Friday, April 30, 2010

Quick-Growing Heirloom Veggies

I've had the great fortune of raising a daughter who never needed prompting to eat all of her vegetables.

Other Moms were amazed by this since they spent half the dinner hour coaxing their own children to do the same.

What's the secret? Home grown. I do believe that even the pickiest eaters will enjoy the downright delectable flavor of sun-kissed, vine-ripened, fresh-picked vegetables.

They taste nothing like those veggies you buy at the supermarket.

Time & Sunshine
Recently I've seen all sorts of commercials on what you must do to grow great veggies. Spoiler Alert: If you've been here before you probably know that I'm far too jaded... That said, I wanted to offer up my own how-to advice on growing your own produce.

1) Place seeds in soil. 2) Water. And, there you have it. Give them time and sunshine and they'll take care of the rest. Easy peasy. Oh! And, speaking of peas... they improve the nitrogen in your soil ~ a big help for mountain gardeners.

Not too pretty but the carrots don't care. Storage containers make great, deep planters for veggies. (Add drainage holes in the bottom.)

How much time?
How about fresh lettuce in 4 short weeks? Mountain growing seasons are very short so we mountain gardeners need to get creative. If you've not heard of these goodies you're not alone, but most every vegetable has a quick-growing cousin that reaches harvest in short order and tastes terrific.

Quick-Growing Heirloom Veggies that do well in mountain gardens:
  • Bountiful Bush Bean - this easy-growing small vine bean reaches maturity in about 51 days. (Heirloom)
  • Bull Nose Sweet Bell Pepper - a crisp, crunchy bell pepper bursting with delicious, earthy flavor. Matures in about 60 days. (Heirloom)
  • Red Cored Chantenay Carrots - a sweet, tender variety, ready to harvest in 70 short days. (Heirloom)
  • Four Seasons Head Lettuce - as beautiful as it is delicious, with colorful, reddish brown leaves. Matures in 45-55 days. (Heirloom)
  • Brandywine Tomato - this yummy Amish heirloom has a neat habit of producing tomatoes that mature at different times, on the same vine, throughout the season. (80 days, Heirloom)
  • Cocozelle Bush Zucchini - has a fresh, nutty flavor that is particularly delicious when roasted on the grill. Matures in 55 days. (Heirloom)
Pretty much any deep container is great for growing veggies.

Boring but Helpful:
  • When buying seeds, or seedlings, check the 'days to maturity' on the seed packet or planting guide. Harvest days are measured from transplant time. Allow an extra 10-15 days, if planting by seed.
  • Heirlooms are available in most vegetable varieties, not just tomatoes. These goodies are easier to grow and infinitely more flavorful than grocery store 'fresh' produce.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Showers and Flowers

Do you grow Primrose? Let me rephrase that. Do you kill Primrose? :) No need to confess to such crimes. I'm just hoping you have a sordid past like me, the notorious Primrose serial killer.

Unable to resist these cute potted plants, I'd bring them home and try to grow them in a hot, sunny window. Where they would quickly curl up and die.


It took me years to figure out that Primrose is not an annual. She's a zone 3 perennial, regularly abused by the local grocery stores who sell her in all her glory and don't much care what happens to her after that. Truth is... she simply adores the cold, wet weather we've been having.

As do many of the other spring flowers who burst into bloom after our recent rains.


Meet the other 'serial killer.' (Like Mother, like kitty!) It's a wonder young Cat Mint ever makes it to maturity with Buddy prowling around...

Some Daffs weathered the winds better than others.

Every spring I'm again confounded... I know I planted them but I cannot remember who they are:

Such joy. Spring has officially arrived in my mountain gardens.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Break in the Action

This drenching rain is the perfect opportunity for me to do... 
absolutely nothing.

More Advil, please. These first weeks of cleaning my garden beds are exposing the awful truth. This gal was far too sedentary over the long and dreary winter. Which is why I jumped for joy when I woke to a day that demanded I stay indoors.

Indoors, micromini roses have re-bloomed, though I barely had time to notice.

Spent the morning coddling my indoor roses who are bracing themselves for a full season of neglect. The instant that first Crocus bloomed, outside, I turned my back on what was happening inside.

That is, until this rainy day...

It came from outer space... Well, actually, it came from Hawaii but Mars sounds much more exciting. Hard to imagine that soon this ugly duckling will become a drop dead gorgeous Plumeria.

