There Is A Goji Berry Plant In My Future!

I recently read an article that listed 10 Superfoods and one of them was Gogi berries.

They are full of vitamins and antioxidants.

I have never tasted a Gogi berry but from what I have read,  they are tart-sweet like a cross between a sour cherry and a cranberry.

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They can be eaten fresh or dried.

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 I LOVE to add dried cranberries or sometimes cherries to oatmeal, quick breads and the trail mix I love to snack on, so Gogi berries would be a great addition to our garden.  If I got enough I bet I could even make jam!

 

It seems to me I have seen Gogi plants offered from some of the online garden stores I have visited.  Native to China they grow well in my zone and are said to love my high pH soil.

 

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 They can be grown in containers,

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as shrubs,

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or trained to grow on an arbor or trellis.

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Isn’t this an awesome garden?

I think there will be a Gogi plant in my near future.

 I have just the place, over the arbor at the entrance to our asparagus bed.

You can read more about Gogi berries here:

https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/fruit/health-benefits-of-goji-berry-or-wolfberry.html

Have you ever tasted a Gogi berry?  Would you consider putting one in your harden?

 I would love your comments.

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What I Learned From My Garden This Year:

It was a pretty good year in the garden despite the fact that we went on a couple of trips during the growing season. I as usual, learned from my gardening experience and here are some of the things I will do differently next year:

  • Stick to the basics.  This year I planted Japanese Pickling Melons, Okra and Sesame.  I am embarrassed to say that I never even harvested the sesame seeds (who has time to open all those little pods and toast the seeds?)  I let the most of the Okra get too big and tough to eat, and I wasn’t quite sure what to do with the melon. Next year I will sample unusual items at restaurants or markets and leave garden space to what I know.
  • Grow what we eat.  We love green beans and could almost eat them every day. They freeze well too. We also love peppers and tomatoes.  On the other hand, I am the only one in the house that eats eggplant or squash. Next year I will concentrate on planting green beans, peppers, and tomatoes and treat myself to eggplant, squash and such from the Farmers’ market when the mood strikes.
  • Don’t waste space on cheap stuff. We love cabbage but it takes up lots of space in the garden and the bugs love it too. It is super cheap to buy so why not use the garden space for sweet bell peppers that I can let ripen to red and not have to pay a premium price for them at the store?!
  • More flowers!  I love flowers and would love to be able to snip weekly bouquets for inside. Next year I plan to surround my veggie garden with flowers. They will be inside the bunny proof fence, beautiful to look at and plentiful enough to get lots of bouquets for ourselves, family and friends. The bees will love them too!
  • Grow herbs closer to the house. It just makes sense to not have to go far to snip herbs when cooking. I may grow my herbs in pots on the deck next year.

I spent much of our lovely November doing a bit of yard clean up, bringing in yard art and house plants, and pretty much enjoying the last nice days of fall. Since we were finished harvesting I left the garden gate open so the girls could free range in there. They were pretty happy to get to scratch around and sample yummies in what was previously ‘off limits’ territory.

 
I am throwing kitchen scraps as well as raked leaves directly in the garden to decompose.

 
I decided to use ‘free mulch’ from Mother Nature – aka fallen leaves around trees and shrubs and in the flower beds.  I was hoping for a bit of rain to weigh them down so they wouldn’t blow away and I got it.

 

 Now the work is done and the days are cold and short. I keep warm and happy planning next year’s garden!

What did you do to put your garden to ‘sleep’ and what are you planning for next year?

New and Improved Asparagus Bed!

After doing more reading I realized the six asparagus crowns I planted would be not much more than an appetizer for our asparagus loving family.  I seriously needed to plant MORE!

But where?

As most good ideas do it came to me in the middle of the night.  (Everyone wakes up at 4 am with gardening on their mind, right?)

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Anyway it came to me.

  THE BUTTERFLY GARDEN! 

