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Monday, July 31, 2006

Gardening Tool Week: Evolution of the Trowel

Because it is so hot this week, practically everywhere, I've declared it to be Gardening Tool Week. It's just too hot to take pictures of plants, they just wouldn't be at their best. But tools, they look good in any weather.

So let Gardening Tool Week begin with this post about the Evolution of the Trowel, at least in my gardening life.

When I was little and wanted to do some digging in the garden, I would ask my mom for a spoon, and she would provide one for me. I don't think we ate with these later as I doubt the spoon ever made it back into the house. For my little hands, it was the perfect tool. (Kids, this was before the day when they made those cute little gardening tools for the little ones.)

Then when I started to actually garden and start really planting things, I used a trowel like this one. It's mass produced and cheap, and the problem is that it bends rather easily, especially in hard, clay soil. I would guess this cost me about 99 cents. I have not used this trowel for many years, but I keep it hanging in the garage, because it is hard for me to part with any gardening tools.

Later, I got a trowel like this one which is a little heavier, so it doesn't bend, but it was really just a bit too narrow for most planting jobs.

Fast forward quite a few years when I was "discovered" by the gardening industry as someone who would buy a tool or two through the mail and thus received tons of catalogs each year. I found this little beauty from Lee Valley Tool Supply. It's beautiful, isn't it, with it's stainless steel blade? And it never bends. I love this trowel, and for several years, I thought no trowel could replace it. If I laid it down somewhere in the garage and couldn't find it, I would almost panic looking for it, as there is no way I could garden without it!

But there is one more trowel I must tell you about...

Last fall, I bought this new trowel as a treat for myself. I could not resist it. It's hand-forged stainless steel, also from Lee Valley, and manufactured by a family business in the Netherlands. When I first got this trowel, I wasn't quite sure about it. The blade seemed a bit small, without much curve to it, and the handle was unfinished wood. But then I started to use it. I was won over. It is the perfect size for me. I love how the handle is aging, how it feels in my hand. The blade is just the right size for most jobs. This is the trowel for me. I still love my other stainless steel trowel, and there are some jobs I still need it for, but for most of my hand planting, I now use just this trowel. I would be lost and gardening would not be the same without it.

I always say, if you have a hobby that involves using tools, buy good tools to get the most enjoyment out of using them, and keep looking until you find your dream tool. It's out there, waiting for you. I've found my dream trowel, and so can you.

Check back soon for my next post: Specialty Trowels.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Lilies that Surprise Me

I have no idea why they call these lilies pictured here 'candy lilies'. The botanical name is Pardancanda x norrisii, so it is some kind of hybrid, but they come up from seed in my garden year after year. (Hybrids don't generally come true from seed.)

In fact, I started mine from seed I purchased several seasons ago in 1999. The foliage is like an iris, and the plants, for the most part, take up very little room and are tall enough to hold their flowers up over other nearby plants.

You won't see them from across the garden and be drawn over to see what they are because the flowers aren't all that big. But close up, you will find them interesting. As the flowers fade, they actually twist into a tight spiral. You can see that on the pictures above, especially in the upper left corner of the picture on the right, and in the lower part of the picture on the left.

I tend to forget I have these candy lilies until I see them blooming around this time of year.

The other lily that's always a nice surprise right now is the Resurrection Lily, Lycoris squamigera. Some people call these Naked Ladies, others call them Surprise Lily. The foliage comes up in the spring and then dies back about the same time as daffodils. Then in mid-summer, a flower stalk comes shooting up with no other visible plant around it and produces lovely pink lilies in mid-summer.

Why do some people call them Naked Lilies? Because they have no leaves when they bloom, so it is just the naked stem and the flowers. Why do some people call them Surprise Lilies? Because they are always a nice surprise after the foliage dies back. Why do some people call them Resurrection Lilies? Because you think they are dead once the foliage dies back in the spring, but they come back to life mid-summer with their flowers. Here's a picture of mine which is now blooming:

I got mine as a passalong plant. My sister and I visited a friend of hers who needed some help to better understand what she had in her yard and what to do with some of her plants. I was happy to go because it was an older house and yard, so I figured there might be some interesting plants or maybe some old varieties of plants that I could get starts of. So after explaining to her what she had in her yard and what to do with it all, I dug up some of these resurrection lilies.

And, I also dug up some Aegopodium podograria 'Variegatum', Bishop's Goutweed. BIG mistake on my part, I got sucked in by the variegated leaves (again!). I knew better, I knew better, I KNEW better! For crying out loud, the common name includes the word "weed". And, I let my sister take some for her gardens. She was none too happy the next year when it took off and nearly covered one entire flower bed. This is now on my list of plants to eradicate from my own garden!

But I do still like the lovely pink resurrection lilies.

