For the last couple of weeks, you may have noticed that I've been a bit sparse....And I think it may continue for a while. For me this time of year is always so hard to balance. Material-wise, it's my favorite time of year to blog! I've got so many new recipe ideas and new garden tips and tricks and things I'm learning. But at the same time, there is SOOOO much work to do in the garden and yard and with kids for the summer that there's never enough time for everything... So that's my dilemma. So if you're wondering where I went, just know that I'm still here - probably out in the yard or playing with the kids or making something really yummy to eat...And the recipes and ideas WILL get posted, just maybe not immediately.
That being said, today I'm making up for my sparseness with a very LOOONG post with tons of pictures. I'd like to welcome you to my Garden Tour!
We have made a lot of improvements to the yard that are so much fun (one of the reasons I've been so sparce). Today I'm excited to share with you how we've beautified our yard and maybe it will give you some ideas for your own!
Our first outdoor project this year was fixing up these strawberry beds. Where we live, we have a problem with deer or quail eating the strawberries so we have to cover them. Not to mention children stepping on them...If you've been reading my posts on this blog and on facebook, you may have seen some sneak preview pictures of our new strawberry cages.
I used some wooden stakes (from Home Depot) to stake up the white wire fences around the beds. The little fences came with stakes of their own but I wanted them to be a little sturdier (as I mentioned, I have kids accidentally tripping over my beds all the time). Then I spread fruit netting over the top. I used to have chicken wire but I LOVE the bird netting so much more. It doesn't poke you when you're trying to pick or weed underneath. I just tied mine to the wire fences with wire twisty ties that I can remove when I want to weed or pick underneath.
The picture above was taken when we had a lot of blooms on our plants....But the picture below was taken today and as you can see our strawberries are now in season! We picked 2 1/2 quarts this morning to freeze. And that doesn't count the dozens of other ones the kids have been finding to munch on when they're outside.
The next project that I've been working on is to create an edible, perennial, herb and flower garden off the patio, adjacent to the strawberries. As you can see, we have parsley growing along the path between the strawberry beds. The kids love to go out there and eat the parsley plain as they are picking strawberries. We have onions behind the berries. Since onions are bulbs, they are perennial, coming back every year. In the later summer they actually create blooms on the top that are quite pretty. We have a huge oregano patch that you can see in the picture below. It loves to take over things so be careful if you plant it. Also there are potatoes that we've planted in the location in the picture because they get watered. They will be harvested in the fall and we'll replant them next year.
I'm including the picture below so you can kind of get perspective for the next few pictures. This is just another view of what I showed above. You can see the edge of the patio.
The picture below shows a view that is wrapping around to the other end of the patio from the previous picture. The big leafy plant in most of this picture is Bishop's weed, that was here when we first bought the home. It's very pretty and I love it, but it needs to be controlled because it likes to take over. So this year I put a little barrier fence around it (can't see in the picture) and planted the other herbs, berries and flowers that I wanted around it and in pots around it.
All of the plants listed in these pictures are edible. I did some research on perennial herbs and flowers so I won't have as much replanting to do every year in this section of our yard. The only exception to the perennial plants is the basil...that I know I will have to replant next year. As you can see I have more space in between the plants. I saved some room to see how they expand and fill in. But I have some more edible plants that I'd like to eventually get to grow in this area as well.
Another thing that we like to plant off the patio (between the two main strawberry beds in the first picture) is radishes. Radishes are the perfect kid plant because they grow so quickly! About a month after you plant them you can start harvesting them, which is perfect. Our kids love to go out there and pick "their radishes". Some kids like them and some don't - J loves them, but C doesn't want anything to do with them once he picks them! For me they taste best in a salad, or plain if you eat them when they are very young and tender (before they get too hot). As you can see, ours have already gone to seed in the picture below, but they make pretty flowers, even if you decide not to eat them all.
Grape and Rose Arbor
We planted these grapes alongside our fence about three years ago now and they are doing great!
This year they even are starting to produce grapes! :)
A couple of years we had the idea to do a grape arbor in the entry way to our back-backyard and to our main garden area. We planted the grapes from clippings that my dad gave me and only one of them survived the transplant. We never got to build the arbor, due to other things that came up. But finally this year we started building the arbor and decided to make it a grape and rose arbor. The roses are climbing roses that theoretically will climb to the top of the arbor. It's not done yet, but here's what we did.
