Archive for the ‘general gardening’ Category

Early Spring pics and a possible project

One teeny mini daffodil is showing its face

Hellebore

My willow tree is all fired up for Spring

Flowering plum, first teeny blossom

My last entry was June 2009, which means I pretty much flaked on this blog.  I hope to be more diligent this Spring and Summer, as I’d like to have my own record of how my garden progresses, and I’d like to add some historical pics like maybe a before/after montage.

Speaking of before and after, I have plans to do something with the Northeast corner of our back yard this year.  Here’s how it looks now:

ho hum

The very first step will of course be to get rid of the hideous sight on the left:  an unused woodpile left by the previous owners of our house (we’ve lived here for 8 years) which is currently rotting and housing many, many large spiders.  Our friend who built our deck two summers ago felt bad for our wood and covered it with the tarpish thingy.   We desperately need to get it all OUT of there (Craigslist, perhaps, I’ll include the spiders for no additional charge) and then I’ll have a new garden bed.  On the right is our shed, and a perennial shade bed next to it.  The Hellebores are the only things up in that bed at this point but by June it is all very full and lush (and hides the need for paint on the shed).  The back fence is also a perennial bed I call Rambo’s Garden for our sweet old kitty who “rests” there now.  It is pretty much bare in February, but it fills out more in the Summer.  I never really planned my plantings in this bed, so it’s just a bunch of random plants thrown in together, so this year I hope to unify it all a bit by adding some things and taking things out.  The tree on the left is a Paperbark Maple (Acer griseum) which doesn’t really shade the area much so that Rambo’s Garden gets pretty hot and dry.  What you don’t see in the photo is on the left and DOES provide some shade – a mature flowering plum tree.  We have 3 of them and they could probably all use a good pruning, and we’ll definitely have to do that for the one which hangs over this area if I incorporate a fire pit in my plan.  From this view if you were to turn 180 degrees, you’d be facing the kids’ sand box and play structure, with our deck to the left, so this area is sort of tucked away from all the “action” that regularly occurs in the back yard.

In this picture…

peeking around the shed

… you’ll see where the lawn just sort of abruptly ends, and how the area behind the shed is unused and not terribly attractive.  I usually keep our large yard waste bin back here during the seasons we have it, and around the other corner I’ve stacked up some plant stakes and my tomato cages.  The dryer vent and whatever that other thing is need to stay, but that patch of grass there under the dead leaves I scraped off Rambo’s Garden is 90% buttercup, which are REALLY hard to get rid of.  Chad hates when I want to remove lawn/sod, but that spot in particular is just awful, and I think connecting Rambo’s Garden to the shade garden would look great with some bark mulch and maybe even a stepping stone.

Sooooo… I need some design ideas for this space!  I have a portable fire pit I just received as a Christmas gift, and I just got a little kid-sized garden bench off Craigslist, so I would like to make this area a sort of little sanctuary, with places to sit and beautiful flowers to enjoy.   I would like to remove the lawn to do this and just put down some really fine mulch so I wouldn’t have to try and mow around anything like seating or have to move stuff when I mow.  I’m currently reading an awesome garden design book for ideas but I’d also love any suggestions from anyone else who was somehow cajoled into reading this.  I’d love design ideas and even plant ideas if you have favorites that you find particularly “peaceful” or pleasant.  Once I figure out what to do here, I will share progress pictures.  TTFN!

Edible garden status

It struck me today that this is the first year I seem to be more interested in other plantings in my yard than in my square foot garden box.  I don’t know why exactly – some of it is because I’d been working on a big project in the front yard (gravel path and surrounding beds) and in back (digging and establishing new beds around the new deck) and also some of it may be because all of the perennials I’ve planted in front are in their 2nd and 3rd years so they have really filled out and started looking wonderful so I’m occupied with maintaining those.

