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Garden notes and pictures – May

Eating asparagus, some strawberries, onions, various lettuces and greens, rapini, collards, radishes, parsley, sorrel, and thyme.  Potatoes are growing quickly so “new” potatoes are not too far in the future.

Garlic and Onions

After that nice rain we had yesterday I noticed that about 8 garlic plants had turned brown over night. I pulled them up right away because I’ve had that happen before.

The root rots and the plant dies. It doesn’t happen to all of them, but it does happen to some. I’ve come to be on the look out for this especially when we have ongoing cold overcast and/or rainy days.

Also happens to a few onions each year. And no, I’m not 100% sure what to call it although my first guess after researching when it first appeared 5 years ago was pink root.   What I do know is that it’s best to get those weakened plants out immediately since the fungus (if its pink root) can stay in the soil for years.

Always rotate your onion (and garlic) crops so that a bed only has onions every 3 years; 4 is better. Some sources suggest 6 years which would be almost impossible for me.

Looking at an angle across garden rows.

Lettuce all Year (or at least 10 months)

Lettuces from last fall are stalking and look great.

I’ve been starting and transplanting new lettuces since mid February. Once a jug or flat germinates, I start more.

I’ll continue to plant through June although if it turns really warm I’ll have to start it inside where it’ll be cool enough for germination. After that I’ll resume starting seed in mid August through October.

If you want lettuce continually as I do, you’ve got to succession plant or more than likely you’ll find yourself without lettuce for a few months. Of course, there are lot’s of secrets to getting a continually supply even from lettuce that most folks consider “finished”. (See this post for one. )

Winter rye was ready to cut the last week in April. Laid it on top of its stubble.

#1 – onions in the meadow bed; #2 – cut winter rye; #3 – mache seeding; #4 – single onions; #5 – a group of onion seedlings planted to produce sets


As regular readers know from prior posts the invasive roots from the monster trees on our bordering property have pretty much ruined my asparagus beds in the garden. The picture below will give you a better idea of what I mean.

The widest part of the red handle is 3/4 of an inch wide. The asparagus on the left are from an asparagus plant put in 3 years ago on the other side of the property. It has no root competition from the invasives. The asparagus on the right are in the garden and have to compete with the roots. They still taste good, they’re just much smaller and getting smaller every year.

asparagus comparison – ones on the left have no competition — ones on the right do

I started 3 different varieties from seed this year. Now to find a place to put the seedlings so they can grow undisturbed until next spring. I transplanted Connover’s Colossal seedlings in a grow bag. A garden bed will house the other varieties for the year; just not sure where yet.

Then next year I’ll move all to a permanent location as far from the invasive trees as possible. This will help insure that I have some asparagus to eat after those root totally diminish the other plants.

asparagus seedlings – If you have maple trees you already know those brown things in with the seedlings are maple seeds. They fall like rain from my big maples.


I dug a hole in some of the rye stubble and put in 5 tomato plants yesterday.

I’ll put in at least 15 to 20 more plants over the course of the next couple of weeks. I’ll also pot up a few seedlings to have on stand-by just in case I lose a transplant for one reason or the other. (Back up is always a good policy.)

tomato seedlings ready to transplant


Pepper seedlings are tiny. That’s nothing new around here. See this post.

An observation: the seed that I saved from last years crop of a certain variety germinated more quickly than seed from other varieties that were purchased. Also the seedlings are larger. Other variables could account for it, but I’m definitely making a note of it.

pepper seedlings from seed I saved last year

The borders are starting to bloom and it’s most welcomed.

Pink tradescantia is not as strong a grower as the blue, but I just love it.  Makes me want to have company so I can decorate the plate with the flowers (which are eatable).


I never tire of these royal purple iris. Elizabeth’s gold, my early day lily in the picture below, has an abundance of blooms this year making the purple iris show up more than ever.  Also note the blue tradescantia behind the iris.


Elizabeth’s gold.


Planted last year, these snapdragons are at least 2 1/2 feet tall.  In spite of the wind and rain we had last week, they’re still standing straight.


Easy Going is a floribunda rose in my fence border.  Blooms are beautiful and prolific!

Final Thoughts

I hope you are enjoying your garden.

My thoughts are of you as I tend mine.


All content including photos is copyrighted by  All Rights Reserved.

Garden Talk – mid-April

Looking at the garden from a distance there’s not much too see. Nonetheless, I took pictures so you can get an idea of what’s going on.

The tall blue/green is winter rye.  That’s where most of the tomato plants will go.

The low light green is mache flowering and going to seed.  (It’s hiding the winter lettuce from view.)

The light purplish haze to the right are the blueberry bushes that are keeping the bumblebees busy.

The wheelbarrow of straw I’m getting ready to take into the garden.

The buckets of rain water I’ve moved to the entrance so when I transplant more seedlings I can fill the watering can without having to go over to the rain barrels across the yard. (I usually don’t water-in seedlings but it’s been a little drier this year.)

Approaching my garden entrance gate.

Below is my attempt at a photoshop drawing. Pretty bad drawing, but it still gives you a better idea of the garden layout than the photo does.

The garden’s approximately 40 by 60 feet. The beds and paths are permanent. There is a center path down the middle. And there’s a border of at least two feet from the fence (all the way around) so the beds won’t run right to the fence and so I’ll have room to walk.

My photoshop drawing of the garden layout.

The Unknowing Visitor

Folks who know only conventional gardening and end up on my property for one reason or the other are prone to thinking they’re looking at weeds.

A lady last year who saw my garden in April asked me a month or so later if I ever got my garden into shape. I just laughed and said “It was never out of shape.” I’m sure that puzzled her, but there was no point in explaining.

The fellow who is going to cut my grass this year was here about a week ago to cut for the first time. (My friend who cut it last year moved to Florida.)

Anyway – he glanced over and said “I see your garden’s like mine. I haven’t done anything either.”

What he did see growing, I guess he thought was grass or weeds. And the new seedlings of onions (over a thousand), lettuces, rapini, collards, beets, radishes, parsley, cilantro, cabbage and peas were too small to see. Even potato growth is still small and not visible unless you’re right next to it.

