Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Perennial Report

Since it's still all strawberries and lettuce in the vegetable garden, I thought I'd talk about perennials for a change. I have quite a few, though they are not exotic. I prefer those I think of as "American Cottage" -- black-eyed susans, daylilies, salvia, purple coneflowers, coreopsis, Russian sage, Autumn Joy sedum, butterfly bushes and monarda. Kind of a semi-wild tangle of plants that are not fussy and in general create many volunteers to share and colonize new area. This garden came furnished with the monarda, daylilies, a huge white butterfly bush, a clump of black-eyed susan, lirope, irises and many hostas tucked into the edges of the wooded area. Since many of those were already favorites from past gardening attempts (and I didn't have to buy them) I worked with what I had.

I added purple coneflowers, tall lilies, a clump of zebra grass and my favorite russian sage the first year and in the second was able to divide the lirope around the rest of the front walk, cover a small but steep slope with orange daylilies, spread the black-eyed susan to the other side of the front garden and bring some to the back. I also consolidated all the hostas to the shady side garden to make something nice to look at out the dining room's bay window -- the view before was the 8' by 15' cement slab top of an old cistern and dead grass under the big maples. I covered the slab with mulch, and added a circle of pebbles in the center topped by a big, footed urn that looks like stone but is lightweight foam stuff planted with begonias and fuschia. Then underplanted around the tree with the hostas brought in from around the yard and added some large stones from the creek as a focal point/path. This year I added a bunch more hostas as my neighbors on both sides wanted to get rid of theirs - can you imagine! I also added some big potted ferns - only $8 each at Lowes - and painted the shed. It is now so lush and green - just about my favorite spot.

Near there, in the front garden, I added a little rock garden filled with different types of low-growing sedum and some diantus -- dianthus is also a great plant for thrifty gardeners, since many of the big-box retailers sell it cheap as an early annual in the spring, but it is really perennial - mine is on year 3. This year I moved the Oakleaf hydrangeas right behind the rock garden from their shady home next to the shed and they are blooming for the first time. Two of the sedums were donations from my brother-in-law as were three cardinal flowers that are growing really well in the back. All the plants from my brother-in-law were brought back from Michigan, packed in a cardboard box.

There is a 14-foot long planter box by the driveway that was filled with irises. I pulled those out late last summer and distributed them around the yard (and the neighbors' yards - there were more than 100) and replanted with coreopsis, blue salvia, some chrysanthemum (from fall pots the previous year) Autumn Joy sedum (from my neighbor) and low-growing mat-forming phlox (from the same neighbor) and another sedum found for $1 each at a yard sale. The salvia and coreopsis have started blooming nicely. There are also 2 mature clematis vines on the light post at the end of the planter.

I also have some Shasta daisies - another favorite - that I started from seed 2 years ago. I was able to divide those this year. Last spring I took a volunteer shoot from the butterfly bush and established a nice one on the other side of the garden - it grew to 5 feet in its first year. Last year I also bought some heucherella - foam flower, I think - to plant behind the hostas in the shade garden one died and the other 2 did not bloom I moved them out back where they get more sun and they seem to be doing a bit better.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Strawberry Nirvana

I picked so many strawberries today! I can't believe how many my small plot has yielded. I picked a brimming colander full today and made strawberry shortcake with pureed berries and cream biscuits -- topped with vanilla ice cream. Once again my insane offspring would not even try it -- this is why I now hate cooking. Well, more for us. Tomorrow I will make freezer jam -- that, at least, I know they'll eat.

I picked my first few sugar snap peas, then a storm on Thursday night knocked the tops of all the vines over the edge of the fence and practically snapped them off -- maybe they'll still get enough juice to produce a few more. Some of the potato plants also fell over -- those should be fine though.

The heat and humidity have set in -- now I'll have to force myself out first thing in the morning to keep the weeds down.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Easy as pie

I am so proud. The strawberry-rhubarb pie came out way better than expected. I thought it might be soupy, but it actually worked -- I included 2 tbs of flour and 2 tbs of cornstarch as thickeners. And it tastes good too -- as a bonus. Of course the kids won't try it. More for us.

My own personal garden fairy!

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Nibble, nibble

Okay -- something ate the tops off my sunflowers -- and these were the ones my Brownies planted. I need to get the Deer-Away or whatever it was I used on my beans the other year. The sun finally came out, so I was busy reseeding again. Calendula seeds to fill in around the dill, more Italian parsley, garlic cloves for spring garlic, red and golden beets, short & sweet carrots and Nantes carrots.

Here's what it looks like now -- I finally said "no" to tomato torture and moved them out of the Death Square and over to the sparse Spinach bed and a few other spots among the other veggies. Also planted some sweet potatos in the row where the regular oes didn't show up. In the Death Square I built another stick tuteur and planted hyacinth bean and morning glory vines a friend had given me. I under planted with radish, beet and carrot seeds -- since the lettuce came up, maybe things can survive if they start there. A few more bean seeds also went in.

This was delish -- my first meal from the garden this year. Tomorrow I may attempt a strawberry-rhubarb pie -- I've never eaten one much less baked one!

Thursday, May 18, 2006


Kind of a boring week around here - cool temps, rain and gray skies have put the garden into a holding pattern. Nothing seems to be making progress except the strawberries. These are the first few -- though Bailey did snag a couple this weekend. I've also been harvesting a few of my red fire lettuce leaves. I think I'll slice these up with some lettuce, toasted almonds and poppyseed dressing for lunch.

I finished weeding out the dill bed - vast overstatement as only 5 seeds germinated in said "bed." I may just fill it in with calendula - how much dill do I really need. I bought some 5-for-a-dollar seed packets at the grocery store yesterday to fill in with. So far I'm quite disappointed with the performance of this garden this year - no spinach, stunted tomatoes, stunted peppers, no parsley, no dill, very few beets and problem green beans. I guess it's early days yet. Hopefully the warmer weather that is supposedly coming will perk things up. A Brownie mom gave me some large coriander, some Morning Glory vines and another vine I forgot - I'll have to get those in later today. My neighbor also gave me a few sweet potato plants and a couple varieties of tomatoes her dad grew - Red October and Black something or other - she said it's purple. If things don't improve I'm going to have to bust out the Miracle Grow.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Another rainy day

Rainy and cool again today. But I had to pop out between showers and try out my new camera -- a Canon 530 PowerShot - 5/1 megapixels. I fear it may be too complex for me -- I have totally forgotten all my college photography classes. Luckily the auto mode works pretty well -- there are also settings for sunny and cloudy days, night time and different types of interior light -- also a foliage setting that really turns up the color. Here's a few shots -- the first peony and the strawberries.

The squash seeds are all popping up and the new sowing of lettuce is coming as well. One of the tomato plants has bit it. After I unscientifically and inaccurately added the aluminum sulfate one curled up its leaves, turned brown and croaked -- the others seem better though.

Friday, May 05, 2006


I tested the Ph of the soil in the Death Square today and it blew the top off the alkaline end of the scale. According to some info I found, adding Aluminum Sulfate should instantly bring down the alkaline numbers. I will try to find some.

My 16 red fairy rose bushes out along the front stone wall are lush and beautiful -- and at least one is totally infested with aphids! They must die! Usually it is Japanese Beetles that get them -- by the end of the summer. Insecticidal soap to the rescue.

I got the shed and the door by the patio painted today, so I'm slowly but surely working on my list. I spent a lot of time today thinking about all the things I needed to do but not actually doing them - It took me until 3 to really get started. Bailey came out and helped for a bit -- then turned on the hose and left it running on the patio while I was checking out the aphid situation -- big flood!

The bearded irises are blooming - I am so glad I divided them last fall. Also here is a pic of one of the healthy Joe Pye Weed plants I bought off of eBay last week -- all happy in its new home -- it came from Arkansas.

Is this not the cutest thing -- though I see his nose is hung crooked now that I see a pic. It is called a Forest Friend - he's looking at the swingset. Finally, this is the view from the hammock - down by the creek -- I actually laid in it for about 15 mins and watched the little squirrels run through the trees - very restful.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Weed & Reseed

Today I finished up the stick tepee - or tuteur if we're going to be all fancy. I am too lazy to nail it, so I put my Girl Scout lashing skills to use -- though I just used twine, so it probably won't last too long. I planted my Kwintus Pole Beans around it -- we'll see how long it takes to topple over. I have 2 more shorter, wider ones to make for my mini pumpkins and gourds.

I also spent alot of time with my second favorite garden tool -- a mattuck with an adjustable handle -- I found it for less than $5 the year before last at a Big Lots store. It has a flat side like a hoe and a tined side -- great for weeding. I went over the plot where I have chamomile seedlings and marked each of the tiny feathery things with a stick so I could weed all the emerging quick weed and crab grass and pull out the violets without worries. The dill needs another week or so to see the seedlings - I could only find two so far - and no parsley -- I may buy at least one plant and reseed the rest.

I got the squash and pumpkin seeds planted -- too early, I know, but I can never wait. Something seems to be eating the green beans as soon as they stick their little heads through the soil -- I only have about 5 plants -- though the edamame are fine. I went back and reseeded those today. After looking at FarmGirls Kitchen Garden, I also went back an seeded between my lettuce and spinach rows. I also may do between the onion rows as well. There's some nice info about green spring garlic as well that I will put into use this fall -- it sounds so good.

My columbine are blooming and spreading. I brought the seeds these were grown from with me from Lansing -- still in the flower pods. I had tons of them there -- all blown over from the neighbor's yard -- at least chainlink fences are good for something! I now have 5 of these in the side yard across from the hostas. Here's another view of the hostas -- I have to do something with that fence -- it's the view out of the dining room.

Monday, May 01, 2006

May Day

I finally got the pond finished to my satisfaction - so I can post a pic. The whole area turned out pretty well. Altogether I think it cost -- $10 for the weed barrier, $20 for all the hollies, $10 for the tree, and $20 for the mulch so - $60 is not too bad.

The sun is out between storms so I finished up with the transplanting. I read something on a Dave's Garden forum where someone had good luck growing purple coneflowers in full shade so I stuck 6 extra clumps of the stuff in the back of my hosta garden. I think those are like daylilies and hostas -- you can't kill them if you try. I put in some more extras into a new planting next to the steps from the patio to the yard - it's a slope - I put in hostas, coneflowers, daylilies, shasta daisies and russian sage -- no fussy flowers for me.

I'm already on deathwatch for the tomatoes -- the Brandy Boy looks pretty sickly, but the Borghese aren't too bad. Maybe they'll pull through. I still need to put in my pumpkin and zucchini seeds. I made this really good yellow summer squash this weekend, so I may have to plant some of that too. - peel and slice it - saute in olive oil with a clove of garlic, add 1/4 cup of chicken broth and fresh oregano - cook until soft, serve with freshly grated pecorino/romano or parmesan cheese. So good!