Garden

springith hath sprungith

Thanks everyone for the advice and encouragement after my last post!  Abby has spent two nights in her crib (still swaddled) and seems to be doing well.  The first night she slept from 9-6 (wow!) and last night from 9-3.   I think the biggest thing I learned from ya’ll is that change is the only constant (like most things in life).   Which is a tough pill to swallow, but oh-so-true. 

But enough about me and my baby drama…let’s talk about something fresh and new and pretty!

Last fall I planted a few things around our yard hoping to reap the benefits this spring.  I don’t have much of a green thumb so I was slightly nervous about seeing anything this spring. 

But reap I did. 

Remember when I planted this little bedding area by our fence?

It’s an itty-bitty area, but I was able to squeeze in two peonies and about 10 tulips.  The hop plant has been there for a few years and are the bane of my existence.  Sorry Hubs, I know you like them.   But they really are pain in the arse.  They’re just too unorganized and crazy for my liking. 

Anyways, I was pleasantly surprised to find this come spring:

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TWO peonies popping up,

TEN tulips raring to go,

And ONE crazy ass hops plant nearly to the top of the fence already.  (Seriously people….if it’s already to the top of the fence, we are in for some crazy ass vines this year!)

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I know the peonies are kind of hard to see….but they’re rockin’ too (the picture below is probably best for seeing them)!  In fact, it’s about time I purchased a couple of tomato cages for them.   My sister recommended using them since the blooms are often too heavy for the stems. 

I will surely be back with an update once these guys bloom.  I love nothing more than a peony!

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Oh!  And let us not forget the garlic I planted last October! 

Remember?

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I’m happy to report that it too is chugging right along. 

The plan here is to let them grow until early July – then they’re ready for the picking. 

I’m a little bummed that of the eight cloves I planted, only five came up.  But that’s ok…I’ll just know to plant a few more this fall. 

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Isn’t it wonderful when things go according to plan?  I sure think so.  

And aren’t these tulips ah-maz-ing? 

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Did anyone else do any successful fall planting?

think spring!

Since I haven’t been able to write much (ok, at all) these past two months, you can imagine how delighted I was to find a guest post in my email inbox from my sister!

I haven’t forgotten about ya’ll, I promise.  I’m just taking some time to enjoy my little girl and adjust to our new lives together.   It’s amazing how fast the days fly by anymore.   Abby is doing great and growing like a little weed…don’t worry, her chubby cheeks haven’t gone anywhere yet.

So, for now, and with the promise of spring just around the corner…please enjoy this guest post from my sister Erin!   And she knows what she’s talking about folks…with a degree in Horticulture and owner of a landscape design business…this chica knows her stuff. 

Hello to all the loyal readers of Janna’s blog. It’s me again, Janna’s big sister, stopping by with a guest post. I bet you’re hoping for an update on baby Abigail, and as her Auntie, I’m here to tell you she’s pretty much perfect and absolutely adorable! However, today’s post is supposed to get you thinking about spring. Correction, I’m guessing that you’re already thinking about spring, so this post will hopefully get you ready to be a creative gardener.

You might remember Janna’s series of posts last spring on the Square Foot Garden that she and the Hubs researched, constructed, planted, tended to, watered and loved into successI had fun watching their garden grow and I learned a lot about the SFG technique. I know lots of you probably have your own wonderful garden to tend to, but some of you, like me, don’t have a big space to grow salad fixin’s. Enter the container garden.

I’m here to show you that containers are not just for pretty flowers, although I DO love pretty flowers, and they can be used to grow all sorts of goodies, especially if you get creative with your containers. Last summer I grew a variety of vegetables and herbs in containers throughout my yard. I mixed these containers in with my flower pots and it not only looked great, but it worked! Take a look below but please note that the photos were taken in June so some of the plants are still small (especially the basil…it was waiting for some summer heat!)

This is my ‘kitchen garden’ pot that sits right outside the side door to my kitchen. It has chives (that overwinter outside in the same pot), parsley, and basil.

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Here is a collection of containers; the wire basket is lined with a coir mat (available at most garden supply stores) that holds the soil in. The basket has snap peas climbing a bamboo tripod and red leaf lettuce around the base. The medium pot has spearmint growing for mojito night! Mint is an aggressive spreader so I recommend planting it in a large pot, ta-da problem solved! And the small pot has a sad looking basil plant that did eventually come to life and get larger!

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A strawberry pot has pockets up and down the sides and is perfect for growing strawberry plants. You can rotate the pot so that the sun exposure is even and you don’t have to worry about strawberry runners taking over your garden. I bought strawberry starts at the farmer’s market and planted a cilantro plant in the top. YUM.

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Here is another creative container. I had to beg, and I mean BEG my husband to keep this old fashioned claw foot bath tub for our yard. I attempted to do a quick spray paint job on the outside, which needs to be touched up, and I still don’t think he was happy about it, but look at how many things I can grow in here! We’ve got romaine lettuce, a cucumber plant, and three different types of tomatoes growing. I like the ‘Sweet 100’ cherry tomatoes, the’ Yellow Pear’ cherry tomato (looks just like it sounds), and we tried the ‘Early Girl’ standard tomato. All three produced, although the cucumber plant didn’t have quite as much luck.

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I also couldn’t resist sharing a photo from two summers ago, when my little farmer was helping with the tomatoes in the tub.

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The last photo is showing that you can incorporate garden and flowers in a group. I’ve got an old copper trough filled with green leaf lettuce as the backdrop, along with 2 pots of flowers. There’s a pink calibrachoa and a purple dahlia alongside. I think the green leaf lettuce really makes the pink and purple stand out. Fun.

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So there you go. If you don’t have a SFG or a big garden plot, start looking around your house and garage for containers that you can convert into garden pots. Be sure all your containers have drainage holes in the bottom (you might have to get out the drill) and put a 1” layer of rocks or gravel on the bottom before you add soil. Get creative with color and texture and see what you can come up with! Happy Spring!

Happy Spring indeed!  Doesn’t her edible container garden look amazing?   And how awesome to just “step ouside” and snip some chives for your eggs, or mint for your mojito.  I can’t wait to see what Erin plants this year with her little helper.  Thanks so much for the post sissy!

Garlic! nom nom nom

Do you love garlic as much as I do?  

Unless you’re my Dad I’m guessing you said “Yes!”

We go through a lot of garlic in this house….typically adding it to recipes that didn’t call for it, roasting it or making our own garlic bread.   There’s just nothing quite as delicious as garlic if you ask me.

And remember waaaaay back in April when we started our Square Foot Garden?  One of the items we really wanted to plant was garlic…until we found out it’s a winter crop.  Wop wop.  I guess you plant it around Halloween and harvest it around the 4th of July. 

So here we are…still coming down from our Halloween sugar high and dangerously close to the first snowfall in Montana.  Which means it’s garlic planting time!

This is seriously the easiest thing I’ve ever done.  First, I patted myself on the back for saving some of my favorite Farmers Market garlic.  Next, I removed the remaining cloves from the bulb.

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With that, I headed out to the garden and laughed at the fact that (1) I haven’t harvested my beets yet and (2) there was indeed some snow on the ground.   Good thing I didn’t wait much longer.

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From here it was a piece of cake (ooo, cake). 

Just till up the soil a bit (especially if any of the top soil is frozen) and poke several deep holes in it for your cloves.   I just guessed on how many to plant per square foot.  Four seemed appropriate. 

Make sure you plant the clove with the pointed end up.

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Simple, right? 

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I planted six cloves total, so hopefully that will yield six bulbs next summer.   In fact, they should start peaking up through the soil about the same time as my peonies and tulips.  I’ll keep you posted!

You could also plant some cloves in a container if you’re dying to try this and don’t have a garden bed. 

Oh, and don’t worry.  While I was out there I finally pulled up my beets too.  The snow didn’t seem to affect them too much, except that the greens were starting to wilt.

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I can’t remember what this variety is called, but they are red and white striped instead of just the typical solid red color.  Pretty neato, eh?

I plan on roasting them with some sweet potatoes and squash.  Mmmm.  Can’t wait!

Are any of you planting any fall crops?

More importantly, who’s in for some roasted garlic, crusty bread, cheese and wine (glorious wine!) at our house next summer??

The waiting is the hardest part

Doesn’t that title just make you wanna sing?  “Oh baby don’t it feel like heaven right now, Don’t it feel like somethin’ from a dream….”

No?  Doesn’t everybody have a secret greasy crush on Tom Petty?  Oh.  Um, me either.   But there IS something about his voice that just makes me happy.   In fact, a few of his songs would be in my all-time-favorite list if anyone ever asked.   Yes, perhaps I do have a greasy crush on Tom Petty.  Let’s keep that on the down low mmmkay?

