Tuesday, May 29, 2018

An Heir and a Spare

This is the time of year when I am either so busy gardening or so busy sitting and enjoying my garden that I don't take time to blog.  Blog ideas come and percolate, and then by the time I get around to computering, they're gone.

The vegetable garden is in.  Perennials have been added or replaced.  The landscaping has been edged and mulched and the annuals inserted where needed.  Because we mulch so heavily each year, I usually plant my annuals in 6 inch peat pots before placing in the landscaping.  Many of them will just be nestled into the deep mulch.  Sometimes a small amount of soil will have to be dug out to level the pot.  On occasion, depending on the location and the annual I will plant directly into the soil.  This does not seem to inhibit the plant's growth.  I have a parsley plant in a peat pot who is on it's third year and thriving.  Having the rim of the peat pot also helps when I water because if the plant is on a slope in mulch, most of the water will run right off.  The pot helps catch the water.

I always buy a spare six pack of marigolds
Leftover Sunpatiens and begonias also get potted up.
When I'm all done with planting annuals, I pot up the leftovers in gallon pots.  Sometimes I have intermediate annuals hanging around in 4 inch pots.  It's nearly impossible to keep a 6 pack of root bound annuals watered, so if I have leftovers, or a few sub-standard plants, instead of throwing them out I put them in 4 inch pots to grow for a couple of weeks until I find a spot for them.

What were once scraggly coleus and portulaca plants shelter in the
partial shade of the wash basin beside the spare tomato plants.
Despite the fact that Marigolds are pretty hardy and almost fool proof to grow, they do take a beating from slugs, especially in certain areas of our landscaping.  Whenever one gets devoured, I have pinpointed a slug population which can be killed, and then the marigold replaced with a spare.  So I buy an extra 6 pack, pot it in gallon pots right away, and then if nothing needs replacing by July, I have nice large plants ready to add to any spot which might needs some color.

I always plant twice as many tomato plants than I need.  The first planting went in last week.  Three of the spares caught up well enough that I will also plant them, especially since they are odd varieties:  Blue Beauty, Lenny and Gracie's Yellow Kentucky Heirloom and Absinthe which is a green tomato. The Lenny and Gracie I tried a couple of years ago and never got a transplant.  That was the year I only planted Kentucky Heirlooms.  Now I have two healthy, stocky plants that I can't choose between.

This year four of my beds are resting with a green manure crop.  I chose buckwheat because it has a white flower which should bring in a lot of honey bees and other pollinators.  The seeds had been in the ground a few days when we got a nice warm rain and the next morning I had a whole crop of buckwheat!

Another of my beds is devoted to cutting flowers.  This photo is from last weekend too.  Down the center are dinnerplate dahlias which are about 6 inches high now.  They are supposed to grow to 44"+ so I constructed very stable supports from tomato ladders and bean poles held together with cable ties.  Down the sides are snapdragons and zinnias.  Besides the nursery transplants I seeded two varieties of zinnias and calendula.  Zinnias are another vigorous seed where you plant them one day and after the first rainfall everything pops up.  Just like that.  The past week has been great growing conditions.  I have plants popping up everywhere.  Instant gratification.  The darn peas take three weeks in the spring.  Not three days!

Whats in the ground:
Tomatoes (4 varieties)
Cucumbers (both slicing and pickling)
Peas (3 varieties)
Lettuce and Radicchio
Bush Beans
Potatoes (Red and Russet)
Various Herbs

Everything is small but green.  Now its just a matter of watering and waiting.

When your whiskey barrel falls apart and leaves behind its rings,
make a garden sphere for free! 

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Everything but the Gate

The pictures speak for themselves.  5 Weeks in the making.
You can get around the outside edge of the beds, especially to the right, but the wide open center allows more room for a wheelbarrow.  In fact, you can sit on the ledge to the right and weed which is pretty convenient.

Fresh empty soil is so inviting
The beds are three feet wide ion the inside measurement so you can reach across without much trouble

 The beds are 14 inches deep at the center.

Just waiting on the gate to be hung and gardening may commence.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

New Project - 2018 Progress Report

Over in the neighbor's garden annex, construction is still underway.  The fence is complete using Hog Panels from Tractor Supply with 1" square welded wire clipped to the bottom two feet to keep bunnies and woodchucks out.  When standing on the ground level, the fence is over 5 feet high so I'm not worried about the deer hopping over on a whim.  If we don't finish the garden, we could probably house elephants. 

