Spring Garden Update

I’ve been busy with sessions and super busy in the garden due to a “mistake” by the Arbor Day Foundation. Actually, I suspect it was faery magick, since I’ve been wracking my brain for a non-invasive partial shade friendly garden hedge. Instead of shipping me my mock sweet orange, groundcover juniper and hazelnut shrubs, Arbor Day sent me 30 North Privet hedge shrubs, 2 forsythias and a maple sapling. At first, I felt a little upset, but once I researched North Privet, I began to suspect my faery garden landscaper — seriously, a faery who works out the designs of this place whenever I feel stuck. 😉  I had just asked for some assistance again and whammo! All my prior plant and tree orders suddenly morphed. Anyway, I contacted Arbor Day Foundation, and they said to keep the hedge and that they’d send my correct order soon.

Thank you, but it also meant digging a 24 foot and then another 6 foot trench in which to plant these babies:

North Privet is a non-invasive hybrid species of privet, which can grow 12-15 feet tall, perfect for shielding out the next door apartments.

North Privet is a non-invasive hybrid species of privet, which can grow 12-15 feet tall, perfect for shielding out the next door apartments.

I also planted some on either side of our trellised grape vine in my neverending vertical garden quest to remove the view of the next-nextdoor neighbors’ garage roof. Our immediately nextdoor neighbors asked me to plant the maple in front of the garage for the same reason. We’re all hoping this tree will take off and provide coverage over that eyesore. The nextdoor neighbors also got one transplanted paw paw tree from our yard, and will soon receive the companion pollinator, once I have time to dig and replant. They’re excited for trees!

Given that the hedge and tree transplants occurred in the same week as a rose hedge arrived for the front yard, plus sedum ground cover for near the driveway, last week became a crazed planting frenzy in which phone sessions felt like a heavenly rest from digging. If I had known to prepare the soil in each spot, the digging would have gone faster, but this was hard, weedy ground. I’m still tired! For the first year, we’ll need to keep the hedge low, so it gets bushy, but come next year, I’ll be grateful for all that hard work when the magical cocoon of our yard shields out yet more of the non-magical surroundings.

At least we had some good food from the yard, though. In addition to loads of dandelion roots harvested, cleaned, chopped and frozen in preparation for a big roasting project on a cold day, we’ve got lots of fresh greens and various onions and chives, plus leftover dried tomatoes from last year. Greek salad to the rescue!

Garden fresh (and dried) produce for a Greek salad

Garden fresh (and dried) produce for a Greek salad

On Saturday, we had a brilliantly sunny, warm day as I worked in the garden, visited with our landlord and neighbors and prepped food for our evening Beltane celebration — all at the same time, thanks to the Sun Oven:

sun oven on Beltane

You can see the Sun Oven warming up above, near the newly created brick bed by a trellis that will show off the sweet potatoes, which look like morning glories. (The stone bed has row cover on it, so squirrels don’t dig up my flower transplants.) That Sun Oven rocks! On Saturday, I made moist, delicious falafel patties, as well as quinoa for a wheat free tabouli:

one of three simultaneously cooked trays of Sun Oven falafel

one of three simultaneously cooked trays of Sun Oven falafel

Sun Oven quinoa tastes amazing!

Sun Oven quinoa tastes amazing!

Thankfully, it’s flower season again in our yard, so we had some nice daffodils for the Beltane altar, as well as some bouquets for David’s mom and our friend who just had her baby:


We’ve also got some dandy violets in our back”yard” :

dandy violets

Out front, you can see the dwarf Korean lilac getting ready to bloom among friends, along with some newly cut ash logs near the garage, which will eventually house shitake mushroom dowels if they ever arrive. Yes, another plant/tree/shroom shipping mixup. You need to inoculate logs within two weeks of cutting, so I’ll just have to hope the shrooms arrive sometime within that period. Otherwise, I guess it will be hugelkulture time!

lilac, grape hyacinths, daffodils and tulips

lilac, grape hyacinths, daffodils and tulips

Our Garden Tower got an early start this year. Instead of plucking out and eating excess seedlings, I put the tiniest ones into the Garden Tower to see if they’d grow. It took awhile for them to establish sizable roots, but they’ve all started growing. I keep them covered at night and during high winds:

zinnias, flamingo and red rhubarb chard, lacinato kale, fava beans, peas, and tiny lettuce sprouts up top

zinnias, flamingo and red rhubarb chard, lacinato kale, fava beans, peas, and tiny lettuce sprouts up top

Mr. Meyer Lemon finally got to go outside, as our frosty nights waned. He likes the sun, but calling him recovered would be quite the optimistic spin. I think he’ll live, though. He just got some amendments of green sand, which supposedly saves everything, as well as comfrey leaves and worm castings.

