July Update: A new streak begins and the garden keeps on growing!

Matt and I are home after spending 10 days in beautiful St. Lucia and a few days in Western Maryland for the DockDogs Regional Championships.  I’ll post honeymoon photos and the dockdogs recap soon, but in the meantime I have some updates!

After 205 consecutive days my mile-a-day streak ended the day before our honeymoon began (June 13th).  I initially thought I would keep on streaking while in St. Lucia but for the first week we were staying in the rainforest on top of a mountain at the end of a precariously washed out dirt road so running a mile a day wasn’t really feasible.  Oh well!  🙂 As of July 1st I have started a new streak.  We’ll see if I can beat 205 days… I’ll reach that goal on January 21, 2014.

In other news, we had record rainfall in June and as a result my vegetable garden has been growing like crazy!  Check out this photo that I took today… a comparison shot from my May 10th gardening post is below.

Garden 7-3-13

Garden (5-10-13)

Quite a difference, right?  When we got home from St. Lucia I was shocked to see how much the parsley, thyme and tomatoes had grown and I was overwhelmed by the enormous zucchini plants!!  (I think my basil was overwhelmed too… it’s now living in the shadow of those large-leafed behemoths!)  Here are some other photos of my garden and back yard flowers from today.

While I was wandering around with my camera this afternoon I was surprised to spot a white-tailed deer in the front yard.  It is quite common for us to see deer in our area (usually in other peoples’ yards or dashing across the road!) but it is very, VERY rare to see a deer in our yard because Bailey has made it her life mission to stalk and chase any and all wildlife that comes within her invisible fence boundary.

I guess the neighborhood deer herd realized that Bailey was not at home for most of June and as a result they are now making themselves comfortable in the front yard.  Luckily Bailey was on her game this afternoon and as soon as this deer made a move Bailey (who must have been stalking it from a different angle as I snapped away with the camera) came blasting over, chased it away, and then proceeded to roll and rub in the deer’s scent for a good 30 seconds.  Good dog, Bailey (even if you do smell now…)

Well, that’s it for tonight’s update.  Happy 4th of July and have a great holiday weekend!!

Related Posts:
• Streaking, Reflections, and Other December Challenges (December 3, 2012)
• Streaking, Day 100 (March 1, 2013)
• Let the 2013 Gardening Season Begin! (May 12, 2013)
• Waiting for Red Tomatoes (July 4, 2012)

Happy Spring!

Happy Spring!  Our yard has made a beautiful transformation from Winter to Spring in just two short weeks.  Our trees are blooming, the tulips are coming up, and the garlic that I planted last Fall is looking great.  Here are some photos from April 19th:

That beautiful spinach patch is actually leftover from spinach that I planted in October.  It never really took off at the time (probably because I planted it too late) but as soon as the weather warmed up in April it started growing like crazy.  I harvested it today and I can’t wait to enjoy with some cucumber, feta, and toasted almonds tonight!

If you’re interested to see how this year’s growth compares to the same time last year, check out my Garden Update from April 17, 2012.  Thanks for stopping by!

August Cheer for a Rainy Day

As predicted, Hurricane Sandy is slowly turning into the New Jersey coast and we have already experienced 40 mph wind gusts, almost 2 inches of rain, and a short power outage.  We’ve also found a leaky spot in our roof by the chimney… eek!  Other than that everything is fine so I thought I’d share something completely unrelated to the storm: photos from my garden in August!

This pink zinnia plant was at its peak in early August but, believe it or not, it STILL has a few blooms on it today! We’ll see how they look after the storm…

These Gladioli bloomed in August and did a nice job of covering up the big propane tank that powers a little stove in our living room. That stove might come in handy if the power goes out tonight!

Vine-ripening tomatoes in early August… yum!

These “Dinnerplate” Dahlias bloomed outside of our front door for most of the summer.

I picked all of these vegetables during my lunch break one day in August. Pretty good harvest, right?

And, last but not least, an isolated Orange Cosmo. You might recognize this plant from my August post “The Bee’s Knees.” I’m definitely planting more of these flowers next year!

