Above, a hedge of lavender next to my driveway popped into glorious fragrant bloom in June. I don’t know who was more excited – me or the bumble bees.
I can never bring myself to cut the flowers while they are in full bloom – the sun on the flowers is too glorious. But when they’ve passed their prime they still cut beautifully and are wonderfully fragrant.
When my son’s girlfriend saw my giant pile of cut lavender she immediately thought of lavender lemonade, and took a handful to make lavender syrup. It was delicious.
Easy to grow and easily available, lavender will grace your garden, attract pollinators, and is truly a sensory joy. Lavender is drought tolerant, does well in zones 6-10.
I don’t know anyone that likes weeding. It’s back-breaking, necessary work. Sure, there’s some satisfaction in a weed-free garden bed but it’s short-lived. The weeds are back almost immediately, it seems.
So today was weed the garden beds day. I didn’t get them all weeded – I only managed to weed two of them. It was overcast, which is good weeding weather, and it had to be done.
And it’s fine. Pulling weeds from around the lettuce and knowing I’d be eating it in a salad later created a sense of calm and purpose. I took a break around noon, cut enough lettuce to fill a big colander, pulled a couple of radish, and came in to enjoy a nourishing lunch. It’s the most basic luxury to have to pay attention to when it rains (or doesn’t) and to know that aside from the nutrients in the soil there’s just water and sunshine in your food. And no plastic waste.
Back to weeding… I always joke with my husband that grass only grows where I don’t want it to. It never seems happy to grow on the designated lawn area, it much prefers my garden and our driveway.
Other “weeds” – verbena, squash, and tomato that self seeded, were spared. It’s tough to pull plants I’ve actually bought/planted just because they are growing in an inopportune spot. I dug out some verbena and put them in a spot near the kitchen window where I can watch the monarch butterflies visit their vivid purple flowers this summer. And the squash and tomatoes… I have a suspicion the squash is actually pumpkins. Last year they took over the garden because I felt bad pulling them out. In the end they crowded out the butternut squash, which I won’t let happen twice.
And then there are the pretty weeds, like the wildflowers that grow in our fields. These pretty daisy-like flowers pictured above, buttercups, purple, red, and blue flowers… we mow around them.
I’ll leave you with a photo of our cat, who really enjoys watching all of the activity at the birdhouse you can see pictured. It is nestled in a giant beast of a climbing hydrangea that has taken over one wall of our garage and is adjacent to a raspberry patch that is trying to take over the west field. Smudge (the cat) may be aware that there is a nest with baby birds … and the constant coming and going is the parents feeding their little ones. Or maybe not.
It was a kind of magic to wake this morning to the site of grass and the earth uncovered. When the sun set last night everything was still covered in snow.
But even more magical today were the snowdrops.
Over breakfast I told Jon that I was going to go out to look for them today. He said – ‘Really? We had snow on the ground until last night. Do you think there will be any?
Well… yes! I did find one just emerging in the lawn this morning. And during our afternoon walk – voila! Jon actually spotted them first.
For me, these are the first true sign that spring is here.
I’ve recently begun to ask myself what one thing I can do to make myself happy today and making an effort to do that thing. This morning the answer was to take the time to go out and look for snow drops.
On the way back toward the house I passed the kitchen garden and noticed the first chive shoots are reaching up out of the ground … freshly clipped chive with scrambled eggs! And the hellebore are pushing up and unfolding. I can’t wait to see them.
It’s exciting to think I’ll be turning compost into my spring garden beds and planting lettuce and radish in a month or so…
Last year at the end of April we invited our friends Thomas and Lisa Mikkelsen for dinner. They arrived with a bottle of wine and a four pack of seedlings that Thomas had grown.
I had some tomatoes of my own started, heirloom brandywine (I know, very snobby) but Thomas’ were different – more robust looking – so I added them to the garden.
By August I had gigantic non-determinate cherry tomato plants overtaking the entire north end of the garden. I had cherry tomatoes coming out of my ears. Jon was saying “more tomatoes? really? when will they stop? what will we do with all these tomatoes?” Mind you, four plants. (Thank you Thomas.)
We were getting the brandywine tomatoes, too, which I was in a battle to harvest ahead of the rabbits getting them. But we had plenty of cherry tomatoes to satisfy the rabbits and still fill our bowls to overflowing.
During a later summer pick up from our nearby CSA, we complained to the farmer that we didn’t need his tomatoes – we had too many of our own. On hearing this, he exclaimed “Too many cherry tomatoes! What a luxury! Throw them in a pan and make sauce! That’s what I’d do if I had too many cherry tomatoes!
We did. I sautéed some onions and added basil and oregano, halved the tomatoes, added salt and pepper and crushed the tomatoes while they cooked with tip of my spoon. No peeling. No processing. Just sautéing in a pan of oil. So easy. And absolutely delicious.
This year, I got some free seeds from the Holliston Garden Club seed bank to try– little golden pear tomatoes.
Again, a forest of tomato plants appeared. Thankfully, they were determinate this time; they got to around 6 feet, which still is about 2 feet higher than my tomato stakes.
I’d like to pause here for a short rant on tomato stakes. Because–really? The hoops and stakes you can buy, even the ones in reputable gardening magazines, while made of a nice plastic-coated durable metal, are always WAY shorter than even the determinate plants. They are a complete rip off, leaving tomato plants to climb all over the garden, falling over into walkways and breaking their tender stalks while fruit is till ripening on them. You’d think one of these garden supply companies could create an affordable stake that actually accommodates the height on such a common garden vegetable. But I digress.
We’ve collected a half a dozen gigantic bowls with more coming… cherry tomatoes are prolific. Time to make tomato sauce. This year I have too many green peppers so I’m cutting up and sautéing onions, green peppers, adding salt pepper and oregano and basil from the garden or rosemary (or whatever I have around). The fact is this sauce doesn’t even need the herbs because the tomatoes are so fresh and sweet.
This is delicious on pizza dough, too — we all like it better than the traditional thicker red tomato sauce — with cheese over it.
This year I’m freezing the sauce. I even gave mason jars a try, having read in Treehugger.com that they are a reasonable choice for freezing liquids.
Tomatoes keep coming almost to the frost date here in Massachusetts. I figure by then I’ll have filled the downstairs freezer with sauce.
Vegetable gardening is in my blood on both sides. My mother’s father had a farm in Norway and my father was raised on a farm in Texas. We had vegetable gardens and berries at our house and I love to eat food that grows in the yard. One of the first things I put in my garden when we bought the house we are in now was a rhubarb plant I bought at our town garden club plant sale. It has provided many stalks for crisps and pies, goes well with strawberries, and is currently on track to take over the entire garden.
Last year I decided to save some seeds for this year’s garden. I saved delicata and butternut squash seeds that had been locally grown by an organic farmer (Upswing’s Brittany Overshiner) as a hopeful experiment.
Meanwhile, and unrelated to that decision, I bought some carving pumpkins, decorative pumpkins, and winter squash to eat last fall.
The seeds, much fussed over and occupying a place of honor on the dining room table, were stored in envelopes. We enjoyed the squash, pumpkins, and jack-o-lanterns, and like good diligent homeowners we composted the uneaten bits of squash and post-season decorative pumpkins, including the seeds.
When spring came, we added compost to my garden and planted tomatoes, carrots, peppers, leeks, bush beans, cabbage, lettuce, radish, cucumbers, marigolds, nasturtium, delicata squash and butternut squash.
And all of those things grew.
But also there were many squash plants appearing. They popped up in all the beds, and even in the walkways. I started pulling them since I didn’t want them to shade and choke out what I’d planted. Apparently, our compost pile had not heated up enough to kill off the seeds we’d composted and they were everywhere; clearly we did a good job of mixing the compost since it appeared no square foot in the garden was without a squash plant!
After the first week or two of pulling them out to protect my delicate new seedlings and sprouting seeds, I decided to leave a few. Some part of me just couldn’t bear to pull them all out. I started to notice that they were not all the same: the leaves were slightly different from one plant to the next, which piqued my curiosity, and so I watered them along with everything else, cut back what was untenable, and waited.
It’s August as I write this. My garden has pathways through it… they are narrow. It’s like a jungle in there. I have a range of winter squash – the same kinds we ate last year, there are decorative pumpkins, big carving pumpkins and there are even some delicata and butternut squash, though it’s not clear they are the ones I intentionally saved and planted. I’ve also read that cross-pollination results in hybrid/mutant type squash so there will likely be squash that aren’t exactly like anything I bought last year.
I’m rolling with it, viewing this as an exercise is humility and a lesson in letting go. After all, it’s rare to get more than you asked for.
We have a modest vegetable garden; it’s not large. We spent weeks mulling over the layout last winter and settled on a 22X45 area with a bunch of 32 inch wide rows. My old back can’t lean any further than that to pick and weed.
Though modest, the garden has character. The compost this year, it turned out, was full of live winter squash and pumpkin seeds. They grew among my leeks, my tomatoes, in the bed that actually was planted to be delicata squash, among the lettuce and now they are taking over the walk ways and fences.
There are squash hanging all over the place in there.
My son’s friends were over the other day visiting and when they left he let me know how impressed they were with my pumpkin patch. The one I didn’t plant. No mention of the killer rhubarb, carrots, or cabbage.
I’d like to note that last year I planted pumpkins. I got 2 and they were tiny. I guess they needed more compost.