Friday, May 13, 2011

Makeshift grape arbor

Years ago -- in the mid to late 90's -- I bought a muscadine grape vine on sale at K-Mart. I planted it in a corner of our tiny patio garden. After two or three years the vine covered the patio fence in two directions. And it started bearing grapes. Profusely. I didn't know what to do with them that first year. But for the next two years I made muscadine grape jelly which was a big hit with my family and friends. Then the Japanese beetles came. The vines were spilling over the fence and grape leaves are a favorite food for the beetles.
This continued for two years at least. Grape production went way down as the beetles chewed up and mated upon my beautiful grape leaves. No more grape jelly. Then one day I came home from work and found that my husband had cut my vine down to a stump. We pulled it up and started growing tomato plants in its place.

I did plant some seedlings from the mother plant in another patch of patio dirt. Soon one began to grow like crazy and I trained it to cover the roof of our little wooden storage shed. After two years of lots of vine but very few grapes, our condo's homeowner's association board told me the shed roof was off limits as a grape support. I cut the plant back drastically and saved the vines by twisting them into rough wreaths.

This spring I used the vines with a wisteria branch and a six foot aluminum tube a neighbor gave me a while back to make an arching arbor at the entrance to our patio. I'm hoping the pruned vine will bear more grapes. If it doesn't I might just replace it. For now I'll enjoy twisting it around the natural support system I've created.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Signs of spring April 2011

of garden
our sidewalk
displays ajuga,
and lemon thyme.

I've been away from home for several days and missed the flowering of our 15-year-old cherry tree. Its leaves are already out muting the cloud-like effect of the beautiful pink blossoms. The hosta were menacing sword tips breaking through the ground when I left; now they are unfurling their variously colored leaves. The purple iris and the lilac bush are in bloom as is our scraggly looking wisteria vine that will soon lend shade to the northwest corner of our front patio.

We have so many wildflowers (weeds) competing with the grasses in our front yard that it looks more like a meadow than a lawn. I've already begun to plot about using more space for herbs and perennials.

Speaking of grasses: The bermuda grass that once dominated the lawns of our condominium property is losing ground to a grass that lives throughout the winter in scattered patches that become monster hillocks in the spring. Another newly prominent grass type appears in tiny swirls top heavy with blondish seed cases that look like furry hair. It's an ugly, clumping grass -- my cousin Mary Frances calls it "nut grass" -- that grows alongside the flowering weeds that leave less and less room for the old bermuda. The nut grass and the monster hillocks seem fairly new to me. I've begun to notice them more and more over the past three years and often wonder if they are adapting to climate change better than the bermuda.

Monday, October 11, 2010

In October

I keep sleeping late; went to bed at 9:30 pm., woke up at 8 am.
I just lie in bed listening to the radio, NPR. Jimmy is downstairs at least by six and I am up here flat upon the bed at eight.

I got up while he was out; two tortillas, crisped in the frying pan and slathered with jam -- wild blueberries and cranberries from Maine -- and rolled up like blini, coffee from Sumatra...

The crossword and then the funnies. How do other people survive without the comics? Today Nancy and Sluggo were talking about the autumn leaves again. Her face was a mask of anger when she asked him what he was going to do about them, all piled up in front of his falling down house and against his neighbors’ fences. Sluggo just shrugged. Does he ever get angry?

“Margaret are you grieving over golden grove unleaving?... ...It’s the blight that man was born for It is Margaret you mourn for.” Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1870

This year the fall has cut me more deeply than ever before. I am getting older. But might it be because I have grown more vegetables this summer and because the summer heat has lingered for so long, stretching out the harvest season.

It has been so dry; no rain for a month at least. Yesterday I planted pansies along the walk and the dirt was hard and rock-like in places. I pulled up the dried out zinnias and the overgrown vinca from the plot nearest the front door and planted the extra pansies there. I also trimmed the yellow leaves from the two cherry tomato vines, heavy with green fruit, and re-staked them. Still they are roping upwards through the Parrotia tree with many yellow blossoms on the new growth. I watered them well for the first time in a week or two.

I think this is the first time I have experienced autumn as such a time of transition, anticipating the first frost as a sort of apocalypse waiting just around the corner. It must be the farmer’s soul incubating within me, this concern about the harvest. And then, because the warm days -- after a very short and mild cold spell -- just keep going on, the tension continues. And it keeps building.

I brought in all the tomatoes on the eastern side of the condo, but have left the western side alone. I did pull up my tiny crop of sweet potatoes there (I planted them too late), but the volunteer tomato plants are still growing and bearing though the green fruit are slow to ripen. Counting the two cherry tomato plants in the front, I have at least 10 vines in the ground and will let them go until another frost threatens.