Wednesday, April 23, 2008

EVERYTHING IS BEAUTIFUL

It is a joy to drive around town this time of year. Everywhere you look, something catches your eye. Right now it is the pear trees, redbuds, and magnolias. The viburnums are just starting, and the forsythia are just about finished. My 'Ann' magnolia is in full bloom. I like this variety because it doesn't get much larger than about 8-10 feet tall, and continues to bloom off and on throughout the summer. But the 'Butterflies' magnolia is awesome! I am sure that if it was planted near the road like Ann is, people would be stopping to ask what it is. My only regret is that it is planted with a not so pretty back drop, and way to much yellow in front of it. I think that those daffodils should be dug up and moved, and maybe some nice red tulips should replace them.
I also have posted a picture of 'Euphorbia Myrsinites'. It is an interesting plant, always blooming before anything else in the garden, and continuing to bloom through the Spring. It grows along the front edge of my back beds, and never becomes a pest. It does seed, but pulling up any babies that you don't want is pretty easy.
We do need rain, and it is in the forecast for tomorrow evening, but I don't think that there is a very strong chance of it. I love how the plants just seem to jump out of the ground after a Spring rain. The farmers in my area are grateful for a chance to get their crops in, but I would still like to see a little rain, and I can't believe that I am saying this...a little bit cooler weather. Well, it is Indiana, tomorrow we could have snow!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

UH, OH, TROUBLE!!

This morning we had to travel to Indianapolis to the wholesale nursery and pick up plant material for several jobs. I do all of the landscaping, so my husband doesn't have a clue what plants go on each job. He goes with me to pick up plants, just to be the 'load and tarp down the plants, guy'. This makes it very easy to smuggle a few plants home for myself, each time we go.
Now, imagine yourself surrounded by acres of lush beautiful trees, shrubs, and perennials, all at wholesale prices. How can I be expected to behave myself in that kind of a situation? Especially first thing in the Spring! I was like a kid in a candy store!
Spring is always the best shopping because everything is fresh, and usually flowering. They must have had 500 Japanese maples just leafing out, and all of the flowering trees were blooming. They were really not much of a temptation because I don't have anymore room for trees. Where I ran into trouble was in the perennial greenhouses. There were several new perennials, and some that I had just never tried, and after all, I need to know the growing habit of as many plants as possible, in order to help my customers make wise choices. So, with that in mind I proceeded to pick out a few interesting plants.
First I chose a tree peony ('Kamatanishiki') that is supposed to have a blue flower. Now we all know that true blue flower's, are few and far between, but I decided to give this one a shot. I was not able to pronounce it's name, but that is beside the point. Next was a variegated helleborus ('Pacific Frost'), very cool looking, a heuchera ('Mystic Angel'), I just liked it's name, a baptisia (Twilite Prairie'), because I love all baptisia's, and a pasque flower, because, believe it or not, I have never grown one.
Now, didn't I do a good job of not going overboard? I controlled myself very well. Actually, I just happen to know that we will be back down in a few weeks, and they will have lots more plants in by then!

Monday, April 21, 2008

DECISIONS IN THE VEGETABLE GARDEN

I got home from work tonight at 5:00, so I had a few hours that I could spend in the garden before it got dark. I needed to get my new grape vines planted. They have been in the packing material for about a week, and were starting to bud out, so I wanted to get them in. I am trying 3 different varieties, Canadice, Reliance, and Interlaken.
I also planted my potatoes. I am trying something new this year. Last year when I made my tomato cages out of concrete reinforcing wire, I made way to many. So, I dug six small holes, buried a whole seed potato, and then covered it with soil and straw. Then I put a cage over each potato, and added straw. As the plant grows I will continue to add soil and straw. I have tried variations of this method before, but this time I really want to check how many potatoes I get from each cage, and how that compares to just growing them the traditional way.