The fence was a challenge to build.  The first post hole broke the post hole digger and required a quick trip to the parts store.  The seventh post hole struck water.  This has happened to us several times.  Twice the tractor has sunk to the axels in the mud hole created in under ten minutes.  That's how much water we can hit.  They are gushers.  The seventh post, a 6"x 6"x 8' floated right out of the hole.  But it's in there now

Some people may say this garden is over built.  Just like the first one.  So why do we go to all of this expense and effort?  Because we don't like doing things twice.  Take for instance this little garden on my way in to the office.  I snapped this picture this morning.

This unfortunate little raised bed garden was constructed about 4 or 5 years ago.  They didn't fence it so they had to cover things with wire and netting.  They didn't make paths so they had to mow or trim in between.  By last fall the beds were bulging and beginning to come apart at the seams and when the snow finally melted, a couple of them popped apart spilling soil all over the lawn.  Now it's a complete do-over.  The only part still useful is the cold frame there on the corner bed.  There are a couple other little raised bed gardens on my daily drive in various stages of disrepair.

On the other hand, my garden is eight years old this month and still requires very little work to maintain.  When spring roles around all I have to do is walk out there and poke some seeds into the soil and I'm in business.  Twice we have brought in additional gravel to level low spots.  Two of the rails need to be replaced because the wood has twisted.  And one of the gate posts needed plumbing up a couple of years ago.  Other than that its just as sound now as the day it was finished and I expect it will still be another ten years from now.  The Garden Annex should last as long.  No do-overs.

Next job is to put in the 6"x 6"s that will define the beds.  They will be pinned down with re-rod and the gravel will be shoveled out down to soil level.  Then there is a big ugly pile of top soil and compost to sift through.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The Right Combination

Today I went out shopping for the Supertunias that I plant in the front whiskey barrel.  I am doing a repeat of last year only adding some Diamond Frost Euphorbia because they were right there on the bench next to the Supertunias.  Not my first time for using Euphorbia but sometimes it can be hard to track down.  That's what is difficult about making an exact shopping list.  Anyway, the first annuals to be purchased are the long spreading ones like the Wave Petunias or Supertunias.  This is because they sustain the most damage on the sale benches and during transplanting.  It's best to get them untangled and home before they get too big and awkward.

This leaves me with two more whiskey barrels and three large pots to plan.  I know the one large pot will have Wizard Mix Coleus which is again a repeat of last year.  But I am using a different pot this year.  And one whiskey barrel I know I'm using Marigolds and bronze leafed Begonias.  That leaves me with one whiskey barrel and two large pots that I have no real plan for.  I know I'm sick and tired of dead-heading regular Petunias.  Again.  Other than that I'm open to just about anything.

So what do you do when you are fresh out of ideas?  Well Proven Winners has a great list of "garden recipes".  Seven hundred and thirty combinations to be exact.  Just search through their outstanding pictures and they will tell you how many of what variety they used to achieve those results and whether the combination is best for sun, partial sun or shade.  You can even enter search filters such as color scheme, exposure, bloom time etc.  When you pull up the recipe you can click on each specific variety and go to the info page for that plant.

Once you have selected the combo you are going to shop for, just print out two pages with the photo and the list and you're good to go.  They could use a little work on their print format.  The actual recipe sites do a much better job.  But other than that it's a great tool to overcome artist's block.  Now I just have to pick a couple and hit the greenhouses!

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Idle Hands are the Devil's Workshop

So what do you do while you are waiting endless weeks for the snow to stop and warmer weather to arrive?  You surf the net.  And when you surf the net you get all these great ideas.  It is like going to the grocery store when you are hungry.  You buy too much!  I spent most of April internet shopping for plants.  Not just seeds.  The plants that require commitment and action right when they arrive! Bareroot trees and tubers.

Last night I planted my bareroot redbud tree and the fancy peony.  This evening I have to construct the dahlia supports!  On top of that we have all the spring yard maintenance to do, and seeds to plant and the tomatoes already need transplanting and there is no end in sight to the fun things that need to be done outside.