Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Name that weed.

My vegetable garden is looking great, but the rest of my yard? Most of it needs attention, including

these hostas planted along my front sidewalk. You’ve got to try hard to mess up a bed of hostas, but I’ve managed, thanks to this prolific mystery weed now showing off its lovely orange fruit.

If you can identify this weed, please do. I’ve found that I can postpone the hard garden work with less guilt when the weeds have names.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Who needs Dave Brown?

It finally rained a little this afternoon, and most people seemed surprised. Not me. I knew rain was coming because our cat, Sisame, threw up on the ironing board early this morning. She’s a dependable vomit machine about 12 hours before the rain blows in.

June has been very dry, so the weather has meant lots of watering. That's okay with me. Watering is my favorite job in the garden. It’s easy, you can get your feet wet, and I love the look of leaves covered in water droplets. I think my canteloup (top photo) looks particularly lovely.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Something to crow about.

I’m trying to contain my excitement, but what the hell. I HAVE A CUCUMBER! This adorable cuke is the first vegetable to appear in my garden, and I think it’s quite impressive.

Too bad I don’t have a fancy A-frame trellis, because the vines already are outgrowing their support. These cucumbers are Japanese soyu, a sweet Asian variety for eating or cooking. Every yellow flower turns into a cucumber, and once the veggies form, they double in size every two days.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Will she ever stop with the cute dog photos?

Griffin is a canine flexitarian. He will eat vegetables, as long as they’ve touched meat.

I like to think he’s holding this perfect sit in admiration of my lettuce (which I grew). Yeah, right. Grif is sitting at attention because there’s chicken underneath the greens.

Always listen to your daddy. Part 2.

On Sunday, the kinks in my new hose pushed me over the edge. So I gathered it up (all 100

feet) and drove to Lowe’s, where I patiently waited in line with the thing draped over my shoulder. I didn’t have my receipt or the hose packaging.

“What’s wrong with it?” the guy at the returns desk asked. “It kinks,” I answered. Without another word, he grabbed the hose and threw it in an empty grocery cart, where the water still in the hose immediately drained on the floor. It was one of my finer moments.

Next, I drove to Sears to buy a Craftsman rubber hose, on sale for $19.99. I bought two. Instead of ugly green vinyl, they are black, which goes with everything.

Victoria suggested the Sears connection (I‘m sure that‘s where my father bought his!) and she also found these adorable hoses online in a rainbow of colors. I covet the yellow one.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

How can I not believe this guy?

Friend and co-worker Chris Davis is my go-to gardening guy. He grew up in the country, and his parents ran a nursery. Plus, he brings in an arm full of bay leaf branches every fall. I dry them, fill up two mason jars, and cook with them all year.

Chris also is an accomplished cook who lives with his family in Uptown. Lately, he’s been distracted from cooking by his house painting chores, but do his daughters care? Of course not. So when they complained, “I‘m hungry,” Chris whipped up lunch, thanks to his urban garden.

“Charlotte found eggs and frozen meatballs in the freezer,” Chris said. “That was it.”

But no. That wasn’t it. Chris has been growing raspberries, blackberries, peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, and basil that’s as big as his hand. Plus, he’s experimenting with a new variety of spinach that vines up his fence. He found the spinach from a vendor at the downtown Farmer’s Market.

With the first handfuls of spinach and other early summer veggies, Chris served a lovely frittata with a raspberry and strawberry garnish on the side. Makes you want to move right in, doesn’t it?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

OMG: The veggies are growing.

Okay, the beans are giving me a fit. But the rest of my vegetable garden?

Let’s just say, it's a miracle.

I’m particularly taken with my tomatillo plant (that's the middle photo), which is thriving in the heat and humidity. Also, I'm fascinated with my cucumbers and the way a miniature cucumber emerges from every flower. Happily, the bugs aren't at all interested in cucumber salad.

Dear God: Please save my beans.

Of all the vegetables I've planted, I'm excited about my beans. They grow so fast, and beans are my favorite veggie. But alas, they are making me crazy.

While the rest of my plants are thriving, something (bug? rabbit? snail?) is eating my beans, both the bush beans and the poles beans. I'm tempted to start spraying chemicals, but instead, I tried this spray called Organocide. It worked for about a week, but now the holes in the leaves are showing up again. Plus, it cost $9, and I used the entire bottle in two applications.

I also planted marigolds and zinnias, in hopes that they will attract the good bugs that eat the bad bugs. No action yet, but the marigolds are brightening up the bed.

Lori Greene from Downing Hollow Farm thinks I've got flea beetles. I did see a very small tan beetle that looked like a lady bug, but it's not matching up to photos online. Also a few very, very tiny flies. Any suggestions ?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

No muss, no fuss.

I’m not a big fan of container gardening with annuals. Too many rules (pot a vertical plant with a vine), too much repetition (start over every summer), and too easy to ignore (they need constant watering).

Perennials, on the hand, are a different story. I potted this blue hosta and Japanese fern four summers ago when I was moving around plants in the courtyard, and it hasn’t disappointed. I leave it outside, where is dies back every winter. In March, like clockwork, the hosta emerges followed by the fern. I nudge it along with a little water now and then, and by early June, it's fragrant and blooming.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Always listen to your daddy.

This is my new hose. Notice the shiny nozzle, because that’s the only good thing about it.

Why did I buy this piece of crap? Even worse: Why did I spend $36 for a no-kink, easy to coil, lifetime warranty hose that a) kinks, b) is not easy to coil, and c) certainly won’t last a lifetime as I’ll probably throw it away in a fit of fury?

It’s because I ignored my father’s disapproval while I waited in line at Lowe’s. He had strong beliefs about the practical tasks that pull our days together. When it comes to hoses, they have to be rubber, he insisted. And to prove his point, the rubber hose he bought 20 years ago is still in use at my mom’s house. And it’s perfect. And it doesn’t kink.

So here’s my question: Where can you buy a rubber hose these days?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

You can't eat them, but they sure are beautiful.

The flowers of early June in Memphis are a tenacious sort. They put up with neglect, too much rain or too little, and the endless march of weeds that overwhelms the spring bloomers.

My favorite June flower is this deep pink native I bought years ago at the Lichterman Nature Center plant sale (it's the first photo). I can’t remember its name - although it’s written down somewhere - but does it matter? It’s jumped many times around my perennial bed and is especially happy draped over a rock or two.

Here’s what else is blooming in my yard: lillies, bee balm (yes, the bees do show up), coreopsis, and two kinds of hydrangea: lace leaf and oak leaf. And that spiderwort that started blooming in early May? Still going strong.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Trees really do grow in Brooklyn.

When Anna and I were wandering around Williamsburg two weeks ago, we spotted this fragrant lilac tree near the garden for Barking Lizards, a gallery at Bedford and North 4th. It was a much-needed break from the hipsters and the concrete.

“The city just showed up one day and asked us if we wanted a tree,” explained gallery owner Wanda Drake. “It turned out to be a lilac, and it’s putting on quite a show.”

Drake also is looking forward to the rebirth of the gallery’s rose garden, which was hit hard when the gallery was renovated last year. One hearty survivor was this oak leaf hydrangea, which had been more than eight feet tall.

“We thought we had lost it,” Drake said. “But here it is, making a comeback. I think it’s unbelievable.”

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Guerilla tactics: gotta love 'em.

Lately, I've been wondering what kind of eccentric old lady I will turn out to be. This I know: my job description will include "guerrilla gardener." Maybe I can hook up with these kids in L.A.

In the meantime, I'm enjoying this lovely stand of field flowers at the intersection of Butler and Front streets in downtown Memphis. I admire them regularly on the way home from work.

Believe it or not!

To the doubters out there (you know who you are), I say take a look at this: a garden is born in my side yard.

The lasagne bed was finished before my trip to Maryland, and the plants and seeds were planted before my trip to Brooklyn. It was difficult to trust Tony with the watering while I was gone, but he did a great job. When I returned home on Memorial Day, the beans were already six inches tall, proving that the author of Jack and the Beanstalk knew a little something about growing food.

Here's what I've squeezed into 48 square feet: one beefsteak tomato and two Roma tomatoes from Lowe’s; one Thai chili pepper and one banana pepper from Easy Way; two heirloom tomatoes, two eggplants, two cucumbers, one cantaloupe, and lots of sweet and purple basil from Grow Memphis: half a dozen “Grandma Nellie’s Yellow Mushroom" snap beans, four “Blue Lake” bush beans, and a row of long pod green okra. I grew the beans and okra from seeds. They are all heirloom varieties, as are the plants from Grow Memphis.

I can see the garden from my kitchen window, so I check on it every day before coffee (a remarkable display of morning enthusiasm) and then again and again throughout the day. It's ridiculous. In and out. In and out. I'm hoping I calm down before Griffin goes nuts. He thinks it's time for a walk every time I push open the gate.