May 25 2011

Gardening (&) Empires

rebetsky

Jamaica Kincaid, novelist, gardening columnist, and writer who’s written for the Village Voice and The New Yorker, says, “Most of the nations that have serious gardening cultures also have, or had, empires. You can’t have this luxury of pleasure without somebody paying for it. This is nice to know. It’s nice to know that when you sit down to enjoy a plate of strawberries, somebody got paid very little so that you could have your strawberries. It doesn’t mean the strawberries will taste different, but it’s nice to enjoy things less than we do. We enjoy things far too much, and it leads to incredible pain and suffering.”

Our labor in the garden is free, but it’s sweet, hard work. I concluded a long time ago that we pay far too little for our food. Kincaid offers an interesting perspective on why this is so. I’m sure I can speak for many gardeners when I say that nothing tastes as fine as what comes from the garden. It comes at a dear price, but one that I am happy to pay.


May 25 2010

Lark’s Heel

Natalie

What’s blooming today?  A white delphinium.

In my research, delphinium’s other name is larkspur.  I’m going to go with “lark’s heel,” Shakespeare’s name for it. The flower has five petal-like sepals which grow together to form a hollow pocket with a spur at the end, which gives the plant its name. The plants flower from late spring to late summer, and are pollinated by butterflies and bumble bees. (More butterflies, please!) The plant is toxic, so ranchers don’t allow cattle to graze on fields of larkspur until late in the summer cialis online india.  Also surprising to me, one ancient use of the seeds of larkspur was to kill lice and nits in the hair (we don’t have that problem here), and a tincture cures asthma (we won’t be making that home remedy).

The scientific name comes from the Latin for dolphin alluding to the shape of the opening flower.  This weekend,  Roger and I watched The Cove, the Academy-Award winning documentary about killing dolphins in Japan.  Strangely fitting?  Connected?  At any rate, there’s only ONE flower right now, so I am urging Roger to plant more! photoFunny how I never knew what the flower was before, and now I need a whole garden of them!


Feb 10 2010

On Snow And The Changing Seasons: Garden Report

Roger


IMG_0578

We’re in our third major snowstorm of the season, and there is a blizzard warning until this evening. Probably about 30” of snow on the ground now — 24” from last weekend’s storm, plus what’s falling now. It’s been a long time since we’ve had this much snow.
The quiet, the calm make it a perfect time to reflect on the transition from the first season in the Sykesville garden to the second. Despite a disaster or two, we’d have to say it was a successful, very satisfying garden.
Because of all the infrastructure work — breaking ground, assembling the greenhouse, and most hugely, building the 7 1/2’ deer-proof fence — we got a late start, with not much in the way of early season crops. My seed-starting venture was pretty much a flop. I blame it on the ridiculous commute and hours I was working at a downtown job. Won’t have that problem this year.
As noted previously here, we were lucky to get an abundance of manure, making for amazing fertility. The zinnias and dahlias were ginormous. Peppers, the best I’ve ever grown. The beans were so dense on the gateway trellis that we couldn’t even harvest them. The tomatoes, up until the late blight fungus hit, were magnificent.
That’s the outstanding sour note and biggest disappointment. After an initial flush of fruit, the LBF took out all the tomatoes. Just one batch of sauce, and nothing to can. We actually had to buy tomatoes at the farmer’s market in August and September. How humiliating!
Lessons learned to be applied this year: Rotate, of course. Use only plants started here. Plant with much more generous spacing to allow more air and light in, and avoid persistent dampness. Install ground irrigation hoses to avoid over-wetting of the foliage. And keep the watering consistent.
Also as noted earlier, our showing at the Howard County Fair was very satisfying. The peppers were stars, with the green bells taking a first. We’ll be focusing on some more flowers this season; they were pretty much an afterthought. I’m sure Natalie will be on the lookout for creative containers to present our blooms.
Lastly, bow season was a bust. I had some close encounters, but nothing for the freezer. Leaving the downtown job behind will help that endeavor, too. Natalie, Blue and I have scouted out some prime new spots, and I’ll also be focusing on the old stand that produced last year. (We have one nice doe in the freezer, from Pennsylvania rifle season.)
Now for this year. I’ve ordered way too many seeds, as usual. We probably have enough from last year to plant a full garden. But I just can’t resist.
From Jung, we ordered:
Blue Lake 274 bush bean
Burpee improved bush lima bean
Franklin hybrid Brussels sprouts
Nantes coreless carrots
Eureka hybrid cucumber
Dusky hybrid eggplant
Italian large leaf basil
Florence fennel (for Natalie’s butterflies)
Super sugar snap pea
Aruba cubanelle hybrid pepper
Giant marconi hybrid pepper
Rainbow hybrid pepper
Easter egg blend radish
Bloomsdale longstanding spinach
Italian Largo hybrid squash
All blue potato sets
Benarys giant white zinnia
Magellan mix hybrid zinnia
Oklahoma mix zinnia
Single old fashioned mix hollyhock
New millennium stars delphinium mix
Thomas Edison dahlia
White perfection dahlia
Zorro dahlia
Jung’s premium gladiolus
Good god, I am out of control! Where are we going to put all this?!? And that doesn’t include the tomatoes. Here’s what we ordered from Totally Tomatoes:
Beefmaster hybrid
Lemon Boy hybrid
Pineapple
Roma
4 best hybrids collection
Notice there in no lettuce on the list. In an act of extreme discipline, I decided we had enough seed leftover. Notice also the preponderance of hybrid varieties; until we’re sure we have disease and fungi under control, we’re going with resistant varieties as much as possible.
So, they should be here soon, assuming the mail people can get through the snow. We’ll get the lights set up in the basement, and I will have no excuse for neglecting the little babies.
Now, time to get some serious outerwear on, grab the Blue dog, and go out to get some more firewood. Now that there’s someone here to tend it, and since we have plenty of wood to use, we’ve been doing a lot of heating with the wood stove. A nice country ritual (especially when you don’t have to depend 100% on it).

