Sunday, April 29, 2012

Not Much to Report...


This past week has been a mix of nice sunny weather, and cold overcast days with hail.  This weekend has been nice.  I spent most of yesterday driving around a neighboring town's "City-Wide Garage Sale."  Found some great bargains, brought home some free planters of dirt (not worth showing the photos!).  Tested and found the pH is fine, but it desperately needs some compost added.

Some of the seedlings are doing well.  The Cinderella pumpkins, gourds (I am especially proud of these since I dried the seeds myself!), Baby Boo pumpkins, and Summer Dance cucumbers look good.  I have only one remaining lemon cucumber, so will plant some more today, and save some for direct seeding.  It is confusing as some sources say to direct seed, others say not to.  The cantaloupe is not doing well either, and I would like to get some more of the Jack be Little pumpkins to grow.

Cinderella pumpkins 2 weeks old

Turban gourd 2 weeks old

Summer Dance cucumbers 2 weeks old


Hmmm... they are only 2 weeks old?  I feel as if I have been tending them for at least a month!  Maybe I am expecting too much from them.  They still have 2 weeks to go before transplanting into the garden.  I am still not sure some of them can wait that long.

I am a terrible root vegetable gardener.  I think I will give up on my carrots and radishes.  Never have I had any success with root vegetables.  Last winter I just left the carrots in the ground and not long ago pulled them up for our Guinea pig and rats to gnaw.

I found a partial bag of chicken manure, which I dug into the future cucumber containers.  Even though the soil tested fertile, I want to add some compost to the boxes for the pumpkins too.

On the bright side, the herbs are looking good!  The oregano has many new light green growth  on the tips, as does the lavender.  The chocolate mint is growing lots of  new little leaves under the existing ones.  My daughter and I started painting our stone markers.  They just need some touch up and a few more sealer coats and they will be ready for the garden.

Painting the Garden Marker Stones





Sunday, April 22, 2012

Another Great Gardening Weekend!

Lots of good news, and some bad news, in the garden this weekend.
The good...
I got some great gardening stuff at a garage sale on the street behind mine.  What caught my eye were the blue ceramic pots!  My favorite color of blue.  Three of them.  One has some cracks, but it still holds water, two  are large ceramic-look plastic pots made by Better Homes and Gardens (about $30.00 each new).  I don't much care for the yellow color, but they are big enough for my "extra" tomato plants (more later)!  Then a garden cart, not like I have, but a wheel barrow style (new price $40.00).  Along with the garden tools in the carrier: three hand trowels, a pair of pruners, a stick-in rain bird sprinkler, and a couple of hand forks, several brand new.  Also "Hose Mobile" hose reel (new price $60.00). 
And how much did I pay for all of the above? Or all of the below, if you go by the photos... Only $20.00!

 




 Yesterday I found a lady selling tomato plants out of her truck at a corner mini-mart.  I couldn't resist Legend, a determinate variety recommended for my area.  I have never grown a determinate tomato before.  They do not need staking (or caging), but grow laterally and tend to set all their fruit at the same time.  That makes it a new adventure for me!  I hope she has some tomatoes for sale next weekend too, I want to get one of her yellow fruiting varieties.

Legend tomato

The bad news this weekend?  While the peat pot seeds continue to grow for the most part, I have lost a few cucumbers (the first up) and cantaloupes.  From my research it seems to be "damping off."  It is caused by a fungi in the soil.  One is called Rhizoctonia solani, which causes the problem I seem to be having, the stem is sunken near the soil line.  It is in soils that are moist and hot, which is just what my plastic bag "greenhouses" did to the peat pots.  I don't mind the cantaloupe, as it is recommended to direct seed them anyway. I will start over with new pots and soil again for the cucumbers.  I need to wash my gardening tools in a hydrogen peroxide and water solution.  Boy...all that trouble for a cucumber plant or two!

The pumpkins on the other hand threaten to take over the tray.  They have their first true leaves.  There is no way I can hold off planting them until mid-May.  Maybe I should transplant some and hold back a few others, see what happens. 

baby Cinderella pumpkin

The weekend wasn't all spend on the fun part of gardening though.  My son and I finally weeded the entire front planting area.  He spend his well earned $20.00 on a PC game from Walmart.  I got nothing but a weed-free planting area and a sore knee.

