Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Cottage Garden in the Morning

Today I took a break from obsessively dithering with working on the vegetable garden and went instead to the front flower bed. I'm going to be putting some medicinal and cosmetic herbs in that bed at some point in time, so I've decided to start calling it the cottage garden. It sounds pretentious, but I'm hoping it will grow on me.

In any case, it's been covered over with leaves and such all winter long and it is past time to get to work on it. The cool snap that is visiting us right now is actually welcome, as it will give me time to get the ground ready for the zinnia seeds. Zinnias like to have warm tootsies, so to speak, so I'll wait until the moon starts waxing to get them in the ground.

In the meantime, I need to clear off the leaves and root out the evil death grass that is taking over. The leaves can't be helped, but the evil death grass is my fault. The patch of ground on which the Cottage Garden sits was once a bizarre little half-oval of ground bordered on one side by the backyard's privacy fence. I thought, since there was a small gate and all, that it would be the perfect place for a flower garden/entrance into the backyard. The only issue was breaking up the dirt, because it was home to a thick growth of some kind of sod. It isn't Bermuda grass, but it's a close relative. In any case, I thought it would look really cool to leave a strip of the sod and set some round pavers in there. Quel Better Homes and Gardens, you know?

In theory, it will look really cool. In practice, there is much cursing and groaning as the evil death grass weaves its way underground and through your daisies and gaura. Argh. Curses.

I spent an hour tugging out the sharp-tipped strands of evil death grass, a chore made even more pleasant by the fear of coming up on the new spider in town, the Brown Widow. (Yeah. Um, thanks, Louisiana. But we got it. You have some fearsome pests. Now, do us a favor and try not to export any more of them, mkay? Mkay.) No brown widows were encountered, and I was able to clear out one half of the bed. I'll try to get back to it tomorrow or this afternoon, children willing.
In the meantime, how about some random flower shots? Good stuff.

First, a couple of the "Joseph's Coat" rose bush. You may remember that I spent a day pruning and tying it back and it has rewarded me by being stunningly beautiful this season. I actually stole this rose from my mother-in-law after giving it to her for Mother's Day one year. She never let it climb and it was killing me to watch her hack it down, so I took it from her. Ruthlessly. These babies start out with butter-yellow, red-tipped buds and open up into creamy yellow, blushing flowers. They grow into a pale pink as they fade. Amazing roses.

I have no idea what this next flower is as I have lost the tag for it. It's an evergreen, sprawling plant that looks almost like a succulent. The tag said (I think) that it would form mounds, but it actually is sort of leggy and sparse. I keep thinking I'll dig it up, but then it blooms out with this blue, and I stop myself. This is a truly bad-quality photo, but it shows the color well.

Gaura is a great plant in a flower garden because it blooms early, takes up a good bit of space, and is absolutely gorgeous along the way. You have to be careful of self-seeding, but I've found the seedlings to be easy to deal with (despite dire warnings of insanely strong taproots) and good to give to friends and neighbors. I think they look a little like orchids.

This shot of my amaryllis is not strictly, I know, good photography. The pale green/white fuzzy thing is actually several leaves from a horse mint and I suppose I should have scrapped it, but I love how the stamens show up, like a little group of worshippers. It's shots like these that make me long for a "real" camera with lenses and filters and things. Because I need another hobby to take up more time.

Another "not quite perfect shot," this time from a bunch of lavendar in the transplant bed. I got this picture with a good deal of cropping. What I wanted to do was get a nice, tight shot of a mature flower bract, but I didn't manage it. This is an immature bract. I think it's pretty, but again, it makes me long for a lens.

Despite my moaning and groaning, I'm really jazzed to see how well everything it coming along this year. I hope I can keep it going when the hot weather settles in.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Rain, Rain...Woohoo!

It's been raining all day long...a nice, gentle, soaking rain. It looks like everything has cleared out now, and I'm looking forward to seeing what a little bit of sunshine will do to the garden. How about some gardening news?

