Potting shed

Three and a half years ago my husband and I viewed this property with our real estate agent. He had been hesitant to show it to us; “it has a funny floor plan” he said. The former owners’ one-eyed border collie was eager to show us around, though. There was a light mizzle going on. The neighbors’ turkeys gobbled and one of their horses neighed. The place was somewhat shabby, but rambling and generous and it had outbuildings, man.

“I like it here,” I said.

One of the outbuildings is a small barn with a covered patio. The barn is divided into two halves, one with a dirt floor and one with a concrete floor. Clearly this is our garden shed, right, and clearly the half with a concrete floor is the potting shed, right? Right.

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My in-laws are responsible for finally getting it organized, though. It had been half full of spare lumber, and while I’d spent this season with my potting table set up, the shelves weren’t so my pot collection sprawled all over the patio–as you see here.

But let’s ignore that and see how it looks now.

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Good luck at the threshold

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Nice and clean, with a nice set of enormous industrial shelves. Plenty of space to store all those pots once I have them cleaned and sorted. I hope.

My potting table is a plastic-topped folding table set up on bed risers. This puts it at a comfortable height to work while standing, and is, in theory, easy to clean. I obviously haven’t tested that theory yet tho.

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The shelves certainly look nice now, while I only have them loaded with the uniform stuff.

One interesting aspect of this barn is that it apparently had power and water at one point. There’s still a hose point on the patio outside, but look: someone has shut off another water line right here.

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And if you look up on both sides of this barn, you see light fixtures. The power currently isn’t on, but the septic install guys uncovered the power line while they were digging, so fingers crossed we can maybe get this place electrified again one day. It would be lovely to have grow lights for seed starting out there.

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The shade garden

Last summer I got a wild hare to till up an area of ailing grass between our house and a row of enormous black pines and turn it into a shade garden.

Real gardeners will have already seen the flaw in this plan: the black pines. In the time since I have also discovered that the dirt back there is useless–I mean, even grass wouldn’t grow well. But by the time I knew this I already had a lot of lovely plants, so I’m going ahead full steam. I am going to make a shade garden happen.

This summer we wanted to install septic service to our workshop/guest cottage, a 1200 square foot building that is currently without water service. We had an engineer come out in April and he determined that a septic line would have to be trenched right through my nascent shade garden. Bollocks.

So I moved everything out of it, and that’s why I’m just now getting around to planting it up. The pipe has been installed, and inspected, and covered up, and the garden is well and truly mine again (and this time, the soil has been well turned up and aerated, at least.)

A tour of the area

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The shade garden is approached by a few steps up from our driveway and gravel parking area. It is continuous with what I call the “terrace garden” or “driveway garden.” It’s planted up with a few things right now, but I plan to turn it into a grass garden next summer.

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Here we are at the top of the steps. On the other side of the fence are the black pines. In the corner is the sole remaining laurel–the terrace garden used to be full of them, but they were overgrown and unhealthy, so we removed all but this one.

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And here we are looking down the length of the shade garden from the same vantage point. This end of the garden is the “shady end.” A narrow bar of direct sunlight moves across it in the afternoon; other than that, it’s full shade.

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And here is the length of the shade garden viewed from the other end, which I call the “sunny end.” This end receives several hours of direct sunlight. True shade plants suffer here.

And finally, here is a plot of the area:

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I intend to put a circular patio in the middle of it, secondly because it will be nice to have a place for some chairs, but primarily because I need a safe place to drag the hose through for watering. The area is enormous–47′ feet long, if memory serves?–so this is necessary. For the time being the patio and paths will just be weed barrier tacked down by border edging, but in the future I will lay pavers.

So, now for the planting.

The Border

I’ve had most things heeled in in the border under the pines. It is dry there because the pines stop moisture from falling and their roots suck up what does fall. The soil is also ferociously ericacious–it consists of the pines’ fallen and composted needles, which makes it acidic and low-nutrition. There are precious few plants that will cope with it. Even natives like bunchberry and deer ferns struggle. The three plants that do fine in it, I’ve found, are

-hostas
-brunnera
-pulmonaria

So that’s what I’m leaving in the border. I have about a gazillion hostas to work with; a few nice specimens (I like blues, greens, and whites; my favorites are Blue Ivory and Lakeside Paisley Print) but mostly sieboldiana and Patriot, which my local superstore sells as bagged roots in the spring. I will fill in the whole back of the border with these and front it with my few specimens of brunnera and as many pulmonaria as I can propagate.

