Sunday Funday In The Garden!

I know it’s Monday, but I just wanted to share all the fun things I did in the garden this weekend.  Hopefully my playtime (that’s right, I didn’t use the word chores!) will be inspiring to you.

Mr. Green Thumb

Mr. Green Thumb

I’m still pruning lots of dead stuff from the crazy winter we’ve had. (Okay, this one was definitely a chore.)  All that material went right into my compost bin, on top of all the weeds I pulled.  I don’t mind pulling weeds because it gets me up close and personal down low in the garden where I can enjoy some amazing colors and smells.

Spectacular lupine!

Spectacular lupine!

I also noticed my chamomile doing their job handling the aphids.  I just throw chamomile seeds everywhere as my wildflower pest manager.  Oh, I can make tea with it too.

Happy broccoli with no bugs.

Happy broccoli with no bugs.  Thank you chamomile!

Now that it’s officially warm (we’ve hit 95* this past week!) I had to get some tomatoes planted.  Usually, I start my own seeds, but that didn’t happen this winter, so I took a little shopping trip out to Root, a new local nursery in my neck of the desert.  While there I ran into the lovely Rebecca of MyFarmyard.com, who is growing some amazing tomato plants.  Some of the healthiest tomatoes  I’ve ever seen!

Rebecca of MyFarmyard - the sunshine to her tomatoes!

Rebecca of My Farmyard – the sunshine to her tomatoes!

I decided to try a few new varieties for me – Striped German, Washington (mini), and Black Cherry (mini).

Basil, meet tomato.  Tomato, meet basil.  (A happy duo)

Basil, meet tomato. Tomato, meet basil. (A happy duo)

With the tomatoes planted (and the kale, and lavender, and hollyhocks, and strawberries), it was time to get back to one small chore – a little irrigation repair.  Luckily not much was involved aside from adding a few extra drip emitters to an area.  The fun part of it was converting my lawn sprinklers to drip.  Now all my veggie beds are on the automatic timer.   Nice!

Bye-bye sprinklers, hello drip.

Bye-bye sprinklers, hello drip.

Alas, with all that done, I headed off for cold glass of lemonade.  But, not before I was halted by a stranded carpenter bee on the patio.  So I gave her a taxi ride to some garden shade near my bee saucers (filled with fresh honey water).

Bee rescue!

Bee rescue!

Giving nature a helping hand, I know I’ve done good in the garden.  Hope you’re having fun this season!

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Composting – Quick & Easy

Ever wanted to compost but not sure of how to start?  You might be surprised to know you may already be composting.

Got a bag of lawn clippings?  Done!  You’re composting!  You don’t need a fancy bin-spiny-thingy, just a big ol’ bag of mower stuff.

Sweaty bag of goodness!

Sweaty bag of goodness!

Then, all ya do is poke a bunch of holes in the bag.  Roll it over and poke some more.  Now just let nature do the rest.

Your lawn clippings (this time of the year) will like be a collection of green grass (or weeds) and brown leaves.  This is a perfect mix of nitrogen (green stuff) and carbon (brown stuff).  Poking holes in the bag will provide a good bit of air (oxygen), and the plastic bag generates condensation (moisture).

About once or twice a week, all you have to do is go flip the bag over.  This keeps all the stuff mixing up.  Want speed things along, just flip the bag more often.  In about 1-2 months you’ll have usable compost.

What’s that you say? “But I don’t have a lawn.”

Drive around your block, and I’m sure you’ll see something like this!

Free Stuff!

Free Stuff!

And if you have the space, you can just start a pile for compost or get a nice bin from your local municipality. Here in Phoenix, you can get one for only $5.

http://phoenix.gov/publicworks/garbage/disposable/composting.html

In some cities they’re even free.  So there’s no reason not to compost. So give it try and see how you like it.  Happy gardening!
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Broccoli

I love growing broccoli. It’s one of my most successful veggies in my garden.  I’m sure many out there have a list of “what goes wrong” with broccoli.   Now that planting season is upon us, here is my list of things to do right so you broccoli never goes wrong.  First of all, a healthy plant will naturally hold up to pests, so many of my gardening practices are structured around what to do to keep my plants healthy.
Beautiful Broccoli.

Dewlicious broccoli.

  • Plant broccoli in fertile soil that is packed well.  Often, the soil in planting beds is too ‘light and fluffy’ allowing excess air in the ground, which dries out the soil (especially here in Phoenix).
  • Be prepared to stake your broccoli. These veggies grow big and tall and get top heavy.
  • Water regularly.   Irregular watering will cause the plant to stress making it susceptible to pest.
  • Make sure to mulch around broccoli, and all your other veggies too.  Mulch keeps the soil from drying out, and helps soil moisture keep even.  (I can go on and on about mulch, but that’s all in my ebook.)
  • Fertilize mildly and regularly.  I make a quick batch of compost tea every-other weekend and I hit my veggies good.
Lastly, here’s the super deal – My secret to successful pest-free broccoli growing is in the design of my planting layout. (Now ya know for next time.)  Within the same bed as the broccoli is chard, peppers, lemon balm and marjoram.  The chard acts as a hedge, which blocks most wind-traveling pests, like aphids.  The peppers are fairly pest resistant, so it isn’t attracting anything.  The lemon balm and marjoram are super pest repellents (and they happen to smell really nice).
My frontyard raised bed with broccoli, chard, marjoram, and peppers.

My frontyard raised bed with broccoli, chard, marjoram, and peppers.

In another planting bed only 6ft away, I have lettuce that is covered with aphids.  But they are in an open bed with only lettuce.
Aphids camped out in the lettuce, and signs of caterpillars.

Aphids camped out in the lettuce, and signs of caterpillars.

Even though I may get a few caterpillars on my broccoli leaves, they do very little damage.  I use the leaves for juicing or chopped up in a vegetable soup.
So don’t just think of broccoli as the floret heads.  You can eat the whole plant.
But, when I do notice the occasional wave of aphids, I just give them a rinse with the garden hose and go on with a smile.
Happy, healthy broccoli.

Happy, healthy broccoli.

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Seeds!

Here’s a quick Sunday surprise for you all – SEEDS!

That’s the big thing happening in my garden right now. With spring slowly approaching here in the southwest, it’s time to get crops ready, because before ya know it, it’ll be summer.
So what’s the happs, you ask? I’m planting another wave of lettuce, kale, spinach, broccoli, beets and carrots.

Goodies from my favorites - Renee's Garden & Botanical Interest.

Goodies from my 2 favorites – Renee’s Garden & Botanical Interest.

This is the perfect time too for starting leafy greens because of the new moon tonight. (What? You don’t know about lunar planting?)

I always use a few different methods when starting my seeds; directly into the ground, in my greenhouse, in recycled 6packs from the nursery, even in re-purposed paper towel rolls.  For experimental purposes mostly, but also, certain seeds respond differently to various methods.

Choi and lettuce packed nicely in rows.

Choi and lettuce packed nicely in rows.

Kale seeds sown wild throughout the garden soil.

Kale seeds sown wild throughout the garden soil.

Lettuce and chard started in my little greenhouse.

Lettuce and chard started in my little greenhouse.

And I always make sure to note the seeds as I plant them. (Don’t come back later to do this – you’ll forget what’s what and where! The wind is good at ‘helping’ with that.)

Using the backside of geranium plant tags as my seed labels.

Using the backside of geranium plant tags as my seed labels.

And for you folks on the freezing east coast braving the snow storms, don’t feel too discouraged. You can try staring seeds indoors using grow lights.

Indoor grow light system for starting seedlings.

Indoor grow light system for starting seedlings.

I even do this here in the temperate southwest to often get a head start on the season. I can also control the conditions to keep specialty seeds happy for sprouting.

So don’t delay.  Get out – or in – there and start getting those fingers dirty!

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Sunday Surprise – Vynnie’s New eBook!

Happy Sunday to you!

I know I typically don’t post on Sundays, but this is a special occasion.  I just finished my new ebook and it’s ready for picking!  ‘Starting Your Own Veggie Garden‘ is a great guide to help you start your very own veggie garden.  It’s filled with simple instruction and great tips, and is packed with lots of pictures.  Whether you live in Washington, Florida, Ohio, or here in the Southwest, you can get your veggie garden started within a weekend following my 5 simple steps.   Even if you’ve tried your hand at gardening before, you’re sure to learn a thing or two for success in gardens to come.

This ebook downloads nicely to your smartphone or tablet device so you can read along right from the palm of your hand.  Click here to check out a sample of the ebook.

Sunday fun reading!

Sunday fun reading!

In my years of gardening, I’ve started a variety of new gardens in a variety of spaces, figuring out what makes things work, what’s good enough, and just downright fails.  I’ve simplified the process into 5 steps, so there’s not a bunch of trial-and-error, or the need to dig through a bunch of different books.

With spring on it’s way, now is the perfect time to start thinking and preparing for your gardening season, and this is the book to get you started.

As an added bonus, I’m offering the ebook for only $14.99 if you purchase by the end of January.  Click here to get your copy today.

Happy New Year and Happy Gardening!

Photo Jan 20, 11 51 43 AM

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