Thursday, April 30, 2009

Barrel pots, more tulip glam pix

Sage and I bought two half-barrels at Lowe's and potted them with impatiens for our deck (which doesn't get more than half a day's sun).  We are currently in the midst of slowly repairing our deck.  Yes, it's early to be putting out impatiens, so I'll check the weather and put them in the garage if we're expecting a frost.
And now, some more tulips for you:

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Tulips open; potting, murderous squirrels

Today I potted my sweet william together with basil (though I won't put the pot out til after Memorial Day.  It's still in the basement.)  Then I potted up my annual baby's breath into little yogurt containers.  I also started my cantelope and cucumber from seed.

Some f***ing squirrel decided to bite the flowers off of six of my tulips, just when they were about to open.  It's a depressing site, especially since the squirrel didn't even eat anything.

Some eye candy for you:

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Too hot!

Phew!  What a crazy day (as in scary crazy), as the temperature reached 85 degrees.  One warm day doth not global warming make, but it sure didn't feel right.

My garden responded accordingly:  a number of my tulips opened, and many of my plants just burst out of the ground.  It was actually too hot to do much work in the garden.  I did manage to move the joe-pye weed that came up too close to the cherry tree that I recently planted, and (in some premature enthusiasm) put my hollyhocks into the ground.  I was sure to water everything thoroughly.

Indoors, my hibiscus, snapdragons and campanula have germinated.

First Tulip

My first tulip of the year, close to the house, where it gets lots of radiant heat.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Hyacinth; Survivals; Broccoli

Sugar snap peas at about one month.

This morning the wonderful smell of hyacinth wafted into my living room windows, open for the first time this year.  It was glorious.

I have a Darwinian approach to gardening, so I was pleased to see new growth on the sweet autumn clematis and the pee-gee hydrangea that I thought I had lost.  It's amazing how plants survive even the roughest of conditions.

Sage and I put our broccoli into the raised bed this afternoon, and watered everything.

The trellis in the photo above, by the way, is a child gate that we never used, now turned sideways and nailed to the raised bed.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Strawberries and more seed-starting, both indoors and outdoors

Upon Mike Skillin's advice, I planted my bare-root strawberries (which seems a bit early to me), then watered them in with a diluted fish/seaweed fertilizer.

In my penultimate round of seed-starting, I started more morning glories and some nicotiana (a bit late, but I remembered how much I enjoyed them last year).  All that I have left are cukes and cantelope to start.

Today was one of those beautiful Spring days that makes you do foolish things, so I took a risk and directly planted seeds outdoors:  hesperis (Dame's Rocket), gaura, and annual baby's breath, then watered the entire garden.  The seeds were all leftovers from last year's plantings, so there will be no tears shed if they don't make it.

Friday, April 24, 2009

muscari, blueberries, and seed starting

As noted yesterday, my muscari (grape hyacinth) are starting to mature nicely.  I love the fact that foliage emerges from these bulbs in the Fall, then the little flowers come out in the Spring.  They are great planted en masse.Sage and I bought and planted two new blueberry bushes, a Northland and a Patriot, which are hardy to zone 4.  I didn't have the best of luck with the less-hardy Earliblue and Berkeley varieties, so I'm trying again, this time with a little more sun.  We planted them with some peat/compost, then top-dressed them with a compost mulch.Oops.  I forgot that I was chilling seeds in my refrigerator (in a zip-lock bag in my crisper).  I doubt the extended chill will hurt them (it was only a week or so extra).  So today with my daughter's help I started anemone, columbine, campanula, snapdragons and hibiscus.  I was very proud of my daughter (soon to be four):  when I told her I was just pressing the little seeds into the top of the soil (rather than covering them), she asked:  "is that because they need light?"  Indeed, they need light to germinate.  

Labeling disaster:  somehow the label for my tomatoes fell out of their cells, and now I can't figure out which seedlings they are.  I'm sure I'll recognize them at some point, hopefully before I eat the wrong plant.

We'll see how this goes:  since the weather should be pretty temperate over the next week, I put my lobelia into my portable greenhouse/cold frame to harden them off.  They are in two window boxes, which I will affix to my picket fence somehow, so that the plants drape over the top of the fence.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Potatoes; cleanup; births; deaths

A busy day in the garden:  

Sage and I planted eight Yukon Gold seed potatoes (cut up into sections containing two eyes each, and "hardened" for two days) in a new bed she helped me dig a few days ago.

Cut more runners from my two lilac bushes and spread them along the picket fence.  (I plan on keeping them shoulder height).  I then spread some wood ash (collected this winter from the fireplace) around their bases, and watered it in.

