Monday, June 14, 2010

A Change of Address

I've finally done it. I now own See Jane Dig. All future updates of our adventures in gardening on the Lot will be posted there. The past posts here will eventually be shuffled over to the new address. I'm going to take Word Press for a spin and see how I like it.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Maintenence Marathon: Part 3

This (very early) morning started with a huge bang as the first set of seasonal thunderstorms rumbled through the area. After comforting one of our four-legged garden helpers, I tried to get some more sleep. No such luck as yet another storm came through. And another. We decided to spend the morning inside and complete all those house chores I like to forget about if I can be outside in the garden.

After lunch out with a friend we returned home and surveyed the lot. The high winds and torrential downpours really battered some of the plants. The peonies, lambs ear, snow peas, spiderwort, and valerium had either been waterlogged or blown completely over. After trying to shake some water off the spiderwort in hopes of making it stand upright again, I gave up. It was probably going to rain again. It did.

I'm kind of kicking myself because I learned last year the spiderwort tends to collapse outward. But it did so because it was much larger and the weight of the blossoms pulled the stalks away from the center of the plant. I guess now I know as soon as it fills out, I should wrangle it with a pantyhose girdle. Same thing goes with the lamb's ear. Those flower stalks should have been staked by now. Argh. Next year the peonies will get cages so that should solve the waterlogged blooms bending the plant stalk over. The valerium was collateral damage as it was standing too close to the spiderwort. At least I remembered to effectively rope back the already massive jupiter's beard.

I'm not sure what to do with the snow peas as they were climbing their fence in their 4'x4' bed. According to the June 28, 1942 edition of the Sunday Morning Star, peas and pole beans can be given extra reinforcement by twiggy branches. This newspaper mentioning war bonds and victory gardens suggests to "give the plants known to need staking attention early in their career." So, for next spring, when the afore mentioned plants awake from their winter naps, I'll be waiting with bamboo stake, twine and pantyhose.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Memorial Maintenence Marathon: Part 2

Today I was out of bed at 7am so I could get some pre-heat wave work done in the garden. Progress was made until we had to leave at 10am. When we returned home around noon, the weather was unbearably hot and humid (for Zone 5). Siesta time! Unfortunately, I was shutdown until around 5pm. Laundry has to get done sometime I guess.

Nevertheless, here's what was accomplished today:
  • all yellowed spring bulb foliage cleaned up in south bed
  • lupine deadheaded
  • irises deadheaded
  • arborvitae bound up to hide winter damage
  • all roses fed
  • front and side beds weeded
  • remainder of vegetable plants put into ground
  • two dahlias potted
  • hollyhock thinned
  • a lot of ground ivy ripped out

This morning when I awoke, I had a surprise for me in the garden. The black and white poppy I'd planted last year had bloomed. Like the white bleeding heart, this is the first season it's bloomed on our lot. I'd been watching the pod-like shell the flower was in grow larger and larger. Sometime between last night and this morning, the pod literally popped in half and the flower unfurled. It's absolutely lovely. I'll name the poppy Audrey II.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Memorial Maintenence Marathon: Part 1

This week I've been creating a list of things to do in the garden. Since there is an extra day because of the holiday weekend, I thought I'd get tons of things I've been neglecting. After all, spring is passing and summer is just beginning. The bleeding heart blooms are starting to fade and the blanket flower has it's buds. There's a subtle changing of the guard happening in the garden right now and it isn't waiting for me to be ready.

I've worked my first full day of the weekend and have reviewed my list to mark off what I've accomplished. I then giggled a little hysterically. This may have been due to dehyrdration. It was horribly hot today (89 and humid) and is expected to be for the remainder of the weekend. After struggling a bit to be productive at all outside during the hottest hours of the day, I decided to put a siesta into action. I went inside and took a nap, not returning outside until about 3:30. Armed with this knowledge gained through first-hand experience, I plan on doing this Sunday and Monday too.

