Thursday, December 30, 2010

Schizophrenic weather

One day it is so cold the cat is sleeping on the register and the dog is hiding under the covers...

and the leaves of the rhododendron are rolled tighter than my yoga mat...

and then the weather switches to what could be considered a January thaw, if it were January.

The snow should be gone by the time we ring in the new year.  That means no cross country skiing (yet) and no snow cover for the garden, not a good thing.

When it is warm, the birds abandon the feeders, but this chickadee was eating something on the cotoneasters.

It wasn't the berries.  Lichen?  Who knows.

And the Cooper's hawk came back for a visit:

The seed catalogs continue to pile up - such gorgeous photos! - but I am holding firm to purchasing only what I need-need, and from only two places.  BUT I am using the catalogs to look into the future.  Maybe a piece of prairie?  Tree fruit?  Berry hedges?  A gardener can dream, can't she?

Meanwhile, have a Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Where we were and where we're going

Okay, I didn't get everything done that I planned to do last summer.  Gardening is for optimists, though, so below is a recap of last year and a to-do list for next year.

From 2010:

About that lawn:
1. Overseed bare spots in lawn with clover (in February/March) - forgot

And that unsightly tractor tire:
2. Move hosta from tractor tire to under the lilac - DONE
3. Get rid of tractor tire - did not get around to it
4. Use sand from tractor tire to create butterfly water site - ditto
5. Plant Prairie Fire crabapple where tractor tire is - tree not available locally

How about a little curb appeal:
6. Prune shrubs (boxwood, burning bush, etc.) - DONE (this should be a yearly thing)
7. Move some of the cotoneaster to the west side of the West Wing - reconsidered
8. Plant Big Blue Stem to fill in holes left by #7 - reconsidered
9. Move sedum from under asplenifolia to in front of Big Blue Stem - DONE mostly
10. Move 'Clara Curtis' from south side of house to 3B garden - reconsidered
11. Plant Magic Lilies, aka Naked Ladies, in holes left by #10 - reconsidered
12. Divide hostas and day lilies and give away extra - did not get around to it
13. Move/give away iris on north side of garage - did not get around to it

Birds, butterflies, and bees:
14. Plant morning glories on fence behind 3B garden - forgot
15. Install ceramic bird house - DONE but no birds
16. Install mason bee house - forgot
17. Plant winterberry under arborvitae - DONE but it was holly
18. Plant hummingbird sage in 3B garden - forgot

Weed control:
19. Experiment with injecting Roundup and/or vinegar into stems of Canada thistle - tried this, too time consuming, but we'll call it DONE

Protection from the elements:
20. Get estimates for a pergola for the patio - reconsidering
21. Plant arborvitae on west side of house - DONE but it was juniper

22. The West Wing needs some - partially DONE (hydrangea and two hostas)
23. Ditto
24. Ditto

Long term food:
25. Plant raspberries - deferred
26. Prepare asparagus bed - planted asparagus instead (mistake)

27. Use gladiolas as row markers - DONE
28. Keep better (any) records re vegetable garden production - DONE
29. Start dye garden - later, but harvested marigold blossoms for dye
30. Buy a freezer - DONE

For 2011:

About that lawn:
1. Overseed bare spots in lawn with clover (in February/March)
2. Mow at highest setting
3. Treat with Fire Belly

And that unsightly tractor tire:
4. Get rid of tractor tire. Really.
5. Use sand from tractor tire to create butterfly water site

How about a little curb appeal:
6. Move ornamental grass by porch, replace with ?
7. Move rest of sedum from under asplenifolia to in front of Japanese maple
8. Plant Magic Lilies, aka Naked Ladies, on south side for some August color
9. Divide hostas and day lilies and give away extra, if anyone wants them
10. Move iris on north side of garage, but to where?

Birds, butterflies, and bees:
11. Plant morning glories on fence behind 3B garden
12. Install ceramic bird house in new location
13. Install mason bee house
14. Plant hummingbird sage in 3B garden
15. Plant sunflowers and other flowers I have seed for
16. Contemplate reorganizing this area and adding a water feature

Weed control:

Protection from the elements:
18. Get estimates for a pergola for the patio
19. Plant Prairie Fire crabapple by patio

20. The West Wing needs more (like the ornamental grass by the front porch?)

Long term food:
21. Prepare raspberry bed
22. Work on asparagus bed
23. Strawberries?
24. Mini dwarf fruit orchard?
25. Meyer lemon?

