Thursday, February 24, 2011

I've struck gold!

Black gold!

No. I haven't been doing any experimental drilling in the back yard. I knew exactly where to dig, the back of the alley...It may not look like much, but this plastic bin prevents us from having to throw our fruit and vegetable parings and garden waste into the trashcan, saving pounds of waste each week. A few times a year I take the lid off, stab my spade in and mix around all of the plant material. I also occasionally add a bucket of water to the top and, if I remember, a few handfuls of commercially available compost booster. In return for this small amount of work 2 or 3 times a year I open the bottom flap and scoop out shovel after shovel full of rich compost, ready to return nutrients to the soil.
This haul produced half of a large trashcan worth of compost. I picked out the peach pits and bigger twigs that have yet to break down (many people sift their compost to get all the un-finished bits out, in continuance of my lazy gardening style, I tend to just pick out the big stuff and let the egg shells finish their composting already mixed into the garden) and spread it on the slowly warming soil. Before I plant the peas and cabbage I will turn the compost into the soil, and even though the effects may not be as visually dramatic as Miracle-Gro, I know that my plants will be stronger and healthier inside and out.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

I am not alone

I have considered that the ground hog, having eaten much of my garden must be pretty healthy and clean. I have found another person who not only has considered eating their pest but actual has. So anyone have a trap or high powered air gun?

Monday, February 21, 2011

dirt under my nails

I was able to get out and do a little garden clean up this weekend without a jacket but as I type now it is back in the 30s and rainy. There is a chance of 1"-3" of snow tonight. Ah the joys of spring.
I wasn't planning to cut back the butterfly bush, but it already had a significant amount of new growth, so I figured it was safe to trim it back to about 18". Amazing how some plants grow better by being cut back each year. When the weather warms a bit more I will do the same to the miniature rose bush.

The green growth of the peony, columbine, thyme, oregano, mums and mint naturally die off at the end of each season. I trimmed out all of the dead leaves of those plants. It is nice to finally have some established perennials in the garden.

On a related note the bulbs are starting to peak up through the dirt as well. The irises didn't bloom as well last year as they have in the past, so they got "cut back" as well. They are rhizomes so I unearthed several of the larger nodes, broke off the smaller rhizomes and put back a few of the big ones and a few of the small ones. The result of dividing the irises is... lots of little irises with no homes.

After adding a few each to the mum pots (I hope they provide a little interest in the back of the herb bed until the mums bloom) I still have my gathering basket full of baby irises. I think it is time for some guerrilla gardening; there is an ugly bare spot near the retaining wall above the the train tracks. Hopefully they will be as prolific there as they have been in my garden and my walk to the train will be brightened each morning for many summers to come.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

tap... tap.... tap

I think I am wearing the finish off the table tapping my fingers waiting to get out and play in the dirt!
The weather forecast for the next few days is gradually warming and the weekend is looking to be in the high 40s. I will resist the urge to cut back the butterfly bush or uncover the rose for fear that we will get another cold snap and the tender new shoots will be damaged. But perhaps the irises can be divided, compost pile can be turned and the pots can be uncovered and tidied up. Always something to do in the garden!

Thursday, February 10, 2011


I tend to plant a little behind Amy. This year is no different. But with the sun shining and temperatures warming this weekend, I figured I better not wait too long! I gathered up my supplies and made a mess of the basement as I usually do. The cats of course tried to help, which meant that the stems of herbs, which I had trimmed back so I could fit my starting trays in the greenhouse box, were strewn about and there were wet paw print across the floor from a kitty splashing in the watering can and checking out the fish emulsion that I was feeding my house plants with. Sometimes I'm glad that they are indoor cats and can't "help" when it is time to garden outside!
This year before I browsed the seed catalogs, I did an inventory of my seed box; 4 kinds of peppers, 5 kinds of tomatoes, 3 packets of lettuce, 2 packets of chard and various herbs and flowers greeted me. Owing to the small size of my garden, I seldom use even an entire "sampler" packet (despite my habit of planting well more seeds than I have space for). Since most seeds kept dry and dark will last 2 or 3 years, I figure this year will be a clean out year. Despite my resolve to not add to my store, when I went to pick up a few bags of seed starting mix, I still came home with 4 packets of seeds. In my defense, one packet was Forget-me-nots for my soon to exist vertical shade garden which I plan to create outside my kitchen windows. Up until that purchase, the only ideas I had for the space was impatiens, coleuses and the top tiers being lettuce and other greens that fry in the heat of the main garden. The others were: Columbine, to create a perennial bed with the columbine that I purchased as a plant last year, the peony that is an offshoot of one from Amy's mom's garden, the butterfly bush and my apple tree. Catnip, for my ever helpful felines, and Arugula, one of my favorite greens that had been lacking in my mescalune mixes.

