Harvesting Seeds for Next Year

harvesting seeds for next year

I recently learned that when you harvest seeds from the healthiest plants in your garden to plant the next year, you’re setting yourself up for a tremendous likelihood of success. Some say that plants grown from seeds you grew are even more likely to prosper than the seeds you buy in the store!

Why is this?

Plants grown successfully in the climate of your home garden must like it back there, right? So they will breed healthy offspring, and over time, you’ll end up with a special subset of plants that are suited specifically for your yard. Pretty amazing right? 

Time to try it

I usually pull or trim back my flowering herbs (cilantro, parsley, basil, oregano) once they start to bolt, but this year I decided to let some of them go to flower and attempt to harvest the seeds. I often do this with cilantro/coriander, because it tends to bolt so quickly and it’s nice to just keep planting it from the seeds it makes, but I’d never harvested seeds from my parsley or basil before. Turns out it’s pretty easy! Next I’ll try collecting some of my veggie seeds — and I’ll be sure to keep you posted on how it all goes.

Harvesting Seeds for Next Year

Spotting Suckers: How to Prune Your Tomato Plant

We’re back with another beginner gardening tip from the CWB garden. I love being able to share the little gardening tips I’ve learned along the way in the few years I’ve been doing this. Today’s tip was inspired by a conversation I had with a good friend who’s been working somewhat dispassionately on her garden since she bought her house a few years back. She was convinced she had a black thumb and pulled me back into her garden with tons of questions about her plants.

One plant had weird little orange bugs (I think they were aphids even though I’ve never seen orange aphids before), the tomato plants weren’t flowering, and a few others were hanging on by a thread. She was hoping to get a decent tomato crop this year, and when I asked her if she’d been pulling off the suckers, she had no idea what I was talking about. I realized that not everyone troubleshoots gardening issues as obsessively as Loren and I do (we had a disastrous first year of attempting to grow tomatoes and were a little bit ridiculous about making sure to get it right last year), and that simple tips like this could do new gardeners some good. Videos are simple, so I started a series on gardening tips. My first one shows you how to make your basil plants last longer. Check it out!

Spotting Suckers pruning tomato plants

Gardening Tips Series: Spotting Suckers 

Make your Basil Plant Last Longer with this Gardening Tip

Italian Sweet Basil is one of those herbs that I find a little fussy. It’s taken a couple of years and probably eight different attempts with at least eight different plants stalling out at various stages of disappointing size (in the front, side AND back yard) to finally find some spots on our property where it likes to grow. I was so jealous when I visited some friends in Redwood City whose basil plant was like a small bush with a big thick trunk like a skinny tree a couple of years ago that I almost gave up growing it all together. But I kept on trying and finally found the sunniest, warmest places for my basil plants, and they’re happier than ever! Alameda probably won’t ever be as consistently warm as Redwood City, but this year I hope to give that crazy basil bush a run for its money. 

gardening tip basil

Gardening Tips Series: Basil Buds

I’m working on taking simple garden tasks and breaking them down into short videos to help beginning gardeners get the most out of their first crops. In conversations with friends and family starting their first gardening projects, I’m realizing just how much I’ve learned in the short time since I started gardening, and that I sometimes take that knowledge for granted. I forget that we don’t learn by osmosis, and that just because I figured something out and it’s become second nature in my garden doesn’t mean that a new gardener would know it automatically. After all, I had to learn it from somewhere too right?

So I’m planning to share the simple little nuggets I’ve picked up along the way in a video series, and today I’m sharing the first video with you!

Please subscribe to my Youtube channel so that you’ll never miss a CWB video! From time to time I post videos there that don’t make it to this blog.

 

Collard Beans: A Happy CWB Gardening Experiment

OK, so this post is more of a story than a recipe. And the reason for that is because you have to be a gardener (or know one) to get your hands on the raw ingredients for what I’m about to share. If you’ve grown kale, broccoli, collards, or cauliflower and let them go all the way to seed, you’ve seen these little guys before. If you aren’t a gardener or have never let your brassicas go to seed, you might just think this is cool, so keep reading. 

Toni and the Giant Collard Stalk

We had a giant collard plant growing in the back yard for close to 8 months, and it just kept getting bigger and bigger. It was invincible. It survived a slug infestation, powdery mildew, and many aphid attacks. This thing had a stalk coming out of the ground as big around as the thickest part of a baseball bat, and it just kept on growing! 

After a while, having grown tired of trying to keep up, adding collards to our nightly meals (and even sharing some with friends and neighbors), we just stopped paying attention to it and let it run wild. Eventually as the weather grew warmer, the collard finally called it quits and went to flower. But seriously, when this thing started to sprout and flower, it did not stop growing. Sure, it stopped making new edible leaves, but it grew to be taller than I am! Week after week we kept saying we needed to go pull it, but its little yellow flowers were attracting a ton of bees, so we just left it.  That’s when the gardening experiment began. (An experiment born out of equal parts laziness, love of bees, and curiosity)

 

collard beans, a gardening experiment

 

A few weeks ago when it was time to turn over some of the crops in the back yard and plant the seedlings I’d been growing in the garage, I glanced over at the collard giant, and noticed tiny little bean pods all over the plant. I snapped one off and tossed it in my mouth. It was sweet and delicious; a little grassy with a hint of collard-y bitterness. I couldn’t believe it! Yum!

Collard beans!collard beans, a gardening experiment

 

Admittedly, the labor to pull these tiny beans off the stalks of the bolted collard is a little ridiculous. It took more than one sitting, even with Loren helping, just to pick the best looking ones. But after we were done, we had a giant produce bag full of tiny little green collard beans. I rinsed them, blanched them, and sautéed them with avocado oil, green onion, and a touch of garlic, sea salt, and black pepper. At the table, I topped them off with freshly grated Romano cheese. The first batch was a little bitter, so when I made them the second time, I added some salt and vinegar to the blanching water and actually cooked them in there for a few minutes longer than a typical blanch — I didn’t boil them to death, but I did boil them slightly. That did the trick. This simple little throw-together recipe works great for green beans too, by the way!

collard beans, a gardening experiment

This is about half of the total bean count!

We feasted, and the teeny beans were delicious!

SO, if you’re a gardener and don’t plan to harvest your brassica seeds for planting next year, give this little number a try! You’ll get one more use out of your bolted plants before you have to start over for the next season! Just plop yourself down in front of your favorite show or turn on your favorite podcast and start snippin’!

