taming the jungle

2014-07-06 09.28.32

We’ve had a ton of rain this week, which was great because I didn’t have to water the plants. ¬†But when I when out to rescue them from this weekend’s beautiful sunshine, I found a ridiculous, and very tangled, jungle. So I pulled them all apart and surveyed what exactly was going on where.2014-07-06 10.17.04When I pulled them apart, it turned out that some of them were being held up by the others, so that giants like this Sweet 100 cherry tomato dramatically threw themselves all over the parking lot. But an hour of tying vines with plant tie tape and dragging massive containers around to new positions resulted in a much happier and better-looking parking lot jungle.2014-07-06 10.48.27

As I was pulling them apart I also found quite a few surprise veggies hiding inside. Most are still small and green:2014-07-06 10.30.52

but there was one really pretty Indigo Kumquat cherry tomato:2014-07-06 10.40.32

and THREE huge zucchini!
2014-07-01 19.54.48

and a couple of eat-while-you-garden strawberries ūüôā2014-06-29 20.09.24

The Romaine lettuce is perfect, but probably in danger of bolting any day now, so I moved it to a shadier spot until I can use up some more of it.2014-07-06 09.27.20

I also harvested all of the bok choy last week, which really should have been done quite a while ago. It actually started to bolt immediately after I planted it. I don’t think it was too hot – it was mid-May, and we had a cold-ish start to summer – but it might have been too cold? I’ve read that cold temperatures can stress it into bolting. I just let it keep going though, in the hopes it would get to a reasonable size, but at this point it was getting a bit ridiculous.2014-06-29 16.34.55

It was delicious in a stir fry though, and I might even say the flower stalks were the best part!

2014-06-29 16.47.21

And, cutest for last, the watermelons have started to appear. I’ve grown these in a container once before, and they’re really not meant for such a small space, but I thought I’d try it again this year just for fun.2014-07-06 10.47.59

Almost any garden, if you see it at the right moment, can be confused with paradise.
~Henry Mitchell, The Essential Earthman 


the growing, the wilting, and the ugly

After a whirlwind HOT, sunny, and dry weekend in Cape Cod, I came home to a crying mess of a garden. ¬†Two days in the full sun with no water was just a bit too much to hope for them to handle with grace. ¬†These days, I don’t even pause on my way into the house from wherever I’ve been – I just get out of the car and head straight for the hose.

Bad news first:

2013-07-08 07.15.34




The romaine lettuce has bolted. ¬†Technically, it started to bolt a long time ago, but I’d been keeping it in the shade and trying to use it as fast as I could. ¬†Now I think it’s chop-it-down-and-cut-your-losses time.





I have two very small, seemingly identical bowls of basil. ¬†All summer long they’ve refused to be identical though, with the left one always taking huge offense to any negligence, while the right one is amazingly chill. After some water, lefty bounced back in a few hours though.2013-07-08 07.15.42

2013-07-08 07.15.27




The other bunch of basil survived just fine too – probably because it was in a shadier spot. I’ve been using it all summer, and it just gets bushier and bushier each time I cut it. Time to make some pesto!





2013-07-08 07.21.05




The tomato plants were all looking a little worse for wear – they were wilting, fighting off aphids, and trying to support their huge mass (some of them are over 8 feet tall!) in pots that are getting way too small.


2013-07-08 07.18.22





The experimental cherry-tomatoes-in-a-window-box have not died yet, but they were definitely gasping for air after 2 days. ¬†That tiny amount of soil barely holds any water, and it’s totally exposed to the sun. ¬†I think it dries out about an hour after watering. ¬†The leaves seem to bounce back every time they wilt though, and I ate my first zebra cherry today (though admittedly it was not quite ripe and pretty tough. ¬†It’s hard to tell when to pick when the ripe version is still green and red!)

2013-07-08 07.20.27






Some of the other cherries have started to ripen too – these are the chocolate cherries which are sweet and very fat!







I also came back to my first tiny tomato harvests Рjust a handful of chocolate cherries, sun gold cherries, and one jaune flammée. All were super sweet and flavorful, but so far the sun gold takes the sweetness cake.2013-07-08 07.12.48

A plum-sized Purple Cherokee was also ready for harvest…2013-07-08 07.18.52

…but very sadly, had blossom end rot. I’ve noticed a lot of this going on this year – possibly because there are just so many more tomatoes, but I wonder if it’s drought stress. ¬†I’ve tried to be vigilant about keeping a constant water supply, and other than this past weekend I don’t think there’s been too much stress, but I think the pots make it difficult to really keep an even moisture level.2013-07-08 07.19.01

The zucchini plants are also struggling and showing signs of blossom end rot, as well as (I think) powdery mildew.  2013-07-08 07.21.36

But I harvested my first zucchini today too!2013-07-08 07.21.24

I think some of the cucumbers finally got fertilized, since this guy has grown pretty big, but he doesn’t look overly happy, so we’ll see what happens.2013-07-08 07.16.08

And one of the cheater purple bell peppers has started to turn a gorgeous shade of red! I had no idea they were going to do that, so I’m going to leave this one for another day or two and let it sweeten up.¬†¬†2013-07-08 07.22.34

Meanwhile, the monstrous Pinot Noir Hibiscus is getting close to blooming – I can’t wait!¬†2013-07-08 07.15.59

this is the garden:colours come and go,
frail¬†azures¬†fluttering from night’s outer wing
strong silent greens silently lingering,
absolute lights like baths of golden snow.
This is the garden:pursed lips do blow
upon cool flutes within wide glooms,and sing
(of harps celestial to the quivering string)
invisible faces hauntingly and slow.

This is the garden.   Time shall surely reap 
and on Death’s blade lie many a flower curled,
in other lands where other songs be sung;
yet stand They here enraptured,as among
the slow deep trees perpetual of sleep
some silver-fingered fountain steals the world.
~e.e. cummings

things are growing

It’s not even June and some of the garden is getting ahead of me already. Here’s a quick post to show the monstrous greens and all the cute little baby fruits.

2013-05-21 22.22.17 2013-05-25 23.04.41
I have (at least) two types of strawberries growing this year: a plain old “garden strawberry” (fragaria ananassa, left) and¬†Frisan strawberries (right) which, last year at least, had hot pink flowers. The regular ones have already started producing lots of big berries, and I’ve even eaten a few already. The Frisan are slower and just have teeny tiny berries starting to form.

2013-05-21 22.23.53This is the first year I’ve grown broccoli, and I’ve been impatiently anticipating the formation of the crowns — and here they finally are! Broccoli is usually ready to harvest in about 50-60 days, and it’s been 50 since I set the seedlings out, so it seems like they’re growing fairly slowly. ¬†But they don’t quite get the full sun that they should, so they may just take a while longer.

2013-05-25 23.04.24

The romaine lettuce has been ready to harvest for a few weeks really, and in the next couple of days I’ll pick a bunch to give it some room and let some new heads start to grow. ¬†The spinach is also very crowded and needs thinning – sounds like it’s time for spinach & strawberry salad! ¬†And the basil is starting to get a bit leggy, so I’m going to trim it back to encourage some bushiness.

2013-05-21 22.22.28      2013-05-25 23.04.18

2013-05-25 23.06.33


The sugar snap peas have grown a ton, and were a giant mess of tangled vines sprawling awkwardly our of the container. ¬†I should have trellised them long ago, but Sunday morning I finally got around to making a string trellis and tying them loosely on until they start hanging on for themselves. ¬†It took a *very* long time to de-tangle them and sort out which vine should be where, and I did break a few in the process. ¬†Note to ¬†self for next year…do it earlier!



A couple of the gorgeous flowers I couldn’t resist: (left: Sapiglossis, right, Gazania)
2013-05-25 23.04.072013-05-14 00.01.50

And here’s what it all looks like, up top:2013-05-25 23.03.26

and down below.2013-05-25 23.06.08

Taste every fruit of every tree in the garden at least once. It is an insult to creation not to experience it fully. Temperance is wickedness.
~Stephen Fry


early greens

I’m so glad I got such an early start on greens! I have mounds of romaine lettuce just in time for my new obsession with raw tacos, which I recently tried at G-Zen, one of the top vegan restaurants in the country.

g-zen-raw-taco2013-05-04 21.38.49

The broccoli has been having a growth spurt too, though no heads have formed yet.

