Finally, a Real Gardening Day! Part 2

Dear Liza,

After lunch, I gathered up all my supplies. Gardening tools, several pounds of ground up egg shells, seeds, and lettuce seedlings I started in an egg carton all got piled in a box, and off I went.

The egg shells got worked into the soil for the tomatoes and sprinkled all around.

The delicate lettuce starts got planted while still in their cardboard cribs.

The five different organic cherry tomatoes got planted in their cages, in the sunniest part of the garden.

As I was working, a neighborhood cat (complete with collar and bell) came by to visit my catnip plant! She was very relaxed, like she was in her favorite pub. She barely even noticed me.

The ’shadier’ side of the garden, closest to the tall camellia bush, got sown with carrot, zucchini and radish seeds, so doesn’t look like much at the moment. I will keep you posted.

The dahlias got put between the sunflowers and the catnip, and boy, is that a full garden! Look at all that green! I am very pleased and will go back early tomorrow to make sure everything is okay. (I have learned not to be too optimistic!)

Love,

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.

Love,

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.

Love,

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.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Late Summer Magic

Dear Liza,

Welcome to August! I can’t believe this summer is racing past so quickly.

The heat wave here in Portland has sort of upended my usual way of doing things. Since it is so hot in the afternoon, I go to the vegetable plot early to water and harvest the zucchinis, and to check on the tomatoes and pumpkins.


Some days it feels like a race to harvest and eat as fast as they are growing. My gardener friend Tonya has clued us in on how to freeze zucchini to use later, when it isn’t too hot to bake.

Inside the house, Auntie Bridgett’s Sundew (which she bought to eat the fungus flies…. Don’t get me started) is blooming! The perfect, delicate spiral is so pretty!


At Laurelhurst Park, the local Faerie Folk have been out improving their summer homes.


Morning Glories are creating some accidental beauty on telephone poles. They follow the spiral growth model, climbing around and around.

And last but definitely not least, the sunflower that has made this dead chestnut tree its new home. The tree was fatally pruned to a height of about ten feet. I am glad it is having a useful afterlife.

We should all be so fortunate.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Garden Journal Update

Dear Liza,

Last year, my friend Ruth Inman taught me how to make art journals from scratch, out of boxes and glue and scraps. She was so enthusiastic and clear in her directions, and the the supplies so cheap, I couldn’t NOT do it.

So I made one. A saltine cracker box, some art papers from Auntie Bridgett, and voila, a journal. I decided to use it to write (and maybe even paint) about our new garden plot.


And I have been working in it ever since. Some days I just write what’s happening, but I usually will go back and add some water color, to make it prettier. It also lets me show the weather and plants better.

And I have really enjoyed it. Since the Journal is not for anyone but me, I am not intimidated about not being perfect. I work in pencil from my photos of the things in the garden, Watercolor, then ink with a waterproof Micron pen.

As it turns out, this is going to be an accurate record of my garden! It will be useful next year, when I am deciding what to plant and where to put it. It will remind me of the little details that are easily forgotten. And I will get to enjoy my pictures, as well!

I am happy to be Art-ing, gardening, and eating.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Garden Update

Dear Liza,

I have had some real progress in the garden this week!

The zucchini plants are still getting bigger. I wonder when they will start to take over the plot! The tomato plants I put in, from the nursery and from my windowsill, are still alive and getting taller. The carrots are getting taller, as you can see in the picture. But it has been weeks and weeks since I planted them, and I felt the need to know what was going on under the ground. I pulled a medium sized one up!

It is teeny tiny, even for a miniature carrot. But it tastes perfectly carrot-y and gives me hope for a future harvest. I will keep watering and hoping.

The strawberries planted by a previous gardener are coming ripe, but up until now, the squirrels have gotten to them before I did. Not today! Hooray! They were wonderful.

The pumpkin seedling is standing tall, up to about four inches so far. It has a little mound all to itself by the miniature lavender plant.

And most surprising, the replacement radish seeds I put in just last week are coming up! I spaced them out better, so they will have more room to grow than my last crowded bunch. Keep your fingers crossed!

I love having the garden just up the street to play in. Some days I go for a quick stop to water, and others I take a snack and have a nice visit.
Love,

Grandma Judy

Late Spring Heat!

Dear Liza,

It has been HOT in Portland!

I went out picking up trash with the Adopt One Block folks this past weekend. In an hour and a half I collected about 20 pounds of old masks, cigarette butts and beer cans. It is very satisfying to make a part of my city better. But by the time I got home, I was a very sweaty Grandma Judy.

In the garden, the plants are reacting to the heat by charging out of the ground. Our only difficulty seems to be keeping them watered! I will be heading over today to transplant some cucumbers, pumpkins and tomatoes, and I will make sure to flood the plot.

To protect my newly planted babies from wily crows, I did some crafting. Using cardboard boxes used to sell cherry tomatoes, netting from avocados, and shipping tape, I made cages. I will place them over the little ones and hope for the best.

I am hoping the clever crows don’t just lift them off and fly away!!!

All tucked in safe and sound….

Love,

Grandma Judy