Edible landscaping:
26. Contemplate blueberries on south side of house, huckleberry as a hedge in partial shade

27. Set up irrigation
28. Improve record keeping
29. Harvest hibiscus blossoms (and any other plant that can be used) for dyeing
30. Eliminate trumpet vine - it is taking over

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The bluebird of happiness

Occasionally, I see a bluebird or two at the bird bath, early in the day.  Here is evidence!  Not too bad a pic, considering it was taken using the zoom, through a window, when it was still mostly dark out.

Today I also saw a LBB (Little Brown Bird - at a distance they all look alike) land on top of a foxtail, bending the seed head down to the ground, where presumably some seeds shook loose.  The bird would then release the stalk, peck around in the snow a bit, and repeat the performance.  Now I don't feel so bad about (some of) the weeds in my yard.

Some kind of crap (freezing rain?  sleet?  what is the difference?) was falling from the sky, but now it has turned to snow.  A good reason to stay put today.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

More memory loss

This year, when I made my infamous cranberry bread (recipe from La Leche League's Whole Foods for the Whole Family - my copy is about 30 years old), I used a food processor to chop the cranberries.  What I good idea! I said to myself.  Later, while perusing some blog entries from a year ago, I discovered that I had discovered the food processor shortcut to chopping cranberries back then.  One thing about aging is, everything seems new!

I think this is new:

I bought a rasp zester.  Not only no more skinned knuckles, but the zest is captured in the holder AND it is easy to clean.

Another blog entry I ran across from a year ago was my plans for 2010.  All I can say is, HA HA HA.  I accomplished only about a third of the items listed, and some of those not completely.  (For instance, I moved some of the sedum but not all of it, and instead of preparing an asparagus bed, I planted asparagus, which was a mistake.)  The best part of gardening is the planning, though - time for a new list!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Bird watching

Now that I have replaced the black oil sunflower seeds with a millet-based mix, all I get at the window feeder are sparrows.  Fern does not care.

Come back, birdies!
 Are cardinals redder in the winter?  Or does the snow just make it seem so?  This is what is known as "lake effect" snow, of which we received less than an inch.  Not enough for skiing.

Safflower seed, because I'm worth it!
I am going to say that this is a Cooper's hawk.  He sat there and sat there, and finally I crept off to find my camera.  He was still there when I returned, but not for long.

Hey!  Where did everybody go?
I was less lucky today when a ragged V of what I think were herons flew overhead.  They did not honk or quack, but sang an unfamiliar song as they passed by.  I have never witnessed such a thing before.

I also have never witnessed a dog eating a hot pepper right off the plant.  (I brought this plant inside before a hard frost.)

But oddly enough, Betsy does not like raw turkey liver.  Go figure.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


After three days of cooking and cleaning, friends and family, today was my "free" day, which means I was free to do laundry, pick up dog poop, and otherwise prepare for the coming work week.  But I also made time for baking bread.  Some people might not consider that a fun thing to do, but I find hand kneading yeasty dough to be very relaxing.  And then there is the end result - a delicious accompaniment to the last of the Caramelized Cabbage soup.

I have had visitors to the window feeder, mostly chickadees (as below) but also nuthatches and sparrows.  I may replace the oil seed with something like millet, because the larger seed doesn't fall into the feeding cups very well.

Now I am going to enjoy a blaze in the fireplace on this chilly night.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The memory goes first

Tonight I decided to make Caramelized Cabbage Soup, from Love Soup. I pulled two pints of broth (recipe also in Love Soup) from the freezer, plus what I thought was a mixture of cooking water from potatoes and green beans that I had frozen. The jar was unlabeled, and, after it started to thaw, was unrecognizable by look or smell. I have no idea what it was, and decided not to use it in my soup (which turned out delish, BTW).

The reason I was making soup was, in part, to clean out the refrigerator in anticipation of T-day leftovers. In the back of said fridge, I found a few apples left over from last year. They were in a bag labeled "Cameo". Yes, the same variety that in another post I claimed to have never heard of before this fall.

I had a third example of my poor memory, but I forget what it was.

