I Hate My Neighbor Because His Garden is Prettier Than Mine

hate my neighbor because his garden is prettier

We moved into our house almost three months ago. I was a square-foot gardener at my old house. Now I’m an in-the-ground gardener. Making the switch wasn’t easy, people. There are weeds freaking everywhere! The leaves on my tomatoes are curling and I’m guessing I’m missing some nutrient in the soil but I don’t know because I didn’t hand-make the soil like I did with my square foot garden.

When we first moved in, we dug all the grass and weeds up from the area where the former owners had a garden. There were a lot of weeds – a lot of mint and a big, dead blueberry bush. The garden sloped down a small hill. We ended up making steps for each level of the garden. It was kind of like rice fields in China, except small and ugly.

I knew the soil had a lot of clay in it, so I added some compost and garden soil to make it more loamy or whatever. I planted my tomatoes and pepper plants. That night it rained.

Apparently, we had dug trenches instead of steps. The plants were sitting in two inches of water when I went out to check on them. Immediately, I made a way for the water to run off so the plants wouldn’t stay flooded. I learned a lesson: don’t dig trenches in your garden, especially when the soil is like play-doh.

My new neighbor is a first-year square-foot gardener. He has two square foot gardens. The wood is fresh. Everything is verdant. It’s beautiful. It’s perfect.

I hate him.

neighbors garden

I peeked through the bushes when he wasn’t home to take this photo. He even built a bench with the left-over wood. Gah!

His garden is pretty and perfect. I used to have a pretty and perfect garden. I used to be a square-foot gardener. Now I don’t know what in the heck I’m doing. I’m digging trenches, my tomato leaves are curling and the weeds are overwhelming. I could make enough After Eight dinner mints to supply the entire Chicagoland area for the next 20 years with the amount of mint in my garden. No lie, check it out.

my garden full of mint 2I write a gardening blog and I don’t even know how to garden. My blog should be called “I Try to Grow Mint.” I could totally rock that blog.

Part of my mint problem has to do with my laziness, obviously. At my old house, I was in my garden multiple times a day. My bedroom window overlooked my garden. In my new house, I can’t see my garden from inside my house. I’d like to say that “absence makes the heart grow fonder,” but in this case it seems to be more of “out of sight, out of mind.” I’ve been neglectful of my garden and it’s showing.

So my project for the fall will be to dig up all that mint and get rid of it. In the spring I’ll work on making the soil better. And then I’ll kick my neighbor’s square-foot gardening rear end.

P.S. What in the heck do I even do with mint? I don’t have a single mint recipe. Please help! (don’t say tea, I don’t like tea)


I Accidentally On Purpose Grew Weeds Up a Trellis

Grew Weeds up trellis

A few weeks ago, this plant started growing in my garden. I didn’t know what it was. I figured maybe there were seeds left in the ground from the previous owners. We moved to this house just two months ago.

I looked at this beautiful plant with its broad leaves and yellow flowers and thought, maybe it’s a cantaloupe. I’ve never grown cantaloupe before, so I wasn’t really sure what it looked like. My sister is growing cantaloupe in her garden (this is her first year gardening) so I sent her a picture and asked her if it looked like her cantaloupe. She said, yes, it looked like what she had in her garden.

So, I got my trellis out of the garage and put it in the ground and strung it up. I guided the plant through the strings. And then I waited a few days.

Then I noticed two more cantaloupe plants growing right near my trellis. Perfect! I thought, I am so lucky the previous owners grew cantaloupe. I love those old house owners.

Then a week went by and I noticed the cantaloupe was still growing straight up. Don’t cantaloupe vines grow along the ground and you have to guide them up a trellis?

The cantaloupe kept growing. I waited another week and continued to water them regularly.

My sister came over and I said, come out and look at my cantaloupe. I’m not sure if it’s cantaloupe. Aren’t they supposed to grow like a vine?

She took one look at it and said, “No, that’s not cantaloupe. I don’t know what that is, some sort of weed. That doesn’t look anything like a cantaloupe plant.”

