Sunday, July 31

Jamie Oliver's Summer Salad Tips

My gardens are producing loads of salad fixings. I found these helpful videos in which Jamie Oliver shares some terrific tips for creating a summer salad. I love this series, Jamie at Home. These videos have some gardening tips in addition to recipes and cooking tips.

Part 1

and part 2:

Saturday, July 30

Mom's Flowers

My mom's flowers look so pretty I thought I'd share them with you. Her deck is adorned with an abundance of containers filled with impatiens, begonias, petunias, geraniums and other annuals. I've also included a photo of her hydrangeas planted along the driveway. Aren't they beautiful?

Friday, July 29

Jamie Oliver's BBQ Chilis and Corn Recipe

I've got some corn growing nicely in my community garden so I think I'll be trying this Jamie Oliver recipe with our garden corn and fresh chilis soon. This would also be a good camping recipe. Next camping trip, we'll definitely try this. Looks delicious!

Layered Vegetable Torte Recipe with Eggplant, Summer Squash and Tomatoes

I'm expecting a good eggplant harvest so I've started looking for recipes. This one from Mark Bittman is perfect for all the summer veggies growing in most of our gardens- eggplant, summer squash, tomatoes, basil- grilled and then layered with Parmesan cheese. I'm definitely going to try this one.

Thursday, July 28

Maine Community Garden Update

We have corn and pumpkins in our Three Sisters Garden. The corn isn't quite ready to harvest yet, but it won't be long. I wish now we'd planted more but I was skeptical that it would produce. Other gardeners have their corn planted much closer than we do. The asparagus beans are still small. Perhaps I got too late a start on those or perhaps it's not a good year for beans since my Chinese Red Noodle Beans at home are slow too.
A pumpkin under the corn.
Peppers are doing great.
Red Onions
A teeny tiny melon. Lots of these on the vine. It will be interesting to see how large these get.
I think these are the Rossa Bianca Eggplant grown from the Baker Creek Seeds.
We watered well and added extra mulch. Pulled a few weeds but the mulch is doing a great job keeping the weeds away. Unfortunately, those cucumber beetles we saw in other areas of the garden have found my garden. I'll have to research organic methods of control for that.

Seed Report: What Grew, What Didn't in Maine

Ground Cherries: Just like Michele said the sprouts are minuscule, stayed the same size for weeks and then died off. 

Pink Banana: Mine did not germinate but I was patient as I think these are really interesting plants. However, the wind knocked over the pot, losing all the dirt. I might try starting these again since I have a few seeds left.

Stevia: Sprouted, then died. The sprouts were tiny. I won't try this one again. I saw seedlings/starts at the nursery so would go with option if I want to grow it next year.

Chinese Red Noodle Beans: Mine are growing, but very slowly. I've never seen beans grow so slowly. Mine are about five inches tall. It will be interesting to see if they take off and produce before frost. They have about two months left to prove their worth.

Like Michele, the lettuce and chard did well. The Strawberry Spinach grew slowly, no berries for me yet, but I'll post our impression of the plant once we get some berries.

Just about everything else either didn't sprout at all or sprouted and died. I did buy nursery starts so my garden is doing ok, just failed with most of the seeds. The verdict is still out on some of the melons and cukes because I planted them with my nursery varieties thinking I'd remember which is which, but I don't. Time will tell on those but my guess is the ones doing well are the nursery starts.

Wednesday, July 27

Seed Report-What did not grow in Portland, OR

As you can see the Lettuce and Chard did great, but I have a few items that did not grow.

Ground Cherries: Emerged from the soil, but eventually died off. The sprouts were very tiny. They stayed the same size for weeks and then died off. I am quite disappointed as I really wanted to grow it and taste the Cherries. Might try again next year. Pink Banana: Did not germinate at all. The seed packet said that it may take up to 3 months to sprout. The soil also needs to be kept very warm. I would not try this again. Stevia: Another case of the seed not germinating although I have read Stevia is easy to grow. Also when I was sowing the seeds I discovered there wer only 20 tiny seeds per packet. I suggest that you buy two packets of this if you are going to try it. I like the idea of growing Stevia and using it so I might try again next year. Chinese Noodle Beans: Not really sure what the problem was here because beans are usually easy to grow. They did not germinate. Will try next year in better compost. My yellow wax beans are growing really well.

Seed Report on Strawberry Spinach-Portland, OR

This grew fast directly sown in the ground. The only suggestion that I have is to make sure that you properly identify it with a marker because I didn't which resulted in me pulling much of it out. I thought it was a weed. It did not take long for the plant to start seeding or growing fruit (the strawberry part). Would I grow it again? Not sure to be honest. The leaves are tasty, but small and the fruit does not have a taste to me and taste like you just put a whole bunch of seeds in your mouth. The plant would look nice in an arrangement, but again I would have second thoughts about devoting valuable space to it and would grow it just for the leaves.

Another interesting fact I discovered is that it is grown in some parts of Europe and in some countries it is considered a weed as it self seeds very easily. It might be a good plant for a Children's Garden. Caroline will be commenting on how this plant did in her Maine garden soon.