Bed One: The peas are stretching up to the twine beautifully--a few are curling their tendrils around the strands and climbing toward the trellis. I feel so tender about my peas. I've planted them before from seed and from seedling, but never with any success. I am really hoping to get some good stuff out of this year. The melons are doing fine. They're growing very slowly, but I'm not too worried about them. The carrots are also good. I still haven't planted more, nor have I replaced the Swiss chard that didn't grow. Maybe this week, now that Earth Day and Jeffrey's birthday party are out of the way.

Bed Two (henceforth known as the herb bed): All is well here. I have a feeling that my red leaf lettuce is about played out. It came up as a volunteer and the two plants have contributed mightily to several salads, but they seem to have stalled as far as new growth is concerned. I'm oddly saddened by this, but am trying to console myself with the mesclun patch, which is a thing of beauty and light:
Bed Three: Trucking along. The strawberries are tee-ninecy, which stinks a bit, but the birds are getting the bulk of them, anyway. Bastard birds. I'm considering sticking some cheap little windcatchers in there in hopes of keeping them out. Onions are doing fine, although I worry that they don't seem to be bulbing very well and a few of them look like they have given up the ghost. (I'm a nervous gardener.) Below is one of the bulbing onions. Keep your fingers crossed.

Bed Four: The pink-eyed peas are up! They sprouted beautifully, with almost all of them coming up in the circles in which I planted them. I like to imagine little overall-clad fairies having a hoedown in them while I'm sleeping. (Do you like the sparkly circle? I'm learning to use Gimp.)

In the upper righthand corner, you can see one of the basils also in this bed. I've got four Roma tomatoes in here, too, which are doing quite well.

Bed Five: The Boston Pickling cucumbers have been up for a week in a tidy, orderly line, but I was worried about the Blue Lake bush beans. Imagine my utter delight when I came out to the garden on Saturday and found this:
Today's rain brought out a straggling line of these babies. Can't wait for some fresh green beans this summer!

Bed Six: The eldest of the Three Sisters is up! I have four little corn plants in this bed, two in Bed Seven, and four in Bed Eight. I'm still hoping to get a few more sprouts, but I'm pleased with what I have so far.
Isn't she lovely? Someday, I'll figure out how to focus on the flowers and plants I want to focus on instead of the individual grains of sand behind them. Sigh.

Also in Bed Six are some eggplants and peppers. I was worried about all of them, as they seemed to be going through quite a bit of transplant shock. But the rain seems to have rejuvenated them and I was happy to see a little cluster of blooms on the eggplant tomorrow. Tell me these gorgeous things wouldn't look beautiful in any flower garden. (Also allow me to be a huge photo nerd and tell you that this shot is actually upside down and that I contorted myself into an alarming shape to get it.)

Bed Seven is notable only in that it is the bed in which I have the least corn and in which the Lemon cucumber seeds have yet to sprout. I delicately scraped off a bit of soil from the row and discovered two that had yet to germinate in any way at all. Hmmm. Will give them a few more days. Odd.

Bed Eight is home to three Better Boys who are awesomely beautiful. Check it out:

I know. I'm blown away by how hard my garden is working for me right now. I hope that it will come to a glorious, steamy, juice-drenched conclusion in the fall!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Shots From Bed One, April 22

I'm breaking this into different bed shots, because there are too many for just one post.

Here's Bed One, early April. What you can't really see is the insanity of the trellis for this puppy.

Lettuce. Prrreetttyyyy!

I am obsessed with the gorgeousness of my broccoli. I might need therapy.

Peas and Twine. Lovely, no?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Bring On The Next Moon Phase

This weekend was a flurry of gardening goodness. I could give you a detailed run-down, but lists are so much more fun!

