Autumn Color At Minerva’s Garden

I walked around the garden yesterday and took a few pictures.  It is getting later and colder in the year, and yet we still have a lot of flowers in bloom.  I’ll show you what I mean, starting with light colors and working toward deeper hues:

Viburnum in October

Fuschia in October

I love these white flowers with just a flush of light pink–so pretty.  Now here are some in slighter deeper shades:

Glossy Abelia with pink blooms and 'Lochinch' butterfly bush in October

Pink hollyhock in October

I like the pink and grey colors together.  Now a little more color saturation and moving into the yellows, golds and oranges:

Nasturtiums and dahlias in October

Yellow hollyhock in October

And a little comic relief:

Forsythia in October--what?

The forsythia decided it must be March, and shot out a few blossoms!  I’ll take ’em whenever I can get ’em!

Okay, back to business.  Some yellow to gold tones in evergreen foliage:

'Rheingold' dwarf evergreen conifer in October


Another gold dwarf evergreen conifer in October


And some yellow to gold deciduous leaf color:

Chinese Witch Hazel 'Arnold Promise' starting to turn yellow in October


Pergola covered with golden 'Einset' grape leaves in October


Now moving into some cooler shades–sometimes there are plants that combine warm and cool colors in fruit and foliage, such as:

Beauty berry in October

The beautyberry is surrounded by winter jasmine foliage.

This next vine has finally matured enough to really come into its own.  I speak of:

Ampelopsis vine with turquoise and purple berries in October


Ampelopsis in a different light

I am so in love with this vine–I adore turquoise and purple in a plant!  The only other one that I know of that combines these two colors as well, but not in bloom at the moment, is:

Cerinthe major 'Purpurescense'

I love this plant so much, and so do the hummingbirds!  This was taken in May, if I remember correctly.

Anyway, back to October color.  As long as we’ve introduced cooler colors, here is:

Ceratostigma plumbago in October

I am sorry this picture does not do this plant justice, because it is so beautiful now.  I love the deep burgundy stems, dark green leaves with a touch of burgundy around the edges, and then these wonderful deep blue flowers.  Here is another shot:

Dward plumbago in October

This was a hard plant to get situated properly in my garden–I ended up moving it three or four times until I finally put it here on the walkway toward the kitchen door.  It now seems to be happy.

More purple:

Morning glory and verbena bonariensis in October


Clematis 'Haku Oakan' reblooming in October


And onto the sprightly shades of orange-red and red:

Hybrid tea rose 'Camelot' buds in October


Hibiscus 'Sweet Caroline' blooming away in October


Jupiter's Beard in October--a hummingbird favorite! The golden marjoram and daylily foliage in the background help to set off these red flower clusters.


Zinnias 'State Fair Mix' with raspberries in the background in October

And even deeper red:

Blueberry 'Herbert' with striking red foliage in October


 I love how blueberry plants look this time of year–such gorgeous color.  Now on to some of the deepest shades in the garden:


Red raspberries and dark purple/black Aronia berries in October


A few red raspberries and those amazing Aronia berries.  I also love the foliage of this shrub–every day causes it to turn more red and orange–beautiful!

I could see color combinations from the flower garden and fruit garden being used indoors at this time of year–imagine deep purples and scarlets for a dramatic Thanksgiving table, for example.  Possibilities are endless–just get creative and find the inspiration that is all around you!

What is blooming for you now, and are you still eating from your garden?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments!


Hibiscus, Morning Glory and Tomatillos–Oh, My!

End of lovely September, and with it has come some wonderful flowers and produce from the garden:

Hibiscus 'Sweet Caroline'

Meet ‘Sweet Caroline,’ a very pretty, late-blooming hibiscus.  This plant is around four and a half-feet tall, and the flowers are huge–bigger than the size of my spread palm!  I love this bright flower–it makes me happy when I walk outside and see it.

