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Orchard for an Optimist

The humble orchard  A few weeks ago my future orchard was just a series of photos in a catalog. The fruiting trees, bushes and plants were too much to resist. It started in February with the early hints of spring. Having begun raised beds I now need worthy plants to fill them. Columnar apple trees would be perfect for the small confines. Strawberries and low blueberries would round out the would-be fruit farm. Other locations would accommodate aronia and North American Cranberries. I adjusted the soils for the right PH. Having raised beds allows me to customize the mixture.  My fruit farm arrived in two brown paper bags and a small box. I put the new plants in pots of soil and watered them generously. After filling the beds the plants were settled into their new home.

I have four favorite tools that would not be without. I have a triangular bladed weeder, a Mantis tiller, soil knife and a garden cart. The ease of use and time saved makes them invaluable. The gardener needs good tools.  In addition to small parcels, trucks with chipped stone and garden soil rounded out my orchard investment. Hours turn into weeks of work the optimist’s orchard is taking shape.Who am I fooling? I live near real orchards and fruit farms. The real world and my garden dreams become blurred at times.

I sit on the screened porch and study those raised beds. The colors and plants are yet to develop and grow. I am blessed with good health and the joy of my gardening efforts. As I push soil and stone in carts and the wheelbarrow, wrens serenade my labors.  I’ll be turning over more stones and writing more about this optimist’s progress.

Nancy Stone


New Orleans and New Raised Beds

New Orleans and New Raised Beds.

New Orleans and New Raised Beds

After a few weeks of enjoying early projects in the garden, snowflakes return. We had a couple of freezes, and survived with nips ,but not severe damage. A March visit to New Orleans gave me the azalea fix until mine bloom. March is a perfect time to visit the city with it’s  wonderful food,history and music. The botanical garden there is quite nice. A Japanese garden, vegetable garden and train garden are interesting aspects of the display. It adjoins a sculpture garden with lovely plantings as backdrops for the sculpture pieces.DSC_0262      DSCF4198          DSC_0261

Balconies in the French Quarter are able to display ferns and colorful hanging baskets year round.


Here as the weather keeps me inside, I look out onto the progress of our new raised beds. We dug out sod from the center of the arrangement, dumped the sod inside the boxes and put down 3 inches of chipped gravel in the open areas and paths. The chipped gravel is flat and has a nice grey green color. I used my Mantis to till the sod and now I have 4 inches of that mixture in the bottom of the 10 inch deep beds. I will put several layers of newspaper to block grass growing and the add 5 inches of a compost-topsoil mixture. I will be planting blueberries, strawberries and salad greens and herbs in my beds. I’ll be Turning Over Stones so read my next blog. Nancy

garden 04-12-12 008

A Local Peep Show


  This is day two on the chick watch. Days ago when visiting a local garden store, Chagrin Pet and Garden Supply, I learned chicks were on their way. Years ago this was common. Flash forward, they are returning. Luxurious coops, feeding and watering stations and cute corrals were staged for arrival on March 19th. Dim memories of our childhood neighbors keeping chicks in the attic came back to me. I made phone calls, then a visit to see the new chicks. At 3:00 pm, word from the local post office was that the chicks did not arrive on the last delivery. What were parents to do? Wait another day was the choice. Were they stranded like the human traveler? Maybe they were being patted down by security.

Today another call is made. Pay-dirt! They arrived at approximately 10:30 am. My car sped to the store. As I pasted the magnolias and daffodils basking in the sun, I looked forward to seeing the balls of fluff. Oh, so cute! One new parent had her cardboard tote and supplies in hand. I asked to take her picture. She has 7 adults at home. She has a leg up on the novices.

I will not take on chickens. I chose pink pansies as my new purchase. Since our spring projects and chores started very early, winter was canceled, May will be interesting. Will I feel satisfied for my achievements or exhausted by venturing beyond my energy level.

One last word for today. I am the proud winner in garden lottery. My Helleborus have given me offspring! I found many seedlings hiding  under the protective leaves of the the parent plants. I don’t buy Powerball tickets, but when I tend my gardens I sometimes hit the jackpot. Good luck to all my readers. Remember if you don’t plant, you cant win.. March pics 203

March pics 197March pics 199


March pics 205March pics 211March pics 208

Join me next time Turning Over Stones.

Wonderful Winter Witches

I went on an outing to the Brotzman Nursery in Madison, Ohio on February 29th. I was excited to see their display of Witch- hazels, Hamamelis. They were over 150 in number of varieties. Some are almost like small trees, mollis, and some were more shrub-like, vernalis. The shrubs types require removal of suckers. The colors varied from yellow ,to orange and red. The fragrance was subtle on that cold blustery day. I mentally began to plan a winter garden with hellebore, Redosier Dogwoods and witch- hazels. Maybe I should include some crocus and snowdrops. Now where should this proposed garden go? It must be visible from the window.

Witch hazels are worth researching. a recommended book , Witch-Hazels ,by Chris Lane for the Royal Horticulture Society includes writing by Tim Brotzman. With the right selections, I could paint a beautiful winter scene in the garden. The warm weather here in the Northeast Ohio region will halt the flowers of this plant, but Fall will bring some lovely color to the garden with witch hazel foliage.

Hamamelis Deutsch: Zaubernuß English: Witch-ha...

Image via Wikipedia

Join me soon as we turn over stones.

The Sweetness of Spring

 It’s maple syrup season in Northeast Ohio. The maple trees are tapped and the sap has been rising since early February. The buckets, bags and plastic tubes carry 50 gallons of sap for every 1 gallon of syrup that will produced from an oil fueled evaporator at the sugar house. In Burton Ohio, at the town square, volunteers staff the sugar house.The amber liquid drains from the spout of the evaporator into a pail and it will be strained and filtered. At the temperature of 219 degrees it is hot enough to seal inside the jugs that hold it for sale.  The steam inside the process room smells deliciously sweet. This sugar house is also a museum and retail store. The town and municipal properties as well as local people contribute sap from their maple trees. In  2006 the state of Ohio produced 78,000 gallons of syrup. Vermont and New York are also big syrup producing states. Not all syrup has the same taste. The minerals in the local soils and the weather can effect it’s flavor.

This is a month filled with Sunday pancake breakfasts and Friday fish fries.The bulbs are inching up in our gardens and we anticipate the arrival of the sweet scent of Spring and the celebration of Easter. The garden outside, though very wet from recent rains, lures the plans from my imagination and the poking  of my curious fingers When will it be safe to put those first seeds in the soil?

Raised Bed Site is Adjusted

adding sun.My new raised bed location needed to have more sun.

Thanks to my resident woodman (husband) a few young beach

trees were removed. The strawberries and blueberries will

enjoy the improved light. As I’ve been reading dozens of

catalogs ,the difficult part is selecting the right plants

plants.  The current plan will be to plant a small variety

blueberry in the center of  four of the 4×4 beds. These will need

acidic soil. I can easily control this is in the raised beds.

Strawberries will be put in two other beds. The beds that

are in the front of my u-shaped arrangement should be the most attractive. I’m thinking about using some herbs such as Purple Ruffles basil.

Since the weather forecast is for rain, the digging of sod and

other steps will have to wait. I will pot up the plants that I

order and keep them happy in good soil until their new

home is ready.

That reminds me of my purchase of seeding trees a few years

ago from the soil and conservation program. I potted several

of those little guys and they were much stronger in the fall

with well-developed roots. I also had a better home for them

that had well prepared soil and a well thought out placement.

Join me next time “Turning Over Stones”.

Framing a New Garden

  Today snow remains on the ground and fog has settled in

the woods. The future raised bed garden rests within view

from the kitchen window. I will have 8 white oak 4’x4’x10″

beds in which I will plants a varity of fruit, vegetables and

flowers. The final decisions are still within the pages of the

catalogs. Every year brings a big truck carrying the stuff for

gardens I create. This year it will bring chipped gravel for the

center of the u-shaped bed arrangement and bedding mix

to fill the frames. A patient husband who makes careful

suggestions, provides encouragement for my journeys and

enjoyment in the garden.

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