Wednesday, June 9, 2010


Spring and early summer have just been a whirlwind of activity and sadly my garden has taken a back burner.

Between planning our local ASID trade show, ASID strategic planning, Alex's graduation party and working, I snuck in just enough time to order and plant my seeds for the 2010 garden.

I am very particular about the variety of seed that I plant and I spent loads of time pouring over the seed catalogs and selecting just the right seeds for our climate and soil.

Some of my selections are just wonderful, faithful standbys and some are new this year.

I love Blue Lake Green Beans. I have tried others but always come back to the Blue Lake variety - great flavor, hearty plants, good producer with few rust spots. Sugar Lump Tomatoes are another winner as they are so sweet and such good producers. I am back to Detroit Dark Red Beets after trying the Red Cloud Hybrid variety last year - I didn't have a beet all season. :(

The weather was cool in the greenhouse and my little ones got off to a slow start. Most everything was in the ground by June 1st. Typically I shoot for May 15th so you can see I am a bit behind, as are my crops. Not to worry, a few days of warm sunshine and a dose or two of fish emulsion and we'll be off and growing.

Sandy's greenhouse pictured right

Alex's graduation party was last weekend and I can now turn my attention to the garden. In a matter of a week and a half the weeds have flourished. Wish I could say the same for the veggies.
I vow to do better this year at keeping up with the weeds. I vow to stay on top of my harvest. I vow to enjoy the abundance of 5 minute old CORN we will have!!! And...I look forward to seeing what the Mortgage Lifter Tomato taste like fresh from the garden with an egg and cottage cheese for breakfast - yum!
Note: Thomas Jefferson grew Mortgage Lifter Tomatoes in his garden at Monticello from 1809 until his death in 1826.

Remember to pinch the suckers on the indeterminate tomato varieties for the best yield.

I am a huge subscriber to the companion planting theory. Click here to see a companion planting chart.


Our garden seems to expand a bit every year. I ask Steve to till just a bit more and add a few things here and there.

I learn so much every year. Some of my experiments are successful and some well...not so good.

My three sisters planting method for last year was pretty much a disaster. In the three sisters method corn, runner beans, and squash are grown together. Each plant provides something for it's sister plant. The corn provides a support for the beans to climb, the squash provides a cover for retaining moisture for the corn, and the beans provide nitrogen for the corn. It sounded interesting but in my world the beans choked out the corn and the corn fell over onto the squash. It was a bit of a mess and in my book, not too successful.

Last year I decided that I would put down newspaper with straw on top to keep the weeds under control. BIG, BIG mistake. The weeds grew like crazy and the straw made it impossible to pull the weeds. As a left over bonus, I had a garden full of straw that had to be turned under and I suspect has contributed to the crazy amount of weeds in that area. See picture right.

We have experimented with two trellis systems for our tomatoes. Our first system was a section of fence that we tied the tomatoes on as they grew and it work very well. The next year we erected posts and ran wires between the posts, tying the tomato plants to the wires - again, not so good.

I have tried in vain to have a cutting garden. I can't say what I am doing wrong huge bounty of flower that I can bring inside for decorating.

This year I have scaled back the flower area and planted it to pumpkins - a 200 lb variety of pumpkins, Big Moon. Can't wait to see the harvest. :)

Last year I ordered grape vines on line. When they arrived they were VERY, VERY small and sad looking. Over the summer they never took root and I found them dug up by an animal this spring. I am off today to find new vines locally. I am late getting to this and will keep my fingers crossed that they take this year.

I really love gardening and look forward to watching things grow. I am happiest when I am digging in the dirt and harvesting my goodies. I fear that I sound a bit pessimistic this year - not so! Who knows what my 200 lb. pumpkins will look like - can't wait!


Veggie Seeds

Sugar Lump Cherry Tomato
Mortgage Lifter Tomato
Detroit Supreme Beet
Belstar Hybrid Broccoli
Stonehead Hybrid Cabbage
Sweetness III Hybrid Carrot
Tiede Lettuce
Athena Hybrid Muskmelon
Early Jalapeno Pepper
Aruba Cubanelle Hybrid Pepper
Crystal Star Pumpkin
Tyee Hybrid Spinach
Waltham Butternut Winter Squash
Blue Lake Bush Bean
Black Turtle Bean
Poinsett 76 Cucumber
Eclipse Supersweet Pea
Big Moon Pumpkin
Rouge Vif D Etampes Pumpkin
Crystal Star Pumpkin
Early Scarlet Globe Radish
Summer Medley Hybrid Squash
Silver Princess Sweet Corn
Japanese Eggplant

Flower Seeds

Rocket Hybrid Mix Snapdragon
Yellow Inca 11 Hybrid Marigold
Caribbean Cocktail Nasturtium
Perfume Mix Nicotiana
Pastel Mix Statice

View of the east side of the fenced garden. The strawberries in the upper right corner are in their 4th year. I am competing with the chipmunks for my favorite fruit.

