Category Archives: Gardening


Our gardening adventures are not always very successful if you value production – most of our crops tend to fail.  Sometimes it is weather, sometimes it is insects, often we don’t know the cause.  Our beans and grains have been our most plentiful crops but even they have failed a few times. Other crops like our sunflowers and zucchini were fabulous the first time we tried them but we’ve never been able to repeat that. Luckily we prefer the process over the product and every year we are stubbornly optimistic that this year we will have the best garden ever.

As usual, this year we started some seeds early – tomatoes, peppers, purple tomatillo, spaghetti squash, sweet dumpling squash, and zucchini – to give them a head start indoors before transplanting outdoors.  We usually plant dozens of each of the seed types we would like to grow in hopes that at least one of each plant will survive to maturity.


We always have beans, peas, grains and various herbs in our garden. Some of the bulkier plants we plant in my daughter’s yard – it is about a five minute walk away but there is more room there for the plants to spread.  We make many trips over to weed and prepare the garden bed.


There is also time to engage in another one of the toddlers favorite activities – running circles around the fire pit;


Last week we took the somewhat sad looking seedlings over to plant in the garden;

15-06-planting02It always feels like a parade when my little troupe crosses the busy intersection carrying all our tools and supplies.  The drivers and passengers in all the cars seem very amused.  This week we headed back to water the seedlings again…..I could only find four out of the dozens we planted?!?!

The children were happy to water the four teeny, tiny seedlings and the empty patches of soil and of course they also ran circles. I was quite perplexed about the plants.  Back home I told my husband about our ‘missing’ crop.  There were no wilted remnants of dead plants – I couldn’t explain what happened to the seedlings.  My husband replied “Probably rabbits ate them”…..

Great, yet another threat to our crops.  Least they could have done was stay to play with us.  Good thing we’re persistent.

Spiders & Others

We have more spiders in the yard than we have ever had before.  There are webs everywhere.  This one in the hyssop is catching all the flower bits;


There are some with built in homes – the spiders disappear into the holes when we get close;



Sometimes the children try to rescue the other insects that get trapped in the webs.  They usually give up quickly – those webs are sticky!

We have some other – unwelcome – visitors too.  Our ornamental cabbage is being eaten;


We have six of them in the garden and planters.  I showed the children how to look for the cabbage caterpillars that were causing all the damage.  There were so many of them.  The children were excited – an endless supply of ‘loose parts’.

All week there were caterpillar schools and caterpillar day cares and the girls even tried potty training some caterpillars. I have no pictures – don’t ask.

By Thursday there were no more caterpillars.  The girls were very disappointed.  However, I was quite pleased that the cabbages are now free of pests 😉


We’ve been trapped indoors all week because it is too cold to play outside.  If I had magic powers winter would be gone and we’d be out in the garden.  Instead, I brought the garden in to us.

We haven’t had much success with our indoor gardening in the past.  Indoor ornamental plants do OK but our attempts to grow edible plants indoors have usually failed.  I decided that this time we would try growing sprouts.

First the toddlers checked out the sprouting supplies that I purchased from Sage Garden Herbs;


We had two different types of seeds, an Ancient Eastern Blend, and a Crunchy Bean Mix. We put one type in each of the two sections of our sprouter;


Then we rinsed them with water.  We used the little toddler sink so everyone could stand and watch the seeds and water mix;


Then, we put on the cover and placed it on the counter until the next day.  At morning snack time we checked the sprouter.  Starting to grow already!

Sprouts - Day One
Sprouts – Day One

We rinsed them again and by Wednesday there were even more sprouts;

Sprouts – Day Two

More water and Thursday – Wow!

Sprouts - Day three
Sprouts – Day Three

Time to taste them.  Baby one just wanted to play with them;


Baby two was unimpressed;


Both the two-year-olds ate theirs.  One claimed they were ‘delicious’ but shuddered after every bite.  The other ate them by the handful and wanted more.


I absolutely loved this gardening project which we could see from seed to harvest in under a week.

