Monday, September 6


Walking past the hazelnut bushes today, I noticed several husks on the ground, and some cracked open shells - evidence of small rodentian munching on the nuts. This means they're ripe and ready for picking. Giving the bush a test shake, a dozen or so more nuts fell to the ground. So I rounded up a helper and a basket, and we picked as many as we could before it began to rain. I'll put the husks into a paper sack to dry out for a few days, then pry the nuts from their leaves. After that, it's just a matter of cracking open a couple and snacking on them.

Sunday, June 20


An updated view of the electrical box - the rhubarb is huge, but I didn't harvest any this year. I think I may hunt around for some red rhubarb - this green stuff isn't as tasty. You can see the day lilies are growing well, they're as tall as the electrical box, and hide the fading foliage from the irises very well. I need to add one more layer of perennials within here, something nice and tall behind the day lilies, to block off the rest of the box.

The front is really starting to look like the cottage garden it is supposed to be. After the daffodils bloom and fade, the daisies and black-eyed Susans take over.

Today's harvest was nearly 8 cups of peas! This is going to be a tasty week.

Monday, June 14

June Updates...

A humid, dreary, tepid Flag Day today. The sky was overcast all day, but Mr. Golden Sun peeked out a few times. This is the third (fourth?) day in a row of incredibly humid weather, but not-quite-raining. I finally gave in yesterday and set the sprinklers on the garden, gave it a good, long, soak (2 inches of water? maybe a bit more) so that I could pull weeds in relative ease today.

She is a grand old flag.

Who better to guard the tomato plants - none other than Crazydog! Yes, folks, she'll guard those tomatoes, but carrots are fair game (payment for the security?).

If you look closely enough, you'll notice the glob of miscellaneous wild animal poo on her neck & collar. Sorry, I didn't notice until about an hour after this photo was taken, when Crazydog promptly became WetAndSoapyDog. Never fails - take a clean dog outside and she'll find animal poo to roll in within the first few minutes.

On a much sweeter smelling note, the peas are very nicely growing, although they are taller than my pea supports and threatening to tip the supports over - I think this is the first time that has ever happened. Going gangbusters, and we'll have great stir-fry vegetables soon.

Called crane technique.

Does it work?
If do right, no can defense.

For some random reason, this photo reminds me of the song "Edelweiss" from the Sound of Music....but they're really my volunteer radish crop gone to seed again... I don't really like radishes, so why I even bother with them is beyond me...soft and white, clean and bright, you look happy to greet me.

Onions go marching two by two hurrah....hurrah. The Onions go marching two by two hurrah....hurrah!

Today's harvest - a small salad in the making for lunch tomorrow - and a weird rock. I'll have to ask a geologist friend of mine what it is - it sort of looks like the rock has a 'rind' with purple inside and a white outside, probably quartz, given the area, but weird nonetheless.


Monday, May 17

The suspect....

So, is this poison ivy?

I don't have a clue as to what I'm looking for, as I've never reacted to it (and thus, "why should I care?")

But if it is...I probably should kill it off. Any suggestions? This spot can get Roundup, given the location under our deck, but the other areas that are suspect have plants we want to keep as well as the suspect.

Sunday, May 9

A Blustery Week...and a freeze

There has been a lot of wind lately - enough to make me worried about a few saplings that might not handle the strain. This tree, however, seems to be doing just fine in spite of the wind. Normally, this is a vertical trunk, but I'm starting to wonder if the trees will take on a permanent list.
You can see the garden just past the tree, tilled, and some beds already planted for the year. I can't remember having the garden started this early. Makes me pine for some of those klotches or 'wallo water' mini-greenhouses so I could get my tomatoes in early.
The creeping phlox is blooming - I love how it tumbles across the stones in the rock wall. Normally, I'm not a pink person, but the pink colors on these are a nice contrast to the green and the granite.
The hostas along the foundation are coming in nicely as well as the lady's mantle and something whose name escapes me right now. Never mind, though, since we've had a frost this weekend, and I'm afraid many of these plants will be stunted or killed off outright. Our early summer was beautiful while it lasted, but that's about it.
The peach tree also has flowers, though I haven't had the nerve to go check it out and see the damage. The tent caterpillars were cut off a couple weeks ago, caught them somewhat early, as were some other scab-type bugs. The leaf-curl is still a battle so I'll be spraying the tree this week (if the wind cooperates).

Sunday, April 25

Root view box update

The radishes have been picked and eaten; they had a flat side where they grew against the window. You can see the carrots and beets in the photo, and a very thin parsnip starting to grow.
I have had a lot of positive feedback from visitors and some requests for the plans. They will be written up in a single page with illustrations, but it will take me a little bit, given all the other garden work right now.

