Falling Behind

the eggplant is even bigger now!

Saturday, April 30, 2011
Waning Moon 4th Quarter in Aries
Saturn Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Celtic Tree Month of Willow
Scheduled to post

I’m scheduling this to post, because I’m out the door early to volunteer at a local wildlife sanctuary to help plant a butterfly garden. I’ll have lots to tell next week.

I feel like I’m falling behind; can’t keep up. I’m going to use the lawn mower for the first time this weekend — my yard is starting to look like a hayfield. I pulled up lots of dandelions the other day, and it seems two more came up for every one I pulled!

The back bed just overwhelms me — it will take me weeks to clean it out, weeks to rake and mulch under the trees, weeks to clean up the section between this house and one of the neighbors. I’m doing as much as I can every day that it’s not raining, but I have deadlines — I can’t blow a book contract in order to rake. Or I won’t be able to pay the rent and live here.

I feel very behind compared to the neighbors, but I have to remember that the garden is a work-in-progress, and I’m not just doing my work, I’m catching up on what was left undone by previous tenants.

On a happier note, the Black King Eggplant is huge; the India eggplants are starting to sprout; the zucchini have started to sprout. The foxglove sprouts are so tiny — amazing that some of those stalks will eventually grow to be seven feet tall!

The lilac bush has arrived, and is preparing to bloom. The huckleberry is much smaller than I expected — a huckleberry sprig rather than a huckleberry bush — but it’s adorable.

The pumpkins are doing well, and the strawberries are thriving out on the deck. The borage is large enough so, once I can replace the dinner plate I’ve got under the pot with the proper saucer, I can put it on the deck to protect the strawberries.

There’s a lot to be joyful about; I just feel like I’m constantly behind.



Wet and Rainy April

Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Waning Moon 4th quarter in Aquarius
Saturn Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Celtic Tree Month of Willow
Rainy and cool

No photos today; sorry. I’ve got to take some more and upload some more.

Things are blooming in the terraced border — not quite sure what they are, but they’re pretty. The magenta azalea continues to bloom, the daffodils and hyacinths are gorgeous. My neighbor’s tulips are lovely.

Much to my surprise, the strawberry plants are doing well. They like being out on the deck.

The hollies need to be replanted, though; that mucky earth is hurting them, not supporting them. That’s a task for me to do this weekend.

The Black King Eggplant is huge; the others have yet to germinate. The pumpkins are doing well, and the zucchini are just starting to come up.

I hope, within the next week, to finish prepping the vegetable bed, and maybe, next week, starting some mixed greens and some radishes directly in the bed. I’m still trying to figure out if I should buy marigolds already up or grow them from seed. Probably the former — they’ll offer more protection.

There are certain places on the property where I’m just going to sprinkle some annuals and see what happens. Yeah, I know, I’m supposed to use graph paper and do all this intricate planning. But I’m learning what’s already here, and filling in as I go. There’s only so much I can learn from other people. The rest has to be trail and error.

I’ve got to call the Master Gardener Hotline — the previous tenants didn’t prune the lilac last year, so there are dead patches on it. I need to know if I can prune it now, or if I have to wait for the first bloom to prune all of it.

My boomerang lilac shipped yesterday, and the huckleberry bush is on its way, so I’ve got arrivals to look forward to!

With any luck, the weather will clear up and bit and I can get more work done on the back bed. My neighbors are out every minute it’s not actually raining. I’ve got to finish my contracted work first, and then I can go out and putter in the garden!


Forsythia & Mystery Bush Bloom!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Waning moon third quarter in Scorpio
Saturn Retrograde
Mercury Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Celtic Tree Month of Willow

Saturday was pretty exciting. First of all, the tiniest of green shoots started coming up from the chamomile — very exciting! So petite and delicate.

If you know what kind of bush this is, at the top of the post and here, would you tell me? It’s lovely and blooming, but I can’t figure it out, and therefore don’t know how to take care of it.

Then, a box from White Flower Farm arrived with my three Siberian Iris plants. I have one called “Chyrsographes black-flowered”, which is black shot through with tiny strands of yellow. The other is “Moonsilk” — a buttery yellow that reminds me of banana cream pudding filling, which compliments the yellow in the black -flowered iris, and “Super Ego” a lovely variegated pale blue and white with dark streaks that will also compliment the black.

