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!!

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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

 

 

 

Garden Update – June 23, 2017

The garden is continuing to thrive! Things are getting big and mature, and we are starting to enjoy the fruits (vegetables!) of our labors. Some updates, and mysteries –


Garden Mysteries….

If you look closely, you will see there is an extended empty spot between the kale and the lone spinach plant. There used to be a full half row of spinach. And then there was a big bare spot with two spinach plants on each end. Next thing I know… there is only one spinach plant! I also noticed that something dug in my tender oregano starts. No idea what is in my garden! It could be rabbits… although I haven’t seen any around and our three outdoor cats have been frequenting the back yard lately so it seems less likely. Squirrels, perhaps??? Squirrels absolutely will eat leafy greens… what is strange is that they are opting pretty much exclusively for the spinach! The other mystery for the week is what is eating my cauliflower!? I have been out looking at my leaves to see if I can spot any little bugs or caterpillars, and they are not very obvious, but it appears to be eating a little bit of everything in this garden. The cauliflower is just suffering the most. This will require some research. I have been watching it for a few days, and I got out a magnifying glass and studied it and I think the most likely culprit is a flea beetle. Now to figure out how to eradicate it. Oh – and I also found cabbage looper on the leaves of the cauliflower. The holes on the cauliflower look the most like the damage I found online attributed to cabbage looper, and the damage on the kale leaf definitely resembles flea beetle damage. On the raspberry bush, I had the most luck with hand picking the Japanese beetles, so I think I need to get my headlamp and go out there at night or early in the morning and get these little turds while they’re active.

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Missing spinach??
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Cabbage looper damage on cauliflower leaf
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Flea beetle damage on the Kale

 

 

 

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Uninvited guest in the cauliflower

 


Celebrating first lettuce and green bean harvest, and a few more that are almost ready to harvest….

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Broccoli!

The bell pepper continues to get bigger, and there are now 4 tomatoes on the Early Girl plant. The broccoli is looking great, and we had our first harvest of green beans and lettuce! Fresh green beans are about my favorite food on the planet. Also need to trim back my basil plant, so I’m planning on making some yummy pesto this week, maybe to go over some chicken breasts. It’s making me hungry just thinking about it! I cut the lettuce with my kitchen scissors, washed it carefully and thoroughly, and then gave it a few spins in my salad spinner to get all the excess moisture off of it before I stored it. After it was mostly dry, I let it sit on a plate with some paper towels for a little bit to soak up any excess moisture, and then put it in freezer bags in the fridge with some more paper towels. The theme here is store your lettuce dry! And it will last for a while in your fridge – not that it needs to though! Because fresh lettuce is delicious!!

Bell pepper getting bigger!
Fresh lettuce – first harvest!

Hydrangea, marigold, and Balloon Flower! 

I’m very excited to see the balloon flower finally opening. I had forgotten I planted it last summer, and when it started coming up I wasn’t sure what it was, but knew it didn’t look like a weed. So I left it. And am I glad I did! It’s such a neat plant, I love the flower buds. The marigold was planted from

seed, and took a while to get going, but it is finally flowering! There is something so satisfying about watching something grow and mature from seed. And it is a big deal that the hydrangea is finally blooming – even if the flower ball was hiding inside the plant! I’ve waited several years for it to flower and it finally did!!

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Updated Garden List

Garden update 6.19.17

 


Helpful Resources:

Cucumber Beetle Control Ideas  – The comment section of this post has tons of different ideas worth trying. Definitely going to try the idea of using yellow bowls that bugs think are flowers and putting water and a touch of dish soap in them to drown the bugs. Seems like a very inexpensive thing to try, and how great if it was effective! (Dollar store anyone?)

About Flea Beetles -Know thy enemy! Also includes a homemade solution I am going to try and will report back on: 2 parts rubbing alcohol, 5 parts water, and 1 tablespoon liquid soap. Spray the mixture on the foliage of garden plants that are susceptible to these pests.

 

 

Garden update – 6/17/17

I have a few friends who haven’t even put their gardens in yet. While they are probably a little on the late side, it gave me perspective that we are still fairly early in the season and it’s ok that my plants are not the size of those in the gardens of others I have visited this weekend. The late fertilizer is likely also to blame, although I added to the organic fertilizer last weekend with a nitrogen rich fish emulsion this weekend. Hoping for some big results!

Plants growing bigger

As I mentioned, I applied a second fertilizer to all of my vegetables Saturday – fish emulsion, which is organic and is 5-1-1. I’m hoping the nitrogen in it helps the plants grow bigger and bushier. It appears the fertilizers have been helping – my lettuce is ready for its first harvest, and the green beans have flowers all over them and there are little green beans starting. The broccoli is doing very well and there is a broccoli stalk on most every plant. The zucchini plants have tons of flowers. My lone baby tomato is getting a lot bigger, and the other plants are beginning to bush out, although I still think they are a little behind for this point in the year. I am pleased to report that the eggplant and cucumber seem very happy in their new homes and are thriving. The milkweed I planted in a huge pot took a long time to get started, but it is finally growing at a good rate. I even noticed little oregano sprouts when I was checking out my garden last night (6/21). The cauliflower isn’t growing very fast and there is not a visible cauliflower stalk yet, but they are doing ok. It appears something has been eating the leaves but I have not yet determined what. I am keeping a close eye on those plants.

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The garden beds this week

Star gazers!

The Star Gazer lilies I planted a few weeks ago are finally starting to pop up all over the front beds. I can’t wait to see (and smell!!) them when they bloom!

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Japanese beetles and Crabgrass and powdery mildew

With all this good news, there were a few things going on in the garden this week that were a little less stellar. Japanese beetles were feasting on my raspberry leaves, which caused me to prune the whole thing back a little harder and a little earlier than I would have. Crabgrass has been growing super fast in the front beds, bolstered in large part by the hot weather, rain, and of course the fertilizer we put on the flowers. Scott and I spent a significant amount of time pulling it up the other night, since I don’t want him spraying any weed killer very close to my plants. I also noticed that my bee balm is under attack from powdery mildew. I wrote a separate post on how I handled some of these nuisance situations, which you can read here: Beetles and Mildew

 

Visiting the gardens of others 

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Hibiscus and porticula arrangements at Dad and Janet’s house (photo credit – Dad)

Over the weekend, I also had the opportunity to visit the gardens of some other gardeners that I highly respect. One such gardener, my friend Sharon, has a yard mostly in the shade, and has many varieties of plants that I do not yet have. At the end of the season, we are planning a plant swap when we divide some of our plants and I am really excited to hopefully be the beneficiary of some coneflower, mini hosta, sedum, and iris!! Another plant I was very fascinated with was her oak leaf hydrangea. I love hydrangea but this one is different and very cool. We also went down to visit my dad and bonus mom Janet for Father’s Day, and I was blown away by her beautiful garden! She has tons of varieties of dahlia, porticula, and hibiscus, among many, many others. In fact, my dad sent the attached photo of their hibiscus blooming like crazy the day after we visited. I can’t recommend enough that aspiring gardeners visit the gardens of other people! I came away with tons of ideas for plants and arrangements in my own gardens, as well as arrangements to share plants at the end of the season. Gardening is absolutely a joy that should be shared!

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A porticula to add to the collection. Thanks to my lovely bonus mom!

Speaking of new plants… I raved so much about Janet’s beautiful porticula arrangements that she gave me one of my own! I can’t wait to see it grow and fill out this pot. I will definitely be using it in my arrangements liberally next year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For Fun – Some more pretty flower pictures