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Be Ruthless

July 9th, 2014

It’s been a while since I talked about my 5×5 Challenge Garden.  I must admit, it’s a bit overgrown.  The lettuce I started this spring grew like crazy almost shading out the tomatoes that were planted in their midst.  Then the golden peas grew rampant and were blown over when the hurricane came through last week.  As a result, the garden is rather in shambles.
5x5 challenge garden (1)
I ripped out all the lettuce earlier this week.  I plan on harvesting most of the peas while leaving a few to set seed.  Then they will be ripped out and replanted with something else, perhaps bush beans.  The tomatoes need tied up and staked along with a good mulch around their feet.  After that the garden should look neater and the tomatoes will start growing well.

Does your garden ever get out of control? 


Have a Seat

July 8th, 2014

Last week new chairs arrived for the garden, they’re perfect.  I’ve been wanting to get a few adirondack chairs for a while and was searching for a local source.  Then our friend who owns a cedar mill posted that Rob from Maine Adirondack Chairs was picking up cedar.  I checked out his website and ordered two chairs and a potting table.  His chairs are lovely and they are priced very well.  Most likely a few more will be added to the garden in the future.
new chairs
Rob delivered the chairs & table last week and I couldn’t be more pleased.  They are wonderful chairs and will provide us with a comfortable place to sit.  I love that the cedar is milled in town by a friend and they are built only 20 minutes away.  I could only get more local if I milled the wood and made them myself – which isn’t going to happen.

Do you have any seats in the garden?

A Parade of Flowers

July 7th, 2014

In the little potager behind the house I have vegetables and flowers mixed together. Some of the flowers are simply decorative, others are edible plants that have been allowed to flower in order to save seed.  This time of year it’s really starting to fill out and look nice, there’s color everywhere you look.
potager in bloom 1
The peony poppies are out in full force adding a pop of color in a sea of yellow mustard flowers and white coriander blooms. These self sow liberally, in the spring I simply pull up all the seedlings I don’t want and leave a few for beautiful blooms.
potager in bloom 4
The ‘Bowle’s Black’ violets are lining one small section of the main walkway, their velvety black flowers are simply stunning!
potager in bloom 2
The tarragon is also throwing up it’s purple spires and the bees are loving it. I’m thinking of moving these to a different location, they’re a little large for the space they occupy. The shape of a tarragon plant is perfect, it’s a little like a cone shaped boxwood. Perhaps a hedge of tarragon somewhere would be nice.
potager in bloom 3
The calendula also seeds freely and I leave in some areas as a cover crop to keep weeds from growing. The flowers are harvested and dried to feed to the chickens in the winter. One of these years I hope to make my own calendula salve, perhaps this fall I will make the time.
potager in bloom 6
Field peas are growing in the newer section of the garden, they were planted with a cover crop mix to smother weeds and improve the soil. Now that they’re blooming it’s time to cut them down to create a mulch. Even in a small garden cover crops can be used.
potager in bloom 7
Right outside the main pathway to the potager the nine bark blooms are fading from blossom to seed. I find the seed balls almost more beautiful than the flowers. I like this dark leaved shrub, it will be moved to the back of the potager so it gets more sun.
potager in bloom 8
The tall spires of foxglove are nearing their end, only a few remain after the hurricane blew through. This one was the last one to bloom. You really can’t beat the tall flowers of this lovely plant.
potager in bloom 9
The carrots are also starting to bloom. These lovelies overwintered in the garden and I’m letting them set seed to collect for next year’s crop. They should make for a good winter hardy crop and keep us eating delicious carrots throughout the winter.
carrot bloom
potager in bloom 5The result of having flowers mixed with vegetables is a riot, literally a riot of color and texture. Here you can see a broccoli plant in the foreground with red mustard flowering in yellow, behind it you can see the peony poppies that seed happily throughout the potager.

What’s blooming in your garden this week?

Quote of the Day: Toby Hemenway

July 6th, 2014

“Of course, we want to live in an attractive landscape. But if we can go beyond what plants look like, and examine what they are doing, we can begin to create gardens that have the health, resilience, and beauty of natural ecosystems while yielding abundant gifts for people and for other species.”

-Toby Hemnway Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, 2nd Edition
comfrey 1
Earlier this week I mentioned planting nitrogen fixing plants in the ornamental gardens for the benefits they bring to the other plants. There’s also a group of plants called dynamic accumulators that bring up lots of nutrients from deep within the soil. Whenever I plant a garden bet I try to add a few of these to my garden, comfrey is my favorite.
comfrey 2
Comfrey is not only a wonderfully beneficial plant for the garden, it’s also beautiful as well. The bees LOVE it. It just so happens that many of my comfrey plants came from my grandmother’s house. They were passed on to my mom who passed them along to me. I use comfrey leaves for lots of things, not only do I use them as mulch around plants, I also put a few in the planting holes of anything I add to the garden. They are supposed to help the plants by feeding them and by stimulating root growth. I also dry comfrey to feed the chickens all winter. Comfrey is also nice because it’s easy propagate so you can have it growing all over the garden easily and inexpensively.
comfrey 3
There are all kinds of dynamic accumulators, in fact many of the plants we call weeds are in this group. If you are interested in learning about this kind of companion plants I highly recommend the book quoted above. I checked this book out of the library so many times I finally purchased one for my library.

What’s your favorite companion planting group?

Feeling Right at Home

July 5th, 2014

“Littles” as she’s being referred to is starting to feel right at home. There’s still some occasional hissing, but overall it’s been a smooth transition.
littles 3
Having a new pet in the house reminds us how much work we put in training our current pets. It’s also been a long time since we’ve had a young cat in the house. She’s tearing around getting into everything.
littles on a chair
littles 1
littles 2
Next week she’ll go outside and we’ll see what happens. It’s always a gamble when you let a new cat outside.

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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 just recently moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine.