Monthly Archives: June 2010

Jun 30 – Identifying Weeds AKA Wild Radish

Two years ago, I decided to let Logan have a bed of his own for some seeds he had dropped and mixed – just to see what would come up from the combination. Included in the grouping were radish seeds I had also planted in with spinach on the theory that the quick to germinate radishes would tell me where the spinach would eventually be and thus, weeding would be simpler…
 
For many reasons, including football and soccer, my garden was a mess that year and we never harvested the radishes in time (they are so quick, you can still be planting and weeding and not thinking of reaping) nor did we pay strict attention to Logan’s plants other than the Basil we all craved.
 
To say we let this mess go to seed is an understatement. Maybe someday I will even get better at seed saving (but, remember, not all seeds reproduce true to their parents – a discussion better suited to winter blogging…) but, I did nothing and let Mother Nature figure it all out.
 
Not that I wish to curse her, and I am still trying to reliably identify the plant, but I now have a very fast growing weed that looks a lot like a radish seedling, including a long RED taproot. It starts out with green leaves that appear purple underneath but, if the same plant, this coloration disappears as it quickly reaches above all competing seedlings. In a week, it has grown from 1-2" to 8-12". I spent a few hours pulling young plants last week from my Mesclun Bed and 1-2 more the past two nights from everywhere else – all in hopes of making sure it never goes to seed again!
 
Now, to give it a postive ID… and, a mugshot…!
 
 
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Jun 29 – Rain, lovely rain!

I have lusted after a certain rain barrel in Gardener’s Supply’s catalog for two seasons now and yet, I don’t own it.  My frustration was renewed again this evening by my nightly survey of Big Garden. While the weeds may have responded too positively to last night’s rainstorm, so have other plants.
 
While I have read about the benefits of collecting rain – free, green, contains fewer minerals, blah blah blah… These factoids pale in comparison to the unscientific observations I have gathered for years:  you can hand water that 1" per week that is necessary, and your plants will survive and grow.
 
All  will seem well until you get a good soaking followed by a decent day of sunshine. Plants will seem to leap out of the ground, and even your pots.
 
I swear my Yard-long Beans grew up 6" since yesterday, and the Okras, about 4"; the tomatoes that looked a little stunted by a late start now deserve the cages that surround them, and the corn may yet be knee high by the 4th…
 
So, how do I justify that rain barrel when this happened for free?
 
These rains don’t last all summer and I have 35 containers I water, mostly daily, besides Big Garden. (Remember, I am a little obsessed and veggies are only a part of it – I need flowers too). Now to convince the hubby to cut a downspout in half…

Crop Failure

I have 3 beds that did not produce the seedlings I expected: beats and eggplants, the seeds of which somehow made it into the bag at Kmart when I did my last minute seed shopping. Not sure I really wanted to grow these or how I got the seeds, but once home, I thought we would try a few new things. Not sure what happened since these were fresh seeds. But, I see NO eggplant seedling and very few beats – all clumped together. Not having grown these before, I am not sure if I can move the beats or if I will have time to reseed the eggplants. Guess I will try – live and learn.
 
On the other hand, I very much did want the fennel but did not have fresh seed, so this falure I understand.  I don’t have more fennel seeds, and I bet I won’t find them in stores any more. So, I need to fill this bed with something else…
 
I keep my seeds in wooden silverware caddy, divided into herbs, veggies and flowers, then alphabetically – will need to see what else I can drop in and get these beds reseeded tomorrow – believe it or not, it is almost July. Things really start growing fast now and keeping up with the weeding is about all I can do.
 
Lettuce beds and the cutting garden are in serious need of handpicking or hoeing – it’s always something!

Marigolds

Last thing to go in Big Garden is a border of marigolds. I don’t feel done until they go in despite the fact that hoeing, weeding, deadheading, tying up, snipping, and general maintenance will continues until harvest.
 
It it the marigolds that let me know BG is mostly on its own. Of course, this is not true, but they mark a point of achievement and my favorite tweaking activities can begin.
 
Still, I don’t love these flowers – I have never used them for the home’s garden beds and I wouldn’t put them in containers either. Yet, they are ridiculously easy to grow from seed and often self-seed if you know what to look for. Of course, they also bloom all season and are historically tied to vegetable beds. They seem common but cheerful and appropriate in my humble potager.
 
So, why do I really have them at all – tradition: because I always have.  Some lore from my earliest gardening days fills my head that they are good for tomatoes and preventing nematodes – not that I would recognize this supposed pest. Guess they work, then… Think there is supposed to be something about crop rotation and soil replenishment too. So much for a common, easy to grown flower. Did I mention that their smell may also deter bugs – so much truisms to check out!
 
So, my next "task" is to research a little truth about their benefits… There are a few gardening habits that I have that I don’t know the real origin of. I know I read a limited number of gardening books as a child but I am now questioning what knowledge I have that is real versus superstition.
 
While I have an ambition to become a Master Gardener, I am completely self-taught: much reading and trial and error. Not a bad combination, but IF I can’t explain the real reason for why I do something, it is time to dig deeper…
 
Check back for what I discover.

Jun 20 – Summertime…

…and the living is easy…
 
My Father used to sing this to me at bedtime. It was only recently that I discovered it was from ‘Porgy and Bess’ – a musical I have not yet had the chance to see.  Believe it or not, I realized my oldest, Jackson, had a ‘thing’ for musicals when we were at Disney’s Animal Planet and he sat, attention rapt, through both the ‘Lion King’ and ‘Tarzan" reviews – at age four. I soon took him to see "Lion King’ at the Aronoff, and Logan to ‘Cats’ – the costumes disquised the more adult, poetic themes. We have been annual attendees ever since, having just seen ‘Mary Poppins’ andare looking forward to ‘Shrek – The Musical’, next spring.
 
So, how does this relate to gardening? Good question!
 
Not sure it really does other than:
 
  • Big Garden is PLANTED, with the exception of bordering marigolds
  • 3 nights of deer-free existance – thanks to Liguid Fence www.liquidfence.com 
  • Corn seedings are peaking up – not so sure about: fennel, beets, and eggplant…

I am happy and almost ready to take a little break – always wanted to learn to play ‘Summertime’ on the piano… May just have to find a nice version for the iPod…

 

Here’s to a little "Easy Living"….

Why I Love Big Garden (and the rest of the Back Two – acres, that is…)

First, you need to know I did not want this.
 
Donny and I had been together for 3-4 years (who’s counting now?) and he wanted to find a house with LAND. I was not sure what LAND meant, but I was pretty sure I did not want to be too far from Hyde Park, Downtown, Clifton, Kenwood, etc…
 
When I went apartment hunting a few years earlier, my perfect local would have been walking distance from Arthurs or Zips… I didn’t find what I wanted (1BR w/ K,LR,B) that I could afford, and I did not want roommates – been there, done that, never again…
 
So, while I settled into a suitable apartment in Anderson, Donny and I scoured the papers for something to drive by on a Sunday afternoon. We looked at 80+ properties – many required a few beers and my lousy rendition of "Green Areas" – until one Sunday morning in April of 1993…
 
The drive out to Batavia took longer than I anticipated, the property cost more than Donny expected would be necessary, the house wasn’t as "old" (as in period), as I wanted – remember, I wanted Hyde Park Victorian…
 
But, there were gorgeous, new Cherry cabinets in a ridiculous kitchen; recently added electicity in a huge barn, the potential of hardwood floors throughout, and 2 acres of nearly private backyard with an expansive deck under a 60+ year old maple tree.
 
We worked fast and were lucky to do so – two other couples staggered in behind us to make a bid that same afternoon.
 
I often wonder where they wound up, do they pass by, do they see what we have done, and what would they have done differently. I also wonder about who was here first – I often thought we would check into that more, but we have simply been too busy.  A 70+ year old home and its grounds take a lot of time…
 
I never dreamed this would be so, but I am content here.
 
It is an old house, with character lines on its plaster walls; a beautiful newer kitchen that took 18 months to renovate, one bathroom that still needs work, and only two bedrooms – we turned one into my office and the boys (10 and 12) will grow up closer than I ever did, in their shared room. It will only be for a short while longer, and they have no idea that this is a sacrifice – we don’t live in our bedrooms… we sleep there and "live" together everywhere else.
 
Once established, it was not long until I got the urge to garden – I owe it all to this spot.
 
It was not always as it is now, but I have evolved into a gardener as the property as evolved into a garden. I can’t imagine ever leaving.

Almost There

Well, despite lots of recent rain, Donny and I laid boards across the corn bed in order to be able to get in and sow those seeds. All that is left is to put in the marigolds around the border.
 
We have had 3+ soaker storms lately and the paths have been quite soggy. I have been able to keep off the raised beds so their soil is still wonderful and the seeds have had lots of moisture so I haven’t had to water excessively. Already, I see where cucumbers, spaghetti squash, canteloup, watermelon, okra, long beans, and beets have sprung up.
 
Still watching for mesclun, pumpkins, zucchini, peas, eggplants, sunflowers, fennel and my cutting garden – won’t be long in these moist, warm conditions.
 
Tomatoes and peppers have adjusted nicely to their move too – this is where the real waiting begins!
 
Despite Donny’ fine tilling (or more accurately, because of it…), I see a fresh batch of weeds coming up too. I really need things to dry out so I can weed and hoe, and finish mulching the beds (I put down a havey layer of grass clippings – but it has even been too wet to cut the lawn…).  I hate to resort to more drastic measures, but preening the paths may become necessary so I don’t have to grab the Round Up later on.
 
