A Midsummer Garden

I heard the cicada’s start buzzing late last week and it seemed like it was too early for their shenanigans…but here it is the last 10 days of June!!  I am so happy (that better not jinx me) with my garden so far this year, everything is growing really well – lots of green and big plants – that I am crossing my fingers for actual production of something edible!

My peppers have started (regular bell, sweet mini bells and jalapeno’s) and I have cucumber vines that are covering up a whole box with teeny cukes every half foot or so.

cukes and peppers

cukes and peppers box

I am most proud of my Three Sisters planting! I have attempted this for at least 3 years now and every year it fails for one reason or another – mostly because my corn stalks get blown down in a particularly nasty thunderstorm.  This year I have supported each of the stalks with a metal holder and I may be reporting live from that box during a storm if I need to protect them from any harm!  I planted pea pods and pumpkins about 2 weeks ago and those are coming in nicely.

three sisters

Three Sisters Planting box

My two newest boxes that DH built are hosting tomatoes, basil and zucchini plants. As usual I didn’t prune my tomato plants enough so they are growing wild but I am supporting the branches much better this year. I’ve already had about a dozen cherry tomatoes, the other two are a Lemon Boy and a red Better Bush Hybrid. My purple basil seedlings didn’t like the transplant process but have sprouted new plants that are half green half purple!  As you may recall, my garden nemesis is the Squash Vine Borer (SVB)…I have been so vigilant watching for the moths, I actually managed to eradicate one late last week! My only ‘problem’ so far is I had about a dozen mini squashes starting but was disappointed to see them all shrivel up and fall off.  I think I have narrowed the problem to non-pollination, so each morning this week I’ve been out playing squash fertility doctor at 6am – manually pollinating the females from the males.  I would be so excited if that works!

tomatoes squash potatoes

tomato and zucchini boxes

I started a barrel of potatoes but I can’t recall if they are white ones or blue ones (!). I recently learned that these types do NOT like the super hot weather…so planting them in black trash barrels and leaving them in the full sun was not a great idea.  I didn’t want to dig them out as the plants are well over the top, but I did move them to a shadier spot.  I am also newly educated on growing sweet potatoes – they DO love the hot weather, but planting them and growing is a different process. I have slips rooting in water still so I’m quite behind on planting them, but DH located the tubs for me to plant them in so the slips that are ready will be going in this next weekend.


My asparagus plot is completely out of control (pretty sure the roots are under the fence and over into my neighbors yard 😮 (it’s that square pile behind the glads) and I decided I was going to start over next year. So after eating a few spears I cut all the ferns and have been letting this section die off.  I am going to dig it up this fall and replace it I think with a platform-like area for containers of sweet potatoes and maybe a container of asparagus which would be much more manageable.  The gladiola’s are growing great! I’m planning to create a circle around them using cement blocks on their sides, filling the holes with flowers and herbs.


And finally, my attempt at growing butternut squash and pumpkins out of hay bales and strawberries in containers on this great stair ladder that DH built me.  Neither of which are going so great!  It might be the scorching hot weather we’re having but the growth on these is…super…slow.  The bales have mushrooms growing out of them so it appears I’m doing something correct?!  I’m going to try to keep them going, but next year think I will use this patch for the butterfly wildflower mix that I grew last year – which would help with bringing some pollinators into my garden as well.


Hay Bale and container strawberries

Hopefully in a couple weeks I’ll be rolling in the veggies from my own garden, although our CSA box that we have been getting every week from a local farmer has been great so far! It is very plentiful so I admit to having trouble eating everything we get each week…I have frozen some, mostly strawberries and spring peas. This week we received some pattypan squash which I’ve never had!

Happy midsummer to you! aka: a mere 6 weeks away from Halloween decorating 😉




I didn’t spend as much time/energy on my garden this year, mostly because it was a new set up and I had way fewer plants.  For the past 4 years I had a fenced in area with large low raised boxes.  Here is a picture from my 2014 garden:


old garden set up

Looks good, right?  It always started out great, and I would patiently wait and water and wait…but as the season went on I had beautiful plants but no produce!  The dirt was only maybe 8 inches deep, and beneath that was hard concrete-like dirt.  After a couple years of frustration with the limited output, I asked DH to help with creating a new garden.  He took the fencing down and used the wood to create new taller boxes.  It was a TON of work to take the dirt from the existing boxes and move it to the new boxes (my muscles got quite the workout for a few weekends this spring).


new garden set up

I only got one of the old boxes totally moved (now the two boxes to the left), the other (to the right in the picture) pretty much stayed a big heap of dirt this summer.  In the two new boxes, I had tomatoes and basil in one and then summer squash and onions in the other.  For the first year in quite a few I had more than one beefsteak tomato – yay!  And the cherry tomato plant went crazy.  The summer squash I planted were of the crookneck variety and I did not like the taste or texture so I’ve since replanted zucchini here (which one is currently being slowly eaten by the dreaded SVB…I keep stabbing the vine with a knife in an attempt to stab the larvae …I’m hoping to get a few squash before the plant dies off!).