Meyer lemon recovering in sun

Out back, I planted seed potatoes in various grow bags. The green ones I ordered last year. The burlap came courtesy of my garden coffee supplier, who owns the Electric Brew in Goshen. He brings me bags and bags of coffee grounds, which provide NPK in a ratio most plants can use right away. You need to mix it in with the soil, though, and acidic plants seem to enjoy the grounds more. They’re pH neutral, but some plants like them better than others. Blueberries and roses especially love them. I’m hoping the burlap bag works well, because I have several more in the garage. I needed to donate a bunch of seed potatoes to Redtail Farm Community Garden, because I over-ordered for the number of bags I had. Oops! Now that I have more bags, I might see if I can find anymore potatoes to plant from around here.

potatoes in bags

Although I tend to have excellent luck growing from seeds, I’m getting more and more interested in perennial vegetables that just pop up without any additional effort after the initial planting. I had ordered a rhubarb, which arrived looking terribly sad and sickly. I planted it in what I now suspect was formerly a black walnut area, and as if that wasn’t enough of a challenge, a bird pooped on it! I tried to flush off the poop, but not before it burned the leaves with its nitrogen. I transplanted that rhubarb elsewhere, gave it all sorts of love and amendments, and it appears to be recovering. As synchronicity would have it, though, my across the alley neighbors offered me a free rhubarb plant on Saturday. I put this beauty under the grape vine trellis, where it will hopefully block out some of the thousands of dandelions trying to get in my garden beds:


I love having perennial vegetables green up in spring! Here’s sea kale leafing out next to Egyptian walking onions, garlic, and some annual cold season cover crop of peas and fava beans for nitrogen fixing:

cover crop and perennials

I just love perennials in general. One time planting, years of enjoyment. After all the hours yanking dandelions the past couple weeks, plus all the dozens of hours and layers of cardboard and wood mulch that proved no match for dandelions, I’m beginning to realize it’s all about out-planting them if I want any kind of diversity in this yard. Some are great, but do we really need ten thousand that each created ten thousand more? Um, no. Here we have rescued trillium with Jack in the Pulpit and fiddlehead ferns just peeking out in the rain:

trillium and ferns

Much, much more to come if my ordered plants ever arrive. An April 20th “ship date” was quite awhile ago, folks. Just sayin’. At least it gave me time to plant that hedge, though! Bonus with the North Privet? It attracts butterflies and birds, and you can form it into a topiary. I saved one for a front yard specimen (OK, saved isn’t the right word. Those things kept multiplying!) just in case David wants to get creative. 😉 Meanwhile, the garden has become its own community with neighbors, landlords, friends and dog walkers all stopping by to chat, admire and inquire. I’ve given free plant starts to people, received free seeds, have been asked to be on two garden tours, and have made new friends and deepened earlier connections.

Plus, it’s great therapy. Whenever I read about another assault on the Earth, I plant more flowers. Today’s Grand Canyon news story resulted in hardy gladiolus. Yesterday’s news brought ground cover day lilies to a backyard stump. The general ugliness of our street has brought an entire ecosystem to our yard and now spilling over into neighbors’ lots. As L.A.’s Ron Finley, the Gangster Gardener says, “Plant some shit!” And so I have … so I will.

19 responses to this post.

  1. Spring is finally sprung. Happy gardening!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Posted by sky on May 5, 2015 at 8:08 pm

    What a wonderful riot of color! And so early in the season. The photo of the lilac, grape hyacinths, daffodils and tulips really stood out for me. So pretty!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Posted by manyhahama1955 on May 5, 2015 at 9:01 pm

    Wonderful, wonderful, Laura! Yes, everything in it’s own perfect time(ing). Thanks for sharing…very inspiring. You go girl! Much love!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks, Diana, you, too!


