Garden Blogs I Dig
Yesterday was Mother's Day and I spent it doing what I love most: GARDENING! It was a breath of fresh air to get out and get my hands dirty! It was a touch chilly still this weekend, but I simply. could. not. wait. any. longer. My darling husband, who knows me well, took me to a fantastic local greenhouse where I strolled the isles carefully selecting my plants. I focused on the veggies and herbs this trip because I finally have my very own veggie bed - woot woot!
I was lucky and the area where we decided to grow veggies was already laid out, but it was covered in yucky mulch. (I'm not the only one that despises mulch, right?)
Here is a dreadful before picture:
Not a huge area, but a good starting point for our first year. That messy glob in the middle was a peony that I pulled out, divided and transplanted in another bed.
My generous father-in-law dropped of a load of compost. I get REALLY excited about compost. I love the stuff...seriously, I do. Click here If you want to read more about how much I LOVE compost and a really easy method of composting.
I know a lot of people believe in tilling and it might be necessary in bigger gardens, but given my simplistic style of gardening we just took the ole' garden fork to the existing soil to break it up. Then we laid the compost on top, a nice thick layer and worked that into the top layer.
Now the fun part: planting! Again - to keep things uncomplicated I decided on a few varieties of tomatoes, green leaf lettuce, and three varieties of peppers. I also incorporated various herbs in the other existing beds around the back patio. And voila!
And of course I had help watering.
So excited to have my very own vegetable garden bed. It was my perfect way to spend Mother's Day!
Hope all you mamas had a great day too!
And tell me what divine things you're planting this year! I'd love to hear from you.
This is what I was doing three days ago:
A little fun in the sun (80 degrees!) at the Iowa Cubs game.
And, today it looks like this:
When spring returns, so will I.
Look what I found! Well, truth be told, my father-in-law spotted them: adorable little Crocus. What a sight for sore eyes! These are the first signs of life in our yard this year and a tell-tale symbol that spring is FINALLY here! Woot Woot!
Okay, it's been almost a YEAR since I've posted! Pathetic, I know. And I really don't have time to get into the details of my blogging slackerness, but we've been through a lot of changes the past year, the main one is that we moved. Not a major move, just across town but the entire process took almost a year and it was exhausting. The other huge factor in my VFTG neglect was my job that pays me real money. There have been some changes and my position is WAY busier than it was a year ago. And like I said, that job actually pays me real-life cizash, so I figured it should take priority.
BUT, I love this blog and since I haven't been taking advantage of it I can feel myself slipping from my passion of gardening and horticulture so I am putting it back on the priorities list!
Plus the new house brings like a bazillion gardening opportunities and decisions. It will be the perfect platform for me to utilize this blog.
And now it is April! This Iowa winter was particularly harsh, so I'm so stoked that April is here and hopefully it will bring warmer weather. There have been no signs of life in my yard yet, but I know I don't have much longer to wait.
Happy spring everyone!
I just couldn't resist sharing these mini banana chocolate chip muffins I made for my mini Valentine to share with his mini friends! (Oh, and I saved a few for my "real" Valentine to enjoy!)
Have a lovely Valentine's Day!
P.S. I'll post the recipe later.
Lately, our mailbox has been full of colorful gardening and seed catalogs...and for some reason I've been avoiding them. Well, I actually know the reason: our house is on the market and I'm a little confused as to what I'm supposed to do with them. Although our yard is beautiful in spring, the result of nine years of incorporating bulbs, perennials, shrubs, pathways, river rock, etc. etc., I REALLY hope we aren't around to experience it this year. But we are in the second week of February and reality has given me a little slap in the face (think Airplane when people stand in line to slap that hysterical woman). We'll most likely be here to see that first hellebore bloom break through it's snowy barrier. So be it.
But then there are the catalogs....what am I supposed to do with them? I know I will not be ordering any perennials, but do I order seeds? When the seeds come, do I plant them? Should I start them indoors, like I have in years past? Will prospective buyers see the rows of trays filled with starter mix and minuscule green shoots as I do - full of potential, eventually filling containers and beds with lush greenery and pops of color? Or will they view my seed starting getup as clutter, dirty and messy?
