The New Home Economics


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Community Gardening strategy

I live in the inner city. For an inner city lot, mine is good-sized. Yet, my full-sun area—and thus my ability to grow large numbers of vegetables—is actually quite small. I’ve had an additional plot at a community garden for several years now, and in 2018 we doubled the size of it, to 20 feet x 20 feet.

I have a philosophy about my community garden plot, and it stems from the permaculture concept of zones. The basic gist is that your home is ground zero. If you have plants that need daily tending, put them as close to the house as possible. The zones go all the way to five, which is supposed to be a wild and natural area.

Realistically, for city dwellers like me, zone five is where I travel to be on vacation—I don’t own a property big enough to contain a wild area. My yard realistically includes zones zero through two. This stock tank of lettuce is easily accessed from my back door. It’s in zone one, precisely where you’d want something that you pick daily.

Just outside my front door, and easily accessed while wearing slippers, is my herb spiral (pictured in late summer with wildflowers threatening to take over). I’ve placed the foods that I harvest daily during the growing season as close as possible to my home. This makes it far more likely that I’ll use them.

Even my strawberries and my primary vegetable garden can now be accessed in slippers, thanks to the beautiful brick paths my husband has been diligently working on each summer.

My community garden plot, however, is a different story. It’s approximately two miles away. It’s a little further than I really have time to walk on a daily basis (unfortunately). I try to bike there as often as possible, but it’s generally not realistic to plan on going more than once per week. Hence, I only grow vegetables that need less daily attention at the community plot.

My early years of gardening at Sabathani, I did try to do more. Here’s my 2014 garden with pumpkins, onions, potatoes, brussels sprouts, and strawberry popcorn. The brussels sprouts never amounted to much, and the onions got overrun by the pumpkins. The strawberry popcorn was fun though! The plot is not terribly large, so most years I try to keep it simple. My best year was the year I grew Musquee de Provence pumpkins:

They outgrew the plot and started spreading into the walkways. A fellow gardener actually trimmed them back with a gas-powered weed trimmer at one point. Pumpkins and squash are fun to grow, but when you live in the city it’s hard to justify the space they require. This is where my community garden strategy shines. It’s just a little extra room, with a slightly lower time commitment, to try something fun.

Here are my Musquee de Provence pumpkins after harvest. Suffice to say we ate a lot of pumpkin that year.

In 2017 I was really craving zucchini, another vegetable that gets a little too big in my petite home garden. So I grew this variety of patty pans (a type of zucchini) at Sabathani. Once again, I proved myself right and was unable to get there often enough to harvest them at an ideal size. Pictured are several that are a bit too large. We still ate them, but generally you want to pick them while smaller (like the green ones pictured).

It’s been so fun growing large numbers of squash and pumpkins each year. Here are my 2014 Long Island Cheese Pumpkins—these were excellent for baking.

I’ve tried to rotate crops as best I can at my plot, moving potato and pumpkin hills around my now-doubled (as of 2018) 20 foot x 20 foot plot. This year, I’m going to break my rule again and try to grow some tomatoes and cucumbers there, due to a buildup of disease at my home garden. I will have to commit to going there mid-week to pick during July and August, but there does happen to be a Dairy Queen on the way, so it’s usually easy to convince the kids to go for a bike ride.

Do you garden in zones? What strategies have you tried for time management in the garden?


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Winter rabbit damage

Confession: I complained about our lack of snow earlier this winter. It was barely a white Christmas, with only a dusting on the ground. “This is the lamest winter ever,” I said, dreaming of cross country skiing, sledding, anything.

Welp.

A snowy winter

Here’s my front yard after a record-breaking February of snow. It feels like the kids have barely been to school, and we’re running out of places to pile it. My herb spiral is under there, somewhere. Behind it are completely buried currants and wild roses.

The rabbits are getting really desperate, and the snow has helped them reach over some of my barriers to nibble on shrubs and young trees.

Rabbit damage on a honeycrisp apple tree

Here’s my suffering honeycrisp apple tree, planted last July. This new damage, approximately 2 or 3 feet off the ground thanks to the new snow, encircles between 1/4 and 1/3 of the young tree’s trunk (plus a small branch had its end chewed off). Were this the only damage it would probably not be fatal, but rabbits also ate the bark off the trunk closer to the ground, and that time they made it more than 3/4 (~7/8) of the way around the trunk (this was back in November, before I had the cages up).

This is called a “girdled” stem, which is confusing because “stem girdling” can also refer to roots growing in a tight circle around an improperly-planted tree.

Anyway, this tree is a goner. I plan to replace it this spring–thank goodness for the two-year “purple perks” warranty at Bachmann’s. Rabbits love fruit-bearing trees like apples (and their malus genus compatriots) and cherries, along with other members of the prunus genus—such as wild plum.

A hole in the rabbit proof fence around some viburnums

The only thing more appealing to rabbits in winter than fruit trees is native shrubs. I found this hole in the plastic fence that I put around my viburnums every fall, along with some fresh damage to some of the smaller suckering branches on the pictured shrub. I patched it up and will swap the plastic fencing next year for something more durable.

Rabbit-pruned gooseberry bushes

My gooseberry bushes needed a good pruning this winter/spring, so I left them unprotected to see what would happen. Rabbits don’t eat my (non-native) currant bushes, and gooseberries are related, so I wondered whether they’d be interested. Verdict: they are interested. I shall not need to do any pruning of these bushes come spring. They are very vigorous, though, so I’m not worried about them.

A small pagoda dogwood aka alternate-leaf dogwood, in winter

This tall enclosure felt like overkill when I put it around my small pagoda dogwood last fall, but now it looks like this might be one of my only shrubs that will emerge in the spring completely unscathed.

I have a handful of non-native shrubs: a magnolia and three currants (two Red Lake and one Ben Sarek black). Rabbits rarely touch these in the winter. But all my various dogwoods and viburnums are like candy to them, as well as my serviceberry and chokeberries.

In a normal winter, the cages are enough. In a record-breaking month like this, I’ll need to keep checking on things until we experience some melting.

All this damage has me re-thinking my front yard landscaping plans. Half of it was torn up for a sewer line project last year; my initial replacement plan included five new shrubs. I’m now thinking two might be more appropriate, if I’m going to realistically be able to protect them in the winter while still finding places to pile up shoveled snow.

I’m thinking about plants that give the appearance of a shrub, or fulfill the same niche as a shrub, but still die down to the ground each winter. A great native plant that fits this bill is baneberry:

Red_Baneberry_Actaea_rubra

(image source + more images of this plant)

There are two versions of this plant that grow in Minnesota, both poisonous but very pretty. I will mass several of these in place of at least one of the shrubs I’d hand in mind. My options are somewhat limited because this area is so shady. If I had more sun I’d also consider Culver’s Root.

Deer at Fort Snelling State Park

I have a rare Monday off work, so I cross country skied at Fort Snelling State Park this morning. The weather was perfect: 0 degrees fahrenheit with almost no wind. I had to politely ask this one to please move and let me through; he did so begrudgingly.

Next up: seed starting for the official kick-off of vegetable garden 2019.


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Garden Plan 2019

It’s January. It’s about zero degrees F. A snowstorm is due any minute. Time to get started on planning my garden for this year.

The main thing to note about this year’s plan: it does not include cucumbers or tomatoes. I’m giving my main home garden the year off from both; I’ll most likely try to grow them at Sabathani Community Garden. My home garden has built up various tomato and cucumber diseases over the past few years, and I need a year of starving both bacteria in hopes of getting rid of them for good.

Let’s take a look at the plan:

Sample garden layout

Starting on the far left, the little strip of land between my deck and chain link fence was a fine rhubarb area for several years, but unfortunately the grapevines that I am training on the arbor over the deck are now casting deep shade in that area for most of the summer—this is what I wanted! But it means the rhubarb had to go somewhere sunnier. I transplanted it last fall.

In its spot I will put a mix of early- and late-season pollinator support plants. My two favorites for a shady spot like this are bloodroot and zig zag goldenrod.

 

2017-04-14 17.18.55

Bloodroot, aka sanguinaria canadensis

Bloodroot blooms in the very early spring—usually in April when I’m feeling the most desperate for some sign of spring. It’s an ephemeral so it only blooms for a very short time, then the leaves get quite large and look just like an umbrella for a fairy to sit under. I can’t get enough of these plants. They also spread gradually, so I’ve been dividing them every couple years and adding them all over the yard. Prairie Moon is a good source for Bloodroot, if you don’t know anyone with some to divide.