2013-05-04 21.39.19

And sowing my spinach directly from seed gave me the chance to learn a new word: cotyledon. ¬†These are the first ’embryonic’ leaves that emerge from a seed, and they don’t resemble the true leaves much at all. ¬†(Phew, my spinach doesn’t have a long-skinny-looks-like-grass disease after all!)

2013-05-04 21.40.54

Sugar snap peas are growing fast, and soon I’ll have to figure out a trellising plan. ¬†And the beet seeds are starting to sprout, though I think maybe they haven’t been getting enough sun, so I moved them out to the deck extension with the spinach.

2013-05-04 21.41.19

2013-05-04 21.39.33

The dill and mint are doing really well in their dollar store bowls, although I think I jumped the gun on the basil – I think it froze while I was away in Seattle. I’m curious to see if I can salvage it though, so stay tuned!

2013-05-04 21.39.522013-05-04 21.39.08

A few strawberries are starting to appear already, and I think it’s possible I may not have killed my favorite red anemone after all!

2013-05-04 21.40.46

2013-05-04 21.45.14

How ’bout we start
with a salad, a fresh bed of lettuce with croutons?
Later we can play a game of chess on the futon.

~dead prez, “Mind Sex”

spring is springing

As longtime readers know, my garden and I were uprooted in the middle of the growing season last year. So this is my first spring with the new deck, and even though it’s barely April, I’m itching to get back outside. ¬†There’s still a risk of frost here for a couple more weeks, but I’ve started planting a few hardy veggies and flowers, and cleaning up the wretched mess left over from the winter and hurricane.

One of the few veggies that can withstand these cold temps is broccoli. ¬†I’ve never been quite sure if it would be worthwhile, but it won me over this year by letting my get started playing in the dirt early. I planted four little sprigs of broccoli, which I think should produce one head each, plus some side shoots. ¬†For the time being, I added a few pansies to fill in the larger container, though if they start to crowd the broccoli, I’ll have to move them around. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from gardening, it’s that “pansy” should really refer to someone who’s super tough and can withstand pretty much anything!


I also cleaned up the chives and repotted them — it really amazes me how they just live and live and keep on living, no matter what I do to them.DSC_0001

I forced myself to wait another week to plant anything more, and so today I added some romaine lettuce, which happily can take the shadier spots.DSC_0008

I also planted some sugar snap pea seeds, which represents my first time growing these and I’m really excited because they’re one of my favorite snacks. ¬†I’m planning to put them on the lower level once they start to get longer, and train them up the side of the deck. ¬†This is also my first time growing anything from seed (well aside from the failed carrot experiment) so fingers crossed!¬†DSC_0010

I also added some herbs, which I may have to bring inside this week, and a strawberry pot full of strawberries.  For some instant color there are a few more pansies, and a new favorite Рanemones! The red and purple poppy-like flowers got compliments before I even left the nursery!DSC_0018

If you can look into the seeds of time, and say which grain will grow and which will not, speak then unto me.
~William Shakespeare

planting time!

As of today, summer is (un)officially here! ¬†I finally got out and spent a few hours cleaning up the garden and planting some veggies. I thought I’d be able to get an earlier start this year since it’s been so mild, but life thought otherwise, and somehow we’re at Memorial Day already!

Earlier in the spring, the garden got a real beauty boost courtesy of the new decking the landlords installed to replace the old rotted out boards. It’s a South American hardwood, and feels amazing on the feet.

I planted annuals and vegetables last year and, especially since they were in pots, I didn’t expect any of them to overwinter so I did absolutely nothing to protect them. ¬†But our winter was so non-existent that a few plants actually did survive. ¬†As soon as the sun warmed up, I started seeing chives, mint, strawberries, and pansies popping up. ¬†The chives and strawberries were pretty well contained, but the pansies seem to have found a way to jump from container to container, and made a great stand in while I procrastinated on getting the real plantings done.

I did manage to start a couple of things early — I planted some romaine lettuce and direct sowed some multi-colored heirloom carrots. ¬†I’ve never grown carrots before, and I’ve heard that they aren’t really worth it, but it seemed fun to try these ones. ¬†I seeded liberally and planned to thin out once they’d grown a few inches. ¬†Unfortunately, many of them didn’t even get to an inch before one of my little furry friends decided they’d make a great breakfast. ¬†There are still a bunch left though, so we’ll see how many of them make it. ¬†I may have to sprinkle some of that squirrel repellent on them, although it really didn’t do much good last year.