New topic:

Seed catalogs! In a way, it makes sense that these arrive in time for xmas shopping because gardeners need gifts, too. And as every year, I am overwhelmed with all the varieties available. They all sound good. In the past, I have bought "sampler" collections of tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes, and have found some new favorites that way, but I'm going to be more selective going forward. I plan to rely on some old standbys and maybe try one or two new things at a time. Or, as I am doing with garlic, select several varieties with different attributes, and use them accordingly.

Any recommendations?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Old news

Do you reread your blog posts?  Occasionally I take a peek at what I was doing a year (or two or three) ago. One thing I was doing about a year ago was perusing the Pinetree Garden Seeds catalog.  Guess what?  I'm doing the same this year.  Once again, it was the first seed catalog to arrive.  The garden is barely put to bed for the winter and I'm already dreaming of spring.

One of my dreams is to figure out a way to protect my potatoes from voles.  I think they don't tunnel like moles or climb like mice, so all I need to do is block them at or near ground level.  I'm contemplating wrapping the potato bed in hardware cloth, sinking it an inch or two below ground level.  Unless you have a better idea?

Today I spent a little time in the yard, adding and filling bird feeders, cleaning out and organizing the garden shed and then packing it with all the crap that I'd left laying about the yard, retriggering the rabbit trap (I caught another opossum the other night), etc.  Now I can gaze upon the backyard without feeling guilty.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Itsy bitsy spider, and apples

While I was cleaning out gutters the other day, I came across this fellow:

Not anything like his cousin who snuck into the house in a ceramic birdhouse I planned on cleaning in the kitchen sink.  He was HUGE with a high squish factor, so when he climbed out and perched on the edge of said birdhouse, he got a fast ride out the patio door.  Spiders in the yard and garden are okay, but not in the house.  (Which reminds me - a week or so ago, I saw another BIG one in the main bathroom; he scuttled under the baseboard behind the cat box when he saw me coming.  As far as I know, he is still there.  Ugh.)

* * * * *

I spent a good portion of last Sunday processing apples in one form or another.  I started with some hard cider I "made" (no real effort involved, other than finding unadulterated fresh cider and then leaving it on the kitchen counter with the cap off the bottle).  I bought the cider on Tuesday, tasted it on Saturday, and deemed it good.  Unfortunately, I had some kind of allergic reaction to it - I assume from the yeasts.  Undaunted, I used some in this recipe (figuring the cooking would kill off the yeasts).  That was relatively successful, so I decided to freeze the rest of the cider for later use.  I tried to filter it through a coffee filter, which was not successful, and managed to spill quite a bit on the floor.

My previous attempt to use my peeler-corer-slicer was not successful, primarily because the apples I used (IdaRed) were too soft.  After some encouragement from Jessie, I decided to try again, this time with Fuji apples.  Ah.  Much better.

There is a bit of waste, but since I was planning on making sauce with the rest of the IdaReds, the cores, peels, and ends of the Fujis went into the pot as well.

The peeler-corer-slicer actually cuts the apple into a spiral...

which was kind of handy.  The naked apples were kept pretty by a solution of Fruit Fresh, which I also managed to spill.

Anyway, after several hours of work, I wound up with five quarts of sliced apples, six pints of sauce, three pints of cider, and one sticky kitchen.

For fresh eating, I favor a crisp, tart apple.  When Granny Smith first appeared on the scene (30+ years ago?), it was love at first bite.  Last year I tried Gold Rush for apple sauce and as keepers, and they were so tart, they made my stomach hurt.  They kept well in my unheated garage, and sweetened up a bit over the winter, but still very tart.  My new favorite is Cameo, which I had never heard of before this year.  They are just perfect.  I'm not fickle, am I?

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Tuesday must be bath day

I have some video as well, but to upload it to blogger requires agreeing to something that is too long to read.  But you can view it here.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Secrets revealed

Once the leaves fall from the trees and shrubs, one can see where birds have built their nests. Some nests I know of, like the ones in the juniper and the clematis. This summer I noticed a pair of cardinals frequenting the honeysuckle vine - sure enough, a nest, complete with plastic lining.

The Black Haw viburnum dropped its leaves to reveal another nest.

Sunday I cleaned out bird houses, shaking the usual twigs and fluff from the wren houses, but I was surprised to find no nest in the bluebird box. Midsummer I had removed a sparrow nest because it looked like a wren wanted to use the box, but nothing more was built.
This spring I was puzzled by rabbit damage on the cotoneaster - highly unusual - until I realized a rabbit must have been trapped under the living room  window overhang when it snowed. I didn't think anymore about it, until I found a little skull under there this summer.