Tuesday, July 26


Last year we removed a dying spruce tree that was growing on our property. This huge plant grew in its place. I did not plant it, it just appeared. I cut it down last fall and this year it is back even bigger and spreading with little shoots coming up around it. I think it is a Pokeweed plant. It is hard to tell from the photo but it is about 5 feet tall.
Right now it is flowering.
On some of the flowers, small oddly shaped berries are forming. These will turn a dark purple color in the fall.
I've been doing some reading about this fascinating plant. It is toxic. Some people do eat the shoots in the spring, but if you don't cook it the proper way, you can die. Some also use it in a variety of medicinal ways. I am definitely not going to be eating this thing in any way, shape or form. It's being studied for its medicinal value and is thought to be promising in cancer treatments. The berries have been used as dye and ink. I read that the Declaration of Independence was written in Pokeweed ink. Here's a video by Green Deane at Eat The Weeds about Pokeweed.

and here's part two....
and someone else saying don't risk eating Pokeweed...
I'm not planning on using this plant but, should I remove it from my property? It's pretty, but I'm worried it could be dangerous to pets. Does anyone have any experience with this plant?   

Monday, July 25

Sunday, July 24

Tomato Growing Secrets: Pruning Tomatoes

I spent the afternoon taking suckers off my tomato plants. In this video Doug Green demonstrates how to prune tomato plants.

Note To Michele: Chard, greens, & tomatoes

Hi Michele,

Your garden is looking good! My Rainbow Chard seems to be doing the best of all the seeds we ordered from Baker Creek Seeds, but not yet quite as far along as yours.

The slugs are a problem with the greens. I also have Japanese Beetles on the grape vine.
Our first tomatoes. Can't wait to have fresh tomatoes every day. 
I thought I'd show you my bed of leafy lettuces and Mesclun Mix. Fresh picked salad every day is wonderful. I thin as I need salad.

 I also have a tomato patch which is totally volunteer plants. I decided to let them stay and see how they do compared to the nursery plants I bought. Some have nearly caught up. I think they are mostly cherry tomatoes. I spent the afternoon today cutting off all unnecessary sucker branches- those that will not produce blossoms. My grandfather taught me this. It forces the plant's energy into producing more fruit. They look sort of scraggly after, but it works.

I have a few pumpkin vines in my home garden. The strawberry spinach grew after I thought I'd lost it all, but no berries yet. The peas are all done and yanked out. I also have some squash and melons growing.
I need to get to my community garden soon to check on things over there.


Saturday, July 23

Summer finally here at the Portland Community Garden? Maybe

Here in Portland, Oregon we have had an unusually cool summer. One of the coolest on record resulting in only four 80 plus days so far. This has really slowed down the growth of our Summer crops.

Squash just being to trail over the straw mulch.
My Rhubarb is just beginning to show some promise. We must have grown a different variety in England because our Rhubarb was much bigger.
Chard was easy to grow from seed and is doing well. I have just begun to harvest the leaves before the leaf miners eat them.
Strawberry Spinach. I tried some this week. The leaves were good, but I did not find the fruit tasty. I did think the flowers would look good in a arrangement.
More Onions. Can you see the wasp on it?
Lavender and Rosemary grow in large clumps here
Another good grower here are Artichoke

Easter in July

I was quite surprised to see this Easter Lily in bloom a few days ago. My mom gave me this about 3 years ago. After Easter I popped it into a flower garden. This year it rewarded me with two pretty blooms that smell lovely. It joins my other lilies in a pretty July display.

I also have red bee balm in my garden which attracts hummingbirds and butterflies. This particular patch of bee balm is taller than me, so over 5 foot 2! I don't know why it grew so tall when a nearby patch is about 3 1/2 feet tall.
Below is one of my eggplant blooms. I included this because I think it's so pretty it could be in a flower garden. It reminds me of the wild deadly nightshade which grows around here. Eggplant is in the nightshade family, so makes sense. Deadly nightshade has tiny purple flowers with a yellow center. See a photo I took of the deadly nightshade here.
and lastly, in the shade, a bumble bee visits delicate hosta blossoms.

Friday, July 22

Flowers Around Storyland In Glen NH White Mountains

Yesterday my family visited Storyland in Glen, NH. Taking the kids to Storyland is a tradition going back a generation or two for many New England families. Storyland is nestled in the White Mountains which makes for a lovely drive to a scenic area. While there, I couldn't resist snapping some shots of the gardens and planters. We saw gardeners at work keeping the grounds beautiful. As far as amusement parks go, Storyland is one of the prettiest I've seen, thanks to their creative gardeners. I thought you'd like to see some of their work.
 On the bridge leading to Cinderella's Castle.
Window box on The Three Bear's Cottage.

Gardens by the Antique German Carosel.
 A planter looking out on the swan bridge.
 Cinderella's garden.
 Planter on the Swan Bridge.
An Asian style garden at the Bamboo Chutes log flume ride.

Below: This plant was used in borders along walkways. I have never seen it before but the leaves look like maple leaves. Anyone know what it is?

 Below: Some window boxes in the village near Heidi and Grandfather's house.

For information about Storyland visit

If you'd like to see more pictures from around Storyland, please visit my family blog here.

What to do when it is just too Darn hot to Garden?

It has been a very hot summer everywhere. From what I have been told it is normal to get 100 plus days from the months here from  May to Oct...