Spring Has Sprung

Ever since we moved last summer, I’ve been dying to have a garden again. Our lettuce table didn’t make the move (I’m still not sure why. And I’m still waiting on my replacement…ahem, PETER) so I have been without home grown veggies for too many months.

Now, finally after many weeks of building, stucco, planning, redoing, planting and fertilizing – the garden is growing! And it looks amazing. Every time I catch a glimpse of this space, it makes me so happy.

While this is not the true true before, it’s enough of a before for this post. Imagine no stucco and very 1970’s ugly brown cement block…

My helper was not excited for the camera. He was ready to work. And by work, I mean move dirt from one side to the other.

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Aaaaannnddd the after!!

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There are four new roses – three gifts from my mom – she hand picked not only the color but the scent. I’m so excited for the blooms. One is a Pope John Paul II white rose and the one at the nursery was amazing.

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See that little pod under the bloom? It’s a Praying Mantis pod. I’m hoping they hatch and keep the aphids away…we’ll see if it works.

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I’m a little obsessed with the obelisk. If you need one, I got these at A Rustic Garden. Good prices and fast shipping. They are making a happy home for two kinds of grape tomatoes including Sweet 100’s – my favorites. There’s also Swiss Chard and mixed greens lettuce coming up. IMG_9207

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I honestly forget how much I love Orange Blossoms. Every year, the first sniff of their scent reminds me – and it’s the most welcome memory. We will have Arizona Sweet and Valencia oranges this Thanksgiving. There’s also a small Meyer Lemon in the raised beds that will provide some shade in the summer.

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One of the lone survivors of our backyard re-landscaping was this Pomegranate tree. It was a bit neglected, but after a good trim and lots of fertilizer, it’s full of blooms. And hopefully lots of fruit too.

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Ladybug Ladybug, Welcome Home

This growing season has been a tough one for my lettuce table. Normally by Christmas we are out cutting fresh leaves for salad every day. This year the hot – cold – hot temperatures in the fall made for some rough growing. I finally got the right combination of morning sun, umbrella shade in the afternoon and a weekly hit of a 20-20-20 fertilizer and boom! Lettuce for days. Weeks. Months!

As I was cutting the first good crop, I noticed black bugs on the leaves. Like a lot of black bugs. aphids to be exact. It dawned on me later that we’ve always had a praying mantis in the garden. He (she?) reappeared sometime in the fall and apparently she (he?) was working to keep the aphid population in check. But this year he/she didn’t come back so when the mantis is away, the aphids will play.

And play those little bastards did.

I want the lettuce table to be organic so I didn’t want to spray any pesticides.  I used an insecticidal soap which is safe for humans, but allegedly the aphids don’t like it and they should leave when you spray it. I swear to God, those little assholes laughed when I sprayed it on the leaves. I saw one pretending to take a shower with the soap while he laughed with his friends. All the while eating my plants.

When I gave my mom a big bag of lettuce, I told her to make sure to wash it well to get the bugs off. “Don’t worry.” she said. ” I just serve the salad with poppy seed dressing so in case I missed any bugs, you can’t tell.”

It’s amazing I came out as normal as I did.

Anyway. I decided I couldn’t take it any more and after several phone calls to local nurseries and Google searches, I found a retailer that would ship me some ladybugs asap. Ladybugs are natural predators of aphids and they won’t hurt my lettuce. Not to mention they are adorable. Yesterday when the little ventilated box arrived, it was like Christmas. No one should get this excited about a box of bugs…and yet there I was, sprinkling ladybugs onto the leaves of the lettuce saying go! eat, my pretties! eat them all!!! while laughing manaicly.

The kids were entranced by the hard work the ladybugs were doing – within an hour of being on the leaves, they were eating to their hearts content. Gone were the sounds of those little jerks laughing. Now all we could hear was the nom nom nom sounds of the ladybug lunch.

Muuuahhhaaahhhhaahhaa!!!

So delicious. Until you notice the bugs…

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Workin’ hard!

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It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

No not Christmas. Although that part is great too…

It’s PLANTING TIME!! Well, in Arizona any way. Now that the temperatures have dropped below 100 and the mornings and evenings are spectacular, we’ve been hard at work getting our yard back in shape. There’s been lots of trips to the nursery, much fertilizing and a whole bunch of trimming. I’m so excited for the results of our work.

I love this view at the back door

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Two new tomato plants – a yellow grape and a red olive. I’ve never heard of olive so I’m excited to see what they’re like.

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I see lots of pesto in our future. It smells heavenly.

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And the lettuce table! I always get so excited to plant this guy. This year includes green leaf and two varieties of red leaf.

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A new addition is rainbow Swiss Chard. Really excited for these guys to grow in.

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Velvety Petunias

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Oooh, the Meyer Lemon. Like a cross between an orange and a lemon. These little babies are going to make some amazing vinaigrette!

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Something is blooming everywhere you look

IMG_7934 IMG_7935 - CopyAt the risk of sounding like a crazy woman…I stalk the nursery for this color of Geranium. It’s a deep red and just gorgeous.

