Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Spinach, Peas, and Lettuce, OH MY!

I am excited that I have been lucky enough to have a garden growing in all the weird weather that we are having! But strangely enough we are already eating from our garden and loving every bite!
I harvested a big row of spinach last week and came out with 9 bags of spinach to share and eat in delicious salads! We have also been lucky enough to get some peas and lettuce that is making my grocery shopping bill smaller and my smile bigger! In a few weeks it will be time to plant all the cole crops again that you want a second try at. I for one will be replanting peas for sure- I can't get enough of those yummy things....and mine struggled this season. I hope they do much better in a fall crop. I am still puttering and planting a few things here and there, pumpkins that I didn't get in yet and I re-seeded some of my corn that has come up spotty because of the weather.

Weed control time is here and we have the blisters on our hands to prove it! Get out those hoe's people and make sure your garden can be found among the many weeds popping up. The ever-bearing strawberry varieties are starting to produce, and there is nothing sweeter. Keep them moist and they will give you a great reason to go into your garden. With the heat in the afternoon I find it most helpful to spend my hours in the garden in the early morning 5:30-8am and in the evening (with a good bug spray on for mosquitoes) 7-9:30... This time of year I can still see to work until about 9:45 at night.... amazing! You gotta love the long summer nights. Don't forget to thin carrots, beets, and turnips for best results.

I hope you are enjoying your garden food and looking forward to more ahead while our tomatoes, corn, beans, and squash are growing happily. Remember to water deep and infrequent, try to get the water to go down at least 6 inches. It saves water and makes for happier healthier plants.

Happy Gardening!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Annual Flower bed design

So I'll admit it, finally having nice weather I am having a hard time blogging. It is too fun to spend my time outside working and enjoying the still "cool enough to work" weather! I also have had to slow down a bit because I only have about 9 more weeks till my baby is born :) I apologize for the time gap but I thought I would post about one of the many things I have been working on outside lately....

Annual flower bed design! I have been inspired by many different places these past two years to start planting an annual flower bed or two each spring. It is so fun to find varieties that work well together and see the full splendor of summer annuals at their best. I used to not be a big fan of annuals until I saw the amazing ability they have to keep blooming all summer long. I have loved working with some more rare and tried and true varieties and trying something new each year.

I start by choosing a color scheme and think of the texture and spacing that I want. Some of the plants I like to use are flowering kale, purple basil, cardinal red salvia, cleome, gomphrena, profussion zinnias, imagination verbena, and black eyed susan. there are many other varieties you can experiment with, but those are a few of my favorites for zone 5. Look for plants in your nursery that are small and not too overgrown and lanky for the flat. The small plants do better because they are not so root-bound in the container. I really try to pack my annuals in the bed, the more color and texture the better. I count up how many flats of flowers I need for my space and place them by gently throwing the plants onto the ground and where they land is where they are planted. (please don't plant in cute little rows! there is nothing natural about it!) I try to copy nature as much as possible and random placement seems to be more aesthetically pleasing in my opinion.

Make sure you prepare the soil in your area well by adding plenty of organic matter and tilling before planting if possible. I also like to add some all purpose fertilizer to get things started well. I usually plant on may 15 but this year because of weather we are about a month behind schedule. My plants just went in about a week and a half ago and I am babying them until they get settled and start to do their thing!

They actually don't look like much now but in a few weeks will be beautiful as ever bursting with color and texture! I look forward to the enjoyment of it! I hope this will inspire you to try something new with the many amazing annuals that we have!

Happy Gardening


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Trees that will take your breath away!

We're in the full swing of things and I finally dragged myself inside to blog instead of weed, and plant my garden. The nursery's are buzzing with people and our yards are starting to take a good share of our Saturday. It's really hard to get plants off your mind this beautiful time of year. I have been thinking a lot about trees this week because this spring we have planted 5 new trees in our yard. Here is a list of my favorite ornamental landscape trees for zone 5 and why... Not in zone 5? Check to see if these trees will grow in your area! Trust me you won't be disappointed!

1. Crabapple (Malus baccata) this tree has many beautiful flowering varieties and does well in most any location. They will even grow where I live with a high water table area and look gorgeous! Very low maintenance tree and amazing color in spring, and beautiful small edible fruits in the fall. Attracts birds, and kids to eat them :)

2. Zelcova (Zelcova serrata)- want a beautiful large shade tree with a lot of disease resistance? Zelcova is the answer! One of the prettiest shade trees I have found for our area! An amazing example of this is located on the Provo BYU campus next to the Wilkinson Center. I loved to walk by this tree and enjoy it's never-ending beauty.

3. Saucer/star Magnolia (Magnolia x soulangiana, or stellata for star)-This amazingly beautiful tree has blossoms the size of your fist and it just happens to bloom on my birthday every year! Spring bloom and beautiful shrub-like shape! Believe me it is breath-taking when it blooms and has large attractive leaves the rest of the season. The only down side is that it is very slow growing. (It's well worth the wait!)

4. White Fir, or Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga sp.)- One of my favorite evergreen trees with soft needles and an amazingly beautiful shape. The dark green needles next to it's white bark is very aesthetically pleasing in any landscape!

5. Tri-color Beech (Fagus Sylvatica)- Or any Beech tree for that matter! Beech wood is beautiful and so are the leaves of this amazing tree. I love the tri-color, weeping beech and even the common beech has amazing form and beauty. This tree does well in Utah, the most beautiful I have seen are on the grounds of the Logan Utah Temple.

6. Weeping Cherry (Prunus sp.)- Need a beautiful focal point in your yard? This tree will draw your attention all year round. Beautiful blossoms in early spring and stunning form all year round. Even winter months it is fun to look at! (just watch to make sure it is pruned to stay within the weeping graft!)

7. Red Oak (Quercus Rubra)- a beautiful shade tree that has nice leaves in spring/summer but really puts on it's show in the fall with gorgeous fall color. It grows well in Utah with few problems!

8. Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hipocastanum) This tree will always remind me of my grandpa! A huge hard wood shade tree with amazing blooms in the spring. Get ready to be amazed every time it blooms. I have literally stopped in traffic to see a mature horse chestnut bloom here in Utah. They are amazing enough it is one of the only trees that is going to be preserved with the remodel of the Ogden Temple. It has a brown round seed that drops off in the fall (great fun for kids to play with, but a little messy!)

9. Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) Another evergreen worth noting! This tree has linear soft flat needles and they turn yellow, orange before falling off in the fall. (Yes is is deciduous!) Likes to be planted near water! Beautiful choice for zone 5!

10. Lastly I would say any tree that is sentimental to you for any good reason is a great choice (as long as it does well in your area!). Trees evoke emotions that nothing else can and it is worth planting the tree that brings back good memories of a person or time of life!

Remember when planting your new treasure to dig the hole three times the size of your root ball. Plant only as deep as where the roots start to flare on the trunk! Do not plant it too deep! Place a hose near your new planted tree just dripping over-night to get a good deep watering and allow the roots to go deep into the ground.

Stop and enjoy the trees around you and notice all that they are accomplishing in the spring time!

Also, just for fun read this great article on Gardening with kids- here

Happy Gardening


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Video Info: How to Plant Tomatoes

Here's a very good video link for instructions how to plant tomatoes as you are getting ready to plant your gardens this year! Enjoy!

Thanks to Jerry Goodspeed at the Utah State Extension for posting this on the website!

Happy Gardening!


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Summer Garden Crops

The peas, spinach, carrots and lettuce are sprouting and it's getting close to that summer planting time again in zone 5! The last freeze date in Utah is May 5th. However I may wait till the 15th or so this year because of the very wet cold spring we have had... I can hardly wait to plant my green beans, tomatoes, corn, squash, melons, peppers and a whole lot more delicious vegetables and fruits! Depending on how much you have to plant, I usually plan a couple of weekends to do the job. Seeds go in first, and then the plants that I always forget to grow from seed; like tomatoes, squash and peppers. For more info on specific crops and how to grow them look here.

Don't forget this year to think about Weed control. We are trying a few different things this year to help with our garden. We plant a pretty big space so each year we try something new to find the best way to control weeds and get the best yield. First, we are using black fabric for our squash, melons, and anything that is perennial or takes up a large amount of space. (Our only issue with this so far is that you need to stake it down pretty good so the wind doesn't blow it around. Also consider putting something like wood chips or mulch on top to keep it down and make it look better.) For row crops we are going to try to lay newspaper down in between the rows. You place 2-3 sheets on top of each other and water it down so it sticks to the soil and put compost, mulch on the top. I have heard this can keep the weeds down for 1-2 months. I have never tried this so I will let you know how well it works for us! The newspaper and mulch/compost breaks down and is a good soil amendment and you get less weeds win/win right?

Irrigation- This is also something we have worked on each year to improve and make less work for us each year. Also trying to be conscious of not using more than needed is important for our environment! If you live in a place where watering is not needed I am incredibly jealous. Watering is a lot of work in Utah and your plants suffer a lot if you mess it up! We have a small orchard, grapes and blackberries that we are working on putting in a drip system for. Set to a timer they should be pretty stress free once in place. We have tried flood, furrow irrigation, sprinkler and drip and for us a combination is needed to cover all the different watering needs we have. Consider the plants you have their requirements and supplies you already have to work with.

We really try to "train" our plants to have deep roots by watering them deeply (at least 8 inches) and infrequently (once every 5-7 days depending on weather). This makes your plants healthier than if you water daily and all the roots stay right on the surface of the soil! And it's better for our Mother Earth!

A few more spring tips:

*The next few weeks are also a great time to plant your annuals and containers! More to come soon about annual flower bed design. If you live in Weber County there is an amazing annual plant sale at the extension, free classes etc. look here for more info.

*Don't forget to break up your thatch layer in your yard by aerating each spring for a healthier lawn. For more tips on spring lawn maintenance look here.

*I like to add compost to my flower beds each spring from a local green dump to make my soil soft and amazing! A little each year makes a huge difference!!

*Enjoying your spring bulbs? Make sure the bulb stalk turns yellow and dies down to the base of the stalk before taking them out. Bulbs need all the energy from the leaves senescence to be able to bloom next year. When you can easily pull the stalk and it will gently snap off of the bulb it is the right time to take the stalks out and leave the bulbs in for next year!!

