Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Wonderful Spring!

It's the time of year that fools gardeners.  It's sunny and 70 degrees, which after a long winter feels even warmer!  Ever notice that?  The first few warm days feel hot?  We forget what hot is really like!

So, how do we get fooled?  We are misled into thinking spring is here, the weather will be warm from here on out.  We are misled by the tomatoes being sold at the stores!  I even saw a couple walk out of Lowes with a hanging basket of fuchsias the other day!  

Our last frost date is still a month away, and that's the "new," improved last frost date.  No frost tender plants should be planted outside before that date at the earliest.  It's hard to wait. Sometimes I risk it, with inexpensive plants that are easily replaced.  Sometimes I win the gamble, sometimes I lose.

Every year when it warms up I start worrying, "What's taking the peas so long?"  I worry I will need their bed for warm season vegetables.  And, this year, I think I will.  If they do well they'll be producing well into June, and by then I have tomato plant plans for that bed.  I am not going to pull out the peas this year, but cut them at ground level and plant next to them, to allow the nitrogen nodules on their roots to help the soil and other plantings.

Sugar Sprint peas

The Winter Sowing seeds have done tremendously well so far, especially the Chocolate cosmos (I read that until recently you could only propagate them from tubers, the seeds were sterile.  Fortunately it's a perennial, since any seeds mine have will be infertile.  The plant is extinct in the wild of its native Mexico.).  I transplanted Swiss chard, spinach and lettuce into the re-purposed bottom of a small animal cage.  I drilled holes in the bottom and filled it with potting soil.  All three of those were also direct sown in front of the peas.  In the photo above you can see the lettuces are up. 

I got so much bed work done today!  I got the rest of the old bed location soil moved, as well as last year's straw bale (now nice and rotting), which I put in the bottom of the new empty beds.  The drawer beds fell apart, so I had to hammer in some stakes to hold them square.  They'll work.

where the old 4x8 cedar bed and straw bale used to be

new 4x4 bed, drawer bed, and ex-boysenberry container (soil from old cedar bed - needs amending)

The grass/lawn/weeds is in dire need of the first Spring mow.  In amongst the grass I always find these... but never have bothered to find out what they are.  I used some deduction skills and a great phone app to identify them! 

 First, I knew they looked like mint.  The leaves themselves look just like any growing mint plant.

The flowers are mintish too...

Square stem... almost all mints have square stems.  But, not all square stemmed plants are mints.  But, with the leaves looking like mint, the flowers looking like mint, and the square stem, I figured it must be something in the mint family!  So, I took a picture and downloaded it to the app
my garden answers which you can download for free for either iPhone or Android.
Take a photo or download one from your phone, and it brings up suggested matches.  I've used it to identify several mystery plants.  Turns out this one is red deadnettle (lamium purpureum), and is indeed a member of that large family of mint.  Lamium purpureum is Greek for "the devouring purple monster!"  Really, it is!  It's an annual weed native to Asia and Europe, but now spread from Norway to Africa!  It was introduced (by some idiot) to U.S. and Canada. It is considered an herb, since the leaves are edible.  Maybe that's why the idiot introduced it here!  It really is rather a pretty weed, and I don't mind it in the grass/lawn/weeds.  Maybe it will choke out the burr medic (burr clover).  I've got a pretty good handle on the fox tails, but those burrs are a pain in the dogs' feet.  

Oh, those fingernails!  It's no wonder my nail tech daughter throws up her (manicured) hands at me!

Even without the chives blooming, the herb garden is so pretty right now.  I love how the creeping thyme is creeping over the granite rocks, I can't take enough photos of it!  The ground cover wallflower is blooming pretty.

ground cover wallflower blossom close-up

Grape hyacinths are up everywhere I look!  These are in the herb garden, mingling with the new chive growth. 

The Frost peach is in bloom. 

It was a great day in the garden!  Tomorrow is the Farmers' Market in town, which I am looking forward to!  I'll let you know how it goes, and if I find any treasures!  I got my woolly apple mint at the Farmers' Market years ago. 

Sunday, March 25, 2018

New Raised Beds, an Old Raised Bed, and Herb Spring Growth

Remember those raised bed corners I got got for such a deal last year?  You know, the ones that were originally $24.99 a pair, but I got for $5.00?   I was able to get four boxes, or two beds worth (since one box would be totally useless!).  Why would they sell these in pairs?!

Anyway, I have finally used them!

The lumber is 2x8 Douglas fir.  Douglas fir isn't the best, but the best, cedar, is much too expensive for my budget.  These will still last for years.  Since my local Lowe's does not, in spite of the website saying the do, cut lumber, I had to buy a little hand saw, which my son used to cut each 8' board in half.  The saw is a Kolbalt 15" and will come in handy for a lot of other cuts I have planned! 

The last photo above shows placement of one of the new 4x4 beds, with the old 4x8 cedar behind it, and one of the "drawer" beds on its left.  Next to the pool bed in the background, where the other "drawer" bed is in the photo, is where the other new 4x4 was put. 

What's next? Order 2 yards of soil to be delivered!   My first load was 4 yards, so this should feel like "only" 2 yards! 

Then, come up with a plan to rid that area of grass and add bark mulch or something for pathways. 

The 4x4 recycled gate bed is falling apart.  It's the one with run-away orange mint, so instead of trying to remove that and fix the bed, I'm taking it apart. 

The cedar wood is still usable, so I am going to use that new hand saw to cut the boards into lengths approximately 8"-10" long and set them into the soil as an edging to what will be a pathway to the compost pile.  There is already a bit of a "nature" trail, where the dogs and I frequently walk, where the grass is worn down!  Then I can get rid of the mint contaminated soil and add more mulch or gravel.  It will make a nice area for large container plants.  