So, for the past three weeks, I, the gardening blogger, have been accidentally on purpose training weeds to grow up a trellis. Thank goodness this is a humor blog!

I searched on the internet to find out what in the heck I’ve been growing. It turns out to be a common wildflower in Illinois, called Velvetleaf. It’s often found in vacant lots, construction sites and waste areas – like my garden. One of the more interesting things the IllinoisWildflowers.com shared about this plant was that, “Velvetleaf is a rather tall and lanky plant with large leaves that is easy to identify in the field because there is really nothing else that resembles it.”

No, I’m sorry, IT LOOKS LIKE CANTALOUPE! Broad leaves? Yellow flowers? Cantaloupe!

NOT cantaloupe

OMG, this looks NOTHING like cantaloupe.

Here’s what a cantaloupe plant really looks like (from my sister’s garden)…


I can’t believe I’ve spent the last three weeks growing weeds up a trellis.

Have you ever done something embarrassing in your garden like this? (Please say, yes.)

A Quick and Easy Way to Dry Herbs from Your Garden

quick and easy way to dehydrate herbs

I have a few herbs growing in my garden: oregano, basil, chives, thyme, and mint. One of the things I like to do when I have an abundance of any one herb is to dry it to use during the winter.

I’ve tried two methods of drying herbs: Hanging herbs to dry and using an electric dehydrator.

Hanging Herbs to Dry

My husband got me this sweet herb drying rack a few years ago. You hang a few stems of leaves on it leave them to dry.

drying herbs

But this crap takes for-EVAH. Ain’t nobody got time for dat. I mean, it looks pretty (if you like dead leaves hanging from your ceiling) and it’s the most natural way to dry them as it doesn’t require any electricity. But I left those suckers on there for two weeks and when it’s hot and humid in the summer that stuff never fully dries. The basil leaves were almost gummy. They just wouldn’t crumble. So, I tried the dehydrator.

Using an Electric Dehydrator

I don’t have one of those fancy expensive dehydrators. I have one that I got at one of those Christmas Steal-a-gift gift exchanges that I despise. But the year I won this, I actually liked the game. Every other year I’ve gotten a foot massager or Snuggie or some super lame gift someone picked up at Walgreens on their way to the party.

Ronco food dehydrator

Now, I’m sure this dehydrator was probably picked up at Walgreens too, but whatever, I love this thing. Not only do I use it for herbs, but for apple rings in the fall. I tried drying tomatoes one year, but they were kind of meh.

How to use the dehydrator:

I wash my herbs (if I’m not too lazy) and lay them out on the drying racks so they’re not touching.

drying herbs in dehydrator

I have five racks, so I can dry a lot of herbs. I plug the machine in – it’s so cheap, there’s not even an “on” switch – and walk away for about 45 minutes. After that I check on them every 30 minutes and rotate the racks up and down, as necessary, so the herbs get even drying times. Sometimes, if the herbs are small, they’re dry within 45 minutes.

The only issue I have with the dehydrator is that some of the herbs, like, thyme, are so small that they fall between the cracks of the racks. I just have to be extra gentle when removing those since they’re so fragile. But then I just take the racks off and flip the dehydrator upside-down and…clean! – so I don’t know why I’m complaining.

I take the dried herbs off the rack, pull the leaves off the stems, crush them up and put them in a resealable bag or glass jar. I label it with the herb and date. And no matter how I store it, it looks like pot.

I’ve read that you can dry herbs in a microwave and in a paper bag, but I’ve been so pleased with my dehydrator that I’ve never tried those methods. How about you?

What’s your experience with drying herbs?


Kids in the Garden…More Like Kids Fighting in the Garden

kids fighting in the garden

I was planning to write a post about gardening with kids. Everyone’s writing them. They write about the joys of digging in the dirt with their kids and seeing the smiles on their faces when they bite into that first home-grown vegetable the child raised themselves.

But then I thought about it and realized, I don’t really like gardening with my kids.

You’d think as a homeschooling mom that I’d be overjoyed to incorporate living off the land into our curriculum. And I was. Until we actually tried it.

One early spring day I decided to pull out my seeds and plant a few in peat pots to prepare for the summer. I thought, the kids will love this. I’ll teach them about plant propagation, the importance of watering seedlings, and giving the plants enough light and nutrients. They’ll watch the entire life cycle from seed to our bellies. We’ll make charts and draw pictures and this will be our entire science curriculum for half a year. It’ll be great!


This is how it went.

I carefully laid newspaper down on the floor, but kids are kind of messy. Did you know that? Before we even got the seeds out, soil was all over the basement. My kids looked like Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs. It wasn’t fun…for me.

So, when the weather warmed up, I tried again, outside.

I gave my, then four-year-old, daughter a shovel and showed her where to dig in my square foot garden. I came back a few minutes later and all the soil was outside the garden, on the grass!

So then I thought, forget the digging, I’ll just let them plant the seeds. So they picked out sunflower seeds and we planted those in separate pots. The biggest mistake I made was, of course, not labeling the pots. Not with the tag “sunflower,” which I did, but with each of my kids’ names. Because here’s what happens when you forget to label with your kids’ names:

Kid 1: You watered my sunflower! MOM! He watered my sunflower! That’s MY sunflower!
Kid 2: No. This is MY sunflower. See, your pot had a chip in it.
Kid 1: No it didn’t! YOUR pot had a chip! That’s my pot!
Kid 2: No, it’s not.
Me: (squeezes bridge of nose)
Kid 1: YES, IT IS! (kicks watering can over)
Kid 2: (laughs at the drama of the kicked can)
Kid 1: (screams loudly enough for neighbors 60 houses away to hear)

And that’s when I quit and decided I don’t really like gardening with my kids.

I don’t like messes, I don’t like my valuable dirt all over the grass, and I don’t care for fights over stupid pots. I love my kids, but I don’t want to garden with them. It’s one of the few times I allow myself to get away…aside from after bedtime when I binge-watch Lost on Netflix for three hours.

I’ll let my kids play with the worms in my worm farm and I’ve caught my five-year-old digging through the compost bin. I’m cool with all that. But that’s about all I can handle.

My sons aren’t much into it anyway, I asked them what they think of gardening and they said, “boring” and “it’s too much work.” When I was a kid, my dad worked in the yard and he enjoyed it.  At the time my thoughts on all things yard were the same as my kids’ thoughts: BOR-ING. But by the time I hit my thirties and had a yard of my own, I suddenly liked yard work. So maybe my love for it will rub off on my kids. I hope.

My nine-year-old is beginning to appreciate gardening…a little bit. I gave him a pot to grow carrots this year. He’s growing orange, white and purple ones. He hates carrots, but at least he’s growing something. He filled the pot with dirt and planted the seeds. He started out watering them, but after a few weeks he forgot, so I took over. Everyday he asks to pick a carrot even though they’re not ready. He sees stuff happening. I guess it’s kind of fun. As long as he doesn’t touch my garden.

Do you enjoy gardening with kids? Am I the only one that doesn’t really like it?


Peter Rabbit Can Suck It!

Peter Rabbit Suck it



Oh, I feel Amy’s pain because our new house is hoppin‘ with rabbits!

I mentioned in my post about cleaning up my new garden, that we have something like 3,423,349,342 rabbits in our neighborhood. At least three of those have been in my garden.

I can tell they’ve been in my garden based on two things, 1) something ate all the leaves off my green bean plants, and 2) I caught the little farts red-pawed twice, sitting in the corner of my garden when I came out to pet my plants. Yes, I pet my plants – the leaves – and whisper sweet-nothin’s to them. Especially after those rabbits have been in there terrorizing them.

The first rabbit I found was absolutely tiny and precious and could have fit in the palm of my hand, which also meant it could get into the tiniest of cracks in my garden fence, so even though it was super-duper cute, I hated it. So I went to work enclosing my entire garden in chicken wire. I had already wrapped wire around each individual tomato plant, but that didn’t protect my beans.


