2015 Garden Tour

Good morning everyone! It has been a rainy few days here in PA. Although I loved not watering my garden, the weeds are a bit out of control now.

As mentioned in my last post, I’ve been blogging just not here. I have not lost my interest in gardening at all. Being in the garden is peaceful and I often wonder why I waited so long to even start gardening. I didn’t start until 2012. It *may* have had to do with the fact that I was a teacher. I had no time and I was exhausted.

I was texting a friend last night about report card comments and I don’t miss that at all. In fact, there are very few things I miss about teaching. I only need to spend a short time talking to my teaching friends to remember why I quit.

It’s 7am here and I’ve already went to the gym, went to breakfast with Tony (it’s his last day of school today with kids), took pictures of the garden, and cleaned the kitchen. That’s what happens when you’re not exhausted all the time. You get up early and get stuff done. 🙂

And so, it’s time to blog here for the first time in a while. I’m going to start with a garden tour. Here’s my 2015 garden.

 

 

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In the raised bed above, I have stringless bush beans and Zinnias. In the bed below, I have peppers, tomatoes, sweet olive tomatoes, and cucumbers.

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Then I have potatoes and sunflowers! I planted the potatoes in containers last year, which worked, but it just seemed like more work.

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The bed below doesn’t look like much but a bunch of weeds, but that’s where I started my asparagus this year. Part of the bed is also giant zinnias, which I’ll use to create fresh bouquets in the house.

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Look! Here’s a close up!

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The garden paths:

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Zinnias, apple mint, sunflowers, and wildflowers. I also have a strawberry bed, but didn’t take a picture of that or my potting area.

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Below is a sign I made using an old kitchen cabinet door. I spray painted it white and sanded through the top. I then added the vinyl words (I made using my Cricut machine) and sprayed it with a UV protective clear coat.

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Today is Tony’s last day of school with students, which I’m excited for! He will still go two days next week, but after that we have big plans for the garden. I’ll be fun having him home! I always love the summers spent with him.

For the last few months, have been collecting reclaimed wood and old windows. We are expanding the garden & building a greenhouse out of old windows. I’ll blog about that progress too, but the garden should double in size! And I think the greenhouse is going to be amazing!

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And we can’t forget about the salvaged bricks we found for free to build a path. Cheesecake is trying to eat my flowers here and not interested in the bricks at all.

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~Sondra

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Garden Update: June 12, 2014

It’s raining. So, what does a gardener do when it rains? She updates her gardening blog. A lot has been happening in the garden, but I haven’t had much energy to update this blog when I’ve been actually gardening. But it’s growing!!

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Potatoes, bush beans, tomatoes:

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More potatoes and mint:

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Potatoes growing in a crate:

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Cutting Gardening in progress-sunflowers, zinnias, cosmos: This picture is a bit blue, but you get the point. 

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I’m using watering system this year. If it works this year, I’m going to hide the hoses, but right now I really wanted to just see how it would do. Tony is in charge of watering my garden this week, so I wanted to quick install everything so he had less work.

 

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I got them at Walmart at the end of the season. They were originally $20 a pack, but I got them for 75% off and two from my brother-in-law for my birthday. I used 5 packs in the entire garden. I got them to stay by using a tent stake I bent to fit the hose. Each stake was $0.79 at Ace Hardware.

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A few reclaimed accents:

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Another use for an old chicken crate:

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I drilled holes in a wash tub and now it’s a planter for sunflowers and cosmos. My apple mint is a bit out of control here, you can’t even see the rusty mower in the back.

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My little guy. He HATES coming into the garden because he usually ends up getting sprayed by the hose at some point.

 

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And last, but not least the flowers are finally blooming:

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Starting more Strawberries: Creative Solution

Strawberry plants come like this in case you didn’t know- they are dormant so it’s okay they aren’t in soil. You can get a pack of them for $7-9. I found them in Mid April at all of my local greenhouses. Strawberries.org is also a very helpful reference for finding the strawberry type you might need.

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Just a reminder, there are three basic types of strawberries, June-bearing, Ever-bearing, Day-neutral.

  • June-bearing: produce strawberries in June for about 2-3 weeks. These are great for canning, strawberry pies, and jam because you really get a lot in a short amount of time.
  • Ever-bearing: I call these ‘garden snaking strawberries’ because they produce just enough strawberries all summer long to snack on.
  • Day Neutral: I don’t really ever plant these because the strawberries are small and they really don’t produce as much as the June-bearing.

This year I planted three different varieties. They are all technically June-bearing, but they will produce fruit at different points in the strawberry season:

  • Honeoye: Early-season
  • Allstar: Mid-season
  • Sparkle: Late-season

My thought is that I will have strawberries the entire way through the strawberry season. I might be giving strawberries away!

