Birds in the Garden

For me, gardening and birding go hand-in-hand.

One activity enriches the other.

In my gardens, I grow flowers and vegetables, deciduous trees, evergreens and fruit-bearing bushes like service berry, blackberry and bittersweet to attracts birds.  The perennials produce nesting material and seeds.  The blue spruce and maple trees are poplar roosting spots.  Catnip seeds are a favorite of the goldfinch and the purple thistle's down is used to line their nests. After the vegetable garden is put to bed, the resulting compost becomes a favorite spot for birds.  Spent perennial beds become niches to explore for seeds and dirt for dry bathing.

Visiting birds, in turn eat harmful insects like cabbage worms, larvae and moths.  They assist in pollination.  Birds bring beauty and inspiration as they travel between cone flower, cosmos and bee balm, or perch in the trees singing their songs.  Through the years, birds have also brought "volunteers" to my garden.  An oak tree and a swamp willow are two of the trees they have planted.  It's as if they too want a say in what should grow in their backyard!

This summer, a squash plant of unknown origin (possibly from a cross-pollinated seed), flourished in the spot chosen by some enterprising bird.  Dropped adjacent to a graveled spot under the bay window, in a year when growing pumpkins was difficult (a wet spring, followed by a long, hot and dry summer) this one plant produced close to a dozen fruit.  Shaped like spaghetti squash and bright orange like a pumpkin, I decorated for fall with these complimentary "Jack-o-lanterns." 

In my gardening journal, I note the migration of birds, and birds that stay near us year-round.  On a cold winter day like today, I like to read my entries:

March 19, 2005:  Outside the kitchen window, I saw the first red-winged blackbird of the season, feeding alongside some grackles.

March 4, 2000:  Sighted male and female bluebirds at end of property, near the bluebird house.

March 8, 2011:  Spotted two buzzards (turkey vultures) overhead, near the Olentangy River.

February 28, 2010:  A mockingbird is at the suet feeder.  The snow is melting.  Grass can be seen.  Birds are bathing in the puddles that have formed.

January 29, 2000:  One chickadee, several juncos and sparrows visited the feeders. Cold weather today.  Snow expected tonight.

And sometimes, an unexpected bird, like a chukar or cock pheasant (escapees from a nearby hunting farm) makes it way into our backyard.  For over a week now, a beautifully plumbed male pheasant has taken up residency near the purple plum and its many feeders.  It finds refuge under the tall grasses along the fence and in the spent perennial beds, and low pine branches.  This morning, as he ate the cracked corn I bought specially for him, I watched as he fed alongside the sparrows, finches and cardinals.  The American crow, one of three that hangs around our property, flew in for his breakfast; then quickly flew out.  He wasn't expecting a giant amongst the familiar flock of underlings:

I hope the pheasant decides to stay.  And, if he decides to plant something, I promise I will tend to it :)


A Soggy Spring

April showers continued for much of May.

Consequently, gardening tasks were structured around small breaks in the weather.  On the plus side, the spring flowers and flowering trees were gorgeous this year.  I've been following the La Nina weather pattern and there's a good possibility Zone 5 will see hot, dry weather this summer.  That pattern might have already started.  Over the past few days, we have had unseasonably hot weather with temperatures in the 90s. 
2011 marks my first year for raised bed gardening.  The three raised beds were assembled, placed and filled with compost, peat moss and potting soil in early May.  The first bed was planted with green bush snap beans (Burpee's Tenderpick, 54 day maturity) and Black Beauty eggplant.  The beans sprouted two weeks ago. A small number of sprouts have died due to root rot (from the wet soil condition).  These spots were replanted.  Beans are smooth, straight, 5 1/2" long, and excellent for freezing.  The eggplant plants came from a local garden center.  Maturity is 80 days.  Already, the black flea beetles - the size of a pinhead but very voracious - have found the eggplants.  Considered a bane to eggplant, the beetles makes lattice work out of the leaves. Unfortunately, the damage is not just cosmetic, it can affect yield.  For now, I am picking the beetles off as I see them.
The second bed contains herbs:  sage, dill, chives and basil as well as sweet onion bulbs and two rows of Burpee's Short 'n Sweet carrots.  This carrot variety produces sweet roots approximately 4" long.  In a few days, I will be thinning the carrots.  Carrots mature 68 days after sowing.
The third bed contains three kinds of peppers - red, yellow and green - that I started from seeds.  I also planted two kinds of Burpee loosehead type lettuce:  Green Ice (45 days) and Red Salad Bowl (50 days).  Lettuce grows best in cool weather but I was not able to get the seeds planted as early as I should have.  I am using an umbrella to help shade the tender plants from the hot sun.  Fire 'n Ice radishes round out the third bed.  This Burpee radish is a French Breakfast-type radish.  Its roots are 3-4" long, mild and delicate, colored red and white.  The radish is ready to eat in approximately 25 days.
Getting the Burpee Silver Queen corn - a white normal sugar hybrid variety - into the potting shed garden took some patience.  Again, the rain.  I prepped the ground (weeded and turned over the soil) and it started to rain just as I finished.  When I had a two day window, I turned the soil to a depth of 4 inches to expose and dry it out.  This made the soil workable.  On the second day, the seeds went in late in the day.  It rained that evening. As of this writing, roughly 70 percent of the kernels have sprouted. 
I finally finished planting all of the tomato starts over the Memorial weekend.  Still to get in:  some remaining cabbage and melon starts, pumpkin, cucumber, zucchini and squash seeds.

Dill and Chives


Another Gardening Season Opens

The 2011 planting season is open!

After what seemed like the longest winter ever, I planted five rows of sugar snap peas in the kitchen garden:  Burpee variety Super Snappy with an edible pod.  65 days to harvest.  This seed is tolerant to powdery mildew and needs no support.  Around here, the date to get peas in is St. Patrick's Day.  I have never managed to get the peas in that early for one reason or another.  Today, everything was perfect for working the ground and sowing.  The soil was cool and slightly damp, not clumpy.  The weather mild and sunny. After sowing, I sprinkled some inoculation granules next to the rows to boost production.  What with an early start, and a booster, these just might be super Super Snappy peas!  

The three 3'x6' raised planter beds I ordered from Gardener's Supply arrived late last week.  I'll be putting them together in the next day or so.  Once together and in place, soil will need to be mixed and added to the beds.  The mixture is part potting soil, compost, peat moss, and vermiculite.  The plants that will go into these beds are being grown as starts.  Before planting the peas, I made up two trays of seeds containing Burpee's Super Beefsteak Tomato, Sugar Snack Hybrid (a red cherry) Tomato, Great Stuff Green Pepper, Red Delicious Hybrid Pepper, Sweet Banana (yellow) Pepper, Gold Standard Hybrid (yellow) Pepper, Earliana Cabbage, Breakfast Longkeeper Cantaloupe, Crimson Sweet Watermelon, Sweet Basil, Sage and Alyssum.

Once the tomato and pepper seed starts get bigger, they will be transferred to larger pots.  Uncle Keaks will be losing his bottom rung in a couple of weeks.

Uncle Keaks relaxes on the bottom shelf....for now :)

The southern exposure is a kitty-cat favorite
which they reluctantly have to share
with the seed starts!

Peat pots retain moisture and decompose when planted.
A clear plastic greenhouse dome goes over top of each tray,
creating a humid environment for germination.


On the Naming of Gnomes

Winter is a time for reflection. 
Time to create gardens in the mind.

I have created a new garden, one of raised beds, a stone path, a half circle of roses and a place for a fire pit.  The space was readied in the fall.  Once the weather breaks, the installation of plants and design begins.  In the meantime, I plan.  Three 3' x 6' black raised beds have been ordered.  My seed cache inventoried.  In mid-March, I will start the tomato, pepper and cabbage seeds indoors.

The expansive vegetable garden I have had since 1995 was retired at the end of last year.  The tiller was sold.  Call it aging-in-place, downsizing or conserving human energy, the reality is, it was time for a change.  Spring of 2011, there will be a kitchen garden, the potting shed garden, some containers and a new raised bed garden.

And, there will be a gnome to watch over it.

My girlfriend gave me a gnome for my birthday.  I have always wanted one.  I decided mine needed a name. I wanted to make it unique so I Googled gnome names.  Apparently, I was not just being quirky.  As one site noted, without a proper "gname," a gnome will lead an unhappy life.  Meaning and purpose for a gnome, who would have thought? 

So, I poured over some name generators and found the "gname."  It was European and ancient enough for such a special creature.  Because his shanks are short, I believe his surname must be Shortshanks!  I decreed his duties and they are, as such, an extension of his given name.

