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So it turns out I was wrong about the Kentucky Wonders coming up. Everything in that quadrant of the bean patch was, um, weeds. So I planted Italian Rose beans there instead. It occurred to me too late that these are shell beans, not snaps, so if/when I get the sunflowers up in the garden I may get a packet of snap beans and try planting those. The Trionfo Violettos are doing well right now, though (except for a possible ant hostile takeover, the reason for which I shall elaborate on later), so with luck we’ll at least have those.

At the farmer’s market today one of the vendors was selling herbs for a dollar a pot, so I got some peppermint and a pot of three basil plants as insurance, because none of the three plantings of basil I’ve done so far have yielded a thing. I planted them out today as well, along with moving one of the borage plants out of the bed where I had them last year, which looked awful. (I pulled all the rest of those plants. I could have sworn those things never went to seed but I had dozens of volunteers in that bed.)

And I weeded. I had decided that I’d only weed the beans, since I needed to plant there anyway, but when I was done with those the onion bed and basil bed had only a few that needed pulling to be done, and then the lettuce looked bad and I want to take care of it, and then I might as well go through the beets, and the carrots needed taking care of, and by that time I was almost done with the entire herb garden, so I finished it. Compartmentalization–deciding “I’m only going to do this small patch”–made it so much easier to get down to the job and really do it. Now I understand how the rest of you don’t do what I normally do, which is look at the entire garden and think “My God, I’ll never get to all of it” and give up. I couldn’t for the life of me seem to do the weeding methodically, so I know it isn’t complete, but I did much, much better than I normally would.

At that point I’d been outside an hour and was getting hot and a little achy (three charley horses last night; I told Eric and he said “How is that possible, when you only have two legs?” and I would have hit him but he was out of reach and my calves hurt so I didn’t get up), so I pulled a little bindweed, inspected the vegetable garden, and went inside. The zucchini seeds I planted are coming up, and two of the cucumbers are in imminent need of trellising. Taking care of that, the sunflowers, the Red Warty Thing, more beans, and more weeding were on my list, but they’re getting deferred to tomorrow.

I did no gardening yesterday as I should have; the day of work on top of the long weekend caught up with me and convinced me that staying inside and reading and lounging was okay too. But I looked out the window and noticed that the sage had flowered; so I had to grab the camera and go out.

I5-26 sage flower
Isn’t it pretty?

These flowers are much less pretty.

5-26 flowering rocket and sorrel

Or at least they are to me because it’s only May and why on earth do the rocket and sorrel have to bolt already? Was it that hot while I was gone? (Actually, the forecast says yes, it was. And there was no rain. But never mind that.) They still taste okay for the moment, but my garden salads are going to have to be in two parts because the lettuce remains unbolted but too small to harvest, and by the time they develop–if the weather allows them to–these will be long gone.

We came back from Chicago, tired and footsore but happy, and my first move was of course to check on the plants. The Red Warty Thing seedling sitting on the back porch was starting to wilt, and it’s already too big for its pot. I was hoping to wait for the grass to die, but that thing needs planting soon, so I’m going to have to dig out some space and plant it tomorrow or the next day.

The other plants were doing well, including the flowers I put out in pots on the back deck–Mexican sunflowers, cosmos, and blue sage salvia. And the sunflowers I pushed into the pots of the vegetables that didn’t grow (peppers mostly) almost all sprouted and were stretched toward the sun. I was also planning on planting them out where the grass is (I was going for a three-sisters bed with sunflowers substituted for corn), so I think this week is simply going to have to involve a lot of digging out half-dead grass, as long as the weather cooperates. I was planning on setting myself some weeding tasks–I was thinking that giving myself just one bed at a time to work on might help me be more diligent about keeping up with it–but this is going to have to take precedence. Here’s hoping for clear skies.

The beans are up, all four quadrants. This relieves me immensely. The culinary herb starts are definitely gone except for one (savory, I think). Well, maybe they’ll come back.

I’ve watered everything again, in preparation for leaving tomorrow. I got my first mosquito bite of the season. Sigh. That’s another thing, like the weeding, that I forget about in the winter. Gardening in long pants and long sleeves is less fun than gardening in shorts and a tank top. But it’s better than no gardening at all.

I watered today. This is rather remarkable, since I pretty much never water except to water in a new plant. I like to think it’s my tough-love style of gardening, but it’s actually simple laziness.

