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.

The end of summer can bring sadness, but there is something about a gorgeous fall day that reignites joy and contentment.  Here is what is happening on our street and in many other neighborhoods.

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This is the maple tree next door.  I think it is autumn flame.

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Coming on to our street are a few beautiful yellow/gold maples with a tall orange oak tree in the back.

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Here is a close up of that same orange oak tree.  Our neighborhood used to be an Oak woods, but not many people plant oaks these days.

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In our front yard we have a very old silver maple.  The color is never very exciting.  We recently had an arborist clean it up, but still there is the danger of a branch falling on our house or the neighbor’s.  A few years ago that happened in our backyard and we cut that silver maple down.  We have been thinking about what kind of tree we could put in to replace it.  We need to keep it out of the wires, but we would like a shade tree.  Our soil is clay and you can see that there is a little slope, so it tends to be well-drained or dry and full sun.  I would put another chinquapin oak there, but we are looking for some diversity.

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Zooming in we have two burning bushes and three small serviceberries.  The burning bushes are invasive in Illinois so if we replace our shade tree we could get rid of these shrubs at that time.  Meanwhile we enjoy the colors.

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In the backyard the chinquapin oak is brown on the top leaves, golden in the middle, and still has green leaves on the lower branches.  Time to pull down the laundry line.  The crabapple has lost most of its leaves, but is full of little apples.

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Some of the crabapples look hard, but others seem to be shriveled up and might be tastier for the birds.  The birds seem to be going for the viburnum berries and the yew berries these days.

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Duke blueberry bush.  The two blueberry bushes I have are so red, but they are hard to capture well in a picture.  I guess I need some more photography skills for that.  They always catch my attention when I walk by them.

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When I was trying to take some pictures from inside I ended up getting a picture of this spider instead.

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Collards.  The Arab lady, who I shared some of my collards with this summer, came back a number of times and we have become friends.  After she came back from a month-long trip to Jordan, she came to see how the collards were doing.  I told her she should work on eating the collard and we will try to eat the kale and we will see what gets eaten before the snow falls.

Winter gardening:  This past week the plastic has been off the hoop most days and we should have a few more mild days now.  That reminds me I need to go pick some lettuce for my salad tomorrow!

Berry Extravaganza

June 23, 2013

When we moved into this house some years ago the only berries we had were the mulberries on the tree in the easement.  Since then we have been working to increase the berries in our yard.  Berries are a great high vitamin food and so delicious when super fresh and organic, too.  The strawberries have slowed down a little, but we still are getting a some every day.
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These are the berries I picked Wednesday afternoon.  Mulberries, serviceberries, and strawberries.  I had some rhubarb sauce that I heated up, added some berries and a little Mackinac Island Fudge ice cream.  Wow!  It was fantastic!

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Regent Saskatoon Serviceberries on shrub.  The berries on the Allegheny Serviceberry were all dried up this year for some reason, though they were good last year, but we have had a lot of berries on the Regent Saskatoon this year.   I only pick them when they get to the purple stage.  I have three of these bushes now, so a good crop.

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The mulberries are a huge mess, so we have to be careful not to track them into the house.  However if you want a lot of berries, there are tons on this tree and the birds love them.  They are also adding nutrients to our compost pile on the left.  I like to mix them in with other berries and only pick them when they are black and ready to drop from the branches.  People in the neighborhood do some foraging on this tree, too.

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Look at these beautiful berries on the Duke blueberry bush!  These we eat sparingly, but each one is a burst of flavor.  They go from green to pink to blue as they grow in size and ripen.

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Forbidden fruit – my neighbor’s raspberries that are not yet ripe.  My neighbor told me to help myself and does not seem interested in them, so I am excited as these are so luscious when very ripe.

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Strawberry flower.  This is on an older strawberry plant I have that is not very productive, but the pink flowers are so delicate.

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Hydrangea Incrediball – Hydrangea Arborescens.  Getting away from berries, I moved this hydrangea out of solid shade into partial shade.  The flowers get huge so I anticipate them flopping over soon.  It seems happy now.  Catmint and lady’s mantle on the right.  The tree is a chinquapin oak – quercus muehlenbergii.

