Posts Tagged ‘gardening’

Today I wanted to provide a progress update on the seeds I started last weekend and pot up some of my previously started seeds into cups – this will likely be their last home before they get transplanted outside (if the weather cooperates). “Potting up” is needed in order to ensure they get enough water and nutrients for their larger (and hungrier/thirstier selves) selves. 🙂

First, some updates on the kale and lettuce seeds started last week:

At the rear is the cabbage I started 2 weeks ago (which we’ll be up-potting today.

In the row in front of them are the kale – all came up.

Lettuce is in the 2 rows in front of that, some are slowly starting to sprout (which is normal).

Let’s transplant the cabbage seedlings into cups. I use styrofoam cups since they last long (even though I know it’s no longer politically correct to use it – I’ve had them for 3 years now and will only throw them out if they die on me).

Step 1: Get your cups/larger containers ready. I poked holes in the bottom of these cups with a chopstick to let water drain out. I fill the cup halfway with seed starting mix or potting mix (something light and airy so the roots can grow well)..

Step 2: Thin them out. Remember how we planted 2-3 seeds per pod? Now is the time to snip the weaker ones and keep the strongest to transplant. Use scissors and carefully snip the weak ones – don’t pinch them or pull them out in case it disturbs the roots of the one you’re keeping. Here are my casualties – which I sprinkled over pasta for dinner – no waste!

Step 3: If you can, remove the pod mesh wrapping from the seedling – very gently so as not to damage the roots – and plop it in the cup.  I prefer to to do this now, and don’t plant them in the garden outside with it on – I’ve found these a year later in my soil – they don’t disintegrate like they’re supposed to. I gently twist it in a bit so it’s snug – but again, gently – there are roots coming out of these and you don’t want to damage them.

Step 4: Add more seed starting/potting mix to the cup to just under the rim.

Do the same thing for each seedling you want to move to a larger cup/pot.

Step 5: Water them in – I stack them into foil roasting pans – easy to transport around, catches water that drains out – they last for years and are not expensive. Highly recommend.

Done! Now, they go into my south-facing window, I rotate them often, make sure they’re watered. Provide a very light fertilizer to feed them and keep my eye on the weather. 🙂


Now, let’s start some more seeds – this time for marigolds (which I plant around the garden for pest control) and roma tomatoes (for sauce and salsa).

Same drill as last week: Prep the pods first – I rearranged my kale to the back row to make room for more empty pods, then added water so they poof up. I’m planting 17 marigolds and 7 romas. (Oh, you can see a lettuce sprouting in the bottom right poofed up pod!)

First the marigolds:

Then the tomatoes:

Fluff up the peat in the pods, add 2 seeds to each pod.

Then cover the seeds with a bit of the fluffed up peat and you’re good to go. I added a bit of water to the tray to make sure they stay moist. Covered them with the dome again and the waiting (and fawning) continues. 🙂

Here’s a peek at the basil I started in another tray last weekend – starting to sprout as well. 🙂 I LOVE SPRING!!!!

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I’ve been getting questions about starting a garden, likely because more and more folks want to be able to grow their own food in these uncertain COVID-19 times. Since I’m in the process of starting my own seeds indoors to transplant into my raised beds in a few weeks, I figured I’d take pics of the process and provide some tips and tricks for anyone interested. 🙂  Here goes!

I typically use a seed starting tray with Jiffy pods to start seeds but there are other ways for those so inclined. I like the simplicity of the pods. I don’t use a heat mat – I have a south-facing window in my office/seed-starting room and it gets plenty warm in there. This year is the first time I’ve used a grow light (I have a south-facing window but thought I’d experiment with a light to see how it goes).

To start, I plan out how many plants I want to end up with, then start a couple more seeds in case they don’t all germinate. I follow the square foot gardening method (see the details of that method explained here by the amazing Mel Bartholomew).  Today, I’m starting kale and lettuce.

I started cabbage last weekend so don’t mind the existing seedlings in the pics. They’re going to be roomies for now.

Step 1: The first step is to place the pods in the tray “circle side up”:

Step 2: Water them so get moistened and expand. After the first watering, wait about 5 minutes to see if they’ve puffed up enough. They may need a second watering. You know you’re good to go when they look like the empty ones in the top right – all poofed up – that’s what you want:

Step 3: I open up the “holes”  (the mesh is really delicate – you can tear it very easily with your fingers or a toothpick) and fluff/loosen up the peat (which is what the pods are made out of), with a toothpick, chopstick, tweezer, whatever you have that has a small pointy end will work. This is so that when you add the seeds, it’s easier to cover them with some loose/fluffed up peat afterwards.

Step 4: Get your seeds ready. Let’s start with the kale seeds. I place 2-3 seeds per pod (2 if they’re new seeds and more likely to germinate, maybe 3-4 if I’ve had them a few years). Yes, they are small and sometimes tough to pick up with your fingers. I usually grab a pinchful and try to get about 2-3 in each pod. Don’t stress. Gardening is meant to be fun. 🙂

Now for the lettuce:

Step 5: I cover up the seeds with some of the loose peat (read your seed packets since some seeds need light to germinate and shouldn’t be covered).

Step 6: Add the plastic dome to cover the tray and keep moisture in. Make sure they stay moist and never dry out – that’s very important.

That’s it! These should sprout in a few days. I’ll keep you posted on how things go! 🙂

P.S. You can see my sage (greek mountain sage for tea) seedlings on the bottom tray – first time growing those.






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2019 Gardening Season Recap

It’s been a great gardening season. 🙂

We had our backyard landscaping done. We had grass in the back and raised beds against the fence but we decided to remove the grass, move the veggie beds into the middle of the backyard, surround with pea gravel and plant perennials around the perimeter. The landscaping was done in May and I was able to move/plant into my veggie boxes while they finished the perimeter. It worked out quite well!

Here are some pics of how the garden evolved this summer as well as some of the goodies I made. I can’t tell you how nice it is to open a jar of strawberry jam or bite into a crunchy pickle in the middle of January – it brings summer right back to mind. 🙂

* * *

This was when landscaping began in May and the very beginning of prepping the raised beds / supports. I called these my homemade “blair witch” teepees since they looked like the stick figure dolls from the movie LOL – they look bare now but wait until you see them later – they did me proud!

Meanwhile, I had started seeds indoors…

I also got some transplants from the garden centre

Tomatoes, marigolds, lettuce, basil

Tomatoes, marigolds, basil, chives, rosemary, oregano, parsley

San marzano tomatoes, pole beans and bush peas

Things are growing… 🙂

Lettuce bolting in the heat of summer, cherry tomatoes doing well

No sign of the teepees under there now. I called them my bean monster!

I grew herbs in containers to dehydrate for tea (chamomile, mint and lemon balm)

Planted radishes and spinach for a quick fall crop

Some of harvests and goodies:


Strawberry jam


Bread and butter pickles

Dill pickles

Lavender (I had a helper)

Lettuce (with a helper)

My helper is pooped and loves sleeping on the dehydrator (it gets warm when it’s on)

Cherry jam and pie filling

Dilly beans

The beans came from this monster 🙂

We had a TON of beans…and they kept coming…had to give some away

Went apricot-picking at a farm nearby

Made pesto with the basil harvest (2 helpers this time)

Made blueberry compote

Herb harvest – dried the chives, oregano and rosemary

Prepared the fall containers out front 🙂



Near the end now-  just some turnips, beets and lettuce left.  And the bed closest to the bottom has the garlic – to be harvested next July. 🙂

Definitely a good garden season! And my freezer is loaded with lots of yummy things to tide us over til it starts all over again next spring. 🙂

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Over the past year, I’ve been putting together a monthly checklist of garden tasks more for my own planning purposes but thought it might be worth sharing. 🙂

As we’re nearing the end of the gardening season (in my zone 6b) and putting things to bed, I’m comforted by the fact that there are still things to plan for (and dream about!) during the winter months.

I’ll likely modify the checklist as time goes on and things change but for now, this has worked well for the things I grow in my garden (mainly veggies and perennials, some annuals). I plant veggies in raised beds using the square foot gardening method and have perennials in my front and back yards, plus some containers for annuals/holiday interest and some herbs) . Enjoy!


  • Review gardening journal (to review what worked, what didn’t, etc.)
  • Plan spring garden (layout, what to grow, succession planting, companion planting, etc.)
  • Prepare schedule (indoor sowing, set out dates, direct sowing outdoors)
  • Take stock of supplies and what will need to be purchased/replenished
  • Enjoy preserved food from last year’s harvest


  • Order seeds and supplies
  • Prepare indoor greenhouse and clean/prepare containers


  • Start seeds indoors for cool-weather crops or those that take more time to germinate/grow (e.g. tomatoes, marigolds, etc.)
  • Prepare garden beds (add compost, remove any debris, etc.)


  • Start seeds indoors for warm weather crops or those that take less time to germinate (e.g. parsley, chives, lemon balm, chamomile,
  • Plant cold hardy seeds outside (e.g. peas, lettuce, etc.)
  • Add compost to raised beds (if it wasn’t done in March)
  • Plan / build any supports (stakes, trellises)


  • Finish preparing raised beds (if not done yet)
  • Ensure all supplies are on hand / get any last minute items (compost, tools, green garden tape for staking, supports, etc.)
  • Plant seedlings outside
  • Prune perennials
  • Replace any perennials that didn’t survive the winter
  • Fertilize perennials
  • Start watering schedule
  • Update garden journal


  • Fertilize veggies, perennials and annuals (according to schedule)
  • Harvest cool weather veggies including lettuce, peas, garlic scapes, etc.
  • Start harvesting herbs and dehydrate for tea (mint, lemon balm, chamomile)
  • Pick up at local farm: strawberries and rhubarb and make strawberry freezer jam and strawberry/rhubarb crisp
  • Start fall transplants if doing so (cabbage, broccoli, kale, etc.)
  • Prune tomato plants (remove suckers)
  • Pinch basil flowers
  • Update garden journal


  • Fertilize veggies, perennials and annuals (according to schedule)
  • Watch for pests and deal with them (e.g. Japanese beetles, etc.)
  • Pull up peas and other early spring done crops and add compost to empty spots
  • Direct seed fast growing fall crops (radishes, spinach)
  • Transplant fall brassicas (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli)broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower
  • Harvest herbs, lettuce, tomatoes, beans
  • Harvest and cure garlic
  • Dry chamomile, mint and lemon balm for tea
  • Pick up pickling cucumbers and make refrigerator pickles
  • Pick at local farms: strawberries, raspberries, cherries, blueberries, apricots and make freezer jam and pie filling
  • Reduce tomato watering (create heat stress & encourage ripening) – end of month
  • Update garden journal


  • Fertilize veggies, perennials and annuals (according to schedule)
  • Harvest tomatoes, beans, herbs)
  • Harvest lavender – make sachets
  • Buy fall bulbs
  • Seed fall crops (carrots, radishes, turnips, beets, lettuce, kale, chard)
  • Pull up done crops
  • Make and freeze salsa
  • Make pickles, dilly beans
  • Dehydrate herbs for tea
  • Trim marigolds
  • Prune perennials
  • Pick at local farms: peaches – and make freezer jam
  • Update garden journal


  • Prune tomatoes (remove/pinch flowers so energy goes to ripening fruit)
  • Prune marigolds
  • Dehydrate herbs for tea
  • Pick at local farm: Apples
  • Make apple crisp, apple & onion chutney, applesauce, apple pie filling
  • Buy garlic bulbs (fall planting)
  • Replace / plant containers for fall
  • Plant new perennials, shrubs, trees
  • Pull up spent summer crops (tomatoes, beans)
  • Harvest radishes, last of the tomatoes
  • Update garden journal


  • Harvest fall crops (carrots, beets, turnips, lettuce, spinach)
  • Pull up spent crops
  • Plant garlic
  • Prepare raised beds for winter / add compost
  • Cut back perennials for winter
  • Protect perennials /grasses
  • Fall cleanup
  • Pick apples at local farm
  • Make apple desserts and things to freeze
  • Pick up pine cones and branches for winter decor
  • Cover patio furniture
  • Cover BBQ
  • Plan winter containers
  • Update garden journal


  • Prepare winter containers (pull out fall annuals
  • Harvest cabbage, broccoli, etc.
  • Clean garden tools
  • Store hose(s) in garage
  • Update garden journal
  • Enjoy goodies made during the summer (freezer jam, salsa, pickles, pies, etc.)


