Monday, May 31, 2010

Dahlias - Signs of Life!

This weekend, in my gardening dreams, is always the weekend that I hope to begin planting dahlias down in the big garden. Due to the fact that we have received almost 3" of rain since Tuesday, it certainly didn't happen this year. Instead, I finished potting up the last of my 200+ tubers into 1 gallon pots. Here they can begin growing while I wait for conditions in the garden to improve. I was rewarded for my work by finding green shoots pushing through the soil in about 10 of the pots I planted two weekends ago. The plant pictured above is "Lismoore Peggy",  a pink Pom. It is amazing that that little shoot will grow into a plant 5 feet tall that can produce over 100 blooms in a season. Such potential! Below, the "garden" of dahlia pots, over 200 strong!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Saturday at the Farmer's Market

This morning we headed off to the Lane County Farmer's Market. We started our morning off with breakfast. I opted for a pasty from Cousin Jacks and bought a Pain au Chocolat from the Hideaway Bakery. After filling up our stomachs we walked the aisles. Since it is the end of May, peonies were everywhere. I particularly loved the peach & apricot tree peony blooms, pictured above.
Many farmers also had swiss chard. I especially loved the vibrant colors of the "bright lights".
I was amazed at all of the new potatoes that were for sale.With the record breaking rain that we had had this May, this is no small accomplishment.
Nothing says Springtime in Oregon like a two heaping baskets of Snap Peas.
Because it is Memorial Day weekend, we went to visit our favorite flower vendor. We picked two bouquets of vibrant iris, peonies and delphinium for the Grandparents. For the Great-Grandparents graves Mom decided on a softer color scheme, with white & pink peonies, iris, and lilies. Beautiful.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Winter Squash -A Start!

While today wasn't exactly sunny and hot, the rain did at least stay away for the most part. The ten day forecast still shows mostly cloudy and cool days ahead, so I decided that I had better start some of my heat-loving vegetables in pots. I fear that if I were to direct seed them right now, the seed would simply rot in the cold, damp soil. I chose three varieties of Winter Squash to grow this year. Two are returning favorites - "Delicata" & "Butternut". I wanted to try one new variety this year. Since I am short on garden space with at least partial sun, I had to retire "Buttercup" to give "Chirimen" a try. "Chirimen" is described in the Territorial Seed catalog as an open-pollinated winter squash that matures is 95-110 days. The squash has  a greenish-black shell that develops into a dull bronze-orange color. The 5-8 pound fruit have a moist, sweet flesh. Due to space constraints, I am going to have to grow these down in the big garden. We shall see how they do in half-day sun. Fingers crossed. I also found in my seed stash a never before opened package of  "Canoe Creek Colossal"  Melon, package dated 2008. I have no idea where I am going to plant them and if they will even set fruit here in the Northwest. But with that great name I have to give it a try!
The last few years I have had good success starting my squash in peat pots. When it comes time to transplant, I gently pull away what's left of the pot and plop the seedling right into the hill. They haven't missed a beat with that method. Pictured above, I have all the pots ready to plant.
The seeds are dropped in. It will be interesting to watch the germination rates. The melon , "Delicata" & "Butternut" seed is all 3 years old. For this reason, I planted 1 more of each variety then I will need. The squash did have a decent germination record last year, with seed two years of age. I only had to re-plant a few.
Topped off with  soil, watered and ready. Now is the hard part, waiting!
I have also been potting up more dahlia tubers this week, as the weather has allowed. Today I planted for over an hour. I now have 147 potted - but nothing up yet!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Another Rainy Day

Today I awoke to the sound of rain..yet again! The day was another cycle of black clouds followed by downpours, with occasional quick sun breaks. Alas, I wasn't able to get any gardening done again today. It's getting very frustrating. Maybe Tom-Cat  has the right idea. When life gives nasty weather, do a little grooming and take a 5 hour nap.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Rainy Days & Cat's Ears

Another big rain storm hit today, making gardening all but impossible. The joys of Spring in Oregon - potting up more dahlia tubers will have to wait! During one of the calm moments between downpours I did managed to sneak in a short walkabout.
In three different area on our property I found large, healthy populations of Cat's Ears. Cat's Ears is one of the common names for "Calochortus Tolmiei". This member of the Lily family blooms in the months of May & June. It is found growing in poor soil on grassy hillsides & open, coniferous woods. Its range is from California up to Washington.
Each plant has a slim basel leaf with with a smaller leaf farther up the stem. Until the plants bloom, they are close to impossible to pick out amongst all the grasses in the meadows. Each plant has a solitary bloom or a cluster of bell shaped flowers.  Each bloom is white to pale purple and are bearded inside with long hairs. We are so lucky to have three large groups of these plants to enjoy every Spring.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A Productive Day

Today was a very productive gardening day. While I didn't get everything on my "to-do" list checked off ( who ever does?) I did make a good stab at it. I started the day working in the vegetable bed next to the house. I got out the bottom tiers of my favorite tomato cages from Gardeners Supply Company and spaced out my tomato plantings. One change I made this year was to move my pole bean tower. Last year it was at the end of the tomato row, right next to the bird feeder. The little red and gold finches spent a good part of the summer pinching off all the growing tips of the beans. They never got over three feet tall ! This year I have placed the bean tower in the middle of the tomatoes. Hopefully it will be far enough from the bird feeder there.
Since this is the sunniest garden spot that I have, I chose my "favorite" 8 tomatoes to plant here. All the rest will have to make a go of it in partial sun down in the big garden.
Each tomato was planted in a bit of a trough and watered in well. It's hard to imagine how huge they will be in September when you are planting a small little tomato from a 1" pot. So much potential!
After getting all of the tomatoes planted, we took the truck to Lane Forest Products and picked up a load of their potting soil. After getting that unloaded at home, we headed down to the garden for tilling #3. I am happy to report the big garden is slowly drying and the clay clumps are getting smaller. There is hope! When we got back to the house I started potting up my dahlia tubers. Normally I start this Mother's Day weekend but I have somehow found myself a week behind this year. I worked for about an hour before dinner and an hour after dinner. I managed to get 51 tubers potted, so that's a good start. I think I have about 180 dahlia tubers this year, but I haven't done a final count yet. Just as well!
Behind every successful gardener is at least one cat helper. Potting up dahlias is exhausting work!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Another Saturday at the Farmer's Market

