Monday, June 30, 2008

Shades of Green

Green is my favorite color, so how could I not join Emma in here Big Green Leaf postings? I have so many different greens. Some are bordered by white (dogwood). Some are beautiful lime green (hosta).

I have several that are tinged a pretty red (raspberry).

And tinged blue (Iris).

However my only purple tinged plants (eggplant) have been shredded by the hail. Poor things.

Luckily my pumpkin is now under a row cover, but he doesn't like it so is escaping.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Now I Have Two Compost Piles to Turn

I don't take care of my lawn very much. I fertilized it for the first time this spring in about 5 years. My husband used to mow it but got tired of the weekly chore, so now we hire someone to do it for us. Mostly we ignore the lawn.

It does however produce grass clippings. I love grass clippings. Our last lawn service used to use a mulching mower and the clippings would go back to fertilize the lawn. This year the lawn mowers that they use collect the clippings. I noticed this spring in the back yard (natural woods) that I had grass clippings sprinkled about. They didn't haul the clippings away but dumped them in the back. This was gold to me.

I raked them up along with the leaves that cover the ground under the trees and started a compost pile. It was annoying however to rake the clippings up. Surely it was more work for the men to sprinkle it about than to dump it in a pile. And it was easier for me if it was piled up. So I talked to one of the guys about it. Could he dump it right in front of my compost pile? He said sure and did so that day.

However the next week I got a surprise. I had about twice the amount of clippings than I had had the week before. I didn't ask for the extras, but he had guessed that I wouldn't mind more, so that is what I got. All this grass combined with my leaves, makes for a ton of compost. Usually I have to buy some in the spring, but I'm wondering if I will have enough for all of my garden. If he continues and my leaves don't run out, I'll have a new compost pile about every two and a half weeks. And that is a lot of compost. And a lot of work turning.

Saturday, June 28, 2008


Sometimes I go out to my garden for no reason whatsoever. I'm not going to be pulling weeds; I'm not going to be picking any crops; I'm not planting anything. I just want to look at the plants. I'm not sure why I do it. Maybe they are calling me in a voice I can't really hear? But whatever the reason, I find it very peaceful. I always notice something about the garden while doing it.Yesterday I noticed the bees.

They where swarming amid my coriander flowers. Lots of bees, wasps and bee flies. I stood there looming over them and watched. Some were slow and pondering, like the bumble bees. Some quick and agile, not landing for more than a second. They were large, they were small. There was a noticeable lack of honey bees. So far I have seen exactly one honeybee this year. In past years they have been everywhere - the most common bee in my garden. No more. I was sad when I noticed it, but it didn't distract me from the peace of watching my bees.

I don't know why I love bees so much, but I do. Yes intellectually I know why I like bees, all gardeners do, but my love for bees is different. I wish they didn't have stingers because I want to pet them. I find their little pollen packet cute as they bop from flower to flower. Wasps do not engender the same kind of love as bees, even though they are very useful in my garden too. Wasps scare me a little; bees do not. Probably because wasps are the flying warriors of the garden, while honey bees are the farmers. I feel a lot of empathy for my fellow flying farmer.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Joy of Skirts

Most of the gals around here wear pants. I've never been a pants person. I like skirts and dresses. I may have a huge tomboy streak in me, but I still like the feminine feel of a skirt. And there isn't a better outfit for the garden than a skirt. Today I was harvesting my lemon balm to dry for tea for winter. I couldn't hold all of it in my hands. No problem, I just fold up the bottom hem of my skirt and I have a basket. Plus they are very cool for the summer.

Today was a big harvest day so the skirt got used a lot. For tea I picked my lemon balm and the first of the chamomile blossoms. This is the first time I've grown chamomile and it smells so divine fresh. I picked peas as I've been doing everyday now and my frilly boc choi, but the biggest harvest of the day was lettuce. It is going to get to 90 today, so any lettuce that is thinking about bolting has to be harvested. I picked three heads of red sails and a few small plants of black seeded simpson. A lot of the leaves had been shredded by the recent hail, so I chuck them. I have too much lettuce anyway, no use keeping the bruised parts.

The red sails is interesting now. Earlier in the spring they were totally insect free. Now they are little microcosms. I tried to get most of the insects off before going inside, but the inevitable happened. As I plunked them down on my clean white counter, I had to play clean up as they tried to run away. The red spider mites are the funniest as they make crazy fast spirals on the counter. They were all appropriately squished. I didn't kill the spiders though, I just put them on the compost pile with the leaves they are inhabiting. Hopefully they will go eat more bad insects.

Insects are also my skirt's major flaw. For everything, even such a wonderful thing as a skirt, has a flaw. After you harvest that bunch and use your skirt as a basket, some of the insects abandon ship there too. Occasionally they get under that skirt and you show off a bit much trying remedy the situation. And turning the compost is bad. I always switch to pants for that. I really draw the line at centipedes getting anywhere near my skin.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Chocolate Mint

Yesterday I was working at the store - The Sign of the Dove, an artist's co-op. As a member I have to work about 2-3 shifts a month. While driving home I was passing Pemberton Farms, which is not a farm, but a very nice little garden center and gourmet grocery store. I figured why not stop? They may have the chocolate mint that I'm looking for. So I feed the meter (yes it is in the city of Cambridge, definitely not a farm) and hop out. Their herb section is in the back. I make a beeline for it. And lo and behold, they do indeed have chocolate mint. And about 10 other kinds of mint including one I've never heard of, Japanese mint. I really, really thought about the grapefruit mint, but resisted. I am now the proud owner of chocolate mint. And just for the record its Blue Balsam chocolate mint, because you know I'm going to lose the tag and forget.

This morning I planted the little thing in the garden. So now my trio of mints is complete. The funny thing about them is that they all smell like peppermint to me. Candymint is a kind of peppermint, so I expected that. But I don't smell the orange in the orange mint, or the chocolate in the chocolate mint. I'm hoping I'll be able to taste it. But if I end up with just three different tasting peppermint variations, I'll still be happy. I do LOVE my peppermint. I mean, really, every tea is better with a leaf or two of peppermint in it, isn't it? Now I just have to wait for them to grow enough to pick. Grow, my pretties. Grow.

Summer Has Started

Most people thought summer was on June 20th, but in my garden it is when the summer pests start to rear their ugly little heads. Yes that would be today. I saw my first Japanese beetle and first vine borer today. Japanese beetles are annoying, but are easily killed by brushing them into soapy water. At 10:30 today the first drowning occurred marking the transition to summer. I found it strange that it was also the day of the first vine borer.

Vine borers are harder to deal with. I've yet to find an effective solution. I am going to plant a late planting of zucchini and yellow squash around July 1st and keep them under row covers until the borers disappear. But what can you do about them if you don't use a row cover, like my first planting? Each borer can lay a zillion tiny little eggs. Ok they lay about a hundred or two. But all by themselves along the stem, on the leaves, I've even had them on the fruit. Everywhere. I pick them off when I see them, but you know I'm going to miss some lots. I dig them out of the stem as soon as possible, but still the plant suffers, and eventually are weakened and they succumb to mildew. Sigh. Maybe I'll row cover my pumpkins while they still have a chance.

At least the butterflies were out today. I saw a yellow swallowtail and a monarch today, along with a lot of other lesser, but pretty butterflies that I don't know the names of. I tried chasing them down with my camera, but they wouldn't let me get that close. My black swallowtail caterpillars are long gone. They each reached a particular size and disappeared. I think they are off pupating. I'm hoping. I thought they took about a month and a half to grow big enough for that, but I recently read that if it is early enough in the season they can take less than 2 weeks. So initially I was worried that they were eaten by birds, but now I think they are ok. Maybe I'll have another batch of them later. I'll have to plant more dill for them, my current dill is going to seed. Or maybe they will be happy with my parsley.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


I’m having twins! Ok so it is yellow squash twins, two fruits from the same stem. This particular squash has been sending out double male blossoms for ages now. But now the first female blossoms have started to bloom and they have gotten into the act. My plant is a little too exuberant. It decided that the twins weren’t good enough. I have four female flowers open at once. Will they all set? My zucchini has a bit more decorum and puts out one female blossom about every other day.

That was the main excitement for the morning. I didn’t even have much of a harvest today. Just a handful of peas. Usually I get lots of peas and also a zucchini or a cucumber or both. I think my plants are sulking after yesterday. They are muttering to themselves about how I’m not taking care of them by letting them get riddled by hail. They look jealously at the Asian greens and their row cover and are on strike until I give them one.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Weird Weather

Today was amazing. I've never seen purple on the radar screen. I've seen yellow, orange, red. I didn't know there was a worse one. I guess I don't look during our hurricanes.

