Monday, June 30, 2014

Random Monday

1. For my garden, I bought somewhat expensive grow bags from Gardeners Supply. A neighbor demonstrates that blue cloth bags from Walmart are just as good.

2. I've had worse flooding in my front yard, but last week's too-much-too-fast rainfall demonstrates drainage is still a problem here. My next door neighbor thinks the storm sewer is becoming more of a problem, but I think the ground is saturated which means more water needs to go into the sewer, a sewer that can't handle it. I sent this photo to the mayor and my city council rep.

3. I've tried growing pumpkin before, but never have I had plants like these. Inside the fence, they are taking over their end of the garden. I'm still having woodchuck problems, and I read that woodchucks eat pumpkins, so if these plants survive the usual onslaught of squash pests, I hope I don't lose the fruit in the end.

4, It's raspberry season. 'Nuff said.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Day 1 of retirement was bzzzy

Yes, I retired this past week. Friday was my last day in the office, Saturday my first official day as a retiree. My inclination was to do absolutely nothing that day, but I had already signed up for a beekeeping workshop with our local parks and rec department. I've been sort of interested in beekeeping, but each time I checked a book out of the library on the subject, I'd find myself thinking, Wow, that is a lot of work. This workshop gave me the chance to find out just how interested I am and how much actual work is involved.

I didn't realize it, but this was the first time the workshop has been offered. The instructor was a little disorganized, but he covered most of what he planned and what he forgot, we asked about. His expertise is in beeKEEPING, not bees per se, so he had lots of advice about procuring hive equipment and handling bees and bee behavior. He also had a habit of not completing his sentences. For example, when he told us the local ordinance says we can have two hives on our property, he ended with "Fort Wayne is the only city in the state." To have an ordinance? To limit the number of hives? To even allow hives? I don't think the latter, but maybe both of the former.

Besides several hours of bee talk, we visited the hives at Salomon Farm. Since I was the oldest person in the class, I made it my prerogative to ride in the cab of the pickup truck. This did not make much difference on the ride down, but since it was pouring rain on the way back, I did manage to stay drier than the rest of the class.

We lucked out in that a local man who raises queens came by just as we headed out, to check on the status of the queens in the hives. While we were fully suited up, he wore only a veil. The two hives we checked before the rain put a kibosh on our fun had queens. He plucked them from the frame barehanded, despite the attendants surrounding her, and showed us how to mark her.

I wish I could have taken more up-close-and-personal photos, but my gloved fingers were useless on the phone display and I was not brave enough to bare my hands. I did wear sneakers, not sandals like one woman, but was wishing my socks were taller as my ankles were not covered very well. No one was stung, and as far as I know, no one picked up any ticks on our trek from the truck to the hives, something that actually bothered me more than the prospect of a bee sting.

Will I get bees? Since there is a significant investment in both time and money, I will save that as an option for the future. But I would be willing to volunteer my time helping out with the hives we visited yesterday.

What about you? Any beekeepers out there?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Just for the record

Here are some better pix of the albino robin. The white-crowned sparrows have apparently left the premises.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Yard roundup for June

This isn't a comprehensive roundup by any means, but reflects some of what is happening around the yard these days. Besides weeding.

First, the purple smoke bush/tree. Simply stunning this year, but impossible to capture with my camera. Every time I look at it, it takes my breath away.

I wish I had given it a bit more room at the corner of the house, as I don't really want to prune it. Plus I'm not sure how best to shape it. Must research.

I hope these blossoms last a long time.

Next, the butterfly weed. I've tried several times to get this established in my yard, and maybe, just maybe, am finally succeeding.

Good timing, because the butterfly bush bit the dust this past winter. "They" say butterfly bush is not good to plant because it does not provide habitat for the butterflies, but they do like the nectar, so maybe I'll replace it.

Meanwhile, I hope the butterflies visit this plant so I can get some good pix.

Pardon the mess, but this bed is also for butterflies: joe pye, swamp milkweed, and cardinal flower. I wasn't sure they would make it through the winter, but they did. They should be liking our recent wet weather. (That is ground cherry in those two pots. They are not thriving, not sure why.)

I keep threatening to move this 'Love Pat' hosta because every year, it disappears behind some out-of-control black eyed Susan. I just can't decide where to move it. Meanwhile, it perseveres. A friend gave it to me, and every time I look at it, I think of him. I guess that is the true purpose of gifts - to keep each other in our thoughts.

These two 'Big Daddy' hostas were moved around quite a bit before finding their current home behind the kitchen compost bin. They don't like the sun at all, so this location suits them well.

I planted this tulip tree in 2009, I think. It's the state tree of Indiana, has never bloomed, is not valued by those who like their trees to provide bling, but I like it. Someday it will provide the West Wing with some lovely shade.

I went through an ornamental grass phase, which I seem to be over for the most part, but my fondness for sedum continues strong. This 'Purple Emperor' is a tall one and the blossoms remind me of hens and chicks.

'Angelina' is a spreader, which I am grateful for because it will help me in my battle with weeds. (That's 'Dragon's Blood' on the left.)

More transients: I have moved the asiatic lilies and daylilies around a lot, too. The most recent transplants like their new west-facing home. (They bloomed the day after I took this pic.)

These corner plantings are also happy. There is 'Clara Curtis' painted daisy to the right. This has become my new problem-solution plant. I moved some to the bed by the front walk and it prospered, so much so it was crowding out everything else. So I tore it out and have been placing it in strategic spots around the yard where it can spread to its heart's content.

I don't know what I was thinking when I bought these three plants, one Alberta spruce conica and two juniper chinensis. They were an impulse purchase, made during a particularly manic spring (Must. Buy. Plants.) Getting them into the ground required the assistance of my SO and his upper body strength. I don't particularly like them. BUT. They are flourishing. I'd like to find a complementary ground cover to fill in the blanks, something the birds would like. (The corner clematis are 'Betty Corning'.)

Here is another rescue. Several years ago, I was looking for winterberry. The nursery I was at didn't have any, but the sales guy suggested some holly (Ilex x meserveae 'Blue Princess' and 'Blue Prince') as an alternative. Without researching this option, I bought four plants and stuck them under the arborvitae, hoping they would like the shade and fill in the area all around. Ha. Turns out this particular holly likes sun, lots of sun. So this year I am starting a relocation program for them. This is the first one to be brought out into the light.

And that is all, for now.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Garden roundup for June

We had a little dry spell, but otherwise the rainfall has been plentiful, resulting in a burst of garden growth that is filling the raised beds and beyond. Despite the rodent damage (I fluctuate between blaming rabbits or woodchucks) and accompanying avian damage, there will be plenty to harvest (knock on wood).

Two of the three sisters, pumpkin and corn, are waiting for the germination of the pole beans. The corn is barely getting above the pumpkin, which is sprawling out of its bed. I've never had much luck with pumpkin or winter squash because of squash pests, but things look healthy so far (more knocking on wood). I don't know why I continue to plant marigolds - they always get overshadowed.

The potatoes are starting to bloom, which means they should be making potatoes. I was hoping to get more dirt into their beds but life intervenes. Maybe it's not too late?

There will be sauce. There are twelve Roma tomato plants in this bed (and four overshadowed marigolds). I'm dreaming of Eric's marinara (from Poor Man's Feast) and pizza sauce (from Preserving by the Pint).

So far, only male blossoms on the zucchini. A friend posted this recipe for zucchini chips that I am anxious to try. Soon, hopefully.

I was extremely pleased with the storage capability of last year's 'Big Daddy' onions, but tried some new varieties this year, including this 'Red Zeppelin'. It's pretty, if nothing else.

I'm still a newbie when it comes to growing raspberries. When I pruned and thinned them after last year's harvest, I thought I did an admirable job. Now the little bed is just bursting at the seams and the plants so loaded with fruit, they are bending under the weight. I'm a little concerned that the berries themselves will be small and seedy from the plants being too dense, but there definitely will be lots. Must protect them from the birds.

In the future, I will also have to protect the peas from the birds. Sparrows and finches ravaged the plants this year, presumably because their spring food supplies were scarce after last winter. I did not realize just how badly they were damaging the plants, especially the blossoms, so few pea pods developed. BUT the ones that did appear are wonderful.

I've been looking for a good pod pea and I think I have found it in this 'Green Arrow' variety.

Despite the rodent damage, my poor broccoli plants are trying to make heads. I am not holding out much hope that they will develop to any meaningful size, but I will be happy to be surprised.

I do not even remember ordering hops last year. The rhizomes simply appeared in the mail one day. I stuck them in a big pot because I did not know what else to do with them, and they grew. I forgot to move the pot into the garage last fall, so did not expect them to survive the winter, but they did. Someday I will find them a more permanent home. Meanwhile, I am not having much luck getting them to climb. This funky trellis, assembled with my SO's help, is the latest attempt.

