Saturday, June 20, 2009

In the Vegetable Garden

I am happy to finally be able to participate in Tina's Veggie Garden Update, which she holds on the 20th of each month.

I got a late start on planting vegetables, though I suppose it was no later than any other year for me. Last week I harvested my first vegetables--radishes. I'm not particularly fond of radishes--outside of eating them whole or sliced in salads, what can you do with a radish?--but I planted them, as my mother always did, along with carrots, primarily to mark the row until the carrots emerge.

The spinach and lettuce planted at the same time have not done as well. In fact, they look downright puny this year for some reason. But I do have some excellent volunteer lettuce--coming up right next to a couple tomato plants! I had planned to pull this lettuce yesterday, but we had a torrential rain storm last night, so the lettuce will have to wait until the garden dries out a little. I want to make sure, though, that this tomato has all the room it needs to grow.

I have had a vegetable garden off and on for many years, much longer than I have been into ornamental gardening. But I confess to being an indifferent gardener when it comes to vegetables. Oh, I do enjoy planning this garden and planting all the seeds, checking every few days to see if the green leaves of spinach or the first sprouts of green beans have emerged. But once the weather gets warmer, the bugs start coming out, and the weeds begin to grow faster than the veggies, I start to lose interest. When the green beans are ripe for picking, I willing spend time in this garden again. But it's not until August when I get really excited about growing vegetables, because August is the time when the star of the vegetable garden is ready--the tomatoes!

No other vegetable, in my opinion, tastes so different and so much better than anything purchased in a grocery store as a home-grown tomato. The rains and warm weather this past week have really been a boon to the tomatoes. Most of them are now sporting a few blooms like this shy one.

Even though I couldn't find any blooms here, the green beans are also looking very healthy.

One of the reasons I lose interest in the vegetable garden is that I get overwhelmed: I have a big problem with a weedy kind of grass that seems indestructible. I don't know if it's nutgrass, quack grass, or what, but it has long roots and seems to come back despite my best efforts to eradicate it. Last year by the end of the summer I wouldn't even show a photo of my whole garden out of sheer embarrassment. I am determined this year not to let that happen again, so I had planned to mulch the whole garden with straw. However, my son gave me lots of free wood mulch when he replaced the mulch in the grandkids' play structure with rubber mulch. I had so much left over that I decided why not use it in the vegetable garden? I put newspapers down first between all the rows and layered the mulch on top. So far it seems to be working, but I've never seen anyone use wood mulch in the vegetable garden before. Please, please tell me if this isn't a good idea. All the plants seem to be doing fine so far, but I'd hate to use something here that's not good for them.

Have you ever eaten fennel? I've seen it included in several recipes the past few years, but last year was the first time I'd ever eaten any. It was served as a side dish and has a slightly licorice flavor. This is the first time I've ever tried planting it, and I'm not sure my family will even like it. But I'm not concerned with eating it, actually; I planted just a few seeds primarily for the butterflies. The rest of the package was planted in the "wild" garden, so I'm hoping the butterflies find it.

Other vegetables growing besides the ones already mentioned: onions, chives, beets (a first for me), and green peppers. I have a small vegetable garden, and for the first time I actually ran out of room for everything I wanted to plant. I may tear out the spinach and lettuce soon if they don't start looking better and plant some zucchini and summer squash.

This is not in the vegetable garden, but I had to show you these blooms on my Monarda, "Petite Wonder," I think. True to my hypothesis, these blooms appeared on June 15, after I had finished my Bloom Day post.

And just a few days after Bloom Day, the hollyhocks all began to bloom. Notice all the little critters on these blossoms; I'm not sure what they are, but I do hope they aren't destructive. With the rain and the warmer weather, the insect population is really growing, but I do have a little help in that department . . .

. . . my friend, Mr. Toad. If last year was the year of the Praying Mantis here at "The Prairie," then this year has to be the year of the Toad. They are everywhere! Hopping out of a tray of plants, out from under the green beans, or even jumping out of a container as I put new plants into it, this is not just a family of toads, but a whole community! As long as they don't hop onto my lap and startle me, they are certainly welcome here and can invite all the cousins, nieces and nephews, and in-laws they want. I just wish besides eating insects, I could get them to eat some weeds as well:)

Check out Tina at In the Garden for other vegetable updates.

You might also be interested in participating in another ongoing post topic--public plantings. Veg Plotting has been showing different scenes around her home town and other parts of the UK, illustrating some lovely and not-so-lovely plantings. I had mentioned to her after Spring Fling that Chicago had some of the best downtown plantings I had seen in a city, but wouldn't you know it, when I checked all my photos I never took one of the city streets! So, Spring Flingers in particular, if you took some good photos of street or curbside plantings, please consider posting them. You can click here to find some suggestions.


