Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Vegetable Bed Update

The cold, wet weather marches on and so does the progress in the vegetable bed. Thank goodness I planted these cold weather crops this Spring! They might be the only vegetable success story this year. As you can see, the radish bed has almost filled in completely and it is time to get harvesting.

The "Pink Punch" radish have really sized up the last few weeks. They still have the largest leaves of all three varieties that I am trying this year.

I think that the "Plum Purple" are just an amazingly pretty color. We'll see what they taste like!

The "Rudolf"  radish are showing a bit of a tendency toward cracking and splitting.

Both varieties of onions are doing well. You can see the beginnings of the red bulbs on the "Red Bull" onions pictured above.

I haven't pulled back the remay fabric over the lettuce bed in over a week. I was so pleased to see all of the growth that had occurred during that time.

The "Australe" lettuce is really lovely. The deep green leaves are slowly getting more and more copper red highlights each week.

And the "Winter Density" lettuce is the bright color of spring green. They are really thriving under the protective cover of the remay. It is not only stopping the bird damage, but it also helping to minimize the rain damage too. All of the lettuce plants are clean as opposed to the poor radish leaves which are covered with dirt from the hard rains.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Gardening Day that Wasn't

I had high hopes to get a lot done outside today. This was suppose to be the nicest day of the three day weekend and the weather forecast called for just a 20% chance of showers. Simply put, the forecasters were wrong! I worked outside potting up dahlias for about 40 minutes when it began to sprinkle. Within an hour it had turned to rain, which at time switched to downpours.

I was able to pot up about 25 more dahlias before getting chased inside for the day. I now have 160 tubers planted, plus 11 cuttings. I also have around 15 questionable tubers potted up, awaiting signs of a live eye sprout.

I am starting to get rewarded for my hard work with some dahlia shoots poking up through the soil. Among the first up are my four "Camano Concord" dahlias. This is a new variety for me that I am really excited about. It is a purple incurved cactus.

And things continue to germinate inside the warm greenhouse. As of today I have five Winter Squash up. These three "Butternut" are really looking healthy.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

More Additions for the Garden

We hit the Farmer's Market bright and early today. Even though the weather is still cold and wet I bought a trio of heat lovers. Hope springs eternal in every gardener, including this one! So, for the vegetable bed up next to the house I bought:
  • Sweet Pepper "Gypsy" - Hayhurst
  • Sweet Pepper "Lilac" - Meadow View Farm
  • Sweet Potato "Beauregard" - Meadow View Farm
The next two day's forecast calls for a bit of sun and no rain so I hope to work on my vegetable bed a little and get these guys all settled in.

Friday, May 27, 2011

A Seedling Explosion

Even though it is rainy and cold outside, happily it is warm and pleasant inside the small greenhouse. It is here that my flats of flower and squash seedlings have been living off and on the past week. I am pleased to report that almost all of the flower seeds have germinated.

Here is a section of "Bling Bling" Zinnias.

This is the flat of marigolds. Since I have never grown marigolds from seed before I wasn't too sure what to expect. I have found that they are as easy as zinnias to grow from seed.

Here is a young "Durango" marigold plant. Many of the marigold seedlings have pretty red stems.

And I was really excited to find that the first three squash have emerged. All three are "Butternut" squash and I am pretty sure that all three are from seed that was planted the first time on May 18th and not eaten by the visiting rodent. It will probably take a few days longer for the rest of the seed, planted May 21st, to germinate.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Everywhere you look, something is in bloom

Last Sunday, between madly rushing from one gardening task to another, I took some time and went for a walk around the property. By slowing down and taking the time to really look closely, I once again found a large, diverse group of plants putting on their annual show. As the Pacific Coast Wild Iris reach their peak bloom, the Cat's Ears have just begun. I do love their uniquely shaped bloom and fuzzy interior. We have 4 separate areas on the property where they grow.

I was thrilled to find this native columbine "aquilegia formosa" blooming. Columbine are short-lived plants, and normally by the time I have located one blooming, it has reached the end of its life cycle and disappears the next year. This one is growing in filtered shade on the bank of the creek.

We are lucky to have 3 native dogwoods (Cornus Nuttallii) on the property.

The camas has also just begun to bloom.

These sweet little Stream Violets ( Viola Glabella) are blooming in very dense shade along the secret path to the garden. If their yellow bloom wasn't so eye-catching, you would never know that they are there.

