Category Archives: Gardening

Summer Solstice

Happy summer, everyone! Okay, let’s not fool ourselves. Today feels no different from yesterday. It has already been super-summery for all intents and practical purposes. We’ve had several days of 90+ degree weather, and we need rain like nobody’s business. The sun has been beating us down for weeks already with that ultra-bright white light we all associate with swimming holes and ice cream trucks and the like.

Today marks Ethan’s first successful tree climb. He and Laurel have been trying to climb this sad little tree in our back yard for years. Laurel, being significantly older and taller, mastered this first. Ethan lagged behind and was rather put out by the whole situation. Finally, today, I took some time from my garden duties to coach him a little, having been a successful tree climber myself. Most of the branches were juuuuuuust out of his reach, so he had to grab one and sort of crab-walk with his feet up into the fork and haul himself from there. The kid has abs of steel so I knew he could do it. He just needed a couple of pointers.

And it paid off:

First successful tree climb

Meanwhile, the chickens are hanging in there. We only have three left after a fox/coyote absconded with two. A raccoon severely injured one, the little grey one you see below. She’s not given us an egg since that time but she’s soldiering on. She’s eating and drinking and I saw her running today when I moved the pen and let them out on fresh grass. Yes, I know, it doesn’t look very fresh. Or grassy. We’ve had a drought this Spring like I can’t remember ever seeing before. Sigh. I can’t remember the last time I mowed.

bock bocks

But! Thanks to modern technology in the form of irrigation lines, not all is lost.

Granted, the outdoor plantings look pretty sorry, as do the other outdoor crops. They are irrigated, but the schedule can’t seem to keep up with the evaporation. Even so, we do have a few tomatoes coming on:

outdoor romas

Inside the hoop house, however, the situation is much brighter. The crops I’ve managed to save from (or which are usually undisturbed by) the melon aphids are doing well. That consists almost solely of tomatoes and peppers with some herbs thrown in, but I’m still succession planting and hoping for the best. Once we’re back from our big summer vacation I’ll likely throw some more seeds in the ground; but for now I’m happy with the tomatoes. I eat a LOT of tomatoes. Mouse over the photos for captions if you wish.

indoor tommytoesjalapenos preparing for salsa dutylittle bell pepperslittle green Thai chilisthai sweet basilvolunteer something-or-others

And of course, a thrill for any tomato-loving gardener (and her kids), ripening tomatoes:

illini star

First Big Tomato of the Season.

We have had a couple of cherry tomatoes off our plants in the hoop house. I ate the first one all by myself because I’m like the little red hen and nobody helped me grow it, SO THERE. Ethan and I split the second on Monday.

Okay, that one statement about nobody helping me is patently untrue. Greg has helped me tremendously but he hates raw tomatoes (I know, weird, right?) so he’s not likely to stomp around and sulk about me hogging that first cherry tomato. Laurel helped plant several of those plants but she’s out at the Joseph Baldwin Academy so she’s out of luck for three weeks.

This morning I procured this little gem, the first of the “full-sized” tomatoes:

1st big mater

Now, normally I’d have left it on another day or two, but when I reached down to inspect it, it just fell into my hand. Far be it from me to make any bald accusations, but I did point it out to Ethan yesterday, and he does have a habit of touching anything he finds interesting despite my very-plain-and-clear-worded instructions not to do that with my tomatoes. I can forgive it if he manhandled it because, well, his fascination with such things is quite endearing.

And the truth is, it might not be his fault at all. That tomato may have just become bored with being the only ripening one amongst its green brothers and sisters and decided to just come on in. I imagine the conversation in the house is more lively than in the garden, anyway.

More Strawberries? Yes, Please!

Last year we planted 25 strawberry plants and dutifully picked the blossoms off and trained the runners. About 20 of those plants made it through the winter. I probably would have had more success if the dog didn’t view them as his personal outhouse or if they were in a better location. As it is, they’re planted in some pretty awful clay soil, so it’s a wonder I had 80% success. They’re chock full of blooms and baby strawberries, so I’m expecting a decent crop.

