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Garden Update – August Bonanza

Early morning in the garden is my favorite time to stroll the boxes looking for what treasures are to be found…you are welcome to view some images from the last week.  Above hangs my new birdfeeder, a gift from my husband and my gift to my backyard birds. They love this new feeder and I love that it is larger than  my last one so that means less times filling it each week.

Sunflowers and morning glories are the in the main box this year and they seem to like living together. The vines creep up the poles as well as the sunflower stalks and each morning I have a new blue flower waiting for me to enjoy.

This is the Mailbox Mix from Renee’s Garden and her heirloom collection. This is a winner in my yard!

The zucchini box is full of gorgeous plants and squash this year. We planted Renee’s Garden Tricolor Mix so we have dark green, light green, and yellow squash to enjoy just about every day.

Our tomatoes are starting to produce lovely red fruit and just a few at a time so we can enjoy them in our sandwiches and salads. Tonight…bruschetta!

Our fig tree has another crop of figs to pick. I am not a fig lover but I share with my friends and family that are…they love me for sharing.

Our pear tree has just a handful of pears this year but they are beautiful to look at and hopefully tasty to eat. Our apple tree dropped its apples last month which was weird. My sister said hers did the same thing.

I love the bright orange squash flowers and apparently so do the bees in my yard.

More squash to come!

My dad and I have both found that our green beans are not producing even though we have blossoms. My dad called Renee’s Garden customer service to see if they had some tips on getting our plants to set fruit. They suggested we add some fish fertilizer which I had on the shelf. I mixed up a couple batches and fertilized all my veggies in the garden so we shall see if it helps.

Someone had emailed me asked what I use in my garden for fertilizer so here is a photo of the bottle.

This is my dad’s flower garden which I am envious of. His lantana and dahlias are amazing! Up above he has his fenced in veggie garden which is producing lots of okra, corn, zucchini, eggplant, strawberries, and peppers. I have been helping him a bit in the garden since he had a fall last week and was not moving around too well. What a joy to help him in his garden.

These are just a few of his sunflowers which are Chocolate Cherry variety from Renee’s Garden.

I better stop there…so many garden delights this time of year to share with you. Until next week and the Tuesday Garden Party.

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Garden Update – Beans, Berries, and Assorted Other Edibles

We went camping in Oregon for a week and while we were gone our garden decided to spring into life. I have it all on an automatic drip system so we knew it would be nicely watered in our absence. There were some surprises for us when we got back.

Our green beans have all started climbing their poles and I am afraid that I over-planted this veggie. We love green beans and I may need to learn how to preserve them so they don’t go to waste.

The tomato decided to really grow! It looks super healthy and I can hardly wait for the fruits to appear and ripen…then it will truly feel like summer.

The squash has come alive as well. The plants have green luscious leaves and seem to like the box I chose for them this year.

My patio tomatoes look fantastic…they are from Renee’s Garden in their Container Kitchen Garden Collection.

The Pots of Gold Chard (from Renee’s Garden Container Kitchen Garden collection) looks great too and I hope it is not going to get too hot for it before we harvest. I may pick some smaller leaves and add them to some soup.

The blackberries are thick with fruit this year. We had to trim the vines back because they were beginning to take over their little space over in the front corner garden. We had lots of berry treats in Oregon and it whetted my appetite for our own blackberries that will ripen next month. Then I will have blue stained fingers most mornings as I make my round of the garden, nibbling the delicious sweet berries.

There are lots of flower seedlings in my fence garden and I will share those as they mature and bloom. I can hardly stand the wait. The sunflowers are up tall and look like they will burst open with huge flower heads any day! That is always a fun time as they all start to blossom and the bees and butterflies arrive to enjoy them too.

Is your garden growing like mine?

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Planning a Garden and Watching it Grow

6 27 11 Garden Potted Hydrangeas

So as I walked through my garden this week I realized that having a garden is like watching an awakening of a new life. When we plant a seed, we know in our head that it will produce a particular kind of plant. After a period of time we know that it will grow into a flower or veggie. But have you stopped lately to consider just why it does that? That life comes from somewhere…it is not mere mechanics. I choose to give all the glory to the Master Gardener in heaven. Here are some of His creations that have come to life in my yard.

6 27 11 Sage

Sometimes I choose a plant because of its color, sometimes its fragrance, and sometimes its texture. My new Sage has it all…another bee loving plant in our remodeled frontyard. I love this plant and I hope it continues to grow right where it is in the middle of my walk-way plantings.

