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Friday, June 30, 2006

Precision Cut

Notice the precision cut of these gazanias? Isn't that something? I knew I needed to dead head them a little but someone or something beat me to it.

I suspect chipmunks, but I haven't seen any actual chipmunks around. I can't imagine that rabbits jump up on the pot and eat these. Or maybe they do?

Note there is some little grassy weed coming up on the left side, and how whatever creature nibbled these down to nearly nothing left it? It appears they actually had to eat around it. A discriminating diner, it is!

I had noticed some nibbling earlier in the spring, and sprinkled the plants with cayenne pepper to keep the nibbler away. This did keep whoever or whatever away long enough for the plants to actually grow a little and flower. I think I actually just saved the plants to provide "it" with a much bigger meal later on.

Just think if we could "train" whatever did this to provide this kind of precision cut where we want it, like on the lawn, or maybe on a topiary?

Some good news from the gardens:

I saw a hummingbird close up yesterday evening. It flew up to some impatiens about three feet from me while I was quietly sitting in a chair on my patio. I didn't have my camera with me, so you'll just have to believe me. Such a pretty bird!

We've had a lot of rain in June, above our average, but not so much that I feel waterlogged. Everything is so green. In some past years, by now the grass is browning out and we are challenged to keep the pots and flowers from drying out. But not this year!

I'm going to visit a hosta and daylily nursery tomorrow!

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Waiting


Night Blooming Cereus Flower Bud

I waited 13 years for the night blooming cereus to bloom the first time, and I've waited another 6 years for it to bloom since it last bloomed. I think I have just a matter of weeks or days for it to bloom again.

Orchid Bloom

I've waited maybe 5 years since I bought this orchid in bloom for it to rebloom again, and here it is blooming! The bloom will last at least a month or more.

The Vegetable Garden


Having waited for the above plants to bloom, I can wait a few more weeks for this vegetable garden, planted in late May, to provide me with more tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, peppers, green beans, and corn than I can possibly eat.

Hurry up and wait!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Want a Plant that Grows Anywhere?

Would you like a plant that grows anywhere? How about oxalis, also called wood sorrel? This is some growing in a bucket of rocks that I have on my patio. I haven't figured out what to do with the rocks, but in the meantime, the oxalis has apparently decided that this would be good place to "give it a go".

I've noticed that oxalis picks the poorest soils around my garden to try to grow, places like up by the house where it is too dry or sandy or infertile for any other plants. In fact, I've decided that where I find oxalis, I probably have a soil fertility problem!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Big Leaf

I like to put a big pot with an elephant ear plant by my backdoor. Not sure why, just always have. I "underplant" it with some impatiens. Don't know why, I just do it ever year.

I'm a plant toucher. Drives some people nuts but when I walk by plants outside or in a garden center, I'm always reaching out to touch them. I touch this elephant ear nearly every time I go in or out of the house. Actually I "pat" it like its a dog or something.

I was out this evening patting the elephant ear and checking on the vegetable garden. We've gotten plenty of rain this past week and I can see in the garden that the plants are all taking advantage of it. My corn is waist high (very touchable!) and I like the way the leaves look right now, so I think I'm doing all right on the fertilizer.

The bush green beans seem to have recovered from the brief period of time when they were a "bunny's all you can eat buffet" and are starting to bloom. I'll have to watch and be ready to do something to keep the bunnies from eating the beans themselves as they form, and I'll have to figure out some non-chemical way to ward off the Mexican bean beetles before they declare the bean patch as the place to host a fiesta. Any one have any new ideas?

I've gotten plenty of blooms on my tomatoes, but not much in the way of fruit set. That could be due to all the rain, we shall see. I am also starting to see little zucchini squash forming so I should soon have some to harvest. Of course I'll have too much to harvest all at once, and I'll have some that 'get away from me' and grow to the size of my arm before I harvest them, but that's all part of the fun of zucchini, isn't it? I'm not sure if this year I will just leave excess zucchini in unlocked cars at the local mall or on my neighbors' doorsteps. We'll see how many I harvest at once.

The flowers in the garden are also starting to bloom. I planted mostly zinnias and some marigolds, which are the ones starting to bloom. I also have some sunflowers, but they have a few feet to grow before they start flowering. (I originally wrote "before they think of flowering, but then I remembered that plants don't "think", they just "do", right?)

Monday, June 26, 2006

New Hoe

My New Hoe! Meet Rogue Hoe Dog!


My new hoe came today!

That's it in the picture. I've dubbed it "Rogue Hoe Dog" because the tag said Rogue Hoe D00 and to my eyes that looked like "dog". And I think this is a good one. I took it out for test spin in a pretty good patch of weeds this evening and it did a great job cutting them down.

Here it is resting proudly on the pile of weeds that it helped me chop down in just a few minutes.



















I think the reason this hoe is different from some of the other hoes that I own is this hoe has a very sharp edge on the blade so you are really slicing the weeds, not trying to pull them out with the hoe. The company that makes them uses old plow disc blades, so there is also a sense of history when you use it, not to mention it feels very solid and well made. I'm not into promoting one company over another, but if you really want to know where I got "rogue hoe dog", click here or click this link to go directly to the company that makes them. Believe me, if a place sells hoes, I've probably bought one from them, so I'm not promoting this company over any other.

They do have a couple of other styles of hoes I think I will add to my wish list, especially if they are as good as this one.

