Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Here are some of the more popular questions and answers:
How will I know if I have tomato hornworms on my tomato plants?
It is generally not a question of if you have hornworms on your tomatoes, it is more a question of how can you can find them before they do too much damage. The best way is to look for the tell-tale signs of caterpillar droppings on the ground – yes, you can see them with the naked eye, the droppings are black and about the size of a broken off pencil lead. Also, look to see if any branches on the plant are suddenly leafless. Once you see those signs, you have to look closely to see the tomato hornworms which will blend in with the plant, even though they can be up to three – four inches long. Don’t give up; keep looking until you find them. If there are droppings and bare branches, they are there!
Once you find a tomato hornworm, if it has white appendages coming off of it, remove it from the plant but don’t kill it because it is being attacked by a parasitic wasp which will kill it for you. That’s a good thing! If it is alone, pick it off or cut it off with the branch it is on and stomp it or squish it.
I had a beautiful tomato but when I looked at the bottom of it, it was all brown and leathery. What happened?
Blossom end rot happened. It generally only happens to the first few tomatoes that ripen but it is very disappointing when it does happen. It is usually a result of the soil getting too dry in between rains or watering. This causes a short term calcium deficiency, but adding more calcium to the soil to prevent it won’t help. The best way to prevent blossom end rot is to water the tomato plants when it doesn’t rain enough.
That reminds me, we haven’t had rain for about a week, I need to water my tomato plants or I’ll be whining big time about blossom end rot.
Should I stake or cage my tomatoes?
Stake them. That’s my preference, but I am willing to consider that those who cage their tomatoes might not be all bad people, especially after I saw that one of my uncles had some good looking tomato plants and they were caged.
Where can I find out how to grow the best tomatoes?
Gardening is local. How you grow tomatoes in places like Austin, Texas, where MSS at Zanthan Gardens is, and how you grow them in my zone 5b garden in Indianapolis, Indiana does vary. A great source of information is your local cooperative extension service. They are likely to have written one or more pamphlets or bulletins on how to grow tomatoes, specific to where you garden, with information on what problems you might encounter and even what varieties do well in your area. And the best part is it’s free information!
Should a tomato from a store bought plant that already had blossoms on it count as the first tomato of the season?
No, I don’t believe so, unless you are only growing store bought tomato plants. As for me, this evening, I picked an ‘Early Girl’ tomato off a plant that I bought with a few blooms on it (pictured above). Now after mostly having all seed-raised plants and recording the date of the first tomato grown on those, it seems quite wrong to record a first tomato on June 30th, nearly three weeks before my previous first tomato picking date. I feel like I cheated! So, this ‘Early Girl’ will be my "my first tomato that doesn't count", FTTDC. I’m going to let it sit out on the counter to continue to ripen for a day or two before I eat it.
Did you know that you can pick tomatoes when they are not quite ripe, and they’ll continue to ripen for a few days after picking? If you are competing with critters like squirrels, rabbits, or possums to get to the ripe tomatoes, you might try to pick those ‘maters a few days early and ripen them inside, where they will be safe.
(By the way, my store bought tomato plant looks terrible compared to my seed-raised tomato plants, even though the seed raised plants were much smaller when I planted them in May.)
What are the rules for this year’s tomato contest sponsored by May Dreams Gardens?
The International Rules Committee for Tomato Growing Contests and Rituals (IRCTGCR) is still giving careful consideration to the rules for the 2009 contest. Unfortunately, developing these rules and ensuring that they are fair and balanced takes time, so it could be several more weeks until they are published in draft form. The rules will not be finalized until I’ve sized up my own tomatoes and determined what kind of contest they might win.
If anyone else has any more tomato questions, just holler out the back door. I’ll be out in the garden looking for hornworm droppings and watering my tomato plants.
Monday, June 29, 2009
Excuse me, I need to go take the first picture at 7:00 pm.
And I’m back. Where were we? Oh yes, the night blooming cereus, Epiphyllum oxypetalum, is blooming this evening. I noticed the bud was nice and big when I got home from work and determined that this was the night. I changed all my plans to make sure I would not miss a minute of this big event.
Excuse me, I need to go take another picture.
This one is at 8:30 pm EDT.
The night bloomer opens in a few hours beginning shortly after the dinner hour. It doesn’t open so fast that you can sit there and see it happening, but it blooms fast enough that you can see a difference at first every hour and then every fifteen minutes or so.
Excuse me I need to go take another picture.
This is at 8:45 pm EDT.
Once it is really fully open the scent is noticeably strong. It’s exotic and heavy in the air. I’ve described it in the past as like an old lady who has lost her sense of smell and wears way too much perfume. But it is also like the scent of a child who discovers her grandmother’s old-fashioned perfumes and decides to douse herself with a little bit from each bottle.
Excuse me, I need to go take another picture.
This is at 8:55 pm EDT.
As it fully opens, I marvel at how white it is. It seems that every petal, stamen, pistil, sepal is almost a translucent white. It’s clean, pure, waiting for whatever pollinators fly through the night, attracted to its scent.
Excuse me, I need to go take another picture.
This is at 9:08 pm EDT and nearly fully open.
I know where the night bloomer grows outside it can be covered with blooms, and I’m sure that is a spectacular show to see many blooms open in one night. My night bloomer is too big and awkward to move outside in the summertime so it stays inside year around. But it still manages to bloom at least once a summer for me, if not twice.
No pollinators will find it. It only blooms for me, it seems. It blooms to remind me of summer nights long ago when I watched it bloom with my Dad. It blooms to remind me that events of the garden should be celebrated and enjoyed -- that there is more to gardening than weeds, and pests, and how much rain we get or don’t get. It blooms to remind me that sometimes, fortunately, gardening is about a grand and glorious white flower that blooms in one night.
By morning the flower will be faded and limp, all its energy spent. I’ll cut it off and lay it up on a shelf in the sunroom to let it dry out, next to several other dried blooms from previous summers. And I’ll begin the waiting and watching for the next bloom.
Excuse me, but here is one last picture, a close up celebrating the Queen of the Night, my night blooming cereus, Ephiphyllum oxypetalum. It's a great evening when it blooms for me.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Greetings from my back patio where I’m enjoying a beautiful evening listening to birds chirping in the trees and watching the antics of a couple of yellow finches out in the garden. There’s a nice breeze and the high temperatures in the 90’s that we had most of last week are gone now, at least for awhile.
