The Dirt on 2014’s Garden Plans

There are four inches of snow blanketing my front patch of ground. right now. It’s piled on my stacking tower, making it look like a haphazardly delivered wedding cake. But strangely I am not able to enjoy it like usual. I am impatient for March and the first signs of Spring.

Last year I had a lot of plans for my little lot, but there were so many other things to work on that I could only put in a few things (the pot tower and the tomatoes). Now my family room is (mostly) done, and since I’m still deliberating over my bedroom plans, my garden gets my full attention. I have given myself a budget and carefully tried to map out my final goal. Of course, I have way more plans than can reasonably be attempted by a novice in one year, so I’m focusing on two things: blueberry bushes and herbs. I want a beautiful garden, but usefulness must be my first thought, and pleasure given my second. These two projects are, I think, the ones whose results will be most easily incorporated into my life (I noticed it was hard for me to get used to harvesting tomatoes,  hopefully herbs will come more naturally). Plus, they serve as stepping stones to my future, less practical, projects.

The jobs I’ve picked wil require two raised beds. One will go up against my house and end about a foot away from the already existing border of the front bed. This is where my blueberries will go. There red foliage in the autumn will, I think, complement the Japanese maple that’s planted in front of the window. In stage two I will add a level at the back of the bed for black pearls – a gorgeous, pepper plant which the Geekette and I saw at the gardens ages ago. We also saw hellebores, with which I am completely smitten. Those will go in front of the bed, and possibly snow drops, or some other early flowering flowers. This area tends to look pretty sad in the spring until the maple tree starts getting bed head.

The second bed will be on the other side of my door, stretching from my house to the sidewalk. The majority of my herbs will go in front, and I plan on making their box higher for easier harvesting (and to keep out dogs – we have a silk terrier living right next door who is very curious). Herbs that need shade can go in the lower middle section, where I’ll eventually be putting the more “ornamental” plants.

So that’s my plan for this year. I’ve already ordered my two blueberries (I wanted three, but in deference to their stated spacing preferences I’m starting with two), and am only waiting for the snow to melt before measuring my beds for a third time and buying wood. My blueberries will arrive the end of February and the beds need to be ready by then. Herbs will be started indoors in March, and transplanted mid-April (if the weather ever returns to normal, that is). But for now, in January, all I can do is dream.

Words, Words, Words

Hello World!

My favorite month of the year has past as fast as a summer’s dawn and now we’re really in the thick of fall, which just happens to be my favorite season. I’m starting to eye the sweaters in my closet, hoping one will look thin enough for a walk out. I did break down and wear one this week, but it’s pretty light for a sweater so I’m not sure if it counts.

This post today is brought to you by my dad’s camera. I’ve borrowed it for the week and will be taking pictures and then slowly rationing them out over the next few posts. Today you get pictures of tomatoes. Here is the bush:

The cucumbers are next to this, but I was trying to avoid the ugly AirCon unit.

When I planted my veggies in the spring I had the idea of neat lines growing up and then stopping. The cucumbers and tomatoes did not get this message, and have not only grown up but out. What’s more, they have actually put roots down through the drainage holes in their containers and attached themselves to the ground proper. Their actions are eerily sentient  – if they start demanding blood sacrifices I’m pulling out the weed-o. Though tomatoes have been producing  a few fruits here and there since August, this was the first time I got such an impressive harvest at one time. And there are plenty more green ones left. What should I do with them all?

I call these plum tomatoes, but I've noticed most people refer to them as "teardrops."



My cucumber plant has been producing all summer too, but so far only one or two cucumbers at a time. I think I’ve harvested a total of six to date, not counting the weird orange one which I pulled but did not eat.

My dad has a new camera lens - can you tell I was out of my depth (of field)?

My dad has a new camera lens – can you tell I was out of my depth (of field)?