Well not IN the butterfly garden.  I could MOVE the butterfly garden.  I could move it to the back of the garden flower bed.  The one I call my ‘formal’ flower bed.

Formal – poo – I want asparagus!

So I went to work moving the plants in my butterfly garden.  Most were big enough to divide so I did that too.  I tried to place them where I thought the color combinations and heights would look best but to tell you the truth in some cases I did not even know what some of them were because some of my garden markers blew over.   (OK, they didn’t so much blow over as got ‘picked’ by a certain little pint sized garden helper).

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It is going to be AWESOME!

 

I am super excited though because the bed is a lot more densely planted which means fewer weeds and it will be a RIOT of flowers




I am also super excited about the NEW AND IMPROVED ASPARAGUS BED.

 We  prepared the trench, added sand for drainage, compost for nutrients, and bone meal for root growth.

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We put in 35 asparagus crowns.  That should keep us in plenty of asparagus for the rest of our lives!  ❤

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If you have an unused part of lawn, like maybe over by your fence, and you buy asparagus to eat each spring, you should probably put in an asparagus bed!

Go on, DO IT!

A few other spring updates:

Peas, lettuce, onions, radishes and carrots are up in the garden.My indoor seedlings of tomatoes, peppers, okra, cabbage and marigolds are getting big.

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I can’t wait to get these outside!

The honeysuckle vine more than doubled in size before I finally got it planted outside and it is doing well.  All fruit trees including the new and old Paw Paws have leaves.

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Leaves on the new PawPaw.

 Best of all – the Wisteria LIVES!

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I ❤ Wisteria!

It’s not gardening but I have to brag – this week my granddaughter Haley qualified for the Olympics in Womens’ Freestyle Wrestling!  She is Rio bound!

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 How are things in your spring garden?

I Bought Even MORE Seeds!

Because my husband and I love Korean food!

OK, let me explain……

  Sadly, there is no Korean restaurant in Des Moines.

We eat at a great place in Iowa City whenever we are there.

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One of our favorites, Bibimbap in a Hot Stone bowl is AMAZING! The hot stone bowl causes the rice on the bottom to get a super delicious nutty brown crust.   The Huffington Post says it is one of 25 foods you must eat before you die!

The rest of the time we try to make our own and hubby is getting pretty good at it.

There is a Korean cooking show on The Cooking Channel called Korean Food Made Simple. We DVR it so we never miss an episode.  We have recently learned of dishes that are wrapped in a Sesame or a Perilla leaf and eaten like a wrap.

Marinated beef wrapped in lettuce and sesame leaf with miso past

 Soooooo – – –  – I had to get seeds and try to grow these plants!

Some interesting info on these leaves:

http://drbenkim.com/articles/sesame-health-benefits.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perilla

I found a neat seed company in CA called the Kitazawa Seed Company that carries seeds for many vegetables found in Asian cooking.  I ordered seeds for Sesame, Perrilla, Asian cabbage and Pickling Melons. Yum!

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Where I will plant these seeds I do not know.

 With everything I plan on planting this year I really don’t think I will have enough room in the existing garden.

 I thought about planting some veggies in my flower beds but since the bunnies devour everything not fenced in with netting that is not a good option.

I could dig up a bit more lawn and make the garden larger.

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Wow! Amazing!

I will have to think this over and see what I can come up with!

 

Any suggestions/words of encouragement are appreciated!

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I really do think  I might need an intervention!

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My (Second) Annual January Trip To Buy Seeds!

A few weeks ago I was sitting around wondering if it was too early to get seeds when a Facebook ‘memory’ popped up informing me I did exactly that one year ago.

So why not make it a January tradition?

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I don’t do well in the winter.  Call it SAD, call it cabin fever, call me deranged.  Whatever.  I just get grumpy, sluggish, overly obsessed with the weather and just plain no fun at all.

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  It begins with daylight savings time and doesn’t go away until I can go outside and dig in the dirt.

