Monday, April 25, 2011

Rainy days and Mondays

The rhododendron popped for easter, which was a lovely day, unlike today.  My goal this week is to get the lawn mowed at some point, if it ever stops raining.

I have tried to capture the now-gold goldfinches but they don't stay in one place very long.

They look like daffodils in flight.

Hope your weekend was finer than frog hair!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

More happy

Finally, a break in the rain, so again I took the afternoon off to get a little gardening done.  Both the strawberries and the onions are now planted.  Yay!  And three pounds of onion sets is about 1.5 pounds too many, so I plan to share the extra with my kids.  Onions for all!

It was also a perfect day for spraying weeds - sunny but cool, with very little breeze.  I try to garden as organically as I can manage, using mulch and hoe and my bare hands to keep the weeds under control, but the Canada thistle does me in.  It is one weed that I consider RoundUp-worthy.  My goal is to eliminate it from my yard.

The cool weather has preserved the daffodils and forsythia - they are still going strong - and delayed everything else.  I was hoping the rhubarb would be ready for an Easter pie, but no such luck.  The rhododendron is about to pop, though, and I will probably have to mow next week.  Winter does give way to spring, eventually.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Me so happy

Ordinarily, I try to cram all my fun activities into evenings and weekends, which can be frustrating when the weather doesn't cooperate.  But this week I took advantage of the sunshine by taking a couple of afternoons off and spending them in my backyard.  The result:  I will not fret during the next rainy patchy, slated to start today and last for days.  I did not accomplish everything there was to do, but enough that I feel like I got a jump start on the season.

Wednesday afternoon my SO came over and we wrestled some hardware cloth into what I hope will be a vole-proof potato cage.  I did not come up with this idea myself, but saw it in a Growers Supply catalog, one of those I receive in the mail even though I have never ordered from them.  Basically, we scraped all the dirt off one garden bed, laid down hardware cloth for the bottom, wrapped sides around the bed, overlapping everything, fastened where fastening seemed necessary, then threw in enough dirt to hold the thing in place.

Thursday I added seed potatoes and shoveled the rest of the dirt back in, worked in a little blood meal, then covered it all with a thin layer of straw.  Grow, little taters, grow!

I worked up the pea bed on Wednesday and the onion bed on Thursday.  It is gratifying to see that my hardpan clay is becoming more friable as the years pass.

While I turned the top six inches or so and broke up the clods with a hoe, I wondered what my neighbors think of all the manual labor I put into my garden.  The thing is, I spend most of my days sitting in front of a computer.  If I didn't garden manually, I would have to join a gym.  And start seeing a shrink.  Playing in the dirt goes a long way to maintaining my mental and physical well-being.

I marvel at the periwinkle raised beds and persimmon window boxes highlighted in gardening catalogs, and wish my garden looked prettier.  But the prices are prohibitive.  My solution is to at least try to make my beds straight-ish.  Since I don't till, I also plan to relocate some lilies to the ends of each one.  Let nature provide the beauty.

The pea fence has seen better days, but it still functions (with a little help).  I actually planted the snow peas and lettuce yesterday, too.

I also dug up the strawberry bed yesterday, too, but no strawberries or onions were planted.  That's okay - gotta save something for the next dry spell.

Inside, I noticed that the blossoms on my little pepper plants are starting to form fruit, without any pollination assistance on my part.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The forsythia are blooming - now what?

Yesterday I planted Eversweet everbearing strawberries into a coconut fiber tower.  My vision is fresh berries on my ice cream all summer long, right from the patio.

Hopefully, I will get the Allstar June-bearing strawberries into the garden soon.  And the potatoes and onions and peas.  And brassicas, if any of the local nurseries start offering more than one variety of cabbage and broccoli.  I did break down and buy some wave petunias and a spike for one of my planters, even though it is way too early to plant them.  I just could not help myself!

That is not a very good photo, is it?  That nice green leafy plant in front is the Meyer lemon from Stark Bros.  In the pot left and back is the Wenks pepper I dug from the garden last fall.  It has not been looking too perky lately, so today I repotted it.

 As you can see in that photo, we are experiencing some sunshine, which is supposed to last through tomorrow.  So I am taking tomorrow afternoon off, just to work in the yard before the next round of rain.  Not that the ducks mind the rain.

When I walked the nabe a few days ago, it seemed like every place where there was a few inches of standing water, there was a pair of ducks.

I finally captured a halfway decent photo of a robin, even though they have been hanging around the yard for weeks.

I wonder if this is the same one who did this to my picture window:

He is still at it today.  Maybe I should get one of those hawk decals to scare him away.

Since my forsythia bloom later than my neighbors', it looks a little anemic right now.  But I can't complain about the daffs.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Squirrel feeders and a PHD

These guys keep me amused while I work at home in the West Wing.  Better than TV!

I've seen at least three different ones in the yard at the same time.  Occasionally they dash away, in fear of a hawk or meter reader.

As for rabbits, the only ones I've spotted have been outside the fence looking in.  The neighbor girl blames me for the dirth of rabbits this winter - she likes to watch them out their patio door - even though I never killed or relocated any.  I just removed them from my backyard. 

Last night my PHD (Personal Hole Digger) came by to help me plant three American redbud trees.  I opted for inexpensive mail order ones, which look like four-foot sticks, but the root systems were very hearty.  His reward was a bouquet of daffodils, to brighten the gray days we have been having lately.

