Found it! The camera went missing two days ago, and I haven't posted anything because I like to put pictures up of all the goings-on that I talk about. It just occurred to me to look in the seat cushions of the loveseat in the computer room. Bingo!

So tomorrow I'll take pics of all the latest progress and boast about how well everything is doing, in spite of the hailstorm Sunday night. See you then!

Breaking Ground

Welcome to DeBeardedOne and Ruralrose, thanks for following!

After reading the blog last night and finding out the girls wanted their own flower garden, hubby went and picked up a load of compost and broke out the shovels.

He's putting in a nice semi-circular bed around the mailbox, and the girls couldn't be more pleased. Especially when they found worms..

And yes, ladies, in case you're wondering, the girls did pick out their own outfits this morning. Oy.

So by the time they finished scraping up the turf, it looked like this..

Then the rich, dark compost went down..
(see the little toddler footprints?)

That shrub in the back is a rosemary we already had in that spot, it'll make a nice backdrop for some herbaceous perennials.

And now all we have to do is sow a few more seeds in the greenhouse and pot up the flowers we already started. I'm sure we'll pick up a little something or two at the nursery, as well. Who can resist? I'm thinking a blue clematis for the mailbox post and some Moonbeam coreopsis...and perennial blue salvia to contrast with the Calendula I've already gotten started.

Yeah, spiky deep blue flowers with deep apricot daisy flowers..and a soft, fluffy border of yellow. It'll be gorgeous! I'll put up some more pics when we get things in the ground.

Happy Gardening!

And foliage, and bark, and... :-)

This is the flowering cherry in the front yard in tight bud..

Slowly unfurling and growing lighter....

And now fully open..

Simply gawgeous.
(double click on this last one, it's worth it)

The purple tint to the new bergamot foliage makes my heart go pitter patter, too.

As does this lovely baby..

Nepeta 'Walker's Low'

How can anyone look at all that beauty and not know there is a God? And He is good. :-)

Coming up next, pics of the children's flower garden being made!

Picture Day!

I was planting all my sprouted climbing peas (Golden Sweet and Mangetout Carouby) when I spied a few surprise volunteers..
Those are 'Sultan's Golden Crescent' climbing beans! I was so surprised to see them coming up already, this makes me want
to sprout all my climbing beans and put them in! Of course, I'll need the hubby to install a bit more trellising before that can happen... Hey, tomorrow is Saturday, right? Perfect timing! :-)

The girls puttered around asking for their own garden space while I was laboriously poking holes, dropping sprouts, and watering-in..and I think we'll have to make that happen this year. We've already started some flower seeds (hollyhock and coreopsis) and I've got all kinds of other flower seeds around they'd love. The only thing is to figure out where to put it!

The peach tree is in full bloom now, and I'm not the only one who noticed..

Ugh. Be glad my dinky little old camera doesn't zoom in that close. These little critters are destined to have an exceptionally short lifespan, I hope they're living it up in there..
Now for something more pleasant to look at--Hi, I'm Duke. You may scratch my tummy.
Little show-off..What is he looking at?

Ahhh, his audience. I don't know..
Sallie looks neither impressed, nor amused.

Plugging Away

The Reine de Glaces and Tennis ball lettuces have been interplanted with the Yellow from Parma onions, and I couldn't have asked for better transplanting weather. It's been cloudy and in the upper 60's all day, with rain tomorrow and temps in the lower 60's for the next three days. I wanted to get a picture of the bed after it was planted up, but the seedlings are so tiny you can't see anything in the picture yet! It'll be nice when it fills in, though the landscape designer in me would have preferred to have been planting red lettuces with the spiky green onion foliage. But we don't use much red lettuce around here, so I hadn't started any yet.

I potted up more tomatoes: 16 Wapsipinicon Peach, 10 Opalka, 10 Cherokee Purple, and 7 Copia. I'd have kept on going, but I ran out of 4 inch pots! The rest are in our outdoor storage chest, and the spare package of shingles from when the roof was replaced 2 weeks ago is sitting on the lid. I had no idea shingles were SO heavy. I'll ask the hubby to move those tonight so I can finish potting everything up.

