Tag Archives: gardening

Monarch butterfly

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Photo credit: Rick L. Hansen, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Wikimedia

Monarch butterflies have been in decline for years. As a result, backyard gardeners, butterfly lovers and environmentalists have been encouraging homeowners (and renters) to provide plants for Monarchs. I found the following graphic on Facebook and thought I would share it here:

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  1. Plant milkweed. It is important to locate seeds and plants that are native to your area. Very, very important.
  2. Encourage your locals schools and businesses to allow a Monarch-friendly patch of milkweed and other butterfly-friendly plants to thrive. Important: do not mow down plants until and unless they have gone to seed or died back naturally.
  3. No pesticides: my property is a pesticide-free zone. During the warm months, there are hundreds of insect species that stop by or live here including butterflies, bees, wasps (not all are bad), dragonflies, flies, and more.
  4. Share this information with others. If I had my way, pesticides would be banned from use by the general public and government entities.

More information: Journey North Monarch Butterfly project.

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The snow kisses the trees

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What a wonderful, beautiful quote. Lewis Carroll knew. He just knew.

winter snow Lewis Carroll

New England Garden Journal – July Part 4

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Background: I struggle with chronic fatigue and pain, and this year when it was time to start seeds indoors and then transplant out to the garden in the spring, I was struggling. My garden wasn’t started until May 31, 2014, and a good portion of it wasn’t sown until mid-June. I did not start any seeds indoors but directly sowed everything in the garden. Below is the result of this late garden, an experiment in breaking northern gardening rules. This garden is what I could handle, and it is what it is. I am not disappointed except in the peppers and tomatoes, which are so late that I might not enjoy a harvest at all this year.

My garden is planted with heirloom vegetable varieties (open pollinated) and grown organically in south central Connecticut. I haven’t used pesticides in my yard since we purchased the property in 2000.

This week: We have enjoyed a few days of rain, much of it heavy. I was a bit worried about how my garden would hold up to the pounding rain at one point. Looks like the wind did a little damage in the heirloom corn patch.

Discovered a broken corn stalk this morning. No animals tracks, so assuming wind did this damage.

Discovered a broken corn stalk this morning. No animals tracks, so assuming wind did this damage.

The rest of the garden seems to have benefited from the warm summer rains.

Lots of delicious snow peas. I sowed three areas with snow peas this year.

Lots of delicious snow peas. I sowed three areas with snow peas this year.

Harvested first Suyo Long cucumber of the season. It is about 16" long.

Harvested first Suyo Long cucumber of the season. It is about 16″ long.

Zucchini plants have tripled in size in one week.

Zucchini plants have tripled in size in one week.

Spinach, red leaf lettuce, a zucchini transplant, red onions and snow peas in the back.

Spinach, red leaf lettuce, Romaine lettuce, a zucchini transplant, red onions and snow peas in the back.

Lemon squash plants blooming in terraced garden.

Lemon squash plants blooming in terraced garden.

Terraced bed with lemon squash, giant nasturtium, radishes, and a single tomato transplant (which is hidden by the squash)

Terraced bed with lemon squash, giant nasturtium, radishes, and a single tomato transplant (which is hidden by the squash)

Bell pepper plants will most likely not produce before the first freeze

Bell pepper plants will most likely not produce before the first freeze

Tomatoes in grow bags beside driveway are finally taking off. Now to see if they have time to actually produce any tomatoes before cold weather arrives.

Tomatoes in grow bags beside driveway are finally taking off. Now to see if they have time to actually produce any tomatoes before cold weather arrives.

Cherokee Trail of Tears black beans enjoying the early morning sun

Cherokee Trail of Tears black beans enjoying the early morning sun

Going on an explore: Wethersfield and Hartford, Connecticut

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Comstock Ferre & Co in Wethersfield on a gorgeous January Sunday morning

Comstock Ferre & Co in Wethersfield on a gorgeous January Sunday morning

The house was quiet because the boys were still sleeping and I was ready to head out to Wethersfield, Connecticut. I decided some alone time was just what the doctor ordered. I was heading to Wethersfield to see if Comstock Ferre & Co. would have the heirloom seeds sitting in my Baker Creek Seeds shopping cart. I preach “buy local” so I was putting my money where my mouth is. That and I wanted to ask lots of questions about when to plant, depth for certain seeds, will they have seed potatoes and herb plants in stock when it is time to plant those crops and more. I was well-rewarded for my trip. Not only was it a beautiful drive, Wethersfield is Connecticut’s largest historic district, a treat for anyone to explore.

Comstock Ferre's winter garden - Wethersfield, CT - January 2014

Comstock Ferre’s winter garden – Wethersfield, CT – January 2014

I found every seed variety I had on my list and many more along with some herb seeds including stevia. I am a very happy gardener. I will be starting some seeds next month.

