Apr 11 2010

Annual Pilgrimage to Dana’s


This is our third annual trip to Dana’s in Littlestown, PA.  She was closed, but fortunately, she was watering plants, so she allowed us to shop–and shop we did.  No grocery money left for this week.  We’ve decided to expand into blueberry cultivation, picked up some varieties of coleus, and bought a few annuals for our pots and perennials for the garden outside the living room window.  All in all, very successful.  Next year, we’ll check her hours on her website!  http://www.danasgardenplace.com

Mar 8 2010

Pool Table Gardening


Basement preparationThe recent thaw has sent Roger into a frenzy of preparation.  Seeds packets are sorted.  Trays are washed.  Labels and soil stand at the ready.  The most interesting part of the preparation is the little-used basement pool table is now the gardening center.  As you can see from the photo, the plant lights are ready, and the surface has been protected by heavy-duty vinyl cloth.  We’re getting excited about the prospect of tomatoes, fennel, and brussel sprouts!

Feb 6 2010



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.

Jun 10 2009

All Fenced In. Free At Last!


We finished the fence Sunday a week ago, but this is the first chance I’ve had to put photos up.  7.5′ tall, x 37′ x 48′.  Or thereabouts storecialis.net.  It’s really nice to actually be able to garden, instead of fencing.  Good luck, deer!

Garden fence detail; tomato towers in background

Garden fence detail; tomato towers in background

Full view of the garden from the West

Full view of the garden from the West

Jun 2 2009

The Garden of Eatin’



On Sunday, Roger and I put up the green mesh for the fence.  Leo came along and gave advice throughout the process.  It helps to have a man who has already (a) done most of the prep labor and (b) done all of the thinking.   Although we usually work in harmony, I was suprised that this difficult task went so well. It was a three-hour job, but there is no question that the final product is beautiful.

After Roger put the finishing touches on the gate, we sad pondering the name for our garden.  No final decisions yet.  The finished product gives as much satisfaction as the vegetables that we will pick in August and September.

May 25 2009

The gate


After our visit to the Farmer’s Market and Gran’s, we were inspired to do some serious outdoor work.  I moved plants, weeded and planted the flowers that we bought that morning.  Roger continued on his labor of love–the fence.  By evening, he was working on the gate.  The black hinges are lovely, and the gate is perfectly aligned.  There’s no fence mesh, but the presence of the gate dictates that we enter at the gate and at no other point.gate5-24-09

May 10 2009

Pavers and Planting



Roger put down the pavers for the fence line on Saturday.  I’ve been warned that Mother’s Day is really a code word for Planting Day.  Onions and lettuce are tall enough to see from the house.  Can’t finish the fence until we move the peony bush, and it’s just starting to bloom!

Roger checks the weather more often than his email.  Last night, he kept watching the sky for signs of rain and studied the full moon, wind and stars with intensity.  I’m certain now that he was a farmer in a previous life–when he starts tasting the dirt, I’m going to have him checked out. 

After nearly two weeks of gray, this day has dawned sunny and warm. I can’t wait to get started!

May 3 2009

Pilgrimmage to Dana’s


My first trip to Dana’s was last spring.  When Roger invited me, I knew it was special because I remember our friend, Donna, talking about going to Dana’s to purchase spring flowers and vegetables.  I was excited, and I blasted through the greenhouses and rows of plants selecting the most eye-catching flowers for outdoor pots.

This year, our trip to Dana’s was more subdued.  Perhaps it was the weather or the downturn in the economy?  I like to think that the reason was because now I am a more seasoned plant enthusiast.  We focused on the varieties of herbs for the new garden.  I made thoughtful responses and actually studied the little tags for sun and shade, height and depth characteristics.  OK.  I admit, I fell asleep during the long drive to Dana’s, and Roger had quite a time getting me out of the car to admire tomato plants.  At least I expressed sympathetic sighs when there was no fish emulsion for purchase.  He would say, “Ah, the difference a year makes!” 



Apr 19 2009

Seeds In The Ground, Finally


Apologies, dear reader(s), for the long delay in posting…the list of distractions is long and varied.  Suffice it to say that the things keeping me from writing have, sadly, also slowed my progress in the garden.  The quick update: The seed-starting venture in the basement is enjoying mixed success; mixed no doubt because of inattention.  There will be a number of (hopefully viable) things to plant, but there have been a number of casualties as well.

Outside, two weekends ago, we had a productive fence-post session.  The holes are all dug, and about half of the wooden posts are set.  I screwed up and picked an 8′ where one of the 10′ should be, to frame the gate.  I’ll have to pull it and replace it.  CJ and Luke were a huge help with the heavy labor.  Meantime, I tilled the whole garden over.  As it turns out, it’s a little smaller than I thought when I stepped it off; 37′ wide by about 48′.  Plenty big enough.