The herb garden in spring is lovely, shades of purple and yellows abound.  The oregano and woolly apple mint is starting its spring growth, but not in height yet.  The chives will be flowering soon, adding more pinkish purple to the scene. 

grape hyacinth mixed in with onion chives

creeping wallflower

prostrate rosemary crawling over rocks and daffodils

 The mint bed (maybe it can give the ivy a run for its money, as far as invasive goes!) is coming back.  The larger patch on the left is pineapple mint, the middle and black pot is spearmint, the thicker patch on the right is lemon balm, and the green container is strawberry mint. I recommend strawberry mint if you can find it!  The aroma of the crushed leaves is just like strawberries! 

Not much else can be done outside right now.  It's Spring on the calendar, but winter cold and wet returned this weekend. 

On a positive note, I am no longer working at all, so have loads of gardening time ahead!  It's a trade off, more time = less money, but I'll take it.  Once my new beds have soil, my costs will be minimal. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

A Bit of This... a Bit of That...

Happy Equinox!  

I got my new gro-light.  I had a brain-storm a few days before and borrowed my son's Ottlite, which has a natural light bulb.  I'm not sure it is plant worthy, but it tided me over until my light came. 

Mine is really something!  It's like Medusa!  No one in the family likes the light it gives off though. I wish it were a traditional gro-light with the full spectrum white light, but this was much less expensive, and I love the clamp base.  It was sunny yesterday, so I put the baby tomatoes (and white eggplant) outside.  They are off the heating mat, of course, you only use those until the seeds germinate. 

Ottlite temporary light

new light clamp-on base - very handy and fits my kitchen counter perfectly!

3 goose-necked lights

the light it emits
Gro-light prices have come down since marijuana growing has become legal in more areas.  That's good for vegetable seed starters!  The reviews for this particular light were very positive.  The light also has an on-off switch with each head controlled separately.   I winter sowed some tomatoes recently, just in case these don't work out.  I failed at starting tomatoes the only other time I tried.

I found some miner's lettuce growing in one of the blueberry containers!  I haven't seen it in my yard before.  Now I notice it in weedy areas around town!  Was it there all along and I never payed attention?  I like it's looks, just wish it were in a different location.  Know why it's called "miner's lettuce?"  It's high in vitamin C, so the California gold miners ate it to ward off scurvy. 

I am harvesting asparagus.  It only lasts a few weeks, so we have to enjoy it while we can!

The winter sown seeds that have sprouted are doing well.  I love the little "hats" on the cilantro!

Here are the fast growers...

chocolate cosmos - planted March 4, this was taken March 20

Russell lupine - planted February 15, this was taken March 20 - nice little "true" leaves!

I opened their "greenhouses" yesterday to let in some fresh air and unfiltered sunshine...

The peach blossoms are beginning to open...

Monday, March 19, 2018

A to Z Challenge Theme Reveal - A-Z of the Garden

Okay, so let's just admit I'm a little confused!  There is more to this A to Z Blog Challenge than just posts throughout April having some connection (theme) to the letters A through Z.  I am not a spreadsheet person, so I am starting to get worried I may not be able to do this, at least "officially."  I mean, I am writing my A-Z posts, and will post them, but will I understand the "finding the forms for the links to each letter" part of the instructions?  I am not even sure what the means!

I'm even confused by this "theme reveal" deal.  I checked some of the participants who have already revealed their theme, and seen what they did, which has helped some.  I think what I want to do is tell you in this post what my theme is, and then include the link to this particular post (not the blog's main page) in the Theme Reveal form.  Right?  Then maybe repeat that process with each day's post, using the "links" to "forms"?   (😟 insert deep breath)

If I have it straight, here goes!

 2018 A to Z blogging challenge
It's almost April, which is time for the 2018 A - Z Challenge Theme Reveal!

So far, so good...

My theme? 


Butterfly Garden 2017
Each day in April (except Sundays... except the first Sunday... which happens to be April 1), you will find posts here all relating in some way to gardens or gardening.  It may be a post as simple as where I buy most of my seeds (E), or inexpert advice on brewing "teas" from the garden (H), to suggestions on container gardens for specific purposes (C, L and M).

Front Yard Rock Garden 2017
Sign-ups are still open, so join the fun!  Yes, I'm having fun planning my letter posts, learning new things to share too.  Sign-up are open until April 1st.

Herb Garden 2017

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Spring or Winter? Open or Close?

The weather keeps fluctuating between early spring warmth and cold winter chills.  The flowers don't know whether to open or wait.

The Flavor Supreme Pluot is open... (and Boo and Edward the Goldendoodle grazing like a couple of goats)

The Frost peach is closed...

More crocus is open, this is a shallow terracotta bulb pot... (there's Boo's ball!  He tried to tell me it was stuck on the overhang!)

More Tete a Tete daffodils are open...  (These are in a ceramic planter in the front yard "herb bed."  That's a Tuscan Blue rosemary behind it, and more wild violets under the rosemary.  In the lowest right corner you can see Golden oregano just starting to come back.)

The best indicator of spring, the forsythia, is opening...

Flowering quince is open...

In the rock garden rock cress and sea thrift are open... (see those little clumps of grass?  Those are baby blue fescue.  I won't let the ones in the background go to seed this summer!) 

But, the Lewisia is closed... (ignore the weeds, it's been too wet to work in the yard)

I am itching to get outside and get to gardening!