Category Archives: Garden

What I Didn’t Plant

What I Didn’t Plant

So, my garden didn’t do great this year.  I’m not sure if it’s because it basically drowned in all the rain we got or me not paying it enough attention to it or other factors that, well honestly that are pretty obvious in the picture above.  Because the one thing that I had a LOT of was sunflowers.  I didn’t plant a one of them.  They all self-seeded from the monstrosity I had last year, in every bed and even in parts of the lawn.  They were everywhere, and I couldn’t bring myself to pull most of them, so I let them go.

Turns out, sunflowers try to kill off all the plants around it.


But hey, at least they’re pretty.  And I needed some of that brightness this summer.  It was about the only sun we saw for months!




My garden this year is reflecting a lot of how I’m feeling about my life at the moment. Nothing went the way I planned it.  Last year was lush and bountiful, but this year, not so much.  A lot of things are inexplicably dead.  The tomatoes are all rangy and bedraggled.  The zucchini were destroyed from the inside before they could produce more than a singular overgrown fruit.  Some of the seeds I planted turned out not to be the ones I thought I was growing.  A couple of the beds have become woefully overgrown with weeds.

But there are a few bright spots here and there.  The cherry tomatoes that I didn’t think I planted are starting to turn, ready to be cooked down into lovely sweet tomato jam.  And here and there the dozens of sunflowers that self seeded are putting on brilliant displays. (Now that I do a little research, they may be part of the problem, but I’m going to linger in the joy of them for this season at least.)  I have one lone fig on the fig tree I forgot to bundle up last year, and the apple trees are bearing their first fruit.  The overgrown beds can be recovered, and one of them I plan to turn into a winter bed for lettuces and other greens.  The tiny pepper plants are covered with snackable goodies just waiting to turn color.

So I cling to the metaphor.  Things are hard right now, I’m not going to lie.  It’s been hard to think about what to write here, as so much of it feels like it would just be me whining.  But I like writing, and not doing it contributes to me feeling poorly about myself.  My goal at the moment is to start picking up the posting here again, building up my stamina again until I can do Blogtober.  Can’t believe that’s only 6 weeks away!

So here I am, pulling weeds, uncovering treasures, and sharing them with others.  I missed you guys!

Fall Garden

Fall Garden

A picture heavy post today.  Thought I’d document the garden at the end of the summer.


Herb bed #1.  That white sage has already been cut back once.  It just won’t quit!  The two pots will go into the basement come first frost and live there until spring.


Herb bed #2.  The basil has all gone to seed, but the parsley is still going good, and there’s sage and rosemary in there somewhere, too.  Next year I’ll put the annuals into one of the raised beds and save this one for perennials.


The pepper bed.  They did pretty well!  I still have to get the last of the peppers off the plants.  The eggplant got away from me.  I tried planting fall spinach in that empty space, but it didn’t take.  May try again.


Fall planted lettuce.  This was planted a month ago, and the other half was planted two weeks ago, but that planting is slow in coming.


The zucchini bed.  10 plants, 4 zucchini.  WTF.


Late summer beets and beans.  Most of the beans didn’t come up, but there are a couple of beans on that bush.  Scrubby winter squash aren’t going to put out anything.  I should get a second harvest of beets, though.


The big bed.  As you can see, the winter squash ended up a big bust.  But I learned a lot, so I’ll try again next year.  In the front you can see carrots, both ones on the right that I planted in the spring and ones on the left that I planted a month ago.  In the middle I’ve planted parsnips 3 times with no luck.  Grr.  Also, another white sage plant on the front right corner.  Those suckers are stubborn!


The tomatoes have been done for a while except a few determined cherries.  I should have cleaned them up ages ago, but I need to rebuild one of the raised beds first so I can dump the good soil from these into it.


The cherry tree is hidden in the weeds there.  Two twiggy branches, not a lot of growth.


The nectarine did much better.


I’m especially pleased with the apple trees, though!  They seem to really like their new home!

Fall projects include rebuilding two of the raised bed boxes, cleaning everything up, planting next year’s garlic, and mulching everything well.  We also need one last mow and some serious weed whacking.

Spring is here! Spring is here!

Spring is here! Spring is here!

Like a good pagan, I spent the first weekend of spring fixated on my gardens.  I ordered my seeds weeks ago, but was determined not to plant them until they’d been blessed at Oestara.  This had the added benefit of keeping me from planting stuff too early. I did start my onions indoors in February, and miracle of miracles I haven’t killed them!  The bunching onions especially are looking good. I tried a couple of times to sit down and lay out planting plans, but nothing’s sticking.  So I’m just starting stuff, and we’ll see where it ends up.

I have four 4’x4′ raised beds on one side of my yard, but the best sun is on the other side of the yard, where I’ve had nothing but weeds.  So this year I decided to put a deep bed in there.  to that end, I put out a call on Freecycle for cinder blocks.  Before you say, I know there is a risk with cinder blocks.  But I have a black walnut tree in my yard, which prevents me from being able to plant directly in my soil. (For those who don’t know, black walnut has a compound in their roots and leaves that is deadly to most garden type fruits and veggies.)  My existing beds I build out of 6″ wide boards, but they really only lasted about 4 seasons well before decomposing, and they aren’t deep enough to grow anything like carrots or beets well. Plus it was boku bucks to buy the lumber.  So I balanced the risk of the cinder blocks versus the certain death of the walnut and came down on the side of carrots.  But, surprisingly, free cinderblocks are hard to come by.  I put a call out on Freecycle and kept an eye on Craigslist, but nothing.  Then on Wednesday someone else put up an offer post.  My fingers flew on the keyboard!  Turns out the community garden in Phoenixville is removing all their cinder block beds for the above reasons, so anyone who wanted any could come and take whatever we wanted!  Yay!  Saturday the boys and I took all the seats out of the van and headed over.  It’s a sweet little garden, and if you’re in Phoenixville and need a bit of dirt, I can recommend this.  I kind of felt guilty dismantling the beds, especially since we were lazy and just took the top ones, but we weren’t the only ones there.  There were another couple of guys there with the same plan and a trailer!  I envied that trailer…  We loaded up 24 before I started getting worried about the van’s suspension, but we set aside the remaining 8 I needed to pick up the next day.  I also scored a really healthy thyme plant that was growing out of one of the blocks.  Yay!  This year I’ll have an herb garden for SURE!

The finished bed will be about 9’x4′, and about 10″ deep.  That’s a LOT of dirt.  Fortunately, our compost overfloweth (quite literally).  We stopped on our way up at the Agway and got two big bags of vermiculite, which I’ll mix with the rabbit litter and some peat moss to make up a nice, light mix.  The other benefit of getting the blocks from existing gardens is the hope that if they were of questionable quality, the worst of it will already have leached out!  Between that and the yummy new soil, I have high hopes for this bed.  I’m planning to put my winter squash in there, as well as the root veg.

Once that bed is built and filled, I’ll be able to fix the compost bins.  I have a two stall bin made out of salvaged pallets, which have worked really well for us so far.  However, last year I didn’t take much out, so instead of turning one into the other and starting new, it started overflowing both.  And the back on one fell in, so it’s hard to dig out.  So this year I’ll replace the ones in poor condition, wire them together better, and start anew.  The rabbits will keep filling them up, I’m sure!

The other thing that’s been tempting me has been fruit trees.  I’ve always wanted to have a micro-orchard, ever since I found out about dwarf fruit trees.  I did try blueberries, but they were a little to delicate for me to manage.  But Hero and I were at Depot the other week for something, and they had a bajillion dwarf trees in all different varieties!  Usually by the time I’m there, they’re down to 3-4 peach trees, which none of us like, so I don’t bother.  But these… and they were only $20 each.  With a 1 year guarantee.  So after thinking and planning and researching, on Sunday after I got the remaining cinder blocks (by myself, mind you!) I dragged Hero back after our bi-weekly Costco run.  Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), they had already sold out of a lot of the varieties.  I was able to get three different kinds of apple (you have to have at least two or you won’t get any fruit) and two cherries.


