Monday, August 16, 2010

Pretty Tomatoes!

I've taken a few vacations this summer and 30 days away from the garden has led to neglect of both plants and blog.  All has not been lost however.  I have peppers, cukes, and tomatoes coming out of my ears.  Here are a few of this year's prettiest:

Copia is both beautiful and delicious.  This big juicy slicer has averaged about nine ounces for me, grown in the self watering container.  I've found it to be moderately productive.

Big Rainbow could also be called Big Yum.  It's absolutely delicious.  Unfortunately for me, productivity has been low.  I think this was a combination of factors.  I think it may be too large for the self watering container.  I also think the early heat of the season took out a ton of buds on this one.  Still, the few fruits I've gotten have made for some memorable salads.  I'll be growing it again.

Chocolate Stripes:  I'm losing last years picture here because this years came out blurry and I'm too lazy to retake it.  Chocolate Stripes has been a star for me this year.  I think it likes heat.  Last year productivity was OK but this year it has been very high, though grown in the exact same spot.  Its a tasty tomato that holds up really well on the kitchen counter.  The stripes almost glow on this one.  Way cool.

Striped Roman
Striped Roman:   This variety is proof that an annoying youngster can still grow up and shine.  SR was a fragile, delicate, constantly looked like it was suffering seedling.  It wasn't much better as a young adult.  There were times I didn't think it would make it.  It was best described as wispy.  I noticed in mid-June it seemed to be getting stronger, and now it is as big and strong  as anything else out there.  I've found it to be highly productive.  The fruits are meaty, just as pretty in the inside as the outside.  Skin is a little thick but its a minor thing.  Taste is good!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

It's Grow Time!

Looking back at last years blog, I am about ten days ahead of schedule in the plantings when compared to last year.  Blogs are so useful for this sort of thing.  I was getting a little anxious about where things were at, then I looked back and saw that I'm in great shape!  Its grow time in the garden.  All the productive stuff with strict timelines is in, that means I could sit back and just watch the growing.  (If I didn't have so many other non-producing areas to clean up that is.  :P

Here are some pictures from Memorial Day weekend. Click them to see more details.  I have a few days left of the peonies before they get chopped back to give the tomatoes more room.

Broccoli is starting to gets heads on it now.  Lettuce is huge but still tastes great.  Spinach is about ready for one last harvest before I plant the summer crop of it. 

This is the  same bed looking back the other way.  Sagae is the big hosta in the foreground.  This is a young plant and is showing every indication that it will be a monster!  This is probably this area at its prettiest.  Once the alliums and peonies fade and get chopped back, the colors go to white and yellow for summer.  I'm thinking about sticking some red in there for a change this year, but we'll see what the schedule allows.  There is a house to be painted and a fence to be built!

The circle garden is my source for angst this week.  See the big tomato in the center?  It has blossom drop.  I suspect the cause might  be that it doesn't like tomato tone on top of the rich soil it is already in.  The other possibility is that since it is from the Ukraine, it didn't like being on the black during our heat last week.  I'm going to pick up more cocoa bean mulch this week and cover the weed barrier now that the soil is warm.  Hopefully between that and the rains, it's  blossoms will start sticking again.

I love the way peonies look right before they drop their petals.  The lightening around the edges is so pretty!  We had some storms that knocked down the light pinks the other night, so they are done.  These guys are holding their own for a few more days though.  yay!
Storms also cracked one of the balcony tomatoes in half but otherwise, no other carnage with that one.  I cannot believe it is the first week of June and I already have quarter size tomatoes on some plants.  Mystery one and two look like they'll have something for snacking maybe as soon as next week!  Weird season, but good so far!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Very hot, but very productive weekend.  I have completed transplanting it all!  That's 277 plants that have been moved from their seedling containers to the garden and does not count anything that was direct seeded at all.  Getting the rest of the stuff out took more time (as usual) than expected because those bazillions of propellers are still needing to be yanked and I had a few areas of soil that needed cleaning up, weeding and compostifying.
 Tonight I though I would put up some starter pictures.  I like to refer back to them as the season goes on.  First, here are this year's balcony tomatoes.  I wasn't going to do this, this year because we are replacing this balcony railing this summer, but I needed good space for tomatoes and they grew so well here last year that I did it again.  This year I used about half the volume of soil in the containers.  It will be interesting to see how that impacts yield and watering.  In the containers from left to right are Galo De Melon, Black Cherry and returning this year, Dr. Carolyn.  No blooms on any of these yet, though BC is close.
This is the rose bed.  It is another bed slated for improvement this year as part of the patio project.  The roses in this bed are 20+ years old.  They are hardy.  I ignore them always and they still live.  They are very fragrant and are different colors depending on the weather.  I should enjoy them more but since they frequently impale me with their giganormous thorns, I tend to resent them.  OK I wish death on them from time to time too.

