perennial progress

i just have to post these before and after shots of the perennial gardens so far:

before, early spring

after-ish, early fall

my heart is swelling with happiness!  today i was able to put some plants in the ground, and will hopefully plant more tomorrow.  i got a bunch of plants on wicked sale a week ago.  i also had ordered a ton of bulbs that are making me so excited to see in the spring.  can we say allium?!?!


serious tomatoes

oh yeah, it's on.  yo, check out my stash for today:

with these tomatoes i made a double batch of the dean and deluca pasta sauce, and will either can the rest as-is, or i just remembered how freakin delish the d&d minestrone is.  might have to go that route after a quick stop to the farm stand for some green beans.

previous to this harvest, i've already made a double batch of the d&d sauce (3 pints in the freezer) and a triple batch of this roasted tomato chipotle salsa (3 + pints canned).  run, don't walk to this recipe from 101 cookbooks.  the only thing i changed was omitting the hot peppers (for mild baby boy palettes), and adding some roasted corn to satisfy my need to add corn to every meal.  for the next batch, i may also add in some cumin and/or marjoram.

of note with the tomatoes, had some hornworm problems for a few weeks, late july and early august.  we were picking off at least a few each day, and man do they go to town!  effers.  lost at least a few dozen toms to them.  interestingly, they much preferred the slicers and cherry varieties, leaving the romas alone for the most part.  they seem to be gone now.  good riddance.

also had what i think was early blight, which makes my plants look pretty bad, but i don't know how harmful it is to tom production.  will have to read up on that for next year.

early blight hit hard late july

hi, i'm cute

took in all the cauliflower.  it didn't look too appetizing to me (why did they all turn purple and get so leggy???), so i decided to just steam it all and make fake mashed potatoes with them.  butter and salt cure all veggie woes...  lots of leftovers, so i may end up putting them into something else.  i think you can use mashed potatoes as a substitute for fats, so we'll see how that goes.

also took in the first "early" cabbage.  it was gnawed by something last night (only the one head), but i think i can salvage most of it for the aforementioned minestrone.  is that gross?


summer's flying by

just wanted to jot down some thoughts, as i am just crap at updating this blog thingy.

broccoli:  (and why can't i ever spell that?)  the "pacman" variety came up early, and i was really excited about that.  but then we went away for a week's vacation at the beginning of july, and all the 6 heads bolted, flowered, and were cut by the little girl tending the veggies for the week.  there are some sideshoots as promised on the tag, but not the crowns i was hoping for.  and perhaps i'm cutting even these too late, as the flavor is not exactly top notch.  the boy who loves broccoli won't eat it.
the "premium crop" variety looks promising.  the heads are slightly bigger, and they are maturing slower.

cabbage:  the "early" variety looks great, forming nice little heads.  "mid season" variety still looks like a pile of leaves.  the pile of leaves variety got attacked by cabbage worm.  i figured this out late, and sprinkled Bt on all the surviving cole crops.  seems to have worked.

note holes from caterpillar chomping.  white stuff is Bt.  hard to see other caterpillar evidence (the green poo pellets)

borage:  loving it, finally.  tho not using it really.  it's beautiful, the bees love it, it's big, it's stalk-y, and apparently will self-seed.  these are all excellent qualities for a planting in the orchard.  maybe not the best choice for directly beside the front door...  so far the bees have all been friendly, and none have tried to come inside.  the boy even "patted" a bumble today, siting that it felt, "tickly".  hmmm.

so pretty and pointy!

brussels sprouts:  teeny tiny buds are forming.  i hope they make it!

cauliflower:  got 6 of the "snow crown" variety.  some of them are turning purple-ish.  is this normal?  one of them is putting out flowers already.  small heads.  i think this is another broccoli story - not worth the space.

cukes:  we've harvested 4 thus far - loving the bush cukes!  i put tomato cages around them, and this is probably good enough.  they were spreading out quite a bit, so i'm glad they're now growing "up" a bit.  lots of flowers, lots of little cuke buds.  so excited about trying pickling!

tomatoes:  they are rocking!  so many tomatoes out there.  we bet the farm on the celebrity variety being our "slicer", and roma plums being our salsa/sauce go-to girl.  i waited too long on figuring out a trellis system, so we settled for quickie "teepees" over 1/2 the box.  don't think i'd do that again, as there has been a lot of tying up with twine to the posts.  but overall, not too much work, and lots of production!

swiss chard:  loving the chard!  i think there's a total of 7 "bright lights" plants out there.  they put out so many leaves, that i am cutting some every few days.  we are loving the chard sauted with pasta, in stir fries, and i stuffed some into veggie burgers.  all good!  i think this is a goodly amount of plants.

thoughts for next year's garden
even though we are in the thick of tending, weeding and harvesting, my mind already races ahead to improvements.

greens:  next year, i think i would like to do more greens.  loving having the fresh chard around for daily snips.  i would like some variety.  hopefully we can get some spinach in early, then add some kale.  i would love to try some salad-y greens, too.  arugula?  mesclun?  radicchio?

cole crops:  forget broccoli.  not worth the space for what they give.  maybe the same story for cauliflower?  i can get lovely heads of both at the farmers' market for cheap and probably spend the same amount as i did for starts.

peas:  would love to add these to the mix.  sugar snap.  is that what they're called?  anyway, the kinds that have the edible pods.  i can see snacking with the boy in the garden while playing outside.  yum!

herbs:  must remember to do more succession planting instead of all at once.  all my cilantro bolted, and i only used it about 5 times.  and i think starting marigolds from seeds was fun, but i will start them early inside, as they are just starting to flower now.

6:00 am weeding with the boy who promptly steals the kneeling pad such that he can wing it around


progress in june

boring post alert...

we've been making slow progress on the driveway now that the veggies are rockin out.  here's hubs doing the hard work of digging out the dirt to straighten my path out of the garage:

dig, honey, dig!  note:  new (to us) truck!

sidenote:  we acquired hubs' dreamboat of a truck.  he tried calling it clifford, the big red truck, but it can only be called the b.l.t. - big loud truck.  it's diesel, and he loves it.  it's very useful.  the boy loves it, too.  i love what it does for our yard.

then we got a massive pile of gravel/stone dust mix delivered.  yeah, 14 yards.  as hubs pointed out, "it never goes as far as you think it will."  at first i didn't believe him, but then he started shoveling.

no cars parked in garage, just the bubble mower surveying our progress

the gravel is to help bring up the level of the driveway at the street, as well as widen it to straighten it.  the bulk of the pile, though, is to line the walkways in the veggie garden.

everyone is helping out

biiiiiiig pile of gravel
 first we're putting down construction grade landscape fabric so the inherent rocks have a harder time migrating north.  then we'll pile a couple inches of gravel onto that, then, if we can find a local dealer of pea stone, we'll put a few inches of that on top.

i don't know why this makes me think of a fashion show catwalk, but it does

the drip irrigation system is in place and i couldn't be happier!  it's awesome!  hubs nerded out and made it so that we can turn on and off different rows of beds.  what's great about this tinker toys-esque system, is that it's super flexible.  if we wanted each bed to have its own shut off valve, we could easily splice it in.  that will be for garden 2.0.

the herb garden is doing well.  lots of growth due to some nice warm weather.

ok, the photo sucks, but the effect is nice - lots of greeeeeeeeeen

nice work, there, cilantro.  now what the eff do i do with this much cilantro at once?

ah, hello, basil?  what the eff?  your game is weak.  step it up.

four borage seeds = scratchy scariness!

morning glories are liking their new pot and bamboo stakes.  i actually see some buds!

sweet bay potted up.  failed on centering it.  sigh.
so, projects for this weekend will be:

transplant three of the borage animals somewhere else
transplant more marigolds into the tomato beds
put hay on strawberries and tomatoes and maybe other veggies
finish putting gravel onto the walkways
fertilize veggies with pro grow
get the house buttoned up for a week away!

happy 4th!  and as hubs' grandad used to say, the summer is over after the 4th...

i think (and am hoping) not.


much excitement in the spring garden

much to tell since my memorial day adventures...

got all the boxes planted, finally.  after the initial seedlings haul, i've been to two other nurseries to pick up "just a few more things".  oy.  it's like an addiction - just one more, i can fit it in.  but i think i'm done. i picked up a cool sweet bay plant along the way, and potted it for the patio.  i think i need one more pot of annuals or a potted fruit tree for the patio.  then i'll really be done.  really.

much excitement on the low-maintenance-ing of the garden front.  we (meaning hubs) forged 3 connected rain barrels from the 55 gallon drums i brought home a few weeks ago.  they are so cool!  why does free water make me so giddy?  we don't have the gutter diverter on yet, and they are already filled with just the rain we've had.  such a simple, cheap project that is so integral to the happiness of previously mentioned plant addict.  oddly, i loathe watering.  i love planting, weeding, staking, harvesting, but watering just sort of pisses me off.  and this video from the penn state cooperative extension office (shout out!), gave us the confidence to just do it.  easy peasy.

yeah, string of 3 barrels for 165 gallons of not-having-to-pull-the-effing-hose around happiness

connected at top and bottom

close up of strainer thingy on top

so the barrels, combined with this dope new drip irrigation system that the hubs designed, ordered and installed, has me so freakin happy.  all drip irrigation supplies ordered from fedco.  they are so helpful up in there.

inspiration for said drip irrigation system:  new portable speakers for the ipod, and the minutemen playing

drip irrigation checklist:  tape, hoses, fittings, coffee, blowtorch, cute hubs

and maybe the most exciting piece of news is that i have some baby broccoli growing!  i'm so proud (that i haven't killed it yet)!

variety = packman.  wocka, wocka, wocka, wocka, ...

my camera battery died after the broc pics, so i will have to take some pictures of the rocking patio garden for next post.  marigolds are coming up and are almost ready to be thinned and transplanted.  the borage is getting big and i'll probably move 3 of the 4 plants coming up.  the foliage is kind of prickly - not the best thing to have planted by the front door, perhaps?  [also, i saw some full-grown borage on a garden walk i took this past weekend, and i'm not a bit afeared of its size.  we'll see...]

scary-big borage plant - eeeeeeek!

my next tasks will be figuring out how i'm going to hold up the tomatoes.  cages?  trellis?  stakes?  i want something pretty and sturdy.  since this garden is front and center in our yard, i don't love the idea of the ugly cages, but i already have them, and i know they work.  i would love to design up something more rustic looking.  but i've read that some trellis systems take a lot of fussing.  something to obsess over for the next week or so.

and now for some inspiring pictures from the pocket garden tour i went on with my mom this weekend in portsmouth.  lots of fabulous ideas out there.  maybe for future revisions to our space.

cool idea for pathway = wood stumps on end 

love the way this rosemary is potted with another plant trellised over it

neat-o bench with tree/vine? up through middle.  nice and rustic-y

loved this dna-looking sculpture that housed a vigorous vine

um, hi, i'm a honeysuckle that blends oh so well with my neighbor the gorgeous rose.  what's your name?

friends are necessary in the garden

this flavor of osteospermum always attracts me.  they absolutely pop!

how great is this idea for garden sculpture?  i would have chosen different plants, but the idea is solid.

random ornate gate

mmmm, maple-licious!

i definitely want to work alliums into my perennial garden.  just love how they're so space-age looking

simple yet elegant staking for allium

hard to see but neat pairing of tree limb stakes - the farther one has a birdhouse on top

curved twigs as edging

this garden had a lot of "themed" beds:  tea, perfume, zoo animals, etc

"tea bed" complete with sun tea brewer
um, yeah, little person hang out idea or what?

grown-together hornbeam tree archway = drooooool

rustic archway = future entrance to the orchard?


a memorial weekend to remember

the hubs decided to take some major time off around the holiday weekend so that we could get this garden started.  we borrowed grampy's trusty ranger to get more lumber, and some 55 gallon barrels to collect rain with.  [borrowing the truck for the umpteenth time this spring prompted a major fight very important discussion between me and the hubs on getting our own truck.  that's in the works as i type.]

still life, with ranger

as i went out for the barrels, a local landscaper dropped 9 yards of rich, composty soil in our yard.  at least he charged us for 9 yards, but it's probably more like 11 or 12.

hard to tell scale, but there is a rake and a shovel on the right-most pile, and there are actually 3 piles.  sheesh.

hubs got to work building the one million raised beds.  we had hemmed and hawed about the material to use, but in the end chose to go with pressure treated.  especially since these are for edibles, we wanted to be cautious.  we got the kind with cqa, which has nothing on the epa action list, though there are no comprehensive studies on the long-term effects.  what a choice.  we couldn't really afford cedar, so we went ahead with it.  it's fairly simple construction - 2 2X6s on a side, corner posts of 4X4s, drilled and screwed.

the work room - hubs is particularly proud of his cord hanging innovations

boxes were made at a break-neck pace.  then set in their spot and leveled in all directions.

hubs leveling each one meticulously upon my command that they "not look wonky"

we put down landscape fabric across the bottom to slow the progress of rocks up through the boxes.  then i filled with the brown goodness.  i almost counted the number of shovelfuls for each wheelbarrow, and then wheelbarrow trips to fill each box, but didn't.  even i am not that big of a geek.  but trust me, it was a lot.

and shoveling, and shoveling, and shoveling...

the original plan had all the boxes lined right up, all pretty like.  of course that ain't real life.  there's a huge rock in the way, so the boxes closest to the house had to be shifted over.  of course those were the boxes that i had pegged for the strawberries, and those puppies were more than ready to be planted, having sat in our fridge since the fedco tree sale a month ago.  so we adjusted our plan, but had to move a ton of soil just to be able to fit in the other strawberry box in its new spot.  in retrospect, i should have just let the strawberries go in different boxes.  i'm so stupidly stubborn like that.

cute, neat "plan".  note:  straight lines, orderly boxes, humor

yummy variety of strawberry that we are now the proud parents of...yup, 50 plants

our blueberry box dimensions and position changed about 5 times

to the boy: "do you want to help?"
boy:  "no, i want to be the director"
i kid you not.

in maine, there's this half-joked about rule that you have to get your garden in by memorial day or else you're screwed, vegetably speaking.  the growing season is so short that you absolutely have to maximize the time those suckers are pushing out their spawn.  so i was actually a bit stressed about getting them in the ground.  tuesday, the day after the full-court press at all nurseries in the area, i loaded up on starts.  it felt amazing.  two kinds of broccoli, two kinds of cabbage, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, bush cukes, sweet peppers, swiss chard, and tomatoes, including 10 roma, 8 slicers, and 2 kinds of cherry.  whew!

there's my girls!

teaching the boy how to plant a tomato - tool box required

before aerial
after aerial

tornado warnings (!!) prevented me from completing the last of the boxes today.  but i feel great that i pretty much made that memorial day garden deadline.  now hubs just has to remember to water them.