 

collard beans, a gardening experiment

The Most Amazing Organic Gardening Hack Ever [SLUG CONTROL]

Having only been gardening for a little over two years at this point — this is my third spring of playing in the dirt — I’m still amazed to find out some of the incredible gardening hacks people use to keep their veggies safe from pests. The gardening hack I’m about to share today is the biggest surprise to date. I most definitely had some healthy skepticism about it actually working, but to my amazement, it works like a charm, and I have the (gross) pictures to prove it.

Slugs Love Beer!

Snails and slugs love our garden — especially the collard greens and other members of the brassica family (cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts). They also love to eat straight through an otherwise PERFECT strawberry, starting from the bottom, and burroughing up.

Horrid.

And they love to lodge themselves in the leaves of our cucurbits (pumpkins, zucchini, cucumber, and delicata squash at the moment). If you’re a veteran organic gardener you might already know this — but I certainly did not! — slimy garden pests LOVE beer. In fact, they love beer more than they love the food in our garden, and they’ll drink themselves to death if you set them up to do so.

Here’s How We Did It:

1. Using cheap beer, fill a small jar about halfway.

organic gardening tips

2. Dig a hole close to the plants that your slugs love most. 

beer kills slugs

 

3. Fill the dirt around the sides of the jar so that the only hole is the one in the top of the jar. You want the lip of the jar to be high enough out of the ground that dirt won’t fall in, but low enough that the snails and slugs can slink their way up and over.

4. Wait.

5. Find a jar full of slugs in less than 72 hours. organic gardening hacks

6. Dump at your leisure and start over with fresh beer.

IMG_1003

Since doing this, we have not seen a single snail or slug on our plants, nor have we seen any more ruined strawberries. We have placed beer traps in two beds in the front yard and in the strawberry patch in the backyard, and all three were filled with slugs and snails in short order. You can see another jar in the picture below if you look closely behind the chives and in front of the trellis on the left.

Humane Pest Removal

If you’re the type that “wouldn’t hurt a fly” and have trouble with the idea of killing these slimy disgusting creatures who devour my hard-earned, hard-grown food stuffs and slink in droves menacingly across the sidewalks of Alameda, rest assured they died drunk and happy, and surely did not suffer. (Unlike the ones my mom taught me to pour salt on as a kid … ew)

And thanks in part to this beer trap experiment, this pumpkin plant is thriving! Check out these baby sugar pie pumpkins tearing toward the sidewalk! Now, if only we could get some consistent sunshine…

Happy gardening!

organic gardening tips

Starting from Seed: 5 Lessons Learned from My First Garden

This year, I decided to start as many plants from seed (rather than seedlings) as possible. It’s not only less expensive to start this way, it’s also more exciting — and more work if you plan to start your seeds inside. Last year, we did a combination of both and had great successes and utter failures. All helped me learn what I do and don’t enjoy about starting from seed, what’s worth the effort and what’s not, what’s the most likely to succeed, what size containers to use for which plants, and the list goes on and on. It’s worth it in the end to try starting from seed, because you get more plants for less money, and you can grow varieties that you likely won’t find as starts at the nursery.  

Winning!

One major motivation for starting from seedstarting from seed this year was my big win from last year’s front yard garden competition! We won first place, and part of our prize was a boat load of seeds. (Here’s how we did it!) I was so excited to have all these choices that I just couldn’t justify going out and getting seedling starts this year. On top of that, after reading Jo Robinson’s Eating on the Wild Side (affiliate link), I felt compelled to get some unique veggie varieties you can’t find at just any old nursery to pack in the nutrient-density from our garden loot.

I also had leftover seeds from my Petaluma Seed Bank adventure last winter — that score included tiny heirloom currant tomato seeds and another cherry tomato variety (both packed with extra phytonutrients compared to their larger relatives). We ended up with so many of those cherries from just one plant last year that we ended up pickling a bunch of them green. It just kept going and going and going!

This year, I planted three kinds of “green” beans that aren’t green at all — royal purple beans, rattle snake beans, and royal burgundy beans. I started all of these beans inside under grow lights in the garage.

Lesson #1: I can’t handle having my seedlings grow on my kitchen floor. I might not be a neat freak, but last year’s mess was too much for me.

I also planted red and purple carrots instead of orange like last year. All this purple and red gives my food an anthocyanin boost to help protect me from free radicals, inflammation, viruses, and cancer (source). 

About those Carrots 

I recently learned that carrots can be sown year-round in the SF Bay area. I direct sowed some in late January during a stint of particularly beautiful weather, and I’ve already enjoyed a few of them. Some are a bit slower-growing (most likely because of a shortage of sun exposure where I planted them), but they’re on their way. Because we use carrots so often in soups, stews, and broth (and Dexter just loves ’em!), I am treating them like cilantro this year — just planting new seeds every few weeks so that they’re constantly around. I failed at my cilantro task last year, but I’m determined this year to get it right, and with the added reminder to plant carrot seeds, I’m hoping I’ll get on the ball so I can have carrots and cilantro on-demand all season!

starting from seed

Direct Sow vs. Starting Indoors

Some plants need to be started inside under grow lights before the last frost in order to mature enough during the growing season. This definitely varies based on where you are in the world and how long your growing season is. But even here in “Sunny California,” tomatoes should be started inside. I started a ton of those currant tomatoes I mentioned under grow lights in the garage, and we prepared more planting ground on the side of our house to accommodate them all. We’ll see if they get enough sun over there. They were extras, so it’s an experiment. But last year the little currants did well under the shade of the artichoke plant, so I’m optimistic.

Some seeds are large enough, strong enough, and mature quickly enough, that they are successful as direct sows. Squash seeds (including pumpkin) and sunflower seeds are great examples, although they can be started inside as well. 

Lesson #2: Carrots prefer direct sow to being transplanted. Don’t be fooled by the nursery trying to sell you a carrot start.

Too afraid to start from seed last year, I bought carrot starts from my local nursery. Honest and awesome as they are, they did warm me about the potential of this happening, but I tried anyway. Any disruption in the root during a transplant could end up with some funky, weird-looking split carrots like these. starting from seed

Lesson #3: Don’t rush hardening off

This is my first year growing sunflowers, and I experimented with both direct sow and starting indoors under grow lights. I had 4 plants mature under grow lights and it didn’t seem that any had sprouted outside over the same period of time. Eager to take advantage of a weekend in town, I rushed through the hardening off process of my indoor plants, and they all wilted and died after a few days outside. Only one of my direct sows made it, but it’s going strong, already about 6 inches tall with a much thicker stalk than any of the ones I started inside. I plan to throw a few more seeds out there to see if I can get more flowers going from direct sow. 

