May 16, 2017 0 comments By: m

Sunshine! Growth!

Finally, the sun has been out and I've managed to get most all the planting done, with the exception of the peppers.  They're not ready for transplanting yet.  I started them later this year than normal since I took up so much of my cellar seeding space and time with flowers - something I don't plan to do again.  Then again, plans have a way of morphing and changing in my world.

I'm finally getting some red-stemmed rhubarb!  The plants I rescued from a crowded patch of my mother's that wasn't being allowed to grow properly are gorgeous.  They don't have these red leaves in the old patch, so it's a wonderful surprise.

I don't know what variety they are - neither does my mother.  The starts from seed of 'Holstein' and 'Cherry Red' varieties that I put out this year are small, but growing nicely.  Their stems are quite red, but their leaves as yet are green.  I'll be interested to see if they, too, turn red when they're more mature.

The red-veined sorrel that was so slow to start is finally getting serious.  I have a few of them still in small 4" pots, and they really don't like to be exposed to full sun.  These are in the semi-shady part of the garden, and they seem to be managing okay.

They're transplants from seeds I started indoors, hence the nice spacing. I also had seeded some directly into the garden at the time I planted the lettuce, but it didn't seem any would germinate.  I've noticed a couple that finally did, but they're barely even visible at this point.

I love this 'Rocky Top'  lettuce mix from Baker Creek Seeds.

The only drawback is that I have no idea what each variety is.  They're all marvelous, though.  Look at this cute thing.

I've already made two sewings from this one packet of seeds, as well as saved some for late summer planting in hopes of a fall crop when these have gotten old and bitter.

The cabbages have taken off, but no heads are apparent yet.  I've noticed cabbage loopers in the area and a few holes in some leaves, so I've started a regiment of applying Dipel dust.  Dipel is the brand name for a formulation of Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis).  Bt pesticides are the protein crystals of a bacteria that kills only caterpillars (by actually physically cutting holes in their guts and then growing like a cancer - sorry everybody).  It's not harmful to any other beneficial insects or animals,and it has no effect on the plant.  DO wash it off before eating, of course (not that it would hurt you, but, yuck).  I have to admit, I do like to watch the white loopers flitting around.  They're among the very first butterflies and moths to appear in the spring.

The Chinese cabbages are in dire need of thinning, but I still can't bring myself to do it.  It looks so pretty!  A visiting neighbor suggested thinning them by eating  some of them like lettuce while waiting for the remainder to make heads.  We tried some.  The leaves are kind of rough but taste like Chinese cabbage - imagine that! - so I guess it could be done.

(l) 'Early Jersey Wakefield' cabbage, interplanted with Marigolds and Nasturtiums
(r) Chinese cabbage 'Hilton'

That same lady commented that my carrots were awfully thick.  

And here I was proud of myself for getting such a nicely spaced stand this year.  She should have seen last year's thicket!

The tatsoi and arugula are harvestable, so I've got lots of makings for lovely mixed green salads.


The "shady" end of the garden: cabbages and leafy greens, beets in the back (upper left) just germinating

And...a favorite reward...raw tender baby peas!

This is the first year I tried this variety of peas.  Very tasty.  Loaded with pods.  No trellis needed!  'Improved Maestro' will definitely be the choice of the future.

The cucumbers and zucchini are putting out true leaves.  I'm still skeptical of the zucchini in the tomato cage, but I'm also willing to be impressed if they actually grow nicely in there.

Tomatoes are in (interplanted with marigolds).  I'll give them a little while to get going and then put cages around them.

I've got five rose bushes in my new rose garden, and Shazam! is the first to bloom.

I couldn't resist this birdfeeder for the wildflower garden.  The birds, however, are resisting it just fine.

A lot of work, but oh so satisfying

 View from the rose garden

 And the other rewards of spring...

Roses, Siberian iris, Columbine, Peony, chives, Missouri primrose, 
and whatever that white filler plant is!

May 2, 2017 0 comments By: m

Water, Water Everywhere

I had planned to be planting the summer crops yesterday, but I've been put on hold by the weather.  From April 25-May 1, we got 5.75 inches of rain.  Three and 3/4 of that came on April 29.  I can't even scrape the weeds, it's so muddy.  I'm worried about the Salvia in the rose garden, because I don't think it likes soggy ground. I know it doesn't like cool weather, and yesterday seemed downright cold, with the high not even reaching 50 degrees!  That plot of soil was still wet when I uncovered it early this spring after sitting all winter under black plastic to deter weeds.  I hope the roses and herbs can handle it.  I have been amending the holes I dig for them with humus and manure, so hopefully that's been enough to keep the roots from drowning.

So far, the vegetables that I've already planted are holding their own and at least not under water.  The forecaster says we're to get another three inches (!) of rain tomorrow and the following day.  I'm building an ark.

My 20 little Lisianthus plants were not so lucky.  They were in a low spot at the edge of the garden, and were under water when I went out during a break in the rain a couple of days ago.  I had no choice but to dig them out and put them in some semi-dry potting soil until the rain is over and I can get enough soil from my compost pile to raise that low spot.  It stayed under water for almost two days.  I also had to dig up a new rhubarb plant that was nearby.  The compost pile itself is eroding from all the rain, so I don't know how long before I can get into that.

the Lisianthus patch completely under water 

20 Lisianthus dug up and repotted

Flooding at the northwest corner of the vegetable garden, and down the wildflower path 5/1/17

I tried to trench some water away from the Lisianthus so I didn't have to dig them up, but it wasn't working.  The water table was at the surface.

Although we've had lots of rain in the few years I've been gardening here (last year's onion and cucumber crops rotted), this is my first flooding.  The vegetable garden is on high enough ground that it drains well.  Still, there's a limit to what it can hold.  Fortunately, it hasn't flooded, but tomorrow may take care of that.  Fingers crossed.  Then I have to hope for enough sun and wind to start drying things up before the small plants' roots rot from being waterlogged.

It's a good thing I don't have to survive from the produce in my garden. What a layer of Hell is added to people's lives where there are no grocery stores or highways, not to mention property rights.  Let's don't go down that road in this blog.

The chives still look happy.

The Hostas are glorious.

As are the Clematis.

And the aphids in the wildflower garden are having a party.

They seem to be limiting their destruction to this one type of plant - and I believe it's the yellow coneflower, Ratibida pinnata.

I must get back to that ark.  Hope to see you in a couple of days.

UPDATE 3 hours later:  The weather forecast now predicts just under two inches of rain the next two days.  If they change it again, I hope it's in that same direction.

UPDATE 9am the following morning:  Sadly, they've revised it back upwards to 2.3 inches.  Still better than 3.  We shall see.

FINAL UPDATE:  The total turned out to be one inch.  It was more than we needed, but it was a relief from the probability we were expecting.
April 27, 2017 0 comments By: m

More Waiting

We're in a rainy, cool period now, so there's not much to do in the garden but check the rain gauge and look at things that are pretty much just sitting there waiting for some sun.  I don't blame them.  Who wants to get out of bed when it's dark and damp?

I did get a chance last week to transplant some more flowers: 22 mixed and 'Blue Beard' dahlias, and 9 blacks.  I've got so many dahlia seedlings started at various times, that it seems I'll never be through transplanting.  And now, I have just recently germinated over 50 red cosmos seedlings that I intend to put in the wildflower garden.  But who knows where they'll all end up?

I wanted some red, yellow and orange bell peppers this year, but I didn't want to buy packs of seeds that I'd waste most of, nor potted plants that cost three or four dollars each, so I bought a three-pack of the various colored bells at the produce department in the local Wal-Mart, ate the peppers and planted the seeds directly into starter seed trays.  I didn't know if they'd come up, so I stuffed up to a half-dozen seeds in each plug for insurance. (I don't think they're called "plugs" - cubicles?)

Now I'll have to separate them into single plugs each before their roots get so entertwined it's impossible to do.  Normally, I would wait until they have at least two true leaves, but I don't think I can afford to with them this packed.

 The peas I planted the first week of March are blossoming.

The lettuces (also planted the first week of March) are gaining and big enough to harvest.  The second flush (first week of April) of plantings in amongst them are just starting to leaf out.

Baker Creek Seeds 'Rocky Top' mix

The Chinese cabbages are gorgeous.  They need to be further thinned, but I can't bring myself to do it yet.  They look so pretty.

I'm going to have to bite the bullet soon.  

I would have expected the 'Early Jersey Wakefield' cabbages to have grown larger by now.  The marigolds I interplanted are outstripping them.

The golden zucchini and the cucumbers have germinated and are sitting with their cotyledons flattened out waiting for some sun's energy to produce true leaves.  I'll eventually cull the zucchini to two plants, and the cucumbers back to something manageble from the two dozen that have come up.

Golden Zucchini

The Egyptian walking onions, having never died back, are already producing their flower heads, which will eventually become the bulbs that create new plants when they fall over and drop on the ground.

So much for the vegetables.

I couldn't pass up this lovely little thing I saw at Grandaddy's:  Nemesia 'Sunsatia - Blood Orange'.
It's an annual, but supposed to seed itself.  We shall see.  I may not see any more of them after this year, and I may be cursing myself for having to pick them out of wherever the seeds have blown to.  Or just leave them have their way.

I planted the Nemesia in the rose garden, along with a rose bush I also got there, one of the Eleganzas, since my 'Pink Enchantment' Eleganza was such a success.  This one is red: 'Grand Amore'.

The Allium flower evolution is fascinating to watch.  The wine-colored flowers are dropping, leaving swollen green bisected tripartate ovaries in their place.

That 'Red Crimson' Dianthus that I wasn't sure at first was a Dianthus is blooming.  The way the flower stalks stick up high over the rest of the foliage is ungainly, but the stems with their dark red nodes are interesting.

The Superbells® (Calibrachoa) and Lobelia I potted up are bright and happy despite the current overcast gloom.

I've also got my eye on a killdeer nest.  Every year since I've been here there are exactly four camouflaged eggs laid together in a little pocket of gravel, fortunately not in the driveway, but still at some risk.  I always put up a couple of steel bars where I think they'll warn any drivers of various farming equipment to avoid crushing them, and then I cross my fingers.  I don't know if it's been the same parents each year (I suspect it is), but when you approach the nest, mama (or papa?) killdeer will trot around to get your attention and then head off to lure you away.  I'm going to have to do some research into the killdeer habits and life cycle.

We're all waiting for the sun.

April 18, 2017 0 comments By: m

Planting Fever

The weather and the soil have been perfect, so I've been getting lots of planting done the last few days.

Since I expanded my gardening this year from the ornamental vegetable garden to include a rose garden and a cut flower (mostly dahlias) garden, I've had lots to keep me hustling.  I've also been adding to the wildflower garden so that it doesn't completely revert back to grass and weeds, and within that, a big bed of poppies that I can't wait to see in bloom.  The wildflowers (and grass) are tall enough now that the paths I cut with a string timmer are showing up distinctly.

horse-shoe poppy plot in the wildflower garden

Yesterday, I planted 31 (!)  'Blue Monday' Salvia plugs (that I grew from seed) in the back of the rose garden.  If they mature well, that could make a beautiful backdrop.  It may be too crowded by the end of the season, as literature says it grows to 12" wide, and I planted them about 6" apart.  Will that make them bloom more because they're stressed and want to make seed before they die, or will that make the bloom less satisfactory?  We shall see.

Here's what I hope:  I hope it blooms profusely and drops seed that will sprout and grow next year, since it's an annual and I don't want to take up the space and time starting it indoors and transplanting again.  But if it's as pretty as the pictures I've seen of it, I'll do what I have to.  The only problem with that strategy is I won't know whether it's going to self-seed satisfactorily until it's rather late in the game to start indoors.

Then I put 16 mixed color dahlias (also grown from seed) in the currently L-shaped cut flower bed, along with 6 butterfly milkweed plants at the end, hoping for Monarch visits.  The black dahlias are a great deal larger than the new transplants, as they germinated quickly and grew rapidly.

Finally there were enough weed-free grass clippings for me to put down a light mulch over the lettuce, tatsoi, arugula, cabbages and carrots.  It keeps the soil from drying out so fast in the sun and keeps the rain from splattering mud on the plants.  It also adds organic matter to the soil as it breaks down, and shades the ground if you need it to stay a little cooler.  Theoretically, it will help to keep down weeds, but the clippings I'm able to obtain probably have enough grass and weed seed in them as to cancel out that advantage.

grass mulched beds

Since the red veined sorrel (Rumex sanguineus) I planted the first week of March never germinated, I was glad I'd started some indoors.  Those went out this morning.  The first I became aware of this plant two years ago, Lakewood Gardens was selling it with their herbs.  They weren't carrying it last year, but I found some at Granddaddy's Garden where they were selling it as an ornamental for the pretty foliage.  It's a member of the dock family (in fact, it's also known as bloody dock), so you can view it as a weed, an ornamental or a salad green.  I see it as an ornamental salad green.  It will develop dark green oblong leaves with deep red veins and what's described as a tart flavor.  Since I only ever had one plant at a time, I used the leaves sparingly and don't recall it as particularly tart.  But, when you consider that lettuce is rather tasteless, perhaps.  However, it isn't something as strikingly strong as arugula, nor bitter like some leafy greens. Maybe if you let it get more mature, but, like my lettuce, I prefer tender baby leaves.

Red veined sorrel seedlings

A couple of days ago, I put out about 30 zinnia seedlings that will be a center row between two rows of onions.  The outer row of onions is about three inches tall now, and soon I'll plant the inner row.

After a rain.  left row: Early Jersey Wakefield cabbage (interplanted with marigolds);
right row: Zinnias and onions
further right: 'Improved Maestro' peas - with Egyptian walking onions (Allium x proliferum) behind

The beautiful mixed lettuces will be ready any time now for picking as baby leaves, which, as I said, is just the way I like them.

The cover over the window well makes a great place for seedling trays, slanting them toward the sun and backing them up with a reflective white wall.

Here I should mention that Wal-Mart has a bin for recycling the trays that hold the plastic 4- and 6-packs and the plastic 4" pots of vegetables and flowers, and they let you take them if you need them.  And this year, I bought some sheets of the packs and some tray liners from Morgan County Seed Company for the incredibly low price of $0.60 for a sheet of the 4- and 6-packs and $0.80 for a tray liner (and I think for a tray, as well).  (One sheet contains either eight 4-packs or ten 6-packs.) Holy moly, what a bargain!  When I started my seeds in February, I ordered some 6-packs from Amazon at a cost of $0.31 per 6-pack.  I didn't look at the price of the 4" pots at Morgan County, but they are no doubt comparable.  I reuse all plastic potting material until I've given it away with plants or it falls apart.  I do wash them between uses, and if I think there may have been any disease organisms, I either toss the container or bleach it.

Sometimes with an order of seeds, I'll get a free packet of something (probably something they can't sell).  Last year, one such offer was something that was labeled as 'Red Crimson' Dianthus.  When I looked up that variety on line, it looks like a pretty dark red carnation with a pink center.  Mine has beautiful lush foliage, and even though I was expecting some red flowers, that's all it ever was all season last year.  It survived the winter, and this is what it's doing now:

I was beginning to think it wasn't even Dianthus, but Googling "carnation with hair-like petals" led me to something called a Turkish carnation.  That was also called Dianthus barbatus, and that is apparently Sweet William.  

The Missouri Botanical Garden site says it's "a  short-lived perennial that is perhaps best grown as a biennial. [...]  Seed may be planted directly in the garden in late spring for bloom the following year."  That would explain the fact that there were no flowers last year.
Here's a picture of a pink colored Sweet William (Dianthus barbatus) from Cool Garden.

I don't know what those spikey bits are called.  They're not petals, and they're not sepals (the small green petal-like parts that make a cup for the petals).  Perhaps they're what's called bracts, which are actually modified leaves.*  At any rate, I'll be watching for some flowers amongst those spines, and assuming they'll be crimson red.

This  last picture shows what is turning into my favorite flower bed.  Alliums blooming now, oriental lilies and stargazers for summer, early spring hyacinths, a Julia Child rose, and a ground cover of ornamental thyme.  Today I dug up the weed infested and otherwise barren ground around it and planted grass seed.  It deserves it.

Happy gardening!

*Okay, I couldn't leave you that way.  I looked it up.  They are indeed bracts.  And, you probably already know, but those lovely red poinsettia petals are not petals at all, but bracts.  The flowers of a poinsettia are clustered in that funky little yellow center.

Till next time.