Another September pretty:

Morning Glory 'Heavenly Blue'

My favorite morning glory, a variety called ‘Heavenly Blue.’  That shade of blue is just right–and I love how it looks with the waves of purple Verbena bonariensis below it, and one sprightly orange nasturtium, ala Van Gogh, for a pop of contrasting color to set everything off.  Nature planted the nasturtium there for me, but I had the common sense to leave well enough alone!

In between rain storms today, I ran out and picked these:


I love tomatillos.  I planted two plants, so that they would cross-polinate each other, and the result was that I got much larger tomatillos than I did last year with just one plant.  However, they did not produce as heavily as last year–was it the cooler summer temperatures, was it the particular variety of plant–who knows?  All I know is that they got turned into a great salsa verde, inspired by a recipe by chef Rick Bayliss.  It gets heated up in a pan, and sliced greens are added so that they wilt, and into that goes some shredded cooked chicken.  This is a wonderful taco filling, which we are having for dinner tonight.  I also spent time today making a big batch of homegrown tomato salsa, which will go into the freezer, and I snacked on a few fall-bearing raspberries while I was out and about in the garden–have to keep up your strength, ya’know.

I hope you are enjoying your garden right now–let me know what’s growing and producing well for you now at the end of September.  And visit the Garden Party.

The garden fairy says goodbye.

Garden Fairy fond farewell!


I Can’t Get Started With You–Growing Vegetables in the Pacific Northwest, August 2011 Edition

A little mid-summer update for the vegetables I’ve been growing.  As anyone living in the Pacific Northwest knows, this summer has been just as cold as last summer, and the result is that all the warm-season vegetables are very late to ripen this year, as they were last year.  I hope this is not a trend, but it may be (thanks, global climate change–I was hoping we’d turn into Napa Valley here . . .)  Anyway, as I mentioned in this earlier post on Guerilla Gardening, I’m growing a lot of my heat-lovers under hoops and plastic this year.  It helps to raise the night-time temperatures a little bit, which is what the problem is.  Cold nights are not good, because the vegetables mature and ripen at night, so you want higher night-time temperatures for crops to ripen earlier.  This we have not had here at all, and thus the plastic.

Here are the tomatoes:

These are tomato plants in cages under plastic taken earlier in June.  Here they are now:

Those babies have really taken off, and barely fit under plastic anymore.  A veritable jungle of tomato vines . . . but

Green ‘Costoluto Genovese’ tomatoes, and  . . .

yet more green tomatoes–I’ve got green tomatoes as far as the eye can see, and no red and ripe ones yet.  Soon, hopefully.

On to the pumpkin and squash:

The first baby ‘Rouge Vif d’Entemps’ pumpkin, also known as Cinderella pumpkin.  They start out this pretty shade of yellow and deepen to orange as they mature.  They are wonderful for eating, but most of the time I use them for decorating in the autumn months. 

And now a grouping of vegetables:

At the bottom are ‘Mesa Queen’ acorn squash flowers, and above are fava beans, corn and the last of the peas.  (I can’t believe I still have peas–normally they are done in by mid-July here.)   I am just barely seeing some tassels forming on the corn, but the peas have been going strong since July.

I think the fava beans are quite interesting plants to look at.  Here are the flowers from earlier this season:

Other vegetable plants in the garden:

These are ‘Royal Burgundy’ bush beans (curious name, because they are decidedly purple to me).  I’ve grown these for three years and they always produce a good crop, even under these cold growing conditions.  They are just at the picking and eating stage.

I’m also growing:

‘Scarlet Emperor’ runner beans.  I love the flowers and the beans on this pretty hummingbird plant.  Here’s more of a close-up:

Runner bean flowers, with some picasette garden art thrown in the rear of the photo.

Cucumbers have been problematic both this and last year.  Just like last year, I had to restart seeds three times before they would germinate–it was just too darn wet and cold for them earlier.  And it’s still realy cold for them, because they like it to be 60 degrees at night for them to ripen, and not once has it been that warm here.  Nevertheless, they grow on apace under plastic:

Here are the cukes tucked into bed for the night, and . . .