  1. Rose, Christopher at Outside Clyde uses copious amounts of wood mulch in his veggie garden so i don't think you have anything to worry about. Just enjoy your veggies.

    A toad community sounds wonderful. I too wish toads ate weeds. Ha.. a good thought.

  2. Hi Rose,
    I think all of your vegs. are looking great. I'm not a vegetable planter, but I did plant some tumbling tom tomatoes this year. You're right about the taste of home grown tomatoes. I finally got to eat one of mine and couldn't believe the difference!!

    And I love toads!!!! Wish I had a community of them living in my garden!!

  3. Funny you should have posted this as my son gave me all sorts of fresh lettuce and different herbs from his garden. I have just eaten a delicious salad and added some fennel leaves and it gave it a lovely twang!

    Your produce looks lovely & healthy and I see you have a little *helper* to keep the slugs & bugs down!

  4. Aw, toad is sooo cute! :) Love the radishes... the only thing doing really well here is lettuce as it's been cool and WET! I'm envious of your tomato flowers, but... I'm trying to be patient! I love the idea of veggie update and didn't really get it was a 20th of the month thing. Thanks for spelling it out!

  5. Rose, you will have to enter my tomato contest this year. I'll let you know the rules later, once I figure out rules that allow me to win, I mean do well.

    My beans have just started to bloom, and I've had quite a few radishes. You should really try slicing them and putting them on a sandwich. It's good!

    And I'm with you on the weeds. That's why I went to raised beds. Big-time work to set them up but then much easier every year after that.

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens
    (I need to check out this vegetable update date on the 20th!)

  6. Hi Rose, Good morning! I've added your link and it will stay until next month. If anyone else grows veggies and wants it on my blog sidebar, just let me know-email works fine too if I don't catch you already. No problem. If on the 20th I can catch your post usually, but other days in the month are fine too. Most of us do the ornamental thing but many more do veggies and maybe it helps them to see how others veggie gardens are doing?

    I want to say do not worry about wood chip mulch. I used it one year and loved it. The newspapers under it of course and you did that. The only problem I had was since my veggie garden is on a slight slope, in heavy rains some of the wood mulch would wash away. But it worked really well. And I think you hit the nail on the head, so many veggie gardeners get overwhelmed in summer with the weeds. Mulching up front and planning well will help with this for sure. You can do it!!! You'll only be going outside to PICK the veggies-not weed or anything else.

    Your veggies are way ahead of mine. My goodness I am so bad this year as I've not even planted cukes or zucchini. Maybe this weekend. I am finding now that hubby is home is home and school is full force, the garden takes a back seat. It is killing me but oh well, life goes on and the garden will survive even if I don't get fresh cukes (got the tomatoes planted though). Your veggie garden is great! Good job!! And thanks for the encouragement to Skeeter. I was a bit distressed she said she's giving it up. Have a good day!

  7. My veggie garden experience was always much like yours- i lost steam mid-summer and it was soo waist deep in weeds! And for some reason I always planted radishes, because Grandma always did, even though only one child would eat them.

    I love the toads! I wonder where they are breeding at your place? Don't they need standing water for their eggs, like frogs do? We've sertainly had a couple of very wet springs to help them multiply!

  8. Thank you so much for visiting my blog. I have spent quite some time looking through yours and enjoyed it. You have some lovely colourful blooms and of course I loved seeing the butterfly on a previous post.

    I do agree with you about the unique taste of home grown tomatoes, and the smell is just wonderful too. I don't really grow vegetables any more but the last two years I had tomatoes in pots which failed dismally due to the abysmal weather. This year I haven't bothered, so perhaps that will put the spell on some good weather this Summer for a change ;)

  9. Rose, will have to come see your garden-looks like the mulch is doing the trick in keeping down the weeds. That was what I always hated about veggie gardening. Speaking of toads...I have noticed them in large numbers here as well. I think the wet weather is one reason, but whatever I am so happy they are here. They do eat all kinds of bad bugs.
    aybe they will even help with the dreaded Japanese Beetles. :)

  10. Lisa, Thanks for the tip--I checked out Christopher's latest post and was happy to see all his wood mulch around the vegetables. Maybe we could breed a weed-eating toad:)

    Flydragon, Wow, you're eating tomatoes already?! I don't know why we have so many toads, but Beckie says she has them, too.

    Maggie, I just picked all the volunteer lettuce so I might have to make a salad and try some fennel on it!

