A Room Outside

by Brad Nelson   5/5/15

My Garden Is My Sanctuary
by Marie Church

As I look out to my garden
I feel a sense of pride
It really is a lovely room
Except it is outside.


A garden is indeed a room outside, especially when it’s sunny. And late winter and early spring have been fairly sunny on the Left Coast.

Shade Garden

Shade Garden

In this series of photos, you’ll see what I call, as a collection, my Castaway Garden. This is so because in the above photo of the Shade Garden you’ll see (second from the left) a cheap metal shelf that someone (presumably an unneighborly neighbor) deposited near our trash can by the curbside. This was around February of last year.

At first I was a bit teed off. Own a piece of property anywhere these days (perhaps any days) and you’ll see that it attracts socialists and other ne’er-do-wells like cow patties attract flies. Once the idea of personal responsibility is shelved (pun intended), your property becomes a mere plaything for others. I’m constantly picking up trash deposited by yutes (there’s a nearby vocational training center) — yutes who, you would think, are all environmental planet-huggers.

But the truth is something else. If you don’t own a piece of property, it’s much harder to have respect for that of others. And this shows itself in a thousand ways.

But as it turns out, that castaway metal shelf seeded my current garden. I found that the shelf was in reasonably good shape so instead of breaking it down to throw away, I patched it up a little and put it to use. As you see from the photos, since inheriting that initial castaway green shelf, I’ve added some others of a similar type. The whole effect is a bit too metallic and shelvey right now, but as the plants grow up and fill in, this garden should come into its own.

Container Garden

Container Garden

This and the Container Garden (which gets full sun…when there is sun), pictured above, kind of developed together, one giving over to the other. Some plants I found needed more light and some less, therefore many started in one place and got switched to the other. And of all the plants in the container garden, that small bowl of strawberries (top left) is growing best. Like tomatoes, the more sun the better for them.

There are also four types of ornamental grasses in the container garden…a type which I’ve become quite fond of, and these should fill out a little bit over the years. I’m not really sure how gargantuan any of these plants will get, but I think not very.

The two big green blobs are your standard heather. As that link says, they are “drought tolerant, low maintenance, and resistant to pests and disease.” In other words, along with cockroaches, these things will survive a nuclear war. But they are beautiful in their own way and the flowers do hang around for a long time. The honey bees love them.

Main Garden

Main Garden

The Main Garden has expanded five times. It started with about two-thirds of the portion inside the rock border. This then was expanded a bit and more rocks added. Later I added the “wings,” one at a time using brick that a neighbor had no use for and was glad to get rid of.

The soil in and around this garden is very rocky. And Northwest glacial hardpan (one step down from actual concrete) is just a couple inches under the surface, so it became much easier (to put it mildly) to build up with raised beds (raised about 5″) rather than to drill down (as with that original patch inside the cheesy white fencing…and I have some bent tools to show the futility of the hard pan).

The veggies you see growing in that center patch were purchased as small plants…just to get a head start on things. The rest (including the two small square satellite beds in the background) are all growing from seed. And the entire vegetable garden contains a fairly standard assortment of veggies (many no doubt high in vitamin K): spinach, romaine lettuce (green and red), Swiss chard, Georgia collards, leaf lettuce (of some variety), two varieties of kale, broccoli, red cabbage (just one plant as a test), sugar peas (which, with some hope, will grow along the white fencing), parsley, sage, black sage, a few bell peppers, cucumbers, and (as another experiment) a couple of cantaloupes. I think it may take an especially good summer to get much from the cantaloupes, but we’ll see. Half the fun is just experimenting.

To top it off, the very back row of the left wing is planted with flowers. All work and no floral display would make a dull garden indeed.

Crop Circle Garden

Crop Circle Garden

And if that weren’t enough (and it surely was, but what the hell), the latest addition is the Crop Circle Garden. I added that this past weekend. My idea was to do a circle of about 5-1/2 feet in diameter. It turned out to be 80″ plus. But that fitted the space better. It looks like little more than a crop circle for now, but it will hopefully fill in given a few week’s time.

The center portion is planted with a mixture of wildflower seeds. Ringed around this in three somewhat concentric rings (I wasn’t as geometrically careful as I could have been) are, from the inside out, carrots (a special variety that can grow in relatively shallow soil), Walla Walla onions, and, of course, more spinach. My greatest hope may be for the carrots, for you can’t buy a good carrot locally. I believe the variety you find in the stores is a hybrid of true carrot mixed with cardboard or balsa wood.

This whole assemblage will keep my salad bowl filled, along with the eleven tomato plants that I have growing in containers (which you can spot in the background of the Main Garden). It’s hard to buy a good supermarket tomato as well, so hopefully these will produce a few real ones.

And there should be plenty of leftovers for friends, although I think if I was growing Big Macs and french fries, there would be more eager takers. As it is, I’m not sure you can give away healthy food these days. Well…more for me, I guess.

And this has been a learner process. The design (such as it is) has evolved higgledy piggledy. More planning would have saved some toil, but it was a reminder once again how dad-blamed important culture is. Imagine having to make a living (or just surviving) by the crops you grow. There’s little forgiveness in trying to re-invent the wheel as I often did.

I did get some good tips from my older brother who, at one time, was growing 1000 pound pumpkins. In doing this garden I was very aware of just how much information is needed to do it well. You might find such information in a book, and there are indeed some good books out there. But nothing beets the wisdom of the sages, if you will, in passing along knowledge. Surely next year’s garden, if there is one, will benefit from all the mistakes I’ve made in this one.

I’m testing a gallery plugin. Let me know what you think.

Brad’s Flower Pictures

Around the Garden 2016


Brad is editor and chief disorganizer of StubbornThings.
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Brad Nelson

About Brad Nelson

I like books, nature, politics, old movies, Ronald Reagan (you get sort of a three-fer with that one), and the founding ideals of this country. We are the Shining City on the Hill — or ought to be. However, our land has been poisoned by Utopian aspirations and feel-good bromides. Both have replaced wisdom and facts.

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173 Responses to A Room Outside

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    There are a few interesting gardens in front on our block, though we don’t get out much these days for walking due to Elizabeth’s leg problems (which she blames on a brief bout with polio as a child, combined with advancing age). We haven’t decided whether to get a zoo membership this year, given the walking involved (though as members we could go frequently and view only parts of it, which would help).

    There is a garden tray under the front window that we haven’t tried to make use of because of the lack of sun. But Elizabeth has managed to provide a nice variety of flowers in the front yard.

    I know what you mean about the garbage problem. When mowing the front lawn, I find it annoying to encounter evidence of people who suffer from a peculiar vision defect: they think our yard looks like a trash can.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I would think the zoo is just too cool not to at least rent a little motorized cart to get around in. Why not?

      There are likely a lot of good (and cheap) plants who would love the shade of that tray under the front window. I’ve bought more than a few $3.99 plants at the supermarket. In fact, I’ve gotten a couple miniature roses that way, one yellow and one red. The red one quickly got some kind of leaf mold. I bought some spray and have also cut most of the bad leaves off. We’ll see how she holds up. I would assume a rose is a “she.”

    • Rosalys says:

      There are many shade loving, plants! Impatiens immediately comes to mind and come in beautiful, brilliant colors. I especially like the African Impatiens as they are larger and showier, although the ordinary variety are a little more care free. Hosta, wild or hardy geranium, azalea, coleus, bleeding hearts all either tolerate well or thrive in the shade. And don’t ever plant lily of the valley in the sun! If you have the room for them in your shady spot – because they will spread – they are such a delight in the spring. Just a small bouquet of them will fill your home with the most awesome perfume in nature!

      I just noticed, with rapture, this spring (as I was out picking violets which need some sun,) that behind the shed I have a bunch of lily of the valley I never had before! I think they snuck underneath the fence from my neighbors yard.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Here’s a view of some impatiens. I don’t know if they’re African. I’ll keep on the lookout. There’s a very nice garden center up north of me about 15 miles that is well worth visiting. A good place to browse just to see what’s blooming or will be blooming.

        I fairly recently picked up some hosta. Knock on wood, it seems to be doing well. I’m not sure which variety it is, but according to this web site, it might be the American Halo or Autumn frost, although three or four of those look very similar.

        I’ve almost pulled the trigger on some coleus a couple times. They come in such interesting colors. I particularly love the Sunny Sarah variety. What’s held me back is that, at least in my area, many of the leaves look rather haggard. I’m not sure this is the best place to grow them. Or perhaps they need special care. I just figured that it looked like a plant that would die a couple days after I brought it home. Look at the mix of them in this photo. That’s pretty spectacular.

        Bleeding hearts, while nice, is too girly, so can’t do it. 😀

        Lily of the valley is nice.

        • Lucia says:

          Good choice not to plant Bleeding Hearts unless you don’t water in the summer and can control them. Left alone and with sufficient water they will spread everywhere. My mother despaired of ever planting them, so I dug up the worst offenders and transplanted them to my yard where they are limited to surviving against the foundation on the east side of the house. Since I don’t water my yard the Bleeding Hearts grace my home with spring beauty and then hibernate until next year.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            I had no idea that the bleeding hearts spread so easily. Usually growing things is a matter of trying to just get them to sustain themselves, especially for items grown in containers. I have both a container garden and a regular one, sort of spread willy nilly.

            • Lucia says:

              I have the wild variety which may be more hearty than the nursery hybrids.

              My mother was nurture-challenged and tended to kill most plants, but she had great success with growing Hostas. She eventually accumulated 80 varieties, mostly in pots spread around her patio.

              • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

                I’d like to start a hosta garden. How much shade did you mother find worked best for them?

              • Lucia says:

                Filtered shade seemed to work best. She had them in the ground on the west side of the house under some shade trees and on the east side in pots on her patio under the cherry trees. She had so much fun with them. I hope you enjoy them too.

              • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

                Lucia, thanks for the info on the hostas. I actually planted a few (bulbs?) in April but they either haven’t come up yet or the squirrels dug them up. I might just get some grown plants.

                My next project is likely a rose garden, although my older brothers cautions that they can take a lot of care.

  2. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    I am not much of a gardener, but at some point over the last few years I have grown tomatoes, bell peppers, various chili peppers, squash, cucumbers and a couple of other edible plants. Of course eating homegrown vegetables is much nicer than store bought. But I have found the actual planting and caring for the plants to be just as rewarding.

    Watching these plants grow made me wonder at the miracle of life itself. This wonder was particularly great when I grew plants from seeds. To see how a tomato first sprouts from the seed cover is amazing. Then to watch it grow on nothing more than dirt, water and sun is amazing.

    Perhaps it is a sign of my “getting old”, but it may also be that I have slowed down enough to want to watch what is going on at a basic level in life.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Watching these plants grow made me wonder at the miracle of life itself. This wonder was particularly great when I grew plants from seeds. To see how a tomato first sprouts from the seed cover is amazing. Then to watch it grow on nothing more than dirt, water and sun is amazing.

      The saying is that all you need is the faith of a mustard seed. But I would think a tomato seed would do. The seeds of the variety I planted were tiny. It’s hard to believe there could be a code for a tomato in there. But there is.

      And that’s what it is, a code. I was reading part of a book the other day, The Mythology of Evolution, and despite the general critical theme, it seems a mess of philosophy. For instance, even the neo-Darwinists refer to it as a “genetic code.” But the author tells us, it’s not really a code. That’s just more mythology.

      Oh really? Then what is it? It looks like digital information. It’s arranged in a 4-bit code. It gets translated so that 3-bits at a time are used to code for individual amino acids that, when sequenced together, create highly-specified and functional proteins. What is that if not a code? This seemed to be sort of a “smarty pants” book, a fellow (and we’ve all been there) who thinks he knows more than he does.

      But I digress. DNA is indeed a code and, along with the cellular and RNA machinery, it contains the information and mechanical processes needed to make living things. That little tomato seed is, at the very least, a packet of information. The product itself — the tomato — like most other forms of life is likely larger than the sum of its parts.

      Whence does that information for the seed come? Well, only committed materialist religionists or those whose knowledge is filtered by our increasingly science-poor society believe random processes led to this information. When planting a tomato seed and helping to provide the conditions it needs to grow, one is helping to unleash something that quite likely is not of earthly origin. Whether this designer is Satan with a glorified ant farm or a benevolent God Almighty Above, I do not know. But every bud, flower, and leaf is testament that man is not the measure of all things. The socialist/materialist man is not only wrong, he is not planted in the soil of reality. And all the fertilizer he spews forth does not change that.

    • Rosalys says:

      “…various chili peppers… and a couple of other edible plants.”

      Some are not all that edible! I always grow a hot pepper of some sort every year simply for their decorative value but I use very few. I’ll make a big batch of chili con carne with some, but that’s about it. Several years ago I got a very pretty little pepper plant with dark green leaves, which bore many, many small, golden peppers. A guy I worked with, a hot-blooded Latin of Puerto Rican ancestry assured me that there wasn’t a pepper out there too hot for him! So I gave him a bag of my beautiful little peppers. The next day at work, around noon, I was still working at my computer when I heard some soft gasping noises coming from the other room. The gasping got louder and louder until “Lou” came barreling out of the room to the get to the water cooler! He had sliced them up into his salad – and I think it is safe to say that he found a pepper that, at least in its raw, undiluted state, was too hot for him! I laughed and laughed!

      I was cutting up some of these peppers for my annual big chili and made the mistake of rubbing my eye. Man did that burn! I have since found, that when handling these lethal little gems it is best to wash one’s hands at least three times afterwards. Once just won’t do it. They also keep very well without refrigeration. I ever sent some to my daughter in the mail without a problem.

      I like to grow the poblanos. It is also a very pretty plant, and the pepper itself, being the mildest of the hot peppers is much more useful to me. Although, a plant with fruit too hot for consumption is still useful for visual impact.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        One interesting quality about chili peppers that I recently read about is that apparently mammalian scavengers such as rats have no taste for them. So they may have some protective value.

  3. Glenn Fairman says:

    DNA may be the materialistic blueprint of life, but life is much more than the clever arranging of matter. Our essence is unquantifiable, and since it is not tangible, it is deemed a phantasm by the narrowly-focused consciousness of Post-Modernity. but no matter…….

