Tuesday, September 23, 2014

September Garden

I love September in the garden here. The crystal clear blue skies, the clean air, the long afternoon shadows. It’s warm and dry; it's exactly the kind of weather I long for in May and June after an abundance of chilly rain. And even though I love fall, I bask in the lasting September warmth, like a cat stretched out in the sun.

The garden becomes something different for us in September. It’s always a sort of playground for the kids, but as our summer ends and the gorgeous dry weather stretches out. It’s less about what’s growing and more about spiders and wicked looking webs spun all over the yard. 

It's about using the long heavy dead sunflower stalks as swords and finding seeds to play with.

It’s about garden clean-up, and lingering on the lawn, and savoring every single last drop of summer because we know we will soon be in for a long chilly wet spell.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Jasper's Beans

The last few years we’ve planted beans in the garden. I like how easy they are for the kids to plant and watch grow, and my brother sends the kids cool bean seeds for their birthdays in April every year. Last year he sent Rattlesnake beans and this year it was a package with green, yellow and purple bean seeds. We planted some of both in the beds this year. 

There’s this sense of almost instant gratification in planting beans for the kids. And they are super low maintenance. When the do sprout, which is fairly quickly, they are big hearty sprouts and they grow quickly. Give the pole or climbing beans a bit of tepee or trellis to climb and they are off!

But here’s the thing, I don’t really like beans. I mean spicy pickled beans in a fabulous Bloody Mary, yes please. Or sautéed in brown butter with garlic, okay fine, but beans, as I’m sure most of you know, produce a lot, way more than I care to eat. 

Let’s just say they aren’t up there at the top of my list like home grown tomatoes or broccoli.

But guess who likes them? Jasper Ohlin, the vegetable hater. Not only does he like them, but he actually requests them at meals when I make the kids eat vegetables. And last week, we were getting ready to go pick Greg up from work and Jasper asked if he could take some green beans with him as a snack in the car. 

Who took my child and replaced him with this impostor?? I guess I'm glad we have all these beans growing!

Friday, August 8, 2014


I love my garden in the bright morning sun, even if it makes for not the best photography.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Getting Rid of Blackspot

When the kids and I came home in late June, two of our young rose bushes were covered in blackspot. This picture below actually shows a new spot coming on, but when we first arrived the spots were all over most of the leaves, and many of them were yellowing and falling off.

One of the roses was nearly dead. We had already lost our gorgeous Joseph’s Coat rose over the winter and I wasn’t about to lose any more, if I could help it. Lily helped me make a fungicidal soap out of 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, 3 tablespoons baking soda, 1 1/2 teaspoons of organic soap and one gallon of water, to spray on the leaves of the roses. She and Jasper also wanted to help spray it on. In fact they wanted to spray it on everything in the garden. 

Not only were they super helpful, but they also added a bit of flair to their outfits or uniforms, as they were calling them. Jasper, of course had many different outfits, and Lily fashioned her own sort of spray bottle.  I love how one of Jasper’s outfits includes a sweater of Lily’s from when she was about nine-months-old.

The fungicide has been working great on the rose we used it on. I picked off most of the leaves with blackspot then sprayed the fungicide on the rest of the leaves every few days for the last month.  I also continued to pick off any new leaves that developed black spot, and it looks gorgeous now!  

I sprayed the puny sick rose at first but then I decided to prune it way down, fertilize, compost, and water the heck out of it because it looked like it needed more than just fungicide. It needed some serious pampering. Since it looked close to death I didn’t think my overzealous care could hurt it. Thankfully it is coming back strong with all kinds of new healthy growth all over it.  

And of course the kids are now addicted to spray bottles.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Playing with Snails

I think my kids are obsessed with snails.  For years we’ve been going for walks in our neighborhood, usually the same direction or path (to avoid some random off-leash dogs). One particular block has a lot of retaining walls that are often covered in snails especially during the rainy days. In fact, when they know we are going for a walk, Lily and Jasper yell, “Can we go to the snail wall?”