Sunday, April 18

Springtime work starting early

I'm refreshing the area around the electrical box this year. Today, I pulled all the stones up, and am prepping the area for re-trenching the border. The grass from the lawn is invading the border and it's starting to look awful. This week, I plan to trench out that area, hit all the border with Roundup (and a lot of weeds inside the area, too. Maybe this way the local busybodies won't find fault with my weeds that seem to take over the bed too often. Wish me luck!

So, I found this the other day looking for that last Easter Egg that was not located during the hunt. Not quite what I was hoping to discover, but it sure looks promising from a few feet away.

For those of you unfamiliar, this 'egg' will burst open with Rhubarb leaves soon.

The front bed, where we planted over a hundred daffodil bulbs last fall, and two dozen iris rhizomes. You can see the iris fans growing along the wall, and daffodils in clumps throughout the photo. Other green patches are the wildflower seeds, Malteese Cross, Black-eyed Susan, Coneflower, and Daisy. This bed is looking better and better every year. Re-cutting the edge last year made a big difference. As much as I hate to add more work, I'm going to add that to my plans every few years to keep the lawn and planting bed from merging.

Leaves of three...oh wait. That's a strawberry blossom.

The bed that was planted about 7 or 8 years ago is starting to fill in. The bulbs multiply every couple years, and eventually I hope to have the bed entirely filled with daffodils. I need to find another plant that can fill in once the daffodils are done for the season, perhaps day lilies, since I could divide the Stella d'Oro lilies around the electrical box this year. I need to get something there to keep objects from rolling off the edge of the driveway and cover up the daffodil foliage once the flowers fade away. Initially, this was going to be creeping phlox, which is very nice looking, but just doesn't create the 'boundary' I'm looking for of about 12 to 18 inches tall on the edge of the drive. Another thought is to get some Ruby Stella re-bloomers to counter the yellow all over the rest of the gardens. My assignment in the next week is to get some sturdy markers to identify gaps in the bulbs so I don't dig up anything when I plant the lilies next fall.

Saturday, April 3

First seeds in the ground

I'm probably pushing my luck with frost, but I can't help myself - I'm a gambler at heart. I put in two rows of lettuce, a row of parsnips, one of carrots, and four of early snow peas. Crossing my fingers that any frosts do no serious harm, but I'd only be out a few cents in seeds and 45 minutes of time, right? Next succession planting for these should be in two weeks, which is right about the 'normal' time to start the seeds.

The indoor transplants are looking pretty healthy. Tomatoes and peppers have begun to sprout, and it appears all twelve petunias are sprouted (100% germination from last year's seed!). Now, to keep everything alive for the next two months.

I've noticed this year a few seed companies are selling something suspiciously similar to my first project on this blog. Yes, folks, they're selling ladder trellises for far more than it costs to build one. You might go out and DIY to save $50 or $75 (not to mention shipping and handling!) The three I constructed in 2006 are still doing very well, with minimal warping and splitting.

Sunday, March 28

Seed Starting Setup...

Since I've gotten a few questions about it, here are some new photos of the seed-starting setup in the corner of my basement. Nothing spectacular here, just some industrial shelving, a scratch-and-dent formica countertop, commercial heating mat with thermostat, fluorescent light fixtures, and seed flats. Out of the photo is a powerstrip with integral timer for the lights. I've mentioned this before, but it bears repeating: I don't buy the fancy grow lights, rather, I put one 'cool' bulb and one 'warm' bulb into the fixture, and the plants seem to like it well enough. Sure, fancy grow lights have more of the spectrum, but this is just a family garden, it isn't my source of income.
In the next photo, you can see the sprouting Petunia seeds - it looks like I'm 12 for 12 if you look closely. Hopefully, they will all survive! The fiber pots off to the side are my tomato and pepper plant starts - I've started 5 paste tomatoes, 3 jelly bean, 5 beefsteak and 5 bell peppers. I should start more peppers this week if I have the time.

Sunday, March 14

Make way for mid-March

Progress on the garden! It was a gorgeous early spring day today, 55°F and sunny, with a nice northeasterly wind to dry off the ground. Spent an hour in the garden, weeding out the tree nursery bed and turning over 6 feet of the planting beds by hand. The soil is damp but not wet (not quite dry enough to drive the tiller in there, but I can certainly turn over a few beds for the early spring vegetables. I hope to get more turned this week and some hard-raking in to prepare the beds for the first crops.

Those seed tapes I spent so much time on this winter? Yep, those will be going in quickly. I need to make more as I finally picked up carrot seeds.

I've started the petunia seeds - a dozen or so this year. Hopefully I'll have success again.

Tomorrow will bring new photos of my starting bench, this year's additions are a heat mat thermostat with digital temperature gauge and a small fan to help combat damping-off. Thus far, all the herb seeds are merrily germinating, with a few growing well.

