A year in review

This last year was a big one. I gave birth to my first child and I decided to leave my corporate job. It was a LOT of change, really fast. It was the first year, in a long time, in which I felt incredibly present. This sudden lifestyle change and entirely new focus gave me the ability to think more creatively. Ultimately enabling me to tap even deeper into my love for gardening. Lucky me! I learned a lot this  year, but even more, my passion and interest in edible gardening GREW big time! img_5666

When I think of ONE word to describe my gardening life in 2016, it is “productive”. I did a much better job at planning. I put seeds in the ground early enough to take advantage of growing food all year long. I invested the time to thin, weed, and fertilize, resulting in productive and healthy plants. When I think of ONE word to describe what I am aiming for in 2017, it is “diversity”. megan-11

Now that I better understand garden planning, timing, and growing cycles, it is time to have a little more fun! I tend to grow what I know I will eat i.e. what I can find at the grocery store. How boring. In 2017 I want to try growing vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers that are new to me and my family. I typically dedicate the space in my raised beds to edible food only. In 2017 I hope to create a larger ecosystem of vegetables, herbs, and flowers grown next to one another. Thanks to The Fake Farmgirl who opened my eyes to the concept of a Potager garden in which flowers, herbs, vegetables, and fruits are intermingled. Ultimately, creating a stronger ecosystem to pollenate, fertilize, and protect against unwanted pests. 2017 is the year of a more diverse, colorful, and experimental garden.

Last year at this time, I documented my key accomplishments and lessons learned. THIS IS A MUST to get closer to the garden that you want to have. I am happy to report that I put my learnings into action in 2016. So here I go again.

Key Accomplishments

  • Grew more of everything. I grew more vegetables, herbs, fruit, and flowers than the year before. This is because I actually planned and most importantly understood the timing of when I needed to get seeds and bulbs into the ground. To do this, I suggest having one or two really great gardening books on hand. Food Grown Right, In Your Backyard lists out what you need to do in the garden each month. Read the instructions on seed packages. I am embarrassed to say that I have not done this and then the seeds or bulbs don’t sprout because I planted too deep, didn’t soak bulbs, or planted at the wrong time. This seems so simple but is often overlooked.
    • Timing: directly planted seeds for my spring garden by end of March , summer garden in early May, Fall garden by end of July, and last planting beginning of September.
  • Had beautiful roses from May – October. We bought and planted bare root roses in February and enjoyed roses starting in May! Visit your local nursery for bare root roses that will do well in your environment.
  • Expanded my gardening community and knowledge. Through this blog, social channels, and reaching out to gardeners within my local community, I have created a network of people that inspire me to grow food, eat real food, and treat Mother Earth with love and care. I look forward to continuing to grow and connect with this community in 2017.

 Lessons learned

  • I want to and can grow more. This will require another raised bed. I plan to build this bed in January to have it ready to roll for planting in March (blog post to come).
  • Grow more herbs. I learned how to air dry herbs this year and it was a success. These were great holiday gifts and I now have a container full of flavor from my own backyard. I definitely want to do this again in Fall 2017 and hope to have more herbs on hand to make twice as much. My two favorite herbs to air dry are Oregano and Thyme. dsc_0113
  • Grow more flowers. I said this last year. I did grow more flowers, but not nearly as many as I could have. Not only can these help create healthier vegetables, but who doesn’t want fresh flowers in their house all year long? I’m all about these flower recommendations from Seattle Urban Farm Company. img_4596
  • Onions need to be started as transplants in January. I directly seeded my onion seeds into the garden in late March. This didn’t work. Because I did not read any directions about growing onions, I just assumed I could directly plant the seeds into the garden in spring. It is best to plant onion transplants into the garden in late March and allow them to grow for 5-6 months before harvesting.
  • Sungold tomatoes rock! We had great success with this tomato variety and they are delicious. I personally like planting my tomato plants in large pots because they are easier for me to manage and don’t take up a lot of space in my raised bed.
  • Plant winter squash in the spring. I completely missed the boat on planting winter squash this year. You can direct seed winter squash and I will plan to do this by end of May. I hope to grow New England Pie Pumpkin and Honey Bear Acorn Squash.
  • Grow a “lettuce salad mix”. I love growing lettuce, I eat a lot of it and it is easy to grow in the PNW. This is the first year that I grew a lettuce mix. Not only was it fun to have a variety of lettuce leaves, but it also thrived in the garden. DSC_0022
  • Plant a fall garden. This year I was diligent about getting one more round of seeds into the ground at the beginning of September. This was well worth the effort and resulted in vegetables through January. It is such a treat to harvest carrots, beets, leeks, kale, and swiss chard on a cold, dark evening in the winter. dsc_0113
  • Reference a few key gardening resources. As mentioned before, it is so important to have a book or two on hand that makes it easier for you to know when to plant what. These are my go to gardening resources:

What has been your biggest learning in 2016? What is one thing you want to do in your garden in 2017?