Lesson #4: Start with the right containers 

Last year, I started pumpkins and delicata squash seeds indoors in containers far too tiny for their rapid growth as seedlings. I ended up having to transfer them as delicate little babies into larger containers and continue to grown them inside. As they outgrew those containers and the weather began warming, I thought it was time to start hardening them off. Some died on the first day outside, because they weren’t well-rooted after the initial transplant, and some died in the ground a week later. I did end up with a great pumpkin harvest but not a single delicata made it.

This year, I started all my squash inside in larger containers so that I wouldn’t have to move them until it was time to get them into the ground. I also waited for them to get much bigger than last year before beginning the hardening off process — only possible because of the containers I started them in this time. They’re much happier and healthier than the ones I planted last year, already growing tiny blossoms! In fact we had so many healthy starts we put the extras in containers to see how they’d do. Another experiment I’ll report back on in a few months!

starting from seed

Lesson #5: Be patient

How many of us have to learn this lesson over and over? When it comes to gardening, I have to learn it many times a season. We planted our artichoke last year and got lucky with a big, early yield. That first plant died off and left two babies in its place, both of which kept getting bushier and bushier with no fruit in sight. By this time last year, we’d definitely enjoyed some home-grown chokes, so I was starting to worry — I even considered pulling up one of the plants, thinking they were too crowded to produce. Then all of the sudden we saw one pop up. I left town for a few days last week, and suddenly yesterday there were EIGHT! Yes, eight. Patience is a virtue, and so are plentiful artichokes!

starting from seed

This is my favorite time of year. I get to be outside in the sunlight with my hands in the dirt, learn what it takes to grow my own food, and figure out the tricks of the gardening trade. With every year that passes, I get to know my little postage stamp of property that much better, and I get to share everything I learn right here with you!

This year’s garden harvest is going to bring lots of new goodies into the CWB kitchen, so stay tuned for exciting recipes on the horizon! And if you have any tips to share with me from your gardening successes (or failures), please share below!


FTC DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. I only link to products that I USE and LOVE. All opinions are my own.

eBook Annoucement and Fall and Winter Garden Update: Zone 8

Some of you have been asking about the status of the garden now that we’re moving into the colder months. As a result, today’s post will be a gratuitous display of the wonderful things happening on my little postage stamp of property in California and a promotion for my new eBook, which was inspired by the fruits of my labor! It’s hard to say that we’re truly doing “fall and winter gardening” here in California, but this is my version of it. Take note if you wish! Sorry to folks who are in colder climates. This probably won’t help you much.

As I might have bragged about mentioned before, we harvested a whopping 13 pumpkins from the front yard at the end of the summer! It was so exciting to see that our first year of growing them (especially from seed!) was such a success, and because we have so many to eat, I’m eager to share the recipes I’ve come up with! 

Stay tuned for an opportunity to download my next short eBook:

10 Delicious Pumpkin Recipes for Vegan and Vegetarian Foodies!

fall and winter gardening

 

I am making a public statement right now that I will have this eBook ready for download by TUESDAY next week. Ok, it’s etched in stone. I will make it happen people!

Important!

If you’re on the mailing list, you’ll get a link to your free copy right in your inbox on Tuesday along with updates and news from me! If you are not on the list, I suggest you subscribe today so that you can get both of my ebooks for FREE.

Once I make this pumpkin eBook available to subscribers for download, Nine Easy Steps to Delicious Gluten-free Living (my first eBook) will only be available for purchase through Kindle.

Take advantage today and get BOTH eBooks for free!

Garden Update

We have found a way to grow food on all sides of our house — well technically the neighbors were growing the blackberries and they came over to our side of the fence, so we just trellised them and enjoyed the spoils! I just love living in such a rich climate where beautiful food can grow pretty-much year-round.

Sadly, the blackberries have run their course for the season, but we are still maintaining some fruitful plants on the other three sides, especially the front and back. The side has a little herb garden with tarragon, thyme, parsley, cilantro, basil, sage, and rosemary.

 fall and winter gardening

If you’ll kindly ignore Dexter’s “territory” in the bottom left of this picture, I can assure you that our back yard garden is doing quite nicely! I’m excited to report that in November, we are still getting tomatoes. Heirlooms, cherries, and teeny tiny ones that I thought were cherries, but might be currants. We’re also still getting some okra (not shown). Other than that, we’re rocking and rolling with the list you see above (great for fall and winter planting in Zone 8) and I couldn’t be more pleased (unless someone we know hadn’t destroyed a prosperous green bean plant. I might be a tiny bit happier if I still had that plant).

fall and winter gardening

The front is also doing really well. Our green beans out front are still going strong, basically outgrowing the trellis and folding in on themselves. We just harvested a good batch yesterday morning, but I’m not quite sure what else will come of those  guys. Everything is still very green and happy though, so it will stay there til it’s not. (Pictured on the far right of the picture above.)

One lesson we learned in our first year of front yard gardening is that our neighbors’ redwood tree made it pretty challenging to grow food in our center planter bed. We’ve decided to grow low-maintenance ornamental perennials there going-forward. We have some green ground cover, some small flowers, and some taller plants that will eventually become bushy and full of orange and purple flowers. We had some pollination challenges in the front with our zucchini this year, so my hope is that these beautiful flowering bushes will bring pollinators next spring. Fingers crossed!

fall and winter gardening

We had a lot of space we needed to fill in the bed where the pumpkins grew, and we lucked out with the New Zealand spinach. Have you ever grown New Zealand spinach?? It’s amazing. It’s hardy, so the leaf miners don’t like it (they’re already going after my chard in the back), and it’s a crawler, so it fills in all the space you need it to without choking out its neighbors (shown above between all the Brussels). It’s also fast-growing and delicious both raw in salads and cooked as a side or in eggs. I’ve grown so accustomed to it in just a couple of months that now I prefer it to regular spinach. It has its own salty flavor that I’m sure you’ll love, so if you can find it, I recommend adding it to your winter garden of hardy greens!

 

fall and winter gardening

The whole front yard including our growing succulent garden and our new bougainvillea

 

 

The Wonders of Sunchokes!

This post is going to be short and sweet, because I got started late this afternoon and was fidgeting around with graphics when I should have been writing.

I love love love SUNCHOKES, and today I want to share the simplest recipe on earth that yields a healthy, filling, delicious root veggie side dish WAAAAY more exciting than a potato. OK, here it is.

sunchoke recipe

photo sourced from Creative Commons, created by Kenraiz Krzysztof Ziarnek (source linked)

So what’s a sunchoke?

