Monday, May 31, 2010

Finishing (almost) in the Garden

Many hot days...many days off...working in the garden.

Moved the tomatoes outside so they can begin to harden off. Less than half of the tomatoes I planted sprouted and survived. Don't know why - I've always had great luck with tomatoes. Could be many of the seeds were old?

Bought 20 bags of mulch and completed the new beds. Here they are, in all their glory. Look kind of nice, eh? Just wait a year or so and they will look like the rest of the garden...
...full of weeds, every path a jungle of dandelions, strawberries, buttercups, sheep sorrel, cinquefoil, chickweed...

The spuds are sprouting. Well, they were "sprouting" before I planted them, but now they have green leaves above the ground. Many potatoes that missed the shovel last fall are also sprouting. These I've been pulling/digging up and tossing because all the literature says that this should be done if they grew in a season of late blight - the insulated spuds underground can be harboring the fungus. Of course, I've just chucked them into the weed piles...won't this also keep the fungus alive? We shall see. Meanwhile, I squashed my first CPB eggs yesterday - bright orange on the underside of a leaf.

Many of the onions seem to have recovered. Whew! I thought they were going to be a total loss this year.

The greens are sprouting now, too! Spinach - Mmmm.

We need rain so desperately. The ground is parched. I dug a hole to plant the flowers I purchased Friday, and I could barely get the shovel to break the soil. It looked promising yesterday - the winds picked up, the air cooled off, and the sky turned grey, but no rain fell. It's been weeks.

Meanwhile, the swallowtails are loving the new beds - 100% manure, full of all sorts of good nutrients. Took several videos of them puddling, but I'll spare you those. Here, however, is a shot of two enjoying a sip at the nutrient bar.

Got lupines? Mine are going great guns. Like the bee balm, they are almost a weed. I hate to weed them out, but if I don't do so soon, they will be the only plants in the flower beds besides the bee balm!

Pretty, pretty flax. The plants are so wispy and delicate, and they are topped with these darling pale blue flowers. They don't blossom for long, but are nice while they do.

My irises have started to open now, too.

I discovered a neat "kaleidoscope" feature on my photoshop program. Here's the iris again, although you'd never recognize it.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Garden Expands

Friday I decided to tackle the newest part of the veg garden. As you may recall from past photos, one end of the garden has been under black plastic for about a year, an attempt to kill off more lawn and convert it into garden space. Yesterday was the unveiling. Beneath the plastic was nice barren soil, several ant hills, and one garter snake which immediately took off.

Once the plastic was rolled back, I covered the space with newsprint - no mindless digging and tilling here - I was going with the "pile it up" method. First, we had to put down layers of newspaper. However, try to find a newspaper these days that isn't printed in color! Our local rag is about six pages long (three sheets) - only one is useable. This was getting me nowhere.
Luckily I had a couple rolls of newsprint to put down, but it wasn't enough layers. So, off to the dump I went (uh...transfer station, that is). Lots of newspapers in the bins, but all were colored. What is with the newspapers these days?!? Afterall, people read 'em and toss 'em, so why waste the money on colored ink? If they went just black and white, not only could gardeners use them, but they could also be burned in woodstoves for kindling!!! Just something to think about.
So, being left sans newspapers, I went with the next best thing: cardboard. I had to make two trips to the dump to get enough (barely) to cover the garden. Then I started adding the manure.

My wonderful egg people brought me a load of manure this last week that they estimate was upwards of 30 years old!!! It was black and crumbly - wonderful wonderful stuff. But not nearly enough. I put down 2.5 beds of last fall's horse manure, then 2.5 beds of this lovely black stuff, and had to finish off the 6th bed with a mixture of the dregs of the good stuff, a couple scoops from the compost (which didn't really compost last year - not hot enough), potting soil and peat moss.
Meanwhile, while I was digging into the good manure, look who I turned up:

This is a little red-bellied snake - a delightful little snake who was quite startled when I turned it up in the manure. I'm just grateful I didn't kill it with a stab of the shovel!

Of course, I had to have a photo shoot. Look at these lovely scales!

Had a terrible time getting a shot of the belly - it wouldn't sit still and flip over! Can't imagine why!

I finally turned it loose in the rock pile at the edge of the garden.

Here are all the I need to put mulch around the edges. Later that evening I planted squash, pumpkins, melons and cucumbers in the beds. 100% maure - should do well!

The butterflies were impressed. When I went out that evening, two tiger swallow tails were puddling on the beds, but I was only able to photograph this little white butterfly. I have no idea what it is.
I also got the pole beans I'm off to get poles for them!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Ah...the Weeds

Okay, it's not all weeds, but there are plenty.

First up on the docket is the bluebirds. They have taken up residence in one of the boxes in my yard - hooray! They eat lots of insects and help keep pests under control.

Blue-eyed grass - there are more than one! I will have to head out with the field guide to see which species I have, but here's a nice close-up of the flower. It's not a weed, although many folks treat it is as such because it will grow in lawns that are left "untended." This is a native wildflower and one I am always thrilled to see in my yard.
The lupines have started to bloom. Ah, the luminous lupine!

And here it is, the 2010 Veg Garden, weeds and all:

As you can see, the spaces between the beds have really started to grow. Back in the garden's first year, these spaces had been killed off, sort of, by being under black plastic for months. The garden was beautiful in that first year. But now the paths have had 3-4 years to recover and recover they have. I had a wonderous crop of gigantic dandelions lining each path.