2017-08-24 15.11.30

Zig Zag Goldenrod, aka solidago flexicaulis

Then there’s zig zag goldenrod, the only goldenrod to thrive in shade. It blooms at the very opposite end of the season, August-October. I’m slowly adding this to all shady areas of my yard. I’ve always had plenty of blooms from June-August, but have been a little lacking in the very beginning and end of the season. Time to work on that.

Getting back to the garden plan, the first bed on the far left has greens in it, and I think this is about all I’ll be able to grow in this spot anymore. The arbor is shading this area of the garden for a significant portion of the day now, too. I had my tomatoes in that spot last year and they performed dismally—lots of green foliage but hardly any tomatoes, a classic sign of insufficient light.

Next we have some turnips, onions, and beets, in the spot where I grew leeks and onions last year. After this year I will have to let this spot rest from members of the allium family or I’m going to create a problem.

Next is the spot where I’ll put my tomato cage, except this year I’m growing heirloom dried beans in it. Legumes for the win! I plan to leave the cage in this spot permanently—we discovered this spring that moving it is a major pain. So I’ll rotate legumes and tomatoes in and out of it each year, relying on pots and/or my community garden plot in the years I don’t put tomatoes in this garden.

Finally we have the spot where I planted some garlic last fall. If it survives the insane sub-zero temperatures that are arriving shortly, it will be so fun to have garlic again. I haven’t grown it in a few years. I’m going to try following it up with some watermelon radishes; they are better when grown in the later season.

So that’s my plan, in a nutshell. I’ll also do various pots and edible landscaping tricks. I have a very large new sunny area in the backyard now that is raising all kinds of possibilities. Eventually it will be a mini tallgrass prairie, but for now… maybe we could grow some watermelons…


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Fall

The time for spookiness and voting has arrived. I assumed this spider was dead until I picked it up to show it to the kids and got a very chilling surprise. (Yes, I shrieked.)

2018-10-21 14.36.28

It’s an orb weaver spider, and I’ve never seen one this large before. It was moving pretty slowly but still too fast for me.

I gave the kids my old D-SLR camera and got myself a newer (used) one; they’ve been going crazy with photography ever since. Here’s a spooky spider picture from Anneke that was not quite what any of us expected to see when we uploaded it to the computer.

She also snapped these lovely purple asters, one of the only flowers still blooming here at the end of October. Our mid-October frosts and brief snowfall mean there are no bees around anymore to pollinate them.

Over at my Sabathani Community Garden plot, cover crops are up and running, although I don’t expect them to grow a whole lot more. My new goal is to do this every year–it’s so important for soil health. We’ll be ready to harvest our horseradish (large bushy plants in the center and left) soon. Generally mid-November is a good time, after a couple of hard freezes but before the ground is frozen.

This year was my first successful attempt at growing leeks. I never did get around to hilling them up, so they’re a little green, but just fine for our purposes. They were actually quite easy to grow and the entire family (except me) is now tired of potato leek soup. I don’t think I’ll be all the way through these or my kale until the end of November.

October means time to bring in all our tropical plants from outside. We managed to find spots for our Meyer lemon, an avocado tree, and three grapefruits. The kids have gone a little crazy for houseplants and I don’t discourage them from any botany pursuits, so our house is getting a little over-run. They’re going to bring us some much-needed green in the coming months.

The weirder a plant looks, the weaker our resistance to it.

I killed a Christmas Cactus two years ago, so I’m trying again.

Anneke’s been asking for a fiddle leaf fig for ages now, and I finally saw a tiny, inexpensive one at Mother Earth Gardens yesterday and gave my consent. Then we came home and read about how quickly they grow. We’ll see, I guess!

Fort Snelling State Park is very close to our house, so it’s a frequent getaway when we just need some nature time. Shown is the Highway 55 bridge over Picnic Island. The kids have been learning about the tragic history of this area, giving all of it new significance when we visit. I’m glad that bdote has been preserved in at least a semi-natural state. Photo by Anneke.

Stay warm, friends.


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Not professional landscapers

“We’re not professional landscapers,” said the sewer line contractor who tore up my yard 10 days ago.

“No shit,” I thought to myself, but I tried to keep it cool.

It took three days and by day two I realized it would be healthier if I didn’t watch. After it was over, however, I quickly moved from horrified to excited about redesigning this area of the yard. It’s an opportunity, right?

Last weekend I laid out the edging bricks for a redesigned path in the area that was dug. This path used to curve from the house to the street, but since we already have two paths that do that in the front, I wondered if we really needed a third (I’ve always wondered this, though it did look nice). The new path starts by the house but will end with a circular mini-patio, big enough for our bird bath to sit in its center as a focal point. It will allow me easy access to all the flower beds around it, and be just a little bit different from other areas of the yard. I’m excited to see it take shape.

When laying out new hardscape features, it helps to take pictures from different angles like this, to help you see if you have your scale and positioning correct before you start permanently installing bricks. This may change a bit before all is said and done.

I’ve got the area about 1/3 replanted, but the rest will have to wait until next spring when there is more selection at area nurseries. In the meantime I’m going to see about getting some chopped up leaf mulch this fall to help enrich the soil a bit.

Even though my front yard is looking shabby, interesting things are happening out back. For example, my second wine grape harvest:

Ten pounds of Marquette grapes. Both grapes that we grow are University of Minnesota hybrids.

16 pounds of Frontenac Gris grapes! These were in much better shape than the Marquettes. They didn’t get hit quite as hard by Japanese beetles, and they were at their peak of ripeness when we picked them on August 26; the Marquettes were slightly over ripe and quite a few had to be tossed.

We spent some time with a very patient and helpful employee of Northern Brewer talking about what went wrong last year and getting some great advice about what to do differently.

We tasted both wines at every stage this time, trying to understand better how the flavors develop. We also purchased a bottle of Frontenac Gris from the local wine shop so we could compare. The professional wine is on the right, our cloudier version on the left. Honestly, I didn’t care for the flavor of the professional version—it was way too sweet. Yet ours was so sour that it tasted like really strong kombucha. The professionals must have added sugar.

Anyway, we added the bottle of professional wine to our gallon of amateur wine to just cut down the sour flavor a tiny bit, and we liked the result, so we bottled it. And now we wait.

Over in the vegetable garden, my cover crop looks beautiful! It’s a mixture of rye grass and field peas, and my intent is not to turn it in until next spring. We’ll see if it survives the winter, as promised by the seed company where I purchased it.

Over at our Sabathani community garden, we’re finally harvesting some Waltham Butternut Squash. I’ve never seen such slow-growing squash plants. After looking unhappy the entire summer, they finally started spreading out and flowering in mid-August. I have read that Walthams are slow, but I think there’s more going on here than that. We’ve got soil fertility issues at Sabathani as well. Before September is out I am going to harvest what I can, rip everything out, and plant a cover crop there too.

Speaking of squash… Here’s a picture of our neighbor’s yard. Our house is the white one in the background behind the fence. In this spot used to be a very large crimson king maple tree that cast deep shade over this area and a good bit of our back yard too. Shortly after it was cut down in June, a pumpkin or squash of some sort sprouted from a bit of dropped compost next to our bin.

Fast forward just a handful of weeks and it started invading our neighbor’s yard through the fence. He was delighted, so he let it grow. It is now the largest pumpkin plant I’ve ever seen, and as far as I can tell it’s just one plant! This area is at least 30 feet wide by 15 feet deep and it’s still going. It’s occupying some of our yard and driveway too.

It’s got several strange-looking pumpkins or squash that I can’t identify, though the leaves look exactly like the leaves of musquee de provence pumpkins, which we grew two years ago. We’ll see what happens.

Last but not least, I recently read The Complete Gardener, by British gardener/TV personality Monty Don. I watched his Netflix show Big Dreams, Small Spaces earlier this year and liked his attitude, so put myself on a waiting list from the library to read some of his books. (He must be gaining popularity here as well.)

I went through my usual range of emotions when reading a gardening book from somewhere very different from Minnesota. First, jealousy: his snowdrops bloom IN JANUARY. Second, relief: slugs are a huge issue there, and they have two different types of cabbage butterflies.

I picked up a handful of ideas to try in my own garden, including spreading wood ash from our fireplace around our currants and gooseberries. He also grows significantly more comfrey than I do and uses the leaves as a mulch around some of his garden vegetables. It’s an excellent idea that I’ve tried before, but ought to do more.

His style is more formal than mine; yet it’s completely appropriate for the place where he gardens. The book is full of gorgeous pictures and good general advice—especially for people who are new to concepts in organic gardening.

We’re running headlong into fall—it is 43 degrees F here as I write this and my husband is sitting in a deer stand up north. I feel ready, though. I have a lot of open spots to fill in spring 2019 so my winter garden planning process is going to be more involved than usual. I’m looking forward to it.

 


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Late Summer

I received 2 free packets of zinnia seeds last winter, and decided on a whim to try sprouting them. They were so easy. I didn’t have a plan for the plants so I just put them in groups of 5 all over the yard to see how they’d do in different light conditions. I’ve found them to be pretty flexible but a bit less floppy when they get plenty of sun. Pollinators love them! Here’s another non-native plant that gets my stamp of approval.

This little skipper spent several minutes nectaring.

 

I dig all the variations in color and form on the zinnias.

Walking around the yard, this scene caught my eye from some distance. How weird! It appears that a cicada decided to shed its exoskeleton while posing on a flower. The cicadas were almost as loud as the airplanes last night. (I live near the airport. You get used to it.)

Want to attract pollinators to your garden? Plant joe-pye weed. It comes in a few different heights. The original wild variety gets quite tall—perhaps 5 feet—and can get a little floppy. It was meant to be mixed in with other tall-grass prairie plants such as big bluestem. I plan to create a little tallgrass prairie oasis next to my garage next year. It will include divisions of this joe pye plant, plus big bluestem, prairie blazing star, Jerusalem artichokes, and (of course) milkweed. Can’t wait to get started on that project.

I also started nasturtiums from seed this spring. I ended up with so many plants that I scattered them all over the yard in pots, hanging baskets, and this window box on my garden shed. Little did I know: nasturtiums attract hummingbirds! We’ve always hoped to attract a hummingbird to our garden and Anneke has been dutifully filling, cleaning, and refilling a hummingbird feeder for two years in hopes of seeing one. A male ruby-throat has been stopping by several times a day now, but he skips the feeder and goes for the nasturtiums. Figures.

Everything is just OK in the garden. Honestly the annual vegetable garden is the most challenging part of my yard, between the pests, the diseases, the soil amendments, the weeding, etc. My permaculture fruit guilds by comparison are much easier to maintain. I’m really going to rethink my vegetable garden design for 2019 to see what I can do about improving soil health—even if it means the short-term cost of going a summer without certain vegetables.

Can you help me identify this mystery pepper? It’s not “Tangerine Dream”—the pepper I thought I’d bought. I am afraid to try it because it’s really hot—Adam said it reminded him of a habanero. I think it might be a hot lemon pepper.

Here’s another mis-labeled pepper from the Friends’ School Plant Sale. (This is not the first time this has happened to me with that sale.) I think these are likely cayenne. Well, at any rate the squirrels are not touching them. I am a big wimp when it comes to peppers, but we’ll pickle these all the same.

This year I tried interplanting my shallots into my strawberry bed, and I’m happy with the results. Some of them are very large and impressive. Most are average, and a few are tiny. A decent harvest.

Here’s an illustration of why you really do need a certain number of plants for this whole eating from the garden thing to work out right. I have 5 okra plants in part-shade so they’re not hyper-productive. I get 3-4 pods, every 3-4 days. It’s just not ever quite enough to cook with. Next year I’m going to try 10 plants, and put them in full sun. Then we’ll get good and tired of okra. Okra is a great edible landscaping plant—the flowers look like hibiscus.

Here’s a little nostalgia for today. My Rowan, age 4, left and age 11, right. Still helping me in the garden.

Here’s a garden friend that I spotted on my hydrangea this morning: a goldenrod soldier beetle. They feed on other insects including cucumber beetles. I don’t know if goldenrod is necessary to attract this beetle. The name might simply refer to its color. I usually see it on calendula flowers.

And here’s evidence of a garden foe that I’ve been battling for over a month now: the dreaded Japanese beetle. After last year’s near defoliation of my grapevine, I was hyper-vigilant this year. At least twice a day since around July 4 we’ve been out there killing as many as we can, but they are seemingly unstoppable. My best guess is that our grapevine is about 30-40% defoliated. Next year we will most likely resort to spraying neem oil, earlier in the season. We’re almost ready to harvest now so it’s too late for this year.