Happy Gardening!


Monday, April 25, 2011

Landscaping for Dogs

If you are like me and love a dog (or two) - there can be some gardening drama! Here are a few ideas about how to design your yard to be dog, and gardener friendly! We all know it is a hard trick to establish with a chewing, digging, eliminating animal in your yard. Find a way to enjoy your yard space together with that puppy in your life.

Tip #1- Establish a "dog area" in your yard! Make sure it is a large enough area the dog can roam free a little and find some fun things to add to make it a comfortable place for your dog to be. Make sure the area has shade for your dog house and a place where they can drink (a fountain or small pool for drinking/swimming depending on what your dog likes is fun to try). My dogs are both Labs as you can see, so I plan to add a small pool/water feature that they can swim and cool off in the hot Utah summers. I let my dogs out of the dog area at least once a day to run/play or go on a walk but the main area for pottying is in the dog area! You can also place a water outlet in the area with a lick-spout attached for clean fresh water. There are so many good drinking ideas!! Another, if your dog is really posh is to place a mister on your hose (on a timer) that will mist the dog area a few times a day in the hottest hours. What more can a dog really want?

Tip #2- Does your dog love to dig? Make a place in the dog area your dog CAN dig without getting in trouble... Add a pile of dirt and even bury a bone or treat every once in a while to show the dog where she is allowed to dig. It also helps in training them, if you catch them digging somewhere else to bring them to that spot and say "dig!"

Tip #3- Create stepping stone paths in the naturally worn paths your dog makes (usually along the fence line of your home). This will eliminate unsightly dog paths in the lawn and help your dog keep their natural territorial instincts without getting into trouble.

Tip #4- Make sure you don't have poisonous plants in your yard that could harm your dog. For a list of poisonous plants check the link below.

Tip #5- Find suitable ground cover for your "dog area." A lot of dog owners use wood chips or heavy mulch instead of lawn because of the damage dog urine does to your turf. I use a combination of both because I don't mind re-seeding a few spots every spring... Use your preference- but please find a way to make it look attractive. Add a cute fire-hydrant planter, some hardy perennials, or some flowering shrubs. Landscaping for dogs can be a lot of fun!!

Happy Gardening!


Monday, April 18, 2011

Backyard Composting

I know you've seen it... that rich, dark, soft soil- easy to weed and will grow the most beautiful plants in the universe? Now that can be yours with a few easy steps to building your own compost pile.

Spring is a great time to start a compost pile that will help you naturally amend your soil into something magnificent! Your soil is a living organism that constantly needs to be fed and amended to get best results from your gardening experience. From my many college soils classes I have taken I always heard that the MOST important and beneficial thing you can do for your soil is to add organic matter. Organic matter is simply decomposed materials such as kitchen scraps (fruits and veggies), grass clippings, leaves and weeds, manures, coffee grounds, wood chips, bark etc. I can't tell you enough the benefit it adds to your garden and the results you get from it! It is SO worth it!

What is composting?
Composting according to Utah State University Extension is the aerobic, or oxygen-requiring, decomposition of organic materials by microorganisms under controlled conditions.

I had read about it for years and finally had the space to make my own compost bin in my back yard. Little did I know you can also do the same in a small space if you are willing. Here are some steps to get you started and know how to make some successful compost GOLD!

Step 1- Find a container! If you have space for a larger compost bin it can be made inexpensively with poles and chicken wire, wooden bins, or open sided cinder blocks. I made mine out of wood pallets that I got for free from a local store. You only need three sides so you can build the pile inside of it. (keep in mind you need something you can get wet, and will circulate air through easily) If you have a small space you can but a compost turner, or simply start with a bucket under your kitchen sink of scraps that can be put directly into your garden soil. (kitchen scraps decompose very quickly)

Step 2- Select the site! For the perfect composting location you need at least 6 hours of sunlight, a convenient location for adding and removing compost, and available to water. You might also think of a place that is inconspicuous in your landscape for aesthetic purposes.

Step 3- Gather suitable materials- any of the above mentioned organic materials CAN be added to your pile- things that are not acceptable are as follows: meats, bones, large branches, dairy products, synthetic products and plastics.

Step 4- Making the pile work- Structure the compost pile with layers that will help the pile decompose correctly. Mine went something like this- Plant waste, fertilizer, soil, plant waste, fertilizer, soil. You must add nitrogen fertilizer every 1-2 feet to decrease the Carbon to Nitrogen ratio. A 1" layer of soil from your yard will increase microbial activity in your pile. Build the pile 3-5 feet tall with an equal circumference so it will heat enough for good composting. Turn the pile every 2-4 weeks (or more often for quicker composting) and keep the pile moist to speed composting.

Remember- if your pile starts to stink- you need to turn it. Adequate oxygen and moisture will eliminate unpleasant odors.

Another good thing to do if you live in the country is to make sure your pile is secure from roaming animals- I think last year we fed quite a few neighborhood dogs, a snake, and a skunk with our delicious compost before I was smart enough to keep it covered! At least my kids got to see a real live skunk right? (they named him stinky face)

The compost is ready when it starts to look like real soil and has no more recognizable materials. It usually takes a few months to get to this point.

Give it a try! Compost added to any flower bed or garden space will be SO beneficial!

Happy Gardening!


Click here to learn more about composting and see my reference for this post.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Sneaky tricks of having AMAZING hanging baskets...

So we have all seen and been seduced by the beautiful hanging baskets in the nurseries- you know the ones that are overflowing with bloom and color and texture that we all want at our house... I always wanted to know how people planted them and actually were able to keep them alive for the whole summer. I finally learned their sneaky tricks that will help your annual hanging baskets, or porch pots looking amazing!! After I tried these tips the last few years my hanging baskets have been so much fun!

Trick #1- When planting annuals change the soil in your container make sure to change your potting soil EVERY year for best results!, (or at least every two years) Make sure it is good quality potting soil. Clean out your pot when you switch the soil. I usually just dump the old soil in my flower bed. If you have had any problems that year with pests/fungus it is a good idea to use some diluted bleach water to sanitize your pot. DON'T FORGET to drill drainage holes in your pot if they aren't already there... the water needs to be able to drain out to avoid fungus/over-watering problems. (roots need oxygen as much as water to be able to do their job! no drainage=no oxygen) Notice drainage holes in pot below! A good drill will do the trick.

Trick #2- Add a slow release fertilizer to your potting soil. Potting soil is depleated of it's nutrients very quickly because of the ammount of plants you are craming into the pot. You want a big show from your flowers so adding a slow release such as Osmocote REALLY helps your plants a lot! Follow label directions to know how much to add for the size of the pot.

Trick #3- Choose the right plants for the right location... Make sure all your plants are the correct light requirement for the area you plan to place your container. Make sure the plant also does well in your zone (I am amazed at how many nurseries sell plants that will die in my zone) Some of my full sun favorites for hanging baskets are- Wave Petunias, Million Bells, Bacopa, Sweet potato vine, and Lobelia. Ask your local nursery-man/woman for help choosing good plants for your zone.

Trick #4- Water often if your plant is in full sun! I watered mine once a day in the full sun, in the hottest part of the summer I found they sometimes needed twice a day. I know it sounds crazy- but hey this is Utah I'm talking about. Check if it needs water by putting your finger 1" into the soil to see if it is wet at root level. If it is wet wait a day, if not it's time to water again.

Trick #5 - Water with Miracle grow or similar fertilizer as often as label directs- (usually every 7-10 days) They really do need a lot of fertilizer for maximum performance! Believe me it will be worth all the time you put into it to enjoy the beauty you have created!

Please don't attempt to plant your pots till after the last freeze date in your zone. In Utah it is May 5th... California; March 5th... find out the last freeze date and plant accordingly.
I hope you enjoy your beautiful hanging baskets as much as I do!

Happy Gardening


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Give your Front Yard a Face-Lift!

I have been really focused on vegetables since I started this blog (probably because I am expecting a baby and all I can think about is food!) but, I want to switch gears and talk a little bit about my truest love Garden Design!

Think about your front yard for a minute... is it a place you want to sit and hang out? Is it calm, tranquil and beautiful everywhere you look? or is it like the typical front yard, more ownership to the neighborhood and those who drive by than to you who actually own the property? I hate unusable space in a front yard- and lets face it- that's what most of us have right? The typical front yard is a sea of grass and a thin sidewalk that leads in an "L" shape from the driveway to the door. Oh, and don't forget the "kidney bean" shaped flower bed.

Here's a few tips to spruce up a front yard and make the space more usable for you and your family.

1) Widen the walkways! Two people should be able to walk side by side on your walkway to your front door- it will help people feel more comfortable and at ease when visiting you!

2) Make the front door the MAIN focal point from the street! This can be done by color, plant material placement or placement of the path that leads to your front door. Make it inviting, easy to access and your curb appeal will triple.

3) Add a bench, a screen from the street, and some trickling water. Find a place to make a nook where you can sit and enjoy your yard and not be viewed by the whole neighborhood. The water sounds are also calming and inviting to your guests. If you are lucky enough to have a mature tree, a wood swing is also a good way to make your front yard usable for kids!

4) Don't be afraid to get rid of more lawn- The domesticated world is lawn-crazy! It is actually less maintenance to take care of a well planned flower bed than turf- believe it or not. Add some paths and nice plant material that will add to texture, color and aesthetic pleasure of being outdoors!

5) Especially for the front yard you need something that smells good!! Lilacs, Lavender, Hyacinths, and Mint (only planted in a container, mint is very aggressive!) are a few of my favorites. Plant near your sitting area or near the front door. You will love it more than you now realize!

6) Plant containers, pots and flower boxes to soften look of your home! (container planting tips coming soon!, very soon! ) Open your eyes to the possibilities of having a space you can actually use in your front yard! It's a whole new world out there!

Happy Gardening!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Spring Pruning Basics...

Hey everyone! Spring is the best time to prune certain types of landscape plants as you probably know. I have been contemplating blogging about pruning for weeks now because I think personally that it is much easier to learn correct pruning by watching a demonstration than reading it from a book/blog. BUT, I just found that the extension has these amazing demonstration video's that will tell you how to prune your landscape plants in full detail. Get your pruners sharpened while you watch these fun pruning video's and learn how to train your plants to be more healthy and aesthetically beautiful! The three I found are fruit tree pruning, rose pruning, and multi-stem shrub pruning. (This first video is WELL WORTH YOUR TIME but is about 29 minutes long so be warned to set aside the time before watching) Fruit Tree Pruning

The next video is for rose pruning...hope you enjoy! (From the Utah State University Extension is my old boss and Weber County Horticulturist Jerry Goodspeed)

The third one is for pruning landscape shrubs such as dogwood, lilac etc... (but, the best time to prune a lilac is AFTER it blooms!)

This last video is just my favorite song about vegetables!! Just for fun... (veggie tales theme song)

Get a head start on your pruning before your trees and shrubs leaf out! Happy pruning! Many Thanks to the Extension and their awesome public-educating ablilties!


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Bare Root Bliss!

A highlight of my week was visiting local nurseries to search for bare root plants. I love bare root plants for many reasons, first they are cheaper!- this is a big plus, honestly if the bare root plants don't sell in a nursery they pot them up and sell them for more. You might as well get them for less. (I found some grape vines this week that were 4.99 each! In the pot they are usually $15-$30 each) Second, it is easy to inspect the root system and get a healthy plant. Look for a root system that is large and has some healthy white areas. My opinion is that plants are healthier going from unlimited space to unlimited space- no pot needed, put them in the ground right away. Look for bare root plants that are not leafing out already, the more dormant they are the better.

Make sure you get them in the ground right away after purchase so they have optimum conditions!

Things you can find bare root:

Fruit trees of all kinds...(The cheapest way to buy healthy fruit trees)

Asparagus (remember you shouldn't harvest till the third season, but after the wait they are well worth it- 1 plant will produce for 50 years!)

Raspberries both ever-bearing and June bearing

Strawberries (It is much cheaper this way- you are going to replace them every 3-4 years anyway for the best production)

Grapes- Again there is 3-5 years of training till they start producing, bare root gets them in the ground earlier for more seasonal growth/settling.

Blackberries-(awesome growing in zone 5 you most likely get more blackberries than raspberries with fewer plants)

I have heard you can find some ornamental plants bare root also- although I have yet to find a nursery in my area that carries them. I also found a number of other berries at the nursery I went to. Check it out at local nurseries- some specialize in bare root plants in the spring so call around and find a nursery that has everything you need. It feels good to get them in the ground and ready to grow in the right place so early!

Here is a link from the University of Nebraska Extension site for more info on bare root plants

Happy Gardening!


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Preparing and Improving Garden Soil

The sun is shining the grass is green... well almost...tiny buds are forming on your trees and your bulbs are starting to put on a show! It's time to talk about Soil! No, it is not dirt people!, dirt is a dirty word in the word of gardening! If you have already planted Cole crops you are probably thinking it's too late, but I think it's never too late to amend your soil. The first thing I would do is pick up a soil test from your nearest extension office. Your soil test will give you instructions on how to take a soil sample and send it in to be tested. This way you will know exactly what you have to work with and what to add to get the best results. You will only invest about $14.00 or so and you will know so much more! After you get results you can make some good educated improvements.

While you are waiting for your results here is a general rule of thumb on what you can do to improve your soil.

Areas you have not planted are still very workable and usually the best time to amend soil is in the early spring or late fall. Make sure your soil is moist, but not wet. You can test the moisture level by taking a handful of soil 3 inches deep from the garden and squeeze it firmly. Drop it on the sidewalk, if the ball shatters it is a good consistency to work. (if it is too wet you may destroy the natural clods in the soil, making the structure not as effective for growing)

The absolute best thing you can do for your soil (and any type of soil) is to add organic materials. (i.e.: sawdust, manure, leaves, needles from conifers, wood chips, compost or peat moss) Organic materials will improve soil structure and workability and productivity.

Warning: Although an excellent source of organic matter Manures will almost always contain weed seeds!

When soil is workable in spring, spread a 2-6 inch layer of organic material and some nitrogen fertilizer to your soil. (1 qt ammonium sulfate(21-0-0) per 100 square feet of area, per inch of organic material) Till to a depth of 6-8 inches. Make sure the soil is only tilled to leave marble sized particles in the soil. I know it is tempting but Do not over-till!

The Utah State University Extension recommends that you use the soil you already have instead of bringing in large loads of new soil so you don't introduce new problems/weeds, or interface issues to your existing problems...
Always inspect any soil before you bring it into your yard.
I hope this will give you some ideas of how to improve your soil and quality/quantity of your home grown food!

Just for fun here is a link to a very good article about self-reliance and gardening!

My references for today come from...The Utah State University Extension website:

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Secrets of Growing Carrots Unveiled!

Have you ever grown your own carrots?
Homegrown carrots are one of the sweetest most delicious things on the planet!! It's hard to buy them at the store after one taste. The problem is they are a little tricky to get to germinate and grow in some places... Want to know some simple secrets to grow enough for a whole year? and how to store them through the winter? Never buy the tasteless carrots from the grocery store again!

Carrots need cool weather (anything between 32-75 degrees is perfect), fertile well-drained soil and plenty of sun. I like to plant my carrots twice a year in zone 5- in the early spring and mid-summer for a fall harvest. You can plant a third crop in late fall also and harvest in early spring. If you live in a climate that is moderate i.e. (my Californians!) you may be able to plant all year long every four weeks or so!
Carrots are always planted by seed- plant no more than 1/4 inches deep and thin after germination to 3 inches apart. Irrigate consistent and even for best results.
Prepare the soil before planting with plenty of organic material and some complete organic fertilizer. For more on Organic Fertilizers which I highly recommend for anything you will eat check this link:

Make sure the soil is loose and deep- last year my carrots were short and fat because they hit the hard pan and couldn't grow any deeper.
Here are a few things I learned that greatly enhanced my carrot yield!

Carrot Secret #1-- Cover Seeds with a heavy mulch (leaves, straw etc.)to help with germination. This keeps the moisture even and you will get better results with germination and growth! No more tears over non-germinating carrots! You can actually keep the mulch on to cool the soil in hot temperatures. For fall grown carrots mulch also helps if you want to store your carrots in the ground over the winter- just dig when needed.

Carrot Secret #2-- Raised beds are the way to go with carrots- dig your beds to add 4-6 inches of soil to ground level and see your carrots grow easily deeper and more beautiful! Remember loose, deep, organic-material rich soil!

There are many new varieties of carrots out there so experiment a little; you can even find a purple variety that is so pretty and SO good for you! Check with your local extension and find tested and true varieties that will do well in your area.

Here is a link for suggested varieties in Zone 5

Want to know more about Carrots? Here is a link to my reference: the Utah State University Extension publication on carrots..

Enjoy the process- growing/eating carrots can be a lot of fun! And good for you too! Love that Vitamin A!!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

It's time to plant your cole crops!

Did you know Cole crops can be planted as early as this weekend in zone 5? In other zones you can plant cole crops about 6 weeks before the last frost date in your area. If you are like me and love gardening you are anxious to get out in the garden with a shovel and get the ground ready to plant your peas, broccoli, lettuce, carrots, radishes, spinach, and onions. I also might try Rhubarb, and Asparagus this year to add some perennial vegetables. In a few months I hope to have a pretty good salad growing! I have had my garden plowed and tilled last fall right before the first snow so it would be ready early in the spring. (If you haven't tilled yet, get out tilling- I also add quite a bit of organic matter to the soil each year- i.e. manure, or leaves, kitchen scraps etc. It is not to late to incorporate some of that in when you till. It also helps to add a complete fertilizer (one with all three numbers N-P-K) to the soil before planting.
The first thing I do is go out with a shovel and make rows of raised beds for each vegetable I want to plant. I try to raise the ground level at least 6 inches for best results. Raised beds allows for better drainage, less compaction of the soil and overall a happier plants.
Out of all the Cole crops peas are my favorite so I will focus on them the most! I found last year that sugar snap, are my personal favorite. Varieties like Super Sugar Snap, Snowflake, and Sugar Daddy have been tested and do well in zone 5. They grow quickly, and have an edible pod- easy to eat while you are weeding. They like the soil temperature to be 40 degrees F. before planting. If you are like me and still have snow on your garden you may have to wait one more week before planting. :(

Plant seeds 1" deep 1-2 inches apart in rows 12-24 inches apart. In Utah the weather will pretty much take care of them and you won't have to water them till about April-May. Germination takes place in 7-10 days if the soil is warm enough. We got quite a few peas last year and the kids loved eating them raw straight from the garden. Nothing is sweeter and more nutritious! When the weather gets above 80 degrees you will see your plants start to decline. This is normal. They are a cool season crop and I usually till them back into the soil in about June. (They are an excellent source of Nitrogen if tilled back into the soil.)

Do you have questions about another Cole crop? Let me know in a comment!
I hope you enjoy your Cole crops as much as I do....

Thursday, February 24, 2011

How to order FREE seed catalogs!

So we all know it is still incredibly depressing outside- at least here in zone 5. Nothing will cheer you up more than getting some seed catalogs in the mail so you can start your garden planning! It's still not too late to get on the list to receive many. Here are some links to seed companies that will send you a FREE catalog.

1. Burpee seed Company

2. Gurney Seed Company

3. Mtn. Valley Seed Co.

4. Twilley See Co.

5. Stokes Seeds Inc.

6. Park Seed Co.

7. Irish Eyes seed co.

8. Johnny's Select seeds

I am not endorsed by any of these companies, just found a way to make my planning easier by knowing my options. I really buy most of my seeds from local nurseries but occasionally there is something new or rare that I want to try from a catalog!
Happy Planning!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Top 10 Things To Grow With Kids!

A lot of you like me have some little side-kicks running around and helping you with your yard. I personally love gardening with my kids- and think we have a responsibility as parents/grandparents to teach our kids about nature and how to grow some basic things. The most important thing we can teach them is that growing things is SO MUCH FUN!! And it's magical and really a miracle in an of itself. Really if you think about it-- why does a tiny seed grow into something delicious to eat or beautiful to look at, or sweet to smell? It's a God given miracle!

I hope you enjoy my top 10 things to grow with kids!

1. Cherry Tomatoes- Need I say more, bite size bliss. Just the right size for kids to eat by the handful. They love to pick and eat these and watch them grow from tiny little plants into a tangled mess.

