Thursday, May 10, 2007

So much planting and transplanting!

My first artichoke is developing nicely and I could probably pick it and eat it any time now. Another smaller one is also on the way.

On May 6 I transplanted two Cal Wonder and one of the varieties in the sweet pepper mix into pots. I planted French breakfast radishes in circles near rim of pots where I will plant squashes tomorrow. I also planted a few green onions next to the Roma by the fence.

On May 8 I transplanted the best of my Gourmet Eggplants into a pot. I also planted a few cilantro and Gold Rush Asylum near the irises, which aren't too far from the black walnut tree. I planted a couple more borage in the garden -- one by the fence tomatoes and one by the Roma.

When I got to the other house I moved the pellet seedlings of basil, carnations, and Gold Rush Asylum into cups, since they were getting too big to stand much longer in only the pellets. I brought most of them home to start hardening them off in the cold frame, since it's still in the mid-forties at night.

I did learn today that one has to be very careful when using newspaper to block weeds. If it isn't weighted down well, it blows away and can cover new seedlings. And in even one day of being covered by a wandering paper, the sowbugs will finish eating a very small seedling. I discovered this had happened to my only Stupice and one Brandywine today. They were very tiny. And now there is nothing left of them at all.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Finished Translanting the Tomatoes

What a job! I bought five more heirlooms at Farmers' Market this morning and decided to plant five more of my own transplants that have been languishing in the cold frame, in the ground. So I planted the five I bought into raised beds or containers to protect them from the gophers and planted the others, which are mostly duplicates of varieties I had already planted in raised beds, in the ground. Hopefully, since they are right next to the fence, they will sidetrack the raccoons before they get to the raised beds -- if the gophers let the plants live long enough. The actual transplanting isn't what wore me out. It was filling all those containers with good amended soil and amending the soil for the tomatoes I planted in the ground. It's the preparation to plant that takes the time and energy.

It looks as though some of my poor seedlings that were put in the raised beds a couple of weeks ago are showing signs of reviving. There appears to be a tad of new growth. That's good news. I hope that the fifteen tomatos I have put in their permanent homes will produce enough to keep us in tomatoes this summer. Except for the Roma, all the varieties I bought at Farmers' Market were new to me. The grower said they should do well here. So now I have Roma, Brandywine, German Queen, Pruden's Purple, Cherokee Purple, Red Pear (I think) Yellow Pear, Stupice (if it pulls through), Celebrity, Silver Fir Tree, Black Krim, Anna Russian, Peron Sprayless, and one I can't remember because I'd never heard of it before I bought it this morning.

I'm hoping to plant a few more carrots and radishes tomorrow if I have time. And I may try and plant some peppers and eggplant into their permanent homes. In a couple of weeks the basil and cucumbers and squash should be ready to plant.

Monday, April 30, 2007

It's been a very busy week in the garden.

I have made new beds on the level land at the top of the slope and planted cosmos, chamomile, green onions and Oriental greens. I doubt if any will come up, since the three days of sudden hot weather made it almost impossible to keep the seeds moist at all times. And the seeds weren't new either. The idea was to throw the seeds away somewhere and let God decide if they should grow.

I also planted some spinach and lettuce in my chard / artichoke bed, and that did sprout. You can see the small rows between the chard and lemon balm in the middle. The small rows of rocks separate the spouted spinach from the sprouted lettuce. The chard appears to be about to reseed. If you look very closely you will see a few of its children from last year. The tiny ones are between the lemon balm and the red pot. There are also a couple tucked on either side of the large artichoke. But they are hard to see.

I also transplanted a few of my baby tomatoes into their permanent homes in the raised beds and tonight I transplanted a few flowers at the other house. It remains to see how these baby plants will grow in their new homes.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A day to plant

There comes a time when one has to plant and transplant. It's rumored that the moon is right for my planting today, and although the weather was a bit windier than I would have wished, I decided to transplant my first tomato of the season, an heirloom German Queen, into its permanent home for its productive life. That home is a large pot.