Everywhere you look right now you see these funny white blossoms. It's Western Serviceberry ( Amelanchier Alinifolia), a very common shrub/small tree in these parts. Most of the year you can't really differentiate it from all the other miscellaneous hedges and brush that grow wild here. But once a year, Serviceberry covers itself in these white, showy blooms and suddenly you are reminded it's everywhere.

All of our green meadows are full of hot pink "dots" right now. Upon closer inspection you can see that the wild vetch is blooming now, with these pretty little pink trumpets.

Deep in the shade, the paths are lined with the tiny, pink blossoms of a common weed.

And I can't leave out the buttercups and daisies. Although they are common and mostly overlooked, I love the Spring color combination of the white daisy heads and the bright yellow buttercups. They bring the dark, moss-covered floor of the forest alive.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Some New Garden Art

One of the things that I love about gardens, as much as the plants that reside in them, is the garden art. Garden artwork can be just as varied and individualistic as the gardeners who purchase them. I have been fortunate this Spring to have added a few special pieces of art to my garden. I found the new trellis, pictured left, on sale at Down to Earth. I wish it was just a bit taller, but I think it will be great covered in Morning Glories this Summer. And even in its bare state, it is pleasing to the eye.

Last Christmas, I was instructed that my last gift was to be found out in the shop. When I opened the door to the electrical room, I found this wonderful concrete chicken. I had admired the concrete chickens all Summer at Down to Earth and was so excited to have one of my own. Because we have so many raccoons, I am afraid this is as close to chicken ownership as I am getting.  I am not quite sure exactly where to place it. Maybe in the vegetable bed.

This weekend I made my most recent purchase - again at Down to Earth! They carry some great stuff. I fell in love with this Purple bench a few weeks ago. After thinking about it, and getting both my tax return and a 20% off coupon in the mail, I brought it home on Saturday. It is going to go down in the big garden, where the purple tone will play off perfectly against the blue tone of the garden gate. Until then , it pairs beautifully with the wild iris.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A busy, busy Sunday

 Today went by in a gardening blur! A good part of my day was spent down in the big garden. It was time to mow again and this time I mowed the back grass too. It was still pretty wet back there but some of the grass was almost as tall as I was. It was now or never! Unfortunately, it is still too wet in the garden to attempt a first tilling. A couple areas still have standing water in them and getting the tractor in at this point would do more damage than good. It is very frustrating and the 10-day forecast shows more rain on the way.

After I finished mowing I spent some time working on Dorothy's roses. I trimmed out all of the dead wood and tried to cut back all of the grass around the canes as best as I could. I was pleased to find that the big rose has at least three new shoots. I need to get some compost tea and Epsom salt and give the roses a boost. They are really suffering from black spot right now. They don't like this endless rain anymore than I do.

Across the street at Dorothy's former home, her grand old lilacs are in full bloom.

I wish you could smell through the computer screen their heavenly scent.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Market, Setback #2 & Some Germination

We started off this morning at the Farmer's Market. Because I had to be up early for another commitment, we arrived at the Market right at 9:00 AM. After eating breakfast, we began walking the aisles. This week I couldn't resist the beautiful new potatoes from Sweet Leaf. I filled my bag with a mix of baby Red & Yellow.

This was also the first week that I saw Strawberries for sale, though I did hear that they had been there a week earlier. I decided against purchasing a pint because of all of the rain that we have had this last month. The strawberries looked amazing but I was concerned that they would be excessively filled with water which really dilutes their sweet flavor.

A basket full of baby artichoke.

And a lovely basket of Rhubarb.

One of my "missions" today was to pick out my tomato plants for the year. I first walked all of the different booths, taking mental notes of who was carrying what varieties. Then I retraced my steps and made my purchases. My goal was to find indeterminate varieties. I wanted one cherry-type, and then I wanted the rest to be around the 6-10 oz. size. We just do not have enough hot weather to grow the huge, beef-steak varieties. I also was hoping for a mix of red, black, and orange colors. After much deliberation I purchased:
  • "Santa Clara Canner" -  Indeterminate, originating in Italy, 8-10 oz red/orange fruit
  • "Peron Sprayless OG" - Indeterminate, originating in Argentina in 1951, smooth red 3-4" fruit
  • "Black Plum" - Indeterminate, originating in Russia, 2" plum-shaped deep-mahogany fruit
  • "Super Sweet 100" - Indeterminate red cherry
  • "Black Prince" - Indeterminate, from Irkutsk Russia, purple-black 2" fruit
  • "Azoychka" - Indeterminate, from Moscow Russia, 10-16 oz. smooth yellow/orange fruit