2. Pumpkins- of any size really, giant or tiny- kids love to watch them grow, turn orange, and pick them when they are ready. Some you can eat, paint, carve or just use for decoration. The seeds are big and easy for little hands to plant, and they germinate quickly!

3. Berries- I love anything for kids that they can go out and pick and eat right away. (I keep all of my plants organic so this isn't a problem) Strawberries, raspberries and yes especially thorn-less blackberries are always a hit. If you live where you can grow blueberries I would do it for sure....though they are a little bit of a picky plant to grow.

4. Green beans- What? your kids don't like green beans? It is amazing what they will try and eat by the bucketfuls if they can see it grow themselves. My kids eat green beans out of the garden like crazy- there is nothing quite as good. They are easy to grow and easy to pick kids love them.

5. Squash- there are so many different kinds to choose from and believe me the best thing a kid likes about a garden is picking stuff. Most squash will keep them picking all summer long. And they may even like to eat it if they grew it themselves. So many different shapes and colors from zucchini to eight ball, banana to acorn. We love them all.

6. Sunflowers (Helianthus) - again the seeds are huge, kids can plant them easily and the seedlings are big and easy to care for. You can get so many different varieties but I like the very tall ones for my kids because they like to measure who's grows taller. Get a variety with edible seeds too- kids love them.

7. Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia)- This is a shrub-like perennial that grows very well in almost any full sun location. The reason I like it so much for kids is that it has a gorgeous purple spike-like bloom that attracts butterflies and bees like crazy. Be a little careful not to plant it too close to your house entrance because of the bees, but get ready to sit nearby with your little one and watch the busy little guys at work. (It attracts honey bees which are very docile and harmless NOT like wasps/hornets so don't worry!)

8. Bulbs- I don't know about you but my little people get almost as excited about seeing the first flower of the season as I do. They are much more aware of the earth and most of the time find the first bloom first! Bulbs are so fun for them to watch with their huge flowers and amazing fragrances. Hyacinth is my favorite for kids because it smells so heavenly. I love to pick a few flowers from the bunch and give them to my kids to smell over and over-- heck I do it myself too. It is also fun to grow enough that they can help you pick some to take indoors.

9. Lambs Ear (Stachys byzantina)- You can't forget this kids favorite! The fuzzy leaf is unique and fun for any age to feel and explore. It is great as a border plant and does well in full sun locations. The only thing I don't like about this plant is the bloom, too tall and messy looking for me. I usually cut it off right away, but the fuzziness can't be beat!

10. Salvia (Sage)- This beautiful flowering perennial/annual in some varieties are like magnets to hummingbirds. Last summer I used the annual Cardinal Red Salvia and I was amazed at how many humming birds we saw. Make sure it is a variety with long tube like flowers because that is what the hummingbirds like. The perennial Salvia guaranitica is a good choice or just stick with the annual (Cardinal red)- it blooms all summer instead of only a few months. Sit nearby when you have some blooms and teach your kids about an amazing tiny little bird!

Do you have a favorite you like to grow with your kids? Comment to add to the list!

Friday, February 18, 2011

All About Raspberries...

NOTHING is better on a summer day than picking your own sweet raspberries from your home garden. It is also a fun thing to grow with kids because they love to pick and eat every last one before they even make it into the house. And what could be better for them really? I hope you enjoy learning the best ways to purchase, plant and care for your raspberries before the time is here.

I believe the best way to purchase raspberries is in the early spring as bare root plants. You can usually only get bare root plants in the very early spring months-- which is Right now! You get more for your money and they are ready to plant right away! I never order them in the mail. (you never know the condition the plant will be in when it arrives) I am much more picky about hand picking the healthiest plants I can find at the nursery. Look for small white buds on the roots of the plant- new shoots will grow from these buds AND make sure your plants are CERTIFIED VIRUS FREE.

Raspberries love well drained, organic rich soils and are difficult to grow in heavy soils. For this reason it is ideal to grow them in a raised bed that you have prepared with 2-6 inches of organic material. I have read you can add nitrogen fertilizer to the soil as well to help plant growth- (I lean very organic when it comes to things I eat so make sure it is a fertilizer you can live with) Provide a support system of stakes and wires to keep canes off the ground. Plant canes 2-3 feet apart and allow succors to fill in with time. Plant early in spring in Utah so your plant can get root established before top growth is needed. (be careful not to water before top 3 inches of soil are dry so you don't delay warming of the soil)

There are two main kinds of raspberries June bearing and Ever-bearing (sometimes called fall bearing). June bearing produce heavily June through July; Ever bearing produce two crops one in June and one in the fall. Pruning for each is very different because June bearing fruit on last year's canes, and fall varieties fruit on this year's. You must know which you are dealing with and you must keep them separated so you can prune them correctly.
For more information on pruning I suggest you either visit this site:

Or if you happen to be in Weber County you can go to a free pruning class at the Ogden botanical Garden you can find information on this site:

Water raspberries deep and infrequently 1-2 inches per week. Increase watering to 3-4 inches when fruiting.