Don’t worry, this post isn’t entirely about Tom.  But it is about another love in my life.

A very important one. 

Be still my beating heart.

Yes, I’m in love with the peony and just about any kind of tulip.

I don’t know what it is about the peony that has me so infatuated.  The delicate petals?  The beautiful fragrance?  The ruffled edges?  The fact that they come in just about every shade of pink? 

Perhaps it’s all of those. 

The Tulip fascination is easier to pinpoint.  I’m pretty sure I love them because they remind me of my mom.  She had planted tulips at the house I grew up in and loved to watch them peek through the snow in the spring.  They’re the first colors to emerge after the cold winter and are a sign of the passing of the seasons.  I just love them. 

Now, the Hubs would think it’s ridiculous to love flowers.  “They just die” is what he always says.  Well yeah, they die.  But they are so beautiful while they’re here…how can you ignore that?! 

And ignore it I won’t. 

This past spring I got two surprises:

1.  A peony-starter from my aunt for my birthday

2.  A care package from my sister containing a bunch of fun items and a note reading:  “This fall expect a peony rhizome and 10 pink tulip bulbs to arrive!”  I was quite excited because while I’ve always loved both of these flowers I’ve never owned any of my own to grow and enjoy.   Last month they arrived on my doorstep and I went to work finding them a home. 

Now, if you’ve been around here awhile, you know our yard is a work in progress.  It’s pretty bare bones right now with zero landscaping.  Zero landscaping = not a lot of places to plant stuff (at least until our Master Plan is complete!  Right Hubs?) 

The options for planting these were:

  • Dig out a flower bed
  • Plant in pots
  • Plant in the garden
  • Get my arse in gear and dig out some sod in the front of the house.  There’s a small strip of grass between the sidewalk to our front door and our house that I’ve been meaning to dig out for quite some time and plant bushes, flowers, etc.  My sister even drew up a plan for me that I just haven’t gotten around to doing yet!
  • Find someplace in the yard that would be suitable

After a few weeks of trying to decide what the best option was, I came up with this:

  • Dig out a flower bed.  No.  This would mean I’d have to jump ahead in our Master Plan and put in some perimeter beds (by our fence).  I was NOT ready to take this on.  Dude.  I’m six months pregnant.
  • Plant in pots.  Probably not the best idea.  I read online that peonies don’t transplant well after being planted the first time.
  • Plant in the garden.  I think the Hubs would kill me if I used valuable garden space for flowers.  Our garden is small enough as it is!
  • Get my arse in gear and dig out some sod in the front of the house.  There’s a small strip of grass between the sidewalk to our front door and our house that I’ve been meaning to dig out for quite some time and plant bushes, flowers, etc.  My sister even drew up a plan for me that I just haven’t gotten around to doing yet!  Um.  See six-month pregnant comment above.
  • Find someplace in the yard that would be suitable. Sold.

Earlier this spring I had cleared out some sod around our Hop plants to give them room to grow.  I also planted some strawberries at the base of them (which were aweeeeeeesome!).   What I didn’t realize about strawberries is that they are an insane weed that will take over everything.  So I decided to transplant the strawberries and use that space for some flowers.

If all goes well, the flowers will be bloomed and gone by the time the Hops really take off (because those suckers can get pretty crazy on their own).

Again, I forgot to take before pictures.  I know!  Bad blogger.   I think I’m just so focused on trying to get shit done these days that the blog comes second.  Or third.  Or sometimes isn’t even on my radar.  Gasp.

Anyways, so here’s the location after I’ve (1) cut down the Hops for the season and (2) transplanted the strawberries to a container.

Perfect right?  Big enough for the task, and small enough that prego won’t die in the process. 

First things first:  I needed to get some edging around the bed so grass wouldn’t take it over.  Apparently grass is extremely aggressive (kinda like strawberries) and will grow wherever it wants to.  Which is why edging is so important.  Unless of course you LIKE having to deal with that every spring and fall. 

Something tells me I won’t have time to deal with anything next spring.  Probably my next 18 springs.

So edging it was.

I wish I could remember the name of this stuff.  It was so easy to use!  You just clipped the plastic where you wanted it to bend (for a corner) and staked it into the ground.  Sooooo much better than that cheap rolled-up plastic edging. 

Next of course you need some wead guard.  Again, do you have time to be pulling weeds?  I don’t.

It was easy just to lay some weed fabric down under the edging and then stake it down.

