Garden of Benign Neglect

When we moved, I put my container garden in the backyard, watered it a few times, and walked away.

It seemed to do OK.


I didn’t stake the peppers, and they’re growing across the ground.

Green Peppers

Red Peppers

I was going to cut the jewel weed (I think) down, but the Korean melon had wrapped itself around it. The melon is flowering but not fruiting.

Clingy Melon Plant

The basil hasn’t bolted yet, which is also strange.


While outside, I also found a bunch of mushrooms (four or five clumps of this size). Good Man raked them up and we threw them in the compost pile!


The Little Maple Trees That Grew

May 7th

I twirled a box top in my hands and grinned at my kids, who were lined up after library check out. “Come on, we’re going on a walking field trip.”

“What are you talking about, Ms?”

“Oh man, she has that Ms Look.”

“Where are we going?”

“To the bus loop.”

One of my students wrinkled her nose. “The bus loop?”

Outside, I drew the kids in a tight circle around a clump of pine needles, leaves, dirt, and silt. We crouched down. “What do you see?”


“Look closer.”

In the gutter of the bus loop, dozens of maple trees had taken root. We examined them, and then I used the metal “Buses Only” sign to scrape a clump off of the street. I slid it onto the box top, and in the classroom we popped it onto our very sunny window sill.

Maples, May 7th


The next day, I brought in two small pots with some potting soil. We lifted the mat of pine needles and examined the roots growing sideways on the bottom. I cut a circle out of the needles and placed the maples over the soil. We watered them well and put them in my sunny, sunny east-facing classroom window. The maples sat next to an ivy that had rooted in water, and two pineapple tops. (They were from pineapples I’d cut up when we were learning about simple machines.)

As the maples grew, I thinned them out.

“Ms! You can’t kill them!”

I looked at my student. “You eat meat and you’re angry I’m going to cut a mini tree down? What happens if six trees try to grow in this small pot?”

The students talked a bit before one said, “The roots won’t have as much room to grow.”


The kids learned to turn the maples from time to time, because they wanted to lean toward the sun. They learned how to check the moisture level of the soil. They learned how to brush against the maples gently, to strengthen the stems.

When visitors came to the room, students would show them our jungle, and explain how we’d rooted the pineapple tops, how we’d clipped the ivy from the secretary’s plant, how we’d found maples in the bus loop.

“Ms, the leaves are red when they are small, and then they turn green.”

“Ms, can we plant these at the school?”

“Ms, will you bring these back in the fall so we can see them?”

And just like my students, the maples grew.

Maples, June 7th

String Trellis

This morning, this flower had petals. But when I came home, they had all fallen off.

Stamen and Pistil

These aphids don’t know it, but they’re about to die.


The peas I have are naughty. Most of them won’t climb up the bamboo trellis I made, so I ran some twine around the poles to give them more climbing space.

I put these in yesterday, and this morning a few plants had already wrapped themselves around the string.

Still, most of my peas are codependents, all wrapped up in each other.

String Trellis

Gardening and Broken Blades

I spent a lot of time in the garden today, mostly cleaning up, creating bamboo trellises, and rearranging things.

Worm composting doesn’t get hot, so seeds don’t die. When I opened up the bin that holds my “finished” vermicompost, I laughed.


I have two types of beans, two types of peas, strawberries, onions (a stretch), and various spring bulbs going right now. What you can’t see in these photos is the hummingbird feeder I put up.

After I took these photos, I moved the pea plants so that the onions are a buffer between the peas and the railing. If they grow against the railing, I won’t be able to pick them easily.

Left Side

Right Side

A few days ago, my dad called and told me he found a Nikon camera while cleaning and he wondered if it was mine. It wasn’t, and we don’t know where it came from, but he sent me the body and lenses.

Both lenses are metal (how I miss actual metal), and one of the lenses is essential the same as my prime lens. It works with my camera, except I need to manually focus and change the f/stop. No big deal, and it’s great to have a backup lens.

The second lens is a zoom with a macro setting. Unfortunately, the blades (to change the aperture) were stuck. And they were at a very high f/stop, although I’m not sure if it was f/16 or f/22. Shooting with the f/stop that high would be great if all I wanted to do was use the camera for landscapes on very bright days.

We don’t know how long this camera has been at my dad’s place, but he lives in the desert. It’s dry, dusty, gritty. Although the lens appeared to have been well-protected, I thought maybe dirt or sand had gotten into the lens.

I Googled a bit. One site said it could be a lever problem, another a moisture problem, another an internal something-or-other problem… I decided the lens was old enough to risk killing, and grabbed some pliers. I used the pliers to wiggle the lever on the back a bit and the blades popped about halfway open. Success! I wiggled it a bit more and they popped open all the way.

But the aperture still doesn’t change.

So now I have nearly wide open blades to deal with. I like a narrow depth-of-field, so that’s OK with me. Of course, now I need to change only the ISO or shutter speed to expose properly. That’s one advantage to shooting digitally, though. With film you couldn’t change the ISO shot by shot.

