Monday, April 20, 2015

First cut

Friday and Saturday were perfect for yardening, but I was out of town. Fortunately, Sunday's rain held off long enough for me to mow and trim. Once those chores were done, so was I. It is hell getting old.

The extended cool temperatures are extending the bloom season for magnolias and daffodils. The hyacinth and grape hyacinth are up and at 'em, and the rhododendron and forsythia popped over the weekend. Everything is slowly awakening.

I feel like I am already falling behind, especially in the vegetable garden, but this week's forecast is a reality check: highs in the 50's, lows in the 30's. With few exceptions, it really is too early to plant seeds or transplant seedlings. In the meantime, there are plenty of other tasks to keep me occupied while I wait.

Inside, the seed starts are doing well. The population under the lights include Black Eyed Susan vine, broccoli, lettuce, peppers, tomatoes, zinnias, marigolds, hollyhocks, calendula, Mexican sunflower, basil, parsley. I decided to give the fish emulsion a try despite my misgivings, and the fishy aroma did not affect the cat.

And that is about all for now.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

I see asparagus

This past week as been the epitome of our fair city's nickname, Fort Rain, Windiana. The temperatures have not been all that bad, but when combined with the wet and the wind, being outdoors was just miserable. Today, however, is beautiful.

The only edibles in the garden so far are garlic, rhubarb, and as of today, asparagus. Inside, I have broccoli, lettuces, and peppers started. I plan to transplant the lettuce plants to "lettuce bowls" for myself and as gifts for friends.

The Meyer lemon is producing tiny green lemons, but the plant is starting to look a bit peaked again, presumably because of my neglect regarding fertilizer. I top dressed the pot with some potting soil formulated for citrus. Other options on hand are: fish emulsion (which I don't like to use indoors because it stinks, plus the cat may find it irresistible) or manure/compost tea, which if odor free, would work. Or I could shell out some bucks for something more appropriate.

For some reason, lumber labeled as being 8" wide is actually closer to 7", which I find not quite deep enough for my raised beds, especially for potatoes. The plan is to double the height of three beds each year. Today my (handsome *and* handy) SO brought power tools and accomplished that task.

The movable fence has not yet been erected for the season. I wish I didn't need it - I love having a clear view of the garden. Finn does an admirable job limiting the rabbit, mice, and vole populations, but he won't take on woodchucks.

Having a higher vantage point now helps, though. Pots are coming out of hibernation along with patio furniture. I'm looking forward to morning coffee on the deck.

Current bloomers are daffodils, hyacinth, and something tiny and white that I can't identify. Inside, the mother plant for the coleus has been decimated, and nine babies are establishing their root systems. I'm also starting black eyed Susan vine inside this year, as last year they did not germinate very well outside; unfortunately, they aren't doing very well inside, either.

Monday, March 16, 2015


Today was the first day of real yardening for 2015. I exercise during the winter - walk 10,000+ steps most days, shovel snow, cross country ski, hike, mix in yoga and physical therapy and this and that - but it doesn't seem to matter. None of it prepares me for the bending and stooping, the grasping and pulling, the lifting and lugging that yard work and gardening entail.

Today I focused on the ornamental grasses in the front yard. Usually I saw away at them with one hand tool or another, until my right hand blisters and cramps. This year I decided to take my new hedge trimmer to them.

This is not my first hedge trimmer. Its predecessor met its demise when my SO borrowed it last summer. He kindly replaced it with a better model (this one rotates). But this is the first time it occurred to me to use it for cutting back the grasses. No blisters! No cramps! It's a miracle! Now if it only magically swept up the trimmings and flew them to the compost pile. Bippity boppity boo!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015


Finally, a very nice day, as evidenced by neighbors walking dogs, pushing strollers, riding motorcycles and bicycles and skateboards. There is still snow on the ground, but it's giving way. Hopefully it will be completely gone before it rains on Friday.

The birds were a bit of a disappointment this winter. Regular visitors included a pair of cardinals, several blue jays, a junco or three, rarely a woodpecker, but otherwise it was sparrows and finches. The squirrels scavenged under the feeders. Since they came in singles, I was not sure if it was the same squirrel or several, but it had to be more than one because one was missing the fur on half its tail.

Today I heard a constant (and annoying) chirping, which I assumed was a bird on the roof. Eventually, I realized the noise was coming from my attached garage, and again assuming it was a bird, I opened the garage door so it could fly out. But the noise continued. Using inhuman stealth, I managed to crack the mudroom door open enough to see it was a chipmunk. But why would it not leave? I tried scaring it out, without success. Then I worried it had been hibernating in the garage all winter and was now attempting to attract a mate! Eventually, the chirping stopped, so it either departed or went back to sleep.

I took advantage of DST and spent some time outside this afternoon. Daffodils have broken through on the south side of the house. I dragged the mower through the snow, from the shed to the garage, so I can have it serviced. And a lot of pooper scoopering occurred, another sure sign of spring.

Monday, March 02, 2015

March impatience

It feels like it has been a long winter, but after perusing March blog entries from previous years, I see that 2015 is no different. Despite my wishing it were otherwise, gardening will just have to wait a few more weeks.

I've been reading up on Stoicism. One of its cornerstones is to differentiate between what you can control and what you can't. The weather definitely falls into the latter category.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Wood mulch vs. bark mulch

This week Menards has wood mulch on sale (half off after mail-in rebate, limit 80 bags per household - I purchased 30). I have used this before. Even though it looks weird compared to bark mulch, it does a good job of smothering grass and weeds, plus does not break down as fast as bark. The bag says "100% recycled", so I am guessing it is made from pallets. Not exactly wonderful stuff, but better than shredded tires.

Several of my flower beds are so densely planted that there is no room for mulch, which is the ideal as far as I am concerned. Elsewhere, I need help, at least until I get the right plants and the beds fill in. That is where the wood mulch comes in. By buying it now, it will be on hand when I need it, plus bags are easier to handle than bulk. (I'm getting old.)

In a separate category of mulch, I hope to get a local tree service company to part with some of their wood chips for use in the incipient orchard. According to The Holistic Orchard (by Michael Phillips), ramial wood chips are best for feeding the fungi duff and keeping trees healthy. Even though I purchased a shredder/chipper, I don't have many twiggy branches to process. Again, I need help.

In the past, I have used grass clippings for mulch, but this has been problematic. For one thing, sometimes I treat my lawn with weed killer (I know, bad, bad, bad), and don't want to use those clippings, especially in the vegetable garden. In dry years, when I need the mulch the most, there are few clippings to be had. Also, leaving the clippings on the lawn helps feed it (I have a mulching lawn mower), limiting the need for weed 'n' feed.

Do you mulch, and if so, what do you use and where do you get it?

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Good things about February

I've said it before and I'll say it again - February is the longest month of the year, at least around these parts. Seeds and plants are ordered but it is too early to start transplants inside. The only "gardening" fun I have is eating all the goodies I put by last year.

We have had snow, which some people think is a bad thing, but it is actually good for the garden. Snow shoveling is also handy for keeping the gardening muscles in shape. That said, I am still grateful for the help of neighbors when the snow is heavy and/or too thick.

Garden Rant has been hosting a series of posts extolling or berating the concept of "winter interest" in the garden. I don't plant for winter interest, but I think if you have snow, you can't help but find the yard interesting to view. Better than the usual brown and gray.

Finn suffers from cabin fever, punctuating my day with requests to go out, then two minutes later, come back in. Despite having a litter box in the laundry room, he still prefers the outdoors as his potty. And sometimes he even plays in the snow a bit.

Best of all is the recovery of the Meyer lemon tree, as demonstrated by its current vigor and recent blossoming. If you recall, the poor plant was looking pretty peaked a year or so ago when I took some drastic action. It produced no fruit at all last year, but things look more promising for 2015.

The whole room is filled with the sweet scent of the blossoms. Not every flower will produce a lemon, as the plant is smart enough to "self prune" by dropping the fruit it can't support to ripening. Harvest won't occur until December.

That's a long time to wait, but well worth it.