All posts in garden

seedling season

I said a few weeks ago that this stay-at-home spring feels a lot like the first few months as a homeowner. A lot of this is because that was the first — and last — year that I tried starting my garden from seeds instead of purchasing seedlings from a nursery. As soon as my employer told me, in mid-March, that we’d be working remotely until at least the end of April, I thought “well … I would finally be home to water seeds!”

And so, friends, I jumped in with basically no plan. I visited the neighborhood hardware store the weekend before Minnesota’s stay-at-home order went into effect, and I grabbed a bunch of seed packets, seedling trays and a grow light. It wasn’t until a month in that I realized my grow light situation was probably only 1/10 of what the seeds really needed … like I said, no plan. But it made me feel better about giving them a try, since spring weather in Minnesota means we don’t plant outdoors until between Mother’s Day and Memorial Day.

I’m excited about the herbs and veggies for sure, but I’m especially hopeful about the perennials. Buying a packet of seeds for $3 could yield dozens of plants that otherwise cost $15 or more apiece from a garden center. I know that’s because they’re time-intensive to nurture, so we’ll see if it works out in my favor by the end of the summer. But if I can fill my side yard with bee- and butterfly-friendly flowers that will come back year after year, I’ll be happppppy.

To be continued …

planted 4/5: lavender, green onion, oregano, lettuce, sweet basil, genovese basil, chives, red bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers; perennials: soapwort, black eyed susans, shasta daisies, coneflowers, butterfly flowers, hollyhock; annuals: cosmos, coleus, poppies
week 1 | the winner for first to sprout is … cosmos! three days!
weeks 1-3 | grow lamp and west-facing sunlight in the upstairs guest bedroom
week 4 | transition to the three-season porch
week 4 | everything has germinated except the soapwort and coneflowers

2014 garden

Some of you have noticed I took a bit of a break from blogging this spring. Between work travel and some family things to attend to, I really haven’t been home — much less, cooking, crafting, gardening and fixing! But I managed to get a few things in the ground recently, and despite the torrential rains we’ve been getting, they’re doing great so far.

It’s going to be a low-key summer for the garden this year. I took out some trees in the backyard last November, and I am looking forward to seeing how that changes the light in the garden. A year of observing and waiting, and maybe next year I’ll make some big changes. Oh wait, you thought that was a metaphor for life instead of my garden plan? Funny…

Parsley, Basil, Lemon Verbena, Chives, Peppers and Raspberries on the north side of the garden

lfitbc garden 2014_1

Mint (three varieties), Thyme (two varieties), Oregano, Cilantro, Sage and Tomatoes on the southeast side

lfitbc garden 2014_2 lfitbc garden 2014_3

Annuals in the whiskey barrel out front — a purple and coral theme this year, which I’m loving so so much

lfitbc garden 2014_5

Some beautiful Bleeding Hearts that have spread out in the front garden beds

lfitbc garden 2014_4


harvest at the farmhouse

It’s been both a great season in the garden and a meh season. From a late start planting to another drought, my grass and trees are struggling while my squirrels get the best tomatoes! But this summer’s growing experience did convince me it’s time to cut down a few trees in the back to allow more sunlight in the garden. And my lawn has looked great most of the summer thanks to the fancy new mower/mulcher! You win some you lose some.

Here are a few pics from this weekend’s casual harvest. I got a number of tomatoes and peppers a few weeks back, and a lot of the plants haven’t yielded anything (lemon cucumbers, broccoli, chard, brussels sprouts, beets).

nasturtium, oregano, rosemary, lemon verbena, sage, thyme and basil
a great showing for tomatoes and herbs by the back door
poor pathetic lemon cucumber plant (nothing like past years’ monsters)
healthy tomato plants but lackluster basil, beets and brussels sprouts
wimpy basil + weeds
patchy spots in the perennial bed — to be tackled next year
the part of the garden I habitually ignore (and notice that the window box greens didn’t make it, either)
struggling hydrangea tree and patchy grass!

patio 2.0

It took a full weekend of sweaty work, but the patio has gone from this…

to this:

And soon, the grill will go too (it broke last summer).

Otherwise in the garden…

The tomatoes are doing great this year — much better than last year, by a mile. Other things are coming along a little slower, like the basil and lemon cucumbers. I think they’ll catch up now that it’s averaging 80 or 90 degrees every day.

