Tag Archives: Botanical Interests

July Vegetables

My spring vegetables really took a beating from the rabbits and the weather. Even though I had shored up the rabbit fence around the yard, all it took was a couple of holes and I had a nice happy family of rabbits devouring almost everything I planted. Radishes, swiss chard, spinach, lettuce, kale, beets and carrots were all gone. The last straw was when my bean plants were each bitten cleanly off at the base.

Since this spring was a loss, I put up a rabbit fence around these two beds to protect what was left.

By now the weather has turned too warm to replant any cool weather seeds, so I’ll have to put my focus into what’s remaining and plan for some fall planting.

The Gourmet Gold Hybrid Summer Squash (Burpee) is truly a beautiful bright yellow summer squash and seems to be an early and heavy producer. A great addition when trying to eat a “rainbow of colors”. The Emerald Delight Zucchini has just started producing and so far I’m liking what I’m harvesting. Both are wonderful on a fresh veggie platter!

The garlic was ready to harvest last week and it’s now curing on the porch! I’m so spoiled by the amazing taste of homegrown garlic, that come late spring I dread having to buy garlic.

I planted the hardneck varieties Music and Purple Glazer, and the softneck Early California from Botanical Interests this year. My WI garlic is a little bit behind and probably won’t be ready for a couple more weeks. Want to know more about growing and harvesting garlic? Check out my previous garlic posts or search for the tag “growing garlic” on the right sidebar.

The Early Girl tomatoes have lived up to their name and already been producing tasty tomatoes perfect for salads and sandwiches, and the Better Boys aren’t too far behind. The Super Sweet 100’s cherry tomatoes are just starting to ripen as well. Tomato season is here!

Last but not least are my potatoes. I planted a lot of Yukon Gold and Dark Red Norland potatoes. Even had to buy more potato bags to plant them all. They look really healthy this year since they’ve had plenty of rain. Want to grow your own next year? It’s really easy to do and fun to find all those potatoes in the fall. Check out my how-to’s on planting, growing and harvesting potatoes.

How are your vegetables doing? Have weather or creatures been a problem for you?

Maybe since it’s been cooler in WI, and the garden fenced in better, I’ll have better luck with the mid-summer harvests of my spring planted seeds that I planted there. I’ll be checking on that soon.







Checking on the Seedlings

Why didn’t I buy grow lights before?? My seedlings have always been “fine”, but after seeing my mom’s lush healthy seedlings under her grow lights, and with a little nudge from my husband I decided to take the plunge. I am so glad I did!

I bought two 2 ft Hydrofarm T5 Grow Light Systems.

I decided against the single 4 ft light so I would have more flexibility. They came safely packed and were easy to assemble. I did have a little trouble with placement since my table is a 4 ft one and each lamp is actually 26 inches. Got it figured out with the help of a tray table.

I started the peppers back in March and then planted the rest of the seeds at the right time based on my last frost date.

I usually add a couple of weeks to the last frost date to be on the safe side, so I’m aiming to plant the week after Mother’s Day. I keep track of what I’m doing on these handy Botanical Interests Month-to Month planner sheets.

I’m growing Cosmos and Marigolds in my APS system trays, and this year all my vegetables in Botanical Interests small 1 1/2 in Recycled Paper pots and larger 3 inch Recycled Paper Pots.

I’ve always ended up with root bound squash and cucumbers in the smaller APS trays and they are really tenuous when transplanting, so I decided to grow them in the 3 inch pots this year. As a bonus, using these Botanical Interests Paper Pots they can go right into the ground when ready–just tear off the bottom strip and all set to go. The paper will just decompose and the roots aren’t disturbed when transplanting.

So far I’m really happy with the BI paper pots.  Plants have grown great and watering has been easy, even when I’ve been gone on vacations. I was a little worried about that, since I had always used self watering plant trays.

