Category Archives: 5. May

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


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.)


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.


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


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

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!


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


Filed under 5. May, Garden

The State Of Our Garden, Through A Different Lens

Last week we found ourselves outside after work, releasing ladybugs around our apple trees (for aphid control. Who knows how well it works? We’ve seen neither hide nor hair of the ladybugs since. Yeah, we just got played for fools by Big Ladybug, but what gardener hasn’t?), and attempting to document the event with the first camera Pookie grabbed. As it happens, it was the camera with the 50 mm lens on it. The pictures of the ladybugs were uninspiring…

May 15 2009

…but when Pookie took the Fiddy around to the side of the house where the hanging baskets of flowers are, she rediscovered what’s so great about this lens.


Hallmark Card

Even though the Fiddy is our smallest and lightest lens, we tend not to use it in the garden because it doesn’t do wide angles and doesn’t do super-duper, eensy-weensy close-ups like the 100mm, but after seeing those flower pictures, we decided to spend the weekend undertaking a Fiddy Challenge. It was time to document how our garden was coming along while taking baby steps toward mastering that lens.

The marigolds are all still just wee seedlings, with funky textures abounding when seen through the Fiddy:

Marigold Seedlings

The garlic is bustin’ out all over, and we’ve been harvesting it to make into green garlic pesto, which is crazy delicious:

Dreamy Garlic

The onions finally look like bona fide plants instead of scraggly little green strings:

Dreamy Onions

The peppers are ever so close to being planted in their forever beds:

Pepper Seedlings on May 16

The tomatoes are in the ground and growing away:

Mixed Bed

And the potatoes are, once again, trying to be the plants that ate Maple Hoo:

Potatoes May 16

May 16 Potato Overhead

Also, our overwintered pots of sage are bolting:

Sage in May

Sage Flower

And we’re completely indifferent to the encroaching weeds creeping in through the fence:

Caged Dandelion

Dandelion 3

Dandelion 2

Of course, just as I was falling deeply and irrevocably in love with the Fiddy, Pookie went and took this picture with the 100, with all the awesome fuschia bokeh. Oh, macro lenses — how can we choose which one we love best?

Fuschia Bokeh

[Posted by Schnookie]


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

Radish Harvest Redux

Okay, last weekend we pulled up two dime-sized radishes and called it a harvest. This weekend our radish chevron had filled in considerably…

…so we had a much more substantial haul:

Those are French Breakfast and Plum Purple radishes; the wee sample ones we tasted last weekend suggested the Frenchies are mild and sweet, while the Purples are atomic peppery. It was time to find out how they’d work in our very favorite radish setting: sliced thin and layered on some thickly-buttered bread.

It was an encouragingly large pile of radish rounds once I got through chopping:

And it was a delicious couple of radish-ciabatta tea sandwich-esque slabs when I was done assembling:

A few weeks ago, I succumbed to the siren song of radishes in the grocery store so I could make some of these sandwiches, and it was crushing. They didn’t taste like anything other than cold crunchiness. Not so our garden-fresh ones! The mature French Breakfast radishes were just as earthy and cool and sweet as the one we tried last weekend, but the Plum Purples were a heck of a lot milder. They were still a bit spicy, but not overwhelmingly so. They were both magnificently scrumptious, but we all agreed that the French Breakfasts were just that much tastier.


Filed under 5. May, Garden, Harvested, We Grew This

The Garlicky Fruits Of Spring

The other day Pookie emailed me at work to say, “Check out this link — we need to investigate this green garlic thing!” I proceeded to spend a delightful afternoon reading the rest of Farmgirl Susan’s wonderful blog, and then Pookie and I hatched plans to double-plant our garlic bed next year so we could have bundles of green garlic in the Spring. Meanwhile, our regularly-planted garlic bed was taunting us with its massive stalks of allegedly delicious early-season green delicacy.

That stuff is huge! It could feed a family of three like ours for months! We were oh-so-tempted to pull up just one stalk, just to see what it would taste like… and then it came to us, like a bolt from the blue. The previous owners of our house had made a half-assed effort to put in an raised bed for a veggie garden behind the garage, where it wouldn’t be an “eyesore” but also doesn’t get a ton of sun. When we put our grape vines back there, we noticed there were a few little plastic tags from nursery plants in the soil, from a couple of tomatoes and, surprisingly, some garlic. The soil in the bed is too clay-y for the heads to develop, but last Spring we availed ourselves of the scapes from the second generation of garlics coming up in the bed. This spring? We were going to help ourselves to the green garlic instead of waiting on the scapes.

Thank you, previous homeowners! This was so exciting — a new delicacy!

I decided to prepare it basically exactly the way Farmgirl Susan recommended, sauteing the finely-chopped garlic in a fair deal of butter until it’s soft, then tossing it with pasta, salt, freshly ground pepper, and, in my case, a splash of olive oil. I also added some ribbons of prosciutto, then shaved some Parmagiano-Reggiano on top. What we ended up with has some serious potential.

The green garlic was so light and freshly garlicky, without any mature garlic harshness. However, I really didn’t have enough of it to go with as much pasta as I was cooking. So next year, when we plant tons of garlic, this is going to be awesome. I can’t wait!

Leave a comment

Filed under 5. May, Carbo Loading, Garden, Harvested, Lessons Learned, We Grew This

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day: May Edition

We discovered the fantastically wonderful blog project Gardener Blogger’s Bloom Day on May Dreams Garden last month, just after the cut off for April’s Bloom Day submission. We’ve spent the last just-under-a-month giddy with excitement for our first Bloom Day. Every bloom in the yard has been encouraged to hang on just a hair longer, and every bud has been lovingly coaxed into opening up by the 15th. Alas, the Belle of Woking clematis was too stubborn to contribute (it will most likely be a riot of gorgeous white flowers tomorrow morning), but we had a special surprise to make up for it (which will be saved for last, as the best always is).

Beginning at the front door and working our way around the front yard to the back and then ending back at the front door in the vegetable garden, this is what Maple Hoo Garden has blooming on this fine May 15th.

There were two planter urns left at the front door when we moved into Maple Hoo. Boomer traditionally plants them with pansies every spring.

Last summer the yard service that was supposed to be feeding our trees screwed up, mixed the plant food juuuust a hair too toxically and… killed every single foundation planting we had. Every last one. So we got all new plants, almost none of which we know the names of.

We’re pretty sure this is a holly, but we’re not sure if berries count as blooms. We’re putting them in anyway because they look so cool.

Speaking of holly, hidden behind the giant holly tree in the side of the front yard was this light pink azalea.

The previous owner created a mulched bed at the front of the yard that had nothing in it but a straggly shrub. We designated the rest of the bed a pumpkin patch but couldn’t really find a good reason to tear out the shrub. I’m so glad we didn’t as it’s turned into this:

Here at Maple Hoo, we’re vegetable gardeners; if it can’t be eaten and it’s not a geranium or a pansy, we don’t know what it is. After reading the other GBBD posts today, though, I’ve decided for no good reason that this is a vibernum of some kind. I will probably continue to refer to this as such as long as it’s in the yard regardless of what it actually is.

Just as I’m saying we have a distinct bias toward plants that can be eaten, I’m going to stretch the definition of “bloom” to include our proto-apples (Enterprise) and proto-peaches (Reliance). The blooms on the fruit trees this year were stunning, but since we missed the earlier GBBD we thought we’d include the results of the blooms here.

Keeping in the fruit theme we’ve got some tiny blooms on the raspberry canes but they are apparently very shy and didn’t want to be photographed. The blueberries are coming in, too. You can taste the muffins just looking at this little white flowers!

The last in the berry theme is the strawberry. The very first pass-along plant we got was this strawberry, given to us by Sarah and Paul of Sew Buttons, from their garden. We weren’t plant people then (our sole charges were two pathetic Meyer lemon trees). We stuck the strawberry in a pot left behind by the previous owner of the townhouse we lived in before Maple Hoo. We didn’t have enough soil to fill the pot but we were too lazy to do anything about. Nothing came of the planting (not surprisingly) but we moved the plant and pot with us anyway. You can tell by the picture that we still haven’t given it more soil, nor have we weeded the pot (which is obviously stored under a maple tree). But it seems to want to make a berry or two this year!

In the non-edible plant portion of the backyard we find Boomer’s favorite oxalis and columbines, both of which are thriving like never before here.

While those are Boomer’s favorites, Schnookie’s always loved rhododendrons best. Included in the plant carnage last summer was the rhodie that Boomer and I handpicked for Schnookie’s birthday. So it was with much excitement that Schnookie noticed this morning the replacement rhodie was blooming just in time for this post (Belle of Woking, are you listening?!).

So that wraps up the non-vegetable garden portion of our GBBD post. However, given the amount of pride we take in our veggie garden, we can’t help but include something from the raised beds. First up it’s the marigolds carefully tucked into the corner of the beds in an effort to ward off unwanted pests.

And, as promised, the piece de resistance of Bloom Day at Maple Hoo…

Drumroll please…

Our first tomato flower!