White Flower Farms ships bulbs cosseted in shredded newspaper

Monday was finally a nice, seasonable day, and, according to my lunar calendar, a planting day. I ran around to get more potting soil and organic garden soil. I visited several stores and was inspired to do a more layered and complex design for the front than I originally planned — instead of just a long row of pansies along the front, I think I’ll also put in some English daisies and candytuft. I’d never particularly thought about candytuft one way or the other when I saw photos. However, when I saw it in person, I was enchanted. The heathers also fascinate me — I want to buy one of those whiskey barrel things and plant it full of heather for the front yard.

I bought my two little holly trees — a Blue Prince and a Blue Princess — ilex x meserveae –so they can pollinate. I love the dark, shiny, blue-green leaves. Travelled to another store and got a good deal on pots for them, too — although I had to point out that the clerk charged me for three pots when I’d only bought two, and we had to do a big return thing.

Some of my lovely plants needed seriously repotting already. The two Racer pumpkins that germinated are growing rapidly, so I put them into a shared pot. Hopefully, it’s big enough to keep them happy until I can put them into the ground in about six weeks. I had to replant the thyme, curry, and chocolate mint, which already outgrew the pots I put them in a month ago, although the chocolate mint isn’t growing as quickly as mints usually do. I repotted the catmint, which is growing beautifully, and the Big King eggplant, which is HUGE. I put it into the pot I hope it will live in all summer, but I’m starting to have doubts. I may have to get an even bigger pot for it. Or maybe I will put it in the ground, and let it lead the Nadia eggplants. I started the Nadia eggplants, the zucchini, and the foxgloves that I plan to keep in containers. I may sprinkle some foxglove, hollyhock, and delphinium seeds in the front of the house, so we get some height. The baby bushes planted just before we rented the place just sit there and look bewildered. They need some company.

Black King Eggplant keeps growing

I’d picked up a different kind of potting soil, that’s supposed to be great. I HATE IT. It’s so wet and mucky that I’m afraid it will cause the roots of the iris and the hollies (which is what I planted in them) to rot, in spite of pots with good drainage. It was like handling mud. I’ll keep a close eye on the plants; if they look like they’re struggling, I’ll get a different type of soil and switch them out. It would break my heart if I killed the hollies or the iris because I made a poor choice in potting soil. I mixed in the bonemeal for the iris, as directed, so, hopefully, that will help.

I cleaned up most of the front — got the rest of the leaves from overwintering out of the front beds. Revealed some sort of tiny lizard near the house — gave him back some of his leaves, so I didn’t destroy his home, poor little thing. Cleaned up around some of the bushes in front, and the rocks-with-tiny-plants flanking the driveway. Fed everything. I didn’t have enough organic soil to re-bed everything, so I set most of it around the baby bushes, and put the rest in the border behind the house. Once I’ve put plants in around the bushes and seeds down, I will mulch the front. I HATE mulch — I hate the way it looks, I hate the texture, it always looks like corporate landscaping to me. Strip malls and industrial parks have a few twigs and bushes here and there and huge swaths of mulch in between them. I hate it. But, I do understand that it’s necessary, and, once the plants are big enough, I guess I’ll be forced to do it.

I want to plant more at the bottom of the driveway, to make it more of an entrance, and I want to plant a tub of heather in front of the twin oaks.

Unfortunately, I’m at budget now, so I have to wait a couple of weeks until more money comes in.

On Tuesday, much to my shock, the strawberry plants arrived — I wasn’t expecting them until mid-May. I’ve got no place to put them, and I can’t place them outside yet, due to the night cold, so I’m a bit flummoxed.

Tuesday, however, is when the forsythia burst forth in bloom, and they’re lovely. Forsythia is such a cheerful plant! I adore them.

We picked some daffodils on Monday, and placed them into a small vase. They’re thriving inside, and it’s fun to have flowers cut from our own garden (even if we didn’t plant these bulbs).

Yesterday and today are rather rainy and gloomy, so not much can be done outside. Tomorrow’s supposed to dry up and bit and get sunny, so I hope I can clean out at least one of the big back beds, and maybe start on the side beds.