Next, I wanted to visit one of the few indoor farmer’s markets in Connecticut: Billings Forge located in downtown Hartford, Connecticut. It was only 5.5 miles from my current location; off I went. Cirling around Hart Road I drove right past Hart Seed Co. and hopped onto I-91 north, exited left into downtown Hartford, navigated a wonderful traffic circle (because it was Sunday and there was no one else around), and a couple of turns later I had arrived.

Billings Forge Community Works in Frog Hollow, Hartford, Connecticut

Billings Forge Community Works in the Frog Hollow neighborhood in Hartford, Connecticut

Billings Forge Community Works is a non-profit community center in the Frog Hollow neighborhood less than a mile from Connecticut’s capitol building. It is described as “a driving force for community participation and empowerment in Frog Hollow through promoting access to healthy food; engaging youth; and developing employment opportunities and economically sustainable social enterprises.”

The Kitchen at Billings Forge:  Farm to table job training café, bakery, catering and teaching kitchen.

The Kitchen at Billings Forge: Farm to table job training café, bakery, catering and teaching kitchen.

Everything was closed; when I tried to enter the Fire Box farm to table restaurant I found the door locked. A lovely young lady invited me in even though they were not open yet. She allowed me to ask her questions about the farmer’s market (it is open on Thursdays), about the restaurant (she gave me all four of their menus to take with me), and about the housing located in the complex (non-profit, mixed income housing). I shall be returning on a Thursday soon and will try to visit in the warm months so I can learn about the community garden which I did not see on this trip. Food deserts are common in urban communities, so it does my heart good to see an organization like the Billings Forge Community Works thriving in a community where the median income is just over $17k and the majority of children come from single-parent families.

The Studio at Billings Forge is where the indoor farmer's market is located in the winter and where live music can be found on other occasions as well as classes and community events

The Studio at Billings Forge is where the indoor farmer’s market is located in the winter and where live music can be found on other occasions as well as classes and community events

The Fire Box restaurant, at first glance, doesn’t seem to belong in this humble neighborhood. Fire Box employs local residents (according to their website) and provides a menu filled with classically-prepared foods with the philosophy “that the best food travels the shortest distance from farm to table.” Not only is the food sourced locally but the menus reflect the seasonal nature of fine New England dining. Having a business such as Fire Box Restaurant in a poorer neighborhood can provide economic stimulus for that neighborhood. I can certainly attest to the friendliness of the staff, and the parking lot was filling up for Sunday Brunch as I took photographs of the complex. I’m pretty sure most of the Frog Hollow residents cannot afford to order their $9 Disco Fries, though. My 20-year-old wants the Cato Corner Cheese Plate, a “selection of artisanal raw cow’s milk cheeses.” The brunch menu starts at $6 and offers items up to $16 for an organic chicken pot pie. The dinner menu starts with First Course offerings such as Market Salad for $11 and Main Course offerings such as Arctic Char (sustainably raised in Canada) for $26 and New York Strip (Painted Hills, Oregon) for $35. I would suggest that Fire Box consider offering grass-fed beef from Connecticut instead of bringing meat all the way from the west coast. The Calamari does come from Rhode Island and certainly qualifies as local. I love how the menu items include a little snippet describing where the main ingredient(s) come from.

Fire Box Restaurant at Billings Forge in Hartford, Connecticut, focuses on a farm to table, seasonable menu

Fire Box Restaurant at Billings Forge in Hartford, Connecticut, focuses on a farm to table, seasonable menu

I thoroughly enjoyed my explore today. I hope you get to see something new and wonderful today. Happy Exploring!

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Connecticut Organic Garden – August 2013 – Part 1

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Thursday, August 1

Mystery tomatoes

Mystery tomato. Seeds were saved from a striped Roma-type.


August is here and the garden is finally producing, but only just. I just now have eggplants and peppers growing on my plants. I just now have some sugar pumpkins growing on my vines. My popcorn is just now tasseling. I can’t believe how delayed our growing season was this year, and wonder how it will affect overall yield as we get into September. I can only hope that we have a warm September, that the cool fall weather will be delayed a bit.

Classes begin August 29th for me, so I will be dealing with homework and harvests, not something I look forward to at all. Last summer, because spring was so early, I was processing pears in August. This year our spring was delayed almost an entire month with late frosts and cold temperatures. We had temps in the low 40’s in the last half of June.

We are back in a dry spell so I am doing a lot of watering. The cucumber and dill plants require daily watering, as do the tomatoes in grow bags.

I checked on my first grow bag of potatoes that I planted, and those potatoes are getting to be a nice size. These were an experiment, so any potatoes I get will be a bonus. The biggest mistake I made was not watering them enough, I think.