I've still got lots of tomatoes to go, and the peppers will be ready to move out of the cells soon. I've got Quadrato di Asti Rosso coming out of my ears, and the Orange Bell and Canary Bell are coming along nicely, too. Three Poblanos and four Sweet Banana came up after I'd given up on them, and just one out of my ten Alma Paprika sprouted. You can bet I'll be babying that little guy!

Speaking of little guys, this is where mine was while some of that work was going on..
Who needs a playpen when you have a car?

Gimme the camera, lady, and no one gets hurt.

A Thing of Beauty

is a joy forever.--John Keats

Catnip volunteer

Roman Chamomile

Red Maple

Munchkin, 5 years old today

Well, I wasn't able to get the onion and lettuce seedlings in the ground last night because the hubby got home from work so late I had to bathe the children and put them to bed all by my lonesome. So I planted the onions this morning and watered them in, and the lettuce will go in late this afternoon. I also potted up all my Yellow Brandwines (12) and gave everything in the greenhouse a dose of fertilizer. I'm going to fertilize my garlic today, too. This will be the first time I've done so in the three years I've been growing it, but it needs all the help it can get after last winter.

The birthday girl pictured above will be assisting with the lettuce planting in about an hour, after which (I have been informed) we will read all the new books she got for her birthday. :-)

I Couldn't Resist

I know it's a little early to be potting up the seedlings, but I couldn't resist the urge to pop a few of the largest out of their cells and put them in some 4 inch pots. I did my three Brandywine OTV and 9 of my largest Black Cherrys. That temporarily satisfied my urge, and I'll compare them to the ones still in the cells and see if the growth rate picks up. I've been using masking tape on the side of the flat/pot to keep track of the varieties. Those little white markers are irresistible to toddlers.

I'm hoping to get the chance to plant my lettuce and onion seedlings in the garden this evening, it's so warm and sunny today I wanted to wait till the sun started going down to lessen the shock. While I was scoping out the bed I looked at the potatoes I planted last week. Remember that fuzzy, barely visible potato sprout I tried to get a pic of? You won't need to squint to see it now!

Things have been coming in beautifully since the weather warmed up last week. Not only are things like daffodils and flowering cherries coming alive, but my garlic is finally taking off! It's normally over a foot tall by now and this winter was so harsh they barely put on any growth at all. This time last week the foliage was just four inches tall and they've put on two more since then. Here's hoping they make up for lost time, I've been really concerned that I'd have a poor crop this year.

I was inspecting the softneck garlic bed when something different caught m
y eye..tomato seedlings coming up! I had Jaune Flamme tomatoes just behind that bed last year, and they dropped a few fruit and gave me some freebies. I'm really glad, because my J.F. seeds in the greenhouse haven't sprouted yet! They make an excellent salad tomato, and they're great for sun-drying, too. It got down to 37 F last night, and those little babies looked just fine! I'm going to lift them out of there and pot them up till the new tomato bed is ready.

I started a fresh batch of cilantro seeds, Italian parsley, dill, and salad burnett yesterday, and the yellow carrots are next.

My chives are filling in with such flamboyant gorgeousness (don't know if that's a word, but it's fitting) that it will be a darn shame to cut any of them. I really don't know if I'll be able to bring myself to do it.

Fabulous, just fabulous.

I was perusing some of the tutorials on various gardening blogs and it occurred to me that I could share a little something, too. Way back in the day before I got married and had children, I did a lot of freelance consulting. I worked at a prestigious local greenhouse/nursery for my horticulture internship, and customers (who nicknamed me "The Garden Goddess") were always asking me to come out and look at their gardens. I got a lot of questions about pruning in the winter time, and I have a little trick for telling if deciduous tree and shrub branches are dead..without scratching up the bark to see if it's green underneath. Whenever I showed someone how to prune the deadwood out, I would grasp the twig/branch between my fingers and close my eyes with an air of deep concentration. (I was sensing the Life Force..) After a moment, I'd declare if it was dead or alive, and cut accordingly. I was never wrong, and people always got a big kick out of it. Then I showed them how I was doing it so they could show their friends.

