July 28, 2011

Growing Peas

I have come a long way. 
The first year I had a garden, the only thing I wanted to grow were peas. I bought seeds that said "sweet peas". Those sound good! You can imagine my disappointment when a month later I had pretty flowers, and no green peas.

Peas are so easy to grow and are great for in-garden-munching.

How to grow:
  • Peas are an early season crop and prefer cooler temperatures, they can tolerate down to 40 degrees F.  Bean varieties are more of a warm weather crop. 
  • Plant peas 1-2 inches a part. They can handle crowding. 
  • Give your peas something to climb on such as a trellis or string, lined between two stakes. 
  • Peas can withstand partial shade however, the more sun you can provide them, the sweeter they will be.

How to maintain:
  • Harvest your peas often to encourage growth of new peas.
  • If pods are not developing or your plant has a yellowish tint, you may need to add a side-dressing of fertilizer. See this post for info on fertilizing.
  • Aphids love peas, see this post for removing aphids. 
How to harvest:
  • You can harvest peas at any time. The smaller they are, the sweeter they will be. 
  • When the pod lightens in color, the pod is over ripe and the peas become bitter. 

Ever wondered what kind of peas you should grow?

  • Do you like eating the whole pod? Look for snap peas. 
  • Do you like to just eat the seeds/peas? Try English or garden peas.
  • Do you want to stir-fry your peas? Grow snow peas. 

If you didn't get your peas started this year, it's not too late to plan for a fall crop. Once temperatures are below 75 degrees in the late summer, you can directly sow your pea seeds!
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July 26, 2011

Tomato Tuesday: Too Much Water, or Not Enough

Happy Tomato Tuesday!

Today's post is about how to tell if you are watering your plant too much, or not enough.
There's nothing more stressful than seeing your leaves curl, yellow leaves creeping up your plant, or wilting. I'm like a hypochondriac on behalf of my plant. Do you ever feel like that?

Too much water:
  • Leaf curl. (see image below)
  • Leaves are turning pale. This is because the plant is not able to absorb iron. 

What to do:
  • If temperatures are under 80 degrees, let your plant dry out for a few days. 
  • Is your plant in a pot? Try lifting the pot off of the ground and tuck something underneath the pot so that the water can drain easily.
  • If the over-watering is because of rain, place a plastic bag flat on the dirt around your plant. Cut a few holes in the bag, so that oxygen can get through to the soil. 
What can happen because of too much water:

  • Your tomatoes will crack. 
  • Too much water can prevent oxygen from getting to the roots which can eventually suffocate your plant. 
  • Various diseases that can deform your fruit or kill the plant
Not enough water:
  • Wilting leaves. This can be confusing because we think that that wilting = too much water. 
  • Leaves will feel wet.
What to do:
  • Try watering slowly, so that the water can be absorbed into the soil. When you water fast, it tends to spread and stay at the surface, rather than going deeper where the roots are. 
  • Those of you facing the extreme heat, you should add a very thick layer of mulch ( 2 inches). You can also try the ice cube trick
What will happen to my plant:

  • Your plant can bounce back from under-watering better than over-watering. Usually, your plant will just die if the under-watering is that severe. 
I'll bet some of you facing the heat across the country feel like wilting! 
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July 22, 2011

Guest Post: Your Gardening Friend

Today's post is from Holly at yourgardeningfriend.comHolly shares her fascination of nature and enjoyment of landscaping on her blog. Here, she shares her thoughts on feeding wild birds. 

Food For Thought

How can you possibly resist them? Waiting so patiently, with a trustful look of anticipation, as you reach
into the bag of french fries and hamburgers, they wait to be fed. Our intentions are well-meaning - the
birds are hungry, and we have food. What’s the harm in that? None at all… if you’re eating a value meal
of earth worms and a side dish of bird seed. J Unfortunately, it’s been my experience, restaurants
simply do not keep these meals well stocked.

I realize this is not your typical gardening topic, but I don’t think it’s THAT far-fetched of an idea to
discuss either. As gardeners, and people who simply enjoy nature, we LOVE watching birds. I think it’s
important to remember that this experience and, more importantly, responsibility doesn’t stop at the
edge of our garden.

Just because they’re willing, and even eager, to eat fast food crumbs, it doesn't mean it’s good for them. Birds are like kids. If given the choice, many kids would live off of cookies, ice cream, and their favorite candy. I would imagine, if birds rely on french fries and hamburger buns for their daily source of calories, or even a good portion of their calories, they too will end up malnourished.

So, what does this mean? Do we stop feeding birds at fast food restaurants altogether? I’ve given this
some thought, and brainstormed a few “solutions”. [I realize some restaurants may not have a problem
with birds begging for crumbs. Other places may have an on-going gathering of birds. Also, the time of
year may influence the gathering of birds.]

1.  Don’t feed the birds, and [eventually] hunger will drive them to the grass or sky, looking for
the food they were created to eat. The problem with this solution is that everyone else will continue to
do what they normally do. Kids love to share their french fries and see the birds swarm in to eat them.
Many well-meaning parents may not want to discourage this gesture that, on the surface, seems kind.
Even as adults, we’ve all been guilty of this type of bird feeding.

