This Week in My Garden: August 19, 2015

In the middle of this heat wave, it's hard to imagine that summer is almost over. But here in Vermont, it is. One of these days, we'll wake up to a cool 50 degree morning and put on jackets to walk the dog or bring the garbage cans out to the curb, and we'll put on jackets again the next day and the day after that, and eventually we'll realize it's Fall. Our light jackets will get replaced with fleece ones on the coat hooks, and we'll try to get a handle on all the leaves. We'll put the garden to bed - if we're on top of things. The threat of snow will give us a sense of urgency.

But for now, it's still summer. There are two fans going in the bedroom, and we're avoiding turning on the oven. Every day, I pick a new tomato or five. I sort through the giant bush of pole bean plants to find a few ripe beans here and there. Though it's silly and most likely too late, I'm hopeful that the tiny little cantaloupe on the vine will grow big enough to eat in these last weeks.   

My fighting spirit has been replaced with resignation, and I just swat away the Japanese Beetles. I suspect there will be no brussels sprouts since the cabbage worms bested me. I've run out of Sluggo and haven't bought a new one. 

After a summer of pulling weeds and fighting off pests, I'm just hauling in the harvest and preparing to say goodbye to my daily walks through these beds. Before long they'll be covered in snow, and I'll dream again of next summer and the beautiful garden I'll create.

p.s. Tomato Pie - if you've got tomatoes coming out of your ears

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24-Hour Refrigerator Pickled Sugar Snap Peas

The sugar snap peas in our garden are growing like weeds, which is saying something because the weeds are a little bit out of control over here. 

I was feeling so excited and proud of myself for deciding to plant an entire bed of that candy-like vegetable. 

Until I ate one. 

They're not good! I mean, they're edible. But the shell is tough, almost like they're shelling peas instead of sugar snaps. But I checked the package of seeds, and they are most definitely Sugar Daddy Snap Peas, meant to be eaten whole. 

We're getting peas from our farm share right now as well, and the difference is extreme. When I bite into a farm share sugar snap, it's crisp and juicy. When I bite into one of ours? Well, first off, they feel hard and almost hollow, and then when I take a bite, it's like that first time I ate edamame - when I thought you ate the whole thing and had to suffer through chewing that fibrous shell. Oh, and they're definitely ready to be picked - it's not an issue of picking too soon.

The only thing I can imagine is that the Burpee seeds (from their organic line) we got this year (as opposed to the High Mowing seeds last year) were just not very good. 

Insert huge sad face.  

I was - still am - feeling super disappointed about it, but I had come across Natalie Freeman's recipe for refrigerator pickled sugar snap peas some time before and been intrigued. I thought I'd try it out and see if it made the peas more edible. 

So this weekend, I picked a whole heap of them, made the brine from salt, vinegar, and honey, poured it over the trimmed peas and a little garlic and red pepper flakes, and put them in the refrigerator to do their thing.

I almost couldn't wait the 24 hours. But when I took them out the next day...



They're delicious! I want to pickle everything! Refrigerator pickling is so fast and easy, and I'm going to have a lifelong devotion to Natalie for showing me that I can use honey in place of refined sugar with great results. 

It didn't 100% fix the peas - there is still a little toughness in them. But they'll continue to soften in the brine, and this way they're at least easier to chew! And they have a great flavor. 

I'll definitely be making more batches as I pick the rest, and I'm going to start thinking about what else I can pickle. 

Check out Natalie's recipe, and let me know if you try it!


p.s. Try this simple tomato and hearts of palm salad this week.


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This Week in My Garden: June 25, 2015

My hosta wrote me a love letter. I gasped out loud when I saw the flowers, totally unexpected on my morning walk a couple days ago. I walk straight through the yard these days, rather than up the driveway and onto the street, so that I can quickly peruse the garden and then check on the blueberries and raspberries before we head out. I almost passed right by the hosta without noticing because I was looking to the right, worrying over my zucchini. 

Thank goodness I turned my head. A well-timed flower sighting can make my day. 

The garden is a little weird right now, with some things growing beautifully and others suffering for reasons I can't figure out. 

On the positive side: My hosta, of course. The sugar snap peas are flowering. There are tomatoes on almost every one of my tomato plants. That has never happened by this time of the year, and I am delighted. My green beans are making slow and steady progress. The pattypan and delicata squash seem happy as can be. Aside from being chomped by bunnies, several of the brussels sprouts are looking big and luscious. I'm harvesting a few radishes every few days.

