Thurs. July 7, 2022: Slow Growing

image courtesy of SLF via pixabay.com

Thursday, July 7, 2022

Second Quarter Moon Waxing in Libra

Pluto, Saturn, Neptune Retrograde

Celtic Tree Month of Oak

Partly cloudy and pleasant

We’ve been so lucky with the weather lately. It hasn’t bee too humid (except on the rainy days). The temperatures have been in the 70s and 80s. Pleasant. Blankets needed at night; the occasional cardigan early in the day. I’d much rather have this weather than in the 90s with high humidity.

But growth has slowed down. I feel like things should be farther along than they are, especially the tomatoes. They haven’t grown much at all for weeks. I mean, they’re supposed to be small and good for containers, but they haven’t grown large enough to blossom, and therefore, actually have tomatoes.

The cucumbers are blooming and are out back, until the bees pollinate, the cucumbers start forming, and I bring the pot back to the front porch, away from the squirrels, who have been a pain in the butt. They dug up my Blue Spruce seedling and that’s been moved to the front porch, too. (The front porch is enclosed, an extra room. The back balcony is open, but with a roof).

The pumpkin is about to flower; I will then put it out back for a few days to get pollinated, and return it to the porch. The dahlias are about 5 feet tall, but haven’t yet bloomed.

The borage is doing well, but the columbine and the cilantro didn’t make it. The night-blooming jasmine is quickly outgrowing its pot.

I have to harvest some spearmint and dry it, because that plant is going like gangbusters. It’s getting leggy, and I want to cut it back so it’s more bushy than leggy.

We’re eating our lettuce regularly, which is always fun.

We’re doing some seed saving, from produce bought at the farmer’s market, which we will try to plant next year.

The downstairs neighbors have their in-ground garden growing. The one neighbor, who had a garden last summer, has her plants all set, and they’re growing (although her tomatoes haven’t blossomed, either). The two guys that rent rooms from the other downstairs neighbor marked off a small patch. They are growing corn and watermelon, and they are so excited! It’s so funny to watch them croon over their seedlings. I love it.

All three cats now demand to go out on the back balcony regularly. Each has her own playpen, so we put the cat in, carry it out, set it up, and everybody gets a half hour or so outside after lunch, weather permitting. They are all very good, but it wouldn’t be safe for them not to be in the playpen. I tried only taking one per day out, but the carrying on and the Kitty Drama was too much.

The rest of the time, they have windows in which to sit, and the front porch, which they all love.

I’m hoping, in the next week or so, to get some black-eyed Susan plants and get those set up. I will not spend what I did on the brown-eyed Susan (Monrovia) plant, which gave it up after a couple of weeks. Live and learn, right?

How’s your garden growing?

Thurs. June 30, 2022: Squirrel Visitors

image courtesy of Joe Breuer via pixabay.com

Thursday, June 30, 2022

First Quarter Moon Waxing in Cancer

Pluto, Saturn, Neptune Retrograde

Celtic Tree Month of Oak

Sunny and pleasant

I am thoroughly enjoying the growing season here, even though there’s a good bit of pollen flying around. On the Cape, the pine pollen dumped down like yellow snow early in the season, leaving a thick coating on everything and had to be scrubbed off. That’s not as prevalent here. But there is a lighter, steadier pollen. When I spend enough time outside, I scrape it off every few hours. And after I shower it off, I have to run vinegar down the drain.

But everything looks gorgeous. The cucumbers finally have blossoms, so I put that pot out on the back balcony, so the bees can visit and pollinate. The pumpkin should bloom soon; hopefully the tomatoes will, too.

The borage planted last week is already coming up. Borage is one of my favorite plants. I love the blue flowers. When I planted strawberries, I would keep borage nearby to protect the strawberries from pests.

The Farmers’ Market gets more and more exciting every week, too. Last Saturday, I got the most beautiful fennel I’ve ever seen. I spend a lot of time with Deborah Madison’s book LOCAL FLAVORS to get ideas.

The squirrels are being difficult. It’s not just Spiro Squirrel, who’s bad enough on his own. There’s another pair of squirrels running around. They are always together, and they have a fairly wide range of four or five properties on this block and across the street. They are always scampering around together. Well, now they come on the deck and turn over pots, bury things, and chomp on the peppermint. They are so fresh I can walk right up to them and scold them before they scamper off, jump into the tree, and watch from a safe distance. I haven’t named those two little rapscallions yet, but I will.