So it wasn't a hurricane just a really bad, but quick storm. Then it started to hail. Hail? In Boston? I used to have hail all the time as a kid in the mountains of Colorado. It was unusual for us not to get hail there. But Boston is not known for its hail storms. We've had it here before, but it is rare. I tried to take a photo, but the photo through the rain drenched window didn't come out. I wasn't stepping out or opening the windows in the madness. The thunder was crashing down every second.

After the storm cleared, I went out to the garden. My eggplant is so sad. I'm not sure if it will recover or not. The leaves are a little shredded. The eggplant had just been sulking in my garden until the last couple of days and it decided to take off. Now I'm not so sure. I think it might go back to sulking.

The cucurbits are all shredded too, but I'm pretty sure they will quickly grow out of it. I may have to cut some leaves off if they start to mildew. The lettuce also got hit. I was going to pick most of it on Thursday anyway because of the forecasted heat. Hopefully it will hold up until then. Most of the other veggies didn't get hurt too bad. A few lying on the ground and whipped by the wind, but they will all recover. My Asian greens probably barely felt the wind under their row cover. To them it was probably a nice mild drenching rain. You have to love row covers for protecting your plants.

Tomato Problems

This morning I had a wonderful surprise. I didn’t even know my Aussie tomato had set fruit, and I saw a one inch green tomato that started forming. My Orange Blossom tomatoes also have inch long fruit. It is amazing that I missed them earlier. I think I have been too focused on their leaves. They have some kind of disease. They get it every year, but some years worse than others.

This year I think the weird temperature fluctuations have stressed the plants a lot. I first found it right after the heat wave ended. It was on my Sungold tomatoes. All three of them had large brown splotches on the leaves, but not the other two. I quickly picked out all the blemished leaves in an attempt to keep it from spreading. I’ve been doing this for weeks. In addition I’ve been keeping up my spraying regimen. One week I spray a mixture of worm tea and aspirin. On the next week I’ll spray Serenade. This has been working out OK. But with all the rainy weather, I’m having trouble finding days to spray that won’t get immediately washed off in the afternoon. So my spraying ends up more than a week apart.

Last week it got bad enough that I ripped up the middle Sungold plant. It was between the rest of the Sungolds and my other two tomatoes. It was the weakest of my Sungolds and mostly defoliated at that point. I thought that would keep it from spreading to my Aussie, but no luck. I found a leaf on the Aussie starting to get spots. I pulled it off and haven’t seen other sign on those two plants yet.

This week they seem a little better. Just one little leaf blemished. I’m hoping to be able to spray tomorrow as no rain is predicted. I think the Sungolds will be fine despite their susceptibility to this disease. They grow so quickly they just out run it. They don’t seem to mind me ripping off their leave regularly. They have set a ton of fruit and only have about 8-12” until the top of their cages. The photo is of just one of their many sprays of fruit.

I have another issue with my Aussie tomato. You can see the stem of that plant has some weird bulges in it (top photo). I’ve never seen that on a tomato plant before. I’m hoping it isn’t dangerous. I’d look it up, but my internet connection has been down since yesterday. The repair man won’t be here until tonight.

To help the poor plants out, I’m brewing up another tea – eggshell tea. I eat eggs every morning for breakfast and I save the eggshells. Whenever I bake, I cook the eggshells too to kill any salmonella. Then I crush them. I’ve been saving them for when the plants set fruit. I’m going to feed them with this tea every week. Tomatoes are very susceptible to blossom end rot here, so the extra calcium ought to help.

Monday, June 23, 2008

My Garden is Cursed

Once upon a time I had a beautiful thyme that I loved so much. It was a golden edged lemon thyme. Each little green leaf was edged in bright gold. The leaves danced magically in the gentle breezes. When I touched it, its scent filled the air. But an evil witch cast a spell on it. One branch lost it magic gold edging. The thyme tried to fight it, but was no match. Slowly the golden edged branches died out and were replaced with plain green. It still smelled lovely, but gold no longer danced in the breezes. This was many years ago.

