Welcome to the end of April when our garden starts to take off. We have been celebrating the emergence of our asparagus and planted many flowers and I am super excited for the summer when all of our plants start taking off. I am still […]
For 2022 we are really expanding our garden and possibly adding in some chickens later in the year. We are garden zone 8b in the Pacific Northwest located in the Seattle area. Our weather is wet a lot of the year and we have been […]
Hello spring! I am very excited for the garden this year. I have been out in it every day checking things out and seeing what is coming up. One of the beautiful things that has come out of our gardening over the past few years is the joy the kids and I have for finding the first signs of spring and delighting in the timing of new things popping up throughout the season. Every year we watch the asparagus bed like a hawk until the first few spears start coming up and it has become a right of passage into the end of the school year.
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Last fall I ordered all the things and have a very ambitious planting season ahead of me. One of the main items I ordered were five new gigantic garden beds along with this hardware cloth to put in the bottom. We live next to the woods and rodents are tunneling in all of my other garden beds so for the new ones I am going to try and keep them out. I also ordered these beds from Epic Gardening (no affiliation) and although they are very expensive they are super long lasting and excellent quality. Last year I put one of the smaller ones up and I was super happy with it. This time around I bought the tall ones in the hopes that they will help keep the rabbits out. I also bought this cloth tunnel hoping to deter the cabbage butterflies this year.
All of the kale and collards I planted last year did great over the winter despite being squashed by all the snow we had. We are still harvesting a little bit off of them even though they are starting to flower. I planted a bunch more of the winter greens mix I have in a few different areas throughout the garden. I did this last year and the slugs got most of them so this year I was a little bit more generous with my seeds. I will also do another sowing in a few weeks and twice more nearer to the end of summer. I got about a dozen nice plants from my efforts last year which is more than enough for our needs.
My garlic continues to do well although it is probably time to fertilize them. I did sneak some beets, fennel and parsnips in amongst the rows and I honestly can’t tell if they sprouted or not. Most of the seeds were planted last week so I will give it another week before planting more. I planted over a hundred cloves of garlic last fall and it looks like we will have a bumper crop this year. One of the reasons I had to buy more beds is there is not enough room in my current beds to plant what I have before the garlic gets harvested. I am hoping to take out some grass for next year so I will have more room.
My rhubarb still seems small and I am not sure why. I planted this last spring and it immediately died from something, I think maybe a dog or a rabbit or something, I can’t remember. I was surprised when it came back over the summer. I will probably fertilize this as well and make sure it gets enough water this year. Hopefully it will continue to grow and maybe next year I will be able to harvest it. We haven’t grown rhubarb before so if you have any tricks let me know.
Both of my rosemary bushes are doing poorly this year and I think it is due to the large amount of snow followed by the deep freeze we had over the winter. The brown areas are still pliable and may recover but I am concerned about how they will do next year if we have another year of massive snow. We got about a foot over the course of a week this winter which is highly unusual for our area. I will try fertilizing these as well and keep them well watered. We have had a very damp winter and spring so far so I have not been watering them since our soil is very saturated this year but I will keep an eye out for when things start to dry up.
Some of my baby pea plants are coming up as well. I am going to put covers on these in the hopes that the slugs will leave them alone and plant more this week. I bought some trellising for my pea, cucumber and squash plants this year and hopefully I will be able to extend my harvest with some strategic shade.
I know it doesn’t look like much but the kids and I are working on clearing out a large area down the south side of the house to put all of our large garden beds in. I am going to cover this whole area with either cardboard or landscape cloth and mulch anew to keep the weeds down. This area is weedy every year and this year I am determined to keep them to a dull roar. We will be taking down some trees as well which will allow much more light into the back yard. This will also allow for some natural succession with the native “weeds” such as the stinky bob pictured here. New vegetables we are trying this year are sweet potatoes, horseradish, and tons of flowers. So far I have some seeds started and I direct sowed peas, spinach, corn (I know it is a long shot), and my winter greens mix.
Our gardening goals this year are pretty ambitious but I find such joy in it that I don’t mind. What do you have planned for your garden this year?
