Tag Archives: Garden

Garden Adventures


Home is where the heart is! A healthy sample of our potato crop: little red potatoes, some shaped like hearts.


Invasion! Colorado Potato Beetle Larva devouring my potato plants!

Yesterday Van and I spent a lovely evening in the garden after dinner. While he fussed over where to put seeds, I pulled weeds, thinned out competing baby plants, and discovered a horde of hideous  larval Colorado Potato Beetles.  Not wanting to touch them, I batted the nasty little buggers off the potato plants and into a plastic bucket.  I must have knocked at least fifty into the bucket in twenty minutes.  Van had recently ordered a kit: lady bugs, praying mantis, lacewings, and beneficial nematodes to eliminate nasty garden pests without the use of pesticides.  They should arrive soon, and I can’t wait to see them in action!

While I was pulling Morning Glory vines away from the rows, something cool and familiar passed with lightning speed over my foot.  I shrieked and Van chuckled.


Napoleon “posing” for a photo. Isn’t he handsome?

“Did you find Napoleon?’  He asked.  Napoleon is our toad who has lived in our back yard since we moved into the house in 2012.  I named him Napoleon because of the determined and grumpy grimace permanently fixed on his little toad face.  I suspect that he is bent on world domination.  After crossing my foot, Napoleon froze and deigned to have his picture taken.  I hope he eats all the potato beetles that I didn’t find!


A view of the new rhubarb through a screen of asparagus buds.

The weather yesterday was absolutely perfect, a rare occasion for Kansas.  It was a bit inebriating to be in the warm, welcoming sun, bronzing us ever so slightly as we toiled — not too much, but just enough — to feel vitality running through our veins.  I checked all the plants.  My rosebush had come back triumphantly since being pruned quite aggressively in early Spring.  It could very well have over one hundred buds right now!  Van put in a dried rhubarb rhizome sliver several weeks ago, and we were delighted that a healthy little plant popped out of the soil in the asparagus patch.  Our asparagus, established in 2012, is now available for eating.  We get 3 to 5 spears a week, and they are amazing!  I snap them off and eat them straight out of the garden.


Our grape vine on its trellis, expected to climb over eight feet tall this summer.

Because of the cool weather and thunder showers, we have many plants doing extraordinarily well.  Potatoes, sunflowers, dill, tomatoes, grapes, roses, raspberries, bleeding hearts, asparagus, hops, rhubarb, and beans have all taken a healthy start to summer.  We worked in the garden until there was nothing else to do, and then Van asked me to sit on the deck and watch the world with him for the rest of the evening.

Napoleon made mooing noises at his garden post, perhaps wooing a Josephine somewhere.  I was so happy that he had come back.  A few weeks ago we had a rather large bull snake in the yard, and I was worried that  such a large predator would scare away more timid pest controllers like my beloved toad.  Ross the Dog scared the snake into the next yard, where it met its demise when it coiled itself under the neighbor’s grill and scared the neighbor half to death.  So, Napoleon has his yard back and is the ruler of his vast domain for now.

I wouldn’t mind more days like yesterday, with immeasurable time to work in the garden followed by a languid night of good, casual conversation with a treasured loved one.  It must be the best cure for any problem.  A little dirt, a splash of sun, a grumpy toad, little green plants, and a lover’s hand.  What could be better?

— G


Checking potato plants. A healthy little specimen!


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Passing Time on a Winter’s Evening

A bee visiting a giant sunflower in my Kansas garden.

A giant bee visiting a giant sunflower in my Kansas garden.

After the shock of Christmas has worn off and all the decorations have been packed carefully into closets until next season, we settle into a generally quiet routine and wait for Winter to melt into Spring.  The signal that Spring planting is closer than we think arrives with seed catalogs in our mailbox. We usually have a stack as thick as a phone book by the end of January.  These glossy wish books full of endlessly fascinating plant varieties provide hours of entertainment during even the coldest of winter evenings.

