Kitchen Garden Update {early summer}

I can't believe it's already July, but then I walk the kitchen garden and realize there's no denying it, cooler days are a thing of the past and summer heat is officially here. 

Last weekend we pulled all our early summer crops that have been suffering in this heat. Lettuce and spinach, radishes and sugar snap peas are all cleared away to make room for warmer weather tolerant crops. 

I spent at least an hour hovered over the kitchen sink washing and sorting our lettuces. There must be an easier way. Anyone?

We're finally seeing some headway on our yellow squash plant. It's taking it's sweet time, but that's ok as long as it results in a nice harvest.

Meanwhile our cucumber plant has taken over. We're two giant cucumbers into the season and couldn't be happier ( I think we may have had one shriveled up cuke last year, maybe).

Our rosemary plants have doubled in size. 

As have the strawberries and thyme plants - both back with a vengeance from last summer.

Plenty of summer salads coming our way this week and next. 

Looking forward, as our infatuation grows for Southern crops we're contemplating adding kale, collards, sweet potatoes and even okra. If you have any advice to share, we're all ears. 

Hope you enjoyed this little tour of our early summer kitchen garden. We've missed our Chicago garden, but this one is finally starting to come into it's own…after a lot of trial and error.  

until next time,

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme {Kitchen Garden News}'s Monday again! I hope everyone had a great weekend. We took advantage of the cooler temps and started winterizing our kitchen garden. Not sure I ever came right out and said it, but, our kitchen garden was awful this year. Not the design, of course, which was awesome, but the plantings themselves. Most of our plantings produced very little to no fruit, giving us little reason to extend the life of the garden. 

sadly, one of our biggest harvests

I'm sure there a lot of contributing factors that played into our sad little garden this year, the most obvious being a total lack of regard to soil conditioning. In Chicago, we brought in new garden soil for our raised gardens, allowing for solid fruitful harvests. It was so easy in the raised bed gardens, that we didn't even think to worry about soil conditioning here in Charlotte. Obviously, that was a mistake because the soil here is more clay than soil and next to impossible to plant in. 
Fortunately, gardening is all about trial and error, so we'll try again next year. In the meantime, we're concentrating on improving our soil condition over the winter, reorganizing the beds, and making some aesthetic improvements. 

rye, fall covercrop

In the off chance you've experienced low harvest yield too, here are some of the ideas we're considering:
1. turning over, breaking up and aerating the soil/clay.
2. adding compost/humus/soil conditioner/etc. details here.
3. planting a fall covercrop to revitalize soil. details here.

Now onto the most important part - the aesthetic improvements. I kid, I kid. Clearly, it's all about the soil. Or is it… ;)
After one season in our new garden under our belts, so to speak, we've realized we have a lot more sun than we anticipated and a lot more space than we needed. Because of this, we've decided to keep the vegetable portion of our garden to just 3 of the 6 beds. 

germander and boxwood borders

We want the garden to have an overall organized and consistent look, despite the fact 3 beds will be plants and 3 will be vegetables. To achieve a consistent look we're planning to incorporate the same border throughout. We've done a lot of research and come across several options for borders, like:
1. creeping thyme
2. boxwood
3. Japanese holly
4. germander

Due to space constraints, we are leaning toward a germander borders on the internal edges, paired with our existing Japanese holly border on the exterior edge. 
I love the contrast between the structured edging and the more wild plantings within and can't wait to recreate a similar look in our own garden. 
I'll share updated garden pictures soon. True to form, we got so carried away with our garden work we ran out of light before I had a chance to capture our progress on camera. 

Hope you had a great weekend!

until next time, 

Get the Look: Statement Planter

There are times when you want your planters to all coordinate, creating one overall scheme. Then, there are times when you want one single planter to stand alone, creating a real statement. 

Of course, we want a big statement in the new urn situated front and center in our kitchen garden

Note: After a lot of research, we settled on a clean lined, 27" cement planter from Lowe's

Like with any new project, I spent time looking through magazines and online researching combinations for said statement urn. Unfortunately, I didn't come up with much. 
When all else fails, it's time to hit the shops. 
First, I checked out Home Depot for flowers, but ultimately left feeling uninspired. Time to pull out the big dogs and get some personalized attention at a local nursery.

I'm sure I've mentioned Banner nursery before. They are a small locally owned nursery with very competitive pricing, excellent personalized service and a selection that is second to none. Clearly, I am a big fan. If you are local, check them out. 