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For 2022 we are focusing on our grocery spending and trying to find ways to reduce it despite all of the price increases. In January we completed a pantry cleanout challenge and in February I focused on eating through the odds and ends in our […]
In January we attempted to do meal planning for the entire month and complete a pantry cleanout and eat through items in our freezer. Whew. It was a lot to keep track of and I am pretty proud of our progress. I was planning on […]
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 having sausage burgers tonight as a break. I did not have a chance to clean out another shelf from the pantry this weekend but it is ok. I ended up going to the grocery store last Sunday to do a major stockup since we were almost out of some basics and I wanted to avoid the store for the next few weeks. Omicron is weighing heavily on our minds this month and we are limiting our exposure as much as possible. That means no seeing friends, no going to the store and we are debating sending kids to school this week. Our school has done a fabulous job at preventing the spread of Covid at the school but there is always that worry in the back of your mind that maybe this time it will spread. Most of the school was tested last week and a lot of the kids were negative. Those that were positive are staying home this week so I am hoping that will keep things contained.
Last weekend I went through the pantry and pulled some items I wanted to eat through this week. Below is a list of what we had:
- Snack items: Croutons, S’mores Goldfish, lentil crackers (3 servings), chocolate graham crackers, veggie Straws (maybe a couple of cups) and Peanuts – honey roasted and regular
- Meal type items: Banza Mac and Cheese (3 packets left), 2 cans corn, 1 can carrots, oatmeal
- Dried Fruit: freeze dried Raspberries and strawberries, apple chips, dried cranberries
- Junk: M & M ‘s and a single giant marshmallow
- Fridge/freezer items: 1 Bagel, fancy chocolate, spinach bites (2 servings), veggie broth, chicken breast, ham, milk, chocolate milk and egg nog.
I wanted to take tons of pictures and videos this week of how we were using up our items but honestly I only got pictures of most of the meals. Above is what we have left from what I wanted to eat through this week and it is kind of misleading because we did eat quite a bit but there are still small amounts left in these containers. I may put them all into smaller containers today and then show what is left next weekend but my kids immediately lose interest if I move them to smaller containers and they have been snacking out of the bags all week.
- Snack items: Croutons, lentil crackers (1 serving), veggie straws (maybe a cup) and Peanuts – regular
- Meal type items: Banza Mac and Cheese (2 packets left), oatmeal (not gf)
- Dried Fruit: freeze dried Raspberries and strawberries, apple chips, dried cranberries
- Junk: All eaten of course!
- Fridge/freezer items: fancy chocolate, spinach bites (1 serving), ham (1/2 gone)
Overall I would say we did pretty well. We should eat through the spinach bites, lentil crackers, veggie straws, peanuts and more of the dried fruit this week. The croutons were a hard sell and I can’t eat them as well as the freeze dried strawberries and raspberries. Most of us are not fans of the Banza mac and cheese so I may just donate it since it doesn’t expire until March of this year. My Buy Nothing group supports a local senior center and the Banza may end up in the donation bag this month. We have other mac and cheese that the rest of us like so I am not worried about running out any time soon.
One of my favorite ways to use things up is to make veggie soup. I made a batch last weekend and we ate about half of it throughout the week and froze the rest. The broth I used is some I made in the fall with garden scraps. When I was blanching my greens to freeze I put all of the ribs from the kale, beets and chard into a pot with some onion and carrots and made a bunch of broth to freeze. This batch had a lot of beets in it so it was super sweet. I have been pairing it with a can of tomatoes to pare down the sweetness and this batch of soup was delicious! I will probably pull out some of the soup in the freezer for meals not this week but next week. I like to eat my freezer meals within a couple of months of freezing so we are constantly rotating and to reduce the possibility of finding it in the freezer years later.
We ate the soup for dinner and a few lunches with crackers and a little bit of sour cream. I only used one can of the corn in the soup but it was still a little bit sweet from the beets.
Using up our other can of corn for lunch. We are without a microwave and my son does not like corn so I put his peas in a ramekin to steam along with the corn and it worked really well! Don’t do this unless your ramekin is oven safe though. Plastic would not be a good choice.
Our kids were home last week so a lot of what we ate for lunch was cooked and not their usual sandwiches for lunch. We ate the Banza mac and cheese for lunch with the corn and I added some of the cooked chicken breast as well. The adults in our house usually don’t eat a lot of meat so this week was a bit much for me with all of the ham and the chicken breast. I had to cut way back on my meat consumption as the week went on. I wanted to point out that I cooked one standard chicken breast and it lasted for several meals for just me. Nobody else wanted to eat it. We don’t eat a lot of chicken breast at our house so my kids weren’t really into it and my husband is more vegetarian than me so he left it for me to eat. I will say however that it was really nice to have a little bit of protein readily available to throw on my meals when I needed it. I may cook one a week more regularly since I struggle to get my protein in.
