Blueberry harvest is in full swing!

Here in zone 8 my blueberry shrubs are loaded with fruit! I have five different shrubs, each a different variety of blueberry and they’re all ripening at different rates! I couldn’t have planned it better. Each morning and evening I pull in a handful or two of delicious berries. Looking at the shrubs I’ll manage this for another month at least!! Delightful.

CES Jr: Before the Freeze

So, yes, this year is CES Jr’s fourth winter, I think. Something like that. I potted her up this past season so she’s got plenty of space for roots and insulating soil. And yes, last winter I kept her in the garage. And this winter I figured she’d probably grown enough to be okay outdoors.

And then I got scared. Tonight’s forecasted low in my area is 37 degrees Fahrenheit, and where CES Jr currently sits is shaded by the house for most of the warming afternoon sunlight time. This means it will probably get cooler there than the forecasted low, and let’s be honest how accurate are those ever, really. So I figured there will probably be some frost around or on her in the morning. But I still wanted to keep her outdoors this winter. Sooooo…….

I put a translucent plastic bag over her, container and all. In theory this should provide a greenhouse-like effect. And then, because maybe I was panicking a little, this happened.

This container holds the bonus blackberry plant that split from the larger shrub’s rootmass when I potted up all of my berries last week. I also grow blueberries and blackberries, you know. But that’s a different story. Check out my Instagram page if you want to see more about that.

Anyhow, I also covered up the wee bonus blackberry. You’ll notice it’s next to, but not in, my cold frame. This is because the container area I had set aside within for this winter is already full to capacity. I wanted to grow plenty of kale. Looks like, in exchange, I might have compromised some tiny plants in containers. But hopefully it’ll survive. Blackberries are notoriously good at surviving.

Using the Harvest

So for me, I enjoy the growing part of gardening fine enough. But the most exciting bits are the beginning and the end: germination and harvest. And even more rewarding is being able to use what you’ve grown from seed. This year I grew (among other things) onions for the first time. I’m happy to report that the early harvest I took of the green onions has stored well in the freezer and I used it and our carrots (freshly harvested) in a bison stew.

I also harvested some larger onions later and cured them in the fridge. Today I opened the paper bag to discover that not a single one had rotted. More, they’re potent and delicious. I’m using the fresh ones in a bison skillet tonight. (I really prefer bison over beef.)

Do you grow vegetables in your garden? What do you use them in? Do you store them or use them fresh? I’d love to hear your experience! For me, I’m excited to dig into our acorn squash which should be almost done curing in the fridge.

Gardening for the Earth

…literally! If you have a garden in the ground or in raised beds you should consider sowing a restorative ground cover or layering the surface with thick mulch for the seasons in which your garden is dormant. For example, this year I grew acorn squash, which choked out the turf over which the vines grew. This was actually a desired effect so that I had less grass to mow. Now that the harvest is complete and the vines removed to the compost pile, there are bare patches of earth in my yard.

Bare patches of earth are bad for the microbiome in the soil and are dead zones for the precipitation cycle. They can also allow for a greater chance of disease or pests when it comes time to sow next year’s garden. Plus they’re ugly! In order to restore the depleted soil and maintain a healthy microbiome, you can apply a thick layer of mulch or, my preference, plant a beneficial cover crop.

I did the latter, and the cover crop I chose is Dutch mini white clover. Clover fixes nitrogen in the soil, which is a nutrient that squash (and all plants) consume a ton of while they’re growing. I chose the engineered “mini” clover because it will never grow tall enough to want mowing, and if you’ve noticed there’s a trend in my gardening style which is to eventually never need to mow my yard ever again.

My clover has started to germinate and it is developing very well!

I made a mistake when sowing and watered before I had pressed the seeds into the soil. This caused some of them to wash off the big bare patch of hard, dry earth and collect at the edge of the turf. But that’s okay! That just means I get to sow more clover seed!

You can leave your cover crop for just the winter if you want and then dig or till it into the soil when you plant. Gardens love clover though! It helps to prevent the soil from drying out between your other plants, and like I mentioned it fixes nitrogen. This means it draws nitrogen from the air and the minerals of the earth and makes it available for consumption in the soil. All plants need nitrogen but few fix it, which makes clover extra special. Next time you see some clover in your yard, thank it!

Paper Towel Seed Test

Got some old seeds around and not sure whether they’re viable? Me too! I kept ignoring these pumpkin seeds in their mason jar for roughly 4 years and first tested them about 2 weeks ago by soaking then for a few hours. They all floated, which supposedly means they’re not viable. But I wasn’t totally convinced and figured I’d try another method: the paper towel test!

The idea here is that you moisten two paper towels and lay out the seeds between them. Seal these in a Ziploc and place somewhere warm but not in direct sunlight. I left them alone like this for about a week, and came back to surprising results!

Success! I sowed these wee plants this morning and we’re now sitting under a tropical storm warning with rain starting 2 hours before it was supposed to. They’re off to a marvelous start!

Treees! And CES Jr Update!

I’m excited to announce that the separation and repot process of the Japanese maple seedlings was a total success! Of the 5 that survived early spring’s squirrel assault, all 5 seem to be very happy in their 1 gallon nursery trade pots. Check out the beautiful leaf buds on this one!

Also, CES Jr is doing even better than I’d thought: SHE SELF-SEEDED THIS SUMMER! There are 4 wee Camellia sinensis seedlings in her pot! And about a gazillion seed pods are on her branches. Get ready for some propagation updates in spring when those turn brown.

CES Jr Summer Update!

For those of you that are enjoying the garden updates, this one’s for you!

CES Jr (Camellia effing sinensis junior, for folks new to the story) approves of her treatment this year. You’ll remember that last winter I brought her in to the garage for the cold nights, to avoid the frost damage that killed my original CES. This spring/summer I have mostly left her alone in her pot on the sunny backyard stoop, with the exception of practically daily waterings because HOLY SHIT Virginia Beach doesn’t know what RAIN is. So THAT’s been fun.

The other day (read: last week-ish, or could be a few weeks ago, my internal calendar is so utterly fucked right now) my fiance noticed there were new baby leaves on CES Jr. THAT, dear readers, besides the fact that she FLOWERED in spring, assures me that this one is maybeprobablyhopefully gonna make it.

Here’s a photo for you non-believers:CESjr I didn’t say it was a GOOD photo. However, it shows you the new baby leaves, PLUS a veritable shit ton of buds for another round of delightfully fluffy floweres! Flowerers! FLOWERS! (There is wine involved in this post.)

SO, ZONE 8, make note! You want to overwinter CES (or “tea plant”) in your attached garage. The frost here is sneaky and it will dive in without warning, and we all know DAMN WELL you can’t trust the temperature predictions. However, if you overwinter appropriately, CES will manage all sorts of new growth.

Our next step with this particular plant is to murder and pull out the useless, thorny, wasp-harboring rose bushes just visible at the top of the picture, and plant CES Jr in their place. I am marginally concerned about this process because did-I-mention-the-THORNS, and also because the last time I had Miss Utility out they indicated some fucking yellow flags just next to the roses, which means gas line. Sooooo I’m going to get them to come again before we go digging, because NOBODY wants that update.

This won’t be til Fall though, probably October or November at the earliest. Check back!

Tea Growing: Intro Post

This series is intended as a journal of my adventures with growing plants for use in tea. You may or may not remember from an earlier post that I’d intended to write a book about such. Well, it’s a blog series now. I feel as though this format may be more fun and engaging. #ScreamingIntoTheVoid

This series may or may not contain strong language; at this time, I haven’t decided as to whether I’ll censor myself. I am not an expert on plants or tea or nutrition, but rather a novice gardener (probably much like yourself, if the intended audience is reading this) that reckoned I’d like to grow things that I can consume. We’ll talk about tea and some of the things you can grow to use in its making. Maybe we’ll talk about vegetables, like kale (which is the only thing I can properly grow in my piss ass soil) and also kale (which incidentally does very well in containers). We sure won’t talk about straw bales, and why they might sound like a great idea for gardening and certainly look cool on Instagram but (spoilers) can really be a pain to maintain when done WRONG.

Shoot, maybe we’ll talk about straw bales one day. Maybe.

But for now we’re talking about plants which can be grown and used in the making of tea. We’re doing that because I am currently wading into such a world, and I’d like to share my adventure with you (lovely reader) as I struggle through the self-learning that the stubborn, yet persistent, gardener must experience. I encourage you to also experience the failures which I am sure to impart to you within these posts, in that you may also experience the successes as well.

The structure of this story will be that of a chap book, but not one in which the chapter tells the whole story. Rather, I wish to share with you my adventure as it happens. Headings will reference the plant in question, so if you want to skip around and follow each plant in its specific journey you can do that. If you want to stay hard and true on the linear, you can do that too. There are no rules here, unlike in gardening, where there are definitely some gods damned rules.


RULE ONE: “Know your fucking Growing Zone”

Well, I guess I’ve decided not to censor myself. Really the first chapter in any gardening book should contain a guide on how to find your growing zone and what that means. This is critical knowledge to having a good time growing plants outside. If you’re here to read about maintaining an indoor herb garden, you can fuck off. Plants are meant to be grown outside. They love it. In fact, it’s where they thrive naturally. No kidding!

Besides, there are plenty of existing books and blogs that discuss the steps of lying to plants about their surroundings (ie, growing them indoors.) Below is a picture that will help you to identify your Growing Zone/Plant Hardiness Zone. Comment with your zone! SHOUT OUT TO MY SPROUTS IN ZONE 8 WOT WOT!

Image result for usda growing zones united states

I fondly copied and pasted this from the USDA’s own website at: