You are currently browsing the monthly archive for October 2007.

Eric and I went out to clean up the yard last night. Specifically, to clean up the mess the contractors left behind after fixing the driveway. We’re pleased with the driveway itself, but not with anything else they did, like telling my mother-in-law about their plans rather than, say, me…or leaving furrows on either side of the driveway while taking away our dirt…or dumping trash all over our backyard. I acknowledge that the trash was ours, or rather the previous owners’–it was drywall they had laid down in the garage, presumably to soften the bumps caused by the cracked surface–but they took all our dirt away, couldn’t they have taken the drywall? Or at least not thrown it all over the grass the way they did?

At any rate, we put all the trash out (turns out the contractors ate Wendy’s for lunch the days they were here) and moved the retaining wall they had seen fit to disassemble and scatter across our front lawn. We moved the old roots they had presumably unearthed and dumped on our grass. We considered how much dirt we’ll need to fill in the furrows, and that we probably need to do it before the next heavy rain.

“We need some landscaping before we try to sell this place,” Eric observed as we looked around. He’s right, which is bad for our pocketbook but good for my gardening practice. There are holes where I moved things or, in one case, where the previous owners had had a completely useless stand of concrete that the contractors took out. There are spots where my plants have been killed, dug up or buried by the contractors. There are spots I plan to lay bare (i.e., the mosquito bush by our front porch), and spots where I don’t have to but really ought to dig out some plants. There’s the lilac bush that’s coming down in the spring, once I’ve gathered cuttings enough to appease my in-laws.

Plus there’s this narrow strip of ground between our garage and the fence separating us from the neighbors. It had been blocked by the old garbage can that the garbage people wouldn’t take and two propane tanks, but we moved those since we were doing all this cleanup anyway. (Eric took delight in jumping on the old can to make it look dilapidated enough for the garbage people to take.) “What should we do with this?” Eric wondered, gazing at its thistle-infested length.

I was ashamed; the neighbors have been having parties in their backyard all summer, and the cracked and peeling paint on the garage was bad enough for them to look at without a section of pestilent weeds. (Why couldn’t the bindweed have gotten that far along the fence? It did everywhere else.) “Spray with Round-Up and lay down gravel?” I said.

“Sounds good to me,” Eric said. “We can get some when we get the dirt. And a drum of Round-Up. What do you think? Spray the grass, plant Eco-Lawn in the spring?” I foresee us spending a lot of time at Home Depot and Andersons in the near future.


I pulled out my basil plants yesterday. I’ve been harvesting seeds right along and I’ve got plenty, assuming I don’t spill the bowl all over the back porch like I did before. I also replanted the campanula the driveway contractors pulled out, thinking they were doing some good, and left on the side of the driveway. I roasted the one butternut squash I dropped and split (after some healthy cursing). And then I went to the symphony.

Today, I heard it was due to frost tonight. That was my cue to harvest the Kentucky Wonder beans I’ve been letting grow for seed, some green onions that have inexplicably decided to reappear, and all the tiny baby zucchini that are left (remind me next year to prune my zucchini all summer). I think–and am willing to wait and see–that the rosemary, sage, oregano, and parsley will be okay, plus the Swiss chard and carrots. I did take in the few Asian pears that remain, and noticed that the spilanthes has in fact yielded dried seed heads; I just haven’t noticed up until now. They’re in a bowl, awaiting appropriate winnowing weather.

And I assume that’s it for the garden (unless that solitary broccoli plant decides it wants to grow). I’ve been planning right along to transplant the herbs to the herb garden and the strawberries to where the herbs are now, but at this rate–I haven’t prepped the new garden yet, haven’t bought the stones for the pavement or the soil to mix in with what’s there–that’s going to be a spring task, with everything wintering where it is. I think that’s okay, since I did just about as much this past spring.

What remains for the year? Eat the rest of the carrots and Swiss chard, for one thing. Aside from that, looking over what I did, and looking ahead to what I’ll do next year, I think. I did quite a lot, and learned quite a lot. And this blog is searchable, so why not?

Two days ago–I posted this yesterday but it seems to have been swallowed and eaten–I received the completion of my first seed “swap.” It gets the quotation marks because she was the one with all the seeds she wanted to get rid of and I had postage and a single packet of Micro-Toms. I’d been thinking of planting them as houseplants and giving them to people, maybe for Christmas, but this was a better use. I got about twice as many seeds as I requested, and I’m all excited about the different varieties and how I’m going to fit them into the garden.

Yesterday I also sent away for free seeds. Colleen alerted me, at the gardenblogger seed exchange forum, that the Winter Sown site has an offer for free seeds and the proprietor is eager to send them out. I sent away for a packet. Free seeds? Sounds good to me. I actually have a packet of seeds (Indian Paintbrush) that I wanted to try winter-sowing anyway. And while I’m probably never going to me more of an ornamental gardener than a food gardener, I’d like to expand my repertoire a little. Bring on the seeds!

I pulled out my tomatoes on Saturday. I hadn’t gone into the garden intending to do this–I had gone to pick beans, of which there were plenty, and parsley, of which I may have all, but I noticed holes in the green tomatoes and decided to pick the good ones to preserve them from further pillage, and noticed that one of the plants had gone brown, and things escalated from there. That cherry tomato was dug the firmest into the ground of any of them. What a monster. I think I’m glad I’m not growing it next year.

I also moved the solitary rose on our property from the side of the house where its branches kept growing into the driveway to the daylily bed in the back. It’s probably going to die; I hadn’t realized rose roots grew that woody and hard and deep, and it was in an exceedingly awkward place for digging.

I also finalized the paths for the herb garden. Didn’t transplant the herbs as I meant to, because I had to go pumpkin-carving for the Metropark I volunteer at. (I’m to lead lantern tours next weekend for the Ghosts of Providence program. Should be fun.) I did stop at a farm stand on the way back–it was a beautiful drive, and I noticed that some trees were bare, meaning that fall is stealth-here despite the weather–and buy two small squash, a buttercup and an ambercup, the latter a mesmerizing orange-red. I haven’t eaten squash more than once or twice before, if you don’t count pumpkin pie, but I want to try it. And then if I like them I’ll save the seeds. I figure either I got a squash for $1 and seeds for free or seeds for $1 and the flesh for free. Either way, it’s a good deal.

Eric had to leave early this morning, so he went down to the kitchen before I did to make his lunch. When I got there he was still working on his sandwich, so I fetched a winesap apple from the bag I got from the orchard Sunday and washed it for him.

“I always think it’s so funny when you do that,” he said, sealing up his lunchmeat container. “Wash fruit.”

“Why wouldn’t I?” I demanded, wiping his apple dry. “It has pesticides on it.”

“It does?” he said, straightening up.

“Of course it does! This particular orchard says they don’t use them within four weeks of harvest, which is good, but I still don’t want to feed you poison. And conventionally grown fruit has a lot more and a lot worse.”

“They put it on fruit? Really?”

“Yes, really. There are all kinds of bugs that would ruin fruit crops if they weren’t sprayed.” I put the apple in his lunch bag and held it out for his sandwich. “Don’t laugh at me about washing your food anymore.”

“Okay,” he said contritely. Now I know why I had to yell at him about not washing peaches and strawberries when we made ice cream in the summer.

I planted, you may recall, broccoli and cauliflower earlier this summer, where the peas and the lettuce used to be. I didn’t pay a lot of attention after that, except to note with pleasure that a few plants had come up and were leafing out. The other day, however, I noticed that one of those plants was no longer leafing out…it was a skeleton. And another was well on its way.

So I looked the plants over. And lo and behold, there were the cabbage worms. I suspected they’d be there, because I had just read this post about them. I found four and dispatched them all. (Each one squirted green jelly out one end when I pressed them in the middle…it was gross, but pretty interesting, too.)

I read about these things, you know–pests and diseases that could and will plague my plants. But I never really expect them to be there. I don’t know if it’s because I don’t think it could happen to me, or I don’t believe in things I’ve never seen, or what. I’m ashamed I hadn’t thought to look for pests earlier. Next year I need to keep a more proactive eye on the plants, now that I’ve seen some of the things they could succumb to.

I have a polka dot plant on my desk at work. I hoped, given its rainforest floor origins, it would do okay in my cubicle, where there is no window, and though it’s been a little erratic it’s done all right. There are white-, pink-, and red-variegated branches in it, and the red one got very leggy recently. I fed it coffee grounds from the office coffee maker last week. I don’t know whether that did anything, but when I came in today I found it had flowered.

This is a plant grown for its foliage, not its flowers, and I acknowledge that’s a good idea; the flowers are tiny and hidden among the leaves. They’re also bright magenta and a little orchid-like in their construction: one big, squarish petal on top and a small, thin one on bottom. They were a lovely surprise to find on a Monday morning. I had read up on the plant and was going to cut the leggy branch off, maybe root it for another plant, but now I’m going to wait and watch it flower.

I never thought about it quite this way…

I started lettuce and spinach in some pots indoors yesterday. I sowed them, twice, in the vegetable garden last month, but there’s nothing there now. I saw a couple of tiny lettuce leaves before, so I imagine something had a late-summer snack. I fixed the fence this past weekend when mulching (bought more posts, even), but it’s too late.

So I’ve got four small pots in my windows, one for a dwarf romaine lettuce, one for space-saver spinach, and two for Black-Seeded Simpson lettuce. (The second pot is one that I discovered too late has no drainage. I figured I had the soil nice and wet, I might as well give it a try, so I drained the extra water out the top and sowed a few seeds.) I have no idea whether I’ll get anything, but I can hope.

I overdid it on yardwork yesterday–it doesn’t help that it was nearly 90 degrees–and paid for it with overheating and a big headache later. But I’m pleased I finally got things checked off my list. I:

  • moved an “auxiliary” compost pile to the actual compost
  • moved fallen Asian pears and tomatoes, dead sunflower stalks, zucchini leaves, and lots of dead weeds to the compost
  • weeded, newspapered, and mulched the garden fence line to allow for better mowing on the one side and less invasion of grass on the other
  • divided and replanted daylilies
  • weeded and mulched the daylily bed
  • removed the plastic from the herb garden (the grass looks good and dead)
  • marked out (in dried daylily stalks) where I want the paths in the herb garden to be
  • harvested Garden Peach tomatoes from where my neighbor’s plant spilled over the fenceline

though that last one wasn’t yardwork per se.

I also took down the drying herbs in my entry, stripped the leaves from the stems, and put the leaves into sealed jam jars. I hung more rosemary, as I technically have oregano and basil in my spice rack already and the sage jar was full (though that may not stop me from harvesting more later).

This week I need to freeze more parsley and make the last garden-fresh tabbouleh–at least the last with garden-fresh tomatoes, as we’ve finally got a frost approaching at the end of the week. Soon, I need to move a rose, prune the pear trees, and consider pruning and moving the lilac. It depends on how serious my in-laws were about taking it. And once the frost has come, my garlic and bulbs can go in. The heat’s been good, but I’ll be pleased with the cooler weather.

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

Marion Zimmer Bradley