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Monday, August 31, 2009

Petunia In The Patio

When you last sowed seeds did you make sure the seed starting mix had been sterilized?

How about the container you put it in? Did you make sure it was clean, too?

And lighting? Did you pay attention to whether the seeds needed light or dark to germinate and adjust the light accordingly?

Soil temperature? Did you get a warming mat to make sure that the soil wasn’t too cold?

Of course you paid attention to watering, too? Not too much and not too little?

And did you make sure the seeds were planted at just the right depth?

Those tiny seeds, like petunia seeds, sure seem difficult to sow and grow, don’t they?

Well, then, explain this!

A petunia is growing in the cracks of my patio. I surely didn’t plant it there! It sprouted from an errant seed that came from who knows where. With no soil sterilization, actually no soil to speak of, no special container, no regulated temperature, no precise watering and whatever light the sun decided to shine upon it, this petunia seed germinated, grew and flowered.

Seeds will germinate and plants will grow even and sometimes especially without a gardener trying to control everything around them. Our role as gardeners isn’t so much to provide perfect conditions for all the plants we grow but to just bring a little order to nature.

That’s the lesson of the petunia in the patio.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Letters to Gardening Friends, August 30, 2009

Dear Dee and Mary Ann and Gardening Friends Everywhere,

I could not believe the temperature early this morning… just 48 F according to my weather station. I don’t know if that set a record or not but it sure seemed cold for August.

I had just enough time to run out to the garden and pick a few tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and green beans because my siblings and I had a surprise 80th birthday party for my mom today.

We invited friends, neighbors, and relatives and had a nice turnout. She had a great time, too, and was pleasantly surprised.

Some of my uncles who always have nice vegetables gardens came, so I got to talk to them and compare notes. They live in southern Indiana so have a few more weeks in their growing season compared to me. The first thing we talked about was how terrible our tomato plants look. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I haven’t posted any pictures of mine this year. That’s because they do look rather pathetic, even though I am getting some tomatoes from them. The plants don’t have the late blight that kills the entire plant in a matter of days, but they seem to be full of brown leaves and just generally look like they definitely do not like the cool, wet summer we are having.

We all agreed that at the end of the season we are going to throw the plants out in the trash and not put them in the compost bin, just to be sure we limit the spread of any disease as best we can. My one uncle who grows his tomatoes in containers is going to start over with fresh soil next spring.

They also talked about how their okra plants looked like they were dying for awhile, but have perked up in the last few weeks so they are getting a good harvest now. My uncle prefers a variety called ‘Emerald Green’ or just ‘Emerald’. Of course, now I want to try to grow okra next year, even though I’m not sure if I really like it or not.

We also talked about a tomato called Fantastic that is one of their favorites, but they had trouble finding seed for it this year. It looks like Territorial Seeds has it, so I’m adding it to my list for next year, too. I’m always willing to try a new tomato variety.

Goodness, I can’t believe I’m already talking about next year’s garden while this year’s is still producing. In fact, the last crop of green beans, pictured above, should be ready to pick around the third week of September.

I hope we don’t have an early frost!

Flowers and veggies to all,

P.S. Here’s a quick picture of the garden taken this morning.

I don’t think much has changed since last week, though those cucumber vines in the bottom of the picture look pretty bad. I think I’ll pull those out this week.

P.S.S. If you want to tweet a Happy Birthday to my mom on Twitter, use the hashtag #Eleanors80th. Her actual birthday is this Wednesday, the 2nd. I'll have to figure out how to explain "Twitter" to her!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

A Session with Dr. Hortfreud: Who Are These Bloggers?

Another session with Dr. Hortfreud

Good morning, Carol. Did you work on that assignment I gave you after your last session?

What assignment is that, Dr. Hortfreud?

The one where you enumerate, explain and embrace all those guest bloggers who show up on your blog.

Oh, that one! Yes, I’ve made some notes.

Good, now lets’ go down through them starting with Hortense Hoelove.

Hortense? Must we start with her? I thought we’d start with you and then work our way day the list from there.

That’s fine, let’s just get started.

Okay, here are my notes.

The Guest Bloggers at May Dreams Gardens

Dr. Hortfreud – Full name is Dr. Viola Quercus Hortfreud. She is my garden therapist, the one who I have therapy sessions with mostly when I am mowing the lawn. We work through some of my issues and problems. As I mow back and forth with the mower, I mull back and forth over the issue of the day, or of the garden, and resolve it.

Hortense Hoelove – Full name is Hortense F. Hoelove. She’s like “Dear Abby”, which I read faithfully as a kid growing up. She answers questions from gardeners and the "plant-lorn". There are some who question the last name of Hoelove, asking if that is made up. If anyone thinks it is real name, please make an appointment with Dr. Hortfreud.

Thorn Goblinfly – Full name is Thorn Goblinfly of May Dreams Gardens. She is generally the garden fairy at the keyboard when the garden fairies take over and write a post. They do this when I leave my laptop on and unattended. They are all sneaky but she’s the ring-leader!

Is that all of them, Carol?

Yes, Dr. Hortfreud, I think that’s everyone.

And I hope it is everyone. Okay, now let’s talk about the rabbits because quite a few of them have shown up with names, too.

Must we Dr. Hortfreud? I really am busy this weekend.

We must eventually, but since you claim to be busy, I’ll let you go through them in the next therapy session. Also on my list is to discuss how many of the traits of a gardening geek pertain to you, so you should start thinking about that, too.

Not the gardening geek traits!

Yes, those, too.

Uh oh…

Friday, August 28, 2009

Hortense Answers More Horticultural Questions

Hortense Hoelove answers more questions from readers...

Dear Hortense,

While you've got your dictionary out, what's the difference between botany and horticulture?

Back to the Basics of Perplexity, Julie

Dear Julie,

Excellent question! The official answer in the dictionary is that botany is “the science of plants” and horticulture is “the science and art of cultivating plants".

In other words, a botanist might be interesting in spending hours and hours in a herbarium looking at dried specimens of plants, studying their characteristics and what makes them unique. A horticulturalist, on the other hand, would enjoy hours and hours out in a garden planting and pruning and tending to the plants.

Botanists might like to do that, too, but might also stop on occasion to figure out the name of a plant by looking at the flower parts to see if they can figure out what plant family it belongs to, and then from there take it down to a genus and then a species using a taxonomic key. A horticulturist might like to do that, too, or they could just look at the plant tag. I hope this helps to understand the differences between these two fields of study. Or should that be gardens of study?

Horticulturally and botanically yours,

Botanists study the daylily as a flower. Horticulturists grow it as a plant.

Dear Hortense

I’ve noticed that Carol has been eating a lot of cantaloupe from her garden and letting people know about it via Twitter and Facebook. Enough of that already! Cantaloupe is my favorite but I’m surrounded by daylilies, which you can also eat. I even have a book of recipes that use daylilies! I would be willing to swap plants for knowledge on how to do a veggie and melon garden next summer. How do I get started???

Can’t Get Enough Cantaloupe,

Dear Cynthia,

While your offer is generous to trade plants for knowledge, I believe that every gardener has the obligation to share their gardening knowledge for free to other gardeners!