I've added this new hoe to my post about my entire hoe collection, which you can get to directly from this link.

It's a great day in the garden when you get a new tool that looks like it is really going to help out!

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Red in the Garden


I have this bee balm (Monarda didyma) which I got from my aunt. I got a start of it over Memorial Day weekend when I was getting some mums she had that she said she had gotten from my grandmother, the one who wrote the diary. She told me the variety name of the bee balm, but I have forgotten what she said. I also didn’t ask what color the flowers would be.

So now I know the flowers will be red, and it occurred to me that I really have no other perennials in the garden with red flowers, so it will be a nice addition. It does seem to be quite susceptible to powdery mildew, and I know like other bee balm, it will self sow. So I’ll have to be careful about where I put it so that the poor looking leaves aren’t so visible, it doesn’t clash with other nearby flowers, and I can control the tendency to self sow. (Hey, I know, I’ll just cut off the blooms before they set seed!) The other nice thing about this flower is I’m sure it will attract hummingbirds. My neighbor will draw them in with her red hummingbird feeder, then I’ll have the real thing for them over in my garden! Cool!

I was thinking about other red things in the garden, as I was finishing up some weeding in the vegetable garden. The ‘weed of the year”, purslane, has red stems on it. I weeded out a lot of it this weekend, but I know it will be back. Purslane is one of those weeds where you can pull about 80% of it, to make the beds look a little neater for a while, but you know it will be back and in a few weeks, you will be pulling out bushel baskets of it again.

Last year I tried red plastic mulch on my tomato plants. Someone had done some research that said if you used red plastic mulch on your tomato plants, you could increase your harvest by up to 40%. The theory is that the plants sense all that red spectrum light and “think” it is nearby plants creating more fruit than they are, and thus they produce more fruit in an effort to win the battle of who can create the most seed, and thus ensure the very survival of the species. (It’s tough to write about that without using words like sense and think, even though I know tomato plants don’t sense in the way we do, and they certainly don’t think, do they?) I don’t know if it made that much difference in the number of tomatoes I harvested, but I do know I had a lot of cherry tomatoes!

Anyway, speaking of red, I saw my first Japanese beetle of the summer, right on schedule, sitting on a green bean leaf. These beetles generally show up around here about a week to 10 days before the 4th of July. Their wings have a somewhat reddish cast, they tend to like plants with red leaves, like purple leaf sand cherries, and they make even the most mild-mannered gardeners see “red” when they see the damage they can do in the garden! I sure hope after all I did to keep the rabbits out of the beans, that now that they are getting ready to flower they won't be devoured by Japanese beetles. I've worked too hard to let that happen, so let the new battle begin! I am determined to get some green beans out of my garden (which I will cook with new red potatoes!)

Friday, June 23, 2006

Back in Business

I'm back in the lawn mowing business. The repair shop fixed my mower, after I made a phone call to them earlier today reminding them they had promised "priority service". After my call, I think it took them all of 45 minutes to fix it and call me back. How do they get that backed up that they are telling their customers it will be 4 weeks to get a mower fixed? Anyway, that is no longer my concern or problem!

I love mowing the lawn. It's good exercise in the fresh air, and when you are done, you have something to show for your sweat and toil. And, I love to get the grass cut before Saturday, so when I wake up on Saturday I can concentrate on other fun in the garden like weeding, trimming, and mulching, which I hope to be doing a lot of tomorrow.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Weeds



I’ll admit I’ve been kind of lazy the last few evenings. I went out last night just to water the plants in containers and take a quick tour through the vegetable garden. The new plantings of beans and corn have both germinated. I was a bit amazed to see how much faster the seeds germinated in warmer weather. Soil temperature does make a difference! I knew it made a difference, but this just reminded me. I wonder if I cover the raised beds early in the spring to maybe warm them up faster, if it will give me a jump start on the season? I’m adding this to my list of things to investigate this winter and try next spring.

Anyway, back to me being a bit lazy… I then went over by one of the perennial beds, and I could hear the one of the weeds saying something like this:

“Look at me, I can reach for the sky! Look how tall I am! She’s over there messing with that vegetable garden again, not paying us any attention, so we can grow and grow and get really tall, flower, set seed and really take over this bed. Oops, here she comes, duck down, don’t look so tall, maybe she won’t notice us.”

Yes, I did notice that I’ve got some “weed issues” in the perennial garden and around the bird feeder. I pulled a few of those weeds and threw them down on the ground where they had been growing, just to let the others know that I’d be back to take care of them, too. The picture above is of some these darn weeds. Yes, I am willing to show that not all is paradise in my yard. This is the spot where I pulled out/killed the moneywort that I had innocently planted. The good news is that the moneywort is mostly gone, the bad news it has been replaced by these weeds. I'll take care of the weeds this weekend.

The night before last, by the way, I wasn’t exactly being lazy, I was actually mowing the lawn when my lawn mower quit on me. Quit on me! After I took it in this spring to the place where I bought it to have it tuned up and serviced, it quit on me! In years past, with other mowers, I never did that maintenance thing. I just kept using the mower, adding oil if it got low, but I never had the spark plug changed, air filter changed, or anything like that. And I never had engine problems. Now, I try to treat the mower right, by the book, and this is how it behaves. I called the place where I bought it and had it serviced, and they said it would take 3 weeks or more for them to get to it. 3 weeks! I then very patiently explained how I bought the mower from them less than 2 years ago, and how they had tuned it up just a few months ago. Viola! I am getting “priority service” and I hope to have my mower fixed and back by the weekend, before the back yard, which is what I was cutting when the mower croaked, starts to look like I am letting it go back to its original field state.