What I ended up doing while I was away was to place the paper pots in a baking pan and fill the tray up with water. The plants just soaked up what they needed. I did figure out I needed to fill the tray the day before, and again right before leaving since the soil soaked up so much water right away. That has seemed to work well for 4-5 day trips. I don’t keep them this damp too long so I don’t encourage mold/fungus to grow that could damage the seedlings. (What’s my favorite indoor watering can? The Oxo 3 liter Indoor Pour and Store)

The squash is healthier than I’ve ever grown!



Sunflowers are about 8 inches tall!

The kohlrabi, basil and coleus is getting there and maybe should have been started earlier.  This was a couple of weeks ago and they’ve since been thinned to one plant per pot. Best to thin by cutting the unwanted plants rather than pulling them out. Pulling one can pull them all out.

Can you tell the difference between the purple and white kohlrabi?

Can’t wait for the weather to get warm enough to think about planting. We keep having frost warnings so this year things are going to be a little delayed. In the meantime, this weekend I’ll put up the mini greenhouse and begin transitioning them to the outdoors (also known as hardening off). Seedlings have to be gently introduced to the outdoors or it’ll be too much of a shock for them.

How’s your seed growing going?  Has it been a tough year for you?


What Am I Growing-2017

It’s always fun to spend time in January and February going through all the seed and garden catalogs to see what I am going to grow this year.

It’s also during that time, I wish I had bigger gardens and more sun to really plant huge vegetable and flower gardens. But I have what I have, so I’m limited in what I can plant and can honestly barely take care of that. After many years of experimenting, I’ve settled into growing particular vegetables we like best, but often changing up the varieties, and then throwing in a few new things for fun.

Now’s the time to get started with any indoor sowing that needs to be done to give plants a head start in my northern climate. As in prior years, I’ve printed out my very handy planting guides from Botanical Interests and noted the sowing dates by counting the weeks backwards from my average last frost date.

If you don’t know your average last frost date, you can find it easily on Dave’s Garden.

Like usual, I’ll get my tomatoes and sweet peppers from a local nursery (shout out to Vern Goers Greenhouse) who grows multiple varieties of both. Pretty much any variety I want I can get from them, and they’ll be stronger and healthier than anything I’d grow.

So what am I growing this year? I usually get my seeds from Botanical Interests and Burpee, depending on who has my favorite varieties. This year, I have also ordered some seeds from Johnny’s Selected Seeds since I was already ordering leek plant sets and seed potatoes from them.

Inside, I will be starting:

Vegetables that I will starting outdoors directly:

I’m also trying something new this year, seed tapes. Seed tapes are supposed to make it easier to plant small seeds and reduce the need for thinning. It’s biodegradable and can be cut to fit your space. Looks handy! I’m going to try it for spinach and radishes this year.

Since we don’t have any spring parties scheduled, I’m going to grow more of my own annuals from seed.   As always, I’m growing marigolds and plenty of my new favorite cosmos.

I’ve described how I start seeds using the Gardener’s Supply Company APS System (which has been replaced by the GrowEase System) in “Time to Sow Seeds Indoors“. This year I’m also adding some new recycled paper pots from Botanical Interests which look perfect for the plants that don’t like to transplant so well.

Plants can be grown right from seed and when time to transplant, the bottom tears off and the remaining pot and plant go right in the ground.  Sounds great for my cucumbers and squashes.

I’m also finally investing in a grow light. I tend to grow very leggy seedlings that do ok, but a grow light is going to help the seedlings grow faster, healthier and better for transplanting. My mom Peggy bought the Hydrofarm JumpStart JSV2 2-Foot T5 Grow Light System a couple of years ago and had great luck with it. Her plants looked great when I was visiting last week, so I just ordered the same light set. Looking forward to not having a leggy, tangled mess of plants 🙂



Time to Sow Seeds Indoors

After my last post where I realized that spring was indeed coming, I figured I’d better open my boxes from Botanical Interests and Burpee that were still sitting by the front door and see what I had bought.  I know I’m still ok with timing since I usually don’t start anything until after spring break.  Oops, forgot I was going grow my own peppers this year rather than buying them and they need 8-10 weeks in the house before going outside!  Better get a move on!

