Gardening

I’m so excited to be thinking about this years garden.

starting seeds

We live in the city and don’t have a huge backyard. On top of that, we have a 14 ft. trampoline and a 16 ft. pool. Once we get both of those crammed in, there isn’t a huge amount of space, but there’s enough for some container gardening.

new boxes for this year

In past summers, I’ve been able to grow and harvest over 200 lbs of veggies from my small backyard. I think that’s pretty impressive considering the size of our yard. I do a lot of “growing up” as opposed to sprawling.

I love eating what we grow, but I think I love the whole process, even more. I love growing food and flowers from seeds. I love growing plants together to enhance their yield. I love going out each morning and watering the plants while sipping my coffee. I love watching the bees come buzzing about to fertilize my plants. I love the smell of the dirt. I love watching my garden start out so barren and stark, become a huge green fertile space, overflowing with flowers and greens and veggies.

Our yard looks pretty rough right now, but I can’t wait for summer. The planning and prep that we put in now is so worth it.

It’s like life. If you put in the effort and energy to plan good things, to dig out the harmful things that choke out life, to plant good seeds. Nurture them and you will see a harvest. Do nothing and the weeds take over and don’t allow for good things to be produced.

I’m so very thankful to be starting work on our garden and to be able to continue to work on my own life. So I can reap and harvest good things.

What are you thankful for?

Urban Farming………Part 4

I love watching the different plants springing into life. Back in May, I was late getting my garden going and I remember looking at the bare earth and wondering how long it would take to start growing and filling in.

The extremely dry and hot summer that we’ve had has certainly been good for the garden, but it definitely requires hand watering, which can be tedious and definitely takes time. Most days, I’m quite happy to go out and water, but some days I’m just too tired…..but its still necessary.

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I keep trying to find fun and interesting ways to utilize the limited space that I’ve got. Last year, I had planters up on top of the white privacy fence, but I found that it was difficult to water them….so i didn’t bother putting anything up there this year. This is the second year that I’ve grown cucumbers from the stairs and through the railing…..You can see that there is a bucket of herbs on the bottom step heading up my deck.

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There is a mix of parsley, sage, garlic chives and rosemary. I have a few smaller containers of mixed herbs throughout my garden. I like the way they look and that I can grab a handful of herbs, to use, from one place. Then I have a bucket of cucumbers every other step up to the deck.

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The cucumbers grow out and through the railing making it easy to harvest, and the row of green looks really pretty too.

Instead of growing a basket of flowers, I planted cherry tomatoes in a hanging basket and hung that from the hook on my deck. I like that I can just go out and pop a few delicious warm red cherry tomatoes in my mouth……..so yummy!

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This year, Jon built a makeshift ledge that fits securely around my deck and I’ve been able to free up some space on the deck. I grew 3 varieties of red lettuce in a small rectangular planter and it’s so convenient to have it ready and mostly clean when I want to make a salad. I think it looks really pretty too.

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I’ve tried to stagger the growing cycles in my garden so that I have a continuous stream of different veggies. Having the ledge on the deck also makes it easy to plant new plants and to be able to keep an eye on them. I find that it’s easy to see when the baby plants need water. It’s easier to see when they are looking a little wilted and even easier to just bring a glass of water out to dump on them. Here is some more salad greens that are about 2 weeks old. They will be start to fill out and be ready to eat within the next 2 weeks. YUM!

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I think that anyone could grow some herbs and a container or two of salad greens, just about anywhere……its not difficult and the taste is amazing! There is something so fun about planting, watering and harvesting. Just because you don’t have the traditional garden space…if you are interested in growing veggies and fruits, find creative ways to grow around your place. Whether it’s on a deck, or at a front door, or in hanging baskets……there are so many creative spaces that can be filled with fresh produce.

Do you have an unconventional garden space? I’d love to hear about it and see pics.

Urban Farming…part 3

This year, I started keeping a record of what I’m harvesting. As of Wednesday, the total was at 39 pounds. Just for reference, I started keeping track of what I was harvesting on July 3rd. Anything we harvested before then hasn’t been included and we definitely harvested lettuce and other salad greens, strawberries, peas and varied herbs.

We have approx 40 feet of width to our back yard and an average of 12 feet between the back fence and the back of our house. It’s not a huge space, but I’m definetely looking for creative ways to get the most amount of food from the smallest amount of space and for the least amount of financial investment.

I haven’t crunched the numbers as far as specific fruits and veggies, but as I was skimming the internet today, I realized that I should be looking at the organic veggie/food and herb prices as opposed to the typical ones….because that what this stuff is. Home grown with lots of love and water, and this years incredible sunshine.

Although last year, my beans seemed to be the big bounty winners…..the incredible heat has not been kind to my bean plants and I’ve gotten WAY LESS than last year, BUT…..the tomatoe plants have been LOVING the heat and are definitely going to be this year’s big winners. Which I’m not upset about, at all.

In the “center” portion of my garden, which looks like this……

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….you can see where the greenhouse is, in the top left corner. In the bottom left corner, you can see the tomatoe forrest, and the yellow containers with the hot pepper plants in them. The small red container is Judah’s and has a tiny tomatoe plant, an habenero and some garlic chives….just because he wanted to. And I LOVE encouraging my kids to be apart of this endeavor and to help foster their interest in gardening and eating the veggies.

Just above the Tomatoe Forrest, you can see some orange flowers, those are Cosmos – which look like this….

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…..and they are planted in a Langley Township Recycling Bin (I had WAY TOO MANY) along with 2 MORE Tomatoe plants….also scrounged from the existing plants. Right beside them is another Langley Township Recycling Bin (Hey! Use what you’ve got available) with TWO HUGE Zucchini plants…

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Today I harvested a Zucchini that was almost 2 pounds…YAY!

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If you look back at the very first photo, to the right of the greenhouse, you can see my pumpkin plants completely covering my fence. I have 4 pumpkin plants growing vertically up and along my fence. Here is one of the pumpkins that is growing…I think we have 6 different ones in varying sizes, at this exact moment…

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They will “orange up” as they get closer to being ready to harvest.

Next to the Pumpkins, is our little corn patch.

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I actually grew corn last year in a large container and even though I started WAY late in the season, we still got enough for each of our family to have a piece. This year, I started much earlier and moved them to a patch of ground. We have 9-12 plants growing….I think and the cobs are starting to fill out.

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My kids love going out and checking on the different veggies to see where they are at and to see what’s ready at any given time.

If you look in the picture with the full stalks of corn, you can see the leaves from my 4 summer squash plants (in 2 containers) to the left of the corn. You can also see the tops of the bush beans in the bottom right of that same picture. I staggered the planting of 3 containers of bush beans, and I also planted more bush beans in the bottom of the corn patch. While I had an over abundance of beans last summer, this year, I’ve gotten enough for meals, but not any to put away….which is sad. Hopefully, the temps cool a little and I still get a decent harvest to freeze a bunch. It was so nice to be able to just go to the freezer and pull out beans instead of buying them.

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If you go back again to the top photo, to the right of the small corn patch, I have a section of Hubbard Squash…..it looks sort of like this….

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It is also 4 plants that I’m growing vertically up my fence. I got the seeds from my momma, who got them from my Aunty Judy. Apparently, these squash make the best pumpkin pie and I’m looking forward to making Squash Soup and Pie from these beautiful Green Squash…

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Next to and nestled in amongst, I have 4 Canteloupe Plants, also from my Momma, through my Aunty Judy…..

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They are in two containers that I’ve situated on top of each other with the help of an old wooden chair that is mostly unsafe to be sitting on.

I was kind of surprised to have these actually grow and to see an actual cantaloupe. I know I shouldn’t be be, with my whole “plant it and water it” philosophy….but I was..

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I have a few flowers tucked here and there and further down I have a row of strawberry plants, but they aren’t doing much at this exact moment, so I didn’t take a good picture of them. if you really wanted to look…in the picture of the Hubbard squash, they are on the far right side, under the hanging basket of flowers.

Well, That about does it for the center section, so I’ll try and wrap up the fourth and final section in the next post.

If you’ve read this far, THANK YOU for visiting my little patch of heaven. I hope you’ve enjoyed it even half as much as I do.

Urban Farming…..part 2

I love the idea of growing my own food. I love the idea of being self sufficient. In a dream world, I would live in the middle of nowhere with huge property and animals and grow everything and be self sustaining…..and, it’s a lovely dream, but not really my reality.

And in all honesty, our last move nearly destroyed the tenuous grip that I have on reality and I have no intentions of moving again, until I “HAVE TO”…..

And so then, I do the best I can with what I have.

Gardening or farming seems to be my blood….we have generations going back on both sides of my family that were incredible gardeners or farmers….and I think that one of my relatives worked in Queen Victoria’s Gardens…..or something like that. I don’t remember the exact details, but I remember how cool I thought it was when I saw the picture and heard the story…now I wish I had paid more attention.

My parents had a HUGE flower garden when I was growing up, but not veggies…..Although now, they have a HUGE veggie garden on my sister’s acreage.

When we were living in Abbotsford, in the early 2000’s, I started a garden in my backyard. The first year it was incredible but the next few years were busy and stressful and it was never quite as amazing as that first year.

We moved from Abbotsford to Langley and bought a townhome and there was really no place to garden. But when we bought our current place, even though the yard was smaller than I had hoped….I was so excited to be able to garden again.

I started researching container gardening and square foot gardening and came across vertical gardening….and well, here I am.

This is our third summer here and my garden is the biggest it’s ever been and I have visions of even greater harvest for next year (much to Jon’s dismay because I keep enroaching on the sacred yard space).

I’m all about using space creatively and beautifully. I love to mix flowers in with my veggies and fruit. I LOVE seeing the space start as a dry and dirty space and becoming a lush green oasis.

In the last post, I was talking about my triangle shaped garden area….I managed to share what was inside of that space, and I’d like to share about the outside of that space now.

Last year, I got 4 tires and planted potatoes inside of one and as soon as it overgrew the first tire, I stacked a second and then a third and a fourth….We managed to get 6 pounds of potatoes from that stack of tires, and I’m sure I could have gotten more, but I stacked the tires and planted some bulbs in them….you can see a glimpse of the tires in the left side of this picture….but there are about 10 lavender plants that I grew from seed last year in this one pot. I desperately need to rehome them to different places around my garden because I’m sure they are nice and root bound now….But I’m looking forward to lots of lavender over the next few years.

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To the right of the lavender are some baby Echinacea plants, that are being cuddled by the chives in a neighboring pot. Herbs for cooking and for medicinal purposes is a passion of mine and so I keep adding different herbs as I find them….I was ever so excited to be stung by a Stinging Nettle in my garden as I poked around last year. I repotted the baby plant and it’s grown nicely and I’ve been able to dry some for tea…..I love that I was able to obtain a plant for free that I have been purchasing dried to use for tea; and to be able to dry it and store it for myself. I’m saving money and I know where and how it was grown and how it was dried. That’s a win/win, as far as I’m concerned.

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To the right of the Echinecea and chives, is a container with Rhubarb in it. I just transplanted the Rhubarb this year from my front yard. It wasn’t too happy in its prior space but apparently being knocked around and dumped out of the container twice before actually settling in was exactly what is needed. It has sprung out of control. I have some amazing memories of eating Rhubarb from my Aunty Ruth’s house and dipping it in sugar. After the Rhubarb settled and started thriving, I was surprised to find both a nasturtium and a tomatoe plant growing in the pot. Both are carryover’s from last years garden when the plants reseeded themselves. It’s always fun to see what shows up where.

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Right next to the Rhubarb, is a narrow planter that I brought from our town house. It has Spearmint from my Mother-in-law, next to some lily bulbs and then Catmint (also known as Catnip). Cat Mint is an herb used for many different medicinal purposes, nit just for drugging your cat…..although the Cat Mint plant is typically the first place that our cat stops when we heads on down to our yard.

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If you were standing facing the Cat Mint bush, and you turned directly around, you’d see my staircase of herbs…..I originally bought 5 colored containers – red, orange, yellow, green and blue….and nailed the bottom into the stairs, but the blue one broke and has been replaced with the lovely grey one, on the bottom step. Starting from the top, in the red container I have Sage, then Parsley, Lemon Balm, Peppermint and Chocolate mint. The two square containers on the inside of the steps also have peppermint and chocolate mint. Mostly because I don’t think you can have too much peppermint…and the chocolate mint was all root bound.

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If you turned back around towards the Cat mint bush and looked to your right, you’d see my overwhelming Tomatoe Forrest. I have approximately 14 tomatoe plants potted in 7 containers. Again, they are either suckers or from last years re-seed. Behind them, I have a HUGE varigated Sage plant, more Oregano, more Cosmos (a flower) and an older lavender plant.

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In the bottom right of the last picture, you can see two yellow containers. One of those containers has2 plants of HOT Chili Peppers and the other has 2 plants of Kung Pao Chili Peppers. I got a ton from my plants last year and dried them in my dehydrator and have used them over this entire last year. I still have a few left and should make it until these ones are ready for harvest. I LOVE that I haven’t had to buy any spicy Chili Pepper flakes because I grew my own…..how cool is that. An entire year’s worth, from my own backyard……YAY!