I grew garbage can potatoes again but while the plants looked great I did’t get quite the harvest as I did last year – I think the wildly varying scorching hot then cool and super wet weather made them unhappy.  I planted a jalapeno plant in a planter and it did quite well, next year I will ‘pretty’ up the space and have matching planters at the ends of the boxes with pepper plants.  I attempted to grow carrots in a deep planter but they didn’t do very well either and I think that’s a product of the heat waves we had – if I plant carrots again I’ll put the container on the deck where I can control the direct sun it gets.



asparagus – free range strawberries

For the other old box, I did separate out the asparagus plot, and let the strawberries grow free range (they are on their 3rd year and due to go this fall).  I attempted to grow corn and squash in the pile of dirt next to the strawberries, but not very well – my seeds were old (no telling how old Mom!!) and I wasn’t really expecting anything.  So far I have one ear of corn and one spaghetti squash trying to mature.

I tried out a trick with planting cucumbers in a bag of soil – worked out great, but my trellis set up was a bust – I had this vision of the vines climbing up over this decorative arch but there obviously wasn’t enough for the vines to grab onto.  I will try this method again next summer with a different trellis set up.  I totally let the weeds get out of control on the ground around the planter boxes…(looking at the ‘before’ pictures while writing this post I’m in shock at how bad I let the weeds get LOL)


cucumbers in a bag

I neglected my compost bin this summer, I still have some bags in the freezer with scraps I meant to put in there…perhaps this fall.  I also added a rain barrel this year, it was a very worthy addition!


rain barrel

So I would say the new boxes were a success and I’m looking forward to asking DH to build me a couple more and preparing for 2018.  Now that it’s a permanent solution, I think we’ll have some pea stone delivered to go around the boxes and make it look nicer, I’m also going to re-position the flat stones for the garbage can potatoes over by the house for more shade. I have random clusters of gladiola’s that I haphazardly planted not expecting the bulbs to live so those need to be dug up and re-homed after they stop flowering and my resident Charlotte’s go into hibernation.  I am toying with planting some cool-weather/fall veggies but considering we were wearing shorts and flip-flops at Thanksgiving last year I’m not sure when that would be haha 🙂


Winter is coming!

And not soon enough if you ask me (or Jon Snow).  Thoroughly disappointed in my garden this year – after all my hard work with the cover crop, using hay as a mulch/cover, fighting off the slugs, etc, just ugh. All for a handful of tomatoes, one spaghetti squash and well, enough cucumbers for 2 half batches of pickles so that’s a positive.  I’m currently babying my 8 or so corn stalks to possibly bear me one, JUST ONE, ear of corn.  Couldn’t resist having the DH grab the last brussel sprout and baby broccoli plants at the local home store, those are going to have to go in a container though I think.

As un-fruitful as the garden has been, it is apparently very hospitable to my “Charlottes” (aka sewing machine spiders or Argiope).  For the past few years we have had one or two pop up in mid August around the pool and in the garden and they are so cool to watch!  And huge, holy moly I’ve never seen a spider that big.  We named them both Charlotte – Pool Charlotte and Garden Charlotte – and they do their thing and then disappear, and an offspring appears again the following summer.  Well, THIS summer we have had EIGHT Charlottes!!  As of this morning I counted 7 though so someone moved out, but the rest are all hanging out in large webs strung between the shrubs, or the cucumber trellis or between the fence and the asparagus.   Strangely only two of them are really big right now, the rest are sort of medium size so will be interesting to see how big they all get and if there are any egg sacs leftbehind for the winter.  These are the two biggest(about 3″ top to bottom) they are outside the garden area:


This sneaky one made this web overnight from the fence to the asparagus ferns, I almost walked right into going to water the corn (it’s only about 3 feet off the ground):


Okay so back to my disappointment garden –  my brain started turning and hatched the garden re-do project, woo! I’ve decided to tear out the existing boxes (4 years old), take down the fence and create a whole new garden with smaller and deeper boxes.  Of course new soil too which (already crossing my fingers) will be beneficial for next years plants.  Only dilemma is moving my asparagus – next spring will be year 4, I hate to dig them up as I keep reading they don’t do as well when transplanted but they can’t stay where they are!  My strawberry plants were going into their 3rd year, I haven’t researched how well they do with transplanting so may just start over with those in a dedicated box (or one of the neato strawberry planters that I see all over Pinterest).  Off to the drawing table!