2.  If you feed them, feed them bird food. At least when YOU’RE there, the birds will have a
healthy alternative. You can very easily keep a Ziploc baggie of bird seed in your car. (For over 6
months, I’ve kept a Ziploc baggie of dry dog food in the car. What instigated this was seeing a few too
many starving dogs roaming around downtown.) But how often do you plan to stop by your favorite
fast food joint for the sake of a healthy meal for the birds? Hmmm… another dilemma… Maybe the
next suggestion will help.

3. Ask the manager if it would be okay to place a bird feeder on their property. You could even supply
a closed container storage bin, full of bird seed. Other patrons and/or employees might help take up
the cause and pitch-in. Consider placing a discrete sign near the eating area stating,

“Please do not feed the birds human food, but feel free to scatter bird seed from the nearby storage bin.
Help keep our birds healthy.”

I realize this last idea may seem less than practical for some readers. If that’s the case, try the Ziploc

The purpose of this is not to make you feel compelled to stop at every fast food joint within a 30
mile radius of your house, and place bird feeders all over Timbuktu. It’s just another brain-storming
suggestion of how you could handle the situation at your favorite place to eat.

Just some “food” for thought…
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July 19, 2011

Tomato Tuesday: Sweeter Tomatoes

My poor tomato plants are turning yellow, and I think they are craving some sun. This has been one of the worst summers I can remember. 

I heard a funny (depressing) statistic this last weekend. It has only been above 80 degrees in Seattle for 72 hours this summer. Ouch. 

Still, I'm not giving up on my tomatoes and am in search for any tips and tricks to keep my tomatoes going strong.

My Grandma is feeling the same way. She mentioned that this year she is going to try a tip she read on how to sweeten up your tomatoes. Usually the sun sweetens your tomatoes, but we can't count on the sun, now can we?

Here is what we are going to try:

As your tomatoes start to ripen, add a tsp. of sugar to the water you are watering your plant with. 1 tsp. per plant. 

Do we sound desperate? Yes, but why not give it a try!
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July 18, 2011

Slice ‘em, Pickle ‘em, Peel ‘em, Eat ‘em

There are so many things you can do with cucumbers – why not grow them!
Cucumbers are quite needy, so be prepared to give them more attention than the other vegetables in your garden. They are heavy feeders; they need a lot of space; and require as much sun as possible.
I live in Seattle on a very small lot in the city, so I grow my cucumbers vertically, taking advantage of their vine-like limbs. I always grow my cucumbers in containers, as I just don’t have room in my garden beds.
(read the rest of my post on Your Gardening Friends blog )
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July 16, 2011


In April, I purchased some beet starts. They weren't in my "garden plan" but while I was at the nursery, I picked them up.

It's funny how they come like this, all bunched together. You can't plant them this way, they would never grow or develop. Beets are cool weather vegetables but can stand warmer temperatures. It is best however, to plant them in early spring or fall after the temperatures have dropped below 75 degrees during the day.

I gently pulled my beets apart, so I did not harm the root systems.

Next I dug a trench and spaced them about 8 inches apart. When transplanting beets, it's important to place the roots so that they are vertical. Dangle the start in your trench and slowly fill in the dirt around the roots.

My beets grew really well this year, maybe it's because they LOVE temperatures between 60-65 degrees. It has been about 60-65 every day for about 4 months. I think they are the only thing in my garden that have benefited from this cool weather!

I have also amended my soil with lime at the beginning of the year which beets need!  You can harvest beets at any time, suggested size is about 1.5 inches in diameter.
I plan to plant a crop of beets in the late summer so that we can enjoy a fall crop!

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July 14, 2011

Fertilizing Your Veggie Garden

Things are growing! I have a tomato plant that seems to have doubled in size overnight. 

Knowing if, and when, you need to add fertilizer to your veggie garden can be very tricky. It’s like knowing if you should prune your tomato plants; it's specific to your garden, climate, and plants. 

The best way to know what your garden needs, is to do a soil test. I’m an avid gardener and have never done a soil test.  I know where my dirt comes from, which of my plants need what, and because I live in Seattle my dirt is probably acidic and lacks nitrogen. (see this post for more information about why I know that)

I’d like to share with you the basics on fertilizing your plants, so that you can make the best decision for your garden.

Why you should fertilize, you've never done it before and everything turned out fine:
It may have turned out fine, but it probably could have been a lot better. There are 16 different elements that are essential for productivity, and every single one of them is important. A deficiency can be as severe as the plant dying, or simply the plant not producing as much as it could have.  