Needless to say, after messing around with the mower for most of the evening to see if I could “will it” to fix itself, I didn’t have the time or desire to do anything else. That’s how I try to fix things that I don’t know much about, by the way, I use “mind over matter” also known as ”hope for a miracle”!

Anyway, in spite of a few trials and tribulations and some weeds and a bit of laziness on my part, good things are still happening in the garden. The zucchini are starting to form some flower buds, the Stella de Oro daylilies are going insane trying to out bloom each other, and did I mention the night blooming cereus has seven buds on it!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Summer Time


Spring is officially over, summer is officially here. So it’s time to check progress on spring plans made long ago, and figure out ‘where to go from here’ in the garden. (Zone 5 focused)

Didn’t get that vegetable garden planted? Well, if you haven’t done that yet, you probably ought to wait until next year, unless you are willing to ‘settle’ for late season ‘cool crops’ which you would plant later in the summer. And, you might still get some green beans if you plant now. But you can be more ready for next year if you spend some time in the fall digging up the area where you want to put the garden (provided it hasn’t already been dug up.)

Not sure you have enough containers planted? You might be able to do a few more containers, but you have to be careful not to end up paying a premium for plants at the garden centers. I find they offer two types of annual plants right now. There are the half priced flats that have been sitting around since early May that have been picked over or passed up for some reason. Buy with caution, these are probably quite root bound and won’t necessarily live up to their potential. Then there are overpriced larger annuals, grown specifically to be sold as larger plants. I think the growers are targeting the true procrastinators with these plants, which can take a big chunk out of your wallet if you aren’t careful, and do you really want to spend that much on annuals?

Didn’t get that fantastic tulip display you had hoped for? Of course most everyone knows that the time to prepare for a big tulip display is not spring but fall, so if you missed it, you still have time to plan for next year. I’m already receiving bulb catalogs in the mail. (In the category of “you can’t make this stuff up”… I used to work at a hardware store with a garden department and in the spring, people would come in and ask if we had tulips for sale. I explained, again and again, that tulip bulbs are planted in the fall. This was before the growers caught on and started to sell pots of blooming tulips in the spring, presumably for those who forgot, or didn’t know, to plant bulbs in the fall!)

Didn’t get that new shed, patio, or other hardscape item completed? No problem, summer is a good time to do those types of projects that don’t involve planting. Why waste good spring planting weather on this type of activity, anyway? You may sweat a little more in the summer, but at least your aren’t giving up prime gardening time in the spring on non-planting activities.

Didn’t plant those trees and shrubs like you had planned? As long as you haven’t purchased them yet, don’t sweat it. It is true that “fall is for planting”, so this is a good thing to wait on.

Didn’t mulch your beds? You can mulch anytime, just get at it, and you’ll be glad you did. The garden will look better with a fresh layer of mulch.


Didn’t relax and enjoy the gardens in the spring because you were so busy trying to get everything planted? Now is definitely the time to sit back, relax, and enjoy the gardens. Yes, there are weeds, and places not quite planted, and shrubs to trim, and grass to mow and soon vegetables to harvest. But remember, gardening is supposed to be relaxing and what better way to relax than to just sit back and enjoy the garden world you have created! I bought a hammock for just this very purpose!

(The picture above is some tiger lilies that someone gave me when I first moved in 9 years ago. I planted them in a "holding bed" on the side of the house, and they are still there. I'm not sure what I'm holding them for, but I like them where they are.)

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Major Announcement!

My night blooming cereus has SEVEN flower buds on it!
I am very excited. I have had this plant forever, and it has bloomed twice, with just one flower each time. Now, suddenly, it has seven flower buds on it. SEVEN! I don't know if all seven buds will mature to the point of flowering, nor do I know when the big night will be. I will just have to watch these buds and see what happens. Then one night, it will just bloom, or maybe the blooms will occur over several nights. But the blooms will last just one night each, so I must be home the night they bloom or I will miss the flowers.
When these flowers bloom, it will be a MAJOR GARDENING EVENT of this season. A not-to-be-missed event.
When the night blooming cereus plant was ready to bloom the first time, I had to go out of town for work for one night. I was not sure if I would miss the bloom, but did ask my boss if anyone had ever rescheduled something because of a "horticultural event" like this and he said no. I didn't press him, went out of town, rushed home the next day, and found that it had not yet bloomed. It waited and bloomed for me the next night! I didn't take pictures that time. The next year when it bloomed, I took some pictures (see below). That was 5 years ago. This year when it blooms I will take a lot of pictures, especially if I have multiple flowers blooming on the same night. Right now the flower buds are about 1/2" long. If I recall correctly they will be close to 3 inches or longer before they bloom. I have some waiting to do, but THIS WILL BE WORTH THE WAIT!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Garden Update



What a difference a few (two) weeks makes in a vegetable garden. I took this picture above on Saturday after I finished re-mulching the paths around the raised beds. Yes, I waited until the warmest day of the year so far to go and get a few truckloads of mulch.

Below is a picture of the same garden just two weeks ago, and approximately two weeks after I planted it.


