There is a lot going on in the garden now, but I thought I would take a little time to mention something that I find important.  Soil is not just dirt.  It is full of life and all the creatures in the soil make up the soil food web.  It is pretty common to rototill the garden to make the soil nice and fluffy to plant in.  However, that tiller is killing a lot of the life that lives in the soil, like worms, slugs, earwigs, centipedes, pill bugs, and even smaller critters.  Since these creatures eat other life forms and are food for other creatures the web of life is disrupted, and if this is done continually then the soil gradually dies.  Then you just need a lot of synthetic fertilizer to get your plants to grow.

I know there are different opinions on this, and a lot of great gardeners till their gardens each year.  I just think there is a healthier way that seems to work, though I admit I still have a lot to learn about soil.

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Collards planted a few weeks ago are growing strong.  I just dig a hole and amend the soil a little in the hole.  The soil is dark and has plenty of worms.

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I put up a lot of big tomato cages for my two little tomato plants.  Once some of these plants start growing they can get aggressive and will take as much room as you give them.  I should be able to eat from these red and green romaine lettuce plants in a few days.  Plants that will be in this area and a little beyond the picture are tomatoes, zucchini, potatoes, cucumbers, turnips, eggplant, brussel sprouts, mint, and green beans.  A bunch of other vegetables are in other areas…  Once the seeds sprout and everything is growing I will put down some more mulch.

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This book, I checked out from the library, explains no-till gardening among other good garden practices.

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Pak choy flowers and a pollinator.

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I noticed the rhubarb was flowering again this week.  I cut back all the flower stalks.  The article I was reading said that if you keep cutting them back the plant will eventually go back to focusing on growing leaves instead of flowers.  I am hoping that is also true for my vegetables that made it through the winter but are flowering now.  Last summer the kale flowered all summer, but it also grew a lot of leaves that we ate until December.

I made my first batch of rhubarb sauce yesterday!

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I just finished listening to this audiobook, A County Year.  I did not want it to end.  It describes a bee keeper who lives in the Ozarks and what happens to her over the course of a year.

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We have a guard robin, instead of a guard dog!  Lots of bugs these days for this bird!

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One morning I threw part of a bucket of water on my strawberries and I saw the snake scurry off.  I don’t think snakes like strawberries, but they may keep my patch more free of pests like slugs.

It is almost berry time!


Plant Resurrections

April 7, 2013

Following last week’s Easter theme, it is fun to see green mounds and shoots pressing up out of the cold ground.  I have been planting more bulbs each year so that my garden is starting to look cheerier in the spring as I wait for the garden to green up.  If there is something blooming then I am not as impatient for the coming of the lush green of spring.

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I love these dwarf daffodils!  Other daffodils are coming up and will be blooming soon, but these early ones are the most welcome.

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I have two patches of these dwarf daffodils naturalizing by the back fence.  Later the goldenrod and viburnum will hide them as their leaves fade.

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All the way across the yard I see the bright yellow daffodil blooms from the kitchen window.  I put water in the bird bath and took this picture this morning as a cardinal came for a drink.  The robins and sparrows actually line up on the railroad tie and in the oak tree for their turn in the bath.

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With such a long winter the crocuses have been lasting a lot longer.  I love the detailed design in this purple crocus.

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Another group of cheery crocuses dressed in their choir robes and singing joyfully!

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Rhubarb shoots.  A very small start, but soon to come are the giant leaves and then maybe some strawberry rhubarb treats.

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While in Wal-Mart I noticed a nine-pack of romaine plants.  I know it is early, but I put three in a container that I can bring inside if it freezes and put six in the ground.  I can always cover them on cold nights.  I am planning to grow a lot more lettuce this year, so I need to get started!

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Back inside I grow a few house plants.  I almost killed this one, but then I must have done something right as it seems very happy now.  I love all the hair on the leaves and the pink stems and undersides of the leaves.

Cooking news:  Dan is back to cooking a lot of greens.  Some of the most nutrient dense greens are kale, collard greens, mustard greens, swiss chard, bok choy and watercress.  We bought a bunch of organic greens this week and Dan keeps trying new recipes to find out how to cook all of these in tasty ways.

Fall Foliage Close Ups

October 14, 2012

Here are a few of the colors in the garden now.

Virginia creeper turns red.  I just planted this plant this summer, but enjoy seeing the color across the yard.  I hope it will spread out more on the fence next year.

Here is the little American Hornbeam tree we planted in September.  In several years it will have a beautiful fall display.  In the background you can see the still green lilac and the yellow vernal witch hazel shrub.

Looking the other way is the vernal witch hazel with the red American Hornbeam in the background.  Farther back you can see the spice bush starting to turn yellow.

Another picture of ‘top hat’ blueberry and ‘wonder of staffa’ asters.

We have two burning bush shrubs in the yard that are turning red now.

Even the compost pile gets colorful – purple rhubarb leaf.

I planted a native grass, ‘little bluestem,’ last summer.  I did not think it had survived this year until I saw the red stalks that identified it in my little meadow this fall.

The ‘Chicago Lustre’ viburnum shrubs are still green and some of the last to change color.  I believe we planted these in the fall of 2007 and they were about three feet tall then.  Five years later they are between six and seven feet tall and could grow quite a bit more.

Well-watered Garden

April 1, 2012

Aren’t spring colors amazing?  The green is so refreshing!  I was reading in Isaiah 58:11 this morning: “…He will satisfy your needs…. You will be like a well-watered garden…”  We had thunderstorms this morning and it is too wet to garden, so I took a few pictures.

I am not that fond of lawns, but spring is the best time to enjoy them.  The dandelions are already starting to pop up and the back half of the lawn is being overtaken by creeping charlie, but still the grass is going strong and smelled so great yestereday after Dan mowed it.

The rain gauge shows that there was just 1/10th of an inch of rain this morning.

This is a record of the garden on 4/1/12.  The oak and viburnums are just getting ready to leaf out.  The crabapple is blooming and the daffodils are mostly done.

Crabapple – Profusion

I am not an expert on tree cultivation, but the shoot on the crabapple trunk matches the rest of the tree, while the shoot from the roots is quite different.

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Nothing can stop this rhubarb, which is already about 2 feet high.  If I have a little snake in yard, I would guess he would hang out here if he wanted to hide.

The fennel came back on its own, since I never ate the bulbs last year.  I was nibbling on the tenderest leaves right off the plant this morning and they were amazingly sweet!  The Tunisians made a great dish with steamed tender fennel leaves and couscous, if I remember correctly.

Since there is a limited amount to nibble on in the garden now I will share a recipe we have been using from Dr. Joel Fuhrman in his book Eat to Live.  This can be made in the blender and is for someone who wants to boost their micro-nutrients – that is, vitamins and minerals.  Of course you can just use what ever ingredients you have and change things up.  This recipe usually makes enough for two of us.

Chocolate Smoothie

5 ounces baby spinach

2 cups frozen blueberries

1/2 cup unsweetened soy, hemp, or almond milk

1 banana

2-4 dates

2 tablespoons natural cocoa powder

1 tablespoon ground flaxseeds

The rain gauge showed 2 inches of rain today and I can hear the thunder as I write.  Everything is growing.  It is fun to see some things grow so big and others are tiny, but beautiful.

The catmint will take over if I let it.  I had to move several plants this year so they would not be lost in its shadow.  The yellow lady’s mantel in front is just starting to bloom.  Straight back you can see a large patch of johnny jump up violets that will soon have to be pulled up to make room for the cantaloupe.  Further back on the left the purple Salvia are starting to bloom and attract the bumble bees.

Rhubarb – another aggressive plant with huge leaves.  What we do not eat is great for the compost pile.

Pinks – This tiny plant catches my attention from the kitchen window and brightens a large green area.

This very first cantaloupe flower will hopefully turn into a delicious melon…

Zucchini is the most aggressive vegetable, soon to take up half the vegetable garden.  Here the small seedlings look innocent enough.

Last year we started making a tiny meadow around a bluebird house, by not cutting the surrounding grass.  The wrens experimented with the house, but the wasps were the one who finally moved in.  No hope of any bluebirds.

Yesterday morning I saw my first bluebirds ever – checking out our bird house!  The local sparrows were giving them a hard time and I do not see them around today, but I was thrilled that I had created a habitat that they like – a sunny meadow near some trees with tall grass for grasshoppers and other bugs.  It is pretty hard to see the birds in this picture, but the one sitting on the roof is definitely a bluebird.

Leafing Out

April 10, 2011

Although the Chinquapin Oak won’t have any leaves for a while, the over 80 degree weather helped to open up other leaves around the garden.

Common Lilac – the intricate buds that made it through the winter are now unfolding.

Crab Apple – Profusion

It was also a good day to get out the yard furniture and enjoy sitting outside for breakfast and lunch.

The rhubarb is coming on strong.

I love the feathery yarrow leaves.

I moved several plants today.  This patch of dianthus (pinks) I just picked up from its old spot, roughed up the ground a bit, stamped it down in its new place and gave it lots of water.  We will see if it takes root and blooms this year.

When I woke up this morning I was surprised to see this Mallard in the yard.  Later I saw the female fly out of the neighbor’s yard.