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Fall garden prep: edging the beds

I’m allergic to bees, wasps, and hornets (I’ve been to the ER thrice), so there’s a point in the mid-summer where I give up garden maintenance for everything but the Victory Garden to Mother Nature. Usually by mid-September it’s safe to get back out in the dirt, and one of the first things that gets my attention are the weeds. Last fall, we traveled a bunch and didn’t put out new mulch, so this fall everything’s particularly hairy. But that’s okay because one of my very favorite things to do is edge out the garden beds. I am merciless in my approach, one that I perfected twenty years ago: I dig it out with my shovel. Through the years my husband has tried to use attachments for his mower or tractor, or the weed wacker; none of it works like the spade.

The remnants of Hurricane Sally are coming through today and tomorrow, so I’ll order a truck of mulch from my man Peanut to be delivered next week. I’ll post photos of the finished product.

Behind the Scenes: KIWI

I caught up with my friend Lindy last week to talk about her kiwi vines. Those things are pretty awesome, let me tell you. To think that her mammoth twining vines started out as tiny little plants is amazing, particularly since being near them feels like standing in a copse of kudzu.

Beyond my local grocer, I didn’t know anything about kiwi until I talked to Lindy. Then I did some research. Healthline said that kiwi:

  • can help treat asthma;
  • aids digestion;
  • boosts the immune system;
  • reduces the risk of other health conditions;
  • helps manage blood pressure;
  • reduces blood clotting; and
  • protects against vision loss.

And Good Housekeeping adds to that list of benefits by sharing that kiwi may:

  • promote healthy skin and hair;
  • support immunity;
  • promote good digestion;
  • support healthy weight loss;
  • slow aging and help prevent chronic diseases; and
  • benefit moms and babies.

So whatever reason you choose to eat kiwi—whether it’s one of the points above or simply that you love the taste of it—get some kiwi the next time you see it at the store. Here’s hoping she’ll share one or two at book club next month!

For more information:

We’ve got eggs!

On August 23, one day shy of 22 weeks old, we got our first egg from our chicken squad — Scarlett, the biggest of the Rhode Island Reds was super surprised when she went for a drink of water from their hanging water bucket and laid an egg beneath. We had a good time visualizing the rest of the girls backing away from her like maybe she’d been abducted by aliens and dropped back in the coop with a thing that fell out of her ass. Well, her cloaca, but you get my drift.

Scarlett’s petite egg was so cute, so well-formed. And so tasty. Two days later, Maude laid her first egg. Two days ago, little Nemo, with her stunted short-feathered wings, rounded out the dependable Rhodies and laid her first egg. And yesterday, sixteen days after Scarlett led the pack, we got our first Americauna blue egg. We think it’s June Carter Cash, but that’s because she’s the biggest of the three Americaunas. It might’ve been Lady Gaga, the mouthiest of the bunch, but we’re certain it’s not Lilac, the little princess. In these seventeen days of eggs, we’ve gotten nearly two dozen eggs for our family. We’ve worked hard this summer to share vegetables and now eggs with our family, and our small extended social pod of extended family and friends. And it makes me think, now more than ever, how important it is to thank the farmers in your community.

Behind the Scenes: Happy Houseplants

This week we discussed happy houseplants in the Chatham News & Record. I find that our “house jungle,” as our son likes to call it, is quite easy to care for. To date there are only two houseplants that don’t do well for me: orchids and asparagus fern. In fact, they die horrible deaths with me (who knows why?), so I gave up on them years ago. On the flip side, though, is my husband, “the orchid whisperer.” It just chaps my ass that he has a thriving orchid jungle to rival the rest of the house jungle. Sigh.

Houseplants make you healthier. They help you breathe easier and improve the quality of air in your home. They add color and liveliness, give you a sense of accomplishment, and generally beautify your space.

For more information:

Thanks to the honeybees

My husband started keeping bees early this spring because, thanks to quarantining and no business travel, he suddenly had the time. I jest, but I’m happy to report many good things have come from staying at the meadow. One of them is our garden–both vegetables and flowers!

We’ve had a little more rain than usual, the summer has been hotter, our beds are more established … all of these things are true. But I think we can really attribute much of Mother Nature’s success to honeybees. I did a little digging. The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service states that “Roughly one of three bites of food is dependent on the work of honey bees and other pollinators, mostly wild native bees.” And according to the American Beekeeping Federation, “Many of the country’s crops would not exist without the honey bee at bloom time. Crop yield and quality would be greatly reduced without honey bee pollination.” I concur.

Perdue University’s horticulture program has an informative guide on the use of bees with vegetable crops, and according to them, our cucumbers and squash greatly benefitted from the bees. Our okra and pepper “set fruit without bees, but bee activity has shown to increase yields.” And our snap beans and tomatoes apparently got nothing from the honey bees other than having their pollen and nectar collected. But I don’t believe that, because my tomatoes have been more productive than ever this year.

So whether you’re relying on wild native bees, or are a practicing beekeeper, keep on providing a safe space for honeybees in your area. Their direct and indirect hard work pays off. Check out today’s tomato haul: 20!

Optimistic Gardeners in the News

We’ve long been fans of Jim Gaffigan, and this morning’s piece on CBS Sunday Morning was made all the more charming by his delight at finding success in the garden.

– – > Jim Gaffigan goes green

So, if a city boy with no experience with vegetable gardening can do it, so can you. We’re coming to the end of the summer growing season, but there’s still lots of hot weather left in most of the lower 48, and then fall, and then … well, you get the idea. Get out there and dig in the dirt!

Behind the Scenes: Zinnias

This week I caught up with Maggie Zwilling, with her beautiful zinnias, artistic aesthetic, and laissez faire attitude. She’s a badass. “I’m not a tidy gardener,” Maggie told me, “nor do I care if colors don’t match.” See what I mean?

Maggie is a big chronicler of butterfly and moth activity, and plans her garden with them in mind. Check out some of this summer’s swallowtail visitors from her garden:

Zinnias are easy annuals to plant and care for. They add vibrant pops of color throughout your garden, whether they’re the centerpiece or sprinkled in. Plan ahead to make sure you have enough for a cutting garden, so that even when you’ve got a bouquet of zinnias indoors, there’s still some gracing the garden.

For more information on zinnias, check out: