Dispatches from the garden: July 5

One thing I haven’t had to worry about this year is watering the garden, which is a nice change after years and years of drought.

red cabbage [whorls]
When I have time to get out into the garden these days, I spend my time weeding and looking for pests. The eggplants are finally big enough to resist the flea beetles, but the brassicas are definitely being eaten by all manner of critters.

kale, radicchio, and nasturtiums

There are flowers, but, like every year, I wish there were more.

obligatory hydrangea bloom
day lily

My biggest experiment this year is coming along, though I fear that lack of sun and poor soil may be slowing growth in the Three Sisters’ Garden.

Three sisters: Corn, beans and squash

The corn is about 3 feet tall, and the pole beans are starting to climb the stalks.

Kentucky Wonder pole beans climbing the corn

The squash plants are still quite young, so they’re not shading the roots just yet, but I’m hoping that, as they mature, they’ll keep the weeds down. As it is, I’m engaged in a war with crab grass, and it’s winning.

Not pictured are my tomato plants, which aren’t doing as well as they have in past years. I suspect that a little crop rotation next year would help – even though I’ve done my best to amend the soil, they’re probably still lacking some basic nutrient – assuming it’s not plain old sunlight.







Before the rains came

Young kale plants
Young kale plants

I snapped these pictures before Tropical Storm Andrea dumped inches upon inches of rain on our area.


These foxgloves lost a lot of their petals in the last couple of days, and they need to be staked. I’m really hoping that they’ll re-seed themselves, because I love these plants.

San Marzano tomato blooms

The San Marzano (a gift from some green-thumbed friends) is the most mature of my tomato plants. It looks like fresh fruit may be just around the corner.

Spring fever


No time for blogging, it’s growing season! Carol over at May Dreams Gardens perfectly captures my current state of mind.

Gosh it’s hot suddenly I didn’t notice that the magnolia was budded out like that is that early or is that on time since when does grass grow that fast I really should have mowed the lawn yesterday but who knew it could grow that fast I had forgotten and oh my goodness that henbit is flowering I better pull it before it sets seed  hey are those dandelions in the lawn and what happened to all my crocus blooms they are gone already the forsythia is blooming isn’t there something I’m supposed to do when the forsythia bloom I really should cut back those spireas so they’ll bush up nice and it might help them recover from the drought geez it is getting kind of dry out here I should water all those violas I planted around the garden hold on violas I’m coming with some water I wonder if those bags of mulch will move themselves from the back patio to the front where I edged the beds maybe I should call someone to edge the backyard beds there are a lot more back there but I sure am glad I finally sowed seeds for lettuce and radishes I wonder if we’ll have more frost maybe this will be the year when we have the earliest last frost ever if I knew it was I could plant out the tomatoes except they are still just little seedlings right now this spring seems to be going by awfully fast wow those pink grape hyacinths sure are pretty.

Only on my end, replace magnolia with viburnum, radishes with carrots, and pink grape hyacinths with tulips.

Tree of Heaven / Hell

Ailanthus roots
Ailanthus roots

When I was in high school, my biology teacher gave us an assignment to get us better acquainted with the native flora of our city. She had us make an album of preserved leaves from 12 different trees, to be chosen from a list she provided. On that list was Ailanthus, or the Tree of Heaven – a tree that I’d never even heard of at the time. Water oaks and Silver Maples were easy to find, but I remember hunting all over town for a Tree of Heaven, which seemed like a glorious adventure.

Now that I’ve moved to Virginia, I can’t seem to escape this tree. To my great consternation, my neighbor has a towering specimen just 20 feet from my property line, and there is another one in the woods that extend beyond my back fence. Thus, every year I must fight the suckers and invasive roots that creep into my garden. They are thick, and yellow, and they are a pain to excise.

My sympathies to all who must deal with this awful tree.

Then and Now: March

March 2012
March 2012

How charming, this scene! That green grass, the onions standing tall – a perfect little pictures of an early Spring garden.

March 2013
March 2013

Looks like we’re a little behind schedule this year.


Spring indoors

humid trays

It may be grey and dreary outside, but Spring is popping up inside the house. About 3 weeks ago, I started a new flat of flower seeds and warm weather vegetables. Encased in plastic wrap to keep them evenly moist, they sit on top of a heating pad so the soil temperatures can get above 70 degrees. And who is that peeking out behind the tray? The eggplants have germinated!

eggplant seedling

Last year was my first year growing eggplants, and because of my small garden I chose a good container variety, the fairy-tale eggplant. What I didn’t realize is that eggplant seeds take a long time to germinate, and require really warm soil, comparatively. I even gave up on last year’s seeds after 2 months of no action: I turned the soil and sowed tomatoes in the same containers. Lo and behold, seedlings of both plants came up in another week’s time! Once I managed to extricate them from each other, the plants went on to produce beautifully, and I loved seeing the lavender-striped fruits hanging on the trellis.

I’ve made space in the flats under the grow lights by giving some other seedlings larger containers. Upstairs, under my sunniest window, are the nigella, dill, painted daisies and artichokes.

Left to right: nigella, artichokes, dill, painted daisies
Left to right: nigella, artichokes, dill, painted daisies

I am thoroughly enamored with the the artichokes – they look so leafy and primal, especially when compared to the rest of the bunch.

Finally, the real heroes of the day are the Spicy Globe Basil seedlings. Saved from last year’s plants by yours truly (what satisfaction!) they have doubled in size in the past week.

spicy globe basil

I’ve begun to save this pot for last during my morning seedling rounds. It looks so cheerful there on the window sill, I can’t help but believe that I’ll soon be strumming my guitar on the porch, wearing flip-flops, and smelling basil on the warm breeze.

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