Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The good, the bad, and the ugly...

Gardening is one of those bitter sweet vocations. You love and care for each little plant and some turn out wonderful and abundant, while others turn up their toes and shrivel away. I should know this already, as my mom and dad raised us children (my brother, sister and self) all the same way - and yet I began biting people when I was two years old. and my brother and sister seemed perfectly ok. (this was 27 years ago - I have since stopped biting people... for now)
Well, this year in my garden it is no different. One plant looks like something a not too fastidious cat dragged in the night before, while the other abounds and even needs extra staking. If Shakespeare were around, he would probably nudge the fellow next to him and say, "What meat doth this tomato plant eat to have grown so large!". Below are a few examples in my yard. All were planted at the same time, had the same watering and fertilizing schedule, and the same sunlight - yet the results are quite different. I guess it is all part of the zest and spice of life.



Sweet Peas

Sunset in July of 2012

Well, enough with the philosophizing. Time to turn in and retire to "Sleep that knits up the raveled sleeve of care, the death of each day's life, sore labor's bath, balm of hurt minds, great nature's second course, chief nourisher in life's feast."

Sunday, July 29, 2012

All quiet on the gardening front...

I stole this title from Bernie H at My Dry Tropics Garden. It seemed so apt to this weekend though. You can totter over there and see much better pictures, prettier birds, and nicer flowers...or if you want to stick around I'll tell you a bit more about my weekend.
After much deliberation, reading, and emails to that wonderful mastergardener mother of mine; I have finally decided what is going to be in my winter garden. I will post the order next week after payday. I was looking for cold hardy veggies that I feel comfortable eating. There are lots that look fun and might be nice, but I've never heard of. It isn't always bad to branch out. I now have many uses for green onions, beets, spinach, and sugar snap peas that the over abundance of harvest made necessary. Just the joys of gardening!
Back to the winter garden, I and going to get Endives, a baby leaf lettuce mix (baby leaf is supposed to hold up to winter freezes better), radishes, scallions, spinach, swiss chard, carrots, and Mache. We don't have the extreme weather here in either winter or summer, (knock on wood) so I don't foresee any problems, but only time will tell. Depending on the maturity dates, I will plant these late August onward in my hoophouse and cold frames. The front garden should be able to carry us into the fall harvest easily.
There is the type of young man, whom, or it may be who, if you handed him beauty on a skewer, he wouldn't know what to do with it. I am not that type of deplorable miscreant. The flowers are in bloom, the weeds are at bay, and the smells devine. Besides the arduous task of thinking, I didn't have much to do but enjoy the weekend.(my wife wants me to edge the drive ways and walk ways, but that almost sounded like work) I did clean our a few overgrown lettuce plants and broccoli plants, but I'll reseed them today. Mostly though, there was a lot of rambling, a little watering, and much enjoyment.
The hummingbirds are loving the butterfly bushes in bloom and the bees cause a veritable hum around the area. All in all it was one of those relaxing and enjoyable weekends.

Do you think the red leaf lettuce bolted?

Some summer squash is ready! the kind on the right is called starship summer squash.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Anne & Tissues...

Things were a little quiet around here, so Lucy started reading Anne of Green Gables. You know what a tear jerker it can be!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Hard labor; 50% off; and a glimpse, as it were, of heaven...

This weekend started off a little cool, overcast and a memory of rain hung in the air. We've had some downpours accompanied by thunder and lightning over the last week or so. Although the weather people assured us of a balmy, breezy day, I wasn't sure if I'd believe them. They were proved right, though, and we were glad of it.
To start off, I had the long task of cleaning up the wildflower bed out front. It definitely embodied "wild" but was short on flowers. Mostly the grass grew really tall and them some sticky weed climbed the grass and created a dense mass stifling most everything else. I had been putting the clean up off as it looked to be a hard job, but this weekend was the time. Mary helped, but our little girls didn't as it is next to the road. It took a while and the corpses of grande grass were piled high. One problem with getting into the swing of pulling things out is that you err here and there and pull up a bachelor button or wall flower inadvertently. The dead flowers gaze up at you with great sadness, almost as if to say, "We don't blame you, we're just disappointed."Well you can't make eggs without breaking omelets every now and then so...
I did take a before/after picture, but after looking at it I decided not to post it. It looks a lot better, but after you've said that, you've said all you can. I guess there is always next year.

On to happier things! A lot of roses are on sale now. Most people are trying to get rid of them as they are getting pot bound or other problems so we scooped in a few at 50% off. I planted one in the back and two in the kitchen garden. I wanted to get more, but I need to prepare the areas before I get them. It is so hard at sales not to buy too much, but I'm getting better - a little better anyway.

