Current Status · Garden

Amateur PNW Gardening

Gardening can be very frustrating! It is so complicated because it is so simple. Ugh, the irony is annoying. I have always wanted to be able to grow my own food. How cool would it be if I could successfully grow my own fruit, lettuce, herbs, and tomatoes??? Yes, I know. Very cool. And healthy. Things you grow in dirt just happen to be good for you. Unfortunately, I have never had the patience or knowledge to garden. Remembering to water plants happens to be a weakness of mine. But this time, I am so committed to being a green thumb that I am going to make myself more accountable. How? Duh, blog about it!

Reasons to learn how to garden properly:

  1. I would save a ton of money. For what one pint of berries cost, I could grow my own all summer long.
  2. Access! Like “Oooh, cherry tomatoes would taste great in this salad. I THINK I WILL GO PICK SOME IN MY BACKYARD!”
  3. Health- By using organic products and using coffee grounds and eggshells as a cheat compost/fertilizer, I can reduce my exposure to chemicals and pesticides. Also, fresh produce=weight loss.

So now that I have explained the WHY of growing my own stuff, I guess I need to figure out the HOW. The hard part.

I think I have a bad reputation with plants. I have made so many attempts to garden before that I am surprised I haven’t given up entirely. I have killed more basil and tomato plants than I can count (I really love bruschetta and caprese salad). Something about gardening just eluded me. But when we bought our house a couple years ago, the people before us left some lovely surprises. Low maintenance plants and trees! Just enough perennials to give me an ego boost in gardening! Yahoo! This was enough to give me a little boost of confidence. Peonies and roses just pop out of the ground annually, whether I do anything to them or not! Magical!

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I love how peonies brighten up our house. I have also tucked a few away in the fridge for later. I tried it last year and the peonies never opened up, so this year I waited until the buds were a lot softer. I will let you know how that goes down…

We also have this incredible pear tree that provides a huge yield of juicy Bartlett pears in late summer. I made pear bread, pear sauce, pear caramel, pear jam, and pear pie all last summer. I am embarrassed to admit that the first year we lived at our house, we didn’t realize that the pear tree, was a pear tree. Not until a hundred over-ripened mushy pears fell in our driveway and rotted…and attracted fruit flies…So last year, I was super ready with recipes and plans for these free and delicious pears. This experience made me realize how awesome having fruit growing right in our yard was. Made me greedy.

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This is just one bag of pears I collected from our tree. You can see all the jam I made from the first ripe batch that I collected!

So this year, Ryan and I are committed to growing blueberries and raspberries too. We went to a local nursery with a good reputation and bought a blueberry plant and raspberry plant. Berries are so expensive and we had tried this before, but we had always bought them at the hardware store. Huge difference in the ones we bought from the hardware store and the nursery! The nursery berry plants are three times are big as the ones from the hardware store that never produced fruit. They are twice as big as the one we bought at Costco last month before we checked out the nursery. Pricier, but with the fruit blossoms already showing, you can just tell you will have a ton of fruit that season.

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Raspberries: The kind of raspberries we bought is called Raspberry Shortcake and it doesn’t need to be cross pollinated (this means it will produce berries even if you only have one plant). It is also thornless and you can mow it down or cut it down after the season is over and it will start over next year.

Blueberries: Although the blueberry breeds we bought don’t need cross-pollination, the owner of the nursery said that blueberries produce way more when there is a friend nearby. So we have the one from Costco and the one from the nursery. We are building a small retaining wall against a slope that borders our neighbor’s yard. Our plan is to fill it with good dirt and move the blueberries onto it once we finish.

Strawberries: I wasn’t too excited to do strawberries because they don’t typically produce much after the first year. I am more of a perennial kind of girl. However, there was a great deal at my school’s plant sale so I was thinking I could give it a go with just one plant and see what I get. At least it is everbearing which means I “can” get strawberries all summer long.

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Mint: Although I meant to buy spearmint so that I could make mojitos all summer long, I ended up with chocolate mint from my school’s plant sale. A very unexpected and awesome discovery though. It has a rich and velvety scent and is perfect for baking and drinking. It is a little less minty than spearmint but I have decided that is okay. I threw a handful into my iced green tea that I cold-brewed overnight and it added a really subtle fresh taste. I also muddled some into the grapefruit champagne mojitos that I made for Mother’s Day. So good and this stuff grows like a weed so I can use it in whatever I want, whenever I want.

