April 29, 2009: Humor Me

It doesn't take a lot to entertain the elderly.....me.

Today was another dreary, gardeningless day. Yes, gardeningless is my new word. I don't care if spell checker doesn't like it, it describes my day perfectly. So I just played with the computer most of the day, and out of boredom made a little video for all of you to enjoy. Or not. I figured if EG could show a video of himself playing with his dog, then I could show a video of my boy-dog trying to bury his bone under his blanket. Really, it's only about 40 seconds long....it just seems to last an eternity!

Otter and the Bone

Gosh, I hope the sun shines tomorrow.

April 28, 2009: Addendum

If I post two blogs in one day, does that make me a "Blog Hog"?

The tomatoes and peppers may hate this cold, rainy weather, but the salad greens love it! I donned my jacket and ventured out into the weather to see what I could find for tonight's salad, and I added a full 6 ounces to my harvest scale. This is a combination of Red Romaine, Red Sails, Buttercrunch and Prizehead lettuces, with lots of baby spinach and a sweet onion.

I didn't weigh the pansies ;-)

April 28, 2009: I Want My Room Back!

It's cold. It's windy. It's rainy. My poor plants, that looked so strong and healthy a week ago, are looking absolutely miserable. I know I've put them through a lot. They began life on a nice heated pad, then were moved to a cool garage to be under lights until they were strong enough to be hardened off outside. Then they spent a week in the back of the pickup, where they could be driven in and out of the garage depending on weather conditions. That was really the perfect place for them until Mr. H decided he wanted to drive a truck, not a greenhouse. So they went from there to the back patio, where they were afforded some slight protection with a tent of clear plastic. Warm days were spent on the lawn, very cold nights were spent on the kitchen counter. Our 80 degree days put them into a growth spurt, the cold nights made them stocky. But the other day, they just looked limp and sad. I brought them in today, gave them a bit of liquid fertilizer, and put them in the laundry room. I think I'll keep them there for at least a week, then our temperatures are supposed to be in the 70-45F range, so they can go back outside. But....

it sure will be nice when I get my laundry room back!

Well, at least the Arizona grown peppers are looking good, much better then their tomato siblings. The smaller of the two potted tomatoes has a cluster of blossoms today, so maybe these will set fruit. The larger one never did set fruit on its single blossom. The big tomato is 52-inches tall today. Soon it will be too tall to leave inside, it's already hard getting it through the door when I put it outside. The tallest pepper is 32-inches, and has three fully opened blossoms today with several more large buds. I'm tickling all the flowers with a soft paintbrush to hopefully pollinate them. With my luck I'll get a cluster of peppermatoes! ;-)

April 27, 2009: New Tenants in the Garden

I might have new tenants in my garden!

Mr. and Mrs. Sparrow were checking out the bird houses yesterday. Look closely and you can see her tail feathers sticking out of the hole, while the mister stands guard.

They were in and out most of the day, but I didn't see any nest building activity. I was hoping for finches, but sparrows will do. Last year, a finch nested on our front porch and gave birth to about six baby finches. I'd rather she made the mess in the garden, instead of the porch!

One of the Arizona grown peppers is blooming now.

I tickle the blossoms with a soft paint brush every day. I have no idea if that will pollinate them or not, but it's worth a try. It's still not warm enough to set these large peppers outside, and they are doing beautifully in the plant window. That lilac tree outside the window is calling to me.....

It's cold and windy out today, so I brought some spring into the house. This is my first bouquet of lilacs this year, and the aroma is heavenly.

April 25, 2009: Looking Back

Here it is, spring of 2009 and my 50th gardening season. I remember my first garden. It was the spring of 1960, I was a young widow with a baby and a toddler, and I was living in a duplex with a weedy patch behind the garage. It was the perfect spot for planting tomatoes, and plant tomatoes I did. I knew nothing of supports or trellises, so I just pulled the weeds, dug in a few plants and let them sprawl on the ground, watering them when they were dry. No fertilizer, no TLC, I just let them grow. And they grew, and grew, until they filled the entire garden. I learned to can tomatoes that year. In all these years since, I've never had such a productive tomato garden. I guess it was beginners luck, but I got the gardening bug and it never left me. This, my fiftieth season of gardening, is just as exciting and satisfying as that first tomato patch.

