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Thursday, August 30, 2007

An Introduction to May Dreams Gardens

Ten past posts to introduce you to May Dreams Gardens and the gardener who grows there.

1. I like all kinds of gardening, but probably post the most about my raised bed vegetable gardens.

2. Like many gardeners, I end up sharing my garden with other life forms including garden fairies who play tricks on me and wild animals who eat more than their fair share and often make me look like a fool as I'm trying to keep them from eating my beans.

3. I like to start plants from seeds and found out that a lot of other garden bloggers do, too.

4. Last fall, I started the Garden Bloggers’ Book Club. I set up “quick posts” on a separate Garden Bloggers’ Book Club blog before Blogger had tags, to make it easier to see all the posts related to the book club. It’s easy to join. Read the book selection, post a review about the book or a related topic on your blog, let me know about it, then I publish a “virtual meeting” post on the last day of the month, with links to all the reviews.

5. In February 2007, with snow covering every inch of every garden I tend outside and having read a lot of books by Elizabeth Lawrence, who corresponded with dozens of gardeners comparing notes about who had what blooming when, I asked bloggers to join me in posting what was blooming in our gardens on the 15th of each month, which I dubbed Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day. I really look forward to the 15th of each month and the chance to see what is blooming from one hardiness zone to another. Through bloom day, I’ve learned a lot about other gardens and gardeners, including how late spring arrives in the northern zones and how those Austin bloggers envy our lilacs and peonies.

6. It’s best to be cautious about my posts on April 1st but it’s the real deal when the night-bloomer blooms.

7. Others in my family also garden, including my youngest sister and my older sister and they are afraid sometimes when I show up at their houses with my digital camera that I won’t show their gardens in a flattering way on my blog. Can you imagine?

8. I’m not above making fun of myself and others for how we carry on about our first tomatoes of the season.

9. Like every blogger, I love comments; one of my favorites is song lyrics about my garden, which can be sung to the tune of “Back Home Again in Indiana”.

10. I have a lot of hoes (and other garden tools).

This post is my response to a challenge from Joanna at Confident Writing to identify ten posts that explain what your blog is about, which is a meme started by Logical Emotions. Technically, yes, I linked thirteen posts and another blog, but that’s close enough. Feel free to accept the challenge to explain your blog with ten past posts if you have commented on any of my posts in the last few weeks, or if you just feel like doing it.

I’m taking off Friday to enjoy a four day weekend for the Labor Day holiday. Much of my time will be spent in the garden, weeding, cleaning up plants that have given up in the “moderate drought”, and making plans for fall planting (if we get some rain!). I’m also taking time off from blogging so look for the next post late Monday or Tuesday. I hope everyone has a safe and rejuvenating three day weekend!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Another Type of Gardener

When someone finds out you are a gardener, inevitably, the next question is, “what kind of gardening do you do?”

How do you answer that question?

After being asked that question for years, I have no better answer than “I do all kinds of gardening”. I referred to it recently as being an “omni-gardener”, or as Annie in Austin commented on a recent post about an orchid blooming in my sunroom, “omni-fleurus”. I like all kinds of plants and flowers.

But there are other gardeners who might be described as “uni-fleurus” who could easily answer the question “what kind of gardening do you do?” They focus in on one type flower or plant and other plants and flowers become secondary to their primary interest. They start and join plant societies dedicated to a particular type of flower or plant. They host competitions to see who has the best rose or orchid or daylily or iris or dahlia or whatever they are all focused in on. They come up with rules and standards for judging their flowers. They trade seeds and cuttings with each other. They go on exotic trips to add to their collections. And they get books written about them.

The world of those who have fallen for orchids has been chronicled in Orchid Fever: A Horticultural Tale of Love, Lust, and Lunacy by Eric Hansen. You can get insight into rose lovers in the recently published book Otherwise Normal People: Inside the Thorny World of Competitive Rose Gardening by Aurelia Scott. (Thanks to the bloggers of Garden Rant, I won a copy of that book this spring, and enjoyed reading it.)

And as fall comes around, and our thoughts turn to fall harvests and pumpkins, we now have the opportunity to read the soon to be published book, Backyard Giants: The Passionate, Heartbreaking, and Glorious Quest to Grow the Biggest Pumpkin Ever by Susan Warren, about gardeners who have focused all their time and land on growing giant pumpkins.

Several garden bloggers have had the chance to preview this book and review it, including Steven, Hannah, Colleen, and Michelle, who has actually been growing a big pumpkin of her own this year. All of them, along with me, give this new book a thumbs up. It’s engaging and pulls you in to a world that we omni-fleurus gardeners know of, but can hardly imagine.

Or can we?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Garden Bloggers Book Club August Newsletter

Just a quick update on the Garden Bloggers Book Club. As most know who have participated, we slowed down for "the seasons", with one book every two months.

August-September Selection

The August-September selections is the garden mystery A Hoe Lot of Trouble: A Nina Quinn Mystery by Heather Webber, but as usual, there are other ways to participate if you don't want to read this particular book.

You can choose to read another garden mystery book. There are several different garden mystery series available, including the Nina Quinn series by Heather Webber, the China Bayles series by Susan Wittig Albert, Brother Cadfael series by Ellis Peters, the Abby Knight series by Kate Collins, the Louise Eldridge series by Ann Ripley to name a few. If you don't see your favorite garden mystery listed here, let me know and we'll get it added to the list.

Or if you don't want to read any other garden mystery, you can participate by telling us about a real life mystery in your own garden.

The virtual meeting post for August-September will be published on September 30th. Just let me know when you've posted your review and I'll make sure you are included on the virtual meeting post. Remember, I list the reviews in the order I hear about them! Be early, be at least second, as we already have one review posted.

October Selection

No selection has been made for October, so send me your ideas. I try to select books that have universal appeal to gardeners, are easy to get either at the library or second-hand via Amazon and other outlets and aren't terribly long. Other than that, anything goes! Send me an email or leave me a comment with your ideas.

Thank you!