I still had some extra time after getting the grapes and potatoes planted, so I decided to plant some 'Dwarf Grey Sugar' peas. I know that it is a little late, but I had the seed, so I thought that I would go ahead and try it.
I am trying something very radical this year, something that I never dreamed that I would ever do. Even my husband thinks that I have lost it. Can you guess?
Well, after reading Teaming With Microbes by Jeff Lowenfels, (I didn't actually read the whole book, I kind of jumped around) I have decided not to roto-till my garden this year! This is huge for me! I love that first garden tilling in the Spring. All of the leaves, straw, and weeds get tilled into the soil, it just seems so right. Then, along comes this book that tells me just how much damage I am actually doing to my soil. Tonight when I went out to plant the peas, I almost changed my mind. The soil looked so hard, and the weeds were sprouting, the soil was perfect for tilling, and my husband was sitting there on his tractor with that look in his eye. I know what he wanted. He wanted to drop that tiller on that soil and just go roaring across my garden murdering all of those defenseless little bacteria, fungi, and other nasty sounding stuff. He tried everything to convince me to let him loose on that garden, even suggesting that we just till part of the garden and do a comparison on which vegetables do better. I finally said NO!, NO!, NO!, and he skulked away, defeated.
Now, the odd thing is that I am used to soft, freshly turned soil, that is easy to plant. Now I am standing with this little pea seeds, and this hard ground. How am I going to do this. So I go to my shed looking for some tool to get these seeds 2 inches into this ground. Then I spot my dibble. Now if you don't know what a dibble is don't feel stupid. They are not used much here in the states, but they are great little gadgets. They are made specifically for making holes, and that is just what I needed, so I grabbed it and headed back to the garden.
It worked perfectly! I have to admit, it worked better than when the ground is tilled. The holes were perfect, and I dropped a pea seed into each one, and then added a light coating of compost over the row, and covered it with shredded leaves. Now, I probably should keep notes on how the vegetables do with this new method, and I might even say that I will do that. But I know better. All I ask is that they grow and produce enough food that it was worth my time planting them.
And, I will be able to sleep soundly tonight knowing that all of that microbial stuff is safe and sound out there in the garden.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

SPRING WORK

This has been a busy week! Sunny, beautiful days! We are working on lots of cleanups and mulching gardens. One property that we worked on this week is going up for sale in the next few days, so the owners want it to look good. We spent a few days sprucing up the beds, and applying a fresh layer of mulch. We have worked on this property for several years and every time that I go there I am happy that I do not have to battle deer. The picture below shows a row of Yews that are nearly destroyed every winter from the culinary habits of the local deer population.
They munch these yews down to almost nothing. The first time that I saw this, I told the owner of the home, that I did not think that the plants would recover. He stated that this happens every winter, and that they always come back. Sure enough, they did recover. But, then the next winter, the same thing happens again. When I first saw these yews I thought that they were some interesting new variety. If you look at the closeup picture, they do look very bizarre. I wish that I would have thought of it earlier, I would have taken a few of the products on the market that are supposed to repel deer, and sprayed these plants. What a great test plot this would have been. Many of the other shrubs on the property also show deer damage,
but nothing like these yews. I guess that I will just keep fighting my rabbits, and be happy that they don't do this kind of damage, and are a little easier to control.
The forecast for today was rain, so I did not plan to work in the garden. It didn't end up raining much, but it was overcast with off and on drizzle. I did spend the day in the greenhouse. I got lots done, mostly potting and repotting. It looks like tomorrow is supposed to be a much better day for gardening, so I plan to spend the afternoon doing just that. I don't like to work on Sundays, but I often make an exception for yard work. It just doesn't seem like 'work' to me.
Friday was the first day back to my 90 year old friends garden. I check in on her often through the winter months, but Friday was the first day back in her garden. She is not able to do much, but I am always amazed at what she does get accomplished moving around her garden with her walker, and her bucket of tools. She already has her tomatoes potted up and outside against the house getting toughened up and ready for planting. As I was pruning her 'Dortmund' rose bushes, in order to install new trellises, she was standing with her walker watching me work. After a short time of silence she said to me, "you sure do good work". I said, "well thank you, I try". Without missing a beat she said, 'well, I guess I've taught you everything I know". What a character! I look forward to my Friday's with her.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

THINK SPRING!!

