That time I straight up broke my shovel…

I broke a shovel today! I don’t know whether to be angry or somewhat proud of myself for exerting that much force.

RIP shovel!

Im Not Even Mad GIFs | Tenor

I’ve been doing battle with some horrible holly bushes next to our house for the past year. Actually, scratch that, since we moved here. The people who lived in this house before us made some very interesting gardening choices. And by interesting, I mean ridiculous. Like planting a fig tree six feet from the house (it touches the house and has to be pruned every single year), a giant crape myrtle 5 feet from the house (same problem), filling a bed with pebbles WITHOUT lining it with weed blocking fabric first (weed city), and most insanely of all, planting approximately a dozen holly bushes around the house, pretty much right on top of each other.

A well manicured holly is fine, and the berries are great for the birds in wintertime, but seriously these people must have been blissfully ignorant of the plant tags when they planted everything. Like didn’t care about plant spacing AT ALL. I could go on and on about the weirdness around here, but I’ll save you the headache. Let’s just leave it at I’ve been re-designing and correcting their poor choices since Jonah and I got married and I moved in.

This spring (because pregnancy hormones are real), I finally had it with the hollies and decided that I needed to renovate the garden bed next to our garage door since it’s pretty visible from the street. After hacking them to the ground as an attempt to kill them earlier this year, yesterday I started the undertaking of removing the root balls to really put the nail in the coffin.

HOLY COW. Talk about physical labor! The first root ball was maybe 30ish pounds and took me about an hour to get out. The second one ended up being 60 pounds (easily), and even with the help of an awesome new tool I tried – a mattock – I still broke our shovel.

Mattock – part axe, part digger, part awesome.

Needless to say, I was seriously channeling my inner Rosie the Riveter (and I will also be taking some ibuprofen soon):

Massive holly root balls – gnarly!

Rosie the Riveter We Can Do it Poster

The new plan for that bed will be a purple butterfly bush in the center (I had one pop up in our backyard that I’m going to transplant), some coral-hued mums in a semi-circle in front of the butterfly bush, and some pansies (also corals/reds) and dusty millers in front of that. I hope to get that done tomorrow and will post pictures once it’s done!

Little butterfly bush I’m going to transplant (on the right)

 

Craters left behind by the massive root balls

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Back in the Saddle Again

Well, well, well! The Jubilee garden is back in full swing! 

After a much needed hiatus from the garden (in which the garden STEADILY continued to provide fruit, veggies, and flowers I did not plant), I’m back to it. This week, I sowed seeds for my fall/spring garden. Here in NC, most of our fall plantings do decently over winter. 

I find the fall garden to be simpler than a summer garden. There are fewer things to grow, so I can really focus on just a few types of crops that I really enjoy. There also seems to be less planning (or at least I’m treating it that way!). I know this garden isn’t going to be meeting all my family’s produce needs over the winter (because I’m not a homesteader or living off the grid), so there’s a lot less pressure to make it work. My attitude is, if it grows, awesome! If it fails, there’s always Harris Teeter.

First off, I have to give credit to my mini- gardener of a daughter who helped me with this garden plan earlier in the week (see below). Don’t you just love it!? Her explanation was that the green blocks are green beans, orange are pumpkins, red are tomatoes, and blue are blueberry bushes. Oh, and there’s a tree and some cat toys in there for good measure.

My daughter's garden plan

Can I stress again how important it is to make a plan? And also to be ready to adjust that plan once you’re outside in your space? Here’s why:

This was my original, completely organized idea of what I was going to plant and where:

fall plantings draft

ANNNNNDDDD then I got outside and random volunteer plants were already growing in some of the spaces (like Strawberry Spinach, which I think we’ll eat), so I made some notes on post-its, like this:

So here’s what ended up happening for real:

Fall plantings revised

Orange items are plantings I had to change because:

  1. I ran out of fava beans,
  2. I realized garlic was a poor choice for around the center trellis since I plan to plant peas or beans on it in the spring and alliums like garlic don’t tango with legumes
  3. Strawberry spinach self-sowed in my last bed and I’m not about to pull up a free spinach plant – we eat spinach salads almost every single week!

Dont Get Crazy Bon Qui Qui GIF - Dont Get Crazy Crazy Bon Qui Qui GIFs

It’s good to be flexible in the garden! 

