Chokecherry Jam

chokecherries upcloseChokecherry jam and maybe even some syrup is what I am canning this morning. How many batches depend on how hot the kitchen gets while I am doing it. This is one of our favorite fruit delicacies. I was a little shocked that we actually had zero left in the pantry. So, I guess the timing of the harvest is absolutely perfect.

chokecherry in a bucketYou can see that we (Pete and Ben, not me) harvested about 3 gallons from our hedge outside the garden. This is one of my favorite painting buckets that I use for harvesting smaller amounts in the garden. With all the stains, it is not a bucket that others want to take home so it has been my garden friend for years.

A friend and I used to walk around and pick berries together but we have both aged and we do it much less now. It is much easier to just pick right here at our property anyhow. This chokecherry and elderberry are really the only berry bushes that the wildlife pretty much leaves alone. Maybe it is because they are so sour.

Anyhow, almost all the other berries around are terrorized and murdered by deer around us. Thank God for tall garden fencing and venison production.

I remember reading about native uses in curing beef, and also there are some cyanide warnings with bark collection, so you can’t use a juicer on them.

Banana Peppers

pepper Banana 014The yellow banana peppers are coming on now in the garden and here is what was picked today on our kitchen counter. We grew these last year and really enjoyed their sweet flavor in salads and snack trays. Yum. Gonna try a new flavor adventure on these guys by trying a new recipe of pickling on them. I also did a search on Google and stumbled on this wonderful site, “Insanely Good” with 10 recipes for banana peppers. Now, I am going to have to try all of them, cause they look so good.

pepper Banana 007The starts looked like this, just after their transplant in the middle of May 2023. You can tell that we loved their flavor last year so we saved a lot of seed and did many starts for both our garden and the North County Food Pantry garden.pepper Banana 012 They are producing very well in the middle of July, about 60 days after their initial transplant.

pepper Banana 011Happy light green peppers that continue growing into longer and yellower fellows on the vine. They are a bright yellow when they are ready to pick. We will have an abundance of these tasty little guys this year. We can eat them fresh, dehydrate and freeze them, or pickle them.

Zinnia Abundance

zinnia 027 with butterflyThere should be quite a zinnia abundance in our garden year. I know that I am not the only one who loves these bright flowers… check out Mr. Butterfly. It looks as though he has had some rough times with his left wing, but that does not stop him from enjoying this flower.

zinnia 011Clearing the Jungle

This year, I was lucky to find a whole shoebox full of zinnia seed packets in the garage of an estate sale for $2. Of course, I bought them even though they were from 2002, so why not? They will either grow or they will not grow, either way, it was worth the investment. I planted all of those seeds in a wide row about 18 feet long in this garden patch. They are all overgrown with weeds, so it is time to spend some serious time weeding. I have dug out the borderline of the iris and placed the guardian gnome at the garden entrance.

zinnia 012A kind of search and rescue mission ensues to discover where the zinnias, marigolds, and other flower seeds are located among the ground cover weeds. Can you see the different shaped leaves in a row? It is hard to see, isn’t it? I start with the for-sure weeds and work my way around until I can discover where the row is.

zinnia 013

The marigolds here are much easier to identify in this confusing crowd of weeds.

zinnia 014Here it is all weeded and transplanted. They sure wilt and look horrible for a little while, but I always follow my grandma’s advice. Immediately, give any transplant a real good drink and they will be fine. She is totally right!

zinnia 020

Tired and overheated, I feel as though I should give up. But, thankfully, I notice another area of Zinnia’s already blossoming just a few feet away. They were planted with seed last year and re-seeded themselves so they are a welcomed returning garden resident. I am encouraged. The anticipation of being able to paint these colorful petals with their light highlights, and shadows that exaggerate the shapes is all this artist needs.


chamomille 020Chamomille is a self-seeding plant, and it is in bloom right now. I am dehydrating these little daisy-looking flowers almost every other day. It is a large part of our herbal teas. Every year I witness life springing anew. It is a wonderful part of life to be able to see what looks like dead plants come back to life.

cosmos 054Cosmos is a self-seeding flower that I have learned to fully embrace in our garden design. I pick the perfect place to put an area of plants that naturally re-seed themselves each spring, my workload is decreased by the self-seeder because I don’t have to plant them every earl spring. . I do have to manually weed this area but, I have to weed during the life cycle of any crop we plant.

iris 052Iris is a colorful and fragrant part of early spring for us. They just don’t seem to last long enough each year.