I guess the work we’ve done on the back balcony to transform it into a garden space has worked!

Because we have so many trees and tree-like shrubs around, the back is lovely and shady in the hottest part of the afternoon, while getting strong doses of sun in the morning and the late afternoon. It’s great to sit out there after lunch for a bit, with a book.

Of course, the cats don’t want to be left inside. Willa and Charlotte have always been good in their playpens. Willa tends to get restless after about twenty minutes or so. Charlotte looks around for a bit, then goes to sleep. It’s too difficult to take them out at the same time, but whomever is left inside gets very upset. When I water in the mornings, Willa wants to come out. She knows the playpens are stored up, folded, in the laundry room when not in use, and tries to drag hers out. Yes, she knows which one is hers.

Tessa hates her playpen. Before Willa and Charlotte came to live with us, Tessa was allowed out on the deck without restraints. She never left or ran away. She loved lounging on the deck and checking out the plants. But it’s too dangerous here. We are on the second floor and the railings are wide enough that the cats could slip through. Also, with dogs in the building and squirrels in the trees, it’s safer for them to be in their playpens. We used the playpens when the movers loaded and unloaded, again, to protect the cats.

Tessa hated it. She struggled when she was picked up to go in, and complained the entire time.

But, she decided that if the other two go out on the back balcony, she wants to go out, too. When I take them out, she sits on a kitchen chair by the window and complains.

The other day, I told her I would take her out, but she had to be in the playpen, like the others. I brought out her playpen and set it up. She sat quietly. She let me pick her up and put her in it. She didn’t like the voyage out to the balcony, but once I had her set up, she had a wonderful time. She was interested in the birds and the squirrels and the neighbors, and everything.

So now all three have to take turns coming out! But I’m glad she enjoys it.

We have a lot of birds, with all the tress and shrubs. I have to look up the ones I don’t know in the bird book. There’s one, who looks like some sort of a jay, but he’s gray with a black crest and mask. I’m not sure if he’s a young blue jay, or if he’s some other sort of bird. I haven’t had a chance to look him up yet, but every time he pops by to visit, I’m reminded that I need to.

The crows still come and visit. The scout and Tessa have a serious conversation every morning. Charlotte was in the window instead of Tessa this morning, and the scout gave her such a lecture. She was shocked. Tessa popped up then, and things went back to normal.

I’m looking at tulip bulbs in the catalogs. I might order some and plant them in pots this autumn, then leave them to overwinter out on the front porch when we close it for the season.

How’s your garden growing?

Thurs. June 23, 2022: Steady Greening

image courtesy of Manfred Richter via pixabay.com

Thursday, June 23, 2022

4th Quarter Waning Moon in Aries

Pluto & Saturn Retrograde

Partly cloudy and mild

It’s been rather on the cool side lately, and for that I am grateful. The heat is off for the summer, so we’ve piled comforters back on the bed, and are wearing socks again. Last year at this time, during the move, we had to be careful not to collapse in the heat. I much prefer this.

However, the squirrels are already burying the barely grown nuts. Spiro Squirrel dug up the tansy on the back balcony to bury tiny little bits of nuts in the pot. The cats are shedding their summer fur and growing in thick winter coats, which means, once the heat and humidity do hit in a few days or weeks, they will be miserable.

It also indicates the likelihood of early winter.

Plants are doing pretty well on both the front porch and the back balcony. The brown-eyed Susan gave up the ghost completely, which annoys me, since it was so expensive. I have to figure out what to put in the pot. The columbine died, too.

Some of the plants that struggled early on are doing well, such as the Marine Heliotrope, the Echinacea, and the Lemon Balm.

I planted some of the borage seeds, some pepper seeds (saved, from bought vegetables), and nectarine pits. It’s late for borage, and I’ll probably save the rest for next spring.

I’m saving some seeds from the cherry tomatoes bought at the Farmers’ Market, and will plant them next spring.

The bulb catalogs have arrived. I think I might buy some tulip bulbs and plant them in pots this October, then keep them out on the front porch over the winter, to see if they come up in spring. Trying to decide which ones to buy are a lot of fun. It means getting more pots, too.

I’ll also have to repot several things by the end of the summer, because they’re growing so well.

I hope the dahlias bloom soon. They keep growing taller, but no blooms as of yet.

