The Impatient Gardener: October 2014

31 October 2014


A couple weeks ago I wrote about preserving the parsley harvest, but what do you think about nasturtium pesto?

If you've been reading this blog for more than a year, you know that at some point when temperatures start dropping, my thoughts start veering toward inside projects, so don't be surprised that lots of inside DIY/decorating type posts are on the horizon!

I love beautiful bookcases, particularly when they aren't overstyled for photos (books turned backwards irritates the heck out of me). This looks like it's just a hallway/balcony but it's such an amazing use of space. And that peek of shiplap on the right has me swooning (yes I'm on the shiplap bandwagon and yes, odds are you'll see some in my house before too long).

Would you believe that is a vinyl floor? Genius.

I saw this recipe for caramel-pecan fudge tartlets in the King Arthur flour catalog and my mouth pretty much started watering immediately.

It might be very fun to give growing persimmons a try.

I keep thinking I should grow garlic, but I'm reluctant to give up the space in the garden.

Happy Halloween everyone! I don't really do much (or, um, anything) for Halloween but I like it if only because it holds off the Christmas music a little longer. I have to say, I'm dreading the Christmas switch that will be flipped tomorrow. I think that the extension of Christmas into a two-month long build-up really takes away from the keeping the holiday special.

Hmm ... somehow I just turned this post into a downer. Click on that Halloween link for a smile.


30 October 2014


Although the forecast for Halloween is for a full-on gale we continue to enjoy a pretty great autumn here so I still haven't done much in the way of garden cleanup. One fall gardening chore I have accomplished, however, is planting bulbs.

It's been several years since I've planted any bulbs, but last spring I was kicking myself for not having more color around because it is so appreciated at that time. I picked up bulbs at Costco and from Brent and Becky's Bulbs (my first time ordering from then and I was very happy with my purchase) and planted them all in about an hour or two.

I'm not going to tell you how to plant bulbs because really it is the most simple of gardening tasks. Dig a hole to the proper depth (it'll be on the back of the package), stick the bulb in pointy side up, cover it with soil, water it and sit tight until spring. There are other things you can do, including fertilize with bone meal and recently I read a suggestion to soak bulbs in Moo-Poo Tea before planting. I don't honestly think you need to do either of those things if you start with good bulbs but they might help keep them going in future years.

I did try a little gardening experiment though. Growing tulips at my house is a pointless activity. Some critter always eats them. But they are so beautiful and I didn't want to go another spring without them. So I'm growing some in a container. In fact I'm growing a whole bunch of bulbs in a container.

I started with a medium-sized planter, the one I grew the patio tomato in this summer, actually. I also reused the potting mix I used for the tomato, although I added a lot of grit to it (I've discovered chicken grit, purchased at a feed store, for this purpose). Bulbs contain everything they need to grow, but they don't like being soggy, so good drainage is really important.

To create a layered effect of bulbs that should bloom from late winter or very early spring all the way through the warmest days of spring, I selected three varieties. I picked a late-blooming tulip (honestly, I can't remember the name but it was a purple and apricot mix from Costco), a mid-spring blooming daffodil ('Avalanche') and a mixture of very early blooming dwarf irises. If you wanted to try this same layering effect, you can really do it with any bulbs so long as you layer them from earliest blooming on top to latest blooming on the bottom.

Sure, I could have made a fancy Adobe Illustrator graphic for you, but this photo of a sketch I made took exactly one minute to create and you get the basic idea, right?

I started with enough soil in the container to be able to plant the tulips (the last to bloom) at their proper depth or a touch deeper (about 9 inches) and packed them in shoulder to shoulder. Then I layered on more gritty potting mix and planted the daffodils about 6.5 inches from the top of the container. I didn't have enough of these to pack them in as tightly, but I evenly spaced out the 10 bulbs I had.

Tulip bulbs packed in tight make up the bottom layer.

Daffodils make up the middle layer.

You get how this goes by now. I covered that with more soil and planted the irises about 3 inches from the top and covered them with soil, filling it all the way to the rim of the pot because I'm sure it will settle throughout the winter.

Dwarf irises are on top. These were then covered with potting mix all the way to the rim of the container.