I also got some other random things I need (a hose, a rake, some potting soil), but they didn’t have the peat moss I needed.  We had to pass Lowe’s on the way home, so we stopped there to see if they did.  They did, and guess what else they had?


A dwarf nectarine tree!  Those we will eat, and they self-pollinate, so I only needed one!  Woot!  I had to put it straight in the ground, though, as it was already close to blooming.  You can’t prune them after they bloom.  The rest I’ll put in over the course of the week.  The cherries will go along the fence with the nectarines.  The apples will all go in one big hole together.  Before you squawk about the spacing, those 10′ recommendations are for commercial growers who have equipment to tend their orchards and who are usually growing full sized trees.  Well pruned dwarf trees actually do very well in close confines.  I have two spots I’m trying to decide on.  One is close to the house, which would be nice to look at, but might be a bit in the way.  The other is at the end of the new bed where I currently have a compost bin.  Once I empty it, it would be easy enough to move and put the apple trees in there.  I have to poke at that.

As though it had been waiting for me, I got my bi-weekly email from Mother Earth News with my planting schedule for the next two weeks on Saturday.  So Sunday afternoon, I sorted my seed packets out and figured out what I could direct seed now (lettuce, spinach, peas) and what I could start indoors (broccoli, cauliflower and white sage).  Planting out was going to require raking, but no turning as they’re going in the garlic bed.  But I didn’t feel up to that, so I concentrated on the starters instead.  The white sage went into a 12-cell “greenhouse” I got at the dollar store.  That will make them easier to transplant to gift out to my pagan circle friends at Beltane.  Two kinds of broccoli went into a disposable 9×13 pan with a dome lid, about 48 of each.  The cauliflower went into a disposable bread pan, about 16 starts there.  Yes, I’m going to have WAY too many starts.  I’d rather overdo than under, and I know several gardeners around I can pass the extras on to.  Now they’re all tucked up in plastic bags on top of the fridge, just waiting to pop their little heads up!

The rest of the week will be focused on taking bites out of the yard work.  It helps that it’s going to be in the 60s tomorrow and up to 70 on Thursday!  Gonna focus on the new bed first.  I have to move the blocks aside to lay down a cardboard base and then rebuild the bed and water down the cardboard.  Then tomorrow I can start filling it.  Which will be messy, but fun!  I also have some extra bricks, so I may build a separate herb bed on the front of the new bed.  That will give it some protection and extra warmth.

So many ideas.  I just need to start doing things and see what happens!



Spring is here at long giddy last, and after spending the last few weeks sick as a dog (yes, again), it’s a joy to actually be getting excited about getting a handle on things again.

Stage 1 is the yard and gardens.  This actually started at the end of February when I rigged up my grow system in the basement from a metal shelf on the back porch.


Two shop lights, 4 natural light bulbs, a timer and two S hooks and I was in business for seed starting.  I started lettuce, onions and 3 kinds of tomatoes.


Then I got sick and couldn’t remember to water them.  So yeah, another year of crappy starting under my belt.  I’m still going to start Brussels sprouts and try again with the tomatoes and peppers.  At this point the rest can just go straight into the garden.

