A piece of junk

Normally I don’t rant, or express my views on products unless I love them, but in this case I feel compelled to share my experience as a warning to other gardeners.  I do much of my gardening on a stool, preferably one that rolls.  I’ve had one for nearly 20 years, and used it hard so when it began to fall apart, I looked for an identical one.  Unfortunately, they are no longer made.  I can’t imagine why because it was a great product.  So began the search for a replacement, one that fit the correct height for a comfortable reach to weed and plant, that rolled, and is light enough that I can carry it with one hand. stool.JPG

The product that fit my criteria best was the Suncast rolling garden stool, around $40 depending upon the site, so it was ordered and arrived quickly.  It was obviously not as sturdy a plastic as my original stool, and slightly larger.  The “removable kneeling pad” that doubled as the seat cushion was annoying because it fell off whenever I picked the stool up.  And there was no good hand-grip spot for picking it up easily.  It had a “dog leash” type pull that was way more trouble, because it got caught underneath, and I had to reach all the way to the ground to pick it up, so to me it was useless.  The wheels looked flimsy compared to my old stool, and I doubted they would last the entire season, let alone several years.  But,  I was desperate for a stool, and for $40 I expected it to last lots longer than it did, which was 3 HOURS!!!

stool crack compressed

Now, I’m not exactly dainty, but I’m only a size 10, a bit less than average so weight should not have been a problem.  I was using the stool on level ground and simply deadheading violas along the potager paths.  Imagine my surprise when my seat began to “slope!”  In only 3 hours of use, a crack developed and the stool began to collapse to the point that the wheel below the crack could no longer turn.  (You can’t see the collapse onto the wheel unless I’m sitting on it, but I’m not limber enough to sit on it and take a photo at the same time, so just trust me, it collapsed!)  So much for a rolling stool!  And trying to sit as the slope became more acute began to hurt my old back.

So, as you are selecting holiday gifts for fellow gardeners or perhaps yourself, do avoid the Suncast “rolling” garden stool.  Mine is probably going to become a planter…it already has the drainage hole!!!

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Six on Saturday: Dec 9

Front garden winter compressed

I’m feeling very grateful on this Saturday.  FINALLY, all 1,000 bulbs are in the ground, safely tucked away before our first snowfall arrived this morning.  Thankfully, my back has returned to normal, which also allowed me to drag out the snowman to decorate the front garden, and to put up the roping and snowmen in the potager’s front border (note the updated header!)             carrots 12-17 compressed   In addition, I dug the last of the carrots, making a note in my journal that seeding that late, last planting was a great idea, and well worth doing again.   Fourteen pounds of lovely, muddy carrots!  I’ve already made Carrot-Ginger soup, and Carrot-Pineapple Bread is next on the list.

Now that the plants are safely moved in for winter, the last harvests dug, and bulbs planted, I can begin to enjoy the incoming winter season, such as decorating with these self-painted Santa gourds now gracing the dining room.  Santa gourds 12-17 compressed  In my younger days, I grew, painted and sold 2-4,000 of these a year!  The foxtail fern was moved indoors before frost.  Look closely and you’ll see 2 small santa heads painted on the backs of teaspoons, whose handles were bent around a broomstick to form a curve for hanging on the fern branches.

Other pleasures include the arrival of these enticing seed catalogs. Seed catalogs compressed 12-17  In fact, I’ve already received this order from one of my favorites, Pinetree Seeds, having placed the order to take advantage of Black Friday discounts. Pinetree seeds 12-17 compressed  It joins the GEO order that I place way back in October, to take advantage of their early-order special discounts. geo seeds 17 compressed  So, next year’s garden is already underway, at least in the planning stages.  There’s still weeks of winter dreaming and studying catalogs as they arrive.  Welcome winter!

Thanks to The Propagator for suggesting and hosting this meme.


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Six on Saturday-Nov. 4

Frost has come a few times to central Indiana, sometimes light, sometimes heavy but often enough that the annuals have all turned brown.  I’d love to report that I’ve trimmed all the death and destruction from the gardens and moved it to the compost pile, planted all the bulbs, dug and stored the dahlias, etc. but I’ve been dealing with back problems so ugliness reigns and the job list remains untouched.  I’m crossing my fingers that I can get it done before the ground freezes.  Fortunately, while I’ve been prone things still change.

Allium rack compressed  My sweet D made this lovely rack for my various allium braids.  I’d moved a few braids of shallots and onions before my back went out, but there are still lots of garlic, shallot, and onion braids to come in to finish filling the rack.  Last year I moved the braids from my unheated Lady Shed into baskets in our unheated, but never freezes garage.  However, several shallots rotted, due to lack of air circulation I suspect.  This rack should fix that, and it makes it easy to check for rot and super easy to “shop” for the items I need.

Brussel tunnel compressed  Also before my back, I began making a polytunnel, but I didn’t get it finished.  I’m beginning to doubt that I will harvest any brussel sprouts or the spinach from this bed, but maybe……Same goes for these tiny, tiny turnips turnips compressed 11-17  which also need a polytunnel if they are going to have a chance to grow in our Zone 5, fast-approaching winter.  Not sure what went wrong, because I planted them as usual in August, but they just didn’t take off.  These carrots carrot & broccoli compressed  could/should be dug, but at least there will be a harvest, which is doubtful for the neighboring broccoli.  Notice the signs of our recent freeze on the dis-colored broccoli leaves.  Not holding my breath.  And, I hope I can bend over to harvest these lettuces, or cover them before our next cold snap comes the first of the week.  Lettuce compressed 11-17  The good news is that the garlic was planted on time garlic emerging compressed 11-17 and has emerged.  I’d like to get a layer of mulch over it yet this fall, but if it doesn’t happen there will still be a crop.  While I recover, I’m making notes in my garden journal to plant some of these fall crops earlier, and trying to gradually process the baskets of peppers, tomatoes, and beets that I harvested before the first frost came.  Hopefully by next Saturday, the polytunnels will be in place….if it doesn’t hard freeze before I can do it!


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Things I should have known by now

At my advanced age, the number of things that I haven’t yet learned (or have forgotten) is still surprising.  Here’s a few of yesterday’s revelations:

  1. Cleaning the Front Island, which is located around and under black walnut trees, without a hard hat on a windy day can be dangerous!  Here are some photos of the  4 loads of walnuts that I took out of this one garden…many of them were launched and landed within a hair’s breadth of my body!Walnut 1 Walnut 2 OK, you get the picture…there are 3 more, but I’ll spare you the download time.
  2. Since black walnut trees and all their parts are toxic to most plants, putting the leaves I took out of the garden into the compost pile is a bad, bad idea.  I caught myself on that mistake just in the knick of time!
  3. A job is not over, until it’s over….observe the Front Island today Walnut 5 I’m going to wait for a still day.  It’s windy and hazardous today.
  4. Hostas need water.  Yes, I knew that, but when we added guttering to the screened porch, I didn’t think, and didn’t compensate for the new, much drier conditions.  Thus I have ugly hostas that look like this! Hostas ugly  Embarassing!
  5. Lost tools never show up until you buy their replacement.
  6. The “days to maturity” on seed packets is determined for late spring/early summer conditions.  In fall, as days grow shorter and light is weaker, additional days must be added….I probably have not added enough, so unless we have a late, late frost or put on polytunnels, some things probably won’t produce. (sigh…)
  7. If one seeds in every space as it becomes available to extend the season, suddenly it is time to plant garlic, and there is NO SPACE for it!!!Potager 10-1-17  Hmmm.  What’s going to be sacrificed?  Probably will harvest the basil and most of the pepper plants?
  8. If one has not seeded beans at the correct time, there are no beans to eat, except the ones just canned.  Make a note in the planting journal for next year!
  9. If one goes on vacation, the squash bugs win.  Trust me, you don’t want to see the photos of dead, dead vines…..
  10. If one actually cuts bouquets from a Cutting Garden, it shouldn’t need deadheading.  Obviously, I’m terrible at remembering to make bouquets. CG ugly This gomphrena and blue salvia is long past pretty.
  11. The garden season never lives up to the long, excited anticipation that grows into fantasy during the long winter.  I always feel let down, that I didn’t do it quite right, that there were too many should-have-dones, that the season was WAY TOO SHORT!
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Six on Saturday, Sept 23