The Meyer lemon tree continues to recover from my neglect. We recently added manure to the asparagus beds, and some manure tea is being used here and there, especially here. I want to keep this plant healthy.

I recently harvested scapes from the garlic, making a garlic scape pesto with some and putting the rest into a stir fry. One secret I learned to harvesting the scapes is to snap them off, sort of like trimming asparagus, to avoid the hard, unchewable parts.

It helps to have a garden cat guarding the garden.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

A mighty fortress is my garden

It appears (KNOCK ON WOOD) that we have forestalled further incursions by the woodchuck. A friend of mine suggested violence (he is a gun-owner), but I like to think I'm smarter than a groundhog. Meanwhile, other attempts to protect my food-producing plants have been less successful.

The strawberry bed cover didn't quite do the job, apparently. There was a small gap between the cover and the side of the raised bed, enough for this juvenile robin (and the next day, a slim adult) to squeeze through. That issue has been resolved.

Now I just need to figure out a way to keep the sparrows and finches from chewing on the pea plants. I don't know if the birds are after the plants themselves or aphids on the plants or what. They (the plants) look raggedy and are not blooming as they should.

And then there is the raspberry patch. The branches are laden with incipient fruit, a tempting prelude to what could become an avian feeding frenzy. I'm thinking a net of some sort is in order here.

One of these days, I will just build a cage over the whole garden.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

What is where (more or less)

This photo gives you an idea of where I have planted (or plan to plant) what. If you click the pic, it should enlarge.

The cukes should climb that white trellis. The containers in the back are for the sweet potatoes. Corn, beans, and pumpkin are known as the three sisters - we'll see how well they get along.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Deja vu all over again!

When I saw this...

... I thought it was rabbits at work. But with all the fencing, how in the world could they get in? And then I saw this...

...when I should have seen this...

...and I knew. That damn groundhog (or one of its cousins) was back. So the order of the day was to clear out the area behind the garden next to the shed and to make improvements to the movable fence. The bottom was already lined with hardware cloth, to block bunnies and prevent digging. Now it is topped with floppy chicken wire, which hopefully will deter Mr./Ms. Woodchuck. I thought of borrowing my neighbor's Havahart, but I'm afraid all I'd catch would be Finn.

Speaking of which, I saw him stalking something in the garden and from the avian chorus, assumed it was a bird. Now I'm thinking it was the groundhog, as Finn subsequently parked himself between the broccoli and the sweet potatoes for most of the morning. Too little too late, buster.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Blue, I'm blue. And purple. And pink. And white.

Yellow is the color of springtime around here, but this year there was no forsythia and few daffodils. Even the dandelions lacked enthusiasm. But the follow-up act has been stupendous.

I'm not really an iris person - too much show for too short a time, and then they spread and spread and spread. Do newer cultivars not spread? I see them in polite little clumps in other yards, but mine (which came with the house) have been a PITA. I dug up and gave away all the white ones, while the purple have been less than stunning. Until this year. Someday they may follow the white to other homes, but for now, I guess I'll keep them.


Is catnip the same as catmint? I have purchased catnip in the herb section and catmint in the perennial section, but they look alike. Recently, I found a site that says they *are* alike. The only difference seems to be whether they have a fancy name, like 'Walker's Low'.



Chives are chives, I think. These are regular chives, which bloom in the spring. I also have garlic chives, which are much less robust and bloom later in the summer, with completely different flowers. I like them both, but use the regular ones more, while waiting for the onions to grow.


I had to look the next one up. I knew it was "false" something - the color should have given it away. I'm not sure when I planted it - cant' find a blog entry for it - and I can't find the plant tag, so if it is something special, we'll never know.

False indigo, up close

False indigo, holding its own

The columbine is running rampant this year, spreading here and there to its heart's content. Fine with me. I bought a fancy cultivar a year or two ago, but have not noticed it yet. Maybe it succumbed to the winter? Or was eaten alive by the catmint?


I was able to find the name of this shrub. It not only survived the winter but the rabbits as well; the snows were deeper than the chicken wire was high, so it got nibbled a bit. It strikes me as a very hardy specimen.

Wentworth highbush cranberry

These phlox also came with the house. Some years they nearly take over the yard, but they are welcome guests who know when it is time to leave. Once the flowers have turned to seeds, the plants dry up. The seed scatter as I pull out the stalks, ensuring their return next spring.

Phlox (please ignore all the thistle)

Too bad salvia are not long bloomers. If pinched back, they sometimes bloom again, but I don't have the patience.

Salvia nemorosa ‘New Dimension Rose’

What color is your garden today?