Monthly Archives: May 2011

Whether you garden or not, farmer’s markets are a joy!

The Ellisville Farmer’s Market at Bluebird Park, opens Thursday evening, June 2.  It will be open 4-7 pm, rain or shine, through the summer.  Not sure when the season ends; probably late September-early October.  It’s always great to have another farmer’s market open . When it’s only 1.5 miles from your home, it’s almost like having a worry free garden in your back yard.  There are so many reasons to attend a nearby farmer’s market .  The atmosphere is always festive – there’s typically live music and some activity specifically for children.  Conversations with various vendors usually result in the discovery of a new recipe , knowledge of  a cultivar, or some other fun fact.  Two of my favorite vendors will be returning to this venue this year.     Karl Burgart of Healthy Harvest Gardens  sells produce, provides garden consultations and sells organic Greek olive oil and handmade olive oil soap.  Mike and Carol Brabo of Vesterbrook Farms sell eggs, turkeys, lamb and organic produce.   I’m looking forward to visiting with the vendors again this year and enjoying their organic produce.    Even though I have gardens of my own, I can’t possibly  grow the variety or quantity that I can find at the market.

Yesterday  Eric and I  finished mulching the areas around my raised beds at the church garden.  He made two trips to a landscape supplier, hauling cedar mulch in the bed of his truck.  Then he moved the mulch from the truck in the parking lot down to the garden in our wheelbarrow.   I had the easy job of laying the landscape fabric and spreading the mulch.

Church community beds after final mulching

5-24-11 harvest - chard, broccoli greens, kale, radishes and an onion

While I was there, I harvested some more greens and a few remaining radishes.

I also added more soil around the potato plants that I had planted a few weeks ago.

5-24-11 Swiss Chard – love the color!

Today was another day of severe weather – no gardening.  Just moving  plants on the deck  from open to covered space for protection in case of the predicted hail.  Fortunately, we didn’t experience any bad weather here – some lightning and rain, but no hail, no tornadoes, and no excessive winds.  Hallelujah!


Summer is on it’s way! Last night at 8:15 pm I saw my first lightning bugs!

I have always loved lightning  bugs, aka fire flies.  As a child in Texas, we entertained ourselves for hours on hot summer nights, chasing lightning bugs, putting them in mason jars and watching them blink.

  (Image courtesy of

Watching lightning bugs and blowing soap bubbles are two activities that bring out the child in me.   For many years, the appearance of lightning bugs was synonymous with the arrival of summer.  Over time, as an adult, I realized that they seemed to have disappeared from my summer evenings.  When we moved to a home on a half acre lot adjacent to 25 acres of vacant land in Dalworthington Gardens, TX, I was excited to rediscover these delightful beetles.  At some point, probably about 1990, we suffered with fleas from our cat going in and out and I had our yard sprayed.  Suddenly it seemed that the fireflies disappeared from our yard.  This experience  led me to re-examine my acceptance of common pesticides and herbicides.  Since then, I’ve reached the point where I don’t use any of these garden chemicals.

Since moving to Missouri in 2006, the appearance of fire flies each May has marked the beginning of summer, with dinner enjoyed on the deck many evenings.  I was excited to witness the reappearance of our lightning bugs, especially in light of the fact that we were under tornado watch 323, and knowing that Joplin, MO had just been hit by a tornado.  Waking this morning  to the developing story of rescue and recovery in Joplin, I appreciate these simple joys of life even more.     Looking at NDC historical data on tornadoes, there have been an average of 8 F2-F5 tornadoes each year in Missouri.  I seems like the state has already had that many to date this year.

Is it really May? Feels more like November.

Today it really does feel like November.  Wish I could share the rain with those still suffering from drought.  I finally moved the transplants from the covered deck to the open.  I had to do it in the rain, but they looked so pathetic I felt like I had to do something.   Hopefully the Algaflash feed and rain will help revive them.

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I don’t know what I’ll do if my North Face windbreaker ever gives out.  Although it was soaked; I stayed dry inside it.  Did you ever have a piece of clothing that held so many memories that you’d miss it if it were gone?  This jacket fits that description.  Robert gave it to me years ago – probably 5 or 10 years before our 21 year old son was born.  Here’s an image of our son Eric and me sitting on a rock at Estes Park, CO when he was about 18 months old.

1991 - with Eric at lake, Estes Park, CO

And there are many more memories of hikes and vacations, wearing this jacket.  Memories of Boy Scout camp outs, standing around the fire, knowing I could go home and wash the smoke and grit out of the jacket and it would be good as new.

Initiation by fire (or ice) – seedlings straight to the real world

May 11, the day before we left for the  wedding in Texas,  I transplanted tomato seedlings – again.  I replaced the broken Yellow Trifele plant with another one almost the same size.   All the tomato seedlings were getting gangly and desperate to be in the ground or at least in bigger pots.  I transplanted them and left them under the covered deck in hopes that the water in the pots would be enough to keep them until we return.  Like I said, initiation by fire.   It was 90 degrees on Wednesday May 11 and humid.  I changed clothes 3 times!  First to clean up enough to take the animals to the kennel after working with transplants for a couple of hours.   When I returned from the kennel, I still had native plants and herbs  to plant.  It’s a challenge when the herb sale is the last weekend of April, the native plant sale is the first weekend in May, and all the community gardening activity is finally in full swing.  After walking down the hill  through the tall grass to plant several plants, including the pipe vine next to the ladder,  I needed to take a quick shower before heading out for the last errands  and last watering at the two gardens.  I had a meeting at church at 6:30 so I had to come home and clean up, again, before leaving for the meeting.  We left the morning of May 12 for Texas, leaving my plants to fiend for themselves.

5-11-11 Transplanting tomato plant, again

Yellow trifele replacing the broken YT plant.
Friends said it was cold and rainy here in Missouri while we were in Texas.   May 16, the evening we returned, the overnight temperature was 37 degrees.  This prompted me to change my  post title to include ” ice”.  The weather has been so variable – 90 degrees, followed by cold, wind and rain, then repeat.   I was hoping to finally water and move the transplants from the shaded deck area  today but it is currently raining and 59 degrees.    Yesterday I made it by the WildWest Community garden and the church gardens.  The tomato plants at the WildWest garden definitely suffered from the cold and the winds.  I harvested more radishes, green onions, a few beet greens, a little spinach and about 11 oz of Swiss chard at the church community garden.

Radish harvest, 5-18-11 (6 red, 5 white)

Swiss chard, green onions, spinach and beet greens 5-18-11

The chard, broccoli, onions,  shallots and potatoes at the church garden are looking good.   The Waltham broccoli was planted April 7, the chard planted April 2, and the potatoes planted 4-17.




April 20, I planted 3 Yukon Gold seed potatoes in a tub on  our deck.   After covering initially, I have “hilled” them on 3 different occasions – the last May 11.  Basically I am covering with soil until the leaves are covered.

April 20

5-18-11 Potatoes after "hilling" 3 times

I am trying to do the same with the potato plants I have planted at the church community garden.

If it stops raining, I’ll try to move the transplants and hopefully document their status.

Reflecting on my vegetable gardening so far this year, I have concluded a few things:

1.  Swiss chard and radishes are easy to grow.  The challenge is convincing your family that they’re worth eating.

2.  The weather can drive you crazy if you let it.  Gardening is more fun in the shade.  Unfortunately vegetables really like the sun.

3.  Starting transplants from seeds is only a small part of the battle.  Actually getting them planted at the right time and keeping them alive long enough to reach production is a challenge I have yet to meet.

Dancing Woman’s Gardening Archives

Dancing Woman

A preview of future garden bounty

I’m visiting my mom in north Texas and I wanted to share a few images of her backyard garden.  Fortunately she isn’t plagued by the many pests we have in Missouri – no deer leeping over her fence.  She has always had a cavalier attitude about planting – just dig a hole, dump the plant in and cover it, add a bucket of water and be sure to talk to the plant.  You’ll see from the images of her flowers and vegetables that she must be on to something. 

Grandmother's roses

My paternal grandmother once had flower beds full of these roses.  Many years ago, when I admired them, she offered me a cutting.  I timidly accepted, but asked her how I could possibly get it to grow.  She said, “Just stick it in the dirt.  It’ll grow!”  I could hardly believe it, but I was pleasantly surprised when I successfully had my own rose bush a year or so later.  Years passed, I moved, my sister started a bush from one of the cuttings. 
Now my mom has joined the cycle and has several of these bushes in her yard.  True to the Southern Passalong tradition,  this plant just keeps on giving.
My mother also has a beautiful clematis vine and an amaryllis that was a gift from her identical twin. 