My 10-year-old grandson came to visit yesterday, and we went on a tour of the garden. He's been good to help rake up leaves, shovel compost into the beds and do some of the heavier work that I find to be harder on my old body each year. He's watched me plant, and he's wide eyed with wonder as he sees the garden come to life. I think I've instilled this love of the earth in him, that he has inherited the gardening genes of my grandmother, my mother and myself. We walked through the garden together, searching for new raspberry shoots, noticing the carrots were getting their frilly leaves, rejoicing over the strawberry blossoms. We paused long enough to find two small radishes for him to taste. He picked up an impulse sprinkler I had brought out to the garden and studied it, figuring out how the pressure of the water made it turn and how it changed directions.....he's curious that way, he has to know how everything works.

I hope he continues to find gardening exciting and satisfying for the next fifty years, just like his proud grandmother.

This week in the garden:

Thursday I worked on the small garden on the west side of the yard. It is twelve feet long and four feet deep, and abuts the neighbor's eye-sore of a fence. I usually put pots of cucumbers and cherry tomatoes here to hide the crooked boards, so I thought it would be a good spot to set out all my new self watering containers this year. It does get some afternoon shade from the fence, but that has proved to be an asset during our hot summers when the tomatoes sometimes suffer from blossom drop from the intense heat.

I made one more self watering container (SWC) bucket, my second one so far, and bought some tomato cages for them at Wal-Mart. They certainly are larger and sturdier than my old (very old) cages, so I guess it's time to buy more and replace all of the old ones. I wish I had used a larger one in the first SWC, but it's too late to replace it now. When the SWC was finished, I set it in place and transplanted a Rutgers tomato into it. It looks as though I'll only be able to put four SWCs in this garden. Any more, and there won't be room to get in there to pick the tomatoes.

After I finished planting the SWC, I seeded three clumps of Pacific Beauty Mix calendula in that garden, as well as two cabbage, one broccoli and one cauliflower transplant, and the remaining three basil plants. I then sprinkled seeds of Petite Yellow marigolds all along the front edge as a border and put a small wire fence around it all to hopefully keep dogs out. There is still room for the Crackerjack marigold seedlings when they are ready to set out.

We had a freeze warning for that night, it was expected to get down to 27F, so I covered the green beans and the "fairy wing flowers" (morning glories) with a sheet, and threw a blanket over the potatoes. All the seedlings were brought inside from the patio and given a good watering at the sink, then put in the laundry room for the night. I'm sure the peppers and tomatoes were much happier and a lot warmer there! It got down to 30F that evening, but everything looked just fine in the garden in the morning.

Yesterday (Friday) Annie discovered she can jump the small wire fence I had put around the new west garden, and she uprooted a cabbage plant. I found it in time and replanted it, but I'll have to find something more secure to fence in that area, because Annie jumps high for a fat girl!

In the north garden, I planted sunflowers (seeds) behind the squash patch and moved some of the compost from that mound over to the east garden, where I made a "hill" for a future zucchini. I'm afraid the one hill I planted earlier won't be enough for me and the neighbor, so a second hill will be planted in May.

I made seed tapes of Imperator carrots (102 seeds), Buttercrunch (12 seeds) and Yugoslavian Red lettuce (12 seeds), and planted them on the east side of the indeterminate tomato bed. There is a foot of space between the edges of the bed and where the tomatoes will be planted, and I can't seem to let an inch of space go unplanted! I still have several wimpy little cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower seedlings, so I think I'll put them on the other side of the tomato bed today, and plant a few nasturtium seeds in between them.

Last night I pushed a thermometer 6" into the compost pile in the big black bin, and it registered 130F. The compost pile in the fencing was only 80F, so I'll turn and combine the two piles in another week or two, or maybe invite the grandson to dinner and let him do it for me. I think I'm finally going to cook up some decent compost!

A Pictorial Tour of the Garden
*click photo to enlarge*

East bed #1, front to back; carrots (four varieties), green onions from the grocery store and radishes, Chioggia beets from Cheryl, more radishes and Detroit supreme beets. When the back row of radishes are pulled, there will be a 1-foot space in the center of this bed for four pepper plants to be planted.

East bed #2; Four cabbages, one square of dill from Dan, one square of dill from Daphne and two squares of nasturtiums.

East bed #3, front to back; Still babies so hard to see in the photo, but there are Royal Burgundy bush beans (not yet up), parsnips and Contender bush beans that are just beginning to show.

East bed #4; Four broccoli plants from EG, two squares of yellow onions and two squares of nasturtiums.

East bed #5; This one is really hard to see, but there are three squares of 3 varieties of lettuce and one square of nasturtiums on each side of the bed, with three rows of spinach (rows planted 1-foot apart). The spinach defines the 1-foot squares for 8 pepper plants that will go in this bed when it warms up.

East bed #6; Four cauliflower plants, two squares of parsley and two squares of nasturtiums. You can really see where I put unenriched soil in the corners for the nasturtiums!

East bed #7; Four squares of carrots (4 varieties) on the left and four squares of beets (two varieties) on the right, with room in the center for eight pepper plants.

East bed #8; Potatoes. The Yukon gold haven't broken through yet.

East bed, south fence; Super Sugar Snap peas with Black Seeded Simpson lettuce just emerging.

East fence bed #1; Shallots from last fall's planting. I was going to put a pot of cucumbers behind them, but the post of neighbor's new gate falls right in the center of this bed, so as soon as the shallots are pulled, I'll remove the bed completely and put in some stepping stones or pavers.

East fence bed #2; Nothing here but 5 brassicas (lost the labels, so whatever grows will be a surprise). This is where 3 or 4 determinate tomatoes will be planted, along with a few marigolds.

East fence bed #3; The garlic is looking MUCH better since I sprayed it with cornmeal tea! The rosemary is definitely dead and will have to be replaced.

East fence bed #4; Nothing but 4 brassicas of unknown varieties, and four basil plants in this future tomato bed.

East fence bed #5; A new blue pot will hold lemon cucumbers from Cheryl. In front of it are my chives, which are beginning to blossom, and the entire bed is surrounded with mixed sizes of marigolds. The pretty tulips are on the other side of the fence, and belong to my neighbor.

In the "dog kennel garden" bed #1, Alderman peas and mesclun.

Dog kennel garden bed #2; Three varieties of lettuce, now protected with netting so the quail don't eat it all.

The first of three barrels in the north garden holds the leftovers from the brassica seedlings. I'll tuck these plants into the tomato bed today, then this planter will be the home to two varieties of melons from Dan.

North garden barrel #2 holds one of the two new bluberry bushes, a leftover strawberry plant and some large variety nasturtiums.

North garden barrel #3 contains the second (rather sickly) blueberry and nasturtiums.

North garden bed #1: borage from Cheryl, godetia and Kentucky Blue pole beans (not yet showing)

North garden bed #2: Strawberries, sweet onions and yellow onions.

North garden bed #3: Bush beans from the dollar store (45-cents worth!), raspberries and spinach. One of the raspberries has sent up a new cane! I MUST thin the spinach soon. Some of the beans have really yellow leaves, but I found that is quite normal in this cold weather. Once it warms up again, they should green right up.

I won't show North garden bed #4 (the indeterminate tomato bed) and bed #5 (the squash bed) as nothing is showing there yet.

This is the west garden, the one that is "under construction" this weekend. Although they don't show well in this photo, there are two nice tomato plants in those SWCs. I have planted 5 brassicas, 4 basil plants and a lot of calendula and marigolds in this garden, as well as bush cucumbers in the pot in the center of the photo. Two more SWCs will be placed to the right side of the garden.