  5. Thanks, Sky! Yes, it is a riot of color, especially in person now. The squirrels (?) must have planted all these fancy late blooming tulips, because after the reds faded, we now have white, hot pink and purple ones that I never planted and that weren’t here the first year either. Fun times!


  6. Thanks, Sophia! Much love. 🙂


  7. Posted by manyhahama1955 on May 5, 2015 at 9:04 pm

    Is it easy to grow comfrey from seed? I want to grow a patch for composting, etc at the lake house.. Or is it easier to plant seedlings? thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Comfrey is terribly invasive and almost impossible to get rid of unless it is from a sterile hybrid. I would look for Bocking 14, which is the kind we have. It does not spread, and it does not have viable seeds. You only really need one or two plants to start and then once established — probably as soon as the following spring — you can take root divisions in early spring. This is what I did this year, and it was easy. Comfrey grows a long tap root, and any part of the root will supposedly begin a new plant, so it’s easy to propagate from root cuttings, although somewhat slow. In the beginning, it puts all the energy into the root, so the leaves don’t seem to grow at all.

    Once established, it grows 1-3 feet and puts out lovely bluish purple flowers that the bees love. You can then cut it 3-5 times per season and use the leaves around plants as a mulch. I often harvest a handful of leaves to put near ailing plants and then chop it down once other things are blooming well for the bees. I would NOT start comfrey from seed unless you want to have an entire field starting from seed forever. 🙂


  9. Posted by Anthony on May 5, 2015 at 10:57 pm

    Pretty cool stuff! You’ve actually inspired me to try to grow something besides black mold: I just got a couple of Mike Adam’s new ‘grow tubs’ and will start with an inside herb garden and sprouts. Got a long ways to go before I can match your forest, however!!

    On that sun oven – how is that working for you? I see ads for them on a lot of alternative websites and have considered building/buying one, especially given the abundant sun here in Sacramento. I’ve got a couple rocket stoves, but I can’t operate them on non-burning days. Does it cook quickly and evenly? Is it easy to clean?

    Thanks much!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Posted by James G on May 5, 2015 at 11:38 pm

    I love your garden Laura!!! I have radishes and my irises are just now starting to bloom. The perennials your showing finished here in Ky about 3 weeks ago. I didn’t realize I had Korean lilac in my yard. I just thought it was really pretty. Sage and mint are doing great right now too. I’ll send you pics later. 😊 Thanks for sharing your garden.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Hi Anthony, that’s great that you’re getting some of Mike Adams’ grow tubs. I’ve looked into them, too, since I’m always experimenting with different things to show people what’s possible. At the moment, I’ve decided to hold off, just because I have way too many other things going all over the place! They look like a great way to get started.

    The Sun Oven is really one of the best purchases I’ve ever made. If we had more consistent sun, I would use it all the time. Not only does it use zero electricity, but it doesn’t burn things. Everything stays just perfectly done, and I swear you can taste the sunshine. I like it because I can stick things in there that would normally require babysitting on the stovetop, and do my garden work outside or leave the property while it cooks. This was from last year before you started following my blog (I think): https://laurabruno.wordpress.com/2014/10/14/preliminary-review-of-off-grid-cooking-methods/ . I highly recommend it. The inside is very easy to clean, and it even does a nice job as a dehydrator.


  12. Thanks, James! I look forward to seeing your photos. Our irises haven’t bloomed yet, but we now have these purple tulips, which I did not plant, that are just about ready to pop. At first I thought they were irises, but no, they’re tulips in iris colors! Fun times. On Thursday, for David’s birthday, he and his (Dutch) dad and I are going to Holland, Michigan for their tulip festival. You just can’t get enough flowers in spring.