Pulmonaria is a great plant, by the way. The foliage always looks good, the springtime flowers are striking, and it propagates by root cuttings, which means you get more of them by moving the ones you have once a year. The plant will quickly establish wherever you put it, and new plants will spring up in the hole you left behind.

At the very shady end of it I also have a Japanese aralia established and seemingly happy, so I will leave it, and two bleeding heart “Alba”s which have already died back for the season, so I don’t know where they are and can’t move them. C’est la vie.

The Sunny End

This end has something very close to full sun. Maybe not six hours a day, but several. I have three miniature box which I’ll plant along the edge and hope to eventually trim into box balls. I have a collection of heuchera which will go here, too, and scads of columbine “Barlow” mix. Other than that, I have to consider. This is not the inspired end of the garden, though the columbines will be lovely in spring.

Columbines are an excellent garden flower, by the way. If they’re happy–which it seems to me they are so long as they have good organic matter to get their roots into–their flowering spikes will be tall, almost at eye-level, so you can’t miss them. Once the flowers fade you trim the spikes off and you’re left with bushy greenery, about knee-high, that lasts all summer. They’re really useful for filling out planting schemes and easy to grow from seed. Highly recommended.

The Shady End

This is the inspired end. A lot of plants I have Special Feelings about go here. Among them:

-podophyllum Spotty Dotty, two specimens right now, maybe more later
-red lady ferns
-deer ferns
-several varieties of purple clover
-shamrocks in green, purple, and Iron Cross
-variegated wild ginger
-trilliums and jack-in-the-pulpits
-black snakeroot, which I’ve never been able to make happy before, fingers crossed
-rodgersia Bronze Peacock
-dicentra

Bulbs

I planted bulbs in the shade garden last autumn and they performed dismally. Because I’m amending the soil now I hope they’ll do better. If they don’t, I’ll give up on bulbs in this area. Among the ones I’m trying are:

-snowdrops
-muscari in pastel colors
-snake’s-head fritillaries, which didn’t grow AT ALL last year
-leucojum or Giant Snowflake

Soil Amendment

This is the crucial thing. The soil that’s there is rocky and, now at the end of summer, dusty. As I plant I’m working in a 1 cubic foot bag of manure/compost blend for every trio of plants. In the spring I’ll add blood fish and bone meal, then a really heavy bark mulch. In the autumn I’ll put on more manure/compost. If I keep up this regimen, I hope to eventually have decent soil in this area.

The climate here in the Puget Sound region is somewhat difficult, by the way. The ground rarely freezes in winter and there’s no sustained extreme heat in the summer, but we’re very wet in the winter and very dry in the summer. We average 44″ of precipitation per year, about 90% of which happens in 50% of the year. In the summer we regularly go 90 days with less than a quarter inch of precipitation, often much less, sometimes none at all. This means that plants which want to drown and rot will do it in the winter, while plants that don’t want to dry out ever need constant tending in the summer.

We’ll see where it goes. We’ll see.

Recipe: pumpkin slab pie in a graham cracker crust

Or, Pumpkin Pie for People Who Don’t Like Pumpkin Pie

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As I tweeted this weekend when I was making this for the second time already this fall: it’s milk, eggs, vegetables, and metabolically-beneficial spices in a whole-grain crust. Shut up.

But really, this pumpkin pie corrects the things that formerly stopped me from liking pumpkin pie.

First, the only spice is cinnamon. I have a constitutional aversion to most premade spice mixes and I have literally never bought a jar of “pumpkin pie spice” whatever that is. What do I dislike in it? Is there mace or cloves or nutmeg? They’re welcome in certain other things but not my pumpkin pie.

My friend Nikki, whose surname is even more Convoluted Dutch than my maiden one was, uses spekuloos spice in her pumpkin pie. I haven’t tried it myself, but it sounds promising.

Second, the filling is heavy on pumpkin flavor. I haven’t compared this recipe to others so I can’t intelligently speculate on why, but I guess it has less eggs and milk and other nonsense compared to pumpkin puree.

Third, the graham cracker crust. Ordinary pastry doesn’t provide enough contrast to pumpkin pie filling, I think (unlike, say, a fruit pie), which makes the whole thing feel monotonous. This graham cracker crust is chewy in some parts, crumbly in others, and darn tasty all by itself. The corner pieces of this pie are the ones people covet.