I hope, soon, it’ll be warm enough to put a few plants in the ground out front, and add some catmint, lavender, and maybe a little thyme to the terraced border in the back.

I love going out every morning with my coffee and listening to the garden. And I love to take a glass of wine out there at the end of my writing day and see what’s happened during the day.


Forsythia earlier in the week, just starting to bloom. They really popped yesterday.

Mornings on the Porch

Saturday, April 16, 2011
Waxing Moon second quarter in Virgo
Saturn Retrograde
Mercury Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Celtic Tree Month of Alder
Sunny and cold

I love sitting outside in the mornings. I feed the cats, take my coffee, and sit outside for about twenty or thirty minutes, listening to the garden.

More and more birds are migrating back. I’ll have to get a Petersen or Audubon guide to learn what they are. I’ve never heard some of those songs before.

The owl in the back usually wakes me up, just before dawn. I love owls, and I’m pleased we have one in the vicinity. The neighbor’s pine has a nest high up in it, so perhaps that’s where he’s staying. I’m not sure which kind of owl he is, but from his call and the nest, I’d think it’s a Great Horned.

The songbirds and other birds fill in as I sit there, and there’s a spring robin jaunting around the grass, getting his breakfast. Before I moved here, I didn’t even know that there were spring robins and winter robins.

The blue jay zooms past, yelling at the top of his lungs, because, of course, it’s all about HIM. I know most people think blue jays are pests, but I’ve always had a soft spot for them. They’re scrappy and stubborn and independent. And the blue coloring is so intense and lovely, much more vivid than anything artificially created.

The crows stay out of the back. There’s a group of seven who visit the front lawn every morning, usually a few minutes after I sit down to work. They wander the yard, peering at the windows, and give me the news of the neighborhood, then go off on their rounds. They come back and hang out in the neighborhood, though, and let me know if someone is coming. They seem to know the difference between people who live on the street and “intruders”, and only call out if a non-resident approaches.

I learned, at the various wildlife seminars, that crows mob owls and hawks, but, for some reason, My Mob of Seven seem to have a truce with the Backyard Owl. The crows stay out of the back, the owl stays out of the front, so they’ve worked out some sort of a deal.

This morning, the jays had a fit because a hawk was just outside of the property, circling, looking for some breakfast. The crows came racing around the side of the property, mobbed him, and chased him off. What was interesting was that they kept whatever truce lines they’ve drawn with Backyard Owl, not crossing through the backyard, but going around it, to get to the intruding hawk.

I’m going to start some more seeds on Monday, the next planting day. Some of them, I’ll start in seed pots, and some I’ll start in the pots I plant to put outside. My dilemma is that, in all the design books, the advice demands mixing as many different plants as possible in each pot for a lush, abundant look. However, I feel that, since I’m so new to all of this, that I should start them separately — a pot of chamomile, a pot of lemon balm, a pot of lobelia, etc. Then, as they grow and I’m more familiar with them, I can figure out what to mix and match, dig some out of some pots, put them with compatible, pretty plants in other pots, etc.

The Racer pumpkin that came up a few days ago is getting big, and the second one which came up is racing to catch up. The Chucky pumpkins are growing at a much more sedate rate.

The Lemon Verbena didn’t make it, unfortunately; it was too traumatized during the shipping process.

I heard from White Flower Farm that they’ve shipped my iris plants — iris are among my favorite flower, so I’m excited.

I like roses when other people take care of them — they seem like an awful lot of work — but some of the shrub roses I’m reading about look rather intriguing. I remember there used to be a special type of climber specific to the Cape, but maybe I’ll see more of it in June. The stores are carrying the “hybrid tea” roses, which , as I say, are pretty in OTHER people’s gardens, but I’m not up for the work.

I love sitting on the porch in the mornings, letting the yard talk to me. I learn something new every day, and, hopefully, the garden will teach me what it needs.

Rainy and Raw

Black King Eggplant

Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Waxing Moon First Quarter in Taurus
Saturn Retrograde
Mercury Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Rainy and cool
Celtic Tree Month of Alder

We’ve got a thunderstorm going with lots of rain. That’s a good thing — the ground needed it. All these plants trying to come up need a good, long drink. The Cape has rollicking good thunder storms — one boomer was so loud some of the little Easter decorations in the west window fell right out.

I’m changing my morning routine to allow myself twenty or thirty minutes to sit outside and listen to the yard before I start my first writing session of the day. It makes a huge difference. The birds chatter with the latest news, I can hear the trees rustling in the wind. I can just BE, and learn the garden and what it needs. I can read all the books I want, get more advice than I can handle, but I think, ultimately, I have to let the garden itself tell me what it needs.

People around here are mad for hostas, and I have to say, so far, I’m not feeling the love. Probably because I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with last year’s faded leaves — should I have cut them back in fall? Should I cut them back now? Because I will NOT be happy if I see slugs in the yard. I have a feeling a call to the MA Master Gardner hotline is in order.

Inside, I repotted some plants on Monday (by my astrological calendar, a planting day). I started the chamomile and the lemon balm (inside). I put in the wildflower paper that I got from the Tower Hill Botanical Garden exhibit, and we’ll see what comes up.

Racer pumpkin

One of the Racer pumpkin vines has come up, and it’s living up to its name, doubling in size every day. I may have to pot it before it goes outside. The starter pots are biodegradable, so one doesn’t have to disturb the plant, but I don’t think this little guy will wait that long. Three of the Chucky pumpkins have germinated, too, but they’re growing more slowly. The Big King eggplant is getting enormous. I decided that I will keep it in a large pot, rather than putting it in the bed with the other eggplants. I want to keep it separate and see how it does.

I’ve got patio furniture now, so I can sit and enjoy the outdoors. Yesterday was even mild enough to eat lunch out there, until the temperatures dropped again. I hope it will dry up enough in the next few days, so I can get the extra sand out of the vegetable bed and put down more soil.

Now, not only do I have my eye on a pair of Blue hollies, but there’s a golden one that caught my eye, too. I don’t know whether it’s a male or a female, but, if I get the pair of blues, I don’t think it will matter. I’ll find out, won’t I? Because I am obsessed with hollies.


Adventures in Soil

Saturday, April 9, 2011
Waxing Moon First Quarter in Gemini
Saturn Retrograde
Mercury Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Celtic Tree Month of Alder
Sunny and cool

I’m preparing the yard for spring. Necessary, but, since I’m learning as I’m going, I’m sure it’s taking longer than it takes most people!

I filled a 30 gallon bag with leaves removed from the bed that borders the terraced section of the garden. I was smart — I worked from below it, instead of above it. I found all kinds of plants under there — mostly things I don’t recognize, and I’ll just have to wait until they come up. There are some bulbs peeking out, and some lamb’s ears, which I actually recognize. I’m fond of lamb’s ears. And some reedy-looking things that I hope will turn into something. I’m not sure if the empty spots mean stuff will come up later in the season — I’ll have to see. I still have to fertilize and add some fresh soil to it, but at least the bed is open and breathing.

I’ll also have to start watering. I tried using a watering can, which was just pathetic. The plants stared up at me like, “Really? What makes you think THIS is a good idea?”

I think I can hook up the new hoses, turn on the spigots, and water from that. It’s supposed to be pretty warm over the next days, and I’m hoping we won’t go down past freezing any more.

Then, there’s the vegetable bed. I cleaned off the cones and the sticks and the bed of pine needles, and took out the beach grass. There’s an awful lot of sand in there. I don’t mind sand for drainage purposes, but — there’s an AWFUL lot of sand in there.

I got 8 cubic feet of organic soil to add on top of it. I don’t quite think that’s enough, although it looks much better.

I’d woefully underestimated how much soil I’d need. I’m still thinking in NYC apartment-sized terms instead of outdoor terms. I thought ONE cubic foot of soil would handle the bed, and that was just pathetic — like a dark dinner napkin in the middle of a field.

I called over to my go-to hardware store one town over to ask about types and pricing — and got some chick who wouldn’t give me any information. Now, I’m up to my elbows in sand and organic (meaning stinky) soil, so don’t you DARE tell me you can’t even give me a ballpark figure on the size and price of bags of soil you have. Considering that they always take good care of me, I was rather shocked. But then, it’s usually the owner who takes care of me.

I headed to a nearby garden center, who’d advertised great prices online. Unfortunately, the prices on site were 5X higher, and it was out of my budget. I found another hardware store nearby that had a great price on what I needed, loaded the car for me, and cut me a deal. So it was all good.

I hated not giving the business to my go-to hardware store, but I was under budget, time, and information constraints. If they’d quoted me a good price over the phone, I would have been over there lickety split and given my money to them instead. But I’m from NY — don’t “vague” me and try to get me to come in and then talk me into something else. That crap doesn’t work with me. I am from NY — I ask questions and I expect direct answers. Most of the time in New England, that’s what you get, so I don’t know what chickie’s problem was. But it lost her store a sale.

I’m starting to wonder if maybe the bed served a purpose as a child’s sand box after it was a vegetable plot. I may have to rake back some of the soil, remove a bunch of the sand, and then add more soil.

Next on the list is to clean up the front beds, which are looking a little bare, so that I can put in the pansies. Then, there’s a back bed I didn’t know existed — but bulbs are coming up, so I better tidy it, and the side beds of the house.

I get a sneaking suspicion that we wait and wait and wait and wait because we can’t do much, and then, suddenly, we have about two weeks where we need to spend 14 hours a day to get everything done.

Costume Imp sent me a wildflower garden to “roll out” and plant, once the danger of frost is past, along with several envelopes of flowers. I can’t wait!

And he’s giving me lots of advice, because he actually knows how to do this stuff!


Patience in the Cold

Crocuses under the forsythia bush outside the garage

Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Waxing Moon First Quarter in Taurus
Saturn Retrograde
Mercury Retrograde
Celtic Tree Month of Alder
Sunny and cold

It’s been cold and rainy for the past few days, so it’s nice to see some sunshine today. It’s still in the 30s, though, quite cold. I’m glad I didn’t put the pansies in the ground over the weekend.

As I visited a garden center last weekend, it sold out of manure. Only sunny day in weeks, and everyone rushed out to buy manure. We are definitely not in NY anymore! 😉

I’ve repotted the plants that arrived from Territorial Seed — the Hellebore, the Big King eggplant, the lemon verbena, and the Thumbelina Lavender. They’re all happy except the lemon verbena, which I don’t think will make it. It was badly frost damaged when it arrived, and I haven’t been able to save it.

The pumpkins inside haven’t germinated yet, but the plants I bought at the garden show are thriving. I’m especially in love with the catmint, and am tempted to buy lots of it and plant it in every possible border corner.

The eggplant has doubled in size each day since its arrival nearly a week ago.

The eggplant, however, grows before our very eyes, nearly doubling in size every day.

The crocuses are still blooming outside, and the daffodils are coming up. So are other plants which I’ve yet to identify — not sure if they’re tulips or day lilies, because I can’t tell by the leaves. There are also green things coming up under the trees all the way at the back, so I have to go and investigate. Keeping the leaves on the beds for winter made them all very happy.

I have a spade, and, once I clean off the pine cones and needles from the long-abandoned vegetable bed, I can turn over the soil and prepare it.

It’s hard NOT to jump out and start planting in the ground, but I’m listening to those who know more than I do and restraining myself. I’m watching the plants that are here, and letting them teach me — the previous tenants paid no attention to them and they managed to survive, so I figure, if I don’t fuss at them too much, and really listen to them, they’ll be fine.

The front looks a little bare, with the bushes so tiny, but I hope to plant a row of bright, cheerful pansies soon, and then add some blue fescue at the back, staggered with the small bushes, towards the end of the month. I bought some garden ornaments, but the scale is too small for the front of the house, so I have to re-think. I wish I could add fences to the property — I’d love to enclose the space with a low picket fence in the front and side, and then plant against it — but, since I’m renting, that’s not an option.

I have to be patient. Not everything can or will happen this year, both for budgetary and for practical reasons. I have to learn what’s here and how to take care of it. A garden doesn’t show up fully formed, unless you hire a landscaper to put it in. It evolves. And, no matter how many books I read of other people’s experiences and ideas, I have to figure out what works for me in MY space.