Garden

Sitting in my kitchen potager with my little “less than helpful” helper!

 

Gardening for me is therapeutic, zen for body and soul. Something about getting dirty and working the earth. Planting, growth and reaping the rewards or lack thereof,  I’ve had those too!  I’d like to share with you my garden adventures here. Building stone walls, putting in new flower gardens and tending to my kitchen potager. I’ll share my tips on gardening and welcome your feedback as well.

 

Ready the beds for winter

The growing season has definitely ended.  I am still harvesting the last of my tomatoes, some of which will become fried green tomatoes.  I have, however finished the cherry tomatoes and have gotten that bed prepared for the winter.  After pulling up the plants, I like to turn over the soil.  Be sure to pull out any root clusters so that the soil is easily loosed. I then top the bed with a good layer of compost.  This helps to replenish any nutrients that have been stripped from the soil.  Rake it out a bit and say so long until next spring!

Flavored Oils

Here is something I love to do with my abundant summer herbs.  I save (or you can purchase) decorative bottles, fill them with fresh herb combinations and extra virgin olive oil.  By the time the holidays roll around you have delicious seasoned oils to give as gifts.  Attach some raffia and a cardboard tag and you have a wonderful gift from your garden.

Here are some ideas for seasonings –

Rosemary, Thyme, Winter Savory (some of the more hardy herb varieties).

Pepper corns (plain or colorful), garlic cloves, juniper berries

Bay leaves, or any dried herb works well also.

Harvest has begun

These beautiful beets were grown from seed.  They truly are very easy to grow and wow, look at the rewards!  These will probably end up on the grill.  Just slice, brush with olive oil, salt and pepper and grill until tender.  The tomatoes are coming in just as quickly.  I will be posting more tomato recipes and other ways to use them as well.

Growing grapes

A few years back I decided to plant some grapes.  I found the variety that grows best for my area, the Concord grape.  I’ve gone at this very experimentally since I’ve never grown grapes.  Seems easy enough……I thought.  I “planted” poles into the ground in a cement/stone mixture, added wires both at the top and bottom as well as diagonally for the plants to attach to as they grow.  Then I also attached a heavy gauge cable coming off the end poles secured into the ground with long galvanized nails (purchased at any hardware store, they are at least 10″ long).  This gives the poles added support as the grape vines grow and add extra weight to the structure.  Now the growing part.  I’ve had ups and downs.  Some have been plagued by insects and birds.  I did try another variety, the Canadice grape and had marginal success.  The Concord seems the most prolific in its growth and grape production.  I am still dealing with spots which can be caused by a variety of conditions ie: excess moisture, soil conditions and fungus.  I’m also still learning about the pruning process which should be done in March or April depending on your area. So in retrospect, growing grapes is a little more difficult than I expected, but regardless of my crop, they add a little bit of wine country charm to the yard and yes, my little hens love lounging under the vines as well!

Arranging fresh cut flowers

In a previous post, I mention a quote by Anne Morrow Lindburgh (Decor). Beautiful. Anyway, I was reminded of it when my daughter came in with some fresh cuttings from the gardens to arrange for the dinner table. Simple, beautiful and resourceful all at the same time, not to mention the little touch of thoughtfulness for all to enjoy.

The latest on my little hens

Well as you can see, my brood is getting bigger. They are now just about two months old. I’m so obviously a novice at this, that I was talking to someone the other day knowledgeable about chickens and found out I won’t have eggs for at least 6 months! Oh well, at least they are entertaining. They travel around like a little gang and get into just as much trouble. Did I mention that they have a real affinity for my mulch?!  My daughter has named them and swears she can tell them apart – Penelope, Flossie, Bep, May, Squirt and Miss C. Stay tuned………

My first egg!  There it was neatly sitting in a corner of the coop.  My hens are laying and we couldn’t be more excited.  Finally – fresh eggs!

