A garden is the best alternative therapy.

Archive for the ‘Vegetables’ Category

Keeping My Interest

Some of the biggest, most beautiful blooms in my garden aren’t flowering perennials, but vegetable plants.   The squash and zucchini flowers not only catch my interest, but keep the local bee population busy all day long.  There’s plenty of nectar to go around, and the bees have to wipe their feet before exiting to dislodge caked on clumps of pollen.

honeybee tongue darts out like a sword

Vegetable Harvest

The vegetable garden is doing very well.  I am really pleased that I decided to put it on the opposite side of the house this year.  The amount of sunlight on that side makes all the difference.  This weekend, I harvested another couple of zucchini, a few squash and a few cucumbers.  I grilled the zucchini and squash with some fresh herbs, lemon juice, olive oil and salt.  The cucumbers were sliced and added to a spinach salad with balsamic vinaigrette, candied pecans, grapes and carrots.   Here’s what I picked off on Sunday:

The rest of the vegetable garden is coming along nicely.  I have over a couple dozen tomatoes forming, and lots of bell peppers, habaneros and jalapenos as well.

The cantaloupe is really taking to the trellis I built a few weeks ago.  I already have a few fruit starting to form, too!

Zucchini (left) and tomato plant (right)

Zucchini, foreground, and cantaloupe on the trellis

Cantaloupe!

the melon is resting nicely on two pieces of nylon cord





Walking in the Garden and Enjoying Life

We have a small yard and a small garden, but I love to take walks through the garden and take close looks at the plants I have growing there.  There’s always something new that keeps me interested and reminds me why I started gardening in the first place – I enjoy growing things!  Yeah, there’s never a lot going on in the garden and what ever does happen does so at the pace of flowers, bees and snails, but that’s another reason for the garden.  It has become a quiet, meditative spot to reconnect with nature.    Slowly, the garden has grown from an herb garden to a few flowering plants, to a vegetable garden, a butterfly garden and I keep adding plants.  My wife jokes with me saying that I’m addicted to planting stuff.  I can think of a thousand other things that are more harmfully addictive, so I  don’t think (and really, SHE doesn’t either) that that’s a bad thing!

I thought I’d share some of the garden with you today.   Tomorrow, I’ll share a little bit more.  There’s just too much to write about and photos to share to put it all in one post!

Starting at the veggie bed, the continued growth is easy to see.  The cantaloupe is working its way up the trellis I made a week and a half ago.  Every morning, a new batch of bright yellow flowers open up, which brings in the bees and wasps.  If you can believe it, all of these vines (except for the little bit on the far left of the photograph – that is cucumber) are from one cantaloupe plant.  I’m having a hard time believing it myself!

the cantaloupe a week and a half ago

cantaloupe trellis Sunday - click to enlarge

Walking around the corner of the house to the back door, the few flagstones I put by the back stoop have sweet alyssum and yellow thyme between them.  The dainty white flowers just keep going and going.  I’m not sure how long alyssum will last in the coming months, but they make a lovely addition to the garden – one that the bees really like.  The stones keep us from trampling the grass and making a dirty/muddy mess.  If I had my way, I’d put a lot more down and maybe add some stepping stones, too, around the yard.

flagstones and alyssum - click to enlarge

sweet alyssum - click to enlarge

Right past the back stoop, the herb garden is overflowing with chives, oregano and parsley.  If you look really closely, you can even see some thyme sticking out between the chives.  In the pot on the right is some spearmint and the pot on the left, against the wall, is peppermint.  In the other pot on the left, I have stevia growing.  I take a leaf of peppermint and a small piece of stevia and chew them together for a peppermint candy-tasting treat.  They are wonderful steeped together in tea and do not require any sugar.  In fact, as I write this, I have a little indigestion and that sounds like a great calming tonic.

herb garden 5/1/11 - click to enlarge

The parsley is over three feet tall and blooming crazily.  It attracts myriad flying insects including flies, wasps, bees, yellow jackets and more.  They all love its sweet nectar, which is why I leave it there.  The black swallowtails do not seem very interested in it so far this year.

parsley flowering - click to enlarge

The Greek oregano is standing about 18″ tall now and the first flower clusters have started to open.  They will also be a welcome treat for winged friends of the garden.  I’ll let them flower until they’ve had enough, then trim them back to within several inches of the ground.  Oregano leaves are great when dried – even stronger than fresh – so I’ll be sure to hang the leaves to dry and bottle them for later use.

Greek oregano flowering - click to enlarge

Last year, I had only three chive plants and I used them so much that they really didn’t get very big.  This year, I decided to plant six of them.  I still use them regularly, but they are so prolific that they far surpass my needs!  They do, however, make a nice border and I should send up bright pink flowers as we get further into the warmer months.  I’m anxious about that.  The flying insects really love chive blossoms, and they’re also wonderful to eat.  I’m going to make chive blossom vinegar with some of them when the time is right and I’ll be sure to share that with my readers on the blog.  Suffice it to say for now that the wonderful pink color of the blossoms bleeds out into the vinegar and imparts its characteristically mild, garlicky-onion flavor.   This is a great base to make homemade dressing or as a splash of flavor in chicken marinades.

garlic chives - click to enlarge

stevia (a.k.a. sweet leaf) - click to enlarge

The rosemary bushes are getting so big.  Now that the farmer’s market is going here in Round Rock, maybe I should trim them back and share some with the community.  There really is so much to go around!  It is such an easy plant to maintain, it grows year round and is one of my favorite herbs for flavoring!   Pictured here is the prostrate rosemary bush, not the typical variety for cooking … the one I use for cooking is the Tuscan Blue cultivar (rosemary officinalis).  The rosemary bushes are part of my herb garden, but I have them planted right in the middle of the butterfly garden.  Where they’re located, the wind constantly whips through them, stirring up the delightful smell of rosemary and wafts it through the yard.

prostrate rosemary - click to enlarge

Come back to the garden tomorrow for updates on the butterfly garden!

Baby Veggies

It is always exciting when our vegetable garden starts producing.  After a few failures in the past two summers due to pests, disease and/or uncooperative weather, it is encouraging to see the plants bursting forth with tiny veggies that will continue to grow into harvest-able crops. I’ll get to those mini-veggies in a minute, but first, BIG news.  Well, sort of.  The spring/summer garden offered up its first harvest over the weekend – a single zucchini measuring 9-inches long!  I am amazed at how fast zucchinis grow!  I literally watched it grow a few inches in a matter of two days and a few more are just a day or two behind it.  I think this one plant will provide enough zucchini for us to eat for a few months – and bigger than we’ve been able to get at the grocery store.  The first picture below was taken on Saturday.  I chose not to harvest it then because I wanted it to get an inch or two larger.

Then, on Sunday, I awoke to find the same zucchini had grown almost two inches to the size of a large dinner plate!

Well, that’s the big news.  Hey, I relish in good news, whatever it is!

Now for the mini-veggie photos!  We have tomatoes, habaneros, green bell peppers, cucumbers, yellow squash, jalapenos and what looks like cantaloupe starting to form!

baby cucumber (tied with nylon cord to tomato cage)

teeny jalapeno

small Early Girl tomatoes clustered together

healthy nub of a habanero pepper

tiny yellow squash (foil to deter vine borer)

beginning of bell pepper

could it be? a cantaloupe fruit?

All of these plants received a healthy watering on Saturday, followed by a 12 oz. cup of freshly brewed compost tea to top them off!  Here is the yeasty smelling, foamy, frothy mixture right before I served it up!