The problem? I do already have a strawberry raised bed located beside our house, not at the garden but there is no room for additional strawberry plants by the house or in the garden. So, I had to get creative. I’m not quite sure it’s going to work at all… I have no idea.

I made strawberry boxes. I figured you can plant them in planters or plastic hanging bags, why not in a crate? It will have good drainage and full-sun and that’s what strawberries love.

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So, I lined it with a straw blanket (The stores were out of burlap so I had to get creative). The straw blanket is usually used for newly seeded yards to help the grass grow, but I figured it would help the soil drain great. It also has a plastic netting inside so it’ll keep in the dirt.

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We (by we, I mean Tony) screwed them into the garden fence and added soil: (FYI- the bag was full of rain water too, so it was HEAVY. That’s why the hubs is making such a strenuous face). 

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I planted the strawberries. I’m thinking I over crowded the box (the recommendation is 1 plant per square foot or in a row-12-18 inches apart), but I don’t care I’ll just pull them out if they stop producing. If you want the actual planting strawberry suggestion instead of my ‘we will see if this works’ way, you can check out this great Youtube Video: How to Grow Strawberries, but honestly I just don’t have that kind of room. We are planning on extending our garden next year, so maybe then I do it the right way.

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I’ll keep you posted on how they do!

 

 

 

It’s that time of year…

I’m so excited that the weather around here is finally starting to feel like Spring. And Spring means gardening!

I spent both Saturday afternoon and Sunday all day in the garden.  I’ve been very busy! A lot has also happened since the last time I blogged, but I’ll slowly catch you up on all of that. The first new thing you might notice is a puppy in the pictures below. Unfortunately we lost our English Bulldog, Tank in February to lymphoma. We did get a puppy and he’s such a ball of energy and so much fun.

I’m back to blogging (hopefully to stay). Working in the garden this weekend I’ve discovered that a lot needs to be done. I hauled about 10 wheelbarrows of leaves and debris from around the beds. It was a mess. I even needed my husband’s help to remove branches from a previous ice storm. I cannot wait to get some color in these beds!

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While removing the leaves, I also discovered that the shutters need repainted. They look awful!  The rough winter had quite an impact on the paint.

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So I had to first use a putty knife to get all the paint that was peeling off, which took forever.

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And my little helper kept stealing my kneeling mat.

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I’ll sand the shutters down on Tuesday and hopefully get another layer of paint on them to last another few years.

 

I also got a chance to plant lettuce yesterday (although I did not prepare all of the beds yet, I did do 1/2 of one prepared for lettuce). Lettuce is easily planted right now by seeds and does really well in temperatures ranging from about 45F to 65F. Lettuce is usually somewhat frost tolerant, but I may have to cover it if it gets too cold. I prefer the loose-leaf lettuce because you can just take what you need and it grows back.

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I try to keep my garden as pesticide-free as possible and I do love this Miracle-Gro soil (no they do not pay me to say that, although that would be great, wouldn’t it?). I’ll use regular (inexpensive top soil) for the rest of the beds and mix in a few bags of this when I actually fill the beds in a few weeks.

 

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Overall, I’m excited to finally get back in the garden! And it was nice to have the company of this little guy (don’t you just love the dirt on his chin? He eats it.)

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Loving November for the first time, in a long time..

I have to say that this is the first November where I am actually enjoying the excitement of the approaching holiday season. I am not just trying to ‘get through’ the month. When I taught fifth grade, November was always a source of stress. It always meant tons of grading for report cards, then report cards, then conferences, and teaching on top of all of that.

November was always one of the most difficult months as a teacher because there was so much to do. It was plagued with worry and stress. How are you supposed to do all of this in the little amount of time you were given? You actually wonder how the hell you were going to make it to the end of the month!

It’s different for me now. I don’t have worries. I don’t have stress. I am not concerned with pleasing other people. Don’t get me wrong, I truly enjoyed meeting the parents. There are those parents out there that you wonder why they don’t have more children because they are amazing. But those report cards and conferences, the anticipation of the first ‘this is how your child is doing’ stresses you out a bit.

Since I quit teaching, I’ve actually been enjoying every moment of November.

My house is clean.
I’ve enjoyed mid-day reading at Panera with a hot chocolate in hand.
I walked my dogs several times last week.
I’ve been sewing, crafting, and decorating my house for Thanksgiving.
I’ve even been Christmas shopping already. I’m almost done with everyone.
I had a wonderful lunch last week with a friend.
I’ve been volunteering my time- seriously there is nothing more rewarding than that.
I cook and bake now too (and not just on weekends). This week I made chicken corn soup, baked ziti, and banana bread.
I’ve been spending time with my nieces and nephews, which has been so much fun.
Last week, when my nieces spent the night, we made a project for their dad (who ran the NY marathon) and I enjoyed photographing them too.

