Stacking Functions Garden


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2019 Photo Highlights

As much as I enjoy photography, I am very much an amateur. I never even purchased a telephoto lens until this year—Adam bought me a gently used one for my birthday early this spring. It made a huge difference in the shots I was able to get, especially of wildlife.

Enjoy these photo highlights of 2019. Clicking on the photo will take you to my Flickr page.

Black-backed woodpecker

This isn’t my most impressive photo but it was SUCH an exciting moment: we saw two black-backed woodpeckers at Sax Zim Bog in February. (This is clearly BEFORE I got the telephoto lens…) It was -20 degrees F and it was worth the frozen toes and fingers to see this unusual bird. Sax Zim is a birding paradise and I can’t wait to go back.

Redwing blackbird

Red-winged blackbird, herald of early spring, at Wood Lake Nature Center in March.

Sunset on Lake Hiawatha

Ice finally completely out on Lake Hiawatha, Minneapolis, April 3, 2019.

Bloodroot

Bloodroot in full bloom, my front yard, May 4, 2019.

Jacob's Ladder

Jacob’s Ladder in full bloom, my back yard, late May 2019.

Chive blossoms

Chive blossoms, early June 2019.

Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls, Glunflint Trail / Laurentian Divide area, northern MN, early July 2019.

Green bee on Great St. John's Wort

Metallic green bee really enjoying the Great St. John’s Wort, mid-July 2019, my front yard.

Tart Cherry!

Ready to pick sour cherries, July 2019, my front yard.

Bumblebee on hoary vervain

Bumblebee on hoary vervain in my prairie boulevard, July 2019.

Monarch butterfly landing on coneflower Taken only moments later, a monarch butterfly coming in for a landing. July in the pollinator garden is magical in Minnesota.

An August morning harvest

Harvest time, August 2019. Nearly all harvested from my community garden plot at Sabathani Community Center, Central Neighborhood Minneapolis.

Orange cosmos

Orange cosmos in my neighborhood, late August 2019. This is one of several photos that I took on my iPhone that surprised me how nice it came out. I love the colors—it was twilight so I didn’t think the photo would work at all.

Autumn Meadowhawk Dragonfly

Kicking off fall with an Autumn Meadowhawk Dragonfly, September 2019.

Sulphur butterfly

By late September the butterfly migration was well underway. One day my purple dome asters were covered in sulphur butterflies. The next day they were gone.

Leek harvest

Fall leek harvest. I love pictures that capture the true scale of things—here’s my husband Adam with some gigantic leeks. Sabathani Community Garden, mid-October 2019.

White tail deer, doe, Fort Snelling State Park

We hike Fort Snelling State Park all year round; late fall is a great time to see white-tail deer close up.

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What can you do for birds during the winter, really? Beyond the basics (bird feeders, leaving seed heads in your garden for them to eat), try adding a heated bird bath. We easily see 4-5 times greater numbers of birds in the winter than we used to, and a greater variety than just our resident house sparrows shown here. They are entertaining, though. I love how the female looks slightly annoyed at how the male is splashing her.

PSA: I’m not being paid to say this, but if you’re at all into photography, I highly recommend the Flickr Pro community. It’s a great and inexpensive option to back up all your photos, with lots of easy tools to organize them and set privacy levels, etc. I’ve been using it for years and I’m nervous it’s going to go away with the rest of the remaining positive and affirming places on the internet. Check out my photo page, or check out this huge Best of 2019 Group and get inspired for a great new year of photography.

Happy New Year!

 


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Four Lined Plant Bugs, gates, radishes, and everything in between

Happy Solstice to you! We spent ours in the company of our fellow Sabathani gardeners, cleaning up walkways and roasting marshmallows over a fire. It was a lovely evening.

Let’s get right into a garden update, shall we?

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Meet my current nemesis, the four-lined plant bug. It’s a generalist, shown here feeding on some goldenrod. It also really loves herbs and plants in the mint family. It’s done quite a number on my bee balm:

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In past years I tried not to get too worked up about this bug—its damage is not fatal, after all. But yesterday it almost destroyed several of my jalapeño plants. These guys are a little tricky to catch. They often scurry to the underside of the leaf as soon as they see me coming.

I’ve resorted to carefully watching plants that show signs of damage, then holding still to watch for movement. If I catch them I clap my hands together quickly over the leaf the bug is on. This usually either squashes it or slows it down enough for me to finish the job. I don’t get every single one. The numbers in my yard this year are a little disheartening, but at least I don’t have to worry about my wildflowers surviving.

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Thankfully they’re not interested in all of my garden vegetables. Radishes never get very large in my home garden, but a string of cool days has really helped extend the harvest.

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My home garden is dedicated this year to root vegetables, beans, and greens. Here are kale, collards, and chard which I planted from seed in early spring. The plan is to keep thinning them out as they get larger; we’ve already had one meal of thinnings so far and another is imminent.

Wait, is that milkweed growing in my garden? Yes, it is. I always try to pull these plants first to feed my butterflies, but I carefully work around them until I do need them.

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Good thing, too, because I found this big guy on a tiny milkweed plant between two onions. I’m having a good vegetable year so far, knock on wood. Here’s a picture of my lettuce from several days ago:

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Shortly after this some of it started to bolt, but we should be able to eke a few more weeks out of it. Underneath the big lettuce plants are some smaller ones that they crowded out, so hopefully as I pull bolting plants the smaller ones will fill in a little bit.

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My community garden plot is doing well so far, too. I attribute this to two factors. First, we grew pumpkins and squash there almost exclusively for 4+ years. After a poor season last year, it was time to try some different things on that soil.

Secondly, we planted a cover crop there last fall—a mixture of hairy vetch and winter rye from High Mowing Seeds. This mix is formulated to survive a Minnesota winter and start growing vigorously again right away in the spring. It worked (!) so we turned it over the first weekend in May and planted 3 weeks later.

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*This* is how bushy and happy tomato plants can be when they get 14+ hours of intense sunlight a day. I’m going against my usual community garden strategy this year, because of wanting to mix things up in the home garden and at Sabathani in an effort to reduce built-up bacteria in the soil.

This means Adam and I have to bike or drive over to Sabath at least twice per week to tend it, but so far we’ve been keeping up. It helps that our kids are now middle schoolers and have completely lost interest in us. Well, it gives us something to do anyway.

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One of the herbs I’m growing in my hugelkultur herb project at Sabathani is papalo, an herb from central and South America. It’s used similarly to cilantro–as a garnish on tacos, etc. Its flavor is more intense, though. It’s also much more tolerant of heat. The leaves are sturdier, more like collard greens in texture, but with a very unique flavor that is a strange but wonderful combination of cilantro and parsley. I love it, and I’m so grateful to the gardeners who introduced it to me.

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Herb drying season has commenced at home—here’s a mixed basket of chamomile, sage, dill, lemon verbena, mint, tarragon, and clary sage. I don’t know what I’m going to do with the clary sage yet—it was an impulse buy.

Between the bug fighting and harvest season commencing, I’ve accepted the fact that I’m not going to get much more done with my perennial gardens this year. I’m not ready to call them done, but the front definitely looks a lot better than it did last September when it got torn up by a backhoe.

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Adam finished the path and put out the bird bath, and there are actually quite a number of very small plants in here already—I did a lot of planting this spring. By this time next year we should be much more filled in, as I used all tough natives that should spread quickly—including Jacob’s Ladder, wild geranium, Solomon’s Seal, wild ginger, and…

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…three red-twig dogwoods! I’ve always wanted to try growing these; we need some winter interest in the front yard. So far they’re doing great. This area is going to look very natural, shady, and lush in just a few short years, if the elm tree that shades all of it hangs on. Fingers crossed.

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This may not look exciting, but to me it is everything right now. Our neighbors took down their chain link fence—which happened to have been installed at the same time as ours and matched perfectly. We used the opportunity to obtain a free matching gate, and finally added a gate on the garden side of the house. My number of steps from kitchen to garden has gone from more than 40 to less than 10. Yay!

It’s time to gear up for fruit season, and I feel ready. I really do. Our sour cherries are getting close:

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A happy and lovely solstice to you and yours.


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Memorial Day 2018

I like to photograph my garden every year on Memorial Day to track where we’re at from a phenology perspective. From the plants’ point of view, we look roughly average, but from a human point of view it’s been anything but.

I swam in a lake in 95 degree heat yesterday; just under 4 weeks ago that lake had ice on it. It’s been a wild swing from winter to summer, seemingly overnight.

We got some bad news this week. Our main line sewer needs to be replaced and pretty much everything in the foreground of this picture will need to go. I’ll know more next week. I was very upset at first but I’m now trying to look at it as an opportunity.

It was such a weird week. This also happened: a red-tailed hawk caught a squirrel in our yard and landed with it on our deck for a minute or two. I was astounded at its size. And not terribly sorry to lose a squirrel, honestly—the hawk dispatched it quickly and efficiently.

Did you know that wild sarsparilla get flowers? They’re hidden under the leaves. I found these on the plants that get a little bit of sunlight each day—in deep shade, I couldn’t find any flowers.

I love the way the gooseberries, wild columbine, and serviceberries are intermingling in our back yard.

My interplanting of shallots and strawberries is coming along swimmingly. The strawberries are thriving in their new raised bed (new in summer 2017). It’s wise to periodically (every 3-5 years) dig up all your strawberry plants, amend the soil, weed thoroughly, and replant them. They get so overrun with weeds over time. Raising them up like this has kept the rabbits from them and made it easier to keep them weeded.

They’re currently covered with blossoms and tiny green strawberries. I’ve been watering them daily to keep them going strong through this heat wave.

One plant that is LOVING the heat is my Meyer Lemon tree. It spends winters inside and generally looks unhappy the whole time, but the second we bring it out in the spring, it starts to revive.

Peppers are also off to a good start with their ollas for water. I’m curious to see how this experiment works out.

My community garden plot is all planted—it’s double in size for this year as my good friend who gardens next to me is taking a year off from her plot. Crossing my fingers that we’ll have a veritable squash kingdom come August, if we can keep the vine borers away.

Last but not least, monarch season has begun! I’ve only seen one, but Anneke found 40 eggs in our yard two nights ago. If all these survive, we’ll have a household record number of releases, in the first round of the migration.

How are you surviving the heat?