July 5, 2013

2 weeks

Out of town for 2 weeks, I came home to a jungle. 2 days after the second picture was taken, my scarlet red runner beans are now up to the deck, and over the rail. If you don't hear from me for awhile, they probably enveloped me in their tendrils.

May 2, 2013

Monarch waystation

It's a work in progress, but we're getting there-

From the archives

Before & after, Scarlet Red Runner Bean, 2012

Different angles from the garden below, but you get the idea. The wall of beans really cooled down the under the deck area. Ideal for swinging alone and/or hiding lots of junk.

January 31, 2013

Da da duuuum

Yes, it's only January but I cannot resist. Started some seeds in my growhouse today. Coleus. They can take 10-20 days to germinate and often don't come up at all, so wanted to get a head start just in case.

Next up - broccoli, spinach, milkweed...

September 30, 2012

End of summer

We're a day away from October and tomatoes are still growing. I finally took out all the plants though because they just don't taste right anymore.

We had a bumper crop of cherry tomatoes of all colors this year. It was so nice to be able to go out on the deck and grab a handful anytime. The deck looks empty without them.

Planted another round of sunflowers mid-August just to see what would happen and they actually made it up in time!

September 3, 2012

The beginning of the end

We've reached the point in the season that I remember that I don't really like watermelon, and 44 tomato plants might have been a few too many for 3 people.

Today I yanked out a bunch of plants. The intention was to plant some fall/winter crops, but it hasn't happened yet. I can't decide what to plant and am trying to convince myself not to waste time with things we won't actually eat. I'll probably just sit around thinking about it until there's a foot of snow on the ground and it's too late.

Now a report on the summer crops:

Snow White - Still one of my favorites. Produces a TON of whitish yellow cherry tomatoes. If you give it the chance, it will spread into a giant mess.

Sun Gold - first to ripen, my child's favorite. Mostly gone by late August.

Black Cherry - eh. Unimpressed.

Green Doctor Cherry - never got one of these to come up.

Determinates - These will mess with your summer plans. They wait for NO ONE and NOTHING and if you plant a dozen of them, you will be making a lot of salsa when they tell you it's time. On the other hand, it's nice to just make the salsa all at once and be done with it for awhile. Then you can pull up the plants and move on.

Sweet Pea Currant - These are so cute and tasty but such a pain in the rear to pick as they are so, so tiny and there are so, so many.


You want something adorable that will grow like nobody's business, plant some Thai Red Chili peppers. Holy cow.

Otherwise, I don't know why I plant anything expect jalapenos. They're all I want. Next year nothing but jalapenos. Swear on my nachos.


Why I continue to plant Japanese eggplant is beyond me. Same with cucumbers. They never turn out great and I never eat them. The only plus is their flowers attracted a TON of bees and butterflies.

Also great for pollinators: scarlet red runner beans. These have essentially created a privacy wall between my house and my neighbor's house. I'm going to cry when they all die. I don't eat the beans but instead am leaving them on until everything dies and returns the nitrogen to my soil blah blah blah.

June 25, 2012

Miniature tomato or giant hand?

I grew the carrots, tomatoes, carrots, snap peas, and purple green beans. My favorite remains the super tiny tomatoes!

Lemon cucumber - part 2

Innards are white. Hard to peel without dropping. Ate these before they were completely ripe I think.

June 15, 2012

June 1, 2012

We've come a long way, baby.

Found these shameful pictures of gardens of yesteryear:

Another 12 years in this house and we should really have something good going.

May 31, 2012


We already have fruit on our tomato plants!

Sun Gold Cherry Tomatoes

I'm pretty sure this is a yellow currant tomato plant. 

I was hoping some of the tomatoes could be coaxed to grown down out of the deck planters. Time will tell. 

(Like the web? We have a ton of spiders this year. They're all quite cool looking so no one has been evicted.)

