Archive for the ‘herbs’ Category

I think that this blog is overdue for an update post on the garden; after all, it is Vegetablog  😉

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Let me just start by saying that Husband is awesome.  Since I am pretty much unable to do anything in the garden, he spent some time in the hot sun on the day before Father’s Day, weeding (and pulling out a ridiculous number of tomato volunteers) and tying up the tomatoes to the stakes.  He is so great 🙂

I couldn’t bear to even take photos of the garden before the weeding, but I did take a bunch afterward!


The garden today, after a big weeding session by my wonderful husband.


First, the left side of the garden:

cucumbers in background, peppers in middle, zucchini in front

cucumbers in background, peppers in middle, zucchini in front


I was glad to see that there are finally cucumbers coming up.  They seem to be off to a slow start, though.  I’m impatient to eat what is probably my favorite of my garden produce!

cucumbers: getting a slow start, it seems

cucumbers: getting a slow start, it seems


I think it’s interesting to see the disparity in the two zucchini plants.  The plant from the Burpee seed is in the corner, and the plant from the Lake Valley seed is in the foreground.  Planted at the same time, and sprouted at almost the same time, too!



The Lake Valley zucchini has some buds on it.  Hooray!

zucchini-- blossoms coming!!

In the photo two above, you can also see the Carmen pepper plant.  There’s a little pepper growing on it!

pepper: Carmen



The pepper plant we started from seed is barely there (no photo this time).  But somehow it still seems to be alive.  We’re leaving it for now, but I don’t think we’ll be getting much off of that plant this year!

The right side of the garden is the “tomato side.”


tomatoes that we started from seed: 4th of July in foreground, Best Boy in background

tomatoes that we started from seed: 4th of July in foreground, Best Boy in background


tomatoes: Bonnie Grape

tomatoes we purchased: Bonnie Grape

tomatoes: Indigo Rose

tomatoes we purchased: Indigo Rose


I’m happy to see that at least the tomato plants we purchased are starting to form tomatoes.

Bonnie Grape

Bonnie Grape


Indigo Rose

Indigo Rose — can you see the purple tinge?


On the back porch, the herb box is filling out.  It looks like just basil and dill have come up (the savory and marjoram didn’t appear), but that is totally fine with me, since those are the herbs I would have chosen anyway.



And my daughter’s cherry tomato plant is full of tomatoes!  I’m so excited for them to turn red so that she can pick them 🙂

V's tomato plant

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Yesterday, I posted about the planting of our 2014 garden, and today I wanted to share a bit of an update, as of Thursday of last week.

First, the not-so great news:

It looks like only 3 tomato plants have survived so far… 2 Best Boy, and 1 Fourth of July.  You might be able to barely pick them out in the photo below (they are on the left two stakes in the back row and the far left stake in the front row).  I fully admit that this is mostly my own fault– I didn’t “harden off” my seedlings, and they weren’t looking so hot to begin with.  After all the work Husband put in to prepare the garden, we just might be adding some store-bought seedlings to the empty spaces.



The peppers aren’t faring so well, either.  The right-hand pepper (of the three sprouts planted) died pretty quickly.  The remaining two are looking a bit worse for wear.  It kind of looks like something is getting into the garden (despite the fencing) and nibbling on the leaves.

left pepper.  barely surviving.

left pepper

right pepper.  barely surviving

right pepper (formerly middle pepper)


But there is a bright side!

My herb seeds are sprouting!

look at those herb sprouts!

look at those herb sprouts!

look at those herb sprouts!

I’m not sure what dill, marjoram, and savory sprouts look like, but I’m pretty sure the shorter sprouts with the rounded leaves are basil.  My (wild) guess is that the spikier ones are dill.

And there are zucchini sprouts!

Lake Valley zucchini sprout

Burpee zucchini sprout

And one lone cucumber sprout under the left trellis.  Can you spot it?  (I hope that in all of the in-ground garden photos you are graciously ignoring the fact that weeding needs to be done!)

one cucumber sprout under the left trellis


Finally, my daughter’s cherry tomato plant is growing happily.  She makes sure to look out at it each morning when she wakes up, and we have been faithfully watering it with her tiny “watering bucket” (as she calls it) on the days that it hasn’t rained!