Christmas in April is in full swing. Every year, I lecture the Poinsettia ~ why such a rebel? Why not put on this colorful show in December? If she listens at all, it's in one leaf and out the other...

Crazy Edna, my ancient Christmas Cactus, continues with her marathon performance. She began flowering mid-November and is still going strong. Though I believe I have finally figured out why. I moved her to a high traffic spot in the hallway. Every time I walk past her, I empty out the last of my green tea into her container. Hmmm... do you suppose those antioxidants are making her feel young again?

Outdoors, high winds batter the garden. April showers, in the form of heavy, wet snow ~ a predictable, yet tiresome, necessity.
Remarkable, isn't it? Their happy perseverance? The way early spring flowers laugh off the nastiest of weather. These dainty darlings could teach me a thing or two...

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

"Less CNN. More Mozart."

I've felt obligated to post about Earth Day yet I could not think of a single important thing to say about the subject that hasn't been said a bazillion times before. Plus, I'm so very weary of guilt trips and bad news.

Then ~ kismet being what it is ~ I found this thoughtful video while visiting  Symphony.
Bingo. (I said to myself) Isn't this is a lovely mantra? Simply striving to be major kind.

* And now for another shameless plug to make our gardens work a little bit harder at what they were designed to do in the first place. Let's be 'major kind' to animals, too.

We're here. They're here. Nobody is going anywhere. Rather than shooing them away, perhaps we should invite them to stay? It's scary out there. Your backyard could very well be their saving grace:

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Wordless Wildflower Wednesday ~ Pasque

 For more Wordless Wednesday participants, click here!

PS: No Photoshopping (I swear!) The halo effect is natural.  Flower petals have a bit of white fuzz on the tips.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Mish Mash Monday

For those of you who don't like ugly, I thought I'd begin with a beauty shot.

Okay! Back to business...

The latest and greatest blossoms in my (mostly brown) garden are... Crocus?  Yep. The last lingering drifts of snow disappeared over the weekend and up popped a tiny crocus, celebrating her release from the filthy remnants of winter.
We raked and hoed and fertilized and mowed.
√ Installed lawn edging.
√ UN-installed a massive number of weeds.

I'm so ahead of the game that the Green Thumb [allegedly professional] Gardeners may never catch up:
Have become so enamored with my little red bird that I bought him a special treat. (I think he's smiling!)
On other matters of national importance, first Yellow Bells [wildflower: Fritallaria pudica] are now gracing the sides of our special hiking trails:
* I think Garden Faerie invented Mish Mash Mondays... but I could be wrong. If not, please help me give credit, where credit is due.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Gettin' Started

Pay no attention to the weeds in these photos. That's what I'm gettin' started on!
Sun-starved Grape Hyacinth and naturalizing Daffodils.

A 2nd day of warm weather works it's magic on the snowdrifts ~ more fall-planted bulbs make a ragged appearance. I am always amazed at how much 'growing' happens beneath those deep drifts of snow.

After the melt, it's kind of like me on a beach in February (sorry, didn't mean to scare you with that vision.) At first, new growth is sun-starved and pale, then over-exposed, and finally shows off a healthy glow.

Fact or Fiction? Aspen Trees can be started from their cotton-like spring seeds.

While most find this debatable, for me, early spring is the prettiest time in the garden. When my muddy brown landscape is filled with colorful possibilities.

I tippy toe around the flower beds, tugging at weeds and searching for familiar faces -- like these tiny little Lupines, who'll be 2 feet tall in no time.

Or, the early pinks of spring-blooming Euphorbia Bonfire ~ a non-bulb perennial who often beats my slacker Tulips to the party.

True or False?  Pine cones change shape. When the air is dry, the cones open up, returning to a closed shape as moisture increases.

Not everyone is delighted by the change of season. I shoveled what remains of the snow into a little pile to cheer up my winter-loving Bad Dog.

It didn't work but I know what will. As more snow melted away I discovered another familiar face! BD's favorite toy, who accidentally wintered under the apple tree:
Merle! Long time, no see!

Hot Tip:
Euphorbias are fabulous flowers for a mountain garden. They thrive on neglect, appreciate heat and drought, chase away deer and elk. Bonus: They're gorgeous early bloomers. I grow Euphorbia Ascot, Bonfire Rainbow, and Blackbird. (USDA zone 5.)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Giddy in the Garden

Slept through two, [two!] alarms this morning after my first glorious day of playing in the mud. 