    Monica, You sound like my daughter and youngest granddaughter--they're toad lovers, too. Are they part of your frog recording project?

    Carol, I will remember your tomato contest, although I'm sure you will win:) I used to eat radish sandwiches as a kid; I'll have to try that! Tina does this veggie update most of the year, but I can only participate a few months with our shorter season.

  11. Tina, Thanks for all your encouragement. I just spent another hour and a half out in the veggie garden, pulling weeds and planting a little zucchini, squash, and a few more beets. Maybe if I get this under control now, later in the summer I can just sit back and enjoy the fruits of my labor!

    Joyce, That's too funny about the radishes--I plant them because my mom always did:) I'm not sure where the toads are breeding, though I think they also like wet leaves, of which I had an abundance this spring.

    Shysongbird, Thank you for visiting; Cheryl is the one who suggested I visit you, and you do have a lovely blog. Vegetable gardening can be very unpredictable; I'm a creature of habit, so I keep at it:)

    Beckie, I'm surprised you had time to visit this morning--the girls must be otherwise occupied? If the wood mulch helps this year, I may be buying a truckload next year, too. Wouldn't it be nice if the toads ate Japanese beetles? I don't think anything likes those nasty varmints.

  12. I think Jim/Art of Gardening has been posting some street plantings in Buffalo; we have many nice ones, but I'll join in.

    Good luck with your vegetables!

  13. I really admire your talent about growing veggies - this makes summer garden very special. So different.
    I still work on this :)
    Thanks for visiting and commenting.

  14. Rose girl those are HUGE radishes ? I thought they were beets at first ! haha
    Yes .. tomatoes from your own hand do taste so much better .. and holy smokes I wish I had Mr. Toad in my garden .. talk about a natural pesticide ? haha
    I see you do use mulch so you are well in there with labor saving devices .. you have done GOOD girl ! LOL

  15. Rose,
    It sounds like you have taken good measures to try to prevent your weed problem this year. I don't the wood mulch is a deterrent to veggies but putting down the newspaper was probably a very wise added step. The thing about conquering weeds is staying after them as they come up... that's where we get weary I think.

    So nice to see a garden just getting going even though mine is almost over. Your tomatoes will be coming in when I start my second season of them for another harvest in Nov/Dec. Very different climates we are in. LOL I agree the taste is so different for tomatoes but I would say that about the green beans too. I can't be without home grown now... so crisp and fresh. AND the peas and the carrots... and what about that tender lettuce... nothing like it! ... but tomatoes... you just have to grow your own to get that wonderful flavor.

    Good job on your garden, Rose. I'll be following your progress with excitement for you.

  16. Dear Rose.....Just love Mr. Toad.....wish he was in my garden, he would be more than welcome, and all his friends and relations....

    Your veggie plot is fabulous....I wish I could have one here but I tried the first three years...the rabbits are so destructive, it just is not worth the trouble....

    Strawberries and tomatoes are about it for me. I do agree with you tomatoes are best picked from your own garden.....

    Have a great week Rose

  17. Wonderful Mr. Toad!

    Gosh Rose, I didn't realise you grew veg too! It all looks lovely (I like to eat fennel very much by the way) However do you find time to tend all of it?

  18. Rose, How did I miss that you have always grown vegetables...they look super, too! Tomatoes from the garden do taste wonderful...I love popping those little cherry tomatoes right into my mouth when they are ripe! Fennel is delicious sauted, but I also thinly slice it and add it to salads...I love the taste. But I grow it for the caterpillars and purchase my fennel.

    I am an indifferent gardener right now! The feel like temperature is almost 100 and the mosquitoes treat me like a blood bank...and I can barely make myself water the containers! Maybe this system will disappear our normal 85 degree weather will return!

    There must be toads in the way back but I sure don't see them anywhere else! Must make a muddy spot for them to move in!

    Have a good week! gail

  19. Hi Rose, I think your veggies are looking good. I don't know if there is anything wrong with wood mulch or not. I use pine straw mulch under mine.

    I think I'm about to lose interest in my gardens. We're still without rain, over 3 weeks now and temps in high 90's. I know I can't continue to water everything. I will probably try to keep my tomatoes watered. As you say, they are so much better than store bought.