But if you want to see their obsession in action, come visit on a rainy day after a long hot dry spell. Yesterday after breakfast they both threw on their rain boots and coats and went splashing outside to find snails, because as Lily said with a look of glee (obsession) in her eyes, “On a rainy day there are usually a ton of snails!”

So we went snail hunting and as the three of us discovered them hiding in the strawberry plants and hanging onto the sides of planters or crawling up the trees, Lily and Jasper collected them in their pots. They played with them for almost an hour as the rain poured down on them.

This morning, right after breakfast, Lily was out there playing with them again. Poor snails, they don't stand a chance in our yard.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Recovering My Garden

Leaving a garden for six weeks in the spring definitely means you’ll come home to lots of work. We sure did!  Aphids, snails, some roses covered in black spot, some roses nearly dead, and not a lot of good growing going on. The broccoli was struggling. The kale didn’t make it, the arugula had already gone to seed and flower; at first glance it seemed like anything thriving in the garden was weeds. Including the six-foot-tall bindweed that had taken over a patch of our backyard. Actually the entire backyard was a tangled up mess of weeds and strawberry plants and my Dahlias trying to bust through. Oh and some random lilac shoots climbing out of the stone planter.

Sunflowers and garlic were thankfully growing strong, and some of my roses, my favorite rugosas and old English rose bush were covered in healthy, lovely scented blooms. Plus there were bunches of strawberries left.  I could come home to roses and strawberries any day.

I tackled some of the smaller tasks first like getting all the weeds out of the raised beds and getting our beans, yellow squash and onions in along with some more arugula, although it’s been so hot and dry for us here that I’m not sure this new crop of arugula will make it either.

Then I got Greg to help me in the backyard where the bindweed had completely covered over the raised beds in back. Ever since we built the beds in front, I’ve halfway ignored the ones in back, sometimes planting flowers or late summer/fall crops, but this year it just looked like a crazy, scary jungle. 

I was so smug when we left Georgia and its KUDZU behind all those years ago. Uhhhgg! Bindweed is my own form of Kudzu! As in, it’s a complete fast growing menace, climbing over and killing everything in its wake, and nearly impossible to eradicate. 

Along with all the other projects we have going on inside our 101-year-old house, we’d like to do something fun after we clean up all the bindweed and rip out the old rotten wood from the beds. Keep your fingers crossed! (Or wave your magic wand for me and magically redo our entire backyard!)

Monday, May 5, 2014

Garden Anarchy

Weird things have been happening in our garden this year, weird bad things.  It's like the garden is staging a revolt. Maybe it knows the kids and I are going to be gone for six weeks and it's angry!

First there are our sugar snap peas, or rather, lack of them. Lily and I started them inside on a tray between two damp paper towels the way we do successfully every year. Not only did most of them fail to open and sprout, but they all turned moldy.  That has never happened to us before.  I bought a different kind of seed this year, I wonder if that could be it.  After our moldy starts we planted over a dozen seeds directly into the soil outside and this is what we have right now.

It's been almost a month and only four tiny sprouts are even trying to grow.  They are joined by a tiny tight mess of lettuce which we didn't plant.

The strawberry plants did not have a good winter; one whole row is practically decimated.

Luckily we had lots of runners popping up all over the garden so I transplanted a few into the strawberry bed and hopefully they will flourish.

The weird winter also killed my two favorite Spanish lavender bushes.  Both of them completely dead. I've never lost a lavender bush before either.

Last year I planted a dozen beautiful fringed leafed tulips on either side of our front gate. One side looks like this,

the other looks like this.

I have no idea where the bulbs went, perhaps some underground creature. 

My peonies have almost no blooms starting, and we won't even talk about what's going on with my radishes

But worst of all, two of my biggest rose bushes have tent worms!!!!!!!!

Goodbye for now garden. I'll be back in June!