Archive for March, 2010

For winter’s rains and ruins are over,
And all the season of snows and sins;
The days dividing lover and lover,
The light that loses, the night that wins;
And time remembered is grief forgotten,
And frosts are slain and flowers begotten,
And in green underwood and cover
Blossom by blossom the spring begins.
~ Algernon Charles Swinburne


Wednesday March 17th

I came to a funny realization in the garden this morning: I’m learning the same lessons out there as I am in math class. Slow down, pay attention, don’t skip steps and get ahead of yourself, clean up as you go along, follow the basic rules and you will be rewarded, failure comes from sloppy work and most important – breathe. I never thought I would find my Zen in algebra but you know what? I’m learning all kinds of new tricks lately!


Thursday, March 18th

Note to self:

No vegetable will grow in full, dense shade. These will produce with as little as 3-6 hours of sun or constant dappled shade per day:

Salad and leafy greens/arugula etc
Brussels Sprouts
Swiss Chard

Spring Peas

Sunday March 28th

It was my intention to post the above last weekend in honor of the Vernal Equinox but got distracted studying for an algebra test. Not distracted really, just takin care of business first. A few things did manage to happen while I was away…

For the first time ever, I got enough peas to harvest them and bring them in to share:


So Tom and I planned ahead and made a lobster, pea and asparagus omelet with a side of baby red potatoes and some champagne. Fabulous! and of course, we ate outside.

Sunday Brunch at Chez Northcutt

The “love lies bleeding” that I planted finally sprouted and it came up bright red. I can’t wait to see them grow and bloom:
I got a really cool shot of dew drops clinging to the serrated edges of the rose leaves early one morning:

Dew on the Roses

The double daffodils finally opened:

Double Daffodils

as did the Clivia and the “Martha Washington” geraniums:

Geraniums, Tobacco, Clivia

Everything is coming along nicely. The seeds are sprouting left and right and new blooms open up every day. Some blooms are already finished for the season, giving me a strange sense of urgency, like I’m running out of time. That’s usually a sign that I need to stop and do some yoga or take a bath or do some “nothing”. Or…wait for it…leave the house! Nah!

Jalapeno sprouts

Tree Tobacco blossom

Lavender blossoms

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Last week, I finally took some time to get my wooden wine boxes ready for planting in, as well as the old chest of drawers that had finally seen the last days of its ability to hold clothing.
For the dresser, I took all the drawers out and planned to use the main part as a planter as well. After I got it apart, I changed my mind. There was no bottom and it was just too big. I would have to rebuild part of it and buy a ton of dirt to fill it and at that point it becomes an expensive project and not a simple “re-purpose old stuff” project. Instead, I turned it over on it’s belly and it is now an outdoor work bench – just the right height for me to sit at and work in the fresh air.

For this project, I used a drill with a 3/4″ bit to drill drainage holes in the bottoms of the drawers and wine boxes. I have my own drill, but Tom let me use his new Makita since it has more power. (insert apelike noises here) Make sure you have enough holes: four or five per drawer/box.

I used a discarded vegetable brush to get the dust and dirt off, and a can of compressed air in the cracks and corners.

Then, I used a paintbrush to apply boiled linseed oil to every surface of the drawer/box. Be generous and thorough: any crack will allow water in and your wood will rot and warp the first season. The cheap dry wood took several coats so I just kept feeding the wood until it look satisfied. Funny thing – the wine boxes were made with better wood than the dresser!

It looks really nice when you’re finished and the wood kind of comes alive again.

I loved this wine box from Chile, which promised that they plant a new tree for every one harvested. Fabulous!

Then, I took everything back in the garage and stacked it up so it could finish absorbing oil and dry. My garage now smells like a furniture factory.

I used the drawers yesterday since they seemed dry enough (I gave them five days), but I will wait a couple more days to use the wine boxes. I lined the drawers with newspaper first, figuring an extra layer between dirt and wood would be best. Here’s a drawer full of lettuce seedlings under the apple tree.

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It’s a rainy weekend and one thing I love to do in this kind of weather is read. I’ve recently finished two gardening books that were actually good enough for me to recommend to any gardeners out there looking for inspiration:

“Garden Anywhere” by Alys Fowler

This book was discovered in a used book store in San Francisco in January. When we go up there, it seems we always end up book shopping with Terri and Emily…it’s wonderful and I always look forward to it. The pictures appealed to me first. Instead of sterile textbook photos, there is dirt everywhere, mud and worms. Her hair is messy, hands are dirty – she’s a gardener, not some pissy greenhouse snob telling me things have to be sterile and perfect. I like her frugality. She uses all kinds of recycled junk in her garden and includes instructions that are actually useful to me. I found the sections on compost tea, pricking out seedlings, and saving seeds most inspiring. Her writing style is modern and familiar, and she is a trial and error type. Fabulous! This book works as a reference that you can go back to over and over, depending on what you’re doing or what the season is, and the back is filled with modern internet resources. It will go on the shelf next to my lunar gardening guide.

“Gardening at The Dragon’s Gate” by Wendy Johnson

Gardening at the Dragon's Gate by Wendy Johnson

This book was truly a love story. The author is a Zen Buddhist who spent many years and the Green Gulch Farm Zen Center in northern California. The book comes from years of journal entries and experience working with the earth. Her meditative style inspired me to slow down and actually LOOK at what was happening in my garden on the small scale as well as large, the way I used to. I notice more; the shapes of leaves, the number of petals on a flower, the color of the light at certain times of day. I sit and look around more, enjoying the fruits of my labor as much as planning the next task. There is plenty of love and ‘poetry’, so you don’t really notice the solid instruction included, but it is there. I have a whole new way of looking at dirt and this book helped me remember why I started gardening in the first place. A great book to read by the fire, or in bed late at night when it’s really quiet.

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The love of gardening is a seed that once sown never dies.
– Gertrude Jekyll

our gnome who sits under the fig tree

That quote was chosen because this is the time to plant seeds! Also, her name is Gertrude, one of my favorite of the “vintage” names. One of my grandmothers was named Gertrude and it always upset me that they called her “Gertie” so I swore I would name my daughter Gertrude and never allow anyone to “Gertie” her. I was six and very silly, but I still love the name.

Well, the Moon is waning in Sagittarius and my almanac says it’s time for “planting and sowing all fruit and all vegetables that grow tall (runner beans, hops etc.)” Hops? Well, I’m not growing hops, but today I’m going to put my beans in seed starting mix and get them started. It will be raining by this afternoon when I’m done in the office, so I’ll be able to work in the garage or potting shed. Shouldn’t take long if I can keep myself to planting ONLY THE BEANS and not get distracted with a bunch of other things in the potting shed….like I always do.

Jack and the Beanstalk by Scott Gustafson

“Ah! you don’t know what these beans are,” said the man; “if you plant them overnight, by morning they grow right up to the sky.”

“Really?” says Jack; “you don’t say so.”

“Yes, that is so, and if it doesn’t turn out to be true you can have your cow back.”

Also “favorable” under this moon; “pruning fruit trees and bushes, putting down fertilizer, combating above ground pests.” Unfavorable; “hoeing and harrowing (weeds tend to grow in abundance afterward) and planting lettuce (tends to bolt)”

(info taken from Johanna Paungger’s “Guided by the Moon”, which is my most favoritest book EVER and I never garden without checking it first)

Edgar in the Sun - June 2009

Yesterday I planted:

*Cypress Vine – Funny Valentine Blend – Ipomoea quamoclit

*Hyssop – Hyssopus officinalis
“Used as early as the 7th century to improve the smell of kitchens and hospitals. Hyssop leaves are used to flavor salads, soups, liqueurs and stews. Essential oil used in perfumes. Attracts bees, buterflies and hummingbirds. Plants grow 18-24″. Perennial in zones 4-9.” (according to the back of the Seed Savers Exchange packet)

*Magnus Lovage – Levisticum officinale
“The leaves, stems and seeds of the lovage plant all taste like celery. Still used extensively in preparing soups and salads. Perennial in zones 2-8”

*Night-Scented Tobacco Nicotania sylvestris
“Flowers open in the evening releasing an extremely sweet, intoxicating fragrance. Tender annual.” (this one’s getting planted under my bedroom window!)

*Anise – Pimpinella anisum
“One of the oldest known spices in England, that first appeared in the Grocers’ Company of London. Added to bread and sausage in Italy for centuries. Wonderful strong licorice flavor. Very easy to grow, similar to dill in habit, harvest seeds when dry. Annual.”

*St. John’s Wort – Hypericum perforatum
“Highly esteemed medicinal herb since ancient times. Currently in high demand for its antidepressant qualities. Shrubby plant with yellow flowers. Grows to 12-16″ tall and flowers early. Perennial in zones 4-8.”

*Hollyhock – Black Beauty
These were a special gift in the mail from Lucie. Thank you Dahhling!

*Love-Lies-Bleeding – Amaranthus caudatus
“Recorded in South America before the 16th century, often referred to as Inca Wheat. Grown for use as a cereal and in ancient religious ceremonies. Long rope-like red seed-bearing trusses give plants and ornamental and graceful appearance. Great for long-lasting displays. Tender annual, 3-4′ tall.”