Thanks for stopping by my blog and good luck to everyone in the storm’s path!

Volunteer Vegetables!

Guess what?  All of these veggies came from “volunteer plants” in my garden.  Volunteers are plants that grow on their own, either from the wind or a bird dropping a seed or, in my case, from compost.  Seeds aren’t normally supposed to sprout out of your compost so, judging by the huge quantity of volunteers that are growing around my house, I think I must be doing something wrong!  (Or very right, depending on how you feel about volunteer mystery plants!)

The squash and pumpkin plants sprouted by our front door and quickly took over our pink cosmo/dahlia flower bed.  By mid-August the crooked-neck gourd vines were completely out of control and could be clearly seen from the street so we picked the mature squash and ripped out the vines.  The pumpkin vines were growing across our front walk so today I finally decided that the pumpkin looked ripe enough to pick it and pull out the plant.

The tomatoes are the most exciting volunteers because we’re actually getting to eat those.  We have about a dozen volunteer tomato plants and the campari-sized tomatoes are just starting to ripen on their vines.  This is perfect timing because my “planned” tomatoes are pretty much done producing.  Can’t wait to each some of them for dinner tonight!

Our First Garlic Harvest!

After 9 months of waiting our garlic is finally ready to harvest! I’m pleased to announce the successful unearthing of eight beautiful, nicely formed garlic bulbs.

I patiently waited for the bottom of the garlic plants to start turning brown before harvesting them. Since these plants are a “hard neck” garlic variety I was able to pull them out of the ground with my hands fairly easily. One of the bulbs was slightly damaged (a clove had over-ripened out of its papery skin) so I peeled the whole bulb and used it to make a large batch of pesto. I froze the pesto in an ice cube tray so we’ll be able to enjoy our garden’s garlic and basil several months from now.

Based on Mike McGrath’s advice, I am now “curing” our garlic in a single file row on our dining room table. The spot is air conditioned and out of direct sunlight so hopefully the garlic should be ready to store in a week or so. We use garlic pretty quickly in our household so those remaining seven bulbs should be long gone by October!

This garlic was amazingly simple to grow (just plant the cloves in October, cut the scapes in June, and unearth the bulbs in July) and we are excited to finally be enjoying our own garlic!!

Please remember to leave a comment in my Tomato Salad post to be eligible to win a digital kitchen scale!

Pink Zinnia!

We grew this lovely pink zinnia from seed and it now resides outside our front door amidst a volunteer squash patch.  Isn’t it pretty?

Also… don’t forget to leave a comment in my Slimkicker Giveaway post to be eligible to win a digital kitchen scale!  🙂

Victory! Vine-Ripened Red Tomatoes

Last week I wrote about how I was eagerly awaiting the arrival of Red Tomatoes in my garden.  Well, the waiting has come to an end and I am proud to say that my hanging and containerized tomato plants now have a few dozen perfect little red tomatoes on their vines.  Here are some photos… enjoy!  🙂

Tomatoes after the rain this morning (the first rain we’ve had in weeks!)

Tomatoes ripening from the top down.

OK… not a tomato, of course, but also red! Our green jalapeño peppers are ripening to this beautiful red color.

These green tomatoes will be red soon!

Future tomatoes

Perfect!

These tomatoes will be making an appearance in our dinner on Monday.  We’re having Spicy Steak and Potatoes with Roasted Chile Salsa and Tomato Salad with Guajillo Chile Dressing.  Look for a post sometime later in the week!

The Many Colors of July

Matt and I bought our house in the Winter of 2011 and when our first Spring rolled around I was disappointed to discover that there were very few flowers planted around the house.  I decided that I wanted this Spring and Summer to be much more colorful so we’ve been hard at work digging new flower beds, planting dozens of bulbs, making our own compost, and starting flowers from seed.  We’ve been rewarded with some gorgeous blooms so far this year and I’m excited to see how everything will continue to grow!  Here are some photos that I took on Tuesday:

This lovely bright pink zinnia is growing in the new bed that we dug outside of  our front door. I’m especially proud of it because it is one of the plants that we started from seed back in February.