Out in the garden, I finally pulled out the pea vines and the bolted lettuce and weeded and hoed all the beds this morning. Now my garden is officially a summer garden as I wait for the summer crops to ripen. It’s all about green beans, squash, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and corn from here on out.
And I am waiting. For some reason, I have a lot of little squash on the “Eight Ball’ and ‘One Ball’ plants but they don’t seem to be getting bigger. I’m not too happy with the plants in general -- I think they should be larger than they are. It’s definitely a soil fertility issue and not a variety issue because all the squash plants are smaller this year. The beds I planted them in are back along the fence, and I don’t recall adding compost to them earlier this spring. I’ll have to remedy that with a dose of liquid organic fertilizer.
But the green beans look great, and it is just a matter of time before I’m picking them. Honestly, I’ve never had such vigorous plants or seen so many blooms on each plant. I’m really expecting a bumper crop this year.
The peppers are so-so. I’ve had better but given how small the plants were when I planted them out, I’m not going to complain. Plus, as I’ve said before, I don’t really care for peppers, unless they are chopped up small and added to something like salsa, so most of what I grow I give away.
I’m watching the corn closely right now because I’ve got an early variety from Botanical Interests called ‘Spring Treat’ that is tasseling already and I can see the little silks of the ears just forming. The packet of seeds had enough seeds for only two four foot long rows, so I hope that is enough to get good pollination of the ears. The other corn looks good, too, but isn’t as far along. I am growing a spaghetti squash in with the corn, hoping that keeps any raccoons out. I’ll let you know how that goes.
You know how I was worried earlier about my tomato plants being so small? Well, they’ve caught up with and surpassed the one tomato plant I did buy. After all these years of growing vegetables, I should remember how fast tomato plants, and really all the vegetables grow with sun, rain, and good soil. The picture above is of a cluster of ‘Red Currant’ tomatoes starting to ripen. Mary Ann, that’s a hint about this year’s tomato contest, but that is the only hint you get.
Dee, the only reason I was able to sit out on the patio in the evening to write this letter was because I was using the Herbal Insect Repellant from Burt’s Bees that you told me about. Otherwise, I would have had all the blood sucked out of me by voracious mosquitoes by the time I finished this letter. They seem pretty bad this year.
And with that, I think I will finish this letter with wishes for you, and everyone, for a bountiful summer garden.
Flowers and veggies for all,
P.S. Here are a few pictures of the garden, taken when it was quite sunny, around 5:00 pm.
This is from the usual spot where I stand to take a weekly picture.The sunflowers are finally tall enough to block the view.
So I went to the other end of the garden and tried to take a picture from there.The corn is blocking that view.
Finally, I got out a ladder and climbed it to get a good aerial view.And that's the garden this week! How's your garden growing?
You shine above all others right now, at three feet tall and just as wide with your very variegated foliage and bright yellow flowers. And you are doing this all on your own with very little help from me. No extra water, mulch or pruning! Just a tiny bit of deadheading and a sunny spot in the garden, but that's not too much to ask for. And you are strong and hold up well with no staking. My zone 5 winters and summers are a walk in the park for you, since you'll grow from zone 3 to 9.
In honor of your outstanding achievement this year, 'Lorraine Sunshine', I'm going to stop complaining about all the seedlings you leave that aren't varigated, because just as many are variegated. I'm also going to give you a prize package worth... well, I'll at least give you some of the very best compost from the compost pile.
So, Congratulations, Lorraine Sunshine, you are the flower of the day!
Friday, June 26, 2009
And how did they get that hoe head on there?
That's what my cousin and I wondered and asked ourselves as we examined this fine old gardening tool last weekend.
It looked to us like someone had figured out a way to put the hoe head on the handle so that it wouldn't come off at either end. Impossible, right? One end has to be small enough for the hoe head to slide on, and the other end wide enough so it doesn't fall off.
And that is indeed the case with this handle. I examined it more closely this evening and could see where if you slide the hoe head down the handle and turn it just right, you can get it to come completely off.
When my cousin gave me this hoe, in exchange for a donation to her church's building fund, I asked her if she knew the history of it, because an old hoe is more interesting if you know its story, where it came from, who used it, and how old it is.
She said she got it from a priest... and at that moment I decided that forevermore, this hoe shall be called a gardening tool. It does not seem right to talk about getting an old hoe from a priest! (You know how you are all are when I write about hoes. Your minds wander – inappropriately, I might add.)
Anyway, she got this gardening tool from a priest and speculated that perhaps it was once used at a nearby monastery. We will never know for sure.
All we know for sure is that this old gardening tool, with its hand-hewn handle and mysterious past, is now part of my hoe collection. I'll add it to the official hoe collection post once I take a better picture of it.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
But before I do, a quick review.
In my last blog post, I confessed that I had somehow inadvertently removed, hoed under, or dug up all the dill, cilantro, carrots, and parsnips in my garden in my zealous quest for a weed free garden, and that these plants are all members of the Umbelliferae family of plants.
Now I confess that I planted Aegopodium podograria ‘Variegatum’ in one contained little spot in my garden. What a complete lapse of horticultural judgment on my part! What was I thinking! I was not thinking! It has variegated leaves, it seduced me.
Whew, I feel better already.
You may know it as Bishop’s Goutweed.
And it is invasive and hard to get rid of once you plant it.
And they often sell it on purpose at garden centers as Snow-on-the-Mountain.
And it is also in this same plant family, Umbelliferae. Let it flower and you’ll see the resemblance to Queen Anne’s Lace. (No, don’t let it flower, it might set seed. Just take my word for it).
Anyway, the goutweed is contained, I have confessed, and if I just keep pulling it out, one day it will be gone and we can forget all about my lapse of horticultural judgment, at least when it comes to this particular situation.
Now I have another confession to make.
While it is true that all these plants, including dill, carrots, cilantro, parsnips, and goutweed, are members of the same plant family and all have flowers that look more or less like the common weed, Queen Anne’s Lace, Daucus carota, the family name Umbelliferae has been replaced with Apiaceae.
I hope I haven’t confused anyone by being old school with the name.
