Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Spring Flowers

The apple tree has finished blooming, so now it's time to spray again.  Some sort of copper spray I think, I will ask at The Grange.  Or check the Master Gardeners' website.  I didn't see many bees around it this year; I hope everything is OK.  There were honey bees just below the tree, in the blueberries (see photo below), and a couple of aggressive bumble bees around it, trying to keep me away.  The next few weeks will tell if the apples got pollinated.  Then I get to thin them, and put them in panty hose!  Yes, panty hose, but you have to come back to see that!

Braeburn Apple Blossoms
Now, the blueberries are blossoming very nicely.  Draper is ahead of the Bluecrops, but several of them actually have quite a few flowers.  The bees have to climb into the bell-shaped flowers to get to the pollen. If each little bell forms a berry, there will be quite a few off such small plants.  Both these photos are Draper, a mid-season variety that is just a few days ahead of Bluecrop.  

The strawberries are loving their new bed!  They not only have loads of flowers, but the berries are quite formed for only April.  These are June bearers of an unknown variety.  

Some of the just plain pretties are the lilac, which I am pruning down to shrub-size little by little since it was overgrown with neglect.  Lilac smells so wonderful!  I always thought of lilac as an "old lady plant" since only my grandmothers had it!  But, here, it grows in nearly every yard.

I know I will be showing more of this, but the iris is blooming!  Not the new bed iris, the bed I planted last year.

The azaleas are ready to burst into bloom. There are two in planters that were here when I moved in.  I have fed them and added more soil, so they are happier than ever!

The winter pansies continue to outdo themselves.  They are so perfect, so bright, so distinct in their color patterns.  I just don't know why, but they just bring to mind a perfect flower!

The forsythia, flowering quince, crocus, daffodils,and other bulbs have already died back.  Creeping Charlie is starting to flower though.  I do wish it would creep the other direction, under the forsythia, instead of out into the path! 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

I Jumped the Gun (Frost-date)

I couldn't resist.  I planted my current batch of tomato plants into the garden!  I know... I know... it is at least three weeks too early!  But, the forecast up to May 1 shows temperatures into the 70s and even 80, with nights in the high and mid 40s.  So, unless freezing temperatures sneak back in May, it should be fine.  One of three scenarios in any case.

1) It will freeze, I will lose the tomatoes and have to purchase them again.  No biggie, they weren't expensive.
2) It won't freeze, but it won't be warm, so they won't grow well.  Still fine, they will catch up eventually.  If not, I can replace them!
3) It will be fine.

I still have more to purchase and plant of course!  I put in two Aces and an Oregon Spring I got from The Tomato Lady, and a Medford (yes, named for my town), and a Big Beef from The Grange.  I didn't mean to get Big Beef, he was mixed in with the Sweet 100s!  Poor Big Beef... 
They are pretty big tomatoes considering I did cut off the lower leaves and bury them deep.  There is no way I can compete with The Tomato Lady by growing my own!  Pay her $10 for three plants and leave the hassle (of growing from seed) to her!
Ace tomatoes don't need cages, but I did tie them to the stakes they came with, seen in the photo below in the upper right corner.  Good thing I did that, it was a bit windy last night. 

I still want a Sungold and a red cherry, which I can get from The Tomato Lady.  Then, I hope to find some wonderful new varieties at the Spring Garden Fair on May 4th and 5th.  I want another Yellow Brandywine for sure.  Something black too, or zebra striped!  I have room in the raised beds, plus two large plastic nursery pots I recently bought, two storage containers that never became self-watering, two gro-bags that are not very deep, and three Topsy Turvys.  Yes, I bought some Topsy Turvys!  Why not give them a try now that they are sold at the Dollar Tree?  I plan on putting cherry tomatoes in two of them, and a lemon cucumber in the other.  My neighbor has dying strawberries in hers.  I think she forgets to water it.

Two Ace


Big Beef

Oregon Spring

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Cedar Cone "Roses"

I have a beautiful cedar tree.  A few weeks ago it started dropping  beautiful cones.  They look like wooden roses.  Really. Too bad I can't figure out a way to preserve them, but they fall apart to release the seeds.

