Garden


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Just your basic salsa, made with the most fresh ingredients possible. My harvest has been pretty small thus far, but definitely delicious. I’ve done two batches of salsa thus far, and expect to have a few more in the coming weeks, though I won’t have enough to can anything. I’ve never been a fan of eating tomatoes out of hand, but I’m in in love with these tomatoes (San Marzano, I think) – so easy to seed and prep and perfect for those tomato-things I do love (sauces and salsa) – where have you been all my life?!

The blueberries have finished their run, but there’s a second (smaller) batch of strawberries on the vine. I’ve gotten two sweet peppers thus far, though it looks like there’s a few more on the way. We also cut our first bit of broccoli and the second set of lettuce is getting close to harvest. I forget that this part of the season is so robust. I guess that’s why the fall is harvest time!

What are you gathering in your garden these days?

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Tomatoes ripening on the vine

Plum Tomatoes

Rainbow of Tomatoes

Not a Bell Pepper

Highbush Blueberries

We’re far enough into the growing season now for me to discover some surprises in the garden beds due to free-wheeling labeling practices on my farmer’s market purchased plants.

For instance, in my last attempt at a veggie garden, one my my “bell peppers” turned out to be a banana pepper. This year, I once again have a fully grown “bell pepper” that is distinctly not bell shaped. Is it a hot pepper? A sweet pepper? Is it even ripe? I have no idea. Based on a preliminary search of the Johnny’s catalog, my guess is it’s a “Mellow Star” Japanese-style sweet pepper and usually eaten green, but probably not the “Yankee Bell” I thought I bought.

That beautiful rainbow of cherry tomatoes? Supposed to be a sauce/plum type called “Juliet”. My plan was to make salsa and sauce out of my tomatoes, since I’m not a big fan of eating tomatoes straight, but we’ll see. In any case, I’m going to have a lot of them!

I’m not to worried about my mystery plants though, it’s a good way to try something new, but it does make it harder to replicate if I find out I really like it!

With the exception of the broccoli, which is struggling against dual attacks from woodchucks and some insect I can’t find (probably cabbage moths), everything is growing well at this point.  I’ve been enjoying some delicious salads and pesto and best of all the blueberries are starting to ripen! We put bird netting over the bush this year, in hopes to getting to harvest more fruit than usual, fingers crossed for some blueberry muffins soon!

Perennial Bed

Kiddie Pool

The Garden

Baby Tomatoes

Kiddie Pool

Kiddie Pool

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Attack of the Woodchuck

Violets

Kiddie Pool

Kiddie Pool

Perennial Bed

Fresh Salad

After 3 years, my perennial beds have become well-enough established that I’m going to have to do some dividing and moving come fall, which means that for now, I’m blessed with a crowded bounty of flowers.

These photos are about a week behind, as we’ve all been laid low with some kind of summer virus, but the days have begun warming up and plants and the people are responding in kind. The tomatoes and peppers are dropping their blooms and starting to make their fruit. We’ve harvested our first lettuce and made the first batch of basil pesto.

LMC helped me harvest the basil leaves for the pesto, with a few tomato leaves thrown in for good measure. Picking tomato leaves is a new favorite pastime, which means that the fence is sometimes as much for the kid as the critters.

Despite my first fencing efforts, my broccoli was once again ravaged by a woodchuck, which I now know definitively as the culprit because I caught it in the act. From my brief internet research, it looks like my next step is to bury a portion of the fence.

It’s also warmed up enough to bring the kiddie pool in action, which LMC loves to play in, provided I join her and she doesn’t have to sit in the water. I think there are fewer things that bring greater joy to a toddler than moving water from one thing to another thing. As a bonus feature, when the pool isn’t full of water it makes a great dance floor!

Strawberries & Daisy Chains

Strawberries & Daisy Chains

Strawberries & Daisy Chains

Ripe Strawberry on the Vine

Sunny Day Shorts

Sunny Day Shorts

Irises

Sunny Day Shorts

Oh sweet summer, you are officially here and I waffle between trying to cram three days of activity into one weekend day and being completely lazy and just soaking it all in. Being lazy should win an awful lot more than it actually does.

I am amazed at how rapidly a garden can grow once you get your plants in. Some of my leaf lettuce is almost ready to start picking, I’ll likely be making some fresh basil pesto soon, and we’ve sampled the first sweet, sweet strawberries warm off the vine. This little girl of mine loves fruit. Any kind, all the time. So it was such a joy to see her eat that first strawberry and point at the plants looking for more and the heartbreak of having to wait another day for some more to be ripe. As these plants are young and small, I’ll be surprised if we get even two dozen berries off of them this year, but each one is worth it, so long as we can beat the critters to them.

Early last week, we had a visitor to the garden beds. My guess is either a woodchuck, which we’ve spotted in the neighborhood, or a skunk that our neighbors saw. Either way it gnawed the leaves off of three of my six broccoli plants. So it was off to the home improvement store and some quick installation of fencing. I’m using that green plastic hex mesh (chicken wire) and thus far we’ve had no additional midnight-snackers.  One of the broccolis seems to be recovering nicely, but I’ll likely have to swap out the other two. Live and learn.