Friday, July 28, 2006

One Container: One Plant

Sometimes just one plant in a container is all you need. Or in this case, just one type of plant.

I planted this sedum in this container because I ran out of other plants earlier this spring and this poor pot was still empty.

I have this sedum growing all over the place but I can't remember where I got it. It is most likely a passalong plant. Several years ago, my aunt asked for a start of it, which I was glad to provide. She wanted to put some in a container she had because she knew someone who always had a pot of this at their house (maybe a relative?)

This stuff grows up between the bricks of the brick patio, and in the flower beds all around, so I have plenty of it to share. Anyway, my aunt was going from my house to the Brickyard 400 race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, on a day that was going to be very hot, so we put the sedum in a plastic bag and she placed it in her cooler. She later reported that the sedum made it through the race and return trip home and grows nicely in her container every year.

So when I couldn't decide what to put in this container, I thought of my aunt having a container of this stuff, and decided I should do the same. I literally grabbed a handful of sedum from around the patio and planted it up.

I think come October, I'll move it to the front porch, put a face on the container and make it my "jack-o-lantern".

Thursday, July 27, 2006

More Ears!

Circle August 5th on your calendars. That's the day I expect to start harvesting some sweet corn.

I had previously reported that my sweet corn was all tasseling, but only one plant had produced an ear. I am pleased to report that I am seeing many more ears, and I hope that... keep your figures crossed... the timing was right for all to be pollinated properly.

The variety is Mirai and it was described so well by Park Seed that I just had to try it. Plus, I had just re-read an article in the magazine Kitchen Gardener April/May 1999 edition on how to grow corn in a small space. And it was February and I was dreaming of how wonderful my vegetable garden would be...

So, how could I go wrong? We'll see in just a little over a week if I went wrong or right.

I'm also looking forward to tomatoes, and hope that by August 5th I'll be inundated with all kinds of tomatoes all ripening at the same time. Such a good problem to have, having to figure out what to do with all the tomatoes.

This is a picture of the one cherry tomato variety I am growing called Sugary. I grew this variety for the first time last year and can attest to how good and sweet they are. Practically like candy! They are on my list of "must have" vegetables that I will always include in my garden. I simply will not have a garden without them!

They are just starting to turn red, and before I know it, probably by August 5th, I'll have baskets full of these to eat and share with others!

By the way, a colleague at work grew a lot of tomatoes and peppers last year, and this year he decided he wouldn't have a garden. As I start to bring in fresh cucumers, and soon tomatoes, in my lunch, he is beginning to regret his lack of a garden. Folks, don't let this be you! There should always be room for a few vegetables in your gardens, no matter what. You just can't believe how good fresh produce tastes when you've grown it yourself, and can harvest and eat it in practically one motion. I don't use pesticides in the garden, so I am quite at ease picking a cherry tomato, wiping it off and popping it in my mouth. Right there in the garden. Yum! There is nothing fresher.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Pardon Me (and Another Daylily)

Some quick research on daylilies indicates that "since 1900 about 40,000 varieties have been named in the United States; 13,000 of them are still for sale". (Click here for the source of that tidbit of info) .
Here are two varities of daylilies growing in my garden.

This first daylily is a variety called "Pardon Me" and please pardon me if you are tired of reading blogs about daylilies!

This lighter colored daylily is "Fairy Tale Pink". I like the ruffled edges on this one.

My first daylilies were some unnamed varieties that I purchased from someone who had a field of daylilies they had hybridized themselves. I planted them at my first house/garden. Then four years later, when I decided to move to another house, I transplanted some of the daylilies to a couple of people's gardens who were willing to "hold them over" for me until I got settled in my next house.

That worked out fairly well, and I did transplant the daylilies to my new house the next spring, but of course left some behind in the "holding" gardens. I stopped by one of those gardens a few weeks ago, and they still had some of those daylilies, on the edge of their vegetable garden, nearly 16 years later.

Funny thing is that of those original daylilies, I didn't seem to get any moved from my second house to my now current house. It's not because of distance because I didn't move that far. I think it may have more to do with having moved out of that second house in January of that year and not moving into my new house until July. Hard to dig daylilies from the frozen ground!

Or maybe it is supreme procrastination on my part, knowing those other gardeners still have some of the daylilies and I could really get them if I wanted to or asked real nice? Or maybe it is a matter of space and if I want to provide that much room for daylilies with no name? Oh my, am I becoming one of those gardening snobs who will only have named varities of plants in their gardens? I certainly do not believe so! I actually have quite a few unnamed varities of plants growing around my gardens, many of them given to me by others. And, I am happy to have them because I love passalong plants.

Now I suddenly feel guilty for neglecting my first daylilies. I think I'd better go back and see if I can get some daylilies from those original plants, if after all this time, those who held them for me that first time, will still let me have some divisions of them.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Phloxy, Mopsy and Cottontail

With apologies to Beatrix Potter, I present three different tall phlox flowering in my garden.

Phlox paniculata, variety unknown (Phloxy)

Phlox paniculata 'Creme de Menthe', notice the variegated leaves (Mopsy)

Phlox paniculata 'David' (Cottontail)

Currently, I have these three colors of tall phlox in three separate areas of the garden and so they don't really relate to one another. They are all growing well, require no staking, and seem to be surviving in the heat. I have a notion to put them all closer together in the garden for a larger display.

(Oh, and if you like pretty moths, check out My Garden Pictures for a picture of one that I found in my yard yesterday.)

Monday, July 24, 2006

Mystery Package Contents Revealed

And now, the contents of my mystery package revealed. Here are my two new hoes from Rogue Hoe. I tried them out this evening, and I am impressed. The hoe heads are sharp, so it makes them easy to use. Plus, they are well-balanced. Both are keepers!

Scuffle Hoe - For the indecisive - do you push it or pull it? How about push and pull?

The Garden Hoe - A Gardener's Best Friend, and A Weed's Greatest Foe

If you would like to see all my hoes, click here. (I guess my bevy of hoes now qualifies as an actual collection. I've never considered myself much of a collector. I guess it just took some time for me to find something I really like, like gardening tools, to bring out the "collector" in me. )

Some other garden updates:

I've now eaten three big tomatoes from the garden. Two Brandywines, and one German Johnson. I really liked the German Johnson, it is more pink than red and as meaty a tomato as I have ever had. I'll have to plant it again next year. Plus, as a bonus, the name reminds my of my country grandma. She's not the grandma who wrote the diaries, but she worked just as hard if not harder, raising her family on a farm as my city grandma did raising her family in the big city.

I'm not getting many green beans. I think the bunnies are beating me to them, or the damage they did eating the tops of the plants has caused the beans to produce mostly foliage and very few blooms. Who knows?!

I am starting to see a few more ears form on my corn. I had previously written that my entire patch had only one ear. Now there are a few more ears, which I am happy to see. I just hope they got pollinated. I did send an email to Park Seed, and they wrote back that perhaps I had planted the corn plants too close together. That's the only reason I can think of that might make sense.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Today's Lesson - Things That Sting

Today's lesson from the garden is about "things that sting".
The first thing that stings is a paper wasp. If you look closely at this picture of my bunny bell, you will see a paper wasp at the bottom of the picture. He's looking for his nest or hive or whatever they call the place they form to lay all their eggs. It used to be inside that bell. However, one of the paper wasps ruined it for everyone else by STINGING me on the shoulder as I passed by. They chose the wrong gardener to sting! I sprayed them down with some wasp/hornet killer, and wiped out the eggs. All gone!

Prior to this weekend, I can remember only being stung twice in all my years of gardening. I don't think I'm that old, but if you go back to my start in gardening as a wee toddler, we are talking four decades. Just two stings. Then this weekend, I was stung four times. I think the paper wasps are pretty aggressive this year, or they've just decided my yard is the place to be. I destroyed one other nest with eggs. It was under the arm of a chair I moved to get to a weed growing up through the patio pavers. I could not find the third hive, but I sprayed where I thought it was.

Okay, now that you've mastered the first lesson about paper wasps, let's move on. The second thing that stings is a weed called Stinging Nettle. This is a picture of Dead Nettle, Lamium maculatum "Aureum". It is called dead nettle because it does not sting you. It's generally used as a ground cover in shady areas.

Stinging Nettle is called stinging nettle because it stings you when you touch it.

I was doing some weeding and saw some Stinging Nettle (probably Urtica dioica) growing in one of the containers on the patio. I thought "that's stinging nettle, be careful". And I was careful when I pulled it and I threw it in the bushel basket with the other weeds I had pulled.

The basket was nearly full, and that stinging nettle landed on the top of the heap, so when I picked up the basket, my forearm brushed across the stinging nettle. "Ouch, that stings", I thought, "I need to go inside and wash that off to stop the stinging, but first let me move this chair..." and then I didn't notice so much that my forearm was stinging, because the first paper wasp stung me right then!

My antidote for the paper wasps stings is to apply a baking soda paste and rest for a few minutes. For the stinging nettle, I just wash that area of my skin that came in contact with the plant and the stinging goes away, eventually.

So, to complete today's lesson, just keep in mind "know what Stinging Nettle looks like, or don't touch your weeds"!

Saturday, July 22, 2006


I offer this as evidence that garden fairies may indeed be responsible for unexplained happenings in my garden. I found this door, complete with a stone stoop, birdhouse on a shepherd's crook, and little tiny wheelbarrow in my miniature garden this morning. I had merely gone out this morning to inspect the gardens and decide what I would do today. I surely did not expect to find this! What else could this be but a fairy door?

Then, when I sat down to write this post, my eye was drawn to a little corner between the fireplace hearth and wall, and can you believe it, the faires also have a door INTO my house!

I feel the need to be extra vigilant inside, as well as outside, or there is no telling what might happen or what might disappear!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Mystery Package

I received this mystery package in the mail today. Oh, what can it be?

How about two new hoes from Rogue Hoe? Yes, that's what it could be, and that's what it is.

I've gotten other hoes in the mail, but they generally came in boxes. This is the first time the hoes have come all wrapped up in plastic wrap, with just some cardboard around the hoe heads, which are pretty sharp. I wonder what the mailman thought of this package?

In th next few days, I'll try these new hoes out and see how they work. Already I think they will be wonderful for weeding because of the sharp blades. (Yes, I have a lot of hoes, I know. There seems to be no end to them. I'm going to start looking for antique hoes, maybe branch out into rakes, who knows? I just like gardening tools.)

The other event in today's garden, following right on the heels of my first ripe tomato, is the first tomato hornworm. That's right, a tomato hornworm. The damage so far is minimal, and I could not find more than the one hornworm, though I know there are probably more out there. I'll have to keep checking.

I know some people might not want to see a hornworm, so I didn't take a picture and slap it on this posting, but if you are curious, click here. I advocate the handpicking method to get rid of them. Once you pick them off, you have to kill them, and that can be a bit squishy. You can use something sharp, like a new sharp hoe, to help with that job. (If you are squeamish about bugs and big fat caterpillars, forget you read that last sentence).

That's today's update. Happy Gardening, all.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

First Tomato

Write it down in your garden journals. Today, I harvested my first tomato.

It is a Brandywine, from a plant I bought on impulse, even though I had plenty of tomato seedlings at home. I bought it because it had really cool packaging, sort of like a carton with one side cut out so the plant was fairly protected, but you could see how healthy it was. The package had bright, interesting, old-fashioned looking print describing this great heirloom tomato. I saw right through all the marketing, and bought the over-priced plant anyway!

I've posted this picture of the garden from this evening just as the sun was setting behind me. On the right hand side of the picture, a little more than half way down, you can see a speck of red which is another Brandywine tomato I hope to pick in a day or so.

Other highlights from the picture: Top left - the corn, which is starting to have more ears. Top middle - second planting of corn. Down in front - peppers. Kind of in the middle - green beans. Over on the left - sunflowers and zinnias. On the stake - a fake owl which is supposed to scare the rabbits away. (It hasn't scared anything away as far as I can tell!) Not in the picture or hidden are the cucumbers and squash, pole beans, eggplants, cherry tomatoes and marigolds.

So, you don't have a garden journal to record this event or your own gardening events? Why not!? My garden journal has some useful (to me) information from past years. For example, I've determined from my current garden journal, which goes back to 2001, that July 19th is the earliest I've harvested a tomato in these past 6 years. I encourage everyone to keep a garden journal.

The latest I've harvested a tomato was in 2004. I can't find reference to picking a tomato until August 1st that year! What could have happened? Well, that year on July 25th and 26th the high temperatures were 67 and 68 degrees, so maybe we just had a cooler summer?

All my "First Tomato Dates":
2001 - July 20th
2002 - July 23rd
2003 - July 24th
2004 - August 1st (ugh!)
2005 - July 24th
2006 - July 19th (yeah!)

I am happy to have reached this milestone in the garden, and am looking forward to many more tomatoes in the days ahead. With that and the peppers, it soon will be Salsa Time!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

An Apple a Day, at Least for 3 Days

There it is. Two-thirds of my apple crop for this year. I have just one apple tree, which I planted in the center square of my raised bed vegetable garden. The variety is Red Delicious, and the only reason I have this variety is because that's what the garden center had when I went looking for a good apple tree last year.

My plan, right now, is to keep this dwarf apple tree trimmed back enough so that it provides a little bit of fruit, but doesn't become a source of shade for other parts of the garden.

However, the top half of the tree died out this winter, giving it a very awkward appearance, so I still have not reached a decision on whether this tree stays or goes.

I am also not particularly fond of Red Delicious apples, so this may be a tree that ends up going regardless, to be replaced with a variety more to my liking. Maybe I'll pick a variety developed at Purdue University, like GoldRush? Boiler up! Sounds like if I get GoldRush, I'll also need a variety like Jonafree for good pollination. Now I have to figure out where to put a second apple tree.

(Do you see how garden projects just materialize? You go from having one apple tree, not thinking too much about it, to wanting to take out the one tree and replace it with two other trees, which involves figuring out a location for the second tree, researching which varieties to get, and on and on!)