    Around my patio I have 6 hanging topsy turvy planters that do very well with cherry tomatoes. Feed them bi-weekly and put them on a drip system so that they do not dry out, which is the tendency of hanging vegetables. With a little care you can be knee high in tomaters……

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I’ve never heard of a drip-system, but then you lads in more agricultural parts have all kinds of ways. I’ve got a garden hose and an old light blue plastic watering can.

      Tomatoes seem the most finicky of plants. The ones I have are growing okay, but there is leaf fungus on a couple of them. And I think some of the leaf curl I’m getting is due to improper watering. Too much? Too little? I really don’t know. My brother told me to be sure not to over-water them. And we’re in (except for today) a fairly good patch of weather, so I gave them a good soaking yesterday.

      The feed I use is Alaska brand liquid fish fertilizer that you mix into the watering can. My brother recommended this as “organic.” And certainly it has to be good stuff because it smells so bad. I try not to over-feed either. The tomatoes are already in Miracle Grow soil which has some time-release goodies in it.

      Probably next time (planning ahead a little) I will get some bigger containers for the tomatoes. I think one size bigger will do. I think the ones I have are a little under-sized and could effect the yield I get. We’ll see. On the positive side, they are placed next to a big, thick brick wall which absorbs the heat in the daytime and keeps the tomatoes warmer by night. As a friend of mine said, in the Great Northwest we may get nice summer weather, but the nights can cool off. And he said that the tomatoes have a lot of catching up to do because of this, even with the sun shining.

      The materialist view of life is an odd one. It’s odd to be reveling in one’s supposed insignificance. Who knows the full grand stage that is the everything? But materialists have a shrunken-head view of life. Much of it is simply the result of bland indoctrination by the ugly pretending to be cool. But much of the impetus for this view is that it excuses nearly any sin or fault a man can commit or have. And this wired and often wicked system is then sanctified by the worshipping of nature itself.

      Materialism is a suitable view for those who either have no higher ambitions or who want to think they know a lot by knowing primarily three things: Marx, Darwin, and Freud. And there is no end to the trouble these three have caused, particularly in terms of the stunted growth of human potential. Many believe that mere bumper sticker slogans and simplistic thinking is the same as what the age-old Western Civilization used to call “wisdom.” Short cuts, in terms of gardening or life, tend to produce bad fruit.

  4. Glenn Fairman says:

    indeed

  5. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    So far (knock on wood) I haven’t had any problems with slugs. This may be because I’ve got an agreement with the red ant colony that has a pretty big mound about 15 yards away.

    Generally, I don’t like ants, although they are marvels of organization. How they can do what they do, and build what they build, with such small brains is something the thugs in Baltimore could learn from.

    Most of the ants I’ve known are the black carpenter ants which one kills on sight. But these little red ants don’t come into the building. They stay outside and apparently spend most of their time foraging for food, which I assume is bugs. So it’s a nice little unstated agreement we have. You stay outside and eat the bugs and I’ll stay away from you ant mound and let it be.

    Reminds me of the episode of Seinfeld where George drives over some pigeons who don’t (as they usually do) get out of the way and yells “We had a deal!”

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Ah, but whose brains are smaller, the red ants or the thugs in Baltimore?

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        LOL. But seriously, it really is a marvel that ants can do so much with so little. Jeepers. Makes you wonder what our brains are capable of. Imagine trying to build a robot that size that could replicate the complex behavior…and needing to write software as well. The lowly ant is quite an intelligent design.

  6. Rosalys says:

    “Surely next year’s garden, if there is one, will benefit from all the mistakes I’ve made in this one.”

    There will be a garden next year! Once you let it get under your skin, – and judging by the way you’ve expanded a little here and added a new plot there, you have! – it is there forever, like an incurable virus.

    Your garden beds, all edged in stone and cast off bricks, are very neat and tidy. I am envious!

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      it is there forever, like an incurable virus.

      No doubt spoken like a true gardener. There is something addictive about it. And please stop me before I plant another tomato plant. This is getting out of hand.

      For at least half of the bricks, I was lucky to have a neighbor who had a large pile he just wanted to get rid of. I added more later. Lowe’s (a home improvement store…not sure if they are nationwide or not) had a deal on paving bricks…four for a dollar. And they are nice bricks, so I built the “Crop Circle” garden out of them, and added a few more small touches using them.

      Currently I’ve got tons of tomato flowers in bloom but actually only two tomatoes on the vine. But I’m sure things will get going soon. Certainly the plants are taking off.

      My older brother put it into my mind that I should plant some chamomile for making tea. Apparently the stuff is very easy to grow. It’s basically a weed. I’m not sure where the chamomile would go. I’m going to have to think about that.

      I’ve got three small 18″ round pots full of strawberries. The first one was growing so well that I added two more, which I how I got three. And that first one has at least a half dozen or so strawberries on it that are getting ready to turn red. My older brother gave me some netting to put over them to keep the birds out.

      With the infrastructure of the garden in place, and (incredibly) not particularly being an eyesore (considering it was all added higgledy piggledy), it shouldn’t be too difficult to continue the garden next year. Perhaps you, or some others, have some ideas of what is best to do over the winter to perhaps minimize the weeds that will inevitably grow in it.

      I’d also like to branch out into roses. I just love some of the real old-style British roses such as this one. (I assume it’s of British stock.) The problem is, roses seem to be made to attract all kinds of diseases. But they really are a superb flower.

      And I might eventually do something more formal and more permanent with the tulips. They are my favorite. I had them in pots this year and might want to make a permanent bed for them somewhere. We’ll see. To expand I’ll have to trim more of the evergreen bush back that you can see to the left of the “Main Garden” photo (it’s to the right as well, just out of the frame…click on the photo for a bigger view). This is a low-care, low-water evergreen bush of some type (I forget its name) but it does tend to take over.

      • Rosalys says:

        I don’t deserve to be called a true gardner. Hapless gardner is more like it. I’ve been discouraged by the deer (maybe I’ll write about these beautiful vermin one day!) but the virus has proved too strong! I am getting a late start, but I am starting none-the-less.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Well, if there is a definition of a gardener it’s one who typically has dirt underneath his fingernails and constantly needs a manicure.

          I can see where deer would make it very difficult. I’m not sure what you can do other than build high fences.

      • Rosalys says:

        Tomatoes! I’ve had my trials as well. Make sure you give them plenty of calcium (lime) to prevent blossom end rot. Some kind of powder or spray should help take care of the powdery mildew. A shotgun would help if you have a deer menace!

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          I had some early mold or mildew problems but a spate of good weather seems to have cleared that up. I’ll keep the lime in mind next time I go to the store. I water them (in good weather…which hasn’t been so good of late, but improving now) every couple of days…every day in that burst of warm weather we had a week ago. And my older brother told me to give them some of that fish fertilizer once a week.

          And for the tomatoes I’ve gone old-school. I’m using bamboo sticks and such to prop them up where needed. Because of where they are (in front of the building) I didn’t think the tomato cages would look very good, although they are apparently quite effective.

          • Rosalys says:

            Unless they are heavy duty cages, they will prove inadequate as those tomato vines get very big and (if you’re lucky – or a good gardner) heavy with fruit. I learned this the hard way, through experience.

            • Timothy Lane says:

              Tomatoes are one thing Elizabeth tried to grow in back (she wouldn’t do vegetables in the front yard). I think they were plum tomatoes, but what she got were the size of cherry tomatoes. (She also tried to grow some herbs, though I don’t recall exactly what.)

              • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

                What I know about tomatoes, Timothy, isn’t very much. But the more sun the better, although apparently if you live in a place where it doesn’t cool off a little at night (stays in the high 80’s or so), that isn’t good for tomato production. Neither do you want it too cool off too much, as is often typical on the Pacific Northwest.

                And I think it helps to have good soil. And I started with soil right out of the bag (mostly the Miracle Grow brand). Next year (depending upon how this experiment turns out), I’ll likely get bigger containers. A few that I have are probably too small. But we’ll see what the yield is.

                I’m still figuring out the art of watering. I do understand that a container tomato will require more frequent watering. But you don’t want to over-water either.

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              I expect I’ll have a Rube Goldberg concoction of various bamboo sticks zig-zagging and tied in various twisted knots. It’s already that way a little big. I’ll just support the vines where it’s need when it’s needed in whatever way I can.

              Also, regarding the tomato cages, considering that I have nineteen tomato plants, the cages could get a little pricey.

  7. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Vegetable Update

    This will be just a mini update, touching on some of the larger points. A lot of dirt has been sifted and shifted since this initial post.

    My new motto is “Have crowbar, will garden.” That’s what it takes if you want to dig down into the ground (rather than build up in a raised garden as some of my beds are).

    You’ll see in this photos what I’m talking about. The Crop Circle Garden has gained some satellites (and a bit of greenery if you compare it with the earlier photo).

    There are five more or less geometrically arranged smaller circles around the main one. The one at the very back is a little difficult to see, but you can see a little white patch (the marker for the blueberry bush) that shows where it is.

    And, yes, by the way, I now have some blueberry bushes growing. I had it in the back of my mind that I wanted some blueberries, but I didn’t know where to put them. This seemed a spot and it was out of the way. There are three bushes, the circle at the very back and the two inner ones to the left and right. I started out with just one bush and then read on the label “Must cross-pollinate.” Crap. I’d need another bush. No problem. I dug another hole. And, of course (stop me before I plant again), there had to be a third one for some reason.

    Just underneath the grass is glacial hardpan, not much softer than concrete. And under the two smaller crop circles at the far left there was some old blacktop. Even for the large crowbar I had, this was a challenge. Fortunately it broke up relatively easily being so old.

    Around two of the bushes (while they are still small and leave some room) I’ve planted chamomile, both for the flowers (aesthetic) and for the flowers (to make tea). Around the satellite crop circle to the far left is bok choy. My brother had brought this veggie to my attention because it was near the top of the “top ten vegetables that are good for you” chart. And so far they are fast growers. I sowed the seeds and about three days later they sprouted.

    The satellite circle to the far right I dug just today. It has a ring of radishes planted on the outside (the first crop I planted is nearly ready and I want to keep the harvest going). And inside this ring of radishes there is some kale. This ring will get more shade so it may be better suited for these crops that don’t particularly like real hot weather. The other circles (particularly the leftmost three) get a lot of sun, from early to late, so that should be good for the blueberries.

    And on Memorial Day I (and my nephew) planted four small banana pepper plants. It was fun because I actually was able to pull the little fellow away from his video games and get him interested for a while. We went to the garden store and I let him pick out something he liked. He picked the peppers and I told them they would be his. And then he helped me transplant them, cover them with dirt, and give them their first drink.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I don’t recall having to do much digging in my only brief gardening experience (when we lived in Fort Campbell). Elizabeth may have done some in her efforts here (she doesn’t tend to discuss such things), which might be one reason she doesn’t do any more gardening. (We did have to do some digging to bury our various cats as they died one by one — except for Shadow, who was stolen by someone one evening.)

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Well, thank you for indulging my gardening fetish and carrying on the thread. But I could honestly sit down now with a group of recovering gardeners and say, “Hi. My name is Brad. And I haven’t bought a tomato plant in over two weeks.”

        And the only reason for that is I’m running out of room for them.

        The radishes seem to be doing fine. The second crop of spinach is now ready to eat. The tomato plants themselves are starting to fill with little baby embryo tomatoettes. God willing, I’ll have some for myself and to share.

        And perhaps it will take an act of God, because on Memorial Day I was fiddling around in my garden when the neighbor yelled over to me. He was trying to get my attention to the fact that there was an adult deer calmly walking down the street and right up my driveway and through the lot. We’re basically in the middle of a city. So far I haven’t seen any of my lettuce vanish mysteriously, but I’m quite sure he was on a scouting mission.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      We’ve only planted one tomato bush and a bunch of flowers.

      The weather has been tropical, at least as far as the rain goes. I think we will break the record for rain in May in the next day or two.

      Don’t get a lot of deer, but can send you some rabbits and squirrels.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        We didn’t really have a winter this year. And spring came early and has generally been full of sunny or semi-sunny days — perfect for growing.

        There’s no telling what June and July could bring. I expect a very nice summer like we had last year. But who knows?

        I wish I could share some tomatoes with you (counting chickens before they hatch). Maybe if someone sent me a truly killer recipe for a tomato sauce, that would be a transportable way.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        We had several months’ worth of rain in April, the heaviest part being in a single 24-hour span. It led to a great deal of flooding, forcing us to replace our water heater and furnace (which in fact happened today — the fan for both furnace and air conditioner is attached to the former, so we needed to get that fixed soon). We do have some scattered flowers, but most of them are only out during April. (Except the dandelions, unfortunately.)

  8. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    The Gardener Strikes Back

    I’ve got three large pots of strawberries going in the Container Garden (pictured above, but since expanded, particularly in terms of strawberries).

    The first strawberry pot I planted (near the center top in that one photo) is now relatively huge and it’s already produced about three ripe strawberries, two-and-one-half of which I have eaten.

    The other half was consumed by a slug. I had one strawberry hanging over the side of the pot that was approaching ripeness, but I thought it needed another day or so. I then come into work the next day and there’s a slug face-hugging this strawberry. Well, I pulled the snail off, stomped on him, cut off the eaten part, and then ate the remain half.

    I then sturdied myself like Bugs Bunny and said to myself, Of coyse yuze realize, dis means wahr. So I brought out an arsenal of plastic drinking cups and went down to the store to buy a six-pack of the cheapest beer I could find (Hamm’s). Yes, I was going to use the gardener’s tried-and-true snail trap.

    I buried five of these cups in and around the garden, three of them in the Container Gardener, and filled them half full with the cheap beer (I’ve since been told that slugs can be picky as to the brand of beer). And darned if they didn’t snare a few small ones. But reading online they said it’s possible that sometimes the bigger ones can climb out. I don’t know if this happened or not, but if it did, at least I sent a message. I put a shot across their bow. They are on notice.

