Seedy Business

California’s drought drags on. To that end, I’ve planned my seedy business judiciously. About two weeks ago, this sweet little box of seeds arrived in the mail, my modest order from Botanical Interests. They even included “thank you lettuce.” You don’t see that ever day.

Botanical Interests Box of Seeds

Botanical Interests Box of Seeds

When I first starting buying seeds, I didn’t pay much attention to the source. Now that I’m better educated, I prefer buying organic where possible, while supporting small, independent companies.

Cover Crop:

Once the unidentified behemoth, aka the pumpkin/zucchini mystery plant, dies back, I’ll plant both vegetable boxes with a cover crop. Purchased online from Botanical Interests,

This hardworking combination of field peas and hulled oats is a legume and grass cover crop that quickly benefits the soil with nutrients and green matter, while helping suppress weeds. A great cover crop for established gardens, the mix is also perfect for improving areas being turned into gardens such as lawns and vacant lots.

Pea plants fix nitrogen and condition the topsoil while the pea flowers attract bees and other beneficial insects. As an added benefit the young pea shoots and tendrils are edible and can be used in salads or as a soup topping. Oats hold nitrogen, provide green matter and provide support for the pea vines.

cover crop seeds

Cover Crop Seeds

When planted in the fall, the oats and peas benefit from the cool weather but are killed by the cold temperatures of winter and won’t regrow in the spring. The dead plant material provides a wonderful winter mulch that helps prevent soil erosion and is ready to be tilled into the garden as soon as soil can be worked in the spring

Not bad for $2.99 a packet! I bought three.


This is my only cool-season crop. I’ve grown it before and it got by on very little watering. I’m hoping for the same success to keep my water usage low.

Butterfly Flower:

After reading earlier this year about the decline in butterfly populations, I learned that one of the problems is the reduction in Milkweed. I’ve never seen it offered in our nursery centers, but found the seeds online.  It’s a perennial, and will replace the seasonal flowers I’ve grown for the past two years in the triangle near our front sidewalk.  The plant prefers swampy conditions, but they say it will do okay with ‘regular’ garden watering.

Butterfly Flower and Broccoli

Butterfly Flower and Broccoli

I’m trying not to get my hopes up, since San Jose is anything but swampy. I’ll be thrilled, though, if I can plant a healthy shrub that attracts Monarch’s and helps them on their way south.

Cat Grass Oats:

My sister’s indoor kitty, KT loves his greens. He prefers home-grown to what’s available at the market and I can grow it for a song year round. Pretty cool, eh?  So I plant a pot every few weeks and place it near the kitchen window. My sister brings me the empty pot, and I start a new batch so we always have them in rotation.

I tried to get Mr. Personality to pose for these pictures, but we wasn’t having any of it. He eventually nibbled on the corner of the envelope, before jumping down and moving on.

cat with grass seeds

“Clever” Photo attempt Number One

cat with seeds

“Clever” Photo attempt Number Two

Here is the lovely KT moving in for a nibble. Isn’t he the sweetest? KT started out as a foster cat, but she couldn’t let him go.

KT Loves his Greens

KT Loves his Greens

So, that’s my seedy business this fall. How about you? Are you dropping a seed or two into the earth, a greenhouse, or the time-honored pot in the windowsill?

Vernal Equinox, Always on Time

Variety adds spice, predictability keeps us grounded.

I enjoy the novelty of each season, and their predictable arrival.  Though it feels like winter passed us by, the planet continues to rotate. Once a year I celebrate the Vernal Equinox, aka the first day of spring.

I found a super-cool site called Time and Date that spells out the specifics if you’re curious.  I was.  I love learning new things. As gardeners in the Northern Hemisphere welcome spring, green thumbs in the Southern Hemisphere are seeing in the first day of fall.

My celebration is simple: I plant.  Nothing says spring like tucking seeds under the soil with optimism in your heart.

I also pulled weeds, topped of the planter boxes with rich soil, checked on the mini-greenhouse *and* remembered to do a good job with my sunscreen.  Lindy kept me company, happy to be outdoors on this glorious day.



Planter boxes, rotating composter, mini-greenhouse and worm bin

Planter boxes, rotating composter, mini-greenhouse and worm bin

The hummingbirds circled the feeder, jockeying for territory.

hummingbird at feeder

Swooping in for some nectar

They’re also drinking from the Abutilon lining the fence.

Abutilon lines the fence

Abutilon lines the fence near the patio

I heard a squirrel overhead, and noticed activity in the little mason bee nesting house.  What a day!

Mason Bee Habitat

Mason Bee Habitat

How is this for serendipity: the lovely Boomdee sent me several packets of sweat peas, and they arrived yesterday!  Perfect timing.  She sent a purple variety as well so that my sister, Sharon can enjoy them when she’s here.

goodies from Boomdee

Goodies from Boomdee

To round out the day, I popped in to SummerWinds Nursery and picked up an EarthBox™ and some potting mix.  I’m planting assorted lettuces in the front of the box, with the sweet peas in the back.  The trellis from the now-deceased Hardenbergia is the perfect size.  I’ve placed it at the edge of the lawn near the patio for easy viewing.  I can’t wait to watch them grow.

There is much more to do, as their always is this time of year, but I enjoy it all.  Wishing you the best of the new season, be it spring or fall.

If it Were a Snake

Do you know the expression If it were a snake, it would have bit me?

According to the Urban Dictionary, the expression is commonly used in the southern United States, when after searching for a misplaced item, you discover it right in front of you.

Last year I bought a canister of wildflower seeds, planning to scatter them in the new curb garden. It would be a fun activity with the wee gardeners next door.  They had such a good time planting and harvesting carrots.

As happens in life, one thing lead to another and before I knew it, time was running out. I searched high and low throughout the garage for those seeds, but to no avail.  After a cursory search, I went back and did a methodical search.  Still nothing.  Then the self-doubt crept in.  Did I just *think* I bought them, but only thought about it? Could I blame this on ‘menopause brain’?  Where is that canister of seeds?

You know where this is going, don’t you?

While putting away my bucket of tools, I noticed a *bag* of wildflower seeds.  Head slap.  I didn’t buy the canister after all, I bought the bag.  Since I was looking for a canister, my eyes continuously bypassed the bag of seeds staring right at me from the shelf.

widlflower mix

Wildflower Mix

I had a good laugh at myself, before putting the bag back where I found it.  I would not be fooled again.  The first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere is two weeks from today. This time I’m ready.

Has this sort of thing ever happened to you?

Greenhouse Envy

mini greenhouse

Mini greenhouse

Last year I watched with admiration as Sarah the Gardener built her second greenhouse. Sarah writes a fabulous blog about her garden in Australia, and is about to publish her second book on the subject. Check out her amazing garden.

I’ve always liked the idea of a greenhouse. My dad planted that seed years ago as he too wished he had one at home. Living in Silicon Valley means houses are small on small plots or large on small plots, but rarely will you find a house with a big piece of property attached. It’s simply cost prohibitive. Those of us who garden make do with the limited space.  We have great weather year round and a long growing season to boot. I have zero room to complain.

So imagine my delight when I saw an ad in the paper for this scaled down and highly affordable mini-greenhouse at our local garden center. It was on sale for $39 bucks which is a steal if you ask me.

I put it together over the weekend and it’s ready for plants.  I’m going to take stalk of my seed collection this weekend and then the fun begins.  Planting seeds!

Spring, also known as the Vernal Equinox, is just a month away in this hemisphere.  As Sarah puts her garden to bed for the winter in Australia,  our California garden will be waking up.

I’ve Been Framed

Thanks to all who voted and commented with your suggestions earlier in the week on I’ve Been Framed.  The straw-colored hallway won.  Here is a video of the art as I approach.  I hung her so our eyes meet when I walk by.  It’s nice to live with someone who sees eye-to-eye with you every single day.  I promise not to let it go to my head. 😉

There was a great artist named Pauline

Who lived with a kitty so darling

She made fabulous art

Art filled with great heart

Now it hangs on my wall thanks to Pauline.

Looking Back at the Corner Garden

Earlier this year I removed a small patch of lawn, a corner near the sidewalk facing the house. Originally I thought I would plant annuals and perennials, but decided annuals would be more fun. Perennials, once established, require little maintenance. I wanted a bit of action in my new flower garden and it’s action I got.

sidewalk corner

Corner near the sidewalk


After removing the grass and preparing the soil, I planted seeds, including Sunflowers, Bachelor Buttons, Cosmos and a Spring Mix of assorted purple plants.  I covered it all with a portable green house. The goal was to keep digging critters away from the seedlings to give them a fighting chance.

It half-worked. None of the critters were able to dig, but I couldn’t keep it well-watered either.

The seeds didn’t get enough consistent moisture, and next to nothing germinated.(I did get one sunflower).

green house covers

April, 2013
Seeds tucked in for warmth and safety


Disappointed but not defeated, I headed to the nursery and bought a few cell packs. I picked up a dozen sunflowers as a compliment to the one that grew from seed, my signature annual Alyssum and a few flowering annuals.

sunflowers and annuals

May, 2013
Sunflowers, Alyssum and assorted annuals


In early June, I drove up to the house in an unseasonal windstorm, and saw the fruits of my recent labor (the sunflowers) bending in the wind. I dragged a bench, a folding table and anything else I could think of and braced all the plants. I’m sure the neighbors wondered why I would move the bench to the edge of the sidewalk, but desperate times (sunflowers in peril) require desperate measures (in this case looking foolish). That said, I’ve gone out to lunch with girlfriends wearing a wig and false eyelashes so I suppose my concerns about looking foolish are moot. Ha!

sunflowers and bench

June, 2013
Sunflowers staked to the bench


The summer heat settled in and then this happened. The Bachelor Buttons, Cosmos and assorted seeds took off.  Every week something new popped up.  What a joyous experience. As the sunflowers died back, the annuals filled in. This also became my test garden. I bought (and forgot) about three pink zinnias and left them to suffer the heat out back.  I replanted them in the sidewalk garden and they flourished.

sidewalk garden flowers


The Bachelor Buttons started going to seed, testing my resolve. The orderly me wanted to deadhead the flowers and trim back dying branches. Daily visits from the birds kept me in check. It was nice to see them swoop down and grab a bite. Another plus, re-seeding. As the birds and squirrels drop seeds, they’re likely to regrow the following season. We all win!

I planted most of my garden peas in the curb garden, but since I had plenty, I planted a few among the summer annuals. As the annuals died back, the peas could take their place.

zinnias and cosmos


October was all about pumpkins and Halloween. Drip irrigation and a warm sun kept things humming along.

Oh, and this visitor:

butterfly collage


The peas are growing among the summer annuals and will need to be staked soon.  Still lots of color but the zinnias are starting to decay.  Nightly temps in the forties signal the end of summer weather, even when it does make it to 72 F by mid-day.

going to seed

November, 2013
Going to seed

garden peas and flowers

November, 2013
Garden peas grow among the flowers


What’s next? Time to collect seeds for next year. I’ve snagged a few here and there, but I need to make a concerted effort now before our promised Monday rain. Oh wondrous rain, how I’ve missed you.

Then on to planning for next year. Happy weekend. I’ll see you Monday.

There’s No Place Like It

Flowers in a cup

Flowers in a cup
‘Kiss me I’m a Scrapbooker’

What a fun weekend!  A group of us stayed at a local hotel and worked on crafts and photo albums the entire time. We did lots of eating, laughing, and impromptu dancing as well.  Michelle Obama’s not the only one doing the ‘Sprinkler.’

I finished one of my craft-it-forward projects, and got a start on a second one. I came away with lots of great ideas, one of the perks of spending a weekend with so many creative souls.

One of the women at my table gave each of us a St. Patrick’s Day cup. March crept up on me and now Saint Patty’s day is just a week away. I bought the silliest of impulse purchases at the craft store before I left: a small shamrock kit, promising a sprouted plant within the week.  We’ll see.

I walked in the door around 5 today, to the smell of homemade carrot soup and decadent brownies. A lovely bouquet of flowers were waiting on the counter.

My youngest son wanted to plant the shamrock seeds with me, something we often did together when he was younger. It was fun, proof that you have to go away once in a while to be missed. That little pot of seeds already brought me luck, whether it grows or not. 

If I had to summarize the perfect time away it would be this: feeling lucky to get away, and even luckier to come back home.

Will you be wearing green next Sunday?

Starter Pumpkins: Countertop Seeds

Seed Starter

For the past several years, we’ve purchased a variety of pumpkin seeds for my son’s Christmas stocking.  We start the seeds indoors in April or May to give them a fighting chance against birds and squirrels.  We have them in the ground by June, ready to harvest in August or September.

This year we started our seeds in a Burpee Self-Watering Seed Starting System®.  The kit comes with 72 cells, a planting medium, a moisture-mat and a greenhouse-styled dome.  Everything you need for success except water!  Our new crop includes Lumina (white), Baby Pam (pie), Magic Lantern (20 lb orange), Munchkin (miniature, orange) and Howden Biggie (40-60 lb. orange).

In the past the seeds were usually jumbled together, so we never knew what was what till they started to produce.  We were more methodical this year now that my son is older and more interested in the varieties.  I photo-copied the seed packets on heavy card stock and taped them to chopsticks.  When we transplant outdoors, the plant labels will be ready to go.

Every year we hope for one large pumpkin, but we’re never willing to sacrifice the other fruit to nurture just one plant.  Once again, I imagine we’ll simply let nature takes its course (except for the squirrels of course).  The chicken wire barrier keeps the nibblers at bay till the young plants begin to grow.

Pumpkin Seeds: The Start of Something Big