Saturday proved an ideal day for a picnic...a day of breeze and blue, warm, sunny, with a little rollicking wind blowing across meadow and orchard. Over every sunlit upland and field was a delicate, flower-starred green. Since roses were in the blood so to speak, our whole family went to the Point Defiance Rose Garden. I have only been once before, but most roses weren't in bloom at the time. I've posted a few pictures of my favorites. I think it is well worth the time to visit if you are ever in the area. I also posted a short... well, a not so short video of more pictures. I didn't include all of the pictures and I'm sure you will all be very happy at that. A rose enthusiast like myself could get lost in a place like the rose garden. There are so many to see, smell and enjoy. I'm not sure if there are going to be roses in heaven, but I sure hope there are (imagine no black spot or mildew ever!).

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Farmers Markets, Fanatical Peas, and Larvae War...

I heard someone once say, "One mans dish is another's distaste" or maybe it was, "One mans trouble is another man's job." I can't remember it exactly, but it just goes to show you that you can observe a lot just by looking.
I was walking home from work and coming through the honeysuckle trellis in our back yard. This has been a stop of heartache for me as the honeysuckle became the breeding ground for about 14,000 aphids over night. I have sprayed and ans Cisco says, "El Koboshi'd" them for about a week and don't seem to be winning. One day they are in remission, the next they are looking at me in a swashbuckling way saying, "Is that the best you've got!"
So as I walked, I mused. Should I call that master gardener mother of mine. I know she's busy with a wedding and selling pretty pounds of produce to the local farmers market, so will she want a call about the latest aphid attack? Then I noticed we weren't alone. There little ladybug larvae romping around the leaves and buds. Why nature had sent her ying to my yang. She has sent her white knights to send the aphidic orcs packing. Sweet. No reason to call this time.

Here is Luther going about eating his daily 6 dozen. 

I couldn't tell if this was Hermione or Gwendolyn, but she's no slacker.

Saturday was an odd day weather wise. It didn't rain, and waited until we all had given up hope of seeing the sunshine, then got to be a scorcher. I pruned up the ivy fence in back (no, there won't be a picture of the horror) and pulled up some small trees seemingly planted at random on the right side of our front yard. The previous owner scattered rock about 2"deep, then planted small fir trees and then forgot all about the area. In consequence, there is a mound of grass that you can't mow for fear of throwing rocks and the innocent bystander and can't dig out because the grass is heavily matted in the rocks. The trees were in several different stages us decay, but now they all look the same. (gone) Chalk up one more victory of our side!
Then it was on to the vegetable garden. Mostly we are harvesting and watching new beets, radishes, and carrots growing. There isn't much to do as far as weeding as most everything is too big to need weeded or too fresh for weeds to differentiate themselves as interlopers. The sugar snap peas are buy reaching out for new heights as I either planted too many, or else had too small of an area. I could say that it was all by the book, but blaming never helped anyone. All I am going to do is to munch a thoughtful pea pod and decide what to change next year.

Peas reaching for another trellis to conquer

Our corn isn't very tall, but the tassels are showing so we're hopeful

The daylily border is going strong. There are some flowers, but a lot more about to bloom.

The last stop of the day was the local farmers market. Our market (in Puyallup) is a rather large and eclectic group. From elephant ears, corn dogs, and pizza to baby clothes, jewelry, and dog boutiques. We bypassed all of this wonderful variety and headed for produce lane and flowers. Raft Island Roses (located in Gig Harbor, which is worth the drive but very far with two children who don't like driving!) has a stand there and their roses are exquisite. We purchased two of them, but the third we wanted was already sold. I am going to plant them in the kitchen garden and take out the three that died and returned as extra wild roses - that keep forgetting to bloom. 
The only depressing part of going here is that you see all of the people who are selling their produce and it all looks better (and is priced cheaper) than yours. Their beets, corn, peas, and the rest are all extremely nice and inexpensive. We have debated spending our money there instead of in our garden, but since I enjoy pottering about the old homestead, we'll keep gardening. It is just one more reminder that we aren't doing this to save money - just my sanity!


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

AM PM and Gardening...

You may ask, what could AM PM and gardening have in common? We'll, I'll tell you. Too much good stuff! It is July and almost everything is hitting full stride. Day lilies are looking dapper, Roses looking radiant, Corn looking chipper and Butterfly Bushes blooming bountifully. (yes I did have to consult my thesaurus for those adjectives). I know (and feel it terribly) about the draughts and 100+ temps around the eastern United States, so this is not to gloat or tell you how you ought to do better. It seems that mother nature loves throwing curve balls and there is hardly a time of universal perfection. 
Here, however she is smiling on us with kindness (for now...). It has warmed up and now all of the flowers, and most of the gardeners, are rollicking in it. There is a time in the affairs of men, when taken at the flood, lead on to fortune; and that time happens to be now. 
Below are a lot of "aren't they nice" pictures. To be honest I had about 74 and 1/2 more, but my wife, who has taken many correspondence courses on what the well informed individual likes to read, tells me that 8 pictures is not too many and not too few - just, in fact, the right amount. So I posted 9. 