I worked with one of their planter designers ( I'm calling her that because she was actually working on a planter when I got there). We walked around the nursery looking at various combinations and she highlighted some of their more unusual selections. Ultimately, she left me with a great piece of advice: get a cart and start laying the plants/flowers out how you would imagine them in the planter, keeping the thriller, filler, spiller concept in mind, and go from there. 

Here's what I ended up with. 
I knew I wanted to keep the scheme fairly neutral overall because I have a lot of colors, textures, and varieties in the surrounding beds. The designer at Banner wasn't super thrilled with my "drama without color" concept, but I think we made it work. 

Get the look...
Thriller: Cordyline Red Sensation
Filler: Dusty Miller, Variegated Japanese Sedge 'Evergold' 
Spiller: Variegated Sweet Potato Vine, White Petunia

until next time, 

Progress Report: Kitchen Garden Plantings

Last I left you, I had laid out quite the plan for said kitchen garden. Would you be disappointed to know that I hadn't been entirely truthful? Yup, they weren't just plans. They were plans in action. 

We've been tree trimming (hello light!) and hedge planting. 

Neighbors recommended we check out Grower's Outlet in Pineville, NC for the 20+ shrubs we needed to create the border hedge. A family excursion on Easter Sunday did not disappoint. The selection and pricing were out of this world. It's like Big Lots for plants. If you are local, looking to buy in bulk, definitely check it out.

We opted to go with compacta hollies because we were told that sometimes boxwood have trouble with the heat of the South. The look is surprisingly similar, so here's hoping for the best!

Beyond the hedge, we also managed to add a couple of decorative elements to the garden. The girls and I planted our 3 tier planter with 3 colors of inpatients. It will add a nice pop of color in the shade beneath the fig tree. 
(Eloise declared herself the dirt girl, while Tessa handled the watering - anyone who knows these girls should not be surprised by this!) 

The wall planter is also ready to be hung. I may move fast, but I'm not a miracle worker. Drilling into brick will have to wait for John. 
 The rosemary plants have found a new home, now we are debating planting them instead of potting them. Thoughts? If we plant them, we won't carry the hedge along the brick wall. 

As in years past, we picked up our plants and seeds at Home Depot. If I was buying in bulk, growers outlet had a great selection. A couple of weeks ago, we planted some of our cooler weather seeds like lettuce, kale, spinach and peas, which are already starting to sprout up.

Tomato supports are assembled and ready to go. Remember these from my Lowe's post. So cute and reasonable. Thinking I might have to grab one more for our cucumbers.

Speaking of veggies, check out our little pea shoots. And Tessa's handwritten sign. My MIL gave me the zinc plant markers for my birthday and I love them. In fact, I just ordered more. 

We are loving how the garden is taking shape. Still want to move the table, find a suitable urn for the center circle of the garden, add more flowering plants and decide on the back hedge. Loads of work on the horizon. Exciting!

until next time, 

Easter, Visits, and Garden Plans

Happy belated Easter weekend! If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram (If not, you really should!) you probably already know that we had family visiting for the holiday weekend. A great way to end our Spring break week. 

The girls loved dying eggs and hunting for them around the house with their grandparents. And I loved the extra cooking. I know, sounds funny, but sometimes cooking for just two extra people can cause me to splash out a bit more than I would for just John and our two picky girls. Feels more festive.
Some of the highlights from this weekend were: Edie's cheese tortellini soup, Ree's baked french toast, and Ina's Provencal Lamb.

It wasn't all celebration this past weekend, we managed to squeeze in a bit of work, too. I'm sure you are relieved. 
My parents are both avid (and opinionated) gardeners, so we really picked their brains when it came to our new kitchen garden. Concentrating on both plant placement and aesthetics, we tried to incorporate a lot of what they suggested. Along with some of our own ideas, of course. What would a family get together be without at least a tiny bit of disagreement :)

Parents suggestions:
1. Table moved to the back of garden, under the fig tree. We won't be growing anything back there anyway! Replace the table in the center with a large urn filled with blooming flowers.
2. Remove the potted rosemary so they won't block the new hedge.

Our ideas:
1. Add a hedge to outline the beds, potentially camouflaging a seasonal fence.
2. Trim the neighbors tree to allow for more light and more growing space.
3. Add some plants!

Speaking of plants, here's our rough outline for plantings. Completely not to scale and a bit rough, but you get the idea. Right?
Over the last couple of years, we've decided that gardening is all trial and error. In other words, we'll give this a go and if it doesn't work out, we'll try a new layout next year.

Any experienced Southern gardeners have any advice they'd like to share - I'm all ears, in the comment section below. 

Hope you had a great holiday weekend!

until next time,