You see, a live branch is filled with moisture, and when it is grasped, the moisture draws the heat from your fingers. This makes the branch feel cold. A branch that doesn't feel cold when held is dry and dead. It's so simple, but it never fails to impress people to watch you do it. Then they love being brought into the secret.
And you don't have to make a bunch of little scratches all over your tree/shrub while you're pruning it. Try it, it's fun!

Spring Has Sprung

First of all, I'd like to thank Robin from Southern Cali for leaving such a nice comment on yesterday's tomato post. And second of all, I'd like to apologize because it won't publish! I tried three times and it said it was published, but I don't see it anywhere. Very strange, I can't figure out what's amiss. I kept backing up and trying again, but I'd reached the definition of insanity..doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Please try again Robin, it must be a fluke!

As for today in the garden, I checked on my babies in the greenhouse and that's probably going to be it for the day. We're having family over for our eldest daughter's 5th birthday party, so at most I'm hoping to get a few trays of seeds planted. It's time to start some herbs like dill and parsley, and I need to resow my cilantro because the first flat got burnt to a crisp when the hubby put it in the greenhouse one bright, sunny morning with the clear plastic lid still on. It was a thoughtful gesture, too bad I didn't see it before the double greenhouse effect fried them like ants on a sidewalk.

Speaking of frying, the roosters are sorely trying my nerves today. There's a red-tailed hawk hanging around, and Ben and Jack seem to feel compelled to stand in the middle of the yard thumping their chests and crowing defiance. I wouldn't care if I didn't have neighbors, but we're friends with all of them and I don't want that to change! I know I wouldn't be too thrilled if one of my neighbors had something making that much noise. I think I'll see if my grandparents would like to take Ben home with them today and I'll bribe the neighbors with some fresh eggs. :-)

Looking around the yard it's really noticeable that we had an abnormally cold winter. Generally, the weeping cherry in the backyard is almost done flowering by now, and it's only just begun.

The peach tree should also be in full flower, but the buds are only now beginning to color up. That may be a good thing, in case we get a late frost!

I had an idea the other day for a new garden bed. (Big surprise, right?) There's a triangular wedge of yard between the path to the kitchen garden, the fence, and the neighbor's property line. It's not very big, but I could fit quite a few herbs in there and save the hubby the trouble of bringing the mower around to that side just to mow that little patch. And I'm ALL about saving the hubby trouble...

You can tell where the neighbor's fence begins because it's stained a slightly different color. The bed would be about 6 feet wide at the fence, and taper up about 10 feet to meet the side of the flagstone path. It gets full sun all summer, and I can see it being a gorgeous herb bed. Mrs. Einck's dill in the back, some purple basil, Citronella lemon balm, German chamomile, and a border of salad burnett. *sigh* It makes me happy already. It looks like I'll have to wait till Tuesday to start, as we're getting some light rain today and tomorrow. In the meantime I'll get busy with the seeds in the greenhouse. Happy gardening!


Thanks for following, Jen! I hope to see you next week at the bookstore.

After wildly overexerting myself yesterday I left myself with very little to do today. I need another load of compost before I can begin the new beds I've been planning, and all the beds I presently have are waiting to be filled with the seedlings I'm hurrying along in the greenhouse. I was thrilled to see the first pair of true leaves showing on many of my tomatoes, the ones in the center of the pic are Wapsipinicon Peach. I'm trying a lot of new (to me) varieties this year, and I can't wait to see how they turn out. The ones with a * are ones I've never grown before. I've got four kinds of cherry tomatoes:

Today's egg harvest:4 (+1 more after this picture!)
Isis Candy*

For slicing tomatoes I've got:
Aunt Ruby's German Green*

Green Zebra
Black From Tula*
Cherokee Purple*
Paul Robeson*
Yellow Brandywine*

Plum Lemon*
Gold Medal

Wapsipinicon Peach*

Pink Accordion*
Henderson's Pink Ponderosa*
Brandywine OTV*

Striped Cavern* for stuffing.

