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An Heirloom Plant

May 31st, 2017

I had a lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) in my Ohio garden, it came from my mom’s house, she got it from her mom’s house. The original plant was in the gardens at the house my mom’s parent bought when she was two years old. When we moved to Maine I didn’t bring any from my garden, I know I could get a start from my mom once again.

I brought a small start last summer, after visiting my parents in June. I planted it under the apple tree knowing it would love this shady spot with great soil. Oddly enough, there was some lily of the valley in this garden when we arrived. It struggles in the spot where it’s planted, I’m not 100% sure why, perhaps the soil isn’t quite as fertile.

It’s blooming beautifully this summer. This plant can be a bit of a thug in the garden, so it should be planted in a place where you don’t mind that it takes over and forms a ground cover. I’m happy to have it do this in this area. I need a ground cover here that will keep the weeds from coming up.

It makes me smile knowing that this plant is a true heirloom that came from my grandmother’s garden. Who knows how long it lived in that garden before they moved into the house.

Do you have any heirloom plants in your garden?

The Main Garden

May 30th, 2017

The main garden behind the garage is starting to take shape (at least in my mind). The past three summers I have been expanding the boundaries and dealing with invasive weeds. I’m finally reaching the full size and it’s time to develop main walkways, establish hedges, and redefine planting areas as well. All that will take place this fall as I need the space to grow food this summer. This garden area is roughly 60 feet wide by 80 feet deep. It is currently divided into four foot wide rows with walkways in between. There’s a nursery area and a large compost pile that extends the length of the garden that will eventually become growing space making it closer to 70 feet wide.

Here’s my garden row by row:

The first row contains garlic in the front and asparagus, strawberries, and flowers in the back. Behind the garlic there’s a nice little grove of sage, three plants that provide more than enough sage for us and all of our friends.

The second row is filled with a few perennials in the front, shallots and lettuce, followed by all the brassicas interplanted with lettuce that are being protected from cabbage butterflies by a long tunnel of agribon. Inside the tunnel I have cauliflower, three types of broccoli, and two of brussels sprouts.

The third row contains onions, both red and white, filling most of the row. In the back there’s a trellis with 6 feet of ‘Golden Pod’ peas and 9 bulb fennel plants. You’ll notice a row of garlic halfway back, these were tiny bulblets that I planted very thickly in a row last fall. They will be harvested as green garlic (like green onions) starting now. This row is still in need of a layer of compost as mulch. I’ve been waiting for the worms to quit unearthing the onions to add it.

This row contains all sorts of cutting flowers in the front, a 20 foot trellis of peas with beets and bulb fennel on either side, then a small patch of carrots, a small patch of tiny bulbing purple onions, then a few strawberries, and it’s capped off with a stand of Jerusalem artichokes in the very back. As you can see, I mulch the garden with a layer of compost when things are planted. This keeps weeding to a minimum and it helps me see quickly which space is available for planting and what space is already taken.

This side of the garden has been allowed to be fallow for the past three years. The strawberries have been encouraged to grow over this direction slowly. Every year I dig out a couple feet on one side and let them grow towards the far edge of the garden. They take up this row and half of the next as well. It’s a large patch, but that’s needed for us and for our neighbors.  In front of the strawberries there are a few flowers for summer bouquets and perennials that are waiting for a space to be cleared in the flowerbeds.

This row contains a few small trees and shrubs that are being grown out for the flowerbeds. It’s a nursery area where I like to keep things growing out. I have boxwood cuttings, tiny cherry trees, osage orange seedlings, lavender, and a host of other things I started from seed last year.

In the next row you can see lots of perennials and shrubs up front: peonies, hydrangeas, plums, grasses, willow, and other things that will be moved this fall. In the back I have two rows of tomatoes with 15 tomatoes planted 2.5 feet apart in each row. In between each tomato there are basil plants, flowers, and other smaller vegetables.

The next to the last row of the garden features rhubarb and more perennials up front and a row of peppers in the back. There will be one more row past this, but it’s not planted yet. This year it will be a row of sunflowers to block the wind that comes from that direction and other flowers for the butterflies (mostly tithonia and verbena).  At the back of the garden I’m building a trellis that will be used to grow sweet peas. It will both help keep the wild turkeys out and provide flowers for my table. Stay tuned for photo updates of the garden throughout the summer and in the coming years as the rows are reoriented the other direction. In front of these rows there’s also a 10 foot wide section that now contains the new asparagus bed. In front of that there will be a boxwood hedge or a fence, which will then have a 5-8 foot wide perennial border in front of that. That area is currently piled with compost that’s waiting to be spread on these sections of the garden. Part is also still growing in sod, which will be smothered with cardboard in preparation for the perennial border.

Friday Favorite: Cilantro

May 26th, 2017

Cilantro is my all-time favorite herb, probably because I grew up in South America eating mass quantities of it. This past winter, when I was looking through the Johnny’s Seeds catalog, I noticed there were a few different varieties. Generally, I grow ‘Slo-Bolt’ cilantro. I have noticed when I purchase cilantro at the store, some is more flavorful than others. This got me to thinking that the different varieties would have a slightly different taste. So I ordered up three different varieties and got them started.


After doing taste tests, ‘Santo’ was my favorite both for flavor and texture. I’ll definitely be growing this variety in the future, along with the ‘Slo-Bolt’ that self seeds itself happily throughout my gardens.

What’s your favorite herb?

So Close…

May 25th, 2017

I’m so close to getting all the seedlings planted. This past week I managed to get all the peppers and tomatoes in. They are filling out the side of the garden that was a cutting garden last summer. The soil hasn’t been improved as much as it has in the other half of the garden since this side has been left mostly fallow for the past few years.

I still have 5-6 flats of onions, leeks, and various flowers to get planted. Hopefully those will be planted today before a few days of rain. I always like to plant when we’re forecasted to have rain and a few cloudy days, I find it helps the plants deal with the shock of transplant better.

How’s your garden shaping up?

Long Lived, but not Immortal

May 24th, 2017

There are many perennial vegetables, but that doesn’t mean that they are immortal. Often, long lived perennial vegetables exhaust themselves or slowly decline after reaching a certain age. There are many factors that contribute to this. My asparagus patch here has been on the decline, it’s pretty old. I noticed that it produces much later than my friend’s and the harvest is much smaller. This is after adding compost and amending the soil well. The plants have probably just exhausted their productivity.

Last year I started two varieties of asparagus from seed (Precoce D’Argenteuil & Mary Washington), they overwintered well and are growing nicely. I also ordered 25 crowns of each ‘Jersey Supreme’ and ‘Purple Passion’ asparagus from Nourse Farms this year. Both of these varieties grew in my Ohio garden and I was very happy with them.

It looks like I will end up with 75-100 asparagus crowns including the ones I started from seed, which will be more than we need, but neighbors never complain about it when you give them asparagus so I don’t think I will have any issue using it all up. One of the varieties I have is supposed to produce quite early, so I’m thinking about trying to maximize this by planting it in a space where I can cover it with a low tunnel for the winter and try to force an extra early harvest. I may also plant some early strawberries with it for an extra early strawberry harvest as well.

I’m always happy to add perennial vegetables to the garden, it’s nice to know that each spring I will have a lovely harvest of asparagus with not much input on my part. With a little maintenance each year, an asparagus patch will produce for many, many years. However, if your patch is on the decline, it may be time to cut your losses and start over.

Do you grow asparagus in the garden? Do you have a favorite variety?

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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