If you can stand one more photo from this weekend...  Dale (my apple tree) is blooming!

Braeburn apple in bloom







Saturday, April 21, 2012

Start to Another Great Weekend in the Herb Garden!

Woke up to a warm sunny day.  Even my teen daughter was up and about (though I suspect she never went to bed last night).  Time to plant the herbs!

Wanting to do it right, I drew a chart of herb heights and spread, then set the herbs still in their pots in place.



Looked perfect!  So, my daughter and I got them into the ground, added a flat rock in the middle of the bed, and surrounded some of the herbs with pretty stones (no shortage of rocks in my yard!).  There is plenty of room for some more herbs, so I am looking forward to another trip to the Grange this weekend! 

 

We left the plastic markers for the time being.  I gathered up a bunch of flat stones (remember, I did say I have a lot of rocks!) to paint as garden markers.

stones for garden markers

Catmint (catnip) grows quite large, so I planted it in the bean planter in the back.  Also, parsley has a long taproot (although I didn't see one at all) so it is now in one of the cinder block holes.

tripled curled parsley

catmint (or catnip)


Lots more has happened this weekend in the garden, and it isn't even 11:00am!  But, one of the dogs has to get her rabies shot, so we are off. 















Thursday, April 19, 2012

WOW! The Indoor Seeds Sprouted Already!

I couldn't believe it today when I checked the indoor peat pots.  I thought they might be drying out (they weren't as the lids and plastic bags caused a lot of condensation), but boy, was I surprised!  The cantaloupe and lemon cucumbers are all up.  A few Cinderella pumpkins (full size) and Summer Dance cucumbers are up too. 

I moved them outside to get some fresh air (it was muggy under those lids and the peat pots were soggy) and sunshine.  Indirect since they are newborns, under the overhang where the picnic table is. 
I will bring them in again tonight.  The weather is wet, but a lot warmer, even at night.  But, to be safe I will go by the book (that would be an actual book, Garden Guide for the Rogue Valley) and keep them indoors until after the last frost date of May 15.  

The herb garden is starting to look pretty...
I planted the lavender (in the pot, since it is biggest) and the rosemary (the highest spot so it can creep and crawl and hang over), as well as the teeny daffodils I bought at Walmart (Tete-a-tete is what they are called, and were only .76 a pot, in bloom) and a volunteer purple pansy.  My daughter wants to help with the rest, but she hasn't gotten a chance yet.  This weekend looks good, for her and for the weather which is expected to be sunny.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A Very Productive Weekend in the Garden


Mostly sunshine led to my getting a lot done this weekend.

First and foremost, the pile of soil is GONE from my driveway!  It took a long time to clean off the asphalt, but my son seemed to enjoy squirting the hose on it.

Then, I planted seeds in peat pots and pellets for transplanting outside in 4 weeks.  This is the first time I have done this.  I used to direct seed about now, but here our last frost date is May 15.  It is hard to hold off!  Maybe one of the reasons my pumpkins have never done well is I have always planted too early.  Apparently I now have a short growing season.  I watched a TV news story about starting seeds in the house.  Until they sprout the most important thing is warmth from below, and it was suggested to put the planters on top of the refrigerator.  So, I did.  Once they sprout they will need light.  My son did a unit on botany a few years ago (he is homeschooled) and we have some special light bulbs for plants.

I planted watermelon, pumpkins (regular and mini sizes), cantaloupe (not recommended, so I saved some seeds to direct plant too), cucumbers, lemon cucumbers, turban gourds,  nasturtiums, and sweet peas.  The larger peat pots fit perfectly into a muffin tin as a tray.  I covered them with sandwich bags, since they didn't have a tray and lid.



A wonderful surprise was finding asparagus has come up!

