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.


Guerilla Gardening on the Summer Solstice

Here is something to think about:

“Do what you can, with what you have, right where you are.” 

Theodore Roosevelt

That statement has always spoken to me, to not make excuses but to make an effort to move in the direction I want to go, in whatever aspect and capacity of life to which I wish to apply it. 

There was a film director that I met one time, and she made her mark in films way back when she was getting started by loading up her van with her camera and limited equipment, a skeleton crew and a very few actors, and heading off down the road.  When she saw a likely spot, they all got out and proceeded to shoot some scenes for a film, right where they were at.  She ended up with some good films.  She eventually was asked to direct a well-know television series as a guest director, and they wanted her to do her “guerilla directing” thing with the big show, but she couldn’t be spontaneous when it took 4 semi-truck loads of equipment to shoot one little scene for that big show.

But I digress.  Roosevelt’s statement also applies to gardening.

After spending a spring wishing and hoping for warm weather and that the rain would cease to fall in excessive amounts, I think I am finally past it.  I can wish and hope all I want, but the fact is it appears that this growing season is going to be quite similar to last year’s growing season, which was short and cold. 

This is a not a bad combination for my flowers, which are doing great and growing well.  It could spell disaster, however, for my vegetable garden. 

But, what I have going into this, and to my advantage, is the knowledge of the growing season last year.  This will help me to get into what I have been calling “guerilla gardening” mode, to help me get some kind of a reasonable vegetable crop from my garden this year.  Here are some tips that I am using with my vegetables this year, and I hope that they might help you as well in your gardening pursuits.

Get-real gardening.

  • Grow warm-season plants under plastic.  Let’s face the facts, shall we?  Where I live in SW Washington state, it has not reliably hit 50 degrees air temperature at night yet, on June 21st.  On and off, but not consistently.  It needs to be at least 50 degrees, and preferably 55 degrees overnight, before tomatoes will ripen–their ability to ripen, mature and turn red is based much more on the nighttime temperatures than the daytime.  What this means is that I am looking for ways to increase the nighttime temperature around my tomatoes.  I have planted my tomatoes, and placed tomato cages over them, then I put clear plastic over the top and sides of the cages, holding down the edges with rocks.   This plastic will raise the nighttime temperature by 3-4 degrees, which will help bump it up to at least 50 degrees, if not a bit more.  This will help your tomatoes ripen a lot faster than if they were uncovered.  Last year, I asked most of the farmers who had ripe tomatoes at the farmers’ market how they got their tomatoes to ripen, and nearly all of them, with farms located in this area, said that they had to cover them with plastic to get them to ripen, so that is what the professionals are doing.   Rain and any kind of water falling on the fruits is also another big enemy of a perfectly ripe tomato.  You want to keep rainfall off the tomato fruits as much as possible, or they rot very quickly and have lots of blemishes.  Plastic is very good for this purpose as well.  I also pretty much gave up growing the tomatoes that are late-season varieties–only one ‘Brandywine’ plant this year, for example, and more of the quicker cherry tomatoes.
  • It gets worse if you want to try to grow cucumbers, eggplant and peppers, or any of the melons.  These plants need 60 degree temperatures at night in order to mature.  For these, put hoop houses over your planting beds.    If you use PVC plastic pipe, found at a hardware store, and push it into the ground over your plants, it will form a half-circle, or a hoop.  On these hoops you can place clear plastic and hold it down with rocks at the corners, and clothes pins on top of the hoops.  The idea is that you don’t want the plastic to touch the plants.  Water condenses under the plastic, which helps to keep things moist under there.  Unfortunately, this will be high maintenance, because eventually July will roll around, and we will get some days that will be in the 80s and 90s.  On those hot days, you will need to open the plastic in the morning, make sure everything has enough water so they don’t dry out, and then cover them at night.  You will have to decide how much you love cukes, peppers and eggplant, and how much time you have to spend babying these plants, because they will take more work than some of the other things that are easier to grow.  Nearly every local grower at the farmers’ market last year who had ripe peppers for sale had to cover them with plastic to get them to turn red.  Just sayin’.   And every variety of eggplant, pepper and cuke that I grow are suited to short growing seasons, because those that need a long growing season will never ripen before we start getting colder autumn weather.  This is pretty hard with cukes, because I want to get as much growth as possible under plastic, to increase the temperature to improve growth, but eventually they get too big, and you have to put a trellis up for them to grow upon, so eventually (I wait until the last possible minute), you will not be able to cover the cukes any longer.  Then they have to be big enough to hopefully swim and not sink on their own with whatever the weather hands out.  The eggplant and peppers stay covered throughout the entire growing season until they die in the fall.  I have never had good luck with melons, so I wish you well if you want to give it a go–just be sure to plant short-season melons, and you might fare better than I.
  • To give them a headstart, I also cover my corn bed, as well as the pumpkin and squash bed, to warm it up for them to get a good start.  After the plants get too big, I end up uncovering them, but not until partway through July.

    'Ruby Red' Swiss Chard is a winner

  • So, what can you grow that will not be a pain in the neck for the gardener?  Here are some plants that I had good luck with last year, even though it was a very cold summer:  Lettuce, arugula, beets and beet greens, tatsoi, mustard greens, swiss chard, green beans, both bush and runner bean types, sugar snap peas.  It also appears that we are going to have a bumper crop of blackberries, raspberries and marionberries this year as well, without much work on my part.  (The bees have been very busy, on the other hand,  polinating all those flowers for me.)  If you want a garden that you don’t have to cover with plastic, you might want to focus on these crops that will grow just fine in cooler temperatures.  And that is totally an okay thing to do–why fight nature?  It is a fight very difficult to win, so why not go with what gets handed out and make it easy on yourself?  I have no problems with that.  It is just that I love, absolutely live for, home-grown tomatoes, and so I am willing to take the extra steps in order to get some of our own.  (I am also someone who monkeys around with fussy delphinium plants that need to be protected from slug attacks and need to have each bloom stem individually staked–you love what you love, what can I say.)  Another option is to purchase those warm-weather crops from farmers that are coming over from sunny and dry Eastern Washington and Eastern Oregon to the farmers’ markets to sell their wares, and then you grow what is easier to grow in your garden–this works very well, too. 

    'Purple Queen' bush beans and sunflowers in containers

  • In addition to colder weather, you might also have a lot of shade on your property due to large trees.  Vegetables need sun, so one solution is to go in for large container gardening.  You can grow all sorts of vegetables successfully in large containers.  I’ve grown tomatoes, peppers , eggplant, corn, sunflowers, lettuce, beans, peas and cukes in big containers.  The plants will not produce as much as they would if growing in the ground, but you can place the containers anywhere you have a sun spot, so you will likely have much more success in growing vegetables in this manner.  You will discover that the garden hose and fertilizer are your friends if you take this route, which is high maintenance.

    Corn and salad greens in containers

“Do what you can, with what you have, right where you are.”   If you want to vegetable garden this year, then don’t let the weather stop you.  Just know what you’re in for, so you can decide how you want to spend your time and energy.  And garden smart, like a guerilla gardener would, and you’ll have some success. 

Do enjoy the first day of summer, the Summer Solstice, today, and visit the Garden Party.

Flowers and Food

A quick post to show you a bit of what we got done over the warm and wonderful (and dry) weekend:

First the food part (future food, I should add) of the gardening weekend:

We prepared and planted a Swiss Chard, Beet and Spinach bed.  My earlier hardy salad greens bed that I put in back in March is about ready to start picking greens at the baby stage, and the lettuce bed I put in last week is looking good and starting to put down some roots.  We also put in some peas and I am trying this pea trellis I saw in Fine Gardening magazine, made out of some sticks and twine:

The peas are not super heavy, so hopefully this will be enough support for them–we’ll see how it works.

And now the flowers:

These are some tough English Daisies that I started inside from seed several years ago.  They are growing in a container, and I didn’t cover the container or anything over the winter, and when it starts to warm up, there they are.  I love the rings and gradiations of color in these.

‘Queen of the Night” tulips are some of my favorite.  (Always reminds me of her solo in The Magic Flute.)  I like the contrast in color with the silvery-grey lamb’s ears.  Anthriscus silvestris “Ravenswing’ is the dark foliage on the left, and behind the tulips are some blue irises that are putting out some flower buds.

And I guess this last one could be considered both flowers and future food:

Our crabapple treee is blooming now, as is the ‘Barlett’ pear tree and several other apples about to bloom.  Along with the crabapple blossoms is a sea of blue Forget-me-nots, and a couple of parrot tulips–pink ‘Angelique’ and a purply-blue double.  I discovered that the late parrot tulips bloom at the same time as the apple and pear trees, and so they make a nice plant combination together in the garden.

Hope you had a wonderful weekend out in your garden–let me know in the comments if you wish!  And please visit the Garden Party.

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!

Dinner From The Garden Harvest Today

I have tons of mustard greens ready, getting more mature each passing day, and I know that I need to be using them up.  So, we’ll have some greens sauteed in a little olive oil and dressed with lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Then I have some sugar snap peas that are ready, so that looked like it would be good in a fried rice recipe with a little leftover chicken and some shrimp, a couple of scrambled eggs mixed with green onion and roasted red pepper, and if I had them some bean sprouts, but I don’t so I’ll substitute some sliced water chestnuts instead for some crunch.  A healthy, high fiber dinner that is easy to do with food from the garden–yeah!

Here’s a picture:

Planted More Basil Starts Yesterday

Gorgeous weather and I have to work, wouldn’t you know.  However, I eeked out a few minutes to run out and plant some more basil starts outside in containers late yesterday afternoon.  Also some coleus and lobelia starts into my flowering containers.  I always start those from seed because it’s too expensive to buy as many as I want to use (ie. lots), and they’re pretty easy to start from seed indoors under lights.  I especially like ‘Cambridge Blue’ lobelia, which is a sky blue color and so pretty when paired with other yellow-foliaged plants as well as dark burgundy ones, such as the coleus leaf color often provides.  I will try to work fast so I can get outside later and continue planting.

It was warm enough–around 74-76 degrees–yesterday and today that I uncovered all the plastic-covered veggi beds outside.  I’ve gotten germination on my new salad greens bed, and I am seeing some ‘Royal Burgundy’ bush beans and I think ‘Scarlet Emporer’ runner beans (I mixed some of the seed in the row, so I won’t know for sure until they get a bit bigger) germinating.  The Sugar Snap peas are now finally ready to pick and eat at the baby stage–absolutely sweet and delicious–(I know, I tasted some last night!)  I’m also seeing baby apples on my ‘Spitzenburg’ mini-dwarf apple tree that I grafted four years ago–this is the first time I am letting it produce fruit!  My ‘Einset’ grape that is growing up the side of the pergola in the backyard is covered this year for the first time in tiny grape clusters–I will need to thin these out a bit so the vine doesn’t get overwhelmed.  I also have an ‘Arbequina’ olive tree that is hardy down to 14 degrees that is covered with flower buds–we will see if it gets hot enough to actually produce any olives.  It produced a few last year.  This is another dwarf evergreen tree that will top out around 8-10 feet tall.  My Aronia berry shrub is also loaded with immature fruit as well.  I will try to add some pictures to this post later today if I have time.

If you are in Camas this afternoon, the Farmers’s Market is on downtown in front of the library from 3-7:30pm.  They had great cherries from Zillah last week, and are supposed to have fresh almonds this week, so check it out.  This will be the first market of the season with no rain–about time!

Peas Flowering, Hardening Off Eggplant and Peppers, And Other Random Gardening Notes

In yesterday’s one blessed day of sunshine, I got several little projects accomplished.

  • The sugar snap peas are finally starting to flower.  They’ve gotten quite tall–maybe 5 feet.  Peas should be on the way soon.
  • I brought out my ‘Nadia’ eggplant and ‘Marconi’ Sweet Italian Frying pepper plant starts outside to begin hardening them off.  I hope to plant them outside next weekend, so I’m hardening them off to get them used to outdoor weather conditions before I do so.  I brought a few more tomato starts that were ready out to harden off as well.  Plus a couple of Bush morning glories, a variety called ‘Royal Blue Ensign’ that I had started from seed.  I love to use these for fillers in containers–they have small morning glory-shaped flowers in bright blue, with yellow and white in the center of the flowers.   For insurance, I put everything up on a table outside and sprinkled them with Sluggo, which is considered an organic-growing option for killing slugs.
  • Noticed that the slugs were destroying my baby salad greens that are about 4 inches tall in one of the upper beds, so I Sluggo’d that as well. 
  • Petunias are also a favorite of slugs, so Sluggo’d them in my containers, and deadheaded those that needed it.
  • I fertilized all the roses and clematis vines.  I used Miracle Grow, but you could also use a rose fertilizer.  They can be fertilized once a month throughout the summer and into early fall.
  • I planted sunflower seeds outside.  I am trying an ornamental sunflower called ‘Van Gogh’ that is supposed to reach 5-6 feet tall.
  • I deadheaded the ‘Niobe’ clematis vine.  This will help to keep it in flower off and on all summer long.  This one is pretty easy to grow and has beautiful burgundy flowers.  It flowers low on the vine, at about 5 feet up, and thus it makes a good partner for climbing roses.  I also deadheaded my ‘Asao’ clematis vine to tidy it up, and it may rebloom a little bit in the fall.
  • My ‘General Sikorski’ clematis is blooming.  Gorgeous lavender flowers–this is the vine that is depicted on the home page of Minerva’s Garden, and it is such a beauty.
  • I fertilized the hanging baskets and flower containers.  They are starting to grow nicely.  The nasturtium seeds in them and in others of my containers have germinated and they’re about 1-2 inches tall.
  • Since it was dry today, I reapplied diatomaceous earth to the potato leaves.  They are growing very well, but the rain keeps washing off the diatomaceous earth, so it’s been a battle to keep the flea beetles in check.  I have to keep reapplying it.  More information about flea beetles and how to kill them here.
  • I picked the first ripe strawberries from my plants.  Slugs tend to wreak havoc on these fruit as well, and so I grow my plants up in hayrack planters that are attached to a fence at about 3 1/2 feet up off the ground.  I fertilize them with complete organic fertilizer.
  • We actually put out one garden hose yesterday, but not because I have to water plants (except those under cover of our front stoop–they can dry out, so they get extra water).  Had to wash off a barbecue.
  • Finally, I sat out in the pergola and enjoyed the garden.

Hope you were able to get out and enjoy the sun yesterday as well!  I hope we get more in the very near future.  Leave a comment and let me know how your garden is growing.

Growing Sugar Snap Peas–Update

I just wanted to give a quick update on how the sugar snap peas are growing in my garden.  I wrote a post about starting pea seeds via the chitting method outlined by Steve Solomon, which you can find here.  They were planted outside on March 27th, and here are some pictures to show you their progress:

This is what they looked like on May 10th.

Look at how much they had grown by May 19th:

They are now, in this picture, about three feet tall.  No flowers yet, but they should start flowering any time now.  As you can see, I use a variety of materials for pea trellis.  The best ones are thin and tall stakes over which I have placed chicken wire.  These give the pea tendrils a lot of places to grab on and climb up.  The other free-form trellis is the “arm” part of a daybed that was being given away.  It has pretty decorative floral accents on the top, and I just liked it.  Peas will grow up this as well, but it would have been better if I had run some chicken wire around the bottom part of it.  You can easily get creative and use what you have for trellis materials!

Leave a comment–are you growing peas this year?  How big are they?