Spring vegetables

I finally got the early vegetable plantings in, each evening last week I prepped another patch of soil, and by Sunday afternoon was able to plant and fence.  My buddy approves, but I suspect she’d rather the fence wasn’t there between her and the lettuce.Spring vegetables planted

I’m guessing it’s a she (I really have no idea) and I’ll go out on a limb and guess there’s a nest of baby bunnies nearby.  She’s never mentioned where during our talks, but she’s around the yard all day so I’m sure it’s not too far.

Soil prep in my case was digging under all the weeds, stray tulips, and whatever leftover dead stuff was lying around from last year.  Once dug over, compost would have been nice, but since I have none I raked/hoed in some chopped leaves from last fall and followed it with a good watering down.

onion seedlings

Once I get some grass clippings I’ll give it a thin mulch to keep down the weed seedlings.  I’m glad I finally got the stuff in, it’s already late for cabbages and onions, and a better person would have done all this prep in the fall.  If you look around the edge of the fence you’ll see twigs laying on top of the unfenced plantings.  This seems to be enough to discourage Mrs. Bunny from pushing through and nibbling the new transplants underneath.

weeds in the gardenSo now I hope things have enough time to mature before summer really kicks in….. and if they don’t, at least it looks better than the unkempt weed patch it was last weekend.

Mental note for next year is *prep the bed in the fall for spring plantings*.  It sounds easy but it’s advice directed more towards the better people who follow suggestions and learn from mistakes.  I’m not sure if I can include myself in that group.  A better person would not have planted a peony in the middle of the bed, a better person would not have first let last year’s turnips go to seed (just to see what they looked like), and a better person would not have left the daffodils in the middle of the lettuce.

Just another day at the salt mines

I can sorta relate to the people looking for low maintenance plants and landscaping.  I for one love being outside, watching things grow, tending plants, dividing, staking, deadheading…. even weeding.  About the only thing I really don’t care for is watering, so when it’s spring and I have a list of projects to work on and halfway through start to think it’s more trouble than it’s worth….. well it might be time to hit the lawnchair with a drink.  In a sick way I sometimes look around at my fellow suburbanites and think their yards look just as good as mine, but then I remember it’s unlikely they have a couple dozen different iris coming along into bloom, and they probably don’t even have any more than one or two snowdrops.  That helps my mood and I go through and finish the day with a smug grin, quite pleased with myself all over again.

The late tulips are still holding out, these (probably “Dordogne”) mixed in with all the others keep the patch colorful even after the rest are over.  Unless Sunday’s high winds beat them silly, they should last another week.late tulips

I think what beats me down is the lawn maintenance.  If you want to talk high maintenance a lawn is right there on top.  Part of that is my fault, I’m stubborn and insist on using a corded electric mower instead of something bigger, stronger, and faster.  It’s not the most manly mower, but from someone who’s always wandering the yard looking at his flowers….. well, the mower doesn’t help.

fothergillaSomething that’s mostly no-maintenance is fothergilla.  It doesn’t need pruning, blooms with these nice white bottlebrush flowers, is presentable all summer, and come fall puts on a nice show of glowing reds, yellows and oranges.  The blooms don’t last long for me, somewhere around two weeks, but that’s plenty.  You miss it when it’s gone, which in my opinion is better than a plant that wears out its welcome.

Round around July the lawn starts wearing out its welcome.  Mowing in the heat stinks and I look forward to the summer sun and drought sucking the green out of its blades.  As long as I mow on the long side it just goes dormant, and the summer vacation from mowing is much welcomed, since mowing clearly cuts into pool time.  But right now I need the flush of green clippings since they’re my number one mulch for the vegetable garden.   I use them and some leftover chopped maple leaves to smother the grass and weeds that are buried in this new bed.new vegetable bedMost of the weeds and grass will die, and hopefully by the time tomato planting weather rolls around (2 more weeks?) I can carefully dig down to soil level, plant the seedlings, top the bed with new clippings, and admire my avoidance of actually digging up this patch of hardpacked gravely “soil”.

Since I don’t have enough better things to do I actually transplanted some of the grass from the new bed into the former bed-turned-new-pathway (lower right of the picture).  I’m a big sod mover.  I hate waiting for grass seed to sprout.  People will disagree, but I like grass paths through the garden.  If you noticed, mine are edged with fancy pink marble sections.  Some people have compared the look to “deep south cemetery”, but it’s the best use I could think of for the stone we pulled off the house front.  Maybe it’s the second best…. we also have a pink marble compost bin.

apple blossomIn the orchard our new “Freedom” apple has even put out a few blossom clusters.  I should of course nip them off so the tree has more energy to establish, but I don’t care.  For all I know the tree could die tomorrow, so I’ll enjoy the blooms today.

vegetable seedlingsSpeaking of dying tomorrow, we have a frost predicted for tonight.  I brought in a few succulents and four or five early summer plant purchases.  The rest of the stuff is on its own.  Planning for low maintenance gardening means not sweating the small stuff like late frosts.  The cold weather veggie seedlings will tough it out (strong sun would damage them more than cool weather).