What I didn't do was water the container at this point, which is a big departure from what you should do when you're planting bulbs in the ground. The potting mix was already really moist and I didn't want the bulbs to get too wet. When I was finished, I just stuck it in our unheated garage sort of in the middle and away from the walls. I have other containers I'll be storing in the garage for winter so I'll group them all together and maybe put some bubble wrap or something around them.

I'll bring out the bulb planter in late winter and give it a good drink and then hopefully the magic will start to happen. If all goes as planned, the irises will bloom first and as they are fading the daffodils will emerge. When those start to fade, the tulips will push through. Don't worry about all the bulbs being on top of each other: the plants will find their way around them.

If you're doing this, the key is to store the container in a cool enough spot. Bulbs need a certain amount of cold to bloom, so a basement is probably too warm.

And now comes the tough part: waiting for spring.

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28 October 2014


This year's harvest might have been unremarkable in many ways, but there was one very exciting crop: the first apples from my superdwarf Gala apple tree.

I won the tree at a winter gardening seminar a few years ago. It was donated by a local gardener who loves grafting fruit trees and is particularly interesting in superdwarf trees. Basically he grafts a regular apple onto superdwarf apple roots. What you end up with is a regular apple tree that stays very small.

He delivered it to my house the spring after I won it and gave me all kinds of tips on caring for it. I stuck it right in the middle of the perennial garden off the patio. That's not the first place one thinks for siting an apple tree, but I needed a little height in that area and since it will stay plenty small, I wasn't worried about it taking over. Plus, I wanted to be able to enjoy the blossoms up close.

For a couple years it hasn't done much of anything but this spring there were flowers. No heaps of them, but some. And after those flowers came fruit. I had already lost a few small apples to insects before I talked to the grafter at a garden tour and he told me his secret of putting plastic baggies over the fruit. I ran home and put baggies on the four remaining apples the tree and haven't given it much thought since.

A couple weeks ago I picked the first apple. It was umblemished, beautiful and crunchy. It was also just a tad sour because it wasn't fully ripened. Unlike tomatoes and pears, apples will not continue to ripen after you pick them so you need to leave them on the tree until they reach their desired ripeness.

Last week I picked the other three apples. They are delicious! And, like anything else you grow yourself, they taste even better than anything I could have bought at a store or even an orchard because, well, pride adds flavor. 

Four apples isn't much to get excited about but the tree is still very young and should produce more and more each year. And now that I know the baggie trick I should be able to enjoy many more of the apples that are on the tree.

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24 October 2014


I really want to check out this book (hint, hint, somebody send me a review copy). And this one too.

Do you follow the One Room Challenge? Calling it Home organizes the One Room Challenge and selects bloggers to participate. The challenge is to completely redo a room in six weeks and post about it once a week. To me this sounds incredibly daunting. That's a lot of pressure. I can barely get my house clean in six weeks much less renovate a room!

Have you gotten your garden ready for winter? I haven't, but I'm extending the season as long as I can. The Prudent Gardener has a nice reminder sheet so you don't forget any steps.

New House New Home photo
This is a great reminder. Remember to take a little time to enjoy the season. You'll thank me come January!

Have you watched The William Shatner Project on the DIY network? I have to say, I liked it way more than most celebrity-renovates-house-on-tv-to-pay-for-said-renovation shows.

It happens every year: As the leaves fall, my thoughts veer toward indoor projects and I have a basement reno on the brain. This one is way fancier than I'd ever need or want, but it's awfully pretty.

Have a great weekend everyone!



Gosh, it's been such a busy week but I still can't figure out why. I'll put up my Friday Finds in a bit but I've had this post ready to go most of the week and failed to hit "publish" on it until today.

We are officially past the peak of autumn color here, but I think it has been a particularly beautiful fall. I couldn't let it pass without sharing a few photos.

Acer japonicum actonifolium never disappoints. In fact I'm seriously considering adding another of these beautiful trees to my yard.

This maple is always a stunner. I can't get enough of its bright orange leaves on days when the sky is a deep blue.

This is what it looks like when you peak up its skirt.

Many of its leaves have fallen. Right now our entire "front" yard is awash in yellows, reds and oranges. There is barely a bit of green to be seen.

And this is what happens at my house when you try to get arty and lay on the ground to take a picture of all the leaves.

 I hope you're having a beautiful autumn as well.

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21 October 2014


I grew parsley from seed for the first time this year, and as I was harvesting armloads of it over the weekend, it was a bit of a head-slap moment. It was so easy I can't understand why I haven't been growing it from seed all along.