I picked up some new flowers at the farmers market this weekend — marigolds for the side yard tomatoes, and some blue astria (“balloon flower,” a perennial). The begonias are flowering like crazy and the nasturtiums I planted from seed are growing up strong … soon to join my lunchtime salads.


Story of a Thursday evening:

1. I bought a new lawnmower (!) and tonight while I was mowing the backyard, I found this:

If you’re too lazy to click on the link (even though it’s worth it…), I’ll tell you: a den of baby rabbits, in the middle of the lawn. And yes I mowed right over the spot just moments earlier.

They’re adorable. Don’t even have their eyes open yet. I probably ensured their demise by getting my human smell all over the rabbit fur that was covering them up. We shall see. I don’t love having rabbits in my garden, but I do have a serious soft spot for rabbits (ask my mom what happened to the rabbit I had as a kid, and ask BFF Alissa why she calls me “little rabbit.”) So for now this is fun, but it could turn traumatic soon.

Oh, and here are the older siblings of these little guys, spotted a few weeks back:

2. Watching the Spurs-Miami game — Go Spurs Go! — on my TV. But not in the basement. Upstairs! Never got around to blogging about this change because it wasn’t really intentional. I just brought the TV up to the living room back in January so that me and some girlfriends could watch Downton Abbey on Sunday nights, and I never took it back down. I kind of like having it in the corner of the living room, at least for now. I might do something different with it down the road, like hanging it on the wall or putting in a different entertainment center. And I don’t have cable, so it’s not like I use it very often (I still watch 95% of my shows on my iPad or Mac via Hulu, Netflix of Xfinity Player).

3. And then, I got this awesome picture from fellow-blogger-BFF Kelli and her new bird, Tiko:

And it made me happy to trade stories about bunnies and birds and watch the Spurs game “together” via text message (we grew up in San Antonio together).
4. I have new next-door neighbors, and we totally do the whole “yelling thru screen windows” thing, so I made a racket about the baby rabbits and they came over to take a peek. Gotta love fun neighbors.
And at the end of a really hard day and a really long week, I’m feeling less far away from loved ones. Thank you bunnies & lawnmowers & instagram & iPhones.
*bonus life points if you know what coniglietti means and your name is not Alissa or Bethany.


landscaping maps

Hand-drawn maps. Boom.

Hat tip to my cousin Tamara who helped me ID a few of these. When I moved into the house, the previous owners had left me a labeled map of most of the plants in the backyard … but not the side or the front. So it’s been a long overdue (and time-intensive) project for me to track down and map out everything in the yard. Check! Off the list.


  • A – Arborvitae
  • AL – Alyssum
  • As – Astilbe – Vision in White
  • B – Beets
  • BE – Black-Eyed Susans
  • BG – Begonia
  • BH – Bleeding Heart
  • BL – Basil
  • Br – Broccoli
  • BS – Brussels Sprouts
  • BSA – Black Scallop Ajuga
  • BT – Baby Tut Grass
  • BW – Bridalwreath (officially: Vanhoutte Spirea)
  • C – Clematis
  • CB – Coral Bells (Berry Smoothie)
  • CBLM – Coral Bells – Lime Marmalade
  • CDP – Columbine – Dark Purple
  • Cl – Cilantro
  • Cm – Columbine – mixed (seeds)
  • CO – Coleus
  • CR – Croton (pot)
  • CS – Cushion Spurge (technically, it’s a kind of grass! who knew!)
  • CT – Candytuft (seeds)
  • CTL – Catalpa Tree
  • D – Dianthus (seeds)
  • DA – Daffodils
  • DF – Diamond Frost
  • DL – Day Lily
  • DR – Dracaena Spike
  • FCA – Flowering Crabapple
  • H – Hosta
  • Hy – Hydrangea Tree
  • HyB – Hydrangea Bush
  • I – Iris
  • K – Kale
  • L – Lilac Tree
  • La – Lavender
  • LAN – Lantana
  • LC – Lemon Cucumber
  • LM – Ladies Mantle
  • Lp – Lupine (seeds)
  • LV – Lemon Verbena
  • M – Maple
  • MG – Marigolds
  • MGC – Marigold – African Crackerjack
  • MGS – Marigold – Snowdrift (seeds)
  • ML – Mixed Lettuces
  • MT – Mint
  • Mu – Mums (Chrysanthemums)
  • N – Nasturtium
  • O – Oregano
  • P – Polygonatum
  • PP – Peppers
  • Py – Peony
  • R – Raspberry
  • RC – Red Comb Celosia
  • Ry – Rosemary
  • S – Sedum
  • SA – Sage
  • SC – Swiss Chard
  • SD – Shasta Daisy (seeds)
  • SM – Snow on the Mountain (Aegopodum)
  • SPV – Sweet Potato Vine – Marguerite
  • ST – Silver Dust
  • SVB – Salvia – Victoria Blue
  • SVP – Salvia – Vista Purple
  • T – Tomatoes
  • Th – Thyme
  • Tp – Tulips
  • Y – Yarrow

mystery plants

Do you know the names of these trees and shrubs? This is not a quiz. I’m looking for your help! Thanks 🙂



veggies & herbs of 2013

Fourth vegetable garden! Wow, time flies.

This wasn’t the year to add raised beds to the backyard since I’m still figuring out what I’m going to do with the back patio and some trees. So I just planned veggies and herbs for the spots I’ve used previously: the strip between the patio and fence, and a few pots and in-ground areas by the back door.
In the ground this year:
  • tomatoes (two varieties – Early Girl and Yellow Pear)
  • salsa peppers
  • broccoli
  • swiss chard
  • lemon cucumbers
  • lettuce
  • kale
  • beets
  • brussels sprouts
  • basil
  • sage
  • lemon verbena
  • oregano
  • thyme
  • spearmint
  • lavender

The big makeover, if there was one this year, is that I’m using the window boxes on the back of the garage for lettuce this year. We’ll see how it goes … it’s pretty shaded over there, but at least they’ll be protected from the bunnies.



So, the brussels sprouts and beets are new for me this year. Anyone have good tips? 🙂

I’m back!

Back from China. Back in house mode. And for the first time in my adult life, home for an entire Memorial Day Weekend. No weddings and no graduations … just me and my projects. Amazing.

So during my hiatus I’ve been thinking about this blog and how much I love documenting the progress of my house and sharing stories with you, readers, but also how much guilt I feel when I don’t write posts as often as I’d like. And I don’t say “can’t write posts,” because I have the app on my phone and could write them on even the busiest of days. I just haven’t been inspired enough to make it a priority lately. It is what it is. I’m not closing it down, but I am committing to writing more this summer. Garden updates, decorating vignettes as I finish the upstairs bedrooms, and lots of recipes. So that’s what you have to look forward to, if you want to stick around 🙂

As for this weekend, it’s now Sunday night and I’ve spent the better part of the last two days outside or running errands. Not in the “lounging by the lake” kind of way. We’re talking sweatshirts, boots and 55-degree cloudy days for this year’s holiday weekend.

Perfect for …. planting! Back in January I decided this would be a good year to invest in some new perennials for the front and back gardens. I’m not traveling as much as I have the last three summers, and I’ve been in the house long enough to sort of figure out what should go where. Which led to this little excursion to Bachman’s (a great garden store here in Minneapolis):

My overarching goal is to fill in some bare spots in the backyard gardens, mostly in shaded areas, with low-maintenance, colorful perennials. My other priority is adding some perennials and annuals to the front yard, especially in the bed I created last summer to bring the front yard garden around the big tree.

I picked up begonias at the Minneapolis Farmer’s Market again this year, which I loved having in the front yard last year. The orange and pink begonias in the side yard will help fill out that bed as the tulips fade:

And, of course, one of the most fun parts was picking out plants for the whiskey barrel by my front door:

My legs feel like rubber from all the work I’ve done in the yard this weekend, but I think it’ll be worth it.

Coming soon: a map of varieties in the gardens, including existing plants and seeds.

Sort-of signs of spring

The sun was out today, and the ice is finally melting away — leaving pale browns and greens in its place.

This time a year ago, it had been warm for weeks and my daffodils and tulips were already blooming. Not so lucky this year! I’m pretty sure I’m going to miss all my new bulbs when I’m in China for two weeks this month. Sigh… mom will have to take pictures for me.

So, the farmhouse is surrounded by a slow creeping spring, and full of packing piles. And that’s about all there is to report. More projects coming when I get home!