Sunday, May 31, 2009

Pooped and cheap poop

Today's weather was perfect for spending the entire day in the yard. My SO (the best boy friend ever!) helped pull thistle, a never ending task, while I finally got the tomatoes into the ground/Topsy Turvy's/planters. The peppers were transplanted as well, plus herbs. There are still the marigolds, plus direct seeded things like zucchini, but it was the thistle that was keeping me awake at night. We got to it just in the nick of time, too, as it was starting to flower. Next invasive on the agenda: Queen Anne's lace.

Last night we visited both Home Depot and Lowes, coming home with two bales of sphagnum moss and twelve 40-lb. sacks of cow manure. I did not realize the latter was so cheap. We were also looking for cheap tomato cages, but came up empty handed.

A wren has finally started building a nest in the wren house, but rather half-heartedly. A cranky robin keeps chasing him away. What is up with that?!? The grackles were crabby today also, as we were working too close to their nests for their personal comfort. They should chill.

The last of the colonnade apples bit the dust, so that experiment is officially over and categorized as a big FAIL. Fruit trees have never been my forte. I think I'd like to try raspberries, though. Mmmmmm.

On a completely unrelated topic, I was talking with a co-worker about how much I like my Durastone flooring. We went out to the Congoleum website, and I did not see my kitchen floor pattern. Uh-oh. I was half-planning on using that for my family room. Must call my flooring people tomorrow.

But right now I am going to take a shower and eat some pizza and relax for the rest of the evening. I think I earned it.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Look what Betsy found

It's a baby bunny! Unfortunately, the dog does not want to leave the poor thing alone, so she is banished to the house. Hopefully mama will come by and move the baby elsewhere.

Keeping up with this blog is more difficult than keeping up with the yard. I was out of town part of last weekend, which was good for my mental health but not for the garden. Memorial Day I mowed the backyard while my SO dug up more sod to create a nice path around the garden. Some mulch also got shifted but not much else.

And then it started to rain. And rain. And RAIN. Today it was threatening but I decided to mow the front yard anyway. I also set up the alternative Topsy Turvy planters, so now there are two tomatoes planted, Health Kick and Fourth of July. After all my kvetching about Burpee sending plants late, this year they arrived on time and I am the one that is late.

And then it rained again. Jeesh!

Keys of heaven, in case you were wondering, in a sea of Queen Anne's lace.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

All we are saying, is give peas a chance

At least, I could find the snap peas once I dispensed with a few weeds.

This beauty was hiding as well, behind tall phlox.

And then there is my pet Viburnum sargentii 'Onondaga'. These blossoms fascinate me.

Canada thistle frustrates rather than fascinates, except for how it persists despite years of persecution by me. Tonight I spent about an hour uncovering the Rudbeckia and Coreopsis, and I even found some Crocosmia, too, once the waist high thistle had been yanked out by the roots, fragments of which will send up new shoots as soon as my back is turned. Wish I had a goat.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme

That is what I planted in one pot tonight. The rosemary and parsley wintered over in the West Wing, the thyme and sage are new purchases. Another pot now holds the Early Girl tomato and about two dozen onion sets. I'm experimenting with growing green onions for salad in a container. We'll see how that works out.

Last Sunday my SO helped me (once again!) with the garden, digging up the sod where the paths around the veggie beds are to be. I cleaned out the shed and sifted compost and moved mulch, and I'm sure I did some other things because I was very tired by the end of the day. The peas and onions (the ones in the ground) and mesclun is up. We came close to having a frost the other night, but these are all cold hardy. I was not so sure about the impatiens in the flower box on the front porch, but they look okay.

And nothing phases the chives.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


Two years ago, I ordered a tomato collection from Burpee, and waited and waited and waited for those plants to arrive. They finally did, two weeks after they should have gone into the ground. All my complaints were answered with "We ship them at the right time for your zone" but I think they either did not plant enough or the first crop failed. I decided to risk it again this year, ordering both a nine-plant tomato collection and a six-plant pepper collection, but bought an Early Girl from a local nursery as a hedge against another late arrival. So guess what showed up on my doorstep last Thursday? Yep, my plants from Burpee. I am holding them for a few more days, as the nights are still a bit cool for 'maters, but I am very pleased to have them sitting on the patio.

My son did help with the digging of two holes, one for the Acer palmatum 'Bloodgood' and one for the Viburnum dentatum 'Chicago Luster'. I let Arbor Farms plant the Liriodendron tulipifera. I did not watch their every move, but it looks like they left the roots wrapped in burlap? Not sure if that is a good idea, but these guys are not newbies. Hopefully they know what they are doing.

I gave my son some other "heavy lifting" kind of tasks, like digging up the sod where my vegetable garden paths will be. It's peculiar now men have more upper body strength than women, but women seem to have more endurance.

What else? I took the dead laceleaf Japanese maple back to Lowes today. No argument from them, although the woman at the returns desk was not very cheerful. I'm guessing sometimes she has to deal with some real wieners.

I have visited about every nursery there is to visit in these parts, buying marigolds here, admiring the redbuds there, but it seems to me that the variety of offerings is getting, well, less varied. I'm particularly disappointed in the herbs this year. Part of my future kitchen renovation includes a corner for growing plants indoors, so maybe I will just have to start my own.

These phlox are self-sowing, and I celebrate their return each year. They smell great, too.

The Viburnum prunifolium is the most robust of all my Viburnums.

The rabbits are becoming quite tame, except for the babies. I was surprised this one let me get so close.

Maybe if this guy lived in my yard instead of down the street, I would not have so many baby bunnies.

Anything that eats mice and rats is okay by me!

Saturday, May 09, 2009

The results of all those April showers

Some May flowers are definitely here, with more in the wings.

This is actually a weed that most gardeners try to eradicate. I can't remember its name, but it is so pretty I let it grow some. It seems to favor the shadier parts of the lawn.

The pink creeping phlox grows in the bed with the asplenifolia and yucca and sand cherry. I have tried growing some white under the barberry but it is too shady there. I may expand that bed a bit and try again.

My old fashioned lilac is a bit droopy, thanks to an ice storm last winter, but it is putting on quite a show this year to make up for it.

The fragrance is divine!

The Aronia arbutifolia 'Brilliant' aka chokeberry is in bloom. (I'm trying to use proper Latin names more.)

The first iris, with many more to come. Another sweet smell but definitely different than lilac.

Last summer I moved the bleeding heart to protect it from the construction crews, but I plan to move it back once it is done blooming. This year's blooms look kind of puny compared to previous years, due to the transplant shock no doubt.

The forget-me-not under the rhododendron pooped out, so I was very surprised to find this volunteer in the yard.

And my new Acer palmatum 'Bloodgood' aka Japanese maple. The laceleaf one I bought last year from Lowes did not make it through the winter, and since I can get my money back on that one, I'm not too sad. The laceleaf version takes a lot of water and more care than I am inclined to give one plant. For only about $35 more, I picked up its replacement, which is four times as big, from Beverly Nurseries.

While at Beverly, I also picked up a Viburnum dentatum 'Chicago Luster' which is supposed to cross pollinate with the 'Blue Muffin'. My son is here this weekend. I hope he feels like digging a couple of big holes.

Other achievements this week include emptying out three big containers, mixing sphagnum peat, blood meal, and bone meal with the soil, and refilling them. One is going to become a salad bowl, with greens and radishes and green onions. Another I will populate with an 'Early Girl' tomato and some basil. Pot number three will probably be home to some herbs because I am redoing what was the herb garden last year. And it looks like another one of my colonnade apple trees bit the dust, so there may be a fourth pot to fill.

Re the mowing: I did mow the backyard with the electric mower and sort of liked it. My gas mower is self-propelled and the electric one is not, but the latter is very light so pushing it is not that difficult (that might be a different story were I to bag the clippings). Dealing with the cord took some coordination (ha) but again, not all that bad. As more of my lawn gives way to plants, when the time comes to replace the gas mower, I will definitely consider an electric one. Meanwhile, I took the Toro to the repair shop. It still had its tag from when they serviced it, which probably helped sway them to charging me nothing for what turned out to be a very minor repair. Thanks, Crescent Garden!

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Alien invaders!

God, I'm pooped. So much accomplished and yet so much more to do. Too bad I have to work for a living.

The SO came over to help today. His choice of back-breaking labor was weeding along the fence behind the barely findable bee balm. He pulled out Canada thistle, stinging nettle, and - HORRORS! - garlic mustard.

Garlic mustard is one of those evil non-native invasive plants that take over. The local preserves have garlic mustard days - volunteers comb the woods, yanking out the offending plants. They are easy to spot (the plants, not the volunteers) because they are green while everything else is still brown. And they smell like garlic, but not yummy is-the-lasagna-ready garlic - more like day-old garlic breath.

And I was truly aghast that this plant is trying to invade my backyard habitat. There is quite a crop behind the fence, so I will have to crawl back there and eradicate it. Death to garlic mustard!

Another shrubby plant has appeared in my yard, one with pretty little flowers. My inclination was to let it be, but then it seemed to be every where I turned. Finally, it dawned on me that it was honeysuckle. More horrors! Another non-native invasive!

Honeysuckle vine is fine, but honeysuckle bush is not. Last summer I noticed some in the neighbor's privet, and now I'm wishing I had not left it to its malevolent devices. It too must go.

And then there is the Virginia creeper. Even though it looks suspiciously like poison ivy, it is good for wildlife. I tried to train it to grow on the chain link fence, but it refused to cooperate and instead attaches itself to mulch, which to its little plant brain is equivalent to a dead tree. We whacked what was in our way today, but I'm sure it will be back. And I think that is okay.

Grape vine also counts as wildlife friendly, but is also somewhat annoying when it is where you don't want it to be. I'm not very grape vine knowledgeable, but it looks like last year's vines are now dead? And new ones will soon appear? I will have to do some research.

Despite mucho mulching, I have quite the Canada thistle problem in my yard. Every year, I try to at least keep it from going to seed, but last year was a big FAIL in that regard. Now I am paying the price. I am guilty of resorting to Roundup, out of sheer desperation, but I may get one of those flame-throwing weed killers. Just think how satisfying it would be to fry those bastards to a crisp!

And then there is the damn mulberry. Wildlife loves mulberry but I do not. My neighbor has a mulberry tree, and when I trimmed a limb off it last year (it was hanging over my compost pile and cramping my compost-turning style), I discovered I am allergic to them. Contact dermatitis big time. Baby mulberry trees pop up all over my yard, too, so I am contemplating bribing my neighbor into removing that tree. It looks kind of dangerous anyway, after last winter's ice storm.

On the less whiny side of the garden, I did move both 'Betty Corning' clematises (clemati? clemates?) The clothesline poles they were climbing last summer rotted off at the ground, so I strapped their fan-shaped trellises to the downspouts on the West Wing, then plopped them in their new location. Hopefully, they will recover from the shock.

Speaking of downspouts, I staggered around the house with my tall fiberglass ladder to check the gutters, having noticed the ones in front overflowing during a recent downpour. Yes, they were a bit clogged up, one with a snarled nest of roofing staples. My gutter-cleaning technique involves feeding a garden hose down the downspout, dislodging blockages and flushing them away in one wet step. Very effective and efficient, but it kind of reminded me of my colonoscopy.

And I planted onions. I love growing onions, maybe because there is so little labor involved in harvesting them. The asters did not make it through the winter, so I am contemplating creating salad and herb gardens in their pots, ringing the rims with green onions.

Yesterday's wren was nowhere to be seen or heard today. Where did he go? Surely he is not rejecting my little red wren house. During a break, my SO spotted a sparrow-like bird with a Mohawk - three white stripes atop its head. We think it is a White Crowned Sparrow. Good eye!

And now it is time for some Advil before bed.

I hear a wren!

Wrens are the good news, plus a most perfect weekend weatherwise. The bad news is my mower choked to a halt, fortunately after I finished the front yard but unfortunately before I got very far into the backyard jungle. My SO brought his electric mower over, though, so I will give that a chance to prove itself. The more I garden, the less yard I have to mow, so maybe it is time to transition away from my not-so-trusty Toro to something quieter and less polluting.

Friday night I bit the bark and picked out a tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) to shade the West Wing. What is it about a nursery in the spring that makes me want to whip out my credit card and cry, "I'll take one of everything!"? The only thing that kept me to the one tree was my plan to visit another nursery for the other things on my wishlist. But I splurged on the tree - 2" diameter and they (Arbor Farms) will plant it. I can hardly wait!

I am dithering about what to do about the patio. It needs some shade, but I like seeing the sky out my patio door. I've considered a variety of trees, a pergola, an awning, a trellis for the kitchen window, insulated curtains for the patio door, etc. I just can't decide what would be most satisfactory. The patio is on the west side of the house and the afternoon sun will be brutal. Suggestions welcome!

Unable to mow yesterday, I turned to moving mulch. Believe it or not, I may need one more load. I also (finally) planted snap peas and mesclun. It was hard to put away my tools midafternoon to prepare for an evening out, but today my muscles and joints are thankful.

Yesterday's photos did not turn out - too bright - but here are some from this past week:

Creeping phlox...

... purpleleaf sandcherry...

... and volunteer violets.

Maybe I should replace my lawn with clover and violets.