My dad had a "five variety" apple tree for a while. What the nursery did was graft 5 different apple buds (scions) to one root stock, so you could get more than one type of apple with only one tree. This also ensured that you would get good cross pollination from one variety to another. I don't remember the tree lasting too long. I think he got it because of the novelty of getting five types of apples from one tree, though I never remember us getting many apples at all from it, so maybe it wasn't such a good idea.

I don't know what my current apple tree cross pollinated with. I guess maybe a crabapple because my neighbors don't seem to have apple trees, just some ornamental crabapples. Remember, my neighbors don't have vegetable gardens, either.

I've heard that writing leads to critical thinking. So, after writing this update, I've thought through my apple tree situation and have reached a decision. This tree goes, and I will get two new apple trees that are better varieties. After all, I'm going to have to live with these trees for a good long time, hopefully, so I should have the varieties I like, right?

Rest assured, however, that I won't cut down this tree or try to transplant it - does anyone want it? - until I've harvested my three apples and figured out what apple varieties I will replace it with.

Monday, July 17, 2006

An Answer?

I think I have the answer on why my corn has no ears and why I am seeing flowers pop up way away from where I planted them. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this reason sooner. There really can be just one answer: Garden fairies.

On my way home from work this evening, I caught the better part of an interview on the radio with someone in Ann Arbor, Michigan, discussing all the urban fairies in that area. That’s where I got the idea that garden fairies might be behind the mysterious happenings in my garden.

Yes, that’s right, garden fairies. Hear me out on this.

They would certainly be able to move seeds from one place to another. And, they may be playing in the corn at night, climbing up and down the stalks, removing the ears in the process.

More evidence may be lurking in the green beans, where I am seeing one or two beans with the tips bitten off. Fairies have to eat, too, right?

And how else do you account for the sudden appearance this evening of a zucchini squash nearly a foot long. I checked those plants myself just yesterday for squash to pick and I tell you, there was certainly nothing nearly that size yesterday! I think the fairies arranged the leaves to hide it from me, and then today watched me from under some nearby shrubs so when I found it, they could have a good, hearty laugh at my expense. How else would you explain it?

And yesterday morning, while weeding in the garden, I misplaced a pair of gardening gloves. Or did someone take them while I wasn't looking?

I have been told, and have told others, that the spots on the inside of foxglove flowers are the footprints of garden fairies. I never quite believed it, but now I don’t know what to think.

I really can think of no other explanations for these events in my garden. Anyone have any experience with garden fairies or know how to determine if you have them in your garden?

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Who's in Charge in this Garden?

I have to ask myself, just who is in charge in my garden? These Black-eyed Susan’s (Rudbeckia hirta) are growing by the front walk. Once again, like the bee balm in my previous post, I didn’t plant them there. They chose their spot, and there they are, providing a bright display on a hot, summer day.

I'm pretty sure if I were actually in charge, I wouldn't have thought to plant these in this spot. But now that they are there, I think they look nice, so I'm leaving them alone. This provides further proof that I am not really in charge of my own garden.

So, if I’m not in charge, just who or what is? I know I’m not in charge of the corn and what it does or doesn’t do. It still steadfastly refuses to form ears. I have lots of tassels, covered with pollen, but just one little ear. And, near as I can tell, there’s not much I can do about it at this point. The corn is clearly in charge of itself! And, it’s maddening!

I did put myself in charge of weeding and harvesting and fertilizing this morning. The results of my labors: bell peppers, Anaheim peppers, banana peppers, lots of green beans, one more zucchini squash and many little cucumbers. Plus, I have a clean and tidy (more or less) vegetable garden, watered and fertilized and hopefully working on producing more vegetables for me to harvest in a few more days.

Now, can someone please go out and tell the tomatoes to ripen? (I’m obviously not in charge of them, either, or I would have some ripe tomatoes by now!)

Friday, July 14, 2006

Proof: Benefits of Untidiness

I now have proof that being a bit untidy in the garden does have some benefits. This lovely bee balm (Monarda) is growing next to the compost bins in the vegetable garden. I didn't plant it, it just decided that it would grow there.

I let it be, I did not tidy up that area, and my reward is these bright pink flowers.

So, there you have it, proof that being a bit untidy in your garden does reap rewards.

By the way, I have never seen this color in any of the bee balm I planted on purpose in my perennial beds. What I planted was all a very washed out light pink, not too showy and I never saw a hummingbird come near it. In fact, I had for the most part "weeded out" the bee balm I planted on purpose because in addition to the washed out color, it was too good at self-sowing, and that is the last thing I need right now, something else that is a good self-sower!

So, if you are a gardener who is working toward a completely tidy garden, ease up a bit. You may be pulling out something that turns out like this bee balm. I have offered you the proof you need to allow yourself to be untidy! Be a bit of a slob, let some plants grow and see what happens. You might get a nice surprise.

