Thursday, April 29, 2010

Tomatoes to Tumblers

Fifteen of my 17 tomatoes received an upgrade today. Technically I could plant them out right now. Our average last frost is May 15th, but the weather has been unseasonably warm and appears to be staying that way for now. Last year I planted my tomatoes on May 9th. We had a late frost (May 29th). Last year was very cool and rainy and I had to deal with a lot of frost protection. The tomatoes just seemed to sulk for a few weeks, so I told myself that I would wait until the least. So that's the plan.
Anyway, the tomatoes have graduated from their peat pots to tumblers. I can't believe I haven't thought of this in past years. All day I was kicking myself for tossing out my collection of large cottage cheese containers that I had been saving since last season for tomatoes. There was warm weather. I felt like cleaning. Recycling truck took them away. A moment of insanity. I went to Walmart this morning looking for large plastic cups or cheap containers that would be deeper and large enough to sit the peat pots on the bottom. The 16 and 18 oz. plastic cups weren't quite wide enough inside. Then I had a brainstorm. The cheap tumblers I use for my the kids can't break them...Well, they come in four packs....for ONE DOLLAR. Plus I can wash them up well and reuse them year to year. I bought 4 packs of them, and the fun began. Here's what I did:
1. In each tumbler I punctured a hole in the bottom to allow for drainage. I used an old, pointed steak knife, but a drill would have been much easier. I placed the cup upside down and twisted the knife until it drilled a hole in the bottom.
2. I removed as much of the peat pot as possible without disturbing the roots very much.
3. I placed the tomato plant in the bottom of the tumbler and filled them with potting mix up to the first set of true leaves. Roots should form along the newly buried stem.
4. I watered them well to fill any air pockets. Below are pictures of the finished product. My tomatoes should be very happy for the next 2 or 3 weeks. And when they look happy, I'm happy!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Potatoes, Strawberries, and Seedlings

Below, in the left box, are some of the Little Gem and Jericho romaine lettuce plants my son and I are growing this season. I planted these varieties for the first time last year, and they were excellent. Easy to grow. Fantastic flavor. Slow to bolt. Five star varieties.
To the right is Bloomsdale Long Standing spinach that my son started. The spinach seemed to appreciate being started outdoors rather than indoors. Germination was much higher outdoors. Go figure. This is the first time I've tried to grow spinach. Just trying to introduce my family to more healthy foods. I'll sneak the spinach into salads. The kids will never know. The husband may be more difficult. :)
Yes, I realize the picture is sideways. :) I didn't realize it until it was downloaded. With this old computer, it's not worth the time to flip it and download it again. Anyway...this is a store bought potato that sprouted in my composter. It appeared so healthy and vigorous that I decided to have a little fun with it. I planted it in this 2-3 gallon container. What could it hurt? Days after planting this potato, I purchased some potato seed at Lowes. Six seed potatoes for Burbank Russet potatoes for less than $4. (I wanted Yukon Gold but they were sold out). Last year was a first for garlic. This will be the year of the potato!
Florian Strawberries- Started from seed purchased at Thompson and Morgan in the beginning of last season. I only got to try two or three berries. The squirrels ate the rest. These have a beautiful pink blossom and small, sweet berries.
Here are my grow lights. Tomatoes are on the top left. Peppers primarily below them. Mostly annuals and perennials are under the right set of lights. These lights were one of my best investments in my garden along with my raised beds.
Here is an up close look at my tomatoes. Primarily heirlooms. There is a Tango celery and Florence fennel plant in the front left of the photo.

Champagne anyone?

After two days of heavy rain (around 2 inches) my Pink Champagne clematis has begun to open her blossoms. This was purchased at Lowes on clearance a season or two ago. What a beauty she turned out to be.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Lettuce and Carrots

Today I will be setting out some lettuce that I started indoors a few weeks ago. More carrots need to be planted as well. Only a few germinated with the last planting. It's going to rain this afternoon, so I better get working!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Peony Buds

At the end of last season I added two Immaculee peonies (The ants seem to be enjoying one of them in the picture above). The first I bought at Lowes. Full price. The second I purchased on sale at the grocery store. There was no tag, so I figured I'd take my chance on a mystery peony of unknown color. It was priced low enough that I would take my chances. How exciting! Hopefully I'd get one that was a different color than the white one I already had. Turns out that when I went to plant the peony, I flipped the container and it had a sticker that stated, "Immaculee". A few weeks ago I added an Edulis Superba. I hear these are quite fragrant. Pink. I wanted a variety that reminded me of the large, double peonies that I had as a kid. Very fragrant. Beautiful in containers. I may have found such a peony. Since it was only planted a few weeks ago, I don't expect to see any blooms this year. The anticipation is still fun.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Blooms From Around the Garden and HAPPY EARTH DAY!

Above is my son's container. Right now he has Little Marvel peas growing on the trellis he made out of butterfly bush branches. There is also one strawberry plant and onion start hidden among the peas. Just yesterday (after this picture was taken) he added a bean plant that he started in school. Although it's still too early for beans here, I figure I can protect it pretty easily in this container.
The chives are opening. I was surprised to find that the flowers have a surprisingly pleasant, floral scent. I guess I expected them to smell oniony.
Below is the newly expanded bed. You can see the bricks that still mark where the old bed ended and the grass began. Keeping the grass trimmed between the sidewalk and old bed was must too much work. This is easier, and it gives me more room to plant!


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

New This Season

This season new flowers are in bloom and some new techniques are being used. Here are some things that are new in my garden.
Iris - Unknown variety
This beautiful yellow iris blended among the yellow daffodils and tulips. It was a nice surprise when I found it mixed among them. I planted a few named cultivars last season, but perhaps one was mislabeled. It looks nothing like that ones I purchased. Either way, it's a beautiful iris.
Prairie Fire Crabapple
All of the blossoms have floated away in the past days, but what was left behind was a portrait of beauty. The burgundy foliage stands out nicely against a lawn of green. They look ablaze against the sky on a sunny day.

It is tough to see all three. Two are to the left of the birdbath. The other is just to the right. The varieties I have chosen from left to right are as follows: Patriot, Blueray, and Chandler. I chose three different varieties to prolong the harvest as well as to assist with cross pollination. Painfully, a few days ago I had to pop off the berries that were forming. It was one of those moments where I just had to close my eyes (not really) and POP. Bye bye berries. I suppose a strong root system and branches are more important in the long run....I suppose.
Al's Flower Pouches with Fort Laramie Strawberries

Pros: Squirrels are finally leaving my strawberries alone! I still have some in strawberry can see them hiding behind the pouches. The squirrels still dig these strawberry plants out. They also take up very little space. If they produce well, this will the way I grow strawberries from now on.

Cons: More frequent watering. When planting, water well as you go. If not, the soil will settle later on and you're plants will not be lined up with their planting holes.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Aphids! Already! And other garden news.

I was so excited to receive my onion order from Dixondale Farms this afternoon. A long storage sampler with a blend of white, red, and yellow onions. They went into the ground just a while ago.
Check out what I found covering the upper part of two cane on my Brite Eyes climbing rose. Ugh. I have to worry about this already. The news said that temperatures are 11 degrees above normal for the month. 11 degrees! It's great to see everything blooming so early, but aphids. Gross. And some really tiny white flies. Even better! Where are the ladybugs and the resident praying mantis when I need them.
Recently I planted my two new raspberry plants. Fall Gold and Caroline. Fall Gold has broken dormancy and appears to be doing well. Caroline looks very dead. I'm keeping my fingers crossed. I also received a Reliance grape vine from the same company (Indiana Berry) that still appears very dead. The Navaho blackberry from them is breaking dormancy though. It's still too early to worry too much.
Strawberries are now in their Al's flower pouches, hanging containers, and strawberry planters. They seem to be doing well. I do admit that it is a pain watering the pouches everyday, but the squirrels are leaving them alone. Priceless. They're still digging them out of the planters though. You win some, you lose some.
The lilacs are in bloom in my neighbors' yards. The smell is intoxicating. Every year I'm so jealous of their blooms and wished I could snatch a few blossoms to bring in the house. Well I'm wishing no more. I caved and bought my very own lilac from Home Depot a couple of nights ago. Charles Joly. I can't wait to see how it develops over the next few years.
Well, that's the latest around here. Happy gardening everyone!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Tulip Creations

Perhaps the most unique specimen in the garden is this bright red tulip with two yellow petals. It keeps returning every year. Planted by a former owner that was a gardener.
A side view of this tulip.
Although I have planted more bulbs than I could count since we bought this house, it is some of the previous plantings that provide quite a bit of joy. Here are some tulips planted by a previous owner (a gardener as well).
A great piece of advice for anyone that just purchased a home, wait one full season before you do any major renovation of garden beds. My new neighbors didn't, and two stunning peonies were lost in the process. My yard was overrun by weeds over a foot tall when we first purchased it. It wasn't until Spring when the yard exploded. At least one hundred bulbs must have been planted and neglected under all the weeds. A short time later irises bloomed. Daylilies popped up. These easily could have been lost with a major renovation. Not only did these end up being free plants, but they have shown that they could overcome very poor conditions and high competition from the weeds.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Prairie Fire Crabapple

Last season we added this Prairie Fire crabapple tree. When it was delivered it had a rootball full of carpenter ants and a lot of damage to a 6 inch band of bark around the soil line. The nursery said it might be due to grafting, but it looked pretty severe. The tree has seemed to thrive despite the damage. It just started blooming two days ago. The color is breath-taking, and it is blooming profusely. I can see this one getting more and more spectacular every year.

Rip Van Winkle and Record-Breaking Heat

Well, the Rip Van Winkle daffodils did open up more completely (front of above photo). They now look like large dandelions. Usually I'm happy with ANY bloom that pops up in my garden, but I wish I would have chosen a different variety last fall. They do have a long bloom period though. I have to give them credit for that. They are blooming longer than the Tete-a-Tete's and are thriving in the unseasonable heat. It's been 20 to 30 degrees above normal. Yesterday we hit 88 to break the record of 86. I heard on the news that Miami has reached a high of only 87 so far this year. We're hotter than Miami, and it's going to be another hot, humid day today nearing the 90s.