The Garden Grows (Again).

It’s that time again!  Time for me to pour all my hopes and dreams into my planter and herb boxes, and hope that my black thumb can make something edible come to life.  Last year, we did our first garden, and I shared updates throughout the summer as some things flourished, some things got scary bug infestations, and I learned a ton in the process.

This summer, I’m hoping to use what I learned to repeat our successes from last year while also trying a few new things for fun.  We got started back in early May – the veggie boxes were empty and the soil had been thoroughly turned by Graham, who used them as a digging pit all through the spring. 

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Somehow, my sage and parsley survived our (not very cold) winter, and were still flourishing come spring – exciting!  I guess it pays to be lazy and not clean out your plants right away. 

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Also, surviving – my two strawberry pots!  They needed a good clean-out, but the plants themselves seem to have made it, and there are tiny buds that hold the promise of berries.  Time will tell! 

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My Mother’s Day gift to myself (and from the Casey, who dragged the boys through the garden center while I took my sweet time picking things out) was a trip to Swanson’s Nursery to pick out this year’s crop of veggies. 

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I am still not confident or organized enough to start from seeds, but hopefully next year.  I didn’t get started early enough this year, and I am impatient.  But we got a great selection of organic veggies and herbs, as well as a few colorful annuals for the front porch. 

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It’s amazing to look at these pictures and think that it was a month ago and we were in flannels and jeans and sweatshirts while gardening – it’s over 80 degrees and pure sunshine today!  The boys are really excited to help this year, which makes it that much more fun for me.  We got started by filling up all the boxes and containers with compost. 

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The kids are happy about anything that involves dirt, and gardening gloves are all the rage.  Do you know how hard it is to get twenty little wiggling fingers into gloves? 

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We mixed up all the dirt to get it ready for our veggies, and cleaned out any remaining scraps from last year or weeds that have grown. 

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We started with the herb boxes, since I didn’t have a master plan yet for how to lay out the veggies themselves.  I kind of rushed into it since the kids were desperate to help, and probably didn’t plan these out as well as I should have, but oh well. 

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Box number one has sweet basil, last year’s parsley, purple Thai basil, and last year’s sage.  What on earth will I ever do with that much sage??

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Box number two from right to left is – cilantro, oregano, flat parsley, tarragon, and rosemary.  My gut told me this box was overcrowded, but again, I was kind of rushed. 

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In a separate pot, we planted two types of mint.  Last year I did the mint in the boxes with the other herbs.  It didn’t do too well and I think the roots impacted the other plants in there (since it likes to spread).  We don’t have a good spot for a perennial garden in our backyard, so I’m opting for pots for the mint for now – maybe next year we’ll look for a more permanent home.

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A few days later (May 15th), Cullen and I tackled the veggie planting after I’d had a chance to think about placement a bit more.  Last year, I planted waaaaaaay too many tomatoes.  We had so many tomatoes I was giving away grocery bags full of them to anyone who would take them, and we were eating ourselves sick.  That said, I still loved having so much gorgeous red and yellow growing in our boxes, and I was so excited that they did so well.  The dogs also feasted on them nonstop, and I eventually gave up that battle due to our excess supply.

So this year, I STILL bought a ton of tomatoes, but not quite as many.  I’m trying a few new varieties, and a mix of cherry and slicing tomatoes.  I also bought swiss chard, two types of lacinato kale (different variety from last year), salad greens, cucumbers, yellow squash, and eggplant.  I figured I start with this and see how much room I had left!

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The left box this year has the cherry tomatoes (last year they were on the right side).  I’m doing four different cherry tomatoes, but of course now I don’t actually remember anything about why I chose what I did.  I also planted the kale and swiss chard over here – these were huge failures last year, so I’m crossing my fingers they do better this summer.

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The right side box has three full sized tomato plants, in addition to the cucumbers, squash, eggplant, and lettuce greens.  I tried to pay attention to spacing needs, but it’s so hard to know how much room to leave when the plants are still so itty bitty!

