Behind the Fence

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Germination Station

 Recently I had the opportunity to help a young friend, Caroline and her friend, Anna, with a second grade Science Fair project. Titled Germination Station, the objective was to determine in what medium seeds best germinate. We chose a wet paper towel, Jiffy Seed Starting Mix and Pro Mix potting soil. Their hypothesis was the Jiffy Seed Starting Mix would produce quicker germination because if was finer than Pro Mix and was formulated for seed propagation.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Putting it to Bed

Last week was perfect for working outside. I wasn’t needed much at the hospital, the weather was beautiful, and no family issues! I took advantage and did some fall gardening.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Savannah Botanical Garden

One of my favorite things to do when traveling is to seek out botanical gardens and garden shops. Accompanying my husband on a business trip to Savannah this week I found the Savannah Area Council of Garden Clubs, Inc. Botanical Garden. It was certainly worth the bit of adventure to find it.

Checking with the concierge at the Hyatt, I was told I could take bus #28, get off at Waters and Eisenhower, the garden would be a short distance down Eisenhower. I made my way over to the bus stop in front of the Panera coffee shop. The bus driver confirmed #28 would take me to Eisenhower but it would be quite a walk to the botanical garden. Being a walker with a decent fitness level, that wasn’t a deterrent. What the concierge and bus driver neglected to tell me, there is not a side walk along Eisenhower (at least not on the side of the busy highway I needed to be on.) The seven blocks was nicely mowed grass and not a bad walk.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I Have Worms!

Yes, I have worms, thousands of them. They are the backbone of my compost system as well as the cheapest and easiest manure available. And so easy!

I started my vermicompost farm about 4 years ago. It is really pretty simple. Using a storage bin from a “big box store” my in-house engineer (every gardener should have one of these) made vent holes which he covered with screen. I added bedding of newspaper strips, a little bit of sterile potting soil, sprayed with water to dampen and added the red wigglers. About once a week I add kitchen scraps like past-prime lettuce, potato peelings, coffee grounds with filter, over-ripe fruit, etc. I cover the scraps with shredded paper and shredded light weight cardboard. Usually I spray the bedding with water when I feed the worms. Sometimes weeks go by without me feeding the worms but they not only survive but thrive. The worm farm is in my basement where the temperature is around 72 degrees year-round. I harvest the castings 2 or 3 times a year and add them to the compost from my outdoor compost bin. I have not bought worms since the initial purchase of about ½ pound.

Harvesting the castings (otherwise known as worm poop) recently I realized they had reproduced enough that I could support two bins. Now I have little red wigglers in two bins, working constantly to provide castings for me:)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Productive Week in the Potager

After weeding and trimming, I spread a pick-up truck load of compost in the perennial flower beds, along the side of the garden path and along the fence row.(notice the new fence built by my talented husband. It replaces the one damaged in the 2009 Ice Storm.)

I buy compost from the city compost facility; sometimes it is better than other times. This week it was premium, rich black color, earthy smell, very little trash and quite airy.

Like some of you I had reservations about using the city compost, not sure it would be safe. A couple of years ago I addressed my concerns to Kathy Keeney, who at the time was the horticulturist for the city. She sent me the following information:

Thursday, September 9, 2010

It's a Sad Summer in the Potager!

The potager is in sad shape. An extremely hot and dry summer, neglect due to summer travel and family needs, not to mention a midnight thief, it has not been a good  for the fruits and veggies. Hand watering just keeps the plants alive, but not thriving. The rain barrel has been empty for months. The green beans dried up while we were in D.C. in July. The squash got annihilated by the squash bug. The neighborhood raccoon(s) have taken care of most of the melons.

Here is one they haven't found yet!

Finally I have come to the conclusion it isn’t worth the effort and expense to water the tomatoes and peppers (still plenty at Bennett’s farm stand.)

The fall plantings are not much better. The peas and shallots have germinated sparsely and I have replanted the peas already. The lettuce and spinach have not germinated (probably too hot) so will replant them again this weekend. The broccoli is just sitting there. The Chinese cabbage looks pretty good. Rain today gives me some hope.


All this to say there hasn’t been much to write about since the first part of July. There is always another year! I plan to talk with my in-house garden engineer over the winter about upgrading the watering system. Hopefully he will not talk me into running away with him for a week or so during the critical garden season next summer!

Monday, July 5, 2010

What are we eating from the potager?

Potatoes,tomatoes (Sun Gold, Sweet Cluster, Polish Linguisa, Purple Calabash, Principe Borghese and, my favorite, Sun Sugar ) bunching onions (shallots), 

arugula, pineapple tomatillo (excellent with grilled chicken, basil, augula and goat cheese on grilled pizza,) strawberries (only a few, but enough to add to grilled chicken, goat cheese and pecans on a bed of greens,  dressed with lime olive oil/balsamic vinegar dressing),

lots of herbs including basil that we eat almost every day either on grilled pizza, bruchetta or in pesto.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Poppy Seed

Those who asked for poppy seed can pick them up at the potager anytime. If you want some seed but do not live in Paducah, email your mailing address to me at and I will send them snail mail.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Poppy Tribute

The tradition of Red Poppies on Memorial Day goes back to World War I when Canandian soldier, John McCrae wrote the poem In Flanders Field. Moina Michael, an American woman, wrote these lines in reply:

We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies

The custom of wearing a red poppy on Memorial Day evolved.

My beds of poppies bring memories of a special WWII veteran to my husband and me. They are from seeds saved by my late father-in-law. A couple of years ago I found the seeds in my mother-in-law’s refrigerator, stored in a medicine container. It was labeled “Dbl Pink Poppies, Sp. 88. “Yes” my mother-in-law confirmed, they had been in the refrigerator for 20 years and yes I was welcomed to them. Both of us doubted they would germinate. I was thrilled that they not only germinated, but thrived. What a treasure! Some are single, some are double (kind of ruffled,) some are shades of pink and some are shades of coral. This year there was even a lavender one. Each year I save the seeds, plant some and pass some to friends.
I didn’t get a chance to really know my father-in-law as he passed away away shortly after Randy and I married. However, as I use his gardening tools and reference books, I feel connected. With ferns, mums and poppies from his garden, the spirit of Everett Janne is alive in my garden.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Symbol of Survival

Planted in the spring of 2008, the Peggy Martin rose on my arbor is blooming profusely.

The rose has an interesting story of survival. In 2003 Dr. William Welch, a horticulturist from Texas A & M, visited Peggy Martin at her home in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, While there he took several cuttings from a beautiful old pink rose. Later, he was saddened to hear his friend Peggy had lost her parents as well as her home and garden in Hurricane Katrina. However when Peggy was allowed to return to the site of her home, she was surprised to see the rose had survived, even after spending 2 weeks under salt water.

To assist in the rebuilding of gardens in Louisiana, Dr. Welch has propagated the rose and has made it available in several nurseries across the south, including Petals from the Past and Antique Rose Emporium. From the sale of each rose $1 is given to garden restoration in the New Orleans area.

You can read the entire story of the Peggy Martin Rose here.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Questions from the Coffee Shop

About a dozen folks joined me at Market House Coffee Shop yesterday for discussion of my potager and Square Foot Garden. We were fortunate to have horticulturist Kathy Keeny present and appreciated her sharing tips and answering some of the more technical questions. Following are some of the questions with my answers.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Coffee Shop Talk

I will be giving an informal talk about my potager and Square Foot Gardening at noon on Saturday, May 1 at Market Square Coffee Shop

Market Square Coffee
@ The Stranded Cow

527 N 6th Street
Paducah Kentucky

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Can I toss that?

Can I toss this? A question often asked around our house. Usually the answer is “no,” it can be composted. Cereal boxes, egg shells, dryer lint, newspaper, coffee grounds and, of course, kitchen scraps. (I don’t have a garbage disposal in my kitchen, don’t need one.) My neighbors no longer raise their eyebrows when I take the pick-up down the street and load up their bagged leaves. So far I have been able to restrain myself from asking for kitchen scraps at dinner parties, but have been known to collect coffee grounds and tea bags at church suppers.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Art in the Garden

My friend, Jana's raised bed.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


The unusual warm weather this past couple of weeks tempted me to set those cute little tomato and basil plants in the ground. Past experience tells me “be patient!” And I am glad I was as it has turned a bit cool again. Even if frost didn’t get them, they would have just sat there and waited for the soil to warm. Now is the perfect time to give their beds a layer of compost and to prepare for the little darlings. Tomatoes are one area I do not use the Square Foot method. I usually put 4 plants in one 4’X4’ bed and they fill it up. I think I will try to control their size by doing more pruning. From what I have read, they usually produce as much if not more than letting the vines go rapid.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Trash to Treasure

Before you head out for the recycling center, grab a few water bottles or other plastic cylinder containers and have some creative fun. Paint, paper mache, colored sand and joint compound can transform those otherwise ugly containers into pretty vases for giving flowers from your garden. On Wednesday, April 7, I will be conducting a workshop on ‘’Trash to Treasure” at 12:30 p.m. at the McCracken County Library. We will use paper mache to cover empty coffee creamer containers. To register contact the McCracken County Library at 555 Washington Street Paducah, Kentucky 42003 or call (270) 442-2510, Toll-free 866-829-7532

Sunday, March 28, 2010


Warm breezes, daffodils, pansies and surprises. Everyday I take a walk around the yard and potager to see what new little sprouts have arrived. My surprise today was violas or Johnny-Jump-Ups. Last spring I bought the seeds on a whim and tossed them around some pavers. They sprouted but didn’t do much, just sort of sat there. I didn’t give it too much thought as it was only a package of seeds. To my surprise and delight, there are now sweet little violas blooming all around the pavers.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

My First Helleborus Bloom

Today I saw the first bloom on my helleborus (Lenten Rose.) It is a bit late as they are usually the first bloom of the season appearing in late January or early February.  Given to me two years ago by gardener friend, Dick Holland, I have waited patiently for it to bloom. Today was the day!

Cover Girl

Yes, that’s me on the cover of the March/April Paducah Life magazine. It took 60 years, but finally I am a cover girl! The attention generated some interesting requests. The McCracken County Cooperative Extension Office invited me to include my potager on the Garden Tour on April 13 (which I had to decline due to some unexpected family needs.) But I have agreed to give a talk at Market House Coffee on May 1 (in exchange for their used coffee grounds and filters) and to help a second grader with a science fair project in the fall.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Potatoes in Bags

This will be my third year to plant potatoes in the potager. So far I have had very limited success. In the past two years I have used potato bags from Gardener’s Supply, filling them with compost and top soil. The potatoes were very good, but pretty scarce. This year I used Mel’s Mix (equal parts of compost, vermiculite and peat.) I used the bags again, but also experimenting with the “high rise” method described on the Square Foot Garden web site. The high rise is an open ended 12-inch square box; it can be 6-12-inches deep. Directions for planting potatoes using this method, as well as the traditional method of “hilling up” are in the Square Foot Gardening book or click on the web site at the bottom of this page.

from 2008 garden

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Free Plants

Free plants are readily available with just a little effort.

Taking advantage of an unusually warm day in March, yesterday I spent the entire day, cleaning off beds, pulling weeds, trimming herbs and just generally puttering around in the potager. Cutting back a lavender plant, I was pleased to see it survived the winter very well. I don’t recall the variety, but it must be hardy and worthy of propagation. I took five tender stems about 4 – 5-inches in length, stripped the leaves from the lower two-thirds and put it in moist potting mix with added moisture crystals. Off to the green house to join the rest of my free plants. Taking a quick inventory, I counted 3 rosemary, 6 thyme, 1 Peggy martin Rose, 5 Knock-Out Roses, 2 Crepe Myrtles, and 20 geraniums, all from cuttings last fall.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Why do I want to blog?

 Because I am passionate about my potager (or kitchen garden,)  I tend to talk about it non-stop. I notice the eyes of my non-gardening friends and family glaze over in boredom. I think I have been hidden by more than a few of my friends on Facebook.  I need an outlet! (Okay, the real reason I want to start a blog is I just watched Julie and Julia and thought "How cool is that?")  I do hope to have interaction with other gardeners and if no one reads it, well I will have a journal, something I have often considered but have never put to practice.  Now to start blogging...........