Some extra lettuce got planted with a very pretty batch of pansies, though this seems to stunt its growth quite a bit.

Playing a starring role this year are 5 varieties of tomatoes: Cherokee Purple, German Johnson, Black Krim, a Sun Gold yellow cherry, and a red grape cherry (not pictured).

The strawberries I got a from a farm sale last year didn’t actually produce any strawberries, so to give them an extra boost this year I added some ‘Frisan’ strawberries, which have hot pink flowers and fruit throughout the summer. It’s got some good looking berries starting to ripen already!

The chives were pretty ragged after surviving the winter, so I pulled them out and gave them a haircut, and then repotted them with some basil. ¬†I never have enough basil, so this year I planted 7 basil plants…but I’m still thinking of getting more.

And of course, no summer would be complete without copious amounts of zucchini. ¬†This year I only planted 4 green zucchini — last year I had 6, as well as 6 yellow squash. ¬†I started to resent the yellows by the end of the summer, so I thought I would stick to green this year. ¬†But will I regret planting only 4?

And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.
~F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

end-of-summer round-up

as the fall winds down, i’m already dreaming about next summer. ¬†here’s a list of what i want more of, and what i want less of.

more heirloom tomatoes! so many to choose from, and i’m sure this is what heaven tastes like.

heirloom carrots – can stagger sowing them to get harvest throughout the season.

don’t bother with peppers – they don’t grow well and have very thin flesh.

green zucchini, not yellow. one plant per pot!

try watermelon again, and don’t put anything else in the pot, especially not stevia!

sugar snap peas, yum

more basil!! cut it down early to keep it bushy.

romaine, but not any other lettuce.

edamame was awesome, but only one serving on the whole plant.

basil with lemon is delicious, but lemon basil is disgusting.

eggplant…hmmm…not sure. but if i do, one plant per pot!

more spinach and more strawberries.

try green machine musk melon?  sweeter than most melons, compact plant.

If you think in terms of a year, plant a seed; if in terms of ten years, plant trees; if in terms of 100 years, teach the people.

the war is won!

The aphids are gone, the ladybugs are gone, and the eggplants have appeared!

Unfortunately I lost a different war Рa stealth attack that came in the night and mugged my tomato plant.  The first tomato was looking almost perfect yesterday, but I decided to wait a day or two to see if it would ripen a little more on the vine.

Sadly, some night critter was very pleased with this decision, and had himself a big juicy bite of heirloom tomato for dinner.

I picked it today though, and I’ll try to salvage the rest. ¬†In other, non-war news, the zucchini production is definitely slowing down, but I still have way more than I know what to do with. ¬†The yellow zucchinis seem to produce quite a bit more than the green zucchini, and I don’t know if it’s just supply and demand but I find myself cheering on the greens and looking depressedly at all the yellows. ¬†Next year I’m going to up the green-to-yellow ratio. ¬†But here’s a big fat greenie that got a little big waiting for Alia to come home to help me eat it!

The romaine lettuce was starting to bolt in this hot weather, so I had to harvest it all at once, which made for a LOT of salads this week.

But I also got to eat my first cucumber, and there are quite a few more where that came from. ¬†Besides tomatoes, I think cucumber is the vegetable that I really appreciate the most fresh out of the garden. ¬†You wouldn’t think it would make that much difference – I know people who think cucumbers have no flavor at all – but people, eat one immediately after picking it from the plant and then we can talk!

The edamame is looking like it will be a nice big crop, though I’m not too sure how to tell when it’s ready. ¬†I guess when the beans look good and fat. ¬†Time to start researching how to make them like the japanese restaurants!

And behind the scenes, the less showy ‘Better Bush’ tomatoes are starting to blush (paws off, critters!)

The pepper plants, as usual, haven’t been doing too well, but I even have some little peppers popping up

And the mixed lettuce and herbs are still going strong.

I planted some mint in the pot the romaine lettuce used to be in, so soon I should be able to make some of Greta’s mint lemonade iced tea!

And of course, I couldn’t finish a post without an update on the massively cool watermelon vines.

I used to visit and revisit it a dozen times a day, and stand in deep contemplation over my vegetable progeny with a love that nobody could share or conceive of who had never taken part in the process of creation.  It was one of the most bewitching sights in the world to observe a hill of beans thrusting aside the soil, or a rose of early peas just peeping forth sufficiently to trace a line of delicate green.
~Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mosses from an Old Manse, 1846.

reinforcements have arrived!

Remember the insane infestation of aphids on my eggplant that I was waging an (admittedly mild) war against? I never did get around to really doing anything about them except for spraying them off with a strong blast of water every few days, and I was sort of resigned to letting them win. ¬†But recently I’ve been noticing a whole bunch of new and much bigger bugs all over the plant. ¬†Just as I was moaning “what now?”, a Google search revealed that these guys are a gardener’s best friend – ladybug larva! They can eat 400 aphids a day as larva, and an adult can eat over 5000 in its lifetime! There’s a huge business in commercial ladybug sales for exactly this reason (what a concept – go and BUY bugs, and release them into your garden!) – but lucky me, I get them for free. ¬†The aphids are much harder to find these days…maybe the dozens of flowers that keep dropping off the plant will finally start to produce some fruit.

large picture is my eggplant, and inset is a google image of a ladybug larva.

The rest of the garden is doing well. ¬†Still harvesting giant zucchinis daily (I have a loaf of whole-wheat-blueberry-blackberry-pecan-zucchini bread in the oven as I type), and sandwiches and salads are benefitting from the greens – though I’m already making a list of what I wish I would have included for next year! ¬†Love the romaine lettuce though – and Alia gets credit for these pretty heads since she planted them herself while I was away. (though I did scoop the awesome chair from someone’s curb on garbage day!)

There are 9 amazing watermelons growing now, and the biggest one is about the size of an orange. ¬†It’s my favorite thing to go out and look at everyday – I don’t know if it’s a result of growing up in the northland where such exotic fruits were imported, rather than grown, but I just think it’s the coolest thing ever that I can grow watermelon in a pot on my deck. ¬†I’ve turned the pot around now and I’m training the long vines to grow on the wires that run along the fence – hopefully they won’t get to heavy and break themselves – or the fence!

We also have what Alia has pronounced “a REAL cucumber” – especially exciting since we didn’t get a single cucumber last year. ¬†And there are several more approaching real status – I can’t wait to harvest the first one!

I’ve also been color-coordinating the sky above the garden lately, just for that finishing touch. ¬†I try to do this in the evening, just before dark so it doesn’t bother the neighbors too much…

Take thy plastic spade,
It is thy pencil; take thy seeds, thy plants,
They are thy colours.
~William Mason, The English Garden, 1782

good news saturday

Here’s the good news post of the week!

A survey of the garden this morning yielded a bounty of surprises. Some of the veggies are ready for eating, and others are well on their way.  Everything is thriving so well this year, I shake my head in disbelief every time I glance outside!

By far the most exciting so far are the zucchini monsters.  I harvested my first one today! Then I decided to count how many others were growing. There are four pots of zucchini all together, two green and two yellow.

Take a guess how many zucchini are growing in these four pots. ¬†I asked Alia, and she guessed 15. ¬†I knew I should overestimate, so I guessed 20-25. ¬†Then I counted. ¬†At the present moment, these four pots are sprouting 44 yellow zucchini and 33 green zucchini!! ¬†If even half of these make it to harvest, we’ll be eating zucchini every day for a month!

Some beautiful heads of lettuce just waiting for us to make time to make salads. ¬†I’m giddy just thinking about the salads I’m going to make!

These beans are sly! I had no idea any beans had even started growing, but something yellow caught the corner of my eye, and when I moved the leaves aside, there they all were!

One perfect little tomato is growing on the Better Bush tomato (above) and one perfect giant tomato should be starting to ripen soon on the ‘German Johnson’ heirloom tomato (below).

Both have tons of flowers, and so does the cherry tomato. ¬†Adorable mini cucumbers are starting to appear too, so hopefully we’ll have more salad ingredients soon.

My experimental edamame plant is getting huge, and has a ton of perfect little purple and white flowers on it! no sign of beans yet, but I have high hopes!

And speaking of experiments, the most delightful surprise was the appearance of five perfect little teeny watermelons!