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Sure,  I put on a happy face throughout the holidays, I find winter projects and try to exercise, get outside, socialize more (even though I don’t really feel like it) and all the other things the ‘experts’ recommend.  I tell myself that all we really have is the here and now and to live in the moment.  But my garden-dreaming self doesn’t listen.

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Ahhhhhhhhh…..I’m sooooooooooooo ready!

 

 It’s insane how happy a seed catalogue or gardening magazine arriving in the mail makes me.

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Oh Yay!

 

I take trips to the Botanical center or garden store just to smell the plants and soil!

I am counting the days ’til spring.

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So no, I don’t think January is too early to buy seeds.

  Not at all.

  It is better than being a kid in a candy store!

  Rows and rows and rows of vegetable and flower seeds and a dream of sunshine, dirty hands, good muscle aches and bone weariness at the end of the day with a great night’s sleep to follow.  For a gardener, starting a garden in spring is one of the best things to happen all year.

I mean it is really, really good!

Remember my post of last year where I said I might reduce the size of my garden?  It was called “Putting the Yard Back In The Backyard Farm” or some such nonsense.  Well forget it.  I must have temporarily lost my mind.

Here is a link to that silly post in case you missed it:

https://ruthschickens.wordpress.com/2015/08/04/i-am-thinking-of-putting-the-yard-back-into-the-backyard-farm/

Now I am trying to think of how I can expand it even more.  Would we miss it if I took just a bit more of my backyard lawn to put in an asparagus bed?  Could I squeeze in a few more fruit trees?  Perhaps it is time to expand to the front yard?  Where will I put some Rhubarb?  Do I have room for Jerusalem artichokes?

I have marked my calendar with the dates I will plant my onions, lettuce, cucumbers, squash  and carrots (yep, I’m trying them again this year) outside,

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and start my tomatoes, peppers and okra (first time ever growing okra) inside.

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Of course I am doing green beans and cabbage and this year I wont forget to put in a few Brussels sprout plants for fall dinners. (I really missed them last year).  I want tons and tons of sweet peppers this year and some spaghetti squash and zucchini.

I also bought some Morning Glory seeds – wont they look great climbing up the fence?  I wonder if the chickens would leave them alone if I planted them on the fence around their pen?  (What am I thinking, of course they WONT!).

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 I read somewhere that you can plant morning glories in hanging baskets and they will trail downward.  I have to give that a try.

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I also got my Zinnia seeds.  Well ya never know, the store could run out.

Look out bunnies – I am winning the war this year.  You don’t stand a chance!

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I am  excited, happy and hopeful and that’s saying a lot for me in January!

I highly recommend a visit to your local garden store for some seeds.  Get to planning your garden, you wont be sorry!

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Comment and let me know what you plan on growing this year.

 

—-

Some New Info Related To A Few Of My Posts:

In case you need some interesting reading on a cold winter day, I am posting some links with more information related to some of the things I wrote about in the past year.

Did my post from awhile back stir you interest in Paw Paws?  Here is some news on them:

http://www.urbanfarmonline.com/urban-gardening/backyard-gardening/a-pawpaw-germination-experiment.aspx

http://www.hobbyfarms.com/farm-news/2015/10/23/is-the-pawpaw-making-a-comeback-trending.aspx

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One of my Paw Paws did not survive but the nursery is replacing it for me this spring.  The other one grew to about one and a half feet tall and looked very healthy by the end of summer.

 

I still am a fan of front yard gardens and now so is California!

http://insteading.com/2014/09/30/california-passes-neighborhood-food-act/

 

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Yep, I know I said I was cutting down the size of my garden this year.  However,  I have changed my mind (again) and am keeping it as is.  So far I have no plans for veggies out front.  Maybe someday though!

Monarchs are on everyone’s radar it seems!

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http://www.farmanddairy.com/top-stories/giving-pollinators-the-right-of-way/304755.html

  Have you planted your Milkweed yet?  If not be sure to order some for spring planting.