A bright spot in my day was a visit to the local farmers' market with my Better Half. We made it there fairly early purposely to avoid the huge Saturday morning crowds. We purchased two hanging baskets of wandering jew for the front porch. We also picked up our summer vegetable starters including kale, Mulato Costenao (heirloom) pepper, Ace pepper, Thai Basil, flat leaf parsley, cilantro, chives, Mr. Stripey (heirloom) tomato, Black Cherry (heirloom) tomato, and a Pink Brandy (heirloom) tomato.

When we planted the vegetables this evening, I took the advice of the tomato ladies and my gardening friend Mrs. R. They said when planting tomato or pepper plants to plant the seedling deep into the ground, in some cases up to two inches deeper than the current potted soil line. On all of our plants, this was around the area of the first big branches of leaves. If you do this, roots will grow along the length of the newly buried stem. It makes the plant sturdier and allows it to fair better in hot, dry weather.

The map for the two 4'x4' raised vegetable beds is in it's third revision. The first planting of everything except for the radishes and beets did not do well. We think at April 1st, we were a bit anxious and planted too early. My Better Half replanted everything else again about a month later. This time we received some onion and snow pea sprouts. Not until it warmed up quite a bit did we get carrot sprouts. The green onions have not done anything.

So, in addition to our finds from the farmers' market, we planted cucumber, okra, and pole bean seeds. The okra replaced the radishes. The chives replaced the nonexistent green onions. The kale was placed behind the climbing snow peas so it would receive only dappled sun. The basil was booted over to the other bed along with the peppers. The tomatoes were planted in front of the snow peas to offer a bit of break from the growing summer sun/heat. Now I have to build some structures for the beans and cucumbers before they sprout and are ready to climb.

Here's what else I accomplished today:
  • potted black-eyed susan vine for pergola
  • potted the Picasso petunias
  • potted the leftover Coleus
  • took out all but one Forget-Me-Not from Loki's bed
  • assembled rain barrels
  • collected all the rocks from the pergola project and raked out the loose soil
  • emptied all the planters I'd grown spring bulbs in
  • prune peonies, irises and last of spring bulbs in backyard

Friday, May 28, 2010

How Could I Forget?!

Last spring when I was planning Loki's flowerbed, I thought it would be nice to have a swash of forget-me-nots in the front corner.

This is me at the beginning of June 2009:
"What adorable flowers. I'll dump a seed packet of these small annuals in the front corner behind the violas. They are dainty, sweet little blooms that will look nice with the violas and hosta, but also contrast nicely with the archangel."

In August of 2009:
"Huh. I sure do have a thick thatch of foliage, even after thinning them out. Maybe they didn't get enough sun to mature in time for blooms. Oh well, I'll put something else there next year when they die out over the winter."

In the beginning of April 2010:
"Well, what do you know. They made it through the winter! Maybe I'll leave them there and see what happens."

In the beginning of May 2010:
"Holy-lotta-flowers! Can a mob of flowers still be referred to as sweet and dainty? Wow. The plants are huge and crawling all over the violas. Wait, did they just eat that grape hyacinth?"

"The oat grass! They ate my cats' oat grass!"

"Oh my. It's going to seed. Hmm, maybe I should read up on Forget-Me-Nots."

Apparently the Forget-Me-Not is a perenial. There are many varieties, but most feature flat, five-petaled, 1cm diameter blue, pink or white flower that appear in spring. When mine bloomed this year, the flowers where in clusters together on top of longer stems so it gave the appearance of a blue cloud over the violas. The leaves are elongated and grow directly from the flower stalk.

The plant prefers shade and averages 5-12" in height. Forget-Me-Nots self sow profusely and can be invasive. I read in numerous gardening forumn this can be countered by either deadheading the plant or by pulling up the mother plant and shaking the seeds back onto the soil for plants the following year. To be honest, pulling out all the plants makes me a bit faint. Tomorrow I will thin the plants again and then deadhead what remains.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Pfingstrose and the Pergola

Today was Pentacost, a holiday in the Christian church marking the outpouring of the Holy Spirit to the apostles. While we were out in the garden, Mom G told me in Germany the peony is referred to as the Pfingstrose or the "Pentecost Rose" since the plants tend to bloom on Pentecost. My first peony bush of three began opening about three days ago and is now full of very pale pink, baby powder-scented blooms.

Also this past weekend, my family drove here to help my Better Half and I construct a pergola for our backyard. We began work around 10am on Saturday and worked until around 9pm. We were up again at 8am and worked until about 7pm today. It was a lot of hard work and everyone ended the days hot, tired and dirty, but I think we did a great job and I am completely geeked about this new focal point in the garden.

Things I did to help prepare for the project:
  • agonized over cedar vs. treated lumber
  • called the city to check if I needed a building permit
  • asked how far the structure had to be from the property lines
  • marked the 10'x10' footprint with stakes and twine to decide on location
  • looked up the frost line for the area
  • called MISS DIG to have the utility lines marked
  • ordered all lumber and hardware and had it delivered before my help arrived
  • bought tons of food and beverages for my workers
  • purchased new blades for the jigsaw and sandpaper for the sander
  • printed out multiple copies of the blueprints/plans
  • patience, patience, patience

Things I learned (aka. should have done):
  • hot, sunny weather calls for sunscreen
  • read, reread, and read once more the plans and make sure they are thoroughly understood
  • makes notes of errors in the plan
  • templates for arches can be redrawn in Illustrator, scaled up to size and printed ahead of time
  • a tweak in one part of the plans often leads to additional tweaks
  • check over the lumber order on delivery to make sure it is correct
  • make sure the new blades actually fit the jigsaw and are long enough for the project
  • even more patience

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Dirt on Dirt: Texture & Structure

I've been attending a free gardening series held in area during the spring and fall. Yesterday was the first class of the 2010 spring series. It was a presentation on soil by Kathy Rohm. Being a fledgling gardener, I did not know so many things could be said about dirt. The presenter did a fantastic job. Here is some info she shared with us on soil texture and structure.
  • Soil Texture: the size of the particles in the soil
  • Soil Structure: the way the particles are held together
Sand has large, irregularly shaped particles. Because of this, sand has a very loose structure and drains easily, often taking any soil nutrients with the water. It does not hold moisture well.

Silt has smaller particles than sand, but they are also irregularly shaped. It is between sand in clay when dealing with structure.

Clay has very fine, flat particles. It packs very tightly together, holding onto the nutrients better than sand, but not allowing room for air in the soil.

Ideally, most plants prefer the texture found in a sandy loam, which is a mixture of sand, silt and clay. Loam will retain moisture and nutrients so the plants have time to access both. It has a structure which makes it crumbly, allowing air to exist in the soil and plants to spread their roots without being stopped by any barrier.

Kathy suggested a fun test to help determine what type of soil structure you have in your garden. Fill a quart jar 2/3 full of water. Add soil (dried on a newspaper and ground as fine as possible) until the jar is almost full. Screw on the jar lid and shake vigorously.

In 20 seconds, the heaviest particles will settle to the bottom of the jar. This is the amount of sand in the sample. In about another two minutes, the silt layer will have settled. The remaining layer, the clay, can take several weeks to settle. The settled layers can give a fairly accurate estimate of the soil texture in the garden.

Now, where is my Better Half's canning jars?

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Veggies Version 1.0

We've done it! My Better Half and I planted our first round of vegetables in the new, raised beds we built last fall. Putting our trust in, we made sure to head outside first thing in the morning to plant. That afternoon, our area was to receive some spring rainshowers.

After reading about a few different backyard, veggie gardening techniques, we settled on a mix of Lasagna Gardening and Square Foot Gardening. Lasagna Gardening allows us to build up beds and control the contents of our soil without having to drastically amend it. We utilized Square Foot Gardening for planning and planting the two 4'x4' beds.