We can thank Carl Linnaeus (that's a sculpture of him at the Chicago Botanic Garden pictured above) for the botanical classification system that groups plants into families and sub-families based on their flower structures. I’ve been reading The Brother Gardeners by Andrea Wulf, and apparently it was not so easy for Linnaeus to get people to adopt his system in the early 1700’s because it had to do with s-e-x, male and female parts of the flowers. Scandalous! But Linnaeus persevered and now we have a reasonable, orderly way to keep track of plants by families.
We can also thank modern day botanists for tweaking the system and coming up with new, improved plant family names like Apiaceae.
I have one other confession to make.
I love to study plant taxonomy and figure out which family a particular plant is in. I think knowing what family a plant is in helps in understanding how to care for the plant in the garden and what to expect from it. So there might be “one or two” more posts this summer in which I go on and on about a particular plant family. I hope you won’t just click away from those posts with a “not again”.
But I promise, I will not use the old school names for plant families and then switch to the new name at the end like I did with Umbelliferae, I mean Apiaceae.
Or if I do, I’ll confess it.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
I was standing in the garden the other day, looking around, checking for blooms and bugs and doing some spot weeding, and realized I have no umbels in the garden.
Where had they gone, because I know I planted several kinds of umbels.
It didn’t take me long to answer my question. I apparently was a little overzealous with my hoeing in my quest for a weed-free garden and inadvertently hoed out the tiny carrots, dill, and cilantro seedlings that I had planned to grow in the garden. These are all members of the Umbelliferae family of plants, which is why I asked myself, what happened to the umbels?
Having answered my own question, I’m almost inspired to write a little poem… a haiku…
Seeds sown for umbels
She was too free with the hoe
No dill for the cukes.
It’s really almost unfathomable that I have no dill in my garden. Or maybe it is inexcusable? If you let dill form seed heads, you’ll have dill seedlings come up every year, more than you’d ever need, and then you can just transplant them to wherever you want them to grow. It’s almost a weed in that regard, and I do let it go to seed every year.
The same is true with cilantro, which in my garden, mostly came up in the paths this spring, which transformed it from a useful plant to a weed, if one uses the definition of “plant in the wrong place” for weeds. So I pulled it all out of the paths and thus ended up with no cilantro to go with no dill. The picture above is of the cilantro blooming last summer. It’s pretty, isn’t it?
It is unknown what happened to the carrots. Well, it is known. I just plain hoed them out accidently, when I was making room for some pole beans. At least that's what I think happened.
I still have some seeds for all three of these umbels, so I’ll sow them in the garden this weekend and see what comes up. I’ll also keep the hoes away from those areas and maybe mark the rows with some string or something to remind me not to cultivate there.
Oh, and I almost forgot. This year I also sowed seeds for parsnips, yet another member of the Umbelliferae family, and never even saw a seedling come up. Apparently my problems with umbels are more serious than I thought!
What have we learned from all this? We now know more or less where the umbels went, except for maybe the parsnips. But perhaps more importantly, we learned that even after years of tending a vegetable garden, a gardener can goof something up, something as simple as the umbels.
Doesn’t that make you new gardeners feel better?
Monday, June 22, 2009
But if it is true, it's a lot. I wonder how many of those insects are in my garden? Or your garden?
If you combine my share of those insects with all the weeds I've got growing, which might number close to one quintillion on their own, it's a wonder that I have any garden at all!
But I observed that I do have a garden, more or less, and several flowers caught my eye as I walked back and forth with the mower this evening.
First up, I noticed this Columbine (Aquilegia sp.) which has mysteriously rebloomed with these ghostly white flowers. The first blooms earlier this spring were more bluish in color and I've left their seedheads to mature on the plant because I don't mind if these self-sow a bit in the garden. I'll have to watch to see if these white flowers, these ghosts of springs past, form seedheads, too.
In another part of the garden, these Stachys monieri 'Hummelo' are blooming as good as they've ever bloomed in the three years I've had them.
They are a perfect example of how perennials seem to "sleep, creap, leap". I remember when I bought these in a one gallon container how disgusted I was with how rootbound they were. I could have kicked myself for not checking for that more closely before I left the garden center with them.
But I used a serrated knife to
I'm guessing it is more due to all the rain we've had this spring and not any talent I have as a gardener.
Not far from where the Stachys is blooming, these daylilies are putting on their annual show, providing evidence that I don't do well at making sure my flowers match each other.This particular daylily is 'Apricot Sparkles' but the color this evening reminded me of those Orange Pushups that we used to beg to buy from the ice cream truck when it came through our neighborhood "back in the day", blaring its siren song.
For a brief moment I contemplated getting some Orange Pushups at the store but decided that they probably wouldn't taste as good to me now as they did when I was eight or nine years old. Some foods are just better left in the past.
I just hope after all this reminiscining, I can remember to call this daylily 'Apricot Sparkles' and not 'Orange Pushups'.
But forget about those daylilies for just a minute, and look at this hot pink coneflower. It's blooming amongst some other coneflowers, which now look dull and lifeless to me compared to this one.
I got very excited when I saw this because I didn't remember planting any "special" coneflowers. So I thought this one just showed up like this, giving me the opportunity to name it something like 'Dang That Is Pink'. But I found the tag, and it looks like it has a registered trademark name of Echinacea purpurea 'Primadonna® Deep Rose' so I'd better not confuse myself by naming it 'Orange Pushups' or 'Dang That Is Pink'.
Finally, back in the vegetable garden, I noticed that the zinnias I started from seed on May 15th have flower buds forming now. They also have some tell-tale holes in the leaves that look exactly like what it looks like when Japanese beetles eat them. I haven't seen one of those beetles yet, but I know that's what is eating those leaves. Those Japanese beetles show up every year right about now, all 10 quintillion of them, give or take.
Time to get a bucket of soapy water and see if I can pick off at least a few quintillion Japanese beetles, right after I pull out a quintillion weeds.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Greetings from my garden! On this first day of summer, it seems fitting that I picked the last of the peas and then the first of the hot peppers this morning.
I’m also finally bidding a long farewell to the other spring crops, including the lettuce which has all bolted and turned bitter in the heat, and a few stray radishes whose roots have split in two with all the rain. It’s a long farewell because I know they all need to be pulled out, but I haven’t done it yet.