And for sauce tomatoes:
Amish Paste*

Green Sausage
"I'm ready to work Mommy, now please turn down the sun"

I've also got Principe Borghese and Jaune Flamme that I started a week later so they aren't up yet. Those two are good sun-drying tomatoes, I grew Flamme last year and they were really good. This list may seem like a lot to some people, especially in an urban setting, but I plan on preserving as much as possible and selling the rest. Every little bit counts these days. I'll save my pepper list for another day, since this post is already long thanks to the tomato list!

It looks so much better out there I just had to go ahead and take some pics. This is what the area looked like after a winter of neglect..

The two big pots in the front have mints in them, and the two big ones in the back are my chives pot and my perennial bunching onion pot. I've been dumping the soil from last year's annual pots into the bed on the left, and this is what it looked like after I moved some pots and did some spreading, hoeing, and weeding..

Ahhhhhhhhh...much better. Not quite done yet, I'll be building up the beds a tad more and we may put newspaper and gravel screenings down in the pathways. It would be a lot more convenient than mowing and weed-whacking the paths, and give it a neater appearance. We're definitely taking down that ramp to the chicken coop, too. We put it up originally thinking the dog wasn't going to get along with the chickens and we'd have to put little fences around the beds and keep them in the garden area. Fortunately (for the chickens, not the dog), the dog got ganged up on by the two roosters a couple of times and now leaves them all severely alone. So we were able to put a trapdoor opening in the floor of the coop that opens up into the rest of the yard and they go in and out that way.

The little flap below the open vent window is the egg door, and below that is the stool our eldest uses to stand on and peer into the boxes. We've got three nesting boxes in there for the hens to lay their eggs in. Apparently, that's too prosaic for some of them. A few like to walk on the wild side and lay their eggs in the doghouse. When the rightful owner poked his nose in there this morning he was greeted with screams of outrage. I came running from the garden to see what was going on, and Sally was standing in the doorway scolding Duke like an angry fishwife. I had to pull her out and stroke her to calm her down, and as for the egg she was defending, well, it was delicious.

You could have knocked me over with a feather this morning when I saw that my first blog 'follower' was Annie's Granny! Welcome Granny, I'm honored to have you. Granny has the cutest dachsunds I've ever seen, they positively put my little J.R. in the shade..

But he really does try, I have to give him credit..

And welcome to Megan, I look forward to getting to know more people who like playing in the soil as much as I do.

Now for the unpleasant surprise...only
one of the 20 asparagus plants I put in last fall seems to have made it through the winter. It was abnormally cold here, averaging 12 degrees below normal all winter, and if I'd known that was coming I'd have planted them deeper. The last time I planted some they completely disappeared by spring, and when I investigated I found all kinds of little critter tunnels deep in the sandy soil of that bed. So this time I planted them in sunken wire mesh baskets, smart no? Or so I thought. They weren't eaten this time, they just died from cold. As far as I can tell, anyway. Thank goodness I got them on sale. I'm thinking I'll accept my fate and do without asparagus, it takes up a lot of space for something that provides for such a short time. At least, that's what I'm telling myself after my second failed attempt. !!!!!

So this is what the bed looks like now, I've got a little patch of French Sorrel in the fence corner, and the rest of the 20x2.5 foot bed is empty save for a couple of broccoli that made it through the winter. The bed goes across the width of the garden area at the western end, and I'm thinking I'll put some trellising up against that 6 foot board fence and use it for melons and winter squash. I could do bush Romano beans in front, interplanted with Mrs. Burns lemon basil. The far end of the bed from this angle runs up to the picket fence keeping the dog and chickens out, and along that fence I've got lots of specialty thymes and yellow onion sets, as seen here..

Together they form an L shape along the sunny borders of this area of the garden. When the onions are ready to harvest I'll tuck some Spicy Globe basils in the empty spots. I've got two big 16x5 beds in the center of this space, and tomorrow's post will show the before and after of their clean and prep. Brace yourselves for the before, it's pretty sad. I'm hoping to get to that this afternoon, now that the girls are feeling better. They both had tummyaches when they woke up and slept all morning. They seem to have recovered completely now, so we'll all spend the afternoon outside. If they hadn't timed those tummyaches just so, I'd have taken them to the mall this morning to see an old friend. Hey, if kids were convenient, everyone would have them...

Getting Somewhere

It was such a warm and beautiful morning that the kids were able to play outside, enabling Mommy to get some work done in the garden without waiting for the baby boy's nap time. I started with the planting area on the side of the house, which looked like this yesterday..

I was able to hoe it clear yesterday evening while the kids played in the front yard, so this morning all I had to do was add compost and turn it in. That green line along the side of the house is the hose we have running from the front
tap to the kitchen garden in the side yard. There's no tap on that side of the house so we had to improvise.

Last year when I first made this bed the soil was unalloyed clay, to which I added copious amounts of compost. I didn't see a single worm at the time, and this morning I couldn't turn over a spadeful of soil without seeing 1-3 giant, fat worms. There were so many it was a pain to try to chop up the soil finely, as I cringe every time I see an injured worm writhing in agony at the end of the spade. This was one of the fortunate ones that escaped unscathed.
They were huge, almost as thick around as my pinky finger. They caused quite a bit of excitement for the children, as did a few Japanese beetle grubs that got carried to the back and fed to the chickens.

The additional compost was carefully mixed in and the top of the bed smoothed with a soil rake, for a final result that looks like this..

That was the "I'm really tired, please take me to bed." face, so I did. After he passed out I finished planting the potatoes (for a total of 10 tubs planted) and gave the tomato and pepper seedlings their first shot of fertilizer.

Grow baby, grow! Speaking of growing, see if you can spot the potato sprouts in this fuzzy, Itriedtozoomintooclose pic.

I'm planning on using the old straw from the chicken coop to hill around the potatoes this year. It'll be great in the tubs, since filling them with soil would make the bottom third of the container perpetually soggy. The straw will keep the tubs from becoming waterlogged and make it really easy to get the potatoes out at harvest time. Now all I have to do is keep them hilled up and pray it doesn't get too hot too quickly this summer and kill the tops back before the potatoes have time to get big. I like baby potatoes, but I like to have some big ones, too!

Potato Planting Day

March 17th is the universal potato planting date, having something to do, perhaps, with the Irish connotation of potatoes. I planted about a third of my La Ratte fingerlings 10 days ago (the sprouts are already poking through the soil), and another third today. I'd have gotten them all in, but the 17 month old woke up early from his nap so Mommy had to stop and get into the house before he destroyed something. I planted the last row in my 4x8 potato bed, planted 5 20 gallon containers with seed potatoes, and used the soil I removed from the potato bed to topdress the garlic beds and the potato onions.

I also got a lot of weeding done, and
tomorrow I'll prepare the planting strip in the side yard for planting after I finish up with the potatoes. Last year I used it as a basil bed, but this year I want to fill it with high value crops like tomatoes and bush beans. This is what it looked like last summer..

Tomorrow I'll clean and prep it and put up some before and after pics. I love those, they're like magic.

Sprouted seed potatoes..

They're no thing of beauty right now, but wait till the lush foliage comes popping through the soil with all the promise of rich, buttery new fingerling potatoes. Mmmmmmm...

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About this blog

This is a chronicle of the efforts of a farmwife wannabe to bring the country to the city.