Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Bearded Iris Bed

I have a new iris bed!

The rhizomes were temporarily planted in the raised strawberry bed, and the pot that held last year's bell pepper.  I got them at the end of  last September, free of course off Craigslist!  They should have been planted before now, but I didn't have the space.  Actually I did, but didn't realize it until a few days ago.

Testing the soil next to the house, in back under my daughter's window, I discovered more black plastic sheeting under the bark!  That's right... more black plastic.  As if I hadn't pulled out enough already.  So, after a couple of hours of that, and a night's rest, I make a bed border out of rocks.  Yes, that's right...  more rocks.  I may actually be putting dent in them!  Except I found more rocks under the bark, under the plastic!  You heard that right... more rocks... under the black plastic!  They seemed to be set in order like an old stepping stone path.  The rocks in the foreground below are some of them, flat slate type rocks. 

Iris bed to be - black plastic removal and discovered rocks
There is a rose bush in the middle of the bed, which will stay if it comes back well this spring. I think it is Sterling Silver, an old rose and one of the first purple ones.  The flat rocks near it are for stepping stones.  The bed is very close to the edge of the herb garden, and if I want to walk buy I don't want to step in the iris, so I put some flat stones (yes, the new ones) there for a stepping area.  Amazingly the dogs, even Edward, are respecting the area and walking in the narrow area between the beds.

If you know bearded iris, you know that they should have been transplanted months ago.  But, they'll be fine, even if they won't bloom this year.  I am eagerly awaiting blooms in my old bed, planted in September 2011.  Not a bad time of year exactly, but they had been neglected, if not downright mistreated before I got them.  Free... off Craigslist!    They didn't bloom last spring, but they had nice growth, so I have hopes.

September 2011
July 2012

Of course Boo "helped!"

Friday, February 15, 2013

New Raised Bed From Salvaged Wood!

It's not pretty, but it's done!  I took that old gate I got from my neighbor apart, and put it together again into a 4 x 4 raised bed.  The wood couldn't be nailed together at the corners with a post, so I just used wooden stakes to keep the boards up.  Now, I just need to find more soil to fill it!

Old gate from next door
Edward wonders, "What's that smell?"

 The fifth board  is on the ground to walk on. 
5 boards to re-purpose
Building the bed

Wooden stakes - only cost a few dollars
Finished product -  not pretty, but it works!  The cardboard in the bottom will help kill the grass underneath and keep them from growing into the bed.  Also, to get rid of it!  I have a lot, it is the cardboard that my trellises were shipped in.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Spring-like Weather and Boysenberries

Suddenly we have weather like spring's!  It won't last, but it does allow me to get out in the garden and do some chores, start some projects, and make some plans for when spring comes to stay.

After a very expensive vet's visit (Edward the Goldendoodle has reoccurring skin issues) I decided to make do with what I have as far as planters for the boysenberry starts.  I had hoped to get 2 nice planters to put near the deck, with trellises, and big black nursery pots for the rest.  It turns out I only have 8, not 9 as I thought, one of the "sticks" was indeed a stick!  A boysenberry stem, but no roots whatsoever.  I don't know how I planted that.

I used the two yellow pots that held bell pepper and lemon cucumbers last year for two of the berries.  I had to replant some strawberry daughters from one of them, which meant I had to empty out some bulb planters for the strawberries!  I felt like I was playing musical chairs with plants!

You can't even see them, but they're in there!  There is also one stray strawberry in each pot.  As they grow they can climb the lattice behind them.

I took most of the old soil out of the pots, and filled them with a mixture of some new potting soil (that has worm casing in it), with a kitty litter pailful of peat moss, and a shovelful of the Oakleaf compost (not made from oak leaves, that's the brand, the compost the trash company makes from our yard waste).  I forgot to add the 1/2 cup of 10-10-10 fertilizer, so will have to dig it in today.  10-10-10 is an all-purpose fertilizer, 10% nitrogen, 10% phosphate, and 10% potash.  It's fine for vegetables, flowers, lawns, but my blueberries and a few other plants need a different type.

The "sticks" still look pretty much like sticks, only now they are brown sticks instead of the green sticks I planted.  But, under the soil, they show new growth.  Both the roots and new shoots are showing.  The shoots will flower (and berry) next year.  The first canes are "primocanes" and they will have flowers the second year. The flowering canes are called "floricanes."  So, they have a two year pattern, and unfortunately, unless you buy plants already two years old, you have to wait a year for any fruit. 