I think new gardeners should try a vegetable garden first to get a real taste for how successful and inspiring planting and tending a garden can be. I don't think anything grows faster than vegetables, and there is great satisfaction in getting actual food from your own garden.

(See My Garden Pictures for another plant in my garden that I wouldn't recommend to first time gardeners.)

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Dad's Garden


The picture above is a scanned photo of my Dad’s garden and if you will indulge me a bit, I’d like to tell you about his garden.

Every year, Dad planted a vegetable garden. He worked the soil in his garden through the years until it was like chocolate cake mix, rich and dark and full of organic matter. There were a couple of ways he got all of that organic matter, most of which involved me and my siblings doing some “hard labor” with a rake in hand. Every fall, we raked nearly every leaf in the yard (and there were a lot of leaves), piled them on large drop cloths and drug them to the garden where he would chop them up and till them under with a roto-tiller.

The result of all of this soil amending was a very lush, productive vegetable garden. He had tomato plants that regularly grew up to 8 feet tall. It got to the point that he had to use metal fence posts for stakes, buried at least two feet into the ground. He also put cross bars between the posts for added support to keep the tomato plants from pulling them down.
And to ensure he had the best chance of harvesting the 1st tomato of the season, he started his tomato plants from seed several months in advance of the frost free date. Getting that first tomato was a source of much pride and a reason to brag amongst the other gardening neighbors!

The rest of the garden included lettuce, peas, onions, cabbage and broccoli, which he planted as early as he could get out and roto-till the garden, and beans, cucumbers, zucchini squash, peppers, and eggplants. For good measure, he added flowers here and there, including zinnias, petunias, cannas, marigolds and dahlias. An occasionally he would try a new crop, like kohlrabi.

He planted the garden in long rows, and sometimes put old wooden boards in the paths between the rows so he could walk through the garden even after it rained. And then around the plants he would dump the lawn clippings, which helped keep down the weeds and retain moisture. The grass clippings also added more organic matter to the soil. I never remember the garden getting weedy or out of control. I remember it as a well-maintained jungle of lush plant growth.
He always came home from work for lunch, and after eating, he would spend a few minutes walking through the garden before returning to his office. I suppose he was making a mental list of what he would do in the garden that evening and just making sure all was good in the garden he had created.

Dad passed away in the spring of 1987. That year, we over-seeded the garden with some flower seeds and then later sowed it with grass seed. We knew that none of us would have time to tend a garden there or help Mom do so.

But then in 2000, my youngest sister and her husband bought the house and replanted the vegetable garden in the same place where Dad had his garden, which is the only sunny spot in the whole yard. They have their kids out there in the spring helping them plant their garden, in the same way that Dad had us help him plant his garden.
So, the garden lives again, and produces for them the way it did for Dad. They could not believe that first year how big their pepper plants were. I told them it was all in the soil and to thank Dad for that. They’ve added their own touches to the garden, including corn, pumpkins and potatoes. They also don’t grow many tomatoes, since my sister doesn’t like them. And for some reason, they run their rows in the opposite direction that Dad did.

But it is nice to see that all that good garden soil, the result of all that work our Dad did, is once again being used for a vegetable garden and that several of us have carried on the tradition, each in our own way, of having a vegetable garden and working to make our own soil a little richer.
I'm sure he would have liked that!

Happy Father’s Day.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Butterflies

A colleague at work sent me the following picture of a butterfly hovering over some lilacs at their weekend home in Tennessee. When I saw this, I got to thinking that maybe I could find some butterflies in my own gardens and take pictures of them!



Below is my first attempt. I had to improvise a little bit, because I didn't see any butterflies around when I wanted to take the picture.


Then I had to improvise quite a bit to get a butterfly where I wanted it.


And then I got the hang of it and realized I could capture a lot of butterflies at once in my picture!


Note: No actual butterflies were harmed, injured, or actually involved in the pictures I took. An actual real butterfly was involved in the first picture, but not harmed or injured!

Friday, June 16, 2006

Some Recent Questions

Some questions from colleagues at work who are aware of my horticultural obsession and study…

“I have these round seed balls in my yard and I don’t know what they are.” Upon inspection, I quickly determined that his seeds were actually oak leaf galls of some kinds. The galls are formed when they plant’s hormones interact with the growth regulating chemicals from some insects or mites, or something like that. Anyway, they don’t really cause any damage to the tree, and they are definitely not seeds.

“When should I lay down sod?” Uh, never, if you want my opinion. I think a good seed lawn beats a sod lawn in the long term, every time. Unless you have a slope where erosion is a problem, I always recommend seeding with a good seed mixture from a good garden center where presumably there is someone there who knows something about grass seed. And if you have a slope where erosion is a problem, you should ask yourself if you really want to mow that slope. Consider terracing it or doing something else.

“What is this weed?” Tall fescue, in this case. It’s actually a lawn grass and some seed mixtures include tall fescue, especially cheap seed mixtures. See above about good lawn seed! I don’t know of a good way to get rid of it. Keep mowing high is about the only advice I have. (Some people choose to plant tall fescue. It’s quite durable and if you have a lot of pets, kids playing ball, or other extreme traffic in the lawn, it might be something to consider. But think long and hard and be sure you want tall fescue before you knowingly plant it.)

