Saturday, March 31, 2012

Mostly about Sparrow Hawks and holly hocks... except the holly hock part

We had a visit from the neighborhood sparrow hawk. He swooped in like he owned the place and scattered all of the little birds like chaff in the wind. Then, realizing dinner was gone, he stalked around a bit, kicking random pieces of dirt and muttering to himself. I think he'll be back as we have lots of birds living on the "you-provide-food-we-provide-the-entertainment" plan. 

It was also Lucy's 2nd birthday on Friday. We invited over a small host of friends and had lots of cake, cupcakes, coffee and candy - with some carrots on the side. We are the kind of family that doesn't want to spoil our girls and teach them that there are entitlements. We don't own the Taj Mahal, but we are happy and thankful for what the good Lord provides. So that being said, we only got her a small kitchen, a potty training chair, a dish set for the kitchen, a few Toys-r-us specials, those few outfits she couldn't do without, a watering can... well anyway not very much. And all over her friends did the same, a small bike, (thanks grandma Kathy) a baby, a tea set, lots of crayons and coloring books, chalk, and so on. So, as you can tell we are keeping to our guidelines and not giving her anything that is not part of the absolute necessities of childhood. ;-)  She was grateful and muttered a quick "ya-ya" which for those of you who don't speak her language means thank you. Then she pointed to the next present and said "Prize!" (we are working on that)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Random thought of an unorganized gardener...

Over the last 2 months, I have been reading books, went to a couple (free) classes, and read gardening magazines until my eyes bubbled. It is always lots of fun and I usually get one or two good ideas. The problem is that each of those ideas are not large enough for even a small blog post. So, this is going to be an eclectic group of ideas that have no common thread, unless it is that they are usually something I have had problems with. Hopefully, you will have had the same problem and are still looking for a solution - however as what usually happens is I have my "Eureka" moment and tell people and they give me a blank stare as if to say "you just found that out?" followed by a polite "oh really?"; you can have a laugh and say the name ignorant gardener is not just a title.

1) When fertilizing most plants, a good 20:10:20 fertilizer is best. Also add some epsom salts to it. Epsom salt has magnesium which help them do something or other I can't remember, but it really good. 

2) Organic fertilizer are good. They will not burn your plants because they are not ready to be consumed by plants. First, they must be "broken down" by microorganisms (a polite way to put it in my opinion) and then they are ready for the plant. This makes them more of a time release agent as the microorganisms take the slow and steady approach. The only drawback for this is that they are like me, they like it to be warm out before they go to work. If it is cold, they don't like it and won't "break down" the organic materials. 

3) When watering zucchini, squash, or cucumbers, keep the water off the leaves if possible or they can get mildew and something else really bad that starts in the flowers and keeps them from producing this or that vegetable. You can cut the flower so that water will run out instead of staying there and allowing the bacteria to germinate, or just water at the roots. 

4) On a cold summer (like last year) or for hot weather plants like peppers, there are miniature green houses (actually just a nice plastic that goes over the plant and support which is like a garbage bag but looks more feng shui or aesthetically pleasing). These keep the plant warmer and more likely to produce good stuff.

5) Floriferous is a word. It means lots of flowers, blooming freely, and stuff like that. Webster and Roget have a more flowery way to put it, but I like my paraphrasal better. (take that english teacher!)

6) Dahlias, at least in our neck of the woods, need to be dug up each year (too much work for me) or they will get too much water and the tubes will rot. However, if you pile fern fronds over them so that the water will not create a soggy mess for them to rot in all winter, and remove the fern fronds in april, you'll have the same results and with less work. Also, dead head dahlias frequently for best results. (this has not been tested by me, but Cisco says it works so....)

7) Clematis needs constant even watering and alfalfa meal for it to perform its best. If it dries out, it will stop blooming and only grown lots of green stuff.

8) Cut petunias back half way right after you buy them and are planting them in your garden. This will cause them to grow back bigger and better than ever. Also, if they get rangy later, cut back by 2/3 and water/fertilize well. They should continue to bloom **this sounds a bit scary to me, but tests are underway this year for hard evidence of this procedure.

9) Day lilies follow the sun, so keep that in mind when planting them. Then they won't be like that Israelite King Ahab and turn their backs on you to face the wall. 

