Tag Archives: gardening

The Circle Garden

We are continuing the tomato jungle tradition at the house… Everything was fine at first. I was even removing lower branches and leaves and suckers and keeping the plants tidy. But then we got a ton of rain all at once and, well, the tomatoes have minds of their own.

The previous owners built these raised beds along the side yard, which faces south. The picture above is from when we first moved in. I call the side yard the working part of the yard–it’s where the garden is, and we placed our composting bin there, and it’s where the air conditioning unit is. It might look like the area gets much sun, but all three beds get a full day’s worth, even with the fence. The old owners left us a huge garlic crop in the bed on the far right and potatoes in the bed to the far left, so we decided to work around them this season, and hopefully we can come up with a better plan for ourselves next spring.

We sort of focused on the middle plot for all of our usual crops. Our tomato plants are doing well with no signs of whiteflies or blight, which is so exciting since the past few years have been pretty sad for our tomato crops. Our basil and thyme and lima beans are thriving too. And we planted a strawberry plant that seems to doing well, and it’s producing many teeny, tiny fruits.

In the potato bed, we planted edible flowers, cucumbers, edamame, and a brussel sprout. Then tragedy struck. I lost two cucumbers and Naoto lost his entire edamame crop to the rabbits. It was heartbreaking! So, in that bed, we still have our potatoes sprawling around the edible flowers and the brussel. We added a tomato (which isn’t doing well because potatoes and tomatoes don’t grow well together) later in the season just to see what would happen.

The borage is booming with blooms and the nasturtium is looking good, but there are no flowers yet. I’m excited to use them both for cocktail garnishes.

Naoto ended up finding some edamame seedlings at our favorite local garden center and we planted them in a hanging basket and so far, they have remained safe from the bunnies!

In the garlic bed, there is tons of garlic, and plenty of nightmare mint spreading all over. In that bed, we planted some zinnias for cutting and some lettuces that are long done. I dug up a few garlic heads last weekend and I’ll probably dig up the rest soon so we can plant some late-season crops and take advantage of the extra room.

We have two of these arches in our basement (one on each side of an arched doorway) with built-in hooks, so that’s where the garlic is curing for now. I’m so excited to have some space in the basement to start seeds and prep for the gardening season. (Some day I will show you the basement, but not until we finish getting the rest of our boxes unpacked and put away!)

It’s book club weekend so I will be finishing Double Indemnity and enjoying the garden walk so I will see you next week!

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Cocktail Perfected: Jasmine

Naoto has spoiled me the entire pandemic by pouring my Manhattan into a frosty cocktail glass. This spring, as we’ve branched back into other cocktails (mostly involving gin,) we have continued to serve things up in a frosty glass. Most of my vintage cocktail glasses are tucked away until we remodel the kitchen. And they are too delicate for the freezer. So we’ve been using our Libbey workhorses–we have twelve of these, which are perfect for larger parties and for keeping a few in the freezer at all times.

Even when he’s not home and I’m mixing for myself while I water the garden, I’ve been treating myself to a frosty glass. I’ve been on a Jasmine kick since June. Jasmine cocktails are so crisp and tart and slightly bitter…perfectly refreshing on a hot evening. The original recipe calls for Campari, but I prefer the slightly more subtle Cappelletti. Both are delicious, so use what you have.

Jasmine

1.5oz gin

0.75oz fresh lemon juice

0.25oz Cointreau

0.25oz Cappelletti (or Campari)

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled. Strain into a frosty glass (or a coupe if you want to be proper.) Serve as a reward for putting the hose away without swearing.

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Dispatches From Home Part 7

Still here at home…Presley is thrilled. Illinois is opening up a bit more this week. Outdoor seating at restaurants is going to be allowed soon and while we won’t be partaking, I’m glad for the restaurant owners. We will continue doing carry-out for now. It’s so funny looking at this picture now, us walking in coats! It has been so hot this week that Naoto is anxious to turn on the air conditioner. We probably should, but I feel like we just opened the windows! I got all of the pots on the lanai planted this week. I am so excited about my choices this year…I say that every year I suppose, but I really tried to lean into the part-sun plant options this year so I can hopefully enjoy blooms all season. I’ll share some pictures as soon as I clean up the rest of my potting mess and get the lights strung up this week. It’s not a fully functional lanai without the party lights! I’m behind on reading for the year. I set a goal of thirty books for 2020 and you’d think I’d have finished by now with all this time on my hands, but I haven’t been able to concentrate well enough to really stick with anything. I’ve finished our book club books and that’s about it. I know I owe the blog a book post, but even writing about what I’ve been reading might be too boring to share!Celebrating birthdays and holidays on FaceTime isn’t the same, but it is still nice to see everyone’s faces and to do a proper toast. We celebrated Karen a couple of Sundays ago and I made this little invitation typed on some kaishi-paper and some sparkling wine stickers. And in good mail news, I received my Last Week Tonight stamps and I can’t wait to use them! Are there any other John Oliver fans out there? I just started watching Community (I’d watched the first few episodes back when it aired) and I’d totally forgotten he was on that show!

