Posts Tagged ‘Edible Landscaping’

Garden Update: Challenges, Solutions, Bounty and Beauty

I haven’t given a garden update in awhile. Today we have our first sunflower of the season, but really the first sunflower in four years!

This little guy comes from an “Elves Mix” that offered seeds from a variety of dwarf sunflowers. I thought these would grow well in the raised beds out front, so I sprinkled them amidst herbs, perennials and annuals. I haven’t tried to grow sunflowers since our first year here. I heard they attract groundhogs, and I also didn’t want to dedicate too much space to them in my Big Bag Bed garden. These little guys seemed like a great compromise, especially since I doubled the size of the front garden last Fall.

I have a bunch of full size sunflowers growing out back, but those haven’t yet bloomed. Meanwhile, the squash and sweet potatoes are going crazy. You can see some of the sunflowers thriving in the Big Bag Beds, even though that area gets only about five or six hours of full sun per day. I’ve got lettuce tucked behind the other growth, and I keep hoping it won’t bolt since it gets less sun. We shall see.

Despite the prolific growth of the butternut squash vines, I ran into an annoying issue with blossom end rot. This was entirely preventable, and I’m kicking myself for not listening to my intuition. A few weeks ago, an obsessive thought kept crossing my mind: “You should really put down some gypsum for those squash plants. Your soil needs calcium.” I found a bag at the local gardening center, but I walked there. It was a 20 pound bag, so I opted not to get it. Instead of asking David to drive me home or ordering some online, I did nothing. I thought, “There’s no overt sign of a calcium deficiency. I’ll just wait, and if I see a sign of it, I’ll correct things then.”

Well, I got my overt sign, alright! I ended up needing to throw out twelve butternut squash with blossom end rot — whose solution is adding more calcium to the soil. Once it starts, you can’t correct it on an individual squash, though. In the past, I’ve added diluted milk to both tomato and squash plants, both of which can suffer from low calcium in the soil. I had used worm castings and an organic fertilizer mix, but — duh! — I should have trusted my intuition. I ended up tossing two tomatoes, a zucchini and those twelve butternut squash. 😦

In order to correct what had become a much larger issue, I needed to add two half gallons of milk on consecutive weeks, plus a bunch of gypsum (which takes longer to incorporate into the soil). So far the new growth looks fine, but I learned my lesson. When my intuition starts nagging me to add a certain nutrient to the soil, just do it!!! A wise lesson for broader life, as well. I’m happy to report delicious harvests of other zucchini, peppers and tomato. Hopefully I’ve resolved the issue.

Some clients asked me how I handle various pest pressures in the garden, so I’ll share a few tips here. Long time readers of this blog know that grrrrrrrrrroundhogs(!) are my biggest concern. I’ve inured myself to the cuteness factor …

… because these whistle pigs will decimate a garden, given half a chance. Here’s the most recent one alerting friends and family that “Mr. McGregor lives here! Mr. McGregor! Stay away! Crazy gardener alert. Oh, no, this yard is NOT worth a visit!” He turned to face me just as I snapped the photo. Indeed, with groundhogs, I’ve learned to give them no quarter. When they first appear, I run outside like a wild banshee and scare the dickens outta them. I hate doing it, but I’ve learned that once they feel comfortable in my yard, nothing gets rid of them except my old neighbor Randy trapping and relocating them.

Randy died on the Full Moon Lunar Eclipse of May 2021, so I’m on my own unless Randy’s ghost makes an appearance. I do feel like he haunted the yard last year, because I only saw one groundhog, once, last year. Randy had watchdog energy while he lived, and he continued watching over our place last Summer. It feels like he’s moved on now, so “Shock and Awe” is in effect. I put on a Faery Glamour to appear much larger and scarier than I am, and so far, I’ve not had the same groundhog repeat an adventure in our yard. Just in case, I sprinkle organic hot pepper flakes on all my front yard lettuce and chard. I also have various stinky sprays, but those aggravate me more than the critters. 🙂

In terms of bugs, I prefer to attract predator wasps by planting things like yarrow and letting some of my dill, parsley and carrots flower. Some insects can only feed on these types of flowers that face upwards with a wide landing pad:

I also intersperse borage all around the garden. These pretty blue flowers taste like cucumbers, and honeybees LOVE them. So do nearby plants. Something about borage makes it an ideal companion plant to just about everything. Whether you want more pollination, greater mineral uptake or something pretty to create a cottage garden, borage works well.

