Sep 152016
 

kids-garden-herbs-in-containers

Herbs are a great and simple addition to any garden, even this one build for children to explore.  Their various shapes, colors, patterns, textures, and scents all add fun variety without much extra effort.

For those varieties which tend to spread, burying a pot to plant them in often works well.  These pots can either be chosen for their abilities to blend in or stand out.  Imagine if, in the photo above, the post were a bright red or blue.  The burst of color would add visual interest early in the season when the plants may still be on the smaller side.

To help balance out the green of the herbs and attract more insects, various flowers were included in this corner of the garden.  Lest you think herbs have no value in the insect world, you may be surprised to find they actually play a role in helping deter certain pest insects or attracting caterpillars in various stops along the way to becoming a butterfly.  Do not let their homely colors full you into thinking they do not play a major role in the stage that is called your garden.

This post contains affiliate links.

Sep 082016
 

pink begonias in bloom

While my personal garden does have the same begonias as those pictured above, this is not my garden.  It is one that we have visited and enjoyed.  Having seen it in different seasons and over several years, I have come to learn from what the various gardeners have done.  Here is one example, both close up (above) and progressively further away (below), of a set of beds in this large public garden.

begonia and canna beds

 

sun and shade beds 2

 

sun and shade from afar

Thoughts on the gardens above:

  • This set of planting beds lines a walkway, creating an entrance to the public gardens set further back.  Without the use of signs, the gardeners have drawn the public to the point of entrance.
  • There is the lack of variation from year to year.  The same flowers are used in the same way.  Once a good combination was found, there was no need to deviate and plant the beds anew every year.
  • The beds are on the narrow side, using only two levels of plants.  Both are bold in color or size.  The lovely coloring of the Canna lilly leaves helps draw the eye upwards without the need for a mid-height plant.
  • The trees at the start of the walkway have hostas planted underneath.  These plants do well in partial shade, which is exactly what the trees provide.  Once full sun is available, the flower beds provide a space for the full sun loving plants.
  • As the space around this section is very open (last photo), the gardeners were able to use large boldly colored plants without making visitors feel cramped.  The scale actually feels very appropriate.  Smaller plants would have felt lacking, unless the beds were larger horizontally to give the sense of size.
  • This is one of my favorite parts of this garden. Okay, I really love most of it.  Maybe I should say I really like this part of the garden because it looks good both up close and far away.  As you gain distance from it, the over all affect does not fade.  It is still bold and making a statement.

While my garden does not have the space of the one above, I have taken several of these lessons to heart and used them in my garden, or so I have tried.  Once I find a plant that works in a certain space, I go with it.  No need to try something new year after year.  On the other hand, if something is not working, try something new.

 

Aug 222016
 

ragady flower garden

Even an untrained eye could tell you the photo above is, well, horrid.  For many reasons, which I will not be going into.  What it does capture is the feeling and look of a spare garden box I had in June.  Last year this garden bed held a few flowers and lots of peppers.  This year I had no peppers.  What I did have were flowers that looked very ragady and forelorn.  Most of the other flowers had sold on the road side stand.  Due to lack of watering or other issues, these had not.  Instead of adding them to the compost pile, I filled this garden box with them.  My goal was to keep out weeds.  Instead, this is what I got …

non-ragady flower garden

No added fertilizers, no weeding (though there are a few in there), no watering.  I planted and let them be.  So what happened?  Over the winter I had added at lease one 5-gallon bucket of coffee grounds and filters from a local restaurant.  That was it.  Coffee grounds and filters are a great soil additive, helping with soil structure, retention of moisture, and add roughage for our worms.  While not everyone agrees with adding so many grounds at once, it has worked out for me.  Of course, these were on top of wood chips.  I also have a tendency to empty our added from the fire pit into the garden beds.  While we have a compost pile, I find myself semi-lasagna gardening a lot of time.  I think of it as either being lazy or efficient, composting in place and saving time in the spring.

The moral of the story: Getting good results in your garden does not have to be hard and labor intensive.  With the right environment, even the worst looking plants can thrive.