I appreciate everyone who has participated in the book club in the past and look forward to YOUR participation whether you are a first time contributor or have joined for each book. Thank you for your participation.

If you haven't heard about the book club or haven't paid much attention to it and want to participate, you can go the Garden Bloggers Book Club blog for links to all the previous posts of meetings and updates to get an idea of what it is about. All are welcome to participate!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Inside, Mysterious Blooms

It's all too easy to forget about the indoor plants with so much going on outside in the summertime, especially if you don't take your indoor plants outside for the season.

In my sunroom, once the night bloomer blooms, I don't do much with the plants except open the blinds for them each morning and water them once a week or so.

So when I was watering the indoor plants on Sunday, I was surprised and delighted to find an orchid in bloom. This one has never bloomed for me before and I think I actually bought it without every seeing its bloom.

According to the label that came with this orchid, it is Brassia Rex 'Barbara'.

It's quite mysterious and I can't believe it had to be in full flower for me to notice it. I put a black background behind it so it would show up in the picture. Without that black background it's kind of ghostly looking.

I'm intrigued by it, and spent quite a bit of time looking at it and studying it. I can see why people get smitten with orchids and abandon all other plants to focus on them. Fortunately, I don't have that problem, I'm an "omni-gardener", I want to grow everything. Don't you?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Grape Jam and Yes, Another Tiny Tomato

*See Monday evening breaking news below on tiny tomatoes*Look, I made a mess in the kitchen grape jam. Everything is all cleaned up now, I think, and I have nine jars of jam cooling on the counter.

I'm sure some people are wondering what the big fuss is, anyone can make jam. But my family members reading this, who know I'm not much for cooking, are probably wondering what happened to me, what possessed me to make jam after all these years.

Grapes, that's what happened, that's what possessed me. Lots and lots of grapes. The birds didn't eat them so I gave a bunch away, but I still had a bunch left, so I made jam. I'll try some tomorrow to see how it tastes and find out if it "gelled" like it is supposed to. I feel pretty confident, in spite of this being my first batch of jam, that it will be blue ribbon quality, because canning is in my blood. Both of my grandmothers did a lot of canning.

Speaking of blue ribbons, on top of the jar in the center is my latest, and last, attempt to show that I indeed have the tiniest tomato of the year.

Even when it is sitting top of a dime, you can still read "one dime".

It's nearly lost in this thimble.
Congrats to all who posted about their tiny tomatoes, second place is pretty good, you get a nice tomato-red ribbon for second place, but clearly, this latest entry of mine is the winner. (Chuck, Christopher, Zoey, and Earth Girl). And I've heard that even Stuart approves of this competition because clearly we wouldn't use any fertilizer to grow tomatoes as small as these.

*Update Monday evening.* All of us who think we have the tiniest tomato, we don't. The clear winner is Chigiy, who has some red currant tomatoes that are really tiny. I think the rest of us are all tied for second place. Congrats, Chigiy!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Tiniest Tomato Do Overs

There has been a challenge issued as to whether or not the tomato I used for the tiniest tomato ritual yesteday is indeed the smallest tomato in the blogosphere.

Chuck in San Francisco believes his tomato is smaller. I believe it might be close, but my new tomato is quite small, too.

Yes, I get "do overs", in case you are wondering, as I'm not going to easily give up bragging rights for who has the smallest tomato. I'd never hear the end of it.

Plus I posted about the first tiny tomato, soI get to make up the rules to compete for tiniest tomato. And according to the official book of tomato records, I get do overs. If you don't have a copy, trust me, it's in there.

Can anyone beat this tomato?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Ritual of The Tiniest Tomato

Is there going to be a prize this year for the tiniest tomato that is still a full-grown ripe, ready to eat tomato?

If there is, I declare myself to be the grand champion, blue ribbon winner.

Would you like to know the secret to growing such a tiny tomato?

You just pick a cherry tomato variety that sounds like it is going to be really small and grow it in a year that hasn't been very good for growing tomatoes.

Way back in January, when I had big aspirations of growing the tiniest tomato, I picked "Jelly Bean Grape" as the one type of cherry tomato to grow in my garden. It just sounded like it would be small.

And they are small tomatoes. They are literally the size of jelly beans. If I had a jelly bean right now, I would photograph it next to one of these tomatoes so you can see for yourself, but I don't, so I used a nickel instead.

What would Thomas Jefferson who loved his vegetable garden, think about such a tiny tomato? What would my Dad, who took pride in his early tomatoes and the size of his tomato plants overall, think about it?

They'd both think not too much of it, and neither do I. It doesn't taste all that great and the skin is a little thick for such a tiny tomato.

Fortunately for me, the rabbits chewed off three of the four "Jelly Bean Grape" seedlings almost as soon as I planted them. This forced me to go to the garden center and buy some replacement cherry tomatoes, including a yellow cherry tomato and the old stand by "Sweet 100", so I did end up with some decent cherry tomatoes to eat, after all. (Yes, it was hard to admit that the rabbits, in their own way, actually did me a favor eating the original tomato seedlings. I'm still not welcoming them into the garden to do "plant selection" every year.)

By the way, most of my tomatoes haven't done very well in the heat and drought this year. They either end up decidedly under-sized or they split open before I can pick them. I do get some regular tomatoes every few days, but they are nothing to write home about or blog about.

But when life hands you lemons, you make lemonade, right? So, when the garden hands you tiny tomatoes, you start a tiny tomato ritual!

Therefore in place of the Ritual of the First Tomato, I present...

The Ritual of the Tiniest Tomato.

Since it is such a tiny tomato, I've scaled back the ritual considerably. There is no book to record the event in, no special utensils or plates, no taste tests. The ritual is just to find the smallest, tiniest, ripe tomato, perch it on the "tomato throne", take its pictures and then post its picture on this simple garden blog.