The small crack in the fence the tiny rabbit was getting in. I took care of that!

The previous owners had put some metal fencing along the base of the cedar fence surrounding the garden, but it clearly wasn’t enough. So I added chicken wire. The problem is that I can’t get the chicken wire to stay in place because I haven’t been able to locate our staple gun since we moved to our new house and I’m too much of a wuss to ask the neighbors to borrow theirs.

Since I couldn’t get anything less than a floppy fence, that the rabbits probably used as a spring board to launch themselves into my garden, I decided to try a liquid attack.


My floppy, springboard chicken wire fence that’s totally going to keep the rabbits out.

I decided to a try a recipe I found on Pinterest for Frugal Homemade Organic Rabbit RepellentOther recipes called for urine, but I was not about to pee in a milk jug.

This recipe required water, crushed garlic, dish soap and red pepper flakes. But as is typical with my gardening, I didn’t have all the ingredients (red pepper flakes) and therefore did a half-a$$ job with it, just like removing the phallic fungus from my garden. So I improvised with Tabasco sauce and cayenne pepper – I’m sure that’s the same, right?  I mixed it all up and let it sit out in the sun for three days so all that good spicy crap could meld together and offend those fur balls.


The Offender of Fur Balls

On the third day, I brought my melded Offender out as the neighbor was coming out of her house.

Neighbor: “Oh, did you make up something good to drink?”

Me: “Um…no, this is rabbit repellent.”

“Oh, well I haven’t seen many other than that little one…” (Haven’t seen many? They’re freaking everywhere!) “…but Charley [the dog] got it. I try to get rid of them different ways, but he got it before I saw what happened.”

One down, 3,423,349,341 to go.

I poured the Offender on anyway because I knew there were other rabbits. The next two days (before I had fully enclosed the garden in chicken wire) I came out and found Giant Bunny Foo-Foos hopping in my garden! But the beans were okay. It seems they were eating my dead plants awaiting their trip into the compost bin.

But to keep my furry foes from being tempted, I finished “circumfrencing” the garden with chicken wire. I resembled a mad scientist with my clothes sweat-stained, face flushed, hair askew, as I unraveled wire, hammered in ground stakes, and splashed Offender hither and yon.

But, it seems that the spicy melded offensive liquid combined with my semi-reinforced floppy springboard chicken wire fence is working. I’m currently successful with keeping rabbits out of my garden. Woo-hooo!!!

Then this morning I saw a chipmunk run across the freaking lawn. GAAAHHHH!

So, how do you keep rabbits out of your garden? 


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Phallic Fungus: Getting Stinkhorn Out of Your Stinkin’ Garden


We moved to a new house where the yard is heavily mulched with wood chips. It looks really nice, but I don’t have much experience with mulch simply because mulch costs money and I’m lazy.

After a few heavy rains I noticed these nasty things growing in our yard.

stinkhorn fungus

Ick! That greenish-brown wet-looking area toward the top is indeed wet, and reeks of decaying flesh, therefore attracting flies. Some of these were up to around seven inches long.

After some research (asking my friends on Facebook what this stinky, slimy crap growing in my yard and attracting flies is) I learned that it’s a fungus called Stinkhorn.

So I googled “Stinkhorn.”

I learned that it produces its slimy, stinky substance to attract flies because that’s how the spores are spread. See, God does have a sense of humor, but…barf.

While deep in research, I noticed that the latin word for the family of Stinkhorn mushrooms is “Phallaceae,” as in “phallic.” Yep.

Later, my friend, Julie, added this photo to my “WTH is this crap growing in my yard” Facebook thread.

julie fungus

Source: JulieDeNeen.com

This mushroom is also found in the Phallaceae family of fungi. The latin name truly fits.

And, I guess not so ironically, this is the stinkhorn egg when it’s cut open.

I’m not making this stuff up.

So obviously I didn’t want these things growing in my yard and I definitely didn’t want them to spread, as they were doing so quite quickly. So based on my friend Kenya’s advice and what I googled on how to get rid of them, I did the following:

Got a plastic trash bag and gloves. They suggested disposable gloves, but I didn’t have any, so I wore ski gloves. Just kidding, I wore gardening gloves.

I dug those suckers out, “roots” and all. The “roots” look like small white eggs and there were a lot of them. I kind of felt like a gold miner digging for nuggets of gold, except I hated the freaking gold I found.

stinkhorn roots

I put everything I dug up into a plastic bag.

I tied it up and threw it in the trash, not in the compost bin or with other yard scrap waste, in the trash.

Some people recommend boiling water and bleach to get rid of the remaining spores, but I didn’t do that because…boiling water and bleach.

Then I left my gloves and trowel in the sun to roast all that lingering nasty sporey fungus off.

I’ve looked back in my garden every day to see if any stinkhorns grew that I had missed. I found a few and dug those up and threw them away. Actually, I just threw them in the middle of my driveway to die and roast because I was too lazy to get a trash bag.

That was last week.

We had another heavy rain two nights ago and wouldn’t you know it, those freaking things came back with a vengeance. I dug their little fly-infested, stinking souls out of the ground again. This time, I relented and got the boiling water out along with a trash bag. But, being my lazy self, I just hit one small area with the water and decided to see how the rest goes with just being removed and tossed in the trash – at least I didn’t leave them in the middle of the driveway this time.

I went out five minutes ago to check again. I only saw two small Stinkhorns which I quickly removed. And that was all great, but then I found THIS! What the heck are these?!?

small mushrooms

The battle continues.

Next battle: RABBITS!

Have you had Stinkhorns in your yard? How’d YOU get them out? 


Cleaning Up a Garden Full of Weeds

Y’all we finally moved to a new house three weeks ago, so I’m reviving this blog. The new house even came with a garden. Check it out.

weedy garden mess

Oh no they di’int?

Oh yes, they did leave me with this junk. It’s okay, it’s my new project.

Under all those weeds and mint and boards and dead blueberry bush there’s a drip irrigation system. Do I know how to use it? Nope. Will I learn? Um…eventually…maybe.

There’s also a rain barrel. I don’t even know how to hook that thing up. At least I think it’s a rain barrel. My husband removed the lid and looked inside and jumped straight up in the air. There was a log in the bottom. A log made him jump.

And there are rabbits. There are 3,423,349,342 rabbits in our neighborhood to be exact. I counted them. I’ve seen ONE squirrel and 3,423,349,342 rabbits in three weeks. I made rabbit repellent yesterday, so I’m going to test it out and write a post about it. I also started putting up chicken wire everywhere, but I can’t find my staple gun to staple it to the fence, so it’s more like a wavy jungle gym for the rabbits to play on.

So far the garden looks like this.

messy garden project

I had started some tomatoes and peppers from seed at our old house, so I brought the growing plants with me when we moved. I’ve been square-foot gardening for the past five years, so this directly-in-the-ground gardening is kind of new to me. I’m sure there will be a lot of mistakes.

And this is my little strawberry patch (there are two of these).

strawberry patch

I had to bid farewell to my raspberry patch in my old yard. It wasn’t tearful, but I felt a little verkelmpt. The new owners are probably eating my raspberries, the ones I started from two little canes, right now for breakfast, on a bed of fluffy pancakes with real maple syrup and melted butter.

What I’ve got growing:

In the ground: tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, green beans (I replanted more this morning)
In pots: carrots, thyme, basil, chives and oregano
If I’m not too lazy, I’ll add: kale and lettuce

Future of this blog:

I’ll be amping up this blog to make it look sharp now that I’ve been to BlogU and learned how to make my blog not look like crap. I’m going back to my previous five posts and making everything look tight. So hold on to your gardening trowels, I’ll be back!

In the meantime, I created this Pinterest board for this blog. So go follow it: I Try to Grow Stuff.

Next post will be about Phallic Fungus I found in my yard. No lie.