I think my solution is to downsize my usual operation. I will order as many seeds as possible that can be sown directly into the soil. I will just stick to a few trays to start indoors. OR I can look into purchasing or building a cold frame. Hmmm....now there's an idea!
Alright, I'm feeling a little better about my gardening dilemma. Now it's time to dive into those catalogs - gardener's porn!
PLEASE, give me your insight. Any tips on gardening while on the move?
Maybe it's the severe drop in temperature. Maybe it's the snow. Whatever "it" may be my hubby and I have been craving spicy food lately. Thai, Mexican, we don't discriminate...I guess it reminds us of warmer times, or just warms us up for the time being!
In addition to eating spicy hot food, we're also trying to keep it healthy. We made chicken tacos in the crock pot (a must for working parents) and I whipped up this super easy black bean dip (orginally obtained from Eating Well, but tweaked to our liking) to accompany them. Although it's not a very aesthetically pleasing dip, it is very versatile: use it as a spread in place of sour cream, or munch with veggies or tortilla chips. It was sooo good with garden-fresh radishes last summer. It's low fat and low cal - a completely guilt-free spread.
1 can black beans, rinsed
1-2 cloves garlic
3 tbsp. salsa
2 tbsp. cilantro, chopped
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
pinch of fresh ground pepper
Sriracha to taste
1 dollop low-fat sour cream (optional)
Add garlic cloves to food processor and mince.
Add the remaining ingredients through the ground pepper to the food processor and process until well blended. Add more salsa if you prefer a smoother texture. Add Sriracha to taste. Stir in a dollop of sour cream, if desired.
Serve immediately or chill in refrigerator for up to two days. This recipe can be whipped up in a matter of minutes and I'm sure your friends and family will love it as much as mine do.
Nutritional Data (including sour cream):
Per tablespoon: 37 calories; 0 g fat ( 0 g sat , 0 g mono ); 0 mg cholesterol; 3 g carbohydrates; 0 g added sugars; 1 g protein; 1 g fiber; 53 mg sodium; 2 mg potassium.
Although I try my best to live in the moment, I feel as though I have one foot planted in 2011 and the other stretched into 2012. 2011 was a great year: in fact my husband has gone so far to say it was his best year to date, and I cannot disagree. When I think back the most vivid memories are all the family moments we spent together watching our son develop as an ever-curious toddler. Any parent knows the amazing transformation that occurs in a child in a year's time. I also think of the times spent in the garden under the warm sun, spending time with friends, and some much needed quality time with the hubby.
So, to go along with everyone else out there I have a list of 5 top memories of 2011.
5. Girl's weekend in Colorado.
I spent a whirlwind of a weekend in Colorado with my girlfriends to celebrate our friend's marriage. We were lucky enough to all stay in the same condo, so the weekend was filled with laughs, tears and lots of cheers!
4. Purchasing a share in a community supported agriculture farm.
Due to our limited space (that's the excuse I'm using), we just don't have the ability to grow a ton of produce, so this past year we purchased a half-share of a community supported farm, Nature's Road Farm. It was AWESOME. Each week we had a generous bag of fresh, local, and mostly organic produce delivered to our door step. I will definitely do it again. Man! This picture is making me jones for some fresh produce right about now...been slim pickings lately.
3. Crazy weather.
2011 brought some wacky wacky weather: 90 degrees in April, major hail storm in June, early frost and snow and we're finishing the year off with temps in the 50's.
A major hail storm in June caused severe damage to hostas and other plants in my shady border.
Huge limbs from a weak-wooded silver maple cracked and fell under the weight of an early snow in November.