Jerusalem artichoke? No? Same thing. The names are interchangeable, even though this tasty gem has absolutely nothing to do with the artichoke family, which is a thistle. Rather, as the first name I used may indicate, “sun”choke, this hardy plant is related to the sunflower and grows tall with yellow flowers just like its cousin. The stalks grow 8 to 10 feet tall, and the underground rhizomes spread in a tangled network just below the surface, growing into gnarled starchy edible roots. According to most gardening websites, when the plants start to wilt and turn brown, the roots are ready to harvest.

I got impatient in my own garden, however.

I know, shocking.

We bought a couple of sunchoke seedlings last fall, and without doing any research at all, stuck them in the back of one of our two back yard raised beds. They did nothing but wilt and die, so we removed them and moved on with life. This spring, little sprouts came from where we’d removed them, so we let a few of them grow to see what would happen. They grew and grew until they were casting a shadow over the rest of the box, at which point we cut them back and finally decided to actually do a little research on the crop.

Oops

PANIC ensued when I read that they are known to take over, spreading rapidly wherever they are planted. We planted them RIGHT next to our asparagus, which can take up to three years to yield a crop — not something I wanted to risk. Out they came!

roasted sunchoke recipe
fresh out of the ground

These little babies became dinner that very night.

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Roasted Sunchokes
Roasting root veggies is a great way to retain flavor and nutrients with minimal effort. You can apply these simple instructions to any number of root veggies, you just might need to adjust cooking time based on how large you chop and how dense the root. (beets take forever)
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http://cultivatedwellbeing.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/sunchoke4.jpg)">
Ingredients
  1. 1 lb sunchokes
  2. Avocado oil (spray form is easier to work with, but drizzling from the bottle works too)
  3. REAL salt or a mild seasoned salt
  4. cracked red pepper
  5. black pepper
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400
  2. Cut sunchokes into small chunks and spread across a cookie sheet in one layer ( no overlapping)
  3. Spray or sprinkle avocado oil over the chunks and toss to ensure that all sides are covered
  4. Sprinkle salt and pepper over (use cracked red pepper sparingly)
  5. Toss again to ensure the seasons cover the chokes
  6. Roast on 400 for 30 to 35 minutes (could take longer, depending on your oven)
  7. They're ready when they feel soft like cooked potatoes
Notes
  1. Try to make the chunks as uniform in size as possible to ensure even cooking. You might end up with some soft and some crunchy, but the crunchy ones are good too!
Cultivated Wellbeing http://cultivatedwellbeing.com/

Why bother?

Potatoes are much easier to find than sunchokes, and they don’t take as long to cook, so why should you go to the effort to eat roots other than potatoes? I’ll tell you why!

Sunchokes are high in fiber, especially oligo-fructose inulin, which as I’ve shared in my resistant starch potato recipe, is awesome if you want to consume a starchy food without the glycemic load. The fiber in a sunchoke balances out the starch, making it a great addition to your plate if you’re watching your carbs.

Sunchokes are also rich in antioxidants, including vitamins A, C, E, and carotenoids; all great cancer-fighters and more prevalent in sunchokes than your average potato.

100 grams of fresh sunchoke provides 429 mg or 9% of daily required levels of potassium, which is an important mineral for the active among us (it’s an electrolyte) aiding in muscle recovery and preventing muscle cramping.

100 grams of fresh sunchoke contains 3.4 mg or 42.5% of iron, probably the highest amount of iron for the common edible roots and tubers. (source) Iron deficiency in the US is relatively common, but supplementation can lead to undesirable consequences like cramps and constipation. Eating a food naturally rich in iron is a great solution, because when iron is packaged up how nature intended, those side effects disappear.

Sunchokes are also rich in B vitamins, especially thiamine, an essential nutrient for healthy hair, skin, and nails. (source)

Enjoy these nutrition powerhouses and the delicious, unique flavor that comes with them. Today I’m sharing a simple roasted root recipe, but you can make a killer creamy soup with these guys too. Try it out! And enjoy!

sunchoke recipe

8 Tips for Preventing/Controlling Powdery Mildew

powdery mildewCall it beginner’s luck, but last year in my very first year of gardening, I managed to go the entire spring, summer, and fall seasons without ever encountering powdery mildew on my zucchini plant. This year I’m growing pumpkins, and apparently powdery mildew comes more easily among the vine-y squash varieties, because there’s been a breakout, and it spread quickly. It not only covered quite a few of the pumpkin leaves, it’s on the zucchini, the purple kale, the collards, and even the artichoke. It might even be responsible for the failed sugar snap crop, but since it’s already gone, I have no way to know.

Reconnaissance in the Neighborhood

On my walk around the neighborhood the other day, I noticed quite a few cucurbits covered in powdery mildew. A butternut squash vine had quite a few fully formed (gigantic actually) squash that didn’t seem affected at all by the white speckled leaves, but just one block down a watermelon vine and a whole patch of pumpkins were devastated — completely white and no decent fruit at all.

This stuff travels through the air (and quickly) so I’m crossing my fingers that it stays away from the tomatoes in the back yard, because after last year’s dreary little crop, we have a lot of emotional investment riding on this year’s tomatoes!

powdery mildew

What’s Powdery Mildew?

Powdery mildew is a fungus that creates little white powdery dots all over the leaves of a very large number of garden and wild plants. It eventually overtakes the leaves and prevents photosynthesis from taking place, thereby suffocating the plant if left untreated. It can become a problem in warm, humid weather, and it’s exacerbated when leaves are overly wet without drying adequately in the sun (creating a steam bath between the leaves and the ground). It can result from improper spacing and pruning, but often occurs when the leaves get wet during watering. It can be spread through the air and contaminated gardening tools used in other areas of the garden without proper washing. Watering the soil at the base of the plant without wetting the leaves either early in the morning or after sunset in the evening is a good preventive measure for this disease, but once a plant has it, there doesn’t seem to be a sure-fire way to get rid of it organically.

Reconnaissance on the Web

Just like most things in gardening, surfing the web brought up as many solutions as there are websites talking about powdery mildew, so we started with the suggestion to dilute skim milk in water and spray it on both sides of every leaf. I grossly underestimated how much milk we’d need — twice. Started with a pint (30% milk, 70% water) and didn’t even cover one bed in the front yard. Then moved to a 1/2 gallon, which I promptly ran out of before reaching the back yard (closer to 40% milk, 60% water). The following afternoon, I mixed 1 gallon milk with 1 gallon water and went to town on everything, no holds barred. I repeated this exercise 3 times over the course of a week.