Harvesting parsley
The big end-of-season parsley haul.

I really like parsley. I think it freshens up every kind of food (well, other than sweet things which deserve a helping of mint, in my mind) like no other herb can. And I grew way more than I could possibly use over the course of the summer. But there was no way I was going to let all that summer goodness go to waste.

I pulled all my parsley plants, roots and all, as frost is most certainly coming our way very soon. I plucked the leaves—well, as many as I had the patience for— and gave them a really good washing in my salad spinner (how did I live before I had a salad spinner?).

Then I just packed them as tightly as I could in the bottom of a large Ziploc bag, making sure to roll out all the air. I made three logs in this manner and popped them all into the freezer. When I need parsley, I can just pull out a log and cut off what I need.

Frozen parsley logs
Frozen parsley logs.

I did this with basil several years ago and it worked great, although you are limited to using frozen herbs on cooked items (it doesn't really work fresh in salads or anything). That's fine especially with parsley because that's what I use it on most anyway.

Margaret Roach has a slideshow on how to do this if you really need step-by-step instructions on this, but seriously, it's as easy as it sounds.

Parsley pesto frozen in ice cube trays
Parsley pesto frozen in ice cube trays.

I also made a small amount of parsley pesto (well, sort of pesto: just parsley, garlic and olive oil) which I froze in ice cube trays and popped out the cubes to store in a plastic bag. I can see this being really good in soups.

I'm not a big preserver of food. Canning still scares me because I'm afraid I'm going to kill someone by not sterilizing or sealing a jar properly. But I can freeze stuff and I love to eek out the last bit of goodness out of the garden.

Did you save any of your home-grown produce this year?

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17 October 2014


How to make beautiful, delicious (and chemical free) colored sugars with edible flowers.

Autumn container
Deborah Silver photo
Deborah Silver (who I like to call the Queen of Containers) never fails to disappoint. Look what she did for autumn.

Rusted steel in the garden is such a great look.

I like fashion but I am not a fashionable person and to be honest, my style motto is generally "Try not to look like a slop and be dressed at least somewhat appropriately for the occasion." Accessorizing befuddles me. Yet this time of year is when I start thinking about updating my wardrobe a little bit (or at least replacing jeans that have unwashable dirty knees). I like to consult a few fashion bloggers before I spend any money. I'm a fan of You Look Fab because you can find advice for an age, shape or style and it's not overly trendy stuff.

Since I won't be getting my arm workout via weeding, paddleboarding or sailing during summer, maybe I'll give this series of exercises a try.

Newfoundland puppy

This little guy (whose name is Odin; I don't think we had decided on a name when I first mentioned him on the blog) is now 4.5 months old, 50 pounds, mostly fur, very sweet and starting to be plenty naughty. His sister Rita is still not thrilled with the new member of the family, which may have something to do with his habit of attaching himself to her ear and pulling. There have been a lot more walks for the whole family, which is a good thing (the whole household was getting pretty lazy before Mr. Energy came along) and Rita is discovering the liberal treating policy in the house to be working to her advantage as well.

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15 October 2014


I was traveling last week for work and by the time I got home on the weekend, I didn't feel like doing much. It's funny, the garden is actually looking pretty good these days. Although I know there will be a ton of work to be done getting it ready for winter, I'm not ready to stop enjoying what it is right now, even though I know it means I will be spending some very cool weekends making up for lost time later.

One bit of housekeeping before I get to the fun. I've updated all of the 2014 Gardener's World television show links on the Favorites page. One of the youtube posters I was getting them from started taking down the older episodes so I had a few bad links in there. Hopefully he'll stop doing that and as of now everything should work. If you've been too busy in your own garden to watch, maybe now's a good time to catch up.

So I don't have any gardening information for you today (although I did take a few pretty pictures while I was in Annapolis that you can see on my Instagram feed). What I have instead is a plane ride's worth of hard blogging work, also known as ...


"Sure to become a family heirloom." Yes, just imagine the whole family gathered around the Christmas tree with all the kids begging to be the one to hang the ornament that looks like it might be crazy Uncle Bob's ear from that time he channeled Vincent Van Gogh.

Waiting to finally be beamed up to the mothership.

 I beg of you, please DO NOT add a "touch of outdoor whimsy" in the form of a faux stuffed and mounted squirrel.

"Looks like a fireplace ... " Nope, it doesn't really look anything like a fireplace. It looks like an alarm clock that will wake you up by burning your fingers.

Because nothing says glamour like a beheaded anorexic woman from a 1990s cocktail party.

And this is why some day dogs will revolt and take over the world as revenge for dressing them in things like this.

I don't even know where to start with this, but I particularly liked the suggestion that a flask would be a good thing to keep in this special garter.

Does anyone else think that the second photo looks like a boob job gone wrong?

Since when do they sell boats that cost $85,000 in Skymall? And really, you know that the fun lasts exactly one time when you scare the crap out of someone and end up on youtube. Then you're just left with a very uncomfortable and possibly unsafe boat. "Discounts do not apply." Damn, and I had a Skymall coupon!


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10 October 2014


Kylee's video of a monarch butterfly eclosing (hatching, sort of) is so cool.

Deborah Silver is recommending that gardeners in cold climates apply an antidessicant to their boxwood this fall.

The change of seasons always makes me want a clean an uber-organized house. This roundup of fabulous pantries is making me very jealous.

North Coast Gardening image
After all this time gardening, it never occurred to me to make my own organic fertilizers. Gen from North Coast Gardening hooks us up with a bunch of recipes that I will definitely try.

Don't miss this damp but beautiful garden tour on one of my favorite blogs, Tone on Tone.

That's it for this week! I hope you all have a wonderful weekend. I've been traveling for work this week but I'll be home for the weekend. It's the first weekend in several months that both Mr. Much More Patient and I will actually be home, which means there may even be a chance of us getting started on the garage pergola that we've been talking about for more than a year!

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09 October 2014


There is plenty of work to be done in the garden at this time of year. Every thing I can do before the garden is put to bed for the winter is one less thing to do come spring. And of course there are other tasks that simply must be done in fall, like planting bulbs.

Still it is difficult to keep from thinking about projects for next year. I can't be responsible for whatever kind of insanity I might come up with in January (this seems to be when the spark for new garden is ignited), but I have had two ideas rolling around in my head since the middle of summer or longer.

One of them deals with the edge of our property on the far side of the driveway. Our house is pretty secluded and from almost every angle the views are at least broken up, if not blocked, by trees. That's probably why I'm hypersensitive to areas that feel too open to me, and this is one of them. There is a large gap in the mature trees (at eye level, anyway) on that side of the property, opening up the view to our three neighbors down the road. And to my eye, anyway, it's not pretty.

There's a lot of stuff sort of cluttering up the view in this direction.

There are boats of various levels of usage (some frequently and others that have not seen water in the dozen years we've lived here), RVs, trailers, sheds and lots and lots of cars. And for cars or people coming from that end of the road, it's a clear view straight into our patio and front door. For a person who routinely gardens in her pajamas (you know how this goes: You grab a cup of coffee and go outside, see one weed and 45 minutes later you have pajama pants with muddy knees), this is not optimal.

Growing something there would be great, but because of a very large maple, it's a very difficult location for much of anything to grow. Several years ago I planted five viburnums there but they've not really thrived or accomplished what I put them there to do.

The viburnums I planted several years ago have not fulfilled their mission.

So I've been toying with the idea of putting a decorative fence—not something that would completely block the view, but enough to distract the eye—along a portion of the open area. I would start it at the end of a large stand of cedar trees and continue it into a woodsy area toward the end of the driveway. A chunk of fence is a bit odd perhaps, but it's the best I have at this point.

The fence I'm thinking of would start at the last cedar tree on the left and continue past the right side of the photo. The viburnums would either be composted or moved.

Before I jump into anything I might do a little playing around with it on Photoshop to get a feel for what it might look like.

What about you; are you already thinking about projects for next summer?


08 October 2014


Remember the potato tower experiment? This was a method of growing potatoes I tried in part to get a crop of potatoes without using precious garden space. I also thought they would be easier to harvest.

Last weekend I attacked those towers to get a feel for how successful this experiment was.

I'm not going to keep you in suspense: it was basically a failure. (But since pictures of failures are horrible to lead with in a blog, I offer you this photo of some of the potatoes I did grow looking pretty.)

Honestly, I knew that it wasn't going well a long time ago. The towers never were covered in foliage like they should have been. And while a few nice shoots grew for a time, the plague of slugs (plague may be dramatic but after speaking with other gardeners, I'm convinced that the mass quantities of slugs were a common problem in our area) defoliated most of what was there. By late summer there were only a few sad leaves still hanging out of the towers.

Before I get to the depressing results, let's just take a look at the towers when they were fresh and new and full of hope.

When it came time to harvest my potatoes, I pulled out the metal stake that was supporting them and then knocked the first one over onto a tarp. And what I had was a big old mess because then I had to move all that soil and straw to the compost bin, and there was a lot of it. I got a little smarter with the second one and actually dug out the soil from the top with my hands as far as I could and then leveraged the wheelbarrow under it to catch most of the rest.

It wasn't easy to find the potatoes. Since my harvest was small in quantity and size, I was feeling through each bit of dirt for little potatoes that might be hiding in there.

One of the biggest earthworms I've ever seen peeking out from the great soil in the towers.
At this point one very good thing became clear. Those towers were creating some amazing soil. I pulled out several of the most enormous earthworms I've ever seen from them. And as far as I'm concerned, the quantity and quality of earthworms is the single best indicator of soil health there is.

After I cleaned up the potatoes, it was the moment of truth. After I added up all the costs that went into making the towers and figuring an average cost of $2.50 per pound for organic potatoes purchased at the store, I calculated that I would have needed to produce 22 pounds of potatoes to break even.

And this is all the potatoes I harvested.

And here's the moment of truth.

Don't get excited. The scale (an antique from Mr. Much More Patient's grandmother, I think) might say 6.25 pounds but that's before you subtract the 3-pound bowl.

For the math challenged, that means that I grew 3.25 pounds of potatoes. From 3 pounds of seed potatoes.

I'm not ready to say that potato towers don't work. There were a lot of factors that contributed to my lack of success. But the fact is, other than not taking up precious space in the garden, they don't have a lot of advantages. They were difficult to water, requiring me to spray the entire thing thoroughly. I think a PVC pipe with holes drilled in to stuck down the middle would help with watering the bottom layers, though. And they were a huge pain to harvest because cleaning up all of that soil wasn't easy.

It's not a total loss. First of all, I learned a little something, even if it was about what doesn't work. And I have a whole bowl of really pretty potatoes waiting for me to make something yummy with.

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02 October 2014


I find it interesting to follow the progress of container plantings throughout the summer. I only plant each container once because our odd seasons here don't really allow me to get much time out of a spring- or fall-only planting. This year's containers have been looking a little tired for a couple weeks now. And there's no telling how much longer they will hang on. Certainly they will be cleaned up and put away by the end of the month, so this will be the last look at this year's containers.

Deck planters. Overall I'm very happy with how these turned out this year, particularly in comparison to how these planters have done in past years. The pink mandevilla grew much better than the red has in other years. I'm not sure if that's something related to the variety or this year's weather. The white Profusion zinnias couldn't have performed any better. Each pot got three 2-inch plugs of zinnias and you can see how they've grown.

You can see the posts on their progress here (from August) and the original planting with all the plant names here

October 1
August 5
June 15
 The big planter by the front door has also really come into its own, but no matter what I tried, the Bordeaux petunia ate almost everything else in the container. I absolutely love the cardoon in it though.

October 1
August 5
June 15
 The boxwood planting by the garage didn't change a whole lot but the petunias get way overgrown and lanky so I ripped them out a couple weeks ago. I'll be overwintering the boxwood in the container in the garage.
October 1
August 5
June 15
 I'm disappointed with how the window box faired this year. While the nasturtiums looked great for awhile, they got pretty raggy in the end.

October 1
August 5
June 15
The planters on the steps by the front door have actually improved a bit since mid-summer. But you can't even see the bottom one anymore because the nasturtiums planted nearby have crawled up over it.

October 1

August 5
June 15
I'm not so sure about the planter in the middle of the garden. It was showing promise for awhile there but I think I tried to jam too much in it to the detriment of the entire planting.

October 1
August 5
June 15
The stump planter in the garden was really cute all summer and I'm happy I did it. The deer got at it recently and nipped off all the blooms but it brought so much color to that area before that happened.
October 1
August 5
June 15 

 How did your containers grow this summer?