New root growth on Boysenberry start

New bud of a "primocane" on the Boysenberry start

Sunday, February 10, 2013

My Very Own Grow Light Shelf!

In a few short weeks I need to start seeds indoors.  Peppers will come first, sowed indoors 8-10 weeks before the last frost date.  Followed by tomatoes, 6-8 weeks before the date.  Cucumbers need just 3 weeks before the last frost date.  I am also going to start several types of flowers, including nasturtiums, marigolds, and zinnias.

I tried starting seeds indoors last year, with very little success.  I depended on moving the seedlings into the sun on my deck during the day.  Fine if it was a sunny day, but not enough sun for them to grow well. 

This year I built my own grow-light shelf!  When I say "built" I mean put together a plastic shelf and hung asuitable fluorescent fixture from it!  Couldn't be easier.  Or cheaper.  Well, it could have been cheaper; read more about that later.

1) The shelf.  Mine is a four shelf, plastic one from the hardware store.  $14.00.

Upside down by design!
Yes, the photo on the right shows the shelf upside down!  I am using it upside down to take advantage of the rims on the shelf edges.  They will make it less likely anything will slide off.  They will also keep any water drainage off the floor.  When I am not growing seeds I can either take the unit apart and store it, or put it out on the patio for holding briquets, sidewalk chalk, all the summer odds and ends.

2) The lights.  OK,  here's where it could have been cheaper.  Had I been able to use 4' fluorescent fixtures, I could have bought any cheap shoplights at any hardware store, or Walmart-type places.  But, I only had room for a 2' shelf, so needed 2' lights.  Instead of $10-$12, I paid $25.  It's a very nice light fixture though!  I got it off Amazon, and I may order another.  It is very sturdy, has a handy pull-chain to turn it on and off, and came with chains and hooks to hang it.  It did not come with bulbs, my item #3.  It takes either T12 or T8 bulbs.


3) The bulbs.  Amazon does sell some expensive bulbs just for growing plants. But, they are not necessary. I was able to get the bulbs recommended for this unit at The Home Depot, for $9.99 a 2-pack.  That is more than regular fluorescent bulbs, but plants need either full spectrum, daylight, or specific plant bulbs.  I was disappointed not to find some 2' fixtures, just the bulbs.  So, I will have to order another of the ones from Amazon if I want another shelf of seedlings.

Thank you Philips for the easy to understand size!

shelf -  $14.00
light -   $25.00
bulbs - $10.00
           $49.00 ($84.00 if I buy another light fixture and 2-pack of bulbs)  Hmmm.  $49.00 doesn't sound bad, but when I see that $84.00?  I wonder if I really need another level of lights?)

I remind myself that this is a one-time expense, that I can reuse these things year after year (new bulbs once in a while), and that makes spending money better.  Like the axe we bought yesterday.  We might only need it for one stump right now, but eventually it will pay for itself, right?  Besides, we can't put a price on happiness, and as I have often said, vegetable gardening makes me happy!


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Ask and You May Receive

My neighbor built a new fence.  The old one was from wire, those rolls of welded wire, or livestock wire, fencing.  He also replaced an old cedar gate.  Now, you might look at these and think construction debris, or a big pain in the neck, but when I saw them on the other side of the fence, laying against his garage, my eyes lit up!

What do these look like to a vegetable gardener?  Why, a new raised bed and a bunch of tomato cages of course!

My neighbor was kind enough to let me have them, so I rolled and slid them over the fence into my yard yesterday.  He also gave me his old red recycling bin, which are perfect planters with drainage holes already drilled.  Our garbage company changed to large trash cans instead, and didn't want these back unless we wanted them recycled.  Hmmm.  Recycle the recycling containers?

This is my old red recycling container, but my neighbor's looks just like it! (Cat litter pails are perfect for veggies too!)
So, I have some work ahead of me, but I am pleased and excited by my "new" gardening materials!  What did my neighbor get out of the deal?  Less trash to haul away, and a jar of my homemade apple butter. (Which, by the way, is still sealed up nicely!)

Apple Butter and Apple Sauce

I also got two new Craigslist finds to share.  Two 30 gallon plastic containers with lids, destined to become self-watering containers for vegetables.  Both of them for $10.00.  My 18 gallon container looked huge until I put it next to these monsters!  Making them into self-watering planters will be a new adventure.  I need to get busy, it will be planting time before I know it. Already peas will be going in this month.