The milk did nothing.

Some people say it works great, but for us, nada.

Our second line of defense was a product that contains copper, called Bonide 811 (affiliate link). It’s approved for organic gardening and includes powdery mildew in the list of fungi it can destroy, so we went for it. We’ve applied it three times after severely cutting back all the affected leaves during the failed milk phase. It’s arrested the problem but not totally cured it on the pumpkin plants. I have already pruned the heck out of them and am hesitant to take any more leaves, so at this point, containing it is good enough for me. One plant hasn’t produced flowers since I (over)pruned a few weeks back. (sad) All the other plants seem cured as of today. I’d recommend this product over the milk any day, but it remains to be seen if it will actually completely eradicate the problem through multiple applications. With the amount of milk I used, it wasn’t much of a price difference either, to be honest. We sprung for the heavy-duty concentrate and diluted it in a big garden sprayer thing like this (affiliate link – this is exactly the one we have).

Timing is Everything

Lucky for us, we already have 14 fully-formed pumpkins ripening on the vines that won’t be affected by the mildew. My over-pruning has had some consequences though, because my zucchini plants have had trouble getting pollinated ever since. One zuc plant hasn’t made a male flower since I started hacking. I had to hand-pollinate for the first time last week after losing 3 baby grey zucchini to the shrivels of not being properly fertilized.

powdery mildew

8 Tips for Preventing Powdery Mildew

(or at least keeping it manageable if you get it)

  1. Water early in the morning or after sunset, and try to keep the water on the soil, not the leaves.
  2. Follow spacing guidelines for your plants (especially squash) and prune as you go to keep the air circulating between the leaves and the ground
  3. Don’t over-water
  4. Strike early if you start to see signs of powdery mildew by removing the infected leaves and sealing them in plastic for disposal (do NOT use them in compost). Don’t overdo it like I did though!
  5. Clean your tools thoroughly with disinfecting soap if you have used them on infected plants.
  6. Rotate your crops to prevent reinfection each year.
  7. Condition your soil between seasons with rich mulch that will maintain proper biodiversity and naturally combat invaders.
  8. Be judicious about products you use to contain the problem in order to maintain your own organic standards.

powdery mildew

Surprises at Every Turn!

The lesson I keep learning in gardening is that nothing is predictable. The success of last year’s garden has basically nothing to do with how things might go this year or next. Last year’s tomatoes were thick-skinned, mealy, and not great. The plants were MONSTROUS; the fruit not so much. We over-watered, had too much nitrogen in the soil, and didn’t space the plants well (or so I’m guessing). We adjusted, and this year, the plants are full of big, beautiful fruit that WON’T TURN RED. Still crossing my fingers that we’ll get a heat wave soon. There are just so many variables. But that’s what makes it fun!

Gardening is a lesson in releasing control and riding in the passenger seat to find out what nature has in store for you each season.

Enjoy it!

 


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Transforming Your Front Yard into an Edible Landscape

Apparently I’m on a “gif kick.”

I’ve been really excited to share the progress of my new front yard garden for quite some time, and since I figured out how to embed a gif last week, I thought it only fitting to make one showing you the work we did in the front yard! We transformed it from a water-wasting lawn into a beautiful edible landscape!

This was a big endeavor for such a tiny yard, but I’m going to give you a very short run-down of one way you might begin tackling a project like this at home.

How to Transform Your Front Yard into an Edible Landscape

Plan Plan Plan

This is a big and very important first step. In fact, the conversations my husband and I had over planning our yard probably spanned 2 to 3 times the amount of time it took us to actually build what we wanted. We made sketches to scale, cruised various neighborhoods for ideas taking pictures of what other people had done, considered the available sunlight for the space, and came up with quite a few designs before we finally landed on our decision. We also changed it at the last minute after purchasing the materials!

Timing

Planning out our schedules was also essential for making this project happen. One weekend involved renting a till to dig up the lawn. Then we covered it with thick plastic to suffocate the remaining sod. We left the plastic on for a few weeks, mostly because of the limits in our schedule. The actual garden construction took a total of about 6 full days.

Strategy

Like I said before, this is only one way to do it. A simple google search will tell you that we did it all wrong, and that a “lasagna layering” approach would have been better than tilling – and that tilling is the worst possible thing you could ever do, EVER – but this has yielded a great result for us, which you can see for yourself. You could also lose your mind sifting through everything on the internet about how to get rid of grass in your lawn without Roundup.

Our strategy was to build the beds first, then lay down the weed paper only on the part of the lawn that would be covered with pebbles and rocks. We thoroughly broke up the existing soil inside the beds and added in new dirt and compost before planting. So far, that strategy has resulted in a few weeds, but nothing unmanageable, and it’s worked out well for us.

We did have to have some dirt  hauled away, which was not cheap, so keep that in mind if you don’t have a plan for the dirt you may need to remove. One option could have been to keep the sod intact and try to remove it and offer it for free on Craigslist. We might do that when we remove the remaining lawn from the back yard.

Crop

Planning your crop is another biggie. It’s worth your time to ask questions of your local nursery and do some research as to how much space, sun, and water your various crops need so you can plant your garden in a way that makes sense for the best yield.

And then Plan Some More: Layout

edible landscapeMake sure you know the type of sunlight that your space will be getting, and that will help you determine how you want to set up your garden. Our front yard gets filtered light during various times of day, and since our main objective was to have a successful pumpkin and winter squash crop (delicata), we wanted those plants to be in the spot with the absolute highest sun exposure. Keep this type of logic at the forefront of your mind when laying out the space and planning your crop.

We chose to do very few rows in our front yard, in the “edible landscape” style of Rosalind Creasy, and we intermixed some small, colorful flowers to break up all the green. Think about your color palette when choosing any ornamental accents you might want to add. Our house is full of earthy tones, and since we knew that golden squash blossoms would be coming in, we added even more golds, oranges, and purples.

Estimate the Cost Supplies (Prepare a Budget)

You’ll need to know the look you’re going for and what your ultimate goals are in order to properly select your materials and understand the cost. DON’T FORGET TO FACTOR IN THE COST OF THE DIRT. It can add up very quickly if you’re planning for big beds.

As a California dweller, I am very water conscious (as an Earth dweller, you should be too), so I wanted dryscaping where food wouldn’t be planted – rocks, stone, and/or mulch as opposed to grass or something else that needs to be watered.

