Saturday, April 28, 2012

Mother Nature isn't bluffing

I learned a valuable lesson last night.  It wasn’t something new to me, but rather a reminder of something bigger than me and my garden.  This blog is called Lessons from the Garden and a lesson can’t be taught unless it's personally learned.  So I humbly acknowledge my faults last night.  I called Mother Nature's bluff and she won.

You see, we had a freeze warning for the outlying areas.  Now, I heard this warning, I read this warning, and then I forgot about the warning.  It wasn’t until 10pm at night that I remembered.  At this point, I was snug in my sofa blanket and dozing off.  Unfortunately, my new cucumber and zucchini plants were not as snug.  I figured “who defines the word outlying” and how far out does outlying begin and end?  So I took my chances and didn’t cover them.  I called her bluff.  Unfortunately, I fell in that “outlying” area.  This morning, my sad little plants were struggling.  And by this afternoon, they’re pretty much gone.  Fortunately, it was only 2 cucumber plants and 2 zucchini plants.  The rest of the garden is filled with cold-weather crops which means they can handle the frost.  So I’m embarrassed to admit that this gardener must start over today and fill my peat pots with new seeds.  This time, I’ll wait till Mother’s Day to put them in the ground. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Spring Gardening: What's growing in my garden

Awhile back I wrote a blog about what I was planting and I’ve shared about our first salad.  So here’s the Spring 2012 garden so you can see exactly what’s growing.  Just a reminder that I’m in zone 6 and we did not receive snow this past weekend, just rain.  Sorry to those of you that lost any plants/veggies in the weekend storm.  As you can see, I received my Mother’s Day gift early and the cucumber trellis is already in the ground!  The baby cucumber plants will grow up around the trellis. 

That brings me to my question for the readers.  What should I grow this Summer in the garden?  Except for the carrots and shallots (and cucumbers), everything should be harvested by Memorial weekend and ready for new summer crops.  Thanks to the elevated cucmber trellis, I can grow crops underneath also.  So let me know what you’d like to see growing in the garden this summer.  Tell me what you’ve had luck with in your garden.  I’d love to hear your feedback.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

First Salad of the Season

[First salad with sunflower seeds and craisins]

Today is the day.  It’s finally arrived.  It’s the first day of the new growing year when I can eat from the garden.  Today, April 25, we had our first salad of lettuce with radishes.  The thrill of eating from the garden is not just from the excitement shown on my young 6-year-old gardener’s face as he helps select which ones to eat.  It’s not just from knowing that we successfully grew something from a tiny seed.  And it’s not even that we’re getting maximum nutrients from picking it all only 5 minutes before eating the salad.  There’s just a deep satisfaction in knowing that we’re not wholly dependent on stores for our food.  Sure, this small salad could not keep our family alive, but for one small dinner, and many more to come until the first frost next Fall, we’ll be eating what we grow.  It’s all those small positives rolled up in one.  That’s why we garden.

[Just for the record, the lettuce was delicious and the radishes were huge. And yes, I co-mingled the radish leaves with the lettuce.]

Monday, April 23, 2012

My Wife the Gardener: Silly garden poem

I found this poem awhile back and had to chuckle because it sums up the life of a Gardener's Husband (or spouse).  Pass this on to the garden widow in your family.

My Wife the Gardener
~ Peter (poem in old magazine)

She dug the plot on Monday –
the soil was rich and fine,
She forgot to thaw out dinner –
so we went out to dine...
She planted roses Tuesday –
she says they are a must,
They really are quite lovely
but she quite forgot to dust.
On Wednesday it was daisies –
they opened up with sun,
All whites and pinks and yellows –
but the laundry wasn’t done...
The poppies came on Thursday -
a bright and cherry red,
I guess she really was engrossed –
she never made the bed...
It was violets on Friday –
in colours she adores,
It never bothered her at all –
all crumbs upon the floors
I hired a maid on Saturday –
my week is now complete,
My wife can garden all she wants –
the house will still be neat!
It’s nearly lunchtime Sunday –
and I cannot find the maid,
Oh no! I don’t believe it!
She’s out there WITH THE SPADE

Friday, April 20, 2012

Gardening Flashback: 1960s

I recently received a copy of my late grandfather's Better Homes and Gardens Garden Book.  It's a spiral bound book of everything to know for the suburban gardener.  Originally published in 1951, I have the revised copy of 1961.  In a quick scan of the book, I noticed that much of gardening has not changed.  The plants, the flowers, how to care for them, etc. are mostly unchanged.  The tools are slightly different today and the landscape layouts have altered like the fashion industry, however, there's comfort in knowing that a half century later, we garden much like my PopPop. 