I think that’s all to report. Next week is our anniversary and I’m trying to coordinate a bedroom painting party this weekend, which means I need to finish cleaning the bedroom. Hopefully I can report next time that we’ve actually painted…it’s been a struggle.

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Plot 6 in 2020

plot 6, forest park community garden, forest park, community gardenI am a little scared to talk about Plot 6 today because we’ve had torrential rains this weekend and there’s a ton of flooding around town…I can only imagine what our plot looks like right now. Certainly any seeds we planted on Friday have not stayed in their tidy rows! This is the “before” picture. We were surprised to find that we didn’t have many weeds creeping in. Other plots, as you can see in the background, are COVERED…ugh. We pulled weeds and then topped off our plot with some fresh compost before we planted. So far we have:

  • rosemary
  • lavender
  • Black Krim tomato
  • 2 Brandywines
  • Mortgage Lifter tomato

And we planted seeds for:

  • parsley
  • chives
  • mizuna (Japanese mustard greens)
  • onions
  • nasturtium
  • zinnias

We still need to plant:

  • edamame
  • basil
  • another tomato (I said four was plenty but I lied…)

I thought I had some back-up edamame and basil seeds but it looks like we need to go shopping for some which is easier said than done right now. I wish I’d ordered some seeds online before this whole thing started. Sigh. So many lessons learned for the next pandemic.

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December Books

Jeeves, ColetteAfter going strong all year, I kind of fizzled out of the reading habit by December. I barely finished my book club book in time for the discussion and then I found myself cramming one last book into my suitcase so I could achieve my goal of fifty books for the year.

The Inimitable Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse

This was our book for book club. I didn’t love it, which put me in the minority. (It was widely loved by the group.) I think I didn’t love it because I tried to read it in too short of a time. A book club friend compared it to a really sweet dessert; it’s best enjoyed in small tastes. So, I think I need to give ol’ P.G. another try sometime.

for a flower album by Colette

This is a really lovely book. Colette writes exquisitely about flowers and her beautiful prose sits alongside simple, sweet watercolor illustrations. She weaves vignettes of her life into the floral descriptions. There’s no real plot, but it’s the kind of book you can revisit over time and still enjoy it. Hmmm…maybe it’s similar to Jeeves in that way!

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The Last Plot 6 Post of the Decade

This is it…the final Plot 6 post of the decade…

Our plot went out with a whimper this year…what is it about September that makes me lose interest in gardening? Well, this year, I think it was because we had kind of a mediocre tomato harvest (and you know I’m really just all about the tomatoes.) Plus, job searching and starting took up a lot of my free time. Anyway…we let the garden die……but not before we harvested a nice little batch of teeny carrots. These guys made it through several freezes and the first couple of snows, so I was just glad to have something to pick! The carrots are designed to be sort of stumpy, but I think maybe these are small for even the stumpy size. They’re pretty tasty though! I planted them among the tomatoes and then never thinned them as directed, so that could explain things. Here’s our plot all put to bed for the season. See you next spring, buddy!

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The Garden is Still Growing

I haven’t been to the garden as much as I’d like lately. Naoto has been running down to harvest tomatoes and basil and herbs on an as-needed basis, but yesterday, we were both home and free to go together. As usual, our plot is a jungle of tomato vines, but this year, it’s also a jungle of overgrown herbs and nasturtium! Look at that nasturtium!! I just can’t believe how the plant took off. It seemed like it wasn’t going to do much but now it’s huge and it has lots of flowers inside the big poof a leaves. I just found a recipe for nasturtium pesto, so I think we might experiment with that soon…which is good timing because our basil is done. Some of our tomatoes were slow to produce this summer thanks to the white fly infestation that plagued the garden. But we’ve gotten a decent harvest from our Juliet and a few other heirlooms. We haven’t been overloaded with tomatoes like we have in the past, but it’s definitely enough for us to feel good about plot 6 this summer. I picked a bunch of zinnias, nasturtiums, and marigolds to make a little bouquet for my desk. The zinnias are as tall as me and still going strong. And in other happy garden news, my tiny carrots are coming in! I planted them kind of late in the spring and they were quickly overshadowed by the tomato plants, so I didn’t have very much hope for a harvest, but I think it’s going to be decent! I’m not quite ready to pick them all, but I wanted to do a little test. This variety is supposed to be only 2-3 inches big. We’ve never had luck with root vegetables, so I decided to try a tiny kind and I think it worked!

How is your garden growing? Any other ideas for my nasturtium bounty?

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Mid-Summer Update from Plot 6

 

We had a stretch of very hot and humid days a couple of weeks ago, making gardening a dreadful chore. Thankfully it rained a lot during that time, so the garden was on autopilot for a couple days.The good news is the rain washed off some of our white flies. The bad news is some of our early Black Krims split due to the uneven watering they received during the huge rains. So, no tomatoes yet, sadly.Naoto is really excited about the edamame growth. The edamame has gotten really tall and there are beans on them! I’m excited because I finally have a nasturtium flower among all the leaves. (You can see the orange flower peeking out on the left.) My lavender is still not blooming so I transplanted it last week. I think it was being shaded by my wayward zinnias. (I planted the zinnias in the center of the garden but the seeds moved during the big rains this spring.)

Our dill is huge and I need to look up some recipes to use a bunch of it. We’ve harvested so much parsley and basil already. It’s pesto city around here!

And the chamomile is growing like crazy but I missed harvesting the first bloom so hopefully another will come soon. I want to dry it and use it in a cocktail recipe and maybe some tea (though chamomile tea isn’t my favorite. I am a black tea or bust kind of gal!)

I cut some zinnias from the plantings around the garden. They’re “cut and come again” so hopefully people will help themselves as I did and we will have some continuous blooms around the garden, for ourselves and for the bees and butterflies. Zinnias make me so happy! They’re all so different and colorful and carefree (which is the opposite of how I feel today after dealing with my iPhone and photo storage all day…the good news is, my phone is busy uploading pictures so I have no reason not to finish my last book of the month tonight!)

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A Dispatch from the Forest Park Community Garden

Sorry for the radio silence this week. For the past couple of weeks we’ve been preparing the Forest Park Community Garden for the Forest Park Historical Society’s Home & Garden Walk. It’s the first year we’ve been featured on the walk and well, we had a lot of work to do! The garden usually looks fine, but we wanted to get some plantings done and clean some stuff up before we had official garden walk visitors. Some people in Forest Park don’t even know we have a community garden, so we wanted to be on the walk to raise awareness, increase our visibility, and hopefully get some new gardeners and people who want to be involved with the garden. The garden is officially ten years old in 2019 so there’s definitely some areas to refresh and improve, but money and man hours are always our challenge. We’ve been slowly rebuilding older plots and trying to repair things as needed. But July is really a great time to feature the garden because things are growing like crazy and most of our 55 plots are looking good! It was fun to show visitors what people are growing and how each gardener organizes his plot. These pictures were taken on Tuesday while I was doing some chores at the garden, but on Sunday it was sunny and hot. A few of us spent the day at the garden to host the tours and, even though we spent most of the day under a tent, I got a little sunburn. It’s been so hot here, and it’s supposed to be near 100 the rest of the week…thankfully it rained a ton today because the plants were starting to get dry and sad. This little future swallowtail is living in my dill right now. He’s a welcome visitor. So far this summer, we have harvested a ton of basil (pictured at the top) and some dill and parsley. (As always, I’m kicking us for not growing more spring vegetables but it was such a weird spring!) Our tomatoes are battling white flies again, but we have a few on the vine, so hopefully we’ll have a harvest soon. Naoto’s edamame is growing like crazy and our chamomile and carrots are doing just fine. It’s always an adventure in Plot 6 and around the garden!

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The Lanai, 2019

Hello from freezing Forest Park! It has been so cold! This weekend it got down to the low 50s and, while it’s great sleeping weather, it’s not great weather for sitting outside. It’s also been rainy, so at least my plants are happy and everything is still alive as of this week. Our lanai furniture set-up is the same as last year, but we have lots of different flowers and I decided not to make any rainbows this year. It didn’t translate well from the sidewalk below, anyway. Oh, and last summer, Naoto painted the floor so it’s a steel grey now instead of that weird pale green. We really like it. We’ve barely been able to have dinner outside because of the cold weather, but we’ve enjoyed plenty of mornings out there reading in the sunshine and cool breeze.

I got this fantastic almost-neon begonia at Empowering Gardens and it’s so bright and full, it even pops from the street below.

Last year, I mentioned that I can never find good yellow and orange flowers. This year, I have plenty of orange and orangey-red flowers, but still no yellow. I’d love to add some yellow in with those bright pink petunias. Hopefully I can find something good while I’m out later today.

We also have some climbers and radish sprouts growing from seed and I transplanted some mint from the community garden, so hopefully we’ll have enough mint for cocktails soon since it tends to spread like wildfire…

That’s all from the 2019 lanai…it’s supposed to warm up eventually so I’m looking forward to spending some days and evenings outside. Naoto and I are already planning our Tanabata celebration in a few weeks and I’m sure it will be blazing hot by then!

 

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