Yellow Inca Hybrid Marigold
with Kohlrabi

Mortgage Lifter Tomato

These red potatoes were left over harvest from last year. They sprouted and I just decided to experiment and plant them to see what would happen. They look happy so far.

Poinsett 76 Cucumber

Black Turtle Bean

Summer Medley Hybrid Squash

Hope that you have enjoyed the early season garden tour and I will keep you posted over the summer. With our new deck and the extended patio we have lots of room for outdoor entertaining and we hope to spend many warm summer evenings chatting with friends, cooking veggies from the garden, and enjoying the harvest.
Stop by and tour our little garden. See you soon!!

Monday, June 7, 2010


Just about a year and a half ago I turned the big 50. My wonderful husband Steve told me to pick any project around the house and he would happily complete it for my milestone birthday.

Hum...what would it be? I wanted so many things around the house...a chicken coop, an outdoor shower, a gazebo...all extra fun things. Ooohhh, what a wonderful offer. I spent many moments dreaming about what I would choose for my special birthday project.

But everyday coming and going out our back door I was face to face with the UGLY, UGLY back steps. In Feng Shui terms, I know that coming and going everyday through a dismal, energy draining space is a big NO NO.

Finally Steve asked for my birthday decision.

What would it be...the outdoor shower that would make me think of Cape Cod every time I used it?

The chicken coop so that I could finally try raising chickens in the city?

Alas, I chose the practical. I asked for new back steps with an adjoining deck. I thought that we needed a place where we could just travel a few steps and have a cozy place to read the morning paper or somewhere to sip our evening glass of wine while we share the day's events.

It's a year and a half later and THE DECK IS FINISHED!!! YEAH!!! WE LOVE IT!!

I thought that I would take a few minutes and share with you our journey to the new deck.

Honestly, at times it has been challenging. We are two strong minded designers with very different styles, coming together to agree on what will be best for our modest little home.

See the original back steps that someone cobbled together out of a combination of block, brick and concrete. SOOOO UGLY. No amount of paint could fix these.

As I began dreaming about what the steps and deck would look like, I searched for inspiration in books and on line. I found the above picture and thought it would be a nice detail to incorporate.

The area above our garage doors cries for something, for some kind of detail to jazz it up. We could add brackets and some small structure to overhang the garage doors (see picture above) and then turn the corner and tie this into the new deck structure.

Steve calls this scope creep.

I saved a few of my sketches. Our house is very close to our neighbors and at times I long for a little privacy. We even share a portion of the driveway with them.

By the way - our neighbors are VERY NICE.

Pictured above is one of Steve's preliminary renderings of what the deck and steps could look like. (Shhh, don't tell him but I wasn't wild for this.)

Another view of Steve's initial rendering of a deck idea.

Here is the before picture. Note the birdhouse above the door. The same bird family has lived there for many years. Every spring I hear peeps from the new baby birds. They drive the Jax the cat absolutely wild sometimes.

See how the garage doors need something. Then there is the problem with the funky little overhang at the door. It's a future project.

Ta Da. Here are the back steps today. It is so much better. Steve built the deck over a few weekends and with many trips to the store for wood.
Who knew you could get all that wood in my station wagon????

There was some negotiating about the design before he started. Eventually Steve convinced me to RELAX and let him have some fun with the design. And...he did have fun!

View down the driveway before the deck (and before my arborvitae tree binge.)

View down the driveway after the deck and the new plantings. Doesn't it feel like the deck really "belongs" there??? That's good design.

Another view of the steps and deck. Note the curve on the vertical members. What a great detail! It adds visual interest and just feels good.

Another view of the curved verticals.

Note how the front and sides meet. Perfect connection.

A view from on the deck. What a great feel it has. It's very comfortable and private without feeling too closed in. Steve used a combination of materials and finishes to add interest and contrast.

Turned out great...don't you agree?

Alex has been playing guitar on the deck and loving it.

Steve is on his way home as I write this and I know that a half hour from now, I will be sitting in one of these chairs, sipping a glass of Chardonnay, and talking over the day.
I think that I chose well. The new stairs and deck provide a wonderful transition from the outside world to the comfort of our cozy home.
The spaces are both function and esthetically pleasing to the eye. That's good design.
Happy Belated Birthday to me!!!
Please let us know what you think of the deck...we would love to hear your comments!!