My system for browsing seed catalogs is simple: I choose my three favorites, toss the rest, and then sit down with a hot cup of tea and religiously peruse, looking for coveted packets of heirlooms and rarities for the new year’s garden.  I dog-ear the magazine pages and make an extensive shopping list of seeds that catch my eye.  Before practicality overtakes me, imagination reigns supreme, and I write down absolutely everything the family desires, from fantastical warty pumpkins the size of enormous boulders to dwarf bushes bearing glittering gem colored berries.  Growth and food production characteristics of exotic squash, vibrantly hued okra, delicate bee enticing flowers, crisply fragrant cucumbers, and vivacious snappy carrots are researched vigorously by the glow of a warm lamp.  Only after my exhaustive list is complete, and Spring is just around the corner, do I edit items that won’t quite fit into our budget or our garden.

Asparagus established in our Kansas garden.

Asparagus established in our Kansas garden.

The heartiest plant in our garden: my $5 rosebush!

The heartiest plant in our garden: my $5 rosebush!

In past years I have kept an Excel spreadsheet on my old laptop with all my shopping lists, seed prices from catalog and Internet vendors, price comparisons, and best of all, my garden records.  When we lived in South Dakota I had a glorious garden!  The soil yielded vegetables willingly at the slightest turn of my spade, and I could spend hours fussing about with my little seedlings, helping them turn up to the sunlight.  In South Dakota we produced a bumper crop of carrots, onions, lettuces, spinach, wild kale, beans,  cucumbers and others.

Our hops going dormant last autumn.

Our hops going dormant last autumn.

Every plant was recorded in my spreadsheet, with seed type, location, date of planting, and success rate noted.  I even added  notes indicating any unusual circumstances surrounding the success or failure of the seeds.  For example, we had a terrible hail storm one year that annihilated the tomatoes, but practically every other seedling managed to dodge the hailstones plummeting to earth like icy buckshot.  After this  storm, the garden thrived and provided delicious edibles for the remainder of the year.  Noting anomalies, weather pattern effects, and strange circumstances in my spreadsheet helped me decide whether or not to continue to attempt to plant certain crops.  I eventually gave up on tomatoes after three straight years of various failures, but my husband has picked up the proverbial spade, determined to get the little buggers to grow come hell or high water (which we had in our yard last year)!

Our asparagus thriving, with bright red berries to mark the coming winter.

Our asparagus thriving, with bright red berries to mark the coming winter.

Sun Chokes, AKA Jerusalem Artichokes, have found a home.

Sun Chokes, AKA Jerusalem Artichokes, have found a home.

The garden in Kansas presented a new challenge.   Uncultivated like that of our beautiful Black Hills soil, it is ugly construction zone soil badly in need of care and refinement.  However, our first year garden in Kansas was surprisingly successful.  We had so much okra that we became tired of gumbo, stir fried okra, curries, and okra pickles, so I let the remaining pods go to seed, hoping the okra would reseed naturally the following year.  Torrential rains and a temperamental spring prevented the seeds from taking, and we had no okra.  We had  similar experiences with other vegetables.  Seeds that had sprung so lively from the soil the previous year failed to even germinate.  My heirloom lettuces and wild kale, the pride of my garden, washed away when the yard flooded in the torrential rains.  The beans were devoured by a mysterious insect, possibly grasshoppers, and Napoleon, my garden toad, could only grimace apologetically at me as if to say “I ate as many as I could!”  

The rosebush enduring the first winter storm of 2013.

The rosebush enduring the first winter storm of 2013.

The final insult felt like a sharp blow when my husband and I discovered that a varmint had plucked and eaten every last sun ripened grape from the spiraling vine I’d been nurturing and (thought I had been) protecting all summer.   As we stared at the last remnants of our efforts I know we were both thinking the same thing: all that work, and for what?  But, as I was tearfully mourning the jars of grape jelly we would never taste, my husband just said quietly, “Well, now we know what to look out for next year.”  This is the nature of gardening: so many risks, so many contingencies we can’t always plan for, and so many heartbreaks when our hard work goes unrewarded.  But every gardener knows that all the hard lessons from the past should not prevent browsing the catalogs, making seed lists, and making plans so to be prepared for the future!

As with choosing seeds for my garden, I had a very difficult time choosing related articles to add to my post…so, I chose them all!  
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