Here they are uncovered.  It needs to be 60 degrees at night for them to ripen, and thus my problem.  However, I am optimistically growing ‘Green Slam’, an early (ha) ripening slicing cuke, along with a new hybrid called ‘Rocky’, and some ‘Harmonie’ pickling cukes.  The ‘Harmonie’ cukes are the largest so far, but only a couple of inches long, and there are lots of flowers still on the vines.  We may have some cukes come September, who knows.

Some crops thrive in cooler weather:

These are beets that I use for beet greens in salads and for sauteeing.  The green leaves are ‘Chioggia’ beets, and the red leaves are ‘Bull’s Blood’ beets.  Both grow quite well here.

One success story is in the fruit department.  In my area and at my house, the berries have been tremendous this season.  We u-picked strawberries–39 pounds–which I made into freezer preserves and individually quick froze, and blueberries–35 pounds–that I preserved in the same manner.  Raspberries did not do so well at the u-pick farm that I went to, so I only ended up with a little cranberry-raspberry freezer preserves, but my own raspberries were very prolific.  I think there was so much rain earlier that it mooshed (that’s scientific of me) the roots of a lot of the raspberry plants here, so they just died, but mine came through unscathed.  Right now the June-bearing raspberries are finishing up, in August(!), and the bees are busy at work polinating the buds and flowers on the fall-bearing raspberries.  I have these beauties ripe and ready to eat now:

They are blackberries and marionberries in various stages of ripeness.  I wrote an earlier post showing and telling about how I trellis, prune and fertilize my berries, and they responded well to this treatment.  I grow a ‘Lochness’ blackberry, which is a thornless variety.  I have to say I’ve changed my tune a lot about the blackberries and marionberries.  They needed a few years to settle in and put down roots, but once they did, youza, have they been producing.

I also have apples:

This is the ‘Spitzenberg’ apple tree, which is part of my espaliered belgian fence in our backyard.  This heirloom is the first the ripen, but they don’t ripen until probably October this year.  I will give more updates as they mature.  Behind it is a ginormous butterfly bush, which the hummingbirds, swallowtail and monarch butterflies have been enjoying for several weeks.

I also have grapes (!) this year, once I got brave and took the pruners to this vine:

This is our ‘Einset’ grape, which is a red seedless table grape.  Obviously, it’s not ripe because the grapes are still green, but I’m thinking end of September or beginning of October these should be ready.  They grow on the open-air roof of a pergola where we dine during the warmer summer months (I’m still waiting for those months.)

Lettuce and salad greens have also been very successful this year as well.

This is mizuna on the top, which is an Asian mustard green that is not as invasive as the regular mustard greens, and Tatsoi–Bok Choy with the round dark green leaves at the bottom.  Both go into our salad bowls, as does the ‘Ruby Red’ Swiss chard with the red stems growing next to them.

My best lettuce to date has been the very earliest starts that I put in the ground in chilly March of this year.  However, here is a little bed that I planted in June.  This contains ‘Two Star’ leaf lettuce in the back with the frillier leaves, and ‘Concept’ lettuce, with more rounded leaves, in the front.  Both of these have consistently produced good lettuce all season.  I will put up a results list of my favorite lettuce and salad greens seeds based on how they grew in my garden later in the year.  I’ll leave you with this garden picture:

(PS–I dug my first new potatoes of the season, called ‘Dark Red Norland’ and they were great.  Had a lot less trouble with flea beatles this year, because I think the cold weather diminished their numbers.  I forgot to take a picture of the harvest, so intent was I on cooking and eating those red round tasties.)  How are your vegetables faring this interesting growing season?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments.  And don’t forget to visit the garden party.

