Monday, December 1, 2008


It's been a while.

Harvest has long since past and winter's well on its way. Last weekend we spent a few hours out in the woods, clearing trails in anticipation of December snow and skiing. Somewhere between the Gravel Pit and the Big Hill, under a very large old oak, I came across this acorn resting in the arms of a very small tree:

Whether it fell into place or was put there by another, I can only guess. Is there a difference?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Crouching Gardener, Hidden Broccoli

August 27

A bit of rain this morning, and a nice warm overcast day. A storm rolled in after sundown and it's been pouring for at least an hour now, giving everything a much-needed soak.

It's harvest time, and the garden knows no rest. Peas, beans, tomatoes, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbages, herbs, zucchini... There are signs of fall, also: the oats have turned from green to brown, and the hops are close to ripe. Brussells sprouts are still going strong, though:

Dotted mint (Monarda punctata) in bloom. Amazing.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

What's Happening Now

August 3-4
Garlic on the trampoline.

The bounty.

The most beautiful cabbage anyone has ever seen.

Purple cabbage after the rain.

Lady's Mantle, magical.

Onions and oats in the back garden.

Three sisters in blossom.

Not the place it used to be

Here's where we started, two Springs ago:

This is more or less what was growing then:

Quack grass
Lamb's ears
Creeping Charlie
Crab grass
Various weeds
Baby's breath
Oriental poppies


And here's how things were looking in July of this year:

This is what's growing now:

Tomatoes (Brandywine, Moonglow, Green Zebra, Federle, SSE Italian)
Peppers (Cayenne, Jalapeno, Aurora, Bulgarian Carrot, Sheepnose Pimento, Jimmy Nardello, Lady Bell, Golden Bell)
Eggplant (Japanese little fingers, Louisiana green, classic, early)
Cabbage (red, green)
Brussells sprouts (green)
Cauliflower (white, purple)
Broccoli (green, purple, Piricaba, Raab)
Parsley root
Beets (Detroit red, Lutz salad leaf)
Radishes (Daikon, rat-tailed)
Chard (White, Golden, Rainbow)
Kale (Dinosaur, Red Russian)
Arugula (Astro, Sylvetta)
Mustard (Chinese thick-stemmed)
Spinach (Fordhook giant)
Lettuce (mixed)
Wrinkled Crinkled Crumpled Cress
Strawberry spinach (aka beetberry)
Melons (Swan Lake, Haogen, Charentais, Cream of Saskatchewan, Blacktail
mountain watermelon)
Cucumbers (West Indian Gherkin, Mexican Sour Gherkin, slicing)
Peas (Cascadia Sugar Snap)
Zucchini (Black Beauty)
Ground cherries (volunteers)
Asparagus (existing)
Rhubarb (existing)
Garlic (planted last fall)
Garlic chives (planted last year)
Chives (existing)
Oregano (existing)
Mint (peppermint, spearmint, chocolate)
Lemon balm
Basil (sweet, cinnamon, Thai)
Sage (planted last year)
Thyme (planted last year)
Red Shiso
Nigella (black cumin)
Borage (planted last year)
Bachelor's buttons
St. John's wort
Sweet Annie
California poppies (planted last year)
Nicotiana rustica
Rattlesnake master
Butterfly weed
Milkweed (volunteers)
Goldenrod (volunteers)
Asters (smooth blue, heath)
Prairie phlox
Dotted mint (monarda punctata)
Wild bergamot (mondara fistulosa)
Blazing star
Culver's root
Blue vervain
Cardinal flower
Longleaf bluet
Anise hyssop
Great blue lobelia
Lavender, Munstead
Lady's mantle
Peonies (existing)
Currants (existing)
Baby's breath (existing)
Oriental poppies (existing)
Jerusalem artichoke (volunteers)
Purslane (volunteers)
Red clover
White clover
Crimson clover
Winter rye

And, in the southernmost strip (in the foreground):
Corn (Hopi blue, Oaxacan green, Ashworth white)
Beans (Rattlesnake snap, Scarlet runner, Henderson Lima, ...)
Squash (Lakota, Hubbard, Acorn, Butternut, Buttercup)

The pictures really don't do it justice... The transformation has been truly amazing and the whole garden is just incredibly beautiful, luscious, nourishing and inspiring.
We set out to create a place of beauty to be enjoyed, as well as both see and show what change can be and do. The result has exceeded all our expectations and then some. I'm in love with it, completely, at the moment. If only everyone in the world could have such a place.

July is Lovely.

July 13-26

Monday, June 9, 2008

Weekend Three: Grass & Straw

May 31-June 1

Saturday morning we stopped by the St. Paul Farmer's market for a couple of bedding plants for home, and then headed out to Landscape Alternatives to pick up a couple flats of native wildflowers for the garden up north. On the way we stopped to rescue a little snapping turtle that was just starting across a busy highway; as we waited for traffic to pass, the snapper was clipped by (some asshole and/or ignoramus in) a passing car and it flipped into the air, to our horror... Amazingly, it survived more or less okay. We set it down at the bottom of the ditch near a small pond and it immediately took a bite of grass, which I took as a good indication that it wasn't seriously injured, or so we hoped. A little further down the road we helped another, much larger one. Our good deeds for the day.

We got up to my folks' place late--after 2pm. I spent a couple hours prepping (i.e., pulling grass roots) in the native garden and the turtle garden, along with the few remaining beds to be seeded. A set to work mulching the tomatoes and peppers with with newspaper and straw; our hope is that it will keep the majority of the grass and weeds at bay. We'll see. At the end of the day, I'd transplanted the melons, strawberry spinach, radicchio and a few more parsley and basil seedlings. Dad got the Three Sisters planted, with three varieties of corn and an assortment of squashes, pumpkin, peas and beans, some of which we saved from last year's crop. We worked until sundown and, after another late and half-assed but perfectly satisfying supper, walked down to the pond to take in the frog chorus and see the first, lone firefly of the summer.

Sunday, another nice day. We drove up to T&P's to see how things are coming along on the new house, then got started after lunch weeding, seeding, planting and mulching. Dad planted a row full of various greens we seeded the lettuces, carrots, daikon radishes, kohlrabi and peas. Mom worked on getting the grass out of the wildflower garden and mulched a good portion of the brassicas. Another long day of work for all of us, the first hot and sunny one this year. My last task for the day was to get the native plants in the south end of the east border, which I managed to do in an hour or two while mom, dad and A sipped beers and wine in the shade of the arbor... I joined them just in time to enjoy the last of the evening sun and get about a hundred mosquito bites. Ah, the joys of summer.

Monday, I awoke early, called in to work and hurried outside at about 7:30 with a cup of yesterday's coffee to start planting seeds (fennel, cilantro, nasturtiums, nigella, bachelor's buttons, calendula, marigolds, agrostemma and cosmos) and the rest of the plants (purple shiso, lemon balm, chamomile... what else?) under a heavy sky. The rain didn't start until 10 or so, and by noon I was done planting and not soaked. A good call, not going to work today... luckily A was able to take half the day off. Everything that needed to be planted has now been planted and most of the mulching is done. It's getting there. We'll be back in two weeks.

Weekend Two: Making Our Beds

May 17-18

Good weather on Saturday.

The whole garden gets one more pass with the tiller. This is a view from the northeast, former site of the raspberry patch. A space has been staked for the arbor (which was built for a wedding last fall, and has been patiently waiting since for it's new home to be ready) and we're ready to plot out the beds.

After several hours of measuring, staking, stepping, raking and scraping, the beds are laid out. Rows are 30 inches wide, with an 18-inch path running between. The four main thoroughfares, each leading to one side of the asparagus box, are 24 inches wide.

By Sunday afternoon, the arbor is in place (thanks to help from the sibs), resting nicely on four slate stones we picked up at the garden center just down the road. Parsnips, parsley root, rutabagas and beets have been seeded. Tomatoes, peppers, cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts seedlings have all been planted, along with basil, parsley, sweet annie and angelica, but (to our great dismay) we've learned that there's a freeze advisory for the next two nights. We spend the drizzly afternoon hauling out buckets, boxes, garbage cans, pots, plastic and tarps, just to be safe. (It didn't freeze.)

Many thanks to N for her invaluable assistance today, getting plants and seeds in level ground.

Next weekend: three sisters, butterfly garden, melons, lettuces, calendula, cosmos and everything else.

Weekend One: Clearing a Way

May 10-11, 2008

We got started again in early May, after a long, cold and wet Spring. Time to move the raspberries and turn in the green manure.

With help from the kids and the folks, we pulled this tangle of grape vines out of the raspberry patch. The grape roots were dug and moved under the front garden fence.

After an afternoon of spreading compost, tilling, digging, pulling, bagging, carting and planting...

... we have a new raspberry patch. The first three or four rows to the left were transplanted a few years ago. We dug and Mom planted enough canes to fill in the rest of the plot (about 10 more rows), which was spread with compost and tilled earlier Saturday.

All the berries and grapes have been (re-)moved and the entire garden, including the east side where the winter rye and vetch over-wintered, has been burned and tilled under.

In the middle of the old raspberry patch we discovered a nice patch of young nettles. I cut about a grocery bag full of tops
for soup and drying before pulling up the roots, and we ended up with a couple of pounds of leaves, deep green on top with a rosy flash underneath...quite lovely. Half went into the soup, half were laid out to dry.

Saturday afternoon gave way to rain, but it cleared up on Sunday. On top of our work on the raspberries, we tilled compost into another section here in front where we'll be planting Three Sisters in a couple weeks. In the back garden, we planted four varieties of hops under the fence and did some prep work, pulling last year's beans from the trellises and spreading out last year's straw mulch to dry before being burned. Sunday afternoon and evening was spent edging the south and west sides of the front garden by cutting the sod with a shovel, whacking it with a spade to retain as much of the soil as possible and pulling out as many damn grass roots as we could get our hands on, until the sun went down. Sunset, beers, grilled cheese and fresh asparagus. Not bad.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Year in Review

We're a few weeks into year two of our garden reclamation project and things are looking good so far. Here's a quick overview of the work we did last year:

A view from the southwest corner. This space is about 50' x 50' and was once a fully cultivated and productive vegetable garden. Note the raspberry thicket in the northeast corner and the massive rhubarb patch next to the dilapidated asparagus box. The rest of the green stuff is mostly grass and creeping charlie at this point.

After tilling and planting the west side.

Straw mulch, as a measure against the encroaching grasses...

A few weeks later, we've got cucumbers, radishes, tomatoes, borage, melons, lettuces, herbs and beans coming along, among other things. The resident asparagus has leafed out nicely and (in the upper right) bird-seeded grape vines now cover the raspberries. On the east side, we've spread a large sheet of plastic to kill grass and weeds.

Tilling is man's work.

East side, post-tilling. Better, but still a long way to go.


And a bit later... Tomatoes are ripening, a few zinnias are blooming among the rat-tailed radishes, and a volunteer sunflower has made itself at home. Honey bees are buzzing in the beardstongue and borage. Green manure of winter rye, field peas, ryegrass, crimson clover and hairy vetch is well-established on the east.

And that’s about it for last year, since I can’t find any photos from the Fall...

And here we are again in early Spring (maple-syruping time).