I decided to try peat pots this year, and so filled up 9- 3" pots with starting mix, soaked them well, and... planted 3 seeds in each pot.... so much for not planting more seeds than I need! That works out to 27 plants. Figuring that 20 of them sprout into healthy plants, I will transplant out a seedling from each pot, leave one where it is, and donate one to the benefit of the compost pile- which in all likelihood means that I will actually put even the gimpiest plants into their own little pots, then search desperately for homes for all of them. Hopefully Risa and Vicci will be gardening again this season and have space for a few in their gardens!

Partly due to my habit of starting too many seeds comes my habit of crowding plants. Especially in the confined spaces of 5-gallon buckets and a limited area under cover of bird netting in my prime sunlight location of the roof, I decided that this is the year that I am going to resist the urge to overcrowd, and hopefully as a result get stronger plants and bigger yields. One of these days I am going to have enough peppers to pickle a peck (which is 1/4 of a bushel, or 2 gallons of dry weight, yes, I had to look that up) or two and enough tomatoes to make a pot of Sunday gravy (Marinara) with all homegrown tomatoes, basil and oregano. If I am really good, I may even be able to provide a few small onions to complete the recipe. I will have to ask Amy for some garlic tips, as that is one plant I haven't figured out yet!

I should be starting my tomatoes soon. The laundry room (the original back porch that is now fully enclosed, mostly insulated, and has 3 windows with 2 big window sills, partly for the cats to enjoy and partly so I can use it as a winter garden) is being warmed more each day by the sun and nearly ready to accept the pepper, herbs and New Guinea Impatiens that I have been over wintering in my greenhouse box. Flats of lettuce, chard and flowers were all started, and I eagerly await the first tiny green sprouts to emerge, and the day that the garden has warmed up enough and dried out enough for me to get planting.

Ah... spring.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


I always teased my husband that when I am old and retired, have finally finished the house projects and have my garden practially tending itself, that I would learn how to bonsai.
Apparently I can retire because this year for Christmas, he got me a bonsai tree! For some reason he said I am not allowed to retire though...

Since I received the tree I had been looking around for a book and a little (he he he) guidance on what to do with my tiny juniper, when in the window of the florist shop that I walk by on my way to work appeared a sign: "Beginner Bonsai" 1-30-11. Someone read my mind!

On a cold Sunday afternoon 7 of us gathered to hear about these small trees and get some tips to help us to enjoy them for years to come. I have always been facinated by bonsai and thought that there was some great mystery and hours of complicated techniques in growing them. Turns out that unless I am starting my own or planning to grow a forest (albeit a tiny one) of them, they follow many of the same concepts of full size gardening and don't require a lot of upkeep.

The first thing our instructor told us was that it is not pronounce bon-sigh like most people think. It is actually pronounce bone-sigh, and means "plant in tray." There goes the mystery and romanticism of that name! They can be grown from seeds and trained to be small from the beginning, or grown from larger root stock or a cutting and slowly the bigger branches are cut back and the plant is put in a smaller and smaller pot, encouraging the miniature leaves that bonsai are known for. Through wiring the limbs to encourage them to grow in pleasing angles and trimming out branches that make the composition unbalanced, a sculptural plant can be had. With life expectancies similar to that of a regular tree, I am hoping that my grandchildren like to garden, because once the house renovations are finished, I suspect I will be starting my own little forest. Hopefully before I retire...


So I think I started my not peppers and tomatoes to early. I'm not used to my starts being this quick. EVERYTHING is up except the ground cherries. I had to move my winter squash to a pot already! I'm going to blame this on a new start pellet: Jump start brand from CN. They start out a little crumblier then my usual jiffy, they fit in the jiffy windowsill green houses I use, and I think the plants like them better! I got them from Primex. Now, I am in love with Primex. They are hosting the winter farmers' market, they have some great classes and they are locally owned and operated. Not to mention they are also well stocked. (Yes, I applied for a job there)

Anyway, I'm thinking I'm just going to eat the cabbage and broc sprouts and start over...I should maybe get a second opinion on that first.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


Hello old friends! Hadn't realized how long it had been since I posted. I will try to be better this year!

There is STILL snow on the ground from the 14" we received almost 2 weeks ago, but the sun is shinning, the temperature is near 40 and one can almost feel the first hint of spring in the air. I love snow, but I am happy to be seeing signs of spring.

My garden gave me a welcome sight this morning. Amongst the dead stems in the pot of mums by the front door were little green leaves! I got out my clippers and my compost bucket and cleared out all the old ugly dead stems to reveal the first growth of spring. Encouraged by this sight, I quickly went out to the yard to see if my other mums had fared so well. Lo and behold, buried under 6" of snow and ice, were lots of green leaves! I trimmed off all the dead wood, scraped off most of the snow and told the little plants to keep on growing. I have never gardened wearing my Welly rain boots due to the still deep layer of snow on the ground, but if the plants think spring is on its way, who am I to deny them!
Here's to a prosperous growing season!