And I dearly love strawberries.

So when Greg told me that his coworker had some extra plants and was offering them to us, I was all about it.

Of course, we really didn’t have the space for a few more (36) plants, so that led to us spending our Sunday thusly:

new strawberry bed

strawberry bed 2

In fact, this bed is bigger than what we really need for those plants, but it was the size most convenient to build, and I am certain I will find something to go there – probably tomatoes.


It was really hot today for this time of year – 89 degrees – and we are definitely not acclimated to the weather. After making a trip to St. Louis Composting for the garden mix, and assuring the fellow behind the counter that yes, yes, we were indeed aware of the payload capacity of our truck and that yes, we could haul it, we were on our way.

But DANG, it was hot.

I think I drank more water today than I ever do in a normal day, even if I work out for an hour. Greg shoveled all of it out of the truck and I spread it through the beds. It was definitely hard work, so tonight we’ve rewarded ourselves handsomely with Mexican food and margaritas.

Folks, this is the good life.

Outside. Outside!

Greg was gone on a business trip to New Hampshire this week. When he’s gone I get antsy and try to kill time, and when I get antsy, I get overly ambitious and take on a series of Herculean tasks, which wouldn’t be so Herculean on their own, but when performed in rapid succession it’s a whole ‘nother story.

On Tuesday morning I started with plucking weeds from the garden. Then I pulled a full pound of salad greens and another 1/4 pound of asparagus from the beds, checked on the chickens and strawerries, and checked my tomato seedlings to see if they’re coming out of whatever it is they’ve got.

That didn’t kill enough time, though, so I cleaned out and mulched the perennial bed and mowed and trimmed the yard.

perennial bedbleeding hearts

Yesterday I swore I was just going to relax for the day and watch a movie or something, right after I mulched the rest of the flower beds in the front yard.

But as we know, one thing sometimes leads to another. I have long hated the way that bed looked. The mulch was always in the grass, there was no good edge between the bed and the yard, and I was just sick of looking at it. So…

I did this:

landscape edgers

Consequently, today I am feeling muscles I had forgotten I had. I guess two days of antsy-driven hard labor will do that.

But now I can stand to look at the front of the house, and oh! The hydrangeas are budding!

What February Looks Like.

February 19 harvest

I estimate I’ve saved $30-$40/month on produce (significantly more than that if you consider the veggies we have are grown organically, without pesticides or chemical fertilizers) since we put up the hoop house in November. At this rate, it really will pay for itself before too long!

This is probably the last of the brussels sprouts. I’m actually losing plants just because they exhaust their life cycles, rather than freezing them to death in a traditional garden. That’s really something to see. The chickens are grateful, because they get all the spent broccoli (some of our plants have flowers in the hoop house), brussels sprouts, etc. The only issue I fear we’ll have is dandelions. Several are blooming in the hoop house right now.

After last summer’s abysmal garden, I’ve renewed my faith in this hobby thanks to our bountiful winter harvests. Now I need to get motivated and start my summer seeds. I’ll probably have them under the lights in a couple of weeks. Here’s to a great gardening season!

Every Season is Garden Season!

Especially when you get your seed order in early:


Okay, I know what you’re thinking. “That’s a pretty paltry pile of plant particles.”

You’d be right.

But that is just this year’s order. I have a lot of seed from last year that I’m pretty sure will still be viable this year, including the spinach I’ve been growing all winter – the very spinach that is still going gangbusters down in the hoop house, 15-degree temperatures be damned.

And so, just for giggles and because I’m putting off showering, I’ve put together a collage of those seeds from last year most likely to make a repeat appearance:


All of these (except the moon flowers, marigolds, and love-in-a-mist) are going to be taking up residence either in used yogurt cups to start seedlings, or directly in the hoop house within the next 4 months or so.

Come on, Spring!

Side note: The seed company always sends a free gift to me with my order. This time it was the love-in-a-mist. According to Wikipedia, this flower is ‘found on neglected, damp patches of land.’ They sure sent it to the right place!