Winners and Toads

Happy Spring, everybody!  The weather outside is …weird. 40F one day, 70F the next.  Last Friday I scarpered off to Iowa – no, NOT Iowa (we stayed on this side of the Mississippi) – um…Rock Island (home of the Arsenal and a lot of golden & bald eagles) – went to the Garden Show, went to another Garden Show, It’s That Time of Year.  Gardening is all I think about.  I am redesigning one of my kitchen gardens, to make it more efficient, less weedy and prettier.  And…yes.  The emphasis is on Prettier.

Prettier.  Sigh.  Blame Pinterest for nearly all that causes me to lose sleep this time of year – oh, all those cunningly angled and staged shots, the slightly-open garden gate (hellooo, rabbits!), the edge of the arch, covered in roses, blahblahblah.  Yeah, I LUH it.  And my kitchen garden looked Pinteresty – for the first three years.  But maintaining the beds has always been a bit of a struggle, since it was claimed from sod and Creeping Charlie.  Some years I just stick tomatoes and peppers in the beds and have done with it.  But this once-charming space is now and sad and sorry excuse for a sad and sorry kitchen garden.   And that makes me unhappy as hell.  So.  RIPPIN’ IT UP!  and putting in more raised beds.  Easier to maintain and omg.  I am so getting older!  So it’s easier on mah po-assed knees as well.

But – back to Making it Pretty, which brings me to the smell of Wet, Cold, muddy dirt.  Oh, it is glorious.  Along with the 890 borage seedlings that are poking their heads up (and 850 of them have to be taken out – have you seen how big Borage gets?) it’s that dank, hank, minty, wet…oooh! did I mention?  My First Toad of the Season, too.  He’s up and about (I may have hoiked him out of his space when I was hoeing up the creeping Charlie and borage).  He has a weird, poopy-marine smell (yes, I picked him up and sniffed him Because how else could I tell you what he smelled like, right?).  I put him right back down and he ambled off, giving me stinkeye all the way.  It’s still pretty cold so he’s moving kinda slow.  But he’s always safe in my kitchen garden, the toady-smellin’ thing..

raised-beds-SGAnyway, I got nothin’ but plants on my mind.  Seeds.  Poppy seeds, the fetid Danish Flag.  Heirloom Sweet Alyssum (oh, so fragrant).  Heirloom Sweet Peas to perfume the entire garden with those gorgeous pastels so perfect for early Spring.  Bells of Ireland, for some Funky Vertical Love (they smell a bit like vanilla).  More seeds.  Composted horse manure – I am picking up a truckload of that next week which is almost as fabulous as picking up a Graff diamond.  Lumber to redo the garden as raised beds.   I always plant way too many veg – there are only two of us and I enjoy canning a few dozen jars of salsa but not 54.   And I hate harvesting (I know, it’s a puzzlement.  Luckily El O is big on taking the trug out and picking stuff).   Every time I salivate over those 8×6 rows of perfectly planted lettuces I remember that 2 people can only eat so much lettuce (and everyone around here either gardens or doesn’t want veg) so I’m going to be doing a lot more companion planting, with an eye to incorporating some aromatics, which will also help amend the slightly exhausted soil.  The borage will stay, as will the marigolds (marinating as we speak) but I will be reintroducing sage into this garden, as well as fernleaf dill and feverfew.  I even overwintered (and rooted) several rosemary plants that will lose their minds in that composted manure!!! I spent the winter growing basil  – I have enough for an entire raised bed of its own!   Perhaps I will do a small center raised bed with herbalist plants, including Holy Basil.  I’m definitely edging all the raised beds with hardy thyme – it smells heavenly when you walk on it and it’s nearly indestructible.  I’ll bet that thyme will give ol’ Charlie a run for his money.

I’m excited to do this, though it’s been a lot of work already with the rippin’ and hoein’ and all – somewhere in this journey I’d forgotten that utility can also be beautiful – and smell good!   (btw – this is not my garden (over there —>) – my garden is similar but smaller and not nearly as lovely.  Not right now.  I’ll keep you posted.

And because you all are so sweet about this – Every. Stinkin’. YEAR.  I will do lots of giveaways.  You know there is less than a snowball’s chance on a grill that I will be thinking a lot about perfume (though I am trying out a great new Aera home fragrance delivery system that is sleek and fabulous – more on that later).  But you are always so nice about the coming months when I babble about flowers and veg and dirt and rain…so I will return the favor with fun stuff from the Messy Armoire.

So tell me what is going on in your Spring life right now (for you Equatorial Weirdos, that would be Winter, right?  😉   The Girl will stick out a muddy paw and pull a winner.

In the meantime, the two Winners from my last weirdo post are Michelle J Little and Tandaina.  Gmail me at evilauntieanita and I’ll confirm and get some stuff out to you!