As for my veggies, I’ve been pretty lame.  I actually got the garden ready to go and cool season vegetables planted earlier than I’ve ever done so, but I can’t seem to decide on growing anything else.  I have peas with edible pods for the boys  which they’ve really been scarfing up, so I’ll probably plant another batch because I’d like them to have them around for more of the Summer.  I have some mixed leaf lettuce which is doing pretty well, and my chard is sort of sitting there doing nothing.  I bought some cabbage starts and put those in, but that’s IT!  There’s a huge garlic plant from last year, some self-sown cilantro from last year, and a couple of rogue potatoes that somehow hid themselves since 2007 and decided to come back.  I don’t have space for any squashes, the kids don’t really like green beans enough to grow many more than the ones in their box (and Chad won’t eat them), I moved all tomato operations to the side of the house near the berries so the kids could forage more easily, so… yeah.  I have space not being used.  I do have a big flat of basil seedlings in my kitchen window that seem to be stuck at 2″ tall which I sort of planned to move out to the garden, so maybe that will take up a row.  It is just so funny to me that I’m feeling ambivalent about veggies this year when several of my friends (and other cool people) are just getting started with theirs.

june15_09veggarden

I did make a smaller box for the boys this year and theirs is doing pretty well.  Evan wanted cucumbers  (only a few of his sprouted seeds survived the bugs), Justin wanted green beans (which he likes to eat raw but not cooked, so we’ll see how that turns out) and the third row was planted with zinnias – fast-growing, huge flowers, and they can pick as many as they want and don’t have to ask me first.  The pots in the foreground are “extra” cherry tomatoes I grew from seed which didn’t fit next to their flatmates now living by the raspberry bushes;  I couldn’t bear to toss them so I’ll try to give them away.

june15_09kidgarden

My herbs are in their own space behind the veg garden and they’re doing well.  I added several more mints to the family last year and they are in big pots at the edge of the herb garden.

Apple mint and orange mint

Apple mint and orange mint

The bright point of all this edible news is that the strawberries are doing GREAT and we’ve gotten a small harvest!  The raspberry bushes are loaded with green berries and a handful of them are starting to get pink.

Strawberry Patch (that big rock props my gate open)

Strawberry Patch (that big rock props my gate open)

june15_09strawberries

The kids’ pizza garden is looking good, the pic is after one month of growth (scroll down to a previous entry for pics of it when it was started).  The tomato is very happy, the chives and oregano are, too, but I’m not sure if the pepper is going to do anything.

june15_09pizzagarden

It is quite early yet to assume I’m “done” with veggie planting – I may just get inspired in a month or so and go crazy, but for now it will be minimal, and I’m okay with that.

Spring Images

A few shots from my front yard in Mid-May:

Centaurea montana or "Mountain Bluet" - tons of huge foliage and cool weird purple blossoms.

Centaurea montana or "Mountain Bluet" - tons of huge foliage and cool weird purple blossoms.

Forget-Me-Nots

Forget-Me-Nots

Perennial bed along the walkway to my front door

Perennial bed along the walkway to my front door

Sedum Rock Garden

Sedum Rock Garden

Mystery plant from a plant swap last year - I thought it was lungwort but I looked it up and lungwort looks different, so I'll have to ask the woman who gave it to me. It certainly brightens up the shade whatever it is; I love it!

Mystery plant from a plant swap last year - I thought it was lungwort but I looked it up and lungwort looks different, so I'll have to ask the woman who gave it to me. It certainly brightens up the shade whatever it is; I love it!

This is the southern side of the house, the kids' foraging garden. :)  I have strawberries, a couple puny blueberries which may or may not produce this year, rasperry bushes, and cherry tomatoes beyond the raspberries.  The kids and I made all of the stepping stones.  There are different varieties of thyme planted between them, though they aren't fillingin as fast as I'd like so I'm going to add a few more.

This is the southern side of the house, the kids' foraging garden. 🙂 I have strawberries, a couple puny blueberries which may or may not produce this year, raspberry bushes, and cherry tomatoes beyond the raspberries. The kids and I made all of the stepping stones. There are different varieties of thyme planted between them, though they aren't filling in as fast as I'd like so I'm going to add a few more.

Kid Project: Pizza Garden

The kids have always helped me with my gardening and loved it, but this year I decided to give them their own spaces. One of these spaces is in a huge pot I placed  in one sunny corner for them to have as some sort of theme garden.  Out of the ideas I suggested and other ones we discussed, they decided they wanted to do a Pizza Garden.

The pot had some soil in it from a prior use but we dumped out half of it and put in a bunch of compost.  They had fun stirring up the “dirt stew.”   I had gotten starts for a cherry tomato, greek oregano, and a sweet yellow pepper, and those went into the pot.  I have a ton of basil seedlings growing in my windowsill which aren’t big enough to go outside yet, so while basil would be yummy for a pizza garden, the boys planted garlic chives seeds in their pizza garden instead.

The day before, the boys painted a little sign for their pizza garden.  The flat rock was painted white for the crust, red “tomato sauce” was painted on top of that, and then Justin painted “PIZZA” onto the sauce.

pizzagarden1pizzagarden2pizzagarden

Plant Swap

Saturday I attended a plant swap organized by some people on Gardenweb.com and it was fabulous!  This was my third swap I’d attended over the past couple of years after a gardening neighbor alerted me to this fun plant goldmine.

Here’s how these swaps work:  Well in advance of the swap, you assess your gardens and see which of your perennials can be divided,  check if anything has made any new seedlings you don’t need in that area,  take cuttings of plants that can be propagated that way and get them started, or if you start things from seed determine which extras you’ll have.  From this you create your trade list or “Have” list, and you post the list of the names of the plants on your Gardenweb profile and/or start a thread with “HAVE” as the subject line and list your available plants.  You also create a “Want” list for plants you’re most interested in. Other gardeners planning to attend the swap look through the Have lists and post replies to people who have plants they’d like to have and they offer a trade based on the person’s Want list or just invite the person to look through THEIR Have list and pick something.  (I’m surely making this sound far more complicated than it is!) You now have a prearranged trade!

Most people prearrange many trades with several different people and know exactly how many and which plants they need to dig up and stick in pots for the swap, but everyone also brings extra plants for spontaneous trading.  Best of all is the Freebies pile — any extra plants you brought that you don’t care about getting a trade for get placed there and then anyone can have whatever they’d like! Gardeners in general are super generous and are especially happy to help out a new gardener who has very little or even NOTHING to trade.  I came to my first swap with maybe six tiny pots of two different plants (one of which was strawberries) and I left with nearly twenty new, different plants!   It is sooo great for expanding your plant collection, and then of course once those plants grow for a year or two, you can divide them and bring them to a swap and maybe end up helping out another new gardener.

It is really cool to see what people bring to trade and to talk with other gardeners about where they have had success with a particular plant (partial shade? full sun? deadhead the flowers or let ’em stay?).   Oh!  Did I mention the food?  There’s always FOOD, too, and gooooood stuff!  It is done potluck style, and sometimes people munch a bit while they’re trading and then at some point everyone fills up their plates and gets serious.  Free plants!  Free food!  What more could you ask for on a Saturday?

Here’s what I came home with:

My new babies

There is lamb’s ear, a Pacific Coast iris, Centaurea Montana “Alba” (Bachelor’s Button; this is a white flowered one), three little sedums,  a mystery salvia (hoping for purple), Monarda (bee balm) in a color I don’t have, Bloody Dock, European Ginger, Welsh Poppies,  Society Garlic, three sweet Golden Marconi Peppers,  a purple aster, Motherwort herb, some annual grass called “bunny tails”,  a campanula, and a coreopsis.  SCORE!

Flashback

Here are some shots from previous years of gardening:

heuchera

heuchera

Euphorbia, my favorite plant I've ever grown, which sadly didn't survive this past Winter.

Euphorbia, my favorite plant I've ever grown, which sadly didn't survive this past Winter.

Japanese Maple, one of my other favorite plants

Japanese Maple, one of my other favorite plants

Hostas on the North side of our garage.  That's a snail on the wall above the big one.

Hostas on the North side of our garage. That's a snail on the wall above the big one.

Nasturtiums in 2006.  That side of the house is now sans grass and the Nasturtiums have been replaced by raspberries and strawberries.

Nasturtiums in 2006. That side of the house is now sans grass and the Nasturtiums have been replaced by raspberries and strawberries.

2008 veggie garden. The peas did quite well and are on the left trying to tear down the puny trellis I built them.  The tomatoes on the far right didn't get much bigger or better due to our very limited Summer last year.

2008 veggie garden. The peas did quite well and are on the left trying to tear down the puny trellis I built them. The tomatoes on the far right didn't get much bigger or better due to our very limited Summer last year.

Signs of Spring

Here are some photos I took around the yard in early April.

blossoms on my weeping cherry

blossoms on my weeping cherry

flowering plum trees

flowering plum trees

daffodils

daffodils

hellebore

hellebore

garden helper

garden helper

signs of life in perennial bed in front yard - lupine, red euphorbia, golden sage, potentilla.

signs of life in perennial bed in front yard - lupine, red euphorbia, golden sage, potentilla.