For the sake of nostalgia, I pulled out a few pictures and some differences between then and today.  The picture quality isn't the greatest because of the paper used for printing.  Enjoy.

1.  They used much more metal and less (or no) plastic.  Even this page shows how to cut away the metal container that your plant came in.

2.  There were accessories we rarely see these days like clothes lines (some big enough to be twice the size of my garden) and these funky chairs.  Brady Bunch anyone?

3.  Women garden a lot more casually these days.  Check out the heels and dress!  There's even a boy in the pruing section of the book with his blazer on while he prunes away at the bushes.  Wow, a child in a suit and with pruners.  An unheard of combination today.  Glad I can wear sweatpants or capris to dig around in my garden. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Reversing the Process: Growing Celery From Celery

When we think of growing plants, we start with a seed.  That’s the foundation for growth.  From a seed, we get our plants, harvest them, and bring them to the kitchen.  What if that process could be reversed?  What if we could grow a vegetable from something already in the kitchen?  This was proposed to me by a friend.  I was skeptical, but intrigued.  After all, it works for potatoes, shallots, etc.  I’m not the first to try this….but I just had to see for myself.  So the experiment began:  growing celery in the garden from the celery in my refrigerator.  Conclusion:  it works!  Here’s how to do it yourself.

1.  Take a store bought celery and cut off the end.

2.  Place the end in a pool of water for about 24 hours.
3.  Bury the celery in the ground.  I didn’t have an exact depth so I put it
about 1 ½” to 2” below the surface so that animals wouldn’t dig it up.

4.  Two weeks later, here’s the growth!   A new celery plant has begun!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Up Pops the Cucumbers

With all the cold-weather crops well on their way to growing in the garden, I've already begun the seeds inside for some of the summer veggies.  They're hanging out on my freebie plantstand.  About 5 days ago, the kids helped me plant the cucumber and zucchini seeds.  They broke through the soil this morning.  Can't wait to get them in the ground and grow some cukes!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Guerilla Gardening: Save the Date

Along the same lines of my “Stealth Gardening” blog post, is a whole group of people dedicated to this exact gardening method to beautify our cities!  Save the date for May 1st to join in the fun!  More on that later.  The first time I heard of Guerilla Gardening I thought it was a fantastic idea!  In a nutshell, random individuals, or loosely organized groups of gardeners head out in the cover of darkness to add flowers and plants to areas of cities that are otherwise abandoned or overgrown from neglect.  They seek to make their neighborhood more beautiful one flower at a time.  There are some in the guerilla gardening movement that use it as a political platform as well.  However, the premise of the guerilla gardening is to improve these abandoned/worn out areas.  This isn’t a local movement, it’s now in many countries where people are taking out their seeds and planting cheer.

In searching the guerilla gardening website, they have introduced the “seed bomb” (or also called the “green grenade”).  It’s a concoction designed to hold the seeds in place long enough to be tossed into an area that is maybe not the safest to be tending to lengthier gardening methods.   There’s also the Kabloom “Seedbom”, Explosive eggs,  seed balloons, and seed pills (inside capsules).  The inventiveness of the arsenal looks like warfare but it’s all in the name of flowers.

This brings me back to the significance of May 1st.  This is the international Sunflower Guerilla Gardening Day.  It began in Brussels in 2007 with gardeners planting sunflower seeds in abandoned or neglected areas.  Although I’m not a card-carrying member of the Geurilla Gardening group, I do plan to pick up a packet of sunflower seeds, just in case I happen to see a bare patch on May 1st. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Pinterest Envy: Gardening Tool Organization

I love searching Pinterest and seeing all the wonderful gardening and backyard tips and photos.  However, I find myself wondering where these gorgeous backyards came from and where these beautifully organized garages exist.  Although gardening sheds and potting benches spring up all over Pinterest and Google searches, I have yet to see one in my neighborhood or among my friends and family.  This leaves me with a deep case of Gardener’s Envy for whoever lives inside the real life world of those photos.  After years of having my gardening supplies strewn among various shelves and cabinets in the garage, I finally took up a small space on the floor.  It sits just behind the kids’ hockey sticks and right in front of the ladders.  No one seems to have found this spot.  How do I know?  Because for the past year (a complete gardening year), my items have not been lost, borrowed, or accidentally fallen behind the steel garage shelves.  Of course, I would love a gardening shed.  However, the reality is that I would probably just store the kids’ bikes in it so they weren’t constantly falling against my car.  And I would love a potting table, although I’m sure it would be a place for the kids to race their cars or fill Nerf guns or water balloons.  The reality is that I’m a Mom first and a gardener second.  Plus, the glass is half full....I can count the positives:   no one has fallen in to my raised bed, no one has randomly picked my veggies without first asking, and the kids know when Mom is in her “gardening zone” and to let her have her moments of therapy.  Sharing the gardening with the kids is what memories are made of too!  That is all worth more than a shed or table.  When I retire, I’ll graduate to them.  When I do, I’ll have a large board of “pins” to refer to for inspiration.  For now, I’m happy to have found a place for my tools to hide so when I do find spare moments from being a Mom, I can quickly get to work without hunting behind shelves and buckets of balls.