So we will see where the weather takes us.  I figure if the tulips and iris don’t mind this afternoon’s snow, they shouldn’t mind a slight frost.snow on tulips

 

 

Finally…. mulch is down

It might take normal people a weekend to get their mulch spread, but I went for the one week plan.  The biggest time drain was sprinkling the mulch down in between emerging  clumps and working the wheel barrow back into a bed that was filled with soft sprouts.  On top of that I was trying to stretch every mulch dollar by walking the fine line between too thin and too thick and trying to figure out just where exactly my limited mulch supply would go.  Oh, and did I mention the allergies and sinus infection?

The newly renovated front bed got a nice top coat, showing off the mix of tulips I put in last fall.  This is what a weak moment during Van Egelen’s fall clearance sale will get you. It’s the Scheeper’s mix, made up of all Scheeper hybrids.  Not sure if the color is a good choice for in front of the orange brick….. but oh well, colors don’t clash in May   🙂front bed

"isla gold" tansyThe mulch looks so neat and tidy, and it does look better than before when dirt was splashing everywhere and weeds were popping up by the thousands.  Look how it sets off this “Isla Gold” Tansy.

The tansy is one of my favorites right now.  I’ll be the first to admit I’m going through an I-need-everything-with yellow-foliage phase, but the lacy foliage, the fresh color, and the fact it keeps this color all season are just a couple reasons for my smitten-ness.  Did I mention it even has little buttons of yellow blooms in late summer?  I bet it would look great then with a blue salvia.

Right now I could pair it with polemonium reptans which is in bloom.polemonium reptans

polemonium reptansThe polemonium comes from my parent’s house.  The original planting was there when they first purchased the house over 40 years ago and has been going strong ever since, without dividing or anything.  You could trim it back after blooming if you want but I never get around to it.

Probably about half the beds are now covered, but in order to complete the job I’m guessing it will take another load.  Together the two loads will run about $660.  That really kills my garden budget for the year, but mulch costs are easy to pass by the boss.  I sometimes think that if our yard was just mulch beds, lawn expanses and a few rounded yews she’d be happy.

It’s May and tulips and daffodils are blooming all over the place.  There’s more to do than time to do it but I need to post a few tulip pictures.  They really rule the yard right now, and here’s a well mulched batch of “apricot impression” and some mixed lily flowered tulips.  After the tulips fade this bed will hit a lull for a couple weeks,  and I’m working on that, but usually hostas take over and a couple coleus find their way in.  So it all works out well enough.tulip apricot impression

There are more tulip pictures.  A lot more.  I’ll be catching up on those next.

 

 

Springtime Fun

The weather is perfect, the pond leaks, the mulch is here, and Donna wants to rearrange the furniture. With all this going on, the only thing I want to do is wander the yard with coffee in hand.

But there’s a couple yards of natural mulch in the driveway and it can’t stay there.  It looks nice and dark right now, but will fade quickly unlike the dyed mulches.  I don’t mind.  I want to focus on the plants, cut down on weeding and save some watering.  Plus my garden can do without the dye and whatever else they put in.natural mulch

lily flowered tulipsI guess furniture moving is first on the list.  Then move the furniture again.  Then talk paint colors (furniture moving always leads to multiple projects).  Then try to make my escape.  The mulch beckons and it will take me forever since everything has already sprouted and needs to be mulched around.  Plus I stop all the time to admire stuff, and with tulips opening there’s lots of stuff to admire.

There are mixed lily flowered tulips, of which only the yellow/red seem to return reliably…. not the pink and white ones that I preferred.

apricot impression tulipsThese are “apricot impression” going on their third year.  I have luck with tulips here, probably since I don’t water in the summer and they like the drought.  Still, after three or four years division is a good idea.  I guess we’ll see in June if I remember or not.

 

 

 

 

How not to do a project, part deux

Sunday rolls around and I’m not even sure what the weekend project is…. or was.  I think it had something to do with that box of bareroot apple tree that’s been sitting on the porch for two days now.  Bareroot plantings should be taken care of asap, first step is to plump up the roots again by sitting them in a bucket overnight, I think 24 hours is sorta the max for soaking, you don’t want to drown them.  When planting, the only special thing to remember is to spread out the roots and work the soil back in between.  A little dirt, water it in, a little more dirt, water in.  It’s better to keep the root flare high rather than deep, you can always add soil or mulch around the base later if needed.  Don’t bother mixing anything into the planting hole, if your soil is horrible, plant even higher and mulch well with compost and those nutrients will work their way down to the roots, just like they do in every forest on the planet.  You may think it’s cruel not to try and improve the soil for your baby, but look around.  If you can see other trees growing then your tree should be fine too…. unless those other trees are swamp cypress… you might have a drainage issue then.

pansies and lettuceSo with a sense of urgency to get my tree (and 3 gooseberries too!) into the ground I got the coffe brewed and sat down at the computer….. breakfast followed and then some Lego villages had to be built.  Then a friend stopped by.  Six hours later, a run to the local nursery (to drop off $40), and this is where I’m at.  It’s pansy season after all and buying pansies, shaking off winter, and supporting my local nursery are tradition in these parts.  The apple tree is still not planted but it’s Sunday after all, and things shouldn’t happen too fast on a day of rest.

spring pansy potIt’s more fun to plant pansies than dig holes for dormant apple trees, and you shouldn’t pick-axe pond holes on a day of rest, so I drug out the planters for my new purchases and got them planted.  Again it’s not that easy.  All the fancy pots already have stuff in them.  It’s stuff like rubber trees and fig bushes that need repotting too, so that all came out to make room for the pansies.  Did I mention I bought lettuce?  I was embarrased to  even think of my own seedlings when I saw the lettuce plants for sale.  My reasoning was if I can get at least 215 servings of salad off these plants, they should pay for themselves.

lettuce container gardenThe back deck got a little spring too.  I should have powerwashed off last year’s stains first, but that’s another project and right now I’m too busy planting trees.

Tomorrow maybe I can actually get one in the ground.  The rest of Sunday was spent taking the kids (my two plus another three) for a walk in the woods and down to the railroad tracks.  They then insisted on seeing the drug house that burned down on Saturday.  Funny how these things never get mentioned in most tree planting tutorials.

Around 9pm I snuck out and opened the tree box.  Everything is soaking and has to be planted Monday before it drowns.  I should have no problem getting to it since the only other thing going on is repairing the pond hole.

Regarding the pond hole, I made the mistake of leaving the shovels out next to the dirt piles,  and after two hours of worm hunts, “climbing the pile”, and playing with the pick-axe, most of the dirt is back in the hole or thrown into the pond liner.  A little more work for me, but at least most of the local earthworms (and a couple of grubs) have been given names.

April showers bring May cacti?

Even though it feels even less like spring than last week, I lugged all the deck succulents and cacti out for an April shower.  Temperatures should be above freezing for the next few days and skies shoud be cloudy so it’s a good time to get them used to fresh air and sun again.  After nearly six months indoors with little light and even less water I bet they like the change.  potted succulents for the deck this summerThe pencil euphorbia and the purplish euphorbia in the back (I have the names somewhere…) hate my winter abuse, the rest don’t seem to care much.  If temperatures drop to freezing I’ll push them up against the house, if temps go down into the 20’s I’ll either cover them up or bring them back in for a couple nights.

There’s a reason this collection is growing.  They do fine in the heat, don’t mind my hit or miss watering, and look good from spring to fall.  All are planted in a mix of 75% potting soil/25% sandbox sand, terra cotta pots, and topped with a light layer of garage sale aquarium gravel on top.  I’ll admit there have been casualties (overwintering casualties) along the way but for the most part it’s been easy-peasy.  If anyone is interested I’ll put up a list of what I have…. if not we might just visit them again in August to see how much they’ve grown!

Feelin’ Rich

I’ve been on a buying spree lately.  After months of doubtful back and forth it looks like my job will be around for another year, so I’ve finally cracked open the wallet to treat myself to a few extras on my wish list.  The first was last weeks’ $100 trip to Lowes.  A new 4 light T8 shop light with timer, light bulbs, and a bag of potting soil all got a spot in the cart.  I eyed the seed potatoes for a while (they had a nice selection, reasonably priced) but didn’t bite.  After years of sitting on my wallet it’s hard to go all out.

I’ve got the lights set up in a corner of the basement close to the furnace, so I’m hoping this will be a good spot for the warm growers like tomatoes and peppers.  Of course space under the new the light is already filled up with nonsense like coleus cuttings and geraniums, but I did fit a bunch of new seedling pots in.  Hopefully by the time I need more space a few of the cool weather things can already go outside.  seed lights

It’s a crappy picture but it shows about all you want to see of the spindly coleus cuttings that have spent all winter on the windowsill.   I should have potted them up earlier but….. you know…. hopefully they will grow fast enough to give me a few additional cuttings as I pinch them back.

Nothing fancy about the light set up.  It’s a basic T8 shop light with generic 5000K “sunlight” light bulbs rated for laundry rooms and closets.  I may be feeling rich but I’m not going crazy with special (aka expensive) growlights, and based on the success of the first light setup this one should be fine.

My credit card got a little more excersise over the next couple days.  Not much, but I’ll wait a few days before fessing up to my other purchases.