This morning we hit the Lane County Farmer's Market early..well early for me! We where there by 9:20 AM and started by enjoying some breakfast. Then we walked the Market. There were still many, many vendors selling gorgeous, healthy vegetable starts. I was strong and didn't bring any home!
The beautiful peonies pictured above where being sold by the 5 gallon pot. If I only had somewhere to plant them.
The produce vendors are starting to get a more diverse offering, as May slowly counts down to June. There were piles after piles of carrots and colorful beets.
This is a closeup of a large basket of baby patty-pan summer squash. I am impressed that anyone has grown any type of squash to a successful harvest so far this year. I wonder if they are being greenhouse grown?
And the thrilling find of the day.. the first Strawberries of the season ! Bravo to Groundworks Organics.

Friday, May 14, 2010

A landmark day- the first tilling of the year!

After 6 weeks of sunny weekends followed by wet, cold weekdays, we have finally experienced enough dry days in a row that it was possible to till the big garden. Dad make quick work of it on his trusty tractor. As always, I had him till under about 6 inches of grass on each side to reclaim garden space. Without doing that the garden would shrink in size every year.
As the blades quickly turned over the soil, the air was filled with that unique scent of damp earth. It is one of the smells of Spring to me, just like freshly mown grass.
Wet, clumpy clay. That's my garden, even after years of adding compost and other organic matter to it.
All done for the day. The forecast for more sunny weather this weekend should help speed along the drying process. Until it is ready to plant, I can use the time to finalize my garden plan. There is nothing more exciting than a blank garden, ready to plant.

Monday, May 10, 2010

My Saturday Stash

This last Saturday I had the pleasure of working at and shopping at the Oregon Plant Fair 2010. This annual specialty plant sale was held once again at Alton Baker Park and was put on by the Avid Gardeners group. Between shifts at the Lane County Dahlia Society booth, I got to do a little browsing. My browsing turned into shopping when I hit the Log House Plants booth. For those of you not familiar with Log House Plants, they are a gem of a company located down in Cottage Grove, Oregon. They are primarily a wholesale operation, but owners Alice & Greg are very generous to local plant society groups. Throughout the Spring, you can buy their starts directly from them at various benefit plant sales. Their plants are always  first quality and often interesting and unique varieties that you will not find anywhere else. Locally, you can buy their plants at Down to Earth, Grays & their retail "site" The Bookmine in downtown Cottage Grove.
     Anyway, back to my shopping. First off, I had promised myself that I would NOT buy any tomatoes because it is still way to early to plant them out. But then Alice has to tempt me with amazing varieties, 10 for $8! How can you say no to that! I also justified it because they are only one inch pot starts, so by the time they really start to grow it will be time to get them in the ground. Then I stumbled upon the "Vines & Climbers". Last year, I really started to get into morning glories. And Log House had for sale at least 10 varieties of morning glories. What was I to do? Then, in the vegetable section I discovered Log House has grown and introduced to us Northwest growers 6 or more Sweet Potatoes that we can successfully grow and harvest in our region. They had beautiful slips growing in 4 inch pots, ready to be planted in a trench. Into my basket they went. So, by the end of the day, I had one very full flat of plants to take home. The complete listing:

  • "Beauregard" - Sweet Potato Slips (3)

  • "Sunrise Serenade" - Morning Glory (1) fully double corolla, ruby red

  • "Feringa" - Morning Glory (1) Violet & Rose Pink

  • "Kellogg's Breakfast" - Tomato (2)

  • "Seattle's Best" - Tomato (1)

  • "Rose" - Tomato (1)

  • "Momotaro" - Tomato (1)

  • "Orange Blossom" - Tomato (1)

  • "Persimmon" - Tomato (1)

  • "Black Pear" - Tomato (1)

  • "Black Cherry" - Tomato (1)

  • "Sweet Million" - Tomato (1)

  • "San Francisco Fog" - Tomato (1)

  • "Hidcote" - Lavender

Monday, May 3, 2010

April showers bring May flowers

Last Mother's Day, I gave my Mom a flowering Crab Apple that I got at Down to Earth. It lost most of its flowers on the ride home in the back of the pickup truck, so she really didn't get to see it in full bloom that first year. Dad and I planted it up on the bank where it could be viewed out of most of the front windows. It seemed to have settled in well over the Summer & Fall. Its leaves turned a gorgeous shade of red in the Fall and it produced quite a few small red crab apples which hung on until late Winter. It promised to be hardy to very low temperatures, but I was nervous as we had a full week of 15 degree nights in December. But, as promised it survived just fine and started to break dormancy in early March. It  is now in full glorious bloom this week. At full maturity, it is suppose to reach a size of 15 feet in height with a spread of 15 feet. It's still small now, but I can imagine what it will look like in future Springs. And someday, we can take that ugly fence down around it, when it finally gets taller than the deer!