The Blue Pot

Hardening off the last of the plants before they go into the garden.

****And finally, two views of the garden****

The next complete pictorial tour of the garden is scheduled for the last Saturday in May.

April 22, 2009: First Harvest!

No matter how small, the first spring harvest is a beautiful sight to behold!

Tonight I'll have a lovely salad of mixed greens; Prizehead, Red Sails and Red Romaine lettuces with baby spinach. There would have been a fourth lettuce, Buttercrunch, but the quail came through this morning and nibbled all the outer leaves. I put some bird netting over the bed today, so maybe next time I'll get some green lettuce to go with the red. I pulled five little radishes and two nice green onions. I've planted so many of both, I'm not shy about pulling some when they are still quite small. It's not a lot, but I got to add four ounces to my produce scale! It would have been more if I hadn't trimmed about 4" of roots off of those onions, just so I could get them in the picture! Roots are really running deep in this good compost rich soil, which bodes well for the carrots and parsnips!

Yesterday it got really warm, 88F, I think. I installed a new garden sprinkler, so now the entire garden should have good coverage. Unfortunately, the new sprinkler will water the leaves of the indeterminate tomatoes when they get planted. I'll be sure to water very early in the mornings, and hope it doesn't cause disease problems.

I set many of the seedlings in the garden to get watered, forgetting the godetia didn't have drainage holes in its container. The soil blocks got completely waterlogged, and the poor plants were drowning, so I plucked them out and planted them in the garden. I also planted the four survivors (of 7) Crackerjack marigolds (4/16). Then I weeded and edged around the patio, where I would like to eventually plant strawberries. I'll be getting runners from the new plants one of these days, and I don't want them to go to waste.

Today I cleaned patio and hosed everything down well. OOPS, knocked down a hornets nest, so I had to evacuate the area until the hornets moved on. When it was safe to go back out, I mowed around edges of back yard and added clippings and leaves to the fenced compost pile. I potted up 12 pepper plants into 16 oz. cups, as the roots were growing out of the bottoms of the soil blocks. I planted another pepper plant in decorative pot for the patio.

I planted three dwarf nasturtiums (seeds), one cabbage (plant) and one basil (plant) in the side garden, where the tomatoes and cucumbers will be in containers. Then I moved all the ramaining seedlings to the corner of the patio, where they will get morning sun rather than having to move them out to the lawn each day, which is getting very tiresome.

The larger of the two AZ planted Tumbling Tom tomatoes grew four inches since I took its picture four days ago. At an inch a day, it will soon take over my house!

Aren't the baby morning glory leaves pretty? They remind me of fairy wings.

One hot day and the green beans go crazy!

April 20, 2009: It's Not Every Day....

....that I'm utterly exhausted from working outside. But today I am. It's not the everyday chores of gardening, that's always a good kind of tired. It's the grunt work like digging out underground sprinklers and installing new ones (three of them today), filling pots and buckets with potting soil, edging the lawn around the garden, spraying the weeds in the street.

Yes, we have weeds in our street! Actually they are in the parking strip between the street and the curb. I have no idea why this area was never paved, but I have to resort to using Roundup on it several times through the year, or we get tack weeds (goat heads or whatever you want to call them) and other noxious weeds growing there. I've been killing them out for twenty years now, I think I'm fighting a losing battle!

So I'm tired, and stiff and sore. I decided to take a bit of a rest and wander outside with the camera.

I was so happy to see a LOT of bees working the flowering quince! Last year I didn't see any bees around here until September, when I found a few on my squash blossoms.

This is the final spring for the flowering almond. It has lived here for almost 20 years, and is really past its prime. It will have to be removed to make room for a larger garden shed, but maybe I can dig up a few suckers and get another one started.

I know I showed you a picture of the pansies Saturday, but they just look so happy I had to show them to you again.

It was 84F here today, so Annie spent most of her day enjoying the warm sun. This is her favorite spot in the yard. There is a root from the old maple tree sticking out of the ground, and she keeps the grass worn down from laying on it. Poor little thing looks like she's starving, doesn't she?

Look, EG....I planted a tomato in the SWC today, a Volvograd! It's pretty early, but I'll put a milk jug over it at night, and I have three more of this same variety if I happen to lose this one. It was one of my larger ones, but after stripping it down and planting it deep, it looks kind of puny!

I had some "firsts" today!

My first potato broke ground today!

And my first bean!

The first morning glory.

And the first nasturtium. They are germinating much better from seed sown outside than from starting inside. Too bad I just planted all the rest of them inside :-(

Yes, I planted them yesterday, before I spotted the ones growing in the garden. In fact, I started an entire flat of nasturtiums and marigolds inside. I soaked the nasturtium seeds overnight and planted 15 trailing and 39 dwarf varieties, and 18 Crackerjack marigolds.

Yesterday in the garden, I planted one hill each of zucchini, yellow crookneck and Waltham butternut squash, and a hill of small sugar pie pumpkin. Then I planted one container of lemon cucumbers, a double row (7') of pole beans, and some spicy globe basil in the blue planter. I also set out four regular basil plants in the east garden.

Now I'm going to fertilize the roses, cook dinner and clean up the kitchen.

Then I'm going to soak in a hot bubble bath and go to bed early. I deserve it.

April 18, 2009: OOPS...I Forgot!

How could I do my Saturday garden post and forget to show my first garden flowers? The pansies in the blue pot are blooming now. I was surprised they wintered over in such a shallow container.

April 18, 2009: Seedling Saturday

2009: My neighbor's T-shirt

Yesterday I finally started my compost pile. In fact, I had enough leaves and grass clippings to completely fill the black composter, with some left over to fill a circle of poultry wire. Today they had already begun to shrink in size, so I'm going to give them a week then turn them both into one pile and add in some manure (I didn't have any to spare yesterday).

The ugly black barrel is hiding behind the garden shed now.

Only one bag of leaves left for this year's compost.

The spinach has grown a bit since last week, but still not ready to thin and eat.

The sweet onions (left) aren't quite as husky and large as the yellow onions (right).

All of the new strawberry plants are alive and well.

Some of them are beginning to blossom! I'm supposed to remove these first blossoms, but I'm not going to. I'm too hungry for a "real" berry, even if it is small.

The quail wander through the garden each morning and nibble at my Prizehead lettuce.

The Red Romaine, which is right next to the Prizehead, isn't bothered by the birds.

Too bad only three of 18 nasturtiums sprouted, as those three are really nice, sturdy plants.

Alderman (Tall telephone) peas. There was a bit of cutworm damage to these this week.

The radishes were supposed to be ready to eat by now, but they aren't.

The first planted beets are beginning to get their true leaves.

The carrots are still hard to spot in the photo, but they are also beginning to develop leaves.

Super Sugar Snap peas along south fence. The tiny Black Seeded Simpson lettuce seedlings are just emerging at their feet.

The peppers have enjoyed being outside through all kinds of weather. They haven't gained much in height, but are getting stronger.

The tomatoes, however, did suffer a bit from sun/wind burn. They will pull through though, I have no worries!

This photo is for Dan. My "average" sized tomato on the left, Black Cherry in the center, and my underachiever on the right...Chico III. The small one was in a close tie with Marglobe.

The Arizona tomatoes can no longer live in the plant window, as the taller one doesn't fit any more. They have to sit next to the window, on top of the freezer. What a pain to have to move them every time I need something from the freezer! Today I sat them on the covered patio, after giving them 30 minutes of sun in the yard. I'll increase their time outside gradually, and hope to get them outside for good on May 1.

The Arizona peppers get the window all to themselves now.

And just look at the blossoms forming on them!

Happy gardening!