Category Archives: gardening

Spring Has Spring in the Circle Garden

The circle garden is blooming again and our plots are finally fully planted for the summer. It’s our second spring here, so it was fun to anticipate was going to return. Early spring, I was greeted by daffodils, hyacinths, Columbine, and hellebore.

Now my iris, clematis, and roses are in bloom with more things opening up every day! I am also happy to report that all of our hydrangeas, which we planted last spring, and then transplanted later in the summer because they were getting too much sun, are back and look like they’re going to be fine. Hopefully they will start blooming soon!

The spiderwort and foxglove just started opening this weekend. The spiderwort was here from the previous owners, but I added the foxglove last summer. The color was a total surprise since it wasn’t in bloom when I bought it. I think it goes nicely along that side of the garden though.

If you remember from last year, we have three raised beds along the south side of our house. Last year, this bed was full of garlic, so we didn’t really use it (except for the garlic.) This year, a couple of garlic came up, but I was able to fill the rest of it with seeds and tubers to make an edible flower and cutting garden. So far, there are dahlias, ranunculus, poppies, nasturtium, zinnias, borage, and calendula coming up. I also planted cockscomb but sadly, none of the seeds have germinated. I’m so bummed because I have wanted to grow giant cockscomb since high school. There was an older gentleman who used to bring his crop to the golf course where I worked and I just love those velvety blooms!

In the middle bed, we have basil, parsley, rosemary, thyme, and marigolds alongside cherry, Black Krim, Purple Cherokee, and Brandywine tomatoes. Naoto also tucked in some daikon radish.

In our third plot, we have another cherry tomato variety, some leftover potatoes from the previous homeowners (that are probably planted too close to the tomato,) cardinal basil, edamame, Japanese melon, and Japanese cucumbers. We are hoping that the bunnies leave this bed alone, but history tells us otherwise. Our friend gave us a trellis for the vining plants, so I hope we actually get something to vine this year before the rabbits have a snack!

Since I was planting a slew of things I’ve never grown before, I made some plant markers to keep track of everything. They aren’t the most aesthetically pleasing project, but they get the job done!

I always love the garden this time of the season, all tidy and full of possibilities! We all know our plots will be tomato and zinnia jungles soon enough!

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February 2022 Books

February flew by and so did its books!

If Winter Comes by A.S.M. Hutchinson
This was our book club pick for our 20th anniversary. It was the #1 best seller in 1922 and for most of the book, you are kind of left wondering why. Not much happens, except you watch an unhappy marriage slowly fall apart. But in the last section, all the drama hits the ceiling and then you understand why it sold so well. I personally love a book with some marital strife so I loved this book, from start to finish. Reviews in our group were mixed.

The Cocktail Party by T.S. Eilliot
This is a play about an unhappy marriage. (Fun accidental theme for February?!) There are eccentric characters, therapy sessions, lots of cocktails and conversation. I loved it.

How to Carry Water by Lucille Clifton
This was my introduction to Clifton and I loved her work. Some of my favorites were “note to myself,” “new year,” “cigarettes,” “shapeshifter poems,” and “November 1, 1975.” I don’t read enough poetry.

All the Days and Nights by William Maxwell
I still have a couple of stories to finish but I had to return it to the library, so stay tuned for a final review when I get the book back. I have been trying to go through these stories slowly. Sometimes I tend to rush short stories and then I miss out on the enjoyment they can bring. Maxwell’s stories and books are made for lingering…so that’s what I’ll do.

Month by Month Gardening in Illinois
This was supposed to motivate me to plant some seeds and get a grow light set up in the basement. So far, it hasn’t worked. I did, however, buy a bunch of seeds and tubers to plant as soon as the threats of snow and frost are over…which at this rate, will be May.

March was a slower reading month for me, so expect a full report on that soon…ish! Tell me what you’ve been reading!

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The Circle Garden

We are continuing the tomato jungle tradition at the house… Everything was fine at first. I was even removing lower branches and leaves and suckers and keeping the plants tidy. But then we got a ton of rain all at once and, well, the tomatoes have minds of their own.

The previous owners built these raised beds along the side yard, which faces south. The picture above is from when we first moved in. I call the side yard the working part of the yard–it’s where the garden is, and we placed our composting bin there, and it’s where the air conditioning unit is. It might look like the area gets much sun, but all three beds get a full day’s worth, even with the fence. The old owners left us a huge garlic crop in the bed on the far right and potatoes in the bed to the far left, so we decided to work around them this season, and hopefully we can come up with a better plan for ourselves next spring.

We sort of focused on the middle plot for all of our usual crops. Our tomato plants are doing well with no signs of whiteflies or blight, which is so exciting since the past few years have been pretty sad for our tomato crops. Our basil and thyme and lima beans are thriving too. And we planted a strawberry plant that seems to doing well, and it’s producing many teeny, tiny fruits.