Happy Gardening!

Chocolate cosmos

Star Jasmine


Daylily (part of an orange collection)

Weeds can look picturesque too!

Petunias Galore

Butterfly bushes are just about to bloom

More Daylilies

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Saturday morning...

As I sat sipping my coffee, it was perfect morning. Dame Nature was doing her stuff well. It was warm, the bees were busily roving to and fro spreading sweetness and light. A light scent of jasmine tempted me to get up and smell the flowers. The Carol Mackie Daphne, or perhaps it's the Summer Ice is sending forth a light tantalizing whiff of perfume, just to let the world know that it's been getting something special ready in it's blooms. The gold finches and common house finches are merrily chirping away and the robin has had it's early worm, but is looking for seconds. As King Soloman, or was it his father David, said, "God is in the heavens and all is right in the world." But all good things must come to an end, so I finally decided laziness had run its course and now it was time for the "get to getting" spirit to wax strong.
Man's work lay ahead and I wasn't going to shirk my task this week. (unlike last week and the week before) The kitchen garden needed weeded, the fragrance garden needed tending, the vegetable garden needed mending, and the rose bed was a bit shoddy. It was also going to be 80 degrees today, so work needed to be done early. I started with the pleasant tasks of the vegetable and fragrance gardens. Work wasn't difficult and with Lucy and Helen to help, it was fun to boot. Then I walked past the Kitchen garden and thought, "You can wait til next week I think." It wasn't as if it could get much worse. It was more a few nice plants thrown into a bed of weeds than weeds growing in a nice garden, but as I turned away, a rather rakish looking dandelion sneered.

The kitchen... well I call it a garden.

I don't know if this has happened to you before. Weeds have a way of giving you the eye, nodding their shaggy mop and suggesting that it was a good idea for you to do something else because you weren't up to the challenge. Swashbuckling. That's the word. They give you a positively swashbuckling look, twirl their mustache and possibly raise an eyebrow. Well, it would have been unmanly to let a comment like that pass, so we went at it hammer and tongs. The sun was rapidly rising and peaking over the roof of our house onto the battle ground as the fury began. Up came mounds of grass. Out came dandelions, some with root, others without. The tattered carcasses lay in heaps. Needless to say, I was victorious. Hay fever, hot weather, thorns, and even sticker bushes couldn't keep a good man down. As the foremost dandelion breathed its last, it only muttered "you missed one." It was true, I had missed one. But, I had gotten a whole lot more. The area looks more like a poorly planned kitchen garden again. Oh the sweetness of victory...

Now it's a kitchen garden

This is a tiny miniature rose, only one stem survived the winter. It's only 4" tall, but still putting on a show. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The beginning of summer...

There is a saying for our area, well maybe for washington in general, "Summer begins on the 5th of July." Implying of course, that it doesn't usually show up on the 4th. We have some radicals around here forecasting nice weather for tomorrow, but most everyone is staying safe with a cloudy and chance of showers. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for lots of sunshine.

This past weekend, our family went out to ocean shores for a nice relaxing weekend. There isn't much in the line of gardening. Most people choose things that do well by them selves, then leave them that way for a long time. We enjoyed the beach though. There was also some wood carvers carving out their fortunes at the town square. They make it look easy, but that is what professionals are supposed to do. It was nice and relaxing with plenty of rain to keep us from wandering around the beaches too much!

Thanks for coming auntie Sue!

There a bunch of small fish jumping which soon attracted the birds. They (the bird, not the fish) would circle and dive-bomb right into the school. Below are some pictures.

Last night we harvested quite a bit more of our 2nd plantings. Mostly carrots, radishes and beets. (Beets are becoming quite a favorite around here. I am also starting to commence to begin to plan my fall plantings for winter eating. A lot of our lettuce and spinach has been bolting with regularity. I need to find a warmer weather lettuce/spinach or else construct some shade. It will work for the rest of this year. I keep up with two different areas of planting. I now need to shift to some colder weather crops. Ol' mr. coleman has some suggestions and I also like Johnny's seed catalog. They have a lot of info for temps, zones, and the like.

Well, that's all for now, but I hope you all have a pleasant, safe, and sunny 4th of July. I plan to celebrate with golf, gardening, Cabernet Sauvignon, and sparklers!