I have trouble focusing on just one thing in the garden.  This is an important time to be planting early spring vegetables and thinking about producing food, but I am also keeping my eye on the beauty of the flowers and taking a little time to clean them up and weed around the beds.  I love seeing the trees and shrubs starting to leaf out and bloom.  Even the lawn must be attended to a little.  In all the activity I am always watching birds and even what is crawling in the compost pile.  Like I said, I have trouble focusing and specializing.  I just dabble in whatever interests me at the moment.

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Serviceberry amelanchier laevis.  This native serviceberry is blooming now with a promise of sweet berries in June.  It grew so much this past year that I am guessing it is eight feet tall now and is solidly established after a slow start.

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Another native shrub – spicebush lindera benzoin.  It looks like this shrub could use some pruning, but the tiny yellow flowers are just starting to bloom.  There are no berries here, but it is a host plant for the spicebush swallowtail butterfly.  Actually, I think I might get berries if I had a second spicebush for cross-pollination.  You can see the serviceberry bush in the background.

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I spent quite a while yesterday morning cleaning up four strawberry patches I have around the garden.  First I cleaned out dead leaves and pulled up runners.  I moved some of the smaller plants to new locations.  I put down compost between the plants and watered it in then laid down straw from my ornamental grasses between the plants.  That keeps the strawberries off the ground and there are less problems with pests and diseases.  Can’t wait!

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Time to eat these onions.  This weekend I planted more onion bulbs, red potatoes, and seeds for peas, kale, pak choi, turnips, and lettuce.  I am also trying spinach again, which I have never had much success with.  These plants all do well in cool weather.  There never seems to be enough room for all the vegetables I want to plant, so I mix them in with the flowers or pull up more grass to plant more food.

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A project for the weekend was putting in two poles for laundry.  Previously we only had one laundry line.  Thanks Dan!!  The green side of me likes to limit my use of the gas dryer whenever possible.  In the background you can see the red leaves of the crabapple.  In the foreground the common lilac is getting ready to bloom.  On the left are the strawberries.  The yellow daffodils are still looking good, but starting to wind down in some areas.

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This is one of the later daffodils with white petals and a yellow trumpet.

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Another late daffodil with a peach colored trumpet.  I am glad to see these flowers multiplying each year.

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I started to turn the compost pile yesterday, but realized that the shovel I was using was likely to slice a lot of worms in half and kill other critters in the pile, so I went and got this pitchfork.  It is called a 5-tine manure fork.  Now I really feel like a farmer!  I need to finish turning the pile.  Parts of the pile were steaming but other parts seemed a little slimy, so it needs some oxygen.  We have gotten a lot of leaves blowing in from the neighbor’s yards this year, while I appreciated and added to the pile.

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I disturbed a nice worm while cleaning up the oregano patch.  The worms improve the structure of the soil and eat organic material like bits of dead leaves, then poop out worm castings, which are great fertilizer.

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Wild violets are blooming in the lawn and here among the ground cover plants.  Such a delicate design!  I am not sure what I will do to improve the front lawn this year.  I would like a nice organic lawn service to make it look good!  The back lawn, which I do not worry much about, is full of creeping charlie, my least favorite plant.

Notice:  At some point this blog will run out of storage space.  At that point I am thinking of starting a new blog that will refer back to this blog.  I guess I will do this when I have to and I am not sure when that will be.  I don’t feel like paying for the additional storage space indefinitely.

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Last week, as I looked at pictures of last year in the garden, I realized that it was time for the vernal witch hazel to bloom, so I went out in the snow to take a look.  Sure enough the bottom branches were starting to bloom.

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First yellow blooms on the vernal witch hazel bush.

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Stepping back to see the whole vernal witch hazel bush, which was planted in the fall of 2012.  Just the bottom branches are starting to bloom.

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Wednesday morning brought six more inches of wet, heavy snow, which weighed down the shrubs.  I had to go out to the yew bushes in the front of this picture and the viburnum in the very back and shake the icy snow off of each branch to keep them from breaking and get them to stand up straight again.  Then on Friday the weather was in the 50s and the snow started melting quickly.

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The ice around the low hoop finally melted enough so that I could open one side and get some fresh air in.  Although it looks pathetic after months of freezing weather, I was heartened to see the onions growing and new leaves on the kale and tatsoi.  I could probably throw some lettuce seeds in here in a little while and see what comes up.

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Although the yellow kale leaves are only good for compost there are new green leaves starting in the center showing that the plant is alive. So I should have this plant producing food again soon.

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The pak choi roots have sent up new leaves!  There were also a couple of leaf lettuce plants with new leaves.

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Strawberry leaves poke out of the snow in the garden.  I saw quite a few strawberry plants coming up, so once it is a little warmer I will need to clean out the dead material and extra vines around each plant.

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Various types of sedum are greening up around the garden.  I don’t want to clean up the leaves too much because we are expecting more snow and cold weather on Sunday.

Animal sighting:  I saw a skunk meandering near the little pond I can see from the window at work.  Later in the week I was driving through my neighborhood and smelled the strong smell of skunk.  Seems like the wildlife are ready to come out of their hibernation now, too.

Garden Snapshots

August 4, 2013

My task this week was to start to prepare my winter garden.  Meanwhile I enjoyed taking pictures of what is going on and got distracted here and there in the garden.

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Just a few nasturtium have bloomed this year.  They always have interesting colors and details.  I could still plant a few seeds and see if we could have them blooming in the fall…

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Yesterday I transplanted kale that I started from seed indoors earlier this summer.  This bed will be covered with a low hoop when the weather gets cold.  I also planted onions, lettuce, beets, pak choi, tatsoi, and turnips in this bed.  They are all vegetables that prefer cool weather.  The weather has been very mild, in the low 70s, which keeps the bed from drying out too much.  I will have to keep it watered this week though, so the seeds can germinate.

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The onions I planted on Tuesday are shooting up already.  I can see a few lettuce seeds have sprouted, too!

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Here is what is left of the lettuce I planted earlier.  I just keep picking off the leaves higher and higher on the stem!  I have 5 or 6 of these stems around the garden now, but have had to eat lettuce from the grocery store for my salads.

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The cucumber have not been doing very well, but we had a half-inch of rain and this cucumber tasted pretty good.

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Brussel sprouts starting to form on the plant.  This is the first time I have grown brussel sprouts.

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Mid-day in a zucchini blossom.  Bees and cucumber beetle find a resting place.  The rain delivered a few zucchini.  I almost pulled the plant out of the ground, but decided to see if I can get a few more zucchini to grow.

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Spider web in hicksii yew.  There are spiders and spider webs all over the garden now.  There are also more grasshoppers, cicadas, and I saw a beautiful orange and brown butterfly this afternoon.  I have not seen any caterpillars, despite the fact that my butterfly weed is blooming again.

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This pokeweed plant appeared in my grassy meadow.  I am not sure if it came from the wild seeds I got from the nature conservancy or if a bird planted it.  Looking online some people love this native plant because it has berries that the birds love and it is somewhat attractive.  Others hate this plant because it has a deep tap root and it is hard to eradicate from the garden once it settles in.  Readers, do you have any opinion on pokeweed?

Morning adventure:  Yesterday morning Dan and I decided to take our coffee outside and we went to sit on a bench at Lake Katherine at about 7:30 am.  We noticed that people were fishing and fishing is prohibited there, so we realized that this was a special fishing tournament.  It was really fun to watch.  One young guy near us, maybe 14 years old, caught a bass that was 3 pounds 11 ounces.  He was very excited.  It all seemed to be catch-and-release fishing.  We left after a while and did not see who won the tournament.

Autumn in Zone 5

November 11, 2012

We have had several frosts and tomorrow there is a chance of snow, but yesterday and today the temperatures have been in the high 60s with strong winds.  The wind is blowing down a lot of leaves.

We mulched up the leaves when we mowed the grass and threw it all in the compost.  I also put down some organic lawn fertilizer and then we had a nice rain after that.

The wind brings a lot of leaves to our back gate.  These yellow leaves have just fallen today from the neighbor’s tree.  We open the gate and push all the leaves in our yard before they blow away.