Without further ado:

-The pie is baked in a 9×13 baking dish, also known as a lasagna pan. My very favorite is this one one from HIC. I have two and want more.
-Preheat your oven to 375F

CRUST
-2 sleeves graham crackers
-1/2 c granulated sugar
-1/2 c aka one stick aka 4 ounces butter, melted

Crunch up the graham crackers into your food processor. Blitz for a second or two to get them mostly broken up. Add butter and sugar and blitz until the crumb is even, which should be only a few seconds.

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Dump the mixture into your baking dish and press it more or less evenly around the bottom and up the sides. It won’t go all the way, but make it go as far as you can.

Put the baking dish into the heating oven while you make the filling.

FILLING
-2 cans or 3.5 c pumpkin puree
-1 15-oz can evaporated (NOT CONDENSED!) milk
-1/2 c regular milk
-6 eggs
-1 c granulated sugar
-1.5 T cinnamon
-pinch salt

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Put everything in a bowl and mix until smooth. I do this part by hand and it is fine.

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Remove baking dish from oven, pour filling into crust, and return to oven for 50 minutes. At this point the exposed parts of the crust should be toasty and the top of the filling should be fairly dark, but it will still have a wobble in the middle. This will set as the pie cools.

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The butter and sugar in the crust will have caramelized during baking, which makes pieces somewhat difficult to prise out during the pie’s first few hours of life. Over time moisture from the filling will soften it up. This changes the eating quality (the crust will be chewy and crunchy at first, yum) but also makes it easier to serve, so decide for yourself which you prefer.

Enjoy!

Recipe: French onion, beef, and barley soup

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What a hell of a week it’s been. My husband and I both work from home so Twitter is our virtual water cooler and eek. The weather turned truly into autumn so we’ve been running our furnace overnight and feeling a little surprised every time we go outside and it’s cold. And the guys finally showed up to install a septic line out to the workshop, so everything is Dug. Up. Let me tell you, if you want to gain a visceral appreciation of what mechanized labor has done for mankind, first dig a ditch by hand, then have some guys come in with an excavator. Oh, the tears for my aching back.

But I digress: this soup. Whipped up out of what I had on hand, like all the best things are. Savory and warming and sent a rippling wave of endorphins down my spine on a cold, wet, dark evening full of worries for our septic system and our democracy.

– 1 T cooking oil
– 4 cups roughly chopped white onion
– 4 cups beef broth
– 1 cup pearled barley
– splash of brandy
– pinch of thyme
– salt and pepper to taste
– optional: thin strips of beef, either a steak you’ve stir-fried yourself, or leftover pot roast, or (what I used) Trader Joe’s Braised Beef Roast, which comes ready-sliced

Rough chop the onions and put the oil in your soup pot. Brown the onions. On my stove any temperature that isn’t full-blast will brown them without burning, but YMMV so keep an eye on them. When they’re as brown as you have patience for, add the broth and barley, stir, turn temp to medium-low, cover, and let simmer for half an hour.

When you come back the barley should be cooked. Test to be sure and cook longer if necessary. Add brandy, spices, and beef and let simmer another five minutes, then eat, gratefully and with a clear conscience because this is good protein AND fiber and your hungry soul needs it. Serves 2 adults with big problems or 4 with small ones.

Would be excellent with cheese toasts.

Garden seed planning: autumn edition

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This is the level-headed time of year when I’m tired of garden work and the new seed catalogues haven’t yet arrived. This is the time of year when I am most capable of making sane, realistic plans for next year’s gardening.

Annual flowers: on this topic I have some experience and some advice. There are a few things that I will try to grow for sure because they’re so spectacular.

At the top of that list is ammi “Dara”, a cultivated Queen Anne’s Lace that blooms in shades of pink and purple. It is *sharp* looking, and I have gotten seeds from both Johnny’s and Plant World Seeds. Ammi is an annual in the sense that plants will flower for one season then die. The plants can, however, survive the winter if they haven’t flowered, and over the fall/winter/spring they build big strong root systems that make big strong plants. So I have started seedlings that I am planting out into the raised beds, where they will grow their taproots and stay, for cutting next summer. (fingers crossed)

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A bouquet of ammi “Dara” from last year

Another must-have cutting flower is Scabiosa “Black Knight.” Like ammi these plants will overwinter and get much bigger if they don’t flower their first year. Unfortunately my seed-starting efforts have come a cropper, so I’ll have to settle for small plants next year. I order my seed from Johnny’s, and after two years of only Black Knight (and one oddball white plant), I am branching out into their other shades next year.

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I always hear Hermione Granger saying “it’s sca-bi-O-sa, not sca-bi-o-SA”

Three more that were first-time from-seed flowers for me this year, but that performed beautifully, were dianthus Chabaud Benigna and china aster Tower Chamois, both from Johnny’s, and bachelor’s buttons Classic Magic mix from Swallowtail Garden Seeds. All three were easy and spectacular, and I’ll be trying a repeat performance next summer.

Now. Veg. The “serious” stuff. I am terrible about discipline in the vegetable garden. Up to this point I have mostly chosen seeds for novelty quality, and I end up growing tiny amounts of lots of different things. Next year, as usual, I am determined to mend my ways by growing only one variety apiece of only things I know we’ll actually eat. The list right now is:

Garlic: Early Italian Purple from Kitchen Garden Seeds. I’ve never grown garlic. I will plant it in a raised bed this autumn and harvest it, Og willing, roundabout July.

Shallots: French Red Shallots from Kitchen Garden Seeds. Also a first.

Radishes: either Easter Egg or Early Scarlet Globe, whichever I can buy off the shelf next spring. Both these varieties are fast and tasty, in the long cool PNW spring I can get many rounds of them in.

Beets: a color mixture for impressive salads to eat with salmon, salad, and dill blossoms. I have Jung’s Un-Beet-Able mixture seed left over and will use that.

Lettuce: something, please Og, I just want free salad. Last year I tried several varieties of seed and only had luck with Jung’s Multileaf Lettuce Blend, though I didn’t grow nearly enough. This lettuce was head-forming for me rather than cut-and-come again, the way something with a name like “French salad mix” would be. I’ll have to think about it. Cut-and-come again really is the best way to do lettuce.

Chard: this is another thing I have to make happen. We much prefer chard to spinach, kale, or collards. It is a brassica that can stand the mild winters around here, so I have seedlings planted out into the raised beds. I have both Bright Lights Mix and Ruby seed from Jung’s, and am having much better germination from the Ruby, so that’s what’s mostly out there. I will start more in the spring. This crop is cut-and-come-again.

Snow peas: I’ve grown Little Purple Snow Peas from Jung’s for two years. Experience tells me that they won’t take off unless they have something wonderful to climb. Old-fashioned pea sticks–a dead branch with lots of little branches stuck in the ground–worked better than bamboo canes.

Beans: last year I grew Rattlesnake climber beans and a three-color bush bean blend from Jung’s. The Rattlesnake beans were far superior. This year I grew Rattlesnake again alongside Blue Lake pole, which is a favorite variety. The Rattlesnake beans were far superior again. Next year I am only growing those, and I am growing a lot of them.

Tomatoes: ONE VARIETY ONLY. I am buying one packet and starting all the seed in it and that’s that. Because we have somewhat cool summers here, big beefsteaks and long-ripening varieties are no good. Whatever I grow needs to be under 80 days for sure, preferably under 70. For this reason, my single packet of tomato seed will probably be Sweet Tangerine, which comes from Burpee. It’s a yellow tomato so my sauce will be yellow (hmm), but it’s rated at 68 days and its flavor is really good. We used to grow this one in the Midwest, too.

Potatoes: I’ve grown them the last two years and they have been a triumph both times. So easy. So satisfying to dig up a bunch of potatoes. And the flavor really is superb–much superior to store bought. This year I bought a bag of yellow, red, and blue seed potatoes, and we loved the blue ones so much that I’m going to try for only blue next year.

Zucchini: we love this and eat lots of it. I’ll get a long green variety instead of a novelty one. I grew Pool Ball from Jung’s one year and they were fun, but fiddlier to prepare.

Squash: I’ll grow Sugar Dumpling just because I love its colors so much

Cabbage and broccoli: I am through trying to grow either of these. This year in the garden my Red Fire broccoli didn’t start to flower until…well, now, and the Dead On cabbage was gorgeous, but they’re both being consumed by aphids. I give up. No more cabbage or broccoli.


My cabbage is full of insect eggs, dammit.

Pumpkins: here we come to my weakness. Every year since we moved here I’ve planted a few pumpkin seeds in the least desirable corner of the garden and watched them suffer. Next year, I declare it now, I will give them good space and I will grow myself some beautiful punkins, because I’m susceptible like that. White ones. Blue ones. Pink ones. I don’t care if they’re good to eat. I just want pretty punkins.

Dill Pickles, my way

It’s come down to the time of year when the tomatoes in my garden need to be put up or shut up. In the Midwest, which had screaming-hot summers, our tomatoes would often fully ripen and be finished by sometime in September. Now that we’re in the mild PNW, we don’t get any ripe tomatoes until September and always, always have lots still on the vine when the October rains begin and everything grows mold and dies.

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So: I have a lot of green tomatoes to do what I will with, and that’s good, because green tomatoes are my very favorite vegetable for brine pickling. I like to eat them with fatty fish dishes: with roasted salmon or trout and sour cream, or with spicy fried catfish, hush puppies, and cole slaw. You can pickle other vegetables besides tomatoes too, of course. Cucumbers are the classic, but okra and green beans also make good dill pickle.

My recipe is simple: for each pint jar (and note that the pictures in this post are of half-pints, so I halved this part), put 2t dill seed, 2 peeled cloves garlic, and a pinch of red pepper flakes into the bottom of the jar before you pack in the tomatoes. (If you grow your own dill, you can use whole dried heads of dill flowers, and pack them artistically in the jar).

The proportions for the brine are 1c water: 1c vinegar: 1.5T pickling salt or 2T coarse kosher salt (its bigger grains don’t pack as tightly in the measuring spoon, so you use more).

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Once you’ve packed your jars and topped them off with brine, you can just stick them in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks, then eat them at will. Or, if you hate having forgotten jars of pickles in the back of your fridge the way I do, you can can them with a water-bath process.

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Water-bath canning is easy but does need to be done correctly. Read through the USDA home canning guide before you start. On top of its instructions, my top tips are:

1. Slice the tomatoes before packing them so the brine gets into them really well. Big tomatoes get cut into wedges while little tomatoes like mine get halved.

2. Pack them in really tight. The water bath process cooks the tomatoes, which makes them shrink. If they weren’t in there tight to begin with, you’ll end up with a lot of empty space in your jar, which will make you sad.

3. Boil your brine before you put it in the jars. This helps them get up to temperature for processing more quickly (and also ensures the salt is dissolved).

4. The post-processing step of washing your jars and rings THOROUGHLY is extra-important for pickles because any stray acid will corrode the lids and rings. So keep it clean, people.

5. Remember to label your pickles!

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Autumn Garden

What? Am I still here? The way my blogging habits have been going I can’t promise I’ll stay, but I’m here right now so be it.

Autumn is coming into the garden. It was a huge year: my second with Gardener’s World (we’re watching it via BritBox these days) and all the grand ambitions it brings on. I now I have two perennial borders (40′ by 7′ apiece), four raised beds, a veg patch, a large terraced area by the driveway, and a shade garden…which I had to tear apart this summer because we’re due (some day…when we’re old and gray) to have a septic pipe trenched through it so hus-tree can have water in the workshop.

I planted the first perennial border last summer, so I got to see it come up this spring. It was glorious but also needed a lot of working and moving-around, which I did in the heat of the summer, which was a stupid thing to do. My plants are mostly crispy but somehow also mostly alive.

The veg patch has been a little more successful.

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It doesn’t look tidy. Veg patches in real life just don’t.

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This is Dead On, a red savoy cabbage that I grew purely for beauty. This is the largest of six heads I have growing, and I’ll pick it soon–and take pictures. Savoys are always so gorgeous on the inside, and I can’t wait to see a red one.

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The tomatoes were a mishmash of experiments and desperation: three cherry tomato plants grown from seed I saved from a punnet of Trader Joe’s heirloom cherry tomatoes. I’m happy to report that they all grew true, so TJ isn’t pulling your leg about the heirloom part.

I also bought three mismatched tomato plants in a moment of desperation when I thought my seedlings weren’t going to pull through. Note for future years: the tomato seedlings always pull through. They’re just waiting for it to get warm.

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I’m growing tiny pumpkins this year for decorations, some orange…

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…and some white. The nice part about miniature pumpkins is that they’re prolific. And oh, these white pumpkins, they look so good with everything.

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Good with the broccoli (variety Red Fire, which didn’t flower in the spring–only just starting now after taking up half the garden all summer)

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Good with dahlia “Edinburgh.”

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Mabon is pretty much over now, but my hall table is still into it.

Garden report, 10 March

Hello hello. The snow and frost are gone and we’re back to our normal springtime weather, which is to say, it rains a lot less and sometimes the sun comes out, but it still isn’t very warm, though this weekend might creep into the 60s. OooOOOooh.

I have the greenhouse going and all’s well there, though. Lots of bareroot hostas, peonies, bleeding heart, and tricyrtis are potted up and sprouting in big pots, and I have several seed flats doing their things. I have tomato seeds sprouting on a heat mat indoors, and wow, are they ever gratifying. So vigorous compared to the perennial seeds out in the greenhouse.

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I saved seeds from a punnet of Trader Joe’s “heirloom” cherry tomatoes. They came in four colors, red, orange, yellow, and chocolate, and I wanted to see if they’d 1. grow and 2. come true to their parents. So far they’ve done item 1 in abundance, with a germination rate of over 75%. If they really are heirlooms then the fruit will be like their parents and I’ll be in clover as far as tomato seed is concerned.

As far as actual blooming plants, those are still pretty thin on the ground. Hellebores and snowdrops are the main show.

The last two years, I bought half-price clearance hellebores from an online retailer I’d been used to ordering from. Their plants are quite small though, and don’t hold up well to the fungi and viruses that are so rampant around here. I haven’t lost any, but some are puny even after having a year to get their roots down. So this year I sprang for two full-price, big, healthy new hellebores from a nearby nursery. This is a better way to do it. They’ll bloom–a lot–next year, and resist disease.

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The camellias are also blooming, which is the latest we’ve ever seen them do it. I think this is because I pruned them too late last summer and took off many of the developing buds, but they’re probably due for a solid dose of compost and some special feeding this year, too.

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I planted a lot of fritillary bulbs last fall, but this spring I couldn’t resist buying some pots of them already in the green. Those are beginning to bloom for me now, and they make me want to grow nothing but fritillaries, everywhere, all the time.

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Besides seed starting and bud-watching, gardening at this time of year is about cleaning up. The new shade garden–I call it the Secret Garden–is under a line of black pines that drop needles and sticks in the winter windstorms, so before everything begins to grow I’m raking out the big chunks, leaving the rest to rot into ericaceous compost, which is what the plants in that area like. It’s not glamorous work, but it’s necessary. Also on the docket: use sharp sand and a push broom to scrub moss off the hard surfaces; spread nutritious compost in beds that want it; and for pity’s sake, keep a record of where the spring bulbs are planted, so I know where to plant MORE in the fall.

That’s it for the garden round-up. I am writing more books, baking bread, KonMari-ing the house, and cooking up more knitting patterns, too. Look for a new sock pattern release as soon as I can finish knitting the model. I really love this one!

The garden begins

Okay, here we go. We’ve just had a horribly cold, snowy week but the weather was nice before and after it, and we’re eight weeks out from the average last frost of the year, so I’ve put a new cover on my little greenhouse and sown the first round of seeds.

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My kid was…holy cats…SO happy. She danced and sang and wrote out the markers for me, carried pots here and there, even poked her fingers in the dirt, which was unimaginable last year. She wanted to “garden all day,” and ate her lunch in the greenhouse. Life felt very, very good.

I’ve started the flower seeds marked as to-be-sown 6-8 weeks ahead of the last frost, including three varieties of foxglove, lavender, cerastium, rockcress, bergenia, dianthus, sweet peas, and I don’t know what all else. I also tried the marigold seeds I saved from last year and, because I’ve never grown them and don’t know what I’m doing, sowed all the annual artichoke seeds. It will be a learning experience.

Then we potted up all the cheap bagged hosta roots I’ve bought. Fourteen so far. Is that enough to be going on with…? Today is looking like another nice day. We will pot up the peonies.

I’m older and wiser this year, in my gardening and in my writing. I feel like I’ve completely given up on clinging to first efforts, or the idea that anything lost is a failure. I have sown seeds here that I hope will grow into plants I won’t use, because a good garden is as much about what you don’t put in as what you do. Ditto books. I am ready to rip out a whole sub-plot. A little nonplussed that no one who read the MS told me to. We’re still in the early stages with it, but it’s moving ahead faster than I thought.

Which I hope the garden will, too. Everyone said that last spring was the coldest and wettest on record. Gardeners were livid. Stuff that needed warm soil couldn’t be put out until June. Here’s to a better, happier year.

Leyline Socks

Hello everyone! I’ve uploaded a new sock pattern to Ravelry (they really make it so easy).

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First coined by archaeologist Alfred Watkins in 1921, the term “leyline” refers to alignments of landforms and ancient manmade structures in the landscape. They likely came about as a line-of-sight navigation system in the prehistoric world, but some think they might have had spiritual significance, too.

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Leyline Socks are knit toe-up with a Turkish cast-on and short row heels. The easily memorizable chart ensures that you won’t need a line of sight to the instructions after you get going, leaving plenty of brainpower to ponder your own spiritual significance.