Another sure sign of summer… someone let a fly come into the house and it is buzzing all around me as I write this letter. Where’s the fly-swatter? And last week, on Thursday, our high temperature was 91 F. It’s been a long time since we had a 90+ degree day in June, I’m guessing. Our hottest month is usually July, and some years, even in July we have no 90 plus degree days.
Yesterday I went to a family reunion and had a chance to compare notes on gardens with some of my uncles whose gardens are all in zone 6a, whereas I’m in 5b. One uncle bragged that he’s already picked eleven “good” tomatoes, not those first tomatoes that are often not all that good. I forgot to ask him if he bought his tomato plants or grew them from seed.
He also told me that he has a three foot fence all around his garden to keep out the deer, raccoons, and of course, rabbits. One morning he was enjoying breakfast on his patio and saw a rabbit inside the fence, enjoying his breakfast in the garden. My uncle thought I would find it funny that he got out a BB gun and shot the rabbit, but the BB just bounced off the rabbit’s hind end and didn’t faze him at all. So much for all those people who tell me to get a BB gun to solve my rabbit problem.
Then I had a chance to take a quick tour of another uncle’s garden. He’s already picking cucumbers and his tomato plants are huge compared to mine and all caged up. Here I thought we were all a family of stakers when it came to tomatoes! I guess staking was just my Dad’s way.
This uncle’s squash plants were beautiful, but he was having problems with the squash rotting at the ends before they got big enough to pick. I’m not sure what is causing this but did a little research online and think it could be caused by something as simple as the flowers not being adequately pollinated. I wonder if he's seeing a lot of bees around them?
Another uncle tends a big vegetable garden with his son and grandsons and reported they had very poor germination of their sweet corn, so his son gave him permission to buy sweet corn this summer. But they want to be careful who they buy it from because they’ll buy enough to freeze and eat all winter and don’t want it to be full of pesticides.
It was interesting, too, that my uncle said his son is very meticulous about their garden, which sounds pretty big, and won’t let any weeds grow in it. Whereas another cousin’s husband laughed and said they just plant their garden in the spring and then later in the summer, see what has survived the weeds and harvest that. I think I fall somewhere in the middle with my approach. I don’t pull the weeds the minute I see them, but I do try to keep them from overtaking the garden, even though sometimes it looks like I’m not trying very hard.
Speaking of weeds overtaking the garden, we had more rain this past week, so it is good weed growing weather. This also means that conditions are good for pulling weeds, and lettuce, too. I should end this letter and go out and pull some weeds.
Flowers and veggies to all,
P.S. The picture above is a green bean flower. My beans are doing quite well with all the rain and unless something catastrophic happens, I’m expecting a good bean crop this year.
P.S.S. Here’s the weekly picture of the garden. I took this one early this morning when I was out there picking peas.
See the sunflowers in the lower part of the picture? It won’t be long before they are tall enough to block this view of the garden!
Saturday, June 20, 2009
It appears that this year, my tomatoes will once again be very, very late since the plants are just now starting to bloom. Even the tomato plant I bought with blooms on it will not provide a ripe tomato for awhile. I’m going to blame the cooler weather and all the rain. At least it was cooler weather until yesterday when it reached 90 F for the first time this summer. Usually we don’t see days above 90 until July.
If I’m remembering right, my Dad’s geraniums (Pelargonium) were always very big and very red. Every year, he planted a row of them in a long planter box on the edge of our front porch. His secret for growing such big geraniums? He bought the biggest and best that he could find, at least I think that was the secret. He once said the reason the neighbor down the street couldn’t get hers to grow as big as his was because “she bought the smallest, cheapest plants that she could”.
I don’t plant a long planter box full of bright red geraniums at my house, but every spring I buy one or two of the biggest and best geraniums I can find in a color I think my Dad would have liked, and include those in a few of my container plantings.
This year I planted a dark red, almost maroon colored geranium that I feel certain he would have approved of (even though the camera balks at the color).
If I’m remembering right, my Dad believed that you needed a very large garden to make it worthwhile to grow sweet corn, and since he had just a good-sized garden by his measure, he didn’t try to grow any. He did tell a funny story about one of his friends who grew up in the city and never learned how to grow vegetables, but decided he would have a garden one summer, “have a garden” meaning grow some vegetables. My Dad laughed because his friend only planted four corn plants, thinking they would produce ears and ears of corn, like tomato plants produce dozens of tomatoes.
For years, I didn’t grow sweet corn either, because I thought I didn’t have enough space, at least according to my Dad. But then I decided to try growing corn in one of my raised beds.
Lo and behold, it was a big enough patch to give me a few ears of corn, so I’ve continued to grow sweet corn ever since then.
If I’m remembering right, my Dad had very few gardening tools, though he had a good-sized garden. A spade, a rake, and just one a hoe, a pair of pruners and a trowel, plus the electric hedge trimmers that he used to trim all the yews planted around the foundation of our house. I thought I had “arrived” as a gardener when he handed me the trimmers one summer right after Father's Day and let me trim up all the shrubs. Turns out, trimming all those yews was a big job, and he probably was just happy to have some help doing it.
Though I think I've "arrived" as a gardener, I no longer think that gardening involves using electric hedge trimmers, and I have just a few more, well, a lot more, gardening tools than my Dad had. But I’d like to think he would find humor in one of his daughters having a collection of hoes.
I remember and imagine because my Dad passed away some 22 years ago. He is still missed and remembered, especially in the garden, when tomatoes ripen, geraniums flower, and the corn is ready to be picked. So to honor my Dad on Father’s Day I'll spend the day gardening and remembering.
And if I’m remembering right, that’s just how he would have liked to spend the day, too.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Carol, you are fortunate we were able to have this session. The weatherman said in the morning that we could get one to two inches of rain, and we didn’t. That would have prevented us from meeting.
I know, Dr. Hortfreud! If we had gotten all that rain, I don’t know what I would have done because I really don’t have another WOO to mow or meet until Sunday! By then the grass would have been so tall, I would have had to raise the mower blade up to the highest setting, which I call the “emergency setting”!
Calm down, Carol, as you can see it all worked out and your grass is all cut and we are meeting. I’d like to park that thought about the emergency setting on the lawn mower for a future session, however, because it seems curious that you have even considered the need for that. Now what’s on your mind?
