Enjoy Every May Day!

Enjoy Every May Day!

May is progressing nicely. I am SO HAPPY that the monsoon season abated and we have enjoyed many sunny days. I noticed as I was walking around my garden, checking on when my peonies will be opening, that my mind was playing future games. Instead of enjoying the bounty of my garden NOW, I was thinking about what was NEXT. I then said to myself “Enjoy every moment of the May garden. Don’t wish the days away thinking about what is to come.” This is a precious time of year. My yard is filled with the intoxicating fragrance of my Viburnum carcephalum. My pink wisteria (a.k.a. the wisteria that ate Middletown) is starting to really flower and the bumble bee chorus, when sitting on the deck below the pergola, is amazing. 
Look at all those empty pots, staged and ready to fill up with my favorite funky annuals. 

The nice weather means it’s finally time to plant your warm season plants! My

My gorgeous new raised beds are filled with my native, heavy clay soil. I am amending with lots of Cocodelphia (shredded coconut fiber or coir), Coast of Maine lobster compost, and Pro Gro. I can’t wait to plant them!

edible figs came out of the back garage on Sunday. I brought home my first dozen tomato plants but I am still working on filling up my newly rebuilt raised beds and filling them with organic amendments before I can plant them in the sunniest spot in my yard. It’s time to plant the first seeds of sunflowers, beans, cucumbers, squashes, and pumpkins. I took all of my clay and ceramic pots out of storage, staged them on my deck and around my courtyard, and started a gigantic shopping list of things I need to fill them- organic potting soil, compost, and lots of PLANTS!!! I got out my moss hanging basket and will be bringing home a fuchsia to feed the hummingbirds. 

The tender young leaves of my edible figs are getting used to the sunshine. I have them placed next to my peach tree which is surrounded by a massive border of culinary chives. I eat both the chive foliage and the flowers. 

Last week we talked about the return of the hummingbirds. This week we have experienced the return of the BUTTERFLIES! Diane St. John stunned us all

Teeny tiny eggs of the Eastern black swallowtail butterfly.

with her video on Facebook last Saturday- she had a female monarch in her yard laying eggs! This is the absolute earliest we have ever seen this and Diane reported it to Monarch Watch. We are the first report in CT! The minute I read this, I found myself turning over all my milkweed leaves. In MY yard, I welcomed my first Eastern black swallowtail butterfly on Sunday. I watched her lay tons of eggs on my bronze fennel plant. 

Tiny eggs grow into beautiful butterflies!
Can you spot the monarch egg on the milkweed in Diane’s yard?

Consequently, we have brought out ALL of our butterfly raising supplies and started getting the retail shop ready. We have mesh cages, hatching boxes, water tubes, books… and of course, larval food plants such as many kinds of Asclepias for the monarchs and fennel and dill for the swallowtails. Rumor has it that our first serious shipment of common milkweed will be arriving within the week. If you have left your name on our list, we will contact you the minute it gets here. We also have swamp and showy milkweed and the annual, Gymnocarpus physocarpus (Hairy balls) that also acts as a larval food plant. We have collected monarch eggs from it in our gardens. 

Gymnocarpus physocarpus
I spent all day Saturday in our Answer Booth in the Incredible Edibles department. It was so interesting to field questions for hours on end. There were definite trends in the questions I was asked…
Siberian is a determinate tomato that ripens in a mere 50 days.
The most common questions was “which tomatoes should I choose?” I suggested to most folks to pick at least one determinate tomato. These are bushy and usually ripen in 50-65 days. They satisfy your tomato cravings in early summer before the larger heirlooms start to ripen. Then I suggested at least one cherry tomato for fresh eating from the garden, especially if they had little kids. ‘Sungold’ still is the most popular, but I took home ‘Honeydrop’ instead. Next, choose at least one or two heirlooms such as ‘Brandywine’ or ‘Mortgage Lifter’, or ‘Cherokee Purple’ for that juicy, amazing flavor. Do you plan on making sauce? My husband swears by ‘San Marzano’ plum tomatoes but I prefer ‘Carmella’s Hearts’, the Italian heirloom that I have grown and saved the seeds from for a few years. These were a gift from my friends Paula and Jennifer and were brought to America by their uncle from Italy.
Try ‘Gardener’s Sweetheart’ if you are looking for a delicious and productive red cherry tomato variety.
‘Moonglow’ has a sweet flavor that melts in your mouth. 
We’ve got ‘Jimmy Nardello’ sweet red peppers, long purple eggplants for grilling, all kinds of hot peppers, tomatillos, ground cherries, and every kind of herb your heart could desire. We are totally restocking our basil benches after getting wiped out over the weekend. We’re talking Italian Genovese as well as holy basil (Tulsi), blue opal basil, and so much more. 
Here’s another new sweet pepper to try. We choose the seeds in the winter and contract to have our organic veggie seedlings grown for us.
And lest you think that this week is all about food and butterfly larval food, we have TONS of perennials and annuals and flowering shrubs and trees and vines and tropicals in stock. You might call this “peak week”. 

And why not? Memorial Day is this coming Monday! How did that sneak up on us so quickly? We are open late on Thursday evening, and of course we are open all weekend long, but we will be closed on Monday, May 27th, Memorial Day so my staff can enjoy some family time and catch their breath as we head into late May and June. 

Native foamflower (Tiarella) (with Veronica ‘Waterperry Blue’) is putting on quite a show this week.
We are offering two free workshops this weekend. On Saturday at 10 am I am teaching Veggie Love: Make a Plan with Nan. This is geared to newbie food gardeners who want to learn how to plant for succession cropping, rotate plant families, and get the most out of any sized space.
On Sunday, from 10 am to 1 pm, Eliza will be demonstrating Tomato Planting. What’s so hard about planting a tomato? Well, last week on Facebook Live I demonstrated this and on Saturday, I was surprised at how many folks didn’t know the basics. 
Tune in to Facebook Live at 4 pm this Thursday, our topic will be Plop a Pot and Funky Annuals. That’s all I will say. You will have to tune in to find out what I am talking about. It will surely inspire you as we head into the holiday weekend!
Whether you are looking for native shade plants, dramatic peonies, perennial bachelor’s buttons… you will find them and a lot more at Natureworks. Make time to come in for a visit. Planting time is here. See you soon!
North Branford and Northford will become the Sunflower Capital of CT this summer! Besides the giant farm fields planted with sunflowers down the street, businesses and homes will be pitching in to plant sunflowers everywhere.