I want to give a special THANK YOU to all of you who read my blog and support my gardening habits. Gardening would not be nearly as fun without those of you that help me learn, dig in the dirt, harvest, and enjoy the food!

Cheers to community and spreading the good gardening word in 2017!

With gratitude,

Megan megan

 

 

Winter squash + pumpkin recipes and planting

Confession: I totally missed the memo on planting winter squash. I was so focused on summer squash, that I wasn’t even thinking about growing my own fall decorations and more importantly, delicious fall and winter food. dsc_0087

So here we are, in the midst of fall and all of its glory. With Halloween right around the corner, pumpkins line patio steps and apartment balconies, and grocery bins are bursting with squash and pumpkins. And I suddenly realize that I want winter squash, of every kind, to line my steps, to spice up my fall decor, and of course, to eat!

Note to self: Plant winter squash and pumpkins (and gourds) next year (you should too). They are easy to grow and inexpensive (but do require some space).

What to plant:

  • Winter squash: acorn, delicata, butternut, and hubbard
  • Pumpkins: for carving and sugar pumpkins for eating
  • Gourds: if you have spacedsc_0086

When to plant: Direct seed in mid May. Winter squash need more time to mature than summer squash. You can also direct seed to grow your own transplants.

Reality check: We are well past May, so the opportunity to grow winter squash has passed, but it is added to the list for next year. The good news! Winter squash and pumpkins are readily available at the Farmer’s Market, Pumpkin Patches, and the grocery store.

NOW, getting to the actual motivation for this post – I encourage you to decorate for fall, Halloween, and Thanksgiving with winter squash and sugar pumpkins. They are beautiful, provide bold color, and the best part, when you are done using them as your autumn flair, you can eat them! So your decorations don’t go to waste. 

I have compiled a list of my favorite recipes that use an array of winter squash varieties and pumpkins. Check these out for some inspiration. 

Recipes for winter squash and pumpkins:dsc_0091

Winter Squash Pancakes with Crispy Sage and Brown Butter from Smitten Kitchen
Squash: you can use any variety
Are you kidding me? Pancakes for dinner?! Really they are for any time of day. Yummy!
Smitten Kitchen is an all time favorite of mine, check out her fabulous cookbook: The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook: Recipes and Wisdom from an Obsessive Home Cook.  

Slow Cooker Butternut Squash + Apple Soup from The Natural Nurturer
Squash: Butternut
Slow cooker? Say no more! Any recipe using my crockpot is worth trying – nothing better than the smell of dinner when you walk in the door after a long day! Not to mention healthy and delicious.
I have been following The Natural Nurturer for her easy, wholesome recipes that are intentionally crafted to be healthy, delicious, and family friendly. Check her out!

Chicken Sausage + Kale Stuffed Squash from Simply Real Health
Squash: Delicata
Not only is this recipe sweet and savory, but it is easy and healthy. Plus, 100% seasonal! I am still growing carrots and kale, and just finished harvesting my zucchini. You can find all of these ingredients at your local Farmer’s Market right now.
Sarah from Simply Real Health is the Queen of healthy, wholesome, tasty recipes that are designed for the seasons, so you can truly eat real food farm to table. Check out her cookbook: The Simply Real Health Cookbook: Easy Real Food Recipes For a Healthy Life, Made Simple.

Roast Pumpkin with Honey and Feta from Not Quite Nigella
Squash: any variety
I love this recipe – so simple and flavorful and you can apply it to any variety of squash or pumpkin.

Warm Winter Kale and Delicata Squash Salad with Maple Vinaigrette from Do You Even Paleo?
Squash: Delicata
Everyone needs a “go to” warm, delicious fall and winter inspired salad. Plus, if you still have kale in the garden, you can use that too!

Classic Baked Acorn Squash from Simple Recipes
Squash: Acorn
So simple and easy and NEVER disappoints. Pairs perfectly with just about anything. Plus, it is even a good leftover! Full of nutrients, regardless of the yummy brown sugar and butter.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds Six Ways from Wholefully
Pumpkin
Whatever you do, don’t forget to roast your pumpkin seeds. I personally prefer the basic olive oil + salt. But may have to give one of these six other options a try this year!

What are your favorite recipes using winter squash and/or pumpkins? Please share!

And come May 2017, don’t forget to plant your winter squash!

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