Veggie Garden Update

Dear Liza,

All this crazy June sunshine has sure woken up my veggie allotment at Blair Community Garden! The main challenge now is keeping everything wet enough.

The legacy strawberries that grow at the edge of my allotment have made a lovely snack for me.

My row of radishes, started from seed on May 19, have finally started getting fat. For more than a month they have just been sitting there; not dead, but not thriving, either. Now the row is filling up and looking like a tiny red forest.

Bizarrely, the lettuce seeds I put in just six days ago are already sticking their heads up!

The organic cherry tomato transplants are taller than their cages and some have tiny yellow blossoms.

And my catnip is growing like mad, creating the delightful problem of having too much cat-druggy goodness for Mouse to share with Maggie, Hopey, BK, Ash, Richard and Doug, and all our other kitten friends.

Summer has arrived! All I can do now is chase it until fall.


Grandma Judy

Vegetable Garden Progress

Dear Liza,

This past week has been a combination of showers and sun, and the garden is definitely loving it.

I planted a bunch of seeds; carrots and radishes in parallel rows, pumpkins by the ladder, and zucchini by the trellis. The radishes are up already! I will need to thin them a bit. The carrots should be poking up soon.

I strung up some shiny old cds on string as a ’bird be gone’ and they seem to be working. I love this picture of Momma’s ant figure up on the ladder, guarding the garden! Momma always said that farmers and gardeners were the most superstitious people because they never knew what worked, or why, so they just tried everything!

Of course, all of life isn’t honey, as your Baba Alla says. The Delicata squash seedling got eaten down, like the cucumbers I put in before it. I will cross my fingers for the zucchini.

Auntie Bridgett’s dahlias seem to be happy, however. Their buds are opening as they get taller, and I look forward to lots of dahlias for the table this summer.


Grandma Judy

Finally, a Real Gardening Day! Part 1

Dear Liza,

Months ago, I decided to start my garden early this year. I thought I could outsmart the weather. I had squash and cucumber starts in my window in February!

Then came the wettest Spring on record, complete with an April 15th snowfall. My super-early transplants survived the snow but got eaten by wet-loving slugs and I ended up with nothing. Zip. Nada. Bupkis.

So much for rushing things.

But now it is mid-May, and weeks of mostly sunny weather are predicted. So, back to the nursery and we’ll try this again!

Fortunately, Portland Nursery is there for me. Auntie Bridgett drove me down and after getting side-tracked by cool sculptures and Fairy Moss, we picked out five different organic cherry tomato plants, a Delicata squash, some dahlias and a begonia.

We delivered them to the garden, went home for lunch, and back to the garden for the digging fun! More about that tomorrow.


Grandma Judy

Garden Journal in April

Dear Liza,

It has been a weird spring of snow, sun, wind, hail, and rain. I have tried to reflect this in my garden journal.

This is my favorite two-page spread, with April 10 showing the garden as it was that day, and the dramatic change wrought by the overnight snowfall. As my accuracy improves, I am capturing the details better.

Illustrating transparent containers is hard, but they have been an important part of this spring’s garden, sheltering my sprouts from two inches of historic April snow. The bits of sunshine during the day allowed the soil to capture some heat.

And now that the freezing temperatures seem to be gone, we have rain and more rain. I am hoping for resilient sprouts and just a few peeks of sun for the next week.

Fingers crossed!


Grandma Judy

Next Steps in the Garden

Dear Liza,

I am going by the vegetable garden just about every day now. I have even started keeping my gloves there, so when I stop by on a walk, I can dig and not get all muddy.

Here is a picture of the basil plant we just put in. I am hoping to make pesto this summer, so it needs to get growing!

One of my latest jobs has been weeding the south parkway of a pretty (but destructive) weed called Lesser Celadine. It comes up in spring, with shiny round leaves and pretty yellow daisy-like flowers. It fills in areas where “nothing else will grow.”

The problem is, the reason nothing else will grow there is that Lesser Celadine had small tuber-like roots that actually poison the soil, so nothing else CAN grow there. That way, the ground is clear, the next spring, for more Lesser Celadine to grow. To pull them out, you need to get all the roots. It is tiresome but satisfying work.

Once I had enough weeds to fill my trash bag, I headed home. It was even warm enough to enjoy lunch out in the balcony!


Grandma Judy

Back to Brunch, and a Stop by the Garden

Dear Liza,

During the Covid shutdown, we were very careful about going out to eat. We ate mostly outside, or got take away. But Saturday Brunch IN is one of the joys of living in Portland. So, since we are all vaccinated and the infection numbers here in Portland are super low, we took a short drive up to The Fleur de Lis, a delightful French bakery in the Hollywood neighborhood.

A pair of musicians were playing a guitar and mandolin as we got there, reminding me of Laurel and Milton playing in their old coffeehouse, The Key of C. The music was lovely and felt like Weekend, with a capital W. It was past lunchtime, so we had quiche and grilled cheese, and Grandpa had a fine cinnamon roll. It felt like ”The Before Times.”

We stopped by Trader Joe’s on the way home from the bakery, picking up things that are better or cheaper there. Raisins, nuts, frozen fish, and wine filled our basket. I even picked up a small basil plant for the garden.

Once we were home, I grabbed the basil and headed up to the vegetable garden. I ran into old friends Morgan and Abbie, who are almost finished with their early childhood teacher training, excited to be out and doing the good work.

I was happy to see my transplants doing well and getting bigger. The lettuces look so pretty next to the tiny violets that come up on their own. You can see the crushed egg shells I use as a mineral supplement for the soil.

And while we were playing in the garden, the fellow came over from the Hospital next door, and turned on the water! Hooray! Last year it wasn’t turned on until late April, which made watering the plants a long, heavy haul.

Right next to my plot are these tiny grape hyacinths, another set of volunteers who make the garden such a joy to be in.

Spring, right? Fantastic!


Grandma Judy

This Year’s Garden Journal

Dear Liza,

Last year I kept a garden journal, partly to take notes about the garden’s progress, and partly to have fun making art about the garden. I have found it very useful to look back at last year’s journal to inform this year’s garden.

Last year I didn’t pay enough attention to how much sun each part of my plot got, and ended up stunting my tomatoes in the shade while baking my lettuce in full sun. This year I have corrected these mistakes.

I have also gotten my plants in more than a month earlier than last year, since I ran out of season with so many veggies still on the vines. These insights were all possible because of my Journal.

I am working in my journal already this year, recording the locations of my terraces and tomato cages, noting what I planted and when. Since I don’t like painting or drawing while perched on a stool or sitting on the wet ground, I do my journal pictures from photos I take.

That means that every time I go to the garden and take a picture of something new, I can paint a new picture in my garden journal. For example, today’s picture of my garden Guardian, Mlesi, perched on my cucumber trellis.
I am trying to get more accurate in turning photos into watercolors, but it is a slow process.


Grandma Judy

They’re IN!

Dear Liza,

This week we had our first really warm, sunny day. I took advantage of the almost 60 degree weather and took all those seedlings I have been nurturing in the kitchen window up to their new home.

I loaded them, along with the garden tool bag from Auntie Bridgett’s momma Donna and an onion that had been in the pantry too long, into my red wagon and walked the two blocks up to the Blair Community Garden.

First I pulled out all the fallen camellia blossoms, which are very pretty, even when they are in the way.

I decided where the plants would go weeks ago when I put in the terraces and supports. Now I just needed to do the stooping and digging work to get them in the dirt. Donna’s nice skinny trowel was just the right size!

I put in the seedling lettuces on the east side, where they will get some shade from the camellia bush. The cucumbers are also on that side, but they will climb up the white trellis and get more sun as the season progresses.

The zucchinis are planted under the ladder, so they will have something strong to climb on and keep the zukes off the ground. I will add pumpkins later in the spring.

When everything was planted, I packed up the wagon with the empty pots and droopy camellias and just sat there for a while, enjoying the warm spring sun. I listened to the birds fluttering, people walking by, and far off trains.

I thought about Momma and how much joy her garden gave her. We should all be so lucky as to have something that makes us that happy.


Grandma Judy

Terracing the Allotment

Dear Liza,

Saturday morning was our last sunny day for a week, and I headed out for a walk around the park to enjoy it. But on the way, I got distracted.

Bill lives right next door to my allotment in the Blair Community Garden and had put out some old cedar fencing to give away. As we chatted, I realized that they were exactly the right size for the terraces I had been thinking about for my garden. With Bill’s blessing, I picked up four and, abandoning the park, set to work.

Fetching a small trowel from the shed to save my hands, I started in.

I knew right where to dig. These terraces will make flat areas within my sloping plot, making it easier to water properly.

I folded up two burlap sacks to use for narrow pathways for when things start getting Big and Green, with the lavender and cat mint sitting pretty to show me where things can fit in between.

The rain started after I got home, and it is supposed to continue for several days. I’m glad I got this piece of hardscaping done. Now, once the rain lets up, I can put seedlings and seeds in and get this growing season really popping!


Grandma Judy

And the Planting Madness Begins…

Dear Liza,

On Monday, our weather is predicted to get above, and stay above, freezing. That means it’s time to start planting!

First, I watered the peat pots from Portland Nursery and planted zucchini, cucumber, pumpkin, and sunflower seeds. They are sitting in the sunniest window in the house and should be ready to transplant in a few weeks.

I went up to the Blair Community Garden and worked on the soil a bit, breaking up the clumps. This will be an ongoing project as the soil dries out enough to crumble.

Then, using what I learned last summer, I laid out the hardscaping for my vegetable garden. Tomatoes, pumpkin and squash will be on the side that gets the most sun, and the lettuces, radishes and carrots will be in the partly shady bit.

Pumpkins and zucchini will be planted by the ladder for support off the ground, and the cucumbers can use the slanted trellis. Tomatoes will have five cages to climb up.

The next day, I did my ’service’ hours, weeding, then laying burlap and bark mulch down on the pathways. This keeps them from getting muddy and makes everything look fresh.

This is going to be a busy summer… once it starts.


Grandma Judy