10) A rose by any other name is still a rose; however a picture of a rose in a catalog is not always the same rose you get when you order. - always check pot sizes. 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

More Weekend Fun...

With the weather forecasters predicting a 47-55 degree day on Saturday, I think that there were probably a lot of high hopes (besides mine that is). It was a slow, cloudy start, but after our usual weekend grocery shopping trip it cleared up and made us all think that spring may not have forgotten us.
Lucy and I took a walk through the neighborhood. It was nice to see that most of the usual suspects of spring are now starting to show their beauty. (There is a short video of our ramble at the end of this post)

This was a big weekend though because according to the schedule we mapped out over the winter using all of the best scientific methods, calculators and almanacs it was time to transplant all of our early starts (broccoli, asparagus, lettuce, and onions) into the raised beds. It seems too cold still, but I was getting nervous as most of the plants had roots trying to explore the outside air of the dirt blocks. Also Broccoli has a tap root that if you hurt it, it will never flower which happens to be semi-essential for those wonderful, tasty treats it provides.

Also, a bit ahead of schedule, but since it was so nice, I built the frames for the vertical crops - tomatoes, summer squash and cucumbers. I had seen either in a magazine or possibly square foot gardening, or maybe it was one of Eliot Coleman's books (yes, I have a bad memory) a really nice frame for the vines to grown up. I started trying to make them, but as usually happens, it didn't go quite as smoothly as I thought it would. However the final product (no I am not going to give a good laugh by showing them) is strong and will support the vines well. When they are something to look at and covered with vines and vegetables, I'll post picture then. I may even be the envy of the blogosphere!

And, knowing how fickle the weather is around here, I even tested out my makeshift hoop house in case spring decides to be winter again. I have some plastic from hoop house not currently in use in the back yard, and I'm going to fill a 5 gallon bucket with warm water. I'll place the bucket under the plastic to keep everybody warm, and "Viola!" and those people who pretend like they speak french say, no winter frost in spring will kill my little starts!


Thursday, March 22, 2012

it was the best of times, is was the worst of times

Pelham Grenville Wodehouse once wrote, "And so, calm and golden, the days went by, each fraught with hope and youth and sweetness, linking to young hearts in silken feters forged by the Laughing Love-god." (This is in Girl on the Boat, which, I might add, is a great book and will lighten the doldrum of almost any spirit or day) Had Mr. Wodehouse lived in Washington, however, instead of England, he would probably have been sitting at his typewriter, looked out his window today and written something more like this, "And so, calm and golden, snowy and sunny, the days went by, each fraught with spring hopes - soon dashed upon the rocks of reality, tying the gardeners pent up souls into knots at the whims of the Laughing weather-god." Well something like that anyway.

At dawn today, there was a light layer of snow on the ground and a brisk winter feel in the air. At noon the sun was shining, God was in the heavens and all was well on the earth. It turned out to be the nicest day, well to me anyway, the nicest day in a long, long time. At least this month, or perhaps year. (no I am not bitter that spring has almost forgotten about us.) Will it last? I don't know and for now I am not going to let that evil thought darken this lovely day!

Here are a few pictures...

This is white heather, really really close up

On to more good news!

About 4-5 months ago, (mistakenly I thought, but that seems to be the way that I learn best) I started a winter harvest garden. I really started a spring harvest garden as most things you plant are for the next season except in summer. So this garden grew, and mind you it grew at the rate of an abnormally slow snail. Most of them looked like they were trying out for the willy wonka chocolate factory (you know, miniature). However, just when I started giving up hope, or maybe even a month or so after, it started warming up and they have now begun to commence to really starting to get somewhere!

Yes these are as delicious as they look. 

This is the first "all home grown, nothing but organic, all the good stuff and none of the bad" salad we've had. Yep, that's spinach, red leaf lettuce, and green leaf lettuce. Oh ya, and that really is a radish. Am I excited? To put it mildly, yes. This is the beginning of a new epoch, the golden days of "delicious, vitamin packed greens all in the back yard waiting to be picked" have begun. Out with the old, chlorine bleached, salt water washed lettuce and carrots. (well until I find a new way to kill my dainty little crop.) If everything works out it should last a month or so, until the next planting is starting to hit high gear and perform like the magazines all promise. Stay tuned and we'll all find out if this is one of Dostoevsky's tragedies of good things gone bad or one of those sappy westerns where everything works out and we ride off into the golden sunset with an extra radish in the saddle bag.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The end of winter (good riddance!) and first day of spring...

