Thursday, March 26, 2020

Garden Truths

Spring is the time of year when new gardeners are just starting out and they have a million questions that some of us old pros find either laughable or just plain aggravating because we've heard them so many times.   Of course there is no such thing as a dumb question (yeah right), so on the Facebook gardening pages the same old questions are answered over and over.  Day in day out.  And never more than now during the Covid-19 quarantine when the entire free world has been told to stay home for weeks if not months and not empty the grocery stores over every edible crumb.  Rant over.

Gardening suddenly became extremely popular so here we go again with some basic gardening truths that may help some beginners.

Gardening Truth #1.
Forget the weed block.  Weeds don't come up from below.  They blow in on the wind or they creep in from the edges.   Now if you just put down weed block and make it into a walkway then it works fine.  But as soon as you put soil or mulch on top of the weed block, the soil grows weeds.  Someone has made a fortune selling that useless product to gardeners.  Save your money and a ton of aggravation and just don't use it in the first place.

The one proper use of weed block would be underneath walkway material.

I call B.S. on this one.  Creeping Charlie was never so easily defeated.
There would still be vines even if the leaves were burned.  Someone cleaned that last one up.  And left long enough the Creeping Charlie would come up over the edges.

Gardening Truth #2.
Early is not always better.  Whomever thought of selling carrot seedlings to newbie gardeners is a cruel bastard.  They always grow in a knot (or whatever shape you leave them in when you stuff their taproot into the soil) and look like they're diseased.  Some plants do not do well being forced into an early season by growing under lights.  Be patient.  Direct seed your carrots.  And sweet corn. ... and bush beans.  You will need more plants than you could ever start on your window sill if you want to make a meal.

Gardening Truth #3.
There is no substitute shortcut for weeding.  (See Gardening Truth #1)  You can reduce the quantity of weeds over time by carefully managing your soil and staying on top of things.  But there is no store-bought product that can give better results than simply bending over and pulling it up.  Seriously.  Besides, its good exercise.

Gardening Truth #4
Don't Zone Out.  Know your gardening zone.  It takes less time to type the question into Google than it does to ask someone and have them tell you to type it into Google.  Because it is zip code specific.  And even then, you should look closely at the map because elevation can alter your zone just a bit.  Knowing your zone and reading your seed packet will save you the disappointment of planting too early or the frustration of having to cover everything when there is a freeze warning.

USDA Plant Hardiness Map
Gardening Truth #5
Wrap that rascal.  The best way to discourage or destroy pests is to starve them out.  Interrupt their life cycle.  And the only way you are going to starve them out is to block their access to your plants.  And the most effective and least invasive way to do that is with a barrier.  Fence them out.  Cover your plants.  That way you won't even have to identify your bad bug and figure out how to fight it.  How do you keep moths from laying eggs on your cole crops?  cover them.  How do you keep birds from eating your berries?  cover them.  How do you keep Japanese beetles from turning your bean leaves to Swiss cheese?  cover them.

So those are my responses to two weeks of Facebook questions asked by enthusiastic beginners who are trying to find the shortcuts.  I'm not saying there are no shortcuts. Covering all of your vulnerable plants is a shortcut.  But gardening does require consistent dedication, some work and a lot of trial and error.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Meanwhile, at our house, yard work commences

I'm not sure how many Americans are going to have enough cash left to do their home improvements this year.  We just got our major projects checked off the list.  The roof on the house is replaced, and the two car garage will be replaced next.  The shoddy workmanship when that roof was stripped was alarming!  
No wonder it started leaking like a sieve.  

Neighbor included for perspective
 Yesterday the Tree Service and the Roofers jockeyed for position in the driveway.

That's a 40 ton crane.  The crane also has a scale on it and one of the 12 foot sections of trunk weighed 2 tons.

The tree service chipped anything under 6 inches but the maple and ash trunks are staged for processing into firewood.  Lots and lots of firewood.

This is why we didn't want to cut these ourselves.  Aside from their proximity to buildings and the damage to surrounding trees if they were felled, a couple of them were dead in the center and exploded when cut.  The crane ties off at the top of the tree, and there is no falling tree at all.   Just dangling. So much safer.

That's one of the lovely stumps.  They will be left to rot because they are all in wooded areas.

This is how we make use of firewood in our gardening.  On a damp spring day we light a fire in the fire pit.  Last Saturday, after blowing leaves (there are as many in spring as there are in fall) we lit the fire and chatted with the neighbors while playing corn-hole and discussing the madness of the world as it revolves around Covid-19.  It was 39 degrees and overcast, but we still had a full, fun day outdoors.

Now that the worst of the trees are down, we can finish picking up sticks, roll the tire tracks out of the lawns and continue with our Spring tidying as the grass begins to grow and the daffodils bloom.

Happy first day of SPRING!

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Spring is Here

The crocuses are up weeks earlier than the past few years, so it is officially an early spring.
I planted the first of my peas yesterday and seeded lettuce.
I've freshened up all of the landscape beds, cleared debris and fertilized.  That way when the spring flowers start blooming everything will look neat and tidy.

The cauliflowers have germinated.  
I planted them a week later than I would have liked to because I was scheduled to be in Dallas all of this coming week.  When my company issued a no non-essential travel protocol due tot he corona virus, my meeting was canceled and I was free to start gardening without worrying about things needing to be done when I wasn't here to do them.
As soon as they get their first leaves I will transplant them into cells.

 This week is going to be a busy one.  Our roof started leaking over the winter due to a shoddy installation job, and we finally have a roofer coming tomorrow to replace the leaky area.  Then on Wednesday the tree service is coming to remove five dangerous trees that we don't have a place to drop.  They will dangle them from a crane, lay them in the driveway, and take away the tops.  That's $500 per tree, but much less messy and risky then us dropping them in the lawn trying to avoid all nearby structures.

The weather has been excellent.  Today is 50 degrees and sunny.  Its nice to get a dry start to spring gardening.