Category Archives: slacking off

What a difference two weeks makes

We have been keeping up with the watering, and the weather cooled down for a couple of days, which has been so helpful:

Back 40 – corn in the foreground, ground cherries in the middle and pumpkins towards the back

The advantage – if there is one – to the pandemic is that we are home. All the time. So we’re actually caught up on weeding and have had time to sit and do nothing, which is a new, novel experience. I’ve actually sat in the Adirondack chairs by my fire pit several times this summer, admiring my neatly-sculpted yard:

Of course, when I look at it too long, I see things I want to change, other projects I could be starting, and then remember that the hostas need to be split and moved. The hostas will always need to be split and moved – does anyone actually buy hostas anymore, or are they just divided off one plant, continuing on for all of eternity, that got too large in the Garden of Eden and was cast out along with Adam and Eve? It seems fitting – “Oh hey, since you’re going, how about some plants to get you started?”

And the season begins

Howdy!  It only seems like we didn’t do any gardening last year, because I never updated the blog.  We did grow plenty of vegetables, although the Back 40 garden was a complete disaster, overwhelmed by weeds.  I was also overwhelmed by a new job, hence no posts.  But we’re back, and this year there’s a new plan.

This year we are of course doing the usual in the front gardens:

Tomatoes 5-22
Tomato plants

Eggplants & peppers
Eggplants & peppers

These are the leftovers, which we will be giving away to friends and family.  Old MacDonald likes to have extras on hand, in case of premature vegetative death.  Or because he has the flats, so why not fill them?  I just nod and smile; as we all know, I don’t do the seeds.

Out back, though, we’ll be trying something new and different.  In previous years, the Back 40 has been a 25′ x 90′ monstrosity of a garden, where whatever is planted must survive on its own – we’ll weed, but we don’t water, and we’ll fence it to keep critters out but we don’t do much about the bugs.  Last year was such a disaster, weed wise, that we knew we had to do something different this year.  It was so bad we barely harvested anything from the gardens and I refused to go back there by late July because the conditions were so depressing.

This year we’re cutting that garden in half.  As much as we’d like to add to the square foot total of gardens, to make people question our sanity (go ahead, we do too!) – last year was depressing from a yield perspective and until we retire, we need to do what we can manage.  Its been reconfigured, too – a series of raised mounds of dirt to help create beds that can be mulched to keep down weeds:

The new Back 40 configuration
The new Back 40 configuration

We’ll fence it, as we always do, and we’re going to try putting down grass clippings as our mulch to control weeds and lock in moisture.  We’ll see how it goes.

Summer begins

So once again, I cannot take a lot of credit for moving the garden from concept to reality – J has done the lion’s share of the seedling care & planting. I did go on a massive weeding spree this past weekend, so the gardens are attractive enough to be posted on the internet:

Main garden
Main garden

Parsnips, carrots, turnips, beets
Parsnips, carrots, turnips, beets

Herbs & lettuce
Herbs & lettuce

It has been such a cold spring that growth has been sluggish.  Everything went into the ground the weekend of May 17th but it’s barely done anything.  I know the heat of July will kick everything into high gear.

One crop that is doing well are the hops – J bought three different types a few years ago.  The first year we put them in pots outside our sun porch, and ran them up a trellis.  Last year they were transplanted out into a sunny spot in the area where the orchard is going to go, and this year he split them.  Several of them are already higher than five feet:

Hop vines - without flowers (yet)
Hop vines – without flowers (yet)

Two years ago J grew barley, with the intent of trying to brew his own beer.  The birds ate most of it, and Max napped in what the birds didn’t get.  It was less than optimal, so we’ve abandoned barley.  And beer brewing, truth be told.  Turns out Sam Adams makes perfectly acceptable beer, and it is ten times easier to get it at the store.  Go figure.

Finally, the back garden went in this weekend – this year, everything is being started from seed (watermelons, corn, beans, peas, pumpkins, etc.) so there’s nothing to look at here except exceptionally fluffy soil and beautiful rows achieved with the assistance of some John Deere tractor attachment that’s been cluttering up our basement.  Meaning that it gets to live another year at our house, because there is no way I want to rake a 25′ x 90′ garden into parallel rows.

Back 40, after planting
Back 40, after planting

And now we wait.


So I have an extraordinarily busy schedule for this week and next after work.  Unfortunately, we are in prime seedling starting season, which means that poor J had to start my snapdragons.

Not grown by me

Snapdragons are native to North Africa and the Mediterranean, and are apparently incredibly fussy when it comes to getting them started.  The package directions say to sow them in vermiculite, and to only sow them on top of the soil and not to cover them as they need light to germinate.  They also need cooler temperatures, so they can’t be placed on a heat mat.  After sprinkling the seeds on top of the soil, they need to be misted lightly with water and monitored – they can take up to three weeks to germinate.  I picked about 4 different colors to grow, plus a type that drapes so I can grow my own hanging baskets this year.

The geraniums, apparently, need a completely different starting process.

Also not grown by me

We’re apparently already behind the 8-ball on this one, as many online gardening sites suggest sowing the seeds by mid-February for a mid-May planting.  The particular brand I selected this year requires soaking before planting.  Geraniums are sown into the soil and then thoroughly watered from underneath rather than sprinkling water on the top of the cells.  They need a lot of light and temperatures between 70-75 degrees during the day and 55-60 at night.  Under the right conditions, they will germinate in about 7-10 days. 

Ours germinated in two days.  Two.  And two of the five planted seeds germinated the next day.  Moral of the story?  Don’t believe everything you read on the internet; sometimes it’s wrong.  So our new concern is not killing them.  After all, this was the most expensive package of seeds – $2.25 for 5.  But a potted 4″ geranium retails for $3.99 around here, so if we can keep them alive, it’s a significant savings.

When we were placing our seed order, J told me that he was going to put all the flower seed starting in my hands.  So far he’s done all of it.  What a guy!  Of course, if this is successful, I will be unable to say that I grew all my own flowers from seed, because that will be categorically untrue as I have thus far done none of the work.

In August, when the gardens look great and my flower containers are at their height, I am always enormously pleased with how wonderful everything looks.  I forget what a pain in the you-know-what this is to get going.