Summer’s Twilight

I enjoy letting my 4 year old take her own photos. Every now and then she hits one out of the park. This is a reflection of the banana tree (which is technically an herb) in it’s own flower petal which had fallen on the ground.

Summer scallop squash has been exploding in the raised bed.

Purple and rattlesnake pole beans.

The year’s second crop from the 4 year old Diana fig has been big for our little tree. Although they are smaller the second time around, they are just as sweet.

Here is the cool weather-loving Czechoslovakian heirloom tomato named Stupice (pronounced Stu-peach-ka). I had great luck with it last year. I love that you can continue to have tomatoes into the fall when other have withered away.

It’s my first time growing arugula, or “rocket”. I’m amazed at how fast it germinates (3 days!), and at nearly a 100% rate.

A photo my daughter caught of me at twilight out in the garden.


August Harvest

I’m getting over my nematode crisis and I have to say that not everything in the garden is going poorly.  I had myself quite the harvest a few days ago, mainly thanks to my primary edible bed, which is separate from the root knot nematode quarantine.  In this case, two separate beds really pays off.  Plus, one receives more shade in the cooler months than the other, which makes it ideal for lettuces, beets etc., while the other receives full sun veggies year-round.

Brandywine and Cherokee purple heirloom tomatoes, summer squash and various beans. We also enjoyed 6 soft figs, but of course those didn’t make it into the basket.

Summer scallop squash in my Lifetime raised bed from Costco.

I started off the spring with tomatoes in this raised bed, but realized when they began to struggle that it wasn’t quite deep enough for them.  So, I cut my losses and re-seeded it with summer scallop squash, basil, lettuce, golden beets and broccoli.

Another view with basil peeking out.

Purple pole bean flowers.

So there you have it.  These photos capture the reason why I will continue to fight the good fight against garden foes in the name of beautiful summer harvests, simple bean flowers, and the promise of fresh, homegrown food.  Not all is lost in my little edible back yard.  🙂

Beautiful Heirloom Tomato

This is my first year growing heirloom tomatoes and the first-picked of the season is quite the show-stopper.

Cherokee Purple tomato – with their signature green shoulders up top near the stem.

And the other side….amazing!

These tomatoes have just as much character in their flavor as they do on the outside.  They taste rich and sweet, with a smokey flavor all their own.  I pair them sliced with good whole milk mozzarella cheese, fresh basil from the garden and a splash of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and salt & pepper (aka Caprese Salad).

Hornworm, Harvest, and Hen

It had become obvious in the last few days that hornworms had finally ascended into our vegetable garden.  And they grow.  Quickly.  One has to stay most vigilant or one morning you’ll wake up to completely bare tomato plants.  Most small ones go to the hens but the biggies they wont touch.  And I found one that gave even me the shivers.

Giving a little context.  This must be a delicacy in some country, right?

Many days I like to harvest a few things here and there as needed for the evening’s dinner.  Only when I have an impressive lot do I warrant it as a photo opportunity.  Today was one such day.

Peaches, lemon cukes, yellow cherry tomatoes and various beans.

Our beloved peach tree has pumped out what I believe to be the most peaches out of any other year.  (I probably say that every year).  This is just the tail end of the fruit, as many were beginning to fall and bruise, which told me an intervention must be made.  I even find joy when I see a bird or two nibbling.  What’s left of those just ends up going to the hens, which they seem to revere as hen candy.  My daughter’s cousins were over the other night playing croquet and badminton and in each of their hands was a warm, soft peach.  What a memory.

Speaking of hens, I must tell you that my music student’s mom is quite tricky.  She’s the backyard breeder who graciously gave us our 5 silkies last September.  At last week’s lesson she told me about her Swedish Flower Hens (could they have a better name?) that she was looking to re-home because she’s trying to downsize her flock.  She described them as medium sized birds, with a tan color and super friendly personality.  Oh, and then she mentioned their vibrant blue eggs.  Yup.  So I agreed to MEET one at today’s lesson.  Just as she handed her to me, she began walking back to her car.  I stuttered a bit and said, “But I have to talk to my husband, first!”  Her motto is, “Ask for forgiveness instead of permission.”  I requested that it be a week trial run and she agreed.  Sneaky!

Getting to know our new visitor.

And let me just say….she’s beautiful!  She’s almost at laying age.  A bit bigger than my silkies, but not much.  In my time with her so far, she likes being near people.  She stood next to my chair for a good 15 minutes.  Then I came in the house for a few minutes and my eye caught her walking through the door and under the dining room table!