6 27 11 Red Hot Poker

This plant is Mr. A’s favorite and he asked if we could add it to the front yard when we were planning the new beds. This Red Hot Poker is a favorite of the hummingbirds. I actually thought it was dead this past winter because it didn’t look at all like it had any life left in it but here it is….glorious. You can see my English Lavender in the background as it is bursting with blossoms and bees.

6 27 11 Grapes on the Vine

Our grapes coming along strong. In fact, we had to cut them back already because they were overwhelming the corner of the garden where we sit in their shade. We have a couple varieties planted but I am pretty sure these are the Thompson seedless…good eating grapes.

6 27 11 Garden Sunflowers

Sunflowers by the dozens are all starting to form in our bee garden. Wake up sunflowers!

6 27 11 Tomatoes

Tomatoes are green but hold the promise of being sweet juicy morsels soon.

6 27 11 Pumpkins!

Pumpkins in the Three Sisters Garden are growing by the minute. We had a few days of hot hot weather and they loved it. I am thrilled they are looking so great!

6 27 11 Coneflowers

We have coneflowers that are almost taller than I am this year.I think the buds are almost as pretty as the flowers but the bees are waiting on the real thing.

6 27 11 Green Beans on the Pole
Our pole beans are holding on tight and climbing towards the summer sky. I swear I put the poles in and the next day they were already half way up….I need to do a time lapse. My morning glories are doing the same thing out in the other garden.

6 27 11 Butterfly Bush Purple

The Butterfly bush is going to be in full bloom soon. We planted three new bushes this year and I love the graceful way they grow. I am not a tidy gardener so it is fine with me that they sort of grow as they wish. My garden this year is by far the most free-flowing of all gardens. I decided it is more fun not to try to control everything.

6 27 11 Garden Hydrangeas

One last hydrangea image….especially for my hydrangea loving friend Tricia.

Hope you enjoyed your stroll through our gardens this week. We had two inches of rain last night so I am glad that I got out and took the photos a few days ago. We never get that much rain in June so it continues to be an unusual year here in Northern California.

Jami’s Tuesday Garden Party meme is open from Tuesday to Thursday so there is still time for you to jump in and participate!

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Cat watching the hornworm 9 28 10

What is she looking at? We could not figure it out for a day or two. Then….

Hornworm 9 28 10

We took a closer look.

Hornworm measuring 9 28 10

We could not believe the size of this tobacco hornworm.We at first thought it was the tomato hornworm but after investigation decided it is the tobacco hornworm which also eats tomato plants.

The birds ate a few of them and we picked off the rest. I love it when a new and interesting nature study subject comes our way unexpectedly.

I like the way it looks like their little feet are holding onto the branch. My son was fascinated with their mouths. Another great subject for our nature journals.

If you would like to know more about hornworms, you can read in the Handbook of Nature Study in the section on the hummingbird or sphinx moths (Lesson 75).

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Garden Goodies-Full Disclosure

My husband read my last garden post and was a little disappointed that I did not share some more of the successes we have had from our yard.

So, here are some photos of the things we have enjoyed.

Carrots from the garden
We had a few carrots hidden in the flower garden. I don’t remember planting them but there they were when I went to do my weeding. Bonus!

We have been having fresh bruschetta with tomatoes and basil from the garden. I love it with pita chips.

Tomato Plant
Our tomatoes are slow going this year but there have been a few to enjoy with the promise of more to come.

Cherry Tomatoes
These have been good performers from the deck container garden. I really wish I liked cherry tomatoes more but my husband eats them like candy.

The blackberries are coming regularly now and every time I do the watering I eat a handful. I mixed these in with some peaches and made a blackberry/peach cobbler….talk about yum.

Okay now my husband will be happy. He also says to say that we have had figs by the bagful from our tree, so many we have had to share them with our neighbors. There are a few apples, loads of purple plums, seedless grapes, and a full crop of walnuts to come later in the season.

I also remembered that we already dried oregano and dill from the garden. We also have had quite a few onions and I am ready to pull up another round this week to dry and store in the pantry.

He is going to keep me completely honest…thanks honey.

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Tomatoes: Our Outdoor Hour Challenge

Outdoor Hour Challenge Crop Plants Tomato @handbookofnaturestudy

We have been enjoying fresh tomatoes from our garden for quite some time now. There just is no comparison between homegrown and store bought tomatoes. I actually don’t like the store bought ones very much. It wasn’t until I grew my own tomatoes that I learned what a tomato really should taste like.