It might be too small for even the macro lens to get into focus, but that there is a future Black Plum paste tomato. Considering a week ago we were convinced they tomato crop was dead, this is a thrilling discovery! It even makes up for the lack of Belle of Woking clematis flowers this month. Here’s hoping they’ll be ready for their close-up on June 15th.


Filed under 5. May, Garden, Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day

Maple Hoo’s First Harvest Of 2008

WOOOO HOOOOOOOO!!!!!!! We had our first harvest today! Pookie calculated when we planted the first wave of radishes and when the package said they’d be ready to harvest, and she came up with last weekend as the target date. It was abundantly clear to us all that they were not ready to come up last weekend, but this weekend we decided to take another peek at them. Two of them, one Purple Plum and one French Breakfast, didn’t seem huge, per se, but they didn’t seem not-radishy. So we went for it.

Look how lovely they are! Also, look how small:

Despite their ridiculous tininess, we were still able to slice these bad boys into thirds so we could each try them. The French Breakfast was earthy and rich, just fantastically delicious. And the Purple Plum was completely atomic spicy radishy. I can’t wait until more of them grow in so we can try them out on buttered bread, my absolute favorite way to eat radishes!


Filed under 5. May, Garden, Harvested

A Day Of Toiling In The Fields

We had what we thought was a little bit of non-labor-intensive garden work to do today, but, as so often happens, it ended up being a vast undertaking of various odds-and-ends planting and tending chores.

The first thing we did was plant the Nardello and Habanero peppers in their forever homes. We didn’t bother taking any pictures of them once they were ensconced in their spots in the bed with the radish chevrons because they’re still looking really bedraggled after spending too long in a cold frame they were sharing with some slugs. The Nardellos look like they might have turned the corner on their way to recovery, but the Habaneros have us working on contingency plans. Plans that include buying Jalapeno seedlings at a nearby nursery and enjoying jalapeno poppers later this summer. Um, not that we’re wishing misfortune on the Habaneros or anything.

Next on the docket was gherkin bed. There were still some volunteer potatoes coming up in there from last year’s crop, and since we wanted to minimize how inviting the bed is to wireworms, we had to dig those up. In happier news than the fact that our old potatoes are acting like weeds is the fact that the gherkins are showing signs of life!

Our biggest concern this past week was the diseased cast the tomatoes were taking, but after consulting with a nearby garden center, the verdict was that they’re just sunburned. Who knew that tomatoes could get sunburn? We had a few laughs at their expense, suggesting they’re a bunch of southern belle drama queens that need to have parasols held over them all day long, but they look much better now after a week living out in the open. And more than that, they’re getting their first little sets of flowers.

After tending to the gherkins, it was time to plant the Calypso beans. We had a hole in the potato bed where one of the All Blues didn’t come up, so we decided to do some companion planting by adding beans, and these are just too cool-looking not to plant:

While we had the bean innoculant out and handy, we figured it was a good time to plant the peanuts, too.

We learned something about peanuts today, namely that storing them in a cool, damp place is probably a really bad idea. It’s a good thing we’re not counting on any peanut cash crop this year, as they were pretty moldy. Pickin’s were slim to find plantable peanuts in the shells, but eventually we scrounged up enough of them. Planting peanuts totally cracks me up, because you just put a peanut in the ground! It’s like planting jellybeans or something.

When we finished with the peanuts, we moved on to mounding up the potatoes. Apparently you’re supposed to keep piling soil up around the plants as they grow more than six inches tall, to encourage lots of potatoes to grow underground. We piled our potato plants just once last summer and had a great harvest, but we are at least attempting to do things right this year, and some of the plants are already well over the six-inch limit.

It’s almost ridiculous how quickly these things are coming in, and how lush they look. And I’m not sure our perfunctory pilings of soil around them are doing the trick, but hey. We’re gentlewoman farmers, not pros. We’ll just see what happens.

We had scads of scallion seedlings to be distributed around the onion and tomato beds, and once we finished that up, it was time to turn our attentions to the pumpkin patch. We put our pumpkins every year in a big, sun-drenched bald spot at the front of our yard, and despite the terrible erosion trouble there this winter, it looks like we’ve got a couple of volunteers there already.

Are they pumpkins? Melons? Who knows! Let’s wait and see!

We transplanted a few Sugar pumpkin seedlings, and direct-sowed some white Caspar and Cinderella-style pumpkins (Rouge vif D’Etampes) as well.

So yeah, just a little bit of work for us today. But all the crops are looking great so far, and, more importantly, we’re still having fun.


Filed under 5. May, Garden