Blizzard in March? This kid doesn’t mind.
Once the heavy work of spring is done, gardening is mostly moving things around and weeding. The rhododendrons I disliked so much have been re-homed, and I hope their new owner enjoys them. In their place, I planted the three abbotswood shrubs, and they seem to be doing well so far.
I added some cedar mulch, which makes it look nicer and will hopefully keep the weeds down, and just today I moved the tomato buckets from the back fence to the front – the squirrels and/or birds had been stealing the tomatoes even before they ripened. I did get two sungolds and one sweet 100, and they were delicious…but I was hoping for more. Next year, I may set up a trellis behind the shrubs, or plant some sunflowers – something with some height to cover the cinder blocks.
The sweet pea teepee is coming along beautifully, though no scented blossoms yet. None of the sweet peas I planted directly in the ground did very well.
I had collected the potted herbs on a shelf I could see from the kitchen window, but they needed more sun. I moved the shelf to the front porch, and the basil, thyme, rosemary, and parsley seem to be thriving in the extra sunlight.
Despite dire warnings about the invasive properties of mint, I went ahead and planted my sweet mint and chocolate mint directly in the ground along the back fence, after weeding, adding some new soil, and putting in a brick border (the house’s previous owners had left a pile of bricks in the basement). I moved the lavender there too, along with a new lavender plant and an allium purchased at the same time as the abbotswood. The two sage plants are there as well; sage is hardy so I hope it will survive the winter.
A friend brought a yellow calla lily as a housewarming gift, and I planted it in a part-sun, part-shade area, where it seems to be doing well. I had initially planted a hydrangea on the opposite side of the yard, where we’d pulled out a small dead evergreen, but moved it to join the calla lily. There were already several daylilies growing there; I don’t think they get enough sun, so some are quite small and haven’t bloomed, but others are doing all right, and I don’t have anywhere sunnier that I want to move them.
The hydrangea arrived in a pot with three enormous pink blossoms, which I cut back once they started to brown. There is new growth toward the bottom of the plant, hard to see in the photo.
I’m pleased with how everything has come along this first year, and glad I didn’t set up any raised beds right away; it’s given me the time to move things around, see where the sun and shade are, and decide to avoid planting fruits and vegetables along our back fence, a.k.a. Squirrel Highway.
On our daily walks, I’ve been admiring everyone else’s gardens around the neighborhood, and taking photos of the plants, flowers, and arrangements I like best; I’ll write a separate blog post about those. There are a few enormous old copper beech trees as well as wildflowers, some really high-level container gardening, and more landscaped-looking yards. Gardeners, I’ve found, are a bit like librarians – they love to share knowledge and ideas, and they’re generous with advice if you ask.
Looking back over earlier posts (and the garden journal I’m keeping) has reminded me of changes large and small: shifting the arrangements of annuals around so the big pot has calibrochoa as well as verbena, lobelia, and poppies; moving the potted raspberry bush off the asphalt (it was cooking on hot days and I’ve learned raspberries like a wetter environment; the three canes a friend gave me died); hanging one of the hanging baskets; clustering the potted herbs on the front porch and on a shelf I can see from the kitchen window (though I worry the latter is not a sunny enough spot. I’m working with a lot of part sun/part shade areas).
This weekend I hope to be rid of the rhododendron; a neighbor is coming to dig them up and take them away, so I can put things we actually like in their place. Some overall goals I have for the garden are:
- Some evergreen plants so we have a little color in winter, particularly in the front
- Plants that attract pollinators (bees and butterflies)
- Blues and yellows (and greens, of course)
- Planting strategically to hide ugly chain-link fences
- A raised bed (next year!) for the tomatoes, strawberries, and other fruits and veggies (there’s too much lead in the soil here for edible plants)
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.
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?
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
Two 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.
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.
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.
The 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:
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.
4/27/15 Edited to add: My cousin informs me that the peculiar reddish puffball things on the tree are the flowers of a red maple; the magnetic-fish-looking ones are sedum; and the small blue flowers are scilla (though they look to me like the flowers on a vinca vine; maybe they’re related?). Thanks, Anne!