Ritual complete. I've put the tomato throne away until next year, when order will hopefully be restored in my tomato world and I'll once again have a really nice, big red tomato to sit upon it.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Happy Flowers Pep Talk

This is the only flower in my garden that seems "happy" right now. 'Autumn Joy' Sedum. Even its name has a happy word in it... joy.

How do I know it's "happy"? Can flowers be "happy"?

My sedum flowers aren't wilting, they are as big and full as they have ever been, and they are starting to attract bees. They are signaling the end of summer and the beginning of fall. Presumably they will go to seed at some point well after the first frost. They are a bright spot in my otherwise dismal flower garden,

What more could a flower want or do to be "happy"?

What more could a gardener want or do to be "happy" in a year like this? These are the kind of years that can cause some people to *gasp* give up on gardening, especially if they are fairly new at gardening. Do you know someone like this, ready to hang up their Felco's and kick off their gardening clogs for good because this has been a difficult year? If you do, help them out, remind them that not every year is going to be like this year has been.

Help them regroup and plan for autumn, which can be a pivotal time in a garden, especially in zones where winters are cold. It is in the autumn that changes can be made, new beds can be dug, worn out beds can be rejuvenated, new trees and shrubs and spring flowering bulbs can be planted.

Autumn is not when gardeners give up, it is when gardeners know they can begin again. So sharpen your pruners, put on your clogs and get out there and prepare for the next season of gardening... Autumn!

On three! One, two, three... let's plant!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Yellow Finch Farm: How to Name a Garden

How do you go about naming your garden?

The idea of naming your garden seems quite popular with many gardeners, but deciding what that name should be isn't that easy.

Based on the comments on the recent post about naming your garden, some gardeners believe it may take them years to come up with a name for their garden. Others would like to name their gardens sooner, but aren't sure how to pick a name that isn't uppity or cutesy.

So now that this idea of naming a garden is out in the open, here are some thoughts and ideas on how you might name your garden.

Look around and see what kind of wildlife you have in your garden. In the summertime, I see a lot of yellow finches, like this one that I photographed in its nest high up in a tree. (I had to get the ladder out to get close enough to take the picture. I don't know what the neighbors thought about me standing on a ladder reaching out as far as I could to take this picture without disturbing the birds, but I didn't want to disturb the birds!)

Based on the presence of lots of yellow finches, I could have named my garden Yellow Finch Farm, although farm might imply way more land than I have in my suburban lot.

Or, I might incorporate "rabbit" into a garden name, since I seem to have a lot of rabbits running around, as in Rabbit Run Garden. Or I could make the name even fancier by making "rabbit run" one word.... RabbitRun... and leaving off the word "garden".

Consider what kinds of plants you have growing around the garden. My mom and sister have a large scarlet oak tree in their front yard, so I suggested they call their garden Scarlet Oak Gardens. One of the focal points in my own front yard is a "Guinevere" crabapple tree, so I could have called my garden Guinevere Gardens.

Is there a natural feature of your garden that is unique, like a big rock? I've got a big rock in my garden, so I could have chosen a name like Sitting Rock Garden, because the rock is big enough to sit and rest on.

Dig into garden literature or any good writing and see what other gardens have been called and pick one of those names. (Hmmm, I'm drawing a blank on the name of a garden from literature, any ideas?) Or make up a word, like Garhoe (short for gardening hoe) and then you could call it Garhoe Gardens.

One more piece of advice on naming your garden... make it your own name, one that YOU like, one that you love! Don't worry about what anyone else thinks about the name, make the name for you.

Don't get worried if a name doesn't come to you right away or the names you think of don't seem quite right. It may indeed take a while to come up with a name for your garden. Just go out into your garden and tend it, observe it, and enjoy it. A name will come to you eventually.

That's what happened to me. May Dreams Gardens just popped into my head one day, while I was in the garden in the month of May one year, and I knew it was right for my garden. And I didn't think of it the first year or even the second year of tending this garden. I think it came to me around year four or five.

You, too, will know when you've found the right name for your own garden. When you do, blog about it and tell us all.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Fifteen Minutes at a Time and Fairly Random, Too

Rain Update

The official recorded rainfall yesterday in Indianapolis was 2.2 inches, but in my own rain gauge, I measured closer to 3 inches of rain. The 2.2 inches set a new record for rain on August 20th, the old record was 1.63 inches set in 1924.

It would have been nice to have spread the rain out over the entire day instead of a few hours late in the afternoon, but I am not complaining. I am very happy to have the rain, even all at once. Happy, happy, happy.

Forsythia Update

Before yesterday's rain, I had decided that the only way I was going to get rid of those non-blooming forsythia pictured above was to practice gardening time management. Insteading of finding an entire day with nothing to do and spending it cutting these shrubs out all at once, I am cutting them out fifteen minutes at a time, which is how much time it takes to fill one bag with a bunch of forsythia branches.

I started on Sunday, filling one bag, and then filled another bag this evening. However, now that it has rained, I should probably do some weeding, while the weeding is easy, instead of cutting out this forysthia.

Yes, I still plan to shred up all the forsythia branches. However, shredding all this up is going to take more than fifteen minutes so putting the branches in bags for now just makes it easier to move them around and contain them until I find a block of time to do the shredding.

It's Healthy to Get Dirty and Other Health Benefits of Gardening.

I did a little blog-hopping this evening and ended up reading about how getting dirty leads to well-being. I also noted that Carolyn Gail posted about how you can stay in shape by weeding and gardening.

I'm telling you, this gardening is a good thing and has so many benefits, I'm going to keep doing it! I'm in it for the long haul.

How about you other garden bloggers, are you going to stick with this gardening, too?

Survey Says

Are you at all curious about the habits of the garden blogger readers on the web? As you may have seen, I conducted a brief, completely non-scientific survey of garden bloggers’ habits, or at least some of their habits, related to blogging and reading blogs.

As promised, I'm sharing the results, which you can use as you wish. (See note above about non-scientific survey.)

69 people answered the survey questions as of Tuesday evening. I don’t know anything about who these people are other than they visited this May Dreams Gardens blog sometime between Sunday afternoon and Tuesday evening.