Spring Berries

We worked on the raspberry plants a couple of days ago, and I thought it might be helpful to show you how I have them set up.  And once I got that idea, I decided to take pictures of all the different types of berries that I grow, so you can see what they look like at this time of year.  Generally speaking, plants have been kind of slow coming out of dormancy due to unseasonably cold and rainy weather this year.  I saw on a weather report that in a normal year to this point we would have had 17 days of sixty-degree and above weather by now–this year we have had three days.  Historic cold temperatures.  Anyway, here we go with Berries on Parade . . .

These are strawberries that I grow in a hay rack-style container that hangs on a fence.  Slugs tend to devour strawberries when I’ve tried growing them in the ground, so I’ve had better luck growing in containers.  The variety is “Quinalt,” an everbearing variety.

This is a red currant, Ribes rubrum, with a bay laurel tree growing behind it.  This would likely do better if it had more sun exposure, but I’m running out of planting room, and so this has to suffice for now.  It is a tough plant, has pretty white flowers and bright red berries that can be cooked with sugar to make into syrups to flavor drinks or for pancakes.

On the right, a Northwest native plant called Evergreen huckleberry, along with a daylily and some ajuga behind it.  These are reputed to get quite tall if grown in their preferred shady locales.  I am growing it in full sun, and so far it is still teeny.  It is truly evergreen, but it’s a young plant and so far has borne no fruit. 

On some of the next photos, you will see a light-colored granular-powdery substance on the ground.  This is a complete organic fertilizer that I use with berries as well as vegetables.  The recipe is from Steve Solomon, and it consists of four parts alfalfa meal (although Solomon recommends a seed meal, I could not find any that were not GMO-crops, and thus it was advised to try the alfalfa meal instead.  Of course, legislation just passed allowing mega-agricultural corporations to introduce GMO alfalfa into the food supply, so I have no idea what to try next), one part bone meal, one part dolomite lime and a half-part kelp meal.  Mix it all up, and store it in a garbage can with a fitted lid, and you’ll have it dry and on hand when you need it.

On the left is an Aronia shrub, and behind is a raspberry with fertilizer at the base.  To the right is an ‘Etoille Rose’ clematis that is just starting to put up some new growth.  Aronias are great–beautiful white spring flowers, a small shrub loaded with red turning to blue/black fruits that are wonderful cooked and sweetened in summer, and lovely red fall foliage.

To the right of the fairy statue is a petite ‘Sunshine Blue’ blueberry, which right now sports red foliage, and some flower buds that are pinkish but not really open yet.  ‘Sunshine Blue’ is a compact and self-pollinating plant that produces pretty well for me.  They seem to like full sun growing conditions, and produce more in the sun, than they do in the shade at my garden.

Now for the raspberries:

This is one example of how to set up raspberry trellis.  We just used up scrap wood that we had around, but if you are starting from scratch I recommend untreated wood, cedar would be good, so that the fruit does not come in contact with contaminants.  We used eye screws and put 3 spaced along the length of the upright post.  Then wire running across, attached to the eye screws.  It was not fancy, but works pretty well.  Then you plant your raspberries–here I have a mix of June-bearing as well as fall-bearing–and they grow, and you tie the length of the berry cane to the wires, so that they grow upright.  These wires are at about two feet from the ground, four feet and six feet.

You tie the raspberries to the wires with garden twine.  They get tall and when fruiting quite heavy, so having the 3 levels of ties helps to keep the fruit up off the ground, and makes it a lot easier to pick them.

I weeded the raspberry row, and sprinkled on the complete organic fertilizer.  This is pretty much the only time of year I fertilize them, and they produce quite a lot. 

I also pruned them before tying them in to the wires.  Really simple to do–just cut the dead stalks all the way back to the ground.  The stalks that have green leaves coming out of them usually have a top of the cane that is dead, so just cut off the dead part, and you are good to go.