I harvested three pickling cucumbers and another yellow squash this morning. The Cocozelle di Napoli zucchini squash have virtually stopped producing, and now have powdery mildew on the leaves. I am thinking about ripping the plants out so I can plant some new squash seeds. The three zucchini seedlings have one real leaf each so far. I am hoping they grow enough to produce something before it freezes.

Friday, August 2

Red cabbage started indoors in winter has taken all spring and summer to reach this 5" size.  Should be ready to harvest in September.

Red cabbage started indoors in winter has taken all spring and summer to reach this 5″ size (head). Should be ready to harvest in September.


It rained last night, enough that I didn’t need to water this morning. I do need to apply compost to most of my producing veggie plants, but boy am I feeling lazy. The truth is that I am not feeling that great today but I will try to head out later with my bucket and get some of the tomato, eggplant, squash, pepper and cucumber plants top-dressed with compost.

I spread worm compost around the backyard garden after researching vermiculture or worm composting. I have put worm bin composting to my list of winter activities. Maybe I’ll have a commercial venture possibility.

Saturday, August 3

After spending a few hours at my favorite yarn shop figuring out where I was on a pair of socks I am knitting, I was ravenous. I arrived home and put some hot dogs in the toaster oven to cook for me and whoever else might be hungry. But then I spied a ripe Moskovich tomato on my window sill with a black spot on it. That tomato needed to be eaten immediately or it would be ruined. I did the sacrificial thing and sliced that tomato, put it on a plate, and added a cucumber and some Feta cheese cubes. Then it happened: I ate my first bite of that tomato. Oh my gosh! I had never eaten a fresh tomato except sliced on a sandwich before last year when I grew my first Moskovich tomatoes. I only got a few tomatoes last year, but I instantly became a tomato snob. I was spoiled forever just as I cannot buy seafood at the grocery store seafood counter because it is not fresh.

When my tomatoes were not ripening a couple of weeks ago I did break down and buy a box of Campari tomatoes from BJ’s. They were really good for store-bought tomatoes, not mealy and certainly not flavorless. But even those expensive Campari tomatoes don’t hold a candle to these Moskovich for flavor. Last year I was so happy with the flavor that I sent an email to the seed company I purchased the seed from and received a reply that Moskovich was good but not even their best tomato. Next year I will be growing at least two more varieties, all based on flavor reviews.

On top of that amazing flavor, these tomatoes are meatier than the San Marzano paste tomatoes I am growing. Yes, you read that correctly. I am wondering why I am growing San Marzanos when they are so bland compared to the Moskovich. Maybe bland tomatoes process easier? I will be doing some research.

Monday, August 5

Gorgeous morning, cool, almost fall-like. I harvested two yellow and one zucchini squash (they are producing, but slowly), four pickling cucumbers, two tomatoes and a handful of ground cherries.

First strawberry popcorn ear forming

First strawberry popcorn ear forming


Strawberry popcorn plants are sending out silk from leaf nodes several levels of leaves below the tassels. Pollen is falling off of the anthers but there are only a very few silk which will grow into little ears of popcorn so far. I am an absolute newbie in corn growing (as I have mentioned before). Here is a simple article on hand pollinating corn from Georgia Home Garden. Each silk must be pollinated for each kernel of corn to develop on an ear. Next year, I will grow a much wider block of corn, and maybe some sweet corn for canning with salsa.

My indeterminate tomato plants in grow bags are not setting any new fruit. I am guessing that they have run out of nutrients. Container-grown plants have limited soil and completely depend on their caretakers to provide everything they need. Because they require more water, container soil can lose nutrients quickly. Applying a compost tea (which I have never made, but sounds like it would solve my corn feeding dilemma), liquid fertilizer and/or a time-released fertilizer along with regular applications of compost are necessary for continued production.

I have allowed a few cucumbers to remain on the vines to ripen for seed collection. One of those cucumbers, supposedly a pickling cucumber is huge, at least 8 inches long. I ended up with one vine of what look like regular slicing cucumbers, not pickling or Suyo Long. I know saving seeds from my teepee trellis area is probably not wise with the two, and now three, varieties of cucumber cross pollinating. I do have pickling cucumbers growing alone in the front garden, and I am allowing cucumbers to remain on the vine to fully ripen for seed saving. I will need to be meticulous in labeling all cucumber seeds that I save this year, and grow them fully labeled next year if I choose to do so. I might not want to waste the garden space on unknown cucumbers. And next year, I will grow Suyo Long cucumbers (purchased seed) in one area and pickling cucumbers (saved seed) in another, separated by plenty of space to ensure purity in future seed saving.

I side dressed most of my garden plants with my all-purpose, organic vegetable fertilizer. In a week or so I will top dress with compost. My plants, especially tomatoes and cucumbers, have been working hard producing a lot of fruit. Since both of these continue to produce all summer and do not have one specific harvest, they need regular feeding. I have been using compost mostly, and this week, worm castings, but thought applying a good fertilizer would be a good idea as well. Oh, and I always water immediately after side dressing.

Loaded with cherry tomatoes

Loaded with cherry tomatoes


Tomato Care & Fertilizing is a great article on the terminology and reasoning behind the different types of fertilizers as well as overall care. I am still learning about what the different numbers stand for on fertilizer labels, but I think I might have a handle on it, finally (at least this morning, before it flies out of my head).

One of my cherry tomato plants is absolutely loaded with fruit.

I pulled out one of the last two Cocozelle di Napoli zucchini plants. It had produced only one fruit the entire season and was taking up so much garden space. The yellow squash plants are starting to produce more.

Tuesday, August 6

Harvested pickling cucumbers and more yellow squash. I finally cooked some of the Cocozelle di Napoli zucchini squash along with yellow squash and onions, and the zucchini was very bland. The straightneck yellow squash, on the other hand, was delicious, as always. I am glad that I planted and am now growing Black Beauty zucchini for late summer and early fall harvests. I know that variety is delicious (I’ve grown and eaten it in the past). Live and learn.

Cocozelle di Napoli zucchini squash: huge plants, low number of fruit, bland flavor. Will not be growing these again.

Happy August and Happy Gardening, everyone!

June Garden Update – Part 1

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Been very busy and finally over my Lyme flare-up. Feeling good, energetic, and virtually no pain. So my garden got a lot of attention the past few days.

Driveway area:

Five tomato plants in grow bags (I still have a few more to plant here). They have taken off and a couple of them already have buds forming. This spot gets a lot of sunlight and heat which was the plan.

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Terraced garden also gets a lot of warm morning and a bit of afternoon sunlight. Starting on the left is Aichi Chinese cabbage going to seed, tomato plants, onions and behind those broccoli plants. In the second level is the lettuce patch which we have been thoroughly enjoying. I cut the lettuce leaves off of the plants and do not pull them out for a continuous harvest. In the front are Dwarf bok choy going to seed and onions. In the third and lowest level is one large tomato plant, cilantro, Dwarf bok choy (going to seed), onions and a single basil plant.

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Driveway container full of very lively oregano which came back from last year. I just cut all of that back and have a lot of it in the dehydrator as I type this. There are three black bean plants behind the oregano that can now get enough sunlight to grow.

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Backyard garden:

Early wonder beets (moved from another bed that was being attacked by moles) now thriving on the perimeter, large leaved plants are sugar pumpkins, and in the center are ground cherry plants (fruits taste like candy).

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Garlic bed with a baby Dwarf Siberian kale plants (lower right corner), onions, garlic, and spinach. In grow bags, the potatoes are vigorous. One more layer of soil and then I will just let them grow.

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Green and yellow squash plants are taking off with Anaheim peppers near the center. On the trellis, the snow peas are doing well. Potatoes in grow bags on the right.

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Tomato plants in grow bags between the raised beds. These two plants have flower buds already. Can’t wait for home grown tomatoes.

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Bean teepee has turned out to be a favorite spot for Maya, our Tibetan spaniel. The grass was supposed to be trimmed by my son but he missed it. I pressed the grass down with my feet and now Maya loves to go in there whenever she is outside and roll around in the cool, green grass. From the left are Romano green beans, pickling cucumbers and dill, and Suyo long cucumbers (which are heavenly).

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Wild highbush blueberries are loaded. I can’t wait! I have my netting standing by. I leave one of the bushes for the birds and the rest are for us.

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Pears are abundant and about 3/4″ now. It is almost time to start thinning the fruit.

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Ground cherry, yellow peppers, eggplant, parsley and basil.

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Front garden:

Bed closest is growing pickling cucumbers on the ends, black beans on the outside and Strawberry popcorn in the center. Middle bed has yellow pear cherry tomatoes, plum tomatoes and leeks. Farthest bed has from the left, oregano, onions, Swiss chard, broccoli, Dwarf bok choy, red cabbage, and German chamomile.

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My homemade structure is made from pear branches and twine which will provide support for the 6 plum tomato plants and 6 yellow pear cherry tomato plants, both indeterminate types which grow and grow all summer. I will run string when the plants get a little taller.

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Broccoli plants are doing well in this spot, though the Dwarf bok choy is a favorite for insects. The red cabbage has started heading up but will probably bolt soon. Dwarf bok choy seedlings and Swiss chard (which is just not growing at all).

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Black beans on the outside, Strawberry popcorn in the center, and pickling cucumbers on the ends of this bed. The beans are outgrowing the popcorn so I will need to build a trellis for the bean plants. I had to resow most of the popcorn after the dog decided to dig here (she is not allowed outside unsupervised anymore). The beans are an experiment and will fix nitrogen to the soil even if I don’t get a lot of beans. The Strawberry popcorn is for fun. I sure hope I get a few tiny, red ears.

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That is what is going on in my garden right now.

Garden transformation, warm weather

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As the cool temps transition into warmer days and nights, it is time to transition planting areas as well. My dwarf bok choy has bolted. Planted in the tiered garden bed near the driveway, it gets a lot of sunlight and lots of warmth compared to other garden beds.

Dwarf bok choy bolting, going to seed, and forming a flower head.  Looks a lot like broccoli, doesn't it?  Perfect for eating.

Dwarf bok choy bolting, going to seed, and forming a flower head. Looks a lot like broccoli, doesn’t it? Perfect for eating.

How do you cook dwarf bok choy? You can steam it, but yesterday I ate some for lunch and dinner. For lunch I made a pan of organic quinoa (with sauteed onions). During the last two minutes of cooking I placed the dwarf bok choy on top of the quinoa in the pan and put the lid back on. After a minute, I stirred the succulent greens into the quinoa and they immediately wilted and were ready to eat. What a lovely, delicate flavor, requiring nearly no cooking at all. I made fried rice for dinner and did the same with the dwarf bok choy; I laid the greens on top of the rice, allowed it to steam them for a minute, stirred, added the cubed pork chops and served. They were delicious.

The Aichi cabbage is beginning to head up. I am not sure it will have time to finish before it gets too hot and it also goes to seed. Even if I never get to eat them, they are lovely.

Aichi Chinese cabbage

Aichi Chinese cabbage

I will be planting cilantro and parsley in the spaces left by the harvested dwarf bok choy.

Spaces left by harvest dwarf bok choy will be filled with heat-loving herbs such as cilantro and parsley

Spaces left by harvest dwarf bok choy will be filled with heat-loving herbs such as cilantro and parsley

Now let’s see what is happening in the back yard garden. The bean teepee is seeing a lot of life. Looks like 6 of the Romano bean seeds germinated and are now growing. The really exciting part are all of the cucumber seedlings, and the dill coming up.

Pickling cucumbers and dill

Pickling cucumbers and dill

Potatoes growing like crazy. The center grow bag is almost ready to have shredded leaves added.

Potatoes in grow bag

Potatoes in grow bag

One of the new raised beds had the Early wonder beets transplanted (mole infestation in garlic bed turned me into a crazed Elmer Fudd and I dug up that whole corner to block the mole’s entrance to my raised bed — the beets had to be moved to safety). But if you look closely you can see sugar pumpkin seedlings. We love our sugar pumpkins during the holidays for fresh pies, muffins, pumpkin bread, and more. The pumpkin plants will escape from the bed and pour out into the yard.

Pumpkin bed new home for beets which will be harvested before pumpkin plants get too big

Pumpkin bed new home for beets which will be harvested before pumpkin plants get too big

Pumpkin seedling

Pumpkin seedling

Spinach. Lots and lots of spinach. Spinach omelettes are the new favorite breakfast around here, especially when combined with sauteed onions and cheese. I don’t pull out my spinach plants to harvest them. Spinach can be continuously harvested by cutting the outer leaves off allowing at least two inner leaves to remain. The plant is stimulated to grow more leaves, and you can continue to harvest until they bolt from hot weather. You can see in the photo below how many leaves have been cut off. I harvested two leaves from each of these plants yesterday morning. They grew that much in 24 hours. I do feed these with a fish emulsion once every week or two.

Continuous harvest spinach by cutting outer leaves

Continuous harvest spinach by cutting outer leaves

Look at how big the snow peas have grown! Hoping for flower buds any day now. And while seed packets tell you to thin seedlings to 6-8 inches apart, I use the intensive gardening method and will allow them all to remain. The soil was amended with manure and compost before planting and should support all of these plants. If necessary, I will give them a little fertilizer, though peas and beans fix nitrogen to the soil, so they do not need much fertilizer if grown in healthy soil.

Heirloom snow peas

Heirloom snow peas

Squash seedlings are coming up after the last few warm days. Oh, how I love squash. These are Cocozelle Di Napoli summer squash, an heirloom variety that grows a green striped squash. In the same bed are yellow summer squash that are just breaking through the soil.

Cocozelle Di Napoli summer squash seedlings

Cocozelle Di Napoli summer squash seedlings

I still have not planted my tomatoes and peppers, but hope to accomplish that this week. I am recovering from a pretty bad flare-up that has me struggling (persistent Lyme disease). But I will get through it and my garden will get planted, eventually. Yes, it is frustrating after waiting for warm weather, but life is like that, isn’t it? In the meantime, I enjoy pulling weeds for a few minutes each day and planting what I can.

