June Garden

Sunfowers
Sunflowers and Hyacinth Beans growing against the garden fence

My garden is warming up for a sprint into summer. Hops and tomatoes seem to be growing inches every day and the first lettuce is nearly ready to make its way into my lunch. Every morning, something new appears – this morning it was mature leaves on the radishes. Radishes are exceptionally rewarding to grow – they take a little water, a lot of sun, and in 30 days you have sweet, delicate roots bursting with zest and ready to be crunched in a salad or on bread with butter (my personal favorite). After two attempts, my melons were large enough to plant out this week. I am finding it hard to get over the short growing season. It seems like only last week I was debating the benefits of planting early and worrying about frost, but yesterday the temperature reached a sweltering 94° and I sat wilting inside and worrying about the state of my garden. Of course, the plants are much more adapted to the heat than I am and they thrived in the oppressive sun while I sweated like a glass of ice in what little shade I could find.

This morning I was greeted with an enormous Oriental poppy, blooming a deep red in a sea of purple salvia. The poppy was one of the first plants to green up this spring under several feet of snow, but it took its time to bloom – sending up to flower stalks 4 feet tall with plump heads waiting to bloom. And it waited, biding its time, until the weather, temperature, time of day, time of year, and moon phase converged and the protective sepals flung themselves open and the deep red petals unfurled themselves like the wings of a damp and newly hatched butterfly – reaching it’s royal purple stamens toward the sun.

A family of bluebirds is nesting in a nest box on our fence this year. So far they seem friendly enough, but our neighbors had a much less congenial pair last year. Trips to water the garden were fraught with danger. It would start innocently enough with a few chirps from the male – warning noises to be sure – but soon the chirps would turn to squawking as the paranoid bird launched itself into the air – dive bombing and circling. Our poor neighbor would send her dog out to run interference while she hurried past under a large hat to the safety of the garden. Hopefully our bluebirds are not related.

As the days get warmer I am looking forward to the first harvests of tomatoes. The smell of the plants makes me salivate just thinking of the tomato and goat cheese salads that await me in the coming months.

Tomato
One of six tomato plants putting on a show of growth
Pumpkin
Sugar Pie Pumpkin
Radishes
French Breakfast Radishes nestled in next to the pumpkin. Excellent garden companions
Strawberry
Flowers and immature fruits on the strawberries
Lettuce
Volunteer green leaf lettuce is doing quite well
Blue Flax
Native Blue Flax. The delicate petals fall off mid morning, replaced by new flowers the following day.
Hops
Golden Hops climbs up trellis’ I made from old window shutters. Strawberries are nestled into cinder block planters along the fence, framed by blue flax
Melon
Miniature cantaloupe finally large enough to plant outside. Happily, it put on two new leaves the first day
Columbine
Columbine and salvia bloom in the rock garden blow the house
Poppy
A gigantic Oriental poppy
Lizard Hunter
The lizard hunter terrorizes the local population
Rock Garden
Poppies and salvia bloom behind the house
Columbine
Columbine has avoided being decimated by the deer thus far, thanks to my home made deer repelant.
Blue Flax and Purple Salvia
Salvia and blue flax humm with bees from dawn till dusk
Peony
Peony ready to burst
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Indoor Gardening | Paperwhites

I am so excited that the weather will break freezing almost every day this week, I can’t even tell you. Yesterday morning it was -12. To celebrate, I think it’s appropriate to talk about plants.

In November, I purchased several varieties of bulbs to plant outside around the house, as well as 25 or so Narcissus paperwhites. Paperwhites are really stunning, especially since they bloom indoors in the dead of winter when everything else is fairly dormant. The smell is absolutely intoxicating.

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(Photo courtesy of Simply Me)

What is even more exciting, is they’re extremely easy to grow. They will grow just about anywhere, and in any planting medium. I have several pots around the house with media ranging from soil to pebbles to shells to nothing but water. You can start paperwhites any time in the winter – I’ve heard up to about February – and they will bloom nicely.

To pot up your indoor paperwhites:

1. Start with whatever large, wide-mouthed vessel you have on hand. I have a few in small baking dishes, mason jars, and pots. Sometimes you can find fantastic wide glass containers at the dollar store for a steal. Same goes with decorative rock. I have purchased rock from Michael’s arts and crafts stores, but aquarium rock would be fine, or beach or river rocks you have collected. I used shells this year since I had bags add bags collected from beach trips.

2. Add a layer of pebbles or shells that is approximately level to the bottom. Depending on the size of your pot or jar, a minimum of 2″ is best. More is always fine.

3. Nestle as many bulbs as you can cram into the pot or jar. Seriously, the cozier the better. This will give you a zillion blooms at once, and help keep them upright until the roots form.

4. THIS IS IMPORTANT: Add water, but only so the base of the bulbs is just barely sitting in the water. If the water is too high, the bulbs will rot. If the water is too low, they will dry up. Less water is better. As long as the bottom of the bulb is just barely damp, the roots will grow down into the water.

5. Sit back and enjoy. Depending on the temperature in your home and the amount of light, bulbs will start to grow in about a week, you will see roots in about 2 weeks, and flowers in as little as 4 weeks. This is all dependent on where your plants are located. A sunny, south facing window is best. These babies can take a lot of direct sunlight.

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Any compact baking dish will work well. This is a four quart CorningWare dish. I added about 2″ of shells into the bottom and nestled the bulbs in. They are happily growing away on the kitchen table. I also placed eight bulbs into a Pyrex loaf pan. The loaf pan is a great size for setting on a window sill since it’s long and narrow.

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Two of these three are filled with rocks and shells. As you can see, any amount of planting medium works fine. The roots will grow down through and around the shells and stones. The middle bulb is placed directly in a bud vase with the base just touching the water. This is also fun because you can see the roots do their magical thing and they will eventually fill up the vase.

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This is a little difficult to see, but I planted these two in soil. The terra cotta pot is nested inside of a decorative ceramic pot. Even in soil you can plant them directly next to each other. I had hoped to fit three in there, but the bulbs were just a little large. When you plant in soil, be sure the soil stays damp, but not saturated.

I also want to make note of a few additives you may wish to take advantage of:

1. For bulbs in water, sometimes the water takes on a particularly funky, sulphury smell. I have heard that adding a tablespoon or two of aquarium charcoal will help absorb the odor.

2. Also for bulbs in water, as the stalks grow, sometimes they can become extremely long and leggy and have more of a tendency to flop over. When the stalks are 8″ – 12″ tall, add a little splash of rubbing alcohol to the water. This will stunt the growth and keep them from becoming too lanky.

This is my first year growing paperwhites, and I’m hoping to find out a way to store them for next year, too. Does anyone know of a good way to store them? Have you grown these before? Please let me know. Also, I’m always looking for additional information so share your secrets to perfect indoor bulb growing!

XOXO