Spring Pools by Robert Frost
These pools that, though in forests, still reflect
The total sky almost without defect,
And like the flowers beside them, chill and shiver,
Will like the flowers beside them soon be gone,
And yet not out by any brook or river,
But up by roots to bring dark foliage on.
The trees that have it in their pent-up buds
To darken nature and be summer woods --
Let them think twice before they use their powers
To blot out and drink up and sweep away
These flowery waters and these watery flowers
From snow that melted only yesterday.

He must have been looking at his almanac for this year! There was a report that over 1000 high temperature records have been broken over the last week, yet we are having a hard time getting over 45 degrees! Well good news, today spring has begun and I have a feeling it is going to warm up... or else I'll be wearing my winter woolies for a few weeks more. 

Happy beginning of spring to one and all. May the Lord bless and keep wintery cold days... far away from us. 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

the best kind of customers...

Have you ever walked into a nursery or greenhouse and asked for a specific type of plant, say a "Camellia Sasanqua", and asked the young lady or gentleman there if they had any. Then they look confused as if this is a new plant that must have just came out and they should know of it, but don't. Next, they get into a large pow wow, which grows and grows until almost everyone is there, and discuss what the customer has asked for. (shooting furtive glances over their shoulders at you which makes you feel like the only human on the planet of the apes) Then the slightly older, wiser lady or gentleman who was heading up the committee comes over and says you wanted a "Camellia Sasanqua"? You say, "Yes, I saw it in a magazine and it looks really nice. I may be mispronouncing it, but I think I got it right." Then you show them the picture and the name and he or she pauses... with a stifled smile, nay a stifled laugh, and he or she says, "Oh, you mean the Camelia Sasanqua. (by throwing the accent on the right part of the word, and not stumbling through the many letters, it actually sounds like a word) "Yes", you (or by now you may have figured out who this really is) say. "That's it!"
Then they lead you by the hand telling you all of the things nice about it (which you read before, but not wanting to appear more of a donkey than you already have, you say oh, and isn't that nice). The hefty price tag paid, (we all know that beauty doesn't come cheap) you walk out. As the doors close they all start making fun, "did you hear how he pronounced that?" "Camellia Sasanqua foresooth!" 
This is why I think I make one of the best customers. Not only do I pay for the merchandise, I also provide lots of comic relief on a dull, rainy, slushy, and rather crumby day.

Well besides all that fun, on this shopping trip I also bought a larger daphne. (the last one I bought at a master gardeners sale and it grew 4" the first year and has taken the last two years off of blooming and growing). There was also a 59 cent sale for primroses, so we bought 20 more. They are becoming a nice little border on our front bed. 
Later, at Costco, we purchased these planters that are made of good recycled things but should last about 4 life times and only cost $16! Good stuff!
Being as it was raining, windy, and off and on snow, I didn't do much planting, but we'll get there soon!

Crocus' are bringing a little light into this cloudy day.

It's a... well a daphne. 

The smell of it is divine!

The radishes are just peeping out, hopefully they don't think it's too cold.

This radish is from the winter sowing, it might be saying the ground is cold or hard. I'm not sure, but I think I'll pick it soon.

The indoor sowing is coming along nicely! (left to right: onions, asparagus, lettuce, broccoli, and green onions)

One of the new planter pots with a Lilac

Here is the much spoken of Camelia Sasanqua

The camelia in back is stepping high, wide, and lofty!
These two petite bi color buddellia arrived (we ordered them in Dec.) They aren't much now, but will be in a few years.

Friday, March 16, 2012


So here is the much anticipated release of the vacation video. Well, it may not have been all that, but there was sure a lot to take pictures of and I tried to keep it brief and amazing. It may not be either, but I hope you enjoy it.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


We took a week vacation to Maui, Hawaii. That is why I haven't written a post in a week or so. Here are a couple photos of while we were gone. I am making a short video of all the plants around our hotel, so check back soon!

Thursday, March 1, 2012


The last few days have had some nice beginnings. I can't say much about after that as we've endured light snow, rain, and good bit of wind; be that as it may, nice sunrises. And like mcdonald's says, if life gives you strawberries, make strawberry lemonade.