Shasta daisy 014Daisies are a pleasure to see. We love the way that the Perennials keep coming back every year.

poppy 070 poppy 071Both the California (yellow) and Oriental poppies are blooming in a colorful array to be picked and dried to make teas and tinctures. The yellow California poppy blossoms are safe for non-narcotic teas and tinctures.

poppy 068 poppy 066 poppy 069 poppy 067Poppies are another container of flowers that are picked in the early morning to make tea and tinctures with. You can see the wide range of colors that they bloom in.

rose 053The roses are blooming and I collect their blossoms for use in making beauty creams.

holly Hock Red 006 holly Hock Pink 006Let’s not forget the hollyhocks who have tall and graceful figures in the garden.

There are many other beautiful flowers across the garden. The bees, butterflies, and birds are very happy.


Grape Leaves

grape Chardonnay 011Grape leaves are very artistic and beautiful.Grape are a crop that needs to be tied up to keep it from spreading all over the garden. These are some Chardonnay grapes from last year, and no we don’t use them to make wine. We just make our own grape juice and jelly. I don’t actually tie the vies up with string, instead, I very carefully bend and braid them around and along their log supports or rails. It is a gradual process and involves some patience and persistence.

We have a great book that shows us how to trim everything for fruit. “All About Growing Fruits & Berries”, by Ortho Books. Here is the method I started doing last year and this year and they are beginning to really improve.

grape TrainingThe vines are looking very happy this year and are growing quickly. However, I did notice some weird bumps on one of our grape plants while training its vines around their supports this year.

grape Leaves 02On the top of the leaf, weird raised blisters show up that resembles the kind you get on your hands when you forget to use gloves. grape Leaves 02But, on the back was a white powdery substance so, of course, I had to Google it. Oregon University has some answers from their master gardeners below.

Blister mites are running wild this season. It seems that the perfect conditions combined for population explosions of these tiny, elongated mites which noticeably disfigure the leaves of grapes, pears, walnuts, and more.

Blister Mites: Grapes; Pears; Walnuts

Bet you didn’t know that, but now you do.

Tie ’em Up

rototilling Boaz 001Tie ’em Up! Once the plant starts are established and begin to crawl on the ground we tie them up on fencing, to protect them from wind and it makes it easier to pick later on. Then, Mr. Wind won’t be able to lay them all down if he decides to visit.

We have been blessed this year to have a wonderful young man join us in the garden. He is interested in learning how to garden and you can see his spirit as he works with Mr. Pete on rototilling.

This season Boaz has learned how to plant his own seeds and care for them. Pete and he are planting tomatoes here. Boaz has his crops with ours all over the garden and he is doing quite well. In fact, he sold 10 heads of lettuce at the Deer Park Market on July 1st! Way to go! He is a fun guy to work with.


tomatoes 075This is a 60-foot row of tomatoes with lots of varieties, and sizes but only two cherry tomato plants closest to the gate. Where I stood to take the picture. Why, are there only two cherry tomatoes? We don’t have enough time to harvest those teeny tiny cherry tomatoes.

tomatoes 077A larger volume of tomato products is what is important to us. Tied-up tomato plants look like this when done. We grow as many tomatoes as possible. This year we are delighted with how early our tomatoes began to make fruit. We changed the way we start our plants inside in early spring, and are seeing great results this year. It really helps to have sturdy and mature starts for that transplant into the garden. We love to have a pantry full of tomato stuff all year long. Spaghetti, juice, sauce, paste, salsa.. salsa.. salsa… Yum!

Spokane in Bloom 2023

Spokane in Bloom 2023Spokane in Bloom 2023 is this Saturday from 10am-5pm. This year’s theme is, “Journey Through the Senses“. Come and experience 6 truly beautiful gardens on the south side of Spokane. Tickets are $15 and are available online and in other locations. A map is available on the Inland Empire Gardeners’ website.

The Spokane in Bloom Garden Tour is an annual event by, “The Inland Empire Gardeners“. Come have a good time as you get to visit with other gardeners, artists, and craft vendors. 600 to 800 attendees are anticipated on Saturday.

A Fun Day for the Whole Family

Again, we are looking forward to seeing the gorgeous gardens full of wonderful like-minded “garden lovers”. Just having a lot of fun talking with people who love to garden just like we do.

Come see our art booth at the “Hear the Wind Garden” which is the creation of Jody & Todd Hechtman at 2020 E 23rd Ave, Spokane, WA 99203. Directions to the “Hear the Wind Garden“, starting at 29th & Regal, right on E 29th Ave. Right on S Southeast Blvd. Left on E Rockwood Blvd. Left on S Crestline St. Right on E 23rd Ave.