I found this potting bench on Amazon.  Hey, looks alot like a repurposed babychanging table!  Ok, readers, get to work in recycling your baby changing tables and baker's racks.  Move them outdoors.  And let me know if you have a spare for me.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Radishes: The Garden Underdog

I used to think radishes were just a colorful way to dress up a salad, merely cosmetic in their purpose.  When I began growing radishes, it was because they were marketed as great first veggies for introducing kids to the garden.  The seeds can be sown in March, the start to finish (sow to harvest) is only 28 days.  In fact, I usually see sprouts in 2-3 days after the seeds are in the ground.  That’s perfect for the short attention span of a child!  However, my admiration for radishes goes beyond their ability to entertain my kids. 

The motto in our house is “everything tastes good with Ranch dressing.”  So we added radishes to the salad and piled on the Ranch.  Then I got to thinking they were maybe more than just a casual veggie.  Along with the red radish, the greens can also be eaten.  In fact, the leaves are the most nutritious part of the vegetable!  Most people cut the greens and throw them out. 

So what makes the radish worth a second glance?  Consider the following nutrition for radishes.  And remember, the leaves contain almost 6 times more of the Vitamin C than the red root.

Nutrition:  low in calories, super rich in Vitamin C and calcium.  They also contain protein, fiber, potassium and folic acid.

Uses for radishes:
1.  Cut up in salad (both the radish and leaves)-- Since they’re a little “bristly”, I found it better to cut them small and mix among regular salad greens.  That way we got the powerhouse part without the turned up noses.
2.  In a Smoothie (the radish greens)—consider adding some dandelion with it, as in my previous post.
3.  On a sandwich

Storing radishes: 
Remove the leafy tops and store the greens in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 days.  The red root can be stored in plastic bags for up to one week in the refrigerator. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Hunger Games: Eat Like a Tribute

I finished reading the Hunger Games, and like so many other bloggers, I wanted to write something to help digest the material.  However, gardening and Hunger Games don’t exactly co-mingle.  Not true!  If I were picked to survive for two weeks with just myself I’m not even sure I could do it.  Forget the flaming arrows and wild animals.  Could I survive the lack of food, water, and loneliness?  I’m not sure I could even survive in my own backyard.  Of course, when my garden grows bigger I’d have a little nourishment.  So, my hats off to anyone who has been stranded in the woods and knows how to survive.  How many times do we read about a family stranded and then found, or a Boy Scout found alive who lived off the land? 

I remember my grandfather used to take us kids hiking to the top of a mountain near his cottage and we were to help him find edible mushrooms.  I never got the hang of how one tan mushroom looked different from the next.  Apparently, he could tell which ones we could eat and which were dangerous.  Now, I wonder if he was pulling my leg and it was just a great way to kill time.  Either way, they all looked the same to me.  So what’s a girl to do who’s lost in the woods?

First, go for the obvious:  wild blackberries, blueberries, mushrooms (if you know the difference).  Did you know there are weeds growing in your own yard that you can eat?!  Don’t kill them off, pull them up and toss a mean salad.  (Special thanks to my husband who recently shared this tidbit with me on edible weeds). 

1.  Dandelion.  Yes, that #1 annoyance that people constantly spray with pesticides and pull out by hand is edible—flower and leaves!   Grab them now in early spring and they’re the sweetest (bitterness comes after they’re more mature).  Dandelions are loaded with beta-carotene!

2.  Purslane.  This is another common weed and often hard to kill so dig in with your fork.  Use them in place of spinach.  Purslane is loaded with vitamins A, C, and Omega-3 fatty acids.

3.  Red Clover.  This flower springs up in many yards and contains phytoestrogens (chemicals in the plant that act as human estrogen) which are believed to help fight colon and prostate cancer.  The flowers are also high in protein.  White clover is also edible but not as nutritious. 

If you think you’ll be getting lost anytime soon, brush up on the many other edible weeds growing right in your neighbor’s backyard.  Of course, it wouldn’t be in your yard!   And if so, we won’t tell.  [Wink wink.]

“And may the odds be ever in your favor!”

