It was early March, the peak of our freak heat wave. Chatting with my neighbor I ran my gaze over the winter beds which should have been dark and fallow. Instead, green was popping up everywhere.

“Where on earth is all that grass coming from?!” I groused.
Cover cropping No Rabbits Allowed beds.

I hate grass. It is the bane of the garden. I have trenched 8 inches deep and wide around the outer perimeter of my garden fence to keep the lawn at bay. Still, somehow it seemed to have crept all the way into the center of 1,200 square feet veg beds.

I began obsessing about the super-grass, wondering if our weirdly warm winter had somehow mutated it into the green goblin of the plant world. I instructed my helper to dig it all out and dispose of it with the landscape waste. I didn’t even want it in the compost. If it could creep 5 yards in 5 months I wanted it out of my yard entirely!

Turning over beds, sowing peas

He’d already cleared half the garden when I found time to join him one lovely (read: bizarrely hot 80 degrees in March) morning. I crouched down and started ripping out the grass with the vigor of Farmer MacGregor. I paused to wonder over a pea sprout. “Huh,” I thought, “I wonder how wild peas got in my garden?” I continued destroying the Super Villanous grass and discovered hairy vetch seedlings.

“Cool!” I thought, “I’ll weed around the vetch, I want to keep that. How nice of Mother Nature to send me wild peas and vetch…Wait a minute!

I closed my eyes. I opened them to stare at my helper who was digging out the stretch of supposed nuisance weeds a few rows over. If there are any light bulbs left hanging over my head, one dimly flickered at that very moment.

It was my cover crop. I finally got around to sowing the cover crop last fall, late one night, after midnight. I like to garden after midnight. The cover crop must have gone out on one of my late night jaunts home from the local tavern.

We’d been ripping out my lovely, nitrogen fixing, tilth building, soil enhancing fall-mix cover crop for over a week.


After smacking myself across the face, soundly and several times, I instructed Z to put all the stuff he’d dug out back onto the beds and turn them over again.

He ignored me.

Serves me right.
Spring gardens 2012

Daffodils. March 23, 2012

Looks like a bit of wild sorrel is tucked in there, too. No matter how many people tell me they are nutritious and delicious they are, i still think dandelions taste disgusting. Even the rabbits won’t eat them. That one’s got to go.

Time to start the onions

What’s that you are saying? Plant seeds in the middle of northern Illinois winter? Silly, crazy gardener, you can’t plant in winter.

Yes, I can! Now is the time to start starting onions from seed. Good thing, too. I must get my hands in some dirt (er, soilless seed starting mix) soon or I’ll get as stir crazy as Jack Torrence on a bad day.


Here’s a

It’s midwinter here in Chicagoland, we need sun and warm and sun. Memories of last years sunflowers share cheer.

On the fourth of July, this baby was already almost five feet tall. She sowed herself after being left behind by the squirrels last winter, apparently they were plenty full gorging on the seed heads I set out for them.

Volunteer sunflower in the butterfly bed. 7-5-11

By July 22 the plant had grown another four feet. Can you believe it? I bet if I sat still long enough I could see her growing. Sadly, this evening brought a wicked storm that blew my prize right off her roots.

Storm damaged mammoth sunflower 7-23-11

With dim hopes, my faithful helper Zech and I tamped her back down into the soil and staked her upright. I really didn’t think she would make it.
Saving the sunflower with Z. Staked post storm. 7-23-11

But she surprised us and topped out over 14 foot tall. Just goes to show you what happens when you mess with a strong woman. We come back stronger.
Mammoth sunflowers, 14 ft. 09-03-11

These ladies stood sentinel all the way around the fence perimeter of No Rabbits Allowed! Garden.
Sunflower sentinels surround the No Rabbits Allowed! Garden 09-03-11

Sunflower sentinels surround the Annex garden. Left: mammoth, Center: TeddyBear. 09-08-11

Another tall girl:
Mammoth sunflower, ~ 12 ft. 09-03-11
The Mammoth suns are fun, but my favorite are the fluffy, playful Teddybear Sunflowers. The more dainty Waooh stands in the foreground. Note the powdery mildew spreading across the spaghetti squash leaves does not affect the suns at all.
Garden sentinels from left to right: Waooh sunflowers, spaghetti squash foliage, cosmos, teddy bear sunflowers, mammoth sunflowers. 09-08-11

Reach for the sky.
Sunflowers Reaching 09-08-11

Happy bee kissing Waooh.
Happy bee pollinating Waooh sunflower. 09-08-11

Come soon, spring! Come soon.

Right now.

I am trying to isolate dark toned rattlesnake beans that I’ve dubbed “chocolate rattlesnake”. Those I saved were planted along the back fence line between the federle tomatoes which are finally starting to perk up. Shown here, flowering while the later sown beans are just sprouting and showing true leaves.

Damage on all eggplant is increasing, but the good news is they seem to be attracting the flea beetles which may keep them away from the crops more desirable to me (potatoes, tomatoes and peppers). I sprayed the accidental “trap crop” with insecticidal soap tonight.

From left to right: Brewer’s Gold, Perle, Willamette. The Perle is still stunted but trying to catch up. Growth at feet of hops is clover, left in place for nitrogen fixation. During peak of season, hops can grow a foot a day. Red Lake Currant and Feverfew in center bed.