Tag Archives: gardening

What Are You Going to Write About?

I mentioned a few writing topics in the previous post. Basically, I am taking the advice of the social media folks: everything is content.

Since we are at the height of summer, gardening plays a big role in my life. I have always been the flower gardener in the family, but this year, I also planted a vegetable garden. It is dominated by tomatoes but also includes the standard stuff: peppers, eggplants, okra, cucumbers, and herbs like basil, oregano and parsley.

Gardening is, as they say, in my blood. My father always had a vegetable garden and the yard was filled with flowers, especially roses. Even now, at 87, he plants flowers outside, including those roses, and also tends about 100 orchids that live in the greenhouse he built in the basement of their retirement-community condominium. My maternal grandmother, named Daisy, lived in the city but kept chickens in the backyard along with her victory garden and a beautiful peach tree who limbs hung with the succulent fruit each year.

I have always found a way to garden. While I am fortunate to have almost unlimited space here on the farm, even when I lived in an apartment in Los Angeles, I grew houseplants along with pots of lettuce and peppers on the tiny balcony.

Gardening brings opportunities unavailable in other ways. Besides getting me out into nature, it forces me to really see the natural world, connecting with its rhythms and learning how plants fits into the environment. I have a better understanding of how my actions impact the ground beneath me so that, while summer is the major focus of my work, there are things I can do throughout the year to help the soil help me and my plants. Knowing the difference between soil and dirt is a good starting point and this article from the Napa Master Gardener provides a great introduction:

Remember: there is a difference between soil and dirt. Dirt is what you get on your clothes and hands while working in the soil. Soil is made up of elements that have been decomposing since the earth was created.

Finally, a word of encouragement to those of you who don’t think you can garden for whatever reason: no green thumb, no space, no time. I count any relationship with a living plant to be gardening, and there are houseplants that refuse to die despite your best efforts.

As for me, I’ll be outside with my hands in the soil! A few pictures of the current situation in the flower beds for your enjoyment:

Flowers in Early July 2022 


NOTE: This post was drafted in early April, about a month ago. I have been waiting for the spring blossoms to show themselves as I laid down bucket after bucket of mulch. Now I have pictures to share along with the words. If you like, feel free to skip the words.

Gardening is a passion of mine, and this time of year can be overwhelming as well as exciting. I was up and out early today, weeding and mulching. The roadside garden on the farm has been, as they say, years in the making. It started as a small perennial bed near the driveway with the usual daylilies, irises and hostas. But it quickly grew, expanding along the road to the opposite edge of the property. Now, after close to five years of work, it is mostly complete except for the wildflower bed I have planned, and the seeds for that are just waiting until the evening temperatures get above 50 degrees. That means the ground will be warm enough for them to germinate.*

A bad hip kept me from finishing the full garden over the past three years. I tinkered around the edges and even tried paying people. But no one was willing to get on hands and knees and dig up wire grass for what I was willing to pay, and I just couldn’t do what needed to be done. Last spring, I did better but was still recuperating.

This spring I am back and better than ever. I get into the garden beds for some time every day and for hours on the weekends. Seeing them come together in ways I could only imagine have made all the work worth it. And, the lovely finishing layer of mulch reveals the garden design, highlighting the plants that, for now, are just getting started.

This year, I took a before video on March 21 when I was just getting started.

And then again on May 14, 2021, which just happened to be my birthday.

It wasn’t just my health that kept the garden from completion. I lacked the finances to simple buy a garden at the home center in one fell swoop. I paid for or was gifted a few unusual (read expensive) plants, worked with my husband to raise things from seed (his particular gardening super power), divided plants, swapped plants, and plundered bags of perennials at the local dollar store. (They are cheap but tend to have a low success rate.)

Here are pics from early spring through yesterday:

The Gardens on My Birthday and Beyond

I was fortunate to grow up in a family, really a community, of gardeners. Small, neat kitchen gardens were common. I have a family photo that features my maternal grandmother’s peach tree in her urban garden in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  When my paternal grandmother died, we discovered dusty jars of canned vegetables and fruits on the basement shelves, enough to last several lifetimes. My father always had a vegetable garden in the communal garden at the high school and continues to cultivate roses and orchids even into his 80s. My mother canned and froze the produce from the garden and even now takes advantage of living in central Pennsylvania to buy locally grown vegetables to preserve. She also makes her own ketchup when the tomatoes are cheap and sweet.

There is something satisfying about engaging with living things from people to animals to plants. Plants bring the bonus of digging in the dirt, an activity that I suspect many of us enjoyed as kids. Even if you don’t have an outdoor space or want to make time for a large garden, container gardening is a possibility whether it’s radishes and greens on the patio or herbs on the windowsill.