Ruby Swiss chard and bunching onions growing near the spinach

Ruby Swiss chard and bunching onions growing near the spinach

Tending your garden . . . slowing down . . . the journey

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Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.
May Sarton

Last year's backyard garden: tomatoes, basil, cucumbers (left), lettuce, spinach, garlic, carrots, herbs, snow peas (right)

Last year’s backyard garden: tomatoes, basil, cucumbers (left), lettuce, spinach, garlic, carrots, herbs, snow peas (right)


Gardeners don’t just grow a garden. They tend a garden. Gardeners nurture their gardens.

I am a task-oriented person. I like the bottom line. I like completing something. I like accomplishing. I am also ADHD – Inattentive Type. What a dichotomy that creates. Such a cycle of frustration. Too funny! This post started out as a musing on tending a garden and my ADHD sent me on this rabbit trail. But it is an appropriate, meaningful rabbit trail, so I shall follow it for a time.

There is this huge part of me that needs to complete tasks. There is this innate part of me that makes it so very difficult to complete anything. Then, Lyme disease enters the picture. In 2006, I became very sick. I was stopped in my tracks. The brakes were slammed on, hard. I crashed. Cessation of activity. Cessation of accomplishing anything. Now I know why I went into such a depression. My very driving force, the part of me that gave life meaning, was denied access to any kind of release or fulfillment. Freud would be so proud of this revelation!

Rabbit trail from the rabbit trail: if you care for or are in the life of an elderly or chronically ill person, do whatever you can to help them accomplish something. If they have a list of tasks that have been growing and growing, help them check something off. This gives them immense satisfaction, and they will feel loved. At least that is how it works for me. A few years ago my 23 year old son and one of his friends were unemployed. They came over here a couple of times a week to help me take care of this house that has the mortgage paid but is falling more and more into disrepair. I could barely get up to show them what I wanted them to do, but I did and they did, and I was so very happy. Then my access to funds was cut off, my credit cards were cancelled without my permission, and that little pleasure was gone and I was again stuck accomplishing nothing and fell into helplessness again (but not for long).

Okay, hopped back to the main rabbit trail now. So this task-oriented me becomes so sick that I can’t even take a shower without ending up in bed for two days. Time goes by. Somehow I find a spark of fight in me to find a doctor who will treat my persistent Lyme disease, I get a year of antibiotics, and voila, I am high functioning. My brain isn’t really back yet, but my body moves. I can walk to the bedroom, to the bathroom, to the kitchen without collapsing in a heap. Then I push, start to exercise (with the help of physical therapy), start to fight back even more, and take my supplements, try to eat well, try to continue to exercise (which is very important to anyone with chronic fatigue), find pleasure in photography and the occasional culinary accomplishment.

Time goes by and I recover to the point where I think I can grow a garden again, after years of not even wanting to step on the grass outside my front door, years of refusing to walk in the woods, or down to the pond. I put aside my fear of being re-infected and grow a garden last year. It is beautiful, life-giving, though not abundant in its yield. That’s okay. We did eat fresh, organically grown tomatoes, cucumbers, herbs, snow peas, lettuce, spinach, and most importantly, pumpkins. Sugar pumpkins. Yum! Yes, the pies were divine!!! I accomplished something with the help of my strong sons (okay, mostly my strong 20 year old — he did all of the heavy lifting, so to speak), but they all contributed a bit.

I began to learn something profound through the process of growing that garden last year. Because I chronicled the entire season on my other blog, and I photographed what I grew, something was awakened. I don’t know if it was a level of maturity that I lacked previously. I don’t know if because some parts of me were broken and dead, other parts began to grow to fill in the void. I honestly don’t know. I do know that I began to enjoy the process of gardening. I began to find fulfillment in the process itself, the making of bread, brewing kombucha, drying herbs. I began to celebrate the days when I could drag a garden hose all around my yard and water my plants (even if it did exhaust me — I’m not cured, just higher functioning). I was changing.