Stephi gardens

Seeds to be started indoors

I found this great Seed Sowing Guide on the Botanical Interests website that very clearly lays out when seeds need to be started, both indoors and out.  I printed off my sheets and started calculating.

botanical Interests

Even though my last frost date is April 22nd, I’m generally not comfortable assuming I can plant tender seedlings before Mother’s Day Weekend.  So using that as my planting weekend, I calculated back when I needed to get things started.

First up is the peppers ASAP since I’m behind a week or so, then in a couple of weeks I’ll start the cucumbers and squash.  I’m not growing as many flowers myself this year because we’ll be having a high school graduation party the end of May for my twin boys.  I am going to splurge and go for some instant color this year.  But, I will start some cosmos and sunflowers for me to enjoy later in the summer.

As I described in my earlier posts, Starting My Seeds Indoors and Starting Seeds Indoors, I really like the APS system from Gardeners Supply Company (recently replaced by the GrowEase system)  So I hauled the box of seed starting supplies from the basement, bought a new bag of seed starting soil and got planting.

APS seed starting system

My fancy storage container for my seed starting supplies

APS seed starting system

Moisten the seed starting mix. Make it damp, not sopping. Also, use seed starting mix, not potting or garden soil.

APS seed starting system

Should feel moist and be able to form a loose ball

APS seed starting system

Moisten thoroughly the capillary mat and set up the APS tray system.

APS seed starting system

Fill the cells with soil. Tamp down the soil to compress it. Forms a better root ball for transplanting.

And here’s my new “trick” this year.  I always have trouble knowing what seeds are planted in which cell.  I usually use popsicle sticks, but they just get in the way of the lid and sometime the writing fades.  This year I marked off a grid like a map and made a log to go with it.  So simple, not sure why I didn’t think of it before!

APS seed starting system

Now I just need to be sure I don’t lose my paper log!

pepper seeds

Plant the seeds, 2-3 to a cell (you’ll thin later).  Cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil so they are at the right depth according to the seed package directions.

APS seed starting system

Peppers are ready, looking forward to seeing them sprout.  In a couple of weeks, I’ll start the rest of the indoor seeds, and I’ll also get the cold weather seeds sowed outside.  It’s always iffy as to whether I get anything to grow this early outside, but I keep trying.

Harvesting Fall Beets

As I’m getting ready to plan out this year’s vegetables, I know I want to include beets.  Again.

Botanical Interests

I thought I had planted beets last spring for the first time ever, but somewhere along the growing season I forgot, or thought they never came up.  All summer I thought I had grown 2 plots of swiss chard, which actually amounted to a lot of swiss chard.  We just ate them all, never noticing any difference.  When I decided the gardens were done for the season and it was time to harvest whatever was left, out came what I had thought was the swiss chard.  But, lo and behold, there were beets attached to a whole bunch of them.


Hmm, swiss chard or beets (These are beets, I think)

Ok, time to think about that.  It was then I realized these were the beets I had planted.  The same ones that that hadn’t ever grown, and mysteriously turned into swiss chard.

Now this was exciting.  I had quite a few beets from this harvest.


But, beets are not something I ever remember eating.  Maybe we had them from a can when I was a kid, but even then I’m sure I didn’t eat any.

So I headed to the web to figure out how best to cook these little garden treasures…

Since this was the first time cooking them, I kept it simple and just quartered and boiled them for about 20 minutes until they were soft.  I loved the variety of colors and patterns of the beets!  My fingers turned a bit pink too, but that’s ok.



We ate them just as they were, but I’m sure you could season them to your own taste.