Now, the problem is, these cones don't just open to drop seeds, they fall apart into crunchy little bits.  And every piece, every separate part of the cone contains two seeds! 

Notice the "wing" that allows the seed to travel by wind. 

These cone fragments are everywhere.  The seeds grow at the drop of a hat... uh...drop of the cone.  When only a few were falling I actually planted some, thinking they would be like most trees and take forever to grow, with very few germinating.  Not these.  They are sprouting everywhere!

The really are fascinating when the germinate.  But, they are germinating all over the yard!  In the herb garden, in the pea bed, in flower pots... anywhere they land.  They do not need to be buried in the soil.

Now, I know that I didn't have these cones last year. So, what's going on?  It turns out that "true cedars" produce male and female cones. The female cones are pollinated, the male cones fall (they are not big and messy!) while the female cones mature over two or three years. So, I was right, I didn't have this last year!  And I won't have it next year!  And hopefully not the year after! 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Herb Garden Updates

The Grange Co-op has some beautiful new herb plants!  I bought orange mint, pineapple mint, and nutmeg thyme. 

I planted the pineapple mint in a ceramic planter on the deck.  I learned how mint pops up all over, so this one will be contained!  The orange mint and nutmeg thyme are in the herb garden.

Pineapple Mint

Orange Mint

Nutmeg Thyme
 The herb garden soil was so hard I bent my trowel!  So, I dug in two bags of compost (the kind the trash company makes from our green garden waste), uprooted the oregano and pansies, and replanted them.  I trimmed back a lot of the chocolate mint and peppermint, saving some to share.   The bed looks much better now!   I still want to find a lemon mint, a new basil (an annual), and a new lavender (mine died).

Herb Garden and Boo. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

I Quit...

A month to the day after starting my tomato and pepper seeds indoors, I have decided to give up on them.  Sure, they sprouted, they developed true leaves, they got taller. But, they are in no way equal to what is now in nurseries and from my favorite corner tomato seller!

The cost of the shelf, the grow-light and its bulbs, the seeds, peat pots, etc. came to more than buying transplants. Sure, it would have been nice to be able to harvest fruit (for tomatoes and peppers are fruit!) from plants I grew from seed, but we don't have a long growing season, and they were much too small.  Our last frost date is May 15, five weeks from tomorrow.  My little plants would not be ready for outdoor life by then.  Below are the comparisons, and you can easily see why I decided to dismantle my grow-shelf unit.

Ace Tomatoes - mine and from the Tomato Lady - April 9

Oregon Spring from the Tomato Lady, and my remaining seedlings - April 9
The Tomato Lady is a local woman who sells tomatoes from her truck in a nearby mini-market parking lot.  Last year she sold me a terrific Ace!  It is still too soon to plant these in the garden, but I couldn't resist.  Plus, having them gives me a visual reminder of why I pulled most of mine up.  I am putting them under the overhang at night, and if the temperature drops below the 40s I will bring them inside at night.  It is 64 right now, at 9:15pm; it's been rather mild.

I bought two Ace tomatoes and one Oregon Spring.  I have not grown Oregon Spring, which is an early producer that can be planted out a month before the last frost date, so long as it doesn't frost.  What?  That makes little sense!  So, I won't plant it out until no sooner than a week before May 15, so long as the forecast is for no cold temperatures.  Last year I was hasty, planting tomatoes (very small, disappointing mail order ones) on May 4.  Since I am in Oregon, and Oregon Spring was developed here, it should do really well.   I intend on buying more closer to planting date.  More Ace, a few cherries (yellow and red), and I really hope to find another Yellow Brandywine at the Spring Garden Fair, May 4th.

Here are my new "babies."

Two Aces and an Oregon Spring - April 9
I didn't toss all of my seedlings.  I figured if I was going to throw them away, I might as well plant them and see what would happen.  Either the cold will kill them, they won't do well, or they'll be fine.  I planted one of my own Ace, a Sungold, and two peppers.  I kept a couple other tomatoes and a pepper in peat pots.

My pathetic remaining seedlings - April 9
So, you can see why I quit!  I will not be starting seeds ever again!