We bought six 4"x4"x10' pressure treated wooden beams and put tar on the base. We dug 4 holes where we wanted to put the arbor and leveled the ground around it. Then we connected the beams together with metal brackets. We thought it would be a pain to level the arbor, but somehow (and we're really not sure how), it came together almost perfectly the first time. We only spent about 30 minutes leveling (and a lot of that unnecessarily), which really is amazing.
Here's Brandon working on the arbor:
Since we didn't cement the beams into the ground, we decided to build a little planter box around the base on one side and smaller planter boxes on the other to give it a bit more character (and support). These are where we're planting the roses and grapes. And of course, we had to have a bench to enjoy the garden in! We could have made one, but I liked this one...
And here's the finished product! WELL...Actually it's not really finished. Notice the carpet at the bottom and the black tar sticking out on one side (where i haven't finished planting...) And eventually there will be beams across the top when the plants get up past the poles where they can branch out...But that's not all going to happen this year (except the planting...). We have to take things is steps around here!
Now if you'll come with me through the arbor, I'll show you what's growing in the main garden right now!
Cold Weather Garden (shallow rooting plants)
We planted our cold weather garden at the beginning of March this year. We've been harvesting from it for a couple of months now. Onions (won't be ready until Fall), Spinach, Lettuce, Chard, Cabbage, Turnips (we've been eating the greens in our green smoothies - yum!), and peas. We water these plants twice a week for about 30-45 minutes.
Immature Fruit Crops (medium-rooting crops)
These are crops that are medium rooting. We planted them around mother's day this year. We water them with a soaker hose for about an hour. The white stuff on the plants is there because we have little bugs eat our plants. I sprinkle them with Seven Dust after they pop through the ground for a few weeks after they pop through the soil and that seems to help until they get established.
I bought the pepper plants shown here from a local nursery - we have about 24 peppers planted, 6 different varieties.
Potatoes - this is a great year for potatoes around here! We planted them back at the beginning of April and they are getting big! We planted some Russets and Yukon Gold varieties that we bought at our local nursery. I'm trying something new on some of the plants. I'm putting buckets (actually tree pots with the bottom cut out) around them and filling them with dirt. I'm hoping that will help the roots go higher, thus increasing our yield! We'll see...
This year I'm trying something new with the scarlet runner beans. I built a teepee out of 7 6" long garden stakes. I covered the bottoms with dirt and planted two runner beans near each pole. I'm excited to see how they do!
They're not pictured here, but we also have zucchini, yellow summer squash and two kinds of cucumbers.
Warm Weather Crops
These are deep-rooted warm weather crops that I water every two weeks for 3-4 hours. The roots run deep so it's important to give them a good, long soaking to get their roots nice and established.
We love to plant winter squash, it's a wonderful vegetable to grow and store because it keeps for up to 6 months or more. In fact we still have one spaghetti squash left from last year's harvest! This year we planted Hubbard Squash, Pumpkin, Sunshine Squash, Butternut and Acorn Squash.
We planted 28 tomatoes of 10 different varieties that we bought from a local nursery. We like to cover the tomatoes with black plastic and this year we put carpet down in between the rows to keep even less weeds down.
One of our favorite things from the garden is the melons. This year we planted Cantalope, Crenshaw, and Honey Dew melon. I started the seeds a few weeks in pots and transplanted them in the ground after Mother's Day. We put black plastic down for the melons also to keep the weeds down.
Besides strawberries we also grow Raspberries and Blackberries! They are deep rooted crops and like long, infrequent waterings. We have 3 types of blackberries that we grow and 1 kind of raspberry. Two of the blackberries are Eastern varieties that don't have thorns. They grow in a bush. The other blackberry is pictured below and is an Western Trailing Blackberry. We attach last years branches to a pole and the berries grow on those branches and the new year's growth grows below. Then we can clip off the old growth at the end of the harvest and tie up the new. Oh and guess what I used to tie the vines up with? Pantyhose! It's gentle on the vines and works great!
Our orchard is another project we have been working on for quite some time. We planted 3 fruit trees (two peach trees and a pear) about 6 years ago and they are starting to produce pretty good. Here's an idea of how big they as of today.
Then last year we expanded and planted two more peach trees, two more pear trees and two apple trees. Over the winter we lost an apple and a pear. So this year we replaced those trees and added a plum, an apricot, an almond, and a walnut. Thus making our orchard now consisting of 4 peach trees, 3 pear trees, 2 apple trees, a plum, an apricot, an almond, and a walnut or 13 total fruit trees!
Besides the food-bearing plants, trees, and bushes we also have inedible flowers, bushes and plants all over that add color, texture and beauty.
And that concludes the tour of our garden. Thank you for joining me. I hope you enjoyed it and have a wonderful day!