Mother's Amaryllis 5-13-11


Mother's clematis 5-13-11

My favorite image is of green tomatoes.  Mother says she can almost smell these tomatoes, they look so good!  This is one of the 50 cent plants she bought and planted directly into the ground as a tiny transplant.  I take this as a sign of hope for the many plants I have recently planted – most without hardening off, just offering some words of encouragement to each plant as it faces the challenge of our ever changing Missouri weather – torrents of rain, howling winds, followed by torpid days with no hint of  a breeze  and  temperatures in the 90s.  

Mother's tomatoes, 5-13-11


Hurrying as fast as I can . . .

Yesterday I spent part of the day shopping for a dress to wear to the outdoor wedding coming up this weekend in Texas.  It was also trying to rain, so I really couldn’t get much done outside.  I purchased 12 more bags of cedar mulch and took to the church community garden.  I didn’t have room for the wheelbarrow so I ended up carrying one bag at a time from the car to the bed.  You can see that some of the mulch is dark – ie, wet.  When I carried the 6 bags down the day before,  they were dry and I carried them down 2 at a time.  It’s a trade off – when I bought the 6 bags, I picked them out, loaded them into my car at the store.  When I bought the 12 bags, I paid for them and had them loaded from outside stock, which of course was wet.  I probably still need 8 – 10 bags to finish the second bed, so I’ll probably try to load dry bags from inside the store.

5-10-11 North church bed mulched, south bed mulch in progress

I worked about 2 hours at the church beds and about 30 minutes at Wild West bed.  I was soaked and covered in mulch by the time I left the church beds.  It was about 88 degrees, mostly overcast, but so humid that sweat was pouring down my face and onto my glasses.  I know some of my friends may not believe that women “sweat”, but I guarantee this was not a “glow”.  Nothing like high humidity and still air combined with a little work.  Perhaps it bears repeating Ahmed Kathrada’s quote:  “People who have wild ideas about how to run the earth ought to start with a small garden”.  It’s amazing how easy it is to underestimate the amount of work involved.  Which brings me to the importance of commitment.   Jodi Smedley is obviously committed to the success of the WildWest Community garden.  When I arrived at the Y garden a few minutes before 5, she and Rebecca were hauling dirt from the south of the garden to the newest beds on the north end of the garden on their personal time.  Jodi has been working tirelessly and cheerfully on this project along with others that I’m sure she would list but unfortunately I only know the names of a few – Julie, Rebecca, Michael, Deanna.

After getting home about 5:45, we played around a few minutes with empty water bottles and methods for watering my plants while I’m gone.  I purchased one Ferry-Morris ceramic watering spike, but at $4 each, I’m looking for a cheaper solution.

Ceramic watering spike I’m mainly concerned about the container plants on the deck, since that’s where I have new tomato transplants.  I think I’m going to try just putting a small hole in the neck of  plastic bottles and pray I get the right flow rate.  On several forums people suggest using rope to wick water from a large container.  I might try that too.  I’ll definitely move to a shaded spot and group them together in mass to reduce the loss from wind.  It doesn’t help that they’re elevated on the second floor.

Earlier in the day we had decided to have BBQ for dinner since it had been ages.  We tried PM BBQ,  They have been open just over a year, next door to Wildhorse Grill on Long Road.  Pros:  Friendly staff, great brisket, chicken, pork and ribs, $2.75 beers.  (Between the two of us, we sampled all four meats).  Cons: small eating area, limited selection of beer, all disposables – paper boats, styrofoam cups, plastic utensils, bus your own table.  Personally not fond of creamy potato salad.  Smokehouse beans OK, will try sweet potato fries and cole slaw next time.

Another harvest day

Yesterday I worked at the two community gardens from 1:45 – about 5 pm.  I left WildWest Garden about 3 pm, spending as much time visiting as working. At the church garden, I harvested chard, radishes and just 3 green onions.

5-9-11 Radishes - Easter Egg Blend

5-9-11 Rainbow Chard, from north church bed

I began laying landscape fabric around the beds to reduce my exposure to ticks.  I only had 6 bags of cedar mulch, so I will have to complete this job later.  Also realized that I needed to cover a wider path in order not to totally mess up the path for mowing.  If I just mulch the space next to my beds, it leaves a section to be mowed that isn’t as wide as the mower.  Then I came home, feed the animals, put away the veggies and went to Lowes’s in order to pick up some organic potting soil.   I’ll use this soil for the tomato containers on the deck.  I discovered that the Hartmann’s Yellow Trifele in a container on the deck  blew over during our brief shower and subsequent strong winds.  The stem had cracked at the soil line.  Sigh.  It was almost two feet tall and had blossoms appearing.  The plan is to build a rolling platform with a trellis mounted to it; I should have placed a temporary trellis  for it.

I visited and found a recipe for sauteed radishes,  that also uses the greens.  I prepared that as a side dish for dinner.   We liked it; the greens were a beautiful green and the taste was like a mild turnip and greens dish.  The recipe can be found here,  (I’m still having trouble getting WP to insert a link – sorry).

Mother’s Day gardening

Yesterday was a beautiful Mother’s Day and a great day for gardening, although a little warm.  It was 86 degrees in the afternoon, with no breeze.  Robert and I went to the Wild West Community garden after church and installed the 7′ wide trellis.  It’s almost 6′ tall.   Robert pounded the 4′ rebar into the ground using our fence post driving tool we bought at an estate sale last year.  Another very handy tool.  The trellis spans 7′ of the north side of the bed which is 4′ x 14′.

Wild West Community garden 7' wide trellis

I replanted the golden oregano which was apparently pulled from the bed during the night by a critter.  The 7′ plastic net fence is now in place on 3 sides of the garden.  The west side is bordered by a shrub wall backed with a 4′ fence which is part of a fence around a play ground.   This is visible in the background of the above  image.

I also went to the church beds, watered, planted a few more potato plants and did a little weeding.

Church, north bed broccoli 5-8-11

The onions seem to be doing well and the Swiss chard is also looking good.

Church north bed, Swiss chard, 5-8-11

I haven’t had any takers for the seed potatoes.  I decided to plant a few in the church bed so I will have at least one of each variety that I purchased.  I planted Irish cobbler, French Fingerling (2), Red Norland, and Sangre in the south bed.  There are 3 potatoes planted in the north bed, but I need to  figure out what varieties because I didn’t fill out my chart when I was there.

Yukon gold and Sangre seed potatoes

My favorite quote today is something I saw on a U City garden group t-shirt a few days ago at the Native Plant Sale.  I found it online attributed to Ahmed Kathrada:  “People who have wild ideas about how to run the earth ought to start with a small garden”  .  So true.  Today we had a very brief storm that produced a lot of wind. Didn’t  think about my transplant, the Hartmann’s s yellow trifle that is planted in a container on the deck. The main branch broke at the soil line.  So much for months of nursing the transplants along in the basement.

Gardening on the home front

Worked Saturday about 5 1/2 hours, planting various transplants purchased at St. Louis Herb Society and the Native Plant Society.  Robert and I also spent a little while working on a trellis design.  We decided to pound 4′ rebar stakes into the ground and then slide 1/2″ EMT conduit over the rebar to secure.  The 1/2″  EMT will be bent and secured with a compression joint.   Robert bent the first 10′ EMT at 3′ so the Wild West trellis will be 7′ wide.  The remaining trellis frames need to be a precise dimension in order to fit inside the raised bed.

I also recently purchased a tool that is very handy.  Robert told me about it after I mentioned that I thought the least expensive solution for keeping the many containers from sitting directly on the deck would be square “trivets” constructed from equal length sections of PVC, joined by street elbows.

PVC "trivet" to sit under flower pot

The tool is a ratcheting PVC cutter.  They cost about $13 at the local big box hardware store.

Ratcheting PVC cutter

It does a great job of cutting through PVC, up to 1″.  My “trivets” are 1/2″ PVC and with very little effort you can cut the PVC and then slip on the street elbows to complete a trivet.   It’s easy to measure  each length the same as the first cut by simply resting the initially cut piece on the blade of the cutter and closing the jaws down on the piece to be cut.

Making sure subsequent cuts result in equal lengths

PVC tubing shown in ratchet cutting tool