We’re using the chives, basil, and parsley regularly. We need to eat the lettuce, before we lose it, and start using the cilantro. I’m wondering if I can grow the cilantro all year.

How’s your garden doing?

Thurs. June 16, 2022: Garden Visit

Fountain at Berkshire Botanical Garden. Phobo by Devon Ellington

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Waning Moon Third Quarter in Capricorn

Pluto & Saturn Retrograde

Cloudy and humid

There’s quite a bit to write about this week.

The hanging geranium basket slipped from my hands when I tried to put it back on its hanger last week, after a storm. It crashed the two stories below and broke on the asphalt. Fortunately, no one was out there (I make sure no one is under the balcony when I go out to work on plants).

I went down, rescued what was left of the plant, and cleaned up the mess. I repotted the geranium in the pot I was going to use for the night-blooming jasmine, so I will have to get another pot for that. It seems to be recovering, and it’s on a mosaic tiled plant stand out on the balcony. A couple of stems broke off. I have them in a vase. If they grow roots, I will pot them.

The Farmers’ Market on Saturday was lots of fun. I’ve set a budget for every weekend, and I’m sticking to it, seeing what’s fresh and wonderful, and then, going to the grocery store nearby to build the rest of the week’s meals around what’s fresh from the Farmers’ Market. It’s healthy and it forces variety. It’s too easy to get into the rut of one’s go-to dishes.

The Farmers’ Market isn’t cheap, but with the grocery prices going up in the stores (especially the chain stores), the prices are competitive with the grocery stores and the food co-op. The quality is always high, and I get to support individuals instead of corporate entities.

We replanted the cutting of the last Cape Cod Geranium (so now we have two Cape Cod Geraniums). I planted the nectarine pits and some saved pepper seeds, and more cat grass.

The columbine got overwatered, and is not doing well. The nasturtiums are unhappy. Next year, I think I will buy a small plant instead of starting it from seed and seeing if there’s a difference. The pumpkin is growing like crazy. The brown-eyed Susan is dead and gone. That’s frustrating, because it was one of the most expensive plants I bought this year.

The heliotrope, echinacea, and lemon balm are starting to do well. The spearmint is growing so fast, I think I might harvest some stems and start them drying.

Spiro Squirrel is a little brat. When we have sandwiches for lunch in the kitchen, he dashes up on the back balcony, climbs up on the bistro table and knocks on the kitchen window with his little paw, as though he thinks we’re going to hand him the sandwich through the window.

Tessa, our big black cat who is part Maine Coon, has a serious conversation with the scout crow every morning. He stops on the lamp post outside the living room window. She puts her front paws up on the back of the sofa, and they chat through the window. It’s completely different than when she’s contemplating trying to take down a bird. It’s a real conversation. It’s very funny.

The scout brought by a younger crow the other morning to say hello.

On Tuesday, we went down to Stockbridge to visit the Berkshire Botanical Garden. It was  a lovely day, and the garden is absolutely beautiful. There are various designs in different areas: an herb garden, a rose garden, a garden designed by Martha Stewart, a garden with joyful topiaries called Lucy’s Garden, a daylily walk. It’s just lovely. The photo at the top of this post is of the fountain. There’s a children’s garden and an educational center. There’s an exhibition gallery and research library. The garden is 24 acres, and was first opened in 1934. The New York Botanical garden donated some of the original daylilies when this garden formed, and other botanical gardens also sent gifts, which I think is kind of wonderful. But then, gardeners tend to be generous about sharing plants.

The current art exhibit is called “Symbiosis” and consists of various types of art in different mediums both in the gallery and installed in parts of the garden. It’s really wonderful. My favorite piece was a mosaic done on stone of two owls by Peter D. Gerakaris.

I want to return in other seasons and see how the garden changes over them. I’d also like to spend a full day there one day, with a notebook, and write a series of flash fiction pieces in the different areas of the garden. Some day when it’s not too hot! I’d also like to use the library, maybe spend time with their herbals.

I bought borage seeds in the store, and I will plant them today. It’s late in the season to start borage. I will plant about half the packet, and save the rest for next year. I wanted borage this year, and hadn’t gotten the seeds yet, so it was a delight to buy it at the garden.

The weather is much pleasanter than it was at this time last year, and I have every intention of enjoying it!

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.

Devon