Now, before I put my mulch on, I decided I better get those bulbs in the ground.  No pictures of that, sorry.  But all I did was cut the weed fabric with a gardening shear, dig down in the dirt, placed the bulb inside and replaced the dirt (with some compost mixed in). 

Easy schmeasy.

Here’s what she looked like after everything was planted.

And after the mulch was added:

Pretty awesome right?  And just in case you’re wondering where everything ended up:

The numbers represent the tulip bulbs.

I’m pretty impressed that I got this done, but I think it’s part of the whole pregnancy thing.  You literally feel like you’ll have time for NOTHING else once baby arrives.  So if that means planting bulbs, fixing up a messy flower bed, cleaning out every single closet you own, redecorating your living room or whatever.   I’m doing it.  

I’ll keep you posted this spring as the snow melts and the first shades of green start to peek out.  Even though I love winter and can’t wait for snow…I’m pretty darn excited to have these flowers to look forward to in the spring.  

And as my greasy crush would say:     the waaaaaaaaaiting is the hardest part!

Potato, Potahto

No matter how you say it, I’m happy to report that our potato towers were a success!    And we’re pretty impressed.

Let’s revisit the process, shall we?  (you can read about the whole process here).

First, we built these potato towers because our small garden wasn’t conducive to planting them normally.

 

Next, we secured them a spot in our yard (after consulting the master plan of course).

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Finally, we added some fresh compost to the bottom of the towers and placed our starter spuds:

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The idea is to have the potatoes grow UP. So to do this, you cover the starters with some more soil, then straw.

Once you see the potato stems poking through the straw, add more.  Continue adding straw until the tower is full.  Hopefully by early fall your towers look something like this:

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No, these aren’t ours.  But for the life of me I can’t find my “progress pics” that I snapped.   You get the idea.  Ours didn’t look quite as good because we ran out of straw about 3/4 way up the tower. 

And truthfully I think we both kind of ran out of garden-gusto, so we called it good.

Now for the fun part though:  harvest time!

We read that you shouldn’t harvest potatoes until mid-to-late fall after the vines have died back.  Here’s what our towers looked like after letting all the foliage die down for a while:

I would be lying if I didn’t say I was a wee bit skeptical at this point.   But when The Hubs dug down into the straw (um, yeah, like I would do that!  There are a million daddy-long-legs that live in there!) he pulled out one of these:

And then another, and another and another!

We got so excited we dug out all of the russets, all of the reds and all of our carrots too. 

Sah-weet!!  Check out the size of those carrots and red potatoes!

After a little bit of cleaning, here’s what the harvest looked like:

The russet potatoes didn’t get quite as big as the reds.  I’m not sure if the starter we picked wasn’t meant for this growing region…if we didn’t let them go long enough….or what.  But the reds are awesome!  Check out the size of some of these….

Needless to say, we’re pretty stoked. 

We were also pleasantly surprised with the size of our carrots.  We had heard that carrots might not get very big due to the size of our garden (it’s only about six inches deep (twss)).  And while not every carrot is huge, I think we got a good range of big’uns and little’uns. 

All-in-all, we’re happy.   We will definitely be planting the towers again next year and maybe trying a different kind of russets.  Just to see if we can’t get some bigger ones (The Hubs likes to make stew out of ’em, so bigger would probably be better).  But we’ll definitely keep the reds going again because they seemed to do great.

A few things we learned:

  • Potatos like lots of water.  Water them often!
  • Buy more straw than you think you’ll need.  When you run out mid-season you’re not always motivated to go find more.  And I think our results would have been even better if we could have filled the entire tower with it. 
  • The potatoes aren’t actually growing throughout the tower like we thought they would.  From the beginning we thought the potatoes would be dispersed throughout the straw…but we actually found that all of them were at the bottom of the tower.  Most were even down in the dirt, so The Hubs had to dig around a little bit to find them.  I’ve never planted potatoes in the ground before, but it seems like the towers aren’t saving you much other than some vine-organization.  But I’m ok with that.  I certainly don’t want potato vines running rampant in our yard.  So maybe it’s worth it for organization-sake.  Or maybe burying potatoes is a lot more work than just digging around in the top inch of soil or so….anyone know?

We’re pretty excited about all these taters.  In fact we’ve got some dutch oven stew on the menu soon.  Stay tuned!

Reaping what we sow

Don’t worry, this isn’t a post about some weird karma stuff…it’s literally about reaping what we sowed.  And reap we did!