Tonight, I am going to try Liquid Fence for the deer – they have already given the sunflowers a haircut:  not sure how they found them only AFTER I put them in the ground directly – the little volunteers had been sitting in a big pot in the same place for weeks and were left alone…

Tomatoes

Finally got to plant my tomatoes! So happy – have I told you that I WILL NOT eat fresh tomatoes from the grocery store? Nice canned tomatoes get us through the rest of the year, so by August, I could eat a BLT for lunch every day… 
 
In four 4′ x 4′ raised beds, I was so happy to find light, airy, friable soil – until I really dug down… I like to plant tomatoes deep so I was really wishing for less clay 8 inches in. 
 
This year, I did not sew my own plants – time got away from me, so I purchased plants:
  1. Burpee’s ‘Early Girl’ – not tried before but should produce sooner, it was certaily the only one flowering in the little pot
  2. Burpee’s ‘Better Boy’ – grow this EVERY year (Donny is not convinced that there is a better tomato, no matter how many heirlooms I try…), and it is easy to find so, other than expense, I don’t need to waste seedling space on growing my own
  3. ‘Black Russian’ – dark red/purple fruit that is supposed to have a smoky flavor; new to us
  4. ‘Old German’ – originally a Menonite variety and listed to have the "most perfect" flavor of the heirlooms – will see; looks pretty though – yellow with red/orange striations

So, here are my tips for planting tomatoes:

  • Put them in deep – bury the first set of leaves, the nodes of those leaves will produce roots and offer a secure base for the plant which will get heavy
  • Put in a deep watering system  – I have stakes with drip holes that hold upside down 2-liter bottles (bottoms cut off so they look like a funnel); fill these so water reaches the roots to prevent Blossom End Rot which is seen as a black rotten spot on the bottom of the tomato – caused be inconsistent watering (which can happen when it gets hot and the garden doesn’t get 1" of rain per week)
  • Surround the plants with a cage system early and make sure it is in deep – these plants, particularly if they are "indeterminate" as those above are, get very top heavy when the fruits grow large and can go down in a rain/wind storm…
  • Pinch off all leaves that touch the ground to prevent viruses from spreading up form the soil or splashing rain/watering – in fact, if you see yellowiing bottom leaves, prune those and wash you hands before touching healthy leaves (in fact, if you are a smoker – wash well before touching any tomato plant – there is a tobacco virus! Serious as a heart attack!)
  • Pinch out the little sprouts that appear between the main stem and the side limbs – why water extra leaves when the tomatoes themselves need the H2O? I think they also distract from fruiting – will need to check on that one…
  • Monitor plants as they grow up through the cages to make sure the side branches have the chance to stay inside until large enough the grow out above the next level of rings
  • Brush up on all your favorite recipes and then, be sure to eat the first ripe tomatoe while in the garden – like an apple!

 

Tilled!

Finally, about on schedule, Donny tilled Big Garden tonight.
 
As I have posted before, we just can’t seem to get to it any sooner:  weather, kids, sports, and 2 acres of other maintenance have us on this second week of June schedule. It breaks my heart as I see the empty-nester next door (with the 15′ x 30′ bed, no pots, hanging baskets, wall to wall landscaping) has corn knee-high already and my seeds are still on the potting bench…
 
Not to worry – I will still have all the corn, tomatoes, beans, peppers, lettuce, okra, melons etc., I can eat – it will just be a little later than his. I will sit by the pool waiting.
 
BWT, Big Garden looks brand new:  all those pristine 4′ x 4′ raised beds awaiting their stars:  heirloom tomatoes, peppers ranging in heat, beets and eggplant to inspire new cooking techniques. I am almost ready to post a photo that won’t embarrass me for my slovenly fall habits…

jun 6 – Inch by inch

Okay… Donny and I spent 4 hours (I think – it seemed to go on forever) planting 100+ impatiens plants and coleus seedings. I was glad to have his help – we used to work side-by-side BK (before kids) and it would always remind me of why I dated that long and lean 26-year-old:  good genetics and strong work have kept him within the same frame – as I overlook the gray strands that bother him not… So much for garden romance – we had WORK to get done!
 

So, we got the little pinkish-purple babies planted:

Dry, shaded soil around the deck wiht a 70+ year old maple stopping all sun and rain (not so bad if you want to sit on the deck while it rains – which I do…) means holes need to be:

  • well dug,
  • fertilized,
  • watered in,
  • mulched,
  • and set up for drip-irritation.

With most of that done, I so close the the finish. But, here is what sidetracks me: local garden show, HOW can they have the grounds ready or should I go and see. AND, how do I get them to see mine – IF, after visting theirs, I see that possibility?