Category Archives: Garden

Things Are Gonna Start Changing Around Here

Last weekend saw our last substantial harvest of the 2011 garden (there’s still some boc choy growing all happily and greenly, and there was a bit of a catnip haul this morning) — the carrots.

Carrot Haul

That’s six pounds, five ounces of carrots. Not too shabby, considering we almost didn’t get around to planting them!

It was another good year for Maple Hoo, but you know what? Good garden seasons are totally boring now. Every year we have some good crops, and some bad crops, and some “meh, whatever” crops. It’s all super-fun (despite being horribly stressful, but we always forget about the worrying about seeds germinating, and then baby plants not growing fast enough, and then veggies not fruiting enough or fruiting too much, or whatever), but it’s also stuff we don’t ever really think to blog about, because hey — it’s the garden. Doing its garden thing. What can we say? We have short attention spans.

June 28 2011

This was before it grew completely out of control. Seriously. We didn’t do a great job of pruning and training this year.

Fortunately our yard has undergone a lot of tree damage in the last year, so now we’ve got all kinds of new locations for newer, better garden projects!

First up, our side yard. Once upon a time we had a row of hemlocks lining the far side of our driveway; they were technically on the neighbor’s side of the property line. In the last year, though, the trees have all died. And then started leaning precariously on each other. And we had to nag and nag at the bank that owns the abandoned property to do something about them before they fell over on our cars.

November 4 2008

It’s like an enchanted wood! That shields our view of the creepy abandoned house next door…

Finally this summer the bank sent someone out to take care of the trees. They must have been paying the by the stump, though, because the tree people took out the dead trees, as well as a bunch of old-growth shrubs and a few hale, healthy trees while they were at it. They left a decimated, desolate moonscape in their wake.

The New View

This is the photogenic version of the view. Truly, it was a horrorshow.

It took us about 15 seconds to get a contract in place for someone to install a fence, any fence. We didn’t care what it looked like, as long as it didn’t look like the tarps and pond equipment in the neighboring yard.

Its A Lot Of Fence

Ahhh, sweet blocker of the dreadful view.

Now that we have a fence there, we can’t understand why we waited so long. You know what you can do with fences? Hang holiday lights on them!

October 2 2011

Bonus!

Also, the fence has bounded a previously invisible to us swath of yard next to our garage.

Blank Slate

Who even knew this space was here??

Now we have a spot to put in grapevines! And gourds! And a mulched woodland path running from the driveway to the compost bins behind the garage! And rhododendrons and pachysandra along the side of the garage! And daffodils and crocuses! And we’ll put a little bistro table and chairs along the way, to stage potted flowers! Thanks to the devastation of the hemlocks, Maple Hoo is gaining a vineyard. It’s going to be awesome.

Meanwhile, we finally had to admit this summer that our sad old oak tree was more “falling on the garage and smushing the roof” hazard than actual tree.

Oak Tree

So long, old tree.

It’s been a long time since the oak had much of a leafy canopy, but it was quite a shock to see how much more sun the back corner of the yard got as soon as all those branches and enormous trunk were gone. Sun that shines on the weird, ugly rectangle of mulch that used to be the location of the previous owner’s swingset.

Future Home Of The Bramble

We swear, it’s sometimes sunny there.

We’ve been trying for years to let nature take back this rectangle and at least fill it with green stuff, if not actual lawn, but every time we ask our gardener guy to mulch the apple trees in the front yard, he always brings way more mulch than he needs, and puts it on the rectangle. Because, you know, people love to have random swaths of their yards mulched for no obvious reason.

Future Home Of The Bramble

Yeah, that’s attractive. Ish?

In a flash of brilliance, though, Pookie realized that maybe it was a good thing that the gardener and his crew were so over-enthusiastic, because now that there’s some sun there, we have a perfect, undeveloped spot just crying out for a blackberry bramble! One we’ve already planted with daffodils along the front! It’ll have an enchanted little path rambling through it! And have spots for potted flowers and some hellebores! And someday we’ll expand it to embrace Boomer’s beloved little Japanese maple, with a decorative bridge and a river of squill and it’ll be awesome!

Finally, there was the hugely tragic tree damage.

Shade Tree

Oh, beloved maple tree…

We had a massive freak snowstorm in October, before the titular maple of Maple Hoo had a chance to drop its leaves. Snow + lots of leaves = more weight than the branches can bear.

The Devastation

At least nothing landed on the house.

The maple ended up losing well over half of its canopy, and is likely not to be too much longer for this world. We rejected the tree guy’s recommendation to cut it down now, but it’s time for us to start planning for the future, and take advantage of the reduction of shade canopy. See all that yard with fallen branches on it up there? If you squint at it, you can just about see all the blueberries we’re going to fill the backyard with. Blueberries! Gazillions of them!

Blueberries

We’re talking about someday harvesting TWO handfuls of these bad boys.

Thanks to the maple mayhem of Snowtober, Maple Hoo (now with less maple) is going to become a full-fledged berry farm! Come spring, we’ll be planting blueberries, golden raspberries, gooseberries, currants, loganberries, marionberries, boysenberries, not to mention more red raspberries and, of course, the blackberries in the bramble. It’s going to be an unstoppable berry machine! It’s so great to have new shiny objects to get excited about.

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Kids — They Grow Up So Fast

So it seems like just yesterday we were wringing our hands in a state of constant parental worry about whether our tomato plants were going to survive. First we forgot to plant them altogether, so they got a late start that basically assured they’d never get into an Ivy League school. Then we planted them outside immediately before an unseasonably cold and rainy stretch, making it impossible for them to grow big enough to make a varsity sports team. Then it got unseasonably hot and dry, so our little plants got limp and lank and so unattractive that they would never be able to get a good job. It was horrible. We reached our nadir a few weeks ago, basically admitting to each other that we suspected this year’s garden was going to be one big, huge bust. Why couldn’t it be more like last year’s garden? Or the one before that? Those were great gardens, with big crops that could make a parent proud. What was wrong with this one? Was it a changeling?

But the great thing about gardening is that if you have sun and water, it’s really hard to screw up. Nature wants things to grow, yo. And just after we hit rock bottom we stepped outside, took a gander at the beds, and realized that our garden had turned a corner. Our babies were growing up. Our tomatoes, every last one, were sporting wee little green fruits. Here’s a family portrait of our children:

Family Portrait

We have a wide array of shapes and sizes growing out there — from left to right, top to bottom we’re looking at Red Pears, Tiny Tim, Cherokee Purple, Brown Betty, Rose de Berne, Blondkopfchen, Rosso Sicilian, Lemon Drop, German Green, Lemon Drop again, Fox Cherry, and Isis Candy Shop. The only one we’ve grown before is the Fox (an enormous and almost comically productive [and scrumptious] cherry tomato that was last year’s biggest hit), so we’re really excited about having a whole rainbow of tomato options. Now that they’re all fruiting up, it’s fair to say that while they might not be the most perfect plants ever (we have a bit of a bacterial speck issue, but then, we always do), we love them just the way they are.

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Filed under 7. July, Can't Wait To Eat That Monkey

The Garden Lives!

From March until May we live in a constant state of worrying about the seedlings — Are they getting enough sun? Are they big enough? Are they getting watered enough? Did we even plant anything on time?! Finally May rolls around and we can transplant the stuff to the beds. Only, then we spend the next two weeks worrying that nothing’s taking and we’re going to have to buy replacement plants and everything’s going to be ruined. It’s really only in June when things calm down enough to really just enjoy the garden for the first time.

State of the Garden June 9 2011

We’ve been harvesting some stuff already, mostly from the lettuce farm on the deck. The lettuce farm has turned out to be a delightful addition to Maple Hoo. So far the winner of the taste test has been Yugoslavian Red, but we’ve got a long summer and a dozen more varieties to try. Schnookie also made the astonishing discovery that a nice bowl of pasta tastes a million times awesomer for the addition of some arugula, so we’ve added that to our list of things to grow on the deck.

Lettuce Farm

Forellenschluss

Meanwhile, in the front yard things are looking good. We harvested a delightful amount of green garlic, and then the scapes came in not long after. Some of the garlic was bulbs we’d saved from last year, making them essentially completely free! (Or something.)

Scapes

We also harvested the coral shell peas, which were as early as advertized. They also were short and didn’t need trellising. In short, they’re wonder peas! We’ll be planting them again next year for sure. We planted a second variety which looked to be dead in the water — literally; there was a lot of rain this spring. When things dried out, though, they bounced back and are starting to pod up now.

May 30 2011

Peas Rearing Their Head

Everything else is chugging along. After looking like they might not make it, the tomatoes have all established themselves nicely. The various cherry tomatoes, in particular, are looking hearty, with blossoms just starting to form. The peppers needed one last rainy weekend before they were ready to turn from seedlings into nice green leafy plants. The broom corn, beans, and pumpkins are all thinned and starting to fill out. (Some of the beans are also growing up. We sorta kinda ordered pole beans when we meant to get bush beans and we sorta kinda didn’t notice until they were all planted. Oops.)

June 6 2011

Not Pumpkiny Yet

Climbing Beans

Senor Patata Flowers

So far the only major set-back has been with the sunflowers we planted outside the garden fence. They were looking awesome, but something — rabbit? deer? — ate them all up. Jerks! Oh, and the passalong raspberries Schnookie got from a co-worker are looking pretty sad. Good thing the old canes (and the blackberries) are looking good.

Raspberry

June 12 2011

So as of mid-June, things are looking good! Here’s hoping the next four months go as well. This year we’re partaking in a Flickr project called Garden Grub 120; we’re taking a picture every day for 120 days of what we eat from the garden (or sometimes, on lazy nights, just a picture of the garden itself). You can follow along with our pictures here or with the group as a whole here.

June 14 2011

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Filed under 5. May, 6. June, Garden, Pictures Worth A Thousand Words

Garden 2011: Getting Closer!

We transplanted little baby plants today! Not into actual garden beds, but out of their seedling-starting trays at least. Yay! Now all we need is for the weather to get warm!

Transplanted Rosso Tomato

Lettuce Farm, Day One

April 17 2011

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Filed under 4. April, Garden

Are We There Yet? How About Now? Now? How About Now?

As I have advanced deeper and deeper into what can be considered “adulthood” I’ve become increasingly cranky about March. In each of the last few years I’ve just wanted March to go away; it’s an annoyingly unproductive month, where winter isn’t fun anymore but spring is still impossibly far away. And now that the time changes three weeks earlier than it did when I was a young, carefree lass? Forget about it. Now we’ve got three miserable weeks of the sun setting late enough that March is just mocking us with how not springy it is.

But this year was different. This year, after a rare (for us) winter that was entirely blanketed with snow, I didn’t mind March. Sure, it was hardly a barnburner for us photography-wise, and sure, it was cruelly warm and crocusy and then BOOM! cold and snowy again, but before I knew it we’d hit March 31 and I hadn’t complained once about it. So what should happen to me immediately after flipping over the calendar to the lovely month of April? Why, of course I’m suddenly losing my mind. Why isn’t it spring yet? Where are the leaves? Why isn’t it warm? And most importantly, why isn’t the garden in full swing?

That’s right — I’ve got a bad case of Garden Fever.

Fortunately, we planted lettuce at Imbolc, so we’ve got at least some crops not too far on the horizon. Look! Lettuce!

Imbolc Lettuce

It’s not nearly ready to eat, but it’s leafy! And green!

Imbolc Lettuce

We still seem to be insufferably far away from having regular photo opportunities of veggie leaves wearing jewels of water droplets, though.

Imbolc Lettuce

I mean, look at how small our peppers are:

Jalapeno Seedlings

And those are the biggest of the pepper seedlings. It’s a sad scene. April, I never expected this from you — I thought you were better than March. Shape up, April, because I want — nay, need to be in full garden swing. It’s not enough to know that someday those baby peppers will be all grown up.

July 6 2010

[Posted by Schnookie.]

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Filed under 4. April, Garden

An Important Announcement About Gardening

I was getting all ready to start putting together posts about our recent awesome vacation in Dallas, but then something amazing happened that is putting the organization of our (kick-ass) pictures on hold. Look at this:

Inadvertent Harvest

Dozens of frying peppers, ranging from zesty green to sweet red! Buckets of spicy purple peppers! A surprising handful of basil! And underneath that all, quarts of fresh tomatillos! This was what we shook off the plants in our garden today when we started in on the end-of-season plant removal from the beds. This is a garden that we have literally been neglecting for the last six weeks. Literally. We haven’t watered, or trimmed, or weeded, or pruned, or anything. We walked away, and when we came back, this stuff was waiting for us.

Tomatillos

Perhaps even more significantly, we hadn’t even planted tomatillos this year. Or the year before. Or the year before that. They just sprung up out of the dirt, and because we were neglecting the garden, they were perfectly content just to hum along bearing fruit with nary a care in the world. And this leads me to an important announcement: apparently you can do literally nothing and still successfully grow vegetables. Whenever I hear someone remark that gardening is difficult, or that we have some kind of special skills or wizardry to draw the bounteous bounty from our front yard, my response tends to be “pish posh! I have no idea what I’m doing, and it still works!” But here is proof. If you have dirt and you introduce — in any way at all, even in theoretically inert seeds from years-old compost — vegetable plants to that dirt, you can garden. Nature just wants shit to grow, you know?

[Posted by Schnookie]

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Filed under Bonanza!, Garden, Harvested, Lessons Learned, We Grew This

The Garden, On Its Way Into Memorial Day

We made a vow this year to be better about documenting our garden’s progress, and now that we’ve got something planted in every bed it seems like a good time to take stock.

The big turning point in every planting season, when the garden switches from being adorably early-planted to being a full-on bumper crop factory, is planting the peppers.

Baby Peppers

Last weekend we decided it was finally warm enough to toss our little babies out of the nest and let them fend for themselves. We’ve got Nardellos (which we grew last year), Marconis (a sweet frying pepper we’ve never grown before), Black Hungarians (a purple jalapeno type that’s new to us), and Sestito (Puente) cayennes (also new). These are the most robust seedlings we’ve ever grown, and they took to being in the bed like fish to water. It’s always such a relief to be done with tending to things in the cold frame.

Speaking of tending to little infant plants in the cold frame, our tomato seedlings were a bunch of over-the-top drama queens this year. They flourished as wee tiny newborns, then, when they got big enough to move into the cold frame, started acting all, “Oooh, we’re totally going to die now, and you’re not going to have any idea why!” They started wilting from the top down, so we decided, a few weeks ago, to transplant them. Sure, it was just Mother’s Day weekend, and sure there were frost warnings, but seriously, they looked ready to give up the ghost anyway.

Baby Tomatoes

It seemed touch-and-go for a few days, but now that the weather’s warmed up, they are chugging along the way tomatoes should. We’ve got Ramapos and Black Plums, which we had enormous luck with last year, and new varieties Gold Medal, Green Sausage, and Fox Cherry. We got all the seeds from Seed Savers Exchange and Seeds of Change, as we always do, except for the Fox; that one we picked up from the Hudson Valley Seed Library, and dude, it’s crazy. It’s like plants that are supposed to live in this part of the world will thrive here, or something. The Fox is literally twice the size of its siblings.

Fox Cherry Tomato

Similarly glamorous, but less prolific, is the pea crop. We have never grown peas before, and what we’re beginning to realize is that you probably need to put in a lot more plants than we did. So this summer will probably yield a scant handful of peas, but they will have been photogenic along the way.

May 24 2010

Our garlic, even with having been thinned by about half (mmm… green garlic), is explosively enormous.

Sea of Garlic

And now we’re moving out of the green garlic phase and into the scape phase.

Scapes and Weeds

Honestly, garlic is the gift that keeps on giving, and requires zero work at all. Why it’s not a staple of every home garden is completely beyond us.

We’ve got two small beds of veggies that are not at all photogenic — onions and broccoli. The onions look hale and hearty, but aren’t really worth taking pictures of until they’re harvested, but the broccoli is a bit of a question mark. We also got it from Hudson Valley, and it’s not exactly replicating the success of the Fox Cherry. Yet. We’re cautiously optimistic that one of these days we’ll step outside and discover that it’s figured itself out. Because frankly, it knows more about growing broccoli than we do.

Finally, we’ve got our bean crop, which is the usual mishmash of soup beans. We planted them last weekend, along with the peppers, and were sort of freaking out because there were no signs of life. On Monday morning Schnookie scrupulously examined the beds before going to work, and Pookie did the same that day at noon, and there was nothing to be seen. Then, at 5:30, when Schnookie got home… it was a beanstalk miracle!

Zounds!!!

So now those are cooking along nicely, too. All in all, it seems like a strong start to the summer.

Chives Via The 10-22mm

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Filed under 5. May, Garden

It’s A Garden Explosion!

It’s just the middle of April, and it’s actually really cold here (we sure crashed back down to earth after those 90-degree days at the start of the month), but somehow, our garden is already in almost full bounteous bounty mode. In as much as it can be with only three and a half beds planted with stuff. So on a lazy, lazy Sunday, we took our laziest camera outside to see what kind of documentation we could get of the lush cornucopia of deliciousness.

Imbolc Lettuce In Mid-April

I’m ready for my salad dressing, Mr. DeMille!

First up, the Imbolc lettuce. It’s looking reasonably good (some of the types already seem to be bolting, actually, without ever having bothered growing into lettuce first), but you know what? We don’t think starting it on February 2 gave it any kind of head start. In fact, we suspect it would be doing better if we’d just planted it directly in the soil as soon as we could work it. This whole Imbolc thing is a big sham. At any rate, the lettuce pictured here could, technically, be eaten now. It wouldn’t be much of a meal, but those are definitely lettuce leaves, and you could even use a fork to eat them. In other words, it’s a bounteous bounty!

Pea Shoot

In the next bed over, the peas are… not edible yet. Last year we read an article in the New York Times at some point in March that was all shriekingly “OHMyouneedotplantyourpeasRIGHTNOWorthey’llnevergrow“, and like the dupes that we am (see: Imbolc), we fell for it. We raced out to get pea seeds at the grocery store, plunked them in the ground, set up trellises, then waited for an eternity for them to grow, then had to tear them out before they accomplished anything because we needed the bed they were in. This year we vowed not to be so foolish. No, this time around we’d set aside some space for our peas. But we still planted them freakishly early, and they’re still not growing at a pace that suggests they need to be put into the ground in mid-March. All of that said, there is a tendril on the pea pictured here. (The other peas are, well, not as big as this one.)

Baby Pea

You will never hear us complain about having peas in the garden, though, because they are so delightfully photogenic.

Row Of Radishes

I’m ready for my butter and ciabatta, Mr. DeMille!

We’ve got rows of radishes flanking the peas, and they are growing like gangbusters. They’re supposed to be 20 days from planting to harvest, and while there’s no way they’ll be that quick for us, they won’t be far off the mark.

Extreme Radish

We did a terrible job last summer of photographing our garden (for a variety of reasons we’d be happy to whine about at length, but we’ll spare you), so there has been much discussion in the last few weeks here at Maple Hoo of how we need to commit to being better about it this summer. But today was, as mentioned, a lazy day. We’d done all manner of non-fun chores earlier in the morning, and were waiting at low ebb for the hockey to start, and really didn’t want to go out front and have to think about taking pictures. But our garden is being so easy-going lately that it managed to look good when shot with the 18-55mm kit lens without even looking. See? Bounteous bounty!

Enormous Garlic

Continuing the tour around the beds, the garlic is just ridonk. It’s huge. And, we’ve decided, literally edible now. We can commence enjoying green garlic whenever we want to. And not pictured is the riot of herbs growing in the pots around the perimeter. There was mint picked today for mojitos, and the volunteer catnip already needs to be harvested, the new sage is bushy and sweet, and there’s oregano bustin’ out hugely in a pot that we’ve been neglecting for years. If this is how well things are going when we’re not even trying, we can’t imagine what it’s going to be like when we start tending to the plants.

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Filed under 4. April, Garden

Let The Yardfun Begin!

This past week was the first totally beautiful week of the year that wasn’t weirdly out-of-season, and we had high hopes for spending our evenings approaching the spring yardfun at a leisurely pace. Of course, I developed a cold on Monday, and since our yardfun was going to be a three-person job, we ended up spending our evenings taking long, restorative naps instead. Sadly, this meant that we had tons of yardfun to do this weekend, with no leisure to be found anywhere. The life of the gentlewoman farmer is hard, yo!

So, what was on the docket? First up, we had to take the straw off all the beds in the garden.

State of the Garden April 3 2010

You can see a big black garbage bin in among our herb pots between the beds in that picture; that’s where we’re growing potatoes this summer. We’ve got two bins, and they needed to be prepped for planting. That meant poking holes in them, putting in a layer of rocks (or, in our case, the bits of pots that broke this winter), putting in a layer of straw for drainage, then putting in a shallow layer of soil for planting. Then we opened up our shipment of potatoes that arrived this week from Seed Savers Exchange and our hearts fell. There were about eight medium-sized potatoes in the box, two of which were rotten. Stupid potatoes! (This was shocking to us — normally SSE is utterly reliable.) And the instructions suggested we needed to cut the potatoes into plantable pieces (about two inches square, with at least two eyes each) and let the cut sides get callused a bit, after sitting for a day or two. D’oh! We were doing yardfun today! Stupid potatoes. Well, we did the cutting, and will do the planting in a few days, assuming they don’t rot. Grumble, grumble, grumble…

Next up, it was time to do some transplanting.

Lettuce Before Transplanting

The Imbolc lettuce was rarin’ to go, and we figured it could live in the bed the peppers will be moving into later this summer.

Imbolc Lettuce Planted

It looks so happy now that it’s got room to spread out!

Onions Before Transplanting

The onions, which we never bothered thinning, were a tangled snarl of ready-to-not-be-in-the-crowded-little-tray seedlings.

Transplanted Onions

After a little wrestling them apart, a little manhandling them into a bed, a little cussing about how much we hate transplanting onion seedlings, and then a little remembering that the year we direct-sowed them, none of our onions grew, we were done. Transplanted onions are always the least impressive sight of the entire garden season. They look all hearty and oniony in the seedling trays, then pathetic and wimpy in the big beds. Good thing we’ve got the garlic to gaze upon happily, until the onions can get their act together and start looking like real plants.

Garlic As Of April 3rd 2010

The other big yardfun job we had to take care of was tidying up the orchard. All of our beloved fruit trees live in unsightly playpens of temporary deer netting held up by six-foot stakes. (Our motto about this ugly landscaping treatment is, “If the township would let us put up real deer fencing, our neighbors wouldn’t have to look at this crap.” Ball’s in your court, Township.) Once a year, we have to straighten the stakes, which spend the next 364 days leaning and drooping and falling over, and then reset the deer netting. We generally have to expand the playpen borders, too, since the trees have this wacky tendency to get bigger. This year we even did some pruning, because, amazingly, some of the trees are too big.

Leaves On Sticks

The apple trees are always the first ones in our yard to get green leaves, and some of them were already well on their way today. And meanwhile, the peach trees are practically bustin’ out with blossoms.

Promise Of Pink

We’ve still got two more new trees to plant (a Pineapple quince in a spot we’re expanding the orchard into, and a Whitney crabapple to put into the spot where the Spitzenburg apple died last year), but you know what? That’s going to have to wait until tomorrow. We’re pooped.

[Posted by Schnookie]

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Filed under 4. April, Can't Wait To Eat That Monkey, Garden, Orchard