However, I had looked at the weather forecast for the week (all dry), and thought about it as I was planting my spindly, fragile seedlings over the weekend, and decided I would water today, and again Thursday unless Friday’s forecast rain moved up instead of back. Next weekend we’ll be in Chicago for our anniversary/last-trip-before-the-baby-comes trip and it’s supposed to be nice except for Friday, and even I can’t kid myself that eight days without water is going to do anything to small seedlings but kill them.

Watering, it turns out, isn’t that bad, as long as you wear proper footwear. I didn’t–I had socks and sandals on–but I was aware they were going to get wet and muddy and didn’t worry about it. I noticed that the French Fingerlings put on a spurt of growth in the last few days. I noticed that the tomatoes are still purple underneath. I noticed that the lettuce and bok choi seedlings are doing great. I noticed that the cumin seems to have disappeared already. Did I plant seeds along with the seedlings? I can’t remember. I think I’d better plant some.

I also planted some Mitla Black tepary beans around the tomato stakes, same as I did last year. And I nearly stepped on an adolescent robin; while I was in the herb garden the nest seemed to overflow with birds and suddenly one dropped right near me; I stepped instinctively away but it moved in the same direction and almost got crushed. But didn’t. A mature robin on the fencestarted chirping, rather angrily, it seemed, and I said, “I didn’t do it!” and moved away, and the younger bird hopped around and seemed fine. I almost wanted to dig up some worms for it.

The garlic patch is weeded, at least as much as my patience would let it–the microscopic clover plants, so small they’re still purple, are mostly still there because I didn’t bother ripping them out. But the oodles of seedlings are ripped out. Among them are parsley sprouts. It was so odd to yank them out there, while thirty feet away I desperately want them to grow and thrive. “I guess that’s the definition of a weed,” Eric said. “A plant growing where you don’t want it.”

When I was working in the garden yesterday I noticed a robin following me around–not literally, but when I was working in the east bed it was poking around in the peppers, and when I was working in the west bed it was hopping around the east bed, and when I was in the herb garden and went back to the vegetable garden for the tray I’d forgotten it was picking up worm after worm in the west bed. “Leave my worms alone!” I told it. “You can have the ones in the yard.”

It ignored me. And when I went back to the herb garden, it followed me. I was actually getting vaguely annoyed–although my digging had revealed that there were plenty of worms to share–when it flew up above my head and I heard a chorus of  shrill cheeping. I looked up, and balanced along one of the drains was a nest. The robin dropped off its beakful of worms and flew off. The cheeping stopped. I went back to digging, and I didn’t yell at the robin any more.

I meant to work on the garden Friday,  but it looked gray. Then Saturday, but it rained and was cold. So today was the day I actually went into the garden, armed with three days’ worth of intentions.

Eric and I discussed the Round-Up issue and we decided that he’d spray the weeds in the ornamental areas, plus the grass in the corner of the vegetable garden, and I would dig up the rest so that I could plant today. He went to work with a willing spirit.  “Killing plants!” he said. “Now this is something I’m good at!”

In the meantime, I dug up the east and west beds, except for where the potatoes and leeks (for seed) were already growing. I planted melons (Athena muskmelon and Sugar Baby watermelon from Hoen’s, plus Iroquois cantaloupe and Mickylee watermelon from seed) and more carrots (Danvers 126 and Yellostone) in the east bed, along with a transplanted row of what might be leeks or might be onions–I’m not sure, but they showed up near the leeks and seem to have onion-like bulbs and leek-like leaves, and I figured I’d let them hang around.  I planted yellow zucchini from Hoen’s and Zahra Hybrid and yellow scallop squash from seed in one of the west beds. I planted Mathilde Pickle and Bush Pickle cucumbers in the other west bed, and put in support poles. I planted Giant Marconi and King Arthur and Poblano and Inferno peppers in the raised bed. I watered everything well, and then I went inside to shape sandwich bread for its second rise and taste the French vanilla ice cream that Eric had just pulled out of the mixer. It’s a hard life.

Refreshed, I attacked the herb garden: I replanted Genovese basil (only one plant seems to have survived) and planted the seed starts from inside: cumin, Russian tarragon, summer savory, nigella, horehound, German chamomile, and balloon flower. I planted the rosemary and lavender I bought from the farmer’s market. I planted the Joi Choi pak choi and Red Romaine lettuce from Hoen’s, and moved some spinach and mustard plants. (I also pulled the komatsuna I’d planted earlier–it was all bolting. I expect it was because of the lack of water.) I watered everything. I realized I still had onions to plant.