I am definitely growing lots of them again this year, and marking them clearly!  And apparently beet greens taste a lot like swiss chard, so we’ll just continue to eat them as well.

Planting Garlic

I decided to try something new in the garden this fall–garlic.I’ve been reading about how to grow it, and it seems pretty straightforward.  Hope so! It should be planted in the fall, 6-8 weeks before a hard frost is likely. Unfortunately, that means I’m probably a couple of weeks late when I looked the date up on this useful frost/freeze/hard freeze table on Dave’s Garden.

I think the hardest part of growing the garlic was finding a place to plant it. I needed a spot now, that will stay free until mid July when it can be harvested.  (That’s part of why I needed to wait until now to plant it.)  I chose 2 locations, one in each of my raised beds where I could pull out existing plants that were pretty much done for the season.  I’m not sure how it will do in either of these locations, but I figure at least one should  be good.

I chose 3 different varieties, 2 hardneck (Chesnok Red and Purple Glazer) and 1 soft neck (California Early) from Botanical Interests.

chesnok red garlic

Chesnok Red Garlic

chesnok red garlic

Chesnok Red Garlic (hardneck)

Early California Garlic

California Early Garlic (softneck)

Purple Glazer

Purple Glazer Garlic (hardneck)

Softneck varieties tend to grow in a wider variety of climates and can be grown in warmer areas, last longer in storage and are good for braiding.  They also tend to be a little milder in taste.  Hardneck varieties require some time in frozen ground, so are not recommended for warmer climates.   In the spring, they produce a tall edible stem called a “scape”  that should be cut and can be used as a mild garlic seasoning.  The hard neck varieties are also generally known for their stronger taste.

hardneck garlic

Garlic hardneck “stem”

To plant the garlic, separate into individual cloves, but leave the peel on.

chesnok red garlic

In a spot that will get full sun to part-shade, plant the cloves with the pointy end up and the “root” end down, at a depth of 2-4 inches.  Space the cloves 4-6 inches apart and rows 12 inches apart.  Cover with 2-4 inches of mulch to preserve moisture and insulate against the cold.

chesnok red garlic

Here’s the 2 locations I selected.  Since they need to overwinter, I was extra careful to mark where the cloves are since I know I tend to lose plant markers, and to mark off the whole area to be sure I don’t dig in it in the spring.

growing garlic

growing garlic

I’m looking forward to seeing it come up in the spring.   Have you ever grown garlic?


August Garden Surprises

I took a walk around the yard today just checking everything out. It must have been a while I’d done that, since I had quite a few, luckily mostly pleasant, surprises.

This Rose Of Sharon has always grown in the shadow of surrounding trees which are no longer there.  I never understood why it was planted there and remained quite a runt and hardly flowered.  We left it since it was back in a corner and not hurting anything.   Not this year!  With all the new sun and space, it has flourished and has been blooming like gangbusters.

Rose of Sharon


Rose of Sharon


Double Bloom Rose of Sharon

Next to the big Rose of Sharon is a small one I bought on clearance.  It was in even more shade and really never grew much.  It was pretty much overrun by hosts and ferns.  All of a sudden this year, it started blooming.  It’s flowers are the more traditional hibiscus looking type.

Rose of Sharon

Then there’s this white Rose of Sharon that just appeared from nowhere.  I thought it was a weed growing up next to the fence.  Kept cutting it back, but it was quite persistent.  After apparently not weeding for while, it unexpectedly flowered!!  My persistent weed was a very pretty white Rose of Sharon.  It actually picked a pretty spot to grow, so this one is staying put.   I also finally know what all those persistent weeds/baby trees in less desirable locations around the yard are.  I am a bit puzzled though where this one came from.   It must be a traveller from a neighbor’s yard since all the Rose of Sharons in my yard are purple.

Rose of Sharon

I apparently really haven’t weeded very much lately and this huge thistle has grown about 6 ft tall behind the white David phlox.  I would have pulled it out, except that it is was being visited by some lovely bumblebees and goldfinches.  I think it’ll stay for the summer.