Anticipation, It's Making Me Wait

As I previously reported, although the corn was starting to tassel, I wasn't seeing any ears forming. Last night and again this morning I checked and I have found one ear forming. One ear! Hopefully, the second bed of corn, which is currently about two feet high, will provide me with at least a second ear of corn! (Actually, I hope it provides me with much more than one ear. I need to figure out what is going on with this corn!)

But all is not without hope in the garden, as you can see below, once my tomatoes (not THE tomatoes, but MY tomatoes) start to ripen, I should have a lot of them!

I am currently harvesting green beans, cucumbers and now some peppers!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Harvest Update From the Garden

This is one of the first zinnia flowers. Normally, the Japanese beetles start eating these about the time they flower, but not this year. How wonderful! Perhaps they just didn't find them, tucked in the back of the raised bed garden?

We had some rain yesterday and more should arrive any minute now. Actually, the weathermen reported that yesterday was the wettest day of the year so far. So, I put out of my mind any idea of trimming and mowing the lawn today.

However, I put to use two lessons I've learned in gardening and got it done today, anyway. The first lesson is not to wait for ideal conditions. There is no such thing. Today was cloudy, and humid, and there were probably some areas of the lawn that might still be soft from all the rain. Hardly ideal for mowing. However, I figured it would be a lot better to mow today than this coming weekend, when temperatures are supposed to be 90 degrees or higher.

The second lesson in gardening is to not let the threat of rain keep you from getting started on any task. I trimmed and mowed with cloudy skies and the threat of rain the whole time. I started to see a few sprinkles as I was finishing up, but I never got wet, other than from my own sweat. I've been done for an hour or more, and it still isn't raining. If I had waited, I would still be waiting! I did sneak a few looks at the weather radar, so it's not as if I just defied the weather.

Some other updates from the garden...

The corn is tasseling. Okay, I'm going to admit that I don't know much about growing corn. My dad didn't grow any in his garden and I didn't take that kind of agronomy course in college. (Yes, I did take a couple of agronomy related courses in college, but I won't go into that now. I'll save that for someday when there is absolutely no other garden related items to write about.) My concern is that I see that the corn is tasseling, but I don't see any ears forming, and I think that I should. Anyone have any advice?

I picked the first cucumbers today. They are so good and sweet right from the garden. They bear almost no resemblance to what is sold in the grocery stores as "cucumbers". I immediately sampled some. Delicious!

I picked some more green beans, just enough to cook vs. eat raw. And, I've got two more zucchini squash to cook and eat.

The next vegetable to harvest will probably be the banana peppers. I'll give most of these away, because I am not a big "pepper" person.

There are dozens of green tomatoes, but none look close to ripening. I would guess I have a few more weeks to wait for a ripe tomato. I am always a little embarrased at how late my first tomato is, and feel like I should have some sooner, but I never do, regardless of the variety. Any advice, other than 'start them earlier inside'?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

How Does Your Garden Grow?

So how does the garden grow? Very well, today, since we got over an inch of rain in the morning. In central Indiana, we've been fortunate with the rain so far this year, generally getting some when we need it. I was concerned over the weekend that things were drying out a bit, but not to fear, it rained!

I've received a few questions about the raised bed vegetable garden. Currently I have planted eight 4' x 8' beds, three 2' x 8' beds, three 4' x 4' beds, and two 2' x 4' beds, and one 4' x 6' bed plus I have a three bin compost area in the corner. If I did the math correctly, that is 392 square feet planted.

Here's what I have planted this year:

In the smallest beds, which are 2' x 4', I planted marigolds in one bed and eggplants in the other. These were the last beds I made when I laid out the garden and I tucked them into an area where I thought there was too much path, and I had some extra lumber. That's why they are so small (All the beds are made with 1 x 6 cedar boards attached at the corners to sections of 4 x 4 cedar posts using screws.)

There is one 4' x 4' bed in the middle, with a bench in front of it. This has a dwarf apple tree in the center, and some thyme and sage around it. I planted zucchini squash (green and yellow) in one of the other 4' x 4' beds and grape tomatoes (variety 'Sugary') in the other bed.

In the three 2' x 8' beds along the back side of the garden, I planted zinnias and sunflowers. The zinnias are starting to bloom and I am also seeing a few sunflower buds, though I am hoping they actually bloom a little later, because the variety is 'Autumn Beauty'.

In the one 2' x 6' bed, I planted three blueberry shrubs this spring, variety 'Sunshine Blue'. They are still fairly small, so I added some gladiolas for this year, just because I ordered some from a friend for a fundraiser.

Now the 4' x 8' beds. I planted one bed with strawberries this year, variety is 'Ever Red'. I had another variety of strawberries planted in another bed for a few years, but I didn't know the variety and they were lousy, so now they are compost. The rest of these beds contain green beans, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, and corn. I also had planted the lettuce and onions and peas in one bed, and it now contains a rather pathetic looking 2nd crop of green beans, half eaten by rabbits.

Bean varieties include Tenderpick Bush Snap, Contender, and Kentucky Wonder Pole Bean.

Pepper varieties include Anaheim, Sweet Banana, Valencia Hybrid, Golden Summer Hybrid, California Wonder, and Jalapeno.

Tomato varieties other than Sugary inclde Super Beefsteak, Big Boy, Early Girl, Glory, Brandywine and German Johnson.

Cucumbers are Bush Champion and Picklebush. Corn variety is 'Mirai', a supersweet, which is just starting to tassel.

I started the peppers and tomatoes from seeds, and planted everything else directly as seed in the garden. I do rotate my crops as best I can from year to year, which is a good gardening/farming practice. I don't generally sow any cover crops over the winter, but do top dress the beds with old soil from containers I've had on the front porch and back patio and any good compost I get from my compost bins.

I highly recommend this method of gardening, as you can easily weed one of the beds in a few minutes, and you don't have to get out the roto tiller and till up the whole garden in the spring. This means you don't have to wait for the perfect conditions to till and can generally plant earlier in the spring. Also, it is very easy to cover one or two beds with garden cloth to keep out the critters!

That's it, that's the entire vegetable garden.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Beans, Yes, Beans!

I picked a handful of green beans today.

You are saying to yourself at this point, "So what is the big deal that this deserves a whole blog entry?"

I agree that normally this would not be a big deal, because green beans are one of the easiest vegetables to grow. However, for the past several years, I have battled rabbits in the garden, and they have been winning. They would eat every bean plant I had down to nothing, nearly as soon as the first set of leaves appeared.

I tried several types of fencing to keep the rabbits out. I tried trapping them live. I tried blood meal and cayenne pepper. I tried cursing. I even thought briefly about just not growing any greens beans, but I knew that I could not have a good Hoosier vegetable garden without green beans. I stopped just short of buying a spray that contained “putrid egg solids and garlic”, because after all, I wasn’t trying to keep myself out of the garden, just the rabbits, and it was quite expensive. Nothing seemed to keep the rabbits away from the beans.

This year is different! I covered the beans with a white garden cloth until they got big enough to live through some rabbit munching. And, even though the rabbits ate the tops off the bean plants just a few days after I uncovered them, the bean plants survived and grew back, and flowered and now I have beans. With this simple method I and the rabbits can now co-exist, with enough beans for both of us.

Yes, I have green beans.

And, as a bonus, these beans have not been attacked by Mexican bean beetles. There is not a spot on them. They are nearly perfect! They are a triumph of me over the rabbits. I win! I win!

As soon as I picked this little handful of beans, I washed them off and ate them raw, one at a time, like a delicious gourmet candy. They were good. I savored each crunch, I chewed slowly. I enjoyed these beans.

I can now allow myself to hope for a bigger “mess of beans” to cook up soon. I am looking for a good recipe, the perfect method, to cook up my first batch of good ol' green beans. Any ideas?

By the way, this is a picture of my garden this morning. A lot has changed since I planted it in late May!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Big Boulders

In the midst of my raised bed vegetable garden, I have this large boulder. I'm tempted to say that it is a large meteor that just fell from the sky and I'm lucky it landed where it did and not on top of my pepper plants. But, that would be "inaccurate", so I will tell you the truth.

They dug it up when they were digging the crawl space for my house and kindly left it in the yard for me. Boring origins, huh? I should stick with the meteor story.

Is it a blessing to have such a distinctive landscape feature, or just something big to work around? Right now, it is just something I had to work around when I laid out the raised beds of the vegetable garden. It's like a permanent "chair" for me to rest on. It's big and I know it ain't going anywhere anytime soon. Hmmm, I wonder if it is radioactive?

There are also several large boulders in my neighbor's yard. I think they also dug these up when they were digging the crawl space for that house. As far as I know, no one else in the neighborhood is blessed with boulders of this size, so it makes you wonder, doesn't it? There was a farm on this land before they built the neighborhood, and I made them show me where the original house and barn were on the plot plan, so I would be sure to not get a lot where those had been. After all, it might be haunted there where the house was and the old farmer might be still walking around trying to find his house. Or maybe they just buried the old barn when they graded the property for the neighborhood, and one day someone's yard is just going to sink down when the buried wood of the barn finally rots? By the way, I know who's yard that is!

The guy who built the house next door used a bunch of the big boulders in the landscape, as you can see in this picture. What else could he do? That was three owners ago. At least I have just one big boulder. I sure don't want their big boulders, but I do covet their daylilies!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Lazy Summer Days

Lazy days of summer. The bee above didn't even attempt to fly away when I took this picture. It's sitting on a False Sunflower, Heliopsis helianthoides.

