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The Pollinator Bed

September 9th, 2020

Last year I started a pollinator bed in an awkward spot by the driveway. It looked OK last year, but it was mostly weeding and watching the space for sun. This year I moved a ton of mature perennials to the bed from the nursery area and it has really filled out. Here are photos of the bed from earlier this summer in June and from a week or two ago.

A friend made this lovely sculpture for me, we ended up turning it the other way after this (as you can see in the following image).

I neglected to get a photo from this angle in June. I was just telling Mr Chiots the other day that I need to put a few pavers in the lawn around the garden so I can use them to stand on and get shots of the garden from the same spots each month to watch growth.

How’s your garden maturing? Have you added any new plants/borders this year?

Using Kale as an Ornamental

August 28th, 2020

I’ve always grown kale and I love it, not only is it edible, but it’s also beautiful. This is the first year I’ve grown kale specifically as an ornamental plant and included it throughout the borders. A new one for me this year is ‘Purple Moon’ from Renee’s Garden Seeds and it’s a true showstopper!

I’m also growing a green curly kale that was given to me by a friend and lacinato kale throughout the garden.

The dark kale is a perfect pair with the echinacea! The dark bluish black of the kale really sets off the dark pink of the echinacea.

I’m especially fond of the green curly kale above with the anise hyssop and the Japanese golden hakone grass. I’ll definitely continue adding kale to the ornamental gardens from now on.

Do you grow kale? What’s your favorite variety?

The Edible Garden

August 24th, 2020

This is my 8th summer gardening here in Maine, the edible garden is the best it’s ever been. That’s to be expected, all the additions of compost are really improving the soil structure, and the garden is almost expanded to the full size that we have been planning.

I still need to add fruit trees, berry bushes, grape vines, and a few other items, but overall it’s really starting to settle into place and look fantastic. It no longer looks like a new garden. It’s filled with tons of self seeded flower: anise hyssop, verbena bonariensis, echinacea, dill, coriander, and rose campion.

This year I added a tithonia hedge on both sides. Not only do these help with wind, they provide lots of food for pollinators, especially monarchs. Now that I have 120 feet of them, I notice the hummingbirds are loving them as well. It’s a constant buzz of activity and it is proving to be a great add for reducing the wind in the garden.

The vegetables are all producing well, some things I have cut down on this year, some I have increased. At this moment, the tomatoes are the stars of the show. Here in Maine, we have a short window to enjoy tomatoes fresh off the vine and we savor each and every one. The ‘Sungold’ tomatoes are especially stunning right now, I enjoy watching them ripen downward.

Overall, it’s been a great year for the edible garden. No doubt all of our years of improving the soil are finally paying off. We look forward to layering in more and more seasonal foods as we finalize the plans for this lovely space.

What are you harvesting and loving at the peak of ripeness right now?

Making Hot Compost

July 10th, 2020

This spring we started experimenting with making hot compost. I saved this article from Deep Green Permaculture years ago with plans to give it a try. Our first batch was 100% litter from the duck/turkey/chicken coop, which means it was manure and various dry garden material I add with lots of manure. We piled it up, turned it, then watered it well because it was super dry, and started turning it regularly (per article instructions). The results were AMAZING! Unfortunately I didn’t get any photos with my real camera, but I did create an Instagram highlight of our efforts since I started documenting the process, head on over and check it out.

We were blown away by the results from our first batch. In 28 days, we had a big slightly steamy pile of brown lovely compost. As a comparison, here’s a photo of the same material (duck room litter) that was composted using the cold compost method. Which means it was piled in the garden last fall and left to compost on its own with no turning. You can see the difference!

We tested the temperature of our compost pile after 15 days or so, it was 150 degrees, definitely hot enough to kill weed seeds and pathogens. I even added weed seeds to the pile to see if they’d be killed. So far nothing is germinating in the compost. Our final amount was probably about 3 yards of compost.

As the first batch was composting away, I started collecting things for our second pile. There were loads of grass clippings, garden weeds, and other organic matter produced in the kitchen and around the farm. We mixed it up, watered it, and left it to sit for the initial five days.

After the first turn it was already steaming and registering 125 degrees. Today we are on turn number 5. This pile is a bit cooler than our other pile, no doubt because it doesn’t contain any manure at all. I did add all of the comfrey from the garden to heat it up a bit (comfrey is a great plant to have to heat up compost piles and add lots of nutrients). It’s been a fun thing to do this summer, we are relishing having tons of compost for the gardens. We will never go back to cold composting! We are lucky to have a tractor to make big piles, but it can be done on a smaller scale. The smallest recommended size is 1 meter squared.

The New Pollinator Bed

June 12th, 2020

Three years ago I started developing a garden on a slope by the driveway that was difficult to mow. The soil is very sandy and dry, with no organic matter to speak of. It was also infested with quack grass. I laid down cardboard and covered it with mulch, then I let it sit over winter.


This garden bed is filled with things just for the pollinators, I’ve working hard to plan for blooms throughout the season.

Currently, there are sages, spiderwort, persicaria, spurge, cushion plants, scabiosa, iris, veronica, and geranium,

I recently added a few shrubs as well, ‘Miss Kim’ lilac, a ‘Coppertina’ ninebark, and a ‘Quick Fire’ panicle hydrangea that came with us from Ohio and has been living in the potager. I also added a Kousa Dogwood that I scored at the home improvement store last fall for $7. It overwintered in the basement and was planted in this bed in the spring.

A friend made me this lovely sculpture from old tools, it was a birthday gift last summer. I’ve been looking for just the right spot for it in the garden. After finding two large black rocks that were nicely square, it is gracing the pollinator bed.

There’ still more to add to this bed, I have plants in the nursery area that need moved. I also have plans to add a few more clematis to grow up the shrubs and fill in with even more blooms. Stay tuned for photos of this new garden as the year progresses. If you have any great pollinator plants to recommend let me know in the comments.

What’s your favorite pollinator plant?

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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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