Garden Fresh Kale and Brussel Sprout Salad

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It doesn’t get much better than a Northern Michigan summer. In July and August there is no where else I’d rather be.  The fresh water lakes, gorgeous beaches and plentiful barbecues keep me tied to the shoreline snacking on fresh fruit until my fingers (and inevitably my white skirt) are died a deep red or purplish hue. I cant get enough of the fresh fruit scene you’ll find at local farmers markets this time of year. From blackberries, tart cherries, peaches, blueberries, raspberries and more, I’ll stuff my belly and my freezer to the brim. Continue reading

Raised Beds

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Before

Lets just say, It’s been a process to get my backyard into working condition. We purchased the house last October and immediately knew we had a space with incredible potential. The 50 x 50 backyard lot is a city dwellers dream garden, but the landscaping (or lack there of) was underwhelming and it was left seriously overgrown, with a jungle of weeds, vines, and untended brush to clear. Continue reading

Potted Herb Garden

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I’ve always wanted an herb garden in my kitchen window sill. Its a long horizontal window filled with sunlight and the perfect location for accessible fresh flavors for a meal. I just love to see green thriving growth throughout my home; in every possible window, nook and cranny. I’ve been so excited for the local farmers market season to start because I knew that instead of growing my herbs from seed I wanted to purchase the “starts” (pictured below) from a local farmer in the early season.

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Vegetable & herb “starts” are a great way to get thriving plants ready to plop into a home garden or container. Local farmers are packed with growing experience (obviously). In Northern Michigan many of our area farmers need a greenhouse and thus they have a prime growing environment with opportunity to grow from seed in early spring. Not only will the starts purchased at market often be much stronger and heartier than homegrown wiry seedlings, but you’re also supporting local farmers at a time when harvest (in Northern Michigan) is not at its peak.

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The herbs I chose for my windowsill were must haves that I use frequently, but they were also picked with intention paid to the amount of space available, companion plantings and soil profiles.

Basil- Basil is pretty much a breeze to grow, but it thrives in well-drained soil so be certain that you choose a pot with drainage holes (a necessity for nearly every potted plant)

Rosemary & Thyme- These two are a great pair, they both prefer a coarse textured, well-drained and sandy soil. Mixing in gravel with your ordinary potting mix can  help to keep the roots from getting waterlogged.

Sage & Chives- This pair of herbs are happy in an ordinary well-drained potting soil.

Lemon Balm- Lemon Balm is a member of the mint family. It adds a great lemon flavor to teas and pairs well with fruit. Just as mint grows in clumps and spreads quickly, lemon balm needs to be kept in a container by itself or it may overtake its companions.

Oregano- Another herb that is characteristic of rapid, spreading growth, oregano (marjoram) should be put in a container on its own.

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If you’ve always wanted a fresh herb garden like I have, now is the time! Pick your favorites, research their soil preference and go get ’em! The best part is that you can have these little green, bountiful beauties all year long. The portability of herbs in a container only amplifies the fact that they’re a great and inexpensive investment. All of this new growth and windowsill garden planting has got me in a “Terra Cotta Craze” so don’t say I didn’t warn you.

If you’re like me pretty soon you’ll be dreaming of beautiful clay pots filled with fresh herbs.

It’s time to make your dreams a reality.

love,

tricia

Garden Planning 2013: Books, Seeds and Layout

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Last year I fully intended on building a gorgeous garden on the property we were renting. It was a beautiful old farmhouse, with plenty of green space and great sunlight. One thing led to another and in early May we were told that the landlord’s son would be taking ownership of the house in August. We had 3 months to let go of our gardening dreams for the year, find a new place to live and pack up all our belongings.

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What sounds like the beginnings of a sob story actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise. We were presented with the opportunity to purchase a beautiful home, right in the heart of the city with ample fenced in space for a backyard garden. This year, in 2013, our gardening dreams will become a reality, but this can only happen with the help of a well thought out springtime plan.

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Spring is the perfect time to plan a garden. Not just due to the necessity of a plan, but because by March & April I’m eager for warm weather and itching to get my hands in the dirt. Planning gets my gears turning, excitement brewing and directs my pent up energy to a purposeful & productive task.

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One of the most informative and useful books I’ve come across lately has been Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening. This book is PACKED full of helpful information regarding fruit, flower & vegetable gardening. My favorite pages are the illustrated collections of common weeds, pests and beneficial insects which will be absolutely vital to the success of my future garden. The guide is something I’ve been reading through thoroughly but will also be helpful later on as a quick reference for maintenance concerns.

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Over the last few months I’ve used information and charts like the one above to determine which vegetables would be “sharing” beds in the coming season. Companion planting is a useful tool to follow, because certain plants have smells or tastes that deter the common pests of another vegetable. In other cases “bad companions” would be those vegetables that share common pests or diseases because if one plant becomes infected the whole bed is likely to be ruined.

I’m incredibly thrilled to be planning a garden in my new backyard. The next step as weather gets warmer is to clean the slate and begin anew. If you’re busy planning a garden or thinking about trying one next year find a friend and plan together. I’m lucky enough to have a dear friend and experienced gardener in town to plan and bounce ideas off of. Tenille has a gorgeous space just outside of town and as the sweet friend that she is, shes shared loads of fabulous seeds with me this year to get me started.

This season, find the potential for growth. Whether it be in your backyard garden, a container on your front porch or a potted herb in your window sill; being a part of growth is a powerful thing.

There’s unlimited potential around you.

love,

tricia