The photos below (and the wide shots above) were all taken with this broken lens. Considering how windy it was today, and that I wasn’t using a tripod, I’d say it worked out pretty well, but I need to try and reshoot II.

Macro I

Macro II

Macro III

Squirrels and Gardening

A few days ago, I found a huge pit in one of my pots of bulbs. Some creature had dug a large hole in the pot, and had gnawed on some of my plants.

Thursday the 15th, I planted onions (probably too late in the seasons), two kinds of beans, two kinds of peas, and squash.

By Tuesday the 20th, I had some tiny sprouts and came home to find some peas thrown out of the pot, a giant hole, and chestnut bits in the bottom of the pot.

Peas Out of the Pot


I will find this awful squirrel, capture it, and then talk at it until it repents for eating my bulbs.

Then Awful Squirrel will go away and tell its Awful Squirrel Friends to avoid the Crazy Talking Lady.

Growing Season

I’m so excited spring is here. This year my container garden is getting even bigger. I’m not sure how I’m actually going to fit everything I want to grow in, but I’ll make it work. (Good Man said, as we were leaving Home Depot with $100 worth of soil, manure, and seedlings, “It is a damn good thing we don’t own a house.”)

Indoors, I’ve started three varieties of Korean peppers, Korean sesame leaves, and basil from the seeds leftover from last year. I also started some Thai basil from seeds I collected from the plant I had last year. I started the seeds 3/13 and need to restart some more sesame and Thai basils. I’ll probably do that this weekend.

Indoor Garden Starting (20 March 2011)

Outdoors I’ve got sugar snap peas I started from seed 3/12. The peas sat around for two weeks or so before even peeking out. When they finally did sprout, they sat around for a bit more, as if they needed to decide to grow.

The “trellis” is actually dried up stalks from last season’s Korean peppers! I’m not sure if it’ll work, but I thought it was worth a shot.

If all goes according to plan, the peas should be done just about the time I need the pot for my Korean peppers.

Sugar Snap Peas (5 April 2011)

I also bought strawberries and romaine lettuce transplants. I bought two varieties of strawberries, one ever-bearing and one June-bearing. I know strawberries are generally slow the first year, good crops the second, and one more crop during the third year. So these pots will be used during the whole season.

Strawberries and Romaine (5 April 2011)

My mint is also trucking along. The more I ignore it, the better is grows. I might dump it out and loosen up the soil and roots, but I also might just continue to practice my method of doing nothing with it.

Peppermint (5 April 2011)

I’ve also go Baby Blue Eyes flowers going, but there isn’t much to see yet. When I can put things outside, I’m also going to grow some more dill from seeds I collected from last year’s dill.

As an experiment, I’m also going to try growing a pineapple plant from the crown of a pineapple. Good Man doesn’t know it yet, but I was given an indoor growing kit from a coworker. I was expecting something small for herbs, but it’s actually much larger. So in the winter, I should be able to keep the pineapple going. Just don’t ask me where it’s going to go in our house.

Sweet Wormy Love

I was supposed to get my worms for the classroom composting bin on Wednesday. And then we had a snow day. Followed by two more. And then the weekend. When I finally got the worms today, I was afraid they’d be dead. But I opened up the five containers of worms (500 worms, about a half pound) and dumped them into the bedding. They all appeared to be alive.

Except for two worms that is, who were not really moving and who looked very odd, and slightly swollen. I picked them out of the bedding, trying to see if they were alive or dead.

And then I realized they were mating.


I guess they were very much alive.

And mating.

In my palm.

I watched them for a while since it was all new to me. Then I went and showed the worms to my vice principal. “So, not only were the worms alive, but I caught them making sweet wormy love.”

She burst out laughing and then looked at me. “How do you know they’re having sex?”

“Well, see that swollen band? That’s the sexual organ, and they’re wrapped up together and have sort of a mucus on them. That’s how you know they’re mating.”

“How do you know these things?”

I shrugged. “I read.”

“You were meant to be a GT teacher,” she said.


I pulled my peppers up today. Those water nannies certainly seemed to have worked to me, and the roots grew around them, which proves to me that they were getting water.

Pepper Plant Roots Around the Clay Stake

Rooted Stakes

Roots Near the Stake Site

Several weeks ago, Good Man and I saw a squirrel on the porch. It was a surprise to both of us since we’d never seen one there.

Today I found a sprouting acorn and another acorn deep down in the pots. Good Man said, “The squirrel left them!” Funny, I’d thought the same thing.


I cut some Thai basil (left) and dill (right) seeds from my garden and I hope they’ll grow. I’m not sure if either variety was a hybrid, but I figure I’ll plant them and if worse comes to worse, just buy the seeds (dill) and transplants (Thai basil) as needed in the spring.

Seeds Harvested from my Garden

I also made a pint of pickled (refrigerator) peppers today. We’ll see if I like these.

Pickled Peppers