Here are the questions and results...

When you read a garden blog, what are you looking for?

(I allowed for more than one answer, so the percentages won’t add up to 100 %.)

By far, most people are looking for stories about other gardeners and gardens, a whopping 95.7% of us. Only 13% of the 69 who responded are looking for basic gardening information, and 24.7% are looking for advanced gardening information.

What else are people looking for? 8% of the respondents listed other topics including pictures; a day-by day visit with fellow gardeners; good writing, humor, personality; the philosophy of gardening; and advanced gardening info and images of other gardens, particularly ornamental gardens in cold climates and news about the gardening world.

How often do you read garden blogs?

39.1 % of us read garden blogs once a day, and 40.6% read garden blogs several times a day. 17.4% read them a few times a week, one respondent reads them once a week and one respondent reads them “other”.

What other kinds of blogs do you read?

Again, I allowed for more than one answer, so the percentages won’t add up to 100%.

41.3% read blogs about writing and blogging (to improve their own writing and blogging?)
20.6% read political blogs.
19.1% read “mom” blogs, nearly as many as read political blogs.
76.2% read many other kinds of blogs including well written blogs, no matter the subject; “place” blogs; geneaology/professional/family blogs; food blogs; artist’s blogs; design/decorating/house blogs; koi/pond blogs; travel blogs; and a blog of a specific author/geek.

What tools do you use to keep track of blogs you like to read?

19.1% use Google Reader
17.7 % use Bloglines
4.4% use Voices at Garden Web
35.5% just check blogs they like occasionally (We need to help these people with better methods if they are reading more than a few blogs a day!)
23.5% use some other method to track blogs they like to read including bookmarks (4); favorites list (3); just check the same blogs every day; Blogroll; Safari RSS.

What software do you use for your blog?

63.5% use Blogger
12.7% use WordPress
7.9% use TypePad
15.9% use something else such as LiveJournal, iBlog, iWeb or they don’t have a blog. (4 respondents did not have their own blog).

That’s it. Five easy questions. Feel free to use this information as you wish, discuss as you wish, discard as you wish. I had fun with the survey and might do another one some other time. If I do, are there any questions you think I should ask?

Monday, August 20, 2007

I Know Where The Rabbit Hides When It Rains

Never give up! It does rain in Indianapolis in the summertime. It is possible for your rain gauge to overflow in one afternoon. Beautiful skies do come in gray.

In a brief lull between rain showers earlier this evening, I went out to the Garden of Eatin’ at May Dreams Gardens. ( Pam suggested I call my vegetable garden by that name, and I can't get it out of my mind. Thanks, Pam!)

I wasn’t going to harvest anything, I was just going to admire the garden in the rain. But then I saw the summer squash and had visions of how large those squash would be after this rain if I left them until tomorrow. I also thought about how all the cherry tomatoes would suck up water until they split open.

So I did what any gardener would do. I went back to the house to fetch my harvest trug and returned to the garden to harvest squash and tomatoes as it began to rain again.

Rain didn't stop me! Not now! Not after all the long hot days this summer when we had no rain.

This rain today may not be the end of our dry spell, but it's a good start, and I’m going to enjoy it as long as I can. (Which according to the weatherman, won’t be for very long.)

I even left the rabbit alone because I was so happy to finally get some rain.

He went down under here.
What’s under there, I wonder? Is there a mama rabbit down under that shrub with her little apron on, fixing some dinner for her little family of bunnies? Is that where they take all the green bean leaves? How many of them are there? Are there chipmunks and toads under there, too? Do they always go under this shrub to hide out when it rains?

Some drier day, I’ll have to check it out.

In the meantime...

Did you have good weather today, too? Have you named your garden yet? Have you completed the survey? Where do the rabbits hide in your garden?

Sunday, August 19, 2007

What's in a Name?

Do you know what the difference is between your garden and the garden of someone who is rich?

There are obvious differences because of what money can buy. Money can buy land measured in acres, exotic plants from around the world, full-time landscape crews, one of a kind garden art, good design by the best landscape architects, and water features that dazzle.

But the real difference between your garden and the garden of someone who is rich is the rich people name their gardens.

Technically, the rich people name their entire estates, which includes both the house or castle or manor house, plus the surrounding gardens. But we identify with those estate names as the names of great gardens. We read about gardens like Great Dixter, Sissinghurst, Wisley in Great Britain, to name just a few.

Rich people in the United States name their estates, too. Who has been to Winterthur or Oldfields or Blithewold, all estate gardens of people who had money and therefore, for some reason, named them.

I've had three gardens, and I'll admit that this one that I am in now is the first one that I gave a name to, and I gave it the name long before I knew what a blog was or decided to start up a blog. The other gardens I have had I generally refer to by the name of the subdivision they were in. But that's not too imaginative, it's not unique, and it doesn't work for people whose gardens aren't in named subdivsions.

In case you haven't figured it out, the name of my current garden is May Dreams Gardens, or I guess more properly it should be May Dreams House and Gardens because I do have a house here, but it is secondary to the garden. My blog header above tells you how I picked that name.

So, have you given your garden a name? "My Garden", by the way, doesn't count, so you'll need to come up with something better than that.

If you have name for your garden, leave a comment and let us know what it is.

If you don't have a name for your garden, and you'd like some ideas on a name so your garden can be like the rich people's gardens, leave a comment and I'm sure someone will have some suggetions.

Really, if you are a gardener, you are putting a lot of time and sweat, if not money, into your garden. Doesn't it deserve its own name, so that someday it can take its place in history?

Garden Bloggers Survey

I've posted a short five question survey on my sidebar. If you have 30 seconds to spare, please click on the link and take the survey. I will share the results with everyone in a week or so.

Hurry, I can only accept the first 100 responses! And, of course it is anonymous.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Purple on Purple: Grapes

Dear Garden Journal,

Today, I harvested some 'Concord' grapes. You remember grapes, don't you? Sure you do!

I first wrote about grapes on your pages in March 2003 when I put in the grape arbor and planted two kinds of grapes. The other kind was 'Himrod', but I wouldn't expect you to know about it. Even I forget about it sometimes because I've never seen it produce any grapes.

Then I wrote about grapes on your pages in August 2004 when I harvested my first crop. That was an exciting time. I thought how lovely to have grapes just one year after planting the vine.

But then there was really no more mention of grapes on your pages in 2005 and 2006 as there were no grapes to harvest. I don't know what was going on for those two years. But this year, once again, I have written on your pages that I harvested grapes. I hope you are as excited as I am. I feel like I should even use purple ink to write "Harvested 'Concord' grapes" on your pages.

Thank you, garden journal, for reminding me about the history of my grape growing here at May Dreams Gardens, I really appreciate the walk down memory lane.

Until tomorrow,
Your garden journaler, Carol

Yes, I harvested grapes today! Now I know why I painted my bench purple earlier this year.

So when I harvested the grapes, I could have this 'purple on purple' picture.

And after two years without any grapes, I think I've figured out the trick to better grape production.

1. Plant a grape vine.
2. Leave it alone.
3. Have a cold spring and a dry summer.
4. Harvest grapes.

I'm not sure if anyone, including me, could follow all those steps every year, or would even want to, so here are some more reliable tips on grape growing. (That will take you to a pdf file, not a website.

Before I harvested the grapes this morning, I searched the Internet to figure out how I should use them. Should I make jam, or jelly, or juice? Then I hit upon the perfect use.

I gave them to a friend who said she would make grape pie and give me a slice of or two of it. That's the perfect way to use grapes, don't you think?

Finally, in honor of my grape harvest, I made this picture the background on my laptop. If you would like to make this the background on your PC, double-click on it, then right click and chose "set as background". Then go buy some grape juice because when you see this background on your PC, for some reason, you'll want to drink a nice, cold glass of grape juice.

What did you write in your garden journal today?

Friday, August 17, 2007

Face the Dryness

I've avoided posting views of my garden this summer that show how dry everything is. Today, however, I'm facing the dryness, showing the dryness, writing about the dryness, embracing the dryness. I'm allowed one post about the dryness, aren't I?

As you can see, I don't believe in coddling plants with all kinds of extra watering. This bed should be full and lush right now. There are Michaelmas daisies growing there that should be twice as tall as they are. There are coneflowers that should not be all wilted and spent. That honey locust tree at the end of the flower bed should not be dropping its leaves already. Only the sedum seems to be happy.

I am going to go out and "garden" tomorrow, but I'm not sure exactly what I'm going to do.

Weed? I won't get too many roots, but it would probably improve the looks of things a bit even to chop off the foliage of the weeds.

Prune? There are still some shrubs that I normally like to prune back a bit in mid-summer, but I held off because I didn't want to put the plants under even more stress by pruning them when it was so dry out. I kept waiting for a time when it was going to rain. That time has so far not come. Now I think it is getting a bit too late for summer pruning. Oh, well, I can prune next summer.

Deadhead? Yes, I could cut back some of the spent, dried up flowers. There aren't many because of the drought, but that should help.

Harvest? There are some squash, tomatoes, and peppers I can pick and morning is a much better time to harvest than evenings after work. There are also some squash vines, bean plants, and corn stalks that I could clean up and throw into the compost bin because they've given in to the dryness and will produce no more. Oh, and don't forget, I have grapes to pick!

Mulch? I could go to the mulch store and get a load of mulch. There are areas that could use some extra mulch now. And since I have a truck, I can go to the mulch store for a cubic yard of mulch whenever I get the urge to do so. I might get the urge to do that tomorrow.

Dig a new flower bed? I'd need a jack hammer to dig right now it is so dry.

Water? Is that really going to do that much good at this point? And it is so boring to water by hand.

Rain Dance? Rain dances haven't helped so far, but I'm sure the neighbors have been entertained by my attempts. I might have to explore more advanced methods to get it to rain.

Droughts disrupt the normal rhythm of the garden. They are jarring to the plants, confusing for the gardener. We haven't had a drought like this for at least twenty years. If we don't get some rain soon, my garden chore options will be reduced to one choice: planning for next year.

Because you know what? Next year I can't imagine it being this dry again! Fall will be here soon, then winter, then it will be spring and the garden will be all new again and we can forget about this drought!

Tomorrow, I'm heading out to face the dryness, to conquer the drought!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

What I Learned from Bloom Day

Five things I learned from reading all the Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day posts from yesterday and today.

5. Black-eyed Susan's (Rudbeckia) are reliable in all kinds of climates and weather conditions.

4. I'm not only gardener who worried that there weren't enough new blooms in their garden for August. August needs help from long-blooming plants and re-bloomers. August is why we need annuals in the garden.

3. Everyone is suffering from some kind of weather woes... too wet, too dry, too hot all over the place.

2. I should have taken notes about the new flowers I read about and who posted about them. I know I saw some new flowers I want to try! What were they? Who posted about them?

1. No matter how many times you walk around your garden noting all the blooms, just after you post about what is blooming in your garden you'll find a bloom that you forgot about, a new flower will suddenly bloom, or you'll find a picture of a flower you meant to include but didn't.

I love green flowers and can't believe I didn't post a picture of my green zinnias! That's 'Giant Lime' pictured above. A big round ball of green flower petals, isn't it?

What did you learn from Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - August 2007

Welcome to the August Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day at May Dreams Gardens!

I was a bit concerned that August would have no blooms of her own, and I would have to post about the flowers still hanging on from July. Thankfully, I do have many of the flowers of July still going strong in spite of the heat and drought, including good 'ol tough flowers like zinnias, marigolds, ox-eye daisies, black-eyed susan's and coneflowers.

But even with August not being known as a big month for flowers to start blooming, and in spite of the excessive heat and drought, I do have a few new blooms to post about.

The blooms above are on an ornamental sweet potato vine. It had one or two blooms on it earlier in the summer, but as the days have gotten hotter, it has started to bloom more, so I will give August credit for it.