My only caveat with yarrow and borage is that both can be a bit invasive. I only plant yarrow in containers. It kind of took over parts of the yard in Goshen! You can pull it out and compost it, or make an analgesic tea from the leaves. I have magenta yarrow, which also makes a long lasting cut flower that even looks good as the blooms fade. I just keep it in pots now, because yarrow can be a garden thug. Like borage, it’s a fantastic companion plant — as long as you contain it!

Borage is an annual, so you can keep that under control by deadheading most of the flowers after they’ve bloomed. I like to let a few of them go to seed, so they reseed next year. This goes for parsley and cilantro, too. I have perpetual parsley and cilantro because I let a few branches go to seed and just weed out or transplant the extra seedlings in Spring. I do this with love in a mist and miners lettuce, too. I don’t really enjoy growing things from seeds indoors. A little weeding in exchange for keeping the hardiest, naturally seeded plants feels like a good trade-off.

What about the dreaded cabbage moth caterpillars?! Uggh. Those are not my favorite. The mesh cage around the Garden Tower keeps out the moths unless they sneak in while I’m watering or harvesting.

A downside is that my collards and kale tend to grow much larger when planted in raised beds — but then the moths go to town with their egg laying. The best defense for me seems to be spraying water where the little black eggs collect at the base of the kale stems. I also manually pick off the green caterpillars, and I have a resident frog who also likes to munch on them. Predator wasps and spiders take care of the rest.

Bee balm is another pollinator favorite. In the backyard you see the more traditional purple color, whereas I have the showier red variety up front. Little orange nasturtium flowers peek out the bottom. (If you’re wondering about all the orange flowers — “red hot poker,” naturtiums, and orange day lilies — I plant these because orange is David’s favorite color.)

I currently have an earwig issue, but it’s not terrible. These little pincher bugs love decaying matter and curly leaves like some lettuces and Napa cabbage. They’re terrible around wood mulch! I don’t grow Napa cabbage, so it’s not an earwig pregnancy resort here, but if they get any worse, I’ll sprinkle some diatomaceous earth in areas where they congregate. Diatomaceous earth is an organic powder that kills most insects, so you need to make sure not to put it near flowers. You don’t want to kill the pollinators. I prefer not to kill anything, but sometimes you need to catch issues before they go crazy. Diatomaceous earth adds minerals to the soil and quickly gets rid of slugs and earwigs.

My main advice for garden pests is to plant a wide variety of crops, intersperse them with flowers, and pay attention to soil and light conditions. Plants growing in optimal conditions manage to fight off pests more easily than ones struggling to get what they need. Below you can see purple kale, marigolds, borage, zinnias, garlic, a dwarf sunflower, and cosmos getting ready to bloom.

Tucked away in those same beds are also parsley, lettuce and pepper plants. I like that you can look at the front garden and have no idea it’s an edible garden. All the flowers and different colored varieties of veggies make it the kind of spot that only an experienced gardener would recognize as food. This also helps keep the animal buffet to a minimum. I can’t prove it, but I strongly suspect the motion detector light David installed above our garage door has kept away the deer. But maybe it’s Randy Baker — the best neighbor we’ve ever had. Cheers to you, Randy! We miss you.

Flower Fireworks

It’s Fourth of July Weekend here in the U.S., and we’ve got a floral explosion to match the skies. Wishing everyone a beautiful weekend!

I can’t quite capture it in a photo (see below), but we have red, white and blue flowers — borage in the foreground, red salvia and white obedient plant in the silver planter. I didn’t do this on purpose, but I think it looks fun with the garlic scape to the right. I thought I harvested all the scapes yesterday, only to find five more today. Over abundance is a nice problem to have, but my goodness! I missed a lot. 🙂

Here it is from the reverse side. I’m standing just behind the silver planter. Sunflowers, hyssop, a giant marigold, and bachelor’s buttons have yet to bloom in there.

In lieu of a finale, here’s the whole shebang:

Plant Nannies and Today’s Garden

Some quick photos from this morning’s garden show the strategic use of “plant nannies.” I wrote about plant nannies in a 2018 post called “Edible Landscaping Secrets,” and I still recommend them for the Garden Tower Project and any plants that need more water than their neighbors. You can use mineral water bottles or wine bottles — anything with a long enough neck to fit in the terra cotta spike that digs into the soil. The terra cotta slowly releases water if the nearby soil dries out. If the soil’s moist, the water stays in the bottle until needed.

I scatter the plant nannies around the Garden Tower. Otherwise, I find the soil dries out by late afternoon’s scorching temps. With the nannies, I can go longer between waterings, and my plants feel less stressed and therefore healthier. These photos also show the (unzipped) mesh cage and rabbit fencing around the base. Yes, that’s volunteer lettuce in the patio cracks!

I have heavily harvested this Garden Tower for months, and it shows plants of varying degrees of growth. I recently removed the now bolted spinach and replaced that with carrots, rainbow chard and zinnias. Those are the holes with less growth.

We’ve had weather in the 80’s and 90’s for weeks, which would normally make all this lettuce bolt. I’ve found I can harvest the heads “too much” if I know it will be close to 90. That robs the plants of enough energy to shift from leaves to flowers and seeds. When it cools a bit, I let the leaves grow again. I’ve lost track of how many giant salads David and I have made from the Garden Tower. So fresh — and critter free! The mesh cage also keeps cabbage moths off my kale and collards. 🙂

Some other shots from today… It’s officially “Orange Season” here — David’s favorite color!

Wishing you a beautiful day!

Garden and Portal Update

I’m busy with sessions and painting portal number 22, then need to work on July’s North Node Horoscopes. I painted and coded the back and hope to finish this mini “door” sometime this week. Meanwhile, the garden continues to bloom and produce, which makes a garden update the easiest blog post available. I thought I’d share this mix of herbs, edibles and flowers in back and front yards. Enjoy!

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First lily of the season!

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Love in a Mist, marigolds and just-about-to-flower purple kale

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Purple bok choy, marigolds, chard, and chamomile

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Magenta yarrow

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floppy chamomile leaning against an evergreen for support

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Robinhood rose by the back patio

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Groundhog proof Garden Tower 2

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Clematis on the shed

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foxglove by the back patio

 

Garden Tower Project + Face Mask Frames

Last night, I asked my future self in my dreams, “What are you grateful I put into play earlier? What do you wish I had done now?”

As a result, Crazy Plant Lady spent this morning figuring out how to set up our Garden Tower 2 in an animal proof way, since all the critters have made for much smaller scale gardening than I did in Goshen with two fully permacultured yards. I also ordered seeds for crop varieties I’d given up growing due to our many groundhog “friends.” We mostly have perennial herbs, rhubarb, alpine strawberries, aronia, elderberry and blueberry bushes, plus some edible ornamentals scattered among the flowers.

The Garden Tower 2 inside a mesh pop up cage, on top of concrete pavers surrounded by wire fencing, in our fenced backyard should allow me to grow carrots, collards and other goodies normally devoured by rabbits, groundhogs and deer. With some of my crops protected, I can focus attention more on those, and feel relaxed about the other beds planted with more critter resistant varieties.

We have a yard with lots of raised beds, but the Garden Tower 2 allows you to grow 50 plants and compost in a very small space. For those people looking to garden more, here’s a list of my favorite permaculture and edible yard resources.

I also see that The Garden Tower Project is now manufacturing face mask frames for men, women and children. You can add your own filter, bandana, or whatever fabric you have on hand.

I know both Colin Cudmore (inventor of The Garden Tower Project) and his mom, Ann Kreilkamp, but I have no financial connection to these resources. Just sharing here in case anyone else feels led to increase garden yields or make their own face masks. Remember to breathe! As the Hopi say, “This could be a good time.”