Trellising the Melons

The new garden bed, measuring 4’x8′ has run out of room.  As I thought would happen, the melon vines have monopolized the existing space in the garden, leaving nowhere to go but UP.  With a little bit of expediency this weekend, I fashioned a homemade trellis using 2×3’s and nylon cord.  Luckily, I planted right and put the melons on the south side of the bed.  By trellising the melon vines on the south side of the bed, I won’t be blocking any sunlight from the rest of the veggie plants.

The materials used consisted of two eight-foot sections of 2″x3″ boards, each cut into halves.  I staked the four four-foot sections into the ground a couple of inches, then screwed each into the side of the garden bed and, for good measure, reinforced each attached board with two galvanized steel braces.  I drilled a hole every eight inches or so up each four-foot section and ran nylon cord through each hole and pulled the cord taught before tying it off.

After the trellis was installed, I carefully tied the cantaloupe vines to the cords to begin training the vines up and through the trellis.  The watermelon (planted last) isn’t quite long enough to start training, but I attached cords to the vines to begin pulling them towards the trellis.  I imagine that within a week it will be creeping up through the cords alongside the cantaloupe.

I have lots of flowers so far and the bees have been very interested, so hopefully soon I’ll start seeing the first of the melons!

Looking West

Looking East

Looking South

The southeast corner of the veggie bed

Cantaloupe tied to trellis

Now hopefully we'll get some melons!

What Compost Tea Does to a Veggie Garden

The veggie garden seems like it has grown by leaps and bounds the past couple of weeks.  Here is a shot taken two weeks ago, followed by a recent shot:

Image uploaded 4.5.11

Two weeks later ...

That’s what a few batches of compost tea will do!

The zucchini (upper right of the bed) is already producing.  The flowers are always so large and beautiful.  The bees love them, too.

zucchini flower

... turns into zucchini!

As you can see by the first two photos, everything has grown.  Check out the tomatoes (top two plants on left side of bed), now flowering and hopefully soon producing:

celebrity tomato bush

early girl tomato bush

Or the yellow squash (second from top, center row):

yellow crookneck squash

The cantaloupe vines are reaching out a couple feet in every direction (second plant from bottom on right row) …

cantaloupe

And the peppers…

habanero

bell pepper

The slowest growing plant has been the watermelon and it was planted a couple weeks after the others (the first plant died).  It is finally starting to grow more, too:

watermelon

And my flowers get compost tea, too.  The gauras are just going crazy right now and the Indigo Spires salvia is starting to bloom!

The New Garden Bed

Last week, I wrote about the new garden bed I built on the north side of the house.  Although I’ve been growing veggies in raised beds in other parts of the yard for the past couple of years, I decided that I needed to do something different this season.  The main reason for building a new bed is that the veggies simply weren’t getting enough sunlight.  Vegetables require at least 8 hours of sunlight a day to be really productive and the other beds only allowed for a max of six hours of direct sunlight before being shaded from the house or the fence.  In years past, I’ve had struggles with low productivity as well as powdery mildew on my cukes and squashes.  I think the low productivity was, in part, due to the shortage of direct sunlight and, also in part, due to the extreme heat (tomatoes stop setting at consistent temps over 85 degrees, for example).  I am also fairly certain that the powdery mildew proliferated due to the amount of shade the plants received.  Being exposed to full sun all day should help this situation.  If not, I’ll be trying some different techniques to get it under control.  More on that later should the need arise.

This new bed is about four feet wide by eight feet long.  It is now in a location where 100% of the bed receives direct sunlight all day long.  If it performs well, I just might expand it for the fall, perhaps putting another 4×8′ bed next to it.  This summer, I’ll be growing tomatoes, jalapenos, bell pepper, habaneros, cucumber, yellow squash, zucchini, watermelon and cantaloupe.  I skipped the bush beans this season, but might end up putting them in the additional bed if I decide to build it for fall.

 

the new garden bed

cantaloupe leaves

 

zucchini

tomato plant

mmmm, fire.

cucumbers

yellow crookneck squash

jalapeno

green bell pepper