“How high should I mow?” I keep my mower set on the next to the highest setting. The highest setting is then available if I should end up not being able to mow the lawn sometime, and the grass gets too tall. I know others who follow this same practice, and I find that most, like me, haven’t had to use that setting. I suppose that people who are thinking there is a possibility of needing a higher setting and planning for it, are pretty diligent about mowing their lawns, anyway.

“When are you getting your 11th hoe?” I was a bit surprised by this question, as the person asking wasn’t someone I normally talk to much at work. I guess he found the hoe collection online or someone told him about it. The answer of when am I getting my 11th hoes is “soon”. I ordered it last weekend and I am expecting it any day now! I’ll post a picture of it as soon as I get it!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

I Can't Wait For the Corn!



What I like about vegetable gardening is how quickly plants grow and how good the produce tastes when you harvest and eat it fresh. This evening, I planted some more green beans after pulling out the last of the lettuce, which had started to bolt and turn bitter. I also planted another block of corn. (It's under the white garden cloth in the picture.)

I am trying a supersweet variety called "Mirai" from the Park Seed Co. They lured me in with an email about it in February. If it is as good as they say it is, I'll be pretty happy. They caution that you should not have any other corn planted within 50 feet, or you will get cross pollination with that other corn, and the Mirai corn won't be as supersweet as a true "Mirai".

Thankfully, (or regrettably in some ways), none of my neighbors have vegetable gardens, as far as I can tell, so there is no chance of cross-pollination ruining the sweetness of my corn. A few of them are growing some tomatoes up by their houses, but no one has a GARDEN, at least not in the backyards around my backyard. What's wrong with these people?

I suppose they are afraid that the garden will be TOO MUCH WORK. In the book, "The American Gardener" by William Cobbett, the author advises that to prepare the ground for a kitchen garden, you should turn over the soil to a depth of TWO FEET. Now, if this is the book someone picked up to learn how to plant a garden, I can see why they would be hesitant. Did I mention he wrote his book in 1856? Times have changed since then!

I didn't do any digging down to two feet for my vegetable garden. For some of my raised beds, I merely killed off the grass (with Round Up, but it has been more than three years ago), set a frame on the ground, put down several layers of newspaper, covered that over with organic matter, some of it not even that well composted, and then put top soil on top of that. Now after several years of continuing to add more top soil and compost, and turning over the ground in the spring with a spade to whatever depth I can manage, I've got some good soil to grow vegetables in. If someone had told me the first thing I had to do was dig down two feet, I would probably be gardening in pots on the patio!

Anyway, back to the corn. I'm looking forward to at least a few ears. I don't have a lot of corn planted, but hopefully I have enough to get good pollination, and a few good ears of corn. I read an article on how to grow corn in small spaces, and tried that method as best I could. I can't wait to see what I get!

(Check out My Garden Pictures to see "sweetspire" in bloom)

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

A Handy Tool or Two

I worked in my vegetable garden all evening after work weeding each bed, mostly by hand. I did use a couple of tools, including the Half Moon Hoe, a three tined hand rake, and a long-handled three tined rake. But mostly, I used my hands. It's the only way I know of to rip out the pursley that is growing so freely through out the garden.

I congratulated myself again on switching from a traditional row garden to raised beds. I can "fairly quickly" weed each bed and keep them all pretty neat, whereas with the row garden, I could not seem to keep up with the weeds. By the 4th of July, the weeds would start to get ahead of the vegetables and by the end of August, forget it. More foxtail was growing than anything else.

I am seeing a lot of weeds in the paths between the beds, and I tried to pull as many of those as I could, but there are some places with little or no mulch. So I've added to my list of "things to do in the garden this Saturday" to go and get a load of "Playsoft" mulch to add to the paths. Should be "loads" of fun. (Sorry, I couldn't help myself.)

I also convinced myself that the beans, even with their tops eaten off by rabbits, are trying to grow some new leaves, so hopefully there is something to be salvaged from this crop, and even if the harvest is late, I'll still get a few beans out of the deal. My sister also had her beans eaten by rabbits, so maybe this just runs in our family, and there isn't much I can do to stop it (like freckles) and I can only hope to keep it to a minimum. (Yeah, read that again to see if I really wrote that having your bean plants eaten by rabbits is hereditary.)

Speaking of using my hands to weed. I used my bare hands. No gloves. I know that can be bad and you can get cuts and end up with ghastly infections, but I am careful. I do use gloves if I am weeding things like thistle or trimming roses. But like most gardeners, I do better with my bare hands. In fact, I think if I met a gardener who always wore gloves, I would be a bit suspicious about whether or not they were really a gardener!

(FYI, I am up to date on my tetanus shots!)

Monday, June 12, 2006

Yellow


I dead headed the first round of white daisies this evening, and took note that as the first flowers of spring start to fade, the colors of the garden are migrating from purples, violets, pinks and whites to yellows and golds and other richer colors. I didn’t plan it that way, that’s just the way it is working out.

Pictured here is just one of several yellow flowers blooming now. It is False Sunflower, Heliopsis helianthoides. It’s a carefree, easy plant, and is a native wildflower of the prairies. I started mine from seed in 1999 and they are going strong.

I also have the variegated variety of False Sunflower, called ‘Loraine Sunshine’, which I purchased around the same time (1999) for $15. I clearly remember it because that is the most I had ever spent on a perennial (and still is probably the most expensive perennial I have). It doesn’t get as tall as this one pictured, which can grow up to 4 to 5 feet. Both of these False Sunflowers self sow, so you have to watch for rogue seedlings and be willing to pull them out in the spring so there is not complete madness and competition by mid-summer! I speak from experience, trust me!

