Garden Rows

Friday, February 6

Herb Garden

Herbs are the spice of life, or something like that. They definitely add variety to dinner.

purple basil

I wanted to put an herb garden out front from the beginning. Well, really I wanted to make it a flower garden, but herbs look nice and serve a purpose, so an herb garden it is! The area is full sun all day except for a small area that gets morning shade. 

Last year we did companion planting in the garden, so we had some oregano, basil and chive out there. I put creeping lemon thyme, Russian lavender, peppermint, basil and oregano in the herb garden. It was really nice having it right out side the door so I did not have to walk all the way out to the garden in the middle of making dinner.

The ground was hard and the grass was tough, but this edger made it possible to remove the grass to make the garden. 

I ran it along in rows

and chopped them into brick sized pieces so it was fairly easy to remove the chunks with a shovel. Keep in mind it is February and I am sitting in front of the computer 9 months later, so easy may be relative.

I was able to use the sod I removed in other places in the yard, and the rest went to the compost pile.

Along with the herbs, we planted a few left over chili peppers.

I soaked news papers in water and then laid them on the ground and placed sand stone on top to create a path. Originally, I was going to put 2 or 3 stones as stepping stones, but since we had plenty of stones around the house, I just went with it! There were lots of small river rocks in the space that I made this little herb garden, so I piled them up on either side of the path, and my husband filled in with sand. The result was a nice little path that held up pretty well over the summer.

Over all, I am pretty happy with how the herb garden turned out. I would like to expand it a little each year. It will be more manageable that trying to do the whole thing at once. It is just a side project after all!

Thursday, February 5

Hope and Light

Deep in the dark, damp soil: life begins. 

I feel an excitement for the first snow in the early part of the winter season, followed by the holiday cheer. A week or so into January though, I am ready for Spring. Ready for the sun shining on a crisp fresh morning. Ready for tiny bits of green peeking out of the brown of Winter, taking over the gray, bringing the world back to life.

Starting plants inside in January brings hope and light to the dead of winter. Last year we put freshly planted seeds on top of the refrigerator for a little extra warmth. Once they popped up, we put them in the brightest room in the house with South and East facing windows. They got lots of light and grew quite happily. To a point. Then they just seemed to slow way down. I think it was a number of factors like temperature, too few hours of direct sun light, possibly not enough food (though we were using things like azomite and green sand).

This year, we are doing things a little more seriously. There is now an area designated for gardening. We got a nice light and set it on a timer so the little plants get 16 hours of "sun" and 8 hours of dark. So far, salad greens have been planted and are doing quite well. Peppers and strawberries have been planted, and a few sprouts are peeking through. More on that another day. We started the seeds in 2 inch peat pots and transferred them to 4 inch nursery pots when they were still quite small. The starts have been on a regimen of neem oil and sal-suds Castile soap (anti-pest, anti-fungal) and fertilization with Foxfarm Grow BIG.

These starts are very happy little greens! We have kale, a yellow swiss chard, mizuna red streaked mustard greens, deer tongue and a ball lettuce. We will be eating our own salads again in no time! Even with the taste of snowy winter we just got, the sun is out now and we have a small garden on the way, reminding me that Spring is really on it's way back.

Tuesday, February 3

Breaking Ground

It was a long winter. I am sure you have not heard that this spring! The good news is that we have actually had spring this year. Last year we got ripped off and went from winter to summer. 50 something and rain is actually spring. May is a bit late for that, but at least we have gotten some rain this spring.

I started writing this in May last year after a winter of many snow storms. A lot has happened since then, so I will give some of the high lights because I have no idea what I was actually going to say that day!

Last spring rolled around and we put a fence up. We put straw bales out and topped them with garden compost from a local nursery. We had lots of plants started inside. We experimented with different ways to sprout. We used peat pots, cardboard egg cartons and toilet paper tubes.

The idea was that they could just go right out into the garden when it was time, pot and all.  We found that that was not the best method for many of our plants since they needed to grow more than the tiny pots allowed. The other  problem was that the roots did not grow through the peat pots as easily as I expected, causing them to get a slow start once they got out in the garden.

Despite a slow start, our garden grew big, looked nice, and supplied us with a bountiful harvest on a regular basis through the season.

I got some things in the freezer, like blanched tomatoes and pumpkin puree. This coming summer/fall I WILL be canning though.

Tomatoes! notice the chilis hanging by the window?

It is February now, so it's basically Spring, right?!

Tuesday, June 11

African Violets

Once upon a time, I acquired an african violet from a friend. It was in decent condition in a small terracotta pot. Feeling hopeful, yet intimidated by hearing they were easy to kill plants, I did a little research. Supposedly, as long as you have the right set up, African Violets are quite easy to grow! I was living in an apartment with only North and South facing windows at the time, so I thought the light quality would be good. On to the watering dilemma. Feeling cheap, I decided not to buy a self-watering African Violet pot. That would have meant purchasing the pot, and a special bag of soil. Like I said, I was feeling cheap, so I opted for the wick system. I had some 100% cotton batting that I cut into a strip and put in the soil with the plant and the other end in a bowl of water with the understanding that the soil would absorb as much water through the cotton as it needed. I was afraid to water from the top since I thought if any water touched the leaves it would cause rot problems. To wrap this story up, the plant died and I was afraid to every get another African Violet.

Fast forward a few years, I was visiting my cousin Ivy. She had strawberry pot in her kitchen full of happy African Violets! She said it was super easy, mostly she just lets them be. I think her kitchen is South facing, but the pot is in a place where it doesn't get much direct light, just lots of bright indirect light. Well, Ivy, you inspired me.

Once we moved into a larger house where I thought my husband might not notice yet another plant appear out of thin air, I brought home a 50 cent African Violet. Purple with a thin white edge, pictured above. I splurged and got a self watering flower pot. It has been sitting in my South facing kitchen window for probably about 8 or 9 months. It gets bright indirect light all day with a very short bit if direct light. Not only is it growing new leaves, but it has even re-bloomed a few times!

I added another one a few months later, and it is just as happy as the first! When I brought home the purple one, I cleaned it up a little by removing a few leaves. I got a wild hair and stuck one of the better looking leaves in a pot with another plant just to see what would happen...much to my amazement, it grew babies!

I officially love African Violets now! Thank you Ivy for the encouragement you probably had no idea you gave me! We never know how our words will affect someone, so that is why I try to keep mine kind and positive. I hope you are having a beautiful day!

Monday, June 10


It's amazing what can happen in a year.

This time last summer, we were in the process of buying a house. Everything went through with out a hitch. We are now the owners of a house originally built in 1901. It started as a small farm house and a few additions over the years have doubled it's size. The old portion had carpet that we planned to remove and redo the flooring. When we pulled up the carpet, we found an old hardwood floor. It was in decent enough shape that we sanded it down and refinished it. Let me tell you, that is not a fun job. We have also painted a few rooms. That was much more fun, and did not take forever and a day to finish!

Clematis at the back of the house

There are plenty of projects we have planned for the house, as well as the yard. (A garden is among them, don't worry!) Our biggest project completion happened this spring. We got 14 chickens and built a chicken coop and yard.

My husband designed the coop and his dad spent many afternoons in our yard building it. It was quite the Feller project as my father-in-law was assisted by all three if his boys at various stages. We are all pretty proud of it.

The coop is made of reclaimed barn wood. I love the old look it gives the little building, almost as if it has been there for decades.

Rudy the Rooster says "Hi!"