So earlier this year, I bought another variegated thyme, Doone Valley. It isn't quite as pretty as my old thyme, but the leaves are splotched gold. Or were. Once again I'm losing the color in the leaves as they turn green. The photo on the left was the day it was planted. The one on the right was this morning. Has my thyme been cursed?

Whatever it is, it is spreading. My variegated dogwood started sprouting green branches this spring with leaves bigger than the variegated ones. I solved the problem by pinching out all the green branches. It seems to be fine now, but has me worried.

I can sort of understand the dogwood not wanting to be variegated. White leaves have no chlorophyll and don't produce energy for the plant. Last fall was a hard time for the plants. We had very little rain. Half of the plant died back. Maybe in the stress it reverted. But if that explains the dogwood, what explains my hosta?

I have a beautiful large plain blue leafed hosta. I dug it up this spring and divided it into eight pieces. They are all doing well, but one of them has white stripes on some of the leaves and yellow on others, still others are plain. Maybe it has stolen the variegation from my other plants that lost it?

Has anyone else had such strangeness happening in their gardens? Or am I the only one cursed?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

What do do with an Over Abundance

My lettuce runneth over today. I have one huge bag left over from the garden ten days ago. I have two heads from my friend's CSA. And today I looked at my Red Sails lettuce and knew it had to be picked. You can just tell when it starts to get that leggy feeling to it. It is pick it or watch it flower. In a way picking it is so sad. I love the look of the red lettuce all bunched together. Now there is a gapping hole. But I didn't grow it as an ornamental so I had to be ruthless.

I have another veggie that I think will start out producing my ability to eat it too - my cucumbers. I picked one yesterday and another today. The photo is of one of my transplanted cucumbers. It looks like I have three more to pick very soon just on that plant.

I actually have two transplanted cukes and three direct seeded cukes. Cukes don't transplant well. They like to be direct seeded. However everyone nowadays seems to start them inside. Is it worth it? I certainly get my cukes earlier. Once my direct seeded ones start producing I'll know how much earlier. But they produced very quickly on small plants and it seemed to slow them down. My direct seeded ones have almost caught up on growth and are just starting to put out tiny flower buds. They may in the long term be more productive due to less stress.

Either way my cukes will produce way too much for me to eat in my salads. But unlike my lettuce, this is a good thing. I love pickles and an over abundance of little cukes means that I get to have lots of pickles. The old lettuce will just get composted.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

My Uninvited Guests

My garden evolves from year to year. Some years, like this year it has mostly edible fare. In other years, I'm lazy. These years I still plant tomatoes and peppers, but never greens. Greens have to be continually harvested and replanted. Peas and beans have to be tended constantly to keep producing, so they are not welcome. Tomatoes and peppers tend to be easy. Plant once. If they turn red, they usually will be happy to sit there for a few days, and the red is easy to see to pick. They are welcome in my lazy gardening years. In these years the rest of the garden is usually planted in flowers.

I love flowers that can be cut and brought inside, but this year only a few are growing, and only in places that veggies can't grow. Most of my cut flowers will have to come from the perennial border and strangely enough, my weeds. The ox-eyed daisies grow in the path between the house and the garden. I didn't plant them there. They just showed up unannounced like bad neighbors. But I still welcome them in. I may regret it later if they get pushy, but for now I have my tea with the daisies on my kitchen table.

Friday, June 20, 2008


I've been tagged by Kanak from halfway around the world- Guwahati, Assam, India, so of course I must play. The rules are as follows:

  • Link to the person who tagged you.
  • Post the rules on the blog.
  • Write six random things about yourself.
  • Tag six people at the end of your post.
  • Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
  • Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

So I need six random things that "you" don't know about me. Of course who "you" are is very variable. My husband reads my blog and sometimes my son. They probably know all the things I would possibly write:

  1. My father thinks I'm fickle, since I haven't stayed in one profession very long. I have a degree in chemistry (hated the politics and hated the chemicals); then went to art school; painted for a short while (had kids and found I couldn't paint while tending kids); stayed home with my kids (they grew up and didn't need me as much); programmed (they shut down the office on me, but I missed my kids so stayed home with them some more and started beading); now I'm a beadweaver and make jewelry. Will I do something else at some point? Maybe. My husband doesn't think I'm fickle. I've been married to him for 24 years now.
  2. I was a river rat as a kid. The first river I rowed was the River of No Return when I was 16. Don't you love that nickname? Its real name is the Middle Fork of the Salmon in Idaho. This was before such things were really popular. Now everyone does it. My dad helped make kayaking popular in the US. Before you could go to a store and buy a kayak, my dad taught classes on how to make your own. I grew up watching kayak races, though have never been a whitewater kayaker myself. I like rafts in whitewater.
  3. My daughter and I backpacked a hundred miles of the Long Trail one summer. We had so much fun together even though it poured on us almost every day.
  4. I go to one or two science fiction conventions every year. Yes I'm a strange person that dresses up in costumes. My husband has always loved the conventions (he took me to my first one), but it took arm twisting for him to dress up. Once I made him a wizard's costume in black silk with a dragon beaded on the front (huge dragon, tons of beads) he was a convert. My favorite costume is a druid costume. I made it using an old Irish dress pattern and it has vines twining up from the bottom done in appliqué and beadwork around each leaf. My favorite part of the conventions is volunteering. The greatest people are the ones that volunteer there and when you volunteer you get to meet them all.
  5. I'm proud of my nephew that is going to go to grad school at my alma mater, MIT (yes I'm a nerd, couldn't you guess that from number 4?) and is going to work on the moon project. And how could I be proud of my nephew without being proud of my own kids? My son is going to Brown to study computers and my daughter to WPI to study physics and her senior project is on quantum computing. Yes the whole family is happy talking nerdly and we are proud of it.
  6. Writing is hard for me. I'm doing this blog as a challenge to myself.

So now I must tag six people. Just so the people know, you don't have to play if you don't want to.

So why do we play such silly tag games. I would never do chain letters as a kid. Well it gets you linked into other blogs. Bloggers are always looking for more readers and search engines like that. And it lets you know a little more about your blogger.

Frilly Lunch from the Garden

What a difference ten days makes. Just ten days ago that I was worried about my pea tips burning. I wondered if they would ever set peas after being brutalized by the heat. Well they are going crazy. Our last week has had the quintessential New England June weather: highs of 70s; lows in the 50s; occasional rain. So the peas have responded in kind. I'm picking a bowl of snowpeas every couple of days. Yum. I really don't need that many peas. I use them as additions to meals, not alone. I sprinkle them in salads and put them in stirfrys.

Finding the peas however is a challenge. They are growing so close together that they get lost in the foliage. Sometimes I don't find the peas until they start to swell. My daughter tried shelling some since she loves English peas. She says they are sour and not all that good.

I planted a second sowing of peas several weeks after the first. Now those peas have started to flower. I wondered how long it would take between one flowering and the next. They were sown about 3-4 weeks apart, but have flowered only 12 days apart. It seems they made up for half of the time.

My Asian greens are also enjoying the moderate weather. I picked another Fun Jen today (frilly boc choi above), and not much is left in the older plantings of greens (below). I have one Fun Jen, three Chinese cabbage that I'm hoping form heads before they bolt, and three mizuna, which keep producing and producing. I have mizuna in all of my salads. I think next year I only need two plants. The tatsoi is long gone and the mustard died a horrible death at just 2" tall. I also have a beer trap for the slugs, but sadly my slugs are tea totalers. Ok so the real problem I think is that the rim of my dish is to sharp and they don't like to cross it. I'm going to try another dish tonight.

However that will not be the end of the greens. Succession planting continues. Every two to three weeks I sow a 12 pack of greens inside and plant them outside a couple of weeks later. Well some of them, I never have room for them all. A few days ago I planted out a set and they are doing really well. I have two of the following Fun Jen (the bright green plants), Giant Red Mustard (top right), arugula (middle right), boc choi (left, real ones not the frilly stuff), and one tatsoi (far left middle). Since last time they were too close together and I planted them four across in the 4' bed, this time they are three across with equal spacing between the plants in the other direction. I also didn't plant any Chinese cabbage. I figured they take up so much more space than the other greens. Also the hot weather is coming and they may bolt before they head. The space is better off with quicker greens right now. I'll plant them again later in the season.