One Potato, Two Potato

Going to combine two topics in one post today – garden and coffee roundup. Coffee first, as always!   Happy to report we have used up two of the nine bags of coffee – the Jamaican Blue Mountain dark roast and Gevalia Dark Gold Roast.  This week I’m aiming to get two more down – Green Mountain Coffee Co Vermont Country Blend and New England Coffee Co Hazelnut Creme (which I’ll probably have in the afternoons as hubs isn’t a huge fan of the flavored stuff).

Now to the garden – my experiment with growing potatoes in trash cans was a success!


I likely harvested them a little early as the plants were wilted but still green, I was worried any potatoes that might be in the cans would rot as every week we are getting inches of rain.  I expected to find potatoes growing at all levels of the buried stalks…but all of these were at the bottom which was a relief to find out.  33 total potatoes, “All Blue” and “German Butterball” I’m excited to taste them tomorrow 🙂  I will definitely grow these again, they were pretty easy to take care of.  I may take a few of these, let them sprout eyes and re-plant them for fall harvesting.  Now that I am thinking ahead though, I might utilize one of the trash cans and plant pumpkin seeds…

The rest of my garden is doing great, I really think the whole cover-crop and rototilling made a huge difference. Plus the hay mulch is really keeping the soil from drying out on our 90+ degree days.  I have one spaghetti squash happily growing in size and starting to turn yellow, cucumbers are vining up my trellis and have picked 4,  jalapeno’s are showing up and the tomato plants all have at least one green tomato.  The container summer squash is doing ok, have two squash now but noticed one of the vines rotting (did I mention it has been raining inches here every week?) so pretty bummed out about that; the zucchini plant in the garden is also doing ok but certainly not where I expected it to be by now, I had to pull up the radishes as they were monstrous and going to seed but I have yet  <knock on wood>  to see the dreaded squash vine borers.  I planted a few more zucchini seeds and some corn last week, fingers crossed!

Every year I’ve lived here we have had a sewing machine spider in the yard somewhere, they are biggest spider I’ve ever seen in the wild!  Last year we had TWO! We called them  Garden Charlotte and Pool Charlotte. I don’t expect a Pool Charlotte this year as we moved the huge grass by the pool pump that she was making a home in last summer, and wasn’t sure I’d have a Garden Charlotte as I dug up the rosemary bush that she was using for her home.  Normally we don’t notice them until they are really big and obvious, but yesterday I saw TWO baby ones in my garden, yay! Of course this one in the picture was on the potato plants so I carefully cut the plant branch and placed it in the garden, the other is on the spaghetti squash vine.


Looking forward to watching them grow along with everything else in the garden 🙂

The not-so-cute-anymore bunny

After the recent “slug-fest” I was relaxing a little, preparing to do battle with the evil squash vine borers (SVB) in a few weeks. BUT. I walked out last Friday morning to find my 6″ pea plants devoured 😦 they were just starting to curl around my trellis netting and so green and vibrant! And apparently delicious. I neglected to think that the baby bunny that was born in our front yard would squeeze through the gap in the fence and get to the raised boxes. I suspect he/she also snacked on my corn shoots <sigh> thank goodness I still have time to start them over.

The potato plants have stopped flowering, so will watch for them to start wilting/yellowing as a sign to harvest those.  I am blown away by my yellow summer squash I’m growing in a container! I probably should have culled this to just one plant but they are both growing so fast how to choose?  And one teeny baby squash has started on each vine, woo!

summersquash1  summersquash

In contrast my zucchini plant which was started at the same time in the garden, is barely 4 inches tall. I am babying the one in the container though – moving it out of the sun when it gets too hot, keeping track of the soil moisture, etc.


Those are sacrificial radishes growing around the zucchini, supposed to help in keeping the SVBs away (we’ll see!).


Slugs 1, Gardener 1

The slugs may have won (?) round 1 but this Gardener has won round 2.  The cornmeal in cups worked the best, I didn’t try the beer since it continued to rain almost every day, and I did resort to putting down commercial pellets in a ring around all my new seed plantings.  So now I have beautiful sprouts – cucumbers, peas, and 3 kinds of squash – and my tomatoes and pepper plants are no longer losing leaves.  Phew! I went ahead and planted a spiral of corn in the middle of the squash hills, I have never had any luck with growing corn but I read about growing them in a spiral pattern so into the ground they went. And now that the sun is out for (fingers crossed) at least 4 days in a row I should see some rapid growth out there.