With our family of 7, we make a weekly run to the veggie market. Depending on what we need, we could spend between 50-100$. It’s crazy. I think we’ve gone 2, maybe 3 times this summer. That seems crazy to me, but it’s true…..and AMAZING!!!!

I’ll carry on with part 3 and the canter section of my yard, in the next post. Do you have any questions? I could try to answer them, if you do….although being honest, my philosophy is “Plant the seeds, Water them, and Trust it will work.” So, no big secrets here…….

Urban Farming……part 1

I’ve mentioned my garden a few times and people seem interested….or maybe I’m just assuming they are interested? It’s something I feel passionate about, and mostly I just love that I am doing something that I can see results in a somewhat of a reasonable time frame.

I’m a stay-at-home mom, caring for my 5 crazy wonderful kids, but seeing the results of that particular “labour of love” is not necessarily a short term thing.

I have quite a small backyard, but I love finding creative ways to be able to grow food and herbs for my family to enjoy and benefit from. I’d love to live on a farm – at least I think I would, but seeing as I don’t and I still want the fresh veggies, fruits, herbs and flowers….I’m doing my very best to have a “farm in the city”……sort of.

If you’re interested, I’d love to “show you around”…so to speak (or type)!

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These first three pictures are a birds-eye view of my yard, starting from left to right…..

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There is still some space that you can’t see, along the left hand side of my house and I haven’t included the front yard spaces either…

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But at least this will give you a general idea of my backyard space and the chaos that I live in.

If you look at each of the pics, you can see where they would overlap. I tried to take a panorama shot, but it just ended up all warped and I figured that if I broke it up into three pictures, I could talk about each space separately. So, I’m gonna break this post up into 3 parts or maybe even more because I’ve taken so many pics.

In the first picture, you can see the left most corner of my yard. Each fence panel is 6 feet, I think…..and we have built a small picket fence from pallets to form a triangular space. We built the fence when we had a dog because I didn’t want the dog digging in the dirt…..and well, I just think it looks cute.

In the very corner, I have a raised bed that is 7 feet long one way, 5 feet long the other way and 2 feet in width. I use the square foot gardening method (sort of) and plant my plants quite close together. It ends up producing quite a bountiful harvest in a small amount of space. It also ends up looking quite wild and overgrown, but I like the untamed chaos….makes me feel right at home and mirrors my life. Ha!

I have a small box around the ornamental cherry tree, and a 6 foot long by 2 foot wide “green house. In between the green house and the corner raised bed, I have a large rubbermaid bin.

If you start back in the far left corner and look along the picket fence….which is hard to see in the above picture….I have a bare patch of dirt, and then a short box and then a taller box. Then, there is the gate. On the other side of the gate, I have a bunch of containers. The containers are easy to move (some of them) and mean that I can have a variety of plants or space in there…as I choose.

If you go back to the left most corner on the outside of the fence…I have a bucket of lavender plants that I started from seed last year, and then a patch of dirt which has a few echinacea plants that I started from seed this year. I have a giant container of rhubarb and a narrow planter with herbs and flowers. On the other side of the gate, I have my tomato forest, another narrow planter with more herbs, two large recycling bins that I re-purposed into planters and a pea cage.

If you walked into my corner garden space and turned immediately left, you’d see this box…

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Along the back of it I have a marigold plant, 3 tomatoe plants (that were suckers that I pinched off the 8 that I bought this year) another marigold plant. Along the front of this planter box I am growing rainbow Swiss Chard. Some people eat it cooked, we eat it as part of our salads or use the large leaves for wraps instead of tortillas. I have tucked a piece of my Oregano plant into the closest right corner. It should grow like a weed, but I want as much Oregano as I can get to dry and be able to use for the rest of the year. We cook with lot of Oregano and I’d rather grow it, than buy it.

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Immediately beside this box, to it’s right is a shallow box of Dill. I love dill in our salads and as a herb, so I am using this both fresh and drying some to use over the year….I really should be planting WAY more as Dill is a herb we use a LOT of.

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To the right of the dill box, I have a patch of dirt that I just recently threw a bunch of kale seeds into and we are all looking forward to making Kale Chips. Judah asks every day if we have Kale to make Kale Chips. Silly Boy!

