summer 2013

Saturday, May 28, 2011


Welcome to Israel and India!  16 countries so far. I am bewildered and thrilled.

Time to mulch!  Actually had to water beds as the temp is  high and getting higher everyday.  Had a huge wind storm come through and drop some large branches into the tomato bed.  Knocked over 2 of the bamboo supports, but the plants are fine.

I am going to head up early tomorrow or the next day to harvest lettuce, chard, strawberries, parsley and possibly peek under the soil to see what the potatoes are up to.  Hoping for rain tonight.

Went into the barn and took a large wheelbarrow of loose straw and spread it around the tomatoes and potatoes.  Mulching helps keep the soil from drying out.  It also keeps the germination of weeds down.  If there is no light hitting the soil, a lot of weed seeds will stay weed seeds.  I use mulch that will decompose and actually help the soil in the future.   Untreated grass clippings are excellent.  They add nitrogen to the soil as they break down.  Straw is my favorite because it is free for me and easy to get to and very light weight.   The texture of the soil a year after it is laid down is beautiful - dark and crumbly.

Onions are ready to bloom.

I skipped last week's entry.  I took an weekend trip with the husband to Virginia.  Wanted to go to the beach but realized It may be senior week for some school districts.  Did senior week once when I was 17, don't need to be there in that environment again. ever.

So, we went to Monticello, home of Thomas Jefferson.  Beautiful.  We skipped the house tour, saw it last year.  The gardens are an inspiration.  Of course they have a team of people to maintain the gardens now.  In Jefferson's time,  he had slaves to tend to the garden, but was known to spend a lot of time in the dirt ( when he was home.)  The garden did provide a lot of food for the plantation, but also it was a huge science experiment.  Jefferson kept detailed records of plantings and would plant several varieties of vegetables and flowers for testing purposes.

The native garden took a hit with the storm as well.  Lost my phlox.   Replaced it and added a little support for the next storm.  The new phlox is "Miss Lingard."  White with a nice fragrance.  Saw it at Brookside Gardens in Montgomery County last year.

 Coreopsis  is blooming, attracting bugs.

Today, spent the day with family.  What a blessing.

Had a hard winter, but we are starting to recover from a shocking loss.

everyone on the porch!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Vertical Planting

I have always staked tomatoes. I have tried the tomato cages and ALWAYS had them fall down halfway through the summer.  Tomatoes grow fast and heavy.  Last year I tied them to the trellis system my husband built.  That worked very well.  It has steel T- posts every 4 feet with deer fencing made of nylon mesh tied with wire.

This year I am trying a few different devices.  Regular hardwood stakes, bamboo stakes and a plastic cage I  bought at Wal Mart for 7 dollars called the "Ultimate tomato cage. "   I am going to experiment and see which one I like best.  I have decided to rotate my crops every year, so the bed I moved to is 5 x16 x 2.  No trellis,  as my husband is out of town for a while and didn't have time to install before he left.

Ultimate tomato cage?

bamboo in front, hardwood stakes in back

The good thing about  the large bed is that there will be lots of air circulation and sun reaching all the plants equally.  I will mulch with straw in a week or so.  There is good rain expected in the next few days, so I want the seedlings well watered.

To prevent blossom end rot, I added about 1/2 cup of lime to the area I am placing the seedlings.  This will add calcium to the soil, and the mulch will help stop the soil from drying out.  That is the cause of blossom end rot, inconsistent watering and calcium deficiency.

You want to plant the seedlings very deep.  Remove the bottom leaves first and dig deep.  Roots will form all along the stem.

bottom leaves removed

put some basil in front

I am going to try vertical gardening for cucumber, cantaloupes and possibly watermelons.  I have also planted scarlet runner beans and  gita beans.  Gita beans are around a foot long.  Sounded like fun.

will plant cucumbers here

I hilled up my potatoes.  In a few weeks, I will use a lot of straw to cover potatoes so no light gets through to the tubers.  In the valley near the trellis, I have planted my bean seeds to climb the trellis.

Broccoli also went in.  I have a volunteer lettuce plant that  I will leave.
The onion seeds I planted last year grew throughout the summer.  I would pull the young seedlings before the large bulb would form and use for cooking.  Looks like they are getting ready to bloom.

spittle bug underneath the foamy substance - no damage expected

I can feel the garden coming alive.  I know I will have to spend a little more time each week to keep it looking good.


first red strawberry

Below is a native columbine plant that is almost finished blooming.  It will set seed and come back next year.  I have this in my shade garden at home.

Finally get to wear my new new garden shoes!  Like the dorky socks?

Sunday, May 8, 2011



Good weather, everything starting to dry up. No flooding for a week or so.

 Today I spent a lot of time  preparing a 20x20 space for a native garden.  I have been collecting plants for the last few weeks and I finally sat down and drew up a plan.  I have to know how tall, how wide and what color these plants will be.

I want to attract native bugs, birds and butterflies.  Also, the area is difficult to get water to so I thought trying natives would be a good experiment. Once they are established, they tend to be more drought resistant.

I have a few perennials that are not native, but I like them a lot.

I have them in my driveway waiting for a home:

Monarda - bee balm
Actaea - black cohosh (staying home, likes shade)
Asclepias tuberosa - butterfly weed
Baptisia - false blue indigo
Coreopsis - tickseed
Dennstaedtia - hay scented fern (staying home)
Echinacea - ruby star and purpurea
Eupatorium - joe pye weed
heuchera -  coral bells -staying home
Lobelia  cardinalis - cardinal flower
Osmunda - cinnamon fern - home
phlox - david
rudbeckia (black eyed susan)
Veronicastrum - Iron butterfly
physostegia virginiana - obedient plant
Non natives,  Russian sage, zinnias,sunflowers

The best way to see pictures of these plants is to google and then choose "images" in the upper left corner.  You will see a large selection of pictures.

I planted the tallest  plants in the middle and the shortest in front.  I added leaf grow - composted leaves to the bed and used paper mulch as a weed barrier.  I have been asking for "paper, please" at the grocery store so I have enough thick paper to lay under the mulch.  I am using the pavers to hold down the paper.  Of course the wind picked up as soon as I started unrolling the paper mulch!

I also cut the crimson clover in one of the raised beds and dug the roots under to add nitrogen to the soil.  I added an inoculant (Rhizobium bacteria) to the clover seed last fall before I planted.  This process helps take nitrogen from the air and fix it into the soil.  I just hate cutting down pretty plants, but the nitrogen isn't released until the plant dies.

Does everyone else start singing Crimson and Clover, Over and Over?

Will add plants in a few days - still too cold

 This is the bed I will be planting squash, peppers and some tomatoes.  When the tomatoes go in, I will add a little lime to increase the calcium in the soil.  This, and consistent watering will hopefully stop blossom end rot.  That is when the base of the tomato flattens and turns black.  Also, waiting until the soil is nice and warm and mulching helps.

example of blossom end rot

Mother's Day.  Finished the native bed.  I used lots of paper as weed barrier and covered everything with the rest of the mulch we bought this spring.

Before I took these last pictures, my Son-in-law,  Wesley mowed and weeded the front yard.  It is starting to look so pretty.  Below is a picture of a vanishing species.  A young farming family.

According to the USDA, the average age of a U.S. farmer is over 55 years.   Bailey and Wes are in their 20's.  This is a very hard working couple!

Words of wisdom:

When you are in the country, keep your car doors closed.  My sister-in- law, Lori,  went to a pumpkin patch a few years ago and left her car door open while they were choosing pumpkins.  A few weeks later she found a very large rat had been trapped in her car and was eating everything he could gnaw through.

When you open bags of mulch, wear gloves.  My friend Doris once had a scorpion crawl out of a bag of mulch.

Now -  always; I cannot stress this enough: always look before you reach for that next bag of mulch!

Welcome United Kingdom!

Monday, May 2, 2011


Woke up this morning to a gray, wet, dismal sky.  I took the day off thinking I could get a lot of work done.
At our home in Walkersville, I have a view of the Catoctin Mountains.  They are west of us and we can see the weather coming toward us as fronts usually come west to east.  If you can see the mountains and blue sky, it's fine.  If the mountains are gone, take your umbrella.

Everything is growing very well,  Sugar snap peas, potatoes, Swiss chard, lettuce, strawberries, spinach, beets, onions.   The crimson clover I planted as a cover crop/green manure is beautiful, starting to bloom.  I will turn it into the soil and it will add nitrogen.  Wanted to do that today, but we've had so much rain I would have compacted to soil too much.






I was able to put more cardboard and paper weed barrier down between the beds.  Also laid mulch on top to keep things in place.  During all this I noticed that I rely on just a couple of tools to do most of my gardening and weeding.  I use a 30 year old Cutco knife as my "go to" gardening tool.  I slice weeds with little damage to the soil.  A pair of shears to cut bags, twine and weeds before they go to seed.  Of course a cushion for my knees and a small hand tool I found a few years ago.

I am going to sit down and design my perennial native garden this week.  I have a 20x20 space to work with and some FREE pavers.  I want to place a walkway inside the garden so I can get in to weed and not compact the soil.  That is the idea with raised beds, you never want to walk on the soil.  Unfortunately, deer don't understand the rules.


waiting patiently for a home

deer prints

At least the deer was nice enough to miss the strawberry plants!

I bought a few things to help with bugs in a few weeks.  Dipel is a bacteria that kills only caterpillars, like the ones that eat broccoli and cabbage.  Known at Bt - Bacillus thuringiensis, It won't bother mammals (us) or beneficial insects.  Also picked up diatomaceous earth.  These are microscopic fossils of fresh water diatoms and are razor sharp.  Any bug that walks over it or eats it is killed.  I will buy a mask to use if I choose to use this.   It is not poison, but you obviously don't want this stuff in your lungs.

I started taking pictures of weeds today.  I will label them and put them on my blog in a few weeks.  Up close they are very pretty.  They are just plants in the wrong place for the most part. Except for thistle of course!

I see a few more countries are viewing my blog.  Welcome to Turkey, Germany,  Indonesia and Portugal!

That makes 12!

Thanks for looking,