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Well hello, friends!
This month’s newsletter almost didn’t happen! January through April was cold, and I was indoors most of the time with a few excellent weather day exceptions. I easily had time to write newsletters and dream about the perfect gardening weather that I thought was coming in the spring.
Enter the month of May. I have been outdoors most of the time, but this month has not been perfect. This is because of two things:
- First, we had some rain. It was great for the land, but day after day of dreary rain got… long.
- Second, we went from hardly 50°F as a high to temperatures reaching 90°F and higher with some added humidity. This early heatwave ushered in a triage mode taking care of early plantings, watering daily, and ensuring new plants weren’t getting burnt by the harsh heat.
To say the least, I have not been indoors to write the newsletter. But I’m just as excited to sit with you for a bit and provide some updates. Gardening is different from year to year. Each year has its joys, even with a few failures. So grab a drink… personally, I’ve switched to iced coffee… and let’s chat!
Let’s talk about the garden.
So much has happened in the garden since the last newsletter! The agaves, succulents, and ferns I kept in my plant room over the winter have been acclimated to the outdoors. They’re now planted in their containers for the summer.
At this point, you may have realized that my containers are… unique. I use specimen plants as the focal point in most containers. Large sago palms are in my front entry urns, Saloum philodendrons are in the boxwood garden urns, and my favorite massive agave lives outside my kitchen window. I planted all of these a few weeks ago and filmed it so you can see it in real-time.
I don’t know why I love agave, aloe, and tropicals so much. I’ve been drawn to them since I was young. I love the strong architectural statement these plants impart. Instead of blooming annuals, I plant annuals that provide texture rather than color. I gravitate towards licorice plants, sedums, and trailing succulents.
Recently, I was chatting with a friend about my plant choices. I explained that I choose these plants not only because I love them but because many of them require less care. Since I don’t plant many blooming annuals, I don’t have to deadhead throughout the summer season. Many of the statement plants that I keep over the winter and the few annuals that I do plant are drought-tolerant. Thankfully, this means that they don’t need as much watering.
All of this is to say that gardening needs to work for you. You have to find what gives you joy and excitement. If you find your fit, the work comes easily!
Let’s talk about vegetables.
During the early-May heatwave, I planted all of my tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant. Usually, I worry about late-season frost (yes, even in May), but the outlook showed only warmth. So out into the garden I went!
Since Mom and I live so close, we split our vegetable gardening between our raised beds. Here’s what we’ve been planting:
- At Mom’s house, we plant twelve Amish paste tomatoes, which we use to can salsa, juice, and sauce. At my house, I plant the colorful heirloom tomatoes that I love to eat all by themselves.
- We plant all of the bell and sweet peppers at Mom’s house. She loves them much more than I do. Fun fact: you may have noticed that I do not use a lot of sweet peppers in my recipes. To be honest, I don’t love them.
- I plant many hot peppers at my house to use in canning and cooking.
- At this point, I’ve harvested and used lettuce, arugula, spinach, and radish for several weeks. I was worried that the heat would be brutal on them. They did grow rather quickly but have been perfect!
- My hard-neck garlic will shoot out scapes in a few weeks, and I’ll need to cut those off.
- Soon the lettuce will be over, but the kale will take its place.
- And before I know it, I’ll be harvesting cabbage and making fermented sauerkraut (video on that coming this year, so stay tuned).
The growing season is constantly changing and full of fresh produce. That’s what I love the most about vegetables in the summer!
Let’s talk about Kip.
Kip continues to give me so much happiness and joy. I never understood what it meant to have a pet as part of the family until I had one of my own. Kip is my family.
I’m still traveling every five weeks to Champaign, Illinois, for him to receive a cytosar treatment. This is technically chemotherapy but used as an immune suppressant for Kip. He’s been stable and has had no changes for a few months now, which means we may soon be able to look for a facility that can provide this treatment closer to home!
This is wonderful for two reasons:
- It means Kip is not getting worse
- We won’t have such long travel days.
Even though things are on the up and up, I still watch Kip closely. His condition means that there could be regression at any time. I monitor his walking each day to ensure there aren’t negative changes. Going through all of this means that I will always be a bit on pins and needles. But many days, I don’t even think about it. I simply watch Kip outside with me in the garden, begging to continue playing, and it’s like he’s no different than he ever was!
Let’s talk about food.
Memorial day has snuck up on us quickly, right? I feel like I’m turning into my mom and grandma by saying things like, “Wow, where has the time gone?”
This year, I created recipes that my family enjoys during summer cookouts:
- For us, grilled burgers were always on the menu. On our farm, we raised pork, which meant we always had pork on hand. So when we had beef, we knew it was a special occasion. If beef isn’t your thing, switch it up and make my turkey burgers instead. Now that the weather is cooperating, they’re perfect on the grill!
- Grandma had a perfect recipe for truly homemade baked beans. They’re well worth the extra time to soak and cook the beans because the texture is fantastic, and the flavor is perfect. Trust me, they’re better than any canned version you’ll find in the grocery store.
- Macaroni salad is a summer staple. The dressing is classic with a little tang. Plus, there’s just a hint of sweetness with some pickle relish for the necessary briny flavor.
That’s all for this almost-summer month of May! If you’re in the US and celebrate Memorial Day, I hope you have a great holiday weekend. If not, wherever you’re at in the world, I hope it’s a great one!
Until then, be kind and enjoy the warmth!
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