Saturday, August 3, 2019


Minimally sprawling, open pollinated cucumbers named Little Leaf -from Fedco Seeds. Well, they sprawl less than the Burpee cukes that went in last year, but if it weren't for some clever trellising, the would certainly have sprawled into the paths. They are now supplying about ten cucumbers (picklers) a day. In front, peppers and eggplant; both late producers. Behind, trashy solutions.

The plastic is in place to take out the creeping charlie. It will be removed in late August (late August is so close!) to put down sod. Why sod? The mat keeps out the weeds and minimizes a return of charlie. Here, where the planters were last year, we've had many seedlings of last year's vegetables. Growing up in a cool, moist winter climate, I'd never seen tomatoes sprout from last year's fallen, but in Minnesota's freezer like conditions -the seeds don't rot. We've got several of these in the plastic zone and many more were planted out at the neighbor's farm (where I keep the garlic -which is nearly all harvested).

Adjacent to the tomato is a snapping turtle's nest of eggs to be hatched, we hope, sooner than later. Betsy wants to leave a patch of soil for the mother turtle to return to yearly -but I'd rather it not be in the middle of the grass I'm about to plant. I suspect she'll find the bare patch of soil if I leave it nearby. Funny thing is that I never see any turtles around our place -yet I know there is a giant snapper living out there, somewhere, and then two dozen or so babies head towards the wetlands in fall.

The hydrangea -floppy top. Heavy, as soon as the first real rain hits them, over they go. This year they have been eaten by the deer, pom poms and all. Sometimes they enter the vegetable garden for a second course, should they not get their fill on hydrangea. They've also eaten down the thorny, climbing rose on the trellis -leaving only a full top above their reach. They eat tomato vines, cucumber vines, even buckthorn this year. At my neighbor's garden, they've not only pruned my tomatoes to an even sixteen inches and peppers to eight, they've consumed his giant pumpkin plant -spines and all, a first. They haven't touch the dino kale, potatoes, and garlic.

In summer, gardens do their thing -as do we. This year it is a medley of siding, painting, customer projects, teaching, and exhibitions. I see the work to be done in the garden and it must wait. Seedlings in trays suffer my inattention -yet I keep my eye on these things just enough for them to tug at my desire to do more than is humanly possible.

The front garden is being encroached on by the woods, particularly younger maples that quickly shade out sun loving plants. Oaks and ironwoods do not do this. It's hard to take down living creatures, but the maples will likely meet the chainsaw come late autumn -after I pick up a new chainsaw. The old Stihl croaked last year as I cleared a fallen maple from a path.

Around that front garden is a retaining wall into which I have been ever so slowly moving large stones. The soil is miserable under road bed stuff from last year's gravel driveway rehab. I've got compost to add to the mix, over there, in the shade, now two years old, waiting for my attention and a shovel. Afterward, maybe in autumn, plants will be re-organized to deal with the expanded garden.

One of two woodland edge prairie-savanna hardly-gardens I planted after the studio was finished. These change every year. Without a supply of fresh black-eyed susan seed, it looks rather green. Prairie seed mixes can be rudbekia lush, but the plant tends to diminish once shaded out by perennial grasses and forbs. It's a biennial, so the third season the profusion is limited to small, fuzzy leaves -often at the edge of where they showed up en masse the year before. Each season different plants dominate -this year will no doubt be asters and goldenrod, to the point at which I will likely be thinning them out. Lavender-colored Monarda fistulosa in the background.

The second prairie-savanna garden has a dumpster in front of it, so no pictures of that this summer. The dumpster takes in insulation, wood, old rotting siding and a window or two. I've been replacing siding, piecemeal, every warm season as I convert the house from the pukey-pink paint you can see in the background, above, to the umber-magenta grey visible in the foreground. This garden, along a path from a back door to the studio, is hosta-heavy, magically invisible to the deer thus far.

The brilliant, but less prolific (in these drier conditions ) than I wish American Bellflower, Campanulastrum americanum, is blue-purple in the background. To the left, the very prolific Blue Lobelia, Lobelia siphilitica, about to bloom and a black-eyed susan that found a way to full form.