 
More progress included final pre-planting work on the herb garden.  Another higher spot, either for the larger lavender, or the creeping type of rosemary.  I added a flat rock, and a pot behind it all, for either of the above mentioned herbs.  I discovered the bird bath is sealed already, water stayed in it overnight.  Once the plants are in I can see where it should go.  I gathered a pile of small flat stones (another use for my over abundance of rocks!) that my daughter and I plan painting as herb garden markers.  I can't tell basil from mint, or oregano from sage right now!  Well...I might not be that bad...  I do know the sage is fuzzier than the oregano, and mint has more veins in the leaves. 

One of the best things this weekend was discovering that my apple tree has flower buds!  I wasn't sure they were leaf or flower, but now I can tell.  Pink flowers!  I have read up on it, and know that I have to, at least, remove all but one fruit per group in June.
All in all it has been a great weekend in the garden!  I will leave you with some photos of the various daffodils blooming...some have ruffles. 















New Seedlings

Lettuce is up... 
As you can see, the cheap-o seeds left over from last year are doing better than the expensive ones, at least for now. 

cheap-o lettuce seeds
expensive lettuce seeds

Kale is up as well...
It reminds me of clover, the nurse leaves are 4 lobed.  

kale
Radishes are growing too...
(Why do we use the singular for "lettuce" and "kale," yet the plural for "radishes"?  There is more than one kale growing, and lots of kinds of lettuce/lettuces.)

radishes
No sign of any carrot seedlings yet.  I have a dismal history growing root crops.  If they can't grow in my new fertile soil, I give up on them. 

The Cascadia peas are doing well.  A few have reached the string trellis.

The soil heap in the driveway is down to a manageable size.  Another day or two should take care of it.  Update!  The soil is gone!  My son and I moved it all to the back yesterday.  The last few loads we just dumped under the cedar trees, so I can move it at my leisure.  I need some of it for the rest of the herb garden, and for my planing seeds in the peat pots this weekend. 

Cascadia peas


remaining soil in driveway (note rocks on the side, more of the rocks I mentioned previously...at least these are shared with the neighbor!)

 



Friday, April 13, 2012

Herbs

I bought my herbs today.  The nursery sections of the local stores had dismal selections, so I thought I was going to have to order them online.  The problem with that (besides the cost) was they wouldn't be sent until late May.  In my zone most are perennials and can be planted now.  All I needed to do was go down the street (literally) to the Grange Co-op to find great herbs at great prices!   I did have to change the varieties of a few, but still was able to get compact ones suitable for an herb garden or containers.

The small ones were on sale for only $1.00!  The larger ones only $1.99, and $2.49.  I got a gallon size lavender since it was the only small variety they had, so it was more, $7.49.  I threw in two flowers that will stay small to plant among the herbs, Erysimum (orange flame), which apparently is called a "wall flower" when it's at home, and Sanvitalia (creeping zinnia, even though it is not a zinnia).   

For $1.00 each I got amethyst falls oregano, peppermint, onion chives, lemon thyme, spicy globe basil, catnip, and triple curled parsley. The parsley was in error, I thought I picked a cilantro. The catnip is for Velvet, our spoiled tuxedo cat.  The officinalis sage (just garden sage dressing up its name) and creeping rosemary were $2.49 each. 

It is hard to stop bruising the leaves and sniffing!  The chocolate mint actually smells like chocolate mint, and the leaves are even brown!  The lemon thyme has a strong hint of lemon to its odor.  The basil makes my want to chop it with tomatoes and melt it into cheese to use as a spread!  I guess that can wait until summer when I have some warm, fresh from the garden tomatoes. 

basil


lemon thyme
chocolate mint
It is hard to believe, even to myself, that I have managed to get to my age (over 50 in case you wonder!) and have never had an herb garden.  I feel like a kid in a toy shop... a kid in a candy store...

I found the cutest bird bath for the herb garden at Safeway today.  The woman working there didn't know if it is sealed, and since it is terracotta I might have to get some sealant from the hardware store if it isn't.  What is the point of a bird bath the won't hold water?  Maybe it could be planted with a shallow rooted herb...it is too cute to return. 

Here's to hoping the weekend has a few hours of sunshine so I can plant my new babies!