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In the very left most corner of the fenced garden, I have a few containers that Jeremy is using (or not really using) but I’ve left them for him to “deal with” and so there is nothing actually growing in that space. I used the lid from a large rubbermaid container to grow radishes and some small round carrots. Last year I grew lettuce and salad greens in it. But this particular photo shows one of the HUGE marigold plants that is growing in my garden. It’s taller than my 5 year old nephew. I have a few of these monster plants growing. Marigolds are good because they stink and are supposed to deter or repel bugs. They’d also attract certain insects, like bees, which are beneficial to my garden growing healthy. They haven’t flowered yet, but I’m excited to see the blooms when they do – which should be any day now.

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Behind that mammoth Marigold plant, I have some salad greens, a bucket of green chives and some cosmos….another flower……and then to the right of the Marigold is my cucumber tower of happiness.

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I have 8 cucumber plants in 2 of my “squares”. It’s probably too many plants, but they seem to be growing fabulously and I am pulling at least 1-2 cucumber’s off these plants, almost every day. Fresh cucumbers taste SO DELICIOUS! And my kids eat them as fast as I pull them off the plants.

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I have beets planted under and beside the cucumber plants, nasturtium (an edible flower) and arugula and then a whole bunch of different salad greens. If you look in the very first photo again and manage to peer behind the ornamental cherry tree in the center, you may see that I have more cucumber plants mid-way along the box at the back of the yard. Beside them, I had a patch of carrots, and some green onions, I also had radishes and then 2 squares full of tomatoe plants that are a combo of suckers and random plants that grew after my tomatoes last year went to seed.

In the center box, around the tree I have more salad greens….this particular kind is called Mizuna…pretty, isn’t it?

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I have a few kinds of Choi (pak, bok and something else that I don’t remember…)

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This is a small container of the herb, Rosemary, that I desperately need to plant in the ground but haven’t gotten around to it, yet! I LOVE Rosemary and managed to grow 4 plants from seed this year. I’m just hoping that they grow strong and hearty enough to last over the winter.

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You can see the tomatoe plants to the left of this next picture, but the main focus of this photo is my black Rubbermaid container of carrots, and more Oregano. I’m trying to propagate the herbs that I use the most so I can have TONS!!!!!! I believe that is Marjoram or Summer Savory in the small pot in the bottom right of this picture.

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Next up is my “Greenhouse”. I use it to start all my plants early in the year and because our winters are mild, I may try to grow some veggies in it over this winter. I have 8 Tomatoe plants, 2 large Basil plants, 2 Habenero Pepper plants, and 2 Marigold plants. I did have a bunch of Romaine Lettuce in there, as well, but in the heat it has bolted and so I’ve pulled it out and haven’t planted anything in it’s place.

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I bought the plants inside of this greenhouse. I have 4 Roma tomatoes and 2 Beefsteak tomatoes. They are growing far beyond what I had hoped and the size of the tomatoes are a bit overwhelming….

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These Romas are as big as my hand and I’ve had to tie up the plants twice because they are so heavy with fruit that they actually broke the twine I was using.

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The Beefsteak Tomatoes are even bigger than the Roma’s and are starting to ripen….YAY!!!

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I’m looking forward to canning all of these tomatoes and using them in sauces and soups over the next year. They are so much better than buying the canned ones, I think, anyway!

In front of the greenhouse, I have 3 more containers of varied tomatoe plants, both from suckers from the greenhouse tomatoes and yellow plum tomatoes that reseeded from last years plants. I have a container holding a blueberry bush that I bought on clearance last year. it made it through our mild winter in it’s tiny pot that it came in and I should have put it in the ground, but I wasn’t sure where I wanted it, so I just put it in a larger container. We managed to get a handful of berry’s from the tree this year and I’ll find a place for it before winter comes, this year. (Apparently, I am growing some seriously wild grass too. Need to trim things up some…but not right now.)

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Beside the blueberry bush, I have a container with a zucchini plant in it….it’s just kicking into high gear and between the 4 zucchini plants I have growing in various places in my yard….I am typically picking 1 zucchini per day. We are eating a lot of it, but what we don’t eat, I shred and freeze and we use in spaghetti sauce, soups or baking over the rest of the year. It’s a great vegetable to add in and some complain of an overabundance of zucchini, but I love that I can shred and freeze to use year round….so no complaining from me.

We’ve made our way all around the triangle garden, and the final plant, which I don’t have a picture of is a HUGE Comfrey plant, which is a great topical medicinal herb for wounds. We’ve used it fresh, and I’m also drying some to be able to make a salve.

I think I’m gonna stop there for today and maybe my next post will start on the outside of my “triangle” garden.