Posts tagged ‘sunflowers’

April 22, 2012

Kiss of the Sun

“Kiss of the sun for pardon. Song of the birds for mirth. You’re closer to God’s heart in a

garden than any place else on earth.” — Dorothy Frances Gurney

Yesterday was one of those absolutely perfect weather days. It was sunny. The sky was blue with just a few puffy clouds. The temperature was hovering just over 70 degrees. The spring flowers are in bloom and, despite our lack of rain this year, everything is just bursting forth into bud and leaf.

It was the perfect day to plant my garden and putter in the yard.

This year I am changing things up a little. The garden is still the same circular plot, but I have decided to forego the center fountain of sunflowers. There are two reasons for this. The first reason is that it is time for a change. This would be the third year and, while I loved the sunflowers, it will be fun to try something new. The second reason is that I have run out of space to rotate my tomato plants into and the only previously unused space is where the sunflowers were. I could not tell you which was the dominant reason. I wrestled with the “where to put the tomatoes” issue all winter long.

I am changing up the contents of the garden as well. This is radical stuff I tell you. There will be fewer tomato plants this year. I have skipped the small Black Pearl tomatoes entirely. Instead I am concentrating on your garden variety (sorry) big red, luscious tomatoes. I don’t have the space for so many and some of the more exotic heirloom varieties just didn’t produce that well. Also, the Green Zebra tomatoes confused me because I could never tell when they were ripe. They were always green!

In addition to tomatoes, I am planting eggplant, peas (for Jim), cucumbers (with trepidation since the last time we were swimming in cucumbers), carrots, lettuce and herbs. The rosemary, sage and oregano made it through the incredibly mild winter so I am adding three basil plants. I will also have chive, but I have that in a pot because it will otherwise spread everywhere.  I have completely abandoned the spoke pattern I used previously. This year’s garden is planted in concentric circles. Everything I have planted is from seeds except the tomatoes, eggplant and basil.

Last week Peter was essential in helping me rent the roto-tiller and get the soil ready. I spent some time yesterday removing any weeds around the edges, the stubborn grass which insists on growing through the fence. I raked the soil smooth and began planting. It was just warm enough to work up a sweat, but the breeze was fresh. It was a potent reminder of how much I love working in the garden. As with my knitting and so many other things I love to do, it is the process rather than the end result which gives me the most satisfaction.

As always when just planted the garden doesn’t look like much. It is more a promise for the future. But soon the seeds will sprout and it will become a garden, rather than a promise. Today we are supposed to have rain and that will start things off.

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August 27, 2011

Hot summer and the tomatoes are plentiful

Fountain of Sunflowers

This has been an unusually hot and wet summer. The tomato plants don’t seem to know if they adore it or not. They are bursting with fruit and I can’t keep up with the production, but it seems to me they are quitting earlier than usual.

The garden looks great overall.  The herbs are plentiful and you can see the basil in the foreground. I have to make some pesto this week. Nothing tastes as wonderful as homemade pesto in January. It still has the sunshine in it. All of the herbs seem to be doing well with the exception of the cilantro which bolted immediately. I also have sage, oregano, marjoram, rosemary and some dill. The other day I diced potatoes, cut handfulls of various herbs from the garden and drizzled them with olive oil. They cooked in a 425 degree oven and smelled fantastic. They didn’t taste at all bad either.

The Green Zebra Tomatoes are just coming in. I had one enormous heirloom tomato with marbled flesh which was unbelievable. It was the only tomato that plant yielded which was sad, but it was worth it. Even though I swear I planted fewer this year, the Black Pearl Tomatoes are more than plentiful. The rogue tomato plants which sprang up from last year’s seeds have also produced. They are a bonus especially since some of them are varieties I didn’t plant this year.

The sunflowers look fantastic again but I think I have waited too long again to harvest the seeds. It doesn’t really matter, I just love the way they look.

I can’t believe this summer has sped by so quickly.

March 20, 2011

First Rites of Spring

The snows have disappeared and my tulips and daffodils are poking up out of the soil. Daytime temperatures are hitting the 50’s and it looks like we may have survived winter. Hooray!!

Last Sunday, daylight savings time, I ordered my seeds and plants. Burpee had presciently sent me a discount coupon and that was all it took to get my business. This year’s garden will be a little streamlined from last year. The sunflowers, tomotoes, herbs and lettuce will all reappear. I think we can dispense with the cucumbers and swiss chard.

Late Thursday afternoon this week, Jim and I headed to Home Depot. We were well ahead of the rush. The garden center was deserted and we loaded our cart with 28 bags of Bovung cow manure with humus and three bags of lime. Good thing to have the truck around these days. I unloaded the cargo and felt the first excitement at having a new garden at hand.

The Other Dakota

Fragrant and rich

 Tilling the garden was a whole different experience from last year. Last year was a nightmare pulling the long and deep roots from the deceased Flame Bush and trying to break through the grass and rocks. This year the rototiller broke through the soil easily (well, the thing pulls like the dickens, but it is all relative) and quickly churned the soil, last year’s straw, lime and manure into a soft, rich looking patch of soil. Boy, if I were a plant I would want to sink my roots into that soil. We had the rototiller back at the rental place in two hours flat.

The farmer at work

Of course, it is stil early. The rental guy thought our soil was still frozen. Far from it, but I don’t expect to plant for six weeks. If the early bird catches the worm, we should have lots of them in the garden.

Faithful assistant

It was hard to stop working in the yard and head inside. But I think we are ready for some planting when the time comes and I can dream about the hours to be spent this summer fussing in the garden and all the fabulous tomatoes and vegetables in our future.

Work well done

January 11, 2011

Garden Notes 2010

I know perfectly well that I will never remember all the lessons I learned from this year’s garden if I don’t write them down. So, with this in mind, here are my thoughts. Would love to hear from all gardeners with their ideas, advice, etc.

This year’s garden was a pretty good success. The mix of items could be improved and there were some things which we just didn’t enjoy, but we sure got a lot of tomatoes and cucumbers and it looked spectacular with the shooting sunflowers in the center.

Lettuce. We had way too much lettuce. I planted it in flights about three weeks apart as recommended, but we couldn’t eat it fast enough and much of  it went to seed. Peter didn’t like the lettuce because it wasn’t what he was used to (iceberg). I have four packets of lettuce seeds left over from this year. At the end of the season after I had cleaned things up for the winter, I opened the gate to the garden and let the bunnies come take care of the lettuce. They thought it was quite tasty.

Cucumbers. Ellie begged me to plant cucumbers. I don’t really like cucumbers, but Jim does and Ellie does. We had cucumbers coming out our ears and no one wanted to eat them. Not unlike zucchini, they grew with terrifying rapidity. Giant cucumbers would emerge from the lush vines. And the vines were crawling everywhere. I had to stop using the gate and step over the fence because the cucumbers owned the passage. Deep six next year.

Swiss chard. Planted it for Jim. He loves swiss chard even though I hate to clean it. We ate it once and the rest just sat. Deep six next year.

Sunflowers. Planted “Supersnack Hybrid” sunflowers from Burpee. They are supposed to have inch long seeds which are perfect for roasting. They grew tall and gorgeous, but then the flowers died and we never got any seeds. Try another variety next year. I did love the profusion of tall plants spraying up like a fountain from the middle of the garden.

Herbs. The herb garden was fun and mostly a success. Basil was good. But I ordered six different varieties. Next year I will just plant the normal kind. The more unusual varieties were not as useful. San Remo and Pesto Perpetuo Basil were both good. I ordered them as plants from Burpee. Thyme and marjoram were both fun as was Rosemary. I used the last of those herbs in December for a big pot of soup. It was deliciousw soup and I was so happy to brush the snow away and find a few last home grown herbs. 

Tomatoes. Tomatoes were the stars of the garden. I adore tomatoes and I would spend any amount of time out there trimming and caring for my tomato plants. Some varieties were great, others less worthwhile. I planted 14 tomato plants which was arguably too much both in terms of available space and the ability to keep up with yield. Some tomatoes withered on the vines because we just couldn’t eat fast enough. I distributed many to the neighbors, the mailman, the pool man and anyone else who happened by the cul de sac—like Peter’s driving teacher.  Next year I think I will reduce the number of plants to no more than 9 or 10.

Black Pearl Tomato– from Burpees. These were very tasty small tomatoes with a dark brown/red appearance. I planted three of them. I ate those right off the vine. I felt like a brown bear standing in the garden and just plucking the little tomatos and popping them into my mouth. I think one bush would have been enough, but I will definitely should plant some next year. They were very tasty.

Big Rainbow Tomato-from Burpee. These were quite beautiful. The plants produced well and I will definitely order next year. Yum, can’t wait. 

Gold-Medal Yellow Tomato-from White Flower Farm. Part of Bobbie’s Christmas present to me. This didn’t yield a lot of tomatoes and they were late in the season. I would like to have some yellow tomatoes, but it might be good to try a variety which matures more quickly. They were tasty, but will try another variety.

Riesentraube Tomato-from White Flower Farm. The name translates to big grape. They are cherry tomatoes with a funny little point on the end. They were very tasty. I think they got overlooked by the Black Pearl tomatoes, but I plan to try them again next year. 

Red Brandywine tomatoes-White Flower Farm. Classic brandywine. Definitely worth buying next year whether from White Flower or elsewhere.

Green Zebra Tomatoes-White Flower Farm. Hard to tell when these were ripe because I kept waiting for the green to leave. Good plant, mark next year so I know they are supposed to be red and green.

Black Prince Tomato-White Flower Farm. This was the kinkiest, most gorgeous tomato. I was sorry that I didn’t get more of them but the plant I had was damaged in a terrible wind storm and I think it was brave to grow at all. Will definitely try again next year. Gorgeous color.

Fourth of July Tomatoes-Burpee. Had ordered three of these. Ordered them because they mature quickly. But they were quite small. I think one bush next year just to have that early tomato fix. I like bigger slicing tomatoes and these were too small to slice. 

Planting formation. The garden was a circle like a clockface. Standing at the gate, facing the garden the tomatoes were planted from 3-6 and 9-12. Herbs were planted from 6-9 and lettuce from 12-4. I need to remember to rotate positions. I also need to remember to spread manure before turning the soil.

But all in all it wasn’t a bad first outing. Again, would love comments and advice.

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