Saturday, June 27, 2020

Pomodoro'd out

I recently learned of a time management technique known as Pomodoro, which is Italian for tomato. (The inventer is Italian and originally used a tomato-shaped kitchen timer.) Basically, one works for 25 minutes, rests for 5, then repeats three more times, rests for 30 minutes, then starts all over again. There are lots of apps to help with the timing, but I have found that for me, the work/rest ratio depends on what I'm doing, how much sleep I got the night before, how hot it is (for outside labors), etc. The most important lesson learned, though, is I need to sit less and do more. Once I sit, I tend to stay seated for much longer than necessary. I also need to pay attention to my energy level. On day one, I overdid it in the morning, then spent the afternoon in recovery mode.

The 'Autumn Joy' sedum looks stunted, as though I had pinched it back. This supports my theory that we had a badly timed late frost this past spring. Some plants were affected, like the sedum and the Japanese maple, others unfazed.

Last night a half inch of rain fell, not enough but better than nothing. I was able to do a significant amount of weeding along the south side of the house. I'm also halfway through converting the beds around the AC unit to stone mulch and container plants.

Speaking of container plants, my experient growing perennnials in containers has been a big FAIL... except for the penstemon. It hasn't been very happy, until this year, when I shifted the pot to the end of the deck so that the plants get more sun. Otherwise, I have been sticking to annuals in pots: basil, thyme, straw flowers, zinnias, morning glory. The latter has climbed almost to the top of the pergola on the deck, but I'm wondering if it is getting enough sun to bloom. The redbud tree that provides some delightful afternoon shade is also shading the morning glories.

The wrens have babies, babies that send up a chirp chorus whenever mom or dad shows up with some food. That attracts the attention of the dogs; when Clio stands on her hind legs, she can almost reach the birdhouse. Besides discouraging their curiosity there, I have to keep an eye on their chipmunk hunting. The south and north sides of the house are blocked off, but they stomped around under the 'Limelight' hydrangea where bishops weed (aka goutweed) grows. Fortunately, that stuff seems to be rather hearty.

A few butterfly weed plants are starting to bloom, along with a couple of coneflowers. I admit I have trouble telling some of the prairie plants from what I consider weeds. I am looking forward to more blooms so I can target the weeds without accidently removing the desirables.

My back is sore from my labors, but I am so, so, SO happy to be back in the garden post hip replacement!

Sunday, June 21, 2020

All is not lost

Sometimes it is difficult to focus on the positive. I water the spray-on grass the construction crews left behind, but no grass grows. I reduce my calorie intake, but I lose no weight. I put out the oriole feeder, but no birds come. One ray of hope is the Japanese maple: while walking the dogs, I noticed another Japanese maple in the neighborhood that looks similar in species to mine also struggling. So maybe it is not a serious problem, just the weather.

Japanese maple samaras

We have not had rain for quite a while, to the point I may have to water more than the spray-on grass. The city says they will come back in the fall and redo the spray-on grass, but I found some seven-year-old grass seed in the garage, which I cast on top of the spray-on grass. Even though I doubt it will germinate, I'll water twice a day for a while. The rest of the lawn is on its own. The white clover patches look green, as does the grass that gets the most shade; the rest is turning a toasty brown. The outside faucet out front has a drip, so I let it drip under the Japanese maple.

Spurge (?) grows in my lawn

I edged around the 'Perfect Purple' flowering crab and transplanted some 'Zagreb' coreopsis there, to add to the yellow under this purple tree; 'Stella d'Oro' is blooming there right now. Using an edging tool, I put my weight on my "bad" leg and dug with the "good"; ditto with the shovel. This made sense to me, but not to my hip. The concrete-like clay soil was not helpful, either. I had to take it easy for a couple of days after that episode.

Ladybug, ladybug, welcome to my garden

Weeding anything deep-rooted is impossible right now, so I've been concentrating on some sticky things growing under the gold mop. I haven't been able to identify them. They are surprisingly shallow rooted, and grow in sun and in the shady recesses that I can't reach without putting undo strain in my hip. I may have to call in reinforcements to help me out.

Found my garden scooter

I feed the birds peanut splits, unshelled peanuts, oil sunflower seeds, and nectar. I've wondered from time to time just how dependent birds are on these feeders, and which they prefer, the free handouts or the smorgasbord available elsewhere in the yard. The other day, I watched a female hummingbird sample the nectar at the feeder, then buzz over to the nearby 'Red Husker' penstemon, where she aggressivly poked her beak into a half dozen blossoms before zipping away. I guess the nectar in the feeder may be easy pickings, but not a match for the real thing. To learn how hummingbirds see color, visit this article in the NYTimes.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Doesn't feel like June

Some coldish temps have struck our area. Tonight it is supposed to get into the high 40's. Very unusual, but I am not complaining about sunny days in the high 60's and low 70's. What do the plants and animals think of this?

My Japanese maple apparently is not happy with the climate, or something. It is barely leafing out. I don't know if a late frost interrupted its usual progression or if it needs more water or less or what. The gardening column in today's paper discussed problems with Japanese maples, one being that the root flare ("the portion of the trunk that flares out just before the roots begin") is covered by soil or mulch. I'll check this, but also, in my experience, the area within the drip zone needs to be free of mulch, too. I killed a previous Japanese maple in this location by covering the root zone with lava rock. The next one, a lacy leaf variety, I killed by underwatering. This one has been there since 2009 and has reached its full size, so I hope it revives and continues for many more years.

The petroleum jelly helped reduce the number of ants in the hummingbird feeder, but did not completely eliminate them. The oriole feeder has a built-in ant trap, but not the hummingbird feeder. My handy SO constructed one from these instructions.

My arms hurt today because yesterday I trimmed the boxwood out front. If it gets too tall, it blocks the electric light on that side of the garage. Even though I exercise my arms and shoulders, holding the hedge trimmers at that height put extra strain on my muscles. That, or I am getting old.

I'm new to strawflowers, and so far am impressed with them. Each blossom goes through an interesting progression until it reaches full bloom.

'Betty Corning' is putting out a good display this year. The 'Blue Muffin' viburnum is done blooming, so now it is time for 'Chicago Lustre'. I had forgotten all about 'Niobe', a clematis by the front porch. It has had a rough life but it hasn't given up and is blooming well. And today I saw a cedar waxwing in the Japanese maple.

Saturday, June 06, 2020

Can we have a new normal?

Since the pandemic started, many (NOT ALL) of us have been wishing and waiting until we can "get back to normal". Well, that old normal was not all that great, especially for some people and some places. I try to keep politics and social issues out of my blogs - that's not why I write - but some things just cry out to be mentioned. I hope the protests lead (peacefully) to significant change, and the only way to change things for the better is to get involved however we can (money, time, letter writing, running for office, etc.) and to VOTE. If you don't vote, it looks like you don't care, and I can't believe anyone doesn't care about how we move forward from this point. (End of sermon.)

I was beginning to think that the only critters I was going to see at the hummingbird feeder were ants. I fixed that problem by applying Vaseline petroleum jelly to the metal pole holding the feeder. Soon after, I spotted a female hummer. But only one. I didn't know if that was normal (it is), so I looked up some info about hummingbirds at this site. Some friends of mine have been able to spot hummingbird nests in their trees, but my ranch house does not offer the same vantage point their 2-story home does. Caring for a hummingbird feeder is almost like having another pet - the nectar needs to be replaced every 3-4 days. It's for only a few months (she said optimistically).

Speaking of critters, my dog Clio managed to mangle her muzzle and ear, presumably in the torn hardware cloth skirting the shed. That lead to a bacterial infection AND a fungal infection. She was a mess, had to visit the vet, and now wears the cone of shame.

My SO helped me update the skirting around the shed with some plastic trellis. Since I didn't want to lie awake at night, worrying about whether we trapped a nest of baby bunnies under the shed and they were slowly starving to death, we left a gap for critters to come and go. Only later did it occur to me that Finn, my inside/outside cat, could also come and go. Finn was a stray who developed a taste for baby bunnies - he eats them, doesn't torture them - so I decided that was okay. Maybe someday there will be NO critters under the shed.

In my effort to downsize the garden, I moved some of the raised bed frames so that they surround the clumps of big bluestem and rattlesnake master plants near the back of the yard. The idea is to offer the dogs a visual clue so that they don't trample the plants - they like to run along the fence. I, the Toro jockey, will also have a visual clue and will be able to mow that area without damaging said plants. I plan to move some coneflower and rudbekia to those beds as well.

So now I have four islands of weeds in the middle of the garden. The weeds look rather grasslike - I'm guessing it's mostly quack grass. Ugh. I am not looking forward to dealing with that.

Meanwhile, up on the deck, the strawflowers are blooming. The plants aren't very tall, so maybe I will add something to the pot... some zinnias. The seedlings are popping up. Zinnias and sunflowers are some of my favorite annuals. And marigolds, but I skipped them this year.

I was looking through some of my photos out on flickr the other day and marveling over how much better they look than the ones I take now. Back then, I was making more of an effort to take good pics, now I am barely documenting what is going on in the yard, and then only as a reminder because I suffer from CRS (Can't Remember Sh*t). Maybe I'll do better once things get under control (HAHAHAHA).