Below are some close ups of various things so you can see there really is something growing:

Endive/escarole lettuce.

The endive/escarole lettuce is one I’d not want to be without in the winter.  Even without protection it can make it through.  But with a bit of protection you’ll be eating it all winter.  I had planned some for bean soup like Lisa makes (you remember Lisa from this post), but every time I’d harvest with soup in mind, I’d end up eating it fresh.

Small bunches of onion seedlings.

Using Extra Seedlings

I ran out of space for onions before I ran out of seedlings.  So I planted a few small bunches in various available spots. Being so close together they’ll stay small but will make nice sets for me to replant in the fall for spring onions.

Winter Density lettuce surrounded by flowering mache.

Wow! Better than Lettuce!

I had an unexpected visit from a young friend (24 years old) yesterday about 45 minutes before dark.  I picked lettuce while we chatted.  As I harvested, he said, “Aren’t you going to let me sample some lettuce, Mrs. Martz?”

I couldn’t help but smile.  I know he loves mache, but I didn’t realize he likes my lettuce too.  After a dozen or so leaves of Winter Density and Sierra Batavia, he said, “Wow! that’s better than lettuce!”  I replied, “It is lettuce.”

Of course, what he meant was – it’s better than store bought lettuce  – which has no flavor at all.


I started Rapini (sorta like brocolli but doesn’t make a head) seedlings in mid February.  I transplanted half to the garden the first week in March.  The very next night was below 20 degrees.  The Rapini had not even had a chance to recover from being transplanted.  Needless to say, I lost it.

I left the rest of the seedlings (which remained in the jug)  in the garden for the next couple of weeks and then transplanted to the place I’d lost the others.

This is my first time growing it.

Strawberries, parsley from last year, mache flowering.

I have three parsley plants growing from last year. Never can get enough parsley no matter how many I plant.

parsley seedlings

Happy Ending for Beets Planted in February

Started to plant these parsley seedlings the other day in a spot where I had sown beets back in February.  Thought the beets were not gonna come up.  I was surprised to see them up about an inch and looking great. Had to find other spots for the parsley.

The first beets to go in the garden were seedlings that I transplanted to soon.  Lost them.  Waited a couple of weeks and put more in.  They’re doing great.

Peas breaking the ground.


The first peas I planted were pre-germinated.  They’re still just barely coming up.  The other plantings of peas (4 total) the seeds were soaked over night and then sown.  They’re all coming up as shown in the photo above.

Mako onion seedlings.

Onions from Seed

I plant so many onions every year that I try to schedule transplanting with rain so I won’t have to water them with my watering can.  No rain came this year.  I still waited 3 days – hoping for rain.  Finally gave in and did the task.  The next day, I could tell the difference.

By the way, notice how nice and tall the seedlings are?  So many folks promote the idea that seedlings started from seed need to be cut back.  I NEVER cut mine back and they do wonderfully as you can see.

Breen and Sierra Batavia lettuce.

Lettuce Seedlings

We had a nice shower tonight that was not expected.  Tomorrow I’ll see a difference in these seedlings.  It’s always fun to see the amazing growth that takes place after a rain.

A closer look: Winter rye, mache flowering, sorrel (it’s 3rd year) between the mache and the blueberry bush.


Garden from the top end looking “across” the rows.

From this view, you can see some garlic growing.

Still have the bricks in the garden that anchored the row covers. Also, I’m in the process of removing the hoops and concrete reinforcing wire supports.

Found the first asparagus today.  It’ll be a while before I get enough each day for a meal.

Final Thought

Anything interesting to report about YOUR garden?  I’d love to hear it, as would your fellow TMG readers.


All content including photos is copyrighted by  All Rights Reserved.

Why Not Go for Being All You Can Be/A Story to Encourage/7 Tips to Help Get You There

Earlier this year I was asked by a long time acquaintance to tell our story publicly. Since she first heard the story years ago, she  found it encouraging and thought others would benefit by it as well.

Tonight, I happened to come across my notes for the talk. In reviewing them, I thought it contained information that might lift you up, encourage you, and help you to do things that maybe you’ve been a bit hesitant to tackle .

Life is so short. That in itself is enough to make it important to do what you really want to do in life. Things won’t always be perfect, but you’ll never know what you can do until you try.

Bill and I followed a rough road. But amazingly we accomplished what everyone said couldn’t be done. (More details on this will follow.)

Most long time readers know that I started gardening to eat. But this is the rest of the story – at least in part.

A Little Background

Bill was the middle of 3 kids.
 I was an only child.
 Both of us came from families where we didn’t do anything that suited our parents.

We were looking to get out of that situation as soon as we could.

Bill left when he was 17 and joined the Navy.
 He served 5 years and was a 2nd class machinist mate when he got out.

That’s when we met.
 We rented rooms at the same boarding house.

He’d knock on my door to wake me in the morning and leave a cup of coffee in a plastic cup at the door before he left for work. (He left much earlier than I did.)

Whenever I’d come home from a date, Bill would be painting and we’d talk into the wee hours. 
Six months later we married.

From Virginia to Baltimore

We moved from Virginia to Baltimore. No money of course. All I had was high heels shoes, so if I wasn’t working I was barefooted. (I remember being barefooted into November.)

During that time I worked mostly for attorneys.
 Bill had a variety of jobs, but mainly in air/conditioning and refrigeration.

Still in our 20’s he was accepted and attended Maryland Institute College of Art
. Also attended air/conditioning & refrigeration schools during the years he worked in that field.

When Bill turned 36 we gave serious thought to the possibility of getting into our 40’s and 50’s and never doing what we really wanted to do because we’d always been told it couldn’t be done. (Making a living with his art.)

My guess is that many of you can probably relate to being told what you want to do is impossible.

Starts when we’re young and want to do something that society as a whole, your parents or your peers are not doing. Then folks start telling you very emphatically in most cases, that what you want to do can’t be done. They give you excuses (usually called reasons) like you’re either too young or too old, the economy’s bad, you have children, you don’t have enough money and on it goes.

The sad part is that in most cases we start to believe all that propaganda and accept it as fact. Then we don’t follow through on things that could make life great, rather than just muddling through in the grey zone.

And of course, we make excuses ourselves.  The two most popular being lack of time and money.

But the fact is – what you accomplish and what you’re able to do has more to do with how much you want to do it than it does with how much money and time you have. I wrote in detail about this in a previous post.

Helps if You Know Someone Who’s Already Done It

If you want to be successful in any given field, it helps if you know of someone who’s already done what you
 want to do. Then copy them. (For example, even if you have absolutely no experience in gardening you can copy my example and be successful. That’s why I wrote the book – to help you be successful almost instantly.)

In our case, we had never even heard of any artist who had taken our approach – so there was no one to copy. Quite frankly, it seemed like an impossible goal – even to us.

Driven To Do It

We didn’t know how to go about achieving our goal, but we were so driven to get out of the city and be where we wanted to be (which was here in the Northern Neck) that we quit our jobs and moved here even though we had no money.

I take that back – we had $80.

To make it even more of what most would call insane – we wanted to make our living with Bill’s artistic abilities.

So here we were, in the middle of a remote area (especially back then), knowing no one, having no income,
 with only $80, and everything we owned in a truck that still belonged to the bank in Baltimore. And not a clue as to what we were doing.

When I look back I’m amazed and almost find it hard to believe that we were so driven to take such a hard road.

I had someone say to me one time, “But it really wasn’t that hard was it?”

Yes, it was! It was very hard. As a matter fact when I look back, it amazes me that we got through it.

The only reason we had a roof over our head when we arrived in this area, was because a fellow who had worked with Bill owned a trailer and said we could stay in it.

It doesn’t take a lot of thought to figure out that we were pretty much destitute within a week or so.

Nonetheless, Bill went out every day to draw and paint. And I think that was just as much to remind us of what we were suppose to be doing here, as anything else.

Looking for Work

We also looked for conventional “jobs”, but no one would hire us. Bill went to all the a/c and heating companies looking for work. I went to all the offices (especially attorneys). We both told folks they didn’t have to pay us until they saw what we could do and that we’d be willing to do the jobs that their other employees didn’t want to do.

I remember one day – I made an interview appointment with one of the larger companies in Kilmarnock. Bill and I hadn’t eaten in two days and I sure didn’t “feel” like an interview.
 To make a long story short, the guy told me it was so nice to have us in the area (I guess he felt that was the right thing to say)
, but he couldn’t possibly hire me.
 That was a downer.

This story was repeated many times.
 It’s especially difficult when you don’t have food and other necessities and still have to put your best foot forward to do what you can to try to change things.

Finding work – but

Now the story gets even more unbelievable and I’m sure anyone who would have known this would have really thought us crazy.

After many months, a fellow who owned a company in Kilmarnock decided to take a chance on Bill and hire him. At first we were excited. The idea of having some income was WONDERFUL!

And then things started to sink in and we realized what would happen if Bill took the job.

We may as well have stayed in Baltimore. We’d be right back to not doing what we really wanted to do and never really making more than enough to survive on. (Which seemed pretty appealing at the time.)

So as hard as it was, Bill turned the job down.

Nickles and Dimes to Keep Going

In the meantime Bill had put notes up at the various post offices stating he would do odd jobs.

A fellow who was building a home a few miles away showed up at our door and asked if Bill could do some work for him. That was exciting. A bit of income — but a job that didn’t tie up your life forever.

Found in the Middle of Nowhere

And somehow, I can’t for the life of me figure out how, a newspaper reporter found us and wrote the first article ever written about Bill. (No money came, but it seemed encouraging at the time.)

Getting Those Bums Out of the Trailer

Within the year, the fellow who owned the trailer we were in decided to sell it.

The real estate agent told him “Let’s get those bums (that was us) out of there so we can sell it.” (The owner of the trailer repeated her comment to us.)

And by the way, the same real estate agent called me years later. After she introduced herself, I said “Oh yes, I remember you.” She then went on to say how proud everyone was to have Bill in the area — and could we contribute something to whatever cause it was that she was promoting.

And in case you’re wondering, no, we didn’t contribute anything.

Bottom line – the guy sold the trailer.

House Sitting, Cottage in the Woods, and Finally an Old Farm House

We had a week to find another place to reside.
 Fortunately, a couple who wintered in Florida needed a house sitter.

When they returned from Florida we moved to a tiny one room little cottage in the woods across the creek from where we wintered in return for Bill doing odd jobs for the owner.

That lasted almost a year.
 After that we moved to an uncared-for old farm house that was occupied by thousands of crickets, snakes, mice and the occasional raccoon and rat.
 No heat (later we were able to get kerosene heaters), no running water in the house, no bathroom, no phone. But the price was right. We got it just for living in it.
 And we stayed there 20 years.

It’s what we had to do, and I can’t say it was easy. Poverty’s not fun.

Somehow we got through more than 20 years of doing without just about everything.


Life, in the best of circumstances, presents challenges. On the road we chose to walk some of those challenges seemed insurmountable.

We met the challenges. Some times better than other times. And we learned. But it was slow going.

One of the things we learned was that you can’t always wait for conditions to be perfect to take action. We probably did more with nothing during those years, than many people do with a lot.

A few of the things Bill did:

About the first thing we created to sell were notepapers. When all was said and done, Bill did over 150 notepapers, most of them pen and ink drawings of our Chesapeake Bay area that were popular for more than 20 years.

Hundreds of original watercolors and oil paintings were created and sold.

Some color reproductions. (a/k/a prints).

In 1986 Bill was one of 86 artists in the U.S. chosen to take Robert Bateman’s Master Class at Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in
 Wausaw, Wisconsin. (Bateman, for those who don’t know, is a world reknowned Canadian artist.)

By invitation Bill had many shows throughout the area, including one sponsored by the Northern Neck Audubon Society. And almost every bank within a 5 county area invited him to exhibit and/or hold a show there.

We visited and Bill drew life at Smith Island and I wrote a little book about that adventure. We also visited Tangier, but I promised everyone we’d never write that story. 🙂

Created the first two travel guides for the Northern Neck.

Taught for a few years at both campuses of Rappahannock Community College.

Held workshops for artists.

Over the years he did portraits by commission (two of which hang in our county’s courthouse). Created letter heads (including county letterheads), logos for businesses, and designs for various organizations.

In 1991 Bill did a design for a tee shirt that was so popular we sold out just by word of mouth within a week. That’s how we “accidentally” had the idea for Bill’s line of sportswear that we named Chesapeake Bay Designer Sportswear. It was a good accident because it enabled us to live a little better than we’d been living. We sold primarily at our shop and the boat shows creating a good following there.

Created commissioned commemorative prints for 4 of the 5 Northern Neck counties.
Created the Chesapeake Bay Watermen commemorative print in 2000.

Created and published the Northern Neck Illustrated Journal in 2003 with well over 100 drawings of the 5 county area.

In 2006 he was asked to paint George Washington’s Birthplace, which took him two years to do. The event unveiling those paintings took place in 2008.

He was honored posthumously by the James Monroe Sons of the American Revolution this past May and was credited with doing more to preserve Northern Neck history than any other single person.

More Recognition

Over the years Bill’s goal as an artist (in addition to earning a living) was to be the best he could be and continually improve his artistic ability.
 He did that.

Just this past November that accomplishment was recognized by the former Director of Collections at the Hirschhorn Museum of the Smithsonian Institute.

When she visited me prior to the last show this past November, she talked at length about Bill’s ability, calling him an artist of quality. What impressed her most, she told me, was his continual improvement over the years.
 She mentioned that many artist’s that are now dead and famous, plateaued at a certain level and stayed there. But, she said, it was so obvious to her that Bill continually improved.

It would have been nice for Bill to have heard that compliment with his own ears and know that someone who really knew what they were looking at saw that in his work.

Some Tips to Get You Down the Road Less Traveled (should you chose it.)

#1. Walking a different road than the majority is seldom easy.

It’s a bit easier when you know up front that you can’t expect anyone – no matter how close they are to you – to share your point of view, your goals, or to see exactly why you’re doing what you’re doing.

In all probability if what you want and are doing does not match what the vast majority is doing, you’ll be criticized.

Start walking in the direction you want to go.

You don’t have to take huge steps. Tiny steps will get you there.

Hopefully your “road less traveled” won’t be as hard as ours. 
I had to make myself walk in the direction we wanted to go even though I sometimes felt in my heart we’d never get there.

But the fact is – you have a much better chance of reaching a destination in the north if you’re headed north rather than south.

 Keep a Check on Your Attitude

Sometimes life can be like a card game. You don’t always get the hand you want, but you have to play with hand you’ve been dealt.

So if something can’t be avoided, work with it the best you can. Sometimes the only choice we have is what attitude we’ll embrace.

The right one can get you mentally past the unavoidable and help you see opportunities in the situation.
 It’s not so much the event that shapes our world, but the thought process we adapt in going through it.

I’ve come home many times with a bad attitude and Bill would said, “Nothing can change for the better until you change your attitude, Theresa.”

Surround yourself with quality people.

Statistics prove that people we’re around definitely make an impact on our life.

Ask yourself, does this person move and inspire me to do my best, be my best and give my best?
 Also turn that question towards yourself to find out if you’re being a quality person. Do you inspire others to do their best, be their best, and give their best.

The very same can be applied to what you watch for entertainment, the books and magazines you read, the newsletters and websites you subscribe to. Are they helping you to be your best?

Set your Standards Ahead of Time

If you’ve not already determined what you stand for and what values you’ll hold to, you’ll be caught off guard many a time.

Just about everyday we’re given opportunities (in the form of choices) to show what we’re made of.
 Some are seemingly more insignificant than others.
 But make no mistake, every decision is taking you either towards your goal or away from your goal.

Each decision either makes you stronger or weakens your resolve.

Don’t allow the noise of the opinions of others to drown out your inner voice.

For the most part, turn a deaf ear to all that.
 Had Bill and I listened to all the “noise”, our life would be void of the things that made it wonderful.

We were told

  •  Our marriage wouldn’t work. (We were married 51 years and hoping for another 50.
  • It wasn’t possible to make living with art. (I must admit it’s not easy, but we finally did it.)
  • Can’t garden without chemicals. (I’ve been organic gardening for almost 40 years.)
  • When we created sportswear with Bill’s designs other exhibitors at the boatshows couldn’t get to us fast enough to tell us
 that we would not be able to sell goods of that quality at a boatshow.
  • The Annapolis Boat Show was another thing we were not suppose to be able to get into. We were told we had
 to be on a waiting list and it would take 5 to 10 years to get in. My reply was, ” Well – I don’t have 5 to 10 years, I have to get in in one year.”  And I did.

 I mentioned earlier. Keep in mind: what you’re able to do has more to do with how much you want to do it, than it does with how much money or time you have.

Final Thoughts

Thank you for taking time to read this.

I hope you’ve latched on to something useful in our story as well as the tips that you can use to propel you forward in your life’s goals and desires.

Today, Bill would have been 75 years old.  If I could have him here with me I’d start by saying:

I love you Bill Martz and I will always love you. Having had you in my life for 51 years was a tremendous gift.

I’m saddened not to have you here with me and miss you more every day.  But I know that each day is part of life’s curriculum with it’s own lessons to be gleaned and learned. So, I’m trying to go forward.

I now face life’s challenges alone. If I can meet those challenges, it will be because of what we learned as we walked through life together.

I love you. Happy Birthday.


Related Posts:

Gardening and Life In General Walking in the Direction You Want to Go

Choose Your Path Carefully

Your Focus Will Determine Your Outcome and Lifestyle

Simple Secret to Increase Your Chances for Happiness and Success

Choices – Making You Stronger or Weakening Your Resolve


All content including photos is copyrighted by  All Rights Reserved.

You Might Want to Try This Lettuce – Breen – a Mini-Romaine

Most of the time I don’t get too excited about something new that I’m trying until all is said and done at the end of the season. Breen lettuce, (one of the new varieties I’m trying this year) is definitely an exception.

As with most romaines. Breen is said to have firm crisp leaves with excellent flavor. From what I’ve seen of Breen seedlings I think the leaves are going to be the same texture as Sierra Batavia – one of my favorites. The leaves are almost succulent and absolutely delicious.

Pictures on the internet of Breen show various colors from deep red to red with green closer to the base of the leaf; so I’m not sure if mine will change as they grow. I love the color just as it is on the seedlings – olive green with an overlay of dusty red.

The red arrow is pointing to the Breen lettuce seedlings.

I started transplanting a week ago and finished up today in anticipation of the rain Friday.

Usually when I transplant lettuce seedlings, they’ll take a while to establish themselves and stand up firm and straight. The Breen seedlings I put in last week, looked perfect even the very next day.

Sometimes I tend to plant too many seeds in one container. If time slips away on me before I get to transplant them, those little lettuce roots get long and twisted together and not all of those seedlings can be pulled apart.

Surprisingly, Breen is not like that and was relatively easy to separate.

Final Thoughts

Since we’re talking lettuce, if you’ve never tried a dressing that I think is one of the most versatile, why not plan to give it try this year.  Check it out here.

Hope you’re growing something new this season. If you have some space — why not order some Breen lettuce. From what I’ve seen so far, it might be destined to be one of my favorites – and possibly one of yours.

Related Posts:

Secrets to getting Eatable Lettuce Well into Summer

Lettuce in 100 Degree Heat

Lettuce – Harvesting for Dinner on July 16th


All content including photos is copyright by  All Rights Reserved.

Empowering Partners

I was shocked to come round the shed on my way to the garden one day last summer to find that a huge limb had fallen.

It was not without tears that I started the clean up. I have to admit I felt a bit sorry for myself, as it was a task that I never would’ve had to do by myself if Bill were still alive. Had he been here, I would have cut the small limbs to help him and he would’ve done all the “heavy” work.

Many old saws hung in the shed, but at the time I didn’t know one from another. I hauled them out and tried them all. None of them made it easy, but I had to find way. I decided that every day before I did anything else I’d cut some on a large limb at least 30 minutes. (That would get me about 1/3 of the way through a 4 inch limb.)

Seeing Another Potential Problem

The more I worked on those big limbs, all I could think about was another big tree that seemed to be destined to fall on my garden fence when a future northeaster came. That would cause an even bigger problem for me since I wouldn’t know how to fix the fence. (I know it must sound like I don’t know how to do anything.)

Bill and I had talked about having the threatening part of that tree removed. Shortly after that, he was too sick for me to think about anything but taking care of him.

After Bill died my resources were close to nil. I wasn’t sure if I’d have enough to have the work done. The tree folks we had had come every 5 years or so, were/are excellent. But their price for the one tree was beyond my reach.

I called a couple of others. Couldn’t afford any of them.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

In desperation I asked the last guy that gave me an estimate, how much to just cut out the part I wanted down and not haul it away. I had just enough funds.

Five men came. What a mess they made.

They left me with an enormous pile of big tree trunks that was over 10 feet tall and more than 20 feet across. That was in addition to their unearthing the plants in the side border and ruining a section of ground that use to be level.

When they were gone I was overwhelmed. I went inside, laid down for 4 hours, and cried. I hate to admit that I was so wimpy, but I was.

Now the Upswing

Feeling sorry for myself wasn’t helping very much, so I got over that.

With a nice pair of loppers (that I already had) and several saws that would’ve had a hard time cutting through an apple, I finally got the job done.  It took almost a month to get everything cut down and stacked.

When a young friend showed up unexpectedly and offered to haul it away – had it been physically possible for me – I would’ve jumped up and clicked my heels together.

I wish I had pictures of the pile before I started clean up, but I don’t. These are a few of the tree limbs as I got to the bottom of the 10 foot x 25 foot pile.

A Different Strategy

We’ve had a lot of hard wind lately.  And yep, you guessed it.  A tree came down.

The 35 foot tree that was on a neighbor’s property fell onto my property. (These folks are ones who own the lot with the invasive monster trees that I’ve mentioned in prior posts.)  Since they don’t tend to anything, I knew I’d have to move the tree myself.

The first thing I determined was to do some research on a saw that would allow me to do the job much more easily.

Although I did several hours of research, it really only took about 30 minutes of looking around to learn that the Silky Pocketboy Folding Saw made in Japan was probably THE best there is.  Not that others aren’t good, but even the videos made by people who have every type saw available – say that Silky – for one reason or the other – comes out a notch above the rest.

I knew it was what I wanted.  No more lugging around those big old hand saws that don’t cut anyway.

Folded Silky Pocketboy

Choices – Blade Length and Teeth

As the name indicates, these little saws can fit in your pocket.  I carry mine in my little garden basket with my gloves and other things I might need. (They come with a nice thick carrying case, but many reviewers found it easier to just carry the saw without the case in their pocket.)

The blades are available in two lengths: 5 inch (130mm) and 6 3/4 inch (170mm).  Both lengths are available in four teeth sizes: large (coarse), medium, fine, extra fine.

The handles are color coded for the teeth:

  • red for large;
  • black for medium;
  • yellow for fine;
  • purple for extra fine.

I wasn’t sure about the blade I needed so took a guess and ordered the 5 inch blade with medium teeth.

The same day the saw arrived, a friend showed me a saw blade similar to the one I would need to cut those 6 inch diameter logs.  One look and I knew that the 5 inch saw with medium teeth that sails through the 2 1/2 inch (or less) diameter branches, would not be the best to use on the larger logs.  (Would take longer to get the job done on the 6 inch logs.)

I ordered another saw with coarse (large) teeth.  And I decided to try the longer 6 3/4 inch blade. My choice was perfect.  It took me about 10 minutes to cut through the 6 inch thick log. Quite a difference than when I used those older large handsaws last summer.

I’m confident that a stronger person would cut through it much more quickly that I.

My two Silky Pocketboy Folding Hand Saws

Blades can also be positioned and locked at this angle when need be.

How It Cuts

My research indicated that most American saws cut on the push action.  These little Japanese Silky saws cut when you pull. You don’t need to expend a lot energy on the push action – and I find the pull action is easy.

Cleaning the Blade

The wood of the fallen tree was totally dry.  Left the blade as clean as brand new!

When cutting up limbs that are “green”, sap builds up on the blade.  If you had lots to cut the sap build up would slow things down and make it harder.  I’m usually finishing up, just about the time that happens.

A brush is good for removing the wood bits from the teeth before you clean the blade.

You can buy a special solvent for cleaning, but I used kerosene (or rubbing alcohol) since that was the solvent(s) on hand.  At first I didn’t think it was working.  By chance I ran water over the blade about 5 minutes later and found that the sap instantly became removable. (Remember – I’m new to all this stuff.)

I wiped the blade clean and then coated it with a drop of honing oil Bill had.  Wiped off the excess; folded it and returned it to its case in my basket.

Do Not Sharpen

The teeth on these saws are “impulse-hardened”, a proprietary technology by Silky. This is said to allow the teeth to stay sharper about 3 times longer than non-hardened teeth.

You cannot sharpen impulse hardened teeth. But if your saw ever does become dull, you can buy new blades.   From the reviews I read, it’ll probably be a long time in the future before that happens.

An Empowering Partner

Last summer, even if I had known about these little saws I wouldn’t have been able to get one.  But by going through the situation in the worst of conditions I

  • learned that I could do the job in the worst of circumstances if I had to and
  • decided that when I finally did make enough income, I would put a tool on the priority list that would make this type of job more easily “doable” for me.

Probably sounds absurd to those who can’t relate to this story, but having these little saws in my garden basket has made me feel empowered.

I don’t particularly look forward to still cutting up fallen trees when I’m 80 and 90 years old, but with my two little empowering partners in my basket, it’s possible.


Shop Silk Saws here.


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Grow Nutrient Dense Food – with the “easiest and simplest garden out there”

When folks become aware of what’s going on in the food industry and learn the real story behind modern day agriculture, I think their thoughts probably turn to ways they can obtain food free from poisons.  Also, food that is more nutrient dense than most available in grocery stores.

Years ago, the first thought for many was to obtain organic food. (*Food raised on balanced, biologically-active soil in cooperation with nature.) That’s the food that will give the best chance for a healthy life.

Organic When Organic Wasn’t Cool

Farmers who were growing organically before it became popular and when the organic movement started, did so because they knew that the quality of food is in direction proportion to soil quality. Working in accordance with nature was part of their values.

And Then Came the Government

Long about 1990 came the National Organic Program. Organic was then officially established as a system under the federal government’s jurisdiction.

Well known organic grower, Eliot Coleman, in a speech given at the Mid-American Organic Association at the end of January 2017, notes that even back then “the USDA — tried to include irradiation, GMOs, and sewage sludge (as ok for use in organic food) but had to back off because of intense objections from the public.”

As the years have passed the  organic “cause”  has become big business. As it has, it has also degenerated.

Many companies who are certified as organic, keep only the “letter of the law”, but certainly not the “spirit” of the law necessary to produce real organic food. (*See earlier definition.)

Mr. Coleman in his speech put it this way, — the merchandisers now control organic, and — maximizing the amount of product available has become far more important than how it is produced —.

The USDA, mired in decades of chemical thinking and influenced by industrial lobbyists, has continually tried to subvert the promise of a natural, biologically based agriculture. “

He goes on to say that USDA has rewritten the definition of organic, removing any reference to the word “soil”.


Think hydroponics and read Mr. Coleman’s account in the box below.

Under the influence of immense pressure from the hydroponic industry, and a board seriously compromised by conflicts of interest, the NOSB (National Organic Standard Board) postponed a vote that would have prohibited hydroponic produce to be sold as organic. The NOP (National Organic Program) claims that the previous NOSB  prohibition of hydroponic — was “unclear.” The reason this issue came up for discussion was the recent realization that, aided by USDA (United States Dept. of Agriculture) collusion, the hydroponic industry has been surreptitiously selling their water grown produce as organic for most of the past decade with no indication of hydroponic on the label and with no customer knowledge that this was happening. By the time the issue eventually resurfaces for another vote, this faux organic produce will have become so ubiquitous that it will be impossible to stop. Any crop that can be produced hydroponically (berries, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, cucumbers, lettuce, etc.) will continue to flood your supermarket’s organic section (pushing out real organic) and the label will not say a word about hydroponic.

Actions you can take as suggested by Mr. Coleman:

If you are a certified organic farmer one simple action you can take right now is to put economic pressure on the certifying agencies to stop certifying soil-less crops as organic. Just contact your organic certifier and demand to know if they certify hydroponic operations. If they do certify soil-less growers, tell them that you object and will plan to change your certification next year to a more principled provider unless they desist. Honestly, why would you want to pay money to an organic certifier whose practices are undermining customer faith in the integrity of the organic label?

If you are an organic eater speak to the produce manager in your local supermarket. Say that you object to hydroponic masquerading as organic and want the store to stock soil grown organic produce or you will take your business elsewhere. I can guarantee you that most produce managers have no idea that the hydroponic invasion has happened and will tell you that organic already means grown in the soil.

Maybe the Easiest Way

If you have even a small piece of land to dig in, the best and easiest way to get some health sustaining food, may well be to grow it yourself.

Objections to Gardening?

Do any of these objections to growing your own come to mind:

  • You don’t know anything about gardening and you don’t have time to learn all that stuff.
  • Gardens take too much time to weed, water, and spray.
  • I don’t have time to spend in a garden.

If so, I have some good news for you.

The Good News

The good news might be best explained in the words of my friend, reader, and long time gardener, Jim in Illinois.

Jim had an old friend and also a cousin ask him if he would consider helping them start a garden. Both men live in Wisconsin – a two hour drive from Jim. (It’s my understanding that at some point in time he will make the drive several times to help them.)

He writes:

I want to start out with buying each of them your book.” (Organic Gardening – Cutting Through the Hype to the 3 Keys to Success.)

One of them has described a desire for a “no-till” garden and the other just wants “the easiest and simplest garden out there”, so your book absolutely fits the bill.

—Both guys are minimalist type people (especially gardening) and your approach is what will finally make their gardens happen if anything will.

Need to hear more?

If you need more testaments from folks who have already read the book and followed my recommendations you can check out the 3 posts referenced at the end. (Also, see all the comments in the column to the right of this post.)

Final Thoughts

One more recommendation – start small – but start. You might find it’s a lot easier than you think.  If you need more help, you know you can email me.


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3 Related posts with More Proof the 3 Keys Work:

A Reader Writes – If There Can Be but One – Make it Organic Gardening – Cutting Through the Hype to the 3 Keys to Successful Gardening

A Reader Writes: “Everyone is amazed at my garden!”

3 Books That Can Change Your Garden, Your Health, and the Way You Look at Life

Voles – Trapping Tip

Happily, I’ve not had much trouble with voles wreaking havoc in my five winter lettuce beds.

But I wasn’t surprised when I noticed some damage a week or so ago when I removed the covers after several days of cold temperatures.

I set a trap right away. (Regular mouse trap with peanut butter for bait and a pot on top to cover.) Caught a large vole immediately. Reset the trap.

Found another vole hole. Set another trap within less than a foot of the other.

No activity for a while.

When next I checked, the traps were sprung and the bait was gone.

For some reason I was short on time that evening and I didn’t have time to go back to the house, get bait, and then come back again.

I learned several years ago to never let that stop me from resetting traps. And yes, you’re understanding correctly. I reset empty (unbaited) traps.

Next day when I checked, I’d caught one.

Wouldn’t you know, I had forgotten to bring the peanut butter bait with me to the garden again. I reset the traps anyway.

Bingo! Caught two more!

Final Thought

If you get caught in the garden without bait for your traps, don’t let that stop you from resetting them.

If you don’t reset, you know for sure you won’t catch anything. If you do reset, you’ve got a chance.


Related Posts:

Voles – Shrews – More About the Truth in Controlling Them in the Garden

Voles – Moles Mice – Shrews – How to Control them in the Garden

Lettuce, Cold Frames, and Voles

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Lettuce – An Oak Leaf Variety You Might Want to Try and Why

How many varieties of lettuce do you plant each year? If you’re new to gardening you might just think lettuce is lettuce so why plant more than one kind.

I have a hand full of lettuces that I consider a “must grow” each year. Some are favorites for taste, some for beauty, and some because they endure the cold (with protection). Others are grown because I know they’ll probably do well at times most varieties might not be producing bountifully. In other words, they’re my backups.

Such is an oakleaf lettuce.

I usually try a new variety of that type each year to find one I consider the best.

Some characteristic has to make it stand out to me in order for me to really want to grow it again.

With Bronze Arrow Oakleaf,  it was the beauty of the plant that made it rise above other oakleaf varieties I’d tried.

Couple of years ago I ordered Royal Oakleaf and Italienisher Oakleaf from Fedco, said to be the best of the best in Oak Leaf lettuces. I grew them both and they did what they were suppose to so I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to ’em.

And Then Fall Came.

In the fall I plant primarily for taste and dependability keeping in mind that some do better in winter than others.

On a whim I put in Italienisher Oak Leaf.  Really thought it would be one of the first to succumb to the cold even with protection.

Boy Was I Surprised!

Although our winter was not as severe as it could have been, we still had enough cold temperatures to give Italienisher an opportunity to prove itself.

Usually when I harvest lettuce I pick a few leaves from various plants, but these were so beautiful — especially before the other lettuces were not yet big enough to pick — I couldn’t resist cutting the entire head at the base. Not only did it do well, but it’s regrown small but dense and perfect heads 3 times already this winter.

The second and third head are smaller than the ones first grown but they’re dense and delicious.

Italienisher and mache and a weed or two. February 19th.

Just so you’ll know: I use row cover fabric over the concrete reinforcing wire frame for the first layer of protection when temperatures are 28º F to 32ºF. When it gets colder, one to two layers of plastic are added on top of the fabric and then secured with bricks.

Final Thought

You might want to try some Italienisher Oak Leaf this spring. And while you’re harvesting and tasting, imagine yourself having it all winter next year. 🙂

Related Posts:

Lettuce Varieties to Keep You Eating All Year – Or at Least 10 Months

Lettuce – Favorites – Tips – Several Sources


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Chard – Not grown it before? Why not give a try?

My friend and reader, Jack, and I had a brief conversation via email about chard.  I thought you might be interested in our exchange.

Jack writes, “Going to try chard of some type this year also for the first time.  Will probably just grab whatever variety is in the Burpee seed rack at the Home Depot.  But just in case they have more than 1 variety, do you have a standout variety that you prefer?”

Here are my thoughts about chard — just a bit more detailed than what I replied to Jack and with pictures which say a lot more than additional words.

I’ve only grown chard for about 4 years.  Hopefully I’ll never be without it again.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, id markers seem to disappear in my garden and I loose track of which variety is which.  I grow both smooth leaf and crinkled leaf.  The leaves of the crinkled varieties seem to get a lot larger.  I especially like that when I need a bountiful harvest to sauté.

A smooth leaf chard

How I Plant

Chard is not something I fill the entire bed with, but rather start several varieties and put them in here and there throughout the garden. (But you can certainly fill up a bed if you want. 🙂 )

It seems every garden bed has its own set of circumstances and sometimes the same type of plant will thrive in one and not in another.  And yes, sometimes they thrive in all of them  — but I like spreading them around just in case.

4 varieties of chard in the spring.

Back up for Other Greens

Chard is my backup for all my other greens. When mache is seeding, or lettuce low, or spinach bolting my focus is on the chard.  The young leaves (and even the older ones) are delicious and tender enough to use for salads or sandwiches or however you’d use the other greens.

When leaves get large (and some varieties can get huge) I think they’re particularly delicious sautéd in olive oil and garlic.  Sometimes I’ll toss some spelt or whole spaghetti with oil and vinegar, and a bit of organic grated parmesan and then top off with the sautéd chard. 

Chard produces a LONG time.  And if you don’t harvest on a regular basis it’ll wait for you.

This chard was so beautiful I couldn’t bring myself to picking any.  Finally I harvested the huge leaves after two months.  They were delicious.

In the summer when harlequin bugs turn up to deface my brassicas, the Chard can get pretty shabby.  I’ve seen it look “not worth having” and make a comeback to beauty in cooler temperatures in late summer and fall.  And even when it’s at its worst, it still produces beautiful new leaves that you can use.

More Than One

I hope Jack (and maybe you) will decide to grow more than one variety.  Each  has something just a bit different to offer regarding performance.

Final Thoughts

Having eatable leaves produced from spring through fall is not a bad deal. On a scale of 1 to 10 for plants that I want in my garden, I’ll give it a 10.


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Asparagus – A Variety to Consider – Unconventional Planting Thoughts

When I first started my asparagus bed about 18 years ago I bought 1 year plants.

The two varieties were a delicious purple hybrid and also a green variety which I think was Mary Washington. Both seem to be favorites of most suppliers along with the hybrid, Jersey Knight .

I followed traditional planting advice.

What I’d Do Today

If I were just starting a first asparagus bed today I might still choose 1 year plants rather than seed. Mainly because I’d be anxious to harvest as soon as possible and starting with 1 year plants means harvesting a year sooner.

(The harvest from roots 3 years old can be light. Year 4 should give you a full harvest.)

If I were still growing for market, one of the varieties would definitely be the purple hybrid because they’re so sweet and folks love ’em. I’ve picked samples of green and purple asparagus for guests standing in the garden only to have them go home an order the plants for purple asparagus the next day!

The sweeter asparagus would have more appeal to most even though the most nutrition comes from open pollinated varieties.

The closest I’d come to conventional planting advice when starting a “first” asparagus bed would be to choose a site that I thought would still be suitable 20 to 30 to 40 years (or more) from now. That’s how long a good asparagus bed can last.

I’d consider a good site one that is rich in organic matter with continual additions each year, full sun, and a place they’ll be free from other roots encroaching on them. If you’ve followed my 3 keys to successful gardening, you probably already have a nice bed they’d love.

The Fall of the Old – The Rise of Another

You may recall my mentioning that my first and best asparagus bed has been in decline for the last decade because of “far-from-normal” invasive tree roots from the bordering property. All those trees were not there when we moved here and we had no idea they were lurking underground — ready grow when an opportunity presented itself. Which it did — in the form of new owner who allowed it to grow up.

Fortunately for me, nature has encouraged me over the past few years by scattering some of the seed from the female plants to different locations in and outside the garden. As a result I have several large plants that are doing beautifully and gave me most of the great looking asparagus I harvested last year.

Some folks take out the female plants (they produce the seed) early on because they say they’re not as productive as the male plants. Also they drop seed that may not be wanted. (When the ferns bloom and flower, you’ll know that’s a female plant.)

I couldn’t really tell you if that’s true (about their not being as productive) since I don’t really keep a count of how many spears I harvest from each plant.

A Variety of Interest

Looking through one of the catalogs the other night the asparagus selection caught my eye. In particular, I was drawn to an open pollinated variety named Connover’s Colossal.

Various suppliers give varying origins. But most seem in agreement that these bright green spears with deep purple tips are thick chunky spears that are tender, of “sublime” flavor, and produced in abundance.

One source called it an old American asparagus variety that has almost been lost.

Another says its a popular British variety from the 1800s.

A site based in Ireland ( seemingly gave the most knowledgeable account of the variety’s origin. They stated:

“— developed by S. B. Conover, a produce commission merchant in New York’s old West Washington Market. It was introduced by the seedsman J. M. Thorburn & Company of New York in 1868, —“

They go on to say that an influential market gardener, Peter Henderson, impressed other market gardeners with the variety’s profitability in an article he wrote in an 1870 for an issue of American Agriculturist. He credited Connover’s Colossal with producing anywhere from 15 to 40 sprouts (per plant). Needless to say, its popularity soared.

For those of you who keep bees, you’ll be interested to know that this variety was recommended by the Royal Horticultural Society as an excellent attractant and nectar source for bees AND other beneficial insects. (I can’t help but wonder if this doesn’t apply to ALL asparagus — in particular the open pollinated varieties.)

Starting from Seed

Asparagus is easy to start from seed. (I just ordered a package of Connover’s Colossal.)

You can start indoors in January or February under lights if you want.

I planted some asparagus in a jug bottom a week ago, taped up the jug, and put it outside to germinate whenever the seed feels the time is right.

Or, if you have a small spot in a garden bed you can set aside, plant the seed after danger of frost is past. Just let the plants grow all year. Next year, before growth starts, transplant to their permanent location.

Transplanting Asparagus Roots

I’ll never follow traditional advice for transplanting asparagus roots again, after seeing how wonderful the plants that nature planted for me looked and produced. They were just as wonderful as anything I put in my first asparagus bed that was done according to all the instructions the “experts” give.

When they’re ready for transplanting, I’ll pull back some mulch in the chosen spot and set plants about 4 to 8 inches deep depending on the size of the plant.

None of this business about covering with two inches of soil and then filling in the “deep” trench as they grow. That always did set me crazy. Things got too busy by that time in the season to even think about following through on that instruction. Fortunately the asparagus never minded.

But there are things that need to be considered before you decide on how deep you need to plant.  I mentioned various things here.

(New gardeners/readers — please keep in mind that if your soil if deplete of organic matter and compacted you’ll have to improve it. You’ll find lots of details on this site.  If you need help, email me.)

Final Thoughts

If you already have a nice asparagus bed and wouldn’t mind having a few more, why not think about starting a new variety from seed.

If you’re planting asparagus for the first time and want to use 1 year roots to speed things up, you might want to reconsider following traditional/conventional advice about how to plant and save yourself lots of time in the process.


Related Posts:

Growing Asparagus


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