Garden Snapshots

August 4, 2013

My task this week was to start to prepare my winter garden.  Meanwhile I enjoyed taking pictures of what is going on and got distracted here and there in the garden.

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Just a few nasturtium have bloomed this year.  They always have interesting colors and details.  I could still plant a few seeds and see if we could have them blooming in the fall…

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Yesterday I transplanted kale that I started from seed indoors earlier this summer.  This bed will be covered with a low hoop when the weather gets cold.  I also planted onions, lettuce, beets, pak choi, tatsoi, and turnips in this bed.  They are all vegetables that prefer cool weather.  The weather has been very mild, in the low 70s, which keeps the bed from drying out too much.  I will have to keep it watered this week though, so the seeds can germinate.

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The onions I planted on Tuesday are shooting up already.  I can see a few lettuce seeds have sprouted, too!

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Here is what is left of the lettuce I planted earlier.  I just keep picking off the leaves higher and higher on the stem!  I have 5 or 6 of these stems around the garden now, but have had to eat lettuce from the grocery store for my salads.

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The cucumber have not been doing very well, but we had a half-inch of rain and this cucumber tasted pretty good.

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Brussel sprouts starting to form on the plant.  This is the first time I have grown brussel sprouts.

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Mid-day in a zucchini blossom.  Bees and cucumber beetle find a resting place.  The rain delivered a few zucchini.  I almost pulled the plant out of the ground, but decided to see if I can get a few more zucchini to grow.

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Spider web in hicksii yew.  There are spiders and spider webs all over the garden now.  There are also more grasshoppers, cicadas, and I saw a beautiful orange and brown butterfly this afternoon.  I have not seen any caterpillars, despite the fact that my butterfly weed is blooming again.

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This pokeweed plant appeared in my grassy meadow.  I am not sure if it came from the wild seeds I got from the nature conservancy or if a bird planted it.  Looking online some people love this native plant because it has berries that the birds love and it is somewhat attractive.  Others hate this plant because it has a deep tap root and it is hard to eradicate from the garden once it settles in.  Readers, do you have any opinion on pokeweed?

Morning adventure:  Yesterday morning Dan and I decided to take our coffee outside and we went to sit on a bench at Lake Katherine at about 7:30 am.  We noticed that people were fishing and fishing is prohibited there, so we realized that this was a special fishing tournament.  It was really fun to watch.  One young guy near us, maybe 14 years old, caught a bass that was 3 pounds 11 ounces.  He was very excited.  It all seemed to be catch-and-release fishing.  We left after a while and did not see who won the tournament.


This is the time of year when I try to keep up with the vegetables.  New vegetables are arriving every day.  I need to harvest at least every other day to keep up with them.

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I came home late Wednesday evening and ran out to harvest before sunset.  Half the leaf lettuce is for the salad that I bring to work each day, and half for Phil, in case he wants to make a smoothie.  I went into the neighbor’s yard, since he did not seem to be around, and picked a bowl of yummy raspberries, before they just fell on the ground.  There were a few peas and beans to pick, too.

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“Green Arrow’ peas.  Just a few peas to pick now and then.  I think they are just about finished now that it is warmer.

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‘Climbing French” pole beans.  These beans are not always easy to spot, but you have to catch them before they get huge and tough, though this variety has been pretty tender this year.  I made a mistake, though, and planted these beans not far from a very aggressive tomato plant.  I think both vines will be fighting it out over the next month!

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“Hungarian Heart’ heirloom tomato.  This is the aggressive tomato plant I ordered from seed savers exchange.  It will take a while for this to ripen….

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Collards.  I bought a nine-pack at Wal-Mart and seven of the plants survived.  Here you can see three big plants.  This is the first time we have grown collard.  You just keep picking outside leaves from the bottom and new ones grow from the top.  You might be able to see a very sick looking, bug-eaten eggplant in the back.  We did get two or three eggplant fruits off it.  Also on the left one of the cucumbers is starting to grow and you can see some curly kale leaves.  I only used small tomato support hoops for the cucumbers this year, so I have trouble coming, as the cucumbers are already beyond the tops of the supports!

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Leaf of Russian kale.  We have three big Russian kale plants.  I don’t like them as much as the curly kale – winterbor, but I am sure they are full of vitamins.

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Yellow bell peppers.  These peppers are still green but would turn yellow if I left them.  I usually pick some of the early ones, when the plant is still small, and leave later peppers to yellow in the fall when the pepper plants are bigger.

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The mulberry tree is still going, and in fact seems to be at its peak now.  The birds love it and we see a variety of birds visiting.  I usually pick some either for my oatmeal in the morning or in the evening to eat with a few raspberries and a little ice cream!

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I took a break from this blog to harvest vegetables for Dan to cook, and came across my first praying mantis, here hiding in an old spinach plant.  He jumped away to try to camouflage himself in the blades of grass in the lawn.  There are a number of interesting bugs doing multiplying activities in the garden now, so its good to have a number of predator bugs and birds around to keep them in check.

Seen in the garden:  the first bunny in a few years.  I only saw one, but our bunny fence has gotten a little sloppy and needs to be tied up.  I also heard a short cat fight in our yard under the heavy shade of the shrubs and grasses.  The cats should keep the bunnies in check even if they decimate our other biodiversity – birds, toads, snakes, mice, etc.

Cooking:  Dan has been cooking a huge batch of vegetables on Sunday for his work lunches.  He mixes the vegetables with rice and beans for a healthy meal.

This week I have been busy planting seed for beans, cucumbers and zucchini.  I also bought small vegetable plants at the nursery and got them in the ground.  I bought eggplant, mustard greens, brussel sprouts,  kale, yellow crookneck squash, basil, thyme, and maybe something else.  I like to try a lot of different things and see what grows well.  While I worked I was enjoying the blossoming trees.

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American Plum Tree Blossoms.  There were just a few blossoms on the trees, but they have beautiful intricate detail.

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Amelanchier Laevis – Allegheny Serviceberry Blossoms.  This serviceberry has been in the yard for four years and is a native shrub I bought at Possibility Place.  The small berries in June are very tasty if I get them before the birds.

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Pollinator on Serviceberry blossoms.  With bees having such a hard time due to pesticides and mono-cultures without flowers, such as lawns or a corn field, it is important for them to have flowers all season, from early spring to late fall for them to gather nectar from.

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My lawn has a lot of violets, which I do not mind at all, and I am sure they keep some pollinators happy.

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I have put daffodils in almost every blog post this spring.  Different colors just keep opening up!  A bee would be attracted to check out the trumpet of this coral colored flower.

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In order to fit in all the vegetables I want this year I have been planting them in between flowers and in every spot I can find.  I bought four eggplants this year.  This one is a Japanese variety called “Ichiban.”  It’s a very tasty variety and will hopefully withstand the advance of the daylilies  that will surround it.

Green smoothies:  Buying organic greens can get expensive.  Now we are starting to have more greens to put in from the garden.  We have kale, from last year’s stalks, although they are trying to flower now.  We are starting to eat romaine and we threw in some dandelion greens today, which are certainly easy to come by!  Of course when you mix in blueberries, bananas, dates, and cocoa powder, any greens taste pretty good.

August Rain Relief

August 5, 2012

Yesterday the rain started pouring between the time I left the back door until I got to the car door.  I was soaked but the garden was refreshed.  Today the sky was so blue as I lay on the lawn chair and looked at the puffy white clouds float by.

We had an inch and a half of rain!  I love the yellow heliopsis summer sun in the background….

Raindrops on leaves of lady’s mantle – Alchemilla.

Raindrops on daisy leaves.  I have been having trouble with my camera for a while when I try to focus on small things, like raindrops or bugs.  It might just be me, but I might try getting a different camera…

Again, I had trouble focusing, but here is a japanese beetle.  This is the first year that we have really seen many japanese beetles in our yard.  They are most attracted to the pole bean leaves, canna leaves and here to the serviceberry bush.  I wonder which of the predators in the garden will be interested in eating them.

Between watering and rain we have a lot of cucumbers coming!  The other vegetables looks good, too, with little disease at this point.  Some of the grass is starting to green up again, also.

Food treat this week:  We boiled up our one cob of corn and split it four ways!

Showy Edibles

July 20, 2012

We finally had rain Wednesday night and that helps the vegetables grow again.  Even though it is still very dry in the yard these plants work hard to produce beautiful fruits.

Eggplant flower.  Dan and I cooked up a big eggplant this week with olive oil, tomatoes and peppers and ate it on rice.

After the rain the tomatoes were starting to crack, so I picked the first yellow tomatoes and they were really sweet and delicious.

Heirloom pepper – ‘Round of Hungary.”  Because of its small size this pepper ripens more quickly than the big bell peppers.  I am growing bell peppers also, but I like these little peppers!

