Category Archives: gardening

Spring gardening at the new place

Spring is here, and that means plants and dirt! It also means seeing what perennials come up in our new yard, and planting a few things of our own in the ground, though I’ll still have lots of plants in pots and containers this year.

Greyhound lounging in the sun, new hellebore

Hellebore yellow flower


First, we raked up a LOT of last year’s dead leaves. That alone made a huge difference! Then my mom and my aunt helped me plant four hellebore plants that my aunt had brought from her own garden in Maryland. We planted them where I hope they’ll get a good amount of sun, and added some mulch. The dog also got to enjoy the sunshine while we worked.

There are little tufts of what look and smell a lot like chives here and there. I’m thinking of digging them up and potting them, since I usually grow chives in the summer anyway. If they aren’t exactly chives, they’re definitely in the onion/garlic family, so…close enough, right?

Strawberry plants in jar

Strawberry plants

I bought three new strawberry plants and put them in my old strawberry jar, on the south-facing front porch where they’ll get lots of sun (and hopefully be less prone to attack by squirrels, birds, rabbits, and any other berry-loving wildlife).

I moved the herbs that made it through the winter indoors back outdoors: mint, rosemary, and thyme. I bought three new parsley plants for the herb shelf as well – two curly, one flat-leaf – some of which I harvested to use at our seder. I’ll be getting basil as well, but it’s a little early in the season still – it may still be getting too cold at night for basil.

Radish seedlings

Radish seedlings

I didn’t start any seeds indoors this year, but I did get some radish seeds at the hardware store and planted them in containers outside; they have already sprouted! The first crop should be ready in less than three weeks, and I can plant another crop in late summer/early fall.

I tried to get the little one excited about the seedlings, but she is more interested in the slide, the hammock, throwing a ball (as of today!), and chalk drawings on the pavement.


What’s next? I’ll plant tomatoes and basil in May. They’ll go in the same containers as last year, since I don’t think we’ll be building any raised beds in a hurry. I’ll probably get some flowers, too, and keep an eye on any perennials or “volunteers” that come up. I’d love to get a rain barrel and start composting, too. (Any tips? Leave a comment!) I’d love to get honeysuckle and/or some berries growing on the back fence, so I’ll be on the lookout for a thornless berry bush or vine. And that all seems like plenty for Year One here! Maybe in the fall I’ll put in some bulbs for next spring – grape hyacinths, daffodils or perhaps tulips. We’ll see!

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Strawberry crop

We have yet to see if they are indeed “everbearing,” but we got at least a small handful of strawberries from my new plants. Yum.


It was exciting to watch them ripen, and especially exciting that they were able to without being ravaged by squirrels and birds.


New flowers…more berries to come?


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The garden is in

The garden is in! All the big stuff is done (cleaning out last year’s pots, getting dirt and plants, planting) so now it’s just watering and tinkering with placement.

The seedlings are doing very well: the nasturtiums are in a hanging basket and a rectangular container on the back porch, and the sweet peas are in buckets in the back and a rectangular container in front, with – I hope – enough climbing material to keep them happy.


Above, left to right: sweet peas, tomatoes (“chocolate sprinkles” hybrid cherry and Patio a.k.a. “the container tomato”), rosemary, and – new this year – lavender.


Nasturtium, calibrochoa (“yellow slice”), narcissus (from bulbs stored in the basement during the winter). Not pictured, recently added: celosia (that paintbrush-looking one).


Chives, rosemary, and sage. We do a lot of cooking and garnishing with these.


Thyme, parsley (flat and curly), strawberries. There are little green berries already!


This is in the front. Real pots would look nicer than Home Depot buckets, but I used what I had. The tomatoes don’t mind! This year I got one plant each of five varieties, and planted basil in with two of them (from left to right: grape “Tami G” hybrid tomato; yellow cherry “sun gold” hybrid; husky cherry red hybrid). I also got nicer soil this year, Coast of Maine potting soil and lobster compost. We’ll see how they do.


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Spring seedlings

The seeds are coming up! Not the basil – I think last year’s seeds plus a late snow equals no basil plants from seed this year – but the sweet pea and nasturtiums are. The squirrels didn’t get ’em all! And the nasturtiums are supposed to repel deer. Not that we have deer on our little back porch. Nor will we!

Small nasturtium leaf

Sweet pea shoots coming up in orange bucket

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Spring gardening…damn the squirrels and full speed ahead

I know I should wait until May to start planting outdoors, but I am too impatient.

A few weeks ago I planted sweet pea and nasturtium seeds (actually, that was the correct time, but I don’t know how many survived; some animals, and I strongly suspect the squirrels, have been digging around in my containers). Last year the nasturtiums did very well, so if any of them are still in there and not being digested by small local wildlife, I expect the same this year. The sweet pea last year sprouted and grew leaves and vines but no flowers; I’m hoping if I give them a better climbing structure this year that will help.