You can see there is also some Japanese beetle damage on my large cherry tree. However, in this case it’s only 5-10% of the leaves that are affected, so I’m willing to tolerate it. It won’t harm the plant at all. Generally if 10% or fewer of leaves on a tree like this are affected, you have nothing to worry about. Trees in the Prunus genus (cherry, chokecherry, plum) support a wide variety of insect larvae—especially butterflies and moths—so if you can tolerate a little damage, you’ll be giving your area birds a huge boost. Insect larvae are the primary food they feed to their young in the nest.

My back yard is going through a major transformation, due to a large tree being removed. I’m starting to get used to how bare it feels, and starting to come up with all kinds of ideas for what I want to plant next year in my three new full-sun spots. Formerly they were two very deep shade and one part-shade spot, so my options have changed considerably. For now we put in zinnias and sunflowers, just to hold us over until certain other projects are done. It probably won’t get fully planted until next spring, and that’s OK.

We only have two weeks left of summer and then my three people—who have been helping me in the garden every single day—will all go back to school. Sigh.


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Desperate times

I’m having a challenging summer—is it just me? Do I say this every year?

We found and were raising more monarchs than we ever have, only to discover that many of them were afflicted with something I’d never heard of: monarch black death, a virus that spreads easily (especially when you have 50+ of them in a single holding tank). We’ve lost quite a few caterpillars. We have our fingers crossed for the ones that made it to chrysalis stage—we’ll see what they look like when they come out.

My cucumbers are also suffering. It’s hard to say, based on the U of MN’s “What’s Wrong With My Plant” tool, what’s going on. They either have downy mildew, alternaria leaf blight, anthracnose, or some combo of the three. Thinking back to last summer, I’m almost positive they were afflicted then, too. But I made two key mistakes: I composted the plants in my own pile, then I planted cucumbers again in the same spot. WHAT was I thinking?

Cucumbers on a trellis, with disease

Here’s the “before” picture, a week or two ago.

Cucumbers

And today, after removing a bunch leaves for a second time. The leaves near the top are still OK, so I’m keeping them for now in hopes of getting a modest cucumber harvest. Happily, my Mexican Sour Gherkin cucumbers (right) are totally unaffected and producing like crazy.

Mexican Sour Gherkin cucumb

I love these little gherkins! They have a great sour flavor, almost as if they were already pickled.

I have the same exact situation with my tomato plants, though thankfully they’re not quite as bad off. I suspect their issue is septoria leaf spot.

For both the tomatoes and the cucumbers, I’ve been removing affected leaves and sending those leaves out to the city compost—managed compost systems like that get hot enough to kill common vegetable afflictions. My pile is too cool.

But I may need to take a further step, and it’s a radical one: I will likely refrain from planting ANY tomatoes or cucumbers in 2019 in my main garden. I haven’t decided yet how much of the garden I’m going to devote to cover crops and better soil health. I’ll be thinking about that this winter.

Okra

I could interplant some veggies into my flower beds, as I’ve done this year with okra. It looks great with my wildflowers!

A thing happened last week that was unexpected: my southerly neighbor cut down his mature Crimson King Maple tree. It had deeply shaded the southern half of my back yard.  I designed my yard around that tree by putting things like my wood shed and compost pile there—since few things would grow there.

But with a giant open space that is now full sun, it was finally time to add the plant I’ve been dreaming about since we bought this house in 2006: A HONEYCRISP APPLE TREE!

new honeycrisp apple tree

Behind this fence used to dwell a very large maple tree—in front of it now dwells a very nice young apple tree from Bachmann’s. I’ve started buying more of my trees there to take advantage of their warranty (two years you join their loyalty program, one year if not). We went with a dwarf size apple tree because it’s underneath two different power lines.

When our sewer line is redone later this summer I’m going to thin and move a bunch of sun-loving plants from the front to the back, and then put new shade lovers in front. I like having more sun to work with, but the back yard also feels strangely naked. Thankfully two of our three mature trees are still in place.

raspberries

Raspberry season is underway—and an underwhelming one it is. What you see above is about an average picking every day, whereas usually we’d get quarts. The raspberries are among many plants I’ve neglected a bit over the past two years. It’s time to start thinking harder about long-term health and maintenance.

I’m very happy to report that I have not yet spotted any spotted wing drosophila larvae in my raspberries this year—though they’re in Minnesota now they have yet to find my yard.

Anneke’s been very busy hunting Japanese beetles for me. She’s killed at least one hundred of them already. I’m starting to depend on her for help while I’m gone at work. But since I’m home today, it’s time to get back out there.