Above:  Garden after the second big snow of the season.

We’re in our third major snowstorm of the season, and there is a blizzard warning until this evening. Probably about 30” of snow on the ground now — 24” from last weekend’s storm, plus what’s falling now. It’s been a long time since we’ve had this much snow.

The quiet, the calm make it a perfect time to reflect on the transition from the first season in the Sykesville garden to the second. Despite a disaster or two, it was a successful, very satisfying garden. We ate a lot out of it. Natalie was very pleased with all the butterflies. And I’d have to say, I couldn’t have a better gardening partner: champion weeder, tireless transplanter, keen observer and meticulous caretaker. We’re an excellent team, in gardening and just about everything else.

Because of all the infrastructure work — breaking ground, assembling the greenhouse, and most hugely, building the 7 1/2’ deer-proof fence — we got a late start, with not much in the way of early season crops. My seed-starting venture was pretty much a flop. I blame it on the ridiculous commute and hours I was working at a downtown job. Won’t have that problem this year.

As noted previously here, we were lucky to get an abundance of manure, making for amazing fertility. The zinnias and dahlias were ginormous. Peppers, the best I’ve ever grown. The beans were so dense on the gateway trellis that we couldn’t even harvest them. The tomatoes, up until the late blight fungus hit, were magnificent.

That’s the outstanding sour note and biggest disappointment. After an initial flush of fruit, the LBF took out all the tomatoes. Just one batch of sauce, and nothing to can. We actually had to buy tomatoes at the farmer’s market in August and September. How humiliating!

Lessons learned to be applied this year: Rotate, of course. Use only plants started here. Plant with much more generous spacing to allow more air and light in, and avoid persistent dampness. Install ground irrigation hoses to avoid over-wetting of the foliage. And keep the watering consistent.

Also as noted earlier, our showing at the Howard County Fair was very satisfying. The peppers were stars, with the green bells taking a first. We’ll be focusing on some more flowers this season; they were pretty much an afterthought. I’m sure Natalie will be on the lookout for creative containers to present our blooms.

Lastly, bow season was a bust. I had some close encounters, but nothing for the freezer. Leaving the downtown job behind will help that endeavor, too. Natalie, Blue and I have scouted out some prime new spots, and I’ll also be focusing on the old stand that produced last year. (We have one nice doe in the freezer, from Pennsylvania rifle season.)

Now for this year. I’ve ordered way too many seeds, as usual. We probably have enough from last year to plant a full garden. But I just can’t resist.

From Jung, we ordered:

  • Blue Lake 274 bush bean
  • Burpee improved bush lima bean
  • Franklin hybrid Brussels sprouts
  • Nantes coreless carrots
  • Eureka hybrid cucumber
  • Dusky hybrid eggplant
  • Italian large leaf basil
  • Florence fennel (for Natalie’s butterflies)
  • Super sugar snap pea
  • Aruba cubanelle hybrid pepper
  • Giant marconi hybrid pepper
  • Rainbow hybrid pepper
  • Easter egg blend radish
  • Bloomsdale longstanding spinach
  • Italian Largo hybrid squash
  • All blue potato sets
  • Benarys giant white zinnia
  • Magellan mix hybrid zinnia
  • Oklahoma mix zinnia
  • Single old fashioned mix hollyhock
  • New millennium stars delphinium mix
  • Thomas Edison dahlia
  • White perfection dahlia
  • Zorro dahlia
  • Jung’s premium gladiolus

Good god, I am out of control! Where are we going to put all this?!? And that doesn’t include the tomatoes. Here’s what we ordered from Totally Tomatoes:

  • Beefmaster hybrid
  • Lemon Boy hybrid
  • Pineapple
  • Roma
  • 4 best hybrids collection

Notice there is no lettuce on the list. In an act of extreme discipline, I decided we had enough seed leftover. Notice also the preponderance of hybrid varieties; until we’re sure we have disease and fungi under control, we’re going with resistant varieties as much as possible.

So, they should be here soon, assuming the mail people can get through the snow. We’ll get the lights set up in the basement, and I will have no excuse for neglecting the little babies.

Now, time to get some serious outerwear on, grab the Blue dog, and go out to get some more firewood. Now that there’s someone here to tend it, and since we have plenty of wood to use, we’ve been doing a lot of heating with the wood stove. A nice country ritual (especially when you don’t have to depend 100% on it).


Feb 6 2010

Blizzard!

Natalie

Glorious blizzard!  Blue Dog and I went for a walk this afternoon and captured some snow photos.  I can’t believe how big Blue has grown.  Every time we go to the vet he has put on three or four more pounds.   I took some garden photos, too.  Roger ordered his seeds this week and is making the plan for starting seeds in the basement.  Shortly, our pool table will become a mini-greenhouse.  Speaking of greenhouses, ours has held up under the 24+ inches of snow.  Amazing.


Oct 18 2009

Tagging Monarch Butterflies

Natalie

Cleaning in Uniontown today.  The leaves and fall decorations, new carpet and flooring, all conspired to make us want to stay forever.  Sorted through boxes of books and packed up nick nacks. Visited Uniontown neighbors Roland and Barbara Childs.  Barbara is a master gardener and Roger’s long-time friend.  We discussed fishing, hunting, gardening and tagging Monarch Butterflies.  Never heard of that–but I want to learn!

A little research later, learned that Carroll County hosts a Monarch Madness Festival at Bear Branch Nature Center in the last weekend of September.  I missed an opportunity to learn all about the Monarch’s flight to Mexico and to learn how to tag them.  Next year, I will be there!

Ate four delicious figs and returned home to make a cake for Emily’s brithday.


Sep 28 2009

Garden endings (and surprises!)

Natalie

Photo_092809_001

My neighbor, Leo, and I worked in the garden all afternoon.  My assignment was to clean out the blight-ridden tomatoes and bag all of the debris so there was no chance that the blight will return.  This morphed into a mad attack of the beds, digging up weeds and cutting down overgrown branches.  Shriveled squash vines–gone!  Overgrown herbs–gone!  Blackened zinnias–gone!  Deformed cucumbers–gone!  Leo was in charge of composting the plants.

In the midst of this cleaning frenzy, I came upon beautiful morning glories that had established themselves on the dead tomato vines.  Where did they come from?  I think I’ll let them grow a while longer. I know they are “bindweeds,” twining themselves on cultivated plants (in this case, quite dead plants), but they also attract hummingbirds and butterflies.  Why does Nature always present itself in such contrasts?


Aug 28 2009

Roses In Syracuse

rebetsky

Sometimes it pays to get a little lost, or have a daughter who’s a little late. I noticed this rose garden yesterday morning, and had a few minutes to stop today. Anyone who knows me knows I can’t grow roses…or worse, kill them. I hope these beauties survive my brief visit.
(posted from the iPhone)


Aug 27 2009

Autumn In The Air

rebetsky

350 miles here to the north, in Syracuse, a preview of the season to come. The morning and evening air has that touch of crispness and freshness that says Summer will soon be on its way out. A new grandson, a daughter off to college – this week surely is full of transitions. Thank goodness I have such a pillar of support in Natalie, and in such good family and friends.
(posted from the iPhone)


Aug 23 2009

Cucumber Conundrum: Any Ideas?

Roger

We planted the cukes late; I think it was late June.  The vines were vigorous, and we’ve gotten a number of fine cucumbers.  The vines are still loaded with blossoms, but the vines and leaves are turning brown and evidently dying off.  No idea why, and haven’t researched it yet.  Any insights?


Aug 23 2009

Tomato Tragedy: Late Blight Fungus

Roger

Well, it’s the worst disaster to hit my tomatoes in all my gardening career.  If you’re a gardener, you know how bad the late blight fungus is this year — a veritable epidemic in the eastern U.S.  Evidently, the cool, damp Spring and a bad infection among some major growers created a perfect storm. You can read the Maryland Cooperative  Extension Service’s info here:

Region’s Tomatoes & Potatoes At Risk of Devastating Disease

I noticed it first on three plants at the end of our “tomato alley.”  But when I went to pull and dispose of those plants the next day, it was clear that the entire crop is infected.  I did pull those three plants as planned — indulging that helpless feeling of having to do something — but I left the rest.  Basically, the fruit that is on the vines is mostly ripening and usable.  Maybe 15% spoiled.  But the vines themselves are rapidly dying off, and no more fruit will be set.

That said, we’ve enjoyed quite a number of tomato sandwiches, and tomato-mozzarella salads, and last night we sent off some of our guests from Nicole’s send-off party with small bags of tomatoes, and today I made maybe 5 or 6 quarts of homemade tomato sauce.  But we won’t be doing the massive canning that we anticipated.

It’s sad, because the plants were so big and beautiful and loaded with nice fruit.  I just hope the fungus doesn’t overwinter.  It typically does not, but there is concern that it may have mutated.  We’ll take some precautions.  Meantime…

Lessons Learned

  1. Plant further apart.  No matter how far I space them, it’s never enough.  I will plant fewer and further apart next year.
  2. Be cautious about evening watering.  I’ve never been too disciplined about this; after all, it rains at night, right?  But I’ll avoid this practice in the future.
  3. Water from the bottom.  I will set up a drip or seeping irrigation system next year.  I’ve always meant to do this.  Now I have incentive.
  4. Start our own plants exclusively.  I really doubt any of the plants from Dana’s, our favorite nursery, brought it here, but who knows?

Aug 23 2009

A Monarch Send-off to Syracuse

Natalie

We spent Saturday in a frenzy of preparation for Nicole’s send-off to Syracuse.  Even though I was cooking, blowing up balloons and making creative orange and blue decorations, I had half an eye to the garden.  I was rewarded with a flash of orange–a monarch butterfly! I dropped what I was doing and (literally) went chasing butterflies. . .

Later, Shirley gave me an article from The Washington Post by Joel M. Lerner about creating a garden habitat for butterflies.  This year’s garden was an accidental paradise–no pesticides, the right plants, small puddles, flat rocks, sun, and the shady green bean arbor.  The caterpillars all over the fennel that I insisted should be exterminated (but we only got as far as purchasing the organic pesticide) were the beginnings of our beautiful eastern black swallowtails.  We were ready to strike fennel off of our growing list for next year.  Now we plant more!

photo_082209_001


Aug 15 2009

More Butterflies

Natalie

Roger and I spend the day catching up on yard work.  For me, that meant weeding in short bursts in between running back and forth to the zinnias to look at the butterflies.  This is my third and last post concerning lepidopterology (for today).  These two insects are less flashy than the swallowtails but interesting all the same.  The orange butterfly with the spots is some kind of brushwing butterfly–maybe an Aphrodite Fratillary http://enligneviagra.net/v../.  The second one with the white markings is a Silver Spotted Skipper.  Interestingly enough, this butterfly has big eyes, and almost never lands on a yellow flower.  I watched both of them flit from flower to flower, completely fascinated.  I have already demanded a complete revision of next year’s garden plan to include more flowers that attract butterflies. (Poor Roger!)


Aug 15 2009

Black Swallowtail

Natalie

photo_081509_008

Add to my recent butterfly observations, the equally common Black Swallowtail.  I’ll be very sorry when these zinnias finish blooming!


Aug 14 2009

Swallowtail Butterflies and Bees

Natalie

I was in the garden selecting the flowers I hoped to enter in the fair when I took these photos.  There was a butterfly on nearly every zinnia.  I knew they were swallowtails, but I didn’t know much more (shame on me, Cousin Diane).  I also discovered that the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (our common variety)  is the state butterfly of Georgia, Virginia, Alabama, Delaware and South Carolina.

Maryland, by the way, has chosen the Baltimore Checkerspot. I’d like to see them!

At the same time, I heard a loud buzzing and knew there were bees nearby.  The volume was alarming.  Around my ankles, in every cucumber flower, there was a bee!  That’s I good sign, I learned.  Cucumbers depend exclusively on honey bees for pollination.  According to a North Carolina Department of Entomology bulletin, it takes an average of 12 honeybee visits to ONE flower in ONE day in order for pollination to occur.  By the sound of the garden, Roger and I should brace ourselves for large cucumber harvest.  Pickles anyone?


Aug 7 2009

Garden in Early August

Natalie