Vivian's tomato plant-- seems to be growing happily!


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On the first weekend in May, Husband worked super-hard and got our yard into great shape!  One of his projects was to prepare the garden (isn’t he a great guy?).

garden before tilling/planting

This is what it looked like “before.”  We’d dumped all the leaves that we’d raked from the yard into the garden to cover it for the winter.  Husband has decided that he will not do that again!  It made tilling it (by hand) extremely difficult, and there are big chunks of partially decomposed leaves throughout the soil now.

compost from last year

This is an oh-so-glamorous shot of our compost bin.  We ended up “cold-composting.”  All last growing season, we added material to the compost bin.  When the growing season ended and we deconstructed the garden, we stopped adding to the bin and just let it sit.  We didn’t turn the contents at all.  So when Husband opened the bin, we found a layer of nice compost at the bottom, but there was still material above it that hadn’t transformed.  Not a bad result for basically no work!  Husband mixed the layer of compost soil into the garden, and left the other material to start this year’s cold compost.

After the back-breaking work of tilling the garden and working in the compost soil, Husband let me plant my (rather pathetic) seedlings, at my request.  (Side note: it was way harder than I expected to be kneeling on the ground and working around my big ol’ belly, haha!)

seedlings before planting


And here are those sprouts, above.  The leftmost column are the peppers, next are the Best Boy, the three in the middle-right column are what is left of the Jelly Bean sprouts (sad), and the Fourth of July sprouts are in the far right column.

I direct-sowed cucumber and zucchini seeds, as well!


Now for some not-very-illuminating photos of the planted garden:

Garden planted and mulched!

Garden planted and mulched!


By the way, you can see our rain barrel all set up again to the left of the garden.  Thanks to some absolutely crazy rain storms recently, it is nice and full already, and we used it for all of our garden watering as we planted!   When Husband set it up a couple weeks ago, he added a second layer of cinderblock to give it additional height, which hopefully will result in more water pressure when we hook up the soaker hose later.


cucumber seeds planted at base of trellises, pepper plants in the three middle spots, and zucchini seeds planted in the two foreground spots.

cucumber seeds planted at base of trellises, pepper plants in the three middle spots, and zucchini seeds planted in the two foreground spots.



Best Boy seedlings in the back row, Fourth of July seedlings in the front row.


I also direct-sowed a packet of mixed herb seeds (basil, dill, marjoram, and savory) that I got as a freebie last summer at the county fair.  We’re using the box on the porch railing for this, and I”m going to try to be much more reliable about watering it this year! 😉

planted a mixed packet of herb seeds in the box on the porch

Finally, my little girl has been SUPER excited about the garden.  All spring long, she has been talking about helping in the garden.  So Husband and I decided that she should have a container “garden” of her own; the rabbit-proof fencing makes it difficult for her to get into the main garden!



We picked out a compact cherry tomato plant at our local Home Depot, and she helped us to plant it in one of our large terra cotta pots.







I’m so excited for her to help take care of it and watch it grow!!

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So here’s the plan!

This year’s garden is not going to be much different from last year’s.  For two reasons: 1) It’s going to be a busy summer!  2) I didn’t feel like spending any money on new seeds, so I’m using what I already have.


I’ll have 2 cucumber trellises, two zucchini plants, and two plants of each of three tomato varieties.  I’m going to try and squish in two red bell pepper plants, too!  I’ve had mixed success with peppers in the past, so we’ll see how they do here in this garden plot.

I planted the pepper and tomato seeds on Saturday, 08 February 2014.

I planted seeds for our garden today!!

Just for my own record, there are:

  • Four seeds in each pepper cup
  • Three seeds in each Best Boy cup
  • Two seeds in each Jelly Bean cup (the last of that seed packet)
  • Three seeds in each Fourth of July cup

The cups are living on a tray balanced on a luggage rack in my craft room, where I can leave the blinds completely opened all day long for them to capture as much sunshine from the southern-exposure window as possible.

On the 15th, I was delighted to see cute, fuzzy, little Best Boy sprouts poking up in two of the cups!  Can you spot one in the photo below?