We have a lot of kale in the garden this year. We have eight curly kale plants, like the plant to the left of the path that looks like a big spider or crab.  We also have one dinosaur kale plant, just in front of the curly kale in the picture.  On the right is the bean pole, which should have beans soon, if it doesn’t already.  I noticed that the pole tipped over slightly from the thunderstorm the other night, but I set it up straight again. Behind the kale you might be able to see the tall cucumber vine.  It is right next to the cherry tomato and those vines will be fighting it out over the next months, but I am pretty sure that the tomato will be the last one standing.

Dan is working on increasing his vegetable consumption, so I made him a big salad today with cucumber, tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, and spinach.  (not all from the garden….)

Looks like we have one corn cob coming.  Maybe more in a few weeks….

I love the design, color, texture and smell of these common sage leaves.

Dan and I had the day off so we went and explored at the Morton Arboretum.  We have a Chinquapin Oak in our backyard, so we found a lot of Chinquapin Oaks to see what ours will look like one day.  We also explored this path in the woods around Sterling Pond.

First Fruits

July 1, 2012

We have had near drought conditions, but since Thursday we have had three quarters of an inch of rain, which has really helped.  I also watered the vegetable garden with the drip hose twice.  Now I can start to enjoy the produce!

Cucumber blossom.  There are lots of blossoms today, so I had better get ready for the bounty.  So far I have eaten cucumber in my lunch salads this past week and prepared cucumber slices for the family today.  But we will soon have to eat it more quickly or give it away.  I also saw the first zucchini blossom today.

Grown from organic cucumber seed.  “Marketmore Cucumber”

Bean pole teepee.  The agressive vines have reached the top of the poles, and down below they will crawl over everything if I don’t watch out.  In time I will start to see blossoms and then beans. On the left you can see sage, kale and yarrow.  On the right, onions and romaine lettuce that is starting to bolt.

First wax beans.  I grow a Burpee mix of bush beans:  Blue Lake, Royal Burgundy and Super Wax.  These are seeds I bought three years ago and I am still using them up.

Blossom for the royal burgandy bush bean.

Forbidden Fruit:  The neighbor’s raspberries that he never picks.  If I can reach them I eat them….

I am successfully growing eggplant for the first time.  I am growing two types and the Japanese “ichiban” produced fruit first.  After they grew a little bigger than this picture I had them for supper last night, sauteed in olive oil with tomato and garlic.

Seen in the yard this week:  The chipmunk has definitely become more brave.  I wonder if it is living in the hostas.  This is another addition to the wild life in the yard.  I also ran across the snake in the compost pile again last weekend…  Will that keep down the mice population?  Other than that the dry weather has kept the insects down.

June Close Ups

June 17, 2012

It finally rained last night!!  This morning I cut back, pruned, dead-headed and harvested around the yard.  This evening I bought some tomoto cages for the cucumber plants that grow quickly once it rains.  The funnest part of gardening is wandering around taking pictures, but I got a few bug bites doing that today…  I love the art, wonder and surprises in the garden.

Maybe the rain brought out the first sweet pea flowers.  Stephanie’s birthday flower for April.

The first cornflower blooms.  I ordered these annuals online and now when I looked this up it is also called Bachelor Buttons, I think.


Heliopsis Summer Sun – This is a “false sunflower” perennial I planted recently and has started to bloom next to the lavender flowers in the back – Wonder of Staffa Aster.  They are both bent over from the rain.  I suppose I need to stake them.

It is time for daisies!  I always try to pull them up each year, but they seem to come back with a cheery smile.  I like them until they fall over on top of other plants, but this year I tied them up, so we will see how long that lasts.

A moth rests on coreopsis moonbeam.

Knee high before the fourth of July.

Curly cue cucumber tendril latches on to wire cage, while above, a flower starts to stretch into a becoming a cucumber.

Cooking adventure:  We have a lot of kale and I understand that it has more vitamins than most other vegetables, so I am trying to find good recipes to get the family to eat it.  Today we cooked sauteed kale and new potatoes from the garden topped with cheese.  Also in the recipe from the garden were an onion and some basil.  After sauteing with olive oil I added chicken broth and steamed it for about 30 minutes, which is what it needed to sweeten up the kale.  Enjoyed by all!

Food Adventures

June 10, 2012

I enjoy trying new fruits and vegetables in the garden.  I just want to see if they will grow without too much work and if I will enjoy eating the item.