Why your plants might need to be fertlizied:
  • It rains a lot where you live (that’s you my fellow Seattlites). Nutrients get washed away by rain.
  • Your garden is packed full of veggie plants, maybe a little too packed.
  • You have a lot of heavy feeders growing. This includes tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, peppers, broccoli, asparagus,  cabbage, spinach, and corn.
  • Your garden consists of dirt that was dug up from your backyard. Regular soil does not have enough nutrients to sustain a vegetable garden. 
  • You use the same dirt year after year, but don’t add compost or fertilizer.
  • You receive dirt in bulk from a recycling company. They said the dirt was organic and good for the garden, but who knows!
Why you may not need to fertilize:
  • You have added compost, or mulches with organic materials.
  • Your garden is new, and you purchased organic soil that was amended with nutrients.
  • You don't see any signs of a nutrient deficient plant:
    • Yellowing of the leaves (not from over or under watering) is a sign of a nutrient deficiency.
    • The plant is not growing at the proper rate. (compare it to your neighbors).
How to fertilize:
Find an organic fertilizer that has 5-5-5 ratio or lower. The three numbers stand for the weight of Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium. Since you won't be doing a soil test, you should go with a lower ratio of each. Next follow the directions for "side dressing". I love the Dr.Earth solution above. 

Now you have your weekend project!

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July 12, 2011

Tomato Tuesday: More Pruning

I imagine some of you located in warmer climates are enjoying your first tomatoes. I'm jealous.
I can't tell you how excited I was to see these (the larger is about the size of a golf ball):
They are my babies. I check them at least three times a day to see if they have grown.

While I'm *patiently* waiting, there are a few things I do to keep my tomato plants thriving. 

To decrease your plants chances of infecting a disease, pinch off the lowest leaves that are touching the ground, are wilted, or are turning a yellowish color. Don't go too nuts on pinching branches off, as the plant does need it's leaves for photosynthesis!

This plant looks healthy, but you can see on the bottom left there is a branch that is going into my basil and is basically lying on the ground. I pinched this branch off. As for the branch in front that is going toward the lettuce, I will leave that, but try to prop it up.

It is very normal for the bottom leaves to turn yellow, so don't be alarmed (as long as the upper third looks normal). The bottom leaves turn yellow because they don't receive as many nutrients or sunshine as the upper branches that typically bear fruit!

This is normal, but I will probably pinch this branch off. 
If all of your leaves are turning yellow, this can be a sign of a lack of nutrients, lack of sun, over or under watering, or a pest problem. 

Tomorrow's post will be about fertilizing your veggies!
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July 8, 2011

Before and After Garden Shots

As you may recall, I'm quite a pro with the sledge hammer.

In early spring, I completely redid my garden space and front yard. My plan was to do frequent posts on what I did along the way. I told my husband, "It's for the blog, very important." 
And talked him into helping. It also led to residing the house and building a dormer. I scored. 

And then I forgot to do the posts. 

Here are some before and after shots:



Here is a view from my favorite spot to sit and pick peas:

Where is your favorite spot to sit in your garden?

(See honey, I'm very appreciative of the work you did)
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July 6, 2011

Grass clippings in your garden? Oh no!

Oh yes.

Grass is packed full of nitrogen, and veggie gardens in the midst of growing season could use a nitrogen kick. Nitrogen is a crucial element for photosynthesis and it is also one of the most common deficiencies in the vegetable garden.
In addition, the dried grass becomes a mulch preventing weeds from popping up, helping to maintain soil temperature and moisture, and also can keep certain pests out of your garden!

Here is how to add fresh grass clippings to your garden:
  • Place a light layer of grass around the base of your plants. You want to see some dirt through the grass, so no more than 1/4 of an inch. If you clump too much together, air and water will have a difficult time making it through to your plant's roots. 
  • Turn the clippings every other day to keep the grass from matting.
  • Once the grass has completely dried, you can add another layer.

  • Do not use crab grass.
  • Do not use grass that has gone to seed. If it has, you can cut this grass and compost it. Then in a week or so, cut your grass again and use those clippings instead.
  • Make sure your grass has not been treated with any fertilizers.
For your garden's sake, don't pass on grass!
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July 5, 2011

Tomato Tuesday: Watering with Ice Cubes

It's July! The sun is out and it is hot!

If you are like me, your garden (ahem, and blog) may be a little neglected this month.  It's a busy time of year with picnics, weddings, and outdoor fun! 

I came home to some wilted tomato plants this weekend and realized I needed to water. Luckily, they will forgive me once or twice. But what can you do if it's going to be a "hot one" and you are going to be gone, or don't have time to water in the morning?

Try placing a handful of ice cubes around the base of your tomato plant. 

The ice will (hopefully) melt slowly, which will give the roots a gradual supply. This is a perfect solution for tomato hanging baskets that dry out quickly. 

Make sure you don't use your mint ice cubes though!
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July 1, 2011

THIS is a Desperate Gardener

My mother sent me this picture the other day with the title "THIS is a desperate gardener"
(too fuzzy? It says, "grow dammit!")

I love telling people my blog name because they always respond with, "I garden, and I am definitely desperate."

If I had this sign, it would be placed in front of my strawberries because this is what they look like:
(I can't believe I'm sharing this, so embarrassing!)

Where would you put this hilarious sign in your garden?

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