Spotted my first sprouts today!  Two tiny, furry little Best Boy tomato sprouts

On the 18th, I noted sprouts in the Jelly Bean cups, as well.  (From left to right, in this photo, the cups are bell peppers, Jelly Bean, Best Boy, Fourth of July)


And one last photo from the 18th, because the sprouts look so cheerful in the sunlight, in spite of the snow on the ground outside!


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Garden today

garden: 30 May

The garden is coming along nicely!  (pssst: you can see a sneak peek of our rain barrel in the photo above!)


herbs on the porch railing

herbs: 30 May

My herbs are relatively happy on the porch railing.  I am a bit worried about my basil… It doesn’t seem to be growing much, which is sad, since I have a lot of recipes that would be awesome with fresh basil.  I have discovered that chicken salad made with fresh parsley and dill is amazing.  We have yet to use the thyme, but I’m sure we’ll use it soon, since a lot of the ATK recipes call for it!

The tomatoes are coming back nicely.  Yes, I said “coming back.”  There was a while there where I was sure they were dying.  I probably put them in the ground too soon, but my rationale was that they didn’t have enough soil and nutrients in the cups where I started the seeds.  Since it was pretty warm here, I decided to just put the seedlings in the ground and see how they did.  At first, they seemed to just sit there.  They weren’t keeling over, but they weren’t very green, either.  Then around May 22, I noticed they were getting green again!  Hurray!  Husband speculated that maybe they were “concentrating” on putting down roots…  who knows.  All I know is that I am happy that my tomatoes are healthier looking and seem to be growing.  Something I’ve noticed is that my back row plants are bigger than my front row plants.  I don’t have a theory to explain that!

I have a series of before-and-after shots (comparing May 22 and May 30).  They’re small, and the tomato plants are tiny, but maybe just maybe (if you squint), you can see how much the tomatoes grew, even in a week!

Jelly Bean variety:

the Jelly Bean tomato plants today.  They are coming back to life!  Hurray!

Jelly Bean: 22 May

Jelly Bean tomato plants

Jelly Bean: 30 May

Fourth of July variety:

the Fourth of July tomato plants today.  They are coming back to life!  Hurray!

Fourth of July: 22 May

Fourth of July: 30 May

Fourth of July: 30 May

Best Boy variety:

Best Boy: 22 May

Best Boy: 22 May

Best Boy: 30 May

Best Boy: 30 May

Far more dramatic is the change in size of the cucumber and zucchini plants. (Cucumbers are in the back row, by the trellises, and the zucchinis are in the front row.)

cucumbers and zucchinis: 22 May

cucumbers and zucchinis: 22 May

cucumbers and zucchinis: 30 May

cucumbers and zucchinis: 30 May


I definitely need to thin the zucchini and cucumber seedlings.  There are two or three zucchini plants growing in each “spot” in the photos above (it should be one plant per spot), and I need to reduce the number of cucumber seedlings beneath each trellis to about three.  Thinning seedlings always makes me sad, though!  Haha, it’s silly, so maybe I’ll head outside right now and get the job done.

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The 2013 garden is officially planted.  Hurray!

Note: This is a long post with lots of “repetitive” photos.  I will post an “official” diagram and list of seed varieties separately. 

On April 21, I raked the soil in the garden plot ’til it was smooth(er).  We measured carefully and added the trellises for the cucumbers and the stakes for the tomatoes in the proper spacing (3 feet on the long axis and 2 feet on the short axis).   You can also see the stakes for the fencing in this photo:

planting spots marked, trellises and stakes in place

After that was accomplished, Husband installed some (hopefully) rabbit-proof fencing.  This wire fencing (which comes on a roll) has increasingly small spacing from top to bottom to prevent the smaller “rodents” from getting through.  We’ll see how it works.  There are bunnies all over the yard in the evenings, and I’m hoping that my garden won’t become a smorgasbord for them.  It’s not as pretty as a non-fenced garden, but I think it’s a necessity.  It is hard to see in this photo, but you can see its shimmer at the closest corner:

rabbit-proof fencing installed

We bought some mulch, which I’ve found to be pretty important for keeping the soil from drying out quickly… and it also dramatically keeps the weeds at bay.  I spread it out that evening and took some photos the next morning:

garden mulched

Right after I’d put down the mulch, I direct-sowed my cucumber and zucchini seeds.  The cucumbers will grow (hopefully) up the trellises, and the zucchini plants will be in front of them.


cucumber and zucchini seeds planted

As of the writing of this post (April 30), I haven’t seen any sign of sprouts.  I did plant some extras this weekend (April 28) and mixed in a bit of random potting soil I had on hand because I was concerned that the soil may have dried out.