Here is another way to do a raspberry trellis.  We were using up scrap wood, and thus this is painted wood, which I do not recommend.  I am super careful to keep the fruit away from the painted wood.  When it falls apart over time, we will replace it with cedar posts.  However, the shape is the important thing here.  I learned this from Vern Nelson, who writes the gardening column for The Oregonian newspaper.  You will need a 8-foot tall post–2×4 is fine, and a two-foot piece for the top of the trellis.  Underground where the upright piece is, you will have attached another 2-foot long crosspiece, and buried it underground about 1 1/2 to 2 feet deep.  This understory part helps to keep the post upright and not leaning in.

Here’s the top of the trellis.  There are 3 eye screws in each side of the trellis, and we’ve run wire across the length.  I put one wire about two feet off the ground into each side of the main upright posts using eye screws.  This gives many places to tie the cane berries in, for ease of picking as well as good air circulation for the plants.

Toward the center/left are Marionberry canes, and to center/right are raspberry canes, with forget-me-not blue flowers in front.  I can’t really say that I recommend Marionberries for the home garden.  There is a reason why they are so expensive to buy at the store, and that is because this cane produces 20+ feet of cane every growing season and then only produces a handful at best of  berries pretty much only at the end of the cane.  Boysenberry does the same thing, which is why I replaced it with Marionberry, which I was told doesn’t get as big and produces more fruit.  That has not been my experience.

On the right are ‘Lochness’ thornless blackberry canes, with raspberries to the left.  Don’t let the name scare you–it only gets as tall as the raspberries, and it truly is thornless.  It has not been a heavy producer for me, however.  But the flavor of the berries is great.

So that’s it.  What’s new in your garden?  Leave me a comment if you like.  And visit the Garden Party.

Tuesday Garden Update

I’m super busy right now, and will be until the middle of September.  I will try to continue to add some brief posts as I can.

Here are a couple of flower pictures from the garden:

This is what I called my “Lone Wolf” sweet pea (remember Lenny “One Wolf” and Squiggy?).  It is blooming during 95+ degree weather–go figure.  There are some light lavender ones that bloomed after this photo was taken as well.  I love sweet peas–so very pretty and delicate flowers.

Just a pretty hydrangea growing on the side of the house.  I love to use them as cut flowers for a quick and easy arrangement during the summer months.  This was planted by previous owners prior to our moving in here, so I have no idea what the specific variety is, but I like it and it is hardy in PNW garden zone 8.

I have a lovely hibiscus ‘Sweet Caroline’ that I am anxiously waiting to bloom.  It has gigantic hot pink flowers, and is wonderful to see in the declining August beds, so I will try to remember to post a picture of it when it starts blooming.

As for the vegatable garden:  I have lots of green tomatoes, but no red ones yet.  I’ve picked about three little batches of ‘Royal Burgundy’ bush beans so far, and they are lovely and tender and prolific here.  Runner beans are starting to produce little bitty runner beans.  I had lettuce starts outside hardening off, and then this hot weather hit, so I took a few losses there–I need to plant them out when it cools off a bit later this week.  Corn is tasseling up nicely.  Potatoes are producing some of the first new potatoes of the season.  I could eat them all now at this stage, but am trying to be patient and wait for a bigger crop.  I have four nice green peppers–just waiting for them to ripen and turn red before I pick them.  Pumpkins are producing massive vines and several little baby pumpkins.  I have a squash that popped up out of nowhere on its own, and it will likely produce something that is not edible but will be great for autumn decorating, which is cool.  The late-season raspberries are putting out lots of green and pink berries–will be ready in a couple of weeks, maybe.   Lots of basil to use now, and dill is about ready to start using as well. 

The hummingbirds have been buzzing around the garden.  They like the liatris, verbena bonariensis, nasturtiums and petunias in my hanging baskets, an orange crocosmia now in bloom, the last few Lamb’s Ears flowers and other butterfly bushes that are blooming, plus the feeder that I put out for them.

How is your garden growing?  Leave me a comment–I’m always interested to hear how your gardens are doing!

Please visit Oregon Cottage Blog’s Tuesday Garden Party.


Picked 5 Different Types Of Berries Out In The Garden Today!

Could’a picked 6 different types. but not enough were ready of the Aronia berries:

  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries
  • Red Currants
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries

I hope we are able to go pick some U-pick berries soon, to put in the freezer and make some freezer jam–I really need to clean out my bigger freezer and organize it better–berry motivation!

Made Strawberry Freezer Jam and Froze Strawberries On This 4th Of July!

Not a traditional way to spend the Fourth, admittedly, but my wonderful husband went to a you-pick farm yesterday and picked 22 pounds of lovely strawberries.  Since we had company over yesterday and I was busy cooking for that, he also washed and hulled all the berries for me–what a sweetie!  Into the refrigerator they went until today, when I turned them into jam and frozen whole berries. 

I just do individually quick frozen berries–place the cleaned berries on a cookie sheet so the berries are not touching one another, and then place the sheet in the freezer.  In an hour or two, they are frozen and can be transferred to a labeled ziplock bag, which is what I did.

I also made sugar-free jam.  I have a neat cookbook called Canning and Preserving Without Sugar by Norma M. MacRae, who is a dietician and nutritionist.  The recipe I used is called “Strawberry Preserves.”  I like my jam fruity and fairly soft set, so I don’t really like to use pectin at all.  The recipe calls for 10 cups cleaned strawberries, 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (I also added some rind as well),  concentrated white grape juice (you take 3 cups of white grape juice, put in a pot and boil it down to 1 cup. ) That’s it.  Take 5 cups of the strawberries and put them in a big  nonaluminum pot (I use an 8-quart stainless steel stock pot) with the lemon juice and grape juice.  Bring it to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly, then reduce the heat a bit and continue cooking until it thickens a bit.  It was about 15-20 minutes for me.  (It does set up more as it cools.)  Take the pot off the heat, and stir in the remaining 5 cups of strawberries, which you can dice, slice or leave whole–your preference.  This cools the mixture off quite a bit.  I then decided to freeze it, so I filled my plastic containers, leaving 3/4 of an inch at the top (this is important, because the jam will swell when frozen.)  Put the lid on, and label it.  I also made up 3 pints which I put in the refrigerator to eat up in the next couple of weeks.  One batch makes 10 1/2 cups of jam, or roughly 5 pints.

Total, I made 14 pints of sugar-free jam, and ended up with 1 one-gallon bag full of individually quick frozen whole strawberries.  We paid $1/pound for the berries (!), and about $2.90 for the white grape juice.  I already had some fresh lemons and containers, so this ended up being a fairly inexpensive project that I will be very happy to have come cold winter weather.

Happy 4th of July, everyone!!

Things You Can Do In Your Garden Now

It is kind of rainy and drizzly here this morning.  We had planned to go to a u-pick strawberry farm, but the weather put a damper on that.  Instead, I think that I will do a few little clean-up type tasks around the garden today.  These are the things that I will try to accomplish in between rain showers (at least I don’t have to water today):

