Tag Archives: garden

too many tomatoes – it’s a thing

So, you remember my FedEx suitor back when I was living at Sunshine? How his “gift” of 25 super tomato plants made me really truly realize I was going to have to invent a big city boyfriend pretty soon? Well, if it weren’t for the other hints he gave me in that department I would say I was totally naive, because the tomatoes were nothing, the tomatoes were, well, i was probably just helping him out, big time.

After that first year at Sunshine (where growing things from seed was successful but not overly so), I’ve grown vegetables from seed every year, it’s a real boon, $3 for a packet of organic tomato seeds yielding 10-15 tomato plants (and I thin them now without compunction and save half the packet for next year) vs. $3-4 for a single tomato plant from the store? no-brainer, plus the VARIETY of tomatoes I have to choose from! 4 varieties is always too many, but I have a hard time stopping myself. Anyway, after I’ve gotten all I can in the ground and looked around for extra places to put a few more I’m left with flats of seedlings too pretty to toss! (I also inadvertantly lean toward the indeterminate varieties which means they grow long and luscious, willy nilly over everything—shrubbery, it turns out, is a handy support for such tomato plants.)

I’ve forced tomatoes (and eggplants, the Ping Tung Long variety turned out to have pretty potent little seeds—ahem) on all my friends that MIGHT grow them but still have some left so this morning I resorted to the neighborhood listserve and have put them out on the front porch. They are hopefully off to good homes as we speak!


garden update

(the Huerkamps would appreciate this)

After numerous bags of the cheap “topsoil” and “compost” from Lowes, splurging for some delicious Farmer D bags of dirt (1.5 c. ft. for $7.50), adding a bit of my own compost and churning up yard dirt, I was still a long way from filling the garden beds Naoya had completed for me. With seedlings ready to go in any day, I wrapped up my research and on a Friday afternoon pulled into Cummin Landscape Supply in the neighborhood to talk dirt.

I explained the problem, I needed at least 12 or 15 c. ft. by my estimates, but was tired buying bags of dirt, and really just wanted a pile of plain ole dirt! They guy noted that people usually just bring containers to put dirt in their car, Rubbermaid buckets, boxes, etc. I considered going home, but really, couldn’t we just TRY to put it in my car? I mean, this is what I have the tarp for. I spread it out fully for him to see, there! just like big tarp bag the size of my trunk with the seats folded down.

In the end this guy helped me shovel 1/2 cubic yard (about 13 c. ft.) into the trunk of the prius, which, along with 2 bags of their compost came to $19. I can sweat for that!

DSCN1775 DSCN1777-dirt-in-prius

Back home the wheelbarrow’s deflated tires proved impossible to fill so I hauled dirt like a water carrier from the trunk to the garden, and it filled it perfectly.

gardening in Rtown

speaking of Reynoldstown, I have a confession to make. See, I’ve always wanted to be part of a community garden or to have an allotment (like this lady), but to be practical it would have to be fairly near my house. So, when I found myself spending more and more time in Reynoldstown earlier this year, i did a little research and found there was a community garden in the neighborhood park just 2 blocks away! I checked it out, the place was sad and forlorn, it didn’t even look like it’d be gardened in the previous year, I decided to keep a watch on it. On Easter Sunday, the traditional planting time, I had several small plants going that were ready to be in the ground. I was growing things at V’s and turning some small plots of new soil at N’s, but nothing was adequate to the plantings I was planning for. Lots of tomatoes, and okra, and squash…

So that Sunday afternoon I headed over to the park with supplies in hand, some kale seedlings, okra seeds, and marigolds I think it was that first time. I picked one of the languishing plots (all still untouched) about halfway back and started pulling weeds. It was positively choked with weeds but the dirt beneath was rich and delicious. I put in my plants, watered with a cup from the rain barrel nearby and went on my way.

