May 30

The first strawberry of the year. (I didn’t share.)
Green beans and carrots are coming up!
Romaine and iceberg is growing well. Brussels sprouts and more broccoli planted.
I love lilacs. We have three different varieties planted so we have blooms for about six weeks every spring.
Since I hope to be growing stuff in the cold frame for most of the year, I didn’t want to have to walk in the mud so I put in stepping stones today. The bright green plants on the right is creeping Jenny. In front of the cold frame is Wooly Thyme. It should fill in around the bricks completely and can be walked on. 
The asparagus is really growing. I had no idea this is what it looks like when you don’t pick it.
Lots of wee peppers and tomatillos. 
The weigelas in full bloom.
Blurry photo but I’m really liking how this bed is filling in. 
The cilantro is going crazy. Chives blooming on the left.






Saturday Spruce Up

Two summers ago I put in a small bed of sedum around them mailbox. The ones right next to the street didn’t survive. I’m pretty sure the salt the village uses on our streets killed them so I’m leaving that spot empty.

A friend of mine moved into a new house and is changing out her landscaping. She offered rocks for free so we made two trips and loaded up the van. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with them, but I ended up doubling the size of this bed and putting rocks all the way around. There are a few more from our favorite island on Birch Lake, but the rest are from her.

That tiny tree is an oak that the village planted last year to replace our ash tree. It’s ridiculously small and since oaks grow very slowly, we probably won’t be around to see it as a proper tree, but at least there’s something there.

I added more sedum from the nursery as well as more stonecrop from the Master Gardener’s sale. The flowers are all annuals. I’m hoping that miracle starter helps them perk up a bit. They’re looking pretty anemic.


Happy Mother’s Day!

After a lovely breakfast in bed served by the kids, I had just enough time to plant tomatoes before we had to shower and go to Emma and Andy’s orchestra concert.

This is a new variety of Roma tomato. Can’t wait to see if it lives up to the hype. 
After digging a hole, I add a pinch of ground up eggshells. The calcium helps prevent blossom end rot.
Fill the hole with water so the roots get a good drink right away.


I remove most of the leaves and plant two thirds of the stem underground. This allows the plant to grow even more roots and makes them stronger and healthier. 
All planted. I also trim any leaves to keep the from touching the ground to prevent any diseases from spreading to the plant. 
I’ve never used this before, but my dad swears by this when transplanting so I’m giving it a try this year. 

Quick tour of the rest of some of the garden.

The Romaine is doing well. Can’t wait for the first Caesar salad. 
The iceberg lettuce is starting to form heads. Doesn’t this look different that the white crap you buy at the store. I might be kidding myself, but I bet this is a little healthier. 
The asparagus is up! I planted dry roots a couple of weeks ago. 
Lots and lots of peppers! 



Alien Weed

This thistle-like thing is gigantic. I have no idea what it is and we’ve never had one growing in the yard until late last summer when it showed up in strawberries. I dug it out, but couldn’t pull the root so I chopped it off below the surface. It started growing again this spring. With so much going on getting the garden ready and making a couple of unplanned trips to Iowa in April, I didn’t get it to when it was small.

Neil dug it out with a spade, but not before I took this photo to document this alien thing. For perspective, that mess fence is 15 inches tall! See what I mean? HUGE! He dug down about a 8 inches and then I doused the root with Round Up. I’m normally not a fan, but I keep it on hand to deal with stubborn thistles, nightshade vine and the little mulberry trees that pop up along the fence. (Thanks a lot, birds!)

If you know what this thing is, please let me know in the comments. This is our 12th spring in this house and it’s a new one to me.



Cold Frame

Since I didn’t post while the cold frame was in progress, we’ll just pretend that I intended to do this as one big post instead of in progress.

I am so excited to have a cold frame. I have wanted one since I started reading gardening blogs, but I wasn’t sure where we would put it in the yard and I didn’t want to spend money on the windows. Since I scored windows from the farmhouse, it finally seemed like the time to convince Neil I “needed” one.

We pulled out some bushes on the south side of the house and the frame fits perfectly between the stoop to the laundry room door and one of the air conditioner units. I have a few things I want to do before it’s 100% finished, but it’s usable as is now. Neil replaced the broken glass in the painted frame so I need to paint the caulk so it matches the other windows because OCD. I’m adding stepping stones in front of it and planting some sort of ground cover. We have to come up with some kind of brace to prop the windows open on warm days.

Anyway, without further ado, the cold frame process…

I decided to go with barn red paint just for fun.


Apparently I didn’t take photos of the frame as Neil was building it, so here it is all painted.
The inside is painted white to reflect light back onto the plants growing inside.
Unfortunately the wind came up while I was inside and blew over the window as it was drying. Luckily, we have extras. 
The final product with the windows installed. It’s on south side of the house so it’s sheltered and gets sun 90% of the day.

Theoretically, I should be able to extend the growing season by a month or two with this. Imagine fresh lettuce and basil for Christmas dinner!

Lizzie’s Garden

For years, I’ve driven past Lizzie’s Garden to and from the salon where I get my hair done. I was driving by today in the rain and decided on a whim to stop and check it out. From the street it doesn’t look like much, but inside was impressive! It’s huge and they had a lot of unique flowers that you don’t see at the big box stores. I didn’t really need anything so I just wandered around and looked, but I will definitely be back when I finally get around to changing the front landscaping.

I’ve never heard of Mezoo, but I like it. Once I’m done digging out the bigger bed by the mailbox, I’ll be back to get some of this. 
So many pretty colors. 
Pretty geraniums and lots of varieties and the hanging baskets were amazing! 
It’s bigger on the inside!

Nursery Trip

Neil and I made the trek to Woldhuis Farms today. It sounds a little crazy to drive over an hour (one-way) to a nursery, but this one is definitely worth the trip! Not only are the prices absolutely amazing, the selection is unreal. I wish we would have taken more photos throughout, but I was too busy obsessing about what to buy. This is the second year we’ve gone and I was smarter this time. I had some idea of what I wanted to buy and I knew to grab it when I saw it because it’s a long walk back if you forget something. If you go, make a list and plan to spend at least a couple of hours. We were pretty focused on what we wanted and we were still there three hours. OH! And don’t go on a Saturday. Apparently the crowds are huge.

Some of the things we bought today:

  • Peppers. Lots and lots of peppers.
  • Tomatoes and tomatillos.
  • Squash
  • Blueberry bushes
  • Basil
  • Sage
  • Flowers for the front of the house (Coleus, Wave petunias)
  • Sedum for the mailbox be



Busy Weekend

Did the spring clean up in the front yard and flower beds while Neil pulled out the weigelas on the side of the house for the new project. I definitely got the easy job. We had to make an emergency run to Home Depot after he broke the pick axe trying to dig out the stumps. Any trip to there are this time of year can only mean one thing: plants! This trip was no exception. Despite not planning to plant yet, I couldn’t pass up the sale on early veggies and came home with two kinds of lettuce, broccoli, basil and a new variety of tomato.

While he finished digging out the stumps, I started scraping off several layers of what I’m sure was lead paint from the window frames. These windows were original to the farmhouse I grew up in, which was built in 1920. They were replaced when my parents remodeled the kitchen sometime around 1990. All of the other window sashes are original, although they replaced the exterior storm/screen windows while I was still a kid.

I’m painting the windows and since they’ll be outside, I’m not too concerned about perfection. The glass from the one on the left broke in two pieces on the drive back from Iowa. It should be an easy fix with some glazing caulk.

On Sunday I transplanted a bunch of the seedlings into cups so they can grow stronger roots until it’s time to plant outside, about another month in northern Illinois (zone 5).


Yes, I ran outside in my slippers last night to get a photo.

Neil also got the plastic up on the hoop house so the seedlings are now happily living in there. I also planted the lettuce and broccoli in there to get an early start. The basil is in pots and I’m already drooling over the idea of our first caprese salad.

Romaine at the top, broccoli on the right, iceberg lettuce on the bottom and three trays of tomatoes, broccoli and sesame plants. 
The hoop house.