When Last We Met…


Greetings gardeners! Spring is soon upon us and I’ll be having another go at my city container garden and black thumb blog. Barring any bizarre circumstances I should have plenty of time to plant and care for the garden this year as the whole house is finally full of tenants. I should even have the cash for mulch!

When I last left you I had some serious weeding to do in order to unearth the garden. So here’s how that went.

Underneath under all this there were some stubby red, yellow, and green peppers, chives, cherry and large tomatoes, and a few sugar snap peas. This section gets a lot of sun all day long and is the hardest area to keep watered. The jalapeño peppers didn’t make it this year because of it.

Once I hacked my way through this jungle I unearthed one sickly cucumber vine that produced the most disgusting tasting cucumber I’ve ever had. The carrots didn’t make it either.

Hidden under all this were some sad looking Roma tomatoes and the strawberries, which turned out OK despite mutant appearance. Once I staked them up, the tomatoes actually produced enough that I was able to make a big batch of salsa, which I flavored with some of the herbs that were growing on the porch. The herbs were lucky enough to get more water that the rest of the garden last summer because I got into the habit of emptying out the last of my water bottles on them as I came home from work most days.

According to my spring planting calendar, I’m already behind on starting several types of seeds, but with yet another snow storm heading our way tomorrow, I’m not too worried about it.


Guest garden- Lexi- Upstate New York

So I thought that readers of a garden blog, even a black thumb blog, would like some pictures of a nice garden that’s not going to seed. Unfortunately I don’t have that at my house right now…maybe next year, but I DO have a friend who has an amazing garden and last weekend I had a trip up to visit and took some pictures while there. Lexi lives about 6 hours from me in upstate New York (zone 5a) and over the past few years has built herself a truly spectacular garden space.

I think these are tomatoes
Pretty sure these are tomatoes.

love this trellis
Don’t know what is growing on it, but I love the upcycled headboard as a trellis.

nice ripening tomatoes.
Ripening tomatoes. Yum

Can't remember what it is, someone tell me.
Can’t remember what the heck this is. Someone tell me.

Wall of beans….or peas….I really have to listen better when people tell me things.

Lots and lots of hot and sweet peppers.
Tons of hot and sweet peppers.

So it’s very apparent from the pictures that Lex knows what she’s doing and does it well. No weeds, trim grass, happy plants, and this is just half her stuff, she has another garden off site as well. Go Lexi! Someday I’ll get out of this city and be able to give a big garden a try. But for now I’m going to go tend my little city garden and see if I have anything out there besides weeds.

We have pretty much finished all the work on the apartments that has been keeping me out of the garden this summer so hopefully I still have some time to give this dirt thing a shot. And if I don’t, well I’ll just have to prep it for next season and try again. First order of business: figuring out how to keep down the weeds.

Weeds are green too.


And it’s a good thing or else the entire lawn would be yellow. Hot, busy days have killed my lawn and choked the garden area with weeds. It’s nothing a few hours in garden gloves and a few days with the sprinkler can’t fix but when you can’t even find time to locate the sprinkler, you’ve got some problems.

Both June and July were packed full of work on the first floor apartment. We added a dishwasher, replaced a slate (yes slate, don’t ask.) floor, repainted all 6 rooms; even the crossbeams of the drop ceilings and the inside of a few closets because I’m a freak like that, and had the floors refinished.

We then had a week to move everything from the second floor to the first floor so that those floors could be refinished. They should be dry by Tuesday so soon I’ll start repainting everything in that apartment and the hubby and I will repair the many quirks that we learned to live with over the last 10ish years there. We might be done by the end of August. Please please let us be done by the end of August.

When life seems overwhelming I try to take a second to look on the bright side of things. The bright side to the month of August? …At least it won’t be as packed with birthdays, weddings, housewarmings, showers, graduations, and holidays as June and July were. Hmm, even my bright side seems to have a touch of gray. I think someone wrote a song about that.