Your question is very well timed, though, because fall is an excellent time to work the soil and prepare it for next year’s garden. I recommend that new veggie gardeners start out with a small plot and once they taste the success they’ll have with vegetables, they can expand the garden each fall for the next year. You can begin with a 4’ x 8’ raised bed located in a sunny area, as sunny as you’ve got, and as close to your back door as you can get it, so it will be easy to get to when you are cooking and think, “gosh I could use a green pepper”. Then because the garden is close to the back door, you can just walk out to your garden and pick the pepper, if you have peppers growing in your garden.

Anyway, once you’ve figured out where you want your first raised bed to be, frame it with 1’ x 6’ cedar boards or any other untreated lumber Then remove the sod or put down a layer of newspaper that is seven or eight pages thick to smother it. Next pile the new raised bed up high with compost, good top soil, leaves, etc. in alternating layers and leave it until spring. By spring, after all the freezing and thawing of winter, you should end up with good, rich dirt to plant it. Since you also want to grow cantaloupe, I recommend you start with two 4’ x 8’ raised beds, or one 4’ x 16’ raised bed.

Veggies Make A Garden Real,

Raised bed vegetable garden

Dearest Hortense,

Short of getting out a handgun, do you have any recommendations for getting rid of big, ugly grasshoppers? I dusted the place with diatomaceous earth so that my front porch looks like I sprinkled it with powdered sugar.

Mary Ann

Dear Mary Ann

“Big, ugly”? Hand guns? Oh my! Did you know that grasshoppers are edible? I’ve never personally eaten any as we don’t have that many around here and I’ve never been that hungry. Crunch.

I do think it is wise to not resort to a hand gun as that is likely to make a big, ugly mess. I think you are on the right track with the dichotomous diatomaceous earth. As for the mess of it, think of it this way, if you leave all that dichotomous diatomaceous earth on your porch after the grasshoppers are gone, it will be a good foundation for holiday decorations. Was that helpful?


Grasshopper hiding in the grass

If you have a question for Hortense Hoelove, please leave it in the comments. It might be featured next week in the next edition of "Dear Hortense"!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

One Bad Apple

According to the song lyrics, “one bad apple don’t spoil the whole bunch, girl”. That’s true, unless your entire apple crop consisted of just one apple to begin with, as mine did this year.

“Did” because the one apple on my one apple tree fell to the ground sometime in the last few days, rotten to the core. I picked it up and threw it in to the compost bin for the worms there to finish it off. Oddly enough, I felt like I was giving in to whatever it was that was rotting it out to begin with, letting them have the prize, rewarding them for attacking the apple in the first place.

Truth is, I’m not all that upset. It is a Red Delicious variety, not my favorite by a long-shot. I only bought that variety because when I got the bright idea to plant a dwarf apple tree in the center of my vegetable garden, that’s what the garden center had.

The tree has been planted in the garden for at least five years and in that time, I’ve gotten exactly two apples from it. It wasn’t always the tree’s fault, especially back in 2007 when we had a late frost at precisely the worst time, when the trees were in full bloom, so no apples formed in anyone’s garden or orchard, including mine.

Now the question is how many more years do I give this tree before I cut it down and plant a variety I would like? There’s nothing wrong with the tree, and two years ago, when I tasted the apples from it, I was all set to keep it because the apples don't seem to be 'Red Delicious'. But it concerns me a bit to have a mystery apple variety.

I think the answer is clear, “one bad apple has spoiled this whole bunch” and I should get some better apple trees soon.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Thank You Day!

It's "thank you" day here at May Dreams Gardens!

Thank you to the generous family at Cobrahead for the "everyone wins" giveaway. Many of the winners are probably already receiving their short-handled Cobrahead weeders and putting them to good use in their gardens. There is word that the weeds are planning a revolt, but I think we gardeners have the right tool to stop that now!

(There are still four winners out of 60 winners that I've not heard back from. If you think you are one of those four, send me an email at Indygardener AT gmail dot com and I'll get you hooked up.)

Thank you to those who read my blog and leave encouraging comments. I really appreciate the comments and try to do likewise on others' blogs. I used to be more diligent about replying to comments in the comments section of my blog but have become more lax about that as life gets busiers. Just know that if you leave comment, I read it, enjoy it, sometimes savor it, and always appreciate it!

Thank you to the many garden bloggers who I've had the privilege to meet in person and continue to keep in contact with beyond just through the comments back and forth on our blogs. Several have been particularly encouraging and supportive and I am very appreciative of that.

And finally...

Thank you to the rabbits and raccoons who seemed to have left my garden alone this summer. We live in peace. I have never harvested so many green beans. I like that.

Thank you!

Monday, August 24, 2009

I'm in Denial

I'm in denial.

It is not possible, is it, for the Showy Stonecrop to be blooming now? These are fall flowers aren't they? It isn't fall, is it? It's still summer.

I'm in denial.

I'm ignoring the signs that summer is waning and fall is gaining, signs like shorter days and school buses always in my way on my drive to work.

I'm in denial.

I still have bags of mulch to spread. My garden is still giving me fresh vegetables, and I still haven't gotten a ripe tomato from the 'Aunt Anna' variety.

I'm in denial.

I can't believe that Showy Stonecrop's botanical name has been change from Sedum spectabile to Hylotelephium spectabile. What's the story behind that? What kind of name is Hylotelephium anyway?

I'm in denial.

The most common variety of Hylotelephium spectabile seems to be Autumn Joy. But Autumn Joy is a trade name. The real variety name is 'Herbstfreude'. I'm not sure if the ones I have are 'Herbsfreude' or another variety because they are passalongs. I just call them all Autumn Joy.

I'm in denial.

Herbstfreude sounds like the name of a colleague of Dr. Hortfreud, my gardening therapist. Perhaps one of them could help me with this denial problem I seem to have as I watch summer slowly disappear into the blooms of the Witch's Moneybag, another common name for Shony Stonecrop.

I'm in denial.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Letters to Gardening Friends, August 23, 2009

Dear Dee and Mary Ann and Gardening Friends Everywhere,

This has been a nice week here at May Dreams Gardens. Out in the garden I harvested the first of the cantaloupe and am up to seven picked so far. I’m eating what I can and sharing some with my neighbor and friends.

Cantaloupe isn’t something I grow every year. In fact, I think it has been 10 years since I last grew any, and if I recall correctly, it wasn’t that good of a crop. But I saw some healthy seedlings for sale at the grocery store one day last May and had one open spot in the garden so I bought them on impulse. I’m glad I did!

I’ve also been picking a few tomatoes nearly every day, which is why in this harvest picture from this morning you only see four, oops, make that seven or so tomatoes.

The rest of the harvest includes the usual sweet peppers, hot peppers, squash and green beans. I also got a few more cucumbers, which I expected I would once I picked all the overgrown ones last week. I’m still amazed at how well the cucumbers have done, and that I’m still picking them in late August.

This afternoon I worked on some garden clean up - weeding, cultivating and pulling out non-producing plants like the corn and the first planting of green beans. It was a nice day to do it with overcast skies and temperatures in the low 70’s. It was just me and the crickets and cicadas out there, with the occasional slow moving bee going by to half-heartedly warn me if I got too close to the sunflowers.

Outside the garden this week, some other nice things happened, too. Monday morning, I was reading the paper and saw that I was quoted in a little piece on miniature gardens. The author apparently found out about my miniature garden through Twitter. She tweeted asking if anyone knew of gardeners with miniature gardens, someone tweeted back to check Indygardener (that’s me) and so the connection was made.

I also had great fun hosting a give-away of a short-handled Cobrahead weeder. Right before I was to pick a winner, the generous family behind the Cobrahead company contacted me and told me they are going to send a weeder to everyone who entered. Isn’t that the best!

I hope this week is as nice as this past week was.

Flowers and veggies for all,

P.S. The picture above is not one of my schemes to scare rabbits away from the garden, though it might do that as a side benefit. I just wanted to show how I keep a knife out in the garden all the time so if I see a squash to harvest, I have a knife handy to cut it off. Plus, this close up shows how I fix the corners of my raised beds.

P.S.S. Here’s a picture of the garden today.

You should notice a little difference from past weeks since I cut down the corn at the far end.

Have a great week!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Perennial Care Manual: A Book Review

Fellow gardeners, get out your gift wish list and add to it: The Perennial Care Manual: A Plant-by-Plant Guide: What to Do & When to Do It by Nancy Ondra with photography by Rob Cardillo.

(What? You don't keep a running list of gifts you want? You should. You just never know when someone will want to buy you a present.)

This new book on perennials has all the information you need to plant a great perennial garden and care for it. It’s like two books in one.

The first part is about caring for a perennial garden and includes information on planting a perennial garden, caring for it, keeping up its appearance and troubleshooting problems. Reading through this, I think even an experienced gardener is likely to pick up some new tricks or be reminded of tips they’ve forgotten.

The second part is a “plant-by-plant” perennial guide listing 125 perennials for the garden. For each perennial, Ondra includes a brief description, growing tips and seasonal care information, along with troubleshooting info, when necessary. And every flower is beautifully photographed by Cardillo.

Whenever I get a new book on perennials, I always look up information on plants I know and grow to see what the author says about them. It sort of sets my “trust level” with the information. And that’s just what I did when I got a review copy of this book.

First I looked up Amsonia, Blue Dogbane or Bluestar. I wanted to see if Ondra included information about its tendency to self-sow itself about the garden and if she would mention the white sap that nearly squirts out of the stems when you cut them, depending on when you cut them back. Check and check, both pieces of info were included.

Then I moved on to Heliopsis, False Sunflower. I hoped she would again warn of aggressive self-sowing and also highlight the variegated variety, Loraine Sunshine. Yes and yes.

Finally, I checked Tradescantia, Spiderwort. I’ve decided after years of growing it that it just isn’t all that nice of a perennial. I was happy to see that she included information that would give one pause before planting it, highlighting some of this plant’s faults.

Three for three, that sets my trust level at “high” for the information on the other 122 perennials included in this book.

All this wasn’t surprising to me, having enjoyed many of the posts on Nancy Ondra’s own blog Hayefield. She’s a regular participant in Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day and most months she features several perennials that end up on my own “want” list.

Ondra is truly a passionate gardener with a deep knowledge of gardening and perennials that she shares generously in this newest book of hers. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to get a copy of it to review and will keep it close at hand for quick reference.

It would be a great addition to any gardener’s library, whether you are a new gardener or an experienced gardener.

Other reviews of this book:
Dee, Oklahoma Examiner
Pam, Digging
Kylee, Our Little Acre

Friday, August 21, 2009

And The Winner Of The Short-Handled Cobrahead Weeder Is...

And the winner of the short-handled Cobrahead weeder is...

Wait, before I announce the winner, I'd like to thank all those who entered and left a comment.

There were even some comments from those who already have one, including:

Mr. McGregor's Daughter: "... It works really well to get the weeds out of the gravel too. I cleared the whole gravel area on the side of my house in two days with it. (No, I'm not slow, there really were that many weeds.)"

Teresa-Gardening with Soule: "I also love my cobrahead. I use that the most of all my tools. It does everything. I hope your lucky winner enjoys theirs."

Lisa at Greenbow: "... My dear BIL bought me one for my birthday after seeing them at the SF and I was saying how I thought it would be useful. I was right it is very useful."

Healing Magic Hands: "I have a cobra head weeder and it is the GREATEST tool I have ever bought on an impulse."

Dee from Red Dirt Ramblings: "What a generous offer from Cobra Head. I can attest that they make wonderful tools. I have my own short handled one, and I love it for removing Bermuda grass and other pesky deep-rooted weeds. Someone is going to be very happy."

And then there were the comments from so many gardeners on why they wanted their own short-handled Cobrahead weeder, Truly, every gardener has their own weeding issues and the need for a good tool to help them remove them.

And so now, without further ado, I am thrilled to announce that the winner is...


Yes, that's right! After reading the comments, the wonderful family behind the Cobrahead company sent me an email and said to pick EVERYONE! So, if you left your name in the Mr. Linky widget and I have your email address, you are getting your very own short-handled Cobrahead weeder!

Here's how it will work from here. As noted, if your name is in the Mr. Linky widget, I'll send you and Annaliese at Cobrahead an email sometime this weekend. You, the winner, should then reply just to Annaliese to let her know where to ship your short-handled Cobrahead weeder to. If you don't get an email from me by the end of the weekend, please email me at Indygardener at gmail dot com so I can confirm you are on the Mr. Linky widget and I'll get you hooked up. If your email address is not visible on your blog or blogger profile, please send me an email so I can get it.

This is truly a generous offer. A BIG thank you to everyone at Cobrahead for a great weeding tool and for making 60 gardeners very happy! "Weeds watch out, the Cobraheads are coming!"

Hortense Hoelove Answers Horticultural Questions

It’s Friday! Hortense Hoelove's day to answer more readers’ questions about plant and garden relationship issues.

Dear Ms. Hortense,

Is it horticulturalist or horticulturist?

Bunny in the Bean Row

Dear Bunny,

According to my New Oxford American Dictionary, both are correct, though horticulturalist is listed first as a derivative of the word “horticulture”, then horticulturist. That hardly seems conclusive, so I consulted the Merriam-Webster dictionary online. Of course they list both terms, too, but have horticulturist first.

To break this tie, I pulled out my first college textbook from back when I was studying to be a horti-something, Horticultural Science, 2nd Edition by Jules Janick, and browsed through it to see if Professor Janick actually used either term in the text. I could find no reference, but did see that I had highlighted the word olericulture, which is the study of the culture of vegetable crops. I had forgotten I once knew that. It’s nice to know it again!

So, is it olericulturist or olericulturalist? only lists olericulturist. My New Oxford American Dictionary lists neither.

Since olericulture is somewhat of an obscure term, perhaps we can settle this by looking at agriculture to see if it is agriculturalist or agriculturist. According to my New Oxford American Dictionary, it is agriculturist. For floriculture, it lists both floriculturist and floriculturalist.

Where does that leave us? I prefer horticulturist, but would never correct someone who preferred and used horticulturalist. That would be too much like something a haughtyculturist would do!

Horticulturally yours,

A place to sit and ponder important questions at May Dreams Gardens

Dear Hortense,

Where are my green beans?

Dee at Red Dirt Ramblings

Dear Dee,

I didn't take them honest! There could be many reasons why perhaps you have no green beans. First, are you sure you planted beans? Oh, that wasn’t nice! Of course you planted them because this isn’t your first summer of olericulture! Maybe the bunnies ate them? You know the bunnies stopped eating mine, don't you? Maybe your family has been sneaking out and eating the beans before you can pick them? Maybe it is just not a good bean year where you are? I personally had a bumper crop of green beans this year and have more green beans to pick tomorrow.


Fresh green beans from earlier in the season at May Dreams Gardens

Dear Hortense,

If you could offer just one piece of advice to gardeners on how to have a good time in their gardens, what would it be?


Dear Sunny

Other than studying a little olericulture and growing a few vegetables, my one piece of advice is to buy good gardening tools. Good tools allow you to focus on gardening and not on the tools themselves. For example, if you are deadheading spent blooms with shoddy, dull pruners, they won’t cut well and you’ll be focused on how to use them “just so" to make them cut right, instead of focusing on the zen of deadheading. I’d get the best pruners and gloves I could afford, definitely, and I would also buy good hand tools for digging and weeding, and of course, the best shovel, rake, and hoe I could find. I might even buy more than one hoe. Then with these good tools, gardening should be more fun, more carefree, and overall more rewarding!

Olericulturally yours,
Hortense Hoelove

An example of a good gardening tool at May Dreams Gardens

P.S. Don’t forget to enter you name in the drawing for a free Cobrahead hand hoe before 5:00 PM EDT today!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Bountiful Bunny Helps A Gardener

Once up a time, there was a gardener named Sunny who had a beautiful garden.

Sunny had carefully picked all the plants for her garden so that from early spring to late fall there were always perennials, biennials and annuals blooming. She had planned it so that the paths gracefully lead visitors through the garden from one surprise to another. It was almost magical how the dappled shade of the trees seemed to always be in just the right spot. And when anyone stood in the garden with their eyes closed, they could still tell they were in a garden by the sounds of the nearby fountain and the songs of the birds as they sang to one another.

Sunny loved her garden, but had a nagging feeling, a hunch, that it was somehow incomplete. She just couldn’t quite put her thumb on what was missing.

Then one day Sunny was sitting on a bench in the garden, deep in thought trying to figure out what was missing, when out from beneath a nearby shrub hopped Bountiful Bunny.

Bountiful hopped over to Sunny and startled her when he asked, “What’s wrong, Sunny?”

Well, Sunny didn’t know that rabbits could talk until right then and could barely sputter an answer when Bountiful continued, “I know what’s wrong, and if you come with me I think I can make it right.”

“Uh, okay,” Sunny said hesitantly, “but where are we going?”

“Back where I came from under that shrub.”

“But I don’t think I can crawl under that shrub like you did.”

“Sure you can," said Bountiful as he hopped over to the shrub. “Just lean down and lift that one branch out of the way.”

Sunny did as instructed and just as she lifted the branch, she felt a little push on her backside and suddenly found herself on the other side of the shrub in another garden with Bountiful.

“Where are we,” she asked? “It looks familiar with plants and all but just a little bit different.”

“We are in a vegetable garden,” said Bountiful.

“A vegetable garden! Why ever did you bring me to a vegetable garden?”

“Because that’s what’s missing from your garden, Sunny. Vegetables!”

“Oh dear! I hope that’s not really what’s missing from my garden because I don’t know how to grow vegetables. I only know how to grow flowers.”

“Sure you know how to grow vegetables, Sunny! They’re just plants like flowers are!” said Bountiful, as he began to show her around the garden. Slowly, they went from one plant to another as Bountiful explained that all the vegetables came from plants, and the plants were easy to grow.

He showed Sunny how some cucumbers grow on vines that need support, like an ornamental vine, but others stay small like a sprawling shrub and can be grown in a container. He had her taste the cucumbers that were so much better than anything she’d ever bought in a grocery store. Together they looked at the rows of beans, and Bountiful explained how easy they were to grow from seed. Sunny balked a little about eating a raw green bean, but tried it anyway and agreed it was very good. She marveled at the corn and how sweet it was when Bountiful cooked an ear for her right there in a vat of boiling water. It was so sweet that Sunny didn’t even need butter on it!

And so they proceeded from vegetable to vegetable while Bountiful patiently explained that they were all just plants, and offered her a taste of each one. He assured Sunny that if she could grow flowers, she could grow vegetables, too.

Finally, Bountiful and Sunny came to the center of the garden where the tomato patch was. By now Sunny was nearly overcome by all the wonderful vegetables she had been tasting, each one better than any she had ever tasted, and almost instinctively she reached out to pick a ripe red tomato and taste it, too.

But before she could grab it, Bountiful thumped his back legs in warning and shouted out, “Wait! Before you eat that tomato, I need to ask you something! If you eat that tomato, there will be no turning back. You will be forever compelled to always grow a few vegetables in your garden, or have no garden at all. Are you ready for that?”

“Oh, Bountiful, if this tomato is half as good as all the vegetables I’ve tasted so far, I’m ready!” exclaimed Sunny.

“Are you sure?”

“I’m sure! I feel so foolish not growing vegetables in my garden all this time.”

So Bountiful gave Sunny his blessing to eat the tomato because he knew that she really was ready to grow vegetables. He knew she would never view her garden in the same way again. He had completed his mission.

Then Sunny closed her eyes and bit into the tomato. She tasted the warmth of the sun in the flesh of the tomato and felt the juice drip down her chin. It tasted so different from any tomato she had ever bought in a store. She smiled with delight, slowly opened her eyes and was surprised to find that she was back in her own garden, sitting on the bench in the dappled shade, holding a half-eaten tomato.

She wondered where the tomato had come from, but suddenly put her thumb on what was missing from her garden. Vegetables. Yes, vegetables!

From that season on, Sunny always included vegetables in her garden, anyway she could - in containers, in raised beds, mixed amongst the flowers, even in a traditional row garden.

And she gardened happily ever after!

The End!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

What To Do With The Harvest

Close your eyes and taste a bite of my freshly picked cantaloupe, grown in my own vegetable garden. It is as good as it looks, and reminds me of my grandparents who always seemed to have cantaloupe with their breakfast. I’ll also enjoy mine for breakfast tomorrow morning and I'll take some to work for lunch and give some to my neighbor. There are several more in my patch that will ripen in the next few days, hopefully just a few at a time.

I’m often asked what I do with all the produce that I harvest from my garden. The answer is, of course, “it depends”.

Some I eat, some I give away, a tiny bit I freeze for winter, and some gets overgrown and ends up in the compost bin. It mostly depends on how busy I am.