My potato-in-a-trashcan experiment appears to be going well. This is about 2 weeks after planting the seed potatoes:


And this is at 2 months:


I noticed this morning there are some blossoms coming on one of them which I hope is a good sign. I didn’t expect them to grow this fast, I thought this would be a months long project…after the blossoms fade and the plants wilt/yellow – which from the internet looks like maybe 3 weeks from now –  it’ll be time to check for taters!


Slugs. Ugh.

A week after my last post I planted my garden – two tomato, two pepper and a spaghetti squash plant which I bought and a bunch of seeds (cucumber, peas, zucchini squash, butternut squash). I also planted 5 marigolds around the peppers and tomatoes. Trying something new, I’m keeping the hay as mulch as it seems to be keeping the weeds down and the soil from drying out. Which was fabulous at first, we had some nice warm sunny weather for about 3 days…then it turned into this damp, rainy, chilly place. Since I started gardening a few years ago my biggest enemy to my garden nirvana has been stink bugs and squash vine borers (SVB), but I have discovered the weather we have been having for 2-3 weeks is apparently a perfect environment for slugs. Ugh.

Last weekend I was starting to get worried because NONE of my seeds had sprouted. Well, my radishes did but those are sacrificial to ward off the SVB. But no sprouts anywhere, and I noticed the leaves of my pepper and tomato plants had holes in them and the spaghetti squash leaves had pretty much been chomped off. And the marigolds looked like they had been beheaded.   A few of my near-ripened strawberries were also used as a snack, but I’m pretty sure that’s birds or squirrels.  Initially thinking it was a slug problem, I took my frozen crushed up egg shells and spread them around each plant.  This seems to have deterred them off my existing plants, but as I found out this morning I probably should have done this around where my seeds were because in fact my seeds did sprout, but before the little leaves could barely unfold out of the dirt they are being devoured by the slugs – checking early in the morning allowed me to see the slime trails. So war it ’tis. I’m not a huge fan of using chemicals when it can be avoided, later this morning I am off to the store for cornmeal and some cheap beer – the cornmeal I’ll put in jars on their sides around each plant, and the beer will go in a cup buried to be even with the soil around my soon-to-be-replanted seeds.

In better news my potatoes in the garbage cans are growing like crazy! Today I’ll finish filling the garbage cans to the top with soil, and crossing my fingers the drainage holes were enough to keep them from rotting with all the wet weather.

I’ll post an update on the slug-fest as soon as it stops raining… :/


Late to the garden party?

Normally I would have my garden planted by now (almost mid April). This year I am making myself wait. And then wait a little longer.  Having lived in the North (New England) for most of my adult life I get over anxious in the fact that there is no snow on the ground here in the South (Virginia Beach) in March, and throw my garden in the ground around St Patrick’s day for the past 3 years.  And then when there’s a (many) frost warning I’m out there like a mad woman covering everything and fretting about how low the temperature goes.  So I decided THIS YEAR is going to be different. My garden boxes are sitting idle with a lovely covering of hay mulch.

Well, not so idle – my asparagus came up two weeks ago and we have harvested a few spears (ooh my, soo buttery!) and the strawberry plants have blossoms.  My experiment with growing potatoes in trash cans (“All Blue” and “German Butterball”) has started off well, they have sprouted through the first few inches of soil!

I grew lettuce in a large bowl-like container last summer (“Heatwave Blend” if I recall correctly) and it did great, was super easy to go out to the deck and just snip a few leaves, so those seeds went in about a week ago. I’m trying again to grow carrots (“Kaleidoscope Mix”) in a container, last year I just had too many plants and while the tops were all nice and green and pretty, the carrots (what few there were) were only about an inch long – I was more careful about how many seeds I started this year so hopefully will just thin a few and have more success.

The most frustrating part of gardening is the evil Squash Vine Borer (SVB). Those who have experienced this little devil know what I mean!   I absolutely LOVE zucchini and yellow summer squash, I remember having them all the time from our family garden when I was growing up. And having sooooo many zucchini’s that we were trying to give them away to anyone who drove by our house.  But this SVB here is a dream killer – I have never gotten more than 2-3 squash off a plant before it dies from the SVB eating the vine. I’ve tried all kinds of tricks – last year I even wrapped the seedlings in a knee-hi nylon covered toilet paper roll. This year I’ll try aluminum foil around the base of the plant (it’s supposed to confuse them by being shiny?) and set my alarm to go out every hour and look for the wasps to try to kill them before they lay eggs. Maybe being late to the garden party this year will mean I’ll have some squash to share with my neighbors.

Next week I’ll have an update on what’s been planted 🙂