Some updates:

My youngest sister was surprised to hear that the flower on the night-blooming cereus only lasts that one night, and by morning it is just a drooping mass of petals. All that waiting, and it's over in one evening. I now wait and hope that it will either bloom again later this summer or next summer or maybe 6 years from now. Hard to say when it will re-bloom, but I know it will bloom again, and it will again be an event.

I started to harvest zucchini a few days ago, and have picked 8 small ones so far, and more are coming on. I'm trying to catch them when they are small. I should have cucumbers in a few days and maybe, just maybe, some green beans (Yes, even after the problems with the rabbits eating the bean plants, I believe I will finally get some green beans this year.)

The daylilies are all in full bloom. I went to my favorite daylily and hosta nursery this morning just to see the daylilies in bloom. There were so many pretty ones. They had a lot that were pink, purple, and even maroon that I thought together would be an interesting combination. But alas, I have no open areas for them now. Maybe next year, if I dig up some more garden beds later this summer or fall, I'll have room for more daylilies.

While there, I swear I overheard the owner tell someone that if the daylily they had their eye on to purchase turned out to be too tall for where they wanted to put it, they could dig it up in the spring and BRING IT BACK. The only time I've ever heard I could return a plant was if it died in the first year. Imagine returning a plant, just because it wasn't quite right or wasn't what you really had in mind?

While you ponder that, check out My Garden Pictures for some info on Shrubby St. John's Wort growing in my landscape.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Queen of the Night

I arrived home at 5:30 PM and determined that TONIGHT would be the night! The night blooming cereus (Epiphyllum oxypetalum) chose this evening to bloom.

I took pictures every half hour from 5:30 – 8:30 and didn’t notice much change each time. However, beginning at 9:00, as the sun began to dip low in the west, I saw a noticeable change as the flower began to really open. At that point, I decided to take a new picture every 15 minutes or so. I’ve put them in chronological order below so you can see that this flower really does open relatively quickly.

The scent is strong. I would describe it as a bit heavy, like an old woman with way too much perfume, but to be polite, we won’t mention it to her! She is after all, the Queen of the Night, and has chosen, after 6 years of waiting, to re-bloom for me. And she only has this one night to attract her suitors for pollination. By morning her flower will be wilted.

I know that there are people in Florida and other warm locations who keep their night-bloomers outside, and in that climate they are rewarded with dozens of blooms at once, and so in comparison, my one flower may be something they would not even notice. But my night bloomer lives year-round in my sunroom, so I welcome her one bloom any time it happens. If you would like more info on the history of my particular plant, see this previous post.

Without further comment, I present the Queen of the Night!

The whole plant

Bud on July 5th, approximately 24 hours before it started to bloom

July 6, 2006, 5:30 PM

6:30 PM

7:30 PM

8:30 PM

9:15 PM

9:30 PM

9:45 PM

10:00 PM

10:00 PM side view

The Queen of The Night, Full Bloom

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Miniature Garden - My Pandora's Box

Pictured above is my new miniature garden. It is still under construction, but I’ve got the plants all planted. I still need to add a border all around it to set it off from the patio and add some small crushed stone for the path to the centerpiece. (The nursery owner where I bought the plants said she would give me a bag of crushed oyster shells to use for this.) And, I need to change the centerpiece to something better than the clay saucer with rocks that I have there now. I am more or less using it to mark where “something better” will be added later. The strip without mulch is where the path will be. I also added a few miniature garden ornaments I had purchased a long time ago, but probably won't keep those there for long, as I'm not sure I like the looks of them, and I think there are too many of them for this small space.

The rocks on the right are supposed to be marking off a corner of the garden that I raised up a little to give it a some more interest. I made this rock “wall” using various rocks I had run across while digging around in the garden. As I dug the rocks up over the years, I tossed them in a pile by my compost bin figuring I’d find a good use for them eventually, and I did.

The garden measures 5 feet across and 3 feet deep.

Because the owners of the nursery were so helpful in finding me the best pots of little hostas they had, I was able to divide up the 5 hostas I purchased into 14 plants. I planted:
- Hosta ‘Pandora’s Box’
- Hosta ‘Baby Bunting’
- Hosta ‘Bitsy Gold’
- Hosta ‘Moonstruck’
- Hosta gracillima

I also included 3 Heuchera ‘Petite Pearl Fancy’ (Coral Bells) and 1 Thalictrum kiusianum (Kyusbu Meadow Rue).

Remember, the idea for this came from a quick visit to a daylily and hosta nursery on Saturday. I guess it just isn’t safe for me (or most gardeners) to go to a nursery or garden center, “just to look”. There is no "just looking"! With every trip to anyplace where plants are sold, there is a chance of opening up your own Pandora's Box!

I am now looking for some ideas of what to use for a miniature border, and what to do with the centepiece.

Overall, I'm very happy with how this is turning out so far and how much fun it is to plant!