Viburnum dentatum – chicago lustre.  There are no berries on the viburnum this year.  I can’t remember if there was a weather issue that caused this or what happened.

There are still a few geranium flowers and the leaves have been pretty this fall.

This was the solution I came up with for the top hat blueberry.  I buried the pot and gave it a good watering.  I hope it makes it through the winter!  I might get another blueberry next summer!

I enjoy seeing the red crab apples from the kitchen window. – ‘Profusion’ crabapple.

Onions and chives do well in cooler weather, but seem to really do well next to the compost pile!

Food adventure:  We cooked a blueberry apple pie this morning that was delicious.  It was vegan and had a crust of almond butter, ground flax seeds and dates.  I am about to go make a creamy butternut squash soup with mushrooms.  Yum!

Watering Week

May 19, 2012

Last weekend I planted a lot of small vegetables and seeds, so I have been watering every day this week to get the seeds to sprout.  Hopefully they will not need much water once they get established.  So far some cucumber and bean seeds have sprouted, but I am still waiting for the nasturtium seeds to sprout.  Today it was 90 degrees, but the weather may cool down some this week.

The irises opened about 10 days ago.  They are so showy to look at from the kitchen window!  I will need to divide them and move some of them or give them away….

I love it when the first foxgloves bloom.  The bees love it, too.  Maybe I can even attract a hummingbird.

In March I moved the big catmint out of this bed to a place where it would have more room to spread out without flopping on the lawn or shading the other plants.  That left a hole and I put a few small plants in, which will take a while to fill in.  I could always throw in a few annuals this year if needed.  Everything is growing well at this point!

A closer look at Blue Hill Salvia and a geranium.  The moonbeam coreoposis on the left looks like it is getting overpowered by the salvia.  The daisies, back right, will be coming soon.

Funky onion showing off!   You can see a few beans that have just sprouted on either side of it.  My neighbor told me he had some left over mulch from last year, and then he gave me five bags, which I put down this morning in the vegetable garden after getting the little weeds up. Behind the fence on the left is a cherry tomoto, cucumbers, kale and my mint patch.  Right behind the onion is a patch of potatoes.  I guess I left some potatoes in the ground last year without knowing it and got a new batch this year. Also on the right is some swiss chard that came back on its own after the winter.  The yellow yarrow is so pretty.  Pictures of that next time.

Looking back at the garden from the other side…  I put up my bean poles for the climbing beans.  They are starting to sprout, too.  On the left are beets, pak choi, more kale and fennel.  Not shown in these pictures is all the leaf lettuce!  I have so much I really have to be diligent to keep eating it every day to keep it coming.  Also, I am starting to eat the first strawberries.  YUM!

A close up of common sage flowers.  I managed to capture the bumble bee on the left.

Dan’s favorite thing in the garden is definitely our Chinquapin oak tree.  He says the branches have grown up and out about a foot this spring.  There is still not a lot of shade, but significantly more each year.

Still waiting for bluebirds this year!  I do have baby sparrows in one of our bird houses.

Summer Comes Early

March 18, 2012

I took the day off last Wednesday to go to the Chicago Flower and Garden Show.  It was about 80 degrees out and a great day to visit Navy Pier.  It has been warm like that every day, so with a week of 80 degree weather the garden is greening up and leaves are popping out everyhwere.  Here are a few pictures from the Garden Show and a few from the home front.

This garden is great for those who like beautiful relaxation.

A dog house with a green roof.

I visited the White House and the Let’s Move White House Kitchen Garden.

I will throw in a non-garden event.  Friday was St. Baldrick’s Day and Stephanie came home with a new look.

The Spice Bush, a native shrub, is blooming now.

This wasp was enjoying some early nectar.

White daffodils, columbine leaves to the right, Korean feather reed grass in the back and little boltonia leaves getting going on the left.

These onions are ready to eat.  I must have left them in the ground in the fall.  I cut back all the ornamental grasses, like this Miscanthus on the left.  I have about 8 or 9 praying mantis egg sacs, which many times I found on the grasses.  If anyone wants one they should let me know.