This morning, when making our blueberry, banana, lettuce shake, I went out to the garden to see what I could find to add.  Here are strawberries, juneberries, raspberries and mulberries, fresh picked.  Not so many strawberries left with this dry weather.  The birds are eating the Juneberries (Serviceberry)  so I wanted to get some before they are gone.  The raspberries belong to the neighbor, but they were hanging over into our yard…..

Juneberries on bush.  Amelanchier Laevis – Allegheny Serviceberry.

The kale needs to be eaten before it gets too big.  Maybe I can cook some soup…

I ordered sweet potatoes through the mail.  I have four or five mounds around the yard.  I hope they produce sweet potatoes!

Cucumbers taking off.  Also getting going are tomatoes, beans, peas, beets, sweet corn and potatoes.

Prairie Verbena.  I planted this about a month ago and it seems to be happy and starting to bloom!  In the top left are nasturtiums that I have planted as annuals all over the yard this year.

Watering Week

May 19, 2012

Last weekend I planted a lot of small vegetables and seeds, so I have been watering every day this week to get the seeds to sprout.  Hopefully they will not need much water once they get established.  So far some cucumber and bean seeds have sprouted, but I am still waiting for the nasturtium seeds to sprout.  Today it was 90 degrees, but the weather may cool down some this week.

The irises opened about 10 days ago.  They are so showy to look at from the kitchen window!  I will need to divide them and move some of them or give them away….

I love it when the first foxgloves bloom.  The bees love it, too.  Maybe I can even attract a hummingbird.

In March I moved the big catmint out of this bed to a place where it would have more room to spread out without flopping on the lawn or shading the other plants.  That left a hole and I put a few small plants in, which will take a while to fill in.  I could always throw in a few annuals this year if needed.  Everything is growing well at this point!

A closer look at Blue Hill Salvia and a geranium.  The moonbeam coreoposis on the left looks like it is getting overpowered by the salvia.  The daisies, back right, will be coming soon.

Funky onion showing off!   You can see a few beans that have just sprouted on either side of it.  My neighbor told me he had some left over mulch from last year, and then he gave me five bags, which I put down this morning in the vegetable garden after getting the little weeds up. Behind the fence on the left is a cherry tomoto, cucumbers, kale and my mint patch.  Right behind the onion is a patch of potatoes.  I guess I left some potatoes in the ground last year without knowing it and got a new batch this year. Also on the right is some swiss chard that came back on its own after the winter.  The yellow yarrow is so pretty.  Pictures of that next time.

Looking back at the garden from the other side…  I put up my bean poles for the climbing beans.  They are starting to sprout, too.  On the left are beets, pak choi, more kale and fennel.  Not shown in these pictures is all the leaf lettuce!  I have so much I really have to be diligent to keep eating it every day to keep it coming.  Also, I am starting to eat the first strawberries.  YUM!

A close up of common sage flowers.  I managed to capture the bumble bee on the left.

Dan’s favorite thing in the garden is definitely our Chinquapin oak tree.  He says the branches have grown up and out about a foot this spring.  There is still not a lot of shade, but significantly more each year.

Still waiting for bluebirds this year!  I do have baby sparrows in one of our bird houses.

Spring is a busy time in the garden and I feel like I am just starting to catch up.  Last week we pruned some shrubs that were overgrown.  I have pinched back the plants that could grow very tall and tip over.  I have been staking or tying up some of them, as well.  Then there is the weeding.  I wanted to get rid of the weeds before putting down the mulch and the weeds had been a little out of hand.  But now I should be ready to reap the harvest and enjoy the beauty.

Yarrow.  I did not realize how tall these would get.  They block the view of the bird bath, but luckily I tied them up a month ago, so they did not fall all over the lawn in the recent strong rains.

You can see another bunch of yarrow starting to bloom in the vegetable garden.

The foxgloves self-seed in the garden.  Each spring I move some of the plants into partial shade, but leave one that is easy to see from the kitchen window.

I finally weeded and mulched the vegetable garden.  On the left are the potatoes.  I have no idea when I should pull them up!  Next is a small eggplant with a cicada shell on it.  The red stemmed plants are swiss chard.  In the front, the cucumber is just getting started and in the back the zucchini plants are starting to spread out.

We are just keeping ahead of the slugs on the strawberries.  This weekend I made some rhubarb and strawberry sauce and also ate a lot of strawberries and cream.

This bee finds a sheltered resting place on the viburnum during the rain.  This year we seem to have so few pollinators compared to last year.  I noticed the neighbor spraying chemicals, so that may have decimated some of them.

Sightings in the garden today:  bluebird; medium sized toad; very small snake skin!