Monday, June 27, 2011

Friday, June 24, 2011

The goal: no mulch here

My SO brought over a copy of Envisioning the Garden.  The gardens being envisioned in this book are quite large in scale, making my third of an acre feel like a postage stamp.  One thing I noticed, and have noticed in other books on landscaping, is the beds are not mulched.  Instead, they are brimming with plants.

Around these parts, mulch is a primary landscaping tool, the rule rather than the exception.  Mulch is available in a variety of colors and textures.  It can be bought by the bag at big box stores and filling stations, hauled from the county biosolids site for free or for a couple of hundred dollars a dump truckload can be delivered to one's doorstep.

In my poorer days, I mulched my flowers and shrubs with grass clippings.  They served the purpose of discouraging weeds while retaining moisture.  Then I graduated to bags of mulch, then an annual dump truckload, and now have backed off to a couple of pickup truckloads a year from the biosolids site.  My goal is to be virtually mulch free, though, just like in those fancy landscaping books.

Some of my beds have achieved this state of grace, most famously the hosta bed on the north side of the garage.

Hostas as far as the eye can see.
This bed is FULL.  So full that I have had to rescue a coral bells that was disappearing, and will soon relocate the 'Love Pat' hosta that is too young to compete.

Help!  Save me!  I'm drowning!
Where hostas have not been planted, volunteer columbine, coneflower, rudbekia, and violets have filled in the gaps.

The front of the house is also filling in nicely, mostly with a selection of tall and low growing sedums.

The other beds around the foundation of the house are similarly packed.  I won't say these beds are weed free, but they are relatively easy to keep that way.  My yard and its planting may not look "normal" but it suits me just fine.

(Deja vu!  I feel like I have covered this topic before, but I can't find a similar posting.  Oh, well!)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Doh! and No!

The past couple of years I have grown Amish snap peas.  While they have done okay, I did not think they were as prolific as the variety I grew many (20?!?) years ago.  Then I recently read somewhere that peas are to be planted in bands, not rows.  Doh!  I KNEW that, but had forgotten it.  No wonder the harvests seemed a bit sparse.  Next time I will do bands.  Assuming I remember.

Yesterday my SO came over to weed and found a dead rabbit outside the back fence.  While examining it last night, I found a dead robin nearby as well.  Remembering a CO2 cartridge I found in the garden a month or so ago, I put two and two together and came up with someone using my backyard habitat for target practice.  Grrr!  Of course, I have my suspicions but no proof, so I emailed all my adjacent neighbors, asking if they had noticed anyone in my yard.  One responded that while she had not seen anyone in my yard, she had found a dead rabbit in their yard.  The plot thickens.

Today the weather is not very summerlike - gray, breezy, cool - almost like fall.  Hope my sweet potatoes don't get discouraged.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Not according to plan

The goal was to create a spot in the meadow for the butterflies to "mud" - consume moisture and minerals without getting drowned.

The result was the robins taking a shine to said spot.

Maybe the robins need their own ground level spa.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Mamas don't let your babies grow up to plant spearmint

There are a few things I will not plant in the garden proper ever again.  Anything in the mint family is now forever banned.  However, that does not mean I won't grow mint.  I'll simply relegate it to a container.  Spearmint and catnip are keeping company with oregano and lemon balm in the white recycled utility sink below.

Beside the sink is a "salad bowl".  I got this idea from another blog (but of course now cannot figure out which one - here is a link to the video though).  Simply put, you find yourself a container, fill it with potting soil, and populate it with leaf lettuce plants.  You harvest the outer leaves of the lettuce while the lettuce continues to put out new leaves from the center of the plant.  Voila!  Salad!

Behind the sink is my garlic bed.  Three out of the four varieties planted there are "hard neck" so they put out scapes. 

The scapes, if left alone, turn into blossoms I think, but "everyone" says to snip them off and cook them.  I tried that last week, sauteing some scapes with snap peas and chicken, but part of the scape is kind of tough for chewing.  That won't stop me from trying again, though.

Not in the picture above is my patio eggplant.  Last week it put out one lonely blossom.  You can tell that it is related to potatoes.

Sadly, today I spotted a baby bunny in the backyard.  I don't think he was the one I saw a while back - that one would be bigger by now - and I'm not sure how he got in.  But when I was mowing last night, I noticed that the pavers by one gate were a bit askew.  I straightened them out, but possibly not before he snuck in.  No damage so far, so maybe he hasn't been here long.