I promised myself not to name her and really see how the interaction goes with our original 5.  We’ll see how the next week goes!

Things Are Heating UP!

Now that Summer is officially here and has brought with her consistently high 70’s daytime temps and low 60’s nighttime temps, my veggies (and I) are thanking her.  The tomatoes are starting to really set fruit, whereas for the past month the flowers were just falling off before swelling into fruit.  The Moon and Stars Watermelon is starting to actually look like a vine instead of a little seedling.  The peaches on the no-name peach tree are nearing full ripeness.  Cucumbers are happily weighing down my trellis.  Baby pumpkins are peeking their little selves out of the vines and all is right with the world.  Or at least in my garden, anyway.

Cherokee Purple Heirloom Tomato on it’s way to ripening.

The Moon and Stars Heirloom watermelon has started to take off in recent days.

Peaches giving a rosy “Hello! Here I am!”

This Cherokee Purple Heirloom tomato is growing in a grow bag! This is my healthiest tomato plant and has set more fruit than any other Cherokee Purples around the garden. GO Grow Bags!

Case in point.

And more from the same grow bag tomato plant.

Lemon Cukes are ready for munching!

And I’ll leave you with a photo of my most recent harvest. Long Live Homegrown!

‘Maters and Melons

My other tomatoes have grown from seed, but this “Persimmon” and “Old German” were purchased as plants from the nursery.  Even in the midst of their vigorous growth, early on I noticed that they were not well.  After I diagnosed these with early blight, I used a copper spray and removed the lower effected leaves, but to no avail.  Being that this is the first time I’ve dealt with this issue, I read that while you can still have a harvest, it will most likely be significantly limited.

These tomato leaves show early blight symptoms.  Even by pulling off the infected leaves, it still managed to keep spreading.  This blight spreads by spores and can be brought on by spring rain.  It’s important to not wet the leaves while watering and not water in the evening.  An important note:  the spores now will live on in the soil, so do not plant another tomato in that very same place!  Even next season will be iffy.  Be sure to practice good soil hygiene and remove all plant debris.  Turn over the soil well.

Early blight also penetrates the stems, as seen by the black spotting here. It is almost impossible to stop this process once it’s started.

With great reluctance, I removed these two heirlooms to make way for something else that could be more productive and healthy.  I planted three “Moon and Stars” heirloom watermelon seedlings.  This melon boasts dark green skin with pea-sized bright yellow “stars” and one larger “moon”. gives a wonderful account of this melon’s interesting history:

“In the mid 1970s, Kent Whealy began to hear from his Seed Savers Exchange members of a remarkable watermelon introduced to American gardeners sometime before 1900. This Moon and Stars watermelon persisted in seed catalogs through the 1920s, but many feared it had been lost forever. So Kent began a search for this melon, and in 1980 he mentioned the sought after melon on a television show out of Kirksville, Missouri. Fortunately, Merle Van Doren, a farmer near Macon, Missouri was watching and decided to track down Kent. Merle picked up the phone and surprised Kent with news that the melon was not extinct at all; he was cultivating this unusual watermelon— speckled leaves and all—in Missouri. Most importantly, he would save Kent some seed.

Kent went to pick up the seed, bringing a Mother Earth News photographer with him, and although Mr. Van Doren refused to be photographed, Kent posed next to a stunning pile of yellow-starred melons. Featured in the January 1982 edition of Mother Earth News, the back from extinction melon became an instant rage. Since the resurrection of the Van Doren variant, other yellow speckled heirlooms have resurfaced from Cherokee and Amish traditions and all have surged in popularity. Twenty years later, they remain among the bestselling heirlooms offered by the Seed Savers Exchange, and have been picked up and promoted by at least two-dozen other seed outlets. Moon and Stars is truly a stellar success among heirlooms, proving that what was once thought to be obsolete can be revived to the status of a national treasure.”

I find it so romantic and connecting to be able to grow an edible in my yard that has such an interesting history.  Thank you, Mr. Van Doren.

They Just Grow Up So Fast

Persian “Green Fingers” cucumbers with Cosmic Purple carrots in between.

The Lemon Cucumbers already have their first flowers.

One of the cherry tomatoes has begun fruiting! They are the earliest of all the tomatoes I’m growing this year.

A row of green beans (pole) are starting to make their way up the trellis.

One of my healthiest heirloom tomatoes going crazy!  This variety is Cherokee Purple, which has a potato leaf.  This type of leaf is more resistant to disease and mildew.