  • Deadhead and fertilize the roses:  This is an ongoing project throughout the summer months.  It is easy to do, and it helps to keep your rose bushes flowering throughout the bloom season.  You will need garden pruners and a bucket.  It is easy to get scratched while doing this, so wear long sleeves and garden gloves to protect your skin, and always wear eye protection when pruning shrubs–little pieces can easily break off and you do not want them in your eyes–trust me, I know from experience.  Or you can get a ‘Zephrin Drouhin’ thornless climbing rose–it is a beauty with deep pink blooms.  Simply look at the plant, and anywhere there is a dead rose blossom, cut it off. I like to take my cut down to the nearest 5-leafed stem, and cut just above the five-leafed stem.  This way the growth hormones of the rose will produce another bloom there.  You can also cut off any dead, broken, or diseased stems off.  Place all this in your bucket and do not put in the compost pile if there are diseased plant parts present, but put in the trash can instead.  I will also be fertilizing all my roses.  I do this once a month during bloom time, and I use Miracle Grow, but you could use any good rose fertilizer as well.
  • Deadhead the clematis as needed and fertilize them:  I fertilize them, along with the roses, once a month with Miracle Grow, but they respond well to rose fertilizer as well.  Some clematis will rebloom if deadheaded.  I do this with my burgundy ‘Niobe’ and purple ‘Daniel Deronda’ clematis.  My late spring-blooming clematis are still blooming because spring was delayed here due to cold weather, but after they are done, they can be pruned back and fertilized for rebloom in the fall.  It could be tricky this year because they were late in blooming, so it might make rebloom in fall come too late with colder weather.  Would have to play it by ear on this idea this year.
  • Stake and weed beds; remove fading bulb foliage:  It seems like staking and weeding is a neverending process during the growing season.  Bulb foliage that is yellowed can be removed from the beds.  It is also time to add some compost to where your bulbs grow.  This will help to improve the tilth of the soil, and depending on the potency of your compost, may give a bit of a light feeding.  Those bulbs will be beginning to store up food for next spring’s blooms, so you can help them do so by giving them a bit of compost now.
  • Plant a basket container:  I ended up with a cylindrical dark brown basket that I no longer use indoors, but I thought if I lined it with a plastic bag, it would make an interesting container for plants.  I still have burgundy and green coleus starts that I grew from seed, and I have quite a few ferns that tend to appear on their own without any help from me in various spots on our property, so they will go into the basket.
  • Clean and fill bird feeders:  I have a roofed tray feeder that many types of birds really like, because they can see into it and fly through it.  In this I put black-oil sunflower seed in the shell, which many birds like.  I found that if I use the cheaper kinds that are full of millet, they push all the millet out of the feeder in their search for the apparently tastier sunflower seeds, and millet makes a mess under the feeder because it grows into a matting grass that I don’t like.  The hummingbird feeder will also be cleaned and refilled today as well.  I have a great feeder that is made of glass and plastic, and it has a wide mouth so I can put a soapy sponge all the way down to the bottom to get it really clean.  I also try to cleanse it by placing 1 capful of bleach into a sinkful of water, and letting the bird feeder soak in that for a minute or two.  You could also use hydrogen peroxide in the same amount if you don’t like bleach.  Then I rinse it well and fill it with nectar that I make using four parts sugar and one part water in a pot on the stove, which I let gently boil for only 5 minutes with the lid on, then remove from heat.  After it cools a bit, I strain it using a paper coffee filter in a funnel, and store it in a closed jar in the refrigerator.  No food coloring is needed.  I clean my feeder 2-3 times per week, but you could do it more, especially if the weather gets really hot.
  • I had planned to chop the bigger, bulkier stuff that has not broken down in my compost pile, but that plan is averted due to rain.  It clogs up my little chopper something fierce to try to run wet matter through it.  Will wait till it is all dried out again.

I always get motivation to make the garden look nice when I have company coming over, and in fact we’re having guests over tomorrow night for dinner, and hopefully the weather will cooperate so we can eat outside under the pergola!  I’ve been so busy getting the vegetable garden in that the flowers tend to take second place at this time of year, but I will try to whip things into shape a bit.  Also I like entertaining outside because I don’t have to clean the whole house prior to guests arriving, just the rooms they will likely see, like the bathroom and kitchen, so it’s a little easier to accomplish.  My husband accuses me of being Martha Stewart’s sister when it comes to perfectionism in entertaining, and I am trying to curb my unhealthy ways by throwing more small and impromptu dinners that I don’t have to stress over, which is more fun for me as well, and so the outdoor pergola helps in this regard as well.  My office is right near the pergola, so I want to try to come up with some fun youtube music playlists and then I can open the window and put my speaker into it, so we can have some nice music playing while we eat–we’ll see how far I get on that project.