Zinnia! The purple ones are grown from the seeds I saved from last year's Zinnias. 

First nasturtium blossom. 

Tried to put all the flowers on the deck in view of my office window. (Hate to give up the veggie space but I did make a few exceptions.)

A rapidly growing vine is growing down out of the containers in the "play" area. Hopefully it will soon cover up the post that may or may not be exactly level.

Now for the front yard.

This area is 100% shaded and 95% tree root. Every year I add more dirt and more mulch but don't have much luck.

We do finally have a couple of enormous hostas (after a decade's work) and I'm starting to figure out what else might possibly grow here. The latest attempt is coleus. For once I would like something in a color other than green in our shaded gardens!

Across the way we have hydrangeas I've been attempting for years. I finally did some reading and realized I'd been pruning them back incorrectly, inhibiting them from growing properly the next Spring. This year I followed the rules, we had a really warm winter, I added a bunch of soil amendments and voila:

And one last angle of the deck & planters:

It looks less crowded, but mostly because I moved a bunch of plants to the yard, and assorted junk to our storage closet.

May 17, 2012

May 13, 2012


I fought the ivy--

and the ivy won.

The latest place I broke out on a poison ivy rash? Belly button. The only place not protected by this stylish getup.

May 3, 2012

Ladies' night

Two days ago I released about 50 lady bugs. The rest are going with me to preschool to show the kids. This year I got some nice healthy ones and followed the directions on the container (release them at night) and a ton of them actually stuck around.

 We have a very long soaker hose on a timer that goes between 3 raised beds. In past year's it's just dripped on the paths, making huge mud holes. This year I wised up, bought some PVC pipe, sawed it up, fed the hose through, and yada yada yada I'm the smartest woman alive.

 Get a room!

Scared? He's there to keep away the beavers, squirrels, etc. Gives me the creeps every time I look at him. 

May 2, 2012

Secret garden

Last week I took a business trip to Chicago. I arrived at O'Hare at 7 am. That's when my plane landed. I hadn't even gone to sleep the night before for fear I would oversleep. My first meeting wasn't until noon, and I knew it was too early to get into the hotel. I went in search of a nap zone. I saw an add for the O'Hare urban garden and set off in search. I found this gem between terminals 2 & 3 on the second floor. 

Apparently no one knows about it, because I slept up there for 3 hours in some super comfy chairs. The only other people who came up to hang out were pilots.

 Love this picture because it kind of seemed the pilot might be sneaking a bite here and there.

 Watching planes land and jalapenos grow.

It reminded me so much of the Epcot exhibit I loved as a kid.

Each  plant was labeled and also indicated which airport restaurant served the produce. After seeing this I just craved fresh veggies; I ate more vegetables in 24 hours than I have all month.

Next time I fly through O'Hare I'm scheduling a nice, long layover and showing up with a bowl, fork and some salad dressing.

May 1, 2012

Self portraits

Three weeks ago I went to my kid's preschool, talked about how plants grow, and then we planted grass seed in cups. Today I went back and we decorated them and cut the hair. Rather than carefully sculpting most kids preferred to go for the buzz cut, or rather just cut and cut until we finally told them no more.

(One of those cups is mine but I'm not telling you which one as I'm not convinced it's even close to being one of the better ones.)

There's nothing quite like picking up grass clippings off a preschool floor after they've been accidentally coated in glue and stepped on by 9 kids. Sorry, Mr. Janitor!

Red clover, red clover...

Last winter I planted several cover crops. I waited too late in the season though, and the clover didn't have a chance to bloom. The annual rye grass looked awesome all winter, but never did die because it never got cold. I had a great patch of green all winter, but now can't get rid of the stuff no matter how hard I try.

Here is one little seed of red clover that fell into the crack in my raised bed and prevailed. 

Beautiful! It was hard to capture on my iPhone camera, but it's a very deep red. Looks like a raspberry from afar. I was considering ditching the idea of cover crops for this year but now I'm reconsidering.

