We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Wednesday, January 29. 2020
Sunday, January 5. 2020
One of my daughters likes to give me cool seeds for Christmas. Connecticut Field Pumpkins, Heritage Cukes, etc. Of course, the hassle is starting them indoors without a greenhouse. (I need one. My friend's wife had a nice one with heat, light, etc and she kept tropical lizards in it too, to eat bugs and spiders. Problem was, the small ones tended to escape outside in the summer when the vents opened so they had a good adventure of freedom until the first frost.)
We told you about Mouse Melons (aka Mexican Gherkins) in a past post. They are great, grow like weeds, perfect in salads or just to munch in the garden.
It seems the fun trial for this year will be Ground Cherries. We'll see. I guess they are in the nighshade family.
Monday, September 2. 2019
It is sort-of like Butterfly Bush, but in the northeast it lives mostly as a large perennial which often needs to re-emerge from the roots after a chilly winter, growing to 3'. Further south, it can become a large shrub/small tree.
It seems to be a very popular border plant on Cape Cod. It is a Mediterranean plant. I like it, and so do bees and butterflies.
Thursday, July 18. 2019
Poison Ivy, Toxicodendron radicans, is a vine, sometimes a standing plant, which is native to and common in the entire eastern US. It's a good plant for wildlife, both leaves and berries. It likes edges, roadsides, beaches, barren areas in sun.
Only humans have reactions to Poison Ivy. People vary in their reactions to the urushriol in its sap (and leaves). Some have no reaction, some severe. I am prone to an itchy rash from contact, but Mrs. BD can develop several days of dramatic migrating hives just from patting a dog who has passed through some. Benadryl helps.
Besides patting dogs, a serious danger in Poison Ivy is inhaling smoke from burning it when burning brush. Not good to burn it.
Little-known fact: Poison Ivy is a close relative to the mango. Some people react to mango skin just as they do to Poison Ivy. Me loves Mangos, no problem.
You're gonna need an ocean of Calomine Lotion:
Saturday, July 6. 2019
We attended a garden party last weekend. The hostess is a serious gardener. She had so many poppies in bloom and post-bloom that I told her that I should perhaps call the cops.
Poppies are best considered annuals, but they will self-sow if left alone. In parts of Europe, red poppies are considered roadside weeds. In our wild (no horses) meadow I strewed (?) poppy seeds around many years ago, and many of them took. Now the meadow in June has some naturalized poppies amongst the wildflowers and hay.
Varieties of garden poppies
Tuesday, June 25. 2019
Thursday, June 20. 2019
I'm talking about the area from Great Barrington MA down through Salisbury CT, Kent CT, Litchfield, Washington, Warren, Goshen, Woodbury, Southbury, etc. Perfect semi-rural villages, each with its dominating Congo church.
We visited the Hollister gardens again this weekend. I like the way that even their formal gardens are not manicured - sort-of random but always with good structure, good garden architecture.
Over the years, I think I have grown weary of the vegetable gardening hobby. It was more fun when the kids were young, and learned from it. Some of my pals have wonderful and attractive vegetable gardens, but it can become just a chore. I just focus on tomatoes for now. Too many other fun things to do on weekends, not to mention social duties. I focus more on shrub borders, perennial borders. I'd rather mow a meadow on a tractor, with a cold beer or two and a ceegar, than hoe a vegetable garden.
To each his or her own, I guess. I have my eye on a rural property in Litchfield County with a pond, a trout stream, meadows, and woodlands. Antique farmhouse, barns, and cottage. Trouble is, we never seem to have free weekends.
Sunday, May 26. 2019
Some varieties of Serviceberry, more commonly known as Shadbush up here because it blooms during the Shad run, grow in most parts of the US and southern Canada. Some grow as shrubs, some as small trees. If you spend any time tramping outdoors, you will see them.
Some varieties are used as landscape plantings (I have used them) but most grow wild, especially in brushy edges.
The berries look somewhat like blueberries, and range from red to purple to black.
Depending on the variety, the berries can be sour or sweet. All are edible raw, and you can make jam with them too.
Serviceberry is not to be confused with the Huckleberry, also a common wild plant. Huckleberry is a common meadow edge plant.
Tuesday, May 21. 2019
Thursday, May 16. 2019
So every couple of years I order 2500 of these rapid breeders. If you have decent soil, to a decent depth, regularly replenished with good mulch and fallen leaves, these guys will do a good job for your borders and other gardens while feeding the worm-eaters.
All of my shrub, lawn, and vegetable gardens have been carefully prepared. No pesticides, etc, with good deep loam fortified with maure, etc. I let grass clippings lie, and fallen leaves too (until autumn). Feed the worms!
How can you tell whether your soil is lousy? If you dig up a shovel full of earth and do not find 5 or 6 wigglers, it's either not very good or it's been a rough winter for them.
Sunday, April 28. 2019
Saturday, March 23. 2019
St. Patrick's Day is a traditional time to plant peas around here. Sometimes you have to scrape snow off the garden. Sometimes the seeds never germinate. Still, tradition. I'll try to do it today if 1/2 inch of soil is soft.
I don't grow them for the peas. I grow them for the early sweet and crunchy pea-pods. We just eat them raw usually, while checking out the garden.
Tuesday, December 4. 2018
It's the time of year when people begin forcing bulbs indoors, especially Paperwhite narcissus but other bulbs too.
The trick we learned but keep forgetting from my garden club Mom was to regularly give those forced bulbs a shot of cheap vodka or gin.
Paperwhites and Amaryllis benefit most from some booze. I don't know how it works, but they grow stouter, somewhat less tall and tippy stalks that way. No effect on the blooms.
We rarely have hard booze in the house, but I'll pick up some cheap vodka to keep the bulbs happy and strong.
Sunday, August 12. 2018
Serious commercial farms don't have many earthworms: The Coming Worm Apocalypse Should Terrify You. Gee, I am not terrified.
People with serious, large compost piles often throw in a pile of Red Worms, but I like Nightcrawlers for my vegetable garden and flower borders. Of course, they spread into turf and shrub areas too if the soil is nice. If your turf is lousy, with clay and no food (ie no lawn clippings or shredded leaves), they will not go there to do your aeration for you.
You can buy them here, and other places. They will work hard for you, and reproduce quickly. Release them at night, preferable on recently weeded or tilled soil.
Sunday, July 15. 2018
And if you are out there in your gardens, now is a good time, and the last chance, to shear back the late summer and fall-blooming perennials that you don't want to grow too tall and scraggly, eg Asters, Daisies, and Seaside Daisies.
It's been a cold Spring in New England. Tomato plants aren't growing vigorously. New England is marginal for tomato compared to New Jersey or South Carolina, but home-growns are so tasty that we persist anyway. We really only get a crop in July-Sept while in south Jersey they can be harvesting garden tomatoes June-October. Unless you have a greenhouse. Some days, like today, I wish I had one. But naw, not really. Who wants the hassle?
Saturday, June 16. 2018
Lawns are foolish things but unless you live in the woods, a desert, or a beachy place, they are sort of expected.
A lawn is a certain sort of constantly-cut garden, copied from the estates of England where sheep kept the grass neatly cropped and sheep poop kept it fertilized. (Thus putting greens.)
If you want a happy lawn, I recommend aerating a lawn every two years with a coring machine, in late Spring. Or now. Every year, if it is used heavily by kids, animals, sports, or heavy mowers. If you have bare patches, overseed before coring.
At at about the same time, you topdress the grass with compost, manure, sand, or mixes of those. It works as mulch, fertilizer, worm food, microorganism food, etc. Health, because lawns are not natural and you have no sheep.
You can rent a coring machine anywhere for a day or two. Leave the cores on the grass. They disintegrate fast.
For large lawns or golf courses, large machines almost like farm manure-spreaders do the topdressing, but you can spread good compost mixes with a fertilizer spreader or with shovel and rake.
Around here, you can have a pleasant and useful lawn without irrigation and maybe only once or twice/year organic fertilizing if you treat it as the garden that sod is. You have to assume that lawns will brown up in the greatest heat of summer, but it's only a few weeks. That's natural grass dormancy. It bounces right back.
Irrigation and nitrogen fertilizer are like photoshopping a lawn. Fake. An important garden lawn might need irrigation though, to look Spring-like during the late summer weeks.
Photo is a commercial aerator/corer. The ones you can rent are like heavy lawn mowers.
Saturday, June 9. 2018
For many purposes, I prefer these things to wheelbarrows - even to two-wheeled wheelbarrows. I have the smaller one.
Over the years, I have kept the wood waterproof because I store it outdoors.
Because they have narrow tires, they are not suitable for loads of rocks or heavy loads of dirt, but great for most outdoor purposes. At rural lodges etc. they are commonly used to bring luggage from boat docks, etc.
Friday, April 20. 2018
Sunday, April 8. 2018
Mints will invade everything. My Mom would just let it loose in a meadow. When the meadow was mowed, wow. Great smell. When you needed some for lemonade, it was out there.
Same goes for beautiful flowering vines like Trumpet Vine and Wisteria. Their desires to spread and metastasize via underground roots are relentless and close to impossible to prevent. My advice is not to plant them anywhere they cannot be mowed around.
Bamboo. Unless you have a good local Panda population, you will be sorry you even planted it. Agent Orange is one approach.
What sorts of garden plants have you had difficulty controlling?
Sunday, October 15. 2017
We go for natural or naturalistic plantings around here. Just a couple of perennial borders that we supplement with annuals. The fewer gardens you have, the less work.
Our best naturalistic plantings are a meadow hillside full of daffodils. At some point, you can just mow it with the tractor. We also have plenty of daylilies along walls. They make for an August delight.
Monday, October 9. 2017
No, you probably ought not to, and they are bitter anyway. Birds love them which is the main reason I have planted them.
They are known to like damp habitats or stream edges, but they grow well, and spread, almost anywhere. They like sun. I have found them very easy to grow, and highly productive of fruit in Sept/Oct.
What are they good for? Jam and pies. I have never had Elderberry Wine, and most likely neither have you. Why bother?
People use their flowers for flavoring things.
Saturday, September 2. 2017
A friend has a patch of Castor plants, self-seeding in the garden. 5-6' tall, dramatic foliage.
Shade plants, annuals in northern climates. They are the source of castor oil, also of the poison ricin. However, many garden plants are poisonous (eg daffodils).
I have a shady spot for a patch of these.
Sunday, August 20. 2017
A few years ago I posted a photo of a garden shrub that I see occasionally thriving on the Outer Cape. Many of our readers concluded that it was Mexican Sage. It is not. I wasted some money buying a couple of Mexican Sages online, and they will not survive my winter.
I finally got to the bottom of it today. It is Vitex (aka Monk's Pepper, or Chaste Tree). The leaves look like marijuana leaves.
Vitex can grow into a small tree or, if pruned, can remain a small shrublike perennial. In northern climes, it tends to die back to the ground in cold winters (like buddleia) but comes right back up in spring.
This site sells a dwarf version which is exactly what I have been seeking.
Give it a try in a perennial bed as a bushy perennial. Butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds like it. It blooms all summer.
Thursday, August 3. 2017
Lazybeds are the original raised-bed farming. On the Isle of Harris, where almost nobody bothers to farm or garden anymore since the Medieval Warm Period, remnants of old lazybed "farming" - more like heavy subsistence gardening - are often seen where there is enough soil to plant. There is not very much soil for planting, and peat bogs can not be gardened. However, raised beds with good drainage (always sloping how towards the sea), enhanced with seaweed as fertilizer, could grow enough peas and potatoes for a crofter (who also had some sheep and cattle). Maybe some oats or barley, but not much.
Like Ridge-and Furrow farming, Lazybeds date back at least to Roman times in the rough parts of the British Isles.
Today, on the islands, wool is the cash crop. The sheep just run wild until shearing time which is why so much of the landscape looks like a putting green. In fact, sheep originated putting greens. (The "rough" was, more likely than not, heather - which is very rough indeed.)
Below the fold, somebody in the Hebrides is still using lazybeds - and a view of what looks like a golf course with natural water hazard and sand traps
Continue reading "Lazybeds, plus a comment on golf"
Saturday, June 24. 2017
Such things should only be planted where they can be mowed around because they spread underground, or just spread, to the point of overwhelming everything in their vicinity:
I had a few more on my list, but I can't remember right now.
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