Stargazers and A Fairy Tale Sunflower

It’s been way too long since I’ve written a post and there is lots to catch up on. I’ll get to that soon – I had the best intentions of keeping up on my posts but sometimes it just doesn’t happen! I just wanted to take a moment to share two things that made me really happy from my garden this week! 

My stargazers finally opened!! They are so happy and big and beautiful and they smell divine!! 


And check out this gigantic Sunflower! It has to be at least 14 feet tall. It reminds me of the story of Jack and the Giant Beanstalk. I planted some really tall Sunflowers a few years ago and this one was a volunteer seed so it was a total surprise for us this year! It fully opened today so I will update with even cooler pictures over the weekend. 

Garden Update: Week of July 8, 2017

What’s new/what’s been happening:
New tomato cages, new camera, finally a place for wildflowers!

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Bright new cages for the peppers!
My birthday late last week brought me some wonderful presents that will help to enhance the garden and this blog! First, thanks to my cousin Lydia, my peppers now have bright, colorful tomato cages around them. Good timing too, because I noticed that the two bigger plants both have quite a few tiny peppers growing. Also, I got a new camera – many thanks to my wonderful family. Now I will be able to take much better photos, and I’m hoping to learn how to take more creative and artistic photos as well. I’ve always enjoyed photography – and now I have excellent equipment and a plentiful favorite subject – flowers! On the subject of flowers – I found some beautiful flower pots on clearance at Lowe’s, so I bought a couple and am going to plant wildflower seeds in them since the area where I tried to grow wildflowers before floods too much for them to grow. I can’t wait to share pictures of my beautiful wildflower pots! Also, I finally found a garden to volunteer in! More about that below.

What’s Growing:
Broccoli, Tomato, Zucchini, Spinach and Lettuce
Foxglove, Beebalm, Sunflower

In last week’s post, we harvested a bunch of broccoli. This week, I noticed that we are getting lots of secondary heads of broccoli growing around where I harvested. I can’t wait to have some more fresh broccoli for dinner! In other exciting news – my first tomato of the season is almost ripe!! I can’t wait to eat a fresh tomato out of my own garden!! Hoping for a bumper crop this year – I’m already planning on making sauces, salsa, and all sorts of other treats and trying my hand at canning for this first time. Regarding canning –  I have a few experienced people who have offered to give me a hand for the first time to make sure I get it right. You do not want to screw up canning and make everyone who eats your food sick. Of course, I will share those experiences here when the time comes. There is a zucchini growing in my big mess of zucchini leaves – likely more than one but definitely one I can see. I also noted last week that I planted some spinach and lettuce under the cantaloupe arbor, since the cantaloupe are now happily growing up and over. I’m delighted to report that in just one week, seedlings are already coming up! I’m really hoping the spinach does a lot better in its new home. If so, I will definitely reconsider where I plant it next year. Still nothing really from the cauliflower – there are a few plants that look less unhealthy than the others but I think the flooding in that garden bed has really taken a toll on them, and to a lesser but still significant extent, the broccoli. We are already thinking of ways we can improve that bed next year, which most likely will involve building it up another foot and running some drainage tubing under the soil.

Update:  After I wrote this post gushing about my tomato, I went home to find it and the one next to it stripped from the plant! So bummed!! Fortunately whatever animal took those two tomatoes left all the other green ones. So the wait for a fresh tomato continues!!

The weather has been great for the flowers lately, and they have all responded by absolutely exploding with growth. In particular, the fox glove I planted early this season finally has buds on it, and the bee balm I had to cut down a few weeks ago due to powdery mildew has new, healthy leaves on it – maybe there is hope for some fall blooms after all! My sunflowers are blooming now, and I am so excited about a surprise white and red sunflower. It is particularly beautiful, in my opinion.

What I’ve Experienced:
Growing Places Indy – Volunteering in an urban garden
Indianapolis Zoo – my favorite place to browse tons of plants for photos and inspiration

This weekend brought me the incredible opportunity to volunteer for Growing Places Indy, an organization in town that emphasizes wellness through healthy food and farming, eating well, mindfulness, yoga, self-exploration, etc. They fund their efforts through a series of urban farms in the city, and they sell their produce to restaurants and at farmers markets. The proceeds support their other programming, and they also match food assistance funds at the Farmer’s Market so that lower-income members of the community have better access to fresh, healthy food. In fact, their whole mantra of Grow Well, Eat Well, Live Well, Be Well resonates with me and how I strive to live. So it was with great enthusiasm that I took the opportunity to volunteer in one of the gardens downtown on Sunday. In fact, I walk and jog past this garden on my lunch quite frequently and have always been curious about it, so it was really great to get to see it up close and learn more about it and the mission. I also learned the proper way to harvest greens (I have been doing it all wrong!) and how to prune a tomato (I will put up some videos demonstrating both in the very near future!). I am very excited to get more involved with this organization and continue to help in the garden this summer and fall and then volunteer with their Winter Farmer’s Market program this winter.

I also went with my family to one of our favorite places – the Indianapolis Zoo. I love the animals, but also particularly enjoy all the plants and flowers throughout the grounds. I always draw such inspiration from the different flowers and plants and how they are planted and grouped and presented. It was fun to bring my camera along for the ride. Here are some of my photos (and a couple of fun animal pictures for good measure).

And some other photos! 

As always, here are some flower pictures I took this week, and one of a neighbor’s yard that I thought was particularly pretty from when we were out on a family walk. Also, I had to get up on the roof to check out some repair work, so I took an “aerial” photo of the garden. Enjoy!

 

 

 

Garden Update – July 1, 2017

Well, the weekend is finally upon us and it turns out, it is one of my favorite weekends of the year! The 4th of July! Well, not until Tuesday but it means it’s a long weekend so that is something to celebrate!

We got a deluge of rain Friday. which you can see from the waterlogged gardens. It was crazy, it came down so fast the water was just pooling everywhere. Fortunately, the weather dried out over the next few days. I know the plants needed that rain because I haven’t been watering a lot due to the ongoing threat of impending storms.  But I also think a lot of my early plants suffered from the continuous rain in the early spring. Anyway, I’m glad the weather improved because we have family visiting for the weekend and wanted to spend some time outside!!

 

 

Harvested this weekend!!

todays harvest
Broccoli, green beans, and a bell pepper fresh from the garden.
Well, after I wrote the introductory paragraph in a rain storm on Friday, Saturday turned out to be a beautiful day. And I harvested some lettuce, broccoli, green beans, and a bell pepper. We put the lettuce straight to work on some BLTs! I can’t wait until later this summer when we have BLTs with our lettuce AND our tomatoes!! I now have 6 tomatoes on my Early Girl – but none are ripe yet. We also enjoyed broccoli with dinner (there is nothing quite so tasty as vegetables picked that same day!) and made a big thing of green beans (with a bit of bacon!) to share as a side dish for the 4th of July Symphony on the Prairie.

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A beautiful evening at Symphony on the Prairie – a wonderful Indiana tradition!
Flowers blooming

Some pictures of our beautiful flowers. The butterfly bush has its first flowers of the season, and this is the first sunflower to show its lovely face as well! I was thrilled to see the Delphinium displaying another round of flowers. I thought when I bought it at the Farmer’s Market it might be done for the season but I was delightfully wrong!!

Everything needs a little support, sometimes…

I posted earlier this week about using some spray painted PVC pipe to prop up my Phlox (check it out!). Well, in the vegetable garden, I noticed that there were quite a few other plants who could use a little support. The zucchini are growing prolifically and were encroaching greatly on the cantaloupe, and the broccoli plants were starting to lean onto the kale. Most of the green beans benefited from a piece of fence I put in front of the first row but there was one plant that the fencing did not extend to that needed a little help, and my first pepper to bear fruit needed something to hold it up. So armed with some small sections of trellis and PVC pipe, I went to work and helped these plants out. Several years ago, I bought some square tomato cages that did not do well at all for my tomatoes; however, with a pair of wire snips, I have deconstructed them and they are wonderful for supporting rows of crops! I have them between all my green beans, and now they are helping to keep the broccoli plants standing straight and not leaning over the kale, and also gave the cantaloupe a little breathing room. A few re-purposed items and the garden looks much tidier and everything has its own space again!

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Broccoli standing up straight again

Cantaloupe growing up the arbor

Zucchini with its new fencing is no longer smothering the cantaloupe
 

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Bell pepper with its new PVC support
And something new!!

After I put up a little fencing to help the zucchini stay on their side of the garden, and was able to get a good look at how well the cantaloupe are doing climbing up the arbor, I decided to do something with the big space in the middle of the cantaloupe bed. What a better place than in the shade of the big zucchini leaves and cantaloupe that will soon be growing over the arbor to plant some romaine and spinach. The spinach did terrible in the other area where I had them planted. I’m very excited to see if they do better in this area. I think there is a great chance that they will!

new lettuce and spinach

 

 

 

Simple DIY hack – when you need to stake a plant 

My beautiful, top heavy Phlox was badly in need of something to give it a little support as it was leaning really badly, with parts of it even laying on the ground. I needed something simple to stake it up that wouldn’t look like total crap but ideally was already laying around the garage. Enter PVC pipe leftover from our DIY squash arbor in the backyard! Leaving it white would stand out way too much but I found a can of soft green spray pain in the garage. A couple quick coats, and I stuck it in the ground next to my Phlox and gently secured it with a strip of nylon pantyhose. If you didn’t know – nylons are the best thing ever for supporting all sorts of plants – I swear by them when it comes to staking tomatoes!! And it makes me feel better about the fact a pair of nylons rarely lasts me more than two wearings – at least they get to be spared the trash can!! And now my Phlox are standing up straight and pretty! 

Basil pesto chicken

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My basil plant has been doing wonderfully and getting nice and bushy. So for over a week, I’ve been thinking about basil pesto chicken breasts. Soon the tomatoes will be ripe and they will make the perfect side to this dish. But until then this will be great on its own!! In my opinion, this recipe is best on something baked. I find it to be a bit bitey on its own. I’m working on something a little smoother for sandwichimg_8597es and such. You will need: basil, olive oil, Parmesan cheese grated, garlic (I used already minced but fresh would be better!) and a pinch of salt. I also added in a sprig of parsley. I used probably about a cup of basil, 2 tbsp grated Parmesan, 2+ tbsp olive oil, and a clove of garlic (but of course use to your taste!). I washed the basil and parsley and spun them in the salad spinner to get the excess water off. Then, I threw everything in the food processor and gave it a few spins. Then, I baked the chicken most of the way, threw the basil on, cooked a little longer, threw some mozzarella on, and voila! Dinner!