spring garden

May 01, 2024

I have some great pictures to share with you today! Our garden! I don't know what I'm more proud of, the roses, the perennial border, or the vegetable garden, so I'll show all three because everything is doing so well. The queen of the garden above, not me, the Climbing First Prize rose towering over me, is a show stopper every year, but this year she has outdone herself. Last year I kept an eye out for the newest and healthiest "main stems" that shoot out during the growing season, and during the January pruning I asked my gardener to tie them to the structure. I generally prune all the roses but of course need help with the tall climbers. Our gardeners are so sweet and they scramble up the ladder without a care. I think we added at least 3 more long stems to what we already had. Bending the long climbers in this way allows them to branch out at their leaflets and then bud like crazy. The roses themselves are almost dinner plate size and the largest ones are as big as my head. It is mildly fragrant.

The perennial border at the back of the garden is pictured below. The wisteria is just past its peak and is a few weeks away from saying goodbye for the year, but the irises have taken over and the hydrangeas and roses are in bud, and I've also planted my zinnias. But let's not forget the vegetable garden, she's going strong!

Where should I start? I think I'll show my husband below, rototilling the flower border getting it ready for my zinnias that were started in the greenhouse a few months ago. The weather has warmed and they are several inches tall so they were ready to plant. My husband also rototills the raised beds in the vegetable garden. He also maintains the watering system while I do the planning, planting and weeding. We are a team! Luckily, we both love it, and while we spend hours and hours on this garden, neither of us would have it any other way.

Unfortunately we had to rip out the nasturtiums that had volunteered themselves, but they will soon get very scraggly and it was mighty weedy, so they had to go. Plus, the zinnias, as sturdy as they are, need a nice clean bed just for themselves. My husband gave me this picture perfect border, all ready to plant!

This border takes almost 200 zinnia seedlings. This year I'm trying some brand new varieties from Floret and Dawn Creek. I'm very excited to see how they grow, but their germination was excellent, so that is a good sign of things to come.

The greenhouse is mostly emptied out now. All the veggie and flower seedlings have all been planted out save a few that I save in case there is a casualty. 

When we first moved to this house forty years ago, our elderly neighbor brought a few bearded iris from his garden as a housewarming present. All these years later and they are sill going strong.

The vegetable garden has 7 raised beds. I try to rotate the crops every year or two.

The first one next to the house has fours rows, one of leeks, one of green onions, and the last two are mixed beets and mixed chard varieties.

Rosemary is in the foreground with tomatoes started in January behind. Also below.

This bed has tomatoes started a month later and they are quite a bit smaller but they will take off pretty soon. I have a few pots filled with climbing nasturtium for a pop of fun color.

This bed has climbing pole beans that grow up the fruitless magnolia branches saved from January's pruning, and a new variety of dahlias that I started from seed. I put little cages around the beans sprouts to help keep the bunnies away with mixed results.

My summer squash bed, a few different varieties, but mostly pattypan.

This bed has two varieties of bush beans, Emerite and French Filet, and several varieties of cucumbers. I always grow small bumpy thin skinned varieties for pickling, but new this year is a Japanese long and tiny gherkins.  Also in this bed is a short row of fennel and another of dill. Three cherry tomatoes are in the corner.

Fennel is new for me this year, but we love it sliced and roasted and it's expensive in the store so I thought I'd give it a try.

The herbs are right outside the kitchen door which makes it easy to harvest a handful when I'm cooking dinner. I made some flavored butters but instead of rolling them into rolls and wrapping in wax paper, I decided to put them in these little plastic crocks I had recycled. They are in the freezer now, labeled and ready to go. They will last for 6 months, but I'll have to make some more if I want to use them during the holidays. The herbs are at their most flavorful right now in the spring and it's a good time to make herb flavored butters, oils and vinegars. 