Last fall, I had moved some plants around so this spring, when things were coming up, I wasn’t entirely sure what and where things were.  Early on,  I saw these little grass like leaves that I couldn’t decide if they were weeds or flowers.  I let them be since they weren’t too obnoxious.  Just this week, they finally put out a single daylily bloom.  Seems that some Happy Returns day lilies had found a new home.  Reminds me that, “When in doubt, don’t pull it out!”.

Happy Returns Daylily

I have 2 Knock Out Roses that are a few years old.  They’ve struggled with Japanese Beetle attacks, and then this past winter really did a job on them. They looked pretty haggard, but I left them alone to see what would happen.  Finally, one is putting out a few blooms.  I’m going to trim off the dead stems and be extra vigilant about the Japanese Beetles.  Hopefully the plant will be strong enough to come back healthier next year.

Knock Out Rose

I”m not quite sure why my 1 year old Wine and Roses Weigela is blooming a second time this season.  In any case, it’s healthy and looking great in this spot.

Wine and Roses Weigela

While I don’t have any pictures, I am excited to have seen a few hummingbirds in the yard recently.  They haven’t come to the feeder, so either they don’t like my food selection or there’s enough natural food for them.

Hummingbird Feeder

Last, but not least in my opinion, are these French Favorite Marigolds from Botanical Interests  that I grew from seeds.  I have never had such beautiful marigolds grow in the spot (and for as long as we’ve lived here, this has been my marigold garden).

French Favorite Marigold

Have you had any pleasant garden surprises this year?

May Vegetable Garden

I’ve been so busy in the garden, I haven’t had much time to write about it.  Hopefully I can catch up in the next few days.  Everything is in that wonderful, lush spring phase.  Well, almost everything, but more on that another day.

garden vegetables

My raised vegetable beds are looking great.  I got my first harvest yesterday and we enjoyed a fresh vegetable side dish and a few small treats.   Most of the early seeds I planted in the side raised bed didn’t come up, but the spinach and a few stragglers survived the harsh spring.

garden spinach

garden spinach

In that bed, while the few early things are finishing up, I’ve planted tomatoes, onion starts, sugar snap peas, lots of squash, zucchini and cucumbers.  All the “messy” garden characters are nicely hidden on the side of the house with plenty of space to grow. All seem to be getting started nicely.

Raised bed garden

The new beds are also flourishing with vegetables, herbs and even some flowers.

Raised bed garden

The “left” garden has swiss chard, kale, spinach, lettuce, bush beans, cabbage, green peppers, sunflowers and nasturtiums in it.  I expect it’ll get a little more shade as the summer goes on, so maybe the cool weather plants will have a bit of an extended life.

Raised bed garden

The “right” garden is chock full of more lettuce, radishes, cabbage, green peppers, bush beans, basil, sunflowers and zinnias.  In front are marigolds, potted herbs and snapdragons to give the beds some color.   I like my herbs in pots to keep them tidy and in place.  On the side of the house I have more herbs, including mint.  Mint should always be in some type of corralled container to prevent it from taking over.

Raised bed garden


Leafy greens

So far, no complaints on the appearance of the gardens.  I’m really trying hard to not let it get unruly.  Hopefully the flowers add a burst of color.  To further help that, in the background of the gardens I’ve added cosmos and daylilys.  This project may turn out to be even nicer than we expected.

garden strawberry

Even the strawberry pot is looking great. Nothing like fresh from the vine fruit to remind you of what fruit is supposed to taste like.

Starting My Seeds Indoors

This weekend I finally had time to get my seeds and seed starting materials out to get them started indoors.  I usually try and plant vegetables like cucumbers and summer squash that I have trouble finding in stores,  but I buy my tomatoes and pepper plants from a local nursery who has a great selection.