We have our first raspberries ripe and ready to eat!  Just a few, more will come as the season progresses.  Lots of sugar snap peas still as well, so they may play a role in the dinner I have in mind for tomorrow.  My huge ‘Bill McKenzie’ summer-blooming clematis is starting to bloom–yellow bell-shaped blossoms, blooming at the same time as my purple ‘Jackmanii’ clematis–good timing this year!  Here is a picture of Bill:

Weather reports for next week show that it is supposed to go up into the 90s–I will believe it when I see it, but a girl can dream, right?

Please leave a comment–do you have some great tips for easy outdoor entertaining?  I’d love to learn!

Support Local Growers And Stock Your Pantry For The Winter

Now is a great time to purchase the beginnings of the berry harvest here in Clark County.  The Master Gardeners have put together a great list of all the local farmers that have produce and fruits to sell to the public.  Some are u-pick, while others offer produce stands with picked produce.  The listing gives the address and other contact information for each farm, plus a listing of exactly what types of produce and fruit they have available for sale.  Here’s the list.  It’s never too early to put up some jam or freeze some berries–you will be glad you did come next January or February when you are craving strawberry shortcake or lemon blueberry muffins, for example.  Freezer jams are so quick and easy to do, taking a lot less time than canned preserves, so if you are starting out, give those a try.  It is also a great way to fill in any gaps in what you yourself can produce on your property.

Gorgeous Weather=Happy Gardener!

Sunny and in the 80s here this past weekend.  I saw my first dragonfly of the season yesterday, and had our first raspberries of the season as well!  I got a lot done in the garden, most notably got the eggplant and pepper starts all planted.  I planted ‘Marconi’ Sweet Italian Frying Peppers and ‘Nadia’ Eggplant starts that I grew from seed under lights.  These are the steps I took:

  • Weeded and redug the bed
  • Added several buckets of homemade compost and about 2 quarts of complete organic fertilizer to the bed and dug it in
  • Planted the starts:  I just dug a hole bigger than the rootball, put the start in it, took about half a quart of compost tea and poured it around the roots, then quickly backfilled the hole with the dirt so that  mud forms around the roots, to reduce transplant shock.  I also made a little well around each plant in the dirt to hold in water.
  • I then watered all the plants in.
  • Because its still way below 60 degrees at night, I took the extra precaution of covering the bed with PVC pipe hoops and clear plastic held down with rocks.  This will help to bump up the night time temperatures a little bit, and will just get them off to a better start.  If the weather gets over 70 degrees, the plastic will need to be opened.

Baby ‘Nadia’ Eggplant (top picture)

Baby ‘Marconi’ Sweet Italian Frying Peppers (bottom picture)

So that’s it for that–this planting method with compost tea I learned from Steve Solomon’s book Gardening When It Counts, and it works very well.

I also prepared another nearby bed and planted bush beans.  My pick is ‘Royal Burgundy’ bush beans, and they have lovely purple-red flowers and delicious beans.  Very simple–Weeded and redug the bed, dug in some compost and complete organic fertilizer, then took the handle of my rake and pressed it down where I wanted the rows to compact the soil, then placed two seeds for every one plant that I wanted along the row, covered the rows and watered them in.  Should have some beans to eat in about 60 days from now.  I will also be planting some runner or pole beans but will wait a couple of weeks to spread out the bean harvest.

As far as the flowers went, I just had a lot of tidying and clean-up duty.  After all the heavy rain we had, it dissolved a lot of the flowers and made the branches of the roses come down–a lot of tying things back up into position.  We got the tabletop done in the pergola (for previous pictures of this area, see this), plus put the outdoor chandelier up, so that is fully functional and ready to go.

We made a side table to go with the barbecue out of a half-French wine barrel and a large piece of flagstone on top–it looks great and I love it!

I hope you had a good weekend as well, and got to work and play out in the garden!  Leave a comment–how is your garden growing?

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