Garden Check-In

Dear Liza,

We are now in June, with cool mornings and bright warm afternoons. Everything in my vegetable plot is up and growing.

Most of the tomatoes are as tall as their cages, both dahlias are up, the squash and pumpkins are well, and the lettuces continue to save us a fortune on salads.

I got an email this week from the people in charge of the community gardens, asking that I tidy up my plot. It is growing well, they said, but the mint along the fence was getting out of hand.

They were right, so I spent a tiring hour pulling and tugging and getting very minty-fresh! The fence was neater, for sure…. But not as pretty, in my opinion.

I also put in six new radicchio starts we got from the Portland Nursery. It was such a hot day I soaked the ground, put them in, and then moved the ladder sun screen over to give some shade until they get settled in.

It looks silly but does the job. Good luck, little lettuce dudes.

By 2:30 the edges were clear, new plants in, and everything thoroughly watered. I piled all the weeds and miscellaneous trash in my red wagon and headed home, sweaty but victorious.

Summer wears me out, but it sure is fun!


Grandma Judy

All the Gardens

Dear Liza,

I started the other day in the vegetable garden, giving everything a water, writing in my new Journal and reading “A Year in Provence.” The temperature was predicted to be in the 90s, so I got started early.

Later, after watching some how-to videos for courage and direction, I wired and trimmed my larch in the Hundred Acre Wood. It was getting too lanky and needed some shape. Bonsai are always a slow work in progress, it helps me exercise my patience.

I had a rest and got up to make dinner, and then Auntie Bridgett and I headed out for a bike ride! The weather is pleasant in the evening, with the sun filtered through the trees. We rode to Ladd’s Addition, where I helped Auntie Katie plant her new Rhododendron.

He is a ‘Tall Timber’ Rhododendron and she has named him Barney because he’s going to be six feet tall and purple.

Life gets very full in the summer! I’ll keep you posted on all the adventures.


Grandma Judy

Warming Up!

Dear Liza,

We are predicted to have a heat wave in all the western states this coming week, so I headed down to Portland Nursery to gear up! The whole place was very full of happy people. I hunted for a tiny Japanese maple for my bonsai Hundred Acre Wood, but the ones they had were way too big. They did have this extra-large bonsai, called a Penjing. But still no tiny maple for me.

I did find five cherry tomato plants and six lettuce starts, and walked them home. I put them on our balcony to be safe from the predicted thunderstorms.

By then it was noon, so Auntie Bridgett and I had the first-of-many lunches on the balcony, sharing our space with Mouse, the veggies, and whatever neighbors strolled by. When the storms were taken out of the forecast, I hauled the new plants to the Blair Community Garden and put them in.

It was a happy, sweaty, exhausting hour, for sure. But it was what I have been waiting for since March! Getting my hands in dirt is always so satisfying.

Now I need to rig some sort of sun shade to protect my baby lettuces from the upcoming 90 degree heat.

It’ll work out. It always does.

Grandma Judy

A Soggy Start

Dear Liza,

Well, I finally gave in. Even though it is still very rainy, and more than a little chilly, I took my little red wagon and walked down to Portland Nursery to get some starts for my vegetable garden.

I wore my coat, scarf, hat and gloves just as I have all winter. But I wanted to get started!

The nursery still had their tomatoes in the greenhouse, so I let them wait until later. I got a small set of red oak leaf lettuce from Planetwise. Their green oak leaf did very well for me last year. I also picked up some Early Yellow Prolific squash and Sweetie Pie pumpkin seed packets.

I saved the receipt from the nursery. I’ll try and keep a running total of what all the ‘free’ veggies cost! The seed packets got wet in my soggy pocket, so I pulled out a long plastic trough, planted them , and put them out by the side of the garage. They’ll have a week or so to sprout before going in the plot.

Once I walked back to the Blair Community Garden, I set the red lettuce in the shelter of the Camellia next door to wait for some drier weather (predicted for Sunday).

I noticed that the lady next to me, who has taken over the badly neglected plot, is already taking steps to make it perfect. I am very impressed.

Other folks are preparing in their own ways…. Some have cover crops still doing well, and others are beginning to turn back the burlap. Spring is soggy, but summer is coming!


Grandma Judy

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