Time to harvest your tomatoes!
My column in today's Baltimore Sun is about my attempts to impart my new knowledge of lawn care -- courtesy of my Master Gardening classes -- to my reluctant husband.
As any woman will tell you, it is harder to talk a lawn-loving man about his grass than just about anything else, including sex and money.
Take a read, and let me know what you think!
File photo/Baltimore Sun
Michael Tortorello, who writes for the New York Times about his adventures as a rookie gardener, had a fun story this week that will be familiar to us all.
Dogs in the garden. (Lulu? I am talking about you!)
He tells of Bertie, who dug a hole in the garden into which his owner stepped, twisting her knee badly enough to require rehab.
Dogs look at gardens and have two questions, he writes. "Can I pee on it?" and "Can I chew it."
And they can also deliver parasites they pick up in the garden to their owners.
Under the weather, under the covers, under the wheels of a bus.....
Many thanks to reader Dahlink for this: A Get Well Frog.
We gardeners have to stick together. Warts and all.
Here is her getwellfrog message:
Garden Variety sends bouquets to all the readers who hung in with her during the last 10 days.
What felt like too much sun was actually too much flu. And that quickly morphed into too much coughing.
No worries. Garden Variety has been down this medical road before and the onlyl cure is patience. But she has missed her gardening friends, and sharing gardening news.
So lets see if we can get it started up again, shall we? The next post today will be about the Baltimore Rawlings Conservatory, where more than plants are in bloom.
Photo credit: KRT
I am experimenting with NOT mulching this season, and so far it has all the earmarks of just that - an experiment. With unexpected results and really bad smells.
I have been mulching with shredded pine bark for more years than I like to remember. Mostly because those memories are painful. That's me, in pain, after gently spreading 3 or 4 cubic yards of mulch.
I thought perhaps I would give my gardens, and my back, a rest this season. I know mulch is good for holding down weeds and keeping the ground temperature and moisture levels even.
But I had been hearing things about arsenic or other carcinogens in mulch and about how mulch might actually draw nutrients out of the soil. Unable to come to a decision, I decided not to decide to mulch.
And you thought Legos were for kids....
Wendy Brister, a landscape designer who lives near Harrisburg, Pa., shares photos of the Lego landscape designs of one of her co-workers.
See the rest of his designs, and read his story, at Punk Rock Gardens.
First Lady Michelle Obama (voice by Angela Bassett) made an appearance at Lisa's school on "The Simpsons", urging the kids to be nice to the nerdy little girl.
Wearing her signature cardigan, pop-bead pearls and wide belt, the cartoon Mrs. Obama tells Lisa she knew about her because of her garden blog. (Ahem!)
Then she uses her remarkably buff arms to help the Marines open the helocopter door.
He's seen here in his jammies Monday, shooting scenes for his upcoming thriller, "The Tourist," in Venice, Italy.
No. She planted a "grass slipper." Two of them.
Thanks to Sandra Adams-Doyle of Johns Hopkins University, who sent us this photo. She said she couldn't remember what grass looked like, so she planted some in a pair of shoes "that have no business in 30 inches of snow."
They sit now on a desk in her office, where they are no doubt brightening the days of everyone who walks by - who walks buy in snow boots.
Catherine Zeta-Jones, hubby Michael Douglas and their two young children have recently relocated from Bermuda to New York City while the actress stars in Broadway's "A Little Night Music."
But the transition hasn't been without incident.
Apparently mother and children used the sun-drenched privacy of Bermuda to run around, um, naked in the garden.
During an appearance on the David Letterman show, she said she had to remind herself and the children that that isn't something that plays well in New York City.
"It's really hard to do that in Central Park," she said.
Letterman assured her that, actually, it wasn't that hard to do.
Photo credit: Associated Press
I didn't know there was gnome history, let alone gnome rules. But Angela Treadwell-Palmer, who writes under the nom de plume, The Weeding Gnome, knows about both.
Apparently garden gnomes are kind of like elves, who come out when you are not around and help you with your garden chores.
However, there is also a kind of PETA for gnomes. The group comes around and "liberates" gnomes that are enslaved in your garden and return them to the woods.
You can read more in Angela's newsletter.
By the way, there is also history, tradition and rules...yes, rules...for gazing balls in the garden.
I know. That was news to me, too.
Photo credit: Gardeners Supply
Hostas are easy to grow and, apparently, even easier to propagate. There are hundreds of species and thousands of cultivars out there, and they all have to have names.
That's where the hosta growers jump the rails a bit.
It is good for business if a hosta's name is memorable - gardeners readily admit they purchase hostas that share names with loved ones. Or they purchase a hosta with a name that makes them smile.
Garden Variety did a casual survey of hosta names, and we are still laughing.
And we are hungry.
Apparently the propagators were hungry, too, because lots of hostas are named for food: Banana Puddin', Guacamole, Spilt Milk, Cracker Crumbs, Fried Bananas, Key Lime Pie, Fried Green Tomatoes, Sweet Tater Pie and, of course, Blue Plate Special.
Hostas are often named like thoroughbreds, too. The offspring's name is a derivative of the parent's name: Tears of Joy from Tiny Tears; Cathedral Windows from Stained Glass; Stitch in Time from Embroidery, and Singin' in the Rain from Blue Umbrellas.
Hostas are named for television characters: Barney Fife, Andy Taylor and Captain Kirk, as well as TV shows: Northern Exposure. And they are named for holidays: Fourth of July and Night Before Christmas.
There is Surfer Dude and Swamp Thing and Elvis Lives. Red Neck Heaven. White Wall Tires and Swoosh.
Some names recall the bedroom more than the garden: Big Kahuna, Little Stiffy, Get Nekkid, Nooner, Striptease, Feather Boa and Risky Business.
Some suggest a purer kind of love: Her Eyes Were Blue.
And there is my favorite. A blue hosta named, of course, I Bluit.
Photo credit: Susan Reimer
Garden Variety was in Washington, D.C., last week for a speech in the neighborhood of the U.S. State Department.
(Shout-out to Hillary!)
Anyway, noticed again the high alert around all the government buildings. Building name signs have been removed. Hydraulic barriers placed in the entrances and exits of underground parking.
And, of course, the huge cement barriers which would protect the buildings from ramming truck bombs.
But those cement barriers have also been planted with evergreens and perennials, which makes them less forbidding, I guess.
I was thinking what that meeting must have been like: The burly homeland security guy saying cement barriers must be placed around all government buildings to protect them from terrorist attacks.
And the little old lady in the back of the meeting room raising her hand and saying, "Could we plant flowers in them? Wouldn't flowers be nice?"
You have to love this country...
Zonker Harris, Garry Trudeau's slacker extrordinaire in Doonesbury, is planting bulbs this week.
(Here's how things started yesterday. Click forward to read today's strip.)
Meet you in the funny pages. Or in the garden.
After weeks of neglect caused by vacation and rainy weather, I reentered the world of my garden and was dismayed.
Everything was eaten, dead or sick. Insects, mildews and end-of-season blues.
Suddenly, the place that gives me so much joy in May was irritating me in August. I wanted to take a gas can and a pack of matches and start over.
Instead, I do what I often do in late summer. I go around my gardens with my little black-and-white marble composition book and make notes about what needs to be done this fall and what will need to be done in spring.
They are always long lists, but this year the list was not only long, it looked impossibly hard.
I confess I am not as strong as I think I am. And digging out old beds with deep roots, removing shrubs and dividing perennials is harder work every year. I like planting much more.
So I did what some of my garden friend do. I hired a guy.
His name is Luke and he is young and strong and an artist, to boot. He knows his flowers, but he also knows color, shape and design. I trust his eye more than I trust my own.
I had him tear out a bed along the shady side of the house that had been in place for probably 20 years. It was overgrown and out of shape and had a couple of nasty bald spots. He filled it in with Leafgro and I will design and plant it this fall and in the spring.
He also divided and replanted a hosta bed that had become congested and shapeless.
This isn't all that is on my list. Luke will have to come back. And there is plenty left for me to do.
I will do it at my own pace - a little slower every year.
The almanac, for sure. It has been in continuous publication since George Washington was in the White House.
The 2010 edition hit newsstands last week - second Tuesday in September, regular as clockwork.
And it is the usual collection of sun, moon and tide tables and weather predictions, plus a healthy dose of news, information and humor.
Here is a tidbit from this year's edition.
Best ever container garden?
Lay a bag of potting soil flat. Poke a few drainage holes in the top surface. Roll the bag over. Cut a few holes in the new top surface. Insert seedling plants into the holes. Water and fertilized as you would a bed. For best results, set this sack into a wheelbarrow or a child's wagon and move it into and out of the sunlight as needed.
P.S. The almanac predicts a cold winter for Baltimore with snow by Thanksgiving and a dry spring and summer, despite lots of rain in early June.
Fellow gardener Stephanie Desmon, author of the Picture of Health blog here at The Sun, can't seem to catch a break. Her zucchini grows too large, her cukes have spikes and now.... Well, read on.I have been dreaming of this tomato, a pink beauty that has slowly been growing on the massive vine behind my house. It was going to be our first tomato of the season and I was going to pick it when I got home from work. Would I have it with lox and cream cheese on a bagel? Or would we eat tomato sandwiches? The possibilities were endless.
Yesterday morning, I checked on it. One more day in the sun, I figured, and it would be perfect. Well, perfect is the enemy of good, I would learn.
When I got home, my 5-year-old son shared the news: A squirrel had eaten my precious fruit.
I was beside myself, talking about how sad I was at the loss of this tomato, which I had been growing since May.
My husband tried to stop me. My son’s eyes started welling up. Apparently he, too, was crushed by this development and my husband had just finished telling him how it wasn’t worth crying over a tomato.I got with the program and stopped talking about that pesky squirrel and his gluttonous behavior. All the while, however, I was thinking to myself that crying over this tomato was a perfectly fine reaction to the situation.
I grew this garden to teach my kids about where their food comes from. I thought it would be fun to watch it grow together and then have some yummy, healthy goodies to eat at the end.
And I figured I could save some money, growing the stuff I spend a lot of money on at the grocery store – baby tomatoes, big tomatoes, cukes and green peppers.
So far, we’ve gotten a handful of tiny tomatoes – not enough that I don’t have to still buy some at the store – two cucumbers and just a single bud has grown on my six green pepper plants.The zucchini plant has done fairly well, but even that enormous plant hasn’t given me the overabundance of squash I was warned about.
The lesson is, as one of my colleagues told me: Carpe Tomato. Don’t wait for the perfect shade of red. Seems like it’s better to pick that sucker before the squirrels do.
Photo credit: Robert Hamilton/Baltimore Sun
Garden Variety is now a refrigerator magnet!
That's the rough equivalent of being a household name, I think.
I have a box of these things, and I'd love to share.
Send me mailing address, and I will send you a Garden Variety refrigerator magnet by return mail. If you want some for your friends, let me know. Don't worry, I won't share your address.
Garden Variety on the refrigerator is almost like having me to dinner. Only you don't have to cook.
Today's guest post is from Gary Mihoces, loyal husband and sometime reader of Garden Variety. Gary, who covers the National Football League and just about every other sport for USA Today, offers his top 10 ten ways to know your vacation has ended.
10. You notice the grandmas and the grandpas at the beach are snapping at the grandkids.
9. You see an ad for a rib joint and think, "Nah. I've had enough of those."
8. You sign on and notice that your backlog of office e-mails has hit the 500 mark, while the number of half-drunk water bottles around you outnumber the full bottles by a 5-to-1 ratio.
7. You only have two rolls of toilet paper left out of a 24-pack.
6. You crave a simple glass of ice water instead of a those coconut-pineapple-five-kinds-of-rum drinks.
5. You have more sand in your car than they have at Normandy.
4. You walk around humming Jimmy Buffet's greatest hits, and find out all of your mail has been forwarded to Margueritaville.
3. You see it has been raining in Maryland and you know your grass will be a half-foot high. And you are happy to know you are needed.
2. You can't wait to get home to read the book you brought to the beach.
1. You are delighted to learn that NFL training camps are opening.
Who says gardeners are humorless.?
Elizabeth Large, my colleague over at Dining@Large, shares this gardening joke with us. It comes from Bucky, one of her readers.
An old Italian lived alone in New Jersey. He wanted to plant his annual tomato garden, but it was very difficult work, as the ground was hard.
His only son, Vincent, who used to help him, was in prison. The old man wrote a letter to his son and described his predicament:
I am feeling pretty sad because it looks like I won't be able to plant my tomato garden this year. I'm just getting too old to be digging up a garden plot. I know if you were here my troubles would be over. I know you would be happy to dig the plot for me, like in the old days.
A few days later he received a letter from his son.
Don't dig up that garden. That's where the bodies are buried.
At 4 a.m. the next morning, FBI agents and local police arrived and dug up the entire area without finding any bodies. They apologized to the old man and left.
That same day the old man received another letter from his son.
Go ahead and plant the tomatoes now. That's the best I could do under the circumstances.
I am reposting this today. There was a time stamp error.
Well, apparently the World Wide Web isn't as worldly or as wide.
I had the best of intentions when I left Maryland for vacation in California and a chance to see Joe and his wife, Brooke.
I was going to blog about all the flora and fauna out here and post lots of pictures.
But there was no Internet access in the foothills where our resort was located (Lawrence Welk Resort. Mandatory ballroom dancing after dinner.)
I found a bit of the Internet in my son's apartment in Carlsbad. Just enough to let you know I haven't abandoned you, or Garden Variety.
I have about a million pictures of the flowers from here and tons to tell you. And I will start Monday when I return.
I hope it won't be as bad as sitting through somebody's vacation slide show!!
Talk to you Monday!
Volumes have been written about how to keep deer from destroying your gardens.
Advice ranges from distributing human hair in the garden to erecting enormous, unscalable walls of netting.
My neighbor Ron has a rather simpler solution. "I shoot them."
"But not before he makes sure they have a balanced diet," says his wife, Betsy.
Ron maintains a hunting property southern Anne Arundel and he provides lots of shelter and plants lots of food for his prey. For the deer, he plants fruit trees.
I am trying to make sense of all of this, especially since the reason so often given for allowing deer hunting is that the creatures would otherwise starve to death.