Dressed for summer

A couple years ago I got in the habit of dressing my vegetable garden fence just because I can. Because it’s fancy. Because it makes me happy. Now, I like to think it makes my chickens happy.

The flags only last through the summer because I choose pretty fabrics as opposed to outdoor fabrics, but they’re easy to make. This year I found four beautiful, vibrant West African fabrics that look especially dashing with my red chicken hut. What silly traditions make you happy in the summertime?

Victory Garden 2021 Underway!

I’m about two weeks late getting my Victory Garden in this year … because life. But, over the weekend I got everything underway and I suppose the best upside to the delay is that we’ll get veggies into the fall. Optimism, right?

I sketched the layout in my garden journal and started seeds in early April. None of my shishito or cucumber seeds took (boo, hiss), but the okra, green beans, cucumbers, and bell peppers were successful. I amended my seedlings with tomatoes from the Carrboro Farmers Market, and cucumbers and rainbow chard from Country Farm & Home. I’ve also started a second batch of shishito seeds this week and am transferring the balance of my karma patience points their way. In my raised beds, I’ve got butter crunch lettuce, the chard, and herbs (cilantro, basil, oregano, sage, thyme); in an open spot on the side of the house, nestled between batches of irises and camellias, are some potatoes that my friend Johnny gave me. And back along the edge of the woods by my husband’s honeybees, we’re growing watermelons because the chickens love them as much as our son does. The final prep will be a little patchwork to the landscaping fabric in the main garden because over the winter that asshole June Carter Cash, who loves to fly the coop and hang out in the garden abutting the chicken hut, scratched it up — but otherwise, Victory Garden 2021 is a Go!

What are you planting this year?

Welcome, Honeybees!

Welcome, Honeybees … bringers of spring and bountiful fruits, vegetables, and flowers.

Today, my husband introduced two new sets of bees to the meadow hives – one Italian and one Russian. Queens Isabella and Natasha. The honeybees are already scouting the field, checking out our peach, plum, fig, and apple trees. They’ve done fly-by’s to my chickens and are giving our beagle the side-eye. They’re synchronizing GPS’s and already bringing in pollen. #squad 

Everything seems to be in order and we’re excited for the forthcoming growing season. Shout out to James Fogleman at Silk Hope Bees for the packages. Let the 2021 Victory Garden season commence!

PS. Two of Queen Isabella’s henchmen stung the mister, so it looks like we’ve got a protection racket happening downfield. lol

Lovely Narcissus

Poor Narcissus, the handsome fella doomed by the avenging goddess Nemesis to fall in love with the water nymph Echo, who could only repeat the words of others. The early-Spring flower is said to have sprung from where he died by the riverbank–it’s fabled to have been the last flower Persephone picked before being swiped by Hades. It’s also the scene of Sigourney Weaver’s final battle with in Alien.

I love a good story, particularly when it carries over to my other favorite pastime, gardening. The narcissus is a great example, in mythology and gardening and art, of the concept of vanitas … the idea that every living thing must come to an end. Like Narcissus’ young life, narcissus flowers have a very short blooming period. Narcissus is one of dozens of varieties of daffodils, all of which are pretty easy to grow.

According to the American Daffodil Society, “plant the bulbs when grounds have cooled, in some climates September and for warmer climates in November.” They need well-drained soil in a sunny spot, and will grow well in hilly landscapes. Plant them at least a foot deep, and make sure they have plenty of water the year you plant them. They acclimate pretty quickly and will multiply on their own. I’ve had some bulbs bloom five or six years in a row, and them some that never bloom more than one season. Crucial to the survival of bulbs, in my experience and by growing tip, “do not cut the foliage until it begins to yellow (usually late May or June).”

Keep in mind that daffodils, like many other bulbs, are great flowers to share with family and friends. They’re perfect spring companion plants for things like roses, hellebore, peonies, hyacinth, and astilbe. They’re the flower for the month of March, and since my son‘s birthday falls in March, we have them all over the yard.

Pesky bugs in your houseplants?

It’s cold outside, y’all, like really cold. So it’s no surprise that a couple of our houseplants are hosting a couple tiny terrors. Nothing bad or swarmy, just irritating little gnats. Mr. Sickles did a little research and came up with Safer Brand Houseplant Sticky Stakes. And they work! I put them in a couple plants on February 6, and by February 24 we had a little gnat graveyard. I like these because they’re quick, clean, and chemical-free. Can you hear my evil laugh?

Behind the Scenes: Fall and Winter Garden Prep

In this week’s Optimistic Gardener, I’m signing off for the 2020 Victory Garden season and sharing tips for getting your fall and winter garden prepped. We cover annuals, perennials, bulbs, trees and shrubs, vegetables, herbs, mulch, grass, and houseplants. Shazam! It’s a lot.

Because the article was lengthy, I didn’t include any links for more information–so here you go.

Honeybees, near and far

We were in London in February, getting home about two weeks before the world shut down for COVID-19, and discovered Fortnum & Mason. We’re not typically souvenir kind of people, but I bought tea and biscuits for everyone in our family. Because the Queen. But I’m on their mailing list now because when it’s safe to travel again, I’d like to go back to England. Today’s newsletter introduces readers to the honeybee hives at Picadilly, on the roof of the F&M building. It made me think of Mr. Sickles and his honeybees, across the pond here in North Carolina.

Fall garden prep: mulch

Over the weekend we finished spreading our first truckload of shredded hardwood mulch from Country Farm & Home. We’ve joined the ranks of so many gardeners I interviewed this summer who were fans. My husband is a fan of their beekeeping and chicken sections, and we bought some really healthy fruit trees a couple weeks ago. This mulch validates our decision to shift gears to a local garden shop. But back to the spreading … I think we’ll need at least two more loads to cover all of our garden beds. Cross your fingers that we won’t need four (my back will thank you)!

Microgreen harvest

Yesterday I harvested our first batch of arugula microgreens. They are D.E.L.I.C.I.O.U.S. But they are a pain in the ass to harvest. Tiny trims with sharp harvest scissors, just a couple shoots at a time. I have a new-found respect for microgreen farmers, and could totally get behind the microgreen union raising the prices for these tasty superfoods. The process made me happy that our family are subsistence farmers and the community-at-large isn’t relying on me for microgreens. But like I said: tasty. I can feel their superpowers surging through me now. So thank a farmer, and find a microgreen farmer in your community to support. You’ll both be happy.