P.S. While taking the last pictures I found a stowaway from last year – a self seeded pepper plant. And to keep it real, I left the weed in the garden bed till after I took the picture.  Your welcome. 😉

self seeded pepper plant

Jul 162016
 

IMG_20151023_121244853[1]

During a summer job in college, I was blessed to get to spend hours each day walking through nature, being exposed to sights and sounds many may never see.  When it is just you and the forest, animals appear that normally would not, you hear things that often get lost in the noise of the day, and you are able to sort through thoughts and ideas that you may otherwise not have time to consider.*

One of my constant thoughts was that the beauty of nature, the unique aspects on the minute scale as well as the large, were not randomly placed together.  They work so smoothly, with such grace and awe, they are a tribute to their creator, the Great Artist of our world.

While the different aspects left me in quiet admiration many times, I never thought to stop and worship them for their beauty, unique qualities, or graceful flights and songs.  Instead, I often felt small, reminded of how silly we often make things with our pointless worries and whining; how our focus is often taken off the original plan by circumstances which have caused flaws to appear in the initial design.  If the Great Artist can plan such large scale workings in such small, accurate detail, who am I to think I know better? What makes me so great as to assume everything around me must stop and focus on my whimsical desires? What makes me worthy of the grace shown in moments of need, when I was not even sure what to ask for?

I stood in the middle of a dry creek and watched water from a two-day-prior rain storm begin to fill the spaces between rocks, getting higher and higher till I had to move; in the middle of a pine forest watching humming birds fly between the trees; silently on top of a hill in a hardwood stand while two baby skunks wrestled and played their way to who knows where; along a hunting trail as a mama turkey tried to distract me from her baby chicks hiding in the nearby grass.  I passed old homesteads and new houses; daffodils growing in old forest openings, planted by somebody long gone, and walked through new openings filled with plants, fighting to be the first to reach the now plentiful sunlight.

If these creatures have been provided for, how much more so have we been blessed the the Great Artists’ plan?

IMG_20140706_125450329

This Is My Father’s World

This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears
All nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world: I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;
His hand the wonders wrought.

This is my Father’s world, the birds their carols raise,
The morning light, the lily white, declare their Maker’s praise.
This is my Father’s world: He shines in all that’s fair;
In the rustling grass I hear Him pass;
He speaks to me everywhere.

This is my Father’s world. O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world: the battle is not done:
Jesus Who died shall be satisfied,
And earth and Heav’n be one.

This is my Father’s world, dreaming, I see His face.
I ope my eyes, and in glad surprise cry, “The Lord is in this place.”
This is my Father’s world, from the shining courts above,
The Beloved One, His Only Son,
Came—a pledge of deathless love.

This is my Father’s world, should my heart be ever sad?
The lord is King—let the heavens ring. God reigns—let the earth be glad.
This is my Father’s world. Now closer to Heaven bound,
For dear to God is the earth Christ trod.
No place but is holy ground.

This is my Father’s world. I walk a desert lone.
In a bush ablaze to my wondering gaze God makes His glory known.
This is my Father’s world, a wanderer I may roam
Whate’er my lot, it matters not,
My heart is still at home.

Click here to read a bit of background to this story and see a picture of the song writer.

*While I may have had weeks to “consider my thoughts”, that does not mean I came to a conclusion about everything. Specifically whether I thought my then romantic interest would lead to marriage and what I would say when the time came.  Turns out this inconclusive thinking caused great concern for a particular someone sooner than I anticipated, and over a decade later I am still teased about it.  Oh well, he can tease me for decades to come if he likes, and I will still do his ironing and cook him peas; both activities that should demonstrate exactly how much I love him.  😉

Jun 042016
 

2016 Garden Update

Several changes have taken place around the garden and yard this week.  Most were due to a domino effect.

For starters, I can now pull into my own side of a garage, a first in almost a decade.  It gets even better.  I can pull into my own side of a garage using a garage door opener AND without having to drive through mud.  Yes, folks, the driveway width now matches up with the garage we have.

This little update was supposed to happen a few weeks ago.  However, the guy doing it had to delay things a few days while the underground utilities were marked.  Then it came to be planting time.  Where I am, nothing much takes precedent over planting  time if you are a farmer, a family member of a farmer, a friend of a farmer who can drive equipment, or any in any way associated with the farming community.  So we waited.

A call on Tuesday morning changed all that.  By supper time I was able to pull into my garage without having to drive through the ever present mud puddle.  I also no longer needed to use the fairly redneck style of a ramp setup I had in place to get my car over the several inches difference between the ground level and the garage floor.  Oh the issues you run into when updating old parts of a house.

While planning the extension of the driveway, I asked if he would be willing to leave the dirt on site.  Turns out that little question fill a need we both had – I needed just a bit more dirt in low places along the garage and he needed somewhere for the dirt to go.  By keeping it onsite the job also was a bit cheaper and was faster to complete.

With the dirt spread and rain in the forecast, the next morning I knew what my focus would be – spreading grass seed.  This satisfied something my husband has been wanting me to address – the weeds in the yard along the side of the garage.  This is the place where a very deep trench was dug to put in the foundation for the garage part of the house.  With a deep trench comes a lot of dirt to move.  This had been piled along the edge of the trench, thereby killing any grass that had been there.  Over the past few months, the weeds have taken over.

driveway dirt collage

Having the dirt from the driveway spread out in this area meant that I did not need to spend time loosening up the dirt and filling in depressions.  Rain meant that I did not need to spend time every day watering the seed.  So, while it is not the best time of the year to plant grass seed, it was the time I had available unless I wanted to wait several months and let weeds take over.

With grass seed spread, I moved on to getting ride of several buckets of wood chips sitting by the shed.  These were added to the shade garden at the front of the house.

After dumping the buckets I decided to take “a few minutes” to address some issues in this bed – mulch needing spread out, weeds and tree sprouts removed, sticks picked up and stepping stone laid back out.  Amazing how “a few minutes” to finish a gardening task never takes just those few minutes.

With the driveway installed, I no longer worried about leaving the spray painted marks from the utilities.  However, when I went to mow the grass, I found out that my weed eater no longer seems to be working.  Flashbacks of The Great Replacement washed over me.  After a breath or two I calmed down and moved on.  Hand pulling weeds in the worst areas would not be the end of the world.  Also, our edger will take care of the ones along the curb.  A new weed-eater will be in our near future.  These are the things of life that I never envisioned being a part of being an adult.  Sort of like property taxes and insurance.

Time was saved not using the weed-eater, so I spent it instead spraying the weeds that have popped up in the driveway.  I used to pull these by hand, not liking to use chemicals for every little problem I come across.  I may still do so, but wanted to see if I could save time right now by using a spray and perhaps save time later by them not coming back as quickly.

This is a point where my husband and I disagree.  He is all for spraying.  I want to see if I can find other solutions.  It may have to do with our backgrounds, or with various studying/reading I have done over the years, or maybe the difference in how we view our time.  Either way, we have finally come to an unspoken agreement – as long as I do not complain about it, ask him to do it, or leave it so it starts looking really bad, he does not care one way or the other.  Some areas I have succeeded in, others (like the violets in the yard) I have failed at.  I guess we are not all perfect. 😉

blackberry bushes bloom

In other parts of the garden, the onion sets planted last week have sprouted, little tomatoes are beginning to appear and the blackberries are blooming.  The radish seeds have begun sprouting.

My strawberries also have slugs.  Once the rain stops I will try putting a trap out for them.  I did not think they were too bad till I saw The Big Guy.  He was so fat and slimy, he would have covered the finger nail on my pinky finger.  That was the point where I resolved to do something about it, these were not just one or two little guys doing the damage.

strawberry grub collage

I also went gung-ho on trimming up a fairy rose bushes that are in the middle of a side yard.  They have really needed trimming, not exactly a job I jump for joy at though due to all the thorns.  Last month I did a poor job of beginning the trimming, in hope that new side canes would form where I wanted them before I cut off more of the canes where I did not want them.  In the end it only looked bad.  So, I jumped in … well, not literally. Remember, thorns.

rose bush thorns

I did a more aggressive trim this week, also removing a lot of virginia creeper and hackberry sprouts that had been hiding among the canes.  Once it was all cleaned out it looked much better.  Emptier, but better.  A few days later I noticed the roses blooming, so apparently my trim job did not shock it too much. We will see if I think the same thing come the end of summer.

 

 

 

May 272016
 

2016 Garden Update

Garden perennials are my friend. They get planted once, then come back over and over if treated right.  A great return on investment in my book.

There are now several various perennials in my garden, both flowers and fruits.  The flowers were somewhat unplanned, a rush planting when I happened to find them unexpectedly and they needed planting right then.  What could have been disastrous turned out to actually be the right call on my part.  There are a few that I wish I had put elsewhere, but those can be easily moved later in the year.

Last week a friend gave me two starts of Rhubarb.  Yippee, another perennial! This will be a long-term relationship as it will take several years before I can reap the rewards. Till then they will have a home in one of the garden beds.

After taking a year off in the plant starting area, I set out to start my tomato plants for the year.  While they sprouted, they did not grow much at all.  Perhaps it was the lack of putting them under a florescent light?  Either way, I knew I was going to have to look elsewhere for plants.  My neighbor had several extras so I went that route.  There are now 10 cherry plants (of two varieties), 3 yellow tomato plants, and 3 red ‘regular’ tomato plants.  So far so good.  I mixed up where they were planted a bit to see if my success at cherry tomatoes last year had to do with the type of plant or the location.

Over a month ago I picked up a bag of onion sets, planning to put them in the ground when I had a few free moments.  It is a bit too late at this time, but I hope to get at least a few from the bag of 100.  These are used a lot in our beef stew recipe.  I found they are available in the winter months at the store, in the form of pearl onion, though they are almost $4 a bag.  By spending about $2 and a bit of time now, I can have many more of these frozen in the freezer for future use.

Radishes were a spring crop that I harvested but did not plant.  Last year I had spread seeds in the gaps in the strawberry bed, leaving some to go to seed.  I would like to say it was a planned experiment, but like most things last year it was a “perfectly imperfect garden”.  This year I had radishes in the strawberry bed, as well as in the yard.  I gathered up the seed pods, saving them for this fall.  Several were opened, the seeds spread in a different bed this time.  I will let you know what happens.

strawberry patch collage

Three or four years ago I took two smaller raised beds and converted them to a strawberry patch. It was a learning curve for me, but now things seem to be doing well.  The strawberries came back strong this year.  While I have only gotten a picture of one day’s harvest, we have had several bowls of these the past two weeks.  I think part of the success was a mild winter.  They did not have to be covered and uncovered like they would have if it had been as cold as it was two winters ago.  They are already sending out runners, all of which are being directed towards one side of the bed.  If I can start getting that side established then I will be able to take out the old plants in 1/4 of the bed each year starting in Year 4.  This is a great way to keep the bed renewed and producing.

The blackberry plants began blooming this week.  I did a bad job keeping up with their trimming last summer and am paying for it this year.  The one group is too large and will cause me problems soon.  Later this summer I will trim them like they should have been in order to have upright canes.  Something I did do right last year as to lay canes over in order to create new plants for this year.  While I should have a nice small-ish crop this year, I am looking at having a much larger crop next spring.  All we can do is learn and grow, literally.

As for my goal of using up the canned goods I already have, I made 6 batches of cornbread muffins earlier this week.  It resulted in almost 9 dozen, most going to the freezer.  There are very few things left, namely – pickled beets, about 6 jars of crushed tomatoes, green tomato pie filling (destined for muffins), various jams and 2 more quarts of corn.  There are also a few quarts of  applesauce to be used up in the next month or so.  I had not realized exactly how much I had canned and how many jar I had till this past year.  I did no canning last year and yet we still have food in the basement.

May 132016
 

green strawberries plants

If you agree with the saying, “A watched pot never boils”, you should try staring at strawberries.  So many green ones that I am bursting with anticipation.  I can not wait till they start turning red.  Hopefully I can get to them before the other bugs do.

Spring of last year revealed that several of my strawberry plants had died. I filled in the open spaces with radishes in hope of helping keep out weeds. The strawberry plants came back fine this year, along with some self-sown radishes from plants I had left in the garden over winter.  Any runners produced this year will be used to fill in a section, thereby creating a section for Year 1 plants, a section for Year 2 plants, a section for Year 3 plants, and a section for Year 4 plants.  Any of the existing plants in the Year 2,3, and 4 spaces will be left.  After Year 4, the plants in Year 1 will be removed and the process begun all over again.  This will help keep the strawberry patch stocked with young plants, as older ones do not produce as many berries.

The thought of picking a bowl full of berries to eat with pancakes sounds so delicious right now.  So much so, I am pretty sure there will be none left from my patch to make jam.

May 052016
 

A productive past couple of days has left me feeling accomplished and very tired.  It has also left me feeling very behind and lacking.