This is a miniature Hosta in bloom, 'Pandora's Box'.

It's blooming in my miniature garden where it won't get lost or trampled amongst the big hostas.

Of course the August Lilies are blooming. This is a passalong hosta that I think would be what my grandmother had in her garden, and even mentioned in her diaries.

These have a sweet scent and are near where the hose faucet is, so each time I lean down to turn on the water, I get a big whiff of them

The False Dragon's Head, Physostegia virginiana has also started to bloom. This plant mis-behaves a bit in the garden, even though one of its common names is Obedient Plant, so I planted it on the utility side of the garage, near some self-sowing Four O'Clocks (Mirabilis jalapa). "Misbehaves" means it self-sows all over the place so plant it with caution.

I also have a variegated False Dragon's Head, Physostegia virginiana 'Variegata' but it isn't blooming yet, and I don't know if it will bloom this year.
It is better behaved so I planted it in another perennial bed in the back yard.

These variegated liriope or lilyturf won't draw a crowd, but they have blooms!
This particular variety is Liriope muscari 'Silvery Sunproof'.

I also have a creeping lilyturf, Liriope spicata with small white flowers hidden down in its plain dark green foliage. The picture I took of it is fuzzy, so I'll spare you from looking at it. (Note: If I was trying to breed a better lilyturf, I'd look for those that have longer stems on the flowers, so the bloom isn't so hidden in all the foliage.)

The squash plants don't know it's August, so they keep blooming.
I can see that I have some more 'Cue Ball' squash to harvest. Don't remind me!

Everything else is pretty much leftover or reblooming from July, though admittedly not doing as well as they were in July. I won't relist them all here, you can go to the July post if you want to see what any of them are.

What's blooming in your garden today? We'd love to have you show us and tell us about your blooms today!

It's easy to participate in Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day on the 15th of each month. Just post on your blog about what’s blooming in your garden, and then leave a comment here so we can find you and visit to see all your pretty flowers.

If you don’t have a blog, feel free to list your blooms in a comment below.

If you have too many blooms to list or not enough time, just go with your top ten list or top five list or even one special bloom and join us anyway. And botanical names are strictly optional. All are welcome!

“We can have flowers nearly every month of the year.” ~ Elizabeth Lawrence

Monday, August 13, 2007

Good Intentions and Some Garden Advice

I have a theory about what happens to good intentions.

You know how when you are driving home from work, and you make that mental list of everything you are going to do when you get home? Then you get home and you think, "I'll just sit down for a minute on the couch to relax." Then the next thing you know, you are zapped and do nothing. What happened to those good intentions?

They get sucked off of you and are now under the cushions of the couch. You think I'm kidding? Look under those cushions and see what's there! (Who looked just now or even thought about looking?)

Tonight, I didn't let my good intentions get sucked under the couch cushions, and so I have some things to show you from the time I spent in the garden, along with some advice, starting with don't go near the couch when you get home.

Look at these spirea.

Earlier this spring, I cut these spirea down to the ground. I was hoping to have time to move them, too, because the design of this bed is all off. I just rowed them up along the sidewalk. Boring! But now they look so nice, I think I'll leave them and tend to other areas of the garden that are far worse.

My advice... some shrubs like these spirea are rejuvenated when cut back like I cut these back, so don't be afraid to do just that. But don't just row them up along the walk the way I did these.

Warning, icky spider picture to follow!
Warning, icky spider picture to follow!

As a general rule, I don't much care for spiders. There was a time, decades ago, when I would knock a spider like this to the ground and squish it. But now, I am more enlightened about spiders, and I let them be, as long as they let me be. "Let me be" means no sudden moves toward me, don't touch me, and don't come in the house!

My advice... leave spiders alone and they will leave you alone.

Sign of a Lazy Gardener?

I did not spend much time in the vegetable garden this weekend because it was hot and dry. Last night it was so dry that all I did was set up the sprinkler and let it water the garden.

This evening I harvested the biggest zucchini I've ever harvested, there on the left of all the squash. I had convinced myself late last week that I probably wasn't going to get much more squash, as I had picked all I could find and didn't see a bunch of new blossoms. So where does giant squash like this come from?

Is giant zucchini like this a sign of lazy gardener who doesn't check frequently enough for produce in the garden?

My advice... embrace your giant squash and act like you meant to grow it that big.


I've been warning people that I am going to have a lot of grapes this year. I planted this grape vine several years ago, just imagining how wonderful it would be to harvest my own Concord grapes.

Now that the harvest is near, I realize that I'm not quite sure what to do with these grapes as I don't know how to make preserves. I supposed I could follow a recipe, but wouldn't it be better to give these grapes to someone who knows what they are doing, and in return, they could give me back some of the jam or jelly or whatever they make with them?

My advice... before you plant any fruit bearing crops, have a plan for what to do with the fruit!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Tied for Third is Plenty Good Enough!

Tied for third is plenty good enough when it comes to setting the record for the most number of consecutive days above ninety degrees in Indianapolis. Lucky us, we did it today! If we have six more days of temperatures reaching 90 or above, then we'll tie the 1936 first place record of 19 days. Seven more days and 2007 gets first place outright!

I'm personally ready to drop out of this hot weather competition, as is everyone else around here. There's a chance it could end tomorrow, and I hope it does.

There are other competitions currently going on at the great Indiana State Fair that are more interesting to me. They've decided this is the year of corn at the fair, hence the picture above of some of my corn in the garden. As part of the festivities, they have some competitions for corn cob throwing and corn husking, amongst other corn related events.

Those would be fascinating competitions to watch, I'm sure, but I'm more interested in the open class competitions where anyone can bring in their produce or flowers and compete for a blue ribbon.

How do those gardeners do it? How do they time it so their produce, be it beets or brocolli, tomatoes or squash, is at the peak of perfection for judging when state fair time rolls around in August? How do they get dahlias and sunflowers to produce a perfect bloom on the day of judging? I can understand how people do it with the cooking and canning competitions, but it must take a "fair" amount of work to have the perfect product or flowers on a specific day, especially around here in hot August.

