Fields of Green

I’m about to be overrun with garden produce! Yes, this produce will be measured by the cup-full and not the bushel, but who’s counting when you can’t eat it fast enough.

Here’s my little lettuce field.

the field

I love all the variations of green and all the variations in flavor. Can you identify the produce? Match the following photos with the plants:

A. Tatsoi

B. Salad Mix

C. Carrots

D. Cilantro

E. Asian Greens Mix

F. Mache

G. Arugula

H. Beets

 

1. 

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2.

P1400328

 

3.

P1400277

4.

P1400375

5.

P1400309

6.

P1400265

7.

P1400306

8.

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Answers…

 

1 G, 2 B, 3 F, 4 E, 5 C, 6 A, 7 H, 8 D

Summer Growth

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A lot has happened in my garden in the last month. The big thing is that my raccoon count has increased by four. It all started several weeks ago when I noticed a few plants out of place and some damage here and there.

My super fancy begonia: CRUNCH!

The sedums on the top of my brick plant wall: What a GREAT perch!

The sedum-filled bird bath on the ground: DIG, DIG, DIG!

Then one morning I awoke to find a good part of my perennial garden flattened. It was as if a bunch of juvenile raccoons had shimmied down the tree and had a kegger underneath it. Irises, coral bells, hellebores, hostas, Solomon’s seal, wild geranium: all crushed, “I’m sorry, but was there something growing under my butt?”

One neighbor asked how I knew the damage was done by raccoons and not something else like a cat. The answer is that it looked like the damage was done by a bunch of real jerks–the tell-tale sign of raccoons.

This was exactly how it all started three years ago when minor backyard trashing led to John and I discovering that the raccoons had moved in with us. This time, John and I decided to trap prophylactically before the raccoons got too comfortable. In the last week and a half we’ve hauled off three juveniles and an adult. The juveniles are a problem because they decide to get defensive as you try to release them instead of running for freedom. John’s tired of their attitude.

MEANWHILE, I chopped down my forest of greens in early June, stowed them for use in tasty soup, and then planted basil in their place.

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Note the awesome, poorly spelled garden marker created by the kids at Patchwork. I’ve got a fun collection of the oddly spelled and spaced ones. Here’s another:

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I’ve also harvested my garlic. I’d cut the scapes off a couple weeks before the harvest and John and I just used the last of them in a garlic scape and pistachio pesto last night. Tasty! Above ground the garlic plants were huge, but below ground I still haven’t achieved consistently large garlic cloves. Still, I think it’s a fun plant.

scapes

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I’m cautiously optimistic about the corn. Maybe it will work! A few ears have beautiful purple silk on them. The other day I was watering the raised bed and it was as if the corn plants sighed a breath heavy with the scent of corn pollen. I could have closed my eyes and been transported back to my time growing up in Northwest Ohio.

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The lima beans have a new trellis to climb:

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And it’s blueberry and apple season!

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Gardening from All the Angles

Real human visitors actually standing in my garden! I’ve had quite a few of them lately and it’s been really, really fun!

If you weren’t able to visit my garden in person, here’s a virtual tour. I had the place looking pretty neat and tidy, if I do say so myself, though it was nice of the plants to cooperate with me! Particularly noteworthy was the honeysuckle, which was in full bloom for the garden tours. I wish I could bottle the smell and spread it over the whole year. It’s so sweet and joyful.

Click on any photo below to get a slideshow tour.

And a view from closer up (again, click on any photo for a slide show)…

My elderly cat has been enjoying the sights, also. He’s starting to have trouble getting around but still enjoys watching birds, getting rubs, and eating his fancy cat food. To make it easier for him to look out the back door, I gave him a chair. He’s incredibly happy about that.

Shamoo watching the yard

Five Years in the Garden

Five years ago I started my garden. It’s grown beyond my wildest dreams.

In 2009:

Perennials in 2009

In 2014:

Perennials in 2014

In 2009:

Vegetables in 2009

In 2014:

Vegetables in 2014

To celebrate all that new growth, here are some images of this spring’s plants emerging (click on any one for a slide show):

I’m discovering that I went a little crazy planting lettuces and greens in my new raised bed. I was too excited by all the new possibilities that the extra space would afford me and now it’s ALL ready at the same time. John and I are doing our best to eat it before it expires!

