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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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A red rose, partly open

This is the same little rose I got for Ben for Valentine’s Day a couple of years ago. Despite my doubts, it comes back every time I prune it, and I prune it after each time it blooms. Here are its most recent flowers.

Two red roses, one open, one opening

I didn’t think the perennials I planted in the front yard last summer would come back, either, not after the winter we had, but – o me of little faith – at least one of them is proving me wrong.

Green plant with one purple flower open and one about to open

Also, we had the soil around the house tested, and the amount of lead is off the charts (well, technically a chart could accommodate it, but it is 5x+ the maximum recommended levels, so it’s a good thing we’re only looking at these flowers and not eating them). It’s kind of amazing anything is growing at all.

Close up of purple flower on green plant

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How does your garden grow?

Blue-glazed strawberry jar with three side openings and one top opening, planted with strawberry plants

Mary, Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?

There are no silver bells here (unless you count windchimes), and certainly no cockle shells or pretty maids, but there are several kinds of herbs and flowers. Memorial Day weekend updates:

  • Moved most strawberries from Home Depot buckets to a strawberry jar or individual terra cotta pots. Hoping this will foil the squirrels (does anything foil the squirrels?). Also, the strawberry jar is pretty – a gift from some friends who are moving away, leaving their rooftop garden behind.
  • Transplanted basil and small rose bush from plastic pots to terra cotta ones (extra terra cotta pots were gifts from same friends as above). I learned from my container gardening book that the roots of plants in plastic pots can heat up too much on hot sunny days.
  • Transplanted the grape hyacinth – which is pretty much done for the year, I think – into its own terra cotta pot, and replaced it with a new sage plant in the rectangular planter with the rosemary and chives.
  • Moved the roses and the calibrochoa from the back porch to the front; moved two mint plants from the front to the back; moved basil and kalanchoe from indoor windowsill to back porch.
  • Planted a cutting of mint for a co-worker. (Growing new mint plants from old ones is incredibly easy: take a cutting, place the stem in water for several days, and it starts growing roots; then you can plant it in soil and it should be off and running.)

I’m trying not to overdo it, but it’s easy to keep saying “just one more thing” and before you know it it’s been three hours. If I ever got raised beds I’d probably never come inside, so I’m sticking with containers for now. At least this afternoon was somewhat overcast, and I remembered to take breaks to drink water.

Basil in round pot, nasturtium and basil in rectangular planter, strawberries in new strawberry jar

Basil in round pot, nasturtium and basil in rectangular planter, strawberries in new strawberry jar

Thyme in rectangular planter, strawberry, mint, and thyme in raised pots, basil on right

Thyme in rectangular planter, strawberry, mint, and thyme in raised pots, basil on right

Mint, kalanchoe, basil, thyme

Mint, kalanchoe, basil, thyme

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Spring gardening, outdoor edition

I don’t want to jinx anything, but I think we’re past the danger of frost now, so today I transplanted most of the seedlings from the peat tray and moved them outside.

A pot of basil seedlings just beginning to sprout

Basil growing on the windowsill

A row of little pots lined up on the porch railing

From left: jelly bean tomatoes, thyme and chives, mint and bunny tails in the terra cotta pot.

Rectangular planters and small round pots on the porch railing

In the rectangular planter, I pulled out last year’s parsley (it wasn’t healthy), and planted bunny tails in the middle; I’m pretty sure I planted seeds on either side, but now I’m not sure what kind they were. I thought basil, but most of those have come up by now, so it might be nasturtiums, which take longer to emerge. The two small round pots and the smaller rectangular planter all contain thyme, grown from seed.

Two small round pots, a rectangular planter, and two flower pots

From left: two small pots of chives, a rectangular planter with basil and nasturtiums, and two calibrochoa flowers. I had calibrochoa for the first time last year, and loved it: great colors, and it bloomed all summer (at least until it succumbed to aphids), plus it doesn’t require deadheading. Mostly I prefer to grow things I can eat, but a few flowers are just so cheery.

A terra cotta pot with dusty miller, little white flowers, and little orange flowers

Speaking of which, this year I added two 12″ pots at the base of the front stairs to brighten the entry. Each pot has dusty miller, a Diascia hybrid (the orange flowers), and a Nemesia fruticans (the white flowers).