2. Romantic Chicago Getaway.
Drew and I scampered off for a quick getaway to Chicago this fall. One of our favorite bands, Widespread Panic played a Halloween show at the Aragon Ballroom. This particular show marked the 15th anniversary of my very first show, ironically enough on Halloween at the Aragon Ballroom in 1996! We went for the concert, but were blown away by the liveliness and beauty of the city. We stayed downtown for the most part, and we were just a brisk walk or a quick cab to anywhere, it seemed. Shopping, food and sights - it was the perfect fall romantic retreat.
1. Summer. Period.
As much as I love living in an area where I can enjoy all four season (to the fullest extent), nothing beats summer in my book: c'mon I'm a gardener true and true. I LOVE long days, warm sun, running through the sprinkler, blooming flowers, picking tomotoes and drinking beer on the patio in bare feet. Enjoying all this with my family and friends is all I can ask for (and dream of during winter).
There you have it - some of my most memorable memories of 2011. Can't wait to keep 'em coming in 2012.
Cheers and Happy New Year!
'Tis the season for all things pumpkin. Pumpkin bars, pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie, pumpkin pancakes....lotta pumpkin up in heeah these days. With the abundance of pumpkin recipes dancing in my head, I ask the burning question: canned vs. fresh pumpkin?
I admit, I am a long-time canned pumpkin consumer. Roasting pumpkins and pumpkin seeds were not a part of my upbringing. Well that stops now! We still had this darling baking pumpkin from our CSA farm share and it sparked something inside me. I am a gardener and a foodie true and true, and I'm here to step up to the challenge and decide once and for all which is better: fresh or canned?
Round 1: AESTHETIC VALUE
The first challenge is obvious. Fresh pumpkins are adorable. They are not only used for baking and cooking but are a staple in fall decor. In the other corner we have an aluminum can of pumpkin puree. Not only is it aesthetically unpleasing, but it's also harmful to the environment (Boo!).
Round 2: THE PUREE
This one is less apparent.
On one hand, the steps necessary to actually obtain the fresh puree is far more timely than simply opening a can. Cutting, deseeding, roasting, peeling and pureeing - a lengthy process.
HOWEVER, the color of the fresh puree captures the essence of the pumpkin - bright and crisp. The canned pumpkin is more brownish, not as vivid. Also the texture of the fresh puree is silky and smooth. The canned is gritty and dense.
Round 3: THE FINAL PRODUCT
Of course when we are talking pumpkin bread with a cinnamon streusel topping, they are both going to be delicious, and they were. The texture of the bread made with fresh pumpkin puree was smooth and velvety. The bread was rich with subtle pumpkin flavor. The bread made with the canned pumpkin was more dense and the pumpkin flavor was stronger.
Actually there is no contest: fresh totally knocks out canned. Reminds me of Rocky III when Rocky beats the Russian - you knew all along the Italian Stallion would pull through. Little secret: I had an inkling the fresh pumpkin would be victorious.
Lesson learned? It is well worth your time to roast and puree fresh pumpkins. Roast a lot at one time and freeze what you don't use. And don't forget the seeds!
A final pic of the mouth-watering champion.
This weekend when we were finishing up the final garden chores of the year I was reflecting on our ever-changing garden and the times spent here. You see, our house is on the market and (hopefully) it will be the last time digging, weeding and cutting this garden. A bittersweet realization.
We took extra special care to make sure all plants were cut to the ground (with the exception of grasses and rose bushes), all pots were dumped and beds were thoroughly raked. And it looked very tidy, but pretty naked too. We removed my beloved compost heap a few weeks ago (admittedly an eyesore to prospective buyers) so I couldn't even save the garden scraps. It just didn't feel right to have all that potential compost in bags on the curb - just there for the taking!
So amidst my barren garden I was taken back by the sheer lack of fall interest it offers. Sure, I have an ornamental grass here and there, and the porcelain berry vine is putting on a show now, but that's it. Pretty pathetic.
So in David Letterman fashion I've created a top ten list of plants to amp up my new garden during the latter part of the growing season (given we move by next spring, keep your fingers crossed).