Late May Garden

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Garden Pretties

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This clematis was almost dead when we moved here, and now it’s been healthy and blooming for weeks. Delphinium came out today:

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Edible Landscaping Secrets

I get so many questions from people about permaculture, edible landscaping, Robinhood roses, and “permaculture in pots” that I thought I’d list some of the top things I’ve discovered here. This is by no means a comprehensive post — just sharing some of the beauty and a handful of general tips. (If you would like personal assistance with your own situation, this month’s Property Reading Special can include that.)

Combine Flowers with Veggies:

One of the easiest ways to sneak edibles into a “regular” landscape is to intermingle them with flowers. Passersby will notice the blooms but not the edible. This purple iris and columbine camouflage purple and green radicchio. The taller, vibrant plants distract critters from the radicchio, while the lower radicchio covers the soil and keeps it from drying out so fast. The radicchio is so well hidden that I forgot it was even there, until I found it un-nibbled and happy in the slight shade provided by the purple maple and taller flowers:

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Even trickier, you can plant edible flowers like nasturtiums, violets, hibiscus, borage, and roses. Many herbs like sage and lavender flower as part of their life cycle, and squash blossoms are not only beautiful but delicious!

Consider Color:

Many vegetables come in unusual colors beyond what you find in the grocery store. Sources like Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds specialize in rare and colorful varieties of garden classics. Even standards like red chard can play nicely with coordinated snapdragons and pansies like we have approaching our front door:

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Garden Inspiration and Permaculture Projects

Yesterday, David and I enjoyed an afternoon in Grand Rapids, including our second trip to the Frederick Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. We took my mom there back in December 2017, and this time proved different but equally enchanting.

Even more exciting, walking around all those carefully planned gardens gave me some alternative solutions for our yard and neighborhood, which will be going through major changes in the next couple years due to mandatory sewer and possibly sidewalk installation. We’re fighting pretty unanimously to save as many of our neighborhood’s gorgeous, old trees, but in the event we lose to the Township’s dedication to the “Agendas,” yesterday’s creativity inspired some lovely “lemonade” recipes from the Township’s would-be lemons.

It’s all very Uranus in Taurus: major upheaval on the physical level, concern for “the greater good.” The questions remain: what is the greater good, who gets to determine that, and how? I’ll share some photos from Meijer Gardens first, followed by a few of our yard and some of the “problem is the solution” ideas this visit inspired. Even this entryway at Meijer Gardens may change, as we heard people discussing a major planned shift in where people enter the park.

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David included me in the photo for scale:

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Some of the sculptures have a grand presentation, while many others play hide and seek within the landscape and winding pathways. This next sculpture is one of my favorites, called “Espaliered Girl.”

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We heard so many different languages as we wandered around the Japanese Gardens.

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7 Photos and 7 Days Left at Faery Hof!

A countdown is in effect. We have exactly one week left before the movers take us away from the house and yards we’ve nurtured the past almost five years. Yesterday afternoon, David and I hosted some yard lessons on how to operate his parents’ old lawn mower we’re leaving here, plus I gave a tour of the various herbs, perennials and fruit trees for easier ID. I’m also leaving each house with the map I made for my Permaculture Design Certificate — but with individual fruit and nut trees and shrubs labeled.

Last week, we already moved about half of what we’re taking to the new place, but now it’s crunch time for packing, sorting and figuring how the heck I’m going to get my container garden to the new yard without needing to rent a separate truck just for plants. You can see just some of them below:

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Most of the indoor plants moved last week, since they can survive without daily care. On these hot days, containers need frequent attention, though, and many of my containers not pictured are too large for cars. Here’s hoping the movers work some magic, since I convinced them to move my garden if we have room. “Normally, we don’t move living things.” I’m not sure they know what they just agreed to! We’ve got another truck reserved for later in the week just in case … but, goodness, it would be so nice to be done!

Meanwhile, here are six more photos of the yards at Faery Hof and Haus Am See. I’m so relieved all the new renters get along and have already developed some sense of community even beyond the gardens. It turns out Continue reading