On the negative side: The zucchini and cucumbers are just....sad looking. Some of the leaves are turning brown and some of them have a sort of speckled appearance, almost like they just couldn't get quite green enough. My eggplant and spinach are growing so slowly. The eggplant has only made a few new leaves since I put them in the ground over a month ago, and the spinach still look like small sprouts even though it's been at least two weeks. The radishes are very, very tiny. Also, should I be worried about these yellowing leaves at the bottom of a few tomato plants? And how did I end up with so many little rocks in my soil?

Always a learning experience. I haven't gotten as much time out there in the last couple weeks, and I miss my lazy weeding. Here's hoping I can add a little more garden time in the coming days. 

p.s. Our garden, two years ago this week.

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This Week in My Garden: June 18, 2015

Things are happening!! I came out one day last week to find teeny tiny little cherry tomatoes, the green bean sprouts shot up, we got a wee radish, and overnight the zucchini plants blossomed. It all makes my heart go pitter patter. The joy of that new fruit on the stem is worth all the headaches with rabbits and slugs. 

The zucchini plants actually have me concerned because their leaves have not done that well, so all four of them look pretty anemic. I can't imagine how the little bit of sun they'll be able to take in will support those new blossoms. I pinched the flower off one plant to do a little experiment and see how it does in comparison to the other three. The growing season is short, so things do need to flower quickly, but this just seems awfully early for the size of the plants. 

Sometimes I think I'd like being a farmer, spending the days tending my fields, but I know I'm glamorizing it. If the slugs bug me now, imagine if they were destroying my livelihood. 

No, I think I'll stick to my little homesteading garden. It suits me just fine.

p.s. Four ingredient vegan chocolate frosting.

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This Week in My Garden: June 11, 2015

If you ever want to give yourself a lesson in patience and releasing control, plant a garden. Boy, do I struggle with patience. Especially now that everything is in the ground, and I'm seeing growth. I want to see pea pods! I want little cherry tomatoes! I want vegetables now!

And I want to control it all perfectly (and get gardening "right").

As you can see, we're still battling the slugs - they're getting to some of the pole bean seedlings so fast that I never even see the leaves. And now rabbits. I'm continuing to use Sluggo for the slugs, and I put down one application of Liquid Fence to try to deter the rabbits. I'm not sure yet whether it's working. There were definitely some chunks taken out of things the day after I put it down, but the eating has let up a bit since then.

The copious amount of rain we've received in the last week has been great for the pattypan squash and delicata squash. I'm not so sure about the canteloupe or the zucchini, which has some ominous brown spots. And two of our cherry tomato plants have taken off. We might just get some good tomato action for the first time ever!

If my previous years' gardens are any indication of how this year will go, some of the plants won't work out. But some of them will exceed our expectations. It's still all trial and error.

I also did a little non-vegetable gardening this weekend and put some hostas into the garden bed in front of our house. I expanded the size and changed the shape of this bed last summer using wood chips from some dead trees we had cut down in our yard (you might've noticed the wood chip pile in some of my photos). My hope is to one day fill it with lots of shade-loving plants and extend it around the side of our house, but I'm totally intimidated and overwhelmed by actual landscaping. I don't have a great eye for it, and I know nothing about flowers or shrubs or anything non-vegetable. So I'm taking tiny steps.

I hated the squat little evergreen bushes that were in there before, so I switched them out for some hostas that I'm told will expand beautifully. The plants already there are daffodils and, I think, irises. My suspicion is that some of them never bloom because they don't get enough sun. I'm hoping to eventually put in some hydrangeas, maybe a small tree at the edge that gets sun, and lots of other pretty shade plants.

I have to keep reminding myself that we've only been here two years, and I don't have to do it all right away.  (As with everything else in life!)

Tell me what's going on in your garden. Harvesting the fruits of your labor yet? Dealing with pests? If you're blogging about it, leave a link to your blog in the comments so I can read up!


The Seasons of Life

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This Week in My Garden: June 4, 2015

The garden has made me a murderer. 

The slugs are on my basil and my eggplant already, teeny tiny baby ones chewing dozens of little holes in each leaf. 