Since I picked a slug free Fun Jen (did you notice, no holes this time, just chance, no credit to me), snowpeas, and zucchini, I'm thinking Chinese salad for lunch. Lunch has really become whatever I pick in the garden. That is not to say I don't eat it for dinner too, but lunch is mostly garden fare. My CSA food will have to sit in the fridge for a while since garden fare trumps CSA. Though I did eat the collard greens for dinner last night. They weren't bad. I don't hate them, but then again they were nothing to write home about (just blog about). I probably won't ever grow them.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

An Unexpected Treasure

I have neighbors that belong to a CSA. They are off on vacation. I'm stuck here, so they asked me to sit for their animals, and since they couldn't use their CSA they told me I could have it. They gave me the address to pick it up but said nothing else. I figured the treasure would be somewhere outside the house and found a little open shed in their driveway. Jackpot.

If you have never heard of a CSA, it stands for community supported agriculture. You buy a 'share' of what is produced by the farm in advance, usually in the winter. It helps spread the risk out to the buyer as well as the grower (good for the farmer) and gives you very fresh locally grown produce at a place where you can find out how your produce is grown (good for the buyer). In our northern clime they start delivering to a drop off around June and keep going as long as there are things to be picked in the field. Sometimes it is only vegetables that the farm produces; sometimes it is fruit and veggies; some farms do shares of meat and eggs. Most farms pack boxes that the buyer has no control over, but some do it by issuing 'farm dollars' where you can purchase what you want at the farm stand.

So what did my little treasure box hold?

  • Two heads of lettuce, one leaf, one romaine - I figured, but I have so much lettuce in my garden to eat that I really don't need them. I already eat salad every day. Usually lunch is a salad with a ton of lettuce.
  • Radishes - Score. I have no more in my garden and I miss them in my salads.
  • Beets - Ick I hate beets, but I might like the greens since I love chard.
  • Baby bok choi - Score. I love boc choi. Thai food here I come.
  • Spinach - OK
  • Collard greens maybe? I've never grown them and never eaten them, but I'm willing to make the assumption they are collard greens and try cooking them.

As to the quality? Well I haven't eaten it yet. It is not as pretty as you find in the supermarket. The bok choi and beet greens are flee beetle bitten, which weirdly is a good sign to me. It says they think a little leaf damage isn't as bad as spraying the veggies. I concur. Basically it looks like the produce that comes out of my garden.

My friend told me that she had to learn to cook greens when she started getting her boxes. She lent me a cook book a few weeks ago titled, "Greens Glorious Greens" by Johnna Albi and Catherine Walthers. It tells you all about what to do with those greens you have never heard of or used before. How to pick good ones in the market, how to wash them, store them, chop them and cook them. Tonight I'm eating greens. I just haven't decided which ones yet.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Old Friends Reunited

I have an old half barrel sunk in the ground. The barrel has been through a lot over the years. It started off its life in my garden 20 years ago in a previous house. It held beautiful flowers in its youth. In its prime years, it became a pond, sitting at the end of a small waterfall and housing goldfish during the summer. In middle age it tackled the job of keeping my mint quarantined from the rest of the garden. On June 2nd I ripped out all my mint. The old barrel was no longer up to the challenge of a mint. Its sides were buckling under the pressure.

So now in its old age it has retired to keep its friend the Japanese iris wet. The iris was planted next to the barrel when it was a pond. The moisture that leaked through kept the iris always blooming and happy. When the barrel lost its water and housed the mint, the iris was no longer very wet and became unhappy. This year it was so unhappy it refused to bloom. I planted a piece of the iris into the barrel. Hopefully this will keep the water from draining and keep my iris happier. So now the the two are reunited once again together in friendship.

But what about the mint? Well that mint was spearmint, which I hate, so it was ripped up and tossed. I did however still want my peppermint back and after some comments by readers I was drooling over chocolate mint and orange mint. I ordered those two and a candymint (peppermint variety) on June 5th and they were supposed to be shipped on the 16th. This morning I prepared the bed for their arrival.

I bought three large fake terracotta pots, about 18" in diameter. I have a spot near my crabapple tree that has a triangular bed. Nothing can grow in it well. The dill and snapdragons occasionally self seed there, but never get big. It is in dappled shade most of the day, only getting a couple of hours of direct sunlight each day. I figure it is a perfect spot for mint. Mint ought to be able to handle the partial shade and surely a mint can outgrow whatever it is that is keeping the other plants from growing (I suspect my crabapple tree).