This Persimmon and Old German are taking over! I’ve had early blight and blossom drop effect these two, so I’m hoping with the much warmer weather and copper and calcium sprays, they will pull through.

A few main broccoli heads are just about ready for harvest.

Patty Pan scallop squash seedling (pay no attention to the weeds!).

The pumpkin patch! Red Warty Thing and Jarrahdale. I’ll train these to grow up the slope to save room in the beds.

One half of my veggie garden lies in the flat bed next to the grass at the base of the slope of insanity.

Even with all of my beds planted to capacity, I try to stay vigilant in the art of successive planting. The idea is that you continue sowing the season’s seeds in 2-3 week intervals to ensure a long harvest of vegetables. If you just grow one set of veggies, once they’re done producing, you’ll have nothing left. Plus, as earlier producers come out first (like the broccoli that’s almost ready), that will make room for more seedlings to lengthen the harvest season.

An Alternative to Grass 2.0: Inspired by Mom

In honor of upcoming Mother’s Day, I’m dedicating a well-deserved post entirely to my mom’s unique and inspiring garden.  It’s usually a parent who is proud of his or her child, but in this case it’s me who is proud of my mom.  There are many things to be proud of her for, but this particular post speaks to her amazing, lush, bountiful grass-free garden.  She doesn’t have one blade of grass growing anywhere on her property.  And she has one of the greenest thumbs I know, to boot.  She has instilled a love of gardening in me from a very young age.  I have many memories of watering and planting flowers with her.

Last year my parents took out their lawn (all on their own) and put in primarily low-water perennials, including a beautiful rock stream bed.  Many rock stream beds look completely unnatural and manmade, but theirs captured a much more natural feel, thanks to a variety of high quality rocks in varying sizes.  They designed the placement of each large rock and the flow of the stream bed to accent their plant design and natural shape of the front yard.

Here’s what it looked like BEFORE (a very typical suburban yard):



View from the sidewalk.

Approaching the front door, there is an alternate flag stone pathway leading to a restful bench.

One of my favorite things about their front yard is the variety of plants.  It lends so much visual interest.  The plants spilling over into the rock stream bed add to the natural look.

And if that wasn’t enough garden eye candy, a few weeks back my mom decided to take on another garden adventure close to my heart: a vegetable garden.  Her backyard is home to a gorgeous succulent container garden.  We cleared the sunniest area, disposed of more than a few root-bound potted succulents and filled the pots with fresh, organic potting soil.  We made a special trip to a nursery with an extensive veggie selection, which allowed my mom to pick out a cucumber, yellow squash and green bean specifically bred for containers.  They are more compact and do well in such a situation.  These types of veggies can also be found in many seed catalogues.

You can do a vegetable container garden, too!

Yellow Squash loving it’s new home.

I donated a few things that I’d grown from seeds, such as a Black Krim heirloom tomato and a cherry tomato seedling. She is so pleased with her new veggie garden that the other day we added two more pots and planted Alpine strawberry seeds, basil seeds and yellow & green patty pan squash seeds.

Way to go, Mom!  Now you’ve got your own bountiful backyard.  I can’t wait for you to taste your first harvest.

I love gardening with you.

April Garden Update

Here’s my great Lifetime Raised Garden Bed bursting with heirloom tomatoes, golden beets, lettuce and Cosmic Purple carrot seedlings along the left perimeter.

The other day I planted some marigolds in and around my veggie beds.  I’ve read that  annual marigolds can be used anywhere to deter Mexican bean beetles, squash bugs, thrips, tomato hornworms, aphids and whiteflies. They are also known to repel harmful root knot nematodes (soil dwelling microscopic white worms) that attack tomatoes, potatoes, roses, and strawberries. The root of the Marigold produces a chemical that kills nematodes as they enter the soil.  Plus they add a pop of color!

Now that Spring is in full swing and the soil is consistently above 50 degrees, I am direct sowing seeds into the garden.  In this bed I have various tomatoes, lettuce, Di Cicco broccoli, golden beets and some cabbage that is ready to harvest.  The other half of this bed is below:

The Sharpblue blueberry at the bottom of this photo is doing very well since I planted it in January.  Above it along the vertical trellis are lemon cucumbers and pole green beans.  In the middle of the bed are edamame and broccoli.

My Persimmon and Pineapple heirloom tomatoes that I purchased as seedlings are doing well in terms of growth, but are both experiencing blossom drop and early blight.  Damp, cool weather can create a fungus on tomatoes called early blight, which looks like small dark spots on the lower leaves.  I’ve never dealt with this issue before, but after some research, I have trimmed the most infected lower leaves and sprayed the entire plant with an organic copper solution.  I also sprayed a calcium spray on the flowers, which is supposed to help prevent blossom drop.  They could also be dropping due to damp conditions.  So much to know!  Once the weather corrects itself, so the speak, the tomatoes may pull out of it.