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That underlying frustration and anxiety that I had felt for years because life was not being attended to as it should (really, normal people are able to clean their houses, wash the windows, keep the kitchen clean, and even scrub out a toilet, mow the yard, deal with the trash, clean up a spill — all of these things are very difficult for me and are never attended to properly) . . . that underlying frustration and anxiety began to diminish. It isn’t gone. It will not go away because I am a single mom trying to handle my own illness, my 17 year old’s health problems, getting braces started for my 13 year old whose teeth are being pushed around so badly they feel loose to him, dealing with Asperger’s, bipolar disorder, and depression in adult children, and somehow providing food for all of us that won’t kill us or make us feel worse. But it is better. Instead of feeling like a complete failure because I can’t do what needs to be done, what most people have no difficulty doing, I am finding satisfaction, delight, and even joy in the process of caring for my garden, caring for my family, even my coursework. I cannot look at the end result somewhere in the future because, to be honest, I can’t even see it. I started school with absolutely no end goal in mind except to prove to myself that I could do it. I worked through the financial aid process, registered for my classes and bought or rented my books. I made it to every class, not missing even one. I enjoyed every Algebra homework assignment. I enjoyed writing every essay, though some of the topics I chose were unpleasant. I enjoyed the drive to and from class every single week. In my garden, I enjoyed and continue to enjoy expanding the growing space, adding organic matter, and feeding my compost pile. I enjoy pushing every single seed into the soil, watering and tending to them daily until they push up green heads while their roots go deep.

Where before I was living in a state of helplessness, was almost completely paralyzed (except for caring for my children), now I find myself enjoying the process, the details, the journey. Yes, instead of a Pony Express rider, I have become a hobbit on an afternoon walk through my beloved Shire, through life. I have learned to enjoy and appreciate the simple things, the little things, even the tiny things in life that had I been rushing towards the finish line I would have missed.

Wintergreen growing beneath the pine tree near the pond

Wintergreen growing beneath the pine tree near the pond

I am enjoying the journey (mostly).

Oh, the waiting!

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You would think I was waiting for a vacation to Ireland, or the birth of a new grandchild, or the arrival of a big check (though, all of those would be lovely and that check would be most welcome). No, I am waiting for warmer weather so I can transplant my heat-loving seedlings like tomato, eggplant, and pepper, and the most exciting of all: Aunt Molly’s Ground Cherry.

I wait. I was thinking about putting a few out this weekend but changed my mind when I checked the 10-day weather forecast. Next Monday, the temps will drop to 40 degrees at night again. That is just too cold and just not worth the chance. No, it isn’t frost or freezing weather, but it will stress those plants. I will keep being their slave instead, carrying them all outside in the morning and back indoors in the evening (because I don’t have a greenhouse or even a cold frame). I will keep waiting.

My Swiss chard seeds germinated, finally. It only took them 11 days. It says on the packet 1 week. That is 7 days, right? Mine took 11 days. But they are up!!! I have never grown Swiss chard before now.

Swiss chard germinating after 11 days, finally!

Swiss chard germinating after 11 days, finally!

As a matter of fact I have never grown the following that I am growing this year:

Swiss Chard
Leeks
Red cabbage (okay, I started some plants too late last fall)
Onions, red, yellow and sweet
Aunt Molly’s Ground Cherry
Sonora Anaheim peppers
Pickling cucumbers
Early Wonder Beets
Garlic- Chesnok Red hardneck and white softneck
Aichi Chinese cabbage (tried last fall but no go)
Romano pole bean
Strawberry popcorn
Cocozelle Di Napoli squash (green)

I did transplant out some broccoli, red cabbage, leek, and bok choy seedlings a few days ago. They are doing fine with the cool nights so far, and we aren’t expected to have any more frosts so I’m hopeful for a decent crop. If I get even one head of cabbage I will be thrilled. It is difficult to grow up here with our short growing season.

And here is how the garden looks this week. I know. It isn’t very exciting, but it is green and growing and promising yummy organic produce in coming months so I am thrilled.

Terraced garden beds with dwarf bok choy, onions, lettuce, Aichi Chinese cabbage and broccoli

Terraced garden beds with dwarf bok choy, onions, lettuce, Aichi Chinese cabbage and broccoli

Back yard garden area

Back yard garden area

Spinach, garlic, beets, onions and newly germinated Swiss chard

Spinach, garlic, beets, onions and newly germinated Swiss chard

Early wonder beets

Early wonder beets

Baby spinach almost ready to start cutting outer leaves so it can continue to produce

Baby spinach almost ready to start cutting outer leaves so it can continue to produce

Teepee trellis with twine

Teepee trellis with twine. Romano pole beans are planted on the left section.

And lest you think I am even the tiniest bit patient, I dug up my Romano pole bean seeds to see if they were germinating. Yes, they are. Back they went, hoping that I didn’t damage them. I know no one else has ever dug up a seed to see if it is germinating. Patient, I am not. I did have to wait 11 days for Swiss chard to germinate. My parsley didn’t take that long, and it is said that parsley seeds must go all the way to hell and back before germinating because they take so long. Seriously! I am chomping at the bit to get my garden really started. That’s okay. I still have 1.5 weeks left in this semester and need the time to study. It’s all good. Happy gardening!

Spring is here, at last!