Seed starting trays

I hauled out all the seed starter kits I had (see Starting Seeds Indoors), plus I bought some new trays to expand what I can grow.  I also bought a great new mini greenhouse to set all the trays on and set it up on the porch.  I’m hoping this will work better then the tray tables in front of a bedroom window!

mini greenhouse

mini greenhouse

I first started with my APS-24 systems (see Starting Seeds Indoors for more thorough instructions)  I like this size for starting vegetables and larger flowers.  Be sure to thoroughly wet the capillary mat and pre-moisten the sterile germinating mix used to fill the holes.

APS Seed Starter Tray

Then add the seeds according to directions as to how many per grouping and how deep (you’ll thin them later).  Be sure to label them so you know what you’ve planted!

APS Seed Starter Tray

Since I have my new shelf and have space for more trays, I added to my collection of seed starting trays.  I bought a couple of different kinds to try, a 72 cell Ultimate Growing System from Burpee to replace my missing APS one, and some smaller Jiffy 12 cell kits.

Burpee seed tray

Jiffy seed starters

Both of these use soil pellets that you add water to and they expand.   Like the instructions say, warm water does work better.  After setting up all three kinds of soil cells, I think I prefer the old fashioned germinating mix that I pack myself.  I found the pellets a bit difficult to get to rise evenly and needed to still fluff the mix in the Burpee kit.

Burpee Seed Starter kit

I’ll see what I think after everything gets going as to which system I prefer for ease of use, and which holds up better for use year after year.  For anyone who noticed the chunk missing from the styrofoam APS system, that was my fault.  I’m not sure why I decided it what a good idea to pick up the full tray with one hand to move it.  That missing piece would be where my thumb was.  Otherwise, I’ve had these for years without any problems.  Best to move all these trays with two hands!

Most of the germination instructions say plant inside 4-6 weeks prior to the last frost date.  I’m about 3 weeks prior, although I usually wait a couple more weeks until mid-May before putting them in the ground.  They should be fine starting this week. Here’s what I planted:

24 cell size:
Cucumber, Marketmore Organic (Botanical Interests)
Summer Squash, Baby Round (Botanical Interests)
Summer Squash, Cubes of Butter (Botanical Interests)
Summer Squash, Patty Pan Scallop Blend (Botanical Interests)
Zucchini, Burpee Hybrid (Burpee)
Marigold, Boy O’ Boy (Burpee)

72 cell size:
Cosmos, Sonata Mix (Burpee)
Marigold, French Favorite (Botanical Interests)

Jiffy pop-ups:
Zinnia Cut and Come Again (Botanical Interests)
Zinnia Fireball Blend (Botanical Interests)

Here’s the finished project.  All ready for the sun to shine on it and get everything growing.
mini greenhouse

Seeds are in the House

After spending quite a bit of time pouring over seed catalogs, I finally sent in my seed orders. I had lots of new seed catalogs come to the house, and some more companies I just visited on-line, making the choices this year really tough.

Seed catalogs

Ultimately, I went with some Burpee stand by’s and the rest from Botanical Interests.  I ordered an assortment of vegetables and flowers.  Some of the vegetables I’ve grown before (summer squash, zucchini, lettuce) and others are new to my garden (pattypan squash, beets and cabbage).


I’ve outgrown the raised bed on the side of the house, plus we’ll have new construction next door so I’m not sure what the sun situation for that bed will even be come next year.  So we spent a great deal of time watching the sun pattern in the yard last year (full sun is a problem in my yard) and mulling over where we could tolerate more vegetable beds.  We finally settled on a new location off the back of the patio for 2 new raised beds.  I’ve promised to keep them under control and somehow “pretty” them up.  You can imagine them out there under the snow.


I bought new raised bed frames last fall from Plow and Hearth, so I am ready to go after a trip to the lumber store.  I’ll let you know how I like the brackets.

raised beds

Are you ready to start planting?