My Pizza Garden: Greek oregano, Pineapple sage, English thyme, Rosemary, basil, Italian parsley, and chives. 

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I saw this really cute idea on Pinterest for making a “pizza garden” and knew I had to have it. Basically, you grow everything that you need for making a great pizza sauce! Freaking brilliant. Considering I love to can/preserve and homemade pasta and pizza sauce is way healthier than store bought, this idea really got my attention. I also saw a cool post about making your own dried herbs and I was thinking about how much dried Italian seasoning, oregano, and basil I go through.

So I am a very lucky girl and the high school I work at has an incredible greenhouse due to our hardworking students and plant and environmental biology teachers. They have a huge plant sale every year and they open it to the community with over 100 varieties of veggies, herbs, flowers, and fruits. So not only is everything organic and well cared for by my talented students and colleagues, but it is ridiculously affordable and high quality. So I waited to buy my herbs from the plant sale and I was not disappointed.

I also bought that awesome tiered planter that our school’s advanced Construction Trades class made. My kids can be so impressive. This is exactly the one I asked Ryan to build me weeks ago. I even sent him this link on how to build it.It made it on the Honey Do list, but I thought I would save my honey some work and buy it instead. Great deal though since I got it for $25.

I also bought some established butter lettuce from our local nursery and cannot believe how well it is doing. Crisp and sweet, I could use this lettuce for anything and it is holding up so nice. I just picked off a bunch of the larger leaves on Sunday for my mom and look how fast the inner leaves grew to take their place!

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You can see the ground eggshells I have been using to help infuse some extra protein, vitamins, and minerals into my lettuce. What you can’t see are the coffee grounds I threw into the soil for some slow-release of nitrogen as the grounds break down. I have been adding these two items into all parts of my garden weekly and I swear it has made a difference in two weeks. My lettuce was a little wilty despite sun and water and not growing very quickly. However, I have noticed a huge boost in growing power since adding eggshells and ground coffee. I just set aside the eggshells in a pyrex bowl as I use them. Then, once a week, I do a quick rinse of the eggshells, heat the oven to 350 and put the whole bowl right in the oven. After about 20 minutes, the eggshells are brittle enough that they shatter well into itty bitty pieces. I just smash them with my mortar and pestle quickly. Ryan has been really good about saving all my coffee grounds from my refillable K-cup.
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I got so good with the eggshell and coffee grounds routine that I got it in my head for about five whole minutes that I would start composting too. HAHA not. After one search on Pinterest, I realized that it was a bit too advanced for a noob like me. Maybe next year.

I am waiting to get my tomato plants from a family friend, but once those are in place, I will have everything I need in order to make pasta sauce and preserve it. I am hoping to get enough tomatoes to preserve salsa and tomato jam as well. I have some sweet pea current tomato plants too, but those are the tiniest tomatoes in the world and will be more for snacking and salads. They don’t seem quite ready to go in the ground yet (but what the hell do I know?), so there will definitely be more garden updates to come.

Remembering to water the yard and plants is still kind of a thing for me, but Ryan and I have turned it into a routine. We are working hard at getting grass to grow in the dry patches last summer’s drought created. You can sprinkle all the grass seed you want, but if you don’t water it, it won’t grow. This was kind of a newsflash for me… So he waters in the morning and I water when I get home from work. I keep old boots right by the door to slip on and I invested in a watering can. It is hard to get myself to put off Netflix, Grey’s Anatomy and Madam Secretary when I get home to do yard work, but it is keeping me moving and not snacking. I have logged 10,000 steps minimum daily since I started caring about our yard and garden. My blog is called michellemakesmore for a reason… I get a bit passionate and overdo it sometimes. Hoping my obsessive nature helps my garden grow!

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4 thoughts on “Amateur PNW Gardening

  1. Hi Michelle! I don’t know if you remember me haha, I was Sasha’s french excahnge student last year at Fed! I really like your blog and wanted to say that I especially like this post considering my mummy and I are having a lot of plants and love it! So good luck with your garden and keep up the good work! I miss you much! Lots of kisses from France! 😀

    1. Chloe of course I remember you!!!! How could I forget such a sweet cutie?! Miss you so much as well. Thanks for checking out my blog 🙂

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