Another job that we finished this week was to juice the last of our oranges. Our kids had to come over and help us pick the ones from the very top. We pick and juice four times over a period of a month. This harvest below is a rather small one if you can believe it. Most times we picked twice that amount and it would take a few hours to get through the juicing! I am the washer, the slicer and the bottler. My husband is the juicer. 

I counted 42 quarts in the freezer!

At this point, most of the heavy work is done and it's just the watering and weeding to maintain, which is enough work, trust me, before the big harvesting begins in summer. We actually enjoy all the stages of it, but at the end of the day it is mighty nice to sit with your tootsies up and enjoy the garden and do a little knitting. I have finished three sweaters! Sharing soon, promise!

Before I go, one last peek at that First Prize. I took so many pictures of it but my husband convinced me to get in the photo so you could see the scale. It's got to be 12 feet tall!

This is the back side where the blooms are a little later to open than the other side. Something to do with sun I guess!

If you are new here you'll probably want to know where we are! We live in Northern California, specifically the San Francisco Bay Area where the weather is often sunny and mild. We had a lot of rain this year and have had a very cool spring but the garden has loved it and thrived. We are organic and have been for dozens of years. We have lived here and gardened this property for forty years. I don't often make garden posts as this is mainly a knitting blog, but gardening is very much a part of our lives, especially in spring and summer, so you'll see a few garden posts. When the roses are fully out, not just the early First Prize, I'll make a rose post. When I start to harvest I'll share the varieties I'm growing, especially the tomatoes as we grow over two dozen. I will also share the zinnias again when they are in bloom as I acquired some newly available seed that has just been offered to the home gardener this year. Terribly exciting for me! If gardening is not your thing, don't worry, knitting is never very far away! I'll be back soon with some yarny posts as I have some wonderful new yarn reviews to share with you and I'm very excited!

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  1. Simply breathtaking! Never make an excuse for a non-knitting post, especially if it is about your garden. I do love hearing about all of your capers, crafts and knitting, but this garden post was a real treat. I can see the love that you and your husband put into it. That First Prize rose is magnificent!

    1. Aww, thank you so much for your lovely comment. I really appreciate hearing from you!

  2. Your garden is spectacular! That rose that you pictured is one of the biggest blooms I have ever seen. What do you feed.her? Thanks for posting your garden, I so enjoyed this post!

    1. My husband is in charge of the feeding, but this year I know he added a lot of chicken manure to every bed. Sometimes he will get a truck load ordered but this year we went to the nursery a few times and filled the SUV with bags and bags of it. He also uses a natural rose food from EB Stone that he likes. We also had a lot of rain this year and I suppose that made it happy. I've seen many other First Prize Roses but this particular one has always loved its spot and gets big early blooms that stay, and it's a repeat bloomer.

  3. I love that you balance your knitting with your beautiful gardens. Thank you for sharing!

    So glad you posted a photo

    1. Thank you! It really is unbelievable this year.

  5. You look so cute in that hat! The garden gets more beautiful each year. This year it is stunning.

  6. Fabulous! We live in San Diego. My husband is the vegetable gardener and I do the flowers - nothing compared to your scale. My question is how do you keep snails and rabbit from decimating your garden?

    1. Thank you, but I have to admit that we do use snail bait. I know an organic gardener is not supposed to, but after trying so many benign ways to kill slugs and snails, I went back to snail bait. The bunnies and squirrels are another problem. We always had dogs so never imagined that these little critters could pose such a problem, but we've been dogless for years and now they have no fear of our yard. For the rabbits, my husband constantly fills fence holes, etc. and we cover the most precious plants with cages and it works moderately well. Generally I don't think rabbits live too long around here as there are so many predators that live in the creek across the street and I know they come out at night. Sometimes I'll see bunnies and then I won't see them for weeks. Both squirrels and bunnies hate certain smells so I make a stinky concoction of that--mostly cayenne, garlic and onion powders mixed with water and a bit of castille soap. I sprinkle it around the plants I want to save and the smell stays active for about a day and they stay away for a short time. Even with all that, we just do have a squirrel and bunny problem. What do you do?


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