Chives are well represented in the herbs this season, they will take the place of my border surrounding the vegetable garden, at least on the north side of the border. The thought is that chives are very useful and perennial. As an added bonus, they are not frequently eaten by rodents or deer, so they should survive where other plants have become some critter's lunch. The flowerbed next to the garden that never has really taken off will become a herb garden of sorts, a place for my perennial herbs in full sun and exposed to some reasonable amount of irrigation.

Root view box update - you can see the roots that I've cut the tops off for thinning. All the seedlings have true leaves now, and the radishes look nice and healthy. Even at this young age, the beets are bright red and the radishes are pink. Looking at this photo, I guess we need to water the box again - things are starting to look a bit dry in there. I'm guessing that the roots are going to have a flat side as they grow into the window, but otherwise will still be round


Monday, March 8

Coconut Coir - again

I've had a few extra days now to investigate the coconut coir bricks - they expand much less graphically than the pellets. One brick and about 4 quarts of water fills half a six gallon pickle bucket. I let them expand overnight and used a hand cultivator to break up any remaining clumps of coir. Everything seems peachy.

As for the germination of seeds in the coir - no problems there, I have twenty-two of twenty-four garlic chives sprouted and happy. Basil sprouted fine, even one rosemary seed has germinated already (unless it was a basil seed that launched an invasion of the rosemary pots). Photos will follow, but thus far everything seems just fine with the coconut coir in place of my previous favorite peat moss.

Monday, February 22

Coconut Coir vs Peat Moss

I've been reading up on the latest fads in gardening, and it seems that everyone is buzzing about coconut coir as a germination medium since it is more renewable than peat moss (which is renewable, but takes a long time to grow). So I thought I'd give it a whirl. All I have to lose is money, right?

I bought two types of coir - bricks, which should be soaked in a tub of water, and pellets, which are meant to replace the jiffy disks in germination trays. The bricks remain to be opened, as only one flat of seedlings was planted today, they were $2.50 for ~8 quarts.

For about $5, a box of 72 pellets were plunked into the tray, and warm water added to make them expand and get damp. Be sure to place them in the tray oriented vertically, with the circular sides of the cylinder on top & bottom. Horizontal pellets will expand into the sides of the cell, and remain rather dense (a small screwdriver helped break up the clumps), one cracked the cell wall of a recycled tray. Vertical pellets will expand upwards, looking a little too much like Canadian goose poop, but pouring water over the top helps them settle flat. They expanded quickly - within a few minutes, much faster than peat pellets.

I found the pellets to be a bit small for the cells (perhaps they'll expand more overnight), and didn't fill the cavities completely. But for ease of use and rapid expansion they get high marks. I'm not thrilled at the cost, especially compared to the bricks of coir. Perhaps I can find a different supplier that sells them bulk.
So what did I start you ask?
Garlic Chives
Regular Chives
Spicy Globe Basil
Dark Opal Basil
Creeping Thyme
Lemon Balm
Sweet Basil
Flat Parsley
Curled Parsley

Saturday, February 20

Radish Germination in the Root View Box

Those radish seeds germinated in three days, roots are visible in the photo above. Today they have leaves, but I don't have a photo yet.

Photo of seed leaves - 2-21-2010:

Photo of root view box 3-22 or can see the radishes and the beets are growing nicely!

Saturday, February 13

Building a Root View Box

Ever want to know just what is happening beneath the soil surface? What your seeds are actually doing in there?

A root-view box is simply a planter with a window to the dirt, so you can observe what is happening below the soil surface. By planting the seeds against an angled window, the roots will grow against it. However, roots avoid light, so the window needs a covering.

Like other projects that will be encountering water, this is built mostly of cedar, with some scraps of other wood as trim pieces (holding in the window). It was built to fit the planter drip trays I found at the local hardware store, so anyone building one will want to come up with their own dimensions.

1x6 lumber
trim pieces (in this case 1/2" square stock and some triangles cut from scraps lying around)
1/8" clear polycarbonate for the window
plastic drip tray from a windowbox planter
1" galvanized hinges
2" latch (could use a hook & eye or many other things to secure the window, but these were on the clearance rack for a quarter each)
wood screws
wood glue
screw gun

Mount the window at an angle, so the roots have to encounter it while growing down (geotropism, if I recall primary school biology correctly)
Drill some drainage holes in the bottom.
Add a trim piece that covers the edge of the window across the top, this will block incoming light, since the roots will avoid any light.