April 30, 2012

Container gardening

Our backyard is quite shaded which makes gardening a challenge. The majority of our sun hits the deck--the far end in this picture. I started off with a few containers of peppers to take advantage of the sun, but this year have gone hard core with these new deck rail planters from Ozbo. (Use coupon "spring" for free shipping!)

I see I can squeeze a few more on here, so an order has been placed for a few more of the rail planters. They are out of the 30" so 24" will have to do. They are so nicely wedged on the 2x6 rail, and hold a surprising amount of dirt. (They also are great at disguising the multiple construction defects left from my experiment with deck building.)

I like to have things on the deck that I can easily access come eatin' time. This year we'll have herbs, peppers, lettuce, and cherry tomatoes of every color. (Well, not every color but I do have white, red, orange, yellow, green, and purple.  Somebody get on inventing a blue tomato, please.)

Things grow really well here, IF I can remember to water every day. Eventually I'll set up a drip irrigation system, but I have bigger issues on my hands (like finishing the stairs from the deck). In general the squirrels, birds, beavers, etc. that live behind our house leave my deck garden alone as it's 7 feet off the ground. The biggest predator is a 5 year old human who loves tomatoes.

Every year I put new soil in my containers. The old stuff is recycled into the raised beds, and replaced with Miracle Gro moisture control from Costco. They sell enormous bags of the stuff for $10, a price you can't beat anywhere. This year I went through, ahem...ten bags.

I'm using scrap lumber left over from the deck building to make little stands for the pots. I want to get the pots up a little bit, both to keep water from settling on the deck and also go get them a little more sun. I got distracted and didn't finish - you can see the blue, green, and lime planters are different heights. I'll get around to it one of these days.

I love the black deck rail planters. We had a sudden cold snap and wind storm, and within 3 minutes I had hauled them right in the house. Made some new bug friends, but my plants lived to see another day.

Now I just sit and wait and stare. Had a cold day today, and don't think I didn't consider putting my space heater out there more than once. I try not to think about how long it is until July, the expected date of my first tomato. Sigh.

No freebies were given in exchange for me linking to these awesome planters from Ozbo. But if they wanted to throw some surprises into my next order, I would not complain.

April 26, 2012


This is our first real garden harvest--an armful of spinach. It was quite delicious.

The kid spotted 2 holes (tears that healed) and was afraid bugs had gotten to the spinach. Instead of the smiles I was after, I got this:

April 17, 2012

I can haz grass?

Bought some awesome planters for the deck:

(Scoured the web for the best price so if you like them, let me know and I'll send you the web page and the discount code.) They go on top of the 2x6 rail and are really on there good. The deck will blow over before they do. They'll be home to herbs, maybe some of my currant tomatoes, and flowers to attract butterflies & bees. 

(That picture was taken several weeks ago, before I covered the deck in my normal pots and accompanying piles of potting soil.)

FINALLY got some grass to grow: 

(If you look really closely on those trees in the common space you can see a big ugly vine. That's poison ivy. More on that later.)

Last year we got a new fence and moved it back 8 feet behind where the privacy fence was--making me regret years of throwing yard waste just over that fence. I often feel like I never finish anything, though now that I think about it, I removed a ton of vines and trash from this 8' long patch of land, and managed to grow some grass--a true miracle in such a shaded spot--and it only took me 6 months. The compost pile in the corner made up of Starbucks coffee grounds & horse manure. My neighbors must LOVE me. Pay no attention to the large patch of dirt in the bottom left corner, that's remains of the never ending deck project. 

Our cold weather veggies are doing great. I don't actually like most cold weather veggies, I kind of just plant them to stave off my desire to plant tomatoes in February. 

Pretty sure those big things are Brussels sprouts, but my labeling leaves much to be desired. As does my desire to build a proper square foot grid. Why create extra work when leftover conduit pipe seems to do OK?