Monday, April 9, 2012

A New Raised Bed! (and bark complaints)

I know...I know...I didn't really need another raised bed... but I did decide at the last minute (well, not really last minute since I can't plant for weeks, even indoors for transplant) to add cantaloupe to my garden plants, and that meant more planting area.

The Home Depot has a great product!  Greenes 48" x 48" raised bed kit (they have other sizes too) that is cedar, and costs under $40!  It comes in pieces that are easily put together and looks great.  You can add on too, or make it deeper.  The wood isn't as thick as the custom built bed, but I am quite pleased with it and may get more next year, or maybe for fall/winter crops.  For now this one seems perfect for one of the vine crops, the cantaloupe, or maybe the pumpkins.
Bark Complaints!  

I got a bag of bark, "medium nuggets," to place down on some of the muddiest walkway areas.  It is a brand both Walmart and Lowe's carry.  I wanted more, but hesitated to get a lot since it seemed too big from what I could see through the bag.  Today when I dumped it out I saw it could hardly be described as "medium" or "nuggets."  It contained a lot of sticks, some light wood-like lumber scraps.  Also most of the chips where giant chunks of bark, not nuggets of something medium sized.  When I was at The Home Depot I picked up a couple of bags of their "medium" bark, which was indeed medium, and pieces of bark.  It was like the difference between night and day.  
Lowe's and Walmart bark
The Home Depot bark
I don't really care for bark, my mother used too much of it, as did the former owners of my current house.  But, it works well for covering the muddy walkways near my garden beds. 

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Herb Garden and My Many Rocks



The herb garden has been completed!  Well, the construction of it has been completed, there are no herbs planted yet.
It started out life as a barked area next to our deck. 

This had been nearly inaccessible before I trimmed back the overgrown bushes.  The undergrowth took a good 8' of usable yard away, so it had to go.  After all, I had a nice new cedar fence built, may as well see it!

Under the bark was heavy black plastic sheeting. I have found this sheeting under nearly every  planting area, in the front and back yards.  It is even under the cedar trees, partially up the trunks, held down with rocks.  This can't be good for the trees.  I spent, and am still spending, hours of my time digging it out, tearing it up, and in any way trying to remove it.  It didn't even keep down weeds, as in many areas it was covered with bark, which had rotted away, making a perfect growth medium for weeds!  I will admit they had shallow roots and were easily pulled.  But, really...black plastic sheeting everywhere!

So, the plastic was removed from the herb garden area, and I raked most of the bark away.   Besides black plastic, the yards (front and back) contain a multitude of rocks.  Small river rocks, large decorative rocks, lots and lots of pumice rocks, flat rocks left over from edging beds and for walkways, just a lot of rocks!  Rocks around beds of smaller rocks.  Rocks camouflaging the boards under the deck.  There are even piles of rocks in front who's sole purpose seems to be a failed attempt to keep roses from growing.  I managed to organize the rocks in a fairly attractive fashion in the front yard, bordering the planting area near the sidewalk. 
So, rocks...
They make a great edging for herb gardens!  And I wouldn't have to buy a single one!  I could have built the entire thing from pumice, but there were so many other, more attractive rocks in the yard. The old existing rose bush (Sterling Silver I think) already is bordered by pumice.  Did the former owners collect it, or get a delivery?  I don't know, but I do know their daughter lived in the house next door for a time, and the current owner has rocks and black plastic in his back yard too!

Fortunately a teenage son can move rocks better than his mother!  He loaded some from out front (the side of the house is "paved" with rocks) and rolled larger ones from under the cedar trees.  I left an opening for our garden cart to bring in the soil (yes, I still have soil in my driveway...).  It took 6 or 7 loads to fill the base level of the bed.  I then added another tier to it, and added another 2 loads there. 
More decorative rocks will be added at planting time.  That will be a sunny day this next week.

The only problem now is keeping our Goldendoodle from blindly plodding across it.  His long gangly legs and his brain don't seem to communicate with each other.  "Edward, get out of there!" is a common refrain. 


(Oh, in case you think I exaggerate about the rock situation...)
rocks...
rocks...
rocks...

rocks...
rocks surrounding smaller rocks...