The brick wall and nearby concrete patio get a lot of heat, so this bed always gets some of my heat lovers.  In addition to the roses and perennials in this bed, I have four eggplants, two tomatoes, some cilantro and some chard.  The tomatoes are Striped Roman (left pole) and Chocolate Stripes.  Both of these are blooming but man is SR one wimpy plant.  It constantly looks limp and pathetic.  It's a healthy green but it has the demeanor of a frail, overbred lady in a heatwave.  It always  appears as though ready to keel over in a dead faint.
This next bed is currently breaking my rule for productive AND attractive.  This is the hot bed and is my hope for actually producing melons this year.  The last couple of years I had no luck.  This year I made two more changes.  1) Direct seeding to avoid stunting and 2) increasing bed and plant temps by using the cold frame to do it.  The seeds I planted in here sprouted after two days.  My fingers are crossed that I'm on the right track.  

Planted in front of the frame is amarynth and cukes and cilantro.  To the right of it you can see Mystery 1 and Mystery 2, the volunteer tomatoes from the worm poop.  Both of these already have little tomatoes on them.  Mystery 2 is starting to look like a relative of Sungold.  I'll know soon!

In the back of this bed you can just see three tomatoes in their self watering container peaking out.  These were my shrimpiest seedlings, White and Pink Stripes, Illini Star and Black from Tula.  These varieties have their twins planted in the garden.  Their twins are currently bigger.  My shrimps might be needing a pep talk, or perhaps a bit of organic fertilizer.  This is the one container where I reused about half of the potting mix.  They might be potting about that.

This is getting long.  I'll post pictures of the other beds tomorrow.  For now, I'm going to start enjoying phase II which is water occasionally, watch for pests and sit back and watch the growing!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Pictures After a Weekend of Work!

Transplanted out this weekend:  Chinese red noodle beans, all the rest of the tomatoes except for two, all the peppers, all of the eggplants but three.

Removed this weekend: 2839723429 sprouting  &^%$^&$ propellers!

Seeds started this weekend:  Cukes and melons.

Bags of cocoa bean mulch spread:  Only three!  It goes far.

Motrin required after 17 hours of digging:  4

Hope everyone had a great weekend. 


Friday, May 14, 2010

Ramping Up for the Big Weekend

I heard on the radio this afternoon that the Farmer's Almanac says this is the weekend to plant.  I didn't catch what it was I'm supposed to be planting but it doesn't matter.  I plan to try and plant it ALL!  If I am to have any hope of getting the patio project done this summer, I need to get this stuff in and growing.  The ten day forecast looks good.  May 15th is the last frost date.  It's time.

I got a jump on things tonight after work.  I hit the nursery for some mushroom compost so that I don't have to waste time tomorrow running out and then I came home and started planting.  Three more tomatoes went into the tub in the hot bed.  These are currently my puniest seedlings.  It will be interesting to see how Black From Tula, Illini Star and Big White and Pink Stripes do now that they are in the hot zone.

Once those were in I planted all fourteen Molten Lava Amarynth.  In hindsight, my placement of these was a bit off.  I forgot they get to be four feet tall and planted them in the front of the beds.  Oh well, maybe it will still look cool.  

I stayed out until about 8pm since it was such a nice night.  The whole rest of the time was spent on propeller removal.  I filled one huge pop up bag already and have barely made a dent.  Nevertheless, it was a good start for what I hope will be a very productive weekend! 

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


This is horse chestnut Fort McNair.  Its a good tree.  A bit susceptible to mildew in the fall but otherwise not remotely needy.  To be fair I suppose the eight maples in the backyard are not particularly needy either.  They are better described as annoying in the springtime.  Annoying due to the propeller factor.