So, may I introduce to you
"Turrick Shortshanks"
The Slug-Slayer and Herb Minder of Township Troy. 
 He has much work to do!

You may call him Turrick for short ;)


Sweet on Sweet Basil

My kitchen garden contains a small variety of vegetables and herbs.  I typically grow four or five different herbs each season.  There's nothing as nice as snipping homegrown, fresh herbs!

Most herbs are easy to grow and require minimal care.  Parsley and chives are hardy and reliable herbs which will grow year after year if the root remains.  When left to form seed heads, dill reseeds itself.  Basil, an annual herb from the mint family, should be sown from seeds in the spring after the frost free date.  It is great as a container plant or as part of an herb garden.   

This year, I grew Stokes' sweet basil.  I sowed the seeds by sprinkling them a few inches apart and covering them with a light soil mixture of peat moss and potting soil. 

Basil likes slightly moist soil and needs at least six hours of sun.  Seeds usually germinate in seven days.  To harvest throughout the season, pinch off the leaves.  Or, cut the plant at the base, tie in a bunch and hang upside down to dry.  Basil is aromatic and wonderful fresh or dried; fresh in tomato and mozzarella salads or dried in tomato sauce and soups.  And of course, finely chopped and mixed with olive oil and garlic, it makes the delightful pesto.


My Potting Shed

Located by the old apple tree, my potting shed is as utilitarian as it is backyard sanctuary.

With a horseshoe over its doors for gardening luck, everything I need is here: shovels, hoes, tools, plant cages, trays, stakes, pots, fertilizer, and wheelbarrow.  Everything, except the tiller.  The tiller was sold a few weeks ago after deciding to retire the main vegetable garden in favor of raised beds.

The small garden adjacent to the shed has been used to grow corn, pumpkins, watermelon, black raspberries, tomatoes, sunflowers, dill and annual flowers.

Previously used as an outbuilding, my potting shed owes its inspiration to my sister's cozy potting shed and my brother-in-law's carpentry work.  Inside, the shed has a bohemian feel: with its birdhouses, cat prints, baskets, fabric flowers, seashells, a blue and pink floral area rug, a stain glass landscape in an antique frame, and a color scheme of red, azure blue and vibrant green. 

My daughter said she would help paint the shed if she could select the colors, so I happily turned that decision over to her.  We painted a couple of particle board storage shelves and the circa 1960's wood kitchen cabinet the original owners had removed from the house. The cabinet's red formica countertop makes for easy cleanup. 

On the outside, my brother-in-law added siding and new shingles about 10 years ago. The renovations have helped preserve the structure (there was some rotting).  The window he cut in gives the shed charm and a view.

My brother-in-law also created a place to organize and hang my tools.  It was a thoughtful surprise that has helped keep the shed neat and the tools handy.

My little potting shed is sometimes my home away from home.

I keep a blue rocking chair inside the shed.  Once, I placed it under the apple tree and rocked for a few indulgent minutes...daydreaming about my next project ;)


Composting 101

Gardening and composting go hand in hand.

Not long after we moved to our three acres in the country, I took up composting on a grand scale. 

At the property line in between the trees, there are several large piles of organic debris: tree limbs, leaves, corn stalks and other plant material, including weeds, that are too big for the compost bin.  These piles I let decay naturally.  I do nothing but add additional plant material to the piles.  Rabbits and other small animals make homes out of some of the piles.  Despite the piling on of material, the piles never get higher than two feet.  Nature takes care of the compacting and composting for me.

At the back of the potting shed, the "Earth Machine" as it is called, takes care of our organic kitchen scraps.

As part of the county's mission to reduce waste,
these compost bins were given away to encourage composting.
This bin has been producing compost for almost 15 years.

Composting in this vented bin is almost as carefree as the other compost piles.  Scraps (no meat or dairy) like potato skins, coffee grounds, vegetable and fruit peels, etc. are collected and kept in a closed gallon bucket in the garage.  At least once a week, the bucket is emptied into the Earth Machine.

