Category Archives: Garden Friday

Garden Friday: Onions

I ordered onion sets this year for the first time.  The regional catalog said they would send them out at the optimal planting time… which is apparently my 2nd child’s day of birth.  So needless to say, I’ve missed the 3-week window of planting the 300+ sets as advised.  But I put them in the cold basement for a month and am now hoping for the best as I try to make progress in getting the bed ready during non-rainy naps.

Anyways, my question to you is do you plant onions?  From seed, set or what?  And what is your optimal spacing/layout in a backyard garden?


Garden Friday – A Child’s Flower Garden

Spring really is here!  And it is one wet week in the PNW.

I know I usually make this space about veggies, but I have to share something special we did in our family this week.  It is spring break here and I’ve been trying to make sure I do something special with my eldest (he is a verbal 4.5 years old) each day as we transition into a family of 4.  He came home the other day from a bike-ride with his father chattering non-stop about the flowers.  Spring around here means that many houses are lined with beautiful bulbs and other perennials right now.  Apparently, while riding (in the street – because we arethat biking family), a conversation went something like this:

Child: Look at those <insert various colors> flowers in that yard!

Father: yes, they are beautiful

Child: I have an idea!  We can ride on the sidewalk today so that I can stop and smell all the flowers.

Father:  Alright.  Let’s do it.


Child:  Papa, we need beautiful flowers at our house.

Father:  That is your mother’s domain.  Ask her when you get home.


So, when they got home, the kid was chattering about flowers and needing to plant some in our yard.  I said, great – just you and me – let’s go on Wednesday to pick some out.

And we did just that.  I took him to the locally owned nursery.  He picked the wagon, he pulled the wagon, he picked out the type of  flowers and chose the actual plants.  Luckily, I had the foresight to set an agreed amount of plants BEFORE we entered because my kid apparently has expensive tastes; he was instantly enamored with the perennials – hyacinths, daffadils, Iberis, Woodland Phlox, and Corydalis.  Who can blame him?  The hyacinths do look and smell lovely.  But he stuck to his 6 pots without complaint.  We came home, he picked the spot he wanted them to go.  (Well, actually, he wanted them against the fence line in the back yard – I talked him into doing back and front yard, helping him split the plants in order to do so.)  He picked the planting arrangement.

Now I have these cute little plants in a corner of my overgrown yard that desperately needs work.  It isn’t what I would have chosen or how I would have laid them out; I’ll probably have to move the hyacinths after this season because they are sitting north of a small fence.  But the kid is sooo excited to check on them everyday.  And every spring I’ll be reminded of my 4-year-old who wanted to stop and smell/plant the flowers.

Have your small children helped shape your garden?

Garden Friday – The first of the starts

This week, I started broccoli and boc choi starts.  I’m not sure what drove the decision: my anxiousness for spring to arrive or because I’ve been emboldened by how well my lettuce is holding up underneath a couple of panes of glass.  Either way, on Sunday afternoon, my preschooler and I sat in our sunny, south facing window and started 2 flats of a mix of broccoli and boc choi plants.  I was so impressed with the precision of his 4-year-old fingers in dropping seeds in one at a time.

The flats have been sitting in my south facing window ever since. Today I noticed them peaking through.  Once late Feburary arrives, I will like transplant them to a south facing bed that I can keep covered in plastic; by that point the frosts will be unlikely but I’ll still need warmth and protection from the sun.

Or at least that is the plan.  When do you plan on getting the spring garden started?

Garden Friday – Using Every Last Drop

As blasphemous as it is to my northeast-born husband, I do not care for maple syrup.  I grew up on the fake stuff (big working-class family in the southwest, what can I say?) and never have fallen in love with the real stuff.  Yet we eat whole grain pancakes or french toast several times a week for breakfast.  Such foods call for a syrup.  I dutifully purchase maple for the husband and the boy.  But given the price, I never really was comfortable pouring something so expensive that I didn’t love over pancakes for myself.

For a couple of years, I watered down preserves for my pancakes.  Well, I really juiced-down (we are in small child mode with apple juice a constant in our home) plum or berry preserves.  But then it occurred to me this year that thickening up the light-syrup in my home-canned peaches was another option.  I can’t claim to have grown these peaches in my garden – at least not yet – but they are local through a buying club and very yummy.

You could probably figure out on your own how to make your syrup, but I’ll tell you our process anyways.  We eat about a quart of canned peaches about every 5-7 days during the winter.  I just leave the syrup in the jar until we’ve eaten 2 jars.  This seems to equate to about a pint of liquid.  I then simmer that liquid down with an additional 1/3 cup of sugar (I only VERY lightly syrup my peaches… if you are a heavy syruper, you could skip the additional sugar) until it fits into an 8 oz jelly-jar.  This amount seems to last me about 2 weeks and then I start over again.

What do you do with the syrup in your canned fruits?  Drink it?  Toss it?  Something else?