This winter, if we get snow, I will try to remember to stomp an exit, to protect my bushes and prevent another bunny tragedy.

The weather was gorgeous on Sunday, and I spent about three hours in the yard, piddling around. I planted garlic in the raised bed by the patio. I suspect the voles have been tunneling under there and hope they don't like garlic. I also set up some of the bird feeders and plugged in the bird bath.  From my perch on the love seat in the West Wing, I can see four feeders and the bird bath.  Each feeder has a different kind of seed.  I tried mixing seeds one time, but birds that are looking for one type will scatter the other on the ground.  Enough of it falls there as it is. 

I did not think too many birds favored safflower seed, but since I saw a cardinal eating it last year, I bought it again this year.  Today I see the nuthatches and titmice also like it.  The chickadees have been using the clematis trellis by the West Wing as a launching pad.  I may stick a window feeder near there, to see who comes to call.

And Sunday I watered, watered, watered. We received about a quarter inch of rain last week, with none in the immediate forecast. I will continue to water until the ground freezes. If the weather continues to be as dry as it has been the past several years, I will have to set up an irrigation system for the vegetable garden. I'm glad I have not spent any money on rain barrels - without rain, they are rather useless.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

This year's project

After all the construction that has gone on around here the past couple of years, I decided to take a year off except for replacing two exterior doors.  Can you say tax credit?


It's hard to see, but the faux panels on the outside of the old door had melted around the edges.  Also, the storm door was one of those old flimsy aluminum things.  I could never figure out how to replace the window with a screen, either.  The inside of the door was flat, no panels.


Six panels front and back, plus a substantial storm door.  Both sides of the inside door are white but I plan to paint them when I get a round tuit.  The storm door matches the siding on the house.

New sidelights, too, that are not all scratched and foggy.

I forgot to take before-and-after pics of the door on the side of the garage.  The old one was hard to latch, would often blow open on windy days (my next door neighbor kept thinking someone was breaking into my garage), and unbeknownst to me, had a rotten sill.  It too will be painted.

(Note the white impatiens in the photo above - still alive because we have not yet had frost hard enough to kill them.)

Sunday, October 24, 2010


Last night while I was letting the dog out for the final time before bed, the light from a full moon revealed TWO rabbits in the backyard.  This morning, one of them was in the trap.  I may win an occasional battle, but so far I am losing the war.

Yesterday the skies spit on me a bit while I was watering, but no measurable rain fell.  Not today either, despite the weather forecast.  In fact, the sun is shining right now.

Yesterday I pulled out the flannel sheets, only to have a warm spell descend upon us.  The furnace is off and the windows are open.  I am so sick of this weather!  I want to wear woolens and snuggle under afghans.  Boo on global warming!

And since I moved the bird bath so that I can more easily see it from the West Wing, nary a bird has visited.


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Ah HA!

Today, in order to guarantee some rain in the near future, I was out watering my shrubs and perennials when, what before my wondering eyes should appear but that rascally rabbit.  Suddenly, it was on the other side of the fence.  HA!  I snooped around and found its escape hatch, then immediately blocked it with a cement paver and brick (very classy).  Theoretically, that is the last rabbit in the backyard.  And the last breach in the perimeter.

And while we are on the topic of wildlife, my neighbor was chatting me up the other day and mentioned that he had seen a red fox between our houses, a beautiful creature that jumped the fence into my backyard.  Wow.  And that explains a few things, like the "dog" poop by the back fence (my dog's electronic collar won't let her back there) and the immaculate cleansing of a dish of bacon grease I had left out for the birds (my dog would have eaten the dish).

And this morning, while a visiting friend and I were enjoying the view from the West Wing, a hawk not only landed in a nearby tree, but flew across the yard right in front of the windows we were looking out.  Bravo!

I'm waiting for the starlings to leave town before I start my winter feeding of the birds.  In preparation, I have been relocating shepherds hooks and the bird bath and wondering what would be a better site for the suet feeders.  Every morning the backyard is full of migratory birds catching a quick breakfast before heading out for the next leg of their journey.  I don't see anything exotic, but the level of activity is amazing.  Then suddenly, they are gone.

Can winter be far behind?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The garlic is coming

Besides replanting the garlic varieties I grew this past summer, I ordered two new varieties this year. I'm guessing four varieties will be enough for me, but I might try a bunch before settling on a select few. It would be good to have one for "fresh" eating, one for roasting, one for storage, and one for… what? I'm not sure, but garlic is easy enough to grow that I feel free to experiment, as long as I have the room.

Last year's picks (primarily because I was late to order and there wasn't much to pick from):
  • Broadleaf Czech – raw is hot to very hot, cooked is mild and full flavored. Softneck
  • German Extra Hardy – strong raw flavor, high sugar content, one of the best for roasting. Hardneck
This year's picks:
  • Georgian Fire – raw is "white hot" – strong but not unpleasant. Great for salsas and salads. Hardneck
  • Bogatyr – good storage, most consistent. Hardneck

(Comments from descriptions at Seed Savers Exchange, my supplier.)
I have never roasted garlic before, but it is on the short list of things to do this fall, as I have a recipe for roasted garlic squash soup.  Mmmm!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Nothing says autumn like roasted root vegetables, cider, and homemade bread

Saturday I roasted root vegetables.

 The night before I made soup stock.  

I was a little leery about making my own stock - cooking the bejesus out of fresh vegetables, then throwing them out? - but some of what is cooked are the parts one doesn't always use, like leek tops and fennel fronds.  And, OMG, the house smelled heavenly!  Most of the stock went into the freezer, but Wednesday I will combine some of the stock and some of the roasted veggies with some other ingredients to make Roasted Root Vegetable Soup from Love Soup, which we will eat along with this.

That is bread, of course, but what is it in?  Why, a hand-thrown bread bowl I purchased at the Johnny Appleseed Festival this year.

This one wasn't my favorite, but by the time I decided to buy one and circled back, my fave was gone.

These are meant for baking "frozen bread" - whatever the hell that is - something that is available at the grocery store?  I used mine to bake homemade bread, but I put only half the dough in since the bowl looks a little small for a whole loaf.  The rest of the dough?  I froze it.  Heh.

And the cider?  Purchased at a local orchard along with some apples.  The cider is unpasteurized but I didn't realize until I got home that it also has had some preservatives added; is it a law that unpasteurized cider has to have preservatives in it?  My intent was to let it turn hard a la Wild Fermentation, but now I'm not sure that will work.  Maybe I will test a small amount, to see if it will ferment.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

NOW the laundry room is officially finished

A couple of weeks ago, I had the kids over for dinner, and my son-in-law installed the clothes line that had been sitting in a box on top of the dryer for who-knows-how-long.

And that is all there is to do here, folks, although I am contemplating switching the cupboard in there with the shelving unit in the mud room.  The laundry room is the coolest room in the house, so I think it will become the storage place for onions and such.  Ordinarily, I would use the garage but the frickin' temperatures STILL won't give way to autumn.

The only other home improvement I have planned for this year are two new exterior doors, which should be here by the end of the month.  But next year - look out!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Thanks, I needed that

Last winter I enjoyed homemade bread and soups, but once the garden kicked in and the temperatures soared, baking and cooking fell by the wayside.  Yesterday I dipped back in, though, with kabouchi squash and black bean soup from Love Soup and pioneer bread from The Bread Book.

(The soup looks kind of gross, so no pics.)

While I love the recipes in Love Soup, I have to admit that they are challenging to make.  Yesterday I started the bread and soup making around 9am and did not finish until after 2pm.  I even interleaved the two recipes, working on soup while bread was rising, etc.  Very time intensive, but also worth the effort.

This week's bird sighting was a tufted titmouse.  They look so perky with their tiny shoe button eyes!  I think the hummingbirds have left, and the butterflies, even though it is supposed to be 86 today.  Maybe this is Indian Summer?

