Tag Archives: vegetable garden

Before Vacation

It’s always tough to go leave the garden and go on vacation.  It seems like something (or everything) is ready to just burst out in color or ripen just in time to go away. Or the weather can you throw you a curve ball and get crazy hot/cold or dry/wet. Very unpredictable. I assumed this year was no different, so right before we left I had my daughter Emily take some pictures to do a little before and after.

Some of the flowers were already in full bloom and likely will be past peak before we get back…

asian lily




Bee balm



Some were ready to bloom and I can only hope I don’t miss the show…

Stephi Gardens


Stephi Gardens




Jackmanii clematus

The vegetables were flourishing.  The cooler weather vegetables were starting to show signs of stress and looking ready to bolt, but still fine to harvest for a little while longer.  Peppers, squash and beans were almost ready, so my friend who is helping with dog sitting and plant watering should get some treats.  I’d hate for them to go to waste and there’ll be plenty more.  Tomatoes are growing like gang-busters, but not expecting any ripe ones quite yet.

Stephi Gardens




summer squash


Stephi Gardens

Vacations are always a little tricky to be sure everything stays healthy in the garden.  Right before we left for almost 2 weeks, I gave everything a watering with Miracle-Gro fertilizer and dead-headed everything that would benefit from it.  I set the sprinkler to try and optimize waterings, and had a friend also check on things and keep the pots watered.  I also tried to be sure the plants that needed staking were supported so things wouldn’t be too out of hand when I got back.

How do your gardens fare when you go on vacation?

My New Raised Beds-Soil

Raised vegetable bed

As I wrote in yesterday’s post (My New Raised Beds-Construction), our new raised beds were finished.  Next up, filling them with the right mix of soil and compost.  First though, we had to get the grass out and the existing soil turned over.  I know our grass has quite a bit of thatch, so it would be a pretty thick barrier to the vegetable roots.  After breaking it up pretty well, we covered it with newspaper to kill off whatever grass was still alive.  No need to remove the paper before filling with dirt, it will just decompose.

Raised vegetable bed


Raised vegetable bed

The one downside of turning over the sod is the possibility of wire worms.  Wire worms are the larvae of click beetles and they live in the soil near the roots of grass.  Once disturbed by the digging, they make their way up to the new crops and wreak their havoc.  I’m going to assume this is not going to happen…

For my current raised bed, I used a mixture of top soil, mushroom compost and potting soil in a 6:3:1 ratio.  I had great success with that, so I’ll use the same mixture in the new beds.  I calculated that I needed 32 cf total for both beds.  As I was buying the bags of dirt and compost, that seemed like a lot, so I cut that back.  I still ended up with a couple of bags too many.  As the dirt settles, I’ll need to add some, so I just put it away until I need it.  I ended up buying 15 cf of topsoil (actually Home Depot had the Miracle Gro Garden Soil on sale so I bought mostly that), 8 cf of mushroom compost and 3 cf of potting mix.

Raised vegetable bed

I cajoled my teen-aged sons into being part of the garden project, and they dumped all that soil and compost into the beds for me. My back sincerely thanks them (My husband was at work, so not around to help either. He did help with the construction part, making this a true family project). I alternated what was put in and spread it around as they were dumping it in.  This makes for a really healthy, light soil mixture that will be perfect for vegetables.

Raised vegetable bed

All finished and ready to plant. I’ve never had so much vegetable garden space, so I’m really excited to have the space to spread out the plants like they should be, as well as try some new things.

Raised vegetable bed

I’m optimistic that freezing temperatures are behind us, and planted the second round of lettuce, beets, swiss chard, spinach, radish.  I also started some sunflowers and bush beans.

Raised vegetable bed

I just checked the other seeds I planted a couple of weeks ago, and they are just starting to sprout.  We’ve had some pretty cold temperatures so it took a little longer than I would have thought.

Did you build any new gardens or see any seedling yet?

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

Garden Season has Officially Begun!