  • crystesmom says:

    I always loved gardening,but, unfortunately, bad health is preventing it this year (turn a spadeful of soil for me!). Please count me in the draw and thank you, Anita!

  • rosarita313 says:

    I love your posts Ms A! It’s finally spring. My husband wants to start planting everything and stashing it all in our little greenhouse. We have to do container gardening and he wants flowers everywhere. I just found out yesterday that my dad has colon cancer and sundowner syndrome and I am a little freaked out trying to find somewhere to put him, gardening is not much on my mind but the unfairness of life definitely is.

  • Gigi says:

    Ha! Sniffing the road was priceless!
    I have no yard, which is a good thing really since I have a knack for killing all vegetation. Can’t even keep a spider plant alive. If I had a garden, it would be a wasteland!
    Spring here on the coast has been vertically uninterrupted rain. Any momentary sunny break has us all running up to the windows and pawing at them like a bunch of zombies.

  • maggiecat says:

    Reading posts like this reminds me why I need to start gardening again. Right now we have a tiny backyard, and a dog, but…raised beds? Yes. North Texas in spring has crazy weather, and today we’re still recovering from massive and scary hail storm on Sunday night. More expected tonight. Also maybe tornadoes. Spring is so pretty here, except when it’s scary.
    What perfume should I wear to talk my husband into building some raised beds for me?

    • Musette says:

      lol! that reminds me of what one of my construction customers said about his client: “B is a great guy to work with. Until he’s not” – Spring is That Girl – the one everyone adores, but doesn’t trust as far as they can throw her gorgeous self. Stunningly beautiful – but a hint of Mean Girl lurks within.


      and…dunno on the perfume. A lot of sighing and Ominous Quiet is how I get mine (he is unfazed by perfume) – but in a pinch I make them myself. If you can run a drill you can, too!

  • Kate E. says:

    I would be such a happy neighbor of yours and take lots of lettuce! It gets so hot here and our lettuce goes bitter too quickly. We’ll try tomatoes again this year but there are no toads to sniff.

    • Musette says:

      oh, us as well! By the first of July the lettuce is DONE. I usually reseed for early Autumn but there have been years where it’s been too hot until November! By then it’s a race to get it grown before the first killing frost (we’ve had years where Autumn simply Has. Not. Happened.) Best of luck with tomatoes – they’re usually an easy veg to grow!


  • grizzlesnort says:

    Cold. Rainy. Spring. Ambitious weeds. In fact, I was about to take a nap Saturday afternoon when I happened to look out the window and saw a classic hippie lady–denim skirt, conch belt, even a head band–eating the dandelions in my yard. I was reflexively embarrassed at having so many dandelions and offended at having this random person in my yard. I didn’t go out and tell her where the dogs had been. I went to sleep to the sound of rain.

  • Kathryn says:

    There’s a smell of damp earth and last fall’s wet leaves in the air, but spring is still hiding here in central Maine. The ground is mostly covered in snow and yesterday’s freezing rain left the trees and bushes covered in ice. It’s pretty but treacherous underfoot. Usually I’d have dozens of seedlings growing under lights by now, but this year I’m just starting.

    Hurray for your new raised beds! We put some in a few years ago in the vegetable garden and it made a huge difference in increasing productivity and decreasing labor. I bet the improved drainage in the raised beds will help keep your creeping Charlie at bay, too. My strategy for the creeping Charlie that remains around the edges is to interplant the green native stuff with the golden leaved “Aurea” variety of creeping Charlie and to let the inevitable wild violets self seed there, too. It’s weedy but pretty.

    • Musette says:

      Jeebus! Snow AND freezing rain. Been there, fallen on it!

      The raised beds I already have are markedly more productive than the in-ground strips. And there are some borders that, no matter what I do, weeds and grass still make their way in. Besides that, I can also allow The Girl to come into the garden – she has no interest in climbing in to a yard-high box!


      and I love your interplanting – it sounds lovely! I do that with clover (in the area where the chickens used to be)

  • tfk31 says:

    I love hearing about your garden and the plethora of produce that it will create as I have the blackest of thumbs and therefore do the world a favour by not planting stuff that will only die.
    It has been -20 C and we have had several bouts of 15-40 cm of snow, so nobody else here is planting anything just yet.

  • jenbat says:

    I like hearing about your garden, it builds on the wisdom I’ll need when I finally have my own space to plant a garden!!!

  • Connie says:

    It hardly feels like spring here, we’ve still got tons of snow on the ground. But I started our family seedlings when I was home over break!

    • Musette says:

      yikes! on the snow. I remember, when I was about 7?, a blizzard descending upon us on Easter Sunday. I’m totally over snow! xoxoxoA

  • Rosemary says:

    Reading your post makes me want to garden! Alas, time and knowledge (or rather, lack thereof ) do not allow for now. But count me in for the giveaway, thanks! This spring for me is helping my bosses close down our lab, helping my son’s class prepare for their huge talent show in May, and prep for their 8th grade graduation activities. A few concerts to attend, and hope to get some serious spring cleaning done, and get the pool ready for summer. That’ll keep me busy!

    • Musette says:

      gardening is fun – and half the fun is in the learning – but it looks like you’ve got enough on your plate already! xoxoxoA

  • March says:

    You know how much I enjoy this. Creeping charlie, ugh. What a nightmare. It’s all over my back yard. Other than pulling it out, I just have to live with it. It does add to that minty smell… sure you know that already (relative of the mint family, which is why it’s so aggressive.) This year I’m going to plant another one of those yaller pear tomatoes by the fence since that was a HUGE success last year. Sunflowers. Beans. I really need to mulch. I’m going to reduce the number of herb pots to the largest ones. In our area it’s hard to keep them happy when it’s reaaally hot.

    Also: my big rosemary bush out front looks kinda janky but it’s blooming right now. I’m always amazed to see it come back, it seems like the cold should have done it in. I’m hoping this is the year I get to start training my climbing rose up the trellis.

  • fragroom says:

    Enjoying your babble. I think spring has so much more meaning in the northern hemisphere. Here in the South (South Africa), we do have four seasons, but nothing as extreme as yours. Would love to see more pics of your garden. Thanks. R

    • Musette says:

      Oh, honey – Jes’ yew wait! I tend to bore the snocks off the Posse with garden pics! And thanks for enjoying the babble! I really appreciate it!


  • solanace says:

    It’s Fall here, but since we are on the tropic, I can plant new stuff any time – and that’s what I did last Sunday, when I planted cilantro, parsley, kale, mint, sage and celery. There was so much weed, it’s unbelievable. Rainforest weed is really hard and diverse. It grows so dense, I was afraid there would be a snake or huge spider lurking somewhere lol! (Kidding. It’s the concrete jungle here. No snakes.) Love toads. Along with the Japanese, I sort of believe they bring good luck. And they eat mosquitoes, so love is not too strong a word here.
    Good luck with your renovations!

    • Musette says:

      OMG. My heart leapt at the thought of a huge snake. I’m okay with little racers but I am envisioning some SciFi snake of enormous proportions, rising out of the cilantro! LOL!

      Toads are essential!


  • Neva says:

    Spring has finally arrived here too. The only plant in my window, because I have no garden, that has survived winter is thyme. Which is good – I like edible plants…basil, rosemary, chive…and I use them a lot in my kitchen. I’ve spent so much time at home during the winter and now I use every possible moment to spend my time outdoors hiking, walking, reading on a bench in the park.

    • Musette says:

      congratulations on Survival Thyme! Outdoors is wonderful, isn’t it? Btw – if you are thinking of doing herbs again, consider a small Wardian case – I successfully overwintered my basil & rosemary in two little Wardian cases – they wouldn’t have survived otherwise. I also found two glass cloches in a thrift store, which kept my rooting rosemary alive!


  • Kathleen Smith says:

    I will look forward to living vicariously through your gardening adventures! I have managed to grow herbs in pots every summer, and this year I’m toying with the idea of planting tomatoes in pots because I love to eat them every day. I am a very novice gardener, and am super excited that little lily plants are breaking ground from the bulbs that I planted last fall. Best wishes with your gardening project!

    • Musette says:

      Tomatoes in pots are easy-peas! I do a Sungold/Sun Sugar in a pot on the front porch every year – we snag one or two on the way to the driveway. You can also do larger slicing tomatoes as well, just make sure you do a LARGE pot so it an accommodate the root system and get a couple of cages, even the determinate varieties are heavy and once they set fruit you need to support them.

      You will LOVE it – and congrats on the lilies!


  • HeidiC says:

    I love this post — it has everything! We just moved to Minneapolis last year, so this is my first year in our house. The garden is kind of a blank slate, and I’m not sure how long we’ll stay in this house, so I’m not sure how crazy to go — definitely at least a couple of raised beds for an herb garden, but I’m going to try and be a bit restrained until I know what we’re doing. Along with dreaming about the herb garden, I’m also dreaming about going morel mushroom hunting — they should stop popping up in the next few weeks. Yum! I think I’ll go sniff some Black March to get ready.

    • Musette says:

      Love Minneapolis, as long as it’s not Winter! I second the ‘raised bed’ idea – do 2 or 3 and mix it up with flowers and veg as well as your herbs. If you find yourself staying there for a protracted length of time you can always add more beds (the garden above has at least 10? and it’s GORGEOUS!)


      ps. you morel people are NUTS. There iz SNAKES out there in that timber. SNAKES!

  • Paige W says:

    We just dug up the final few of last year’s parsnips while planting onions and lettuce. Next in – arugula! I can’t get enough of it! Also in the works this spring is an herb planter for the deck. Basil, rosemary, dill, cilantro, chives… all summer long! My mouth is watering just thinking about it. Your garden sounds positively delightful, and I may just steal your hardy thyme edging idea! Warmest wishes from this very wet West Coast!

  • Ellen M says:

    Waiting on the delivery of a flowering shrub, Viburnum Carlesii. I have a fairly large section where I will plant some tomatoes and peppers along with flowers. I don’t know what flowers as of yet. My garden actually looks less weedy. I’m so proud.

    • Musette says:

      nasturtiums and marigolds for sure, to work with the peppers! And I know what you mean, every weed OUT is a great feeling, innit?


      and OMG on the viburnum! LUH those!

  • Kathy Larson says:

    Here in central Iowa,spring is developing in fits and starts.Warm and sunny week,folloed by grey and raw-but it’s all good!Snowdrops fading,crocus and reticulata iris peaking,eggplants and peppers under lights need potting on,sweet peas in our cold greenhouse sprouting.Pruning barberries and watching birds.The best scents are the Persian Limes and Meyer Lemon and blood orange blooming in the greenhouse.Parfum Delrae “Wit” is my current favorite,spring is my favorite season!

    • Musette says:

      You are right down the road from me so I know what you mean, weather-wise. I planted up some sweetpeas and my daffs are already blooming. My lemon trees have blossomed and are now setting fruit – they are on my back addition so have a head start – how did you manage to overwinter your citrus in a cold greenhouse – truly? WANNA KNOW!


      • Kathy Larson says:

        Our cold greenhouse is attached to the south of our house,the dining room door opens into it,two steps down.The only heat is through that door,on the coldest nights we run a box fan to help out.Even when we are WAY below zero,it stays around 40 degrees at floor-level,and the citrus and orchids do fine.On sunny days the it heats the house and that blasted furnace takes a break! The sweet-olive(Osmanthus)starts to bloom in October and continues till May.It does smell like baked apricots!

  • tandaina says:

    I love gardening! Then I moved to Seattle where the lots are tiny, nearly vertical it is so hilly and intensely shaded. :\ My gardens are struggling. I have to learn shade plants and what I want is wild mounds of roses and veggies and flowers covered in bees.

    • Musette says:

      Seattle is GREAT for roses – go to Heirloom Roses dot com and look for roses that will work in shadier areas. I used to hate my shady garden – then I moved to a 95% sunny garden and now miss the subtle beauty of shade. Oooh! I remember seeing a …hang on…let me find it. go onto Pinterest and type in ‘terraced garden hillside’ for some great ideas! Savvygardeningdotcom also has some great ideas as well.


  • Tara C says:

    At my winter home in San Diego, I have avocado trees, a lavender patch and a bunch of wisteria. In my summer home in Montreal I’m in a condo so no garden. If I did have a garden, I would have lots of beets and lettuce. 🙂

    • Musette says:

      Tara – that you have a Winter home in San Diego is fab enough! and you can grow lettuce on a windowsill in Montreal in summer (assuming you have a south-facing window) – there are lots of ‘little gem’ varieties, well suited to smaller containers! If you have a balcony, you can do slightly larger containers!


  • Laurels says:

    Your posts are always fun to read, and who else would pick up and sniff a toad just for our edification?

    I kept some rosemary alive for almost six months last year (my record by at least five months), and then was completely demoralized when it gave up the ghost. You’ve inspired me to try again. Maybe some chives, too.

    • March says:

      I would!!! *raises hand* I would totally pick up a toad and sniff it! I smelled a slug once and it didn’t really smell like anything. I hear you’re supposed to eat them, and that’s disgusting.

      • Musette says:

        LOL! of course you would! That is why we is BUDS! Ew! on eating slugs. Which is weird, because I eat escargot. Go figure.


      • Laurels says:

        You’ve certainly answered a question I never had about slugs. Now you two loons have me wondering what lizards smell like. Thank goodness I am way too slow to catch one.

    • Musette says:

      Laurels, the trick to rosemary (which, btw, took me about 3 decades to figure out) is to take it out of the pot, PRUNE THE ROOTS (basically, take a knife and cut around the plant, going in about 1/8″) and repot. I also take cuttings, root them (rooting compound, in seed starter or potting mix, under glass, for about 3 weeks) – in zone 5b, I do the cuttings in the Summer – the air is too dry to do this indoors – at least for me – so I try to get them going prior to having to bring them in.

      Chives you can do in your sleep. Throw down some seeds (or throw in a plant) and step back!


    • Musette says:

      see below because Solar Flares moved my reply 😉