I’ve made sporadic visits to weed and throw more seeds in the ground. One plot up front was carefully cultivated not long after i worked my first one, but the others still languished so i pulled some more weeds in a corner of another bed, and more in another, planting tomatoes here and squash and cucumbers there as my seedlings were ready to be put out. Now, a few months later, 8 out of the 10 plots have gotten attention (2 1/2 by me), the most recent one in the back corner next to my first, and just the other day I ran into my first fellow gardener. When she asked what I had planted, I hemmed and hawed for just a moment, feeling a little uncertain about betraying my guerrilla tactics. In the end I downplayed my methods, saying I’d filled this plot, stuck that plant there, a few tomatoes there… no big deal.

Actually, it WAS no big deal. Below is my sumptious squash that someone else photographed a few weeks ago. I’d allowed the weeds to grow up all around it so that everyone thought it was a volunteer, not surprising for squash anyway. It has seen the only fruit although it unfortunately ripened while we were out of town and i’m certain those deep yellow knobbly summer squash were no longer good. Since then, we’ve had so much rain that all my squash everywhere else has drowned, the green tomatoes aren’t ripening and I haven’t checked on the okra yet. Putting more squash seeds in the ground and hoping for some dry weather and sunny heat, I want to see some red tomatoes!

squash at rtown garden ET

The [vegetable] Plot Thickens

I couldn’t resist. I was out in the garden and started chuckling as i shoveled dirt with my hands for the Beet Root Boltardy seeds I’d just found. damn, wrong time to plant those, well, we’ll plant half and see what happens!


It wasn’t going to be a gardening evening. I had something to turn in my 7pm and it was already close to 6:00 when i got home but… well, it was going to rain soon and I thought I’d better heap some dirt around those potatoes BEFORE it poured, and then, well, before a rain sure is a good time to plant some other things, one thing led to another and I was scatter marigold seeds in front of the fava beans (there are beans on the big ones at last!) uncovering seed packets of Irish Peas, Beet Root Boltardy and Black Krim Tomatoes (dang it, I thought i didn’t have any tomatoes and was happy to just buy plants but now i have to start at least these from seed and it’s so late!). Mom brought me all those from Ireland so… I better put em to work. Then i ended up remaking old pots of dirt for the peas and making a new “pot of arugula (in a Clementine box for kicks) and stopping to admire my cilantro. Then, at 7:45 I washed my hands and sat down to write for school.

But my vegetable plot IS thickening, particularly the fava beans which have been the longest in the ground. I have to say, this winter has been downright confusing, never knowing when to plant potatoes (yep, planting in bags, very excited) or kale or Arugula. Now I feel like i should be putting out tomato plants already but I haven’t even started the seeds (I almost did that tonight too but now I’m on to school work until the wee hours). Even though the earwigs nearly demolished the kale and arugula the first night they were out, i’ve had some success it seems combating with insect soap spray and am hopeful I will be eating more than one fresh-picked leaf at a time soon.

losing role models

Just being in class with Jim Cothran you could sense something of his fame, he’d worked at the renowned architecture/landscape architecture firm Robert & Co for over 40 years, he’d written one heck of a beautiful book on Southern Gardens, he seemed to know every garden in Charleston and Savannah, and he was a part of the founding of Trees Atlanta—most impressive and endearing to me. Our Historic Landscapes and Gardens class was a bit sluggish late on a weeknight, but perhaps the classroom’s lack of proper slide projector set-up possibilities frustrated him most. I, for one, would have been happy to memorize plant names for him, but that’s just me. He loved for students to seek his advice or conversation, and it was wonderful to see him light up when he was so engaged. He knew so much about plants and gardens, about cities today and historic landscaping alike. Judging by his slides though, formal parterre gardens were probably his favorites. I would love to see Jim Cothran’s garden.

Knowing him through other people always made me want to know him better and tomorrow I will join others at a memorial reception at the Cherokee Garden Library, a very special place to him, and hope to get to know him a little better, sadly post mortem. Jim died last weekend after a short bout with with lung cancer, and I don’t think anyone was ready to lose him at the young age of 71.

taken 12/11 in New Orleans with Jim Cothran in mind

Additionally this week Lee Adler has passed. Mr. Adler is among the most famous preservationists in the South and in the US. I have no personal association with Mr. Adler outside of my textbooks, but he was an incredible ambassador for preservation, credited with saving the Victorian District in Savannah through an innovative new approach: “Save historic buildings by buying them, then market and resell them with covenants in place that require their restoration.” He put this into action through the Historic Savannah Foundation and other organizations, including the Georgia Trust caught on, this is the premise of our Revolving Fund today. Although he wasn’t the first to put this idea into action, he certainly spread the word and “changed the way people approached historic preservation” (Savannah Now).

Who is making up our list of great preservationists today? Who will we this sad to lose next? Hopefully, we can say there is a revolving docket of preservationists worthy of such obituaries. The loss is still personal, but their impressions have been made, their torch handed over, their lives well-loved and well-lived.

tree sale

As I type this the annual Tree Sale at Trees Atlanta over in Cabbagetown (or Reynoldstown as they say) is still going on, but Viv and I arrived right at 8:00 to make sure we got what we wanted. Viv was prepared, armed with the list and notes all over it, we got 2 tea olives and then 2 more orange tea olives cause they were priced right, a sycamore and, our one impulse purchase, a curly cue filbert (hazelnut) which may or may produce nuts, but it is one heck of a delightful-looking plant.

tree sale 2

Trees Atlanta is one of the coolest non profits this city has. They began in the 1980s planted trees downtown because there were NO trees really at all, an appalling sight. Today, downtown’s street trees are beautiful and shady. Dad was headed this way in Jackson of course, with his plant now ask later, or rather, plant now, point out to the mowers later. Perhaps one day there will be such an organization, official and supported in Jackson! Anyway, more of Trees Atlanta history can be read here.

The tree sale happens every year, a good way to get a huge variety of trees for your yard. Tree Atlanta, while they are responsible for CREATING a lot of greenspace have also taken it upon themselves to take care of the trees both that they plant and that exist. They understand that for the city and citizens to be happy with them, they need to place trees appropriately for traffic and keep them limbs out of joggers’ eyeballs. To this end, pruning is probably the most important and never-ending task that the organization has and they offer classes in Piedmont Park (where they also plant) on pruning and you have to graduate from to be on the volunteer pruning task force. When it comes to planting, Trees Atlanta knows their trees and select appropriate trees for each site (and no Bradford Pears of course) and native.

After the tree sale, we stopped at Homegrown for breakfast (how could we not?) and saw a chicken crossing the road on the way over. no, seriously, we did.

an unexpected haul


The purpose of the trip to the Antebellum Plantation at Stone Mountain was to choose and take notes on 4 houses there to write on comparing and contrasting the architecture, interior design and furnishings, but when V and J texted me that they were coming down off the mountain, i was standing in the middle of a bunch of green beans (bush beans) adding them to my bag by the handful.

I didn’t in fact neglect my duties in the realm of Historic Preservation class project, I had seen most of the houses already, the Kingston House, ca. 1845; the Doctor’s Cabin, ca. 1826; the Slave Cabins (which claim to be mostly original but appear to have mostly been rebuilt); the barn and farmyard (which also had several medicinal plants found in the woods labeled and explained); and the Thornton House, ca. 1784 where someone had thrown some fava beans in the formal front yard, the beans had the plague but the plants looked good! and i learned later that peanut plants look just like fava bean plants but lower and bushier. Finally i came to the Cookhouse from whence i stepped out into the kitchen garden of the big house (Dickey House) and there i immediately made a new friend.