The plus side to all this activity, besides the obvious cosmetic goodies, is that I now live on the first floor of the building with easier access to the yard. We now have a nice big porch in the back and I can practically lean out the bedroom window and pick from the strawberry patch. Someday, when I’m not covered in paint or sawdust, this is going to be awesome for gardening. Right now though I need to focus on finishing the insides and getting the 2nd floor rented out.

The garden isn’t doing that badly despite my rampant neglect. I think the weeds are providing some shade against all the intense sun and heat we’ve been having lately. I’m sure everything could be greener and bushier if I was able to water everything everyday, but I’m not superwoman and I don’t want to be, so I have spindly tomatoes. Oh well, at least they aren’t dead. The green, red and yellow peppers all seem to be doing fairly well. They are short, but full. I started out with 2 of each type in each container but one of the red pepper plants died and was mysteriously replaced by a basil plant. I saw it and shrugged. I like basil, it can stay.

I really do hope to find some time to get out in the yard and clean everything up a bit. The trumpet vine is running wild. It’s climbed it’s way up the downspouts to the second floor and still has only one single clump of flowers. I plan to try to take it out of the front bed this fall and replant it on the back fence. It is far too aggressive of a plant to be in a small confined area. I’ve been doing a little reading about moving those types of plants and apparently I have quite an underground battle ahead of me so stay tuned for frustrated rants on climbing vines and lessons learned about researching what you plant and not just making choices by the pretty pictures on the packages.

If it’s not squirrels, it’s ants.


Almost 2 months have gone by since my last post. Why? Because I’m fricken’ busy as hell, that’s why. Our first floor tenants decided to buy their own house and moved out. Good luck to them, but it put me in painting and repair hell so there has been very little time for the garden.

The cool spring we had really threw me for a loop garden-wise. While I was waiting for the weather to warm up, the seedlings all outgrew the planting tray so I transferred them to small pots, put them in the south facing windows and protected them from grazing cats with my trusty squirt bottle. I really wasn’t sure when to put everything outside so I finally just put it all out at once and hoped for the best.

True to New England weather we’ve had many really really big temperature changes this month. Within the span of one week we went from nice comfortable 70 degree days to insanely hot 100 degree days. Now we’re back to 70 and rain which is fine with me because it saves me from having to drag out the hose twice a day to keep everything alive.

So far I’ve been able to harvest some sugar snap peas and some strawberries. The strawberry patch I planted last year is going strong. Only about 1 in 8 of the berries aren’t horribly mutant shaped but, whatever, they all taste the same so that’s fine with me. I’ve seen a few slugs in there so I need to do some research into the best way to get rid of those. Unfortunately I think the strawberries are giving us carpenter ant problems.

Normally each year we get invaded by ants and as soon as we spray the foundation and put some traps inside they go away. This year they are sticking around and I think it is because of the strawberries. My research indicates that carpenter ants don’t actually eat wood, they just burrow holes in it. They eat…. everything else, which seems to include the strawberries because many of them have little snack holes in them. Hopefully we can get rid of them again without having to take the strawberries out. It would really suck to finally have gotten the garden the way I want it to be only to have to take it out again because of ants.

Livin’ in the city doesn’t mean you don’t still have squirrel problems.


I’ve debated what kind of blogger I want to be. The kind that kills you with every mundane detail the second it happens, or the kind that saves up the little stuff for longer, less frequent posts. I guess I’m the latter. Procrastinate enough and time decides everything for you.

Not much has happened garden wise since my last post. The chives are still going strong, the peas sprouted and are now about 2 inches high. The strawberries are flowering and have taken over another foot into the Roma tomato area. Everything in the inside seed trays looks pretty good, some of the little pepper plants have some yellowish leaves, but I hope to be able to pull them through till it’s time to plant them outside. The crocuses, daffs, and tulips that managed to hide from the squirrels have come and gone and half the front bed is being taken over by the exuberant bleeding heart bush. Next year I really should take pictures of everything as it comes and goes. The front bed kind of transforms throughout the growing season.

You’d think that, living in the city, I wouldn’t have problems with squirrels, but I do. Our back yard is host to one of the larger trees in the neighborhood (It’s an evergreen that’s taller than our 3 story house.) and despite the presence of 2 large dogs in the building the bold little suckers that live in it, still manage to dig up almost all my daff and tulip bulbs and store them for the winter. I’m not sure what to do about that besides just planting more and hoping they just keep missing a few a year till I have as many as I want.

This weekend’s plans include planting carrot and sunflower seeds directly in the garden and hopefully spreading some grass seed in some of the patchy dirt areas of the lawn. Last springs ‘more grass in the shady back lawn’ project (I really suck at naming projects) seems to have taken, as there is much more nice lush grass back there and only a few bare patches. That is pretty much a direct turn around from the bare patches with small tufty grass mounds of last year, so yay for us. The giant pine tree didn’t kill nearly as much of the new grass as anticipated. Probably mostly because I swept the fallen needles off of it pretty much as soon as they fell. I’m not sure which genus of evergreen tree ours is but either way, it’s one of the only evergreens I’ve ever seen that drops tons of needles in the fall. Evergreen my ass.

Boing!- Happy Spring!

-This past winter was so mild.
-How mild was it?
-So mild that when I went to clean up the garden area yesterday I found chives from last year already growing strong.

Ok so it’s not a punchline, but it’s true. Good thing I didn’t plan to move which container I wanted them growing in.

While I was out there pulling weeds and planting peas the neighbor dog came over to the fence for a visit and made it clear that I really need to raise up the containers near the fence about a foot by lifting his leg and peeing in most of them. He’s got some good distance and aim. So this weekend I’m going to have to run to Home Depot and get some paving blocks or something so we aren’t eating wee-wee veggies this summer.

I was able to do enough shifting and rearranging to be able to fit four more containers this year. The new crops to go in them will be yellow pepper, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, and carrots. The whole veggie lineup goes like this:

Red Pepper
Green Pepper
Yellow Pepper
Jalapeño Pepper
Banana Pepper
Roma Tomato
Cherry Tomato
Large Tomato
Sugar Snap Peas

I had most of those plants last year and they all did pretty well despite having been planted pretty late because we went on a 10 day vacation at the end of May. I even got enough Romas to make a batch of pasta sauce. I’m hoping this year will be even better since I am trying to stay on track, starting and planting everything at the right time.

Here are some shots from last year.

Tomatoes, lavender, thyme, and oregano.

Red, Green, and Banana Peppers

Jalapeno, chives, sugar snap peas.

Very late start Roma Tomatoes.

CityDirtGirl- the only person in the world who can’t grow a Chia pet.


Yeah, you read that right. Sitting in my window is a sad little Bart Simpson Chia head that I got for Christmas. Just like the commercial says, I spread the seeds, watered it, and sat back to watch it….. not grow. Why would TV lie?

Lucky for me ole’ Bart seems to be the only thing not growing in the house at the moment. Pretty much everything I started inside last week is already sprouting. The crocuses are having a party in the front planter and a few daffodils crashed it.

The almighty spring planting calender (I swear by the end of the season I’m going to have built a shrine and possibly a church for this thing) says that this weekend the peas should go directly in the garden outside. I’m going to have to find time during my St. Patty’s Day festivities of whiskey and stumbling around to start getting the veggie area ready to plant.

Have a safe St. Pat’s everyone!

I’m a Pepper too.


 So since I got all cocky and posted about early spring with such certainty we’ve gotten 2 snow ‘storms’. Gotta love New England. My lonely crocus made it through both snows and now has been joined by several friends. The thyme seeds I started last week are sprouting already

 The planting calendar said yesterday was the day to start peppers, basil and marigolds so I’m doing that today. So far the pepper line-up consists of red, green, yellow, and jalapeño peppers. I also want to grow banana peppers but can’t seem to find the seeds for them so I’ll probably have to get those as plants from the garden center like last year.