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Easter Lily

The Easter Lily has long been a symbol of celebration on Easter morning adorning many church altars and Christian homes.  The white trumpet-shaped flower signifies purity and announces “Jesus is Risen!”.   Although there are no concrete facts about how the lily became associated with Easter, there are many forms of art and literature that reference back to the Garden of Gethsemane.  It is believed that lilies sprung up in the Garden of Gethsemane where drops of sweat fell from Jesus in His final hours of sorrow there.  This Easter let the lily remind you of the hope we have in the resurrection.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” [1 Peter 1:3]

Thursday, April 5, 2012


I am not a morning person.  I married one, I birthed one, I’m now defaulted to be one, but I still come alive at night.  If I were a flower, I would dread being awakened by the sun every morning with no curtains to drawer over my eyes.  Maybe that’s why last year I started from seed a flower after my own heart.  There it was in the seed aisle, a flower called Four-O-Clocks.  They got their name because they don’t open their petals until around 4-o-clock and most stay open through the night not closing up until morning.  The package said this was a great flower to teach kids about time but I just felt a need to plant it simply for our commonality of detesting morning.  Many days I don’t feel like I really get started until evening.  I love that there’s a flower that matches me!   If you want the best of me, I’ll see you around 4-o-clock.  For now, I’m going back to bed.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Inviting Winged Guests to Your Garden: Attracting Birds

I was never much of a bird watcher and didn’t fully appreciate those who would walk around with binoculars and field guides to catch a glimpse of the feathered kind.  Then one day, I hung a bird feeder in the backyard.  This brought all sorts of local birds to our backyard.  Soon, I added one to the front yard that could be seen from the window.  The kids enjoyed seeing who came to visit also.  However, with different bird seed, we saw the arrival of birds we did not know.  Thanks to the internet birdfinder sites, we have been able to identify the guests to our yard…including one that is native to the West Coast!  Although I do not own a set of binoculars or know any bird calls, I am curious about the birds that come to visit. 

To increase the chances of birds picking your yard for a visit, consider the following ways to lure them in. 

1.  Birds need a place to rest.  Whether this is a well placed bush or a bird house, they need a spot to build a nest.  A tree that is barren of leaves in the spring will not be suitable for laying eggs.  An arborvitae or other type of bush will soon find a nest in its branches.  A birdhouse will do for the smaller types.
2.  Birds need food.  Pick a birdfeeder that will either be squirrel-proof, or place it in an area that is hard to reach.  If you hang it from a tree, squirrels will pick it clean.  I’ve found that hanging a feeder from a tall shepard’s hook is impossible for a squirrel to scale and they give up and settle for the scraps that fall to the ground.
3.  Birds need water.  Although I’m not fond of birdbaths, because of the inevitable mosquito fest that will follow, this will obviously draw birds to your yard for a bath or drink.  A birdbath will provide a bird a splash, and adds beauty to your gardens with some “garden art”.  

After you’ve attracted the birds to your gardens, check out  and find out where your friends call home.  It might be a lot farther than your neighbor’s yard!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Starting Over: Make Your Own Curb Appeal

When we bought our house almost 9 years ago, the seller told us that the yard had just been professionally landscaped.  We were appreciative of the instant curb appeal and new plantings.  Over time, we added two kids and discovered that what worked for the previous owner wasn’t necessarily what we wanted in our garden.  So I’m here today to tell you that it’s OK to rip out what you don’t want and make the garden your own!  Just last week, someone approached me for help on her gardens.  She was a new homeowner and also had a landscaped yard.  She wasn’t sure what to do.  My first piece of advice to her was that she didn’t pay for it; therefore, if she didn’t like it, she didn’t have to keep it.  A garden is a reflection of your tastes and personality.  Just as we change wall paint on the inside because our taste doesn’t match the previous owner, it’s also ok to view the outside gardens in the same way.

Too often we confine ourselves to what a previous homeowner planted.  Today, I want you to free yourself.  Now, I’m not saying to dig up all your beds and throw the plants out.  By no means do I want to see bulk trash become a plant graveyard.  Remember, your plants are living and deserve a new home.  If you want to be rid of a plant, beautiful or not, there’s a home for it somewhere else.  Advertise around and you’ll find someone in need of your free castoff.  That said, look at your flowers and bushes and see if they’re “you”.  With our house, we loved all the selections, until, like I mentioned, the kids came along.  That’s when we realized that the astilbe lining the driveway was attracting large bees and sending our son into a borderline bee phobia.  So we pulled them out.  When the beautiful crepe myrtle was the source of all our ants in the kitchen, it hit the road.  Over time, we’ve reshaped the front bed, moved around plants, added new ones where some died, and replaced some that were given away.  It’s ok to change the gardens around.  Make them your own.  It’s your curb, make it appeal to you.