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Bee in catmint.  Catmint walker’s low (nepeta) and lady’s mantle (alchemilla mollis.)

This week I have been busy planting seed for beans, cucumbers and zucchini.  I also bought small vegetable plants at the nursery and got them in the ground.  I bought eggplant, mustard greens, brussel sprouts,  kale, yellow crookneck squash, basil, thyme, and maybe something else.  I like to try a lot of different things and see what grows well.  While I worked I was enjoying the blossoming trees.

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American Plum Tree Blossoms.  There were just a few blossoms on the trees, but they have beautiful intricate detail.

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Amelanchier Laevis – Allegheny Serviceberry Blossoms.  This serviceberry has been in the yard for four years and is a native shrub I bought at Possibility Place.  The small berries in June are very tasty if I get them before the birds.

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Pollinator on Serviceberry blossoms.  With bees having such a hard time due to pesticides and mono-cultures without flowers, such as lawns or a corn field, it is important for them to have flowers all season, from early spring to late fall for them to gather nectar from.

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My lawn has a lot of violets, which I do not mind at all, and I am sure they keep some pollinators happy.

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I have put daffodils in almost every blog post this spring.  Different colors just keep opening up!  A bee would be attracted to check out the trumpet of this coral colored flower.

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In order to fit in all the vegetables I want this year I have been planting them in between flowers and in every spot I can find.  I bought four eggplants this year.  This one is a Japanese variety called “Ichiban.”  It’s a very tasty variety and will hopefully withstand the advance of the daylilies  that will surround it.

Green smoothies:  Buying organic greens can get expensive.  Now we are starting to have more greens to put in from the garden.  We have kale, from last year’s stalks, although they are trying to flower now.  We are starting to eat romaine and we threw in some dandelion greens today, which are certainly easy to come by!  Of course when you mix in blueberries, bananas, dates, and cocoa powder, any greens taste pretty good.

Green Outburst

April 28, 2013

To compare this spring with other years in my garden you can scroll down to the archives and compare these pictures to the ones from my blogs at the end of April in 2010, 2011 and 2012.  The crabapple has finally leafed out with red leaves, but does not have blossoms yet.  This week the American plum, which we planted last year, leafed out and I am looking forward to the blossoms.

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American Plum Trees – still quite small

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Last year I planted the middle regents serviceberry on the west side of the house and since then I have been pondering what else to plant.  I decided to get two more of the same and planted one on either side.  The blossoms are just getting ready to open. This was one of those projects where Dan came out and gave me a hand!

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I must have planted a lot of different kinds of daffodils last fall.  They just keep coming and I have been enjoying how well they go with the vibrant green grass.  This orange middle stands out.

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I could not resist buying this tiny mum this week.  Maybe they were selling them for containers or something, but I am hoping it will settle in and come back next year.

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I bought a nine-pack of collards and planted them in the garden.  I have never planted collards before, but we have been buying them to eat recently.  I also got some tomato and pepper transplants in the mail and had to get them in the ground. You can see one of the tomatoes on the other side of the fence.

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I just dug holes in the lasagna mulch and planted in the peppers with some good soil.  This pepper is called bull nose and is an heirloom.  My catalog says that Thomas Jefferson grew this variety of pepper at Monticello.  It should be a sweet red pepper.

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Here are the beautiful leaves of the potato I am growing in a pot, one week later.  Soon I will start piling up soil so the potatoes will have more room to grow.

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The promise of lilacs coming soon.  Charles Joly Lilac.

Chores:  It is that time of year when some attention must be given to the lawn.  Since we are organic we tend to have dandelions in the lawn.  I don’t worry too much in the back yard, but today Dan dug out the dandelions in the front lawn and we filled the holes with soil and grass seed.  We will see how that works…..

Food Adventures

June 10, 2012

I enjoy trying new fruits and vegetables in the garden.  I just want to see if they will grow without too much work and if I will enjoy eating the item.

This morning, when making our blueberry, banana, lettuce shake, I went out to the garden to see what I could find to add.  Here are strawberries, juneberries, raspberries and mulberries, fresh picked.  Not so many strawberries left with this dry weather.  The birds are eating the Juneberries (Serviceberry)  so I wanted to get some before they are gone.  The raspberries belong to the neighbor, but they were hanging over into our yard…..

Juneberries on bush.  Amelanchier Laevis – Allegheny Serviceberry.

The kale needs to be eaten before it gets too big.  Maybe I can cook some soup…

I ordered sweet potatoes through the mail.  I have four or five mounds around the yard.  I hope they produce sweet potatoes!

Cucumbers taking off.  Also getting going are tomatoes, beans, peas, beets, sweet corn and potatoes.

Prairie Verbena.  I planted this about a month ago and it seems to be happy and starting to bloom!  In the top left are nasturtiums that I have planted as annuals all over the yard this year.

All Nature Sings

March 25, 2012

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….

It is a beautful time of year and the birds are enjoying the garden with me.  Here is what is happening after our recent heat wave…

The fothergilla shrub starts to bloom.  The leaves should follow soon.  Below are spreading chrysanthemums.  They certaining supress the weeds, but are not my favorite color in the fall, so I might replace them.

Last Sunday these serviceberry flower buds started to form.

 Two days later I took this picture when the plant was in full bloom.  I chose this over the close up, since I wanted to include this busy squirrel.  We have had a lot of squirrels enjoying the yard, though none of them live on site.

The lilac leaves have filled out on both lilacs.  This one has flower buds, too.   On the right side, in the background, you can see two American plum shrubs we planted yesterday.

Here they are close up.  We went to Possibility Place in Monee yesterday to get an American plum tree and came home with two smaller plums.  They tend to form a bit of a thicket and will probably not bloom until next year.  They are a native shrub and are supposed to have plums with a sweet flesh and sour skin.  They will probably be 15 feet high eventually and provide a good screen as well as a welcome place for birds.  The white blossoms will be a nice contrast to the pink blossoms on the crab apple.  Thanks for your help Dan!

 Malus Profusion – crabapple.  The crabapple has leafed out about a month early this year.  You can see the pink buds getting ready to bloom.

There is work to do today once the ground dries a bit from the past days of rain.  Both the purple lysimachia and the goldenrod above are quite agressive and have gone under the railroad tie and are moving toward the neighbor’s yard.  I need to pull up unwanted plants, as well as other weeds around the yard.

I planted more daffodils last fall and now am enjoying all the different colors coming up at different times throughout spring.  This coral colored daffodil is something new, though my favorites are the bright yellow ones.

Thankful

November 6, 2011

I know it isn’t Thanksgiving Day yet, but I was thankful today as I cleaned out the vegetable garden.  I was thinking about the seeds falling on good soil and multiplying thirty, sixty, even one hundred times.  Certainly the zucchini and one tomato plant did that this year.  All that is left now is the kale, swiss chard, a few onions scattered around and the perennial herbs.  I have a huge flat parsley plant that is very green.  The soil is partially so good because of the leaves that we compost each year.  And now it is that time of year again.  Leaves are falling and I am working to get my compost cooking enough to decompose all the leaves we are gathering.

I have enjoyed watching the bushes change color.  The spice bush was very yellow, but hard to catch with my camera.  Here are a few more fall color shots.

I took this picture of the fothergilla bush a week ago.

The Regent’s Serviceberry west of the house.  It was planted just a little over a year ago and I am looking forward to watching it grow more each year.

Ajuga and maple leaf.

Gaillardia – Blanket Flower.  I have not done as much deadheading on these recently, but they still keep coming month after month.

Cooking today:  Sauteed green beans, kale and bacon.  I also broiled another batch of green peppers and some tomatoes.

Easter Sunday

April 24, 2011

It was a beautiful day to celebrate Easter.  I was outside much of the day.  I enjoyed seeing the turtles, beaver, and swans at Lake Katherine on my walk today.

White Narcissus

The serviceberry was in bloom.  It has not grown much the past two years, but maybe it will take off this year….

There was a sale last week on the purchase of five Arborvitae  – Emerald Green.  We put them in last weekend to add a little winter interest in the shrub border, which is still a bit thin.

The Spice Bush has very tiny yellow flowers this time of year.  Last year we had to cut off branches that did not make it through the winter.  It is looking better this year and grew so much last year.

I saw this little guy looking cheery in the back corner of the garden.