I have been finishing up the inside of the house, in preparation for new carpet being installed on Friday.  I have finally finished removing wall paper, priming, and painting two coats on walls, as well as priming and painting (2 coats) on the ceilings.  Old carpet and padding has been pulled. Floors have been swept.  Closets cleaned out.

So why is it that I am feeling behind?  Because my yard is covered in weeds.  Look at it! It is horrible.:

yard weeds collage

They are everywhere I look.  The kids only help by “blowing on the pretty white flowers”, not realizing how much I hate those pretty white flowers.  My mowing seems to only help for a day or two, then over night everything comes back stronger than ever. Or so it seems.

Then it rains. It all grows bigger and bigger, laughing at me, while I have been whittling time away on inside work.  All hope is gone, I may as well throw in the towel now and not even try gardening this year!

(throwing in the towel)

I decided to walk around the yard, snapping pictures of all the ways I am failing as a gardener. See, I wanted to show you exactly how bad things had gotten. The proof is not in short supply.

By the time I had completed my trip around the yard, I found more that I was expecting.

spring flower collage

See, my focus had been distracted to the one part of the yard that received the most impact from our house work during the past two years.  It is the place where a 6+ foot deep trench had been dug and the dirt piled up, where trucks had been driving, where trees had been cut down, where wood chips had been piled since late last spring, and where almost no grass is growing.  My focus had been on this part of the yard.  Even though this small part was small in comparison to the whole, it is what my attention went to every time I pulled into our yard or looked out a window.

Meanwhile, in other section of the yard, flowers were blooming and growing.  Places that in years past held no flowers or were struggling, were now showing signs of thriving.  Color was showing up everywhere, pushing out the brown and mud of winter.

Isn’t this often how we view our gardens and life?  We worry and focus on the small part we are working on, forgetting to look around, forgetting to look at those places we improved upon in the past.

There will always be bare spots, weeds, lackluster parts of our garden.  And life.  People, including ourselves, live up or down down to our expectations of them.  If all you expect are weeds, then that is what you will find.  You will find yourself too tired to go do battle to take back your yard.  Other things will call out to you which seem to have a higher likelihood of success.  You will throw in the towel before you have even started.

However, if you can look at your garden and find all the things going right, or the potential for things going right, then that is what you will see.  You will find you have more energy to make it like you want it.  The rainy days will not seem so forlorn, but instead will be watering your flowers, making them ready to bloom brighter when the sun comes out.

Don’t believe me?  Take a look again at the pictures above.  Can you tell which part of the yard I feel better about, the part I have higher hopes for?  Hint: it is not the one with the “pretty white flowers” that my kids like.  The part I feel better about I am more likely to spend time in, working to make it even better.

Yes, I am talking about gardening, though the analogy works very well for life.  A conversation with a friend this week reminded me of that very point.  I proceeded to tell her about all the ways I am failing (persistent weeds), all the things going wrong (quick growing weed), and all the ways I should have done better (deep rooted weeds).  She then proceeded to encourage me (spreading flower seeds) and remind me of where our family has come from in the past (those perennial flowers planted several seasons ago that are now stronger and flowering more).  I was reminded to stop looking over at my neighbor’s life (“The grass is always greener…”) and focus on mine.

Sometimes, our garden really is shabby.  That is when you choose a corner to start improving upon, pulling weeds and planting things you enjoy.  Other times, it is only your perspective, looking at the areas still in progress.  You forget to turn and see the things you have added to make your garden your own.  Do not get so focused on the seed that your forget to see the flower.

 

Aug 202015
 

vegetable vine growing into tree collage

There are some garden issues you just have to chuckle about, while making sure they do not produce larger issues.

If left up to themselves, almost all of our vines would have grown up into trees, like this one has.  The first to try was a pumpkin vine.  I was  not exactly looking forward to having pumpkins growing 20 – 60 feet off the ground, so I kept pulling it off the limbs and redirecting it.  As the trellis it was grown up was located directly under the tree, this was an ongoing issue.  Then the cucumbers decided to try and got away with it for a while, till I noticed and pulled them out too.

What I forgot to pay attention to was the back side of the compost pile.  In previous years our vine producing plants have not grown nearly this vigorously, so it was never an issue.  Seem the pile was just high enough for them to reach up and grab the lowest edge of a branch.  That was all that was needed.  Now we have a pumpkin growing on the vine about 10 feet in the air.  I will let you know how it goes, as I am too curious to pull it out now.