I am happy to say that many Home Centers are phasing out neonicotinoids.  It can’t happen fast enough!

http://www.takepart.com/article/2015/12/03/home-depot-neonics

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/09/lowes-pesticides-bees_n_7035208.html

https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn28167-bees-win-as-us-court-rules-against-neonicotinoid-pesticide/

On a more personal level, I am thrilled to say that I will have a new grandbaby this summer!

I’m counting the days until spring gardening.  It wont be too long before I am starting tomato and pepper seeds.  I need to decide on a vine to grow on the arbor we put by the coop.  I can’t wait to see what my Wisteria does this year!  Did my poppies survive?  Will my new weeping cherry tree bloom?  Will I get any pears or apricots on the trees this year?  Will the birds leave me any blueberries?  Who will win the bunny wars in ’16?  Can I resist baby chicks this spring?

Hang around, only time will tell!

What are your 2016 gardening plans?

Before there were chickens……

I did other things.

  One of those things was make soaps and herbal/aromatherapy products.

I know the blog title is Ruth’s Chickens but chickens = urban farming,  urban farming is sorta like homesteading and homesteading means making your own things and being somewhat natural.

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At least to me it does.

So today I am going to blog about one of my other passions besides gardening and my chickens.

That passion is soapmaking.

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It started back in the mid ’90’s when I discovered all natural soap from a small company started by a woman named Sandy Maine, called The Sunfeather Soap Company.

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  I thought,  ‘I’d like to do this’ and I bought Sandy’s book and some other great books on soapmaking.

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Soon making soap became an obsession!  I had a small shop that I named Addie’s Herb Garden and I sold my soap and other natural products and crafts.

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The store did not remain open very long but I continued to sell soap by word of mouth, at work and at craft fairs.  Soon though, it seemed EVERYONE was making and selling handmade soap.  My interest dwindled and I only made a few batches a year for our own use and to give as gifts.

Recently there has been a rebirth of interest in essential oils.  I am thrilled that the younger gals at work are interested in natural products and aromatherapy and they are surprised that I have known about and used essential oils and herbs for almost 20 years.

Some of my coworkers who worked with me in the ’90’s have been asking when I will make soap again.

So I have recently started back with a BANG!

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Soapmaking is a centuries old craft but things have sure changed in recent times!  A younger, new breed of soapmaker has taken it over the top.  There are new books, You Tube videos and blogs on the subject.  Some of the old rules have gone out the window and things like infa-red instant-read thermometers, and stick blenders have turned a process that used to take hours into one that can be done in minutes.

I have returned to my old favorite recipes using only pure essential oils for fragrance and herbs and other botanicals for color but have also given artificial colors and fragrance oils a try.  I think my niche will always be all natural but I also will do an occasional ‘fun’ experiment as well, such as my bright green cucumber melon that I tried to make in a pvc pipe!

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I remelted it in my crockpot.

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Great idea to make soap discs in a pvc pipe mold.

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I couldn’t get it out no matter what I tried! I finally had to dig it out.

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I formed it into ‘melon’ balls!

 

Today I did a batch of what I think will be the best face soap ever made.

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It’s made with super rich oils and my ‘Renew’ face nourishing serum. I can’t wait for it to finish curing!

I am so thrilled to be back at it and hope to bring in extra income when I ever retire. It will be an exciting journey and I hope you will enjoy joining me!

 Yesterday I went to a craft fair for ‘research’.  (I know, it’s tough work!).

I think I will fit in just fine.

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This post is not an advertisement for my stuff but if you are interested in my natural products I have a Facebook page called Addie’s Herb Garden.  I don’t have a web page but perhaps I will figure out how to do that one of these years.

Next week back to chickens and I hope to have pics of our new chicks!

My Butterfly Garden, Supporting the Monarch Butterfly!

