Flowers in the rain

Raindrops on daffodils…

 

Raindrops on rosemary and strawflowers…

Advertisements

More Bottling Adventures…

The cherry wine is finally ready to bottle! We used our slightly over-ripe Rainier cherries to make 10 gallons of wine, or roughly 45 bottles. Now that I’ve bottled wine a few times, I’m reducing the spillage that occurs, which is great. The wine will be ready in about a year; hopefully over the next 12 months, it’ll clear up a bit and mellow in taste.

cherry-wine

5 Things I’ve learned from Gardening

Gardening is hard work! Studies have shown that gardening and yard work can torch major calories. This is especially true with starting a new garden, as I’ve learned over the past week. We finally started moving into the new house, and my first order of business was getting my seed starts into the ground.

Always be prepared to change your plans

Unfortunately, the previous owner hadn’t mowed the courtyard area—the site of my garden—in quite some time. The grass was so tall that I almost lost my dog and my nearly two-year-old. This put a huge dent in my original design plans. I had intended to place my garden right next to the greenhouse, but the weeds and the ground were not going to let that happen. Luckily, I spied the border of what-had-been a garden in the past, so I went back to the drawing board and planned for this new site.

Invest in leather gardening gloves

With hedge clippers in hand, I hacked away at the weeds, which included grasses and wild roses. I had thought about using the weed whacker, but in typical fashion I forgot to take it with me to the new house. After that, I took out the hoe and started pounding away at the stubborn weed roots. The roses were the worst—they have more pricks than a bar in San Diego on a Friday night. My hands were thrashed by the time I finished clearing the area. And I still had to give up and think of another way to get rid of them.

Poo cures everything

My hubby brought two truckloads of finished manure from the stables where he keeps his horse. Since it’s a finished product, I shoveled it directly into the garden bed to supercharge my plant. The existing soil isn’t bad—in fact, a gardener couldn’t ask for better. But the addition of the manure will help nourish the plants.

Did I mention, always be ready to revise your plans

After putting in the soaker hose, I planted all of my seed starts and planted more seeds in the soil. While I had the best of intentions to plant everything neat and orderly, I had to give that up midway. My son had swiped some of my garden tools and was chasing the dog around with the weeding tool. I had to look up and yell, “Hey, stop it!” which made it impossible to plant anything in neat rows.

In the words of Beyonce, pretty hurts, especially when we’re on the subject of roses

This year will be a bit of an experiment to help me understand what grows well and what doesn’t. So far the strawberries and peas are kicking ass so we may be subsisting on that for a bit. Since the roses that had sprung up in one half of the garden were so difficult to hack up, I decided to plant a smaller garden this year, which is for the best…and it saves me from the risk of a horrible rose thorn-induced infection.

Since I’m only using half of the garden space, I can properly get rid of the weeds growing in the unused space, which will make the soil there super fertile next year—though hopefully, by then I will have found out which crops can grow well in the space, aside from strawberries and peas.

 

If you want more garden tips, be sure to sign up for my gardening class on Skillshare.

Sunflowers!

sunflower5It’s safe to say that sunflowers are my favorite flower in the garden. They’re the favorite of many gardeners as well and a sure symbol of summer. Growing well over 6 feet tall (well, most varieties anyway), sunflowers are the happy guardians of the garden. I grow them every year. Even when I lived in an apartment and my garden consisted of pots on my tiny patio, sunflowers were always one of the plants I grew.

Seeds or starts?

I typically always start my sunflowers from seed. They’re very easy to grow so it’s often not worth the bother or expense of purchasing starts. The exception was last year when I waited too long to get the seeds in and had to buy a six-pack of sunflower starts just to ensure I had these sunny flowers in my garden.

 

Bring the sunshine inside

Although in past years I was reluctant to cut my sunflowers, I’ve started doing so and bringing the cuttings inside. Typically, I choose to plant the sunflowers varieties that ‘branch’ so I will still have flowers on the plant, even after I cut a stem to cheer up my home.