Now, what I’m sure you’re really here to see are all my happy seedlings and garden pictures. Happy to oblige. Until next time… happy gardening!

Fava beans going in! Also, dandelion diggers are THE BEST seed planting tool. 

So, so good to be back as master of my domain!

This is why you have to be ready to adjust your life plans (and plants!). Originally planned to plant mostly brassicas in here, but strawberry spinach plants are doing their thang. Who am I to interfere?

See all those green specks? Um yeah. I’m pretty sure those are ALL strawberry spinach babies. They’re multiplying like rabbits!

Baby greens popping up already!

I bought the marigolds, but everything else in this picture came up on their own. Go Jubilee Garden, go!

Butterfly bushes are doing AWESOME this year.

Free plants! Volunteer butterfly bush. So stoked to transplant this little fella soon!

Hey there little Asters!

Might be a bit hard to see, but those little seedlings along the grass line are cilantro seedlings! They self sowed!

We threw out our black oil sunflower seeds from our bird feeder due to the mystery illness wreaking havoc on birds. Guess what? Those seeds were VI-A-BLE! Also, hey there little coneflower volunteer!

Fig clones! I shall call them… mini-tree!

Verne Troyer's tragic death underlines the harm Mini-Me caused people with dwarfism | Verne Troyer | The GuardianYou’re welcome for the Austin Powers throw back ;).

These fig saplings are getting so big!

 

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SoDu Farmer’s Market

SoDu Farmer's Market

This year, since I’m not growing as much food as I normally would in our garden, I’ve been trying out different farmer’s markets in the area. Can I just say, I love farmer’s markets?! Let me count the ways!

  1. Supporting local growers and producers keeps resources here and promotes the local economy.
  2. By supporting local, I can also avoid shipping costs and reduce my carbon footprint.
  3. Avoiding excess packaging is better for the earth. I can bring my own bag to the market and buy loose veggies and fruits instead of items wrapped in plastic wrap. Less trash is a win in my book!
  4. I can choose to support organic and sustainable farmers who are committed to preserving the land and local ecosystems. Plus I don’t have to worry about anything sprayed on my food.
  5. I can meet the people who grow my food and hear their stories, get great ideas for recipes, get gardening tips, and learn about other community resources (places that do U-pick, local artisans, etc).
  6. I get to try varieties I can’t find in the grocery store.
  7. This is helping me meet one of my annual goals!

This week, I checked out a small farmer’s market that was new to me – the South Durham (or SoDu) Farmer’s Market. I must be living under a rock, because I just found out about this market and it’s just up the road from us! 

This market is a hidden gem! I love that it’s a small market, parking is easy peasey, and it still has everything I could possible need – baked goods, seafood, handmade soaps, ciders, cheeses, meats, and produce. They even have a homemade pasta vendor! It’s held in a parking lot that also contains a DMV license plate office, which I ironically had to visit just a few weeks ago. Let’s just say, I’d much rather be shopping than waiting in line at the DMV.

 

Is it just me or do you ever feel intimidated by farmer’s markets? I frequently get flustered and overwhelmed by all the variety and abundance around me and often just end up purchasing whatever catches my eye. Usually, that means I come home with whatever vegetables or fruits are front and center in the displays.

What I really enjoyed about this farmer’s market was that many of the vendors had chalkboards out front with a list of their offerings. That gave me a better idea of what was for sale and lessened the pressure/feeling guilted into buying something just because I approached a booth. This week, I challenged myself to get something other than fruits and vegetables, so here’s what I got. I was super pleased!

 

Lion’s Mane Mushrooms from Haw River Mushrooms

Lions Mane Mushroom

Lions Mane Mushroom (picture from https://ramblecreekfarm.com/store/product/lions-mane-mushroom-fresh)

I know what you’re thinking… that mushroom looks alien. That’s what I thought, too! At the suggestion of their super friendly employee, Fran, I tried these because she said they taste like crab meat. Jonah is a huge crab cake fan but hates mushrooms, so I did the ol’ switcheroo to see if he could tell the difference. Guess what? He couldn’t! I used this recipe from Aubrey’s Kitchen and they turned out great! Also, I had a lovely conversation with Fran about her time living in Washington state and found out that we have a mutual love of Mt. Ranier National Park.

Chopped Lion's Mane Mushroom

Chopped up it doesn’t look so bad, does it?

 

Peaches fromKen Chappell’s Peaches and Apples

Hallelujer! Fresh peach season is here. There’s really no point in eating peaches out of season. These are so delicious and perfectly ripe right now.

Hallelujer Madea

Peaches

 

“Field of Creams” Goat Cheese fromProdigal Farm

I love the mission of this local goat dairy. They really treat their animals well. They have a punchcard program for $10 of free cheese once you get 10 punches (one punch for every $10 spent). For this dairy lover, that’s a pretty great deal. Plus, I give them extra points for creativity in naming their cheeses!

"Field of Creams" Goat Cheese from Prodigal Farm

“Field of Creams” Goat Cheese from Prodigal Farm

Field of Dreams Meme - if you build it the memes will come.

 

Pastries fromNinth Street Bakery

Ummm, I didn’t get pictures of these because Jonah, the kids, and I demolished them! We really enjoy this great, local bakery. This time, we got two cinnamon rolls, a morning bun, and a bear claw. YUM! Here’s a drool-worthy picture of them from their website. 

Cinnamon Rolls from Ninth Street Bakery

Cinnamon Rolls from Ninth Street Bakery

I really enjoyed my visit to the SoDu Farmer’s Market and plan to go back soon to get some seafood, eggs, and meat! Do you have a recommendation of other farmer’s markets I should try? Drop it below in the comments so I can visit and report back.

SoDu Farmer's Market

SoDu Farmer’s Market is located at Greenwood Commons Shopping Center: 5410 NC-55, Durham, NC 27713. Open 8am-12pm every Saturday, year round.

 

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The Importance of Rest

Now that I’m nearing the end of my pregnancy with baby #2, I’m starting to realize that rest is kind of a big deal. There’s nothing like carrying around another human for 9 months while chasing a toddler to make you realize that woman does not live on caffeine alone (the Bible says that, right? :-D).

It’s not that I don’t want to rest. In theory, rest sounds GREAT.  It’s putting it into practice that is so tough. I’m a night owl by nature – I used to routinely go to bed at 2 AM until I started working a 9-5 job. Now that I work a 24 hour job (#momlife), I frequently find myself up at strange hours due to insomnia, a crying child, or street noise.

night-owls-can-i-get-a-hoot-

Anyway, today, I read the story of Jesus calming the storm in the children’s Bible we have for our toddler. Here’s the version from Mark 4:35-41:

Jesus Calms the Storm

35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, Quiet! Be still! Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

For whatever reason, it just hit me funny that Jesus was straight up sleeping in the middle of a storm that made a bunch of experienced fishermen think they were going to die. I’m guessing the disciples had seen their fair share of bad storms, but here we see next-level wind and waves. I’m envisioning something out of movies like “The Perfect Storm”, “Deep Impact”, or that awful Russell Crowe version of “Noah”. Don’t waste your time. It’s horrible.

Perfect Storm Movie Poster Noah Movie Poster

Okay, so maybe it wasn’t that dramatic, but you get what I’m saying. It was scary!

First off, I envy the fact that Jesus is such a deep sleeper. Where can I get some of that quality shut-eye?!

Secondly, when would He have woken up? It says the waves were crashing over the boat so it almost swamped. You’d think the water splashing on Him would have woken Him up, right?

Thirdly…those disciples (shaking my head over here). Can I just say, I love whenever the disciples appear in scripture. They give voice to everything I feel and would probably be thinking myself in these crazy situations with Jesus. Frequently, they play the role of “Captain Obvious” or the ancient near east equivalent of The Three Stooges. I love their comment: “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

Well said, disciples. Well said. That’s a question I’ve definitely brought before the Lord on MANY occasions. It’s not always phrased like that, but the sentiment is the same.

“Don’t you care about me?”

Maybe you can identify with some of these variants of the same question:

Don’t you care that…

    • ….I haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in over two years? 
    • …I’m overworked, overtired, and at the end of my rope?
    • …my loved one isn’t well and is dying?
    • ….this storm of life is swirling around me and I’m going to drown?

Notice what Jesus does next. 

He first deals with the storm.

Then, He addresses the disciples’ lack of faith.

Jesus is not disturbed by our storms. He can sleep and rest right through them, because He is fully in control of the wind and the waves.

When we cry out to God in our storms, He addresses the things that are paining us first. Then He helps us work on our faith.

We could have been resting that whole time in the boat instead of panicking about drowning! Why aren’t we doing just that? Why aren’t we letting Jesus rebuke the wind and waves for us?

Lift up a prayer to God about this today. If you don’t know what to say, here’s something to get you started…

Father God, teach me to trust you and to rest confidently and securely in you. Remind me that the wind and waves recognize your voice and submit to you. Help me to submit to you also. Help me enter that deep, wonderful rest that Jesus enjoyed. I thank you that you allow me to witness you calming the storms of my life each and every day. You are good!

Special Note: Since baby girl is due very, very soon, the next few posts will be a bit lighter than usual. But lighter doesn’t mean lesser! Check back in for a good laugh this Wednesday and some of my other favorite things in coming posts. Catch you on the flip side!

Coming up:

Wednesday: Wild Card Wednesday!

Next Sunday: These are a Few of My Favorite Things

 

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2021 Goal Check-In

Because I’m a task- and goal-driven sort of person, I like to check in on my goals a few times a year. Quarterly-ish seems about right for me, so I’m a little overdue for a check-in. I thought I’d share with you all how I’m doing so far this year, in the hopes that being transparent (and accountable) will help me get back on track! 

For the items below, green text means I’m on track, while items in purple need some work.

My Goals

Theme Verse: Philippians 4:8

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

I haven’t fully memorized this, which is sad since it’s not even a long verse. I’m going to make it my phone background for a little bit and see if it helps me memorize it. You can, too! Just save the image below:

Philippians 4:8

 

Personal Goals

  • Read 2 books/mo (24 total)
    • I’ve read 13 so far!
  • Write in my prayer journal & mom journal daily
    • More or less, I’m doing this. If I forget, I go back and fill in.
  • Phone free mornings & one offline day each week
    • Doing HORRIBLY at this. I need some accountability/ideas on how to curb my phone use, so if you have any suggestions of things that have worked for you, please let me know in the comments below!
  • Have daily one-on-one quiet time with God during kids’ nap time or after their bed time
    • I’ve been doing daily readings from She Reads Truth and have really enjoyed it! The great part is they have built in catch up and rest days on Saturdays and Sundays, so it’s not too overwhelming.
  • Eat less meat by choosing 1 main meat/week
    • I could be doing better about this. It usually ends up being 2 meats per week. Send me some links to your favorite vegetarian recipes in the comments below.
  • Be fully present at meals – no cell phone distractions or leaving the table
    • Again, doing HORRIBLY at this. I did make one change that has helped with my bad habit of getting up from the table during the meal, and that’s having a pitcher of water in the dining room for meals. Usually my getting up stems from being thirsty (I’m a camel when it comes to drinking water). I could still improve on getting up to put away plates, etc.

Family Goals

  • Read a parenting book together with Jonah
    • Haven’t even purchased the book yet. I guess this is my nudge to just go ahead and buy it already! This is the book:

 (This is an Amazon Affiliate link)

  • Visit 5 more state parks as a familyHa Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha
  • Visit the farmers market 1x/mo after vaccinated for COVID
    • Fully vaccinated now, but haven’t made it to the market yet.

Financial Goals

  • Open college accts for baby #2
    • Baby is almost here! Will be on my list of things to do in the next few weeks after she’s born.
  • Save towards next home down payment & set up auto-drafts to savings 
    • I’ve set up the automation! Why did it take me so long to automate this stuff? I should have been doing this for years.

Sooooo it looks like I have some work to do! If you have suggestions or comments, leave them below! How are you doing with your goals so far? Any pro tips? I’d love to hear from you!

Coming up:

Wednesday: Garden Update – The Bolt & The Beautiful

Next Sunday: The Importance of Rest

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What does it mean to be an Easter People?

If you’ve attended a church service on Easter, you might have heard the pastor say that Christians are an “Easter People”. What exactly does that mean?

First, did you know that Sundays are NOT technically the Sabbath? Nope! Christians gather to worship on Sunday because it’s the Day of Resurrection – AKA the day of the week Jesus was raised from the dead. The Sabbath, according to Jewish tradition, is Friday sundown to Saturday sundown. I don’t know about you, but that makes me feel a whole lot better about sleeping in on Saturdays and doing a whole bunch of nothing. 

Jumanji: when you wake up from your 3rd nap of the day - "what year is it?"

https://www.reddit.com/r/memes/comments/fq1x0l/quarantine_naps/

Second, did you know that Easter isn’t a one-day celebration? It’s actually a 50-day church season that starts on Easter Sunday and ends on Pentecost. 

Easter isn’t just a one-time celebration or feast day. It’s ongoing. Every Sunday is, at its core, a mini-Easter, and there’s a good chunk of the year that we should be celebrating as Easter. Whether we do or not is a different story.

As Easter People, we are supposed to be celebrating. Living the most alive, flourishing, vivacious, liveliest, vital, (insert your favorite synonyms for alive here) life of anyone on this planet. We have the opportunity to live a resurrection lifestyle. A lifestyle Jesus embodied throughout his life and ministry. Case in point:

Jesus YOLO? Speak for yourself

http://christianfunnypictures.com/2016/03/14-hilarious-easter-memes.html

The disciples got to witness this resurrection lifestyle firsthand when Jesus was living with them. I love this cool scene from when Jesus’ friend Lazarus dies and he chats with Laz’s sister Martha (John 11: 17-27):

 17 When Jesus arrived at Bethany, he was told that Lazarus had already been in his grave for four days. 18 Bethany was only a few miles[d] down the road from Jerusalem, 19 and many of the people had come to console Martha and Mary in their loss. 20 When Martha got word that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him. But Mary stayed in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.”

23 Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.”

24 “Yes,” Martha said, “he will rise when everyone else rises, at the last day.”

25 Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life.[e] Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. 26 Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?”

27 “Yes, Lord,” she told him. “I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God.” 

Can you see this scene playing out? I have to laugh because it’s just so ironic. Martha is one of those people who can’t read subtext well. We all know a person like this. She’s the one at the party who doesn’t get the punchline of the joke. Here, the joke is on her. Jesus reveals the truth to her in such a dramatic way… I imagine him saying to her, “don’t you get it? I AM the resurrection! Resurrection is here, NOW!” Jesus and Martha both must have face palmed in the biggest “DUH” moment in recorded history.

Double Face Palm - for when one face palm doesn't cut it

https://scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/2013/which-episode-is-the-double-facepalm-image-macro-from

 

Let’s live like resurrection day is everyday, because IT IS! Let’s live like Easter People.

What do you think it means to be an “Easter People”? I’d love to hear your thoughts – leave a comment below and let’s chat!

 

Coming up:

Wednesday: How to Make a Herb Spiral

Next Sunday: Why so much garden imagery in the Bible?

 

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Palm-Waving Groupies

Happy Palm Sunday! I’m going to be completely unoriginal and take a look at Jesus’ Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem for this week’s devotional. So let’s dig in!

Context


Jesus has just traveled from Capernaum to Judea. It’s approximately 85 miles, so it would have taken several days to hike from Capernaum to Jerusalem (located in the region of Judea). Here’s a map:

Map of Capernaum to Judea

Map Courtesy of https://www.ccel.org/bible/phillips/CP051GOSPELMAPS.htm

He’s also just schooled the Pharisees on divorce, blessed some kids, encountered a rich young ruler who was too attached to his possessions to follow Jesus, predicted His death, schooled the disciples on what greatness really means, and healed a blind man. You know, a typical week for Jesus. 

Why is Jesus moving towards Jerusalem? Because He’s about to go there to celebrate Passover. Plus He knows what He has to do in the coming week – die for the world’s sins.

Now, onto our reading for today.

Mark 11:1-11

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 3 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’”

4 They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, 5 some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” 6 They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. 7 When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. 8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. 9 Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,

“Hosanna!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

10 “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

11 Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.

Translated for Today

What an odd entrance! Riding a baby donkey over top of peoples coats and random tree trimmings? 

I tried thinking about this in a way we could picture today. Imagine this:

Instead of a limo or motorcade, Jesus decides to take a borrowed razor scooter into the city. No bodyguards, just a bunch of palm-waving groupies who can’t cobble together a decent red carpet. Instead, they lay the best they have to offer on the ground – their means of warmth and protection (coats) and a traditional sign of victory (palms). 

Tom Brady makes this look good, but few others could pull this off.

Tom Brady makes this look good, but few others could pull this off.
https://www.gq.com/story/razor-scooters-are-not-cool-tom-brady

 

Now that’s just my imagination, but I bet you can come up with something similar. The point is, it’s not a fancy entrance. Jesus comes into the city in a humble, almost humiliating way.

And then we hear what the people are shouting. They’re quoting Psalm 118, a Psalm pilgrims would sing on the way to Jerusalem (how fitting). It’s about victory and deliverance. Then, they implore Jesus with shouts of “Hosanna!”

Hosanna is an exclamation of praise that means…

SAVE US Now!

So in effect, the people are saying:

“Save us now!”

“God’s blessed you to come and do this!”

“David’s kingdom is going to make a comeback!”

“For God’s sake, SAVE US!!”

The Jewish people were looking for a political leader. With this humble entrance, Jesus showed, once again, that God’s kingdom looks VERY different from how we sometimes want it to look.

Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest heaven! - Mark 11:9b-10

Use this as your phone wallpaper this week!

 

Reflection

As you celebrate Palm Sunday today, think about the following:

  1. What do you need saving from?
  2. How is Jesus currently challenging your ideas about what His kingdom should look like?
  3. Beyond palms and coats, what can you lay down at Jesus’ feet to help pave the way for his entrance into your life?

 

Coming up:

Wednesday: Update and Pictures from Our Jubilee Garden

Next Sunday: Happy Easter!

 

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Nitty Gritty – How to Prune

Pruning is both science and art. Last week we looked at the why, when, and what of pruning. Now, let’s get into the nitty gritty – how to prune. Here are some thoughts that can help guide your cutting.

 

Immediately Remove:

  • Anything diseased or damaged.
  • Adventitious growth. Look like suckers but are coming from an area that was improperly cut or damaged in a previous pruning session or storm.
  • Limbs that are criss-crossing or growing towards the center of the plant. The goal is for limbs to go OUT and AWAY from the center so the foliage can get more light for photosynthesis.
  • Suckers. These are shoots that come up from the base of the plant, trying to be new leaders (primary limbs). 

Suckers at the base of a shrub There's a sucker born every minute (PT Barnum)
All of these tiny shoots coming up near the base of the plant are suckers. PT Barnum would welcome them, but he’s no gardener.

 

Determine Desired Height

How tall do you want this to be once you’re done pruning? Choose a height to guide your cuts (ex. I aim for waist- or chest-high for shrubs since that’s easy to approximate). 

 

Shaping 

Look for little buds (AKA lateral meristem/axillary bud) on the limb in question. They might be clearly visible on a naked branch or they might be hidden right where a leaf attaches to the limb. The way these nodes are pointing indicates which way the plant could grow if you chopped right above that point. (Obviously if you chop below, the bud would be gone and couldn’t direct the growth).

Fun with Biology:

A meristem is a plant’s version of stem cells. Stem cells can differentiate into any type of cell that’s needed (sort of like our bone marrow and umbilical cord blood). An apical meristem is just plant stem cell tissue found at the apex, or top, of the plant. 

Lateral meristems are stem cells found near a bud or side shoot

Plant hormones from the apical meristem called auxins send chemical signals to the lateral meristems that inhibit lateral growth. Cytokinins (another plant hormone) allow for some lateral growth. For more on this, check out this cool article

Here’s the REALLY cool part: if you chop off the apical meristem (AKA  pruning), auxins can’t be delivered and whatever lateral meristem is closest to the top becomes the new apical meristem through cell differentiation. It’s crazy-amazing! Check it out:

Apical meristem is at the top of the limb, lateral meristems/buds are on the sides of the limb. Each bud shows the direction a new limb could grow if the top of the limb were pruned.Cutting above a lateral meristem/bud will turn that bud into the new apical meristem and the limb will grow in the direction of that bud.Here's what the new limb would look like if pruned (new growth going in the direction of the new bud with foliage at each lateral meristem/axillary bud.

 

Science and pruning are so cool!

 

Here’s an example of my pruning before & after, using the tips above. Subtle, but effective!

Shrub after pruning

 

Tree Limbs: 3-Cut Method

Growing a Greener World, one of my favorite gardening shows, has a great episode on pruning. I recommend watching the entire episode. If you just need to know how to best remove a tree limb, check this out:

 

A Note About Tree-Topping/Crape Murder

Ugh. I hate this so much. I hate that I have to tell people this AND I hate that tree service companies actually suggest this to their customers. Trees SHOULD NOT have their canopies removed. It’s atrociously ugly and it is usually fatal to the tree. At the very minimum it’s extremely damaging (to the tree’s health and to your property when the tree eventually fails and falls on something). Crape Myrtles are frequent victims of this treatment, hence the term “Crape Murder”. If a tree is overgrown, here are your best options:

  • Remove an entire limb from where it joins up with the trunk or a large branch using the 3-cut method
  • Cut down the entire tree – it will look better than topping AND prevent you from having a huge insurance claim after it falls down on your or your neighbor’s property
    • Bonus: this frees up space to plant something better (more appropriate size or native species)

A tree that's had it's canopy removed improperly using a topping method.

An improperly pruned tree. Tree topping is murder!

Results of tree topping - scraggly limbs, knots, and decay

For the love of Pete, don’t do this!!!! See how sickly the new growth is? The knots? The decay? It’s awful!

 

Additional Resources

Here are a few other resources if you have more questions about how to prune:

Now you know the why, what, when, and how of pruning! It’s not that hard once you understand the biology going on behind the scenes. 

I’d love to hear your stories about pruning (horror or otherwise)! Did you inadvertently kill a plant by pruning at the wrong time (guilty here!)? Have a bumper crop of flowers or fruits after a hard prune? What did you do with the harvest? Let me know in the comments!

Coming up:

Sunday: Good Soil

Next Wednesday: Square Foot Gardening Techniques

 

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We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Programming for Pruning – It’s Not That Hard!

I know you’re probably excited to get your transplants in the ground, but I’m going to interrupt your regularly scheduled programming. Before we do anything else, we need to get outside and do some pruning before spring kicks into high gear!

What types of plants should you prune? 

For the most part, pruning is for perennial plants, shrubs, and trees since annuals typically don’t make it through the winter.


Plants Need Pruning If They Are:

  • Overgrown or unruly
  • Patchy (insufficient light to center or lower parts of the plant)
  • Touching a structure
  • Crowding out other plants
  • Unproductive or you want to increase productivity (more blooms/fruits)

Why Now? 

Late winter/early spring is when plants are dormant and not actively growing. I like to aim for Valentine’s Day (this year, I was a little behind). The plant has time to recover from the wounds of pruning during dormancy,  plus pruning actually stimulates new growth which is perfect for this time of year – it kick-starts spring growth.


Exceptions to Pruning in Early Spring

There is one notable exception to early spring pruning, and that’s pruning flowering shrubs.

As a general rule, you should prune AFTER a plant flowers. It’s safe to prune any plant during early spring (dormancy) – your plant will still survive, BUT if you prune something that flowers before June (a sign that your plant flowers on the previous year’s growth), you’ll miss any blooms/fruits for that season/year. If something flowers after June, it usually means it flowers on new/this year’s growth, so it’s best to prune now.

NEVER PRUNE IN LATE SUMMER/FALL! It encourages new growth, which is susceptible to frost damage and can kill your plant.


What Tools Do You Need?

All you need is something to cut with. I find the following three items to be all that’s necessary. (Note: these are Amazon Affiliate links, so if you choose to buy anything, I’ll get a small commission. These are what I use to do my own pruning):

  • Hand Pruners (for twigs with diameter of about a finger or less). Be sure they’re bypass pruners, NOT anvil pruners.

  • Loppers (for anything from the diameter of your finger to diameter of your wrist). Again, be sure they’re bypass loppers and not anvil-style (which crushes instead of giving a clean cut)

  • Hand Saw (for anything bigger than that – typically trees or very big/old limbs on a shrub)


A Note About Safety

Don’t be overly daring when it comes to pruning. Especially with trees, if a limb is too big or too high to reach, leave it alone. If it bothers you that much, have a friend help you or hire a certified arborist (yes, make sure it’s not just a tree service!). If you’re using a ladder, have someone there to spot you/help hold it, or you’ll need to have 9-1-1 on speed-dial.

The Simpsons - A caller at this hour? You dial 9-1, then when I say so, dial 1 again

Now that we have the basis of why, when, and what to prune, come back next Wednesday for the nitty gritty on how to prune – the science behind pruning, deciding where to cut, and how to cut the right way. 

Have you started (or completed) your pruning for this year? How’d it go? Let me know in the comments!

Coming up:

Sunday: Spring Forth

Next Wednesday: Nitty Gritty – How to Prune

 

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All About Seeds – Part 3! Selecting Varieties for Planting

Hooray! You’ve made it to week 3 of All About Seeds. Now that we’ve learned how to decipher a seed packet and understand some of the lingo, we can get down to business. It’s time to choose your varieties!

Here are some things to consider:

 

Step 1: Finalize your planting list

Decide what types of plants you want in your garden.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • What do you have space for? 
  • What do you/your family eat the most of?
  • What might be tastier grown at home rather than buying from the store?
    • What bruises or goes bad quickly after being harvested?
  • Which items have a big mark-up at the store that you could grow more cheaply yourself?
    • Berries? Rare veggies? Spices? Herbs?
  • Which company (or companies) do you want to buy from?
    • What’s in stock?
    • Can you buy all your seeds from them and get a discount or free shipping?
    • Who’s got the best prices? (Don’t forget to take into consideration the unit/weight for each seed pack)
    • What’s their lead time on shipping?

Step 2: Determine your seed “rules”

Selecting varieties can be overwhelming and it’s easy to over-buy. So create some rules for yourself before you even crack open a seed catalog or peruse a seed company’s website. Here are some examples of rules that you can use or adjust for yourself:

  • I’m limiting myself to x number of varieties of the same plant (i.e. 2 tomato varieties)
  • I’m limiting myself to varieties that are bred for containers (dwarf size)
  • I’m limiting myself to varieties that support my convictions about GMO vs. Non-GMO, Organic vs. Non-organic, and/or Open-pollinated/Heirloom vs. Hybrid.
  • I won’t pay over $x per packet of seeds
  • My total budget is $x, and I will stick to that number

Are all these rules really necessary? The Big Lebowski

Yes, yes they are. Because you’re about to…


Step 3: Crack open a seed catalog / seed company’s website

Now you’re armed with some defenses against overspending on seeds. Here’s an example of a spread you might see (this one’s from Baker Creek):

Baker Creek Seed Catalog - Example of Bean Options

 

It’s so alluring, am I right? The photography is on point – look at all those beautiful green beans you could have in your garden!

 

Thriller - I'm just here to watch people in denial rationalize their excuses

REALITY CHECK. Your garden is not a farm. Your plants will not look like these pristine, beautifully arranged specimens. So let’s keep it real, shall we?

  1. Go to the section for the first type of plant you want to order. 
  2. Immediately mark out any varieties that break your rules. If you’ve got a physical copy of the seed catalog, mark it out with a big X. I’m not kidding. If you’re looking at the website, write down the “hard no’s” on one side of a sheet of paper. 
  3. Assess what’s left. Of the varieties that are left, which ones will work best for you and your garden? You can compare the following to help you further narrow the list down:
    • Is it appropriate for your growing zone? (ex: “long day” onions do best when grown in zones 6 and colder)
    • What are the # of days to maturity? Do you prefer an earlier or later harvest?
    • Does it have any special advantages over others (ex: resistance to verticillium wilt in a tomato variety)?
    • Are there any disadvantages? (ex: beans that need to be trellised vs. ones that grow in a “bush” habit and don’t need support)
  4. Put your final “yeses” in your online shopping cart or write them down on the other side of your piece of paper that had the hard no’s on them.

Step 4: Wait 24 hours

Have a neutral third party (spouse, friend, mail carrier, local dog-walker) review what you have in your shopping cart. Give them permission to gently remind you of your seed rules and which selections might be breaking those rules. Get real with yourself. Have you gone over budget? It’s time to make some hard choices. YOU CAN DO THIS! Just don’t be like Cindy:


Step 5: Place your order

Enter that credit card info and click submit. Now sit back, relax and get ready for the next step in the process – preparing your planting area for your seeds or transplants! But before we do that, we’ve got some pruning to do…

 

Coming up:

Sunday: Pruning Time!

Next Wednesday: We interrupt your regularly scheduled programming for Pruning – It’s Not that Hard!

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