Other yellow flowers in bloom now include daylilies, (‘Stella De Oro’, of course), coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata), and some yellow daisies someone gave me, which I don’t know the name of.

I didn’t spend a lot of time in the vegetable garden after work today, partly because I was busy mowing the lawn, partly because I didn’t want to look at the beans (what's left of them) more than I had to. Such destruction! The good news is that “so far” the rabbits haven’t found the pole beans. I am hoping those beans will start climbing up the poles and out of reach of the rabbits before they do find them! I plan to go back to the vegetable garden tomorrow after work, weed all the beds, sow some more corn and beans, and then fertilize it all. I will once again cover the seed beds with white garden cloth, for as long as I can, and hope for the best. Not much of a plan, but that's all I've got in mind to do right now.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

I Need Anti Pesto

I thought the weekend was going to end up with the only news being that I got a new double day lily for $5 and I was happy with that, considering the weather. (I’ve pictured it above. It is 'Siloam Double'. Pretty, huh!?)

Yesterday (Saturday) was cloudy and cool and we had rain for most of the afternoon. I did make one inspection visit to the vegetable garden late in the morning and all was in good order. Corn – check, approaching a foot tall! Tomatoes – double check, nice green color. Beans – check, starting to bush out. Neighbor’s cat – well, not exactly check, as I normally don’t like to see it in my yard, but it crossed my mind that it might be helping to keep the rabbits away, so I let it go without stamping my feet at it and telling it to scat.

Today (Sunday), while it didn’t rain a lot, it was cool and cloudy and looked like it might rain at any moment. So, I didn’t attempt to start any gardening projects. We did have rain early in the morning and then again early this evening. After the evening showers, I decided to check out the garden to see if there still might be some lettuce. I approached the garden and went to my right toward the lettuce patch. Lettuce – check, not bolting excessively, so I harvested some. Corn – check, looking good! Then I turned around and gasp! The beans! Something had eaten all the tops off of them. Off of every single one! Something like, oh perhaps, rabbits! That darn cat did no good!

I felt like a character from the movie, Wallace & Gromit – The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. My prized beans! Eaten! By a giant rabbit, no doubt!

Okay, here is where I have to be careful. If I make too big a fuss, some non-gardening people will wonder why even try to garden, if something like this is going to happen. I won’t even begin to tackle that kind of philosophical question. I’ve got to put my brain power on the problem of how to stop these rabbits without spending a fortune on elaborate fencing. Yes, I’m going to try again. I have one last bed not yet planted, and yep, I’m going to plant it with beans, again! I will prevail!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Sprawling with Abandon

In appreciation for not being cut back too severely even though they were sprawling all through the perennial garden last year, the perennial sweet peas (Lathyrus latifolius) are beginning to bloom.

(Plants can show appreciation, right?)

I didn't take a picture of the whole patch, as it may cause some to wonder about my sanity in allowing this plant to sprawl as it does in the perennial garden where I put it.

However, I can hardly blame the plant. I have not planted it in the type of garden that best suits it, and I'm the one trying to make it conform. It would rather be someplace where it can really let loose and sprawl all over and self seed with abandon. Like on a hillside where nothing else grows, or along a fence in the sun. I'll have to evaluate at the end of the season what the "damages" are from continuing to let this sweet pea flourish where it is. "Damages" might include finding some struggling perennials under all the sweet peas or finding way too many pea seedlings come up in way too many other places.

In the meantime, I'll just enjoy this for another year. It's pretty, flowers freely and with abandon, and reminds me of sweet peas that grew at my grandparent's house. It's like a misbehaving child of the family whose parents don't see or won't see how bad they really are, but all are entertained by their antics. This sweet pea is a member of my garden family, so I just can't throw it into the compost bin!

See My Garden Pictures for a new post showing all the hoe pictures together!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Hustling!

I came home late from work and started mowing my lawn at 8:00 PM. Since we now observe daylight savings time, I had plenty of daylight to get the job done. However, I was hustling because I was afraid I was going to run out of gas for the mower. So, I got a good aerobic workout in the process. (Yep, gardening is a healthy hobby!)

Thank goodness for daylight savings time, at least this evening. For those not familiar with Indiana and daylight savings time, for the past 30+ years, we did not observe daylight savings time. This meant that for half of the year we were on EST time with New York, and then for the other half of the year (summer), we were on CDT with Chicago. This meant that anyone who did business with people in Indiana was confused on what time it was, especially in the spring and in the fall. And to compound the confusion, some counties near a state line did observe daylight savings time, some eastern, some central. Confused yet? Anyway MOST of Indiana started to observe EDT this year, and now it is light out until 9:30 or so.

The good news is more time for gardening after work. The bad news is that I end up staying up too late, but still getting up at the same time to go to work! There have been a few nights when I have basically waited for the sun to set so I could go to bed. There is just something wrong with going to bed when it is still daylight outside.

Overall, I am happy to have the extra daylight at the end of the day. And, now that I've cut the lawn this evening, I will have more time on Saturday and Sunday to focus on other gardening tasks that I need to attend to, like mulching and digging new flower beds.

See My Garden Pictures for a variegated phlox that needs some attention.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

An Evening in The Garden

A gentle breeze, a nearly perfect temperature. I’ve been sitting on my patio long enough that the birds pay no attention to me and go about their business. The sun is casting long shadows across the lawn, but we still have close to an hour of daylight left. It is as perfect an evening as we’ve had so far this season. This is the place to be.

I can look across the garden and see that there is much I could tend to. Daisies to dead-head, some weeds to pull, nearby a stack of mulch that should be put around the trees. But you shouldn’t spend all your time doing. At some point, you should relax and enjoy the gardens you’ve worked so hard to create for yourself and others.

Yes, while I am sitting, some weeds are growing and will be a foot high instead of six inches tall when I finally pull them. And the perennial sweet peas are taking advantage of my lack of attention by spreading themselves further through the garden than I intend them to go. But they are just beginning to bloom with bright pink flowers, so I’ll let them go for now.

The seasons wait for no one, as has been written time and time again. Already, the spring season is giving way to summer, and what I had planned to do “this spring” may have to wait until next spring. I didn’t have a good pea crop at all. Did I plant too late? Did I not provide enough protection from the rabbits? Or was it that the variety I planted just wasn’t compatible with the spring weather we had? I will make do with whatever measly harvest I end up with and try again next spring. 'Tis too late to try a different variety.

I wanted to dig up a new planting bed this spring, but it rained when I had the time to do it. Is there still time to do it now, or should I wait until fall? I think at this point I will wait until fall, as now a whole new set of gardening tasks present themselves to me as we move too rapidly into summer. I have shrubs to trim back and more mulch to spread. The lawn cries out to be cut twice a week. And, soon hopefully, I will have some vegetables to pick.

A lovely evening in the garden. I’m just going to enjoy being in the garden and not working in it for awhile, at least for this evening.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

No set lists, buy what you like!


When I go out and buy plants for containers, I have an idea of what I want to get, but no set list. I generally just pick out what I like, bring it all home and hope that I have a good combination of tall plants, medium sized plants and trailers to fill up the my pots and hanging baskets.

This year, I picked up a couple of pots of the petunia pictured here, and the more I see it growing, the more I like it! The variety is "Merlin Blue Morn" and upon closer inspection of the label, I find that it is an All American Selections Winner. From 2003! Where have I been, and why didn't I find this plant sooner?

I planted it alone in a moss lined wire wheelbarrow shaped planter on my front porch so I see it every morning when I go out to get the paper. It's next to a pot that I planted with all white flowers, with a touch of a silver leaved trailing plant, so it has no nearby competition as far as color goes. This makes it stand out even more.

If had worked out a planting scheme for all of my containers ahead of time and gone out shopping with a list of specific plants to buy, I might have missed out on this petunia. I do have an idea of some of my "regular" plants that I buy every year. Begonias for the hanging baskets on the front porch, impatiens for some long boxes under the window on the porch, a few geraniums, some ivy, etc. But otherwise, if I see a plant that I like, I get it and then figure out where to put it.

I did end up a little short of plants this year as far as containers go, and so, "gasp", I still have a few empty containers that I'd like to plant up before it gets too late in the season. I think I ended up short because there was so much rain while I was on vacation that I didn't get my first batch of plants into the containers as quick as I normally would have, so I didn't have that extra time to make a second pass through all the nurseries and garden centers.

I am sure the garden center people will be happy to see me coming out to buy more plants this weekend. I just hope they have some fresh stock on hand for me to pick from. If not, I hope they are charging half price!

Monday, June 05, 2006

When I'm Not Looking...

I spent the evening weeding the vegetable garden and then giving it a good soaking. I am pleased to report that after more than 24 hours of being uncovered, the corn and beans are still there, and there appear to be no signs that the rabbits have found them. Or if they have found them, they aren’t eating them.

While heading out to the garden I noticed a lot of feathers under the locust tree. At least one bird has been in a fight. I don’t know if it was with a neighbor’s cat, another bird or another critter, but there are a lot of feathers strewn about, but no bird. Hopefully, that means the bird got away. Or it means the victorious cat (or critter) carried the bird away.

High drama in the garden. What else has being going on while I wasn’t looking or not at home?

I noticed a hole in some mulch under the red maple tree, where something has been burrowing. A vole? I hope not! They are “oh so cute”, but destructive. I battled them a few years ago, but didn’t lose any plants over it, that I know of. However, the voles (or maybe mice) ended up in the garage, and that was a mess to clean up. Some may not want to hear it, but having no pets or small children around, I resorted to POISON to finally get rid of them. (And it worked.)

I also noticed some “indentations” in the raised beds around the tomato plants, as though some animals had been lying around, nestling themselves into the soft ground. I don’t know why, as the tomatoes aren’t large enough to offer any shade or protection. Whatever or whoever it was, they don’t appear to have done any damage.

Yes, there must be a lot going on in and around the garden when I’m not looking. I don’t mind, as long as they don’t eat the plants!

Check out My Garden Pictures for a picture of some sundrops blooming in the garden this week and last week.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

"Pusley"

I uncovered my beans and corn today and said a little prayer that the rabbits would leave them alone or at the very least, if they do eat some of my crops, they will leave enough for me to get a decent harvest, so I have something to show for my time and effort.