    Bugs haven’t been that bad of a problem so far, although there is some kind of bug unknown that likes Swiss chard. It’s hard to grow a leaf without a few holes in it. But mostly the main crops (spinach and lettuce) have (knock on wood) remained untouched.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      This sounds similar to what happens when I leave the ice in my glass (from drinking either iced tea or a soft drink) overnight. There are always a few roaches drowned there in the morning.

  9. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I Say Toe-MAY-Toe

    This Wiki page on tomatoes has a number of interesting facts I didn’t know, and quite aside from different pronunciations. The main fruitful points were:

    + Tomatoes are indeed a fruit — in fact, a berry proper — even though for purposes of commerce and taxation, some states have classified them as a vegetable.

    + There is “indeterminate” vs. “determinate” kinds. Determinant variants will produce its tomatoes all at once, and that’s it, which is perfect for commercial harvesting (or for home canning when you need the product all at once rather than spreading it out). Indeterminate varieties will produce tomatoes all season…until the winter frost comes.

    + Tomatoes came from the west coast of South America and, in their native environment, are perennials.

    + Tomato leaves are somewhat poisonous, but not dreadfully so (to humans). Some tomato varieties have a very small trace of the poison in the fruits.

    + Ancestral or “heirloom” variants are often ribbed and have green near the stem. Modern hybrid variants have shaped the tomato to be round, smooth (unribbed), evenly red (although less red than ancestral varieties), and given to ripening well after picked. But anyone who has ever purchased a supermarket tomato knows that they’ve actually produced a homogenized piece of crap. And this is no paranoid “no GMO” zealot talking. One of the great marvels of modern science is the vast increase of productivity of various food crops, including their resistance to disease. But with the tomato, they’ve basically ruined them, thus the main thrust into my foray in gardening. The supermarket varieties have less sugar in them, for another thing.

    + Picked tomatoes store better with the stem side down.

    + China is the leading producer of tomatoes (whether mostly for export or not, I do not know). I didn’t figure it would be Italy because of their small relative size, but they are up on the list (#7). India is #2. The United States is #3.

    + Many tomato varieties are self-fertilizing…but not necessarily self-pollinating. That is, they produce the pollen that can fertilize its own ovules, but they need some prompting to do so — bumble bees are the favored method, but shaking by the wind can also work.

    + Growing carrots in and around tomatoes is apparently good for both crops (aka “companion plants”).

    My own crop (knock on wood) seems to be going fine now. I have oodles of little tomato-ettes that are growing fast now. Thinking back, I did have some flowers on some of the plants in late March or early April while they were still inside their greenhouse enclosure. And now that I think about it, the reason they didn’t pollinate is because the insects either couldn’t get in or were not out yet. I’m not sure.

    I was (and still am) concerned that the pots I have these in are too small. But I looked at this photo of a “tomato tree” that they used to have at Disney World. And that pot supporting all those thousands (thousands!) of tomatoes isn’t that big. Apparently the tree isn’t there anymore. A disease got it. But what an interesting idea.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      Another downside of the modern tomato is that in order to allow machine harvesting, the geneticists have created a thick skinned tomato. This is certainly not as delectable as the heirloom varieties.

  10. Timothy Lane says:

    When I was a kid, I read some general reference book that discussed the 3 categories of fruits (drupes, pomes, and berries), and noted that tomatoes and citrus fruits are berries whereas some things called “berries” (such as strawberries and raspberries) aren’t. (But then, certain light-bearing beetles are various known as “lightning bugs” and “fireflies” even though, entomologically speaking, they’re neither bugs nor flies.)

    Tomatoes are related to deadly nightshade, as I recall, so the poisonous nature of their leaves is no surprise. The fruits used to be thought poisonous as well, and supposedly got their nickname “love apples” from the notion that lovers would eat them together for a joint suicide. A biography of George Washington Carver that I read noted that he recommended tomatoes for their anti-scorbutic properties, and would eat them in public appearances to demonstrate the non-poisonous nature of the fruit.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      According to this Wiki article on berries, the blueberry is a true berry. Blackberries are “aggregate fruit.” And strawberries are “accessory fruit” (worn for spring or summer fashion, do you suppose?). I’d have to read further to eek out the differences in all that.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        The only groups I know of are berries (which have seeds scattered throughout the fruit), pomes (which have the seeds in the center), and drupes (which have a single pit in the center). Note that the most obvious pome is the apple, which in French is pomme.

  11. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Morning Crop Report

    The radishes are ready and I’ve been eating a few. I can’t say they are better than you get at the grocery store. But they are good. A few have gotten some worms into them. I didn’t plant them with any insect powder which is probably standard procedure for this. Nature gets her share in this case.

    I’ve eaten my first head of broccoli. Again, it was good but I can’t say that, like tomatoes, it was heads and tails better than you can get in the supermarket. And for the amount of space it takes up, I doubt I’ll plant them again. I have four plants that were purchased as seedlings (about four inches tall). And these are plants where you really do need to heed the recommended planting distance. I would think at least two feet. They are growing wonderfully…and right over the top of not only each other (which seems to be fine) but over some of the basil and lettuce. Oh well.

    I thought at first that you’d get (as with the red cabbage I’m growing) only the one head. But you get not only the main one that grows first right up the barrel of the stock, but there are lots of little offshoots to the side that will be furnishing fresh broccoli for my salads. Maybe next year I’ll try cauliflower because that stuff is so gaud-awful expensive most of the time. Broccoli, on the other hand, is cheap.

    No ripe tomatoes yet, but getting tons and tons of little tomatoettes. I think some of the cherry tomatoes could be ripe in a week or so. We’re going to be getting some great weather the next four days, so that will surely help…if I can keep up with the watering. In this 70-80 degree weather, they need to be watered at least twice a day.

    The spinach I planted from seed a few weeks ago is coming on strong and is being harvested. It came on so strong (about 10 plants or so) that I actually had a spinach salad for breakfast yesterday…a very simple one (spinach, salted/roasted sesame seeds, and blue cheese dressing). It was surprisingly good. And I think the Popeye myth is based on fact. Eat spinach and you will indeed get a burst of energy.

    Everything else seems to be going well. I have lots of Swiss chard that will be coming on soon. Along with the spinach I might have to have salads morning, noon, and night. But I do have some people helping me to eat it all. I’ve got several bell pepper plants going (a dozen or more). The seeds were a pack of multi-colors, so it will be a mix of green, red, and yellow bell peppers. Another nightshade plant. According to this page, they’re very good for you. Eating these, I’m sure to get my proper levels of sulfur compounds (didn’t know I needed any).

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      Some of the things you plant may not taste that much better, but the fact that you know what went on your vegetables must be comforting, not to mention the therapeutic value derived from the actual gardening.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        but the fact that you know what went on your vegetables must be comforting

        There’s some truth in that, Mr. Kung, although I don’t have a “natural foods” fetish. But I almost always have bowel problems if I ever eat any lettuce or spinach that is pre-packaged in those plastic bags. There must be some bacteria that is common to that method that disagrees with me.

        I will say, the spinach is demonstrably better. The stuff you buy at the supermarket (perhaps in line with your comment about the thicker skins of tomatoes) tends to be leathery. Mine is light, tender, and tasteful. Its a major difference.

        And the regular romaine lettuce has been both prolific and very good tasting. This, along with the spinach, will remain a prime crop next year. But not so much the red romaine. The leaves were a bit wimpy and it wasn’t a fast grower or big producer. I’ll stick with the regular green (of what variety I’ll have to double-check).

        Pretty much every thing this year, Mr. Kung, is experimental. It’s sort of a test garden. I’ve got cucumbers and cantaloupes growing as well. I suspect neither will be worth the effort or space (particularly the cucumbers). But we’ll see.

        The bok choy is a couple weeks or so from harvest. I’m looking forward to that experiment. The bell peppers are another test case. I have a lot of them planted. I’m not sure if they’ll be worth it either. We’ll see.

        Tomatoes are always worth it. They’re easy to grow and don’t take up all that much space. The Swiss chard has become another favorite. It (like most leaf vegetables) tastes like poison to me when cooked. But fresh in a salad, it’s very tasteful.

        I’ve got some regular green onions growing as well. That’s just sort of the “what the heck” crop. It’s likely more worth my while to buy them at the store for soups when I make soups. They can go in salads, of course, but I generally don’t like eating onions during the day. So this is basically almost surely a one-time crop just to see how they do.

        The Walla Walla onions, on the other hand — if they do well — could see an appearance in the garden next year. This is particularly so because I believe you can keep onions in the ground for quite some time and use them as you need them.

        And we’ll see if the chamomile ever sprouts. The seeds I planted a couple weeks ago haven’t done anything. I planted some more today. I was looking forward both to the flowers and making a little tea…perhaps combining with some of the mint I have (that is, frankly, growing too fast) and the “lemon balm” plant I picked up a few days ago (and that is doing well) that really does have a lovely lemon fragrance in the leaves which can be used for tea.

        I’ve also got a few herb going. And most will probably go to waste but I just wanted to grow some. The basil is going good. The cilantro I had for the longest time was languishing. It wasn’t getting any bigger and looked a bit sick. But in the last week it’s doubled in height, if not a little more. Really shooting up. I’m not sure why.

        I’ve got some purple basil but its not doing very well. Not sure what it needs that it’s not getting. But it’s a very pretty plant.

        I’ve got one parsley plant (a regular variety, not Italian) and I’ll definitely do this again. It’s got a real parsley bite to it. Many might think it too strong. But I kind of like it. No wimpy parsley in my garden.

        I’ve also got some sugar peas going. They’re climbing all over and I’m not sure I’ve planned them very well. We’ll see how that goes. I do like eating them though, so we’ll see how they produce (nothing yet).

  12. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    One of my favorite flowers has become the early bird chili dianthus. Knock on wood, you can’t over-water it, you can’t under-water it, and it produces flowers for months. They look like carnations and they have a nice aroma. And the foliage is an attractive blue-green.

    I’m sure I could over-water it easily enough if we weren’t having this above-average spring that we are. But it just accepts whatever I do with it. I loves full sun.

    A couple other plants have not been so lucky. I had one beautiful plant turn pale, as if all the leaves — literally almost overnight — went moldy. It’s making a slow comeback, but I had to trim most of the foliage from it. And I’ve moved it from where it was (part shade) to full sun. I had to do something because it wasn’t making it where it was.

    Another plant (a “Bishop’s Weed”) did something similar. One day it was going well (and weeks after I had brought it home) and the next most of it died. That one, thankfully, has made almost a full recovery.

    And this one plant, a desert eve red yarrow, was the classic case (so far) of “It looks as good as it ever will fresh from the nursery.) It had a collapse a couple weeks after I got it. It then made a come-back (helped by sunny weather). But then (probably natural) all the flowers died out and it stayed that way for weeks. So I moved it out of the Container Garden (it really did look ugly) and put it aside, but where it could still get some sun. Well, it now does have a couple new bloom-clusters on it. But it’s a long way from making The Show in the Container Garden.

    The remarkable fact isn’t that I’ve killed (or maimed) so many plants. The remarkable fact is that I’ve been able to keep so many alive.

  13. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Gardening is for the Birds

    A pair of white-crowned sparrows have taken up residence in and around the garden. (Here’s a larger view.) Presumably they are a male and female. They are obviously building or tending something inside a big bush to the side of the garden.

    I thought that with all my activity around the garden so close to their nest, they would have abandoned it by now. Granted, they did get very nervous at first when they learned there was some slow-moving creature hanging about who was always spraying hoses and carrying a big water can. And they still do seem to keep an eye on me. I’ll round the corner and, sure enough, often there is a bird there in front of me who then flies away as I approach. There’s a bit of an Alfred Hitchcock feel to it sometimes.

    But mostly they ignore me now. I sat at the edge of the garden yesterday and watched them hunt for bugs in the garden. They’ll tip-toe on the edge of the bricks of the raised garden, sometimes walking completely around the perimeter, with their eyes peeled for bugs. They’ll sporadically trounce into the thick of the garden, disappear for a moment among the heavy foliage, and reappear on the other side, as if on safari. And they didn’t mind me watching them, and even moving a bit, from ten feet away.

    It’s been very hot lately. Today it got up to 88. So I figured if they’re going to do me the courtesy of eating the bugs, the least I could do was to put up a birdbath. I found an 18-dollar one at Lowes. It’s a cheapy, surely built in China. But it should do the trick. I waited to see if they would use it but haven’t caught them yet. I put it up on the tree line right next to some perches I’ve seen them use, so it should be in cover for them.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      Watch out for the bloody squirrels!!!

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Mr. Kung. How nice of you to flatter this regressing human being (who now dodders and finds gardening increasingly, if not at least momentarily, fascinating) by reading (presumably…I often skip to the end) these musings.

        I must tell you in all honesty (as opposed to my usual partial honesty), I had your squirrels in the back of my mind when writing about these white-crowned sparrows. I’ll give this to both species: neither make a lot of gaud-awful noise. They are as nature intended for children as well: seen but not usually heard.

        Not only am I doddering around in the garden (the tattoo parlors were closed…what else is there to do then?) but I donned the field glasses to do a little bird watching of this nesting pair (a phrase I sometimes use in conjunction with well endowed women at the beach, but that’s another story). I did so because I wanted to confirm the species. You don’t need field glasses to see the high-contrast stripes on their head. But I wanted to get a better look. And I can’t find any other bird that looks even remotely like this, so they must be the white-crowned ones.

        The info on these birds says that they winter over much of North America — but, happily for me (I guess), “they live in parts of the West year-round…two races live year round in the West, along the coast and in the mountains). I’m pretty near those descriptions so it’s possible these are proper residents and not vagrants. The certainly behave as if they own the place.

        Thinking of squirrels and birds and the battles they have — as well as the information from intelligent design that is fresh in my mind — it’s hard not to see both aspects. These birds almost certainly were designed. The systems for flight are so complex and interrelated, no stepwise random process could ever get you there. And they are likely designed to adapt to their environment, so “natural selection” is indeed going to shape things, perhaps to quite an external degree. Even the Designer could not foresee all the wonders forthcoming.

        But then there is that other side of the equations. Life eats life. There is competition and inherent violence and savagery. And unless one believes in a kind of Avian Original Sin, things are just built this way.