It’s already time for the first harvest from our garden and we were soooooo excited.  Our lettuce and spinach had grown just enough to provide a couple of tasty salads with dinner.  Plus, if we didn’t get some of those bigger leaves out-of-the-way it would have stifled the growth of new ones.  So we skipped out to the garden with some kitchen shears and a colander in hand (ok, I was the only one who skipped).

Someone was too excited to get a before pic, so here’s an action shot of us harvesting our first leaves of spinach. 

We’re still learning how much to harvest at once, but most of the leaves we left were substantially smaller than the ones we cut.  We probably could have used some of these too….but we had all we needed for that night so we decided to let these continue to grow.

Our bounty:

Next we moved to our lettuce square and topped off the colander with what was ready:

Once inside I washed everything with Biokleen’s Produce Wash:

Have you guys used this stuff?!  It removes pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, waxes and soil from produce (or any food preparation area).  I love using this on produce I bring home from the grocery store, but figured it couldn’t hurt to use it on my own produce.  Who knows what has been crawling on my lettuce?  Probably a fly that has been island-hopping to-and-from every dog turd in the park next to us.   I wasn’t taking any chances, no matter how organic my lettuce may be. 

After that it was a simple matter of concocting our salads.  On the menu for dinner was home-grown salad (with tomato, avocado and sunflower seeds), wild rice and trout (that my father-in-law caught on Georgetown Lake). 

Everything was delicious but the salad seemed especially delectable that night.  Why is it that things just taste better when you’ve grown it yourself?   As if you can taste each an every ounce of effort you put into building, prepping, planting the garden….and then nurturing each seed as it grows.   I mean, that counts for something, right?   I’m positive I wouldn’t be posting and raving about a bag of spinach I bought at the store. 

So for now…we are basking in the glory of our first garden success, and counting down the days for the next harvest. 

P.S.  I need to post a picture of our tater plants soon….they have gone crazy!!

First, the good news…

This past weekend beau-ti-ful in Missoula (or so I hear….I was out-of-town working).  So how do I know?  Plants don’t lie.  And look what I came home to…

That’s right people.  Those are our potatoes TOTALLY GROWING.  I could pee my pants I’m so excited.  What’s that you say?  You want a close up?  Ok…

Awesome right?!  If you missed the whole background on these potato towers, you can read about them here.    Remember we don’t put anymore dirt on top…just straw.  So I promptly found our bag ‘o straw and loaded them up. 

Confession:  there was a big black ugly spider on the bag ‘o straw so I screamed bloody murder and waited for the Hubs to get home and told him to do it.  Like any rational person would.  

Now we just wait to see more of the green stuff popping up through here.  I tell you what, I feel like a real farmer Jane here.  I know, I know….these are small potatoes (har har) compared to most people (take for example our friends Mitch and Jenn, whose garden is about 20 times as big as ours.   They are like professionals).  But we are excited nonetheless.  Remember I’m the girl who can’t keep a house plant alive, so this is kind of a big deal.

So let’s check in on the garden, eh?

I know.  You’re totally impressed now.  Yes that is spinach growing like a mad man and YES those are sprouts popping up all over the place.  We are totally stoked!

But with successes come failures.  And I’m keeping it real with all of you…so it’s only fair you hear about those too.  Remember these little lovelies I planted awhile back? 

They no longer exist.  They died on me maybe two days later.  Wop wop.  Ironically they were called the “Hello Gorgeous” mix….when they should really be called “Hello I’m going to die if you transplant me” mix.   Oh well.  You can’t win them all, eh?  So if you look in my garden pic above you’ll see that some pansies and lobelia have taken their place….and are doing very well thankyouverymuch.  Proving it:

And the Hello Gorgeous failure isn’t the only one to speak of.  I’m pretty sure my cucumber is on the outs….

She’s not lookin so hot, is she?  I figure we’ll give her a couple more days and if things don’t turn around….we’ll give ‘er the ax.  Heck, I’m sure there’s something else I can plant in that square foot that will flourish.  Times a wasting and I don’t have time for things that want to die on me. 

Those are my two biggest failures so far.  I’m sure there will be more…but for now I’m kinda just digging that our potatoes are growing.  Finally.  And everything else seems to be doing well too…so we might just get a salad or two from our own backyard this year!   If we want more than that, I suppose we’ll just have to steal it from Mitch and Jenn use our potatoes to barter with friends for some squash or something.