After I got home from the market, I wanted to get my flats of seeds out of the greenhouse and into the direct sunshine. All was going well until I lifted out my flat of Winter Squash 4" pots. My eye was immediately drawn to the small craters in almost every pot. I immediately realized that during the night, a mouse (?) had gone into the greenhouse and eaten all but four of the Winter Squash seeds that I had planted two nights ago! Ugh! I guess that is why they give you more seed then you need in every seed packet. This seems to be the year of "planting everything twice". I did have a firm talk with the resident rodent control officer about the problem. He promised to be on the look-out - when he wasn't busy napping.

In the "good news category", I  discovered that more of the Zinnia and Marigold seeds had germinated. For the Zinnias, I have up (5) "Bling-Bling", (4) "Blue Point" and (5) "Zahara Double Cherry". In the Marigolds I now have germinated (2) " Queen Sophia" (3) "Duango" & (1) "Tangerine Gem".  Thank goodness for higher shelves in the greenhouse! And I ended my afternoon outside by potting up more dahlias. Including the potted dahlia cuttings, I now have exactly 100 dahlias planted in the 1-gallon pots.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Getting the dahlias started and we finally hit 70!

Today was memorable to two reason. First off, we FINALLY hit 72 degrees today! The weather man reported that it was actually our second day over 70 this year, having hit 70 degrees on April 1st. Well, darn it, that was so long ago that I don't even remember it! Today was our first glorious, blue-skies and sunshine filled day. I was so anxious to get off work and get home. Once home, I started potting up my dahlia tubers. I haven't done a tuber count yet but I imagine that I have somewhere in the neighborhood of 200. I had hoped to begin doing this last weekend but too many other things got in the way. I managed to get 17 potted up tonight in the warm, setting sunshine. The cats were out helping me, the swallows were out swooping, and it felt so wonderful to be working outside in some warm sun once again.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Planting Dahlia Cuttings and Winter Squash Seed

Tonight when I got home from work there was a large box on the counter with my name on it. I couldn't remember ordering anything until I looked at the "ship from" address - Corrolitos Dahlias. Oh yes, my dahlia cuttings! Corrolitos Dahlias in California is the only dahlia retailer that I know of that sells cuttings instead of tubers. The benefit of this is you never have to wonder if your dahlia tuber will have a live eye that will eventually send up a sprout. By getting a live cutting, already rooted and growing in a small piece of floral foam, you know you will have a dahlia plant of that variety this year. No guesswork or hoping involved. However, when receiving dahlia cuttings through the mail, it is necessary to unpack them right away and get them planted in pots or in the ground. Since my garden is far from being ready for dahlias at this point, I needed to pot up all of my new cuttings. I ordered the following from Corrolitos:
  • (2) " Camano Cloud" BB SC Pk
  • (1) "Chimicum Pumpkin" Pom OR
  • (1)  "Franz Kafka" MB L
  • (1) "Leota Mace"  WL DP
  • (1) "Eden Barbarossa" BA R
  • (1) "Willo Violet" Pom PR
  • (1) "Elfin" POM DB PR/WH
  • (1) " Colwood Hope" B LC Wh
  • (1) " Optimo"  MB DR

A healthy "Colwood Hope" cutting planted and ready to grow.

After I finished potting up my new dahlia cuttings, I turned my attention to starting my Winter Squash. I should have done this a week or two ago, but such is life! I decided to start twice the number of seeds than I hope to grow of each variety. That way, I will be covered if I have poor germination of any given variety. If I have good germination then I will have some plants to give away which will be a nice problem to have. I planted the following seeds:
  • "Butternut" Winter Squash - Seeds of Change
  • "Delicata" Winter Squash  - Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
  • "Marina Di Chioggia"  Winter Squash -Seed Savers Exchange
  • "Speckled Hound" Winter Squash - The Cook's Garden

I am not sure yet exactly where I am going to plant each variety. But I can worry about that while the seeds germinate and grow! I have grown both "Delicata" & "Butternut" Squash before and I love them both. The "Marina Di Chioggia" & "Speckled Hound" are both new varieties for me. The "Speckled Hound" is suppose to produce smaller size, bi-colored fruit but the "Marina Di Chioggia" is suppose to set 10-12 pound, bumpy turbans! The seeds for this variety were the largest Winter Squash seeds that I have ever planted, measuring 3/4" in size. An indicator of things to come!