That’s on everyone’s minds. Can you be more specific?
Dr. H., I feel guilty because we’ve gotten so much rain this spring that I’d like it to stop raining for awhile so I can get some more work done in the garden.
Guilty? You don’t control the rain, Carol, so if you want it to stop for awhile, that’s okay.
But I feel so bad for all the gardeners in Texas and California who aren’t getting rain and are having to make tough choices about which plants to water and which plants to let fend for themselves.
Well, it is natural for you to have empathy for them, you’re a gardener, they are gardeners, too. But, again, you don’t control how much rain you get.
But what if I wish it would stop raining, and it really does and we have another dry spell like last summer.
Carol, you’ll deal with it the same way you did last summer. I was proud of you for letting the lawn go dormant and watering only the plants that really needed the water.
Thank you, Dr. Hortfreud. Are you sure it is okay to wish it wouldn’t rain for awhile?
Yes, it’s okay, and while you are wishing, wish for some rain for your friends in Texas and California, “just in case”.
Okay, I will! I hope they get enough rain to please the rain lilies!
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Have you heard of or tried weeding therapy? If not, you should really try it. It’s good for both the garden and the gardener in so many ways!
For the garden, weeding therapy is all about getting rid of the plant thugs that are stealing nutrients, water and space from the non-weed plants. For the gardener, weeding therapy is all about the satisfaction of getting rid of the plant thugs that are stealing nutrients, water and space from the non-weed plants while at the same working through all the problems of the garden and life in general.
With enough sessions of weeding therapy, not only will the garden look a lot better, but the gardener will also have a better outlook on the garden and life in general. It is a win-win situation for both.
There are many ways to engage in weeding therapy. Some gardeners prefer to hire it out for others to do it for them. This is perfectly acceptable, although overall results for the gardener may not be as good, but they still get the benefit of seeing the garden improve after the weeding.
Some gardeners like to engage in a little weeding therapy every day. If a gardener has the time every day, this is also perfectly acceptable, though it might be viewed by some as a tiny bit obsessive.
My preferred method of weeding therapy is to do it in longer, less frequent sessions. First I do macro-weeding, then I do micro-weeding, and finally I finish with preemptive weeding. This three phased approach saves time in the long run, helps to organize what can often be a daunting task, and provides ample time to solve all one’s problems.
Here are some simple instructions on how I do weeding therapy using this three phased approach.
First, I make a quick pass through the flower bed, or vegetable bed, and pull out any weed I can grab in my gloved hands and pull out. This is macro weeding. I’m getting rid of the obvious weeds, quickly pulling them out and tossing them aside. I don’t worry about the smaller weeds that I can’t just pull out ‘glove-handed’. I focus on the big, obvious weeds.
Once the macro-weeding is done, I return to the flower beds with a hand tool or two to hoe out the smaller weeds that I can’t really grasp and to dig out those pesky tap-rooted weeds, like dandelions, that would grow back tomorrow if at least some of the roots weren’t dug out. This is micro-weeding.
Finally, once the micro-weeding is done, I go back through and practice preemptive weeding by mulching the flower bed or path with a good layer of my favorite mulch. Right now my favorite mulch is pine bark mulch, the little pieces not the big nuggets, but I reserve the right to change my mind.
As an experienced weeder, the act of weeding is an almost automatic practice now that doesn’t require a lot of thought as to whether a plant is a weed or not. This allows me to think about other things during weeding therapy, like, well, other things. I’m thinking about how to solve problems in and out of the garden, dreaming up new ideas for in and out of the garden, and making lists in my head of what I want to do in and out of the garden.
Sometimes, if I’m on the ball with my weeding therapy, I take the time to write down some of these solutions, ideas, and lists to follow up on later. If I don’t, I may never think of them again. They are lost in the garden like a particular Cape Cod Weeder that I can't seem to find.
I hope this rain stops so that I can go to my weeding therapy session tomorrow. (And after reading this post, you probably do, too.) Maybe I’ll find my weeder or maybe I’ll solve some great mystery? Or both? At the very least, the garden will look better, and I’ll enjoy it more.
(Note: some gardeners like to resort to herbicides to avoid weeding therapy. I do not endorse this type of activity except in the most dire of circumstances which involve poison ivy or field bindweed. And then, only if those weeds are completely out of control.)
Monday, June 15, 2009
Today's post is brought to you by a cool spring with rain whenever we seemed to need it. I wish that every spring could be like this one.
It's also brought to you by the color yellow.
From the first tomato blossoms to the ubiquitous ‘Stella D’Oro’ daylilies, which I swear every year I’m breaking up with but don’t, I have an abundance of sunshiny yellow and gold colored blooms right now.
In case you have just joined us in this world of gardening and don’t know what ‘Stella D’Oro’ daylilies look like, here’s a picture of some in my garden.
Yes, it is the very one that is planted in the landscape of every shopping mall, office complex, and gas station in every zone it can grow in. Do you like how I combined it with that garish magenta of Lychnis coronaria?
I don’t. I need to do something about that, but I probably won’t.
I also have golden yellow Coreopsis lancelota blooming in my garden, started from seed several years ago.
I once thought I had pulled all of these out. Guess not.
And I have these yellow daisies, also started from seed, which now self-sow freely about the garden.
If you know its name, please let me know. When I am pulling it out by the handfuls, I would feel less guilty about it if I knew its name.
Then there is a big patch of Oenothera something or other, which I refer to as variegated Sundrops.
Seen enough yellow? Me, too, so I’ll skip showing you the yellow flowers of a passalong sedum, the bok choi that bolted in the garden, my new Knockout roses 'Radsunny', and the tiny blooms of Coreopsis verticillata 'Moonbeam'.
However, I would like to see some sunny yellow squash blossoms and think I will in a few days.
I’ll also soon see yellow flowers on this Heliopsis helianthoides 'Lorraine Sunshine'.
I mostly grow it for the foliage. Without that foliage to redeem it, I would have banished 'Lorraine Sunshine' from my garden years ago because it is always leaves a lot of seedlings throughout the garden, many of them just plain ol’ green Helopsis heliananthoides, False Sunflower.
I do have some other colors besides yellow and gold in my garden, like these pastel colors of the sweet peas in the vegetable garden.