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Home Grown Tomatoes

My delicious Black Cherry tomato plant got whacked by the hard freeze in January. I had it covered, but apparently without a heater, a warm quilt was no match for the three day cold snap. I sadly watched the first morning of the freeze as all the leaves on our plants took on a purple tint – a sure sign they were done.

I couldn’t find another Black Cherry, but I did find a Sweet Millions and another cherry variety at my favorite nursery. I wish I had a time lapse camera because these things grew over night. In 8 weeks, they went from seedlings to producing handfuls of fruit! And they are good. Really good. Like I don’t get any inside because I eat them as I water plants good. And our strawberries are going bonkers – it’s a good time to be hungry in the yard.

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I’m giving the roses credit for bringing the bees for the tomatoes

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Delicious strawberries

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Patio Living

Nine months of the year, our living space grows by several hundred square feet. We have a huge back patio and almost every room in our house has a door to the outside. This time of year they are rarely closed and life seems to just move outdoors. We eat dinner on the patio, play in the grass, pick lettuce to eat and even watch whatever game is on (I learned long ago that in March, there will be either basketball or baseball on our TV. Trying to change it is futile. So I joined) thanks to PW’s handy work converting an old armoire into an outdoor TV home. It was too pretty not to snap a few pictures this weekend.

In about a week, I’m going to have a whole bush full of these little beauties!

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My new kumquat tree

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I love the way lavender smells – this one under the kumquot looks distinctly Tuscan

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The ocotillo loved all the rain. It’s finally getting it’s leaves back and it will have blooms in a few weeks

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The prettiest thing in the yard…he was mid sentence when I snapped this one

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Lettuce and herbs

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Sprinkler time already!?

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Rose Colored Glasses

At a particularly bad time in life, my mom, sister and I were looking for a new home. I remember her telling us that we needed to pray that God would find us a new house and that if he did, we would plant a rose garden in honor of Mary. A short time later we found a little rental house that was run down, but had lots of potential. And in a corner in the backyard was a neglected little rose garden. We used to spend hours trimming and fertilizing and the results were some of the most beautiful roses I’ve even seen.

Flash forward a few years and we were ready to buy the house down the street. Again my mom prayed that if we got the house, we would plant a rose garden. And again there was a neglected rose garden behind a small wall in the backyard.

Those rose gardens spoiled me because they were old and established and produced amazingly large blooms with powerful scents. It was nothing to have a large vase full of 20+ roses, all from the yard. When PW and I remodeled our house, we built raised beds for vegetables and roses – the vegetables have done great, the roses, not so much. After some research  a lot of trial and error and some additional plants (vines on the block walls keep the heat index down in the summer), I finally have a bush that has lasted a full year AND produced blooms. Not a vase full, but we’re getting there. I have plans for a second bush (and maybe a third…) so hopefully this time next year my post will be filled with beautiful blooms!

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As it opened, it changed color

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Until I have the vase full of home grown roses, I’m relying on Pottery Barn’s Heirloom Rose diffuser to get me through. I put it in the bedroom and it’s gentle scent makes me happy every time I pass by.

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Pottery Barn’s Heriloom Rose large oil diffuser – $39.00

Citrus Season

When we did our landscaping, we picked out two orange trees for our front yard. It took almost two seasons for them to really start producing fruit, but now that they are rolling, we’ve got oranges a pleanty! Arizona Sweet Navel and Valencia – I fertilize both within an inch of their lives so that there is lots of large, sweet fruit. This year I had my helper who picked up the oranges as I dropped them out of the tree.

 

 

 

Sadly, I didn’t get a shot of her putting the oranges into her shopping cart to wheel them inside..

 

And if you thought my helper was cute, you should see what Kristin is doing over at One Pretty Place. It’s ridiculous how creative she is!!

 

 

Beautiful Bulbs

Baylor and I found an Amaryllis bulb that was the biggest we’ve ever seen at Baker’s nursery. It was expensive, but one of the only one’s the had so we went for it. It bloomed this week and oh my goodness is it worth every penny.

Soooo ready to trim something…

Look at the size of that thing!

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The final product!

And a mere four weeks later, we have this:

Six! Six blossoms all on the same stalk at the same time. I’ve grown these flowers for years and I’ve never had this many flowers!

Lettuce Eat

Remember this post about the lettuce table that PW built for me? Well it’s back and better than ever! Bay and I planted seeds about 5 weeks ago and they are growing like weeds. I think we are some fertilizer and a week away from eating like rabbits for every meal. The best part is that Bay is totally persuaded to eat because she grew it!

 

 

Grass Between Your Toes

Due to the extremely hot Arizona summers and a slight to severe allergy to Bermuda grass, I don’t spend much time in the green stuff. But this time of year is a different story. The winter Rye grass seeds are all coming up and after two cuttings, our back yard looks like it has been redone with a lush, shag green carpet. But in a good way.

See what I mean?

Bay and I have spent many afternoons laying in the grass, looking at the sky or down into the ground. Kicking a ball or rolling around. Taking pictures and chasing each other. Just enjoying the simplicity of such a lovely thing.

(and yes, I know my Yellow Bells need trimming)

Fresh cut today…if only you could smell how good it smells!