May 31, 2016

Lots of Rain = Big Harvests

written by Yvonne

The week we were gone on a family vacation to OBX, it rained every day in Charlotte and the temps were quite cool. We returned to an abundance of greens in the garden.  I harvested:

  • enough collards for 5 days worth of smoothies,
  • enough lettuce for 4 days of big salads for lunch,
  • enough greens for 5 nights worth of dinners (main meals, not side dishes),
and STILL did not make a dent in what was available.

More rain happened then we headed to McClellanville, SC for a long Memorial Day weekend and came back to even MORE abundance.

Today I harvest what you see below which includes collards, (the last of the) lettuce, mint, Swiss Chard, carrots, raspberries, snow peas, purple cabbage, and dill.

This will be enough for 5 days of smoothies, 4 days of salads, and 3 nights of main-dish dinners.

April 24, 2016

Spring 2016 Update

written by Yvonne

Things are finally coming up. Seems like it takes twice as long as the package says for seeds to sprout, but for the most part, everything eventually does come up.

Me taking a picture of Tom taking a picture of the garden.

The first blackberry flower of the season. This photo makes the flower look huge, but it's actually quite small. I didn't even see it but on closer inspection, Tom saw it and snagged a shot.

The strawberries have been flowering for many weeks now but the flowers are hard to spot. We didn't tend these at all during the winter and they came through just fine. This is the main strawberry patch. There are two others in large pots.

When you pull back all that green, there are many of small flowers; some have started to drop their leaves and are forming the berries.

Very successful cabbage. Still probably need to thin these out because once they get big, I don't know if there will be enough space for all of them to mature.

Collards doing GREAT.

This is Swill Chard which was planted several weeks after the collards.

The lettuce has come on full force. It's actually bigger than this now and we've even begun eating from it. Adding arugula to our lunch salad is such a treat!

(Ants view of the lettuce.)

The peas haven't taken off like I'd hoped, but this one is coming along OK.

To the left is a patch of carrots and the larger plant on the right is beans.


Spinach is WAY disappointing. I planted two full packs of seeds in the area and this is all that's come up.

This is oregano that came back after winter. I'll be drying some more soon because we just ran out.

This is thyme that also came back after the winter. I planted parsley and cilantro a few weeks ago but no signs of it yet. Most herbs don't want to come out until it's consistently super hot weather. We've been having a beautiful cool spring so I'm not giving up on these seeds just yet.

An overview of the Spring garden after a good rain.

March 15, 2016

written by Yvonne

Just about all of the spring garden has been planted. Cabbage and carrots went down on 3/6 and this past Sunday (3/11) the collards, spinach, kale and lettuce were planted. I planned for a really big spinach patch thinking I had a lot of spinach seed. When I pulled the seeds out, I only found two kinds so I planted what I had. Later when I went to put some other seeds back, I found three more varieties of spinach! Well, those will have to wait for late summer I guess.  We got two good rains since Saturday so hopefully some sprouts will start to appear soon.

February 12, 2016

2016 - Smaller and More Manageable

written by Yvonne

By late Spring of last year, T and I became a little overworked and a lot burnt out. Too much of... well, too much everything: bees, garden, yard work, house upkeep, commitments, etc. We took time off from the garden and did not plant anything for Fall and Winter.  This turned out to be a great decision as it gave us time to re-think how best to manage our time as it relates to the garden.

The first change we are implementing is that I won't be writing nearly as many blog posts. Originally I was going to give this up altogether, but we use the blog for reference purposes, and folks do enjoy reading about our successes and failures. So instead of writing something every week, it will likely be more like once a month.  (I mean really - how many pictures of indecipherable, tiny green seedlings does one need to write about?)

The second change is that I will be the primary manager of the garden. This should allow Tom more time for his bees and will allow me to mange the garden around my schedule.

The last change is that I will plant only two beds at any given time and the other two beds will fallow. This should allow for easier management and not be so time consuming.

Although the weather is still very cold, the bright sunny day and 0% change of rain/snow allowed us to spend a few hours on Sunday doing some prep work. Tom tilled beds 3 and 4...

and we refilled the boxes with a load of dirt.

Beds 3 and 4 are now ready for planting and I will spend time this weekend picking out and ordering seeds from the Sow True seed catalog.

Of course, everyone was eager to help.

Not too hard to tell which dog likes her paws firmly on the ground and which one is more up for adventure.

April 26, 2015

Yep... Still Green

written by Yvonne

Honey and Olive wanted to make sure everyone knows how much they help in all of our gardening endeavors.  They did a good job of making sure these bales of straw didn't blow away.