Last night I made some fresh salsa with Jalapeno and Serrano peppers, along with some ‘San Marzano’ tomatoes and onions from the garden. Then today I took the rest of the peppers to work where I found many willing takers.

The night before, I breaded and fried some eggplant and had it as part of my supper. It’s one of my favorite cooked vegetables, but I usually have it just once a year, maybe twice. Two nights ago, I ate fresh cooked green beans and sweet corn.

And at every meal, at least for now until they stop producing, I eat fresh tomatoes. Yes, that includes breakfast. I like to eat fresh tomatoes with scrambled eggs.

Somehow, all the vegetables I grow get eaten or shared, for the most part, though I am worried that the dozen squash on the kitchen table are starting to “turn” on me because I haven’t done anything with them yet.

What does everyone else do with all their harvest?

(Don’t forget to go to yesterday’s post and enter the drawing for a short-handled Cobrahead! Winner to be selected at 5:00 pm on Friday, August 21.)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Win A Cobrahead!

It was a happy Christmas in 2007 when Santa, well actually my niece, gave me a short-handled Cobrahead. I had given my family subtle hints that this is what I wanted for Christmas, mostly in the form of emails with a gift list that included just the Cobrahead and a link to the site to purchase it.

My family is good at getting these kinds of hints and figuring out what they mean. So my niece, who had drawn my name in the Top Secret Family Gift Exchange, had no real choice but to buy it for me.

Then when spring finally arrived in 2008, I took my new Cobrahead outside, like a kid with a new bike who has waited an eternity for the snow to melt, and dug up my first weed with it. Right then I wondered how I had gardened successfully for all those years without it.

It is now one of the main tools I use when I embrace weeding.

Since then, I have continued to use my short-handled Cobrahead to banish all kinds of weeds and over-grown perennial seedlings from my garden. I’ve used it make furrows to plant bean seeds and to dig out dandelions in the lawn.

When you see the Cobrahead, its pretty easy to see how it works.

Look how it took out this purslane in my garden!

Look how cleanly it pulled out that perennial seedling from the path in the garden, roots and all!

I’ve always said gardening is more fun with good tools, and the Cobrahead is a very good tool.

If you've been to a Spring Fling you know that the Cobrahead family members are real gardeners who have generously supported garden bloggers from the beginning with opportunities to win Cobrahead tools at the last two Spring Flings.

And their generosity continues!

One lucky gardener is going to win a short-handled Cobrahead this Friday. Maybe it will be you? To enter this drawing, leave your name and blog link in the Mr. Linky widget below and then comment on why you want a Cobrahead. Then on Friday at 5:00 PM EDT, I’ll pick a random number to chose the winner.

If you don’t have a blog to link to, you can put your name in Mr. Linky with a link to and then put your contact info in your comment or send an email to me at Indygardener at gmail dot com with your contact info so I can reach you if you are the lucky winner. One entry per person, please.

Yes, this drawing is open to everyone.

Many thanks to the great people at Cobrahead for sponsoring this give-away!

Updated 08/21 5:00 PM - Times up! Winner will be chosen from the 60 listed below! Stay tuned!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Letters to Gardening Friends, August 16, 2009

Dear Dee and Mary Ann and Gardening Friends Everywhere,

Hey, guess what finally came to my garden this week? I’ll give you a few hints. It’s hot and dry and makes you want to just sit in the shade thinking about gardening. Give up?

It’s summer!

Yes, finally, it’s hot like summer and the garden sure looks like it, though it is still producing.

This morning I picked all kinds of peppers, tomatoes, green beans, squash, eggplant, yellow wax beans, and what I think are the last two ears of sweet corn.

I was kind of surprised by all the beans. I thought for sure the first patch of green beans had stopped producing and I almost yanked them all out last week, but didn’t. Turns out that patch had a lot more “bean” in it. As you can see, it’s not a very pretty patch but I’ll forgive it that for all the beans it gave me.
I was also ready to yank out the squash plants, but turns out they weren’t done yet, either. I got three nice little squash from them this morning, picked at about the right size this time.

You’ll notice that “cucumbers” are missing from my harvest this week. I’ll confess I picked several of them, but they were way overgrown so I tossed them in the compost bin. I think not picking them earlier in the week angered the “cucumber gods” because there were no smaller cucumbers to be found in my patch. But I’m taking to heart the lesson from the bean patch and the squash vines and will leave the cucumber vines alone for now. I'm hoping I'll be forgiven and get a few more cucumbers out of those vines before the end of the season.

Speaking of vines, the tower of ‘Blue Lake’ pole beans pictured above finally produced some green beans. Last time I tried pole beans, they didn’t produce at all, but when I got those free seeds when we were in Chicago for Spring Fling, I decided to try them again. I’m sure glad I did as those are good beans; at least the ones I ate raw were good. I’m guessing once I cook them they will be even better.

Well, I need to wrap up this letter. I’ve decided to use some of those tomatoes and peppers to make some salsa. It will have both Jalapeno and Serrano peppers in it which should give it a nice kick. The recipe I have calls for ONE Serrano pepper, but I have dozens, so I’ll put in a little more than that. Don’t worry. I’ll be careful and wear rubber gloves while I’m cutting up the peppers!

Until next week…
Flowers and veggies for all,


P.S. Here’s a picture of my garden this week. I took it around noon which I know is about the worst time to take pictures in a garden.
You can see down in the corner there some sunflowers sprawled across the big boulder in the garden. I still haven’t done anything to clean up the sunflowers since the big storm knocked them down nearly two weeks ago. I think I’ll just leave them there because the bees are enjoying them, and this hot weather has made me lazy.

Have a great week!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - August 2009

Welcome to Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day for August 2009.

August is what separates the real gardeners from the wanna-be gardeners. The days are hot, the bugs are everywhere, and many blooms that seemed so bright in June and July have faded to muted colors reminiscent of my grandmothers’ summer dresses. It’s a month that tests the patience and perseverance of many a gardener.

But August doesn’t just have faded blooms from earlier months, it also has blooms of its own. Pictured above is Verbena bonariensis which self-sows in my garden and begins blooming every August.

Its bloom has less to do with what I did and more to do with what I did not do, like deadheading it. I left the seed heads to shatter and scatter seed here and there. Then I careful avoided weeding it out earlier in the summer.

The new crape myrtle, Lagerstroemia indica ‘Coral Filli’ is blooming for the first time. It’s… bright.

But the flowers needs to be bright to stand out against the dark foliage. I’m glad I bought it, but I’m sure it is shocking to southern gardeners to know that this is a small shrub, expected to grow to only about 18 inches tall.

Over on the side of the house, the Hydrangea paniculata ‘Tardiva’ is in full bloom a week or two ahead of when it bloomed last year. This could be because we are coming up on the second anniversary of it being planted, so it is finally settling in.
By the way, last year at this time the Surprise Lilies, Lycoris squamigera, were still blooming. This year they are long past their prime and ready to be cut back, as you can see from the one that sneaked into the picture. Now that's a naked lily!

But even with these other blooms, the star of my August garden is still some old-fashioned Hosta that form a small ribbon around several other Hostas and smell sweet, especially at night.