We also started these painted daisies from seed. The bee landed on the flower as I was taking the photo.

These colorful little “superbells” are growing in a lime green container along with some pink blanket flowers and white Asiatic lilies.

I bought a few bags of Dahlia bulbs at Home Depot in the spring and about half of the flowers are this rich, deep red color. The other half are “peppermint” Dahlias… keep reading to see what they look like!

We planted this small purple-flowered tree in a container last Summer and, although it was supposed to be an annual, we kept it inside over the winter and it’s blooming again. I can’t remember the exact name of the plant but I think it might be in the Solanum family.

This clematis was one of the only flowering plants that came up in Spring 2011. It is planted under an overhang in a very shady spot and it’s “dirt” is a bed of river rocks… I don’t know how it survives without any water, sun, or soil but it seems to be doing well!

Last but not least, here’s a peppermint dahlia!

Oh… and on another note, I ate my first Red Tomato today!!  It was delicious!

Waiting for Red Tomatoes

The “waiting” season of gardening has begun.  It seemed that back in May and June I spent every spare minute outside in the garden planting, mulching, weeding, and admiring my handiwork, but now that the heat and humidity of July have arrived I think its time for the garden to start supplying me with the fruits (and vegetables!) of my labor.  I am getting especially impatient for my dozens of green tomatoes to ripen so that I can harvest them.  Every day I check my tomato plants and although most of the tiny fruits are still a lovely two-tone green color, a few are actually starting to turn red!

I have four “planned” tomato plants in my garden (two hanging upside-down in buckets and two in containers) and, much to my surprise, I also have 5-6 unplanned “volunteer” tomato plants that magically sprouted around our back patio.  I guess that the mystery tomatoes must have sprouted from my partially cooked compost because they’re showing up between my basil and pepper plants as well as a new bed that Matt and I dug near our grill.

When I found the first plant (and second, and third… before the novelty wore off) I carefully transplanted them into containers filled with half compost and half soil-free mix.  They have been thriving and I think it will soon be time to move them to larger containers.

My hanging tomatoes have been growing rapidly and seem to be unfazed by their upside-down orientation.  They are potted in large 5 gallon buckets with soil-free mix and compost with thyme and parsley growing on top.  (You can read more about how we planted them here.)  The plant on the left is a cherry tomato plant and it is full of clusters of perfect little green tomatoes.  The plant on the right is a plum tomato plant and has a few larger green tomatoes growing on its vines.

My two cherry tomato plants in containers are not doing quite as well as the hanging plants.  This is probably because their containers are fairly small (3 gallons or so) and I left these plants out in direct afternoon sun during a heat wave while we were out of town last weekend.  When we got home the plants were shriveled and wilted but after a thorough watering they have perked up and are looking OK.  Both plants have dozens of green tomatoes and a few have started to turn red!

If even half of the green tomatoes on my plants turn red, it looks like we will be overwhelmed with fresh tomatoes in another few weeks, yum!  I frequently eat tomatoes with basil (caprese salad, TBM pizza, homemade spaghetti sauce, etc.) so it’s a good thing that we also have an overabundance of beautiful dark green basil plants in our garden.  I’ve already made several batches of pesto and I love being able to walk outside and pick fresh leaves whenever I want them.

The unplanned tomatoes aren’t the only surprise plants in our garden this year.  We also have a small pumpkin patch that sprouted from leftover Halloween pumpkins and, much to our surprise, we discovered several giant squash plants growing outside our front door!  Back in February we started cosmos, painted daisies, and zinnias from seed indoors and then we transplanted them (along with a generous helping of not-quite-ready compost that must have contained squash seeds) into two new beds by our front door.  The flowers grew vigorously in June and a few weeks ago we noticed that one of the “flowers” had enormous prickly leaves.  Well, last week we noticed beautiful yellow blossoms on the large-leaved plants and at that point realized that the “flower” plants were in fact squash plants.  How exciting!

I think we’re on track to have a great harvest this year.  So far we’ve picked at least forty green beans and have plenty of fresh basil, thyme, parsley, mint, and marjoram at our disposal.  Now we just have to wait for our tomatoes to turn red!

June Is Bustin’ Out All Over – Garden Update!

My vegetables and herbs are growing like crazy!  We’ve had streaks of unusually hot weather (80-90°) punctuated by periods of relatively cooler weather (60-70°) here in Southeastern PA and it appears that my plants enjoy this every-changing variety of temperatures.  All of them have at least doubled in size in the last few weeks and several are already flowering or growing vegetables.

As of today the following plants are growing in my garden:

  • Jalapeño Pepper (planted in Spring 2011 and moved to a container for winter; several peppers ripening)
  • Garlic (planted last fall; scapes appearing)
  • Spinach (March; harvested)
  • Beans (March; transplanted and currently growing “real” green beans!)
  • Chives (April; in mixed container)
  • Marjoram (April; in mixed container)
  • Mint (April; 2 varieties in container)
  • Cherry Tomatoes (May; 2 staked in containers and flowering)
  • Tomatoes (May; 2 varieties in upside-down hanging containers and flowering)
  • Parsley (May; planted in one hanging tomato container)
  • Thyme (May; planted in the other hanging tomato container)
  • Strawberries (May; currently growing multiple unripe strawberries)
  • Serrano Pepper (May; in container and flowering)
  • Bush Belle Peppers (May; 2 varieties – one is already growing multiple green peppers)
  • Jalapeño Pepper (May)
  • Basil (9 plants) (May)
  • Pumpkins (“spontaneous” pumpkin patch from last Halloween’s pumpkins!)

With the exception of our whitefly infestation, we’ve had a pleasant, easy time with our garden so far.  We mulched all of our plants with either shredded leaves or mostly-composted leaves from our spin bin and we have lots of little fences in place that have successfully kept Bailey away from the plants.  I’m just starting to be able to use my thyme, parsley, and basil for cooking and soon we will have strawberries, jalapeño peppers, and green beans to eat!

Here are a few pictures of my garden:

Last year’s jalapeño plant that I saved over the winter has a handful of peppers growing on it.

What a difference 3 weeks makes! Hanging tomato plants with thyme and parsley from 5/13 and 6/4.

Green beans are finally growing on my “St. Patrick’s Day” bean plants!

This spider guards my garlic plants – I think he probably set up shop here to catch a few whiteflies.

This is my latest discovery in the garden and one of my most exciting so far… a tiny pumpkin patch!! We left a few pumpkins here after Halloween last fall because they were too heavy for the spin bin composter and Voila! We have pumpkin plants! I contemplated moving the rocks back but then realized that the plants were actually rooted in/around the rocks so I just put a little compost over top and we’ll see what happens…

This day lily is potted in the same container with my chives, marjoram, and marigolds. True it its name, we’ve had at least one new bloom every day for several weeks now.

Yup, that’s a strawberry!! Looks like I’ll be eating it soon…

Matt’s mom gave us several garlic cloves last Fall and we had our first “scape sighting” this morning.  Woohoo! We’ll cut them off soon and think of something yummy to make with them.

We grew this zinnia plant from seed! I jumped the gun back in February and started lots of seeds indoors (waaaay too early in the season but hey, I’m learning!) and after a few weeks of struggling outdoors in April nearly all of the zinnia, cosmos, gallardia, and painted daisy plants that we grew are starting to bud. This plant was the first to flower.

Last but not least, our potted Oleander plant is flowering again! We bought it last year in late June when it was in full flower so it’s nice to see that it made it through the winter and is flowering once again. I love the big, white flowers.

How is your garden doing at the start of June?  Please share!  🙂

Related posts:
Vegetable Gardening Season has Arrived! 5.7.12
Gardening Update – One Month Later 4.17.12
Gardening… On St. Patrick’s Day! 3.17.12