Summer is a-Comin’ In!

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Dear Kristin,

Happy May, one week(+) late! I think I’ve finally recovered from April, but just barely. It was a month filled with teaching and travel, and it’s taken a minute to get back into my groove.

As the weather gets warmer, I’ve got a few things I’d like to accomplish, starting with attending to my garden. Clifton put in 12 tomato plants three weeks ago, his annual contribution, but I’ve only this week planted cucumbers and green beans, even though we are three weeks past our last frost date. Like I said, April was busy! Earlier this week, I finally made the beginnings of a perennial herb bed. I’m starting small, which is almost always best. I’ve had some very ambitious gardening projects in the past, and I do hope over the next two years to expand our backyard garden, but these things take time if you want to do them right. 

By the way, I finally got my hand-pushed mower to work!

Speaking of gardening, members of the Spencer Street Collective met on my screened porch last Sunday to discuss our composting project, which begins next week. We’ll have two composting spots, one for food waste and one for yard waste. Christy is in the process of testing out kitchen scrap buckets–we’re looking for ones that don’t let odors escape over the course of the week. Siena has ordered the compost bin, which we will all chip in for.

As we move into the summer months, I hope to be focusing a lot of time and attention on both my house (the Great Decluttering continues!) and my street. 12-year-old Callie and I are going to continue our Spencer Street oral history project and also plan to do research on the farm our neighborhood was built on. With any luck, Andy and Anthony are going to help Christy reinforce her chicken coop in the next week or so, and then the Spencer Street coop co-op can begin! 

It’s tempting to make goals for the summer months, but the fact is, unless my goal is to eat more tomatoes and pesto pizza, I’ll probably forgo (or forget) any goals I make in this space within days. But I’m turning 60 at the end of May, and I do hope the next few months will be a time for pondering what I want to do with the coming decade. I know I’ll keep writing, but what else? In general, I feel the urge to winnow, which is hard for me, since I have a lot of interests and love projects. But I’ve felt spread thin the last few years, and I know I’m going to have to give up some of the things I enjoy. 

I’m happy to report that May will be a relatively quiet month for me, which will make it a fine month to reflect. How do you plan to spend your days as the weather gets warmer?


Dear Frances,

Wow, you really have some ambitious gardening plans this year! Twelve tomato plants! I’m very jealous about that. After many prolific gardens in years past, we don’t seem to be able to grow tomatoes (even in containers) anymore! It’s so disappointing, So, I think I need to establish a habit of visiting the Farmers Market this spring and summer to get my fill.

It’s hard not to get inspired to garden this time of year—the light, the weather, the constant social media posts of people’s beautiful raised beds. And now that the drought is over in California, it’s tempting! Because of the watering restrictions of the last few years, we really backed off our seasonal gardening plans and just let nature take its course. The results have been interesting! We’ve lost some plants, but others have thrived. It’s a whole experiment of survival of the fittest out there!

My gardening mantra this year is “controlled chaos.” With a few exceptions, I’m just weeding and keeping certain plants from complete garden bed domination (I’m looking at you alstroemeria!). The yard is lush and green and looks very pretty if you squint a little bit and try not to focus on the weeds.

But I can’t let spring pass me by without a few gardening projects. First, I dug out some terracotta pots and planted three containers of shade tolerant plants for the front porch. Our front door is north-facing, and the porch gets no direct sunlight, so getting some color on the porch is challenging. Impatiens are a go-to, but this year I’m having trouble finding colors I like. So, coleus and begonia to the rescue!

We too have a perennial herb bed, but we lost a few plants during the drought, so in addition to the oregano and garlic chives, I’ve added thyme and sage. I’ll also fill in with some annual herbs like basil, parsley, and cilantro. With the addition of a few cosmos in the back and some petunias sprinkled here and there, I think it will be both pretty and useful.

My last “project” was to weed the small section of our former vegetable garden that is not already overrun with nasturtiums and sprinkle an entire packet of wildflower seeds. I have no idea if this will work, or if I’ll regret it someday when I want to reclaim the space as a veggie patch. We’ll see!

I can’t wait to see how your garden plans come together in the next few months. Your Spencer Street Collective is an inspired idea! I love the idea of living more local and what could be more local than a community garden spread throughout your own neighborhood?

Dear readers, tell us about your warm weather plans!


  • Robin Leftwich

    Good to hear from you both!
    I don’t garden. Anytime I plant anything the snails have a fear. But due to all the rain this year we have grass! And the rose bushes that have in the yard for over 30 years are going insane with blooms. So basically I catty water to them, and enjoy the bloom.
    I envy people who have fresh tomatoes!

  • Colleen

    Re composting: Don’t use the compostable bags that they sell in the stores. They don’t compost. Or rather, they compost really slowly, too slowly for regular compost piles/bins.
    Our last frost is at the end of May. I’ve got a dozen tomatoes in my front window that I might have started too early. They are tall and skinny! I also started some cabbages and scallions indoors. We dug up and amended our raised beds so they are all ready. Hubby has to rototill the big garden yet. I bought all my seeds today. I can’t look at bedding plants yet because I will buy them all, and I can’t plant them for 2 weeks. I’ve done that before, then I’m stuck putting them outside every morning and in every night. Im just itching to get going on my garden!

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