P.S. The big white tube thing is a downspout diverter.  We are trying to come up with a solution so that it’s not as ugly… maybe a rain barrel?  Not sure if that would be better…

Oooh oooh oooh!  I have herbs!  While we were picking up the mulch, we saw that they were on sale at our local Home Depot.  In addition to the basil I already had, I planted thyme, dill, and curly parsley (R to L) in a wooden box planter that we secured to our back  porch railing:

herb box

You may recall that I originally intended to have my herb garden on my kitchen counter, but after trying to keep some plants alive there earlier this spring, I discovered that it isn’t as sunny there as I’d thought.  This box of herbs is right outside the door to the porch from our kitchen, so I will have easy (no-shoes-necessary) access.  Plus, it’s nice and high and out of critters’ reach.

This Sunday morning (April 28), before church (which ended up being a good plan, because by the time we got home, the sun had gone away and it was raining!), I planted my tomatoes.  I decided to risk planting them out a bit early, since they were looking sort of anemic in their cups:


I have two of each variety in the ground now:



What, you can’t see them?  Haha, I know.  But they are there!  I promise.  I’m hoping that they have been doing okay this week.  We’ve had some nice, gentle (as far as I can tell), soaking rain, but it’s been a bit chilly.  I think the sunshine is coming back soon, though!  Hurray!  I’m excited to see my plants grow.

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A few notes for myself for this year’s garden…


  • We’re planning to plant our garden behind our garage.  It has southern exposure, so that means lots of sunlight!
  • This year, we’ll keep it simple to see how the soil is.  The grass has looked different in that area of our lawn, but hopefully it’s just because it’s winter.
  • I will plant tomatoes (jelly bean variety + a larger tomato variety), cucumbers (please, please, please, no groundhogs!!), and zucchini (or deer!!)
  • I definitely want to put herbs on my counter in the corner under my kitchen window.  Basil and parsley, for sure, and maybe chives.  A pot for green onions, because you can regrow the grocery store ones once they’re cut.  Dill, too, if I’m feeling crazy and have the space…With all the new recipes we’re trying, fresh herbs are important to have on hand!
  • According to almanac.com, the last-frost date for my general area is April 11.  (and the first-frost date is Oct 29!!  Woooooo hoooooooo for a longer growing season!!).  I’ll need to get myself some seed packet information to start planning when I should plant seeds!

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I’m going to just skip trying to explain why there hasn’t been a garden post in like, forever (I’ve been taking photos all along, but haven’t gotten them online ’til now), and jump right into sharing the current status of the garden, and make up for it by writing a tome of a post!  (All of the photos in this post were taken yesterday morning…)

Despite very dry conditions in the past few weeks (see how brown the poor grass is?), my garden has been doing well.  I’ve watered it a few times to make sure it doesn’t completely dry up.  That’s a nice thing about in-ground gardens… they don’t require nearly as much intentional watering.  Plus, the mulch is helping the moisture stay in the soil.

Maybe you can see, though, that the zucchini has fallen prey to a marauding groundhog… or deer, or something.  The hostas in our front beds were the first victims, ::sigh:: and then the beastie found the succulent zucchini leaves.

It’s not all bad, though, because we still actually got a nice zucchini — our first harvest of 2012!  You can see it in the photo above, and of course I took a glamor shot…

I added some green onions (Purchased at the grocery store for a recipe…  you can plant the white ends after you cut them, and they grow back!) next to the tiny pepper plant (who knows if that little guy will ever produce in our short season):

Before I go much further, I should make a comment about the garden layout.  Because things have changed a bit since I planted it!

The current garden layout

The week after we planted the seedlings outdoors, we had some super-hot temperatures.  We were also away, and even though a friend of mine came and watered the garden (thank you so much, K!!), the seedlings got fried, because they weren’t very strong to begin with.  So we lost one Fourth of July plant, two Jelly Bean plants, and one of the zucchinis.  The stronger of the two pepper plants met its end when I was over-zealous in my weeding one day (boo!!!  it was so tiny, and blended in with those pesky weeds).  So I had some empty spots.

My friend K, who watered my garden, planted some tomatoes and herbs of her own, and generously offered me the extra seedlings from the flats she purchased!  So generous!!  So I added 2 Big Boy tomatoes and 3 Red Cherry (large) tomatoes to the empty spots.

And now for the confession.  I planted the seedlings and just as I was finishing up, it started pouring.  So I ran inside, fully intending to label my plants when it stopped raining.  But of course I got busy, and thought I’d remember.  But guess what?  I forgot.  Ooops!  I know that tomato #6 and #8 are Fourth of July, and I know that tomato #3 is the one remaining Jelly Bean (my absolute favorite).  But I’m going to have to wait to see for the others! Thankfully there should be a distinct difference in size of the fruit, haha!

Speaking of fruit, the tomato plants are definitely starting to produce little green beauties!

Tomato #1

Tomato #2

Tomato #3 (Jelly Bean)

Tomato #4

Tomato #5

Tomato #6 (Fourth of July)

Tomato #7

Tomato #8 (Fourth of July)

Last, but certainly not least, I have to share my hanging herb basket!!

It hangs over our front porch, and I. Love. It.  It’s perfect!  No groundhogs or other pillaging wildlife can access it, yet it’s so easily accessible by me!  My friend K gave me basil and parsley when she gave me the tomatoes, and the plants are thriving in their aerial home.  I have been reveling in fresh parsley in my chicken and tuna salads at lunch, and basil sprinkled over my pasta with marinara sauce.  I am so very excited for the tomatoes to ripen so that I can make caprese salad!

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I’ve been having some issues with our lovely rodent “neighbors”, and this post is meant to document some of them.  I really don’t want this post to turn into a rant, but I’m warning you, it might!  Hopefully, I’ll come up with some solutions (or the problems will just go away!) and I’ll be able to add them to the record.  

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I’ve discovered that our yard is a regular wildlife preserve, haha!  We not only have grey and black squirrels who frolic freely, but also chipmunks (Chippy, and I recently noticed that Chippy has a friend!), stray cats who prowl boldly and are hard to chase away, and a rather large groundhog who apparently lives under our deck.  (And the other day, I saw a doe calmly strolling down our street!)

The garden has been pretty tempting to these rodents.  And I have to admit, I am getting really frustrated.

Exhibit A: the container diggings.

Apparently one or more of these types of rodents cannot resist nice, fresh potting soil.  Both of my zucchini pots have had evidence of vigorous digging, but thankfully, no harm has come to the plants.

one of the zucchini excavation sites

However, my watermelon plants were not so fortunate.  Either the stem was broken beyond repair, or the vine sprout disappeared entirely (see example below).

my poor, broken watermelon sprout

The same digging was observed in the pots on our back porch (the herbs and lettuces)-the worst was in the Black-Seeded Simpson pot, where the soil was so disturbed that no lettuce seeds ever sprouted (unless they were too old or had gone bad to begin with).

Exhibit B: the herb consumption.

The other morning, I had my back sliding door open to catch a breeze.  To my horror, I looked out to see our groundhog sitting in my herb pots, munching away!  Caught red-handed!! (red-pawed??)  He heard my furious gasp and took off before I got a chance to document it on film (see below, I tried–he was just under the grill)…

I just missed him!

…but not before the damage was done.

what the groundhog did

The herbs had been chewed before, and then for a while they were left alone.  Naively, I thought that they were safe.  But no, sadly, no.  I honestly thing Mr. Groundhog was letting them grow back for a future tasty snack!  After this encounter, I’ve moved the pots of herbs and lettuces inside.  I need to get a baker’s rack or plant stand so that they can sit by the window in a more attractive fashion, rather than subsisting on a flattened garbage bag!

Exhibit C: the corn killings.

The day before the groundhog decimated my herbs, I had been rejoicing in the fact that I had five healthy-looking corn sprouts coming up in the garden plot. Not enough for proper pollination, but I’m no stranger to hand-pollination, so I was willing to go at my corn with a paintbrush when the time came.

happy, unsuspecting corn

However, the day after the groundhog made his ill-fated visit, I went out to weed the garden and found this:

see the corn sprouts, lying among the perfectly healthy and unmolested weeds?

All five corn sprouts had been systematically removed from the ground.  Out of all the other plants– tomatoes and peppers, along with quite a number of weeds (I *really* needed to weed the garden), these five sprouts had been singled out for destruction.  Retribution for bringing the herbs inside?  I’ll let you be the judge.

Exhibit D: the desperate nibblings.

On another occasion, I caught Chippy snacking on my Mesclun mix, but he had the decency to run away when he saw me looking out of the sliding door.  After I brought in the other pots in from the porch, I decided that it wasn’t worth bringing in the square pot, which originally had been planted with Black-Seeded Simpson lettuce. The other morning, I caught Chippy in the act– but I didn’t have the heart to chase him off, since he really was only eating the maple sprouts from the helicopters that have been snowing down on our yard.

So maybe when the rodents get desperate enough, they eat the stuff that I don’t mind losing!

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Well, hopefully this didn’t come off as a rant, just a presentation of the facts (just the facts, ma’am).  If you have any advice, I am all ears!

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On Tuesday (May 17, for those of you keeping score), I finally planted my garden outside!

I had been “hardening off” my seedlings for the past several days, and when I forgot and left them out all night Monday, I figured they could survive if they were in the ground!

On Sunday afternoon, Husband and I went to Lowes and picked up some 54″ tomato cages and two 64-quart bags of Miracle-Gro Potting Mix.  I had hoped to plant everything on Monday, but it poured down rain the entire day, so I waited. 😉

Allow me to take you on a tour of my freshly-planted garden!  I made a diagram with an otherwise not-very-good photo of the main plot (southern exposure) so that I can remember which varieties of tomatoes I planted where…when the labels on my pathetic popsicle-stick plant markers fade!

As you can see, I have 5 varieties of tomatoes, a total of 8 plants in the plot.  Of the five varieties, only the Jelly Bean is new this year. There are pepper plants on each corner, and the corn is planted in hills along the back of the plot.

Since there wasn’t enough room in the plot for everything we wanted to grow, I also planted things in our pots (from previous years), hence the potting soil.

three pots of cucumbers on the front side of the fence

two pots of zucchini (left) and two pots of watermelon (right) on the back side of the fence

I’ll train the cucumbers and zucchini (maybe) to grow up the fence (I’ll add strings for support once they get going).  In a previous post, I mentioned that I didn’t know much about whether watermelons would work in pots, but a search on growing watermelons in containers yielded this link, which confirmed that Sugar Baby watermelons (the variety we have) are one of the varieties that can do okay in a pot. (And just for the record, searching on “sugar baby watermelon yield per vine” took me to this site, from which I gather we’ll have about 3 per plant, if they survive).  I’m pretty sure that the pots are placed in sunny locations, but I will be keeping an eye on them, and I’ll move them if it looks like I chose their spots poorly.

You didn’t think I forgot about the herbs and lettuce, did you?

herbs, lettuce, and a lone pepper plant

These smaller pots are on our back deck (western exposure).  In the photo above, the top row, from left to right, contains: basil, a pepper plant, and Black-Seeded Simpson lettuce.  The bottom row, from left to right, contains: flat-leaf parsley (not looking so hot from when I transplanted it… hopefully it perks up!), chives, curly parsley, and a Mesclun mix of lettuce.  After planting all the big and little pots, I had leftover potting soil, another biggish pot, and another pepper seedling, so that’s why a pepper got mixed into the herbs and lettuce 🙂

Let me tell you, I have *definitely* seen signs of our little tree-rat friends (squirrels) in these pots.  Not 2 hours later, I noticed that the little rascals had been digging in the pots, especially the ones with the lettuce.  ::sigh::  I wonder if these plants will survive?  I have seen a little bit of evidence of animal digging in the main plot, but not as much, thankfully.  We’ll see!  As a precaution, when I planted my seedlings, which I started two-to-an-egg-carton-space), I left both of them intact.  If I had been more sure of animals leaving my garden alone, I would have thinned them immediately, but I’m going to wait for a bit and see what survives.

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