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Sunday, May 24, 2015

I'm sending my houseplants to Club Hort for the summer

Not houseplants, just cut flowers from my garden
I am sending my houseplants to Club Hort for the summer.

Normally, they stay in the sunroom and never leave for anything.

But not this year. This year almost all of them are heading to Club Hort, an exclusive all-inclusive resort, where they will enjoy the finest of immentities for most of the summer.

Upon arrival at Club Hort, which is not too far from the sunroom they live in, they will receive an updated wardrobe in the form of a top dressing of the best potting mix money can buy. It's labeled "professional", so we know it is the best.

Following that, they'll receive a shower of the purest water from the outdoor spigot to remove the dust, grime, and dander they've accumulated after months, if not years, indoors.

Then on a regular basis, they will dine on a fine diet of organic nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium mixed with occasional micronutrients.  On some days, they will drink the wettest rain water the sky can deliver to them. I'm sure they will enjoy the rain, but I hope it doesn't spoil them as they will be  getting only tap water once they return home.

Throughout their stay, they will be enrolled in daily exercise classes, primarily involving an exercise we call "swaying in the wind".  To really build up their strength, somedays we'll feature a more aerobic exercise called "blowing in the wind".

Their luxurious accomodations will be primarily in the shade, with glimpses of dappled sunlight.  I hope they don't get any leaf burn.  For a more festive environment, I'm even going to replace the pump on the nearby fountain so that at night they can be lulled to sleep by the soft sounds of water splashing happily from the sides of the fountain into the main bowl.

Then, prior to their return from Club Hort to the sunroom,  each plant will receive a thorough cleaning, which will include a vigorous scrubbing of both the inside and outside of their pots. Once again, their roots will be clothed with the best potting mix money can buy, because it is labeled professional.

Some of the plants are a bit apprehensive about their upcoming stay at Club Hort.  Many have been in the sunroom for so long they've forgotten what it is like to be outside.  Others are just afraid, in general, of having to share their pots with spiders, bugs, and the like who may take up residence with them.

But I've assured them all that the change of scenery, the fresh air, the better light, the exercise, the regular watering and feeding, will be good for them.  When they return, well before the first frost, they will be bigger, stronger, and overall healthier.

Club Hort. It's what every houseplant needs once in a while.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

How to plant a tomato plant

How do you plant a tomato plant?

You start off with a lovely tomato plant, maybe one you grew yourself from seed or one you bought at a local greenhouse where they grew it from seed.

You pick a variety that reminds you of the tomato plants your dad bought, when 'Big Boy' and 'Beefsteak' and 'Supersteak' grew in many backyard gardens.

Or perhaps you buy a variety called 'Old German' because it reminds you of your ancestors who came to the United States from Germany.  And you think it would be a good match for the variety 'German Johnson' which always reminds you of your grandmother.

You touch the tomato plant and it releases its distinctive tomato plant scent onto your hands. You pause as you breathe in the scent and it releases all your memories of tomatoes grown in the past.  You remember your dad bringing in buckets of tomatoes and your mom wondering what she would do with all of them.

You remember summer lunches at your grandparents, always served with a platter of sliced home grown tomatoes and recall how some relatives salted their tomatoes, others sprinkled theirs with sugar, but you liked yours plain.

You feel the ground, it's warm. The air is warm. You've checked the long-range weather forecast, and there is not even a hint of frost so you've decided you really have made it through another winter, through another spring, to the first hint of summer.

You recall how your dad planted his tomato plants.  He dug a deep hole and put some well-rotted cow manure in the bottom of the hole, the cow manure you yourself helped him get from a generous farmer who told your dad he could take all he wanted.

So the first thing you do with your tomato plant, upon which you are pinning all your hopes for a perfect bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich, with a thick tomato slice so big it covers the bread from corner to corner, is cut off all the side branches to leave just one or two leaves at the very top.

Then, because your tomato plant isn't nearly as big as the ones your dad planted, you dig a trench instead of a deep hole, lay the tomato plant in the trench, and gently bend the tip of the plant up so it will be out of the soil when you cover the roots and most of the stem.
You know that along that buried section of stem, more roots will grow and you'll end up with a stronger, healthier tomato plant, the kind of plant that will produce bigger, better tomatoes, no matter the variety.

And you side dress it with a bit of organic fertilizer because you don't know of a good source for cow manure, but you know your dad, and grandpa, and all the grandpas before them would laugh from Heaven at the idea of buying a bag of cow poo.
Then you give the ground a good pat around the tomato plant and gently water it in.

Finally, with your tomato plant in the ground, you say one last prayer for no more frost and begin waiting for the tomato plant to grow, for those yellow flowers to show up, and for that first perfect ripe tomato to be ready to pick.

And that's how you plant a tomato plant.  Just like that.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

An Update on The Vegetable Garden Cathedral

Radishes, 'Cherry Belle' and 'French Breakfast'
Ah, yes, those radishes were quite good, and thank you for asking.  They were crunchy in a crisp sort of way and had just the right amount of kick for a Sunday morning snack.

You should really grow some yourself. You know you should.  Radishes are oh-so-easy to grow, too. Just scratch up a little garden, then plant a few seeds in a row and about a month later, go out and pull some radishes.

Are you putting out a garden this year?

I'm not sure why we say "putting out a garden" when we ask if someone is going to plant a vegetable garden.

We don't put out flower gardens.  We don't put out lawns.  We don't put out trees or shrubs.

We just put out vegetable gardens.

I spent quite a bit of time today in my vegetable garden, The Vegetable Garden Cathedral.

Here's the before picture:
As the garden grows

And here's the after picture"
See? All weeded, except the paths
What's the difference, you ask?

The difference is I weeded all the beds and hoed them up a bit with a stirrup hoe.  Then I planted some alyssum along the front edge of each bed, just to add a little color and attract a few bees.

Then I painted all my tomato spirals a lovely tomato red.
I was going to paint them "Glow in the Dark" but decided at the last minute to paint them red.  I thought maybe the red stakes would have the same affect red plastic mulch supposedly has on tomatoes. Time will tell.

I also planted out the tomatoes and peppers, along with eggplant and nasturtium.  Oh, and along the fence I planted some borage and hollyhocks.  That bed along the fence has been fallow for several years meaning I never plant anything there, so it fills up with weeds, and then I have to spend hours weeding it out.

I'm determined this year that will not happen.  Soon I'll sow seeds for zinnias, sunflowers, and marigolds along the fence. It will be a veritable oasis of bloom amidst the vegetables.

I haven't finished putting out the garden, even though I did quite a bit in my garden today, all under the threat of rain, I might add. This week I'll be sowing seeds for beans, squash, cucumbers, okra, corn, and who knows what else.

Then all that's left to do this summer is weed a little and harvest a lot.

I'm quite optimistic about this year's garden, even more optimistic than in other years when I was also optimistic.  I don't know what it is, but this year just feels like it is going to be a good garden year.

Hopefully you all feel the same and are putting out a little veg garden of your own. If you aren't, you should.  That's no greater satisfaction in gardening then to eat something you grew yourself.  But don't take my word for it, try it yourself.  

I challenge you. Grow something to eat in your garden this summer.


Friday, May 15, 2015

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - May 2015

Clematis integrifolia
Welcome to Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day for May 2015.

I hardly know where to start here in my USDA Hardiness Zone 6a garden in central Indiana.  We've had a wonderful spring, for the most part. There are flowers everywhere and lots of lush, green growth.

I'll start with a new-to-me-this-year flower, Clematis integrifolia.  This is one of those clematis that isn't a vine, and so far this one is standing up on its own, unlike dear ol' Clematis integrifolia 'Alba', which is lying along the ground, calling out for some means of support.
Clematis integrifolia 'Alba'
I have stated before my love of Clematis and there are several others blooming now about the garden.  They are competing for my affection with all the columbine, Aquilegia sp.

This little dwarf  columbine is only about six inches tall.
 I also have a dwarf pink columbine, but it is nearly bloomed out.

Nearby is this dark blue columbine.
It looks a bit like the Clematis, doesn't it?  That's because both Clematis and Aquilegia belong to the same plant family, Ranunculaceae.  I remember back when I was in college taking a class in Plant Taxonomy, which I loved by the way, I was not all that impressed with the Ranunculaceae family.  But we all change, and now I am in love with many flowers in this family.  I could do a whole post on my love for  the Ranunculaceae family, but this is bloom day, so let's move on to this border of blooms.

In front, the Spanish bluebells,  Hyacinthoides hispanica, in white, blue and pink.  They are easy, reliable bulbs.   And yes, the pale flowers in the back are columbine. They are offspring of 'Tower Blue' and 'Tower Pink', two varieties I grew from seed back in the day.  I just scattered the seed and waited to see what would come up.

I never let columbine seed go to waste, and the self-sown columbine all over the garden are a testament to that fact.

Another bulb I planted last year for the first time also showed up for bloom day.
This one is a mouthful of Latin,  Ixiolirion tartaricum ssp pallasii, known by several common names including Lavender Mountain Lily.  It is supposed to be a good naturalizer.  Time will tell.

What else is blooming here at May Dreams Gardens?  Lilacs, of course. And daisies.
And gillyflowers.  Don't forget the gillyflowers!
Dianthus 'Bath's Pink'
And salvia, geraniums, strawberries...

You get the idea.  It's May in May Dreams Gardens.

What's blooming in your garden today for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day? Show us! We'd love to see whatever you have blooming. Who knows, you might have something blooming that we must all get!

It's easy to participate. Just post on your blog about what's blooming in your garden and then leave a  comment here to tell us what you have for us to see, and then put a link to your post on the Mr. Linky widget.

Then say it with me, "We can have flowers nearly every month of the year." ~ Elizabeth Lawrence