We’ve done a lot of salads, John’s making green smoothies for breakfast and lunch, and I’ve got a great soup recipe that can incorporate giant fistfuls of all of these greens. We keep harvesting it by the bowlful and laughing because afterward you can’t see the spot where any is missing.

It all tastes so good. The list of what’s growing is:

  • Vates collards from Seed Savers Exchange
  • Cilantro from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
  • Apollo Arugula from Seed Savers
  • Rocky Top Lettuce Mix from Baker Creek
  • Salad Blend Siamese Dragon Stir-Fry Mix from Baker Creek
  • Tatsoi from Baker Creek
  • Shanghai Green Choy from Baker Creek

look at all the greens!

Introductions and a Misfired Art District

I’d like to introduce you to my new, crazy backyard project. Back in March, I committed to replacing my little flock of container gardens with one big raised bed. I’d been contemplating it for quite a while, but couldn’t bring myself to replace something that was working pretty well already. But then casual shopping for wall stones turned to buying them…and who really wanted to do housework, anyway. I’ve got a project to complete outdoors!

Here’s a before photo from last summer:

garden

I started the new bed by arranging a wall of blocks three high and in an organic shape. I used a variety of the different sizes of stone available and incorporated some bricks and brick chunks that I’d pulled out of my yard. The last snow of the year highlighted the outline beautifully. Perhaps you noticed it in this photo I posted previously:

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To that I added soil. I debated about putting gravel at the bottom for drainage, but after reading a book about gardening on concrete, I opted to mix “garden soil” and higher quality “potting soil” with course sand to make a really rich soil that will (hopefully) drain perfectly.

now with more dirt

I treated myself to some sedums for the corner and cracks. After hauling all those stones and all that dirt, it felt like I deserved a little extra something.

sedums

I went crazy planting the new bed and the plants absolutely LOVE the super fancy potting soil, so they’re growing happily. I’ve got Asian greens, collards, cilantro, arugula, and salad mix. I don’t know how John and I are going to eat it all! I also planted two melons and a cucumber last weekend. Those are all things I had successfully grown in containers, but now I’m ready to branch out. I planted corn on Sunday. I’m trying not to get my hopes too high, but, you know, jade blue corn!

growth

collards

Meanwhile, I noticed that the paint on my blackberry trellis was really starting to flake off, so I repainted. I had fun picking some new colors. At the home improvement store, a section of Paint Samples for Hipsters caught my eye. It was the color options that first drew me in, but it was the color names that got me to buy them.

There was a nice red called “Art District”.

Ha Ha, I thought. How pretentious. And ironic. And silly. And then how ironic is it if I get some to paint my crazy, artsy, poorly built, blackberry trellis in my back yard in Evansville’s trying-so-hard-to-be Haynie’s Corner Arts District. There have been years of trying to make it catch on.

I picked out several more hipster colors to go with Art District. I freely admit that I picked them as much for their names as for their hues. Then I requested sample sizes from the paint counter. When I came back to pick them up, the paint guy had bad news for me. For some reason, the red pigment squirter wasn’t working at all. He explained that every time he tried to get Art District, it misfired. Ironically.

Here’s my hipster paint poem that I composed from the other colors that didn’t misfire:

hipster colorsAnd here’s my hipster-ized trellis. It’s much more subtle than before:

freshened blackberry trellis

I got to meet one of our new neighbors while I was painting it, too. She was happy to meet me because she’d noticed something glittering in my back yard one day and when she looked more closely she realized all the other art I’ve got out. She said she really liked my garden and wished she could do more in her yard.

And a word of wisdom: Always work on a outdoor project when your neighbor’s lilac tree is in bloom. AND you get bonus points if another neighbor is cooking up a way above average barbeque. The alternating scents were fabulous.

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Raccoons’ Revenge

So that house I told you about…the one across the street that was a raccoon condo?

Ha ha ha. Maybe that really wasn’t a raccoon hole in the roof. Maybe?

It was torn down one day last week and that very night the homeless raccoons were everywhere around our house. Fiddling with things out front. Bashing down the “raccoon detector” newspaper panel under the porch. Fiddling with things our back. Walking across the side porch and looking in our window.

Gack!

tell-tale prints

(shadowy footprints in the porch dust)

They were back the next few nights…but maybe not since. It’s hard to tell.

I spent last weekend on a retreat with some friends who suggested that I speak to the raccoons and tell them to go away. OK, so they’re right. I’d actually try it at this point.

MEANWHILE, my garden is closing itself up for the year. The tomatoes are dying. So are the cucumbers. I got a couple last melons off the vine before it died. A few weeks ago things were still looking good.

melonBut then the mildew set in. The melons are nice–green and crisp and not very sweet. The good thing was that I’m pretty sure that the plant survived the squash vine borers that wrecked havoc with several other things earlier this summer. I might try this plant again next year.

cut melon

In place of the things that died I’ve planted some greens and lettuce. Hopefully I get some tasty things before the cold comes. So far it’s looking good.

Asian greens

There’re also more interesting insects to be found. One of the big garden spiders spun an egg case on our trash can and guarded it for a few days.

spider and eggsAnd then there is the praying mantis who’s been living in one of my fig trees. I’d thought it was kind of cute until one of my friends reminded me about the time a praying mantis living in her back yard grabbed a humming bird mid-air and ripped its heart out. Ew.

hello there, killerAutumn is starting to feel present in the back yard, from the changing leaves to the blooming mums to the last few butterflies visiting late blooms.

mum

fall leaves

final butterflies

And during that retreat last weekend I got to enjoy early autumn in the country. I remembered to bring my binoculars, so I could look for birds. Migration seemed to be in full swing. I saw some warblers, kinglets, and rose breasted grosebeaks, among others.

early autumn

Well! That’s more like it, Spring!

About a week and a half ago, we finally got some temperatures in the mid 60’s  and spring finally got going. It hasn’t stopped since.

The first nice weather came over Easter weekend and I was waiting to pounce with a project.

More than five years ago, before we moved back to Evansville, a garbage truck allegedly backed over a section of the back fence. Over the years, the fence has slowly leaned over further and further as the honeysuckle weighed it down and the scrappers tugged hopefully at it from the alley. Then we put an old table in the alley, assuming it, like everything else, would magically disappear in the bed of an old pickup truck. It didn’t. Instead, it crushed the fence over worse than ever under the tires of all the construction traffic in the alley. It was time to act!

So, the first nice day came and I started hacking at the honeysuckle and pulling apart the old fence. John got mixed up in it by the end, as well. I was pretty happy that it appears we were able to salvage a lot of the fencing that had been there, but we had to remove all the honeysuckle to do so. I’m sorry to have lost our wonderful living privacy fence, but it’s already starting to grow again.

Repairing the back fenceIn this photo, you can see the old fence leaning against a tree across the alley. I was worried no scrapper would want it all covered in vines, but it was gone first thing Monday morning. Yee-haw! Take any metal that’s not strapped down!

And elsewhere around my garden, the first sprouts were appearing.

first peony sprouts

And the goldfinches at my feeders were growing more and more mottled as their voracious feeding led to bright new feathers. This week, most of them appear to have moved on completely. Goodbye!

blotchy goldfinch

With five days over 70 degrees now, each day I see the sprouting plants have expanded more. There are the tiny Asian greens…greens

The blackberries…

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A fern…

fern uncoiling

The tiarellas and astrilbes…

tiarella

The Chinese ginger with flowers I almost missed under the dead leaves…

Chinese ginger

And grandest of all, the magnolia bloomed…

blue sky and blooms

beautiful magnolia

Ahh the magnolia

Spring’s here for sure! But will it stay?

The greenhouse has done its magic and I have wonderful, healthy, tall tomato plants that are eager to come outside–if only it will stay warm enough for them.

tomato starts

sprouts

pumpkin?