Garden Friday – Winter Gardens with Light Freezes

Just as I have slowed in my Garden Friday feature as the temps have dropped, so has my garden.  Yet I did plant a winter garden this year and thought I would give an update.

As a reminder, I’m in the PNW, west of the Cascades.  I planted the garden around September 15th.  I had a feeling that would be a little late, but I was on vacation for the previous 3 weeks and early September is so dry here that I didn’t see the point of planting starts that would shrivel in the late summer while I was gone.  Turns out, too late.  Vacation be damned, I need to get it in no later that Sept 1st for it to be growing enough to be harvestable through the winter months.

That said, I’ve been thrilled at how well the plants are holding up to frost and light freezes. We’ve had about 2 weeks of unseasonably DRY weather which also means unseasonably cold nights – for us.  In real terms, we’ve dropped into the high 20’s about 7 times over the past 2 weeks and you would hardly know it by looking at my winter garden bed in the afternoon.  Sure, the Chinese cabbage, mustard greens, leeks, kale, and spinach look pretty sad in the morning, but after a few hours of sun, they perk right up.  I do have my mixed greens under a pane of glass – this seems to be enough protection for them too!  Even my little Myer Lemon tree is doing ok; I should say that I did move it next to the south facing wall to give it a bit more protection.

So, all in all, it looks like the garden will survive the winter.  I think it will end up taking off in the early months of spring.  So, while planting late may have resulted in a bust for the winter garden, the leafy greens are going to taste awesome come March.

How is your winter garden coming?  Or are you just eying all those lovely seed catalogs that are coming in fast and furious right now and wishing for spring?

Garden Friday – Winter Cover Crops

In the rainy Pacific Northwest, the surest way to deplete your soil is to leave it bare during the winter.  The forest naturally provides a canopy and cover of dead leaves to slow down the rain washing away vitamins and minerals; without it, you are asking for junky soil full of lots of weeds if nothing is done.

Luckily, we can grow some veggies year around.  But, if you don’t put in a winter garden, there are basically 2 options.

The first is to cover your beds with straw and leaves to slow down the runoff.

The second is to plant cover crops that can withstand the winter.  Most winter cover crops need to be planted 4 weeks before the first hard frost to have time to establish themselves.  If this is done, they will grow until the hard frosts and begin growing again in early spring.  The exception is cereal rye which can be planted right up to a frost.  So even though I just planted the last of mine this week, you still have time along the Wasatch front.

What did I plant?  Well, legumes are popular choices because they both add organic matter AND ‘fix’ their own nitrogen from the air which results in more fertile soil, especially if you turn under the plants as green manure.  At the end of September, I planted several different snap peas; if I’m lucky, they will actually produce edible peas in a few weeks before the hard frosts and then I can turn them under in early spring.  If I’m unlucky, I won’t get any food out of it this season but will improve the soil for next.

In my raised bed that is less than a year old, I inter-planted Austrian peas (also sometimes called a field pea) and cereal rye last weekend.  Again, the Austrian Pea has the benefit of legumes fixing nitrogen; it is a hardy field pea that handles winter well.  The cereal rye is super hardy and will provide some support for the pea plants while also providing soil structure stabilization/erosion control.

One thing to keep in mind while using cover crops as green manure is that you must kill the cover crop before it matures so the crop itself doesn’t turn into a weed.  In the early spring, I’ll cut down the Austrian Pea and rye, wait a week, and then turn it under after a few days of sunshine when the soil isn’t completely waterlogged.

Do you plant cover crops in your garden?  Which ones and when?


Garden Friday: Preserving the Harvest

As I alluded to in my last post, I have been pretty busy putting up the summer’s harvest. This is something I really haven’t done in several years and frankly, it doesn’t really mesh too well with an academic schedule.  But, it is what it is.

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Garden Friday – Transitioning into Fall

Hello!  If anyone is still reading, I thought I’d check in about how gardening is going.

I’m a big believer in year-round gardening as much as your climate allows; I live in the PNW in that magical place between the Cascades and the Coast, so we can do lots of it!

Before I check in about that, I thought I would reflect on how summer worked out.  Lessons from this summer included: Read more of this post

Garden Friday: Lasagna Gardening

By Idahospud

Several autumns ago I got a great deal on a bulk order of 500 Lightning Sun tulip bulbs, and I had dreams of planting them along the front of my lawn in a new bed for a spectacular spring show. I imagined drifts of shocking orange blooms marking the boundary between private and public space, and of having plenty of cut tulips to grace my house and to surprise friends with a bouquet of joyful sprays on long stems. Read more of this post

Garden Friday – Sun (Oven) Dried Tomatoes

I left town this week for a 3-week trip to the inlaws.  Of course, just as I was leaving, my tomatoes started to ripen all at once.  What to do?  I didn’t have enough to justify canning yet.  I thought about picking them and putting them in the fridge – but I’m guessing I’ll come home to a lot of tomatoes.  (Note to self, make sure you don’t plan anything on the 2nd day home because you will be canning!)  So I decided to make sun-dried tomatoes from about 2 dozen grape and roma types.

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