Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Kitchen Garden in June

Slowly but surely, trying to catch up with my blog. What was June like in the kitchen garden this year? Well, I’ll tell ya...to be honest, I don’t have a lot of photos of the kitchen garden in June. I was away for two long weekends and seemed to have tons of other activities going on. But here is a brief glimpse of what was happening...

I grew some cats in the kitchen garden in June. Ok, so I didn’t grow them, but my neighbor’s four cats sure do like to be in both the kitchen garden and flower garden. I often see one on the garden bench, but have never seen two at the same time before. 

The u-shaped beds in front of the garden bench were planted with Nasturtium Alaska Mix, Curly Leafed Parsley, Germander, Purple Ruffles Basil, Nufar Sweet Basil, Sorrel, Mustard Red Giant, Garlic Chives and Profusion Orange Zinnia. The Sorrel and Garlic Chives are a couple of years old, the rest were new. All the new ones were plants I had planted, except for the Nasturtium, which I planted from seed. It’s difficult to do my row covers on these two beds, so seeds aren’t usually as successful here due to the birds getting to them.

My standard rose in the center is lopsided and leaning. Not nearly as formal and beautiful as I would hope. A small section of it actually died this year, so I wonder how much longer I will have it.

As usual, my cilantro bolted before I could use it. Happens to me every time. You would think by now I would have learned my lesson and planned ahead to use it, but no, can’t teach an old gardener new tricks. Ok, so I'm not THAT old, but kinda getting up there...

The cherry-sized Indigo Ruby Tomatoes started to show in June. They started out almost black, which is pretty cool.

I had planted these Homemade Pickles Cucumbers from Hudson Valley Seed Library in the spring and was so excited to see how well they were doing. I had visions of lots of homemade pickles this year. But alas, my cucumbers were almost entirely wiped out by July by some sort of disease, just as they were starting to get to a decent size. I did manage to get a few for salads at least.

I also made some Spa Water using some of my cucumbers.

Another Hudson Valley Seed Library purchase, Radiant Radish Blend. Got some yummy radishes, then let some stay in the garden in order to form seed pods, which I love to put in salads.

This June photo shows the cucumbers in the background, with the radishes in the middle on the left, Gift Zinnia (also from Hudson Valley Seed Library) in the middle on the right, and Gold Nugget Winter Squash from Seeds of Change in the front. So healthy-looking and beautiful, and all grown organically from seed. In the bed behind this one, you can see some of my lettuces. Also, in the blue pot is my Solanum quitoense (Naranjilla), that I bought last year and overwintered in my greenhouse. It is bearing fruit again this year!

I bought this Japanese Maple this spring from a local nursery. When I had visited Margaret Roach’s garden in NY last year, she had these big pots with Japanese Maples in them and I thought that was just oh-so-cool and had to do my own. My pot is not nearly as big and expensive-looking as her’s, but I still kinda like it. Now if I could only remember what kind of Japanese Maple this is. I left the tag on it, but that is outside and I am inside and feeling much too lazy to go out there right now. The bed behind it has German Thyme, Radiant Radish Blend and Gift Zinnia all from Hudson Valley Seed Library, Flat-Leafed Parsley, and Indigo Ruby Tomato from my local nursery. The yellow flowered plant in the background is Heliopsis helianthoides Summer Nights – a real fav due to the fact that it blooms for such a long time. It does flop over some, though, and it helps to support it in some way. 

Not actually in the kitchen garden, but vegetable related, is the hanging basket I have on the screened-in back porch. I bought this at an Amish market in Maryland. Hard to tell here, but it was covered in un-ripe Tumbling Tom Yellow tomatoes and started to ripen in June.

As of late July, these Tumbling Tom Yellows are now all ripe, just like these first few I had in June.

So yeh, kind of anticlimactic considering I don’t have a whole lot of kitchen garden photos from June. Sorry about that. I will try to do better next year!

Monday, July 27, 2015

I Built a Garden Chair!

I don’t even pretend to be handy with tools. I can use a screwdriver, a drill, and when hard-pressed, a miter saw. Don’t even ask me to lift, let alone try to use, a chain saw. I built my own raised beds and pyramid-shaped trellises, with some assistance, but that is the extent of my tool usage. So when Longwood Gardens was offering a “Build a Wave Hill Chair” workshop in June, I admit I was a bit intimidated. Would I make a fool of myself by drilling backwards instead of forwards? Would I end up with a chair that looked more like something out of Dr. Seuss than a chair that you would find at the gorgeous Wave Hill garden in NY? I decided to take a chance.

To be honest, I have yet to go to Wave Hill. Hard to believe when it really isn’t a long drive for me to get there. However, I did see the Wave Hill chairs at Margaret Roach’s garden in NY when I went there for a Garden Conservancy Open Day. Margaret has several of the chairs throughout her garden.

They are surprisingly very comfortable. We sat in these chairs by the meadow garden for awhile.

You can either paint them, or let them weather to a gray color. These are obviously painted.

I thought it would be nice to have one of these lovely chairs in my garden. So I gathered up my tools, took a deep breath, and hoped for the best.

Our instructor was Dan Benarcik. Dan is a horticulturist, writer, public speaker, furniture builder and an enthusiastic, helpful teacher (there may be more he would add here, he seems like a modern Renaissance Man). He sells pre-built chairs and kits online, as well as doing workshops. He told the class that we may feel nervous and apprehensive at first, but he promised we would have fun and go home with a successfully built chair. He was right!

The wood is pre-cut to size and was set up in stations around the room. He also had three or four stations of wood jigs set up to help with assembly (I really should’ve gotten pictures of the jig stations!). Groups of us lined up at each station and assembled one part of the chair at a time. Believe it or not, this eventually becomes a chair...

The chair is held together with wood glue and screws. Hardly any holes were pre-drilled, we just drilled directly into the wood. Most of us ended up working in groups of two or three, helping to hold parts while the other person drilled. It really ended up being a team effort.

Each of us walked out of class with a finished chair and a smile on our face. I really had a blast and felt pretty good about holding my own with my drill. (In this photo you can see a metal jig that we used at one point.)

Getting my finished chair home was a bit of challenge in my small Scion TC hatchback with its shallow trunk. With some help from a Longwood Gardens staff member, I ended up getting it to fit in the passenger seat.

Family and friends have oo’ed and ah’ed over what appears to be some decent handyman skills, but I know the truth. It was all because of some pre-cut wood, jigs, a good teacher, and some team work.

Originally I had thought I might paint my chair, but Dan mentioned how it is more difficult to paint it and maintain the nicely painted look. I am all about not needing more to maintain in my garden, so I am going to let my red cedar chair age to a dusty gray. That way it will match the cedar garden bench and raised beds that are in the kitchen garden.

The best part of building your own garden chair is getting to relax and enjoy sitting in it with a refreshing beverage after a hard day of weeding.

So if you want an elegant, comfy garden chair, and a chance to impress your friends and family, take a chair building workshop. Thanks Dan! I absolutely love my new chair!