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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Garden fairies provide an update on winter

First Snowdrop, January 24, 2015
Garden fairies here.

We are garden fairies and we have been watching this blog wondering if anyone was going to post anything and we didn't see anyone posting anything, so we decided, once again, to take matters into our own hands and post something.

We have decided to provide an official winter update on the goings on around here.

One of the goings on around here is that the pillywiggins pulled a fast one on Carol and poked a snowdrop bloom up out of the ground on Saturday, last, that would be the 24th of January.

Well, that is the earliest Carol has ever seen a snowdrop bloom around here.  Or any bloom for that matter.

You should have seen how excited she was and how many pictures she took of that one little snowdrop.  It was worse than a plague of paparazzi at the opening of a flower show. And the snowdrop wasn't even fully open.

But that one snowdrop bloom on Saturday, last, that would be the 24th of January, apparently wasn't enough excitement and hilarity for the pillywiggins. Indeed, no.  So they pushed up a second bloom.

Goodness gracious, we thought Carol was going to have another fit of excitement but she took it all in stride as though of course she would have early blooms in her garden, as early as Saturday, last, that would be the 24th of January.

It's no wonder the snowdrops are blooming around here, as early as Saturday, last, the 24th of January.  The snow fairies are completely off their game and as a result, we just haven't gotten that much snow around here. We've heard rumors that the snow is all several hundred miles to the east and north of here to which we say thank goodness.

But at the same time, we won't feel like it has been much of a winter if the snow fairies don't give us a little bit of snow now and again.

Of course, we don't want to encourage the ice fairies. Snow is one thing, ice is quite another.  Brrrr..

Anyway, you know what else is going on around here?

Nothing.

That's right. Nothing.  Carol has not ordered the first packet of seeds.  We are going to work on her to order seeds this weekend. It is supposed to snow which we think will remind her to order up some seeds.

It always does.

Submitted by:

Violet Greenpea Maydreams, Chief Scribe and Seed Whisperer here at May Dreams Gardens

Friday, January 23, 2015

"In the soft, warm bosom of a decaying compost heap..."


I almost didn't see the box tucked behind the flower pot by the front door. Who knows, it may have been there for a couple of days.

But I did finally see it.

Inside was my new-to-me copy of The Complete Book of Composting by J. I. Rodale and staff (Fourth Printing, 1967). Coming in at 1,000 pages plus (if you count the index), it's a hefty tome.

I look forward to the secrets of composting which will surely be revealed to me as I ponder the wonders within this book.

The first few sentences of chapter 1, The History of Compost, draw you right in, don't they?

"In the soft, warm bosom of a decaying compost heap, a transformation from life to death and back again is taking place. Life is leaving the living plants of yesterday, but in their death these leaves and stalks pass on their vitality to the coming generations of future seasons. Here in a dank and mouldy pile the wheel of life is turning."

And if that isn't enough to make a gardener want to go out and at least give a friendly pat of thanks to her compost pile, if not a hug of gratitude, they've included a poem by Walt Whitman.

This Compost

Behold this compost! behold it well!!
Perhaps every mite has once form'd part of a sick
    person--yet behold!
The grass of spring covers the prairies,
The bean bursts noiselessly through the mould in the
    garden,
The delicate spear of the onion pierces upward,
The apple-buds cluster together on the apple-branches,
The resurrection of the wheat appears with pale
    visage out of its graves.
What chemistry!
That the winds are not really infectious,
That all is clean forever and forever,
That the cool drink from the well tastes so good,
That blackberries are so flavorous and juicy,
That the fruits of the apple-orchard and the orange-
    orchard, that melons, grapes, peaches, plums,
    will none of them poison me,
That when I recline on the grass I do not catch any
    disease
Now I am terrified at the Earth, it is that calm and
    patient,
It grows such sweet things out of such corruptions,
It turns harmless and stainless on its axis, with such
    endless succession of diseased corpses,
It distills such exquisite winds out of such infused
    fetor,
It gives such divine materials to men, and accepts
    such leavings from them at last.

Yes, we can poke a little fun at the idea of 1,000 pages written on the subject of composting, especially now when people seem barely able to stay focused through a few paragraphs of information glowing at them from their computer screen.

But composting really is an important topic not only for the home gardener, but for everyone involved in tending the earth and growing crops, whether on thousands of acres or on a tiny urban plot.

For everyone who gardens soon learns that the soil must be replenished. And adding compost, adding organic matter, is how soil is replenished. That's how it was eons ago. That's how it was 55 years ago when this book was first published in 1960, and that's how it is today.  There is no substitute for adding back organic matter to your soil to replenish it.  

If you are gardening and you aren't composting, make it a resolution to start a compost pile, or two or three, somewhere in your garden this spring.

You'll be a better gardener for doing so.

And you'll have better soil, too.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Five principles of vegetable gardening

Gather round, new gardeners, for I am about to spill the beans on some principles of vegetable gardening that will help you in your own first attempts at growing a little food for yourself.

Principles?

I know, the word "principles" sounds highfalutin and uppity-do-da-day. But bear with and you'll see that these principles are pretty simple, pretty easy, and pretty much intended to help guide any gardener to a life of happiness and good vegetables.

Yes, a life of happiness and good vegetables.

Once you know these principles, you won't lose your mind reading seed catalogs, trying to decide what to grow.  You won't fail miserably at growing vegetables.  You won't give up hope during the hottest days of the summer.

Put these five principles of vegetable gardening to work and you will soon be eating your own homegrown vegetables.

Ready?

Here are my five principles of vegetable gardening.

1.  Never reach for a chemical pesticide to solve a bug, weed, or disease problem in your vegetable garden.  Commit to finding natural solutions to your bug, weed, or disease problems.  I always tell people you can buy pesticide-laden vegetables at the grocery store, so grow your own vegetables using organic methods.

But you say you don't know the organic methods.  Let me google that for you! Within seconds you can do an online search about nearly any vegetable garden pest and find ways to control it without reaching for a spray, dust, or other chemical concoction.

2.  Build up your soil.  Add organic matter, side dress with good compost, use good organic fertilizers.  If you pay as much attention to building up the soil in the garden as you do tending the vegetables, your vegetables will practically grow themselves.

Not convinced that soil makes a difference?  Look up the Symphony of the Soil documentary and get a copy of it to view yourself.  After viewing that, you may grow vegetables just to get the makings for good compost to enrich the soil.

3.  Grow what you like to eat. But remember what you like to eat may change when you grow the vegetables yourself.  If you don't like a particular vegetable, commit to growing it at least once and trying it again. You may find you like it when you grow it yourself.

Over time, you'll figure out your tried and true varieties of vegetables to grow. I recommend you grow those each year, but also try at least one new variety and one new vegetable each year.  One of the new vegetables may be your greatest triumph of the growing season and earn a place on your "tried and true" list.

4. Make the garden only as large as you think you can tend on your own.  Generally, in most families, it falls to one person to tend the vegetable garden, so don't make the garden so large that it gets away from you by mid-summer and becomes a big weedy mess.

And even if the garden becomes a big weedy mess by mid-summer don't give up on it.  Spend a morning or two reigning it back in by weeding it and pulling out spent plants. You'll be surprised how the vegetable plants that are left respond and grow and produce for you.

5. Don't worry about what could go wrong in the garden, remember what can go right.

So what if your spacing is a little off or you are a week or two late in planting? Or you don't pull every weed?  Fortunately, a vegetable garden doesn't require perfection to produce food.  You'll still get some good food for your efforts.

And a bonus sixth principle for growing vegetables.

6.  Visit your garden daily.  The more time you spend in your garden, even if it is just five minutes  early in the morning, the more you learn about it.   You can catch problems early on, before they take hold and destroy an entire crop.  And more importantly, you can harvest vegetables at their peak and enjoy some of the best food you've ever eaten.

Trust me. Adopt these principles of vegetable gardening, and you'll enjoy a life of happiness and good vegetables.

Yes, happiness and good vegetables.


Friday, January 16, 2015

Dearest Summer...

One of Summer's delightful flowers.
Dearest Summer,

I feel compelled to write to you after your absence these last several months, to tell you how much I miss you and how I long for your return.

I miss your music - the hum of the bees as they flew from flower to flower and the songs of the birds each morning, coaxing the sun to rise once again from the horizon.  I so enjoyed, too, the sound of the water gurgling in the garden fountain and even the whirr of the lawn mower.

I miss your warm breezes, too, and the soft rain you brought with you, not just to break up the monotony of one sunny day after the next, but to water the plants in the garden.

Oh, the garden! Do you remember when you presented me with the first green bean, the first ripe tomato and the first ears of corn?  I was so grateful. Did I tell you how grateful I was? Did I tell you how much I miss all that now?

I am not completely bereft in your absence, though, for so far Winter has not mis-treated me. Winter has given me a chance to rest, to not feel the pressures you sometimes put upon me to mow or water or just go outside to enjoy your sunshine and warmth.

Winter has also stuffed my mailbox full of seed catalogs.

But when I look through the seed catalogs, all I do is think of you, Summer.  As I turn each page and see pictures of flowers and vegetables, I long for the days when we'll be together again.

And when we are together again, I'm going to be a better person, a better gardener, than I was when we were last together because, dearest Summer, Winter has given me a chance to think, to reflect, to plan, to vow to do better.

Winter has changed me! For the better, I think. You'll see, Summer, how wonderful it is going to be when we are together again.

For starters, I'm going to be more diligent about weeding in the garden for you.  I was so lax with it when we were last together, you looked terrible at times. It was all my fault, too.  But no more. I will weed. I promise.

I also promise not to leave plants in their tiny nursery containers for days, weeks, even months at a time. When I buy you new plants, Summer, I promise to plant them right into the ground as soon as I possibly can.  You can count on it, Summer.

And I won't leave your produce out in the garden where it does no one any good.  I will pick everything and share it with others, Summer, because it disrespects all you've done in the veg garden when I don't.

Finally, I promise that when you return I won't complain about your hot days, Summer. I know you can't help them. And I definitely will cherish any rain you bring.  Please count on that, just as I count the days until your return.

In the meantime, while I wait and bide my time with Winter, I'll continue to look through the seed catalogs, which remind me so much of you, Summer, and make plans for your return.

With more fondness than you can imagine,

Carol

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - January 2015

Happy Garden Blogger's Bloom Day and welcome to Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day for January 2015.

Here in my USDA Hardiness Zone 6a garden in central Indiana, it's wintertime.

This means it's cold, it gets dark too early and mornings are slow to arrive.  We've had some colder than normal days, too, but not as cold as last January.

Oh, and we haven't had as much snow, so far, as at this point last winter.

But enough about the weather.

I'm a gardener and so I've figured out how to have blooms in the wintertime, at least indoors.

I always plant up a few amaryllis bulbs around Thanksgiving. The big white blooms pictured above are the end of the season of amaryllis blooms for me.  These are just regular ol' big box amaryllis bulbs.  They are fairly inexpensive so I don't know if I'll try to summer them over and get them to bloom next year, or treat them like annual flowers and compost them in the spring.

One plant I've kept for years in the sunroom is my jewel orchid, Ludisia discolor.

It blooms consistently every January.  Sadly, though, as a plant it is just hanging on so there is just one bloom spike this year. I repotted it a while back, so hopefully, that will help it to hang on and maybe send up some new growth.

A new bloom for me last year was Lily of the Valley, Convallaria majalis, and I couldn't resist buying more pre-chilled pips and growing it again this year.
Oh yes, it is worth the price to smell the scent of Lily of the Valley in the wintertime.

There are some other blooms in the sun room -- a little pink fibrous rooted begonia, a hot pink kalanchoe and crown of thorns in both pink and yellow. Those plants have a few blooms on them most of the time so they are "nothing to write home about".

But I will soon be writing about the Hyacinths I'm forcing into bloom on vases.
These hyacinths and a few other types of bulbs I'm forcing into bloom should be blooming by February bloom day, if not sooner.

And who knows, depending on how this winter goes, I could have some outdoor blooms to write about then, too.

What's blooming in your garden on this January bloom day?

We'd love to have you join in for Garden Blogger's Bloom Day and show us what's blooming in your garden right now. It's easy to participate.

Just post on your blog about what's blooming in your garden today and then leave a comment below and put a link to your post in the Mr. Linky Widget. If Mr. Linky doesn't cooperate for you, send me an email, and I'll help you out as soon as I can.

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


Saturday, January 10, 2015

Kokedama - Must be willing to make a little bit of a mess...

Kokedama with ivy
I just finished cleaning up the sunroom after making my first kokedama.

Kokedama is a Japanese word that translates into English as "moss balls" though all the auto-correct editors want to translate it into chokedamp.

The idea is to mix a combination of peat and clay soil, generally a 70-30 ratio, so you can form the soil into a ball and it stays as a ball. Then you plant something in the ball, generally a plant that will like the same moist conditions moss likes, and cover the ball with green moss, using string to keep it all together.

You can then set the moss ball in a dish or hang it with string.

For Kokedama, most people apparently use a clay soil called akadama, so that's what I used.  You can get it from anyone who sells bonsai supplies.

Now, at this point, I should offer some pictures showing step by step how I made my moss balls, but that would have required me to keep washing my hands to grab the camera and take a picture. Plus, I am not completely satisfied with my first attempt, so I'm going to make some new ones in a few days, with a few adjustments in the soil mix and some fresher green moss.

I used some plants I already had on hand for my moss balls.

Moss balls planted with Iris bulb on left, ivy on right
These two were planted with an Iris reticulata bulb on the left and ivy on the right.  I have no idea if the iris will grow in that moss ball, but I had it, so I am trying it.

I planted this moss ball with a houseplant called turtle vine.

Moss ball with turtle vine.
I've had that little decorative indoor bird bath for years and never could decide what to do with it.  Now it seems like it was made for a moss ball.

The next few days and weeks will tell the tale of my moss balls.

Will they fall apart?  Will the iris sprout and bloom? What will become of the ivy and turtle vine?  When will the green moss take hold of the ball of dirt so I can remove the unsightly string?  Will I make another one?

I did enjoy making these and I will probably make some more.  In the meantime, stay tuned for updates on these, spend a little time over on Pinterest looking at moss balls, and maybe just try it for yourself.

And one other thing... Plan to make a bit of a mess if you make your own moss balls.





Monday, January 05, 2015

The Doris Day Approach to Gardening

Lily of the Valley showing their buds!
There are times when, for our own well-being and peace of mind, we should adopt the Doris Day Approach to Gardening.

"Que sera, sera.  Whatever will be, will be. The future's not ours to see."

This Doris Day approach doesn't mean we should do nothing in the garden and let it return to the wild.  

It means we should work happily in our gardens, doing what we think is the right thing to do at the right time. And then stop fretting about whether we did the right thing, at the right time, in the right amount.  

Whatever will be, will be.  There is too much we simply cannot control in the garden to spend one minute worrying about it.

Que sera, sera, as the first snow of the season moves ever closer to my garden.  I've done what I thought I should do to prepare for winter. Now as winter arrives, I will watch from the window.

Whatever will be, will be.   I don't know if we'll get one inch of snow or half a foot of snow with this first storm.  I just know I will not be running out into the cold to do anything to stop it from falling on my garden.

Que sera, sera, as I look past the pot of  budding Lily of the Valley pips out the window to see what's going on in the garden.

If you find yourself fretting about your garden or realize your garden is causing you to be more stressed than relaxed, consider this Doris Day approach to gardening.  Hum the tune, and sing along.

"Que sera, sera, Whatever will be, will be. The future's not ours to see."

And with my apologies to songwriters Ray Evans and Jay Livingston who wrote "Que Sera, Sera", consider these lyrics:

When I am out in my garden
I ask the flowers, when will you bloom?
Will you survive winter, will you return?
Here's what they say to me.

"Que Sera, Sera,
Whatever will be, will be
The future's not ours to see
Que Sera, Sera
What will be, will be."

Relax. Enjoy the garden in wintertime, in any time.  What will be, will be.

Friday, January 02, 2015

Garden Fairies Make Predictions for the New Year


Yet another vintage postcard
Garden fairies here.

We are garden fairies and we are going to make some predictions for the New Year about Carol and her garden.   We have been watching and observing and making notes so we feel more than qualified to make such predictions.

First, we predict Carol will plant peas on March 17th.  She has planted her peas on March 17th for the last umpteen years so we feel like this is a pretty solid prediction, a good lead prediction.

We also predict that Carol will pull out those shrubs by the sunroom and she will plant some hardy Camellias in their place.  She already planted a hardy purple-leaf oh, what do you call it?  Oh right, she planted a purple-leaf crepe myrtle there last fall. It's her garden of Southern Follies and Delights.

We also predict that she will have Lily of the Valley blooming in her sunroom in January.  This is a sure thing, dear readers. We are garden fairies and we've already seen the pot of Lily of the Valley sprouting!  Unless something tragic happens, like she gets a cat and the cat knocks over the pot, which isn't going to happen, there will be Lily of the Valley blooming in the sunroom in January, or early February.

We are garden fairies and so we are going out on a limb to predict and prognosticate that there will also be weeds in the garden this summer. Ha!  We already planted some of the seeds. We are garden fairies.  We predict Carol will weed them out, but not before they are big and tall and would be embarrassing to Carol if anyone saw them.

We also feel very strongly that Carol will have her best vegetable garden ever.  She must. Really, it is the only way to approach planting a vegetable garden because who wants to plant a so-so garden or an average garden or a "this will do garden"?  No one.  Every gardener always plants their best garden ever or we are garden fairies go home.

We garden fairies also predict Carol will lose a pair of gloves, perhaps get stung once by a wasp or yellow jacket, and mow the lawn at least once a week through the growing season.

In addition, we can state with some confidence that we garden fairies will continue to watch over her garden and report any foibles or funny business as we see it.  After all...

We are garden fairies.

Happy New Year from all the garden fairies at May Dreams Gardens.

Submitted by:
Violet Sweetpea Maydreams
Chief Scribe and Head Prognosticator at May Dreams Gardens