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The lettuce was one thing that did pretty well last year, although we had a hard time keeping up with eating it.  I also need to learn the correct ways to prune it to keep it growing back nicely.  This year we’re doing a general “mixed greens”, butter lettuce, and some romaine.  Nothing tastes better than salad straight from the ground!

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These are the tomatoes, squash, eggplant, and cucumbers.  Not sure I left enough room here (probably not), and not sure if cucumbers need to be vining or not.  When I worked on the farm in North Carolina a million years ago, they grew cucumbers on trellis’ so we’ll see how this goes. 

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I have had a lot of help watering and watching our veggies grow bit by bit.  Cullen asks every day if we have tomatoes ready!  It’s going to feel like a long haul to August I think. 

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So how about an update from last month’s initial planting?  Here we are almost a month later, and check out how much everything has grown already!  I took these pictures this morning (June 8th), so this is 3-4 weeks of growth.  In those weeks we’ve had a ton of sunshine and a few stretches of rain – perfect for the plants.

Herb box number one has filled in a lot!  Go figure the parsley survived all winter long and then totally flowered and gave up as soon as summer came.  I’m going to pull it out and plant more basil, because I never have as much basil as I want – I feel like we use it every day!  The sage is enormous and I’m considering cutting it back – it’s out of control. 

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Box number two that I presumed was going to get crowded has done just that.  The cilantro and parsley are enormous already, pretty much swallowing up the oregano and tarragon.  But that’s okay because I don’t use those as much anyway.  Herbs on EVERYTHING!!

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I bought a few more basil, and some additional Swiss chard and BEETS to plant in the veggie boxes this week (since we have some extra space).  Excited to add to what we already have. 

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I cleaned up the strawberry pots and we have some small flowers and the promise of what looks like berries, but still no actual berries growing.  These were the first things the dogs went after last year though, so my expectations are very low. 

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The mint is absolutely enormous, and getting taller by the day.  I am adding it to every salad and dressing I can think of – hopefully some new recipes to come this summer from all this produce tasting and testing!

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As for the boxes themselves, check out all that GREEN!

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The kale and chard are doing SO well – I’m really pumped.  I want to stay on top of these so we don’t get the crazy bug infestation that we had last year.  Seriously traumatizing.  I am going to plant the extra chard and beets in the empty space up front. 

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The tomatoes have grown significantly and have lots of yellow flowers.  Every single day I tell myself it is time to get the cages out before it gets too late.  Maybe today is the day.  Maybe. 

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Box number two is overcrowded already, as predicted.  I can’t help myself – I do everything in excess. 

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The salad greens look AMAZING, and I feel like they are close to being ready to pick?  I have plans to Google research how to best take care of these later this afternoon.  Cullen loves picking leaves off and eating straight out of the garden, and it makes me so happy to see him excited about growing food together. 

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The squash plant is enormous and I’m afraid it is engulfing the eggplant – whoops.  Too late to fix now though so I’ll just wait and see what happens.  Lots and lots of teeny little squash buds though, so that is exciting.  The cucumber is bigger but I don’t see any buds or veggies developing yet – I keep checking!

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Outside of the edible plants, we got an exciting surprise from the hedge we planted last year.  This was our brand new patio at the end of last summer – with a tiny row of hebe plants along the top of the rock wall (and OMG look at those tomato plants!). 

A few weeks ago, I came out one day and noticed a teeny tiny purple flower on one of them.  I was shocked, since I had no idea these were flowering plants!  And then every day that I came outside, there were more and more gorgeous purple flowers. 

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And now the whole hedge is much bigger and so beautiful with all that purple color.  Happiness!!

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In less happy news, my spring pansy baskets have finally succumbed to this early summer heat wave we are having.  I am headed to the garden store this afternoon to search for a replacement!

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Still a lot to do and a whole lot to learn, but it is so fun trying my hand at gardening and getting the whole family involved in the process.  I’ll continue to update you guys throughout the summer!  I have some other fun non-garden related outdoor updates to share next time too.  It is the MOST wonderful time of the year – that is for sure.

What are you planting this year??  Any expert gardening tips to share?