I chose to cut a nice Mexican pebble with a much less expensive pea gravel (half of each to equal 1 cubic yard for my tiny lawn) to cut costs but stay true to the look I had in mind. Mulch is a less expensive option if you buy it by the cubic yard. I also added larger polished river rock around the edges of the stacked flagstone-walled beds. What you choose will depend on your budget, the size edible landscapeof your lawn and the aesthetic you want to achieve.

The flagstone was by far the most expensive part of this project, so choose wisely to stay within your means. We were barely able to complete the walls of these four beds with a pallet of flagstone about 2.5 feet tall. Other options are wooden beds, not to raise the beds at all for a flatter look, or small boulders to delineate the space instead of stacked stones. I’ve also seen beautiful dryscaped lawns full of various potted plants and wine barrels.

To the right I have some great examples from around my neighborhood.

 

Experiment with Seed vs Seedling

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These little guys burst out of the soil so quickly and with such force, I wished I’d started them outside. I started my yellow zucchini outside after this, and they’re doing great!

This year was my first real venture in starting from seed, and I have to say that it was only partially worth it to start my seeds indoors, especially the pumpkin and delicata squash. The mistakes I made were many (and resulted in a lot of wasted seeds), but the main lesson I learned was that a big seed like a pumpkin or squash is perfectly happy to be direct sowed. I direct sowed 6 yellow zucchini seeds (3 in the front, 3 in the back), and 5 out of 6 have turned into very nice sized plants (which I’ve shared with friends, because who needs 5 zucchini plants?). I also direct sowed carrot seeds which are thriving in the front yard. That being said, some seeds do need to start inside. I successfully transplanted leeks from seed, and they are also thriving in the front yard. The majority of what you see in the pictures started as seedlings. That’s a slightly more expensive way to go, but if you’re new to gardening, I’d recommend starting your first year with seedlings to increase your chances for success. All told, we probably spent less than $100 on all the plants. It was  the construction, supplies, and dirt that racked up the cost.

Crops in our Edible Landscape:

And remember, this is a very tiny front yard. We were able to pack all this in, no problem, so don’t be shy!

  • Sugar pie pumpkins (2 large vines)
  • Delicata squash (1 large vine)
  • Sugar snap peas (in three places)
  • Carrots
  • Leeks
  • Lemon thyme
  • Fennel
  • Spinach
  • Cucumber
  • Basil (in 6 places)
  • Scallions
  • Yellow bell peppers
  • Pineapple sage
  • Japanese eggplant
  • Jalapeno
  • Sweet heirloom peppers
  • Yellow Zucchini
  • Grey Zucchini
  • Cilantro
  • Black Fig Tree
  • Multiple ornamental flowers

Do you have plans to start growing food at your home? Have you considered repurposing your front lawn? There are so many beautiful ways to do it, and they’re all so much better for the environment than wasting water on grass! Please share your questions below, and I’ll be happy to help guide you toward your new edible landscape!

edible landscape

Grow Green Onions in Your Kitchen

Do you buy scallions (green onions) at the store without a plan and then find them two weeks later all slimy and gross at the back of your crisper drawer having never found a use for them? That used to be me until I found this awesome little trick.

A while back I posted about keeping your fresh herbs fresh for longer by trimming the ends and setting them inside a jar with water like flowers. You can either keep them in the windowsill or in the fridge this way, but with scallions in the windowsill (no trimming required), they just keep on growing back! It’s fantastic. You can literally chop them down all the way to the white part, stick the dangling little white roots in water, and a week later, you’ll have nearly full-sized scallions again!

Now that I have green onions at my disposal (and in my line of sight!) at all times, I chop them up and throw them into every salad, every stir fry, every pot of broth, soup, or sauce I make, and I’m getting the awesome health benefits of this amazing super food. Green onions are among the more unassuming super foods, but they have far more phytonutrients than your regular bulb onion. Having them around will give any meal a tasty, nutritious boost. They’re also fantastic in scrambled eggs.

The first picture in the series below was taken on 5/26 and the last was taken on 6/4. In just 8 days, I had a whole new set of green onions, and since then I’ve cut them down at least 4 more times.

grow green onions in water on your windowsill in the kitchen

Grow green onions in water on your windowsill in the kitchen!

How to Grow Green Onions In Your Kitchen:

  1. Buy one bunch of organic green onions from your favorite grocer or farmers’ market
  2. Use them as you normally would, but leave a bit of the white part still attached to the roots
  3. Fill a jar halfway with water
  4. Stick the white ends into the water near a light source
  5. Wait for your new onions to grow like magic!

If these little puppies are on your counter front and center, you won’t forget to use them, and truthfully, they’re good in just about any dish you could come up with, fresh or sautéed.

After about 4 rounds of chopping back and re-growing — changing the water often (a very important detail!) — I noticed that the shoots growing out were starting to get a bit thin, so I stuck the roots right in the ground outside. No they’re happy as can be in my garden growing all over again drawing nutrients from the soil through those same dangling white roots that grew and tangled on my kitchen counter, ready for me to chop off the tops or pull up a whole one whenever I need more green onion.

Love it!

grow green onions

 

 

 

 

 

Top 10 Gardening Tips for Beginners – Your First Vegetable Garden

It’s springtime and the neighborhood nurseries are a-buzz with gardeners planning their spring vegetable gardens. If you’re venturing into this whole vegetable gardening thing for the first time this year, don’t worry — you’re not alone.

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As a beginner to vegetable gardening, I was extremely averse to overly detailed advice. Too much information was paralyzing, and I just wanted to dive in and get started without reading a dissertation from the Farmers’ Almanac (not that the FA isn’t amazing). One day, after weeks of deliberation, I decided to just go for it. I went to the hardware store, had them cut some 2x4s and made my first raised bed. Then I went to the nursery and picked out the first crop of seedling veggies.

Lucky for me, the folks at my local nursery were very helpful in telling me which veggies went best together in the same bed and which organic fertilizer to buy. I threw things into that bed and also put a few things straight into the ground, mostly winging it, but occasionally using internet sources and my friends at the local nursery for guidance.

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For the first-time vegetable gardener, I’ve compiled a list of beginner gardening tips that I’ve picked up since venturing down this road for the first time myself. It’s most certainly not an exhaustive list, and I do have to admit that I live in one of the most garden-friendly areas you can find, but stick to this relatively universal list and you should be up and running in no time.

10 Gardening Tips for Beginners

1. Know your climate and timing

Knowing what grows best and when it’s best to plant based on your climate is key to success for a first-time gardener. There are some pretty helpful resources on the web for this, but when I was looking around as a beginner, I was confused by all the zoning. Here’s a great guide for beginner gardening for zones and timing advice.

2. Start easy

If you’re like me, you don’t want to spend time, energy, or money on a hobby without at least a 50% chance that your efforts will be fruitful. For that reason, I recommend starting your beginner garden with plants that are hard to kill.
Great plants to start with due to durability and natural pest resistance are:
  • kale (of any variety)
  • bush beans (green beans that grow in a bush instead of up a pole)
  • rosemary
  • arugula (opt for a slow-bolt variety so it won’t go to seed before you have a chance to enjoy it)
  • salad greens (like romaine or the spring mixes you can get in a 6-pack)
  • zucchini (these need a lot of space — more than you’d think— but it’s so fun to watch them grow. One plant can yield a LOT of squash.)
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3. Start a spring/summer garden first

It’s more fun to dive into a new outdoor activity when it’s beautiful outside and you have more daylight to work with — and more time to get dirty. It can be hard to motivate to get outside after work on shorter days towards the end of the summer and into the fall and winter. Better to get your garden going when you have plenty of time to get it right.

4. Start with seedlings

The first year at least, I’d say start with seedlings — you get to harvest sooner after planting, and for a beginner, it’s nice to get at least semi-immediate gratification from your efforts. Planting from seed requires starting indoors and much more forethought. You can also just start with them outside and skip the (very intimidating, at least for me) indoor sprouting from seed process.


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5. Choose your location based on sunlight

Herbs need less sunlight than most spring and summer veggies, which need full sun. If you can find places for both to grow, you will do just fine. Be mindful that some veggies grow much taller than others. Last year, I made the mistake of planting bush beans behind kale. The kale grew to 4 feet tall totally shading the beans out. Plant your taller plants in the back of the box and your shorter plants in the front if the front gets more sunlight (mine backs up to a fence, so it makes sense to go shortest in front for me, for example).

6. Save money by using ground soil

If you’re sure that nothing suspect has happened in the soil on your property, like if you’re digging up grass or weeds that haven’t been treated, mix the ground soil into the organic soil and compost you buy. It will save you money by reducing the expenditure on bags of potting soil to get you started. Dirt can get surprisingly expensive!

Here’s a great brand of compost/soil conditioner that can be mixed directly with the ground soil with really great results.

Some people would say to test the soil, but as a beginner gardener that was a deterrent to me getting started. Doing that is up to you if you plan to use ground soil. It might be a good idea to test if you’re gardening on rented property or property that’s new to you. You can get a testing kit at most nurseries for a fair price.

7. Dive in, even if you don’t have a yard

There are plenty of things that grow well in pots, especially herbs and salad greens. The one suggestion I have is not to start with cilantro if you’re faint of heart — it bolts pretty easily and can be discouraging. But if you do decide to go for it, plant a lot, and if you can’t use it all before it bolts, let the seeds dry on the stems and you’ll have yourself some fresh coriander.

Mint, rosemary, oregano, parsley, and sage are great starter herbs — parsley grows like a weed in my yard. If you live in a warmer place that doesn’t cool off too much at night, basil is also a good starter herb, just make sure you pay attention and pluck off the ends if they start to flower — that will prevent bolting.

As for pot-able veggies, arugula, cherry tomatoes, and maybe even spring mix would work in big pots. The Container Gardening Alliance has some awesome ways to grow just about anything in some sort of container.

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8. Vary your plants by harvest time

Choose some plants that can be harvested soon and some that can be harvested a little later. This way, you can get to eating your crop quickly with a healthy sense of accomplishment while you wait for the later bloomers to mature. Here’s a great list of short-harvest veggies for the impatient gardener like me. These are great as first harvest veggies, and others like summer squash, kale, and peppers might take a bit longer to grow into edible veggies.

9. Make friends with your local nursery

Do not underestimate the power of having a live person to answer your questions. I can’t express enough how nice it is to walk into a nursery and have a knowledgeable staff person there who’s interested in the success of my garden — and yours! Ask questions, clarify the answers, and then repeat what you think you heard back to them so you know it’s right. And go to a local spot, not a big box store — you’ll be happier with the final product in addition to the superior knowledge and service.beginnergardening3

10. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes — have fun!

Unless you’re being paid to produce food, my guess is that you’re starting a garden as a hobby. Hobbies are supposed to be pleasurable activities we do with our spare time, so make sure you keep it light and fun. There are only so many things that you can control, and sometimes stuff in the garden just doesn’t work out. Just keep it all in perspective. Ask for help when you need it and do the best you can. In the end, you’ll have a beautiful accomplishment that you can share with your family and friends.
Happy gardening!
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Starting a Garden with Heirloom Seeds at Petaluma Seed Bank

Last spring, I built my first planter box, filling it with seedlings from my local nursery. I planted curly kale, celery, bush beans, asparagus, red chard, and strawberries. It was so much fun to watch the plants grow and change, and lucky for me, there aren’t huge numbers of pests in my backyard to ruin the good time. I literally had no idea what I was doing, beyond putting dirt in the box and planting the little guys; I just went for it!

the proud little garden helper dug in the dirt with me for our first garden project

the proud little garden helper dug in the dirt with me for our first vegetable project

Almost a year later, having planted many new seedlings and enjoyed the harvest from every corner of my back yard, I’d say I’ve learned a lot (including that kale can grow REALLY tall and look like a mini-tree in the planter box, and bush beans should not go behind them in their shade). We’ve had some ups and downs in our garden, but for the most part, it feels good to know that I am capable of growing at least some of my own food!

That being said, there’s one thing that’s still very much intimidating — starting from seed!

As a very sweet and thoughtful housewarming gift last year, some good friends gave me an herb planter and some seed packets — tarragon, thyme, sage, oregano, and basil. (Just for some perspective, before moving to California, I couldn’t keep a fern alive, much less start with a seed and grow it into something worthwhile. The thought of putting in the effort and failing is a very big hurdle for me to clear in my mind.)

I tried my very timid hand at all but the basil (just couldn’t pull the trigger on that one, so I threw the seeds into a smoothie). I started them indoors in little pots, and tried carefully not to over-water, as I’m wont to do. While the sage and oregano are doing great in my herb garden more than a year later, the tarragon and thyme have never reached usable volume, and in fact, I’ve presumed them dead more than once, only to see them return, still pathetic, still tiny, but alive.

I’ve read some great tips online about how to start vegetables from seed, but for some reason (read impatience, fear of failure, and too many directions), I have just had the hardest time attempting it for myself.

This weekend, I was finally convinced to take the plunge! My mother-in-law mentioned the Petaluma Seed Bank, suggesting that I stop by to see all the heirloom seeds they have for sale. I wasn’t going to buy anything, but she made it sound so neat that I wanted to check it out. When I walked in, I knew I wouldn’t be walking out empty-handed.

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Here’s the view from the front door. Giant dried gourds are hanging from ceiling on the left.

The selection is overwhelming, and the building is amazing! (In the bathroom, they have a poster with at least 25 garlic varieties and their pictures. So cool!)

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“We offer over 1,500 varieties of heirloom seeds, garlic, tools, books, and hundreds of local hand-made gifts and food items. Remember—everything we offer is pure, natural, and non-GMO!” (source)

The short story:

  • The building, which used to be the Sonoma County Bank, is a beautiful focal point of the downtown Petaluma area, and is the perfect spot for such a wonderful attraction
  • Any homestead or gardening magazine your imagination could ever dream up is right there on the rack when you first walk in (including RABBIT USA Magazine, which had an adorable front cover)
  • Any gardening tool, growing equipment, lighting, how-to guide, seasonal planting chart, or locally made sun hat your heart could fancy can be found inside these walls
  • Culinary herbal blends, seasoned salts, aromatic sugars, and infusions are waiting for you at the back of the store, ready to be added to your goodie bag
  • The staff is extremely knowledgeable about what should grow where, when, and how, and they’re happy to help a novice like me

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After about 20 minutes of open-mouthed gawking and feeling totally overwhelmed with choices, I selected two varieties of cherry tomatoes, sugar pie pumpkins, delicata squash, giant celery root, and giant leeks (all heirloom). I also grabbed an indoor starter tray, and with trepidation, approached the counter with an arsenal of questions. The friendly woman behind the counter waited patiently as I wrote down every word she said, took a deep breath, and made my purchase.

I also scooped up this tasty culinary salt, as my interest was peaked after listening to a Salt Tasting Here and Now episode last week with Chef Kathy Gunst. I can’t wait to sprinkle it on something.

 

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This is going to be a very exciting experiment, and I anticipate I’ll learn quite a bit from it. I have to wait to plant some of what I purchased, as the last frost is estimated at April 15th this year, but the leeks and celery root are ready to go.

Stay tuned for updates as these little guys take off! And any lessons I learn along the way, you’ll be the first to know.

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Your Turn:

Do you have a garden or interest in starting one? Have you ever planted a garden from seed? What tips do you have to share? Any thoughts on the best way to start? Share your thoughts below!

 

2013 Recap – A Year of Adventure

On the eve of 2014, I think it’s a good time to inventory how things went this year. It’s a great place to start for making goals for the year to come. 2013 was an interesting one — more mellow than 2012, which included our wedding and the purchase of a new home, but it was still full of surprise and adventure.

Between my husband and I, we spent 30 days total in Yosemite, including a 5 day trip for the 4th of July with close friends and a 4 day trip with our dads — it was so awesome to see our dads climb! They did great! We climbed almost every one of those days either in the Valley or in Tuolomne Meadows. We also took a trip to Bishop over President’s Day weekend and headed to local day spots like Mt. St. Helena, Castle Rock, Pinnacles, Cragmont, and Mt. Diablo. Dad's TripFor me, this year represented a few major climbing “firsts.” I graduated from 10s to 11s in the gym, maxing out at 11c. I learned how to make, and started using tape gloves for climbing crack outside and (not well) in the gym — doing it well in the gym will be part of what happens in 2014. I led my first trad climb at the Grack in Yosemite, experienced my first hanging belay freakout on Seneca Rock in West Virginia (where Loren and I had our first epic dehydration and hunger fest due to lack of preparation on the rock), and followed Loren up my first real multi-pitch climbs.

climbingmilestonesLast year’s New Year’s Resolution was somewhat related to climbing — be able to do at least one pull-up by the end of the year. I accomplished that goal mid-year and maxed out at 4 in a row. This year, my new goal is to do 10 by April 1st. It’s a much more aggressive goal, but I’m confident that if I stick with it, I’ll make it happen. We have a hang board in our house, which I use to practice, doing reps assisted by giant rubber bands and then doing a few on my own. To be honest, I’ve been slacking the last month or 2, but I was able to do a pull-up this morning, so technically I accomplished my goal, even if I’ve backslid slightly — quite a bit has happened this holiday season, including 2 unexpected trips to Houston and losing my firecracker of a grandmother to ovarian cancer. Losing Mawmaw was a huge blow, but knowing she’s at peace is the most I could ask for.

Pressing on!

This year was also the Year of the Garden in my world. Having never had a yard of my own (when I lived in a rental house in Baltimore, the whole backyard was literally concrete with cinder block walls for fences. True story.), I was so excited to get started on the beautification and “food-ification” of my back yard that I got huge chunks of it done while Loren was away for solo trips and bachelor parties. I had a terrible eucalyptus tree removed from the corner of our yard, dug out all of the pointless shrubs that lined the fencing, decorated the concrete “art” the previous owner of our home left behind with potted plants, and built a small hill for a succulent garden. Building the garden itself was a one-weekend project. Succulent Gardensucculents5monthOn another weekend at home alone, I decided it was time to start growing food. I totally went for it, building my very first ever planter box, mixing and pouring my very first ever concrete to secure the posts, and growing my own food for the very first time. It was such a feeling of accomplishment to build something like this all by myself! (well, I had a little help from the Worm.) raisedbed1 raisedbed2 After such awesomeness ensued in the back yard, Loren’s creative juices started flowing, and he designed a more complicated box for us to put in the other corner of our yard. We had to get rid of a large, tree-like shrub first (which involved a chain saw!), and we were able to snag some wood from an old deck at Loren’s dad’s house to repurpose for the project. This garden required careful calculation so that everything would fit together properly — as I’ve said before “precise” and “patient” aren’t on the list of the first 10 ten words to describe me, so at some point, I just started screwing boards together, and we completely forewent pouring the concrete. It turned out great though! We more than doubled our food production with this new beauty!    raisedbedLIt’s so fun to see how quickly things grow — our tomato plants are deceptively large. The front plant yielded a decent amount of heirloom fruit, but the back one gave us about 8 not-so-great Early Girls. Next year, we’ll water less and fertilize with less nitrogen and more potassium.

WholeYard1The other major event of the year for me is the creation of this blog. I’m so thrilled to finally be doing this! Thanks to everyone who’s reading and sharing, and please continue to do so!

I’ve already stated a goal on my Facebook page to have 300 likes by my birthday — please help me make that happen, in addition to officially subscribing here on the actual blog! In the meantime, Happy New Year and stay safe and healthy!

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