  1. Bed One: The carrot, pea, and "Hero of Lockinge" seedlings are all up. Hopefully, the melon and peas will cohabitate beautifully the admittedly jerry-rigged trellis I set up for them with two plastic stakes, chicken wire we inherited with the house, a huge old dowel I found under the shed, and some 18-gauge wire. Oh, and some hemp twine tied to the bottom of the chicken wire to give the peas something to crawl up. It is lovely, let me tell you. The Swiss Chard has, unfortunately, not come up yet. I'm a little bummed and wondering if I should try again. It's definitely been longer than a week. I've gotten a few heads of broccoli from the plants. They are outrageously healthy, but I'm a bit disappointed with the size of the heads. Next year, I'll definitely try to start some from seed and look for BIG heads. I'll plant some more carrots in that bed this week, and also give the seedlings some side-dressing, as they seem a bit anemic to me.
  2. Bed Two: The mesclun bed is kicking ass and taking names. I have a nice little patch that will need to be thinned very soon. I'll probably put the thinnings into a salad tonight. All herbs are doing well. I need to plant my Thai dill seeds and the two basils I got yesterday in there. Hopefully later in the week, I'll be able to take a visit to my favorite herb farm and get some sage, orange mint, and Vietnamese coriander. I might try throwing some stevia in there as well.
  3. Bed Three: This bed received the bulk of a load of truly horrible topsoil. We got our first two loads from a landscaping business and while the first was fine, the second was mainly sand and clay. Mix these together, add water, and...PRESTO! Adobe. Not good for onions. The strawberries seem to be doing okay, but the onions were gasping desperately for breath. Spent Friday adding soil from topsoil load number three, purchased at a much lower price from a different dealer. The soil is much more...dirty, but will still need a great deal of organic material forked in throughout the season. Anyway, I loosened the earth around the onions and added the new dirt--and sure enough, I've already got some "bulbing-out" onions. Woohoo! I'll get some globe carrots in there this week.
  4. Bed Four: This bed will hold Roma tomatoes (six plants) and some purple-hulled pink-eyed peas. (Plus whatever else I can stick in there as time goes by.) The peas will be trellised on bamboo teepees if I can find some frickin' bamboo around here that is natural and not painted green and/or three feet tall. What do you DO with dyed-green, three feet tall bamboo anyway? The Romas will be trellised using a cord system that I'm adapting from an explanation in Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and from The Vegetable Gardener's Bible. I'll need Will to cut some landscape timbers for me for it to work. The peas were planted yesterday and I found four Romas today...they seem to be in short supply thus far.
  5. Bed Five: Planted all in "Blue Lake" bush beans and "Boston Pickling" cucumbers. Haven't decided what I'll trellis the cucumbers on yet. Suggestions? Of course, I'm sure I'll try to stuff something else in soon.
  6. Bed Six: The "Silver Queen" corn for the first of the Three Sisters bed, basil, bell peppers, and eggplant. The eggplant looks droopy today, but I find that it usually does right after transplanting.
  7. Bed Seven: More SQ and peppers and some "Lemon" cucumbers. This was one of the crops that gave me the itchies. I didn't want to put the cucumber varieties too close together, but the spacing and size of the garden stymied me a bit. This bed might be a bit more of an experiment than anything else.
  8. Bed Eight: More SQ, three "Better Boy" tomatoes and two peppers. I don't particularly like tomatoes and am growing probably more than I need, but I love marinara sauce, stewed tomatoes, ketchup, etc. The BBs will make good stewed tomatoes, juice, and chunks to freeze.

Still left to do: plant the shriveled, out of season white potatoes; the already growing and looking kind of odd scallions; and perhaps the garlic. Every bit of literature I've come across says to plant it in the fall, but my father claims it's a two season plant and I need to get it in the ground. Suggestions?

Also, I have to put the tarragon in, as well as my bug-diffusing marigolds.

On the non-veggie front, I'll be putting some chamomile, fever few, and a citronella (actually, I think it's a mis-labeled rose) geranium in the medicinal/cosmetic herb and flower bed. I have seed for zinnias, as well, but I think it's too cool yet. (They like to snuggle in warm dirt.) I have some soapwort seed as well, but keep hearing horror stories about it. Any ideas, soapwort fans?

Plus, I need to pay attention to my poor rosebushes, who, with the exception of the "Joseph's Coat" up front are WOEFULLY neglected.

Huh. In the past, I've always hated Daylight Saving's Time. Looking over this post, I actually might start lobbying for another hour.