Lily, My One and Only

It took a few months, but these are the lilies I won at a raffle at the local art center in the spring. They’re such a beautiful addition to the garden, and great filler since my roses haven’t bloomed yet.

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Letting it go to Seed

parsley2It’s the time of year when gardeners begin to harvest the last of their summer crops and letting some plants go to see. Every year, I let a few of my plants flower and go to seed. Although I intend to do this to save on seeds the following year, I end up buying new seeds anyway. But, they’re also nice to share and use, especially if you had a great crop this year.

It’s Time to Get Planting for Fall

As I sit back and enjoy the literal fruits of my labor in the garden, I’ve turned my attention to the fall plantings. I live in an area that is relatively mild all year long (although the Farmer’s Almanac predicts a wet and cold winter this year), so cool-weather crops thrive in the garden.

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This year, I’m planting kale, cauliflower, two types of broccoli and Brussels sprouts and I’m starting some of my onions and garlic from seed. The seeds are nestled in potting mix in starter trays on my deck.

 

Once they sprout, I’ll plant them in the garden. I’ve been enhancing the soil with finished chicken and horse manure and covered the area with old carpet to smother weeds.

 

Traditionally, we don’t get our first frost here until November (although if the Almanac is correct, it may be sooner), so I won’t plant this outdoors until November. To protect them from frost and bugs, I’ll cover them. However, I may reuse our old shower doors to create a cold frame.

 

Of course, fall is also the time to plant garlic and your spring flower bulbs. Buy your bulbs now and get planting!

 

What will you plant this fall?

 

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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

Make a Festive Summer Bouquet

The best part about growing flowers in the garden is cutting blossoms for bouquets in the house. Whether you grow roses, sunflowers, lavender or mums, there are always ways to bring the beauty of your garden inside.

Since my dahlias have been growing like gangbusters, I’ve been clipping stems whenever I get a chance. I also have roses that were here when we moved in (that I nearly cut down), mums that are blooming even though it’s not fall and Minoan Lace that reseeded from last year and has taken over a corner of my front garden.

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Here’s a bouquet I made recently with dahlias, roses, Minoan lace and lavender. I reused a glass apple juice container I had saved.

 

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Here are some roses I clipped from a wild shrub outside of my office window.

 

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This one includes a lily, dahlias, poppies, Minoan lace, broccoli flowers and sprigs from my lemon tree in a teapot with bicycles on it.

 

To make flowers last, I use this recipe, that I got from the book Petal & Twig, and adjust it to adapt to the size of the container:

1 chopped up non-coated aspirin

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon vinegar

3 cups water

Ode to Dahlias

Dahlias are a must-have in a summer garden. Not only are they super easy to grow, they also make great cutting flowers. Clip four or five flowers and you have yourself an easy, single-flower bouquet.

5 Simple Tips for Growing Dahlias

  1. Plant tubers in the spring. That way you’ll get beautiful blooms in the summer.
  2. Give them sun. Dahlias are sun lovers so give them plenty of sunshine, 6+ hours a day.
  3. Stake ‘em. If you plant a taller variety of dahlia, be sure to give it some support by staking it.
  4. Keep them watered. While you sure don’t want to flood your dahlias (most plants don’t like having wet feet), keeping the soil moist will ensure your plants have food to grow.
  5. Dig up the tubers in the fall if you live in a cold area. Dahlias are hardy in warm areas, but won’t survive in the ground in an area that gets below 20 degrees Fahrenheit. I leave mine in the ground, but I also live in zone 9. We got a hard frost a few years ago and it was like the world was ending.

 

My mom bought me this dahlia last year when she came out to help with the baby. Now when it blooms, I think of her.

 

 

Wine: Because What Else Would You Do With Fruit Trees?

I saw a t-shirt once that said, “Wine is proof that God loves us,” and while I’m not a believer, I did get quite a chuckle. When we moved to our property, we were excited to have fruit trees, specifically apple trees to make cider. Unfortunately, since the trees hadn’t been pruned in a decade, we didn’t get much fruit from the trees.

plums in buckets

Not deterred, we pruned our apple and plum trees at the end of the season and waited for the next year. As a result, our harvest increased last year and we made delicious plum wine, plum cider and apple cider.

So far this year, we’ve had a bumper crop of plums, so we’ve started the process of making plum wine. We’ve pressed 60 pound of plums and have keep some of the pulp. We plan to put it in mesh bags and let it steep with the plum juice, water, sugar, tannins, yeasts and other ingredients to create plum wine.

But, why stop there? We have blackberries that are ripening in bushes around our property. I looked up a great recipe for blackberry wine last night. Even our Rainier cherries are ripening and will be ready to pick in the next month—they might make a delicious wine as well.

This year, I added black currants, a pomegranate tree and goji berries to my garden. They would all make excellent wine on their own or mixed with other fruit. At this rate, we’ll have to build a wine cellar.