Garden Stuff

It’s been a ridiculously pleasant day, warm, sunny. But we have thunderstorms moving in now so I have a chance to get caught up here.

IMG_0267.jpg

The falling petals from the pear flowers almost make it look like it’s been snowing in the backyard. We’ve had better flower coverage last year, but the tree seems to go in two year cycles, a year of ridiculous overabundance, with it being a bit less ridiculously loaded with fruit the next year. Doesn’t matter. Even in a poor year we generally have more fruit than we know what to do with and end up giving away buckets of them in September when they come ripe.

We still haven’t done anything with the raised beds, but that will be coming as soon as this rainy spell passes. It was in the 70s today and it’s supposed to hit the mid-80s tomorrow. That’s only going to be for one day and then they claim it’s going to get back to more normal temperatures.

IMG_0262.jpg

I wasn’t sure the lilac was going to blossom this year. We hacked it back almost to the ground because it was so badly overgrown, but it’s a good four feet tall now, most of it new growth, and it’s covered with budding flowers. And the smell is absolutely amazing. I love the smell of lilac.  It seems just about everyone had a lilac lurking somewhere in their yard because when I walk through town I smell them almost everywhere I go.

IMG_0269.jpg

I’m not sure how Mr. Spiny manages to survive the winter, but he somehow manages. He needs a good wash, I think, but he did not get the name Mr. Spiny for nothing. You can’t really see them in the photo, but the spines on this guy are absolutely vicious. Maybe use the carwash brush on him? And volunteer poppies are coming up all over back there, too. I frankly don’t know how anything grows back there. The soil is horrible, it gets very little moisture because it’s under the eaves of the house.

IMG_0268.jpg

One lonely tulip popped up amidst the daffodils. I’d forgotten it was even in there until a single yellow flower popped up the other day. Probably should move him. He’s never going to make it in there.

IMG_0266.jpg

My wife’s sister gave us some raspberry plants a couple of years ago. We decided to move them last fall, dug them up and planted them in the garden behind the garage. I didn’t think they’d make it. My wife says you couldn’t kill these with a gallon of RoundUp and a flamethrower, and it seems she’s right. Not only did all of them survive they seem to be thriving back there with tons of new growth. I love raspberries, but I have ‘issues’ as they say; diverticulitis. I’m not supposed to eat anything with seeds, nuts, anything with chunks that could get caught in the plumbing, so to speak. But when a fresh raspberry is sitting there all red and juicy… who can resist?

IMG_0265.jpg

My neighbor’s crazy old apple tree is in full blossom. It needs to be pruned badly but we seem to keep forgetting to do it. Not that the tree seems to mind. It’s loaded with fruit every year.

One of the neat things about this town is that there are fruit trees all over. Walk around a corner and Bam! There’s another burst of white or pink or red color with an apple or pear in full bloom. What a beautiful time of year! May is absolutely amazing.

And speaking of amazing, May is also our wedding anniversary. They said it would never last, and maybe they’re right? It’s only been thirty-seven years now, so we’re still pretty much newlyweds, right?

 

Garden Updates

IMG_0246.jpg

Even the local dentist’s office is looking colorful these days. Had to stop and take a picture of these guys. There is color bursting up all over, despite the cold weather we’ve been having.

Screen Shot 2017-05-09 at 7.11.42 AM.png

Apparently once you have catnip in your garden, you will always have catnip in your garden. We made the mistake of putting one plant in about fifteen years ago, and we’ve been trying to get rid of it ever since. The stuff is ridiculously prolific, spreading all over. Still, the cats do like the stuff when we bring in a few leaves for them. They roll around on it, sit on it, rub their faces on it, then fall asleep for two hours. Great fun.IMG_0249.jpg

I’m looking forward to seeing these guys come into blossom. These asiatic lilies usually put on a spectacular show later in the season.

IMG_0253.jpg

This is our lettuce/greens bed. About four feet across, this circular, partly shaded bed provides us with more than enough lettuce and fresh greens during the season. It’s a bit early, but MrsGF seeded this one over the weekend. I dumped about 4 inches of compost on the bed earlier and worked it in so we’re hoping for better results than we had last year. We had plenty of greens for salads, but the growth was a bit disappointing. The nice thing about this bed is that it’s partly shaded which helps to keep the lettuce from bolting before we can use it. We generally re-seed in late summer so we keep getting fresh growth right up until frost in the late fall.

IMG_0256.jpg

This bed was a motley collection of — of stuff. And the soil was absolutely terrible. MrsGF was very fond of some of the flowers in here, but even she had to admit it needed to be worked up and replanted. We removed old growth, transplanted some root stock she wanted to save, and then worked it up with the tiller, hauled in about 6 inches of compost, worked that in, and she’s put in a mixture of different flowers. I’m looking forward to this. She put in a section of alyssum which smell absolutely heavenly when they come into bloom.

IMG_0251.jpg

It’s hard to believe how fast the hostas are growing. Just two weeks ago this plant was little more than a couple of green spikes sticking out of the ground. Even with temperatures dropping to freezing overnight they’ve been growing like crazy. I don’t know how some of these plants survive the frost. It’s been down to 28 degrees at night around here for the last few days.

IMG_0255.jpg

Then there is these little guys. They pop up in the most unexpected and sometimes ridiculous places, and I always have to smile when I see one. I love their color, their texture, like dark purple velvet and then that burst of yellow in the center. This little stinker popped up right in the middle of the lawn.

 

Pear Blossoms And More Little Purple Thingies

IMG_0237.jpgIMG_0236.jpg

The pear tree is coming into full blossom. This dopy tree never ceases to amaze me. It is gnarled, misshapen, leans over at about a 35 degree angle and any arborist would wince at the sight of it. But holy cow, does it produce pears! Some of the most delicious, luscious pears I’ve ever had. We look forward to mid to late September when the fruit gets ripe. At their peak the pears are so sweet, so juicy and lush they melt in your mouth when you eat them. Alas, while they are amazing for eating fresh, they’re terrible for canning because the buttery texture that makes them so delightful for eating fresh means they disintegrate when canned. They do make great jam, though!

IMG_0240.jpg

We tend to ignore the goofy little bushes on the north side of the house. They are generally rather nondescript and often annoying because they grow like nuts and have to be trimmed frequently, and some of them have vicious thorns on them. But every once in a while this one decided to bloom. Tiny little lavender-purple blossoms that are so small they’re easy to completely ignore.

They’re sort of like, well, people. Even the most ordinary, the most nondescript, have incredible beauty within them if you look past the surface.

 

Hostas! And Little Purple Thingies!

I love hostas. Easy to take care of, can survive a variable climate. The flowers, well, they

IMG_0223
Every single one came back! I am enormously pleased. They’re looking wonderful.

don’t do very good in the flower department, but that’s not why I grow them. It’s the foliage. Over the years growers have developed dozens of different varieties with a huge assortment of different types of foliage; yellow, striped, speckled, different shades of green, different leaf shapes. They’re great fun.

A couple of years ago I ripped out the entire front mess between the house and the sidewalk and put in a hosta bed. Even went to a professional hosta grower to get the plants. Spent way too much money. And much to my surprise, every single one of them has been doing beautifully up there, surviving the cold, the rain, the snow, the ice. Great plants, hostas.

Was out walking with MrsGrouch (She’s not really a grouch, just the opposite, but this isIMG_0234 Grouchyfarmer.com, so what, I should call her Mrsdotcom?) and we ran into these and I had to take a photo. In an otherwise totally nondescript front yard, this cluster of brilliance was sitting there near a step, this tightly packed cluster of brilliant joy… Wow.

 

First Harvest! Rhubarb

The first actual harvest out of the garden here every year is rhubarb. The plants are

IMG_0191.JPG
It only started to break through the soil about two weeks ago and it’s already over a foot tall with dozens of stalks.

ridiculously hardy and are always the first to spring up. After the chives, which pop up as soon as the snow is gone, rhubarb is the first real thing we harvest. As soon as the goofy looking red bulbs of the sprouts

IMG_0090.JPG
Sprouting rhubarb looks like some kind of emerging alien eggs or something. Creepy

pop up we start thinking about rhubarb custard pie, rhubarb and strawberry, rhubarb sauces of various types. In some parts of the world the more tender stalks are dipped in sugar and eaten raw.

Oddly it seems a lot of people I know have no idea what to do with the stuff. Granted, it is utterly horrible if you try to eat it raw. But once it’s cooked a bit and has some sugar added — well, okay a lot of sugar added, it’s delightful stuff. Well, to me at least. For a lot of people it is definitely an acquired taste, and one which some have no desire to acquire, I fear.

Rhubarb does have one “gotcha”, and that is it’s leaves. They are fairly high in oxalic acid, which can cause serious problems or even death if you eat enough of them. (I read that you’d have to eat something like 11 pounds of leaves to build up a fatal level of oxalic acid.) The stalks have very little oxalic acid so those are safe to eat. Some people have claimed that you can only eat rhubarb early in the season, and that after the plant has come to full maturity, the level of oxalic acid in the stalks rises and makes it dangerous to use. This is not true. It’s safe to eat the stalks all through the growing season. If you let the stalks get too thick, it becomes woody and even hollow. But if you harvest it regularly and only select the new growth the stalks will remain tender all season long.

You want a fast and easy way to make a sauce? Sure. Here you go:

IMG_0189.JPG

Take about six or ten stalks and cut them into very small pieces. Put in a pan and add about a quarter cup of water. Turn up the heat until the water begins to bubble, then turn it down to low and let simmer. Stir every few minutes. After a very short time the pieces will begin to disintegrate and turn into a kind of pinkish mush. At this point throw in some sugar to taste. Start with a couple of tablespoons and taste, then add more as needed to get it to a level you like. Then serve hot, or throw it in the fridge.

IMG_0190.JPG

What do you use it for? Put it on ice cream, use it on pancakes. Use it instead of strawberries on shortcake. Or use it with strawberries. The two go together very well indeed. I put it on cereal.

Sedum!

DSCF3709.JPGIf you could see my yard and house you’d find out quickly that I really, really love plants, but there are some plants I love more than others. Hostas are one, and we ripped up the little patch of grass in front of the house and have been turning it into a hosta garden.

Another I love is sedum. When the FFA had their plant sale a few years ago they had a lot of stuff left over that didn’t sell that they gave me a whole flat of young sedum plants that immediately came to live in our back yard, and they’ve been thriving ever since. They are all up now and looking very well. They’ve tolerated an amazing variety of conditions in the years we’ve had them, ranging from near flood to drought and are still hanging in there.

Burbs and Compost

DSCF3697.JPG

Burbs

And the ever popular Compost!

IMG_0165.JPG

We finally got some fairly nice weather in between rains and I’ve been taking advantage of it to haul in some compost. The yard is too wet to drive the truck over it so I’ve been hauling it in the little trailer behind the lawnmower. Hopefully we’ll be able to grow something back here now other than weeds, oregano and dust baths for the burbs.