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