As of late, mom and I have been picking and peeling apples.  The bad apples and peels went into the bin followed by a carbon layer of dried small sticks and leaves.  It is important to alternate layers of organic matter (green = nitrogen & brown = carbon).  Green grass clippings are a good source of nitrogen.  Occasionally, I add one or two shovels of dirt.  Dirt contains microbes and insects which help break down organic matter.  Periodically, I mix and tamp down the organic mixture adding a couple gallons of water if the mixture gets dry.  Moisture is needed to keep the organic material "hot" and decomposing.

This carbon layer went on top of the apple & peel layer.

At the bottom of the Earth Machine there is a sliding door.  The bottom is where the "black gold," or compost falls and compresses.  This is the good stuff: organic matter ready to be shoveled out and used around plants or to amend the vegetable garden.

This compost was used to fertilize the new mums planted this fall.


Predicting Winter

As gardening in zone five begins to wind down, I keep an eye out for the first woolly worm.  I usually find them among the fallen leaves or crossing the road.  The hairy caterpillar of the Isabelle Tiger Moth is part of weather-predicting folklore.  Native Americans believed the size of the black and brown "bands" predicted what kind of winter lay ahead.  More brown means a fair winter.  More black than brown means a harsh winter. Studies have shown this method of predicting winter is 85% accurate.

This year, I have seen several woolly worms with smaller black bands on both ends

Not being a fan of winter, I hope this means a cold start to winter, followed by a long, mostly mild period, ending with more cold.

Only spring will tell!


Extending the Garden's Colors

In late summer, early fall, most of the annuals and perennials have faded or stopped blooming.

Chrysanthemums, or hardy mums are the perfect plant to extend color in the landscape.  In zone 5, mums are an iconic symbol of fall.

This magenta mum located on a west-facing bed in the front yard was planted five years ago as a single potted plant. It continues to grow via the stolons (shoots that bend to the ground producing roots at the nodes).  I fertilize using Miracle Gro during the summer.  I also amend the surrounding soil with homemade compost.

Mums come in a variety of colors including white, yellow, gold, purple and red.  Mums are cultivated to grow in zones 3-9.  Cultivars vary in hardiness so it is best to buy mums from your local nursery. The plants grow 2 to 3 feet high and prefer full sun and well-drained soil.  Mums can withstand light frosts.

When planting potted mums (versus root cuttings), plant in late summer in order to establish the roots.  In the spring, pinch off the tips of the plant to produce and promote side growth.  This will cause the plant to fill out (become bushy).  During hot, dry weather, mums need extra watering.  With care, mums can be long-lasting perennials.  The golden mum shown above looks a little worse for wear because my cat, Noll likes to roll around in the adjacent catnip.  Sometimes he accidentally flops on the mum.

In late summer, I removed some of the spent annuals and wild phlox from the perennial bed and planted four yellow mums.  The cheery yellow brightens up the outer edges of the bittersweet.  In late fall, a protective mulching (leaves/grass) will help protect the plantings from the winter cold.  In a few years, they should be as full and spreading as the magenta.  Mums are a great value:  low in price, nominal care and long-lived.

Fall wouldn't be the same without them.

Perennial Heuchera

The cultivar Heuchera, also known as 'coral bells' or 'alum root,' is native to North America.  It is available in hundreds of foliage colors - yellow, silver, red, black and purple.  Heuchera's palmately-lobed and glossy leaves make it a highly desired and striking border plant.  Plants grow 7" high (not counting the spiked flowers).  I prefer to grow heuchera as an accent plant in the shaded parts of my perennial bed.

Heuchera's flowers are not showy, but they are extensive, on thin stems, varying in color - white, pink, red.  The heuchera I grow have green and purple-edged foliage and tiny, airy-white flowers.  In summer, I pinch back the spent flowers to encourage a fall bloom.

Thriving in shade to full sun, this perennial prefers moist and well-drained soil.  Fertilize occasionally with Miracle Gro.  In a prolonged drought, water heuchera one inch. once a week.  Mulch around the plants in the fall and divide the plants every few years to keep it happy and robust.  This plant has shallow crowns.  Mulching helps to keep the plants from heaving in the winter.  Relatively disease and pest free, heuchera is an easy-breezy addition to any zone 5 perennial or garden bed.


On Growing Horseradish

Three years ago, my gardening friend and neighbor handed me a little brown bag.  Inside that bag were two shriveled up horseradish roots.  Not much to look at.

I had never grown horseradish before.  Caryn assured me it was easy.  Her only advise: grow it in a pot unless you want it to spread.

So I did.

In early spring, in a large pot filled with Miracle Grow potting soil, I placed the two 4" and 5" roots.  The pot was placed in a area that received morning and early afternoon sun.  I kept the soil moist.  When the leaves started to die back, I dug out the roots. And THAT, is how you grow horseradish!

Gardening does not get any easier! 

Be sure to save a couple of the smaller roots for planting next season.  Remove the leaves and dirt.  Store the roots in a brown paper bag in a cool, dry area. 

Preparing the horseradish:  Scrub and peel the outer root layer.  Grate finely using a grater.  Fresh horseradish is pungent so be prepared to tear up.  Mix the grated root with white vinegar and a pinch of salt.  For every 3 tablespoons of root, add 1 tablespoon of vinegar.  Put mixture in a clean, sterile jar and store it in the refrigerator.  I love horseradish on bratwurst.  You can also add horseradish to mash potatoes.  When added to mayonnaise, it makes a snappy condiment for roast beef sandwiches.


A Garden Update

Extreme best describes the 2010 growing season in Zone 5. Challenging is another good word to describe it!

The ground was tilled, and the seeds and plant starts - tomatoes, peppers, cabbage - went in the third week in May.  Everything appeared to be on track.

Until June.  It was an extremely wet June.  Too wet.  Water ponded at either end of the main garden.  Tomatoes don't like soggy feet.  Neither do beans.  The heavy rains came at such frequent and hard intervals that the plants never had a chance to dry out.  Fortunately, I had held back some tomato starts.  I planted these in the kitchen garden after harvesting the leaf lettuce, radishes and peas in mid-June.  As of this writing, the plants look healthy and fruit is setting.  The kitchen garden should produce a good, though much smaller crop of tomatoes in mid to late September.

The tomatoes in the main garden struggled but managed to fruit.  Then came July and August.

Both months saw hot, unrelenting temps in the high 80's and 90's.  Too hot for the fruit.  Most of the large tomato varieties sucumbed to yellow shoulder, a ripening disorder.  The tops of the tomato stayed yellow and hard no matter how long they remained on the vine.  The tops had to be cut off and that meant nearly half of each fruit was inedible.  Such a disappointment.  2009 was a bumper crop year for tomatoes and I was able to freeze over 20 pints. Nothing will be frozen this year.

Because of better drainage and partial shade, the potted cherry tomatoes weren't affected by the wet or heat.  Surprisingly, the yellow cherry tomatoes in the main garden, didn't mind either and produced plump, sweet-tasting fruit.


In July, half of the beans had to be replanted.  The wet conditions caused stunting and rotting.  I replanted both the Mellow Yellow and Blue Lake 47 green bush snap beans.  Since then, two successive pickings have been made and young beans continue to grow.  I fertilized the beans with Miracle Gro at the end of July.

The Ichiban eggplant has not produced anything but there is one purple flower.  So, maybe I'll get one eggplant.

The green, red and orange peppers are finally coming around.  In another week or so, the first peppers should be ready. 

Because the pickling cucumbers were mounded, the plants were not bothered by the wet conditions, but the heat stunted the fruit set.  Fruit was shorter, but thankfully, not bitter. Overall, yields were moderately good and several jars of pickles were put up.

Prolific as usual, the Saffron Squash and Sweet Zuke Hybrid did not disappoint.  I made a second planting of zucchini in mid-July after harvesting the onions. 

The spaghetti squash did so-so and were smaller than in year's past.  Like the eggplants, the butternut squash plants produced just one medium sized squash which is still ripening on the vine.  I am watching that one like a mother hen!

The watermelon continues to grow.  No problems - knock on wood :)


I harvested the first firm and bright red cabbage head this week.  It was wonderful cooked in vinegar with a couple of fresh picked apples, a small, peeled onion left whole and pierced with four cloves, some bacon fat; and sugared to taste.  This was the first year for red cabbage and all of the plants have done well.  I have been harvesting the Earliana (green) cabbage since July.  The heads are compact and crisp.  Some plants are behind in growth but this is actually extending the harvest.  Early in the season, the cabbage worms were a pest on both varieties, but between hand picking and applying insecticidal soap, the pest was brought under control.


Now that I think about pests, I realize I did not see one tomato horn worm this year.  Which is great  because they kind of freak me out.  Guess they didn't care for the wet and heat either!


Variegated Cat Grass

Variegated Cat Grass is a pretty little plant.

I won’t lie. I did not buy these annual seeds purely for my cats' enjoyment.  Rather, I bought them because the catalog's photograph also appealed to me.

My cats have always liked, especially in winter, the green variety of cat grass.  My cats can actually smell the sprouts as they bursts open from the seeds.  On many occasions, I have come into the kitchen to see a cat, head tilted upwards to the top of the plant shelf, drinking in the smell of sprouts coming from where the emerging seedlings are; waiting patiently for the day the pot is brought down to their level.

This particular cat grass has either solid green or translucent white blades.  I think the juxtaposition of the two colors is striking.
I planted the Burpee brand seeds, evenly and thinly, in regular potting soil in an outdoor clay planter. Firmed lightly and moistened, the seeds germinated within five days. The seeds can also be planted directly in the ground in rows or patches. I prefer to keep my plantings portable. The pot came inside as soon as the grass was around 3 inches. Noll, Tiggy and Uncle Keaks descended upon the tender, young grass blades, like a swarm of locust.

If you look closely, you'll see, the jagged edges of the blades prove it’s not just a pretty little thing; it’s also mighty tasty.


Peaches & Cream Corn

As I mentioned in an earlier post, this year I planted Burpee's Peaches & Cream bicolor sweet corn.

The kernels were true to their name - peach and cream colored, plump and sweet.  The corn was ready for harvest approximately 70 days after planting.  The corn stalks were six feet high by the Fourth of July.  In Ohio we have the saying, "Knee high by the Fourth of July"; which is the benchmark for corn to attain to be on target for summer harvest.

I did not double plant this variety - putting in two seeds per 4" - as I do for Silver Queen.  It did not disappoint with a germination rate of near 100%.  The seedlings emerged around the 8th day and grew better than expected.

I pulled the first of two 8 1/2" ears a day after my husband went to Florida.  My husband lives for my sweet corn.  He missed the first sweet pickings. It was truly unfortunate because this corn was THE best tasting bi-colored sweet corn I have ever tasted.  The kernels were almost full set with two distinct crispy-sweet flavors.

He was gone for two weeks,
approximately the time this sugary enhancer hybrid
stays sweet and tender. 

Tasting is believing.  The homegrown corn he ate on day 14 tasted much like the supermarket corn that is trucked in from parts unknown.  I can't convince him otherwise.

Since his disappointment, all the corn has since been harvested, blanched and frozen. 

There's an amazing little Corn Pudding Recipe from the Frugal Gormet that uses fresh or frozen corn.  I had it recently using my fresh-from-the-garden corn.  Heavenly! 

I'm hoping his disappointment in this year's bicolor will be forgotten when it returns in this dish:

1 3/4 cups milk
1 stick butter, melted
4 eggs, beaten
2 1/2 cups corn kernels
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
dash Tabasco

In a saucepan, heat the milk and gently melt the butter.  Allow to cool.  Beat the eggs.  Chop the kernels a bit in a food processor or by hand.  Keep the texture rough.  (Frozen corn should be melted first in a colander.)  Mix together all ingredients.  Place in a buttered 2 qt. baking dish  Bake at 325 degrees for 1 1/4 hours.  The top should be lightly browned.


On Volunteer Sunflowers

I love a volunteer plant: always unexpected, willing to grow anywhere, slowly unfolding its mysteries. 

Some of my fondest volunteers have included the pin oak sapling growing in the perennial bed, poke weed with its deep aubergine berry clusters, and yellow sunflowers.

Each year, the area beneath and adjacent to the purple plum tree is filled with volunteer sunflowers; sprouting from seeds which have spilled from the various birdfeeders.

I do not know the varieties growing therein, flowing like musical notes within a stanza, reaching toward the sun as it passes along the imaginary line that is east to west.  Yet, I enjoy their unfolding beauty, bright morning faces and the interwoven relationship between flower and pollen-ladened pollinator.  Golden flower and golden finch; clinging upside down, cracking the oil-rich, black-shelled seeds with their snubbed, orange beaks.


A Home-Grown Lunch

This is the reason why I get dirty; bend and beat up my middle age body, endure cold and heat: 

The harvest is sweetest when it is seasoned with one's own labor. 

Today, I enjoyed Arapaho blackberries sprinkled with table sugar and a crisp, green leaf lettuce salad with slices of "Fire n Ice" radishes* and "Super Snappy" peas*.

The Arapaho berries grow on the east side of the potting shed.  This year, there is an abundance of berries.  The branches hang heavy and low.  Two years ago, the canes were fertilized with chicken manure.  They are showing me their thanks!

The early kitchen garden of radishes, peas and lettuce is coming to an end.  This season's lettuce actually self-seeded so I am allowing a few plants to bolt and go to seed again this year.  In early August, I will replant leaf lettuce for harvesting in September.

I'll also replant some peas and radishes for fall harvest.

This afternoon, I will put in some herbs - dill and basil - and, the last of the tomato plants.  I've held back some plants to put in the kitchen garden.  The protected southern exposure will allow the tomatoes to produce some time after the tomatoes in the main vegetable garden have stopped.

Bon Appetite!

* Seeds are from Burpee


A Trip to the Greenhouse

This past weekend, I visited my local greenhouse.  Like me, it appeared the owners were a little late getting started - there were fewer flowers; or, more likely, I missed the rush and came in at the end of it ;)

Still, smaller selection aside, a trip to the greenhouse is almost as delicious as a trip to the candy store.


For the flower beds, I purchased Bonanza Spry Marigold, a larged crested, orange flower with maroon edges.  They prefer full sun and grow up to 12".  I will tuck them in, here and there, among the perennials and at the edges of the kitchen garden where I am growing Peas (Burpeeana Early), French Breakfast Radishes - an elongated and white tipped variety - and Leaf Lettuce, to ward off insects.  For the mulch bed by the front porch, I chose Pinto Red and Pinto White Geranium.  Geranium are drought tolerant.  This area gets the full midday through evening sun and is next to the sidewalk and driveway, so it is typically drier than the other flower beds. 

I bought a flat of annual Easy Wave Blue Petunias, a deep blue almost purple spreading petunia with a sweet fragrance.  To get me in the 'gardening zone,' I made up a couple of planters combining the Pansy, Coleus, Petunias and Marigolds before heading to the main vegetable garden; because the stars of Saturday's visit were the three vegetable starts. 

I chose the creamy skinned Butternut Squash, which I have never grown; Ichiban Eggplant - which promises long, slender and heavy yields all season long - and Red Cabbage.


Along with the red cabbage, I planted over twenty of the green Earliana Cabbage starts I had started indoors at the end of March.  In order to space out the harvest, another twenty smaller green cabbage starts will go in two weeks from now. 

Needless to say, I was finally on a roll.  I also planted three rows of Bush Lake 47 Green Beans (a compact, bush variety which harvests in 58 days), and one row of Mellow Yellow Beans (a bush bean maturing in 60 days). Both varieties are very productive and freeze well.

One row of yellow Saffron Squash - a straightneck summer type, one row of the prolific Sweet Zuke Hybrid Zucchini, and a half row of Vegetable Spaghetti Squash also went in.

In the main vegetable garden, the yellow, white and red onion bulbs are sprouting shoots.  In the potting shed garden, the corn, a sweet Burpee variety called Peaches & Cream, is up and growing thanks to the past few days of rain.  This is my first time growing this variety.  I typically plant either the Silver Queen or yellow and white bicolor, so I am eager to see how it does.

Progress has definitely been made :)



For some reason, I am getting a slow start this year.  It's not that the weather has been soggy....it's more like I am stuck in anticipation mode and cannot shift into action.

The yellow, purple and white onion sets are chilling downstairs.

The peas and leaf lettuce seeds are still in the metal seed box.  All three should have been in the dirt weeks ago....

At least the kitchen seed starts, facing the warm southern exposure, are growing:  Big Boy tomato, red, green and orange bell peppers, cabbage, portulaca, watermelon and two kinds of cherry tomato.

This Spring has been wonderful - the trees heavy with bloom and the flowers more vibrant than in year's past, especially the redbuds.  Maybe it's because of our prolonged, snowy and cold winter.  February broke the 1910 record for snow - 29.8 inches.  The long winter fed my anticipation and now, seemingly it was too well fed because I am ladened and immobilized.

The show, however, goes on outside even if I am still waiting in the wing.

Orange and purple viola

Perennial primrose

Tulips planted in the Fall, 2009


Kaga plum blossoms

Creeping phlox in the rock garden