Propellers are what I call the seeds of maples.  They fall from the trees like thousands of little helicopters.  The kids have a rip roaring good time throwing them up in air and watching them spin downwards.  Unfortunately when weekends are spent taking apart all of the gutters to remove the propellars, our joy at throwing them off the roof is much more limited.  We have grates on all the gutters to prevent this sort of maintenance need of course.  The problem is, propellers laugh at these grates.

Beyond, the hint of not  planting maples within 500 feet of your roof, my only advice with respect to propellars is about mulch timing.  Try to avoid mulching before propellar season.  If you don't, you get this. 
Once it rains, all these propellers sprout.  They then become weeds with very sturdy roots.  Better to take a leaf blower at them to blast them into the yard then to let them sprout.

I've considered spending the upcoming weekend on propeller clean-up but the ten day forecast is looking just too good.  Instead, if the forecast holds, I'll be giving Mystery 1 and Mystery 2 tomatoes some company and will be emptying out the cold frame and planting it all out. I already have baby tomatoes starting on Mystery 1, in the foreground as well as several other varieties that I put out a couple of weeks ago.  It's time to get their brothers out there and producing.  Times a wasting, propellers have to wait.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Landscape Design Software

I have spent the last few nights working on the design for the reclaiming the patio project.  We generally refer to this area as the dog's area.  That's because currently it is a glorified dog run.  Our yard is not fenced, so when Spazzy McDrool goes out, he heads to this area.  In the picture from the balcony above, you can see the path he is most fond of taking in this area.  We are planning a complete overhaul here.  The balcony rails and treads are getting replaced, the fence-line is getting replaced and moved outwards, the patio is getting expanded and beds are getting dressed up.  The new area will hopefully also include a pond provided we don't have issues with underground utilities in the area.  There will not be much grass.  This is because grass is not all that eco-friendly, we hate mowing it and the weirdo pooch hates walking on it.

I've been doing it using a software called PUNCH Landscape, Deck and Patio Designer.  This product does lots of cool stuff but the learning curve is not small.  If you are familiar with CAD you'll have no problem with it.  If not, while the 490 page instruction manual pretty much tells you how to do everything.  It does not tell it in any sort of rational order.  

It does also not tell you what NOT to do.  A component that contributed to significant colorful language on more than one occasion.  Several days later I still have not figured out how to draw a decent curve, as evidenced by the weird shape of the pond.  I also am finding roofs impossible, after many hours trying to do them.  Posts are easy.  Spacing them not so much.  Can you tell?

This program was really designed for house building.  Many of its features are related to building a house.  It has a robust landscape component though, so they repackaged it and called it a landscape design program.  For gardeners, it does a ton of cool things.  The plant and tree library is huge and if by some weird chance you need something that isn't there, you can import it easily.  You can sort thru the library by gardening zones, sunlight, or whatever parameter you are challenged with.

There is a plant aging function which allows you to see what your design will look like in 5, 10, up to 20 years!  Even cooler you can plug in your GPS location and your property's position related to the sun and the program will accurately project shadows depending on what season you look at.  That's huge!  Want to know how much mulch you need for that bed you just drew?  Press the calculate materials button and it will tell you, once you plug in how many inches deep you want it.  Plug in some prices and it will total up all your material costs related to your project.  

My favorite thing I have discovered so far about this program is that you do not have to view your design birds eye.  If you click the person icon, you can walk thru it as if you are doing it in real life.  It allows you to feel what the space will feel like.  It was this feature that clued me into the fact that the design above needs a bigger area.  The patio pad feels too small for what we'll be using it for.  Unfortunately I haven't figured out how to correct that without redrawing the whole entire thing.   Sigh.

The software was $39 at Best Buy.  It's a memory hog and will require a reasonable decent system to run it without wanting to heave it out the window.  If you want to mess with design and have a bit of skill related to figuring out software though, you might find this fun for rainy evenings.    

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

My Garden Made Fifty Cents!