This is one of the plants that I would take with me if I ever moved, because I’ve had it wherever I’ve gardened.
Elsewhere in the garden, there are blooms hanging on from July, including coneflowers (Echinacea sp.), black eyed susans (Rudbeckia), my Knockout roses, tall phlox (Phlox paniculata),and Helianthus ‘Lorraine Sunshine'. Other plants are also providing that odd extra rebloom here and there including the ‘Stella d’Oro’ daylilies, true geraniums and ‘May Nights’ salvia.

And out in the vegetable garden there are sunflowers like this ‘Elves Blend' and a host of other blooms including zinnias, marigolds, nasturtiums, and squash.

How is your garden blooming this month? Are you hanging in there, enduring the hot days of summer? Whatever your circumstances and however your garden looks during these hot August summer days, I hope you’ll join us for Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day this month. All are welcome!

It's easy to participate. Just post on your blog about what is blooming in your garden on the 15th of the month and then leave a link in the ‘Mr. Linky’ widget below and a comment so we can find you and visit your garden to see what you have blooming. If you don’t know what to put in your comment, answer this question: Does your garden have more blooms or less blooms this year compared to last year?

We can have flowers nearly every month of the year. ~ Elizabeth Lawrence

Friday, August 14, 2009

Hortense Answers Questions About Tomatoes, Timeshares and Torrid Temps

Dear Hortense,

I am so excited to be growing tomatoes in one of those Topsy Turvy® planters for the first time this year. Then my daughter came to visit and saw the blooms and said I should pinch those off because they were zapping energy from the plant. So I removed all the blooms. Later the next day, I realized that the tomato actually comes from the bloom and that perhaps I had made a mistake. What should I do?

Tomato-less In S-ville,

Dear Mary,

Sputter. Gasp. What? You pinched the blooms off of your tomato plant? I suspect your daughter was confused because many gardeners choose to pinch off the suckers on the tomato plants. These are the side shoots that grow in the axil between the leaves and main stem. Pinching these off ensures a vigorous plant which directs its energy toward tomato production and not toward growing more and more stems and foliage. Yes, you are right, to grow fruit, the tomato plant needs to flower. Fortunately, more flowers will form and probably have formed on your plants, and you’ll still get tomatoes this season.

Can’t make up questions like this,

Tomatoes, and a few peppers, ready to eat, picked from my garden this week.

Dear Hortense,

Your discussion of zone envy gave me an idea. Why don't we start a garden timeshare program? Gardeners, like me, complaining about two years of drought and 47 50 plus days of 100 degree heat, could swap gardens for a week or two with northern gardeners who are suffering under unusually cold and wet summer conditions and dealing with all kinds of tomato blight. Southern gardeners could smell the lilacs and northern gardeners could smell the Texas mountain laurel. And maybe we'd all go down to the tropics and smell the frangipani.

MSS @ Zanthan Gardens

Dear MSS,

I think this is an interesting idea, but vote that we all meet in the tropics in the winter time, otherwise wouldn’t we all want to switch in the spring, which is the best time to be in your own garden, regardless of where you garden? Isn’t that when the Texas mountain laurel blooms? I know the lilacs definitely bloom in the spring here, though a new lilac, ‘Bloomerang’ is being introduced that also blooms again later in the year. But regardless, I’ll admit it. There is no way I want to spend any time in Texas in August. I saw your picture of the wilting cactus! Whew, it sounds so hot!

Stay cool,

Opuntia cactus blooming at May Dreams Gardens in late June.

Dearest Hortense:

After an unusually cool July, the weather is heating up again. It's supposed to be in the 90's here this weekend, and by 8 AM this morning it already felt like a steam bath outside. How can I get motivated to work in the garden when it's so danged hot outside?? Please don't tell me I need to be outside at the crack of dawn; you know I'm not an early morning person.

Prairie Rose

Dear Prairie,

I find I am in the same predicament as you are in, having to suddenly garden when it is “so danged hot outside” after such a cool summer. Of course, my answer is to get outside at the crack of dawn, which isn’t very helpful for you, and I definitely want to be helpful. So I’ve invited Cindy from My Corner of Katy in hot Houston, Texas to provide you with a more helpful answer. She has quite a bit of experience with gardening in the heat. Last I heard, she was cogitating on the best advice and then apparently ducked into a cool movie theater. I’ve noticed that she does a lot of counting down to fall, when apparently this “danged heat” becomes less of a problem, even for her. And here's her answer for you, straight from the heat of Texas...

Dear Prairie Rose:

We understand and empathize with your dilemma here at Wit's End. The Head Gardener is not a morning person either, and rarely ventures out into the garden before 9:00 a.m., by which time the heat and humidity have already acquired a death grip on the day. Her experience has been that once she makes it through those first hellatious 20 minutes or so, she can tough it out for a couple of hours with the help of a broad-brimmed hat, numerous bottles of water, an occasional dousing with the hose, and careful attention to stay in shadier areas (or as she refers to it, where the sun don't shine). Although she has heard tales that some gardeners deal with the heat by doffing their clothes, the Head Gardener cautions against emulating the Lycoris squamigera, as it tends to alarm neighbors and passersby (so she has heard ... she does not mean to imply that she has any personal experience in this regard, at least not that she's willing to share).

The Head Gardener at Wit's End, aka Cindy

Rise and shine!
Hortense F. Hoelove

Early morning at May Dreams Gardens last year.

If you have a question for Hortense, leave a comment below or send an email!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Plants With A Story

Before this week I had never heard of the Double Japanese Aster, Kalimeris pinnatifida ‘Hortensis.’, also known as the Oxford Orphanage Plant. But now I want it for my garden and my garden won’t be complete without it.


Because I read a new post by Allen Bush on the Human Flower Project blog/website about how the garden designer/writer Elizabeth Lawrence gave him a start of this plant as a passalong plant when he visited her garden in 1982.

I love plants with a story behind them.

Most plants do have a story behind them, if you look for it and ask about it. It might be a family story, like the story of my August lilies, pictured above, now blooming with a sweet scent that hangs in the night air and makes me want to linger in the dark for awhile, wishing that the days were not growing shorter like they are. Or maybe it is someone else’s story, like the story of the Oxford Orphanage Plant, which you are borrowing because now you have that plant in your garden. Then the story forever connects you with other gardeners past and present, who grew that same plant in their gardens.

And that’s why I want to grow the Oxford Orphanage Plant in my garden. It will connect my garden to Allen Bush's garden which is connected to Elizabeth Lawrence's garden. I will then have just two degrees of separation between my garden and the garden of Elizabeth Lawrence.

Then when someone points to it in bloom in my garden and asks “what’s that?” I’ll tell them a story something like this:

“That’s the Oxford Orphanage Plant. I once read about how Elizabeth Lawrence gave a start of these as a passalong plant to Allen Bush, who still grows it today in his garden in Louisville, so I decided to get it as a reminder that passalong plants are one of the greatest gifts a gardener can give to another person because it not only gives them a free plant but also gives that plant a little more meaning and history. Would you like a start of it for your garden? Let me go get my trowel and dig one for you. No, really I insist, because you know that it was the writings of Elizabeth Lawrence and in particular her quote “We can have flowers nearly every month of the year” that gave me the idea for Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day? Now, give this some morning sun and a bit of afternoon shade and it will do great. Hey, would you also like some August lilies, because as you can see I have quite a few of them. Don’t those smell good? Did I ever tell you the story about how I got them…”

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Are You Having A Good Cucumber Year?

Are you having a good cucumber year?

I’m having a great cucumber year. In fact, it is such a good cucumber year that I can’t keep up with picking all of them, and so there are a bunch of big, overgrown ones in the compost bin. But if you go looking in my compost bin you won’t find them unless you dig down a bit, because I cover them up. I wouldn’t want any of the neighbors to peer over the fence, see those gigantic cucumbers in there and think I’m a lazy gardener who can’t even be bothered to pick her cucumbers until they are too big.

Instead, I’ll just tell everyone on the world wide web that yes, there are overgrown cucumbers in my compost bin because it is a very good cucumber year.

Not every year is a good cucumber year and having a good cucumber year doesn’t necessarily guarantee that it will also be a good squash year, even though both are members of the Cucurbitaceae family, along with pumpkins and cantaloupes and all those other types of squash we grow in the garden.

So what makes a good cucumber year? I know that the last two years, 2007 and 2008, were not good cucumber years. 2007 was a dry year, when we had what we called a moderate drought, which folks in central Texas might call a wet year. But for us it was dry and my cucumbers just never amounted to much. Then last year it seemed like the vine borer and squash bugs were out early in full force. The vines that didn’t wilt and die from insect infestation ended up drying out because after a very wet beginning to the season, it ended up kind of dry.

This year, we’ve gotten rain when we’ve needed it, for the most part, and the bugs haven’t been too bad. That makes it a very good, if not great, cucumber year.

You might ask why after two “not good” cucumber years I would spin the roulette wheel of the garden and grow them again.

You wouldn’t ask if you’ve eaten fresh cucumbers from your own garden.

I have eaten fresh cucumbers from my own garden, so I’ll grow them every year knowing I’ll always get a few and that some years, like this year, I’ll get a lot. I love them. In fact, I love them so much that I really should have a ritual for eating the first one. They are crisp and fresh tasting and not all waxed up like those in the grocery stores. In fact, they taste nothing like those in the grocery store!

My other cucurbits, which is what members of the Cucurbitaceae family are called, are doing okay. My summer squash crop, which consists almost entirely of the round ones I discovered a few years ago, namely ‘Cue Ball’, ‘Eight Ball’, and ‘One Ball’, are doing pretty good. “Pretty good” means that there are nine squash of various sizes on the kitchen table right now and none in the compost bin. But the plants themselves look terrible, probably because the raised beds they are in seem to stay too wet. I almost pulled them out this weekend but didn’t because they are still hanging on and blooming.

I didn’t check the flowers closely to see if there were both male and female flowers on the plants. Most members of Cucurbitaceae family are monoecious, meaning that there are separate male and female flowers on the same plant. You definitely need bees to get the pollen from the male flowers to the pistils of the female flowers. If that doesn’t happen, then the fruit, which botanically speaking is actually a berry called a pepo, won’t form properly. Some serious gourd and pumpkin growers actually don’t want the bees to pollinate their cucurbits but would rather do it themselves with a tiny artist's paint brush, to cross two different plants. I’ve never tried it but I once saw a horticulturist pollinating cucumber flowers that way while I was on a walking tour of the Land Pavilion at Disney World about 20 years ago.

Hand pollinating is a labor intensive and tedious way to get cucumbers. I’d rather take my chances and rely on the bees, the weather, and the absence of squash bugs and vine borers to get my cucumbers. The odds are definitely in my favor that now and again, I’ll have a great cucumber year.

Are you having a good cucumber year?

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Letters to Gardening Friends, August 9, 2009

Dear Dee and Mary Ann and Gardening Friends Everywhere,

Greetings from my garden where I’m anxiously watching and waiting to harvest this lovely eggplant, one of my favorite, if not absolute favorite, vegetables when it is breaded and fried. And that’s just what I plan to do with this one, bread it and fry it, regardless of the mess I make in my kitchen doing it and the amount of fat it adds to my diet.

It’s just one meal! I’ll combine it with fresh green beans, corn on the cob, sliced tomatoes, maybe some cucumbers, and of course iced tea, for a perfect summer meal from the garden. As I like to say “them’s good eats”! And I picked a bunch of “good eats” yesterday.

Elsewhere in the garden the cantaloupe are getting bigger and the pole beans are actually producing beans. I’ll soon be eating both of those, along with all the tomatoes I care to eat.

It’s funny about tomatoes. It’s the same every year. I wait all summer for the first big ripe tomato, it finally shows up, and then the flood gates open and now I have enough tomatoes to eat all I want and still share with others. Most years I can expect to have tomatoes from now until frost, but this year, that may not happen. I am watching my tomato plants closely for signs of the late blight that is devastating tomato crops east of here. The Hoosier Gardener reported that they have found late blight a few counties north of here and also a few counties south of here, so I am at risk. Regardless of if I end up with late blight on my tomatoes or not, I’ll throw the tomato vines in the trash at the end of the season and not in the compost bin, just to be on the safe side.

I do like to keep the vegetable garden cleaned up through the season by pulling out plants that are no longer producing. (Some years I’m better about this than others, “do as I say not as I do”.) This helps to control disease and insect infestations and also keeps the garden nice and neat. And where plants are pulled out, if there is time, you can sow more crops, like the green beans, radishes, lettuce, and spinach that I sowed last week.

Of all those seeds, the green beans are up, and I see little radish leaves and even smaller lettuce seedlings just breaking through the soil crust. No sign of spinach or onions just yet, but it is still early. That’s all I’ll probably plant for late harvesting.

Now I’m turning my attention back to the flower beds, trying to get those all mulched up before the snow flies, as we say. I’m also scouting the blooms of August for Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day next Saturday, the 15th already. While I’m out there, I hear the cicadas in the trees and have heard rumors that school starts around here this coming week. Summer is winding down, all too soon!

Flowers and veggies for all,

P.S. Here’s a picture of the garden taken this morning. Can you tell from the picture that it is a hot day, one of our first since late June?
Most of the sunflowers got knocked flat on Tuesday when we were pummeled with three plus inches of rain, accompanied by a lot of wind. I haven’t figured out if I will try to get the sunflowers to stay upright again or if it I should just cut them off now, or just leave them lying on top of the zinnias. The zinnias vote for cutting them off or getting them to stay upright again, as do the butterflies that flutter around the zinnias this time of year. The birds would like me to try to save the sunflowers so they produce seeds. Decisions!

Have a great week...

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Garden Song, Inch by Inch...

“Inch by inch, row by row…”

Am I the last one to learn about this song? Did everyone else know about it? I don’t know how I missed this garden song all this time, I just did. But I've discovered it now!

Here are the lyrics:

Garden Song by David Mallett
©1978 Cherry Lane Music Publishing Co. Inc. ASCAP

Inch by inch, row by row
Gonna make this garden grow
All it takes is a rake and a hoe
And a piece of fertile ground

Inch by inch, row by row
Someone bless these seeds I sow
Someone warm them from below
Till the rain comes tumblin' down

Pullin' weeds and pickin' stones
Man is made of dreams and bones
Feel the need to grow my own
'Cause the time is close at hand

Grain for rain, sun and rain
Find my way in natures chain
Tune my body and my brain
To the music from the land

Plant your rows straight and long
Temper them with prayer and song
Mother Earth will make you strong
If you give her love and care

An old crow watching hungrily
From his perch in yonder tree
In my garden I'm as free
As that feathered thief up there.

Then I looked for this song on YouTube and found several versions

John Denver with The Muppets:

Pete Seeger:

Arlo Guthrie:

Arlo has some of his own lyrics for the "anti-garden":

Slug by slug, weed by weed
Boy this garden's got me t'd
All the insects come to feed
On my tomato plants

Sunburnt face, skinned up knees
The kitchen's chocked with zuchinnis
I'm shopping at the A&P's
Next time I get the chance

Makem & Clancy:

And finally the songwriter, David Mallet Trio:

Which is your favorite version? I kind of like the John Denver version because of those singing flowers.

Oh, and if you find yourself humming this song over and over now, don't blame me.

"Inch by inch, row by row... All it takes is a rake and a hoe..."
"Inch by inch, row by row... All it takes is a rake and a hoe..."
"Inch by inch, row by row... All it takes is a rake and a hoe..."

Evidence of Garden Fairies Found In Lawn

Please choose the most correct answer:

What causes these dark rings to form in lawn grass?

a) This is where the garden fairies gather late at night to dance and sing and make merry while drinking tiny bellflowers full of odd potions and elixirs. The odd potions and elixirs slosh out of the flowers and over-fertilize the lawn in those places

b) This is where the spaceships carrying hoards of hungry rabbits land in the lawn. The rabbits are released out into the garden where they can hop around and gather food to take back with them on their return flight to their own planet.

c) This is caused by the gardener when she performs a ceremonial dance under the full moon to give thanks for the harvest not being taken by the rabbits, ala Betty White in the movie “The Proposal”.

d) This is caused by fungi which produce nitrogen as they break down. The extra nitrogen causes the grass to be taller and darker in that location.

The correct answer is D. However, if you chose A then you get partial credit, because these are called fairy rings, after all. If you chose B, you really must stop obsessing over the rabbits. And if you chose C you have to be laughing right now because that was a very funny scene in that movie. I laughed for days thinking about that scene.

So what am I going to do about these fairy rings?

Nothing. It’s been a cool, wet summer, so we are likely to have an increase in mushroom and fungi growth in our lawns. It’s not killing the lawn, it just looks odd. And by the way there are several fairy rings in my back yard. As noted in this PDF from Purdue University, for the most part homeowners should just try to coexist peacefully with their fairy rings.

And that’s exactly what I plan to do, along with making up other stories theories about what else they might be, like maybe they are some kind of sign for the raccoons that points the way to the sweet corn...

Friday, August 07, 2009

Hortense Hoelove Answers Readers' Questions

It’s Friday! Do you know what that means? It means it’s time for Hortense Hoelove to answer more readers’ questions about plant and garden relationship issues.

Ms. Hoelove,

Thank goodness I found you! I realize our time difference may mean that you're sleeping while I'm awake but I do wish you would help me out. Like Carol, I'm victim to the most frustrating problem. I would love my garden to be filled with gorgeous temperate-growing plants which I see in blogs like May Dreams Garden, but alas! I live a tropical zone. Hot, humid and filled with bugs of every size and colour. What, oh what can I do? Please help.

Sunita aka The Urban Gardener

Dear Sunita,

It sounds like you have a case of “zone envy” in reverse. This affliction is most often seen in gardeners who live in colder temperate zones, like where May Dreams Gardens is and further north, who want to grow plants that are just not hardy enough to survive our cold winters. I hadn’t really thought that someone who can garden outside year around would be envious of our temperate zone gardens and plants. But I can understand it, because the lilacs do smell divine in the spring, there aren’t too many bugs in the summer, though there are quite a few, and the changing of the seasons is magical as we move from spring to summer, summer to fall, fall to winter, and winter back to spring. My advice is to bloom where you are planted, look around at the beauty of your garden, and enjoy it for what it offers and know that others are envious of you!

From my temperate zone,

Lilac blooms in the spring at May Dreams Gardens

Dear Hortense,

We had quite a storm move through my garden this past Tuesday, dumping more three inches of rain in a day. That’s generally the total rainfall we get around here for the entire month of August. The wind knocked down most of the Surprise Lilies, which I now call the Fallen Ladies, and many of the sunflowers that were at least eight feet tall. Fortunately, it didn’t knock down my tower of green beans, which I crudely tied to four stakes some time ago. My question is should I leave the Fallen Ladies lying on the ground like that? Should I try to stake up the sunflowers. All that staking in the garden isn’t very attractive, is it? Dang, before that big rain and all the wind, the garden was really looking nice!

No longer looking up at sunflowers,
Thorn Goblinfly

Dear Ms. Goblinfly,

It is a known fact that as soon as your garden looks really good with tall sunflowers, a storm will come along and knock down a plant or two, just to give you something to do and let you know that you aren’t always in charge like you think you are. If it were me, I’d leave the Surprise Lilies aka Fallen Ladies alone. They are about bloomed out anyway. But really, you should try to do something with those sunflowers because there is plenty more bloom in them this year. Perhaps you could just lean them back the other way so they rest on the fence? Aren’t they crushing the zinnias under them? Sure they are. I also noticed that the rain shifted around a lot of the mulch in the paths of your vegetable garden. You ought to rake some of that back in place. And then finish mulching the rest of your garden!

Mulch is key,
Hortense Hoelove

Fallen Sunflowers at May Dreams Gardens. Out of respect, I won't post pictures of the Fallen Ladies

Dear Hortense,

I must say that I am slightly shocked by your surname "Hoelove." It has an odd connotation for a gardener. I've read a lot of Charles Dickens, and he uses surnames as an indicator of character, as does J. K. Rowling in her Harry Potter books. Can you please explain the name and how it relates to your personality and profession?

Yours in the garden,

Mr. McGregor's Daughter

Dear Mr.McGregor’s Daughter,

I’m more than happy to explain my last name and its connotations. Though it sounds English in its origin, it is actually derived from the garden fairies’ language which is called “Gardlish”. Many of the words of Gardlish sound English but are combined in ways that we who speak English wouldn’t think to do because the meanings can be mis-understood. In Gardlish, “hoelove” simply means “one who loves to work the soil in a garden and grow vegetables and flowers and spend as much time in the garden as possible”.

I hope this helps to remove all questions about my personality and profession!

Have A Gard Day, (which is Gardlish for Have A Good Day),

'Elves Blend' Sunflowers from Botanical Interest Seeds, a favorite of the garden fairies at May Dreams Gardens. These are just one foot tall.

(If you have a question for Hortense Hoelove to answer next Friday, just leave it in a comment!)