This is the message on my bathroom window. I think that you can tell that Mother Nature is not cooperating. This picture was taken on Saturday, the whole weekend being worthless as far as getting any gardening done. Rain, wind, and cold temperatures kept me inside most of the weekend. I did get a little planting done in the greenhouse, but I really wanted to be outside in the garden.
Then Sunday and Monday nights temperatures dropped into the 20s. I don't think that anything was hurt, the trees are not fully in flower yet, so I think that they will be alright. The weather has improved slowly since then, with the end of the week forecast to be in the 70s. But what do you suppose the forecast for the weekend is? RAIN!
Wait a minute! All week I plan for the weekend, and then it is supposed to rain! That doesn't seem fair. Why can't some of that rain be put off until July and August when we need it?
I have lots to do in the greenhouse, so it won't be a total waste if it does rain, but I would really like to get the mulch down before the perennials are up and leafed out. It makes it so much easier.
I received my shrub from White Flower Farm in the mail today, that I wrote a post about in January. If you remember I ordered a Calycanthus 'Venus' or sweet shrub. The cost was $39.95 plus $10.95 shipping. I had a $25.00 gift certificate, so the total cost was $25.00. I expected a pretty nice size shrub, but I am not kidding, what I received was a twig. I can't believe that people pay these kinds of prices. I would never order anything from this company again, after seeing the size of the plant that I got.
I also received my grapes from Miller nurseries. I ordered 1 Canadice (red seedless), 1 Lakemont (white seedless), and 1 Reliance (pink seedless). I am hoping that they are wrong about the weekend weather. I sure would like to get these in the ground. I tried grapes a few years ago, and ended up pulling them out after losing battle after battle with Japanese beetles. I have decided to try again, and will probably using netting to keep the beetles off of them.

Monday, April 7, 2008

WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DAY MAKES

Wow! I can't believe that I have not posted anything since Easter!
Spring hit in full force, and we have been busy. I am so tired when I get home at night, all I get done on the computer is check my mail. I really miss reading all of the regular blogs that I check in on. I haven't forgotten you, I just don't have much time right now.
I did get to spend the weekend in my own garden. Both days were absolutely perfect weatherize, so I couldn't resist. I am amazed at what a difference you can make in a day in the garden.
My herb garden did not get cleaned up last Fall, so it was first on the list for this Spring. I needed to cut everything back, and then cover the entire thing with leaves. The garden measure around 20 by 50 feet, so it's a large area. But I was fired up and ready to go Saturday morning. This picture shows how it looked last Fall, so you know that I had my work cut out for me.
I began by cutting off all of the dead herbs and cleaning out the planters. I had my husband dump a load of leaves in the vegetable garden that is right next to the herb garden, last Fall, so I didn't have far to get them to the garden. I used my trusty garden way cart, one of the tools that I couldn't garden without. When filled with leaves, it covers a pretty large area. I usually lay them about 3-4 inches thick, allowing for some of them to be blown away. Once the herbs start growing, they will stay in place, but while it is bare, they tend to fly around.
I am not very good at sticking with one job until it is completed and then moving on. I get bored, so usually do a job for awhile, and then do something else, and then back to the original job.
So, I would clear an area, cover it with leaves, and then continue like that until it's done. It took the entire day, but by evening, the job was done. What a relief! It is so much easier to do when nothing has sprouted yet. My cart can be pushed around without hurting any plants. If I had waited a few more weeks, I could not have used my cart, because the plants will be starting to grow by then, and would get trampled.
It is amazing to me that this garden can be completely bare in the Spring, and in a few months, be full, with some plants reaching 5-6 foot tall. Ninety percent of the plants in this garden are perennial. I plant Basil, Parsley, and Calendulas, but the rest of the plants come back year after year. I love herbs because they require very little care. I rarely fertilize them, and only water when it is extremely dry. The only other maintenance is occasionally dividing the plants that tend to take over the garden. I also always have fresh herbs for cooking. Many times I have run out to the herb garden for some lovage, chives, or rosemary to add to a dish.
But my favorite thing about this garden, is just walking through and running my hand across the tops of the herbs. And when people stop by, especially kids, I take them through the herb garden first. They always enjoy it the most.
I also have a swing in the garden, right across form the pond. it is a wonderful place to sit for a few minutes when I get home in the evening.
Well, I don't know when I will be back, happy Spring until then!