Varieties have tried are Anne and Heritage both ever bearing. There are more suggested varieties listed on the Utah State University website.
Don't live in zone 5? Snowflake Arizona is zone 6a - they have an extension website for AZ here:

Wildau Germany is in European Hardiness zone 6 which I am trying to find out if that is the same as the USDA hardiness zone 6 for us here. I will have more info shortly! :)

Happy Gardening!

1. "Grow Fruit" by Alan Buckingham 2010 published by Dorling Kindersley Limited
2. The Utah State University Extension raspberry fact sheet by Jerry Goodspeed.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Building a window box!

So the weather is very unpredictable here in Utah in February so I try to have a few projects that I can do inside or at least in the garage to help me keep getting ready for spring... My newest project is making window boxes! It was incredibly easy and satisfying. I can't wait to hang them up and plant them with tons of color and texture when it warms up.

The benefits of a window box are innumerable! For my house I am wanting them to soften the look of my house and add some color and brightness. They add curb appeal to any house. Later on in the year (probably may) I will talk a little more about what to plant in containers and how to make them amazingly gorgeous like they look in the nurseries. (I finally found out how they do it!) It is easier than you think-although they require a lot of watering!

The first thing I did was measure the windows that I wanted to put the boxes on. Make sure your windows are in the full sun, at least 6 hours a day. That way you will have the best results with the plants. You can also do some boxes in the part shade but they must get at least 4 hours of sun during the day. Then I was lucky enough to find some wood in our back yard wood pile (wood piles in the back yard come with a house in the country I found). You can use what is lying around your house or buy the size you need from a local hardware store. Then I just cut the pieces to size.... three pieces of the same length- (one for the bottom,and two for the sides) and two small pieces for the ends of the box. I used 3 inch long outdoor finishing nails to nail the box together. It is also a good idea to glue the box together with outdoor waterproof wood glue before nailing for a tighter more weatherable fit. It really only takes an afternoon if you have the right tools.

Don't forget to drill a few holes in the bottom of the window box so water can drain out of the box when you water your plants. Paint with primer/sealer first and then paint the color you want to match your home.

The method you use to attach your box to your house really depends on the material your home is made of- mine is brick so I need a pretty powerful drill. I plan to attach a metal piece I found at a hardware store that actually holds the box for me so I don't have to attach the box itself to the wall of my house. This way I can take the box off and on easily for cleaning and planting. YouTube has some great videos on how to attach a box to all kinds of houses.

Here is a picture of my box, although it still needs a pretty good paint job and the holes drilled in the bottom :) I can work on that while the snow is coming down in the next few days.

Don't forget this is the perfect time of year to get some of that black plastic for your garden. It will help warm the temperature of your soil in the early spring and speed up your seedling growth once you plant. I am getting some for the area my peas and lettuce will go into. You can secure it into the ground with long metal staples, or if nothing else big rocks!! Make sure to place the plastic on 7-10 days before planting. Happy Gardening!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Spring has sprung..... well almost!

I have been thinking about starting a gardening blog for a long time! I finally decided to give it a try. My main goal is to keep you updated on what you may want to be doing in certain times of year, and give you some fun managable ideas about all kinds of gardening. I will focus mainly on zone 5 since thats where I live but I will try to incorporate other zone information into my posts as well.

A little about me?
I graduated from BYU in Horticulture and have a huge passion for growing just about anything. I have studied and practiced gardening all my life because I was given great parents that taught me how to garden when I was very young. I have moved on to study more about botany and agriculture after I graduated and now am a Master Gardener in Utah. The emphasis of my degree in horticulture is landscape design so I love to try new things and make things esthetically pleasing. My husband is also a horticulturist and we work together enjoying our one acre plot of land here in Utah. I hope you enjoy learning and experiencing the bounty of the earth as much as I do!!

Ok enough of that now to our first real tip of the season... It is February folks and I am itching to get out in my garden and plant those first seedlings! We have a only a few more weeks till the beginning of March and that is when I gear up to plant my sweet peas. The planting dates for peas in Utah listed on the Utah State University Extension fact sheet says March 15-May 15.... thats right by may 15 you could be eating your first food of the season. Actually there is a whole list of things you can plant in March in Zone 5, Asparagus, Brussel Sprouts, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Endive, Garlic (which can also be planted in the fall for best results), Kohlrabi, Leeks, Lettuce, Mustard, Parsnips, Onions, Potato, radishes, Rhubarb, Spinach, Swiss Chard, turnips and even mentioned is peppers (I like to wait on peppers in my area because they are a little more cold sensitive).
With a list like that there is no reason to wait for the last frost date to start planting (which in zone 5 is May 5). All of these vegitables will do well in cooler weather!! Isn't that exciting! So it is time to start planning your vegitable garden, what you want to plant and where you want it. Think about two things when planning locations- what needs the most water, and where you can place it so that it gets what it needs- and planting your rows north to south so you can get the maximum amount of sunlight for your plants. Also thinking about shading will also help (i.e. you don't want to plant anything in the shade of your corn for example or other tall or staked vegitables).
Want to do more than just plan in February? This is a great time to get out and prune rose bushes, fruit trees and deadhead perennials. Rake out your flowerbeds and get ready to see some bulbs peaking out from under the soil. If you need help with proper pruning practices contact your local extension office, they usually have classses that will help you learn how to do it the right way. (it is really worth it to learn the correct way for many many reasons :))