Chives, rosemary, and sage

0417161717bTwo pots of chives, one rectangular planter of thyme, one round pot of thyme, and one pot of parsley (surprisingly) made it through the winter indoors, and I’ve moved them outside to re-acclimate and hopefully perk up a bit. The rosemary, inexplicably, died, so I’ve got new rosemary in a rectangular planter, along with new sage and new chives. I bought a new mint plant as well; even though I can always start new ones from my old ones, they are never quite as robust.


From left: last year’s mint, thyme, thyme, parsley.

I bought new “perennial, ever-bearing” strawberry plants as well. We shall see about that. Last year’s plants were from the year before; improbably, they survived that winter and grew lovely green leaves but few flowers and no berries last summer. This year I want at least one berry before the squirrels and birds get at them. Maybe I will put up some nets…is that awful? I don’t want to catch any animals inadvertently but I want to enjoy my plants.


Strawberry box and strawberry jar – six plants total.

I planted basil seeds as well, but (a) they were left over from last year’s packet – do seeds go stale? – and (b) it snowed the day after I planted them so I doubt they will come up. I’ll wait until May, then get some basil to go with the tomatoes.

0417161717eThe narcissus bulbs spent the winter in the basement and are emerging now; I might have waited too long to bring them up. The grape hyacinth bulbs bloomed un-seasonally last fall so I don’t think they will bloom this spring – maybe next year? Last year was the first time I experimented with bulbs and they still seem sort of mysterious and magical.

You’ve all been very patient to read this far, so here is a photo of the baby in her first sun hat:


Growing like a weed


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Fall gardening

Columbus Day this year was beautiful and unseasonably warm; we’re still waiting for the baby to show up, so in the meantime I figured I’d take advantage of the good weather, free time, and my mom’s gardening enthusiasm/expertise to prepare my container garden for the colder parts of fall and winter.

We went to Mahoney’s Garden Center in Winchester to find a couple small evergreen-type shrubs to put in the pots in the front of the house. Back at home, we spent about an hour and a half pulling out dead plants (calibrochoa, lobelia, wildflower mix, sweet pea), transplanting others (mostly herbs, to bring inside once the weather turns colder), and potting the new evergreens with the dusty miller, which is still thriving. We also potted some narcissus bulbs from spring and put them in the basement; hopefully they’ll bloom again next year.


terra cotta pot with evergreen cedar and dusty miller

terra cotta pot with evergreen cedar and dusty miller


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Summer garden update

I wrote this part of the post in late July.

Right before we left for Oregon I noticed aphids on one of the calibrochoa plants and funny little black bugs on the nasturtiums. I didn’t have time to do a soapy water spray and rinse, so I just blasted both plants with the hose and moved them away from the other plants. This tactic worked on the calibrochoa, which continues to bloom happily on the front porch, and less well on the nasturtiums, which still have some bugs.

Orange and yellow nasturtiums

Other than that, everything is going pretty well! The herbs, as always, are growing healthily: the rosemary is glossy green, the mint is spilling out of its pots, and the chives, sage, thyme, parsley, and basil are all robust.

Parsley, mint, thyme, basil, more thyme

Rectangular planter with sage, rosemary, and chives

Most exciting of all, the tomatoes I started from seed are finally beginning to come in.

Tiny green tomato

I wrote this part of the post just now, in late September.

Fall is finally here, according to the calendar and the weather. I just harvested all of my basil plants and made a big batch of pesto using the America’s Test Kitchen recipe (basil, walnuts, olive oil, garlic, salt). Last year I did keep one basil plant alive indoors all winter, but it was pretty anemic by spring.

This year, once the nighttime temperature starts dropping into the 30s, I’ll bring in some of the mint, rosemary (one of which is large enough to serve as a small Hanukkah bush, if we did that sort of thing, and if we wanted to look at a bright orange Home Depot bucket all the time), roses, and thyme. This is the first year I’ve grown thyme – does anyone know how well it’s likely to do indoors?

Bunny tail grass

The bunny tails lived up to their name!

The herbs, calibrochoa, and nasturtiums all did well this summer (the nasturtiums recovered from the little black bugs in July). The sweet peas in the container did well, greenery-wise – the flowers never bloomed – until one of the heat waves fried them. I would try these again next year and give them a better lattice or frame to climb. The sweet peas in the ground mostly emerged, grew to about 3-5 inches, then stalled, probably due to the terrible soil. Containers are the way to go, it seems.

One yellow and one green cherry tomato

A cluster of cherry tomatoes ripening on the vine

The tomatoes were a bit of a disappointment. The chipmunks that live under the porch definitely stole some, but I think the main problem was not enough sun. Next year, I’m planning to try moving them to the front of the house instead, so they’ll be west-facing instead of east-facing. We probably only got two handfuls altogether; they were delicious, but everyone else I know who grew tomatoes here this year had much bigger yields.

Another flower I’d like to try next year is cosmos – I’ve been admiring their wild, tangly, airy look in other people’s gardens all summer. I’m assuming the plants in the pots by the front stairs won’t come back on their own next spring, so maybe I’ll try a wildflower mix there. I really liked the dusty miller with the little orange and white flowers, though – they did very well.

So that’s the fall wrap-up for the garden. Did you garden this summer? What grew well, and what didn’t take?

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