I dug large holes for the pots. The nice worm filled soil goes about 10-11" deep, then I hit rocky subsoil, but luckily I never hit any huge rocks, just 5" ones which are easy to pull. I tossed the subsoil out in the back yard. My kids used have a fort excavated out in the back yard under the trees (no measly little sandbox for them, let them get dirty). Now that they are in college, they no longer play there. I didn't feel bad about starting to fill in their huge hole.

But I digress. I put a pot saucer in the hole (yes I buried the saucer, it helps keep the nasty mint roots from escaping), then the pot. I left a 3" rim above ground to help keep them from running. Into the pot went all the smaller rocks I dug out from the holes and some extras. I always have little rock piles collected from the soil. It is nice to get rid of some of them into the pots. Then I added several inches of compost and then the top soil.

The pots do not take up the whole bed. I had four impatiens along the back of the bed. I dug them up before excavating so they wouldn't die by stomping. Then I put them back. I planted lemon balm in the front of the middle pot and to the sides of the other two pots. This will be my tea garden. Though the chamomile is planted just across the path in more direct sun.

I expected the mints to arrive tomorrow, but they knew their house was ready for them so showed up a day early. I ordered the herbs from Papa Geno. The plants that showed up were well packed and arrived safely, only a little dirt loose in the box. But I was very unhappy. The chocolate mint was not in the box. The note said it was out of stock. Now I ordered these plants on June 5th. Surely sometime between June 5th and June 16th when they were shipped they could have dropped me an email and told me. I could have ordered a different mint. The shipping cost more than the plants as it was. Now one of my pots is mintless. It looks very silly. And I still want chocolate mint.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


There are small magic creatures in my garden. By day they seem normal, little black beetles with orange red edges to their heads. At dusk they transform into little fairies. They flit about the sky leaving little trails of light.

I had a friend in college that claimed to believe in unicorns. I scoffed. He said the world would be such a dull place without magic. He had to believe in it because the alternative was unthinkable. I tend to that thinking when I see fireflies lighting up the twilight sky. Surely they aren't fireflies. They must be fairies. It was hard to go to sleep one night as I watched one of these fairies that had gotten into my bedroom and was blinking messages to its cohorts outside. "Save me the evil princess has me trapped."

I think one of the reasons gardening attracts us so much is its magical nature. The peonies first bloom this spring comes to mind. The enchanting scent of the lilac wafting on the breeze. And who hasn't waited with baited breath for the magical first tomato of the season. Today my daughter and I bought locally grown strawberries again (2 quarts this time since the last quart lasted less than 24 hours). We made strawberry sherbet together. That first bite was spellbinding.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Spring Harvest

Today my Fun Jen was ready to pick. It is a bok choi type of plant with frilly leaves and slightly narrower leaf stalks than bok choi. It is a little ragged because of the slugs, but not bad. As I walked past the chard, I figured they were big enough to pick a few leaves, maybe for a salad. Then I saw the peas. The snowpeas loved yesterdays weather. It was only in the 60s and wet. A lot of snowpeas were ready to be picked. I figured my first picking would be maybe one or two peas, but I got a whole handful.

Hmm snowpeas and bok choi....and left over chicken from last night. It was time to make Thai greens and chicken for lunch. It was a good excuse to pick a little basil and cilantro too. Ok so my cilantro is not very little. I always pick a huge handful when I harvest. I put it in a mug and cover it with a plastic bag and keep it in the fridge. It keeps very well like that. And I always have fresh cilantro available in the kitchen. My scallions aren't nearly full size yet, but I decided I would rather use a smallish one than a store bought onion.

I brought it all inside to wash up. As I washed, I noticed that some of the leaves of my bok choi still had slugs on them, six to be exact. I glared at them and squished each one. They weren't very big, just tiny 1/4" long slugs, which means they have been multiplying. I've been remiss about trapping them. Maybe tonight I'll put out beer traps for them.

It was nice to have a hot lunch for a change. I've been eating salad non-stop for lunch for about a month due to an inundation with lettuce. I do occasionally eat dinner leftovers, but not much else. This lunch had five things from the garden: bok choi, snowpeas, scallions, basil, and cilantro.

As I was writing this a rose-breasted grosbeak showed up on my branch. I took this fairly crappy photo through the screened window, but at least it is indeed visible in the photo. Most of the time I try to take photos of the birds through the window, they are unrecognizable. It is such a beautiful bird with a heart shaped red splotch. Much nicer than having to look at my slugs.