Another meal we ate a lot of was oatmeal. I discovered I could cook a large pot and reheat the rest when I needed to on the stove in just a few minutes. This was super handy since I was missing my microwaved bowl in the mornings. I bought a 25lb bag of gluten-free oats from Bob’s Red Mill a couple of months ago and we have been working through it. I really want to make one of the oatmeal bakes we love but it takes a dozen eggs and I am not sure that the ones we bought at Costco last weekend will last the month if I use that many all at once. For reference, we go through one to two dozen a week since eggs are a huge source of protein for us. It is slightly silly of me though, because there is nothing stopping us from getting another five dozen from Costco when we are close to running out but I want to avoid the store as long as possible.
One meal that lasted for several days was the ham we baked on New Year’s Eve. We ate about half of it last week and will try to finish the rest this week. I did put the bone in the freezer to make broth at some point in time but I am not ready yet and I want to eat through some of what we have before I make more. We ate it with mashed potatoes and green beans or some other vegetable. It was delicious!
One meal we ate this week that has become a staple in our house is feta and tomato pasta. You basically put a bunch of tomatoes, garlic, some feta and olive oil in the oven and then stir it in with cooked pasta. It is super easy to make gluten-free and most of us love to eat it! The pasta lasts a couple of days in the fridge so it is perfect for lunches.
We pared our pasta with green beans and some steamed Kielbasa. Our selective eater will not eat pasta so they were given the Kielbasa, rice and seaweed so they could eat their “sushi” along with us. I always snag a little bit of seaweed when the kids eat it since it is so healthy and a great source of Iodine.
Wow. We ate a lot of pasta last week now that I am looking back. This week I will try to make more roasted vegetables and see what else I can come up with since one of our kids doesn’t like pasta. This broccoli cheese bake my husband made was delicious! We ate it for dinner last night and I already have it on the meal planner for tomorrow night. We are skipping a night with it tonight to avoid burnout. I am a huge fan of casseroles and I am loving that we are eating them more often.
I gathered some of the items we want to use up this week. Yesterday instead of going through another pantry shelf I went through under our bathroom sink and oh man did I throw a lot out. We had tons of stuff that expired two years ago and opened items we weren’t using up that were just old. I don’t think I have really gone through that cabinet in at least three years. I did find this dish soap that I bought for bubbles when my youngest was about two that is still good. I filled our soap dispenser by the sink with it and we will use it up as we go. I also discovered one of the pears we bought last week went bad so I am going to try and make fruit leather this afternoon. I make it with pears and whatever berries I have in the fridge and my kids love it. It is super easy to make too!
Items to use up this week:
- Fresh produce: pears, butternut squash, blackberries, broccoli, rainbow carrots
- Snack items: Croutons, lentil crackers (1 serving), veggie straws (maybe a cup) and Peanuts – regular, One bars, fruit cups
- Meal type items: oatmeal (not gf), pancake mix
- Dried Fruit: freeze dried Raspberries and strawberries, apple chips, dried cranberries
- Junk: Crumb cake mix, Halloween candy…ug
- Fridge/freezer items: Baked Alaska (freezer), fancy chocolate, spinach bites, ham, cheesy broccoli bake, tomato sauce
We started to write out this week’s meal plan as a family at dinner last night. I will probably add more in on Tuesday when I know where we are at with leftovers. The kids don’t like to commit to lunches and breakfast until usually the night before so I usually fill those in as we go. Since the adults are all working from home we usually try to eat leftovers for lunch or something fast like soup. Muffins have been requested and if I have time today I will make some of those as well. A batch usually lasts a day or two and I know you can make a bunch and freeze them but I just don’t know if gluten-free flour will hold up in the freezer as well as regular. I am almost out of my one to one Bob’s Red Mill flour and I probably only have enough for one batch of muffins right now. I did order more and hopefully it will come in the next week or two but who knows with all of the road closures around us. We do have ingredients to make our own gluten-free flour mixture so I am not super worried about running out but I like to have the pre-mixed kind on hand since it is easy.
How are you reducing your food waste? Does meal planning work for you?
This past year I realized we have fallen down a hole of eating not so healthy foods more often then we should. We totally fell off the bandwagon of both eating well and keeping our grocery costs down. The pandemic has really split our routine […]
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?
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, […]