My California poppies have emerged from the soil.  18 days ago I sewed a large packet of seeds in a few spots around the garden.  As a former Californian, I love to see them flowering en masse.

Put some seaweed-based compost/mulch around the roses and peach tree.

My muscari are up and about ready to turn their grape color.

I have so many new and unknown shoots coming up after fall seeding.  Hopefully I'll be able to identify them once they leaf out and bloom.

Indoor gardening:  potted up my zinnias and hollyhocks, since they've outgrown their little seed-starting cells.

Plant obituaries:  it's time to give up on my lamb's ear and two lavender plants, all of which I had growing in pots last year and should have protected from the cold over the winter, but left them on my front porch.  I also salvaged a mildewy hydrangea last summer from a nursery (for a buck), cut it back hard, and hoped it survived.  It didn't.   My ten mums are also struggling to come back:  about half of them look healthy.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Hyacinths, lilac runners, sprouts, beets

My white hyacinth are opening nicely, and the tete-a-tetes make a nice backdrop.

Sprouting news:  my baby's breath, sweet peas, bachelor buttons, sweet alyssum, and soapwort have all emerged.

This morning, while the weather holds, Sage and I moved some plants around to make a place to grow cantelope in the back yard.  We also planted some beet seeds, which I'll cover soon to keep them warm enough.  

Sage also watched me dig up some of the lilac runners and move them about the garden:  I wanted to get rid of them anyway (to promote the vertical growth of my three-year-old bushes), and decided I would try to just replant the runners I cut.  I've heard it works; just hope I did it right.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sprouting Success!

My tomatoes, black-eyed susan vine, and basil have sprouted -- thanks to the heat mat I just bought.  The moral of the story:  follow the instructions on the seed packet!

Managing the Rainstorm

As local readers will know, it's been raining steadily since late last night, with rain heavy overnight and this morning.  Here's what I did today to try to manage it:  this morning, after the heaviest rain had abated, I removed the yogurt containers from my brussel sprouts, since they needed the light more than they didn't need the rain.  This evening, I removed the storm door and portable greenhouse from my raised bed, and used the greenhouse to cover the brussel sprouts.  I'll leave it there (unzipping the cover on warm days, covering up in late afternoon) until the threat of frost is over.  In case you're interested, my greenhouse is called a Seedhouse, available here and a number of other places.)

Assessing the rest of my garden:  everything seems to have fared well, though my daffodils are a bit droopy from the weight of water.  Hopefully they will spring back in the sunshine.  I also took a quick perusal of my flower garden, and saw a number of new shoots emerging from the ground, including my sages, baby's breath, liatris, and things I can't yet identify.  (I do have a "map" of my garden that I regularly update, so I'll have to consult it to figure out what's coming up.)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Preparing for a Rainstorm

In anticipation of tonight's and tomorrow's rain storm, I covered my raised bed with my portable greenhouse and an old storm door, propping the latter up so that the rain runs off out of my raised bed.

On another note, after soaking my morning glory seeds overnight, I started a new batch of them, along with some dianthus.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Seed Starting -- Try Again

Good thing killing plants is not illegal, because I’ve murdered quite a few. Indeed, that’s how I’ve learned to be a better gardener.  

This year, my seed starting projects have suffered from neglect and ignorance. My tomatoes and soapwort didn’t germinate, due to low temperatures in my basement, my morning glories and most of my broccoli got too leggy and flopped over, due to my grow lights being too high, and others just withered because I didn’t water them regularly. Some did fine, mind you: my lobelia, hollyhocks, zinnias, and iberis are doing great.

I’ve had to start over with so many plants, buying a heat mat for the seeds that need 70 degrees, and adjusting the lights lower to the seed trays.  If that doesn't work, I’ll probably just buy little seedlings once it’s closer to Memorial Day.

With my daughter's help, I was able to start: tomatoes, soapwort, basil, sweet alyssum, and black-eyed susan vine on the heat mat, and nasturtium, annual baby's breath, sweet peas, and bachelor buttons.  Let's hope for the best.

I was able to salvage the broccoli by taking the two cells that had un-flopped broccoli and instead of thinning them out, carefully separated the seedlings and transplanted each of them into separate little yoghurt containers (with holes poked in the bottom for drainage).  I ended up with about a dozen plants.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Grape Vine and Tete-a-Tetes

Eye-candy post:  my tete-a-tete's in full bloom, and my larger cupped ones beginning to open.  I've also put in an Edelweiss grape vine and tied it loosely to the grape post (with bird feeder on top).  The grape post is an attempt to reproduce the one that I have fond memories of when growing up, as my neighbor let her grapes grow wild in the same manner.  I remember gorging myself on her grapes as a youngster.