These trellises, in case you were wondering, are the ones I spent the last week erecting for my peas, and already the peas have begun to climb! The British Wonder are living up to their name by being the most vigorous growers so far.

Ah, chives. Love 'em in all sorts of foods, but boy can they take over if you don't keep an eye on them. The flowers have only just started to open in this patch. The great thing about chives is that the whole plant is edible. The next time you make a salad (green salad or potato salad), or whip up a batch of mashed potatoes, toss a few chive flowers on top for an attrative edible decoration.

I also have a love-hate relationship with buttercups. I love the flowers, they are quite beautiful, but they are extremely aggressive weeds in the garden. Unlike clover, sheep sorrel, plantain, chickweed and even dandelions, buttercups resist uprooting with a tenacity that would put shrews to shame. And they send out tendrils that sneak in everywhere, forming a thick carpet that is well-nigh impossible to remove. They are also indicators of poor soil. I suspect that their presence is a big clue as to why the soils in this section of the garden smell "sour" - like an anaerobic compost pile. I've added all sorts of ammendments over the years, but I still get whiffs of sour soil. Maybe some day, if I'm still here, I will finally get the soil improved and healthy.

The lilacs have started to blossom!

And the azaleas around the house are in full swing. Lovely.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Too Busy to Photograph!

Hard to believe, when it seems my camera has been surgically attached sometimes, but these last few days I've just been too busy in the garden to take photos!

The peas are finally trellised - ten rows. I ran out of twin about half way through and the whole project had to be put on hold until I got more.

And now the greens are planted. Truthfully, these really could've gone in weeks ago, but that whole snow/frost thing keeps me conservative when it comes to planting. The packages may say the plants are cold tolerent, but what if that's only in Florida, where cold is 70 degrees?

The spuds are in, too. Only a little over two beds this year - no where near as many as last year. This is probably just as well...just in case I get a job offer and have to move!

The beds are slowly filling back up with weeds, though. The paths in between the beds are overgrown with dandelions. Where did they all come from! some are trying to reach knee-height, but so far have been unsuccessful. I mowed some of them down yesterday, but the rest remain, thumbing their proverbial noses at me.

Meanwhile, the drip irrigation system is on the fritz. I bought new batteries for the timer, but after working for about two minutes, it went on the blink. I finally took the whole thing apart and found the inside full of corrosion! One bit even fell off - its wires completely corroded through. I've called Dripworks (twice) to ask them if the thing was under any kind of warrenty (I've only had it two years, and didn't use it hardly at all last year), but so far they have not had the courtesy to call back. Beware the power of the internet, Dripworks - an unsatisfied customer can wreak havoc on your reputation!

So, in the meantime, I've got the hose hooked up and every evening am out there watering.

HHH weather is here (Hazy, Hot, Humid). The exhaust fan is on at night. The dog and I lie there unable to sleep in the heat trapped in the house. And it's only May.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Growing Season is Starting Up

It's very exciting around the garden these days, for Things are happening.

Just as the apples and crabapples were budding, we were hit with another snow storm (well, sort of a storm - mostly just cold weather and snow in the air, although we netted about 0.1" of snow on the ground). Just about every growing thing now has blackened leaves. But, nature perseveres, and now the trees are blooming.

Here is as bough from my white-flowered crabapple. Last year was the first time it had blossoms - about a half dozen. This year it is loaded.

The other crabapples are full of buds, too. The wildlife crab was hit hard, so it is not the solid plume of flowers it was last year. In fact, the Royalty crab isn't either. It was loaded with buds, but now they don't seem to be opening, or at least not with any sort of vigor.
The regular apples, however, are doing well. Here are the flowers on the Haralson:
The Jonagold is also loaded, and this year, for the first time, I have a few flowers (very few) on the Milden. The Milden isn't looking too well, though. The middle trunks are defunct. I cut off one earlier this spring - it was well and goodly dead. The other is nearly dead - no leaves, no flowers. The Northern Spy is a late bloomer, in many ways. It's leaves are only just starting to emerge, and I think it will have a few flowers, but they will be later in the season.
I also noticed this year I have a wild apple that has volunteered in my yard! It's about as bit as some of the whips I planted last year, but IT is loaded with blossoms. The wild varieties are so much hardier and grow up so much more quickly than their domesticated cousins.
Meanwhile, this last Sunday was a PERFECT day. It was in the low-70s, with a cloudless blue sky and a nice breeze. I spent part of the morning chasing red admirals around the yard trying to get their photos. There were many of them, all feasting on the dandelion buffet that is my lawn, but none would sit still long enough to shoot! I finally tracked this one down in the veg garden.

And then I spent the rest of the day re-digging the remaining veg beds. The weeds had taken over the final six beds and they were a chore to clean out. It was like starting from scratch and digging up the lawn! By Monday afternoon all six were finished and are now almost ready for planting.
I am still going to hold off another week or so before I really get stuff planted - more cold weather is possible. Still, I may get the spuds in this week.
Meanwhile, the garlic is doing great:

I took the row covers off the peas yesterday and they are looking great, too! Put in the poles and posts that will hold their trellises (when I get around to making them).

Wish I could be as optimistic about the onions. They are just not looking too great. Gave them a good drink yesterday, but only time will tell if they survive and produce.
I'm "on vacation" again this week, so I hope to get a fair bit of stuff done in the garden, in between going on flower hikes with my pal Jackie. I've got a couple days off next week, too, during which I really hope to get stuff into the garden.