Our booth will be exhibiting art originals and prints for sale by Valerie Woelk. Again, you can expect colorful watercolors, oil paintings, and drawings of a wide range of subjects. Instead of matting/framing art, I bag them and let you frame them however you would like. On Saturday, there will be economical “unframed originals” and remember that the last time we did this show , every bagged watercolor original was sold.

The very best part of our memories of that year was having interesting conversations with others who love to garden just as much as we do. We talked about, Hummingbirds, flowers, vegetables, trees, soil, fertilizer, compost and every method of gardening, that you could possibly think of.

Spring Cleaning

strawberry 057
Raised strawberry bed after winter

Spring cleaning in the garden is always amazing to me. Plants that are looking so totally dead, are really not.  I am so grateful for the softer soil and the milder (cooler) temperatures as we work. You can grab a whole handful of weed and pull it fully out (roots and all) from the soft cool soil. We remove all of the dead, pulling weeds as much as possible as we go through the whole garden. Clearing so can start to sprout up and blossom again.

strawberry 058
Using hands and shears I cut all of the dead out.

Cleanup begins with all the fruit trees done in the winter. Now it is the berries then on to the herbal tea garden, herbs, spices, and everything else. see all the dead hanging out on the sides of the raised strawberry bed.

strawberry 059
All the debris is on the outside on the ground.

Big piles of weeds are easily piled up and burned in the middle of the garden. The ash is worked back into the soil with the tractor disc and rototilling, which is the next step. Ash is one of God’s fertilizers. All stalks and dead are burned.

mints Spring
Mint tea plants after winter

EXCEPT FOR THE MINT!, they are simply burned outside of the garden or else they will be growing everywhere. I only have to miss a single leaf and a new mint plant begins., SUNFLOWERS too, don’t go there with me, that takes a couple of pages of words even to begin to describe.

All year long I approach garden chores on a first come first needed basis. Like, the asparagus is the first crop so it gets cleared first. It is the only way I can keep from going crazy trying to keep up.

Asparagus Comes

asparagus patch after winterI love when the asparagus comes each year. Here is what our asparagus patch looked like just as winter melted away this year. See all the dead lying on top of each row? It looks like a zombie garden, but, there are some real treasures getting ready to spring up as soon as it warms up a little. I raked all the dead off the top just after the snow melted which was about 2 weeks ago.

asparagus 040Our patch is finally had enough time to actually grow up and produce reliably for us. It is a total of seven 25-foot rows that were started in 2018 and increased in size from saved seed. Don’t listen to people that say it is impossible to do. You don’t have to spend a million dollars to accomplish this. I bought 6 roots from North 40 Farm Supply for about $20 bucks and planted them. Then we collected seeds and saved them, planting more each year. It is about a 3-year job but well worth the work and patience required.

asparagus 049Who else loves asparagus?

Did you know which one of our early American Presidents loved asparagus? He loved it so much that he grew a  lot of it in his Monticello gardens. Have you already guessed? Well, it was Thomas Jefferson who evidently was quite a gardener himself. Look it up if you don’t believe me. Here is a recipe of his for marinated asparagus, that is really good.

first harvest of asparagusEvery other day I pick about 10 pounds of delicious vegetables. This is a picture of the first harvest with some long and some short. All sizes are delicious and also very good for you.

Seed Starting in INW

Inland North West Seed Starting

Our seed starting methods changed for us this year. We got clear food-grade tall containers to transplant into that allow more room for roots to flourish. Since we do not have a really long growing season, we have to start seed early, in order to be able to harvest before frost hits.

Plant Starts 01Usually, we put plants on every window sill in the house and run around watering and turning them. There becomes a real problem with the limited widths of the sill and the windows being actually a little chilly. But, when we built our place we did install in-floor heating and loved it. This year we placed trays on our heated floors in the basement and put grow lights suspended over them. We water from the bottom and use our favorite potting soil (Black Gold).

Doing it this way gives us enough room to plant more and include plants needed for where we volunteer at the at the Pantry Garden, and Garden Fest.

It took an investment in LED grow lights purchased from Home Depot,

4 ft. 54-Watt Vertical White LED 3 Adjustable Spectrum Linkable Plant Grow Light Fixture White Adjustable Light

and building a temporary structure to hold them from materials lying around. The increased healthy growth in all the plants seems well worth it. Plus, all of it is reusable for many years.

After the plants get a good start we then take turns spending evening hours transplanting them to bigger containers so the roots have room. It is so much nicer to be able to open windows without worrying about spillage and clean up and have our windows back.

With such solid plants started we are really looking forward to putting in a productive garden this year.