Three of five of my mother’s garden diaries from the 90s appeared in among some papers of Allan’s in mid February, 2016. I am so deeply thrilled to have them. The other three got somehow lost when she moved from her home to Golden Sands Assisted Living in 2009. She possibly did not think them worth saving. I can guarantee she would like that they are being shared here. When these diaries were written, she lived in her retirement home, a manufactured double wide on a wooded lot in Nisqually Pines near Yelm, Washington. A large clearing in the back of the lot held her vegetable garden.
1995 (age 70):
March 1: Nice day but yesterday I pulled a lot of the large leaves off the new bulbs in front tam area [former bed of juniper tams, now a flower bed]. They were all stuck together and matted. I left a few on the bulb area as it is still below freezing at night. Today I raked those leaves and bagged them for chipping.
March 5: Note-I’ve been wondering where to plant spuds in an area with no mushroom compost. I figure I’ll plant them in an area where the winter carrots, leeks and celeriac is now. When I am spreading mushroom compost all over the garden (soon) it will be easy to not put mushroom compost in that area.
[She added the following to the end of the page]: June 15: Re where to put potatoes. Well, they decided for me. All along the space where tomatoes usually are planted next to the pathway is full of potatoes sprouted from kitchen scraps all winter. Now—where to plant my tomato plants?
March 6: Brought (into porch) several wheelbarrows of wood. Stacked some wet wood separate and there is enough for a couple of loads to porch. Then I tilled under the winter rye behind garage and in “tomato area” where I’ve been putting the kitchen compost all winter. Weeded the winter carrots, leeks and celeriac.
March 27: Planted new Stark Bros strawberries. They really looked good from being put in straight mushroom compost.
March 28: Planted all begonias in pots and in trays etc. I have to figure out a new way to label bulbs in color etc. The ones I marked last fall are all mixed up. Next job will be to check over dahlia bulbs to see which ones made it through the winter.
March 30: Brought onion sets at Gordon’s [Nursery in nearby Yelm]. I managed to spill them when I picked out 29 fuchsia starts and 6 primroses. There is some benefit to shopping alone. I can get as many as I want but I missed the extra hands to carry my stuff. I potted up all the new plants and put them under lights in the greenhouse. [Maybe my dad was not feeling well and stayed in the car; I don’t think she was driving herself to Yelm alone at this time.]
1997 (age 72):
March 7: I started using the wood in the shed. Instead of using wheelbarrow and piling it on the porch, I’m bringing in an armload right into the house. The wood burns good but it also burns fast.
March 8: The weather is sunny but it’s too cold to work outside.
March 10: Don came out to get more of the blue thingamajigs. [He was helping her sell some stuff of my dad’s, who died in 1995.] He took the coke bottles in to take to a woman who collects them. Next time he’ll take the old books to an antique dealer he knows. He said he was coming over next Monday to help me with the branches piled on top of the wood box (by shed). He changed some gro light bulbs.
March 11: Started growing tomato seeds in the 3 new Park Star trays and the 6 APS-40 trays. I got most of the tomato seeds planted before I got tired.
March 12: Dr Elledge appt as follow up on diabetes. Got various lab tests. Made appt for physical on Friday.
March 13: Had mammogram done. It had been three years since the last one. I thought it was two.
March 14: Had physical. All lab tests are ok. The glucuse was 135—normal is 115! Dr E said I was almost perfect and maybe can stop taking the Tolazimide in a couple of months. He said I’m healthy but should eat better.
Finished planting tomatoes (4o varieties) and 5 peppers. Planted some of the old ’61 tomato seeds in a 50 cell tray.
March 20: Took all the branches that were on the wood box off but couldn’t lift it. I pulled it partway off. There is a lot of small (kindling) branches on top of some old wood. I’ll keep burning wood in shed as its easier to get to and it burns good.
March 21: Worked 2 1/2 hours weeding strawberry rows. That plant that spews its hard seeds is in bloom so I’d better get them pulled before they go to seed. [She must mean shotweed.]
March 22: 5 hours. Finished weeding regular strawberry bed. I now need to cut off the runners and move the daughter plants back into the rows—then plant the new Raintree plants (100). The berries over by the asparagus bed aren’t as weedy as the main bed.
March 23: I’m surprised that I’m not stiff and sore from over 5 hours sitting on my stool while weeding berries.
March 24: Don brought another check which makes more than 12 grand. He followed me over to the Texaco station down the road and I discovered they don’t have that thing on the hose that makes it so hard to put gas in the car so I should be able to pump my own gas! Got gas for chipper, too.
March 25: Worked only 2 hours to exhaustion. Yesterday Don said he would come out to help chip so I cleaned up the patio and in front of the wood box and piled it high on the pile. He’s going to be shocked at the size of the pile. I can’t find the chipper instructions. My Dutch Garden new begonias are starting to grow.
March 26: Don came to help chipping of pile behind garage but the chipper cord was stuck too tight to start machine. I left message for Bill [her “handyman”] to see if he can get it going.
March 27: Planted seeds—cabbages, leeks, more peppers in 50 cell tray. Tomatoes in one of the APS trays are big enough to transplant into pots. I’ll wait till its warm enough to do it outside. Ditto with sprouted begonias.
1998 (age 73):
March 2: Cool and rainy. 12:30-3:45. I started cleaning out VBW [can’t decode this! V—? Bed West] but soon got rained in—to the shop. I got all the new begonias in peat moss and vermiculite into individual pots—13 trays of pots (about half are last year’s bulbs and half new ones).
March 3: I spent today ordering stuff from Habard, Starcrest, Plow and Hearth, Brookstone, etc, including the copper boiler I’ve wanted for months. It was cold out so I didn’t get anything done outside.
March 6: Store day. Paid power and phone bill, went to Tim’s, both banks, Rite Aid and QFC. Spent $98 at QFC—They had MMOJ [Minute Maid Orange Juice] on sale again. It was sunny but cool. Received Park Seed dahlias (2) and begonias. They aren’t nearly as big as the Dutch Gardens.
March 7: 1:00-3:00 Cloudy and cool. I moved the containers of spring bulbs over to the RR ties along patio path. They were so heavy (the tall ones) that I had a headache in just a short while. I shoveled the soil (mud) from the plastic into the empty containers and pulled plastic over the mushroom compost in back.
March 10: I ran out of wood on the porch so I brought some of the new wood from the driveway. However the 2 pieces were too wet from rain and wouldn’t burn.
March 11: I brought wood in from behind shop. I moved two pallets to the wood pile area to be ready when I have energy to start stacking the new wood. I also potted the Park Seed begonia bulbs (12).
March 12: 12:30-4:15 A nice warm day, a new record, 68. I worked at round table potting the Dutch Gardens perennials plants. I put them in greenhouse but didn’t turn the lights on. I still have many more to plant and hope to get out earlier tomorrow.
March 13: 12:00-4:30 The best day’s work so far. I finished potting the DG perennials then I started taking the dahlias out of the bags. I spread them out into low boxes with peat moss. I only got about half done so will continue to work in it tomorrow to finish.
Then it’s time to start some of my seeds—next week.
March 14: Noon to 4:45 Another good day’s work! I worked on getting the DG dahlia bulbs in low boxes and peat moss. Three times I thought I was finished and then found another box with more bulbs. I even found some DG perennials I had missed yesterday, then after I had everything put away I found a box with some bulbs I evidently overlooked last fall. I called Ron the tiller man. He will come on April 11.
March 16: 12:15-3:45. Today I started digging out the rows of strawberries by the asparagus rows. I trimmed the plants and heeled them into the 2 large square trays. When I finish digging them I’ll start trimming up the strawberry patch and interplant these in the rows.
March 17: Happy Birthday to Skyler. Today I puttered around with paperwork and didn’t get out till almost 1:30. I worked again digging out the strawberry plants. When I got over to the asparagus bed those berry plants were nicer—probably nicer soil there. As I dug the plants I also weeded the asparagus area which was overgrown with dandelions, etc.
March 18: Dental appt for routine cleaning and a piece fell off the tooth next to the crown on right side. So I’ll have to go back. When I came home I eventually went out and did more weeding asparagus and digging out berry plants. I can finish tomorrow in about an hour.
March 19th: Beautiful day. I took Tabby to the vet to get her booster shot and nail clipping. I didn’t get outside but got started on seed planting. I got the ones planted that had to be put in the shop refrig. I got labels to make for tomatoes but if it’s as nice outside I’ll work in the garden tomorrow.
March 20: Beautiful day! Well I started planting tomatoes with card table set up and planted about 8 hours mostly tomatoes. I have 8 1/2 flats full. I used the 9 part square pots mostly new pots. I’m hoping that planting in the 9 section pot will enable me to get the seedlings out without root damage when I repot them. Tomorrow I have to figure out where to put all these trays.
March 21: It was raining all day so I continued planting veggie seeds, then I saw the “SEED” sign on a metal box in the closet and found more veggie seeds. Most are old old seeds. I’ll plant some but I think I’ll just throw them out in the fall as a cover crop.
March 23: It rained hard until late afternoon. I moved some of the begonia trays so I could put some tomato trays under lights. I also have them in bathroom fluorescent and on kitchen card table (with two heat pads under them). I haven’t planted any flower seeds yet because I don’t know where to put them.
March 24: Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower seeds are up in 3 days!
March 25: 1:00 to 4:45. Today I moved all the pots of perennials from the greenhouse to tables etc outside where they’ll get rained on. Then I washed all the white begonia baskets. That was a big job! Also cleaned Tabby’s “sand box”. Tomato seeds planted on 3/20 and 3/21 are coming up!
March 26: 1:00-4:30 Cool—rainy and sunshine. I started a big job today. How come I like to work in my strawberries best? I started cleaning the rows. The first one was easy—mostly new plants from Gordons. But by the time I started the second row, I realized most plants needed to be divided and it’s easier to dig all the plants and divide them at the work table so I tried that but got rained on. I divided them in the greenhouse. I hope to continue this work tomorrow but it will take several days.
March 27: I have been waking up with morning headaches lately but today it was a migraine. I stayed in bed most of the day. By late afternoon I felt ok. [She had suffered terribly from migraines 2-3 times a month till she was about 60 years old.]
March 28: 2:00-5:00 It was cold today so I stayed in until 2:00. Then the sun came out. I went out planning to weed in front but worked in strawberries instead. Last week I decided it will be easier just to dig the berry plants because most need to be divided so I dug plants out of one row. I can’t decide if I should leave area empty until Ron comes to till or whether to replant berry rows as soon as I can.
March 30: cool and gray I watered house plants and started cleaning dirty labels, then went to shop and moved sprouted begonias from under lights and put unsprouted ones under lights. Then I went out and dug more strawberry plants. This is going to be a long job but it needs doing. There are scads of weeds in front beds that need pulling. I need another set of hands to get everything done.