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Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair. ~Kahlil Gibran

It has arrived. Finally! Spring, that is. How does your garden grow?

Blueberry buds

Blueberry buds


My garlic is doing well. My snow peas have popped up. My spinach is growing real leaves. My Aichi cabbage, broccoli, bok choy, and strangely enough, oregano are growing well. The oregano in the driveway container is growing quickly. It is large enough to harvest and dry (which I hope to do this week). I still need to plant my potatoes. I did plant onion sets, and the ones started less than a week ago are already growing, some almost 6 inches tall. I sowed Swiss chard and Romano green beans. The beets are growing slowly but they don’t get enough sun where they are. I will be sowing a small section in a very sunny location this week. I bet the newly sown beets bypass the shady beets in short order.
Aichi cabbage, broccoli, dwarf bok choy, lettuce and onions

Aichi cabbage, broccoli, dwarf bok choy, lettuce and onions


I cut down five saplings with a hatchet (it took me hours because I am such a wimp) and built a teepee trellis for green beans and cucumbers. My tall boys helped me get it standing straight (mostly) and secured at the top while I dug out holes for the poles to be buried a few inches at least. My 13 year old and I dug out the ground at the base, preparing for planting. I added manure last week, and sowed Romano green beans on the shadiest side yesterday. It just needs the string added between the poles and it will be ready to support vine crops.
Teepee trellis for growing beans and cucumbers.  Just needs the string added.

Teepee trellis for growing beans and cucumbers. Just needs the string added.


I completed the front garden expansion and deeply watered to gauge how much watering would be required for what depth. I checked it this morning to see how well the soil is holding moisture. It was moist, but not too moist, and it hadn’t dried out overnight, even the top inch. So far so good.
Front garden completed and ready for planting

Front garden completed and ready for planting


I need an afternoon to sew grow bags. Then I need the soil fairy to visit my house while I am sleeping so I don’t need to haul soil for the two remaining new raised beds and all of those grow bags I plan on using to grow potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. I am going to experiment with placing the grow bags at the edge of the driveway on the blacktop so that my plants get the heat they so love but is usually missing up here in Connecticut. I think this will be the best I can do without a greenhouse.
Front garden bed with transplanted oregano.  I sowed a small area with Swiss chard seeds to see how it grows in this spot.

Front garden bed with transplanted oregano. I sowed a small area with Swiss chard seeds to see how it grows in this spot.


The seedlings I started indoors are doing well. The tomato plants that I moved to the south-facing bay window are huge, green, and healthy. I will be moving more of my seedlings to that location this week, especially the peppers and eggplants. I got the idea of using plastic drinking cups for potting on seedlings from a Facebook group called Winter Sowers. And I had some in my emergency supplies which I immediately raided. Then I raided the containers in my deck garden for the soil. Took me a few days to pot up my little seedlings but once I did, they began to grow quickly.
Tomato and broccoli plants catching some rays

Tomato and broccoli plants catching some rays


To help harden them off, I open all three windows so that they get cool air and direct sunlight for part of the afternoon. Since we turned off the heat it works perfectly. Cools the house down, too, which tends to warm up as the day goes on (it is extremely energy efficient and will get warmer and warmer with cooking, dishwasher use, baking, even tv and computer use throughout the day). By the afternoon, I am ready for some cool air.
Snow peas are up!

Snow peas are up!


An online friend shared with me his tricks for growing large garlic. One of the tricks he recommended was weekly spraying with fish emulsion. I finally got around to doing so and hit all the rest of my seedlings as well as my emerging perennials. The spinach looked like it had a shot of vitamins within 24 hours. Amazing. I used 1/8 cup per gallon. Some people use just 1 Tablespoon per gallon, and I will probably do that for three weeks, then 1/8 cup for week 4. I also added organic blood meal to the soil. Some crops got some organic all-around fertilizer scratched into the soil before planting. Last year I didn’t have the funds to buy fertilizers, or the energy to apply them. This year I plan to not only fertilize but possibly apply Bt to my corn and squash plants to avoid vine and corn borers. I also plan to spray my squash with copper for powdery mildew which did almost as much damage as the vine borers. I got hit with everything last year. It doesn’t help that my garden areas have shady times during the day.

My compost “pile” is making some nice-looking compost. I still need to build the 2-compartment compost unit from pallets which I put aside for that purpose. And I need to buy a fork for turning the pile.

I plan to make some simple leaf compost piles from chicken wire which I already possess. Then you just pull up the wire, then shovel or fork the compost into the moved wire basket for an easy turn. I really want leaf mould for my flower beds.

I have 2.5 weeks remaining in the semester then I will be able to devote much more time to the garden and sewing and crocheting and a big summer project I have planned that should improve my situation greatly. So much to do!