So yesterday, despite a weekend-full of intense prep for CJ’s Eagle Scout ceremony, I managed to get most of the afternoon free to get back into the garden.  We had knocked together three 4×8′ frames for raised beds.  They’re made out of typical framing white pine (no pressure treated!), so I coated them with boiled linseed oil for protection.  I set the first one into the garden and planted onions, radishes, lettuce, carrots, and spinach.

It’s nice working with the short 4′ rows.  Maybe, finally, I’ll become a decent succession planter, which is something I’ve never been good at.  I’m looking forward to using the beds to segregate and rotate plantings.  We’ll start with six, and add three more in the Fall.  And then the back of the garden will be more open and free-form.

The plan is to put the other five beds in next Saturday.  We’ll see.

Apr 8 2009

Baltimore Garden Feeds Our Daily Bread


The Baltimore Sun reports that Mayor Dixon has been planning a 2,000 square foot vegetable garden for City Hall–twice the size of Michelle and Obama’s White House garden.  Who would have figured that vegetable garden could become a competitive activity.  Ours will be somewhere in the middle, @1776 feet (total garden–not total planting area).

Check out the story:


Apr 8 2009

Prison Fencing


The guys spent all Sunday digging holes and setting fence posts.  The fence will be much higher than I originally imagined.  The fence will be deer-proof for certain.  rogerposts3

Mar 13 2009

Maryland’s Garden Writer in the NY Times


Always nice to read Anne Raver’s column to see what a fellow gardener is thinking and doing nearby.  I believe she lives in Frederick County.

In the Garden – At Last, It’s Time to Get Into the Garden – NYTimes.com.

Mar 12 2009

On Manure


Ah, manure! That glorious, odoriferous, precious shit that is both the beginning and end of the food production cycle. Securing a supply of suitable shit is a holy crusade for the organic gardening purist. And once we’re hooked up, we’re very selfish and protective of our sources. So don’t even ask!

The best option, of course, is to have your own supply handy, as I did when I had my own chickens and someone else’s cows on the farm in Taneytown (sigh). But we won’t be getting chickens here in Sykesville until next year.

I’ve used several different kinds of manure over the years, and have enjoyed stimulating conversations on the topic with fellow gardeners and farmers. Here’s what I know:

To compost or not: The safest bet is always to pile it up and let it age; that way, there is no danger of burning the plants with too much nitrogen. But this is not always a practical option. Often, you just can’t wait. You just have to spread the shit.

When to apply (uncomposted): Ideally, spread it on in the Fall, till it in lightly, and by Spring it will have broken down and the nutrients will be ready for uptake by your plants. Alternatively, as we have done (mostly) with this new garden, a lighter layer applied in the Spring and tilled in will do the trick. Not too much, though, or you’ll get burned. You can use composted manure anytime without worries.

During the season: If you have composted manure, or make up a manure tea, you can apply it in the holes before you plant, and use it as a side-dressing throughout the season. (More on in-season fertilizing in another post.)

We’ve done all with this garden so far: We manured part of it in the Fall, the rest over the past several weekends, and we have a nice pile in the back of the yard cooking for later use.

As far as types of manure go:

Horse: This is my favorite, especially when the horses are bedded in sawdust (vs. straw), as is the case with most of the manure we’ve scored. It breaks down quickly, the sawdust absorbs many times its weight in urine, and it also enhances the tilth of the soil nicely http://blogs.asburyseminary.edu/blog/over-the-counter-viagra.html. If not in sawdust, horse manure will be in straw, which is fine, but it takes longer to break down. In general, it’s rare to get burned with horse.

Cow: Good stuff but sloppy. Best when composted, but if you can handle it, a light layer of fresh can be safely worked right into the garden.

Chicken: Hot stuff! As in, high nitrogen, danger of burning the plants. It’s great, though, adding tremendous fertility for its weight (perhaps the highest ratio, though that’s just my conjecture), but by all means, compost it for a season first.

Pig: Never used it, but have heard it’s high in fertility, and probably best not used fresh.

Human: Yuck. Believe it or not, there is an “operation” on Route 407 between New Windsor and Taylorsville that I am is convinced is spreading human shit on the fields. It’s the worst thing you could ever smell. I know that landscapers use it. But keep it out of my garden…and yours!

Speaking of smell, my assessment of least-to-worst smelling manures:

5.  Horse

4.  Cow

3.  Pig

2.  Chicken

1.  Human

Feb 24 2009

An Unlimited Source


After knocking door to door, we found a manure sounce in our own neighborhood.  Imagine the homeowner’s surprise that we wanted truckloads.

The homeowner apologized that the manure is mixed with sawdust.  Little did he know, this is Roger’s favorite kind!  (Little did I know that we had a preference.)

Feb 22 2009

Manure Toss


Manure Toss 3.jpg, originally uploaded by rebetsky.

Flinging the last of a load. Note the smooth section near the front of the truck — this ground has been broken, tilled, manured, and then lightly tilled again. The chunkier part has only been broken once, by hand. We’ll have to wait for it to thaw and dry out some before it can be tilled. Good shovel form, huh?