Monday, October 04, 2010


  1. For some reason, the sparrows keep trying to get into the wren house, to the point where they almost get stuck.  I should take that thing down before someone gets hurt.
  2. Next spring, I would like to aerate AND roll my yard.  Which do I do first?
  3. I want to roll the yard because it is so lumpy my ankles ache after mowing.
  4. Won't feeding the lawn with grass clippings create thatch?  And isn't thatch bad?
  5. Since I belong to a local nursery's garden club, I received a free plant for my birthday.  When I picked up the plant, I also bought three planters (on sale).  I spent enough money to qualify for a free bag of compost.  I'm sure they made money on that transaction, but I feel like I came out ahead, too.
  6. Yes, my birthday is this month.  Let's just say I don't qualify for Social Security.  Yet.
  7. I bought three planters because there were three of a kind but in two different sizes, and I did not want to take one from its sisters or leave one behind.  Silly.
  8. I love my new freezer.  Latest thing to be frozen:  basil in olive oil, following these instructions.
  9. Yes, the rabbits ate my basil.  Fortunately, my daughter has plenty.
  10. If I get more basil from her, I could make frozen pesto. 
Happy birthday to me!
The three sisters

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Finally feels like fall

Although many parts of the country are getting inundated with too much rain, we are still limping along here with a quarter-inch here and a quarter-inch there.  At least the temperatures have dropped.  In fact, there is a threat of frost tonight.  I'm pretty much done with gardening for the year, although I will throw a sheet over the peppers and one tomato plant, to see if I can keep them going a bit longer.  Oh, and I'll bring in my basil starts and the big herb pot.

For the past couple of years, I have been trying to lure bluebirds to my backyard habitat.  They stop by for a visit, but do not stay, so others - sparrows, goldfinch - use the neglected bluebird house in their stead.  Recently, the yard has been a flutter with all kinds of birds, especially young robins who flock to the pokeweed.  And BLUEBIRDS.  In fact, here is evidence that they are not totally repelled by the bluebird house.

Sorry for the crappy picture.  I had to take it from inside, through glass, and this is the zoomiest I could get.  Prior to this photo op, there were many, better ones, as the bluebirds were hanging around the shepherd's hook not ten feet from where I sat.  But as soon as I fetched the Sony, they became camera shy.  Maybe they will remember the house and return next spring.

Today is a chili and corn bread kind of day.  The chili is on the stove; the corn bread is in the queue.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

It was supposed to RAIN

We have had some dry summers here the past few years, but I have never seen things this bad.  This is my 20+ year old Crimson King maple, a tree I have never had to water before.  The leaves were drying up and falling off before they started to turn.  The viburnum has also suffered, from the newest (below) to the oldest, which is virtually naked.  Sad.

Today was a beautiful FALL day, though, temperature wise, and I spent most of it outside, watering.

I have sporadically watered the south side of the house, which was good enough for the Clara Curtis painted daisies above.  The hostas and coral bells on the north side of the house have not been watered until today, but they look none the worse for wear (if you ignore the slug holes).

I know there are asters in the meadow, because there is a plant marker for them, but in the spring I am never sure which plant they are.  I guess I did not pull them up. Yet.

Otherwise, not much left for eye candy this year.

The birds, on the other hand, are plentiful.  Today the robins were mobbing the poke weed, and when they left, some juvenile starlings took a turn.  I have also seen nut hatches and black-capped chickadees, two species I associate with winter.  So one can hope this endless summer will finally be over.  Someday.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Garden summary 2010 (premature)