As i stood in awe of the vegetables grown in large beds in a geometric plan of walks (which, based on my research last semester i would say is inaccurate but wonderful), one of the groundskeepers walked up eager to show me around. First, look at that artichoke! “But then this is probably my favorite,” and he pointed to the purple corn flower that so many of us Southerners love. Then, have I ever eaten raw corn?? yes, i have and i like it, well you have to try this, you want to take some home with you? how many? ok, here, and here’s one to eat now. check out my cantaloupe and these are gourds, this guy gave me the seeds with a picture, they’re beautiful, like a green apple with all this autumn coloring painted on. What else do you want? eggplant? the tomatoes aren’t quite ready yet. squash? (got six at home thanks though!), broccoli? yes, that’s not going to last much longer is it? isn’t it funny how these cabbage all made such nice heads and those on that end just bolted, i can’t figure it out. have some peppers, and there’s tons of beans, go ahead and pick some to take home, get another bag!

picking corn artichoke blooms

So I did, and then he hid my haul for me under a cloth on the porch of the kitchen and i went to photograph and read about the Dickey Plantation house, after first being shown around the outside and the proper “front” … but that’s for the other half of the story.

guerilla tomatoes

Monday morning the last few tomato plants were still sitting on our front porch, staring me in the face, pleading with me to be let out of their yogurt containers so they could take off like all their brothers and sisters already distributed to various garden plots around atlanta (P, B, B&K, our own yard… just to name a few). Where could they go?? then it hit me this was would take guerilla action, after all, for someone who’s practiced absentee gardening with some success (by the way, my stop at Sunshine for the first time in 6 months last week revealed a good bit of healthy garlic, a bunch of good-looking collards, and some volunteer Thai basil!), there could be many worse fates for a healthy little tomato plant than throwing it out into the wilds of east atlanta to fend for itself and, hopefully, give fruit to the neighbors.

So, Monday afternoon i enlisted B in this project and we coasted down the hill to Gresham and one of several public right-of-ways our neighborhood enjoys. As I feared, most of the path was flanked by vigorous poison ivy, even around the bridge and the creek where someone once planted monkey grass to keep other weeds down. That would’ve been a perfect spot and maybe next winter we’ll get out there and do our best to rid the place of the poison weed to make room for a tiny veg plot or a fruit tree… In any case, we settled on the entrance where a neighbor’s mowing is keeping the weeds at bay. We planted them along the public side of a fence, B hauled water from the stream in a found styrofoam cup and we dragged out a landscaping tie to block off the 3 Brandywines and 1 tomatillo (de Milpa) that we hope will prevail. It’s so hot and dry lately though i’m really not sure, crossing my fingers for some serious rain tomorrow to really soak them.



I cannot resist taking pictures of my seedlings, they’re so beautiful! So it must be time for a garden update. I have started everything from seed this year and most of it saved seed from last year. Today I sowed some Cleome collected by Aunt Dora along with Marigold and Zinnias collected from our yard. I did buy the favas, a great big bag and they’re doing beautifully in the side garden though just this past week the sweet gum has leafed out and I’m not sure if that will slow things down there. The kale planted a month ago is not growing but the mustard is, and the garlic also on the side will be fine as long as the cat or chipmunks stop digging around it.

the Italian bean from W & R is doing quite well. They sent me some plants at Sunshine in 2009 via mom and dad, and though I have never gotten enough to eat, I’ve saved seed and replanted ever since, a few more beans each year and it’s a very pretty vine!

I am excited to see that all the ornamental quince I pulled up at Sunshine last spring and heeled into the ground here watering diligently when it was dry, is doing quite well. That and forsythia are probably my most favoritest shrubs/flowers, I still don’t have any forsythia.

The rest of my seedlings, brandywine and black plum tomatoes, a tomatillo, lombardi chilies, plenty of basil, yellow squash, acorn squash, some chard, and cantelope are doing just fine. I put a few tomatoes in yogurt cups today, their final transition so they can get big enough to plant out in a few weeks. These, like last year, will mostly be given away to people with garden beds. I get excited whenever anyone mentions garden space they have, because _I_ want to use it. If you want to get on my list just let me know!

pretty seedlings