Gardening By Surprise, and Other Ideas You Might Not Want to Try


Did you know it takes ten years for a grape plant to get this big?
You know I’m making that up, right? I don’t know anything about grapes. Does anyone want to come over and plant these grapes? They need planted soon. We’ve got Concord, Muscadine, and Niagra. We’re building a vineyard here! I’m excited. I’m gonna go get my wine glass…..
Oh yeah. No time for that. There’s work to do.
The garden is busy.

We’ve got lettuce ready to bolt.
Peas preparing for their funeral procession.
Tomatoes showing off their first blooms. Why can’t we have lettuce and tomatoes at the same time? Whose dumb idea was that? Suzanne! You are insulting God! You’re going to be struck by a lightning bolt. (So that’s where the lettuce goes when it bolts….)
We’ve got all kinds of squash and zucchini, gourds and pumpkins.
Corn and beans, and some corn and beans planted together (pole beans).
All kinds of peppers and I don’t know what else. I’ve already forgotten. I shall be surprised by a mystery veggie palooza. I garden by surprise, not design. I lose markers and forget what I planted. Some day, I will be organized and make a garden map.

I’m lying. You know that’ll never happen.

We got all kinds of cool herbs on sale before the herb guy left the farmers’ market.

Russian sage.
Sweet fennel.
Orange mint.
Cinnamon basil.
And a bunch of other stuff I can’t remember, but I know there was some catnip in there. It was all the weird stuff they couldn’t sell at full price. I’ll be seasoning by surprise this summer, too. Hope I don’t really get mixed up and put the catnip in the spaghetti. I’m also growing all my usual herbs that I recognize without markers because they’re favorites–sweet basil, rosemary, parsley, sage, chives, etc. This year, I’ve got herbs in pots and also in a new bed near the garden. I have this fantasy that some day I will have a dedicated, permanent herb garden, with little paths and benches and a fountain, or maybe just a really gorgeous bird bath or a pretty statue.

I have an active imagination. I also have a six by four plain wood box to plant my herbs in instead of a fantasy herb garden with benches and paths and statuary, but hey, at least I’ve graduated from only growing them in pots.

We got free mulch by using a big round bale of hay from a neighbor. It was rotten, so it wasn’t fit for the animals, but it makes good mulch.
This guy’s still not looking very friendly.
I was gonna ask him to plant the grapes, but maybe not.

And here we’ve got all this work to be done and, seriously, I’ve got to go give my little donkey a licorice treat, so I don’t have time for it.

Kitty? Kitty………
I wonder what I could get her to do for some catnip spaghetti?


  1. Patty says:

    Suzanne, what a great looking garden you’ve got this year!! I’m envious. I have two potted tomato plants and a container of herbs and some potted annuals. They’re all doing really well though so proud of that. But you have tons to be proud of. I’ve got wild grapes, but I’d LOVE a real vineyard.

    Oh and your bird is a brown headed cowbird. :snuggle:

  2. Cathy says:

    I don’t know anything about planting grape vines but I know WV is a great place for growing them. I sent my summers as a child at my grandfather’s house in Athens, WV & he had 2 acres of grape vines that grew like weeds!

  3. SarahKoski says:

    I think the photo of the day is a brown headed cowbird. At first I thought it might be a bronze headed cowbird, but the wiki photos looked more like the brown one. Horray for the internet.

    • Marianne says:

      Yep — brown-headed cowbird. They are considered parasites in the bird world, as they will lay their eggs in another birds nest and force those parents to care for the baby (often at the expense of their real children). Bad bird.

  4. Ms E says:

    Oh course giving Pocohontas licorice is more important than gardening! She’s still just a baby and babies come first.

    Have you considered planting rhubard? It comes back every year and makes a fabulous chilled salad or relish.

  5. Alyson says:

    Loved reading your post on your garden; you have done well this year! Enjoy the summer.

    Alyzabeth’s Mommy for Nine Months

  6. jane says:

    Pretty squash blossoms..Why not batter dip a few and fry them..I was told that some of the blossoms are “male” and will not produce fruit.

  7. Marianne says:

    The male squash blossoms don’t have a little bulge at the bottom (they aren’t “pregnant”, lol) and, yep, stuffed with a cheese mixture, batter-dipped and fried they are YUMMY.

  8. Senta says:

    Ijust learned Why half of my squash flowers never turn into squash. Hmmmm Elementry my Dear Watson.

  9. Carol Langille says:

    Surprise gardening!! What a lovely idea and when I have a home with a yard instead of an apartment, I’m going to do just that because, like you, I get overly enthusiastic and organization disappears.
    By the way, I want to comment on your Chicken Enchilada Recipe…I made it last night and my husband, Mike, adored it. He considers himself very educated when it comes to Mexican food (he has lived in Dallas for 25 years but he started out in Kansas so that kinda says something) and he ate five of the enchiladas and some extra ‘sauce’. It was really good…I made it with yellow corn tortillas but I’d like the flour ones better. Thank you for the recipe….wonderful! I’ve made several of your recipes now and love them all.

  10. maryann says:

    Yes our first batch of lettuce is ready for harvesting with using store brought tomatoes also. We are getting ready to plant the second crop of lettuce but this time it will be in the shaded area of the yard under some trees. If I time it right they will be ready the same time as the tomatoes. The lettuce will get the morning sun and the right before dark sun.

  11. CindyP says:

    Great garden, Suzanne! Surprises are the best! Everything needs water and sun, so you can’t go wrong. :happyflower:

    I have a herb bed and just came in from harvesting some herbs….going to make herb wreaths for soups this winter. I also have some cinnamon basil and what I just picked it smells great! :sun:

  12. Tina S. says:

    Hi there! I love reading your blog and have been reading it for quite a while now. I love the recipe’s and all the storys! And the pictures, don’t forget the pictures! I had always heard though not to mulch with hay because it produces more weeds the following year in the garden (due to the hay seeds), straw yes but not hay. You will have to let me know how it turns out.

  13. wildcat says:

    That is most definitely a brown-headed cowbird.

    I get them at my feeder every day down here in Georgia.

    • BuckeyeGirl says:

      Yes it IS a Brown-headed cowbird. I love to watch them, the way they pose and display, and give a warning ‘wheeet!’ when they warn other birds away from their girlfriends or from a food source. I’ve got entirely too many of them, especially since they are too lazy to build their own nests and simply drop their eggs into other birds’ nests… chucking out the PROPER birds’ eggs if there’s no room. Still, they’re only doing what their little bird-brains tell them to do.

  14. Nancy in Atlanta says:

    I think your garden is magnificent, organized or not! As you said, as long as you don’t mix up your herbs and add catnip to the spaghetti – you, 52 and the kids would look very strange rolling around on the floor, purring! So Pocahontas likes licorice? Strange little gal! Probably Clover will want some now.

  15. Deb Martin-Webster says:

    Check out our 80 year old grapevine restoration. . .it took a lot of work and a lot of love to get this magnificant vine to bear fruit again. I have photos on my FB page! I also work part-time at Biltmore Estate; they have their own Winery and Vineyards, so I have some helpful tips for you.

  16. Kathy in Fayette Co KY says:

    Hi: Your bird may be a chimney swift or some other type of swallow? I’m not for sure. :duck:

  17. Donna says:

    Your bird on the picture of the day looks like a brown-headed cowbird – not that I’m a bird-watching pro, mind you… just googled the bird’s attributes and that’s what came up. See to see if you agree.

  18. Mel says:

    We started a vineyard 2 years ago(with over 300 plants) & are just now to the point of putting in our cedar posts for supporting the vines. Shouldn’t be long now before they start producing some fruit. Your grapes look fantastic, I’d plant them :eating: and watch them become even bigger & better. Good Luck!!!

    Look at your gardens, I’m jealous, our gardens have at least a month to look as great as yours (benifits of the North Country)I also didn’t take the time to mark my rows and figured I’d figure it out once the plants got bigger. I can nearly taste the fresh peas, and squash :shimmy:

    Happy gardening,

  19. The Retired One says:

    The odd looking bird in your last post (there was no room to leave a comment there?) is a cowbird. They make a really neat sound too.

  20. Jodie says:

    I 2nd the post about stuffing some squash blossoms and frying. I saw a cooking show and it looked fab. LOVE LOVE Miss Pocahontas! Give Big Puppy, Number Nine, the new dog and Clover all kisses for me!!! And I still think you need to eat the bad rooster.

  21. Gienah Ghurab says:

    Suzanne, I can not figure out how to comment on your name that bird post: (and in fact I don’t even see it now on your front page; I’d bookmarked it a few hours earlier).
    Looks like it’s probably a bronzed cowbird? I am no ornithologist but it seems similar in coloring to this:

  22. Gienah Ghurab says:

    Ooops, Suzanne, I noticed that the range for the bronzed cowbird is nowhere near your area. And the brown-headed cowbird is even more like your photo:

  23. Yvonne says:

    I’m showing my lack of vegetable gardening experience here, but what does “lettuce ready to bolt” mean? I do know birds pretty well, and everyone is right, it’s a cowbird. :yes:

  24. Estella says:

    Your garden looks like it is doing weel.
    I have radishes and lettuce ready to eat, but the tomatoes are still very green.

  25. BuckeyeGirl says:

    Most leafy vegetables don’t like hot weather much and when the heat hits, they send up a flower stalk, which quickly turns to seed. This happens so quickly that it’s as if they ‘bolt’ almost overnight. When this happens, the leaves usually turn quite bitter and tough and aren’t terribly useful anymore. That’s why things like lettuce, spinach, parsley and cilantro are planted very early in the season before the heat, then replanted later in the year after the hot months for a second crop.

  26. Grace says:

    I love your blog and enjoy reading it every day. Regarding your garden, it is lovely. But, I think that the curry plant you bought is not really edible. It probably smells like curry. Apparently it is used in the making of some candies but not really used as an herb. I bought one several years ago (it looked exactly like yours) and was disappointed to find out it was just ornamental and not edible.

  27. Amy W. says:

    Adorable animals all around! Forget the work, play with the critters. :sheepjump:

  28. KentuckyFarmGirl says:

    Your garden looks great and I always love your posts. It’s almost time to start canning around here.

    Definitely with the majority on this one, brown headed cowbird!

    • Kathy in Fayette Co KY says:

      OOPS~~ I was thinking of a cowbird, but I thought that the bird in the pic looked smaller, but was going by the size of the feeder. Yes, definitely a cowbird. My ornithology instructor would be sooo disappointed in me!!! Ha Ha!!! :chicken:

      Thanks for the clarification you all.

  29. Christine says:

    Love your website! Was searching for how to make homemade poptarts and found you. Keep up the good work. We had a dozen of chickens a few years back. Would life to get some again and goats for making cheese, if I can talk my husband into! God Bless, Christine

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