In the potato bed, we planted edible flowers, cucumbers, edamame, and a brussel sprout. Then tragedy struck. I lost two cucumbers and Naoto lost his entire edamame crop to the rabbits. It was heartbreaking! So, in that bed, we still have our potatoes sprawling around the edible flowers and the brussel. We added a tomato (which isn’t doing well because potatoes and tomatoes don’t grow well together) later in the season just to see what would happen.

The borage is booming with blooms and the nasturtium is looking good, but there are no flowers yet. I’m excited to use them both for cocktail garnishes.

Naoto ended up finding some edamame seedlings at our favorite local garden center and we planted them in a hanging basket and so far, they have remained safe from the bunnies!

In the garlic bed, there is tons of garlic, and plenty of nightmare mint spreading all over. In that bed, we planted some zinnias for cutting and some lettuces that are long done. I dug up a few garlic heads last weekend and I’ll probably dig up the rest soon so we can plant some late-season crops and take advantage of the extra room.

We have two of these arches in our basement (one on each side of an arched doorway) with built-in hooks, so that’s where the garlic is curing for now. I’m so excited to have some space in the basement to start seeds and prep for the gardening season. (Some day I will show you the basement, but not until we finish getting the rest of our boxes unpacked and put away!)

It’s book club weekend so I will be finishing Double Indemnity and enjoying the garden walk so I will see you next week!

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Plot 6 Mid-Season Report

Naoto and I went to the garden on Sunday to fix a broken hose splitter and to check on our tomatoes’ progress. We had a good rain right before we went so it made pulling weeds easy and the temperatures cooled down a lot, which was a nice break from the heat we had been having.

On the north end of our plot, the Bells of Ireland are taking over! I can’t believe how out of control it’s gotten! It’s kind of crowding out the chamomile, but I’m all about the strongest surviving this summer in the garden.

Naoto’s edamame is coming along nicely…there are tons of little pods that need a little bit more time before they are ready to be picked.

On the south side of the plot, our herbs are flourishing and yes, we need to cut some parsley and rosemary. The tomatoes are all a jungle in the middle of the plot (one of these days I will plan this better!) I can’t find any white flies on our tomato plants this year (hurray!) but our tomatoes so far aren’t looking great. We picked four, but they definitely aren’t picturesque. We’ll have to wait and taste them to see…

In other news, NOW is the time to plant some radishes or some kale or something to fill in that bare hole of wasted dirt. I’ll report back soon with what we decide to plant from our seed tin.

Our basil is still going strong…we’ve had quite a few harvests from it so far this summer…just waiting on the tomatoes to catch up…

I told him to smile three times before he yelled, “I am smiling!” #maskproblems

How’s your garden growing?

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Dispatches From Home Part 7

Still here at home…Presley is thrilled. Illinois is opening up a bit more this week. Outdoor seating at restaurants is going to be allowed soon and while we won’t be partaking, I’m glad for the restaurant owners. We will continue doing carry-out for now. It’s so funny looking at this picture now, us walking in coats! It has been so hot this week that Naoto is anxious to turn on the air conditioner. We probably should, but I feel like we just opened the windows! I got all of the pots on the lanai planted this week. I am so excited about my choices this year…I say that every year I suppose, but I really tried to lean into the part-sun plant options this year so I can hopefully enjoy blooms all season. I’ll share some pictures as soon as I clean up the rest of my potting mess and get the lights strung up this week. It’s not a fully functional lanai without the party lights! I’m behind on reading for the year. I set a goal of thirty books for 2020 and you’d think I’d have finished by now with all this time on my hands, but I haven’t been able to concentrate well enough to really stick with anything. I’ve finished our book club books and that’s about it. I know I owe the blog a book post, but even writing about what I’ve been reading might be too boring to share!Celebrating birthdays and holidays on FaceTime isn’t the same, but it is still nice to see everyone’s faces and to do a proper toast. We celebrated Karen a couple of Sundays ago and I made this little invitation typed on some kaishi-paper and some sparkling wine stickers. And in good mail news, I received my Last Week Tonight stamps and I can’t wait to use them! Are there any other John Oliver fans out there? I just started watching Community (I’d watched the first few episodes back when it aired) and I’d totally forgotten he was on that show!

I think that’s all to report. Next week is our anniversary and I’m trying to coordinate a bedroom painting party this weekend, which means I need to finish cleaning the bedroom. Hopefully I can report next time that we’ve actually painted…it’s been a struggle.

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Plot 6 in 2020

plot 6, forest park community garden, forest park, community gardenI am a little scared to talk about Plot 6 today because we’ve had torrential rains this weekend and there’s a ton of flooding around town…I can only imagine what our plot looks like right now. Certainly any seeds we planted on Friday have not stayed in their tidy rows! This is the “before” picture. We were surprised to find that we didn’t have many weeds creeping in. Other plots, as you can see in the background, are COVERED…ugh. We pulled weeds and then topped off our plot with some fresh compost before we planted. So far we have:

  • rosemary
  • lavender
  • Black Krim tomato
  • 2 Brandywines
  • Mortgage Lifter tomato

And we planted seeds for:

  • parsley
  • chives
  • mizuna (Japanese mustard greens)
  • onions
  • nasturtium
  • zinnias

We still need to plant:

  • edamame
  • basil
  • another tomato (I said four was plenty but I lied…)

I thought I had some back-up edamame and basil seeds but it looks like we need to go shopping for some which is easier said than done right now. I wish I’d ordered some seeds online before this whole thing started. Sigh. So many lessons learned for the next pandemic.

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The Last Plot 6 Post of the Decade

This is it…the final Plot 6 post of the decade…

Our plot went out with a whimper this year…what is it about September that makes me lose interest in gardening? Well, this year, I think it was because we had kind of a mediocre tomato harvest (and you know I’m really just all about the tomatoes.) Plus, job searching and starting took up a lot of my free time. Anyway…we let the garden die……but not before we harvested a nice little batch of teeny carrots. These guys made it through several freezes and the first couple of snows, so I was just glad to have something to pick! The carrots are designed to be sort of stumpy, but I think maybe these are small for even the stumpy size. They’re pretty tasty though! I planted them among the tomatoes and then never thinned them as directed, so that could explain things. Here’s our plot all put to bed for the season. See you next spring, buddy!

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It Feels Like Fall

I took this picture of Naoto last week when temperatures were still warm. It has been so cold ever since! We haven’t turned our heat on yet, but nights are cold and I’m wearing a jacket every time I leave the house. It’s amazing you can go from skirts and sandals to socks and jackets almost overnight. We had a light frost this past week, so I assume our garden is done…we need to go and clear off our dead plants, pick the last of the carrots, and plant our garlic so we can have a fresh start next year. I brought in all of the balcony plants I want to overwinter, so now I have to figure out where they’re going to live.

I’m looking forward to the weekend. Tonight, I’m going to a marujuana forum for Forest Park. Recreational marujuana is going to be legal in Illinois starting on January 1st so a lot of communities are deciding right now if having a dispensary or growing facility is right for them. It’s all been an interesting learning experience! Last time I live-tweeted it because it was so entertaining. And tomorrow is book club and live music at Goldyburgers! I can hardly wait!

Have a good weekend!

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The Garden is Still Growing

I haven’t been to the garden as much as I’d like lately. Naoto has been running down to harvest tomatoes and basil and herbs on an as-needed basis, but yesterday, we were both home and free to go together. As usual, our plot is a jungle of tomato vines, but this year, it’s also a jungle of overgrown herbs and nasturtium! Look at that nasturtium!! I just can’t believe how the plant took off. It seemed like it wasn’t going to do much but now it’s huge and it has lots of flowers inside the big poof a leaves. I just found a recipe for nasturtium pesto, so I think we might experiment with that soon…which is good timing because our basil is done. Some of our tomatoes were slow to produce this summer thanks to the white fly infestation that plagued the garden. But we’ve gotten a decent harvest from our Juliet and a few other heirlooms. We haven’t been overloaded with tomatoes like we have in the past, but it’s definitely enough for us to feel good about plot 6 this summer. I picked a bunch of zinnias, nasturtiums, and marigolds to make a little bouquet for my desk. The zinnias are as tall as me and still going strong. And in other happy garden news, my tiny carrots are coming in! I planted them kind of late in the spring and they were quickly overshadowed by the tomato plants, so I didn’t have very much hope for a harvest, but I think it’s going to be decent! I’m not quite ready to pick them all, but I wanted to do a little test. This variety is supposed to be only 2-3 inches big. We’ve never had luck with root vegetables, so I decided to try a tiny kind and I think it worked!

How is your garden growing? Any other ideas for my nasturtium bounty?

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Mid-Summer Update from Plot 6

 

We had a stretch of very hot and humid days a couple of weeks ago, making gardening a dreadful chore. Thankfully it rained a lot during that time, so the garden was on autopilot for a couple days.The good news is the rain washed off some of our white flies. The bad news is some of our early Black Krims split due to the uneven watering they received during the huge rains. So, no tomatoes yet, sadly.Naoto is really excited about the edamame growth. The edamame has gotten really tall and there are beans on them! I’m excited because I finally have a nasturtium flower among all the leaves. (You can see the orange flower peeking out on the left.) My lavender is still not blooming so I transplanted it last week. I think it was being shaded by my wayward zinnias. (I planted the zinnias in the center of the garden but the seeds moved during the big rains this spring.)

Our dill is huge and I need to look up some recipes to use a bunch of it. We’ve harvested so much parsley and basil already. It’s pesto city around here!

And the chamomile is growing like crazy but I missed harvesting the first bloom so hopefully another will come soon. I want to dry it and use it in a cocktail recipe and maybe some tea (though chamomile tea isn’t my favorite. I am a black tea or bust kind of gal!)

I cut some zinnias from the plantings around the garden. They’re “cut and come again” so hopefully people will help themselves as I did and we will have some continuous blooms around the garden, for ourselves and for the bees and butterflies. Zinnias make me so happy! They’re all so different and colorful and carefree (which is the opposite of how I feel today after dealing with my iPhone and photo storage all day…the good news is, my phone is busy uploading pictures so I have no reason not to finish my last book of the month tonight!)

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