Top Ten Perennials to Add Hellacious Fall Color to My New Garden at My New Abode
1. Red Twig Dogwood (Cornus sanguinea) - I've always wanted one (or more) of these. The vivid red branches contrast beautifully with fresh, white snow.
2. Burning Bush (Euonymus alatas) - I know these are grossly overused but it's hard to beat the brilliant crimson foliage this time of year.
3. Pig Sqeak (Bergenia cordifolia) - A good groundcover and leaves turn purplish-red in fall. Very nice.
4. Smoketree (Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple) - Purple haze comes to mind when this bush blooms in mid-summer. I adore the purple, oblong-shaped leaves.
5. Fothergilla (Fothergilla gardenii) - This shrub has multi-season appeal, starting with gorgeous blooms in spring and ending with awesome color in fall.
6. Garden mums (Chyrsanthemum sp.) - I used to have garden mums but they tend to be short-lived. Regardless, they come in so many colors now, a great way to add some variety into the fall landscape.
7. Sedum (Sedum sp.) - I do have Sedum 'Autumn Joy', but I never divided it so I had to cut it back since it was drooping to the ground anyway. Point being: need more varieties of sedum at the new casa.
8. Cranesbill (Geranium sanguineum) - A prolific bloomer all season this perennial persists into fall displaying vibrant red foliage.
9. Beautyberry (Calicarpa dichotoma) - Love the cascading bunches of wine-colored berries.
10. Bluestars (Amsonia hubrechtii) - This is the 2011 Perennial Plant Association plant of the year. I feel like I should incorporate the PPA winners in my landscape (You down with PPA? Ya, you know me! Sorry, just a little Naughty By Nature reference.), plus it's totally gorg. Love yellow.
There's my list. Now that I'm done I feel like I should break it up into woodies and herbaceous perennials. I'll work on that list and get back to you - a gardener's work is never finished!
Wow, I cannot believe it's been a month since I've posted! October has been incredibly busy, mostly filled with family and fun - no complaining here! It definitely feels like summer is gone for good now. Wilted plants, freezing temps, fleeces, hats, gloves - the works: all signs that summer has past and winter is coming. Which is fine, like I said, I have no reason to complain considering much of October was spent like this:
The beginning of this month in central Iowa was exquisite! The shortened days were a reminder to get out and enjoy the sunshine while we could...and we did. This time of year the garden pretty much takes care of itself, I didn't want to start chopping it down when we still had days left to enjoy it.
A girls trip to Colorado for a wedding took up a weekend in the middle of the month. Seven girls flew in from Iowa, Illinois and California for our friend's wedding. We stayed in a gorgeous condo in Denver. Here is a view from our patio overlooking the Rocky Mountains.
The wedding took place at Red Rocks National Park, an amazing background to a beautiful wedding and even more beautiful bride. Here we are before the ceremony enjoying the 80 degree weather.
The girls took the opportunity to trek around the park and check out the amphitheater where so many music legends have rocked the house! So cool!
October was also spent outdoors with the family. An annual trip to the pumpkin patch and apple orchard was so fun, and again - terrific weather!
These pumpkin patches aren't what they were in my day. Sure they have the quintessential haystack ride and pumpkin patch, but they also offer a huge variety of activities: slides, apple launchers, bouncy pillows, go-carts, petting zoos, and the ever popular pool of corn. Below my son is jumping into the corn pool, one of a million times he did this.
Needless to say, October has been good to me, and luckily the weather, for the most part, was good to my garden. But, the times they are a changing: the temperature is dropping and the garden is starting to look tired from the long growing season. Time to get down to business!
This year's fall garden chores are simple. Because our house is on the market there are no bulbs to plant which is usually a huge time commitment. The goal is to make it neat and tidy. My plan is to cut it all down, bag it up or store it away and call it good.
Finally, to give me the extra motivation here is a sound clip of my favorite band playing "Let's Get Down to Business." It's my mantra for the weekend and it will be playing loud in my ear buds to keep me moving.WSP Let's Get Down To Business by viewfromthegarden