Do you have micro-climates? They're a big deal in this mountain garden, with spring arriving a full month earlier in the hot spots. I suppose that's because intense mountain sunshine bakes the big rocks ~ which serve as a natural space heater, keeping seedlings warm long after the sun goes down.

My cooler (full sun) gardens still hold die hard drifts of snow, taking their sweet time as they melt into memory.

This being the 15th, it is Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day but I just don't have enough pretty things to participate. So, pop over to Carol's and see what's cooking in kinder climates! :)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Horse Troughs and Sky High Veggies

 Sun Stars shine happily in a sunny window, waiting for the a-okay to go outdoors.

The wind blows hard, sending wispy clouds sprinting across the sky. A big storm is tormenting California, heading this way. I pray it is much ado about nothing. Hope the storm pummels the high Sierras and runs out of steam long before it reaches my short, squat Wasatch Mountains.

Happy Tulips keep me company indoors during this very trying month.

April is a teasing month. Warm sunshine, frisky ponies, tiny green sprouts peek up through the mud, declaring a change of season. Nurseries are loaded with brightly blooming flowers. Inspiring near constant repetition of the mountain spring mantra: "Watch and wait."

In April, I'm allowed to visit the local nursery every day if I'm so inclined. While I'm there, I can admire, drool, dream, plan. But, I cannot buy. Still too cold for planting.

This sunny deck, even in winter, gets so warm plants can sit outdoors in the afternoons. It's the sight of my latest big idea: a high in the sky container veggie garden.

This is the month I do the icky stuff. Like beg the local horse stables to bring me a truckload of that oh, so, fabulous free fertilizer. Bribe 'em a bit so they'll spread it around and save me some backbreaking labor.

Paint the troughs. Prepare the soil. Whoa. Paint the troughs?

Oh, yeah! On a visit to the stables, I came up with a big idea. I spotted a few horse troughs, removed from service because they leak. Six feet long, three feet deep... it took me 0.25 seconds to exclaim:  Hey!

Since my planting containers need good drainage, this is picture perfect re-purposing. The old horse troughs will make a delightful container garden on my 2nd story deck - south facing, hot as all get out. AKA Hell's Patio.

√ Cool, mountain nights can mess with tender veggies. We mountain gardeners can improve the odds by growing veggies in deck containers ~ container soils stay warmer, encouraging a better harvest.

* Oh! And, as long as I'm yakking about veggies... please promise you won't fall for the latest Miracle Gro t.v. commercial claiming it's quite all right to use their chemical fertilizers in your veggie garden. IMHO it is not quite all right to poison anyone. Especially yourself. Miracle Gro, and other chemical fertilizers, are banned from certified organic gardening. But, then, you already knew that, didn't you?

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Oh, Deer...

"Is it even possible to keep deer from gobbling the garden?"
Allium, Catnip, Chives... There are lots of perennials and annuals that smell terrible to deer. But, a couple of flowers are rarely enough to send them elsewhere. At our place, mass plantings do the trick.

I was awakened before dawn by the noisiest of neighbors.

The Sandhill Cranes are back ~ bugling up a storm ~ with little regard for the lazy human who happens to live next door.  [In the mood to share my pain? Click here and listen to their song.]
Sandhill Cranes are BIG - too big, if you ask me - 4 feet tall and very noisy. Bad Dog prefers to keep a safe distance. Me, too! When I see these cranes walking across the meadow they remind me of hungry velociraptors in that movie, Jurassic Park.

Watching them out the window, this morning, got me thinking about how every gardener has a wildlife problem of some kind. I suppose the most unpopular pest is deer.

Poppies, poppies and more poppies! Our deer hate poppies so I plant them everywhere. These three are guarding cherry tomatoes in the background.

Strange, but true: I never see deer in my gardens ~ odd since I live across the road from a huge nature preserve where deer, elk and other garden gobblers come and go all year long.

Marigolds, Lavender and Sage encourage deer to walk on by.

Boatloads of Daffodils send deer elsewhere, long before irresistible goodies start to sprout.

Six Hills Giant Cat Mint makes a pretty flowering hedge, though our deer disagree. 
They can't stand the fragrance.

I think that's because I plant dense strips of Six Hills Giant Cat Mint and other truly horrible-smelling flowers (from a deer's perspective) around the perimeter of my yard. One whiff and they decide to visit my neighbors, instead.

So there you have it! Hot tips for keeping deer out of the garden.

PS: I certainly hope you don't consider this free advice. No, no... now it's your turn! How do I get rid of those #!#%! sandhill cranes?