        Still, I do have a pellet gun, and should the squirrels become a bother, they will no longer bother these birds. I signed onto no Star Trekian non-interference directive when starting this garden. Nor does some insane and kooky environmental wacko-ism guide my ethic whereby it is people, not animals, who are the pest and must be managed. I’m willing to make choices in the battle of the survival of the fittest. I’m willing to choose allies and make enemies.

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          I liked the post and even had a look at the links showing pictures of the birds. I am not sure, but I think I might have seen one of these sparrows over the last year. They are not common here as far I can recall.

          I am with you as regards choosing sides in nature.

  14. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Cabbage Patch Kid

    One of the things I won’t be growing in the garden next year is red cabbage. First off, the plants take up an inordinate amount of space. The leaves are gigantic. Second, although I do like nibbling at the odd raw cabbage leaf now and again (because they are so very good for you), it’s not one of my favorite vegetables. And never do I like it cooked (although fermented, maybe).

    But I did grow one head successfully, pictured here. It’s slightly on the small size, but by no means tiny. I found a one-inch nearly lime-green worn on it this morning. I took it off and stomped on it. (The darn birds aren’t doing their job.) My older brother stopped by and said it’s more than ready to harvest anyway, so might as well before the bugs get it (cabbages are prone to worms, I guess).

    So the next hurdle was to pick it and see if the worms had gotten into it. They hadn’t. It was about the most perfect red cabbage head I’ve ever seen. The taste is good, a teeny bit sweeter (if that’s the right word) than store-bought and not quite the bite of some. But this is cabbage, and there’s no mistaking that. This isn’t like a sweet carrot right out of the garden. It’s cabbage.

    So that’s been a big success. And with it out of the garden now, I’ve transplanted two bell pepper plants out of pots into the garden proper.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      What a beautiful cabbage. Congratulations.

      Unlike you, I love red cabbage, both cooked and raw.

      Cooked red cabbage is a must with German cuisine during the game season. Add roasted chestnuts, a good strong red wine and you have a feast.

      Raw cabbage makes great slaw.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Okay, if I can find a field to grow them, and a way to FedEx them to you, maybe I’ll reconsider.

  15. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Indigo Rose and Dumb Birds

    I’ve started rotating in some new crops. The broccoli is done. I guess all you get is that one main head that sprouts in the center and is ripe first. The offshoots to the side didn’t grow very big before the flowers of the broccoli heads began to separate. So I yanked the four plants and planted (guess…come on…guess) a couple more tomato plants (25 plants now and counting) one spinach, a couple more sugar peas, and two rows of Walla Walla sweet onions. I figure by the time the onions are ready, it will be fall and soup time again. They should be great in that.

    The tomatoes are getting bigger. I have a few tiny cherry tomatoes on one plant that are orange (but not red yet). Most of the tomatoes on this cherry tomato plant are very small. Like a regular size marble, maybe a little bigger than a plump gooseberry (something I’d like to find and plant…anyone know where to get one? Anyone ever heard of one? Anyone ever taste one?)

    The spinach and Swiss chard are in abundance and I generally have a large salad for lunch every day. My little brother takes home a whole bagful of assorted greens whenever he can. But still it grows. I…must…keep…eating.

    My favorite tomato so far is the Indigo Rose. It’s a cherry tomato that is a beautiful dark gloss black with just a little green (soon to be red, one would suppose) on the bottom. I wouldn’t doubt that Mr. Kung would say there is a kind of Japanese lacquer-box aesthetic to them. I can’t wait to see how they taste.

    As for the birds, there is a story to tell. And I really haven’t a clue as to how the bird community operates as a whole. Some seem to be coming. Others seem to be going. And I have no idea who is related to whom, if at all.

    But the story of the Dumb Birds starts in my brother’s press room which is adjacent to my office. He and my older brother (who stopped by for lunch) were in there when a small black-headed bird (not one of my white crowned sparrows, I presume, unless it was one of their chicks) flew into the open slits of a window and directly into a plastic fan that was about the same size as the window (set to blow the hot air out of the shop). I heard the story second-hand, but apparently the bird was in the works of the fan when they first notice the intrusion. They could hear the sound of him getting beaten up by the blades. This is a cheap fan, plastic blades, not very powerful, but still not a lot of fun for the bird you would suspect.

    They turned off the fan and somehow my older brother at one point (there was some frantic flapping around) grabbed the bird by the tail feathers. Soon he was holding nothing but tail feathers and the bird flew frantically around the room, eventually diving into a closet which is my brother’s eBay treasure store room that is packed literally from floor to ceiling with stuff, including all kinds of boxes and packing material. It is a jungle of cartons and stuff.

    My little brother must have spent an hour trying to find the bird which had hidden itself somewhere inside this large closet. He’d catch site of it and try for it but the bird would panic and just flop around, banging off of shelves and etcetera. After several rounds of this — uncovering the bird amongst layers of eBay merchandise, and the bird panicking yet again and banging itself about like a whirling dervish — he said he picked up a packing tube with the intent of “stunning” him.

    And “stun,” I think, is his euphemism for perhaps doing a little more damage than that. But he was pissed off and had had enough. Fortunately he never could connect with a solid hit. Later, after cooling down a bit, he went into the room again to see if he could dig the bird out and he found it. It started to flutter behind a shelf, yet again panicking. But then it flew directly into one of my brother empty packing boxes. With quick thinking, he threw a nearby tapestry over the top to lock the bird in. He then took the box well outside and way from the building and let him go.

    He flew off apparently no worse for the wear. I spotted him several times. He seemed to fly a jittery course between two fir trees. I guess those tail feathers must be necessary. But he soon flew long-distance across the road and high into the trees. I hope he’s learned his lesson about flying inside of windows.

    I wonder if this was a chick of one of the white-crowned sparrows, but my brother doesn’t think so because he seemed too large for that. Anyway, whatever the case may be, I’ve seen no more of this black-headed sparrow, nor of the white-crowned mating pair. Maybe word got out of my brothers attempted bird-acide. But a new bird has come on the scene (I haven’t determined the species yet) and is building a nest not far from where the white-crowned sparrows had one. And it’s a spot where I often walk by so I don’t expect he’ll stay there, but you never know. He’s already scolded me several times for being so near.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      My favorite tomato so far is the Indigo Rose. It’s a cherry tomato that is a beautiful dark gloss black with just a little green (soon to be red, one would suppose) on the bottom. I wouldn’t doubt that Mr. Kung would say there is a kind of Japanese lacquer-box aesthetic to them. I can’t wait to see how they taste.

      I like your lacquer-box description. I think it is spot on.

      I hope you have more success than I did. Things went well initially, but after harvesting 20-30 tomatoes, the plant just sort of shriveled and died. As I recall, they tasted fine, but did not have a powerful taste like some tomatoes.

      As regards your visitor, it’s not for nothing that we have the term, “bird-brain.”

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Mr. Kung, the Indigo Rose black cherry tomato plant gives no indication of being particularly robust. Although the eight to ten fruit on it look to be forming well, the plant gives some indication of being like the mother octopus who stops eating while raising her eggs and eventually dies from having eaten nothing.

        As for birds, I was walking by one of the plum trees we have on the property. There are four of these trees and they are stuffed with small pie-cherry-sized fruits (very edible) that look like they will ripen at least a month early. I’m pulling some weeds underneath one of these trees when above I hear a bird freaking out. Instantly I know I’ve gotten too close to a nest — a nest (a robin’s nest, as it turns out) that I would otherwise have never noticed except for the freaking-out bird.

        Her act must work for the normal predators — snakes, crows, whatever. But to me it was like hanging out a neon sign reading, “Bird nest with sweet, succulent eggs in close proximity. Come and get it.”

        Nature red in tooth and claw, maybe. But sometimes bird-brained as well.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          What works on animals often fails disastrously with humans. I’ve heard this pointed out also with regard to the rattlesnake’s warning rattle. But when you behave on the basis of instincts inherited over millennia of interactions with animals of all sorts, change doesn’t come easily.

          • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

            What works on animals often fails disastrously with humans

            This is one of the reasons I often find it silly when people try to justify human actions by saying, “monkeys do this or that” or some such other nonsense; as if humans are not superior to monkeys in every way except for swinging in trees.

  16. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Choy to the World

    The one cilantro plant I have (grown from seed) is growing tall and proud (at least a couple feet high). I doubt I’ll ever use much of it for cooking. But I was surprised that it had such pretty little bundles of delicate white flowers.

    Much of the second planting of spinach is going to seed and I’ll have to uproot it soon and plant some more or plant something else. The first planting of the bok choy is going well. I’ve eaten three or four leaves and they are very good raw. They will be very nice in a salad. I’ve planted more of it. It grows well, grows relatively quickly, and is a “super food” in terms of nutritional value. I highly recommend this veggie.

    I’m so pleased with the bok choy, it may replace kale in future season’s plantings. True, because kale likes cooler weather, I may try growing it until perhaps November. But for now, it’s growing very slowly. For the bread-and-butter salad bearer, the bok choy is looking like a champ. The variety I’m using is called “white stem” (Brassica rapa).

    The very first tomatoes have ripened. I didn’t know they had ripened until my older brother noticed that the orange-yellow fruit on the “sun gold” cherry tomato plant was not supposed to go red. They (at least a few of them) were ripe as they were and were indeed tasty. Others are beginning to follow suit, but slowly.

    The biggest bang-for-the-buck is romaine lettuce. My younger brother goes home every third night or so with a rather large bag of mixed greens, fortified with a good supply of the romaine which grows well, abundantly, and with relatively little loss. I like pulling the odd leaf out of the plant and stuffing it into my mouth like a rabbit. That’s as fresh as it gets.

    I’m on my third try trying to get the chamomile to sprout. Yes, I do have three sprouts growing from the first or second try, but that’s three out of dozens of seeds. My sister-in-law bought me a different variety and that was planted a few days ago. We’ll see how that goes.

    I have some sunflower plants in the Crop Circle garden that are doing very well. They are approaching a couple feet tall. Oddly, three that I planted in another bed aren’t doing so well. I’m not sure what the deal is. People look at my garden and say I have a “green thumb.” This is nonsense. They see only the stuff I haven’t been able to kill.

    As the pastor’s wife that I know said about her garden, “I water it and god does the rest.” I believe there is some truth to that. You can find some nice soil, water it, make sure the seed or plant is in a place that gets the right amount of sun, but that’s about all you can do. We say “organic” if only because we still don’t truly understand what life is, so that term gives it a certain undefinable mystique — a mystique clearly earned…a mystique wherein there are “green thumbs” that somehow magically transform, by gardening alchemy, a seed into a glorious fruit.

    But there are realities even under mystiques. And ones of these, as I like to think about it, is that by planting a seed, you are boot-strapping a pre-existing program. Normally water is death to any kind of computer hardware. And that’s where the “organic” part comes in, for the micro-machinery of the seed and the cells is not short-circuited by it but requires it.

    But not too much, which may be the problem with one of those beds of sunflowers.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      Have you ever noticed that most of the “great” revolutionaries were intellectuals and not farmers?

      Perhaps it is because working with the soil one is forced to deal with reality as well as the wonder of life.

      I don’t include the American Revolution in this group as it was a revolution to take back rights, not to create heaven on earth.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Yep. From Marx to Bin Laden, it tends to be those who don’t want to do real work (and often don’t have to because of rich families) who spend their time idealizing how the rest of us should live. In order to justify their unproductive lives (which surely they sense on some level), they try to justify them with pure intellect.

        We see this same disease — mental masturbation, for all intents and purposes — in the chattering political and media classes. And I don’t for one moment exclude the conservative commentariat from that. And I’ve tried, in some ways, to shape StubbornThings away from this.

        According to this Wiki article, the term “blood and soil” predates the Nazis. It was coined in the late 19th century. “It celebrates the relationship of a people to the land they occupy and cultivate, and it places a high value on the virtues of rural living.”

        Anything can be idealized to the point of destruction or for nefarious purposes. But there is a lot of truth in that. As we are seeing, a city-organized mind is the mind of a naive and dumb brute. Those living in the bubble of the city class think they are amongst the brightest, but it is purely the result of intellectualism…specifically, the shared idea that they are the best and the brightest without actually having to do the math. There are entire networks devoted to this (MSNBC, for instance) — seminaries of the secular, if you will.

        I’m not growing this garden, Mr. Kung, for philosophical inspiration, although I’ll admit the garden itself does tend to produce its own kind of philosophy. It breeds patience and at least a modicum of appreciation for life — specifically food — beyond the confines of the shrink-wrapped. Indeed, that’s it. City folk tend to have shrink-wrapped minds. They are full of pre-packaged goods. Plastic. Lots of air inside the bag but very few chips.

  17. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    We had two days in a row of sunny weather this weekend on the Left Coast. I had every intent to plant some tulips in November or December but we have had almost literally 60 or more days of heavy rain.

    But I had bought some bulbs and they were sprouting in the package so I planted them. We’ll see how well they do.

    But first I had to uncover from a rather rainy and windy fall and early winter. I cleaned up the garden and was surprised that it went fairly rapidly. I new how much work went into setting up the various beds. And looking at the decayed state of them, I thought it would be a onerous task to straighten things up. But it didn’t take all the much work.

    I pulled a few weeds, a few old plant stems, raked around the beds, and added some more soil, topping things off a bit. Everything is now ready for a spring planting. I may even get a few things started early with some indoor planters. We’ll see.

    I haven’t lost enthusiasm for gardening. It was very nice to get out there in the sunshine and finally be able to do something. But my enthusiasm for variety (I planted all kinds of different things last year) has matured a bit into a more practical one. As nice as the broccoli, red cabbage, bell peppers, onions, green onions, cucumbers and kale were, some of these either just take up too much space or (in the case of kale) weren’t exceptional producers.

    And, yes, the bell peppers were nice but not demonstrably better than you can get in the store. So that will sort of be my standard. And carrots, tomatoes, and romaine lettuce will be some of the main plantings, probably along with spinach. The carrots were by far demonstrably better than anything you can get in the store. And the lettuce was truly “going forth and multiplying.” You get a lot just from one plant.

    And I will still do tomatoes, but not as many. And I think all of them will be cherry tomatoes. They did much better. Also, I’ve already ordered some much larger pots for the tomatoes I grow in a container. Some will be in regular garden beds. Some will be in containers.

    Also, I will plant more flowers just for decoration. The zinnias far surpassed my expectations. They grew well, flowered fairly early, and continued to flower for at least a couple month. I’m sticking with the “giant” variety but have also got another variety to plant as well.

    I’m also going to try to get the darn “true lavender” flowers to come up. I planted some last years and got nothing.

    I’m also looking to add a Strawberry Field…if not forever then perhaps at least for one season. My brother had given me a couple strawberry plants and they produced rather well. I have a couple sections I could expand into. One would require some difficult removal of a ground-cover evergreen. The other would be a little easier. I may take the easier route, but I think it should be fine. If I clip back the existing evergreen (which needs it anyway) a little more, I can probably have room for both the strawberries and a border of lavender or some other flower.

    I still love how everyone says I have a green thumb. Well, you wouldn’t say so if you saw all the plants that didn’t make it. But many do, and you go with what works. I guess you can call that “green.” One thing that did very well over the winter was the rosemary. I love the smell of that stuff even if I haven’t used all the much of it in cooking.

    The basil also made it through the winter okay and I did use a lot of that (dried) in my soups. I might plant another variety. The parsley barely weathered the winter and I’ll see if that springs back to life or if I need to plant it again. I also have a small bit of cilantro that made it through. I may expand my herb garden a bit just on general principle.

    But many of the plants I had outside in pots didn’t do well. Some may be dead. Maybe they will sprout again, maybe they won’t. Survival of the fittest…or at least the survival of those who can survive my planting techniques.

  18. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I was doing a little gardening the other day. Specifically, I was cutting back the juniper, and it was like doing archeology. That juniper tends to spread far and wide and cover over everything. I removed a layer and found an outside light socket, for example. I’ll have to put a bulb in there and see if it still works. It hasn’t been used in years. It certainly hasn’t even been seen in years.

    I also cut back a little juniper to allow a daisy-like grouping of flowers to have a little more elbow room. They are pretty when they bloom but have had to squeeze their way past the juniper branches which they dutifully did the past couple of years. But they were getting much crowded out so I decided to take measures.

    While doing a little more trimming I also ran across a small plastic sign, the kind that comes stuck into the soil of flowers that you buy, telling you what you’re buying. It was for some creeping phlox. And although that sounds like the worst kind of progressive skin disease, it’s really rather a nice looking flower gauging by the photo.

    But I can’t say I ever remember seeing the creeping phlox in the garden. It could be ancient. The plastic sign was so well buried, and being plastic, it was well preserved and difficult to know the age. But I shall try to find some creeping phlox and will ask at the nursery and do so in such a way so as not to startle the ladies.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      Believe it or not, we are just finishing the last tomatoes from our garden. We were very lucky with the weather this season.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Ah, I see you have put on your waders and have joined me out in the garden. It’s that kind of day here on the Left Coast.

        I’ve seen roses in bloom in December and even January up here. But I’ve never heard of tomatoes still being on the vine this late in the season.

        Speaking of which, this year it will be cherry tomatoes entirely. They grow better and they just work out better. I’m going to grow (hopefully from seed again) the Super Sweet 100 (so-called) and some Sun Golds. Also, I just bought some bad-ass 10-gallon buckets to use for container growing. Yes, they do indeed make even large ones but this should suffice. I’ll also probably grow some in the regular garden beds as well.

        I think (no think…I will…I’ve got the seeds) have a more extensive herb garden as well. I’ve also planted (and this is a precise amount…it’s registered with the Bureau of Weights and Measures) butt-load of tulips. We’ll see how they do. I love the tulips. And for longer-term floration (Is that a word?) I’m going to again plant zinnias. I have a couple varieties of them this year but will be growing the “giants” again as well. And those babies did indeed grow to about 5 feet tall. They bloomed a long time and the blooms lasted a long time.

        The “Strawberry Fields” expansion is completed, although I might yet throw a couple more bags of compost on top. But I’ve got the border planted in tulips and just outside of that (when it warms up) I’ll plant an inner border of lavender. The rest of the space will be given over for the strawberries to run wild.

  19. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Last Saturday I saw my first bumblebee of the season. It was the first bee or significant insect of any kind beyond ordinary flies, etc. Spring is coming.

    It was hovering around a lavender hawthorne. It somehow keeps its blooms throughout the winter. The winter was mild again this year, but not quite the one-month-in-advance that we had last year. Still, I did plant some peas last week, which this chart says is fine and dandy. Nothing has sprouted yet.

    I’ve been sprouting some lettuce, bok choy, and spinach indoors under some LED grow lights. They’re a bit pricey, but as long as they last a long time, it might be a sufficient value. The lights are customized to use only the spectrum that most plants need. So not only do you save energy from the fact that they are LEDs, you’re not wasting much of the wavelength they put out. They’re vented pretty well, but they are not warm at all to the touch.

    The veggies I first sprouted were a little “leggy.” I’ve since planted them in the garden and we’ll see how they do. My brother has since advised me to move the lights closer. This resulted in the tomato sprouts doing very well. I’ve since transplanted them into 4″ planting pots and move them outdoors in the day, and indoors at night. That’s to acclimate them. Some things will stand a little frost. But apparently tomatoes are not one of these plants so I have to watch the weather. There was a bit of frost last night so hopefully the lettuce, bok choy, and spinach won’t die. If they do, I’ll plant more.

    I’ve also got a large 12 x 8 gridded planter dedicated to flowers. I’ve got two kinds of zinnias, ice plants, lavender, and columbine. I planeted the columbine last year right into the garden and couldn’t get it to sprout. And with the ice plants, they require light in order to sprout (the seeds are put on the surface) so I have the entire planter under the lights during the day. We’ll see how that goes. I’d planted some lavender last year and couldn’t get it to sprout either. But the zinnias are easy and have become one of my favorite flowers for this very reason.

    I also planted a butt-load of tulip bulbs. A few I have lost to some varmint, and a couple times I’ve replanted only to lose them again. I’ve got several baited traps and thus I’m continuing the war from last year. But they are sprouting and a few plants are five or six inches high. I’ve got one pot of crocus that already has about a dozen beautiful lavender flowers. That’s an early bloomer, for sure.

    The garden (famous last words) will likely be a bit simplified this year. For starters, I’m going to go exclusively with cherry tomatoes, the Sweet 100 red variety and a really sweet gold variety. It just works better for where they will be growing. Less thievery because I can pick them every night when they just turn and they ripen wonderfully indoors. I was loosing a lot of tomatoes to thieves last year, and a couple to varmints. Plus, the cherry tomatoes just grew so much better. I’ve picked up some fertilizing tips since then, so I may still yet have a go with some beefsteaks or a “red October hybrid” that looks promising. But the “legacy,” old-style tomatoes (non-hybrids) didn’t do very well, nor did the two types of “black” tomatoes. It could have been too much heat. I could have been not the right kind, or amount, of fertilizer. It could have been the size of the pots. But everything I did with the cherry tomatoes that did so well I also did with the regular-sized large tomatoes which generally didn’t.

    Also, this time I’ve scrapped the smaller pots and have acquired ten of these ten gallon pots. This really is the size you should have, although you can certainly do okay with smaller ones. But the particularly hot summer last year meant I was sometimes watering four times a day with the smaller pots.

    But I am, as I said, simplifying things a bit. I’m planting more flowers (which require less care and worry) and plan to plant fewer varieties of vegetables. My rule is: It has to be demonstrable better than I can get at the supermarket. And the veggies that have reached this threshold are carrots and tomatoes. But I’ll also plant romaine lettuce and spinach simply because they grow so well, at least early in the season. I found that after the first planting, and beginning in mid July, I just couldn’t get much more out of them. I think that was partly due to the heat and partly due to them being ravaged by insects which wasn’t a problem in May and June.

    I’m also going to expand my herb garden. I love the smell of the rosemary when I’m out there. It’s fragrant even in the winter and survived the winter very nicely. The parsley (which I believe is a perennial) is haggard but it could come back. I have another edible leaf plant (I forget the name) that I thought had died out. But I looked in the garden one day and there it was again, and it’s now growing fast. So now I’ve bought another one and planted it just yesterday. That which thrives gets rewarded. The leaves have the faint taste of raspberry, and the name of the plant has the word “raspberry” in it.

    I’ve also planted some sort of curry plant. It’s got spindly white leaves. I was in the nursery in January and spotted it. Actually, I smelled it and it smelled good so I had to have it. Also, I had planted some cilantro last year. The plant seemed to all but die out but, again, it grew back and now seems to be doing well.

    The one area I did expand was the strawberries. I had three small bowls dedicated to them last year and was surprised how many strawberries I got from them. So I found a corner where I could add a larger bed and I’ve dedicate that four or five square yards to just strawberries…with an outer border of tulips, of course. I’ll take a picture when there is something worth photographing, although it looks nice now with the smart border of scalloped edging stones.

    And that’s pretty well the round-up as spring gets near. I’ve got the garden cleaned up and already for planting. It was a mess from October through December, but finally a few nice days arrived in January and I took the time to clean it up. I was surprised that it wasn’t quite as much work as I thought it would be, although I did wind up having to add several bags of soil to replace what was lost from ripping out some of the detritus.

  20. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    March is here. Woo hoo! This is kinda-sort the unofficial get-your-hopes-up beginning of spring. I know other parts of the country are buried in cold and snow. Sucks to be you. But we have to put up with our rain so it all evens out.

    I saw my first ladybug last Saturday. It was just sitting there on top of the basil. I guess it was doing it’s job. It needs to recruit some help because the small bok choy plants I planted already have a few leaves nibbled on.

    This is also about time when the smaller resurrection can happen. It is those plants that are supposed to be annuals that sometimes do come back. I have a neighbor who was showing me how this was happening to some of her annuals. I think “annual” is a pragmatic category that covers the fact that in most zones a certain plant will bloom and then die off in the winter. But because we often have generally mild winters here on the Left Coast, some “annuals” get their lives extended just a bit.

    The tulips are spearing their way up through the soil, many already having reached about 7 inches tall, but the vast majority are still relative stubs. We’ll see how this late planting works out.

    The peas I planted are coming up. I installed a new flower bed that is partial shade and planted a lot of cheap (1.98 per package of 8 or 10) flower bulbs in it, a couple different varieties. If they don’t come up, I’ll be sure to pick up something at the nursery and get some color going. But I’ll be patient. It’s only March.

  21. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Speaking of macros, I caught some interesting backlighting just now on one of my tulips (one of the relative few who made it past the damn squirrels). This was shot in macro mode with my Canon A570is: 1/160, F5.6 (aperture priority, and this is the sharpest f-stop on this lens), ISO 200 (anything more gets pretty noisy, although 400 is okay), the “cloudy” white balance setting to warm the afternoon sun up some more, at the highest resolution (3072 x 2304) and then scaled down, sharpened, and a small amount of photo-editing (lightening the background a little using Shadow/Highlight) in Photoshop. This was auto-focus all the way and pray…simply because it is very hard to manual focus using the fairly low-res screen (which features a rather lame focusing convention as well…it’s a very tiny area and no zoom).

    Tulips rule. Tulips and roses are the Mozart and Beethoven of flowers. Tulips, in particular, make swell use of the less-is-more principle. Clean lines and elegance. I love the buggers although I might have to hire a hawk next year to protect them.

  22. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Here are a couple more macro shots that I took this morning:

    Blueberries
    Peppermint Tulip

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Very nice detail. Perhaps one can now understand the Tulip Mania. I think we get a few during our spring flowering.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        We now have Trumpmania to replace Tulipmania. Let’s hope he’s not as over-valued as the tulips were back when.

        But they are remarkable flowers and easy to grow. These were from some of my first shots from my new Nikon D3300 DSLR camera which I got refurbished for $349.00. Knock on wood, I’ve had good luck buying refurbished. So far so good. Here are a couple more shots:

        Detail of saxifrage.

        Another detail of saxifrage.

        Detail of tulip.

        All of the above are relatively small crops for the original 6000 x 4000 px original. No sharpening or other corrections/enhancements have been done in post-processing. Focus can be a beast at these close quarters but if you get it right, it works.

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          Nice resolution. I can imagine what you could do with certain filters to accent colors.

          As you may have guessed from my icon, I love photographing flowers.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            Thanks, Mr. Kung. And I don’t know a lot about color filters. I’ve only every used a UV, Neutral Density (ND), or polarized filter. But you can do a lot of color adjustments in-camera and/or post-processing in an image program such as Photoshop.

  23. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    A kale flower in the afternoon sun.

    Sharp is a difficult thing. It didn’t help that the wind was blowing a little. The actual height of the flower is 0.9 inches.

    • Lucia says:

      Mr. Nelson, you have an excellent eye for composition and balance. Have you tried entering your flower photos in a competition, like the county fair?

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Thanks, Lucia. No, I haven’t entered any fairs yet. Thanks for the encouragement. What I plan to do next is to print a couple at a larger size and put them on the wall.

  24. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Here are a few more shots taken with my new Nikon D3300 camera of my new flowers. (Not “mine.” But I at least nurtured them.) And, yes, my obsession with tulips continues.

    Backlit Tulip

    I forget the name of this one (which is why I call it “Alien Leaves,” because they do look a little otherworldly). I had a couple plants die almost overnight last year. This particular one died down to little more than a stub sticking out of the soil. But I kept it and watered it this spring just to see if there was something still alive. Darned if there wasn’t:

    Alien Leaves

    I had quipped to a friend that the 18-55mm kit zoom lens that comes standard on the D3300 isn’t a true macro lens. Sure, I can shoot close-ups of flowers, but if I want to shoot a bug’s ass I’ll need a true (and expensive) macro lens. “Macro” technically means you can achieve a one-to-one ratio on the camera’s film or sensor. The Nikon 18-55mm lens achieves a maximum reproduction ration of 1:3.2. Combined with a close-focus of 10.8″ (from the film plane, not the front of the lens) and you can….well….almost shoot a bug’s…

    Ant Pollinator

    This may not be the best composition. But it does show off some of my tulips: Parade of Tulips

    If you’ve got a garden and are looking for something new, check out the “Bog Rosemary.” It has subtle bluish leaves and is overall a very delicate colored plant. These are supposed to have “morning sun only.” I’ve got it in the shade but shade plants are always tricky. So far so good. Here’s a detail of the wonderful flowers:

    Blue Ice Bog Rosemary

    More tulips. Can never have too many tulips. This one has no doubt been bread to mimic the king (queen?) of all tulips the extinct Semper Augustus. Such tulips were “broken” by a particular virus. Those viruses, I guess, no longer exist. And many of the varieties of tulips that they “broke” have gone extinct, simply because the virus didn’t play well with the tulips reproducing themselves.