Apparently I have issues about onions. I planted the available bed with them, then put in a few rows where I could fit them, then toyed with the idea of pulling out the cauliflower–I don’t expect anything from it anyway–to plant the remainder. I decided that was foolish and fit them in various places in the vegetable garden. I watered everything. I realized I still had flower starts to plant. I went inside anyway.

I’m now wondering whether I should cover the cucurbits, since I’m not sure of the status of rabbits in the garden and I do have little individual plastic covers that I got for my birthday. The main issue is whether I’ll remember to uncover them tomorrow morning…and how lucky I feel. My back is telling me maybe I shouldn’t waste all that effort, so perhaps I’ll go out a little later and put some insurance on today’s investment.

“We should think about thinning the baby pears on the pear tree,” I said to Eric this evening as we were making French vanilla ice cream (our first try at a custard-based ice cream). “I don’t know if you’ve noticed,  but pollination was obviously very good, but we don’t want a ton of tiny ones like we had last year. Also, I’m worried that the peach tree hasn’t bloomed yet.”

“Maybe it’s not time yet,” he replied. “When did it bloom last year?”

“I don’t know. I’ll look it up later, I know I took a picture.” So I did. “Late April,” I reported, while the ice cream mixture was cooling before being put in the fridge to chill.

“Oh. Um…but it’s still early May! Or mid May. Mid.”

I started looking online for clues.  Wikipedia mentioned that peach buds can be killed starting at around -15 degrees C. “How cold did it get this spring?” I asked Eric. Before long, I came upon this article, which starts out, “Think it’s cold out there? Try sitting naked in a pile of sticks stuck in a tree. Better yet, be glad you’re not an Ohio peach. They’re as good as dead this year.”

I read this to Eric, who said, “Dammit,” which was exactly what I was thinking. I wonder what price peaches will be at the farmer’s market this year. I was planning on buying peaches this summer anyway, since our tree isn’t nearly big enough to give us as many as we’ll want; but I wonder what the supply will be like, and if I’ll have to get up early in the summer to get any. I wonder if plum trees are as sensitive to freezes as peaches are. Pears obviously aren’t, and I think apples aren’t either.

Incidentally, I went to the market today (looking for rosemary and lavender plants) and found that some people are selling tomatoes at summer prices–I don’t know if they’re imported or hothouse or what, but if I’d found anybody selling parsley we might have had some out-of-season tabbouleh for dinner tonight instead of leftovers.

I picked up my fundraiser vegetables from Hoen’s today after work. This was the fundraiser Michelle’s school was having for sixth grade camp; I figured $12 for 18 vegetables seemed like a great deal and signed up. I’ve never been to Hoen’s, and now that I’ve been there I know why–it’s at the extreme other end of town from where I live. But I’m glad I went. It’s a neat place, with low, well-laid-out tables, good labeling, a nice mixture of veggies and herbs and ornamentals and just some fun stuff like topiaries in the shapes of fish. I noticed other people walking around with fundraising receipts similar to but not the same as mine; apparently they’re a popular fundraising vendor in Toledo.

I picked up four pickling cucumber plants, two each of two kinds; a Gretel and a Fairytale eggplant (they also had Hansel, but I liked the look of the first two better); two sweet peppers and two hot peppers (including Poblano, one of the types that failed to germinate for me); a watermelon and a muskmelon; a yellow zucchini and a winter squash named Red Warty Thing (would you have been able to resist?); pak choi; red romaine lettuce (since all that’s grown in my garden is a few Little Caesar heads); and two pots of candy onions. They may not be grown from seed, they may not be the most interesting variety, but by God I’m going to grow onions in my garden this year if I possibly can.

I was tempted by the herbs, especially the lime basil and a nice lavender, but they were a bit expensive and I noticed spray residue on the bay laurel, which put me off, so I passed. I’ll get some from Andersons. I may also get a pack of broccoli; Hoen’s had them but they were outside so I didn’t see them until I was leaving. I can probably do without, anyway. My taste for brassicas has gradually come back but I still need to go slowly with them.

The plants are all outside on the porch, er, hardening off. Tomorrow I’ll weed my little heart out (or dig, anyway) and plant as much as I can. I’m figuring I’ll also plant some of my own melon and zucchini seeds and get a little bit of succession gardening going on. I’m not sure whether I’ll plant other cucumbers or not. Pickling cucumbers were fine for eating last year and we often had more than we knew what to do with anyway. It’ll depend on the space, I think. I look forward to finding out.

Flowers and even fruit are only the beginning. In the seed lies the life and the future.

Marion Zimmer Bradley

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