Saturday the female blossom opened on my zucchini. There were no bees around so I fertilized it by hand to make sure. The blossom closed up after noon. Sunday I picked the 5" zucchini. I've never grown them before, other squash yes, but not zucchini. It is just amazing how fast these little buggers grow. When I saw how big it was on Sunday I figured I had better pick it because if it doubled in size after the first 24 hours, it might do it again. I certainly didn't want a massive zucchini. I'm actually not a zucchini fan, despite my great desire to see it start producing. I figure they are too easy to grow and I'll have to learn to love them.

Now before you tell me I'm crazy to change my tastes as an adult, I've done it before - and failed before so no guarantee. I used to have issues going on play dates with my kids when they were little. Usually the other moms would offer everyone something to drink: coffee, tea, milk, soda. I really hated all those drinks. I grew up on water (good water from the Colorado mountains, not the stuff they call water here in Boston). They didn't like water as an answer (this was before bottled water was big). They seemed very upset by having to give me water. I think they were worried that they didn't have what I really wanted, so kept looking in their fridge for something else I would drink. I taught myself to like tea so I could be more socially normal. It took a little while and I used lots of sugar and milk to start off, slowly weaning myself of the addins. I tried to learn to drink coffee too, but lattes and mochas (with soy milk only, they taste awful with cow's milk) are the best I can stomach. I still don't drink most sodas and don't even try me on diet drinks. Ick.

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming - zucchini. I thought about how to start eating zucchini. I figured that I sometimes eat them in Chinese food. When they are all sauced up they really don't taste like zucchini. I ended up making Thai chicken. Yum. The zucchini were fabulous, but of course I couldn't taste them at all. I could only taste the spicy sauce. None of the rest of my family would touch the zucchini so I had it all to myself.

Today the next female blossom opened up, though it doesn't look all that happy about it. It has been raining and the male blossoms are full of water. I wonder if it will be pollinated. They don't seem to stay open for very long and again there are no bees. I tried to hand pollinate, but really with all the wet plant parts, I'm not sure if it will take.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day June 2008

It is the 15th of the month which means it is Bloom Day, hosted my May Dream Gardens. Of course it is Father's Day too, so happy Father's Day to all the fathers out there.

I cheated today. This peony is no longer in bloom. It opened last Sunday and lasted a whopping 4 days in our brutal heat wave, but I had to share it anyway, since it was so pretty. My lighter pink peonies are still blooming, but look horrible. My irises still are gamely putting out a few flowers but are almost done.

The above bush showed up in my yard one year and I just let it grow. Most of my back yard is natural woods and you never know what will end up there. I have no idea what it is. If anyone knows, please tell me.

This is my pride and joy of the season, my kousa dogwood. I planted it 16 years ago as a 6' tree, hoping it would screen our view of the neighbors porch. Now it even screens their second floor window. It is the perfect plant. It has such grace with its layered branches. Its blooms are profuse and last almost all of June. The blooms turn into a pretty red fruit that feeds the birds. The kousa dogwood blooms a lot longer than the florida dogwood (the dogwood that most people think of when they think dogwood), but its best difference is that it is not bothered by the anthracnose which kills the florida dogwoods.

My next favorite bloom of the garden right now is my Dianthus (Alwoodii Alpinus, wow a Latin name I remember, that won't happen again). I love its pretty pink flowers, but the reason I grow it is for the scent. The scent is sweet and clove-like, and strong enough to scent the entire garden.

I have a lot of the typical garden flowers in bloom right now, marigolds, lobelia, impatiens, sweet allysum, Martha Washington germanium, daylily, perennial geranium, daisies, columbine (hmm what have I forgotten?). And weirdly my bleeding heart is still in bloom. There aren't many blooms, but they still look pretty.

In the herb garden my feverfew is blooming along with the parsley, coriander and sage. The chives are still blooming, but they are pretty ragged and need to be cut back.

Lots of my veggies are in bloom. The squash blossoms are so beautiful they ought to be on the outside of the fence. The peas are likewise as stunning. The bottom photo is my raspberries. Other veggie blooms: tomato, pepper, cucumber.

Addendum: I forgot a few blooms that I noticed once in the garden. But how could I forget the Daphne? I planted it because it has my name.