Today it has been raining most of the day, so my gardening will probably be limited to filling a small strawberry patio tower with potting soil and plants, and repotting a Meyer lemon tree.  I've tried growing trees in pots before, with very little no success.  That does not stop me from trying again.

Oh, and the garlic is up.  Yay!

Thursday, April 07, 2011

He's ba-a-a-ack!

This morning, while sitting in the West Wing, I kept hearing this noise.  I thought it was birds in the guttering, but it went on and on.  Finally, I went to investigate.  The stupid robin was at it again, attacking his reflection in my picture window.  I can't help but think it is the same one, but who knows?

Finny is a fanatic about (among many things) soil testing.  I bought a soil test kit a while back, but had never used it.  Since there is no time like the present, yesterday I tested my garden soil.  I took eight samples, although I expected them to be rather uniform, and I was right - they were uniform: uniformly LOW in nitrogen.  My soil test kit is not very fancy, but there was no mistaking the readings:  good levels of P and K, bad levels of N.  And the soil is more alkaline than it should be, something I attribute to the well water that supplies my outdoor faucets.  But the nitrogen surprised me.  I though my compost would provide that, but apparently I'm wrong.  So I will be amending my garden soil, with  manure and/or blood meal.  And to lower the pH, coffee grounds, pine needles, and sphagnum peat.  Finny, my zucchini thank you.

Margaret raised the subject of phenology recently.  Basically, phenology is planting according to nature's calendar instead of the one on the wall.  This can be tricky, depending on where you live and what varieties you grow.  For example, if I plant potatoes when the forsythia bloom, does it matter that my forsythia blooms later than my neighbor's?  Anyway, I decided to try to keep track of when flowers and shrubs bloom in my yard, to see if I can track them to when I plant vegetables in the garden.  My only concern is a late frost, something even Mother Nature can't predict.

Speaking of potatoes, they, along with the onions, arrived the other day.  And the underground utility guy came and marked my back yard yesterday.  I chatted with him about just how deep the utilities are buried.  He said the natural gas lines are three feet down, but the others - electricity, telephone, cable - are usually 6-9 inches down, maybe 12.  That is good to know, as my SO is coming over tonight, to help me dig holes for three redbud trees.

And so it begins.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Unusual sightings, a soup-making orgy, and live plants!

This morning I could see something odd reflected in my bathroom mirror.  The sliver of outdoors I can see that way showed a blob on the street.  I peeked out the window at said blob and decided it must be a black cat I saw down by the pond the other day.  Then it moved, or rather, waddled across the way and disappeared behind my neighbor's pines.  It was a raccoon.  I've seen them in the nabe on occasion, but not in a long while, like years.  I'm a little surprised they have not been spotted in my backyard, raiding the bird feeders.

A couple of squirrels are bird feeder regulars these days.  Their winter stores must be exhausted, and/or they are gathering goodies to take back to the rest of the family.  Around here, squirrels get "frisky" in February and the gestational period is around 44 days, so yes, the daddy squirrels are probably hunting and foraging for the mama squirrels and their broods.

But what I find odd is the squirrels have been drinking out of the bird bath.  I have never witnessed that before.  Unfortunately, no pics, so no evidence.  You will have to trust me on this one.

We are getting April showers now, so I have been channeling my gardening frustrations into using up the last the the frozen veggies by making soup, which is then returned to the freezer for later consumption.  I've lost track of which ones are which on some of these pics, but all recipes are from Love Soup.

Maybe White Bean and Garlic Soup with Greens?  (I still have LOTS of garlic from last summer.)

I think this is Green Lentil with Cumin and Lemon.

Definitely Beet Soup with Ginger!

This is part of Cannellini and Golden Tomato soup, the golden tomato part, obviously.  I used yellow cherry tomatoes I had frozen last summer.  The peels come off easily, but dealing with over 2.5 pounds of them was still a chore.

I could not find dried cannellini beans at the Co-op, so I substituted navy beans, which did not work well.  Too watery.  Now I'm not sure what to do with the leftovers.  Maybe if I cook rice in the broth?

And since this woman does not live by soup alone:

Now I must go tend to those live plants that just arrived via UPS from Stark Bros.

Friday, April 01, 2011

It won't be long now!

Today I bought some hardware cloth at Menards.  The 24" x 25' rolls were on sale, at about half price, but not the 36" or 48" rolls.  So while I would have preferred to get the 48" roll, I bought several 24" ones, enough to vole-proof my potato bed.

It has been a while since I have seen a rabbit in my backyard, but I did find a big tuft of bunny fur.  Maybe the hawk got him?  I sealed off the one gate where bunny egress was still possible, and am now rethinking the need to enclose the veggie garden in rabbit fencing.  Knock on wood!

My order from Lee Valley arrived already - an oriole feeder and a floating row cover for the brassicas.  The latter has no supports.  I think you just lay it over the plants and cover the edges with dirt.  I will probably enclose the plants in hoops of chicken wire initially - just in case that rabbit is fooling me - so the plants should be okay with the row cover.  I think.  Gardening is always an experiment.

My orders from Stark Bros and Pinetree are also on their way.  Already?  I'm not prepared!  And it's supposed to rain all weekend!  Gardening is also a gamble.