After quite the long winter, I finally have been able to get out in the garden and get started for the season. Woohoo!! Because it’s a little later than usual, we skipped over the garden clean-up temporarily and worked on preparing the vegetable garden, building 2 new raised beds and seed-starting. Normally, with the last frost date being the end of April, I would have liked to get all this started a couple of weeks ago. But, with the weather as awful as it was, and spring break thrown in, this weekend was better than never.

First off, I prepared the current vegetable bed by adding compost to refresh things a bit. I always seem to have trouble finding it early in the spring (and haven’t started making my own yet), so I bought it last fall and left the bags there for spring. Nice to not have to go searching for it this weekend!

Raised Bed Gardening


Raised Bed Gardening

Once I got the compost worked into the soil, the garden was ready to add the cold weather seeds. Hopefully, it’s not too late. Looking at the long range forecast, I think I’m fine.

Raised Bed Gardening

Today I planted rows of:
Beets (Gourmet Blend Organic)
Carrots (Danvers Organic)
Cabbage (Copenhagen)
Lettuce (Tom Thumb Butterhead)
Lettuce (Red Sails Leafy Organic)
Radish (Cherry Belle Organic)
Spinach (Bloomingdale Organic)
Swiss Chard (Bright Lights)

These seeds were all from Botanical Interests.  In another week-10 days, I’ll plant a second row of seeds to try and get 2 harvests before the summer heat hits us.

Botanical Interests Seeds

All seed packets give specific instructions as to how and when to to plant the seeds.  Most are planted either 1/4 inch or 1/2 inch deep.  The 1/4 inch deep seeds I usually spread according to instructions, then just lightly cover with some dirt sprinkled from my hand.  You want just a very light cover of dirt.  The seeds planted 1/2 inch deep,  I’ll push in about fingertip deep and cover.  Then water gently.

Later this week, I’ll share the rest of the weekend’s projects!

I had a nice surprise when I went over to the side of the house to start the vegetable garden.  My rhubarb was already up and looks beautiful. Both plants have returned, so now I have a 2 yr old and 3 yr old plant that can both be fully harvested.  I think I will have plenty to share, so my friends are going to love me!




Did you get out in your garden this weekend?

Veggies are Done–What a Mess

It’s almost frightening the state of my vegetable garden every fall.  It’s that time after the harvests are done, and it’s just waiting for me to attend to the clean up that things really seem to fall apart, literally.  As my husband likes to remind me, it’s a good thing it’s on the far side of the house where no one can see it.  But, that also leads to an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality.  This is what it looked like when I finally decided to get the yard wast bags out and start pulling.

vegetable garden clean up

Some of the plants are already half dead, everything has grown over each other and to top it off one of the tomatoes has tipped over into the grass.


In the process of dismantling the vegetable garden, some thoughts for next year.

  • This is the first year I tried the metal cone type tomato cages.   These did not work well for the indeterminate varieties that I planted.  They were just way too small, not tall enough and generally almost useless. They’re headed to recycling.
  • The taller cages with adjustable supports that I’ve used for some time are beginning to fall apart. I still like them, but probably need to invest in some new ones, or try something entirely different like trellising with a Florida weave (Garden Betty has an excellent post on this method).  That seems like a great way to keep the plants tamed and supported, but with my “casual” approach to my garden I can see how it could get away from me.  I’ll mull it over this winter.
  • My cucumbers need more room and attention.  They started growing up the cucumber trellis, which I love, but then they started to grab onto the tomatoes causing problems for those plants.
  • The zucchini and squash just need more space.  They spill over the bed, overgrow other plants (like my peppers)  and become obnoxious.

One nice surprise was that I found this pretty swiss chard hiding under the mess.  It was the only survivor from the seeds I planted in the early fall. Yum!


So, almost ready for winter.  I am going to try and find some compost to put in now.  Last year, I was ready to get going with the early spring vegetables before the stores had any supplies in, so got held up a little bit.


One of these days I want to get my own composting bin and make my own.  Between the plant waste all around the yard, fall leaves and household waste, I’m sure I could generate some pretty awesome “black gold”.  I just need to find space to put it.  Do you compost?  What’s your favorite way?

Is your garden ready for winter?