Bees and More

We have many insects in our yard.  Our garden has several plants chosen specifically because they attract insects.  The bees love the giant hyssop and we love watching the bees;


This butterfly was outside the yard when the children first saw it.  They called it repeatedly and finally it obliged and flew into our garden so we could see it better.


Earlier this spring we had a nest of baby spiders by the bench;


Those baby spiders entertained us for several days before they left to find homes elsewhere.  The children were very protective of the baby spiders and ensured no one sat on the bench and damaged the web.

Some of the children are afraid of bugs – especially spiders and wasps.  I believe that learning about the insects we encounter will help the children overcome any fear of them. When we know what these insect do we begin to understand how they can benefit us.

Even wasps are welcome to visit our yard – they have a job to do in the garden too.  We don’t let them build their nests where we play though.  When they are near we give them the respect they deserve.

Daily I am summoned to various parts of the yard by a child asking “What kind of bug is this?” That question is followed by many more.  I don’t always have the answers but we do research to find out more.

I always try to remain calm even when we discover insects that I don’t like – such as these aphids we just found on the oats in our garden;


Where are the lady bugs – we need them now!  A strong negative reaction may instil unnecessary fear.  I’ll explain why I dislike certain insects and what we can do to avoid contact with those that we don’t like.

Earlier this week two of the girls were sitting in the garden smelling the herbs and flowers.  They were conversing quietly and I overheard one say “Ok, it’s your turn to pet him now – he’s really soft.”

I moved closer to see what they had found.  It was a bee – possibly the biggest, fattest, fluffiest bumble bee I have ever seen.  It was busy moving from one flower to the next and every time it landed the girls would PET IT!?!?

I tried to remain calm as I said “Please don’t pet the bumble bee.” but I’m sure my voice was a much higher pitch than normal.

“But we love him” the girls replied.

“Yes, I know, but he’s busy working and we don’t want to make him angry.  Watch him but don’t interrupt what he is doing.”

Love my job 🙂

The New Garden Grows

Yesterday I spent several hours working in the front yard garden.  I don’t really consider it ‘working’ – even picking weeds is enjoyable and relaxing.  The plants and I had long, somewhat one-sided conversations.  This spring has been a very exciting time for me because I have been eagerly awaiting the return of all the native prairie plants.

The entire front yard garden was revamped last year – you can read more about the planning process here or go here  to read more about the progress of the baby plants during their first summer.

As soon as the snow melted I began searching for signs that the young plants had survived the very long, harsh winter.  I had put plant tags in the garden to remind me what was planted there – I had also drawn a detailed plan which was very helpful since some of the plant tags disappeared.

However, as the plants began growing I had some doubts as to the accuracy of my plan.  These plants are new to me and I was having some difficulty identifying them.  It seemed to me that the planning I had done for plant heights may have been off since there seem to be tall plants in front of short plants but it may just be that some have grown faster than others.

Currently the garden looks like this;


The Wild Red Columbine were one of the first to arrive and they have grown very quickly.  They already have many beautiful flowers;


These Alum Root are also beginning to flower


The Culver’s Root was planted at the back of the garden because it is supposed to grow to a height of 3-4 feet.  So far they are a just few inches tall and barely noticeable behind the False Sunflower which are also much smaller than many of the other plants.


Part of the problem I’m having with identifying  the plants is that most of the info I have about them only includes pictures of the flowers so until they bloom I’m not really sure what they are. For example, according to my plan I have three Philadelphia Fleabane and four Gaillardia planted next to each other but they all look very similar to me and could even be the same plant;


Then there are some that should be the same but to me look different. According to my plan there are three Smooth Aster here with Fringed Brome behind;


All three of the supposed Smooth Aster are the same height but one of them has leaves that look much different than the other two so I’m not certain it is the same type plant and there is nothing else in the garden that looks like this;


Then there are the bare spots.  Spaces where I planted for or five plant and only two have shown up – or in one space none.  There was absolutely no sign of the five Joe Pye in the large empty spot where they should have been.  So, three weeks ago when I was in Selkirk, I stopped in at Prairie Originals and bought a Blue Vervain to put there instead.

Suddenly the Joe Pye all began to grow and they now dwarf the new plant in their midst;


Yes, I am an impatient, somewhat impulsive, but definitely eager gardener.

Herbs & Veggies

Our vegetable gardening began in 2007 with one small raised bed and has expanded every year since then.  Our current garden is about 100 square feet and we have some planters around the yard too.

The types of vegetables we grow each year changes because we like to experiment with new ones.  Three years ago we began to include herbs in our garden too.  In the fall we had dug up the herbs, put them in pots and brought them in the house for the winter.  We got to enjoy them for a few more months but they didn’t survive until spring.

Since then we have discovered that some herbs are perennials – I didn’t know that when we dug them out of the garden.  Remember, I was learning about gardening too – I thought all our ‘crops’ were annuals.

So, last year when we planted our new herbs, I made a point of keeping the tags and noting which ones we should expect to return in the spring.  The oregano has returned and is doing well so far;


I’m unsure about the garden sage.  It doesn’t look great but it has some new leaves and branches.  I started trimming off the dried branches from last year but it looks like the new growth is coming from the old branches so I’m afraid to trim any more in case I kill it;


The lemon balm and the rosemary showed absolutely no signs of life.  We have since planted replacements for these two.  We also added some mint and thyme.  Every time we discuss the various scents the most common reaction is ‘Mmmm, smells minty’.  I figured maybe for comparison we needed something that actually was ‘minty’.  The thyme elicited an enthusiastic response as the four-year-old ran around the yard cheering ‘Woo hoo, we’re growing a time machine!’


We’ve got the mandatory beans and tomatoes and this year we’re going to try two types of carrots.  We’re also trying something else new.  We have a subscription to the community supported agriculture program at Wild Earth Farms.  This will give us the opportunity to try a much greater variety of produce than we could ever grow ourselves. We’re also hoping to arrange a field trip to see the farm too.

We just received our first farm share which contained fresh oregano, thyme, green onions, swiss chard, and kale.  We examined and tasted a little of everything;


The kale was a different type than the kale we grew a couple years back.  We immediately noticed that this kale had no holes in it.  Most of the kale we grew got eaten by something other than us.  This kale was beautiful and tasty;


We headed outside to compare the thyme and oregano from the farm with the ones in our garden.  The children got distracted by some critters they found in the garden and had to go make homes for them instead;


Yet another fun activity with garden ‘produce’.

Giant Invasion

It was about four years ago when I first introduced native prairie plants to our yard.  Visits to the Living Prairie Museum were always popular so growing our own prairie plants seemed like a natural extension.  It has been a learning experience for all of us – growing native praire plants was new to me too.

The plants on the little hill were added first – Yarrow and Giant Hyssop on one side of the tunnel;


The Yarrow has always been the first to show up each spring – I love it’s fern like leaves. This year, although the Yarrow grew first, the Giant Hyssop has taken over!  It is even coming up  between the logs and through any other crack it can find;


On the other side of the tunnel we originally planted the Obedient Plant and the Cone Flower.  The Cone Flower didn’t do well and hasn’t shown up at all for the past two years.  We added some Pussy Toes and some Pasture Sage – another one of my favorites with a wonderful texture and aroma too;


But wait, that plant on the bottom left looks suspiciously like a Giant Hyssop – it was not planted over here;


We haven’t planted anything in the planters yet – usually we just put in a few annuals or maybe some beans.  Right now they contain nothing but weeds, and a Giant Hyssop?


Over in the garden I planted some Sweetgrass by the water barrel – no other plants seemed to like that spot.  The Sweetgrass does and has now taken over the whole North side of the garden;


The rest of the garden is reserved for our veggies and herbs and has no native prairie plants.  Wait, what is that?  Can it be another Giant Hyssop?


What do you think?