This year I am going to once again keep track of my garden's yield.  Last year I slacked off when the tool I was using wasn't working efficently for me.  This winter I spent some time tweaking my excel file with formula's and conditional formatting to make it much easier to keep track of yields.  I also bought a better scale.  One that I can take with me into the yard to weigh stuff right there without trying to keep it all separate.

This is a snapshot of just a portion of my Garden 2010 excel file. (Click on it to see the far columns).  Lower down I have a section for costs.  The formula's hidden in the cells are such that it will automatically calculate gains and losses based on what I put into the pounds or number yielded columns.  Once foods are no longer in the red, the last column will turn green.  I already have one row that is green.  It is the herb row.  Since the chives, thyme, and sage all had zero cost this year, my harvests from them have made it a green column.  Yield to date is fifty cents!  LOL

There was a chance of frost last night and it looks like the neighbors took a hit but my tomatoes were under row cover along with the lettuce so no harm done.  I'm looking at significant plant out this weekend if the rain holds off. 

Monday, April 26, 2010

Two weeks later, SALAD!

On April 11th, I took this picture right after I planted lots of tiny lettuce seedlings into the ground.   In that blog entry I mentioned that we would have salad in a couple of weeks.  I wasn't kidding.  I made the first clippings for salad tonight just two weeks later!
The lettuce isn't the only thing making progress.  In the foreground you can see the beets have sprouted and to the right of them the spinach is ready to surrender baby leaves too.  The onions are a bit of an experiment.  They were planted last year and never got any size to their bulbs.  I think they are just going to go to seed this year which will be pretty.  If not, I'm hoping they will get bigger bulbs.

Not much accomplished in the garden after work today.  Its meatless Monday and there was Veggie Lasagna to be made.  I planted the Chinese Red Noodle Beans in a big pot and that's about it.  Beans are normally direct seeded into the ground here but this variety is tropical and needs heat to avoid the pouts.  I figured I would get it off to a headstart while I wait for the ground temperatures to hit 65.  I'd like to harvest before Labor Day and last years beans were such a disaster I'm stacking the odds in my favor as much as I can.

Yesterday was pretty drippy out.  I got the strawberry popcorn in the ground along with the peas (again!) and the rest of the carrots.  The soil prep for the carrots took a bit of time.  I got a tip that they like soil very fine with no twigs or chunks of any kind in it.  The dechunkification of the carrot area took about an hour.  Then the rain came and I squeezed in planting cilantro and marigold seeds between the storms.  Pretty lazy day.  It was a treat!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Goodbye Ugliest Bush in the World

I can completely understand how it happened.  It had to have been the lure of the amazing catalog picture.  Looking at this flower up close, I really can't blame the old owners of our house for planting this bush.  I imagine they had visions of orange spring loveliness when they saw its close up.  It had to have been that.  No sighted person would ever buy this thing once they saw a long shot of it.

My mission today was to purge the yard of this Japanese Beetle attracting, blob of sticks topped with orange.  It would be a dicey mission.  Rain was forecast for the entire day.  It came only once, for about twenty minutes.  Just enough to make lots of slippery clay and gunky soil.  Otherwise the air was just thick with humidity, like a rain forest only way cooler.  About sixty degrees.

It took an hour to reduce the Ugly to this.  During removal, I discovered that Ugly had yet another charming aspect to its personality, very sharp thorns.  These thorns easily pierced my gloves and made chopping Ugly down difficult, since the thorns of each cut branch would grab the other leaves and branches and dare you to yank hard, lest you whack yourself in the face with the branch.  Ugly gifted me with small flesh wound.

It took an additional two hours to remove the base of the Ugly.  The former brilliant owners that bought this hideous beast made real sure that it would be hard to get rid of.  They mulched around it with lava rock.  Lava rock gradually sinks into the soil over time.  Clay soil studded with lava rock cannot be dug in at all.  You have to scrape it, bit by horrid bit.  

At this point I took a break from the patch above.  There was so much work to do in it and I was so far behind what I had hoped to get done today that I walked away from it.  I was secretly hoping for another downpour so that I could go inside and snuggle up with a book to purge my brain of the Ugly adventure.  No such luck though.  Instead, in my wanderings around the yard, my eyes fell on the tomatoes in the frame.  I decided today was the day for the first five to hit go into the ground.  I put in Gajo De Melon, Chocolate Stripes,  Crnkovic Yugoslavian, Amerikansky Sladkiy and San Marzano (Pagano seed).  They went in without incident.  Recharged I decided to get in another rain barrel near the Ugly spot and to start cleaning up the bed.
I quit around 5pm.  I did not finish, not even close.  Work got broken up when I had to run to Home Depot to get parts for the overflow thing for the rain barrel.  It took forever.  The guy that was helping me pick parts will probably drink tonight.  I don't think he appreciated me repeatedly telling him that what he suggest was unacceptable because it would look cheesy.  Heh. 

I like the way this rain barrel came out though.  The little hosta that I planted in front of it was rescued from under the rubarb to the left.  The tiny green spikes in front of the boulder are leeks.  The mulch is grayish because it was molded in the bag.  I will look OK once the sun hits it and as yuck as it is, its still way better than the Ugly bush.  : )

Friday, April 23, 2010

Big Babies: Hold, Pot Up, or Plant

On April 9th, stuff in the cold frame looked like this.  Two weeks later, growth has been pretty significant.
Now we are at the tricky part of the year where you have to decide what track to take.  Once plants get this big, you have three choices, hold, pot up, or plant.

Holding:  Holding means keeping them in the same pot for now.  The benefits are that they are less likely to outgrow your cold-frame before you get them in the ground.  The negatives are that plants outgrowing their pots are needy.  Really needy. They need more water (often daily) and are more vulnerable to vitamin deficiencies.  Notice how the plants in the lower right hand corner are very light green?  They are hating on their  cramped toes and want a bigger pot or a bit of nitrogen.  The biggest negative to holding too long is that you can stunt the plants and sometimes they won't recover from it.

Potting Up:  Potting up means transplanting to an bigger container.  It need not be a pot.  Big Gulps with holes cut in the bottom work great and are Earth Friendly!  The benefits of potting up are that the plant continues its rapid growth and you get a bigger plant going in the garden.  The negatives are that it's work to pot up, bigger pots take up way more space and each time you transplant a plant it may get shocky.  Shocked plants stall their growth for a period of time.  For tomatoes that period is short for me so I pot them up several times.  For peppers, they will pout for a couple of weeks, so I only do it once to them.

Planting Out: Planting out refers to getting the plant into its final location in the elements.  Whether it be a container or garden soil, a planted out plant is more vulnerable to the elements and hungry varmints.  Planting out early means you may get an earlier and possibly more productive harvest or it may get you a cold shocked pouty plant that starts recovering in late June.  Planting late delays the harvest and may decrease the overall amount your plant produces that season.

There are all kinds of rules that exist as to when you should do any of these things.  You can follow moon phases, farmer's almanac's, relatives rules or Tommy Skilling the weatherman.  Me?  I never put all the eggs in one basket.  Thus, this weekend will involve a bit of holding, a bit of potting up and if the rain allows, a bit of planting out too. 

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Pea War. Its On.

Here's a picture of some Illumination Vinca in bloom around an old Hyacinth bulb.  I post this because I have no picture of pea sprouts to post.  Something keeps stealing the peas!  They are being dug up within a few nights of me planting them, before they even sprout.  Based on the footprint in the bed, it may be a raccoon.  I had hoped to take a photo of the print for confirmation but my assistant detective and his friend wiped out the evidence during their investigation.  Sloppy detective work aside, Pea war is on.  Tomorrow replanting number three will occur and this time I'll be topping the area with row cover and topping that and surround it with rose bush trimmings.  My nastiest trimmings from my prickliest roses.   Fingers crossed that raccoons, or whatever this thief is, hate prickers.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Jack Frost Brunnera

I bought Jack Frost Brunnera the very first year it became available commercially.  I paid $35 for a teeny tiny plant in a 4" pot.  It was worth it.  This plant is a pleasure.  It is one of the first to bloom in the spring and its little true blue flowers are so pretty.  Jack Frost holds its variegation unlike other Brunneras.
This plant is called Hadspen Cream Brunnera.  Its leaves are supposed to look like this.  It did the first year.  After that it was solid green.Still pretty mind, but definitely not worth the extra dollars I paid for the pretty variegation.

Jack Frost on the other hand has never lost its variegation and I have had it for years.  It thrives in shade and one plant easily becomes multiple plants since it responds so readily to dividing.  The blooms are only around for a few weeks in the spring, but the leaves hold their own the rest of the summer and if you pair it with something like red impatiens, the effect can be dramatic! 

In the garden the last couple of days I've gotten the chard planted and about half of the leeks.  I also put in a new rhododendron in the new shade bed along with a Strawberries and Cream Hydrangea. This particular hydrangea is a zone 7 plant and probably has no prayer of making it through the winter in my garden.  It is so gorgeous though, I bought it as an annual and will try and baby it this fall to see what happens.

Otherwise, the beets and zinnia have sprouted.  The pea patch looks like it was dug up by a critter.  I'll need to do some investigative digging in that area in a couple of days.  I really really need to get the carrots in in the next few days as well.  The soil prep for carrots is such a pain, but I want them in and and happy well before the heat arrives.  With this whacko weather, that could happen any time now.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Corner Shade Bed Before--->After

Check out the ugly!  Click on the picture to fully appreciate it's scope.   This homely little corner of the yard reads like a checklist of last year's abandoned projects.  Last year the center of this bed held a huge silver maple that was developing a house crushing angle to it.  After one particularly creepy windstorm, we decided to take it down.  The wood from it went to the woodpile, except for those for remaining logs which were so heavy and wet that I left them where they were.  They became ant condo's sometime over the winter.

The lava rock boulders in front of the stumps is part of my husband's remove all hateful lava rock mulch from all beds project.  It's a cruddy project.  I'm glad he's taken it on.  The stuff cuts your hands up, makes digging impossible and makes every bed into the equivalent of a pizza oven.  He's been chipping away at its removal for two years now but often takes breaks from it.  Its that bad.

The plastic container hidden behind the stump is missing tubberware from the kitchen that the kiddos apparently swiped last year for something.  The grass in the bed?  That's from me getting bored with grass removal last year and moving on to other things.   The fire circle is my temporary set-up that I move all over.  If there is a place that needs grass removal, it often sprouts a fire circle!

There was a lot that needed attacking in the yard today but this little area is among the worst and since there is a chance of frost tonight, additional planting is on hold so the improvement was on!
I started at about 10am after the usual coldframe fussing and stick pick up.  It took me until about 4pm to complete which included a trip to Sids for some Cotton Burr compost.  I think it came out pretty good!    Aside from the obvious weeding, grass removal and raking, I added a gravel dust base underneath the bricks.  I found this stuff under a bunch of leaves in the back of the bed (hubby's work) and had to do something with it.  I also thinned the Norway maple that is nearest this bed which only took a couple of minutes and added a ton of light to the spot.  When I moved the stumps over to make a new compost areas, I got a shirtfull of black ants and their eggs.  GAH ROSE! That inspired the first garden shriek of the season.  I wonder if the neighbors take bets on that?  Finally I removed a ton of creeping charlie from between the hedges that I would never have to do if the neighbor would make some attempt at erradicating it from his yard.  Its been years.  You would think he would have taken the hint from my muttered swears by now.
Unfortunately the whole of this bed is far from done.  While most of it still looks OK thanks to piles of leaf mulch piled in it last year, there is still a ton of work, not to mention planting that is needed in this space.  In order not to go completely broke, I'll be dividing a lot of my shade perennials and adding them to this bed gradually.  The area of the bed I finished today will get some vegetables.  While it is high filtered shade, it successfully produced both corn and leeks last year so I'm going to ask it to contribute to food production again this year as well.  Maybe some flowers too.  Oh and a hosta!  An area with soil that looks this great definitely needs a hosta.  Or two!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Afterschool Chores

  Mmmm,  its spicy viburnum season!

During the week, it's tough to get a lot done in the garden.  Between homework assistance, kid limo service and dinner prep, there is usually only an hour or so in the evening to get stuff done.  Since the first half hour or so of that hour is coldframe inspection and watering, progress on muchelse during the week is slow.  Thankfully, the extraordinarily good weather has continued so I've had lots of outdoor time.

