Our Winter Wonderland

Gazing out the window the garden is painted in a delicate display of white beauty.  The tree branches hang heavy with snow and the contrast of light and dark emphasize the detail of each limb.  The garden is asleep for the winter anticipating the spring to come.  In our home we have begun planning and dreaming of what this year may bring!

Our new seed catalogs have arrived in the mail with pictures of beautiful heirloom varieties of vegetables, herbs and flowers!  I must admit that I always want to try a variety of vegetables but I have to remember that I only have so much room in the garden. Its hard to pick just 1 or 2 varieties of squash when I would love to try them all.
This last year we welcomed a new addition to our family and I took a small break from writing in the fall and early winter.  However, I am excited to start up this year with new information and lessons learned!  The beautiful part of gardening is that each year you start over again and I never tire of being part of the process.

 1. Share my heart: I started this blog to share the ways that God has moved in our lives through starting our garden and the ways he has used the garden to teach us amazing lessons.  
2. Involve the kids: with two little ones my goals are to find ways to involve them in the process. This year I am going to be dedicating some posts to this topic! 

3. Garden Tours: Sharing knowledge from friends, family and other garden enthusiasts! I am going to continue my posts showing a variety of gardens.

Journey along with us in 2015!


Choosing Heirloom Seeds

Its a very exciting time of the year at our house!  Our seed catalogs have arrived and its time to plan our garden for 2015.  In past years I have bought seeds at stores, and ordered a few from catalogs.  This year we have decided to revamp our process and buy all Heirloom seeds.  Why are we choosing to go this route?

1. Ability to save seed  
You can replant heirloom seeds (open pollinated) that you have saved from the previous year's crop because the plant remains stable in its characteristics. This is different from hybrids (which have been cross pollinated).  If you save hybrid seed you never know what you are going to get! 

2. Greater Flavor 
Most heirloom varieties have a richer flavor (especially tomatoes).

3. Seeds with history & stories 
Typically these seeds are pre-WWII or at least 50 years old.  They have been passed down from generations and I love that our children can learn these stories.  A beautiful way to bring life and knowledge to your garden.  

4. Variety  
Not only do you get greater flavor but an amazing selection in size, color, taste and culture.  Why not grow a white eggplant or a purple tomato?  At the same time you will discover a beautiful range in the plants you harvest. 
5. Discovery  
The plants you harvest will vary in fruit size, and timing of harvest.  Unlike a hybrid plant that produces fruit that is similar in size and has a predicable harvest time.

First I started by looking at the seeds we didn't use from last year (below) and started a list of what we would like to grow this year!  The next step is to make sure we are rotating our crops from the last couple years........


How to Attract Birds

I walked out to the garden tonight and was able to get close to the Yellow Finches that were picking away at the Italian Sunflowers! So beautiful.  They are acrobatic hanging upside down and eating sunflowers (their favorite).

Birds are an important part of a healthy garden.  They eat insects that are pests and simply need: shelter, cover, water and food.  You can add elements to your garden to make sure you have your own bird haven.
American Goldfinches- Female (left) Male (right)
This year we cleared out the back right corner of our yard and added a small flower bed (on the far right of the picture below).
Garden on July 28th
The new addition of the small flower bed has been the perfect solution to an unsightly area.  It also allowed us to create an environment to attract birds.  We moved one of our birdbaths to this location and also added a small birdhouse. This corner is also shaded so it provides an escape from the heat of the garden.
Birdhouse & Birdbath- under the tree in the shade
UPDATE ON RAISED BEDS IN GARDEN: The pictures below show the progress in the garden.  Around mid-August the garden will be close to final production.  However, right now things are still growing!
BED #1- Parsley, Asparagus & Summer Squash
BED #2- Zucchini, Onions, Tomatoes, & Okra (removed Cucumber vines today due to disease)
CENTER BED: Herbs, Marigolds, Tomato & Peppers
BED #3- Zucchini, Green Beans, Peppers & Cucumbers (removed Cucumber vines today due to disease)
BED #4- Pumpkins, Onions & Summer Squash (previously had lettuce)

Harvest Totals July 28th

August is going to be very busy for us so I wanted to make sure to post an update on the garden before things become hectic!  Although this has been a very cool and wet summer we have still had success in the garden.  Some plants have struggled (tomatoes, cucumbers and onions) but overall things have gone well.   
 From the fruit of their lips people are filled with good things, and the work of their hands brings them reward.  Proverbs 12:14 
Below are some harvest totals up to this point: 
Flowers in full bloom
I have loved looking out at the flowers which border either side of the garden gate.  This year I tried new types of Sunflowers and Zinnias and I love picking some of the flowers to bring indoors in arrangements. The textures and colors "pop" when they are up close and inside.

This year I have had the same pests and issues as last year (sad to say).  However, I haven't been able to get out into the garden everyday to try and prevent problems so I am half to blame.  I also discovered that the Asparagus Beetles overwintered in the soil so I couldn't have prevented them from coming back.  Cucumber Beetles have wilted the vines on the Cucumbers again and I find them to be very challenging pests to eliminate.
Ladybug (a beneficial insect!)
The Squash Vine Borer (SVB) has attacked again this year. So far I have noticed that only 1 Zucchini plant has been affected.  I noticed a sawdust like substance which is called "frass" around the base of the stem.  At that point the plant is infested with the larva and they are eating the inside of the stem.  I pulled up the plant and split the stem to find the pests munching away!  Then it was time to throw the plant and pests in the trash. 
Squash Vine Borer Larva
Despite the pests this year has still been a wonderful year in the garden.  There are 3 more Zucchini plants that are producing!  The Summer Squash are also happy and so far we have picked 3 colanders full of green beans.  There are 9 Tomato plants in BED #2 that have lots of green tomatoes!  We have been harvesting the red tomatoes on the deck and okra.  The harvesting is far from over.
I have especially loved the Sunflowers this year and so have the yellow finches!  The one below almost appears to be artificial but its real!