When I lived in Illinois two of my granddaughters came for the summer.  We did a lot of fun things but one thing that I really enjoyed was gathering Monarch butterfly eggs and bringing them home to watch them hatch,monarch eggs

grow into big fat and beautiful caterpillars,

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form a chrysalis

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and emerge as the lovely butterfly.

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This pic shows the different stages of chrysalis formation.

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So awesome!

 I read up on  the amazing life cycle and the even more amazing fall migration of the Monarch butterfly.  Nature is so very AWESOME and one place this is very evident is in how the Monarchs migrate to Mexico each winter.

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I URGE you to become familiar with this!

I was saddened to learn that this wonderful species is in danger because the Milkweed plants that they lay their eggs on and on which the caterpillars feed, are being wiped out.

You may notice tall lovely milkweed plants along the roadside.

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Although once plentiful, these plants are dwindling in numbers  because of urban sprawl and from the use of herbicides.  Monarch numbers are dwindling and it is a shame to think that one day we may never see these lovely creatures.

Because I have such love and admiration for the Monarchs I decided to plant a butterfly garden and hope to one day soon have it certified as a Monarch Way-Station.

I hope that I may convince you to do the same.

Last year I searched until I found a garden store that sold Milkweed plants.  I was lucky and scored plants of 3 different milkweed varieties.milkweed2milkweed

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If you are not able to find plants in your local plant store you can order seeds online.

Milkweed is the host plant which means it is food for the catterpillars.  You will also need nectar plants in a butterfly garden which provide food for the butterflies themselves.  Lucky for me and you – these nectar plants are beautiful and fragrant additions to your garden.

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A few varieties of nectar plants are:  Coneflowers, Asters, Black Eyed Susans, Monarda, Liatris, Joe Pye Weed, and Zinnia.

 Many cities have butterfly houses connected with their botanical centers – Here in Iowa we have a wonderful one in Reiman Gardens at Iowa State University in Ames Iowa.

http://www.reimangardens.com/

If you have a butterfly house near you I urge you to visit it.  Once you visit a butterfly house you will be inspired to attract these wonderful creatures to your garden.

The links below are great sources to learn about the Monarch butterfly, how to attract it to your garden and help it to survive.

http://www.heifer.org/join-the-conversation/blog/2014/June/bringing-butterflies-back-to-the-garden.html

http://www.monarchwatch.org/waystations/

http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_30186.cfm

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This is one of the Monarch butterflies I hatched and released

 

Are you inspired to create a butterfly garden and plant milkweed plants to help the Monarch butterfly?

  I want to become a ‘garden guerrilla’ and plant milkweed EVERYWHERE!

(Shhhhhhhhhhhhhh – don’t tattle on me)

 If you have a butterfly garden I would love to hear about it!

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A Fall Update.

The calendar says fall, the air is a bit cooler and the days are noticeably shorter.  But there still is a lot going on in the garden.

A lot is going on in the kitchen as well.  Tomatoes and green beans are prepared for freezing,

002zucchini is turned into delicious spicy bread, and eggs with just harvested potatoes are enjoyed for lunch almost every day!

Some brave flowers continue to bloom and will do so ’til frost.   I am forever grateful for them!

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My Milkweed plants were finished blooming so I divided them.  All the rain in our forecast will keep them well watered so hopefully they will ‘take’ and I will have enough of them to become a certified ‘Monarch Way-Station’ next year. (More about that in my next post).

Here is what else is going on:

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I scored some windows off the ‘free’ page on Craigslist. Someone had taken them out of their camper and didn’t have any use for them.

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They fit like a charm and even still had the hinges on! Now my gals have some fancy windows for these colder nights.

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My sedum is starting to bloom. I love this plant.

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A gladiola leans against one of my birdhouses – I mean spider house!

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Did I complain awhile ago that nothing was blooming?

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I love zinnias and so do the butterflies.

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I broke my original gazing ball but got this metal one at the thrift store. Next year I will group even more canas around it and put lilies in the foreground.

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Another find from the Craigslist free page. She was missing the ball she once held so I gave her a teacup.

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I saw this coneflower on sale at Lowes and just fell in love with the color and the fact that it is a shorter, mounding variety.

I must run out and get some tulip and daffodil bulbs to plant.

But first I need to make wine out of the grapes I picked from my friend Robin’s garden.

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Also – Note to self:  Plant Brussels Sprouts and winter squash next spring.  (What was I thinking?)

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Yard ‘art’ of thrift store glass I glued together.

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6 bored girls! “Please Mom, hurry up and finish harvesting so we can get out and free range!”

What is going on in your fall garden and kitchen right now?

I Grow Flowers Too! (Or I Try To)

(But you’d never know it from my pictures)

Yep, It’s not all chickens and vegetables.

I also have some flower beds, There is not much blooming going on this year but I do have flower beds. In fact I have been working on a butterfly garden since we moved in.  One of the first things I planted in my yard was milkweed.  I will tell more about that in a future post.

Our yard was pretty much a ‘blank slate’ when we moved in and as usual I got overambitious and created HUGE flower beds.  I thought curvy edges would be pretty but my husband says they are hard to mow around.

NO PROBLEM because the plan is to eliminate a lot of the grass and make paths out of stepping stones surrounded by mulch and later by ground cover.

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So picture this area with stepping stones surrounded with mulch where the grass is. C’mon – you can use your imagination!

I have a vision!

I got a nice bunch of ‘free’ plants this year – I will write about that in another future post!

I am still waging war with weeds and what I really need is a super-thick layer of mulch to help keep them down until the areas ‘fill in’ with perennials.  This years garden budget is a bit tapped out but that will be my priority for next year along with more stepping stones as I continue to work on the paths.

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By next year the sedum ground cover should fill in all around the stones. Remember – IMAGINATION!

Gardeners are a lot like CUBS fans.  We are always saying “Wait until next year!”

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Meanwhile I just keep pulling the weeds and tossing them to the chooks to eat!

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I am having a bit of a problem with my flowers not blooming well.

  I planted a Gallardia – those suckers bloom like crazy.

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  Only as soon as I pluncked it into the ground it stopped blooming!

I spread a bunch of my compost in the flowerbeds and that helped some.  Things then bloomed a bit more.

Except for that one darn Hydrangea.

That sucker hasn’t bloomed since I got it.  One more strike and it’s O-U-T!

(Not really)

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Sigh…….. I wish mine looked like this.

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….instead of this.

I definitely need to work on amending the soil in my flower beds.  Last winter I put all the coop bedding into the veggie bed and my veggies are doing great!   This winter it will all go into the flower beds.

Here are more pictures of my garden, not because I think it is all that great, in fact it is actually quite ugly,  but it’s a start.  Next year it will be soooooooooooooo much better and it will be fun to put the old and new pics side by side and see how far it has come!

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One of my scraggly planters. My blooms are so bad this year, if it weren’t for coleus I’d have no color at all.

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My one and only Dahlia in my rooster planter. I hope to get more Dahlia’s – they are awesome!

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My Chicago Blackhawks garden gnome peeking out from a bunch of petunias.

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A jumble of zinnias (love ’em), ornamental grass, one of my elephant ears which summer outside, and my ‘yard art’ planter made out of an old floor lamp. It blew over in a strong wind and broke. I reglued it but haven’t yet replanted it.

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Garlic chive blooms and a very young blueberry bush.

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Black Eyed Susan

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Delphinium and more yard art.

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Marigolds in another scraggly planter.

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The butterfly garden, almost all bloomed out now. I want to put stepping stones over the grass here as well. Those are my compost bins in the background.

Gardens are a work in progress but mine is more work than progress!

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I’m sure these pictures make you feel really good about your garden.  It  wouldn’t take much to be a LOT better!

Share your garden pictures and stories with me!

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