Have you ever entered something you grew in a competition like this? What drives you to compete? What did you enter? What did you win? Any secrets you'd care to share on how you got your produce or flower to be at the peak of goodness or perfection on a specific day?

Saturday, August 11, 2007

My Garage is Not Clean Swept

I used to watch shows like Clean Sweep and laugh when the host, Peter Walsh, would confront the homeowners about all their 'stuff' and force them to get rid of most of it. When the homeowners were relunctant to do it, Peter would pull them aside and confront them about WHY these things had such a hold on them. I laughed at people who clung to their CD's, video tapes, shoes, collectible figurines, any number of too many of something, as one by one Peter wore them down and forced them to let go and sell off their treasures.

The difference between them and me? First, none of these items would be what I consider treasures, as I don't own a lot of CD's, DVD's, shoes, etc.

Second, I'd never invite Mr. Walsh to come into my garage and help me organize it. He'd take one look at the pegboard with the garden tools hanging on it and begin to question me, starting with the basic question. "Do you use all of those hoes?"

Absolutely, Mr. Walsh, of course I do!

Then he'd swivel around to the other side of the garage and find the clay pots. "How about these?", he would ask. "What are you keeping all of these for?" Planting! Honestly, you need to have few extra clay pots on hand so when the urge, the need, to pot something up strikes, you've already got the pot. And that stack of plastic flats that's a foot high? Occasionally, you need a flat to put some smaller pots in or, well, you know, you just need some flats.

All that old garden hose? I've cut some of it into small sections and laid those sections around the garden thinking that the rabbits might mistake them for snakes and stay away. (Just another "trick" I've tried to keep away rabbits. I think it works as well as the plastic owl in the garden, which means "not very well".) Good garden hose sections just don't grow on trees, so you have to keep some on hand.

I've never thought of my self as a collector. Collectors seek out specific items, they spend their days at flea markets and auctions looking for new items to add to their collection, they acquire their collectibles just "to have them". I don't do that!

I just buy garden tools and keep the pots and flats that come may way to use them in the garden. Yes, I refer to my hoes collectively as a collection, but it is hardly a collection, more like the essential tools of the trade, don't you think?

(By the way, um... if you know of a type of hoe or any garden tool that I don't have, that I should... um... have, let me know, okay? I might, um... want to get one, not because I collect hoes or garden tools, mind you, because I'm not really a collector, okay?)

Friday, August 10, 2007

The Little Begonia That Could

Here's the little begonia that could... that could germinate from a seed that landed in a crack between two bricks in my patio and then bloom.

I haven't had begonias planted anywhere near this spot for two years, so this seed probably lay dormant through two winters, at least, before germinating.

This coleus is following suit in another spot in the patio. It's probably from the seed of a coleus I grew in a container near that spot last year.
I think I'll gently pull this coleus out and pot it up. Coleus is in the mint family, a family of plants known for vigorous growth, so I think it will make it. It will want to grow!

That's right, plants want to grow! No matter how much you've studied about how plants grow or observed plants growing in your own garden, you have to be impressed by their ability to grow under less than ideal conditions.

And as gardeners, sometimes we provide less than ideal conditions, don't we? But we remain optimistic that the plants will grow and hopefully thrive in our gardens. Otherwise, why would we keep gardening season after season, even after a summer like this one with less the ideal conditions?

You should never give up hope when it comes to your plants and their ability to survive.

Would you like more proof on why we should remain hopeful?

These are some caladiums that finally sprouted nearly ten weeks after I planted the tubers.
I had planted out all the other caladiums that did sprout earlier in the spring and then left this tray full of what I thought were tubers that were too dried up to grow and weren't going to sprout even with good soil and regular watering. But for some reason, I kept watering them anyway, and they finally sprouted.

And those two green 'non-caladium' plants? Those are cottonwood tree seedlings. It is a long way from my garden to any cottonwood trees, so those seeds traveled a long way in the wind and air currents to land in these containers, full of fresh dirt to germinate in. What are the odds?

And these containers? These aren't a good example of remaining hopeful that a plant that looks dead might actually survive. These are were my delphinium seedlings and some late germinating violas. Almost as soon as I moved them outside, something ate them all up. I suspect a little green caterpillar that I found on one of them when it was too late. But a few of the seedlings still showed a bit of new green growth trying to re-emerge, so I kept watering them, and watering them, and watering them.

Even I might concede that these seedlings are possibly dead.

Yet, I still watered them again this evening, just in case or perhaps out of habit, I'm not sure. I guess I'm having a hard time letting go and giving up on my delphinium dreams.

Do you have a plant that you keep watering, that you should probably give up on? Maybe we could form a support group and help each other out. "My name is Carol and its been three hours since I watered these dried up seedlings..."

Thursday, August 09, 2007

When The Squash Days End...Ten Suggestions on What To Do

Here are ten suggestions on what to do when the squash days come to an end and it's too hot to garden.

10. Harvest tomatoes. I picked another dozen tomatoes this evening but left the cherry tomatoes to pick tomorrow. I was strolling through the garden without a basket or trug to put anything in, so I carried the tomatoes in my stretched out t-shirt. Has anyone else done that?

9. Pick the last of the squash. Every day, I think there can be no more squash, and there is more squash. Tonight I picked four more 'Cue Ball' squash, and I swear there were none out there last night. It is like magic. Poof, they appear overnight. They weren't kidding around when they said these were prolific producers.

8. Wander through the garden and jot down notes on what might be blooming for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, on the 15th of the month.

You all remember how Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day works, don't you? You post on your own blog what is blooming in your garden on the 15th of the month, then come here to May Dreams Garden and leave a comment on my bloom day post so everyone can find you. All are welcome. If you are new to garden blogging or haven't joined in before, don't be shy, show us your blooms!