We did a bit of research into various kinds of tomatoes. There is a farm near our home that grows a variety of heirloom tomatoes that are amazing in color and shape. We are inspired to give a few a try next year. Does anyone have any experience with a particular variety? Source for seeds?

We completed our study with a few tomatoes from the garden, closely observing the seeds and flesh of the tomato.

The notebook page was filled out and filed away in the nature notebook.

But as usual, most of our time was spent outdoors in the garden looking at the plants, blossoms, and ripening tomatoes. There are quite a few blossoms on each of our two remaining tomato plants. The weather is still pretty hot and I think we have a good chance of having tomatoes at least until the end of the month.

We noted the smell of the tomato plant when you rub it and how it makes most of us itchy after working in the garden. This year is the first time we have pruned our tomato plants as they grew and it seems to have helped in two areas. First, we seem to have larger tomatoes and secondly, the plants don’t bend and break so much.

We use a wire tomato cage around each plant to help support the branches but before trimming, the branches still try to get really long and scrawny. We trim those off as they start to stick out over the path.

Tomatoes are a great crop to grow in your garden. If you didn’t get a chance this year, make sure to plan to grow a few in your yard next spring and summer. You will not be disappointed.


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Outdoor Hour Challenge: Crop Plants-Tomato

Outdoor Hour Challenge
Crop Plants #7


Inside Preparation Work
We have come to the last of our crop plant challenges. This week we will be observing tomatoes. Since there is no section in the Handbook of Nature Study for the tomato, I found a couple of things that will help you share information with your children. You might like to read the article and watch the video in preparation for this challenge.

1. Read pages 20-21 “Gardening and Nature Study”.
This small section will remind you of the value of keeping a garden or at least a small box or container with a few plants to observe.

2. Make sure to get fresh tomatoes to observe during your follow-up time. The ideal way would be to pick them from your own garden but buying them at the grocery or at your local farmers market will work just as well. If you can, have on hand two different kinds of tomatoes to compare during your follow-up time: cherry tomato, plum tomato, beefsteak tomato, green tomato, or different heirloom varieties.

Outdoor Time 3. Make sure to spend 10-15 minutes outdoors in your backyard or a near-by park. If you have tomatoes or other crop plants growing in your garden, make sure to spend some time observing the plants, insects, birds, or other living things that visit from time to time. Collect a few leaves or flowers to put in your press and then in your nature journal. You might check on your seasonal tree to see if it has changed since your last observation.

Follow-Up Activity
4. Take a few minutes to talk about anything your child found outside that was interesting.
Use the Handbook of Nature study, previous challenges, or local field guides to learn more information. Give you child a chance to express in their own words something they experienced outdoors.

5. If you have a real tomato to observe and taste, you can make a journal entry to record a sketch or thoughts about the tomato. (If you purchased the Crop Plants notebook pages, you will have a page to record your observations.)

Here are some journal ideas to get you started:

  • If your tomato has a stem and leaf, make sure to sketch those in your journal.
  • Measure the size of your tomato with a measuring tape.
  • Compare different tomatoes.
  • Cut your tomato crosswise and observe the seed pattern.
  • Describe the texture of the tomato skin and the inside flesh of the tomato.
  • Take time to observe the smell of the tomato and record your description.
  • Remove some seeds and compare them to other seeds you have studied during the crop plant challenges. (size, shape, location, color, texture)
  • Make a watercolor painting of your tomato or just its cross-section.

Crop Plants Notebook Page Cover Button
New for this series of challenges are custom made notebook pages for each crop plant we will study. I have designed simple to use pages that will complement each challenge and will be an easy way to start a nature journal. Each of the eight notebook pages is in full color, but they are just as great in black and white.


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Garden Nature Study – Crop Plants Notebook Pages

Crop Plants Notebook Pages – Companion to the Crop Plants Challenges

Crop Plants Notebook Page Cover Button
Custom made notebook pages for each crop plant challenge. I have designed simple to use pages that will complement each challenge and will be an easy way to start a nature journal. Each of the eight notebook pages is in full color, but they are just as great in black and white. View a  SAMPLE

List of Crop Plant Challenge in the Ebook:
Crop Plants – Clover
Crop Plants – Beans
Crop Plants – Corn
Crop Plants – Cotton
Crop Plants – Strawberries
Crop Plants – Pumpkins
Crop Plants – Tomatoes