Pink flowers, pale greenery in a pot overlooking the stairs

I also added a dianthus in the front. I thought it was something else – some of our neighbors have plants with a similar shade of pale greenery and super-saturated magenta/fuschia flowers, but I don’t know what those are called and this isn’t it. Still, it’s nice and bright.

A patch of earth bordered by 2x4s and rocks, a rectangular planter to the right side

Back to the backyard: This is the same patch where I tried to grow squash last year. (The squash did very well for half the summer, then abruptly died.) This year, I planted a few rows of carrots, with sweet peas along the back, close to the fence, and nasturtiums in the front. The seeds have yet to sprout, but we only put them in on May 3, and they may take up to 21 days to emerge. In the rectangular planter to the right are radishes and some more nasturtiums.

Birds' eye view of rectangular planter with radish seedlings sprouting

The radishes are very enthusiastic. This is my first year growing radishes (and anything from seed, for that matter), and I’m looking forward to them. (Does anyone know when to pull them up to eat? That’s the trouble with root vegetables…)

A row of 8 orange buckets with tomato seedlings and cages

Last but certainly not least, the stars of the garden (I hope), the tomatoes! Ben turned the soil from last year and added more soil, and helped place the cages, though obviously the seedlings don’t need them yet. (And this year I’ll be more vigilant about trimming the plants so they put more energy into growing tomatoes and less into growing stems and leaves. Last year it looked like Jack and the Beanstalk back there.)

There are four varieties of tomato: Sun Gold, Sweet 100s, Jelly Bean, and Gardener’s Delight. I’m especially looking forward to the Sun Gold and Sweet 100s, which I tasted from my cousin’s garden last summer.

I also added a few more basil seeds to the tomato buckets, as tomatoes and basil are supposed to be good “companions,” though I’m afraid the buckets will become somewhat crowded and I may have to thin them.

A birds' eye view of one of the orange buckets with tomato seedlings

A few more orange buckets contain strawberry plants from two summers ago (they keep surviving, though they didn’t produce any berries last summer, or at least none I got to before the birds and squirrels did), the rosemary that spent the winter indoors, and some sweet pea seeds (Knee-High and High Scent) that have yet to emerge.

The back porch from the back yard; buckets below, pots and planters on railing

The view from the hammock.

The peat tray was a success, I think, and I was able to give the extra seedlings away to friends and co-workers. Now it’s time to sit back, water, and watch things grow!


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Early spring gardening, indoor seedling edition

This is the first year I’ve planted from seeds, and the results are gratifying so far; I planted them last Friday and saw little sprouts begin to emerge in less than a week. The seed packets themselves have lots of information about planting depth and sunlight requirements, but I also found the book Successful Container Gardening to be helpful.

Peat tray, a few rows filled with potting mixThe dryer is near an east-facing window and is a perfect height for planting, as well as an out-of-the-way location for the seedlings to get their start indoors.

Seed packets: sun gold tomato, supersweet 100 tomato, thyme, chives I planted four varieties of tomato seeds – Sun Gold, Supersweet 100, Jelly Bean grape tomatoes, and “Gardener’s Delight” cherry tomatoes – and chives and thyme. I meant to get basil and nasturtium also; I may try to add those soon.

tomato seeds in the palm of a handHere are the tiny tomato seeds.

chive seeds in the palm of a handAnd even tinier chive seeds.

jelly bean red and yellow tomato seedsThe red jelly bean tomato seeds were dyed, but I planted red and yellow together, about three seeds in each little section. The book advised making little holes in the dirt with the tip of a pencil, which worked well.

peat tray with soil and seeds, plastic lid over topHere’s the peat tray all planted with seeds: tomatoes, herbs, and bunny tails (a non-edible grass). The extra green pots also hold thyme seeds, and the extra brown pots hold more chives.

And look! A mere six days after planting…

Bunny Tails sproutingThese are the Bunny Tails. (I’ve very glad I drew a diagram of what I planted where, as the book suggested.)

tomato seedlings sproutingThese are some of the tomato seedlings sprouting. I think if you stood in front of them for an hour you’d actually see them grow.

thyme seedlings sproutingWe won’t be running out of thyme anytime soon! Pun very much intended.

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