Worm Bin

Today Sage and I made a worm bin. The process is rather easy, and the results (I hear) are well worth it.  Worm castings are one of the best composts you can find, and I plan on using the run-off for a liquid fertilizer (diluted 1 part run-off to 10 parts water.)

I found an old sealable bin in my garage, and washed it out.
I drilled 28 small air holes near the top of the bin for ventilation.
I drilled a large hole near the bottom and corked it, to drain off the liquid compost.
My daughter and I shredded newspaper, watered it til moist (not soaking wet) and fluffed it up so it’s about three inches high. I added some leaf litter, a handful of dirt, and about the same amount of kitchen scraps.
I added the worms (purchased at FW Horch in Brunswick for $6. Great folks!)
I put on the lid.
I got my daughter to decorate it with stickers and drawings.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


My tete-a-tetes (tiny daffodils) are now in bloom, interspersed with blue squill.  I'm kicking myself, because I meant to plant more of each last Fall to cover the bare spots you'll see in the photo below, but I never got around to it.  My "mass planting" is not very mass.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Pruning Clematis

My clematis (pictured below:  it's the little stick in the middle) took a beating by the piles of snow around it this winter.  Fortunately, it's a clematis paniculata, the type that grows furiously and blooms on new wood, so that it can be cut back hard (almost to the ground) each year.  Other clematis bloom on old wood, so pruning should be more selective.

The No-Lawn Approach

The front yard that came with the house we bought five years ago was mostly a patchy lawn bordered by some nice irises, tulips, baptisia (blue false indigo) and sedum. Grubs infested the lawn (I later learned), so after having a hard time maintaining it, I gradually eliminated it over the course of the past three years.

It's like this: monocultures (growing the same plant in the same place year after year) encourages infestations, while growing more diverse species doesn't.

With no lawn and the help of something called Milky Spore (a microbial parasite that kills grubs), I no longer have a grub problem.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Warming up the Raised Bed

Happy with the germination success of my spinach and lettuce, I moved my greenhouse over my sugar snap peas and carrots, at the other end of my raised bed. (Peas need at least 45-degree soil, but 50 is preferable. Not sure about carrots.)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Spring setup

Cleaned up in the front yard. Watered the cherry tree again. Cut back last year’s catmint (finally), then weeded and mulched my liriope on the side of the house. There are hundreds of little maple seedlings growing in my yard.  I also “planted” a post to grow a grape vine up.

Cold Frame Success

On March 30th, I planted peas, spinach, lettuce and carrots in my raised bed.  After two weeks of waiting, I covered my lettuce and carrots with my portable cold frame.

Success!  They have sprouted!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Cherry tree

Bought a cherry tree and planted it in the central bed, surrounded by tulips and daffodils. My first daffodil opened in my back yard:

Friday, April 10, 2009

Cleanup, worm bins, and more

Raked up the side yard. Covered some of the raised bed with the cold frame to see what happens, since nothing has sprouted yet. Daffodils just about to open. Lots of bees among the crocuses. Thinking about starting a worm bin.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Big day in the garden

A big gardening day, with much help from Sage. Planted gladiola bulbs in the corner bed and under the front window. Moved a number of plants (astilbe, solomon’s seal, phlox and lavender) from the back yard to the front, to make a bed to grow potatoes. Cleaned up a lot of leaf litter around the front yard. Put the garden bench out too.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Cutting back lavender

Cut back the lavender in pots on the front steps.

Tip: Lavender is less an herb than a small shrub, as it grows on old wood, so don't cut it back to the ground as you would a perennial plant. I cut mine back to about 6 inches once I saw new leaves growing on the old wood.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

California poppies

Planted California poppies in the parking strip and near the front steps

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Pansies After Rain

I potted some pansies on my front porch, and (despite common sense) have left them there to weather the frosts we may still get.  So far, they have fared well.  This photo was taken after last night's rainstorm.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Seed starting and transplanting

Heavy rains most of the day. Transplanted the other lobelias to the window box. Transplanted sweet williams to yoghurt containers. My morning glories are already too leggy!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Seed starting

Started tomatoes, hollyhock, broccoli and zinnias with Sage’s help.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Spring cleaning -- part two

Finished my Spring cleaning in the garden. Bought some new garden gloves, having worn out my old pair. Lots of crocuses in bloom, especially the yellow ones. Some squill about to open. Made a “trellis” for my snap peas out of two bamboo stakes and an old metal fence.