  20. Rose, yes, thank you for the encouragement in my veggie garden! After peeking into other gardens with this update, I see i am not the only one having issues. I may just have to deal with them as they occur and keep on a trucking ahead! We will always have the tomatoes as they are the best right out of the garden!

    your garden is looking good and I am sure you will have lots of fun things to munch and soon! Oh, on the radish, i have never had it other then sliced in salads but in Germany, they grew a long white one which was not hot at all. They would slice it in one long spiral piece with a special tool and then sprinkle salt on it! They were a great snack at festivals and we enjoyed them. That is why we tried growing the white ones this year but they became hot with the hot temps. Cant wait to see your progress next month!

  21. Looking good, Rose. I'm sorry I missed the garden update because I actually have green tomatoes. I planted some pretty bronze fennel and some dill and parsely for the butterflies too. The dill should be good in salads but I don't think I've ever eaten fennel.

  22. Elizabeth, I'll have to check out Jim's post. I need to find some time to take photos about town, too.

    Ewa, I just visited my Dad's vegetable garden last night--he puts mine to shame:)

    Joy, Not only are the radishes huge, but they're hot! I should have planted them earlier:) I wonder if I could ship a few toads your way?

    Meems, Thanks for the encouragement. I had the same thoughts when I saw your veggie garden--our climates are so much different. Yes, fresh green beans are the best, too!

    Cheryl, I don't know where all the toads came from this year, but youngest Daughter and Granddaughter #2 love to find them. I have just seen the first rabbits here today...and so did Coconut. He chased them away; good dog:)

    Suburbia, My vegetable garden is small, and how do I find time? Remember I don't have young children--that makes a huge difference!

    Gail, I don't say much about the vegetable garden because I'm never quite sure how it will turn out. It's like a sauna here, too; I'm finding it hard to get motivated to work outside.

    Susie, Wish I could send some of our rain to you! I would hate to have to think of watering everything right now.

    Skeeter, My radishes have gotten pretty hot, too. I sliced them in a salad, so it wasn't so noticeable. I think a vegetable garden presents lots of challenges, more so maybe than a flower garden, but the end results are worth it.

  23. Marnie, I'm impressed you have green tomatoes--you must have planted yours earlier. Although, I visited my Dad's garden last night--he has tomato plants at least twice the size of mine! Fennel seems to be a trendy dish at the moment, but I'm like you--it's there for the butterflies.

  24. Hey name twin! Your radishes looked like beets to me; pretty large. I don't know much about gardening really, just enough to putter around but I think the mulch sounds like a good idea plus it's pretty. Anything to help the weeds.

  25. Love your chunky little toad--he's toad-aly cool! I have the same problem with nutgrass. The only negative thing I have ever heard about wood chip mulch, is that it can leach out some of the nutrients from the soil. I would think if you are composting, it shouldn't be a problem. Your Monarda looks great. I love to plant dill for the butterflies too. The Swallowtails love it. It certainly looks like summer in your garden.

  26. I've always been an ornamental gardener myself Rose. But after a few seasons of veggie gardening in pots I decided to leap in with both feet. It's been fun & hubby is more interesting in the edibles than the blooms now. ;)

  27. I agree about the tomatoes. Husband grows them every year but last year they weren't as tasty. Maybe it was lack of sun.

    I could do with a Mr Toad too. Daughter was saying that they have lots of frogs in their pond in their allotment.

    I don't like fennel to eat but like to break off a stalk and sniff it!

  28. Rose, you need some chickens to help with the weeding and the bugs. My mom said her parents turned them loose in their garden to help. I wish we lived a bit farther out of town so I could try his method. Fresh eggs would be a wonderful thing too. Your veggies look healthy so the mulch must be working. Fennel is great for upset stomach. I used to make a tea from the seeds, but now I use the essential oil. Rub a few drops on the tummy in a clockwise direction, and the ache disappears. That licorice smell is wonderful too!

  29. Rose, Hi; you don't know how many times I've seen your name in comments and thought, "wait a minute--I didn't write that":) I have much to learn about gardening, too.

    MG, Glad you liked the toad:) I do have some dill and parsley planted, too, though the dill hasn't come up yet. Hope it's not as hot in Texas as it is in Illinois!

    Racquel, My husband could care less about my flowers, but he does like the vegetable garden and is more than willing to help pick fresh tomatoes!

    Liz, Last year the tomatoes succumbed to some kind of wilt before the season ended; I'm hoping for better luck this year. I'd send you some toads if they could last a transatlantic flight:)

    W2W, Thanks for the tip on the fennel--I actually bought some fennel tea from a health food store. I'll have to try making my own. As for the chickens, I didn't know they would dig up weeds. I'm trying to train Sophie to do that, but she hasn't quite mastered it yet:)

  30. Radish - you can cook them lightly and eat with some butter and salt,

    Very goodlooking veggies, mine are just starting ....


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