7. Find the perfect salsa recipe to use up all the tomatoes and peppers you are now picking. Or if you don't grow tomatoes, go to the local farmers' market and buy some good tomatoes. Anyone have a good, sure-fire, can't miss, fairly hot salsa recipe they would like to recommend? I like my salsa to be sneaky... starts off tasting mild and almost sweet, then explodes with heat in your mouth. How do you like yours?

6. Read a garden mystery book for the Garden Bloggers' Book Club August-September meeting and then to be the first to post your review. I won't post the virtual meeting post until September 30th, but it's okay to be early! Just let me know when you've posted your review.

5. Plan a lunch with a friend who has gone on a vacation where she visited lots of gardens so she can show you all her pictures. My friend went to England and sent me this picture she took at Hampton Court.

I didn't even know she was going to England until she got back! We do need to catch up.

4. Write up notes now about what you want to do different in the garden next year. (I will plant less squash, I will plant less squash.) Put the notes where you can find them early next spring or better yet, post them on your blog so we can all read them, and maybe get some new ideas and learn from your mistakes.

3. Go back and read your posts from last winter to remind yourself how cold it can get, if it gets cold where you live. If you weren't blogging last winter, or you live where it doesn't get particularly cold, you are welcome to read my posts from last winter.

2. Go out in the blogosphere and find some new garden blogs, through comments, Google searches, Garden Voices, or someone else's link list like Annie's or Kathy's or Stuart's gardening blog directory. Then leave a nice comment to introduce yourself.

1. Think of ten other things gardeners and garden bloggers can do when it is too hot to do anything outside and post a list on your blog.

That's my list, what's on your list?

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Tray O' Tomatoes and The Secret Revealed

I did some research on the water content of vegetables. Did you know that this vegetable is 96% water?

Do you know what it is?

No, unfortunately, it is not a zucchini squash. It's a cucumber and I let it get far too big to be edible so it went straight to the compost bin.

Next question...

How many different varieties of tomoatoes are there on this Tray O' Tomatoes?

There are at least eight varieties here. I've got everything from yellow and red cherry tomatoes to Beefsteak tomatoes, plus some delicious yellow tomatoes and some early tomatoes and my beloved German Johnson. One particular yellow tomato, Orange Oxheart, is so meaty that it almost looks like cantalope instead of tomatoes when I cut it into chunks to eat.

You know it is okay to cut tomatoes into chunks instead of slices, don't you, especially if you are eating them as a side dish and not on a sandwich.

As you can see, I like to pick my tomatoes a day or so before they are fully ripe, and let them finish ripening indoors. This seems to keep them from cracking in the heat. Like everyone else, we have no shortage of heat these days.

I'm now eating tomatoes for breakfast, taking cherry tomatoes to work in my lunch, and eating more tomatoes at night. I think it is time to either make some salsa or give away some of these tomatoes.

I think I'll make salsa, which will solve my problem of what to do with all the peppers that are begging to be picked.

Tomatoes, by the way, are 94% water.

Which brings me to the secret of harvesting vegetables from the garden when it is so dry outside.


In any year, the secret to growing and harvesting vegetables, which are mostly water, is to water consistently and regularly throughout the season. For my garden, I set up an oscilatting sprinkler in the middle of the garden and let it run for about 90 minutes or so, once a week. This year, I believe this consistent water supply has provided me with as good a harvest as I've had in years, in spite of the lack of rain.

Did it break the bank when the water bill came? So far, no, it hasn't cost that much extra to water the vegetable garden once a week. I'm estimating it will cost me the equivalent of one extra water bill this year. "Prices may vary" depending on where you are, but that's what it will cost me.

I think it is worth it.

And, now I'm going to go look through the tomatoes to see if there is one worthy of a harvest ritual.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Camping at May Dreams Gardens

I must warn you that this post is not about flowers, like this zinnia growing in my vegetable garden.

It's not about vegetables and what I harvested today and how many bags of zucchini I'll be hauling in to work tomorrow. (You have to be sick of that topic by now!)

It's also not about the weather even though it would be tempting to complain about how hot it is, but it's hot everywhere right now.

It's about tent caterpillars. (Please stay! I took pictures!)

Please be warned at this point that I have indeed taken pictures of some tent caterpillars that I found in my Sweet Gum tree this evening. If you are squeamish about little tiny caterpillars that look like little tiny worms, you might want to turn away as you cursor down to leave a comment (if you are so inclined to comment). There are just two pictures so if you scroll down really fast, you can avoid them.

So, duly warned... let's continue.

I'm was working a bit in the vegetable garden this evening, because even in this heat those vegetables just won't wait to be harvested, when I turned around and saw that some tent caterpillars had set up camp in my Sweet Gum tree (Liquidambar styraciflua). Sigh. I hate when they do that. They tried it a few years ago in another tree in my backyard.

Caution... close up coming. This is the part where you see the thousands of caterpillars in the "camp".

I don't know if these are Eastern tent caterpillars or forest tent caterpillars or some other kind of tent caterpillar. It really doesn't matter as the method of dealing with them is the same.
It was kind of creepy when I got up close to these caterpillars to see them all start to wiggle like crazy. Did they see me? Or did they see those clippers in my hands and sense what was coming next?

Because what came next was me cutting these out of the tree. That's the only way I know how to deal with these tent caterpillars. It wasn't a big tent, so it didn't take long to cut it out, drop it in a trash bag and put it out in the trash. Fortunately, the weekly trash pick is tomorrow.

You can hardly tell what was here before.When you find tent caterpillars, you should remove them immediately as that tent will only get bigger each day. It doesn't matter how hot it is or how late in the day it is, you've just got to put on some gloves, get your clippers and cut them out of the tree.

After I destroyed this tent, I checked all my other trees to see if there were any others, and luckily, this was the only "camp".

If you have some trees in your yard, and surely you do, you might want to go out, maybe late in the day when it is "cooler", and make sure you don't have any tent caterpillars camping in one of your trees. If you don't see any that's great; if you do, cut 'em out.