  • Maintain winter containers
  • Hang wreath / greenery
  • Make xmas decor / ornaments
  • Start planning for spring garden!

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Spring has finally arrived (more or less) which means we can start prepping the garden and starting cool-weather crops, and start/continue the indoor seeds and seedlings. In my neck of the woods, the May long weekend is planting weekend. BUT – because mild weather typically starts in April, I can get started on preparing my garden beds and sow some seeds. Exciting!

Ever since I put my garden plan together early in the year, I’ve been closely watching important dates in my calendar.

  • On Feb 10th I started mint seeds indoors
  • On Mar 18th, I started marigolds indoors
  • On March 30th, I transplanted my marigolds and mint into cups
  • On Mar 31st, I started cherry tomato seeds indoors
  • On April 21st, I (with the help of hubby) installed a new raised bed and filled it with triple mix and compost. I also added compost to my other 2 existing beds.
  • On April 22nd I sowed seeds outside for peas, carrots, lettuce (2 types) and lemon balm. I also started seeds for basil and parsley indoors.

The next key dates will be 2 weekends in May once all risk of frost has passed, usually around the May long weekend and the one prior.

That’s when I’ll get everything outside and go buy some blueberry plants for my other new bed this year. I decided to dedicate a whole bed just for blueberries because of the different soil requirements (acidic) and the likelihood of needing to cover them with netting.

Meanwhile, the garlic I planted last fall is looking great!

Progress so far:

Cherry tomato seedlings

Marigold and mint seedlings


Growing…  marigolds / mint on the left. Tomatoes (near window) on the right) and basil/parsley on the right / front)

My garlic is doing well (planted last fall). There are also seeds for lemon balm (above the garlic) and carrots (whole 3rd row) in here. Tomatoes will be along the fence. Chamomile will be the bottom/right 4 squares. This was taken 1 week ago:

This was taken today:

This bed already has seeds for lettuce (one variety in the bottom 3 squares on the left, with another column of another variety next to it, then beans (to be planted in May), and seeds for peas. Tomatoes will be along the top row along the fence. I tried lining this box with cardboard this time. For the other two I used weed fabric – just want to see how well the cardboard would work.

This one will have tomatoes along the back row and basil (genovese and thai) and parsley in the front.

Beds are ready for more planting in May. 🙂 The new bed will go the right of the one against the fence at the top of the photo.

I’m considering putting down cardboard/mulch between the beds and in the far corner to get rid of the grass and avoid complicated mowing.

So excited to be spending time out in the garden! 🙂

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It’s been cold and snowy in my neck of the woods lately. BUT – since it’s time to plan for my spring/summer garden, I’ve been having fun buying seeds and planning out what I’ll be growing and where, focusing on when the temps will be warm again. It’ll come quickly and I want to be prepared. 🙂

Without further ado, below is my square foot garden plan layout for this year – click on it to make it larger.

I will still do my usual plantings (albeit different kinds) of cherry tomatoes, basil, parsley, lettuce, beans and carrots. Oh, and french marigolds to repel the bugs. I’ll be trying some new crops this year: cucumbers, zucchini, garlic (already planted this past fall), snap peas and blueberries. Plus, to assist with my life list item to make my own tea, I’ll be planting chamomile, lemon balm and mint (the mint in its own pot because it can be invasive). I’ll be getting a dehydrator to help with that task as well.

I did all my research and bought all the seeds this morning. I’ll be picking up blueberry plants closer to planting time and I think I’ll plant a couple of other types of basil in 2 of the squares for variety. The purple basils have caught my eye – imagine what a pesto made with purple basil would look like – stunning!

My plan is to cover the entire blueberry 4×4 bed with netting to protect them from the birds. For the basil, I’ll keep some for pesto and dry the rest for cooking. Same for the parsley – I’ll use some fresh and dry the rest. I’ll dry the chamomile, lemon balm and some of the mint to make tea (my favorite tea has all of those elements in it :)). Plus, gotta save some mint for the mojitos.

