While we were on hiatus, one of the things that took much of our time was tending to our garden. It has been beautiful and bountiful, delicious and sweet-smelling. Full of bees.
Although plenty of vegetables have ripened and made their way into our meals, the garden’s got a lot more going on.
The Pollinator Garden
Since last year, we’ve added more flowering plants to our pollinator garden. At least four butterfly species have been spotted, and of course lots of bees of different species.
Two months ago, we registered our little backyard garden with the Cincinnati Zoo’s Plant for Pollinators challenge. Soon we’ll get an official sign for our yard. We registered as having these bee, caterpillar, butterfly, and bird-friendly plants (we have more than this list, but this is what they had on their site):
Zinnia, coneflower, aster, bee balm, milkweed, lavender, four mint varieties (some growing wild).
Weed Identification Project
Every time I pull weeds I feel a little bad about it. They’re just plants, trying to live their little lives, and we decided they don’t belong there. I started to look up our common weeds (using Google Lens) as I weeded, so we know if that plant can continue to live its happy life in that spot anyway, or if it’s some sort of invasive monster plant.
I have learned so much! That annoying plant that grows like a dandelion, but much bigger and with wavier leaves? Common sowthistle, which is native but I hate it. The pretty green plant with white on top that grows absolutely everywhere is lambsquarter. We’re keeping some of that one in the vegetable garden box, since it’s native and we can eat it.
False nettle looks exactly like nettle, but doesn’t sting. It grows so fast in all of the garden beds, but pests like it, so we leave a little to lure them away from the tomatoes and spinach plants. Also: oxalis, ragweed, and bindweed have been identified and are not welcome.
Previously, we were able to eat some nasturtium and purslane which were growing plentifully. Recently, there are two weeds we’ve tried harvesting: burdock and horseweed. Burdock root can be made into an anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant tea, but I am so far not doing well at getting it out of the ground. Horseweed leaves can be dried and used to flavor food. I left some out on the porch to dry, but leaving it on the ground didn’t work out so well. I’ll try again by hanging it with the herbs in the kitchen.
I finally walked to our local garden store, Fedder’s Feed and Seed, and saw their selection of herbs on sale. We went back the next day and got 8 different herbs (and a molé pepper plant).
We’ve had a sweet mint plant for a while and I’ve dried a few leaves once or twice, but had no idea what I was doing (and never used them). I’ve since looked up what to do (thanks again, Google!) and I now have pineapple sage, pineapple mint, sweet mint, chocolate mint hanging in my kitchen, drying for tea. I also have rosemary and sweet basil drying for cooking.
I also looked up how to preserve basil for the future! We’d already had sweet basil plants when we went to the garden store, but we bought some spicy globe basil, mammoth basil, and thai basil. Since it’s one of each plant and they’re pretty new, I can’t harvest much at a time, so I wanted to save it up.
Now, I have an ice cube tray in the freezer with a few cubes filled with thai basil and olive oil. It freezes into a butter-like consistency (not quite icy) and I can just toss it into the pan to cook. This means I haven’t tried the thai basil yet, but it smells like licorice and we’re all very intrigued.
Most exciting, because it has already happened several times, is cooking with fresh basil. For Sneer HQ, I’ve generally been making some basil chicken with tomatoes (from the garden!) over pasta. Next, we may need to try a basil gin smash, which I had at a restaurant once.
The Horrible, Horrible Bugs
We’ve seen bugs like you wouldn’t believe. Crawling in the compost, sending us leaping across the yard. Causing me to full-on weep. Yes, we’ve seen bugs.
We’ve seen what looked like a pulsing, gelatinous earth. We’ve dodged a yellow garden orb weaver while watering plants, only to land in another spider’s web.
We’ve vowed never to go back to that corner of the yard, or that side, or the compost. We went right back the next day, as faithful gardeners, to weed, water, harvest, and shudder.