The garden is not yet put to bed, and here I am, already listing lessons learned and planning what I'll do differently and what I'll do the same.  Like a true Cubs fan, my mantra is "There's always next year."
  • Asparagus - Jersey Supreme F-1 - These poor plants. Between the weeds and the critters, plus my neglect, I will be surprised if this makes it through the winter. UNKNOWN   I guess we will just have to wait and see.
  • Snap peas - Amish - My first year with this variety.  It produced a good crop in the spring, but I planted green beans inside the pea fence, which precluded planting a fall crop. SUCCESS but make sure to do a fall planting next year, and freeze some.
  • Onions - Suttgarter - My first year with this variety, which is supposed to be a good keeper.  A good crop of mostly medium and large bulbs.  SUCCESS, but add a good scallion variety plus a few red onions for fresh eating.
  • Garlic - Broadleaf Czech and German Extra Hardy - My first attempt at growing garlic.  SUCCESS, but I probably should have waited a bit before harvest, to get bigger bulbs. I plan to plant next year's crop in a bed by patio, using bulbs from this year's harvest plus introduce one or two more varieties.  And I plan to make better use of the scapes.
  • Tomatoes - eight different varieties - judging by the contents of my freezer, this was a SUCCESS.  In the future, I may have to water bath some of them, to leave room in the freezer for other things.  Next year I will grow fewer varieties and fewer plants.  And I won't contribute to the blossom end rot by over watering them.
  • Peppers - six different varieties (sampler) - MIXED - not as successful as I had hoped, but not a total fail either. I think they need more sun as well as something else, to make them truly thrive and produce more. I liked the mild hotness of Wenks, so I will be sure to get more of those.
  • Green beans - four different varieties - another freezer stuffer - SUCCESS.  I did not see much difference between the varieties, except for the wax beans, so will probably fall back on my all time favorite, Blue Lake 274.  I want to do a better job of succession planting as well.
  • Potatoes - eight different varieties (sampler) - FAIL. Voles ruined what few matured under straw.  The potato grow sacks were successful, though, so next year, I will reuse them, and plant rest in the ground.  I will plant Carola again, for new potatoes.  After that, I am primarily interested in an all round potato that stores well.
  • Zucchini - Black - mostly a FAIL. Not sure what went wrong here. I think I need to do a better job of building and fertilizing the hills.
  • Cucumbers - Burpless - see Zucchini.
Next year:
  • I purchased see for kohlrabi, turnips, and rutabaga, but did not get around to planting them.  They are definitely on the list for next year, plus parsnip and carrots, maybe in the garlic bed after it is harvested.
  • The locally grown broccoli was quite disappointing this year (and more expensive than the organic from California!), so I plant to grow some brassicas - broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale.  I just have to figure out how to protect them from the zillion cabbage butterflies I've watched flit about the yard this year.
  • I've never had much luck with winter squash or pumpkin, but am considering growing them in the meadow, where the wildflowers may hide them from the usual pests.  One can be delusional, can't one?
  • Now that I have a freezer, I am more interested in growing my own strawberries and raspberries.
  • And, with more beds going to perennials, I will need to build another bed by patio and revert to using containers for some things.
  • One of my neighbors has a little orchard in his front yard.  I would love to do the same, except he knows how to care for them and I don't, and I don't want my incompetence to be on display for all the nabe to see.  But maybe a Meyer lemon?  We'll see.  I have not had much luck with container trees so far.
  • The freezer is great for many things, but I still need to figure out a better way to store winter veggies.  Some of next year's root crops can stay in ground, but what to do when it is almost October and the temp is heading for 90, like it is today?
  • I abandoned using the usual fertilizers and herbicides on my lawn, and it looks HORRIBLE.  I'm sure the fact that I have left nary a grass clipping behind in favor of mulching the garden has not helped.  I don't want to purchase mulching materials, but maybe I can grow my own, in the form of green manure crops.  Will I need a scythe?
  • Oh, and keep those weeds under control.  From what I have read, they may be providing those pesky voles with too much cover.
Yikes, that is a big list!  Gardening is an optimist's sport.  Obviously.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


At least it is not a skunk!

Opossums are so ugly they are almost cute, until they bare their teeth and hiss.  I unceremoniously dumped this fellow out of the cage at the spot of incarceration because I figured if he could find his way into the yard, he could find his way out.  And he did.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Bunny number two

It is a good thing rabbits are so cute.  Voles, on the other hand, are not.  That is what I think has decimated what potato crop I had.  I have seen them, stumbled over their tunnels, and my neighbor claims they have invaded his garage.  He lets one of his indoor cats into the garage periodically to clear them out.  Maybe I need an outdoor cat.  But it would have to stay in the yard and not kill the birds.  Lotsa luck there.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Lasagna gardening potatoes - FAIL

The other day I decided to look for more potatoes.  The good news is, there was more than one cereal bowl of fingerlings to be found.  The bad news is, something (mice?) got to half of them.  And the ones I did rescue are teeny tiny things, enough to fill - yep - one cereal bowl.

I just reread the how-to-plant-potatoes section in Lasagna Gardening, to see if there was anything I could have done better or different.  Nope.  The potatoes were supposed to not only grow and thrive 'tween newspapers and mulch, they were supposed to break up the soil as well.  NOT.  Maybe if one has something other than cement-like clay. 

Oh, well.  It was an experiment.  And at least there are now three beds that were mulched so heavily that they are weed-free, unlike the rest of the garden.  And I can reuse the straw elsewhere.  And I can plan to do things different next year.

There is one more bed to harvest, but I"m not getting my hopes up.  In this case, I don't think third time's the charm.

(Okay, you grammarians out there, is it "do things different" or "do things differently"?  Am I DOING differently or are we talking about different THINGS? Inquiring minds want to know.)