I’m back!  You may not have missed me, but my gardens certainly did!  While I was having a marvelous time in Normandy this month, apparently it did not rain at all until the day before I returned.  I’d put away all my summer clothes before I left because it was cooler than normal in  late August, but returned to 90 degrees as soon as I departed.  So, the shorts and T-shirts had to be recovered.  Here’s a sample of what I found on my initial walk-about.  First the good.  The lovely flowers of garlic chives not only add a bit of much-needed brightness to the gardens, but are beloved of many beneficial bees and wasps.  Garlic chives compressed  They do self-seed rampantly, so I’ll keep a close eye now that I’m back, for the beige pod clusters and remove them quickly.  Both the leaves and flowers are useful in the kitchen, and it is a hardy perennial.  I’m grateful for the color of the soft-purple verbena-on-a-stick, Verbena bonariensis, also called Brazilian vervain in some catalogs.  This also self-seeds sumptiously, but I never have too many.     Verbena bona compressed 17  The ones in shade look blue, so judge their true color by those shown in the sunlight in this photo.  They are also loved by butterflies and other pollinators, and grow to 3′.  In warmer zones, they are perennial, but here in Zone 5, they sometimes don’t survive if we have an especially harsh winter.  Yesterday afternoon, the workers came to lay the sod in our new swale, which will help route water from the neighbor’s field away from our house.  Swale sod compressed   Expensive, but necessary, as seeding would have just washed away in the deluges.  In the potager, one of the prettiest sights this morning were the flowers of the Red Candlestick okra.  Okra flowers compressed  I was surprised that they were still blooming, since the plants were covered with 10″ pods…that no one picked while I was away.  I guess none of the neighbors like okra!  I was happy to see that the lettuce seeds I sprinkled before I left are germinating here and there in small patches where summer squashes came out.  Lettuce seedlings compressed  Observant folk will also notice a dandelion center top.  Yes, while I was devouring luscious French food and guzzling the famous Normandie ciders, weeds were merrily thrusting through my soil.  And, the cabbage worms were feasting upon my previously lovely brussel sprouts.  Brussel holes compressed  My first task, even before unpacking or checking mail and e-mail, was spraying Bt to stop the destruction.  So, holiday is over and it’s going to take quite a bit of time and effort to catch up the deadheading and weed removal, but it was definitely worth it.  Thanks to The Propagator for suggesting this meme.

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Six on Saturday, Sept 2

We’ve definitely turned a page on the calendar.  August was the driest in 120 years, and the gardens are showing it.  However, there are still some bright spots to celebrate on this Saturday.  First of all, one of my favorite beans, Dragon Tongue, a long (often 8″) flat, cream-colored pod with purple streaks and great flavor.  A 6′ row has already yielded over 7 lbs. Bean Dragon Tongue compressed  Also in the potager is the “Red Candlesticks” okra that I mentioned formerly, but now it’s producing and I am happy to report it is productive, tender, and pretty.  I’ll definitely grow it again next year.  Okra Red Candlesticks 9-1-17 compressed I should have taken the photo before I picked and ate it!  My friend, Margaret told me to try it grilled.  Shake it in a bag with a bit of olive oil to cover the pods, and then sprinkle with a bit of Cajun seasoning.  Grill 3 min. or so, until it gets grill marks.  Delicious!  I’m also really happy with the scheduling of the melon crop this season.  Remember last year, when all the varieties were ready at the same time and we ended up giving most away because we couldn’t eat them all?  This year, there has been a steady trickle of melons, just enough for breakfasts or fruit salads, or to serve as an appetizer.  Melons 9-1-17 compressed Above is the final group, which should be about right to ripen before our first frost arrives.  Note the one at the right, hanging in a panty hose sling.  That’s “Tasty Bites” which is a delicious melon, but it falls off the vine when it’s ripe, and a drop that far would damage it so I put them in slings.  I also often use the mesh bags that the tulip bulbs are shipped in, but I’ve used most of them for onions without tops and couldn’t be braided.  The melons on the left are “Green Nutmeg.”

I love feverfew, as a medicinal herb and as a bright spot in the potager’s interior border.  Its sweet, dainty, white daisy flowers are lovely in cut flower bouquets, and differ from chamomile in that they are longer-lasting and the gold center is flat rather than domed.  The earliest blooms have now formed seed, which I am sprinkling here and there in the border for next season.  Feverfew compressed  Number 5 is the Shasta daisies that I cut back after their first flowering, who are now beginning to bloom again.  Shasta 9-1-17 compressed The number of flowers is not as high as the early bloom, but it’s still satisfying.  I’m adding more shastas to my borders next year, despite a disparaging, mocking remark overheard at the GWA conference, “Some people have so many shasta daisies in their gardens it reflects back on Google Earth.”  Personally, I like them and I’m going to keep growing them even if others deem it tacky.  And finally, looking for the silver lining of our dry August, it allowed us to put in a much-needed swale to help carry rainwater away from the patio. Swale compressed2 Right now it seems like a waste of assets, but I’m sure when the rains come again, especially if they are as heavy as this past spring’s deluge, we’ll be happy it’s there.  So, that’s my Six on Saturday.  THanks to The Propagator for suggesting this meme.


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Entertaining Is So Easy!

Although I am happy to be a hermit in the potager and gardens, D is a very social creature who loves being surrounded by people.  We compromise happily by doing a lot of entertaining in the summer, when the potager is bountiful.  It is SO EASY to invite friends over for tea or cocktails on the deck or in the gazebo, and fairly inexpensive when the appetizer trays can be assembled quickly from the garden.  For instance, here’s a quick harvest from the potager that includes One day's harvest 7-29-17 midget melons, cherry tomatoes, red sweet cherry peppers, cucumbers, peppers, a few blackberries and strawberries, and a small Ronde d’Nice summer squash.  In less than 10 minutes, it became this pretty tray for guests. Appetizer tray compressed 8-17  This time of year, when eggs are (amazingly!!!) 38 CENTS a dozen, I keep hard-boiled eggs in the refrigerator constantly.  There is always a container of pickled beets and eggs, and I can make deviled eggs using fresh herbs from the potager, or egg-salad easily.  I also keep an ever-changing bit of herbal butter (chives, savory, basil, lemon thyme, dill, etc.) in the refrigerator, and pick up whatever crackers and cheeses are on sale when I shop.  Brie, fresh mozarella, and cream cheese are especially useful.  On this tray the canapes are simply squares of whole wheat bread buttered with dill butter, topped with a slice of cucumber, and half of a cherry tomato (Variety: Indigo Cherry Drops.)  There are endless variations.  I could use a thin slice of summer squash with basil butter and a tomato half, or chive butter with a slice of Bread & Butter pickle instead.

Tucked right of the melon are stuffed red sweet cherry peppers.  I wouldn’t be without them for quick entertaining because most people love them.  I’ve already canned several jars to use for winter entertaining.  They are especially appreciated during the holiday season, when their red color makes a platter pop!  Simply slice off the top and hollow out the seeds and ribs.  Today, I pushed in a basil leaf followed by a bit of cream cheese to fill to the top, and a sprinkle of black pepper.  Often, they are filled with a pesto-cream cheese mixture, or egg salad, or a cube of fresh mozarella, or a cube of melon.  Or, a bit of very thin ham instead of the basil leaf, with egg salad, or a cube of cheddar, or a large olive make good fillings.  Chicken salad, ham salad, hummus, or a shredded carrot salad also work.  Use whatever you have on hand.Appetizer tray 2 compressed  This tray has the same canape on the lower right, except the half tomato is a “Sungold.”  The sweet red cherry peppers are stuffed with a bit of mixture made by combining shredded cheese, mayo, chopped red pepper (from the sliced off stems, etc.) and black pepper in the bottom, a small cube of ham, and more mixture on top.  The top row is simply a slice of baguette, topped with a basil leaf, a slice of brie, and a sprinkle of black pepper (surprisingly simple, but oh, so delicious!)

I use some of the same mixtures to stuff nasturtium blossoms, and canapes can be sprinkled with chive blossoms, small snapdragon flowers, or snipped daylily petals.  Cherry tomatoes can be marinated; carrots and zucchini sticks can be served with an endless variety of dips and spreads.

It’s lovely to be able to use bits of this and that from the potager, and know that it’s fresh, delicious, and inexpensive….and always so pretty!

Posted in edible flowers, Entertaining in the garden, gardening, harvest, Potager, Uncategorized, vegetable gardening | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments