Sunday, December 30, 2018

More Winter Sowing +

There was a break in the weather earlier this afternoon, lasting long enough to get more containers filled and sown.

I'm up to container # 25, with only one being planted with two different seeds (both lupines, so if they crawl around it won't matter!).

In containers 15-26 I planted (continuing on from the last one the other day, #15)

     15. anise hyssop
     16. golden lemon balm (lemon balm with golden leaves!
     17. violas, Johnny Jump-up
     18. Swiss chard
     19. lamb's ears
     20. lettuce, Rocky Top mix
     21. red plains coreopsis
     22. blue vervain
     23. firecracker penstemon
     24. red hot pokers (torch lily, orange and purple variety)
     25. Rocky Mountain bee plant
     26. allium oreophilum

Just a few other things to note.

1 - the Duck brand of duct tape is worthless!  The kind from the Dollar Tree is much better.  The Duck has trouble holding a measly little Christmas light wire to the wall, and absolutely won't stick to milk jugs.
2 - that potting soil I bought isn't very good.  I know it wasn't the best, but the "perlite" it is said to contain is invisible.  You should be able to see the perlite.  It did however contain small pieces of thin plastic (like bag plastic), and I think a piece of measurable Styrofoam!  They are also old, as the soil is caked together.  Good thing once the seeds germinate they won't be in the jugs long!

The parsley Winter Sown last year is looking great.  A biennial, it will flower, seed, and die this coming season.

The Walker's Low catmint looks deader than usual, but peering deep inside the deep inside the dead clump these is new growth.

The English (common garden) thyme show hope for the spring as well... After that drastic pruning I gave it, I'm surprised, and delighted!

I've got not one, but four yellow yarrow starts from broken pieces!  Here's two...  I'll be sorry when my perennials do so well I don't need to start seeds or buy anything new!

I transplanted one of the front yard sea thrifts into the new herb bed.  I plan on removing all the small plants out front, and am testing how they do after a few years growing in front.

And, something I found humorous... this sign taped to an outdoor trash can in front of a Goodwill store.  At least, I think it's humorous.  It begs a few questions.  Is there a big problem with people dumping cat litter?  Why would an irresponsible cat owner drive their dirty litter to a trash can, rather than dump it on the roadside? (I find irresponsible cat owners don't have cat boxes in the first place, they let their cats use my front yard.)  And, if one is dumping cat litter, is the sign really going to stop them?  Are the trash cans unlined?  Because if they are lined, who'd know there was cat litter?  And, if they aren't lined... ewww. 

On that note, since I suppose I won't "see" you until 
next year, 

I'll wish you a


πŸŽ†   πŸŽ†   πŸŽ†   

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Winter Sowing Season Begins!

It's Winter Sowing time once again!   

I did it last year (didn't start until later, didn't even know what it was!), with more success than I think I gave it credit for. Yes, I can direct seed a lot and they'll have plenty of time to grow and flower and set seeds, but it's fun!  Plus it gives a reason to order seeds in December! 

And, did I ever order seeds.  I kept ordering and ordering and ordering. I know I swore I would keep it simpler this year, but, I couldn't contain myself!  (Packets with "WS" will be Winter Sown.)

herb seeds

 This is how I look at it...
  • seeds are cheap (especially on eBay)
  • I want more plants
  • it's fun and satisfying to grow an adult plant from a teeny seed!
  • seeds are cheap 
  • the seedlings don't need to be hardened off, they're already sturdy and ready for their beds, so it's good for them
Yes, "seeds are cheap" is there twice, because that's the major reason I buy so many.  I can afford a few extra packs or two (or dozens) when they cost a dollar.  If they don't grow I won't regret the money spent like if a pretty gallon size perennial dies.

flower seeds
Winter Sowing is a great way to grow many seeds, especially if you have a long, cold winter.  I've posted about it before, but here's how it works again.

What to Winter Sow:
Seeds that need to be chilled before sowing, or can be sowed in late fall for spring germination, will work for Winter Sowing.  Seeds from plants that self-seed, those that come up volunteer in the spring, those are good too.   Perennials and hardy annuals, seeds from plants with the words "prairie," "weed,"  "mountain," or "Alpine" in their names.

You can sow tender annuals (marigolds, zinnias), even tomatoes (they volunteer where fruit fell last season, right?), the same way later on. I'll do some annual flowers in March, but most do fine by direct seeding.
Butterfly and Pollinator Garden seeds

How to Prepare the Seeds:
With Winter Sowing (capitalization is mine) you do not need to put seeds in your refrigerator, nature does the chilling.  The seeds will germinate WHEN IT'S TIME FOR THEM TOO!  Really, they do!  They will not start growing just because they are put into soil.  They will wait until the days, nights and soil are warm enough for them.  You just sow them as per the package instructions and let them be. 

What to Use:
You're making little greenhouses, so you'll want containers that are transparent.  Milk jugs are perfect (if they are the kind you can see the milk level through the sides!).  2 liter soda bottles.  Plastic deli containers with domed lids.  Just so long as:
  1. they are deep enough for at least 3" of soil
  2. they have drainage
  3. they have holes in the tops for air circulation and rain 
  4. they have enough headroom for growing seedlings
I use milk jugs for those plants I want quite a few of, like snap dragons or alliums.  The soda bottles (there goes my 10 cent deposit per bottle!) and large Slurpee and McDonald iced coffee cups are ideal for those I only want a few of, such as catnip or goldenrod.  The Slurpee and McDonald cups have high domed lids, which I love.  Of the soda bottles, I prefer the Coca Cola brand!  They taper in on the bottom half, making them easier to fit together than the cheaper brands.  The plastic is heavier too.  You can buy foil baking pans with lids at dollar stores.  Use your imagination!

Preparing the Containers:
First and foremost, anything you use needs drainage holes.

If you are using milk jugs, throw away the caps!  No further cuts are needed in them for ventilation and rain access.   Domed drink lids have a nice big opening already. Any container lids with no holes needs to have them!

Slurpee cup lid

Cut the jug almost all the way around (keep attached near the handle), high enough so 3" - 4" of soil can be added to the bottom.

Words of advice - cut holes etc. as you go along, not saving a few dozen to do at once! 

More words of advice, and this is very important - don't stress it!  I've seen photographs of gardeners measuring their jugs to make sure their cuts are even.  I've read "tips" on how to make drainage holes by heating nails, or using power drills! 

Hogwash.  These containers are trash, and are going to be filled with dirt!  I am going to spend as little time as possible on them!  And, guess what?  Once you close them up, no one is going to see the crooked cut line!  And, the seeds don't care.  I just use a utility knife and a pair of scissors.  Stab the knife in where I want the drainage hole and twist (see photo above).  Poke the scissors through near the handle, and cut around to almost meet the first cut.  My milk comes from two different stores, but both jugs have built in guides, if it mattered.  I cut through the center of the circles, and along one of the lines.  Straight enough!

What Kind of Soil?
It's more important to know what kind NOT to use!  Do not use seed starting mix.  These seedlings will be in their containers for quite a while, and seed starting mix does not have the nutrients they'll need.  Use container mix or potting mix, or potting soil  Not any with water retention beads or things like that, your seeds may rot.  The kind with slow release fertilizer is fine though.  I used cheap stuff, and dug in some extra peat moss to the containers I sowed today because I though it was too heavy.  Sure, peat holds water, but I have lots of drainage holes!  I plan to add sand to others. 

Wet the soil well, and let it drain.  Then, sow your seeds.  Sow them thicker than the packages will say, you can nip them off if there are too many.  Better too many than not enough.  

Seal the milk jug cuts with duct tape.  Label the jugs.  This is such an important step!  A lot of those seedlings look alike!  Use something waterproof to label them, or put Popsicle stick tags inside.  What I am doing this year is numbering the containers, and keeping a "Master List" of what is where.  To hedge my bets I also am placing the containers in orderly rows starting with 1!  

My "Master List!"  I won't tell you how many items it runs!  It's amazing just how many plants are Winter Sow-able. 

The "Master List"

What Now?
Put the containers outside in an area where they won't be blown over, but open to rain, snow, and sun. Mine are in an unused raised bed.  I won't be needing the bed until the seedlings are out of their containers.  Now, ignore them.  They'll be fine.  Once you have warmer, drier weather, you may need to water a little, or vent if the weather is quite warm.  Later than that, you'll bend back, or remove, the tops to let them sun during the day. 
the first fourteen
Below is a photo of what I sowed in those first fourteen containers.
  1. purple allium
  2. Wartburg star asters
  3. betony
  4. black-eyed Susan
  5. Persian catnip
  6. pink catnip
  7. goldenrod
  8. mixed Russell lupine (the one I grew last year is the sole survivor of the Great Earwig Massacre and is purple)
  9. pink Russell lupine (sharing a milk jug with the purple, a stick dividing the two sides)
  10. nodding onion
  11. obedient plant
  12. dwarf snapdragons
  13. tall snapdragons
  14. purple tansy
  15. red yarrow
winter sown today
You can find all the information you need about Winter Sowing online.  These are my favorites, the second one also being one of my favorite sites on all the Internet!  

So, fourteen down and done, um... a lot to go.  More than containers I think.  I need to take another look at my "Master List" and see what can be direct sown instead!

Try Winter Sowing!  It works!  It's fun!  It's amazing!  

One last thing...  the mail came as I was writing this post.  
Take a gander at these beautiful beans!  
They're huge too!
Scarlet Runners

Monday, December 24, 2018

Update on Rain

No, my iris bed trench didn't work. 

The backyard is flooding like it hasn't in the past few years.  The new Pollinator Garden concrete block walls are keeping it more contained, for good or bad.  At least I can see where I need to add fill.

Christmas Eve Garden Update - 2018

Winter has made himself comfortable, setting in with freezing nights and days only reaching into the 40s.  The range between low and high temperatures is only 10°.  Funny thing, it doesn't feel like it's in the 40s.  It always feels warmer to me when it's raining.  And, it usually is warmer when it's raining! 

There's not much actual gardening being accomplished.  I go out and look around every morning (on my daily dog clean-up duty!), maybe pull a weed here and there, but it's just so damp I don't stay out.  Boo doesn't understand why I won't throw his ball!

I was startled to see some color in the far back yard!  The climbing rose leaves. The two plants themselves seem to be on the way out.  They were planted in 2012, and had been doing great until this summer.  I cut out a lot of dead and straggly growth, but I don't hold out much hope for them. 

Another pretty red sight in the garden is the Jelly Bean® blueberry.  

Legacy blueberry has buds, which is a relief to see.  Other than the Draper, I expect to lose the four Bluecrops.  I don't know what it was about last summer, maybe the constant forest fire smoke?

Bachelor button volunteers continue to grow!  At this rate I'll have start thinning them out.  No freezing nights as of yet has slowed them a bit.  I won't need to plant my saved seeds, or the purchased ones!

California golden poppies are doing really well.  These are growing in the iris bed near the Butterfly Garden, where I just flung the seeds from the summer plants.  There, hopefully, will be purple and white ones too, from purchased seeds.  I also bought a packet of mixed color CA poppies.  I think I'll scatter poppy seeds in more places than originally planned!  The new herb garden, the new Pollinator Garden, the front yard...  Even when they aren't flowering, the plants are pretty. 

The broken off yarrow and baby coreopsis continue to thrive on the sheltered picnic table.  I have seeds for new types of each.

Even though I know winter is hardly the best time for a garden to be showing off, I have decided to re-do the front yard "Rock Garden" next year.  Put in some larger plants, things that fill in.  A lot of plants are just not doing as well as I'd hoped.  Again, it might be my winter view.  No, after adding the photos... it's not just my winter view, it's a pretty miserable area, a neighborhood cat box. 

I must have planted the iris divisions lower, because the end of the bed closest the house was flooded.  I dug a trench, and you can see it's filled.  Lower bed and probably overflowing gutters which need cleaning caused it.  Hope these rhizomes make it, iris hates wet feet.

A new type of little mushroom was spotted in the lawn.  

I mentioned a mushroom activity a few posts back. I finally remembered to get a mushroom at the store, so here it is.  The sample mushroom wasn't the best, and it disappeared before I would have liked to finish the activity.  "Disappeared" as in... disappeared.  I think it got knocked behind the stove, my son thinks Benny the feline garbage disposal ate it!   

1- get a mushroom that is not tightly closed, you want the gills to be open to drop their spores

2- remove the stem, if still attached
3- place on a white sheet of paper set in an area that can remain undisturbed (I thought I had!)

4- leave it for 4 or 5 days
5- carefully remove the mushroom and you'll have a pretty spore print!

6- you can spray it with fixative or hair spray if you want

Different mushrooms have different spore patterns, so it's fun to use more than one kind of mushroom.  Wash your hands after touching any you picked yourself and do not put your hands near your mouth until you do!  

For Christmas my youngest son gave me just what I asked for.  Potting mix!  Yes, that's what I asked for!  Within the next week I'll begin Winter Sowing, so need new "soil" for the containers.  Not soil of course, potting mix.  Not seed starting mix, never that!  I'll go into Winter Sowing more later in the week.

It's not the most expensive mix, but it will be fine for Winter Sowing. I never use Miracle -Gro (it smells like chemicals!) and try to find kinds without added fertilizer.  I like to control that myself.  

And now, since it's Christmas Eve, some views of my Christmas tree and garden related ornaments!   I swear, I didn't do it on purpose, it just worked out that way! 


chili pepper

pine cone (perhaps a fir)


Even I have misplaced the pickle, and I hid it!  

Just to share, my favorites, not garden things.  I like glass or metal ornaments, even though I break things.  I found a box of pretty Shiny Brites the other day, 2018 versions of their old style.  The assortment included a lovely new top ornament.  The box was for what they call a "Cluster Tree," where you hang the ornaments on a metal stand.  One ornament was missing (probably broke!), so it seems they got rid of them all!  I just added paperclip hangers (ran out of the real hangers, but paperclips are better!) and hung them on the tree.  The "Cluster Trees" are ugly...

new Shiny Brite top ornament and Pinocchio
my daughter's cupcakes


wooden Pinocchio (we recently found three of these at a thrift store)

felted mouse ready for a tropical vacation!

πŸŽ„Here's wishing you all a Merry Christmas! πŸŽ„