In Full Bloom

I have been a bit behind in taking pictures!  The following is a comparison of May 14th compared to June 14th.  Its amazing how fast things change in the garden.  Check out the pictures below and see for yourself.
From back to front: Peas, Eggplant, Peppers and Zucchini

 From back to front: Peas, Green Beans, Peas (Bush)
 From back to front: Garlic, Onions, Herbs
From back to front: Okra, Kale, Spinach, Lettuce

Finally harvested all the Peas and cleaned out the old pea vines on June 15th!



Simply for the joy in seeing them grow

The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun scorched land and will strengthen your frame.  You will be like a spring whose waters never fail.  
Isaiah 58:11 

Honestly its been a very challenging year and I have not been able to dedicate the same amount of time and attention to the garden as years past.  The amazing part is despite my lack of ability to keep up the garden is still flourishing. All the praise goes to God for those details!  

This is my favorite time of the year and I love to see the seeds we planted start to grow!  I always find it incredible that I am able to be a part of this process. 

Its still early and in the next couple of weeks (before May 15th) we will be finishing our planting.  Inside I still have eggplant, coleus, inpatients and snapdragons that I need to harden off so they can be planted outside.  


Peas growing vertically
We planted our peas on March 17th then planted the Kale (started indoors), Spinach and Lettuce on April 12th.  I simplified things and only started a few seeds indoors. 
Peppers & Tomatoes (peas in background)

I ordered peppers and tomatoes online and they arrived today! I was able to plant them outside because they are under our winter row covers. Check out one of my past posts if you are interested in using row covers

Bush Peas 

Herbs, Onions & Garlic
Lettuce, Spinach, & Kale
This is our first year growing Kale.  My goal is to try another planting in the fall.
I was able to catch a beautiful sunset on camera and am looking forward to seeing another one this summer. Until the next post enjoy digging in the dirt!


Gardening 101: Soil Preparation

There is one thing that is the most important step for a healthy garden.  It is your soil.  For beginning gardeners it tends to be something that is overlooked.  (I say this from personal experience my first year gardening).  

I want to take the complexity out of understanding your soil and help you improve it quickly and simply this spring!

Understanding your soil:  Your soil is the source of  nutrients giving life to your plants.  Healthy soil is alive and full of microorganisms and bacteria.  It has enough air space between the soil for water, air and plant roots to enter and it holds moisture and nutrients so that plants absorb them.  
The best soil will have 3% to 10% of organic matter.  Organic matter holds water and nutrients then releases it to your plants.  If you are working with your existing soil you will have either clay soil, sandy soil or loamy soil.  

1. Loamy soil is the ideal type to have (and rare).  It holds moisture and nutrients so that plant roots are able to absorb them.   

2. Clayey soil makes it hard for air, water and plant roots to be absorbed.  It dries slowly and drains poorly.  

3. Sandy soil allows air and plant roots to grow but also allows water to pass through rapidly.  It doesn't hold nutrients or moisture for long.
Two different ways to create your own compost: A compost tumbler and a simple chicken wire bin.
Whichever type of soil you have here is the secret: add organic matter (compost) to your soil and it will make a significant difference! 

Organic Matter: Compost is the most basic of all things you can add to your soil and the most beneficial.  It enriches your soil and allows nutrients to be provided to your plants for a long period of time.  It also provides the ability for the soil to hold moisture which is an outstanding attribute.  Another great benefit: When you use compost on your garden you won't need to use any other natural fertilizers!  
 You can use manure on your beneficial flower beds as long as you don't plan on eating any of your plants in them!
Application: Once a year in the spring apply a 1/3" or 1/2" layer of compost to your soil and mix it in with a shovel or rototiller.  

NOTE: Compost (organic matter from once living things) is different than manure (animal waste).  Don't use manure on your garden it can release ammonia which badly injures plants.  It can also harbor human pathogens.  Also E.coli can live in manure that is not composted for 21 months!

Read this post for Our Favorite Soil Mix (from SFGM)


Gardening 101: Plant Layout

The simple way to plan your garden layout is to pick up a pencil and paper and start drawing!  That's it.  You don't need a computer program, an app, or special sketching skills.  Those things are tools that you can use, but that are not required.  

The image above shows our layout using the Basic Crop Rotation layout I wrote about last week titled Gardening 101: Crop Rotation. If you missed this post I recommend reading it first before continuing this one. This post shows you how to space your garden and finalize your plan in six easy steps using the SFGM (Square Foot Gardening Method). 

STEP 1: Draw the outline of your garden.  
I will draw one of our 4 x 8 size raised beds for example. 
Typically if this is your first year gardening I would recommend starting with a 4 x 4 raised bed. 

Vertical Frames at the end of the raised beds

Also all plants that vine (cucumbers, peas, squash, vine beans and vine tomatoes) are grown using a vertical frame at the end of the raised bed (which saves a tremendous amount of space).  Add a vertical frame at the north end of your raised bed. Here is a link to my other post on Building A Vertical Frame for a Raised Bed

Drawing outline of garden


Gardening 101: Crop Rotation

It depends on where you live but at our house the snow is falling!  All this time inside with cold weather reminds me that very soon the snow will be melting and spring will arrive. Its hard to believe that its already March which means its time to plan the garden.  This simple  series:Gardening 101 should give you the basics you need to start a successful garden this year.
This my advice to prevent bacterial, fungal, soil quality issues and pest problems in 2015: Rotate your crops!  In simple terms that means: change the planting location of your vegetables each year.  More specifically avoid planting a crop in the same plant group in the same area each gardening season. Basically keep moving things around from year to year.
Bacterial and fungal diseases can overwinter in your soil!
STEP 1: Categorize your plants into 4 GROUPS
 1. Legumes: Beans, Peas, Peanuts, Cover Crops
 2. Leaf/ Flower: Lettuce, Spinach, Broccoli, Cabbage 
3. Fruiting: Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Peppers, Eggplant, Squash, Melons, Potatoes, Corn
4. Roots: Onions, Garlic, Carrots, Turnips, Beets, Radishes

STEP 2:  Get out some paper and draw the outline of your garden.  Plant a different plant group (family) in each bed. NOTE: If you only have 1 bed you can simply divide it into 4 sections and then rotate the sections every year.

STEP 3: Draw your garden plan for the next 3 to 4 years. Rotate your plants based on the progression below:
Legumes ---> Leaf ---> Fruiting ---> Root
                 (nitrogen fixing)       (both are nitrogen fixing)            (breaks up soil)
         (like loose soil) 
STEP 4: Save your crop rotation plan in a place you can find it for the following year!  The next step is to layout the specific plants within each group. (Look for my next post to learn about planning your specific layouts)

NOTE: If you want to use a more advanced crop rotation system you can group plants based on their botanical family instead of these 4 groups.  But I like to try and keep things simple!  That way we have time to enjoy moments like these....because time is precious!


Simple Healthy Smoothie

This is one of our favorite morning or afternoon snacks in our house.  I love that it includes greens and fruit along with almond milk for added calcium. Its an easy way to get our toddler to drink some veggies!

1 Banana
1 cup Frozen berries
1/2 cup Greens (Spinach, Kale or a mixture of greens)
2 cups (approx.) Almond milk (you can use regular milk)
*you can add a spoonful of Sorbet if wanted
We use the NutriBullet to mix ours but you can also use a blender. 

 STEP 1: Add the greens 
STEP 2: Add the banana and berries (sorbet if wanted)
STEP 3: Add the milk

STEP 4: Blend then drink! 


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........