 

If you want more garden tips, be sure to sign up for my gardening class on Skillshare.

Sunflower_blog cover

It’s Cherry Season!

One of my favorite times of years is when the cherries are ripe on the tree and ready for picking. We have two trees, but we can only get to one of them due to overgrown ivy (can I just say that seeing ripe cherries on a tree is torture when you can’t actually reach them?)

cherry blossoms4_smaller

Flowers on the cherry tree in February

Our first year in the house, friends who were visiting pointed them out and we spent an hour shaking them from the tree and collecting them in buckets. We repeated the drill again last year and a couple weeks ago. While my 3 year old was excited to help, the baby wasn’t as excited and cried the entire time.

cherries and blackberriesedited

Blackberries and cherries

What can you do with 60 pounds of cherries?

The first year, I made cherry jam and marmalade. It was my first time using pectin and I was not prepared for how quickly it gelled. Usually I use green apples, which seem to be more forgiving. While I still have to stand at the stove and stir, if I have to step away for a minute or two, I can without ruining a whole pot of jam. Needless to say, my first venture into pectin didn’t work out at all. I can’t even get it out of the jar. If someone tries to attack me, the cherry jam could be a useful weapon.

Last year, we dried all of the cherries. My husband soaked them in brandy first. We still have some, even after a year.

This year, we’re venturing into cherry wine. I love wine; after all, I drink enough of it. We fermented a good share of our plums into wine and we’ll do the same with the cherries. Currently we have 10 gallons of cherry wine fermenting, along with a blend of cherries, plums and the first round of blackberries we’ve picked. After I pull out the nylon bags with fruit bit and transfer the solution into a secondary fermentor, I’ll add oak chips and maybe cinnamon sticks to give it a bit of a kick.

Cherry wine fermentingedited

Cherries fermenting in the primary fermentor

Since I haven’t made wine at this scale before, I’m nervous as to how it’ll turn out. Hopefully fine, but we’ll see. It could be awesome or absolutely terrible.

Next year we plan to plant a couple more cherry trees, maybe a different variety. Variety is the spice of life right?

 

 

If you want more garden tips, be sure to sign up for my gardening class on Skillshare.

Tips for Growing Brassicas

If you live in a temperate area, consider growing brassicas. Brassicas include garden staples like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, turnips, kale and kohlrabi.

 

brusselssprouts

Brussels Sprouts in the garden

Brassicas do best in moist, well-drained soils with full sun. They tend to be susceptible to diseases and pests, so maintaining proper moisture levels is essential. It also helps to cover your plants with row covers to keep pests in check. And, remember to space them properly to keep air flowing between the plants.

 

Since they’re cool-weather crops, they tend to bold during heat waves. For broccoli, I’ve had luck pulling flowering buds and giving them to the chickens.

broccoli-resized

Harvest when you want; however, keep an eye on pests and bolting plants.

 

Be sure to rotate your crops. Don’t plant a brassica where you planted one last year, so don’t plant broccoli where you had cabbage, or Brussels sprouts where you had cauliflower. Planting them in the same spot year after year will make them more susceptible to disease.

 

 

If you want more garden tips, be sure to sign up for my gardening class on Skillshare.

Grow Broccoli

In an effort to rely less on the produce section and more on my garden, I tried growing broccoli this year. I tried growing it from seed, but it didn’t work out for me so I bought starts from the local nursery and, boy, did they deliver. I’ve been harvesting florets from the 12 plants I purchased all summer.

broccoli

Broccoli from the garden tastes different. I know, I know—that’s what everyone says. It’s true though. It’s a bit sharper than store-bought broccoli, and that’s not a bad thing. When I steam it, it’s more fragrant than store-bought broccoli. It’s nice to be able to really taste and smell the vegetables before I eat them.

Since broccoli is a cool-season crop, I can grow it all year in my temperate climate. Woohoo, broccoli for days.

 

 

 

 

 

If you want more garden tips, be sure to sign up for my gardening class on Skillshare.