More sadly, a young robin learned about picture windows the hard way.  I was hoping he was only stunned, but he succumbed to his injuries quickly.  There are other baby birds in the yard right now besides young robins:  the wren babies send up a chirping chorus whenever a parent arrives with food, and below is a daddy cowbird with a youngster.

Mourning doves are another fixture at the bird bath.  The colors of their plumage are so subtle and soft.

Besides bunnies and birds, other critters have been spotted (heh).

It has been ages since I have seen a real ladybug.  Usually all I see are those Japanese ones which are more orange and bite.  I'm taking this ladybug's appearance in the meadow as a sign that my backyard habitat is working.

Speaking of the meadow, it looks pretty much like a weed patch right now, but a few bloomers belie that rumor:  yarrow, keys of heaven, daisy, catmint.  The vegetable garden is all planted for now, and I have been harvesting snap peas.  My SO and I continue to battle the weeds that are everywhere.  A weed is any plant that is growing where you don't want it, so that includes the mint mentioned at the start of this post.  I'm also edging the viburnum/arborvita beds, to reclaim them from the encroaching lawn.

Despite (or because of) the hard work, I enjoy the hours spent in the yard.  Some of the time, I am thinking of new things to try, already planning what I want to do next year.  Mostly I am just having a good time.  My ancestors include farmers and nurserymen, so I guess I come by it naturally.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

First hummingbird of the season

Can you see the hummingbird?  It's the blur near the center.  Those things are fast.

Work (boo) and rain (yay) have interrupted the gardening, but tomorrow promises to be a delightful day.  Meanwhile, here are some pics from around the yard.

The climbing roses are a bit past their prime, but still gorgeous.

I'm not a geranium person, but I do like red.

This is the best display of 'Betty Corning' I have ever had.  It probably helps that I have not moved them recently.

The promise of potatoes.  Hope it's not an empty promise.

'Early Girl' tomato is the first to bloom, which I why I planted one. 

Scallions among the sweet potatoes.

Snap peas will be ready in a day or two.

This is the Wenk's that I overwintered inside, so naturally is is ahead of pepper schedule.

The purple-leafed growers in my front yard.

From the left:  smoke bush at the corner of the house, Crimson King maple in front, Japanese maple in the back, sand cherry bush, and barberry on the right.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Bathing beauty

I've been almost too busy to bother with the camera, but I did manage to catch a few of my backyard denizens doing their thing in my backyard.

Maybe once things calm down, I will be able to capture some better up-close-and-personal shots, but these will have to do for now.

This is the third year for my tulip tree, and it is looking better - leafier and maybe taller.

And it is a decent year for the climbing rose as well.

More bloomers coming on:  Keys of Heaven, yarrow, viburnum, Jethro Tull.

I have started to enjoy the strawberries (Oh. My. God.  Nothing beats a fresh strawberry still warm from the sun) and soon we will have snap peas.  The first planting of green beans are up and the pototoes are starting to blossom. 

Re the latter, a few days ago I mulched the potatoes with straw.  The next day Betsy Beagle acted as though there were something in that there straw.  I poked around but could not scare up anything.  I hope-hope-hope it is not field mice, poised to ruin the crop.

All transplants are in the ground except for the calendula.  The pumpkins and squash and cukes have been planted as well.  For hills, I dug a hole for each, filled the holes with composted manure and blood meal, then covered with the dug up soil.  I have not had very good results with cukes and zukes the past few years, so maybe this will help.

While I was at Lowe's buying composted manure and straw, it occurred to me that urban gardening is a lot more expensive than rural gardening.  When I lived in the country, I kept chickens and we mowed a couple of acres around the house, so I never needed to buy fertilizer or mulch.  I bought seeds at the local Ace Hardware, where they were available in bulk, which is an odd way of saying you could get a teeny tiny scoop of whatever instead of having to guess whether a packet was enough/too much.  We had outdoor cats, so no need to protect the garden from rodents; the dog discouraged the deer.  The chickens helped with insect pests, too.  I miss that feeling of interdependence.

One more bird observation before I go:  finches and/or sparrows have been dining on thyme seeds from the herb pot on the patio.  I've never seen that before.