And yes, you guessed it. We are still (happily) eating spinach and lettuce!  Baskets full!

And there is still plenty more growing!  Actually, after harvesting a good amount of the spinach pictured here, we started pulling up the plants because they've begun to bolt.

This is the other end of the lettuce/spinach bed. Tom tilled it and planted (from left to right) snap peas, Provider bush beans, Maxibell bush beans.  In the background you can see new rows of spinach coming up in bed #3.

The collards, Swiss chard and kale are just about ready to eat.  Next weekend I'll likely make something with the Swiss chard. Upon further inspection, Tom determined that the large plant in the right foreground is a couple of turnips, not collards.  Still good eatin' either way.

Only a few of the peas have come up so far (center).

This volunteer cucumber showed up out of nowhere. It's a little early for cucumbers but if it wants to come up now, fine by us.

Still plucking off the strawberry flowers and it seems to be working because the plants are really growing nicely.

We are a behind in starting summer seeds. We should have started melons, squash, peppers and tomatoes a few weeks ago, but there are only so many hours in a weekend.  Tom filled up the pots I made with dirt and tomorrow I'll get some squash, melons, and pumpkin seed started.

Tom also tilled the garden annex area. Ya know, I think we just like having this as potential so we get it ready every year and think we're going to find just the right thing to make it work. Yes, a few squashes materialized last year, but for the most part, it's been a dud. Well NO MORE! Boy do we have plans for it now!  You may recall we purchased rosemary and two kinds of mint plants in early Spring. This is where they are going to reside and we have high hopes they will 'take' since both are aggressive and hearty. We've managed to keep the plants alive through some really cold weather. Now that the bed is ready, they'll get planted tomorrow.  THEN, we're going to take chicken wire previously used for compost bins and hang it on the outside of the carport.  We'll secure it down at the bottom of this of brick wall with stakes.  Then we'll transplant some jasmine at the back of this bed and let it grow up the chicken wire.  We'll have a nice beautiful natural wall blocking off the ugly carport. It'll make for a much nicer view from the back patio.  We did the same thing several years ago on one end of the front porch and it's worked great.

Whew!  It's finally done! And what a job it was. It took two weekends, many hours, 3 broken tools, and MANY loads of brush wheeled to the front yard for pick up.  But the back fence line has now been completely cleared out. We cleared a third of it together two weekends ago then Tom finished the last 2/3 by himself.

Here's what it looked like before....

and here it is after!



This is before mostly shows the overgrown compost bins. Nonetheless, here is before...

and after!  Doesn't even look like the same yard, does it? Now that it's a nice open, accessible space Tom was able to get to the trees to hang some bee boxes. (Read more about that later this week at  Our neighbors told us numerous times over the weekend how great it looked. Guess it was worse than we thought.

April 14, 2015

More Yard Work Than Gardening

written by Yvonne

Believe it or not there are compost bins in this photo. Last time we moved the compost bins, we put up eight bins total. After a while, we realized we weren't using them all so we decided to reduce the number to four.  We removed two bins a while ago and this weekend it was time to take down the other two and move the remaining bins to a new location. At the same time, we planned to clear out the whole back fence line.

First we cleared out the new space where the bins will reside. Next, Tom cut off all the jasmine that had grown in, around, and through the bins - not an easy job at all. The vines had become so intertwined with the wire it was hard to find the beginning of one and the end of another. (Stephanie - if you're still following, here's a good Find Olive photo.)

As Tom unearthed the bins, I went to task cutting the vines off.

My gloves are a bit too big for my hands so they became a hindrance for this detailed job. When I needed to use them again, all I had to do was find Honey and there they were.

With the space cleared out and the wire free of jasmine vines, the bins were set up in their new location. Tom went to work moving the compost shovel-full by shovel-full from the old location to the new. This took a very long time as we had quite a bit of compost 'cooking'.

Here is the area before....

and here is the after!  What a difference, eh?  The compost is now to the right and pushed all the way back to the fence. We cleared about half the fence line and we'll finish up the rest this coming weekend. The plan is to plant bee-friendly flowers and ground cover along the fence and use some of the space for possible bee yard expansion. (For more specifics on this, go to

Tom used several buckets to make compost tea which is just compost mixed with water. After these sit for a week, they'll get strained and the nutrient-rich water will be poured over the berries and fig tree.

After a long, tough day in the yard Saturday, we were treated to a relaxing day at a Charlotte Knights game (thanks again Porter). What a great weekend!