My Kitchen Potager

I wanted to share with you one of my favorite spaces around my home.  The kitchen potager.  This is directly off my kitchen, so I can conveniently step outside and grab some fresh herbs or whatever is ripe at the time!  This is a walled-in garden so it is safe from garden thieves – you know, the “wild” variety!  It is not excessively large, but just a few raised beds.  I grow the simple most-used items such as tomatoes, various varieties of peppers, eggplant, cherry tomatoes, some beets, various herbs and of course some flowers for my visual enjoyment.  There is a small bubbling fountain and of course a bird house (I always have to have one!).

I love enjoying some down-time in the late afternoon in the potager, and as you can see above, so does our little rex rabbit – Coco.

Spring in the gardens

The vegetable garden is planted and my flower beds are flourishing.  The wisteria I planted 5 years ago is finally in full bloom, and the fragrance is heavenly!  Wisteria will react very positively to much pruning.  I cut back the long shoots continuously throughout the summer and it looks as though my efforts have paid off!

Container Gardening

Planting in containers is a great way to add color to patios and porches and create beautiful welcoming entryways.  The type of container you use does not necessarily have to be limited to traditional planting pots.  Wheelbarrows, wine barrels, anything that can hold an amount of planting medium with enough room for growing roots and drainage can be used.  The key to creating a lavish display – just as in decorating tabletops – is to have various heights and color.  Having at least one plant variety that grows tall, a couple of ‘spillers’, those that hang down over the pot, and a couple of mounding types with lots of color, will grow into a lush display.  I have also done containers with a single color story, such as purple using purple potato vine, petunias, and tall spikes for example.  Be sure to use a good planting mix with fertilizer already mixed in to feed your plants throughout the growing season and have good drainage.  Here are some beautiful examples for your inspiration.

The barrel example comes from a fellow blogger, theguildedbloom.  The succulents are an idea from Southern Living.  When you stack pots such as the second photo shows, place a clay pot that is similar in height in the middle of the lower pot upside down, then stack the other on top.  This eliminates the need to fill completely with dirt and ‘contains’ the plants planted around it.

Boxwoods traditionally do very well in containers, such as here, again from Southern Living.  However, they do need some room to develop their roots.  Lined up they create a privacy hedge, or grouped together in various heights a dramatic simple focal point.  It can be difficult to over-winter these pots where winters are harsh.  They should be moved to a protected location, which can be cumbersome.  Extreme conditions can freeze both the roots of the plant and the pot, so be cautious as to the size you wish to plant if you are in these areas.

Chickens!

Well I’ve finally done it.  I’ve thought about having hens for quite a while, but never quite took the plunge.  On a trip to the farm store (for bunny bedding), I was side-tracked and before I knew it, I was on my way home with 6 chicks!  They are adorable, and I’ve already learned a lot.  I will keep updates on raising my little egg-layers as they grow.  Stay tuned!

My little brood is growing nicely! They are kept warm with a heat lamp and for now are taking up residence in a recycling bin. They’re needs are simple, fresh water and food. I change their bedding every other day and for now they are perfectly content.

My little chicks are now almost 4 weeks old. They are growing feathers and love to practice flying. I put them outside every now and then to get them used to the outdoors. I don’t trust this entirely, so I have to check on them often to be sure no predators are tempted.

 

Still growing!  I’ve moved my little hens to a temporary outdoor pen.  They love to stretch their wings and attempt flying.  They are comfortable sitting on a perch.  Their needs are still pretty simple.  Currently, I’m looking into a chicken coop.  So many varieties out there!  Stay tuned…

Well my little feathered friends have moved into their new home.  I purchased a hen house on-line.  It was a little daunting to put together, but I did it – with a little help from the kids.  The chickens seem very happy and occasionally we let them out to roam, but never without someone nearby.  I am still nervous about the natural predators – hawks and fox, and since I am out on some acerage, it is a very real possibility.  It is amazing how fast they have grown!