*Himalayan Blue Poppy – Meconopsis betonicifolia (oh say it again, you know you want to!)
“Stunning blue flowers make this one of the most sought-after plants in the gardening world. Best suited for cooler climates, but success can be achieved almost anywhere with a little practice and patience. Acts as a biennial or short-lived perennial, 30-35″ tall.”

*Red Milkweed – Asclepias incarnata
“Preferred food source of Monarch caterpillars. The bright pink and red flowers appear in June and July. Grows 5′ tall on moist soils that dry out in the summer. No butterfly garden is complete without Red Milkweed.”

*Thyme – Thymus vulgaris
because I always need more of it!

*Radicchio – Palla Rossa Ashalim – Cichorium intybus

Most of the above seeds were ordered from Seed Savers Exchange and the comments from the back of the packets were included. It seems like I plant a lot of seeds, but I’ve only planted a few of each. It’s early in the year and I’m experimenting with what I can grow from seed this early, if at all. Most of the packets are still more than half full, so there’s plenty of room for experimentation, trial and error: my favorite way of learning.

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“Venus” by Jean Leon Gerome

I love the word “Friday” in the romance languages because you can actually hear the “dies Veneris” or “day of Venus” happening in the word. Say Vendredi (French) Venerdì (Italian) or Viernes (Spanish) and it’s a much more exotic day than “Friday”. Our way of saying it drums up images of cheap buffalo wings and $2 beer: TGIF-woo! (ugh) Not that I’m opposed to wings and beer (Stella please!) but I feel more like celebrating Venus these days, than picking chicken out of my teeth at Chili’s. Why not acknowledge that the days of the week were once dedicated to the old gods and open a bottle of champagne?

Friday’s are not my last working day of the week so I usually try to quit a little early. Working Saturdays isn’t bad if you don’t work late on Friday. (I know it’s all in my head but isn’t that where it counts?) Today, I’m getting my work done early and hopefully heading out in the garden to rub up against all the beauty out there. Yesterday, I noticed my tiny wisteria blooming. So far, I haven’t had time to really “see” it. So, in honor of the Day of Venus, I’m going to try my best to experience some beauty goddammit!

Also on the to-do list for the next few days: get my Itunes working again, get a couple more trash cans for rainwater at ACE hardware, pick up more seed starting mix, finish properly setting up and categorizing this blog thingy, get a manicure. There are more mundane and unpleasant tasks to be done, but why sully my blog with that stuff!? After all, Venus may have had to scoop the litter box, but she certainly never would have discussed it!

Oh! I almost forget to mention: yesterday, Tom and I went to a farmer’s market where we proceeded to spend $6 on two huge Brandywine heirloom tomatoes. Sheesh! I cannot wait until my garden gets under way again because that really chapped my ass. Not enough to make me buy those little anemic grocery store things, but still.

So, have a beautiful and happy Venus’ Day and I’ll probably see you on Sunday with some new photos of the garden in ‘almost spring’ to share.

Queen Anne's Lace - 2008

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Atlanta, Georgia

Breathe love
into the cup
of your hands
and place your flaming
palms against your heart
Let this warmth
melt your fears
like wax before a fire
and watch the delicious
softening reveal
the wildflower
of your heart.
We must live
with Hearts Wide Open
Hearts Wildly Open.
–Kali Heydel

Atlanta, Georgia

Actually, I’m waiting for my schedule to be wildly open since I just received an envelope full of seed packets from Seed Savers Exchange! Here’s what I got:

Anise (the mail smells like licorice today!)


Love Lies Bleeding (ordered just for the name and to put into vases)

Love Lies Bleeding

Long Tom Tomato (just for my husband Tom)

Long Tom Tomato

Night Scented Tobacco (these have beautiful trumpet shaped flowers)

Night Scented Tobacco



Magnus Lovage


St John’s Wort

St. John's Wort

Red Milkweed/Prairie

Red Milkweed

Cherokee Purple Tomato

Cherokee Purple Tomato

Black Sea Man Tomato

Black Sea Man Tomato

Himalayan Blue Poppy

Himalayan Blue Poppy

Dragon Carrot (I’m such a sucker for a dramatically named plant!)

Dragon Carrots

And right now I’ve got a serious case of ants in my pants because I’ve got to get my work done and then go to school this evening: no gardening for another couple days! Well, as the opening line of the above poem advises, I must breathe NOT hyperventilate!

Atlanta, Georgia

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