I like slugs. Snails too. Their slow, seemingly magical movement fascinates me. And around here, they're often small enough to fall into cute territory, at least for me. So I'm not super excited about killing them. But I know what happens when I let my ambivalence take over - plants so obliterated that they don't even have enough green left to soak up the sun. 

I tried the humane method last year, going out each night and picking off each slug and moving them to another part of the yard. The next night, along with dozens of new holes, there would be dozens of new slugs. Or the same ones, back again?

I finally realized that either we were going to get the basil (and the kale and the sugar snap peas) or the snails were. There were so many of them that there just weren't enough green leaves to go around. So I put out little containers of beer, finding a sad few drowned in the morning. But there were still more. Still holes. So I tried cornmeal, which they shunned. 

At this point, my basil plants were hardly plants anymore. More like stems with fragile green lace hanging off them. I headed to the garden store and begged for help, which is how I came home with Slugg. I sprinkled it on the ground around the plants, and it did the dirty work while I slept. 

As long as I reapplied every week or so, the snails were gone. 

Of course, gone is a bit of a euphemism. They were dead. I sent a contract killer to do my bidding, too cowardly (or worse, too busy) to do my own murdering. 

I sprinkled this year's first batch this week after picking off five or six slugs no bigger than grains of rice. Around the basil and the eggplants and the sugar snap peas. If I keep it up, I won't even know they were ever there. Perhaps they'll stop coming at all, signaling somehow to each other that it's a dangerous place. 

I hope so, at least - that there aren't dozens of them sliding to the slaughter each night. 

I'll think of them as I pluck off that first sweet sugar snap pea, the fruits of my labor. And my ruthlessness.

p.s. Previous weeks in my garden: May 28th, May 21st, May 14th, May 7th

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This Week in My Garden: May 28, 2015

This time of year, I want to rename my blog ktgrew and focus entirely on the garden. Not only does it take a lot of time and energy, but I want to be out there constantly. I love the quiet, meditative work of weeding, and my favorite thing to do when I get home from work is to walk among the beds, checking on each little plant to see what changes they've made. 

I finally have everything in the ground, though I may end up needing to plant more flowers if I want something to grow there. That bed is not looking promising, which doesn't surprise me since I had my doubts from the beginning

But everything else is in there, at the very least in seed form underground. 

And of course, I bought more plants and more seeds. I've now added spinach, pattypan squash, and delicata squash to the mix. 

The one unpleasant piece of the garden right now (aside from the mosquitos) is watering. I bought two soaker hoses to attach to each other and run throughout the garden, connecting to our regular garden hose. I spent a few hours setting that up last week and then finished over the weekend, turned the water on, and... meh. The beds closer to the beginning of the line were getting doused, but the beds at the end of the soaker hose got almost nothing. That was pretty disappointing, but I think the system was too long and winding, so I took it apart. Now I'm only using the side that waters the tomatoes and the squash plants, since addressing squash mold was the reason we put in the soaker hose (and the black plastic) in the first place. I haven't decided whether I'll use the other soaker hose for the other beds - it's not quite long enough to get everything. 

And now I've gotten the hose nozzle stuck and can't get it off. I spent 20 minutes yesterday trying to twist it, putting gloves on and twisting, using a wrench. It's not coming off. I think it's threaded incorrectly because water is squirting out the bottom as well. So until I can fix that, I can't use the soaker hose at all!

I'm trying to chalk it up to learning experiences. And it helps that I love it so much. I'm willing to forgive a lot of hassle for the joy of walking outside and picking vegetables from my own front yard. 

p.s. I can't believe how early I got started this year compared to a couple years ago

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This Week in My Garden: May 21, 2015

 Not out of the woods yet! 

Man, these New England temperature drops are rough. I don't think it ended up dipping below 38 degrees last night, but I pulled things into the garage and covered plants that were already in the ground just in case. And they're warning of frost for Friday night. I'm getting quite good at this moving the plants in-moving the plants out business. 

I'm about ready to throw up a greenhouse in our front yard.  

The garden is such a hodge podge this year. Some plants from seed, some starts from Gardener's Supply, some from Jericho Settlers Farm, some from Red Wagon Plants. And we don't even have everything in the ground yet. 

Jericho Settlers is a small farm about 5 miles from us, and I stopped by there Sunday for their annual plant sale. $38 later, I left with 5 tomato plants (2 slicers, 3 roma-style), 3 eggplant plants, and 4 zucchini plants. 

Then yesterday outside the grocery store, someone from Red Wagon Plants was putting out their seedlings and I chatted with him a bit about the beautiful day and our garden. He asked me if I needed a tray, and I said I didn't because I was just grabbing a pot or two. We chatted some more while I grabbed a rosemary plant, and then a dill plant, and then a basil plant, and then another basil plant. And then, as I juggled 4 pots in my arms, we laughed, and he gave me a tray and I added another basil plant and an oregano plant. I just can't help myself with the plants!

As you can see, I've begun putting in our soaker hose, which will hopefully help out with happier plants and no squash mold. And I planted three rows of radishes and some wildflowers this week. I'm skeptical about the wildflowers. The back of the package told me to sprinkle them across the growing area and then "rake them in," which I did. But I can't see that working super well. 

What's left to do? Put down black plastic for the squash and melon plants (also, buy those or put in the seeds - haven't decided yet), finish the soaker hose, plant the green beans, put the new herbs in the ground, plant the cucumbers, and plant some more flowers.

Oh, and address the little grass infestation we have here. 

But we're getting close to having everything in the ground, and I'm feeling that excitement from seeing new growth, even while I rush plants in and out of the garage. 

I'll be sharing our garden progress every Thursday during this growing season. I'd love to hear what's happening in your garden, and if you write about it, please share a link to your blog in the comments!

p.s. Previous weeks: May 14, May 7

p.s.s. I've never grown oregano before and don't use it much in my cooking, but it looked so pretty. If you have a way you love to use oregano, please share!

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This Week in My Garden: May 14, 2015

Even though I had to move the cherry tomatoes into the garage last night because of a frost warning, we're getting going here! I got all the rest of the beds prepared last weekend - a ton of work, but such high reward.

After talking more about what we wanted and getting feedback from you guys, some of my colleagues, and the people at the local garden supply store, we made a few little changes to our garden plan - adding in eggplant, cucumbers, brussels sprouts, and radishes and moving our herb location. We spread the brussels sprouts out because they take up so much space. Also, this gives us an opportunity to do a little experimenting and see which bed works best for them.

The good news at the garden store is that lots of people lost their herbs over the winter. Not good for them, of course, but it let me know that we probably didn't do something wrong with the chives, rosemary, and thyme - it was just a crazy cold season.

We only put in those plants that are hearty enough to withstand the last lingering frosts - the brussels sprouts, chives, and thyme (we'll be adding rosemary too, but I got sidetracked and left the garden store without it) - and the cherry tomatoes because I can move them in and out of the garage. With the sugar snap pea plants finally sprouting after several days of heavy rain, I'm ready to get more seeds and starts into the ground. I thought I'd get more seeds in the ground this week, but with lots of late nights at work, it was all I could do to snap these pics with my iphone on a Jammer walk.

We're planning to get a little fancier this year too. On the recommendation of Jess in last week's comments, we bought a soaker hose to use in the beds to limit the possibility of squash mold and help conserve water. We haven't installed it yet, and I'm considering returning it and buying a different kind. The one we bought has evenly spaced holes throughout, and I want to get one where you can cut it to specific lengths and mix in regular garden hose so that we don't end up watering the ground in between the beds.

We'll also be using black plastic with our melon plants, a suggestion from one of my colleagues. The plastic helps heat the soil and retain moisture, both major issues for melons.

And on the other side of the yard, the raspberry bushes that we put in last year look about as healthy as a plant could be!

I'm curious what's going on in your garden. Share in the comments, and leave a link to your blog if you're writing about it!

p.s. Last week in my garden

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This Week in My Garden: May 7, 2015

And so it begins. 

There's nothing particularly inspiring about the garden right now, except that there are sugar snap seeds in the ground and a trellis to support them once they're growing. 

Aside from those little guys, things are looking...rough. 

The first snow last winter surprised us, and we didn't get the garden (or our yard, for that matter) cleaned up. So I'm making my way through the beds, pulling out the old dead plants and piles of leaves and pine needles and putting in topsoil and compost. 

The weather is unusually hot right now - at least the highs (80s), so we'd probably be fine putting everything in the ground. But it still feels early, and I'm waiting for that last cold snap. The peas are hearty and the one thing I absolutely knew we'd be planting because I could probably eat a whole garden's worth by myself. 

Because we belong to a CSA and get a farm share during the summer, we've been factoring that in to what we'll grow - aka things we wouldn't mind having a ton of (from the CSA + from our garden) or things that we really want to preserve for winter. And we're also conscious of not overwhelming ourselves, which has happened to some extent for the last two years. We get busy with work and let the kale get mauled by slugs or the basil get devoured by Japanese Beetles. So we're trying to be realistic. Hence a full bed of wildflowers just for the prettiness factor. 

Here's the plan: 

As you can see, we still have some holes to fill. 

We're continuing with a few things that haven't worked out in the past in the hopes that changing position in the bed to get more sun might help (tomatoes, zucchini, melons). The last two years I've ended up with pounds of green tomatoes in September, and while I love green tomato salsa,  I'm really looking for some red ones to cook with and preserve. We got a squash mold last year on our melons, zucchini, and delicata squash that took them out completely. I think we got two tiny zucchini and 2 delicatas. I'll be on the lookout for that this year and watering in the morning instead of the evening so that the plants have a chance to dry out during the day.

Cucumbers aren't on the plot right now. I'm on the fence. We had such a tough time with them last year, I think because of lack of pollination. 

Our chives haven't come up, which is making me nervous because I think they usually have by now. And I'm afraid that the thyme and rosemary didn't overwinter successfully. I keep checking every day, but still no sign of life. 

What you can't see here are our blueberry bushes and raspberry bushes on the other side of the yard. We planted the raspberry bushes last year and got a nice small crop. 

I can't wait for the days when I come home from work and walk through the beds with a big bowl, picking off the ripe fruits and veggies to bring inside. I still think it's a miracle.  

Link to your garden posts if you have one, or tell me what's happening this week in your garden in the comments. 

p.s. Our 2013 garden

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This Week in My Garden :: August 26

It's cool now when we wake up, and I don't go out for my morning walk without a fleece or a sweatshirt.  I worry about when we'll get the first frost, but I'm hoping it's still a ways off since I've got a dozen or more green tomatoes on the vines and a cucumber patch that still has lots of producing to do.

I'm terrible at keeping up with the weeding.  And the harvesting, to be honest.  The tomatoes are easy because I see them flaming red on the vine and run out all excited.  But I've let some good kale leaves get devoured by slugs and Japanese beetles before picking them.

We harvested the garlic too late - neither of us knew exactly when that should be, and when I finally looked it up on the internet, we learned it should've been a week earlier.  As a result, the cloves won't keep as long.  They've lost some of their protective wrapping - the many layers that hold them all together.  The bulk of them will be stored in jars of vinegar in the fridge.  I've been told this won't dramatically change their flavor - it'll make them a little less potent but still good for cooking with.

You might notice that there's no longer a fence around the beds.  My dad was kind enough to dismantle the whole thing while he was visiting a few weeks ago.  (We've stored all the pieces for later use.)  Some folks weren't sure whether we should be taking it down, but I'm glad I stuck with my gut.  I always thought it looked a little weird because it was such a tiny little fenced area in a big yard, and I love the more open look now that it's gone.  We haven't had any issues with animals yet (knock on wood), and the fence would've only kept out deer, not rabbits or other smaller things.  But if we start seeing sizes of animals chomping in there, we'll throw up a temporary chicken wire fence that we can take down once winter begins.  

It's been a season of experimenting.  The okra didn't really turn out - either because the bed wasn't getting enough sun or they plants got too wet during June and July.  We're not sure.  Our peppers weren't a great success either.  But we've got some good tomatoes coming in - the San Marzanos are doing the best right now.  And I'm anxiously awaiting the burst of cherry tomato deliciousness when the dozens on the vine turn red.  The romas have been hanging green on the vine for what seems like forever, and just today I saw a hint of color forming on one of them.  The same with the Early Girls.  So far I don't have enough for the grand tomato pickling adventure I'd imagined, but I'm hoping to make a little salsa or sauce with the four San Marzanos I picked last week.

The cucumbers are sneaky.  If you don't do a thorough scan under all the big leaves, you can miss them.  But I've got enough now to make some refrigerator pickles - using dill and garlic from the garden.

In the kitchen with bounty from our own soil feels like the place to be now that there's that crispness in the air, that hint of fall, a few leaves already changing colors.  My desire to nest and putter and "put food by" feels almost primitive, like I'm carrying out a biological plan.  And perhaps I am.  Though thank goodness we get to count this season of gardening as an experiment, and I don't have to try to feed my family through the winter on a couple jars of refrigerator pickles and some frozen tomatoes.

What's going on in your garden this week?

This Week in My Garden :: July 5

Well, watering the garden has certainly been of no concern this year.  My daily fear is that I'll come home from work and the whole thing will have washed away.  I have a new appreciation for the hard work of a farmer whose livelihood is dependent on something as fickle as the weather.  The progress of my tiny little garden ties my stomach is knots.

I keep reminding myself that this is our first year with this garden - and my first year gardening at all! - and that it's a learning year.  We'll see what works and what doesn't, which beds are super soggy and which are dry.  And we'll be grateful for any bounty that makes it onto our plates and into our bellies.  I've already used garlic scapes and chives (thank you previous owners!) in several dishes.  And I made my favorite salad dressing with some of our dill this week.

The cucumber seeds that I planted weren't washed away by the flooding last week, and there are adorable little cucumber seedlings sprouting up now.  Sadly, the flower seeds were washed away, but that felt less important to me than the cucumbers.

After these rains, I've been going in and picking off slugs.  Tons of them on everything.  I need to put out some more beer, and I've been using the cayenne pepper solution for Japanese beetles on my basil plants that Jess recommended in the comments to my last garden update.  The combination of things seems to be working.

Several weekends ago, my mom helped me weed it, and I cleaned out the beds that were overgrown from last year, so things are looking a bit more presentable.  Obviously the most important part of the garden! ;)

What's happening in your garden?

This Week in My Garden :: June 21

 I've never had a garden before - not even really a container garden.  While I've always wanted to and thought it would be fun to grown my own food, I didn't expect the feeling of contentment I'd get from walking among the plants, rubbing their leaves between my fingers - the simple joy of grabbing a bit of soil to see whether tonight I'll water them or whether the rain from a couple days before was enough.  Walking among the beds, I feel grounded.

It's a good thing because there's still a lot of work to be done.  Most of the plants are coming along fine.  We lost one okra plant - it just didn't root.  The big issue now is the basil.  We think it's slugs, and I put out a jar with cornmeal in it to attract them and (as much as I love slugs) kill them before they completely destroy our hopes of a freezer filled with pesto.

And of course, as those who've gardened before know well, I can hardly keep ahead of the weeding.  Even with the few beds we have going, I'm shocked at how fast they spring up.  It doesn't help, I'm sure, that the area between the beds is overrun with weeds.  I'd like to take care of all of those, but the task feels pretty daunting at the moment. So I'm sticking with what's in the beds for now.

Speaking of which, there are still three beds that haven't been prepared - that have been completely overtaken by weeds.

And this weekend, I've got to take a shovel to those.  We still have cucumber seeds and wildflower seeds to plant, and I've gotta get the new basil seedlings in the ground.  I'm hoping I'm not too late with those seeds, but we'll just have to see.  Who doesn't love cucumbers at the end of August?

The chives are blooming gorgeously, and I look for every reason to throw them into whatever I'm cooking.  Eventually I suppose I'll have to figure out how to preserve them because there are certainly more than we'll ever eat.  For now, they're a huge hit with the butterflies and bees.

The blueberry bushes across the lawn from the garden are making precious little berries.  I cannot wait to walk out into the front yard and pick blueberries - cannot wait.  I have to get some flash tape to tie on the bushes so that the birds don't get them before we do.

And the garlic scapes are very near being ready to eat, which I'm super excited for.

I'm so grateful that the previous homeowners planted the garlic, the blueberry bushes, and the chives so that we'd have something ready for harvesting while I wait with baited breath for the rest of our bounty to mature.

What's in your garden?

The Garden's In!

We finally got a break in all the rain on Sunday.  It's supposed to start up again, but we just needed that one day to finally finish getting our plants in the ground.  We filled two and a half beds last weekend but realized that we hadn't prepared enough beds for all the plants we'd bought.  I meant to do it several nights after work, but the rain kept us inside.

So on Sunday, while Navah mowed, I dug up all the weeds and added compost to another bed.  Into that one went four kale plants, one dill plant, one rosemary, two parsley, and two marigolds for pest control.  So while we wanted to keep the garden small this year and not fill all seven beds the previous homeowners put in, we're now at 4 beds (including 1/2 bed filled with the chives and garlic they planted).  And we bought three packs of seeds that we'll hope to direct sow this week - one of pickling cucumbers and two of wildflowers.  Of course, that means another bed to be cleared, which is the most difficult part of the whole process.

Gardening tires me out in a way I'm not used to - working all sorts of muscles that are usually somewhat dormant.  But I know when I cut into a tomato grown in our own front yard, I'll be so happy that we put in the work.

Here are the numbers for what's in the ground:

1 dill
1 mint (in a pot)
1 thyme
1 rosemary
2 cherry tomatoes
3 canning tomato varieties (similar to roma)
4 parsley
4 basil
4 okra
4 bell peppers (of various colors)
8 Red Russian Kale
12 marigolds

All the outdoor activity has meant that we're not unpacking and getting settled in as fast as we would've liked.  I keep reminding myself that last time we moved - into our apartment in Burlington - I wasn't working and my mom was visiting for the first several days and helped us unpack a ton.  Even then, there was one room that didn't get unpacked for weeks.  It all takes time, and we'll be in this home for many years.  There will be plenty of time for painting and organizing furniture and putting art on the walls.  It doesn't all have to happen right now.

What's in your garden??

The Great Outdoors

One of the key selling points for our new house - aside from the perfect location between mine and Navah's jobs, the house itself, and the cute town - was the one acre of land that came with it.  When we put in our bid on the house, the ground was covered in snow.  It was a beautiful, woodsy location, but that was all we knew.  A nice portion of it was clearly lawn, but there's a fair amount that is woods with a tiny little stream.

So we've been excited to walk around on the property, get out with the lawn mower, and start buying some plant starts for the raised beds the previous owners put in.  Nothing's in the ground yet - well, aside from the garlic they planted last fall and a whole mess of chives.  I spent a couple hours this weekend preparing a few of the beds while Navah mowed the lawn, but we opted to hold off on putting the plants in since there were bad thunderstorms (including hail) in the forecast and lows in the freezing temperatures this week.  So the beds are ready, but the plants are waiting until a little later this week to go into the ground.  You can see them doing some sunning on the back deck up there - 3 tomato plants, 1 cherry tomato, 4 peppers, 1 okra, 2 kale, 3 basil, 1 dill, 1 lemongrass, 1 lemon verbena (oh, the glorious smell!), 2 marigolds (for pest prevention), 1 rosemary, 1 thyme, and 1 mint.  We're going back for a few more things, but we got totally overwhelmed in the garden store and had to just stop where we were!

Jammer's beside himself with excitement over the new space.  In the three years we've had him, we've never had a yard for him to play in.  We don't have a fence yet (the one in photos is just around the garden and we'll likely be changing out for a more basic chicken-wire fence), but he gets to go outside when we're outside.  When he's done sniffing (very big job!), he likes to find a soft place to relax - even if that's in a garden bed.

Of course, it hasn't been all fun and games.  As with any new house purchase, there are some surprises.  When we got several days of torrential downpours last week, our lawn quickly developed an impromptu "pond" - not to be confused with an actual boggy little pond at the end of a stream where our property borders our neighbor's.

At the closing, the previous owners had mentioned that the area on one side of the driveway sometimes flooded and that they'd put in a drain to help with that.  We looked around the day we moved, but the grass was high and we were tired, and we figured we'd find it another day.  Bad new homeowners.  The rain started before we got back out there, and it was clear nothing was draining.  Once the rain stopped, we tromped around in rain boots to try to find the drain with no luck.

Finally, the "pond" began to shrink, and I found the drain - completely clogged with pine needles.  We've cleared it off and hopefully it'll help in the next big rain storm.

Even with the pond issue, I'm so loving it here.  I loved digging in the ground (even while being traumatized by all the spiders crawling out from under the dead leaves) and walking around our yard talking about what we might plant where, watching the birds, and imagining friends and family visiting.      

Mostly, I'm feeling incredibly blessed that we found such a wonderful place to make our home.