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.
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