In my efforts to supply LMC with some appropriate play clothes I sewed two pairs of the new Oliver + S freebie pattern, the Sunny Day Shorts. One in some Birch Fabrics Jay-Cyn fishy print I had in my stash and a second pair in some blue twill leftover from my Beignet skirt. I didn’t do anything fancy other than add top-stitching to both pairs. It’s a freebie pattern, so there’s not a lot to it and the drafting is a teensy bit off (one side of the legs seem to have a sharp point where you turn the hem, the other side is more of a curve, so it doesn’t exactly line up). Also, the rise isn’t quite long enough to cover the whole diapered bum, but for nice looking shorts that whip up quickly? They get the job done. Next up, I’ve got another t-shirt cut out and ready to go, after which I’ll probably take another selfish sewing break to try a go at making my first swimsuit. Because we just got LMC a kiddie pool and I’m gonna need something fabulous for splashing around in that! 😉

Bubble Blaster
Bubble Blaster
Rhododendron
Snuggle Time
Irises
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Steiny
Juliet
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Sand Play
Old Port Festival Parade

Old Port Festival Parade
Old Port Festival Parade

With the arrival of good weather and the Annual Old Port Festival in Portland, it’s really starting to feel like summer here. And with summer comes copious amounts of sunscreen, bug-spray and activity for the Cleaver clan.

LMC got to take in her first parade, which featured beautiful large-scale puppets from Shoestring Theatre and sampled a bit of fair food. We also visited her first farmer’s market and picked out plants to go into the new raised beds, which despite her efforts to pluck them back out have been firmly planted into their new homes.

The boxes are approximately 4 ft x 8 ft x 6 inches. We got a yard and half of loam delivered from O’Donals in Gorham, which we combined with some of our Garbage to Garden compost from last year.  We probably could have gotten away with a yard of dirt, but the leftovers will go into additional boxes we hope to have in place for planting next year.  Because, obviously two boxes aren’t gonna cut it. 🙂

As for this year’s plantings, I kept the plant list fairly similar to my first garden attempt, with the addition of lettuce:

  • Plum tomatoes for salsa and sauce (3)
  • Sweet bell peppers (2)
  • Broccoli (6)
  • Lettuce (6)
  • Basil (4)
  • Thyme (1)
  • Rosemary(1)

I think I’ll probably pick up a few more herbs (I’m thinking cilantro and maybe parsley and mint) and I also planted 4 strawberry plants around the deck in addition to our existing blueberry bush.

Growing up I lived in a house on a corner lot with a huge backyard that my parents filled with all sorts of edible plants. We had cherries, granny smith apples, boysenberries, strawberries and cherry tomatoes most of time. As a kid, my friends and I would spend our summer afternoons out there, reenacting dance routines from Newsies over the sprinkler and eating our fill of the backyard bounty. It was bliss.

Now as a grownup, I live in a house on a corner lot with a huge backyard, that I’m slowly filling with edibles, so my daughter too can eat sun-warmed fruits and veggies to her heart’s content.

Anything need persuading out there?

Gathering up her Tools

What's a Level?

Little Mechanic

Little Mechanic

Little Mechanic

Raised Garden Bed Frames

A Dog in his Domain

Raised Garden Bed Frames

We Can Do It!

We took advantage of decent weather and a long weekend to get some yard work done. Mr. Cleaver mowed the lawn, Little Miss did lawn mower maintenance (it’s electric and I’d highly recommend it), and Steinbeck keep guard. Meanwhile, I put on my best Bobby C. shirt,  pulled out the tools, and put together two very long overdue frame for raised beds.

When we first bought our home 3 1/2 years ago it came with a big above ground pool and accompanying deck. As much as I love to swim, neither Mr. Cleaver or I had any desire to maintain an above-ground pool, so in our first year of ownership we put the pool and the deck up for free on Craigslist and got someone to take them off our hands. We cut back the weeds and (mostly) leveled the soil. Then with pregnancy and new babies, I didn’t do much in the garden at all.

But this year, with a helpful little assistant to keep tract of all the hand tools, we finally got it done. At least the frame building bit. Now I just need to get some dirt, and plants – but oh to have a vegetable garden again! I so enjoyed it back when I had a community garden plot. It’s a bit late to start anything from seed, but if memory (and a blog post) serve me well, I’ve still got time to put some plants in the ground and get a decent harvest. Now to decide what to plant!

 

Ready for a Stroll

Sand Cherry in Bloom

Creeping Phlox

Ready for a Stroll

Birch and Bleeding Heart

Tulips

Tulips

Steinbeck

Bleeding Heart

Violets

Having grown up in California, and gone to college in the Oregon, I have a slew of friends who still reside in those more temperate climes. So while we still had snow on the ground, my Facebook feed was filled with West Coast photos of freshly bloomed daffodils. Now, June is in sight, the snow is but a memory and the daffodils have come and gone, but it feels as if Spring has just arrived in Maine. Suddenly the grass is green, the trees have leaves, and everything is in bloom.

In my own little garden, the sand cherry is in bloom, the violets are out, the bleeding heart has grown to massive proportions and the tulips are starting to fade.  My perennial bed, now in its third year,  is starting to fill in and I may have to start doing some dividing come fall.

Now that the weather is nicer, LMC and I have started taking a little stroll together before I head to work in the mornings, giving me a chance to scope out the neighbors yards for ideas. The phlox that’s everywhere? Totally want some of my own. That perennial bed around that birch tree? Divine!

When we first moved into our little house, I  started my flower beds with no real plan or knowledge. I got the gift of some plants from friend’s gardens, picked up a few of my own and started digging out red brick mulch, tearing out layers of landscape fabric, and plopping plants down and crossing my fingers. Three years later, between some experience and episodes of This Old House, I’m starting to learn more about this gardening thing. Or at least paying more attention. I know enough to know that moving plants is pretty easy, dark mulch makes everything look better and if something doesn’t work out you can always plant something new in its place.

It’s good to be out in the garden again.

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