I am also a fan of the odds and ends garden. You can put those bits of potatoes with their eyes sprouting into dirt, and you will get more potatoes. They like sun and a deep pot where you can mound dirt as they grow to get more potatoes. You aren’t going to feed the world, but you will get enough for a meal or two and they will taste wonderful of dirt and sunshine and rain. You can experiment with celery ends, onions and garlic, too.

* I planted these seeds on Monday, May 10, and am happy to say they are sprouting!

What I’ve Been Doing Besides Teleconferencing

One of my work-from-home rituals is to stop working at noon on Fridays. I am happy to take a few hours on Saturday or Sunday to do a few things if it means being able to get away from work.

South Porch GardenToday, I spent time in the garden. While my husband grows the vegetables, I am the flower gardener. We have a formal garden near the house, just outside the south porch. It had gotten overgrown in the past year as my arthritis kept me from doing the work of weeding and mulching. With my new hip in place, I am back to battling weeds and close to being ready to lay down the mulch. My husband grew plants for me from seed, and I transplanted borage and milkweed thistle.

Cinnamon Raisin Sourdough BreadI’ve also been baking from scratch. I like to bake but had taken to using mixes, kind of semi-homemade. But a friend gave me sourdough starter and then I turned some of it into a whole wheat starter and now I am baking at least twice a week. Yesterday, I just baked with the “discard” from the sourdough, that is, the stuff I wasn’t going to keep after a fed a smaller amount of the starter to keep it alive for next week. If you don’t, you end up with the starter that ate San Francisco, which is almost the plot of Robin Sloan’s Sourdough. I had enough to make Cinnamon Raisin Sourdough Bread and some crackers using the outlines of a recipe from a baker on Twitter. I went for rustic and “artisinal” for the crackers. The bread was lovely toasted with butter this morning. And the crackers are a little thick but they have a satisfying crunch. I used some flavored salts that we received as a holiday gift along with a bit of pepper.

Pork Loin with Vegies and SauerkrautFinally, I’ve been cooking. Years of watching Food TV and the Great British Baking Challenge have given me a foundation for putting meals together. I put a piece of pork in the crock pot with carrots, onions, potatoes and apples. I layered in our first experiment with sauerkraut and was rewarded with that tangy bite. The picture is pre-cooking: once it cooks away for hours, it doesn’t like quite as pretty but it tastes delicious!

What Is Keeping You Sane?

For me, it’s my flower garden. My bad hip made it difficult for me to do much last year. What a pleasure to be able to get back at it. The weeds don’t stand a chance. I’ve been trying to get out every day for a review as this time of years things happen fast. Right now, it’s the irises that are blooming.

For your Friday enjoyment, a few views of the garden:

Pictures of flowers and gardens

1. South Side, 2. Solomon’s Seal, 3. Irises, 4. Columbine, 5. Wysteria, 6. Puff Bush, 7. The First Iris, 8. Turnips, 9. Red Bud

Gardening Wisdom

I spent most of Memorial Day Weekend in my flower garden. The cool wet spring has kept me from tilling and seeding so three days of sunshine and reasonable temperatures were a truly wonderful gift even though my stiff muscles might not be so grateful. I weeded, tilled, and readjusted. As I worked, I found myself thinking of all the things we learn from gardening including problem solving skills like creativity and critical thinking. And two huge lessons for me: the power of patience and long range planning.*

For now, I’ll start with just one lesson: Learning is never over. My main objective is to learn how to create a healthy, pleasing-to-look-at garden. That means each plant needs its optimal conditions as much as possible so it can thrive. They will be at their most beautiful and productive which in itself makes the garden look better.

However, there is also a design element. Some flowers are short, some tall, some bushy, some skinny. Some are planted for their foliage; others are planted for their showy blossoms. Plus, my garden is rectangular with a “front” side. However, you can also see the “back” side from the road so I’ve tried to create a two-edged garden. It all makes a difference in what goes where.

That’s why, even though it’s well into the season, I’m still moving things around. For both reasons: it’s a new garden so I’m stilllearning what the sun will be like in the summer. A shady spot a few months ago now gets almost full sun all day, something I didn’t consider last fall. A few shrubs have grown so they are now providing small oases of  shade in an otherwise fairly sunny garden. Plus, flowers are

There’s an element of awareness here that I think also plays into the notion of critical thinking. Sometimes, I just stand and look, thinking about what is happening in the bed. What’s blooming? What’s done? What should be blooming but isn’t? When did it rain last? What can I still being added. We came into several large clumps of hostas so expansion was needed. They make a great border but now the grasses that were forming the border would be hidden. So, out they came.

put in that spot that opened up when I moved the astibles? I may seem immobile in terms of gardening but my mind is cranking through a checklist of items to be considered.

There is an art and science to gardening that challenges the critical and creative thinker. I know many schools host gardens and I think it’s a great place to put these skills into practice. It’s a science lesson but it can be so much more…

*And, selfishly, I was looking for an excuse to post some pictures of my garden. The irises were gorgeous this year, if I do say so myself.