This week I finally got the peas in the ground.  I tried a new location for them this year with more sun so we'll see what happens.  Last year they were really late to emerge and ended up cramping the space plans badly.  I spent most of the early part of the week potting up the peppers and eggplants.  A part of me toyed with the idea of just sticking them in the ground now.  We haven't seen frost for weeks and there is none in the forecast.  Since I am only a couple of weeks away from the last frost date for this area it is really really tempting to get a few in the ground now to save a bit of work later.  If this weather continues for one more week I'm going to go for it.
Tonight, in addition to potting up a couple more tomatoes,  I finally got four broccoli "Early Dividend" and four Ruby Perfection cabbage in the ground.  I left them out and not covered by the row cover tonight.  Hopefully the varmits leave them be.  Also planted was fennel, and a rosemary.  

Now that we have hit the third week of April, I've started my annual spring freak out.  Everywhere I look there is so much to get done and while mother nature has gifted me with multiple weeks of gorgeous weather, in a sense its made things worse.  Its been so balmy the magnolia only held onto its blossoms for a few days.  Now that mess already needs a clean up and the lawn is already getting crazy long thanks to all the warmth.  Normally regular lawn mowing doesn't start until May!  

In addition to all the usual spring chores, we are seriously toying with the idea of both residing the house and finally reclaiming the patio area which means new fencing, concrete work etc etc.  If we do the siding we have to replace all the railings on all three balconies too.  This project will involve significant research and planning.  The electrical mainline will have to be shut off the the back of the house, fence posts will have to be dug. I have to research a different siding product we want to switch too (concrete fiber) and figure out if I can get decent styled fencing that will match it.  If we are doing the patio I have to research a pond installation and get all that coordinated in such a way that we are not dealing with massive dirt piles all summer.  ARGH!  LOL.  Oh well at least its not blizzard season anymore right? 

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Manure Musings

  A few days ago, I was explaining to my mom why I was a bit behind in the garden.  Mainly manure and the lack of time and weather conducive to retrieving it.  My mom rolled her eyes and told me to got to a box store like everyone else and get some.  I won't I explained, because its not the same.  The lovely pile of goodness in this picture is local.  No trucks hauled it across country.  Its not hidden away in a bag.  I can sniff it up front an appreciate its earthy but not rotten smell.  Most importantly, I know where it comes from.  I drove past the horses that produced it to get back to the pasture where it stands.  I know it is made of poop and straw and thats it.  There is no human sludge in it, there is no toxins from flood waters, no fill from Katrina dumps.  Its just poop and straw.  Beautiful in its simplicity and really really heavy to load when it is still this damp!
It took me about an hour of shoveling to load this up before the back started to go.  While composted manure doesn't really have any nasty smells associated with it, in appreciation for hubby letting me use his brand new truck for this chore, I bagged it up in trash bags to keep the truck clean.  Then it was back home, er with just a teeny little stop at The Growing Place first.  I forgot what the excuse was for visiting there.  Once there the shade plants beckoned to me and the resulting damage to the wallet originated in that area.  I need to start working on the new long shade bed.  Its newest inhabitants as of yesterday are Hosta Earth Angel, Hosta Green Velveteen, Heuchera Georgia Peach which is a peachy maroon that really glows in the shade.
The extravagant purchase of the day was Hosta Hanky Panky.  I've lusted after this one for awhile now.  The switched leaf color is so unusual and so pretty.  I also love the name of this variety.  I had to have it.  $24.99 later, the tiny little pot that held about three eyes of this treasure was loaded into the car with the other new items.

Once home I started on the first garden project of the day, the greens bed.  It was looking a little rough, but not all that terrible.  I did a bit of weeding, gently dug in a bit of compost and planted 52 lettuce transplants, 18 spinach and three kinds of beets.  My daughter was outside and enjoying the weather too.  She wanted to help out and did a bunch.  She removed the dead stuff from the perennials and did a lot of work on the hedge.  It took a couple of hours but the time went fast. 

We ended up with this, which doesn't look like much now, but just wait. In a couple of weeks its going to look like a salad.  I'll keep row cover on it at night and until it gets a bit bigger.  I've found that certain birds really like to rip out the lettuce seedlings and the bambis definitely love them at this stage.  Once things are bigger, I don't mind sharing but for now its all under wraps.