins were successful in scaring it away without harm. My kids loved seeing the owl. They still remembered the one we saw outside our deck a few months ago and since this was the same type of owl it was pretty exciting.
After we walked the gardens a bit we stopped at the cafe to have lunch and look at the boar statue out front. This statue was very amusing apparently, especially when my daughter decided to stick her finger up it’s nose (lots of tourists laughed…). The food was pretty good and I found a lot of gluten-free options as well as options for our picky kids. We spent some time in the gift shop as well but it was mostly full of kitschy stuff that we would never use. There was tons of tea, garden statues, toys for kids and flower seeds from the garden itself. I was pretty tempted to buy some flower seeds but I have not had time to garden much this year and I did not have a place to plant them so they did not come home with us. We generally don’t buy a lot of souvenirs from places we go but this trip we did buy each of the kids something. Our daughter picked out a thick super soft sweatshirt that she loves and wears all the time and our son picked out a ferry toy with a couple of cars that he plays with quite a bit. Mr. Oscoey and I usually get a picture frame with the name of the city we visited and put a picture of us from the trip but we didn’t really have time to look for one on our trip this time around and honestly we don’t miss it.
After lunch the sun came out and the gardens got crowded. We went straight to the rose gardens but we had a hard time walking around there were so many people and everyone got annoyed if you stopped for even a second to take a picture so we didn’t spend as much time there as we would have liked. The paths are pretty narrow and there were so many people we were a little bit worried about our son running off and getting lost since he was tired and having a hard time staying with us. After the rose garden we headed off to the Japanese gardens to briefly check things out. It was shaded there and a little bit cooler but our kids were tired so we decided to head out.
On our way out we were inspired by this well manicured hedge. You can’t see it in the picture but it went off at an angle which looked incredibly difficult to accomplish. Maybe when we are retired we can create a hedge with an angle in it just because it is cool!
On the way out of the gardens you walk through the Italian gardens where we happened to get some Gelato to eat in the hot sun. The Gelato was delicious and the Italian gardens were beautiful so it was a great stop on our way out. It was interesting to see that the colors in the Italian garden were much louder and stood out with the large amount of concrete. Although there were bright colors throughout the gardens for some reason the contrast was higher in the Italian gardens and it was very beautiful to see.
One of the last things we looked at on our way out was Mrs. Butchart’s private garden. It was very neat and orderly with straight lines. I loved that they still keep it separate from public access just like when she was alive. There is a small window in the gate you can look through but that is it. I don’t think you can even see the whole garden which adds to the air of mystery.
We had a great time at Butchart Gardens and I definitely want to go back. I may even plan to go at the same time every year with the kids since the flowers were so beautiful and we saved quite a bit of money going before the summer price increase. Stay tuned for my next post about the rest of our Victoria trip! I couldn’t restrain myself with garden pictures so it was too large to fit into one post!
If you go:
I really love the idea of small changes over time adding up to huge improvements later on in life. When we first started our journey towards better financial health way back during the 2008 financial crisis we made many small changes that reduced our spending, raised […]