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And this is the project they did for their dad including everything “New York.” Sorry it’s a bit blurry.

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I’ve been wishing on ‘Wishies’. You blow them in the air and make a wish and they carry your wish. I haven’t done that since I was a child. 🙂

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Let’s not forget the silly faces during lunch with my niece.

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Or Tuesday when we went to the playground. I can honestly say I was the only adult actually climbing and going down the slide too.

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I’ve been exercising too and I’m doing well on my weight-loss team. Oh yeah, I’m “Sandra” on the actual challenge chart, but as you can see I’m doing well for the Red Team.

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I’m not exhausted on Friday nights.
I went to the grocery store this week during the day.
I even had time to cut coupons!
I don’t stress out on Sunday nights.
I love sleeping in.

I have  nothing exactly new to post… Other than it has been very nice to stop and enjoy life for once. It’s so easy to go through the motions and get ‘caught up’ in life. I can honestly say it’s nice to enjoy November.

Trick or Treat Trot

I had a busy weekend spending time with friends and family. A highlight of my weekend was definitely  the Halloween 5K that was held by our local YMCA. It was a ‘team’ challenge for my Project Pounds Away weight loss team.

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We could dress up and they even gave prizes for the best costumes.  The morning’s schedule looked like this:

7:45 – 8:15 AM – Kids costume judging

8:30 AM – Monster Mile (1K)

8:30-9:00 AM – Adult costume judging

9:15 AM – Trick or Trot 5K Run/Walk

10:00 AM – Award Ceremony

I did dress up, but I had to wear my red team shirt, so devil horns it was! A headband was easy to run in and I didn’t want anything that would hinder my running. It was freezing Saturday morning though! I should have planned for a warmer costume.

The race started in a cemetery (which was super cool so close to Halloween), lead through a park, and then ended in the cemetery. There was a monster hill at the end of course, but I promised myself that I just wouldn’t stop running. So, that’s what I did. I just didn’t stop. Our team coach was at the top of the hill and encouraged us a bit. After that hill, we certainly needed the encouragement!

I ran the race with my sister, Ashley.  She’s a bit faster than me, but she was there cheering me on at the end! You couldn’t see the finish line over the hill, so I didn’t know how much more I had to run. Thankfully, she was there telling me to sprint, so I knew I didn’t have much left.

I finished the 5K in 31 minutes. Although this isn’t my best time ever, it’s my best time in a while. My goal was 33 minutes and I beat that goal.

Not enough hours in a day…

I know I haven’t blogged lately (over two and a half months). I’m actually surprised that people are still viewing my blog.  So I guess it’s about time that I start blogging again. After a wonderful lunch on Friday with two of my retired friends, I decided that since I do enjoy blogging I should make my way back to it. I have not stopped gardening or creating projects, which is why I’ve just been too busy to blog.

As you know, if you’ve been following this blog, I quit teaching. Actually I retired; I won’t go back. Not that I didn’t love working with children and it wasn’t incredibly rewarding, it just became too much. I certainly have other reasons too that I’ll share with you someday.

This was my first time not starting school since I can remember.  I was excited for more time to focus on me.  My sister-in-law did invite me to the beach the first week of school to help ease the transition. What better way to kick off the new school year than with a trip to the beach? As it turned out, I even got the chance to witness sea turtles being excavated on what would have been my first day with students at the EXACT time students would have been arriving.  That truly was amazing!

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After I got back from the beach, I had high expectations for my time. I thought I would have all the time in the world to blog and garden. As it turns out, I just don’t. I am not sure how I keep finding things to do or people to visit, but I still find there are not enough hours in a day. I’ve just been filling my days with stuff I love to do. This is happiness.

What am I most proud of? The time that I now have to dedicate to working out and taking care of myself. I started a challenge at my local gym called “Project Pounds Away.” It’s similar to “The Biggest Loser.” We train twice a week as a team, have team challenges, and ‘homework’. I also started Yoga and Zumba!  I’m not crazy about the Total Body class I take on Tuesdays or The Mixx class I take on Thursdays, but I do them anyway.

Anyone that knows me knows this is beyond my comfort zone and that’s why I’m proud. I usually don’t sign up for group things with people I don’t know. I usually don’t take group classes like Zumba and Yoga, let alone by myself. This post by Pink Runner certainly helped a bit. However, I’ve learned something about myself in recent months- I’ve learned that I love meeting new people and most things aren’t worth worrying about. I’ve let go of just about all the negativity in my life and I’ve been going by the quote: “Sometimes, you just have to show up.” So, that’s what I’ve been doing and so far it’s been working out great.

Hopefully that catches you up a bit on what I’ve been doing. So, even though there are not enough hours in the day, I’m hoping to blog more. 🙂

~ Sondra