First Forsythia Bloom

First forsythia bloom. My parents had a long hedge of forsythia between them and the neighbors, and it’s become an essential element of spring for me. Their blossoms are edible raw, though they can be slightly bitter — I might try to do something with them; I’m thinking forsythia honey syrup:

https://www.growforagecookferment.com/forsythia-syrup/

Saving Strawberries

I found a strawberry planter tipped over in the garden as I was cleaning up yesterday, and was glad to see that the strawberries seem to have survived just fine. I’ve tipped it back up, trimmed off the dead leaves, and moved it into a sunny spot, along with a new hanging basket of strawberries (from our local Good Earth garden store in Forest Park), and some more strawberries I need to pot up in that ceramic planter. Berries for days…

They say when you’re deciding what to plant in the edible garden, you should plant what you actually eat, and we go through berries as fast as we can afford to buy them in this house. Kavi is our strawberry fiend — Anand and Kevin tend to go for blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries. I like ’em all.

Blueberries

One of my blueberry plants seems to have survived from last year — I’ve never had any luck with actually getting berries, though. I did get multiple plants last year (and I’ve got a few more ordered for this year, which are hopefully on their way), which I gather is necessary for cross-pollination? And I think I maybe need to amend my soil, which I didn’t do last year? Any other tips? My raspberries are completely trouble-free, but blueberries are a challenge for me!

Making a Break

Morning, people. I’ve been drowning a little in work, trying to get the semester started up again after break, and I admit, I’m very tired. But I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, I think — if I work solidly through the morning, I think I can take a few hours to garden / cook / read / putter this afternoon, which will be very nice.

Probably more work in the evening, but that’s okay — it’s the morning + afternoon + evening work that was really wearing me out — I had about five days straight of it, mostly teaching-related (a lot of it catch-up because when coronavirus hit, I fell behind on grading). But almost through, whew, and it’s going to feel SO GOOD to be caught up.

Okay, coffee & breakfast, onwards.

Bench Project

This is a project I’ve wanted to do for years now, that I’ve finally gotten to. We live on what’s normally a pretty busy street — we’re on the path to the train, and our block has several apartment buildings and condos, along with a few single family houses. So there are usually lots and lots of people walking past all the time. That’s slowed down a bit now, but still, plenty of people out walking, and sometimes I think they must get tired and want a bit of a sit down.

I tried putting this stump in last year, and while you can sit down on it in a pinch, I think it’s not as inviting as what I was hoping for. So this year, I finally ordered a relatively inexpensive metal bench (around $90), assembled it, and today, at the end of a long work day, with half an hour to spare before my writing workshop met this evening, I was able to find the time to put it out (which mostly took time because I had to dig up and move some plants that were in the way).

I don’t love the bricks that I’ve placed in front, but I wanted something stable for people to step on, esp. so they wouldn’t worry about crushing plants — when I have time, I’m hoping to do some kind of mosaic pavers to go there instead. It’ll do for now, though. I also divided a purple hellebore from elsewhere in the garden and put half of it here, and I hope neighbors take advantage of the invitation to sit down for a bit, smell the roses (placed right across the sidewalk), and just enjoy the garden.

It looks a little bare behind it right now, but we’re still in the early spring garden — soon, various taller things will grow up behind it. Should be nice. 🙂

Adventures in Seeds

Adventures in seeds. This is the easiest of seed starting — I had a lot of work to do this weekend as I prepped for spring break ending and an attempt at e-learning for my students, so not much gardening time.

But poppies, love-in-a-mist, borage, bachelor’s button, and violas are all ‘direct sow in the garden’ right now in my zone — literally, open the seed packet and sprinkle it where you want ’em. I think many of these are annual, but if they drop enough seed, they may get established…? If not, I can sprinkle more next year.

Borage makes gorgeous edible starry blue flowers, so it’s great to plant in amidst your veggies, and then it can be used for salads, drinks, candied for topping cakes, etc. Violas are edible too, so ditto.

In theory, one should rake a tiny bit of dirt over some of them (I think sprinkling compost also works), but I didn’t even manage that, so we’ll see what actually comes up. But it was nice and drizzly that day and the next, so I’m hopeful. Oriental poppies you don’t even do that — they need light to germinate.

The California poppies are because I miss my friends in CA, and miss seeing the highway medians ablaze with them.

(I want to pick up some Oriental poppies too, which are perennial in Chicago; I’ve seen some neighbors growing gorgeous stands of them. I think I’m going to do those from seedlings, though, not seeds. They’ll be planted in the fall, for next year.)

More on poppies in Chicago: https://www.chicagobotanic.org/plantinfo/faq/poppies

More on growing Oriental poppies: https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/…/growing-oriental-poppies…

Dahlias in Gardener’s World

I was watching Gardener’s World this morning while grinding curry powder for the spring surprise packages, and Monty Don talks about starting dahlias early in pots, putting them on heated mats to encourage growth, and then taking cuttings for division, before planting out in the garden. Does anyone here have any experience with that? Any tips?

I haven’t checked my dahlias from last year, but fingers crossed, they’ve survived and if so, I’d like to try this…it’d be great to have more dahlias to give out in the community.