There are always lots of the flowers and gherkins on the vine (expect for when I was taking these pictures, naturally) so I think something must be knocking the babies off the plant before they have a chance to mature. Certainly, once they get big enough for me to notice them the bugs seem to leave them alone. The early cukes were a bit bitter, but the last two I had tasted just like your average grocery store cucumber. Yum. There are at least two more coming my way soon.


And finally, it’s too late to show you the blossoms, but here are the alien seed pods of the nigella, or love-in-the-mist. Pretty weird, huh? No wonder they call them ragged ladies.

 I managed to focus on the tendrils and not the pod in every picture I took

The pretty blues and purples are the flowers from my sister’s wedding back in May. I was really surprised by how the bright blues kept their coloring even after being dried. For some reason the nigella pods outside are larger and more green-purple. I like these mini tan and pink ones better, but I think it’s wild that there’s such a marked difference between house breed and element exposed.


Now that fall is here I’m starting to think about gardens again and what I’ll do differently next year. If all goes well I’ll finally get my fig tree, lavender, and some mints. I’m going to try planting chamomile again too – maybe it will actually flower this time. I tried growing it on my window sill this sumer and got strange, rubbery foliage instead. It did smell good when brushed though, so I know it was at least the right seeds. I’ve also been eyeing more decorative plants, the ones I turned my nose up at this spring, like pussy willows and chinese lanterns. And gerber daisies. Someone brought a pot into the office with these big, impossibly colored flowers and my heart fell. Ah, so much for the witch’s herb garden idea, bring on the madcap faeries.

Better than a shooting star

A Gaggle of Arugula

Sprouts are up in my garden! Only a few, out of dozens, but oh! Just seeing these little bits of green gets me all excited. I had given up hope, and then one small plant (I think arugula) sent up it’s tiny first leaves.

Then it snowed.

But when the snow melted, there were the leaves still fresh and green. And the next day they was joined by five or six of their closest friends. I planted Sweet Peas and Nigella in the same half-barrell as the arugula, but so far all the sprouts seem to be spinach-y. I’m happy with just this though, so happy that when I discovered these I nearly flipped:

A  Crest of  Cress . .. or s it a sample of cilantro?

And that’s why you have pictures today. They’re sprouts in the bottom-most pot of my herb tree! The sad part is I really can’t remember which these are. Cress? Cilantro? Mustard greens? I kept playing with the order, and now I don’t know what I finally settled on. I’m pretty sure it’s not the mustard greens but I guess we’ll have to wait a little longer before we find out exactly. Just another mystery added to the already inexplicable magic of gardening.

I was taking these pictures with my grouchy little camera and it shut off after only five shots, which is probably why I managed to make it to work on time. But taking these photos I discovered another sprout, this one in the pot number two. And this morning I finally braved my indoor seeds (which have been giving me a pretty cold shoulder) and found two nigella sprouts. It’s funny how elated I feel over such a little bit of green amongst the cocoa-coloured brown. These plant-lings are like stars, both visually and symbolically. Little bright reminders that something is at work, that life is happening, that quiet triumphs occur everyday, even if no one is noticing. They make me excited for warmer weather and the new discoveries implied therein.  

Voices of Spring

I cannot hold them in any longer. I must put them down by pushing down on plastic keys to let them spill out, tumbling across the page on a carpet of red dots, like the tender toes of carelessly happy children prancing across the hot summer sands.

See what I mean? I have been going on like that, inside my head, for days now and it simply has to stop. One cannot think so convolutedly, as if their brain was awash in commas and dashes and every side an aside. That is, one can, I have at least, but one ought not to if they can help it. All I need to do, I think, is tell you about the first voices, and then maybe they will stop possessing me with their elegent and heavy prosery and leave me to return to thoughts more appropiate for plodding along in contentment. What were the first voices? They were what I heard Monday night, what I heard right before bed and in bed and doubtless all through my dreams, like a soundtrack on endless loop. I do not think the crickets were out in full force when I left for Gerogia on Thursday, but they were singing like the world had no beginning Monday evening. I can hardely belive that the sound I heard that evening was made from a tiny thing like a cricket. Even accounting for the echo on the lake, they’d have to at least be camel crickets before I could take you seriously. If you were to explain that the sound was made by a fwooper or Gullinkambi I wouldn’t even blink. “Oh, that’s what it is?” I’d say, and think myself a dunce for having to ask. But crickets? How could they make such a loud, deep, almost monotons mass of undulating sound, penetrated only by the rough bass of two or three rythmiclly inclined frogs? I think we have become too trusting, to believe that of a few spiney hind legs and the general silence of night.

So yes, since Monday night I have been a little insane. Of course, I did spend all of Monday making kimchi (and I have pictures, so you will be hearing of it soon). Wednesday I relaxed a little and rolled an old Jack Daniels half-barrell into what counts as my front lawn. I filled it with dirt and scattered in some seeds. Then I dug out one of the really sad azalea bushes that came with my house and planted my pots into the ground instead. The effect is much lovelier, but now that I’ve seen how rocky and full of clay the soil they had to put up with is, I feel sorry for being so mean spirited toward the azaleas.

The pot stacking went well, but the structure is rather wobbly. There’s a bit too much of the iron bar showing, and I’m unsure if I should ignore it or buy another pot. Of course, bribing an nice, slightly taller and stronger perons to pound the bar another three inches into the ground would fix both problems, but I feel I have very good reason to be cautious about driving iron into this ground. I live in a condo, and there are all kinds of mysterious boxes right behind my pot tree, boxes with cords undoubtably running under the very spot I’ve placed my creation. Any how, the pots have survived one night, though someone’s wind chime was going off last evening, sounding exactly like the tinkle of shattering pottery. I dreamt I opened my door and all the pots were scattered around the pole in shards. “Oh well,” I shrugged. “I kind of saw that coming.” I didn’t realize this was a dream until I’d been awake for about an hour, and it really didn’t seem important enough to get up from what I was doing and go check on them. Still, I was really pleased to find everything not broken and in shambles. Pleased enough to ruin all my previous attempts at blasé.

There. Silence. The crickets have worn themselves out. I‘ll add of picture of the pots in the morning if I can, until then good night!

Updated 3/28: Finally pictures!

Just the FactsDown the Rabbit Pole

In Which the Author and a Friend Stroll Around

The weather has been a little nippy out now, but three or four weeks ago, a way back in March,  the weather was glorious and warm. We, the Geekette and I, celebrated this by taking the day off and going to the Brookside Gardens. I don’t think words can describe a beauty like that, simply because half the beauty is in the effect it has on the viewer. That a gently sloping hill and a mirrored lake can ease a soul of all its cares is a  magical thing in and of itself.

I took an outrageous number of pictures, so I’m not sure what to show you all. We walked around for about four hours, leaving the gardens at one point to stumble into the adjoining park. We came prepared for the ramble, the Geekette brought a dozen still-warm chocolate chip cookies and I packed bento.

We ate lunch in the back of my car – no picnicking on the lawn, I suppose. Since it was barely spring when we went, being the end of March, I was a little surprised to see so much out. A dozen varieties of daffodils, moslty miniutare; ten or twenty magnolias of varying scent and color, their petals carpeting the ground beneath them; tulips and snowdrops and poppies, filling beds with color and gracing river banks. My favorite were these:

Hellebores - The Lenten Rose


Don’t they look like death roses? But beyond that, their shape and color is really charming. I wonder what’s in their bed now. I’ve been to the Brookside Gardens in the summer before (it was summer, right?) and it was much more colorful. The azaleas were in bloom everywhere you turned, and even the bugs were out in brighter array – we got to watch a whole hive of bumble bees dive bombing each other over the pond, and even saw one eaten by a watchful fish. But the best part was the wisteria, awake and blooming over our heads in the covered walk. It’s one of my favorite features, and it was all shriveled and barren when we went this time. But despite that, and the overcast skies, the day was warm and bright and filled with spring hues. Let’s go again soon Geekette, okay?