 I filled it with a bit of ordinary soil and a lot of potting soil, with a few rocks at the bottom for drainage. The poor plant had already been transplanted once, and was so tall it was bumping its head on the top of my makeshift cold frame. And something was eating its leaves, which had big holes in them. I'm actually a bit worried about this plant because as I was about to pull the bottom sets of leaves off for planting, I noticed a small black bug on the stem and all around near it the stem was white. I wiped off what I could of the white stuff and ditched the bug. Then I completely buried that part of the plant so that only the top leaves were showing above the soil line. I put a clear plastic container with a few small holes in the top for venting over the plant and put in a stake next to it. I hope that plastic container is enough to keep this warm for the next two days.

 The temperatures tonight and tomorrow night will be in the thirties. But the plant has been in the cold frame for weeks now, and I think it will be OK. I think it will have better bug protection where it is now. Time will tell. I also transplanted three petunias into the herb garden and a couple of seedlings in peat pellets into bigger pots.

Then I went to the other house and filled 72 more peat pellets with seeds for perennial flowers and herbs. I planted two kinds of basil, Genovese and Dark Opal Purple, catnip, marigold, Shasta daisies, perennial alyssum (Gold Dust), Iceland Poppy, viola, carnations, petunias, and cosmos. I thought I'd start them inside because I seem to have such dismal luck starting them outside. Though when the weather warms, I'll probably start some outside, too, and I'll even throw out the older seed and let God take care of it. I won't lose anything by throwing older seed out where it might have some small opportunity to sprout instead of putting it in the trash. God has grown some of my best flowers all by himself, with no help from me whatsoever.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Expanding and Improving the Herb Garden

This past two weeks I've put a lot into weeding, transplanting, and building new paths around the herb garden. I've been laying down cardboard or newspaper around the front edges which I need to finish covering in bark. 

Expanding and Improving the Herb Garden

The paths through the garden were made accidentally as I took the rock out and put it to the side while preparing the soil. These were the old borders. Then whenever I have planted a new section, a new border was added. The borders were important to mark so that our weed abatement man wouldn't come through when I wasn't around and spray what appeared to him as weeds.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Amending the raised beds and other garden tasks

Today I had a nice block of time to finally add some manure and compost to the raised beds nothing wants to grow in. First I removed the non-thriving Brussels Sprouts and just planted them in ordinary garden soil. I figured they'd probably die, but at least this way they had a chance and I had a vacant raised bed so I could start digging it up and adding nutrients. Maybe they will like their new home better.

I also removed the bok choy from the other raised bed. It was only about three inches tall and bolting. I decided to throw the six small plants into a stir fry for lunch tomorrow. The lettuces were doing a bit better so I transplanted one of my Batvian lettuce seedlings among the small Romaine plants, and planted a nasturtium seed and a marigold plant nearby. That left half the bed to dig around in, so I added nutrients to the rest of that bed where I will be planting tomatoes. I just read today that tomatoes don't especially like to be rotated -- they like to stay put. That's fine with me, since I really don't have anywhere to put them except where they were last year and the years before that.

When I started the digging, I discovered the soil in the beds had gotten quite hard, though the clods were full of worm tunnels and the beds had lots of earthworms. I added the manure and worked it in and then worked some ordinary garden soil in with that. The soil came from the field our weed abatement man dug under Saturday and it had been fallow, growing only a healthy crop of weeds for the past few years. It seemed full of organic material. Probably a lot of weed seeds there as well, but I'm good at pulling them and plan to fill the beds enough to smother any sprouting weeds when the crops get bigger.

When I finished amending the soil, I decided to have another try at planting radishes, carrots, and parsnips. I hope they decide to come up this time. When I finished that, I watered everything and covered it up with a row cover to protect it from pests -- including our resident cats. Two of them were on gopher patrol today. One was watching over a fairly new hole a few feet from my raised beds. The other was playing with something in the weeds near the recently plowed field. He was the same one who was so curious about what I did in the herb garden yesterday and came to inspect after I went in. I followed him, since I had loosened the soil and I didn't want him to do his business in it. I wish I'd taken my camera with me. He jumped up on the rock in the middle of the garden as if to survey his domain, and stayed there quietly for some time, just looking around. What a picture it would have made!