Here is what we planted, direct sowing the seed into the beds:
  • Teton Hybrid Spinach
  • Red Cored Chantenay Carrots
  • French Breakfast Radish
  • Green Onions
  • Detroit Dark Red Beets
  • Hybrid Granex Yellow PRR Onions
  • Melting Sugar Snow Peas
When planning/planting, we tried to take into consideration which spaces in the garden can be reused within one growing season. For example, if all goes well, the radishes will be ready to harvest in 24 days. This space will then be free to plant warmer weather crops.

Also, some veggies like the radish, spinach and snow peas prefer the cooler weather. It is recommended these vegetables be planted in early spring and then again in late summer.

Finally, when planning the positions of the plants, we tried to take into consideration how sunlight would change over the growing season. Some plants are taller or grow upward as vines, possibly throwing shadows on the bed. There is also a large tree in our neighbor's yard that is currently without leaves, but in a month will be blocking some late afternoon sun for at least one of the beds.

We've tried to prepare for our adventure into vegetable gardening, but I'm sure we'll still learn a lot. I'm wondering what the skunk will think when she visits our backyard for the first time since her winter nap.

"What's this? A salad bar just for me?! You shouldn't have."

Thursday, April 1, 2010

App Envy and Prepping Beds

One of my gardening friends, Mrs. R, just shared a new app with me she had purchased for her iPhone. It's a gardening app, developed by NanoSoft, called iGarden. It only took a few flips through the features before I coveted it. The App is reviewed here on Doug Green's Garden blog. I think he has some valid points on what could potentially be viewed as shortfalls of the software. However, seeing Mrs. R's notes on what she had planted the evening before, attached to a photo (taken by her iPhone) of the garden bed with links to the countdown for each veggie made me absolutely giddy. Hopefully any glaring flaws of iGarden spotted by experienced gardeners will be reported to the developers so the app will be even better in it's next release.

Enough of the geeky, tech ranting. It reached 75 degrees today which made it nearly unbearable to be in the office. After dinner with friends, I still had enough daylight and pleasant weather to wrangle my four-footed garden crew and head out into the back yard to play. The Better Half and I constructed two 4' x 4' raised, lasagna beds last fall. Over the winter the contents had settled. Tonight I topped off the bed with a mix of top soil and manure. If the weather holds, we'll be planting our first round of vegetables this Saturday.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Mother Nature, are you being sneaky?

I checked in the front, South bed today and my daffodils are in bloom. What?! This warm weather is really stirring up the activity on the lot. When I checked my post for my daffodils last year, they had bloomed around the end of April. Are they early this year?...or maybe last year they were late? It's going to be fun comparing my growing notes and garden photos from this year to the previous.

The peonies in the back bed have poked their shoots above the ground. I also spotted the tiny blades of the dwarf irises sticking out of the mulch in the fence bed. The foxglove, also in the gate bed, has some healthy new spring growth. If next weekend is going to be as nice, I'll reset some plant tags and run a full inventory check.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Other Shoe Drops

March 20th is the first day of spring. I exclaimed this while my Better Half and I were munching on breakfast yesterday morning. We both looked out the window into our backyard, looked at each other and started to laugh. It was snowing.

Last year at the beginning of March, all the snow melted away and temperatures reached into the upper fifties. This year during mid-March, temperatures warmed in the same way. The star of Bethlehem, tulips and daffodils broke through the ground. The crocus were blooming. In a fit of gardening withdrawal, the butterfly bushes were pruned! Then it snowed.

This is a good thing. I feel like I can let out the breath I've been holding ever since the weather turned spring-like these past two weeks. Although I do enjoy winter, this is it's last gasp before leaving us and spring truly arrives. I can't wait. Neither can the plants.

In addition to the above mentioned bulbs, there are other plants stirring on the lot. While poking around in the beds, I noticed the sedum, lilies, irises, jupiter's beard, lamb's ear, poppy, delphinium, bleeding heart and lenten rose all showing new sprouts. I feel like it's Christmas morning.