It took me quite a while to find some sweet peas that would perfectly match that bench.
I’m kidding, of course. That color match was just a happy coincidence, the kind every gardener likes to see in their garden. It kind of makes up for that first plant combo, the daylily and Lychnis, doesn’t it?
But enough about my garden and its blooms in June. What’s blooming in your garden? We’d love to see!
Please join us for Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day by posting about what is blooming in your garden on the 15th of the month. Then come back here to my bloom day post and leave a link to your post in the Mr. Linky widget below, and a comment, too, so we can know a little more about you before we visit.
Remember, the rules for bloom day are simple. No rules! You can include pictures, lists, no lists, common names, botanical names, whatever you’d like to do to showcase your blooms.
All are welcome to participate!
“We can have flowers nearly every month of the year.” ~ Elizabeth Lawrence
Sunday, June 14, 2009
These letters are sure making me look at my garden differently this year, knowing that I am going to write each week to let you know how it is growing. As a result, I'm doing stuff I might otherwise have procrastinated on or maybe even skipped this year, like mulching the paths.
Yes, yesterday, I finally mulched the paths between the raised beds in my vegetable garden. I was getting tired of telling you two and everyone else to not look at the paths in my weekly picture. Plus I thought they looked bad, too.
I had a nice window of opportunity (WOO) for it, with the high temperature predicted to be in the mid-70’s, which is very comfortable to work in. It took three cubic yards of mulch and most of the day to do all the paths. I buy this particular mulch a truckload at a time, bring it home, unload it, spread it around, rest a bit, then go back for the next load. Fortunately, no one at the mulch store cares much about how you look which was good because as the day wore on, I looked like, well, like someone who had been spreading mulch all day long. They are very friendly there and on the third load, the guy gave me an extra big scoop of it.
Then this morning I went out to harvest what I could find, and I found quite a bit.
Not included in the picture are a few strawberries I picked later. They are probably the last berries of the season, too, but I’m not complaining because my little patch provided me with a lot of strawberries this year. Several people have asked me what variety I grow, but I can’t remember. I’ll have to hunt for the plant tag or the receipt. I do know I mail ordered them.
I’m particularly proud of my peas. I know I’m always saying something is my “best crop ever”, but this really is my best pea crop ever. I attribute it to the rain and cool weather we’ve had so far this spring. That mess of peas I picked this morning ended up being eight cups worth after I shelled them. And there are more peas to pick later this week.
Not surprisingly, the sweet peas in the garden are also doing well, but I’ll post about them in my Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day post tomorrow.
Elsewhere in the garden, the squash plants are getting bigger and the corn is growing taller. We used to always say corn should be “knee high by the fourth of July”, but mine is knee high now and always is by this time. If it really waited until July 4th to get to just knee high height, I'd consider it a big problem and would wonder what was wrong.
The tomatoes, green beans and peppers are growing nicely, too, and I’m seeing a few blooms on them. Which reminds me, I need to get out there and plant some more green beans where I’ve pulled out the lettuce. And I want to try to grow lettuce this summer to see if I can at least get enough thinnings to make it worthwhile.
Until next week,
Flowers and veggies for all,
P.S. Oops, I almost forgot, here’s a picture of the garden today.
I took it in the rain earlier in the afternoon. I didn’t think we had rain in the forecast, but it rained anyway, then the sun came out again. That delayed me getting back out to the garden to weed after I mowed the lawn. So for now, ignore the weeds. Look at the paths! How pretty with the new mulch!
I promise I’m probably outside right now as you read this letter, pulling those doggone weeds.
P.S.S. Don’t forget that tomorrow is Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day! I’m still holding out for a squash blossom to show up for it.
Friday, June 12, 2009
Following are the minutes of our latest meeting.
The meeting began with a review of the previous minutes, notes, and correspondence of The Society. It was also noted that The Society began nearly one year ago on June 16, 2008.
Following the reading of the minutes, we proceeded to the Show & Tell program.
Since I, your humble self-appointed president, was the only one who knew about the Show & Tell planned for the meeting, I did most of the showing and telling. (Although one could argue, if we were the kind of society to do any arguing, that we all do a lot of showing and telling via our garden blog posts.)
All members of The Society were full of awe and wonder, and maybe a funny little “ick” feeling, when I unveiled for all to see…
My worm farm!
Following is a transcript of the talk I gave on my worm farm.
"Yes, as hinted at during the chatting that generally goes on between meetings via Twitter, I am now a Worm Farmer, a vermicomposter, with a genuine (gen-u-wine) worm farm. I purchased said worm farm at the Indiana Flower & Patio Show back in early spring and then added worms shortly thereafter. Oh my, did I tell you about the day the worms arrived?
I ordered the worms from a place not far from here and then got an email message that it would be several weeks before they arrived. I suppose they had to round the worms up, count them (I ordered 500 after all), make sure they all had their shots, traveling papers, etc. before they herded them up into a little bag of coir fiber, put that in a box and shipped them to me. I’m not complaining, mind you, but they left out the critical step of notifying me that the worms were on their way, so I was quite surprised to find them in my mailbox one day.
And that box o’ worms-in-a-bag, by the way, was nearly the exact height and width of my mailbox, so it took me a few minutes to wiggle those red wigglers (that’s the kind of worms I got) out of there.
But I did get them out, and in a mad panic, set up the worm farm with bedding and food and
So far so good…
- Only one worm tried to venture out of the farm and he died a horrible death on the carpet of the great room. None of the others have tried to get out since. Although, why would they? They have a comfy bed and good food, including strawberry tops and garden-fresh lettuce. And it is all snuggly warm and humid in "the farm", just the way the worms like it. Worm-paradise, it is!
- As the weeks have passed, the worms’ appetites have steadily increased and I’ve had to give them more food. I don’t mind, it’s all kitchen scraps anyway. Sometimes when it is real quiet and I take the lid off of the worm farm, I swear I can hear the worms chewing on all that food.
- I did have a temporary issue with gnats around the worm farm, but I set out a little bowl of cider vinegar nearby which attracts the gnats. Since gnats are notoriously poor swimmers, they drown in the vinegar. Gnat problem solved, as they say.
- My worm farm has a spigot to drain out the water that collects in the bottom. One would think this “worm water” would be good for watering plants, but the sites I checked for reference indicate it is not. It is mostly leachate, which can contain phytotoxins. Phyto=plant, toxin=poison!
I’m almost ready to add the next layer to the farm, though it will still be some time before I have enough worm castings, the actual product of the farm, to harvest to put on houseplants.
I recommend worm farming only to those who are willing to look at and handle the worms. If you can’t do that, you should stick to traditional composting methods. But all members of The Society should definitely be composting in some form or fashion. It is practically a requirement for membership to SPPOTGWLS!"
The meeting concluded with comments and questions from the members as we dined on dirt cake decorated with gummy worms. Members of The Society seemed to enjoy this Show and Tell of my worm farm and appreciated that I didn't include any pictures of the actual worms.
Please note as minute taker and chief presenter, I did not have a chance to include all of the members' comments and questions in the minutes. I can’t do everything for The Society, so please note your comments and questions below.
Humbly submitted by:
Current and Humble President-for-life, SPPOTGWLS
May Dreams Gardens
P.S. I also did some show and tell with my Hydrangea ‘Endless Summer’. I included a picture of a new bloom above for those members who might be squeamish about worms and worm farming and worm water.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
I started gardening, in a way, two score and eight years ago, when at the age of two my mother caught me with my hands in a bag of fertilizer. Family legend has it that she cleaned me up and put me down for a nap, then called the doctor who said to wake me up to make sure I wasn’t turning blue and was still breathing.
Although my mother was a bit reluctant to do so, because you know what they say about sleeping babies, she did it, and I was fine.
I’ve been gardening ever since the fertilizer incident, graduating from digging in the dirt with an old kitchen spoon to having a trug full of digging tools at my disposal, not to mention a large assortment of hoes.
In between the fertilizer incident and now, I have many memories, good memories, of gardening with my Dad, studying horticulture at Purdue University, and eventually gardening in my own gardens.
Growing up, I always helped my Dad in early spring plant peas and onions, then later plant beans and tomatoes and other summer crops. I loved going to greenhouses and garden centers to buy roses or tomatoes, or the red geraniums my Dad always planted in a long box on the front porch.
I loved it when he would give me and my siblings our own little garden plots, probably just a few feet wide, to grow our own flowers in. I’m sure I probably lost interest as the summer wore on, but it was exciting, as I recall, to do my own planting.
And it is still exciting to do my own planting, though I don’t tend to lose interest as much as I did when I was six.
Each gardener has their own story of when they started gardening. For some, it is a childhood story like mine, for others it is a more recent event. But it doesn’t really matter when you personally started gardening; whether five minutes ago or five decades ago. You are a gardener from the very minute you figure out that you love gardening.
So when did you start gardening and become a gardener?
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
It is once again time for the Feast of the First Peas here at May Dreams Gardens. Festivities include eating a few peas right in the garden, admiring the beautiful pea vines, picking peas, and shelling them to display in one of my best bowls.
All hail the peas!
You know what’s ironic about this pea festival?
I don’t really like peas unless they are fresh picked from my garden. I don’t, really. I would never order peas as a side dish in a restaurant, nor would I buy canned or frozen peas. I do tolerate peas in vegetable soup and other dishes where they are mostly just used as a garnishment.
But for a few days every year in June, I like peas, I eat peas, I celebrate peas.
All hail the peas!
Peas are not one of the easiest vegetables to grow, but I’ve learned my pea planting lessons and believe that barring Mother Nature interfering, I will generally have a good pea harvest each year. I just need to remember to plant peas early, choose a variety that does well in my garden, protect the young pea vines from critters and then celebrate the harvest.
All hail the peas!
All this means that I try to plant my peas on or around March 17th, well before the last frost here in my zone 5b garden. I plant the variety ‘Green Arrow’. ‘Green Arrow’ usually gives me eight, nine, even ten or more peas in a pod. The more peas in a pod, the better, because it takes time to shell all those peas.
When the peas are just coming up, I sometimes cover them with row cover until they are big enough to start climbing on the support I give them and withstand a little rabbit nibbling. This year, by the way, I skipped doing that, and the peas were fine. Where are those rabbits?
Oh, did I mention pea vines need support? You can support them with short fencing, or even some twigs that are sturdy enough to hold the vines up.
All hail the peas!
I tell gardeners that if at first you don’t succeed with growing peas, try again the next year and the next year until you figure out what makes peas grow well in your climate. It is well worth the time and effort to taste the sweet goodness of home grown peas while standing in your garden on a beautiful morning. Then you will know why once a year, I like peas.
All hail the peas!
Monday, June 08, 2009
For example, I have noticed that a gardener might be standing there holding a hose and watering a plant when she sees something pretty out of the corner of her eye, maybe a new bloom. She turns to look to see what it is and the next thing she knows, she has just watered her shoes and her legs and is soaked from the knees down. That's goofy, isn't it?
Or maybe the gardener is startled by something slithering nearby or flying just a little too close while she is standing there watering. She lets out a tiny nearly inaudible yelp while simultaneously dropping the hose. The hose naturally lands with the hose spraying water straight up on to the gardener, soaking her as she valiantly tries to simultaneously grab it and keep track of whatever it was that startled her in the first place. The very act of “valiantly trying to grab the hose sprayer” is usually accompanied by an awkward assortment of goofy movements on the part of the gardener, a special “gardener’s dance”, of sorts.
And what must the neighbors think when they see their gardening neighbor next door running as fast as she can across the yard, waving a hoe above her head in an effort to scare away rabbits. “How goofy,”, they might think, “what does she think she’ll do with that rabbit if she actually catches it?”
No, you may not have the phone number for my neighbors to ask them what they think.
I have also observed gardeners in public, all cleaned up, so to speak, except for that little tell-tale grass stain on the knees of their pants, or maybe a little leaf stuck in their hair. And they have mud on their shoes. Or even more goofy, they have mud on their gardening shoes, which they inadvertently slipped on as they hurried out the door. But they weren’t in such a big rush that they didn’t have time to stop and kneel down and pull that one weed, which explains the grass stained knee. No telling how they got that leaf stuck in their hair.
And though I have used “she” or “they” in these examples, I think men have their goofy moments in the garden, too.
