Category Archives: plants

Spring gardening, indoor edition

Indoor edition, because it’s 24 degrees out. On March 22. Which is technically spring, but Someone missed the memo. As usual.

This year, I’m planning to start plants from seed indoors, but it’s too early even for that – the packets say to start them 4-6 weeks before the average last frost, which, to be safe, I have to estimate will be around Memorial Day weekend. So I’ll start my tomatoes, herbs, and “bunny tails” (grass that’s fluffy on top, guess who that’s for) in April, and the radishes and sweet peas outside “4-6 weeks before the average last frost, or when the soil temperature is 40 degrees F.” (July?)

Meanwhile, I took cuttings from several of my healthy indoor plants to start some new little plants.

African violet

This happy African violet (above) donated a leaf (below). I’ve never started one African violet from another, but my mom says it’s possible. I had one of my four violets die over the winter, so I’m trying to replace it.

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I’ve also been periodically cutting back my three mint plants and letting them root in water, so I planted a couple of those as well (one is in the red pot, above).

Succulent plant

This succulent (above) has been growing loopily all over the place, so I took a bit of root and a bit of growth from the top and started them in a new square container (below left; below right is another mint cutting).

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The mystery plant from Trader Joe’s shed its orange flowers but is still growing healthy new leaves (below).

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And all the herbs, somewhat improbably, made it through the winter: rosemary, mint, basil, chives, and parsley.

mint and rosemary

basil and chives

Lastly, I transplanted some miniature daffodils (paperwhites?) from the tiny pot they came in to a bigger pot.

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It might be a lost cause, but we’ll see. Maybe I can move them outside when other spring flowers start poking their heads up, whenever that might be. (July?)

Yes, it’s springtime in New England! The time of year that the “it may be in the twenties, but at least it’s sunny” consolation starts wearing real thin, and everyone is sick of winter boots, and, upon seeing snowflakes begin to float down from the sky, has a reaction resembling PTSD.

Sudo in armchair

“I just want to go outside without my jacket.”

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Even more snow days

The next time I have to go to work on a Monday, it’s going to be a rude shock. As of tomorrow, it’ll be three in a row, and next week is Presidents’ Day, so I already know we’ll be closed (but who knows, it could be snowing then too, it probably will be if the last three weeks are any indication). I’ve enjoyed the extra time at home to sleep in, read more (including all three books I mentioned in my last snow day post), and cuddle with the dog, speaking of which (whom?)…

Sudo is certified as a therapy dog!

Sudo and her new friend Daisy, certified therapy dogs!

After attending three workshops with Dog B.O.N.E.S. (Building Opportunities for Nurturing and Emotional Support), Sudo, Ben, and I are a certified therapy dog team. This does NOT mean Sudo can (or should) assist the blind in crossing streets, nor does it mean that I can take her on a plane as my “emotional support animal”; what it does mean is that we can visit places like assisted living facilities, nursing homes, colleges, and anywhere else where her presence might brighten someone’s day. Our instructors were great, and the classes were a very good start to what I hope will be a rewarding volunteer experience. (I think Sudo earned extra points for not trying to chew the tennis balls off the walker feet; unlike, say, golden retrievers, Sudo cares not a whit for tennis balls.)

I’m pretty certain she’ll enjoy visiting people who want to pet her. What she is enjoying less is this:

WHY IS IT STILL LIKE THIS?

WHY IS IT STILL LIKE THIS?

But until she learns to use the toilet – and I just can’t see that happening – three times a day we must rouse her from one of the below poses to go outside, at least for a few minutes.

Snuggling with stuffed alligator toy

Snuggling with stuffed alligator toy

Tucked under a blanket on the couch

Tucked under a blanket on the couch

Pretending that outdoors does not exist

Pretending that outdoors does not exist

Somewhat miraculously, Ben’s birthday outing was not snowed out. Six of us made it to Danvers to play indoor mini-golf, because nothing says grown-up birthday party like glow-in-the-dark monster-themed mini-golf. (Right, other grown-ups who read this blog?)

Par three? Are they kidding?

Par three? Are they kidding?

Cool, right?

Cool, right?

Both before and after indoor mini-golf, we stood around in the parking lot and ate homemade cupcakes out of the trunk of our car. This is also a very grown-up thing to do. (Hey, we knew enough not to bring outside food into the establishment. If glow-in-the-dark monster-themed indoor mini-golf can be called an establishment.)

Grown-ups!

Grown-ups!

While I was planning that classy outing for Ben’s birthday, he took me to see Nick Hornby. So yeah, I think we’re even.

What will tomorrow’s snow day reading be? Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug, Howards End by E.M. Forster (it was mentioned in Vanessa and Her Sister), another book from my TBR list? We shall see…

Last, and least, the rose bush got another haircut:

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Almost a year old – it was a Valentine’s Day present last year.

 

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Winter rose

The miniature rose bush I pruned back to nearly nothing is doing extremely well indoors.

November 9, 2014

November 9, 2014

November 23, 2014

November 23, 2014

January 9, 2015

January 9, 2015

January 9, 2015

January 9, 2015

January 12, 2015

January 12, 2015

January 12, 2015

January 12, 2015

January 12, 2015

January 12, 2015

Once these blooms start to fade, I’ll cut it back again. Because that’s what you’re supposed to do, right? I really should read a gardening book one of these days. Any recommendations?

Aside from the rose bush, most of the other plants are still doing well indoors too (except one of the African violets seems to be dying, I’m not sure why), and I’ve added an orchid to the bunch. My track record with orchids is so-so; I know to drench them and then let them dry out completely before watering them again, and keep them out of direct sunlight (they actually do okay in offices). We’ll see how long I can keep this one alive.

New orchid, January 12, 2015

New orchid, January 12, 2015

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Indoor winter garden

Earlier this month, I moved the plants from the balcony indoors for the winter. I harvested the basil (that never survives long indoors), and the hardy sage is still outside, but everything else is adapting well to the more sheltered environment.

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New flower

The African violets are indoors year-round, of course. This one’s growing a new flower.

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This bookshelf is angled toward the window, and is home to three African violets and a rose bush as well as books and photo albums. (Note the leaves on the rose bush on the lowest shelf – that’s about to change.)

Rose bush gets a haircut.

Rose bush gets a haircut.

Three weeks later…

Pruned rosebush growing new leaves

Pruned rosebush growing new leaves

It’s growing new leaves already. I think I pruned at the wrong time of year, but the new growth must be a good sign.

The herbs are in the kitchen. Fresh parsley and chives are a nice complement to tomato soup.

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Chives, basil, mint, rosemary, dried flowers

Mint, parsley, rosemary

Mint, parsley, rosemary

Do I detect a note of minty freshness?

Do I detect a note of minty freshness?

DSC07595This orangey flower is from Trader Joe’s. I have no idea what it is, but it did fine outdoors in the summer and seems to be doing just as well indoors. We gave it a squirrel finger puppet for a friend.

And that’s my winter garden. Apparently, it’s enough to qualify me for the coveted spot of “person who is responsible for keeping the office plants from dying,” as well. I hope they survive this week…Happy Thanksgiving!

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Garden updates: too-tall tomatoes, failed squash, thriving herbs and roses

Meant to post this garden update at the beginning of September, and here it is more than halfway through the month…

Here’s what things looked like in July, and here’s what they looked like in May.

Tomatoes: I let them get too tall, so they put more energy into growing stems and leaves than into growing fruit. (Also, I had to do some tricky rigging with twine, once they grew taller than their cages.) The tomatoes they have produced, though, have been good, particularly the yellow cherry tomatoes. The pretty yellow-striped red roma tomatoes were susceptible to blossom end rot, but I put eggshells in the soil for calcium and that seemed to help a little.

tomatoes

Herbs: Doing great! We’ve used the basil on pizza, the chives on salmon, the mint in lemonade, the parsley in chicken salad, the sage in buttered pasta. Yum.

Roses: Also, improbably, doing very well. I’m not sure why I was so doubtful except that (a) they started out as a tiny gift plant in a decorative red pot, and (b) I’ve never grown roses before. Now I’m not sure whether I should bring the pot inside for the winter, or transplant them into the ground and cut them back, or what. Advice is welcome!

roses

Flowers: The peachy-pink verbena (not pictured) is still doing well. The orangey flowers that were doing so well before succumbed to aphids. I gave them a brief second life by spraying them with soapy water and then Neem oil, but ultimately the aphids won the day.

Small snacking bell peppers: One plant produced nothing; the other plant produced exactly one pepper. It spent a long, long time turning from pale yellow-green to red, and then we ate it, and it was delicious.

From Anne’s garden: My cousin Anne gave me a few things from her garden. The honeysuckle vine, sadly, died, but these two little ones are still doing well:

mystery flowers

Squash: The squash died. I don’t know why.

Strawberries: Last year’s plants flowered but never made berries, though the plants look happy and healthy; this year’s plant made a few berries in early June but they either atrophied before ripening, or birds or bugs got to them. Next year I’ll put the nets on as soon as I plant them, or maybe I’ll try one of those strawberry jar pots or hanging baskets.

Purple flower bushes: I planted three of these (two of one kind, one of another) in our little patch of front yard in early August. I was able to make a nice rock border from all the rocks I dug up out of the soil. Allegedly these will survive the winter and bloom again next year.

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The major lesson of the summer: make sure the tomato plants don’t get too tall. I’m half expecting a kid named Jack to show up in our backyard and start climbing.

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Container garden: July update

Happy to report that everything is going pretty well! Something is getting at the strawberries – even with the net I put over them – but the herbs are doing splendidly and there is even a new rose on the rose bush (originally a Valentine’s Day present from the Whole Foods flower section).

These things. Their name refuses to stick in my head but they are very pretty.

These things. Their name refuses to stick in my head but they are very pretty.

The parsley is most enthusiastic, but sage and basil aren't far behind.

The parsley (middle) is most enthusiastic, but sage (right) and basil (left) aren’t far behind.

Top: flowers and herbs. Bottom: strawberries, peppers, and tomatoes.

Top: flowers and herbs. Bottom: strawberries, peppers, and tomatoes.

The squash, now with two blossoms.

The squash, now with two blossoms.

Rose red.

Rose red.

Here’s what everything looked like in mid-May, for comparison.

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Container garden

Here are this summer’s plants, and good luck to them!

flowers

A pretty orange flower I couldn’t resist.

roses

A mini rose bush I got for Ben for Valentine’s Day. It’s been inside since February.

mint

You can never have too much mint.

chives basil

Chives that survived the winter indoors; basil grown from seed.

rosemary

Rosemary also spent the winter indoors…and made baby rosemary.

Herb box with basil, parsley, and sage

Herb box with basil, parsley, and sage

Strawberry in pot, with squash in yard in the background

Strawberry in pot, with squash in yard in the background

Last year's strawberry buckets, which somehow survived the winter...

Last year’s strawberry buckets, which somehow survived the winter…

Last year’s strawberry buckets just have some holes drilled in the bottom for drainage, but this year’s tomato and pepper plants have a fancy drainage system devised by my friend. Each bucket is set down into another bucket, with a space (reservoir) between them into which the PVC pipe goes (there’s a little elbow on the bottomĀ of the PVC pipe). You water through the PVC pipe, and the plants “drink” from the bottom up. There’s a drainage hole for excess water to escape. Pretty clever; I take no credit.

Five tomatoes, two bell peppers, one strawberry plant

Five tomatoes, two bell peppers, one strawberry plant

A butterfly wind chime from Mom

A butterfly wind chime from Mom

Let’s hope for a pleasant summer and not the hellish heat we’ve been told to expect after the exceedingly long, cold winter. Hurray for New England!

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