Growing under the garden cloth, along with my beans and corn, is that darn weed purslane. Do rabbits bother to it eat? I don’t think so! It is the bane of my vegetable gardening experience and a source of constant annoyance and exasperation because it is nearly impossible to get rid of it. If you hoe it under, every tiny piece of stem will grow a new plant. If you pull it and leave even a microscopic cell or two, it seems, it will grow back! Yes, it is edible, but I have not personally tried it. A few years ago, I read “My Summer in the Garden” written by Charles Dudley Warner in 1870, and he had this to say about purslane, or as he called it “pusley”.

“I scarcely dare trust myself to speak of the weeds. They grow as if the devil is in them… The sort of weed that I most hate (if I can be said to hate anything which grows in my own garden) is the “pusley”, a fat, ground-clinging, spreading, greasy thing, and the most propagatious (it is not my fault if the word is not in the dictionary) plant I know… I am satisfied that it is useless to try to cultivate “pusley”. I set a little of it to one side, and give it some extra care. It did not thrive as well as that which I was fighting. The fact is, there is a spirit of moral perversity in the plant, which makes it grow the more, the more it is interfered with. I am satisfied with that. I doubt if any one has raised more “pusley” this year than I have; and my warfare with it has been continual. Neither of us has slept much. If you combat it, it will grow, to use an expression that will be understood by many, like the devil.”

I think that just about sums it up. At least purslane is not a new weed imported from a foreign country.

Charles Dudley Warner is also credited with the quote “What a man needs in gardening is a cast-iron back, with a hinge in it.”

I’ll need a hinge in my back as I get on my hands and knees to try to rid my garden of as much of this “pusley” as I can!

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Foundation Stone


I have a large flat topped foundation stone under one of my trees. It’s from “the old homeplace”, which is where the ancestors of my paternal grandfather first lived in southern Indiana. This stone was once part of the foundation for their house. I got it from one of my uncles who used these foundation stones in his landscape, and graciously gave me one to have in my garden.

When we were kids and visited the family farm, it was a big deal to walk across the fields to the actual “old homeplace", which was in the woods, abandoned pretty much, but still standing. We didn’t go in the house, which always looked like one good wind would knock it down. We’d walk around the house and my aunt or an older cousin would point out a second story window and tell us the story of how our great-grandfather’s sister climbed down a ladder from that window, and ran off in a horse and buggy to elope with her boyfriend. We never did find out if there was a problem with the boyfriend or why they felt they had to run off to get married, but we enjoyed the story!

If I had visited the house when I was older, I would have also looked for some plants to take from the site to add to my own garden. As a kid, I didn’t have quite the same obsession with acquiring starts from plants that were either grown in a relative’s or ancestor’s garden or were the same species that they would have grown. That’s a more recent character development.

So, even though I didn’t collect any plants from the location, at least I have the stone to put with some plants that might have been the type they would have had around their house. And the stone has a story behind it.

I like gardens that have pieces in it like this one that have some meaning to the gardener or a history behind them which is other than "I bought this at the fill-in-the-blank nursery and it is called 'fancy botanical name'. I like when you visit a garden and the person who planted it has stories about each plant or ornament.

When I visited my uncle's gardens, I was very impressed with how he used all these foundation stones from "the old homeplace". I don't know how he did it, but he managed to move them to his house without scratching any of the stones, and several of them are quite large. It made his garden a very special place.

Stay tuned for more stories from the garden.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Nursery vs. Big Box Retail


This is a picture of my fruitless sweet gum tree.

I bought this tree 8 or 9 years ago at a local nursery/garden center, primarily because it was labeled as a "fruitless sweet gum". I thought, what could be better than that!? The sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua) is a great tree, if you ignore the fact that it has all these seed balls that eventually end up on the ground. So, if this variety was fruitless, it would be an almost perfect tree, right?

But look closely, and you will see that the tree is loaded with fruit, those seed balls that eventually all fall to the ground and leave a mess around the tree. Remember, I bought this tree at a local nursery, not a big box retail store. It was a reputable nursery staffed with horticulturalists and others who should know their trees and shrubs. I assumed everything was as labeled.

So when I realized several years after planting this tree, that it was not fruitless, I decided to take a picture of the tree, along with the tag and their receipt that both clearly said "fruitless" and see what they would do for me. I just assumed that they would come up with some way to compensate me for having purchased this tree which was clearly mis-labeled.

So off I went back to the nursery. I found someone to help me, actually several people all standing around together, and showed them my picture and receipt. They acted quite puzzled. They seemed not necessarily puzzled or concerned by the fact that the tree was mis-labeled, but more by the fact that there I was, after all this time, asking for them to do something to right this wrong. After conferring amongst themselves, they said they would have to refer it to the nursery manager, who was not there that day. (Ah, yes, saved from making a decision since no manager was around!) So I left my information with them, went on home, and waited for the manager to call. Two years later, I'm still waiting.

It just goes to show that you can end up with a plant that isn't as advertised at either a nursery or a big box retail store. So, it pays to know your plant material before you buy. Now that I've done additional research, I've learned that the fruitless sweet gum variety is generally Liquidambar styraciflua f. rotundiloba, which has rounded leaves, versus the pointed leaves of the species. Had I known that, I would have looked at this tree with more skepticism that it was really the fruitless variety since its leaves are cleared more pointed on the tips than rounded.

I still have this tree obviously, and it's a good tree with good fall color. I guess I just need to figure out a nature craft that requires all those seed balls.

See My Garden Pictures for information on my Japanese Tree Lilac, which is as advertised!