Case in point, have you ever observed a gardener reaching to trim something just out of reach, thinking that if he stretches just another inch or so, he’ll be able to reach it? But instead, he loses his footing and lunges forward directly into the shrub he was trimming, only to bounce right out of it, quickly looking to the left and right while saying to no one in particular, “I meant to do that”. Yes, we are sure you did.
There are other examples of a gardener looking a bit goofy, even foolish. There is the foolish and wild flaying around while trying to shoo away a bug that has long since passed by. And the frantic smacking of arms and legs to knock off a spider that turns out to be just a piece of a dried up leaf.
And what about gardeners who get caught alone in their gardens talking to their plants? Goofy.
We should all admit it. These wild, unexplained movements, looking a bit unkempt at times, and talking to the plants when we think no one is looking do make us look goofy. It can’t be helped. It is all part of being gardeners, no matter how dignified we think we are.
We should just embrace looking goofy, at least in the garden, for a happier life.
Sunday, June 07, 2009
Greetings from my vegetable garden where the spinach has bolted but the lettuce is still good. It was great to spend time with both of you and so many other garden bloggers at the Chicago Spring Fling last weekend. I’m looking forward already to gathering with everyone in Buffalo in 2010!
While I was gone those four days, the weeds especially grew like, well, weeds, and as mentioned, the spinach bolted for the season. Yesterday and today, I spent time weeding, hoeing and harvesting in the vegetable garden to the point that I think I have it back under control. Well, under control except for the paths, which I desperately need to add mulch to. I hope to take care of that next weekend.
But the weedy paths aren’t keeping the garden from producing a good early spring harvest. Here's a picture of what I picked this morning.
I’ve been picking strawberries all week, and also enjoying lots of lettuce. Pretty soon, as in maybe tomorrow or Tuesday, the peas will be ready to pick!
In the rest of the garden, the “summer” crops are taking hold and growing quickly.
There were some seeds that didn’t come up very well, including lima beans, which I’m growing for the first time to see if I like them fresh from the garden. I know I don’t like them canned! Only one plant came up in the four foot row.
The rest of the green beans came up just fine, so it couldn’t be me, could it? I guess I’ll just let this one lima bean plant grow so I can see if I like them, and then if I do, I’ll try harder next year to grow a whole row of them.
I also had one variety of squash, ‘Horn of Plenty’, that didn’t seem to come up with the rest of the squash varieties, so I re-planted those a week or so ago. Then this morning I decided that the second sowing wasn’t going to come up either, so I dug up that spot to replant with another squash variety entirely and discovered too late that the seeds were germinating. Probably in another day or so, I would have seen the first seed leaves. Dang. It’s too late for them now, so there will be no ‘Horn of Plenty’ in the garden this season, just some extra ‘Cocozelle’, which is the variety I planted today.
But I’m happy with how everything else looks, for the most part. I’ve started suckering the tomatoes and in another week or so, I’ll probably be tying them up. My peppers still looking kind of sad, so I side dressed them and most everything else in the garden this morning with a bit of organic fertilizer that I bought when I ordered the red wigglers for the worm farm, to take advantage of some special offer. Hopefully, with some rain expected in the next few days, that will help get them out of their funk.
Dee, I hope that you made it home safely from your travels. I’m sure your first stop will be to see how your gardens have grown while you were away. And Mary Ann, good luck with the ‘Cue Ball’ squash. It's my favorite squash to grow!
Until next week, when I hope to be gloating over my peas, “flowers and veggies for all”,
P.S. I’m also growing flowers in my vegetable garden, including zinnias, sunflowers and marigolds. I thinned the seedlings out yesterday. A lot of gardeners are squeamish about thinning out extra seedlings, and as a result, none of the seedlings do well because they are all too crowded together. Everyone needs to get over that and thin out their seedlings. Plants need room to grow!
P.S.S. The flower above is one of the sweet peas I planted on March 17th. They are just starting to bloom and match my purple bench perfectly. Sure, I’ll say I planned it that way since it came out like that!
Finally, here’s a picture of the garden taken a few hours ago.
Please disregard the weeds in the paths.
Saturday, June 06, 2009
First thing out of the bags was this rabbit, which isn't surprising. Rabbits are everywhere, as it turns out, even in Chicago.
I saw real rabbits at the Chicago Botanic Garden and the Ginkgo Organic Garden. And I saw this little stone rabbit, the best kind of rabbit of all, in Carolyn Gail’s Sweet Home and Garden Chicago front garden. (Thank you to Carolyn Gail for opening up her home and garden to us garden bloggers when we visited for Spring Fling!)
I also saw a few hoes while I was in the big city, as I knew I would because hoes are quite universal, especially in the gardening world.
These two hoes were on display at the Chicago Botanic Garden.
For those who are wondering, I do not have my hoes on display in this manner, with outlines of where they go on the pegboard in the garage and labels above them. My hoes are double and triple hung from pegs, wherever I can find room for them, and I just have to remember their names because they don't have name tags.
In the Rick Bayless garden, where his gardener grows salad greens for use in his restaurants, I noticed the use of this simple low fence at the end of the row. On one side were the “crops” and on the other side was this foliage that I'm not sure what it is, maybe daffodils?
I could do that in my garden! By the way, did anyone think to ask if they have problems with rabbits in this garden? It sure seemed like a place that rabbits would enjoy.
I loved these simple twig structures that I saw in the fabulous Lurie Garden.
I examined one of them a little more closely to see how it was put together. It looks like it was made by screwing together twigs and stems from some of the black locust trees that are planted in sections of the garden. One of the twigs was even sprouting leaves, demonstrating that for the most part, given the right conditions, plants want to live! I need to find some twigs and build one or two of these for my garden.
That would make more sense than digging up my lawn to create a river of Salvia.
And I could edge the raised beds in my vegetable garden with brick the way they did at the Chicago Botanic Garden.
Some of the cedar boards I’ve used to edge my raised beds are reaching ‘end of life’ and I’m looking for some alternatives. This is a nice clean look that might be one to consider for someone who likes a little order in her vegetable garden. Now, where could a gardener get a hold of some bricks like that without spending a small fortune?
I’ll have to contemplate that and all these other ideas I brought back with me from Chicago as I get to work this morning tending my own garden, where the weeds are growing with abandon and there are more strawberries to pick. And I'm still worried because I haven't seen any rabbits this spring...