Getting the shelf off the back porch, though, meant opening up a lot of space back there.  Okay, well, first it meant a big mess.  That shelf had been stuffed full of all kinds of junk: broken toys, half used building supplies, stuff the kids had scrounged, just junk.  Morgan and I filled 3 contractor bags just clearing that off, but we left a lot of stuff on the floor.  And too much of that junk had migrated into the yard as well.  So last Sunday, we all took about an hour and a half and just cleaned up the STUFF in the yard.  Put the wagons away, junked all the freeze-shattered plastic, raked all the wind-blown trash out of the rose bed, put tools away, folded up the tarp.  We filled the dumpster again (at this point our trash guys must hate us).  Got all the junk off the back porch as well and gave it a good sweeping.  No more having to squeeze out the back door to get into the yard.  Once again, just cleaning a space makes it feel that much more inviting.  I also scrubbed out the front flower bed, getting out all the old mulch and trash and weeds to reveal the daffodil and iris leaves starting to push up for the new season.  There’s still quite a bit of clay in the grass from when we dug up the front walk, so I’ll throw some grass seed (and maybe some ground thyme) to cover that over.  So we aren’t entirely the shame of the neighborhood anymore!

This weekend, I need to start rebuilding the garden beds for the season.  I think I’m going to cheat and buy soilless mix for the grow boxes, but I need to make the Mel’s Mix for the raised beds by hand.  I need too much fill!  I’m also going to recruit the kids to start cleaning and repairing the shed.  The main doors are falling off, so we’ll replace the hinges on those, pack up a bunch more trash and donate a couple of bikes, organize the tools and hopefully just make everything more accessible.  Once that’s done, I want to paint it, although I need rubberized paint because it’s currently got a very crumbly coat of lead paint on it.  Once that’s done, I need to design a bike shed addition for the house side, something that we can get in and out of easily but that we can lock the bikes up in AND lock the door of.  My architect skills aren’t great, though, so this could be an adventure.  Expect pictures!

Garden Update

Garden Update

A picture heavy post today.  The garden is going great guns, so I thought I’d show it off!


This is the melon bed.  It’s going slowly, and I had to replant a couple because the cat kept digging it up (little bugger thinks this is his litter box), but that’s stopped since I put the straw down.


One pot of Blue Hubbards.  They’re inching along.


The summer squash bed is barreling along!  The back row is zucchini, the middle row is yellow squash, and the front row are these cute little round green squash I can’t wait to stuff!  I even already have a baby on one of those plants:


So squee!!


Another squash bucket, this time with the lovely warty squash.  Can’t wait to see what they produce!


The spring/fall bed is just about done.  The peas are giving up the ghost already, so I’ll pull those out probably next week, put down another layer of straw and plant the brussel sprouts in there (as soon as I figure out where I put the seeds).  The leaf lettuce needs to be thinned, and you can’t see them very well, but there are whisps of green onions coming up next to them (again, victims of the cat’s litter box mentality.)  I’ll pull back some of the straw at the front of the bed for a fall crop of beets.


More winter squash.  These are the dark orange ones that Hero insists on calling pumpkins.  She’s going to be really unhappy when she realizes I didn’t actually plant ANY pumpkins this year.


The beans, OMG.  They have EXPLODED.  Which is fun.  You can kind of see that one plant decided its pole was too short and jumped to a taller one.  Grow your heart out, little buddy.  I’ve actually got flowers, so the beans themselves can’t be far behind.


The potato barrels.  Since this picture was taken last night, I went out and mulched them all the way to the top of the barrel, which I think will be the last hilling they get.  There isn’t any room to put more!  I’m astonished at how fast they grew.


The tomatoes are looking good.  I need to string the support poles to keep them in place, but they’re already putting out flowers!


The rest of those planters.  The peppers are doing well, although I had to ditch the first pepper of the season, as it was rotting on the vine.  The bok choi is already trying to bolt, and the spinach doesn’t seem to be too enthusiastic, but I did have to replant that once, so it may just be a bit behind.


The cucumbers.  Another slowly but surely plant.


These guys are disappointing me.  These are all the head lettuces, which haven’t gotten beyond the first leaves stage.  I’m not giving up on them yet, but they sure aren’t showing any enthusiasm.


Nor are the carrots.  Again, these had to be replanted, but seriously disappointed in them so far.


And last but not least, the other bucket of hubbard squash and the last batch of potatoes.  Again, I mulched the potatoes up to the top of the bag, so now we’ll just let it sit and see how it does.

So there we are, the garden at the Solstice.  So far, so good!





Nothing to see here

Nothing to see here

It wasn’t a very exciting day.  Those are the hard ones to blog about.  Bullet points to the rescue!

1.  It was the kids’ last day of school.  Such as it is.  They only had to go in for about two and a half hours.  But it still meant I had to get them up and out the door.  On the plus side, they decided they wanted to ride their bikes in.  Since they didn’t have to carry their monster backpacks, I said sure and spent an extra 15 minutes watering the garden.

2.  I think the 5 gallon self-waterers aren’t working well.  They don’t seem to be getting enough water up to the plants.  When I refill the reservoir, it’s still full on all of them.  I’m wondering if the cups I used to make the wick aren’t letting enough water in.  Of course, now that the plants are in and up, I can’t do anything to fix it.  More watering.  But they’re getting their third leaves finally, so they don’t seem to mind it.

3.  Spent some quality time editing today.  And by editing, I mean programming macros to show me all the things I’m doing wrong in bright glaring neon.  Too many adverbs, repetitive words, passive voice.  All of it.  I did get some actual revision done as well.  But not much.  Tomorrow.  Maybe.

4.  My joy with the pushups was short lived.  I went to do today’s and nearly fell on my face when the muscles along my stomach hurt so much when I flexed them.  So a) the pushups are doing what they’re supposed to and b) my core strength is pathetic.  I did my pushups, but I did the wimpy kind.  I’m going to try to alternate the good ones versus the wimp ones to start building it up.  Did my situps fine, and I did the test to add lunges.  Baby steps.

5.  The vacuum cleaner died.  Not that we use it that often, but we use it enough, especially with the animals.  So I have to add that to the shopping list, along with the new air conditioner.

So not an exciting day, but it’s a day.  Tomorrow I can sleep a little later and I don’t have to get kids up, so my morning will be a little calmer.



I’ve decided I think I want a picnic table.

It would go perfectly in the back of the yard, and be a great place for the kids to do projects or play games outside, for us to eat occasionally, maybe use for ritual work sometimes or just be a place to hang out.  Now that we have the yard in better shape, it might be worth it.

My first choice for something like this would be to find someone getting rid of one and take it off their hands cheap.  But surprisingly, no one in the area seems to be doing that.  I would love to get a square/octagonal one, as it would be more flexible, but buying one of those new runs $300+.

Lowe’s has a 6 foot, build it yourself traditional picnic table for $89, though.  We could get that, paint or stain or varnish it however we liked, maybe drill a hole in the middle of it for an umbrella, and make it truly our own.  A couple of bags of mulch underneath it to keep down the weeds and I think it could be really nice.

Until the walnuts start dropping on it.

Hrm.  I may need to think about this some more.




The Garden

The Garden

My biggest project at the moment is my garden.  I learned gardening from my parents.  My mother always had a big vegetable garden when I was growing up, and Dad was all about the flowers, especially iris.  I’ve tried as I’ve gone through the world, but it’s been very hit and miss.  The last few years have been largely miss, as I’ve had three surgeries in four years and the separation with all the extra burdens that has put on me.  But this year, THIS year is going to be different.

Note the rabbit.

Everything was overgrown and weed infested, the raised beds were rotting away, the front flower bed was so overgrown as to be indistinguishable from the lawn, and the compost bin was just getting turned back and forth without actually accomplishing anything.  No more.  I invested in 6 self irrigating planters which now hold the bulk of my vegetables.

I’ve got them planted with tomatoes, three kinds of peppers, two kinds of carrots and head lettuce, bok choi and spinach.  The four raised beds had to be hand dug (and I do mean HAND) to pull out all the grass and weed roots.  Once that was done, they were all down to less than half of their soil capacity.  So I had Elder Junior turn the compost bin halfway and then sift the other half into the beds.  Lovely stuff, three year old compost.  But there was nowhere near enough to fill the beds.  So each one got a bag and a half of garden soil and a quarter bag of peat moss so they’re all nice and full and loose again.


One bed is completely devoted to beans, lots and lots of beans.  Mostly pole beans, because I want to have dried beans for winter soups, but I did put in a half dozen bushes of green beans for eating over the summer.  I just have to learn how to french cut them.  The next bed has the peas, basil and parsley and is the feeder bed for quick growing, short season veg.  Right now it has leaf lettuce and green onions planted.  I may add some beets yet.  Brussel sprouts will go in where the peas are after they go past.  The third bed is three different kinds of summer squash, four plants each of zuccini, yellow squash and these interesting round green squash which I’m curious to try.  They might be fun stuffed.  The last bed is melons.  Three different kinds of yellow fleshed ones and one plant of what supposedly grows 100 lb watermelons.  We’ll see if that one actually pays off, but it should be fun to watch!

In addition to that, I made 5 self-irrigating planters out of 5 gallon buckets and planted one up with cucumbers and the other 4 with my winter squash.  I have a hard time with winter squash because the squash bugs are so dominant in our neighborhood.  But I am determined that this year I will have squash to put away for the winter.  I’m hoping that with them in a more contained space up off the ground, it will be harder for the squash bugs to get at them in the first place and easier to find the bugs and eggs if they do get in there.

And then there was the front flower bed.  Good lord.  I have that bed planted up with lots of bulbs, all iris, daffodils and day lilies, and then a couple of oddball things, lavender and comfrey.  But again I haven’t maintained it in a couple of years, and the grass had reclaimed much of it.  So I started in with the shovel and turning fork and dug the whole thing down six inches.  Out came the lavender, now dead beyond saving.  Out came piles and piles of iris corms, of round little daffodil bulbs, of clusters of day lily roots.  Out went buckets of grass and roots and dead leaves and trash.  In went three bags of garden soil and half a bale of peat moss.  I edged it in bricks left over from the original early 19thc sidewalk that had been in front of our house when we bought it, which should make it easier to mow around it.  I put back in one row of iris, one row of day lily and one row of daffodils.  The comfrey plant is still there, and I added a sedum and a coreposis (I think) that a co-worker had given me last year which I’d never gotten into the ground and was sure were dead until the started poking their heads up.  She gave me a bunch of new stuff this year, some geranium and black eyed Susan and some other lilies, so I put those in yesterday.  It still looks a little pathetic, as the daffodils have all fallen over and can’t get up, but I’m going to mulch it do death with straw and hope they’ll poke their heads back up in the spring.  The day lilies don’t look much better, so we’ll see what happens with them.

Now the only thing I have left to fight with is the rose bed.  I put a rugosa rosebush in that bed probably 15 years ago, and it has just gone like gangbusters.  The original bush is about 8 feet tall, and it’s put out runner pushes 10 feet away.  It’s taken over the bed, which I’m fine with.  Except.  It has no ground cover, and the thorns on rugosas are ferocious.  Forget about those refined thorns you know from florist roses.  Rugosas are wild roses, and they will not be fucked with.  Their thorns are needle-fine fuckers completely covering the stems, and you screw with them to your own peril.  Just reaching in to pull weeds is a risky proposition.  And there are a lot of weeds.  I tried planting mint hoping it would work as a ground cover to keep the other weeds down.  The mint took, but it seems to be living in harmony with all the other crap trying to keep a foothold in there.  Bastards.  So I think it all needs to come out, around all the rose canes that are popping up in there, and then I need to put down HEAVY mulch to try and keep the weeds from getting back in.  Time for heavy shirts and leather work gloves.  May stuff some of the mint roots in the lawn so it smells good when we mow.