 In addition to basil I also started the oregano today since the packet says start 8 weeks before frost. The planting calendar seems to over look some herbs but I think I can tax my brain a little and figure it out anyway.

 I decided to go ahead and start some marigolds inside this year as well. Usually I just spread the seeds around outside after the last frost but this year I want to make sure I have some ready to go in right when the rest of the veggie plants go in. Marigolds remind me of my papa. He always used to plant them in his garden to discourage bugs and I’ve been planting them in different places in the gardens since he died. Miss you Pops. I’ll plant the stinky marigolds for you.

Thyme is on my side.


Horray for the Christmas Tree Shops! I got a whole buttload of seeds and various other whatnot and the most expensive things were the planting trays at 5 bucks a pop. For those without Christmas Tree Shop in your area, I’m sorry.

My lovely spring planting calendar says that tomorrow I should sow broccoli, kale, cool weather lettuce, escarole, eggplant and thyme seeds indoors. The only one of those I’ll be planting this year is thyme and I’m too busy tomorrow so I started it today.


Also, I’m not really sure what the heck escarole is, so I looked it up in case anyone else was curious too.

 Escarole is a variety of endive whose leaves are broader, paler and less bitter than other members of the endive family. In taste — but not color — it is almost indistinguishable from radicchio. Like radicchio, kale and chard, escarole is a hearty green that thrives late into the growing season. The heart of an escarole head is less bitter because the leaves haven’t gotten as much sunlight. (Some farmers even cultivate these pale leaves by covering the plants and depriving them of sunlight.)

I’ll probably never plant it but, hey, it’s good to know anyway.

Yesterday I took a few hours and started to clean up the yard and the front planter. My lone crocus looks even prettier with no dead daisy carcasses around it. The daffodils are also poking their way up and I may even have a tulip or 2 that the squirrels didn’t steal. This winter has been so mild that my mums didn’t even die all the way back. I found green shoots and leaves at the base while I was pulling up the dead stalks. I guess I’ll let them stay there and see what happens. One of them is probably going to get covered by the bleeding heart when it comes in. I can already see the little bushy purple tips of the bleeding heart poking up.

I hacked back the trumpet vine while it is still just sticks. Last year it exploded into a wall of green and tried to take over the whole front bed. I think it choked out the poor clematis I was trying to get growing on the 3rd trellis. I guess I’ll just let the trumpet vines have all the trellises this year. Hopefully I’ll be able to keep it in check. I’m starting to wish I had just planted all clematis vines. I don’t think they are supposed to be as aggressive as these trumpet vines are turning out to be.

Screw the Groundhog, trust the Husky.


Now you could call me a little sour about groundhogs. When I was a kid we used to have one that would come up to the garden and reach through the chicken wire fence and pick tomatoes till it found a ripe one. We’d go out after it ran off and find a whole pile of green tomatoes all with single bites taken out of them.

Some people use the groundhog to figure out when spring will arrive. I say screw that stump dwelling Pennsylvania overgrown rat and I let my Husky tell me when spring is coming. Seriously though, how can those Gobbler’s Knob twits really know if the fuzzy little guy sees anything? They haul it out of a stump and hold it up to the world of flashing cameras. With all those flashing lights isn’t it a pretty sure bet that it’s going to see its shadow?

Well move over Phil and let me introduce everyone to my weather predicting Husky, Kodiak.

Now the Husky manner of weather prediction is completely different from the groundhog. Instead of crawling out of a hole to peek at a shadow the Husky instead proceeds to shed 112 dogs worth of fur all over your house. When this starts to happen you can rest assured that spring won’t be far behind. You can also pretty much fuse a vacuum in one hand and a dog brush in the other till spring does arrive. Since Kodi reached adult age he has accurately predicted several early springs and he says this is going to be one of them. The pretty purple crocus in my front flower garden seems to agree.