  13. Posted by Kieron on May 8, 2015 at 12:28 pm

    Hey there. I was shopping at the biggest plant sale in the upper Midwest (held at our state fairgrounds, annually) yesterday and noticed in the native plants section, something I forget the name of, but there were 2 varieties, one named Little Laura and the other David. 🙂 It was like a cosmic wink! 😀 Which was interesting because some minutes earlier, I had some passing thoughts about somehow tapping into the faerie connection. I guess I am trying to echo some of what you, and Colette in Ireland, are doing, by going out on a limb and trying things I wouldn’t ordinarily try planting. 🙂 Wish I could remember the actual plant name, but it was in the natives section… I may go back for more stuff (but will make myself plant what I have *first*!) so if I do, I’ll stop and actually *look* at it.

    On sobering note, on the same fairgrounds but in another section of it, I passed by about several dozen police cars parked, and officers engaged in a drill, including scouting out a “trouble spot” with guns drawn, K9’s on leashes etc, etc etc. *sigh* It was an odd juxtaposition, because the plant sale is produced and run by the Friends School which is Quaker-based in philosophy, and teaches non-violence, respect, cooperation, meaningful work, etc in the students, who also help produce the plant sale. I expect America’s hyper-military security state alphabet-agency idiocy and paranoid tendencies are rooted in its Sun in Cancer (July 4) aspect, so in that respect it makes some sense… but still disquieting.

    Hope you took lots of pix in Holland!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Thanks, Kieron! Oh, do tell if you get the name of those native plants, Little Laura and David. How perfect! I’ll see if I can find anything on my end. Meanwhile, back at the Faery Ranch … I remember why I mulch the heck out of things. The non- native dandelions (they are originally imported from Europe) are the most persistent things I’ve seen. They make it through a foot plus of mulch, cardboard, newspapers … Seriously the only way to clear an area of them appears to be planting something larger and then mulching that like crazy.

    I grew up in PA, founded by Quakers, so yes, they are good people devoted to peace, non-violence, respect, and freedom. They were big into the Underground Railroad. Who knows? Just those few things probably puts them on a big threat list to the .gov and militant police! I’ll be posting Holland pics sometimes soon. I took some photos, but to everyone’s delight, I’m sure, David took loads of photos. His dad’s a professional photographer, and David grew up with a camera in his hand and learning how to frame shots. We compared my photos and his of the same locations, and let’s just say, David’s photos will appear on the blog instead of mine!

    Enjoy planting! I’m now up to 300 bulbs, I think, to go in this fall, thanks in part to Holland, Michigan’s tulip festival. 😉


  15. Posted by sky on May 8, 2015 at 5:57 pm

    300 bulbs?! You’ll have to have a bulb-planting party to get all those puppies in the ground! A pot luck bulb planting party, I think! (smile)


    Liked by 1 person

  16. Well, I tried to have a hedge planting party a couple weekends ago, and I was the only guest. I am hoping someone local wants to take a Reiki class and can’t afford it. Last year, I got a lot of spring bulbs planted that way (a yard work trade). So far everyone’s insisting on paying me full price, which is fine, but I truly wouldn’t mind some helpers!


  17. Posted by Kieron on May 10, 2015 at 2:43 pm

    Ok, so the plants I mentioned were a variety or form of Phlox divaricata, woodland phlox, and this was why they were in the Natives section of the plant sale. Ordinarily phlox would go in the Perennials section which is why I wouldn’t connect it with native plants initially.

    Looking forward to the pictures. I know what you mean about framing, which for me is effortless, for the most part, and I get compliments on my close-ups and portraits quite often. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Very cool, thank you! I’ll see if I can track that down. I do love phlox and was just thinking it would be lovely to have some additional ground cover where I have one white phlox tucked under a forsythia.

    David’s working on the photos as I type. 🙂 It’s funny the things that come naturally to people. David’s a fabulous photographer and wonderful at wire wrapping crystals, but he doesn’t know anything about painting or landscaping. I, on the other hand, can frame a yard no problem, but framing a photo? Not so much. Painting works well for me, because you can keep modifying it until it feels right. I guess photos can, too, but I don’t have patience for editing programs. I’m glad we all have our talents and passions, which bring forth all sorts of beauty! 🙂


  19. Posted by sky on May 10, 2015 at 3:08 pm

    People are like flowers in the garden of life. Each one of us has our own unique giftings and contributions to the beauty of life. Including framing photos or framing a garden. Both giftings are needed to share the beauty of the garden with others.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: