Herb Bed Progress

As plants go, I have to say that I am a huge fan of herbs. They are hardy and often insect and disease repellent. They smell wonderfully and often produce cute flowers. Of course, they are useful in cooking and crafting. What’s not to love?

One of my greatest delights this summer in reclaiming our ornamental beds from three years of neglect (a process that has made me think numerous times of one of my favorite childhood novels, The Secret Garden) has been the discovery of a variety of herbs that clearly thrive here. In addition to literally armfuls of oregano, I’ve found large quantities of thyme, sage, chives, and to a lesser extent, lavender, all thriving without human interference. Indeed, I’m pretty certain the previous owners encircled the flag pole with a hedge of alternating sage and thyme. (I can’t help but wonder if the parsley and rosemary failed to thrive?)

Flagpole with overgrown herb border.

Flagpole with overgrown herb border.

Closeup of overgrown flagpole border.

Closeup of overgrown flagpole border.

All of these herbs are terribly overgrown, as you can see. While they look healthy on top, layers of dead branches lay underneath that should have been pruned. Unfortunately, my research suggests that they should be pruned when they are dormant in February. So, beyond quite forcibly removing invasive plants like blackberries, stinging nettles and a cedar tree start, I’m leaving this circle alone for the time being.

By the way, I cannot tell you what an invaluable help the Garden Answers phone app has been in identifying the plants (wild and planted) on our property. You use the app to take a picture of the plant in question and moments later it provides photographs of similar plants. Those photos link to information about the given plant. Best of all, the app is free. Genius, I say! Sheer genius!

That said, all of these thriving herbs got my green thumb itching. So, we’ve reclaimed a bed in front of our shed that had gone completely native. In it, we’ve planted English and lemon thyme, lemon verbena, rosemary, lavender, Bergamot bee balm, French tarragon, and dill. I’ve planted seeds and tiny seedlings of several other herbs, but I’m not sure if any will survive. (Note to self: skip seeds. You always fail.) If I’m right and none survive, I’ll be adding echinacea, chamomile, and anise next year.

It will be interesting to see what survives and thrives.

Shed herb bed

Shed herb bed

Oh and if, by chance, you are wondering how I could have missed that most popular of herbs, basil, never fear. We’ve got that covered, too. It is growing quite happily on its own . . . in the lawn.

Basil in the lawn.

Basil in the lawn.


This is our third summer of living in Washington. We spent the first two primarily working inside, unpacking and make the house our home. This summer, however, we’ve moved outside, and I am slowly reclaiming the garden beds after three years of neglect.

Here are a couple of before and after shots of the front beds, where I removed wild blackberries and native trees that spring up everywhere, mountains of oregano, and a handful of shrubs and a hosta that didn’t pass aesthetic muster.


Front Right - Before

Front Right – Before

Front Left - Before

Front Left – Before


Front Left - After

Front Left – After



Front Right - After

Front Right – After

Now, I’d love to find someone to lay weed block and mulch in these beds to finish them, hold moisture, and prevent that weedy mess again!

Mother’s Helper

After living here almost three years, I decided that it was time to reclaim the ornamental beds. As I dug out native tree saplings, well-rooted blackberry vines, mountains of oregano that had gone wild and some unappreciated shrubbery, I was not alone, thanks to the faithful companionship of Augie. He stayed right with me, tucked under the shrubs, unless he happened on a tennis ball or right-handed (never, ever a left one) garden glove that just begged to be buried in the freshly turned soil.

20160630_123052(0) 20160630_123707 20160630_134036 20160630_134057How can you complain about hard work when you’ve got good company?

Garden Journal and General Life Update

I haven’t been here for a bit, but things are definitely perking.

This weekend, we managed to get both the patio bed and the veggie beds rototilled, after discovering that we could rent a small tiller at Home Depot for $30 for four hours. Jerry did most of the heavy work, but I tried my hand briefly. That little machine really vibrates, but it got the job done in a fraction of the time it would have taken me to turn the soil by hand.

We’ve hired some help who arrive tomorrow. They will put down new weed block and chip shred on the veggie garden paths. If time permits, they will cut our photinia fraseri at the barn. That should complete the heaviest work for the year. We will still need to plant the veggie garden and dozens of bulbs, run drip irrigation on the veggies and on two trees at the barn, and spread chip shred over the new beds.

On the positive front, our new bare root black walnut has sprouted some nice leaves, so something must be going right there.

In other news, I’m not sure if it’s the spring weather or just boredom with the usual grind, but my creative juices seem to be flowing. I have a renewed interest in my baby afghan and am making steady progress. Somehow, that afghan reminded me that I bought the beads and supplies to make a bracelet and earrings and the yarn and pattern to knit a lacy shawl. So, those projects are now seeing the light of day.

A recent shopping trip to buy some basic skirts for summer left me feeling frustrated. That reminded me of the sewing machine that has sat in my closet for a decade. One thing led to another, and I am now the proud owner of a pattern and some gorgeous fabric. My mom and I are trying to take a sewing class together to help us remember our previous skills. That should be a lot of fun, and I may end up with clothes I actually like!

And it seems that the gods are calling me to exercise. Just last week, my friend invited me to swim laps at our local pool. It was just wonderful, and I am so looking forward to going back, I hope with my friend, which makes it all the more fun. I also noticed that our local yoga studio has a special of 20 days for $20. A bit of research revealed that they have a 6:30 am class that I am looking forward to trying. All of this comes at a good time, as my elliptical is in parts on the great room floor while my spouse tries valiantly to figure out why a machine that is supposed to be very quiet, thunks like it’s falling apart.

Finally, the Sacramento Poetry Center has put on a great lecture series for the past few weeks. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to attend two lectures, and I hope to attend one more in the coming weeks. Those lectures have whetted my appetite for writing, so it is great luck that I just discovered a new writing group in Sacramento. Apparently, you just go to write for an hour, and nothing more. I love the idea of time dedicated just to writing.

Somehow, the world just seems cheerier with so many interesting projects and happenings to explore!

Garden Journal

It’s been a bit since I’ve had time to update. In the meantime, spring has sprung on our property.


Anonymous climber from Costco:038

Fringe Plant:039

Almond Tree:040 041For the past two weekends, our primary preoccupation has been with the irrigation system. With 24 separate stations, it’s been a big job to get it in working order. We have three more heads and one bubbler to replace.

On the planting front, Landry planted two bleeding hearts and three dahlias among the irises above my patio bed last weekend. We’ll see what comes up. Hopefully, these new arrivals will provide some color until I can plant more irises in August.

We are coming down to the heavy jobs of turning over the soil in the veggie and patio beds and laying weed block and mulch on the veggie garden paths. Then we will finally be able to get to some planting!

Garden Journal: A Bit of Fun with Seeds

My youngest son and I took a break from homeschooling today to head outdoors and scatter seeds. 002The seeds, a California wildflower mix, marigolds, oriental poppies and California poppies, are of indeterminate age, so I’m not terribly sure what will grow. It doesn’t matter. It is enough to be out in the sun with my six-year-old, casting seeds in the wind.

Garden Journal: Fruit and Nut Trees

Today, we had the fruit and nut trees pruned and fed with organic food. Again, we are probably a couple of weeks late as this should have been done during December or January. But, the leaf buds have not yet burst on the trees, so we’ll see what happens.

In addition, the trees received the following spray (per the California Master Gardener Handbook):

almond: dormant oil

apple: dormant oil

apricot: dormant oil & fixed copper (micro-cop)

cherry: dormant oil & fixed copper

peach & nectarine: dormant oil & fixed copper

pear: dormant oil

plum & pluot: dormant oil