    The red/yellow tulip is very effective. And let’s just say that at perhaps 25 centers per bulb, it was quite a bit less than the Semper Augustus which could go for 5,500 guilders…about the price of a luxurious home in Amsterdam.

    I pointed the camera at some indoor plants. I think this turned out well: Prayer Plant. It’s the prayer plant that has those red veins in the leaves. I found this plant quite by accident going to the nursery last year. I had it growing vigorously outside until either a crack whore or a vagrant stole it. I still don’t know who was pinching my plants last year, but there were signs of both types of problematic people last year. So far they have not come back. But I had to have another of these so I bought one and it’s thriving indoors…perhaps too well. It’s starting to crowd out a couple of the other potted plants. But I can’t complain. I’m glad it’s doing well.

    I got a relatively inexpensive Hoya filter set on the advice of a friend. I’m sure most of you have seen the prototypical shot of before/after using a polarizing filter. Well, it’s alway fun to do so yourself. And I did: No filter. With polarizing filter.

    I was out hiking/biking the other day and turned my camera on this lowly clump of…whatever it is. The undergrowth is full of plants I couldn’t even begin to name. But the warm afternoon light his this and darned if it didn’t find some beauty in this clump. Unidentified Weed.

    Is this a shot from the mid 1800’s or was I using my camera’s built-in sepia filter? Old Old Growth?

    I like this next one enough that I might print it out and hang it on the wall. I shot it last night. It’s a bud of a lavender plant. Lavender Bud

    Finally, here’s just a nice clump a trees where the light seems to be rushing through the undergrowth like a wildfire. Warm Forest

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Some nice ones there, and I agree that you might want to enter them into some sort of photography contest or something similar. National Geographic regularly shows interesting photos from ordinary people, and Smithsonian has done so at times as well.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      I especially like the Parade of Tulips. If is difficult to get such balance when taking photos of a number of different flowers not geometrically placed.
      The two photos of the forest are also excellent.

      Now I have to go to my room outside and mow the lawn.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        With all those tulips sort of leaning forward, it did strike me that they were all on march. Glad you like it.

        It was an overcast day so I chose the “cloudy” setting on the camera which boosted the color saturation…I may have had it set with a little bit more in-camera boost as well.

        Ideally I’d have shot that with an f/1.4 50mm lens in order to be wide open on the aperture and thus get more blur on the background. As much as photographers chase sharpness, it’s ironic that having things blurred the way you want them can be just as difficult.

        Imagine something like this (with the stems also in focus…I did a quick selection of just the flowers in Photoshop and blurred everything else manually). It might have been an even more effective photo. So I guess I’ll save my pennies. 🙂

        I’m glad you like the forest shots as well. It’s really really (did I mention “really”?) difficult to capture the magic of the forest. Once in a while you get lucky. But usually the shot just looks like a bunch of trees of no particular interest.

  25. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    It was a warm day here on the Left Coast so I got out and did a little biking…and stuck the camera in the backpack. I suppose a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. But I would be curious as to what the names of this plant is. Christmas seems to have come early to the forest.

    Red Green

    • Lucia says:

      I think the red/green is new growth on a huckleberry bush. I used to love to take close ups of tiny flowers and blooming moss. The miniature aspect prompted my imagination about little people in a little world.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        I think you’re probably right, Lucia. Until a couple years ago, I didn’t know there was a thing called a huckleberry bush that wasn’t the red-berry type like this. But every fall I notice the berry-pickers coming out and they have special scoops that they rake across the blue huckleberry bushes that mass-picks the berries.

        You can live with these things for years and not really know them. Another very common plant around here is the oregon grape. And the one pictured is apparently one of many varieties. I was at the nursery yesterday and noticed they had several types. And I’m thinking, “Why would anyone pay for a plant as common as a weed?” The berries are apparently edible, at lest they haven’t killed me yet.

  26. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Very often you’ll see something in nature that is beautiful. But can you describe it? Can you put it into words? A poem? Perhaps even a photograph?

    You’d think the latter is easiest of all, and I’d say that it is easier. But never easy. Point and shoot and even a trained monkey might capture a pleasing image given enough tries. (Now you know my general technique.) Thank god for memory cards that can be erased, filled again, and erased again. A blind chicken can indeed find a grain. But through practice you might increase your odds a bit by what you don’t shoot.

    This one is a shot of a who-knows-what bush. It might even be the same type as the previous one I shot. It was only a few feet away. Through some creative cropping, I think I found an image that caught something, if only the late afternoon warm light. This is either a natural corsage or a waterfall of little flowers.

    Flowerfall

    More of those remarkable red leaves: Very Red.

    Mr. Kung has suggested having a photo gallery here where these, and others (ones that you submit…but first filtered by your kindly and exacting Editor) can be displayed. I’ll look into that. And I really do mean that if photos are submitted (and if we get to that point, feel free) that I will be picky. For every one of mine you see here there are 10 that never make it.

  27. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Mr. Kung (and anyone and everyone), scroll to the very bottom of this article (not including the comments section) and you’ll see a sample photo gallery. Tell me what you think. This WordPress plugin is pretty intuitive and easy on the backend, so I like it so far. To get more whiz-bang features I’d have to pay for the “Pro” version. $30.00.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      It looks pretty good. I think you should see how things develop before considering the “Pro” version.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Good advice, Mr. Kung. The good news is that this plugin didn’t seem to break anything. That’s always a plus. I’d really like to get the “filmstrip” option (not available in the free version) that allows you to have a horizontal row of small thumbnails you can click on that then spill into the large main image area above it…a common feature. But I’ll play a bit before paying for anything.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Very nice. Many of them look familiar from your recent showings. Is that a grape hyacinth in the middle? We have them here in early spring.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        That’s actually a bud of a lander plant of some kind. In the enlarged view (click on the photo) there is a little “i” info button that brings up the file name and some other metadata. I’m still playing around with options…such as showing the file name by default. You can have it show on “mouse-over” (hover) in the thumbnail but it’s hard to read.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Try it now, Timothy. You may have to reload the page or clear your browser’s cache, but if you hover over the thumbnail images, you’ll see the file name. Obviously some of the names could be tweaked (a better description). But what do you think of this option?

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Nice, although sometimes the lettering is washed out by the photographic image. Even then, though, I can select it and get the information, as you suggested. So what I was seeing was the lavender. Well, that should help if the LTP get after you.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            Hahahah. The Lavender police. I think we’re now covered. We’re “diverse.”

            I looked in the settings page for this plugin and could see no option (whether for the free or pay version) to change the color of the type. There is an option to put the names in black underneath the photos. And that’s fine. But it’s a little more elegant without them. Still, if someone (not you…not a hint at all) wants to pony up 30 smackaroonies (is that how you spell it), I’ll purchase the plug in and do a little more work on a photo blog or whatever.

  28. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I’ve added a couple to the flowers photo gallery (at the end of the main article). The first one (shown in the first spot in the gallery) is an ice flower. I grew these from seeds. The leaves are a little strange looking and I’ve been watching them spread out a little until the biggest plants are about six inches in diameter. And then one day I went out there and a single plant if about a dozen of them had a flower in bloom.

    The second photo (to the right of this one) is a interesting bud of a spotted dead nettle. It will soon open in nice pink little flowers. But just before it does, well, what an alien looking contraption.

  29. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    FYI, here’s a photo gallery of the 2016 garden. I took these yesterday. I’ll provide some commentary and explanations when I get a chance.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Well, nothing there that I can particularly recognize. But then, I’m no botanist, and the pictures are small.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Hell, I don’t even know some of the stuff I planted. It’s often a “plant and forget” situation. I always keep the little plastic marker thingies that tell you what a plant is. But sometimes they get lost.

        What you can say is that they are “plants that haven’t died yet.” I’ve planted a lot of herbs which I’ll use for soups. And when I get a chance, I’ll post a couple close-ups of the herb. Some of them are splendid decorative plants in their own right. I put some “pineapple sage” in this morning’s vegetable soup, and damned if (especially when chopping the leaves) there wasn’t a strong pineapple scent.

        I’ve planted more herbs because the bugs are tending to eat all the little veggies as they shoot up. I’ve got some neem oil to battle that but it’s not a problem solved yet. But that’s okay. I experimented last year and had great fun growing things (wait for it) that are much easier to get at the supermarket. The only things worth growing because of the quality are tomatoes, carrots, and lettuce. The tomatoes are going good, the carrots haven’t come up (or if they did, were immediately eaten) and some lettuce is going well, but not all of it.

        Most of the tomato plants are cherry tomatoes — either the “super sweet 100’s” or the even sweeter “golden” tomatoes which are a sort of deep yellow when right. And, indeed, fairly sweet. But I had only moderate luck with the larger tomatoes last year, although I have five or six plants of various varieties going now. I know a little bit more so maybe they’ll do better. But no matter what I did or didn’t do to the cherry tomatoes last year, they grew very well.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Elizabeth isn’t up to gardening anymore, and she never did well growing vegetables and herbs in the back yard (which was too full of trees for them to get adequate sunlight). There are a fair number of spring flowers scattered about the front yard, mostly violets, grape hyacinths, dandelions (of course), and some tulips.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            Tell Elizabeth that she is more than welcome to live vicariously through me. Perhaps she could suggest a couple things to plant. Maybe she has a few tips. Maybe she could write a cute essay about gardening in general full of anecdotes and such. Always looking for content beyond “Trump is an idiot,” although that is welcome too. 😀

  30. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Here is one of the early strawberries from the garden.

    A Wiki article says that normal cultivation time is around midsummer. Certainly the patch (patched around some rainier time, nonetheless) of good weather has helped. One must fight the birds and the slugs to get to them first. For the birds I use netting. For the slugs I use Natria snail and slug bait. Plus, if you see someone out at night with a flashlight killing slugs, that would be me. But the Natria has done a fairly good job on them.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      Nice looking strawberry. Is it also red inside? If so, you have something most of us have not been able to enjoy for years. Everything coming out of the grocery store is white inside.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Mr. Kung, I honestly had to go outside and pick another ripe strawberry to remember whether or not they were white inside. I have confirmed that they are indeed red inside. They are tender (not crunchy like the fauxberries in the supermarket) and are moderately sweet. These should get sweeter as the season goes on. But the plants are just loaded. I’ll take a snap when I get a chance.

        I’m waiting for Glenn the Greater to write an essay on the deep and abiding analogy of the fauxberry. They look just like the real thing in the supermarket on the outside in shiny-red delectable perfection presented in clear plastic packaging that seems to hide nothing. But they are crunchy, white inside (as you said), and usually not actually ripe despite the bursting red color. And they mold in a minute. They are barely edible in the best of times.

        But we’ve gotten used to phony. People now accept these as real strawberries because they know of no other. Thus back to another Trump analogy.

  31. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I’ve come to gardening late in life. So like an obnoxious ex-smoker, I’m going to tell you how to live your life and all the benefits of gardening. And I can’t think anyone could truly be a conservative without having done a little gardening. You (or your plants, at least) are in a life-or-death struggle with nature. It’s survival of the fittest (or at least luckiest). There are no safety nets (although there are some bird nets). Outside of marriage, it’s probably the place where you most learn love and loss.

    But so far (knock on wood) the losses of the strawberries to nature have been minimal. And, really, every strawberry there can be credited to nature, so even one is a little mini miracle. But the fewer miracles eaten by slugs and birds, the better.

    You’ll see from this next shot the netting I have over them. It’s proving very effective. Even I have a hard time getting at them. And that’s no punchline. It’s truly a tangle of netting. It’s hard to find the openings. These are probably two foot wide sheets laid side-by-side and overlapping.

    Strawberries in May

    The netting is about exactly 5/8” square, so you can get some idea of the size of the strawberries. The ones on the left are rather large. As red as they may look, they still need another day or so to ripen up. I’ve read that strawberries don’t ripen up after they’ve been picked.

    Strawberries of this size and ripeness (I’ve picked a good dozen or so already…you’re looking at a photos shot about a half hour ago) in May might be unusual. But I’ve given them good soil, regular watering, and some fertilizer. The weather has been generally very kind as well.

    But I shan’t take credit for it. I’ve given the same loving care to other things and promptly killed them, much like a Progressive typically does to the things that he or she professes love for. But the strawberries, at least, are working out fine.

  32. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I’ve just added two pictures to the Flower Photo Gallery. These are some type of herb. And I can’t remember which type it is. I bought a variety pack of four different herbs so it’s likely that it’s parsley, oregano, basil, or thyme.

    I’m pretty sure it’s not parsley. I”m guessing it’s thyme. Anyone know? But it sure has beautiful clusters of little flowers.

  33. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Here’s a photo of one of my English cucumbers that I picked tonight. I dared not let it go any longer. I was paranoid about the critters eating it. But no nibbles so far. I wanted to have at least one unblemished. I may let the others go longer. I’m not sure exactly when you’re supposed to pick them.

    This one is 7-1/2” long and 2” in diameter. Several more smaller ones are on the plant. The one pictured is from the largest of the three plants that was giving to me by a client. You know you have a special working relationship when your customers are give you stuff

    The other two plants are relative runts. One was crippled by some kind of fungus. But the largest one that birthed this cucumber really took off and is huge.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I know that Elizabeth tried to raise tomatoes here, and only ended up with tiny ones (sort of like cherry tomatoes when she was supposed to have normal-sized ones) due to all the trees in the backyard , where she did her gardening. I don’t know if she ever did cucumbers.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Funny you should mention that. I have mostly cherry tomatoes planted. I have 30 plants in all, perhaps 10 of them are various regular-sized tomatoes.

        It’s a jungle out there. I’ll have to take some recent pictures. But one of the cherry tomatoes — still green, mind you — is 1-1/2″ in diameter at its widest point. That’s quite large. And I hope this is a good sign. It’s very possible something that large won’t be as sweet.

        But I practiced this year some better fertilizing techniques. My cherries did well last year but not the bigger ones. Many had blackened bottoms which I’ve learned is a sign of a mineral deficiency. I used some tomato fertilizer along with the Alaska fish solutions (smells like hell but works) this year. If the size of the plants is any indication, they should turn out well.

        Also, most were grown from seed. But all were planted with one teaspoon of Epsom’s salt sprinkled in the soil. And all of them, when they have gotten bigger (about to the stage of producing flowers) have received, via a spray bottle, a weak solution of Epsom’s salts sprayed externally about once a week (if the weather was good). Tomato plants absolutely respond to this. It stimulates photosynthesis.

        So if Elizabeth wants to give it another go, have her read this and I can provide perhaps a couple other hints as well.

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          Good info.

        • Rosalys says:

          “Many had blackened bottoms which I’ve learned is a sign of a mineral deficiency.”

          Sound like blossom end rot (BER.) Tomatoes, summer squash, and bell peppers are all susceptible and the cure is calcium. A garden center employee once gave me the tip that when putting in my tomato plants, to put in a large handful of bone meal at the bottom of the hole. (also, to dig the holes deep and bury 6 or 8 inches of the stem – the tomato will put out more roots.) When my brother had a BER problem with his tomatoes, one year, he mixed up some quick lime (for faster action) to water around the plants . The BER was gone in two weeks.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            Yep. Calcium. The tomato fertilizer that I bought has that as one of the main ingredient. You can buy bone meal separately. But the multi-fertilizers (if it’s a good one) are a more convenient way to do it. And certainly a dollop of bone meal a the bottom of the hole when planting sounds like an excellent idea. I may do that next year…depending upon the results I get this year. Even so, it’s a good idea regardless.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        No full sun, no tomatoes.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Yes, they like the sun, Mr. Kung. And as you have explained to me, but not too much heat. Apparently sustained temperatures in the mid to upper 80’s (or whatever you said) tends to stunt their growth. This is not a problem on the Left Coast (upper left coast).

          Most of my tomatoes are in containers. Job #1 is to get large containers, although I got perfectly good cherry tomatoes (Super Sweet 100’s) last year in relatively small containers. Big containers will obviously give you a bigger root system. But perhaps the biggest benefit is you more easily avoid drying them out using big containers (mine are both 10 gallon and 7 gallon). On an especially hot day, you have to water the small containers about three or four times.

          And, ideally, to help with water retention, you put a little mulch on the top layer. I didn’t do that, but I did use good potting soil.

          Some of the fine points are to clip out some of the stems at the bottom of the plant as it grows larger. That’s for air circulation, to make them easier to water, and to reduce fungus growth. Also, if you have an indeterminate variety of tomato, clip off the “suckers” that grow between the stem of the plant and the branches. This will (in theory) cause more of the energy of the growth of the plant to actually growing tomatoes instead of just endless leaves. Other YouTube videos that I’ve found on the subject suggest there are other “sucker” types of limbs that you should trim off, but I was confused about their definition of sucker so I didn’t use this technique.

          What I can tell you is that the plants are absolutely loaded with tomatoes and flowers. Whether the end product is good will have to be seen. I’ve had two ripe “golden” cherry tomatoes. The first one wasn’t very sweet. The second one was just fine. I worry that those huge cherry tomatoes I’m seeing are not going to be very sweet. But maybe they’ll be fine. I’ll certainly let them ripen up fairly well.

          • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

            Apparently sustained temperatures in the mid to upper 80’s (or whatever you said) tends to stunt their growth. This is not a problem on the Left Coast (upper left coast).

            As I understand it, tomatoes need a cooling off period and if the overnight temperature stays above about 80 degrees the flowers will not bloom as freely. And no flowers means no tomatoes.

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              Okay. Thanks for that correction/additional info. Again, staying too hot at night is not a factor for the upper Left Coast. But in other areas it certainly must be. Cooling off too much is the danger here. My plants (most of them, anyway) gain a boost by being next to a brick wall which retains some of the day’s heat.

        • Rosalys says:

          There was, years ago, a house on West Shore Road, near my house, that used their entire front yard to grown tomatoes, eggplant, and bell peppers. What was also growing in their front yard were about half a dozen oak trees. The amount of filtered sunlight that peeked through was very minimal; and yet the bumper crop that arrived in the middle of the summer had me staring, mouth agape, in disbelief as I drove by. They did this several years in a row. I never got the courage to go knock on their door to ask, “How is this possible?” I wish I had, because the results were the exact opposite of what they should have been.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            Given that tomatoes are a vining plant, perhaps they can do well in filtered light. Certainly things such as lettuce can, come the hottest part of summer, withstand a little shade which is precisely what they need (mine are currently substantially shaded by tomatoes and sugar peas).

            Maybe it depends upon the variety of tomato. Or it could just be that less sunlight means a longer time to produce and ripen fruit.

            Also, it’s a good guess that the people on the House on West Shore Road (sounds like the title of a Hawthorne novel) gave their plants otherwise optimum conditions. Good soil. Good water. Good fertilizer. Good pesticides. I’ve thought about trying a few things in a section that doesn’t receive all that much direct sunlight. It might be a good experiment to see what works best, if at all.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      Looks like a zucchini. I would love to have home-grown cucumbers. They really are much tastier than store bought.

      We are eating a far amount of salads these days and I find thinly sliced cucumbers and radishes add a lot to the taste and texture.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        That’s what my friend just wrote and told me. I sent her a photo and she thinks it’s a zucchini. That will still go good in a salad.

        • Rosalys says:

          Yes, that is a zucchini. A much maligned vegetable that, I think, gets a bad rap. I love summer squash in any form. Just be on the lookout for squash bugs – they can destroy your whole crop in a few days! (I speak from experience!) And they are much better when picked small and tender. I had one hide on me several years ago until it grew to the size of a possibly lethal weapon. Must you then toss it to the hogs? No! For there is always soup.

          Salads, yes, but also try squash soup. Easy peasy to make, delicious, and it freezes well – so you can enjoy your summer bounty all winter long! May I be so bold as to include a recipe? I’m not waiting for an answer:

          Squash Soup

          Ingredients:
          1/4 cup butter
          1 large onion, chopped
          1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced (or garlic powder to taste)
          2 lbs. cut up zucchini or yellow summer squash
          4 cups chicken broth
          Salt & pepper to taste
          Additional, optional seasonings:
          Dill, Italian seasoning, curry powder, cumin, sage more garlic, to taste

          Method:
          In a large enough pot, salute the onion and garlic in the butter for a few minutes. Add in the squash and chicken stock, and cook for 15 minutes, until tender. Puree in a blender; or better yet get an immersion blender, if you don’t have one, and use that.

          Season with salt, pepper, and whatever else suits your fancy (my personal favorite is cumin and sage.) Some people like to put cream in it. If you like that, add about a cup of cream at the end. I don’t bother. It’s yummy enough without.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            Thanks for the soup recipe. Yes, I can see this squash going into a soup, for sure. Your recipe sounds good although I’ll likely just modify my existing turkey-vegetable-rice crock-pot recipe which, really, is just a potpourri of veggies…now including squash. But I’ve never used dill. I thought about growing some. One can certainly pick it up in the supermarket. I’ll consider it. And I have sage growing out of my ears here. You need to come by and harvest some, as well as the basil and thyme.

            • Rosalys says:

              It’s much cheaper to buy basil and thyme at the local market than to fly clear across the country, so I’ll pass on your generous offer – but, thanks anyway.

              One of the nice things about growing herbs is that the deer don’t like them!

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Yes, I’ve noticed how similar cucumbers and zucchini look. It can be confusing when I see what fresh vegetables Elizabeth got, since she uses both.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          They must indeed be similar, because the plants fooled the buyer who apparently has raised (grown? herded?) English cucumbers many times. It must be easy to get the plants mixed up. Perhaps Brexit has something to do with it.

  34. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    This is very likely an English cucumber. It was from a different one of the three plants given to me by a friend, one of which turned out to be a zucchini.

    Notice the resemblance to a sea cucumber? I guess that’s why they are called that. Go to Google images and see the amazing variety that these Echinoderms come in. The sea cucumber is realated to the starfish, sea urchins, and sand dollars. Supposedly. I think the idea of common descent is in serious trouble.

    The English cucumber pictured is 9-1/4” long (if stretched out) and 2-1/4” at its maximum diameter. I’ll let you know how the insides look and taste when it goes in the next salad.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      Notice the resemblance to a sea cucumber?

      In case you didn’t know, the sea cucumber is a Chinese delicacy. I have tried it and don’t get it. But I also didn’t get durian, so I guess I’ll just stick to eating real cucumbers.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        If the outside tastes as the outside looks, I don’t blame you, Mr. Kung. But what a weird creature these sea cucumbers are. You can find them easily enough in Puget Sound, often caught accidentally while fishing for something else or in tide pools and such.

        The idea that sea cucumbers are related to sea stars (we call them “star fish”) brings into question to me the classification systems used in biology. If common descent is taken as a given (as it is) then various wild, weird, and highly divergent creatures are, and must be, pushed and packed into the same evolutionary tree.

        On the other hand, why in the world would an Intelligent Designer design such an ugly blob? Yes, some of them are quite colorful and even beautiful in a monstrous sort of way. But others look like big piles of crap.

        The mystery remains. But I think the English cucumber, in this case, is real and quite likely edible.

  35. Gibblet says:

    “Gardens are indeed a challenge. But I also find sanity in them. I look at the tattooed fools who walk through life with their head buried in their phones and, despite whatever shortcomings and problems I may have, I know that’s not the way to go through life. You have to stop and smell the roses . . . and maybe plant a few as well.”

    Thanks for the great garden review, Brad, over on the “Simple As Pie” thread.

    I enjoyed growing pumpkins and selling them in front of our house when I was a kid. I didn’t expand to other vegetables until a few years ago, when I began working for other people. Like you, I have had outstanding and overabundant success with the Sweet 100 Cherry Tomatoes. Last year I had one which grew 15 feet out from the main stem. But like your bigger tomatoes, most of those I grew this year are still green. I planted the Early Girl and several heirloom varieties.

    This year, I grew sunflowers for the first time. They were big balls of sunshine against the deep blue sky. When the seeds began to ripen, the grey squirrels climbed up the stalks and hung over the sides of the flower head to feast on the bounty.

    I can relate to what you described as “hodgepodge” in your garden. I planned the space in the chip garden I manage (see “Back To Eden” on You Tube for chip garden example). But the squash have ideas of their own, growing into pathways and through the sheep fence, and generally just taking over. But I grew plenty of butternut squash, little sweet pumpkins, and zucchini. The cucumbers did well, too. And the watermelon plant has a dozen fruits of various sizes – I just don’t know when to harvest them, although with the weather changing, I think the answer is “now”.

    The raccoons got 80% of the corn on 25 stalks. I won’t bother with bush beans or bush peas or bush tomatoes again – they are just too inconvenient that close to the ground. I imagine the bush varieties are good for container gardens.

    I’m happy to see that the fig sticks I acquired last summer working in a local fig orchard are well on their way to becoming trees. Some sprouted leaves right away, but most came to life gradually over the year since I first cut and planted them. Deer love the new fig leaves, so they uprooted several starts during the winter. Furthermore, this spring I pulled and tossed about half the sticks before I realized that they may still have life in them. I have about a dozen little trees started at home, and 3 in the chip garden. I really need some land to fulfill my orchard dreams! However, my little trees will be ready to go if my dream ever comes to fruition.

    I have begun to clear out a portion of my home veggie garden now that I’ve harvested most of the produce. My plan is to convert half of the new garden space into a nursery for propagating trees and shrubs, which I have finally realized is my gardening passion (besides pumpkins). I already have several good starts of Japanese Maple, Weigela, Hydrangea, Viburnum, and Figs. When I have the infrastructure in place, I plan to visit the the gardens of friends for cuttings, and will likely carry a set of pruners with me wherever I go.

    The rest of the new garden space will be used to grow things we like to eat while we are outside working: peas, cherry tomatoes, peas, zucchini, peas. And pumpkins (just for fun).

    • Gibblet says:

      Brad, maybe you could add “Gardening” to the Health/Fitness category (including this essay)….?

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Or just change it to food/gardening? Maybe Gardening/Cooking?

        • Gibblet says:

          …and just forget that we have standards?

          • Gibblet says:

            Gardening/Cooking could be a new category! By the way, I posted a long comment above about my garden, in response to the great comments you made about your garden on another thread (just in case you missed it – because who needs to keep up on current events, run a website, and manage a business when he can read about my garden, right?).

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            …and just forget that we have standards?

            Well. There is that. My initial thought on “health/fitness” was to talk about ways of doing things that were a little better or a little healthier…and certainly without roaming into the realm of complete health nut. I don’t really want someone’s recipe for clam chowder that has 1/4 cube of butter, 1/2 pint of cream, and a slab of bacon. However, I would want someone’s recipe for a relatively healthy clam chowder. So I’ll have to think about this. And if you want to recast your post a bit (with a blog post in mind), I’ll post it on its own separately.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I have begun to clear out a portion of my home veggie garden now that I’ve harvested most of the produce. My plan is to convert half of the new garden space into a nursery for propagating trees and shrubs, which I have finally realized is my gardening passion (besides pumpkins).

      You make me realize, Gibbett, that it isn’t truly a garden unless it’s a garden-in-progress. A garden is always changing.

      I have a type of plum tree growing at the office and have two or three small sprouts growing that I had transplanted into pots. I frankly don’t know what to do with them. You’re welcome to them. They probably won’t survive otherwise. And the plums are good and the trees (and blossoms) are merely spectacular.