If you are wanting to use acrylic to save money on the window, I understand that Lowe's will cut it to size for you - do this - acrylic is not easy to cut without shattering. If you must cut it yourself, use a metal straight-edge and a blade to score it, then repeat the same cut deeper and deeper until you can snap it over a straight corner. Polycarbonate (sold under the brand name Lexan) is a bit stronger and less likely to shatter. Polycarb. can be cut easily on a band saw, or with a fine-tooth jigsaw or circle saw.

Plant the root-view box as you would any other container. This is a mixture of potting soil with a slow-release fertilizer and worm castings, the same mix I'm using for starting seeds this year. I filled a 1.25 gallon ice cream bucket halfway with potting mix and added 5 or 6 cups of water, letting it sit for a few hours to soak in. Then, dump it into the planter box, plant the seeds, and add labels.

Seeds that would be good to try include carrots, beets, radishes, bunching onions, parsnips, and chard (it has multi-colored roots). Science project topics can include obstacle avoidance by the roots (put stones or sticks into the box), different light filters for the roots, different soil mixes (sandy, loam, clay).

I hope to add photos every few days as we watch the seeds germinate and grow. We should see something from the radishes within a few days.

Monday, February 1


Since there was such great interest in the Garden Planner spreadsheet last year, I've decided to add a Google Group to facilitate downloads of the spreadsheet as it develops. You can find us at

The original garden planner spreadsheet is located there, you're welcome to join us and download a copy.

Improvements I'm currently working on include a list of herbs, some bug fixes, and a custom font for the calendar (icons instead of the current abbreviations)

Monday, January 25

Starting to think about seeds again

Seed catalogs are filling up my mailbox again, it must be January!

I tend to get excited thinking about all the new varieties of plants I'll grow each summer, and make a list that is twice as long as possible and four times longer than practical. Then, after much agony, I pare down the list to a few dozen plants and order those seeds I still need.

In my efforts to make a more scientific approach to this garden stuff, I'm expanding the garden planner spreadsheet that I wrote about last winter and many of you have (and hopefully are using). I hope, before too long, to have the small spreadsheet available on a host site for public downloading.

What should we start first? I expect by mid-February to be starting some herbs, some flowers, and a select few vegetables. If all goes well, I'll have a few more projects completed prior to the big seed-starting months of March and April:
  • root-view grow box (for the kids - see what your carrots are doing under the soil surface)
  • improved design of the garden hod - I have learned a few things from this first attempt that I should change before I make them as gifts. I still have several to make and send out to gardeners this May, so the kinks need to be worked through
  • cold frame - I've wanted a cold frame for ages, and I think this may be the year to build it, a small one, 2 feet by 4 feet, but that should be large enough for experimenting
  • row cover frames - haven't quite figured out how these will look, but I want something that is collapsible but will hold row cover material over a 30" x 4 foot section, give or take. The first experiment will be for broccoli and cole crops, which are forever becoming a smorgasbord for the local cabbage butterfly population. Perhaps it would make a good cold blanket for tender plants during the late frosts (June! :|)
  • more seed tapes, with a very busy year planned, I want to have easy to seed carrots, lettuce, and the like. I hardly ever get succession planting correct, so this year I hope to improve my chances.
New tools this year?
I have some money to spend on my garden, so I'm going to buy a digital heat mat thermostat, since my basement room is hardly ever the right temperature.

Monday, January 18

Garden Harvest Basket / Garden Hod - completed

I'd posted in September about a harvest basket / garden hod that I was planning to build. Now that the holidays have settled down and cedar lumber has been acquired, I have gotten down to building it.

1x10 - (about 2 feet needed)
1x2 - (about 5 1/2 feet needed)
pvc-coated wire mesh (1/2 inch grid, 18" x 22" or thereabouts)
exterior screws 1 1/2" & 2 1/2" (bigger or smaller will work with adaptations)
staple gun and 1/2" or 5/8" staples

Cut three 18" lengths of 1x2 (handle and rails)
Cut two 7 1/2" lengths of 1x2 (feet)
Cut two 7 3/4" lengths of 1x10 (ends), taper upper corners, notch sides for rails, and trim points off lower corners.

When attaching wood, pre-drill the holes for the screws to combat splitting of the wood. I glued any place where wood met wood, but that is up to you. I used long screws (2 1/2") for the handle and foot attachment, as these will be load-bearing points in the basket. The rails are mostly for keeping everything square and holding the mesh in place.

Assemble in this order:
Attach handle to two end pieces
Find center of wire mesh and temporarily staple to the bottom of the basket, attach feet such that the screws hold the mesh in place.
Bend mesh up sides of the basket, trimming as necessary to fit. Wrap around the interior of the rails and staple in place. Use a hammer if the staples didn't seat all the way.
Attach rails to end pieces.

I'll be sanding the handle some, as I don't like the rough side of the cedar, and I want to soften the corners when I carry it around.