Summer. And one weird rabbit.

It’s a scorcher this summer. Had a “pleasant” morning pulling weeds for 1.5 hours and the perspiration was literally dripping off me. It’s nice to see increasingly weed-free area, no matter the personal cost. I will cover up the bare ground with compost ASAP because the Oxalis was already shooting seeds. For once I didn’t get one in my eye, so that must be a good omen.

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All the Lupinus polyphyllus ‘Tall Russell’ seedlings that I winter sowed and planted out in the former nursery (now “Patio Garden”) have survived. Impressive! I got one bloom on the one plant that survived last year, so that bodes Very Well Indeed for next year’s display. I’ve been madly filling in this big space in a vain attempt to allow no room for the weeds (or rabbits). Next year it should be pretty glorious.

I do feel that I have to mention the rabbit. It doesn’t live at my house, but I find myself calling it “my” rabbit. No! This is the wrong attitude, I know. S/he is not actually welcome here! Despite all my frantic hollering and waving as I dash out in my pajamas and bare feet, s/he’s back every morning eating some new odd thing. Today I saw the Baptisia shuddering oddly and sure enough, there was the Bunny chowing down on the mature stalks. The other day Bunny was eating half dried milkweed leaves from a pile of stalks I’d pulled out. Bunny ignores the tender new parsley and eats the toughest old stalks it can find. It gets in my pots and strips the edamame bare, leaving the peas (what?) and also chomps the Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’.  I hope this is not a trait being passed on to the inevitable lil bunnies about to appear.

One of the veggie garden sections is doing well; I’ve already harvested lots of peas and have started in on the broccoli DiCiccio and Piracicaba. Got the main heads and there will be side shoots galore. The Brussels sprouts are coming on nicely, as are the cabbages, although there have been a lot of inroads by cabbage loopers. I see wasps in there – are they drinking water droplets or are they getting the caterpillars? At any rate, the plants seem to be recovering. I am going out for BT just in case. I will need it at the garden I manage at Congregation Beth Shalom (cbsgarden.wordpress.com).

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Planted one Tuscan Kale, which provides plenty for my husband and me. Carrots coming along well, pulling the first few thinnings of St. Valery and Nantes. Wow. I always forget until the first bite how much better homegrown is.

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And why else would I garden except for Tomatoes and Peppers? I grow a LOT. Most of the maters are setting fruit, but the peppers are kind of sitting there. No idea why – that garden area usually is very productive. I will add more compost and some organic fertilizer and hope that helps.

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Tomatoes:

Black Sea Man, Cosmonaut Volkov, Isis Candy Shop, Italian Heirloom, Mama Leone, Mikado, Paul Robeson, Principe Borghese, Pruden’s Purple and Rose Hill Pink.

Peppers/Chile:

Alma Paprika, Anaheim Hot, Ausilio Thin Skin Italian, Bridge to Paris, Chiltepin, Chimayo, Doe Hill, Feher Ozon, Gatherer’s Gold, Jalapeño Traveler, Jimmy Nardello’s, Lemon Drop, Mirasol, Petite Marseillais, Pippin’s Golden Honey, Quadrato Asti Giallo, and Shishito. This is NOT TOO MANY!

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Hope Springs Eternal: I hope my peas do too

Last year was such a disaster in many ways, not the least of which was the garden. However, even though 1-2″ of snow is forecast, I went out and planted the PEAS, (Green Arrow and Dwarf Gray Sugar) as well as some other cold tolerant things like Pak Choi ‘Green Fortune’, Cherry Belle radish, and 3 kinds of carrots: Nantes, Tonda di Parigi, (little round ones), and a new variety for me, St. Valery from Seed Savers.

For me, planting is an expression of faith and hope that this year there won’t be any family medical emergencies or weeks away like last year. Faith and hope that plants will be able to come up despite the million new weed seeds that were deposited thanks to my neglect. But really, every year is sort of like that (minus the weeds gone to seed). There’s not many things finer or more lush than the garden I picture in April. I have a feeling my garden will be more of a sanctuary than ever before. I’ve scaled it back considerably in an effort to reduce future stress. This creates a shopportunity for more perennials!! All good.

Yeah, about that spring..

Wberefore art thou, O Spring? Come BACK we miss you!

Yes, we were spoiled by the warm weather and now reality sets in – this is Chicagoland, and we hardy souls don’t put our tomato plants out until at least Mother’s Day no matter what. Mine are still under the lights in the basement, repotted and waiting it out until they can be buried in blissfully warm soil up to their necks. Not now.

Not to say nothing is happening in my garden. The peas, spinach, arugula, mache, radishes, and bunching onions are up, as well as a few potatoes – mainly the ones in a container. I hope the others haven’t rotted in the cold and damp. I’ve set out broccoli, kale, onion and shallot sets and all are doing fine.

The biggest excitement for me is mini-clover. I had a lot of bare spots this year and since I am not a fan of grass, I decided to plant mini-clover and let it spread. I have large patches of regular lawn clover and it looks so lovely! Mini-clover is.. small.. and only gets about 3-4″ tall. Combining small delicate stature with deep green color, self-fertilizing super powers, drought tolerance and durability, this could be a real winner. I ordered one pound from outsidepride.com and sowed it on my front lawn and parkway.

I broadcast the coated seeds in roughed up but bare areas on April 24 and it started coming up a few days later. With all the rain we’ve gotten, it’s off to a great start. Hoping it can outcompete undesirables. I can’t let dandelions get a foothold because I wouldn’t do that to my neighbors (whose lawns are seas of perfect emerald green) but I hope they don’t mind clover.

Ahh, Spring

Not bored any longer! Since my last post I’ve been busy starting seeds, transplanting seedlings, hardening off seedlings, planting out cold weather things and complaining about all the rain. I managed to get my spring cleaning done inside (since it WAS rainy) but not outside. I made sure to concentrate on the front yard at least. So many fun tasks await. At least I got all the cold weather seeds planted and some are coming up: radishes, spinach, peas at least. I got the potatoes in (La Ratte, a french fingerling heirloom from Seed Savers) but haven’t seen them up yet. The garlic is looking cheerful and sturdy. Behind that I’ve planted a row of carrots (3 kinds) overseeded with radishes. Usually I plant according to the square foot method, but I just wanted fewer veggies this year. Weird, huh! So I am going for a linear look instead in some parts of the garden. I also planted out my little seedlings of Zebrune shallots and Newburg onions (also from Seed Savers). All surviving well because of the rain here and there. It was gloriously warm for a few days but this week looks to be back to actual spring weather. The daffodils have been spectacular and this year my Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica) is blooming like mad. I planted little divisions from a friend a couple of years ago. Blue + yellow! Genius, if inadvertent. In my garden, I just fill holes with plants and hope for the best. Combo I like best today: Golden Shadows Pagoda Dogwood with daffodils bringing out the yellow. Ooh.

Last year I decided to put in some chartreuse and it really livens things up. Sorry about the weeds – looks like chickweed is going to have another banner year. You can also see the remnants here of last year’s experiment with a fall planted cover crop – in this case oats – that I will leave as is and plant through. This used to be the “nursery” area but all those plants went over to my daughter’s garden and now, hallelujah, I have space to fill!

Hellebore update:

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H. Royal Heritage mix
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H. Winter Sunshine
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H. Peppermint Ice so nice!
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H. Royal Heritage mix

I love the way hellebores look when they first come out, but then, as you can see, if you don’t have a light colored flower, they tend to look like indistinct clumps, not too exciting. I am going to move the seedlings (many now) to an area by my walkway so I can enjoy them close up.

Veg Garden update:

Trying a new trellis system this year. The stakes are cut from my Smokebush (Cotinus coggygria), which I coppice every year for nice long stems. I’ll tie string between them as the peas and cucumbers grow up past the fencing.

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See you next time!

 

Midwinter Cleanup

Temperatures in the high 60s! The gardening bug strikes. What to do?

There are some seeds to be started indoors: onions, parsley and basil for indoor use, violas, sweet peas, and any chile that needs a loooong season to produce, like Chiltepin. This Sonoran desert native, also known as bird pepper, forms an airy 2′ tall profile with little round fruits that are hot, hot, hot. But addictive. One little chile in your salsa and boom! Or crush and sprinkle over vanilla ice cream, which tames the heat a little bit. I have to start these very early, plant them in a spot that gets a lot of reflected heat, and hope that it’s not too rainy. I usually get a handful of chiles from a plant, but every year I hope to do better.

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Outside, the hellebores need trimming. Last year’s leaves have served as an insulating blanket, but they do nothing for this year’s looks. Cutting close to the emerging buds will let the flowers show in all their glory. Wish this warm weather, they should be opening soon.