Dear Friend and Gardener: July 4, 2014

Dear Friend and Gardener,

Happy Fourth of July! Hope you take the day off and enjoy a tomato sandwich.

By Jnn13 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Jnn13 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (, via Wikimedia Commons

Dear Friend and Gardener: June 27, 2014

Dear Friend and Gardener,

It was another hot and dry week in the garden. I fed the beans with some nettle tea to perk them up. I’m starting to see flea beetle damage but the plants are big enough to be able to withstand it, I think. I have also sown a second crop elsewhere in the garden in case these do surrender their fight before long.

The tomatoes are showing signs of ripening, particularly the Principe Borgheses. I am so ready for them! I love dried tomatoes, particularly in the dead of winter, but have never tried drying any of my own. Another kitchen adventure awaits. The basil tastes splendid and there is plenty of it.

I noticed a little mildew on one of my honeyberries the other day. I shall spray it with a little milk spray if it gets truly bad, but I’m willing to let a lot go for the sake of avoiding toxic sprays. It doesn’t look terrible unless you get up close, and if you get that close, well, you shouldn’t be walking on my garden beds to begin with.

I transplanted a few Blue Hubbard squash seedlings sown from the packets I got at the seed library. I have heard that nasturtiums planted with squash will help deter squash bugs. Do you know if this is true?

Hope your garden is giving you joy and lots of tomatoes.






Dear Friend and Gardener: June 20, 2014

Dear Friend and Gardener,

After a week of brutal heat, today we have a slight break. It will only be 90 today, humidity 68%, feels like 102. A storm last night brought some much-needed rain, although in temperatures like this, moisture evaporates from the ground rapidly. I finished extending the drip irrigation and topped off the mulch. Everything (except me) looks just a bit fresher.

My pickles turned out not too bad. I feel that the recipe I used is a good starting point. I used an off-the-shelf pickling spice but it is heavy on the cloves. I am thinking of mixing up my own, or at least picking out the cloves until I have used up this batch.

ground cherries (physalis)

I have tiny peppers on my jalapeno and anaheim plants. The ground cherries are now about 4′ by 4′ and covered with little paper bells where the fruits will form. They shade the lettuces well; I can’t believe the lettuce hasn’t collapsed completely in the heat. And most peculiarly, the peas are hanging on for dear life. I think I must get ruthless and cut them down in the next week or so–they’ll only get sad as the summer goes on, and I could use the real estate in the bed for something more productive.

Tomato 'Principe Borghese' is great for drying.

Tomato ‘Principe Borghese’ is great for drying.

Lots of tomatoes on my Principe Borghese plants and on ‘Sophie’s Choice.‘ The ‘Sophie’s Choice’ are slightly shaded by the peas and the cucumbers so I hope they’ll prove resilient, at least until the fruit ripens. They don’t care for high heat. I need to start another batch of plants in my seedling bed. The summer tasks never end, do they? (I wouldn’t be very happy if they did.)

Tomato 'Sophie's Choice'

Tomato ‘Sophie’s Choice’ is a short-season variety.

Hope you are well and that your garden is flourishing.





Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day: June 2014

Carol at May Dreams Gardens hosts Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day on the 15th of each month. I’m a little bit behind.

It’s starting to get hot, but the yarrow, daylilies, helianthus, and salvias shrug it off.

summer border daylilies yarrow iris tiger lilies

Lilium tigrinum, Hemerocallis ‘Grand Opera’ and ‘Prince Redbird,’ Iris sibirica ‘Caesar’s Brother’ and Achillea filipendulina ‘Cloth of Gold’ embrace the heat

In a shadier section of the garden, Hemerocallis ‘Chicago Royal’ has found an attractive companion in rose campion, Lychnis coronaria.

Hemerocallis 'Chicago Royal' and rose campion (Lychnis coronaria).

Hemerocallis ‘Chicago Royal’ and rose campion (Lychnis coronaria).

Fat gardenia buds unfurl overnight and release their rich perfume during the day.

gardenia bloom

And the deer visit. The area of the garden just beyond the gardenia hedge has been decimated: daylilies, lilacs, and hostas have been nibbled to sad little stalks. I need to spray the deer repellant, but it’s rained at night lately. I need to find a solution to make it stick for a week or so. Any suggestions?

Dear Friend and Gardener: June 13, 2014

Dear Friend and Gardener,

A hot and muggy week, with downpours every night. This is the summer weather I remember from childhood. I spent the morning building a trellis for the tomatoes, which have outgrown their stakes, and preparing containers for the second round of tomatoes that will come from the suckers I pinched off the first ones. I’m not wasting a thing!

The beans (‘Provider’ bush beans) seem to have taken a pause. I cannot blame them; I don’t want to work much in this humidity, either. I keep them picked and hope they’ll recover a bit when we’ve had a few days below 90. I’ve read that pollen dies above 86F, so that would explain why production is shallowing out. I saw a nice fat bee lurching from flower to flower as I picked a handful this morning. I hope he remembers to come back.

I acquired some new seeds from the local seed library and got them started in the house yesterday. Do you have a seed library in your town? I love it and I am telling everyone who’ll give me the time of day to stop and check out some seeds. My neighbor politely asked me not to tell his wife, a dear friend who shares my gardening compulsions, but I had to inform him that he was too late. She was already making her list. I am going to ask her to join me and Plant a Row for the Hungry.

I’ve harvested enough cucumbers to start making pickles. I found what I hope will be a good recipe for producing authentic, city-kosher-deli-tasting pickles. A good pickle is hard to find and I have never much cared for the sweet, bread-and-butter types. I will know in about a week whether the recipe is worthwhile and if it is, I will share it with you.

Wishing you just enough rain and hoping the tornadoes stay far away.