This morning I went on a weed and walnut tree safari with my camera and discovered new trees that have not only started by themselves but also are taller than I am. I'm not sure what they are. I also discovered a new poison oak plant which I did my best to dispatch. I have posted one of my weed assortments at the top of this blog. Sometimes I think weeds can be almost pretty -- if only they didn't spread so fast.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Mystery weed and flower

I have a very common weed that grows all over my property. I have always thought it was a mustard, but the mustard along the road is blooming and this isn't. If I remember correctly, this plant gets very tall. I would like to positively identify it and find out if it's edible before it flowers. I can't remember much about it's flowers because I either pull them or our weed abatement man eliminates most of them before they bloom. In the picture, it's the one labeled "weed."

The item in the picture labeled "flower?" is new this year and growing in the herb garden where I planted a number of seeds that I didn't think sprouted last fall. Now I have several of these plants at the back of my herb garden and they are about two feet tall and very bushy. They don't look like typical weeds. I have also posted a picture of one of the larger leaves from this plant if it would help identify it. At first I thought these came from two different plants, but as I look at the leaves, they appear to be the same. Does anyone know what they are? Or do I have to wait until they bloom to find out. I believe the seeds I planted were for Blanket Flower and for another flower I can't remember now. It might have been a small, colorful variety of sunflower.

Mystery solved as of April 23. It's the red poppy (actually two different kinds of red poppy) you see in the picture above.

Walnut Trees

Are they black or are they Persian? That is the question. Unfortunately I didn't think to take the field guide outside until it was already dark. I only picked some leaves and male flowers from each of the two trees. I seem to remember the previous owner telling us one of the trees was a black walnut, but I remember that I didn't like the taste of the black walnuts I sampled as a child and I like the nuts from both of our trees. Also, I lived on the central coast of California and according to the field guide, the black walnut trees are found on the East Coast and California walnut trees tend to be Persian or Carpathian. Can anyone tell by these slightly wilted leaf pictures what kind of walnut trees they came from. I have labeled them A and B for the sake of reference.

Other than fussing about identifying these trees, I actually did some useful garden tasks today. I dug a nice home for my angelica transplant and transplanted it. Then I remembered the cats, who would love the nice freshly dug dirt. I dropped a bit of red pepper flakes around the plant and then remembered the deer. I didn't want to spray the angelica itself with Liquid Fence, so I pulled a few weeds that were nearby and sprayed them and put them around the plant as mulch. I also transplanted a couple of very small thyme plants that were very tiny but outgrowing their peat pellets. I've been taking a risk dividing the pellets before transplanting, since each has about 5-7 baby plants. Since the ones I transplanted this way Sunday survived, I tried it again. I hate killing off the extra plants. I also did some weeding and put down a few more newspapers to block the weeds from coming back near the borders.

I'm pleased to see that several borage seeds have sprouted, and also a few calendula, lots of poppies, and some dill have reseeded in this bed which is in view of my kitchen window and which I refer to as my herb garden. It's actually the second herb garden. The first one is on the hill. In fact, I don't think I have any planted area without at least one or two herbs in it.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

A Wonderful Spring Day in the Garden

Yesterday I saw a hummingbird moth visiting my herbs. Except for it's size, it looked and sounded like I'd imagine a baby hummingbird would. It made the typical humming bird sound.

Today I bought more herbs, but didn't get them planted yet. I did get a few marigolds transplanted into the herb garden I see from my kitchen window. My biggest job was getting lots more flower, herb, and veggie seedlings into bigger containers. I grew them in peat pellets, and their roots were beginning to poke through.

I also cleared a few more feet around my herb garden border and covered the bare ground with newspaper and bark chips to keep it weed free. Still have a lot more to do there.

I'm still waiting to see what the flowers at the back of that bed that are intertwined with the poppies will turn out to be. I'm pretty sure they aren't weeds. But I can' t believe they are from the seeds I planted months ago, either. Time will tell.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Rain coming, getting ready

Over these last few days I've been pulling weeds, finding new seedlings that have finally sprouted, admiring my daffodils and new poppy blooms, watering, and just enjoying the warm weather and the feel of the earth in my hands. After weeding an area I'm not yet planting, I've been covering it with newspaper or cardboard to keep it clear of weeds until I'm ready to plant.

Today I planted some borage, radishes and scabiosa in the garden I look at from my kitchen window. In the fenced garden area I got reckless and planted just a few radishes , a couple of spinach seeds, a couple of lettuce seeds, and a few borage seeds in the actual soil -- not a raised bed. Nothing is growing in the raised beds this year for some reason. The brussel sprouts I planted last month have not grown a bit and the leaves seem stunted (See left picture). The lettuce and bok choy transplants don't seem to be doing much growing, either. I gave them some fish emulsion a few days ago, but I don't see any real changes. Maybe I'm expecting too much too soon. But I am begining to wonder why even a radish seed won't sprout in the raised beds which have always done so well. Only the chive plant, now on its third year, is thiving (picture on right). And a few onions I found in the fall and spread out are alive, even if they don't seem to be growing much. It will be interesting to see if the seeds will grow in the ground!

Monday, February 19, 2007

New Life in the Garden

It's been a long and cold winter. On New Year's Day it was beautiful and I planted some seeds for winter vegetables like radish, lettuce, Oriental greens, and more. And about the time they should sprout we had a hard frost for several nights. I still have some of the radish spouts, but they never grew. I'm waiting to see if the Oriental greens that sprouted will grow. Meanwhile, on Feb 4, I planted another batch of everything. Still no new spouts. I think I may have dampening off in the raised beds. I planted some brussel sprout plants in Feb., but they have not grown much. Five went into the raised bed with a row cover. The other went into a pot with no covering. The one in the pot disappeared. The five in the raised bed are still there -- just not any bigger.

The January frosts seemed to kill eveything -- even the gazanias which I transplated in January -- just before the frosts. I had taken the plants from my other house in a neighborhood. Almost everyone in the neighborhood had them. And after the frosts the neighborhood was a depressing place. It seems most of the plants were heaps of dead leaves. There's not much that looks worse than mounds of dead gazania leaves.

Today, after about two weeks doing very little in the way of garden care except laying papers and cardboard to block weeds before the rains, I decided to hoe some of the weeds I couldn't get covered. I could only handle about three minutes of that before wearing out, so I decided to hand-weed my herb bed where I had planted all the gazania transplants. Almost everything in that bed had looked pretty dead except the irises and the rapidly growning weeds, and the carnation I had planted in a pot. At least I could kneel to do the weeding. And when I got close, I saw some fresh green shoots coming from almost all the plants I thought were dead. (See picture above.) I cut away the dead parts, pulled the weeds and noticed a few new poppy seedlings popping up. So far one borage plant remains from last year. The frost didn't kill that. But a gopher knocked out the other one last week, so I have a feeling my borage, about to bloom, is not long for this world. I'll have to plant one in a pot if I want it to be able to reseed, I guess.

After I finished the bed by the kitchen window, I moved to the bed by the pumphouse wall. Most of what was planted there survived. When I saw how destructive the frost was in the other beds, I covered almost everything in this bed with dry leaves. It seemed to work. And I also got my first daffodil blossom there today, with another about to bloom. All the daffodils I planted in the fall are started to emerge.

There still may be a few weeds in my beds I didn't get out, but I got the worst of them and gave the other plants breathing room. Now the big project is to hoe weeds before they get too big to hoe, spead all the cardboard I can get to block as many as possible, and start vegetable seeds indoors. The garden centers already have leggy tomatoes, but I wouldn't dare put them out until I know what the weather will be doing. So I guess I'll grow my own. I hope to grow at least tomatoes, sweet peppers, cukes, squash, and lettuce. I'd also like to grow root vegetables, kohl rabi, and chard. And, of course, flowers.
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