I love growing my own food and walking out into the yard to pick ingredients for meals – nothing tastes better than tomatoes warmed by the sun or a fresh picked carrot – it’s incredible how different (and better!) things taste compared to the store. I also enjoy babysitting my plants and keeping an eye out for them, trimming here, watering there, picking off pests (Japanese beetles, I’m looking at you). It’s incredibly relaxing, fulfilling and the bigger jobs provide a good workout too. Weeds are few with the square foot garden method because the “good” plants take up all the space and don’t leave any room for the weeds. It’s fabulous.

Here is my list of seeds so far:

  • Red small tomato: Stupice (stoo-pee-chay)
  • Red cherry tomato: Matt’s Wild Red Cherry
  • Yellow cherry tomato: Lemon Drop
  • Yellow cherry tomato: Champagne (Loved these last year – so much sweet flavor in such a tiny package – they’re like a half inch in diameter)
  • Black cherry tomato: Black Cherry
  • Basil: Genovese  (gold standard in basil – amazing for pesto)
  • Basil: TBD – One of the purple varieties
  • Cucumbers: Muncher
  • Zucchini: Green Zucchini
  • Garlic: Red Russian
  • Beans: Yellow Golden Wax (Bush)
  • Peas: Patio Pride
  • Carrots: Nantes
  • Lettuce: Red Salad Bowl
  • Lettuce: Buttercrunch
  • Chamomile: Bodegold
  • Marigolds: French
  • Mint:: Menthol
  • Lemon Balm


I am doing my happy dance!!! 🙂

2016 Garden flashback:

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Holy moly – I haven’t posted in months!!! So sorry. 🙂

What started out pretty slow in the garden due to all that rain we got this summer turned out pretty good nonetheless and we’re now having trouble keeping up with the tomatoes! Here are some pics I took between April and August showing how things went as well as some of the harvests along the way.

I started my seeds back in March/April. for the first time, I staggered them based on each plant’s growth rate compared to the local frost date, etc. Honestly, I can’t really tell if that made much of a difference…

I also direct-seeded some cool-weather tolerant ones (lettuce, radishes, onion sets).

Transplanted the tomato and parsley seedlings in May.

Tried growing carrots for the first time (amazing!!). Tomatoes, lettuce, radishes, onions and carrots doing well. Also plant marigolds (corners near the fence) to keep the bugs away.

First radish harvest! 🙂

Had to replace one of my parsleys with a transplant from the store (mine didn’t make it).

Bought basil transplants as well – they do better than when I try to grow them from seed for some reason. Tomatoes and marigolds doing OK. Stuck a pepper seedling in there too (middle) but nothing came of it this year – just a plant, no flowers, no peppers.

Mini harvest to add to salad – radishes, lettuce, basil and parsley.

Planted beans in 2 batches, one seeded in May and one to replace the radish planting when harvested. Tomatoes took forever to ripen – possibly due to all the rain. It seemed like everything was a month behind.

Basil, parsley and cherry tomatoes all doing well.

First harvest of carrots and green beans. I’ll be growing carrots going forward for sure – they were delicious. And green beans are so easy – love them.

Early August – I pulled up all the basil to make pesto and to make room for the fall crop plantings. 🙂

One tub for the fridge and 7 mini containers for the freezer. Love having fresh basil year round. I tried various combinations this time: pine nuts, walnuts, basil, parsley in various ratios. I blanch it first (stays greener that way), then prepare it in batches in the food processor, add it to the container then pour olive oil on top to cover.

We can’t keep up with the tomatoes. They seemed to all start ripening at once! The only ones not yet ripe are the Thai Pink Egg cherry tomatoes but there are lots of very pale yellow (almost ivory) tomatoes on the vine – can’t wait to try them once they turn pink. This is from the second batch of green beans.

And more! Loving the tomato salads we’ve been having. 🙂

Meanwhile, I’ve planted seeds for fall crops: turnips, beets, carrots, spinach – all are sprouting nicely. Once the rest of my crops are done, I’ll plant radishes, kale and chard seeds. Can’t wait!!

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Early in the year, I start planning my garden and make preparations for planting season. I can’t wait to get outside. The plan this spring was to start some seeds indoors and sow the rest directly outside. In past years, I just waited to transplant everything outside until risk of frost had passed for my area (SW Ontario) but this time I did a bit more research, planned out a chart for each item and followed that instead. I was able to sow seeds as early as April for the cold-hardy ones (radishes, spinach, lettuce, carrots). We’ll see how things go!

This is what I’ll be growing this year:

  • 6 types of cherry tomatoes
  • Basil
  • Parsley
  • Onions
  • Spinach
  • 2 types of leaf lettuce
  • Carrots
  • Radishes
  • Beans (will direct sow as I harvest the radishes)
  • Marigolds (pest control)

This is my chart:

Local Frost Date (“FD”): May 1-10, 2017

Plant Sow date Growth Safe set out date Planting date Notes
 Lettuce Apr 15 Once ground is workable Apr 15 Direct Apr 9
 Onion sets Apr 22-29 2-3 wks before FD Apr 22-29 Direct Apr 22
 Radish Apr 15-22 3-4 wks before FD Apr 15-22 Direct Apr 14
 Tomato Mar 25-Apr 8 6-8 wks 1 week after FD May 13 Trans. May 13
 Basil Apr 8-22 5-7 wks 2 weeks after FD May 20 Trans. May 20
 Parsley Feb 18-Mar 4 8-10 wks 2 weeks before FD Apr 29 Trans. May 13
 Carrots Apr 8-22 3-5 weeks before FD Apr 8-22 Direct Apr 9
 Spinach Apr 8 5 weeks before FD Apr 8 Direct Apr 9

As of a week ago, everything is now outside in my 2 square foot garden beds (4×4, 2×8). The radishes, onions and lettuce are coming along nicely. I can see the tips of the carrots and spinach. I transplanted the tomatoes and parsley and they’re recovering a bit from transplant shock but they’re resilient buggers – they should bounce back. I bought basil from the garden centre (my seeds from last year didn’t take) – and I planted those on Saturday.

I keep a gardening journal to record when I do everything and track progress of how the seeds/plants are doing. It helps to look back on past season to see what worked / what didn’t. Last year, I had tomatoes, basil and parsley in one bed and the herbs were HUGE. I’d never seen basil bushes before but there they were in my backyard! I made pesto in September and it lasted us through the winter – I have 2 little containers left in the freezer. 🙂

So excited that garden season has officially begun!!!


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I’ve decided to give square foot gardening a try this year. I have my raised bed frame and garden plan – a 4′ x 4′ grid with 16 squares. I started some seeds indoors a couple of weeks ago and am convinced I have magic beans…

I picked up a mini greenhouse for $30 at Lowes to store my seedlings indoors in a warm spot (my office) which will also work well when I harden them off later this spring out on the deck.

I decided to start some from seed and buy the rest as plants from the nursery. The seeds I started include basil, beets, green beans, spinach and marigolds. The plants I’ll be buying include cherry tomato, regular tomato, peppers and onion sets.

I started my seeds in early March which may be a bit early for the beans. This is them a week later. The beans sprouted really quickly. I’m a bit worried that they’ll grow too quickly before my outdoor garden is ready but I figure worst case scenario, I’ll transplant as needed in to bigger containers and I can always plan new seeds directly into the soil. I’ll play it by ear but they should be fine.



Below is the mini greenhouse and the potting soil I’m using:



And I transplanted some of the beans (top) and the beets (bottom):


These were taken today. I transplanted more of the beans and thinned out some of the beets.




These were the first beans transplanted. Magic beans. 🙂


Stay tuned for progress!

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Well, I can really say it’s the *first* bounty since I’ve been snipping the basil and parsley for a few weeks now. That being said, this morning I picked the first veggies. Behold the bounty of our first mini pepper and mini cucumber. And they were delicious!!!  I thought I might have picked the cuke a bot early (I was testing it out to know when to pick the rest) but it was sweet and fresh and yummy. The pepper was crisp and fresh too. So excited to eat more!

Here are more pictures of my container garden. I originally had plants on either side of the patio door but noticed that the ones on the side that got more sun were getting a bit parched – you’ll see them in the pic of the entire garden – they’re lighter in color and smaller. I moved them all over to the far left this morning – hopefully they’ll be happier there.

Basil and parsley In their new home

The garden!

Pretty soon we’ll have too many veggies to know what to do with. 🙂 And I can’t wait!

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