Here's one other tomato falling victim to early blight. You can see how I've trimmed out the lower effected leaves.

I’ve also been battling significant potato problems.  I had my heart set on growing sweet potatoes this summer, but we’ll just have to see on that.  Maybe next year!  I thought that a rodent of some kind was gnawing  the foliage due to the significant breaks on the stems, so we put chicken wire around the grow pot.  The no avail, it’s still worsening.  I went out last night to check out the situation, hoping to catch the varmint and only saw slugs.  Could they be doing all of this??  I will probably have to prematurely dig up my potatoes.  I’m not sure how they can survive this.  Hopefully it’ll at least be a small crop since they’re been growing since December.

All within the last week I’ve planted from seed:

  • Moon and Stars Watermelon
  • Charentais melon
  • Red Warty Thing pumpkins
  • Fairytale pumpkins
  • Jarrahdale pumpkins
  • Sunburst yellow / Peter Pan green pattypan scallop summer squash and ………drumroll please………..
  • Alpine Strawberries!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I’ve heard that growing strawberries from seed can be trying and difficult (they take 3-4 weeks to even sprout!), but when I saw their seed packet today at the nursery, I could not resist.  I asked the garden specialist what she knew about growing them from seed and she laughed, saying, “We don’t even carry them.  You may want to just but a six-pack.”  Then I showed her the packet in my hand and she was shocked!  It’s the first time I’ve ever seen them in any store.  They’re already out in the garden, working their magic.  I’ve got a good feeling!

Virtual Garden Tour

A Cherokee Purple Heirloom Tomato that is really taking off. Growing tomatoes from seed this year has been so rewarding and definitely worth it.

Sequoia strawberry is also stretching it's legs. That little white berry is my first ever home-grown strawberry!

Many heirloom tomato seedlings having graduated up to the next level and are now continuing their growth in larger recycled pots that I saved from some nursery purchases. These are destined to be Mother's Day gifts! They really start maturing just at the right time. 🙂

A rainbow cherry tomato. Remember that cherry tomato seed packet that I found with 5 different colored tomatoes all in one packet? Well this is one of those. It'll be exciting to see what color this one will be! White, red, orange, yellow or green. Cool!

Last year I tried seed saving for the first time and I guess I did something right because this seedling is from a seed I saved from my pole green beans! The longer you collect seed from any given plant season after season, the more acclimated the seeds/plants become to your particular conditions and the better it does.

There were about 6 shoots coming from this green seedless Thompson grapevine. I read that you should chose the two thickest, healthiest shoots and cut off the rest. The idea is that you train up one main shoot the first year grown from bare-root and the second is a backup just in case something happens to the first. Ever since I cut off the other shoots, the growth has greatly increased. The main shoot will then create it’s own shoots next year and those will be trained horizontally. By that time this baby will be out of it’s huge pot and in the ground.  I found a few helpful videos on youtube.

A future peach. I’ve seen a significant lack of bees this year and I wondered how many of the flowers would get pollinated to go on to form a peach.  A veggie garden blog that I follow (and would highly recommend) called My Tiny Plot in Bath, England recently made this post about how she hand pollinated her peach. It seems that somehow there are plenty of peaches for harvest this summer on my tree, perhaps around 50 for this one 5 year old tree.

The Diana fig seems happy. Just wish it would grow more! It's 3 years.

Can't wait! Figs are a unique favorite of mine and can be made into some elegant dishes.

A few of the Silkies poking around the new bed. The grass was dewy that morning, which slicks back the feathers around their faces and actually allows me to see their eyes! A rare treat!

A volunteer nasturtium cascading down the blueberry pot.

Here's what the Double Delight nectarine has been up to.

.....And the Burgundy plum.

Over the winter I took out some sad shrubs from this planter leading to my doorway and created a grouping of three brick colored pots which also match the front door. There’s a palm also in this planted and it’s roots have made planting almost anything in the ground here impossible.  I’ve planted some succulents around the pots, so hopefully they will manage.  In the  2 larger pots are tomatoes and the smallest some All Season Butterhead lettuce.

How could I overlook this beauty on my photo extravaganza?

California poppy I seeded last year.

I hope you all have enjoyed the tour.  I’ll be here all week.  Feel free to tip your waitress.