      • Gibblet says:

        Thank you Brad. I would really like them! Would you like a little fig tree?

        • Timothy Lane says:

          That would be especially helpful with a grapevine, so he could live (like the Israelites during the Judges era) “under his vine and his fig tree” as he thought best. Would that this were possible today.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          I have one fig tree growing in a pot that got quite tall. I need to figure out what I do with this one before adopting another. I’ll keep that other fig tree in mind. Thanks.

  36. Gibblet says:

    “under his vine and his fig tree”

    That is a great phrase Timothy. I did a search and found it three times in the Old Testament. It describes the epitome of “the good life” indeed!

  37. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Here’s a photo of the first cucumber of the season. I didn’t even know I had one until I peeked under the leaves.

    The tomatoes are doing well. I planted even more of them this year although I narrowed it down to four varieties: Sun Gold, Super Sweet 100 (both are types of cherry tomatoes), Lemon Boy, and October Surprise. The cherry tomatoes did exceptionally well last year. But with the same fertilizer and care, most of the other large-variety tomatoes were mediocre, at best. They would have bottom rot. And even those that didn’t tended to be spongy inside. Luckily I was able to give most of them away to the Church Ladies who love making fried green tomatoes. I was giving these huge green tomatoes away by the bagful. And they did at least have the attribute of growing large.

    But the Lemon Boys did very well. I have a whole bunch of yellow wax beans planted as well. I bought one small plant as an experiment last year and it turned out very well. They’re tender, not stringy, and have a good taste. So I planted a bunch from seeds (beans?) this year.

    The strawberries did well. I decided to not fuss with a net. Yes, the birds got a few but losses were acceptable. My older brother brought me a couple dozen corn plants he had as overflow and I’m still scrambling to find a place for all of them. But I have about a dozen of them planted, plus a couple pumpkin plants he had as well.

    Other than a little lettuce and a few more cucumber plant, that’s about all the veggies I planted this year. I have one bed in which I planted radish, but they didn’t grow well. And it doesn’t look like the onions or carrots are doing too well in this same bed either, although I do have a spontaneous eruption of sunflower plants from last year’s seeds that fell into the soil. So I’ll let those grow and see how they do.

    My one rose bush is doing very well although I sprayed it this morning with some neem oil to try and combat the aphids. I’ve got a bed this year of lupins. And although they dod not yet match this kind of splendor from an online image I found, they are doing well. I just don’t know if they’ll ever fill in like that.

    I’ve simplified my fertilizing technique this year. I’m sticking exclusively to the Alaska brand fish fertilizer. It’s not too expensive especially compared to some of the other Miracle-Gro stuff I tried last year. I fertilize about every five days or so and in between spray the leaves with a weak solution of Epsom’s salts. The magnesium sulphate facilitates photosynthesis, so I tend to spray it on everything. The tomato plants certainly respond positively to it. Put a tablespoon in about a quart of water in a misting bottle and go at it.

    I’ve learned to live with nature a little bit instead of fighting it. I didn’t plant any tulips this year because the squirrels would just eat the bulbs. But plenty of people have far worse problems than I do, especially with deer.

    I’ve also planted some shallots just to see how they would do. From the looks of it, they seem to be doing pretty good. But I’m not yet sure what one small seed bulb will eventually grow into. I guess I’ll know when I dig them up.

  38. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    “Butt

    The garden is going well, naughty tomatoes notwithstanding. The weather on the Left Coast has been superb for growing things. Heck, I probably could have grown avocados with full-grown trees as a given.

    The main crop is tomatoes, beans, various herbs, flowers (I included lupins this year along with the regular zinnias), and strawberries. I’ve got a couple pumpkin plants my brother had given me that are going nuts, although he noted today that not all the pumpkin flowers were pollinated. He had suggested pollinating by hand but there’s just so much intimacy I want to share with my garden. But plenty are fertilized…probably more than enough for the plant to handle.

    I planted two 8” x 4’ planters with cucumbers, hoping I’d at least get something. They are going nuts as well. I’ve built a trellis for them (a picture being worth a thousand words). They mostly ignore it and run their vines where they will. But I have trained them (that is, lashed them) to the trellis.

    The most splendid thing in the garden is my one spicy oregano plant (to the right in the photo). It grew quite modestly last year when I first put it in. But now it is large and in full flower.

    The splendid thing about it is that no less than 30 bumblebees are buzzing in and around it during the day. All at one time. I’ve never seen anything like it. I’ve never seen so many bumblebees in one place. I can move in and around them (a necessity while watering) and we leave each other alone. Bumblebees are one of the gardener’s best friends. They do an enormous amount of pollenating, although they may have slacked a bit on the pumpkins. Nobody’s perfect.

    The cherry tomatoes have been coming on for two weeks now. This morning I got a colander full of them. I can probably grab the same amount tonight. Soon I’ll get double that amount every day. It can become overwhelming. I did make them a base for a vegetable/chicken/wild-rice/cauliflower soup that I made the other day. That is one way to dispose of them in quantity.

    Temperatures could reach near 100 today. There was smoke blowing down from British Columbia which cut temperatures down a bit. It may do so again today. I was out hiking last night and the Olympic Mountains were almost obscured from the haze.

    Mostly the garden has been a pleasant diversion…and a lot of work. It’s become a small urban jungle.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      Oregano covers many square feet of a patch off our patio. It grows like a weed. And like you, we have plenty of bees everyday. They like all our herbs which we let flower.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        I know of no common herbs that grow wild here in Western Washington. Oh, I’m sure there are tons of obscure varieties. But none come to mind.

        It must be cool to have the herbs growing wild. Our undergrowth around here is very green but I suspect much more rugged. It would wilt in Texas weather, no doubt. But it stands up to rain, rain, and more rain. And the cold. Most of the undergrowth around here is not what you’d call delicate. Sword ferns are quite ubiquitous as is the salal whose leaves feel more like tough plastic. Wild blueberries which have quite spiny leaves. I believe they are also called evergreen huckleberries, but I’m no expert.

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          My wife originally planted the oregano in one area, but it has spread and grown like mad for years now. It is mainly kept down by our walking over a certain stretch of ground next to it.

          There is also some type of mint which has taken over a small piece of ground on the other side of the patio. An area of about 2-3ft wide by about 20ft long is mint.

          Finally, basil also seems to sprout up pretty easily. My wife dumped out last year’s soil from some clay pots on to a small patch of dirt and it is covered with basil bushes. A couple of bell pepper plants also came up. We think that a small avocado tree might also be growing there, but we are not yet sure.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            I grew a little bit of mint last year, Mr. Kung. I swear, it was like planting pods from Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It tried to take over everything. I pulled it out but I’m still pulling out shoots of it. I love the smell of mint but I’ll have to create another raised bed all for it if I mean to grow it again.

  39. Lucia says:

    Smoke from those same fires have plagued us for the past couple of days down here in Southern Oregon. Temperatures have been over 105 degrees but my summer garden has loved it, just as long as I keep the plants well watered. I make sure the subsoil stays wet starting with the first warm spell. No ripe tomatoes yet, although I planted Black Krim for slicing and Manzanos for sauce which take 90 days to ripen, but cucumbers are blooming, corn is making tassels, beans are ready to pick and zucchini is flourishing. We have too much wind for aphids or mold to take hold. I did find a corn worm on the beans so I ripped it in half and threw it to the yellow jacket wasps. I’d better keep an eye out for more.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Thanks for joining my room outside, Lucia.

      I’ve come to understand that my tomatoes are a little early. They do receive great care, and I’ve learned some tricks on fertilizing. So I’ll take credit for not screwing up God’s creation, if you will. And that’s really what gardening is about. You facilitate what the plant will do naturally if given what it needs.

      It’s perhaps why I like to dabble in programing as well. A tomato, after all, is ultimately (or at least intrinsically) a program…a genetic program full of information, in this case. And unlike human beings, if you pamper the plant — giving it everything it needs and cushioning it from all hardship — it will produce wonderfully.

      I’ve heard that it’s 105 down in Portland from a friend who works there…even despite the haze which, I’m guessing, is a little less than up here nearer the border. It was in the high 80’s here yesterday, and the official forecast is for 91 today. I watered the tomatoes (particularly the ones in containers) at least three times. The containers are large and so aren’t quite as amenable to drying out. But drying out is, of course, not what a tomato plant wants. It wants to use this sunshine and heat to grow, grow, and grow.

      I have heard, however, that too much heat is not good for tomato plants. But so far I can see no ill effects…as long as I keep them watered.

      Aphids are feasting on my one large rose bush and also on my planting of lupins (which is now mostly done, the flowers having produced black and ripe seed pods). I’ve used a little insecticide soap on both. But, knock on wood, the tomatoes seem to have their own self-defense against most bugs. And with the spiders now setting up webs in and around them, that will help as well.

      My larger tomato varieties are Red October and Lemon Boy. Both seem to be doing well. I see no bottom rot this year from any of these other varieties. I have exclusively used Alaska fish fertilizer on them. I fertilize (at least in this good weather) about every three days. In between times the leaves get squirted with a dilute solution of Epsom salts (one tablespoon in a quart or so). The magnesium in the Epsom salts super-charges the photosynthesis.

      Also, when fertilizing with the Alaska fish fertilizer, I’ll usually sprinkle it all over the leaves. This presumably directly feeds the leaves. And certainly there has been no ill effect from doing so. This stuff also works well on rose bushes and other flowering plants.

      I’ve been eating beans for about two weeks now. They are in peak production at the moment. And I’ve been getting some simply huge (almost obscene) English cucumbers. But the regular variety of cucumbers (more of a pickling variety, I suspect) taste better and are also doing well. I’ve been picking them for the last week or two as well.

  40. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Just for future reference, peak harvest on my 28 cherry tomato plants was on August 12. It’s tapered off a bit in the last few days but there’s another peak that will probably hit in a couple weeks.

    I’ve been struggling again to give them all away. That’s half the fun. My mail lady has been a good sport and I leave her a small bag every day or three. The UPS driver loves them and I give him some whenever he’s got a package to deliver.

    One of my clients — the one who gave me an English cucumber plant — has been the glad recipient of a lot of tomatoes as well as cucumbers (English or otherwise). There are several ladies in her office that benefit.

    I also give this out to selected clients when delivering jobs. But I have so many to give away, I’m not to choosy about who is select.

    The beans have just about run their course but it was a good crop. The Lemon Boy tomatoes have been ripening. I got the first one about a week or so ago. They are delicious. No bottom rot. No sponginess inside.

    My small stand of corn is doing well. No overt tassels yet. And I’ve got about five or six pumpkins going. These, I believe, are a standard jack-o-lantern ones. The zinnias are in blooming and still coming on. The lupins are completely done. They don’t last long nor did I really get sufficient flower to justice them. Still…they’ll pop up next year again on their own and I’ll see what they do.

    I’m still getting strawberries although worms seem to be getting the best of many of them. But I get a few here and there. I can say I had my fill. If the worms and birds get a few, it’s not hardship for me.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      We use cherry or grape tomatoes in salads, since it’s easier than cutting up a larger tomato. You could always make the sort of salad we frequently had in Greece — slices of tomatoes and cucumbers, served up with vinegar and olive oil.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Speaking of easy to cut up, I’ve been using a couple pounds or so of cherry tomatoes for soups. I put them in the blender, pulse it a few times, and there you have it.

        I’ve been meaning to make a cucumber and tomato salad. I might try that version.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          In Greece, they would have a row of tomato slices and a row of cucumber slices. You could apply vinegar and oil as desired.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            I had missed the word “slices.” Many of the cucumber-and-tomatoe salad recipes that I’ve seen have diced them both. Interweave the slices and that might look cool.

  41. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Here’s a view of one of the Lemon Boy tomatoes coming into its own. I’ve harvested just short of a dozen so far. They have turned out well. No sponginess in the middle. No bottom rot. This particular tomato shown is about exactly 3-1/2” in diameter. A good medium-sized tomato.

  42. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Here’s a sunflower in my garden.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Impressive picture.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Glad you liked it, Timothy. Funny story is that I had planned not to plant sunflowers. This sunflower is from a large, round raised bed right next to the road where there is fairly good traffic. While doing my preparation work this spring, getting the soil in shape, etc., at least two passersby asked me if I was going to do sunflowers again. I equivocated.

        As it turned out, I did not plant them this year. But I planted them last year and the mature seeds that were scattered naturally from last year’s sunflowers sprouted about a couple dozen plants. I let them grow. Commitment fulfilled. I won’t even try fighting Mother Nature or the neighbors next year.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          The only time I can recall seeing sunflowers came on a trip to Istanbul during which my father pointed them out on a farm in Thrace.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            I’m quite sure I’ve never seen sunflowers in the wild. A quick glance on the internet says that the sunflower is native to North America but commercialization of the plant took place in Russia.

            This history of the sunflower from the National Sunflower Association (I guess there had to be such a thing, right?) says that Indians “first domesticated the plant into a single headed plant with a variety of seed colors including black, white, red, and black/white striped.” I did not know that. Apparently this happened in the areas Arizona and New Mexico, places where the sun is certainly abundant.

            The Spanish brought the plant back to Europe where its main use was ornamental. Peter the Great is credited with the massive planting of sunflowers for their oil. Who knew? The Russian Orthodox Church accented its popularity by excluding sunflower oil from forbidden Lent foods.

            The sunflower made its way back to America where, prior to feeding bored baseball fans, it was apparently initially widely used to feed poultry. It’s an interesting and short history of this plant. You too could receive The Pustovoit Award if you can contribute in some way…what way, I’m not sure. The accidental planting of the plants is likely not enough.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      Beeuutiful!

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Thank you, Mr. Kung. One of the more esoteric things about the sunflower is that its seed arrangement expresses the Fibonacci number sequence where you add two number together to get the next one, and so on like this:

        1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144 . . .

        Alas, I don’t understand all this. It’s enough to see it as a sunflower. One site notes “Although the math may be beautiful, plant biologists have not worked out a mechanistic model that fully explains how the sunflower seed patterns arise.” Design, of course, is not considered with God as the ultimate mathematician signing his work…perhaps showing off a bit.

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